by Joel Bainerman
ZICHRON YAACOV, ISRAEL -- Probably one of the most important books for both Jews and Arabs to read is called "The Rape of Palestine," by William Ziff, first published in 1938 by Argus Books in the US. The cover says nothing about who William Ziff is.
The book documents the difference between the overall pro-Jewish sentiments of the British political elite who saw a strong Jewish presence in Palestine as being good for the British empire, and the group of high level anti-Jewish British officials who believed that the Jews would become so powerful (if Britain let them) that they would no longer have to accede to British demands.
The latter group was entirely right. A strong Jewish presence in Palestine meant Jewish national independence which wouldn't serve the British masters the way the Arab puppets did. Arab tribal leaders were corruptible and this was the only way those running Britain's colonial policies could control them. They realized that controlling the Jews was not going to be so as easy. So they placed obstacle after obstacle before any attempts to settle large numbers of Jews in Palestine. The official reason for restricting Jewish immigration was that the "economic capacity of the land" could not support more than a million people. This was a lie, but few challenged the British when they proclaimed it in their various "government commissions."
The book also documents how one-sided the British were in doling out public funds. As the Jews in Palestine increased in number the economy boomed and in l935, the Yishuv, even though only comprising one-third of the residents, were paying 75% of the taxes to the British occupiers. Yet little of that money found its way back into roads or schools serving Jewish towns. Ziff must have gone through nearly every British government archive to document his claims that had the British left Palestine in the late 20's or early 30's, the Jews would have had a state before l948 and which would possibly have been established around (and thriving) before Hitler came to power thus saving the bulk of European Jewry. While no historian has ever blamed the British for the destruction of European Jewry, Ziff's book documents that claim.
Ziff's book (which was published first in l938 but probably took three or four years of research to write) documents how the British "created" the opposition to Zionism and that up until these so-called "radical Arab leaders" came into the picture, most Arab residents of Palestine wanted nothing more than to live in peace and prosperity with the Jews which they believed was their good fortune.
"The Moslem religious leaders, the Mufti, was openly friendly. Throughout Arabia, the chiefs were for the most part distinctly pro- Zionist: and in Palestine the peasantry were delighted at every prospect of Jewish settlement near their villages. Commercial intercourse between Arab and Jew was constant and steady." pp.13
"The Arab National Movement was hated by the huge Levantine population who continued to regard themselves simply as Ottoman subjects, looked to the strong, influential Zionist Organization for sympathy and assistance."
"Hussein of the Hejaz looked to the Zionists for the financial and scientific experience of which the projected Arab state would standly badly in need. In May 1918, Dr. Chaim Weizmann and Hussein of the Hejaz met in Cairo where the latter spoke of mutual cooperation between Jews and Arabs in Palestine. In early l9l9 a Treaty of Friendship was signed to provide for "the closest possible collaboration in the development of the Arab state and the coming Jewish Commonwealth of Palestine. On March 3, l9l9, another Arab leader, Feisal, son of Sherif, wrote: "We wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home."
If Ziff's words are accurate, there was no Arab opposition to Jewish immigration to Palestine at least as far back as l919.
"With conscious design the Administration fostered hostility between Arab and Jews. It directly advised the amazed Arabs of Palestine and Egypt to abstain from any concessions to the Jews. It formed the Moslem-Christian Association and used it as a weapon against the Zionists. It instructed astonished Arab young-bloods to the technique and tents of modern nationalism, in order to resist Jewish 'pretenses.' And in London it contacted reliable anti-Jewish elements to form a liason which has endured to this day. The Arabs were not only instigated and advised, but supplied with funds, and their arguments ghost-written by Englishmen in high places. They proved a good investment."
"Matters came to a head in l920 when Feisal staged a revolt against the French in Damascus, with money and ammunition supplied by the British General Headquarters. He had been proclaimed King by a 'Syrian Congress' which included Palestinians, and which asserted the principle that Palestine was a part of Syria and couldn't be cut off from it. Almost simultaneously, in order to show how impossible it was to implement the Balfour Declaration in the face of native hostility, the Generals arranged a pogrom in Jerusalem."
Ziff believed that the stage was set charging that "the riots of April l920 was perfectly timed." He reveals how Arab agitators ran through the Moslem crowds gathered for the Nebi Moussa festival in Jerusalem, urging 'death to the Jews' and that 'the government is with us.' Ziff discoveredthat all Jewish policemen had been relieved from duty in the Old City.
He says that such planned riots occured again in April l921 in Jerusalem. Ziff charges that the British Commandant of Police was "conveniently out of the country. The few Jews on the police force had been mysteriously taken off duty for the day. The Arab mob shouted: "Bolshevki! Bolseviki! The Zionists are flooding the country with Bolsheviki!" pp. 20 While many students of the Arab-Israeli conflict have heard the name "the Mufti of Jerusalem" most don't know how the Mufti became "the Mufti." Ziff writes:
"Implicated in the disturbances was a political adventurer named Haj Amin al Husseini. Haj Amin, was sentenced by a British court to fifteen years hard labor. Coveniently allowed to escape by the police, he was a fugitive in Syria. Shortly after, the British then allowed him to return to Palestine where, despite the opposition of the Moslem High Council who regarded him as a hoodlum, Haj Amin was appointed by the British High Commissioner as Grand Mufi of Jerusalem for life." pp. 22
Regarding the Arab pogroms of l929, Alif Beh, an Arab newspaper in Damascus, wrote: "the uprising was the result of British intrigue...the English were looking for an excuse to reject the demands of the Jewish Agency to participate in the administration of the country, and encouraged the Arabs to teach the Jews a lesson."
