§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That a sum, not exceeding £112,459, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1937, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies."—[NOTE: £55,500 has been voted on account.]
§ 11.7 a.m.
§ The SECRETARY OF STATE for the COLONIES (Mr. Ormsby-Gore)
I understand that the Opposition asked for the Vote for my salary to be put down to-day in order that there may be a full discussion with regard to the present very lamentable situation in Palestine, and at the outset I should like to express by own personal concern that Palestine, with which I have had myself close association in the past and the welfare of which I have so much at heart, should now be distracted by civil strife. I would earnestly appeal to all Members who take part in this Debate that nothing should be said that will exacerbate racial feelings in Palestine. I only became Secretary of State for the Colonies three weeks ago to-day, and perhaps I had better say something regarding the position as I found it on taking over. It will be remembered that early in April my predecessor invited the Arab leaders in Palestine to send a deputation to this country in order that they might have a full opportunity of stating their case to His Majesty's Government. While primarily this was in connection with certain proposals to set up a Legislative Council in Palestine, it was made quite clear that it would be open to the delegation to raise other matters. The invitation was accepted, but the deputation had not been formed or composed by the 19th April, when disturbances broke out, and the Arab 1314 leaders themselves informed the High Commissioner that they did not think it would be in the public interest for the proposed deputation to come to London.
On 18th May my predecessor announced in this House that His Majesty's Government had been giving consideration to the situation in Palestine resulting from the continuing state of unrest, that the first necessity was the re-establishment of law and order, and that, subject to this, His Majesty's Government had decided that instead of receiving either Arab or Jewish deputations in London, it was desirable that a full inquiry on the spot should be undertaken and that they had therefore decided, after order had been restored, to advise His Majesty to appoint a Royal Commission, which, without bringing into question the fundamental terms of the Mandate, would investigate all the causes of unrest and any alleged grievances either of Arabs or of Jews.
I regret to say that since that announcement the disturbances have got worse. Disturbances, accompanied by strikes of non-Jewish shops, motor transport, the port workers at Jaffa, and, in short, of almost all Arab industrial enterprises, have now, I regret to say, continued for some eight weeks. Several municipalities have joined in the strike, but essential services are still being maintained, and intimidation, I am informed, is responsible only in a very small measure for the continuation of the strike which clearly has the full sympathy of all too large a part of the Arab population. Nevertheless, the supreme Arab Committee have publicly dissociated themselves from the outbreak, though I fear that in this sphere—and I am confirmed by the opinion of the High Commissioner—they can now exercise little influence on the situation owing to the widespread character of the disturbances. I should also like to mention that the supreme Moslem Council has decided to take no part in the strike and the Sharia Courts are still open and the Waqf administration is working. I am also glad to say that there has been no disorder or complaint regarding anything in connection with the services at the mosques, which have been carried on without interruption, and perform their religious duties in a quite normal manner. 1315 I am glad to say that while there is undoubtedly acute racial passion, religious animosity has not yet been aroused.
I must now say something of the action taken by His Majesty's Government in this very difficult situation. I have made it abundantly clear, in answer to questions, that the first essential is that order must be restored. It may interest the Committee if I give an account of the measures which we have now taken. In the last three weeks the security forces have been strongly reinforced. In normal circumstances the military garrison of Palestine, apart from the Air Force garrison, consists only of two infantry battalions, one Royal Army Service Corps mechanical transport company, and details of Royal Engineers for signal purposes only, and the Trans-Jordan Frontier Force, of which two cavalry squadrons and half a mechanised company have been stationed in Palestine. Reinforcements have now been sent to Palestine, including six additional infantry battalions, one Royal Army Service Corps mechanical transport company, two field companies of the Royal Engineers, one company of light tanks, and two sections of armoured cars. In addition to the military forces, there are the Palestine police, totalling at this moment nearly 3,000, of which the British section number approximately 850, the remainder being recruited locally both from Arabs and Jews. There are 80 per cent. Arabs and 20 per cent. Jews. With these forces it has been possible to authorise the High Commissioner to supplement the normal powers of the Government to restore law and order and to deal with riots under the Police Ordinance, the Criminal Law (Seditious Offences) Ordinance, the Press Ordinance, and other laws. The important new orders are principally in the form of regulations made under the Palestine (Defence) Order in Council dated 23rd July, 1931. I will detail to the Committee the more important points of these new regulations. (1) By a new regulation promulgated on 12th June firing on any member of His Majesty's Forces or police or bomb-throwing with the intention of causing death or injury are made punishable by sentence of death or life imprisonment.
§ Earl WINTERTON
Will my right hon. Friend explain a very important point? 1316 I presume that the sentence of death will be imposed only after trial at the proper courts?
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I am coming to that. I am first dealing with the powers taken. (2) Damage to property and sabotage, also by a new regulation promulgated in Palestine on 12th June, are made punishable by life imprisonment. (3) The Government may now take possession of any premises or works essential for public supply and the life of the community, and may commandeer and control fuel stores or any articles essential for the life of the community. (4) The police have now been given authority fully to control all road transport, including the enforcement of a system of permits to vehicles. (5) Curfew orders may be imposed in any area. (6) Censorship of postal packets, telegrams and publications has been authorised. (7) The High Commissioner is given power of deportation, while district commissioners may relegate any person to any part of Palestine for a period not exceeding one year. (8) Trading in arms and explosives has been prohibited and any person in possession of these may be required either to forfeit them or to keep them in a secure place. (9) The police have been given fresh and wider powers of entering, search and arrest without warrant. (10) Immediate collective fines may now be imposed on towns or villages the inhabitants of which there is reason to believe have committed or connived at crimes or acts of violence and lawlessness. (11) Houses and buildings from which firearms have been discharged or bombs thrown, or any houses in villages in other areas where the inhabitants have committed or abetted acts of murder, violence or intimidation, the actual offender being unknown, may be appropriated by the Government and demolished without compensation.
These powers have now been taken by regulation, and ordinances have also been enacted covering the constitution of special courts for the speedy trial of cases arising out of disturbances and providing that any such cases may, in the first instance, be tried before a British magistrate.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I am sorry to. interrupt my right hon. Friend, but this is an important matter of life and death. Is there any appeal against the sentence of a magistrate in the case of the death penalty?
§ Mr. ORMSBY - GORE
Any death sentence has to come before the High Commissioner, and cannot be carried out without his personal confirmation. This is the case throughout the Colonies. Among other ordinances, the carrying or wearing of daggers in areas that may be specified is an offence, and the police have power to arrest without warrant any person in possession of such weapons. These are powers that have been taken this week. I regret to say that in the country gangs of lawless villages continue to attack the railways and other means of communication, to fire on buses and cars, and at night to attack Jewish settlements and destroy crops and trees. British police and the forces of the Government have been deliberately and continuously attacked. The number of acts of lawlessness and violence has been increasing to a marked degree. The graph of serious crime during the past four weeks shows a daily average of attacks by snipers and gunmen of 10 rising to 15 in the last two weeks; of attacks on roads and railways of about eight a day, of bombing from five to 10, and of attacks on the telephone and telegraph system between five and 10 every 24 hours. It will be appreciated that it is very difficult for effective military action to he taken against individual snipers and small parties who burn crops and attack communications, particularly at night.
The recent advent of strong military reinforcements has prevented large-scale acts of violence in the principal towns, and every effort is now being made by the authorities to give greater protection to life and property throughout the country as the troops recently arrive become distributed. I am glad to say that railway and other communications, in spite of those attacks which I have detailed, are maintained despite interruptions. Escorts are now being provided for car convoys and all trains. Work, however, has been most seriously dislocated and remains almost at a standstill at the port of Jaffa, though up to now Haifa has been unaffected. The immediate effects of the strike at Jaffa were to render the discharge of cargo impossible, and in order to alleviate the position there the following measures have been taken. The exhibits for the Fair which were waiting delivery at the Customs area at the time the strike was declared were removed to the fairgrounds under police escort by 1318 Jewish transport workers with commendable courage. Secondly, to obviate the need for Jewish merchants to enter the Customs area of Jaffa to receive goods stored in the transit sheds, arrangements are made for import duties to be paid at Tel Aviv, and goods after examination and payment of duty are transported under armed escort. Of 3,500 tons of import cargo stored in the transit sheds at Jaffa, 1,400 tons have been delivered and removed to bonded warehouses.
Thirdly, the Palestine railways have granted a special reduced rate of freight for cargo manifested to Jaffa but discharged at Haifa, and no wharfage dues have been charged at Haifa on any such goods. That, I hope, will be an encouragement to shipping to go direct to Haifa. Tel Aviv railway station has been taken into use by the Government as a branch of the Jaffa Customs house for clearance of perishable goods and other purposes. From the beginning of the strike it was officially opened as a Customs station in order that goods may be imported direct to Egypt and Syria. Permission has now been granted for a separate Custom house to be opened at Tel Aviv beach for the landing of coal, lime, stone, cement and bagged goods. A small jetty has been constructed in the last fortnight at the mouth of the Auja for the purpose. There is, however, almost invariably a heavy surf off the Tel Aviv beach, which renders discharge from small craft difficult and dangerous and at times impossible, and I fear that with the present facilities and the continued hold up at the port of Jaffa there will be difficulties in the import of essential supplies.
This is important. Steps have been taken to limit or prohibit the movements of agitators. Internment has been resorted to in certain cases—I will give some figures later—and in other cases persons have been placed under constant police supervision. I should, however, go back a bit to the situation in Jaffa, which from the first has been perhaps the most serious from the Government point of view. Here advantage was taken of the arrival of a field company of the Royal Engineers to drive two roads to the port through the congested slums of the old city, owners of the houses to be demolished being duly compensated, and provision has been made 1319 for the temporary accommodation of the occupants elsewhere. The result will be that an area of most insanitary buildings which have been found to be a centre for snipers and other lawless people, which the police could not enter, is now vacated and is now being blown up.
At this point I should like to take the opportunity of expressing His Majesty's Government's complete confidence in Sir Arthur Wauchope, and their appreciation of his services throughout his time as High Commissioner, and I must at once pay a special tribute to the Palestine police, British, Jew and Arab, for their devotion to duty and their loyalty in the face of most trying circumstances. May I further pay a tribute to the Jews in Palestine, who, despite extreme provocation and attack, have exercised most commendable self-restraint. It may interest the Committee to know that up to date the following casualties have been reported: Moslems: killed, 42; seriously injured, 109; slightly injured, 275. Christians: killed, 4; seriously injured, 24; slightly injured, 54.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
As the Arabs include Christians as well as Moslems, will the right hon. Gentleman inform us whether those are the figures of Christians apart from the Arabs?
§ Mr. GALLACHER
The Arabs who are in revolt comprise Moslems and Christians, and it may be that the figures of the Christians killed may include some Arabs.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I see that I have a note upon that point further on. To continue the list of casualties. Jews: killed, 28; seriously injured, 65; slightly injured, 84. I have this note:The Christian casualties include one British constable killed and three seriously injured and five British police officers and 19 British constables slightly injured, also five British soldiers and one Army officer and four soldiers slightly injured.The remainder of the Christians, apart from those, are Palestinians. The casualties also include two Palestinian Moslem constables in the service of the Government killed, three Palestinian Moslem constables seriously injured, and seven Palestinian police officers and 27 1320 men slightly injured. It will be seen that, particularly recently, the main casualties have necessarily been among the police and British Forces who are endeavouring to cope with the rising.
§ Mr. WATKINS
Were any of the Arab casualties caused by Jews, or were the whole of them caused by police action?
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I have not got detailed information about that in statistics of this kind. Undoubtedly some Jews have taken part in the disturbances but in the main the restraint of the Jewish population has been really remarkable. As to the statistics regarding arrests, trials and convictions, the following totals to date have been sent me from Palestine: Arabs—that includes Christians as well as Moslems—1,823 tried and 1,206 convicted. Jews, 418 tried and 328 convicted. 336 Arabs have been acquitted and at the time of telegraphing 281 were awaiting trial. 24 Jews have been acquitted and 76 are still awaiting trial.
Collective fines are now being imposed on villages where it is clear that arson, outrage and physical violence have been used, particularly at night, by the people of the village and where it is impossible to identify the individuals. Collective fines have now been imposed on 20 different villages. In addition, police posts, the cost of which is payable by the inhabitants of the villages, have been established in 27 villages. Eighty-one Arab leaders are now detained in Sarafand camp; 122 have been placed under police supervision in specified places and most of the latter will be concentrated in the Sarafand Camp in the next few days. Here is a point. Two Jewish and two Armenians, active Communists, have also been placed in detention, and 60 Jewish Communists have been placed under police supervision in specified places. One other Jew has been placed under police supervision. This long list of figures tells its sad tale, but I am glad to say that the situation in the immediate neighbouring mandated territory of Transjordan has, under the steadying influence of His Highness Amir Abdullah remained almost entirely undisturbed.
After that survey I will turn to the future. Let me say at once that His Majesty's Government have not been, and will not be, moved by violence and out- 1321 rage. As soon as order is restored, but not before, His Majesty will be advised to appoint a Royal Commission to visit Palestine to carry out a most full and searching investigation into the causes of unrest and of any grievances which may be brought to their notice by either Arabs or Jews. This will be a really impartial and authoritative body, and I wish to give an assurance that any grievances put forward to that Commission will be investigated. The sole aim of His Majesty's Government is to obtain an objective and non-partisan report, to enable them to do justice to all sections of the Palestine population. I am convinced that on the basis of the recommendations of such a Commission, a means can be found and will be found, within the framework of the Mandate, with its dual obligations t o Jews and non-Jews, to secure that end.
Let me make it quite clear that I shall submit no name for service on such a Royal Commission of anyone who has been or is in any way connected with Palistine, or has any known pre-conceived views, or has ever taken part in Jewish or Arab affairs.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I think the Commission will be entirely composed of Christians domiciled in this country. I am confident that the persons serving on such a Commission will approach all their problems, difficult though they will be, with a really objective and impartial mind. No one regrets more than I do that the relations between His Majesty's Government and the Arabs of Palestine have been temporarily strained, and I really hope that this is only a passing phase. The Arab people are rightly proud of their historic achievements and of their contribution to civilisation. There has been a traditional friendship between Great Britain and the Arab people which His Majesty's Government value, and it is their earnest desire to see it preserved. They believe that that is equally the desire of the vast majority of Arab peoples throughout the world. The notable assistance given by Britain to the Arabs in the War, in Arabia, in Iraq and elsewhere, should be evidence of our good will and interest in the future of the Arab people. At the same time, there is the age-long aspiration of Jews all over the world for a centre in Palestine. This 1322 aspiration and claim were formally and most specifically recognised by His Majesty's Government in the Balfour Declaration in 1917. This Declaration was subsequently endorsed in almost identical terms by all the other Principal Allied and Associated Powers in the War, and was finally enshrined in the Mandate which is our authority for the government of Palestine; and it was entrusted to His Majesty's Government by the Principal Allied and Associated Powers at the San Remo Conference in January, 1920. The Balfour Declaration itself made it clear that with the establishment of the Jewish national home and the recognition of the Jewish claim, nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. Hence it is clear that under that Declaration we have a dual obligation, both to the Jew and to the Arab.
There is at present a state of apprehension on both sides, and half the trouble that has led to there disorders is psychological. The Arabs are afraid that the Jews will completely dominate the country, and they fear for the future of their homes and the homes of their fathers and of their children. The Jews, equally, are afraid that the great and really remarkable constructive work which they had already done in Palestine will be cut short or terminated, that the national home on which they have set their hearts will be brought to naught and that the Arabs seek to drive them out of Palestine or reduce them to an inferior status of barely-tolerated aliens in Palestine, under Arab domination. I honestly believe that both those fears are baseless, but they must be shown to be baseless. It is the desire of the British Government to find a solution, consistent with their fundamental dual obligation, and they regard those obligations equally as obligations of honour. It is my confident belief that we can dissipate those fears, and do justice to both parties, and it is my intention, when the solution is found, to apply that solution with firmness and consistency.
We are most anxious, therefore, that order shall be speedily restored so that the work of the Royal Commission may start without delay. Clearly the Royal Commission will have to investigate in detail the existing law and administrative practice of the Palestine Government 1323 regarding such matters as land transfers and the regulations regarding immigration not only of Jews but of Arabs and others. These important questions will have to be examined by His Majesty's Government in the light of the evidence collected and in the light of the recommendations of the Commission. I am sure that the whole of this Committee will agree with me that, pending such an impartial inquiry, it would be very wrong of me to prejudice, either by speech or action, the findings of the Commission. We can contemplate no change of policy whatsoever until we have received and considered their report.
