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Jewish Life Reviewed in Latest Cables and Letters

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Articles unfriendly to Zionism and antagonistic to the entire British policy of allowing Jews to settle in Palestine, which appeared recently in the Times in the form of correspondence from the publication’s Holy Land correspondent, came in for specific and unfavorable scrutiny in a letter to the newspaper from Professor Norman Bentwich.

“The sympathy of your special correspondent in Jerusalem with the struggling Arabs of Judea,” Professor Bentwich writes, “has led him, no doubt unwittingly, to make reflections which are not warranted on the other struggling race seeking to make its home in Judea.


“He says the Jews have settled on the fat of the land, leaving the barren highlands to the natives. They did the same 3,500 years ago. The last statement is certainly inaccurate. The Israelites occupied the hill country and left the costal plain, ‘the fat of the land,’ to the Palestines. They made that hill country, now so barren, into fruitful land.

“Your correspondent gives the impression that the Jews have occupied all the fertile regions. That, of course, is far from being the case. In the costal plain and the Vale of Esdraelon they may own one-fifth; the rest remains with the Arab proprietors. And the places which are today the most productive Jewish areas were fifty years ago sandy wastes or malarial marshes inhabited by a few Arabs living in far worse conditions than the fellah of the hills, about whose state your correspondent is concerned.


“Just as the Jewish coming to the plains has brought a striking improvement to the domestic conditions and the agriculture of the Arabs by the provision of capital and by example, so it may be expected that Jewish enterprise, when it penetrates to the hill country, will induce similar improvements in Arab conditions. It is not so much Jewish choice that has kept their settlements to the plains as Arab hostility. Yet there are Jewish colonies in the hills of Judea and in the hills of Galilee; and it is unquestionable that the conditions of the Arabs in their neighborhood has improved.

“Those who do not know Palestine might think from the report of your correspondent that the Jewish moneylender prepares the way for the village land passing to Jewish settlement. But the moneylender of the fellah who charges the exorbitant interest is usually the Arab effendi of the town. The Arab will be helped by the example of the success of the Jewish cooperative movement to redeem himself from his debt to the effendi by his own cooperative effort.


“Those who do not know Palestine might gather from your correspondent that the British administration in the past has allowed the Arab peasant to be swamped by Jewish immigration. That, too, would be a distorted picture. The government has passed legislation giving security of tenure, unknown before, to the Arab cultivator, and assuring to the Bedu squatter provision on the land in case of the transfer of the area on which he has squatted.

“The judicial tribunal set up by the government some years ago to examine all claims of Arabs deprived of land by immigration established less than 600 cases. And the census taken in 1931 showed that in the previous nine years the Arab population of Palestine had increased by 200,000, while the Jewish population with its inflow of immigrations, has increased by only half that number. That does not look like swamping.


“The Arabs in the hills, as in the plains, can only thrive and ‘find their place in the new world which is being created about them’ by turning from extensive to intensive cultivation. For that, capital will come from Jewish settlement, and scientific guidance from the government. It is indeed only by cooperation that the Arab-Jewish problem will be solved, whether in this country or in the town.

“Mr. Churchill, when he received a deputation of the Arabs in 1921, pointed out to them that nature is bountiful; and if only man would pursue peace by cooperation instead of fostering hatred, then Arabs and Jews together would have a happy and prosperous future in the land. That is the beginning of wisdom.”

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