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by Israel Kasnett


While the Arab-Israeli conflict today is a diplomatic and military one, it is also composed of a third element — the media. Not being confined, the media debate has spread throughout the internet, online newspapers, online journals and of course, blogs.

Although contributors to online blogs and threads often offer nothing more than rubbish and repartee, there exists a lively and healthy debate on the Arab-Israeli conflict. One of the main points of contention on most blogs and discussions I have seen center around one issue. Pro-Palestinian writers claim that in 1948, Israel appropriated Palestinian lands and villages to create their own cities and agricultural communities. Pro-Israel writers offer good counterpoints but these are often insufficient to properly negate the argument and win the debate.

Debaters from both sides of the argument often use sources gleaned from political, left or right-wing sources and this damages the quality of the argument since the proofs brought are often nothing more than the biased views of extreme groups. When making an argument, it is important to find credible information from sources that cannot be attributed to a specific political slant.

The first part of the argument that Zionists stole Palestinian land can refer to the British Mandate period before the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. Arab absentee landowners owned most of the land eventually used by the UN to create the State of Israel and their willingness to sell the land to Jews demonstrates evident disinterest in maintaining ownership over it.

Furthermore, Arab governments displaced their own populations in far greater numbers than the Jews displaced Palestinian Arabs up until the 1930's. Jews were careful not to buy land in areas that would cause Arab displacement and instead bought uncultivated land in remote areas. Israeli leaders at the time discouraged Jews from displacing Arabs and placed heavy importance on a continued Arab presence in the land.

In January of 1937, Ben Gurion testified before the Palestine Royal Commission in which he said, "We will work it out together, and we will see to it that not a single Arab cultivator is displaced, but he should not only remain, but his conditions should be improved, and, by intensification, new room should be created for new Jewish settlers."

However, even with this proposed cooperation, Arabs often sold their land to Jews when they decided to move elsewhere or when they needed the money to invest in promising Jewish-owned business projects.

THE PEEL COMMISSION OF 1937 FOUND ARAB CLAIMS THAT JEWS STOLE THEIR LAND AS BASELESS. Land shortages were due more in part to massive Arab immigration to Palestine from other Arab countries than to Jewish land purchases. Chapter IX of the Peel Commission states,

"The shortage of land is due less to purchase by Jews than to the increase in the Arab population. The Arab claims that the Jews have obtained too large a proportion of good land cannot be maintained. Much of the land now carrying orange groves was sand dunes or swamps and uncultivated when it was bought."

Whereas the British resigned much of Palestine to be "uninhabitable," the Jews took this "barren wasteland," drained the swamps and "made the desert bloom." Many of the Jewish-owned citrus groves at the time were situated on sand dunes viewed by the British as "uncultivable."

It is without doubt that the Jews, in their quest to purchase and acquire more land, did not take any land from Arabs unlawfully. Furthermore, Arab absentee landlords living elsewhere and real estate brokers sold their land to Jews at an inflated cost.

As of today, not a single person representing the pro-Palestinian view has been able to contradict this reality using any official documentation, land data or historical records.

Furthermore, the Peel Commission admitted that Arabs on the whole, benefited from a growing Jewish presence in the land as they brought economic prosperity and stability to Palestine and its inhabitants.

"The Arab population shows a remarkable increase since 1920, and it has had some share in the increased prosperity of Palestine. Many Arab landowners have benefited from the sale of land and the profitable investment of the purchase money. The fellaheen are better off on the whole than they were in 1920. This Arab progress has been partly due to the import of Jewish capital into Palestine and other factors associated with the growth of the National Home. In particular, the Arabs have benefited from social services which could not have been provided on the existing scale without the revenue obtained from the Jews."


UP UNTIL 1948, THE PALESTINIAN ARAB POPULATION GREW APPROXIMATELY 120 PERCENT. This population growth occurred in tandem with Palestinian Jewish population growth and for reasons often overlooked. Jewish immigration and subsequent economic growth in Palestine led to increased Arab immigration from other countries by those seeking economic opportunity. Many Arabs at the time wandered around the Middle East seeking sustenance and a means to support their families.

Arab claims that they were displaced from their homes after living there generation after generation for thousands of years were baseless and fabricated. Most Arabs living in Palestine prior to 1948 had come from Arab lands in search of subsistence and had not been in Palestine for more than a few years.

In addition, the Jews cleared unused land, drained swamps in the Jezreel Valley and surrounding areas and in doing so, helped rid the country of its widespread malaria problem. They established medical clinics, improved water supplies and developed better solutions to deal with sanitation. All this, directly led to better health, higher standard of living, longer life expectancy and a lower infant mortality rate.

It is clear that Arab complaints against Jews were, for the most part, politically motivated, and did not reflect the reality in Palestine at the time. In comparison to their lives in Arab countries or the situation in Palestine before massive Jewish immigration, Arabs saw a consistently increased improvement in their standard of living, overall health and improved economic stability — all while cultivating their own land.


Israel Kasnett lives in Israel and is a pro-Israel advocate and political strategist. This article was published July 20, 2008 in Neo Constant


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