Foreign Affairs: 100 Years
A New Americanism
Why a Nation Needs a National Story
IT is sometimes assumed that the scope of the British Mandate for Palestine is limited to the narrow strip of land between the Jordan Valley and the Mediterranean. This is by no means the case. The mandated territory stretches eastwards well beyond the Jordan, until it loses itself in the inhospitable wilderness which separates it from Iraq. It has, however, been divided into two entirely distinct administrative units.
Western Palestine, with an area of some 10,000 square miles, has a population of a little over 800,000, including (in round numbers) 620,000 Moslems, 125,000 Jews and nearly a score of Christian communities, with a total membership of about 75,000.[i] Here the mandatory power has retained direct control. Eastern Palestine is smaller, more backward, and more homogeneous. It has an area of some 6,000 square miles and a population of about 200,000, of whom nearly all are Arabic-speaking Moslems, and a large proportion are Beduin. In Trans-Jordan, as this eastern region has now come to be styled, Great Britain has set up an Arab principality under the rule of the Emir Abdullah, the second son of ex-king Hussein of the Hedjaz. The Mandate remains in force in Trans-Jordan, but it is exercised on terms defined as follows in a British memorandum which was approved by the Council of the League of Nations in September, 1922: "In the application of the Mandate to Trans-Jordan, the action which in Palestine is taken by the Administration of the latter country will be taken by the Administration of Trans-Jordan under the general supervision of the Mandatory. His Majesty's Government accept full responsibility for Trans-Jordan, and undertake that such provision as may be made for the administration of that territory shall be in no way inconsistent with those provisions of the Mandate which are not declared to be inapplicable."
The provisions "declared to be inapplicable" are those relating to the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jews. So far as the Jews are concerned, Great Britain accepts no obligations beyond the Jordan Valley. The "general supervision" to which she restricts herself east of the Jordan is exercised through an officer known as the Chief British Representative, who is stationed at Amman, the seat of government, and is responsible to the British High Commissioner in Jerusalem. Great Britain also supplies the commanding officer and the second-in-command of the Arab Legion -- a locally recruited defense force. Apart from this, the handful of Englishmen in Trans-Jordan exercise no direct authority. The Arabs are left as far as possible to their own devices, and the Chief British Representative is merely an adviser, though it goes without saying that his advice, once given, cannot be lightly ignored.
Trans-Jordan has never been in a position to balance its Budget from its own resources, and it is only enabled to keep its head above water by a British subsidy, which is estimated for the current financial year at £105,000. This does not include the cost of the garrison. The Air Force units stationed in the neighborhood of Amman are not maintained there solely for the benefit of Trans-Jordan, but they are indispensable to its security. This was clearly shown in 1924, when it was only the prompt intervention of British aeroplanes and armored cars which saved Trans-Jordan from being overrun by Wahabi raiders from Central Arabia. It is, in fact, not too much to say that but for the presence in the background of the British Exchequer and the British Air Force, Trans-Jordan would rapidly drift into chaos.
It would be unreasonable to expect the infant state to find its feet within a few years of its birth. A serious attempt is being made to teach Trans-Jordan to stand alone, and it would be premature to pronounce it a failure. All that can be said is that the progress hitherto made hardly fulfils the hopes of those who commended this experiment to Mr. Winston Churchill in 1921 at the Middle Eastern Conference in Cairo. There has been some improvement since the present British Representative came to Amman in 1924, but Trans-Jordan still shows little sign of being able to produce the native talent which alone can make its independence a reality. It may, indeed, be doubted whether the whole experiment is not misconceived. Trans-Jordan is a tiny county with a sparse and backward population. It is poor alike in public spirit and in administrative experience. The collapse of King Hussein in the Hedjaz has shattered the dream of an Arab Confederation under Hashimite auspices, towards which Trans-Jordan might eventually gravitate. On the other hand, Trans-Jordan, with its half empty tracts of exceptionally fertile soil, is the natural hinterland of Western Palestine; indeed the geography, the history, and the economic relations of the two Palestines all suggest that they constitute a single indivisible unit. This does not mean that the differences which unquestionably exist should be disregarded or that Eastern and Western Palestine should be administered on precisely identical lines. What it does mean is that if they are encouraged to drift apart, Western Palestine will be a torso, and Trans-Jordan will, more probably than not, be consigned to something like permanent stagnation.
