HC Deb 05 June 1939 vol 348 cc21-2
30. Mr. T. Williams

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

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)

During the past fortnight several outrages, some of them of a serious nature, have been perpetrated by Arabs and Jews in Palestine. These incidents have been fully reported in the Press. Whilst it is clear that Jewish opposition to the recent decisions of His Majesty's Government is general, there is no evidence that Jewish opinion as a whole approves of the policy of violence or forcible obstruction. On the Arab side opinion on His Majesty's Government's policy is divided. There are indications that the villagers are weary of strife, but in certain areas fear of reprisals by terrorists still prevails. Arab terrorism on the one hand and the continued flood of illegal immigants and Jewish resort to violence on the other, naturally feed the flames and increase the risk of clashes and of the continuance of violence.

Mr. Williams

Seeing that the Government invited the representatives of the Mufti section to the London conference, and have negotiated with them since that conference, could they not exercise some influence with that section of the community?

Mr. MacDonald

In view of the fact that that section of Arab opinion to which the hon. Gentleman has referred has rejected outright our proposals, I cannot think there is any encouragement in the suggestion that His Majesty's Government might be able to influence that section. In the second place, I must correct the statement of the hon. Gentleman that we have negotiated with members of that section of Arab opinion since the conference. We have had no such negotiation.

Mr. Williams

If the right hon. Gentleman now admits that His Majesty's Government have no control, and are not likely to have any control, over the terrorists, is it not time that they totally ignored that section when considering the future of Palestine?

Mr. MacDonald

As a result of military and police activity in recent months we have reduced to a very small scale Arab terrorism in Palestine. No one has ever claimed that the policy we have announced would bring an immediate stop to Arab terrorism in Palestine; but we certainly are definitely gaining control over that activity.

Sir A. Sinclair

The right hon. Gentleman spoke of a flood of illegal immigrants. Will he tell us how many there were in the last month?

Mr. MacDonald

It is estimated that there were more than 1,000 illegal immigrants in May. This immigrant rate is continuing in considerable number, as the right hon. Gentleman will have seen from the report that there was a ship with some 800 of them on board.

Colonel Wedgwood

Surely the right hon. Gentleman does not think that surrender to terrorism is the best way of decreasing it?

Mr. MacDonald

I cannot agree that there has been any increase in terrorism.