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The Johnston Mission: Arab Higher Committee for Palestine Rejects Johnston Plan

(August 18, 1955)

While the negotiations conducted by Ambassador Eric Johnston with representatives of Israel and an Arab League Technical Committee were in progress, and an agreement was in sight, the Arab Higher Committee for Palestine, headed by the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem, urged the Arab States to reject the scheme and any project connected with Israel. On 18 August 1955, the Higher Committee sent the following letter to Heads of Arab Governments, Foreign Ministers, the Secretariat General of the Arab League, leaders of political parties and parliamentary blocs:

The Arab Higher Committee for Palestine presents to you this letter concerning Mr. Eric Johnston's Scheme. It is enclosing herewith a map and a detailed account of this scheme which aims at the exploitation of the waters of the Arab countries, in the region of the Jordan River Valley, for the benefit of the Zionist cause and of that of the State of Israel. (The Committee) trusts and hopes that this important question will be the object of your care and attention.

Mr. Johnston is still continuing his efforts to carry out his Scheme, known as "The Unified Development of Water Resources in the Jordan Valley Region", and which has been associated with his name because of the talks which he had, in this connection, with the Arab States and with the Jewish authorities in Occupied Palestine.

There are many indications showing very clearly that Mr. Johnston's Scheme is but another step and a wide step made by the imperialists and the Zionists to carry out their programmes and to attain their ends, under the attractive guise of "economic interests" which, they claim, the Arabs in general, and the refugees in particular, will gain from the Scheme.

2. It has been established by conclusive evidence that this scheme has been put forth only to serve Zionist interests, and to provide economic means and factors for sustaining Zionist existence in Palestine, and (securing) its continuity, progress, welfare and territorial expansion in the heart of the Arab homeland.

There is no question but that the most important of these means and factors is "water", which is needed by the Zionists to consolidate their existence and to irrigate the extensive lands which they have usurped from Palestine but which they cannot cultivate and exploit except by ensuring (the existence of) water especially in the Negev and the southern parts of Palestine.

3. The Zionists had previously put forth a number of schemes to exploit the water resources of the Jordan River Valley foremost among which is the well-known project of Mr. Lowdermilk. They have been trying to control these water resources ever since the British Mandate was imposed on Palestine after the First World War.

The scheme of Unified Development, the subject of the present study, has been meant to fulfil for the Zionists all the water schemes which they put forth many years ago and for the fulfilment of which they have waited for the opportune time.

4. The Zionists admit that their possession of water resources is a fundamental factor in the life of their State and their continued existence. They consider themselves (to be engaged) in a fierce battle with the Arabs, which is the "battle of water".

One of the most conspicuous indications of the importance attached by the Zionists to the water problem is what their Prime Minister Ben-Gurion stated in the course of a speech made by him on 14 May 1955 in Tel Aviv, in commemoration of the establishment of their State. He said: "The Jews are today fighting the Arabs in the 'battle for water'. On the outcome of this battle depends the future of the Jewish existence of Palestine. If we were not to win this battle, it would be as if we had done nothing in Palestine, and we should (then) admit (our) failure."

5. There is no question but that the Johnston Scheme will be the strongest weapon in the hands of the Zionists if they succeed in carrying it out, (and this), despite the objections which they are raising (now) against some aspects of the scheme, and (notwithstanding) the disinterestedness which they are feigning concerning (the scheme) because it (supposedly) does not fulfil their wishes.

There is no doubt that these Zionist allegations are meant only to mislead and deceive the Arabs, in order to make them accept it.

6. The scheme mentioned will realize for the Zionists their ambitions of seizing the (water) resources and exploiting them to irrigate the southern areas and the Negev. For it will make the waters of the tributaries of al-Hasbani, Banias, Tall al-Qadi and al-Yarmuk (and all these lie outside Palestine and outside its occupied part), as well as the Jordan River itself, within the reach of the Zionists and subject to their exploitation for their own interests. This is confirmed by (the fact that) there is (now) a study about the Unified Development Scheme (Johnston's Scheme), showing that the tragedy, to which the tragedy of Andalusia, or indeed any other tragedy which has befallen the Arab nation, cannot (by any means) be comparable.

It is undeniable that the Jewish State, which was established by imperialism and Zionism on the wreckage of the Arabs in Palestine, is dominated by economic crises, by (special) political circumstances, and by party differences which it can hardly stand. (This is) in addition to its being subject to the pressure of the Arab economic blockade. It is as if the advocates of the Johnston Scheme are asking the Arab nation to harness its water resources and wealth to the service of such an aggressive Jewish State and to lend it their support, thereby saving it from its plight and willingly handing over to it their effective weapon which it will use to destroy them in the near future.

For this reason, the Arab Higher Committee considers that the interest of the Arab nation, in general, and that of the Palestine problem and the refugees, in particular, necessitate the outright rejection of the scheme of "The Unified Development of Water Resources in the Jordan River Valley", as well as the rejection of any co-operation concerning it.

The Arab (Higher) Committee is certain that the esteemed Arab States, having made accurate studies of this scheme, share in its opinion regarding the great extent of its danger and the great harm it will bring to Palestine and the neighbouring Arab countries, and consequently, to the whole Arab nation. There is no doubt that the Arabs will lose nothing by rejecting that scheme, for, (by doing so), they will keep their water power for themselves, at a time when the Israelis alone will suffer loss.

If the Western Powers, and America in particular, really intend to help the underdeveloped countries, and to develop (for the Arabs) the water resources in the Arab countries, they should be able to help through schemes specially designed for the Arabs and having no connection with the Zionists.

It is also possible for the Arab countries to undertake purely Arab schemes, beneficial to their countries and peoples, without having to rely for these upon American dollars, with which the foreigners are beckoning in order to attract and entice the Arabs and thus drive them to give their consent to a scheme such as that of Johnston's which in reality aims at the consolidation of the Zionist State, its development and the enlargement of its territory in the very midst of the Arab homeland.

The Arab Higher Command has attached to this letter a map and a detailed memorandum written after a thorough study in the light of the political and imperialistic aims of Zionism on the dangerous Zionist ambitions over the Arab waters of Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, as well as on "The Unified Development of Water Resources" Scheme. And it urges the Arab States concerned which have any connection with this imperialistic Zionist Scheme to reject it definitively.

(Greetings and Respects)

President of the Arab Higher

Committee for Palestine

(Signed) Muhammed Amin al-Husayni

Sources: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs