<![CDATA[Books & ebooks - Political Commentary]]>Fri, 01 Jul 2016 00:42:38 +0000Weebly<![CDATA[The forgotten message in ‘Auf Wiedersehen Pet’]]>Thu, 30 Jun 2016 09:51:09 GMThttp://booksand-ebooks.com/political-commentary/the-forgotten-message-in-auf-wiedersehen-pet
In a week where the main talk has been about immigration being one of the main reasons for a Brexit majority vote, it appears the message of one of Britain’s much-loved TV series has been conveniently forgotten.

​Telling the story of a group of builders who went to work in Germany, a number of them from the North-East of England, it appeared on British TV in the 1980s and went on to enjoy several series and re-runs, in the process making household names of many of its stars: Jimmy Nail, Tim Healey, Timothy Spall and Kevin Whateley.

Many I’m sure watched the series purely for its entertainment and comedy value without knowing the full background and history of the series, myself included – until years later when I embarked on a ‘Grand-Projects’ style self-build, and a couple of the builders on site did happen to know, because they’d been part of that wave of builders travelling to Germany for work in the late 1970s and early 80s.

Both at the time working in Surrey, one of them in fact was originally from the North-East, Sunderland, and had been a master-bricklayer for some 30 years, telling fond stories of building for various celebrities, including Tom Jones for his house in Weybridge. They also talked of what led to them both working in Germany for several years in the late 1970s and early 80s. The British building industry had fallen flat – many of its various slumps both before and since – and work for British builders was scarce. But there was work in Germany, with particular demand and good pay for bricklayers; and the main reason for that, ironically, was due to us bombing them in the war.

What happened after WW2 was that with extensive bombing of German cities, they needed rebuilding – quickly. Building in bricks was seen as too slow a process, so breezeblock and prefabricated-section building became the order of the day. But after thirty years of this post-war, as a result the skill of bricklaying in Germany had all but died – or indeed the generation that had been skilled in that pre-war had themselves died or were aged.

However, as Germany recovered in grand style and became more affluent, home-owners and many businesses did want buildings in brick again, and so they were forced to look outside to where those skills were still prevalent, mainly Holland and the UK. That call for labour from Germany in fact kept many British families clothed and fed over a vital period of a slump in the British building industry lasting almost a decade. My highly-skilled and industry-savvy bricklayer originally from Sunderland openly admitted that this ten-year work stint came as a godsend, and without it he didn’t know what he’d have done. We should also remind ourselves that this migrant labour force was welcomed into Germany with open arms, despite their virtually nil-German language skills (though I’m sure they arrived with a John Cleese style pamphlet reminding them: ‘Don’t mention the war’).

It’s a sober reminder that immigrant labour doesn’t always work one-way. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the other day that there could be no access to the EU free market without also accepting the free passage of labour, and rightly so. After all, without it, the Auf-Wiedersehen Pet style migration of labour which had helped so many British builders during the 1970s and 80s wouldn’t have been allowed to take place. 
A focus on the North-East in the TV series – and from the personal accounts shared from my pet-builder from Sunderland – became particularly ironic when I picked up the newspapers the day after the Brexit vote and saw headlines announcing: ‘Sunderland, the epicentre of the earthquake,’ with pictures of jubilant supporters held shoulder high and cheering wildly as the ‘Leave’ vote was announced. It makes one wonder if they’d be cheering so jubilantly if we were in the midst of yet another building slump and the announcement meant that their breadwinning-bricklaying partners would soon be on their way home to join the dole queue. Ironically, with a plunging pound and British business losing billions in the last week alone, that day might be closer around the corner than we think.   

<![CDATA[Ultimate Case for a fresh EU Referendum                                                                                                        ]]>Tue, 28 Jun 2016 15:33:38 GMThttp://booksand-ebooks.com/political-commentary/ultimate-case-for-a-fresh-eu-referendumPicture
Much has been discussed these past few days in regard to a fresh Brexit/Remain EU referendum: (a): that any call for change should insist on a 60% majority (along the lines of ‘working’ majorities within government); (b): Scotland would not wish to simply carried along on such an exit from the EU, so would call for another vote on cessation from the UK, or would aim to block an exit vote in the UK Parliament; (c): Northern Ireland might wish to declare a similar position too, because of possible fresh border issues with Southern Ireland; (d): A number of Brexit voters have declared that they feel they have been misled about the ‘realities’ of such a vote; (e): The thorny issue that right now there are 350 remain MPs in Parliament vs 149 leave, so in essence they would be required to vote against their own beliefs in order to carry a Brexit bill through Parliament and trigger Article 50; (f): David Cameron has made it clear that he is unwilling to be the person to invoke Article 50 – which officially starts the legal process of extricating Britain from the EU – and so this will be left to his successor.

