Member of the Executive of the Jewish Agency
The recent municipal elections in two Palestinian cities have shown to what extent the Yishuv has grown during the past few years. We have four Jewish councilmen in Haifa and six in Jerusalem. In Haifa, the Jewish councilmen are a third of the council; in Jerusalem, they are half. In Haifa, the Jewish councilmen formerly were only a fifth of all the members; in Jerusalem, they were a third. It is acknowledged quite without dispute that the vice-mayor of Haifa will be a Jew; the same is true of Jerusalem.
But in Jerusalem the Jews are laying claim to the mayoralty, for they are really the strongest group, one which is uniform as well. The Arabs are divided into Moslems and Christians and, moreover, lack political agreement. The Arab opposition has suffered a major defeat: its leader, who has been mayor until this year, lost the election. His place has been taken by Dr. Khaldi, an Arab of lofty lineage, who was supported by the Mufti although he does not belong to the Mufti’s party. Dr. Khaldi thus brings upon the scene a third titled family to add to the Husseinis and the Nashashibis who are fighting for the control of Arab society. The internal fight in the Arab community has thus become even more involved and complicated.
NASHASHIBI CLINGS TO POST
Nashashibi refuses to step aside. He is still looking for some way in which to remain in the saddle. The post he held as mayor of Jerusalem was not only an honor to him and a position of power, but was also a good source of income. During his terms in office there was considerable corruption in the city council and the city administration. That is why he is exerting every effort to win back his power, which is not impossible to do despite the fact that he was not elected to the city council, from among the members of which the mayor is chosen. He can enter a protest against the voting in the district in which Dr. Khaldi was chosen; at the same time, one of his adherents, who was elected, can withdraw. In both cases new elections are ordered and Nashashibi could win. Should he be elected he is certain of being appointed mayor by the government so great is his belief that the government is favorably disposed towards him. Whether or not he has definite grounds for this certainty may perhaps be more easily disputed than one would think.
The situation is further complicated by the fact that among the Arab councilmen Dr. Khaldi is the only one suitable to hold the post of mayor. All the other likely candidates are among the Jews.
Thus the question of appointing a Jewish mayor has arisen for the government. It is a bite the government is having difficulty swallowing. For should such an appointment be made, it would constitute an admission that Jerusalem is really a Jewish city, that Jewish influence has greatly increased, that the Jews have gained the leadership of the capital of the country, of the Holy City in which the Christians have so many sacred places and where the Moslems are making every effort to increase their holy places.
It is evident that all this will not readily be admitted.
QUESTION OF TACTICS TO BE CONSIDERED
Should the fight for the Jerusalem mayoralty be begun now? The answer to this important political question is being generally sought. As usual, the question has already been exploited in various intrigues and an attempt has been made to accuse the Labor Party and the Agency (or rather, the head of the political department), of not wanting a Jew as mayor of Jerusalem, of being afraid to make a demand to this effect and of renouncing the idea at the outset. An attempt was even made to stir up public opinion in the matter.
It is not a question of whether the demand should be made there can really be no two opinions about thisbut of whether it should be made a causus belli. That is, in the event that the demand is set aside, should the mandates in the city council be surrendered and the council left to the Arabs? That was done in a previous council when it became impossible to bear any longer the Arab majority’s refusal to consider the Jewish minority. The municipal council was not dissolved it continued to function without the Jews. That the Jewish interests in Jerusalem gained nothing by this state of affairs does not need to be pointed out. But at that time there was really no alternative: the Jewish interests would not in any case have been taken into consideration, so that it was better not to share the responsibility.
But now the situation is somewhat different. The Jews have ceased to be a minority. If the Arabs the Moslems and the Christians, the Mufti’s party and the opposition are not in agreement, the Jews may even win a deciding place, even should the High Commissioner take advantage of his right to appoint one or two members of the council, probably one Christian Englishman. Should such a position be surrendered in the event the demand to appoint a Jew as mayor is set aside? Would it not be better to be content, this time, with but the demonstration, and to concentrate on transforming the post of vice-mayor into a position of real power. To attain this, the vice-mayor should be given the opportunity to work. That is, he should be paid a salary and permitted to administer municipal matters.
CHRISTIAN DEMANDS FOR VICE-MAYORAL POST
This, too, is not easily done. Christian circles are pressing the government to appoint a Christian as second vice-mayor, so that none of the faiths will feel excluded. Moreover, the question is not so much that of the actual title of vice-mayor, but of power and influence. The honor might be foregone, but the power attendant upon the conduct of the city’s affairs is quite another matter. The same problem has already arisen in Haifa, and is now being faced in Jerusalem.
The opinion that the striving should not be for honors, no matter how great they may be, but for a true opportunity to work, to influence the municipal administration and to help carry it on has every chance of winning. No one has any great eagerness to declare war to the limit that is, to withdraw from the city council should the demand that a Jewish mayor be appointed be rejected.
POLITICS INTENSIFIED WITH YISHUV’S GROWTH
The intensification of political questions is concomitant with the growth of the Jewish Yishuv. It no longer suffices to be content with declarations and demonstrations. The political demands are no longer general, expressing our desire to achieve our highest aims all at one time. Our struggle for Palestine is being broken up into a series of battles, as is every great war. Every battle won is a new position for us, a new opportunity to move forward to our goal. In the mixed cities, especially in Jerusalem, a new situation is arising which will have growing importance. The same is true in. Haifa. In Jerusalem, because of the holiness of the city and its historic role, and in Haifa, because of the economic importance of this seaport which is growing apace and because of the international character which it will in time assume.
We have not as yet the opportunity in Haifa which we now have in Jerusalem. In the latter, the Jews are already a majority the citizens entitled to vote are only fifty percent. of the population. In Haifa, however, although the tempo of increase of the Jewish population is rapidly quickening, the Jews are but thirty percent, of the total population and are thus still far from being a majority.
The struggle will concentrate in Jerusalem for the present. It will be a difficult fight fraught with responsibility. It will have to be waged with the utmost care, but at the same time with
the greatest endurance, consistency and determination. The Revisionists on the one hand, and the Mizrachi, under their official leadership, have attempted to break the united front. The Revisionists attempted to use the red scare, but to no avail. The same with the Mizrachi, who cannot disabuse themselves of their jealousy of the Agudah and of their desire to be the “only son,” not only of the Zionist Organization but of all Jewry as well. More than one sacrifice has been made to strengthen the Mizrachi, but it was impossible, of course, to make the sacrifice of creating a homogenous front in the Jerusalem elections, which made it possible to elect six representatives.
The Jewish representatives in the Jerusalem municipal council are faced with a long and difficult struggle. Let us hope that it will be conducted with unity, as heretofore.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.