The High Commissioner Arrival to Palestine


The newspaper "Haaretz", 1920 (A13\412)
Herbert Samuel was born in Liverpool in 1870. He grew up in a traditional Jewish home, but during his studies at Oxford University he renounced all religious belief. Also while a student at Oxford, he became involved in Liberal politics. He was appointed to the British Cabinet as Home Secretary in 1909 and as such, became the first Jew to reach Cabinet office in Britain. In this position he promoted the idea of establishing a British Protectorate over Palestine and helped Chaim Weizmann in his efforts to carry out the Balfour Declaration.
Herbert Samuel (PHG\1108758)
Herbert Samuel was appointed as High Commissioner of Palestine in 1920. His appointment aroused criticism among various circles of British government because he was Jewish. However, the Jewish community supported it. Among the items kept at the CZA is an issue of the newspaper, “Haaretz”, from 1920, which was published shortly before the arrival of Herbert Samuel in Palestine. The newspaper includes an article written by Leib Yaffe, a description of the farewell party for Herbert Samuel held in London, the summary of an article which appeared in “The Daily Telegraph” and a report about the arrival of the High Commissioner to Palestine. Leib Yaffe’s article describes the happiness of the Yishuv on the scent of Samuel’s appointment, and the great expectations from him. The speech made by Samuel in his farewell party is evidence that Samuel saw an historic opportunity at his new office. He intended to promote the establishment of a Jewish home in Palestine, but not to abandon the Arabs: “but not only to help the land of Israel do I go, as I have a vigorous desire to help the Arab people too”.
Herbert Samuel indeed tried to maintain a neutral policy and to promote a balanced relationship between the Jewish and the Arab population. His immediate task was the establishment of a civil government to replace the British military administration in Palestine. He set up the Chief Rabbinate and appointed Haj Amin al-Husseini as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.
Ceremony in Jerusalem, 1920 (PHPS\1339337)In 1921 the Jaffa riots broke out, in the course of which the Arabs murdered dozens of Jews in Jaffa and its surroundings. Following that, Herbert Samuel limited the number of Jewish immigrants and set a yearly quota in order to calm the Arab population. In addition, he decided to strengthen the British police force that operated in the country by establishing a gendarmerie. During his tenure as High Commissioner, the Jewish population in Palestine doubled in number, and that despite the restrictions on immigration. Jewish land purchase and settlement proceeded apace. Communications and sanitation were improved and modern industrial development began. Education was promoted, with the opening of the Hebrew University in 1925.
Although many Zionists expressed dissatisfaction with his record as High Commissioner, regarding him as too ready to give in to Arab pressure, Weizmann later hailed his “great services to [the] consummation of this ideal”. Samuel continued to be involved with the Zionist movement even after he returned to Britain.