Palestine Royal Commission report/Chapter 19

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Palestine Royal Commission report (1937)
the Palestine Royal Commission
Part 2, Chapter 19. Conclusions and Recommendations

The Palestine Royal Commission, commonly known as the Peel Commission, was a royal commission that recommended a partition of mandatory Palestine into a Jewish State, an Arab State, and a part to remain under British control. It prepared a report of over 400 pages. First the Commission reviewed the history and present circumstances of Palestine, in particular the Arab rebellion that started in the previous year. Their conclusions and recommendations about that appeared in Chapter XIX, pages 363–368. Then the Commission presented its plan for a partition. The conclusions of that section appeared in Chapter XXIII, pages 394–396. Both chapters are complete here except that cross-references to other chapters of the report are elided.

1550139Palestine Royal Commission report — Part 2, Chapter 19. Conclusions and Recommendations1937the Palestine Royal Commission



1. We will now briefly recapitulate in pursuance of our terms. of reference the conclusions and recommendations which we have set out in this part of our Report. The underlying causes of the disturbances, or (as we regard it) the rebellion, of 1936, are, first, the desire of the Arabs for national independence; secondly, their antagonism to the establishment of the Jewish National Home in Palestine, quickened by their fear of Jewish domination. Among contributory causes were the effect on Arab opinion of the attainment of national independence by ‘Iraq, Trans-Jordan, Egypt, Syria and the Lebanon; the rush of Jewish immigrants escaping from Central and Eastern Europe; the inequality of opportunity enjoyed by Arabs and Jews respectively in placing their case before Your Majesty’s Government and the public; the growth of Arab mistrust; Arab alarm at the continued purchase of Arab land by the intensive character and the "modernism" of Jewish nationalism; and lastly the general uncertainty, accentuated by the ambiguity of certain phrases in the Mandate, as to the ultimate intentions of the Mandatory Power. This uncertainty has aggravated all the difficulties of the situation and in particular has (a) stimulated the Jewish desire to expand and consolidate their position in Palestine as quickly as possible, and (b) made it possible for the Arabs, to interpret the conciliatory policy of the Palestine Government and the sympathetic attitude of some of its officials as showing that the British determination to implement the Balfour Declaration is not sincere.

2. We have found that, though the Arabs have benefited by the development of the country owing to Jewish immigration, this has had no conciliatory effect. On the contrary, improvement in the economic situation in Palestine has meant the deterioration of the political situation.

3. The Palestine Government have attempted to discharge the contradictory obligations of the Mandatory under conditions of great difficulty by "holding the balance" between Jews and Arabs. Repeated attempts to conciliate either race have only increased the trouble. The situation in Palestine has reached a deadlock. The Administration has from the start been driven to work at high pressure under peculiar difficulties. The steps taken by the Palestine Government to enforce respect for law and order have proved ineffectual. The elementary duty of providing public security has not been discharged. Endeavours to control the alienation of land by Arabs to Jews have not been successful. In the hills there is no more room for further settlement by Jews; in the plains it should only be allowed under certain restrictions. There has been great delay in the preparation of a record of rights; the ascertainment and registration of Government ownership in land has been slow and unsatisfactory. The concession to the Palestine Electric Corporation has obstructed any development of irrigation from the River Jordan; and more might have been done to test the possibilities of irrigation in the south of the Gaza Sub-district and in Beersheba. Great efforts are being made to effect a radical change in the methods of cultivation by the Arab fellah, but this can only be accomplish.ed after many years and after an extension of primary education.

4. As regards immigration the Mandate has been fully implemented, but the attempts to regulate it have been unsatisfactory, unacceptable to Arabs and Jews alike, and accompanied by disconcerting variations in the number of immigrants.

5. In the matter of finance, the revenues of Palestine have increased rapidly, but far too large a proportion has had to be devoted towards meeting the charges of public security. Article 18 of the Mandate hampers the trade of the country. The apparently large surplus is little more than a reasonable balance for existing commitments.

