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Churchill White Paper (1922)


a 1922 british statement of policy regarding palestine.

Drafted by the first high commissioner of Palestine, Sir Herbert Samuel, the white paper (also called the Churchill memorandum) was issued in the name of Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill in June 1922. A year earlier the Palestinians participated in political violence against the Jews, which a British commission found to have been caused by Arab hostility "connected with Jewish immigration and with their conception of Zionist policy." Samuel therefore urged Churchill to clarify to both communities the meaning of the Balfour Declaration of November 1917 and to reassure the Palestinians.

The Churchill statement reaffirmed British commitment to the Jewish national home. It declared that the Jews were in Palestine "as a right and not on sufferance" and defined the Jewish national home as "the further development of the existing Jewish community [Yishuv], with the assistance of Jews in other parts of the world, in order that it may become a centre in which the Jewish people as a whole may take, on grounds of religion and race [sic], an interest and a pride." In order to fulfill the Balfour policy, "it is necessary that the Jewish community in Palestine should be able to increase its numbers by immigration."

At the same time, the memorandum rejected Zionist statements "to the effect that the purpose in view is to create a wholly Jewish Palestine," which would become " 'as Jewish as England is English.' His Majesty's Government regard any such expectations as impracticable and have no such aim in view." It assured the indigenous Palestinians that the British never considered "the disappearance or the subordination of the Arabic [sic ] population, language, or culture in Palestine" or even "the imposition of Jewish nationality upon the inhabitants of Palestine as a whole." In addition, the allowable number of Jewish immigrants would be limited to the "economic capacity of the country."

The Zionist leaders regarded the memorandum as a whittling down of the Balfour Declaration but acquiesced, partly because of a veiled threat from the British government and partly because, off the record, the Zionists knew that there was nothing in the paper to preclude a Jewish state. (Churchill himself testified to the Peel Commission in 1936 that no such prohibition had been intended in his 1922 memorandum.) The Palestinians rejected the paper because it reaffirmed the Balfour policy. They were convinced that continued Jewish immigration would lead to a Jewish majority that would eventually dominate or dispossess them. Both Zionist and Palestinian interpretations of the memorandum were largely valid: The British did pare down their support for the Zionist program, but the Balfour policy remained intact long enough to allow extensive Jewish immigration and the establishment of semiautonomous Jewish governmental and military institutions.

see also balfour declaration (1917); churchill, winston s.; samuel, herbert louis; yishuv.


Caplan, Neil. Palestine Jewry and the Arab Question, 19171925. London and Totowa, NJ: Cass, 1978.

Hurewitz, J. C. The Struggle for Palestine. New York: Green-wood, 1968.

Lesch, Ann M. Arab Politics in Palestine, 19171939: The Frustrations of a Nationalist Movement. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1979.

Philip Mattar

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