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Competing responses to the 1929 Arab uprising in Palestine:

The Zionist press versus the State Department.(Arab-Israeli Affairs)

By Davidson, Lawrence; 05-01-1997

This paper will explore American perceptions of Palestine in 1929, the year of the Arab uprising. It will consider three groups within the American milieu: the press as represented by the New York Times (hereafter NYT), Los Angeles Times (LAT), Chicago Tribune (CT) and Washington Post (WP), the American Zionists, and the State Department (hereafter written SD). It will seek to explore on the one hand the shared interpretation of events that existed among the press and the American Zionist movement, and on the other the competitive posture that existed between the Zionists and the SD. The paper concludes that the shared views of the Zionists and the press reflected popular perceptions of Palestine that would, in the end, leave SD views isolated and politically vulnerable.

Based largely on the positions taken by the press of the day, the paper also maintains the following:

a) The American public shared a specific Western way of seeing the non-Western world (along with an attendant discourse) that justified British occupation of Palestine and its allied Zionist program.[1] A major aspect of this way of seeing was the conviction that imperialism, as it operated in the 1920s, was altruistic and therefore basically positive. For instance, the WP once expressed the view that the peoples of "the former Turkish Empire" would "welcome a substitution of the enlightened rule of civilized countries...for the tyrannous and inefficient rule of the Sultan." And, when some of them did not, it reacted with perplexity that these people would prefer "self-government with all its faults to good government under a foreign power."[2] The attitude expressed by the Post was not novel. It had roots in America's own historical sense of manifest destiny that had carried the nation across the North American continent and beyond to the Philippines, where the United States still held imperialist sway.

b) This attitude flowed from a second tenet (also suggested in the WP quote given above), which defined a bipolar world wherein a civilized West had an altruistic mission to bring enlightenment to primitive, non-Western peoples.

c) This way of seeing the non-Western world largely shut out any countervailing frame of reference that might have legitimized the worldviews of "native peoples" (thus the Post's perplexity). As a result there was a general lack of awareness of, or interest in, the feelings and desires of those standing in the way of what the West defined as progress. "Native" resistance often came as a surprise.

The Mandate system negotiated by Woodrow Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference nicely fit this paradigm of altruistic imperialism. Conceived, according to Arthur Balfour, "in the general interests of Mankind, "[3] it was to serve as a tutoring service by which modern forms of self-governance would be taught and the general blessing of progress given to non-Western peoples.[4] In fact it operated as vehicle for the distribution of conquered territories, including Palestine, into (mainly) the British and French empires in a way acceptable to Wilson' s (and through him America's) sensibilities. Thus Americans believed that British imperialism allied with Zionism would redeem Palestine, the Holy Land, from a state of stagnation by bringing to it not only good government but also trade, technological advancement, health improvements and the like. Or, as the LAT once put it, "a program of plain development of the country for the benefit of its inhabitants." [5]

Under these circumstances, there was little public debate over British occupation in Palestine or the right of Jews to return and colonize the country.[6] Rather, what was debated was the degree to which the U.S. government should openly identify itself with Zionist ambitions for that colonization process. The issue was an important one because of the active lobbying of the American Zionist movement, which sought to influence the discourse on Palestine, particularly in the press. The American Zionists pushed for an open form of U.S. support that linked the Jewish National Home (hereafter JNH) with the general notion of the spread of Western civilization, the American way of life, progress and modernity. The implication was that these things were really a part of the American national interest in Palestine, and on that basis Zionism warranted government backing. Some of these arguments came through clearly in the debates leading up to the passage of the 1922 congressional resolutions on Palestine[7] and would reappear in the late summer and fall of 1929. The SD on the other hand, took a more low-key position. It worked from the realization that American economic, missionary/educational and archaeological interests in the Middle East as a whole required a policy which, if consistent with the belief in altruistic imperialism, also sought to maintain the general goodwill of the Arab Muslim majority. The Department therefore supported the British Mandate but resisted open endorsement of the Zionist program. This, however, did not mean the SD actively resisted Jewish settlement in Palestine. As long as U.S. interests were protected, as they seemed to be in the Anglo-American Convention on Palestine (ratified in 1925), the SD was satisfied to adhere to a policy of non-involvement on the question of the JNH.

Because their way of seeing Palestine gave greatest weight to the altruistic nature of imperialism while precluding serious consideration of the "native" point of view, the American public (as distinct from the SD) was largely unaware that the Mandate process in that land was creating deep structural divisions between the majority Arabs and minority Jews. British assistance in the establishment of a JNH had led to increased Jewish immigration, which, from the Arab point of view, portended long-term demographic, and therefore cultural and political, transformation. Jewish acquisition of land displaced Arab peasants, and Labor Zionist practices displaced Arab laborers.[8] Yet none of this led the American Zionists, the U.S. government or the press to predict open rebellion.

Thus, when in August 1929 a major Arab uprising occurred, it took Americans by surprise. This event did not lead, however, to any questioning of basic assumptions. The explanations offered all flowed from the frame of reference inherent in the established way of seeing Palestine. The uprising did heighten the competitive struggle between the SD and the American Zionists over the proper attitude of the government toward the JNH. In that competition the press was a major vehicle for the propagation of the Zionist position and instrumental in encouraging public opinion to support a more active and official commitment to the Zionist program.


Press Portrayal of Zionist Activity

In the first half of 1929, none of Palestine's potential for violent conflict was evident in the press. The NYT, the American newspaper that covered Mandate Palestine most fully and consistently, saw mostly hopeful progress. Here it took its cue from American Jewish sources such as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the wire service from which many American newspapers got much of their information on Palestine, the reports and activities of Jewish leaders, or its own resident correspondent in Jerusalem, Joseph Levy. These sources accounted for 93 percent of all the NYT articles published on Palestine in the first six months of 1929. The Zionist picture was one of on-going economic and social "upbuilding" that advanced the cause of civilization. In the NYT this was translated into articles describing how Zionist activities were expanding agriculture,[9] increasing banking activity and factory production,[10] promoting the tourist trade (63,319 visitors in 1928, seven out of ten being American),[11] and creating an active market for American products (particularly automobiles).[12] In social terms, Hadassah (the American Zionist women's organization) health clinics became a symbol for both the Zionists and the press of how realizing the JNH was literally bringing the Holy Land into the modern world.[13]

This picture identified Zionism with a developmental process which had been made possible by British imperialism. Together they were put forth in language that ranged from the idealistic to the down- to-earth. For instance, the Zionist leader Nabum Soko low de scribed the British-sponsored construction of Haifa harbor for the NYT as "the first great work of civilization in Palestine,"[14] while an NYT story by Joseph Levy describing how "the country is much changed, " announced "Paved Roads Expedite Travel, Shops Modernized."[15] Either way, the West's altruistic mission to bring the benefits of modernity to the East was seemingly fulfilled through the agency of the British- Zionist effort.

Press Portrayal of the Palestinian Arabs

The inherent superiority of the Western benefactor implied the corresponding inferiority of the "native people." This too was part of the established way of seeing the area. Earlier in the decade the WP had described the Palestinians as "the more ignorant, more indolent and less enterprising population" compared to the immigrating European and American Jews.[16] Palestine was characterized in the NYT as " an intellectual fairyland because the contrasts are so astounding. The Arabs are in the majority, but they have nothing to give the world comparable to the Jews, either in energy or intellect."[17] This was in fact the common picture in the American press throughout the decade.[18] In 1929 the 55 health clinics established by Hadassah were used by the NYT not only to demonstrate how Zionism had improved the health of Jews in Palestine and some Arabs as well (a fact acknowledged by local Arab leaders[19]), but also to picture Arab society as "steeped in a belief in myth and magic," still seeking cures using "all kinds of ancient rites--conjurings, smearings, amulet wearing and weird incantations" and so on. They were, according to the NYT, stuck in "the tenth century.[20]

Most of the time, however, the Arab population was ignored. As Melvin Urofsky has put it, "the Jews...really had given very little thought to the Palestinian Arabs," looking upon them as "poor, benighted natives."[21] The press, sharing the same occidental outlook, paid little attention to the opinions, desires and political positions of the Palestinians. In the first seven months of 1929, the NYT published 51 articles on Palestine but carried only a single one-paragraph item on resident Arab demands. It told that Sir John Chancellor, the British high commissioner, was to consult with the foreign secretary "on the demand for the establishment of a Palestine parliament submitted to him by a delegation of anti-Zionist Arabs."[22] Taking the last five months of 1929, recognizing that the violence of late summer drew most of the press coverage, and add the CT, LAT and WP, the following comparative figures for August to December emerge (see Table). These numbers suggest an affinity for the American Jewish interpretation of events -- that is, an interpretation compatible with an established, culturally attuned way of seeing.


Some of the few pieces that alluded to the Arab perspective were reports on reactions to the rebellion in Palestine by Arab-American groups both in the United States and South America,[23] as well as statements made by Arab groups and leaders in Palestine.[24] While these were sometimes offered without comment, more often articles reporting on the activities of Arabs were made in the form of critiques. The NYT's Joseph Levy was particularly prone to this approach. It was a technique that served a cultural purpose. By taking a critical approach, the press could translate the Arab discourse into a form accordant with the Western way of seeing Palestine. Simultaneously, the Arab point of view was rendered out of context and delegitimized. A representative piece was filed by Levy on August 4, 1929, just three weeks before the Arab uprising. He told of Palestinian disappointment at the high commissioner's comments made before the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission in July. Chancellor had told the commission that "Palestine is as yet not ripe for self-government," thus rejecting the Palestinian Arab request for the parliament or "representative assembly" mentioned above. Levy agreed with this decision and remarked that "the High Commissioner proved himself an excellent strategist and a wise administrator." He goes on to explain,

The Arab Nationalists of the Holy Land have long been clamoring for representative self-government....They look at their neighbors, Transjordan, Iraq, Syria and Egypt, and feel that they too are entitled to something similar in the way of an assembly. They apparently forget or ignore the shortcomings of each of these governments and fail to realize that not one of them has been successful.[25] 

Each of the countries noted in Levy's article was under colonial occupation, a status which, if considered from the Arab perspective, necessarily skewed the experimental "assemblies" he described as "not successful." From the Western perspective however, the ability of the Arabs to maintain a modem style of self-government ran against the established way of seeing the Middle East and was in fact one of the justifications for the Mandate system. Or, as it was once put in the NYT, "the notion that the Arabs of Palestine would or could form an independent state is fit for Bedlam only."[26]

Interpretations of the 1929 Arab Uprising

The same process of translating or interpreting Arab behavior in order to harmonize it with the prevailing way of seeing occurred upon the outbreak of widespread violence in Palestine in late August 1929. The violence initially erupted over Jewish-Arab rivalry at the Wailing Wall (an ancient portion of wall that was at once part of the al-Aqsa mosque complex, the third holiest site in Islam, and part of the remains of the Western Wall of the Second Temple, the holiest site in Judiasm). However, it soon escalated into open rebellion throughout the country.[27]

Because what little attention had been paid to the Palestinians often came through official filters, the violence took many by surprise. As late as June 12, the American Jewish leader Felix Warburg was telling the NYT that "all seems to be at peace in that little country."[28] Quickly, however, a new round of interpretation began, which, operating of necessity from the established frame of reference, could give only the narrowest basis for understanding Arab actions.