The problem of Trans-Jordan is too important to be passed over in silence. But this is not the place to discuss it in greater detail. If there is a new Palestine in the making, it is the Palestine which faces westwards to Europe as well as eastwards to Arabia and Iraq. That is the Palestine with which we are here concerned.
Great Britain administers Palestine under a Mandate which she has formally undertaken to exercise on behalf of the League of Nations. The terms of the Mandate were approved by the Council of the League in 1922, though for a variety of technical reasons the Mandate itself did not enter into full effect until September 29, 1923. It is an "A" Mandate, of the type designed for the ex-Ottoman Territories in Asia, as contrasted with the former German colonies in Africa and the Pacific. In this respect Palestine is on the same footing as Syria and Iraq. Palestine, however, is sui generis, and the Mandate has certain distinctive features which give it a character of its own.
Of these, the first is the absence of any express provision for the eventual independence of Palestine. The Syrian Mandate requires the Mandatory "to enact measures to facilitate the progressive development of Syria and the Lebanon as independent States." A similar clause was inserted in the draft Mandate[ii] for Iraq. There is no corresponding stipulation in the Mandate for Palestine, and there is reason to believe that the omission is not accidental.
But it would be a mistake to infer that the Mandate is in this case a cloak for annexation. On the contrary, of all the mandated territories, there is none in which the Mandatory's status as trustee has been more clearly brought out. At the recent Assembly of the League of Nations, Dr. Nansen, in reporting upon the development of the mandatory system, dwelt at some length upon the course of events in Palestine. A few weeks later, the situation in Palestine was much more exhaustively reviewed by the Permanent Mandates Commission. This is a body of independent experts whose duty is to watch the execution of the various Mandates and to report annually to the League Council. The British Government had, as it was bound to do, supplied the Commission in advance with a full report on the progress of Palestine in 1924, together with its replies to a questionnaire dealing seriatim with the various provisions of the Mandate. The Commission had also before it certain petitions asking for the redress of real or imaginary grievances, together with a memorandum submitted by the Zionist Organization. The British Government was represented by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, who was subjected on certain points to a searching cross-examination. At the close of the proceedings, the Commission laid before the Council of the League a full report, made up of general observations on the progress of Palestine under the Mandate, special observations on a number of specific points, and comments on the various petitions. The report, having been considered and approved by the Council, has now been published, together with a detailed account of the preliminary discussions. The whole of this process is repeated year by year. In these respects Palestine is on precisely the same footing as any other mandated territory; indeed, there is no case in which the Mandatory's reports have been more punctually rendered or more closely scrutinized. If the Mandate for Palestine is distinguished from others of the same general type by the omission of the independence clause, that does not mean that the Mandatory ceases in any sense to be a trustee; what it means is that this is a case in which the trusteeship is deemed to be of indefinite duration.
A second distinctive feature of the Palestine Mandate is the provision made in Articles 13 and 14 for the safeguarding of the Holy Places. These Articles have as their background all the passionate rivalries of the contending Churches in Palestine, and of the powers which have sought from time to time to carry their banners. The age-long struggle between the Greeks and the Latins -- the temporary eclipse of Russia, with its crippling effect upon the Orthodox Church -- the not unnatural disposition of the Latins to steal a march upon their rivals in their hour of weakness -- the conflict between French and Italian interests within the Roman Catholic Church itself -- these are only a few of the explosive elements in the complicated problem of the Holy Places.
Under Article 13 of the Mandate, the Holy Places are withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the local authorities in Palestine and are placed under the direct control of the Mandatory Power, which is responsible solely to the League of Nations. On the other hand, the Mandatory Power has itself no authority to deal with questions in dispute. Its function is merely to prevent any disturbance of the status quo, -- a task which it has performed with punctilious exactitude. Conflicting claims -- and they are many -- are reserved for settlement under the general auspices of the League of Nations. A special Commission to be set up for this purpose is to be appointed by the Mandatory Power, but "the method of nomination, the composition and the functions of this Commission shall be submitted to the Council of the League for its approval, and the Commission shall not enter upon its functions without the approval of the Council."
