Zionism and its Impact
July 15, 2005
The dispossession and expulsion of a majority of Palestinians were the result of Zionist
policies planned over a thirty-year period. Fundamentally, Zionism focused on two needs:
to attain a Jewish majority in Palestine;
to acquire statehood irrespective of the wishes of the indigenous population. Non-recognition of the political and national rights of the Palestinian people was a KEY Zionist policy.
The implementation of those approaches led to the formation of independent Israel, at the cost of dismembering the Palestinian community and fostering long-term hostility with the Arab world.
In 1936, a commission of inquiry found that 654 Palestinian families had lost their lands as the result of Zionist purchases, out of a total of 61,408 Arab families that owned or tenanted land. In other words, a bit over 1%. These families lost 46,633 dunams of land, which is less than 1% of the 6,440,000 dunams of land in Palestine that were deemed to be arable.4 That was the extent of the dispossession.
The land purchase used to dramatize the dispossession of the Arabs of the Galilee was the purchase of the Sursuk lands in the Valley of Jezreel. The Sursuks were absentee landlords who lived in Beirut. Much of the land had fallen into disuse, and was un-irrigated. The claims of the Arabs of dispossession by this purchase were examined by Sir John Hope Simpson in 1930. The Simpson commission was set up to examine the causes of the riots of 1929. Very likely it was clear from the start that its purpose was to blame the riots on Zionist immigration, and to justify a finding that would require curtailment of Jewish immigration to Palestine. This they did. However, despite having every motivation to blame the Zionists for "dispossession" of Palestinian Arabs, Simpson wrote:
Government responsibility towards Arab cultivators.—
Thus, contrary to the assertions of Lesch and others, the Zionists did take into account the existence of the Arab population, and did consider their needs and the demands of justice and compromise.
Moreover, Simpson quotes from a letter by Yehoshua Hankin, the Zionist land agent, who stated:
" . . . . Had we desired to disregard the interests of such workers of the land as are dependent, directly or indirectly, upon lands of the landlords, we could have acquired large and unlimited areas, but in the course of our conversation I have pointed out to you that this has not been our policy and that, when acquiring lands, it is our ardent wish not to prejudice or do harm to the interests of anybody. "
Lesch is adamant that the Zionists were unwilling to entertain any compromise, but the record shows that it was the Arabs of Palestine who consistently refused to compromise.
In 1937, the British government announced a plan to partition Palestine, known as the Peel Commission plan. The plan was not the doing of the Zionists, but rather an attempt by Britain to renege on the international mandate commitment to a home for the Jewish people in Palestine, by making a tiny state for the Jews within Palestine. The plan was rejected by the Arabs, who refused to consider any compromise whatever. Lesch based much of her argument on this plan, which she presents as adverse to the Arabs. Lesch wrote:
Lesch's description of the Peel Plan is incorrect. Haifa and Acre were part of the mandated area according to the Peel Plan, and not part of any Jewish state, as noted in the text of the plan.
The plan began by offering a relatively small area to the Jews, and then, to meet Arab objections, this tiny area was made smaller in successive maps. The map at right represents the last map that the Arabs rejected. The "Jewish State" would have been a tiny area between Tel Aviv and Hadera, with a second tiny enclave below it, encompassing the area of Yavne, Zikhron Yaakov, Rehovoth and Gedera The Arab state would have extended down to include Gaza, and the rest would be "mandated territory." The Arabs of Palestine would not have lost Acre, Haifa or the Galilee, all of which would remain under mandate and closed to further Jewish immigration. (Click for complete maps of the Peel Plan )
The Arabs of Palestine rejected the Peel plan as later, in 1947, they rejected the UN Partition Plan for Palestine.
Along with their recommendation for partition, in order to create a state with a Jewish majority and ensure an end to the friction, the Peel commission had recommended transfer of the populations in the different areas:
If Partition is to be effective in promoting a final settlement it must mean more than drawing
a frontier and establishing two States. Sooner or later there should be a transfer of land and, as far as possible, an
exchange of population.