While much of the foregoing might give valid reasons for concern, they do not individually give rise to a call for a fresh referendum; however, as a combination they do, which would not only be in the interests of the rights of the British people, but also in observation of democratic principles, as follows (headline proposal and supporting grounds):

The British public have voted in a referendum on 23rd June, 2016, by 52% to 48% that ‘in principal’ they wish to leave the EU. The British Government takes heed of that vote, and Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty will be duly invoked by a new Prime Minister to be elected within the coming months and upon a vote by MPs in Parliament. Article 50 entails a two-year process to delineate exactly the terms and conditions of Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. At the end of which the British public will be given the opportunity of a final vote on cessation from the EU, once those terms are clear. Given the following provisos:
1. A ‘buffer’ margin to protect the interests of future electorate. There is no previous guiding principal by which a referendum can insist on a 60% majority (as per a leading petition now past the 3 million signature mark). However, there is something unique about this particular referendum which does give rise to a pertinent legal principal: the ratio of those voting ‘Remain’ amongst 18-25 year olds was 65-66%%; conversely, amongst over 55 year olds, those voting ‘Leave’ was the same proportion. This means that in essence with each passing year, there would be a shift of 1.2% towards ‘Remain’. Article 50 is a two-year process alone, on top of which many of the laws and regulations determined would take another 4-5 years to take full effect. Over this 6 to 7-year period, this shift of 7.2-8.4% would far exceed the current 4% margin – thereby meaning that an outgoing generation in essence would be imposing upon the upcoming generation something against their wishes; and by that stage not supported by popular vote, which in principal is undemocratic.

Therefore, a ‘buffer’ margin would be proposed to protect the interests of the future electorate on a 5-year projected basis. If the proportions amongst 18-25 year olds for ‘Remain’ and over 55’s for ‘Leave’ stay the same, then a 6% buffer margin for ‘Leave’ would be required to carry the vote. If by then the proportions are 50-50% in each age sector, then there would be no required buffer; and if it was halfway between the two, only a 3% buffer margin would be required.

2. Exact terms and conditions of Britain leaving the EU to be delineated. At present there has been much speculation as to the benefits over the disadvantages. Many feel that false promises and expectations have been tabled, such as benefits to the NHS and curtailment of refugees. Boris Johnson has aired that he sees a continued passage of free trade with Europe, whereas others hold reservations on that front. Certainly, there is the case to be argued that the EU can’t simply make Britain’s withdrawal from the EU overly-advantageous with numerous upsides and few downsides (as Boris Johnson and Michael Gove might suggest), otherwise they risk a rush of other EU partners pushing for the same.

Norway is often cited as a nation outside of the EU which at the same time maintains various ‘free-trade’ arrangements with the EU. However, the quid-pro-quo of that continuing free trade (under EEA conditions) is that it also maintains a ‘free movement of people’ from the EU, ergo: immigrants. One of the main planks of the Brexit campaign, control of immigration, would therefore not be satisfied using a Norway/EEA model. Norway’s contribution to the EU under their EEA arrangement is also still sizeable.

It may well be that Brexit campaigners will be able to negotiate excellent trade terms outside of the EU and thus make good on a number of their promises. But this two-year buffer period will allow them to negotiate any and all such terms and lay them out clearly for the British electorate to take a final vote. At present, at the time of the initial EU referendum vote, such terms and conditions – the advantages over the disadvantages – are not clear.

3. Any new terms of Britain remaining within the EU to be delineated. There has also been a lack of clarity on the other side. Part of the whole process of calling for a EU referendum was based on dissatisfaction amongst the British public with immigration control, the cost of EU contributions weighed against the return benefits, and the sense of a lack of control and ‘voice’ over decisions made in Brussels. A number of these issues still remain unclear. David Cameron in pre-referendum TV debates talked about ‘indicators’ in regard to Turkey possibly joining the EU (an added concern on the immigration front), but could give no firm timelines from Brussels.

Boris Johnson too (a former pro-EU supporter) talked initially about the threat of Brexit being used as leverage to try and improve the conditions upon which Britain remained part of the EU. While considered a somewhat hopeful stance by some fellow politicians, there is some substance to this. Certainly, the threat of Britain leaving the EU should get Brussel’s policy-makers to focus sharper on the root causes of such a move, and therefore where possible to offer remedies. Again, as with the Brexit camp, this two-year buffer period will allow the ‘Remain’ camp to negotiate any fresh terms and delineate clearly existing terms upon which the British electorate take a final vote.

4. Scotland and Ireland to both hold referendums in advance of a final British EU vote. The Scottish National Party has already voiced its intention for Scotland to hold a referendum to split away from Union with Britain should Britain move to separate from the EU. Northern Ireland might wish the same, due to renewed border issues with Southern Ireland. Both devolved regions therefore to hold separate referendums 90 days in advance of the final overall British referendum, announcing their intentions to either Remain or Leave the British Union dependant on Britain’s final EU vote.

