Water Resources of Transjordan and its Development –Ionides report Its Political Impact
Arabs of Palestine……free “Arab” Palestine Prince Abdullah………Regional Kingdom under his crown Zionist Movement ….. “Place” for establishing a Jewish State
Ben-Gurion, chairman of the executive Jewish Agency, George Antonis, an Arab Christian and secretary of the supreme Moslem Council in Palestine. The meeting(1936) was arranged by Judah Magnes, president of the Hebrew University. Emphasis was on the proposed borders of the Jewish Homeland.
Ben-Gurion cited the biblical borders, “the land between the Mediterranean on the west and the desert in the East, between Sinai in the South and the source of the Jordan in the North”. When Antonis asked if Transjordan was also included in the above plan, Ben-Gurion replied in the affirmative.
A Royal commission was appointed with Lord Peel as chairman to “ascertain the underlying causes of the disturbances” and in June its report was issued.
Royal Commission Report Chapter XXI states that a land and an irrigation survey of Transjordan was an important stage of the proposed plan of partition for Palestine and as the only way to deal with the root of the trouble
Royal Commission Report At some point Transjordan was to become united with that part of Palestine which consists in its majority of Palestinian Arabs. “If partition is to be effective in promoting a final settlement it must mean more than drawing a frontier and establishing two states. Sooner or later there would be a transfer of land and, as far as possible, an exchange of population”
CDAC (Colonial Development Advisory Commission) Recommended the establishment of the Department of Development of Transjordan for carrying out irrigation schemes. Mr M.G.Ionides, a comparatively junior officer formerly an assistant engineer in the Irrigation Department of Iraq, was appointed as director of Development Department in Transjordan. to prepare an irrigation scheme for the development of Transjordan.
The study of the existing geological survey which was carried out by Mr. G.S. Blake was given a preliminary examination in order to enable a program for the survey to be started. Areas where drilling would be needed for sub-surface water investigations marked out
This was undertaken by the Department of Lands and surveys under the control of its director Mr A.P. Mitchell and his assistant director Mr. G.F. Walpole with Mr. V. Serbinovitch in charge in the field. In august 1938, Mr Serbinovich with two of his assistants were killed when their camp was attacked in Ghor Abi Ubaydah. The attackers thought it was a new Jewish settlement
The importance of the survey was stressed by the secretary of state for the colonies Mr. Ormsby-Gore. He stressed the importance of the water scheme in his speech in front of the house of Common Debate on Mar 8 th, 1938
...this survey is being pushed on with all possible speed. It arises out of the report of the Royal Commission, and it is essential to the effective working of the new Technical Commission. A full picture of the possibilities of Partition in Palestine unless we can provide all the data necessary for forming judgments regarding the possibilities of further irrigation.
By that I mean data concerning further sources of water, either from wells or from the diversion of Wadis by canals and the like, which will give some idea of the economic possibilities both in Transjordan and Palestine of the settlement of people, whether Arabs or Jews, as cultivators..., before the Technical Commission can pronounce on these questions, it is essential to have further data regarding the possibilities, because there is a great conflict of evidence”.
In June 1938, the Palestinian Partition Commission visited Transjordan, and a preliminary report on the possibilities of large- scale development in the Jordan Valley was submitted to them at the beginning of July.
Sir John Woodhead Chapter VIII paragraph 138 writes “in our opinion Transjordan offers small scope for intensive settlement on the land, we do not suggest that it cannot carry a larger agricultural population than it does, but we are convinced that the additional agricultural population which the land can support is small”
Sir John Woodhead “the Jordan valley investigations showed that there was little hope of an extension of cultivation by means of wells or by using the water from perennial streams which flow into Jordan from Transjordan…”
Sir John Woodhead “the rain-fed zone is already occupied by the population of Transjordan, and there are clear indications that there is land-hunger among the people living in that zone … and there appears to be little likelihood of that enormous area of desert land supporting a larger population than it does today.”
In Dec 1938, M. G. Ionides resigned his position as Director of the Department of Development, it was then decided that the department “would amplify the report on the Hydrographic Survey and compile data and the analysis in the form of a printed report as a permanent record”.
In 10/9/40, funds ceased but work continued in a modified form with funds from the Development Department.
Ionides Report the possibilities of development of Transjordan were not spectacular and only exist on a modest level. His most important proposal was the suggestion for the construction of a canal from the River Yarmouk. The proposal was that of £70,000 should be expended on this scheme.