6. The standard of social services in Palestine is higher than in the average British Colony or Indian Province, but the difficulty of providing services in one State for two distinct communities with two very different standards of living is apparent. In the matter of roads, railways and ports the obligations of the Mandate have been adequately discharged, but the problem of harbour facilities for Jaffa and Tel Aviv awaits solution.

7. As regards the development of local autonomy and selfgoverning institutions, this also has been hampered by the difficulty of combining what are virtually two civilizations in one system. The restrictions which the Mandatory Power found it necessary to impose in the interests of rural boards or backward municipalities have been resented by the larger towns. The attempts to create a local legislature have been unsuccessful and should not be revived.

Arab Grievances.


8. The Arab grievances may be summarized en bloc as a repudiation of the Mandate and all that it implies, from which the following main grievances arise:—

(1) The failure to develop self-governing institutions.
(2) The acquisition of land by the Jews.
(3) Jewish Immigration.
(4) The use of Hebrew and English as official languages.
(5) The employment of British and Jewish officers, and exclusion of Arabs from the higher posts.
(6) The creation of a large class of landless Arabs, and the refusal of Jews to employ Arab labourers.
(7) Inadequate funds for Arab education.

9. Whilst we believe that these grievances are sincerely felt, we are of opinion that most of them cannot be regarded as legitimate under the terms of the Mandate and we are therefore not called upon to make recommendations on them. It is only in regard to the last that we are able to suggest any remedy. We would welcome increased expenditure on Arab education, especially in the direction of village agricultural schools. These financial claims should be regarded as secondary only to those of public security. The attitude of, Arab officials precludes any extension of their employment in the higher posts of the Administration, including the Judiciary. Self-governing institutions cannot be developed in the peculiar circumstances of Palestine under the Mandate.

Jewish Grievances.


10. The main Jewish grievances are as follows:—

(1) Obstruction in the establishment of the National Home owing to dilatory action in dealing with proposals demanding executive action.

We consider that, apart from the general obligation to protect Arab interests, over-centralization and a lack of co-ordination between the Secretariat, the various special Departments, and the officers serving in the Districts are contributory causes of delay. We recommend decentralization, as suggested by the Financial Commission in 1931. We also consider that Assistant Secretaries should have had District experience. The Chief Secretary should not be the only channel of approach to the High Commissioner.

(2) The display of "pro-Arab" proclivities by officials and their failure to carry out the Mandate.

We recommend the careful selection of British officers intended for service in Palestine and a course of special training. The ordinary term of service in Palestine should be not less than seven years. As regards Arab officials, the memoranda submitted to Government during the "disturbances" last year, and the difficulty of obtaining reliable Information would justify the appointment of British District Officers. The Government has maintained strict impartiality, but this has had no helpful effect on the relations between the two races. There should be no hesitation in removing any officer whose disloyalty is proved.

(3) Great delay in the decision of civil suits; inefficiency in criminal procedure, as instanced by the fact that 80 Jews were murdered during 1936, and no capital sentence was carried out.

We find that the delays are due in part to the prescription in the Mandate of three official languages and three sets of official holidays. We welcome the appointment of an additional British Puisne Judge; and we recommend the appointment of a British Senior Government Advocate and the establishment of two or, if necessary, three separate Land Courts. under British Judges.

(4) Toleration by the Government of subversive activities, more especially those of the Mufti of Jerusalem.

We regard it as unfortunate that no steps have been taken to regulate elections for the Supreme Moslem Council, which has developed an imperium in imperio with an irremovable President. The policy of conciliation, carried to its furthest limit, has failed.

(5) As regards the land, failure to introduce a land system appropriate to the needs of the country, the continuance of the system of Masha'a, no arrangement for the consolidation of holdings, great delay in the ascertainment of rights during land settlement, difficulty in obtaining a satisfactory title to land when purchased; inadequate preservation of Government rights in State and waste lands, and consequent failure to make such lands available for Jewish settlement; insufficient encouragement of irrigation and drainage schemes.