I said a moment ago that certain important questions would have to be submitted to His Majesty's Government in the light of the evidence and the recommendations made by the Royal Commission. Perhaps I ought to add, lest misunderstandings arise, that I am sure it will be appreciated that no Government, least of all a mandatory Power, with its special responsibilities to the League and its duty of reporting to the League, can divest itself of the ultimate responsibility, or undertake in advance to carry out proposals or recommendations which it has not seen; but I would like to say that His Majesty's Government will certainly consider with the utmost care, and with all possible weight, any recommendations made by so authoritative a body as I have envisaged. If, as the result of their examination, they find that the action advised by the Commission commends itself to them, they will carry it into effect without fear and without favour.
I hope that the Committee will share my view that, in spite of temptation and in spite of crime and outrage, it is essential to take a long view. I should deeply regret any speech that would add fuel to the flames and add an increased racial strife and bitterness. We want Arabs and Jews to realise that both have an assured future in Palestine, and that the whole object of the British Government in that country is that both shall be able to live together in peace and amity in a land holy not only to them but to the three great faiths throughout the civilised world. We hold the Mandate for Palestine specially in trust for the world which regards Palestine with sentiments above, perhaps, any other country, and 1324 we are determined to preserve our authority as mandatory Power, and to administer Palestine with justice and equity to Jew and non-Jew alike.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I propose to reply at the end of the Debate, if I can, and the hon. and gallant Gentleman might either speak or let me know what he wants, so that I shall have time to consider the reply. After a speech on a delicate matter of this kind with questions across the Floor of the House one is easily tripped up.
There is only one point about which I wanted to ask. My right hon. Friend said that a Commission was to be set up to take evidence and obtain from the Arabs a statement of the grievances which they have, with a view to trying to bring about the solution which we all so much desire. What I wanted to ask was, has not that already been done by the Arabs? Have they not already put forward their grievances, and what action has been taken?
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
Perhaps I had better answer that question now. The Arabs demand a complete stoppage of all Jewish immigration, a complete stoppage of all sales of land, and the transfer of the Government of Palestine from the present constitution to what they call a National Government responsible to an elected democratic assembly. Those are their three demands, and, quite frankly, those demands cannot possibly be conceded.
§ 11.47 a.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I am sure that I express the feelings of Members in all parts of the House when I echo the sentiments of the right hon. Gentleman in deploring the disorder in Palestine, and the terrible murders and destruction that have taken place within the last few weeks. I also agree with the right hon. Gentleman that nothing that can be avoided should be said during this Debate that is likely to exacerbate the situation, and, if I make reference to individuals, I hope it will he clearly understood that that has no reference to the Arab population generally, and particularly to any religious body of one sect or another. I want to make it clear 1325 at the outset that in what I have to say, not only to the House but to the country, and to Palestine in particular, there will be no pro-Jew or anti-Arab sentiments. I think I represent the feelings of Members in all parts of the House when I say that we are neither pro-one nor anti the other, but we are pro-Palestine, and we desire to promote the interests of all the peoples resident in that country. Before, however, proceeding to make my observations, I want to make a personal statement on some replies given to me by the right hon. Gentleman and his predecessor with regard to the President of the Supreme Moslem Council. This explanation is not made in the sense of a criticism either of the right hon. Gentleman or of that civil servant. Replying to me on 15th June, the right hon. Gentleman said:The answer to the last part of the question is that it is a complete misunderstanding. In fact it is definitely wrong to state that the leader of the Mohammedan population, namely, the Grand Mufti, is paid by the British Government. I will contradict that quite definitely here and now, as it might lead to serious trouble throughout the Mohammedan world if it were thought that the head of any religious community was being paid by the British Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 15th June, 1936; col. 634, Vol. 313.]I did not quite agree with that, for I had read a reply of the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor on 20th May, in which he stated:It is the fact that, in his capacity as President of the Supreme Moslem Council, the Mufti of Jerusalem receives a salary from Palestine Government funds."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th May, 1936; col. 1180, Vol. 312.]There is, of course, a difference between those two statements; the Grand Mufti receives his salary from Palestine Government funds, and not from funds from the British Treasury; but, to make doubly sure that I was not misstating the case, I secured a copy of the Palestine Civil Service List for 1934, wherein I find that Haj Amin E1 Husseini was appointed Mufti of Jerusalem, being recorded as Grade IV, Junior Service, and that the salary is £600 per annum. The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate what I meant when I asked in my question whether the person who was appointed to this post by a previous High Commissioner was doing anything towards attempting to quell the disorder throughout the country. I felt at that 1326 time that any civil servant in such a high place might clearly be expected co have some little responsibility for the well-being of Palestine and for the maintenance of order in that country. My fears and worries and anxieties were accentuated when, on 15th June, I read in the "Evening Standard" a suggestion that the Grand Mufti had given an interview, wherein he stated:Our demands remain the same. We will not move towards agreement until Jewish immigration and the selling of land to Jews has been stopped.In other words, he declares, "We will not give in." The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that I cannot vouch for the accuracy of that statement, or whether the interview took place or not, but I feel that, if the Grand Mufti was appointed by the British Government through the High Commissioner, and is regarded as a civil servant, to say the least of it he ought not to encourage a continuance of the so-called strike, with the unfortunate and disastrous results to human life and property that have been produced during the past few weeks. That is all that I want to say on that score.
In the second place, I want to suggest that this strike, which was originally called by the Strike Committee—not, be it understood, on the question of wages, hours of labour, conditions of employment, or any one of those matters which we associate with a strike in this and in some other countries—was purely a political or nationalistic strike, not against the Jews as such, not against the employers, but obviously against the Mandate and against the Mandatory Power. While there may be different points of view as to the wisdom of the Mandate or as to the Mandatory Power, these disorders in Palestine can scarcely be characterised as the result of a strike in the sense in which that term is generally understood in this country. I remember a strike in this country in 1926, when lives were not in danger, and when it was merely a question of bodies of workpeople striving to secure a decent standard of life for themselves. I want to say here that this is not a party question, and we have no desire to turn it into any form of party question; it is purely a Palestine question, and we want it to remain on that level.
1327 This strike was by no means a strike in the ordinary sense, and we rather wondered why, when the leaders of the Arab Committee had convened the strike, the leaders had not been dealt with before the whole question got completely out of hand and reached the unfortunate situation of which we are told in the Minister's speech. I am creditably informed that, after the so-called strike, which commenced at Jaffa and paralysed all activities there, the leaders of the strike went to Haifa, where Jews and Arabs, fortunately, work in close harmony, where the Arab and the Jewish workers are in the same trade union, and where they co-operate, not only for the purposes of maintaining reasonable conditions for themselves, but for health, recreation and social purposes. They were not only approached and invited to go on strike, but I am credibly informed that the leaders offered the Arab workers, not only normal wages, but 50 per cent. over normal wages to cease work. Fortunately these Arab workers were satisfied that their ordinary wages, their decent standards, and their comparative comfort were not to be cast aside readily. They therefore refused at that time to join the strike, and they have refused down to this moment. That seems to be to be ample justification for the right hon. Gentleman's statement that, with cooperation, there is ample room for both and that mutual advantages are bound to accrue.
The right hon. Gentleman tells us that after nine weeks, at a cost of 74 human lives and possibly £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 in destruction, the situation is by no means well in hand at the moment. We welcome the statement that a firm stand is going to be taken as long as we accept responsibility for carrying out the Mandate and, as he says that the fundamental question of the Mandate is not in dispute and will not be disturbed, it seems to me that the Government has no alternative but to see to it that order is restored at the earliest moment. What are the demands of the leaders of the Arab strike? The right hon. Gentleman said the cessation of Jewish immigation, the cessation of sales of land to Jews, and a national Government based on democratic lines. These demands are 1328 clearly contrary to the word and spirit of the Mandate and, I think, to the best interests of Arab workers and farmers and, if we are to assume that the Mandate is to be carried out, the present position is absolutely intolerable. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the many rumours of foreign money having been sent to help forward this strike have any foundation and whether the High Commissioner or the Palestinian Government have any knowledge of money having been sent from one country or another? I was there some 12 months since and I learnt that it was a simple matter for youths in Palestine to have free education in a city in Europe. I do not mention the city. I will not attack any country. I think that was quite true. But at least we are entitled to know whether these disorders are being fomented from abroad and, if so, at whose instigation and what steps the Foreign Office are taking to deal with them.
I want to look at the grievances that are advanced by the leaders of the strike and see whether or not Part II of the terms of the Mandate has been violated. A good deal has been said about the question of land. Palestine is a small country with about 10,000 square miles of territory. If the statements that are frequently made with regard to Jewish purchases of land were true, they would be shown in the figures, which are known to the Minister and to quite a large number of Members of the House. What really is the truth of the situation? The Arabs still possess over 6,000,000 acres of land while the Jews own about 300,000 acres. It does not seem from those figures that the Jews have purchased sufficient land to render many Arabs landless.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I should deny the hon. Member's statement with regard to fertility except in so far as the land has been made fertile by the expenditure of large sums of money on drainage, irrigation, and that kind of thing.
I think we should get on better if Members were allowed to make their own speeches.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I prefer not to make a speech but I would ask the hon. Member, for whom I have very great respect, if he would not accept the suggestion made by the Minister that we should not discuss these questions in the House in advance of the Commission. If we do, we shall make the position infinitely worse than it is to-day. I appeal to the hon. Gentlemen to leave these matters to be discussed by the Commission.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The noble Lord will readily appreciate that, while he and many other Members of the House are acquainted with the whole of the facts relative to Palestine, there may be millions of people in this country who know so little about them that they are living in a world of ignorance and are actually screaming for the facts to be brought out. I am sure he will appreciate that any statements that one makes here, if made truly in the interests of Palestine and not in the interests of a section, will not be misunderstood and that, in any case, the Commission ultimately will discover the facts for themselves. They will make their report and the Government will be in a position to take such steps as they deem advisable. For the moment I must of necessity deal with the biggest of all the complaints, which is the question of the land. The Government's Report on Palestine and Trans-Jordan for 1934 makes this statement:Up to 31st December, 1934, the Development Officer received 3,236 applications for admission to the register of landless Arabs. So far 656 heads of families have been admitted to the register, 2,578 claims were disallowed, two claims outstanding.In paragraph 36 of the same report they say:All registered Arabs who have signified their willingness to take up holdings upon Government estates have been accommodated.That seems very conclusive and, since in 1935 there were only 35 applications, it scarcely seems to justify the statement that there is a terrific land hunger in Palestine. I saw one area where after 20 years a swamp had been left a swamp and no steps had been taken to deal with it. It is entirely unlivable for the Arab population. Ultimately, after having lain dormant for 20 years, it has been purchased by the Jews. They will have to spend thousands of pounds to drain 1330 and irrigate. When they have accomplished that and restored the 50,000 dunams to fertility, they have already agreed that 15,000 dunams shall be handed back to the Arabs and the 15,000 dunams will be of far greater value than the whole area was before. Therefore, if much of the land under cultivation now by the Jews is really fertile, it must not be dissociated from the amount of money and effort that has been put in to render it as fertile as it is. On the question of population, which has a very close relationship to the area of land occupied, it is true that there are 950,000 non Jews and 400,000 Jews and, if one relates those figures to the land, one gets some idea of the situation.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
May I get those figures right? I have the latest figures. We should really know where we are in this respect, because of the suggestion that the Jews are so numerous and all the rest of it. These are the latest figures I have received from Palestine: Moslems, 759,000; Jews, 320,000; Christians, 103,000. These figures exclude the nomadic Bedouins who, according to the 1931 census—it has not been possible to make a close estimate since then—number 66,000. In all, that makes a population of just over 1,200,000. It is very important that the Jewish figures which, according to our data, are 320,000, should be accurately stated.
§ Sir ERNEST BENNETT
Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether the Jewish figure includes illegal immigrants?
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Can the right hon. Gentleman give one more figure What has been the increase of Arabs in Palestine from 1922 to the present day?
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I will see if that figure can be obtained, but I want to make it quite clear to the hon. Member for Central Cardiff (Sir E. Bennett) that these are total figures according to the Palestine Statistical Bureau, after getting exact estimates from municipal areas as to the existing population of all kinds.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Anything that leads towards the truth will help to clear the mind of every hon. Member in the Committee. Another figure I want to use which will have to be treated with reserve is that since 1922, I am informed, the Arabs who have emigrated into Palestine, number round about 250,000. It may be including the natural increase, slightly more or slightly less, but the point remains just the same. If conditions are so intolerable in Palestine as some people would have us believe, why have this extra quarter of a million Arabs emigrated to Palestine? Where have these Arabs settled on arrival there? If one examines Palestine, one will find that they are very largely settled upon those areas where a large quantity of Jewish money has been expended and where there are opportunities, not only for industrial expansion and remunerative employment, but a decent and healthy social life. Therefore, we ought to ask ourselves this question, when dealing with the grave situation in Palestine: Can it be true that Part II of the Mandate has really been violated? I would rather put the question in the opposite way. Has Jewish immigration interfered with, or has it assisted, the Arabs? The presence of a large number of Jews has created a ready market for the agricultural produce of the Arab farmers. Many Arab farmers have copied modern methods and efficient farms to their own great advantage, and to the advantage of the country. There is remunerative employment available for all those who have gone into Palestine, and there is little or no unemployment. What has happened with regard to the wages of the workers? We are informed that during the past 12 or 14 years they have increased by 200 per cent. It is not a very large money wage, I agree—3s. per day. But 3s. in Palestine, compared with 10d. in Iraq, or 1s. in Egypt is a considerable improvement in that direction.
The trade of the country has increased enormously, both imports and exports, and industrial enterprises have been springing up everywhere, not only Jewish but Arab, too, all over the country. It is well known that while Arab farmers had 20,000 dunams of orange groves in 1922, since they adopted modern methods they now have not less than 130,000 1332 dunams of orange groves. So from that point of view, it has been of great economic value to them and has not reacted in the way it has been suggested. From the point of view of health, has there been any improvement or has there been retrogression? The death rate in 1927 was 31.4, and in 1935, 22.3. Infantile mortality, which was 213, has been reduced to 146, while in Transjordan, where there are no Jews, infantile mortality still remains at 242. It may be argued that this is due to Government health services, and I should be ready to agree, that very largely that was the case, but the large amount of money spent upon drainage schemes and health services generally has helped to improve the health of the whole of the people. We recognise that education is still painfully inadequate. One of the things which I felt on returning from Palestine a short time ago was, that the Arab population ought to be receiving a better education than they are receiving. I recognise the difficulties, but although still painfully inadequate the educational system shows a great improvement upon what it was 12 or 14 years ago.
I would ask this very simple question of those who would believe one side of the case. If Palestine is so bady situated from the Arab point of view, why is it that Arabs continue to come from Iraq, Transjordan, and Syria to Palestine, while no Arabs are going back to those countries? If this were the real source of the trouble, why do they go there when there are other countries with far greater areas of land available for cultivation, and where Jews are not purchasing any of it? It is generally known that from the British Treasury we have to contribute £60,000 per annum towards the Government of Transjordan, where there are no Jews, while in Palestine there is a surplus of £7,000,000 largely derived as a result of the increased productivity and industrial expansion over the past few years. Judged purely from the Arab point of view, their economic position in Palestine was never as strong as it is to-day, and they were never more firmly rooted to the soil than they are to-day. I cannot see as an individual in any particular where the second part of the Mandate has been violated in any conceivable way. Moreover, I am convinced that 1333 There is room Palestine for both Arab and Jew by co-operation, if it can be mutual and of advantage to both parties.
We require at this moment a firm Government, but what would be of far greater value to both Arab and Jew would be co-operation between both, as is the case at Haifa and certain other parts of that country. They have made rapid progress during the past 12 years. Haifa harbour is a splendid example, and I hope that the strike at Jaffa may conceivably pave the way for another harbour at Tel Aviv, where there are 150,000 Jews, all more or less on terms of peace, happy, contented, who want nothing more than to work and to draw their wages and to enjoy the social life that has been given to them as a result of the Mandate.
The right hon. Gentleman definitely declared that it is not our intention to abandon the Mandate. While I agree that we ought to have that examination through the Royal Commission of the absorptive capacity of the country we ought to know all the facts, and when we have all the facts at our disposal neither violence nor any other thing ought to move the Government from the straight path of fulfilling both conditions laid down in the Mandate. In hope we shall see in the early future not only a cessation of these disorders, but that the leaders, who have some responsibility not only to themselves and to their own people, will realise that their main responsibility is to Palestine, and that they will show some responsibility to the Government which has undertaken to carry through the Mandate. I hope they will bear their responsibility with that of the Government and that we may see in place of destruction and desolation a mutual co-operation for the joint benefit of Arab and Jew alike.
