Palestine: An Impasse?

"The two enemies of peace in the Holy Land are fanaticism and fear."


From Jerusalem to Bethlehem is a pleasant five-mile walk. If one starts an hour before sunrise he can reach the old monastery at the top of the hill looking down on both cities in time to see day break over the mountains of Moab and the Dead Sea. At this hour the contours of the tumbled wilderness which wastes away from the stubble of the near-by fields to the denuded rocks of the lower valley are sharply visible in the contrast of light and shadow. Motor traffic has not yet begun on the highroad. Only the rural Arabs are abroad, bringing their market truck to town on donkeys or camels. Here at the Crusader's rampart, or farther on at the tomb of Rachel, one can still summon the illusion of antiquity, and find the landscape a fit setting for those occasional authentic spots whereon the historical sense dwells with that peculiar satisfaction which for many millions of souls, Jewish, Christian, and Moslem, constitutes the primary meaning of Palestine.

But even now there are disturbing notes. A cluster of red-tiled roofs belonging to a group of bungalows whose wide windows reply sharply to the first glance of the sun betoken a new settlement, European in architecture and surroundings. The Arab villages, poor as they are, belong to the hillsides out of which they grow. These new colonies, clean and well-appointed, strike one as exotic; involuntarily one asks, 'Why are they here?' There is a pride about them, a challenge, a stir, as if some gong of modernity were sounding from them; and the spirit of Palestine, stirring also, but trying to listen to other sounds, seems to respond reluctantly, 'Must I, too, go this way, and become altogether one with these?'

Here speaks the temperamental antithesis between the new Zionist and the Arab; and in such undefined contrasts lie the germs of political conflict.

Nowhere else in the world is an overt political clash so clearly the surface play of forces before which politics is helpless. Diplomacy would like to wash its hands of the matter. We see Great Britain, the mandatory, passing a critical decision to the League, and the League hesitating to accept responsibility!

There are no precedents in the case; and therein lies its persistent hold on our interest. Some long-drawn struggles make us weary—the endless cross-pulling of patent self-interests. Some enlist our chivalry, as cases of right against might. Some command a deeper concern—the conflict of two rights, two equally justifiable ideals, which the facts somehow have made incompatible; these contain the essence of tragedy, for without sacrifice on one side, or on both, there is no solution. This is the case in Palestine, for here are two corporate streams of hope which we rudely describe as 'national,' each with a valid claim on our sympathy, while both cannot be realized. And no political power dares deny either the right to life.

It is futile to try the case on the basis of the promises and declarations of Great Britain. Her fumbling efforts to give shape and limit to the conflicting hopes are pertinent, but secondary. The aspirations of Jew and Arab have not been created by any Balfour Declaration or by any Hussein-MacMahon correspondence. They spring out of the new life running in two great peoples, encouraged by all that has been said and thought since war time about the rights of national movements. It is not Great Britain alone, it is the entire Western half of the world which is involved in the dilemma. Britain, to be sure, is in the further plight of having committed herself to both sides—first of all to the Arab—and of having received from both sides a substantial quid pro quo. But this unhappy position becomes a crucial one only because the pressure of demand comes from populations who know little and care less about the letter of written agreements.

Britain has to deal not with what she has promised, but with what masses of Jews and Arabs think she ought to have promised. The Arab populations in Palestine and behind Palestine are thinking in terms of their desired kingdom with its western verge on the Mediterranean Sea. The Zion-minded Jews the world over, knowing Palestine only through the mirage of tradition, dream, and hortatory eloquence, think of their rights in that land in terms of their ideal Jewish community, united and free. These masses are the drive and heft of two immense animated wedges whose sharp ends cross and contend in Jerusalem. Let us then disregard for the moment the political entanglement and go at once to the centre of the matter, the logic of the opposing ideals.


Zionism is no ordinary national movement. For many Jews it embodies in one concrete programme the entire social and religious idealism of this people. Zion, the ultimate symbol of Jewish vision, concentrates into itself the intense longing of the intensest of human races. The Jews are not now a nation so much as a people pregnant with nationality. Zionism is to be the birth of this latent nation, and every Jew is to know the reanimating influence of what a part of Jewry thus realizes.