The Treaties should provide that, if Arab owners of land in the Jewish State or Jewish owners of land in the Arab State should wish to sell their land and any plantations or crops thereon, the Government of the State concerned should be responsible for the purchase of such land, plantations and crops at a price to be fixed, if requires, by the Mandatory Administration. For this purpose a loan should, if required, be guaranteed for a reasonable amount.
This bilateral, voluntary, and at that time accepted procedure caused quite a bit of debate in the Zionist executive, not because of doubts about the wisdom or fairness of uprooting Jews, but because of doubts of the morality of uprooting Arabs. Nonetheless, the imperative posed by the obviously looming tragedy in Europe, which required finding a safe home for Jewish refugees quickly, prevailed. This acceptance of the British program has since been turned by anti-Zionists into a lever to "prove" that Zionism is racist and intended all along to expel the Arabs. Equally, it has been used by Zionist extremists to falsely assert that transfer is moral and was always a part of the Zionist program. It was not. It was viewed as a necessary evil.
Another major complaint against the Zionists is that they did not provide for the welfare of the Arabs of Palestine, and in particular their education. Lesch wrote:
Finally, the establishment of an all-Jewish, Hebrew-language
educational system was an essential component of building the Jewish national home. It helped to create a cohesive
national ethos and a lingua franca among the diverse immigrants. However, it also entirely separated Jewish children
from Palestinian children, who attended the governmental schools. The policy widened the linguistic and cultural gap
between the two peoples. In addition, there was a stark contrast in their literacy levels (in 1931):
93 percent of Jewish males (above age seven) were literate
71 percent of Christian males
but only 25 percent of Muslim males were literate.
Overall, Palestinian literacy increased from 19 percent in 1931 to 27 percent by 1940, but only 30 percent of Palestinian children could be accommodated in government and private schools.
Palestinian Muslim Arab literacy improved, but not as fast as that of the Christians or the Jews. According to Lesch, this is the fault of the Zionists. It is difficult to see why the Zionists should be blamed, rather than the Christians for example, or perhaps the Muslims. The Zionists and the Christians did not prevent the Muslim Arabs from implementing their own school system. The Jews were not after all, to be expected to teach Arabic or to force their own children to learn Arabic, and the Arabs were not interested in learning Hebrew. The British for their part, were unwilling to host separate schools. The British collected taxes from the entire population of Palestine, and distributed benefits on a per-capita basis. Since by 1948 each Palestinian Jew was producing four times as much as his or her Arab neighbor. the Zionist enterprise in Palestine was subsidizing the health, education and welfare of the Arabs whether they liked it or not. The British, being insolvent, were unwilling to invest any funds of their own. The Arabs of Palestine used whatever group spirit and organizational capability they had toward the single end of expelling the Jews, and failed to erect communal institutions such as those developed by the Zionists. Nonetheless, owing in large part to the taxes paid by the Zionists, the literacy and health of Palestinian residents improved steadily from 1922 to 1948.
Despite the claims of the Mufti and his supporters, Arabs prospered in mandatory Palestine, whether because of improved British administration, or because of Zionist investment. Zionist investment in industry in Palestine was considerable and was noted by the British in their mandatory reports. True, the investment resulted only in creation of industries owned by Jews, but these industries also employed Arabs and did business with Arab businesses. Lesch claims that Jewish enterprises employed few Arabs. She does not mention that Arab enterprises employed almost no Jews at all.
The Simpson Report5 of 1930 noted:
Of existing industrial establishments 1,236, with a total capital in excess of one million pounds were in existence before the War. Since the War therefore the number of establishments had increased up to the date of the Industrial Census by 2,269 or 183 per cent, and the capital by two and a half million pounds, or 250 per cent. This is a very material increase and it is almost entirely due to the importation of Jewish capital and the immigration of a Jewish population.
The table below shows what was happening until 1931:
Selected Indicators of Capital Formation and Infrastructure Development: 1922-19316
|Capital Stock||Capital Imports||Capital Deepening||Consumption of Electricity||Telephone Lines||Kilometers of Metalled Roads|
Almost all of the investment was Zionist investment. The telephone lined, roads and electricity were paid for by Zionist investment and taxes generated by that investment, and this was only the first decade of the mandate, before massive Zionist immigration.
