Lost land: Nakba survivors recall rural struggle in Mandate-era Palestine. For over three decades, between 1917 and 1948, Britain ruled over Palestine. While the McMahon-Hussein correspondence during World War I formally promised Arab independence across the region, including for Palestine, the British government vowed in the Balfour Declaration of 1917 to establish a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.
Throughout the Mandate, the British faced resistance from both Palestinians and Zionist militias – as the latter rejected Mandate policies seeking to slow down the influx of Jewish immigrants, and progressively became more aggressive in seeking to create their own state. On 15 May 1948, Britain withdrew its forces from Palestine, and Zionist leadership declared the establishment of a state of Israel, ramping up the ongoing process of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.
Palestinians were taken by surprise by the British decision. After 30 years of brutal British repression, they found themselves without unified leadership, unorganised, and largely unarmed against Zionist paramilitary groups seeking to establish control. The subsequent killing of some 15,000 Palestinians, the destruction of at least 530 villages and towns, and the forcible displacement of around 750,000 Palestinians from their homes would pave the way for Israel to claim large swathes of land as its own.