§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Captain Margesson.]
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)
I should like to preface my statement to-day by thanking hon. Members in every part of the House for the patience and restraint with which they have watched in recent months the unhappy situation in Palestine. I know how easy it would have been for them to badger the Colonial Secretary at Question Time or to have drawn angry attention to this or that aspect of the matter on Motions for the Adjournment. But hon. Members have refrained from doing these things. It is not because they are indifferent to what is going on in Palestine. The House is as conscious of its responsibilities in Palestine, as it is of its responsibilities in any other part of the world. I think hon. Members have, perhaps, refrained from doing these things because they appreciate the special difficulty and delicacy of the situation with which we are faced in that country. I hope that I may appeal to hon. Members this afternoon, when we are about to enter into discussions with representatives of the Arabs and the Jews in London, to conduct this Debate with such a wise judgment that no word which is spoken here shall prejudice the chance of these discussions bearing at last the fruit of an Arab-Jewish agreement.
During the last few months a constructive political effort to ease the situation in Palestine has not been possible. It was unfortunate, but it was inevitable. We had to await the presentation of the Woodhead Commission's Report, and so our attention has been concentrated on the mere physical effort to restore law and order in that country. During the idle summer days, when there was little work for labourers to do in the fields, a campaign of assassination and violence, waged by terrorists, grew into something like an organised and widespread Arab revolt against British authority. The powerful military and police forces which are now at the disposal of the Government are steadily and surely re-establishing the authority of the Government throughout the land. A few weeks ago they cleared the old city of Jerusalem of 1988 the rebels. The authority of the administration has been re-established in Jaffa. Without any blowing of trumpets the walls of Jericho have been re-occupied by our troops. Gaza is once more a place where the writ of the Government runs, and this week hostile elements have been driven out of Beersheba. Steadily and painfully the process of restoration is going on throughout the country.
We all know that certain interested propagandists have been levelling many foul charges against the conduct of our troops. I see a good many things in the Colonial Office, but I have never seen any evidence in support of these charges. On the contrary, the whole world knows that the re-occupation of the old city of Jerusalem a few weeks ago was an example of the way in which British troops can with perfect humanity, as well as perfect success, conduct a delicate military operation in the midst of a civilian population. But the real problem in Palestine is not a military problem, it is a political problem. Our troops can restore order; they cannot restore peace. The Government have to do that; this House has to do that. There is nothing so easy as to state the problem in Palestine. It was done brilliantly in the pages of the report of the Peel Commission. There is no need to alter a word or a comma in the analysis of the problem as it is made in that remarkable State document.
Palestine is a tiny country. Spiritually it is great. In spiritual quality it has no peer among the countries of the earth; it guards some of the Holy Places of three of the world's great religions. But physically it is tiny. Some of its soil is very fertile and bears rich fruit, but much the land is rocky or hilly, and much of it is desert. That is the nature of the small stage on which a grim tragedy is being played to-day. There are two protagonists in the piece. First of all there are the Jews. Nearly 2,000 years ago their home was Palestine, but since then they have been dispersed, scattered over the face of the earth. They are a country-less people. But during the last 20 years many of them have been hastening back to Palestine under the terms of a Mandate which was endorsed by more than 50 nations, under which the administration of the country was entrusted to Great Britain. I do not think that any one can justly say that during these years Great 1989 Britain has not been fulfilling her obligation to facilitate the immigration of Jews into Palestine.
Since 1922 more than 250,000 Jews have entered Palestine and settled there. Their achievement has been remarkable. They have turned sand dunes into orange groves. They have pushed ever further into waste land the frontiers of cultivation and settlement. They have created a new city, housing to-day 140,000 souls, where before there was only bare seashore. There is no knowing where their achievement might end if Palestine were empty of all other population and could be handed over to them in full ownership. The Jews are in Palestine not on sufferance but by right, and to-day, under the lash of persecution in Central Europe, their eagerness to return to their old home land is multiplied a hundredfold. The tragedy of a people who have no country has never been so deep as it is this week. The sympathy of our own countrymen, their anxiety to do everything they can to help the persecuted Jews has never been so firm as it is to-day. But I hope that we are not going to allow our horror at the plight into which these people have been thrown to warp our cool and just judgment on the difficult problem of Palestine.
I must utter this word of warning. When we promised to facilitate the establishment of a national home for Jews in Palestine, we never anticipated this fierce persecution in Europe. We have made no promise that that country should be the home for everyone who is seeking to escape from such an immense calamity, and even if there were no other population in Palestine, its rather meagre soil could not in fact support more than a fraction of those Jews who may wish to escape from Europe. The problem of the refugees in Central Europe cannot be settled in Palestine. It has to be settled over a far wider field than that. Palestine, of course, can make its contribution; it is making a contribution to-day. At the present time, despite the disturbances, Jewish emigrants are going to Palestine week after week at the rate of about 1,000 a month. The Jewish Agency naturally, in the light of recent events, are now anxious that the rate of immigration shall be greatly increased. I saw two representatives of the Agency on Monday and they spoke to me about it. I asked 1990 them to let me have their proposals complete in every detail. Those proposals reached me this morning, and they will, of course, receive at once my most careful consideration, and I shall consult about them with the High Commissioner in Jerusalem. But I must in all honesty say this: the Government have often been charged with having no policy in Palestine, or else they have been charged with having a policy and then wobbling on it, changing their mind. The Government announced a short time ago what the next definite stage in its policy would be. That is a policy of discussions with Arabs and Jews in London, and we are going to abide by that policy. We cannot do anything now which might prejudice the chance of those discussions ending successfully. It is in the best interests of the Jews themselves that future policy in Palestine should as far as possible be based on a wide agreement.
The second people who are involved in this bitter controversy in Palestine are the Arabs. They have lived in the country for many centuries. They were not consulted when the Balfour Declaration was made, nor when the Mandate was framed, and during the post-War years they have watched with occasional angry protests this peaceful invasion by an alien people. They have watched the buying up of their lands, they have watched Jewish settlements spreading ever further over the countryside. They have been compelled to recognise the superior energy and skill and wealth of that wonderful people. The Arabs are afraid. In 1933, 30,000 Jews came into Palestine; in 1934 42,000 Jews came into Palestine; and in 1935 the number was 61,000. The Arabs wonder when a halt is going to be called to this great migration. They wonder whether a halt is ever going to be called to it, and they fear that it is going to be their fate in the land of their birth to be dominated by this energetic, new-coming people, dominated economically, politically, completely. If I were an Arab I would be alarmed. If we are ever to have an understanding of this problem, if we are ever to play our part in finding a happy solution for it, we must be able to put ourselves in the shoes not only of the Jews but of the Arabs.
I know that a great many people regard this Arab agitation as the mere protest of a gang of bandits. Of course it is 1991 true that many of the Arabs who have taken part most eagerly in the troubles are cut-throats of the worst type. Their massacres of the innocents at Tiberias, and on a score of other miserable battlefields, have disgraced their cause. It is true also that many of those who are associated with them have been terrorised into that association. But there is much more than that in the Arab movement. I think that this House, which is so capable of a generous understanding of other peoples, ought to recognise that many in the Palestinian Arab movement are moved by a genuine patriotism. However wrong they may be, however misguided they may be, however disastrous their policy may be, many of them have felt compelled to take the risk of laying down their lives for their country.
I know that that is not the whole story. There is a great deal else that has to be said if the description of the situation is to be complete and just. There is one set of facts especially, of great importance, that I must mention. Those who conceived 20 years ago the possibility of facilitating the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine were moved by a great idea, and already in these first 20 years that idea has been translated into a wonderful act of creation. But I do sometimes wonder whether all of the authors of this great creative act were fully informed of the situation even at that time, in 1917, 1918 and 1919. I sometimes wonder whether they knew then that there were already living between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea more than 600,000 Arabs. Certainly I do not think they could know that as a result of the coming of the British administration, with the coming of the Jews and because of the coming of the Jews, that Arab population would increase rapidly. The Jews brought with them money; development works provided extra livelihoods; modern health services, which were extended not only to Jews but to Arabs, gave the individual a further lease and security of life. Since 1922 the Arab population in Palestine has, scarcely at all by migration from outside and almost entirely by natural increase, gone up from something over 600,000 to 990,000 persons. Perhaps I should add that it is calculated that the total of 990,000 Arabs 1992 in Palestine to-day will have become 1,500,000 Arabs within 20 years from now.
That remarkable and significant set of facts leads to two reflections. In the first place I think it must upset at any rate some of the calculations about how many Jews could be settled in Palestine without prejudicing the rights and position of the Arab population. But, as I say, there are two sides to that state of things. The other side is this: the Arabs cannot say that the Jews are driving them out of their country. If not a single Jew had come to Palestine after 1918, I believe the Arab population of Palestine to-day would still have been round about the 600,000 figure at which it had been stable under Turkish rule. It is because the Jews who have come to Palestine bring modern health services and other advantages that Arab men and women who would have been dead are alive to-day, that Arab children who would never have drawn breath have been born and grown strong. It is not only the Jews who have benefited from the Balfour Declaration. They can deny it as much as they like, but materially the Arabs in Palestine have gained very greatly from the Balfour Declaration.
I know that it is useless to press that argument on the Arabs. They are deaf to the argument, they are blind to the spectacle of a gradually improving standard of life for their people, because they are thinking of something else. They are thinking of their freedom. They are afraid that, if this process goes on, then at last they will have to surrender to the political over-lordship of the enterprising, hardworking, ever-increasing citizens of the Jewish National Home. I say that we British people ought to be the last people in the world not to understand the feelings of the Arabs in this matter, because we too would sacrifice material advantages if we thought our freedom was at stake. We cannot put the Jews under the domination of the Arabs in Palestine, but also, unless we can remove that Arab fear that they are going to be put under the domination of the Jews, we shall have to face a suspicious and hostile people over a great area of the Near East, and we shall find that we have to lock up a great part of our Army in Palestine indefinitely.
We have most solemn obligations to both peoples in Palestine. On 1993 the one hand, we are pledged to facilitate Jewish immigration into Palestine under suitable conditions and to encourage close settlement of Jews on the land; and on the other hand, we are pledged to see that the rights and position of the Arab population are not prejudiced. How can we reconcile justly and peacefully those two obligations? That is the problem that we have to solve. That is the riddle for which we have to find an answer. What is the answer? The Peel Commission, with irresistible logic, recommended that the country should be partitioned, that the Jews and the Arabs should be, to a certain extent, kept apart, that the ambition of each of them to enjoy self-government should be satisfied in different areas of Palestine, whilst the Holy Places were kept in an enclave still under mandatory control. This House never committed itself to that policy. The Government accepted it in principle as the most hopeful solution to the deadlock which had arisen, but admittedly the practicability of the principle had to be further investigated, and the Woodhead Commission went out to Palestine for that purpose.
For three months they lived dangerously in the city of Jerusalem. They toured the whole country, always with their escort of armed men. They went about their business with great courage, and they went about it also with great thoroughness. A short while ago they presented their report. That report makes it clear that partition, as proposed by the Peel Commission, is impracticable. That report makes it clear that if we were to divide Palestine into a Jewish State and an Arab State and a Mandated area, then the Jewish State would have a great surplus in its budget every year, but year after year the budgets of the Arab State and the Mandated Territory would show great deficits. The Commission therefore reported that under their terms of reference they were unable to recommend boundaries for the proposed areas which would afford a reasonable prospect of the eventual establishment of self-supporting Arab and Jewish States. I think that is itself a remarkable tribute to the achievement of the Jews. It is impossible, without the continuous aid of the Jews, for the people living in Palestine beyond the Jewish settlements to maintain the standard of government and the social 1994 services to which they have become accustomed.
But that state of affairs also kills the proposal for the dividing up of Palestine into two sovereign States, and His Majesty's Government lost no time in accepting the position. A part of Palestine is not to be handed over to control by the Jews, another part is not to be handed over to control by the Arabs; the Government have declared that they will continue their responsibility for the Government of the whole country. We have adopted, if I may say so, a motto, a policy, which my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said that he would make a present of to me when I met him in the Lobby shortly after I had assumed my office as Colonial Secretary. He muttered to me, as he passed one afternoon, "Not partition, but perseverance." We have got to find alternative means of meeting the needs of the unhappy situation in Palestine. I receive a great deal of help in my study of the problem from numerous correspondents. Scores of letters pour in, many of them containing solutions to this problem. I do not remember any two letters which suggested exactly the same solution. Many of the letters offer no solution at all; their writers merely cry in desperation, "Is there any solution to this appalling problem?"
Of course, there is a solution, but I do not think that it ought to rest on the Government alone to find that solution. It ought to rest also on the two other parties who are concerned in this matter, the Arabs and the Jews. They have both got a contribution to make; they have both got to make concessions to the other. If they would only be willing to do that, then peace and prosperity would return to both peoples in Palestine. I know that it is going to be exceedingly difficult to break down the hard bitterness which has naturally grown up on each side during months of violence and bloodshed. It may be that one's idealism is running away with one in supposing that any agreement is possible at the present time. But the Government attach so much importance to an understanding between the Jews and the Arabs that they are prepared to make a supreme effort to achieve that understanding. It is not impossible for ordinary Jewish and Arab people to live contentedly side by side in Palestine. Many of them have been doing 1995 so in numerous communities in Palestine right through these distressing times. Nor is it impossible for Jewish and Arab leaders to reach agreement together. There was a moment, 20 years ago, when that not only seemed possible but seemed to have been actually accomplished. Dr. Weizmann, on behalf of the Zionist Organisation, crossed the River Jordan and met the Emir Feisal in his camp in the desert, surrounded by his Arab hosts, and in due course, after some months, those two men signed an agreement about Palestine. It is to that sort of relationship between Arab and Jew that we want to go back.
So the Government have proposed that discussions should take place in London. They will probably be, in the first instance, discussions between the Government and the Arab representatives and discussions between the Government and the Jewish representatives, but we hope that they will develop before long into a discussion between all three parties meeting round a common table. The Government will, of course, enter those discussions bound by its obligations under the Mandate to Jews and to Arabs, bound by its duty to Parliament, and to the other members of the League of Nations, and to the United States of America. But we shall not seek to prevent either the Arab representatives or the Jewish representatives from offering arguments as to why the Mandate should be changed. The discussions will be full, frank, and free; and therefore, I am sure the House will not expect me to say more at this stage about the policy which the Government itself will pursue in the course of those discussions. I hope that it will be possible for the discussions to start in London within the next few weeks. If they cannot start before Christmas, I hope they will start at the very latest at the beginning of January, for it is imperative that the present uncertainty should be brought to an end as soon as possible. It is of the highest importance that policy should be formulated and clearly declared. For that reason, if the discussions in London do not yield some kind of understanding between the three parties within a reasonable period of time, then the Government will itself take full responsibility, in the light of its examination of the question, following the Peel and Woodhead Reports, and in the light of the discussions 1996 themselves, for formulating and declaring future policy.
Hon. Members in this House in these days have to deal with a great variety of political problems. Each day they crowd upon us. But I always feel conscious that there is something about Palestine which distinguishes its problem from any of the others. The others are essays in the art of government—the most difficult of all the arts. When I attempt to deal with them I, naturally, like other hon. Members, feel a lively human interest and even fascination in them. In the possession of those qualities this Palestine problem yields nothing to any other. Its complexities make it a supreme test of our capacity to govern men. But there is more to it than that. When I turn to the Palestine problem I feel a certain awe and reverence. I cannot remember a time when I did not hear about Palestine. I cannot remember a time when I was not told stories about Nazareth and Galilee, about Jerusalem and Bethlehem, where was born the Prince of Peace. This House, in its long history, has had placed in its keeping many noble trusts, but it has never had a trust so sacred as that of restoring peace and good will in the Holy Land.
§ 4.34 P.m.
§ Mr. Herbert Morrison
Members in all parts of the House have listened closely and with every sympathy to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who has just placed his problem before us. I am bound to say that many of us on this side, and, indeed, I think, many other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen, listened to the first part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech with a good deal more sympathy and conviction than they were able to give to the latter part of his observations. One felt that in what may be called the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, he was getting deeper and deeper into the mire, that there was less and less clarity of utterance and less and less decision. Really, even for this Government—and I make all allowances—to come along and tell us that they have a policy for dealing with this matter and that that policy is discussion—well, it is a little beyond the limit even for this Government to tell us that. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster appears to dissent, but I am within the recollection of the 1997 House. What the right hon. Gentleman in effect said was, "We must have a policy for the next stage, and we are going to discuss it." [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, heart!"] I agree that discussion may be very meritorious. I understand that the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster has very strong views upon this matter, and I make all allowances for the strength of his convictions, but if the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies did not say, as I believe he did say, that the policy of the Government in this situation was discussion, then can anybody tell me what else he said?
I am not saying that discussion is a bad thing. After all, that is what we do in this House. But you cannot govern a country by talk, and you cannot solve international problems by eternal discussion. The time has come when we ought to have some reasonable idea of what the policy of the Government is. I say, with every understanding of the right hon. Gentleman's difficulties and the troubles which he has inherited from previous Ministers, that the latter part of his speech did not give the impression that he had any reasonably clear idea of where he was going or, if he had any such idea—and that may be so—that he had any clear idea of how far his Ministerial colleagues were willing to go with him. Some Minister is reported to have said in a humorous moment that foreign affairs would be splendid if there were no foreigners, and I began to think, listening to the right hon. Gentleman, that he had come to the conclusion that the Palestine problem would be easy if there were no Jews and no Arabs. What has he said? He has appealed for restraint during these discussions, and all of us will agree with that. He has resented as untrue foreign propaganda against the decency and humanity of the British troops. We agree with him about that, and we hope he will report it to the Prime Minister, because the Prime Minister knows where the propaganda comes from, and we all know the great friendship of the Prime Minister for that source of propaganda.
The right hon. Gentleman said that this was not a military but a political problem. There is truth in that, but I suggest to him and to the Colonial Office, if that Department is capable of lifting itself above the ordinary traditional methods of treating colonial problems, that those 1998 methods really will not fit this country with which we are dealing. This is not a primitive country of the ordinary colonial type. It is much more complicated and it seems to me that we cannot altogether agree with the right hon. Gentleman that this is a political problem alone. It is a social problem as well, and an economic problem, and unless the Colonial Office and the administration in Palestine, take into account social and economic as well as political and military considerations, they will not reach a solution. The right hon. Gentleman told us that we must not let our horror of the German persecution warp our reasonable judgment, and said that we were making a contribution in Palestine by permitting the immigration of 1,000 Jews a month, or 12,000 a year. But that is no contribution whatever in the circumstances which have arisen out of the German persecution in recent weeks. There is no change in the number of Jews that are permitted to go to Palestine. Therefore, the net Palestinian contribution to meet the difficulties which have arisen out of recent persecutions is precisely nil. The Government are not permitting one additional Jew to enter Palestine as a consequence of the terrible events which are happening in Europe.
§ Mr. Morrison
I could not say whether there has been any adaptation of that kind, but it would be impossible within the limit of 1,000 per month to do very much, however you might adapt the figure. But even if that be so, whatever adaptation of the proportions has been made, as between German Jews and other Jews, I would remind hon. Members that Germany is not the only country where there are difficulties, and even if there has been any contribution in that way, that contribution must be negligible in relation to the magnitude of the problem. The right hon. Gentleman said with truth, and it was one of the points to which I myself had intended to refer, that far from Jewish immigration having made it impossible for the Arabs to live in Palestine, far from it having damaged the Arabs socially and economically, Jewish immigration had made possible the existence of a much larger Arab population. That view is confirmed in the recent report of the Partition Commission. The right hon. 1999 Gentleman also said that the Jewish population had assisted in the hygienic and social progress of the Arabs, and that is true. It is also true that the Arabs, up to a point, have helped themselves, and we wish them to help themselves, and we wish the Government to help them to help themselves.
When the right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Arabs were thinking about their freedom and were apprehensive about the growth in the number of Jews, then I began to think that the Jews were responsible for everything. They came into the country and by their economic development of it, by their capital, their enterprise, their vigour and their social work, they made it possible for a much larger number of Arabs as well as Jews to exist in Palestine. Indeed, the growth of the Arab population since Jewish immigration began is, I gathered, much greater than it has ever been in history. I almost thought, though I was probably wrong in so thinking, that the right hon. Gentleman argued, "Well, the Jews have made it possible for a larger number of Arabs to live there; that is one of the causes of the problem with which we are faced, and so, it would seem, that the beneficial work of the Jews which has made possible that increase in the Arab population is really responsible for the problem itself. Therefore, it is a pity that the Jews ever went there at all." That is the kind of vicious circle of argument to which, I think not consciously but sub-consciously, the right hon. Gentleman seemed to be brought. It amounted to saying, "If the Jews are naughty, that is too bad, and if the Jews do good work and make it possible for more Arabs to live there in healthy conditions, that is too bad also." What can the Jews do which is right and helpful, if that kind of argument is produced—and it almost has been produced—as a justification of the Government's indecisive policy?
We are not going to criticise the fact that the Government have decided to call a conference of Arabs and Jews, but I do not think that any hon. Members, including the right hon. Gentleman himself, are excessively optimistic about the result of such a conference. We do not publicly gamble in this House but neither the right hon. Gentleman nor I, if we did 2000 gamble, would put any excessive sum on that result. But the Government having decided to call a conference, we all, in every quarter of the House, hope very much that the conference will be useful, that it will succeed in solving the problem, and that everybody concerned will seek to make their contribution to an amicable settlement. We wish the right hon. Gentleman luck, even though we are not too optimistic about it. But it is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that both sides must make their contribution, that the Jews must give something away and that the Arabs must give something away. We agree with that but while it may be that they can, I am not sure that they can, in the circumstances in which we are now placed. If they can, and the thing is amicably settled, and everybody is satisfied, we shall all be happy.
I am apprehensive that, although the right hon. Gentleman said they would do it, the Government seem to dread the prospect that they themselves may have to come to a conclusion about Palestine sooner or later. History bears that out, does it not? If there has been indecision about the Government's foreign policy, at least their Palestine policy can keep pace with it. There has not been much else but indecision there ever since they came along, and it is all very well to plant two sides to a controversy across a table or round a table and say, "Now, you fellows, we have had a lot of trouble with you; see what you can give each other, see what you can concede to each other, and try to agree." I hope they will succeed, but they may not be able to give things to each other, and then the Government will have to reach decisions, and if we say they will have to reach decisions and if even hon. Member opposite say so too, they may have to do it, but there is so much in the history of the Government in this matter that I very much doubt whether in fact they will be willing to come to conclusions and to pursue an honest and upright policy in that country. After all, they reached a point some time ago where the test of the Palestinian Administration was, Could it govern at all? Were the Government capable of governing in that country? And if they go on long enough being undecided, lacking in clarity, the issue will arise that somebody will say to them, "You had better govern or get out."
2001 Another thing that I want to know is this: If this conference takes place, and if agreement is reached, or if the Government then comes to conclusions either on their own account or in conjunction with others, I hope the right hon. Gentleman or the Noble Lord will be able to give an undertaking to the House that the Government and Parliament will not be committed until this House has been consulted. I think it is profoundly important that that should be done, because the Mandate, the undertaking to promote and to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, is not a mere Government responsibility. The honour of the British people is bound up with it, the honour of the British people is bound up with the Balfour Declaration. So is the House of Commons in particular, and it is not a matter of a mere national obligation on the part of the country itself, important as that is, but we also have an obligation in honour towards the 50 nations which were parties to that mandate being conferred upon Great Britain.
I very much hope, therefore, that in this matter, at any rate, the Munich method will not be repeated, and that before the Government are committed finally as to their policy, before they have got so far that they cannot modify it, the Government will give an undertaking that this House will be consulted, in order that its views may be expressed. It was consulted about partition. There was a full-dress Parliamentary Debate, and at the end of the day the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), the Leader of the Opposition, and myself were all involved in a final compromise, so to speak, whereby the Government were authorised to go and argue the case for partition on their own responsibility, on the understanding that Parliament was not committed to it. And how wise the House has proved to have been in that compromise which was reached, because the amazing situation in which we now find ourselves is, that whereas the Government, through the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, were very sure in the early stages of that Debate that partition was right, the Government, very obligingly towards these Commissions' reports, are equally sure to-day that partition is wrong. There 2002 fore, I think the Government need a little assistance in these matters, and I hope very much that we can have that clear undertaking, that the House will be consulted before the country is committed in this matter.
At any rate, the Balfour Declaration was made, and the Balfour Declaration was that, without prejudice to the rights, the customs, or the religious feelings of the Arabs, a definite Jewish home would be established in Palestine, and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, in his evidence before the Royal Commission, gave a very wide and comprehensive meaning to that undertaking by His Majesty's Government at the time, in which he personally was involved. We ought to know also from the Chancellor of the Duchy—at the end of the Debate we shall expect to know—whether the Government still adhere to the undertaking that a national home for the Jews shall be built in Palestine, whether they still adhere to the Balfour Declaration, because I became apprehensive, as the Colonial Secretary proceeded, as to whether that was still the case. We want to know whether that is meant in terms. The Balfour Declaration was an important matter. It was given in the eyes of the world, and it was given in conjunction with the United States of America, with whom we are all happy that we have just succeeded in making a trade agreement, but let it not be forgotten that the people of the United States are very very interested in this matter and that it would create difficulties in our relationship with that country if we appeared to be breaking the Balfour Declaration.
Although the right hon. Gentleman said that we had proceeded to implement it, I think that the degree of the implementation, the certainty of it, is another matter, because by 1922 the policy which had been applied under the Balfour Declaration was partly reversed, and it is important that this should be remembered. Transjordan, which has an area of nearly four-fifths that of Palestine, was considered in the Balfour Declaration to be part of Palestine and was in fact part of Palestine, but the Balfour Declaration was completely lopped off in 1922, and the Jewish emigration to Transjordan was forbidden thereafter, and it has since been closed to Jews. Secondly, immigration has been restricted since that time, partly 2003 under the doctrine of economic absorptive capacity, with which the right hon. Member for Epping was associated, and I quite agree that it is easy to argue that it is not an unreasonable doctrine in itself, provided it is reasonably interpreted, but since then that doctrine of economic absorptive capacity, which has never been formally thrown over by the Government, has really been converted, almost officially, into the policy of political absorptive capacity, and political absorptive capacity in turn is dependent upon the political capacity of the Government at home and of the Palestinian Government in Palestine to govern that country. It is out of those complications that the Government have got into their difficulties.
If, in this particular case of all cases, we are going to be sticky about Jewish immigration at this time, we shall really be in the greatest difficulty in the eyes of the world. The Government are meeting pressure to permit Jewish immigration here, and some Jewish immigration is being permitted. I am a realist about it. I do not under-estimate the fact that there are limitations as to how far that can be permitted in this country without serious political effects in certain parts. We have all to recognise that, and there is investigation by the Government as to how far that can be done here, but there is also investigation as to how far it can be done in certain of our Colonial territories. But what the Government have not done is to permit a single additional Jew, beyond what was ordinarily intended, to proceed to their own national home, to which we are committed, in Palestine.
When the Government talk about British Guiana as a possible place of immigration, I really must remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself—it is curious how often we meet the Chancellor of the Exchequer all over the world—has given us a grave warning as to the possible power of that country to absorb immigrants. In the case of British Guiana, the Council of the League of Nations sent out a committee in 1935 to investigate the possibilities of settling there some 20,000 Assyrian refugees from Iraq, and when the committee returned it reported as follows: 2004But neither the duration nor the prospects of success of the extremely limited experiment proposed could be estimated with any degree of confidence. Over a period of years at least it was clearly impossible to expect the settlement of more than a few hundreds in British Guiana, and it was equally evident that the territory suggested was even then unlikely ever to be capable of maintaining in prosperity more than a fraction of those for whom it is the committee's task to try and find a home.I am not objecting at all to the Government considering the possibilities of British Guiana or of Tanganyika. I confess that my sense of humour is tickled by the thought of Tanganyika and certain other Colonial territories that formerly belonged to somebody else, who is creating the problem. I rather like the idea that he should not be permitted to get away with a solution of his domestic problems too easily. I like it almost as much as I like the humoristic action of Mayor La Guardia, of New York City, who, when asked to provide protection for the German Consulate there, sent Jewish police under a Jewish captain to provide it. I think that is lovely. However, we must remember that these territories may not be ready for a rapid immigration, and it is the problem to-day with which we are concerned, for as many Jews as can possibly be handled. The Jews who are in Palestine are ready to receive additional Jews, wiling to accept responsibility for them, economically and in other ways. The Palestinian Jews are ready to-morrow to receive 10,000 children in their own homes. Why cannot we say, "Yes, let them go"? It is the quickest way to deal with those children, and I should have said, "Why do we want to stand in the way there more obstinately than in any other place, in the very place in which we have promised a Jewish national home"?
This British Guiana plan that the Prime Minister was talking about on Monday is obviously not an immediate solution to any extent, and it looks as if it is not an ultimate solution either. The Prime Minister went all round the world on Monday, but he carefully avoided Palestine as far as ever he could. If the Prime Minister does not accept the views of the Committee of the League of Nations, he must accept the views of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the leader of the Liberal element in His Majesty's Government, because this is what the Chancellor of 2005 the Exchequer said at the League of Nations on 17th April, 1935. He was talking about the place that the Prime Minister is speaking about as a partial, urgent, quick solution of the problem created by the German persecutions, and this is what the right hon. Gentleman said:It is impossible for His Majesty's Government, who have had an opportunity of studying the Commission's report, not to agree with the conclusion at which the Council's Committee has arrived, that whatever the potentialities of ultimate development which the district in question may possess, it cannot he regarded as offering a sufficiently assured or a sufficiently rapid solution of the exceptional problem which the Assyrian question presents.What was the "exceptional problem" of the Assyrian question? The "exceptional problem" was that of settling 20,000 persons only. If that was true in that respect, then you cannot advance British Guiana as at any rate a very big or quick contribution to the solution of this problem, and so we say, "By all means consider the Colonies." I think Colonial areas, if they are suitable, may well be appropriate for consideration for Jewish colonisation. And let the House be under no misapprehension. The Jews have proved to be first-class colonisers, to have the real, good, old, Empire-building kind of qualities, to be really first-class Colonial pioneers, and I do not object in any way—on the contrary, I welcome it—that there should be consideration of appropriate Colonial territories. But all this is bound to take time. All these territories have their problems. What I cannot let go of is this. Do that if you will by all means; I urge you to do it; but is it not an onus upon us now to lift the restrictions upon Jewish immigration so far as they now exist and permit a much greater number of Jews to go to Palestine, particularly the 10,000 children for whom Jews in Palestine are willing to accept entire responsibility? In 1922 Transjordan, representing nearly four-fifths of the area, was cut off and immigration was restricted. Since 1932 there has been restriction, but up to 1936, at any rate, it was assumed that the British Government were willing to continue responsibility for the Mandate.
Then the Royal Commission was appointed and the whole Mandate issue again came into the field of discussion. 2006 The Government definitely accepted partition. The other Commissioners reported that the Government's action about partition was all wrong, and so the Government obligingly said, "Very well, no partition; we always agree with the latest Commission's report." We do not know even now—the right hon. Gentleman was careful not to tell us, and I understand he had reasons for not doing so—what the policy of His Majesty's Government is. The so-called majority of this latest Commission, which was exactly half the Commission, produced a scheme of partition which is called Scheme "C," which would mean that after having lost nearly four-fifths of Palestine by the Transjordan decision, the Jewish area of western Palestine would be reduced to about one-half of western Palestine itself. Everybody must agree that the right hon. Gentleman is right in coming to the conclusion that, as far as he can see, partition is impracticable and must, therefore, be rejected, if it is rejected, however, we must know what the Government are going to do, because they cannot go on Merely rejecting things: they must come to a conclusion.
It is actually the case that additional labour is urgently required in Palestine, according to the Jewish authorities—not the Jewish employers or the Jewish well-to-do who invest money in Palestine, but the Jewish Labour Federation. The federation, which is a trade union organisation, estimates that there will be a shortage of something like 22,000 labourers in the coming orange-picking season. That is the estimate of a responsible trade union organisation of Jews in Palestine, and I think the right hon. Gentleman will agree that it is probably one of the most ably organised, best led, and most efficient trade union organisations to be found in the world. We also suggest that, just as there are training schemes for prospective Jewish agriculturists in certain European countries, it should be possible to establish some of these centres in Palestine itself, in order that there can be a connection between training and performance in that country. There are other questions about Huleh and other parts of the country. Huleh is an extraordinary case, and we would like to know what the Government are going to do and why they are holding things up. My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) will deal more fully with these 2007 questions. I only mention them in the hope that the Chancellor of the Duchy will be ready to deal with them in his reply.
I have been to Palestine and I was enormously impressed by it. Nobody can fail to be impressed by it, with all its Biblical and other associations and in view of the wonderful character of the people and the wonderful work that is being done. You cannot go to Palestine and come back cold in the way of opinions one way or another; they may be right or wrong, but you cannot go there and come back cold. It is an amazing and extraordinary experience. I am sure that the British administration there has been doing the best it can according to its lights—and it is its lights about which I am worried. Palestine is nothing in the nature of an ordinary backward country inhabited solely by primitive people. The Arabs have a relatively high state of civilisation. They are an ancient people. They have their literature, and they have their politics, unfortunately for the right hon. Gentleman. When we are dealing with the Arabs we are not dealing with a backward, primitive people, such as there are in the equatorial parts of Africa. The Jewish population has come from modern industrial Europeans and other countries. Consequently, we are dealing with a modern economic and social problem and not with a backward colonial problem. I am anxious and apprehensive whether the Colonial Office have been handling this problem too much upon the basis of an old-time, old-world colonial problem. If they have, we can well understand their failure. Are they something like British Ambassadors who go to foreign countries—heaps of them—and never bother to understand the ordinary people of the countries to which they go? It is profoundly important that British officers in Palestine should understand the social and economic problems in the domestic sense with which they are faced in that country.
In local government there is a field in which every encouragement should be given to both Arabs and Jews to become experienced in civic administration. It could have been done. It is harder now. Let us not forget that our own standing as a Parliamentary democracy did not begin in Parliament. It began in the localities, in the towns and the villages, and the right end in which to train these 2008 people in constitutional government is at the local government end, but we have kept that local government primitive. Take a great corporation like Tel-Aviv. It can hardly do anything without the permission of the district commissioner or the district officer. It has an opportunity now of raising a loan from the Prudential Assurance Company. Its credit is so good that the Prudential people are willing to lend the money, and they are not sentimentalists, whatever else they are. They accept the credit of Tel-Aviv. For years Tel-Aviv has wanted the loan in order that there shall be sanitary and other developments which are urgently required in that town. Who is standing in the way? The Palestine administration, for which the right hon. Gentleman is responsible. Why should they stand in the way? What is it to do with them? Why should they need to stand in the way, for it is good that local government should develop in that town. They told me that the municipal budget requires the approval of either the district officer or the Government in Jerusalem. I can see an argument for that, but they told me that the budget was not approved until almost the end of the financial year in which the money was spent. That is an amazing state of affairs, but it is characteristic of the kind of mentality which is concerned with the government of that country. Municipalities cannot be treated in that way, and it ought not to be done. I therefore urge that there should be a further development of local government. While I appreciate that we must move with circumspection, there is a strong case for greater responsibility in local government in that country on the part of both Jews and Arabs.
The British policy has been uncertain. I believe that if it had been firm and clear most of the trouble with the Arabs would not have arisen. After all, it has largely been created and stimulated by a limited number of well-to-do Arab families and the Mufti who was appointed by the Palestine Government itself. If the Government had been firm and strong with these people at the beginning, coupled with something with which I will now deal, I believe that three-quarters of the political difficulties could have been eliminated. It is not enough to repress the mischief-makers. There is responsibility upon the Government in Palestine, 2009 to which there would not be the smallest objection, I anticipate, by the Jews, not merely to rule the Arabs and keep them in order, but to take the greatest pains to lift up the Arab standard of life, their health, their capacity for local administration, and the self-respect of the working-class Arab in that country. There have been attempts at trade union organisation among the Arabs. The Jewish trade unions have not organised Arabs within their ranks, for that would have been foolish and unwise, but they have helped the Arabs to organise in trade unions. They wish the Arabs to be organised. If the Government were wise, they would encourage the Arabs to organise in trade unions and help them forward in their social self-reliance and economic status. Indeed, it would be wise of the Government to encourage the poorer Arabs to demand a higher standard of life and help them to get it in that country. The Government have not done it, and I wonder whether the Government here are preserving the class sympathy with the well-to-do and with employers which generally characterises them, which even influences their foreign policy and might well influence their policy in Palestine. It is obviously good business for Great Britain to lift up the status, the intelligence, and the spirit of co-operation among the masses of Arab people.
We think that the restrictions which now exist, which are the same as they were before the German persecution of the Jews, should be materially relaxed. In this country particularly, we have a responsibility to promote Jewish immigration. A large proportion of the Arabs are as much the victims of Arab terrorism as the Jews; there have been more Arabs killed in these troubles than Jews. Why should we not in the administration get the co-operation of the Jews, and, if we can, of Arabs in the maintenance of order in the country? The Jews are willing to be armed under disciplined government for the defence of the country and the maintenance of order, and I am sure that many of the Arabs would be willing similarly to be armed if they felt there was a real government at Jerusalem which was capable of ruling the country with will and decision. Therefore, it is not necessary that a large British Army should be there for an indefinite time, and that the British Army should be running all the risks. The Jews are 2010 perfectly willing to take all the risks that the Government will put upon them, provided it is a disciplined force and the Government mean business. I believe that the same might well be true of many of the Arabs.
Let me say this in conclusion: The House on Monday passed unanimously, and we were all delighted about it, a Motion moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker). To-day we are really going through a testing day as to whether that Motion meant business or not, for Palestine in particular. First of all, it is a place where Jewish immigration ought to be permitted, where it might make an immediate contribution to the relief of the anxiety of a very large number of people in Europe. Even the hope of getting there is in itself a relief. I beg the Government to recognise that, having regard to the Balfour Declaration, and despite the views of the Chancellor of the Duchy, with which we are very familiar, and in view of our international obligations, they should think seriously about this matter, and consider whether our honour does not require that in Palestine, in particular, we should make all the contribution we can to the solution of this cruel problem.
§ 5.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) laid some stress upon his sense of humour. I think that sense of humour was more an article for export than for use at home. He reprobated the Colonial Secretary for approaching the Palestinian problem as if it were easy supposing there were neither Jews nor Arabs there. I do not think that was fair comment upon the right hon. Gentleman's speech, but if it had been I think that would be a better way of approaching the Palestinian problem than to approach it upon the single assumption that there are no Arabs; and in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite there was, I think I am right in saying, no reference at all to Arabs except for two out of the last four minutes, and there were a great many references which took it for granted that Palestine already is a completely Jewish country. "Palestine," we are told, is ready to receive 10,000 immigrants, and is ready to do this and to do that.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I admire the enthusiasm of the hon. Member, but he is misrepresenting me. I said the Jews in Palestine were ready to receive 10,000 immigrants.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am in the recollection of the House. I took his words down very carefully, and I have no doubt at all that what the right hon. Gentleman said was that Palestine was ready, and that was the burden of the whole speech.
I was about to begin what I wish myself to contribute to this Debate by reading one or two sentences from a letter which I received this morning from a British resident in Jerusalem who has very deep and wide experience there, and who is certainly a person of perfect probity and great intelligence.Where we feel people are sorely misled in England is that masses of people think that pro-Arab and anti-Jew are synonymous terms: a conviction that political Zionism is a profound mistake on the part of Jewry does not constitute an anti-Jewish attitude. Allied to this is the fact that Arabs as such have no hatred for the Jews as such even now: what they hate is the policy.He goes on to say, I do not know with what truth not being a Yorkshireman myself:But there is nothing like the anti-Jew feeling I have remarked in Sheffield.I think that sentence worth reading, because I should not intervene in this Debate if I thought that there was the least risk that it should appear because I was pro-Arab that therefore I was anti-Jew, nor even if I thought there was much risk that I should be thought to be pro-Arab in the sense of espousing the Arab cause or, at any rate, of identifying myself with it. I wish to intervene merely as one who thinks it necessary that there should be some persons in this House who approach the matter with a desire primarily to consider the interests of the majority of the population of Palestine. I do not believe that there is anything necessarily anti-Jewish in that and I think there is a very special responsibility upon this House in the matter, much more so than with most questions of policy.
In many questions of policy things may be left more or less to the Front Bench, but here we have a very particular responsibility. On general grounds if we are to keep either our democracy or our Empire we must keep both; I do not 2012 think for a moment that one would survive the other for long. The business of this House as an Imperial House of Commons is to see that certain standards of administration are preserved in the territories for which His Majesty's Government are responsible. I would by no means go so far as the hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Front Bench in the last of these Debates, who said that most of the disease in Palestine arises from the mal-administration of the Mandate, but I think it is proper that we should admit that there have not always been preserved those standards of administration in Palestine which most of us think must be preserved in our territories if they are to be worth defending. That has been so, no doubt, mainly because of ambiguities of policy, and, incidentally, I thought there was a curious instance of the right hon. Gentleman's lack of humour in twitting His Majesty's Government upon tergiversations and hesitations in the matter of foreign policy. I thought that joke might have come from anywhere better than from Members on the Opposition Front Bench. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Read the reports of the Trades Union Congresses for the last 10 years.
What I was trying to say was this, that if that mal-administration, such as it has been—I do not admit there has been much, but we should not deny that there has been some—has been largely due to ambiguities of policy, then this House is largely responsible for it. There is a much more particular reason why this House is responsible. Sixteen months ago there was, perhaps, just a chance that partition might have worked. I do not say that it would, but a very strong Commission thought it would, and His Majesty's Government thought it would, and there was just a chance that it might have worked; but, as the right hon. Gentleman reminded us just now, this House by a most elaborate and multi-angular manoeuvring between Epping and Carnarvon and South Hackney and the rules of Order and the back of the Speaker's Chair and other parts of the world, instead of accepting the policy, merely authorised the Government to go to Geneva and explore the possibilities of the policy. There, again, the right hon. Gentleman's sense of humour seems to me to be relevant, because whereas on that occasion he was all for going to Geneva 2013 and exploring possibilities rather than having a policy, now he is all for saying that discussion cannot be policy. He talked a good deal about ordinary Colonial territories. I do not know whether South Hackney is an ordinary democratic territory, but on the assumption that it is, it was odd that he should object to Government by discussion. I do not know how we can have government except by military force or by discussion, and it is odd that the right hon. Gentleman, having on an occasion when there was a definite policy before the House helped to destroy it, should now say that nothing is a policy if it is merely utilising discussion.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I hesitate to correct a distinguished representative of the Universities, but I said nothing of the kind. I never object to discussion. I only objected to the right hon. Gentleman describing discussion as a policy.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I do not think I said the right hon. Gentleman objected to discussion. I do not want to enter into competition with the right hon. Gentleman on that matter, but what I said was that he objected to discussion being described as a policy, and it seems to me that that is a ludicrous objection to come from democratic Hackney, and a more ludicrous objection to come from one of those who, when there was a definite policy before the House, was largely instrumental in the destruction of that policy. That is what I said, and I think it is perfectly consistent with what the reporters took down of his remarks. The effect of that vote in this House was that for the last 18 months nothing could be done, and we are still in a position in which nothing has been done because of that day's vote.
What ought to be done now? With respect to the right hon. Member for South Hackney, I think it would, perhaps, be impertinent for us to suggest. There is not very much point in having a conference if, beforehand, a definite policy is to be announced by His Majesty's Government, and hardly more perhaps if the House of Commons were to be urged to tie itself, but there are one or two things which I think may be said. We not only welcome the calling of a conference, but also we are glad that the conference is to he as widely representative as possible. We are glad that the surrounding Arab States are to be represented, and we hope 2014 and believe that His Majesty's Government will allow the widest possible freedom of movement and choice, so that the Palestinian Arabs may feel themselves to be represented as they would wish. There is another thing which I think we may without impertinence say about the conference, and that is about the object. Here, at the risk of misunderstanding, I would wish to traverse wholly the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman who spoke for the Opposition. The object of the conference surely is to arrange for order and decent government in Palestine.
Another great problem is the minimising of Jewish misery in Europe. I do not wish to compete in good intentions or idealism with other Members of the House, or to give testimonials to myself, but I am not conscious of any reluctance in that respect. I believe that I have tried to do and hope that I shall try to do everything proper that can be done to relieve Jewish misery in Europe. That is a very great problem, but it is another problem from the problem of getting decent government in Palestine, and I suggest that that distinction is not less valid, but is even more urgent because of what has happened during the last fortnight. The Peel Report spoke of the real fear of being overwhelmed and, therefore, dominated by Jewish immigrants. In our last Debate here the Colonial Secretary said the objection to the National Home and to Jewish immigration grew deeper, and that there was no hope for a home for a largely increasing number of Jews. In a recent book by an Arab who is, I was going to say, a constituent of mine—I rather think that he has not got the vote because of his nationality, but, at any rate, he is a graduate of my University—there appears this observation:To place the brunt of the burden upon Arab Palestine is a miserable evasion of the duty that lies upon the whole of the civilised world. It is also morally outrageous. No code of morals can justify the persecution of one people in an attempt to relieve the persecution of another.I would wish to remind the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), if he were here, that as long ago as 1922, when there had been only 25,000 immigrants into Palestine, while now there have been getting on for 20 times that number, he said that immigration should not be a burden on the people of Palestine as a whole. 2015 Surely there is no instance in history when the forces of a great State have been used to coerce a long-settled population in a small country to submit to a vast immigration from a third part of the world. I never thought that "self-determination" was a very clear phrase or a very solid policy, but surely in the present case we have anti-self-determination carried visibly beyond the bounds of parody. A little sense of humour on the Opposition Front Bench ought to have intervened before they took the last step in that reductio ad absurdum.
The duty of relieving Jewish misery lies on every man precisely according to each man's capacity to do it, and any man who does less than that capacity does less than he should; but to say that the Government should put the whole, or most, or even much of the burden upon another country and another people is not to take a high moral attitude. "Burden" is not an altogether fair word, but it is a fairer word than that used by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney, who called it a contribution. I do not know how contributions to the Labour party are collected in Hackney, but I feel sure that if the Fascists of Lancashire collected and took money from the electors of Hackney, those electors would not think that they were making a contribution. The word "burden" is nearer to fairness than is "contribution." It is only in a comparatively empty country with a short history that immigration policy can be based primarily on those outside the country and not on those inside it. Accordingly, in my judgment, the business of the conference is the management of Palestine and not the relief of the Jews.
I can hardly put the matter more cogently than it was put by the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones) on the last Colonial Office Estimates. After saying that the sooner we got the question of immigration settled the better, he went on to discuss what the right hon. Gentleman called the ordinary colonial territories. He said:We cannot allow people in Kenya … to make for this Parliament a problem with which we shall find it hard to deal.If that is true of Kenya, it is equally true of the people who are outside the British Empire altogether, and even outside our mandated territories. We cannot allow 2016 them to create problems for us. He went on to say:We should not have had the West Indian problem if we had dealt with the people there in a spirit of trusteeship … raising the standard of happiness and contentment of those people and guiding them on the path towards ultimate self government.Those are the principles on which I ask the House to consider Palestine, namely, that we cannot allow authorities and influences outside our purview to create within the territories for which we are responsible avoidable difficulties; and where we are responsible for a settled and populated area there again the words of the hon. Member apply, that we must be able toShow by facts that we are raising the standard of happiness and contentment of these people."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th June, 1938; col. 102, Vol. 337.]I know that Palestine is not the West Indies, and that it is a unique problem. It would be easy to vamp up a certain amount of fake learning about the MacMahon pledge, the Declaration to the Seven, the Passfield While Paper, and the Churchill White Paper, and so on; but in what I shall venture to say I shall be as brief as I can. I shall refer only to that document which is the highest ground of those who would not take my line, that is, the Balfour Declaration.
There is an at arguable case for the view that the Balfour Declaration was invalid in its origin and essence because it was promising to an undefined and unidentifiable party something which the party doing the promising did not own and had no right to promise, and could not promise except at the expense of a third party. I think that that argument is answerable. Alternatively, it may be argued, that however valid the Balfour Declaration was at the time, things, including the Covenant of the League of Nations, have altered so much since that time that the words have no longer the same meaning, and are invalid. I shall adopt neither of those arguments, but I wish to remind the House that, even taking the Balfour Declaration at its face value, it contains two sections, and that the second section contains two parts. The first section views with favour, which is a different thing from promising,the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.2017 Here is Section 2:Nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious life of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.The second part of this Section is:or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.Has not too much emphasis been laid on the first part? Does anybody doubt that? The Jewish population in Palestine was about 60,000 when we took over but it is now very nearly 500,000. Perhaps even more importance should be attached to the qualitative than to quantitative estimates, to, for instance, the words of Lord Samuel, about the language, customs, intellectual interests, religion, and so on, of the Jews. Is it doubted that in that respect a national home has been established? If it is doubted, no doubt the Government will remember other words of Lord Samuel, about the limitations imposed by the rights of the present inhabitants.
