Sunday, July 01, 2012

Who'd Ever Take a Vacation to Palestine? What You'd Most Likely Find


Nadene Goldfoot
"The Report of the Palestine Royal Commission quotes an account of the Maritime Plain in 1913, the year my mother was born:
The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts...no orange groves, orchards or vineyards were to be seen until one reached [the Jewish village of] Yabna [Yavne]....Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen....The ploughs used were of wood....The yields were very poor....The sanitary conditions in the village were horrible. Schools did not exist....The western part, towards the sea, was almost a desert....The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants."       

Lewis French, the British Director of Development in Palestine in 1931 wrote the following that simply would not make it in a travel magazine to induce visitors.  "We found it inhabited by fellahin who lived in mud hovels and suffered severely from the prevalent malaria...Large areas...were uncultivated....The fellahin, if not themselves cattle thieves, were always ready to harbor these and other criminals.  The individual plots....changed hands annually.  There was little public security, and the fellahin's lot was an alternation of pillage and blackmail by their neighbors, the Bedouin." Fellahins are peasants or agricultural laborers in Egypt, Syria and other Arab countries.   Bedouins are nomadic Arabs  of the Arabian, Syrian, or north African deserts.  


That's not much different from Mark Twain's description in 1867 when he took the ship on February 1st for an excursion to the Holy Land, Egypt, The Crimea, Greece and Intermediate points of interest from Brooklyn .  "If ever an oppressed race existed, it is this one we see fettered around us under the inhuman tyranny of the Ottoman Empire.  I wish Europe would let Russia annihilate Turkey a little-not much, but enough to make it difficult to find the place again without a divining -rod or a diving-bell.  The Syrians are very poor, and yet they are ground down by a system of taxation that would drive any other nation frantic.  Last year their taxes were heavy enough, in all conscience-but this year they have been increased by the addition of taxes that were forgiven them in times of famine in former years.  On top of this the Government has levied a tax of one-tenth of the whole proceeds of the land.  ...The plows these people use are simply a sharpened stick, such as Abraham plowed with, and they still winnow their wheat as he did-they pile it on the house-top, and then toss it by shovel-fulls into the air until the wind has blown all the chaff away.  They never invent anything, never learn anything."

"Twain continues.  Palestine is only from 40 to 60 miles wide.  The State of Missouri could be split into 3 Palestines, and there would then be enough material left for part of another-possibly a whole one".  From Dan to Beersheba must be a trying trip a without railroad, he mused.... He spoke of the Bedouins and said he thought "these chaps would sell their younger brothers if they had a chance...They attacked our camp last night, and I bear them no good will.  Here a man rides a donkey (pigmy jackasses) and carries the child, and the woman walks.  The customs have not changed since Joseph and Mary's time.  ..We found water but no shade.  then they found a tree but no water.

So who was going to change their life for the better?  People who were not sympathetic to Jews returning to Palestine were the very ones who believed that the Jews could improve the condition of these Palestinian Arab.  Dawood Barakat, editor of the Egyptian paper Al-Ahram, in 1922 wrote:  "It is absolutely necessary that an entente (international understanding providing for a common course of action) be made between the Zionists and Arabs, because the war of words can only do evil.  The Zionists are necessary for the country:  The money which they will bring, their knowledge and intelligence, and the industriousness which characterizes them will contribute without doubt to the regeneration of the country."

That was  also the initial philosophy of the Zionists who moved to Palestine in the 1880's to build a country.  It cannot be said better.  There were those Arabs that also believed it and were counting on it as well.  But they were not living in a vacuum and the overseers, the British,  the French and the greedy disbelievers had other ideas.  

Resource:  Myths and Facts a concise record of the Arab-Isreli conflict by Mitchell G. Bard PhD and Joel Himelfarb
The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2000/467/chrncls.htm , article, picture of Barakat
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/Arabs_in_Palestine.html
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