The balance sheet of Palestine development that was presented at Prague at the Zionist Congress was unfortunately a very one-sided one, and dealt only with the negative items. The other aspectâ€”the positive itemsâ€”was not brought to the fore. It was completely forgotten in the heated atmosphere of party strifeâ€”forgotten or ignored.
If ever Palestine had a year of prosperity, it was this last year. The economic crisis in America gave a start to this prosperity. The Hitler regime in Germany strengthened it. In America, Jews, even non-Zionists, lost their fortunes, and went to Palestine with the small remnants of their former wealth. In Germany, Jews, not excluding non-Zionists, lost all means of existence and took what part of their capital they could salvage out of Germany and set out for Palestine.
Not all of those who came to Palestine have stayed there; not all those who are still there will remain there, but all of them left a part of the money they had brought with them there, whether in trade or real estate or orange plantations.
PALESTINE’S LABOR SHORTAGE
In no country was there any shortage of labor during the past yearâ€”with the sole exception of Palestine. In all the countries of the world the question of the day was “What shall we do with our millions of unemployed?” In Palestine the question was “Where can we get more labor?”
Even school children were mobilized for work. Workers worked overtime because the country had not sufficient labor for a normal eight-hour day. Jewish firms had to take on Arab workmen, because it was absolutely impossible to obtain any more Jewish workmen. The ships that arrived in Palestine every week brought thousands of Jews for whom the country was impatiently waiting with work. Every one of them was able to find work the moment he set foot on shore. Every newly-arrived Jewish worker was seized upon with more enthusiasm than any newly-arrived Jewish capitalist.
In the course of this unexpected and phenomenal expansion, a large number of new colonies came into being, tens of thousands of hectares of land were taken over, Tel Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem were enlarged by a large number of new houses and shops, and the Palestine orange industry suddenly became a matter of world importance. The towns and the villages suddenly received a new impetusâ€”a European impetus, an American impetus. They received an impulse which changed the quiet Palestine into a lively island of work and contentment. An island with no unemployment, an island of prosperity in a world of economic depression.
It cannot be said that the Palestine Government was quite as parsimonious in granting immigration certificates as it had been in previous years, but neither can it be said that it granted the Jews the full number of certificates which the prosperity of the country justified. The country was badly in need of more labor, but the Government held back. It did, it is true, issue immigration permits, but not in due proportion to the amount of work that was waiting to be done. It did issue more certificates, but yet the increased number was no more than one-third of the number the Jewish Agency had demanded and that the country really needed.
Nevertheless many thousands of Jews entered Palestine during the year. Some as Chaluzim, some as capitalists, some as “middle-class immigrants” and some as tourists. In the course of the year the population increased by some 25,000 Jews. This growth was noticeable not only in the colonies, which swallowed up every newly-arrived Jewish worker, but also in the towns. Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa suddenly received a new population, a population which changed their character.
The climax in this increase was reached during the last few months, when Palestine suddenly received a stream of thousands of Jews from Germany. The German Jews, to a large extent intellectual workers, did not go to the colonies and do manual work. They stayed in the larger towns and tried to assimilate themselves. A large number went to Haifa, many went to Tel Aviv, only a very insignificant number went to the colonies, where new workers are most urgently needed.
A FUTURE PROBLEM
The immigrant German Jews were therefore looked upon by the Jewish community more as an element that had to be saved from a catastrophe than as one with the help of which the colony might be developed. These immigrant German Jews will therefore become something of a problem for the Jewish community. Either they will have to adjust themselves to agricultural work, or a large number of them will have to leave Palestine.
The most important chapter in the history of the past year in Palestine is that concerning the negotiations with Transjordania. Little is heard of these negotiations now, but it is important to realize that they are being continued. The Emir Abdullah, the ruler of Transjordania, received a considerable sum of money from the Jewish Agency on account of the 60,000 dunams of land that he has leased to two members of the Agency for 99 years. A Jewish Commission is now to go to Transjordania in order to investigate exactly what can, and what should, be done with this leased land.
The British Government, and especially the government of Palestine, played a very unfavorable part in the negotiations concerning Transjordania. The gates of Transjordania would have been open had not the Palestine Government interfered and demanded that the Emir should not carry out his agreement. The Jewish Agency would long ago have started work there, had not the Palestine Government warned it that it would accept no responsibility for the protection of those Jews who would go to Transjordania as the first pioneers.
FRIENDLY PARLEYS ENDED
By means of diplomatic threats and other methods, the Palestine Government put its foot down on further negotiations between the Jewish Agency and the Emir of Transjordania, although these negotiations were being carried on in the most friendly spirit. The Arabs of Transjordania, seeing the prosperity that the Jews had brought with them to Palestine, sincerely and whole-heartedly wanted the Jews to come to Transjordania.
Now these negotiations have come to a stand-still. They have not been broken off, but they are being carried on under the practical control of the Palestine Government. Since the Emir Abdullah has actually signed the agreement, the Palestine Government cannot help itself and is forced to recognize it. It has, however, formulated a clear and hindering condition, that when the Zionist Executive starts bringing Jewish workers to Transjordania, it must first obtain the permission of the Palestine authorities.
The interference of the Palestine Government has created the position that the Jews can get the land from the Emir, but that they cannot settle anyone there. The coming year will show whether the Government will let itself be persuaded to allow Jewish, immigration into Transjordania, or not.
