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Thursday, August 23, 2012

James de Rothschild's pleas for fair Jewish immigration to Palestine, 1935

Another amazing find from the archives of British Parliament debates, where James Armand de Rothschild is describing how there are many illegal Arab immigrants to Palestine at the time that there were increasing restrictions on Jewish immigration, on the eve of the destruction of European Jewry. Note how he says that there are no restrictions on Arabs traveling from Transjordan to Palestine.

James Armand de Rothschild
...Here I want to touch on the subject of immigration. No one in this House can have anything but praise for the High Commissioner. ... Although it can be alleged that the present administration has been more liberal than its predecessors, there is a vast scope for increased immigration at the present time. Indeed, there is to-day a very great dearth of labour in Palestine. This question has been raised over and over again in different quarters of the House at Question Time, and there can be no doubt that the dearth of labour has led to a severe rise in wages, in prices and in the cost of living.

...This labour shortage, about which there is so much complaint, cannot be made good by Jewish workers owing to the restrictions on immigration, and I suggest that it is impossible to make it good by local Arab labour, as all local Arab labour is already fully employed at the present time. Therefore, over the last two years or so, it has been very inadequately met by an influx of Arabs from the neighbouring countries. This policy, if continued, will gradually deprive Jewish employers of Jewish labour in their colonies, and they will shortly find themselves in the same position as planters in the Far East or in South America—landlords employing cheap, inferior labour. Such a divorce between the settlers and the soil is an entire reversal of the principles on which Jewish colonisation was first begun in Palestine, and I sincerely hope that the High Commissioner will see that it is not allowed to continue.

I do not in any way criticise the Government for their policy in giving more employment to the Arabs who are natives of Palestine. This is a natural result of Jewish immigration; it has been so for the last 40 or 50 years. Jewish immigration has always proved manna to the native Arab. It has meant more work and more money for him. I wish to criticise the Palestine administration for permitting immigration from neighbouring Asiatic countries while restricting Jewish immigration. The case of Transjordan is, perhaps, the most flagrant. I should like to know what has happened to the petition which has been circulated on this subject, and which was presented to the Mandates Commission at its recent meeting. I should like to know whether on that occasion it was pointed out to the British representative that the Ordinance of 1933, which regulates immigration into Palestine, is in direct contradiction to Article 6, since not only does it not give 2088 facilities for Jewish immigration, but allows Transjordan Arabs to enter Palestine without passports, whereas no Jew is allowed to enter Transjordan whether he has a passport or not. The Ordinance of 1933 appears to be directed solely against Jews and to discriminate against them, as they alone are excluded from Transjordan, and the Transjordan Arabs are allowed into Palestine. The Government make the point, I know, that these Transjordanians are only allowed to seek work in Palestine for a short time. Everyone who has gone into the matter knows that they spend most of the year in Palestine. They go back to Transjordan for a few weeks to see their families and visit their own homes, but they return very shortly to Palestine, undercutting both Jews and Arabs.

The immigration from Transjordania is only one side of the question. There is also a great and growing number of immigrants from Hauran, which is the southernmost part of Syria, and also from Arabia and Egypt. In 1934 the Government themselves imported concrete workers from Egypt for work on Government buildings in Palestine, as if there were not enough plasterers and workers in concrete to be found in Palestine; and if there were not, why should not the Government allow entry into Palestine of the number of Jewish concrete workers and plasterers for whom the agency had asked? As regards Hauran, let me remind the House of an interview with the Governor of Hauran which appeared last August in a French paper published in Damascus called "La Syrie." The Governor in this interview said that immigration from Hauran into Palestine had taken place to the extent of between 30,000 and 40,000 Hauranis. Forty thousand had been able to settle in Palestine, he said, within the few preceding months, and he added that they had sent back considerable sums of money to their families in Hauran. These figures have never been officially and definitely contradicted. It has been alleged that they were exaggerated. That is an easy answer. Why have they not been contradicted? Everybody who goes to Palestine can see Hauranis everywhere. They are settled all over the country, in every colony and every town. Only last year the Government used 400 of these Hauranis on some of its public works in Haifa, paying them only 100 mils a 2089 day, which is a wage that no native of Palestine, whether Jew or Arab, would accept. The policy of the Government appeared on that occasion to be to grind down both the native Arabs as well as the Jews in favour of immigration from another mandated territory, and from Egypt. Both Egypt and Syria, I submit, are able to take care of their own people.

One of the causes of this Haurani immigration, we are told, is pressure from the Assyrian tax collector. The main reason is that these gentlemen can fold their tents in the night and cross the frontier without being in any way molested by the police, and with no hindrance from those who should have stopped this movement from the other side of the frontier. I know there have been a few cases of repatriation of these Arabs, but the punishment of Arab illicit immigration has only been very slight compared with that which has been meted out to the Jews. Jewish labour immigration has been curtailed to such an extent that Jews are forced to employ Arab labour which would other-wise be employed by Arabs themselves. We may consider this unjustifiable. How much more unjustifiable is a policy which compels Jews and Arabs in Palestine to employ non-Palestinian labour?

Only a few days ago we read in, the newspapers of the new wave of persecution of Jews in Germany. This is a subject upon which I have never touched in this House, and it is one that I do not want to dramatise. The tragedy, we know, is one that does not want dramatising. The moral, physical, economic persecution carried to its extreme limits is what we know of to-day. The High Commissioner appointed by the League of Nations to deal with the problem of refugees, Jewish and other, from Germany, has often said that Palestine is the only country to which these men and women can turn, owing to the economic difficulties which beset the rest of the world. To-day large numbers of young men between the ages of 17 and 25, formerly trained in the liberal professions, deprived now of their livelihood, forced to flee because of persecution, have been retrained in artisan schools in Belgium, France and Holland. For these young people there is a great demand in Palestine, but they cannot go to Palestine unless they provide £250, or unless they succeed in getting on to that very limited schedule which the Administration allows the Jewish Agency for immigration into Palestine. Similar retraining of the younger people is going on in Germany, in every town and almost every village. Is it to be wasted because these poor wretches cannot afford £250 to take them to Palestine? Are they to remain in Germany, or are they to flee to other countries? Are they to be persecuted, are they to be starved, because they have not £250 to settle in Palestine, whereas in Palestine the industries and the industrialists are clamouring for their services and their work?

There is no hope to-day for the younger generation in Germany. May I plead most earnestly that both the Minister and the High Commissioner should not be so hard-faced to these people and so indulgent to their many guests from Syria, Arabia and also from Egypt? May I plead with them for a measure of real generosity and more liberality in their policy, in view of the daily dangers which beset these men and women, and in view of their desperate situation? I said at the beginning of my remarks that we were indebted to the High Commissioner for a more liberal scale of immigration. I said that this scale of immigration was made possible only by the efforts of Jews all over the world, and especially those in Palestine. They had freely given and invested money. These efforts had been made with one object, and one object alone, and that is the further establishment of more Jews in Palestine and the furtherance of the Jewish National Home. To-day the coffers of Palestine are full of Jewish shekels. Its ports, its harbours, its orange groves, its industries are still barred to thousands of unhappy, capable, industrious Jews. I plead with the Government and the Palestine Administration that these Jews should be allowed to bring their measure of activity to the building up of a country which at present they can only cherish from afar.
Rothschild's pleas were ignored, and a few years later the British White Paper limited Jewish immigration to Palestine. The White Paper doomed hundreds of thousands of Jews, who might have otherwise been saved, to be murdered by the Nazis.