HC Deb 11 October 1945 vol 414 cc402-5
Earl Winterton

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if members of the armed gang who broke into Athlit Clearance Camp in Palestine yesterday and murdered Constable Hill of Aberdeen as well as maltreating four Arabs and a Jewish constable, have been apprehended and what steps have been taken to prevent further attacks on the camp.

The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. George Hall)

I regret to say that I have received the following report from the High Commissioner on this incident. It appears that a large number of armed Jews attacked Athlit Clearance Camp for Immigrants between 1 and 1.30 a.m. yesterday. They were armed with rifles, pistols and daggers. Some were in police uniform. Four temporary constables on guard were seized, beaten with rifle butts, bound and gagged. One Arab was seriously hurt. One Jewish temporary constable was tied up but not injured. The attackers cut an avenue in the wire on the north side of the Camp, and over 200 illegal immigrants were released, apparently with inside knowledge. Eleven immigrants, who presumably refused to accompany the escapees, were bound and gagged. Of these, one Christian woman died of suffocation. The party then escaped in the direction of Mount Carmel.

The police took immediate action to seal the Carmel Range. One police party proceeding to establish a road check was fired upon from ambush by Jews armed with rifles, sub-machine guns and grenades. The police truck was overturned and I regret to state that a police constable was shot dead. The next of kin has been informed. One Arab constable was seriously wounded and a Jewish corporal slightly wounded. According to the latest information available, the miscreants have so far evaded arrest, but police investigations continue. Further particulars are being obtained from the High Commissioner.

With reference to the last part of the Question, all possible measures are being taken by the High Commissioner, Viscount Gort, to prevent further attacks of this nature.

Earl Winterton

Can the right hon. Gentleman deny the truth of the reports which have appeared in the Press to the effect that after the murder of this constable—with whose relatives, I am sure, the whole House would like to sympathise—[Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."]—and the most serious attacks on these Jewish and Arab officials, the police, acting under instructions from higher authority, did not use the lethal weapons with which they are provided; and will he give an assurance that armed resistance to the law in Palestine will be met with full rigour?

Mr. Hall

I can make no further statement until I receive the result of the inquiries from the High Commissioner.

Earl Winterton

Surely the right hon. Gentleman can give an assurance that there is no truth in the report which was, no doubt, given falsely, that the police had had instructions from higher authority, even when their numbers are murdered, not to use lethal weapons against the murderers?

Mr. Hall

That is one of the matters about which the inquiry is being made, and until I receive the result of the inquiry from the High Commissioner it is impossible to make a statement.

Mr. Stokes

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether instructions have been given, and if not whether they can now be given, that all parties, Jews and Arabs alike, are to be told that they must give up their arms?

Mr. Hall

It is a very easy matter to tell Jews and Arabs to give up arms, but the difficulty is to get them to surrender the arms. It certainly would be very much easier for the civil Government of the High Commissioner of Palestine if the duty of maintaining law and order were left to the civil and proper authorities. That is what we desire, and we are attempting in every possible way to prevent outbreaks such as this, whether they are instituted or initiated by either Jew or Arab.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that all these regrettable incidents arise out of an attempt to enforce a law which the Mandates Commission—

Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

The hon. Member appears to be raising a rather wider matter than that in the Question.

Mr. Silverman

I hope the question which I was going to put will be regarded by you, Mr. Speaker, as in Order. May I put it, and then you can see whether it is? I want to ask my right hon. Friend whether these incidents do not enforce the demand for an early review of the whole situation, for which this House has been asking for some time?

Mr. Hall

In connection with that matter I am afraid I can add nothing to the reply which was given by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister to the general question which was put to him on Tuesday last.

Several Hon. Members


Mr. Speaker

We are getting a little wide of the original Question.