Regarding Arab views towards Jewish immigration, Ziff quotes Count Carlos Sforza in his books, 'Europe and Europeans': "Syrians of all classes, who had been watching Palestine's development with envious yes, were anxious to have something of the same phenomena duplicated in their country."
This desire is written in the clamorous petition sent to the French in l935 by the inhabitants of Lebanon, begging them to encourage Jewish immigration as that would bring prosperity. Said the Damascus newspaper, "Iissan Alkhar": "We ought to demand Jewish immigration, for Through it our situation will be saved."
Sensing that some crude agenda was being played out with their collective destiny, in May l930, the Jerusalem-based Arab newspaper 'Al Iqdam' in wrote: "We are led by a group of men who bargain us away, buying and selling us like cattle. The Arab people have not yet said their last word on the Arab-Jewish question. When this word has been said, it will not be one of hatred, but one of peace and brotherhood, as is suitable for two people who live in one country."
During a seminar of leading Moslems and Christians of Nazareth in March l934, as statement given to the press read: "On behalf of the majority of the property-owners and consumers, we declare that we would welcome Jewish immigration and trust that the enlightened Jews with their financial commercial associations bring."
Ziff is suggesting that the opposition to Jewish immigration to Palestine by Arabs was not nearly as widespread as conventional wisdom and standard history books on the subject has led us to believe. By the time the Peel Commission was in full swing in l937, Arab desires for rapprochment began appearing, there had begun appearing in the press Arab desires for rapprochment with the Jews. From the New York Times of August 5th, l937, we read: "For the first time in the twenty years since the Balfour Declaration, the Arabs openly censured the Palestine Government for never having attempted to bring the two peoples together."
The Arab newspaper 'Falastin,' claimed in an editorial that, "despite British allegations of an unbreachable enmity between Jews and Arabs, we cannot recall a single instance since the British occupation here when they made the slightest effort to bring the Arabs and Jews together. Pre-war Jewish residents lived here peacefully with Arabs for hundreds of years. To this day these Jews, in addition to the Arabs, maintain that if it were not for British policy of divide and rule the Arabs and Jews would again live in Palestine in peace and harmony."
On November 15th, l937 the Arab daily 'Ad-Difaa' asserted that the British Government had categorically rejected all proposals for a round-table discussion between Jews, Arabs and British, through the Jews and Arabs alike were anxious for such a meeting. After talking to all sections of the Arab population, the Near East correspondent for the New York Times reported on November 21st, that their unnaminous cry was "we've suffered enough and we don't wish to have any more trouble. May Allah curse them and cut off the lives of these intruders from the outside who are disturbing our existence."
Pamphlets were distributed in Arab villages throughout Palestine violently attacking Great Britain as being "the cause of their ruin. (pp.104)"
Dr. Gustavo Gutierrez, former President of Cuba's Chamber of Deputies, stated after his visit to the Holy Land in late l936, that he saw "no evidence of friction or disagreement between the Arab and Jewish people in Palestine," and that "if Arabs and Jews were let to their own councils they could settle the Palestine problem wisely and permanently."
Contrary to what history books tell us, there was Arab opposition to British rule- and a genuine desire to live in peace with the Jews- even as late as l937.
Describing the Arab predictment, which has not changed in the six decades since he wrote his book, in the epilogue Ziff states: "The Arabs are compelled to free themselves from the present despotic and feudal regimes under which all the Arab peoples suffer. In Arab countries, despite the paper constitutions, which exist in several of them, there is little in the way of liberty. Poverty and ignorance are endemic."
What is important about Ziff's book is that it was written close to when the events were taking place. It is a version of history that few of us who believe ourselves to be students of the "Arab-Israeli conflict" have ever come across. It is the first revisionist historical account of the role the British played in the modern Middle East in general, and in the Arab-Israeli conflict in specific. Its main premise, that the Arab-Israeli conflict was created and stoked by the British, and isn't the result of ethnic hatred of the participants, is in a sense a revolutionary new perspective in Zionist history.
If nothing more, Ziff's book should encourage the Israeli government to establish a body that aims to change all of the street names in the country that are named after British Mandate personalities. The British government was the reason why it took Israel until l948 to reach independence. Considering the state of the Yishuv's economy in l937, independence then was possible. Had the British not ruled Palestine, by l930 unrestricted Jewish immigration and the hard work and creativity of the new Jewish immigrants would have created an economy twice as large as it was at the time in 1930. The Arabs themselves acknowledge that they would have participated fully in this unprecedented economic boom.
Instead, the British government created phony Arab "radicals" like Haj Amin, to stoke the conflict. The British government was also to blame for corrupting Arab leaders and conspiring to keep all Arabs poor and their economy undeveloped.
Just as French collaborators and Nazis are still brought before tribunals and charged with "crimes against humanity" so too should members of the British colonial office who directed the overall policy in Mandated Palestine to pit the Jews and the Arabs against each other. As this policy kept the Jews from being able to help their brothers fleeing from Nazi Germany, the crime is also of Genocide.
[Joel Bainerman writes on Israeli political and economic affairs. He is the author of "Crimes of a President: New Revelations on the Conspiracy and Cover Up in the Bush and Reagan Administration," and "Inside the Covert Operations of the CIA & Israel's Mossad."]