A sense of the reporting's orientation can be had from the headlines: The CT of 8/25 read "Jews Attacked By Moslems At Wailing Wall"; 8/26: "12 Americans Die In Holy Land Riot"; and 8/31: "British Smash Arab Raids on Jewish Towns." The WP of 8/28: "British Shoot Warring Arabs in Haifa Riots"; 8/30: "Arab Butchery of Jews Bared in Creed Riots" ; and 8/31: "22 Massacred As Arabs Raze City with Fire." The LAT of 8/24: "Blood Flows in Holy City"; 8/28: "Arabs Kill Americans"; 9/2: "Arab Mobs Run Wild"; and 9/3: "Arabs Raid Colonies." Finally, the NYT headline of 8/25 read, "47 Dead in Jerusalem Riot -- Attacks By Arabs Spread"; 8/26: " 12 Americans Killed By Arabs In Hebron"; and 9/3: "British Seize 1,000 Arabs Gathering for an Attack." These headlines were not so much inaccurate as incomplete Arab violence did result in bloodshed, and the victims were sometimes men, women and children who had given no obvious offense. As the chart above indicates, the newspapers under consideration gave great play to American Jewish reactions, which characterized the Palestinian Arabs as "barbarians, " "arrogant and intolerant" and the like. Yet the press coverage was incomplete, giving no hint of the broader political, economic and cultural issues that had driven the indigenous population to bloody action. This incompleteness was itself a form of interpretation, depicting Arab behavior so that it conformed with the established way of seeing the Holy Land.

We see examples of this in the stories accompanying the headlines. Here, in the search for motivations behind the violence, most observers concentrated on religious animosities over the shared sacred shrine of the Wailing Wall. Relying once more on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and other Zionist-influenced sources of information, the press drew the following sorts of conclusions. On August 18, the NYT described the violence as coming from "apparently unprovoked assaults" by Arabs, [29] which it later attributed to "aroused Moslem fanatics" whose attention had been focused by an opportunistic leadership on the Wailing Wall.[30] The LAT in an 8/24 piece entitled "Source Of Trouble" stated, "The trouble is said to have arisen out of an attack by the Arabs on the the Wailing Wall."[31] And on 8/30 a frontpage political cartoon was printed depicting a Jewish worshipper at the Wall overshadowed by the figure of a giant Arab about to strike him with a sword.[32] The CT described the violence as "race riots" occurring because of Muslim "objection over aspects of Jewish ritual at the Wailing Wall." [33] Finally the WP concluded on 8/24 that "Arab assaults on Jews" were caused by "the Wailing Wall controversy."[34] This preoccupation with the Wailing Wall reflected the Western assumption that religion, not economics or nationalist politics, was the prime motivator of the predominately Muslim population. And the bloody nature of the revolt confirmed the assumption that Islam was a violent religion of "frenzy and fanaticism" practiced by "bigoted Arabs."[35] Thus the uprising fit the Western way of seeing the Muslim world and precluded the need to seek further causes for the strife.

That the reporting did not generally supply a motivation beyond religious rivalry did not mean that no other elaboration was given. There was plenty of editorial comment in all four newspapers. While sometimes suggestive of a broader context for the violence (suggestions which, due to a lack of story-content backup, were themselves without context), it too was dictated by the Western presuppositions. Thus, the editorial comment reflected the perception of a bipolar world divided between the civilized and the uncivilized, and Arab violence was transformed into a symbolic struggle between those two poles. The Zionist movement, a product of the West, represented the civilized world. As for the British, they had momentarily failed in their duty to stand as frontier guardians of civilization and were therefore obligated to rapidly restore order and protect and promote the JNH.

For instance, the editors of the CT, while suggesting that "observing the growth of Zionist colonies, the Arab must feel that in due time he will be secluded from what is to him, as much as the Hebrew, a Holy Land,"[36] also asserted that "the influence of the Jewish leadership [in Palestine] has been enlightened and humane, and it must be recognized as an important force in the extension of civilization....In such a controversy the interest of western civilization...must rest with the Jews." The editorial then added that "our own [the U.S.] immediate interest is in the protection of the Jews, some of them American...and all of them in race and religion related to a valued element of our own country."[37] The CT editors later applauded the fact that "the British government is sending soldiers, battleships and marines...and a permanent force large enough to keep the Arabs in check."[38] The NYT commented that "whatever may be said of the wisdom of the aspirations and activities of the Zionist organization," the Jews residing in Palestine have "undeniable rights" given them by both the League Mandate and Great Britain.[39] The present Arab challenge to this was characterized by the NYT as "a recrudesence of horror. We had come to think such reports of rapine and massacre impossible....A complacent civilization finds it all a rude and painful blow."[40] The paper speculated that the situation in Palestine might trigger other demonstrations by Muslims across the world, an event that would be "dangerous to European interests" and awaken the "old dread of Europe that the Moslems may unite again...and overthrow white dominion."[41] The NYT chastised Great Britain because it "did not take the precautions which its responsibilities demand....The weariness of the British taxpayer does not remove the British Government' s obligations as the Mandatory Power in Palestine."[42]

The LAT praised the rapid use of force by the British to suppress "religious war in Palestine," which was in danger of "inspiring the natives of every country under British rule to attempt a similiar revolt."[43] The LAT editors then observed that "it would be ideal were the wild Arabs of the desert to open their hearts to moral suasion, " but "unhappily, sweet reasonableness does not seem to be the strongest point of the Bedouin sheik. What he does thoroughly understand and appreciate, however, is the song of the bullet and the crash of the high-explosive shell."[44] The paper noted that "the Zionization of Palestine probably will not be accomplished without further difficulty of the same sort."[45] Finally, the WP focused on the loss of American life. "The country is shocked at the news that 12 American Jewish boys have been killed and 30 wounded in the attacks the Arabs have suddenly unloosed." The Post attributed this to "a fanatical outbreak of holy-war fervor originating in incidents at the century-old Wailing Wall."[46] The paper warned that "the fury of the Palestine outbreaks gives a more menacing aspect to the situation, by indicating the workings of a vast conspiracy that may envelop in flames all Moslem countries under British influence or dominion."[47] Under the circumstances, the Post urged the British on to maximum effort in Palestine, "nothing short of a complete eradication of this fanatical movement against the Jewish race will be worthy of present-day civilization." To which it added that "the dispatch of an American warship...prepared to send bluejackets and marines to Jerusalem in case of need might have a beneficial moral effect."[48]

The overall effect of the press coverage of 1929 was to meld press and Zionist views and present a picture of Arab aggression that was unprovoked, motivated by religious fanaticism and threatening to the beneficent expansion of civilization. Here Zionism functioned, as the CT put it, as an "extension of civilization." And, since Americans had a "sympathetic interest in the advancement of civilization," it followed that the United States should "support the establishment, upon just conditions, of Jewish industry and culture in Palestine." [49] The CT's assertion was but a milder version of an earlier position taken by Representative Hamilton Fish, who stated in the NYT that the U.S. government should support the Zionist effort because "they will fashion their government after the ideals of ours and believe in our flag...because it represents freedom, liberty and justice, and that is what we want to see eventually in Palestine."[50] These opinions were characteristic of U.S. press coverage from the announcement of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 onward.[51] This kind of argument was certainly made in the extensive coverage of American Jewish reaction to the violence in Palestine in 1929.[52] While there was no real popular support evidenced in that year for direct U.S. military intervention in Palestine (except by the Zionists and their most ardent supporters), particularly in light of the rapid deployment of British forces in the face of the Arab uprising, this cultural and civilizational identification clearly reflected popular feelings as expressed in the press.

It was a logical and perhaps inevitable development. In the 1920s the bipolar worldview, the spread of civilization, and support for the Zionist movement were all aspects of the same paradigm--elements at once supporting and flowing from a single, comprehensive way of seeing. Working within this context, a pro-Zionist interpretation of the 1929 Arab uprising essentially dominated the American discourse on Palestine. This near monopoly of opinion helped the American Zionists in their effort to enlist the broadest support possible. The general public, as well as the U.S. government, were encouraged to perceive the work of the JNH as an implicit element of American national interests in the Holy Land.


Against this evolving perception stood the State Department. While sharing the Western way of seeing the non-Western world,[53] the Department' s sense of institutional mission led to a qualifying of the idea of altruistic imperialism. U.S. interests could often be promoted by supporting generic, ideological concepts such as free trade, but for the SD, they did not necessitate espousing the sort of general sociocultural transformations encouraged by the newspaper editorialists or envisioned by the Zionist program. Indeed, where ideals such as the spreading of civilization conflicted with more specfic policy goals, the Department resisted them.

In the 1920s the defining departmental philosophy was, to use Philip Baram's words, "political-military isolationism and simultaneous expansive economic internationalism."[54] From the point of view of the SD, Palestine and Zionism were "details of the Near Eastern settlement." [55] That is, they were aspects of the British-colonial sphere of interest. The JNH was an expression of an alliance between Great Britain and an essentially private foreign concern, the World Zionist Organization. American Zionist pressure (examples of which are given below) for official support of their activities in Palestine threatened to draw the United States into foreign entanglements of a political/ideological nature at a time of "political-military isolationism." It would also complicate "expansive economic" relations with the Arab majority of the Middle East by, as H. G. Dwight of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs put it, "stir[ring] up the very active sensibilities of the Moslem majority."[56] Therefore it was decided to "let alone the political and territorial phases" of the postwar Near East. This meant that the Division of Near Eastern Affairs "feels strongly that the [State] Department should avoid any action which would indicate official support of any one of the various theses regarding Palestine, either Zionists' , anti-Zionists' or the Arabs'."[57] This position has been commonly interpreted as anti-Zionist;[58] some have even gone as far as to conflate it with antisemitism.[59]

In the first half of 1929 the SD, like the press, had lost touch with the underlying tensions between Arabs and Jews in Palestine. The cable traffic between the Department and its consulate in Jerusalem in these months focused on economic issues, for instance, access for American companies to the bidding process on British-sponsored development projects like the construction of Haifa harbor.[60] Or they would address related esoteric questions such as whether the British were starting to think of Palestine as a crown colony rather than mandate territory.[61] These issues were important in the minds of U.S. diplomats because they affected implementation of the Anglo-American Convention on Palestine, the treaty that governed U.S.-British relations in that country. This in turn affected the extent and effectiveness of economic access to Palestine by American business.

All such matters, however, were temporarily put aside when on August 23, 1929, the SD received a cable from its consul general in Jerusalem, Paul Knabenshue, announcing "renewed Wailing Wall incidents have given rise to conflicts throughout Old and New Jerusalem between Arabs and Jews. A number of casualties on both sides reported. The authorities are doing everything possible to control the situation. Several [British military] aeroplanes were circling low over the city this afternoon." [62]

The SD immediately opened a file on the new situation, entitling it "Conflicts Between Arabs and Jews Over Wailing Wall in Palestine." [63] One might initially conclude from this title that, like the press, there would be little or no SD effort to analyze the situation beyond that of a religious conflict over a shared sacred site. However, over time, Knabenshue would seek to offer a more extensive and probbing analysis. He would suggest that the violent Arab uprising was an almost inevitable result of the manner in which the Balfour Declaration was interpreted and implemented by the British, and actively argue that there should be a change in how the British administered the Mandate in Palestine. In the end, his argument amounted to the proposition that the Palestinian position was actually more compatible than was Zionism with American ideals of altruistic imperialism. The key factor in this thinking was the Palestinian demand for a "representative assembly." The consul general's cables on this subject became a source of pressure on the SD to understand and react to the Palestine situation in a way sympathetic with Arab demands.

A second source of pressure on the SD came from the American Zionists. Through petitions and the influencing of public opinion, they would attempt to move the SD toward endorsing American involvement in Palestine as if Zionism were an extension of American national interests. In the end the SD would resist both sources of pressure and hold to a course of non-involvement.

