HC Deb 28 May 1941 vol 371 cc1840-1
28. Mr. David Adams

asked the Undersecretary of State for the Colonies whether it has been decided to authorise the formation and arming of a Palestine Volunteer Force; of what nationals it be will composed; what duties will be assigned to it; and whether its maintenance will be wholly chargeable to Palestine revenue?

Mr. George Hall

Yes, Sir. Under an Ordinance recently enacted in Palestine the High Commissioner is empowered to form a force to be called the "Palestine Volunteer Force". British subjects and Palestinian citizens are eligible to join the Force, and its objects are defined as "assisting the Regular Forces in all measures required for the prosecution of the war or ensuring internal security". It is the intention that the cost of maintaining the Force should be borne by Palestine funds.

Mr. Adams

Is the Minister satisfied that a force of this character will work satisfactorily together in view of the well-known hostility of the Arabs to Jewish settlement in Palestine, and would it not be better to have separate forces?

Mr. Hall

We see no reason why they should not work together. They have worked together in Palestinian companies from the commencement of the war.

Miss Eleanor Rathbone

In actual fact arc not the numbers of Jewish volunteers limited in order to keep them in a definite ratio to the Arab volunteers, or can any Jew who wants to serve be allowed to serve?

Mr. Hall

The force will be limited—

Miss Rathbone

According to race?

Mr. Hall

No, not according to race. It is open to British subjects, Jews and Arabs, to join the force.

Mr. Shinwell

Why should there be any limitation? If Arabs and Jews wish to join and are willing to serve in the war effort, why should they be precluded from doing so?

Mr. Hall

It is no use having volunteers unless you have equipment for them.

Mr. Noel-Baker

Will my hon. Friend endeavour to increase the reinforcements in the Near East by this means to the maximum possible extent, in view of the available supplies?

Mr. Levy

Why should there be a limitation on religious grounds when patriotism should be paramount?