These are the provisions of Article 14 of the Mandate. There is no Article which has been the subject of more prolonged or more acrimonious discussion. To say nothing of Jewish and Moslem claims, how are the Christian members of the Commission to be distributed between the various Churches? Who is to nominate the Chairman? Is he to be a Roman Catholic, and, if so, is he to be a Frenchman or an Italian? These were among the thorny questions round which interminable controversy raged when the Mandate was being framed. If the terms of Article 14 in its final form are scrupulously vague, it is because on none of these disputed points was it possible to secure general agreement. It is for the same reason that even now the Commission has not been actually appointed. If there are difficulties in the strict maintenance of a not wholly satisfactory status quo, there might be at least equal difficulties in dealing with the whole complex of singularly delicate questions of which the Commission would be called upon to dispose. No one is anxious to put his hand into a hornets' nest, and there is at present a not unnatural tendency to leave well alone.
A third feature of the Mandate, and much the most far-reaching in its effects, is the group of Articles dealing with the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jews on the basis of the Balfour Declaration.
It was on November 2, 1917, that Lord Balfour, at that time Foreign Secretary in Mr. Lloyd George's Coalition Cabinet, assured the Zionist Organization that "His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
The initiative was taken by Great Britain, but in issuing the Balfour Declaration she did not speak for herself alone. She had secured in advance the concurrence of France and Italy, and both powers proceeded to make corresponding statements on their own account. The United States had not declared war on Turkey, and it was, for that reason, hardly possible for the Declaration to be formally endorsed by the American Government. It had, however, been framed with the full knowledge and approval of President Wilson. The President had consistently supported the Zionists with the full weight of his influence and shortly after the Declaration was issued, he publicly expressed his satisfaction. In 1922 a resolution in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a Jewish national home was adopted without opposition by both Houses of Congress, and on December 3, 1925, the British and American governments ratified a Convention by which the United States agrees to the administration of Palestine by Great Britain under the terms of the Mandate, receiving in return assurances with regard to the protection of American interests, as well as the right to be furnished with a duplicate of the Mandatory's annual report to the League of Nations.
Nor did the Declaration reflect a mere momentary impulse. From the earliest days of the war, the Zionists had had influential friends in the Allied Governments. Their claims were disregarded in the Anglo-French agreement of May, 1916, under which a mutilated Palestine was to play Tangier to a Moroccanized Syria. But even at that stage the Allies were aware that Zionism was a force to be reckoned with. As early as March 13, 1916, Sir Edward Grey reminded M. Sazonov that "a numerous and most influential section of Jewry in all countries would highly appreciate the proposal of an agreement concerning Palestine which would fully satisfy the Jewish aspirations." A few days later, M. Sazonov informed the British and French Ambassadors in Petrograd that "as regards Palestine, the Russian Government . . . will put forward no objection on principle to the settlement of Jewish colonists in that country." The ink was hardly dry on the Anglo-French accord of 1916 before Great Britain, now fully convinced that Zionism must be taken seriously, initiated the pourparlers which led to the Balfour Declaration and also -- it may be added -- to the eventual rectification of the frontier of Palestine and the abandonment of the proposed condominium in favor of a British Mandate.
The Zionist claims had a two-fold basis. The unwavering attachment of the Jews to the cradle of their race and faith, their abnormal status as a civilized and gifted people who hardly anywhere enjoyed more than a precarious toleration, the outward pressure of the crowded ghettoes where they lived in millions under conditions consistent neither with their security nor their self-respect -- this was in itself enough to give the Zionists a right to be heard. On the other hand, the Jewish national home in Palestine was already something more than a mere abstraction. Since about 1882 Palestine had attracted a growing stream of Jewish immigrants, and at the outbreak of war in 1914 it had a Jewish population of something like 90,000, who had, on the evidence of every impartial witness, contributed to its development out of all proportion to their numbers. What was still more important, there were even then unmistakably visible the first faint signs of a Jewish renaissance. For the first time for generations the Jews were settling in Palestine on the land; they had made Hebrew a living language; they were laying, step by step, the foundations of a vigorous and self-reliant Jewish society. The movement which began in 1882 received a powerful impulse from the establishment in 1897 of the Zionist Organization. The Organization at once came boldly forward with a program envisaging the settlement of Jews in Palestine en masse, under a Charter to be granted by the Sultan and guaranteed by the powers. This heroic project was not destined to be carried through in the form in which it was conceived, but at the outbreak of war Zionism was already in being, not merely as a vague aspiration, but as an organized and active force.
