London (Sep. 19)
(By our London Correspondent)
The claims of a number of Arab Bedouins to land in Barrat Caesarea, near Haifa, for which the Jewish Colonization Association (Ica) holds a concession from the Palestine Government, are to be enquired into by a Commission which has been appointed by the Haifa Land Court, before which the case came up.
The Arabs claim 32,000 dunams of land, which they say they have been cultivating for fifty years. The Government representative contended, however, that the Arabs cultivated at most an area of only 800 dunam. The Commission appointed by the Court will investigate on the spot the extent of land which has actually been under cultivation by the Arabs, so that the Court should be able to deal with the claim.
The dispute over this land has been dragging for years, and has caused violent disturbances, as in February 1927 when a mob of Arabs led by Vadie el Bustani, a member of the Palestine Arab Executive, uprooted two thousand eucalyptus trees planted by the Ica. Bustani was afterwards ordered to pay a heavy fine for instigating the attack. It has also repeatedly formed the subject of discussion before the meetings of the Permanent Mandates Commission.
It was as far back as April 1914 that the Ica entered into an agreement with the local authorities concerning the marshes at Athlit and Kabbara, which, according to the Mandatory Power, were registered in the name of the Ottoman Government. The local authorities had approved the project in principle and at the outbreak of war awaited an endorsement by the Government of Constantinople. After the war negotiations were reopened between the Ica and the Palestine Administration.
In Novermber 1921, the Ica was granted the concession under which it obtained on lease from the Palestine Government for a period of 100 years, renewable under certain conditions, the marshes of Athlit and Zor Kabbara, the swamps of Mallaha and the sand-dunes of Caesarea, together with the hills and adjacent lands, pledging itself to commence within the course of three years and to continue within the course of eight years the following works: to drain all swamps; to cultivate all lands which are cultivable; to afforest all hills and stony land. Within the course of twenty years the Ica undertook to reclaim and plant all sand-dunes. All minerals and ores found on these lands belong to the Government. Also the right to exploit the mines and quarries belongs solely to the Government.
For the first 33 years, the Ica is to pay the Government Â£50 annually for Athlit, Â£50 annually for Mallaha, Â£30 annually for Caesarea, and in addition two piastres per annum for every dunam of sand-dunes and five piastres per annum for every dunam of non-sandy land. For the remainder of the lease period (67 years) the Ica is to pay in advance an annual sum to be fixed at the time. Five per cent. of the profits derived from the salt industry in the district belongs to the Government. The Ica will also have to pay all duties, the Ottoman public debt (on salt), land duties, customs.
The total area of the Kabbara Concession is about 10,000 acres. The entire Arab population of the whole area previously consisted of some 170 families comprising 840 persons. Seventy-five families claim that they have been dispossessed without compensation.
The Mandates Commission in its Reports on the claims has found that the statements of both parties (Arabs and Government) are very contradictory and somewhat confused. The representative of the Palestine Government contended that the complaint of the Arabs concerning the manner in which they had been compelled to give up their land in this area was mainly of a political nature. The Government insisted that this work of reclaiming and settlement, which is a heavy burden on the Ica, should be carried out in the general public interest.