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An account of a speech on Palestine by Mr. Antonius, an Arab student from the Near East, has been published in The Harvard CRIMSON of March 22. The speaker is reported to have attacked Zionism as well as the British administration of Palestine, allegedly "under the thumb of Zionists."
The undersigned, a Jew and a Zionist, believes it necessary to clear the British administration from this certainly undeserved accusation. No one desires to place the British in this uncomfortable position of resting under anyone's thumb. It is true that Jews and Zionists throughout the world would like the British to fulfill the obligations which they have contracted in the matter of the Jewish national home, and for which they are responsible to the League of Nations and to the United States. Unfortunately, Great Britain has seen fit to disregard largely these obligations and to place obstacles in the way of the Jewish settlement in Palestine.
The undersigned welcomes the opportunity to remind that part of the world's public opinion represented by the readers of the CRIMSON that among the problems still awaiting solution is that of facilitating the settlement in Palestine of millions of Jews, pushed out of their countries of residence by economic or by official pressure, and of permitting them to live there in conditions of safety and self-respect. That this solution of the Jewish problem would be eminently just, has been acknowledged after the war by all civilized countries, including the United states (Sec: U. S. Department of State; Mandate for Palestine, U. S. Government Printing Office, 1927). Since then, the situation of the Jews in Europe became more, not less, critical, and their actual need of Palestine as a national home became even more compelling: Strangely enough, the world has become largely indifferent, and Great Britain has sought to interfere with the progress of Jewish settlement in Palestine, thus adding one more instance to the current spread of violated international obligations.
It is true that Jewish settlement has remarkably progressed in face of an indifferent world and of a hostile administration, and that the Jewish population has increased from about 50,000 in 1920 to about 350,000 in 1935. But with millions of Jews of Eastern and Central Europe facing economic starvation at best and physical extermination at worst, the progress achieved is only a slight beginning. Jews did and are doing all in their power to facilitate the gigantic task of finding a new home for millions, but this task can be only carried out if the British administration will cease obstructing Jewish efforts and will live up to the obligation undertaken in Art. 6 of the Mandate for Palestine:
The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall encourage . . . close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.
The enlightened opinion of the civilized world should rally to the support of this humane and constructive solution of a tragic problem, and should remind Great Britain of its solemn obligations.
Mr. Antonius registers particularly three grievances. One concerns the denial of self-government institutions. As a matter of fact, country-wide elections for a Legislative Council were held by the administration as early as 1923, but the Arab population abstained from voting, demanding an open repudiation by Great Britain of its obligations concerning the Jewish national home. That far even the British administration, despite its anti-Zionist attitude, was not prepared to go.
Another grievance is that "Zionists have been buying up the land without restriction." The complaint is rather a strange one: why should there be restrictions on voluntary land-transactions in a country which has not adopted communism? But Great Britain has given up its traditions of individual liberty in the sphere of property rights, and has placed many a restriction in the way of land purchase by Jews (See Reports of H. M.'s Government to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of Palestine, and Trans-Jordan, 1930-1933).
The last grievance is to the effect that Jewish immigration has brought about poverty and unemployment among the Arabs. Coming from a man who had personal experience of Palestine, this grievance is hard to understand: it is, indeed, notorious that standard of life, wages, conditions of labor among the Palestinian Arabs have increased increased enormously owing to the Jewish influx and example, while they have remained almost stationary in the other countries of the Near East. Even unemployment among the Arabs (largely existing in the villages and antedating the Jewish immigration) has, if anything, shown a tendency to decrease in the years of increased Jewish influx. Lately, far from witnessing an increase of Arab unemployment, the Palestinian economy, stimulated by the large Jewish immigration, has even absorbed many tens of thousands Arab immigrants from neighboring countries.
The writer realizes that, being an Arab, Mr. Antonius may be expected to present that case for the Arab opposition to Jewish settlement in Palestine with a certain amount of justifiable bias. He hopes however, that the enlightened public opinion of the world at large, which shows so much sympathy toward the efforts of the Arab people to organize its life in politically free communities in the enormous areas of Arabia, Egypt, Irak, and Syria, and to progress there economically and culturally, will show an equal sympathy toward the efforts of the Jewish people to attain an analogous development in Palestine. Dr. Benjamin Akzin,
Harvard Bureau of international Research.
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