London (Oct. 20)
The establishment of a legislative council for Palestine and government control of all transfers of land are two of the principal features of the British government’s statement regarding its policy in Palestine made public today. Along the lines of the Churchill White Paper of 1922 the government’s statement suggests that the council consist of 22 members with the High Commissioner presiding.
Twelve of the members of the council will be non-officials and elected and the other ten will be officials and appointed. These members will constitute a council which “should be of special benefit to the Arab section of the population and who at present do not possess any constitutional means for putting their views on social and economic matters before the government,” the statement points out.
The representatives of the Arabs will be in a position not only to present matters of interest to them but will also participate in the discussion on these matters, the statement adds. In view of the failure of previous attempts to establish a legislative council in Palestine, the statement warns that in order to avoid a deadlock such as that created in 1923 “steps will be decided upon to ensure the appointment of a requisite number of unofficial members in the event of one or more members failing to be elected on account of the non-cooperation of any section of the population or for any other reason.”
HIGH COMMISSIONER RETAINS POWER
The plan for the council makes provision for the High Commissioner to retain his power to ensure that the Mandatory Power shall be able to carry out its obligations to the League of Nations.
The statement points out that there are no government lands except negligible areas available for Jewish settlement. While the government claims considerable areas, the statement notes that at present these areas are occupied by Arab cultivators, and even if the government would establish its title it would therefore be impossible to make this area available for Jewish settlement.
ONLY 6,500,000 DUNAMS
The government’s statement emphasizes that not ten or eleven or eleven million dunams constitute the cultivable land of Palestine as was previously officially estimated but only 6,500,000 according to Sir John Hope Simpson’s report. The statement concludes that this is insufficient even for the Arabs themselves who would require 8,000,000 dunams, according to the estimate of Sir John Simpson of 130 dunams for each Arab family.
A difference is drawn by the British government between the methods followed by the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (which administers the colonies established by Baron Edmond de Rothschild) and those pursued by the Zionist agencies. While the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association has benefited the Arabs, the Zionist colonies did not benefit the Arabs because of the clauses contained in the constitution of the Jewish National Fund according to which the land acquired by them must remain the inalienable property of the Jewish people and because of the contracts which they have concluded with the Jewish settlers by means of which they can employ only Jewish labor, the government’s statement points out.
ZIONIST CONTENTIONS “FALLACIOUS”
The Zionists’ contentions regarding the benefits which their colonization work has bestowed upon the Arabs have been proven, upon closer examination to be unconvincing, if not fallacious, the statement declares. Referring to the agricultural development of the country the government is satisfied after the investigation made by Sir John Simpson that methodical development is indeed necessary in order to insure better use of the land but results desired will not be obtained except by years of work.
It is therefore fortunate, the statement continues, that the Jewish organizations possess large reserves of land which have not yet been settled and developed. Their operation can continue without interruption while more general steps for the development of the country will be worked out in which both the Jews and the Arabs share alike, the statement says.
During this period, however, complete government control of all transfers of land is necessary, the statement asserts. Such transfers will be permitted only if they do not interfere with the government’s plans for development.
Turning to the question of immigration, the government’s statement of policy regards the stoppage of Jewish immigration last May as justified and stresses that it was not undertaken on political grounds. It says that “an examination has revealed a certain weak ness of the existing system showing that there have been many cases of persons admitted who, if all the facts be known, should not have received visas. In view of the responsibility under the Mandate it is essential for the Palestine government to be the deciding authority in matters of policy regarding immigration, especially having regard to the close relations of immigration and the land development policy.
“No adequate improvement in the existing machinery can be devised unless a modus vivendi be established between the government and the Jewish Agency regarding their respective functions, and full account must be taken of the influence in policy exerted by the General Federation of Jewish Labor over the Jewish Agency,” the government declares. It rules out increased immigration on the theory that more laborers were required because of the increased money available over a period of time or in connection with expenditures on developments which may be considered of a temporary nature.
DUTY TO SUSPEND INFLUX
The statement asserts that “clearly, if Jewish immigration results in preventing the Arabs from obtaining work, or if Jewish immigration unfavorably affects the general labor position, it is the government’s duty to reduce, or if necessary, to suspend such immigration. So long as a widespread suspicion exists among the Arabs that the economic depression from which they undoubtedly suffer at present is due to excessive immigration and so long as some grounds exist upon which this suspicion may plausibly be represented as well-founded there can be little hope for improvement in mutual relations.
