Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

The Royal Navy and the Palestine Patrol

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

The Royal Navy and the Palestine Patrol

Article excerpt

The Royal Navy and the Palestine Patrol, by Ninian Stewart. Naval Staff Histories. Captain Christopher Page, series editor. London, UK: Frank Cass, 2002. xvi + 175 pages. Notes to p. 180. Annexes and Appends. to p. 204. Sources to p. 209. Index to p. 217. $54.50 cloth; $25 paper.

"In the aftermath of the Second World War," observed Admiral Sir Nigel Essenhigh, the Chief of the (British) Naval Staff in the Foreword to this fascinating and revealing study, "no task that fell to the Royal Navy was more demanding than the interception of sea-borne illegal immigration into Palestine 1945-48" (p. ix). The story of these extensive and delicate - and generally highly-successful - Royal Navy operations, the only official account of which has hitherto been a classified document, has been distorted by blatantly partisan accounts and overshadowed by Jewish terrorist activities on land against the British.

This monograph is divided into four sections. In "Part I. The British and Palestine," the author chronicles the history of Zionism and the beginning and continuation of Zionist immigration to Palestine until the end of World War II. The number of Jews in Palestine increased from, for example, 83,000 in 1923 (of a population also consisting of 589,000 Muslims and 71,000 Christians), to 400,000, or 30 percent of the population, in 1936. This huge influx of Zionist settlers was a factor in the outbreak of the 1936 Arab Revolt. As World War II loomed on the horizon, the Zionists continued aggressively to evade Palestine immigration quotas set by Great Britain, the Mandatory power, and exacerbated the festering tension with indigenous Arabs.

The remaining three sections - "1945 46: Unopposed Arrests," "1946-47: Contested Arrests," and " 1947-48: The Final Period" of Jewish immigration to Palestine narrate and assess in detail the operations of the British Palestine Patrol. The end of World War II witnessed a tremendous increase in the number of Jewish refugees, and the number of displaced persons attempting to reach Palestine far exceeded established quotas. Six illegal immigrant ships landed on the Palestine coast between August 28 and October 26, 1945. The Royal Navy's Palestine Patrol became operational in early November 1945, and from that time until May 13, 1948, 56 vessels attempted to land illegal immigrants. Of that number, only six ships were not intercepted or boarded by the Royal Navy or sunk.

One of the most celebrated and controversial incidents involved the illegal immigrant vessel SS President Warfield - alias "Exodus 1947" - which attempted to land 4,554 people in July 1947, the largest number up to that time. …

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