Jerusalem (May. 10)
A forecast of the contents of the Report on Palestine Development drawn up by Mr. Lewis French, the Director of Development, which it is understood has now been completed and submitted to the Government, appears in the Hebrew Labour daily “Davar”. The paper claims to have information that the report proposes that the Government should proclaim four development areas, in Beersheba, Beisan, the Jordan Valley, and the Lake Huleh district, that it should first settle dispossessed Arabs on these lands, and if any free lands remain, and there is still money available out of the Palestine Development Loan, it should then settle Jews on them.
Another recommendation is the prohibition of land transfer without the approval of the Government, which should have an option on any lands which are offered for sale, at a price less than that offered by competitors bidding for the lands.
The establishment of a Palestine Development Board is another of the proposals made in the report.
Mr. French, according to the “Davar”, declares in his report that the Jews have sufficient lands’ on the coastal plain, and that the Arab fellahs ought therefore to be protected from the pressure of immigrants. To that purpose he urges a complete prohibition of land sales, unless the owner of the land leaves a certain minimum area in his own possession.
Mr. French puts the blame for the existing land conditions in Palestine on both the Jewish National Fund and the big Arab landowners.
In Arab quarters in Palestine, it was claimed in March (J.T.A. Bulletin of March 11th.), that the restrictions proposed by Mr. French would exceed those of Sir John Hope Simpson.
A forecast made at that time suggested that Mr. French would recommended. The settlement of displaced Arabs, whose numbers were still under investigation, though Mr. French inferred the existence of a landless class on the basis of the claims submitted, while making allowance for a certain percentage of rejections; 2. the settlement of Jews; and 3. the relief of congestion in the hill districts.
Evidently holding that there are no unoccupied stretches of land in Palestine, Mr. French, it was claimed, recommended legislation enabling the Government to acquire through its own agency lands for settling both Arabs and Jews, and also that the Government should control and restrict land transactions throughout the country, with a specific prohibition against transfer in certain fertile areas. It was known, the forecast said, that the Arabs have endeavoured to persuade Mr. French that the Jews already own more land than they are entitled to in the best and most fertile zones.
To facilitate the control and checking of land transfer, Mr. French, it was said, proposes legislation on the lines of that existing in India, to make a fixed minimum holding of a cultivator his inalienable property. It was understood further that Mr. French’s views in general envis-age long-range development activities.
The Government is unlikely, however, it was added, to adopt a proposal for the enforcement of country-wide land restrictions, or to accept a recommendation barring Jews specifically from definite areas in Palestine.
Mr. French’s report, the “Jewish Chronicle” suggested as far back as January, will prove a great shock to official Jewish and Arab agencies, since Mr. French has a great deal to say on the subject of Arab feudalism and Jewish national aspirations that will come as an unpleasant surprise to both parties. The main theme of his report is that of the alleged displacement of Arab peasants and farmer tenants. According to information, it said, part of his report constitutes an ironic commentary upon the Jewish National Home and its possible ill effects upon Arab occupancy of the land. That the Jewish influx into Palestine is a grave menace to Arab rural development is in effect one of his premises, said to be accompanied by a recommendation for further curtailment of Jewish immigration. Another conclusion confirming Sir John Hope Simpson’s view is that the amount of land available for cultivation is very small and proposing a restrictive land transfer ordinance of a more thorough character than the one shelved by Mr. Thomas. If the report ever reaches the light of day in its present form, the “Jewish Chronicle” concluded, it will cause a greater furore than that of Sir John Hope Simpson.
DR. BRODETSKY ON ALARMIST RUMOURS
The really important political problem before us at the moment is that of the Development Scheme and Land Policy, and the reports expected from the Director of Development, Dr. Brodetsky said speaking in London in March, shortly before he left for Palestine. As already announced by the Government, he continued, Mr. French is working on his second report, in which he is to propose a definite programme of development work. It is in connection with this matter that I am undertaking my visit to Palestine.
I cannot, of course, Dr. Brodetsky went on, anticipate Mr. French’s reports or deal with the alarming, and often alarmist rumours circulated in connection with the report. We were not able to appoint a Jewish Adviser, owing to the threat of land legislation in August 1931, prejudicial to Jewish work in Palestine. The question of an Adviser is not practical politics now that the reports are imminent, and the whole matter is to be discussed with the Government. Nevertheless, I can state that Jewish interests have been watched the whole time, both in London and in Jerusalem. The attitude of the Executive with regard to the problems of development and land legislation is strictly in accordance with the instructions
of Congress and Council, and we have made clear to the Government, both in London and in Jerusalem, the principles that we consider indispensable in relation to these matters.
During his stay in Palestine, Dr. Brodetsky saw the Director of Palestine Development, Mr. Lewis French, as well as the High Commissioner, the Chief Secretary, and other Palestine Government officials, and before leaving Palestine on his return to London he told the J.T.A. that he had particularly discussed the questions of lands and of Mr. French’s investigations in relationship to the Government and the Jewish Agency.
Mr. French’s report will be completed in a fortnight (from April 9th.), Dr. Brodetsky added, but we shall not see the report before June or so. It is for that reason advisable, Dr. Brodetsky said, to call the next Actions Committee meeting only at the end of June or July.
In accordance with the Dispatch of July 1931, concerning the Development Scheme, the report of the Director of Development must first be submitted in Palestine to the Jewish Agency and the Arab Executive, and then, together with the Jewish and Arab views, sent by the High Commissioner, with his own observations, to the Secretary of State in London.
WHOLE MATTER WILL HAVE TO COME BEFORE PARLIAMENT FOR CONSIDERATION: PARLIAMENTARY SANCTION REQUIRED BEFORE DEVELOPMENT LOAN IS GRANTED
The projected loan, Mr. J. H. Thomas said in the House of Commons when he was Colonial Secretary in reply to a question whether it was proposed to ask Parliament to guarantee a loan of 2Â½ million pounds for the relief of agriculture in Palestine, is for development purposes, the details of which are under investigation. The question of asking His Majesty’s Government to guarantee such a loan does not arise at the moment, but will be further considered in due course in the light of the general financial situation. The scheme, if and when approved by His Majesty’s Government, will be administered by the Director of Development in Palestine, Mr. Lewis French.
The present Colonial Secretary, Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, confirmed this statement later in the House of Commons, and when Colonel Wedgwood asked in this connection whether they could take it that there will be no commitment under this head without the House of Commons being informed, Sir Philip said: The position is that Parliamentary sanction is required before a loan is granted. If that is so, the whole matter will come before the House for consideration.
Mr. Janner followed up the statement by asking whether, in considering this question, the contents of the letter read by the Prime Minister announced in Parliament (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald’s letter of authoritative interpretation of the Passfield White Paper, addressed to Dr. Weizmann) will be kept under consideration, and the Colonial Secretary, Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, replied to the question in the affirmative.