I would like to thank Paul Herman for his letter in the July 15, 2021 issue of The Jewish Link (“Analysis Falls Short”) addressing my article “Did the Arabs Steal Arab Land.” In this and another article, “The Truth About Arab Sales to Jews in Palestine,” which is yet to be published, I sought to make the case that the Jews purchased land and did not steal it.
I wrote: “Land sold by Arabs to Jews accounted for 40% of all registered sales in Palestine between 1929 and 1946 according to economic historian Jacob Metzer. From a high of 54% of all Arab land sold from 1929-1939, the number declined to 22% from 1940-1946. The decrease in the 1940s probably occurred because of government-imposed restrictions on land sales to Jews when the Land Transfer Regulations were decreed in 1940, since the percentage of unregistered (and therefore not recorded) transactions undoubtedly increased to evade government controls.”
In the second article, I show that “though the Arab leadership in Mandate Palestine vigorously protested the sale of land to Jews, large and small Arab landowners were constantly offering to sell their land before and after the Mandate came into existence.”
What land are the Arabs claiming we stole, when even the major Arab leaders willingly sold their land to the Jews before and even after the Mandate came into existence? Jews bought the land and cultivated it at enormous monetary costs. Little, if any, mention is made of investing in undeveloped rural land or the Zionist enterprises that failed. Rarely also mentioned are the Jewish pioneers who died clearing the malaria-infested swamps.
By May 1948, Jews owned 1.621 million dunams and leased 181,000 dunams of state land, amounting to 11.4% of non-desert area. Sixty-six percent of Jewish land was in the northern valleys and the “fertile accessible coastal plain.” In 1945 they owned 23% of the coastal plain, 30% in the northern valleys, and 4% of the hill country. Though this was a moderate amount of territory compared to the entire mandated area or the land that became part of Israel’s 1949 armistice lines, this was far less than the 5 million dunams the Zionists had projected in 1925 to purchase, according to historian Kenneth W. Stein.
A typical tactic our enemies use effectively against us is to claim we committed some nefarious deed without any evidence, leaving us to provide the proof that it did not happen. Our response should always be to ask for specifics, so we can address each issue directly. We stole what land? Where? Under what circumstances? Do you mean in 1948, during the War of Independence when Arabs lost their homes either because they participated in the war or left at the urging of Arab leaders who said they could return to their towns and villages once the Jews were annihilated?
All these calumnies are rooted in one, never-changing, never-ending basis: antisemitism. It is up to us to continue at every turn to speak out and shine the light of truth on all the purveyors of all these falsehoods.Alex Grobman, PhD