§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. W. Whiteley.]
§ 4.14 p.m.
§ The President of the Board of Trade (Sir Stafford Cripps)
I think everybody who was present in the House yesterday must have been struck by the constructive spirit in which the Debate was carried forward, and also by the excellently objective temper in which this very difficult problem was approached. Perhaps the Debate illustrated, by its content, the extreme difficulties of the situation; for, while there was plenty of healthy criticism as regards the solution of this problem in the future, little was advanced by way of proposed alternative courses, other than those which have been thoroughly explored, either by the Committee of Inquiry or by the expert committee mentioned by my right hon. Friend. This afternoon I propose to deal with the future of Palestine, and to leave to my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, who will be speaking later in the Debate, all those many questions that have been raised with regard to the administration of Palestine and past action under the Mandate. Of course, he is far more familiar with all the details of those matters than I could possibly be.
However, before dealing with the future, I must make one matter quite clear as regards the present and the recent past. The British Government, as the responsible authority under the Mandate, are determined—and I think this determination was supported from all sides of the House yesterday—that the future of Palestine shall not be decided by terrorism and by violence. We have fought the greatest war in history to establish that there are better ways of solving political and economic problems than the use of violence and brute force. It would be a betrayal of all that we and the democratic peoples of the world have suffered to achieve what we have achieved, if we were now to give way before the murderous assaults of terrorists in Palestine or any other country. It is encouraging to know that so many Jews throughout the world have disowned these gangs of terrorists, by whom, indeed, so much discredit has been brought to the Jewish case. Law and order must be preserved, at whatever cost. We ask the many non-terrorist 1233 Jews, who far form the vast majority of the population of Palestine, not merely to condemn these excesses but to give their support in routing out the perpetrators of them. As has been repeatedly said in the course of the Debate, there can, of course, be no solution of the Palestinian problem by mere suppression, however essential, at any given moment, that may be in order to preserve law and order. Our ultimate object is, and must be, the attainment of self-government by the two peoples of Palestine. For solving this intractable difficulty, made intractable by the history of events ever since the first world war— events for which this Government, anyway, are in no way responsible—we need a great constructive effort, not only on the part of the British Parliament and Government, but on the part of all those who realise the gravity to the world of the issues with which we are dealing.
This is not a matter in which partisanship can be of any help, difficult though it may be for those whose sympathies have been strongly entrained upon one side or the other. It is essential, if a solution is to be found, that we should look objectively at the problem. One of the most gratifying aspects of the Debate yesterday, as I have mentioned, was the great degree of objectivity shown by practically all those who spoke. That does not, of course, mean we should disregard the very real and deep sentiments of either the Arabs or the Jews. This is no mechanical problem, but one which arises out of those very sentiments. Therefore, we must both understand and appreciate the feelings, the hopes and the desires of both parties, encouraged, indeed, as many of them have been, by sympathisers of all kinds from outside Palestine itself. The high court of Parliament is, in this case, in the position of a high court of equity, and not to be bound by rigid and legalistic rules or the meticulous interpretation of documents, but rather, trying to exercise with impartiality a wise and equitable judgment. There are two claimants to Palestine, both of whom have a good case to put forward, and we might indeed wish that we could reach a decision by a judgment of Solomon, but in this case there is equal objection on both sides to a solution by partition, and so by that means we cannot achieve a quick decision.
The facts of the case can be simply stated. The Jews, persecuted and mal- 1234 treated throughout the Continent of Europe, seek a homeland in Palestine, which they consider was promised to them after the last war. Hundreds of thousands of them have already gone to Palestine, purchased land and initiated activities of every kind, as indeed under the Mandate it was contemplated that they would. Over large tracts of country they have established themselves as citizens of Palestine, and there are still hundreds of thousands who seek admission from the devastated countries of Europe, where so many of their co-religionists have been tortured and murdered. There would indeed be no one who could resist the claim of the Jews were it not for the claims put forward with equal strength by the Arabs. Our sympathies, of course, must be strongly engaged by the long persecuted race of Jews, who under Nazidom have suffered more than any other people in the history of the world, but those sympathies do not entitle us to act unjustly to others. To the Arabs in Palestine, it is of course a part of their homeland too. They have inhabited it for generations, and they see themselves liable to be driven out, or to be subjected to the rule of alien immigrants introduced against their wishes, and despite their protests. It is small comfort to the possessor of property, that some one else can make better use of it than he can himself. It is the basis of his livelihood, and he regards it as his home, in which he has a right of occupation.
History has been hard upon Palestine, attempting as it has done to satisfy those two directly opposed and inconsistent claims. It is too late now, even if it were ever desirable, to go back upon that history of the last 25 years. The Jews have been brought to Palestine in great numbers, and the Arabs still remain there, and no future can be worked out, except upon the basis of these inescapable facts. Neither of the peoples can be removed; they must either be kept perpetually apart by force in separated territories, or be allowed to fight out to a violent and bitter end their differences, or some arrangement must be sought which may eventually allow them to dwell together in peace and in harmony. No one, of course, disputes that this latter is the best way, provided that it proves possible, and it is up to all those who feel deeply the dangers and the tragedy of the situation to exercise their statemanship to achieve such an 1235 arrangement. It is undoubtedly true that in the present temper of the two peoples, recently still further exacerbated by the terrorist outrages, a compromise is excessively difficult. We may have to envisage the need for laying down conditions which we hope will lead ultimately to that compromise, and to go forward with a plan so constructed.
The basis of the plan that has been proposed is a scheme of provincial autonomy upon a cantonal basis. Its object is to obviate an immediate partition with all the inevitable difficulties of international boundaries, the cutting of communications which have been established, the setting up of tariff barriers and all the rest which goes with two independent territories, and also with the abandonment of the hope of any ultimate coming together of the two races in a single territory. The terms of that plan were so fully given by my right hon. Friend yesterday that I do not propose to repeat them, but I would attempt to deal with those points of criticism that arose during yesterday's Debate, bearing in mind that no solution that human ingenuity can suggest will be perfect in the sense of meeting fully the demands of both sides. That is impossible. The most that we can do, in fairness to Jews and Arabs alike, is to try to provide as large a measure of self-government within a limited territory, as the size of that territory will allow. So far as we ourselves are concerned, it is equally important for us to retain the good will of both races. There is nothing to be gained for our country by antagonising either side, and we are equally anxious to maintain our friendship both with the Jews throughout the world and with the great Arab populations of the Middle East.
First, I would like to deal with the very natural criticism that this matter has been delayed, and that it has been finally thrust upon the House of Commons with inadequate notice of the proposals. The key to the understanding of that position lies in our most earnest desire to bring our friends of the United States of America into consultation and agreement. That is not only because of our general desire to work side by side with them upon these world problems, but also because of the special interest which they have taken in the Palestinian problem owing to their own large Jewish population. It was as far back as August of last year that 1236 President Truman addressed to the Prime Minister his request for the immediate admission of 100,000 Jews to Palestine. It was quite obvious that the introduction of such large numbers of Jewish immigrants was impossible without a great deal of planning and finance, and also except as part of a general scheme which would reassure the Arab population as to the situation. Moreover, it was essential, as several speakers have pointed out in the Debate, that this problem of the rescue of the Jews from Europe should not be regarded exclusively as a Palestinian problem. We, therefore, set about immediate negotiations to achieve a joint Anglo-American consideration of the whole problem, the problem of the disposition of those Jews who desired to escape from the conditions under which many of them were still suffering in Europe.
Unfortunately, this was by no means the only urgent international matter which had to be tackled at that time. Other matters also claimed immediate attention. On 13th November we were able to announce that a Joint Committee would be appointed. We had achieved our objective of joint consideration of the problem with the United States of America. On 10th December we were able to give the names of the Committee, which entered forthwith upon its duties, and, ultimately, produced a most valuable Report, which was published on 1st May of this year. We were committed, as I have said, to a joint inquiry, and we hoped that combined action would follow joint inquiry, for we believed, as we believe now, that such combined action would be far more potent, and more likely to succeed, than action by ourselves alone.
The Report of the Joint Committee of Inquiry was, as the House will have seen from perusing it, in a very general form in its recommendations. The form, for instance, of Recommendation 3, which has often been referred to in this Debate, is a good illustration of that fact. It was necessary, therefore, to work out from these general recommendations a precise plan, for it is to be observed—and this must always be borne in mind—that the recommendations formed one complete series and could not be dealt with separately, in isolation. The Report was carefully balanced so as to give preference neither to the Arab nor to the Jew, but 1237 to be fair to both. We, therefore, sought immediate agreement by the United States of America to a joint examination of the Committee's Report by a team of British and American officials, with a view to working out an agreed plan of action.
The United States of America wished, first, to consult only about Recommendation 2, the introduction of 100,000 immigrants, and sent a team for that purpose alone in June of this year, though we pointed out that the scheme must be considered as a whole; and it was not until the beginning of July that the consultation on the rest of the scheme could be started. The report of this latter examination, which was referred to yesterday by my right hon. Friend as the experts' report, and which was carried through with very great expedition and thoroughness, was not finally received by the Government till Friday last, and was then simultaneously submitted to Washington; but till yesterday morning, we did not receive the response of the United States Government, so that it was not possible to give the House any information until my right hon. Friend the Lord President opened the Debate yesterday. The need for agreement is certainly a delaying factor in many difficult international matters, but I am certain that the House will agree with me, that the Government were right in seeking that agreement, even though it may have meant a certain amount of delay in the process.
Now let me come to the merits of the scheme. It has been, I think, generally agreed in this Debate that there are three possible alternatives for Palestine in the future—partition, which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) preferred; the present scheme, or something of that character; and, thirdly, the return to the status quo. It is to be observed that the recommendations of the Committee of Inquiry make no specific recommendations on how the government of Palestine should be carried on under continuing Mandate or the trusteeship agreement that will supersede it. All they do is to lay down certain general principles in their Recommendation 3, and it was in the elaboration of those principles that the present scheme was adopted—adopted by the unanimous agreement of our own and the United States' representatives. That unanimous agreement would, perhaps, alone, be a 1238 sufficient justification for acceptance, but I will, nevertheless, deal with the criticisms that have been advanced, bearing always in mind that the scheme is based upon the principles of Recommendation 3 of the joint Committee of inquiry.
These criticisms fall under three heads. First, the lack of finality; secondly, that one more attempt should have been made to achieve the unitary system; thirdly, that law and order should not be a central but a provincial subject. Let me deal with these three criticisms. There never can be finality in such arrangements as these, especially when a decision is being sought in an atmosphere of very high tension. What is required is a temporary state of affairs which is capable of being a transition to some ultimate desired conclusion. Partition is, in a sense, no more final than federation. Who can say, for instance, that Ireland has reached finality in her constitution? All these arrangements are stages in a constantly developing world situation. Some, it is true, will last for a longer, and some for a shorter time; but none of them can be regarded as final. We believe that partition would be too violent and sudden a solution; it would, moreover, lead to a great many practical difficulties, many of which the right hon. Gentleman mentioned yesterday, and to a most dangerous state of friction, even if it could be achieved at all without the application of force, which is extremely doubtful. Moreover, it greatly diminishes any future hope of an unitary Palestine, the possibility of which we should certainly not wish to exclude. At least, we wish to preserve a chance of such a thing happening. On the other hand, our proposals may be a transition either to partition or to some form of federal union, whichever proves to be the better or more practical in the light of the experience gained during that transitional period.
The second point is that we could have given the unitary scheme one more trial. I do not think that that was urged with any very great degree of conviction. We certainly believe that such a trial is not now possible, whatever may have been the case, even a few months ago.
§ Mr. Austin (Stretford)
When the right hon. and learned Gentleman speaks about the unitary scheme, would he not 1239 agree that it would be practicable under the mantle of Socialism in Palestine, under which Arab and Jew could live together in a democracy?
§ Sir S. Cripps
No. I am afraid that in the state of exacerbation of feeling in Palestine at the present time, it would not be possible to bring Arab and Jew together into an effective unitary Government, whatever principles that Government were going to apply. I do not think, indeed, there are many people in this House who would have any faith in the success of such a further experiment, even if we could get the two parties together to make the attempt.
As regards the centralisation of law and order, it is to be noted—and I do not blame anyone for not noting this yesterday, in view of the way in which the scheme had to be disclosed to the House —that this is a temporary device only, to regulate the initial stages of this new set-up. It is not proposed that it should constitute a permanent feature; but, at the present time, it will provide that relief from fear, which has been stressed, I think, by many speakers, and which is, after all an essential factor to success, if we can achieve it.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I did not understand the right hon. and learned Gentleman when he said that this is not intended to be anything but a temporary feature. Does "this" mean the whole business of cantonisation, or is there some feature that I have missed?
§ Sir S. Cripps
I was dealing with the centralisation of law and order. The hon. Member will appreciate that under the scheme, it is proposed, in the initial stage, that law and order should be under the Central Government and not the provincial Governments. That is intended to be a purely temporary feature while present difficulties exist.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman indicate how long he fancies this interim period will last?
§ Sir S. Cripps
I am afraid that my fancies would not be of much help. As soon as it is felt that the provinces are ready and willing to take over this obligation, and the minorities in those provinces accept the taking over, that would obviously be a suitable time to pass over 1240 this duty to the provincial governments. Where there is such a difficult state of feeling, it is impossible to premise any date in regard to these various happenings. It is not proposed to constitute this as a permanent feature of this scheme, but it will provide this relief during the initial stages. There can be little doubt that if this scheme works successfully it has very great merits from the practical point of view. It substantially makes each race master in its own area, and it will allow the provinces, in practice, to regulate their own immigration, while at the same time not interfering with the common services, such as railways, roads and other matters of that kind, and not encouraging the setting up of rival armed forces.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I could not say. I do not know whether that has been decided. Electric power would, presumably, not be under the heading of communications.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
Does not electric power determine the future absorptive capacity, which in turn affects the future immigration: at the same time immigration rests with the provinces?
§ Sir S. Cripps
I said that in practice the regulation of immigration will be with the provinces. Technically it will remain at the centre, but the centre will act only on the advice of the provinces as to the number to be permitted for immigration. It will be for the provinces to act and not the centre. I also said that this would not encourage the setting up of rival armed forces, which is a matter of very great importance as regards the future of Palestine. These are substantial matters of advantage, as is also the possibility—and this to some extent covers the point which was raised about electric power—of combined planning of those types of new developments which are capable of serving both areas equally well.
The difficulty was raised yesterday of the definition of the boundaries between the provinces. I would merely make the observation upon that point, that these difficulties will be far less than would be the difficulties of settling the final boundaries under a partition scheme. These 1241 boundaries will certainly have some degree of finality, in that it is laid down that they cannot be altered without the consent of both provinces. That should satisfy the Arabs that it will protect them from what, I think, has sometimes been referred to as the "silent invasion." We believe that with the acquiescence of the two races this scheme will prove workable. It should be regarded not as a rigid final decision, but as an important stage in the effort to achieve collaboration and cooperation of the peoples in the government of their own country.
I would here once again stress, that this plan must be considered as a carefully balanced whole. In some parts it may be said to favour the Jews—as regards immigration—and in other parts it may benefit the Arabs—as regards the increase in social services and so on, in the Arab areas. It must be considered as one complete plan, to the success of which both the help which we are prepared to give, and that proposed from the United States are equally essential contributions. It was for that reason that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council stressed yesterday the fact that the full implementation of this plan depends upon the cooperation of the United States. We certainly hope most earnestly that such cooperation will be forthcoming. Without it, we shall not be able to burden the people of this country with the whole of the finances which would be necessary to carry through this new scheme. One or two hon. Members yesterday made the suggestion that the whole matter ought now to be referred to U.N.O. for fresh decisions and suggestions. It will of course be necessary for the terms of the trusteeship agreement which is to supersede the Mandate to be settled by U.N.O. but to delay all action still further, until we get the agreement of U.N.O. would mean a quite unacceptable delay; indeed, many hon. Members have already stressed the need for a speedy decision, and have noted quite rightly the deterioration in atmosphere that has gone on while we have been awaiting the present agreement. In the existing circumstances we believe a quick decision to be absolutely essential. As my right hon. Friend the Lord President has stated, it is our intention to discuss this matter with both the Arabs and the Jews, both inside and outside Palestine. We hope to get representative Jews from various countries, as well 1242 as in Palestine, and Arabs in Palestine, as well as the Arab States, to come together and discuss this plan and give their views on it.
§ Sir S. Cripps
As soon as possible. We realise the need for both races to be fully represented, and we hope, whatever their antagonisms, that they will rind it possible to come together on these vital discussions of the future of Palestine.
§ Sir S. Cripps
We do not know what representatives they will want to select. The intention is to give them a very wide power of selection.
§ Sir S. Cripps
Some of the invitations have already been issued. Discussions are going on with the parties concerned as to the issue of other invitations. The actual date has not been fixed.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
When the right hon. Gentleman says that it is intended to give the widest possible choice of representation, he is not intending to infer, I hope, that there is any intention of side-tracking the Jewish Agency?
§ Sir S. Cripps
There is no such intention at all. We hope to have discussions tomorrow with the Jewish representatives.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
Can the right hon. and learned Gentleman say whether the representatives of the United States will be taking part in these discussions?
§ Sir S. Cripps
They do not wish to take any part in the discussion, although they may be there in the capacity of observers.
§ Mr. Mikardo (Reading)
Can my right hon. Friend say whether it is proposed to invite the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem to this Conference?
§ Sir S. Cripps
There will be no invitation issued to the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem. What will happen if the Arabs wish him to come, we shall decide when we get the request.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart
In view of what has appeared in today's Press, has the right hon. and learned Gentleman any assurance that America will send observers there at all, since they have not signified their approval?
§ Sir S. Cripps
We have no assurance. We know that, in any event, they will probably not wish to partake in it, but they will be very welcome as observers, if they wish to come.
§ Mr. Keenan (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
Can my right hon. Friend say to what extent the United States will be involved? Is their obligation purely a financial one?
§ Sir S. Cripps
If the hon. Member will be good enough to read again in HANSARD the statement made yesterday, I think that he will see the answer to his question, subject to the fact that the United States Government have not yet accepted the scheme. It is only their representatives on the expert body who have agreed to it. I was stressing, when these questions were put to me, that this problem is, of course, not merely an Arab and Jewish problem, though they are the parties most vitally concerned. The repercussions of this problem will be felt throughout the Middle East, and, indeed, wherever Arab and Jewish communities may be found all over the world. That is why we wish to have representatives from outside Palestine as well as those from inside. I would like, therefore, to emphasise again that the Palestinian problem is not the same problem as that of the allocation of the persecuted Jews of Europe. Palestine may help in the solution of this latter problem, but it certainly can never cope with the whole of it, and it is for that reason that we welcome the first recommendation of the Committee of Inquiry, and will do all that we can to see that it is carried into effect. Other countries must be persuaded to open their doors to these people, who have suffered so much and so long from the brutalities of Nazi persecution. No one must imagine that the extension of immigration into Palestine, if it takes place, is alone going to provide the solution to the whole of this question.
I was asked yesterday by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol about the new prospects of settlement in South America. These are not yet definite, but, as he is probably aware, an 1244 inter-Governmental committee on this matter is at the present moment sitting at Rio, and a number of the South American States have already expressed their willingness to accept refugees from Europe.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
May I point out to the right hon. and learned Gentleman that when I was chairman of the inter-Governmental Committee for Refugees they expressed their willingness to do so and that is some six years ago? It is not a question of their expressing willingness; it is a question of taking it up.
§ Sir S. Cripps
I quite appreciate the difficulty. We have had a war since then, which has made some little difference to the situation. The first question of this reconsideration is to get the willingness, and then work out the plan. That is the scheme which is under way. I have recently had some experience of the difficulties which arise from an attempt to settle problems of self-government for two large communities, in a vast territory, in which they have both lived for centuries, and where they have long shared a common life. That is proving hard enough, but, in this case, we are dealing with a comparatively small territory providing little room for expansion, inhabited on the one hand by a race who have been long and comparatively sparsely settled, and on the other by a small section of a large widely scattered race with no other homeland of their own, continually pressing to introduce more and more of their people who have been forced brutally out of their established homes and occupations in other countries. It is not to be wondered at that the solution of that problem is one of immense difficulty, and that the sentiments and emotions of both sides are running crest-high today. Both sides have in the past, from time to time, resorted to violence because of the intensity of their racial and national feelings. Today they stand facing one another in bitter antagonism. We have the unenviable lot of attempting to maintain impartially law and order, in this tense situation, and no praise is too high for those many fellow-citizens of ours who have given and are giving unstintingly of their service, and, indeed, in all too many cases, of their lives to carry out this most difficult task.
1245 In those circumstances, I would ask every responsible person to have regard to the basic facts, and to do their utmost to assuage these bitter, feelings and not exacerbate them still more by arguments of partisanship. In the long run, however it comes about, whether by violence, agreement or compromise, Arabs and Jews will have to live together in Palestine. Surely, both races must realise that war and bloodshed cannot produce for them any fair and satisfactory solution of their difficulty. Neither side can drive the other out of the country, and the world has, I hope, decided that it will not in future allow such differences to be settled by the violence of war. It is in our interest to maintain our friendship and good relations with both races. We are impartial in our desire to help them to the wisest and fairest solution of their difficulties. We have asked our American friends to consult with us, and the experts of both countries have unanimously agreed upon this plan in the interest of world peace and the future of Palestine as a whole.
I would beg the two peoples to pause a moment and consider, not putting aside, of course, their strongly held opinions, but realising how much both may gain by the avoidance of war, and by agreement on a way of sharing the prosperity which cooperation alone can bring to their country. We have put forward this plan because it seems to us to hold within it the seeds of a hopeful future. It is not perfect, but it provides a method by which the two races can live side by side, enjoying a large measure of immediate self-government without sacrificing the benefit of a united Palestine. The future alone can determine how such a scheme will develop, but it holds within it the possibility of future cooperation of Arabs and Jews for their mutual benefit.
We put it forward, and we invite discusssion on it by the interested parties, but whatever comes from those discussions it is essential, if we are to avoid the horrors of a civil war, that some decision as to Palestine's future should be quickly made. Though all of us largely condemn terrorism we fully realise how unkind history has been to the inhabitants of Palestine over the last 25 years. We certainly do not claim that all successive British Governments during that time have acted with perfect wisdom, or that Arabs and Jews 1246 are alone to blame for the difficulties that have arisen. All, no doubt, have made mistakes, but no examination of past errors will get us out of the present difficulties. That can be achieved and only achieved by the concentrated and constructive efforts of all parties affected. We accept our duty, and we offer our services in a great cooperative attempt to solve, once and for all, these stubborn difficulties which have so long bedevilled that land, which saw the birth of the Founder of our religion, and which should contain for all of us an inspiration for justice and for peace.
§ 5.1 p.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
The House is, naturally, obliged to the President of the Board of Trade for the painstaking speech which he has delivered to us, and which supplements, in many points, the interesting and detailed statement delivered by the Lord President of the Council yesterday. We are also much obliged to my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), whose speech, I think, furnished the House with a wealth of carefully thought, judiciously selected and rightly produced facts, and represents a very large body of our opinion at the present time upon this most difficult question. In the short time during which I will venture to occupy the House, I am going to touch a little on some of the grave realities which lie outside the peaceful tones of the oration of the President of the Board of Trade, and the quiet circumstances of this House, because the situation in which we are placed is a very grievous one, and one which is not improving at all. I must also go back a little into the past, because on this question we have got to look to the past.
The position which I, personally, have adopted and maintained dates from 1919 and 1921, when as Dominions and Colonial Secretary, it fell to me to define, with the approval of the then Cabinet and Parliament, the interpretation that was placed upon our obligations to the Zionists under the Mandate for Palestine entrusted to us by the League of Nations. This was the declaration of 1922, which I, personally, drafted for the approval of the authorities of the day. Palestine was not to be a Jewish National Home, but there was to be set up a Jewish National Home in Palestine. Jewish immigration would be allowed up to the limit of the 1247 economic absorptive capacity—that was the phrase which I coined in those days and which seems to remain convenient— the Mandatory Power being, it was presumed, the final judge of what that capacity was. During the greater part of a quarter of a century which has passed, this policy was carefully carried out by us. The Jewish population multiplied, from about 80,000 to nearly 600,000. Tel-Aviv expanded into the great city it is, a city which, I may say, during this war and before it, welcomed and nourished waifs and orphans flying from Nazi persecution. Many refugees found a shelter and a sanctuary there, so that this land, not largely productive of the means of life, became a fountain of charity and hospitality to people in great distress. Land reclamation and cultivation and great electrical enterprises progressed. Trade made notable progress, and not only did the Jewish population increase but the Arab population, dwelling in the areas colonised and enriched by the 'Jews, also increased in almost equal numbers. The Jews multiplied six-fold and the Arabs developed 500,000, thus showing that both races gained a marked advantage from the Zionist policy which we pursued and which we were developing over this period.
The right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade spoke of the past 25 years as being the most unkind or unhappy Palestine has known. I imagine that it would hardly be possible to state the opposite of the truth more compendiously. The years during which we have accepted the Mandate have been the brightest that Palestine has known and were full of hope. Of course, there was always friction, because the Jew was, in many cases, allowed to go far beyond the strict limits of the interpretation which was placed upon the Mandate. Disturbances occurred in 1937 and in 1938; in 1939 Mr. Chamberlain's Government produced the White Paper, which limited immigration other than on the ground of the economic absorptive capacity of the country. That, after a five-year interval, would have brought immigration to an end except by agreement with the Arab majority, which certainly would not have been obtained. This was in my view a failure to fulfil the obligations we had accepted, and I 1248 immediately protested against this departure. I found myself in full agreement with the Labour and Liberal Parties of those days.
I see that yesterday the Leader of the Liberal Party, who is not here today, in paying a tribute to my speech on that occasion deplored the fact that I had not the courage to vote against the Government. As to the courage that is required for one to give a vote against the Government one is elected to support, we no doubt shall have many examples today. I did take the trouble to look up the Divisions on that occasion, and I have for greater security brought this bulky volume to the Table. I find that I did vote against the Government of the day in support of the reasoned Amendment moved by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Lord President of the Council and that was the subject on which I spoke. However, I think that, on the whole, Members can always speak and not vote, though it is better to let the vote follow the speech. In this case, I conformed to the strictest tenets, and I trust that when the Leader of the Liberal Party rejoins his flock, they may acquaint him of the fact that his great responsibilities and multifarious duties have, no doubt, led him to an oversight, and a complete mis-statement of a matter of fact.
I have never altered my opinion that the White Paper constituted a negation of Zionist policy which, the House must remember, was an integral and indispensable condition of the Mandate. That is the view which I hold today. It was violently resented by the Jews in Palestine, and by world Jewry, a large majority of whom—although there are notable exceptions—regard Zionism as a great ideal, and as the cherished hope of their race, scattered throughout the world. Then came the war. After the fall of France, and the attack upon us by Italy, when we stood utterly alone, we had great need to concentrate our troops against the enemy, and economise in our outlying garrisons and commitments. At my desire, the Jewish community and Palestrne was armed, encouraged to organise and, in fact, to play a part in the defence of the Holy Land, to liberate British units there. The horrible persecutions by the Nazis left no doubt as to which side they were on, or could be on. The possibility of 1249 a German invasion, striking through Turkey, Syria and Palestine to the Suez Canal, as well as through Persia, towards the Persian Gulf, and at what were then deemed to be our vital communications, at what was then considered to be an important element in our affairs—our Eastern Empire and possessions, as well as Australia and New Zealand—was a very real anxiety in 1941–42. At a most critical time in 1941, it was aggravated by the revolt of the pro-German Arab elements in Iraq. No doubt our Zionist, policy may have led, in part, to that divergence of Arab sentiment. But the revolt was quelled, Syria was liberated, and Persia was occupied. Immense preparations and fortifications were made against German penetration of the Caucasus, and this danger complicated the whole defence of Europe from the West. But this menace was removed, at once and for ever, by the victories of Stalingrad and El Alamein.
Meanwhile, the Jewish community had developed strong, well-armed forces, and the highest military authorities reported to the Cabinet during 1941–42 that if the continued bickerings between Jews and Arabs grew into serious conflict, the Jews could not only defend themselves, but would beat the Arabs in Palestine, though that was, of course, the very opposite position from that which existed at the time of the Mandate, in 1919. At that time, the Jews were a defenceless minority, and it was a great part of our duty to protect them from the hostility of the very much stronger Arab forces who emerged with so much distinction and credit from the struggle against the Turks. Thus, there are two facts to be borne in mind. First, that Zionists and the Palestine Jews were vehemently and undividedly on our side in the struggle and, secondly, that they no longer need our assistance to maintain themselves in their national home against local Arab hostility. A general attack upon them by all surrounding Arab States would be a different matter, and that would clearly be one which would have to be settled by the United Nations organisation. But the position is different from what it was when the Mandate was granted.
Meanwhile how did we treat the Arabs? We have treated them very well. The House of Hussein reigns in Iraq. Feisal was placed on the throne, his grandson 1250 is there today. The Emir Abdullah, whom I remember appointing at Jerusalem, in 1921, to be in charge of Transjordania, is there today. He has survived the shocks, strains and stresses which have altered almost every institution in the world. He has never broken his faith and loyalty to this country. Syria and the Lebanon owe their independence to the great exertions made by the British Government to make sure that the pledges made by them, at the time when we were weak, but, nevertheless, were forced to take action by entering the country to drive out the Vichy French, were honoured. We have insisted on those pledges being made good. I cannot touch on the Arabs without paying my tribute to this splendid, king, Ibn Saud, of Saudi Arabia, who in the darkest hours never failed to send messages and encouragement of his unshakable faith that we should win and gain through. I cannot admit that we have not done our utmost to treat the Arabs in a way which so great a race deserves and requires. There was no greater champion of Arab rights than the late Colonel Lawrence. He was a valued friend of mine, and of my right hon. Friend the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton), who served with him in the Desert. With him I always kept in very close touch. There was great anxiety and dispute about this matter in the last war, when I was in the responsible position, at the Colonial Office, of dealing with it. When Colonel Lawrence gave me his book "The Seven. Pillars of Wisdom," he wrote in it that I had made a happy end to this show. I will not have it that the way we treated this matter was inconsiderate to the Arabs. On the contrary, I think that they have had a very fair deal from Great Britain. With all those countries which are given to their power and control, in every way they have had a very fair deal. It was little enough, indeed, that we had asked for the Jews—a natural home in their historic Holy Land, on which they have the power and virtue to confer many blessings for enjoyment, both of Jew and Arab.