§ 12.17 p.m.
§ Earl WINTERTON
I would like at the outset to apologise to the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) for having intervened in his speech. I would not have done so but for the fact that there exists between the hon. Gentleman and myself that feeling which is so common in our proceedings, namely, a feeling of personal respect coupled with strong political differences. But for that I should not have made an appeal to him. As far as I am concerned the 1334 closing and very eloquent words of his speech entirely meet the needs of the case. May I, speaking on behalf of all sections of the Committee, express the pleasure that we feel in seeing the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State, where he is. His work on behalf of colonial problems and of his present office, his long experience of that office and complete competence in administration and in Debate in this House most fully entitles him to be Colonial Secretary. I am very glad that at long last he has been brought to the head of the office in which I should have liked to see him earlier as its Chief Minister. If he had been there earlier some of the mistakes of the last four or five years would probably not have occurred.
We have to remember that this problem of Palestine, like so many other problems which are the problems of the department whose Estimates are under review to-day, is affected to some extent by the general external policy of the Government. I should be indeed disingenuous if I did not state, speaking for myself, that I am not by any means satisfied that in the past few months there has been sufficient decisiveness in that policy. It is very important at the same time that it should be made clear to the Committee and to the rest of the world that that does not mean that the stability and the ability of this great country has been in any way really reduced. Governments are ephemeral but Great Britain and the Empire are of long standing and an eternal institution. I notice a disposition which is unwarranted to say "We can do as we like with the different component parts of the Empire because the British Government has not made up its mind on any problem," That may or may not be true. It is certainly not true to say that the British Empire is not the strongest and most stable institution in the whole world to-day. It is well that this should be understood not only by the contestants in Palestine but by the inhabitants of all the rest of the colonies, whatever colour they may be.
It is most necessary to make that clear, especially after the very brilliant speech, on which I congratulate him, of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), if he will accept the praises of a humble troglodyte. I hope 1335 that the whole Committee will accept the advice that the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary gave to-day. Let us remember that there are two main factors in this case. First of all there is the question of the revolt itself; and, secondly, there is the question as to what is to take place when the revolt is over. I frankly describe it as a revolt and nothing else. In that connection let me say one or two words, not I hope of biased or of a controversial nature, but in reply to the speech of the hon. Member for Don Valley. It may or may not be that this revolt or rebellion has been instigated from outside. That there has been behind it Arab money and support from other countries I have not the slightest doubt. Evidence accumulates to that effect, and that a, certain country to which the hon. Member referred has not been unwilling to see a little fishing in muddy waters is probably also true.
In an admirable leading article in the "Times" yesterday it is stated that the causes of this trouble are very varied and are not to be lightly dismissed as being just one small thing or another. It is necessary to say that because a rather strange statement appeared in another newspaper, "The News Chronicle," which spoke of the Palestinian unrest as "nationalism masquerading as banditry." That is rather a curious phrase to come from that quarter. One may say the same of the Abyssinians or of the Red Indians when they resisted the onslaught of the white man. People situated in such circumstances as are the Arabs, if they are going to revolt naturally use what, weapons they can against a very much more powerful force, but the really serious thing is the situation, whatever the causes may be. As my right hon. Friend has made perfectly clear in answer to questions, this is not a question of one class or another, but is a question of all classes, and that some of the most responsible Arabs, in Palestine or anywhere else, are in sympathy, not with the violent methods but with the action which the strikers originally took in trying to bring to an end all activity in Palestine is notable.
I am sure that the hon. Member for Don Valley, who is a fair-minded man, will agree that while it is true to say that this is not a strike in the English 1336 sense of the terms and is not a strike about wages or hours, if the Arabs genuinely believe that their grievances are what they think they are, they are perfectly entitled, provided they do not use violence, to do everything possible to hold up the country. No member of the Left in this House or in the country would deny that if people feel very gravely—there are many people in all parts of the world who feel more strongly on questions of race and religion than on questions of hours and wages—if they hold particular views very strongly, provided that they strike peacefully they are perfectly entitled to strike. I hope it will not go out that strikes must be only on a question of wages and hours. That is not the cause of mass demonstrations of this kind.
Therefore we have regretfully to realise that unquestionably the Arabs think they have very serious grievances, and the only way to deal with them is the way in which the Government are dealing with them, by saying quite emphatically that we will have no sort of discussion of the grievances until this violence comes to an end, that then a Royal Commission will be appointed with the fullest possible powers of investigation, and that for the first time it will go into all the grievances of all the Arabs. No one will resent my stating, though it is an implied criticism of some Members of the Committee, that I have heard from the most authoritative source, not from Sir Arthur Wauchope, because it would be a most improper thing for him to approach a Member of Parliament—that one of the causes of the final revolt was a feeling on the part of the Arabs that there was weightage against them in the last debate in this Committee, and weightage against them in the other House. I want to make it plain that I do not sympathise with them for revolting on that ground and that it is impossible for them to deal with the two Houses of Parliament. But they think we will not listen to them. They have a feeling that all the speeches prejudged the situation against them. Some of them make the charge, which I am sure is not true, that there were certain reasons why the left parties in Great Britain are favourable to the Jews an antagonistic to the Arabs. Certainly, 1337 they have a feeling that this Committee was against them and that the other place was against them. That is a very serious thing.
I should like to repeat what I said in a debate in the last Parliament, speaking with the authority of one who for seven years represented the India Office in this House. I said that if during all the troubles that we had in India, the Hindu and Moslem disturbances, that if in speaking as Under-Secretary I had to deal with a state of affairs in which there was in this House either a Pro-Moslem or a Pro-Hindu bloc, it would have been impossible for me to discharge my duties, because the Government of India could not have maintained order. Therefore, I say with all the earnestness at my command that, however strongly we may hold a view in favour of the Arab case or the Jewish case, and while condemning in the strongest possible terms the actual physical revolt, we should not prejudge the decision which the Commission will have to take. It is not the least use saying to the Government or to Sir Arthur Wauchope that they are not taking drastic steps to deal with the revolt.
If I wanted to be ironical and satirical I should say, what an extraordinary state of affairs it is. Again I should like to refer to the time when I was Under-Secretary of State for India—I hope the Committee will not think that I am being too personal—when if we shut up a single Bengalee terrorist there were questions about our interfering with the liberty of the subject, searching his house, and so on. What is the situation to-day? Let me recite to the Committee what we have just heard from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I support, as a regrettable necessity, the very drastic regulations such as the death penalty for using arms—not only for killing people, be it noted—against the Forces. A man is arrested, brought before the magistrate and sentenced to death. He has no appeal against that sentence to any court except to the High Commissioner, who is not a court of law. I do not remember a more drastic proposal brought before this House, for dealing with disorder anywhere in the world.
Then there are collective fines. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs will remember that in the old 1338 days of the Irish trouble someone suggested that collective fines should be levied not merely through the rates but on villages in Ireland. I remember the furious indignation of his party and the Irish Nationalists at the idea that such a, penalty should be inflicted for merely carrying out the policy of Nationalism. Then there is house search and the appropriation of property without compensation. There are concentration camps. Arab leaders are being put in concentration camps. I knew something about one concentration camp when I was fighting out there. I cannot imagine that Herr Hitler has found any spot more desolate in the way of concentration camps than the Palestinian Government have found for the people who are in revolt there. I do not want to be ironical, but it is curious that these measures should be supported by such enthusiasm by the left wing party.
Let me assure the Committee that everything possible is being done by the Government to deal with the situation. The situation is more serious than most people in this country realise. I reprobate the kind of articles which have appeared in two papers, the "Jewish Chronicle" and another paper which has been sent to Members of Parliament, in which it is suggested that the Government are doing nothing, that they are weak and that more drastic action should be taken. Incidentally, I may say that the Jews have behaved admirably on the whole, and I should like to pay a compliment to what the Jews have done in Palestine, and to say, in common with every Member of the Committee, that I detest and loath the manner in which they have been treated in a certain great country of Europe, and I should like to see everything possible done for them. But it is a significant fact that it is not wholly the Moslem and Christian Arabs who have been concerned in the disturbances; because I note from the statement of my right hon. Friend that there have been 1,206 convictions of Arabs and 328 of Jews. The proportion is almost the same as the proportion of Arabs and Jews in Palestine.
I believe that the Government are doing all that they can to deal with this matter, and they need the full support of the Committee in dealing with it. As 1339 an old Member who has always been treated most kindly by the House of Commons I do make a most earnest appeal that we should not take sides in this controversy, and that we should not give that impression. Hon. Members who so earnestly take up the Jewish cause will have ample opportunities of doing so on the question of land, and so on, when the report of the Commission comes up, whether the report is favourable or unfavourable to the Jews. It is easy enough to find a thousand and one arguments against the whole Arab case and a thousand and one arguments in favour of the Arab case. I could find them to-day if I chose to do so, but I do not choose to do so. It is essential that two facts should be clearly established: (1) that there will be no sort of discussion of terms until the revolt ends; and (2) when the revolt does end, the fullest, frankest and freest consideration will be given to the case of Jew and Arab alike, and this House, performing its high function, will come to a fair decision as between the two.
§ 12.33 p.m.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I should like to intervene for a short time, because I had a certain share of responsibility for the Balfour Declaration, which is the basis of our Mandate in Palestine. I shall certainly respond to the appeal made by the Secretary of State, in his very thoughtful and statesmanlike speech, and say nothing that will cause any exasperation of the racial and religious antagonisms that exist in Palestine. Everybody knows how difficult it is to deal with a situation when either the question of religion or of race is aroused, but when you get both, the difficulties are almost insuperable. I remember a very old Irishman saying to me: "Mark this, race is deeper than religion!" I am not at all sure that that is not the case and that we are dealing here with something which is very deep indeed. The appeal which the Secretary of State made to us that we should do nothing that will exasperate or excite these racial animosities was necessary, but we have a duty to perform and we have our obligations. Unfortunately, the demand put forward by the Arabs is a demand for the revocation of the Mandate, and it is no use our pretending that it is not so.
1340 It is not that the Mandate is unfairly administered. If it were a case of an unfair or partial administration of the Mandate which we have undertaken, I could understand that the Royal Commission could adjust the matter. But that is not the Arab demand. Their demand is that we should tear up this obligation and put an end to the Mandate. We cannot do that. We can return the Mandate if we find that we cannot carry it out or if we object to its terms. We can go to the League of Nations—we received the Mandate from 50 nations—and say that we return the Mandate as we do not feel that we can honestly carry it out. Then the League of Nations can consider whether they will hand the Mandate over to somebody else. If I were an Arab I think, on the whole, that I would rather deal with this country than with other countries who are very anxious to get this Mandate.
I do not think that the Arabs have any right to complain of the British attitude. Before the War the Arabs were a subject race. I am not sure that there was a single independent Arab community in the world, and it was British arms almost exclusively which liberated them. The Noble Lord fought valiantly in that struggle. We sent hundreds and thousands of men from the Empire; they came from every part, and not merely from Great Britain. New Zealand and Australian troops played their part, and so did the soldiers of India. But it was the action of the British Empire which emancipated the Arabs of Arabia, and the Arabs of Mesopotamia—to whom freedom has been practically restored—and of Transjordania, and they are now in the position of enjoying liberty so far as these countries are concerned which they have not enjoyed for centuries and centuries. That is the action of Britain.
The nations of the world in council came to the conclusion that Palestine presented perfectly new problems, for many reasons into which I need not go, historical among others, but from our point of view it is a very serious problem, particularly after the action we have taken in Egypt. We have a most important line of communication between us and the East which is very dependent on Palestine, and more dependent on Palestine now than it was when we had 1341 complete control over Egypt. But we cannot forget the obligations of the Mandate. They are obligations of honour, and, as the Secretary of State has said, we cannot go back upon it. I am very glad the noble Lord said that it is more incumbent than ever upon us to make it clear that we are not going to run away from all our obligations. That is so. Whatever prompted this movement in Palestine I am absolutely certain, from information which I have received, that the troubles in Abyssinia have had a great deal to do with it on both sides, because the Arabs are firmly convinced that this is the time to press the British Empire, that we are more or less on the run. I agree with the Noble Lord. I am all for the British Empire. I am a great believer in it, a greater believer than ever after I saw it in action during the War. It saved the world, and it will do it yet again, when it is properly led.
The obligations of the Mandate are specific and definite. They are to encourage the establishment of a national home for the Jews without detriment to any of the rights of the Arab population. I agree that it is a dual undertaking, and we must see that both parts of the Mandate are thoroughly enforced. But look at the conditions under which we entered into it. It was one of the darkest periods of the War when Mr. Balfour prepared his Declaration. Let me recall the circumstances to the House. At the time the French army had mutinied, the Italian army was on the eve of collapse and America had hardly started preparing in earnest. There was nothing left but Britain confronting the most powerful military combination the world has ever seen. It was important for us to seek every legitimate help we could get. We came to the conclusion, from information we received from every part of the world, that it was vital we should have the sympathies of the Jewish community. I can assure the Committee that we did not come to that conclusion from any predilections or prejudices, certainly we had no prejudices against the Arabs, because at that moment we had hundreds and thousands of troops fighting for Arab emancipation from the Turk.
In these circumstances and on the advice which we received we decided that 1342 it was desirable to secure the sympathy and co-operation of that most remarkable community, the Jews throughout the world. They were helpful in America and in Russia, which at that moment was just walking out and leaving us alone. In these conditions we proposed this to our Allies. France accepted it, Italy accepted it, and the United States accepted it, all the other Allies accepted it, and all the nations which constitute the League of Nations accepted it. And the Jews—I am here to bear testimony to the fact—with all the influence they possess responded nobly to the appeal which was made. I do not know whether the House realises how much we owe to Dr. Weizmann with his marvellous scientific brain. He absolutely saved the British army at a critical moment when a particular ingredient which was essential we should have for our great guns was completely exhausted. His great chemical genius enabled us to solve that problem. But he is only one out of many who rendered great services to the Allies. It is an obligation of honour which we undertook, to which the Jews responded. We cannot get out of it without dishonour.
I am glad that the Government have interpreted the Mandate liberally since the persecution of the Jews in Germany. I am told that on the whole you have a class of Jew in Palestine now—I am not criticising the Jews who were there before—who is better educated and a much better type of man. They are all working very hard. The hon. Member behind me has shown what the Jews have contributed. The Arabs are demanding practically that there shall be no more Jewish immigration. We cannot accept that without dishonouring our obligations. It is not as if the Arabs were in a position to say that Jewish immigration is driving them, the ancient inhabitants, out. I am not now putting the case that the Arabs are only a modern introduction into Palestine and that the ancient inhabitants were the Jews. There is nothing in that case, because, after all, the Jews turned out the Hittites and the Amorites. You have turned out my race, and I am not even demanding a national home here.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I am not going into that case now. There is no doubt 1343 at all that nationals are more and more going in for a policy of exclusion, of stopping immigration, especially since the War. Nobody can deny that they have a right to do so, but they always do it on two grounds. The first is that the country is already overpopulated and there is no more room. The second is—and I think that on the whole this is what influences Australia and America more particularly—that you introduce a good deal of cheap labour into the country which reduces the whole standard of living. Neither of those two objections applies to the Jewish immigration into Palestine. The country is underpopulated. It is a country which has been devastated by centuries of misgovernment and its old pristine prosperity has gone. I am not now taking the figures in the old Bible story. Not being a transcendentalist, I have never accepted those old figures except to the extent that an orthodox Christian is entitled to do so, but at any rate there was undoubtedly a population of between 2,000,000 and 3,000,000 there.
But now you really have only half of the possible population. The hon. Gentleman talked about it being possible to get only 10 per cent. of Palestine under agriculture. That is not so. In the old days the proportion was infinitely greater than that. It is the neglect due to misgovernment which has made the country such as it is. Take, for instance, all those swamps which have been reclaimed by the Jews—there was no cultivation before they went there. Therefore, at the present moment there is no case for exclusion on the ground of overpopulation. Now let me take the question of wages. My right hon. Friend has dealt with that matter very effectively in the figures which he has given. The wages paid in Palestine since the Jews were introduced are treble and even quadruple what they were when they first went there. The Arabs are enjoying a much higher standard of living than they had before. There is practically no unemployment. You cannot wipe out unemployment altogether in any country, for reasons which I need not enter into at the present moment. Even in the greatest days of prosperity here there was from 1½ per cent. to 2 per cent. of unemployment. But substantially there is no unemployment in Palestine, and there- 1344 fore there is no case for exclusion on that ground.
