Jerusalem (May. 9)
The following is the full text of the statement isued by the executive of the Jewish Agency for Palestine in Jerusalem explaining its position on the immigration restrictions imposed by the Palestine government.
“The executive of the Jewish Agency for Palestine feels bound to define publicly its attitude on the grant by the government of Palestine of only 5,600 labor immigration certificates for the period between April and September, 1934,” the statement declared.
“The executive perceived in this grant the continuation of a policy which restricts immigration, while the steadily expanding absorptive capacity of the country is creating a steadily growing gap between the demand for labor and the supply, causing a loss of the Jewish economic position, and gravely jeopardizing the chances of healthy, unhampered progress of the Jewish National Home. The last two years were a period of unprecedented economic progress in Palestine. The collapse of German Jewry and the world-wide repercusions brought home to the masses of Jews that Palestine alone offers the opportunity for a secured existence.
GOVERNMENT’S REVENUE INCREASES
“The increasing flow of capital to Palestine, the investment in building, agriculture and industry proceeded apace. The government’s revenue has shown an enormous increase and the treasury surplus grew by 1,000,000 pounds in one year. Throughout this period, as the government so often admitted, there prevailed an acute shortage of labor, particularly felt in agriculture with the result that it was found impossible to recruit the necessary labor for wide Jewish areas in Palestine.
“Orange plantations, agricultural settlements and industry also were severely handicapped and even major enterprises like the Ruttenberg concession, the Palestine potash concession and the Nesher cement works found great difficulty in obtaining workers. The labor shortage proved that the former labor immigration schedules lagged behind the actual requirements and were grossly disproportionate to the country’s growing absorptive capacity.
“It is true that immigration to Palestine has shown a marked increase in the last three years. Immigrants of all catagories with their dependents numbered 4,000 in 1931, 10,000 in 1932 and 28,000 in 1933, but the economic development of Palestine far outstripped the supply of labor which the immigrants provided, including those entering as travellers and stayed after finding employment. For at least three schedule periods the rate of admission of labor immigrants was stationery and appeared to be stabilized at a rate far below the minimum claimed by the Agency.
“Schedules granted were 5,500 for October, 1933, and 5,600 for April, 1934. The Agency finds it impossible to reconcile this restriction of immigration with the declared policy of the Mandatory Power that immigration will be regulated in accordance with the economic absorptive capacity of Palestine, a principle which the Agency always agreed to. But this does not only mean that immigration is not to be authorized in excess of the absorptive capacity, but should be authorized to the fullest extent.
“Moreover a restrictive policy is gravely prejudicial to the structure of the Jewish National Home and threatens to undermine the economic positions acquired by the Jews with so much effort and sacrifice.
“The present scarcity of labor has already led to a series of adverse developments in Palestine, which are bound to be further aggravated by the new schedule,” the Agency statement pointed out.
HUGE RISE IN WAGES
“Building wages have risen to unprecedented heights upsetting investment calculations and raising capital expenditure beyond the economic level. Labor has shifted from agriculture to better paid occupations, and immigrants destined for the farms have been drawn into the towns, while the farms remained understaffed and the orange groves undercultivated. No Jewish workers are available to allow the Jews to have their share in government projects. Important development projects have been held up. Industry has been prevented from taking the fullest advantage of the possibilities afforded by new investments and the expanding markets, while a number of enterprises were unable to keep pace with the rise in wages, and the building industry lost a considerable number of its skilled employees.
“The void created in the labor market has been filled to some extent by the increase of Arab labor in Jewish employ and the illicit infiltration into Palestine of Arab laborers from neighboring territories.
LABOR SITUATION TENSE
“The general labor situation has been one of high tension.
“Workers are leaving their jobs in reply to the more insistent demands by employers exasperated by their inability to find workers. Public resentment has been aroused by the sight of enterprises delayed by the impossibility of finding Jewish labor for works undertaken for the specific purpose of absorbing Jewish immigrants.
“The government has given no official reasons for the discrepancy between the claims advanced by the Agency and the schedules granted. Should this discrepancy be due to the fear of an economic setback, it would appear remarkable that this fear should have continued to influence schedule after schedule, in spite of it being invalidated by subsequent developments.