It is quite true that the claims and desires of the Zionists latterly went beyond anything Which was agreed to by the Mandatory Power. This caused alarm and unrest among the Arabs, but the limits of the policy which I explained to the House have never been exceeded by 1251 any British Government, and if they are discharged they constitute the faithful fulfilment of our pledges, on which the Mandate hangs. At the General Election which followed the victorious ending of the German war, the Labour Party, which was believed to champion the Zionist cause in the terms I have defined, and not only in those terms, but going, in many cases, far beyond—to set up a Jewish State in Palestine, and so forth; quotations have been used, and one reads them, but there is no dispute on the matter—this Labour Party, some of whom we see here today, gained a large majority in the House of Commons. During the Election, they made most strenuous pro-Zionist speeches and declarations. Many of their most important leaders were known to be ardent supporters of the Zionist cause, and their success was, naturally, regarded by the Jewish community in Palestine as a prelude to the fulfilment of the pledges which had been made to them, and indeed opening the way to further ambitions. This was certainly the least which everybody expected.
In fact, all sorts of hopes were raised among the Jews of Palestine, just as other hopes were raised elsewhere. However, when the months slipped by and no decided policy or declaration was made by the present Government, a deep and bitter resentment spread throughout the Palestine Jewish community, and violent protests were made by the Zionist supporters in the United States. The disappointment and disillusionment of the Jews at the procrastination and indecision of the British Labour Government are no excuse, as we have repeatedly affirmed here, for the dark and deadly crimes which have been committed by the fanatical extremists, and these miscreants and murderers should be rooted out, and punished with the full severity of the law. We are all agreed about that, and I was glad to hear the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade affirm the intention of the Government not to be coerced by terrorism. But the expectations which had been aroused by the party opposite, and the resultant revulsion of feeling, are facts, none the less, to be held constantly before our minds. They cannot say all these things, and then let a whole year pass away and do nothing about it, and then be sur- 1252 prised if these pledges come home to roost in a most unpleasant manner.
Had I had the opportunity of guiding the course of events after the war was won a year ago, I should have faithfully pursued the Zionist cause as I have defined it; and I have not abandoned it today, although this is not a very popular moment to espouse it; but there are two things to say about it. First, I agree entirely with what the President of the Board of Trade said on this point—no one can imagine that there is room in Palestine for the great masses of Jews who wish to leave Europe, or that they could be absorbed in any period which it is now useful to contemplate. The idea that the Jewish problem could be solved or even helped by a vast dumping of the Jews of Europe into Palestine is really too silly to consume our time in the House this afternoon. I am not absolutely sure that we should be in too great a hurry to give up the idea that European Jews may live in the countries where they belong. I must say that I had no idea, when the war came to an end, of the horrible massacres which had occurred; the millions and millions that have been slaughtered. That dawned on us gradually after the struggle was over. But if all these immense millions have been killed and slaughtered, there must be a certain amount of living room for the survivors, and there must be inheritances and properties to which they can lay claim. Are we not to hope that some tolerance will be established in racial matters in Europe, and that there will be some law reigning by which, at any rate, a portion of the property of these great numbers will not be taken away from them? It is quite clear, however, that this crude idea of letting all the Jews of Europe go into Palestine has no relation either to the problem of Europe or to the problem which arises in Palestine.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
The right hon. Gentleman is not suggesting, is he, that any Jew who regarded a country in Europe as nothing but the graveyard and cemetery of all his relatives, friends and hopes should be compelled to stay there if he did not want to do so?
§ Mr. Churchill
I am against preventing Jews from doing anything which other people are allowed to do. I am against that, and I have the strongest abhorrence 1253 of the idea of anti-Semitic lines of prejudice. Secondly, I have for some years past—this is really the crux of the argument I am venturing to submit to the House—felt that an unfair burden was being thrown upon Great Britain by our having to bear the whole weight of the Zionist policy, while Arabs and Moslems —or Muslims, as they are called by a certain school of political thought—then so important to our Empire, were alarmed and estranged, and while the United States, for the Government and people of which I have the greatest regard and friendship, and other countries, sat on the sidelines and criticised our shortcomings with all the freedom of perfect detachment and irresponsibility. Therefore, I had always intended to put it to our friends in America, from the very beginning of the postwar discussions, that either they should come in and help us in this Zionist problem, about which they feel so strongly, and as I think rightly, on even terms, share and share alike, or that we should resign our Mandate, as we have, of course, a perfect right to do.
Indeed, I am convinced that from the moment when we feel ourselves unable to carry out properly and honestly the Zionist policy as we have all these years defined it and accepted it, and which is the condition on which we received the Mandate for Palestine, it is our duty at any rate to offer to lay down the Mandate. We should, therefore, as soon as the war stopped, have made it clear to the United States that, unless they came in and bore their share, we would lay the whole care and burden at the feet of the United Nations organisation; and we should have fixed a date by which all our troops and forces would be withdrawn from the country. At that time we had no interest in Palestine. We have never sought or got anything out of Palestine. We have discharged a thankless, painful, costly, laborious, inconvenient task for more than a quarter of a century with a very great measure of success. Many people have made fine speeches about the Zionist question. Many have subscribed generously in money, but it is Great Britain, and Great Britain alone, which has steadfastly carried that cause forward across a whole generation to its present actual position, and the Jews all over the world ought not to be in a hurry to forget that. If in the Jewish movement or in 1254 the Jewish Agency there are elements of murder and outrage which they cannot control, and if these strike not only at their best but at their only effective friends, they and the Zionist cause must inevitably suffer from the grave and lasting reproach of the atrocious crimes which have been committed. It is perfectly clear that Jewish warfare directed against the British in Palestine will, if protracted, automatically release us from all obligations to persevere, as well as destroy the inclination to make further efforts in British hearts. Indeed, there are many people who are very near that now. We must not be in a hurry to turn aside from large causes which we have carried far.
There is the figure of Dr. Weizmann, that dynamic Jew ,whom I have known so long, the ablest and wisest leader of the cause of Zionism, his whole life devoted to the cause, his son killed in the battle for our common freedom. I ardently hope his authority will be respected by Zionists in this dark hour, and that the Government will keep in touch with him, and make every one of his compatriots feel how much he is respected here. It is perfectly clear that in that case we shall have the best opportunities of carrying this matter further forward.
I am sorry to weary the House with these reminiscences and "might have beens" but it was my intention when the war was over to place this position before our American friends in the plainest words—the plainest words, which, spoken in good will and good faith, are the words to which Americans are most likely to respond. I am in full accord with every effort the Government have made to obtain American support in sharing the burden of the Zionist policy. The Anglo-American Committee was a step in the right direction, the negotiations which have taken place since are another favourable step, as was this scheme which has been read out as agreed to by the expert bodies joined in this Committee. It is far more important that there should be agreement than that there should be this or that variant of the scheme. I fully agree that the Government were right to labour with the United States; I will not try to examine the various schemes of partition or cantonisation which have been put forward, nor would I dwell on that idea, which I 1255 always championed, of a wider union— an Arab-Jew federal system of four or live States in the Middle East, which would have been one of the great Powers, with Jew and Arab combined together to share the glory and mutually protect and help each other. As I say, almost any solution in which the United States will join us could be made to work.
All these processes of inquiry, negotiation and discussion have been the occasion, so frequently referred to in this Debate, of prolonged and very dangerous delays and if at the end of all these delays success is not attained, namely, Anglo-American cooperation on equal terms to carry out a Zionist policy within the limits defined or as we may agree— if that is not attained then we are confronted with a deplorable failure in the conduct of our affairs in Palestine since the end of the second great war. It was with very great regret that I read this morning of the non-agreement of the United States, and the right hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, quite bluntly and bleakly told us that there was no agreement at the present time. I hope it is not the final word. This agreement was the one great goal to which we were invited to aspire; here was the one excuse the Government could put forward for the long delays and indecisions which have involved us in so much cost and serious bloodshed. If this Anglo-American cooperation fails, as it seems so far to have failed, then I must say that the record of the Administration during this year—and a Government must be judged by results—in the handling of Palestinian affairs will stand forth as a monument of incapacity.
It may be that they have had difficul-1ies but Governments are judged by results. I turned up with a number of defeats during the war and I was very much criticised about it. I had several times to come down with reports of defeats, but when afterwards there were successes we were entitled to be praised. Up to this particular minute, this has been a complete failure; it has gone from bad to worse, and one does not feel that there is any grip of the matter which is going to succeed. The one rightful, reasonable, simple, and compulsive lever which we held and, if you will, still hold, was and is a sincere readiness to resign the 1256 mission, to lay our Mandate at the feet of the United Nations organisation and thereafter to evacuate the country with which we have no connection or tradition and where we have no sovereignty as in India and no treaty as in Egypt. Such was the position we could have adopted until a few months ago, and I am sure it would have procured a good result. The cogency of such a statement once it was believed would, I am sure, make the solution much more possible, and if no solution was obtained, then our responsibilities would have been honourably discharged. Once make it clear that the British have no interests in remaining in Palestine and no wish to do so, and that they decline to carry forward single-handed this harsh, invidious burden, then you will get attention paid to what you say and what you ask and all kinds of good solutions for the Jew and Arab alike, based on the cooperation and resources of the English-speaking world, will immediately come into the field of possibility.
However, His Majesty's Government by their precipitate abandonment of their treaty rights in Egypt, and, in particular, the Suez Canal zone, are now forced to look for a strong place of arms, for a jumping-off ground in Palestine in order to protect the Canal from outside Egypt. By this unwisdom they have vitiated disinterestedness and we can now be accused of having a national strategic motive for retaining our hold on Palestine. I must regard this as a very grave disaster and an immense weakening of our position. What the Government have done in Egypt—though no doubt from very good motives—has greatly weakened our moral position in Palestine by stripping us of our disinterestedness in that country. I pointed out in the Debate on Egyptian policy a few weeks ago, that the moment we were dependent upon Palestine for a base from which to defend the Suez Canal, we should greatly hamper all possibility of obtaining American cooperation. Well, look at the position to which we have now been brought.
Take stock round the world at the present moment; after all, we are entitled to survey the whole field. We declare ourselves ready to abandon the mighty Empire and Continent of India with all the work we have done in the last 200 years, territory over which we possess unimpeachable sovereignty. The Govern- 1257 ment are, apparently, ready to leave the 400 million Indians to fall into all the horrors of sanguinary civil war—civil war compared to which anything that could happen in Palestine would be microscopic; wars of elephants compared with wars of mice. Indeed we place the independence of India in hostile and feeble hands, heedless of the dark carnage and confusion which will follow. We scuttle from Egypt which we twice successfully defended from foreign massacre and pillage. We scuttle from it, we abandon the Canal zone about which our treaty rights were and still are indefeasible, but now, apparently, the one place where we are at all costs and at all inconveniences to hold on and fight it out to the death is Palestine, and we are to be at war with the Jews of Palestine, and, if necessary, with the Arabs of Palestine. For what reason? Not, all the world will say, for the faithful discharge of our long mission, but because we have need, having been driven out of Egypt, to secure a satisfactory strategic base from which to pursue our Imperial aims.
I thank the House for listening. I have trespassed on their time at some length, but I wish to look forward before I conclude and not to look back. I will not go so far in criticising and in censuring without proposing positive action, with all the responsibility and the exposure to counterattack which one incurs when one proposes definite and serious action. Here is the action—action this day. I think the Government should say that if the United States will not come and share the burden of the Zionist cause, as defined or as agreed, we should now give notice that we will return our Mandate to U.N.O. and that we will evacuate Palestine within a specified period. At the same time, we should inform Egypt that we stand by our treaty rights and will, by all means, maintain our position in the Canal zone. Those are the two positive proposals which I submit, most respectfully, to the House. In so far as the Government may have hampered themselves in any way from adopting these simple policies, they are culpable in the last degree, and the whole Empire and the Commonwealth will be the sufferers from their mismanagement.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
It would be quite wrong on my part if I were to follow the right hon. 1258 Gentleman into the area of discussion he initiated at the end of his speech, regarding strategic affairs in Egypt or in India, or in the Canal zone. If I make a reference to it it is to say only that it would not be a very great service to the cause of the Jewish National Home, which the right hon. Gentleman has done so much to help in these past 25 years, to have its fortunes linked up with merely reactionary Imperial courses all over the world. I take it that my hon. Friends here do not believe—and I am sure they will say so if they do believe—that our course of action in Palestine, right or wrong, has been dictated by any military needs of the British Empire, or that the rights and wrongs of this matter are bedevilled by strategic or Imperial considerations of any kind. I say no more of it than that.
The next point I would like to make is a reference to what was said yesterday by the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), who declared that the House of Commons had been cavalierly treated in this matter. We are having a most useful Debate, a constructive Debate, and I hope that it will prove in the end to be a very helpful Debate; but I cannot see why we should not have had it six months or eight months or nine months ago. There is nothing that has been said on either side of the House which could not have been said long ago, and indeed to have said it at the beginning instead of at the end might have had two very important results. One is that the basis of discussion on which we are inviting the United States to cooperate would have been made known and made clear from the beginning. Why need there be any secrecy about it? The other is that we should not have left, as we did leave, not merely Jews in Palestine, but Jews in the displaced persons camps in Germany, in hopeless and helpless silence.
It was inevitable that the Debate should have been overshadowed at its commencement by the outrage in Jerusalem last week. Everyone can appreciate the feelings that such an outrage engendered. I do not want to say another word about it. I do not even want to say a word about General Barker, in connection with whom so much misunderstanding was expressed in various parts of the House yesterday. I can understand it too. I wonder how many Members who were 1259 Members of the last Parliament remember the occasion in 1942, early in December, when, at long last, the great Powers, the Allies, became reluctantly convinced that Hitler really did mean to annihilate the whole of the Jewish population of Europe. What will be recalled is the moment that will compare with any other moment in the history of this House, when the whole crowded House—an unprecedented thing to do and not provided for by any Standing Order—rose to its feet and stood in silent homage to those who were about to die.
We could not do much to help them. No one desired that our war activity should be moderated in any sort of way or that our war effort should be in any way weakened in order to bring succour to those threatened people. Surely, at that moment we undertook some obligation to any who, in spite of all, might survive. Not many did. I know that the House gets tired, as I get tired myself, of recounting the numbers of people who went through the gas chambers, but I beg hon. Members whose sympathy was so deeply roused about General Barker and who understand so well how the deaths of people known to us and dear to us can make us say unbalanced things, and do things that otherwise we should not have done, to show some kind of understanding for the people in Palestine and elsewhere, who have not lost 100 people but who have lost 6,000,000 people. If they, too, get overstrained and do things that they ought not to do, say things that they ought not to say, and get, as a result, more disaster and more bitterness, however much we may condemn it and however much we may condemn General Barker's words, let us show some understanding. That is all I want to say about that, except that it leads one to this: On both sides of the House people still talk about not allowing Jews to be expelled from Europe. I agree. It would be a poor result of the past six years of war, unless we could create conditions everywhere in the world in which men could live in free and equal citizenship without regard to race, creed or colour. If there are Jews who are prepared to remain and contribute again of their best to the reconstruction of European civilisation, at least conditions ought to be created that will enable them to do so; but I repeat that no one ought to be compelled to remain who wishes to go.
1260 Let me tell the House a story. I do not suppose anyone would mind the name being mentioned but I will not give it unless I am pressed for it. I knew a German Jew who was born in Berlin, aged now perhaps a year or two under 40; his father was born in Germany and his grandfather and great grandfathers go back for 1,000 years. He married a German Jewish girl in Berlin. They had a little house and a little business and a little boy, and lived there until Christmas of 1941, when a large black Nazi car arrived at their little house and took away his wife and his little boy. The next morning another car arrived and took him away, and he spent the next four or five years in various concentration camps, miraculously surviving, until I found him in Belsen last August as vice-chairman of the Central Committee of Displaced Persons. He has never heard of his wife or his boy since. He will never hear of his wife or his boy again.
What do hon. Members think ought to be done with Mr. Wollheim? Send him back to Berlin? No, I do not believe there is anybody who would do it. Send him as a refugee or exile or alien to some other country that might be induced to receive him as an act of charity? No, if there is any other fate open to him. If he wants to go to a land in respect of which we are pledged to create a national home, where he will be no stranger and no exile but a returning son back to his own land and people to live his own life in his own surroundings, is he not entitled to go—
§ Mr. Blackburn (Birmingham, King's Norton)
Will the hon. Member give some estimate of. the total numbers of Jews who would fall into this category, and what he thinks could be done with that estimated number?
§ Mr. Silverman
If my hon. Friend wants to study this question, he will find an opportunity for studying it of greater profit than by making interventions in speeches in a Debate. This question has been examined time after time. My hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman)—I think I may say he will not mind—had his doubts about this, very serious doubts, before he became a member of the Anglo-American Committee. He has no doubts now. He signed the unanimous Report. That 1261 Report says that there are some 500,000 or 600,000 people in Europe who must get out, and if we multiply Mr. Wollheim by only 100,000 we get recommendation No. 2 of the Report of the Anglo-American Committee.
It is said—and my hon. Friend implied it by his question—why only Palestine? I have given some reasons why Palestine is the only possible place for some of these people, but suppose one agrees that the whole problem cannot be so solved and that other nations must take their share of responsibility and discharge their obligations, which is, after all, an obligation upon the conscience of all the world. Statements are made in Debate about international refugee associations and agreements. The Colonial Secretary probably knows—if he does not know, I recommend him to consult the Foreign Secretary—that the International Refugee Organisation under U.N.O. is not concerned with the Palestine problem at all but is concerned with displaced persons as a whole. They made careful inquiry among all the nations of the world to see what proportion, if any, would be taken by each. I have not the time to give to the House now—I have the documents— the detailed answers. I beg the House to accept it from me that it amounted to just nothing whatever.
§ Mr. Silverman
I heard an hon. Member asking about South America. I heard it being said, "Some South American States have promised to take some refugees. Have any others undertaken to take some refugees?" But they have selected the refugees, imposed conditions as to time and place of residence, as to not living together, as to language, as to race and as to religion; and the result is that those States are not available to any of the persons for whom this question is the real question—none at all. I should not like to accuse the Lord President of the Council of being deliberately cynical. I am sure he had no intention of being deliberately cynical, but to say that we have done our share and that we have given a lead in discharging our obligation to the Jewish survivors of this holocaust because we have taken in 170,000 Poles—was he really intending to laugh at us? Is it some sort of bad joke? That is how it would be regarded everywhere in the world in a situation 1262 which has been exacerbated time after time by slipshod statements of that kind bearing no relation whatever to the facts and inflaming passions everywhere where the matter is of vital importance.
For weeks and months we have pressed the Home Secretary not to take in vast numbers, but only this—that if we find in a displaced persons camp in Germany some surviving man or woman or child whose only relatives left in the world are living in comfort in this country and are willing to take them here, let just those come in. That has nothing to do with Palestine, that has nothing to do with the National Home, and it has nothing to do with any wide political problem of any kind. Just that handful of people who have anybody else left in the world and have been luckier than their comrades and associates in that they have some relatives surviving here—let them come in. After weeks and months we got an announcement of a narrowly limited series of categories designed to let these people in. That was in January. What the position is now I do not know, but up to three weeks ago not one person had come into the country under that scheme. And we talk about discharging our obligation and taking our share of the responsibility. America is going to take 53,000.
§ Mr. Silverman
That is their normal quota. That is nothing to do with Jews or displaced persons. That is the exact quota that they would have taken if no war had occurred, if no Jew had been killed and if there had been no displaced persons in the world. It is the quota resumed after six or seven years. It is laughable to talk as though this was a practical suggestion for dealing with an immediate difficulty. We know, they know, everybody knows that it is only words to say that the responsibility must be shared by all other nations. It will remain mere words until the nations show some signs not merely that they verbally accept a share of the responsibility, but that they are actively prepared to discharge it. There is a community ready to receive these people. The 600,000 Jews who live in Palestine, who won Palestine back from the desert, form the one solid haven of refuge that is open, 1263 the only place in the world where they want to go, and the only place in the world ready to receive them. Yet, for 12 solid months, a Socialist Government in this country has kept them out, preaching patience and restraint, preaching nonviolence. It is so easy, is it not? There they sit in your concentration camp yet, still waiting for any word of hope from this country.
Your enemies can take your life; your enemies can take your property; they can take your house; they can take your livelihood; they can take everything from you—breath itself—but only your friends can inflict upon you the last refinement of cruelty, of raising hopes every morning which they disappoint every night. Only your friends can do that for you, and if there is greater bitterness now, is it not perhaps that they feel they are entitled to say, "We expected nothing from the Tory Party in this country. They gave us the White Paper in 1938 and 1939. But for their restrictions on immigration at that time, hundreds of thousands of people might have escaped from Europe in time before ever the war occurred." They did not look to them for help, they looked to us for help, they looked to you for help, and you promised them help. You make people desperate in that way. If you drive them to despair, it is not really enough, after that, merely to rub your hands in sanctimonious horror and indignation at the insane, desperate things that they then do.
I apologise to the House for speaking with some warmth. I think perhaps I ought not to have done it; I had no intention of doing it. I agree with the right hon. and learned Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade in his own approach to it today. Certainly, let us try to be constructive now; let us deal with the difficulties as they are, and see what is our way out. But I think I was entitled to show that this overshadowing horror and condemnation and sense of guilt with which the Debate started ought to that extent, at any rate, to be mitigated.
Well, now, this proposal. What was it that they did? We hear now that this scheme, or something very like it, was prepared long ago, before the Government came into office at all. We hear 1264 from the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) that this scheme was presented to the Anglo-American Committee and rejected by them. You have the situation now when one joint Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry unanimously rejects what the next joint Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry unanimously accepts. That is the situation. Now the right hon. Gentleman is surprised that people find that there is something wrong with it. Everybody knew there were things wrong with it; that is why they rejected it. Let us try to see what it is that makes it difficult to regard this as a solution. I say at once that I am not looking at it, or judging it, as a final solution. I understand very well that it is not put forward as a final solution; it is put forward as an interim, transitional solution—not transitional to anything stated or known or envisaged, but because at this moment we cannot deal in absolutes or in finalities, but only in transitional phases, seeking to deal with the immediate difficulties on your doorstep. If I criticise the scheme at all, I do it only from that point of view. I am not blaming the Government because this scheme is not the final scheme. I know they did not intend it, and I do not see how we could have had a final scheme put forward in this way at this moment.
I say there are three fatal defects in it. The first fatal defect is that it does not. deal with the 100,000 who, everybody knows, must go into Palestine. It is quite true that the scheme says that they shall go in within 12 months; but within 12 months from what? Does it mean 12 months from the day on which this scheme comes into operation, and what day is that? Nobody knows. So it is 12 months from an unspecified date—indeed, within 12 months that may never occur at all, because what do the Government say about it? The Government say that this scheme can work with the acquiescence of both parties, and we are to have a conference to see if we can get the acquiescence of both parties. Yet the Government have already been told that one party will not come. I hope I am wrong about that, but I thought the Arab Higher Committee in Palestine had said that they would not come and would not discuss with the Jews the future of Palestine. If they have not said that, so 1265 much the better and they will come, but I thought they said they would not come.
However, suppose they do come. Their view has always been that Palestine cannot take more Jewish immigrants. That was their case in 1938; that was the case to which Mr. Neville Chamberlain's Government yielded. I say yielded not because of its merit, not because of its right, but yielded to force, yielded to violence. Suppose they still say so. What will the Government do then about this 100,000—not about the scheme, but about the 100,000? Are you not still saying— and if you are not, please make it clear, because it is most important—at the moment it looks as if you are still saying that the 100,000 will come in within 12 months of the day when the Arabs agree to let them in. The Lord President said within 12 months from the day on which the scheme comes into operation. It is only the White Paper with one remove. I doubt very much whether that was the Government's intention, but certainly that is what the scheme says, and I appeal to the Government to remove that one, at any rate, of the three fatal defects—that it does not deal with the fate of the 100,000 whose ultimate fate can only be the one agreed unanimously by everybody. If they are to go in, if you know they are to go in, say that they are to go in and give a time limit when the thing is to begin. Do not make it part of the lesser of your transitional measures. It cannot be part, because it does not depend on them.
What is the second fatal decision? I heard the Lord President say—I was glad to hear him say it, and I hope he is right —that virtually this leaves the control of immigration in the hands of the separate provinces; that although it is actually exercised by the central Government in the sense that it is the central Government which issues the certificates, the central Government will act only on the advice of the provinces. The province is to determine the economic absorptive capacity, and the central Government have only to see that the economic absorptive capacity is not exceeded.
That sounds very plausible, and if there were no history in this matter it might be accepted. But, as the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition said, until 1938 the economic absorptive capacity was the test, and the Agency determined how many they could economically 1266 absorb. Having decided how many they could economically absorb, they went to the High Commissioner, precisely as they will have to do under this scheme, and he said, "No." I think there was one occasion on which he said that 60 per cent. of certificates could be absorbed. That was in the days when, as I say, the economic absorptive capacity was the test, and that was exceptional—in most years they got 10, 15 or 20 per cent. When the High Commissioner, to whom this power is reserved, under this scheme, considers whether he will agree with the Jewish province when it says, "We can take so many, give us so many certificates," will he be advised by his Council, on which the Arabs will have equal representation with the Jews, or will he act in this matter without anybody's advice? If he is going to act on the advice of the Council on which the Arabs are present, look what opportunities for friction and delay are introduced. It may very well be that as a result of a long inquiry and, perhaps, an appeal to the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations, the province may ultimately get its way. But, by that time, two or three years will have been wasted, and they will always be behind the economic absorptive capacity. Why in the world, if the President of the Board of Trade was right, if the issue of certificates by the central Government is a mere formality, if they will be issued whenever the province says it can do with them—if that is the position, what is the point of reserving it to the central Government at all? Why not say, plainly, and put the matter beyond doubt, that the provinces will be able to control their own immigration, without anybody's fear or check?
I hope I am not speaking for too long —[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on."] The third thing which I think is a fatal defect in this transitional measure is this. Economic absorptive capacity, yes, but for what? For the creation of a National Home, and the admission of some hundreds of thousands of people for whom there is no other place? That cannot be done in a too limited area, and we cannot take anybody else's land with which to-do that. It is always asked, "Why do the Jews want to take something where somebody else lives? Why cannot they go where there is nobody, and build it up themselves?" That is precisely what they have been doing since 1917. Nearly 1267 all the land on which they live is land which they reclaimed from malarial swamp and desert. When it is said that they have great capital behind them with which to do that, it should be remembered that it is the pennies and shillings of the poor from all over the world, and most of the money went into the pockets of Arab landlords, from whom the malarial swamps were obtained in the first place. They did nothing with their money, but spend it in Cairo and Haifa.
To reclaim waste land is precisely what we are prepared to do now. There is no need to take any Arab land at all. There is the Negeb, in the South, which is only a desert, but what does the scheme say about that? Nobody knows whether it will ever be cultivable or not. That is what they said of Palestine in 1917. The Jews might be wrong, the Zionists might be wrong, the Agency might be wrong. They say they can cultivate it. My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) asked a Question the other day. He wanted to know whether any British technical experts had examined the scheme. He was told, "No." I do not know what deduction he draws from that, but the deduction I draw is that the Administration have not been interested in it for 25 years. Otherwise, they would have had technical experts examining it long ago. I suppose British experts will always be right, and the others will always be wrong. But, supposing the technical experts are all wrong, then nothing would be given away. All we say is, "Give us this desert, and we shall try to make it blossom, as we made the Vale of Jezreel blossom. We will take our despised and rejected, we will take our survivors, we will take the victims that no one else wants, and put them in the desert and make it their flower of civilisation, as we have made Palestine in the last 25 years." Why keep cavilling? What is the object of keeping that in abeyance? What is it hoped to gain? Is it to be another apple of discord to throw between Arab and Jew? Give it to us now, and let us make it flourish.
§ Dr. Morgan (Rochdale)
May I ask my hon. Friend a question? He is very fervent, and impresses the House a great deal. But he is talking of the ultimate success of the scheme. Suppose the 100,000 are taken to the desert and they 1268 fail. On whom then would the responsibility fall for the care and comfort of these people dying in the desert?
§ Mr. Silverman
The 100,000 are dying all over Europe in concentration camps. I do not want to quarrel with the hon. Member. I am not suggesting that they should go to the desert anyhow. There are places for the 100,000, but we have the opportunity of developing the desert, and no one else wants to develop it. I say that it is a fatal defect in the scheme to keep that out, as though we wanted something to play with later on, as a source of further trouble. We are asked to take the Jews to some other place which is not cultivated, and which is not someone else's land and there are 2,000 miles of desert which we think we could make live and flourish. Why keep it out of the scheme? If these three things were put right we would not have a final solution—but who can deal with final solutions in this matter, or indeed, in any other matter? We would be able to deal with the immediate exigencies of the situation, and I doubt whether anybody would take the responsibility then of saying, "We will have nothing whatever to do with it, and will not talk of it." Are these the matters that are standing between this country and America? I do not know. If there are others, and more serious matters, let us know what they are. But if these, or any of them, are things which stand in the way, they are things which could be put right. I hope the Government will put them right. If they put them forward as a basis of discussion, let us discuss them now, and see if we cannot improve the situation.