There was of course, nothing to prevent Arabs from raising capital and investing in Palestine. They could have enlisted the patronage of King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arab for example. No Arabs were expected to invest in Jewish industries, so it is beyond understanding why Zionists should have been expected to invest in Arab industries. However, even without intensive investment or an overall plan or community framework, the Arabs prospered, because of the investment brought by the Jews and because the British employed a great deal of Arab labor to develop the port of Haifa. Undeniably, the British investments of the war years fueled Arab and Jewish prosperity in Palestine, but the figures we are giving here are mostly from prewar years.
The impact of Zionism on Arab prosperity in Palestine was profound. Palestine had been the poorest country in the region Before the first World War, it had been a country of net emigration for Arabs. During the mandate period, it became a country of net immigration for Arabs as well as Jews. By 1932-36, it was one of the richest, and the Palestinian Arabs took part in the prosperity as shown in the table below.
Economic Performance and Standards of Living In Middle East Economies: 1932-1936 6
|Per Capita Income||Industrial Daily Wages||Per Capita Consumption of Foodstuff||Net Productivity Per Agricultural Workerd|
Clearly there is no evidence in the above figures to suggest that anyone was dispossessing the Palestinian Arabs or impoverishing them or wrecking their society. The greater prosperity of the Arabs of Palestine, was at least compatible with, and very possibly, it was in large measure due to, Zionism and its impact.
In 1922, there were 22,000 dunams of Arab land producing citrus crops. In 1940, there were 140,000 dunams of Arab citrus land, mostly producing crop for export in Palestine. In 1931 Arabs had 332,000 dunams of olive groves and apple orchards. By 1942 they had 832,000 dunams under cultivation.7
"The Zionists were strongly critical of British efforts to establish a LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL in 1923, 1930, and 1936."
This implies that it was the fault of the Zionists that Arabs did not participate in the government of Palestine. That is untrue. The British were forced to note in their 1930 report to the League of Nations that the Arabs had refused every opportunity given them to participate in the government of Palestine:
... in February and March, 1923, an attempt was made to hold elections ...
"The attempt failed owing to the refusal of the Arab population as a whole to co-operate ...
"Two further opportunities were given to representative Arab leaders in Palestine to co-operate with the Administration in the government of the country...
"Neither of these opportunities was accepted... 8
The history of the Arab Palestinian community under the mandate cannot be understood from Lesch's article, because she left out an essential part of the story, one that is invariably omitted in anti-Zionist narratives of the history of Palestine. No history of mandatory Palestine and the Arab Palestinian community could be complete without understanding the career of the Grand Mufti, Hajj Amin El Husseini, who was, as far as all the evidence can show,, a convinced actual Nazi, as opposed to the figurative Nazis created by name callers. In large part it was Husseini who was responsible for spreading the myth of Zionist dispossession, as well as false rumors that the Jews were planning to violate the sanctity of the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, a perennial favorite in Middle East incitement.
From the beginning of Zionist settlement, Husseini had been active in kindling anti-Zionist sentiment and fomenting riots against the Jews. Violent pogroms instigated by Husseini and his followers broke out in 1920, 1921 and 1936 - 39. Non-Zionist Jewish communities in Hebron and Jerusalem, people who had been living there for hundreds of years were attacked. In the mosques, Imam's lectured "and you shall kill the Jews wherever you find them." Armed mobs and later gangs screaming itbach al yahud (slaughter the Jews) and Nashrab Dam Al Yahud (we will drink the blood of the Jews) descended on defenseless civilians. People were cut in half with a sword thrust. Pregnant women were stabbed in the belly and left to die. Children were murdered. These horrors are euphemized by Lesch as follows:
When the Palestinians mounted violent protests in 1920, 1921, 1929, 1936-39, and the late 1940s, the yishuv sought to curb them by force, rather than seek a political accommodation with the indigenous people.
