The Secret Testimony to the Peel Commission (Part I): Underbelly of Empire
Peel Commission

The Peel Commission (1936–37) was the first British commission of inquiry to recommend the partition of Palestine into two states. The commissioners made their recommendation after listening to several weeks of testimony, delivered in both public and secret sessions. The transcripts of the public testimony were published soon afterward, but the secret testimony transcripts were only released by the United Kingdom’s National Archives in March 2017. Divided into two parts, this article closely examines the secret testimony. Part I discusses how the secret testimony deepens our understanding of key themes in Mandate history, including: the structural exclusion of the Palestinians from the Mandate state, the place of development projects in that structural exclusion, the different roles played by British anti-Semitism and anti-Arab racism, and the importance of the procedural aspects of committee work for understanding the mechanics of British governance. Part II extends this analysis by focusing on what the secret testimony reveals about how the Peel Commission came to recommend partition.

Author biography: 

Laila Parsons is professor of modern Middle East history at McGill University. She is the author of The Druze between Palestine and Israel,1947–1949 (Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 2000), and numerous journal articles on the 1948 war, on rebel soldiers in the interwar period, and on the place of narrative and biography in the historiography of the modern Middle East. Her most recent book, The Commander: Fawzi al-Qawuqji and the Fight for Arab Independence, 1914–1948 (New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2016), was the recipient of the 2017 Palestine Book Award and the Society for Military History’s 2017 Distinguished Book Award.

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