The Knabenshue Analysis

Knabenshue began his analysis for the SD with the contention that the Zionists were at least partially to blame for the 1929 outbreak of violence (or what American Jews of that year began to call "an Arab pogram"[64]). He based this on the belief that Revisionist Zionists had, through demonstrations and parades at the Wailing Wall and in neighborhoods of Muslim Jerusalem just before the violence, behaved in such a way as to provoke the Arab uprising.[65] More important, however, Knabenshue identified what he considered broader contextual roots of the conflict. Thus, "while the controversy over the Wailing Wall undoubtedly furnished the spark which caused the recent explosion...the attendant incidents were, however, merely phases of the present dangerous situation....The basic cause of the serious troubles... arises out of the Balfour Declaration."[66] Knabenshue noted that the Balfour Declaration had two clauses, the first promising a Jewish national home and the second promising not to violate the "civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities." In his opinion, when the Declaration was translated into articles of the Mandate, the result was such things as "artificially stimulated" immigration and officially facilitated land transfers. These acts had, according to Knabenshue, led to an "interpretation of the [first part of the] Declaration" in a manner that "violate[d] the second part of the Declaration and in so doing are in violation of paragraph four of Article 22 of the [League of Nations] Covenant, and hence, as might be said from an American point of view, are `unconstitutional.'"[67]

Back in 1922, after earlier Arab disturbances, the British had tried to clarify the situation by interpreting the first clause of the Balfour Declaration through a White Paper. It stipulated, according to Knabenshue, that "Palestine is not to be converted into the National Home of the Jews, but merely, a Jewish home may be established in Palestine."[68] Nonetheless, the Zionists had continued openly pressing for greater immigration and land transfers, excercising, in the long run, effective pressure on the government in London. Thus Knabenshue pointed out, "to any student of the situation," including the Palestinian Arab leadership, "it is quite evident that the Zionist's ambition was, and still is, to convert Palestine into...a Jewish state and by economic pressure to force out the Arabs, or reduce them to impotency, until Palestine should become as Jewish as England is English."[69] Later, he explained further that Revisionist Zionists were "indiscreet and openly proclaim this policy, but the more moderate element are for the moment endeavoring to conceal this secret, but none the less, definite ambition."[70] All of this had led to constant and growing Arab-Jewish tension in Palestine, the latest manifestation of which was the 1929 violence.

Knabenshue had a two-part solution to this problem. First, he suggested "the formation of a legislative assembly with proportionate representation, the mandatory authority to have the power to propose legislation to the assembly and to enact it into law by ordinance if the assembly should refuse to pass it."[71] And second, a "new constitution [for] the country" that would "provide that there can be no legislation or governmental or other activity against Jews as Jews...In Palestine it should be clearly understood that they have equal rights with the rest of the population."[72] These reforms would establish "that the Jews can settle in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance,"[73] while also providing a legislative avenue to satisfy the "simple and quite understandable" demands of the Arabs for government "represented according to population...immigration control...[and] control of land sales."[74]

To Knabenshue this seemed a very good compromise, allowing the Jews a place in Palestine while eliminating the worst of Arab fears. It also seemed to make good sense from the American perspective on altruistic imperialism. A supervised representative democracy with constitutional gurantees was the answer. If such changes did not come, then Knabenshue speculated that "we are going to have a bloody uprising in Palestine which is going to be infinitely worse than heretofore, and which will...lead to a serious international situation."[75]

One can question how well these reforms would have worked in practice. The Zionists were not interested in democracy in the absence of a Jewish majority[76] and had no intention of trading their desire for a future Jewish state for constitutional guarantees under a representative government with an Arab majority. The American Zionist establishment turned quite hostile toward Knabenshue and even tried to get him replaced.[77] A second problem with his reformist ideas was that, though they pointed the way to a quasi-democratic solution, they were not compatible with the culturally established way of seeing the Middle East. Popular opinion saw the Zionist movement as an agent of a superior civilizational force. It embodied progress and development. Such movements do not subordinate themselves, even with constitutional guarantees, to a "more ignorant" non-Western native majority. Thus, even if the SD had chooser to take up and popularize Knabenshue's solution, it would not have fit the accepted American frame of reference for the problem in Palestine. However, Knabenshue's superiors, as we will see, had no intention of supporting his position.

Nonetheless, the consul general had hope that, as a result of the Shaw Commission, sent by the British government to investigate the 1929 violence, there would be a move in the direction he outlined. On this expectation, he urged the SD to "prevent anyone speaking on behalf of the United States Government making a statement at this juncture which it might be difficult to retract should subsequent events make desirable a different attitude."[78] In other words, Knabenshue was telling his superiors to try to prevent the government from irrevocably committing itself to the Zionist cause on the assumption that the Shaw Commission might possibly result in concessions of a democratic nature to the Arabs.

Zionist Pressure

Back in the United States, as Knabenshue almost certainly knew, the Zionists were pressing for just such a commitment. They put forth three main arguments as to why the United States should become more involved in Palestine on the Zionist side. All three would parallel positions popularized in the press. This was an indicator that they had the virtue of being compatible with the established popular way of seeing Palestine, particularly the notion of a bipolar world wherein Western forces sought to advance civilization. At the same time, these arguments would associate the Zionist effort with more specific American interests and responsibilities.

The argument with the greatest impact was that American lives had been threatened and lost, and thus the government should act. In the press coverage of the many rallies, marches and protest meetings held across the country, this message was clearly stated.[79] In the 160 letters and petitions to be found in the SD files from senators, congressmen, and Jewish and non-Jewish organizations, the sentiments expressed below are typical.[80] Representative Emanuel Celler of New York, in a telegram dated August 25, noted the death of American students at Hebron and the large number of American citizens resident in Tel Aviv and Haifa, where fighting had broken out. He then asserted that "the State Department cannot view with complacency these Arab raids upon American interests. The Raleigh now in European waters should be immediately dispatched to the scene of disorder, and the strongest representations should be made to the British Colonial Government." [81] Representative Jeremiah O'Connell of Rhode Island told Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson on August 28 that "a high duty devolves upon the United States of America to head the way in seeking an amelioration of the present deplorable situation in Palestine....The protection of the rights of our own nationals should be asserted with all the strength and vigor of this powerful nation."[82] And Rabbi Louis Gross, the editor of the Brooklyn Examiner, "published for Brooklyn Jewry, which is the largest Jewish community in the world," told President Herbert Hoover in a telegram of August 24 that "the recent massacre of Jews in Palestine" were "scenes of horror enacted which menace the life and limb of American citizens." Therefore Hoover should use his "powerful moral avert further calamity in the Holy Land."[83]

A second and related argument was that a large American financial investment was threatened by the violence.[84] For instance, in Celler' s communication on August 25, he noted the need to not only "prevent further loss of life" but also the need to prevent the loss of the "property of American Jewry, which has been pouring millions of dollars into Palestine."[85] Isadore Morrison, acting national chairman of the Zionist fundraising organization United Palestine Appeal, in a telegram to the SD on August 26, reminded the secretary of state that during the past decade American Jews had "sent to Palestine upwards of $25 million dollars."[86] And William Spiegelman, editor of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, in a telegram sent to Secretary of State Stimson, suggested that the United States might consider taking over the Palestine Mandate, due to its "especial significance to the American public since funds of American citizens have been and are expected to be the largest factor for the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the Holy Land."[87]

The third main argument was that not only were there American lives and property at risk, but also the advancement of Western civilization. Thus Morrison in his telegram to the SD added the notion that all those millions invested in Palestine had brought the country "Western culture, industries and commerce."[88] William Spiegelman, in his communication with Stimson, told the secretary of state that out of the crisis "the JNH in Palestine will emerge with greater strength for the further spreading of western civilization" and asked him for a statement about what the U.S. government was going to do to help.[89] And Senator Robert F. Wagner, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, took to the radio in New York City to build public support for U.S. action in Palestine. Speaking on ABC Radio on September 1, he delivered an address commented upon the next day in the NYT. Wagner declared that the "accumulated decay of 2,000 years had been supplanted by western civilization and standards" thanks to "the personal sacrifice of thousands of the best of the Jewish race." He then asked, "Is all this to be swept away....Is the noble Jewish dream to be turned into a nightmare by the cowardly dagger of the assassin? The conscience of mankind cries to High Heaven that these shall not come to pass." He reminded his audience that "the United States Government by appropriate resolution expressed its satisfaction" with the Zionist effort, thus implying a certain American responsibility to support it.[90] As we have seen, other opinion makers such as the CT and WP also identified the Zionist movement with the spread of civilization.

The Government's Response

The pressure exerted in the form of these three arguments, applied consistently throughout late August and September 1929 and played out against the coverage and editorializing of the press, implied that the JNH was somehow an extension of U.S. national interests. And it was significant enough to make both President Hoover and Secretary of State Stimson take pains to explain and defend their position of non-intervention. For instance, President Hoover responded positively to a request for a statement to the Jewish protest meeting of 20,000 held at Madison Square Garden on August 29. In it he stated that he believed that the recent tragedy in the Holy Land would result in "greater security and greater safeguard for the future, under which the steady rehabilitation of Palestine as a true homeland will be even more assured."[91] On the other hand, when Hoover received a Zionist delegation at the White House on August 27, he told them that he was "deeply concerned for the safety of all American citizens in Palestine" but that he felt "the British Government had taken strong and extensive measures for the restoration of order."[92] Hoover also voiced his concern at the anti-British nature of American Jewish protests and indicated that he was determined to resist calls for U.S. intervention. He did not want to embarass the British in any way.[93] Secretary of State Stimson took a similar line. In his stock replies to the myriad letters and petitions the SD received, he assured the Zionists and their supporters that the SD had strongly urged the British to act vigorously in Palestine and had reminded them of their obligation to protect American lives and property, finishing the reply with assurances that the British were indeed doing just that. When approached directly by American Zionists seeking official support he rebuffed them.[94]

The government equally resisted pressure from the other direction. When a representative group of Arab Americans came to the SD on September 6 and presented Stimson with a petition calling on the United States to support "the revocation of the Balfour Declaration" and "the establishment of a National Representative Government" in Palestine, he rebuffed them also.[95] Equally important, the SD resisted Paul Knabenshue' s efforts to promote a reinterpretation of the Mandate in a way that would limit the definition of the JNH while promoting a democratic and constitutional form of government. When, in 1930, Knabenshue made suggestions as to how this might be accomplished to Stewart Spencer Davis, the acting high commissioner in Palestine, he was pointedly reprimanded by the SD. He was told to "avoid being drawn into any discussions of the situation and scrupulously refrain from expressing an opinion to anyone whomsoever as to the possible position which this government might take" on any possible reinterpretation of the Mandate.[96]

The way the SD handled the 1929 situation, resisting both the entreaties of American Zionists, American anti-Zionists and its own consul general in Jerusalem, argues for a motive of avoiding "entanglements" rather than antisemitism or even ideologically driven anti-Zionism. On the one hand, the department was fully accepting of altruistic imperialism in the form of British-controlled Palestine. Here there was no great risk of entanglement, and U.S. interests were seemingly protected by treaty. On the other hand, the American Zionist vision of altruistic imperialism in Palestine solicited active U.S. government support. To the SD, that equaled entanglement, and therefore they sought to make a distinction between national interests and the JNH.[97] In the process they qualified their pro-imperialist way of seeing Palestine in a manner that the popular point of view, as expressed in the press, did not.

Yet because the American Zionists had the ear of a considerable number of senators and congressmen and were active in presenting their point of view to the press and all other interested parties, the SD never went beyond non-interventionist neutrality on this matter. To be sure, there was much grumbling against Zionism in the form of internal memos at the Division of Near Eastern Affairs.[98] However, in the 1920s, these complaints did not translate into active opposition to the JNH by the SD in its interactions with other branches of the U.S. government or with Britain.[99] For instance, there is no evidence of the Division seeking to shape or change public opinion on the issue of Zionism. And the documents suggest that the Division offered its opinion to Congress (where it might have exercised some influence if it had wished) only when asked. While Zionism was therefore certainly not equated by the SD with American national interests in Palestine, it was not actively campaigned against either. The SD simply sought to avoid any governmental commitment of open support.


