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All Powers over Palestine Land Transactions Will Be Vested in High Commissioner

All powers regarding land transactions in Palestine will be vested in the High Commissioner, Dr. Drummond Shiels, undersecretary of state for the Colomes, said today in the House of Commons in the course of three explanations which tremendously affect Jewish land buying in Palestine. Dr. Shiels’ explanations were made in reply to questions put before him by Ben Tillet, Labor leader.

Dr. Shiels declared that the director of the Palestine development plan in resettling Arabs who are landless by virtue of their lands passing into the hands of the Jews, will not differentiate between those Arabs who have been actually displaced as the result of lands being sold by absentee landlords and those who have willingly sold their holdings to the Jews. It will remain for the development director to consider whether the various organizations will be further encouraged by the government in their attempts to promote collective purchase and cultivation of lands, Dr. Shiels added.

TO BENEFIT ARABS FIRST

The statement that the development director will make no differentiation between the two classes of landless Arabs is interpreted here as meaning that the Arabs will benefit from the development plan first. The second explanation is taken to mean that Jewish land purchasing organizations may possibly be hampered in their efforts to acquire additional land. From Dr. Shiels’ explanation that the High Commissioner is vested with all powers regarding land transactions it is understood that without the consent or approval of the High Commissioner no land can be bought or sold in Palestine in the future.

The handing over of all control over Palestine land transactions to the High Commissioner was foreshadowed in Premier MacDonald’s letter to Dr. Chaim Weizmann on February 13, 1930. In paragraph 12 of this letter Premier MacDonald referred to the contemplated creation of a centralized control of land transactions, such control to take effect when the authority charged with carrying out the land development scheme began to operate. The land development scheme’s details were announced on July 20 simultaneously with the appointment of Lewis French as director of development.

The text of the paragraph referred to above reads as follows:

POLICY FOUND IN PREMIER’S LETTER

“In giving effect to the policy of land settlement as contemplated in Article XI of the Mandate, it is necessary, if disorganization is to be avoided, and if the policy is to have a chance to succeed, that there should exist some centralized control of transactions relating to the acquisition and transfer of land during such interim periods as may reasonably be necessary to place the development scheme upon a sure foundation.

“The power contemplated is regulative and not prohibitory although it does involve a power to prevent transactions which are inconsistent with the tenor of the scheme. But the exercise of the power will be limited and in no respect arbitrary. In every case it will be conditioned by consideration as to how best to give effect to the purpose of the Mandate. Any control contemplated will be fenced with due safeguards to secure as little interference as possible with the free transfer of land.

“The centralized control will take effect as from such date only as the authority charged with the duty of carrying out the policy of land development shall begin to operate. The High Commissioner shall, pending the establishment of such centralized control have full powers to take all steps necessary to protect the tenancy and occupancy rights, including the rights of squatters, throughout Palestine.”

EFFECTED IN ORDINANCE

These powers were carried into effect on June 1 when a new Protection of Cultivators Ordinance was enacted. This law provided that instead of merely notifying the district commissioner regarding a land transfer, the landlord must henceforth declare the object of the transfer and the order for the eviction of tenants must not be made unless the court is satisfied that provision has been made for tenant occupants.

It also makes failure to pay rent or to cultivate the land holding as the only justification for eviction, in which case the tenant is not entitled to compensation. Under the provisions of the ordinance, grazers who continuously for years by “right of custom, usage or on sufferance” have established grazing rights cannot be evicted by the court unless the High Commissioner is satisfied that equivalent provision has been made towards the livelihood of the grazers.

For the purposes of the ordinance a tenant is defined as a person who has cultivated a holding for at least two years under an agreement with a landlord, paying a fixed rental in money or kind, a person hired for agricultural work and receiving as remuneration a portion of the produce of the holding he cultivates, and heirs of such tenants.

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