“The Agency believes itself justified in refusing to take a pessimistic view of the future. In the present position of the Jews in the Diaspora, the flow of capital to Palestine is unlikely to abate. Already large accumulations of capital in Palestine are seeking profitable investment in the Jewish orange area, which consists of 130,000 dunams, two thirds of which are young plantations requiring a steadily growing volume of labor. Preparations for new planting promised to increase this area by one fourth during the current six months. Whatever difficulty should befall the orange industry, the cultivation of the groves must continue with little likelihood of a decrease in the demand for labor.
“The investment in industry is proceeding apage with a number of new large scale undertakings scheduled to start in the very near future. The local demand for manufactured products-steadily growing with the growth of the population-provide yet a wider margin for further industrial progress.
“As to the building industry, with all its signal development, it is still far from satisfying existing needs. Housing accommodation capital being plentiful, it is unlikely to show a serious contraction in the near future. Even if building industry cannot be maintained on the same level for a period of years, the release of labor from the industry need not cause a crisis, as industrial development and agricultural colonization can be relied upon to absorb the surplus labor.
“The settlement of land and the conversion of agricultural laborers into independent farmers, is continuing uninterruptedly and a number of major settlement schemes are now nearing realization.
“In the face of all these prospects it can hardly appear justifiable that a fear of a future crisis should cramp the present development and upset the balance in the labor market. As against the vague fears of a possible future crisis, the Agency must set the obvious fact that the shortage of labor has continued for more than a year. Recent experience proved that the development of the Jewish National Home can proceed on a wider basis and at a more rapid pace than was previously regarded as possible.
“The position of the Jewish people the world over, which is at the root of this development, makes it imperative that all opportunities for Jewish settlement available in Palestine be utilized to the fullest extent and with the least avoidable delay.
SEEK QUALITY AS WELL
“However, it is not the quantitative aspect of immigration alone with which the Jewish Agency is concerned. Equally important and closely bound up with the question of the size of the Jewish population, its place and increase is the question of the economic quality and structure of that population.
“It is the essence of Jewish endeavor in Palestine to create not only a large, but an economically healthy Jewish population, firmly rooted in the soil, possessing a broad agricultural basis and engaging in all branches of production.
“The Home will not be built only by the investment of Jewish capital. It is Jewish labor employed in Jewish enterprises created by Jewish capital which forms the basis of the Home and ensures its healthy existence. This principle was recognized in Premier MacDonald’s letter to Dr. Weizmann.
“The policy of preventing Jewish labor immigration corresponding to the extent of Jewish investments strikes at the root of the Jewish National Home. The Agency hoped that in the light of past experience the government would grant a schedule sufficiently large enough to cover the present accumulated deficiency, and make due provision for further expansion.
“The Agency finds it singular indeed that apparently disregarding this experience the government once again has granted a schedule of a size which developments have shown to be utterly inadequate in relation to the actual pace of economic progress.
“The Agency cannot naturally claim that its estimate of employment prospects are infallible. All it can say is that the estimate made by the Agency is based on a detailed and careful survey of the labor market. An estimate was made in village after village in Palestine of the labor shortage in agriculture and allowance made for prospects of new planting and farming developments. The needs of industry, present and prospective, were ascertained by a shop to shop canvass. The demand for building labor was determined by reference to building permits already issued and schemes mature for carrying out. A provision was included for the share due Jewish labor on public works, in accordance with official figures.
ASKED 20,100 PERMITS
“The result of this painstaking survey was that the Agency asked for 20,100 permits. If the government deemed this figure excessive by seventy-five per cent., then the least the Agency can say is that the government itself erred far more by underestimation.
“We cannot agree that the new schedule represents a fair assessment of the country’s absorptive capacity. We cannot regard a measure imposing a severe check on Jewish progress in Palestine as having been adopted in the spirit of the mandate, which places the government under a positive obligation to facilitate immigration.
Nor can we justify or acquiesce in the amazing fact that at a time when tens of thousands of Jewish pioneers throughout the Diaspora are eagerly awaiting an opportunity to devote themselves to building the Jewish National Home, there should continue in Palestine, a labor shortage, and that crying need for Jewish settlement work should remain unsatisfied.
“The need for the Jewish masses to find a home in Palestine is now more acute than ever. The Agency must insist that it is the duty of the Mandatory Power to allow immigration to the full extent of absorption, whereof Palestine finds itself capable.
“The Agency regrets to find in the present schedule striking testimony of the Mandatory’s failure to discharge this fundamental obligation.”