This then also furnishes British voters with yet another vital factor – the future state of the British Union, with or without Scotland or Northern Ireland – prior to their own final vote on leaving the EU.

5. Overall aim. The aim of a final EU referendum is to allow a two-year ‘buffer’ period, during the article 50 negotiations, to clarify any and all advantages and disadvantages in either ‘Remaining’ or ‘Leaving’ the EU. This would also allow a period in which other factors such as continuing trade stability and the financial impact of either remaining or leaving can more accurately be gauged. At present, much of this is unclear, and a high degree of the campaigning has been based on jingoism or unreliable facts and assertions. In essence, the first vote can therefore be seen as a wish to leave in ‘theory’. The final vote will be one to leave in ‘practice’, by which time the final parameters of Britain leaving the EU will be clear to voters.

​If the final vote to leave exceeds the determined buffer margin (point 1), then Britain should leave the EU through a vote in Parliament within 90 days of said final referendum.   

<![CDATA[Israel-Palestine land division]]>Mon, 07 Mar 2016 14:45:17 GMThttp://booksand-ebooks.com/political-commentary/israel-palestine-land-division
Land Division 1948/1967 - A summary analysis
Most of this report relates to the first division of land in 1948, since that is when the major part of it took place and the subsequent displacement of Palestinians who had previously owned the land. But a second analysis was also necessary for the events of 1967, which saw a further displacement, but also saw an increase in the number of Arab-Palestinian citizens within Israel.

This latter element is vitally important, since still today they represent 21% of the overall Israeli population, but at the time of the two transition/partition points, 1948 and 1967, represented 29% of the Israeli population and 26.2% of the overall Arab-Palestinian population at the time. The reason for the reduction from 29% to 21% has been that, while the natural birth/growth rate of the Arab population has been high, the immigration of Jews to Israel has been far higher, particularly in the 1948-1975 period.
What concerned me in going through past documents and reports of the subject is that this Arab contingent who between 1948-1968 (I’ve added on one year because a number of Arab-Palestinians were repatriated to Israel/East Jerusalem in the year following the 1967 war) constituted a significant segment of the overall Israeli population often didn’t feature in land split appraisal documents. These were compiled to give an impression of purely Jews one side and Arabs the other, rather than Israeli-Palestinian, as if the 29% Arab-Israelis (an amalgam figure between 1948 and 1968) did not exist or had no land rights at all.

Indeed, often these documents were presented as if the Jewish population (who had been buying land steadily in the area since the 1920s) owned only 7% of the land in the area, and the remaining 93% was owned by the Arab population – with the impression given that this small minority landowning contingent then stole/forcibly acquired the remaining 93%.

This is an entirely inaccurate/dishonest representation, not only due to the aforementioned 29% Arab Israelis not being taken into account in this calculation, but also because the 93% includes vast tracts of state-owned land, split between purely public-state owned land, 44.1%, and state/feudal-system leased land (Miri), 26.5%; plus tracts of land owned by religious groups (Islamic Waqf and Greek Orthodox Church), 3.5%.  

A full table of respective land ownership at the time of the proposed UNSCOP partition in 1948 is given below (research source links follow at the end):

7.4%                           Jewish ownership (direct or through Jewish land funds).
11.6%                         Arab-Palestinian owner-residents.
6.9%                           Foreign owners, mostly Arab or prior Ottoman owners.
44.1%                         State-owned Public land.
26.5%                         State-owned/feudal-system leased land (Miri)
 3.5%                          Religious trusts (Islamic Waqf, Greek Orthodox  Church)

The biggest challenges faced with compiling this table were the discrepancies between existing tables and lists. Not only in combining all the stats into two simple camps, Jews and Arabs, to give a distorted picture, but in other stats too: some had state-owned land at 70-72%, others at only 44-50%, some at 60-66%. On some charts and lists, Jerusalem had a majority Jewish population dating all the way back to 1905, in others Arabs were the majority in Jerusalem. So how and why had these discrepancies occurred? Examining this required some delving down into the existing data on the subject, the results of which are quite enlightening.

To be fair to both sides, it appears they have both been telling (more or less) the truth, but in different ways. Selecting data which might serve their overall aims, but ignoring the rest. So to give a clearer picture what I have tried to do here is explain each land-owning category and the related Jewish/Arab -Israeli/Palestinian population stats at the time – along with the sources from which the information has been derived.      

Initial UN partition plan (UNSCOP).

