PP badge link to homepage The Palestine Police during the British Mandate

Intro Section 1
Section 2
Section 3
Section 4
Section 5
Section 6
Section 7
Section 8
Section 9
Section 10
Section 11

Section 2 i. The Peoples of Palestine in the Early Years of the Mandate



This is the social environment facing the Palestine Police and Gendarmerie when first formed.

In 1920 the overwhelming majority of the Palestinian population was Arab, mostly Muslim,and mainly Sunni. However, there was a sizeable Arab Christian population, mostly 'Greek' Orthodox'. The first British census of Palestine taken on October 23rd 1922 recorded over 200 localities with a Christian population.

In 1923, as a result of pressure from Zionists over water rights, the Palestinian portion of the Golan Heights was exchanged with the French for seven Syrian villages with a predominantly Shia Muslim population. They were Tarbikha, Saliha, Malkiyeh, Nabi Yusha, Qadas, Hunin, and Abil al-Qamh.

Arab demonstration However, culturally the most important divisions between Arabs was not religion but class and education. between the affluent urban classes, (effendi), and the rural, often illiterate, villagers (fellaheen). Until 1938,male urban merchants, landowners and professionals wore western suits topped by a red Ottoman fez, the fellaheen wore long striped tunics with white keffiyas bound by black iqals, landless labourers in both town and country wore brown skullcaps, baggy black trousers and short tunics. Urban women wore western dress but many kept their faces veiled in public, rural women wore long thobs and head scarves but did not veil their faces. Bedouin, who owned tribal lands but herded their domestic animals across the country often ignoring international borders, kept themselves apart from other Arabs and wore clothes similar to the fellaheen but generally of better quality. The top photo on the left where Arabs of all kinds have turned up to a demonstration illustrates the differences in clothing.


The Jewish population in Palestine had grown rapidly since the 1870s when Jews had escaped into the Ottoman Empire to escape persecution in Christian Eastern Europe. By 1922 the Jewish population had overtaken that of the Christian Arabs. There were three main types of Jews.

Sephardim or 'People of the Book,' as they were known by Muslims, for the most part lived in Muslim Mediterranean countries. The Koran contains a mandate to protect the People of the Book. Many Sephardim had lived in Palestine for several centuries, mostly in urban areas, spoke Arabic, dressed like Arabs and were indifferent to Zionism.

Religious JewsHighly religious Ashkenazim Jews from Central and Eastern Europe had been around Palestine for centuries, some with lives focussed on religious studies, while others had retired to Palestine to ensure their burial in Jerusalem. These Jews were often supported by funds from abroad. Many religious Ashkenazim were opposed to Zionism

KibbutzniksThe third group of Jews, the Zionists, differed greatly from the other two. They were mainly European Ashkenazim, who had been 'making aliyah', (i.e. returning to the 'Land of Israel') since the third quarter of the 19th century. These had built rural settlements,either kibbutzim (where members owned everything in common) or moshavim (where members had private small holdings but worked collaboratively.) These Zionists aimed to repossess the Land of Israel 'dunum by dunum and goat by goat'.

The Armenians

There were many Armenians living in the cities who had fled persecution in Turkey during WW1.

Egyptian Copts

The small number of Egyptian Copts living in urban areas had been greatly augmented when the British transferred railway workers from Egypt to Haifa

European Christians

European Christians had been drawn to 'the Holy Land' many as missionaries. Some had been useful in providing schools and hospitals. Two groups had benefited the country without trying to convert others to their own brand of religion. The German Templers had bred the 'Jaffa Orange' for which the country had become famous, the American Colony had improved infant care.

The Druze

DruzeThis monotheistic sect had lived in the Galilee and Carmel area of Palestine for almost a thousand years. They spoke a special dialect of Arabic that sounded much like the Arabic of Syria.

In the early years of the Police Force many Arab and Druze bandits operated in the hilly areas of Palestine,across Galilee, Samaria and Judea and also behind Jaffa and in the Carmel range. Their numbers varied from five or six to sixty or more members. These bandits preyed on Arab villages and Jewish settlements. One such gang, its leader wanted for the murder of two Warrant Officers of the Duke of Wellington's Regiment,clashed with Police in the Bab El Wad area. A pursuit by Police lasting almost a week resulted in the arrest of the gang leader who was tried and convicted in Jerusalem.

Next- The Formation of the Palestine Police

i The Peoples of Palestine

ii. Formation of the Palestine Police

iii. Early Clashes

iv. 1922 Formation of the British Gendarmerie

V. Captain James Wesley Mackenzie