BBC World Service misleads on Jewish immigration to Mandate Palestine

The November 26th edition of the BBC World Service radio programme ‘Witness’ was titled “Britain’s Palestine Patrols” and its synopsis reads as follows:Witness Palestine Patrols

“In the 1940s the Royal Navy intercepted dozens of Jewish refugee ships trying to reach British-controlled Palestine. It was part of British government policy to limit Jewish immigration to Palestine. Witness hears from Alan Tyler who served as an officer onboard HMS Chevron, patrolling the Mediterranean sea.”

However, during the course of the programme, listeners were inaccurately led to believe by presenter Mike Lanchin that British restrictions on Jewish immigration to mandate Palestine were only implemented after the Second World War.

“In the years following the First World War the British had allowed mass Jewish immigration to Palestine, exacerbating tensions with the local Arab population. As the Second World War came to an end, tens of thousands of Jews were even more desperate to reach what many of them saw as the promised land. Zionist organisations helped them by hiring or buying boats to get there. But by that time, the British government – fearing further conflict in the region – was equally intent on stopping them.” [emphasis added]

Atlit 1
Atlit Detention Camp

In fact, of course, British-imposed restrictions on Jewish immigration by means of an annual quota began in 1922 – in the days of the first British High Commissioner.  The Passfield White Paper of 1930 and the 1939 White Paper also produced policy which can in no way be described as allowing “mass Jewish immigration.”

Later on in the programme listeners also heard the following context-free statement from Lanchin:

“Following the establishment of the State of Israel up to a million Palestinians fled or were driven from their homes. And by the mid-1960s up to a million more Jews had arrived to settle in Israel.”

Apparently Lanchin did not consider it necessary to inform audiences either of the war launched on the nascent Israeli state by its neighbouring Arab countries which was the reason why Palestinians were displaced or of the fact that a high proportion of those Jews immigrating to Israel in its early years were refugees from Arab lands.


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