The initial figures for UNSCOP showed at the beginning of 1946 an overall population in the British mandate area – proposed for the partition of Israel/Palestine – of 608,000 Jews and 1,230,000 Arabs. By the end of the British Mandate and last calls on the proposed partition in early 1948, this had risen to 1,324,000 Arab and 668,000 Jews. So at this point Jews represented 33.5% of the overall 1,992,000 populous, marginally over one-third. (2)

The proposal for the two partitioned states was that the new Israel would include 485,000 Arabs in addition to the 668,000 Jewish population, total: 1,153,000. This would then leave 835,000 Arabs in the new Palestine. The proposed land-split for this was therefore 56% for the new Israel, 44% Palestine (with Jerusalem as an international city in the middle taking approx. 0.8% from each side). The initial reasons given for this larger split the Israeli side was to absorb the large numbers of Jewish immigrants that were anticipated after 1948 – but this split would have been justified just based on the initial much larger combined Jewish-Arab population the Israeli side in any case. (3)

Despite this evident factor, I was amazed at the number of past documents and reports I came across that complained about the UNSCOP proposed divide being made in this fashion, venting their surprise that 56% of the land should have been allocated to Jews when they made up only a third of the overall population. Some even suggested that UNSCOP had been ‘racist’ in preparing the partition this way. But we see in fact if we divide the overall landmass strictly proportionately with 1,153,000 one side in Israel and 853,000 in Palestine, we would end up with a 58% - 42% split – this aside from the aforementioned anticipated far greater influx of Jewish immigrants and the fact that 67% of the land in their proposed partition parcel comprised the Negev desert. Their portion contained far less arable land. So by those tokens, it could be said that Israel did not end up with anything like the strongly-advantaged share a number suggest.

Also the proposal of 485,000 Arabs amongst that 1,153,000 total might seem large, over 40%, but it was anticipated that the Jewish population would double through immigration over the next decade, thereby bringing it more in the 20-30% range. Though with the ensuing events – rejection of the UN partition plan and the Arab-Israeli war – that sort of proportion was not reached until after 1967; so more by ‘default’ than design. But it is telling that this significant Arab population of Israel (which indeed is 82% Muslim) are largely ignored in numerous land-split documents, almost as if they’re invisible or their land rights simply don’t count the same as Arab parties in the proposed Palestine.

Arab-Israeli population 1948-1968

The final Arab population within Israel after the 1948 war was 159,000, to which another 215,000 Arabs were added as part of the Israeli population in 1967-1968 (mostly from East Jerusalem, with a number repatriating within Israel in the year after the six-day war). Of the original 670,000 Israeli Jews in 1948, this total of 374,000 would have equalled almost 37% of the Israeli population; though to be statistically fair, this later Arab influx should be taken against a natural-growth adjusted Israeli-Jew figure (so that the two growths each side are even), which then gives a representative figure of 29% of the overall Israeli population (if both population contingents were counted in 1948, at the time of partition), and 26.4% of the overall Arab population (West Bank, Gaza and Israeli-Arabs); thus 18.8% of the combined area population at the time of partition.

By 1970, we have a situation whereby the population within Israel already was 3,014,000 (reflecting the massive Jewish immigration to Israel since 1948), including 458,000 Arabs. The population between the West Bank and Gaza was far less, 1,045,000, with the number of Palestinians living outside of the region as many again. 

This Arab population within Israel, 18.8% of the combined Israel-Palestine populations (as adjusted for 1948 stats, at time of partition) is significant, because when added to the 33.5% Jewish-Israeli population, gives a figure of 52.3% - not far short of the 56% land-split previously proposed by the UN.

And when by 1970 we see the massive influx of Jewish immigrants, as anticipated by the UN, whereby the Israeli population (Jews and Arabs combined) had trebled in just over twenty years, we start to see the rationale behind the UN planning the division in this manner.   

Claims each side

In retrospect, it’s a tragedy that the UN partition plan wasn’t accepted at the time and conflict avoided, particularly considering the loss of life each side and the large Palestinian diaspora which arose. There were claims and accusations on each side: Arab and Palestinian parties reported of widespread ‘ethnic cleansing’, the Israelis claimed that Arab army leaders ordered evacuations to keep the populous in between out of the path of war. As with other past wars I’ve reported on (one of my first assignments was the civil war in the Lebanon), I’ve found the truth invariably lays in the middle. The most notable books and journals on the subject are from Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe and Edward Said. While there is some valuable information in both Pappe’s and Said’s writings, Benny Morris’s accounts are generally considered to be the most objective and accurate.

In these, Morris found no evidence of organized or general ‘ethnic cleansing’ orders from Jewish leaders, nor general evacuation orders from Arab leaders – though he accepts (and this becomes evident from other reports on the subject) that this occurred in a number of isolated occasions, probably accounting for no more than 200,000-250,000 people (100,000-125,000 each side through forcible clearance or evacuation orders) out of the 700,000 leaving the area during this period. ‘Massacres’ too were isolated, most on a tit-for-tat basis, with both sides equally guilty. Morris summed up as follows:
'The Palestinian refugee problem was born of war, not by design, Jewish or Arab. It was largely a by-product of Arab and Jewish fears and of the protracted, bitter fighting that characterized the first Arab-Israeli war; in smaller part, it was the deliberate creation of Jewish and Arab military commanders and politicians.’

