Ken Stein, July 1999
These Palestinian Arab newspaper materials and other quotations about Arab land sales to the Zionists during the British Mandate were first read and collected at the National Library at the Hebrew University on the Givat Ram campus in 1971-1973. Again, more materials were accumulated in the summer of 1978 in the course of collecting data for my first book, The Land Question in Palestine, 1917-1939, University of North Carolina Press, 1984, pp. 180-184. Materials from the Colonial Office and the Central Zionist Archives also quoted below were also collected at the same time. Items provided here are only a small sample from the literally, hundreds of articles that were published in the 1931-1939 period that\which focused on the life of the fellaheen, their economic difficulties, personal tribulations, political issues of the moment, and relationships with the British, Zionists, and others in Arab society. A common key finding surrounding land was that Palestinian Arabs voiced their trepidation and anger about lands that were passing out of their hands, about what would happen to them as lands passed into Jewish ownership, through buyers or via brokers and intermediaries. Moreover, corroboration comes from British and Zionists officials who understood the land sphere in Palestine during the Mandate.
al-Ikdam, 19 January 1931- ‘We are selling our lands to Jews without any remorse. Land brokers are busy day and night with their odious trade without feeling any shame. In the meantime, the nation is busy sending protests. Where are we going? One looks at the quantity of Arab lands transferred daily to Jewish hands, [one] realizes that we are bound to go away from this country. But where shall we move to Egypt, Hijaz, or Syria? How could we live there, since we would have sold the lands of our fathers and ancestors to our enemies? Nobody could show us mercy or pity, when we to go away from our country, because we would have lost her with our own hands.
al-Hayat, 23 January 1931 ‘The Tulkarm Arabs are busy selling their lands to Jews through the mediation of certain brokers’.
al-Jami’ah al-Arabiyyah, 29 October 1931, “One Abu Khadra stated that his financial condition was so bad at the beginning of 1929 that he decided to sell his land. Before doing so, he saw al-Hajj Amin and Jamal al-Husayni, but they were ultimately unable to help the man. In the meantime Abu Khadra was declared bankrupt in Jaffa, and he accepted the price for his land by the Jewish Ahuza Company… Abu Khadra said, ‘All my efforts with Arab bodies whom I requested to buy the land in question had failed. This convinced me that the activities of our national organizations are confined to writing articles and to uttering boastful words.”
Filastin, 7 January 1932, “At the Fourth Session of the Arab Youth’s Conference held in January 1932, the following resolution among others was passed. “The whole of Palestine is holy Arab land and whoever endeavors, allows, or helps to sell all or any part of these lands to the Jews will be considered as one who committed high treason.”
al-Jami’ah al-Islamiyyah, 21 August 1932. ‘…because the Jews are alert, and our leaders are asleep, the Jews are buying the lands’.
al-Jami’ah al-Islamiyyah, 2 September 1932. ‘The Arab will never regard these sales as legal although the Jews possess the titles to these lands; and when political conditions change, the Arabs will demand that their lands be given back to them because they were sold in very extraordinary [circumstances]’.
al-Jami’ah al-Arabiyyah, 16 September 1932. There is no doubt that the question of the sale of land is about one of the greatest dangers that threatens the future of the country.
Filastin, 5 August 1933. ‘If the government seriously cared for the interest of the masses, it would prohibit land transactions which prejudice the fellaheen and cause them more harm than any number of successive bad seasons’.
al-Jami’ah al-Arabiyyah, 24 May 1934. ‘The situation is unbearable and our lands are now falling on easy prey into the hands of the raiders. The brokers are increasing every day among various classes of rich and poor people who have been dazzled by the Zionist gold’.
al-Difa’, 5 November 1934. The newspaper attacked land brokers and noted that ‘those who adopted this profession [land brokers] aim at becoming rich and at collecting money even if they take it from the lives of the country… Is it human that the covetous should store capital to evict the peasant from his land and make him homeless or even sometimes a criminal? The frightened Arab who fears for his future today melts from fear when he imagines his offspring as homeless and as criminals who cannot look at the lands of their fathers’.
al-Jami’ah al-Arabiyyah, 16 January 1935. The newspaper attacked illegal brokerage of land and those doctors and lawyers who looked for profit and disregarded every national cause.
al-Difa’, 25 March 1935. An article reported, ‘If you sellers of land and brokers try to give back their money to the Jews, will they give back our land? They will never do it because land lasts forever and God created it, while money does not last and Satan created it’.
Al-Jam’iah al-Islamiyyah, 22 January 1936. ‘It is on our leader’s shoulders that our calamity of land sales lies. They themselves as well their relatives were guilty of selling lands to the Jews”.
14 June 1940. “….the Arab landowner [needed] to be protected against himself, ” Remarks by Sir John Shuckburgh, British Colonial Office official, 14 June 1940, Colonial Office, Record Group 733/425/75872, Part 2.
10 April 1945. “…evasions of the [Land Transfer] Regulations can only occur with the acquiescence if not the connivance of that section of the population which the Regulations were designed to protect.” Letter for Sir William James Fitzgerald (British official in Chief Secretariat of Palestine) to Chief Secretary of the Palestine Administration, 10 April 1945, Israel State Archives, Box M397, SF215/40 Folio 166.
24 April 1945. “The JNF were being inundated with offers from Arab sellers and made isolated contracts for completion of purchases after the war in full assurance that the (LTR)regulations would be repealed with HMG have sufficient time to apply itself to the subject.” Letter from Director of Land Registrations to Chief Secretary of the Palestine Administration, 24 April 1945, Israel State Archives, Box M397, SF 215/40 Vol.1
November 1945. Land Transfer Inquiry Committee Report, Palestine Administration,
10 November 1946. “…the potential for land purchase has not decreased. The potential remains each year at 200-250 thousand dunams. It can clearly be determined that the source of land in the country has not run out…, it can be concluded that the will to sell in the Arab camp hasn’t decreased. If there were no obstacles set up in our way, we could purchase land without restraint. ” Remarks of Joseph Weitz, Jewish National Fund official “A Meeting of those dealing in buying lands for the JNF,” November 10, 1946, Central Zionist Archives, Record Group S25/ file 6560.
3February 1948. “Because of the present (political) situation there is a temporary break in relations between us (JNF) and the owner of land and Arab sellers; but the contacts between us (JNF) and them is not broken. They are seeking to sell land because they are in financial distress and need the money. Indeed there are no possibilities to transfer today their land to the name of the JNF at the land registry office as it was once possible.” Remarks by Joseph Weitz, ‘Land Purchase Situation.” Protocol of a JNF Directorate Meeting, 3 February 1948, Central Zionist Archives, Record Group KKL10.