Demography and the struggle for Palestine, 1917-1947

Aviva Halamish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


During the Mandate period, the struggle for Palestine was essentially a demographic race between the Jewish minority and the Arab majority, with the Mandate authorities determining the rules of the game. While the proportion of Arabs to Jews at the end of WWI was 11:1, by the eve of WWII, it was approximately two-thirds Arabs to one-third Jews, and remained as such until the outbreak of the 1948 War, with 600,000 Jews in the country and twice as many Arabs. The primary source of growth in the Jewish population was immigration whereas the rate of growth among the Arabs was due almost exclusively to natural population increase. The article surveys and analyzes the role of demography in shaping the policy and practice of the three sides of the Palestine triangle from the formulation of the Balfour declaration in 1917 to the 1947 United Nations' partition resolution. The main contention is, that demographic calculations and estimations were behind the positions on the three main issues around which the conflict in Mandatory Palestine revolved: immigration, the establishment of institutions of representative self-government and the acquisition of land by Jews.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-65
Number of pages20
JournalIsrael Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Indiana University. All rights reserved.


  • Committees of Enquiry
  • Demographic figures
  • Economic absorptve capacity
  • Jewish immigration to Palestine
  • Partition plans

RAMBI publications

  • Jews -- Eretz Israel -- Population -- History -- 20th century
  • Palestinian Arabs -- Eretz Israel -- Population
  • Eretz Israel -- History -- Partition, 1947
  • Eretz Israel -- Politics and government -- 1917-1948, British Mandate period
  • Eretz Israel -- Emigration and immigration -- History -- 1917-1948, British Mandate period
  • Eretz Israel -- Population -- History -- 20th century


Dive into the research topics of 'Demography and the struggle for Palestine, 1917-1947'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this