Why should Jews, international in fact and spirit, wish to add one more to the number of national boundaries and rivalries in the world? The answer is, they do not. They wish only to incorporate a distinction which exists, and to give it a regular status in which it can work for human understanding rather than for prejudice and dislike. No one who is not a Jew could venture to say how strong to-day is that conviction of a separate historic mission implied in the Biblical idea of the chosen people. But wholly apart from this, the international Jew knows, as few know, the value of a 'national home.' It is no mere place of refuge; it is not merely a satisfaction for an obscure homing instinct on the part of a homeless people. It is at once a religious goal and a profound psychological promise. For it means that through well-rounded occupational activity the Jew will find, and will show himself to the world, a complete personality. It is Jewish self-consciousness that speaks through Zionism: 'At present we are not, as a people, farmers, mechanics, soldiers, engineers, statesmen, sportsmen. We have been obliged by our anomalous situation as permanent strangers to specialize in a few directions. Henceforth we shall be everything, develop every human aptitude and power in our own measure, and so meet the calumny that we are in our souls part-men, cunning and parasitic. On the soil of our fathers we shall become what we are, renew our cultural fertility, and repay mankind blessing for persecution.' This is a programme whose conception compels admiration. Further, its significance is unique: there are no near parallels in law or in history.

What would he necessary to realize this idea?

For the religious side of it, Palestine. Palestine, restored as a centre of Jewish culture and worship. If Zion is to be a geographical fact, and not merely an ideal condition, no other place on earth will serve. Sophisticated religion tends to turn its primitive concepts into allegories, and Zion might be thought of as a Jewish counterpart of the Kingdom of Heaven, a poetic symbol for the final state of social evolution without specific locus. But orthodoxy is concrete in its imagination, and gives Zion a body as well as a soul. Medieval Jewish mystics, renewing the ancient splendor of rabbinical learning, tried to transplant their schools to Tiberias and Safed. And to this day that element of realism is faithfully continued. In a current textbook of Jewish religion one reads:

By the Messianic time or 'the Days of the Anointed,' the chief of our national hopes, we mean (1) the days of the restoration of Israel to the Holy Land, the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem, the resumption of the Divine service therein, and the return of the Divine Glory to Zion; (2) the days of the universal cessation of warfare and the highest development of all human virtues and happiness.  The universal human hope is there, but the distinctive hope of Israel requires the physical and historic Jerusalem. For the material and social sides of the programme various conditions are necessary, some of which unhappily do not exist in Palestine. We have to reckon with an inexhaustible moral enthusiasm; we have also to reckon with the facts.

A great community must have its economic rootage. Nothing qualifies Palestine for this role except the courage with which Zionists have faced the uphill struggle with a meager and thirsty land. Palestinian soil will support a close settlement having European standards of living only with the application of a maximum of capital, a maximum of labor, and the science of the twentieth century, added to agricultural talent, skill, and experience. Zionism is resolutely prepared to supply the capital, the labor, and the science, and to acquire the rest. Its spirit is magnificent, many of its results remarkable; it is not for any outside observer to cry impossible. But it is necessary to consider the costs of success. Some of these we can discern by the aid of figures now available. Author's Note: 'Palestine has not yet been adequately surveyed. The official survey now going forward may require eight years to complete. The hasty 'once-over' of lots, made under Lloyd George's government, is no longer of value except for the purposes of a shifty politician. In what follows I shall rely chiefly on a Jewish source, the report (1928) of the Joint Palestine Survey Commission, using round numbers and making my own inferences from its careful data.

The Jews in Palestine are now about one sixth of the entire population, 150,000 in 900,000 in round numbers. Their holdings of land, individual and corporate, amount to a quarter of a million acres more or less—not a vast estate among so many. What fraction is this of the entire area of Palestine? In literal truth, hardly a twentieth; for Palestine has five and a half million acres all told; and one might unwarily conclude that the Jews in Palestine have far less than their proportionate share of the land. Figures could hardly tell a more misleading tale.