Zionists Leaders response to Ionides report Mr Kaplan : “ A book was published regarding Transjordan. If I am not wrong, it is an official publication of the government of Palestine, so it will become the Bible for all the questions of Transjordan. This book appeared following the suggestion of the Royal Commission to examine the possibilities of additional settlement in Transjordan, and this book came to prove that this is impossible, that is Transjordan is already settled
Mr. Kaplan, cont. As far as I heard, the material within the book can also be used to prove otherwise, but in the wide world, the conclusions printed in the book will be accepted as objective. Now is the time to undertake a thorough economic investigation, how can western and eastern Palestine absorb great masses?....”
The Water research Bureau of the Jewish Agency and the Jewish National Fund criticized Ionides on many technical points; his calculation of preparation, costs, amounts of water needed, the Ghor canal plan. They contrasted Ionides calculations with those done at the Hebrew University by Professor Ashbel.
The Zionist’s experts criticism The study (Ionides report) was based on the present situation. As long as we base our plans only upon the living and living standards of the semi-nomad population of Transjordan, no advance in understanding shall be reached.
The Zionist’s experts criticism The study points out that improvements are possible. Any improvement is going to require the expenditure of capital, and we have to look for the most economical way for development.
The Zionist’s experts criticism In his report, Ionides sets the minimum of perspiration for dry farming at 200 mm. We think we should raise it to a minimum of 250 or even 300mm, as we did when we worked out the material to the water balance in Palestine.
The Zionist’s experts criticism Ionides compares the situation of dry farming to that in wet farming. A dry-farmed dunam needs limited and income from it is both limited and insecure. wet farming land is different. The intensity of the work is large, and the ability of one person to control an intensive farming area is limited.
The Zionist’s experts criticism Neglect and recklessness are felt in the arrangement of the calculations; you see everywhere simple arithmetic mistakes that later affect the course of calculations one way or the other.
Dr. A Bonne, the Economic Research Institute Jewish Agency for Palestine it accused Ionides of tendency of some quotation from the report of the Partition Commission which held that “Transjordan offers small scope for intensive settlement on the land” Further on the report was aiming to gather proof for the correctness of this statement rather than to give a sufficiently established study on the question itself
Dr. A Bonne, cont… The criticism goes on by noting the misuse of expressions like the indiscriminating use of cultivable and cultivated areas by quoting Mr Ionides himself. “the cultivable area in Trans Jordan is 4,490,0000 dunams, of which 260,000are irrigated and the rest dry-farmed.”
Dr. A Bonne, cont… It is therefore to be regretted that we cannot find in his assiduous report any authoritative findings on the development possibilities of Transjordan, which still remain to be clarified.
Polemics developed between the Zionist movement and Ionides’s findings regarding the possibilities of development in Transjordan. The Zionist movement wanted to prove that Transjordan if developed with the help of Zionist capital and their knowhow, land could absorb millions of inhabitants.
Sir John Woodhead, head of the Palestine Partition Commission in his final report in 1938, wrote a negative opinion as to the possibilities of settlement in Trans Jordan. The Zionist experts accused him that his opinions were influenced by Mr Ionides. On the draft of the evaluation of Ionide’s report someone wrote “it seems that the report of the Partition Commission was based entirely on the material; supplied by Mr. Ionides”
In the mid-forties Mr. Ionides became a declared anti-Zionist and a Pro-Arab in the dispute over the future of Palestine. He was the secretary of the Anglo Arab Association and took part in a lot of discussions regarding the region.
He criticized all the Zionist water projects in Palestine, including the Lowdermilk and Hayes Schemes
In 1946,, Ionides wrote an article under the title “The perspective of Water in Palestine and Transjordan” where he polymized with the Zionists over the development and its aspects regarding agriculture and water, both in Palestine and Transjordan.
Even after the establishment of the state of Israel, Ionides went on with his critical standpoint on the Zionist water development projects. He pointed out that The Jordan Valley Project was the biggest contribution in sight, inadequate though it was. This project ante- dated the Lowdermilk scheme by five or six years.
Ionides also stated that the The Arabs could argue, also most cogently, that a project worked out for the express purpose of providing for resettling Arabs obliged to leave a Jewish state if partition took place should be used for that purpose now that partition has in fact taken place.
This fierce attack on the findings and conclusions of the ionides report was due to it taking away a “strong” argument from the Zionist leaders for bargaining with the different parties as for the future of Transjordan.
In his final report, Transjordan was given little possibilities for its development. This did not prevent two other plans involving Transjordan, a Zionist concept of developing the region in a federal form or the greater Syria plan of Emir Abdullah.
This all came in the middle of an extraordinary tragic time for the Jews of Europe with extermination plans for the Jews by the Nazis in Germany and middle Europe and the expectations of the flood of millions of Jewish refugees from Europe to the region,where they expected to find a homeland ready to absorb them.
All the above mentioned plans concerning Palestine and Transjordan could not be accomplished according to the final findings of Mr. Ionides.