HC Deb 09 June 1936 vol 313 cc35-7

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any information to give the House as to the position of affairs in Palestine?

73. Mr. SHORT

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can make a statement respecting the position in Palestine?

74. Mr. WHITE

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he can make a statement with regard to the present position in Palestine?

The SECRETARY of STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Ormsby-Gore)

I much regret to report that the improvement in the situation in Palestine referred to by the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs in the reply which he gave just before the Recess has not been maintained. The authorities are faced with a continuing series of acts of violence in many parts of the country. The Government of Palestine are taking all possible action to protect life and property, and further emergency powers under the Palestine Defence Order in Council, 1931, are being issued by proclamation. Since the House last met the troops in Palestine have been further reinforced.

May I take this opportunity, which is the first I have had since assuming office, to express my deep personal concern for the welfare of all sections of the population of Palestine, and my confidence that ultimately on the basis of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, which His Majesty will be advised to appoint when order is fully restored, means will be found, within the framework of the Mandate with its dual obligations, to establish a more lasting peace and contentment among the various peoples of Palestine.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Government are aware who are the leaders of these disturbances, and, if so, is it not the duty of the Government to deal with those leaders?


As the right hon. Gentleman knows, the leaders say that this is a strike.


Yes, and a justifiable strike.


That is their view. It is true that the leaders who are suspected or against whom there is a prima facie case that they have been responsible for crimes or acts of violence, have been arrested and placed in a concentration camp in South Palestine.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the actual head of the Arab population in Palestine is regarded as being one of the leaders who are influencing the rioters?


I do not know to whom the hon. Member refers as the head of the Arab population. There is no such person recognised.


Is not the Grand Mufti, who was appointed by Sir Herbert Samuel, regarded as the head of the Mohammedan population in Palestine, and is there any information of any kind which associates him with the present disturbances?


The office of Mufti in the Mussulman world is purely a religious office as head of the religious court dealing with matters of personal law and religious observance. He is in his personal capacity, if not hereditarily, head of the religious authority of the Mosque of Omar in Jerusalem. To describe him as having been appointed by Sir Herbert Samuel is really, I think, endeavouring to stress the point much too far, and it would be very unwise for the House to draw the conclusion that he is thereby a Government servant.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the names of the gentlemen who are to constitute the Royal Commission will be published immediately, or is the whole proceeding to be held up until this lamentable state of affairs is at an end?


My predecessor made it quite clear, as I do also, that His Majesty's Government have no intention of appointing a Royal Commission or of publishing any terms of reference until British administration has once more imposed law and order on the country; until law and order have been definitely restored and acts of violence brought to an end.


Is it not the case that the leaders of this so-called strike, which appears to be a political strike, include well-to-do men, some of them capitalists, who are not trade union leaders in any sense of the term?


It is true that among those who are leading the movement are persons of all kinds.


Would it not be more desirable from the point of view of the right hon. Gentleman to grant what is justice in the form of a Legislative Assembly, instead of trying to impose a military dictatorship?


I have made it perfectly clear that before these outbreaks of violence began the High Commissioner was in consultation with Arabs, Jews and British in regard to the formation of a Legislative Council, and that he offered to receive a deputation of Arab leaders here in London to discuss the matter.


Will the right hon. Gentleman do anything to stop Mussolini broadcasting in Arabic anti-British propaganda?

Forward to