• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Front Cover
 Title Page
 Preface
 Table of Contents
 Physical factors
 Historical factors and cultural...
 Land tenure in historical...
 Land tenure in practice
 The terraced Lebanon
 From the Lebanon to the desert...
 The peasant in the Lebanon
 Israel and Jordan: Inter- and intra-national...
 Greater Jerusalem
 A cultural traverse from the Mediterranean...
 A cultural traverse from the Mediterranean...
 The peasant, unknown quantity
 Turkey: From economic colonialism...
 Epilogue
 Addendum
 About the author






Group Title: Land for the Fellahin: land tenure and land use in the Near East
Title: Land for the fellahin
CITATION PAGE IMAGE ZOOMABLE PAGE TEXT
Full Citation
STANDARD VIEW MARC VIEW
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00053795/00001
 Material Information
Title: Land for the fellahin land tenure and land use in the Near East
Physical Description: 134 p. : ; 23 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Crist, Raymond E
Publisher: Robert Schalkenbach Foundation
Place of Publication: New York
Publication Date: [1961?]
 Subjects
Subject: Land tenure -- Middle East   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Statement of Responsibility: Raymond E. Crist.
General Note: "This text appeared first in serial form in The American Journal of Economics and Sociology, New York, and copyright obtained as the installments appeared, Oct. 1957-Jan. 1961."
Funding: Florida Historical Agriculture and Rural Life
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00053795
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Marston Science Library, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Holding Location: Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the Engineering and Industrial Experiment Station; Institute for Food and Agricultural Services (IFAS), University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved, Board of Trustees of the University of Florida
Resource Identifier: aleph - 001370257
oclc - 02733055
notis - AGN1862

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Title Page
        Title Page 1
        Title Page 2
    Preface
        Preface 1
        Preface 2
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents 1
        Table of Contents 2
        Table of Contents 3
    Physical factors
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
    Historical factors and cultural influences
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
    Land tenure in historical perspective
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
    Land tenure in practice
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
    The terraced Lebanon
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
    From the Lebanon to the desert beyond Damascus
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
    The peasant in the Lebanon
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
    Israel and Jordan: Inter- and intra-national contrasts and comparisons
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
    Greater Jerusalem
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
    A cultural traverse from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf: Syria
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
    A cultural traverse from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf: Iraq
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
        Page 97
        Page 98
        Page 99
        Page 100
    The peasant, unknown quantity
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
        Page 110
        Page 111
        Page 112
    Turkey: From economic colonialism to economic nationalism
        Page 113
        Page 114
        Page 115
        Page 116
        Page 117
        Page 118
        Page 119
    Epilogue
        Page 120
        Page 121
        Page 122
        Page 123
        Page 124
        Page 125
        Page 126
        Page 127
        Page 128
        Page 129
        Page 130
        Page 131
    Addendum
        Page 132
        Page 133
        Page 134
    About the author
        Page 135
Full Text










Land' For The Fellahin


LAND TENURE AND LAND USE
IN THE NEAR EAST






RAYMOND E. CRIST
Professor of Geography
The University of Florida














































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LAND TENURE AND
IN THE NEAR


RAYMOND E. CRIST
Professor of Geography
The University of Florida


ROBERT SCHALKENBACH FOUNDATION
New York


























This text appeared first in serial form in The American Journal of Eco-
nomics and Sociology, New York, and copyright obtained as the install-
ments appeared, Oct. 1957-Jan. 1961.











PREFACE


Living and working in Latin America and in the Mediterranean Basin
for a decade and a half in the course of the past thirty-five years, I have
become especially interested in investigating the influence of systems of
land tenure on land-use practices and on the welfare of societies as a whole.
The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has supported most
of the studies in Latin America and in the Mediterranean Basin in which
I have tried to give proper weight to the physical and cultural factors that
have determined the extent of man's occupance.
I am especially grateful to Dr. Henry Allen Moe, President and long-
time Secretary General of the Guggenheim Foundation, outstanding human-
ist and profound scholar, who has the great gift of eliciting the best from
all those privileged to work with him.
Experiences and techniques in the United States have evolved on the
basis of surplus production and appalling waste, but these same methods
will not necessarily bring other peoples to a higher state of material and
psychic well-being. Perhaps quite the contrary. This is especially true of
those areas where Nature has been niggardly, where modern technology
has scarcely penetrated, where social controls greatly influence develop-
mental potential and actual productive capacity, and where, in the words
of President Bourguiba, "dignity before bread is a basic principle." In
spite of these factors, man-land relationships in the Near East have been
evolved that might in certain instances be profitably copied by the West.
A research grant of the Rockefeller Foundation made it possible for me
to apply in the Arab Near East the analytical methods I had used in the
field when studying the cultural landscapes of both Latin America and the
Mediterranean Basin. I am grateful to Mr. Roger Evans of that Founda-
tion, now retired, for his breadth of outlook, his sympathetic understand-
ing of the problem, and his moral support of the project.
I am also grateful to the administrative and academic staff of the Uni-
versity of Florida for creating a climate in which scholarly research can be
carried on.
Thanks are due to Dr. William G. Eddy, whose profound knowledge of
the lands and peoples of the Near East was generously placed at my dis-
posal; also to the administrative and teaching staff of the American Uni-








versity of Beirut, all of whom cooperated in every way possible to facilitate
my work.
I am deeply indebted to Mr. Will Lissner, scholarly Editor of the
American Journal of Economics and Sociology, for his encouragement while
the work was being written and for making possible its publication in
serial form in the Journal; also to Miss V. G. Peterson, his assistant, for
her help in preparing this book for the printer.
This is reprinted material, and it is hoped that the repetitions, made
for emphasis in the several chapters when they originally appeared in
serial form, will be forgiven.
Raymond E. Crist
December, 1961











CONTENTS


I. PHYSICAL FACTORS 1
National Regions of the Near East. Climate from point of view
of farmer. Soils and agricultural values. Water and its utiliza-
tion in the steppe and in the desert.

II. HISTORICAL FACTORS AND.CULTURAL INFLUENCES 11
Nomadism and fighting strength of the tribe. Religion and
accentuation of members of various sects. The State and the
City as two completely different worlds. Transportation and its
effect on the national economy.

III. LAND TENURE IN HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE 21
The Peasant under the Ancient Egyptians, Phoenicians and He-
brews. Early Christianity a religion of the underdog. The
widening gulf under Islam between urban dweller and the nomad
or peasant.

IV. LAND TENURE IN PRACTICE 33
Peasant villages and collective ownership. Small holdings in the
mountains. The great landed estate-basic fact of life in the
Near East. Wealth in land the summum bonum of the powerful,
who are city dwellers. A peasantry with obligations but no rights.

V. THE TERRACED LEBANON 41
Blends of primitive and modern agricultural techniques in the
terraced Lebanon. Mountain massifs a refuge for persecuted
peoples. Household industries and fishing eke out slender farm
incomes. Mountain slopes support three times as many people
per unit area as do the great estates on the fertile coastal plain.

VI. FROM THE LEBANON TO THE DESERT BEYOND
DAMASCUS 49
Effect of introduction of time, savers on productive use of time
saved. Fragmentation of village landholdings. Damascus and








the satellite oasis villages. Primitive life in a village of the
semidesertic steppe. The great needs are land in fee simple for
the peasant, and capital.

VII. THE PEASANT IN THE LEBANON 58
The struggles between the sedentary peasant and the nomadic
herdsman-between those of the town and those of the desert.
The urban and rural population belong to two different and
hostile worlds. Migration between the wars was a temporary
solution to the population problem. Famines and epidemics are
fewer. Migration has slowed down. Pressure of population on
resources increases, and the peasant problem becomes yearly more
acute.

VIII. ISRAEL AND JORDAN: INTER- AND INTRA-NATIONAL
CONTRASTS AND COMPARISONS 66
Legal and technological expropriation of Arabs by Zionists. The
refugee problem has as many facets as countries to which they
fled. Israel a state largely subsidized from abroad. Effect of
boycott of neighboring Arab states. Israeli technological ex-
pansion in industry and in marginal land.

IX. GREATER JERUSALEM 73
Jordan and Land Reform-Jerusalem, sacred to Moslems, Chris-
tians, and Jews, divided by barbed-wire entanglements. Marked
contrast in land-use practices between Israel and Jordan. Land
surveys, partition of village-held land, and agrarian reform. The
oasis of Jericho and the mushroom city of Amman. Artificial
boundary lines and the endeavors of the Zionist-Arabs to dissolve
them.

X. A CULTURAL TRAVERSE FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN
SEA TO THE PERSIAN GULF: SYRIA 80
Views of a Syrian industrialist. Large estates of the Orontes
River Valley versus small, prosperous landholders around Idlib.
Rich cotton farmers and poor seminomadic share croppers. Visit
to a camp of nomadic tribesmen. Venture capital almost non-
existent, for education, public health and large-scale irrigation
projects,








XI. A CULTURAL TRAVERSE FROM THE MEDITERRANEAN
SEA TO THE PERSIAN GULF: IRAQ 91
Tribal lands, state lands and great estates. Rent, taxes, indebted-
ness, and inadequate diet. The Iraqi Government will probably
have to provide, among other services: (a) a land survey, (b)
security of tenure for the farmer, (c) cheap credit, (d) public
health measures, educational facilities and agricultural experi-
ment stations.

XII. THE PEASANT, UNKNOWN QUANTITY 101
Cleavages existing between the State and the people on the land.
Governments superimposed from above. Islam a State religion
that crosses boundaries of artificial "national" states. Near East-
ern leaders must reckon with the peasantry. "Land for the
peasants" and "out with the westerners," are popular slogans of
leaders who would like to unite the Arabs of the Arab States.

XIII. TURKEY: FROM ECONOMIC COLONIALISM TO
ECONOMIC NATIONALISM 113
From Turkey, the Sick man of Europe, to Turkey of Ataturk.
Economic nationalism and land reform. Separation of Church
and State possible because country was not weighed down by the
great religious traditions of the Arab States. Nation now less
vulnerable, physically and ideologically, than many others in
Near East.

XIV. EPILOGUE 120
Recapitulation. Improved diet would increase productive ca-
pacity. Introduction of improved farming techniques difficult
when practices are age-old. Surplus rural population can with
greatest difficulty obtain land, or jobs in industry. Underemploy-
ment and governmental instability. Islam a common bond
throughout Arab States. The West should work with the peas-
ants at the grass-roots level. "You can only guide humanity by
the attraction of ideals."


ADDENDUM













Physical Factors
National Regions of the Near East
The "Near East" is a somewhat vague and elastic term, less broad and
less vague, however, than "Middle East," which tends to supplant it in
certain quarters. It is that part of the world which lies at the eastern end
of the Mediterranean, south of Turkey and north of Egypt, forming vir-
tually a cultural unit. It is Mediterranean only in the very narrow belt
along the sea, where the coastal plain sometimes broadens out for several
miles and sometimes is pinched out entirely when precipitous cliffs come
down to the very edge of the sea; since the dawn of history this strip has
been open to the interior, to the plains of Arabia and the Persian Gulf,
and to the plateaus of Persia. This cultural unit, with both a Mediter-
ranean and an Asiatic cast, has a marked personality and is of especial in-
terest to the student of cultural crosscurrents. This part of the world, a
substantial area, has been, as it were, the cradle of our civilization-social,
political, and religious. The air distance northward from the Egyptian
frontier at the Suez Canal to the Gulf of Alexandretta in southern Turkey
is some 500 miles, the same as the distance eastward from Beirut, Lebanon,
to Baghdad.
The physical structure of the belt near the sea is responsible for a
succession of landscapes of marked contrasts. Along the shore of the
Mediterranean, and parallel to it, rises an almost uninterrupted chain of
mountains. The highest part of the chain is Mount Lebanon, which
reaches an elevation of more than 10,000 feet within a few miles of the
coast. Smaller ranges are found to the north and to the south with only
relatively low passes between them. The mountains themselves, steep and
infertile, have been intensively cultivated because of their historic role
rather than because of the good physical properties of the soil. The moun-
tainous barrier dominates a series of fertile coastal plains, a few miles
wide at best. The fertility of the soil, the abundance of water for irriga-
tion, the equable climate, and the ease of maritime navigation, made of
this narrow strip of land, thanks to its privileged position between the
Mediterranean and Asia, one of the favored areas in the history of the








world. There flourished the great Phoenician centers of Tyre and Sidon,
Byblos and Tripoli, while the Hellenic and Roman cities of Antioch,
Laodice (Latakia), Berytus (Beirut) survived many changes of fortune
to become thriving modern metropolises. Although agriculture was pros-
perous, the great wealth of this coastal zone was based on commercial ac-
tivity. This is a region of great trading centers rather than of thriving
agricultural development on rich farmland.
From twenty to thirty miles inland, to the east of the coastal chains, is
a block-fault valley, a part of the great rift system of East Africa, one of
the greatest faults in the earth's crust. It is marked by abrupt changes of
level, within short distances, of four and five thousand feet. The extreme
southern part of this system in the Arab States is occupied by Lake Tiberias
(The Sea of Galilee), the River Jordan, and the Dead Sea. The Jordan
River originally meandered lazily over alluvial flats on its way from Lake
Tiberias to empty into the Dead Sea, but the level of this latter body of
water, already 1,286 feet below sea level, is gradually sinking, and the
Jordan has entrenched its meanders to a depth of a hundred feet or more
as it degrades its bed in response to the falling base level. The narrow
flood plain of the Jordan forms, where irrigated, a light green strip in the
midst of the parched and seared surfaces of the terraces of older alluvium.
The salt-saturated waters of the Dead Sea sparkle in the dazzling sunshine
and seem curiously inviting in a landscape of weird and uncanny desolation.
The northern sectors of the great fault valley are occupied by the north-
flowing Orontes River, and the south-flowing Litani River, which drain
the fertile, alluvial plain of the Bequaa. The fault valley is bounded on
the east by another but somewhat lower series of ranges, the massif of
Mount Hermon southwest of Damascus approaching 10,000 feet in ele-
vation.
The Mediterranean coastal plain, paralleled by the coast ranges, and the
central down-faulted valley with its border of eastern ranges form a series
of landscapes of varied aspects. This whole sector, however, is but the
facade of the Near East-the narrow show window with its many sample
items crowded closely together, beyond which is the interior of the big
department store with its monotonous rows of long tables. These long
tables correspond to the great plains of the interior, the belt of gradual
transition from the coastal and mountain sectors to Arabia Deserta, not
unlike the plains of western Texas and Oklahoma.
For the window shopper who has seen only the show window, the facade,
the interior sectors of the Near East present a brutal change. Here there
are few contrasts and little relief, but broad horizons of barren wastes on a








heroic scale. Almost four-fifths of what is generally known as the Near
East consists of vast plains and plateaus dipping gradually toward the
Persian Gulf, which originally extended much farther to the northwest.
The whole of what is now Lower Iraq has within the last few thousand
years been reclaimed from the Persian Gulf by the deposits of the Tigris
and Euphrates rivers, which now join before they reach the Gulf to form
Shatt al Arab. These mighty streams are the life blood of the areas
through which they flow, and millions of date palms grow on the natural
levees along their lower courses. In travelling from Baghdad to Basra,
at the head of the Persian Gulf, one is aware of approaching the cultural
and climatic influences of India. Permanent streams, even natural re-
gions, are few in this vast interior expanse of the Near East. So subdued
is the physical landscape that it is possible to drive in a car equipped with
nine-inch, low-pressure tires for hundreds of miles in any direction out
over the trackless expanses, where the nomad reigns supreme, and where
both natural and cultural boundaries are fluid.

Climate
The Near East enjoys what is customarily known as a Mediterranean
type of climate, but there are many variations of this type which are caused
by the structural differences of the area. It is better for our purposes,
however, to look at the climate from the point of view of the farmer
rather than from the point of view of the climatologist.
The year is divided into summer, which lasts five to six months, or even
more, a short but marked winter, and a spring and fall of a month or six
weeks each. From the end of April to the end of October the barometer
is stable, and there is no rain; there are not even any clouds except in the
mountains. The anticyclone of the Azores and the low of the Thar Desert
are in control. Inland from the coast ranges the sun burns in a clear,
cloudless sky on a seared and scorched earth. The dry west wind in-
creases evaporation and aggravates the general drought conditions. By
July or August the country looks dreary and desolate, as if it could never
come to life again. The peasants and their animals keep to the shade
of their low stone or earth huts, which are hard to distinguish from the rest
of the countryside, and the nomads trek out of the desert to the east, with
their camels, sheep and goats, fleeing the heat and drought of that inferno.
Along the road from Damascus to Amman, through the area given over
to the extensive cultivation of cereals which are harvested in April and
May, thousands of camels will be seen grazing during July and August.
By the end of October the nights are longer, the rays of the sun are less








direct, and the coolness of the air heralds the coming of winter. But the
most important factor about winter is not the drop in temperature, but the
precipitation which accompanies it, the abundant precipitation. The farm-
ers must patiently await the rains in order to begin plowing their parched
fields. When the Azores anticyclone is pulled equatorward with the
wintering sun, the Atlantic lows sweep across the Mediterranean from one
end to the other. The whole region experiences cloudy skies, violent and
bitterly cold winds, and driving, massive rains. People shiver in their un-
heated houses, terraces are washed away, landslides cut trails and highways,
and rivers overflow their narrow beds. Rains are violent and copious, but
unfortunately they are not regular. A year in which a scant twenty inches
of rain fall may be followed by one which has over forty. Further, this
precipitation is not distributed over the entire year. It all falls during
the winter months.
The agricultural life is based on the winters rains, to be sure, but the
yields of the farmer depend on the two short seasons of fall and spring,
which last six to eight weeks, at most. November is awaited eagerly by
the peasants, and if the rains are good, the fields are plowed, the barley
and wheat are planted, and the grains have a chance to sprout and the
plants to grow rapidly in the Indian-summer days before winter actually
sets in. The countryside is soon covered with a vivid green, and everyone
is happy. If the rains are late the cracked earth cannot be worked, and
the farmer, on his meager plots of land, is off to a bad start on his annual
cycle. In the fall the farmer "ploweth in hope," but it is during the
spring of colorful beauty, that a crop is either made or ruined. From the
sea to the steppes the sunny March days bring out the grasses and flowers,
soon to be seared by the sun as the days lengthen and the sun's rays become
more direct. But this is a crucial time for the grains. If a few well-
spaced rains fall during March and April, the peasant's cup runneth over.
The heads of the grain fill out, and the yield of wheat may be ten-nay, a
hundredfold, as in the folk tales of olden days.
But the farmer is never allowed to forget his proximity to the desert,
from which a hot wind may suddenly blow. This hot wind from the
desert, which blows toward a depression as it moves from west to east
across the Mediterranean Basin, is known over the whole desert edge of
the Mediterranean world, from Morocco to Turkey: the Sirocco in North
Africa-which at times reaches southern Europe; the Khamsin in Egypt,
and the Shlook in the Levant. In a few hours the temperature may rise
twenty or thirty degrees, from 500 to 700 or 800 Fahrenheit. The air is







hot and dry, and dusty as well, and the sun is obscured in a yellowish haze.
Fruit trees and grain crops, just getting used to the mild spring weather,
may be destroyed by such a wind in a matter of days.
Along with these brusque changes from day to day goes the irregularity
of the climate year by year. A cycle of lean years not infrequently follows
a cycle of fat years. The dream that so troubled the Pharaoh that he
asked Joseph to interpret it for him, faithfully describes a climatic cycle
'(GEN. 41) with which the pastoral Hebrews were all too familiar. After
a few dry years the peasant goes from his usual misery to famine, for the
difference between a good year and a bad year is not, as with us, the differ-
ence between a good year and a little less than usual. It is the difference
between the usual low yield and virtually nothing at all. A poor year
means a total crop failure.
Along the coastal plain itself the Mediterranean Sea tempers the heat
of summer and the cold of winter. Orange plantations, winter sports
resorts and desert oases can be visited within less than seventy-five miles
from Beirut. In a few winter months, the western slope of the mountain
barrier gets almost as much rainfall as our Middle West in a whole year,
the annual average being about 35 inches. But an average year is a fiction.
There is a great variation in years. Beirut for 1950-51 had 27.18 inches
of rainfall, against 45.70 for the 1951-52 rainy season. The coastal areas
of the Near East are among the best watered sectors of the Mediterranean
Basin.
Once the winds have crossed the coast ranges they have lost the greater
part of their moisture and become drying winds. The aspect of the land-
scape changes brusquely, from the maritime Mediterranean of the western
flanks of the coastal mountains to the middle-latitude steppe of Damascus,
where, except in the irrigable areas, grain crops are grown on an exten-
sive basis. The air during the summer is very dry, and on going from
Damascus to the coast one goes from the dry oven heat of the interior to
the close, steaming heat of Beirut, where the lack of evaporation on one's
skin makes for an extremely high sensible temperature. This same high
humidity along the coast is exceptionally favorable for plant growth, mak-
ing possible the production, without irrigation, of such crops as maize,
grain sorghum, cotton, and tobacco. Because of this relatively mild cli-
mate, diverse crops from many arid varied climes have been introduced
here, the cactus of America, the eucalyptus of Australia, the pear, the
apple, the apricot, the almond and the vine from Central Asia, the peach,
the mulberry, and the citrus from China, rice, sugar cane, and cotton
from India, and, from Africa, the banana.








This extremely favorable climate is enjoyed by a narrow strip along the
coast, which is a tiny fraction of the combined area of the Near East.
Precipitation decreases rapidly and the heat of summer and the rate of
evaporation increase as one goes inland; plants must be able to mature
early or be killed by the searing heat of the summer; beyond the coast
ranges trees soon give way to the scant pastures of thorny scrub which make
possible only the life of the herdsmen, which becomes more and more
genuinely nomadic and precarious the more closely one approaches the
true desert.
A dominating fact of life in the Near East is that there are two ways of
life, climatically induced but diametrically opposed to each other-the life
of the settled husbandman, who is anchored to the soil, and the life of the
nomadic herdsman, who is ever on the move in search of pasture for his
animals. These two ways of life, because of the nature of the physical
landscape, and reinforced by thousands of years of historical development,
can all too frequently be seen existing side by side-culturally as well as
physically-in the same area. This cultural dichotomy can be observed
not only in a single group, but in a single individual. The zone of steppes,
between the Mediterranean coastal strip and the desert, is the belt of cereal
production par excellence, where sedentary farmers may till the land and
after the harvest graze their flocks, or may merely work their fields and
rent the grazing rights to nomads, who live only by their herds. Indeed
here is the classic zone between the desert and the sown, where every
gradation can be found between the freedom-loving nomad with his flocks
and the hard-working peasant rooted on the land. Perhaps we may with
some justice speak of the dual personality of many of the peasants who
with their brawn cultivate the soil while their hearts are yearning toward
the black tents.

Soils
The first impression one has of the Near East is that of a land of rocks
and drought. The percentage of actual cultivable soil is very low. From
50 to 90 per cent of any given country is bare, sterile rock. Rainfall is
not well enough distributed during the year to sustain the tangled mass
of weeds and grasses that form a sod in well-watered parts of the earth.
The concept of "sod" does not exist; an extension worker from the United
States found it impossible to get the idea across, even through an inter-
preter, to a person in his audience who had asked what it meant. The
Mediterranean soils are not subject to the chemical decomposition which
accompanies the high temperatures and the abundant, well-distributed rain-







fall of the tropics. The soils of the narrow coastal plain from Palestine to
Turkey are made up in part of delta deposits and alluvial fans laid down
by rivers and mountain torrents, and in part of the residual material left
by the decomposition of loosely consolidated Quaternary sandstones, the
r.m!de. These soils are ideal for the growing of fruit trees, vineyards and
vegetables, provided there is ample water for irrigation. The mountain-
sides themselves are of little agricultural value unless patiently and inten-
sively terraced. In some cases soil is brought in from elsewhere, in others
it is allowed to accumulate behind the retaining walls which catch the silt-
laden runoff during the winter rains.
The rich soils of the great valleys of the Orontes, Litani and Jordan
rivers, of recent alluvium, are extremely fertile. Beyond the rift valley
and the second range of mountains in southern Syria and in Jordan are
the rich soils made up of alluvium and of the products of the disintegra-
tion and decomposition of great lava flows. Northern Syria and north-
western Iraq are even more fortunate. The soils or recently deposited
alluvium are very extensive, and the increased amount of rainfall-and less
evaporation because of its northern location-make for an ideal farming
area. Over vast areas, the deposits of limestone have been decomposed
into deep, residual red soils, which are ideal for olive plantations and for
the growing of cereals. Idlib, on the road from Latakia to Aleppo, is the
center of one of the most fertile areas in Syria.
Here in northern Syria, between the coast and Aleppo, are the remains
of enormous cities, whose inhabitants were engaged in commerce as well
as in the making of wine and olive oil. These "ghost towns," whose
market was the great trading emporium of Antioch, for years probably
the largest city in the Roman Empire, supported hundreds of thousands
of people where now only a few head of sheep and goats make a meager
livelihood. Some there are who feel that a change in the physical climate
brought about the decline of this once prosperous region, but that expla-
nation seems remote and recherche. It was perhaps due rather to a change
in the social and economic climate. With the decline of the great market
in Antioch the life blood ceased to circulate freely in the established trade
arteries of the Near East and decline was inevitable.
Farther east, in what the Arabs call the Jezireh, the "island" between
the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, deep alluvial soils which have long been
given over to nomadic grazing have at last felt the share of the plow. The
tremendous fertility of the desert soils has given modern pioneers in
those sectors the fulfillment of a farmer's dream-a hundredfold return.








