A few weeks ago, I voted in my first Israeli election. On the days leading up to the event itself, as the results were published, and in the days that followed, I was glued to the internet, waiting for every new development, and I spent a lot more time on Facebook than usual, seeing how other people were reacting to events as they were unfolding.
And of course, I found myself wondering, what happened when significant news events broke here during the 1930s? How did people receive the news, and in what forums did they discuss it?
An example of one such event was the release of the report by the British government’s Palestine Partition Commission on 9th November 1938.
Also known as the Woodhead Commission, it was tasked with examining the technical aspects of implementing the partition plan of Palestine, as recommended by the 1937 Palestine Royal Commission, or the Peel Commission. (Without going into too much detail on Peel, it recommended that Palestine be partitioned into a Jewish state, an Arab state, and a zone under British mandate, saying that “partition offers a chance of ultimate peace. No other plan does”).
On 9th November, a summary of the Woodhead report, and statement by the British government on its policies in Palestine, was broadcast on the radio in Arabic at 6 P.M., in Hebrew at 6.35 P.M., and in English at 7 P.M. The big surprise in the announcement was that Woodhead rejected the recommendations of the Peel Commission, saying that partition of Palestine was “impracticable,” and instead offered two alternative plans.
A brief article on page 5 of the daily Davar on 10th November gives us an insight into the experience of listening to that broadcast, at least in Tel Aviv. Here is a translation of the article, entitled “Last night next to the radios”(there is a picture of it below):
“Residents of Tel Aviv stood gathered in groups next to radios, in private apartments, in cafes and in public places, to hear the summary of the report of the partition commission and the statement by the British government on its policy in Eretz Yisrael. In the streets, the people crowded outside radio shops, despite the rain. This time, the mood was not what it was in the past month of July, when life stopped, and the masses listened with bated breath to the recommendations of the royal commission. With astonishment and exasperation each of those gathered looked at his neighbour, at hearing the plans of the commission and the declaration of the British government. The people stood there for another long hour, and tried to guess, explain and predict.”
July is mentioned as it was the month that the Peel Commission’s report was released the previous year. As we saw in an earlier blog post, there was stormy weather in Mandate Palestine at the time, and the article indeed says that the crowds gathered to listen to the announcement “despite the rain.”
Coming up in a separate post, some more highlights from how the Woodhead report was covered and analysed in the Mandate Palestine press.
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