The Forgotten Mandate Redux

William A. Cook

The View from the Mandate

One of the curious ambiguities that surround the decade that saw the creation of the state of Israel by a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations, not by action of the Security Council, is the dearth of information and perspective from the British Mandate forces governing Palestine from 1940 to May 15, 1948, the date of implementation of the partition resolution. Fortunately, Sir Richard C. Catling has left us a file that provides insight into conditions that prevailed in Jerusalem while he was Deputy Head of the Special Branch of the Criminal Investigation Division in Jerusalem in 1944 and a year later Assistant Inspector General. Catling’s “TOP SECRET” file has lain untouched in the Rhodes House archives of the Bodleian Libraries of Oxford University until two years ago when I received permission to cite its contents by the Chief Archivist for Rhodes Library.[1]

Two documents dominate the file with 62 appendices of evidence totaling close to 500 pages of materials. The first is a dispatch sent to the Secretary of State, dated 16th of October, 1941, by the High Commissioner of Palestine, Harold MacMichael, labeled “Most Secret”; the second, a Top Secret “Memorandum on the Participation of the Jewish National Institutions in Palestine in Acts of Lawlessness and Violence,” prepared by the Criminal Investigation Department headquarters, The Palestine Police, Jerusalem, dated July 31st, 1947. [1][Sir Richard C. Catling, #145, Mss.Med. S20]

What should be obvious now, after the carefully researched and scholarly work of Dr. Ilan Pappe and the equally well-researched work of Dr. Benny Morris, complemented now with the materials preserved by Sir Richard C. Catling, is the truth about the creation of the state of Israel: acceptance of UN Resolution 181 by the Jewish Agency Provisional Government as the designated Jewish state was not done with intent to abide by the goal of the UN General Assembly, to provide a state for two peoples in the land of Palestine, but rather to use it as a means of subterfuge to gain eventual control of all the land and cleanse that land of its indigenous people to whatever extent possible. This is what many scholars and authorities on this conflict call, “slow motion genocide.”

Perceiving the Reality

The “despatch” sent by MacMichael to the Secretary of State resulted from an investigation into the funding practices and use of those funds by various Jewish organizations.

The memorandum illustrates – indeed, brings into full limelight – the fact that the Mandatory is faced potentially with as grave a danger in Palestine from Jewish violence as it has ever faced from Arab violence, a danger infinitely less easy to meet by the methods of repression which have been employed against Arabs. In the first place, the Jews … have the moral and political support … of considerable sections of public opinion both in the United Kingdom and the United States of America. … all the influence and political ability of the Zionists would be brought to bear to show that the Jews in Palestine were the victims of aggression, and that a substantial body of opinion abroad would be persuaded of the truth of the contention.

To bolster his points, MacMichael offers the following:

… the Jews in Palestine are by no means untrained in the use of arms … large numbers have received training in the Palestine Police… or in His Majesty’s Forces. At the present time, in addition to approximately 10,000 Jews in His Majesty’s Forces, there are 5,800 in various units of the police force and 15,400 special policemen (31,000) … When to those men … are added the illicit ‘defence’ organizations of the Jews (Haganah alone had an estimated 60-70,000 men by 1945, see Mss, Med. S20 Appendix XXI), it will be evident that the Jewish people in arms would numerically and in calibre be a very formidable adversary.

This is in 1941 before the full deployment of Jewish terrorism against the legitimate Palestine government got under way. How different the truth from the deception: propaganda, perception, and reality.

MacMichael and Catling found themselves missing one of Catling’s primary supports for the waging of “irregular warfare” drawn from his image of the 3-legged stool that required the support of the people, the commander and his army and the government, an image, no doubt, from his childhood in Suffolk where his family were butchers and farmers. Needless to say, both had to confront the “facts on the ground,” the resistance by the Zionist Executive movement against Britain’s limitation of immigrants into Palestine as enunciated in the White Paper of 1939 and the outright terrorism of the Stern “gang” that “deemed Britain to be the bitter enemy of Zionism.” LEHI emphasized anti-British rebellion including robbing of banks, indiscriminate killing of British police, and the assassination of British minister-resident Lord Moyne in 1944 even as “the Nazi death machinery continued to swallow European Jewry.”  But the situation only got worse as the end of WWII loomed. “The Haganah carried out anti-British military operations- liberation of interned immigrants from the Atlit camp; the bombing of the country’s railroad network; sabotage raids on radar installations and bases of the British police mobile force; sabotage of British vessels … and the destruction of all road and railroad bridges on the borders.” All of this terrorism was conducted against the Mandate Government while the home government remained silent under the pall of Israeli Zionist propaganda.

Between Two Worlds

Nothing makes more obvious the meaning of the “Zionist Juggernaut” than Catling’s TOP SECRET “Memorandum of the Criminal Investigation Department” of July 31, 1947.

The purpose of this memorandum is to furnish documentary evidence of the extent to which the supreme Jewish national institutions in Palestine and their principal officials have been parties to acts of sedition, violence, incitement and other offences against the laws of Palestine…

‘The Agency … unquestionably exercises, both in Jerusalem and in London, a considerable influence on the conduct of government.” Catling’s frustration with the actual control of the Jews over British policy in Palestine glares through this document. “This powerful and efficient organization amounts, in fact, to a government existing side by side with the Mandatory Government…” (2-3) [emphasis mine]

As a result of its investigations, the Department itemizes six areas of subversive activities undertaken by the Jewish Agency against the British Mandate Government:

  1. Maintenance of a secret army and espionage system;
  2. Smuggling, theft and manufacture of arms;
  3. Illegal immigration;
  4. Violence and civil disobedience;
  5. Seditious and hostile propaganda;
  6. Encroachment upon the civil rights of Jewish citizens.

In short, the Zionist controlled Jewish Agency, the Yishuv, actively undermined the legal authority in Palestine even as it operated to undermine support for that government in Britain, placing UK forces in harms way as they attempted to fulfill their authorized responsibilities in Palestine. It also demonstrates the determination of the Agency’s leadership in undermining the very nation that gave it a means of establishing a “homeland” in Palestine through the Balfour Declaration.

William A. Cook is a professor of English at the University of La Verne in southern California. His works include Psalms for the 21st Century, Tracking Deception: Bush Mid-East Policy, The Rape of Palestine, The Chronicles of Nefaria, a novella, and coming in June from Macmillan, The Plight of the Palestinians. Articles by Cook appear in Counterpunch, the Palestine Chronicle, MWC News, Pacific Free Press, Atlantic Free Press, Dissident Voice and Countercurrents among others. He can be reached at wcook@laverne.edu and www.drwilliamacook.com.


[1] Catling, Sir Richard C. Personal Classified “Top Secret” files. Rhodes House Library Archives. #145. Mss. Medit. S 20 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) Appendices circa 475 pages of seized documents. Oxford: Bodleian Libraries.

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