That brings me to the second section of the Declaration. I wish to take the concluding words:the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.There has always been more or less of anti-Semitism in many countries of the world. I do not share it. I have many strong prejudices, but this is not among them. Anti-Semitism has varied very much in quantity and quality, but I think beyond doubt the quantity and quality have, in the last 20 years, been affected by political Zionism. I am not essaying the odious task of telling the Jews who are now miserable that it is all their own fault. That is the last thing in the world I wish to do, but in saying that Zionism has been a factor in the attitude of the Gentiles to the Jews during the last 20 years, I believe I am saying something which is true, and is one of that rather rare class of truth—a truth which ought to be said. Any insistence now on an excessively Zionist application of the Balfour promise is, I am sure, contrary to the interests of the Jews. That is a perfectly honest argument, but, as an Arab sympathiser I do not pretend that that is the main argument I wish to use. The main argument is to be drawn from the phrases in the Balfour Declaration about the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.
2018 It is necessary to guard against two misconceptions. One is the notion that there is a clear line between civil and political and economic, or even political and civil and religious. There is no such clear line; these terms are convenient for analysis but do not represent actualities in the business of governing men. Indeed, as the Peel Report said:Politics outside Palestine and hostility inside between Arabs and Jews are economic considerations. We must get away from such distinctions.A distinction cannot really be made between economic and political, and political and civil. There is no such thing in the real life of people, as they have to be managed. A great deal was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney who, I am sorry to see, has not found it possible to endure me any longer.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Surely my remark is unfair to no one but me. I am not trying to take up time in order to benefit myself, and I am sorry about the time I am taking, but if I were interrupted less I would be quicker. A great deal was said about the Arab movement being a small thing run by a lot of people who had not to be considered in politics because they had money. That argument came a little oddly, I thought, from the right hon. Gentleman and rather conflicted with the other part of his speech in which he said that the Jews ought to be considered because they came in with money from outside. Waiving that inconsistency, I would say again that a great deal was said about the Arab movement being small, run by a small class, and that it was not a national movement. I agree that words like "national" are very difficult when used for different parts of the world, because they do not mean the same thing in any two countries. For the sake of argument I am prepared to admit that actions have been done by some Arabs of which the majority of Arabs do not approve; but I feel sure the House will be making a mistake if it feels that this is not a national movement in the sense that the great mass of the Arab population is behind it, for political and nationalist reasons. I am not competent to give an answer about the economic 2019 side of the thing but it is no answer to nationalist claims, however true it is, to say that the Arabs have more money than they had. As we all know, it would be untrue if the case were our own.
All this would be important enough if Palestine were a small island in the middle of the South Pacific, but it is a great deal more important when it is a country surrounded on three sides by Arabs and with the Mediterranean on the other side, a country where three continents meet, and the three great religions meet. If we cannot have more consideration for the Arab point of view than the Opposition Front Bench seem to like, I cannot see how there can ever be peace in that country. Finally, I would say, because I think it ought to be stated here—I am in no way anti-Semitic, and not in the least suspicious of or disliking Jews that if political Zionism and Palestinian peace prove to be incompatible, there can be no sort of shadow of doubt upon which side lies the duty of His Majesty's Government.
§ 5.43 P.m.
§ Sir Archibald Sinclair
The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has delivered a characteristic speech, learned, provocative, even didactic, but stimulating; and among several things he said didactically is one on which I must challenge him straight away, although perhaps, it has no direct relevance to the main subject of the Debate. Zionism, he said, was one of the main causes of the growth of anti-Semitism in the world. That was a controversial statement which, upon other more suitable occasions, I should be very willing to argue with the hon. Gentleman, but in my belief the causes which have produced the growth of anti-Semitism in the countries which most suffer from that somewhat loathsome disease are quite evident. They are quite evident in Germany, where they are largely artificial. In Poland, of course, they are largely economic. In many other countries the causes are complex but they are clear, and the growth of Zionism is not one of them. On the other hand, in those countries which do not suffer from anti-Semitism, such as this country and the United States of America, there is a large volume of agreement that the achievements of Zionism in Palestine have greatly raised the reputation of the Jewish people. 2020 They have proved that they are capable of building up a civilisation from the ground floor—that it is not true that they are only bankers and middlemen and office workers, but that they can build up a civilisation from the soil. They have proved it to the admiration of the world. The hon. Member also went on to say that, if there had been maladministration in Palestine—and he admitted that there had, and also that such maladministration was probably due to ambiguities of policy—this House was much more responsible for the ambiguities of policy than His Majesty's Government. There again—
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I beg the right hon. Gentleman's pardon. I do not think I said that. I think that what I said was that, in so far as maladministration was due to ambiguities of policy, since policy is always, at least theoretically, in the hands of the House, the House has all the more responsibility.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I should be very sorry if I misrepresented the hon. Member, and I am very glad that he has intimated clearly what he meant, but I really think he went a little further. At any rate, his remarks conveyed to me a rather strong impression that this House had been responsible for ambiguities of policy, certainly in one instance, to which I will presently refer. I want, however, to put the other point of view. I say that, since His Majesty's Government accepted from the League of Nations a Mandate for Palestine, this House has been almost solid and perfectly consistent in successive Parliaments in support of the policy of the Mandate. It is not against those who have supported the Mandate that the accusation of the hon. Member would lie, but rather against those who have sought to divert the policy of the Government and of Parliament from that of the Mandate which we have solemnly accepted. The hon. Member quoted in support of his statements the Debate which took place a year ago, and he said that it was this House which had destroyed the policy of partition. I do not think that the policy of partition can be strictly reconciled with the Mandate. I regard the acceptance of the Mandate as placing an obligation on this House and on the country, which I am prepared to defend, but I do not think that even so the case made by the hon. Member 2021 can be sustained. In the Debate which took place, the then Secretary of State said:Let me come to the question of procedure. We cannot make one step in the direction of the policy proposed in the White Paper, we cannot implement any proposal of the Royal Commission, without first going to the League.He went on to say:It is essential that I should know whether the House of Commons approves the statement of policy of His Majesty's Government when I go to the League next week to discuss it with the Permanent Mandates Commission.'—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st July, 1938; col. 2249, Vol. 326.]On that the House of Commons said, "No, we are not prepared to approve beforehand of this statement of policy, but we give you full liberty of action to go to the League and discuss it with the League of Nations"; and the Resolution that we passed was to the effect that the proposals contained in the White Paper should be brought before the League of Nations with a view to enabling His Majesty's Government, after adequate inquiry, to present to Parliament a definite scheme taking into full account all the recommendations of the Command Paper. The fact that His Majesty's Government are unable to present to the House of Commons this afternoon that definite scheme is not due to any action which the House of Commons took a year ago, but to the fact that the Royal Commission they appointed has reported that the plan is impracticable. Therefore, this House is not responsible for the failure of that scheme. I, of course, was opposed to it, and I am very glad that, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) has reminded us, we did refuse a year ago, when that policy was being debated in the House, to allow the hands of Parliament to be tied. Indeed, so far were the Government from regarding that Resolution as altering their policy, that they made repeated statements in the newspapers all through last winter that the policy of partition was the policy of the Government. I remember going on a deputation to the Prime Minister and arguing the case for immigration on two hypotheses—the one that the policy of partition would go through, and the other that it would not go through; and I was rebuked for suggesting that there was any doubt at all about the policy of the Government being to put partition through.
2022 I agree, however, that matters have been made extremely difficult for our administration in Palestine by the Government's vacillation. That great experiment in Palestine has been subjected to many strains and stresses, but two great influences have tended, the one towards the failure of the experiment and the other towards its success. The one tending towards its success has been the shining faith and courage and determination of the Jews, and especially of the Jewish colonists; but the influence which has tended towards failure has been, as the Peel Commission reported a year ago, the infirmity of purpose exhibited by the local administration, and the impression they gave that they were not sincere in regard to the carrying out of the Mandate. That is to be found in the summary of the recommendations of the Peel Commission on page 363 of their report. This impression of infirmity has, of course, been disastrously strengthened by the successive efforts which have been made by the Government to get this problem solved by referring it to a series of Royal Commissions and other inquiries, and by their shifts and changes of policy. We have had presented to us to-day the new plans of the Government, by a Secretary of State—
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman again, but I cannot find in the report exactly what he says. What the report says is:This uncertainty … has made it possible for the Arabs to interpret the conciliatory policy of the Palestine Government and the sympathetic attitude of some of its officials as showing that the British determination to implement the Balfour Declaration is not sincere.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I will make the matter clear. The Peel Commission reported that the attitude of the Palestine administration conveyed to the Arabs an impression of insincerity—
§ Sir A. Sinclair
From the attitude of some members of the administration—I 2023 do not think it makes the slightest difference—the Arabs gained the impression that the administration was not sincere in carrying out the Mandate.
I am sorry that the hon. Member interrupted me at that point, because I was moving to another branch of the subject, and was just turning my back on those unhappy pages, which I do not want to discuss at length; I hope we are making a fresh start. I was saying that we have before us a new Secretary of State, who comes to his very difficult task with a high reputation. We all appreciate his great qualities and his sincerity, and we wish him well; and I am sure that, although we may not succeed, we all want to strengthen his hand in the task he has undertaken. I agree with the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) that our main preoccupation must be the welfare and prosperity of Palestine as a whole. No one who reads the Woodhead Report can doubt that the prosperity of the country in general, and of the Arabs in particular, is bound up with the successful continuation of the great experiment of the Jewish National Home.
The Secretary of State, in his opening speech, said that the Arabs are afraid of being dominated by this newcoming people. It is, however, no oppressed and impoverished country that we are discussing this afternoon, and it really is not sufficient for us merely to say that the Arabs are fearful; we must also discuss what are the grounds for their fears. How far is the fear of being overwhelmed by an inrush of Jewish immigrants justified? The figures given in the Woodhead Report are most impressive. The total population of the country has been doubled since 1919; it has increased from 700,000 to 1,400,000, at which figure it stood in the middle of 1938. The total Arab increase during that time has been 355,000 by natural means, and 35,000 by immigration, or a total Arab increase of 390,000, whereas the Jews have only increased by 310,000. Let us not, therefore, argue this case on the supposition that the Jews are crowding into the country and pushing the Arabs out of it. The very reverse is the case. The Arab population is increasing faster than the Jewish population. It is important to consider to what this increase 2024 of population is due. Is it happening in all the Arab countries? Are all the Arab countries showing similar increases of population and prosperity? Not at all; the only country in which it is happening is Palestine, and the fact that it is happening there, while it is due, no doubt, partly to British administration—I think we can rightly claim for this country some share of the credit—is without doubt mainly due to Jewish immigration, to the influx of Jewish capital, and the increase by the Jews of taxable values, which no doubt the British administration has used for the benefit of the Arab as well as of the Jewish population. The Woodhead Report, dealing with these points, says:We thus have the Arab population reflecting simultaneously two widely different tendencies—a birth-rate characteristic of peasant community … and a death-rate which could only be brought about under an enlightened modern administration, with both the will and the necessary funds at its disposal to enable it to serve a population unable to help itself. It is indeed an ironic commentary on the working of the Mandate, and perhaps on the science of government, that this result, which so far from encouraging has almost certainly hindered close settlement by Jews on the land, could scarcely have been brought about except through the appropriation of tax-revenue contributed by the Jews.It goes on to say, on the following page:That the Arabs' standard of living is higher than before the War is, we think, certain'';and after some further arguments they say that three conclusions follow:(i) First, that if the sources of present supplementary employment are cut off, even partially, the consequences for the Arabs affected will be serious.Let us remember this that if we are going to cut down Jewish immigration it is not only the Jews who will suffer. The Arabs will suffer as well.(ii) Secondly, that if the Arab rural population continues to increase at its present rate, the demand for such supplementary employment, and even the pressure to leave the land and seek for whole-time employment in the towns, will be intensified—quite apart from any further acquisition of land by the Jews. (iii) And thirdly, that since such employment can only be provided by capital, and, with few exceptions, capital is only likely to be invested in Palestine by Jews, the future for the Arab population is already menacing—unless Jewish immigration and Jewish imports of capital are allowed to continue.The prosperity not only of the Jews, but of the Arabs, depends on the continuance 2025 of Jewish immigration and Jewish imports of capital. And finally—the last section I will read to the House:So far as concerns non-agricultural settlement, it would seem that economic conditions in Palestine are by now so closely bound up with Jewish immigration, both actual and prospective, that the Arabs in Palestine would be faced with the prospect of greater economic hardship if Jewish immigration should be completely closed down than they would be even if it should be allowed to continue.Let me only add to these reflections which are contained in the report the question of the effect on the life of the Arab people of the insurrection that has been going on, and the impoverishment it has caused. It has resulted in the rich people going to live in other countries, and selling their estates or mortgaging them. Consider the impoverishment in the villages, where the Arab bands are plundering the villages, taking food, transport and men, and destroying property. After these troubles are over there will be a greater need than ever, in the interests of the Arab people, for an influx of capital. Does the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) or any other hon. Member suggest that the British Government should provide that capital? No! Therefore, in the interests of the Arabs it is vital that the Jewish immigration and influx of capital should continue.
The right hon. Gentleman, in the speech with which he opened the Debate, told us of his plans for the conference. He said he hoped that it would start quickly and that it would end in a settlement. Those hopes we all share; and we wish it well. But he said—and to this part of his speech I could not help holding an objection—that it would be open to all parties to the conference to offer arguments as to whether the Mandate should be changed. In that case is the conference fairly constituted? The Jews and Arabs are to be there. That is obviously right, but the neighbouring Arab States are also to be represented. In that case ought not other people to be there? The hon. Member for Cambridge University demurred strongly to external influences being brought to bear on the internal administration of Colonial territories; but, in spite of that, he did not say whether he approved of the presence of representatives of the Arab States.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I referred to a speech from the Front Opposition Bench some months ago about our not allowing people in Kenya to create difficulties which Parliament would find it hard to settle. I should not approve of the invitation to the Arab States if I thought it was going to have that effect.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
I will not pursue an argument with the hon. Member on that point; but, at any rate, he does not disapprove of the presence Of the Arab States. I am not taking objection to that. The task of the right hon. Gentleman is hard enough, and I will support him on that point. But if the Arab States are represented ought we not to have other people who have a great interest in Palestine represented also? Would it not be a good thing to ask the United States Government to send on observer, and ought not the League of Nations to have an observer at the conference if it is going to discuss questions affecting the Mandate? If the conference is going to thrash out a plan, it would not be sufficient to take it to the Mandates Commission afterwards and say, "Here is our plan; you must take it or leave it." I ask the Government whether it would not be a good plan to ask the United States Government—they might not accept, but we should ask—and the Mandates Commission to have representatives present.
The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that the Arabs and Jews have each a contribution to make to the solution of the Palestine problem, and that, if they were only willing to make that contribution, peace and prosperity would return to Palestine. We must all agree with the right hon. Gentleman on that. He reminded us that, at any rate, on one occasion—and, in my submission, on innumerable subsequent occasions—the Jews have made great efforts towards making friendly arrangements with the Arabs. He reminded us that Dr. Weizmann crossed the Jordan and went to the Emir Feisal and made a signed agreement. That was a great stroke of policy, as we all agree; but this is not the only effort which Dr. Weizmann and the leaders of the Jews have made. They have made repeated and constant efforts. They have always taken care to see that land or alternative occupations are found 2027 for Arab cultivators who are displaced by development schemes, and, on the larger questions of high policy, never has the right hon. Gentleman or any of his predecessors summoned Jews and Arabs to the conference table, but the Jews have accepted and done their best to contribute to a solution of the problem. The right hon. Gentleman cannot say the same for the Arabs; and I wish that in his appeal to the Arabs and the Jews—an appeal which he rightly made, and which I support—he had taken the opportunity of recognising the great efforts that the Jews have already made. I hope that whoever concludes the Debate will make some recognition of those great efforts. Before leaving that subject I would associate myself with the request made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) that there should be no commitment as a result of this conference without consultation with the House of Commons. To that, my hon. Friends and I attach importance.
Our obligations to the Arabs must be fulfilled. I entirely agree with what the hon. Member for Cambridge University said on that point. But our solemn obligations to the Jews must also be fulfilled, and we cannot at this time of day chop logic and wonder whether the Balfour Declaration is really binding or not. In fact, it has been ratified by successive Governments, and hundreds of thousands of Jews have gone to Palestine, taking vast amounts of capital, and have manured the soil with gold, on the basis of the pledges they have received from this country. We must be loyal to those people. The Jews have played their part ever since that pledge was given to them. In the War, their soldiers fought and died with ours. They not only helped the Allies to win the War, but, in doing that, they helped the Arabs to obtain release from Turkish rule. In the second place, they have conducted their experiment in Palestine with a success that has commanded the admiration of the whole world, and, as the Woodhead Report points out in a passage I have already quoted, it is due to their success that the population of Palestine has been doubled and the Arab population increased by 390,000 since the War. And finally, another way in which they have loyally fulfilled their obligation under the Mandate is in the restraint they have shown 2028 under the bitter provocation of the Arab rebellions in recent years. Therefore, we must not let them down.
I said, at the beginning of my speech, that the welfare of Palestine must be our main preoccupation in this matter. I claim that the welfare of Palestine as a whole is bound up with the continuation of Jewish immigration and the influx of Jewish capital. But we must not forget—it must be very present in our minds—the refugee question, and the persecution of the Jews in Europe at the present time. The Government have said they are going to make a great effort to help the Jews suffering from this persecution. The principal contribution they are going to make is settlement in British Guiana. I agree almost entirely with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney; but if there was one point on which I could not agree it was that I take a more hopeful view of this settlement in British Guiana than he does. I am not going into the differences between the Assyrian scheme and this scheme for the Jewish refugees; but I think that, given time and opportunities for the necessary capital to be provided, a great deal can be done. But it is going to take a long time and a great deal of capital to provide the basic equipment before any immigration on a great scale can take place. In Palestine, immigrants can be absorbed safely and rapidly. The right hon. Gentleman in his opening speech said that, in speaking on this subject, we must not let our sympathy warp our judgment, and that the meagre soil of Palestine could not support more than a fraction of the refugees. That is true. You cannot take millions of refugees from Europe into Palestine. But you can take scores of thousands. And where else, in the next few years, can you take scores of thousands? Not into any of the Colonies; not into British Guiana in the next few years. That is the importance of Palestine; it would make, not a complete, but an immediate and substantial contribution towards the solution of the problem.
The right hon. Gentleman said that the growth of the Arab population since the War upsets preconceived views as to the numbers of Jews who could enter Palestine. But it does not upset the principle that the emigration of Jews should be related to the absorptive capacity of the 2029 country, and he should stick to that principle or give us a better principle which he could support by argument. During the present crisis, as the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench said, not a single Jew additional to the normal quota of migrants had been allowed into Palestine and I ask the Government to give us at least this assurance—indeed, I ask the Noble Lord if he is going to reply to give us the assurance—that Dr. Weizmann's suggestion to take 10,000 Jewish children into Palestine will receive the favourable and sympathetic consideration of the Government. That is the offer which the Jews have made. If it affects anybody's standard of living, it will be their own. There are 10,000 Jews who are willing to take into their households each a child—it may be that some are willing to take two children—and I hope that offer will receive the sympathetic consideration of the Government.
The Secretary of State said that the local administration were now steadily re-establishing the authority of the Government. What then? That is what the House wants to know. We are going to have this Conference, and I agree that we cannot press him to be too precise as to what is going to follow, but the only other indication of policy we had was "perseverance and not partition." There is his further phrase, to which I attach importance and which I wish to take this opportunity of emphasising, that the Jews are in Palestine, not on sufferance, but by right. Let the Government, therefore, use their authority when it is re-established. Let them use it generously to the Arabs, and I am sure that in doing so they will have the hearty co-operation of the Jews, but let them use it also, I would beg of them, faithfully to fufill the solemn obligations which Parliament has contracted towards the Jews.
§ 6.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill
I make my compliments to the new Secretary of State for the Colonies and for the Dominions upon the speech which he has made to us to-day, a speech admirable in form and also animated throughout by a sincere spirit of good will, which we are quite sure will guide him in his approach to this Palestinian problem. It was a speech which, of course, said most of the wise and agreeable things that can be thought 2030 of on both sides of this problem, and there was no part of the House, no division of opinion upon this matter, which did not from time to time feel that they were having their sentiments expressed in the most excellent and happy terms. But there lay over the speech an air of detachment from the responsibilities of the past which, perhaps, my right hon. Friend was entitled to assume in his individual capacity, but which cannot be shared by those who have long followed the course of affairs in Palestine since the Great War. The story goes back some distance. We are not now beginning this evening, in this quiet House, to discuss Palestine. We have to embark upon that discussion in the light of what has occurred and in the light of the situation which has been disclosed.
The situation in Palestine is lamentable. There is tragedy in Palestine. Blood is shed, murders are committed, executions are carried out, terror and counter-terror have supervened in the relationship between the Jews and the Arabs, both of whom have a right to dwell in the land which the Lord hath given them. The whole economic revival of Palestine, which was in active progress three years ago, has been cast down. From whatever angle you observe this scene, I say that it is painful. It is even horrible, and mark you, whether we feel it or not, it is humiliating to us in this country. But where does the blame lie? I cannot doubt that a great portion of the blame—ill will there is in abundance, wrong deeds there are done—lies here in London and on the Treasury Bench. When I use the word "blame" I do not mean to press it too sharply upon my right hon. Friend. I do not wish to press it too much upon Ministers, and yet one must press it a certain amount. They will no doubt protest that their hearts are clean, they never willed the great calamity that has overtaken Palestine, they never meant it, no unworthy motive has inspired them for a moment. All that is true. The path of the British Government is paved with good intentions. At every stage they have sought to practice good will and to do right. I admit it, and yet in practice they bear a responsibility which, if it be not blameworthy in a grievous sense, has nevertheless produced the same consequences as blameworthiness would 2031 have produced for bringing about a senseless, needless, and at the present moment, profoundly injurious exhibition of British incapacity.
What is the fault to which the Ministers of the Crown in my view lay themselves open? Kindly, humane, well-meaning men, what is the fault of which they have brought themselves to be accused, not only by their critics in the House of Commons, but in the eyes of the world—in the eyes of the whole world, friendly and hostile? What is this fault? It is the fault, very grievous in persons of high station—it is a fault which amounts to a crime—of not being able to make up their minds. It is a very grievous fault. Confronted with this problem of Palestine, a problem ever intensifying over the last three years, they have been utterly unable to come to a decision. The court is august, the judges are incorruptible, their private virtues are beyond dispute, but the case is urgent, and all they have been able to do in three whole years of classic incapacity is to palter and maunder and jibber on the Bench. I have spoken before of the inherent vice to which this National Government, with its overpowering majority, is addicted. It is the vice of infirmity of purpose, and following from that, an impotence of positive decision. They are suffering from "a decrepitude of the will power" which can easily be traced in other greater and graver fields at this moment which are not relevant to the subject which we are debating this evening.
I accuse His Majesty's Government of having been, for more than three years, incapable of forming a coherent opinion upon the affairs of Palestine. All this time matters in Palestine have been going from bad to worse, and throughout all this period, when the situation was passing continuously out of control, the Government seemed to be constantly seeking the line of least resistance. What is astonishing is that, considering how long they have been looking for the line of least resistance, their patient quest has not been attended with a greater measure of success. They have occasioned the maximum of delay of effort, and the maximum of distress with the minimum of advantage to the people who are the victims of their indecision. A year passes, six months pass—we have a Debate on Palestine. Do not let it be 2032 forgotten that people are dying there, that they are being executed and meeting grisly deaths from day to day and week to week, while here all that can be done is to have from time to time Debates and pay each other compliments, and, above all, run no risks of taking any decision.
I now go back into the recent past. When the troubles arose in Palestine three years ago—not through any fault of ours—what was the remedy of the National Government? The remedy was to appoint a Royal Commission. What a happy, hopeful emergency exit that provided from the immediate difficulty. A Royal Commission, a body of important gentlemen were assembled, headed by the late Lord Peel, and sent to Palestine to find out exactly what the Government ought to do after hearing all persons and parties concerned. There was no need to send such a Commission to Palestine. All the facts were evident and even obvious. Having sat at the Colonial Office on these sort of matters about Palestine, I can assure the House that there was nothing that the Royal Commission, headed by Lord Peel, could possibly have discovered in Palestine that was not already known to the Middle Eastern Department of the Colonial Office—nothing. But the formation of a Royal Commission, with imposing names, the gratifying leading articles in the newsappers, all this was a device to save the Cabinet from making up its mind. Everyone can find comfort and unity in a Royal Commission. I do not say that there are not occasions when Royal Commissions may serve a useful purpose. In the executive government of a country like Palestine, after all these years of the carrying out of the Mandate, the scheme of the Royal Commission was nothing but a council of feebleness and a bankruptcy of ideas.
The Royal Commission was appointed and, of course, it repaired to the Holy Land. It went, and, having trapesed around, it came back to consider its report. Meanwhile, as things were growing worse, there was some anxiety, but the splendid argument of the Government was: "Hush! Do not say a word. The Royal Commission are considering their report. Do not let us say anything to disturb them. Give them fair play. Let them have a chance of presenting their case." Another six months, or, at any rate, four months went towards the evil account of wasted time, upon that 2033 plea, and that alone. At last, their report was presented. We were told, as we are told to-day, that it was one of the finest public documents of our time. The great bulk of the newspapers acclaimed it. The Government sucked it in at once, and rushed to applaud it.