Water
The inhabitants of parts of the world that have ample rainfall well dis-
tributed throughout the year find it difficult to envision the problems of
those who live where every drop of water is a pearl of great price. In the
steppe and in the desert water is life itself. Every exotic stream means a
narrow strip of living green and every spring means an oasis, and the oasis
and the desert are as different as the quick and the dead. The word in
Arabic for "spring" is ain, which is also the word for "eye." The spring
is indeed the eye of the desert, an eye which looks out upon the parched
and desolate wastes as it looks out upon the dusty traveller and his caravans
and herds and flocks. It is into this eye that the nomad and agriculturist
alike look and read the inmost thoughts and soul of the sphinxlike desert.
The spring means that in spite of its harsh exterior, the desert has com-
passion. It is no wonder that the "high places" which are cool, and the
springs which are a symbol of life eternal, were the favorite places of
worship-they were "holy places" in every sense of the word. And
springs could be utilized to the fullest extent with the most primitive equip-
ment. They were made to the measure of pre-machine-age man. Men
with permanent springs had to fear no acts of God or caprices of nature.
It is these never-failing springs that have been used since time immemorial.
Springs and even the smaller rivers were easy for man to manage before
the invention of the internal-combustion motor and other modern equip-
ment. Water from the north-flowing Orontes River, which occupies the
northern part of the great fault valley mentioned earlier, is lifted onto the
land by giant water wheels, or norias. These huge wheels, generally some
thirty or forty feet in diameter, are ingenious devices constructed entirely
of wood, the outer rim consisting of a series of containers which fill as
they dip below the surface of the river and empty into an aqueduct as they
reach the top; they are equipped with paddles which the current of the
river itself keeps in motion. These enormous wheels, one of the most
picturesque sights in the Near East, require no overseer, yet they never stop
day or night. As they slowly but ceaselessly turn they emit weird other-
worldly sounds, meanings and groanings as of some giant banshee in
pain.
The story is told of a foreign technician who felt that the quantity of
water lifted could be greatly increased and the amount of noise decreased
if a little grease were applied to the huge beam of hardwood which serves
as the axle. The moans were somewhat muffled, to be sure, and the wheel
did move faster-with the result that much of the water splashed out be-
fore it reached the aqueduct. After a brief spurt of glorious modem








efficiency the grease was dissipated and the wheel returned to its old pace,
slow and complaining, "inefficient" but effective. Those who had used
these wheels for centuries knew how to get the most out of them. This is
just one more of the many examples that could be cited of the fact that
technical and scientific learning are not a substitute for local experience.
The valley of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers has been a storied land
from the dawn of history, and the alluvium deposited by these rivers in
the Persian Gulf has, within historical times, reclaimed many square miles
from the sea. As one first comes upon the Euphrates-the "Good Phrates"
of the Greeks-the scene is most impressive. The great river flows in
wide meanders in a flood plain four or five miles wide dominated by cliffs
of white and brown, loosely-consolidated clays and sands. Its muddy
waters reflect the rays of the desert sun as it winds its slow way through
a countryside that is the picture of almost lifeless desolation. A few
tamarisks along the edge of the river make a fringe of green, but the great
flood of water moves inexorably on to the sea, unused.
Only occasionally a small plot of green shows that the patience and
industry of man and his domestic beasts have been rewarded. By use of
'primitive water lifts, with a patient camel, ox, or donkey as motive power,
enough water is raised here and there along the river to bring life to a
few acres of land. Lilliputian man is at grips with Gargantua who can
with one flood or one spell of low water brush aside his works as if they
were naught. The Tigris and the Euphrates are not cut to the measure of
individualized man-here thousands of men must pool their capital, their
labor, and their know-how if they are to survive. This they did in the
days before the Mongol hordes swept down upon them, destroying their
works and making it easy for the rivers again to claim their own. This, it
appears, they will have to do again if the desert is to blossom as the rose.

Conclusion
On a cultural traverse from the shores of the eastern Mediterranean in-
land to the desert one passes garden agriculture in the irrigable areas, ter-
race agriculture in the mountain regions, extensive cultivation of cereals in
the sectors which receive from ten to twenty inches of rainfall each winter,
and nomadic grazing in the areas of less than ten inches of annual rainfall.
These modes of life overlap or interpenetrate somewhat, since, for example,
irrigation is practiced from the desert to the sown wherever there is a
never-failing spring or stream.
The present patterns of land use and the established ways of life of the
Near Easterners are fixed-they represent a delicate balance between phys-






10

ical and cultural forces. The people here as elsewhere are set in their ways.
The naive Occidental cannot but be influenced by his own concepts of the
low productivity of the land as at present exploited by the Near Eastern
fellahin, and he is likely to feel that the introduction of modem techniques
will automatically transform this whole area, that it will make it infinitely
more productive, and that it will raise the level of living of its inhabitants
at a rapid rate. It must ever be kept in mind, however, that even the
most primitive-looking rural economy is a complex whole, and that modern
techniques cannot be introduced into one segment without influencing the
whole.
This summary outline of the physical features of the Near East makes
it evident that the potentialities of this great area should be judged accord-
ing to the standards that are valid there, not necessarily in Western Europe
or in the United States. To comprehend the standards and values which
men live by in any society, consideration must be given to historical factors
and cultural influences.












II
Historical Factors and Cultural Influences
Nomadism
The great desert of Syria is not an absolute void. The steppes on its
flanks enjoy a little rainfall, basins of interior drainage accumulate in their
lowest parts enough moisture to produce a fast-growing grain or fodder
crop, and the dry beds of wadis (arroyos) support a certain minimum of
pasture. The subsurface water below them can often be reached by dug
wells which the Bedouin uses as a basis of operations. But there is no fixed
boundary line between the Desert and the Sown throughout the great belt
that extends from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf. After a series of dry
years the desert is wont to reclaim its own, spilling its people, the nomads,
over into the area occupied by sedentary agriculturalists.
Bedouins are a prolific people; the desire for the continuity of the family
is very strong. Further, to keep up the fighting strength of the tribe is a
sine qua non if it is to continue to survive. To have children is the summum
bonum in the eyes of man and of Allah. Living conditions on the desert are
harsh, and Bedouin children are born under conditions which would seem
to most Westerners little short of infanticide. Midwifery is of the most
primitive order, and the infants who survive must be fit and hardy indeed.
The miserable goat-hair tent, some ten feet long, seven feet wide and five
feet high, is neither wind-proof, sand-proof, nor water-proof; yet it is the
only shelter against the sun and sandstorms of summer and the cold, howl-
ing winds of winter. Sheep, goats and members of the family live together
in the most intimate and friendly symbiosis, sharing their warmth, their
filth and their fleas. Under such conditions children are born, and they pass
their months of immobility on the floor of the tent, covered with dirty,
vermin-infested rags, while their mothers milk the sheep, make the bread,
carry water from the spring, and perform their other household tasks.
But living conditions are basically wholesome, much more so than in most
city slums. The nomad does not stay long enough in one place for slops
and garbage to accumulate. The desert air is singularly free from noxious
bacteria, and the continuous sunshine is most salubrious. Hence, in spite
of a high rate of infant mortality, many children survive the rigors of desert








life, and those who do are hardy and energetic, with sharp, alert mentality
and with bodies that are veritable bundles of skin and nerve. The result has
been that the desert, where resources are strictly limited, has for immemorial
ages created a reservoir of surplus human beings.
Every cycle of dry years will set in motion this highly mobile population,
who will, like locusts, migrate from the seared and barren desert to seek
food and forage in the area that is occupied by a sedentary agricultural popu-
lation. The extensive economy of the desert is superimposed upon the sed-
entary agricultural area. In the words of Jeremiah, "Many pastors have de-
stroyed my vineyard; they have trodden my pleasant portion under foot and
made a desolate wilderness." During such a period of forced migration,
camels, sheep and goats will be seen grazing in the fields that are planted
to wheat and barley, or even in the carefully terraced plots where olive trees
and grape vines are growing. In a few days the year's crop and the efforts
of a century are destroyed.
This grazing economy cannot support as many people per unit area of
land as could the agricultural economy, and the surplus human beings must
migrate elsewhere in order to eke out a living. Hordes of homeless and
hungry human beings have been generated by the desert and have been
pushed off it since the beginning of history. Such people have ever been
receptive to the words and works of prophets and holy men. The miracle
of Christ feeding the five thousand people with the five loaves and two
fishes could not but have made a deep impression on those hungry and un-
employed sons of the desert.
And when the day began to wear away, then came the twelve, and said
unto him, Send the multitude away, that they may go into the towns and
country round about, and lodge, and get victuals: for we are here in a des-
ert place. (ST. LUKE, 9:12.)
Long before the time of Christ the children of Israel had gone to Egypt
because the famine was sore upon them. Their flocks no longer had pas-
ture and they were forced to flee from their grazing lands and to throw
themselves upon the mercy and charity of the ruler of a foreign land de-
voted to sedentary agriculture. Armies of mercenary troops seem time
and again to have been raised with relative ease from among these uprooted
and starving peasants and nomads on the loose. In the army one had the
prospect of overrunning rich areas, of capturing slaves and booty, of living
off the fat of the land, whereas civil life offered nothing but insecurity, mo-
notony and poverty-if not actual starvation.
Population pressure was further reduced by the enslaving of entire popu-









lations of conquered countries, who were put to work on roads and public
buildings. They were also used to work plantations in underdeveloped
areas in order to produce the foodstuffs for their own use, as well as a sur-
plus for the overlords. Hundreds of thousands of man-years were con-
sumed in the construction of paved roads, magnificent temples and other
monumental buildings. Even today there is a lavish use of hand labor.
For instance, the limestone blocks used in constructing a building are shaped
one by one by individual workmen, some of whom have profiles like those
seen on old Assyrian coins (or Sumerian bas reliefs). Each blow of an iron
hammer, the only tool used, removes a tiny flake of the stone, which is thus
gradually shaped for its own individual niche in the edifice. Time is seem-
ingly of no importance.
The cityward movement of the surplus rural population must have been
strong for thousands of years. The Phoenician cities of Sidon, Tyre, Byblos,
and Tripoli must continually have grown by the process of accretion, as mi-
grants reached them from the shifting belt between the desert and the sown.
These cities became the centers of prosperous city-states, as can be seen from
reading Ezekiel's account of Tyre (xxvii):
Thy borders are in the midst of the seas, thy builders have perfected thy beauty.
They have made all thy ship boards of fir trees of Senir: they have taken cedars from Leb-
anon to make masts for thee.
Of the oaks of Bashan have they made thine oars; the company of the Ashurites have made
thy benches of ivory, brought out of the isles of Chittim.
Fine linen with broidered work from Egypt was that which thou spreadest forth to be thy
sail; blue and purple from the isles of Elishah was that which covered thee.
The inhabitants of Zidon and Arvad were thy mariners: thy wise men, O Tyrus, that were
in thee, were thy pilots.
Tarshish was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of all kind of riches; with silver,
iron, tin, and lead, they traded in thy fairs.
Syria was thy merchant by reason of the multitude of the wares of thy making: they oc-
cupied in thy fairs with emeralds, purple, and broidered work, and fine linen, and coral,
and agate.
Damascus was thy merchant in the multitude of the wares of thy making, for the multi-
tude of all riches; in the wine of Helbon, and white wool.
Arabia, and all the princes of Kedar, they occupied with thee in lambs, and rams, and
goats: in these were they thy merchants.
Phoenician commerce and industry flourished, as shippers went farther and
farther away in search of cargo. Population pressure in the steppe and des-
ert to the east continued to supply the people necessary to engage in the
many activities in connection with the expanding international trade. This
continued migration probably played an important role in making it pos-
sible for these Phoenician emporia of the eastern Mediterranean to become








colonial powers, and to reach out across the entire length of the Mediter-
ranean to found colonies in Carthage, Bizerte, Bone and Algiers, along the
coast of North Africa, as well as Cidiz and Tarsis in Spain, beyond the Pil-
lars of Hercules.
To be sure the economic history of the Near East is closely tied up with
the functioning of trade arteries. The vicissitudes of commerce and the
shifting of trade routes explain in large part the prosperity and the decline
of Hira and Koufa, in the Euphrates valley, as well as of the legendary
cities of Palmyra and Petra, of the ghost towns of northern Syria and of the
ports of the southern end of the Red Sea. The one-time prosperity of these
cities is not easily explained in terms of their local resources or of those of
their hinterlands, but rather by the fact that guides, caravan men, ware-
house owners and merchants, all were able to reap tremendous profits from
a once flourishing transit trade. When routes changed, for whatever reason,
decline was immediate. Much of the activity in connection with caravans,
over whatever routes, was carried on by those whom we at present would
consider "displaced persons". It must continually be kept in mind, how-
ever, that "refugees" and "displaced persons" are and have ever been the
norm, not the exception, in Near Eastern society.
The nomad, as nearly as he is able, drives his herds each season over the
area on which he has pastured them at the same season the year before. His
being ever on the move is not a symptom of shiftlessness, but an approxi-
mation of the farmer's rotation of crops or performance of different opera-
tions in different fields with the changing of the seasons. The nomad and
the farmer do what they do in their endeavor to prevent exhaustion of a
particular area. The nomad must range widely in order that his animals
may convert coarse grasses and shrubs into human food, whereas the farmer
must stick close to the little patch of land on which he tries to grow the edi-
ble roots and seeds to support his family. The nomad regards the farmer as
a lowly clodhopper, and heartily despises him. The farmer looks upon the
nomad as a shiftless vagabond, but in his heart he envies him. Throughout
history the frontiers between the world of the nomad and of the farmer have
shifted, and bitterness between the representatives of these markedly differ-
ent ways of life has become traditional.
When the steppe can no longer support the animals with which the no-
mads have stocked it, they invade the cultivated sectors in search of food
and fodder. When the steppe, for physical or technological reasons, be-
comes capable of producing cultivated crops, the peasant encroaches upon
the pasture lands of the nomad. The opposing groups employ dissimilar
methods of aggression. The nomad's raid is a dramatic cavalry charge,








shattering resistance and creating panic. But since history is largely written
by and for the sedentary population, the peasant's method is called "peace-
ful penetration." He digs in with the hoe and the plough, and he secures
the territory won by establishing a network of transportation facilities. The
relentless pressure of the peasant is no less painful to the nomad than is the
nomad's raid to the peasant. However, the reckless, desperate nomad has
throughout history so often conquered the man with the hoe that nomadism
has had a profound impact on peasant attitudes. The cultivator of the soil
has an innate inferiority complex vis-a-vis the nomad, and both are con-
vinced that the nomadic life is intrinsically superior to that of the sedentary
farmer.
In the social hierarchy of the desert and the steppe, camel breeders rank
first, because on the desert itself it is mobility that counts, not numbers; for
ages camel men have been able to deploy their forces rapidly, attack a cara-
van or sack a village, and make a fast get-away. The second stratum con-
sists of the sheep and goat herders, who have a wide range of action, but
who are defenseless before the fierce camel men. A third layer of society
is made up of those humble people who are engaged on a small scale both in
the growing of crops and in the grazing of sheep and goats. At the base
of the social pyramid is the fellah, the lowly peasant anchored to the land,
who is defenseless before the nomad and the city dweller alike, and de-
spised by both. The Occidental, imbued with a respect for the virtues of the
noble husbandman, suffers a distinct shock when he becomes aware of the
actual position of the peasant in the Near East. Literature in the West since
the time of Horace and Virgil has been filled with references to the advan-
tages of the character-building life of the country. In Arabic writings, on
the other hand, the attractions of the nomadic way of life are described, and
the virtues of the nomad are extolled.

Religion
The Islamic State is fundamentally a religious institution, which makes no
distinction between heaven and earth, the temporal and the spiritual, layman
and cleric. It is monolithic, a vertical and horizontal monopoly. There is
only one law, that of the Koran, and only one head, the successor to the
Prophet. Since this is true of the majority group, it must be true of the
minority groups which Islam tolerates in its midst. The people of the
Book, the Jews and the Christians, as well as the heterodox sects of Islam,
can exist as social entities only by having their own religious, social and po-
litical laws and their own leaders. The individuals making up these reli-
gious groups could not act on their own initiative: they were forced to move








and have their being as a part of distinct cultural units, for the religious
communities had to look after the temporal as well as the spiritual interests
of their members. They at once came into conflict with other social and re-
ligious organisms who were fighting the good fight for the goods of this
world as a tangible base from which to enter the spiritual life.
A minority complex, not to say psychosis, was not slow in developing in
everyone. This is not as contradictory as it sounds, for the majority group
in one place may be the minority group in another. For instance, Moslems
are a minority in 'Christian' Lebanon, but an overwhelming majority in
neighboring Syria. If a Moslem peasant from some little mountain village
is injured or insulted in Beirut, capital of the Lebanon, the whole Moslem
population in his village will seethe with hatred against the Christian mi-
nority in its midst, or, if the entire village is Moslem, against the neighbor-
ing village which is Christian. Name-calling will begin the unpleasantness,
fist fights will ensue, heads will be broken, a few hotheads will begin gun
play and some peasants will be killed. Next the troops and the gendarmes
are called in to restore order.
These are everyday happenings, recorded in the daily newspapers and
taken as calmly for granted as deaths from automobile accidents in the
United States. Syria will probably send a diplomatic note of protest to the
Lebanese government decrying the outrage. If a Christian Syrian were in-
sulted in the bazaar at Damascus, the same hatreds would be whipped up by
the Christian elements, with similar results. And so it goes. Since pious
religious motives are behind these battles, deceit and treachery, violence and
brutality, all are fair, for everything done is to the greater glory of God.
One of the most unfortunate aspects of militant Zionism is that it has
added yet another "minority psychosis" in the confused emotional atmos-
phere of the Near East. And there has been a recrudescence of anti-Se-
mitic feeling in Arab communities in which Jews and Moslems had
achieved a modus vivendi and had been pursuing their ways side by side in
peace for centuries.
Religious intolerance is a fundamental aspect of the way of life in the
Near East. Those of us who live in a country whose very raison d'itre is
freedom of worship, the separation of church and state, and the reciprocal
tolerance of sects, find the religious pattern in the Near East so utterly dif-
ferent from our own as to be difficult, not to say impossible, to comprehend.
The latent animosity between Jew, Christian, Moslem; and the numerically
minor religions, and between the various militant sects and schisms into
which the main faiths have split, can be aroused with what seems to us al-








most no provocation. There is no attempt to level off or to iron out differ-
ences. Rather they are deliberately accentuated. The members of various
sects frequently wear distinctive dress so that they can be recognized at a
distance by others as either friend or foe.
Such a state of religious tensions and hatreds, century after century, has
prevented the peasant from achieving a sense of stability that is considered
a normal feature of rural life in most parts of the world. The rural villages
seem permeated with an atmosphere of general malaise, the peasants in even
the most remote areas being prey to suspicion and jealousy. A missionary
doctor of nearly half a century's experience in the Near East told a reveal-
ing story. When he returned on one occasion from home leave in the
United States he brought back with him some Golden Bantam seed corn,
which he gave to a friend of his, a Moslem farmer in a small village. When
the doctor saw his friend several months later he asked him how the corn
was doing. Then the farmer had to confess: "You see, I didn't plant the
corn, because if I did my neighbors would pull it up. If I gave some of the
seed to my neighbors, the other villagers would destroy it. If the whole
village were given seed for a new crop, the next village would burn the new-
fangled and superior crop. And so I thought it best not to plant it at all,
and thus avoid trouble."
The peasant imbibes with his mother's milk hatred, jealousy and mis-
trust of his neighbor. Each lives in constant fear of the other, and both
look for aid and comfort to the other members of their own religion or
sect, however far away they may be, particularly to those who live in the re-
gional or administrative capital cities. The peasant cannot think of a given
territorial unit as being his, because the area he lives in contains also those of
another faith, or faiths-his natural enemies. Hence he must think in terms
of spiritual union with those of his same faith, no matter where they live.
But this means that religious groups cease to be geographic realities, in the
usual sense of the term; they have lost their ground base, as it were, in grasp-
ing after the will o' the wisp of spiritual comradeship with similar uprooted
groups in other areas. The Armenian Christian is as much at home in Bagh.
dad or Beirut as in Damascus or Jericho. No matter what business or trade
he is engaged in he will have no Moslem or Jewish apprentices or assistants.
If he is a silversmith or a goldsmith, the rule is especially rigid. He is a
member not of the whole community where he lives, but of the Christian
community only, dispersed as it is over the whole Near East. Religion in
the Near East has been an effective instrument in impeding the growth of
those roots which anchor men to the land.








The State and the City
The State is not the natural outgrowth, or political superstructure, on a
specific unit of physical landscape which has been given its personality by
the millenia-long activities of a distinct human group; it has rather been
superimposed upon, thrust deep into, the rural body, political and social, by
outside forces; by the peasantry it has always been considered a foreign body.
It has never, as it were, been assimilated. In the regional capitals of the
provinces, the entire governmental machinery, the police force, and the de-
partments of justice and of finance have always been in the hands of the few
powerful families, and have been used for their exclusive benefit and profit
Each city has extended its control over the countryside in its vicinity, on
which it battens. Almost all the produce of the land, and hand-made articles
as well, go in the form of rent to the town, while the reciprocal movement
in the other direction is almost nil. Further, the peasant acquires little pur-
chasing power because he has nothing to sell; what he delivers in produce is
to pay back advances already made. He has to pay debts at harvest time
when his produce is plentiful and the price is low. Hence he buys in a sel-
ler's market and sells in a buyer's market, and loses both ways. This state of
affairs does not endear the rich city dweller to the man on the land, because
the peasant is helpless before the exactions of the city dweller. Indeed, city
and country are two completely different worlds, and there is no transition
zone between the two. Suburban life such as we know it does not exist.
One does not live in the country from choice. The wealthy townsman lives
in town. He may have a villa, but it will not be in the suburbs or in the
country. The peasant and the rich city dweller not only live in different
worlds, their worlds are overtly hostile to each other.
The influences of the desert and of the desert dweller on the urban cen-
ters and the townsmen manifest themselves in many ways, some obvious,
some subtle. One frequently sees on the streets of a modern metropolis a
Bedouin accompanied by his favorite ram. It is tied to a tree or a nearby
chair or table should his master care to spend some time with friends in an
open-air cafe. Should the master be so sophisticated as to make a trip in a
bus or taxi, so does his ram, and the animal of course shares his owner's
quarters at his hotel, or wherever he may be staying. The clothes worn, the
language spoken, the religious rites practiced, all contain elements reminis-
cent of the background of life on the desert common to all Near Easterners.

