The ‘stolen land’ accusation was and is a public relations slogan running parallel with the origination of the Palestinian identity which started during the early 1960’s.
Following atrocities committed by Arabs on Jews in Palestine during the late 1920’s, HM Government commissioned a report by Sir John Hope Simpson which was produced in 1930. The Arab riots were instigated by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, a title conferred on this future Nazi collaborator by the British who needed an Arab point of liaison during their administration of Palestine. The Report concentrated on immigration to Palestine and the effects on the people, land and economy.
The current narrative portrayed by the pro-Palestinian industry is that colonial Jews stole the land from indigenous Palestinians and thereafter ethnically cleansed them to facilitate further Jewish expansionism. I have been challenging this mythology for years in numerous articles and interviews and the Hope Simpson Report, a masterpiece of British administrative, documented eloquence totally supports my understanding.
This report when read in conjunction with the Peel Report of 1937 and perhaps the Middle East Diaries (1917~1956) of Colonel Meinertzhagen, British Middle East Military Advisor and Senior Government Diplomat will totally debunk the last fifty years of Palestinian revisionism and propaganda alluding to ‘stolen Palestinian land’.
There is total endorsement, ratification and confirmation within the Reports that all land had been legally acquired by Zionists, Jews or Jewish organizations from both Arab and non-Arab owners. This truth has been distorted over decades and lies about Jews stealing Palestinian land are now believed by the majority.
Furthermore, the narrative pertaining to immigration has followed similar revisionism and ignores mass Arab immigration. The documented evidence alluding to immigration confirms that not only was there Jewish immigration but uncontrolled Arab immigration as a direct result of the economic benefits created by the Zionist inflow.
The advantages of Jewish immigration were not just limited to economic benefits either. There are continuous references to healthcare, employment, educational and agricultural improvements throughout the Hope Simpson report assisting both Arab and Jewish populations. There are no references to the collective term Palestinian to identify a particular group of beneficiaries. The term Palestinian describing such a collective is nonexistent.
The ‘stolen land’ accusation was and is a public relations slogan running parallel with the origination of the Palestinian identity which started during the early 1960’s. Until that time the Arab Executive in both the Hope Simpson and Peel Report testified that all land transferred either to Jewish individuals, Jewish organizations and/or collectives had been legally purchased. No land had been stolen by Jews from Arabs or non-Arab owners. The Grand Mufti testifying before Sir Laurie Hammond during the Peel Commission report stated this several times under oath reconfirming all that Hope Simpson had established after forensic examination of legal documentation and numerous meetings with the Arab Executive during his comprehensive study. The accusation of Jews, Israelis or Zionists stealing land is a lie, a myth, an absolute fabrication of the truth.
The Hajj Mohammed Effendi Amin el-Husseini (1895~1974) the Grand Mufti, was interviewed by the Peel Commission on January 12 1937 and this interview has been historically documented. Both he and various other leaders of the Arab High Committee testified that no land had been stolen. Prior to the discussion below was a debate between the Grand Mufti and Sir Laurie Hammond regarding the area, cost and type of land purchased.
Grand Mufti – “In one case they sold about 400,000 dunams in one lot”.
Sir Laurie Hammond – “Who, an Arab?”
Grand Mufti – “Sarsuk. An Arab of Beyrouth”.
Sir Laurie Hammond – “His Eminence gave us a picture of Arabs being evicted from their land and villages being wiped out. What I want to know is, did the Government of Palestine, the Administration, acquire the land and then hand it over to the Jews?”
Grand Mufti – “In most cases the land was acquired”.
Sir Laurie Hammond – “I mean forcibly acquired – compulsory acquisition as land would be acquired for public purposes?”
Grand Mufti – “No it wasn’t”.
Sir Laurie Hammond – “Not taken by compulsory acquisition?”
Grand Mufti – “No”.
Sir Laurie Hammond – “But these lands amounting to some 700,000 dunams were actually sold?”
Grand Mufti – “Yes they were sold, but the country was placed in such conditions as would facilitate such purchases”.
