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Memorandum from Amir Abdullah to the Royal Commission in Palestine, Mar. 1937.

Royal Commission in PalestineHigh Commissioner for Trans-Jordan, Jerusalem

Secret, Reference No. TC/12/37

Sir,

I have the honour to transmit herewith, for your information, a translation of a memorandum which His Highness the Amir Abdullah handed to the Chairman of the Palestine Royal Commission on the occasion of the Commission’s visit to Amman.

I have the honour to be,

Sir,

Your most obedient,

humble servant,

J. Halhorn Hall.

Acting High Commissioner for Trans-Jordan

The Right Honourable

W.G.A. Ormsby-Gore, P.C., M.P.,

His Majesty’s Principal Secretary of State for the Colonies.

 

To The Honourable Royal Commission in Palestine.

Honourable Members,

I can feel the heavy weight of the responsibility which has been cast upon you and the mighty obstacles with which you have to deal. I have thought it expedient however, to lay before you the gist of various opinions entertained by the Arabs, their preoccupations and discussions concerning the Palestine case. When I say the Arabs and refer particularly to the Arabs in Palestine, I do not overlook their brethren in neighbouring countries, including the farthest boundaries of Arab Kingdoms and Principalities (Emirates).

All these peoples are keeping a careful and vigilant watch over the situation in Palestine owing to the unity of their feelings, their national and religious ties as well as the bond which they believe to unite their future destiny.

I hope to be the most accurate commentator on the Arabs and the most candid interpreter of their desires. As t my personal opinion I would prefer to postpone the expression thereof until some other opportunity. I do, however, wish at the outset to draw the attention of the Honourable Royal Commission to the manner in which the Arabs defined their own country and to say that this definition dates back by over 1300 years; I cannot think that any nation under the sun has inherited such a written demarcation of their countries and a definition of their various parts from such a remote period.

The clearest proof which the Arabs submit as to the authenticity of their statements is found in the description of Arabia by Abdallah Bin Abbas who was one of the prophet’s companions, his blood cousin and the jurist of the Moslem Nation.

Ibn Abbas said – –

“Arabia has been called a peninsula because it is surrounded by rivers and seas from all sides and formed into the likeness of one of the sea islands.

“The Euphrates springs from the country of the “Rum” and appears in the district of Kinsarreen and flows down on the edge of El Jezeera and most of ‘Iraq until it reaches Basra, El Abillat, thence to Abbadan. From that place the sea proceeds in a westerly direction surrounding coast such as Safwan, which lies at a distance of one stage from Bab ul Mirbid at Basra, thence to Kazima, El Kateef, Hagar, Asyaf el Bahrein Ouman and El Shahar. A section of the sea extends to Hadramant and the neighbourhood of Ibbein and then turns to the west towards Dahlak from which it continues and passes through Tahaim-El Yamen, the country of Hakam, the Ashareein and ‘Ak, next continuing to Jedda, the coast of Mecca, and to El jar, the coast of Medina, the coast of El Tor the Gulf of Esla, and the Raya coast until it reaches the Red Sea of Egypt which joins that country. The Nile comes in on the west of this branch of the sea, running from the Upper Sudan parallel with the sea until it flows into the sea of Egypt and Syria; thence the sea extends from Egypt until it reaches Palestine at the environs of Ascalon, thence to Tyre and the coast of the Jordan, Beirut and other places of the coast of Damascus continuing to the littoral of Homs and Kansarreen until it reaches the point from which the Euphrates flows down along the edges of Kansarreen and El Jezira”.

I do not wish to go beyond this limitation and to quote what the Arab Historians of old said about Palestine in that it was the dwelling place of the Amalakites and their tribes and even the Hyksos Kings who conquered and occupied Egypt for sometime; I would only say that ever since the foundation of the Arab Kingdom in its true sense as defined by Ibn Abbas, the Arabs were settled in and never left their country, Palestine. Subsequent wars which raged for hundreds of years could not deprive them of Palestine nor terminate their existence therefrom. On the contrary they continued to live in that country for ages without interruption.

