Jerusalem (Jan. 14)
Mr. Albert M. Hyamson has not officially accepted the offer of the Secretaryship of the Board of Deputies and the Joint Foreign Committee, the J.T.A here understands, but it gathers at the same time that he would not be reluctant to accept, since he has already reached retiring age and can therefore retire on pension, and in any case he would be bound to leave the service in another three years, when he reaches the age of 60.
Mr. Hyamson feels that he can still do useful work after his retirement, and therefore is willing to consider the opportunity offered by the Board of Deputies and the Joint Foreign Committee.
Mr. Albert Montefiore Hyamson, who was born in London on August 27th., 1875, entered the British Civil Service (Post Office) in 1895, being transferred to the Government of Palestine in 1921.
He was at one time a keen Zionist, and joint editor of the “Zionist Review”. He was the first Honorary Secretary of the Union of Jewish Literary Societies, and is the author of a number of books, including “A History of the Jews in England” “The Return of the Jews to England”, “The Jubilee of Jewish Emancipation In England”, “Palestine: The Rebirth of An Ancient People”, “Palestine, Old and New”, “Awakening Palestine”, and “British Projects For The Restoration Of Jews to Palestine”.
Since the forced resignation of Mr. Norman Bentwich from the post of Attorney General to the Palestine Government, Mr. Hyamson is the only Jew left at the head of a Department of the Palestine Government.
It was only a few days ago, on January 1st., that the “Official Gazette”, of the Palestine Government announced Mr. Hyamson’s appointment by the High Commissioner, General Sir Arthur Wauchope, as Director of the Department of Immigration, instead of his previous post of Chief Immigration Officer, meaning that his section has again been raised to the status of a Government Department.
In Palestine, Mr. Eyamson has not been popular with the Jewish population, who considered him entirely the servant of the Palestine Government, so that if Jewish demands conflicted with Government obligations he would brush the Jewish demands aside. He consequently earned for himself a good deal of Jewish disapproval, largely on account of his unyielding attitude in restricting Jewish immigration and the frequent cases of individual hardship that arose in consequence, in which he showed no inclination to leniency. The Jewish Agency found him extremely rigorous in considering the immigration estimates which it submitted to the Palestine Government under the Labour Schedule, and there was also hostility because of the methods adopted by his Department in estimating the numbers of Arab unemployed, without any reliable data, to bring down Jewish immigration on the ground that it increased Arab unemployment.
CHALLENGED ON HIS EVIDENCE BEFORE SHAW ENQUIRY COMMISSION
In April 1930, the Executive of the Palestine General Federation of Jewish Labour (Histadruth Haovdim) sent a letter to Mr. Hyamson challenging his statement quoted in the Report of the Palestine Commission of Enquiry, that “immigration certificates are issued in blank to the Palestine Zionist Executive, which hands them over to the General Federation of Jewish Labour, which, in distributing them considers political motives more than the absorptive capacity of the country”.
This statement is entirely unfounded, the Executive of the Histadruth declared, concluding by calling on Mr. Hyams on to correct it. The Histadruth does not receive immigration certificates, it said. The certificates are handed to the Zionist Executive, which informs the Immigration Department to which British Consuls the certificates should be sent. The distribution of certificates according to countries and according to the categories of immigrants is made by the Zionist Executive after consulting its Immigration Commission, and the choice of candidates for immigration in each country is made by the local Palestine Office composed of all the Zionist parties.
Mr. Hyamson’s evidence before the Shaw Enquiry Commission and the nature of the material which he supplied to Sir John Hope Simpson at the time of his investigation in Palestine roused a great deal of hostility towards him. In some quarters it is urged, however, that perhaps the fact that he was known to be a Zionist before he became a member of the Palestine Government led people to expect from him more than was in the power of a Department head who was engaged only in executing Government policy for which he was not personally responsible.
In his “History of the Jews in England”, Mr. Hyamson makes references to the work of the Jewish Board of Deputies and its intervention on behalf of Jews in foreign counties. The formation of the Anglo-Jewish Association afterwards, he recalls, encroached to some extent on the province which had hitherto been occupied by the Board of Deputies, and the relation between the two bodies immediately came up for settlement. The Board of Deputies at first resented the appearance of the newcomer, he says, or at any rate its interest in foreign affairs, but this attitude had to be abandoned, and by May 1878 an agreement for co-operation in representations on behalf of Jews abroad had been reached. This agreement at first took the form of two Committees sitting together. From this a Joint Committee developed and ultimately the Anglo-Jewish Association accepted representation in the Board of Deputies, but the Joint Foreign Committee of the two bodies continued.
MR. HYAMSON’S TRIBUTO TO JEWISH WORK IN PALESTINE: “NEW PALESTINE MEANS LARGELY JEWISH PALESTINE CREATED SINCE ZIONIST REVIVAL
In “Palestine: Old and New”, published in 1928, Mr. Hyamson pays a tribute to the Jewish work in Palestine.
The new Palestine, he writes, means largely the Jewish Palestine, the Palestine that has been created since the Zionist revival but for the most part since the British occupation. Before the outbreak of the Great War, there were counted 45 Jewish villages, large and small, with a total population of 10,000, the largest with perhaps 3,000 inhabitants.
Add to this the Jewish population of the towns, Jerusalem, Haifa, Hebron, Tiberias and Safed, and the total number of Jews in Palestine reached 80,000 at the most, of whom more than half the Jews of the four holy cities were men whose profession was holiness, an entirely unproductive section of the population. To-day (1928) there are 150,000 Jews in Palestine, one-sixth of them in 120 different villages, large and small, old and new, while the other five-sixths live not in six towns but in nine, one of them with 45,000 inhabitants, a town that had not yet reached the dimensions of a village when the war broke out.
Mr. Hyamson goes on to speak of the early settlers and the unflagging interest of Baron Edmond de Rothschild in the Jewish development of Palestine.
It must not be thought that the recent Jewish development in Palestine has been entirely material, he proceeds. Parallel with the development of agriculture and the establishment of industries has been an intellectual and cultural revival and development, the most remarkable manifestation in this realm being the creation of a new language for such, is in fact, the revival of the Hebrew language which the past few years have witnessed in Palestine. The revival is to a large extent to be attributed to the need which it met and the devotion to the Hebrew cause displayed by the intellectual leaders of Zionism. The instrument has been the Jewish schools of Palestine, first established by the Zionist Organisation in 1913, which now practically cover the whole field of education from the kindergarten to the University.
AND HIS TRIBUTE TO ACHIEVEMENTS OF BRITISH GOVERNMENT IN PALESTINE
It must not be assumed, Mr. Hyamson adds, however, that the Zionist Organisation and other Jewish institutions have been the only contributors to this advance. The contribution of the Government set up by the Mandatory Power is also by no means inconsiderable. Before the war no motor car had been seen in Palestine, for there was no road there on which an owner would trust either his car or his life. Now all the towns in Palestine are connected by first class roads, and the mileage of the secondary roads too is increasing so rapidly that before long every village in the country will be accessible in all weathers to its neighbours. Before the war there were two primitive railways in the country. To-day Palestine has a railway service which all other countries of its size can envy. Palestine has always been a land of brigandage. It was on this account that so much of it went out of cultivation. In a few short years under British control brigandage has been practically stamped out.
Palestine, one of the store houses of antiquity, he continues, belongs not to one people but to the whole of civilisation.
The Government has had also the heavy work, he concludes, of setting up and administering a system of government suitable to the peculiar conditions of the land and of its peoples and also appropriate to the British scheme of government, and in no respect contrary to British principles. This is the task, he says, on which the British Government has been engaged since July 1920.