About half of the total area of Palestine is reckoned as cultivable. And of this half barely more than a third—that is, one sixth of the whole area—with irrigation and drainage, can be considered fairly good valley land, including both light and heavy soils. The Joint Palestine Survey Commission estimates a million acres (4,144,800 dunums) in this class of good valley land, including in this category the coastal plains. Noting that the major Jewish land holdings are of the best valley and coastal land, it appears that Jews now hold nearly one fourth of that scanty fraction of the soil of Palestine which can be considered as fairly good for agriculture.

But we must again consider: it is not 150,000 Jews who are engaged in agriculture, but only some 30,000; the rest are urban. It is one thirtieth of the population that are holding that quarter of the best land, and it is not enough for them—by far not enough.

For the average farm of 100 dunums (say, twenty-three acres) in the Emek or Plain of Esdraelon—probably as good land as Palestine can show—is proving insufficient for a Jewish family, with its relatively high standard of living. The Joint Survey Commission proposes sixty acres for a minimum dry farm. This would more than double the demand on land for the present group of farmers. But, again, that group is obviously too small a proportion of the total Jewish community, especially in a land which sustains no important industries. If the present community were divided evenly between farm and town, we should need once more to double our land requirement. And thus, without any further immigration into Palestine, all of the best land would be requisitioned!  This is a rude estimate. But no correction can alter the essential truth it intends to convey—the extraordinary pressure for more land which Zionism even now creates; the disproportionate draft on the best soil—for the Jew, as new to agriculture, would feel himself too much handicapped with any other than the best soil. How can this draft be met?

Article six of the mandate was written, without adequate survey, in a spirit of hopeful vagueness. This article speaks of 'state lands and waste lands' which may be made available for settlement. This sanguine phrase has become a current myth. State lands there are, and waste lands in plenty; but by far the greatest part of the waste is unreclaimable, and the state lands are not, as a rule, vacant. They are, generally speaking, fields or pastures whose use was paid for as a tax to the Ottoman treasury rather than as a rental to private landlords. The occupants hold them, under the shiftless methods of Turkish registry (chifilik happens to be their word for it), without recorded title, but with a customary tenure which cannot be disregarded. No doubt many shaky claims have been trumped up by unsettled Arabs making capital of British scruples for precise justice. But when all this is discounted, the amount of usable vacancy in Palestine is but a crumb for a hungry man. Zionist land at present grows chiefly as it has grown—by purchase from private owners. Picture the situation, in one or two actual cases:

'The most important single irrigable area in the Jordan Valley is to be found in and around the marshes of Lake Huleh. This land is of exceptional fertility. Two obstacles stand in the way of this reclamation. One is the heavy cost [of engineering the drainage] . . . the other is the acquiring of title to the land.' Estimate suggests that $468 per acre will overcome both obstacles.

Or again. 'The coastal plain from Haifa to Gaza is probably the finest citrus-growing area in the world. This area is comparatively densely populated.' In other words, Arabs are here and have been raising fine oranges on this soil for years. But further irrigation is possible; and note: 'The only perennial stream of any importance is the Audja . . . the right of irrigating from which has been conceded to the Palestine Electric Corporation.'

Under such circumstances it must be excessively hard for the Zionist to refrain from coveting his neighbor's land. Collectively speaking, he has the money. The Arab on the land is commonly poor: he is either a tenant cultivator whose livelihood may be sold over his head by an absentee landlord (a process now happily checked) or he is an owner to whom a mounting price may become an irresistible temptation. At first it could be assumed that at some figure or other land could be bought. But now the corporate apprehension of the Arabs crosses private transactions: campaigns for ostracism are occasionally started in the press against the would-be seller. And apart from this, the process has an evident limit.

For while in twelve years the Jewish population has increased through immigration and natural growth by one hundred thousand, the non-Jewish population has increased through natural growth alone by roughly one hundred and twenty thousand. The Arabs are not melting away before the Jewish influx—they are merely moving from the better land to the poorer. They see thirty thousand Jews, one thirtieth of the population, holding one fourth of the fertile land and requiring much more. They see a large share of the wealth of the world, backed by British power, abetting this growing acquisition. They reasonably foresee and fear that it would not be too much for a successful Zion if all the exploitable land of Palestine were to become Jewish property, leaving to the growing Arab majority the two million acres of rocky waste.


