Around 1900 Palestine was a remote Ottoman province and rather sparsely populated. It is estimated that there were 400,000 inhabitants living in the area, including modern Jordan, which lies on the other side of the Jordan. Between 1882 and 1903 about 25,000 mainly Russian and Romanian Jews had immigrated to the area around Haifa. Between 1904 and 1914 another 40,000 Russian Jews came to Palestine.
The British Mandate of Palestine
At the end of the First World War, the Ottoman Empire collapsed. Palestine became the mandated territory of the League of Nations. At the San Remo Conference in 1920, Great Britain was given the mandate to administer the territory.
The Palestine mandat
In the preamble to the mandate treaty, the aim of the administration by the League of Nations is to “build a national house for the Jewish people in Palestine”. The rights of the “existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” are to be preserved. Article 4 states that the Jewish and Palestinian administrations shall cooperate in establishing the Jewish homeland.
Population of Palestine
The 1922 census gives a population of 757,182, including 83,794 Jews and 590,890 Muslims. Between 1919 and 1931 another 115,000 Jews came to Palestine. In 1931, 1,035,821 inhabitants were counted in the mandated area (including Jordan) according to the UN Statistical Yearbook of 1948. Of these, 174,610 were Jews and 759,712 Muslims. According to the UNO, about 280,000 of them lived in present-day Jordan. The ratio of population groups in Palestine west of the Jordan was thus about 1 to 2. By 1939 another 220,000 Jewish immigrants had arrived in Palestine, including many Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany. For 1937, the UN statistical office estimates 389,000 Jewish and 875,000 Muslim inhabitants. Because the Jewish population more than doubled in just 6 years, 6 Muslim Arabs in Palestine without Trans-Jordan now had 5 Jews.
The strong immigration led to great tensions. Already in 1929 there were 3 massacres of Jews with more than 100 dead. In 1936 the Arabs began an uprising against the British Mandate, which was bloodily suppressed.