The Balfour Declaration was reaffirmed by the Allies at the San Remo Conference in April, 1920, when it was finally agreed that Palestine should be placed under a British Mandate. More than two years were still to elapse before the provisions of the Mandate were formally approved, and more than three before they became technically effective. It is, however, the San Remo decision which may properly be considered as the starting-point of the new régime. Pending a definite decision as to its future, Palestine had been treated as occupied enemy territory and had been administered by a Military Government, which had no authority to do more than keep order and maintain the status quo. The San Remo agreement put an end to this interregnum and was immediately followed by the establishment of a Civil Administration, with Sir Herbert Samuel as the first High Commissioner. This was in July, 1920. A few weeks later, the Government removed the embargo on immigration. Immigration was not, and has never been, unrestricted. It has throughout been controlled by the Palestine Government on the principles formally set forth in 1922 in a memorandum by the British Colonial Secretary, who laid it down that "immigration cannot be so great in volume as to exceed whatever may be the economic capacity of the country at the time to absorb new arrivals." The right of entry has never been limited to Jews, but though there are from time to time a few non-Jewish immigrants, their numbers are insignificant. The course of Jewish immigration, excluding returning residents, can be seen from the following table:
JEWISH IMMIGRANTS INTO PALESTINE
|Armistice to end of 1920 (14 months)||8,346|
|1925, January to October (10 months)[iii]||29,124|
Since the Armistice, about 5,000 Jewish refugees who left Palestine during the war have returned to their homes. If these are added to the immigrants proper, the total is brought up to about 79,000. During the same period there have been about 11,000 Jewish emigrants, of whom nearly half were pre-war residents, as distinct from recent arrivals. The result is a net Jewish immigration, including returning refugees, of (in round numbers) 68,000. In 1914, Palestine had a Jewish population of about 90,000. War, famine, emigration and forcible expulsion by the Turks left only about 55,000 survivors at the time of the Armistice. In April, 1925, it was officially estimated that there were 104,000 Jews in Palestine, and this figure must since have increased to something like 125,000, or about 15 percent of the total population. Thus the losses of the war have been more than made good, and since the beginning of 1925 Jewish immigrants have been coming in at the rate of 2,900 a month.
Of 12,856 Jewish immigrants in 1924, 10,852, or over 84 percent came from Poland and other parts of eastern and south-eastern Europe. These figures are fairly typical, though there has recently been a growing immigration of Sephardic Jews from the Balkans and from various parts of Asia. From another point of view, the character of the immigration has recently undergone a striking change. In 1922 the proportion of middle-class, as distinct from working-class, immigration was only 13 percent. This figure rose to 40.6 percent in 1924 and has shown a tendency to mount still higher in 1925. Immigrants of this type, who are not brought out to fill vacancies in the labor-market, are required by the Regulations to possess at least a moderate amount of capital. In some cases they are persons of substantial means, and they usually bring with them, not only capital, but some experience in industry or trade. Some of them settle on the land, and more would do so if land were not so scarce and land-values so inflated. On the other hand, many of the middle-class immigrants are making at least temporary homes in the towns, with the result that Palestine is going through what may almost be called an industrial revolution. In November, 1923, particulars were available of 279 Jewish industrial undertakings employing 2,331 workmen and representing a capital investment of $4,200,000. In July, 1925, the corresponding figures were 547, 4,894 and $7,585,000. Some of these enterprises are at present on an insignificant scale, but others -- such as the brick and tile factory at Jaffa and the cement works and vegetable oil factory at Haifa -- are of considerable size and are considered creditable examples of modern industrial practice. Among these undertakings there will, no doubt, be a certain infantile mortality, but some of them are already beginning to find their feet. In a recent speech in London, Sir Herbert Samuel went so far as to say that Palestine bids fair to become the main industrial centre of the Middle East.