In 1929 American popular opinion perceived Palestine in terms of a bipolar worldview that denigrated or ignored the indigenous population while asserting the notion of altruistic imperialism. Here the altruistic agent bringing good government, progress and modernity was the Zionist movement assisted by British imperialism.

This way of seeing was revealed in the U.S. press as it covered the 1929 Arab uprising. The coverage basically followed the American Zionist interpretation of events and revealed the fact that the American discourse describing and defining Palestine and the Zionist discourse were closely aligned. This discourse, as manifested in newspapers and other sources (as suggested in the telegrams, petitions and resolutions to be found in the SD's file on the 1929 uprising) created a source of pressure on the government to identify the Zionist program as worthy of official support. Here American Zionists were able to add to the general arguments--the spread of civilization and Zionism's similarity to the American pioneer spirit'[100]--the more specific ones of increasing involvement of American citizens and the rapid growth of American investment in Palestine. In other words, there was an ongoing effort urging that the JNH become identified with U.S. national interests in Palestine.

The State Department, holding to a policy of non-involvement, resisted all pressure to take sides in the internal conflicts of Palestine. This was true whether that pressure came from Zionists, anti-Zionists or the Department's own consul general in Jerusalem. In the case of the Zionists, the SD resisted pressure because of its narrowly focused definition of national interest and the judgment that Zionism was not compatible with it. This produced a de facto competition between State and the Zionists over what really should constitute U.S. national interests in the Holy Land.

However, from a public-relations standpoint, only one side was active. The Zionists had long been promoting their views and, as this paper suggests, their efforts had established and built upon the compatibility of the Zionist interpretation of events in Palestine with the American way of seeing the non-Western world. One important result was a melding of the two views as expressed in the press coverage of the area. The SD, on the other hand, had operated in a much more insular fashion. The Department's internal memos critical of Zionism should not be mistaken for an offensive posture. Rather the posture was defensive, seeking to hold off any official U.S. identification with the JNH.

There also is no evidence that State Department personnel understood the long-term significance of these contrasting postures. They did not realize that their narrow and static formulation of what constituted American national interests in Palestine was being successfully challenged in the public arena by a more dynamic pro-Zionist interpretation. As a consequence, the SD was increasingly out of touch with a politically important aspect of public opinion. Holding themselves aloof from popular attitudes on Zionism, those in the Division of Near Eastern Affairs held fast to a position that was to grow more and more politically untenable for their elected and appointed superiors. No doubt they would have argued that popular opinion should not define foreign policy, but this is naive. In a democracy, where so much is shaped by special interests, lobbying, financial support and manipulation of mass media, foreign-policy matters important to powerful interest groups could not, in the long run, be resolved solely by a government department out of sync with prevailing opinion.

As the world moved through the era of the European Holocaust, the popular American way of seeing Palestine would continue to be filtered through a Zionist lens. Aided by the contradictions of horror over genocide and fear of opening the immigration gates to the survivors, Americans would come more and more to agree that the U.S. government should lend official recognition and support to the notion of a Jewish National Homeland. Over time, the concepts of a bipolar world divided between the civilized and uncivilized, along with the notion of altruistic imperialism, would pass out of fashion, but the power of the Zionist discourse would prevail. In the increasingly media-centered world of twentieth-century America, the Zionist-press connection easily bested the State Department in shaping popular perceptions and transforming American national interests in Palestine.

[1] Some works that refer to this Western way of seeing are Norman Daniel, Islam and the West (Oxford: Oneworld Press, 1960); Albert Weinberg, Manifest Destiny (Chicago: Quadrangle Books, 1963); Albert Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized (Boston: Beacon Press, 1965). See also Kearney Helen McCready. American Images of the Middle East, 1824-1924 (Ph.D. Diss.: University of Rochester, 1976) and Terry Brooks Hammons, "A Wild Ass of a Man": American Images of Arabs to 1948 (Ph.D. Diss.: University of Oklahoma, 1978).

[2] The Washington Post (WP), February 11, 1921, p. 6.

[3] The New York Times (NYT), June 18, 1922, VI, p. 6.

[4] The Mandate system was described in the NYT as "a form of trusteeship by advanced nations on behalf of the entire civilized world." See September I, 1929, IX, p. 4. For the text of the British Mandate for Palestine see NYT February 5, 1921, p. 11.

[5] The Los Angeles Times (LAT), August 22, 1922, II, p. 4.

[6] See Lawrence Davidson, "Historical Ignorance and Popular Perceptions of Palestine, 1917" in Middle East Policy, Vol. III, No. 2, 1994.

[7] See NYT April 5, 1922, p. 4, and Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59 (hereafter written RDS) 867n.01/199. See also I. Oder, The United States and the Palestine Mandate, 1920-1948 (Ph.D. Diss.: Columbia University, 1956), pp. 79, 83.

[8] See Mark Tessler, A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), pp. 177, 179- 180. For the NYT consideration of Zionist labor practices see December 18, 1927, III, p. 8; January 2, 1928, p. 8; January 29, 1928, III, p. 6; January 20, 1929, III, p. 6.

[9] NYT January 20, 1929, III, p. 6. See also March 30, 1929, p. 17.

[10] NYT July 4, 1929, p. 5. See also January 11, 1929, p. 38 and March 10, 1929, p. 40.

[11] NYT January 20, 1929, III, p. 6. See also July 4, 1929, p. 5

[12] NYT January 20, 1929, III, p. 6.

[13] NYT April 7, 1929, X, p. 17. See also April 17, 1929, p. 26; May 1, 1929, p. 6; May 24, 1929, p. 16.

[14] NYT March 11, 1929, p. 31.

[15] NYT January 20, 1929, III, p. 6.

[16] WP August 30, 1922, p. 6.

[17] NYT August 11, 1925, p. 23.

[18] For examples of this characterization see: NYT July 5, 1920, p. 17; May 7, 1922, II, p. 7; June 11, 1922, VI, p. 7; December 28, 1924, II, p. 2; April 12, 1925, p. 2; August 11, 1925, p. 23; January 7, 1926, p. 25. WP February 11, 1921, p. 6; August 30, 1922, p. 6. LAT February 16, 1921, II, p. 4; August 22, 1922, II, p. 4; July 24, 1922, p. 4; September 28, 1922, II, p. 4. Chicago Tribune (CT) September 19, 1922, p. 8.

[19] LAT September 8, 1929, II, p. 4.

[20] NYT April 7, 1929, X, p. 17. [21] Melvin I. Urofsky, American Zionism From Herzl to the Holocaust (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1975), pp. 241-242.

[22] NYT January 13, 1929, III, p.

[23] See NYT September 7, 1929, p. 3; September 16, 1929, p. 18 and October 27, 1929, III, p. 2.

[24] See NYT September 8, 1929, p. 22; October 28, 1929, p. 12; October 27, 1929, II, p. 3; December 3, 1929, p. 12 and December 4, 1929, p. 9. For coverage of the Arab position at the Shaw Commission hearings see NYT November 1, 1929, p. 9 and November 29, 1929, p. 13.

[25] NYT August 4, 1929, II, p. 6. For other pieces by Levy see September 19, 1929, p. 6; November 1, 1929, p. 9 and November 4, 1929, p. 10.

[26] NYT April 12, 1925, p. 2.

[27] For a detailed discussion of the 1929 Arab uprising see Martin Kolinsky, Law, Order and Riots in Mandatory Palestine, 1928-35 (London: St. Martin's Press, 1993), Chapters I through 6.

[28] NYT June 12, 1929, P 30.

[29] NYT August 18, 1929, p. 1.

[30] NYT September 3, 1929, p. 1, 20. See also NYT August 25, 1929, p. 1.

[31] LAT August 24, 1929, p. 1.

[32] LAT August 30, 1929, p. 1.

[33] CT August 25, 1929, p. 1.

[34] WP August 24, 1929, p. 4. See also article by William Shack, WP August 25, 1929, p. 10.

[35] These words were used to describe the Palestinian Arabs by Congressmen William Isovich in an August 26, 1929 telegram to the SD. Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of Turkey 1910-1929, Record Group 59 (hereafter written RDS), 867n.404WW/18.

[36] CT August 27, 1929, p. 14.

[37] CT August 29, 1929, p. 14.

[38] CT August 31, 1929, p. 8.

[39] NYT August 29, 1929, p. 22.

[40] NYT August 28, 1929, p. 24.

[41] NYT September 1, 1929, III, p. 4.

[42] NYT August 27, 1929, p. 26.

[43] LAT August 30, 1929, II, p. 4.

[44] LAT September 4, 1929, II, p. 4.

[45] LAT August 30, 1929, II, p. 4.

[46] WP August 28, 1929, p. 6.

[47] WP August 29, 1929, p. 8.

[48] WP August 28, 1929, p. 6. See also August 27, 1929, p. 6.

[49] CT August 29, 1929, p. 14.

[50] NYT January 9, 1923, p. 23.

[51] For the 1917-1919 period see Lawrence Davidson, ibid. From 1920 through 1928 the NYT published 452 articles on Palestine. 297 of these (66 percent) spoke of Zionism in this favorable vein. 102 (22.5 percent) were questioning or critical of the Zionist movement. The coverage of the LAT, CT and WP (which collectively produced many fewer articles and were only sporadic in their attention to Palestine) was even more consistently pro-Zionist than the NYT.

[52] For examples of coverage of American Jewish reaction to the 1929 violence see NYT August 27, 1929, p. 3; August 28, 1929, p. 4; August 29, 1929, p. 3; August 30, 1929, p. 8; September 2, 1929, p. 1; September 4, 1929, p. 9. WP August 27, 1929, p. 3; August 28, 1929, p. 2; September 1, 1929, p. 3; September 2, 1929, p. 12; September 6, 1929, p. 3; September 21, 1929, p. 5. LAT August 30, 1929, p. 1; September 2, 1929, p. 1; September 3, 1929, p. 1; September 4, 1929,p. 1. CT August 27, 1929, p. 4; August 31, 1929, p. 2; September 1, 1929, p. 6.

[53] Many examples of this SD point of view can be offered, the most obvious concerning the Philippines, a full-fledged American colony. In 1921, soon-to-be Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes was quoted in the WP as stating that he would not have America "scuttle out and leave them to take care of themselves....We took the Philippines under a sacred obligation. It is our duty to discharge that obligation." WP February 27, 1921, p. 21. When it came to Palestine, it can be noted that in the negotiations for the Anglo-American Palestine Convention the American government insisted on an understanding that, if the British Mandate lapsed, U.S. capitulatory rights (an infamous imperialist device giving Western powers extraterritorial rights in the former Ottoman Empire) would automatically be reinstated. See RDS 867n.01/216a, Secretary of State Hughes to Lord Curzon, April 3, 1922. See also Frank E. Manuel The Realities of American-Palestine Relations (Washington, D.C.: Public Affairs Press, 1949), p. 273.

[54] Phillip Baram, The Department of State in the Middle East 1919- 1945 (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1978), p. 4.

[55] RDS 867n. 01/214, memo by Allen Dulles, chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs, May 2, 1922.

[56] RDS 867n. 01/311, dated September 19, 1922.

[57] RDS 867n. 01/214, ibid. Also see Manuel, ibid., pp. 275-284. Baram points out that aggressively prostelytizing American missionary groups were objected to by the SD for these same reasons. Ibid., p. 49.

[58] See Manuel, ibid., p. 303, and Naomi Cohen, The Year After the Riots (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988), p. 17ff.

[59] Cohen, ibid., pp. 21-22.

[60] See RDS867n.156/10(October20, 1928);/11 (January 10, 1929);/15(June25, 1929);/81 (July 24, 1928).

[61] See RDS 867n. 01/501 and 867n. 156/15. Both are dated June 25, 1929.

[62] RDS 867n. 404WW/23 (August 23, 1929).

[63] RDS 867n. 404WW.

