Only a few weeks ago, the Palestine High Commissioner, in submitting his report to the League at Geneva, observed that these annual reports did not reflect the present situation, but covered periods too far back to make them of service in understanding the position of the moment. Nevertheless, in a report of this description, lateness is no disadvantage. Indeed, it imparts much-needed distance to the great variety of subjects dealt with, provides the compilers with opportunity for careful checking of statistical material, and helps comparative trivialities to fade out of the foreground.
On the other hand, there is the serious danger that officialdom, in preparing these late reports, may take advantage of the proverbial short memory of the public, and make its own convenient choice or evaluation of data. There is no doubt, however, that this latter danger has been considerably reduced by the really exhaustive examination to which the expert members of the Permanent Mandate Commission have hitherto subjected these reports. Time and again, members of the Commission, like M. Van Rees and M. Rappard have drawn attention to omissions and vagueness in the reports, and have made suggestions for their rectification. Thus, in a report before us, the inclusion of valuable sketch maps of Palestine are the result of a suggestion at the last session of the Commission. This also applies to the order of the subjects in this report. For the first time, the the Mandatory, following the special request of the Commission, has arranged the subjects in the order of the questions in the League’s questionnaire on the Palestine Mandate. This makes it easier to follow the practical implementation of the Mandate, article by article.
On the whole, the report is fair, and reflects the actual situation in 1931. It embraces the period which witnessed the publication of the Prime Minister’s letter to Dr. Weizmann, as well as the much criticized dispatch by Lord Passfield governing the activities of Mr. French, the director of development. It will be recalled that it was the report of Mr. French following instructions in this dispatch, which was recently rejected by a meeting of the Zionist General Council and the administrative Committee of the Jewish Agency in London.
Throughout the report, one comes across frequent references to the great part played by Jews, both through the Agency and in a private capacity in the development of the country. There is hardly a department of Palestine life in which Jews are not shown to be contributing their share, and more than their share to the country’s upbuilding. In the departments of agriculture, irrigation, health, education, and industry, Jewish effort is shown side by side with that of the Mandatory itself, and though the report itself does not draw the inference, there is no doubt that no such gratifying picture of general development â€” Arab as well as Jewish â€” could be presented by the British Government, were the Jews absolute from the picture.
As far as political matters are concerned, the Report is none too informative, and it is not unlikely that the Mandates Commission has this year, as hitherto, had to glean its political information by the tedious process of cross-examining the High Commissioner himself.
It is interesting to touch upon a number of matters on which the Report might have been a little more explicit or correct. There is the case of the Moslem Congress of 1931. This was convened by the Mufti of Jerusalem, supported by the Indian Moslem leader, Shaukat Ali, both inveterate opponents of the Balfour Declaration. The Report devotes two whole paragraphs to the Congress, and gives the distinct impression that it was a purely Moslem religious affair, enumerating its points of discussion, as: the Moslem Holy Places, including the Wailing Wall; the restoration of the Hedjaz Railway to the Moslems; and the preparation of an Organic Law for the Moslem Congress, as a permanent body. It completely traverses the actual facts, making no mention of the bitterly anti-Jewish and anti-European speeches delivered at the Congress, as well as the important detail that the Congress has since become a focus of anti-Jewish agitation outside as well as inside of Palestine. Thus we have before us the example of Tunis, where the recent Arab attacks on Jews were universally laid at the door of emissaries of the Moslem Congress.
There is also an interesting reference to the case of Wadi Hawareth lands, which is still exciting concern in Zionist circles. The Report, in dealing with this case, says simply, “… the Jewish Agency has co-operated with the Government in a temporary solution of the difficulty by arranging a twenty-two months’ lease for the Arabs of an area of 3,200 dunams belonging to the Jewish National Fund in the Wadi Hawareth.” Only the initiated would guess from this statement that the lease in question was compulsory, in that it was granted under a virtual threat of expropriation by the Government.
These annual Reports would well repay study by Zionists throughout the country. They contain a wealth of information and statistics not otherwise obtainable. But in order to secure a more balanced appreciation of them, they should be studied together with the Mandates Commission’s own observations on themâ€”a document which usually appears several months after the Report.