London (Oct. 20)
With present methods of Arab cultivation there is no margin of land available for agricultural settlement by new immigrants, with the exception of such undeveloped land as the various Jewish agencies now hold in Palestine. This is the first conclusion of Sir John Hope Simpson’s report on which the government’s statement of policy in Palestine, which was issued simultaneously by the Colonial Office this evening, is based and framed, “after very careful consideration of its contents and other information bearing upon the Palestine situation which recently became available.”
GOVERNMENT LANDS OCCUPIED
“The most important of the lands that became available as government property after the War are already occupied,” Sir John continues, “and it is an error to imagine that the government is still in possession of large areas of vacant land which could be made available for Jewish settlement, because those lands which are the government’s property are now occupied by Arabs and it is not feasible to make those areas available for settlement in view of the impossibility of finding other lands on which to place the Arab cultivators.
“The entire cultivable land of Palestine, exclusive of the Beersheba region, is 6,540,000 dunams which is considerably less than hitherto estimated, while at least 130 dunams of land are required to maintain a fellah’s family in a decent standard of living which leaves 29.4 per cent of the Arab families landless.”
JEWS HAD ADVANTAGES
Pointing out the “remarkable progress” of the Jewish settlements due to the energy of the settlers themselves as well as to their advantages of capital, science and organization, the Simpson report emphasizes that the Arab had none of these advantages and received practically no help to improve his cultivation. The bedouins’ problem also requires careful investigation in order to ascertain their rights, and the terms under which the Jewish National Fund buys or leases lands “are objectionable and should be radically altered,” Sir John adds.
“It is the government’s duty under the Mandate to see to it that the Arab position is not prejudiced by Jewish immigration and it is also the government’s duty to encourage the close settlement of the Jews on the land subject to the former conditions,” Sir John asserts but “it is only possible to reconcile these apparently conflicting duties by an active policy of agricultural development through intensive cultivation by both Arabs and Jews in which drastic action is necessary.
“A methodical scheme of agricultural development should be thought out and undertaken having two distinct aims; first the improvement of the fellah’s methods by extending irrigation and cultivating dry tracts; secondly, by the arrangement of holdings in such manner that there be a margin for further settlement in accordance with the terms of Article 6 of the Mandate. (Article 6 states that the “administration of Palestine, while insuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish Agency close settlement by Jews on the land, including state lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.”)
“When such a development is undertaken there will unquestionably be sufficient lands both for Arabs and for additional Jewish settlement. The result desired will not be obtained except by years of work. Therefore it is particularly fortunate that the Jewish organizations possess a large reserve of land not yet settled or developed.
OPERATIONS CAN CONTINUE
“Their operations can continue without a break while the general scheme of development is being worked out and brought into operation. Until the scheme has been worked out the control of all disposition of land must of necessity rest with the authority in charge of the development and transfers should only be permitted in so far as they do not interfere with that scheme. In order to achieve the success of that development it is necessary that the authority controlling the development should be able to obtain lands, which is possible through an amicable arrangement between the government and the land-owners. The government should also have power to purchase at valuation all land for sale on the market.”
Sir John further suggests the appointment of a development commission comprised of a chairman of British nationality and one Arab and one Jew. He says that the commission would “not only undertake the development of the land but would also be responsible for its colonization by both Jews and Arabs until the survey is finished and the census taken next year.”
It is impossible to say what the actual area available for cultivation is and the number of Arab families it may be necessary to displace, Sir John continues. “While it is impossible to give a reliable estimate of the number of those who could be accommodated in Palestine if the whole country were adequately developed it is possible that the development of 100,000 dunams in certain areas of the maritime plain might perhaps provide sufficient land for the settlement of from 5,000 to 6,500 families, thus providing accommodation for the families already on the spot and 2,000 families of Arabs from the congested areas in the hills and 2,000 families of Jewish settlers.
“A similar area in Beisan would accommodate only one half or two thirds of the number of new families, which depends on water for irrigation and markets for produce, but undoubtedly systematic and methodical development over a series of years will change the whole aspect of agricultural Palestine and admit a largely increased population. Any scheme of development should provide for the settlement of both Jews and Arabs on developed areas and should take into consideration the plans of colonization of the Jewish Agency in order that the development of both agencies and of the commission might be co-ordinated in every way. It is perhaps possible to combine the two schemes of development in certain areas with mutual advantages and considerable economy.
EXPENSE OF SETTLEMENT
“It is assumed that the average expenditure of settling an Arab family will be about $300, the Arab building his own house at $50 per room, leaving him $200 for a good cow, an iron plow and a harrow. Though the standard of life of the Arab and Jew differ materially no difference could be made either in the size of the holding allotted or in the amount granted for settlement.
“If the Jew desires a more liberal settlement, as he will desire, he must obtain its cost elsewhere than from the development commission. The success of the scheme depends on the loyal cooperation of the Jewish colonization agencies with the commission. The commission should be in constant touch with both agencies and this is the only way in which Article 6 of the Mandate can be observed and the close settlement of Jews be encouraged while the position of the Arab section of the population is not prejudiced.
“An essential condition also is that the land should be bought at reasonable prices since the present prices of land in Palestine have reached an exaggerated height owing to the determination of the various Jewish agencies to buy at a hazard price while it is possible to avoid this either by agreement between the government and the Jewish agencies or government control of the disposition of lands.
“It is necessary to utilize the forthcoming census for ascertaining the number of Arabs who have become landless. The development commission will also have to deal with the question of migration, namely, the transfer of the fellaheen from the congested areas to free lands though the unwillingness of the Arabs to move from one spot to another may cause some difficulty.
LEGISLATION ON IRRIGATION
“Legislation to regulate irrigation and render it more efficient should be passed as soon as possible. Control of all irrigable water should remain with the government and all surplus water above that on which rights may be