Arab fears that continued immigration of Jews into Palestine and the acquisition of Palestine lands by Jews would lead to the expulsion of the Arabs from the Holy Land found an outlet in the rioting which spread over Palestine during the past week.
Since the disorders of 1929, when Arab mobs destroyed Jewish settlements throughout the country and 152 deaths were reported, Palestine had enjoyed a period of comparative calm during which it achieved a prosperity unknown to the rest of the world.
Today, while the rest of the world is in the throes of a depression, Palestine is more prosperous than ever before in its history and is suffering from a shortage of labor. Jews entering the country under the capitalist classification, that is, with at least one thousand pounds in capital, have furnished the funds for development of the country’s latent resources and as a result, the chronic unemployment situation has been almost completely eliminated, to give way to a direct need for labor, skilled and unskilled.
The Vaad Leumi, the Jewish National Council of Palestine, in a statement to the Arabs on October 24, after the first abortive demonstration in Jerusalem on October 13, pointed out that Palestinian Arabs enjoyed a prosperity in striking contrast to the position of Arabs in neighboring countries. So much so, in fact, that Arabs from Transjordania, Syria ad other places were coming to Palestine and finding work.
The statement also pointed to the increase of 225,000 in the Arab population in the last nine years and to the large treasury surplus of the Palestine government, which is now to be employed in public works benefitting the entire population.
This labor shortage is so acute that the Jewish Agency for Palestine, the body representing the Jews in dealing with the League of Nations and Great Britain, the mandatory power for Palestine, requested 24,700 labor immigration certificates for the six months period from October, 1933 to March, 1934.
The Palestine government, however, alloted only 5,500 certificates, of which 2,000 had previously been advanced and a thousand held back for tourists who may remain in the country illegally.
In recent months, since the advent to power of the Hitler regime in Germany, the Arab press has continually carried reports of a wholesale exodus of Jews from Germany to Palestine. Exaggerated reports of an influx of Jews into Palestine from all countries, have been printed almost daily and Falastin, prominent Arab daily of Jaffa, announced two weeks ago that more than 25,000 Jews would enter the Holy Land within the next few months.
The statements of the Palestine High Commissioner, Sir Arthur Grenfell Wauchope, that immigration into Palestine would be regulated in strict accordance with the absorptive capacity of the country had little effect in checking the reports of a wholesale Jewish “invasion”. Nor did the fact that the Jewish Agency’s request for certificates had been reduced to 5,500 for a six months’ period by the government alter the situation.
The Arab press continued its violent threats against Jewish immigration. The Arab Executive, the prestige of which had waned considerably in recent months, seized upon the opportunity to regain its influence over the Arab masses.
Over the opposition of conservative Arab leaders such as Mayor Nashishibi of Jerusalem, 21 of the 48 members of the Executive at a meeting on October 8, decided to declare a general strike on October 13 and to hold a demonstration on that day in Jerusalem. The Arab press, notably Al Jamea Al Arabea, which previously had published a letter urging the Arabs to riot against Jewish immigration and accused the British press of being “oblivious” to the Arab plight, Falastin, Al Carmel and Meraat Al Sherk, lent their support.
When the Arab demonstrators emerged from the Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem on October 13, with members of the Arab Executive and a number of Moslem women heading the procession, the police surrounded them and suppressed the demonstration. As a result of this abortive protest, twenty-two Arabs and five policemen were hurt.
The Arab Executive thereupon decided to hold another demonstration, this time in Jaffa on October 27. When the Arab leaders visited Commissioner Crosbie, in charge of the Southern district, which includes Jaffa, they were told that their march was forbidden. The Arab Executive then arranged for an interview with the High Commissioner, Sir Arthur Grenfell Wauchope, and were again warned not to demonstrate and were told that their actions were severely punishable. After the meeting with the High Commissioner, Moghannam, secretary of the Arab Executive, informed the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that despite the fact that the High Commissioner had banned the Jaffa demonstration, the Arabs were going ahead with their plans.
LEADERS BEING HELD
When the Arabs emerged from Jaffa mosques on October 27, and tried to form a procession, they were warned to disperse and when they refused to do so, the Riot Act was read and the police opened fire on the crowd of 10,000 Arabs. Over a score were slain and hundreds hurt in the half-hour riot that ensued before the demonstration was broken up. A number of well-known Arab leaders were arrested and are still being held by the Palestine police.
That same evening the riots spread to Haifa, where unruly mobs returning from the Jaffa riot, started a demonstration which was only dispersed when the police fired on the mob. Jerusalem, Safed, Tulkarem and even Arab centers such as Damascus and Amman, Transjordania saw protests and demonstrations in sympathy with the Arab cause. The Arab Executive proclaimed a general strike, which is still going on. although Arab laborers on Jewish plantations and in Jewish concerns are working as usual. The government of Palestine has issued no official communique on the subject, but it is known that the death toll for the week stands at more than thirty with hundreds of wounded in hospitals, mostly in the Jewish hospitals.
Palestine today is ruled under the Order in Council of 1931, which vests dictatorial powers in the High Commissioner. Uneasiness pervades the entire country and everyone is disturbed as to what the future may bring. Disorders have subsided, the cooler heads among the Arabs are discouraging new demonstrations. Business in the cities seems to be at a standstill and all are waiting to see what develops. The Palestine government has enough police and troops, if necessary, to scotch any disorders and the government is determined to enforce peace.
The riots of the past week, political in nature, have not been directed against the Jews themselves. In all the disturbances, no attacks were made on the Jewish population. The rage of the Arab mobs, kindled by agitators, was directed exclusively against the British authorities. The riots, in fact, have been directed more against the mandate which Great Britain holds than against the Jews.
Observers discount greatly the claims of Nazi leaders recently made in Germany that Nazi propaganda influenced the Arabs to anti-Jewish measures. While the Nazi propaganda may have attempted to make contacts with Arab leaders, it is not believed likely that they have had any influence over events in Palestine thus far.
The German situation has had the indirect effect of giving the Arab press ammunition for its attacks on Jewish immigration by giving plausibility to reports that a majority of Germany’s half million Jews would be transported to Palestine.
As a matter of fact, however, the total number of German Jews who have emigrated to Palestine since Hitler came to power is in the neighborhood of but 6,000. None of