Thursday, August 18, 2011

British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel: the First Jew to Rule Eretz Yisrael in 2,000 Years?

New era in Palestine. High Commissioner Samuel
arrives in Jaffa Port, June 30, 1920
After defeating the Ottoman army in 1917, Britain sought to replace its military occupation of Palestine with civilian rule.  The first civilian High Commissioner of Palestine was a British Jewish politician named Herbert Samuel, appointed in 1920.

Samuel and Colonial
Secretary Winston Churchill
planting tree on Mt Scopus
Hebrew University site
Already in 1915 Samuel submitted a proposal to establish a protectorate for Jewish rule in Palestine.  The proposal received scant notice at the time, but it served as a basis for the Balfour Declaration in 1917 in which "His Majesty's government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people."  The appointment of a practicing Jew and Zionist was opposed by some British politicians, the Arabs of Palestine and the British military leadership in Palestine. 

Samuel being received in Rishon Lezion, July 1920
Soon after his arrival, Samuel met with Arab and Jewish leaders of Palestine and toured new Jewish towns and communities.  The pictures here are from his visit to Rishon Lezion, founded by Jews in 1882.

During his five years in office, Samuel attempted to balance policies between Arab and Jewish demands, but some of his policies to appease the Arabs had disastrous results, such as his appointment of the radical anti-Semite Amin el-Husseini as Mufti of Jerusalem and his limiting of Jewish immigration to, and land purchases in, Palestine.

Samuel's reception in Rishon Lezion 1920

Samuel leaving Rishon synagogue 1920

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