It is obvious that middle-class and working-class immigration tend to play into one another's hands, since the influx of capital for investment produces a corresponding demand for labor. Thus, in the first half of 1925, when middle-class immigration reached unparalleled proportions, more working-class immigrants entered Palestine than in the whole of the previous year. At the same time, it is felt in some quarters that the balance between town and country is being endangered by these developments, and it has also been suggested that what is really in progress is a boom which is bound to be followed by a reaction. It is true that industry has recently made more rapid strides than agriculture, though it is also true that the proportion as well as the number of Jews on the land has not only not decreased, but is appreciably larger today than it was at the end of 1922. Whether industry or agriculture is destined to predominate time alone will tell. Economic forces must in the long run be left to work themselves out in Palestine in the same way as anywhere else. If the towns are growing rapidly and are not entirely free from the usual infantile diseases, they seem, on the whole, to be developing on healthy lines. There is no reason to suppose that the credit structure is top-heavy, and in spite of temporary fluctuations in the state of trade there is nothing to suggest a serious set-back.
It is, indeed, natural that agriculture should develop more slowly. The Mandate requires the Government to make unoccupied state lands available for Jewish colonization. The state lands, however, have still to be finally delimited, and all that is definitely known is that the vacant area is not as extensive as was originally assumed. This may or may not be a sufficient reply to the complaints which have been made of the Government's inaction in the matter. Be that as it may, all but a trifling proportion of the land acquired by the Jews has had to be bought in the open market at prices which are being rapidly forced up. The Jews now hold nearly 250,000 acres of land in Palestine, of which about 50,000 acres have been acquired during the past twelve months. Again, agricultural colonization is seldom self-supporting in the early stages, and this is especially true in Palestine, where there has almost always to be heavy expenditure on preparatory work before the land becomes fit for settlement. A salient example is the work done under Zionist auspices in the Vale of Jezreel, where 12,000 acres of malaria-ridden swamp have been drained and made habitable since the end of 1922.
In spite of these handicaps, the number of Jews on the land has steadily increased and now stands at about 23,000 or 21 percent of the Jewish population, as compared with 15,000 or 18 percent, at the census of October, 1922.
The Jews have not confined themselves to the promotion of industry and agriculture. They have created so extensive a network of Hebrew schools that 85 percent of the Jewish children between five and fourteen years of age are being educated, as compared with 76 percent in the case of the Christians and 14 percent in the case of the Moslems. The Jews have also opened a Technical Institute and an Institute of Agricultural Research, -- both of them the only establishments of their kind in the country, -- while the educational system is now about to be crowned by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, of which the first three Departments, devoted respectively to Chemistry, Medical Research and Jewish Studies, have already been opened. In coöperation with the Government and other agencies, the Jews are doing medical and sanitary work in Palestine on an extensive scale. By these and other means, they are contributing materially to the development of Palestine as a whole and to the strengthening of its social and economic fabric. They are, at the same time, enlarging and enriching their own corporate life. What is growing up in Palestine is a vigorous and many-sided Jewish society, which has its weaknesses as well as its virtues, but which has in any case its distinctive tone and color.
In all this, what part has been played by the Mandatory Power? So far as active coöperation is concerned, it is a very small part. That is, indeed, no more than is freely admitted by Sir Herbert Samuel in his final report to the British Colonial Office. "The Jewish movement," he writes, "has been self-dependent. If it has had the moral encouragement of the Balfour Declaration and of the official recognition of the Hebrew language, if it has been able to rely on the Government of Palestine to maintain order and to impose no unnecessary obstacles, for all the rest it has had to rely on its own internal resources, on its own enthusiasm, its own sacrifices, its own men."
On this point no serious observer can be in any doubt. There is in some quarters a hazy impression that if Palestine is not a Jewish State, it is at all events under Jewish administration. Nothing could be further from the truth. The following figures were given in evidence last year before the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations:
|Senior Service||Junior Service||Total|
At this time the High Commissioner was a Jew. He has since been succeeded by a Christian, Lord Plumer, and the only Jew now holding high office in the Palestine Government is the Attorney-General.