The situation was complicated by the fact that the British allowed the intervention of the Saudi monarchy in British policy in Palestine, in effect inviting the King of Saud to block any compromise whatever. Saud rejected partition and demanded that the British curtail Jewish immigration. Saud said that if the British failed to follow Arab wishes in Palestine, the Arabs would turn against them and side with their enemies. He said that Arabs did not understand the "strange attitude of your British Government, and the still more strange hypnotic influence which the Jews, a race accursed by God according to His Holy Book, and destined to final destruction and eternal damnation hereafter, appear to wield over them and the English people generally." 9
By 1936 Husseini was apparently being funded by Fascist Italy. Coopting a revolt that had sprung up for largely local reasons, he terrorized Arabs and Jews alike. About 1,500 people were killed in these "protests," and the majority of the Arabs were killed by Husseini and his gangs. It was Husseini, and not the Jews, who decimated the Palestinian leadership, killing off large parts of 11 different rival clans. It is not true that the British decapitated the Arab leadership by jailing the Arab higher committee, as Lesch claims. Rather, in September or October of 1937, after Husseini was involved in killing the British commissioner for the Galilee, he fled along with key members of the Arab higher committee to Beirut and thence to Iraq. In Iraq, the Mufti began fomenting a pro-Axis coup against the British. These plans came to fruition in the Spring of 1941. 10
The coup was crushed however, and the Mufti fled again. This time he fled to his spiritual home, Nazi Germany. There, he became a friend and confidante of Adolf Eichmann, organized SS Units and enthusiastically supported the German annihilation of Europeans Jews.
Amin el Husseini
featured on the cover of Vienna Illustrated (Wiener Illustrierte) magazine, reviewing Nazi troops.
After the war, Husseini escaped from France where he was awaiting transport to Germany for trial by the Nuremberg tribunal. He advertised that his solution for the Jews of Palestine was the same as the solution adopted in Europe - annihilation. If all this could be attributed to Zionism and its impact, then certainly the Holocaust must have been due to Judaism and its impact.
It is with this man and his party that Anne Lesch insists the Zionists should have negotiated and sought an accommodation, but instead were inexplicably, according to Lesch, against any compromise.However, the Zionists did try to reach an accommodation with the Arabs of Palestine. Herbert Samuel, first governor of Palestine, a Zionist as well as a Jew, ensured the election of Husseini as Grand Mufti in the hopes that he would seek accommodation. The Zionists courted the Nashashibi family as well. They agreed to compromise after compromise in the Peel plan. Zionists, including Arthur Ruppin, Yehuda Magnes and others formed Brit Shalom to work for a bi-national state, but support for the bi-national state state melted away in the Jewish community because there were no Arab partners to be found who would support this idea. The binational state was the product of Zionism and its impact, not of any Arab proposals. The compromise plans to partition and repartition Palestine was again due to Zionism and its impact, and to any compromise offer by the Arabs. One can say, as Lesch does, that Zionism was uncompromising, only by completely ignoring the entire history of Zionism and its impact under the mandate.
Lesch's claim that "The implementation of those [Zionist] approaches led to the formation of independent Israel" rests on shaky grounds. The first Zionist Congress called for a "national home" guaranteed by international law. While many believed that this home must be a state, that was not part of the official Zionist program, and certainly the Zionists accepted the British Mandate as a "national home." Bowing to Arab pressure, the British stopped Jewish immigration to Palestine. This precipitated a crisis. It was only in 1942 that David Ben-Gurion pushed through the Biltmore declaration, which made an independent Jewish state an official goal of the Zionist movement. The declaration was not accepted by many in the Zionist movement, and in particular by Chaim Weizmann. Even then, there would have been no Jewish state had the Arab states and the leaders of the Palestinians been willing to compromise. The US asked the British to admit 100,000 Jewish Displaced Persons to Palestine after World War II. However, the Arabs once again refused to compromise, and the British were forced to reject this idea. Had the British acceded to the American request, it is unlikely that the United States would have supported the idea of partitioning Palestine in 1947. Likewise, the USSR declared its support initially for a binational state. However, as Andrei Gromyko noted, since the Arabs (not the Zionists, as Lesch implies) rejected the binational state, the USSR had no choice but to support partition of Palestine.
