Report of the Shaw Commission on the al-Buraq / Western Wall Disturbances of August, 1929
London, 12 March 1930
(B) SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AS TO CAUSES OF THE OUTBBEAK OF AUGUST LAST.
44. The fundamental cause, without which in our opinion disturbances either would not have occurred or would have been little more than a local riot, is the Arab feeling of animosity and hostility towards the Jews consequent upon the disappointment of their political and national aspirations and fear for their economic future. The origin and growth of this feeling are discussed on pages 150 to 153 of Chapter XIII. The feeling as it exists today is based on the twofold fear of the Arabs that by Jewish immigration and land purchase they may be deprived of their livelihood and in time pass under the political domination of the Jews.
45. In our opinion the immediate causes of the outbreak were :—
(a) The long series of incidents connected with the Wailing Wall which began on the Jewish Day of Atonement in September, 1928, and ended with the Moslem demonstration on the 16th of August, 1929. These must be regarded as a whole, but the incident among them which in our view most contributed to the outbreak was the Jewish demonstration at the Wailing Wall on the 15th of August, 1929. Next in importance we put the activities of the Society for the Protection of the Moslem Holy Places and, in a less degree, of the Pro-Wailing Wall Committee.
(b) Exciting and intemperate articles which appeared in some Arabic papers, in one Hebrew daily paper and in a Jewish weekly paper published in English.
(c) Propaganda among the less-educated Arab people of a character calculated to incite them.
(d) The enlargement of the Jewish Agency.
(e) The inadequacy of the military forces and of the reliable police available.
(f) The belief, due largely to a feeling of uncertainty as to policy, that the decisions of the Palestine Government could be influenced by political considerations.
We would preface this summary by stating that we attach the highest importance to our first recommendation that His Majesty's Government should consider the advisability of issuing a clear statement of policy, the value of which would be greatly enhanced if it dealt with the points which we set out in paragraph 46 (b) below. Our recommendations in regard to the immigration and land questions are largely based on the assumption that in their definition of policy His Majesty's Government will clearly state that the rights and position of non-Jewish communities in Palestine are to be fully safeguarded.
Definition of policy.
46.—(a) It is our view that the issue of a clear statement of the policy which His Majesty's Government intend to be pursued in Palestine is essential to the good government of that country. We therefore recommend that His Majesty's Government should consider the advisability of issuing such a statement with the least possible delay; it is important that His Majesty's Government should make it clear that they intend to give full effect to that policy with all the resources at their command.
(b) Whatever form that statement of policy may take, its value would be greatly enhanced (i) if it contained a definition in clear and positive terms of the meaning which His Majesty's Government attach to the passages in the Mandate providing for the safeguarding of the rights of the non-Jewish communities in that country and (ii) if it laid down, for the guidance of the Government of Palestine, directions more explicit than any that have yet been given as to the conduct of policy on such vital issues as land and immigration.
47.—(a) Any uncertainty as to the line of policy to be pursued in the vital matter of immigration is bound to be reflected in the conduct of the Palestine Government and in the attitude and temper of the Arab people and of those who represent Jewish interests. We recommend therefore that His Majesty's Government should issue at an early date a clear and definite declaration of the policy which they intend to be pursued in regard to the regulation and control of future Jewish immigration to Palestine and, in the framing of that declaration, should have regard to our conclusions on the subject of immigration.
(b) The administrative machinery for the regulation of immigration should be reviewed with the object of preventing a repetition of the excessive immigration of 1925 and 1926.
(c) Consideration should be given to the possibility of devising some more suitable method of regulating the disposal of immigration certificates under the Labour Schedule.
(d) Until such time as some form of representative government is established in Palestine, machinery should, if possible, be devised whereby non-Jewish interests in Palestine could be consulted upon matters which, had there been a Legislative Council, would have been referred to the special immigration committee of which mention is made in the statement of policy contained in the White Paper of 1922.
48.—(a) A scientific enquiry should be undertaken by experts into the prospects of introducing improved methods of cultivation in Palestine. Land policy could then be regulated in the light of facts ascertained by those scientific investigations. It is of vital importance that in any scheme of land development adopted as the result of expert enquiry, regard should be had to the certain natural increase in the present rural population.
(b) It is of vital importance that, pending the results of this survey, the present tendency towards the eviction of peasant cultivators from the land should be checked by the adoption of one of the alternative methods mentioned on page 124 of Chapter VIII or by some other appropriate means.
(c) The Palestine Government should consider the possibility of reviving the Agricultural Bank or of providing by other means for the need of the poorer cultivators who require credit facilities to enable them to improve their present methods of farming.
49. We do not wish to make any formal recommendation on this question. We would, however, urge that, when the question of constitutional development in Palestine again comes under review, regard should be had to our conclusion in Chapter IX of this report that the absence of any measure of self-government is greatly aggravating the difficulties of the local Administration.
The Wailing Wall.
50. In December last, while we were still in Palestine, we communicated to you a recommendation that His Majesty's Government should take such steps as lay within their power to secure the early appointment, under Article 14 of the Mandate for Palestine, of an ad hoc Commission to determine the rights and claims in connection with the Wailing Wall. We thought it advisable to anticipate this recommendation and to bring it to your notice in time for His Majesty's Government, if they so desired, to make use of it when the question of the appointment of such a Commission came before the Council of the League of Nations in January last. We have since learned that the League Council agreed to the proposed appointment of a Commission. The early determination of rights and claims connected with the Wailing Wall is, in our view, a measure essential in the interests of peace and good government in Palestine. We consider, therefore, that the constitution of the Commission and its departure for that country should be expedited by every possible means.
Activities of religious societies.
51. Since the disturbances the legislation in Palestine dealing with offences against the State, including sedition, has been repealed and replaced by an Ordinance based on English criminal law. In the circumstances we feel that it is unnecessary for us to make any recommendation under this head.
52. —(a) Steps should be taken to ensure that the attention of senior officers of the Palestine Government is in future called to any articles appearing in the Press in Palestine which are of an inflammatory character and likely to excite the feelings of the people of that country.
(b) The Palestine Government should examine the Press Law now in force in that country with a view to making provision, if such provision does not now exist, which would enable them to obtain from the Courts a conviction in any case in which it is proved that articles tending to a breach of the peace have been published in a newspaper in Palestine.
53. Steps should at once be taken to remedy the admitted defects in the Intelligence Service in Palestine. An adequate and efficient Intelligence Service is essential to enable the Government to check the activities of persons who endeavour to stir up racial feeling.
Functions of the Zionist Organization and the Palestine Zionist Executive.
54. —(a) We recommend that His Majesty's Government should re-affirm the statement made in 1922 that the special position assigned to the Zionist Organization by the Mandate does not entitle it to a share in any degree in the government of Palestine.
(b) We recommend, for the consideration of His Majesty's Government, that they should examine the possibility of laying down some precise definition of the meaning of Article 4 of the Palestine Mandate.
Defence and security.
55. —(a) The question of the most suitable form of garrison for Palestine should be referred to the appropriate advisers of His Majesty's Government.
(b) Until that question has been decided and thereafter until racial feeling has shown some marked improvement, no reduction should be made in the present garrison of two battalions of infantry.
(c) An independent enquiry should be made by an experienced police officer from some other Dependency into the organization of the Department of Police in Palestine.
You have already accepted and acted on this recommendation.
(d) The Palestine Government should be instructed to enquire into and report upon the possibility of forming a reserve of special constables.
Source: Report of the Commission on the Palestine disturbances of August, 1929. / Presented by the secretary of state for the colonies to Parliament by command of His Majesty March, 1930. London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1930.