The report was almost unanimously approved. What did it recommend? It recommended that Palestine should be partitioned into two Sovereign States. Let us in cold blood survey what the report recommended, after it had been hailed in this way. It recommended that this small country should be divided into two separate Sovereign States, each of which was to be a member of the then highly-extolled League of Nations. The Government's language about the League of Nations then was very different from what it is now. Each of these Sovereign States was to be entitled to raise an army, and in between these two embattled States of Jew arid Arab, there was to be sandwiched a thin line of British troops, British interests, and would-be British control.
When one looks back, with our short memories, upon those days, a long time ago, some 16 or 17 months, one is really astounded at the universal acceptance of this grotesque proposal. It was only with the very greatest difficulty that the Opposition parties and some of the independent Members of this House persuaded the Government not to commit the House to the adoption of this principle of partition. I remember well that night. The Patronage Secretary had all his men ready. They were ready to vote for partition if the Government asked them, but by coaxing, by cajoling, and by one kind of appeal and another we persuaded the Government not to force the House of Commons to endorse what they now admit was an impracticable policy. In preventing the House from committing itself to this most absurd and most inflammatory scheme the minority of the House of Commons rendered good service. This scheme amounted, in fact, to an almost perfect recipe for breeding an organised civil war which we, after it started, at great cost in troops, money and reputation, were to endeavour to pacify or assuage. It is lucky indeed that the chorus of machine-made approval, unthinking approval—which is so often given to matters that are thrown up today—was corrected by the exertions of the House of Commons, and I pay my 2034 respects to the Prime Minister for not having on that occasion used the machine, which is at his disposal, to ride rough-shod over the sincere and well-informed opinion of a great many individuals in this House.
What happened after the House had persuaded the Government not to commit them to that scheme? The Government said: "Partition is still the policy and the principle but, of course, nothing is going to happen for quite a long time. Meanwhile, there will be further consultations and inquiries." The League of Nations again afforded a wide field for discussion, for consultations and inquiries. In this ridiculous posture, the Mandatory Power, Great Britain, managed with all its widespread but, alas, fading influence, to carry things off at Geneva in the autumn of last year. Time passed and other preoccupations supervened. Meanwhile, the condition of Palestine progressively degenerated. No wonder it degenerated. No policy could be proclaimed by the Mandatory Power. Can we wonder that the position degenerated? The British Government lived from hand to mouth, in Jerusalem, while the responsible Ministers at home held firm to the opinion that nothing was settled and that all speculations and comments were premature.
Presently, it was found necessary to send out another Royal Commission, in order to report upon the first Royal Commission. The second Royal Commission is what brings us to this day's Debate. That Commission has reported that the plan of the first Royal Commission was rubbish, and that partition was impracticable. We have had two Royal Commissions, we have spent all this time upon them, and now where are we? We have to turn to something else. Therefore, my right hon. Friend comes forward and says: "I have a new idea. Let us have a conference. Royal Commissions are worn out. They have exhausted their virtue. It is some time since we had a conference." After three years of chatter, vain, futile chatter on this subject, he announces that we are to have some discussion. It would be laughable but for the grim background upon which failure to meet this situation manifests itself.
I am sometimes twitted with the fallibility of my judgment. God knows, error is easy, but I have always held to the doctrine, slogan if you like—in respect of Palestine—I have repeated it to my 2035 right hon. Friend and he has mentioned it to the House—"Perseverance, not partition." I have not seen any reason to lead us to abandon the task we undertook 20 years ago—no reason of safety or of capacity, so long as we have the strength, the will and the purpose to carry it out. Now, the Government assure us that partition is dead. The report has riddled it and torn it to pieces. I agree with that part of my right hon. Friend's speech where he explained that they have abandoned partition, but I have a certain element of misgiving when I find myself in agreement with the Government upon this point, and I ask myself very seriously whether there is not something wrong somewhere that has not occurred to me.
What is this Palestinian story? It was until recent years one of the best in the history of British administration in alien regions. When I was in Palestine for a short time, three or four years ago, a handful of troops and police presided over a rapidly-developing economic, financial and social well-being throughout the Holy Land. In contrast with the great masses of armed men who were held in French Mandated Syria, the position in Palestine was most remarkable. The cost to the Government of the military forces was no serious burden upon the economic development. The Zionist policy, to which we had pledged ourselves in the stresses of the Great War, was being continued with remarkable success. The Jews were coming in in a steady stream, bringing with them, as every speaker has testified to-day, wealth, development and civilisation. The Arabs—and here again it is common ground—were prospering and greatly increasing in numbers.
People who reproach us for having mishandled affairs in Palestine until the troubles broke out, should remember that the population had doubled. I know of no case where the population had so increased in numbers and in prosperity. That is a test by which the good faith and good conduct of any Government can be judged; there is no better test. You could not have had a more satisfactory development. It showed that honest, clean, humane, British administration had not yet lost its touch, so long as times were quiet. Then the Hitler persecution of the Jews began. The cruel, and forced exodus of the Jews from Nazidom began, and, from the best of motives, under these 2036 cruel stresses, for which we were not in any way to blame, the immigration quota was increased, in my opinion, too suddenly and too rapidly.
When I coined the phrase of economic absorptive capacity I cannot think, so far as my memory serves me, that I meant to exclude other considerations. Obviously, economic absorptive capacity was to be interpreted in regard to the general political situation of the country. It was to be interpreted by the British Government, pledged to the Zionist experiment, and naturally that Government and any office like the Colonial Office must watch its steps and pick its steps from day to day. Here is a country, Palestine, where it is the essence of the duty of the Mandatory Power to persuade one side to concede, and the other to forbear. Here is a country in which British administration has been a success in quiet times; but are we to conclude that British administration in Oriental lands is no longer capable of facing a storm? Is our gift in the Orient capable of being exercised only when the waters are smooth?
We ought to rouse ourselves, because much more than the fate of Palestine is at stake. Our capacity for Imperial government all over the world is impugned. The problem which we have to solve is far greater than any confined to the shores of the Levant, and we have to solve that problem or suffer most grievously. The case for perseverance holds the field. We must not expect that the task we undertook at the close of the Great War and in the hour of victory is one that can be achieved within the compass of our short lives. In Palestine, as my right hon. Friend reminded us, you touch world causes and come in contact with the history of 2,000 or 3,000 years. I will not ask too much of His Majesty's Government, but for the time being, unless we are overthrown in some world convulsion, we have the power in Palestine, the physical power and the legal right.
First of all the restoration of law and order. We are all agreed upon that; and that is being done. I express my sympathy with the Colonial Secretary in having to bear the stress which this task imposes upon the Minister responsible, but he will have the support of all parties in the House in taking the necessary measures to put down murder and rapine and restore respect for Government and 2037 the law. When that has been done, and it is being accomplished, it seems to me that we should come to a decision. Let us make a 10 year plan with the assent, if possible, of all parties and let us enforce that plan with resolute conviction and use all our strength to make it successful. I hold, having been somewhat concerned in these matters, that we have obligations to the Palestinian Arabs as well as to the Jews and world Jewry. I agree with the contention made on behalf of this country and the Government of this country, that we have always observed those obligations. The Arabs may release us from our obligations to them. They may release us from them if after a fair offer is made to them they continue to levy war upon the Crown. At present, as I see it, it is our duty to make a fair offer to the Palestinian Arabs. If they refuse that offer we must still endeavour to do justice; but justice unhampered by any special understanding with them.
Since I have reproached the Government with being unable to make up their mind I will run the risk, and it is a considerable risk for a private Member, of offering a positive plan which I trust may be unfolded to its end without judgment favourable or hostile being formed upon it, in any quarter of the House. It is a plan based on the principle of perseverance, and it is a 10 year plan. Roughly, it is to fix the immigration of the Jews into Palestine for 10 years at a certain figure which at the end of the 10 year period will not have decisively altered the balance of the population as between Arab and Jew. Let us look at the means of determining that figure. In the first place we must consider this fact, stressed to-day in a way which I have not heard it stressed before in Parliament—the great increase in the Arab population during the time of the Zionist policy. Actually the increase of the Arab population, according to the census figures, has been almost as great as that of the Jewish population; according to the figures of the Woodhead Report it has been considerably greater.
I entirely agree with the right hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) that this great increase in the Arab population disposes at once of the suggestion that they are being driven out by Jewish immigrants. They are, on the contrary, 2038 being brought into Palestine, into the sunlight of life by the very process we are pursuing and which we are determined to pursue. It would seem that in the last 15 years an increase of 300,000 according to the census figures has taken place in the Arab population and 315,000 in the Jewish population. Therefore, it would seem to me, having regard to our wartime pledges, that it would obviously be right for us to decide now that Jewish immigration into Palestine shall not be less in any given period than the growth of the Arab population arising largely from the animating and fertilising influence of the Jews. That is one factor which we can adopt in fixing the quota. The average increase in the Arab population is 20,000 to 25,000 a year and the Colonial Secretary has indicated that they look forward to an increase up to 1,500,000 in the next 20 years. It is perfectly clear, therefore, that Jewish immigration is no inroad on the Arab population as long as it keeps pace with the growth of the Arab population. Therefore, the first element in the quota should be the increase in the Arab population, and that gives the Jews, the Zionists, an interest in stimulating an increase in the Arab population, helping them in their employment and bringing the two into a common interest in the matter.
The next question is by how much should this figure of annual growth of the population be exceeded in consequence of our pledge to establish a Jewish National Home in Palestine. I should feel a difficulty myself in giving an exact figure, but it seems to me that we owe it to the Arabs to offer them now that immigration shall not be so great in the 10-year period as to derange seriously the existing balance between the Jew or Arab populations. That would be a great assurance to the Arabs. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of their having fear. I would give them an assurance that in 10 years—it is a long period in the present condition of the world and one which eyes pierce with great difficulty—their position will be substantially what it is to-day; that they will be in a large majority in the country. I quite agree that you cannot expect Palestine to absorb the whole of the exodus of the Jews from other countries, but the figure of immigration is one which should be settled. There is the crux of the matter; that is the question around which fighting is going on, and I think 2039 it should be settled on a 10-year basis. First fix the quota of your immigration and then give this overriding assurance to the Arabs that in the 10-year period they will not be submerged. That is a policy which would, I imagine, yield an immigration figure of between 30,000 and 35,000 a year, if the forecasts of populations are correct.
It seems to me that we have to take a decision on this point. It will be said "Suppose the Arabs do not agree." In that case, as I have indicated already, I think we should feel that we have made them a reasonable offer, and if they do not accept it within a certain time I think we should be entitled to consider our special obligations to them discharged. We should then be compelled to look around for methods of fulfilling our Mandate which would not compel us to keep a very large proportion of the British Army always on guard in Palestine, at enormous expenditure to this House and with very serious dislocations of our military system. If we have not the good will and agreement of the Arabs on this 10 year plan, we must look to other means in that country to discharge our policy, and this can only be found, if the Arabs will not hearken to our counsels and will not accept any offer, in the strong armament of the Jewish population and the main reliance of the British administration in Palestine upon Jewish military strength. Of course, in the event of the Arabs refusing to come to any agreement, there would be in that case no arbitrary limit upon immigration. We should offer them a limit for their consent, but if their consent is not forthcoming and we have to rely on these other elements to maintain our security, then we must have no upward bar except what is practically possible in that respect.
It used to be represented that the Jews in Palestine would be speedily destroyed if they were left alone to face the Arabs. I am bound to say that that was the impression on my mind some years ago; but the situation has changed. Although the Jewish colonies have not been protected by the Imperial Government they have held their own without difficulty and not one of them has been seriously attacked. Very high authorities, some of whom have been in contact with the right hon. Gentleman, fresh from Palestine, have assured me that within a short 2040 period the Jewish population could not only hold their own in Palestine but could if they chose do very much more. Thus it seems to me that the elements of a settlement are present, provided that the British Government produce a clear plan and stand by it. I have not seen much need of the conference in London following on the Commissions, but if the right hon. Gentleman is going to use the conference to put a British policy before them and require a swift and faithful answer from both sides as to whether they will accept the policy, then, indeed, it may serve a good purpose.
We have to do what we think is right, the responsibility is upon us. We have taken before all the world the responsibility for guiding this historic country of Palestine and all the world is watching how we discharge our duty. I appeal to the Government to make up their mind and proclaim a plan, and thereafter to enforce it with persistency so that we do not have any more debate or argument about what we ought to do, but only about how to do it. I think the Arabs should be told quite plainly that unless they accept within a reasonable period of time a fair offer and cease to wage war upon the Crown of Britain we shall have to carry out our plan, not without regard to their rights but without any sense of special obligation.
I have dared to put this positive proposal before the House in no rigid form. I have no doubt it will find its opponents, but at least it is a plan, a policy, and few things are more important at the present time than for the British Empire to have a plan for the settlement of Palestine, a plan on which all parties can agree and a plan in which the House of Commons—not only this House but future Parliaments—is determined to persevere.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Sir Ernest Bennett
Before I say anything about the main subject of the Debate, the Government's White Paper, I should like to deal with the proposal put forward by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) for a proportional division of the population between Arabs and Jews, say 60 and 40 per cent., or whatever it may be. This is not a novel suggestion. It has been referred to frequently in recent years as a means for securing agreement. But let me assure 2041 the right hon. Gentleman that it is far more likely to meet with Jewish than with Arab hostility. Zionist speakers have again and again flatly refused such a minority status, as they call it in Palestine. The opposition will not come from the Arabs. It will come from the Zionists. I should also like to say, in defence of the Government, that I do not think the opposition to the Government's policy of a conference is quite justifiable. The White Paper mentions a conference, but it also mentions that, if the Conference fails, it will be succeeded by a definite plan which will be put forward by the Government and, I trust, carried by a vote of the House. The Secretary of State did not tell us much about the composition of the Conference. I wish to make a plea for the inclusion in it of representatives of a body of people who have been ignored during the whole tragic history of Palestine for 20 years. The Royal Commission speaks in these terms with regard to the claim of the Christians of Palestine to some form of representation on the Conference. It says:The attention of the world has been concentrated on the issue as between the Moslem Arabs and Jews in Palestine to the practical exclusion of the Christian communities. The 500,000,000 Christians of the world cannot be indifferent to the position and well-being of their co-religionists in the Holy land.When I speak of the Christians of Palestine who number 8 or 9 per cent. of the population—something like 100,000—I include not only the orthodox Syrian church but the Anglican community there, and the various Missions, who are not all solidly on the side of the Zionists, and Christians of every kind who have no definite recognition on the proposed conference as far as I know. Of course, my right hon. Friend may say that the Christian Arabs, as such, have no claim to special representation, but from one point of view I think they have. Whatever be the discussions that will take place either at the conference or by the Government when they produce their plan if the conference fails, the question of the Holy Places must bulk largely. I know Palestine well and have visited it probably more than any Member of the House and I know something about the feelings of the Arabs, Christians and Jews towards their Holy Places. To every Christian it seems to me Palestine always has, and always will have, a very deep significance 2042 as the scene of the life and death of their Master, our Lord.
Another question which must, obviously, bulk very largely in consideration of the matter is that of immigration. It is the crux of the whole position. We have had in this House, in the Press, and indeed in the world at large, many moving appeals during the last few days on behalf of the oppressed Jews in Europe. We all sympathise deeply with their sufferings, but that sympathy must not blind us to the fact that the question of the so-called refugees from Europe has very little bearing indeed on the solution of the Palestine problem. I should have thought that the very definite and clear statement the other day by Lord Rothschild would have made it clear to our Zionist friends that, as a matter of fact, whatever the fate of these unhappy people in Central Europe, Palestine cannot conceivably in any way provide an adequate solution for their distress. Nevertheless our Zionist friends continue to press this question of immigration. We have had it again to-night. My hon. Friend the Member for Central Leeds (Mr. Denman) published a pamphlet, which I have read, entitled "Send more Jews to Palestine," in which he is willing to see no fewer than 10,000 extra Jews a month get into that country, twice the peak immigration reached in 1935, which was largely the cause of the Arab revolt. We have had a Zionist appeal in the last few days to the people of Great Britain to open wide the gates of Zion to the Jews. At the Zionist Congress speaker after speaker got up and proposed, not only 120,000 additional alien immigrants but 1,500,000 to 2,000,000. One enthusiast went so far as to say 3,000,000. The Prime Minister calls himself a realist. I wish we would all apply the rules of realism to fantastic conceptions of this sort.
I have looked into the results of an immigration, let us say, of 1,500,000 to 2,000,000, and the figures that come out are these. Taking the area of the proposed Jewish State, to put in that quantity of Jews ab extra would mean a population of the density of 1,250 to the square mile. Belgium, the most densely populated country in Europe, has only 675 to the square mile, Great Britain has 506, Germany 363, and France 197. Open the gates of Zion! What are 2043 behind the gates of Zion when you have opened them to attract this colossal population? Palestine is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its imports always exceed its exports by four to one. It has no coal, practically no timber, a poor water supply, no minerals except the somewhat disappointing potash industry of the Dead Sea. It has no invisible exports except money brought in by tourists. It is dependent entirely on tourists and remittances sent to it by wealthy and generous Jews. That is the kind of country to which you invite immigration in this recklessly fantastic way. The Zionists gain nothing by foolish and delusive figures of that kind.
Various assurances have been asked by various speakers. I should like to ask for one simple assurance. Will the Government take care, when they make up their minds and finally propose their plan, that the Zionists shall not necessarily have the last word? I do not want to be unfair or unjust, but I would recall one or two incidents in this House within a limited period to illustrate what I mean by the Zionists having the last word. In 1930 the Labour Government produced a White Paper. It was a reasonable document which put forward, through Lord Passfield, the Colonial Secretary, the definite conclusion arrived at by the Cabinet. It proposed certain limitations on the immigration of Jews, and one or two other things to which the Zionists took exception. The result was that we had a perfect tornado of opposition, propaganda, lobbying and literature and a series of speeches in this House and the other. The Government capitulated and abandoned the whole scheme.
In 1935 the National Government sent General Wauchope to Geneva to bring before the League of Nations Mandates Commission a plan for the creation of a legislative council, and I remember Mr. J. H. Thomas saying that, whatever happened, the Government intended to go through with that proposal. In another place Lord Plymouth was even more definite and said that, cost what it might, the Government intended to pass it into law. Despite those two pronouncements the Government, in the face of Zionist opposition, capitulated and abandoned once more the considered and mature decision of a British Cabinet. The 2044 result of the last capitulation was the beginning of the present troubles in Palestine. It was followed almost immediately by the orgy of bloodshed which has gone on ever since. I want to know how much longer it is going on. No one wants to be unfair to the Zionists, but I would ask the Government for some assurance that, when their new plan is made, they will not be deterred by mere expressions of opinion in this House—if they put it to the Vote it would be a different matter—and will not be frightened by appeals and attacks which come from Zionist protagonists. I hope that that will not be repeated, and that this time the Government will go through with their plan—if they wish, let it be submitted to the House and let it be decided by the House—and not be deterred by the fractious opposition and views of the people to whom I have referred.
In conclusion, I am sure that all hon. Members wish success to the conference and God-speed to the Government in the plans which they will ultimately put forward. We must all share the feelings of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping: we are tired and weary of this prolonged misery in Palestine. Palestine remains to-day the one outstanding failure of the British Empire. It is now 20 years since we undertook the Mandate as a sacred trust for the welfare of the people in that country, and at that time, 90 per cent. of them were Arabs. Some radical change of policy is long overdue. Arabs and Jews can live together in peace and amity as loyal citizens in a common country, as indeed they are doing in Iraq and in Egypt. They can do it also in Palestine, if a wiser and better plan is proposed by the Government.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
It was with despair in my heart that I listened to the speech of the Colonial Secretary this afternoon. In every sentence of that speech I read the prospect of another appeasement, of another retreat before force, and against justice. We are now to surrender Palestine. We are arranging the obsequies of British honour with great deliberation, and calling in as our judges the various Arab kingdoms, including Iraq, where already they have massacred our friends the Assyrians. We are leaving these people to decide British policy. These surrenders are going on at an accelerated 2045 pace. There were surrenders in Abyssinia, Spain, Austria, Czechoslovakia, and now there is to be one in Palestine. Tomorrow, it may be the surrender of the Protectorates of South Africa, and the day after, Northern Rhodesia. Our Colonies—everything—are being surrendered in this quest to appease people who deliberately use force in order to force the judgment of the English people.
This conference is to take place while rebellion is in full swing. I ask the Noble Earl the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, who is now representing the Government on the Front Bench, what are the prospects of getting the Arabs to come to this conference and getting from them any reasonable and satisfactory compromise solution while rebellion is in full force in Palestine? Every Arab who comes to the conference from Palestine—let hon. Members remember that the majority of the Arabs in Palestine want peace as much as the people of this country and the Jews in Palestine want it—but any Arab who comes to the conference will know that if he makes any concession from the rigid lines which have been adopted by the Moslem authorities, it will mean death for him when he goes home. What chance is there of any Arab accepting anything except that which he has been told to demand? Already they have sent to the Colonial Office their minimum demands. We have nothing to induce them to accept any compromise. Again, the Government will sacrifice the Jews to the violence of the Arabs.
This evening we have had an admirable suggestion for a real settlement from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). I do not like the right hon. Gentleman's proposals in detail, but I like the idea that the Government should make up their mind as to what they want before the conference meets, and not leave that conference to produce the British policy for us. What I want is that the Government, if they have this conference—and I believe it is utterly unnecessary—before peace has been secured, should know what they want first, and then tell the Arabs frankly, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping proposed, that it must be this, or we shall consider that our obligations to the Arabs are ended, that the age of placating the Arabs has 2046 ended and that our policy is the Mandate policy of building up the Jewish Home in Palestine. As long as that is the alternative to agreement, I think there may be chance of agreement, but if there is no alternative to agreement, there is no chance of getting any solution, except the complete surrender of the Mandate and our honour, and the breaking of our word to the Jewish people. The first duty of the Government is to accept the Churchill policy and no longer to sit waiting for somebody to invent the ideal policy in a compromise between two sets of people both of which are incapable of making the surrender necessary to bring about that accommodation.
Secondly, there must be law and order in Palestine before it is of any use hoping that the policy decided upon by the Government will be accepted and put into operation. The situation in Palestine during the last three years would have been ridiculous and comic had it not been so tragic. Ever since the troubles began, it has been obvious that the Government, in Palestine and here, have been so anxious to placate the insurgents that they have never taken proper action to suppress the revolt. When a similar thing happened in Cyprus, the Government at once proclaimed martial law, and suppressed the trouble within a week; they deported the troublesome people, and there has been no trouble in Cyprus since. Exactly the same thing happened in Ceylon during the War. For a short period, there was trouble between the Mohammedan and Singhalese populations; martial law was proclaimed and in a very short time order was restored. The whole trouble passed away, and there has been perfect peace between the Mohammedan and Singhalese populations ever since.
But in Palestine, no. When the Peel Commission issued its report and recommended that the re-establishment of law and order was the first thing to do, everybody believed that martial law would be proclaimed in Palestine and the matter settled. But the trouble has gone on, and all the time the civilian Government have been trying to justfy their prophesy that the suppression of the revolt was impossible, and they have been trying to justify it by not putting their hearts into the business of restoring law and order. The position has been almost comic. At the beginning of the trouble, there were 1,400 2047 Arab police and 300 Jewish police. The Arab police have had all their arms taken from them, because they got into the habit of handing them over to the rebels. They are still paid, but they do little work. The Arab railway staff have blown up the railways, but they are still paid whether they are working with the rebels or are at home. As to the telegraph and telephone operatives, the poles are cut at night and during the day the Arabs in the rebel villages are paid to put them up again.
How can anybody expect an end to be put to a rising of this sort as long as the civil servants, paid servants of the Government, are, either by coercion or by affection, working with the rebels against the Government which pays them? As a matter of fact, during the last three months, the police have at last been taken over by the military, and are now under military control for the first time. In addition, 900 Jewish police have been enlisted and armed in order to do work that could not be done by the Arab police who were disaffected, and many thousands of Jews have been recruited into an additional service to protect the Jewish villages, railway lines, aerodromes, waterworks and pumping stations, and to do convoy work. All these people have been recruited because the Arabs were not reliable. The Arabs have been disarmed, but they are still being paid, and the Jews who have been recruited are paid a small sum. Now over 10,000 Jews have been armed, and they are doing excellent work, but certainly they are not encouraged.