[64] See RDS, Emanuel Celler to Secretary of State Stimson, 867n. 404WW/3 (August 23, 1929). Also Louis Gross to Stimson, 867n. 404WW/10 (August 24, 1929).

[65] Knabenshue (PK) based much of his opinion in this regard on the investigations of the journalist Vincent Sheean, whom he knew well. He had even forwarded copies of Sheean's dispatches to the SD. See RDS 867n.404WW/264, p.2 (October 19, 1929) as well as 867n. 404WW/268 (November 2, 1929) and 276 (January 2, 1930). Sheean, reporting for the North American Newspaper Alliance, was one of the very few reporters who tried to give a balanced picture of events, assigning part of the blame for the violence to the Zionists. On August 26, 1929, the LAT prinited one of his dispatches telling how Arab violence beginning on August 17 was, according to Sheean, a response to Revisionist Zionist demonstrations of August 14 and August 15. He describes these demonstrations, which took place during a Muslim holiday: "A fearful responsibility rests on the Zionist Fascisti who precipitated the present crisis[by] assembling in Jerusalem [on August 14] from all parts of the country for a nationalist demonstration of the most dangerous and provocative character in the heart of the sacred Moslem district...The area was crowded with brawny young Fascists from the colonies...They were spoiling for a fight...The next day [August 15] they marched...and made a formal nationalist demonstration...before the house of the Grand Mufti. Moslem feelings then rose to the highest pitch." LAT August 26, 1929, p. 4. Occurring before the Nazis rose to power, Sheean's use of the term "Fascist)" referred to similarities he drew between the behavior of elements of the Revisionist movement and the Italian Fascists. For this connection see Walter Laqueur, A History of Zionism (N.Y.: Schocken Books, 1989), pp. 361-365. Sheean's piece was printed not only in the LAT, but also in other papers such as the New York World. In the latter case the piece brought so many protest letters that Sheean' s reports were dropped. According to David Katzer in "British Jerusalem in the News," in Middle East Quarterly, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Dec. 1994), p.38, Sheean "never again covered events for the daily press."

[66] RDS 867n. 404WW/268, p. 1 (November 2, 1929).

[67] RDS 867n. 404WW/269, p.15 (December 9, 1929). The Article 22, paragraph 4 referred to reads "Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations can be provisionally recognized subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone." PK felt that this clause "must be recognized as giving legal validity to the establishment of representative government in Palestine under the advise and assistance of the Mandatory" and anything that conflicted with it was "null and void." RDS 867n.404WW/269, p. 13.

[68] RDS 867n. 404WW/269, p. 14 (December 9, 1929). Emphasis in original text.

[69] RDS 867n. 404WW/268, p. 5 (November 2, 1929).

[70] Ibid., p. 12.

[71] RDS 867n. 404WW/273, p. 4 (November 16, 1929).

[72] RDS 867n. 404WW/273, p. 5 (November 16, 1929).

[73] Compare PK's position to Naomi Cohen's assertion that the consul general's views, as expressed to the SD, were both "anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic." Cohen, ibid., p.28. The only way to explain Cohen's position is to recognize that, for her, anti-Zionism is the same thing as antisemitism. This confusion means her work must be read with a critical eye.

[74] RDS 867n. 404WW/273, p. 3 (November 16, 1929).

[75] RDS 867n. 404WW/273, ibid. p. 6.

[76] The Zionists were in fact opposed to democracy as long as there was no Jewish majority in Palestine. Thus Chaim Weizmann offered the opinion that "the democratic principle, which reckons with the relative numerical strength, and the brutal numbers operates against us, for there are five Arabs to one Jew." Democracy would therefore be manipulated by "the treacherous Arab" to block the Zionist cause. Cited in Doreen Ingrams, Palestine Papers 1917-1922 (London, 1972), p. 32. Bernard Rosenblatt, an American Zionist leader, did proffer a scheme for a two house legislature in Palestine, the upper house to "contain a majority of Jews" and "have the right to approve or disapprove measures passed by the lower chamber" which was to be "largely Arabic." NYT December 14, 1929, p. 6.

[77] See RDS 867n. 404WW/169, pp. 252, 253, 257.

[78] RDS 867n. 404WW/273, p. 6.

[79] For instance on the banners (which read "America Act") carried at the protest march of "15,000 to 20,000" in New York City on August 26, 1929 (see NYT August 27, 1929, p. 3) and the resolutions of the protest meeting of Chicago Jews on August 26, 1929, p. 3 (see CT August 27, 1929, p. 4). See also report of Washington, D.C. protest meeting in WP September 2, 1912, p. 12.

[80] Most of the letters and telegrams to the SD can be found between RDS 867n. 404WW/3 and 165. According to a NYT report of September 4, 1929, p. 9, the SD had received " 1,000 letters" by this date.

[81] RDS 867n. 404WW/13. See also a similiar appeal from Representative Hamiliton Fish reported in the NYT August 29, 1929, p. 3.

[82] RDS 867n. 404WW/80 (August 28, 1929).

[83] RDS 867n. 404WW/84 (August 24, 1929).

[84] For press accounts emphasizing American citizen involvement and investment in Palestine, see NYT August 26, 1929, p. 1; August 29, 1929, p. 3; August 30, 1929, p. 1, 5; September 1, 1929, p. 2; September 2, 1929, p. 1; September 3, 1929, p. 20; September 5, 1929, p. 9; September 10, 1929, p. 6; October 5, 1929, p. 22; November 4, 1929, p. 15; November 18, 1929, p. 6. CT August 26, 1929, p. 1; August 27, 1929, p. 1, 14; August 29, 1929, p. 10, 11, 14; August 31, 1929, p. 2; September 13, 1929, p. 22. WP August 26, 1929, p. 1; August 29, 1929, p. 8; September 11, 1929, p. 4; September 21, 1929, p. 5. LAT August 27, 1929, p. 1; August 30, 1929, p. 2; September 3, 1929, p. 1.

[85] RDS 867n. 404WW/80, ibid.

[86] RDS 867n. 404WW/14 (August 26, 1929).

[87] RDS 867n. 404WW/156 (September 3, 1929).

[88] RDS 867n. 404WW/14, ibid.

[89] RDS 867n. 404WW/156 (September 3, 1929).

[90] NYT September 2, 1929, p. 2. Wagner was referring to the 1922 congressional resolutions in support of the Balfour Declaration.

[91] NYT August 30, 1929, p. 1. The Zionist response to the president, read at the Madison Square Garden meeting, reflected the mixing of their own cause with American and civilizational themes. "We hail these [Hoover's] words as expressing the mind of America and the resolve of the civilized world that the great work of reconstruction which has been so well begun in Palestine must not retreat...before the onslaught of fanaticism and savagery." NYT September 4, 1929, p. 8.

[92] NYT August 28, 1929, p. 1.

[93] See Zaha Bustami, American Foreign Policy and the Question of Palestine, 1855-1939 (Ph.D. Diss.: Georgetown University, 1989), p. 328. Under pressure from Hoover and the SD the Zionists toned down a written protest letter to the British government. WP August 28, 1929, p. 2.

[94] For example the SD's response to Rabbi Stephen Wise's request for official endorsement of American Jewish legal representation at the Shaw Commission hearings. RDS 867n. 404WW/52; 61; 228.

[95] RDS 867n. 404WW/231. See also WP September 7, 1929, p. 2.

[96] RDS 867n. 01/543 (November 5, 1930). See also Bustami, ibid., p. 356.

[97] A good example of this is the trouble the Division of Near Eastern Affairs took to argue why the Balfour Declaration (which the British had insisted be put into the preamble of the Anglo-American Convention) did not represent a U.S. interest in Palestine. Its presence in the treaty therefore did not obligate the government to act in support of the JNH. See the extensive SD documentation on this issue quoted in Bustami, ibid., pp. 334-344.

[98] For examples see RDS 867n. 01/90 dated February 5, 1920; 867n. 01/214 dated May 2, 1922; 867n. 01/199 dated September 19, 1922; 86n. 01/474.5 dated December 1, 1926; 867n. 404WW/255 dated September 23, 1929; 867n. 404WW.257 dated October 21, 1929 and 867n. 01/539.5 dated October23, 1930.

[99] See Bustami, ibid., chapter 4.

[100] For an example of a prominent assertion of this analogy see the articles of the American Zionist leader Bernard Rosenblatt in the NYT June 11, 1922, VI, p. 7 and June 25, 1922, VII, p. 7.

COPYRIGHT 1997 Middle East Policy Council

Davidson, Lawrence, Competing responses to the 1929 Arab uprising in Palestine: The Zionist press versus the State Department.(Arab-Israeli Affairs)., Vol. 5, Middle East Policy, 05-01-1997, pp 93(20).

Zionism Is Racism "Two views of Israeli racism before UN committee" Ha'aretz- 03/04/98, Article Summary WAFA's report translated from Al-Ayyam,, 03/05/98

A United Nation's committee in Geneva; "International Committee on the Elimination of Racist Discrimination" will meet today to discuss conflicting reports on racism in Israel. The Israeli government side will present a report on "Implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racist Discrimination" while a delegation of the Arab-Jewish "Adalah" (the Legal Center for Arab Rights in Israel) will concentrate on the Israeli government's violation of Geneva Convention. Adalah's report was prepared by Arab and Jewish attorneys in Israel.

The Israeli government asserts that human rights are protected by the law and the Israeli High (Supreme) Court. The Israeli government representative cited two anti discrimination laws that the Israeli Knesset passed in the recent years; Freedom of Occupation and Human Dignity and Liberty. The representative of the government also cited amendments to in other laws to support these two laws.

The Israeli government report sated that Israeli is a multi religious country and that Arabic is an official language of the country. Parents, according to the Israeli government, have the choice to send their children to Arabic speaking schools.

Ha'aretz talked about Adalah's viewpoint, which is best represented by WAFA's report below.

Adalah Presented 20 Racist Israeli Laws to a United Nation Committee.

Nazareth, WAFA.

In a report to the United Nation's committee in Geneva "International Committee on the Elimination of Racist Discrimination," the Legal Center for Arab Rights in Israel "Adalah" revealed twenty anti Arab racist laws that are predominant in the Israeli institutions and public life.

Adalah's report that was used to counteract a report by the Israeli Foreign Ministry that tried to hide the facts about racism in the Israeli laws and society; stated that, based on research, there was no legal enforcement for the principle of liberty and equality.

Adalah stated that the court system is more strict when the defendant is an Arab. This is besides the research which proved that law enforcement agencies and attorney generals are more racist than the court system. Planks of the political parties, according to Adalah, are limited to Jewish issues only and are not allowed to deal with the Arab minority.

Adalah accused the Israeli government of "marginalizing" the Arabic language and culture. [Translator:- See a research issued by the Hebrew University here and what Israel teaches to Arab students here.]

As far as budgets for local governments, the reports presented documents showing that the Israeli Ministry of Religious Affairs allots 98% of its budget to Jewish affairs while the 2 percent are provided to Arab affairs. [Translator:- Christian matters, see this report.] In other budget issues, Arab local authorities are discriminated against through discriminatory zoning procedures where Arab communities are placed in the least development areas. [Translator:- See some statistics in this report about government spending.]

About the society, the report stated that the 44 percent of the Israeli students agree with limiting the rights of Arabs. [Translator:- See this report.]

Adalah's report cited 17 Israeli laws that have explicit references to racist remarks. When it comes to the two laws that the Israeli government presented, Adalah stated that the two basic laws of Freedom of Occupation and Human Dignity and Liberty are racist because they define Israel as a pure Jewish democracy. Adalah cited laws that prohibit the participation of political parties if any of these parties attempt to challenge the Jewish/ness of the state of Israel. The Law of Return was also cited by Adalah, according to which Adalah believes that the Law discriminates against Arabs [Translator:- This report may explain what the law is.] There was citations of the Israeli law of the Jewish Agency, the Histadrut & Zionism which provide special privileges to these institutions in the governmental institutions. The law of the flag limits the symbols that can be used in any flag to be Jewish Zionists.