Let us suppose this economic difficulty surmounted. Note simply that, to accomplish this, the settlements must have every advantage, including the intensive application of modern methods, the spread of electric power and motor roads. Industry must be developed wherever possible, with a sprinkling of small shops and factories. The landscape of Palestine, already marred, must take the consequences.

Let us leave out of account also the dismaying difference in temper and spirit between the newer immigrants from Eastern Europe and the older Jewish residents, the fifty-five thousand Jews of the pre-war period and the devoted Zionist pioneers. One must speak here from impressions, since there are no statistics of the hearts of men. To me it appeared that the new arrivals are commonly devoid of religion except the social gospels of the oppressed; that they hope much from the future, but are free from sentimental attachment to the past, whether Jewish or other. In that ill-omened march to the Wailing Wall of a year ago, they carried, not the means of worship, but the Zionist flag! If the soil has any sacredness to the piety of Moslem, Jew, or Christian, they show but a subconscious awareness of it, and are ready to disfigure Palestine unconcernedly with the marks of a Western experimental civilization. Their hope is to enrich the world by demonstrating some advantageous novelty in social order, education, literature, drama.  Zionism will be justified, they think, in proportion as it hastens to 'contribute.' It is no light task to make these emancipated spirits into a moral unity with those who see that Zionism is justified in Palestine only for those to whom Palestine is a holy land.

But let us suppose this task also accomplished. There remains the social-political side of a truly national home. This side is essential—perhaps from the psychological point of view the chief essential; for of all the human functions it is just this one of running his own nation of which the Jew, whose genius is the Law, has in his dispersion most keenly felt himself deprived. And it is just this side which in Palestine is most demonstrably incapable of achievement.

For how can the social and political spirit of any people express itself without a connected community, and without that community under its own control?

Physically speaking, Zion in Palestine is a dappling of separate settlements, interspersed with far greater numbers and areas of alien elements. Further land purchases on a large scale might mend to some extent this physical brokenness. But when will a Jew be able to stand on any hill in Palestine and say of the land in sight, 'This is ours'? Not until the 660,000 Moslems and 80,000 Christians are required to cede the ground. With four Moslems to one Jew, and the Moslems not inclined to go, what can happen? Double the number of Jews: the Moslems are still two to one. Give the Jews all the good land: the Moslems are still all about, on the hillsides and in the rocky pastures. The Jews remain a physically scattered minority.

But what of that? This group of detached patches on the map has already a unified political life of its own. There is an official Jewish Community, with powers of taxing and making rules for its own voluntary membership; there are Jewish representative bodies, organs of national thought and will. Can we not imagine this complex but lively organization a budding political entity, and the present Government of Palestine a temporary protecting mantle, to be withdrawn as the new state-within-a-state gains in numbers, consistency, and strength? The land would thus quietly come under Jewish control, either as an independent state or as a ‘Seventh Dominion;’ and Jews would then begin to enjoy a fully responsible political experience.

One would prefer to believe that there are no longer any well-informed Zionists so far deluded by an inexorable wish as to cherish this impossible expectation. For it remains the elementary truth of the situation that until the inconceivable happens—that Moslems and Christians, through consent or through force, accept the right of the Jews to make laws for all—the Zionist Community must remain under a major law which it does not make, and accept a military protection which it does not provide. And indeed the leaders of the movement, in view of this crucial discord between the logic of the facts and the logic of their ideal, have for the most part, after some natural hesitation, resigned the near prospect of political control, preferring to forget the ominous words of Dr. Weizmann about 'making Palestine as Jewish as England is English,' and proposing some intermediate objective.

Some would aim at parity in numbers with the Moslems, reasonably assuming that this would mean a preponderance of political influence. Others, like Mr. Harry Sacher of the Zionist Executive, would hope ultimately for a Jewish majority. There are some who would cantonize Palestine, making, say, six Jewish, seven Moslem, and three Christian cantons—in a country two thirds the size of Switzerland, or nearly the same as Vermont. Jewish cantons would naturally be drawn about existing Jewish centres in the best land, the Northern and Southern Plain of Sharon, the Valley of Jezreel, Upper Galilee,—and by the subtle coercion of bringing contiguous Arab land under Jewish rule would tend to complete Jewish ownership within the canton boundaries. On the other hand, the all-or-none spirit of the canton would lead to the presumption of unwelcome for Jews in the non-Jewish cantons; and Jerusalem would resist cantonization. These halfway measures all lack the essential political virtue of national control; and their proposers do not too closely ask themselves the question of Solomon, whether such a half of the Zionist infant would have as much as half the value of the whole child.

They continue to interest themselves in those partial goals, I believe, because the logic of the Zionist conception continues to work in them; and this logic makes for a Jewish Palestine. It shows itself most widely in the arguments by which Zionists assert their right in Palestine. For any argument based on historic possession or on a di vine mission is logically a claim to the whole land. The voice of religious orthodoxy is explicit: 'The sins of Israel have brought about the loss of their independence as a nation, of their land and Temple. But the Divine decree that ordered the exile of our nation has also promised the restoration of Israel.' The more philosophical statement of the case may be read in The New Palestine:—

The Jews are entering Palestine because they have a right to. They are building a homeland in Palestine because there is an organic indissoluble connection between the identity of the Jewish people and the country from which it was ejected hung ago.

An organic connection is normally complete and exclusive: heart, lungs, and liver cannot well be shared. Once Zion is conceived as a political entity on earth, the consistent Zionist is driven, consciously or subconsciously, to claim not a right in Palestine, but the right to Palestine.


This claim of right, based on a mission which it is felt a religious disloyalty to compromise, cannot be shaken in the Jewish mind by analogies from history or international law. To urge that the same reasoning which leads the Jew to claim Palestine after eighteen hundred years would give the Arab a right to Spain after seven hundred years is quite sound so far as it appeals to the ordinary flux of historic conquest and possession; but it wholly misses the sense of this 'organic indissoluble connection,' this right of destiny. Such a right has the force of a religious conviction for those who have that vision; it has the weakness of subjectivism for those who do not share it.

Sensible of this forensic weakness, Zionism has sometimes sought to strengthen its claim by emphasizing the cultural contrast between Jews and the rural Arabs of Palestine. Should half a million ignorant fellahin, it is asked, only languidly concerned in the matter except when excited by demagogues, block the united aspiration of fifteen million members of a highly gifted and advanced race?

The answer is not quite simple, even if the picture were a true one; but it becomes important to correct the error—unhappily widespread—of this picture. Palestine has its rural Arabs and also its urban Arabs; its Moslem Arabs and its Christian Arabs; its peasantry, its Bedawi, and its cultivated men of affairs; its fanatics and its sober leaders with liberal minds and a sense of humor. Amin el Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem, is one of these leaders, a target of many unjust accusations. During the spring of 1928, an International Missionary Conference brought to Jerusalem a group of positively charged Christians whose intentions were an occasion of much speculative misgiving among the Moslem masses. Lord Plumer opened the Conference: perhaps the military subjugation of Islam was to be followed by an ecclesiastical campaign of aggression! The thousands of pious celebrants in the Nebi Musa pilgrimage of that year might be heard singing with wild fervor, 'Down with the Missionary Conference!' During this disturbed time, the Grand Mufti used his position to show to this suspected Conference an exceptional public courtesy. He threw open the chief Moslem shrine, the Mosque of Omar, to the supposed conspirators against Islam, and supplied them group by group with guides to its several sacred spots. He acted then in his usual role as a man of courage and wide understanding, to temper prejudice, not to rouse it. In thinking of Palestinian Arabs, we must remember their notables, their scholars, their tradesmen and their craftsmen with innate deftness and sense of beauty and arts long lost to the West, as well as their farmers, shepherds, nomads.

Of these peasants, it is true that they, like many peasant peoples, are for the most part ignorant and backward. But they are aware of their plight, and are growing out of it. Their direction is more important than their present place. They have a national movement of their own; they are a conscious part of the great Arab background having its foci in Damascus, Baghdad, Riyadh, Mecca, Cairo; they feel the pulse of the reawakening of Islamic culture. For the Arab as for the Jew we cannot forget that a man plus a national movement is a man enlarged and ennobled. Further, these people have a high native capacity, mental and artistic. It is a matter of justice, not to say of generosity, if we refer to their actual backwardness in terms of our arts, to remember that they and their leaders have suffered for centuries under the exactions of an unprogressive tyranny. What they are is not to be seen on the present surface of their culture.