I do hope that in the circumstances the Government will stand by those obligations of honour. The speech of the Colonial Secretary was satisfactory, but alas, I have heard very satisfactory speeches about the League of Nations and the Covenant. I am not one of the political admirers of the Colonial Secretary, but I am delighted he is there now, because his sympathy with the Mandate has been genuine, and he has never faltered in it. He commands very great confidence from those who believe in that policy, and they are delighted that he is there. I am sure he will not flinch as long as he can keep the others in order, or keep them up to the mark—isolate them. I hope he is going to stand firm.
There are two points I would like to make. I do not wish to press the right hon. Gentleman to answer them unless he thinks it wise, but as the old adage says, there are no indiscreet questions—only indiscreet answers. If the right hon. Gentleman feels that he cannot answer me, I shall certainly not press him. I do not know anything about these methods of repression. All law is repression, and when you have a revolt it is folly to imagine that you can carry out the ordinary processes of the law. I am not criticising in the least what the High Commissioner is doing, but I think far more will depend upon the force that you have there. Upon that I will put two points. It is very important that there should be such a display of force that those who are organising the revolt will realise that we mean business. I take it that the forces are somewhere in the neighbourhood of 10,000. I am very delighted to hear that the Arab police are loyal to their corps. I doubt very much whether the Secretary of State will find those forces quite adequate for the purpose. What forces there are available I do not know, but I should have thought that we could have drawn upon India.
Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
I know, but that can be put right. It is very much better in a case such as this to have more troops than you absolutely need than to have too few. You have to make an impression that you mean to restore order and that you mean to carry out the Man 1345 date, while at the same time you are saying, as the Secretary of State said to-day, "We are quite willing to investigate your case, to have a perfectly impartial investigation, but we mean to see this thing through." The other thing I should like to say is in the nature of a rather tentative suggestion. I do not think these isolated Jewish colonies can be allowed to be absolutely unprotected. In the case of these scattered colonies, which are raided at night, to what extent would it be possible—I assume that there are representatives of the police force in each of these places—to give the police commissioner in each place the right to call out a number of the colonists and, if necessary, arm them for protection? The arms would have to be surrendered and kept under the control of the Commissioner. I do not suggest that the Jews in Palestine should be armed and the Arabs not armed, but where there is danger of attacks of this kind, I think people ought to be allowed to defend themselves. I would just add those two suggestions and subject to that, all I can say is that I was very delighted to hear the statement of the Colonial Secretary and especially the very firm words which he used.
§ 12.56 p.m.
§ Mr. AMERY
I should like to join with my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) in congratulating my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies on being to-day in the place where some of us would have wished to see him long ago. He brings to all his tasks an unusual measure of practical experience, both in the office itself and in actual contact with the problems outside, and of none of those tasks is that statement more true than of Palestine. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has pointed out that the Colonial Secretary has long shown his sympathy for the Mandate policy. But I would add that his experience and his work in the War have also given him a sympathetic understanding of the Arab side of the question, which is no less important when we are dealing with a task, so bristling with difficulties and yet so full of promise if we can surmount these difficulties. We are all agreed that, in the first instance, order must be restored. I make no criticism of the firmness with which the Government are 1346 dealing with what began as a strike and has become a revolt.
The only question I would like to ask is, why more use should not have been made in the early stages of the trouble, and should not be made even now, of that comparatively innocuous but most effective weapon of tear smoke or tear gas, which is so valuable in dispersing rioters, without invoking those disastrous memories which actual death creates? What a difference it would have made at Amritsar, for instance, had tear gas been used there instead of the deadly fire of the rifle. There is one other small point which is worth investigating, and on which perhaps my right hon. Friend will give some reply. There is, I think, evidence that a great deal of the most murderous rioting has been done, not so much by the older resident Arab population as by the wild Hauranis who have come in during the last few years. That is a problem which, I think, merits attention. In any case we have to restore order and we have to make it clear that, while we are prepared to listen to every reasonable grievance, there can be no question of our tearing up obligations which we are bound in honour to observe. Here, as indeed wherever we hold such obligations, whether it be in Africa or elsewhere, let us make it clear, not only to those within our rule, but to those who east covetous eyes upon our rule from outside, that Great Britain and the British Empire are not "on the run," and that we stand by our responsibilities wherever they may be.
Given that, we have to consider the future and, therefore, I should like to echo what has been said about the need for restraint by my noble friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton). Obviously the House must be free and the country must be free to argue the pros and cons of this great question. But let us not commit ourselves—subject, of course, to the fulfilment of our obligations—to any final or irrevocable conclusion on any particular problem of administration, or as to how particular grievances are to be met, in advance of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. Let us make our contribution by all means to the discussion of the question. Let us argue it from our different point of view, but let us do so with open minds towards the questions which the Commission is going 1347 to handle, as well as with minds open and sympathetic towards both elements of the Palestine population. Our task involves a dual obligation. Ours is a dual Mandate. One aspect of that obligation is our duty to meet the age-long aspiration of the Jews to find in Palestine a home of their own which shall be their home of right and not on any other man's sufferance. That point has been eloquently argued by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs and by the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) and I say no more about it except this. When this experiment was undertaken we believed that it was right in principle. But we had grave doubts whether it would succeed in practice. We had doubts as to whether Jewish colonisation would succeed, whether the Jews would come to Palestine and whether Palestine was a country in which they could succeed. But to-day that experiment is in so large a measure a success, it has been so overwhelmingly proved to be a success, that from that point of view at any rate, we are fully justified in continuing it.
The only other point is one to which the right hon. Gentleman opposite has already referred, namely, that the present desperate plight of the Jews in many countries and particularly in one great country, should make us anxious, as long as we inflict no real injustice on the Arab population of Palestine, to do for the Jews what we can, Apart from physical and economic cruelty, can anything be more wickedly cruel than the position in which German Jews are placed to-day? People who are German in every fibre of their being, who have eared for their country, and have fought for it, are now told that they may not even hoist its flag upon their houses. They are not allowed to be citizens of the country they love.
I would, however, leave that aspect of the matter and turn to the other part of our obligation, namely, that we should do nothing to prejudice the civil and religious rights of the Arabs. I think we ought to distinguish here between two cases. There is a sham, a false Arab case, but I think there is also a real Arab case. The false Arab case is that the original population of Palestine 1348 has been dispossessed and impoverished and is now being neglected by the Government and subordinated to a vast horde of immigrant Jews who are seizing all the wealth of the country. That case is not one that I need labour. It was dealt with very adequately by the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the hon. Member for Don Valley. I would only remark on one or two points. Take the sandy coastal district where undoubtedly, in terms of acreage of sand, the Arabs may have abandoned a certain amount of territory. But for what? For the money which has enabled them to increase the acreage of citrus cultivation from 5,000 to 32,000 acres, an increment representing hundreds of thousands—millions perhaps—in actual value.
Similarly, there is a case like the drainage of the Huleh swamp, where the Arabs, living under malarial conditions and in abject poverty, are going to be endowed with territory made rich and healthy by the efforts and money of the Jews, where both health and wealth are being given them without their lifting a finger on their own behalf. After all, the figures of population and of the immigration of Arabs into the country are an indication that they are not being oppressed. As a matter of fact, over the last 16 years the actual increase in the Arab population has been larger than the increase in the Jewish population. Over those 16 years the average increase in the Jewish population has been little more than 16,000 a year, but the increase of the Arab population, by birth and immigration, has been at the rate of 30,000.
What is true—and here I come to the element of real grievance that the Arabs feel—is that in the last three years immigration has been at the rate of 50,000 a year. Even so it would take at least 25 or 30 years of a continuance of that abnormal immigration to bring the Jews to a parity with the Arabs. Still, the fear remains, and the Arabs do fear such a Jewish immigration as would end in depriving them of their land and in making them a landless proletariat, "hewers of wood and drawers of water" in their own country. That fear, I think, we have to meet fairly. We have, in some form or other, to deal with the land problem. I doubt whether certain legislation which has recently been sug- 1349 gested by the Administration in Palestine would meet the case. I think, on the analogy of the Five feddan law in Egypt, which, by the way, has worked none too well, it is proposed o that all alienation of land below a certain limit should be forbidden to all the inhabitants of Palestine, Jews and Arabs alike. I believe that that would put a stop to all real progress in the country. It would prevent an Arab who is not making much use of his land but can succeed in the town selling his land to another Arab who could make better use of it, and it would prevent a successful Jew from buying out an unsuccessful Jew.
I do not think that is the true line of progress. If you are going to secure land to the Arabs, I think you should secure it to them as a community. You should take an area, or several areas, in the country and definitely decide that within those areas land should not be alienated to any except the original population of the country. There is, indeed, a very large area already, on the main backbone of Palestine from north of Lake Galilee right across to Jerusalem, and beyond, still overwhelmingly Arab in population and where you can secure that those Arabs—and they are something like two-thirds of the whole rural Arab population of Palestine—should have a guarantee that they shall always inhabit that ancestral home of theirs. It is what we have done in other countries.
It is not, in my opinion, at all unfair to compare what is happening in Palestine with what is happening in Kenya. In both these countries you are dealing with the impact of an economically more active and more highly developed race upon a more primitive and backward race. Undoubtedly that impact means more development, more progress, more prosperity for the backward people as well. At the same time, there is, for the backward people in each case, the danger that unless substantial areas are reserved for their future, they may not get their full and fair share of all the ultimate benefits that will result from the immigration of the more advanced and more active community. It is from that point of view that certain areas have been definitely set aside for the use of 1350 the native inhabitants in Kenya. I see no reason why similar areas should not be set aside for the Arab population of Palestine, and indeed I should like to suggest that investigation of that possibility should be among the points to which the attention of the commission should be turned. If I may be even bolder, there are those, like Sir Morris Carter, who have a unique experience of that particular problem and are yet entirely unprejudiced from the point of view of the problem which we are to-day discussing.
That is one legitimate Arab fear which we ought to do something to remove. But there is another fear. There is the fear that once the Jews, under British protection and under British auspices, have become a majority in the country, then they will find us only too ready to respond to the demand for self-government, and that then the Jewish majority will be able to do what it will with the population of Palestine. I believe that fear also can be met if only we adhere to the fundamental principle of equality in applying the Mandate. The essence of the Mandate is that both Jews and Arabs in Palestine have an equal right, internationally guaranteed, in that land, and that neither community has the right to exclude or oppress the other. Not long ago, when we were discussing the question of a Legislative Council in Palestine, I ventured to urge that equality of representation, or at any rate of voting power, for the Jews was the only condition under which such a legislative council could work if it were possible to set it up now—clearly at this moment it is not. I took care to add that that implied a converse, namely, that if and when the Jews ever became a majority in Palestine, equality of voting power should still be reserved to the Arab population. I believe that if the British Government gave a clear and explicit guarantee that, whatever political constitution, now or at any future date, is set up, that equality shall be guaranteed to the Arabs as well as to the Jews, it would do away with every reasonable fear that is entertained on political grounds by the Arab community. Those are two suggestions which, naturally without prejudice to anything that the Royal Commission may decide, I should like to commend to my right hon. Friend. I believe that if legitimate Arab 1351 fears were met to that extent, it would involve no real obstacle to the fulfilment of our pledges under the Mandate. On the contrary, I believe it would give us a greater moral justification in going ahead more whole-heartedly with the carrying out of the Mandate policy. I believe the time has come when we ought to go forward with that policy with even greater vigour than we have done in the past. I have already referred to the fact of the position of the Jews in the world outside to-day, but I would lay even more stress on the fact of the success which has attended the experiment in Palestine so far, which justifies its continuance.
Let me, in conclusion remind the Committee of some considerations which make the further success of that enterprise of such vital importance to the British Empire. In defence Palestine occupies a strategic position of immense importance. It is the Clapham Junction of all the air routes between this country, Africa and Asia. It occupies an immensely important naval position in the new conditions in the Mediterranean. Cyprus, Palestine and Egypt effectively held would make it possible not only to keep open the Suez Canal, but to hold the whole of the Eastern Mediterranean. While it is true that we are not allowed under the Mandate to maintain a naval base in Palestine, yet Haifa developed as one of the greatest ports and industrial centres in the Mediterranean and a great source of oil supplies which might not be available to us from elsewhere in time of war, would be an asset of immense consequence. There is also the possibility of railway communication between Haifa and Akaba giving us an alternative route to the Suez Canal.
I should, however, like to lay more stress on the aspects of peace than those of war. I believe that our success in this experiment will bring credit to ourselves and enormously strengthen our reputation in all that ancient bridge between the civilisation of the East and of the West which we call the Near East, a region derelict and destroyed almost by the wars and misgovernment of centuries, but now, I believe, on the eve of a real renaissance of prosperity. I think that nothing would add more to British influence and prestige than that we should not only honour our pledges, but show that we can make 1352 a success of every task to which we set our hands in the interest of all who are subject to British rule.
§ 1.18 p.m.
Mr. CREECH JONES
I hope that the present trouble in Palestine will not impede the social and economic progress which has characterised that country during the past 16 years. I hope that disorder will not imperil the relations between the Arabs and the Jews. I have been trying to look at this problem from an impersonal point of view, and I feel that it is vital, not only for the Jews themselves, but for the world generally, that this great experiment in Palestine should succeed. We have all been moved by the disaster which has overtaken the Jewish people in various countries of Europe during the past few years, and one feels that the problem before us is not merely one for the British people, but is a large human problem with which all civilised people must have a vital concern. While progress in Palestine is very largely due to the protection which has been given to Jews by the British Government, and while the British Government must pride itself on the way in which progress has been made possible because of the maintenance of law and order, we must recognise that that progress is not entirely due to the Government there but very largely to Jewish enterprise and initiative. One is a little surprised that the Arabs should be so suspicious of the British Government in this matter, when one recollects how overcautious and conciliatory the policy of the British Government has been. When one recollects such points as that made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) that Palestine is on a great Imperial route, one must be struck by the fact that British administration has not been characterised by over-creative energy.
One would have thought that far greater persistence and attention would have been given by the British to this experiment by the Jews. My complaint is that the Mandate has not been as vigorously carried through and operated as I would have wished. There was a surplus of £6,500,000 accumulated in the Palestine Treasury and one feels that too often the Government of Palestine has been a civil service government without any great constructive ideas, and 1353 without sufficient creative energy. There remain to-day great pieces of public work crying for attention to which the Government have paid no regard. Therefore, it seems strange that the Arabs should have taken this attitude to the Government in the way that they have, seeing the lack of vigour and the unimaginative attitude which has been displayed by the Government. I have tried to understand what is really behind the Arab discontent. The Arabs, as my hon. Friend reminded us just now, flock into Palestine when they have the opportunity. When they reach Palestine they even neglect their own towns and flock round the Jewish settlements. They discover a country which is free from disease and pestilence, whereas before it was a backward, neglected country under Turkish denomination. If one looks at the question of immigration, one is struck by the fact that the Arabs still outnumber the Jews by almost three times, and that since 1919 the increase in the Jewish population has been 300,000 as compared with the Arab increase of over 400,000.
Therefore, from the point of view of population and immigration it seems unlikely that for a considerable time the Arab population will be dominated by the Jewish people. Likewise, if one looks at the question of land settlement one sees again the same thing operating. Only 35 cases of Arabs being deprived of land were registered by the Palestine Government last year and I believe that there are only 664 cases of heads of families on the register of landless Arabs. The policy of the Zionist movement has not been to create an army of landless Arabs but, rather, to build up the Arab people by safeguarding to them the use of land. By Jewish immigration new markets have been found, new land has been reclaimed and the Arab peasant has gained by being released from the moneylender because of the capital which has become available to him in addition to the money he has received for the land which has been purchased; and the land he has retained has not been lost to him. In those circumstances I cannot see the force of the Arab contention that they are being driven off the land and that a landless class is being created.
Mr. CREECH JONES
If the hon. Member will allow me to go on, I can deal with the points he raises. In view of these facts, why is it that the Arab is discontented? I suggest that the root cause of that discontent is not his objection to immigration or to the creation of a landless Arab class, but to the fact that there is a clash between the centuries. There are those who object to the breakdown of the old feudal order, who object to the passing away of the old habits of life, the old systems of production. They are in conflict with the supporters of the newer methods and newer economic developments. Fear of the introduction of these newer ideas is being exploited by those at the head of Arab affairs, and they find the present an opportune time for that exploitation. After all, British prestige in the Eastern Mediterranean has been tarnished, things have panned out rather badly so far as Abyssinia is concerned, and we know that influence has been exercised by other Powers in Europe, certainly by Italy, and that the feelings of the Arabs has been exasperated and their fears have been exploited. The fundamental fears of the loss of land and of being driven out from Palestine have been exploited by those who stand for the old order and for the maintenance of the old feudalism in Palestine.