Transportation
The opening up of the Near East to highway traffic has tended to modify
the traditional "closed economy." The truck, bus, jeep and station wagon








have brought with them the manufactured goods from Europe, the United
States and Japan. These machine-made goods quickly deal a death blow to
handicrafts, but even these goods must be paid for out of the limited budget
of the peasant, who formerly made much of what he now buys in the store.
He merely sinks more and more deeply into debt. Furthermore, cars, acces-
sories, gasoline, must in large part be imported from outside, whereas all
the expenses incident to the caravan transportation of former days remained
within the orbit of the national economy.
The automobile facilitates the exploration of the countryside by the land-
lords, who themselves need more and more money for their increasing ex-
penditures. They are able to check up more frequently on their peasants, to
squeeze the last penny out of them, and thus to aggravate conditions rather
than to improve them. Even before the age of automobiles, the rural exodus
was already a serious phenomenon in many parts of the Near East, and the
construction of routes and the importation of cars and buses on a large
scale has only speeded up the process. The result has been that the urban
agglomerations have been inundated by the flood of unskilled workers, who
settle in congested slum areas, and thus aggravate social problems that were
already serious. This urban proletariat, an insecure and heterogenous mass
of people, is an easy prey to the rabble-rousing demagogue. Hungry people
who are living precariously and who have nothing to lose in riots and vio-
lence are ever ready to form mobs that can be incited to pillage, to burn, and
to kill.
The differences between classes have become more marked and more vis-
ible during the last thirty or forty years. In earlier days the landlord or
some of his family often lived in the village and went to town from time to
time. Now the landlord and all the members of his family live in a town
or city and come out to his village, or villages, only occasionally. When he
sees his people it is all too often through the eyes of his mayordomo, or
overseer. Then the landlord wore the same kind of clothes as his people.
His were better, that was the only difference. Now he very likely wears
western dress. He no longer rides a horse, but rolls up to the village in a
fine car. The automobile has made it possible for him to keep closer watch
over the activities of his people, and this makes them no happier. The gap
was less wide, the difference less distinct, a generation or so ago when the
landlord was physically as well as culturally less remote. The young landed
aristocrats of today are farther removed than ever from the world of the
peasant.
Both nomadism and religion have been operative in preventing the peas-
ant from fixing his roots in the land. The central government and the large








urban centers, with their hordes of voracious and corrupt tax collectors,
landlords, and government officials, have been like leeches, sucking the life
blood out of those who tilled the soil. Even such modern "improvements"
as rapid transportation facilities tend in many instances to work against the
interests of the rural population.
A generalized character sketch of the Moslem peasant reveals highlights
and deep shadows.
He is steadfastly devoted to his family and to family life, yet he will mur-
der an unmarried daughter in cold blood if the slightest suspicion of her
virtue enters his heart. He will show boundless hospitality in every way to
the individual stranger in his midst, yet xenophobia can grow within him
and bear its ugly fruit with alarming speed.
He is sober and industrious, tenacious in his work, yet he can spend the
months between the planting and harvesting of his crop in complete idle-
ness, doing nothing at all, apparently thinking of nothing at all. He is abys-
mally ignorant in many respects, yet for millennia he and his ancestors be-
fore him have wrested their living with the most primitive techniques from
a recalcitrant environment.
In the practices of erosion control and in the application of the techniques
of dry farming, Occidental farmers could in some instances learn from their
"backward" Near Eastern counterpart. The peasant seems passive to an un-
usual extent, resigned to his fate. Yet let his honor be impugned by an out-
sider and he will commit acts of singular violence and brutality, not to say
savagery. Nevertheless he has to a large extent remained beyond the pale of
the economic, social, religious and political life of his times and region.
The strong ties of blood and the attachment of the peasant to his family
would be cohesive forces in his society, were they not nullified by the deav-
ages wrought by religious differences. Add to this the fact that even where
the economic basis of the society is sedentary agriculture, the faith men live
by is the idealized life of the nomad. The peasant has not even been al-
lowed to think of himself and his fellows as the grass roots of a nation, as
the solid foundation of the State. He has been denied even the vision of a
Promised Land.













Land Tenure in Historical Perspective
All this will pass away. The land remains. Arab proverb
BY THE DAWN of written history in the Near East, city States had come
into being, and the land which supported them was under the control of
the State, or the city god. But the ruler was the representative of the god,
and as such enjoyed the possession and usufruct of the land. Grants of
land were occasionally made to court favorites. But the greater part of
the land under cultivation was crown land, cultivated by serfs, who paid
rent in kind to their god, in the person of their ruler. This system of
land tenure has continued in force in Egypt millennium after millennium.
It has made the typical Egyptian a fellah, a peasant par excellence; it sup-
ported the thousands of serf laborers who worked for years on the build-
ing of the pyramids, and it was in full vigor under the New Empire when
Joseph, adviser to the Pharaoh, was naively credited with being its author.
The plight of the peasantry is well portrayed in the verses from Genesis,
which read:
So Joseph bought all the land of Egypt for Pharaoh; for the Egyptians
sold every man his field, because the famine was sore upon them: and the
land became Pharaoh's. And as for the people, he removed them to the
cities from one end of the border of Egypt even to the other end thereof.
Only the land of the priests bought he not: for the priests had a portion
from Pharaoh and did eat their portion which Pharaoh gave them: where-
fore they sold not their land. Then Joseph said unto the people, "Behold,
I have bought you this day and your land for Pharaoh; lo, here is seed for
you, and you shall sow the land. And it shall come to pass at the ingather-
ings, that ye shall give a fifth unto Pharaoh, and four parts shall be your
own, for seed of the field, and for your food, and for them of your house-
holds and for food for your little ones." And they said, "Thou hast saved
our lives: let us find favor in the sight of my lord, and we will be Pharaoh's
servants." And Joseph made it a statute concerning the land of Egypt
unto this day, that Pharaoh should have the fifth: only the land of the
priests alone became not Pharaoh's.
GENESIS 47: 20-26
The priesthood was not slow to realize the advantages of temporal as
well as spiritual power, in Egypt as elsewhere. On the fertile alluvium
of the Tigris and Euphrates the priests issued coined money, trained the








scribes, and dominated economic life. Their great estates waxed ever
greater, and the possessions of their temples increased. The great estates
were cultivated by serfs, who could not leave the land, and who paid
probably a third of their income to their master.
The fierce Assyrians superimposed a feudal system upon the world they
conquered, but gave some consideration to the land systems they found
in force in different regions. The serfs of the vast estates of the alluvial
plains of Mesopotamia not only paid rent, but they were also called out
in levies to work on roads and canals and on the construction of public
buildings. But the Assyrian landlords were aware that the farmer is the
foundation of the State and must not be taxed out of existence, or be
forced into the slavery of an ever-mounting and unpaid interest on the
loans for his seasonal necessities. Interest was not charged if the loan
was paid when the harvest was in, and the peasant was relatively well off
when Assyria ruled the world.
Much of the land of the eastern Mediterranean is rough and moun-
tainous, with a few pockets of rich soil, large enough to give a start to
civilization, but insufficient to support a large population. The narrow
coastal plain and the small patches of thin soil in the isolated valleys
were ill-adapted to farming on a large scale. Here the emphasis was on
the small farmer and intensive agriculture. The natural increase in the
population, growing, too, with constant recruits from the desert-was a
factor in driving the Phoenicians to the sea to act as the seamen and
merchants for the ancient world.
By and large, the rougher country was still held by the free peasant,
and the idea of family ownership was strong. The Assyrian general,
Rabshakeh, was well aware that the people of the rough hill lands were
used to the possession of land and to the peaceful enjoyment of the
usufruct thereof; he appealed to the sentiments of those who are familiar
with the holding of land in fee simple when, in trying to persuade the
men of Jerusalem to lay down their arms, he said:
Hearken not to Hezekiah: for thus saith the king of Assyria, "Make
your peace with me, and come out to me; and eat ye every one of his vine,
and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his own
cistern; until I come and take you away to a land like your own land, a
land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of
olive trees and of honey that ye may live, and not die."
II KINGS, 18: 31, 32
The large estate was conspicuously absent from the hilly sector of the
eastern Mediterranean, which for millennia continued to be worked by a








free peasantry. There were slaves, but no serfs. The Hebrew peasants
were united against the Philistines, at a price, for the king took their best
fields, vineyards and olive orchards to give to his servants, and he further
took their children to plow his ground and to reap his harvests.
David made a census, with an eye to determining the tax burden that
the people could support, and there is something strikingly up to date in
Solomon's division of the land into administrative districts where the tax
collectors worked assiduously to extract the monies necessary to sustain
his expensive court entourage. Solomon also made forced levies of work-
ers who were employed in building his great palace. The free peasantry
became restive under these burdens and initiated revolts, and the prophet
Amos paints a sad picture of the decline of agriculture and of the loss of
lands and chattels by the needy:
Hear this, O ye that swallow up the needy, even to make the poor of
the land to fail, saying, when will the new moon be gone, that we may
sell corn? and the sabbath, that we may set forth wheat, making the ephah
small, and the shekel great, and falsifying the balances by deceit? That
we may buy the poor for silver, and the needy for a pair of shoes; yea,
and sell the refuse of the wheat?
AMOS, 8: 4-6
To be sure, the unhappy lot of the free peasantry was due to bad
seasons and poor crops as well as to heavy taxes and oppressive land-
lords. Thus we read the word of the Lord to Haggai the prophet:
And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and
upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that
which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and
upon all the labor of the lands.
HAGGAI 1: 11
However, when for whatever reasons the level of living becomes bare
subsistence, sheer survival and nothing else, the people are not unduly
apprehensive about falling into the hands of foreign conquerors. The
common people and the peasantry, the ancient prototypes of the man in
the street, among the Hebrews-not the prophets and political leaders,
to be sure-submitted to foreign conquest almost with equanimity. Unfor-
tunately all too often the exactions of the conquerors were merely added
to the heavy burdens already imposed by the local leaders. Then we hear
loud lamentation:
And there was a great cry of the people and of their wives against their
brethren the Jews. For there were that said, we, our sons, and our daugh-
ters, are many: therefore we take up corn for them, that we may eat, and
live. Some also there were that said, we have mortgaged our lands, vine-








yards, and houses, that we might buy corn, because of the dearth. There
were also that said, we have borrowed money for the king's tribute, and
that upon our lands and vineyards.
NEHEMIAS 5: 1-4
The strong kings of the various empires that held sway over the ancient
Near East granted huge tracts of land to court favorites, to relatives, and
to lesser kings and nobles on the periphery of the empire whose support
and goodwill were necessary. In the long lists of exemptions and immuni-
ties from taxation and from public service enjoyed by these lands we have
a criterion of the dues ordinarily inflicted upon the land. Witness the
charter granted by the Assyrian Ashru-baniapal to Baltaia: "The fields,
gardens, and serfs, which he has secured under my protection, and has
made his own estate, have I freed and written down, with my royal seal
have I sealed it, and to Baltaia have I given it. As to those fields and
gardens, no grain tax shall be collected, no straw tax shall be required,
seizure of herds and flocks shall not be made, dues, corvee, levy shall not
be made on those fields. From dock and ferry tolls it shall be free, no
hides shall be given."1
There is no generalized land tenure system for the ancient Near East.
In the imperial free cities of Assyria citizens held land in fee simple,
both within the city itself and in the suburbs as well. Throughout history
a large portion of the mountainous sectors along the eastern Mediterranean
coast was intensively cultivated by small farmers who owned their land in
fee simple, whereas the land of Egypt and of the Fertile Crescent was cul-
tivated largely under the manorial system.
As the Pax Romana was enforced in the Mediterranean world there was
a general movement away from mixed farming to a regime of specialized
agriculture for export, which technical advance was followed by a kind of
"Golden Age" in most branches of the arts. The small peasant, unable
to compete, migrated to the cities where he searched in vain for work, and
where he was thrown a sop of bread and circuses. The next step was the
increase in the scale of agricultural operations through the organization
of mass production based on the labor of slaves brought in from newly
conquered territories. This plantation slavery was much more serious than
domestic slavery, for it was impersonal and on a large scale.
Wherever it established itself it notably increased the productivity of
the land and the profits of the capitalist, but it reduced the land to social
sterility; for wherever slave-plantations spread they displaced and pauper-
ized the peasant yeoman as inexorably as bad money drives out good. .
1 A. T. Olmstead, History of Assyria, New York, 1923, p. 513.








The plantation-slave system persisted until it collapsed spontaneously in
consequence of the breakdown of the money economy on which it was
dependent for its profits. This financial breakdown was part of the gen-
eral social debacle of the third century after Christ; and the debacle was
doubtless the outcome, in part, of the agrarian malady which had been
eating away the tissues of the Roman body social during the previous four
centuries. Thus this social cancer eventually extinguished itself by causing
the death of the society upon which it had fastened.2
One marvels at the genius which the Romans showed in organizing and
administering their far-flung empire. Whether one travels in northern
England or along the Rhine and the Danube rivers, in Spain or in North
Africa and the Near East, one comes upon the ruins of the great temples,
aqueducts, stadia, theatres, and other public works left by this enterprising
people. Even in terms of modern means of communications the empire
was colossal and required for its administration a huge army of soldiers
and of civil servants.
For centuries the legions maintained order and the civilians maintained
production. But the legions gradually came to be recruited more and more
from the inhabitants of the provinces and the civil population was com-
posed to an ever greater degree of slaves instead of free men. Overt
attacks from without could be dealt with more readily than the constant
boring from within of the vast slave population, made up of those cap-
tured in subdued cities and provinces.
Christianity in the beginning was a religion of the underdog, of which
there were many millions in the Roman Empire. No wonder it made con-
verts. In 325 A.D. it became the State religion of the Roman Empire
under the Emperor Constantine, who in 330 founded Constantinople,
the "city of Constantine," on the site of the former Greek colonial city
of Byzantium, and made it the capital of the Byzantine, or East Roman
Empire. Every effort was then made to convert all the divers peoples of
the Byzantine Empire to the new faith, by the sword if necessary.
The Emperor was head of the State and of the Church; absolute power
over the bodies and souls of his subjects was in his hands, and this con-
centration of authority did not make for the more abundant life among
the subject peoples. Heresy was stamped out, exactions of the military
increased, and taxes collected by the civil arm of the State mounted.
The old struggle between the Byzantine Empire and the Persia of the
Sassanides continued, and the common people suffered the ravages and
exactions of hostile armies and the repressive measures of the religious
2 Arnold J. Toynbee,'A Study of History, (abridgement of volumes I-VI), New York,
London, 1947, p. 196.








authorities. Syria under the Byzantine and Iraq (Mesopotamia) under the
Persians, with their distinct cultural backgrounds and religious outlook,
never entirely assimilated the superimposed Hellenic Rome and Persian
cultures. Separatist tendencies continued to flourish.
The great Romano-Persian war of A.D. 603-626 completely shattered a
society already weakened and disintegrating, "composed of three distinct
elements: disinherited and uprooted members of the society's own body
social; partially disinherited members of alien civilizations and primitive
societies that had been conquered and exploited without being torn up by
the roots; and doubly disinherited conscripts from these subject popula-
tions who were not only uprooted but were also enslaved and deported in
order to be worked to death on distant plantations."3 These elements,
robbed of their sense of human dignity over a period of years by decadent
masters, had no will to resist the hordes of Islam; the loudest protest against
intolerable conditions which they could voice en masse was to become Mos-
lems without a struggle, to enter the ranks of "submission to Allah."
Upon the decadent East Roman and Persian empires irrupted from
Arabia desert hordes of Bedouins with a new message and a fresh weapon.
The new message preached-within its own spiritual community--the
demolition of the barriers of race and color. The fresh weapon was the
superior mobility introduced into warfare by the Arabian camel. Khalid,
"the Sword of Allah," crossed by forced camel marches the trackless desert
from lower Iraq to Damascus, which fell after a six months' siege. Syria
and Iraq went down like ninepins before the conquerors. The people wel-
comed a change of political regime and looked upon the conquerors as
deliverers from an alien and hated people.
Once more in world history the shattering of an empire by a handful of
conquerors can in truth be explained by the fact that the conquered received
them with open arms. The tidal wave of the Arabs of the open steppes
broke and spent itself at last on the Taurus Mountains to the north, which
remained for centuries the frontier between Islam and the Christian world,
and to this day acts as the boundary line between Turks and Arabs. The
army had mobility and a new message, and the individual soldier had a
powerful motive for fighting, for soldiering was the noblest and most
pleasing profession in the sight of Allah, and it was also the most
profitable for the individual.
Islam provided a new battle cry and it also acted as a cohesive force for
tribes never before united. But it was largely economic necessity which
drove the Bedouin hordes out of their seared pastures and desiccated deserts
3 Ibid., p. 378.








to the flourishing areas of settled cultivation to the north and to the west.
This was the last great migration of people of Semitic blood from the desert
to the storied Fertile Crescent. What in retrospect seem to have been care-
fully planned campaigns were probably in the beginning mere raids for the
purpose of gaining booty rather than for any such objective as permanent
settlement. Tribes which had now become brothers by surrendering to
Allah could no longer fight each other; so they joined to fight those who
lived beyond the Land of Submission. It was the church militant, to be
sure, but the mainspring in the movement was economic.
Under Islam the right of property in land is essentially religious. The
Koran (VII, 125) says, "Land belongs to God which he bestows on whom
he wishes of his people." God bestows the enjoyment or usufruct of land
upon his believers on condition that they justify and purify it by giving a
certain portion of its annual produce to the poor. Subject only to this tax
which is called "purification" (zakat), or alms (sadagah), Islam recognizes
the right of believers, of those who have surrendered to Allah, to own land
in fee simple. The zakat was recognized as one-tenth (ushur) of the gross
produce on land irrigated by rain or by flow irrigation, and one-twentieth
on land irrigated by water which must be lifted, that is by buckets and
water wheels. Such land is called ushriyyah, or tithe land. By willingly
accepting Islam, infidels were confirmed by the religion itself in their right
to their land, provided they paid the zakat or tithe. The landlords and tax
collectors fled before the oncoming hordes of Islam, but the peasant stayed
behind on the little plot of land which he worked. By accepting Islam he
would be confirmed in his title to his land. Under such circumstances it
is not hard to explain mass conversions to Islam on the part of the land-
hungry peasantry.
If infidels did not embrace Islam they could peacefully accept the socially
inferior status of dhimmis, or tributary people, and pay an annual head tax;
the status of the people and of their land was written into the treaty of
peace, sulh, entered into between them and their conquerors. In some
cases they retained ownership of their land; in others, the land was an-
nexed by the Moslems, as fai, and made public property, administered by
the Moslem ruler on behalf of the community.
If the infidels chose to fight the Moslems and were defeated they and
their property were considered booty (ghanimah) and were at the disposal
of the imam, or religious head. In the case of the mainly non-Arab prov-
inces of Syria, Iraq, Egypt, North Africa and so on, the inhabitants were
left in liberty in the status of dhimmis, subject to the poll, or capitation tax.
The fertile plains of Iraq, Syria and Egypt were rich prizes for the Moslem








invaders, who, had they received grants of land, might have lost interest in
fighting for the further expansion of Islam. Their military chieftains
deemed it advisable to confirm the indigenous population in the right to
their land, with hereditary occupancy, on condition that they paid an an-
nual tribute called kharaj for the right of occupancy. Land so held was
called kharajiyah. A vast inalienable domain was created, to be admin-
istered during the period of the conquests as well as in the future; a per-
manent source of revenue was also assured the empire, to cover the cost
of the civil and military administration.
Karajiyah land was conquered territory owned by the State. Divine au-
thority sanctioned the process whereby land in conquered countries became
State property, for the Koran (VIII, 41) says, "Know ye that of all the
booty ye take, a fifth belongs to Allah and to his Prophet, and to those
nearest of kin, to orphans, to the poor and to pilgrims." The Ommayad
Caliphs considered such State land as their own private property and the
people living on it as mere servants and laborers for their benefit. The
extremely heavy taxation of this State-owned land hastened the process of
economic disintegration and was conducive to the social, political and re-
ligious restiveness, even open rebellion, in many of the newly-conquered
areas during the first century of the Arab conquest.
The Arab of tradition is first and foremost a nomad, and it is only
natural that nomadic herdsmen and warriors would look with disdain upon
the patient husbandman. But this cultural attitude was crystallized at the
time of the Arab conquest and has not changed since. Since before the
time of Mohammed the Arab elite have inbibed with their mothers' milk
the poetry of the Bedouin with its stereotyped themes. The method of
instruction has not changed. The Koran still forms the foundation stone
of all learning, lower as well as higher.
The Prophet himself, to whom the Koran was revealed, was a leader of
caravans, both commercial and military. In his world of western Arabia,
working the land was by definition the labor of slaves. It would have
been unthinkable for him not to be imbued with the current and socially
acceptable attitudes of his class. References to the satisfaction to be de-
rived from life in the country, so common with the Roman poets and in
the New Testament, are not to be found in the Koran. It is inconceivable
in the Arabo-Islamic tradition that a Cincinnatus would be called from be-
hind his plow to accept political leadership, or that an Emir or Sultan, like
the Roman Emperor Diocletian, would retire in his old age to his estate
where he would potter around a vegetable garden.
The Islamic conquest merely continued and reinforced the nomadic tra-








edition by establishing a warrior aristocracy in the cities of the conquered
areas; the subject peoples, the tillers of the soil, were to keep on doing the
servile work which they had always dond and were fitted to do-and pay
tithes to the overlords. The first converts were made in the towns and
cities, the country long remaining the domain of the infidels. It was in
the cities, not in the country, that the spiritual fusion, as it were, was
effected between the ancient world of Greece and Rome and the expanding
Arab culture.
From this fusion Islam evolved, but the Golden Age of Islam was created
by and for the city dweller who took the peasant into consideration as little
as did the Prophet himself, in the Koran which God had revealed to him.
Although the country peoples have to all intents and purposes long since
accepted Islam, there are many pre-Islamic practices which show through
the thin veneer. Thousands of villages have no mosque and almost no
organized religious life. Few peasants know how to read and write. So
great is the difference between the vernacular, spoken Arabic, and the class-
ical Arabic of the Koran that the vast majority of the peasants have no ac-
cess to their sacred literature, and they are looked down upon by the city
dweller as lowly, superstition-ridden beings.
Greek and Roman pagan societies and religions were autochthonous,
products of the land in which they were firmly rooted. Christianity is a
religion of the husbandman, of the farmer or peasant. Christ-like thou-
sands of Near Eastern peasants today-was born on the floor of a one-room
dwelling, shared by the domestic animals. The newly-born infant was
placed on the hay in the manger, a few feet away, where the family donkey
and cow were feeding. Such scenes are a part of the lives of sedentary
peasants, but not of nomadic herdsmen. Islam, on the contrary, was
founded by nomads, like many other empires, but whereas in general the
nomadic conquerors adjusted to the way of life of the sedentary conquered,
Islam imposed its language and religion on the conquered peasantry, pre-
serving its nomadic ideology, however, down to the present day. The re-
sult is a society, basically rural and agricultural, which is not rooted in
the soil.
Mulk land, or land held in fee simple, was of course a very small per-
centage of the area conquered by the Arabs. Practically all of the land
under cultivation was considered spoils of war, title to which was claimed
by the religious leader, the imam, in the name of the Moslem community.
Naturally there were not enough Moslems to work the land themselves,
but, as has been seen, the Moslems were originally not allowed to acquire
land in conquered territories; those already working it were allowed to








continue living on it and to have the usufruct (tasarruf) of it, so long as
they paid certain obligations to the State, to the central government, in the
person of the ruler.
The actual ownership (raqbah) of the land, however, was still vested
in the State, represented by the legitimate prince or Caliph. Raqbah means
literally "nape of the neck," and it is not difficult to see how this expres-
sive word would have come to have the legal equivalent of our word
"ownership." These lands are known in the Near East as miri lands, that
is, land of the emir, or ruler, somewhat comparable to crownlands in the
countries of western Europe.
There was at first a clear distinction between usufruct and actual posses-
sion, but with the passing of the centuries since the Arab conquest the
right of usufruct tended more and more to approach actual ownership.
The various land codes of the Ottoman Turks (from 1516 to 1918) tended
in the direction of confirming in the possession of the land those who had
enjoyed its use for generations, so that the right of usufruct of a piece of
land carried with it the right to work, rent, sell, mortgage and inherit it,
with few exceptions. For example, in the case of miri land which was left
uncultivated for a certain length of time, the State could exert its right of
eminent domain, claim the land, and regrant it to one who would 'give it
life.' Further, miri land could not, without special permission of the State,
in the person of the ruler, be converted into waqf, by those living on and
working it.
The waqf is a Moslem institution which has some of the features of the
trust fund and of the. religious, educational, and charitable foundations
prevalent in the Western world. A certain building or piece of property
was deeded irrevocably and in perpetuity towards the upkeep of a charit-
able or holy work, such as a hospital or a mosque. By definition, property
which has become waqf is no longer subject to civil or lay legislation, but
is to be administered according to Koranic law. It is inalienable, conse-
crated to the service of Allah, and is to be defended by the head of the
State, who, it must never be forgotten, was for centuries the head of the
church as well.
The administration of these waqfs, which in a few generations repre-
sented holdings of enormous properties, was a very lucrative business, a
political plum which could be given by the head of the State to his rela-
tives and friends. It is hardly to be wondered at that from a very early
period raids on the waqf properties were de rigeur, to the great scandal of
the interpreters of the law, of pious, religious individuals, and generally of
those not in on the graft. All sorts of legal fictions have been invented








to make it possible to circumvent the law, with the result that the waqf
is one of the most complicated questions in Koranic law. A given house
or property is waqf property and therefore cannot be sold, but one can pay
almost what it is worth on the open market, plus, say, a dollar a year
(peppercorn rent), and so purchase it. This transaction keeps the letter
of the law but breaks its spirit. The old saying "Once a waqf always a
waqf" is no longer valid.
By a form of waqf called waqf dhurriya property was "tied up" e.g. to
the poor or to such and such a mosque, but only after the death of all the
heirs of the dedicator or upon the extinction of such and such a branch of
his family. In this arrangement it is seen that the real.purpose was to pre-
serve the dedicated property in the hands of the dedicator's family by draw-
ing over it a religious veil which a political dictator might fear to tear away.
The charitable intent was remote.
This type of waqf has had much the same result as the system of entail
in England. It has helped in the creation of great landed estates and it
has extended and consolidated that system. In theory only land and build-
ings held in fee simple could become waqf, but in reality the system, par-
ticularly waqf dhurriya, has spread like creeping paralysis over vast ex-
panses of mii land, with the overt or tacit consent of the ruler. These
vast estates, which could not be alienated or broken up and which acted as
a brake upon the process of capital accumulation and the flow of trade,
have weighed heavily on the peasantry for centuries. By far the greater
part of the land in the Near East is held as mulk, miri, and waqf.
Matruka land is that which has been "surrendered" by the State to the
use of the general public (e.g. a road) or to a particular community (e.g.
village grazing lands, market places, or threshing floors). Mewat land is
"dead land," which has not been left or assigned to any one (i.e. it is not
matruka land) and which "is distant from town or village so that the loud
voice of a person from the outermost inhabited spot cannot be heard-
that is, a distance of half an hour." According to the Prophet "he who
vivifies dead land will become the owner thereof," but it was extremely
difficult to fix the boundary of such lands in view of the poorly-defined
collective rights of the nomadic tribesmen and the sporadic, patchwork
character of farming in the wide zone of steppes.
It is difficult to imagine a more complex and confused state of affairs in
the holding of land. There was a chaotic mixture of Koranic sanctions
and poorly codified civil regulations, of customs which varied from region
to region and of usurpations of rights so ancient as to have become "cus-
tomary." In 1858 the Ottoman government decided to establish a Land






32

Registration Service, which would clarify the general land-holding situ-
ation and give each holder of mulk or miri land a clear title, or sanad tapu.
The service was a signal failure.
Many peasants, convinced that the purpose of the proposed reform was
to increase taxes, refused to talk, or they gave false information. Un-
scrupulous officials from the central government could write their own
names in on the titles instead of those of the peasants who were working
the land. A village notable would declare all the land of a village to be
his, or a tribal chief would register all collectively-held land in his name.
Information was taken orally. There were no surveys, boundary lines or
written documents.
Instead of achieving security of tenure for all, the reform effected security
for the powerful and the unscrupulous. For unorganized chaos was sub-
stituted a chaos not only organized but legalized. The small peasant be-
came more insecure, while the great landlord could lay "legal" claim to
even more land than he had controlled before the reform.