But this is only a small part of the story. So far from having made Palestine a Jewish State, the Government has, in some respects, actually done less for the Jews than might reasonably have been expected of it. Reference has already been made to its delay in giving effect to the provisions of Article 6 of the Mandate with reference to the settlement of Jews on state and waste lands. The Jews have another and a still more valid grievance in the fact that while they contribute to the revenue on the same footing as everyone else, 97 percent of the public expenditure on education goes to Arab schools, the Jews -- except for an infinitesimal grant-in-aid -- being left to provide Hebrew schools from their own resources.
It would, however, be a complete mistake to infer that the Jews owe nothing to the British Mandate. On the contrary, it would not be too much to say that to all they have achieved since the war the Mandate is the indispensable background. Great Britain has rendered them two services of vital importance, and these are none the less services to the Jews because they have also been services to Palestine as a whole. She has, in the first place, kept the peace. Palestine has not been altogether free from disorder, but whatever unrest there has been is insignificant in the light of what has occurred since the war in Syria and -- in the earlier stages -- in Iraq. Since the Jaffa riots of May, 1921, Palestine has been perfectly quiet; indeed, Sir Herbert Samuel is justified in claiming, as he does in his final report, that "for some time past Palestine has been the most peaceful country of any in the Middle East." On this point the following figures covering British expenditure in Palestine (exclusive of contributions to the cost of government in Trans-Jordan) speak for themselves:
BRITISH EXPENDITURE IN PALESTINE
Apart from the gendarmerie grant-in-aid, British expenditure in Western Palestine as distinct from Trans-Jordan is, and has always been, confined to the cost of the garrison. The steady shrinkage of that expenditure to an almost trifling sum is the best evidence of a progressive improvement in public security.
In the second place, the Government has stood firm on the vital question of immigration. If it has not conceded an unrestricted right of entry to the Jews, neither has it conceded an embargo to the Arabs. It has regulated immigration, but it has allowed it to come in in what is now a steady and growing stream. A weak Government might have capitulated to the Arab opposition; a rash Government might have forced the pace regardless of consequences. In matters of detail, the Government can claim no infallibility, but it has at least succeeded in creating an atmosphere in which Jewish immigration, if not yet universally welcomed, is at all events coming to be accepted by public opinion as a matter of course.
This is in itself a not inconsiderable achievement. It used to be pointed out by the sceptics that there were 700,000 Arabs in Palestine and that there were as many arguments against the Balfour Declaration. The British Government rightly refused to regard these arguments as conclusive, but it certainly had 700,000 reasons for moving cautiously. When the Balfour Declaration became known to the Arabs, they were in genuine doubt as to what might be in store for them. Their anxieties, in themselves not unnatural, were sedulously played upon by propagandists who had their own motives for making mischief in Palestine. The Damascus Nationalists took a hand in the game, and various interested parties in Europe fished diligently in troubled waters. The Civil Administration had hardly been set up before the almost inevitable explosion took place in the Jaffa district in May, 1921, when six days' rioting resulted in the loss of ninety-five Jewish and Arab lives. This is as near as post-war Palestine has ever come to serious disorder. There has since been nothing more alarming than an occasional brawl. The Arabs, however, had still to be reconciled to the new régime. They now embarked on a policy of non-coöperation on the lines familiar in India, in Cyprus and in other parts of the East. The Government was not actively opposed, but all its advances were rejected, while the Arab leaders poured forth an almost incessant stream of protests. It is not easy to say how far these leaders spoke for the Arab population at large. That they had, at one time at least, a considerable body of opinion behind them can hardly be doubted. On the other hand, the simple-minded folk who compose the bulk of the Arab population take little or no interest in public affairs. The shopkeepers were occasionally called upon to pull down their shutters when the leaders ordered a peaceful demonstration, but beyond this little was expected of the rank-and-file, and the policy of non-coöperation made no perceptible difference to their ordinary routine, any more than it prevented their betters from putting Jewish money into their pockets when there was business to be done.
