Tlaib, Rav Kook (not in the same breath) and the Peel Report

Freshman Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s recent much publicized comments regarding the Holocaust and the sacrifice of her Palestinian ancestors in “the name of” the creation of a safe haven for the Jewish survivors was followed by an article by Maha Nassar, an associate professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Arizona, published in the Washington Post.

Under the cloak of scholarship, Nassar has contributed to the false narrative, distorted history and of course only serves to fuel the current international trend of growing anti-Israel and anti-Semitic sentiment.

The falsehoods and half-truths in her article warrant an extensive response of their own.

Her description of the Hebron riot of 1929 as ‘politics’ however, as opposed to a bloodthirsty pogrom, demands outrage.

“With mounting social and economic frustrations, Palestinian Arabs turned to mass politics. Some of the first major protests, which took place in Jerusalem and Hebron in 1929, became infamous for the riots that led to the tragic deaths of 116 Arabs and 133 Jews, including 67 Jews who were murdered in Hebron. Yet as Tom Segev points out, Hebron’s Arab residents also saved 435 of their Jewish neighbors. They understood that their conflict was with British colonial rule, not with Jews.”

This is intentionally misleading. The deaths of Arabs were mostly at the hands of the British; the deaths of the Jews were by the brutal murder, rape and pillaging that took place by marauding Arabs upon the almost entirely defenceless Rabbis, their families and students of the Hebron Yeshiva. The entire group of survivors constituted 435, a few saved by sympathetic Arab neighbours, most saved by hiding or fortuitously not having been targeted by the group. The Arab attack was exclusively directed at the Jews rather than at the British. On the contrary, the Arabs consistently found a sympathetic ear in the British, imploring they curb Jewish immigration to Palestine and achieving this.

It was these events and the pervasive atmosphere of Arab aggression that led to a strengthening of Jewish self-defence and armed forces.

The words of the saintly Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook, who lived through this historic period and was a beacon of piety, scholarship and strength, expressed in an incident prior to the events of 1929, speaks volumes. The revered sage fearlessly confronted the British authorities time and again concerning the blind eye they turned to Arab aggression of the period. At one point Rabbi Kook approached the British High Commissioner with a demand that he order the confiscation of all Arab weapons. The Commissioner pointed out that this would require the Jew’s disarming themselves as well. To which the Rabbi retorted, ‘the two cannot be compared; the Jews use theirs in self-defence, the Arabs use theirs to murder and plunder’.

The article also clearly attempts to create the impression that the influx of Jewish refugees violated the status and rights of the existing established Arab presence, who reluctantly sacrificed in order to accommodate the refugees of the Holocaust.

Contrast that to this assessment of the Peel Report of 1937.

Presented by the secretary of State for the Colonies
Royal Commission Report, July 1937

We have come to the following conclusions:
(i)The large import of Jewish capital into Palestine has had a general fructifying effect on the economic life of the whole country.
(ii) The expansion of Arab industry and citriculture has been largely financed by the capital thus obtained.
(iii) Jewish example has done much to improve Arab cultivation, especially of citrus.
(iv) Owing to Jewish development and enterprise the employment of Arab labour has increased in urban areas, particularly in the ports.
(v) The reclamation and anti-malaria work undertaken in Jewish ”colonies” have benefited all Arabs in the neighbourhood.
(vi) Institutions, founded with Jewish funds primarily to serve the National Home, have also served the Arab population. Hadassah, for example, treats Arab patients, notably at the Tuberculosis Hospital at Safad and the Radiology Institute at Jerusalem, admits Arab countryfolk to the clinics of its Rural Sick Benefit Fund, and does much infant welfare work for Arab mothers.
The general beneficent effect of Jewish immigration on Arab welfare is illustrated by the fact that the increase in the Arab population is most marked in urban areas affected by Jewish development. A comparison of the Census returns in Igzz and 1931 shows that, six years ago, the increase per cent. in Haifa was 86, in Jaffa 62, in Jerusalem 37, while in purely Arab towns such as Nablus and Hebron it was only 7, and at Gaza there was a decrease of 2 per cent.
(page 129)
Peel Commission Report
July, 1937

It will be regarded as absurd a notion, but a simple reading of the Peel Commission Report (easier to read than anticipated and easily accessible) reveals the enormous benefits to the Arab population of Palestine as a result of the waves of Aliya of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Unfortunately, history has been and continues to be re-written as a false narrative to achieve narrow and selfish ends. Far be it for the Arabs to express gratitude to their Jewish neighbors for having enhanced the entire region to their benefit, notwithstanding their pitiful situation in Gaza. With serious attempts at peace, they would stand to benefit so much more.

Moreover, they have never come to terms with the Jewish Yishuv of the Land of Israel, nor the Divine and historical Jewish claim to the Land. It is highly unlikely they will anytime prior to that of the Final Redemption which we patiently await and pray for.

About the Author
Rabbi Larry Shain headed up Ohr Somayach of South Africa for 30 years and now resides in Ramat Bet Shemesh with his family where he is Rov of the Carlebach Shul and Menahel of Yeshivas Ateret Yaacov.