I am not one of those who take a negative or pessimistic view about the relation of Jews or Arabs, either in Palestine or the Middle East. They are kindred peoples. It is not possible for an Arab to be an anti-Semite. He is a Semite. His fears are understandable enough, but his main fear is that the Jews are nothing but the spearhead of European economic, imperialist, domination. He thinks that behind the Jews comes a wave of exploiting financial 1269 interests. It is not so. I would like to read a few words of a description given in 1936 by the Lord President of the Council of what he saw in Palestine. There have been a lot of quotations and reminders. I beg my right hon. Friend to believe me when I say that I do not read this by way of reproach. On the contrary, one is grateful for it. But if it was true in 1936, it is still true. Let me read it. Speaking in the House of Commons he said:I have seen these Jewish agricultural settlements.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) has said that the Jewish National Home had to be mainly industrial, showing a complete failure to understand what the whole thing is about.
§ Mr. Harold Macmillan (Bromley)
I am sure that the hon. Member would not wish to misrepresent what my right hon. Friend said. His argument was that as a very large part of the economy was likely to be industrial it added to the argument that the absorptive capacity was greater than might otherwise appear. I do not think my right hon. Friend wished to imply that it should be purely industrial, and I am sure that the hon. Member would not wish to misinterpret him.
§ Mr. Silverman
I do not think there is any quarrel between us, and I quite accept what the right hon. Gentleman says. The important thing is the way the right hon. Gentleman put it. He regarded it as being mainly industrial. It is mainly nothing of the kind. The great need of the Jews as a people was to be reunited to land. We had had no Jewish peasantry for 2,000 years, and the effect of that on the Jewish ethos has been plain for anyone to see. The main task of the Zionists in the early days was to create a Jewish peasantry. It is the one thing they most successfully did in Palestine. Of all the things they did in Palestine, it is not the new industries, it is not the light industries of all kinds—there is a good deal of it now, and very creditable it is—that has been the main achievement; it has been the agricultural achievement. Here is the Lord President's description of it:I have seen these Jewish settlements. I wish the hon. Member for West Fife had seen them"—1270 I do not know why that hon. Member in particular—They are one of the most wonderful demonstrations of the moral capacity of the human race in the whole of the civilised world. I have been to Russia also but, as as a moral proposition, it is a finer thing than is happening in any part of Russia, though there is a good case to be made of many happenings in that country. Here are colonies in which people are working on a voluntary cooperative basis with no element of dictatorship or compulsion behind them, actually reclaiming soil hitherto unfertilised and untillable and making it productive and doing it for their keep or for remittances to dependant relatives in Europe, or one or two allowances in kind, They are doing it for no money wage at all. It is being done not as a mere capitalist exploiting business, but directly in association with and under the control of the great Jewish trade union organisation, the Jewish Federation ox Labour "—most of whose leaders are now in concentration camps in Palestine.I have seen these fine young people, coming from various countries where they have been persecuted and some from the British Dominions, some from Russia—Russia is about the most difficult, perhaps, of any-country for letting them go—I have eaten their numble food with them at their table and have witnessed their fine morale. I came back with a humble feeling that I should like to give up this business of House of Commons and politics and join them in the clean, healthy life that they are leading.He goes on:I came back—but I felt like it, and so would any decent Member of this House feel like it. It is one of the most wonderful manifestations in the world. When I think of the splendid young people happily working in a cooperative and communal spirit for the building up of a national home subjected to brutal murders and shootings, I feel indignant about this crude and bloody butting into one of the finest moral efforts in the history of mankind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 19th June, 1936; Vol. 313, c. 1386–7.]All that we are asking, in more tragic days than the days of 1936, is to continue that moral effort.
§ Mr. Keeling
I wonder if the hon. Member would clear up one point? I did not wish to interrupt the flow of his eloquent speech, but I would be glad if he would answer this: He said that those who sur-vived the German massacres did so in spite of us. What had it to do with us? I cannot think that he wants to cast a slur either on this House or on the British nation. Even if the doors of Palestine had been wide open before the war, it would not have been possible for more than a very small proportion of the millions 1271 of Jews on the Continent to go to Palestine. How can we be held responsible for the massacres?
§ Mr. Silverman
I thought I had made my meaning clear, but if I did not, I am grateful to the hon. Member for giving me this opportunity. I meant, in spite of our helplessness, in spite of our inability to help in the exigencies of the war as it then was.
§ 6.26 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I hope that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) will not think me impertinent if I begin by confirming what he has just said. I, like my hon. Friend in front of me, noticed the ambiguity of the words he used. I was in no doubt whatever that what he meant was what he has just explained but I think my hon. Friend did the House a service in getting that plain in HANSARD. There are one or two matters in which I find myself in some agreement with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. There may be more than two matters in which I find myself in some disagreement with him. One was in his commendation of the suggestion of the President of the Board of Trade that we ought to avoid what the right hon. and learned Gentleman called arguments of partisanship. I am not at all sure that that is good advice in these Debates.
These Debates are almost the most difficult of all the various Debates which this House conducts, I am not at all sure that the hon. Member is right. I disagreed with him, in approving the recommendation he received from the Front Bench. I rather agreed with him in his practice, because his speech was, I thought, a very partisan speech, in both the obvious senses of partisanship. He was very partisan from the point of view of the disagreement between those who care most about Arab interests and those who care most about Zionist interests in this matter. I thought him extremely partisan also in reference to the divisions of this House. The hon. Member spoke of expecting nothing from the Tory Party in this matter. I have always been anti-Zionist and have never disguised it. I was an almost pre-natal anti-political Zionist. I was concerned with the matter in 1918, after the Balfour Declaration had been issued, but before 1272 the thing had been generally accepted and interpreted and become a permanent establishment. I thought it was a mistake. I still think it is a mistake. But at any rate, what is not fair to say is that it owed nothing to the Tories, because from the time of Arthur Balfour onwards it has owed a great deal to Tories, and I think that what the hon. Member said was an unfair piece of partisanship.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
If the hon. Member will allow me, I would like to explain, as I am anxious not to say more than I meant. What I was getting at was that the closing of the doors in 1938, which I regard as the beginning of most of this-misery, was the act of the Tory Government of that day, Mr. Neville Chamberlain's Government, which was opposed then and subsequently by my party— and by some Conservatives too.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
The hon. Gentleman makes my next point very exactly. He regards the stoppage of Jewish Zionist immigration in 1938 as the beginning of all this tragedy. A good deal had happened before that. The Arab Higher Committee had been treated in a way in which the Jewish Agency has not been treated now. I have forgotten how many Arabs had been executed for carrying arms. The tragedy or tragedies did begin before that. I do not blame the hon. Gentleman opposite for seeing one of these tragedies and not seeing so plainly the other of these tragedies; nor do I agree with the right hon. Gentleman who spoke from the Front Bench this afternoon that, there being hon. Gentlemen who have that natural prejudice in this House, they ought not to make that natural prejudice plain. What I suggest is that the Debate is made extremely difficult because there are not in this House any hon. Members who have the opposite natural prejudice. It may be thought that I have. I feel sure I have not. I do not wish to go into an analysis of my own character. That is generally of no great interest to others. I feel fairly clear that I have not that prejudice. I do not feel I have any prejudice against Jews and I am quite sure I have not the Arab prejudice in favour of the Arabs. I am quite sure I cannot speak for that side of this case in the way in which the other side of this case can be spoken for.
1273 Therefore, Sir, I am not at all sure that the real danger to these Debates is excess of partisanship, at any rate on one of the two sides. I am not at all sure that we ought not, some of us, to speak in a more partisan way than we do. I would support that again with something which was said by the hon. Gentleman towards the end of his speech. He told us that this new plan might be quite acceptable if three things were altered. I have no authority to speak for Palestinian Arabs but I cannot but believe that those are the three things which in the whole of the proposals now set up seem to them to be what really matters. If only there were to be 100,000 more Zionist immigrants at once, said the hon. Gentleman. Secondly, if only the Zionists were to decide what is the economic absorptive capacity for the future. Thirdly, if only they are to control the Negeb. I quite see that from his point of view if these "if onlys" were adjusted, then everything would be highly tolerable. What I cannot understand—or at least I can understand it but I cannot understand how the rest of us should let it go uncorrected or unquestioned—is that any British Member of Parliament should think that those are small "if onlys" to be put into the proposed arrangement.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I rather gathered from the President of the Board of Trade that they were very small "if onlys." I gathered from him that it was intended that the 100,000 should go, that it was intended that the province should control immigration, and that the Negeb was a desert that nobody else wanted.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I gathered all that from what the hon. Gentleman said, and I think I put my comment fairly. I do not mind being interrupted but it tends to make me long. I have a good many things I would like to say but I have not got the thing laid out properly before me. In the course of my last remarks I used the term. "economic absorptive capacity." I venture to comment upon those words. I am sorry, though I do not complain, that my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition is not here. I never thought that that phrase was one of his happiest and I do not think that the conception which that phrase is meant to enshrine is really very helpful. If in Palestine all control of power 1274 and electricity is in one hand in one monopoly hand, if there is one of the two communities with, from a local point of view, almost infinite command of capital—whether that capital is collected in hundreds of thousands of dollars or collected in dimes makes no odds—if there are those two things, then the economic absorptive capacity is whatever those persons having those powers, and most of all, if besides that they have power to control tariffs, then the economic absorptive capacity is highly manageable and largely at the mercy of the persons in that position. Therefore, to tell the already settled population, to tell the indigenous population, that they need not worry about these people coming in because the influx is not going to be above a ceiling, a level, fixed by the economic absorptive capacity, is, I submit, really quite useless by way of meeting their fears.
I venture to make one or two other comments on the speech of the Leader of the Opposition. First of all, there is the point about the Mandate. I do not know if you have noticed, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but I think this is the first full-scale Debate in this Parliament in which we have not had from the other side boasting about the "mandate" in the other sense of the word. I think in every other full-scale Debate, every Second Reading Debate and every other general Debate on policy in this Session so far, I think every time we have been told, "It is all right. We have got a mandate." Now, this is a matter upon which the right hon. Gentlemen opposite have conspicuously not got a mandate. I do not want to go further into that at the moment because I think the thing has been done sufficiently; but I think it fair to say, and I think it even fair to repeat, that doubtless there would have been a horribly difficult, probably a melodramatic, situation in Palestine now, whoever was in office; but this particular horror, this particular melodrama, which now is there, is considerably a result of the irresponsible levity with which the party opposite for years has treated this subject and has used it as one of the ladders to the eminence in which right hon. Gentlemen now find themselves.
I wish now to say a word about the Mandate in the other sense. There is not time to go into the history of that Mandate or to try to expound what seem to me to be the law and the equity of it. I will 1275 say one thing not at all by way of criticism of my right hon. Friend on the Front Bench but just to show how difficult it is. I think I am right in saying he made a great error of fact and I think I am right in saying nobody noticed. I refer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). He talked of the interpretation which he put upon a National Home in Palestine, I think in 1922.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
The interpretation was earlier than that, surely. The point I am trying to put—I do not want to argue about the exact date—is that the function of trying to control Palestine in a particular way and with a particular interpretation was being performed for a long time before the Mandate came into existence. The Mandate did not come into existence —I think I am remembering rightly—until 1923. So it is very easy to remember the way the thing happened wrongly, very easy to think that this or that is the result of something else when really the events came in the reverse order. In view of that, and in view of the relationship between the Mandate and the League of Nations, which has now long gone, and the relationship between the Mandate now and the United Nations, which has hardly yet come—I do not know which one of us who uses the words "United Nations" with any consciousness of what those words used to mean really can attach very much meaning to the relationship between the "United" Nations and the Mandate —in view of these things I do not think too much stress should be laid upon the Mandate.
I thought my right hon. Friend was a little unfair when he talked about the pro-German party in Iraq. There are other things to be said about that. There were pro-Germans in many countries, not only in Arab countries, and not all has been said about Iraq. We were never told about the offers made by the Iraqi Government to lend us division at the moment when no one else in the world was prepared to lend us any divisions. I think that the whole argument about more or less help from one side or the other, this is really not the time to evaluate that, if such things are quantitively evaluable, 1276 and I suggest that all that had much better be left out.
I now come, in the main, to the remarks made by the Lord President of the Council yesterday, and, especially, I want to refer to the White Paper which was issued on acts of violence, and I hope we may have some answers to some questions about it when somebody winds up for us tonight. Look at page 2 and see about the Hagana being a whole-time military organisation and so on. What I want to ask is this. If you look at the Mandate to see what is the constitution and function of the Agency, you will see that the constitution and function of the Agency are to act in cooperation with the Mandatory Power in certain connections, and I would like to ask the Government whether this Government has considered, not this minute but in the course of the last 12 months, whether the Jewish Agency, really having this sort of relationship to an Army which has become this sort of Army, could really continue to go on being the appropriate body for the functions for which it was intended. There was a time when the Arab Higher Committee was clearly not appropriate, from our point of view, for its functions, and it was removed to the Seychelles.
§ Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)
Would the hon. Gentleman tell the House exactly where in the Mandate the Arab Higher Committee were mentioned for the purposes of cooperation?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I never said that the Arab Higher Committee was mentioned for the purposes of cooperation. If I say something ambiguous, I am quite willing to give way, but I gave no indication of anything of the sort. The Jewish Agency is in the Mandate, and it is made quite clear what sort of a body it is intended to be, and, therefore, the argument is all the stronger when it became, as it seems to me quite clear it did become some time ago, inappropriate and had fallen out of step with the prescribed functions, therefore. His Majesty's Government ought to have considered the question of its continued validity.
I should like to ask some questions about the telegrams, especially the ones beginning on page 4. I should have hesitated to ask questions about the telegrams had it not been for the speech yesterday of the hon. Member for East 1277 Coventry (Mr. Grossman). I am sorry he is not here, and I am sorry I have not warned him, but, in this kind of Debate, one simply cannot warn everybody to whom one may be going to refer. That speech, and the glosses he put on the telegrams and on the relationship between the Hagana and British Military Intelligence, did seem to me to make it necessary that certain specific questions should be asked.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I try to keep my vocabulary precise, and I trust my meaning is clear, but if gloss is not suitable any other word will do, "remark" or "comment." When we read, in these telegrams, "To London," who is London? What does London mean? Presumably it was not just addressed to London and left to some clerk in the telegraph office to find out whom it most concerned. I think we ought to be told. Now, Telegram No. 2. Who is Hayyim? If His Majesty's Government know, I am sure they should tell us; if they think they know, I think they should tell us.
I turn to this new official plan. I believe that what the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne said of his three "if onlys" really goes very far to destroy that plan. I am quite certain that neither that plan nor any other will do, unless you persuade the Arabs very early on that you are consulting them about it. You must not treat the Arabs as you treat the well-to-do or possessing or official classes of this country. We are used to the insolence of office—[Interruption]— to promises that there shall be full and complete consultation, with everybody allowed to make proposals and comments and justifications, and then the matters concerned are taken from one proprietor or authority to another authority, and consultation is found to have meant nothing of the sort. We are used to that, but that is not the way we are entitled to treat any but our fellow subjects, and I would remind right hon. Gentlemen opposite to consider what consultation should really mean if this plan is to be made to work; I think that with every one of these plans that have been produced, I have found it unlikely that they would do much good; with every one, I have done my best to say nothing to make it more difficult and done my 1278 infinitesimal best to help, and no one would be more delighted than I if there proved to be a chance of making this one work; but I am sure there is absolutely or nearly no chance of working it, and less and less even now, unless you try to consult the Arabs, and not to tell them first that you have had all sorts of deals with the Zionists, as has happened often and on from 1917, and then that you have had all sorts of deals with the Americans, and then thirdly say "Now we ask the Arabs to come in." Do persuade them that they are, at least, one of the primary, and I think they ought to be the primary, persons to be consulted before any decision is made on their country's fate or any new attempt made to get some new thing going. Unless that is done, I am certain there is no right to hope for cooperation from that side.