IV
Land Tenure in Practice
Coli rura ab ergastulis est et quicquid agitur a desperantibus.1
Pliny

FOR THE NEAR EAST as a whole it is safe to generalize to the extent of
saying that titles to rural property, away from the coast and beyond the
"sphere of influence" of the large cities, are everywhere poorly defined
in jurisprudence. The simple cultivator of the soil is a victim of the
conflicting claims, upon him and upon his land, of the State, of the
Mosque, of the landlord, and of the money lender. The various claim-
ants disagree among themselves as to the division to be made of the
peasants' produce. In the absence of land surveys and land registration,
how can they know?
The social, political and economic status of the proprietor of a given
piece of land counts for far more than the actual juridical status. For
instance, a certain piece of property occupied by a poor peasant might be
classified as "abandoned", whereas the government official will consider
the same piece of land "cultivated", once it is securely in the hands of a
powerful landlord. Or again, if a poor man tries to occupy and farm a
certain piece of property he may be told that it is inalienable church land
(waqf), but a high government official, with the right connections, will
have access to it. Thus in many cases personal influence is more im-
portant than legal precedent in determining who actually controls a piece
of land. Possession is not always nine points in the law. Those who
possess land may not necessarily control it, and those who control it may
not be the actual owners.
The pattern of land utilization practices is by and large conditioned
more by the physical geography of an area than by the superimposed
regime of landholding, although it is oftimes impossible to sort out, and
give proper weight to, the divers influences that have been operative in
producing the resultant cultural landscape. The semi-arid climate of the
interior has greatly favored the extensive cultivation of cereals, principally
wheat and barley. The terrain itself, vast level to gently rolling plains,
lends itself to this type of agriculture.
1 (It is bad practice to till the fields with workers from slave barracks, or to have
anything done by men without hope.) Nat. Hist., XVIII:36.







The very simplicity of the agricultural techniques has meant a lack of
emphasis on "getting ahead", or on individual effort. In the endeavor
to survive, the peasants have congregated in villages, which look like a
part of the natural landscape, and which have very little contact with
each other or with the few large cities. The villagers have become more
and more dependent upon each other for defense against the raids of the
Bedouins no less than against the irregularity of the rains. It is not
surprising then that the broad belt of the steppes, the fabled Fertile
Crescent, which extends from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf, has seen
the evolution of the system of landholding under which the land is held
by the village. This is known as mushaa, which means "in common" or
"indivisible". The population of the village owns the property in com-
mon, but the land is exploited by the several families working as units.
In order to maintain collective ownership in vigor the plots worked by
the various families are periodically redistributed. Originally the re-
allotment took place at the beginning of the agricultural year, the number
of lots received by each family depending on the number of its male
members. The plots received vary from year to year. Thus each indi-
vidual family works for itself but it cannot dispose of its plot and it must
plant and harvest the same crops as the neighboring families, and at the
same time. The rotation of crops, and the dates for planting and harvest-
ing are fixed by a Council of Elders. The families abide scrupulously by
its decisions. The Council also determines the location of plots with
reference to distance from the village, to the varying qualities of soil, and
so on.
A common way of assuring each family its share of each kind of soil
is to give it a plot running from the village to the top of adjacent hills
or to the center of the valley. In many cases the long strips, in the
interest of social justice, become narrower with each redistribution, so
that cases exist of strips a mile or so in length but only a few feet wide.
But the working of such units has a greater social than economic value.
Such a village, almost hermetically sealed from the outside world, is,
however, a healthy economic unit as long as it operates in a kind of social
vacuum.
But modern influences of "individualization" have become operative.
There is always a possibility, for example, that the Council of Elders may
become dominated by a strong and greedy personality, who sees to it that
the annual distribution is made in his favor, and who can finally claim
certain plots as his property in perpetuity, with the right to sell them or
to transmit them to his heirs.
The procedures vary whereby the village common lands become property








owned in fee simple by perhaps only one person. Some plots may be
purchased outright, for cash, others may be seized for indebtedness, and;
still others may be occupied by force, on the part of a landlord, a powerful
official, or a tribe of fierce nomads.
The system of holding and working of land in common is a natural
response on the part of a group of people intent on preserving their meal
ticket by a show of cohesive strength in an area where the physical and
social odds against survival have been great. It is significant that the
village has been able to live on, no matter whether it was "owned" by:
a government official or by a -great landlord, by a money lender or by a
Bedouin band.
Individual land holding is found along the Mediterranean, in the
mountainous regions, and in those areas where irrigation is possible. In.
the mountains land is scarce but eagerly sought for because for millennia
the rugged areas have been areas of refuge. Exploitation there has been
much more on an individual basis than was the case on the vast plains of
the interior. Clearing, terracing and irrigation-all the operations neces-
sary to make such inhospitable areas productive-were done by and for
the individual, and the great variety of crops grown called for specialized,
individualized, efforts rather than for the routine tasks of the great cereal
belts. Besides, the expanding local as well as international markets of
the large coastal cities have stimulated certain individuals into investing.,
money in intensively cultivated gardens and plantations.
Upon the physical landscape in the Near East, particularly beyond the
variegated maritime and mountainous sectors, have been superimposed
juridical regimes of land-holding which have been in many instances so
transformed by custom and immemorial rights as to be hardly recognizable.
It is extremely difficult to study the effects of land tenure systems on land
utilization practices in the almost total absence of historical documents
and of trustworthy statistics.
A basic fact in the life of the Near East is the great landed estate, whose
owners, the aghas, obviously control the activities of millions of peasants..
The social climate-no less than the physical climate-of the strip between
the desert and the sown has favored the development of great landed
estates. Two factors have been paramount in this process: the over-
whelming social and political role of the city in Near Eastern life, and
the fact that wealth in land is the summum bonum of the powerful.
These two factors work hand in hand. The powerful families in the
cities, reaching'out into the country to gain control of the land and off
those who till it, have found powerful levers ready to hand to help then
in the process. The peasants living in the steppes-a kind of perennial







"dust bowl"-have never been in a position to accumulate wealth in any
form. They live from hand to mouth, from year to year, but harvests,
like the rains, are highly irregular. There come times when the peasant,
if he is to survive and if he is also to save seed for the next crop, must
call for aid from a merchant or other bigwig in the nearest town, who
has supplies or credit. These are extended-for a consideration. The
Koran forbids the lending of money at interest, but this prohibition has
not prevented usury. The poor peasant, for instance, merely has to agree
that he owes one hundred dollars when he has been advanced only 75, or
even less. Since the law is broken at all events, the creditor feels that he
might just as well make a whopping profit out of it. Why be a piker,
content with peanuts? Hence interest rates in the Near East are high-
15 to 20 per cent are relatively low rates. Rates of 30 or 40 per cent are
not unknown. Thus the prohibition against lending money at interest
has fostered usury, but it has not favored the development of a legal and
socially accepted system whereby liquid wealth could reap modest but
assured returns. The result is that the role of wealth everywhere has
been and continues to be the acquisition of land at the expense of the
lowly peasant, the fellah.
It is difficult for the individualistic-minded Westerner to understand
the attitude of the peasant toward his patron. The peasant is a horny-
handed son of the soil, who normally knows little about what goes on in
the big city, and would rather not bother about finding out. He is happy
to have a patron who does all his paper work regarding land registration,
payment of taxes and so on, for which services he pays a share of his
crop. He does not think in terms of a written contract enforceable at
law. He is buying protection at the same time-protection against the
tax collector, against the encroachments of an energetic neighbor, against
the high-handed demands of a nomadic tribe, or even perhaps against
the abusive practices of a powerful but distant relative on the mother's
side of his family. There are imponderables in the relationship of peasant
and patron that are not covered in the kind of cold, detailed, legalistic
contracts so familiar to us.
Perhaps if all the obligations of the peasant to his landlord or creditor
were written up and read out to him carefully, he would be horrified and
overcome with a feeling of injustice and frustration. But they never are
spelled out to him all at once, and his whole way of life is conditioned
by them, one at a time. He shrugs his shoulders and says "Allah wills it."
He is like the man who talks prose all his life without knowing it.
Some great landlords were created by fiat of the Sultan, who gave his
favorites large grants of land from his own estates or from tracts held by








the State. Such gifts were made by the head of the State who could with-
draw or cancel them at his pleasure. But the fortunate recipients of such
favors, with all the numerous branches of their families, soon formed
powerful groups united by blood ties, that, with the decline of the central
power, could and did carve out landed principalities for themselves.
The Jumblatt, Arslan, and Chebab families in the Lebanon, for example,
are such representative landed families, formidable factors at the present
time in the economic, social and political life of their country. These
manorial families sometimes count dozens of villages among their hold-
ings. The Dendashli family "owns" sixty villages in the Akkar plain
north of Tripoli, and the Barazi family of Hama owns fifty villages in
the Alawite Mountains of Northwestern Syria.
The princes of the various churches have not neglected their temporal
interests. In the course of time, as alms and pious bequests accumulated,
the religious bodies in the Near East have without exception become the
owners of large tracts of land. Religious holdings, protected by the
institution of waqf or mortmain, have only rarely suffered dismemberment.
It was easy for the Bedouin sheikhs, or chieftains, to become great
landlords. When their tribes became sedentary they merely kept the
best land for themselves, and put slaves and the poor and the landless to
work cultivating it. This process is still going on in Syria and Iraq on
the irrigable land along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
Out of the clearly-defined juridical systems of land tenure have evolved
holdings which are based rather on custom and on immemorial rights.
Land was originally considered to be the property of the tribe and was
administered by its sheikh or prince., But in the course of time the prince
became the de fact owner of the land, with the authority to levy taxes,
a part of which went to the treasury of the central government.
The same or similar means have been employed by landed urban-
dwelling aristocrats and by the princes of the church, as well as by
Bedouin chieftains, to assure control of vast tracts of land and of the
people on it. Anarchic political conditions, or a series of dry years,
strengthen the grip of the landlords on their holdings and on their
workers, while stable conditions and good crop years redound to the
benefit of the peasantry.
No matter what shifts occur in the social and political climates, how-
ever, the patterns of land use change but little, because of the fact that
in Near Eastern agriculture owner-operated lands are the exception. The
greater part of all arable land in the Near East is in the hands of great
landlords of one class or another, all of whom are city dwellers. They
are not interested in the land or the people on it, but merely in the revenue








from it which will make it possible for them to live at the level to which
they have always been accustomed. Even those few landowners who have
only recently acquired wealth in land assume the attitudes of the "old
families" and live in town off their rents.
Almost all of those who continue to till the soil work under a system
of share cropping, which evolved in the distant past. Since time im-
memorial the great holdings are parcelled out in plots of about the same
.size and quality, each of which is worked by one peasant family. All the
members of the family have their allotted tasks. The beasts of burden
consist of a yoke of skinny oxen or cows that pulls the antique wooden
plow. The system is not unlike that in vogue in the Southern States of
the United States, the core of which is "40 acres and a mule".
The amount of land one family can cultivate varies with the region;
50 acres near the coast, 75 on the western edge of the cereal belt, and
100 or more at the edge of the desert. The sharecropper is the founda-
tion stone of agriculture. An estate is often measured not in terms of
the amount of land it contains but rather in terms of the number of share-
croppers on it-one speaks of a holding of 25, of 50, or of 100 share-
croppers, as the case may be.
The reputation of the peasants is an important item in the appraisal
of the value of an estate. One agricultural village, for instance, will be
worth more than another, of the same number of workers and quality of
land, because the peasants of the latter have the reputation of being
thieves, trouble makers, or given to passive resistance. The amount of
land per family is calculated at the minimum which will keep them alive
from one harvest to the next.
The contract between sharecropper and landowner is always verbal,
the latter supplying the land, the former the labor. If the cropper sup-
plies the seeds and the yoke of oxen as well, he usually gets half the crop;
if these are supplied by the landlord he gets a quarter. Contracts differ
according to the region. At the edge of the desert, where crop failures
are common, the peasant may get as high as 75 or 80 per cent of the
crop but that is a criterion of the low yields and the general misery of
the peasant. He must be given enough to prevent his running away,
for land not cultivated may revert to the State. But he is tied to the land
by debts, which he owes to his landlord.
In many regions he also owes certain services. The peasant supplies
the landlord's table on those occasions when the latter comes out from
the city with his family, and he is even expected to make gifts in kind
throughout the year-chickens, eggs, and so on. He is expected to give
freely of his time in building terrace walls, or perhaps in constructing a








road for the Agha's new Cadillac. All these tasks are required, yet he
has no security in our sense of the word. He has obligations but no rights.
What has aggravated an already bad situation is absenteeism. The
landowner lives in town, where he has his family, his friends and his
interests. Here he must live in style, keep up with the Joneses, keep
open house for a host of friends and relatives, outdo the other great
families in sumptuous parties. He is not interested in life in the country.
To go on a picnic for pleasure would to him be inconceivable. He may
come to the country for a few weeks during the "season", or for a few
days at a time to supervise the plowing, the harvesting or the threshing.
But he cannot actually direct his estate; and so he has recourse to a
resident manager, a wakil, who is the real master of the peasant. This
manager sometimes receives a salary, but more often is paid a percentage
of the produce, and is usually a person on the make, at the expense of
the landlord and of the peasant. Despised by his employer, he is actively
hated by the peasants. He is there to make a fortune if he can. He is
bound to be of lowly origin, without education, incapable of showing any
initiative in the improvement of techniques, such as the use of fertilizer,
and the introduction of crop rotation and new crops. The resident
manager, together with the tax collector, and the landlord and usurer,
form a parasitic triumvirate who suck the life blood out of the peasantry,
the great human resource of the area.
The large landlord is also a product of his culture, by which he is
bound. He may be aware that economically the system of latifundia is
archaic, and he also realizes that it promotes stagnation. He cannot be
interested in the running of his estate because members of his class lose
face and caste by too close contact with cows and plows and animal
fertilizer. His hands are tied-even if he wanted to modernize tech-
niques he would be unable to do so because he lacks liquid capital.
Furthermore, the holding does not usually belong to him alone. It is
a family property, indivisible, and nothing can be done without the consent
of all those who have a share in it. Any reform would have to be accom-
plished with current income, but any drop in the income of any of the
co-owners of the estate would produce a terrific uproar in the family,
each member of which stubbornly insists on the income to which his share
in the property has always entitled him.
Thus it is almost impossible to plough any of the wealth or rent taken
out of the land back into the agricultural enterprise. The money which
comes from the estate makes a one-way trip from the country to the city
home of the proprietor, who thinks only in terms of increasing his income
under the present system rather than of increasing production. Cases








are not rare of landlords who borrow money from the recently-created
Agricultural Credit Banks at low rates only to lend it in turn to their
peasants at exhorbitant rates, 15 to 20 per cent higher.
When the landlord and the manager are thus constrained to follow
custom and routine, what can be expected of the poor fellah? He does
not know contractual security. He can be turned out of his home-
which of course he does not own-at a moment's notice, or he can be
held on the estate against his will, at the pleasure of the owner. By the
very nature of his social and physical environment, he cannot follow the
practices that would maintain soil fertility. For one thing, in this treeless
area, all cow manure is made into cakes by the women folk and dried in
the sun, to be used later as fuel. Even less than anyone else does the
peasant dispose of capital which would make possible the purchase of
more efficient equipment. And in the last analysis he knows full well
that any increase in production would be paralleled by a comparable in-
crease in taxes and rent.
Even if he doesn't work very hard he knows that his lord must advance
him enough to keep him alive till the next harvest. What if his indebted-
ness does increase? He knows that his debts already total so much that
he will never be able to pay them, as was the case with his father before
him. It is the will of Allah! Maalesch!
A French geographer describes the hopelessness and the frustration to
which the Near Eastern peasant is a prey. "Engaged in labor without a
goal and vegetating without hope, whatever creative activity still exists
in the peasant-who in spite of everything is a human being-is turned
against his master; he no longer counts on his hard work to better his
condition, nor on his initiative nor honesty, but rather on his cunning
and duplicity; what is refused he will try to steal. His whole life, the
collective life of the entire village becomes a continuous, smouldering
campaign of hate against the manager, who answers the peasants' hostility
with acts of brutality. From time to time, when misfortunes are out of
the ordinary, when the country suffers lean harvests, or when the agba
or his manager are too harsh or too clumsy, sudden and violent revolts
occur; harvests are pillaged, the manager is driven off, the house of the
landlord is burned to the ground-unorganized revolts, without leader-
ship and without purpose; uprisings motivated by ignorance and misery,
as anachronistic and disastrous as the very regime against which they are
directed in vain."2
2 Jacques, Weulersee, op. cit., p. 129.












V
The Terraced Lebanon
THE LEBANON PRESENTS a strange interpenetration of eastern and western
cultures. In Beirut, the capital city, luxury hotels and swank apartments
stand next to tumble-down garages and terribly overcrowded slums. Cus-
tom-built Cadillac and Chrysler cars roll past human porters staggering
along under enormous loads of anything from carrots to building stones.
The law school of Berytus (Beirut) was famous throughout the Roman
world, and the maritime trade of both Tyre and Sidon under the
Phoenicians was prodigious. They developed even further under the
Romans who pacified the vast hinterland, developed and kept open new
trade routes, and constructed irrigation works of size and extent un-
paralleled either before or since. The great pagan temple at Heliopolis
(Baalbek) is an immortal monument to the great wealth, to the specialized
social organization, and to the remarkably high economic development of
this region two thousand and more years ago.
In A.D. 635-640 the country was overrun by the Arabs, and Arabic
became the universal language even in the remote mountain strongholds
of the earlier Christian faith. Parts of this region were in the hands of
the Crusaders for almost two centuries, but they were finally repelled in
A.D. 1291, and the Lebanese Christians assumed an oriental outlook.
Shortly thereafter dissident Moslem elements, Druses and Metawalis
(Shiites), sought refuge and established themselves in the Lebanon. The
Lebanon thus became a mosaic of ethnic, social and religious groups.
I quote from my diary: "We have taken two drives inland over the
limestone foothills, where man has with infinite patience and labor shored
up the almost barren hills with terraces, but one is aghast at the small
return from superhuman effort. This impression grows on one with each
drive. We were in Joun yesterday, where Lady Stanhope is buried.
Today we went about halfway to Jezzine. Strips of soil a foot or so wide
are fields being plowed, but the rocks are a larger percentage by far than
the soil, and the oxen can scarcely turn around on the narrow ledges. Yet
the net return cannot but be infinitesimal. The plowmen are dressed in
rags, and are anxious to have a cigarette. The oxen are gaunt and ill-cared
for. In just a few miles one is aware of the complex interpenetration of
41







economies; rich plantations of bananas and citrus fruit abound on the
fertile, irrigable alluvium of the narrow coastal plain; in the foothills is
found the strip farming on the steep slopes, with olive orchards in those
sectors where a farmer has the necessary capital and patience; there where
the mountain sides are irretrievably rocky are grazed the transhumant, fat-
tailed sheep, the supercilious camels and the dwarfed, bony, underfed
oxen and milch cows, each troupe presided over by a poor but ever-watchful
shepherd. Now and again another phase of the economy appears on a
limestone hillside in the form of a lime kiln, surrounded by hundreds of
haycock-like stacks of fuel of thorn scrub.
"Along the shore men are busily engaged in combing the waters of
the sea for an extremely modest return. One man in a small rowboat
pays out the net in the form of a great semicircle, each of the ends of
which is gradually pulled toward the shore by the brute strength of five
or six straining men. It takes 40 to 50 minutes to lay the nets and to
haul them in, yet the good hauls net only four or five fish from 8 to 10
inches long, with perhaps a few minnows 3 inches long. In one haul
only two squids were caught, in another one single skate, and many were
the times the nets were drawn in completely empty. Certainly the rewards
are poor, but if the men aren't fishing they have absolutely nothing else
to do. This society seems to resemble that in parts of Latin America
where for a small group at the top labor is vile, but for the rest of the
society it is unremitting-and unproductive."
In the Lebanon one can see in a relatively circumscribed area a kind
of recapitulation of several millennia of agricultural development, and
practices which make use of the most modern as well as of age-old tech-
niques. A caterpillar tractor is used to pull gang plows within a stone's
throw of a farmer who is still driving oxen round an ancient threshing
floor to trample out the grain, just as his forefathers did for ages past.
There are curious blends of primitive and modern techniques. At Zahle,
in the Bequaa plain of the Lebanon, the old threshing sleds were still in
use on the threshing floors but they were pulled not by oxen but by a
tractor!
A farmer goads his low-geared oxen back and forth along the terraces
on which wheat and olive trees are grown. So narrow is the field that
he turns the oxen around only with difficulty. His primitive plow makes
no furrow, it seems merely to be stirring up a small surface layer which is
more stones than soil. The farmer is shy and taciturn and he finds it
hard to explain just why he does what he does. The significant thing is
that he continues year after year to make a living on hillsides so steep








