Friday, 12 November 2010

So who really made the desert bloom?

A blogger hosted by the Jewish Chronicle quoted the Survey of Palestine compiled by the British mandatory authorities in order to show that the jews unfairly claimed the credit for agricultural progress in what is now Israel. He asserts rather that the arabs living there, “made the desert bloom”. From reading the Unscop Report and the Survey of Palestine the blogger is wrong.

This might now seem terribly long ago and not worth much discussion. But this blog article should be seen as but one in a mass of historically 'revisionist' articles, usually part of the wider process of re-writing the history of Israel in an attempt to undermine the claim of the jews to their ancestral homeland Israel
This article hopes to show that once revisionist history is put under the spotlight it generally falls apart.

Whether "clevenson” before writing his blog actually looked at the sources he refers to such as the UNSCOP Report On Palestine and the Survey of Palestine is a moot point (It is an interesting document and worth reading). He has in any case missed some important information and statistics which are given below and which totally undermine his thesis.

UNSCOP was composed of representatives from around the world and its Report fulsomely praised the agricultural achievements of the jews in Palestine whilst noting only that the arabs in Palestine operated subsistence level agriculture.

"clevenson” asks:-

Who Made The Desert Bloom?
He quotes the Palestine Survey 1947 and UNSCOP Report and draws the conclusion that the arabs in Palestine

“made the desert bloom” (Before 1948, “The Palestinians” did not refer only to arabs, but also to jews. It was only after 1967 that arabs in Judea and Samaria and Gaza started to identify themselves as “Palestinians”).

“In December 1945 and January 1946, the British Mandate authorities carried

out an extensive survey of Palestine, in support of the work of the United

Nations Special Committee On Palestine. ....... So, who made the desert bloom? The Palestinians made the desert bloom.”
Not so.

From the UNSCOP Report:

“3)Arab agriculture is based to a considerable extent on cereal production and tends to be of a subsistence kind. Only about 20% or 25% of Arab agricultural production (excluding citrus) is marketed; jewish agriculture, on the other hand is largely intensive and cash crop farming. About 75% of Jewish agricultural production is sold on the market.

4)The occupational structure of the jewish population is similar to that of some homogeneous industrialised communities, while that of the Arabs corresponds more nearly to a subsistence type of agricultural society.” (UNSCOP Report p40 S.25 paras 3 & 4.)

The Report mentions the role the jewish sector was playing in developing the arab economy:

“Moreover, the great investment of capital associated with jewish immigration has, in developing the Jewish economy, profoundly affected Arab life, increasing money incomes and the extent to which Arabs have become concerned with an exchange of economy.”

(UNSCOP Report p41 s.26)

The UNSCOP Report praises only the jews for developing modern agriculture in Palestine.

“Jewish agriculture is on the whole progressive, scientific and experimental. It is being increasingly developed in the direction of mixed farming and in very large part serves the needs of urban populatioins. It is highly organized.” (UNSCOP Report p43 s. 30)

It mentions their, “extraordinary exertions”, “social dynamism and scientific method”. Nothing like this is said of the arabs in Mandatory Palestine. Why not? Because arabs in Palestine farmed their lands using primitive methods. They could not develop the desert, make it bloom, because they had neither the interest or the organisation to establish the pre-requisites for farming there. Arab agriculture reflected the general malaise in Palestine's arab population whereby the effendis, the ruling class and middle classes looked after its own interests, as did each village and section of society.

“The majority of Arab cultivators are to a greater extent self-sufficient and retain 74% of their total production for their own consumption.” (UNSCOP Report p41 s.29)

There was no arab national will, just as there was almost no willingness to pay taxes. Public projects in the arab areas were funded by the Mandatory coffers, funded by jewish and British taxpayers and implemented under the auspices of the British authorities.

The arab population nursed grievances, for example that “more has not been done to accelerate the tempo of Arab development.” Although Britain did little to develop the jewish sector the complaint was that only 3% of total expenditure was spent on public health and 4% on education. That as the Report notes, “The Government's responsibilities have been primarily directed towards the Arabs since the Jews maintain, at a very much higher per capita cost, their own community health and education services”, did not mitigate the Arab sense of grievance. (UNSCOP Report p80 s98)

That the arab sector was funded from outside its community and greatly benefited from this (such as a 'substantial reduction in child mortality' and the provision of educational facilities) also did not serve to mitigate the sense of grievance.

And this is maybe a lesson for our times, that a sincere and loudly proclaimed sense of grievance does not necessarily mean that there is any basis in fact. Pandering to unwarranted grievances does not necessarily assuage the complainant but may rather lead to new and increasing claims.

It is interesting to see how little has changed in the last century. The Palestinian Authority nowadays raises almost no taxes, its revenues coming mainly from the US and the EU. Of course, the fact that arabs in Palestine demonstrated little willingness in paying taxes, or using funds for the collective good such as institution building meant that during the pre-war of Independence attacks on the jewish infrastructure from November 1947 onwards there were few funds in the kitty to buy arms for individual villages. The main arab guerilla groups such as the ALA fared better in that they could extort contributions from hapless villagers in the areas they moved in. It is not a new phenomenon that islamic terror impacts first and foremost on innocent muslims.

