Palestine During World War II
The British declaration of war against Germany on September 3, 1939, was greeted by the Jewish Agency with an immediate proclamation of support, notwithstanding continuing disagreement over the MacDonald White Paper. "The war which has now been forced upon Great Britain by Nazi Germany is our war, and all the assistance that we shall be able and permitted to give to the British Army and to the British People we shall render wholeheartedly."1
That same day, the Executive of the Jewish Agency and the Vaad Leumi decided jointly to register volunteers to serve the needs of the Jewish community and to provide whatever services might be required by the British military. A total of 136,043 men and women volunteered by the end of the month. The Jewish Agency proposed that these volunteers serve in Palestine in distinct Jewish units. However, the Palestine administration was adamantly opposed to the idea, since it would strengthen the position of the Yishuv and further antagonize the Arabs, whose support of Britain in the war was tepid at best.
In October 1939, the mufti left French-occupied Syria for nominally. nonbelligerent Iraq, which was coming under the control of the pro- Axis Rashid Ali al-Gailani. At the same time, the British announced that because of the level of illegal Jewish immigration into Palestine, no new immigration certificates would be issued for the following six months. This restriction was subsequently extended until June 1941, notwithstanding the increasingly precarious situation of the Jews of Europe who desperately needed a place of sanctuary.