and stony that many a U. S. soil conservationist would hesitate to recom-
mend that they be reforested, even in pine trees. This "primitive"
farmer is without knowing it practising "dry farming." In order further
to conserve moisture he may plant wheat only every other year, allowing
the field to lie fallow in alternate years.
A peasant may painstakingly work with a hoe or a mattock every inch
of earth in an orange or banana orchard on irrigable land, or he may use
the primitive plow drawn by slow-moving oxen. He seems to be in the
Biblical stage of agricultural development, but things are not what they
seem. Whether the hoe or a primitive plow is the implement used, the
important thing is that fertilizer is employed in generous amounts,
animal manure if obtainable, if not, modern chemical fertilizer. The man
who works such land, which may be worth from one to five thousand
U. S. dollars the acre, is not what is popularly thought of as "the man with
the hoe." The land owner producing crops for the market can greatly
intensify land-use practices without changing the implements used. Time-
honored techniques can continue to be employed because labor is abundant
and cheap. And the technician who goes out from the United States, in
the possession of modern techniques, smug and full of enthusiasm, must
never forget that scientific and technical knowledge is no substitute for
the accumulated lore of the native peasant.
Great masses of Jurassic limestone form the cores of the coastal ranges
which are paralleled a short distance inland by a secondary chain, of
which also large sectors consist of eroded limestones, desolate piles of
bare rock in a welter of weird-shaped bastions, battlements and medieval
towers. The very difficulty of access to these maturely-dissected mountain-
ous regions, secure and sequestered, made them ideal sites in which per-
secuted populations have found refuge: Maronite Catholics, Greek Ortho-
dox and Druses in the Lebanese Mountains, Alawites to the north and
Druses in Mount Hermon and in Jebel Druze, the massif to which they
have given their name.
In this hostile, obdurate environment, men were much more secure than
in the lower valleys or on the surrounding plains, and their whole history
has been greatly modified as a result. Individual effort counted for far
more than on the level plains where the populations are defenseless against
marauding Bedouins and conquering armies. The mountain massifs have
acted somewhat like the western frontier in the United States during the
nineteenth century. The social, religious or economic non-conformist
could escape there and build his own life with very little interference.
Farming of these mountain slopes is a perpetual battle against the









elements. Unless infinite care is taken, the rain and snow storms of
winter will remove every trace of soil, which can be held in place only
by a complex system of terraces. Many mountain slopes are completely
made over. For thousands of vertical feet, every horizontal field a yard
wide has its equivalent yard or more of perpendicular wall. The entire
mountainside has been so completely made over that it is hard to imagine
what the original landscape was like. This is indeed a mature cultural
landscape.
It would be difficult to see how these seemingly worthless rock-strewn
slopes could be put to more profitable use. On the lower slopes are the
grey-green olive trees, which produce the oil so essential a part of the
material culture of those who enjoy the Mediterranean way of life. Grapes
are grown at elevations of as much as 5,000 feet, or even more, the vines
spreading out on the ground the better in the high altitudes to take
advantage of the radiation of heat from the soil. Fig trees grow every-
where along the terrace walls, seeming to require no care and very little
soil. The mulberry tree is found at elevations up to 4,000 feet. The
production of mulberry leaves for feeding silkworms was formerly an
important industry. In certain centers, each house had its mulberry trees,
and each valley its centers where the worms were cared for and the cocoons
produced.
The perfecting of the process of making rayon dealt a terrible blow to
the silk-producing areas. Cocoons are still produced as a household
industry here and there, but as the mulberry trees die or are pulled up,
they are being replaced by apple and other middle-latitude fruit trees in
the mountains, by bananas along the coast. The Lebanon is already an
important exporter of apples and bananas. The Aleppo or parasol pine
thrives in huge groves where planted, and these trees have transformed
the appearance of the landscape over extensive areas. The cones are care-
fully saved for fuel after the extraction of the nuts, a delicacy highly prized
by pastry cooks, in the cuisine and in the making of pastries.
The resources of the mountainous sectors are extremely modest. Man
has had a hard struggle, but the economy he has created in the mountains
is on a solid foundation. The Lebanese mountaineers enjoyed the privilege,
unique in the Ottoman Empire, of being able to own land in fee simple,
and were not subject to the exorbitant government taxes which ruined
many once-flourishing areas. In other words the people had to work
hard to make a living, but they were able to keep most of what they earned,
which they reinvested in their farms and household industries.
Winter grains, such as wheat and barley, are grown on many of the







narrow terraces. Where water is available for irrigation, summer cash
crops are grown, such as Indian corn, egg plants, onions, carrots, green
beans, and so on. This whole terrace agriculture, itself very intensive,
dovetails as it were with grazing. Small flocks of goats and fat-tailed
sheep, always in the care of a shepherd boy or two, pasture on the slopes
which are too steep and rocky even for terracing and tree crops. They
are semi-nomadic transhumants which winter in the relatively mild coastal
areas, where they graze along the roads and trails and on the rocky common
lands, and they migrate to the high mountains during the summer. At
night they are kept in pens, for the manure is very valuable. After the
harvest farmers allow flocks in their stubble fields, which are benefited
by the animal fertilizer.
No opportunity is lost for adding to the food resources. The search
for food is never-ceasing. One is aware even on his first excursion into
the country that there are very few song birds. They have all been shot.
Hunters roam through the rock-strewn fields and over the hills sparsely
covered with thorn-scrub bushes in quest of birds, large or small. Birds
the size of sparrows, or even smaller, are plucked clean, strung on strings
like beads, and offered for sale along the roads leading into Beirut. Fried
crisp, they are wrapped in the pancake-like bread, and eaten with relish
by all strata of society.
It is in the villages that the way of life of the peasants can best be
studied, and, through the kindness of the people at the English Mission
School of Tyre, it was possible to visit and study a representative mountain
village in southern Lebanon. I quote from my diary: "Today we left
Sidon for Tyre at about 8:30 and on the way down the hot east wind
(the khamsin or shlook) began to blow, warming this place up with the
dry, dusty air from the desert. What had all the signs of being a cold,
cloudy day became warm and windy. At the English Mission School in
Tyre we picked up Miss Ballantyne and her two helpers. The city dump
is just beyond the Mission, and I noticed two of the scrawniest pigs I've
seen in a long time trying to make a living rooting around in the garbage.
Then, with well-packed lunch basket, we started out for the village of
Alma Ashab, following the coast road to the south, past two border
guards who were very cordial and who were given religious tracts. A
mile or so farther on we came to a road block, a relic of the war between
Israel and the Arab States in 1948. The guard here, serious and business-
like, carefully examined our papers, and waved us on. He was also given
tracts. We went to the customs house at Nakoura to check in. I finally
woke up a guard, who thought I had come in from Israel. As soon as








that item was cleared up, on we went. The road was very steep, and
first passed hills almost devoid of vegetation, followed by carefully
terraced hillsides planted in olive trees.
"Once arrived in Alma Ashab we turned down a narrow street and
went to the end of the line-about a hundred yards along a narrow flag-
stone street that had an open drain running down the center of it. Then
we got out of the car, which was soon the center of a little group of
excited people, and began looking for Sitt Nellie. She was living in a
cozy little place at the edge of the village, where she welcomed us most
hospitably, and started preparations for lunch, with the aid of a lovely,
vivacious girl who had been orphaned and whom Sitt N. 'had taken
to raise.' It was obvious at once that our hostess was a truly remarkable
woman, and would be under any circumstances and in any society. In the
company of a neighbor we first went to look at her tiny fields of wheat
and barley wherever there was a bit of earth between the naked outcrops
of limestone. She also had a number of olive, fig and almond trees, as
well as vines, which here are spread out on the ground, the better, ap-
parently, to absorb the heat radiating from the soil. To be sure the
'soil' itself is mainly chunks of limestone. From a stony eminence we
were able to look south into Israel and to get a good view of Mt. CarmeL
Artillery practice was going on in the neighboring country, and the ex-
plosions were many and loud. To the north we could see the city of
Tyre, originally located on an island which Alexander the Great connected
to the mainland by a causeway. Deposits of sand and silt have so widened
the causeway that the city now appears to be located on a narrow-necked
peninsula which juts out into the sea.
"Sitt Nellie rents her land on the thirds. Her renter supplies every-
thing but the land-seed, labor, tools and draft animals-and gets two-
thirds of the crop. They don't think in terms of yields per unit of land,
but rather in yields in relation to amount of seed planted. Wheat pro-
duces in an average year about 6 for 1. In an exceptionally good year
one-third more can be expected. The olive trees on these narrow terraces
sustained by rock walls begin bearing at five years and continue for 200
years or more-a remarkably well adapted crop for this kind of country.
The dust-laden wind, warm and hospitable after these raw, rainy days,
just about blew us out of the fields. The olive trees were suffering from a
kind of disease or blight. Small twigs broke off 5 to 6 inches from the
end, and of course wouldn't bear any more. Our hostess was at a loss
to know what caused it. After walking around for a long time we
returned to the house to an exquisite chicken dinner and the excellent








tortilla-like whole-wheat unleavened bread made locally, which went very
well with Smucker's marmalade (made in Ohio). I preferred eating the
spread rather than the fruit which we had brought, and which was very
scarce. The marmalade is sent to Sitt Nellie by her brother who lives in
Toledo, Ohio, for whom she is buying land as fast as she can, on which
he plans to retire. One is amazed at the number of Lebanese who have
emigrated to Africa or to the Americas where they accumulated savings
enough to return to their native villages and to buy up land. One of the
results of this practice is that the stony, infertile soil of these mountain
areas has an inflated value. Land is life, and he who owns a little land-
even poor land-has a far better chance of survival than the landless.
"The mission folk had their work to do, so I asked to see the teacher
of the tiny school, who, quickly realizing that it wasn't ancient ruins I
wanted to see, took me on a systematic tour of the village. We first went
to visit the home of an average villager, which has a walled patio or
court in front, in the center of which is a cistern. Water is one of the
items that tends to get scarce during the long dry summer. Crossing the
patio one comes to the door of the house, to the left of which is the oven
and the place for cooking. As one enters the door of the house the
stable for the animals is on the left, with the manger about 2 feet high,
on the same level as the floor of the house, on which sleeping mats are
spread at night. It was probably in just such a home that Christ was born,
on a sleeping mat on the floor of the living room a few feet away from
the manger. We read in St. Luke, 2-7: 'And she brought forth her first
born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a
manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.' In the west we
associate the word manger with a barn, away from the house. Here the
domestic animals live in intimate contact with human beings, in the same
room, and help keep the home warm during the cold winter months. The
burning of charcoal in a brazier made of a mixture of straw and unfired
clay also helps heat the room. The loft in which tools and grain are
stored is just above the part of the house where the animals are kept. The
wooden plow hangs on the wall, outside, just above the oven and the
place for cooking. The people of the house were friendly and hospitable.
"From there we went to the village pond, where the livestock of the
villagers come to drink, and on to a goat pen where the animals are kept
at night so that the manure can be collected and used on the narrow
village fields. In another farmer's yard I took pictures of bees working
in long earthen jars laid sidewise and covered by an improvised roof. I
took pictures of the teacher and of his students, and of the family of the







man who had accompanied us. The school teacher was extremely intelli-
gent, and had an excellent command of idiomatic English. I wondered
how it was possible for him to be satisfied teaching a bunch of youngsters
in this out-of-the-way corner of the world. But then there are probably
half a dozen other well qualified young men who would be only too glad
to have his job. I asked why the stone walls around some fields were so
high and wide and was told that it was a good place for surplus stone
and ideal for training vines. Besides, the wider the wall, the more effec-
tive and durable. A field in which tobacco was going to be planted was
heavily fertilized with donkey manure.
"By the time we were getting ready to leave we were followed by dozens
of people of all ages. Right near the car I took a picture of an aged
woman who was arriving home with her donkey laden with fire wood.
Everyone was so friendly and willing to help in any way possible. All
seemed starved for human fellowship and contacts with the outside world.
This was the first village I had visited leisurely, assisted by an interpreter,
and with time to reflect and take notes. One leaves this village with a
feeling of the great poverty of the people, yet they are doubtless well off
here compared to villagers in other parts of the Near East. Everyone who
knows Egypt remarks on the beauty of the landscape here and the pros-
perity of the people! The fertile coastal plains were in former times
shunned both because they were malarial and because they were exposed
to the attacks of pirates. Now they are devoted to plantation agriculture:
bananas, loquats, and groves of citrus fruit. But the wilderness of rocks
and ravines, difficult to penetrate, of the westward-looking slopes of Mt.
Lebanon, support three times as many people per unit of area as do the
fertile plains along the coast. The plantation and the large estate are
profitable, but they do not actually support a dense rural population, and
the profits benefit a small group in the urban centers.
"In travelling around one gets different angles on the question of the
Palestinian Arab refugees. Apparently hundreds, perhaps thousands, of
Lebanese went to Palestine while it was a British Mandate, lived there and
made good salaries for years, and returned home-to Lebanon-when the
Zionist-Arab hostilities broke out. But these people are regarded as
'refugees,' and so consider themselves. I fail to see the reasoning here.
Take a closely parallel case. Americans who lived in Mexico until the
Revolution and then returned home were returning Americans, not refugees."












VI
From the Lebanon to the Desert Beyond Damascus
THERE ARE MANY FACETS of contact and potential conflict between mem-
bers of different urban, national or religious groups. High charges of
what might be termed human static gradually build up and may be set off
with explosive violence by the slightest unpleasant incident between two
insignificant individuals in some remote village.
A case in point from my diary:
"Sidon, February 25, 1952
"When we parked the car near the end of the bus line in Sidon yesterday
it was strategically located for a brawl in progress between a man and a
boy about 12 years old. I don't know what it was about but the man
seemed on murder bent and was finally talked by his friends into dropping
a lethal-looking boulder. Meanwhile the two principals were running
around the car, the boy managing to keep ahead of his murderous pursuer.
He must have done something pretty bad, touching the 'dignity' of his
pursuer perhaps, but not enough to be considered murderable-by the
onlookers, one of whom boxed the boy's ears, with the idea, it seemed, of
making the punishment fit the crime and satisfying the man, whom he fi-
nally led away.
"This was an excellent example, in miniature, of the violence that has
gone on in this part of the world, since time immemorial, between one
political group and another, one individual and another, one religious
group and another, one city and another."
Mr. Leslie Leavitt of the American University of Beirut had spoken to
Dr. Neil Alter of my work, and had arranged that I go to see this man who
has devoted so many years of his life to the rehabilitation of the Near
Eastern villager. When Dr. Alter was in Beirut he told Mr. Leavitt that
March 25 would suit him fine and that if I could not come on that day to
let him know. I was happy to be able to go, because the day was most re-
warding:
March 25, 1952.
"A gorgeous day on which to visit Jibrail and the center under Dr.
Neil Alter. The sun shone down out of a cloudless sky on the rocky
49








terraced landscape to the right and the blue sea to the left. It was a four-
hour drive north from Beirut, with some stops en route.
"Just south of Tripoli I got a picture of a lime kiln being fired by thorn
brush only, with great stacks of the fuel coming in on the backs of men
carrying two-tined, all-wood pitch forks made of the forked branch of a
tree. And a little farther along we came to small salt pans scooped out of
the limestone rocks along the shore and cemented over in order to be level
and water-tight. Salt is made here in the dry season by the evaporation
of sea water. Every possible way of earning a little money must be tried.
"A few miles north of Tripoli the road left the coast and ascended to
the foothills, rolling and rocky. It doesn't seem possible that all these
villages live from agriculture almost exclusively.
"Just before reaching Jibrail we turned in to the left at some new-
looking buildings and were welcomed by Dr. Alter. He showed us about
the grounds, which have an incomparable view to the east over the village
and the snow-capped Lebanon range beyond. We just sat and discussed
many things: the people, the land, boundary lines, physical and social,
prestige land holding, inflated land values, handicaps to progress. There
is a lot of irrigated land which is very good, but each farmer has a number
of tiny plots which are scattered over a wide area. Massive stone walls
follow the boundary lines in curious directions, but property lines are
difficult to change or straighten because a gentlemen's agreement is hard
to arrive at. Any change must first be O.K.ed by the village elders, a
process which costs much time and money.
"I was interested in the cash necessary to live on in these small villages,
and was told that a bare existence for a family of six was 600 Lebanese
pounds a year.1 That is a minimum. A stone mason makes 3 to 3.50 L.L.
a day when he works, and earns from 600 to 1,000 L.L. a year. A man
with draft oxen or cows for hire can make up to 1,000 L.L. a year (6 LL.
a day when he works).
"We shouldn't feel too superior to slow primitive methods. For in-
stance, it takes a man and his family a whole day to thresh six bushels of
wheat, but he performs two operations, for he is at the same time breaking
straw which will be used for bedding or will be sold. And suppose it
takes him a month to thresh what a machine could do in one day, what
would he do with the time he saves? Would he spend it in the cafe or
in his vegetable garden? But unless he spends his saved time productively
he might better continue the primitive methods.
"Dr. Alter feels that the main problem is to make people want to stay
11 Lebanese pound equals about 30 cents U. S. currency.








in their village by making life more productive and worthwhile-in cash
returns-by producing crops for which there is value. This problem must
be attacked on all fronts. The circle of village life must be attractive and
it must be complete, or when the people find a gap they will jump out
and not return. And the only thing that will keep them at home is the
possibility of making a decent living and of feeling fulfilled.
"Why did I leave the farm? Because alternative opportunities were
greater. This is not true in the Lebanon, but still the people leave the
villages to try their luck elsewhere. Dr. Alter feels that the technological
handicaps to increased production are not nearly so great or so numerous
as the sociological ones. The rural population is notoriously slow to accept
and act upon new ideas. I am sure that the attitude in the rural community
of Seven Mile, Ohio, where I was born, would have been extremely nega-
tive toward a mission of Arabs bent on uplift-even if they had been
Christian Arabs. My father-a good farmer and a successful one-was
opposed even to agricultural school experiments, and teaching and to the
county agent. His reaction to the county agent was typical, 'If that guy
knew how to farm he would be on a farm making money, and not going
around telling farmers how to farm.' His reaction to a county agent who
was a foreigner might easily be imagined."
Seemingly primitive techniques or time-wasting procedures should be
looked at, not with the eyes of the self-styled "efficient" Westerners, but
with the eyes of the Near Easterners, who have created a complicated
cultural milieu within the framework of which they show a great deal of
ingenuity. The baking of bread is an essential but very simple process,
yet the working hours for an entire day of all the women in a village may
be consumed in a bread-baking bee, but the returns in terms of pleasant
social intercourse are worth it to each individual woman and to the village
collectively. The weekly routine for all is broken, and laughter and sun-
shine come into otherwise drab lives. A paragraph from my diary brings
this point home:
"Bramiye, February 29, 1952.
"Yesterday I saw two women under a shed in their yard, baking the
tortilla-like loaves of bread on a disc-shaped hot plate, which is heated by a
tiny fire fed by leaves and twigs. I was invited in by \the word 'fuddal,'
which seems to mean, 'come in,' 'help yourself,' 'you are welcome,' and so
on. The making of bread may be a chore, a corvee, but these women were
certainly far from unhappy. It is to be hoped that when such socially
pleasant chores are done away with by the introduction of machinery some
other socially useful occupation will take its place-something better than







bridge clubs and cocktail parties. If one had to choose between the chore
of breadmaking and going to cocktail parties from boredom, the choice
would certainly be the economically and socially useful work rather than
the spiritual vacuum of no work.
After a couple of months spent in observing the way of life of the
people in the rural villages on the seaward slopes of the Lebanon the
time was ripe for me to go inland and to note contrasts and comparisons.
The road from Beirut to Damascus ascends the precipitous, terrace-
lined seaward flanks2 of the Lebanon Mountains in breathtaking curves.
Shortly after passing the summit the whole panorama of the great rift
valley of the Bequa' is spread out to view, flanked on the east by the
dusty brown Anti-Lebanon Mountains. This down-faulted, alluvium-
covered plain, here occupied by the meandering Litani River, is the north-
ward extension of the same great gash in the earth's crust occupied by the
Sea of Galilee (Lake Tiberias), the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. The
stony, rugged backbone of the Lebanons is high enough to wring most of
the moisture from the westerly winds, so that the eastern flanks is in rain
shadow, the Anti-Lebanons in the distance are dry, subdued, and almost
treeless, and one begins to feel the breath of the great desert to the south
and east.
The aspect of the physical landscape changes brusquely. Except for the
sectors of a vivid green color where crops are grown under irrigation,
browns, mauves and greys prevail. The aspect of the cultural landscape
changes no less brusquely, for the tiny fields and narrow terraces of the
seaward flanks of the Lebanon, worked and in great part owned by bold,
hardy peasants, are left behind as one enters the lands held and worked
by village communities under the system of mushaa.
The periodic redistribution of land under the system of village control
of land led to incredible fragmentation of land holdings. At Bar-Elias,
in the Bequa' Plain, on the road from Beirut to Damascus, some 5,000
acres, as a result of division and subdivision generation after generation,
were divided up into 32,643 tiny plots, of which each proprietor worked
30, 40, or even more. He might spend most of his time going from one
plot to another rather than in working the land. Fragmentation was thus
increased ad absurdum, and basic reform seemed in order, if the waste
and inefficiency inherent in working dozens of small, scattered plots were
to be cut down somewhat.
During the French Mandate many of these minute holdings were con-
2 Norman N. Lewis, "Lebanon-The Mountain and its Terraces," Geographical Review,
January, 1953, pp. 1-14.








solidated, either by government fiat, or by request of a majority of the
landholders. The result in the case of Bar-Elias was that the number of
plots was reduced from 32,643 to 950, and eight other villages in the
Bequa' had their total of 88,015 tiny, widely scattered plots reduced in
number to 3,514.3 Such minuscule workings, through consolidation, be-
came manageable and productive again.
The trip from Beirut to Damascus was fascinating:
"Damascus, April 1, 1952.
"Beirut somehow seems so characterless and incoherent that after a short
stay there I get claustrophobia. As Cheronis said 'you don't want to be
somewhere where you are always feeling that you want to be somewhere
else.' We finally finished the paper work-visas and so on-and set out
for Damascus at 3 P.M.
"It was a hot, hazy day with the Khamsin (desert wind) blowing. It
was noticeably cooler in the mountains, and the rise is about as abrupt as
I've ever made by land, and the descent into the Bequa' depression is even
more precipitous.
"The first view of this green plain lodged in between the relatively bare
and dry eastern slopes of the Lebanon and western slopes of the Anti-
Lebanon Mountains is,thrilling. This is certainly a down-faulted valley or
graben, like the Cauca Valley, or the Rhine Valley between the Vosges and
the Black Forest. It took almost as long to get through the customs and
immigration controls as to make the whole 75-mile trip from Beirut to
Damascus. One rapidly passes from the Mediterranean world to the
desert. Particularly this side of the Anti-Lebanons, one breathes a different
air. One smells, one feels the desert.
"And Damascus is a desert capital, supported by an oasis. It has color-
desert color-mauve and brown, contrasting with bright green; it has
some broad streets, clean streets, and it has coherence. One does not have
the feeling of being crowded and helpless, a prey to forces one cannot
overcome. We looked around the Orient Palace Hotel, saw lovely woven
materials in the shop there, and ran into the Eddys, with whom we had a
nice chat.
"The moon came up over the city about bedtime, and one could look
out at it over the minarets and in imagination live through some of the
stirring events in the long and fascinating history of this old, old city;
under the Romans, under the great Caliphs in the early phases of Moslem
expansion, under the Turks, and so on. One has a feeling of history and
SJaques Weulersse, op. cit., p. 191.







