HC Deb 29 April 1920 vol 128 cc1397-402
23. Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

asked the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether Mr. Vladimir Jabotinsky has been sentenced to 15 years' penal servitude; whether this is the gentleman who was largely instrumental in raising the 38th Royal Fusiliers, which fought in Palestine by the side of British regiments; on what charge was he tried; what was the composition of the Court; whether any appeal will be allowed; and whether any Arabs or Christians have been tried in connection with the recent disturbances in Palestine?

24. Mr. KILEY

asked the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs whether the Government sent instructions a few months ago to the British administration in Palestine that they were to regard. the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine as an accomplished fact; whether Mr. Vladimir Jabotinsky, who raised the first Jewish regiment to fight in the British Army in Palestine, was sentenced a few days ago by a British court-martial to 15 years' penal servitude according to the Ottoman penal code; and whether he will explain the reason for basing the sentence upon this code, in view of the Government's declared policy concerning Palestine?

37. Mr. SPOOR

asked the Prime Minister whether he has received any information indicating a lack of sympathy on the part of the British military administration in Palestine with the Government's declared policy of establishing in that country a Jewish national home; and whether he can say when the military administration will be exchanged for a civil administration in order that practical steps may be taken without delay to carry out the Government's repeated promise?

38. Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY

asked the Prime Minister the nature and composition of the inquiry that is being held into the recent disturbances in Jerusalem; and whether it is being conducted in public?

61. Lieut.-Colonel POWNALL

asked the Lord Privy Seal whether his attention has been called to the statement that Mr. Vladimir Jabotinsky had been condemned in Jerusalem to 15 years' penal servitude; and, if so, whether, in view of Mr. Jabotinsky's services during the War, he will have inquiries made as to the circumstances which have caused such a sentence?


asked the Secretary of State for War and Air (1) whether the recent outbreaks of disorder in Jerusalem were preceded by anti-Jewish political demonstrations in that city; whether he has any information to the effect that such demonstrations were worked up by agents from Egypt;

(2) on how many days between the 1st and 10th April rioting took place at Jerusalem between Mahommedans and Jews; what was the total number of casualities in the two communities, respectively; whether any damage was done to religious edifices or private property; if so, has any estimate been made of the amount of the damage; will any compensation be paid; and, if so, by whom?


asked the Secretary for War and Air whether the British military authorities in Palestine were warned beforehand by the Zionist Commission that anti-Jewish excesses were probable at the time of the Nebi. Moussa festival; why these warnings were disregarded by the chief military administrator; and whether the formation of a Jewish self-defence corps was amply justified under the circumstances?

The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR and AIR (Mr. Churchill)

I have been asked to answer. I am not yet in possession of full details of recent events in Jerusalem, but from abridged reports which have been received by the War Office it appears that disturbances commenced in Jerusalem on the 4th April, on the occasion of the annual Moslem pilgrimage to Nebi Musa, and quickly developed into anti-Jewish riots. As the native police proved unreliable they were removed, control of the city handed over to British troops, and martial law declared. Spasmodic anti-Jewish outbreaks occurred up till the 8th April, from which date the situation became normal. Disturbances appear to have been confined to Jerusalem, and did not extend to the country villages. I regret to say that about 250 casualties occurred, of which nine-tenths were Jewish.

I am not in a position to state what actual damage occurred in the city, but there were, undoubtedly, certain cases of arson. As the House will realise, these events took place among Eastern people, and feeling appears to have run high. On such an occasion, there is no doubt but that both Moslems and Jews represented to the British Administration that the other was at fault, but in this connection a military Court of Inquiry has been constituted to inquire into the causes which led up to the disturbances. This Court does not sit in public, but religious heads of all denominations have been invited to attend or to send representatives.

The chief offenders have been tried before a military Court, and heavy sentences imposed. Jabotinsky was sentenced to 15 years' penal servititude for the crimes of possessing firearms, instigation to disobedience by arming the populace, conspiracy and preparing means to carry out acts of riot, while 19 other Jews, convicted of being in possession of firearms, were each sentenced to three years' penal servitude. Two Moslems, convicted of the rape of two Jewish women, were each sentenced to 15 years' penal servitude, and seven other Moslems, arrested in possession of firearms, are awaiting trial. The above prisoners, including Jabotinsky, are now confined as second division prisoners at Acre. They are confined to prison, but will be excused all hard labour and prison fare.

With regard to the whole affair, including the above sentences, as I told the House on the 27th instant, I am in direct communication with Lord Allenby, and I regret I have not yet received his answer, and further questions by hon. Members which are not covered by this statement must remain unanswered until I am in full possession of the facts.

Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Will the right hon. Gentleman answer my question? Is this Jabotinsky the same gentleman who raised the Jewish Battalion, the 38th Royal Fusiliers?



Lieut.-Commander KENWORTHY

Will any appeal be allowed against this decision?


I have said that the whole matter is being considered, and that I am asking for further information.

Lieut.-Colonel MURRAY:

Does the Government intend to send out a Commission of inquiry?


I think it is much more reasonable to await the full report of the Governor, Lord Allenby. When we know what were the full reasons which actuated the court-martial, and the full opinion of the responsible authorities we shall be able to form an opinion about it, but, of course, in the ultimate issue it must be His Majesty's Government that must bear the responsibility of taking the final decision in such a matter.


Will the right hon. Gentleman reply to my question as to when the existing military administration will be replaced by civil administration?


I am afraid I cannot do that, but I hope it may be as early as possible.

Commander Viscount CURZON

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether Mr. Jabotinsky is a purely Jewish resident, of Jewish descent, in Jerusalem?


Can the right hon. Gentleman tell us how soon the native police were replaced by British soldiers; whether rioting was allowed to go on for a day or two before any such replacement began or whether it was done immediately; and whether a precisely similar sentence to that passed on Mr. Jabotinsky has been passed upon Moslems for the rape of Jewish women?


In reply to the first part of the question, if it is suggested that the British authorities deliberately connived at a state of disorder amounting to a pogrom against the Jewish population, the suggestion is entirely without foundation. I cannot say exactly at what stage the native police were relieved, but I am quite certain they were relieved at the moment when the authorities on the spot thought that the state of disorder could be most speedily terminated by such action. So far as the comparison between the two sentences is concerned, I am awaiting telegraphic reports, which we have asked for, as it would be very improper for me, without any such information, to attempt to draw conclusions from the apparent anomalous discrepancies which may appear in these cases.


Is it not a fact that this Committee of inquiry is to inquire into the question of the preparations against this pogrom that might have been made in consequence of warnings given to the administration, and whether, if that is so, it is not unusual to appoint on the Committee the very people whose conduct is being inquired into?


I do not think that is so; the officers appointed—General Palin (President), Brigadier - General Wildblood, and a Colonel from the 3rd Division—I speak from the information I have at the moment—are not the officers concerned.


Do they not belong to the same trade union?


Will the right hon. Gentleman further inquire whether or not, as alleged, any warning was given to the British authorities that a riot of this kind was in preparation, and whether they took the steps they did take in consequence of that information?


I certainly will make further inquiries. The matter does require full inquiry; but I am very much predisposed to the belief that our officers on the spot did their best under the circumstances. Further review of the whole circumstances by the Government may result in additional remedial measures being taken.

27. Lieut.-Colonel MALONE

asked the Prime Minister whether he is aware of the satisfaction with which the Balfour declaration concerning the status of Palestine (which has been confirmed by France, Italy, America, and other Allied Powers) was received by the oppressed and persecuted Jewish peoples in Poland and other parts of the globe; and whether he will press for an early decision of the Palestine question by the Supreme Council?


I cannot add anything to the answer given on the 27th instant to a question on this subject by the hon. Member for Bedwelty.

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