Commission Quizzes Officials on Palestine Land Policy

The Palestine Government’s land policy was under examination by the British Royal Commizzion at a public session today as the investigation into underlying causes of recent Arab disorders neared the end of its second week.

Questioning by the six commissioners was concentrated on such issues as the cultivable Government land available, replacement of Arabs (whose land had been purchased by Jews) on Government land and what the Government is doing to assist the Jewish Agency for Palestine in colonizing activities.

Lord Peel, chairman, took the lead in the questioning of witnesses, who were Government land officials.

Following a series of questions on estimates regarding the subsistence area, Lord Peel asked directly what had been done to assist the Jewish Agency.

D. G. Harris, a land official, replied that the Government paves roads and assigns sums for agricultural research and also for the Jewish experimental station at Rehoboth.

Mr. Harris replied affirmatively to a query as to whether this constituted facilitating the Agency’s work.

Asked if the Arabs also profited from the Government’s aid to the Agency, Mr. Harris answered in the affirmative.

“UNCULTIVABLE” LAND AVAILABLE

Lord Peel also questioned Maurice C. Bennett, another land official, on the extent of Government lands and queried a definition of “close settlement.”

(With reference to “close settlement,” Article 6 of the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, provides: “The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage in cooperation with the Jewish Agency referred to in Article 4 close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.” The term “close settlement” signifies compact colonization of Jews in any given areas, as against scattered settlement in predominantly Arab districts.)

Sir Laurie Hammond asked how much more land was available. Mr. Bennett replied that as far as Government-owned land is concerned uncultivable acreage is available.

“What do you call uncultivable?” Lord Peel broke in. “Is it costly? Does it depend on water?”

Mr. Bennett replying in the affirmative, Sir Laurie then asked:

“What do you mean, cultivable? If a man works hard can he get a livelihood from this?”

Lewis Yelland Andrews, deputy director in the land development department, told Sir Laurie that that was correct.

664 ARABS REPLACED ON LAND

Turning to the question of replacement of Arabs on the land, the commission elicited testimony that only 664 Arabs have been replaced and 347 others approved for replacement. Other Arabs who had sold their land holdings, it was stated, are either working in the cities or refuse to occupy land offered by the Government, demanding deeds of ownership or complaining about the climate. It was pointed out that the land offered the Arabs was at Beisan, near a prosperous Jewish colony in the Jezreel Valley, proving that the location was excellent.

Sir Horace Rumbold, after being informed that part of cultivated lands is sandy, remarked that if Tel Aviv could be built on such lands, so could other cities.

FEW THOUSAND ARABS STILL DISPLACED

Further questioning elicited the statement from Mr. Andrews that only a few thousand Arabs still remain displaced by Jews and that the others have been absorbed in industries or have obtained employment in the cities.

“The Government has not received complaints,” he declared. “We have sought for applicants (for replacement on land) and have not found more. There aren’t more displaced Arabs.

The commission adjourned without finishing its examination of the land question.

Dr. Chaim Weizmann, president of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, will be the first Jewish witness to testify when the commission resumes tomorrow.

ZIONIST LEADERS BACK ARAB-JEWISH PARITY

Zionist leaders, preparing to testify Wednesday before the Royal Commission investigating the recent six-month reign of terror, decided last night to support political parity between Arabs and Jews.

The decision was taken by a vote of 15 to 1, with four members abstaining, at a meeting of the political subcommittee of the World Zionist Organization’s general council after the principle had been unanimously approved by the Jerusalem Executive of the Jewish Agency for Palestine.

Dr. Weizmann briefly stated his reason for proposing the parity idea, which had been fought by some Conservative Zionists.

Dr. Weizmann said the Jews had passed the first stage of their fight victoriously, showing the world that they were creating constructive forces and fighting the destructive forces.

“We are now entering the second stage of the fight, before the Royal Commission,” he added. “Let us hope that the Jewish community will emerge strengthened and united from this stage.”

M. M. Ussishkin, president of the Jewish National Fund, in opening the meeting, paid tribute to Dr. Weizmann for his “great fight” in London on behalf of the Zionists. He said the Zionist leader had now come to Palestine to battle for Jewish rights before the Royal Commission with the entire Jewish community united behind him.

David Ben-Gurion, chairman of the Jewish Agency’s Jerusalem executive, also spoke in support of Arab-Jewish parity.

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