I suggest that it is imperative that the Mandate should not be impaired by any inquiry which may be made into the disaster in Palestine. If the British Government do give way to demands of this kind, then virtually the Jewish home is in peril, and it will be the beginning of a disastrous defeat not only of our own power but also of the Jewish people themselves. I suggest that it is imperative that the British Mandate should be maintained and the development of the Jewish home should go on, because if the concession demanded is made at the present moment there will be no stopping subsequent demands, hut disaster brought to the experiment with which the British nation has been entrusted. I see little reason for setting up a Royal Commission. Already there have been many inquiries into Jewish affairs, and much publicity concerning the economic and social life of Palestine and the experiments which have been undertaken by 1355 the Jews, and as to the relations between Arabs and Jews. In view of the numerous reports issued by Government Departments it seems scarcely necessary that a further Commission should investigate the facts.
If, however, the causes of the present unrest are to be explored I should like to make a number of suggestions to the Minister concerning the terms of reference of the Commission. The Commission should inquire into the whole policy of land settlement, which would include land settlement not only in Palestine but in Transjordania, and I hope they will approach the problem not merely as a problem of Jews in Palestine but as a problem in terms of the Mandate itself, which makes it a problem for the whole world. I suggest that the Government might encourage greater cooperation between Arabs and the Jews in the workaday life of Palestine. The whole kernel of the problem is how to get the Jews and Arabs working together. The Palestine Government should display greater liberality towards the Jews in respect to finding them work in various services which they control. In certain port work the number of Jews employed is practically negligible. On certain public works—and this has long been a grievance of the Jews—the Arabs alone have found employment. One sees, however, that in the Post Office, on the railways, in the police and in the chemical works on the Dead Sea, Jews and Arabs are able to co-operate in similar services and in the same works and factories; and the trade union movement has been able, in certain industries, to get Jews and Arabs organised and working together side by side and engaged in the same struggle for an improved standard of life.
Likewise, I should like to see the Government more generous in co-operation so far as local government is concerned. The Arabs and Jews must be brought to face up to the broader questions in public affairs in their localities. The restraint of the Government in the development of local government institutions has been a little too severe. Following on the Municipal Ordinance of 1934 I think there ought to be a further extension of the suffrage, that more local 1356 councils should be created, and that instead of local councils being dominated by the district commissioners additional powers should be given to those councils in order that they may be increasingly capable of handling their business. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook suggested that certain areas should be created for the Arabs alone. It seems to me that a policy of segregating the Arabs would be one of considerable practical difficulty, and not likely to succeed, largely because it will not secure the cooperation between Arab and Jew which is so eminently desirable in Palestine, and also because it will tend to mark the distinctions of peoples too definitely. Also it will have the effect of confirming in some part the mediaeval form of life of the Arab people. The prosperity of the Arab depends very much on his proximity to the Jewish settlements and Jewish markets. It will be very desirable not to pursue in Palestine a policy of segregation; rather should there be a policy of co-operation between the two people, so that they may learn to understand each other better.
I would desire that the Palestine Government should show a far greater apprehension of the needs of the country in terms of public works and the development of essential social services. Too great expense has fallen on the Jewish community in providing those services which should have been created by the Central Government. If there were a vigorous drive in the direction of education, health standards and so on, as well as in the creation of roads and the development of other public works, by bringing Arabs and Jews together, there would be far greater hope of successful co-operation in the days to come. Now that the setting up of a Royal Commission is part of the policy of the Government, I hope that when it is set up it will investigate the possibilities of land settlement (which will not include segregation of one race from another), and the development of local government institutions. The development of education, social services and public works, can help to build up a higher standard of life for the Arabs, and the greater understanding upon which depends very largely the co-operation of the two peoples.
§ 1.38 p.m.
§ Colonel CLIFTON BROWN
I intervene for a few moments in this Debate, and I hope that I shall say nothing to cause offence to any of my Zionist friends with whose point of view I do not happen to agree. The hon. Member has referred to the Arabs as a rather backward race, but I should like to ask him whether that is fair. If he goes into a civilised Arab gentleman's house, the civilisation may be different from ours, but is it necessary to call the Arabs backward on that account? East is East and West is West, and to mix eastern and western civilisations is like mixing oil and water. It is a process which has to take a lot of time. I appreciate the spirit of the speech of my right hon. Friend, but I wish to protest against the idea that Arab civilisation is necessarily backward. Their methods of cultivation may be different from ours or from those of the Jews. It remains to be seen whether the Jewish cultivation in Palestine is really economic. Its capital cost is enormous, and may not be the most economic for the country in the long run.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) spoke of Palestine as the Clapham Junction of the Near East. So it is. It is the most important communication point of the British Empire. It is vital to the British Empire that in Palestine, surrounded as it is by Arab countries, and with Arab nations all round the shores of the Mediterranean, any action should carry with it the good will of the Arab races. Without that, our position there is one of isolation and of great danger. I would not approve of any idea that Palestine should be handed over to a purely Jewish race in order that they may defend it for the British Empire. They never did it in the past. They were in a key position in the old days, when they were the buffer State between Egypt and the Assyrians, and they had to be kicked out because they were such a nuisance. They never paid for the Roman Empire when they were there as a buffer State for the Roman Empire. They were such a nuisance, and the Arab nationality got so much of the upper hand. We need therefore to be careful, from our own point of view, to see that no nation is allowed to settle there and develop such 1358 an exaggerated nationalism that they may become the dangerous Achilles' Heel.
I would congratulate my right hon. Friend upon his appointment, and would say with what complete confidence I view his actions. Some people are perhaps a bit nervous because of his connections in the past, but while I realise that he has Zionist sympathies I realise also that he is a fair-minded man and an English gentleman, and that because he has Zionist sympathies he will see that the Arabs are treated scrupulously fairly. He will see that no unfounded accusation may be made against him or against the Government. On that account, I would urge all my Arab friends to give him their trust, and I am certain that the present Secretary of State will be worthy of it. This is not a mere debating matter. There are grievances and distrust here between Jews and Arabs which are matters of life and death, and we cannot by mere debates get away from facts like that. I want to say nothing that will make feeling rise on either side, but the Arab fear of the Jew persists, and cannot be denied. There are grounds, or apparent grounds, for it; it also cannot be denied that those fears are genuine. Unless this House of Commons tries to meet those fears, we shall be failing in our duty.
We know that this outbreak is not an engineered one, but is perfectly spontaneous, as the Noble Lord told us, on the part of Arabs of all classes. The origin of it was a mere robbery, in which three Jews were killed in a bus. Others in the bus wrecked a shop. What happened? Instead of waiting some time in order that the forces of law and order might arrest the murderers, some of those young students in Palestine went out one night, found two unfortunate Arabs sleeping in a tent, and shot them. Before the Arabs died, the murderers were identified as Jews. There is now a blood feud—a life for a life, a tooth for a tooth and an eye for an eye. That was the feeling, and it is the same in this case. The feeling was intense and the whole thing occurred spontaneously.
What made matters worse was a Debate which took place in this House not very long before, and which filled the Arabs with despair. It made them think that 1359 there was no possible chance of fair play for them from this House, and that they had been left. That is how this conflict started, and its solution will take some time. My right hon. Friend said that he wanted to restore order. National feeling and national fears have been aroused, and it will take him some time to secure the restoration of order. I think the best way to secure some degree of peace is to see if we cannot make some step towards those responsible Arabs who are still anxious and are doing their best to call off the strike and get peace again in Palestine. It does not help very much to say that we will carry out the dual purpose of the Mandate and restore law and order.
I think it is pertinent to ask a few questions of the Government. What has been happening in the last seven years? Have the Government taken any action to allay some of the fears of the Arab population? Have any of the findings of the Commission of 1929 been acted upon? When one examines what the Government have done in regard to the findings of that Commission, one is bound to confess that the Government—not merely the present National Government, but the previous Labour Government—have done practically nothing at all. The first thing that the Commission said should be done was that the difficulties of the Mandate should be clearly stated, and that the Government should set out in black and white how they interpreted the Mandate. What was the action of the then Labour Prime Minister, now the Lord President of the Council, on that question? He issued, or rather, Lord Passfield issued, a White Paper which set out pretty clearly how the Government interpreted the Mandate. The present Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend, and others signed letters to the "Times" saying that that was an anti-Jew And pro-Arab declaration, and so the Prime Minister of that time wrote a letter which started "Dear Dr. Weizmann," and in which he said that nothing in the statement of the Government was really meant, and that what appeared to be black was really white. This caused the Arabs to think that they had been sold again, because the declaration which had been made by a responsible Commission, and which they 1360 thought was in their favour, had been turned round so as to be in favour of their opponents.
I could not help feeling that after that something was bound to happen. I could not say whether it was going to happen in two, or three, or five years, but now it has happened. Action of that kind by the then Prime Minister gave rise to the idea that the British Government and the British House of Commons were entirely in the pocket of the Jews—that Dr. Weizmann had only to crack the whip, and the British Government would respond. The Commission consisted of very distinguished men, some of them well known in this House, but hardly one of their findings has been implemented. They asked for a restriction of immigration. Up to that time the largest number of immigrants in any year was 20,000, but latterly it has been 40,000, 50,000 and 60,000. The Commission suggested that the machinery should be altered, and that a committee of non-Jewish interests should be set up to consider the matter in Palestine; but nothing of that kind has been done.
The Commission made other suggestions as regards the land, and we know that Sir John Hope-Simpson went out and made a valuable inquiry, in the course of which he found that many of the facts stated were accurate, but ever since then there has been propaganda to the effect that he was wrong. It was also suggested that some kind of constitutional government should be granted in Palestine, but the support for a constitutional government in Palestine, as we heard in the House the other day from the then Colonial Secretary, has been extremely luke warm and half-hearted, and I cannot feel that the Government were properly backing up the High Commissioner when they allowed his proposals to be turned down in this half-hearted way. It is not surprising that the Arabs do not put much trust in a new Commission, even though it may now be called a Royal Commission. Moreover, the facts are already known. There is the latest French report, and there is Sir John Hope-Simpson's report. All the facts have been collected during the past seven years, and it is not to be wondered at that there should be an impression that there is a desire further to shelve the matter for another 12 months, that the Government are rather drifting along as 1361 they have done in other matters lately, hoping that something will turn up, and that after 12 months they may not have come to some awkward decision.
There is something that the Government can do by which I think they could get peace now. A Royal Commission must put the matter off for 12 months or so, but there are Arabs in Jerusalem, in this country and elsewhere who are doing their best to get back law and order and bring peace to Palestine. How are they to restrain their unruly followers if they are given no encouragement by the Government of this country? They are terrified that the Mandate means an unlimited expansion of Jewish immigration, that in the end the Jews are going to swamp the country, and that the Arabs are going to become a secondary community in a land which is their own native land by historic right. Is it not possible for the Government now to say that the Mandate does not mean that the population of Palestine is to consist solely of Jews, that there must be a limit, that the Royal Commission which is to be sent to Palestine will be fully entitled to recommend a limit, and that, if such a limit is recommended, the Government will do their level best to secure that it is adhered to?
We have got a long way from where we were when the Mandate was first imposed. We are talking now as though it were unfair not to allow Jews to go to Transjordan; we are talking now as though it were unfair that there should be any restriction upon immigration; but we are not entitled to talk to-day as though the Jews should be in a majority. It is just as well, therefore, to refer to what is said in the only Paper issued by the Government of this country in which the Mandate is admittedly defined—a Paper issued by the Government of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was Secretary of State for the Colonies. In that document, issued in 1922, it is laid down, not that Palestine should be converted into a Jewish National Home, but that the Mandate said that such a National Home should be founded in Palestine, which is a very different thing. The one would embrace the whole of Palestine, whereas the other would be a National Home, with limits, inside Palestine.
1362 That statement seems to have been rather lost sight of nowadays. It was made far nearer to the time, by one who had helped to arrange the Mandate. It goes on to point out that there must be limits to this National Home, and that the intention was not the imposition of Jewish nationality upon the whole population of Palestine, but the further development of an existing Jewish community with the assistance of Jews in other parts of the world, in order that it might become a centre in which the Jewish people as a whole would take, on grounds of religion and race, an essential part. That is very different from turning Palestine into a Jewish country. Will not the Government refer to this White Paper of 1922, and say that they recognise this interpretation of the Mandate and propose to carry it out? My right hon. Friend has to stand his ground firmly, but it is a declaration of that kind alone that will bring peace to Palestine.
§ 1.55 p.m.
§ Commander LOCKER-LAMPSON
I hope I may join with others who have spoken in asking not to be labelled pro-Jew or pro-Arab in this discussion. It is quite unnecessary when we are dealing with the British Empire, which stands for something more than uniformity. We try for something that is better than uniformity, and that is unity, which is not the product of force. The Arabs must look to us as long as we are there for the freedom that we won for them. We must also remember that Jewish soldiers helped us to win through in that trouble. It is no detriment to the Arabs to say that. It is a physical fact. We have to remember that the Arabs have a large country to go to. The Arab Empire stretches from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean. Where exactly are the Jews who have been driven out of Germany to go? Are we to receive them into England? I should like that question to be answered. Who will receive them—France or Italy? Even the Americans are so congested economically that at the moment they do not welcome anyone from Europe. A few Jews may go yearly to America, but that is all. There is only one place where they can go now with the knowledge and understanding that they will be respected and allowed to make a home of their own, and that is Palestine. Other frontiers are closed to them. One frontier is left, and it would indeed be 1363 a blow to everyone who has high hopes of Palestine that the recent troubles there can arrest the influx of Jews, especially those who have been persecuted in Germany. They have no home. Their last hope is Palestine.
This is not an economic question. Those who talk with the Arabs find that they welcome privately the presence of the Jews, they find a most extraordinary fact. An Arab farm which was worth £50 a year has trebled its value owing to Jewish enterprise and industry. It is quite clear that, if left to themselves, they will not quarrel. It is, unfortunately, the interest of outside people to poison the wells of conciliation and good will. People talk about Palestine as though we wanted it only for the Jews. The truth is that the Mandate is the luckiest thing for the British Empire that has happened, perhaps, for a generation. If only we realised that we should try to make it a most essential element in a new strategic movement. I remember a story that we used to be told of Napoleon. He and Alexander of Russia were viewing a map of the world and arranging, as they did in those days, to parcel out the world. Alexander pointed to Constantinople and said, "I must have that." Napoleon is said to have leapt to his feet and said, "Never, Constantinople is the key of the world." Constantinople was the key of the world before the last War, but it no longer is. The conquest of the air has made it no longer the key of the world. There is another great highway, the Suez Canal, which has become the true key and pivot of strategic considerations of the future. Who gave us in effect that Canal? It was Disraeli, for whose name it is easier to get a cheer on public platforms to-day than even some of the Ministers on our Front Bench. Who was it but the dreamer Disraeli who conceived the need for the Suez Canal? How did he get it? He got it with Jewish money. It was the Rothschilds who advanced it. Ultimately, after the War, we had the creation of this Mandate for this dispossessed people. The Arabs have not a single holy place in Palestine.
§ Mr. CROSSLEY
I cannot possibly let that statement go. Jerusalem is the third holy city, the place from which the prophet is supposed to have ascended to Heaven. It is a rash statement for the hon. and gallant Gentleman to make.
§ Commander LOCKER-LAMPSON
That it what I mean. It is the third city. It is not a most essential part for the Mohammedan world. There are other cities that are far holier. After all, the Christians have a claim to Jerusalem equal to that of any Arab. But the point is that the only shrine, as it were, to which the Jews can turn is back to Palestine. It is not much bigger than Wales. It is suggested that they should not be allowed to hold this ultimate bastion of peace and security. We ought to encourage them to go there, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery) said, in the interests of the British Empire. It is clear that Malta has ceased to be of real value to us as a sea base. We had questions the other day as to whether or not Malta is to be given up as a base. Of course we were told No, but the truth is that it can no longer be a safe base if you have any trouble from anyone on the adjoining coast. We need not specify any nation. Malta has become out of the question. We, therefore, want some absolutely secure centre which will guarantee that you can fly from England to the East and be certain of landing on territory that is safeguarded and secure. When Allenby conquered Palestine he did what had never been done before—he brought sea power to Palestine. By conquering Palestine he guaranteed security to the Canal. The Canal nearly fell to a body of raw Arab levies under Turkish rule. We defended ourselves in those days, but how do we know that a military monster may not spring up in Central Europe and march ultimately to try to take the Canal, which is the most coveted possession in the world. What we want and must have is not only Egypt protecting it on one side, but interests in Palestine that are paramount and a body of people who have made it their home and will defend it, if it is attacked.