A nation whose belief in their country is thus with such a history and period of occupation cannot admit the claims of any alien to rights therein, whoever they may be.

The Jews did not originate in Palestine neither was it their birth place; they invaded it from outside as did other foreign invaders, they fought the Philistines from whom they wrenched a portion of the land on which they settled for a limited period. They were later expelled from the country by the sword in the same way as they entered it, and the conquering nations occupied the land until the rightful people restored the land.

Therefore the Arabs cannot find any historical justification for the claim of the Jews to reside in Palestine as of right.

The Arabs regained the country from the Romans and remained in possession thereof, uninterruptedly, until the present day; they will never move an inch therefrom.

Moreover, the Arabs cannot understand how a claim could be made to a country in which the Jews settled in the manner I have explained above and from which they were expelled about two thousand years ago, and then comes the recent policy and states that such a claim is legal.

I wonder what International law would admit the legality of such a remote claim and how the nations of the world would fare if this theory was adopted, including the British Empire itself and the Nations which form the League of Nations.

Should the Arabs pass from the historical to the social aspect, there is no intelligent individual amongst them who would not express disapproval of the conduct of the Jews who were persecuted at all times and yet failed to take a lesson or to benefit from experience. The Arabs, have before them the examples of the events which have befallen the Jews recently in German and Poland and what other Great nations are about to do in that respect.

Therefore, since the Jews failed to assimilate with the civilized and educated nations with which they lived for hundreds of years, speaking their languages and even interbreeding and, despite all this, remained a unit detached from the community as a whole as a result of which persecution befell them and their co-patriots compelled them to seek another Home, why then should the Arabs accept that which others have rejected and do what others found intolerable. Moreover, how could the Jews mix with the Arabs and associate with them after it had been proved to each Nation amongst which the Jews lived that it was useless to be in close relation with them and that fraternization with them was impossible.

The Jews contend that the Balfour Declaration accords them a National Home in Palestine. This might have been admissible legally and reasonably had Palestine been an uninhabited desert; but Palestine was inhabited when that Declaration was made and had “its original inhabitants” as stated in the Declaration. Therefore, what right ahs any nation to decide arbitrarily the fate of another country and grant it to others when the original inhabitants are yet alive?

The World war was waged on the principal that “Right is Might” not “Might is Right”. I do not know how the Nations would receive in future the declarations of the Great Powers regarding their objects in waging any new war which may take place, and what the attitude of those people would be in regard to such declarations after they had such a cruel experience.

Balfour did not limit the extent of his Declaration at all, but left it free from any time limit. It appears that he intended that it should continue to be applied for ever or until such time as there would remain not a single Arab in Palestine, as the Jews say, when they will be able to drive the Arabs from their country and to establish a Jewish Kingdom on their ruins. All this is due to the bounty of Balfour who was charitable out of another’s possessions without that other party being ware or have a say in the matter.

The reasonable Arab politicians believe that the Balfour Declaration is the chief obstacle to the possibility of an association between the Arabs and Jews. The fact is that the Jews became conceited through that Declaration and this led them to exceed all reasonable bounds and fill the world with threats against the Arabs vaunting their Zionist dreams, basing themselves on the Balfour Declaration and on the fact that the spears of England are at the disposal of the Jews which they can use to stab the Arabs and so establish their alleged Kingdom.

Those Jews have forgotten that there is another nation in Palestine, that is the Arab Nation, which has its own honour, religion and history and that those privileges which Balfour gave them in charity cannot wipe out the Arabs from Palestine, no matter what magic or power they attribute to them.