Lastly, but for a peroration which 1 did write out, otherwise lastly, I will say this. I think in all the Debates on this matter in which I have spoken, even in all I have attended, either I or somebody else a close friend, has said one thing over and over again, and now I am delighted to find that, everyone says it; but honestly, once were almost regarded as anti-Semitic when we said what we did, that was, if you want the Jews to be nicely treated, you must treat them nicely. You must not use the force of His Majesty's arms to compel other people to do for the Jews what you are unwilling yourself to do for them. There is only one hope of anything like peace in Palestine in the next 100 years—and I do not put that hope very high—that there shall be so many other places to which Jews can go, and be fairly treated, that the indigenous population which has been there for many centuries does not feel it is threatened with being swamped by these people being brought in. I am quite sure that is the only way it can be done. I have always pressed that in our own country, and that we should persuade the Dominions so far as it can usefully be done, the Colonies, and every country with which we are on friendly terms, to try and work to that end.
I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite, who take the extreme opposite view to mine and who must have found it almost intolerable to listen to me, to consider very carefully whether, if they push their argu- 1279 ments too far, they are not going to land us in an even more hopeless situation than we have been in yet. I cannot find my reference now, but I promise that it is true. One is from Dr. Weizmann in his evidence to the Anglo-American Committee the other day, and I will use that one. I shall get the words wrong, but I promise I am not cheating. Dr. Weizmann talks of the growing anti-Semitism in Tunisia and the Near East. The World Jewish Alliance, the other day, spoke of the same thing in its pamphlet. What is going to happen if we have this extraordinary paradox, that violent outrage in Palestine appears to compel His Britannic Majesty to use armed force in order to compel the indigenous population in Palestine to take in many more Jews than it wants to? That is the proposal. If that happens, what is going to be the reaction upon the other people in the Near and Middle East and in North Africa -where there are large Jewish populations? I do not see any answer to the question which can make it moral or make it, in the interest of the Jews, desirable, that the forces of our country should be used to compel the settled society of Palestine to accept an immigration over which it has no control.
I am quite sure that, like most very difficult questions, this is in the end a simple question, and that that is the simple question.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Wilkes(Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Central)
I intervene in this Debate as an ordinary back bench Member who, by the fortunes of war, was enabled to work for some considerable months during 1943 in the offices of the Palestine administration. I do so with a great deal of reluctance, and I had hoped that the arguments that I am about to put forward would have been made by others than myself. I can only speak as a back bench Member of the Labour party. We have heard today a great deal of the wide, general problem, and I wish to ask certain questions—I think they are pertinent questions—about the operations which are now proceeding and, also, to deal with the general background in the concluding portion of my speech.
As a preliminary, I would say that I also happened to be in Greece during the operations which were carried out there. 1280 I watched the British troops enter the country and, from the hills, I saw the first Commandos approaching the southern Peloponnesus. I saw there the immense burden which a complicated political situation imposes upon military commanders who are, usually, quite unfitted to bear this burden for, in all conscience, they have enough to worry about. In dealing with the present movements of troops and the operations now proceeding, I would reinforce the plea made yesterday in this House that we should send a Cabinet Minister, or some political adviser of real Cabinet calibre, to advise the generals and the brigadiers in Palestine who are bearing such a heavy burden. Political mistakes were made in Greece by the military which cost us very dear. During the next few days when, possibly, the psychological atmosphere of Palestine and the psychological relations between the Jewish population and the British military will be fixed, perhaps, for months to come, I am most anxious that no further mistakes shall be made.
Therefore, I wish to ask, What is the object of the present military operations? Are they to track down the Irgun terrorists, or are they to disarm the Jewish population? As to which or both, we ought to be able to have a frank, full and open answer because, if the object is to disarm the Irgun and to capture the terrorists, we are not doing this in the way in which it can be achieved. But, if it is to disarm the Jewish population, then let me say at once, bearing in mind the fact that between 1936 and 1939 1,000 Jews were killed by Arab terrorists and that His Majesty's Government, quite properly, are committed by reasons of a British military mission in Cairo to re-equipping and rearming the Egyptian Army, and committed also, again quite properly, to arming, training and officering the 16,000 of the Arab Legion in Transjordan, that, if it is the disarmament of the Jewish population which is the object of this operation, it ought to be made clear that this disarmament in Palestine is going to be a mutual and reciprocal operation and that the Arabs there will also be disarmed. But if it is to disarm and to capture the Irgun terrorists, I should like to put the following questions to the Government and to have an answer to them tonight. The Irgun represents a right wing, Fascist, terrorist, brutal, murdering 1281 organisation controlled by a terrorist and Fascist Right Wing party. When the Irgun in June and July—
§ Mr. Pickthorn
As this political nomenclature always rather baffles me, and as I am completely beaten by this, may I ask the hon. Gentleman what, in this connection, does "Right Wing" mean?
§ Mr. Wilkes
It means the completest and most contradictory orientation from what we commonly call the "Left Wing" in Palestine.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
Is that really the fact? I always understood that the difference between the ordinary Jewish party in Palestine and the Revisionists had nothing to do with the economic position, but with the speed with which they wished to establish a Jewish State in Palestine—the one by violent methods and the other by gradual methods.
§ Mr. Wilkes
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not expect me to go into details of the philosophies and doctrines held by the different political parties. I would say this, however. In addition to the general question of the pace of development in Palestine, there has always been a very great difference between nationalistic and non-nationalistic outlook, in the exclusively racial and aggressive outlook of the Irgun which is contrasted very definitely with the much more international and tolerant outlook of groups which I, in my nomenclature, would place upon the Left. I do not wish to pursue that matter, and if "Right Wing" is unpleasant to hon. Members opposite, I shall withdraw the phrase and substitute "the Fascist terrorist organisation of the Irgun."
If the intention is to capture these people why, when the Jewish Agency was closed down, were the offices and headquarters of the Revisionist Party who control the Irgun left open? Why is the Revisionist Press, certainly up to 24 hours ago, allowed to go on with its aggressive, militant, racial, propaganda? When in June and July these outrages were committed, certainly in the large majority of cases by the Irgun, why were the Socialist settlements searched? Was it expected to find the Irgun in settlements organised and run by the Histadruth? Why is the only paper in Palestine now closed down, so far as my information goes, a paper 1282 called "Haaretz," which is a Liberal paper and which, indeed, has often attacked the Jewish Agency for being too militant? I believe there are important and vital political mistakes which are now being committed in Palestine. We are giving the maximum of provocation to the most moderate elements in Palestine, and it is for this most important reason that I must ask the Government to send out political advisers, and, more especially, a Cabinet Minister, to advise the military in Palestine on the difference between a Socialist and a Fascist because, believe me, it was not often apparent to our generals and brigadiers in Greece.
With regard to the present situation in its broader aspects, the plan that has been put forward by the Government has, at least, this immense advantage. It does break the terrible circle of counter-terrorism and killing. I wish it had been put forward months ago. I think that even now with certain modifications it offers a real hope of going forward, because now at long last, 12 months after the election of a Labour Government, the phrase "restoration of law and order in Palestine" is no longer the restoration of the White Paper or the state of affairs which was condemned as illegal, so far as the Mandate was concerned, by the majority on the Permanent Mandate Commission in 1939. The phrase: "restoring law and order" has, indeed, a hollow ring if it means the restoration of a state of affairs condemned by the only authority competent to judge, and when one remembers that the White Paper meant that the Mandate was being infringed and was not being carried out. At least, we now have a break in this sombre history. At last "restoration of law and order" means a state of affairs in which this new plan can be discussed —but, I would add, discussed, I think, by responsible Jewish leaders only if three things are done. Public acceptance or discussion of this plan means a great sacrifice for the Jewish people in Palestine and it means the sacrifice of many pledges made. It means the sacrifice, very largely, of the terms of the Mandate. Whether the pledges made and the Mandate were good or bad, hardly comes into the argument, but acceptance of this plan means a real sacrifice, and I am one of those who believe that this problem in Palestine will not be settled without sacrifice by Arabs and Jews. I believe 1283 that if we can only see one side, the solution of the Palestine problem is simple, but life and politics are not simple matters, and I believe that only by giving up 100 per cent. of Arab and Jewish aspirations will this problem ever be settled.
Yet I would add, in the words of my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), who made such a powerful speech, that three things are necessary before this plan can be discussed by any Jewish leader without endangering his control over the movement in relation to which he stands as a trustee. So far as this scheme is concerned, we must have some further assurance—because no assurance has yet been given—as to whether this 100,006 is dependent upon Arab consent, and as to what will happen if America refuses to come into this scheme. To enter into negotiations or to signal publicly one's assent to enter upon these negotiations, leaving this 100,000 so much in the air and so indefinite, will not be conducive to early negotiations, and I, at least— because I can speak only as an ordinary back bencher—ask for clarification of this point.
The second point concerns the Negeb. I would remind hon. Members that the Woodhead Commission in 1938 showed the way, because this Commission, which was by no means deemed a friendly one to the Jewish point of view, stated in paragraph 227 on page 106:There are large parts of the Beer Sheba sub-district now almost entirely unoccupied which the Jews ought to begin an opportunity to develop forthwith, and that even as regards the occupied portion of the sub-district, it would be wrong to take such action as would exclude that prospect.Therefore, I ask for a clarification as to whether the present scheme does or does not take into account the views expressed by the Woodhead Commission that the Negeb should be thrown open to Jewish colonisation.
The third point concerns this question of the economic absorptive capacity. The economic absorptive capacity of the Negeb today is nil. The economic absorptive capacity of any desert is nil. Those words mean very little. They have bedevilled the whole discussion of Palestine economics. What matters is the economic creative potential of any district. One 1284 cannot judge that until one has, at least, seen what has been done in other parts of Palestine, where the economic absorptive capacity was deemed to be almost nil. We can only let the people go there and gradually increase as the area and scope of the agricultural operations increase. Thinking in turns of a static economic potential was the reason why, in 1939, Lord Passneld told Dr. Weizmann that Palestine was so full and there was no room to swing a cat. I have outlined the three points upon which further clarification of this plan is needed. I have outlined, too, the point about present operations which fill me with anxiety and make me wonder whether there are in Palestine today mature political heads who can direct operations to the end which we all desire, namely, the eradication of terrorists.
I conclude by saying this. We in this House heard yesterday the statement of the Lord President, that the rest of the world had to live up to its responsibility—and, indeed, the rest of the world has to. However, we know from the recent Committee that it is calculated that 500,000 people will desire to leave Europe and to enter Palestine. It is for that reason that the Negeb assumes such importance. I am perfectly willing to admit—although I am not an expert on Palestine, and have never claimed to be one—it would seem to be difficult to put 500,000 people into Palestine if the Negeb is excluded. It seemed to me that the Lord President put as an alternative the inclusion of the Negeb, that we ought to have written into the political constitutions and the minds of the population of Europe a new charter of human rights. We had such minority treaties in 1919. But Governments change and times change, and it is not possible—sometimes it is not desired— to live up to the legally constituted guaranteed rights of a minority which are guaranteed on paper. After all, what could be more sacred than the contract between the Labour Party and the Jewish people of Palestine, and the whole Zionist cause, which was passed at conferences for the last 20 years? What could be more sacred than that contract? Yet, although there are changed circumstances, it has not been possible to carry out that contract. I am afraid that legally guaranteed rights are not sufficient in the present crisis. I ask the Government to consider most 1285 seriously in the light of the recommendations of the Woodhead Commission, whether the Negeb cannot play that role in future development in Palestine that was envisaged in 1938, in paragraph 227 of the Report.
§ 7.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) in his speech this afternoon reminded us of the White Paper of 1922, and reminded us of the definition there of the "Jewish National Home." The right hon. Gentleman is playing a great part on this stage, as he has played on the other stages of the world, but I think he ought to have gone on to remind the House of another thing. Why was it necessary to put a definition in the White Paper of 1922? Why was it necessary for the White Paper to say, not that Palestine was to be a Jewish National Home but that there should be a Jewish National Home in Palestine; and that the admission of Jews into Palestine should be in accordance with the absorptive capacity of the country to absorb them? Why should that be necessary? That was necessary because the Balfour Declaration had already been in force for five years. There had been rioting in 1920; there had been rioting in 1921. The Balfour Declaration was not accepted by Arab opinion in the Near East.
Another interesting coincidence is that the right hon. Gentleman, in making that observation today, was making it in criticism—mild criticism, it is true—of the proposals of the Government which had the agreement of the United States prior to his own definition. While the Peace Conference was going on in Paris, the United States had sent their own Commission to the Near East. President Wilson had sent his own Commission to inquire into the whole arrangement of the land that had been subject to Turkish rule. A Report was made by the two Commissioners, both distinguished Americans, Dr. King, the President of one of their colleges, and Mr. Crane, who subsequently became American Ambassador to China. Those two men went out to inquire into the position in Palestine prior to the definition in the right hon. Gentleman's White Paper. President Wilson was in favour of the Declaration made by Mr. Balfour, as he 1286 then was. The two Commissioners appointed by President Wilson, who went out there, were in favour of the Zionist interpretation of the Balfour Declaration. That interpretation was, without qualification, the establishment of a Jewish State; there was no talk about "Jewish National Home" in the interpretation. The interpretation was: "A Jewish State." They went out there, and in their Report they were prepared to find that a Jewish State should be established. They inquired throughout the length and breadth of the land—through Syria, the Lebanon and Iraq—and they came to this conclusion in making their Report to the United States:We recommend serious modification of the extreme Zionist programme for Palestine of unlimited immigration of Jews, looking finally to making Palestine a. distinctly Jewish State. The Commissioners began their study with minds predisposed in favour of Zionism, but the actual facts in Palestine, coupled with the force of the general principles proclaimed by the Allies, and accepted by the Syrians, have driven them to the recommendations they here make.They made a series of recommendations, the recommendations being that the claim for the National Home should be modified and defined; that, if an attempt was made to establish a Jewish National Home, not a Jewish State, in Palestine, there should be placed in Palestine an adequate military force to see that it could be done. They, in 1920, defined what they meant by "an adequate military force." There is not a definition in 1946. The definition in 1920 was a force of something like 50,000 men. They made the other very interesting observation, that they found the people of Syria, Iraq and of Palestine had no desire that this country should be appointed as a Mandatory Power; that the opinion, at any rate of 60 per cent. of the population, was that the United States should be appointed the Mandatory Power. What was their recommendation? The observation in their recommendation was that it would be embarrassing, in the opinions of the two United States Commissioners, for the United States to acept the Mandate, owing to the powerful Zionist opinion among their own subjects; and they recommended to President Wilson that he-should reject the acceptance of the Mandate. We all know that the United States did not come into the League of Nations, and that the Mandate was given to this 1287 country—indeed, more than that, this Report itself was suppressed in the United States.
