Commission Told Effendi Defrauded Arabs in Land Deal As Pioneer Jewish Farmer Denies Jewish Agricult
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Commission Told Effendi Defrauded Arabs in Land Deal As Pioneer Jewish Farmer Denies Jewish Agricult

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Evidence tending to show that instead of the Jews driving the Arabs off the land, as had been charged by Arab counsel and witnesses, that Arabs themselves had been exploiting and defrauding the Arab landowners was presented at yesterday’s session of the Inquiry Commission’s hearing by Charles Passman, former general manager of the American Zion Commonwealth.

While Maughanam, the Arab counsel brought down upon himself the rebuke of the Commission for his attempts to get Passman to admit that the American Zion Commonwealth had inadequately compensated Arab tenants in driving them off their paternal lands, Sir Boyd Merriman, counsel for the Jews, “stuck a pin into the oft-repeated rhetoric about the poor Arabs” by getting Passman to show that the Bedouins of Jedrow had been prevented from getting off their land by an agreement they signed in 1925 with the Arab Dagani of Jaffa. By the agreement Dagani promised to obtain for them land rights at Domney it they would give him fifty per cent commission and the Bedouins also agreed to forfeit $1,500 each if they dealt directly with the Jewish land cmpany. Having obtained this agreement, Dagani then tried to sell it to Passman.


Hearing this bit of testimony, Commissioner Hopkins declared “Why, that is fraud.” Maughanam then pointed out that these same Arabs for driving off Jewish ploughmen in 1925 had been arrested and imprisoned and remarked “that is how the Jews get their pound of flesh by force.” He declared that the jail sentences had been upheld since the Bedouins had been unable to prove their rights to the land.

When Maughanam bewailed the fact that the Jews had driven the Arabs of Afuleh from the houses of their forefathers, Passman amused the court by proving that the entire village of Afuleh had been wiped out in 1915 by cholera and typhus and that in 1917 the Arabs had built mud huts. The Arab counsel charged that the influence of the Zionists in the government land department was responsible for changing the land laws so that in land transactions the Arab fellaheens had no protection.

This appeared to annoy Commissioner Betterton, who said, “damn it all. he has already shown us that the government had full knowledge of all land deals.” Maughanam went on to ask why the Jews were not cultivating with modern machinery the surplus lands that had been offered to the Arabs, to which Passman replied “we are now.”

The Arab attorney presented complicated figures in an attempt to show that the terms offered by the Jews to Arab land-owners were so harsh that the Arabs could not accept them and therefore took cash instead. Chairman Shaw then inquired: “Why was this not brought up in the land court at the proper time?” Commissioner Betterton discounted Maughanam’s reference to the financial difficulties of the American Zion Commonwealth by saying “there is no need of pursuing domestic affairs.”


Discussing the drainage project at Acor, Maughanam said that it had not helped get rid of malaria and that in drying up the swamps it was depriving the Bedouins of their pasture lands. A bit piqued at this, Commissioner Snell remarked. “really. I grow daily more amazed at my patience.”

The evidence offered by Arab land experts that an Arab family requires one fedan (1 acres) of land, was countered by Merriman with Passman’s figures about Afuleh, where 52 tenants occupied only 94 fedans. Viscount Erleigh, Merriman’s aide, then began a brief examination of Smilansky, one of the oldest Jewish farmers in Palestine. He declared that on August 19 the Arabs returned from the weekly market at Lud where they had heard speeches inciting them to go to Jerusalem on the following Friday and attack the Jewish villages. Smilansky said that the Arabs were told that the government was with them and that Jews planned to rebuild the Temple

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on the dome rock. He told of meeting leaders of the Jewish colonies on Thursday and drawing up a proclamation to the Arabs which read “we will live together in peace in this land. The government desires peace. We are brothers and offspring of Father Abraham.” The Committee, he said, saw Crosby, the district officer, on the Friday morning. He held up the proclamation and assured them that nothing would happen.


That the difference between the Arab villages near the Jewish colonies and other Arab villages was like the difference between day and night, was a statement by Smilansky. He named a dozen villages near the Jewish colonies where the Arabs had sunk wells, used modern fertilizing methods, and raised oranges. The Arabs owe their prosperity, he declared, to direct earnings from the Jewish colonists, from emulation of Jewish methods and from money obtained in land sales to the Jews. The Arabs living in villages far from the Jewish colonies are as backward as they were forty years ago, he pointed out. Smilansky then gave some interesting figures on the prices paid for land by the Jews and how they increased the productivity of the land.


At the present. he said, the Arabs cultivate 45,000 dunams of orange lands and the Jews cultivate 60,000. Of the orange lands cultivated by the Arabs, fellaheen work 20,000 dunams. The Arab groves yield on an average of 70 boxes of oranges per dunam, while the Jewish groves net 110 boxes per dunam. Viscount Erleigh then asked the veteran farmer, who under the pen name of Hawaja Moussa has written a number of tales about fellaheen life and customs. about the price levied on land cultivated by fellaheen but owned by effendis. The witness replied, “twenty percent of the crop and but for the agitators our relations between the Arabs would improve yearly.”

Commissioner Betterton asked Smilansky what measures he would recommend to prevent further disturbances. Smilansky pointed out that the city youth were genuinely patriotic, but they misunderstood economics and do not realize that with the aid of the Jews the country can be reconstructed. He also advocated education of the Arabs, which. he said. was a duty of the government and of the Jews and for the government to be firm and not allow mischief-makers to come between the people.


Replying to a question from Chairman Shaw whether the Jews have harmed the Arabs. Smilansky replied, “God forbid.” And to Shaw’s further question, “how about the new immigrants,” Smilansky said that they were predominantly zealous men who were determined to reconstruct a derelict country. Answering the questions of Silley. Arab counsel, Smilansky affirmed “we have come for our own benefit to the country where we created this Book,” pionting to the Bible. “We found the land primitive and savage. but through our efforts the land will flow with milk and honey.” Silley suggested that the milk and honey had recently been mixed with blood. To this Smilansky replied, “Yes, unfortunately, thanks to a handful of agitators whom the government failed to control.” He refused to accept the conclusions of the 1921 Haycroft Commission that the agitators were only one of the numerous causes of Arabunrest.

Smilansky asserted that he had “viewed Arab psychology for 40 years, while the Haycraft Commission studied it for only a few weeks. It is my profound conviction that Jewish immigration is a blessing.”

For a while the Commission hearing was turned into a sort of parliament, with the Commissioners debating with the witness the advantages of Jewish-Arab autonomy under the British administration. Smilansky admitted that he was considered a moderate Zionist, and declared that the Jews themselves should be allowed to control immigration within the country’s economic capacity.

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