§ 4. Earl Winterton
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies if he has now received a Report from the Government of Palestine in regard to the incidents on 10th October when a British member of the Palestine police force was murdered, Arab and Jewish members of the same force maltreated and a Christian refugee 1986 suffocated; and if any arrests have been made in connection with that outrage.
Mr. George Halt
The Athlit Clearance Camp is in no sense a penal settlement but merely a staging post for immigrants, legal as well as illegal, and is largely staffed by nominees of the Jewish Agency for domestic, welfare and other duties. At the time of the attack, one Jewish police corporal and 12 Palestinian constables were on guard duty. It is not, and never has been, heavily guarded, and hitherto there has been no reason to suppose that the Jewish community in Palestine regarded persons inside the Camp as imprisoned. Persistent rumours had, however, been published by the Jewish Press in Palestine to the effect that a number of illegal immigrants in the camp were about to be deported. This story was completely unfounded. The police have been instructed to exercise great care and forbearance in the use of firearms, but this does not extend to prompt return of fire if they are attacked. No order has been issued of would be issued forbidding the police to use their arms in any circumstances. On the occasion of the ambush referred to in my reply on 11th October, the police immediately returned their assailants' fire. No arrests of the persons concerned in the attack have been made.
§ Mr. Stokes
May I ask the Colonial Secretary whether, in view of the instructions to the police, the order prevailing in Palestine with regard to the surrender of arms prior to the murder of Lord Moyne by the Jews, namely, that the Arabs should give up their arms and the Jews should not, has now been altered to an order that both sides must give up their arms?
§ Earl Winterton
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether, in view of the most serious allegations contained in a letter to me from a number of British members of the Palestine Police Force—all ex-Servicemen—to the effect that they have been prevented from using lethal weapons when their own lives were in danger from attacks by murderous mobs of Jews, he will look into the whole matter; and, if I put down a Question in a fortnight's time, will he give an answer, so as to avoid my raising it on the Adjournment, in view of the delicacy of the situation?
The right hon. Gentleman was good enough to send me the letter referred to just an hour or so before I came into the House. I received it at 12 o'clock to-day. The letter contains very serious charges, and I shall certainly take up the matter with the High Commissioner of Palestine and get his comments upon it.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is it not very undesirable, Mr. Speaker, that a Member, on the basis of a personal letter, should try to arouse serious anti-Jewish prejudice?
§ Earl Winterton
I would like to raise a point of Order, and to ask for the protection of the Chair against the charge made by the hon. Gentleman opposite. The letter reached me in a perfectly proper way. I did not say whether or not I made myself responsible for the allegations. It was sent to me by eight members of the Palestine Police Force.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Further to that point of Order, I would say that everyone knows that there is a very serious situation in Palestine and much violence has been displayed, but I would ask you, Sir, whether an hon. Member—[Interruption].
§ Mr. Speaker
The noble Lord has asked me a question on a point of Order and all I can say is, that he is perfectly in Order in sending on the letter to the right hon. Gentleman and asking him a question upon it. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) should try to restrain himself.