We were told the other day that although martial law has not been proclaimed, something practically as good is in existence, and that the relations between the military and the civil Government are so perfect that all is well. I do not think any of the soldiers actually employed in Palestine would endorse that statement. I want to give the House two examples of how the present system completely fails to put down the trouble. The other day the Arabs massacred women and children in Tiberias, and shortly afterwards the Jews in Tiberias presented to the military in charge in Galilee a scheme by which they would have arms, so that they would be able to act as watchmen during the night and if there was trouble, signal for help from the troops nearby. That scheme was approved by the general officer in command, 2048 who wrote to say that he thought it was an excellent scheme and that it would materially assist if they had this liaison between the danger point and the troops. The military authorities passed the scheme on to the civilian headquarters, where it was turned down. The civilian headquarters said, "No, we cannot issue more rifles to the Jews." This was in a place where a band of murderers had been let loose for three hours and had destroyed the Government offices and killed men, women and children. The military authorities wrote saying that they were very sorry, but the civilian government would not issue any arms and suggesting that the Jews in Tiberias should organise a force armed with cudgels and whistles, so that they could, at any rate, summon help when necessary. I do not know what response has been made to that proposal, but I suppose that there are people armed with cudgels and whistles now engaged in trying to protect Tiberias against people armed with rifles. There is an example of how martial law would help because under martial law it would not be in the power of the civilian government to withhold from Tiberias protection against a repetition of an event which shocked the whole House with horror a short time ago.
I give another example of the difference between what the military want and what the Colonial Office is prepared to allow. This is what occurred in a place now called Isdud, the Biblical name of which was Ashdod. It was one of the cities of the Philistines. A Jewish planter there had extensive orange plantations. An unwise man, he employed Arab labour, which is, of course, cheaper than Jewish labour. The plantations were prosperous and there were large packing houses and sorting houses. In the course of time as the Arab bands grew stronger, they forced the workers on the plantation to leave their jobs just as they did in Jericho and elsewhere. Arabs who were perfectly willing to work and earn their living were forced by terrorism to leave their jobs. I believe that some of the Arabs who remained at work in the potash works were actually tried by court-martial in Jericho, taken to the hills and shot. Under that pressure it is extremely difficult for any Arab to remain at his job.
In this case the whole Arab staff went and the property was left under an Arab police guard. The owner of the plantation immediately applied to the Jewish 2049 trade unions for workers, as it was a time when irrigation was very necessary. The trade unions offered to send down people provided they could have the usual supply of arms in order to protect the colony. Somehow or other, permission to take arms down to this place to protect these people was unaccountably delayed. Letter after letter, and interview after interview, followed, and finally headquarters in Jerusalem agreed that they might have the necessary weapons for their protection. Unfortunately, the night before the permit was issued, an Arab band, probably suitably informed, came down and wrecked the place and destroyed £20,000 worth of property. I ask the Government whether that man whose property was destroyed as a result of that delay in allowing arms to be supplied has any just claim for compensation against the British Government. There is a case of the civilian administration working directly against the wishes of the military administration, and, by their delay, causing more destruction and indefinite prolongation of this rebellion.
Very often in these Debates on Palestine it strikes me that we are looking at the question from an inverted point of view. There is an amount of hypocrisy and almost of humbug about our treatment of it, which strikes me as appalling. What does the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster think would have happened in Kenya had there been a rising of natives against settlers. Suppose that settlers had been killed, their houses burned, railway lines broken up and civil officials murdered. Suppose that had gone on for three years. Can we conceive the Government then calling a conference of insurgent Kikuyu or Masai to sit round a table to discuss terms of settlement. Suppose that these Jews who have been putting up such a fight against great odds had been Englishmen. Think of what the attitude of this House and this country would have been towards a Government which continued to pay the people who were killing Englishmen but refused to pay the Englishmen who were trying to restore law and order. We have got so much into the habit of imagining that the Jews are an inferior race of creatures, that it does not strike us as horrible that the British Govern-merit should be suffering this state of affairs in Palestine to continue and that they should not put forth their utmost 2050 efforts, and use every weapon they have to end it.
I have been told, I think correctly, that the general officer commanding in Palestine to-day says he could finish this business in three weeks if he had a free hand, but apparently there is no more sign of it being finished to-day than there was six months ago. It is still dawdling along and the Government hope, by calling together the Mufti and other rebels who have been at the back of this rising, and getting them to sit round a table, we may induce them to compromise with the people whose kin they have been massacring. It is outrageous and ridiculous. Let us understand what these gangsters are. They are a small proportion of people who are paid to do this work, or who are stimulated to do it by propaganda, coming mostly from Germany. A man who came from Germany the other day told me that in Berlin any number of Arabs are being specially trained by Germans to carry out this sort of work in Palestine. The people of Palestine as a whole, the unfortunate villagers, are being blackmailed and coerced to send a certain number of young men from each village to these bands. They know that the young men are likely to be killed, but they are forced by terror to do it Think of the people in Jaffa where all trade is dead. They are starving in the streets of Jaffa, all because the British Government have not the courage to put down a lot of gangsters who are doing this work in order to injure the British Empire, and without caring a jot for nationalism or the interests of their own country.
That is what you have to face. You have only to read the German Press day by day, and listen to Goebbels over the wireless to realise what they think in Germany about what is going on and how they are enjoying this "death of the British Empire," this senility which is creeping over Great Britain. Our troops in Palestine, who are well able to do the job, are hamstrung and held back by a pusillanimous Government who dare not offend a Government like the Iraq Government—a Government which, only four years ago, massacred our friends in spite of our protests and is very largely now coerced by and in the hands of Germany. Who will be at the back of this round table conference? Who will really dictate terms to the Arabs? The German 2051 Government. Whether you get in the Mufti or not, the people who will dictate the terms will not be those who are suffering from this "unrest," as they call it in Palestine. It will not be the victims, either Arabs or Jews, but people outside who have a vested interest in trouble. As it goes on year after year, you get to this point, that the looting bands and the murder bands also acquire a vested interest in their jobs. It has been said to me that the Thirty Years' War would never have ended had the troops engaged in it decided the issue, because actually they had acquired a vested interest in murdering people at the public expense. In the same way, the gangsters in Palestine have a vested interest in their tyranny over the people and in what they can get from the Arab notables, some of whom have fled, and some of whom are still being blackmailed. They have a source of income in this terrorism and blackmail and no trouble about it. But we treat them all like perfect gentlemen. They can hide their rifles and appear to be peaceful villagers, and nothing happens.
There you have the situation in Palestine to-day. The trouble is not being suppressed, but a conference is to be called to encourage the people who have made the trouble, and behind that conference is a foreign Power only anxious to deal a deadly blow at the British Empire. The Government are considering whether they should not surrender to this bare-faced threat, instead of restoring our honour and prestige by putting an end to the trouble. Everyone knows that it could be ended at once if we threw open the doors of Palestine and let in the Jews. There is no doubt about it. There are 10,000 armed Jews now doing work there, which has won the admiration of the British soldier. There could be 20,000 to-morrow. Throw open the doors of Palestine, and it will not be the Jews who will be massacred but the gangsters who will be exterminated. If we find a place for the Jews who have been expelled from Germany, if we find a place for them in, say, British Guiana—which is perilously close to Devil's Island where they sent Dreyfus—if we find the money to establish them, we may put down £20,000, £30,000 or £50,000, but what will happen? Countries like Poland and Rumania, where they have exactly the same problem as the Germans, where 2052 they have a large number of what they call "surplus Jews," will see that if they only start German methods against those Jews, England will kindly relieve them of the responsibility.
More and more countries will follow that example, and where is it to end? You put 20,000 Jews into some alien country and dump them down among a people who are far more numerous than they are—a people with whom they will compete and whose brains they will probably improve, and what will be the result? In 50 or 100 years' time you will have the same problem over again. "This wretched, alien people, a minority in a strange country—kick them out, murder them again, and send them somewhere else." Do you think there is a Jew in the world who will back schemes of this sort, even if it is in Tanganyika? They have had enough of it. The Jews will go to Palestine. If they do not go there with your consent, they will go there without your consent. They are going home at last. They have had enough of this. They know perfectly well that for any man who reaches Palestine to-day there must be work there, but if not, he can starve among his friends there instead of being starved and bludgeoned to death by his enemies. They like work, if they can get it, and I believe that wherever there is land there is an opportunity for work. But if they cannot get work, let them starve. It is better for a Jew to starve in Palestine, in his home, than to be killed at Sachsenhausen, or Dachau, or some of those foul torture places to which they are being sent at the present time. The only way out is Palestine.
There is some talk about 10,000 children going out there, but it is not of them that I am thinking. It is of the wives of the men in Dachau, in these concentration camps, that I am thinking. What about them, not knowing from one day to another whether their husbands have not been brutally beaten to death, with their bank accounts closed by the Government, not daring to show themselves in the streets, not daring to go into any public place, starving in their little flats as long as they are allowed to have a flat, with no chance of getting any money or food. Now we have the British Government refusing them visas to come into this country, even though people are prepared, as I am prepared and as every 2053 Member of this House would be prepared, to look after them. We are told by the Noble Lord that if we got these people here, it would rouse anti-Semitism in the country. I know my countrymen a good deal better than does the Noble Lord if he thinks they are not appalled by these things.
§ The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Earl Winterton)
Will the right hon. and gallant Gentleman be good enough to quote from the speech in which I am alleged to have made the remarks which he attributes to me?
§ Colonel Wedgwood
I will not quote the Noble Lord, but I will quote his "boss," the Home Secretary, who, speaking on Monday last, said, "We must remember that if these people come in here, we risk the rousing of anti-Semitism in this country."
§ Earl Winterton
I must interrupt the right hon. and gallant Gentleman again, because he is making a most unfair attack on my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary, who said that there were being issued at this moment visas—and I know it for a fact—for Jews to come to this country in as great numbers as to the United States of America, and he merely gave a warning that one has to have regard to these matters to which the right hon. and gallant Gentleman referred. May I tell him that I have seen recently some of the leaders of the Jewish community in this country, and they are equally clear that a situation might arise such as the Home Secretary mentioned?
§ Colonel Wedgwood
That may affect leaders of the Jewish community. They may be anxious to save their skins at the expense of these refugees, but it does not affect the working class of this country, who would do anything to save these victims and who would not be inspired by the Fascist Press and the Fascist party with anti-Semitism in order to salve their consciences. All this anti-Semitism comes from the Fascist movement in this country, and unfortunately this Fascist movement has a large hold on the Government Front Bench. Does anybody doubt that? [An HON. MEMBER: "Yes."] I am very glad to hear a disclaimer, but I am not certain whether it came from the Noble Lord. But even if there is a danger of anti-Semitism in this country, then, for goodness' sake, allow these people to go 2054 to Palestine. If you do not want them to come here, where humanity and Christianity would at least give them a chance of life, let them go to Palestine, to their friends, and do not keep them out of Palestine because you are afraid of offending a gang of murderers in Palestine. What we want to do is to look upon the problem that faces us, and that faces the Jews in the world to-day, as though it were our problem. Do not let England become a country inspired by selfishness and nationalism. At least we on these benches are internationalist in our outlook, and we feel, just as strongly as though it were Englishmen who were being persecuted in Germany to-day, the wrongs that are being inflicted there upon helpless men, women, and children.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Sir Walter Smiles
It seems to me curious that I should be speaking immediately after the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), because it was he who advised me to go to Palestine and see the way in which Palestine was being administered by the British Government. It is some time ago now since I went there, but at the time that I went I was proud of our administration and still more admiring of all the great work which the Jews had accomplished there. I thought some of the remarks made this evening by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who is not now in his place, were rather ungenerous. He did not say a word about the personnel of that Royal Commission, or at least he did not say anything good about them. After all, the members of that Royal Commission, under Lord Peel, were some of the most distinguished administrators we had, and I consider that their report was a very well-thought-out report and one that gave a great chance for working, although no one has said a word in favour of it to-day.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme seemed to forget the conferences that took place about the years 1919 to 1921 in Ireland. It is nothing new for the British Government to invite into conference people who have been in active rebellion against them, and at any rate we cannot afford to hold up our hands in surprise and horror at the suggestion. I think the right hon. 2055 Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) did a great disservice to the Jews this afternoon when he started to compare them with the Assyrians. I have seen the Assyrians, and I have also seen the Jews, and one cannot but admit that the Assyrians as a people are 100, 200, or perhaps 300 years behind the Jewish community. If the same number of Assyrians had gone to Tel-Aviv in 1921 and onwards I am sure you could not possibly have seen anything like the city that is there to-day, and it is quite unfair to compare the two communities. The Jews would succeed where the Assyrians would starve.
The Balfour Declaration has been quoted over and over again to-day, but no one has quoted the letters written by Sir Henry McMahon during the War, when he was High Commissioner for Egypt. There is no doubt that it was due to those letters that the Arab rebellion against the Turks started, and I consider that no proper credit has ever been given for the able administration and help given to the British Government during the War by Sir Henry McMahon.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Did not Sir Henry McMahon write to the "Times" only a year ago and deny that there was any promise by him at all?
§ Sir W. Smiles
I have read the actual text of the letters, and I dare say the right hon. and gallant Gentleman has also read them. They are available in the Library here, and it seems to me that if it had not been for those letters of Sir Henry McMahon's in the first instance, it is very doubtful if the Arab rebellion would have taken place at the time that it did, and even after the Balfour Declaration, Commander Hogarth and another gentleman whose name I have forgotten went to the Red Sea to interview the Arabs, and if it had not been for that, it is very doubtful if the Arabs would have continued the rebellion.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
Does the hon. Member really suggest that the Arabs in Palestine fought for us in the War? They fought against us.
§ Sir W. Smiles
I say that up to the time of Allenby's advance there were negotiations going on in Palestine with the Arabs' in the Turkish army, and many Arabs did desert from the Turkish Army and help 2056 us. At any rate, there was considerable friction going on in the Turkish Army at the time of Allenby's advance. I think that friendly Arabs gave very useful help to the British, and probably one of the reasons, or indeed the great reason, for the terror and murder that are going on in Palestine to-day is the great success, energy, and brains of the Jewish community there. When you go there and you see an Arab fellahin ploughing his little bit of land, with a wooden plough, drawn by a camel or by a donkey, and then you see the Jewish settler, with modern agricultural instruments, backed by great finance, with co-operative societies to look after him, to see that his land is properly fenced and manured, and to see that he is able to sell his produce, you realise that jealousy must occur. I think one great reason, too, for the rising is that at up to date the Arabs have always rejected the Balfour Declaration completely, and so far no one has been able to make them accept it. One would imagine that the Colonial Office were always in a way dominated by the Foreign Office or by the India Office, who have to watch the effect upon Moslems in Egypt, Arabia, and India. It is only a few years ago that the Mufti did go to India and try to raise Moslem support in his favour, and I do not think he was very successful, but I think the Foreign Office have always to be careful of the effects of anything done in Palestine on Arabs, on India, on the United States of America, and on the rest of the world.
With regard to partition, one wonders whether eventually, if Jewish immigration is to be let loose completely and without restraint, as the right hon. and gallant Gentleman suggested, it will not have the effect of making considerably more trouble in Palestine. I am quite prepared to admit that the Jewish community are able to look after themselves Up to date they have been well disciplined through all these rebellions and murders, and I am quite prepared to admit that they are brave and courageous and will make good soldiers. Indeed, we know they will make good soldiers, but for all that we must have some consideration for the Arabs who live in Palestine.
I know that it is the popular thing nowadays to belittle everything that has ever been done by any Fascist country, but I might remind the House of the settlement of the Italian colonists lately in 2057 Libya. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I thought that not every hon. Member would agree with that, but at any rate it is a great attempt to settle these surplus Italian people in a colony, and I understand that one-third of the value of the land was given to the displaced Arab population by General Balbo and that two-thirds was lent to them when they were moved. At any rate, compensation was given to the Arabs to allow these Italian colonists to settle on their land, and I would suggest that it might be just possible for something on those lines to be done in Palestine. There was a transference from Turkey to Greece and from Greece to Turkey under the auspices of the League of Nations which, I understand, has turned out very well. No matter what sacrifice or discomfort people who are transferred were put to at one time, it might be better to get it over at once as the Greeks who left Asia Minor and went to Greece learned, rather than to he always at enmity with their neighbours.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney criticised the Palestine Government in regard to municipal affairs, but I criticise the land settlement of Palestine which is not nearly as good as in India, that only one-third of the territory of Palestine has been settled, and that even to-day the Palestine Government do not know how much waste land they actually own. I do not think that the Arab kingdoms adjacent to Palestine have been very helpful. There was an article in the "Times" written by Mr. Montague Bell on 23rd October in which he wrote about the conditions in Iraq. He made the remark that Iraq wanted population because the work was available, but there was no population to do it, and that Iraq could never supply the population that it required from inside the country itself. Here is a chance for the King of Iraq to be helpful to the Arabs in Palestine by offering them work and land in Iraq. It would be much better than inciting them to rebellion. We see almost daily in the newspapers men of the Royal Ulster Rifles or some other regiment ambushed and killed or wounded. Now that a conference, and I hope a round table conference, has been decided upon, I would point out to the Colonial Secretary that during the conferences in Ireland in 1920 and 1921 some people, one man in particular, was 2058 excluded. Afterwards he said he would have nothing to do with the Treaty that was made, and when he was in power he would have nothing to do with it. Only the other day we had to alter that Treaty again. If we are to have a conference, experience has taught us that everybody with any power or hope of political power should be present. Otherwise the time may come again when its provisions will be repudiated and the experience we have had with Eire repeated.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. McGovern
I must agree with some of the comments that have been made to-day, that the Colonial Secretary has, as usual, made a good speech. After giving us a description and analysis of the situation, however, he failed to tell us the mind of the Government on this grave problem which is resulting in such tragedy and bloody warfare in Palestine. The comments that have been made about the Government of Palestine must, I think, in all reasonableness be accepted as proper comments to make in the circumstances. Members of this House may make their contributions to the problem and offer certain suggestions, but, after all, the Government must accept final responsibility and present to the country and the world some policy for a settlement of the tragic failures of the past. I have said before that this problem is presented to us as a case of the Arab people in Palestine seething with indignation and straining at the leash in order to loose themselves in a terrific assault upon the Jewish community which has immigrated to Palestine.
I tried to apply a reasonable and open mind in my observations during the time I was in Palestine, and I say no evidence of this tremendous antagonism existing among the ordinary men against the Jewish community. It is true that an atmosphere of antagonism has been stimulated by interested parties. We know from past evidence that the Mufti has been the centre or the head of the reactionary warfare that has gone on. He was deposed after a period of almost 20 years, during which, the former Colonial Secretary admitted in this House, while he had been in receipt of British money he had been traitorous in his conduct of affairs and hostile to this country. He 2059 received monetary payments and rendered service not to the cause to which he had given his oath of allegiance, but to other forces carrying on warfare in the country.
There is evidence over a period of years to show that the Government of this country have failed completely to understand and to appreciate the grave problems, either because of a lack of understanding of the reports they receive, or because of the failure of the men on the spot to get proper information and to apply their minds in a proper way to the difficulties of the situation. Therefore, the Government have been lax and have failed in their duty, not only to the Jews and the Arabs, but to the people of this country and to the soldiers who are dying in trying to put down the civil war that has been allowed to raise its head owing to the Government's failure. I admit that under any system of society law and order are essential and that we must have an executive authority which will command a measure of respect. It can command that respect only if justice and mercy are extended to the community, and, at the same time, if it takes decisions of a courageous and decisive character.
I see no evidence of those conditions in Palestine. Antagonism has been allowed to develop when in the early stages strong, decisive and energetic action could have stamped out the terrorism and murder, and the Government have allowed conditions to reach a state when armed forces are essential to suppress them. In the process the soldiers and the military authorities although they may be carrying out action which they consider necessary, are, owing to the blowing up of Arab houses, the taking of people out of their beds, and the imprisonment of probably innocent victims, bringing further antagonism into the country. Owing to the lack of energy and decision of the Government, it has been allowed to develop, and now the Jewish community is suffering in consequence. I say, with all the loathing I have for dictatorship, that a democratic Government can only justify itself if it is capable of dealing in an energetic and speedy manner with problems that arise, realising its duty to the general community. Today we have this tragic drama being enacted in Palestine, and I hear from 2060 time to time suggestions that the Jews should not be permitted to go into that country.
I thank God as things have developed that Palestine has been in existence to rescue the large number of people who have been the victims of the pogroms and bloody brutality of the Hitler regime in Germany. If they are not to be permitted to enter Palestine where are they to go? Is the whole world so bankrupt in statesmanship that it cannot solve the simple problem of taking 500,000 people and putting them into areas, including Palestine, where they can be relieved from the tremendous agony and the blood-bath which is going on in Germany. I am told that Palestine cannot absorb these Jewish people in large numbers. Let me give a quotation from Sir Charles Warren, who made a statement on this subject in 1875. He wrote several books on Palestine exploration and made a number of maps of the country. He proposed- at that time that Palestine should be handed over to a company similar to the old East India Company, to be developed and governed for 20 yearswith the avowed intention of gradually introducing the Jews, pure and simple, who would eventually occupy and govern the country.He said:Palestine is about the size and shape of Wales, and has a population of about one and a half millions. Give her good government and quicken the commercial life of the people, and they may increase tenfold, and yet there would still be room for more. The soil is rich, the climate so varied, that within ordinary limits it may be sail that the more people it contains, the more it may. Its productiveness will increase in proportion to the labour bestowed on the soil, while a population of 15,000,000 might be accommodated here.To-day there is a population of something like 1,500,000 to 2,000,000 people. Granting that it is an exaggeration to say that a population of 15,000,000 could be accommodated, drawing the line at, say. 7,500,000, there is tremendous leeway to be made up before it can be said that the country has had its complete quota of men and women. We are told that we have to pay heed to the Arab opposition. If there were genuine opposition on the part of the ordinary men and women of the country, I should be prepared to go a long way to meet it, but who is the man who was at the head of this agitation and revolt? The Mufti. I am told that 2061 he has been repudiated by 75 per cent. of the moderate leaders, who say that he does not represent them and has been a menace to their interests in that country. The massacres have been directed against the Arabs as well as the Jews. About 10 Arab mayors have been shot, and scores have fled to Egypt, Greece or Turkey because their lives were threatened. The ideas of the Mufti have come from the countries of their origin, Italy and Germany. His whole ideas are totalitarian. He does not permit to exist in Palestine any party which has a different point of view from his own. No cultural organisation is allowed to exist among the Arabs if it has a different point of view from that of the Mufti. No Arab newspaper is allowed to criticise his policy.
Is not that very similar to the policy of the Hitlers and the Mussolinis—to say, in effect, "I am the ruler over the destinies of the men and women in this country. Everyone is united with me, because I refuse to allow any person to criticise or oppose me"? That is what is being done in that country. Friendship towards the Jews or towards this country is not tolerated by the Mufti and those who are associated with him. When the hon. Member for Camlachie (Mr. Stephen) and I were going round that country we suggested that as souvenirs of our visits to the different villages we and the head men, the sheiks and a number of the people, should have our photographs taken together, but they always objected unless we gave an assurance that there would be no reproduction of the photographs either in Palestine or in this country. The objection was always the same—they said that their lives would be in danger if those photographs came into the hands of any of the people who were conducting the terrorist campaign. They had even been threatened if they did not break off friendship with the Jews who were working and co-operating with them in the villages.
At the conference which took place in Syria 12 months ago, at which the Mufti presided, the arrangements were in the hands of German and Italian agents, and I have no doubt that the financing of this murder campaign has been largely in the hands of the Italian and German Governments. I wonder why we have to "pipe down" to such an extent in regard to Italy and Germany that we cannot admit 2062 facts which are known throughout the world to-day regarding the hand those two dictators have taken in affairs. I can go into an anti-Jewish exhibition in Vienna and see the Minister for War in this country portrayed as a Jewish Minister; I can pick up newspapers in Germany and see prominent statesmen of this country reviled and caricatured in the most hideous way; and yet, at the same time that this warfare is being encouraged, and that money is being expended to stir up trouble against the Jews and against Britain itself, we are told that nothing must be said in this Debate, or any other Debate, that would disturb those people, because we must not give offence to them. I say of those bloodthirsty and bestial beings in Berlin and Rome who are responsible for the murder of human beings in that part of the world, and for the murders that are taking place in Berlin and throughout Austria and Germany, that it is not right that we should be asked to "pipe down." The conscience of the world must be aroused to the tragedies and the brutalities that are being enacted. I say frankly that we ought to show the world how agitation is going on and money is being supplied from those countries in order to stir up revolt. We ought not to keep it in the background, but let those people know that we are aware of it.
We have been told in the Debate to-night that there have been offers from the Jewish community in Palestine to take in 10,000 Jewish children. Is there anything to prevent those Jewish children being taken into Palestine? Do the people of the world know how Jewish children are being treated in other countries; because the war is certainly not carried out against Jewish adults only? In Vienna alone every public place, every boulevard, every garden, every public park has its notice prohibiting Jewish children from going there to get air, and daily those children are taken, under escort, to the Jewish cemetery in order to get air and God's sunshine. Those children are confined to the back lanes, the narrow streets and the tenement houses. Their mothers are refused milk for the sustenance of the children by the so-called Aryan shopkeepers, at the dictation and under the eye of the secret police. The whole physical well-being of these children is being menaced, and they are suffering mental agony.