An impression was spread last year that the Palestine Government was good to the Jews. This impression was based on the fact that the new High Commissioner, Sir Arthur Wauhcope, had increased the number of immigration certificates. Now, on the threshold of the new year, and in the light of the French Report, this impression has been considerably weakened. The conviction is growing that even in the increase in the number of certificates the Palestine Government had not gone as far as it should have gone, and that the government was the first to take its share of the prosperity the Jews had brought to Palestine.
SURPLUS AND TAXATION
In the course of the last year the Palestine Government had a surplus of revenue over expenditure amounting to a million English pounds. Not only was its expenditure covered by local taxation, but there was an actual budget surplus of about Â£1,000,000.
In spite of this, the government is now discussing the introduction of income taxation in Palestine, a tax which would in the first place fall on the Jewish population and would paralyze Jewish industry and the whole Jewish work of reconstruction. The government’s budget position does not necessitate such a tax, but since the government wants it, it will almost certainly impose it.
Similarly the Palestine loan. The loan will be raised for the purpose of settling landless Arabs, but the burden will be carried by the Jews. The Jews will not benefit by it in the least, but they will have to pay for it.
But worse than these measures, and worse even than the publication of the unfavorable French Report, is the plan of setting up a local parliament in Palestine that the government now wants to carry out. In such a parliament the Jews would be a very small minority. The High Commissioner is making no secret of this plan. He talks about it quite openly and definitely, and declares that he is determined to create this parliament.
If this parliament is created and Palestine gets a so-called “legislative assembly”, all the Jewish achievements in Palestine will be placed in the greatest danger. The majority in the parliament would have control over them, and under present circumstances the majority could not possibly be a Jewish one.
The small details in which the government has been favorable to the Jews are insignificant as compared with the definitely anti-Jewish actions of the government in Palestine, and with the creation of the parliament that the government plans to found, the legend of an improved attitude towards the Jews will be finally destroyed.
The relations between the Jews and the Arabs in Palestine have not been improved in the course of the past year.
The Palestine Arabs have gained just as much from the prosperity brought by the Jews as the Jews themselves, but they have become afraid of it. During the year they displayed more political nervousness than ever before concerning the Jewish development and the strengthening of the Jewish position in Palestine.
A conference of Arabs which took on a stormy character, demanded that the government prohibit further Jewish purchases of land and stop Jewish immigration into Palestine. This conference passed a resolution that a boycott should be declared against the governmentâ€”a “no cooperation campaign”â€”should it fail to agree to these demands.
A particularly sharp campaign against the Jews was also started by the Arabs this year when the negotiations concerning Transjordania were started. The Transjordanian Arabs really wanted the Jews, but the political leaders of the Palestine Arabs considered it a great danger. Openly, as well as behind the scenes, they conducted a bitter agitation, both against the Emir and against the Jews, and did their utmost to inflame the Transjordanian Sheiks against the agreement with the Jews.
In the sphere of trade Arabs the past year tried to organize themselves against the Jews. This applied particularly to the export of oranges. The invitation extended to Arab dentists to participate in the All-Palestine Dental Conference was refused by them. In the official press receptions that the government occasionally held for the Palestinian press, the Arab newspapermen ostentatiously kept apart.
The past year brought no understanding between the Arabs and the Jews. The differences remained the sameâ€”the great stream of new Jewish immigrants even increased them. This immigration only gave the Arab leaders more material for their anti-Jewish agitation, and enabled them to shout still more loudly that the Jews were conquering Palestine and were driving the Arabs out.
The most tragic chapter in the history of the past year in Palestine was the internal Jewish warfare, and the murder of Arlosoroff. This “war” split the Jewish community into two factions, the organized Labor party “Histadruth” on the one hand, and the Revisionists, together with a part of the Jewish employers, on the other. Bloody frays and long strikes resulted in a number of colonies as a consequence of this “Civil War”. The conflicts were used by some employers as an excuse for taking on cheap Arab labor and thus only accentuated the fight. The frays and brawls ultimately led to the Histadruth accusing the Revisionists of having organized the murder of Arlosoroff.
The Jewish community in Palestine is entering a new year in a poisoned atmosphere. The murder of Arlosoroff has widened the gap between the Histadruth and the Revisionists, and has made all peace negotiations between them impossible. Whether they are right or wrong, the fact remains that the leaders of the Histadruth openly say that they suspect the Revisionists of the murder, and will not even hear of peace.
The Jews of Palestine are entering the new year with other sorrows as wellâ€”financial worries, for the financial prospects for the Keren Hayesod and the Keren Kayemeth are very poor. With the elimination of Russia, the loss of Germany, and the great reduction in the Zionist collections in America, the leaders of these two central Jewish national funds are seriously worried about the financial prospects for the new year, and about the possibility of continuing the normal purchases of national land.
The new year holds no prospects for Jewish work in Palestine. Three developments may be expected during the coming year:
1. The proclamation of a Palestine Parliament;
2. The return of private American capital to the United States;
3. A reduced number of immigration certificates.
On the other hand, there is no doubt that there will be a large number of Jewish immigrants from Germany during the coming year, most of them with a certain amount of capital.
But not all the German Jews will stay in Palestineâ€”not all of them want to. We must be prepared for the fact that a large number will leave Palestine disappointed and discontented. But a considerable number will remain, and will probably concentrate around Haifa, where the new harbor has now been opened, and where Palestine can compete with the greatest ports in the world.
The new year in Palestine contains no very bright prospects. But no very bad ones either. If the “legislative assembly”â€”the unwished-for Parliamentâ€”is not proclaimed in the course of the year, the Jews of Palestine will have a more or less normal year, with a normal growth and a normal development. The coming year hinges on this one question.