The policy of the Arab leaders had, however, one important consequence. It delayed indefinitely the development of self-governing institutions. In 1922 Palestine was granted a Constitution providing for the establishment of a Legislative Council with extensive, though not unlimited, powers. Of the 23 seats on the Council, eleven were to be occupied by the High Commissioner and other British officials. The remaining twelve members were to be popularly elected on a wide franchise, with the proviso that the Jewish and Christian communities were to have two seats each. Elections were held early in 1923, but they were boycotted by the Arabs and were eventually annulled. The 1922 Constitution was not repealed, but it was left in abeyance. The Government did not, however, abandon its attempt to secure the cooperation of representative Arabs. Two successive offers were made, but both were promptly rejected. The Government had now spoken its last word. Since the end of 1923, the central administration has remained purely autocratic, though all the larger towns have their own municipal authorities, while in the rural areas there are twenty-seven elected local councils, of which twenty-three are in Arab villages.
It is a curious paradox that since the breakdown of the pourparlers with the Arab leaders, the political situation has sensibly improved. This is to some extent directly due to the breakdown itself. The Government had shown itself genuinely anxious to conciliate the non-coöperators, but it had also shown that it was quite capable of doing its work without them. The non-coöperators, on their side, were discredited. Their policy had led nowhere, and they had nothing to show for several years of expensive agitation, during which they had failed to produce a single constructive proposal. Since 1923 their prestige has visibly declined. If they still enjoy some measure of support, they no longer have the field to themselves. Their authority has been challenged, and they have now to compete with other Arab parties, which do not share their faith in a program of barren obstruction.
But it is not only in this respect that times have changed. The main reason why the tension has relaxed is that facts which speak for themselves have begun to reassure the Arab rank-and-file. However credulous the average Arab may be, he can use his own eyes. Year after year has gone by, and not one of the disasters he was led to expect has shown the slightest sign of overtaking him. On the contrary, he is well aware that he has materially benefited under the Mandate in pocket, in health and in general well-being. Thus, his lingering suspicions are being gradually disarmed, not so much by argument or by paper assurances, as by personal experience of the new régime and its actual effect on his daily life. In most parts of Palestine the Jews are now accepted as a matter of course; in some parts -- more especially in the rural areas -- they are already regarded as welcome neighbors from whom there is much to be gained. To say this is not to say that the Arab problem has been solved. The awkward question of self-government has been shelved, but it will one day have to be dealt with. Anti-European as well as anti-Zionist feeling still exists, and though the country is perfectly quiet, the forces of unrest have not yet been completely disarmed. It would be too much to say that the situation is entirely normal, but for some time past it has shown a steady improvement.
What of the future? The Jews are not a floating population of temporary exiles from Europe; still less are they in the position of a ruling race. As time goes on the Jews will tend more and more to give Palestine its tone and color; but there is no question of ascendency or privilege, and, in the nature of the case, there can be none. Palestine will, therefore, present the unusual spectacle of two races, an Asiatic majority and a minority which must be regarded in the main as European, dwelling side by side on different levels of culture and with different standards of life, but on a footing of complete political equality. This situation, though unusual, is not altogether unparalleled. It exists in Cyprus. It existed to some extent, until the catastrophe of 1922, on the Anatolian sea-board. In the first case it has led to trouble, and in the second to disaster.
There are, however, two distinctions to be drawn. The Moslems and Christians of the Levant are the heirs of something like a standing feud, with its roots deep down in half-forgotten history. There is not the same unhappy background to the relations between the Moslems and the Jews. And there is a second distinction. Like the Greeks of Cyprus, the Greeks of Anatolia had before their eyes a mother-country which beckoned to them across the frontiers of their nominal allegiance. They felt themselves to be irredenti. Thus, they were not only exposed to Turkish intolerance as a racial and religious minority, but they were also exposed to Turkish suspicions as the outposts of a foreign and an unfriendly power. This was the situation which culminated in the terror of 1922.
The Jews of Palestine are in this respect in a different position. They, too, are a racial and religious minority; they may, in some quarters, be looked at askance as agents of European penetration; but far from regarding themselves as irredenti, they are an integral part of the population of Palestine, with no metropolis outside it. The mixture of races in Palestine is, therefore, a good deal less combustible than it has unhappily proved in Anatolia, and the ominous analogy which has sometimes been suggested is clearly incomplete.