“It is upon such improvement in the future that the peace and prosperity in Palestine largely depend;” therefore the government concludes by expressing the desirability of establishing closer cooperation and consultation between the Jewish authorities and the government, and “the closer and more cordial the cooperation becomes the easier it will be to arrive at an agreed schedule based upon a thorough understanding of economic needs.
“After exhaustively examining various political and economic factors involved investigation reveals that Palestine has reached a critical moment in its development. Of the Jewish leaders the government asks the recognition of the necessity for making some concessions, regarding the independent and separatist ideals which have been developed in some quarters in connection with the development of the Jewish National Home.
ADEQUATE CONSIDERATION FOR BOTH
“An active factor in the orientation of the government’s policy is that the general development of the country be carried out in such way that the Arabs and Jews shall receive adequate consideration under conditions which do not give ground for charges of partiality on one side or the other but would permit the Arab and Jewish communities to develop in harmony and contentment”, the government statement declares. are landless and the number of families who previously cultivated the land and have lost it is not yet known. This point will be ascertained in the course of the census which will be taken next year.
ARAB FELLAH’S CONDITION
“The condition of the Arab fellah leaves much to be desired and a policy for land development is necessary for the improvement of his condition. The Jewish settlers have had every advantage that capital, science and organization could give them and the energy of the settlers themselves is responsible for the remarkable progress they have achieved. On the other hand, the Arab population, lacking the advantages enjoyed by the Jewish settler, has increased rapidly due to the excess of births over deaths, while the land available for them has decreased by 1,000,000 dunams which passed into Jewish hands.”
The statement draws attention to the analogy between the effect of the colonization of the Palestine Jewish Agricultural Association (PICA) and that of the Jewish agencies. The statement declares that “the strange provisions regarding the employment of Jewish labor only on Jewish land are difficult to reconcile with the declaration of the Zionist Congress of 1921 expressing the desire of the Jewish people to live with the Arab people in relations of friendship and mutual respect and together with the Arabs to develop the homeland common to both into a prosperous community ensuring the growth of both peoples.
“The General Federation of Jewish Labor, which exercises a very important influence on the direction of Zionist policy, frankly contended that such restrictions are necessary to secure the largest possible amount of Jewish immigration and safeguard the standard of life of the Jewish laborer from falling below the standard of the Arab. Such arguments, however logical from the point of view of a purely national movement, take no account of the provision of article 6 of the Mandate requiring that the rights and position of the other section of the population be not prejudiced.”
GOVERNMENT AGRICULTURAL PLAN
Referring to agricultural development the statement notes that the government “considering itself responsible for ensuring that the position of the other sections of the population be not prejudiced by Jewish immigration will work out a policy for a more methodical agricultural development thus assuring the better use of the land and also government control of all disposition of land transfers.
“Consideration must be given the protection of tenants by some form of occupancy right to secure them against ejectment or the imposition of excessive rentals. Palestine’s finances have been severely strained by the necessity for providing a large increase in security forces which are essential. In the light of the events of the autumn of 1929 it is impossible to forecast the time when it will be thought safe to reduce the expenditure on this account.
“The government hopes that the success of its policy as now envisaged will contribute to the improvement of mutual relations between Jew and Arab. The improvement in agricultural conditions contemplated will involve a considerable expenditure. The government is giving earnest consideration to the financial position of Palestine and steps are being taken to give effect to its policy.”
Dealing with the problem of immigration, the government’s statement says that “an examination of the whole system of immigration in Palestine revealed the weakness of the existing system conducted without effective government control in connection with the selection of immigrants from abroad, which resulted in an inadequate safeguard against irregularities regarding the issuance of certificates, the immigration of undesirables and a further large number of travellers who, arriving for a limited time, continued to stay without sanction.
“It is calculated that the number of such cases in the last three years amounts to 7,800 besides the number of persons who evaded frontier control. For the establishment of control machinery it is necessary to take into account the part played by the General Federation of Jewish Labor whose members are not permitted to have recourse to the country’s courts but in case of a dispute with another member have to apply to their own court with first and second instances and a tribunal for appeal.
SCORES JEWISH LABOR FEDERATION
“The Federation of Jewish Labor has adopted a policy implying the introduction of a new social order based on communal settlements and the principal of self labor, namely, not employing labor, but where self-labor is impossible it is obligatory to employ exclusively Jewish labor. The government, therefore, has arrived at the conclusion that matters of policy in relation to immigration must be decided and that it is essential for the Palestine government to be the deciding authority. An improvement cannot be made unless a modus vivendi is established between the government and the Jewish Agency regarding the respective functions with consideration to the influence exerted by the Federation of Jewish Labor.
