"Introducing a distinction which Your Lordship would not allow": official debates on agricultural co-operatives as a means of dealing with fellaheen indebtedness in Palestine, 1929-1934.




Ayers, Amber

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This thesis seeks to explain some of the factors influencing British colonial officials in mandate Palestine, in particular, British colonial officials‟ response to the 1929 Arab Revolt. The various groups in Palestine at the time of the Revolt agreed that it was a direct response to the increasing vulnerability of the Arab cultivator to loose the rights to the land on which he worked as a result of the particular combination of his indebtedness and the laissez-faire market in land supported by the British administration. Based on primary source research on memoranda and official reports from the British Colonial Office between the years of 1929 and 1934, this thesis seeks to examine the trajectory of British credit provision to the Arab population in Palestine in order to stop the tendency of Arab cultivators (fellaheen) to be caught in indebtedness leading to landlessness. The most influential official idea between 1929 and 1934 was one that supported the creation of credit co-operatives for the Arab population. However, credit co-operatives never became an effective means of dealing with the problem of indebtedness leading to landlessness amongst the Arab population in mandate Palestine. There were multiple difficulties associated with the creation of credit co-operatives for the Arabs in mandate Palestine. The most powerful obstacle to success in this colonial endeavour was the lack of consensus amongst officials on how to provide credit to Arab cultivators. There was little agreement on whether or not access to land should be secured for the cultivators prior to credit provision. In trying to demonstrate how much disagreement there was amongst officials about co-operatives and land rights, I am seeking to explain why co-operatives in Palestine failed. In the official discussions, it is clear that there were a significant number of officials who had a very detailed knowledge of the situation in Palestine. However, there was so much disagreement amongst officials that this understanding failed to translate into effective legislation that could deal with the land question and credit.



co-operatives, Arabs, land tenure, credit