But my plea is not for generosity, it is for realism. If we in America, Jews and Gentiles, could see things as they are in Palestine, we should recognize as axiomatic three things: (1) That nothing like the full plan of Zionism can be realized without political pressure backed by military force; (2) that such pressure and force imply an injustice which is inconsistent with the ethical sense of Zionism, undermining both its sincerity and its claim; (3) that every increase of pressure now meets with increasingly determined Arab resistance, within and beyond Palestine. Hence the question which political Zionism must answer is whether or not it proposes to-day, as in ancient times, to assert its place in Palestine by aid of the sword.

To many Arabs, the Balfour Declaration, in spite of its careful safeguarding of all existing civil and religious rights, is understood as obliging Great Britain to 'do something' for the Jews. Many Zionists have the same conception. And the Arab mind inquires: What can Great Britain now do for Zionism which is not against the Arabs? What favor can it show which is not favoritism? If the question is capable of an answer, it needs to be a dear answer, plainly spoken. Great Britain is serving Zionism. It is doing so not only by maintaining security and order in the land (with some lapses), but by furnishing the administrative staff without which no such settlement would have been possible, and by creating new opportunities. Under the older Ottoman regime, foreign Jews were at a disadvantage: they—like other foreigners—could acquire land only in the name of Ottoman subjects. These disabilities are now removed; as is often said, Jews are now in Palestine by right, not on sufferance. Why press for more than this equitable opening, when more means a reversed injustice? The rural and industrial centres already founded need no more than an equal legal status for their normal peaceful development. The great Hebrew University on Mount Scopus needs no more than this on the legal side to realize its destiny. And this university, be it said, under the prophetic leadership of Dr. Judah Magnes, is the symbol of all that is best in Zionism. For the true and attainable Zion is the Zion of culture and faith, not the Zion of political nationalism.

It is indeed a bitter thing to the sincere Zionist that his ideal community cannot have in that unique spot of earth its perfect body as well as its perfect soul. What I have to say, I say with deep personal regret. For I went to Palestine seized with the idea of Zionism and warmed by the ardor of Jewish friends to whom this vision is the breath of life, prepared to believe all things possible. I came away saddened, seeing that to strive for the perfect body, as things now are, can only mean the loss of soul and body alike. To pursue any campaign for a more vigorous fulfillment of 'the British promise,' to force cantonization on Palestine and so to repeat the standing grievance of divided Syria, to press for any further favor of the state, is to work blindly toward another bloody struggle involving first the new settlements, then Great Britain, then no one knows what wider area. In this we have been assuming that on the issue of Jewish dominance the Arab mind is irreconcilable. Is this true?

The answer lies partly in the fact that for the Arab, whose local attachments are peculiarly strong, Palestine, beside being his home, is also a holy land. It lies partly in the fact that to his mind Palestine is not a separate province: it is an integral part of Syria, with Damascus as its natural trading and cultural capital, while Syria is an integral part of greater Arabia. In his dream of a free Arab empire, Damascus may have served as capital for the whole; or Syria, together with Palestine, may have constituted an autonomous province. In any case, the new Arabia through Palestine reached the western sea; while Palestine as a part of Syria became a partner in that new and proud political enterprise. The expulsion of Feisal from Damascus by the French was a cruel mutilation of this dream. The mandate for Palestine excludes it from the imagined kingdom and shuts that kingdom from the Mediterranean. Even so, political arrangements may be unmade. But village settlements are a more final obstacle—they build a human barrier and put an end to hope. The progress of Zionist colonization thus becomes for the Arab national outlook a culminating stroke in a series of breaches of faith.