Today, in 1946, after the experience we have had in the meantime, comes another offer to the United States to come in. I am delighted to see that the present Government are inducing the United States to accept this, or any other scheme. As was pointed out by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), it would be easy at this stage to criticise any scheme that was put forward; cogent reasons could be brought forward against any one of them. To my mind there are two things that are important in the present circumstances. Whatever scheme is brought forward—we hope with the agreement of the United States—and accepted should be adhered to. One of the weaknesses of the last 25 years, and one of the weaknesses attaching to the right hon. Gentleman's own definition, has been the variation in the administration. Take one test alone, the absorptive capacity of Palestine to absorb Jews. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman), in his very powerful speech, referred to the argument between the Jewish Agency and the High Commissioner. It is impossible to carry on the administration of a country while placing upon the civil servants in charge the duty of determining the economic capacity of the country. Whatever the number of certificates that he agrees to issue, the Jewish Agency will say it is too few—they did so every time— and the Arab League will say it is too many—they did so every time. It is an impossible position. The right hon. Gentleman had peace from 1922 to 1929 because, curiously enough, between 1925 and 1927 there were more emigrants than immigrants in Palestine. That was the period of the world depression, and immediately the world position began to recover there were the riots of 1929.
In 1930 Lord Passfield, on behalf of the Government, issued a White Paper in which a restriction was placed upon immigration and upon land transfers. I am not interested for the moment in saying whether this was right or wrong; what I am saying is that the Government, and this applies to any Government, cannot vary their policy from year to year. In 1288 1930 the Government of the day restricted immigration and land transfers, and the following year, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, as Prime Minister, wrote a letter to the Jewish Agency in which he said that that White Paper meant nothing of the sort and that the restrictions on land transfer and immigration should be removed. That was a variation from one to the other. Then comes the Peel Report. You can criticise the Peel Report, you can criticise partition or any scheme that can be put forward, and without agreement between the two sides no scheme can be carried out, and I therefore hope the invitations which have been sent out will be accepted both by Arabs and by Jews. But once agreement or something near to agreement has been reached, the Government should then pursue that policy without any later variations. I hope that better counsels will prevail in the United States than prevailed in 1920, for a consistent policy is the first essential in good administration.
It is a matter of great concern to world civilisation that there shall be peace in Palestine. It is an irony of events that the very land from which came the doctrine of the brotherhood of man should be today the scene of slaughter and bloodshed. Great men at all times have been interested in building up their conception of the ideal State. From Plato to Augustine, from Augustine to Dante, from Dante to Machiavelli, from Machiavelli to Bacon, Bacon to Hobbs, Hobbs to Rousseau, one after another, at different times and in different countries, all have been interested in describing and building up, if they could, a conception of the ideal State. The best description I know, however, was written in two sentences by an old Hebrew prophet:A city where old men and old women can walk the streets with their hands leaning upon their sticks, and where the children can play in the streets thereof.Look at the streets of Jerusalem today, or indeed of Europe. They are not safe for children to play in. I hope that as a result of this effort by the Government, and as a result of a serious attempt by both Arabs and Jews to come to an agreement, the streets of Jerusalem and of Europe shall become such that children can play on them in safety. No more important word was spoken from the Front Bench today by the right hon. Gentleman than when he said that he 1289 agreed that no Jew should be subjected to a prohibition or compulsion to which no other man was subjected. It is the one test of liberty that Jews and other races alike can live in the same conditions in every city of Europe. That is the condition. If Europe is not safe, neither will Jerusalem be safe. If it is not safe for the Jew, neither will it be safe long for anybody else. Conditions of safety are the same for all. I wish the Government's scheme success, I hope it will have full and free consideration, and I am glad that yesterday in another place it received the blessing of two very distinguished Jews, one of whom was the first High Commissioner for Palestine. I trust some good may come out of this scheme.
§ 7.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)
I need hardly say that I have listened with a considerable amount of interest and anxiety to what has been said in the course of this Debate, and I think it would not be proper if I did not repeat again what has already been said, that the horror and indignation of the whole of the Jewish world has gone out against the atrocious crimes which were committed recently in Jerusalem. On the other hand, I ought to say also that the expression of opinion given by the general who is supposed to be dealing with the situation in Palestine must fill with horror all those who have read the words he used. Obviously to describe all of those who have built what has been built in Palestine in such terms as "loathsome," and similar words, is going to such an extreme that no reasonable person could possibly tolerate the use of them.
§ Mr. Stokes
As my hon. Friend is raising the question of General Barker, may I ask him if he has studied the second telegram on page 4 of the White Paper, and does he realise that the gentleman referred to by the name of "Hayyim" is Dr. Weitzmann?
§ Mr. Janner
I neither realise that nor am I prepared to accept the suggestions that have been made that these telegrams are connected officially with the Jewish Agency. I do not know what those telegrams are supposed to be, and I have heard very little to indicate exactly what they are, but I think my hon. Friend will 1290 agree with this—I hope he is listening because perhaps it is necessary for him to hear it—if he knows what has been performed in Palestine by the Jewish settlers in the period during which the Mandate has been in operation, he will agree that the very last word that can be used about those who built that great social enterprise, and who have been praised on all sides for its success, is the word used in the general's letter.
I think we ought to go back for a moment or two and examine what really has happened in the period during which the Mandate has been in operation. We have heard that political Zionists are to be distinguished from so-called cultural Zionists. What nonsense. The Declaration was sent to the Zionist Federation by Balfour. Balfour declared himself a Zionist. My right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition has declared himself such, and nearly everybody who has spoken in favour of the Jewish National Home, on all sides of the House, has declared himself a Zionist; quite rightly.
The purpose of Zionism was not only to deal with the question of settling persecuted Jews. There is a misunderstanding on this point. The idea of the Zionist movement, which was inaugurated by Herzl, was to deal, once for all, with the homelessness of the Jewish people—an entirely different matter. The homelessness of the people is its tragedy, and Herzl conceived the idea that there should be a Zionist movement which should have as its object the re-creation of the Jewish National Home; and the only land in which that could be done, obviously, was that to which the Jewish people had been turning their eyes for so many generations. It was mainly desert then, it is true. It was practically useless. The Arabs inhabiting Palestine at that time were under Turkish rule. Some people talk glibly about the Arabs giving something away. It is not a question at all of what the Arabs were giving. It was a question of somebody buying land in a country which was practically unused, in which some hundreds of thousands of people were living, it is true, but in which the number of the population was never increasing, in which disease was rife. It was a question of their taking over a land which was practically devoid of any cultivation. Oh, yes, my hon. Friend may smile—
§ Mr. Stokes
It is not possible for nobody to be there and for disease to be rife, at the same time.
§ Mr. Janner
Perhaps the hon. Member can possibly imagine that some people can die of disease in a land and that there can be disease rife among other people who are not dying. He knows the conditions that prevailed there. When the Balfour Declaration was given it was given in order that the Jewish people might create a National Home of Palestine. They proceeded to do it, and they did it well. They recovered from the desert land which enables the 600,000 who are there now to live in comparative comfort. They provided conditions which enabled the Arab population in the land to increase. They swept disease from the areas which they were cultivating, and this benefited Jew and Arab alike. I cannot understand why a distinction is not made, when this matter is under discussion, between the Arab politicians who are mainly outside Palestine—and some who are within the boundaries of Palestine—and the Palestinian Arabs as a whole themselves.
Let me give the House a quotation from a statement made when a new Jewish colony was being created to commemorate the name of a great man who had fallen in the course of this war, Brigadier Kisch. A striking feature of the inaugural ceremony, only a few days ago, was the appearance of a delegation of Arab elders from the adjoining village of Mader, headed by the Mukhtar, Ibrahim Altayb, who welcomed the Jewish ex-soldier settlers, saying:I nave searched history and have failed to find any cause of enmity between the sons of Ishmail and Isaac, both of whom are sons of Abraham.It was only intriguers, he added, who sought to sow discord between the peoples, and he expressed the hope that the present clouds would disperse, and that a peaceful time for all would soon begin. This took place almost at the present time. It takes place at a meeting between Jew and Arab who are living together in amity in Palestine. In that country there was a strike recently. Jew and Arab together entered into that strike, without any difference between themselves. I should like to ask the Government, my right hon. Friends, to take into consideration the fact that, in the main, the Arab working population, in Palestine 1292 itself, have been quite agreeable to the development of the Jewish National Home there; and that it is a question of preventing those who are outside from fomenting agitations, and, by such prevention, bringing peace and harmony within the boundaries of that country.
Now, the terms of the Balfour Declaration were clear. I am not prepared to accept the suggestions, which legalistic quibbles introduce into this matter, at all. I am sure, as the Peel Committee said, that it was understood at the time under the Mandate accepted by 52 nations, that, ultimately, there would be a Jewish State in Palestine. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is a matter of opinion."] It was stated in the Peel Report, and if my hon. Friend wants chapter and verse, I have it here. Subsequently, there were quibbles about that. I want my hon. Friends to understand that it is essential that there should be such a State. I think that the House should understand that a State is essential for many reasons—that the regulation of immigration, for example, should be within the competence of that State. It is perfectly clear that the question of the number of people who should be accommodated in that Jewish Palestine Home must be decided by the people of the Home itself. Why, today there is actually a shipload of people just outside Palestine who have escaped from the horrors of Europe and who have not been allowed to land in Palestine. I should like to bring the attention of the House back to 1939, when that pernicious White Paper was introduced, and when Members on all sides of this House strongly and stoutly condemned the suggestion that the proposal that Palestine, insofar as the immigration of Jews was concerned, was to have a closed door after a certain time. I should like to read —I think it is rather topical at the present moment—what was written by my own opponent in the recent Election, Mr. Nicolson, who voted against his Government on that White Paper. He was writing about what had happened in Palestine, he said this:This ideal, under the prophetic leadership of Chaim Weizmann, had almost attained reality. The great work went forward with unfaltering efficiency; all that faltered was the willpower of His Majesty's Government. That aluminium instrument has buckled at the moment of Jewry's greatest need and misery. There were few of us on Monday 1293 night who listened to the tragic speeches of Mr. James Rothschild or Mr. Noel-Baker whose vision did not pierce beyond the gothic panelling of the Chamber and out into the stark sunlight of the Eastern Mediterranean. At that very moment we could see, those pirate steamers, crowded with 'illegal immigrants,' rolling and pitching outside the three-mile limit packed with sick and half-starved refugees, who strained their eyes toward the dim outlines of the promised land. Fear, cruelty, hatred and horror lay behind them; extreme squalor and misery was their immediate lot; yet over there, beyond the tumbled sea, shone the amethyst contours of promise—a promise which in amicable phrases, in the very best bedside manner, was at that moment being denied them from the Treasury Bench.That picture has become even more aggravated. The Jewish settlers in Palestine took their proper share in the war effort, and had it not been for the Jewish settlement the situation in the Middle East would have been much more critical. They played their full part in helping the Allies. I would ask my hon. Friend whether the Government will not reconsider the admission of the 100,000 people into Palestine who are waiting anxiously to get out of the desperate position in which they are. What reason can there be for not allowing them to enter Palestine? They are not asking for work or food from anyone other than their own kith and kin. I would ask the Government to allow them to enter without delay. When the Balfour Declaration originally came out it referred to some 45,000 square miles of land. That figure was reduced later by the White Paper of 1922 to 10,000 square miles. What is the figure being reduced to now? As has been stated, the Negeb can be made fruitful. It can be made fruitful not only by the expenditure of labour and capital, but through the exercise of that good will and the ideals which inspired the building up of other parts of Palestine. It was not only a question of labour and capital, but a desire of these people to create something which made the desert bloom. In view of the fact that the Mandate is still in existence, and the declared policy of the Government is to abide by it, we should not turn aside at this stage and cut down the extent of the Jewish National Home. I ask the Government to reconsider the position, so that a full Mandatory National Home may once more be envisaged, which will be to the benefit of Palestine, to the benefit of this country and to the benefit of the whole world.
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Henderson Stewart (Fife, East)
It must be quite evident, after listening to the speech of the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner), that the question at issue is not merely one which concerns political and economic development of a small country for whose administration we are responsible. It is a matter raising moral and spiritual issues of the highest importance. It is no wonder, therefore, that opinions upon it cut across all political parties. To me, this is a matter of conscience, where conscience alone must direct. We have all been declaring where we stand, and for my part, speaking entirely for myself, I confess that I stand on the side of the Zionists. I have not a drop of Jewish blood in me, and I have no particular love for the Jewish people, although like others, I have many Jewish friends, whose friendships I cherish. But Zionism to me is something which is irrevocably linked with the Christian faith, with the Church of Scotland in which I was brought up. Perhaps it was that early association of ideas which caused me as a young officer at the end of the last war to be so thrilled by the Balfour Declaration when it was made public.
That action by the British Government seemed to me to be a fine and noble thing, in conformity with the faith and character of the British people. It was a dcclaration which committed the honour of this country; it undoubtedly enjoyed the almost unanimous support of the people at that time—it certainly won approval of every party in the House of Commons. I have never been able to escape from that debt of honour, and when between the wars efforts were made to whittle down the Mandate, I did everything I could in my humble way to oppose them. In the great Debate on the White Paper in 1939, which was made a matter of confidence, as a supporter of the Government, I voted against the White Paper, and had I caught the eye of Mr. Speaker I would have spoken against it in the strongest terms.
I found myself in the Lobby on that occasion with some remarkable men. There were Mr. Amery, Mr. Lloyd George, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan), the junior Burgess for Oxford University (Sir A. Herbert) and 1295 the whole array of the Labour party, including the present leaders of this Labour Government. It is a tragedy that with the exception of those whom I have named, those right hon. Gentlemen who voted then for the honour and observance of the pledged word of England should now, as England's masters, trail that honour in the dust and ravage yet again their own solemn promises. I scarcely would have thought it possible that in a single year of office and power right hon. Gentlemen opposite could have left such a dark trail of broken pledges.
Holding these views on our obligations, I confess that I was shocked to read of the first violent measures taken by the Government against the Jewish people in Palestine. I do not for one moment challenge the right and duty of the Government to maintain order in that stricken land, and suppress by all necessary measures the violence and inexcusable outrages recently committed. I abhor these outrages, and agree that they must be stamped out and order restored. But I ask, with the greatest earnestness, whether this method is the right and only way to restore order in Palestine. Can it possibly be the right way to provide tranquility in this Holy Land, for which the whole world is responsible, and for which our country has a very special and high degree of responsibility? The present crisis in Palestine is not something which has newly happened. It is not a sudden mutiny which hard measures will quickly obliterate.
