During the days of the Ottoman Empire, leaders of the Zionist movement were accustomed to take counsel with Sephardic [i.e., local] leaders in the Land of Israel. After the British occupation, this practice ceased, particularly as the Anglo-Saxon and Eastern European basis of those parties increased. Apparently, their reasoning went like this: since authority has passed from Turkey to Britain then the authority of the Sephardic Jewish leadership has also passed on to Anglo-Saxon, Eastern European and Western European Jewry. Their opinion, due to the fact that they were the "haves," was also quite antagonistic...
Have you ever paid attention to the faces of some of our predatory Jews who haunt the cities of the Orient... I mean those cocky, energetic, wolfish ones with their oily black hair and their sharp little mustaches that curl up at the edges? Have you noticed how they prowl when they walk, as though stalking prey? I tell you, I can spot at a glance which of them are merely pickpockets and sharks, and which also deal in human flesh...
In the 1920s, Arabs were annoyed and insulted by Zionist immigration, but not alarmed by it. It was steady, but fairly small, as even the Zionist founders thought it would remain. Indeed for some years, more Jews left Palestine than entered it—in 1927 almost twice as many.
But two new factors, entirely unforeseen by Britain or the League or America or the most fervent Zionist, arose in the early thirties to raise the immigration to undreamed heights. One was the World Depression; the second the rise of Hitler.
In 1932, the year before Hitler came to power, only 9,500 Jews came to Palestine. We did not welcome them, but we were not afraid that, at that rate, our solid Arab majority would ever be in danger.
But the next year—the year of Hitler—it jumped to 30,000! In 1934 it was 42,000! In 1935 it reached 61,000!
It was no longer the orderly arrival of idealist Zionists. Rather, all Europe was pouring its frightened Jews upon us. Then, at last, we, too, became frightened. We knew that unless this enormous influx stopped, we were, as Arabs, doomed in our Palestine homeland. And we have not changed our minds.
[In the 1920s] the worst fears of the Arabs had not been realized. The country had not been "swamped" by Jews, a Jewish state seemed no nearer to establishment than in 1922.... From 1925 to 1928 no meetings of the Palestine Arab Congress were held, and no protests were voiced over Jewish immigration. The immigration figures themselves provide an index.
The year 1925, when a series of Arab protests were made to the mandate authority, was the largest immigration year to that date, with a net Jewish immigration increase of 31,650. In the next year, however, only about one sixth as large a net immigration was recorded. The Arabs reached the conclusion that with their high birth rate they were not in danger of losing their majority of the population. In 1927 the Jewish community had 2358 more emigrants than immigrants. By the Arabs this was taken as a sign that the National Home had failed, the Jews were leaving, and the Arabs could relax in victory.
In the following year, however, the trend was reversed; a very slight net gain was made. And in 1929 the net gain was 3503. The optimism of the Arabs was shattered....
The relative calm of the middle years of the 1920's was ended by a riot in 1929, begun when a number of Zionists organized a demonstration at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem in the course of which the Zionist flag was raised and the Zionist anthem sung. Within two weeks of violence 472 Jews and 268 Arabs were among the casualties. The commission which investigated the disturbances noted: "The Arabs have come to see in the Jewish immigrant not only a menace to their livelihood but a possible overlord of the future ... and the result of Jewish enterprise and penetration have been such as to confirm that they will be excluded from this soil."
... with the rise to power in Germany of the Nazis in 1932, a new sense of urgency and, eventually, desperation was felt by the Zionist organization, and its ability to act was stiffened by the increasing scale of immigration from Germany. Between 1932 and 1933 the number of immigrants tripled. As the subsequent royal commission pointed out: "As the National Home expanded from 1933 onwards, so the Arab hate and fear have increased." The attitude of the Arab leaders became more hostile toward the [British] government, and the tone of the Arab press more bitter. In the autumn of 1934 the Arab executive submitted to the high commissioner a formal expression of its view that the safeguards for Arab interests embodied in the mandate had broken down. In the single year of 1935, 61,854 Jewish immigrants arrived. This figure was as large as the total immigration of the first five years of the mandate, and in the four years from 1932 to 1936 the Jewish population of Palestine quadrupled.
Meanwhile, in other Arab countries, notably Egypt and Syria, the British and French governments appeared to give way before violence and nationalist demonstrations. So once again, the Palestine Arab community resorted to direct and violent action. On April 13, 1936, a series of terrorist attacks began throughout the country. Violence bred further violence between the Jewish and Arab communities. Throughout Palestine committees were formed in the Arab towns to demand the establishment of a representative government, prohibition of sales of land to Jews, and end of Jewish immigration. ... This time, the government refused to submit to pressure and on May 18 issued an immigration schedule which was somewhat higher than in any previous year. The general strike quickly developed into a civil war. Two trains were derailed, a bridge blown up, and guerrilla bands which included soldiers from Syria and Iraq began to operate in the hill country. On May 23 mass arrests of Arab leaders were made, and in June members of the Arab Higher Committee were interned in a concentration camp.
