Ploughing Sand: British Rule in Palestine, 1917-1948 by Naomi Shepherd
This book recreates British rule in Palestine from the winter of 1917 to the spring of 1948. Between these dates, the Jewish minority turned political weakness into strength, and the Palestine Arabs headed for disaster. How this happened under British administration is the subject of this richly documented account, based on public and private papers, memoirs, and interviews—many never previously published.
After the First World War the British in Palestine were handed an ambiguous brief: to encourage the formation of a “national home” for the Jews and to protect the “civil and religious rights” of the local Arabs. Colonial officials tried vainly to create a pluralist, “composite state” from communities divided by politics, religion, language, culture—even economic and social structure. They attempted to legislate for the benefit of Arabs and Jews alike, but saw many of their laws on immigration and land evaded by both, often in collusion. Trying at first to settle political conflict by persuasion and conciliation, in the end they turned disastrously to force.
This study is the first to reconstruct in detail the workings of the troubled Mandate administration, and the influence of its chief personalities. At the end, with the land records preserved and military equipment consigned to the sea, a leading official complained bitterly that all constructive efforts in Palestine had been like “ploughing sand.”