§ 2.7 p.m.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I want to draw attention to the fact that death and destruction are stalking through Palestine. It is the poor who are having their homes destroyed and are losing their lives. It is not the wealthy, either on the Jewish side or on the side of the Effendis. I view with growing disgust the hypocrisy of the position when I hear 1365 high moral concern and great regard for the Jews being expressed in some quarters. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Handsworth (Commander Locker-Lampson) spoke of the holy places, but is not the real holy place the interest of British Imperialism? Is not the interest of private property and profit the only concern? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) gets up and talks about the Jews, and yet there is no man in this House who has given more support and encouragement to Hitler, who is responsible for the brutal cruelties directed against the Jews. If you take some Jews out of Germany and send them to Palestine, will it save the Jews in Germany? Is there any hon. Member here who proposes that we should take all the Jews out of Germany and out of Poland, where the pogroms are ruling just now? An hon. Member said that the Jews in Germany were suffering unspeakable cruelties, and that although they fought for Germany they were not being allowed to live there. Hon. Members talking about the Jews to-day are the very Members who are prepared to support the gangsters in Germany who are carrying on their bloody work.—[Interruption]—Yes, it is true.
I am for the Jews all the time. The right of the Jews should be equal to that of the Gentiles anywhere. I am in favour of the right of the Jew in this country, in Germany and in Poland, and I will be found standing beside the Jews and ready to defend them when many have deserted them. The Jews are being talked about as a cover for British Imperialism. I would have liked to see hon. Members prepared to stand up for the suppression of the Hitler gangs who have carried on such attacks against the Jews, and against Mosley and anti-Jewism in London. They are the people who talk against the Jews. I have never at any time, from my early days, had the slightest feeling of difference towards the Jews and the Gentiles. I have been associated all my life with Jews, and I would never allow anyone in my company to declaim against them. When I hear all this talk going on about Palestine and hear the Secretary of State for the Colonies read out the proposals that have been made, the measures that have been taken, or the orders directed against the Arabs, I look round and fail to understand why Members can sit and 1366 listen, or why a representative of the exploited working classes does not protest. Maybe it is a bit old-fashioned to mention the working classes. When the miners were on strike in this country the very hon. Gentlemen who talk about the alien influences in Palestine, spoke about alien influences during that strike.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
If the hon. and learned Member had the slightest vestige of intelligence he would be aware of the fact that it is one thing to start a strike because of the serious conditions pressing upon the particular workers, and another thing to obtain a measure of support from other workers when a strike is on. No money was got from anywhere before the strike; after the strike, yes. There was support from the working classes of different countries. The strike itself was the result of the terrible conditions which confronted the miners, but we had all sorts of people saying that the strike was not a genuine strike and was due to alien influences. Never does a struggle of the working class take place but it is said that it is due to alien influences. I was reminded the other day of the struggles we had during the War. I could justify those struggles at any time, but at the time it was insisted that they were caused by German gold. I expect the hon. and learned Member opposite is one of those people who believed in the story of German gold. Men do not come out and starve, as the miners came out and starved, and men and women do not face death and die as they are doing in Palestine because of some alien influence, but because of some deep and serious cause. What is the use of hon. Members talking about a feudal people and new civilisation coming into conflict with them? That is the story that Mussolini told with regard to Abyssinia. Mussolini was prepared to penetrate into Abyssinia, and said that bad conditions and all the rest of it were preventing civilisation from developing, and therefore he had to take those measures. Now we are told that there is a Mandate in Palestine. Of course there is a Mandate, and there is a Mandate in Abyssinia, but it is not from the League of Nations.
Where did the Mandate in Palestine come from? From the Allied Powers 1367 that control the League of Nations. Mussolini has given himself a Mandate in Abyssinia and it has as much authority as the Mandate in Palestine, though not the same authority. I listened to-day to the Orders being read by the Secretary of State—"sentenced to death," "destruction of homes," "arrest of leaders." I cannot understand the Members of the Labour party. Is it not the case that the place to which you are sending these leaders is far worse than anything in Siberia under Tsardom? It is the other extreme; the heat is intolerable and the conditions are intolerable; and the Government know it. When I heard those orders read out I thought of Mussolini and Hitler, but I realised that there was something missing. What was missing? Judge Jeffreys. Resurrect Judge Jeffreys and read out these orders and you have everything complete.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
There is a worse massacre than that going on in Palestine now. But hon. Members opposite do not seem to be very much concerned about it. I hear them talk of the blessings that have been brought to Palestine. All these things have been brought about because of the coming of capitalism under certain conditions into Palestine. [HON. MEMBERS: "And prosperity."] Capitalism brought prosperity to this country for a time, but now it has brought the derelict areas. It has brought prosperity to Palestine for a time but anyone can see that there is going to be a collapse, and very soon. Palestine can never be a home for the Jews. It will remain, unless the Arab can get freedom, a key outpost, or as one hon. Member said "a Clapham Junction for the Empire." If the Jews will allow themselves to be used for the benefit of British Imperialism they will remain in Palestine, but if they will not allow themselves to be so used what will be done with them? You will chase them out of Palestine.
What are the industries in Palestine? The I.C.I., the big oil companies with the pipe lines from Iraq, and so on. It is asked, why are not the Arabs satisfied with the improvements in wages and in this and that? There never was an invader at any time who did not justify 1368 his invasion on that very ground—"We have given you a mess of pottage, so what is all this — nonsense about a birthright?" Have the Arabs a case? Yes, they have a case. They have had a rotten deal. I ask the Government to stop the beastly, brutal murder that is going on. The Government say the strike must be ended before negotiations with the Arabs can begin. I say, put a stop to these orders. Arabs and Jews have lived together for centuries. From the time when the Mohammedans were in Spain Mohammedans have always recognised and revered Moses and have not shown any antipathy to the Jews. Jews and Arabs have lived together for centuries, but it is this robbery and exploitation in Palestine that is causing trouble. I say stop using brutal force against the Arabs; get them back and talk with them and you will then overcome this trouble. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) talked about Dr. Weizmann and his services to the Allies. What did the Arabs do in the War? Why did not someone mention Lawrence? Why is his name kept out of this discussion? Are you ashamed of Lawrence?
§ Mr. GALLACHER
I am satisfied you are not ashamed, because you have no concern for anything but profits, and loyalty and religion mean nothing to you. You sent Lawrence to Arabia and instructed him to become a Mohammedan. It was not a hard job, but it was very pathetic, he has told us, and he felt that he was debasing himself. I advise hon. Members to read what Lawrence says about it. Lawrence had to become a Mohammedan. He promised the Arabs, in the name of the British Government, that if they would come in and fight against their co-religionists, the Turks, when the War was over there would be a united Arab nation. They came in and fought against the Turks on the strength of the promise given to Lawrence that when the War was over there would be a united Arab nation. After they had come in and fought against the Turks, the Balfour Declaration came out, and the Arabs were betrayed, but not by the Jews. They have never been betrayed by the Jews. No one can blame the Jews who are suffering in Germany and who in 1369 their desire to escape wish to go to Palestine. No one can refuse sympathy to them. They have been fooled by those politicians who are under the leadership of the Zionist movement and who are the agents for British Imperialism against the Arab masses.
Many Arab leaders have been arrested. t has been stated that the leaders are wealthy capitalists. I challenge the Minister to give us the name of any wealthy capitalist among the leaders. They include doctors, teachers and various others. [HON. MEMBERS: "Communists!"] Yes, Communists. Wherever there is an oppressed people, or wherever there is exploitation of the working classes, there you will find Communists. It is not ridiculous; it is true. They are not taking the risk of imprisonment and death because of any agency. Those who get the money are not the men and women who are participating in the strikes; they are the people who are suffering. f you want money there, serve British imperialism, and there will be plenty of money.
I want to make an appeal to the Committee. It may be that I am appealing to deaf ears or to very hard hearts. Nevertheless, I want to make an appeal. A day or two ago I asked a question about Palestine. I have no connection of any kind, direct or indirect, with any of the participants in the revolt, which is a thoroughly justifiable revolt. It demands the end of immigration of a character which threatens the existence of Palestine. It demands a proper, effective land settlement for the Arabs, and it also demands what the Mandate is supposed to work towards, a Legislative Assembly. Iraq, Syria and Palestine were mandated at the same time. In Traq and Syria they have Legislatures, but in Palestine they are not to have a Legistlative Assembly because there would be a majority of Arabs. A majority of Arabs will not be an offence to the Jews. If ever a people were justified in making a protest and in making a demonstration in order to get justice, it is the Arab people.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
It is their lives that are being taken. Read the figures. I have been in two many demonstrations to be taken in by that sort of thing. I 1370 have been in a demonstration in Glasgow 100,000 strong. There has not been trouble so long as the demonstration has been allowed to remain organised, but when policemen rush in from a side street and break up a demonstration, then disorder arises. I have been in prison on the charge of rioting, although my only part in the not was to get my head burst open with a baton. These people in Palestine go out and demonstrate, and action is taken against them to stop them from demonstrating. The big price that is being paid is being paid by the Arabs. Whether it is Arab or Jew who is concerned, the fact remains that members of the working classes are being killed. The other day I asked a question about the position in Palestine as regards the Arabs. It was a very simple question. I have given no service of any kind to the Arabs. If there is any service that I could give them I would gladly give it, but I have given none. After I had put the question I received a cable. Anyone who has any real sense of what is sad and tragic must realise that here is the real essence of pathos. The cable that I received was in the following terms:Your noble stand defending Arab just cause before Parliament and public greatly appreciated. Glad there are few British who support Arab just demands for national existence without succumbing Zionist influence. Change present Zionist policy only guarantee for stopping disorders and lasting peace.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
From the Arab Women Committee. What sort of condition are these people in, surrounded as they are with armed forces? Devilish instruments of war are being used against them. Men who can make such a fuss and can become so lachrymose about someone who squanders his opportunities and has to walk out of this House, ought to be able to give a thought to these suffering men and women in Palestine. Cannot we at least make a gesture? I do not want to be overcome with my emotion. I have been trying to make a calm and reasoned address, but so far I have not succeeded in doing it. I do want to make a most earnest and urgent appeal to the Minister to consider these people and to make a gesture to them. I am certain that the Arabs and the Jews can be brought together on the basis of 1371 an understanding of the rights of the Arabs and the justice of their claim. I shall never be found refusing help to the Jews whenever I can give it to them, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman and hon. Members will join with me in fighting for their liberty in Germany and in Poland. You will not get any liberty for them in Germany and Poland simply by shipping them off to Palestine, although I can realise how desirous they are to escape from those countries. I am only too glad to help them. Always I shall take my stand to help the Jews, and I am sure that the Jews can find safety and security in Palestine on the basis of an understanding with the Arabs, based on a recognition of the rights of the Arab, rights which are being denied to them. I appeal earnestly to hon. Members to give serious consideration to this question and to lift this nightmare of military force, under the orders that have been read out to-day, from the Arab population of Palestine.
§ 2.35 p.m.
§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD
Let me say at the outset of the few remarks that I have to make how gratified I am by the tone of the debate this afternoon. It has shown that the Committee as a whole are striving for justice to be done in Palestine. Let me also congratulate most sincerely the new Colonial Secretary. It is high time that we had a Colonial Secretary who knows something about our Colonial Empire, and the present occupant of the high office is, I know, well acquainted with the many Colonial problems which have to be dealt with and with none more so than with the problem of the East, and Palestine. The right hon. Gentleman approaches it with an unbiased mind, his first experience in this part of the world was when he was a member of the Arab Bureau in Cairo, with Lawrence and with other eminent men who were working at that time in order to create a new Arab empire, which we see now blossoming, in Iraq and Trans-Jordania and to the North of Palestine, and of which we see signs, although not to the same degree, blossoming to-day in Palestine. Then, during the War he was political adviser at the moment when the Balfour declaration was promulgated and he visited Palestine in that capacity and was active on behalf of peace between the two 1372 nationalities, a question which was already being agitated.
But I want to congratulate him particularly on the change which has occurred in the policy of the Government since he succeeded to his office, and on the change which has been adopted in the handling of the present disturbances in Palestine. I do not want to cast any criticisms on the administration, but I wish that the Committee of Ten had been disbanded early on. If immediate penalties had been exacted from the bandits and bomb throwers the situation would never have got out of hand as it has since that time. Compare the treatment accorded to the law-breakers in the early stages of the riots with that which was inflicted on Mr. Jabotinsky in 1921, when with 19 others he was condemned to 18 years' penal servitude. These men, only owe their present liberty to the amnesty declared to Jews and Arabs alike on the appointment of Sir Herbert Samuel as the first High Commissioner. Let me remind the Committee that at the beginning of the present disturbances only a few weeks' or months' restraint was inflicted for the most flagrant offences. Until recently Jews without passports in Palestine were imprisoned and heavily fined, but before the right hon. Gentleman took office a man well known in Palestine, Hassan Sidkhi Dajani, who had been one of the most violent and virulent leaders, inciting the people to throw bombs and to stab, was fined only £25 and let off immediately to start his agitation again. I go further. The strikers in some cases were rewarded arid Arab drivers were actually taken into Government service. I cannot say how glad I am for the firmer attitude which has been taken since the right hon. Gentleman took office. I do not wish to see applied these harsh but just measures which the Minister has described, but I do wish the people in Palestine who are throwing bombs and inciting to murder to realise that they cannot flout the British Government with impunity.
It is not only on account of the loss of life and the loss of property that I deplore the present events. Orderly administration of Palestine is of paramount importance to the world at large. It is important not only to the prestige of Great Britain, but to the material and spiritual peace of the world. We have been reminded that the situation on the 1373 Suez Canal has changed, but I think that the situation on the shores of the Red Sea have changed more than anything else. Haifa has become a port of far greater importance than ever before in the commercial and industrial communications of the world—I am not discussing this matter solely from the point of view of safety and war. A peaceful Palestine with a loyal population, Arab and Jewish, is more than ever essential. Since the Mandate was put into the hands of Great Britain many voices have been raised against it, some in this House and some outside. The voices raised against it have said that it puts added responsibilities on to this country. I say that the possession of this Mandate is a blessing to the world, and I am glad for this reason that the Government are now determined to establish law and order.
May I say that the Jewish population are anxious to co-operate to the full extent of their ability? I desire to echo the words of the Colonial Secretary as to the extreme patience of the Jewish population under extreme provocation. I mention this because some hon. Members have pointed out that two Arabs were killed in a tent not far from Tulkeram. That is true. I do not know who killed the Arabs because nobody has been apprehended, but the hon. Member opposite said that they were killed by eager revisionists who were anxious to revenge themselves for the misdeeds which had been committed. It is interesting to note that the hon. Members put this crime down to the revisionists, a small body of Jews who at the beginning of these outrages were desirous of showing themselves more effervescent than the rest, but it is interesting to notice that under the wise, careful and patient handling of the situation by Jewish leaders, the revisionists as well as other members of trade unions and workers in Palestine are now showing the greatest patience and forbearance. Can you wonder that their feelings are bitter? Men, who have tilled and fertilised the soil, reclaimed marshes and planted trees, tending them with their own hands, have seen their work devastated overnight. Imagine their feelings.
I well remember that last year in my own constituency a large tract of land was devastated by the unfavourable 1374 winds which are well-known in that part of the country, and I remember the feelings of resentment against nature itself which were felt by the farmers who had suffered heavy losses and seen their work ruined overnight. How much more bitter must the Jews have felt when they found that their fields had been devastated and their trees uprooted by their own neighbours with whom they had thought they would live in amity and friendship, yet there have been no serious reprisals for the destruction, the murders and the shooting. How difficult it must have been for those young men who saw shots fired in a cinema and saw men and women fall where they were sitting with their wives, their daughters or their sweethearts. It must have been terrible for them when they went to meet the train arriving at Lydda to see one of the carriages dismantled and in ruins because it had been bombed. Three women were hurt or wounded and one little girl of six was shot dead. Yet the Jewish leaders have been able to restrain their young men. There have been no bombs thrown by the Jews. It would have been quite easy for the Jews in Palestine to manufacture bombs in the same way as the Arabs did. Fortunately many Arab bombs did not explode. I venture to suggest that if any of the Jews had manufactured bombs in Palestine, all of those bombs, would have exploded if they had been thrown. The only replies of the Jews to the attacks which have been levelled against them have been peaceful ones.
