1948: The Palestine refugee exodus

Britain has redefined the problem many times over the last 70 years as calculations on a possible solution have changed

The World Today Updated 4 January 2021 Published 12 June 2015 3 minute READ

Rosemary Hollis

Former Director, Olive Tree Israeli-Palestinian Scholarship Programme, City, University of London

International support for independent statehood for the Palestinians has increased in recent years, though less as an endorsement of their national rights than as a vehicle to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The evolution of the British stance on the issue since 1945 is instructive. It reflects not only changes in the circumstances of the Palestinians, but the changing calculations of British officialdom about the implications of different depictions of ‘the problem’.

When Britain held the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, following the First World War, officials envisaged the emergence of a bi-national Jewish-Arab state in Palestine. After Israel was established in the war of 1948, and the advent of the Palestinian refugee problem, the British clearly hoped that the refugees would either be allowed to return or be integrated into the surrounding Arab states.

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