We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East. (From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Required Reading: The Karsh Reality About Israel & The Palestinian Arabs

A splendid academic article by Efraim Karsh, Professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King's College, should be required reading for all who assume that early-mid twentieth-century aliya had a deleterious effect on the Arabs of Palestine and/or that the status of Israel's Arab minority is undesirable.

Writes Professor Karsh, inter alia:
 'The inflow of Jewish immigrants and capital after World War I revived Palestine's hitherto moribund condition. If prior to the war, some 2,500-3,000 Arabs, or one out of 200-250 inhabitants, emigrated from the country every year, this rate was slashed to about 800 per annum between 1920 and 1936 while Palestine's Arab population rose from about 600,000 to some 950,000 owing to the substantial improvement in socioeconomic conditions attending the development of the Jewish National Home. The British authorities acknowledged as much in a 1937 report by a commission of enquiry headed by Lord Peel:
 The general beneficent effect of Jewish immigration on Arab welfare is illustrated by the fact that the increase in the Arab population is most marked in urban areas affected by Jewish development. A comparison of the Census returns in 1922 and 1931 shows that, six years ago, the increase in Haifa was 86%, in Jaffa 62, in Jerusalem 37, while in purely Arab towns such as Nablus and Hebron it was only 7, and at Gaza there was a decrease of 2 per cent.
Raising the standard of living of the Palestinian Arabs well above that in the neighbouring Arab states, the general fructifying effect of the import of Jewish capital into the country was not limited to the upper classes, or the effendis, who 'sold substantial pieces of land [to the Jews] at a figure far above the price it could have fetched before the War', but extended to the country's predominantly rural population, the fellaheen, who 'are on the whole better off than they were in 1920'. The expansion of Arab industry and agriculture, especially in the field of citrus growing, Palestine's foremost export product, was largely financed by the capital thus obtained, and Jewish know-how did much to improve Arab cultivation. In the two decades between the world wars, Arab-owned citrus plantations grew six-fold, as did vegetable-growing lands, while the number of olive groves quadrupled and that of vineyards increased threefold.
No less remarkable were the advances in Arab social welfare. Perhaps most significantly, mortality rates in the Muslim population dropped sharply and life expectancy rose from 37.5 years in 1926-27 to 50 in 1942-44 (compared with 33 in Egypt). Between 1927-29 and 1942-44, child mortality was reduced by 34% in the first year of age, by 31% in the second, by 57% in the third, by 64% in the fourth, and by 67% in the fifth. The rate of natural increase leapt upward by a third (from 23.3 per 1000 people in 1922-25 to 30.7 in 1941-44) - well ahead of the natural increase (or of the total increase) of other Arab/Muslim populations.
That nothing remotely akin to this was taking place in the neighbouring British-ruled Arab countries, not to mention India, can be explained only by the decisive Jewish contribution to state revenues (in 1944-45, for example, the Jewish community paid 68% of Palestine's income tax compared with 15% by the twice larger Arab community). In addition, the extensive Jewish public health provision greatly benefited the country's Arab population. Jewish reclamation and anti-malaria work slashed the prevalence of this lethal disease (during the latter part of 1918, for example, 68 of 1000 people in the Beit Jibrin region died of malaria; in 1935 the number of malaria-related deaths in the whole of Palestine was 17), while health institutions, founded with Jewish funds primarily to serve the Jewish National Home, also served the Arab population. It is hardly surprising therefore that the greatest reductions in Arab mortality, as well as the rise in the quality and standard of living, occurred in localities in or near those in which Jewish enterprise had been most pronounced.
 Had the vast majority of Palestinian Arabs been left to their own devices, they would most probably have been content to get on with their lives and take advantage of the opportunities afforded by the growing Jewish presence in the country. Throughout the British Mandate era (1920-48), periods of peaceful coexistence were far longer than those violent eruptions and the latter were the work of a small fraction of Palestinian Arabs.
But then, rather than follow the wishes of its constituents, the corrupt and extremist Palestinian Arab leadership, headed since the early 1920s by the Jerusalem Mufi Hajj Amin Husseini, embarked on a relentless campaign to obliterate the Jewish national revival, which culminated in the violent attempt, supported by the entire Arab world, to destroy the state of Israel at birth. In the mournful words of the Peel commission,
We have found that, though the Arabs have benefited by the development of the country owing to Jewish immigration, this has had no conciliatory effect. On the contrary… with almost mathematical precision the betterment of the economic situation in Palestine meant the deterioration of the political situation.'
Professor Karsh goes on to examine the status of Israel's Arabs since 1948, and to demonstrate, with impeccably sourced statistics, the beneficial effects of Israeli government policy upon their health, life-expectancy, education, and socio-economic status.

He further observes:
'Contrary to the standard image of cramped neighbourhoods and acute land shortages, population density in Arab localities is substantially lower on average than in equivalent Jewish locales. While Jewish neighbourhoods in central Israel, where most of the country's population lives, are hopelessly congested - 21,031 persons per square kilometre in Bene Brak, 16,329 in Giv'atayim, 15,913 in Bat Yam, and 9,759 in Holon, 7,947 in Tel Aviv, among other places - the urban Arab population in the same area enjoys a much more spacious existence: 1,958 persons per sq. km. in Taibe, 1,894 in Tire, 1,756 in Umm al-Fahm, and so on and so forth. Even the Galilean city of Nazareth, Israel's largest and most congested Arab locality has a population density of 5,113 - less than a quarter its Jewish equivalent.
As for income statistics, it is undeniable that, on average, Israeli Arabs still earn less than Jews. But to what is this attributable? For one thing, the average Muslim in Israel is ten years younger than his Jewish counterpart; all over the world, younger people earn less. Then, too, far fewer Arab women enter the labour market than do Jewish women: in 2008, for example, only 21% of Arab women, compared to 57% of Jewish women, worked outside their homes.'
And he observes that what he's demonstrated
'proves the attribution of the October 2000 riots to social and economic deprivation to be totally misconceived. If indeed the culprits were poverty and second-class status, why had there never been any disturbances remotely like the October 2000 riots among similarly situated segments of Jewish society in Israel, or, for that matter, among Israeli Arabs in the much worse-off 1950s and 1960s? Why, indeed, did Arab dissidence increase dramatically with improvements in the standard of living, and why did it escalate into an open uprising after a decade that saw government allocations to Arab municipalities grow by 550 per cent, and the number of Arab civil servants nearly treble?
The truth is that the growing defiance of the state, its policies, and its values was not rooted in socioeconomic deprivation but rather in the steady radicalization of the Israeli Arab community by its ever more militant leadership, not unlike their mandatory predecessors....'
Read all of Professor Karsh's long, important, fully documented, article here

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