“While reliable statistics are not available regarding the Arab unemployed evidence has been adduced that there is at present a serious degree of Arab unemployment and Jewish unemployment which constitutes definitely unsatisfactory features and which makes the preparation of the labor schedule dependent upon the ascertainment of the total unemployment in Palestine.
“Therefore the economic capacity of
the country for the absorption of new immigrants must be judged with reference to the whole of Palestine making necessary an allowance for labor of a temporary character required.”
ARTICLE 6 OF MANDATE
The statement further explains Article 6 of the Mandate in a way that implies that “if Jewish unemployment unfavorably affects the general labor position it is the duty of the Mandatory Power to reduce, or if necessary to suspend, such immigration until the other section is able to obtain work. Any hasty decision regarding more unrestricted Jewish immigration is to be strongly deprecated not only from the viewpoint of the interests of Palestine but even from the special viewpoint of the Jewish community.
“So long as the widespread suspicion exists among the Arabs that the economic depression from which they are undoubtedly suffering is largely due to excessive immigration, and so long as some ground exists upon which this suspicion may be plausibly represented as well-founded, there can be little hope for any improvement in the mutual relations of the two races upon which the future peace and prosperity of Palestine must largely depend.
“In the past, it may be said, the government left economic and social forces to operate with a minimum of interference or control but it became increasingly clear that such a policy can no longer continue and that only the closest cooperation between the government and the Arab and Jewish leaders can prevent Palestine from drifting into a situation which will imperil the Jewish National Home as well as the interests of the majority population.
“An active factor in the orientation of the government’s policy is that the general development of the country be carried out in such a way that the Arabs and Jews shall receive adequate consideration under conditions which do not give ground for charges of partiality on one side or the other but would permit the Arab and Jewish communities to develop in harmony and contentment”, the government statement on policy concludes.
Of the 24 pages that the government’s statement of policy fills, twelve are devoted to the considerations which led the government to appoint Sir John Hope Simpson to inquire into conditions in Palestine. The entire statement stresses the diverse and conflicting interests of the two sections of the population and the British government appears anxious to remove the existing misunderstandings, to allay uneasiness and to restore confidence on both sides.
RECEIVED LITTLE ASSISTANCE
The statement complains that the government has received little assistance from either side in order to heal the breach created in August, 1929, which “resulted in mutual suspicion, hostility and the addition of a further grave obstacle, namely, mistrust towards the government fostered by a press campaign in which the true facts of the situation became obscured and distorted.”
Many of the misunderstandings which have arisen on both side are attributed by the government’s statement to the “failure to appreciate the nature of the duty involved upon the government by the Mandate.” The statement interprets the Mandate by quoting Premier MacDonald’s statement in the House of Commons last April in which he referred to the double undertaking involved.
Both the Jews and Arabs assailed the government with demands and reproaches “based upon the false assumption that the duty of the government was to execute a policy from which the government is debarred by the terms of the Mandate,” the statement declares. “It must be realized once and for all that it is useless for the Jewish leaders on the one hand to press the government to conform to their policy regarding immigration and land and to aspirations of the more uncompromising sections of Zionist opinion.
“It is equally useless for the Arab leaders to maintain demands for a form of constitution which would render it impossible for the government to carry out the double undertaking of the Mandate.”
UNMOVED BY “PRESSURE”
The government asserts that it “will not be moved by any pressure or threats from the path laid down by the Mandate and a policy consistent with the Mandate.” A definition of the meaning the government attaches to the expression, Jewish National Home, is quoted from the statement of policy issued in 1922 and also the principles which should govern immigration and the position of the Jewish Agency are quoted from the mentioned document.
Articles 2, 6, 9, 13, 15, 4 and 11 of the Mandate are quoted to indicate the limitations imposed upon the scope of the Jewish Agency because “claims have been made on behalf of the Jewish Agency to the possession of rights regarding the general administration of the country which the British government regards as going far beyond the clear intention of the Mandate. These limitations are necessary in order to correct the erroneous conception contained in the Zionist claims that the principal features of the Mandate are the passages regarding the Jewish National Home and that the passages designed to safeguard non-Jewish rights are merely of secondary consideration.”