of the desert, and of powerful forces, national and international. Are
they to be used by the demagogues to keep the lowly lowly and to drive
out the Westerner?"
Damascus differs markedly from the cities of Europe and North America
of a non-industrial or non-commercial character which are intimately re-
lated to their surrounding farmland. To be sure the capital with its
276,000 inhabitants is a commercial, educational and political center, with
closer ties in those spheres with the rest of Syria than with the fifty-five
villages on the oasis itself, who owe their origin and continued existence
to the irrigation waters of the Barada River, and to nothing else. These
rural villagers live out their lives engaged in agriculture, and have almost
no direct functional connection with Damascus, which could be totally
destroyed tomorrow without seriously affecting the lives of the thousands
of people who live from hand to mouth in the villages of the oasis.
Mr. Eyer of the Near East Foundation made it possible for me to see at
first hand some aspects of life in (a) an oasis village and (b) a village of
the semi-desertic steppe:
"Damascus, April 2, 1952.
"This morning when I presented my letter from Col. Wm. A. Eddy to
Mr. Eyer of the Near East Foundation, he immediately asked us to lunch
and arranged for me to go to Nashabyeh afterward. This tiny Moslem
village, located about 20 miles due east of Damascus, is still in the irrigated
sector. It was like living a dream, riding through the fabled gardens of
Damascus. Poplar trees, walnut and the famed apricot trees, and many
other kinds, lined the irrigation ditches which carry the water that makes
life possible in this, one of the oldest-perhaps the oldest-of the con-
tinuously inhabited cities in the world.
"From the tiny mud huts of villages came the underdeveloped little
girls, with their large overworked hands and skinny bodies and beautiful,
alert faces, to learn in the model home of the Foundation. The work of
the Foundation is to introduce ideas of personal cleanliness and of public
health measures, particularly to the coming generation, and to teach them
about the health-giving kinds of foods. But will it help you to know what
is good for you if you cannot buy it, or ever look forward to buying it?
Here it is fashionable to be fat; that fact puts you among the elite-it
shows that you are rich enough to be able to afford to overeat right along.
But the vast majority of people cannot ever, in the foreseeable future, hope
to have 'three squares a day'.
"The Syrian government is extremely suspicious of anything the United
States does. As Mr. Fowler said, 'we have taken the Arabs for a ride a







couple of times already, so why should they trust us now!' And they
know that there must be a catch to it somewhere when 'do-gooding' be-
comes a public policy, and not just the work of a few religious groups
imbued with the spirit of public service. They rightly have the attitude,
'show me first.' If they are not wrong, they have to be convinced of our
intentions by actions-and over a long period of time. Will we convince
them?"
"Damascus, April 3, 1952.
"About 10 a.m. we shoved off to the southwest to the little village of
Zakiye, via the village of Kissou6. We soon left the irrigated sector to
enter the un-irrigated dry-farming area where strips of wheat and barley
run up the sides of the low rolling hills, to the steep, stony, infertile land
where almost nothing grows. We left the dry farming area and crossed a
small irrigated strip before entering the tangled rocky mass of the lava
flow, which looks very recent. Zakiye is plastered in the crevices of the
lava flow like a mud dauber's nest, and is hard to see till one is almost in it.
"Miss Osrani, the social worker of the Near East Foundation who ac-
companied us, voiced one's first impression when she said the big trouble
with the village was that 'the inhabitants were silly to build it there in the
first place.' But this site probably seemed ideal centuries ago to the found-
ing fathers, who were looking for inaccessibility vis-a-vis the Bedouins,
the government, or both.
) "Further, water is available from two never-failing wells, which pene-
trate a water-bearing stratum below the lava. Women spend long hours
hoisting up the water from these depths. The men farm plots miles away,
and have to walk to their fields across the barren, rock-strewn area. In
this expanse of black rubble the most cadaverous looking goats and donkeys
I've ever seen were cropping the scant tufts of coarse grass and weeds.
"The houses are of mud walls, with flat roofs of mud and straw. Many
of the walls of the houses and the sides of the black lava rocks were
plastered with cakes made by mixing cow manure with straw, drying in
the sun, to be used as fuel. The ashes are carefully saved for fertilizer,
but the humus is lost. They are told to use the material on their fields,
but then what would they do for fuel for cooking? If they did not use
these dung cakes they would have to buy fuel, but they simply cannot
afford to do that.
"On the way back to town I wondered how it would be possible to
anchor those people there, and why should we want to even if we-or the
Syrian government-could? And there are thousands of villages like
this-or even poorer. Any able-bodied person who could leave to herd








sheep or to work in Damascus, even if he had to live poorly, would, in
my opinion, be showing good judgment. Anyway, seeing the squalor of
these villages, one is impressed with the tenacity of life of the human
animal.
"Mr. Eyer is completely convinced of two things necessary in rural
rehabilitation: (a) the ownership of land in fee simple by the peasant, who
must have enough of it to live on and be able to own it in fee simple so
that he can plant tree crops as well as grain and know that the harvests
will belong to him and his heirs. Even the communal village ownership
(mushaa), so prevalent in times past, must give way to ownership in fee
simple in many more instances than is at present the case; (b) Another
sine qua non for the rehabilitation of agriculture is capital. Each forward
step the farmer takes requires more capital. On the return trip we passed
an occasional olive orchard, and I turned to the Doctor and asked why
there weren't more olive trees, since they seemed to thrive. The immediate
reply was that the farmers could not afford to plant them or to wait for
them to begin to bear. No one on the land has enough money.
"Everyone seemed to feel that the farmer has the know-how. Mr.
Fauler pointed out that we could learn from them. But they have to use
all their time and efforts right now, this year, to grow enough food to live
on till the next harvest. They don't have enough capital with which to
improve their condition."
The land tenure situation in the Damascus Oasis differs very little from
that in the villages round about, which seem so terribly poor and hopeless.
This is some of the richest, most productive land in all Syria, yet large
units of it are in the hands of a very few landlords. Some of the villages
in the oasis itself are practically "owned" by one individual, just as is the
case in the areas of extensive grain-growing beyond the oasis, and in other
oasis villages a quarter to a half of the land will be owned by four or five
landlords. The tenants get from 25 to 50 per cent of the annual yield of
their land, depending on how hard a bargain the landlord could drive.
They are fortunate in not having to render the landowner certain services
gratis, as do many of the peasants in the rural villages where irrigation is
not practiced.
The peasant seems to be the loser in every transaction. When he sells
his share of the crop he will get only one-half to one-third of what the
consumer has to pay for it. Once in the hands of the middleman it auto-
matically experiences this increase in price. Although nothing new in the
way of labor or processing is added to the produce, in the hands of the
middleman it doubles or trebles in value, even though the cost of transport








to the market be borne by the producer. Whatever the peasant has to buy
in the course of the year he must buy from the middleman, his patron, and
he pays with the only thing he has to sell, his produce, and he must sell
at the low prices in the buyer's market at harvest time. If some of the
difference between what the peasant receives for his crop and what the
consumer has to pay for it would go to the peasant, for instance, through
a marketing cooperative, both the producer and the consumer would
benefit.
The concluding paragraph on the oasis of Damascus by the French
geographer is a finely chiseled word cameo:
The Ghouta (or oasis) of Damascus has by no means the appearance
of being a masterpiece of perfect irrigation. A great deal is left to be
desired as regards both techniques and logic. But it is an extraordinary
human achievement; the effort of thousands of generations, of dozens of
centuries, since the very dawn of history, is written there before our eyes,
with the thousand scars which the passions of individual persons have
left behind. Each bend in an irrigation canal, each detour, each measure
of water which slows down, escapes, or returns almost to its starting point,
represents the will of someone, an ambition realized, or a vanished hope.
Great events in history, now forgotten, ancient quarrels between villages,
jealousies between families long since vanished, all these factors, not the
cold calculations of the engineer, have gone into the formation of the
design of the oasis; and that explains the unexpected caprice of the detail
as well as the mystery of the whole; nowhere else, even in Syria, does one
tread soil so impregnated with the past, in a landscape so imbued with
human poetry, in one so faithfully fashioned by a society in its own image:
the oasis of Damascus is the symbolic recapitulation of a civilization.'














The Peasant in the Lebanon
ONCE BEYOND THE LAND for which irrigation water is available, one enters
the region of the steppe, which does not receive enough precipitation to
produce hardy grain crops, and which gradually grades into the true desert.
Here sedentary life has for centuries been possible only around permanent
springs and wells, but as this water, with settled political conditions, is
used more and more for irrigated crops, dry farming is practiced on every
available bit of land which might produce a harvest.
This is the land of baal (god of fertility), and theoretically crops grown
there belong to those who have produced them. But this in turn decreases
the land available to the herds of the nomads, who are thus forced to
become sedentary, as conditions become more and more favorable to the
growing of crops. They sell their camels but they keep their sheep and
goats, which can be pastured within a short distance of the village. With-
out camels they cannot pull up anchor, as it were, but they can make
circuits of a few days' duration during the period of showers and cooler
weather.
The mosaic of agricultural landscapes in the coastal and mountain areas,
induced by the great differences in elevation and the marked variation in
the amounts of precipitation received annually, gives way gradually, as one
goes inland, to the extensive cultivation of cereals in the steppes and to
the nomadic grazing of camels, sheep and goats in the desert. But the
people who now live and move and have their being in this broad transition
zone between the cultivated and the desert have evolved in a historical
climate even more rigorous than the physical environment itself, in its
vicissitudes, contradictions and inter-faith tensions.
Since the beginning of history the works of sedentary man have been
periodically ravaged by nomadic herdsmen, and indeed the agriculturalist
has in many instances himself looked back nostalgically upon his own
nomadic background. The physical landscape, reenforced by thousands of
years of historical development, has made for an overlapping and inter-
penetration of these two ways of life. In the belt between the maritime
Mediterranean zone and the actual desert, in this great granary of the Near








East, sedentary farmers may till the land and graze their own flocks there
after the harvest, or they may have only their land and may rent the grazing
rights to nomads who have only their flocks.
This is the classic zone between the Sown and the desert where there is
every gradation between the hard-working peasant and the freedom-loving
nomad. Further, a cycle of wet years will extend the cultivated into the
desert, and a cycle of dry years will cause desert conditions to spread out
over the cultivated. Peace and order favor the development of a class of
owner-operator farmers, especially in the vicinity of the large towns and
cities, where effective police protection is available.
Under the strong central governments of Greece and Rome great cities
flourished in many parts of this transition zone, the ruins of which amaze
the modern visitor. Flocks of sheep and goats, under the care of their
illiterate shepherd, now browse philosophically on the sparse sprigs of
pasture to be found among the fallen granite columns and the piles of
broken statuary.
The peasant is a prey to the feelings of dumb wonder as he scratches a
bare living out of a field which lies in the shadow of bygone greatness.
His plow, his tools, his techniques have changed hardly at all in thousands
of years, as one tidal wave after another has time and time again flowed
over him, and ebbed once more. Revolution, civil wars, and unsettled
conditions have always favored the nomadic herdsman on the one hand and
the proprietor of large estates on the other. The nomad trusts his physical
agility, the landed aristocrat his mental agility, to turn troublous times to
profit. The defenseless peasant always pays the piper but he never calls
the tune.
Nature has, to be sure, dealt harshly with the peasants, and made their
life difficult, but their condition has all too often been aggravated by the
greedy, unsympathetic attitude of the city dweller. In other words, man-
made famines and periods of scarcity have been as common as have those
caused by droughts and plagues of locusts. Witness the description written
by Mrs. Burton of famine conditions which occurred almost a century ago:
This had been an unhappy winter, owing to the famine. It was, rather,
a scarcity which might have been averted. All the wheat and corn had
been bought up cheap, and sold dear; the ovens, save one, were closed to
oblige men to buy bread from that one. Corn was locked up in the face
of the patient, starving, dying multitude. Crowds round the Serai called
down the vengeance of heaven, and alternately begged for mercy; round
bakers' shops were starved, pinched, and hunger-stricken wretches. Bakers
were so poor that they had to buy a bag of flour, half-ground barley and








wheat sweepings, bake it secretly, and sell it, before they could afford
another. The animals were walking skeletons. This went on till it rose
to the price required by a few whose fortunes were made, and they are
now flourishing, as the wicked seem always to do.
I could not find it in my heart to scold an Italian peasant for what he
said to me the other day: I was lecturing him for leading a bad life, and
asking him how he could expect Providence to help him whilst he contin-
ued to offend Him-he answered me so naively, "Ah! signora benedetta, il
diavolo 6 tanto ricco." No thunder and lightning came down on this
occasion to crush the oppressors and open the barns.
I used to save all the money I could, and, telling a Kawwis and men to
accompany me with trays, I used to order a couple of sovereigns' worth of
bread, and distribute it in the most destitute part of Salihiyyah. Your
heart would have bled had you seen the ravenous hunger of the people,
who would jump upon our men, tear the trays down, and those who loved
each other best would tear the bread out of one another's mouths.
I have sat by crying, because I felt it a mockery to bring so little: and
had I sold all we possessed I could not have appeased our village for a
single day. I wonder if those who literally murdered the poor, those who
kept the granaries full, and saw unmoved the vitals of the multitude with-
ering for want of bread, ever think of it from their high and prosperous
station!-I suppose not. I often think of those strange words of the Bible,
"He that hath much, more shall be added unto him; and he that hath only
a little, that little shall also be taken away."'
The peasant has for millennia been low man on the totem pole which
accommodates land-grabbing estate owners, tax-hungry officials and ever-
encroaching nomads. He has always been in awe of the city with its
curious inhabitants. He could never go there in person to demand a
redress of grievances for he was clumsy and illiterate, unable even to
express himself well in his own language. The formidable public buildings
were the haunt of public scribes, greedy go-betweens and shyster lawyers,
only too willing to help their timid, gawky countryman-for a considera-
tion.
In his struggle for survival it was rational for him to seek in the city
itself a patron who could act as a buffer between him and the police, the
tax collector and the officials of the department of justice. He had nothing
but his land with which to pay the patron for his services, but if he could
continue to work his land and to live out his life on it with his family it
mattered little to him that the title to the little field was vested in the
patron. This seemed a logical arrangement to the fellah who knew that if
he tried to live as an individual, fighting his own battles alone, he would
1 Isabel Burton, The Inner Life of Syria, Palestine, and the Holy Land, Lndon,
1879, pp. 314-5.






61

not survive. A relationship that might seem unfair to the Western ob-
server has made possible the survival of the fellah as a type. Had he
clung tenaciously to the sacred rights of the individual he and his kind
would have been killed or driven away. The fellah of the Near East did
not have to go to school to learn that self-preservation is the first law of
nature.
SThe peasants have been ground exceedingly fine between the upper and
the nether millstones, between a harsh physical environment and a no less
harsh and merciless social, economic and political climate. The life of the
peasant changes little whether he is ruled by Turks, by Europeans under
Mandate, by the President of a republic, or by a strong man in a dictator-
ship. Again a quotation from Mrs. Burton:
The people of Karyatayn are very poor. They have the soldiery to
oppress and rob them, and so much do they fear and hate them, that
wherever the uniform is seen all scuttle out of the way as if from a serpent
on the path. We could not even get a peasant to carry our note to Omar
Beg,, who is the kindest and most benevolent of men, and we had to send
a Kawwis. When the military leave, the villagers' natural enemy will
resume their place, the tribe of the SebaAh, who from time to time sweep
down upon them, and carry off their sheep, goats and grain. The doors
are mere holes in the wall, so that only one man may pass at a time, and
that in a bent position, when the owner can shoot them down as fast as
they come in.2
The urban and the rural population in the Near East are so far apart as
to seem to belong to two different worlds. In the West the town or city is
merely the ethnic and social extension of the countryside. It grows by
accretion from the influx of people who have been born in the country.
In the Near East the city has grown from an original nucleus of alien
officials, established in conquered territory for the purpose of exploiting
it.
The cities were originally the forts or strongholds of the early Seleucid
and Roman empires, and the conquests which have taken place from that
time to the present have effected almost no change. They remain what
they were originally, strongholds for the conquerors and the ruling classes
generally. Even today the city dweller feels not only that he is far superior
to the fellah, to the country rube and bumpkin, but he feels that once he
goes out of his urban environment he is in enemy territory. And he is
right.
Of course the country feeds the city. That is logical. That is true
2 Iid., p. 169.








everywhere. But here there is little commercial exchange between the two.
The country feels the heavy hand of the tax collector, the landlord, the
usurer-all city people-but what does the peasant receive in return from
the city? Precious little. The iron plowshare, a few pieces of doth, some
sugar, and perhaps the meager kitchen utensils. By far the larger part of
what the peasant uses is made in his village. He works for the city: his
labor feeds the city with the grain from the country, but the city does not
reciprocate.
The city takes but it does not give. It is a one-way ride. The peasant
is where he has always been vis-a-vis the city: at the point of no returns.
The city remains a parasite on the country; it is not in or of it. "Every-
where history has been hard on the peasants, but in no other society, we
believe, has there been a more persistent, more conscious, more obstinate
desire to bar their entrance into the cities of men as well as into the city
of God."8
In the matter of taxation the peasant is always at a disadvantage. Usu-
ally the poorer he is, the more, proportionately, he must pay in taxes. To
be sure, the desire to avoid payment of taxes, in whole or in part, seems
to be universal. The French have an adage to the effect that stealing from
the State is not really a theft. This attitude is by no means confined to
France. But there seems to be little system in the collection of taxes in the
Near East.
The villages which belong to the really great landlords pay the least
because of the influence of their owners with the officials of the central
government. Only tax collectors who are acceptable to the landlords can
operate and even then the scope of their activities is dearly delimited.
Villages of small peasant proprietors, or those in which land is held in
common, were of course forced to pay more because they had no friends
at court who could curb the greed of the tax collector. Even in the same
village, the poorer. the family, the higher, proportionately, his taxes.
If a powerful member of the village aristocracy is himself the tax
collector-which is almost invariably the case-he is in a position further
to enrich himself by easing his own tax burden and by extracting even
more from the small farmers by way of making up the difference. Thus,
in general, the poorer the farmer the higher his taxes. And even though
the system is institutionalized the peasantry is wont to become restive
during crises.
For centuries the peasant has tilled the fields of his master in a resigned,
8 Jaques Weuleresse, Paysans de Syrie et du Proche Orient, Paris, 1946, p. 89.








half-hearted way, with no thought beyond his immediate necessities; he
works for himself and his family, here and now, and cannot think in terms
of fulfillment, because the foundation of his whole life is insecure. He
cannot improve with detachment something that is not his. Why improve
land that will only benefit someone else? Why work hard just for work's
sake?
The consequences are obvious. The techniques have not progressed.
Except for a relatively limited area in the Lebanon and in Israel one seldom
sees landscapes in which the physical environment has been dominated,
where man has signally triumphed over nature. The peasant has simply
not been able to accumulate enough reserves to tackle his environment
adequately. He has barely enough for food, for housing, or for clothing.
Most peasant houses are veritable hovels, and many of the peasants are
dressed in masses of rags. Most of the people exist, even in good years, on
what we would consider short rations. There is no surplus capital, nothing
left with which to pay for modern tools and hybrid seed, not to mention
such desiderata as education and preventive medicine. And the peasant,
in order to survive, has had to be resigned to his miserable lot.
Significantly enough, when means of escape presented themselves,
peasants took advantage of them on a large scale. During the nineteenth
century the States of the Near East were part of the Turkish Empire, from
which thousands of people migrated to the New World, especially to Latin
America, where many of them grew rich in trade and commerce. These
migrants to Latin America, irrespective of their region of origin were
collectively known as "Turks", and even today in certain Latin American
republics the word "Turk" is a synonym for storekeeper.
Migration to countries overseas began first from the Lebanon, and has
gradually extended to most countries in the Near East. The Christian
communities were the first to send out migrants, for their members were
more highly evolved and could adapt more easily to conditions in the
countries whither they went. But Moslems and Druses have also left in
great numbers. Some villages have lost almost half of their population by
migration, and it is usually the most active and enterprising members who
go. One is frequently amazed, in some tiny mountain village of Lebanon,
to find one or even several people with a knowledge of English, or of
Spanish or Portuguese. They are happy to converse in the languages they
learned in Montreal, Kansas City, Sao Paulo or Bogota.
Those who have failed, and who have returned empty-handed, continue
the life of the peasant as if nothing had ever changed. Even those who








return with funds do not always help the economy of their country. They
frequently build an enormous house in their little village, a monument to
conspicuous waste, in which they live for a few weeks or months during
the season. Even if they buy land they are wont to work it according to
immemorial usage. They merely join the ranks of city-dwelling landlords
-politically, intellectually and socially.
During World War II and for a few years afterward, the possibility of
earning wages in the cities part of the year has been a boon to many of the
inhabitants of rural villages, who have been tied to their plots of land by
the debts they owe their landlords. The possession of cash has given cer-
tain families, who had been economically depressed and spiritually cowed,
an unaccustomed feeling of human dignity and a desire to assert their
independence. The peasant is a master at passive resistance, and there
have been many cases of voluntary slow-downs on all jobs being done for
the landlord.
The peasants are watching the main chance. They have an end in view.
They want the landlord to get angry enough to threaten without becoming
violent. Many families, or their chief men, may engage in violent argu-
ments for hours. It sounds especially violent in Arabic. Sometimes the
landlord will heap epithets upon his peasants and even threaten them with
eviction-upon payment of debts, of course. This is what the peasant is
waiting for. He asks in an offhand way how much he owes; mysterious
books are consulted by the landlord who finally arrives at a figure, which
is unacceptable to the peasant, or peasants. Haggling continues until a
fairly low figure is arrived at and agreed upon-much higher, however,
than the landlord has any idea his peasant can pay. Then the latter plays
his trump card. He accepts, pulls the cash out from some hiding place, and
demands that a receipt be drawn up by someone who can read and write and
act as scribe. This is not difficult to arrange, for by the time the dispute
and negotiations have reached this stage the whole village will be there as
witnesses. The landlord is nonplused, but what can he do? He agreed to
the figure, didn't he? He even set it. The peasant has won his freedom
and can now go to some other farm where conditions for him are more
favorable. The landlord has lost face as well as the labor of his peasant,
and the latter has won a feeling of self-respect along with his freedom.
Incidents of this kind are not infrequent, and cannot but undermine the
social and economic status quo of the good old days, when for the landlord
God was in His heaven and all was right with the world, but for the
peasant the landlord reigned supreme, "the God of Things as They Are!"








Migration formerly acted as a safety valve as the population pressed on
the food resources, and famines and epidemics were powerful checks on
the increase of population. A shortage of food over a period of years
would so lower the resistance of the people that they became an easy prey
to malaria, to typhus, and to the plague. These controls are no longer so
effective as they once were. For the past generation or so, famines and
epidemics have practically disappeared. The death rate has decreased, but
not the birthrate, as a result of the gradual introduction of public health
measures. The doors that once opened wide to receive the great hordes of
emigrants have closed to a narrow crack. The possibilities of large-scale
industrialization are far from rosy.
Hence, in the short run, the pressure of population on resources will
increase, and so will misery and poverty. Tremendous amounts of capital
are called for to streamline the economy of the Araby States, where agri-
cultural resources are still being extensively exploited by primitive methods.
Perhaps even more important is a revolution in cultural attitudes and
centuries-old habits and routines which will induce a fundamental social
revolution. But for the present the peasant problem is not only not being
solved, it is becoming yearly more and more acute.