Adalah discussed the Israeli laws that recognize only Jewish holidays as the country holidays and ignore those of Arab Muslims and Christians. Adalah mentioned (many cultural laws) that demonstrated that these laws were based on Jewish Zionist concerns without any care for the Arab minority. The educational laws, according to Adalah are based on teaching the Zionist ideas only without any concern for the Arab minorities. So are the laws related to the "holy sites" that only recognize the Jewish holy sites as "holy" while Islamic and Christian sites are not. [Translator:- This report may be appropriate.]

Three laws that were cited by Adalah as indirectly racist were "Law of Absentees Property" which aims at seizing the property of Arabs even those who are present. [Translator:- See "When Theft Is Conducted With An [Israeli] Court Order."] The second is Order 125 of the 1945 Emergency Law which is aiming at closing areas for "military uses" which eventually lead to seizing Arab lands, according to Adalah. Adalah also cited the Law of Organization and Building which prohibits supplying "unrecognized villages" (ALL ARABS) with water and electricity.

Adalah's report came in 70 pages and was prepared by Arabs and Jews.

Balfour Declaration's author was a secret Jew



LONDON (January 12) Jerusalem Post - Leopold Amery, the author of the Balfour Declaration - the 1917 document from British foreign secretary Arthur Balfour to Lord Rothschild which laid the groundwork for the establishment of the State of Israel - was a secret Jew.

This has been disclosed in just-published research by William Rubinstein, professor of modern history at the University of Wales, who says Amery hid his Jewish background.

Ironically, one of Amery's sons, John, achieved infamy when he defected to Nazi Germany and was hanged for treason in London after World War II. The other son, Julian, succeeded his father as a member of Parliament and was a staunch supporter of Israel. He died two years ago.

In his 1955 autobiography, Amery, who was assistant secretary to the British war cabinet in 1917, said his own father, Charles Frederick Amery, came from an old English family.

His mother, Elisabeth Leitner Amery, he wrote, was part of a stream of Hungarian exiles who fled first to Constantinople and then to England.

According to Rubinstein's research, Amery's mother was born to Jewish parents in 1841 and was named Elisabeth Joanna Saphir. The family lived in Pest, which later became part of Budapest and contained the city's first Jewish quarter.

Both of her parents were Jewish, says Rubinstein, who adds that Amery himself changed his middle name from Moritz to Maurice in an attempt to disguise its origins.

As assistant secretary to the war cabinet, Amery not only drafted the Balfour Declaration, but also was responsible for establishing the Jewish Legion, the first organized Jewish fighting force since Roman times, which proved to be the forerunner of the modern Israel Defense Forces.

Later, as secretary of state for dominion affairs from 1925 to 1929, he spearheaded what many regard as the most impressive period of peaceful growth in pre-state Palestine.

But his most significant contribution to British politics was a powerful speech in parliament which is thought to have played a key role in precipitating the departure of prime minister Joseph Chamberlain in 1940 and the accession to power of Winston Churchill, who was to lead Britain through World War II.

Rubinstein, whose disclosures are contained in the February edition of History Today, describes Amery's deception as "possibly the most remarkable example of concealment of identity in 20th century British political history."

Rubinstein, who suspects that both of Amery's sons knew of their Jewish origins, believes Leopold Amery decided to conceal his own Jewishness for fear of persecution, because he was confused about his status following his relatives' conversion to Protestantism, and because of the obstacles it might have posed at the time to his political ambitions.

Finally, Rubinstein believes Amery might have hidden his origins to avoid pressure for favors from the Jewish community.

Source: Jerusalem Post Article

Problems of the New State: 1948-77

Richard F. Nyrop, Countries of the World, Israel: Chapter 1D. 01-01-1991.

The Ingathering of the Exiles

The first legislative act of the Provisional Council of State was the Law and Administrative Ordinance, 1948, legislation that declared null and void the restrictions on Jewish immigration that had been imposed by the British authorities (see Events in Palestine: 1908-39, this ch.). In July 1950 the Knesset passed the Law of Return, the basic feature of which was set forth in the declaration "Every Jew has the right to come to this country as an olah." (see table D).

Additional legislation in 1952 specified that with rare exceptions Jewish immigrants may be granted Israeli citizenship as soon as they arrive in Israel. In 1954 the Law of Return was amended to grant the minister of interior the authority to deny an immigrant visa to "any person with a criminal past, likely to endanger the public welfare." In May 1971 a new amendment provided that Jews intending to immigrate to Israel may claim Israeli citizenship even before departing their country of residence.

Implementation of the various laws soon created religious and legal problems centering on the emotionally charged questions of "Who is a Jew?" in terms of secular and religious law. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s the Knesset, the courts, the political parties, and interest groups struggled and fought over this issue. In the late 1970s it remained an unresolved and politically and socially divisive question (see The Law of Return, ch. 2).

In 1939 the British Mandate Authority estimated that about 445,000 out of the 1.5 million residents of the Mandate were Jews. Israeli officials estimated that as of May 15, 1948, about 650,000 Jews lived in the area scheduled to become Israel under the November 1947 UN partition proposal. Between May 1948 and December 31, 1951, approximately 684,000 Jewish immigrants entered the new state, thus providing a Jewish majority in the region for the first time in the modern era. The largest single group of immigrants was composed of Jews from Eastern Europe. Over 300,000 people came from the refugee and displaced-persons (DP) camps of that region.

Another 265,000 arrived during this brief period from neighboring Arab states; over 120,000 came from Iraq. The second largest group of immigrants from Arab countries was composed of the nearly 45,000 Yemeni Jews described by one author as the purest, most authentic Jews who had been living among the purest, most authentic Arabs. The cultural confrontation between these and other Arabic-speaking Jews with the (generally) Yiddish-speaking, Westernized and, as a result of the Holocaust, traumatized Jews from Eastern Europe was very nearly that of alien civilizations. Until the creation of Israel, the Jews in Arab lands had led peaceful, sedentary lives subject only occasionally to various restrictions and even more occasionally to seriously incapacitating discrimination. The task of integrating these disparate communities was in the short run exceeded in importance and gravity only by the nation's security problem; in the long run, it was viewed by many observers as of even more importance and as being less susceptible to solution.

Israeli Arabs, Arab Land, and Arab Refugees

The events immediately before and during the War of Independence and during the first several years of independence remain, so far as those events involved the Arab residents of Palestine, matters of bitter and emotional dispute. The Palestinian Arab refugees insist that they were driven out of their homeland by Jewish terrorists and regular Jewish military forces; the government of Israel asserts that the invading Arab forces urged the Palestinian Arabs to leave their houses temporarily to avoid the perils of the war that would end the Jewish intrusion into Arab lands. Thirty years after the events, advocates of Arabs or Jews using basically the same data and information continue to present and believe diametrically opposed descriptions of those events.

There is no question that for the first time in history the majority population of a specific area became refugees from that area. According to British Mandate Authority population figures, there were in 1947 about 1.3 million Arabs in all of Palestine. Between 700,000 and 900,000 of the Arabs lived in the region eventually bounded by the 1949 armistice lines, the so-called green line. By the time the fighting stopped there were only about 170,000 Arabs left in the new State of Israel. Approximately 119,000 were Muslims, 35,000 were Christians, and 15,000 were Druzes. An estimated 32,000 were urban or town dwellers, 120,000 lived in villages, and about 18,000 were nomads. Of more importance, the Israeli government in 1949 acknowledged that about 30,000 of these Arabs-probably excluding the Druze and nomadic components of the whole-were refugees, "having fled from one part of the state to the other during the fighting."

Among the many stories of atrocities committed by both sides only a few can be authenticated beyond doubt. One event with a direct cause and effect relationship was the massacre at Dayr (Deir) Yasin, a small Arab village near Jerusalem. On April 9, 1948, an irregular Jewish military unit known as the Irgun Assault Unit attacked the village and killed almost all inhabitants, over 250 people. In later years the Irgun leader, Menachem Begin, defended the action with the claim that Arab soldiers were hiding in the village and that the deaths resulted from the ensuing house-to-house fighting.

Psychological warfare was also used. In his "Book of the Palmach," former soldier and foreign minister Yigal Allon describes some of the methods used to persuade the Arabs to leave: "I gathered all the Jewish mukhtars (mayors), who have contact with Arabs in different villages, and asked them to whisper in the ears of some Arabs, that a great Jewish reinforcement has arrived in Galilee and that it is going to burn all villages of the Huleh. They should suggest to these Arabs, as their friends, escape while there is time." Allon said that the rumor spread rapidly and that "The flight numbered myriads." At about the same time Weizmann, long the head of the Zionist Organization and Israel's first president, voiced his anger at "not only the murderous terrorism of Begin's Irgun but also the clean acts of violence of Ben-Gurion's Haganah."

The attitudes of the Jews to the Arabs embraced many contradictory ideas. On the one hand, the Zionist Congress that met in 1947 endorsed resolutions promising full equality of rights to all residents of the proposed state and "full religious, educational, cultural and social autonomy for all its citizens." Similiar resolutions had been passed by most previous congresses. On the other hand, the members of Herut (see Glossary) and other religiously oriented political parties and interest groups made no effort to conceal their goal of a Greater Israel that would include all of the lands of the ancient kingdoms of David and Solomon (see fig. 4, this ch.). Moreover the individuals who assumed the governance of the new state in May 1948 were secularists, but they were secularist Jews. Their beliefs and attitudes were aptly summarized by a later Supreme Court decision that stated that Israel was formed as a "sovereign state for the Jewish people." Despite the assurances of equality adopted by the several Zionist congresses, Zionist ideology focused exclusively on the goal of a homeland for Jews, with little or no provision for the Arabs. But Arabs formed an important minority within the state, and by May 1949 an estimated 711,000 Arab refugees were temporarily camped near Israel's borders, and notice had to be taken of their roles.

The notice taken of the Israeli Arabs tended to include a denial of civil rights, social exclusion, and economic repression. An early political decision not to draft a constitution indicated the emerging official position toward the Arab community. A constitution patterned on the American model-an early consideration-would logically include a bill of rights that would apply to all citizens; the majority in the Knesset feared the consequences of guaranteeing civil rights to the Arab minority, and plans for a constitution were scrapped (see The Constitutional Framework, ch. 3).

The second official act was to form military governments to rule the areas where the majority of the Arabs lived. The formation of these governments and regions and the assignment of almost unfettered governmental powers to the military governors were based on the Defense (Emergency) Regulations promulgated by the British Mandatory Authority in 1945. The regulations had been enacted to provide a specific and detailed legal framework for governing the rebellious Jewish minority in Palestine. Jewish legal groups and bar associations in 1945 bitterly denounced the regulations. Nevertheless in 1949 Israel's state attorney defended the use of the regulations on grounds of national security.

Using the 1945 law as a legal base, the government created three areas or zones to be ruled by the Ministry of Defense. The most important zone was the Northern Area, also known as the Galilee Area, the locale of about two-thirds of the Arab population. The second critical area was the so-called Little Triangle, located between the villages of Et Tira and Et Taiyiba near the border with Jordan (then Transjordan) (see fig. 1). The third area included much of the Negev Desert, then the region traversed by the nomadic, previously apolitical beduin.

In addition, Article 125 of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations empowered the military governors to declare any specified area "off-limits" to those without written authorization. The area was then declared a security zone and thus closed to Israeli Arabs who lacked written permission either by the army chief of staff or the minister of defense. In these areas official acts of the military governors were with rare exceptions not subject to review by the civil court system. Individuals could be and were arrested and imprisoned on unspecific charges, and private property could be and was subjected to search and seizure without warrants. Moreover the physical expulsion of individuals or groups from the state was not subject to review by the civil courts.