Sir Laurie Hammond – “I don’t quite understand what do you mean by that. They were sold. Who sold them?”
Grand Mufti – “Land owners”.
Sir Laurie Hammond – “Arabs?”
Grand Mufti – “In most cases they were Arabs”.
The interview continues and it is obvious that absentee Arab and non-Arab landlords forced the peasant farmers off the land in order to sell to the Jewish and Zionist buyers at highly inflated prices. Those same peasant farmers and Arab immigrants then found employment on the lands that had legally changed ownership.
The myth of Jews and Zionists forcibly evicting any farmers from their land is totally exposed for the false narrative that it is, paradoxically by the most anti-Zionist Arab leader in history.
Chapter 3 records the 1922 and 1930 population census of Palestine and is telling in that nowhere even within the Glossary are Palestinians recorded as a collective. Mohammedans, Jews, Christians and Others but no Palestinians as they had not yet been invented as a people, race, nation, tribe or culture. The total population between 1922 and 1930 increased from 654,000 to 940,000 due to significant migration from Syria, Transjordan and Egypt and also takes account of increasing numbers of Felahin – peasant farmers, who migrated into the area from the beginning of the 1922 Mandate for Palestine. The itinerant Bedouin population of 130,000 is also accounted for within the census.
Chapter 4 of the report details the land ownership laws -Mulk, Miri, Waqf, Metuba and Mewat and exposes the insignificant amount of land owned under freehold (Mulk) by Arab and non-Arab owners. So insignificant was freehold land ownership that Hope Simpson states… “Mulk is so small that for the purpose of this enquiry is negligible”.
The report however does confirm several times that what land under freehold was available for sale was legally sold to Jewish philanthropists or charitable and agricultural organizations and usually at over inflated prices. This was reiterated as cited in the Peel Report 1937. Waqf was land owned by religious Charities and organizations; Metuba was state owned for roads and Mewat was state owned waste land. Thus, we are left with Miri which was state owned but leased out for cultivation.
Miri was “commonly held right of occupation granted by the State. Absolute ownership remained with Government and continuous cultivation allows tenancy but if the land remained unproductive for three consecutive years the land reverted to the State”. If this land also forms part of the current Palestinian claims industry, then the unpalatable truth is that because of natural disasters, climate change, earthquake, drought and malaria, vast swathes of land were left for years unattended by tenant farmers and reverted to State ownership. However, some absentee landlords used this as an excuse to remove the tenant farmers to then sell to the Zionists. This was alluded to in the testimony of the Grand Mufti to the Peel Commission. Some attempts were made by HM Government to give tenancy holders better protection in the 1929 acts, The Law Governing Agricultural Tenancies, Protection of Cultivators Ordinance Act and the Transfer of Land Ordinance (pages 34 and 36 of the report) but to no avail.
Lands held by resident and nonresident landlords, mainly Bedouin, Turks and Lebanese gave no occupancy rights for tenants as generally the landlords terminated such rights after one year. Jewish agencies were willing to purchase such Miri before or having reverted to the State, and as with Mulk land at highly inflated prices. The idea of Palestinian tenant farmers cultivating fertile land from Palestinian landlords for centuries and being kicked off the land by Zionists is a false narrative that has successfully gained momentum.
Chapter 5 of the report concentrates on land purchases and there are numerous telling paragraphs which again totally debunk the myth of Jews stealing land as per page 52.
“The Jewish authorities have nothing with which to reproach themselves in this matter of the land. They paid high prices for the land and in addition they paid to certain of the occupants of their lands a considerable amount of money which they were not legally bound to pay”.
The sub heading The Effect of the Jewish Settlement on the Arab records thus –
“….there can be no doubt that the Arab has profited largely by the installation of the (Jewish) colonies. Relations between the colonists and their Arab neighbors were excellent”.
Pages 78~81 describe the benefits to all of the Jewish population increase. Their competencies on agricultural development, irrigation, health and education advantaged the total population and not just the new Zionist immigrants.