Israel and Jordan: Inter- and Intra-National
Contrasts and Comparisons
To THE SOUTH of the Lebanon lies the new state of Israel, in the heart
of the Holy Land. It has all the problems common to the Arab states
which surround it, plus a few more. For one thing, the land, poor,
steep, rocky and infertile, has been bitterly fought over by many peoples
throughout history, for political and religious, rather than for economic
reasons. Before World War I the population of Palestine remained
about stationary, but the superior public health facilities introduced by
the British under the Mandate, greatly lowered the death rate. The result
was one of the highest recorded net natural increases in population. From
1914 to 1947 the Arab population on the rocky landscape of Palestine al-
most doubled, from 690,000 to 1,300,000. A large part of this Arab
population now lives in the reduced area in Palestine still held by the
Arabs. It was conservatively estimated in 1949 that "there must be more
than one million Arabs now living in something like 2,500 square miles,
i.e. at least 400 to the square mile."I
It is not within the scope of this volume to enter into a discussion of the
events leading up to the creation of the State of Israel. As much as pos-
sible the Zionists assured absolute control of the sectors they settled by
outright purchase of land. The amount of land acquired in Palestine un-
der the British Mandate is officially given by the Israelis as approximately
500,000 acres. This is a considerable amount, out of a total of perhaps
6,000,000 acres, of which certainly well over one-third, or 2,000,000
acres, would be considered non-cultivable under any circumstances. Of
course, the Zionists bought the land from Arab landholders, who moved
to cities or even left the country. They were all too willing to sell, for
the price paid by the purchasers was often many times more than anyone
else would or could pay.
The fact remains that thousands of Arabs were relentlessly, though
legally, expropriated. The process of economic penetration drove many
Arab peasants into the ranks of the landless proletariat in the country in
which they had been living off the produce of the land for hundreds of
1 Millar Burrows, Palestine Is Our Business, Philadelphia, 1949, p. 42.








years. Even those who had been poverty-stricken tenants or share-
croppers were violently uprooted, deprived of the scant security they had
enjoyed under marginal social and economic conditions.
By the end of the British Mandate, some 600,000 Jews had entered
the country, and comprised a third of the population. They had actually
acquired only about a tenth of the land, but it was some of the best land,
or land that could be made productive by techniques unavailable to the
Arabs. Each enclave owned by the Jews was just that much more land
taken out of circulation as far as the Arabs were concerned, for the Jewish
settlers made a point of getting along as quickly as possible without em-
ploying Arab labor. The rural workers, bereft even of that scant security
which they had formerly known in their patriarchal society, were uprooted
and landless. They could not help being hostile to those who threatened
their very existence. Industrial jobs were practically non-existent, and
the few available were eagerly sought after by skilled Jewish workers,
who flooded the country as the pogroms of Hitler increased in ferocity.
The withdrawal of the British in 1948 was followed by the war between
Israel and the Arab States, in which the latter were defeated. A seemingly
insoluble problem created by this war is that of the Palestinian Arabs who
took refuge in neighboring countries and who, to the number of at least
800,000, are still living under terrible conditions in refugee camps in the
countries bordering Israel.
In some areas such as the Gaza Strip the refugees outnumber the local
population by six to one. In parts of West Jordan and South Lebanon
refugees are equal in number to the local population, and in the whole of
Arab Asia contiguous to Israel refugees make up a fifth of the entire
population.
This influx of hundred of thousands of destitute people has completely
disorganized the local economy of large sectors and has upset the normal
economy of whole countries. The delicate balance between population
and land resources has been thrown out of adjustment, as economies have
been stretched beyond the limits of elasticity.
The Arab refugees from Palestine, now living in Lebanon, Syria and
Jordan, are the latest phase of a population problem that is age-old in the
Near East, where for thousands of years armies have overrun peaceful
nations, and have conquered and devastated whole cities. The peasants
and townsmen who were not put to the sword were carried away into
slavery. They were forced to work building monuments to the glory of
their conquerors' ruler, or to construct military roads, or to dig and clean








irrigation canals, and so on. Present-day refugees work for a pittance on
banana plantations in the Lebanon, or on public works projects in Jordan,
or at anything they can get in Syria. To be sure, they are not slaves, but
their economic and social plight, from the point of view of the Westerner,
certainly leaves much to be desired.
Their lot should be judged, however, in the light of their Near Eastern
historical background. They are the cultural and political heirs of the en-
slaved Chaldeans, Tyrians and Philistines, deported from their homelands
to toil on the palace of Sennacherib at Nineveh, or they are the cultural-
perhaps even the lineal-descendants of the workmen who were forced to
labor on the palace and temple of Solomon.
The widely heralded fatalism of the Moslem does not necessarily mean
resignation and submission to whatever happens. Inspired by an ideal
or imbued with the feeling of accomplishing a sacred mission, the Moslem
can accept martyrdom with equanimity. Arabs do not place as high a
value upon human life, perhaps, as do some other peoples, and they feel
that great losses of life merely demand increased resistance and revenge.
It should never be forgotten that Moslems are not taught to turn the other
cheek or that it is wrong to take revenge on one's enemy. They can be
devious, but they can also be fearfully direct. These facts should not be
lost sight of by those who play at power politics. The Arabs feel that the
Western Powers are responsible for the tragedy of Zionism in their midst,
and they are neither resigned nor submissive about it.
For example, in many quarters it was felt that the Arabs would be
"realistic," that they would "realize the side their bread was buttered on,"
and so on. Yet they had no hesitation in halting the flow of oil across
Israel to Haifa, although that means decreased revenues for the Arabs as
well as for the Jews. Eastern attitudes are markedly different from those
current in the West.
The refugee problem has become a political issue which each country
uses in whatever way best suits its purpose. The Lebanese hesitate to
naturalize the refugees within their borders for fear of upsetting the con-
trol at present exercised by the Christian majority. The Jordanians natu-
ralized most of them immediately because sparsely populated Jordan, an
anomalous expression of the nation-State created by fiat of Great Britain,
is in need of people in order to strengthen its hand at the council tables.
The Syrians and Egyptians can point to the refugees and say, "See what
happened because we did not have a strong army," and use that as a re-
frain in the building up of a strong army.








There may even be some people who champion the Arabs' cause against
the Zionists in response to latent or subconscious anti-Jewish prejudices,
which they had been harboring without even knowing it or admitting it to
themselves. The present tense political situation makes the enunciation of
anti-Jewish sentiments respectable, as it were.
The Zionists have introduced a new note into the agricultural land-
scape of the Holy Land. Young men and women in shorts, under a blaz-
ing sun, use the latest equipment in producing crops of vegetables and
citrus fruit for the local or international market. In the next field will
be seen the Arab farmers, wrapped up winter or summer, it seems, in
many folds of traditional clothing. Their plow will be the time-honored
one, a wooden beam through which is thrust a stick with an iron point,
and drawn by a camel or by a yoke of patient oxen. The implement barely
scratches the surface of the obdurate, stony, infertile soil.
The contrast between the ancient farming methods of the Arabs and
the modern methods and implements of the Zionists is due largely to the
fact that the latter have the benefit of funds contributed by the United
States Government and by world Jewry and are therefore in a position to
do what cannot be done by the Arabs, who lack such financial backing.
The Arab peasant is growing his traditional crops and is living, however
poorly, on the income from his land. He is not subsidized from abroad
with millions of dollars. This is at the root of much of the tension be-
tween the two peoples. The highly subsidized Jewish farm communities
have consciously tried to be self-sufficient in their aloof well-being, and
have shown little interest in helping to mitigate the poverty of the Arabs
living in their midst.
The Zionists have introduced a wedge into the Arab world. There is
no doubt about that. They are in general just as bitterly resented by the
Arabs in Israel itself as they are by those in the Arab States beyond their
borders. They have cut themselves off from the Arab world as well as
from that of western Europe. The Arabs regard Israel as a foreign
cultural growth which has encysted within their body politic, and they
will use every means at their disposal to dislodge it.
The Arabs, in what they strongly feel is self-defense, have instituted
an economic boycott of Israel. They can do this with no fear because they
have lived off the produce-meagre as it is-of their own lands since
time immemorial and have every reason to feel that they can continue to do
so. The Arab States are fully prepared to forego any and all financial help
from the West, but Israel cannot do so. This is pointed out by the Israel
Minister of Agriculture:








In its efforts for maximum development of Israel's agriculture, the Gov-
ernment has been assisted by the various agricultural organizations and in-
stitutions of organized labour and private capital. Very large amounts
have been spent by the Jewish Agency in Agriculture, especially in estab-
lishing settlements, the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael continues its work of soil
reclamation, while the women's organizations and other public bodies have
expanded their efforts in specific fields. Likewise, funds and technical
advice furnished by the U. N. Food and Agricultural Organization and the
Technical Cooperation Administration of the U. S. Grant-in-Aid, have
been a big stimulus.
Provided such all-out cooperation continues in support of our agri-
cultural development, it is possible to foresee a time-and a time not too
distant-when we shall be within sight of our final objective: to assure
for each man, woman and child in Israel food in sufficient quantity, of
the highest quality, and in abundant variety.2
It is pertinent to point out that, in the opinion of this authority, the
achievement of the goal depends upon the continuation of "such all-out
cooperation." Further, the extent of this cooperation has been considera-
ble. United States Government funds alone granted Israel between May,
1948 and July, 1952 totaled $283,000,000. Hundreds of millions more
have been contributed or invested by private agencies or individuals.
In the three years 1949-1951-its peak years of immigration-Israel
earned by its own efforts only 15 per cent of the foreign currency it spent,
obtaining the rest from loans (40 per cent) and donations and capital
imports (45 per cent). Mr. Ben-Gurion's dictum that, where Israel is
concerned, "there is no such science as economics," will hold true just
so long as the miracle of the manna from abroad can be perpetually re-
peated. For the first five years as an independent nation, loans, gifts, and
investments from abroad tally up to well over a billion dollars, approxi-
mately half of which has been spent on consumer goods, the other half in
productive investments.
Why hasn't greater progress toward economic self-suficiency been
made? Certainly a part of the answer is that tremendous amounts of labor-
saving machinery have been imported, in spite of the scarcity of foreign
currency, for both industry and agriculture. This would seem to be
illogical and unsuitable for a country long on manpower and short on
funds for the purchase of machines and gadgets. If industry and agri-
culture are to become internationally competitive, costs of production will
have to be lowered, and a start in that direction could be made by de-
creasing the emphasis on mechanization and by increasing the jobs per-
formed by Israeli manual labor.
2 Peretz Naftali, "Israel's Agricultural Progress Since Statehood," Agriculture i
Israel, 1953, p. 6.








A continuation of the boycott by the neighboring Arab States cannot
but make Israel continue to be dependent on the West. And there is every
indication that the boycott will continue with all possible vigor, for the
Arabs are bitter and becoming more and more vindictive. The U. N. has
not evicted the Israelis from any of the territory they have encroached
upon since the signing of the armistice with the Arab States, and some of
the Israeli leaders have been outspoken in proclaiming territorial expansion
as a continuing goal for their country.
The first year which showed a substantial reduction of immigration was
1952. But it is difficult to see how either the Israelis or the Arabs can feel
that the present Israeli population can be fed on the restricted acreage al-
lotted to Israel by the U. N. To be successful, expansion, which seems to
many Israelis a logical solution, should be based upon a healthy agricul-
tural and industrial development. But the development thus far had been
achieved through the bounty of the West, and a radical change in official
U. S. policy would greatly curtail the flow of funds into Israel. Perhaps
the Israelis should never forget that the Crusaders were driven from the
Near East as soon as they no longer received subsidies and superior arms
from Europe.
The major Zionist doctrine, expressed in its nationalist philosophy, holds
that by making of Palestine a Jewish sovereign State the Jewish problem
will be largely solved. Many influential Jews found this doctrine unac-
ceptable, and warned of the danger to Judaism of the emphasis in the
Zionist doctrine on the features that lead to separatism and exclusiveness.
Sober truths were enunciated by many Jewish leaders. Consider these
excerpts from the prophetic statement on "Zionism, Jews and Judaism,"
made on December 30, 1942 by the Rev. Dr. Samuel Goldenson, Rabbi of
Temple Emanuel in New York City:
After all, many times the number of Jews that Palestine can possibly
accommodate will continue to live outside of that land. Instead of
Palestine coming to the aid of the Jews elsewhere, the Jews of other lands
may more often be called upon to help solve the Jewish problems in and
around Palestine itself. Should some of these problems be of a political
nature, as they most likely will be because of the role Palestine as a home-
land is meant to play in the Jewish future, many involvements and en-
tanglements will surely enmesh the Jews of the rest of the world ....
With reference to Palestine, I, of course, cherish with my fellow Jews
the high place that that country holds in Jewish history and consciousness.
I value the revival of cultural interests in that ancient land and the notable
achievements of the Jewish settlers in its rehabilitation. In order to fur-
nish opportunities for further immigration of a large number of Jews,
especially from among those now homeless, every effort should be made








to come to some understanding with the non-Jewish population in Pales-
tine. That understanding should be in keeping with the highest teachings
of the Jewish, Christian, and Moslem world, and also in accordance with
the principles of democracy. Should such an understanding be arrived at,
the Jewish people will, I believe, find opportunities of settlement in
Palestine of numbers far in excess of those who would come there if they
had to be specially protected by armies, whether under the Jewish flag or
the flag of some mandatory power....
The nearer the government of Palestine will come to the exemplification
of the ideal of mutual understanding and helpfulness among all its inhabit-
ants, the better it will serve Jews, Christians and Moslems alike in every
part of the world. If Palestine is re-established on such lines and in such
a spirit, then and then only will that historic land make a real contribution
towards the solution of the unhappy Jewish problem....
In conclusion, the brusque change effected by the Zionists in the land-
man relationships in Israel, in a restricted area in the Near East, has had
a disturbing effect on the Arab population there in particular, and on the
Arab world in general. The Zionists have colonized on land which they
bought, and which they used as a bridgehead from which to continue to
acquire land and expand settlements. This classic process of penetration
may be effective, but, as has been seen, it is not always peaceful Further,
the lands in countries surrounding Israel, which might be looked upon
with increasing favor as potential areas of Israeli colonization, will in
future be defended from foreign encroachment with ever mounting energy
and zeal.













Greater Jerusalem
GREATER JERUSALEM IS SACRED to three great faiths, Christendom, Islam
and Judaism, yet it is divided by the barbed-wire entanglements that sepa-
rate Zionist-held New Jerusalem from Arab-held Old Jerusalem. This
artificial, imposed line of demarcation is symbolic of modernity, of the
New Order which the Arabs regard as having been established by Zion-
ism, a foreign growth introduced by force into the social, economic, and
political body of the Arab world.
Everywhere in Israel the new way of life tends to crowd out the old,
and has already done so on the fertile soils of the narrow coastal plain
and in many sectors on the westward slopes of the Coast Ranges. The
scene changes markedly as one crosses from Israel into Jordan, established
as the country of Transjordan after World War I, under the suzerainty of
Great Britain. During the Zionist-Arab conflict extension territory west
of the River Jordan was occupied by troops of the Arab Legion of Trans-
jordan, and the name of the country was then changed to the Hashemite
Kingdom of Jordan.
Much of the land along Lake Tiberias, the River Jordan and the Dead
Sea was of so little value that neither individual nor government would go
to the trouble and expense of delimitation of properties. The Department
of Lands and Surveys was created in 1929 in order to bring some order out
of the chaos.1
Even the land registries were in a state of hopeless confusion. Every
district in the country had its own system for collecting the land tax. In
the northern district a lump sum was levied on each village; in the central
district the peasants were taxed in cash what the traffic would bear, and in
the southern district a certain tax was assessed for each house, irrespective
of the area of land under cultivation by the owner or occupier of the
house. Tax remissions were not granted in years of drought. If the en-
tire tax of one district could not be collected, the tax officials merely
saddled other districts with higher taxes.
Hence the first task of the Department of Lands was to put the land
1A valuable source of information on this subject is the reprint of a lecture on
"Land Problems in Transjordan," given by G. F. Walpole, O.B.E., to the Royal Central
Asian Society on July 16, 1947.









tax on an equitable basis, a pre-requisite for which was a fiscal survey.
Village boundaries were demarcated and surveyed and all cultivated land
was appraised. Further, a commission was organized with legal powers
to settle the many bitter disputes between villages over boundary lines.
Expanding cultivation had brought boundaries of adjoining villages into
contact and many persons had lost their lives in boundary disputes. The
commission was empowered to fix the boundary lines, which were de-
marcated with angle irons. As soon as the fiscal survey was completed,
in 1933, a Land Settlement Law was enacted with a view to clarifying in-
dividual rights in land, and particularly to achieving security of tenure.
To highly individualistic westerners security of tenure seems a sine qua
non for progress in farming, yet a large part of the cultivable area of
Transjordan was held in the system of tenure known as Musbaa. The
villagers merely owned an inherited share or shares in the cultivable land
of the village, not a specific parcel of land with fixed boundaries. The
system was so well-established that the villagers had never been able or
willing to agree among themselves and make a partition. Of course, each
cultivator during his operation took as much out of the soil as he could
and put nothing back. Partition has been an uphill task, but it was
gradually accomplished for most of the country. However, blocks con-
taining the most fertile land in each village are partitioned in long narrow
strips, in order to give each shareholder his rightful portion in these areas.
Disputes over ownership and boundaries were found to be far more
numerous in the hill districts, where fruit cultivation is paramount and
where individual rights were defined by natural or artificial boundaries,
than they were in the villages holding land in common.
The most important result of partition and land reform has been the
settlement of long-standing disputes and the achievement of security of
tenure. The influential landholder, under the new regime, finds it more
difficult to encroach on the weak, and the holders of land in fee simple
can improve their land with the assurance that they themselves will enjoy
the benefits of increased yield and enhanced value. Stones are being re-
moved from fields, terraces are being constructed, or old ones are being
repaired, and soil conservation practices are being employed.
Further, the assessment of the land tax is no longer a matter of guess
work, or of the biased opinion of interested parties. The tax on land is
fixed for each parcel according to its assessed value.
Unfortunately, there is an ever present danger of excessive fragmenta-
tion due to the division of landed properties among heirs, and it is possible
that a law will be necessary to limit the transfer of land if such transfer is








bound to result in the reduction of the size of a holding to an uneconomic
size.
Another unfortunate result of settlement is that the landowner can now
mortgage his property. Moneylenders and merchants are all too eager to
invest their surplus capital in properties with an undisputed title. The
result is that there is a gradual transfer of agricultural land from the hands
of the indebted small peasants to the moneylenders. This is particularly
true in areas of meager rainfall where crop failures are frequent. In the
seven years from 1939 to 1946 the registered indebtedness of the peasants in-
creased over three fold. The legal rate of interest is 9 per cent, but money-
lenders include a heavy discount in their loans which varies from 30 to 100
per cent. This makes is impossible for the farmer to liquidate the loan.
Only the most vigorous measures on the part of the central government,
with a view to providing cheap and easy credit for the small farmer for
his seasonal needs, will help to stop the rapid transfer of land from the
poorer farmers into the hands of the merchants and moneylenders.
This process has been particularly rapid in the Jordan Valley, where
large tracts of land of high fertility and capable of irrigation, were allotted
to semi-nomadic Bedouins. The new owners did not have the capital or
the know-how to cultivate the land to best advantage. Speculators and
merchants saw their golden opportunity and were soon in possession of
a great deal of this potentially valuable agricultural land. These men
are withholding from efficient use large acreages of excellent soil which,
if used at all, is cultivated according to immemorial usages. Crops of
wheat alternate with fallow, and sometimes summer crops are grown if
the winter rains are favorable. The system was efficient enough to provide
subsistence for a sparse semi-nomadic population, but unless improved
methods of agriculture are adopted Jordan will soon be unable adequately
to feed her growing agricultural population.
Farmers should be encouraged to plant more pistachio, carob, and
almond trees, particularly on steep, rocky slopes or on pockets of shallow
soil in rocky areas where now only an occasional grain crop is produced.
The production of grapes and olives could be increased many fold. These
tree crops would provide welcome additions to a monotonous diet and add
to the meagre cash income of the farmer. The farmers should be educated
in soil conservation practices and the techniques of modern farming, and
they should be made aware of the evils of overgrazing. The introduction
of improved high-yielding crops would make it possible for the farmer
to spread his risks through a wider diversification of crops than is now








practiced. Above all, cheap and easy credit for the new owner-operators
should be readily available.
It is perhaps too much to expect that all peasants will suddenly and
with great enthusiasm adopt the new practice of holding agricultural land
in fee simple. The system of landholding in common is an old and honor-
able custom, certain phases of which might be advantageously used in the
organization of marketing cooperatives. The peasants have plenty of
reasons for their lack of confidence in this new scheme: they have been
duped so many times over the millennia, both by those who wielded fire
and the sword and by those whose whiphand was in a velvet glove.
Every time the peasants were the losers. When physical factors have
made agricultural expansion possible, the crops of the peasants, and often
they themselves, have been destroyed by fierce Bedouins and by hostile
armies. When human factors have been favorable, or at least not hostile,
droughts and locusts have overwhelmed them. Only by cooperating at
the village level have they been able to survive. What assurance do they
have that the present government is strong enough and stable enough
to guarantee them in perpetuity their land in fee simple?
The following notes were made while I was travelling about the then
Kingdom of Jordan:
Amman, Jordan
April 5
"I was up with the sun and took some pictures of small boys in bloody
clothes and shoes, butchers' helpers, as they staggered past the ruins of the
old Roman theatre in the early morning light, with carcasses of sheep
on their backs. Then I wandered around the theatre itself. Those pas-
sageways under the stone seats which are protected from the elements are
now used as living quarters, veritable dens, by extremely poor families,
who throw their slops a few feet from the entrance. The poverty and
general conditions of public hygiene are appalling.
"After breakfast I went to the Consulate to return to Mr. Cassan the
paper he had lent me by Mr. Hadawi on the possibilities of Jewish expan-
sion in Israel. Cassan was able to give me some time, and we discussed
the economy of the country and particularly the reception of the Point IV
program, which started on a modest $50,000 budget that has now climbed
to some $6,000,000. About all Point IV claims to its credit is having
cleaned out and made serviceable some cisterns originally constructed by
the Romans, and having helped dear off in record time a landslide which
had blocked the road to Jericho. It is very likely that the Jordanians








would have been happier if the clearing of the landslide had not been
done in a few days with bulldozers but had been dragged out over a month
or so, thus providing hundreds of man-days of hand labor, since there is
a tremendous surplus in the country of unskilled laborers. Anyhow these
two items would seem to give the Point IV people in Jordan very little to
boast about.
"The official attitude of Jordan to the Palestinian refugees, of whom
there are estimated to be about half a million in the country, has been
realistic. They were immediately made subjects. Of course the Kingdom
of Jordan gained a lot of territory on the west bank of the Jordan along
with its hundreds of thousands of refugees, so there was a great deal of
self-interest as well as logic in the recognition.
"Then, en route to the Jordan Valley, a wonderful panorama of which
is had from a curve in the road just west of the town of Salt. What a
view, and what a drop, and what heat! The road descends rapidly and
we were soon on the alluvial fans above the valley floor. The black tents
of the desert dwellers began to get more numerous as we started to cross
the valley. The Jordan River itself was disappointing, a small muddy
stream meandering in a desert, a seared and parched landscape, except
where irrigation water was-available and plots were a beautiful dark green.
At the bank of the river there were camels, donkeys and water carriers.
We got to the Winter Palace Hotel in Jericho at 3:30, an old place remind-
ing one of Coamo Springs, Puerto Rico. Here we had the mid-day meal,
topped with bananas grown on the plot next door, very small, but very
tasty. Then on to the Dead Sea where I took a refreshing dip in the
briny water with an oily feel. It was not nearly as warm as I had thought
it would be. The level has sunk in very recent geological times, and the
horizontal layers of alluvial deposits are cut up into hills with V-shaped
valleys by streams that have been down-cutting to a new base-level. The
light of the setting sun created a weird landscape as it highlighted certain
hills and left valleys in deep shadow. The potash factory that had been
an important item in the economy of the area under the Mandate was
completely destroyed in the war of 1948. Not a wall was left standing.
Only the cement floors of the building were left.
"We were invited to have tea with the people who run the hotel, whose
granddaughter was celebrating her second birthday anniversary. I no-
ticed papayas growing in the garden, which I was told had been introduced
by friars in 1924 or 1925. The cement hotel here was destroyed by the
earthquake of August, 1927. Since the adobe buildings had withstood
the quake, the new hotel was built of adobe. There was a huge dump








of bougainvillea in the back garden. It was most pleasant sitting in the
coolness under the eucalyptus trees where small hawks roosted, and under
the fig trees-comparable to those in Cuba, which are planted for shade.
We learned that the storks, which we saw in great numbers, are protected
by law, as they are a help against the menace of grasshoppers, of which
they eat enormous quantities."
Jericho,
April 7
"I was up early this morning and was able to take pictures of people
planting banana stalks, of camels bringing in great loads of produce, and
of women carrying bundles on their heads. This is a very green and very
intensively cultivated oasis. We got started to Jerusalem a little after
nine, and it took an hour to get there, with frequent stops to take pictures.
It seemed curious, after climbing several miles on the road, to come to the
sign showing sea level. A dry, rocky, infertile landscape. One wonders
why such worthless land has ever been fought over. One realizes that the
various empire-builders of antiquity-or rather their scribes-exaggerated
considerably in reporting the withdrawal from these bare hills of hundreds
of thousands of captives.
"We decided to leave the visit to Jerusalem till afternoon and go first
to Ramallah to see Mr. Hadawi. It was a lovely ride north across the
rounded hills-a treat after passing the road blocks and barbed wire en-
tanglements in the edge of town. Mr. Hadawi was very cordial and we
had a long chat. He is bitter about the Arab-Israel armed truce, of course,
for he lost his home in the struggle. He feels that the State of Israel can
survive only if money keeps pouring in from the United States, or if Israel
would abide by the U.N. resolution, which would make it possible for it
to do business with the Arab states again. Almost every one I talked to,
and Mr. Hadawi was no exception, feels that the Arabs are looking for
a leader, an Atatiirk, who would unite the Arab states. If Syria, Lebanon,
Jordan and Iraq were joined, the Orontes, Euphrates and Tigris rivers
could be used collectively, and long-range plans could be made.
"He feels that, with a leader, the Arabs will join up with any group-
even the Communists-in order to throw out the Western Imperialists.
He said that the Arabs were motivated by the same sentiments as Samson
when he pulled down the two pillars which sustained the palace roof, and
met his death with his captors, shouting "Let me die with the Philistines."
As national splinter groups the Arabs are helpless, and the present hope-
less situation seems to be self-perpetuating. The selfish groups in Amman,
Jordan, are opposed to union with Iraq because they fear a decline in real







estate values if that should happen, whereas the people of the right bank
of the Jordan are in favor of union with Iraq, in order to have help in
fighting the Jews.
"The artificial boundary lines work a hardship on all but a few. For
instance, a Jordanian cannot take delivery of a new car in Beirut and drive
it to Amman. No, it must be shipped by the railroad, with infinite delay
and great cost, in order that Syria can get its cut. It is certainly interesting
to see that the Near Easterners, Christians and Moslems, can make up
their differences and join hands in the face of the threat of an expanding
Zion. They are Arabs first, and Moslems and Christians second, vis-a-vis
the Zionists."
There is a crying need in the Near East for men of broad vision and
sympathies like Dr. Daniel Bliss, founder of the American University
of Beirut. When he laid the cornerstone of the first building on the
campus in 1871, Dr. Bliss made this significant statement: "This College
is for all conditions and classes of men without regard to color, nationality,
race, or religion. A man white, black, or yellow; Christian, Jew, Mo-
hammadan, or heathen, may enter and enjoy all the advantages of this
institution for three, four, eight years; and go out believing in one God,
in many gods, or in no god. But it will be impossible for anyone to con-
tinue with us long without knowing what we believe to be the truth and
our reason for that belief."
Students are fortunate to be able to live during their most formative
years in an atmosphere created by teachers imbued with such high ideals.
Graduates of the American University of Beirut have served as prime
ministers, professors, judges, physicians, diplomats, engineers, and jour-
nalists throughout the Near East where they have everywhere introduced
higher standards of honesty and efficiency, and are an inspiration for every
kind of social advance.













