25 OCTOBER 1930, Page 4

The Government and Palestine A T last we have got a

considered statement of what British policy in Palestine really is. Badly though this was needed, it would be unfair to blame the Govern- ment for having waited patiently for Sir John Hope Simpson's Report. The statement of policy was published simultaneously with the Report on Monday evening.

It is to be hoped that the attempt of the Mandatory Power to relieve itself of the heavy handicap which has hitherto been imposed upon it by the suspicions of both Jews and Arabs will be successful, but it must ne admitted that there are bad signs. Dr. Weizmann has resigned the Presidency of the Zionist Organization and of the Jewish Agency in Palestine. His departure is a serious loss. He never allowed his Zionism to make him indifferent to the necessity of placating the Arabs. It may be—and his resignation justifies this supposition—that for all the excellence of his intentions he was seeking a position for the Jews which would have made reconciliation with the Arabs impossible and would, therefore, have been contrary to the Mandate. But even so any desire to perpetuate a feud with the Arabs was certainly absent from his mind. He was always courteous in his negotiations with the Government, and he believed in the rightness of the Mandatory prin- ciple in which he implicitly trusted. It seems, therefore, that he is genuinely convinced that there is now a change of policy. We cannot agree. It appears to us that everything that is now said was inherent in what was said before, and is moreover indispensable to the simul- taneous welfare of Jews and Arabs. The fact that both Jews and Arabs as a whole are indignant at the Govern- ment's statement suggests that the Government fairly holds the balance between them, as it is, in fact, pledged to do.

We have always wished that. the Balfour Declaration of 1917 had been more happily worded. The word " National " in the phrase " a National Home " for the Jews suggests sovereignty, and the extreme Zionist interprets the phrase in that sense. It was pointed out, however, most plainly in 1922, that the National Home must not be so conducted as to injure the Arabs. The Jews were to be given an opportunity not to impose their nationality upon the Arabs but to establish a centre in which Jews all over the world might take " an interest and a pride." The Jews, it was added, were to regard themselves in Palestine " as of right and not on sufferance," but that right could not be exclusive of the corresponding right of occupation which belonged to the Arabs. The old theologians' question about the number of angels who could stand on the point of a needle was not more difficult to answer than the question how Jewish nationality can stand side by side with full rights for the Arabs in the same small territory. There is a patently fabricated story about Lord Balfour that after he had made the Declaration of 1917 he was much interested by a photograph of Palestine which showed some Arabs in characteristic dress. He asked what these interesting figures were, and upon being told that they were Arabs said that he thought that Palestine was populated by Jews. The merit, if any, of this invention was that it was a critical comment upon the difficulties which Lord Balfour airily and gracefully threw together in a few sentences.

In the past the Mandatory Power has tried to let Jews and Arabs " get together " with the smallest amount of exhortation or pressure. This accounts for what the Mandates Commission took to be laxity on the part of the Government. Troops were removed from Palestine ;

the police force was cut down ; ordinances against dangerous religious and political demonstrations were rare. The atmosphere was kept as free as possible from any threat of compulsion or any taint of strife. It was hoped that the absence of any invitation to excitement would somehow ensure peace. As everybody knows, this policy did not work. The impartiality of the Govern- ment was, so to speak, too impartial. Neither Jews nor Arabs felt that they would suffer any serious penalty if they tried to advance their interests by illegal means. The riots which were the culmination of the rivalry were very serious indeed. It is easy to say now that more troops and more police ought to have been kept in Palestine, but it must not be forgotten that if troops and police had been paraded gratuitously the Government might well have been blamed for provocation if not for oppression.

The main points in the new statement of policy, which is based on the Simpson Report, are that two battalions of infantry will be retained in Palestine, and two squadrons of aircraft and four sections of armoured cars will be available for both Palestine and Transjordan. The police force has already been strengthened and may be strengthened further. A Legislative Council will be established consisting of the High Commissioner and twenty-two members (ten official and twelve unofficial). Exactly such a Legislative Council was offered in 1922 and the Arabs made the fatal mistake of rejecting it. Now it is to be set up whether the Arabs volunteer to co-operate or not. Finally, there are to be measures for agricultural development, and, for the better control of immigration.

The creation of the Legislative Council is the answer of the Mandatory Power to the refusal of Jews and Arabs to come together in governing themselves. Hitherto the Government has simply looked on, as it were, anxiously observing whether the see-saw of Jewish and Arab interests moved from its true pivot ; but now it is going to do more—it is going to stand upon the middle of the see-saw and keep it in place. Extreme Zionists are, of course, disconcerted at the fading away of their vision of a Jewish State. This cause of discontent is, however, less dangerous than the causes embedded in. the. Govern- ment's policy in regard to agricultural development and the stricter control of immigration. Yet,if the risks were twice as great as they are they would have to be accepted. For the prosperity of Palestine, as Sir John Hope Simpson says, depends absolutely upon agricultural development. Development and immigration react upon each other.

Jews who would not have gone to Palestine at all unless they had. been men of adventurous spirit have proved themselves much keener farmers-than their Arab neigh- bours and much more daring in risking their resources. The result is that land has been steadily passing from Arab ownership into Jewish ownership. If this trans- formation had given much new employment on the land to the Arabs, as it easily might have done, all would have been well. Unfortunately, a rule has been made in the Jewish colonies to employ only. Jewish labour. Not only has the Arab landowner been dispossessed ; the new landowner has no use for the Arab labourer. Hence the proposed prohibition of further transfers of land for the present. Meanwhile most of the politically-minded Jews are extremely anxious that Jewish immigration should not in any way be checked. Every fresh batch of arrivals lessens the disparity between the Arab majority and the Jewish minority. The Jews have a clear reason for giving employment only to Jews.

The Simpson Report says that in some ways the Arab cultivators are scarcely better off than they were in the disgraceful days of Turkish rule. The problem of the unemployed Arabs has become one of the darkest in Palestine. The Report states that it is essential to regulate immigration strictly according to the capacity of the land to absorb labour. It does not say that the saturation point has been-finally reached; on the contrary, it suggests that later there will be room for another 20,000 families. That will not be, however, till life outside the towns in Palestine has been better organized. There is no doubt about what ought to be done. The crux is the expense. Development will cost much and so also will the regulation of immigration, which will require a large staff of ollicials. Meanwhile it is at least a satisfaction to have a declaration of policy which can hardly be misunderstood.