London, Asharq Al-Awsat—Declassified reports reveal that British colonial officers in Palestine predicted the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and the Arabs’ ensuing defeat following the partition of Palestine.
The documents were released by the National Archives in London, the UK government’s official archive, on Friday, April 26. They contain previously confidential correspondence between the UK government in London and colonial officers stationed in Palestine, dating back to the years leading up to the creation of Israel in 1948.
The records of the former Colonial Office show that the British government was fully aware of the plight of Palestinians following the British departure from Palestine. The day after the State of Israel was proclaimed on May 14, 1948, the last British troops left Palestine and the first Arab-Israeli war began.
The reports disclose the British perspective on what occurred in the final days, weeks, and months of the British UN mandate of Palestine. The earlier communiques dating back to 1946 show that British officers believed Palestinians were becoming increasingly resentful of British control because of what they saw as British preferential treatment of the Jews. The officials cited British management of Jewish immigration into Palestine as one of the reasons for growing anger among the Palestinian population.
Although the intelligence reports were exchanged over sixty years ago, the predictions speak of a painful everyday reality for many Palestinians today. The British officials looked on as Jewish settlers encroached on Arab land.
The UK officials in Palestine also believed that Jewish public opinion would oppose partition unless the territory assigned to Israel was vastly expanded. In early 1948 the officials warned that the Palestinians only hope of victory in the Arab-Israeli war was the support of the Arab armies from neighboring countries.
The documents also make reference to the Zionist lobby in America as British intelligence officers believed that the Zionists in America were in a position to pressure the US administration into supporting their cause.
Significantly, Syria was also discussed within the communiqué. The British were worried about the future of Syria following the Second World War. Their fears stemmed, firstly, from a concern that Syria could be returned to the French following the war. Secondly, the British feared that the growing Arab nationalism in the country would threaten their imperialistic designs on the Middle East.
This correspondence foreshadows the Arab independence movements across the Levant region following World War II. The documents warned of a revolt against the west. The wartime report concluded that the priority of western powers should be to prevent the triumph of such a movement. History shows that the colonial powers ultimately failed in this regard.