2063 I visited a home where there was a young boy of seven years of age. Under the dictation of the secret police and Brownshirts, roughs had assaulted him at the public school, and from April up to the time I was there, which was at the end of September, that boy had never been able to go out in public. He was black and blue. His body was bruised. He had come home from school in that state, as other Jewish children had come home from school. His whole spirit was broken. He was afraid. His parents could not get him to go out into the open, because he was afraid after the beating he had got at the school. We are pleading that this pressing problem of sending at least 10,000 children into Palestine should be attended to at the earliest possible moment.
From time to time the question is asked, "Where is the money to come from?" I am amazed at the Government holding back on account of money. They have been throwing money around like water for armaments, they have been throwing it around feting royalties from other countries in order to try to buy the support of those countries if war should come, but when we ask that 10,000 children should be succoured and taken out of this living hell, every sort of argument and excuse is used against it. They could take every boy and girl from 10 years of age to 25. I believe that 30,000 of them could be taken into Palestine immediately and trained for colonising and agricultural work.
One of the things at which I was amazed in Vienna, as well as in Berlin, was that everywhere I went there was a colonising training centre. After a tremendous amount of pleading the Jews had been allowed to establish that sort of thing on the outskirts of Vienna. A member of the secret police had to go with me to see that no political talk took place in the colony. I found that 500 girls were being trained, and that there were professors, doctors, teachers, lawyers, typists and others. They were working with picks and shovels trying to train themselves for colonising work. Part of the training was study of the English language for two hours every day, because those people had a blind faith that the British Government would give them the opportunity of going to Australia, Africa, Palestine or some part of the world where they would 2064 be prepared to work. Many of them said, "We will work and build up, even if we have only our food, clothing and shelter, so long as we are taken out of this living tomb."
I therefore say to the Colonial Secretary that the objections that are being put up in regard to migration on a grand scale into Palestine are not real but sham. In political struggle, if you give the other fellow the feeling that you are afraid to face the situation, in this case in Palestine, you might as well pack up and clear out of the country entirely and leave it to the Dictators to continue their efforts there. We ask you, who are in charge of this country: make a gigantic effort. We are told that there will be Arab objection and that we have to invite them to a conference. What will happen at the conference? What is the mind of the British Government? Are they to bring these people together and say: "We will shut you in a room like a jury at a murder trial. We will come back in a few days, and if you tell us what your decision is we will carry it out, whatever it is"? Is that real government? Is that wise statesmanship? Is that intelligent leadership? Have you any contribution to make to this problem? If you have not, hand over the Mandate to some other nation. Give arms to the Jewish people of Palestine. Give them a right to enter the country. They will build it and they will defend themselves. They will also find a method of co-operating with the Arabs. There is no antagonism between Arab and Jew. What we see is only a false antagonism developed by the feudal people who, throughout history, have always, and to the last ditch, resisted progress.
Palestine was living under a feudalistic regime which did not want to see industrialism develop. Those people want to live as lords economically, with their slaves around them bowing, kneeling and crawling in the dust. They give their slaves alms occasionally but they always give themselves place, power and wealth. They are resisting progress in this part of the world. Economic development is essential in the country before any large-scale immigration can take place. The country has been created, and the people are prepared to receive refugees at the rate of 100,000 a year in order to develop it. After all, the East must be developed along lines similar to those of other 2065 countries. You cannot allow continuance of the present backward state of filth, disease, ill-health and low standards, as these have existed in Palestine. We know that the Arab has benefited from the presence of the Jew and from the developments that have taken place in Palestine, not only industrially but on the land. I have heard Arabs say that the Jews had taught them how to take 10 times more out of the land than they had ever dreamed.
British engineers said that there was no water to be had for irrigation in certain parts of Palestine, but the Jews refused to heed the advice. Whether from blind faith, energy or determination they searched for months, tapping and sinking, until at last they discovered water. When the water was discovered, as the Arabs themselves told us, it was made the common property of all. The Jews did not say that as they had put labour into it they were going to reap the benefit of it to the exclusion of the Arabs; no, they invited the Arabs to take part in Nature's benefit. This plentiful supply of water was provided by the effort of the Jew, but it was given to the whole community as a right. In the health-giving services, borne entirely by the Jews out of their own incomes—I refer to hospitals, schools, clinics and medical services—the Arabs freely share. We have gone in and seen Arabs being treated without payment, as an act of mercy towards people living in inferior conditions.
On the other hand, we have gone into Arab mud villages. If there was one thing about which I should agree with the military, it is in blowing up such villages, which would be a godsend to the Arabs, for whom other habitations could be found. They are steeped in filth. My hon. Friend the Member for Camlachie and I went to one village and saw little straw huts with people lying on the floor. The heads of cattle lay about, and all the blood was lying in the doorway. We were nearly up to the knees in mud. At one place we were asked to take coffee, and I had to make my decision in accordance with that of my hon. Friend, who decided not to take coffee in such surroundings. Children were going about blind because of the filth. The Jew comes into this part of the world and shows a higher standard. He gives cultural development and places his knowledge and energy at the service of the 2066 Arab as well as of the Jew; yet we are told that the Jews are a menace there.
I have tried to understand the objection of people in this country to the Jew. At a boarding house in the West of Scotland where I stayed in the summer, one man refused to go to the Glasgow Exhibition because Eddie Cantor was there. He said he would not go because Eddie Cantor was a Jew. I said "What have you against the Jews?" He answered, "I have never known a Jew to work with a pick and shovel." I asked him: "Do you work with a pick and shovel?" He looked at me as though he was insulted, and he answered; "Certainly not. "I said" You spoke as though you liked it. "I may tell hon. Members that I have worked with a pick and shovel, and that the happiest day of my life was when I laid down the pick and shovel. I am not going to "kid" anybody that I liked it. I can do it in the garden for pleasure but I do not want to do it to order. I said to this man: "You do not seem to be abreast of the times. I have seen Jews working with pick and shovel, women tiling bathrooms, tiling and laying floors and working in the factory. I have seen them as engineers, truck drivers, seamen and dockers, and tilling the soil in the orange groves, working from early morning until late at night. They seemed never to want to stop working. I have seen energetic men and women such as I have never seen in any other part of the world. We saw a women's colony, where there was no male labour. They had over 2,000 cattle and 1,500 orange trees, and grew grape fruit, grapes and other products. We met them in the colony and saw them working at every kind of laborious task."
I said to him finally, "Do you know that in these colonies they never receive any wages, and do not desire any wages for their work—that they are putting their whole effort into the general communal good of their own people, to get their roots in the soil, because they were told that the great obstacle was that the Jew was living on the surface, and, owing to the fact that he had been driven from country to country, could never get his roots into the soil?" Palestine gives them that opportunity of getting nearer to Nature, of getting their roots into the soil, and creating and building up a country where they can exist in peace and 2067 harmony with their neighbours. They want to live in harmony with the Arabs, they want to co-operate with the Arabs, but they can only do so if they are allowed to get protection, or to give themselves protection in their struggles with terrorism manufactured by the brutal bandits of Italy and Germany, those bloodthirsty and tyrannous despots, those very elements of the gutter who control in Germany and Italy to-day, who have disregarded every law of God and man, who are prepared in the most brutal way to stamp their faces in the gutter.
I say that these people have to be protected, have to be given an opportunity to be rescued from this living hell in central Europe. Humanity has to remember that, while it is the Jew to-day, it will be the British subject to-morrow. We can call conference after conference, but, unless we are prepared to back those conferences by the will, determination and decision of the British Government, they will come to naught. You must make up your minds what you intend to do in this country. Get rid of this vacillating policy, make your decision as a Cabinet and as a Government, and carry it out. My own opinion is that, in any policy that is enunciated, such as a federation, if you like, of Arab States, wherein Palestine can play its part as a Jewish-Arab State, it must be possible for the people to live in harmony and co-operation, with guarantee for their religious and racial aspirations. In that situation, unlimited immigration of the Jewish people for the rescue of the refugees from Central Europe must take place, and we must honour the obligations that have been undertaken under the Mandate, and give protection to human beings that are in the world to-day, because anti-Semitism seems to grow more quickly even than the Jew himself can pursue his ordinary struggles throughout the world. I ask the Colonial Secretary to invite the Government to make a decision quickly in the interests of humanity, and to give to this harassed and tortured people at least peace, even if it is in a home in Palestine.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Ralph Beaumont
Sixteen months ago this House gave its approval to the Government's decision to go to Geneva 2068 and put forward a policy of partitioning Palestine, as recommended by the Royal Commission. To-day we are assisting at the burial of that policy. Nobody liked partition, but many of us favoured it because we could see no other solution to the deplorable state of affairs in Palestine. It is true that that policy pleased nobody. It was rejected by the Arabs, and even the scheme put forward by the Royal Commission had many disadvantages and, in one direction in particular, inflicted great injustice upon the Arabs. Nevertheless, those of us who sympathise with the Arab point of view felt that partition, even although it meant the permanent loss to the Arabs of a very valuable part of Palestine, would at any rate have given them security from further encroachment on the territory that remained to them, and would also enable them to attain their aspirations in the direction of self-government.
Since that time, however, the Wood-head Commission have examined the problem, and, as a result of their report, one is driven to the conclusion that it is quite impossible to devise a scheme of partition which will be satisfactory to both parties. In each of the three alternative schemes which have been suggested, immense difficulties are encountered, such as the existence of large minorities, the impossibility of drawing a frontier which would be capable of defence, and the precarious financial position of the proposed Arab State. In view of these and many other difficulties, and also in view of the fact that the four members of the Woodhead Commission were themselves unable to agree on any scheme, it seems obvious that partition is almost impossible to carry out, and there is no doubt that the Government have been wise in giving up the idea of partition as a possible solution of the Palestinian problem.
It is, however, rather tragic and ironical that, of all the reports which have been issued on Palestine, the only one which any Government has really been prepared to carry out has now proved to be incapable of fulfilment. We therefore find ourselves back again where we were before the Royal Commision went out; We are still faced with the same problem, and in the meantime the state of affairs in Palestine has been going from bad to worse. But while the actual plan recommended by the Peel Commission 2069 has proved to be incapable of fulfilment, I hope we shall not forget the arguments and findings which led the Commision to its recommendations. The Royal Commission just like the other commissions, came out entirely in favour of the Arabs, but on this occasion it went even further than the other reports, and declared definitely that the Mandate was unworkable. It stated that:The obligations Britain undertook towards the Arab and the Jew … have proved irreconcilable; and, as far ahead as we can see, they must continue to conflict. To put it in one sentence, we cannot, in Palestine as it now is, both concede the Arab claim to self-government and secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home.They asked:Can it be the duty of the Mandatory, or, indeed, is it in the interests of the National Home itself, to allow immigrants to come into the country in large numbers without any regard to an increasing hostility? … The principle of economic absorptive capacity is at the present time inadequate, and it ignores factors in the situation which wise Statesmen-ship cannot disregard.The Peel Commission is not the only Commission that has favoured the Arabs. The Shaw Commission warned the Government against excessive immigration, while Sir John Hope-Simpson reported that Arab unemployment was widespread and serious, and that there was already not sufficient cultivable land for the Arabs; and he was opposed, at any rate for the time being, to the admission of any more Jewish immigrant settlers on the land. What was the reply to these recommendations? Immigration, which at that time was about 5,000 a year, rose in 1932 to 9,500, in 1933 to 30,000, in 1934 to 42,000, and 1935 to nearly 62,000. In view of these figures can the Arabs be blamed when they say they have no faith in Royal Commissions, and are they not perfectly justified when they say they cannot trust the politicians of this country? They are quite convinced, and no argument can alter that conviction, that under the terms of the present Mandate they are not getting a fair deal.
There are three main causes of Arab discontent. In the first place, they base their claim to Palestine on what is known as the "MacMahon Pledge." They assert that Palestine was included in the area in which Arab independence was to be recognised, and that the British Government broke their pledges. On the other hand, successive Governments have 2070 denied this, and have asserted that Palestine was excluded from the pledge. We must therefore take it that that was so. But, as the Royal Commission has pointed out, it is most unfortunate that the Government's intentions were left so vague, and the Arabs have certainly had grounds for the feelings of injustice that they have harboured ever since. In the second place, they have an ardent desire for self-government, they have seen neighbouring Arab States attaining it, the Mandate points the way to the development of self-governing institutions and they see in the establishment of the National Home the negation of their rights in this direction. The third cause is the fear of economic, and even political, domination by the Jews, by this creeping invasion which has been going on so steadily and relentlessly. However much the Jew may argue that immigration benefits the Arab, the Arab is entirely unconvinced and his view is well summed up in the memorable words of the Royal Commission:You say we are better off, you say my house has been enriched by the strangers who have entered it. But it is my house, and I did not ask the strangers in, or ask them to enrich it; and I do not care how poor and bare it is if only I am master in it.Therefore, while the Government have decided to abandon partition and to try to solve the problem on the basis of retaining Palestine as a single unit and by conference with the parties concerned, they must bear in mind that there can be very little chance of a settlement without some alteration in the Mandate and I should like to see it made plain beyond all doubt that Palestine cannot provide a solution of the Jewish problem. The idea still seems to be widely held—we have heard it expressed in this Debate—that Palestine should be regarded primarily as a place of refuge for Jews who are unable to remain in their own countries. No one can fail to be appalled at the plight of the Jews in Central Europe and there is no one who does not regard with abhorrence the persecution to which they are being subjected. But Palestine, a. country the size of Wales, with a large existing population, could never possibly absorb more than a limited number of refugees. Palestine has its own problem, and I would like the right hon. Gentleman to make it perfectly plain that our policy with regard to Palestine shall be based on the interests, the needs 2071 and the potentialities of that country alone, and shall not be dictated to us by any events in Europe or elsewhere. Palestine has already made a very great contribution to the solution of the Jewish problem and the fulfilment of the Mandate.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. Morrison) made the point that the number of Jews who have come into Palestine is negligible compared with the size of the Jewish problem. That may be so, but it is by no means negligible from the point of view of the problem of Palestine itself—which, I maintain, should be the main criterion. About 300,000 Jews have been brought into Palestine, and we have tried so faithfully to carry out the first part of the Mandate—the provision of the Jewish National Home—that we have been in danger of neglecting the second part—the safeguarding of the rights of the existing population and we have undoubtedly caused in the minds of the Arabs serious alarm as to their future position in Palestine. Every one, I think, will welcome the Government's intention to try to arrive at a settlement by means of agreement between the parties concerned, and we all hope most fervently that the various parties will accept the invitation to attend the Conference, and will come with a real desire to arrive at a solution honourable and satisfactory to all parties.
There are two things I would like to say about this conference: one by way of approval, and the other by way of criticism. First, I welcome the intention of inviting representatives of the neighbouring Arab States. These States have watched with great concern the trend of events in Palestine, and have shown great sympathy with the Arabs there in that country. There is no doubt that events in Palestine had had serious repercussions throughout the Moslem world, and that Moslem friendship for this country has been severely tried. The invitation to these States is a recognition of their vital interest in the welfare of their fellow-Arabs in Palestine, and it also opens the door to a possible solution embracing a very much wider area than Palestine alone. My point of criticism is this. The Government have stated in the White Paper that they must reserve the right to refuse to receive certain 2072 Arabs, of whom, one gathers, the Mufti of Jerusalem is one. I do not believe this is an auspicious beginning to the conference for no conference is likely to succeed unless the recognised leaders of the Arabs, whoever they may be, are permitted to attend. It may be that many of the Arab leaders have been instigating or assisting the revolt, for, after all, let us make no mistake, this rebellion is not the work merely of a few firebrands: it is widespread, and has the support of a large part of the Arab population in Palestine, as well as strong sympathy, and perhaps support also, from Arabs outside. If we are going to start excluding all those who have organised or taken part in this revolt, the exclusions are going to be very numerous. Besides we have found on other occasions in recent history that we have had to negotiate with people who have taken a prominent part in rebellion against us, and I believe we shall be no more able to pick and choose on this occasion if we are to have any hope of making the conference a success.
It is indeed deplorable that after all the British lives that were sacrificed to free the Arabs from Turkish rule, we should have to sacrifice more British lives in suppressing this rebellion against us by those whom we have liberated. It is a tragedy that all the great benefits that have been conferred on the Arabs in Palestine by British occupation should be forgotten in their fierce opposition to the policy we have tried to carry out. We have seen racial animosity growing more and more bitter, and British administration growing more and more unpopular, and we have been in serious danger of alienating the friendship, which is so valuable to us, of large sections of the Moslem world. I welcome the Government's declaration because it holds out one more chance—and it may be the last—of repairing the damage and restoring the friendship. If the Jews and Arabs can come together with a real determination to arrive at a settlement satisfactory to all parties, we may yet see the end of a racial bitterness which has increased steadily ever since the War, the removal of a standing cause of unrest in the Middle East, the closing of one of the most depressing chapters in the history of British administration, and the beginning of a new and more happy era in the history of Palestine.
§ 8.55 P.m.
It is somewhat difficult to approve or condemn the Government to-day, because there is no policy before the House. However, it is a depressing and an unpleasant fact that to-day, after having been responsible for law and order in Palestine for 20 years, we see there a state of chaos and disorder which has never been equalled in any other part of the Empire. I do not blame the present Secretary of State, who has inherited a very complex and complicated problem. It has been made worse by mistakes in administration, and it has been aggravated by years of indecision on the part of a succession of British Governments. I think that he is facing his problem to-day with good will and with perseverance and patience which, I hope, will have their reward. At present the only thing to be done in Palestine is to re-establish law and order, and I am convinced that this House would give my right hon. Friend and our authorities in Palestine full authority to employ any means and methods necessary to reestablish law and order. He has summoned a round table conference. We hope that it will be a success. I would suggest that, perhaps, at some moment before that conference is over, it would be perhaps wise and helpful to invite a representative from the United States of America, in whose domain live more than, one-third of the whole Jewish population of the world. It often happens that an outsider can make a contribution towards the satisfactory solution of a problem out of all proportion, perhaps, to his immediate interest in the discussions.
Anyone who has travelled in the Middle East who recognises the power and the influence of the Mohammedans in India would indeed be foolish if he did not realise the necessity of good and peaceful relationship between this country and Mohammedans and Arabs throughout the world. To be pro-Jew or pro-Zionist does not mean that we are necessarily anti-Arab. To be in favour of a policy of the establishment of a National Home for Jews in Palestine is merely supporting a policy which has been constantly pursued and enforced by every Government since 1917. Our promises to the Jews are definite, and they have been, as I say, constantly endorsed by Governments of all shades of political opinion in this country. They were made in the 2074 War when our needs were great, and it is inconceivable that any Government should either try to ignore or to minimise them to-day. The Balfour Declaration stands, and we shall never solve the Jewish problem or get out of our difficulties in Palestine by trying to whittle them down in order to please and placate temporarily someone else at the expense of the Jews. The Jew and Arab have to live together in Palestine. There are 450,000 Jews established there to-day, and nothing but extermination would ever drive them out, and I do not think that anyone will deny the restraint and self-discipline shown by the Jews in the last few years. But we cannot trade on that beyond a certain point.
I recognise that the problem has been made very difficult by two events in recent years—the rise of the Nazis to power in Germany, and also the rise of the spirit of Arab nationalism in the countries surrounding Palestine. I admit at once that it is extremely foolish to under-estimate the extent of Arab feeling to-day. Although most people will admit that on some occasions it has been fanned by extremists for political purposes and subsidised by outside Powers, to-day it represents much more than the opinion of just a few Arab leaders. What is the basis of this Arab sentiment to-day? Hatred of the Jews born of fear? But fear of what? Fear of good government, of law and order, of high wages, of a better standard of life or of the social benefits which the Jews have brought to Palestine? These are all things that the Jews have done and have brought to the benefit of the whole of Palestine, Jew and Arab alike. No, it is not that. It is fear of political domination by the Jews. I am convinced that the Jew has no ambition or desire to dominate the Arab. He wishes to work and to cooperate with him, but to co-operate on equal terms and not in a state of perpetual minority—co-operation with parity.
The Jew is just as anxious to work with the Arab as, I believe, some Arabs are to work with the Jews. To pretend that Jew and Arab cannot work together is really begging the facts. In dozens of villages in Palestine I have seen, as have many hon. Members, Jews and Arabs perfectly happy working side by side until they have been interfered with by outside influences. The potash works in the north and south of the Dead Sea 2075 during the Arab general strike two years ago took on over 400 additional Arab workers. The Arab workers came to Jewish employers and said, "We wish to work for you. Protect us from our own people." I am certain that there is a vast field in which Jews and Arabs are willing and content to work together. I would like to make this further point. Owing to recent events there is no doubt that a large amount of Arab property and industries have been destroyed not by the Jews, but by the Arabs themselves—Arab terrorists, and I believe that the only chance that these Arabs have themselves of restoring some measure of prosperity to their own vineyards, citrus groves and factories is through the increase of Jewish capital and Jewish influence. [Interruption.] It is nice to find someone who has a solution for the Palestine problem. I am one of the few Members in this House who are in favour of the policy of partition. I believed in partition before the Royal Commission reported. Their report endorsed my views on the subject, and, curiously enough, even now I believe that some form of partition is probably the best, and, the only solution of our problems in Palestine to-day.
I listened with great interest, as we all did, to the arguments of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), destroying the case for partition. All those arguments of the right hon. Gentleman were present to the minds of the members of the Royal Commission. They were not inexperienced people, who knew nothing about administration. They spent many weary months on the spot examining and discussing every phase of the situation, and they came to their decision. No one suggests that there are not objections to partition. Of course there are. Many of the arguments which we read in the Woodhead Report were present in the minds of the first Royal Commission, and after taking all those facts into consideration they came to the opinion that partition was the best solution.
Sometime or other the setting up of a Jewish State in Palestine will come about. We shall have to do it sooner or later, and the sooner we do it the better it will be for the Jews, the Arabs and ourselves. Why was it that Parliament hesitated to endorse partition in our discussion some months ago? It was not 2076 because partition gave the Jews too much, but very largely because it gave them too little. If partition goes by the board, what have we left? A return to the Mandate. The Royal Commission examined that, and almost all of them—at any rate, a large majority—came to the opinion that after what had happened in Palestine a return to the Mandate was politically impossible. Does anybody really believe that you can to-clay work the Mandate and at the same time control immigration?
The argument which convinced me finally on this question was that we have in Palestine, rightly or wrongly, two different forms of civilisation, side by side. On the side of the Jews we have a civilisation which is modern and most up to date, while on the side of the Arabs —I am not criticising it—we have a civilisation which resembles more the sixteenth than the twentieth century. I believe that it will be impossible to administer those two forms of civilisation under one administration. Moreover, it has always been the policy of this country when governing peoples, less educated and less cultured, when those people have reached a certain stage of civilisation to give them a certain measure of independence and self-government. To try and rule from Whitehall half a million Jews would be impossible. Therefore, on that argument I believe that partition was right, is right and will ultimately appear in some form in Palestine.
We have heard to-day how Palestine is closely connected with the problem of the refugees. It is rather an irony of fate that at this moment when everybody in the civilised world, indeed, throughout the world, is anxious to do something to help the Jews in Central Europe, to Palestine, at practically no cost to the taxpayers of this country or of any other country, 100,000 Jews could go next year, but owing to the political situation that desirable object cannot be fulfilled. May I here digress, but I think the point which I am about to raise is pertinent. We are all glad about the Government's proposals regarding the settlement of Jews in British Guiana, Tanganyika and elsewhere. That will be a long, slow and costly business, but if it is going to help to solve the problem, we all support it. It is, however, only tinkering with the problem if we settle 10,000, 20,000 or 30,000 refugees. What is that number 2077 when there are 1,000,000 Jews in Germany alone, not to speak of 1,000,000 in Poland and several hundreds of thousands more in Hungary and Rumania?
The scheme which I should like to put forward is one that finds a good deal of support in America, both from Jews and Christians. It is not an entirely new scheme, but it has certain new aspects. It is this, that wealthy Jews, particularly those in America, should buy a large block of land, if possible, in Portuguese West Africa. The land is available and suitable. There are practically no natives and no inhabitants in that particular area. I do not know whether or not the Portuguese Government are willing to sell the land, but if so, it would be an immense advantage and would bring great wealth to that part of Africa, and great wealth to Angola and the harbour of Lobito Bay. The suggestion is that they should buy the land in fee simple and, if we cannot set up a State for Jews in Palestine, that we should set up a Jewish State in that part of Angola. It would have this advantage that the Jews there would be in control of their own immigration. No doubt it would be expensive and difficult and would take some time, but anyone who has seen what the Jews have done in Palestine must realise that the word "impossible" does not exist in the modern Hebrew dictionary.