The Zionist plan was to build an internationally guaranteed national home for the Jews in Palestine, accepting whatever the international community would permit, including the British Mandate. It is correct to say that the Zionists initially largely ignored the existence of Arabs in Palestine and were less than urgently concerned about their fate. It is also correct to say that some Zionists, responding to Arab opposition, believed that the only solution lay in expelling the Arabs of Palestine. However, that is not the same as insisting that the Zionists were intent on dispossessing the Arabs from the first, or that that was the policy of the Zionist movement. The independent Jewish state came about owing to the vicissitudes of history and the stubborn refusal of the Arabs of Palestine to compromise at any point. The creation of Israel as an independent state was to a great extent the result of Arab opposition to Jewish settlement in Palestine. If you believe that the flight of the refugees was due to Zionism and its impact, then you must equally agree that the expulsion of Germans from the Sudetensland after World War II was due to Czech nationalism and its impact. In fact, the National socialist version of Anne Lesch could claim that if only the Czechs had been willing to compromise with Hitler, there would not have been a second world war.
Lesch concluded, "The land and people of Palestine were transformed during the thirty years of British rule." Indeed, the land and the people were transformed. Palestine, which had been the most neglected, disease ridden and forsaken corner of the Ottoman Turkish Empire, had become one of the most desirable places to live in the Middle East. From being a country of net emigration of Arabs before World War I, Palestine had become had become a country of net immigration for both Christian and Muslim Arabs. All of this could not have been possible if social and economic changes in Palestine had reflected the workings of a diabolical Zionist plot to displace and dispossess the Arabs. In 1948, more Arabs lived in Palestine than had ever lived there before, and they were richer and healthier than they had ever been in all history. That was the result of Zionism and its impact.
Tragically, the Mufti spread the myth of dispossession and the counsel of genocide against the Jews. The first was a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most of the Arabs of Palestine, convinced of the nefarious intent of the Zionists, saw no choice except to flee or fight. The Jews of Palestine, faced with a Palestinian leadership that wanted to repeat the European Holocaust in Palestine, saw no choice other than to defend themselves by whatever means possible. This was not due to Zionism and its impact The tragedy is perpetuated by those who continue to propagate the myth of dispossession and to insist on no compromise with Zionism. It is the result of anti-Zionism and its impact.
Ami Isseroff Notes 1. The Lesch article has been reposted in many locations on the Web (EG . ummah.com/waragainstislam/impact.htm).
A search will reveal over 700 Web pages with the title or text "Zionism and its Impact," many of them being extensions
or re-uses of the phrase, which has become a standard anti-Zionist jibe. 2. See population figures at
The Population of Palestine before 1948.
3. Figures are from League of Nation Report - (http://domino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/c61b138f4dbb08a0052565d00058ee1b?OpenDocument
Geneva, April 1945. THE MANDATES SYSTEM Origin -- Principles -- Application Series of League of Nations
Publications VI.A. MANDATES1945. VI.A. 1) 4. Michael Har-Segor and Maurice Stroun, Israel/Palestine:L'Histoire au dela des Mythes,
Editions Metropolis, Paris, 1996. Translated into Hebrew as Yisrael/Falastin, Hametziut Sheme'ever Lamitosim -
Masah, The Jewish-Arab Peace Center, Givat Haviva, 1977 , page 225 of the Hebrew edition. 5. All references to Simpson are from the "Hope Simpson" Report:
PALESTINE. Report on Immigration, Land Settlement and Development.
By SIR JOHN HOPE SIMPSON, C.I.E. 6. From
1. The Lesch article has been reposted in many locations on the Web (EG . ummah.com/waragainstislam/impact.htm). A search will reveal over 700 Web pages with the title or text "Zionism and its Impact," many of them being extensions or re-uses of the phrase, which has become a standard anti-Zionist jibe.
2. See population figures at The Population of Palestine before 1948.
3. Figures are from League of Nation Report - (http://domino.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/c61b138f4dbb08a0052565d00058ee1b?OpenDocument Geneva, April 1945. THE MANDATES SYSTEM Origin -- Principles -- Application Series of League of Nations Publications VI.A. MANDATES1945. VI.A. 1)
4. Michael Har-Segor and Maurice Stroun, Israel/Palestine:L'Histoire au dela des Mythes, Editions Metropolis, Paris, 1996. Translated into Hebrew as Yisrael/Falastin, Hametziut Sheme'ever Lamitosim - Masah, The Jewish-Arab Peace Center, Givat Haviva, 1977 , page 225 of the Hebrew edition.