May I remind the Committee that the strike at Jaffa led to the isolation of Tel Aviv? The Minister alluded to that. For many years the Jewish agency has pressed the Government to give unloading facilities to Tel Aviv. It is true there are difficulties and it is not an entirely easy matter. Nevertheless three or four days after the strike broke out they applied again; but there were 23 days of strike and isolation before the Palestine Government gave the people in Tel Aviv the right to unload. All that time ships were waiting outside Jaffa and ships in other ports were wirelessed not to come to Jaffa. Finally, 23 days after the permission which had been asked was granted, the Jews began their only answer to the Arab strike and Arab attacks—they built a jetty at Tel Aviv. To-day the jetty is about 100 yards long. It was a laborious 1375 task, involving the collection of money, the actual labour of building and the importation of lighters from Egypt. This they did without any help from the Government, except the permission that was given to them. They did it with Jewish labour, Jewish money and under the leadership of their own people. The jetty and the unloading facilities were inspected by the High Commissioner.
I understand that the Palestine administration even to-day is not altogether pleased with what has taken place, because their eyes are at last being opened to the necessity of a harbour being built or harbour facilities being given to Tel Aviv. It is unbelievable that this town of 120,000 people should be at the mercy of a few extremist politicians at Jaffa. I understand that the right hon. Gentleman, who will reply later on, has been approached on this subject of permanent harbour facilities at Tel Aviv. This is a matter which is entirely independent of the findings of any Royal Commission, and therefore I hope that it is a matter which will soon have his own personal attention. I hope that he will go into the matter carefully himself and not necessarily be guided by the views of some of the high and important officials in Palestine.
The High Commissioner has freely and willingly—I am grateful to him for it—recognised the restraint which has been shown by the Jewish population. But the Jews are anxious to take a more active part in ensuring the security of the country. This point was stressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I would remind the Committee that newspapers are already beginning a campaign of agitation against the Palestine Mandate on the plea that Palestine is only held down at the present time by British batallions and British bayonets. May I urge that the Jews should be given greater responsibilities. More Jews are needed in the police force; more should be enrolled as special constables. I know that the number of Jews in the police force has been increased lately, but the Jewish Agency has asked for 2,500 Jews to be admitted to posts of special constable and so far only 800 have been enrolled.
1376 We heard this morning that more Jews are definitely needed for the defence of the Jewish settlements. Those powers would not be abused. Jews are only too anxious to contribute to the security of the country and they have shown by the self-restraint which they have displayed lately that they are not a mob in Palestine, but are civilised and well-behaved people. A greater number of Jews could also be enrolled in the Palestine Frontier Force, where their number at the present time is infinitesimal. The Palestine Frontier Force is recruited, as the Committee knows, mainly in the border villages, and what has happened? There is a great deal of smuggling of arms going on at the present time. The members of the Transjordan Frontier Force have been instrumental in bringing arms across the border to their friends in their own villages. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the police have been very active lately in trying to seize smuggle arms. As the newspapers have announced, over 1,000 German rifles which were being smuggled into Palestine were seized by the Government a week or ten days ago. I am credibly informed that in the Arab villages around Tiberias, where there are many small Jewish settlements, there are over 600 rifles, and it is not surprising that nightly there should be attacks and outrages on the Jewish settlements in that neighbourhood.
I would like to dwell very briefly on the complaints of the Arabs. I do not wish to make this an acrimonious and racial dispute. There is a certain number of people in London at the present time who are putting forward claims which I should like to controvert in as brief a manner as I can. The complaints of the Arabs, as we know, were at first purely on economic grounds.
We have heard the claims put forward on behalf of the "landless Arab" disputed this morning from the front Opposition bench and the Arab complaints against Jewish immigration have not been substantiated. The Arab protagonists are therefore putting forward to-day other claims. They are putting the stress elsewhere and making this a question of nationality and nationalism. They actually claim to have been better off under the Turks because—so it was said the other day at a meeting in 1377 London by a prominent Arab—under the Turks they had self-government. Was there ever such a travesty of the facts? The Arabs in Palestine also talk about fighting for Arab freedom and claim to-day that the British soldiers were their brothers in arms. That is true of the Arabs of the Hedjaz and of Transjordania and of some of the Arabs in Iraq but what of Palestine
The right hon. Gentleman was in Palestine at the time and he will remember that 1,200 Jews were recruited in Palestine during the War when only half Palestine had been occupied by British troops and that a Jewish battalion was formed. The Arab notables, the same notables of whom we hear to-day, pressed that the Arabs should also be given a chance of fighting and that they should be enrolled in the battalion. A recruiting office was opened in Jerusalem, but only 150 Arabs were recruited out of a population which was ten times as great as the Jewish population at that time. The Jewish population then was depleted because the Turks had transferred a number of the younger Jews to the North, but out of 500,000 Arabs only 150 volunteered to fight, and few of those found ther way into the ranks of the Emir Feisal's Army in Transjordania.
The Arabs go further and say that they would prefer nationalism and a national entity to prosperity. That also is a false antithesis. The Jewish influx has not only brought them increased material prosperity, but has also given them greater power and influence. We know that the Arab population has greatly increased which gives them greater importance in the country, and I may point out that the increase in the Arab population has been chiefly in the neighbourhood of Jewish centres. The Arab population in Haifa, where Jewish industry and commercial activity have brought prosperity to the port, has increased 117 per cent. over what it was in 1922. In Jaffa where Jewish development is not as great as at Haifa, the Arab increase is only 70 per cent. In the Jaffa rural district, in the orange-growing district round Tel Aviv, the Arab increase is 98 per cent. and in the Arab villages around about populations have increased by as much as 105 per cent. and 211 per cent. in certain cases. In the purely Arab centres the increase is much 1378 smaller. In Nablus it is 28 per cent.; in Jenin it is 12 per cent., and in Gaza there is no increase at all. But, generally, the figures show there has been a great increase in Arab population with, I contend, a corresponding increase in their influence and power.
I do not propose to dwell on the increase in the wages of working people, but we have heard to-day that their position is much preferable to the position of Arabs in the neighbouring countries even in their own ancient country of Egypt. But let us take the position of Arabs in Government and municipal offices. In those services there is only a sprinkling of Jews. Contrast the position as it was under the Turks. Under the Turks, Government officials were recruited from all over the Turkish Empire. Jobs were not given to natives of Palestine but to people from Angora and Anatolia and other parts of the Turkish Empire. Today I ask hon. Members to consider the favourable treatment which the Arabs are receiving in the various Government services. There are 3,800 Arabs in the railway service and only 300 Jews. At the ports of Jaffa and Haifa there are 900 Arab porters and no Jewish porters and 60 Arab boatmen and no Jewish boatmen. In the police—I am giving the number officially stated before the disturbance—there are 1,750 Arabs and 370 Jews. In public works 90 per cent, of the people engaged last year were Arabs, and it is obvious that to-day the Arabs are playing a preponderant part in the political and economic life of Palestine. The dice indeed are not loaded against them, but are heavily loaded in their favour.
I only wish that greater opportunity were given to the Jews to collaborate in work for the common good, because I firmly believe that such co-operation would lead to better understanding. We have heard of the happy results of cooperation where it has taken place and I ask attention to the peaceful condition of Haifa to-day in contrast with the position in Jaffa. Haifa is peaceful because Jews have been employed there together with Arabs in private undertakings. Take the instance of the great Nesher cement factory, one of the most important undertakings in Palestine, where there are 250 Arabs working side by side with Jews and where there has been no strike. The Arab leader of the Haifa harbour 1379 workers refused demands and offers of bribes made to him by the mufti to induce him and his men to go out on strike. The Arab leaders wanted the boatmen and lightermen to come out on strike but those Arab workers said they had been working on such good terms with their Jewish fellow workmen at Haifa that they would not come out on strike although they were offered higher wages as strike pay than the wages which they were receiving. The leader of those workers was accused of a betrayal but he said he had lived in friendship with the Jews, that he had come there as a poor man and was now well-to-do and that he was not going to lead his men into a strike. That was a very significant event and more significant still is the fact that the Arab porters at Jaffa, who struck have migrated to Haifa where they are now employed.
In conclusion, I still believe as firmly as ever that Jews in Palestine can live with the Arabs side by side in peace, in friendship, and in good feeling. As we know, the Arab race is excitable and mercurial. At the present time I contend that it is influenced, as it has been influenced for the last two years, by very active, self-seeking leaders. These may have lost their power and their influence to-day, but they have trained their followers, who have fallen under the sway of younger agitators, who are undoubtedly helped at the present time by foreign supplies which are coming to them from people who are not particularly enamoured of the great and beneficial British Empire. The Arabs therefore are in a state of turmoil, but I know that I am speaking for the overwhelming majority of Jews in Palestine and in the world when I say that the Jews are bent on peace to-day as they were yesterday and as they will be to-morrow.
We maintain that in that country there is room for two peaceful and happy peoples, and I should like to reaffirm here that the Jews in Palestine do not aim at domination nor do they wish to be dominated, but Jewish aims can only now be achieved with the good will of the Mandatory, if the Mandatory is not stampeded by threats and violence, and I was glad to hear the Minister's assurance on this point. The responsibility for the peace and welfare of Palestine does not rest 1380 alone to-day on Jews and Arabs; it rests also with the Colonial Office and with the directions that they give to their officers and their representatives in Palestine. It also depends on the spirit of determination which the Government will show in response to the lead that is given to it from this Committee. I hope that this Committee will act in that spirit for the sake of a sorely tried people, not only in Palestine, but also in other parts of the world.
§ 3.8 p.m.
§ Mr. HERBERT MORRISON
It is the duty of all of us in this Committee today, in considering the question which is before us, to try to remember that in everything we say, and in everything we think, the British Government in this matter is acting as a trustee, as indeed it is or ought to be in the case of an ordinary Crown Colony, but in the case of Palestine its trusteeship is particularly important and responsible, because in connection with that country we are acting as a trustee, not only for the will of the better minded of our own people, but on behalf of the League of Nations, representing the civilised world. It is not only the duty of the Government, but it is the duty of the Members of this Committee also, to try to approach this difficult problem not with any predilections towards the Arabs or the Jews, but to seek to urge policies which are in accordance with the wellbeing and the social happiness and prosperity of the great bulk of the people who reside in that country. But, having said that, I would add that that must not make us afraid of facing the facts which are in our possession; that is to say, that while we approach them with no bias, racially or otherwise, we must not hesitate to face the facts of the situation and to draw deductions therefrom.
I find myself unable to agree with the Noble Lord the right hon. Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who urged that we should express no opinions this side of the report of the Royal Commission. I am sorry but I think that we must express opinions and views which are calculated to influence the policy of His Majesty's Government. One of the things that struck me in the statement of the Secretary of State was that, incidentally, as a result of these disturbances, some of the slums of Jaffa are to 1381 be cleared. I am bound to say that I should have wished they had been cleared on the merits of the case as part of a policy of slum clearance and of giving the great Arab population of Jaffa decent housing conditions. But it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and the result of these disturbances and the military necessities thereof have caused the Palestinian Government to commence a programme of slum clearance in Jaffa and probably elsewhere. The Palestinian Government should not wait for military necessity to clear slums that urgently need to be cleared in that country.
There is a good deal, although it is very much exaggerated, of largely artificially stimulated racial friction in Palestine. The curious thing is, so I am told, that the racial origins of Jews and Arabs are the same. They both belong to the Semitic races. It may be that that in itself accentuates the trouble and stimulates the friction between them, because I have often noticed that people who are racially or, indeed, politically similar disagree with each other much more violently than people who are more separated. Thus it is that hon. Members 'representing the Independent Labour party get much more enjoyment from attacking us than from attacking hon. Members opposite. It is an understandable human weakness, and it may well be the facts that because both Jews and Arabs are of Semitic origin they enjoy a little trouble among themselves more than they would a common attack on people whose racial origins are much different.
It is true that during the War there were certain promises made. I have never got to the bottom of all those promises, but I gather that the Allied and Associated Powers promised Palestine to a diversity of people. These conflicting promises were made for military ends and I am afraid that they have led us into a good deal of trouble. It seems somewhat doubtful whether it can be established that there was any formal agreement between the parties concerned that Palestine would have a special place among the Arabic countries after the War. Indeed, it seems to be established on behalf of the Arabs themselves that Palestine was regarded as a place within a special category. If the distribution of those territories is to be regarded as 1382 a reward for military service to this country and to the Allied and Associated Powers during the War, I rather gather that the Palestinian Arabs did not make themselves conspicuous by revolt. That was done by other Arabs in other parts of the former Turkish Empire but the Palestinian Arabs seem to have remained fairly passive throughout General Allenby's campaign. I am not complaining that someone remained passive in those exciting days, but it upsets the doctrine, so far as Palestine is concerned, that there were particular obligations in regard to that territory. It is recorded in the White Paper of 1922 that the promise in respect of Palestine was givensubject to a reservation made in the same letter, which excluded from its scope, among other territories, the portions of Syria lying to the west of the district of Damascus. This reservation has always been regarded by His Majesty's Government according to the White Paper, as covering the vilayet of Beirut and the independent Sanjak of Jerusalem. The whole of Palestine west of the Jordan was thus excluded from Sir Henry McMahon's pledge.The Emir Feisal agreed with Dr. Weizmann on these lines, and both of them signed this declaration:On account of its universal character I shall leave Palestine on one side for the mutual consideration of all parties interested. With this exception I ask for the independence of the Arabic areas enumerated in the Memorandum.That was the claim of the Emir Feisal at the time, and the view that Palestine was in a special category was upheld by the British Government. It was affirmed by Dr. Weizmann on behalf of the Jewish community, and was accepted by the Emir Feisal on behalf of the Arabic people.
Last year I visited the neighbouring country of Transjordan as well as Palestine. In Transjordan, where there is room for enormous development, room for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, more people, development is being held up. The Jews are being kept. out, not only by order of the Emir Abdulla, but by the wish of the British Government, and the Arabs are not bothering much about the development of Transjordan. Everybody, unfortunately, seems to be concentrating on Palestine, where the trouble exists. I met the Emir Abdulla who was, I should think, an able, as he was an exceedingly pleasant, man. He himself seemed to be averse 1383 to foreign immigation and Jewish immigration. He said it was true that the country was underdeveloped, but they were content as they were and why should they be disturbed by industrial developments and the introduction of capital from outside? I also saw one of the Sheikhs, an important man, in the hills far away. He would have welcomed the immigration of the Jews and foreign capital in order to secure the development of the country. It is an extraordinary thing that while Palestine has all this conflict over immigration, next door to it there is Transjordan, obviously underdeveloped and underpopulated, with the Jews not allowed to go in and the Arabs not bothering about the state of affairs to any material extent. Therefore, one must come to the conclusion that there are elements of racial animosity, racial conflict and political trouble in that region, and that is a great pity, because in Palestine and Transjordan and the neighbouring countries there is room for a great population to exist in considerable prosperity if only there were co-operation.
During my visit I met not only Jewish leaders—they were mostly Labour leaders whom I met—but also Arab leaders, and I think the Colonial Secretary has correctly summarised the two points of view on this matter. I took pains to get the Arab point of view as well as the Jewish, but Arab politics are a little difficult, as they derive from the polities of particular great families rather than a conflict of opinions, and some of the so-called trade union leaders among the Arabs are hardly the sort of trade union leader one meets in the rest of the world. They struck me on the whole as rather well-to-do people, concerned with Arab politics rather than with the industrial development of the Arab proletariat. I am bound to say that my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) has got very badly mixed up in his political and trade union associations. I am afraid that on this matter he has gone over to the bourgeois class altogether.
§ Mr. MORRISON
My expert knowledge is strictly limited, but I warn my hon. Friend, with whose politics I do not agree in many respects, but for whom, nevertheless, I have a very warm regard and personal respect, and I appeal to him, not to get too closely into the clutches of the bourgeoisie of any race. It is a very dangerous thing to do. I want him to remain, as I remain, a class-conscious proletarian.
Let me now consider the action of the Government. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us in the course of his reply—he has not informed us yet, but perhaps he will be good enough to do so—whether any execution of Arabs or anybody else has taken place on the part of the authorities, and as a result of the disturbances. I gather that not one death sentence has been imposed, that the biggest sentence up to now is that of 15 years for the murder of a Jew in Jaffa some time ago and that the other 28 murders of Jews remained unpunished, so far as capital punishment is concerned, up to the present time. I am a little apprehensive, subject to reservations which I will utter in a few moments, as to capital punishment on the part of the district magistrate, without some form of appeal. It is true that there is an appeal to the High Commissioner, who can deal with the appeal as a matter of administration presumably in the same way as the Home Secretary deals with an appeal in this country. It is a matter for consideration as to whether that point should be further safeguarded.
§ Colonel CLIFTON BROWN
I think that there is no appeal, but there is confirmation by the High Commissioner.