If that State were set up, it would do much to relieve the pressure at the present time in Palestine, and we could go to certain European countries, some of which, I understand, have said that they would consider this proposal, and say: "If we by this means can find a solution, and take young Jews in your country, will you, while the scheme is in process, give them economic facilities, and will you also stop all anti-Jewish legislation while the plan is in operation?" I do not want to adumbrate the plan at any greater length, but if some such scheme is put forward I would ask His Majesty's Government, together with the United States of America, to consider it sympathetically, because we have not yet heard of any alternative proposal which seems to me to have greater hopes of success.
I admit that there is doubt whether the Jews of this country, or in Europe and elsewhere will ever consider any territory in which they can put their money and their energy other than Palestine. For 2078 the Jew in Europe no other place in the world can be an alternative to Palestine. That leads me to ask: Can Palestine solve this problem? At the moment it cannot deal with the numbers that I have mentioned, but I do believe that if we could get a great settlement of Arabs in Transjordan, we could place an enormous number of Jews in the next two or three years, greatly to the benefit of the Jews and the Arabs. Fifty years ago there was a great scheme for building what is known as the Bagdad railway. The idea was that 20 miles on each side of the railway should be handed over to Jews from Russia and Poland. At that time exhaustive surveys were made as to the quality of the land, and I believe that that land to-day is just as capable of development as it was then. There are millions of acres there, in the northern part of Iraq, along the Euphrates, which could be developed and would bring immense benefit, not only by relieving the problem of the Jews, but bringing great sources of wealth to those Arab countries which are just in need of that kind of economic development and culture, and in need of finance as well.
Whether you give the Jews a State in Palestine or elsewhere, I must emphasise the importance of giving them a State. Why? For 2,000 years we have had a Jewish problem, and to-day we have a golden opportunity of solving it. Everybody to-day is pro-Jew, temporary, for the moment, but we must make no mistake about it. In almost every country where people are paying lip-service to the sorrows of the Jews there is an undercurrent of anti-Semitism. If you stretch by ever so little the immigration of the Jews you will see it rise up, and it might very well create an atmosphere, a situation, comparable with that in the countries from which the Jews have just fled. I do not believe that you will solve the Jewish problem by a dispersal of the Jews into countries which are already thickly inhabited. The problem goes somewhat deeper. We have to try and solve, and we have an opportunity now, the Jewish complex, and nothing will do so much to solve it as to give the Jews throughout the world a sovereign State of their own. It is only then that they will lose some of the unpleasant characteristics which 2,000years of persecution have given them, and which would probably have come to us if we had suffered in the same way. As long as a Jew is persecuted in 2079 any part of the world, then a Jew in other lands must recognise his obligations as a Jew, which transcends his nationality whether it is English, French or American.
Once persecution is over you will solve the Jewish problem. The Jew, be he American, French or English, will become 100 per cent. American and 100 per cent. French and 100 per cent. English. I believe that some of us will live to see the day when many hundreds of thousands of Jews will be completely assimilated to the country where they live and, incidentally, I believe that vast numbers of them may become Christians as well. The point of these remarks is that in the solution of the Jewish problem Palestine will, and must, play a vital and decisive part. I hope and pray as fervently as anyone that the round table conference initiated by my right hon. Friend will succeed. If patience, perseverance, tact and good will, which we know by has devoted to many of the thorny problems in the past, receive their reward, then the success of the conference is certain, and that success will bring not only the untold benefits of peace and prosperity to Jew and Arab alike, but go a long way to restore once again the prestige of this country as a great administrator of distant lands.
§ 9.19 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
The Secretary of State for the Colonies when opening the Debate made an appeal to hon. Members to refrain as far as possible from criticism of his proposals. In fact, he met the House with the very old and very human appeal which is summed up in the words, "Do not shoot the pianist; he is doing his best." I did not notice that the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) exactly responded to that appeal. He made a speech which in his favourite adjectives he would describe as a grievous and sombre criticism of the Government which imposes grave and erious and formidable stresses upon them. But then the right hon. Member is likely to be a critic of any Government of which he is not a member. When I was in Palestine at Easter I was told of two phrases which had done, in the words of the official speaking to me, incalculable harm in the affairs of that country. One was the slogan that "The Mandate is not workable," which of course is quite untrue, and the other is that phrase about 2080 "economic absorptive capacity," of which the right hon. Member for Epping claims the parentage. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping introduced to us, with some circumstance, a ten-year plan for the solution of the troubles in Palestine. The last occasion on which I heard that plan unfolded was in Palestine at Easter and I must say that I think it is a plan which has some good points about it and I will recur to it later.
I am very anxious to refrain from criticising the Government's proposal for this round-table conference. For good or evil the Government have decided upon the conference, and whether one feels hopeful about it or not it is essential to give it a fair run. I think that the success of the conference must largely depend upon how far the Arabs and the Jews believe that Great Britain is completely impartial in holding the scales between them, and it would be a pity if things were said which might convey the impression that we are divided into two camps of supporters of either side on this subject. It is very essential also to remember that this is not only an issue between Jews and Arabs. Our soldiers and police as well as Arabs and Jews are being killed and our good name is suffering and our ability to govern is being questioned. On that account personal prejudices and feelings should be put on one side in an endeavour to promote what may lead to a settlement. I agree that the Secretary of State has inherited a very evil legacy and succeeded to an unenviable task. He may well feel that it is an accursed spite that he was born to endeavour to put Palestine right. But the Government are now pinning their faith to this round-table conference, a proposal which the right hon. Gentleman has stoutly defended. He may recollect that his predecessor defended the policy of partition no less stoutly. I remember the remarkable speech in which the late Colonial Secretary introduced the Debate on the Peel Commission's Report, a speech which I re-read this week and which will stand for all time as a wonderful testimony to the knowledge and devotion he brought to his office. In that speech he used these words:The Commission itself came to the conclusion that there is no alternative and that in the end we shall be driven back to proposals on these lines.2081 But the round-table conference is an alternative to those proposals. The right hon. Gentleman said that the Peel Commission were led to propose partition by the force of "irresistible logic," but he also went on to say that that conclusion had now turned out to be "impracticable." I thought those remarks revealed a certain confusion of ideas. While the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor said that no alternative held the slightest chance of success, we are in fact now committed to the alternative of a roundtable conference.
I never thought myself that the Peel Commission Report deserved all the praise that was lavished upon it—the historical part of it, yes, but I thought the constructive part was very hastily conceived and spatchcocked into the report. When I was in Palestine I found only two officials of any standing who had a single word to say in favour of partition, and one of them lived in Transjordania; otherwise I found no one who believed it to be workable and I hope it is for all time abandoned. But is this round-table conference in fact a practicable policy? Will those Arab leaders who alone can implement an agreement and put it over to the Arabs consent to meet the Jewish leaders round a table? We know the fate of the so-called moderate Arabs. Can we hope that any really effective Arab leaders will in fact dare to meet the Jews at this conference? We remember the fate of some Irish leaders who negotiated a settlement. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is quite right when he proposes, as procedure, that the Government should first negotiate with the Arab leaders and then with the Jewish leaders, and thereafter endeavour to bring both sides together at a round-table conference. To try to start by bringing them together would be to court a failure.
As regards the conference, we must recognise that it can bring out no new facts at all. All the facts are already known, and the position really is that Jews and Arabs alike believe that we have not yet made up our mind. So long as they think that each believes that some advantage over the other can still be wrung out of an irresolute Government. The Mufti said a little time ago that independence was something that had never been granted. It always had to be taken. That seemed to me to indicate a very dangerous frame of mind on his part. I 2082 understand that the position is that, while the Government is prepared for certain Arab deportees being allowed to participate in the conference, they absolutely draw the line at the presence of the Mufti. The Mufti is undoubtedly the fons et origo of the trouble, but is it possible to arrive at a settlement to which he is not a consenting party? How far is it true that he controls so large, so influential and so essential a section of Arab opinion that any settlement arrived at without him is foredoomed to failure? Whatever the upshot of this conference may be, we must acknowledge the all-important point that it involves more delay where there has already been far too much delay and where delay must increase the danger. Whoever I spoke to in Palestine told me the same thing. They ascribed the troubles unanimously to the hesitations, the vacillations and the procrastinations of the home Government. That was one of the few points upon which all shades of opinion were unanimously agreed.
One official to whom I spoke said, "Give us a policy and we will put it over for you." I well remember another official saying, "It is a thankless task to sit here trying to run things when there is no plan to run them to. It is nerve-racking work, but one would not mind that if one thought one was working to a settled end." The official who spoke those words has since been shot at his desk carrying out that nerve-racking task of which he spoke. It is a fact that the past inability of the Government to make up its mind as regards its policy has cost the lives of officials who were serving it. Irresolution has taken its toll in death.
We have to remember the Prime Minister's words the other day about the anonymity of civil servants. I thought myself that, if the Prime Minister has to go to the Ministry of Labour for an adviser, the inference is that he does not find anyone at the Foreign Office who believes in his foreign policy. On that account I am glad to notice that so far the right hon. Gentleman has not shown any signs of going outside his office for an adviser on Palestine, but I hope I am not violating any rule when I say I think we are fortunate indeed in our representatives in Palestine at present. I met many of them; some of them, not unnaturally are rather tired men. I was especially 2083 impressed by some of the district commissioners, for imagine the strain under which they carry on their work, unfortunately in many cases unable to trust in the loyalty of native clerks and servants, and on that account living always under the menace of betrayal and possible assassination.
Something has been said about the work of the police and of the soldiers and how the soldiers show their usual good nature and good temper while working under very trying conditions. All that is true, they are a credit to their country. There is no need to repel or deny the inventions in the German Press, which are the products of the warped and distorted mind of the German Minister of Propaganda, but it is relevant to recall that the murder of that District Commissioner to which I have referred was not followed by an Arab pogrom, as the murder of a German diplomat was followed by a Jewish pogrom in Germany. Those who make these accusations in the German Press might remember how largely the situation in Palestine is the result of Italian and German propaganda and money disseminated and spent there. I did regret to find that there were accusations levelled against British soldiers and police by British subjects who should know better. I went into some of these atrocity stories. I was given every opportunity of investigating the conditions under which searches and operations in the villages are carried out. I can only say that, on the most impartial and thorough investigation that I could make, I was satisfied that the military and civil authorities take every precaution and issue every possible regulation to ensure that no undue violence is used on these occasions and that if such violence occurred it would be severely punished. I was immensely impressed by a personal letter which one high military commander issues to every officer joining his command, conveying his views upon this subject. If you want atrocity stories, and you are well-to-do, certainly you will have no difficulty in getting hold of plenty. Korans are easily torn and planted.
There is one word that I should like to say about the general officer commanding because certain criticisms have been levelled at him in regard to death sentences. I know that that officer feels exactly what every Member of the House would feel regards the power of 2084 life and death, that it is a most dread responsibility which occasions the most intense repugnance. I mention the matter only for the reason that I may remind the House that, by a strange coincidence, the general officer commanding in Palestine is also a barrister-at-law, which I think should be reassuring to his critics on the question of the power of life and death which lies in his hands.
I would like to bring to the notice of the House certain conclusions which I formed as a result of the visit I paid to Palestine. First, I think we must remember that the strategic importance of Haifa and of the whole Palestinian coastline has become immensely more important since the time when the Balfour Declaration was made. Events in Spain—I will not go into them at any length—whatever one may think of the rights and wrongs of the struggle there, have enormously added to the strategic importance of Haifa and the Palestinian coastline. It seems to me to be essential for our security that no unfriendly influences should ever be given an opportunity to deal us a stab in the back in Palestine, now so essential to our security in regard to—I will mention only two matters—the pipe-line at Haifa and the defence of the Suez Canal. So much for our own interests in this matter.
Coming to the matters at issue between the Jews and the Arabs, I feel that the essential thing to make clear is that we are not going to give the country either to the Jews or to the Arabs, and that we are not going to divide the country between them; in fact, that we are prepared to transfer the Mandate only to a bi-national government and that until a situation is arrived at in which Jews and Arabs can live together and work together and co-ordinate in a bi-national government—as I believe they can—so long we shall continue the Mandate.
Two other points to which I will refer are land and immigration. It was naturally impressed upon me at every turn how much of the present ill-feeling has been due to the sale of Arab lands to the Jews. If any more land is to come into the market in Palestine, if there are to be any more sales of land, then I venture to bring to the attention of the Secretary of State a proposal that neither Jew nor Arab should be able to purchase such land, but that it should be purchased by the Mandatory Power and leased on 2085 the advice of a joint board on which Jews and Arabs would be represented. That at any rate, would be one way in which the Jews and Arabs could be brought together and taught to work together, for I think they would serve on such an advisory board concerned with the leasing of land.
As regards immigration, undoubtedly it is the fear reasonable or unreasonable, of being swamped by the Jews that is at the bottom of the Arab unrest. If it were likely eventually to remove the Arabs' fears and suspicions, I think it must be worth while to consider how far we are prepared to meet the immediate fears of the Arabs about Jewish immigration. It is on that score that I feel there is a great deal worthy of consideration in the plan to which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) has referred, namely, that for a period of, say, 10 years there should be some restriction of immigration so that the Jews during that time, would not form a majority of the population. I know that may not be a very popular view to put forward, but in urging its consideration, I do so only because I feel that in the long run the essential thing for the Jews is that this fear which the Arabs have of the Jews' numerical superiority should be removed. It is only by removing that fear in the immediate present that Jew and Arab can ever learn to work and live together happily. When they do learn to do so, the fears of the Arabs will pass away and they will discover inevitably that they have much to gain and nothing to fear from Jewish immigration. When that happens new vistas will open out to the Jews. When I visited Transjordania, and also met the Emir in that desert camp which has been spoken about, it was impressed upon me that the Jew would be welcome in Transjordania provided that he brought no "politics" with him. There is, then, that vista which opens out to the Jews, that not only in Transjordania, but in Syria, Iraq, and Mesopotamia there may be opened out the possibility of immigration, and that there they may revive an old and glorious civilisation athwart the trade routes to India and to China.
Jews and Arabs already are able to work together in some places. I visited a Jewish settlement where, on most nights of the week, they were fired at by Arab 2086 snipers, and they had a very elaborate defence system of warning rockets and lights; but during the day the Arabs used to come in to discuss with the Jews various agricultural problems. I think agriculture is one of those matters which can bring the two races together, for after all, if a cow is sick it is sick in just the same way whether it is an Arab cow or a Jewish cow, and Arab and Jew can find something to talk about which is of mutual interest in the curing of that cow.
I would like to say a word on behalf of the Arabs in regard to those Arab villages which have been mentioned to-night. I visited some of them, and there are no words in which I can describe the dreadful filth, squalor, misery and degradation of them. I know that a great deal has been done by the Government and that certain efforts have been made, and I know that money which might have gone to improve the conditions in those villages has, unhappily, had to go in military expenditure; but even making all such allowances, I cannot help feeling that more could have been done, and that more can be done, on behalf of those villages and the Arabs living in them.
We have got to get a settlement in Palestine, We have heard a great deal about the re-establishment of law and order, but aeroplanes and machine-guns cannot of themselves ever produce a settlement. Palestine has now become an acid test of our ability to govern and to do justice. I cannot accept the view which has been put forward to-night by the Secretary of State that the responsibility for bringing about a settlement does not rest upon the Government alone. If the Government are unable to solve the problem, great damage will have been done to our prestige and to our reputation throughout the world. I wish to utter my earnest hopes that we may all unite to solve this problem, to the en, hancement of our own good name in the world and to the end of giving peace, security and prosperity to both Jew and Arab in Palestine.
§ 9.45 P.m.
§ Major Sir Ralph Glyn
I am sure that all of us who listened to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) felt ourselves largely in agreement with 2087 practically everything he said. This Debate seemed to develop at times into a discussion of all the problems of Jewry, but we are concerned with Palestine and Palestine is under the British Mandate, and it is our business to see that we carry through the Balfour Declaration in all that it means. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State to-day made a speech which, I think, we shall all remember. It was a speech such as we expected to come from him, and it was a speech that should give confidence to both Jew and Arab. Very often we feel that experts are the most dangerous people in the world, but I am sure that enthusiasts for a cause, be it Jew or Arab, are equally dangerous.
Listening to the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) I felt that certain things which he said would not be helpful to the future happiness of either Jew or Arab. We know that they must live together, and we know that in the attitude of Zionism there is something more than the question of a home, in the sense of the actual spot of ground on which a Jew may live in Palestine. There is a spiritual something about Palestine to the Jews, and I have often wondered whether some further work could not be done by those who have already done so much for the Jews in order to increase the size and scope of the university in Jerusalem and make it possible for young Jews, no matter where they live, to do their period of university training in Jerusalem. No Arab would object to that. The small university which is now in Jerusalem could, I believe, be made a most useful centre for Jews throughout the world and it would contribute something to meet that urge and that longing which Jews have to be associated with the land of their fathers.
It is most unfortunate that the terrible affliction which has fallen upon the Jews in Europe should have come at this time. It has not only done harm to the general prospect of appeasement, but it has undoubtedly affected the prospects of the forthcoming conference on Palestine. A number of my own friends are Arabs—men whom I knew when Lawrence of Arabia and I used to live in the same mess —and I ask hon. Members not to forget what we owe to the Arabs for what they 2088 did in the War. We owe a lot to the Jews for what they did in the War but we owe a great deal to the Arabs. I think that Lawrence, towards the end of his life, realised that he must not do anything to make his friends the Arabs think that it was not possible for Jew and Arab to work together. I am convinced that that was his view towards the end of his life, and if he were alive to-day, I should have no fear of the conference. We have to carry on to-day in the spirit which he so well described in his books. There may be those to-day who do not remember the things which Lawrence did, but his name is still one to conjure with in the East, and I think that those who know his work would like to see the spirit which he inculcated into the Arabs brought back to life, because that spirit would mean prosperity and peace for both Jew and Arab in the East.
The hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton mentioned the strategic side of the question. That is, undoubtedly, of the utmost importance but if we are to achieve anything by this Debate we must take the long and not the short view. We are dealing with the future happiness and prosperity of thousands of men, living in the most famous land in the world—a land for which we are responsible—and that land can be made peaceful only if we recognise the fact that the Arab states are, at this moment, clamouring for greater recognition. I believe there is a chance of some kind of federal scheme. It must be worked out by the Arabs themselves but that does not remove from us one whit of our responsibility as regards Palestine. I would urge this consideration on the Secretary of State. If we want to get a settlement let us not restrict the Arab representation at the conference. Let us realise that they must appoint their own delegates—otherwise we shall not get a final decision. I would also throw out the suggestion that the journey to London is a long one for some of the Arabs and if at first the Government do not succeed with the conference in London, why not have a conference in Cyprus, a British possession, ideally situated and easily reached where it would be, I believe, easier to gather the Arabs not only from the states around Palestine hut all kinds of Arabs. The Jews would have no objection to going there, and I am convinced that a conference there would be a more intimate thing, a more Eastern 2089 thing, if you like, because the fogs of London in November and December are not very attractive to Arabs and they are a little suspicious of what may happen to them when they come here.
All the Arabs whom I have met suggest that we should get back to a recognition of the proportions of the population, and whether it is the old 40–60 proportion or whatever proportion you like to take, as long as you are sure of keeping more or less to those proportions, I believe there is not an Arab who would not like to see equality of franchise throughout that country. I remember a Debate in 1922 soon after the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) had gone to Cairo with Lawrence. A White Paper was published which indicated the tremendous cost which this country was then suffering, in maintaining garrisons in Iraq and Palestine. It may interest the House to know that the White Paper stated that the cost worked out at £500 per soldier per year and for every 2,000 men the British taxpayer had to pay £1,000,000 a year. We went through all that and then something happened which upset all the wonderful work of administration then being done. We must remember the work of Lord Samuel. It has not, I think, been mentioned to-day, but he did great work and he opened up the minds of many Arabs to the fact that a Jew could be fair and reasonable, and that Jew and Arab had equal rights. In considering the time when he was High Commissioner we must remember what happened to upset the whole of that work. There is no doubt it was the raising, rightly or wrongly, of the flood gates and allowing so many Jews to go into the country. Do not let us repeat that mistake.
I am, I know, saying something which is unpopular, but I have as much sympathy for the Jews who are being persecuted as anybody in this House, and I say that in the long run it will not be to their good to let them go in now. It will be to the detriment of the country, and I am convinced that if as a result of the conference it is possible to get, in Syria and Iraq and Transjordan, some sort of federated scheme for the Arabs, then the Arabs in their own interests will welcome the settlement of Jews. They can see the wonderful work, the incredible and marvellous work, that is being done in 2090 Palestine. If that can be repeated in the other Arab states you will get rid of those terrible and unsightly miseries of the Arab camps—the ophthalmic children, the flies, the smells, and all those things. Those who have had experience in the East have only to shut their eyes and the sense of smell recalls those conditions. The dung of the camels, the stink of the flies, and all the horrors that we know—all that will be swept away more quickly if you have the understanding that in the other Arab States, by the advent of money, of culture, and of decent conditions, you will get prosperity for the Arabs and they will not be packing their tents and moving off, but will be moving in to permanent abodes.
When that time comes, I think we shall feel that any horrors that we have been going through—for they have been bad, and our prestige has undoubtedly suffered—must never be repeated, and if it should be that we were to allow sentiment to get the better of our heads to-night and recommend, as one or two hon. Members have done, that we should throw discretion to the winds and alienate Arab feeling, not only would this conference be a failure but it would be a bad clay for the Jews already settled there. So I think we have come to a turning point. Let us remember the wonderful self-sacrifice of all the officials and the soldiers, and the wonderful work done, in spite of what was said by the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme. All the Arabs on the railways are not blowing up the lines. There are hundreds of Arabs working on public services who are running risks daily and doing their work magnificently, and it would be a great pity if anything said in this House to-night should go out to discourage those men who, in the most trying circumstances, are showing themselves to be loyal servants at the work they take in hand. The Arabs and the Jews are depicted in this House as being at each other's throats, but when you go out there you find that the one thing they want is to be arm in arm and working together.
If we could possibly strengthen the Secretary of State by saying that if, during the period of the conference, it is necessary to have complete law and order, I, for one, would like to see martial law proclaimed, because I believe that by 2091 that means you would encourage the law-abiding Arabs and Jews and make the matter more simple. But be that as it may, when this conference meets let it meet with the knowledge that we are not going to allow the country to be flooded as a result of these extraneous events in Europe, but will stick to our bargain in increasing or decreasing in flow of migration, and then I am certain that the efforts of the Secretary of State will be crowned with success and hon. Members in all parties will feel that we have established something which is worthy of the best traditions of this country. We are, after all, the greatest Moslem Power in the world, but we are Christians, although it seems to-day that there are people who are not Christians, but if we can prove by our acts that Christians and Moslems can live together, then surely the Jews can settle down happily with both us and the Arabs.
§ 9.59 P.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
The tone of the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), who has just spoken, is not only to be admired, but I think that hon. Members sitting in all parts of the House will feel that that is the only tone with which to approach a subject of this magnitude. I am not sure that I agree with his observations, to which I shall return later, but none the less I admire the tone and temper of his speech.
This has been a very interesting Debate, in which there have been some very remarkable speeches, and not the least remarkable and interesting was that of the Minister himself. He thanked hon. Members for their patience over a long period of time, and particularly during the past few months, and he hoped for a continuation of the exercise of that patience. That may be granted to him so long as hon. Members feel that the Government are getting on with their job. He told the House that the Government were still conscious of their responsibilities to Jew and Arab alike in Palestine. Perhaps it is a good job that the right hon. Gentleman did tell us that, because nobody had noticed it for quite a long time. He lauded the remarkable achievements of the Jews, and he said what good fellows the Arabs were. He also said there were more Arabs in Palestine to-day alive and healthy because of Jewish capital and Jewish 2092 endeavour, and that the Arab population was increasing faster than that of the Jews. Then, curiously enough, he told us the Arabs were afraid of the over-lordship of the Jews. I know that those statements are not necessarily inconsistent, but they seemed rather remarkable at the time. During the course of the right hon. Gentleman's speech one had mixed feelings, according to the part of the speech to which one was listening. At times I saw a beautiful home in course of erection; on other occasions I saw the home falling away brick by brick. The right hon. Gentleman appears to be torn between a halt in immigration into Palestine and the erection of the home that was promised to the Jews long ago. One thing can be said for the right hon. Gentleman, however. He has a thorough grasp of the general situation, and we entirely agree with him that without order there can be no peace and there can be no economic reconstruction.