It becomes clear therefore that the vast majority (450,000-500,000) left purely due to the dire conditions of a surrounding war, which would then correlate with current war situations, such as Syria.  

So now with the prevailing population statistics in 1948, and the UN partition plan and ensuing war which shaped them, we can look again at land ownership at the time.

Private Land ownership in pre-1948 Palestine-Israel

The bulk of privately owned land in the previous Ottoman and subsequently British Mandate area of Palestine-Israel was known as Milk under Ottoman and Arabic land law. This is where land and property owners would have clear title deeds and in most cases would have paid a notarized price for that land/property (4).

The figures for Jewish privately owned land (mostly originally Milk, some bought directly, others through Jewish land funds and agencies) varied from 6% to 8.9% of the total landmass, so an average of 7.4%. Similarly, the statistics for privately owned Arab land ranged from 17%-20%, with at least 35% in the hands of foreign owners (mostly Turkish, Lebanese, Greek), so this total average of 18.5% was divided 11.6% (Palestinian resident owners) and 6.9% (foreign owners) respectively. 

Public and State land ownership

This proved the most loosely defined (and thus more open to interpretation by both sides) of all land ownership in the area in 1948. If we look at the Ad-Hoc ‘Palestinian Question’ committee map of 1945, (3) we see public areas clearly marked, ranging up to 85% in the largest area, Beersheba, mainly because it includes the Negev desert (and indeed equals 48% of the total area planned for partition). The average public/state-owned land from all these pie-charted districts is in fact 44.1%.

However, we then see from other journals and reports that the total area of state land is as much as 70.9% (5&10). It appears, from researching the numerous available sources, that the difference between the two claims is in fact known as Miri land under prior Ottoman land law (4). This is land that in strict legal terms is owned by the state, but is then leased on a peppercorn basis to tenants as long as the land continues to be ‘worked’ by those on it. If the land is neglected or allowed to lie fallow, then it is taken back by the state (as the overall rightful owners). So Miri is somewhere between an old feudal system and a tenant farmer situation, as we might recognize it in the West. Taking the known ‘state-owned’ land of 44.1% from the overall state-land claim of 70.6%, leaves us with 26.5% of Miri land. Miri land is described as follows in the British Mandate 1931 Hope-Simpson report:
Agricultural property is commonly held by Miri title. Miri is property over which the right of occupation or of tenure can be enjoyed by a private person, provided that such right has been granted by the State. The absolute ownership remains vested in the Government, but the grant is in perpetuity, subject to certain conditions. Of these, the chief is continuous cultivation. If the land remains unproductive for three consecutive years it may revert to the State. In that case it may be redeemed by the possessor on payment of the unimproved capital value. If not so redeemed it is sold at auction to the highest bidder (Land Code, Article 68).

It is easy to see how this Miri land would be interpreted differently by both sides. Arabs under the previous Ottoman laws felt they had a ‘right’ to this land in perpetuity, as long as they kept working it, even though they had made only a nominal or no payment for it. In the West, normally only a title-deed would be recognized, along with a notarised payment for same, as proof of ownership. To exacerbate this problem, under the Tapu laws which came in after 1858 (4), holders of ‘Miri’ land were encouraged to register their holdings (which land conveners and surveyors under the British Mandate also encouraged), but only a proportion did so, mainly to avoid paying taxes on the registered land. The result was that an already ambiguous land-rights situation was further muddied by lack of registration.

So again it appears both sides were telling their version of the truth. The state owned land at 44.1% (or thereabouts) is unequivocal, and in strict legal terms the 26.5% Miri land (or thereabouts) also appears to be state-owned, albeit with certain attached rights to the user/tenant for continuing agricultural purposes (and nearly all Miri land was in fact agricultural). However, with only a nominal or no actual payment having ever taken place for Miri land, loss or abrogation of rights is very different to title-deed land where there would have often been a substantial payment for it, with that sum resultantly lost.

Religious group trusts

While land and property owned by religious groups, Islamic (Waqf trusts) and Christian (mainly the Greek orthodox church) was obviously stringently registered, the secretive nature of these groups meant that figures were often not openly published. In the UNSCOP reports and tables (2&3), for instance, these are generally combined with the state or public land.

Indeed, it is known that all of the Mosques in Palestine/British Mandate-Trans-Jordan were owned by Islamic Waqf trusts and the Christian Churches mainly by the Greek orthodox church (12). Added to this were a number of monasteries and Islamic Hawzas with attached farmland. From research, the most likely figure for this was 3-4% of the total landmass, so 3.5% average.