The Jews should have sought to be friendly to that nation and to win its confidence and not alarm it by their screaming. They ought to have appreciated, from the humane and logical point of view, the heavy blow aimed at the Arabs by the competition in their own country of the Jews; the Jews should not have become arrogant and frozen every feeling in the Arabs. Arab politicians believe that had it not been for the Balfour Declaration the Jews would have been nearer to an understanding and some of their desires might have been nearer to realization. At this point I would call the attention of the Honourable Commission to the fact that the hatred with which the Jews were met in European countries was not so common in either Islamic or the Arab World where they had a welcome place; but after the Balfour Declaration was issued followed by certain of their statements, the Jews lost the sympathy which the Arabs felt towards them. That was all due to the ill-effects of the Balfour Declaration. This is really a regrettable and painful result.

It is strange that the Balfour Declaration was made in favour of a people which had no previous political status in Palestine; it was similar to a birth certificate issued before the child was born.  Only the Arabs were in Palestine and, in the circumstances, how could it be justifiable to make a declaration in favour of a strange people and in respect to a land in which they were not settled and, at the same time, to deprive the legitimate owner of that land of his rights.  At the time of the Declaration, Palestine was considered to be an Occupied Enemy Territory, a title which could not be granted heedlessly and which in Arab eyes is inconsistent with such a queer and irregular Declaration.

Here also it behoves me to remind the Members of the Royal Commission of a serious matter and that is- the Arabs demand the fulfillment of the written pledges which were given to them through my late father, the King, in accordance with which they shed their blood in the Great War from the furthest corners of the Hedjaz to Aleppo and facilitated to the Army of Lord Allenby the free and undisturbed advance in a country where his Forces were secure and not obliged to contend with the conditions which Armies usually have to face when in enemy territory. The Arabs still believe that Great Britain has many obligations to discharge and that over and above the Balfour Declaration a commitment, arising from active cooperation from the beginning o the War until Armistice, was incurred. Moreover, this pledge preceded the Balfour Declaration and was confirmed later, through the joint declaration which was given by Great Britain and France in 1918.

Therefore, the Balfour Declaration falls between two groups of pledges, preceding and succeeding it, and the Arabs are at a loss to know how it has been destined to remain in existence, since it falls between two mill stones.

The Arabs believe, and circumstances strengthen their belief, that the British Government in the Administration of Palestine consider only one aspect of its pledges and that is “to place the country in a political, administrative and economic situation which will secure the establishment of a Jewish National Home therein”.

What existence then remains for the Arabs, so menaced, as we have seen, in their political, administrative and economic affairs?

If the Arabs look back to their position in Palestine before the War and to what they had attained after the War and note this great influx of Jews which in 14 years attained a number which took the Arabs 14 centuries to reach, they would be entitled to tremble before this sudden death which threatens them and to wonder what would become of them in future.

That part of the Mandate to which I have referred is one which the Government has by act and by deed carried out and adopted various means for its fulfillment, but the provisions of the mandate regarding the original inhabitants are still “ink on paper”.

The Mandate, for example, refers to the establishment of a Government independent of the Mandatory Power under the title of the Government of the country. Where is this Government which should make arrangements with the Mandatory Power regarding several matters (vide Article 13)? Let us see then what Article 17 says about this Government regarding the Army and Air Force, for example. Has the mandatory Power encouraged local autonomy and self Government provided for in the Mandate, in as much as it has encouraged immigration in all its categories and phases?

Then again, Article 6 of the Mandate provides that the Palestine Government should guarantee that the rights and position of all sections of the population should not be prejudiced and that the Jewish immigration should be under “suitable conditions”.

Has the Government given any regard to this Article, in so far as the prejudicing of the peoples’ rights and position and the introduction of “suitable conditions” are concerned.

The Mandatory Power, in the opinion of the Arabs, has been extremely partial in protecting the interests of the Jews, whom it called Palestinians by force and gave them Palestine Citizenship when they were far away in their respective countries and before their feet touched or their eyes saw Palestine, whether they were Poles, Russians or of other countries. The mandatory still continues to exert itself in their favour beyond the limits even of the Balfour Declaration; it invented a new principle which was added to that Declaration and which it called “the absorptive capacity”.