As opposed to the loosely organised arab society, riven by class and tribal allegiances the, “Yishuv (Jewish Community in Palestine) is thus a highly organized and closely-knit society which, partly on a basis of communal effort, has created a national life distinctive enough to merit the Royal Commissions's title of “a State within a State”. Proud of its own achievements in self-government and cultural life...” (UNSCOP Report p70 s83.)

UNSCOP was in no doubt as to the moral basis of the jewish presence in the land of Israel saying,

“Jewish right to Palestine is not predicated merely upon human need.... but solemn international engagements....... on the faith of which the jews, by extraordinary exertions, have built in Palestine a vital, vigorous community.......” (UNSCOP Report Foreward , x) and that:

“The enforcement by the UN of the international pledges solemnly made to the Jews will at once establish that body as an organ of international law and morality. If those pledges are allowed to continue in default, the UN will be branded as but another instrument of power for the use of the mighty against the weak......” (UNSCOP Report Foreward , x)

“The jews bring to the land the social dynamism and scientific method of the West; the Arabs confront them with individualism and intuitive understanding of life.” (UNSCOP Report p175)

From the UNSCOP Report (p185) quoting the British Survey of Palestine (simplified):
Jewish StateArab State
RevenueLP 4.88 millions LP 1.56 millions
ExpenditureLP 8.42 millionsLP 9.32 millions
DeficitLP 3.54 millionsLP 7.76 millions

So the first thing that becomes apparent from the above figures is that the arab economy in Palestine
was barely functioning with its deficit many times in excess of its revenue, unlike the jewish economy. The jewish economy was growing ever larger year on year; the arab economy was not. The situation of the arab economy was the same as it had always been, calamitous with income covering less than 17% of expenditure. There was no chance that in the forseeable future the arab economy would even begin to cover its outgoings let alone pay back its deficit.

On the individual level the Report refers to the, “Arab cultivator (who) was considerably burdened by debt, which in some instances amounted to as much as the cultivator's total annual cash income”. (UNSCOP Report p57 s.61)

The jewish economy in contrast was covering close to 60% of its outgoings, the deficit reflecting the costs of absorbtion of refugees, preparing for the coming conflict and of course investment in infrastructure and institutions, something totally lacking in the arab sector (arab states had declared their intention to invade Palestine the moment the British left.

The UN truce negotiator Folke Bernadotte later assassinated by the Stern Group said in his diaries – To Jerusalem, 1951, p1 - “The United Nations resolution of 29th November 1947, according to which Palestine was to be divided into a Jewish and an Arab State, was being given its crucial test, as the British were about to give up the mandate. The Arabs had previously openly declared that in the event of partition they would launch a military offensive. They had carried out their threat”.

The Unscop Report gives examples of the jewish investment in the development of Palestine:-

“39.Although Palestine is still in an occupational sense predominantly an agricultural country, industry has now emerged as the largest contributor to the national income. There have been two major periods of industrial development in Palestine, 1933-1939 when the dominant influence was the influx of refugee immigrants from Western Europe and particularly Germany, with capital and technical and managerial skill: and the 1941 to 1945 period.
40.Some idea of the magnitude of this development is provided by an estimate of jewish capital invested in industry and of industrial equipment imported into Palestine. Between 1925-1929 it is estimated that L.P. 1M was invested in Palestine industry. 1930-1932 L.P. 2.5m 1938-39 L.P. 7m. 1940-1944 L.P. 6m (UNSCOP Report p48 ss. 39-40)
42. The industrial development is also reflected in the structure of imports in which raw materials play a greater and wholly manufactured goods a lesser part. In 1939 raw materials and unmanufactured articles were 10% of total imports while wholly manufactured goods were 64%. In 1946 raw materials were 32% of the total and manufactured goods 41%.”

“According to the 1942 census of industry 75%-80% of all persons engaged in industry were employed in jewish owned enterprises.” (UNSCOP Report p50 s.46)

At first glance the statistics brought by Clevensen seem overwhelmingly in favour of his assertion that it was the arabs, not the jews who made the land bloom.

“21.8 million pounds sterling; 17.1 million of which was
produced by Arab cultivation, and 4.7 million by Jewish cultivation.”

But the value of the crops that he cites however start to indicate a discrepancy between the amount of crops harvested, and their value;
the monetary value of Jewish Palestine's agricultural economy was 27.5% of that of the Arabs in Palestine. Yet the jews at that time only controlled 6.6% of the land, with less than half actually being “under actual cultivation”(The UNSCOP report is scathing regarding the British bias towards the arabs that had resulted in the White Paper of 1939. The Report described the White Paper as, “infamous”, the intent of which was so that, “At the end of ten years an Arab State would be created with a perpetual Jewish minority. To maintain the status quo in Palestine until the Arab State was created, the iniquitous land Transfer Regulations of 1940 were enacted which barred the Jews from acquiring land without restriction in 94% of their own National Home.”).
So whilst cultivating less than 3% of the land, the jews were in 1947 producing agricultural products representing almost a third of the value of the arab sector! But unlike the arab sector, the jewish non-agricultural economy was also highly developed, even serving as an industrial base and provider of supplies for the allies in Egypt during the WWII.