Only a proportion of the Waqf land ownership was effected by the formation of the Israeli state; for example, the Al-Aqsa and Dome of the Rock mosques are still part of an Islamic Waqf trust, as well as most of the other mosques within Israel-Palestine. And none of the Greek Orthodox church owned land was effected. Indeed, to this day the Knesset building and many other buildings in central Jerusalem are on a lease to the Greek Orthodox church, where they remain one of the city’s largest landlords. Also, still to this day the remaining minority group religious sites (and their respective ownership) have been respected, such as the Baha’i temple in Haifa.

Though 3.5% of the total land-holding in Palestine-Israel might not seem large, what should be remembered is that land ownership for the 1947-1948 period was only worked out on landmass, not property value. If calculated on value, with much of this property comprising mosques and churches in city centres, particularly Jerusalem, we would see a very different picture.


One of the first inconsistencies to strike most people viewing these lists is that the Jewish population in 1947-48 was 33.5%, yet they owned only 7.4% of the land, with the Arab population owning the remaining 92.6%. This would seem a statistical impossibility, or at least highly unlikely – that one sector of the society owned only 22% of their reflective population mass in land, whereas the other owned almost seven times that, 140%, of their reflective population mass. Particularly as it’s reported Jews had been buying land there since 1905, increasing after 1920, with complaints (mainly from Arab parties) of quite an organized and aggressive campaign of land purchase in Palestine in the two decades preceding 1948 (private, Jewish land agencies and charities). So how could this be?

Part of the answer is in the final analysis of land-holdings and the fact that a large proportion is in fact either purely state-owned land or state-owned-Miri (long-term-lease) land. The degree of purely direct ownership by private Arab parties at 18.5% of the total then starts to show a more realistic correlation to the Jewish privately owned percentage, 7.4% - it being perfectly reasonable that the Arab community, on a proportional basis, would own a 28% higher representative share due to their longer time there.

If we look at the population spilt versus land ownership in Jerusalem, still further inconstancies appear. On the map showing regional populations (8), we see a pie chart for the Jerusalem area showing that they were 38% of the population (in the city of Jerusalem they were a majority, but this is a ‘Jerusalem district’ map), yet in the pie-chart on the map showing land ownership (3), they are listed at owning only 1% of the land. Again, how could this be – such a large contingent of the population owning only a fraction of the land? Both are UNSCOP maps from 1945-1946.

One explanation could be that because Jerusalem was originally planned as an international city for the proposed partition, the city’s stats (where the majority of Jews lived) were not included. The other explanation is that much of Jerusalem’s property was in fact owned by religious trusts, predominately the Greek Orthodox Church (Patriarchate), which was then leased, often long-term, to tenants (this later became known as Hachira in Israel). But if this was lease-tenanted on the same basis to Arabs and Jews, why is one group listed as owners and the others not? The only rational explanation is that the major landowner in this region, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, have simply been listed as ‘Arabs’. I’m sure many Greek-Christians might object to being termed ‘Arabs’, as would the many Armenians, Syriacs, Turks, Ethiopians, Russian Christians and German Templars who made up the population of Jerusalem at the time (11). Again we see a lumping together under a homogeneous group as ‘Arabs’ by the UNSCOP chart creators, which is ambiguous and sloppy at best, openly dishonest at worst. Why not simply list each group and their respective population and land-holdings – along with the precise nature of those land-holdings – then let readers make up their own minds?  

Restrictions and prejudices

Another reason for the proportionately lower ownership amongst the Jewish population pre-1948, is that in a number of areas their purchase of land was restricted. These restrictions were minimal initially, the main one being that Jews could not buy land east of the Jordan river, but in other instances under the British Mandate Jews were assisted in their purchase of land in the area. This all changed after the 1939 White Paper and the Peel report, after which purchase of land by Jews became far more restrictive, along with immigration. Still, a number of purchases took place during this period, particularly by Jewish land agencies from large absentee landowners, religious-group holdings and foreign companies. There were land concessions too from areas under State-British Mandate control, but there were complaints of these being weighted disproportionately towards the Arabs. In one example of 8,600 acres of arable Mandate-state land becoming available, 8,205 acres were allocated to Arabs and only 395 acres to Jews.

Also, only a few examples of Miri land being made available to Jews can be found; if indeed this was land that was meant to be available on an ‘equal-opportunity-basis’ to all those who wished to work it (and with nominal or no initial payment), then why wasn’t the Jewish proportion higher and more representative of their 33.5% of the population? Again this tends to hint at certain restrictive practices.  