Representative of the incidents that did result in the eventual involvement of the High Court of Justice was the experience of the residents of the Arab village of Iqrit, a former population center in northern Israel described in the United States Gazetteer (1962) as a ruin. On November 8, 1948, the villagers, at the behest of the military authorities and under the leadership of the village elders, vacated their village with supplies for a two-week absence. At the end of the two week period the villagers sought to return but were refused permission to do so for "security reasons."

Weeks passed, and the military continued to prohibit the return of the people to their village. Eventually the villagers were able to present their case to the court. The court ruled that between November 8, 1948, and April 27, 1949 (when an armistice was declared for that area), the military was legally justified in its actions. The court noted that under the terms of the Defense (Emergency) Regulations the Ministry of Defense had the right to declare an area a "security zone" from which Israeli Arabs could be excluded but that, because the ministry had not done so until September 26, 1949, the military had acted illegally during the intervening period. The court, in its 1953 ruling, noted that conditions had since changed in the area and took the unusual step of ordering the Ministry of Defense to allow the Arabs to return to their village. The military responded by razing the village; shortly thereafter the land was declared to have been abandoned by its owners and was expropriated by the state.

Another land expropriation measure evolved from the Emergency (Security Zone) Regulations, which were passed in 1949 and renewed annually until 1972 when the legislation was allowed to lapse. Under this law the Ministry of Defense could, subject to approval by an appropriate committee of the Knesset, create security zones in all or part of what was designated as the "protected zone," an area that included lands adjacent to Israel's borders and other specified areas. According to Sabri Jiryis, an Arab political economist who based his work exclusively on Israeli government sources, the defense minister used this law to categorize "almost half of Galilee, all of the Triangle, an area near the Gaza Strip, and another along the Jerusalem-Jaffa railway line near Batir as security zones." A clause of the law provided that permanent as well as temporary residents could be required to leave the zone and that the individual expelled had four days within which to appeal the eviction notice to an appeals committee. The decisions of these committees were not subject to review or appeal by a civil court. According to many observers, Arabs and Jews alike, large sections of Arab-owned land in these zones were expropriated by the government.

Yet another measure enacted by the Knesset in 1949 was the Emergency Regulations (Cultivation of Waste Lands) Ordinance. One use of this law was to transfer to kibbutzim or other Jewish settlements land in the security zones that was in fact lying fallow because the owner of the land or other property was not allowed to enter the zone because of national security legislation. The 1949 law provided that such land transfers were valid only for a period of two years and eleven months, but subsequent amending legislation extended the validity of the transfers for the duration of the state of emergency, a state that remained in effect in 1978.

Another common procedure was for the military government to seize up to 40 percent of the land in a given region-the maximum allowed for national security reasons-and to transfer the land to a new kibbutz or moshav. Occasionally the senior male members of a family were taken to a border and forced to leave the state; their families usually followed, and the land was then declared to be abandoned property. Between 1948 and 1953 about 370 new Jewish settlements were built, and an estimated 350 of the settlements were established on what was defined as abandoned Arab property.

According to the 1970 issue of the Statistical Abstract of Israel, which had derived part of its data from British Mandate Authority records, in 1945 there were about 807 Arab villages within Palestine, By 1969 there were 328 villages in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, by that time Israeli-occupied territory, and 105 Arab villages in Israel. The remaining 374 Arab villages and towns, most of which had been in Israel, had simply disappeared, their former sites covered with agricultural crops, orchards or forest, or Jewish settlements.

The property of the Arabs who were refugees outside the state and the property expropriated from the Arabs who remained in Israel became a major asset to the new state. According to Don Peretz, an American scholar, by 1954 "more than one-third of Israel's Jewish population lived on absentee property, and nearly a third of the new immigrants (250,000 people) settled in the urban areas abandoned by Arabs." The fleeing Arabs emptied thriving cities, such as Jaffa, Acre (Akko), Lyyda (Lod), and Ramlah, plus "338 towns and villages and large parts of 94 other cities and towns, containing nearly a quarter of all the buildings in Israel." Peretz estimated that approximately 10,000 stores and business that had been left vacant were taken over by Jewish immigrants in the 1949-53 period.

Although estimates and interpretations vary widely, it seems probable that between 1948 and 1968 about 100,000 hectares of land owned by Israeli Arabs were expropriated by the government. American historian Noah Lucas observes in his excellent work, The Modern History of Israel, that Israeli Jews outside the government, most of them recent immigrants only marginally literate in Hebrew, remained largely unaware of "the details of the land policy, and knew little of the depredations suffered by the Arabs who remained in the country." Lucas notes that the multiplicity of laws and regulations and the "complicated legal procedures shrouded the process in obscurity." He comments that although even by the mid-1970s the data were incomplete, it seemed probable that the Israeli Arabs lost between 40 and 60 percent of their total holdings to the Land Development Authority.

To the Israeli Arabs one of the more devastating aspects of the loss of their property was that they knew that the loss was legally irreversible. The early Zionist settlers-particularly those of the Second Aliyah-adopted a rigid policy that land purchased or in any way acquired by a Jewish organization or individual could never again be sold, leased, or rented to a non-Jew, i.e., to an Arab. The policy went so far as to preclude the use of non-Jewish labor on the land. This policy was carried over into the new state. At independence the State of Israel succeeded to the "state lands" of the British Mandate Authority, which had "inherited" the lands held by the government of the Ottoman Empire. By 1978 the state, through its Land Development Authority, held about 90 percent of all land. The Jewish National Fund was the operating and controlling agency of the Land Development Authority and ensured that land once held by Jews-either individually or by the "sovereign state of the Jewish people"-did not revert to non-Jews.

Directly related to the land that had been "abandoned" by Arabs who had fled during the 1948 war was the question of compensation. At first the Arab refugees rejected any notion of compensation, insisting that they wished to return to reclaim their land and property. Many refugees and their descendants continued to hold that position in 1978.

Israel at first also refused to consider any discussion of compensation. In late 1950, however, the government agreed to consider claims. The government also agreed to release to bona fide claimants the approximately 4 million Palestinian pounds (British Mandate currency) that had been frozen in Israeli banks since 1948. The transfer of these funds was accomplished through the offices of the United Nations Conciliation Commission for Palestine by 1957.

Despite vehement resistance by a sizable minority in the Knesset, the government in early 1951 agreed to the idea of negotiations on the matter of compensation. The agreement was at least implicitly tied to Israel's tentative offer to repatriate 100,000 Arab refugees as part of an overall peace plan. In March 1951, however, the government of Iraq issued a new law that impounded the property and all other assets of Jews emigrating from Iraq to Israel. A law in March 1950 sanctioning such emigration had specified that the Jewish emigrants could dispose of their property as they wished. The new law provided for a Custodian of Jewish Property (analogous to the Custodian of Absentee Property that the Israelis had established), who was granted the power to seize and hold the property of departing Jews.

The government of Israel had previously suggested an exchange of populations; simply put, if 100,000 Jews emigrated from Iraq (or any other Arab country) to Israel, that country would absorb and settle 100,000 of the Arab refugees from Israel. The suggestion was angrily rejected by the Arab states, Jordan being the only Arab state that ever offered citizenship to the Arab refugees. In reaction to the Iraqi action on Jewish holdings, the Israeli government asserted that the holdings of the 106,000 Jews who by that time had emigrated from Iraq totaled about 156 IPounds million (for value of the Israel pound-see Glossary) and that this sum would be set off against whatever compensation might be due from Israel to the Arab refugees. Although the UN through the conciliation commission continued for years to work on the problem of compensation for abandoned property little progress was made.

In early 1978 the New York Times estimated that there were about 3.5 million Palestinian Arabs living outside Israel. The largest single group consisted of about 1.15 million in Jordan, the only Arab country that has consistently offered its citizenship and nationality to the refugees. Another 700,000 lived in the West Bank of Jordan and 450,000 in the Gaza Strip; both areas have been under Israeli occupation since the 1967 war. An estimated 400,000 Palestinians lived in Lebanon, about 250,000 in Syria, approximately the same number in Kuwait, nearly 50,000 in Saudi Arabia, and another 50,000 in the other oil-producing states of the Arabian Peninsula. Perhaps as many as 200,000 live elsewhere in the world in the continuing Palestinian "diaspora."

* * *

The literature on the cultural, political, and religious history of the land and its people is immense; the Zionist Archives in Jerusalem, for example, possess over three kilometers of shelves of material solely on Zionism. The works noted here and those listed in the Bibliography are not set forth as necessarily the "best," but rather as relatively easily available English-language material that the author believes would be valuable further reading not only for the serious student but also for the interested layman and in somewhat less detail than, for example, the works by Salo W. Baron or the History of the Jewish People, edited by H.H. Ben Sasson.

The fifteen short volumes in the Israel Pocket Library contain material condensed from the Encyclopedia Judaica. Roland de Vaux's two-volume Ancient Israel is an excellent survey of that period, and Victor Tcherikover's Hellenistic Civilization and the Jews is a stimulating study of the impact of the Hellenes on Jewish society and culture. Mary Smallwood presents a detailed description of the Roman period in The Jews Under Roman Rule: From Pompey to Diocletian. S. D. Goitein's Jews and Arabs: Their Contacts Through the Ages is a succinct and balanced analysis of past and present interaction between these two peoples.

A valuable summary of the origins of Zionism is set forth in Arthur Hertzberg's "Introduction" to The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader, which he edited. Theodor Herzl's The Jewish State remains a key document, as do Leo Pinsker's Auto-Emancipation and the writings of Ahad Ha-Am. A History of Zionism by Walter Laqueur is a thorough survey of the Zionist movement up to 1948.

The first section of Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism consists of a wide-ranging, if controversial, review of the origins of anti-Semitism. There are numerous works from many perspectives on the Holocaust. Saul Friedlander's article in The Jerusalem Quarterly considers "Some Aspects of the Historical Significance of the Holocaust." For readers unfamiliar with the trauma of the period, John Hersey's novel The Wall is recommended reading.

The Modern History of Israel by Noah Lucas is notable for the author's academic thoroughness and objectivity and his writing skill. In addition, the book contains a superb annotated bibliography of works in English. Another thorough historical survey is Howard M. Sachar's A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time. A book of vast scope and provocative interpretations and insights is The Jewish Mind by Raphael Patai. The books by Menachem Begin, David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Abba Eban, and Chaim Weizmann contain "eye-witness" accounts by participants in events in the recent past.

Palestinians On Cusp of Nationhood

On Israel's 50th Anniversary

APRIL 03, 1998

Palestinians on Statehood's Cusp

By LAURA KING Associated Press Writer

EDITOR'S NOTE -- Palestinians call it ``al-nakba'' -- Arabic for catastrophe. Israel's creation in 1948 led to the uprooting of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians and set the stage for half a century of hatred and violence. Now, as Israel prepares to mark its 50th anniversary, Palestinians are still struggling toward statehood -- and a lasting peace still eludes both sides.

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) -- His memories are scraps torn from childhood's fabric: a peacock's jewel-toned tail feathers. Town streets abruptly giving way to the desert's blank beauty. And his mother's sewing machine.

Palestinian psychiatrist Eyad Sarraj was just 4 when his family hastily left their home in what is now the Israeli town of Beersheba.

And the clearest image he can call up from that spring day in 1948 is the sight of his mother trying to lug her prized machine -- a wondrous contraption of heavy-wrought metal -- to a waiting truck.

Stop, his father told her. Don't be silly. You don't need to bring that. We'll be back in two weeks.

For the Sarraj family -- and some three-quarters of a million other Palestinians who fled or were driven out when the British withdrew and the land was partitioned -- those weeks somehow stitched themselves into half a century.