A Cultural Traverse from the Mediterranean Sea
to the Persian Gulf: Syria
SOME PARAGRAPHS from my diary serve very well as an introduction to
the cultural traverse from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, via
Latakia, Aleppo, Deir es Zor, Baghdad and Basra.
Latakia, Syria
April 22
"This morning I went to see a tobacco merchant who handles the
smoked tobacco from Latakia, the only place in the world producing a
smoked tobacco. It is smoked like a ham, and the wood tar collects on
it and gives it a strong, smokehouse odor. Some 100 to 400 people are
kept employed at this warehouse throughout the year, where 2,000,000
kilos of the 3 to 5,000,000 kilos produced in Syria annually are handled.
Most of the employees are women, who earn 1 / Syrian pounds a day
sorting tobacco leaves according to size and quality. The heavy work of
baling the leaves, once sorted out in piles, is done by men, who put them
into an old press made in 1912 of Carob wood, which turns out bales
weighing from 115 to 140 kilos each. No attempt is made to streamline
or mechanize. Hand labor is so cheap, why mechanize? Besides, that
takes capital which is scarce.
"After visiting the tobacco warehouse we went to see the industrialist
Rudolph Saade, at his spacious office with a beautiful view over the harbor.
We talked for a short while and then agreed to meet in the afternoon to
visit his cottonseed oil factory. He picked us up in his car at 3:30, took
us out north of town, and showed us through a new modern factory for
producing oil, in which the hulls are used as fuel. Then he has a new,
efficient plant for removing the six per cent of the oil that remains after
the seeds go through the first mill. A part of his floor space is to be used
for the manufacture of soap. In another corner alcohol is to be produced
from locally grown figs, which are industrial, not edible. It was easy to
see that one was in the presence of a dynamic person, used to power.
"On returning to our hotel we had a long talk over our coffee and tea.
He made some succinct comments: 'We are making a fetish out of freedom,
which cannot mean the same thing everywhere. Universal education is
all right in the United States where people are relatively wealthy, but out








of the question in Syria, where trade and agricultural schools are needed.
Of course we need a liberal education for those who are going to do
business or represent us abroad. But this can be done in one specialized
school or college. Nationalists are reducing their cause to an absurdity
when they insist that the only language taught must be Arabic. If I write
a letter to London or Paris or Washington, in Arabic, it will not even be
read, much less answered.'
"When I asked him what he would do if absolute dictator of the country,
he had to give the question some thought before answering. After a few
minutes reflection he continued, 'I would inaugurate a five-year plan for
agricultural development and research in agricultural industries, in agri-
cultural schools, and in experiment farms for the benefit of the peasantry.
Our wealth is in agriculture and our industries must be based on it. We
must cut imports till we can supply the national markets for agricultural
products. The Horns region now produces 7,500 acres of sugar beets
which yield only one-half the amount of sugar necessary for the domestic
market. We must continue expanding this crop till Syria no longer need
import sugar from abroad. Unfortunately our government is firm but
planless. It tries this today, that tomorrow. Political leaders tend to be
cunning, not intelligent. Syria must work out its own salvation. We
must pay no attention to the U.S. recommendations on education. Public
health? Well, when you are rich and strong like the United States you
can spend a lot and take care of that problem. There is no use even
talking about that in Syria at the present time. The government is
dissipating its energies in passing foolish laws. One of the latest asks
employers to pay indemnities to those out of work after their seasonal
employment has ceased.' At this point he waxed eloquent and with ap-
propriate gestures, said, 'For thirty years workmen came into my presence,
bowing and rubbing their hands, as they called me Master Rudolph. Now
for the first time they come and demand unemployment benefits when the
cotton ginning season is over. I told them to get out of my office and
stay out, and have heard no more from them. In Syria, I insist, there is
too much academic half-learning for people who will be unable to find
a job, but who will spend their time sitting in the cafes criticising the
government.'
"With this blast Mr. Saade stood up and we realized that the session
was over. As we were saying good-bye, it occurred to our friend that we
might like to see 'his village,' which he was going to visit, and he asked
if we wanted to go along. We were very happy to be able to have a
little more time with this dynamic person, and also to see his village. It







is hard for the newcomer to realize that when a city bigwig speaks of
'his village,' he means exactly what he says. He owns it-the land, the
houses, and even the people, in so far as they cannot move off without
his consent, if they are in debt to him, as they usually are. Unfortunately
it was getting late by the time we arrived at the village, so we were able
to see only the mayordomo for a few minutes before we had to return
to Latakia. An extended visit to a village will have to wait."
From Latakia inland the road winds through the picturesque villages of
the Alawite Massif, where the beauties of nature are in marked contrast
to the poverty and misery of the peasants. Many features of the feudal
system of the Middle Ages are still to be found. Landlords demand of
their peasants services of various sorts, and payments in kind. This makes
possible a social and political dictatorship of the landowners, whose word
is law and who dispense "protection" and "justice"-for a consideration.
Almost any policy initiated by the central government can be nullified by
members of the landed aristocracy. This modern feudalism, in which the
ignorant peasant is the victim of a perpetual blackmail, recognizes no
obligations toward the peasants, who are powerless to change the status quo.
From the pass across the Alawite Massif one descends rapidly over a
steep, winding road to the broad fertile valley of the Orontes River, where
wheat and cotton are important crops. The large estates here, where there
is enough winter rainfall to produce a crop of wheat or barley, are worked
largely by seasonal workers from the poor mountain villages. Summer
crops, of which cotton is the principal one, are grown under irrigation,
with vegetables and melons produced in a system of interculture. The
income of this rich valley-bottom land goes largely to support the village
or city-dwelling landed aristocracy, and does very little to raise the level
of living of the peasantry. In other words, the human carrying capacity
of this most fertile land is not as great as in the infertile mountain sectors.
Dry-farming techniques are everywhere rigorously practiced.
There is a gradual ascent from the Orontes Valley to the rolling country
to the east, where the hills and gentle slopes are everywhere dotted with
vast olive orchards, and prosperous rural villages.
Idlib is the center of an extremely rich farming area, where small land-
holdings are the rule, and the farmers are prosperous. Are they rich
because they are small landholders, one wonders, or are they small owner-
operators because they are wealthy? Which is cause and which is effect?
At all events, as one goes northward or eastward from Idlib great landed
estates and their miserable villages dominate the landscape. The soil in
the depressions, the red clay from the disintegration of limestone, is







extremely fertile, and winter rains are ample. But the prosperity seen
around Idlib has been left behind. Wheat and barley are the dominant
crops, except on the valley floors where the water table is near enough to
the surface to be reached by the noria, the bucket pump worked by horse,
donkey, or camel power. The olive orchards on the hills have been
replaced by the pistachio tree which is at home in the steppe.
This whole area has been cultivated for countless centuries. The rolling
plain of Idlib, with its prosperous and smiling cultural landscape, separates
two areas famous for their monumental remains. This was one of the
granaries of Rome, where in a few hundred square miles were dozens of
thriving and prosperous emporia. Now they lie in ruins, but ruins so well
preserved that it seems only last year that people might have left their
homes. These famous ghost towns produced great quantities of olive oil
and wine, as the large number of ruined presses still attest. Wood was
largely used in construction, so that the land was gradually deforested.
When the Arab invaders at the time of the Moslem conquest (630-640
A.D.) overran this part of the Byzantine Empire they destroyed in a few
short years what remained of the forests as well as the olive groves and the
vineyards. The central government was powerless, the agricultural econ-
omy was destroyed, and the top soil was eroded away. The foundations
of houses and temples as well as of oil and wine presses are now a yard
or so above their surroundings. The thick layer of soil has washed away.
The vast ruins are all that remain of the rich agricultural and commercial
life of two thousand years or more ago, when a far larger population was
living there than now.1
Eastward from Aleppo one is in the open steppe, of distant, dusty
horizons, bare of trees. Spring days are warm and sunny, while the nights
are still cold. After the showers that are brought by the Mediterranean
cyclonic disturbances the steppe is carpeted with green grasses, in which
red poppies and yellow and red anemones add gay notes. These lush
pastures which grow so rapidly during the spring months were formerly
grazed by the animals of the nomadic Bedouins, on their way north to
escape the summer heat of central Arabia. In recent years the nomad is
more and more constrained to become a sedentary farmer or to look else-
where for the grazing needs of his herds, because throughout this whole
sector irrigation is being greatly extended. Trenches several hundred yards
long and from ten to twenty-five feet deep are dug to a little below the
water table; the water which accumulates is removed by motor pumps
and used for irrigation, particularly for the production of the present big
money crop, cotton.
1 Joseph Mattern S.J., Viles Mortes de Haute Syria, Beirut, 1944, pp. 136-4.








Cotton is one of the traditional crops of the Near East, yet cotton
growing under the Turks had practically ceased. The capitulationss"
opened the market of the Turkish Empire to cheap cotton goods of the
west, and local cotton production was given its coup de grace. By 1914
there were an estimated 2,000 acres in cotton in Syria. But the situation
changed under the Mandate. The French needed cotton, and began to
favor its cultivation by distributing seeds gratis, by exempting cotton
acreage from taxes, by installing gins, and so on. By 1930 over 75,000
acres in Syria were in cotton, but the worldwide depression of the early
Thirties reduced this within two years, by some 55,000 acres. However,
there has been a gradual increase in acreage since then, and by 1940 the
1930 acreage was again reached. The quality of the cotton has been
improved by the introduction of the Lone Star variety of Texas. Then
came World War II, and expansion in cotton production ceased.
However, with the troops came money, and some of those already
well-to-do made fortunes, while thousands of poorer people got jobs as
workmen and earned good money, most of which was saved because there
was little to buy with it. Grain farmers and sheep and goat raisers sold
their products at good prices, with a consequent rise in the standard of
living. Much of the money saved during the war years is being spent
on motor-driven pumps, which are revolutionizing many phases of life
by extending irrigation, thus rapidly increasing the area sown at the ex-
pense of the steppe and the desert. The old landed aristocracy hang on
with a death grip to their land, the reality of power, but they are forced
willy nilly into a money economy. Hence it happens that some of them
modernize their argicultural enterprise and succeed in adapting themselves
to the changing times; others still live beyond their means according to
tradition, but they now must also have such gadgets as Cadillac and Rolls-
Royce cars, which require cash, but which can be obtained by borrowing-
at exorbitant rates-or by leasing or selling some of their broad acres.
Officials of the central government and professional men and even a few
small tradespeople are engaging in mechanized agriculture. They have
the cash, the venture capital, which the old landed aristocracy often lack.
Unfortunately, the net result is merely that these newcomers join the
ranks of the landlords, with their traditional attitudes, and landlordism as
a system continues in full bloom. The profits of some of these new
farmers have been enormous, some of them doubling their investments in
a few years. But the money is spent in Aleppo or Latakia and the lives
of the people who live in the curious-looking bee hive houses of the
villages which dot the landscape of the open steppe are affected but little.








Commenting on the situation, Professor Norman Lewis writes,
Old, inefficient farming practices are pursued in the shadow of the new
motor pumps, and poverty, ill health and ignorance are the lot of the
majority. The new agriculture represents the uncoordinated efforts of
individuals, when what is really needed is a radical, comprehensive
scheme of rehabilitation on a large regional scale, including soil and water
conservation and major social changes. Unhappily, such a program is
unlikely ever to be realized.2
Significant in this development is the fact that once capital, the life
blood of commercial crops, is available to the enterprising few, they show
as much interest in a cash crop in the Near East as do progressive farmers
elsewhere in the world. Farmers all over the world produce in quantities
when they have a profitable market. Cotton production has shot up
tremendously since the second world war, but unfortunately the 1951
crop was almost completely ruined by the boll weevil.
At the edge of the desert sedentary life depends on the occasional
spring of water. Here ownership of water rather than of land is the im-
portant factor, and the water rights are the personal property of a few
powerful individuals who sell the use of water to those who have only
their labor, against a share of the crops. Large yields of grains, fruits
and vegetables are produced on the irrigable lands, and those who have no
water cultivate tiny plots of wheat and barley by practicing dry farming
techniques. Crop failures are common and yields are low even in good
years.
The poor eke out their incomes by gathering pistachio nuts, from which
a cooking oil is made, and by making charcoal from desert scrub bushes
which they sell in the oases. They also gather gums and licorice roots and
collect salt from the dry salt flats. They formerly engaged in the caravan
trade but this has suffered greatly from the competition of the motor
truck, with the result that more and more the villager and the nomad are
forced to engage in agriculture.
The struggle over rights to water, for use in growing crops, is keener
than ever before. At the edge of the villages will be seen the black tents
of the nomads who are in various stages of becoming sedentary. Some-
times they build walls of mud or adobe bricks, over which they tem-
porarily stretch their black tents, and to which they return year after year
after their sojourn in the desert. But they tend to curtail the length of
their stay in the desert and to spend more and more of their time in the
villages.
SSelemiya, "Three Years After," Geographical Review, 40 (July, 1950), p. 480.








While at Deir es Zor the opportunity presented itself to visit a group
of semi-nomads who were at that season sojourning in the desert with
their flocks. I quote from my diary:
Dier es Zor
April 18
"In the company of Mr. Nelson and his family we visited the tribe of
Toob, who live in a mud-hut village most of the winter and graze their
animals in the desert during the spring and summer. They were in their
black tents just twenty miles east of here, about two miles south of the
road. We were received in a long black tent with rugs-one of them a
gem-spread on the ground. We were greeted by all the members of
the tribe and made welcome amid the furious barking of the savage, half-
starved dogs and the baa-baaing of sheep. Then the business of life was
resumed on the part of our hosts.
"A half-grown sheep was brought up, its throat was slit and the blood
was allowed to gush out upon the ground, in order for him to be
ceremonially clean. The dogs fell upon the blood which they hungrily
lapped up, as they fought among themselves. Two women began kneading
dough for great quantities of the thin unleavened country bread; the only
light parts of their dark, dirt-encrusted hands were those which came in
contact with the dough. Muddy river water was used to give it the right
consistency. A huge cauldron was filled with water and a fire of dried
camel dung was set under it. The sheep was put in and shortly the water
came to a boil. The women quit their spinning to search in the pantry
for spices and pot herbs-the pantry consisting of an array of woolen
bags containing smaller bags in which the treasured spices were kept.
"Meanwhile we could stroll about, see what was going on in the other
tents, and return to recline on the rugs and cushions in the reception tent.
It was very hot, but the tent afforded shade and there was a nice dry
breeze blowing which cooled the skin by evaporation. Then between four
and five hundred sheep and goats were driven into the enclosure made by
the eight black tents, which were spaced around an area probably 150
yards long by 50 yards wide in such a way as to be a protection at night
against any marauders that would attack the flocks.
"The women make no mistake as they pick out their own from the
hundreds of sheep belonging to other families. Mrs. Nelson asked one
woman how she could tell which animals belonged to her family, and was
told: 'The same way you recognize your own children.' The sheep,
gathered together in long rows, were milked from behind by the women.
The goats were milked singly, being less docile than the sheep. The area








under the black tents is set off into rooms by wicker work screens made
like a picket fence, except that the pickets are sticks the size of the little
finger and hair rope is used instead of wire. As a matter of fact almost
no metal was used at all. Life seems to have changed very little since the
time of Abraham. The milk was kept in goat-skin bags which exude
enough moisture to remain cool even in the hottest weather. The dogs
were fed curdled milk in just a hole hastily dug in the ground in which a
little water is first poured in order to make the soil impervious to the curds.
They bark furiously and savagely show their teeth even at the Bedouins
from a neighboring tent. We walked around, saw the business of life
going on in the various tents, such as spinning, churning, and making
bread. One advantage to nomadic life is that tents are moved before slops
accumulate, thus obviating complicated procedures in sewage disposal.
"When we tired of lolling on the rugs out of the sun or wandering
around the tents, we went by the great boiling cauldron. The chief's son
also stopped by frequently. He would test the tenderness of the meat
with the end of his walking stick, then calmly walk on to the next tent
while putting his stick to its intended use.
"The big event of the day was, of course, the feast itself. The sheep
was spread out on top of a mountain of rice and bread on a platter about
four feet in diameter, and on top of the whole tray was the big fat tail, a
kind of jellied mass of tallow. After the ceremonial washing of hands,
we started to eat, with the fingers, of course. The guestsmust eat first.
It was not only socially acceptable to belch, it was de rigeur. After one
has eaten his fill he rises, his hands are again washed, and the host and
his entourage take over the platter and go to work, the great lump of
tallow being considered a delicacy. Big chunks of it are eaten alone, with
obvious relish. After the host and the men-folks have finished they turn
the platter over to the women in their quarters and they finish what is left.
"The people are aware of grazing rights, tribal ownership of land and
personal ownership. They live in adobe brick huts along the river during
part of the year. Small kitchen gardens under irrigation are worked on
the halves with urban dwellers who have enough money to buy and install
power pumps. Unfortunately, these same monied individuals are all too
willing to extend credit to the semi-nomadic people, to get them hope-
lessly in debt, and thus to create a group of bonded laborers who cannot
leave their land. Beyond the narrow strip along the river where irrigation
farming is carried out, there is a belt four or five miles wide which the
'Shawiya' (semi-nomadic grazing peoples) consider common lands for the
grazing of their camels and their flocks of sheep and goats."








Mr. Nelson mentioned some of the difficulties he faces in trying to
alter age-old habits and customs:
Deir es Zor
April 17
"Got over to see Mr. Nelson yesterday. He is in charge of the agricul-
tural work in the fields near the hospital, which is located on an island
in the Euphrates River, now in flood due to the spring thaws in the
mountains to the north. Onions, lettuce, spinach and other vegetables are
grown and sold in the local market. Various fruit trees are being intro-
duced and tested out. He has about five 'Shawiya' families (semi-nomadic
villagers) working with him all the time. The idea is that they will
learn of new crops and new techniques and get a smattering of modem
hygienic practices and return to their villages to spread this knowledge.
But it is an uphill struggle. For instance, they will use filtered and
chlorinated water for washing clothes, but prefer to dip their drinking
water directly from the river. Reason? River water tastes fresh and
natural, which is not the case with water which has been purified. He
feels that one great handicap to progress is the difficulty of mass educa-
tion. Because of the great difference between oral Arabic and the Arabic
of the stilted classical tradition, it is hard for the simple peasant even to
get a smattering of it, and only the scholar really masters it, after many
years' work."
A visit through the mission hospital and a long interview with the
physician in charge were revealing:
"Spent a large part of the afternoon with Dr. Schumacker, director of
the hospital where Dr. Hudson attacked and defeated bejel, a disease
closely allied to syphilis. The most prevalent disease is amoebic dysentery
after which come malaria, infestation with hookworm, and anemia, with
incredibly low blood counts. Instead of a normal blood count of 5,000,000
there are records of patients with 600,000-500,000 and even as low as
300,000, who survived. If they can still walk they will not admit to being
sick. I asked why a certain little Bedouin girl was brought in, and was
told that she had malaria, dysentery, anemia, and so on, and that the main
reason she was brought in was that her parents were convinced she was
beyond hope. If, however, she should die in the hospital, it is the fault
of the Infidel Doctor, but should she pull through it is in accord with
the will of Allah. Either way the Doctor loses.
"If the Doctor merely tells an old man he would like to see him again
in ten days, he will very likely never see him again. But if he points
to the X-ray machine and says gravely that the machine says you are to
come back in ten days, it is almost always effective. The patient will








murmur 'it is Allah's will,' and make it a point to be back on the appointed
day.
"It frequently happens that those with a normal or near-normal blood
count don't seem to have any more energy than those who are only 30
to 50 per cent normal, and those who look and seem normal often have
very low blood counts. In other words there seem to be cultural drags
as well as cultural drives. The city bigwig who belongs to the class
whose status permits him to do no physical work may have a high blood
count, yet show little physical zest or mental keenness, whereas a peasant
or nomad with a low blood count may show mental alertness and agility
as well as great physical stamina. Among more general comments, the
Doctor noted that here, too, the people of the village were busy exploiting
those of the country by the time-honored techniques of lending money
and having the country people sign away their rights. The Doctor has
arrived at the conclusion, after much observation and reflection, that the
intellectuals of the Arab world are looking for an Ataturk, who would
be able to overcome tradition and to cut away the red tape that is a
handicap to progress in their countries."
Syria has remained almost independent of great power influences, and
continues to maintain an aloof attitude in international affairs. Before
federation into the United Arab Republic, it had persistently refused
Point IV aid, as well as a $30,000,000 grant that was earmarked for it
by the United Nations to be used in the settlement (as distinguished
from relief) of Palestinian refugees. One result of this Syria-for-the-
Syrians attitude was that the country seemed to enjoy a healthier social
climate than that which prevailed in either Egypt or Iraq. The country
was economically on an even keel. Dues on the oil pipelines across the
country from Iraq and Arabia, the remittances from emigrants, and the
payments made in dollars for the relief of Palestinian refugees, all added
up to a total of invisible earnings that offset any excess of imports over
exports.
But venture capital as well as large sums for public works are sorely
needed. Roads should be built that would tap the fertile wheat and
cotton lands being brought under the plough in the Jezireh, north of the
Euphrates. The port of Latakia should be modernized and connected
by good roads with Aleppo and Damascus, where modern factories are
being built alongside age-old establishments. If the domestic transporta-
tion system could be efficiently organized and if large-scale irrigation
schemes were carried out on the Euphrates and Orontes rivers, enough






90

cotton, wheat, and wool could be produced to cover domestic require-
ments and to contribute substantial surpluses for export. If the fruits
of these new fertile lands are harvested by the many rather than monopo-
lized by the few, Syria will be assured of orderly development and a
prosperous, peaceful future.















A Cultural Traverse from the Mediterranean Sea
to the Persian Gulf: Iraq
EASTWARD, IN IRAQ, I find a feeling on the part of practically everyone I
talk to of the necessity of finding a leader who would catch the imagination
of the Arab peoples and weld the various "national" units together. My
informants say that the people are hoping for an Atattrk, whose name is
frequently mentioned. The attitude of the Arabs in general toward Turkey
and the Turks seems to be one of suspicion, perhaps even of distrust, but
there is also an element of respect for past achievements and for present
political stability. Turkey as a nation has rejected many forms and outward
symbols of Moslem culture and this cannot help but arouse suspicion, or
even open hostility on the part of the "fundamentalist" Arabs. But the
internal unity and strength which Turkey has achieved make the Arabs
extremely envious, and the envy is heightened by virtue of the happy rela-
tionships with the Western powers which Turkey has succeeded in working
out. In general the Arabs feel that the Turks have been pioneers along a
path which is to be preferred to that followed by the Egyptians.
The individualism of the Arab has been so great in Iraq that a strong
federation of the tribes there has been impossible to achieve. The tribes
have for millennia fought among each other and have also warred against
the urban centers. There was a semblance of unity during the four cen-
turies in which the Ottoman power was superimposed on the area, but this
collapsed in 1918. The chaotic state of affairs was taken advantage of by
the landed class to secure themselves in their rights by getting titles to the
land they were actually holding, as well as to land they were able to grab
after the Turkish regime collapsed and before the "national" government
could become strong enough to exert its authority. Tribalization was
thereby dealt a heavy blow and the process of settlement or "sedentariza-
tion" which had begun in the latter part of the nineteenth century con-
tinued at an ever-increasing momentum after 1918.
The ownership of cultivated lands in the country is almost wholly in the
hands of sheikhs and urban proprietors. The land of the Irrigation Zone,




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