I mention this because the issue often arises with current day Arab-Jew land practices within Israel, whereby the claim is made by some that Arabs cannot buy land but Jews can. This is not accurate. Only 8.4% of the land in current-day Israel is in private freehold hands, and this can be bought and traded freely by both Jews and Arabs. The remaining 91.6% is in State or Jewish National Fund (JNF) hands and can only be leased (usually long term, Hachira) rather than bought. The JNF portion is only 13.1%, which does carry restrictions that it should be offered only to Jewish lessees – mainly because it’s an agency funded entirely by Jewish contributions, and this was a stipulation of those contributors (some of them charitable). Possibly this was in part to redress the imbalances and prejudices they saw with Jews obtaining land in pre-1948 Palestine (though indeed a number of prejudices still exist today, with capital punishment for Palestinians selling land to Jews still on the statute books in the West Bank and Gaza).
However, there have still been examples of JNF land being leased to Arabs, and on the remaining state owned 80.4%, there are no restrictions at all – land/property is available equally for Jews and Arabs to lease long term (13). So while it is true that the majority of land/property can’t be bought by Arabs in Israel, the same is true for the Jewish population. Aside from the 8.6% in private freehold hands, that 80.4% can only be leased.  

Without doubt the main area of contention between Ottoman/Arab and Western/Israeli land laws has been over the interpretation of Miri land. Due to the fact that it did not represent ‘ownership’ in the way we would interpret it in the West (because usually that ownership clearly rested with the State, Sultans or foreign landlords) often this would be termed as ‘in possession of’.

However, if merely a long-term tenure arrangement combined with a nominal payment (or in the case of Miri land sometimes no payment) equated to ‘in possession of’, then it could be argued that the majority of land and property leased to Jews on a long-term basis (particularly from religious-group-holdings in Jerusalem) should come under the same banner heading. Particularly as such leases would have been on a similar long-term-renewable basis and in most cases involved a higher initial payment. If long-term lease property had similarly been listed as ‘in possession of’, then we might have seen a far higher representation for Jews beyond 1% in the Jerusalem district, more in line with their 38% residency there.


Consult most Jewish and Israeli affiliated sites and you will see that Jews constituted a majority of the population in Jerusalem from 1905 onwards. But go on most Arab sites and you will read that Arabs formed the majority there.

Both are in fact telling (more or less) the truth. Within the city of Jerusalem itself, it is true that Jews have overall formed the majority there from 1905-1948, with the census from 1946 as follows: 99,690 Jews; 60,560 Muslim Arabs; 44,980 Christian, Druze and others (6).

However, in the wider ‘Jerusalem District’ are a number of suburbs and outlying villages in which there is a heavier Muslim Arab population, so that then the stats read: 102,452 Jews, 104,460 Muslims and 47,290 Christian, Druze and others (8).

In Palestinian-Arab documents, the ‘Jerusalem district’ total is quoted rather than the ‘Jerusalem City’ total, which then gives a slightly higher Muslim-Arab total. But on some occasions the Muslim-Arab total is combined with the Christians to give a heavier predominance of 151,750 ‘Arabs and others’ (or sometimes ‘Palestinians and others’) one side against 102,452 Jews the other. This then gives a distorted and somewhat dishonest impression, in the same way that lumping together ‘Palestinians and others’ to give 93% their side against Jewish landholdings the other of only 7% gives a dishonest impression. How would it seem if Jewish-Israeli sites quoted the land stats as ‘Jews and others’ owning 88.4% of the pre-1948 land, with Palestinian ownership at only 11.6% (reflecting only the direct Palestinian-resident land ownership).

Books and journals

There have been a number of books and journals on the subject, most notably – Ilan Pappe, Benny Morris, Edward Said, Joan Peters, Norman Finklestein, Alan Dershowitz and Avi Shlaim - but a number of these, as with the stats and tables, have been written from an emotive view one side or the other so haven’t been particularly objective or accurate.

Both Ilan Pappe’s and Edward Said’s accounts are heavily infused with anti-colonialism, in turn equated to Zionism, which tends to dilute their objectivity, and at times accuracy. Pappe’s contention of pre-determined ‘ethnic cleansing’ in 1948 is thrown into doubt by the fact that in the early stages of that war it looked unlikely they would win, and the tide only changed halfway through. When challenged over the accuracy of his accounts, Pappe himself admitted that his claims were mainly driven by ‘ideology’, with factual accuracy coming secondary to that.

Said’s theories were similarly anti-colonialism driven, though more heartfelt and widespread, with the general thought that all aspects of colonialism were bad. So equally he was also critical of many Arab leaders for often not acting in the interests of their people. Though by the time his ‘West vs the Rest’ theories were gaining popularity on university campuses, colonialism had by then moved on and was displaying a more benign face. A case in point is the West Indies shifting from mainly English and French colonial yolks. One of the last to take the vote in the French West Indies was Martinique. But by that time they’d witnessed the horrors of what had happened in Haiti under Papa Doc, so voted to stay as part of France rather than split away. Today Martinique is one of the most settled and stable of Caribbean islands, and the people there generally love still being part of France and considered French citizens.  So Said’s theories, while well-intentioned, were out of date and sync with historical reality by the time they gained popularity.