I should like to second the vote of thanks so ably moved by the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) for what the Government have been doing in Palestine. The Government at last, if the White Paper means anything at all, are facing up to responsibilities that they have refused or failed to face up to during the past several years. Indeed, there have been years of incredible weakness, which has led to the present situation, and Commission after Commission have not resolved their problem. There seems today, whether one takes one view or the other, a really unanimous desire in all parts of the House that the Government at long last should not only bear their real responsibilities, but should move forward as rapidly as possible in an attempt to honour the solemn obligations given to Jew and Arab alike many years ago. The right hon. Member for Epping—I am sorry he is not in his place—contributed a rather novel suggestion to the House. In the absence of any declared policy on the part of the Government, the right hon. Gentleman ventured to submit a policy of his own. There may be good points and there may be some virtue in his suggestions, but it seems very remarkable that such changes should have been made in our attitude towards Palestine since the original Balfour Declaration was made and the Permanent Mandates Commission handed on the responsibility to this country.
2093 My right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) pointed out that the first big change was the lopping-off of Tranjordania altogether. Then the right hon. Member for Epping coined the phrase "economic absorptive capacity," and we have had later a "political high level," and the right hon. Gentleman's latest suggestion is, I think, the most novel of them all. He suggests, for instance, that the future immigration should not depend upon economic absorptive capacity, but should depend upon the number of Arab babies that are to be born year by year. It seems to me that that is really not the kind of policy that any Government could accept, for, after all, if the immigration of Jews into Palestine is to be determined by the number of Arab babies that are to be born year by year, obviously the Mufti will be supporting birth control almost immediately the policy is accepted. But the question of economic absorptive capacity is not something that can be determined by the birthrate. It must of necessity be something that is determined by the careful, creative work and preparation carried on by those who are arranging for the absorptive capacity. The question of erecting this or that factory or preparing this or that settlement is a determining factor, but a mere question of the number of children born to one particular race in a small country is not.
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman's suggestion will be looked at and examined very carefully in the light of his own actions in the past on this very question. After all, to have changed from the economic absorptive capacity to what is now termed for temporary purposes a political high level, and then to go on to the question of the Arab birth rate, is a concession—to whom? A concession to those who have been rebelling against our administration of the Mandate and the Balfour Declaration. It seems to me that if we were to accept a suggestion of that kind, whether it involved the immigration of 30,000 or of 35,000 would make little or no difference, because if we remove the question of the economic absorptive capacity, it may be 50,000 this year, 40,000 the next year, 55,000 the year alter and then down to 35,000. It would be some sort of fortuitous level, and then that 35,000 or 30,000 would be too much later on, and there would be demands for 2094 further reduction to 25,000 or perhaps 20,000.
I need say little or nothing about the social and economic achievements of the Jews who have emigrated to Palestine during the past 10 or is years. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney, the right hon. Member for Caithness, the right hon. Member for Epping, and the Peel and Woodhead Commissions have not only brought out clearly the remarkable achievements of those Jews who are now there, but have stressed the affinity between the well-being of the Arab population and Jewish capital and endeavour. The only thing I would say about that is that, having seen some parts of Palestine in their happier moments when conflict was not present, I found, like most other hon. Members who have been fortunate enough to visit that country, that it is scarcely possible to return home without a biased mind. The bias is because of the modern miracles that have been achieved in a comparatively short space of time by the Jewish people. Unfortunately, however, wherever one went one found that instead of the Government having encouraged economic and social developments, they had almost always done as much as they could to retard it. To that extent they retarded what should have been the normal and natural economic absorptive capacity which would have meant an increase in the number of Jews who had gone to Palestine.
During the last year or two we have had in this House several Debates on Palestine and the administration of the Mandate. We have often wondered, when questions concerning the Mufti were put in the House, whether the Government were really weak in their administration or whether they were icily indifferent, and, by suffering and edging, hoped sometimes by some means completely to get away from their responsibility. The hon. Member for Stourbridge (Mr. R. Morgan) put a question two and a half years ago asking what the real responsibility of the President of the Supreme Moslem Council was for the strikes that were then being organised. The then Secretary of State said that if this gentleman did take part in any of these incidents the Government would take special steps to deal with him, and, as they were fully alive to all the incidents, the Government would look after 2095 that kind of thing. It took until 21st October, 1937, before the then Secretary of State really admitted in the House who had been responsible for organising the so-called strikes which developed into a general insurrection in Palestine. The hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) asked:Is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that the Grand Mufti has been operating against the interests of this country and Palestine during the whole of his period of office?" — [OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st October, 1937; col. 25, Vol. 327.]The Minister's reply was, "Yes, Sir." If the Minister was aware that during the whole of the period of office of the Mufti he had been operating against the interests of this country and of Palestine, we are justified in declaring that the Government have not only been weak in their administration, but have actually been accessories to the fact of this insurrection and rebellion. With all the murders and assassinations that have taken place in the last two years or so, the Government having all this knowledge at their disposal, one is bound to ask whether it was just weakness in administration or calculated indifference. Certainly no positive action has been forthcoming from the Government during that period.
I would say to the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon that I think every Member is anxious that all that can be done should be done to bring the Jew and the Arab together. Unfortunately, however, during the past two years all those loyal Arabs who have desired to cooperate with the Jews and with our own administration have had little or no protection from the administration there. We know that almost everything that has been done has been inimical to the interests of the loyal Arabs. We know that the Mayor of Hebron was killed by the Arabs, that the Mayor of Haifa was shot at several times; and that the Mayors of Nablus and Jaffa had several attempts made to assassinate them. We know that several other loyal mayors have been very lucky to escape assassination, and yet there has been little or no protection for them. To that extent we not only charge the Government with having failed to take such opportunities as presented themselves by negotiation and discussion for the provision of such a policy as would have been mutually advantageous 2096 to the Arab and the Jew, but with having deliberately allowed things to deteriorate so that loyal Arabs have been obliged to leave Palestine for their own safety, and slowly and surely the Arab economic situation has been deteriorating.
I entirely disagree with the hon. Member who said that it would do more harm than good to increase immigration now, that we ought not to flood Palestine with immigrants. The economic deterioration appears to have been largely due to a reduction in immigration, plus the effects of the insurrection. However, I am pleased that in the White Paper the Government tell us that they are accepting full responsibility for the government of the whole of Palestine. Whether partition is sound—or less sound—I am not prepared to argue this evening, but the White Paper says that the Government feel they have alternative means of solving the problem consistently with fulfilling our obligations to Arabs and Jews. In that they have our good wishes, we say Godspeed to them in those negotiations, but, all the same, we feel they ought to have a policy, and whether the discussions succeed or fail no more time ought to be wasted. We have waited for one Commission and then waited for a second Commission, and now we are to wait for discussion and negotiations. The Government ought not only to be ready with a policy but ought to be determined that that policy shall be carried through.
Conciliation and negotiation are a necessary part of the policy, I hope, of every hon. Member in this House. It is on record that the Jews have for many years past been willing to negotiate, but have never found the Arabs willing to negotiate on the basis of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate. While we have no objection to discussion and negotiations, I suggest that if we are to honour our pledges the basis of those negotiations must be the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate. In this connection I would remind hon. Members that the Arab Kingdoms to be represented at these discussions cover an area as large as the whole of Western Europe, while Palestine itself is little more than the size of Wales. It may be that representatives from the Arab Kingdoms have a contribution to make to the discussions, but I suggest that representatives from the Government of Poland, which has 3,300,000 Jews, may also have a contribution to make, 2097 and likewise representatives of the Government of America, with their several million Jews. If discussions, negotiations and conciliation are to be the order, I am not sure that the right hon. Gentleman could not with justice call in representatives from those two countries. If when the Balfour Declaration was made in 1917 there was need for a Jewish national home, the need is ten thousand times greater now as the result of what has been happening in Europe recently.
The British Government may offer opportunities in the sweet by-and-by. We do not discount any opportunities that may be afforded to refugees. Tanganyika may provide opportunities for a few; other countries may find openings for a small number of Jews; but there can be no alternative to Palestine. No country on earth has such opportunities for a large number of immigrants, opportunities created and made for them, as are available in Palestine. When a national home was promised to the Jews I presume that it was not intended to be a home on shifting sands, a home under canvas that could be blown away by any and every gust of wind, or that the home was intended to be lodgings from which they could be turned out at any moment, but that it was to be a home really worthy of a great people.
Ever since the moving speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) the other evening I have been wondering not only why the Government hesitate to take advantage of opportunities which Palestine does afford but wondering also whether, in all the circumstances of the situation in Europe, and after all that has happened on the part of those who have been organising rebellion and insurrection during the past two or three years, the Arabs might not make a gesture to the Government, and incidentally a gesture to the Jews, so that as many Jews as possible from Germany or elsewhere could be given the opportunity to migrate to Palestine. The right hon. Gentleman and, I am sure, the Noble Lord who is to reply, know perhaps more about Palestine than I ever hope to learn. The Noble Lord must know that in the past the Government have restricted and retarded economic development and have prevented the Jews creating opportunities that might 2098 have been created, and that would have permitted an increased number of immigrants into that country without in any way adversely affecting the Arab population.
I went down to one area that has been mentioned, and saw exactly what it was like. I saw a few Arab families living in huts—they could not be called houses. They were living more like beasts than human beings. It was almost a tragedy for any Britisher who knows the meaning of the word "house" to see those wretched hovels. That was not the worst of the crime, for we learned that settlers had tried to settle down there in past generations only to be wiped out by mosquitoes and malaria. There was an opportunity for development, and Jews secured a concession. They were ready and willing to put down £900,000 to £1,000,000 and the Government were called upon to make a contribution of some £230,000. Opportunities such as they had never had before were waiting for them, but the Government have failed to put up their small contribution. Work could have been found for 2,000 people, and later on perhaps 20,000 families could have been accommodated. That is the sort of thing the Government might have done to help Jews, and Arabs, too, but they have not done it.
When thinking in terms of economic absorptive capacity the Noble Lord will know that the capacity absorption of the land is determined very largely by irrigation or non-irrigation. There are 100,000 acres irrigated at the present time, and it is generally understood that one Jewish family can maintain itself on five acres of irrigated land whereas 25 acres are necessary of unirrigated land, There are 375,000 acres where the water resources are none, and where, if irrigation was prepared, some 60,000 families could be settled on the land. On the basis of experience the figures show that one family on the land can maintain three other families in urban areas in all kinds of industries or professions. We have been told that if the Jews were permitted to make the best use of their opportunities there would be the danger of flooding, but, as has also been said, they could work on a long-term plan which would be in the interests of and beneficial to both Arabs and Jews. The total area of Palestine is about 10,000 square miles but in the Negeb, an area of 4,300 square 2099 miles, there is scarcely a living soul. It is not likely to have any souls living on it unless Jewish capital, enterprise and energy are permitted to explore the possibilities of development and to accomplish in the Negeb work something like what has been accomplished in other parts of Palestine.
Governments of the past, whatever the Government may do in the future, have certainly stifled development in Palestine, instead of allowing full, normal, natural development, and that applies in municipal life particularly. While in this country municipalities spend about 5o per cent. of what the National Government spend annually, in Palestine municipal expenditure is about one-eighth of the national expenditure, and, as national expenditure in Palestine is very small, that is a clear indication that municipal development has been stifled, except in two or three areas. Then my right hon. Friend referred to the question of loans for various development purposes. Here one can see at a glance how district commissioners or the Palestine administration have stifled municipal development in the past. In this country, the total loan capital is about eight times the annual rates, while the loan capital in Palestine is just equivalent to one year's rates. The small expenditure for capital purposes within the municipalities has not been determined by the needs of the situation, but by the administration in Palestine. We want the right hon. Gentleman to change the situation in that particular. Instead of stifling development by municipalities or by those who are trying to create greater economic opportunities, I hope the right hon. Gentleman is turning over a completely new leaf.
The future of the Arab population is so intertwined and interwoven with the success of the Jewish population, with a continued flow of their capital and their endeavour, that to restrict the one or the other is not to help the Arab people, but to stifle them and retard their economic development. We on these benches feel that a great opportunity has been missed in the past. Millions of people have been left apprehensive as to our intentions for the future, and we have wobbled about all over the place, never having a continuous policy that the administration could apply. When I was there, I was 2100 informed that almost anybody could administer a policy, but that the best Civil Servants in the world found it difficult to administer no policy. That has been the grave weakness of our government for many years past. I hope that the communications and discussions are going to succeed, and that, having either found a policy through the discussions or imposed a policy of their own, the Government will not only see that that policy is fully and faithfully carried out, but will come as nearly as is humanly possible to fulfilling their obligations, not only to the Jew, but to Jew and Arab alike. I believe that, if opportunites are afforded to the Arabs and the Jews to live together, they not only can do so, but they will. I saw evidences of it.
The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon, after extolling the virtues of the Jews, pointed out that the presence of Jews in no way endangers or is a menace to the Arabs, and when he said, "If I were an Arab, I should be in fear and trembling," I wondered what sort of an Arab he thought he himself might have been. If he were one of those Arabs who used to receive a shilling a day wages but now was enjoying 4s. a day wages, would he still feel in a state of turmoil if more of those Jews who gave him that increase in daily wages came along? Or did he think of himself as an Arab landlord who, having now been taught the true value of the soil when properly worked on modern lines, was to-day losing something he himself might have got had he had the initiative, the enterprise, the brains and the determination of those who had emigrated there quite recently? The right hon. Gentleman might have feared for the future if he had been one kind of Arab; but I saw Arabs when I was in Palestine who not only did not fear the presence of the Jews but welcomed them and gloried in their presence, because of the transformation in their standard of life. I hope that at last the Government, after all their wobblings, are going to reach a final conclusion, and find the policy that a Government ought to find.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Earl Winterton
The Government have no reason to complain of the tone and temper in which this Debate has been conducted. It is right and proper that it should have been conducted in such a way, for we are dealing with very great 2101 issues, which, as my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) said, touch world issues. Even if it had not been so, if the temper of the Debate had been otherwise than it happily has been, I should do what I could to keep it at a reasonably low temperature, for two reasons. In Palestine for some time past a serious compaign of disorder has been in progress, in which a considerable body of the inhabitants are taking part. No one in this House, or in this country, sympathises with this campaign; but that does not alter the fact that it is leading to death and wounds on both sides, and nothing could be more deplorable for any country. The British Government have invited the Arab leaders to meet the leaders of Jewry in London to find for the future of the country a constitution which is compatible with our obligations to both races. It must be obvious that in those circumstances the primary duty of the spokesmen of the Government is to avoid saying anything which is likely to make a compromise more difficult. I would gratefully acknowledge this on behalf of the Government. Not only have the tone and temper of the Debate been quite unexceptional, but the case has been presented on all sides far more equitably than in some previous Debates, when a feeling was created in Palestine that only one side had been put to the House.
I should like to say, at the very outset, that the British Government, and, I imagine, everyone in this House, wish to be on good terms with both the parties to this unhappy conflict. We recognise with gratitude the contribution which each of those two great divisions of the Semitic race has made to civilisation. No good is done to either side by supporting up to 100 per cent. the claims of the more extreme protagonists on either side, by speeches in this House or articles outside. I submit, with the greatest respect to the House, that it can best serve the interests of both races by refraining from exaggerating the claims of either side.
I would like, as it will be my duty, to reply to one or two specific points which have been raised in the course of the Debate. I took note of what was said, and I will deal first with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney. If I wanted—which I do not—to make a purely party point, I should say that one portion of his 2102 speech to my mind placed rather an undue emphasis on the need to get on or get out. That was to me almost a sample or sign of what I call "true blue diehards." I would remind the right hon. Gentleman—if I did not remind him, his supporters would—that it has been the policy of his party, and, I believe, of all parties, that where a conflict like this exists, the best thing to do would be to try and get the two contestants to agree. The right hon. Gentleman asked me one or two specific questions. He asked whether Parliament will be consulted, and that question, a very proper one, was also put by the Leader of the Liberal Opposition. My reply is that, if as a result of this discussion an understanding is arrived at which is acceptable to all parties, His Majesty's Government will, of course, submit and recommend it to Parliament for their approval. The next question which the right hon. Gentleman asked was, "Does the National Home in Palestine and the statements of previous Governments about the National Home for Jews in Palestine and the Balfour Declaration still stand? "The answer is, the simple affirmative, "Yes."
The right hon. Gentleman and other speakers asked about the Lake Huleh scheme. The position with regard to that is this. As the House is probably aware, or those who take an interest in this matter are aware, an old Turkish concern for draining the marshy area round Lake Huleh, which is in East Palestine, was purchased by a Turkish company in 1934, with the approval of the Palestine Government on the understanding that a portion of the reclaimed land would be reclaimed for Arab cultivators. The concession was surveyed by the well-known firm of Rendell, Palmer and Tritton, who, incidentally, were, when I was at the India Office, and are still, consulting engineers to the Indian Government, and they reported that it would be desirable to carry out drainage work outside the concession area. The total cost would approximate, in English money, to £933,000. That was the estimate of cost at that time. It was proposed that the Palestine Government should undertake the work outside the concession area, costing £222,000, but the recent disturbances and consequent loss of revenue have made it necessary to postpone consideration of the scheme. The representatives of this eminent firm are still there, 2103 and when the circumstances alter it will be possible to consider putting it into operation.
The next point which the right hon. Gentleman raised was perhaps not entirely relevant to this Debate, though it was quite in order to raise it on an Adjournment Motion.
§ Mr. H. Morrison
Is there any reason why—I do not care what it is—this very important new development should now proceed, apart from the question of finance.
§ Earl Winterton
No, I gave the reason. I said that the recent disturbances and the consequent loss of revenue made it necessary to postpone consideration for the moment. The question of finance, of course, comes very much into it. The right hon. Gentleman in dealing with the Palestine question raised another matter. He referred to those settlement schemes —proposals would be the more accurate term—which my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary mentioned the other night in Debate have been offered by the Government to the various Jewish and other organisations interested in obtaining land for the settlement of the unfortunate refugees from Germany. It would obviously be wrong for me to go into that matter fully to-night, but as the right hon. Gentleman referred to Tanganyika I must say that I was rather sorry that he seemed rather to deprecate these settlement schemes. That is not the view of those leading members of the British Jewish community who are interested in the settlement schemes. In passing, I should like to pay a tribute to the spirit, the energy and the sympathy which is being shown by leading members of the British Jewish community in this country towards their suffering co-religionists and racial brethren in Germany. I am in close touch with them, and I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that so far from taking the view of the situation which he took they are most eager to proceed with settlement schemes in the Colonial territories, and experts are going to be sent out.
One further word in this connection, which it is necessary to utter. It is not very helpful either to my colleagues or myself on the Inter-Governmental Committee to suggest that the British Empire 2104 alone can solve this problem of the Jewish refugees. That has been the suggestion underlying some of the speeches that we have heard to-day, namely, that ours is the primary responsibility and that we can solve this problem if we choose. That is not so. I must be extremely careful in what I say, because there are 32 Governments concerned, but it is the feeling of all my colleagues and myself, and certainly it is the opinion of the vice-chairman, that every country that can do so must make a contribution towards the solution of this problem, if it is to be solved. We believe that the contribution which the Colonial Office has suggested in regard to colonial territories will be a very substantial one.
There is one further thing that I should like to say very emphatically, and that is, that it will not help my colleagues and myself on the Inter-Governmental Committee to suggest that we should force large numbers of Jews upon Palestine, without regard to local conditions or to the difficulties of the local situation. I wish to say very plainly, and my colleagues on the Committee will agree with me, that the policy of the Inter-Governmental Committee is not to thrust any refugees, blindly, wherever there is an opening, but to induce the various countries to admit refugees willingly, and of their own volition, as potential citizens who are well fitted to be absorbed into their populations and are prepared to contribute materially and intellectually to the well-being of their adopted countries. All the countries would do well to consider the matter on that basis, and to accept my plea that these potential immigrants will make most excellent settlers and citizens, and will contribute greatly to the strength and wealth of the countries to which they go.
Now I come to the speech of the Leader of the Liberal Opposition, the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair). I was very glad that he welcomed the presence of the representatives of the Arab States at the discussions, and I am sure that his remarks will be appreciated by those States. He asked my right hon. Friend a specific question in regard to a proposal which I understand has only recently been made; indeed only this morning did the letter reach my right hon. Friend—that a large number of the children of the German Jewish refugees, or potential refugees, 2105 should be admitted to Palestine. That is, obviously, a very important question, and my right hon. Friend would like time to consider it. It would involve consultation with the High Commissioner. Therefore, I must be excused from giving an answer to-night. I can, however, assure the right hon. Gentleman that the question will be carefully considered.
I now come to the speech of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). He made a very powerful speech, in which he indulged in a great deal of badinage of my right hon. Friend and myself, and on Government policy generally. I can assure him that it was taken by us in very good part and that the victims of the right hon. Gentleman's sarcasm were more amused than annoyed by it. The right hon. Gentleman made a specific suggestion to which I must refer. He described it as his plan, and he' is fully entitled with his great knowledge and experience to put forward a proposal. His plan dealt with the basis of immigration. He will excuse me if I make no comment except to say that quite obviously proposals such as he put forward will naturally come up for discussion at the conference. In fact, some two or three years ago when I was a backbencher Lord Samuel and I put forward proposals dealing with immigration on somewhat similar lines to those which the right hon. Gentleman has suggested. But the latter part of his plan was rather different. If I understood it aright he said that if the Arabs would not accept the first portion of his plan dealing with immigration he would say that we do not propose any longer to go to the trouble and expense of keeping large bodies of British troops in the country, and that we shall be prepared to give arms to the Jewish people.
I must be excused for commenting upon that as well, but I think a policy of that kind would be an abrogation of our responsibilities as a mandatory Power, and I must add that the result of such a policy would have most lamentable results in neighbouring countries like Egypt, Arabia, Iraq and Moslem India. In an eloquent passage the right hon. Gentleman said that this is a matter which touches world causes. We cannot consider the case of Palestine alone, and whether we look at it from the Jewish or the Arab point of view it touches 2106 world causes, world Jewry and the position of Islam. It is, therefore, very important.
More suo the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) made a most violent attack on everything and everybody. I do not propose to refer to his speech except to controvert most emphatically one statement the right hon. and gallant Member made. He referred to the employés of the Palestine Government and suggested that the railway, postal and telegraph staffs had been actively disloyal and responsible for sabotage. Anyone who heard his speech and did not know the situation would think that there was not a single Palestinian loyal to the administration except the Jews. That is a complete reversal of the truth, and I take this opportunity of asking the right hon. and gallant Member—I am sorry he is not at present in his place to with draw this serious charge against men who are doing their duty under most difficult circumstances. There is no evidence to support the allegation. On the contrary, the employés of these two departments have shown conspicuous personal courage in carrying out their duties, very often at personal risk.
I now come to the admirable speech made by the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher). If this was an ordinary party Debate I should not pay a tribute to his speech, knowing that there is nothing more embarrassing to a Member of an Opposition party than to receive a compliment from the Government Bench. But this is not a party Debate, and I should like to say on behalf of my right hon. Friend and myself that the hon. and gallant Gentleman made a most helpful and statesmanlike speech. I was particularly pleased at his well-merited praise of local British officials who, in circumstances of terrible anxiety and of physical risk, have carried out their duties in a manner which can be described as thoroughly British.
My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn) also made a most excellent speech in which he appealed most strongly for this spirit of appeasement which he thought alone could solve the situation. I was particularly pleased at his tribute to one under whom I served for a short time as personal assistant, the late Colonel Lawrence.
2107 My right hon. Friend said he believed that Colonel Lawrence had always felt that these two races would manage to live together in peace and amity. Indeed there is no reason why they should not. I was glad also to hear the hon. Member who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench say that eveything that could be done should be done to bring Arabs and Jews together.
I should like to make one reference to irrigation and I have had some slight experience, when I was at the India Office and also when I served in Palestine and Egypt, of investigating the question. I do not talk as a technical expert. But it is not always as easy as it seems, it is not merely a question of finding water in one place and storing it up and letting it out somewhere else where it is wanted. All kinds of things may happen. You sometimes get soil erosion on a big scale, and you get a curious process which I cannot describe in technical terms where saline products render the land infertile. Such a thing happened when I was in India in 1926. I was shown land which had been originally fertile but, after it had been irrigated for two or three years, it became completely infertile owing to salt rising to the surface. A good deal of nonsense has been talked about the possibilities of irrigation. In regard to this particular district a hydrographic survey was suggested by the Royal Commission and it was carried out a short time ago in the Beersheba sub-district. The result was most disappointing, only one bore hole being successful out of 16 experimental ones that were made.
It is almost unprecedented for anyone speaking from this bench to pay a tribute to the speech of a colleague, but, in view of the fact that my right hon. Friend was tumbling about in a nursery when I was being most objectionable to the then Liberal Government as a back-bencher—I still remember with pleasure the trouble which I gave my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping—I should like to say that my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary's admirably impartial and temperate speech has greatly influenced the whole atmosphere of this Debate, and I should like to commend the spirit of the closing words of his speech to both Jews and Arabs alike.
Question, "That this House do now adjourn," put, and negatived.