A letter from King Feisal to Mr. Felix Frankfurter is often quoted to show that there is no inherent incompatibility between the Zionist programme and the Arab interest. It may be surmised that Feisal when he wrote that letter (which he no longer endorses) spoke for few beside himself, inasmuch as the American Commission of Inquiry found but 1 per cent of its petitioners in favor of the National Home. Feisal was not a member of the official Arab delegation to the Peace Conference. His voice at that moment was presumably the voice of the British Government, with which he was in touch, and which had the strongest motives for persuading itself of the alleged harmony of Arab and Jewish interests. But the chief point in interpreting the letter is the circumstance that if and when Feisal wrote its Arabic equivalent (for at that time he understood English imperfectly, if at all) he had every expectation of ruling in Damascus with Palestine as a part of the Syrian state. A Zionist colony within an Arab state is worlds apart from an Arab colony within a Jewish state. The former might be considered by an Arab prince, the latter never.

No—Arabia will not be reconciled to Jewish dominance in Palestine. For thirteen hundred years Moslem Arabs have lived here, tilling the soil, caring for their herds, raising their fruits and olives, practising their trades and crafts. Between them and this habitat there is a genuine adjustment, an almost perfect equilibrium; technique and custom, dress and architecture, they transmit from antiquity with an unconscious faithfulness; they belong. The rights which go with this long occupation and use cannot be brushed aside, even though no letter of a British agreement could be cited to confirm them in their place.

On the basis of existing theories of right, then, there is no way to reconcile or to arbitrate the conflicting claims. Perhaps it is time to seek a new principle.


Zionism has challenged all prevailing theories of territorial right, in view of a unique religious and cultural mission. Regarded as an article of Jewish faith, the claim is, as we said, subjective. It ceases to be subjective when that mission or some part of it becomes an article of faith to the wider world, as when France, the United States, Arabia, can say with Great Britain, 'We believe in the mission of the Jewish people.' A claim of 'right' can substantiate itself just so far as this wider persuasion is forthcoming. The principle that seems to emerge is something like this: territory should belong, other things equal, to that group which can put it to its best use, the total interest of mankind being considered. What would be the implications of such a theory?

First, Palestine is a land of interest to three great living faiths. Each one of these may regard itself as able to make the best use of the land; no one of the three is qualified to act as sole judge in its own case. But since the use in question is primarily religious, any one of the three is clearly disqualified which aims to exclude or dominate the others. Result: no one of the three may he in exclusive control; Christian, Moslem, and Jew must recognize the separate status of Palestine and accept whatever consequences this fact may have for their national aspirations.

Second, Palestine is indivisible. Each faith is interested in all of it, and in free movement to all parts. Cantonization is offensive from every point of view; and those who propose it thereby show themselves spurious guardians.

Third, rights in Palestine have nothing to do with the results of war. Neither the Allies nor the League nor any other grouping of mankind is competent to dispose of it on military or political grounds. The idea of settling the status of Palestine by consulting the written promises given by Great Britain to one group and to another is the height of solemn impertinence. Not with the consent of all governments has Great Britain such authority. As conqueror, the Allies have the power to do what they will; if they consult right, they will regard Palestine as belonging primarily to the religious interests of humanity.

If these interests remain disunited, the powers will consider them politically—that is, in proportion to the aggressive pressure they exert. I should like to join a group to assert these interests collectively; a group of Jews, Moslems, and Christians, resolved to prevent as far as possible that secularizing and industrializing of the country to which the imperial interests of Great Britain and the economic drive of political Zionism are alike committed. I can imagine such a group addressing the political Zionist in this vein:—

'We do not want new social and economic experiments in Palestine. Worship there with us, but conduct your social laboratories in other lands, where they are favored by natural conditions and where they do not disfigure and secularize. To have meaning for the modern world, such experiments must be in the heart of it, not artificially fostered in a remote place. Your Einsteins cannot go to Palestine; they must live in the atmosphere of scientific concentration, among colleagues. Your Bergsons cannot go there; they must live where they can catch by intuition the élan vital of contemporary life. Your great artists cannot live in Palestine, if they have something to say to this age. Industry and finance on the modern scale cannot find a centre there, a land without fuel, without ores, and with meager power. ‘To our minds, the poverty of Palestine is its preservation. We do not want Palestine spoiled, and your attempt, if you persist, will merely spoil it and not satisfy yourselves. Bethink yourselves in time and save yourselves and humanity that distress and loss. Spiritualize your conception of the national home, and for the earthly Zion accept the achievable symbol in place of the inachievable completion. Strengthen that magnificent university, with its broad conception of its mission, with its scientific ministration to the needs of the people and to the historical interests of the Moslem and the Christian as well as of the Jew. Through that university and its affiliated institutions, let the Jewish wisdom show itself a comprehensive wisdom in which all creeds and races may find sustenance. "And all nations shall flow unto it. And many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths."'