5. All references to Simpson are from the "Hope Simpson" Report: PALESTINE. Report on Immigration, Land Settlement and Development. By SIR JOHN HOPE SIMPSON, C.I.E.
6. FromFred M. Gottheil, The Smoking Gun, Arab immigration into Palestine, 1922-1931, The Middle East Quarterly, Volume X, No. 1, Winter 2003. We needn't agree with the thesis that this prosperity induced illegal Arab immigration, though Simpson had noted such immigration even in 1930. It is interesting however, that the same people who ridicule Joan Peters' theories about massive Arab immigration, accept Lesch's thesis without question, even though Lesch did not even bother to provide sources for the statistics or quotes she gives.
7. Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee problem, 1947-1949. Cambridge, The Cambridge University Press, 1987, pp 8-9.
8. From the report of thePalestine Mandatory to the League of Nations, 1930, prepared by the British Government: It is worth quoting at length
"On the 1st September, 1922, the Palestine Order in Council was issued, setting up a Government in Palestine under the Foreign Jurisdiction Act. Part 3 of the Order in Council directed the establishment of a Legislative Council to be composed of the High Commissioner as President, with 10 other official members, and 12 elected non-official members. The procedure for the selection of the non-official members was laid down in the Legislative Council Order in Council, 1922, and in February and March, 1923, an attempt was made to hold elections in accordance with that procedure.
"The attempt failed owing to the refusal of the Arab population as a whole to co-operate (a detailed report of these elections is contained in the papers relating to the elections for the Palestine Legislative Council, 1923, published as Command Paper 1889).
"The High Commissioner thereupon suspended the establishment of the proposed Legislative Council, and continued to act in consultation with an Advisory Council as before.
"Two further opportunities were given to representative Arab leaders in Palestine to co-operate with the Administration in the government of the country, first, by the reconstitution of a nominated Advisory Council, but with membership conforming to that proposed for the Legislative Council, and, secondly, by a proposal for the formation of an Arab Agency. It was intended that this Agency should have functions analogous to those entrusted to the Jewish Agency by Article 4 of the Palestine Mandate.
"Neither of these opportunities was accepted and, accordingly, in December, 1923, an Advisory Council was set up consisting only of official members. This position still continues; the only change being that the Advisory Council has been enlarged by the addition of more official members as the Administration developed.
9. The remarks are from the notes of a conversation or tirade delivered by ibn Saud to a British visitor, and reported to the Foreign Office. Report of Conversation of Col H.R.P. Dickson, with HRH Abd al Aziz ib Sa'ud, king of Saudi Arabia October 28, 1937 as published inKedourie, Elie, Islam in the Modern World, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, N.Y. 1980. pp 70-74. Saud made it clear that his concerns about Palestine were not limited to the welfare of the Palestinian Arabs, but in fact stemmed from entirely different causes. He told Dixon:
'Our hatred for the Jews dates from God's condemnation of them for their persecution and rejection of Isa (Jesus Christ), and their subsequent rejection later of His chosen Prophet. It is beyond our understanding how your Government, representing the first Christian power in the world today, can wish to assist and reward these very same Jews who maltreated your Isa (Jesus).
10. The accusation that the Mufti was a Nazi even before arriving in Germany is well founded. The coup was put down by decisive British action, but the Mufti had managed to get the help of the Luftwaffe as well as the Italians. The record of the Mufti's involvement with the Axis prior to 1941 is not as clear as we would like it to be, but it is reasonably well documented. For example, Count Ciano, the Foreign Minister of Fascist Italy, claimed in 1940 to have been funding the Mufti for many years, and complained that it was to no effect, according to Hirszowicz, Lukasz, The Third Reich and the Arab East London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1968, page 86. Moreover, in a captured OKW (Wehrmacht Central Command) document, Abwehr (military intelligence) director Admiral Canaris stated that " Only through the funds made available by Germany to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was it possible to carry out the revolt in Palestine." See full document and other sources. See also the notes here The history of the Mufti is detailed here:Grand Mufti Hajj Amin El Husseini . Some more materials about the Mufti are available online at this source: The Grand Mufti and in French , under the title: La Bibliothèque Proche Orientale http://aval31.free.fr/
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