Today, the Palestinian people -- some 8 million worldwide, by United Nations count -- remain scattered and stateless.

And like Sarraj, nearly every one of them carries some talisman of exile and dispossession, some loss remembered or recounted in family lore: a lemon grove, an olive press, a stone house.

Now, watching Israel commemorate 50 years of statehood, something they themselves have so long and bitterly coveted, many Palestinians are bringing those emblems of the past into the present's painful light.

``She never stopped talking about that sewing machine,'' said Sarraj, sitting gentle and bespectacled in his clinic overlooking the gritty slums of Gaza City and a crescent of incongruously lovely, blue Mediterranean.

``My father bought her a new one later, when it became clear there wasn't any going back. But it wasn't the same. I remember that machine, so black and heavy, how it stood somehow for something enormous -- for everything that we'd lost. That we'd all lost.''


Almost from the beginning, Israelis and Palestinians denied one another's very existence as a people.

Arabs marked Israel for destruction, denouncing the mainly European Jews as interlopers to be driven into the sea. And the late Israeli prime minister, Golda Meir, once said there was no such thing as a Palestinian.

Palestinians fared little better at Arab hands. After partition, neighboring states grabbed chunks of land; Jordan annexed the West Bank, and Egypt seized the Gaza Strip. It was the kind of betrayal the Palestinians would experience again and again.

Landless and ruled by Arab neighbors, it took time for Palestinians to find their own identity. And it took far longer for Palestinians and Israelis, whose only real meeting point was in battle, to see that the enemy had a human face.

The Palestinian lands of today are a jagged, truncated little entity only about one-fifth the size of historic Palestine. Split between the stone-terraced hills of the West Bank and the sandy flats of Gaza, the territories are home to nearly 3 million Palestinians.

Independence has come a few steps closer with the landmark 1993 Oslo peace accords. Gaza is self-ruled and the main cities of the West Bank are under Palestinian control.

But the Israeli presence remains pervasive. Thousands of troops man checkpoints and military bases. The territories are dotted with more than 160 Jewish settlements.

``It's fine to talk about the end of occupation, but if I walk to the end of this road, I see Israeli soldiers,'' said Gaza merchant Salim Kamal. ``So it's ours, this land? It doesn't look like ours.''

The humiliation and anxiety of daily life in the territories take their toll. A recent United Nations report noted that Palestinians suffer a high rate of sleep disorders, nightmares and depression.

Leila Awad, 29, is a mother of six in Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp. Like the territories' two dozen other such camps, it has grown from rows of huts and tents in 1948 to a concrete-block city with a grim air of permanence.

``Sometimes when I lie down at night, I feel like a stone is sitting on my chest,'' she said. ``When I wake up in the morning, the stone is still there.''


If 1948 marked the original catastrophe for Palestinians, its echo came in 1967, when Israel and its Arab neighbors again went to war.

It was a rout. Israel captured the West Bank and east Jerusalem from Jordan, the Gaza Strip from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria. Another 300,000 Palestinians became refugees -- and lost hope that the Arab world would be their savior.

``It was our darkest time -- what a shock the news was,'' said Salah Taamari, a Palestinian who was then studying English literature in Cairo. ``I sat down right where I was, on some steps. It was as if I had been knocked out by a punch.''

So, like thousands of young exiled Palestinians of his generation, he took up arms.

``In those days, joining the PLO was like joining the youth movement -- the student protests, free thinking, everything that was going on in the '60s,'' said Taamari, who today is a member of the Palestinians' first freely elected parliament.

``Only instead of hitchhiking around Europe, we became commandos. Our idols were Che and Castro. But we found out it was a very, very serious business.''

Taamari joined Yasser Arafat's Fatah faction. A natural leader -- he is tall and imposing, with startling pale-green eyes -- he became unit commander at Karameh, a Jordanian base the PLO was using to launch raids inside Israel.

In March 1968, Israeli forces attacked. Amid the inferno of battle, Taamari heard a voice calling his name. The Israelis were using a loudspeaker to call for Fatah leaders, including Taamari, to give up.

The man with the megaphone was an Israeli intelligence officer named Aharon Barnea. Taamari didn't surrender. He just wished he could shoot the voice.

The two would meet years later, under circumstances neither could have then imagined.


In the late 1960s, the Palestinians' guerrilla war began in earnest. For the next decade, their cause became synonymous with hijackings, bombings, hostage-taking, commando raids.

These were the violent circles in which Bassam Abu Sharif moved. As a strategist for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a radical PLO faction, he recruited the notorious terrorist Carlos, even giving him his nom de guerre.

One warm July morning in 1972, weeks after terrorists massacred 24 people at Israel's airport, a package awaited Abu Sharif at the Beirut office of his PFLP newspaper. A book was protruding from the partly torn packing.

He took it out and opened it.

The explosion tore two fingers off each hand and ripped his face. His hearing was damaged; he lost an eye. Shrapnel wounds covered his body.

Israel never officially acknowledged responsibility, but former Israeli intelligence operatives have confirmed targeting him.

In the hospital, during his long recovery, an odd thing happened. Abu Sharif began wondering whether Israelis and Palestinians could find a way to live together.

``I had nothing to do but think,'' he said in an interview in the West Bank town of Ramallah, gesturing forcefully with his mangled hands.

``No eyes, no ears, no hands -- what else could I do? I thought about the whole thing, the way it goes on and on forever -- I get hit, we hit someone. ... It wouldn't stop.''

Abu Sharif would eventually become one of the first Palestinian fighters to speak up for peace, drafting a plan for the PLO to renounce terrorism and recognize Israel. But that would not happen for another 15 years.

When he recovered, Abu Sharif returned to the shadow wars. At home in the territories, meanwhile, a new kind of conflict was brewing.


If the Palestinians were stateless, their de facto army was as well. Arafat could not keep a home base.

Jordan expelled the PLO in 1971 for fomenting rebellion. They regrouped in Lebanon, but were driven out in Israel's 1982 invasion. The PLO then set up headquarters in Tunis, its fighters scattered around the Arab world.

In the West Bank and Gaza, ordinary Palestinians were realizing that the battle could not be won by exiles. In December 1987, after more than two decades of Israeli occupation, they took matters into their own hands. The intefadeh had begun.

Izzat Ghazzawi, a Palestinian novelist from Ramallah, had never done anything political except labor organizing. But the all-encompassing nature of the uprising -- street clashes, school closings, curfews, beatings, midnight searches, house demolitions -- touched the lives of nearly everyone.

``There was no escaping it,'' recalled Ghazzawi. He joined the PLO and wrote leaflets demanding a homeland, but also urging acceptance of Israel's existence.

In 1989 the Israelis arrested him for being a member of a terrorist group, and a military court jailed him for 2 1/2 years. His first two months were spent in solitary confinement -- ``They denied me everything, even a toothbrush,'' he said.

He began writing clandestinely, and his letters were smuggled out and published.

The six-year intefadeh was already sputtering by the time the Oslo accords were signed. But violence had become a way of life for Palestinians, and one November day in 1993, it hit home for Ghazzawi.

Remembering, he holds himself very still, his large brown eyes seeking the emptiness of an open window.

On that morning, Israeli soldiers approached the high school of his 16-year-old son, Rami. Some students threw stones, and the soldiers fired into the schoolyard. Rami, shot in the stomach, bled to death.

``He was such a good kid, a peaceful kid. He wanted to be a writer. I think he would have been a poet, a good one,'' Ghazzawi said quietly. ``After this, the taste of life can never be the same.''

``But,'' he said, rousing himself, ``it didn't change my view that peace is our fate. Rami was the victim of a terrible system. And the only way to change it is through peace.''


The last half-century of Palestinian history is not only a story of struggle and suffering but of recurrent spasms of self-destructiveness.

``We made many mistakes and missed many opportunities for peace,'' said Abu Sharif, the parcel-bomb victim. ``But we can't rewrite history. We have to go on from here.''

Had the Palestinians accepted the partition of 1948, they could have had more land than they now seek -- a fact they acknowledge but tire of having flung in their faces.

``That wouldn't have been justice. And what we will get from the peace process isn't justice either,'' said Salah Taamari, the ex-commando. ``It's about less injustice.''

Today few Israelis would agree with Golda Meir's refusal to recognize the Palestinians as a people; in mainstream Israeli thinking, their desire for statehood is understood, if not universally accepted.

But even Israelis sympathetic to this cause are angered and baffled when Palestinians cheer on Saddam Hussein, or champion the cause of Holocaust deniers.

This is an awkward, anxious moment in time for the Palestinians, caught as they are on the cusp of statehood.

They already have many of the trappings of a sovereign nation: flag and anthem, Arafat as elected head of government, a parliament, their own security forces.

But enormous differences remain to be settled with Israel: the new state's borders, the fate of Jewish settlements within them, whether the Palestinians can ever have their capital in Arab east Jerusalem -- a city claimed in its entirety by Israel.

As Palestinians work to build the institutions of statehood -- a legal system, a working economy, a free press -- the pressures grow daily.

The independence struggle has helped keep a lid on social schisms: Western ways eroding the traditional culture, authoritarianism pitted against civil liberties. But as statehood comes closer, those divisions may boil to the surface.

Islamic fundamentalists pose a serious challenge, given their opposition to peace with Israel. Extremists have disrupted negotiations with spectacular suicide bombings that have killed dozens of Israelis.

Years of isolation have left a lingering sense of Palestinian separateness from both the Arab world and the wider one. But despite questions about the Palestinians' place among nations, their sense of self has only grown stronger.

``Ten years ago I was afraid to say I was a Palestinian,'' said Gaza City's mayor, Aoun Shawa. ``Once during the intefadeh when our house was searched by soldiers, my daughter was so afraid, because she had drawn a Palestinian flag in one of her school notebooks. She was afraid I would be arrested if they found it. Now our flag is flying everywhere.''

Perhaps most difficult for Palestinians to acknowledge is the degree to which the long conflict with Israel helped define their own identity -- and the addictive nature of that intertwining.

``We are so used to a sense of drama, of having a place on the world stage,'' said sociologist Salim Tamari. ``That is because of Israel's hold on the Western imagination.

``So what happens when this quarrel is over? Will we be a quiet provincial place, with our farms and our markets, which no one pays the least attention to?''


It remains to be seen whether the Palestinian nation will be something greater than the sum of grief and grievance.

Without reconciliation, that will be impossible, said former PLO fighter Taamari. And he has his own story, full of truth's eternal improbability, of such a coming together.

It was 1982, and Taamari, by then a senior PLO figure, had been captured by the Israelis. An Israel radio reporter came to interview him. The reporter was Aharon Barnea, the man with the megaphone at the battle of Karameh 14 years before.

Barnea intended the interview to last only minutes. Instead, the two spoke passionately for eight hours -- about politics, history, literature, morality.

``He provoked me intellectually. I was astonished by him,'' Barnea recalled. Midway through the talk, Taamari turned pale, recognizing the voice that had called on him to surrender.

``If you had been in my gunsights, I would have fired,'' Barnea told him.

``I looked for you all day, to put a bullet in your head,'' Taamari replied.

The friendship that emerged from that jailhouse encounter has endured for 16 years, through wrenching and continued Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 1996, Barnea lost his young nephew in a bus bombing.

``He is a remarkable man,'' Barnea said of Taamari. ``We are very close.''

As for Taamari, his return from exile to the town of his birth is still suffused with a sense of unfulfilled longing. There are a few places in Bethlehem -- an orchard where he played in summer, a cave where he once spent a night -- that he treasures from childhood but has avoided revisiting.

He needs, he says, to wait.

``It's like something sweet you put aside to have later. I know I will feel a mixture of sadness and deep joy -- it's what makes you feel human, this sense that nothing can stand between you and your country. It's like the connection of your skin and the rest of your body.

``So it's not time. Not just yet.''

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