And to the Arabs of Palestine and beyond, this group might say: 'With you, we record our rejection of Jewish domination in Palestine. We reject also the political domination of any faith, Christian or Moslem, in that place. We wish to assure the Moslem inhabitants of Palestine of the security of their possessions and of their ways of life: they shall not be placed at a disadvantage by any act of any Western power. We request your aid in maintaining the spirit of reverence in this ancient land. To achieve this, we call upon you to lay aside the spirit of exclusiveness proper to the older era of Islamic life, and adopt the spirit of cooperation proper to the newer stage. Recognize the religious element in other religions, the common bond among mankind constituted by the worship of God, and the peculiar bond between the three religions whose common tradition centres in this place. Welcome the situation which has brought the piety of Jew and Moslem to agree in honoring the site of the Temple; make it easy instead of difficult for your Jewish brethren to worship at the Western Wall. Allow Palestine to be set apart among the regions of the earth, not for the imperial aims of any nation, and not to the disadvantage of the new Arabia, but as a shrine and place of pilgrimage in perpetuity, a meeting place for the spirits of East and West.'

As to the administration of Palestine, there must be a political order there; and this order must be either national or international. Theoretically an international administration would show the needed hospitality of interest. On the other hand, it would suffer the curse of neutrality, which might bring with it a fatal indifference to any religious interest as outside the political province. These deeper concerns are better secured by a power which unites a positive appreciation of faith with a wide toleration of temper. No power, to my mind, fulfills these conditions so well as Great Britain—on one of the two sides which she shows in Palestine.

On that one side, Great Britain is acting as a faithful custodian of the wider human interest. She is conserving the monuments, clearing the walls of the city, preventing alterations within the walls without official approval, encouraging historical research, establishing a museum of antiquities, cooperating with the Hebrew University. But this side of Great Britain must be summoned to keep with us a watchful eye upon that other, the imperialistic side, which has no mandate, whether from the League of Nations or from mankind, for enterprises on this soil which serve the Empire alone—the guarding of the Canal, the opening of communications to the East, the piping of Mosul oil to port. Let Great Britain, we say, serve herself as she may within the greater interest; but let her act first as an honest mandatory. Let her put off her weak acquiescence in the trend to industrialization. Let her retard the inevitable changes of an intrusive modernity, adjusting their pace to the awakening needs of the people, so that Palestine may retain the harmony of its customary life and of its aspect as it grows into new forms. And let her recognize the interest of the Arab states by securing to them free access from the interior to the sea, and freedom of trade and political intercourse across the obnoxious boundaries.

The two enemies of peace in the Holy Land are fanaticism and fear. The movement of the modern spirit within all creeds is having for one of its beneficent effects the gradual melting of fanaticism without argument. Fixed and antagonistic dogmas are transforming themselves into alternative sets of symbols which can dwell together. But fanaticism is kept alive and sharpened by fear; clashes at the Wailing Wall are symptoms of political rather than religious apprehension. These fears of displacement, of national thwarting, must be put to rest; and they can only be quieted by unequivocal public commitments, renouncing the intention to dominate and to exclude. If there is to be peace within the gates of Jerusalem, the first condition, as I see it, is that Zionism publicly disavow its unholy alliance with Western military power, and therewith (following the lead of a recent resolution within the Jewish Agency) its purpose to dominate in Palestine. Then, that Great Britain restate not alone her policy toward Jew and Arab, but also her general conception of the mandate, in terms which clearly subordinate the interests of the Empire to the general human good. Then, as under such a mandate they might reasonably do, that Moslem authorities publicly accept the administrative separateness of the Palestinian area. With this degree of mutual sacrifice, interests now mutually repellent will be found to enlarge because they can interpenetrate.