The feature of cooperatives brought by the Eastern European Jews were completely new to the Arab and were of huge benefits in increasing food production. Since the first purchases of land in 1882 no less than 249 cooperatives had been established.
So successful was crop production that from a base of zero, sufficient was being produced not only to feed the local population but indeed exports were now competing with both Syrian and Egyptian exports (page 100).
Chapter 10 of the Report concentrates on immigration, both Arab and Jewish. Regarding Jewish immigration there can be no doubt that it was triggered by anti-Jewish pogroms in various countries. For example, the report describes the antisemitic excesses in Romania and in Yemen where the “Jewish community dates back to pre-Islamic times, there was a decree that all Jewish orphans must convert to Islam”. In Russia the report describes how Jews had “been singled out for religious and savage persecution”.
Arab immigration was as a direct result of economic advantages brought about by Zionism. There are numerous documented explanations and I shall cite a few examples to emphasize the point.
Jacob de Haas in his History of Palestine The Last Two Thousand Years , published in 1934, wrote:
“In 1860 entire Algerian tribes immigrated en masse to Safed. The Muslims of Safed are descended from these Moorish settlers and from Kurds that came earlier to the area”.
The British Consul James Finn in the late 19th century wrote:
“I learn of the arrival of thousands of the Beni Sukhr Arabs at Tiberias who are very seldom seen this side of the Jordan”.
The 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica on immigration stated:
“There are very large contingents from the Mediterranean countries especially Armenia, Greece, and Italy. Turkmen settlers, a fairly large Afghan colony, Motiwala (Pakistan), immigrants from Persia, tribes of Kurds, a Russian colony, Circassian settlements, a large Algerian element, Sudanese”.
Tewlik Bey el Houran the Governor of Hauran Province in Southwest Syria complained in an interview with La Syne a French Syrian publication on August 12 1934:
” …in the last few months as many as thirty-six thousand Syrians had entered and settled in Palestine”.
The Palestine Royal Commission Report London 1937 reads:
“This illegal Arab immigration was not only going on from the Sinai but also Trans Jordan and Syria and it is very difficult to make a case for the misery of the Arabs if at the same time they could not be kept from going in to share that misery”.
Colonel Richard Meinerthagen diary October 1945, page 199:
“One hears a lot about Jewish immigration into Palestine. One hears little of the unrestricted Arab immigration into Palestine. There has been a steady flow into Palestine attracted by Jewish prosperity”.
Significantly a quote from Winston Churchill in the House of Commons May 23 1939 defines the situation so clearly:
“So far from being persecuted the Arabs have crowded into the country and multiplied until their population has increased more than all world Jewry could lift up the Jewish population”.
Regarding the Arab leaders attempts to create division for political gain the unemployment issue was at the forefront of their false narrative.
Page 136 … “attempts will be made (by the Arab Executive) to swell the lists of the Arab unemployed with names that should not be there or perhaps to ensure the registration of an unemployed Arab in the books of more than one exchange”.
Page 139 of the report show the monthly population statistics for 1930 provided by the Palestine Immigration Department and the monthly peak was 3900 unemployed, 1300 Jews and 2600 Arab. The report states
“ …. widely believed and commonly alleged among Arab leaders that Arab unemployment is due to Jewish immigration…..there is no basis for this belief. Jewish development has meant more work for Arabs…”.
The Report is a fascinating document detailing the impact of Jewish immigration into the area. Running parallel with such immigration was non-Jewish immigration as a direct benefit brought about by the agricultural competencies of the Zionists.
Similar to the subsequent Peel Report of 1937 the truth which will make unpalatable reading for the pro Palestine anti-Israel industry is obvious and runs counter to current pro-Palestinian propaganda.
No land was stolen by the Zionists but all was legally purchased. The Arab population benefited so much from Zionist knowledge that Arab immigration was twice that of Jewish immigration. And lastly and most significantly that no people, race, tribe nation or culture known as the Palestinians had yet been discovered.
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