§ Mr. MORRISON
The right hon. Gentleman will know better than I do, and when he replies he will no doubt deal with that point. The further matter I have in mind is the collective punishment of villages, which might work out very severely. I admit the difficulty, after the murder has taken place and a village collectively hides the person who committed the murder, that you must be careful not to encourage murders by not failing to insist upon the collective responsibility of the village. The right hon. Gentleman will agree that, as a matter of ordinary British judicial procedure, this kind of thing is not par- 1385 titularly palatable to us, if it can be avoided; on the other hand, I do not want the Secretary of State to weaken at the expense of letting murder and anarchy run loose in that country. We cannot tolerate that. We must not tolerate it. It must be put down.
It is all very well for my hon. Friend the Member for West Fife to get indignant about it, but although this is not exactly a revolutionary situation, it is leading in that direction. As my hon. Friend knows, revolutions are not exactly Sunday School treats. He and I have often had to explain that, although some things which have happened in the Soviet Union during the revolutionary period we do not like, and we would not tolerate in the ordinary way, one has to say: "Well, when a revolution is on, you must expect governments to govern and revolutionaries to rebel, and they both have to be somewhat unscrupulous. One or the other side has to win." My hon. Friend must not be too thin-skinned if he is going to be a revolutionary. If he and I—which is improbable—should ever be involved in the conduct of a revolution, and if I find that he is getting rather weak and sloppy about it, well, we shall have to part company.
There are some other points that I would like to mention to the right hon. Gentleman, in the hope that he may be able to cover them in his reply, or at any rate to inform the Committee about them. I gather—and in this I should like to be confirmed or refuted—that, although the term "strike" is used in connection with this matter, it is in fact nothing in the nature of an ordinary industrial strike as we understand it in this country, but that it is primarily a strike for political ends, for the purpose of causing the British Mandatory Government to stop further Jewish immigration and to stop the further sale of land to Jews; in fact, that it is just one of those sorts of strikes that were specifically prohibited by the Trade Disputes and Trade Unions Act which was passed by the House in 1927. Following that strike, there have been assassinations, assaults and murders. What I cannot follow is this: I am perfectly certain, from even my brief knowledge of Palestine, that His Majesty's Government in London, and above all the High Com- missioner in Palestine, must know who 1386 are the ringleaders, not only of the strike, but of the murders—
§ Mr. GALLACHER
Will the right hon. Gentleman kindly tell me why, when a Jew is killed, it is a murder, while when an Arab is killed it is merely a death?
§ Mr. MORRISON
As far as I am concerned, murder is murder, whoever the victim may be. My hon. Friend seems to be taking the line that the murder of an Arab is a much more serious thing than the murder of a Jew, but I am sure he does not mean that. The fact is that as a result of aggressive action the murder of Arabs has been negligible as compared with the murder of Jews. According to the Secretary of State himself, there have been 28 murders of Jews. The right hon. Gentleman and everyone else, including the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham, has agreed that the Jews have shown remarkable restraint in circumstances of very great difficulty, and that fact cannot be ignored.
I suggest to the Committee and to the Secretary of State that His Majesty's Government in London and the Palestinian Government in Jerusalem know without much doubt who the ringleaders of the strike and the murders are from the Arab side, and I cannot understand why the High Commissioner, at the beginning of this trouble, did not go to those gentlemen—and I am afraid they are well-to-do gentlemen—and say to them, "We know that you are promoting this, and we must hold you responsible for what is happening. If it does not stop, we will deal with you". It seems to me that that is what the Government ought to have done, and that it would have been far more effective than to engage in the elaborate military organisation which is now necessary, and which I do not want to discourage as things are. It would have been far better to go to the fountain-head of these well-to-do Arab leaders, who are really letting the working-class Arabs take the greater part of the risk, and to deal with them at the top, rather than dealing with them from below.
In the course of these attacks there has been the destruction of 37,000 forest trees, 40,000 citrus trees, many thousands of vines and 8,500 dunams of crops. I have seen these Jewish agricultural 1387 settlements. I wish the hon. Member for West Fife had seen them. They are one of the most wonderful demonstrations of the moral capacity of the human race in the whole of the civilised world. I have been to Russia also but, as a moral proposition, it is a finer thing than is happening in any part of Russia, though there is a good case to be made of many happenings in that country. Here are colonies in which people are working on a voluntary co-operative basis, with no element of dictatorship or compulsion behind them, actually reclaiming soil hitherto unfertilised and untillable and making it productive and doing it for their keep or for remittances to dependant relatives in Europe, or one of two allowances in kind. They are doing it for no money wage at all. It is being done not as a mere capitalist exploiting business, but directly in association with and under the control of the great Jewish trade union organisation, the Jewish Federation of Labour.
I went round these places with one of the secretaries of the Jewish Federation of Labour, One of the finest trade unionist organisations, one of the most elevating moral efforts in voluntary communism that I have seen is among these agricultural communities in Palestine. I have seen these fine young people, coming from various countries where they have been persecuted and some from the British Dominions, some from Russia—Russia is almost the most difficult, perhaps, of any country for letting them go—I have eaten their humble food with them at their table and have witnessed their fine morale. I carne back with a humble feeling that I should like to give up this business of House of Commons and politics and join them in the clean, healthy life that they are leading. I did not do it—I came back—but I felt like it, and so would any decent Member of this House feel like it. It is one of the most wonderful manifestations in the world. When I think of these splendid young people happily working in a co-operative and communal spirit for the building up of a national home subjected to brutal murders and shootings, I feel indignant about this crude and bloody butting into one of the finest moral efforts in the history of mankind.
1388 I went to Huleh. What is the story of Huleh? Four times the High Commissioner of Palestine had let a contract for the cleaning up of that area to an Arab syndicate. They broke the contract. They did not do the job. In despair the Palestinian Government gave it to the Jews. They are finding the money and the labour. It is not work to run after. It is a labour of risk to life, and death from malaria, and risk of attack. The Jews do not grumble. They are glad to do it. It is work typical of the finest of British colonisers in the history of our Empire. You cannot sneer at this kind of thing. Why should these men be the victims of constant murderous assaults by Arabs, poor people I know, but Arab poor people, as is the case with most poor people who commit assassination and assault, egged on by rich people, exploiting the people? [An HON. MEMBER: "No."] Yes, exploiting the people, as has been the case from time immemorial. What are the Jewish trades unions trying to do? They are doing what trades unions in every country in the world try to do. They are doing what the Labour movement in every country in the world tries to do. They are trying to bring working men Arabs and working men Jews together in co-operation. They are actually assisting in the formation of Arab trade unions under Arab leadership. They are assisting in the formation of joint trade unions between Arabs and Jews. Those working men, those Socialist trade union leaders in Palestine have no bitter racial bias. They want to see Palestine a country of prosperity and happiness for all the useful people who live in Palestine. That is a fine thing, and it is the right spirit, and we ought to give them every encouragement. I am not enthusiastic about this Royal Commission. I admit that I have prejudices in such matters.
§ Mr. MORRISON
So has the Noble Lord, who need not appear to be so virtuous. He has his opinion. He looks at the facts and comes to conclusions, and so do I, but really, the Noble Lord should not pose as the only impartial person in this matter. I said that I did not like the Royal Commission, and I do not like it. I was not expressing an opinion upon Arab versus Jew. I believe that when Governments have a responsibility to 1389 govern, they should govern. I have seen too much of the business of governments not governing and taking refuge in a Royal Commission. The Government know all about Palestine. The Government in Jerusalem, surely, knows all about Palestine. I am not convinced that it is a really impartial Commission. I have seen some of these impartial Commissions; they were so impartial that they were totally ignorant of what they were doing. I am very doubtful about the Royal Commission. We are going to hang up policy and make people feel that nothing should be done in the meantime. You should examine the facts as you know them to exist, come to conclusions and govern the country, and accept the responsibility of government. I am very doubtful about the Legislative Council, too, at this stage. If you want to experiment in training the people in self-government—and I am all for it—why start at the wrong end? The capacity of this country for self-government was built up first of all not upon Parliamentary, but upon local government. Why do you not extend local government in Palestine? Why do you not develop it? The Tel Aviv Municipal Corporation is in the position that its estimates have to be approved by the Government in Jerusalem.[Interruption.] Does the Noble Lord wish to intervene?
§ Earl WINTERTON
I shall be delighted, if the right hon. Gentleman will sit down. I said sotto voce that people are being shot in Palestine and we have this sort of speech from the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. MORRISON
The Tel Aviv Municipality has to have its estimates approved by the Government in Jerusalem. One year, at any rate, it got its estimates approved in the eleventh month of the financial year, if not after the financial year had finished. There is a great field for the improvement of local government in Palestine. Why do not the Government do that first instead of rushing into the formation of a legislative council, which is bound to get them into a position in which they will be begging the whole question of the Man- 1390 date and of pledges given at the time the Mandate was made? The right hon. Gentleman may be sure that apart from some criticisms, we on this side regard his statement as being generally satisfactory. He may rely on our support in any proper steps for the restoration of law and order in Palestine, but I want to say that I am a little apprehensive that the Government in Palestine has been somewhat indecisive in its administration, that it has not been prompt and quick enough at touching the fountain-head of the disorder. I hope that the Government will not hesitate to go to the fountain-head and that it will take every step not only for the restoration of order, but steps which will prevent these occurrences, which are not good for Palestine and not good for the credit of the British name in its capacity to administer these territories.
There is the question of compensation. Material damage has been done and can be roughly computed. Will the Colonial Secretary consider making some statement or causing some statement to be made in Palestine that compensation will be given if any further damage is done to Jewish crops or property?
§ 3.42 p.m.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I think it is altogether premature to say anything on that point. After all, we are not out of the wood yet. One remark of the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) was that when revolutionary outbreaks occur it is necessary to be quite certain which side is going to win. That is the one thing that is necessary now—to be quite clear that law and order are to be restored. That is far more important than anything else. Compensation, liability, who will have to pay the compensation—all those questions will have to be gone into in the light of all that has happened in these tragic occurrences. Many questions have been raised in this Debate and I still say that in the light of the circumstances in Palestine they certainly ought not to receive any comment from me at this Box, but must be a matter of investigation.
§ Mr. CROSSLEY
Will my right hon. Friend pay the tribute that it was from sympathy with the Arabs that some questions were put?
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I agree, but one of the great protagonists of the Arabs, the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) was frankly disturbing. He is living in a world of unreality if he thinks that in Palestine to-day you can leave the Jews and the Arabs together, that the British can get out and that everything will then be all right. There would in that event be bloodshed from one end of the country to the other. It is absolutely a mad suggestion to make that Jews and Arabs can be left to get together in Palestine.
§ Mr. GALLACHER
What I said was that we should consider bringing Jews and Arabs together right away to discuss these questions.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
The hon. Member is living in an unreal world. An offer to let the Arab Committee and the leaders of the Jews meet together in a room at this juncture would not be practical politics. The hon. Gentleman has no conception of the realities of the situation in Palestine to-day. Every night I read a growing catalogue of the crimes and outrages being committed there. It is absolutely absurd to suggest that this is a time when that could possibly succeed as a policy.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
It is suggested—I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite fell into the error—that the trouble we are in now is due to a few leaders. I stated in my original statement that the Arab Committee itself say that they have lost control of the situation, that, they repudiate acts of lawlessness and violence and that they no longer can take responsibility. There is no one that you can deal with until you have put down widespread local-organised and admittedly spontaneous inter-racial acts of violence. I would remind the Committee that always from the beginning the Third International has opposed by all the means in its power the settlement of Jews in Palestine.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
The Third Internationale has endeavoured to prevent Jews going to Palestine and has opposed 1392 the Zionist movement root-and-branch. That is one of the reasons why we have interned Communist agitators during this trouble, because the Communist movement in Palestine, Jew and Arab, has been adding fuel to the flames and has been an active anti-British force in that country. The hon. Member for West Fife said another thing which I must contradict. He said that the only 'strike leaders that we had interned were working class people.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I am afraid that that is not so. I gave the name of a most prominent Arab leader who is interned in the Sarafland Concentration Camp, Auni Bey Abdul Hadi, one of the wealthiest and most prominent barristers in Palestine. It is absurd for the hon. Member to say that we have been afraid to arrest or to control prominent Arab leaders, where we are convinced that they have been inciting to lawlessness or violence. We have made it perfectly clear that the Palestine Government has in this matter been deliberately forbearing. We may be exposed to the charge, and no doubt evidence will be submitted to the Royal Commission when it is set up, that we have proceeded slowly in taking powers and in enforcing powers. Why? Because no one more than Sir Arthur Wauchope and His Majesty's Government have been more anxious that nothing should be done to make it difficult for peace to be restored in that country. I have said quite clearly that to isolate or arrest the Grand Mufti at this moment would be the most unwise thing that we could do. It is absurd to regard the Grand Mufti as a Civil servant. Is the Archbishop of Canterbury a civil servant? True the Mufti holds an appointment connected with the Government, but I do not think he has any legal powers or is recognised by the Government except as the head. of the Sharia courts. He is paid a salary out of the fees of the Sharia Courts, which are collected and paid into Palestine Government Funds and then paid out, and that may be the explanation why this misunderstanding 1393 has arisen. I refer to it again because it is a point which makes trouble not only among the Arabs but among the whole Moslem world, when a religious leader is misrepresented as being in a position in which the Government can turn him out because he has freely expressed his views on political matters.
The right hon. Gentleman also referred to one other matter upon which I desire to correct a probable misunderstanding. My Noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for the Dominions very kindly answered a question for me in the House yesterday, and was led into an error in replying to a supplementary question. The question referred to the recently advertised document signed by Emir Feisal, afterwards King of Iraq, and Dr. Weizmann. My Noble Friend in reply to the supplementary question said that it was very difficult to check the circulation of forged documents. The question was in regard to certain alleged copies of the document, and it might he inferred that because there might be fraudulent reproductions of the document circulating about the world in the opinion of His Majesty's Government the original was also forged. I want to remove that misconception. We have no reason to believe that the document which is still in the possession of Dr. Weizmann is a forged document, in fact we have every reason to believe that it is a genuine document. I have seen a photographic copy and from my own knowledge I can say that the English translation in handwriting on the last page of the document is the handwriting of Lawrence of Arabia. I have letters from him, I knew him very well, and I have compared it with his letters and I have no doubt. that it is Lawrence's handwriting.
In this connection, as Lawrence was an old friend of mine and of other hon. Members, I want to repudiate quite definitely the suggestion that the British Government induced him to abandon the Christian religion or that he ever became a Mohammedan. I knew something of Lawrence's religious views. They were formed entirely freely and very independently. They were not the orthodox views of any particular profession of faith, but that they were sincerely held and come to by himself alone I wish to assert in the name of a friendship which I valued highly.
1394 I have only two or three minutes more in which to speak and I cannot possibly get through the very large number of questions put to me. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) put one question which he said I could-answer or not, as there were no indiscreet questions, only indiscreet answers. He asked what is being done for the better protection of the Jewish colonies. The High Commissioner, I think, rightly feels that to place arms in the hands of Jews for the protection of those Colonies, uncontrolled by British police or other British officers, might only lead to yet further racial troubles and racial outbreaks in the future; but during the last few days the High Commissioner has greatly increased the number of Jews specially enlisted for the emergency in the colonies for the protection of those colonies, acting in every case, of course, under the control of a British police officer or police non-commissioned officer. I have not the numbers with me, but they are being increased. Their role will be strictly limited to defence of the forests, the citrus trees and the like, and the practical defence of the Jewish colonies. It is clear that the work of hunting out the organised bands which are committing outrages on the roads throughout the country must now be entrusted to the military authorities. I shall keep careful note of what has been said about the forces.
The regulations which I read out today are, of course, new powers and new regulations which were promulgated only six days ago. They are extensive powers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs asked me, "Are you going to use those powers?" My answer is that we are going to use them to the full. We certainly should not. promulgate powers if we did not intend to use them. They are not things one likes to have, but they are for the emergency and will be withdrawn the moment we have restored the authority of government and freedom of movement, and done away with the organised attacks on communications and the like. But for the present the High Commissioner and his military advisers on the spot have advised me that nothing short of such powers is capable of dealing with this rebellion. Therefore, while express- 1395 ing a desire for peace and a desire to hear grievances, I adhere to-day with all the firmness of my first speech, to the fact that there can be no concession to violence, intimidation and threats, and, above all, to the attack which is now being made by lawless elements in Palestine against the fundamentals of British authority. The British Empire is not going down, and we are determined to win this fight even if it means using harsh measures.
Motion made, and Question, "That the Chairman do report Progress; and 1396 ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Sir C. Penny.]
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again upon Monday next.
§ The remaining Order was read, and postponed.
§ Whereupon Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER adjourned the House, without Question put, pursuant to Standing Order No. 2.
§ Adjourned accordingly at One Minute before Four o'Clock, until Monday next, 22nd June.