Jerusalem (Jun. 3)
Moses Shertok, in charge of the political department of the Palestine Jewish Agency executive, has given an interview to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency here on the situation created by the restriction of Jewish immigration to Palestine, in the course of which he said:
“The times have gone when the pressure of labor immigration created openings for employment in Palestine. There is a demand for workers now in Palestine. The Zionist Executive and the Histadruth instead of having to find work for the labor immigrants, must try to find workers to meet the demand for labor. The shortage of Jewish labor is the result of the economic improvement, due to the following causes: the development of the existing enterprises in Palestine; the large inflow of new Jewish capital from abroad; the collapse of German Jewry and the growing distress of Polish Jewry; the dangers confronting the Jews in other countries; the movement among Jews to save their possessions by investment in Palestine.
“Palestine is beginning to concentrate what may be described as the national capital of the whole Jewish people,” Mr. Shertok said. “The money is, indeed, brought in by individuals, but in Palestine it becomes a capital, which creates a secure basis for a sound national existence.
“Unfortunately, there is no opportunity now for fully utilizing this capital, because there are not enough workers available. This shortage of workers leads to a rise in wages, resulting in Jewish workers going into better-paid branches of employment, and a concentration of workers in the building industry at the expense of other work.
“Jewish workers are deserting the orange plantations. They are leaving the police force and the railways. They are giving up all work in which the rate of pay is lower, which means that gradually, positions which were acquired with difficulty are slipping out of Jewish hands.
“In addition, existing enterprises are unable to expand because of the shortage of labor. Jewish orange plantations are neglected, industry is retarded and cannot satisfy the demand, let alone find new markets. The artificial rise in wages, which is a result of the shortage of labor, even imperils those enterprises which pay higher rates of wages, because they cannot pay. A number of Jewish industrial enterprises have not been started because they would not be able to compete with the high wages paid in the building industry. The general result is a dangerous change in the economic structure of Jewish Palestine.
THE PROBLEM OF ARAB LABOR
The difference between the number of Jewish workers needed and the number available keeps growing. Arabs come in and occupy Jewish labor positions. Not only Arabs from Palestine, but also from the adjoining countries.
“I want to make it clear,” said Mr. Shertok, that we do not view with hostility the development of the Arab Community, or the benefits which the Arabs derive, both direct from the Jews, and indirectly from the Jewish funds which come to the Arabs through the Government. In the first place, it cannot be avoided. We are coming into Palestine not as a conquering army or a foreign occupational power, seeking to seize everything by force. We pay for everything with good money. Our entire development in Palestine is a long series of payments to the Arabs. The Jews are interested in raising the standard of life of the Arabs, firstly, so that the Arabs should be content, and should not have any ground for grievances and embitterment; secondly, because we are building up a Jewish industry, which will develop better the larger the number of purchasers in the country; and thirdly, because the less employed there are among the Arabs, the easier it will be to carry through the principle of Jewish labor in Jewish enterprises.
“The executive is very far, therefore, from opposing what the Government is doing to help the Arabs. It will, however, fight against the attitude of the Government that it is its sole task to help the Arabs. This policy on the part of the Government is unjust, not only because under the Mandate it has definite obligations towards the Jews, but also because the Government has obligations to the whole country, and its future.
“If the Palestine government finds itself now in such a prosperous financial position, with a surplus which has increased by a million pounds in one year, and a revenue which amounted in the last financial year to Â£900,000 more than the Government estimated, it is due to the Jews, Mr. Shertok said. The fact that the revenue from taxpayers alone was not Â£1,200,000, as the Government estimated, but Â£1,800,000, and the Government is now able to take a loan of Â£2,000,000, is due only to the Jewish factor in the country. It is not in the interests of the whole country, therefore, that the Government should assist this factor on which it bases its financial position?
“There can be no doubt about the need of a vigorous political action against the present immigration policy of the Government. We repudiate the revisionist trend, which thinks that demonstrations and threats against Britain can bring any political achievements.
“Our political fight now cannot be the same that it would have been years ago. We have now a quarter of a million Jews in Palestine. We are now fighting not only for the recognition of theoretical rights for the Jews in the Diaspora to enter Palestine, but for the vital interests of Jewish economy in Palestine, which demands immigration. These vital interests must now find expression in a bold political struggle. We must organize the resistance of the Yishub, and not submit to a system which deprives us of the opportunity of doing our work with our own labor, and compels us to utilize Arab labor.
“Unfortunately not everything has been done that is possible in this direction. Our front has been broken. There are elements among the Jewish #lanters who have already emancipated themselves from Zionism. They must be made aware of the danger which faces them. Our land is on the edge of the desert. It is not the first time in history that the desert annihilated the developed adjacent lands. Now we ourselves are creating the economic attraction for the desert, which may sweep down and overwhelm us. We have not the political power to avert it, but we have the opportunity to exercise national discipline and to organize resistance, to build a wall of Jewish labor to protect us. Our political fight for extended immigration will be successfull only if we have the firm ground of an organized Yishub under our feet.”