Our recommendations regarding the land are as follows:—

(i) An amendment of Article 17 (1)(a) of the Palestine Order in Council 1922, and, if necessary, of the wording of Articles 2 and 15 of the Mandate, in order to provide land for close settlement by the Jews, and at the same time to safeguard the rights and.position of the Arabs.
(ii) Limitation of the close settlement upon the land to the plains districts, where schemes dealing with areas of 500 dunums or upwards might be prepared by Utility Companies.
(iii) The Land Expropriation Ordinance should be used for the parcellation and consolidation of holdings.
(iv) As regards the hill districts, on a long view there is no land available for any experiments in close settlement and mixed farming by the Jews, except possibly in the vicinity of Jerusalem.
(v) Definite proof of irrigation facilities should be obtained before any additional settlers are allowed upon the land.
(vi) An expert committee should be appointed to draft legislation connected with the land.
(vii) Settlement proceedings should be expedited, and the staff increased.
(viii) The record of rights prepared by the Settlement Officers should include all possessory rights and easements.
(ix) Village Registrars should be appointed to maintain the record of rights and report mutations of holdings.
(x) Increase in staff and exploratory work of Irrigation Department.
(xi) Legislation vesting the surface water of the country in the High Commissioner is essential.
(xii) The scheme for the development of the Huleh area deserves financial assistance.
(6) Reluctance really to facilitate immigration, inadequate labour schedules (no reasons being assigned for reductions made), hardship to dependants, the omission of possible vacancies arising from employment on Public Works, and uncontrolled illegal Arab immigration.

Our recommendations are:—

(i) Immigration should be reviewed, and decided upon political, social and psychological as well as economic considerations. A political "high level" should be fixed at 12,000 a year for the next five years, to include Jews of every category.
(ii) The definition of dependency should be revised.
(iii) The abolition of certain categories dealing with members of the liberal professions and craftsmen, and the revision of the conditions governing the free entry of capitalists.
(iv) The final allocation of immigration certificates should be subject to the approval of the High Commissioner..
(7) Trans-Jordan should be opened to Jewish immigration.

Under the Mandate Trans-Jordan cannot be opened compulsorily for Jewish immigrants against the will of its Government and people.

(8) The necessary steps have not been taken to secure the removal or alleviation of restrictions on the importation of Palestine citrus fruits into foreign countries.

We recommend that steps should be taken to secure the amendment of Article 18 of the Mandate and place the external trade of Palestine upon a fairer basis.

(9) Progressive Jewish Municipalities are unduly restricted by Government rules and regulations.

We recommend the appointment of an expert to advise the Palestine Government with a view to extending the powers of the larger Municipalities. We suggest an early substantial loan for Tel Aviv. The causes of the present delay in approving Municipal budgets should be removed.

(10) Failure to ensure public security.

This we regard as the most serious as also the best founded of the Jewish complaints.

Our chief recommendation is that should disorders break out again there should be no hesitation in enforcing martial law throughout the country under undivided military control, In this event the population should be disarmed, a special police patrol being stationed on the frontier to stop gun-running. In the absence of disarmament the system of supernumerary Jewish police should continue. A strong Press Ordinance should be effectively applied. Collective fines should be limited to sums that can be realized. Central as well as local reserves of the Police Force, with a large mobile mounted force, are required. Police barracks in the large towns with adequate provision for the wives and families of members of the force should be built as soon as possible.

11. These are the recommendations which we submit for dealing with the main grievances under the Mandate put before us by the Arabs and the Jews; but they are not, in our opinion, the recommendations which our terms of reference require. They will not, that is to say "remove" the grievances nor "prevent their recurrence". They are the best palliatives we can devise for the disease from which Palestine is suffering, but they are only palliative. They might reduce the inflammation and bring down the temperature, but they cannot cure the trouble, The disease is so deep-rooted that, in our firm conviction, the only hope of a cure lies in a surgical operation.

This work is in the public domain worldwide because it was created by a public body of the United Kingdom with Crown Status and commercially published before 1974.

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