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British White Papers: The MacDonald Letter

(February 13, 1931)

Given the hostile tone of the Passfield White Paper, Zionists and their supporters reacted accordingly. Chaim Weizmann resigned as president of the Jewish Agency, stating that the British had betrayed their promises. Endless letters of protest from all over the world barraged British officials. Many British government representatives distanced themselves from the White Paper, causing an uncomfortable atmosphere of dissent for Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald.

To clear the air, MacDonald wrote a letter to Weizmann, in which he clarified the meaning of the White Paper. While re-emphasizing the White Paper's commitment to resolving Arab-Jewish conflicts of interest, the letter effectively reversed the Paper's Anti-Zionist implications. Jewish immigration would continue as it should, according to the letter:

The obligation to facilitate Jewish immigration and make possible dense settlement of Jews on the land is still a positive obligation of the Mandate, and it can be fulfilled without jeopardizing the rights and conditions of the other part of the Palestine population.

The letter also pointed out that Hope-Simpson had overestimated the effects of Jewish immigration on the Arab population. Jews who could find work would be allowed to immigrate.

The Arabs of Palestine were naturally disappointed with the letter's contents. In a letter to MacDonald, the president of the Arab executive wrote that the letter had ruined any hope of cooperation between Arabs and Jews.

Full Text of the MacDonald Letter


Sources: The Jewish Agency for Israel and The World Zionist Organization