A novel suggestion that England send her unemployed to Palestine to cover the shortage of labor there was made here by Dame Louise McIlroy, well known gynecologist and professor at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine for Women at London University.
The suggestion was made in the course of a lecture before the Near and Middle East Association, on “The Arab Problem in Palestine,” in which she severely criticized the policy of the Mandatory government.
She had been to Palestine recently, she said, and could not help feeling that the Arabs were oppressed and presented a tragic figure. A great deal of land had been sold to the Jews by Arab ab-###ntee landlords, and one of the consequences was that there were ### 5,000 Arab farmers who were homeless as well as 14,000 unemployed Arabs. She criticized the regulation made in regard to some of the Jewish land in Palestine, whereby no Arab labor was employed on it, and spoke of this as a serious grievance.
Professor McIlroy said that the Arabs also complained that the McMahon promises made to them during the war had not been kept and that the Jews had been granted the right to re-establish themselves in the country, although their continuous association with it was not more than 400 years.
Before the war the Jews who lived in the country were peaceful and God-fearing, but since the war the new Jewish settler feared neither God nor man. She did not see any synagogues in the country and supposed that was yet to come.
“Before the war,” she said, “a certain number of Zionist colonies had been established, partly with the help of Baron Edmond de Rothschild, and the Sultan allowed Jews to settle there in small numbers, Afterwards came the Balfour Declaration, and it was said that at the time Balfour did not know there were any Arabs in Palestine. The first High Commissioner once made a statement about Palestine becoming a self-governing commonwealth under the auspices of a Jewish majority, and the Arabs feared that would one day come to pass.”
Profesosr McIlroy said that she had also spoken with several Zionists, who had their own grievances against the government because of the restricted immigration.
“And yet,” she continued, “the fact is that there had been large Jewish immigration in recent years.
“If the British government were really concerned about unemployment in this country they should send a few shiploads of British unemployed to Palestine, I understand that is one of the reasons why Great Britain issued the Balfour Declaration was because of the services that British Jews had ###dered during the war.
“But what services had been rendered to Great Britain by the Jews of Central Europe, who formed the great majority of those who settled in Palestine? If a war should break out, the Jews from Central Europe, forgetting their previous persecution would side with the countries from which they had come and would go back there.”
The position as she saw it was full of danger, and she thought that it was the duty of the Mandatory government to try to make both Arabs and Jews loyal to the King.
In the debate that followed, Israel Cohen said that although Profesor McIlroy had spoken of the Arabs as being oppressed, she had not given any proof of their alleged oppression. The fact was that the Arabs were now in a far better position than they were before the war in every respect. Their numbers had greatly increased, their material position had considerably improved, they had better hospitals and schools, their taxation had been reduced and they were enjoying the benefits of the remarkable developments that had been effected by Jewish capital and labor.
The investigations that had been made on behalf of the Mandatory government showed that the number of so-called displaced Arabs was not 5,000 but something like 600, and even if there were 14,000 unemployed Arabs, which he rather doubted, he pointed out that on the same footing there had probably been about 140,000 unemployed Arabs before the war.
In any case there were several thousand Arabs employed on Jewish agricultural settlements and in various Jewish urban undertakings, and the Arabs so employed were not limited to natives of Palestine, but also came over the border from Transjordan, Syria and especially the Hauran.
Mr. Cohen refuted the allegation that any promise of independence had been made to the Palestinian Arabs during the war. He stated that Sir Henry McMahon himself had officially declared that the conditional promise made to the Sherif Hussein of Mecca did not apply to Palestine. The only promise that was made to the Palestinian Arabs was that contained in the Balfour Declaration, relating to the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities in the country, and that promise had been faithfully kept.
Mr. L. Bakstansky said that as Palestine in Biblical times had contained over 5,000,000 Jews and it now had less than 1,500,000, it was obvious that with an intensive system of agricultural development the land could again hold a much larger population than at present.
He criticized Professor McIlroy’s remarks about the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe, who constituted a really remarkable constructive force in the country, and the only thing that could be said against them was that they had been persecuted by the various governments without cause.
Leonard Stein said that he had heard for the first time from Professor McIlroy that the Arabs took exception to the term “non-Jewish communities in Palestine” which they regarded as a derogatory reference to themselves. He was convinced that no such disparagement had been intended, as the term was used to refer to all communities in Palestine other than Jewish, and it must be remembered that besides Arabs there were also other non-Jews in the country. It was purely a matter of terminology and no slur whatsoever had been meant.
Joseph Ben Elhanan Heilbronn, German Hebrew scholar of the sixteenth century, wrote an elementary Hebrew grammar for the use of children.