On the other side of the coin, we have Joan Peters, who suggested that there had been a large influx of Palestinians from neighbouring Arab states in the 1920-1940 period which then diluted their claims as ‘born and bred Palestinians’. In my research, I did not find evidence to support this. The main part of my deductions (and with various other stats) came from calculating the average natural population growth amongst Palestinians, which equalled 2.3% compound per annum. This then gave a clearer picture of external immigration over this period. I could find no more than an excess beyond natural growth of 35,000-40,000 people over this period – less than 0.5% of the overall population, so a negligible factor.

While it’s true that in the pre-1920’s period there had actually been a population decline in this period, mainly due to the ravages of Word War 1, the most that could be claimed is that this declining trend ceased with the influx of Jews to the area. There was also it is true a heavier Arab population increase in the areas where Jews had settled as opposed to purely Arab areas (10) – but this might have been due to the trend generally during this period for people to shift more from rural settings (and income) to city and industrial based work. Finally, wages were in fact higher in 1920-1940 Palestine than in neighbouring countries – but I could find no proof that this had led to a significant spike in immigration to Palestine. The most that could be argued from Joan Peter’s assertions and the relevant data of the time was that the influx of Jews between 1920-1940 had not had a negative impact on the Palestinian economy or caused the Palestinians hardship, as has been suggested by other writers; quite the opposite, in fact. I also found it a somewhat moot point that Peter’s was arguing that a Palestinian’s length of residence might dilute their rights, since much of the Jewish immigration was indeed very recent.

Both Dershowitz and Finklestein have accused each other of portraying too slanted a view (one side or the other) of the Israel-Palestine conflict, but their most famous debacle was indeed over Joan Peters’ book, ‘From Time Immemorial’ (which I have already commented on). Avi Shlaim has remarked that he finds Finklestein’s research thorough, but notably passes no comment on its obvious bias, with all of that research being devoted to ills and harms on one side. And as conflicting historians have pointed out, if Finklestein is so outraged by the holocaust being used to gain sympathy for the Zionist cause, why isn’t he similarly outraged by Palestinians using that comparison for their own plight or using the term ‘genocide’ – when their own losses are a minute fraction of holocaust losses.

Although I have high regard for Shlaim’s writings in many areas (in particular the historic collusion between Israel and King Abdullah of Jordan), I found – as indeed did novelist Joseph Heller – his assertion flawed that Israel has not been the main peace-seeker (as evidenced by their long-standing treaties with both Egypt and Jordon). As a result, I found the writings of Benny Morris to be the most balanced and informative; in general, he takes an even-handed view, criticizing both sides equally and remaining objective and accurate. I think it’s a shame, given the pure volume of writing on the subject, that so many of these accounts have been written from a one-sided nationalistic or anti-nationalistic point of view. I think the general rule of thumb is that where you see extreme, emotive terms being used – ethnic cleansing, genocide and apartheid on one side, barbaric Palestinians and bloodthirsty terrorists the other – don’t expect a balanced or accurate view to follow. 

General aim

The aim of this study is not in any way to make light of the tragedy of the wars of 1948 or 1967, or the terrible impact of these with the large numbers of Palestinians displaced. It is to bring some clarity to the prevailing circumstances and respective populations and land ownership at the time – especially in light of so many prior documents which presented an ambiguous or unclear picture.

From this, what does become clearly apparent is that the representation of only 7% Jewish ownership one side and 93% Arab/Palestinian the other is distorted and dishonest. And as part of that distortion, it appears the 21%-29% Arab population who are Israeli citizens to form a 52.3% majority are often never taken into account in these statistical charts. Indeed, that population split today, including the 21% Arab-Israelis, stands at 61.5% Israeli citizens/38.5% Palestinians between the West Bank and Gaza.  

That majority, whether a 52.3% representative figure in 1948 or 61.5% now, should be reflected accurately in reports and stats – but all too often that 21%-29% of Arab Israelis have been painted in as if invisible or their views and status as Israeli citizens do not count. In line with the main tenets of democracy, and indeed in order to compile a balanced and accurate report, that issue needed to be addressed.     

Main research sources:

1 Population of Palestine pre-1948.
2 UN partition plan
3 Partition plan maps  

4. Ottoman land law
5 Israel land statistics
6 Palestine, Israel and Jerusalem population statistics
7 UN Ad Hoc Committee report
8 Palestine area maps, 1946
9 Avi Shlaim journal, 1995

10 Land ownership in Palestine, 1880-1948

11 Jerusalem report, 1948

12 Greek Orthodox Patriarchate report

13 Current day Israeli land/property law

14 Foreign Policy Journal, 2010.
15 Land purchase history pre-1948
16 Land purchase rights and restrictions