As it took upon itself to invent this principle it also took upon itself its interpretation without the consultation of the Arabs, as it considers itself bound by the opinion of the Jewish Agency which is recognised as representing the Jews. As to the Arabs, the Administration never gave a thought as to who should represent them or state their opinion, but left them to the mercy of fate.

The Arabs give the following proof to show that the Mandatory Power only concerns itself with the Jewish case; the number of Jewish immigrants which entered Palestine during 14 years was 100,000 or a little more and the country was groaning under this influx. When the Arabs complained and three British Commissions investigated the reasons which led the Arabs to act as they did and the Commissions returned to England and submitted their reports in favour of the original inhabitants, the Government did nothing and allowed the influx of immigration into Palestine to continue to the extent that in the course of only four years 300,000 Jewish immigrants entered Palestine in addition to the previous 100,000.

Then again, the immigration which the Government calls “Illegal Immigration” and by which it means those Jews who enter Palestine clandestinely and without its knowledge, has also exceeded all reasonable limits and was almost equal to the “legal immigration”.

What did the Government do in the circumstances? Did it diminish the number of permits to balance the two kinds of immigration, or did it deport those who entered illegally? No, it magnanimously increased the number of permits, and immigration, both legal and illegal, continued to flow into the country. How then could the Arabs be asked to be reassured or have confidence that they are not on the threshold of their country and that in a very short period they will be ejected from that threshold out of the door into the open air?

The Arabs have very often called the attention of the British Government, especially before the recent disturbances in Palestine, to the recommendations which the British experts and British Enquiry commissions unanimously made and to the necessity of respecting British obligations towards the Arabs, even those prescribed in the Mandate, and to remember that the Arabs have a natural right in their own country and a national existence which has become menaced with extinction. Furthermore, the Arabs believe that the Balfour Declaration has been fulfilled in Palestine as the Jews have already their own towns and villages as well as their language and a great number of officials in the various Government Departments. To exceed this means making Palestine all-Jewish and not making a National Home in it for the Jews. Therefore, no Arab, no matter how reasonable and moderate he may be and no matter how far he participates with those who support the Balfour Declaration in their sympathy towards the Jews, can but advise that a “halt” should be called and that not one step further should be attempted.

During the World War and afterwards the Arabs proved that they were loyal friends to Great Britain. The later vicissitudes have increased their belief in this and their loyalty to the British Empire has become a traditional and firm policy in their Kingdom of Iraq, their Emirate in Trans-Jordan, the Kingdoms of Arabia and the Yemen as well as in all other Emirates; Koweit, Bahrein, Omman and other Arab Chieftainships. On the Mediterranean and Red Sea littorals, surrounded as they are by millions of the Islamic world they look up to Great Britain with reliance and confidence; they believe that this Empire would not lose all these relations by sacrificing Palestine to the Jews, who have already attained their desire by establishing a National Home in Palestine in the shortest possible time, and thus open a deep wound in the breasts of both the Arab and Moslem Worlds. In doing so Great Britain would be tampering with the Moslem’s sensitive nerve. As to the possible danger to Great Britain’s interests from Jewish power and Jewish deceits there is no better proof against such sophistry than the fact that the Jews have not been able to take any effective step against any other nation which has ejected them from its country and is still scattering them all over the world. Imperial interests are beyond being affected by them and the proof is apparent every where. When however the Arabs refer to Imperial interests, they include themselves as well since they are tied to the British Empire by firm bonds and they stand, in accordance with alliance, geographical position and mutual interests, with the Empire in this world, which is full of anxiety and unrest, on the verge of either life or death. As for me I will continue to work for the maintenance of the friendly relations between Great Britain and the Arab and Moslem world as I desire them to be, and as they should be; firm, loyal and free from every blemish. I call upon the Arabs to safeguard these relations and in doing so I do not exclude their friends, the British, from my appeal.

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