None the less, the situation in Palestine is a delicate one, and a modus vivendi between the two races is essential to peaceful progress. The Jews, for their part, have every motive for desiring it. Not only must they long remain a numerical minority in Palestine itself, but when they look further afield, they see themselves as a Jewish island in an Arab sea. Moreover, the economic development of Palestine is, in the last resort, the governing factor in the establishment of the Jewish national home, and the more the Arabs prosper, the more quickly will that development proceed. And again, if Palestine has an economic future, it is not only as a producer but as a distributor. If it is to reach its full stature, it must develop its possibilities as an entrepôt and make Haifa the Copenhagen of the Levant. The future of Palestine, therefore, depends largely on the future of its neighbors, and if for this reason alone, the Jews have a powerful motive for cultivating the goodwill and promoting the prosperity, not only of their Arab fellow-countrymen in Palestine, but of the Arab world at large.
Fortunately, they do not come without gifts in their hands. It is in their power to do for Palestine what no one else is likely to do for it and what it is at present quite incapable of doing for itself. They have at their command, not only capital, but precisely those qualities in which the Arabs are most conspicuously deficient -- enterprise, efficiency, and a capacity for sustained and organized effort. They are interested, as no one else is interested in anything like the same degree, not merely in skimming Palestine for its cream, but in its all-round development. They come, not to exploit Palestine,-- not to make what they can out of it and go home with their winnings, -- but to settle down in it as a permanent element in the population. Nor, again, can Palestine see in them merely a predatory Europe seeking to stake out yet another claim in the East. If the Eastern people are sullen and suspicious, it is largely because they have Europe on their nerves. They are obsessed by the nightmare of its inexorable advance and its insatiable appetite. They need Europe, but they are frightened of it. But the Jews are not in Palestine as the advance-guard of annexation. They are themselves Palestinians, and their rôle is to civilize Palestine, not from without, but from within. Without them there are only two visible alternatives for Palestine -- permanent chaos or permanent tutelage. Far from their standing between Palestine and nationhood, it is they who offer it its best -- perhaps its only -- chance of being welded in course of time into a coherent and orderly whole. Better than anyone else, the Jews can give Palestine what Europe has to offer without exacting the unwelcome price which the East has commonly to pay.
Thus the Jews are by no means mere suppliants for favors. It is a case of do ut des. It is true that the last word rests with the Arabs and that there can in the long run be no stable settlement unless they are convinced that they stand to gain by the presence of the Jews. Paper formulæ, however ingenious and impressive, will not take the matter much further. The Arabs, however, are by no means blind to their own interests or to the evidence of their own eyes, and if the Jews play their cards skilfully, it is reasonable to expect that the two races will sooner or later come tacitly to terms in Palestine on the solid basis of mutual advantage.
And not necessarily in Palestine alone. Palestine is destined to be a distributing-centre, not only for goods, but for ideas. If the Jews establish themselves in Palestine as a civilizing force, their influence will not stop at the Jordan. Provided always that there is no serious set-back, the time may come when they will not only overflow into Trans-Jordan, but will make themselves felt still further afield. As in Palestine, so in other parts of the Middle East, they may well prove to be in a better position than anyone else to mediate between Europe and Asia and to come forward as welcome allies in the work of reconstruction.
All this will not happen in a day. For the present, and for some time to come, the Jews will need all their available resources for Palestine itself and will have little but good-will to spare for its neighbors. And if the situation has still to be stabilized in Palestine, much less is it possible to foresee the course of events in other parts of the Middle East. The omens, it must be frankly admitted, are none too encouraging. The Arabs are not conspicuous for staying-power. It is at least conceivable that the Middle East may in the end relapse wearily into stagnation, leaving Palestine to a precarious survival as an isolated oasis. If, on the other hand, the situation develops more favorably -- if the Arabs prove superior to the weaknesses which have so often been their ruin in the past -- the time may come when Palestine will be a power-house distributing energy throughout the Middle East.
[i] There has been no census since October, 1922, when the returns for Western Palestine were as follows: Moslems, 590,890; Jews, 83,794; Christians, 73,024. Since then there has been a steady stream of Jewish immigration.
[ii] The text of this Mandate has never been formally confirmed, subsequent developments having rendered it obsolete, though as between Great Britain and the League the Mandate itself is still in being.
[iii] Analyzed returns for 1925 are not yet available, and the figures given include a trifling proportion of non-Jews.