In June 1936, 137 Arab senior officials and judges in the Palestine government presented a memorandum in which they set out their contention that the disturbances were caused by the fact that "the Arab population of all classes, creeds and occupations is animated by a profound sense of injustice done to them. They feel that insufficient regard has been paid in the past to their legitimate grievances, even though those grievances had been inquired into by qualified and impartial official investigators, and to a large extent vindicated by those inquiries. As a result, the Arabs have been driven into a state verging on despair; and the present unrest is no more than an expression of that despair." ...
Coming as this did from the most moderate, committed, and responsible members of the Arab community, the memorandum made a considerable impression ...
A royal commission, appointed to investigate the underlying causes of the disturbance, arrived in Palestine in November 1936. After careful study of the situation the commission decided that the mandate was unworkable in its existing form. Their conclusions, published in 1937, are still worthy of attention.
An irrepressible conflict has arisen between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small country. About 1,000,000 Arabs are in strife, open or latent, with some 400,000 Jews. There is no common ground between them. ... [Their national aspirations] are the greatest bar to peace ... The [First World War and its aftermath] have inspired all Arabs with the hope of reviving in a free and united Arab world the traditions of the Arab golden age. The Jews similarly are inspired by their historic past ... In the Arab picture the Jews could only occupy the place they occupied in Arab Egypt or Arab Spain. The Arabs would be as much outside the Jewish picture as the Canaanites in the old land of Israel. The National Home ... cannot be half-national ... This conflict was inherent in the situation from the outset. The terms of the Mandate tended to confirm it [and] the conflict has grown steadily more bitter ... In the earlier period hostility to the Jews was not widespread among the fellaheen. It is now general ... The intensification of the conflict will continue ... it seems probable that the situation, bad as it is now, will grow worse. The conflict will go on, the gulf between Arabs and Jews will widen.
The recommendation of the royal commission was that Palestine be partitioned between the two communities since the only alternative appeared to be a rule of repression which would lead nowhere.
If there is one thing that gets on the Palestinians' nerves, it's the talk about Barak's "generous offer" at Camp David. Palestinians--all Palestinians--regard this expression as a deep contradiction. Just why they do needs explaining.
Palestinians view the Palestine that existed during British rule between 1918 and 1948 as theirs--100 percent theirs, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. They see themselves as the indigenous population of this region and hence the natural owners of the entire land of Palestine. Any part of the land that they yield as part of an agreement is, for them, a huge concession. Recognizing the State of Israel as defined by its 1967 borders--the so-called green line--and thus yielding some 77 percent of British mandate Palestine is to them by itself a colossal concession, a painful historical compromise. By recognizing the Israel within the green line they give up their claim to redress what they see as the wrong done to them by the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. If they accept any deal that recognizes Israel they will have succeeded at most in redressing the wrong done to them in 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza. Thus to ask them to compromise further after what they already regard as a huge compromise is, as they see it, a historical outrage. To call any such compromise "a generous offer" is to them sheer blasphemy.
The Israeli perception is of course diametrically opposite. And by "the Israeli perception" I do not refer to the idea of "Greater Israel," according to which the entire biblical land of Israel belongs to the Jews, who are the historical indigenous population that was forced out of the land but never gave it up. What I mean by the Israeli perception is something very prosaic and unbiblical. Following the two wars that were forced on Israel, in 1948 and 1967, Israel conquered and held on to the entire land from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. So the Israelis say that any territory we yield to Palestinians is, to us, a concession. And if Barak was willing to offer them almost all of the territories occupied since 1967--an offer that no previous Israeli leader was willing to entertain, let alone to make--it is entirely apt to see this as a generous offer.
The Commission point to serious difficulties in connection with the legislation proposed by the Palestine Government for the protection of small owners. The Palestine Order in Council and, if necessary, the Mandate should be amended to permit of legislation empowering the High Commissioner to prohibit the transfer of land in any stated area to Jews, so that the obligation to safeguard the right and position of the Arabs may be carried out. Until survey and settlement are complete, the Commission would welcome the prohibition of the sale of isolated and comparatively small plots of land to Jews. They would prefer larger schemes for the rearrangement of proprietorship under Government supervision.
« Older The hard drive celebrates its 50th birthday... | Leonardo comes to life.... Newer »
This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments
Buy a Shirt