Labour Monthly

Palestine : The Imperialist View

Palestine at the Crossroads. By Ernest Main. (George Allen and Unwin.) 7s. 6d.

Source : Labour Monthly July, 1937, No.7 (pp.451-452)
Publisher : The Labour Publishing Company Ltd., London
Transcription/HTML : Salil Sen
Public Domain : Marxists Internet Archive (2010). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit "Marxists Internet Archive" as your source.

Mr. Main's book has several excellent qualities. It is factual. It is well documented. Above all it is honest. It is one of those valuable books which imperialists occasionally have the good nature to write, providing the anti-imperialist with just the material, that he requires.

The book begins with a discussion of the general characteristics of Arabs and Jews, in which the author concludes that the Arabs represent a backward, and the Jews a progressive, force. He then puts the question -- how to get these two diverse races to co-operate? This question, however, quickly fades into a second -- how to order the affairs of Palestine in such a way that British interests in the Near East may be effectively safeguarded? To this his answer is that an "Arab" Palestine (by which he appears to mean an independent Palestine) would be weak, and a weak Palestine would be of little strategic interest to Britain, except in so far as it might serve as a barracks for troops.

A Zionist Palestine on the other hand would be strong and prosperous. Consequently,

if the British Government is satisfied that Palestine with a Jewish majority would be a help and not a hindrance to British Imperial policy, then the sooner a Europeanised progressive Palestinian state comes into existence the better.

The author consequently plumps for a Zionist Palestine, with Crown Colony status for a period of twenty or thirty years, to be followed by Dominion status. This form of Government "would at least ensure security and order."

All the cards are obligingly on the table. It is clear that co-operation between the two races is a purely secondary affair. What is urgent is that Palestine should be made safe for British imperialism. This can best be done by imposing a Jewish majority on the country. Crown Colony status would have the advantage of ensuring that for the twenty or thirty years the British Government will be able to coerce the Arab people without fear of interference by the League of Nations.

A pretty picture.

One fault of Mr. Main's is that disliking the Arab national movement, and regarding it as politically dangerous, he takes every opportunity to disparage it, and even to argue that it doesn't exist. Few Arabs, he says, have any political consciousness. Yet it is curious that these politically unconscious Arabs should have carried on a six-months' general strike against the Government in the face of the imprisonment of thousands and the shooting of hundreds of them and the destruction of their homes. Equally, it is unfair to say that

the Arab, largely due to his antecedents, has little talent for constructive teamŽwork,

without mentioning the fact that under the British Mandate effective control, both central and local, has remained in the hands of a few British officials, and that consequently no genuine opportunity has been given the Arabs for showing their "talent for constructive team-work."

On the subject of the Arabs Mr. Main is very ready to generalise: "according to Western standards" the Arab is venal. The Beduin "will not be helped and suspect every attempt to improve their lot." Agriculturally the Arab is no use: "scientific agriculture is quite beyond his ken." Such remarks are silly and misleading. In so far as Arabs are venal, and many are not, that is to be explained by the fact that they have lived for four hundred years under Ottoman rule when to be corruptable had high survival value. It cannot be proved that the Beduin suspect attempts to improve their lot since no determined effort has yet been made to improve it. What infinitesimal share of its annual budget does the Palestine Government spend upon health and education services for the Beduin? Scientific agriculture is beyond the ken of the majority of Arab peasant farmers only because they are too heavily burdened by debt, land shortage, and high rents to be able to afford to introduce improved methods of farming. Too many ill-considered general statements of this kind mar what is otherwise an interesting presentation of the Palestine question from a frankly imperialist point of view.