Survey of Palestine p376 para 170

“The jews have brought to agriculture in Palestine both capital and skill which together have had a profound effect on the country transforming some of it from waste and neglected land to fruitful ground, so that it may truly be said that they have made “the desert blossom as the rose.”” (UNSCOP Report p44 s.31)

Where the Report praises improvements in arab agricultural practices it mentions it as being a result of jewish influence.

“Moreover there has been considerable improvement in latter years, partly as the result of the great development in jewish agriculture and partly as the result of the increase in prices.” (UNSCOP Report p45 s.32)

The report goes on to mention the Beersheva area as having good soil but lack of rain not allowing it agriculture there to be improved. This did happen in the 1950's after Israel invested in the water carrier that brought water from the north into the Negev.

The Report continues, “There are small jewish settlements in the south of this area (sometimes loosely described as the Negeb) which are at present experimental and based on water brought by pipeline at great cost from a consideraable distance. The further development of this area remains problematic.”

There is no mention here of arabs working to develop the agriculture in the desert, still less to make the desert bloom. There is however mention of the nascent Israeli state laying the foundations for developing agriculture in the desert though. (UNSCOP Report p47 s.38)

"clevenson” says, without attempting to substantiate his figures that, “on the eve of the partition resolution, in which the United Nations

proposed to allocate 55 percent of the land to Jewish Palestine (including those parts that produced most of Palestine's leading crops, with the sole exception of the olive crop), and 45% to Arab Palestine.”

The UNSCOP Report (Foreward, xxiii) deals with this saying that, “the majority recommendations of the UN Special Committee are a compromise. They propose to partition Palestine into an Arab State and a Jewish State. They give to the Jews less than that to which they are legally and morally entitled. In considering any partition of Palestine, it must be remembered that Palestine has already been twice partitioned reducing the area of the National Home contemplated by the Balfour Declaration to the detriment of the Jews-once when the boundaries of Palestine were fixed by an Anglo-French Boundary Commission in 1921 and again when Trans-Jordan was cut away from the field of the newish National Home in 1922. That last partition cut 35,000 square miles from the jewish national Home, leaving only 10,000 square miles. And now that 10,000 square miles is to be split between the Arabs and the jews.”

Not 55% as per the blogger but less than 10% of the League of Nations mandate was left over even when only considering the second partition of the land, land donated by the British imperialists to a sheikh emanating from Saudi Arabia.


The Israelis are renowned for their prowess in developing and implementing desert and arid region agricultural methods. They have moreover been active in disseminating these amongst their neighbours as far back as the 1950's. In May 1981 just a few months before he was assassinated by islamic fanatics Sadat 1981 asked Ariel Sharon to implement desert irrigation techniques on his farm. Within 10 days the Israelis had done the job! Google 'Sadat's farm, Mit El Kom' for an account in Sharon's autobiography, 'Warrior'.

Science driven Agriculture in the Negev desert and Israel

Richard Crossman was a senior labour politician appointed personally by Bevin to represent the British interest that was inimical to the zionists on the Anglo-American Commission (Bevin must have been disappointed as Crossman was so impressed by the jews he wrote two books praising their efforts).

In “A Nation Reborn” (p99), Crossman says that, “Despite these adverse circumstances, the economic position has improved out of all recognition and nowhere is this clearer than in agriculture. In 1948, for example, Israel was producing just under 50% of its food requirements. By 1959 the figure had improved to 70%, though meanwhile the population had trebled! Indeed, I am informed that the Government is now gravely disturbed by the excess production of milk and eggs. No doubt an agricultural surplus of this kind presents a problem-but it is a much more agreeable problem than those which Israel faced ten years ago, because it is a consequence of success.”

This film of how the town of Dimona arose out of the sands of the Negev desert represents the story of a number of other towns in Israel. Where there was sand in a few short years became a thriving community. Notice how one of the first actions was to plant a forest around the town.

Israel has always shared its knowledge with the palestinians and arab countries when they have been willing to accept this help. Israel of course helps many countries around the world fight desertification.

Before the Israelis came the Nabateans. Israeli agronomists have been researching their environmentally friendly methods

And click here in case you're interested in a a hands-on approach to learning this subject

The Israeli Shin Bet has reported the 'best' month for terror attacks in Israel. There were only
forty four attacks in October 2010 as opposed to 88 in September, with no fatalities.

As usual the western media totally ignores the horrifying daily reality of Israel, whereby less than 2 terrorist attacks on it a day are considered an improvement in the security situation. What would the good citizens of any European country demand from their politicians were they to be subject to unremitting terror?

The world is only interested when Israel takes the initiative and eliminates a perpetrator of the terrorism, and of course is only too happy to haul over the coals if civilians are harmed in the process.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan.............