Palestine, especially since the end of the last war, has been a place of ever-increasing tension. Even the most un-instructed person must have seen that crisis—outrage and calamity were bound to be the end of it all, unless broad, swift and statesmanlike measures were taken. It is not a new problem, and the Government must have known the problem and have recognised that only drastic alterations of conditions in Palestine would prevent that tension from exploding. What the House demanded, and what the country demanded, was a clear plan, firm decision and swift action by the British Government. Instead of that, we have had a succession of delays, subterfuges and crass and unforgivable blunders, such, for example, as the most unfortunate speech of the Foreign Secretary at 1296 the Bournemouth Conference. Even tonight the tale of delay, procrastination and misunderstanding is not finished. The proposals of the Lord President, so far as I have studied them, involve still further long delays. For example, we can do nothing until a meeting of the two sides has been called. I asked the President of the Board of Trade when he thought that would take place? He could not tell me. I ask would it be before the end of September?
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. George Hall)
I am hopeful that it will take place in the middle of August.
§ Mr. Stewart
That is the first indication which we have been given, but I cannot see when these meetings will end. The delegates must consult their friends before reaching decisions. I cannot see that there will be decisions by these meetings before October, and I cannot see His Majesty's Government taking decisions upon those decisions until Christmas. Yet time, surely, is the vital factor in this business.
§ Mr. Scollan (Renfrew, Western)
The hon. Gentleman has put a point which has repeatedly been put by the critics of the Government. That is, that something in the nature of a plan and a firm policy should have been brought forward long ago, but no one is able to say what kind of plan or what kind of policy. Indeed, this is the first plan and the first policy, and it is made the subject of all kinds of criticism.
§ Mr. Stewart
Before the Labour Government took office they had a plan. They said so. When they took office they could have carried out that plan, or the plan of the White Paper which the Coalition Government had been endeavouring to carry through, or the Anglo-American Committee's plan. They did none of those things.
§ Mr. Stewart
I am trying to work out the time table. Nothing is to be done to relieve the tension of which I have spoken until these two parties have met, discussed, gone home, decided, and then the Government have to decide what to do. But apart from that, nothing, apparently, can be done at all effectively unless America agrees. We understand that the President of the United States has said that he does not approve of this plan. Is this another example of lack of cooperation between this Government and America? It was not very long ago that the Lord President of the Council had to go to America because there was a misunderstanding about food. It is an incredible situation that a statement should have been made yesterday, based, as the Lord President himself said, fundamentally on acceptance and agreement by America, and that within 24 hours we should be informed that America, apparently, does not agree.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
On what authority does the hon. Member base his case that America does not agree? I thought that President Truman was investigating, and had made no definite statement for or against.
§ Mr. Stewart
I put this question an hour ago to the President of the Board of Trade and he told me that there was no assurance that America would accept the plan. The point which I am making is that Palestine, at the moment, is a place of enormous tension, and that if this matter is delayed without special emergency measures being taking immediately—and I am going to suggest one—that tension will not be lowered, but increased. Meanwhile—and I talk with some knowledge of this matter —young Jewish men and women in Palestine know that their friends, fathers, mothers and brothers are over here in camps of one kind or another, and cannot go to their National Home. A brother of mine sailed a week or two ago from Marseilles to Haifa. He joined a ship on which there was a considerable number of Jewish refugees going to Palestine. He has told me about it. He said that when they came out into the sunshine their bare backs were covered with weals and cuts imposed upon them by the Nazi persecution. He said that it was a sickening sight, and a demoralising thing to feel that the British Govern- 1298 ment—his Government—were the Government—which were preventing these wretched people from getting to Palestine.
§ Mr. Stokes
Does it not demoralise the hon. Member still more that His Majesty's Government do not accept them into this country?
§ Mr. Stewart
I wish that the hon. Member would be a little more responsible. Is he pressing for His Majesty's Government to introduce 100,000 Jews into this country?
§ Mr. Stewart
I understand that the policy of the hon. Member, and his solution of the problem, is that we should import 25,000 Jews. I ask the House: Is that going to help very much? Is that going to help at all in relieving tension in Palestine? That is the issue to which I wish to call the attention of the House. With the state of opinion as it is in Palestine now, it is quite true, as the Lord President said, that Jewish public opinion is not helping the Government in its search for those who committed the outrages. It is quite true, as the General said in his letter, that there appears to be no cooperation. I deplore that. If my advice were worth anything at all, I would strongly advise the Jews there to cooperate with the Government. But the fact is that they do not. That is a fact which the Government, I suggest, must recognise as a fact. What is it that makes the whole general community in Palestine unwilling to cooperate? It is not that they are all wild men. It is that they have seen a stoppage put upon the immigration of their friends from Europe. Let me offer a quotation to illustrate the point. It deals with the disappointment associated with that stoppage, and I believe that what makes them so bitter is reading words such as these, which were uttered by a prominent Member of this Government just a year ago:It is morally wrong and politically indefensible to impose obstacles to the entry into Palestine now of any Jews who desire to go.1299 That was the Chancellor of the Exchequer only a year ago. Is it to be wondered at that these wretched people in Palestine, as well as their more wretched friends and relatives over here in Europe are utterly disappointed and desperate? That is the fact that is causing the trouble today. I do not condone it; I deplore it, but it is a fact we must face.
Therefore, the Government must now face up to this problem of the 100,000. I had said that it will take months before agreement is reached on this new plan. I say now that action must be taken on the problem of the 100,000. The Government realise that something must be done, because it was mentioned by the Lord President yesterday that he wants to get the 100,000 Jews there very quickly. But under his plan not one single person of that 100,000, will be sent and apparently not even a single certificate will be issued until the whole plan is agreed to. With the greatest respect—and I speak here with the greatest personal interest because I have some of my family in Tel Aviv now and I am very concerned about them—I ask the Government to consider, within the next day or two, making a public declaration in regard to these immigrants, and if they cannot see their way to granting 100,000 certificates, at least to agree to 50,000 certificates being issued.
I believe that that would have a remarkable effect on lowering the temperature in Palestine. I do not think—and I am kept well informed on this matter— that the temperature can be lowered otherwise and if it is not lowered this new plan will have no chance of success. I should like to see this new plan go forward not because I am particularly attracted to it—I think it has many defects —but because it is a plan. If it is pressed forward with decision by the Government it may succeed and I wish it god-speed, but the Government must create the conditions in which that success can be brought about. I suggest that there is no action which the Government can take that will bring about those conditions now other than the issuing of a substantial number of certificates.
I have just one other word to say. I ask the Government to consider this problem of Palestine as a political problem not limited to the boundaries of Palestine. The whole pacification of the Middle East is, involved. I go further. I say the 1300 settlement of this Palestine problem is intimately linked up with our future relations with America. Having regard to the sombre, grim scene that we have seen developing in Europe in these recent months, I say we cannot risk losing the sympathy and cooperation of that great democratic people. At all costs I would endeavour to hold their sympathy and friendship. If we act now in the way that I have suggested and grant these certificates as an act of faith we may succeed.
§ 8.4 p.m.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Forest of Dean)
The Government have made a most important statement on the Palestine situation, and I do not complain that they have waited some time before they have made that statement. I think that they were right to try to bring with them, as far as they could, public opinion in the United States. The process of self-education in foreign affairs amongst our Transatlantic cousins is a slow one. We must not forget that the elections for Congress are not very far off, and, unfortunately, politics are being played at the moment. That is a cause of much of the difficulty with which we are faced. On the other hand, I hope the Government will show initiative in this matter, and not trail along behind the coat-tails of Uncle Sam. I admit that Uncle Sam is important in regard to financing much of what is in the plan, but, at the same time, having regard to the situation that exists, I hope that they will take a lead in this matter.
I have always been an opponent of partition, largely on the ground that in a country the size of Wales— and that is what Palestine is—it is difficult to create two or still more three States. But the gravity of the situation is such, the impasse so great and the outlook so menacing, that I would be ready to consider any plan which might be a solution. I have always thought that Palestine should foe a Jewish-Arab State with the Arabs in a majority because they are the original inhabitants. Just as I have opposed the extreme Zionists' view, so always have I opposed the extreme Arab view that Palestine should only be an Arab State, because we cannot have a country like Palestine, where the three great religions of the world have their roots, so populated that one race completely dominates it. There 1301 must be a multi-racial State in Palestine, but the Arabs are entitled to the majority because they are the original inhabitants.
The time is coming too, when there will be an Arab League; in fact there is one now. I hope that the Arab League will incorporate all the Arab States of the Middle East, and I would like to see Palestine part of that League as a multi-racial State like Lebanon or Syria. If this aim is to be achieved the Jews must abandon once and for all any attempt to dominate the Arabs in Palestine and be content with a minority and a cultural home. British Governments in the past should never have allowed the Zionists to put the interpretation on "National Home for the Jews" that they have, and they are much to blame for allowing them the liberty of putting their meaning on the term. We have also allowed too long a deliberate confusing by the Zionists of the condition of the displaced Jews in Central Europe with immigration into Palestine. It is the duty of the Western Powers to do their part in these matters and then I think I know what the Arab reaction is going to be.
I think that they may be prepared to play a part in helping these poor displaced Jews in Central Europe, because all the Arab States, including Palestine, would wish to take a proportion of these persons, providing the Western Powers take the lead. Is it realised by those advocating the bringing of 100,000 Jews into Palestine that this is equivalent to asking for permission to send 8,000,000 persons into the United States of America? In proportion that is the position. What America has offered is 52,000 persons now, and not all Jews. My hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) said just now that we must make a contribution. I agree and I say that we must shame the Americans into making a contribution, too. We must not let them lecture us, and leave us to face the situation which we have to face in Palestine.
He would be a bold and irresponsible man who would reject the Government's plan for Palestine. I have always been of the opinion that the federation idea is a possibility, particularly because it would keep the country as an economic whole. That is very important, because partition would be a counsel of despair. An Arab State in a partition would be totally uneconomic. Many Zionist colonies 1302 on the coast between Haifa and the desert are really uneconomic now. I spent some time there last January, and I learned that most of these colonies are very much over-capitalised, and are living largely at the expense of subsidies from abroad. I got that information from Jewish experts. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) talked as if only the Jews arc making the desert blossom like a rose. I would like to inform him, if he were here, that I spent a very interesting day in the Jordan Valley, seeing what the Arabs have done. All around Jericho were irrigation canals and banana plantations. In the hill country of India I saw Arab villages where there were no landlords. The Arab peasants here farmed their own land, terracing it, planting it with figs vines and olives, and making that barren country blossom as a rose.
§ Mr. Price
The real reason why the Arabs were so backward was because of Turkish domination. Further, Arabs have not the same finances as the Jews and, therefore, their progress has been much slower. The feeling of both Arabs and Jews towards us is none too good. The reason is that they fear we arc in Palestine for military reasons, that we are trying to make Palesline an important strategical centre now that we are to withdraw from Egypt. I am suspicious that advice to this effect is being given to the Government. I would ask the Government to realise that the days of military occupations and strategic forces in the Middle East are over. That was all right for the 19th century, but this is the 20th century. i am well aware that we have vast oil interests in Iraq and Iran, interests in sterling oil which are vital for us. Certainly, we shall not get that sterling oil guaranteed by military forces. It can only be done by friendship with the Arab States. It can only be done by agreement, and treaties, and understanding with them
§ Mr. Price
If the Government stick to the idea that we must have military forces in Palestine to guarantee our sterling oil they will, I am certain, meet with failure. I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Cross-man) in all he says, but I certainly agreed with what he said yesterday about giving notice now to the United Nations that we are not going to stay in Palestine indefinitely, that we must ask for some term to be put on our military liabilities in regard to our occupation of Palestine. Whatever the term might be, five, eight or 10 years, I think it would create a better feeling in the Arab world if we were to make a statement of that kind, which would show that we were anxious that our relations with them are based on friendship and brotherhood, and not on domination. This land of Palestine has been the scene of the passage of armies and conquerors for 4,000 years, and with the decline of the Ottoman Empire two European Powers, Britain and France, became the Mandatory Powers, and took the lead in the Arab Middle East. Under the Mandates of these two States, the Arabs have awakened to a national consciousness, and claim to be masters in their own home. The Jews have been introduced into Palestine as a disturbing element from the west, very much like the Crusaders, in the Middle Ages, were the disturbing element from the west. But the Crusaders were absorbed into the Arab world. If you go to Bethlehem today you will see Christian Arabs wearing headdresses similar to those which were worn at the time of the Crusaders. The Jews, too, can keep, in Arab surroundings, their great culture and traditions to which the world owes so much. But the lesson which some of them must learn is that they have to work with the Arab world, and not against it.
Last January I was in Damascus, where I went to the Syrian House of Commons. Over the Speaker's Chair I saw, in Arabic, a passage from the great book of the Mohammedans, the Koran, which, freely translated, runs:The public welfare is best promoted by peaceful discussion.If Jews and Arabs will approach the problem of Palestine from that angle there is still hope for this sorely tried land.
§ 8.19 p.m.
§ Colonel Ponsonby (Sevenoaks)
This Debate has ranged over all the issues which affect Palestine—moral, spiritual, sentimental, and historic. I myself feel that it is time we left ancient history behind, and looked to the future. Here is a crisis of great magnitude, and here are the Government trying hard to find a solution. For a short time I would like to say a few words about the basis on which the Government's proposed settlement of the problem is founded. It is purely economic, and is linked up with what has been mentioned several times in the Debate, namely, the limit of the economic capacity of the country to absorb a certain number of people. I will give the House only one or two figures, which are set out to some extent in the Report of the Anglo-American Committee. The country has an area of 10,000 square miles, and if one deducts the 4,000 square miles of the Negeb, which can be used possibly as a cushion in the future, there is a balance left of 6,000 square miles. As the Report of the Committee says, there is now a population of 1,765,000, of which 554,000 are Jews, and 1,061,000 are Moslems.
If one thinks of the future—and it is to the future that we must direct our attention—one finds that in 1959, even if there is no emigration or immigration of Moslems, they will be up to about 1,700,000, and if there is no immigration of Jews, a supposition which is impossible, they will be up to 664,000. At the present time there is a population of 179 to the square mile, and if one leaves out the Negeb, a population of 336 to the square mile. Let us compare those figures with the figures for two countries with which we are familiar, Wales with 8,000 square miles, and a population of 2,500,000, and Belgium with an area of 11,750 square miles, and a population of 8,250,000. Hon. Members will realise, however, that Wales derives its prosperity from its coalmining, steel, ship repairing, and so on, and that Belgium is a prosperous manufacturing country with coal, iron, zinc, lead, copper, all its prosperity deriving from mineral wealth. There is no comparison with Palestine, because, except for the Dead Sea potash, there are practically no minerals in Palestine, and no raw materials.
Therefore, we come to the problem that we find in many of the countries 1305 which we administer of having an almost wholly agricultural country. Even then, a great deal of the country either cannot be taken into cultivation or is already cultivated. Any hon. Member who has walked, as I have done, over the Plain of Sharon and the Vale of Esdraelon will remember the crops of barley, wheat, maize, grapefruit, and so on. Practically all of that land is under cultivation. If one climbs the Hills of Ephraim and Galilee and the Mountains of Judea, one sees how bare and rocky they are; the vineyards, olive groves and fig groves arc made on terraces to hold the scanty water supply. Thus the country is almost entirely agricultural, and very much of it is either cultivated or incapable of being cultivated. Yet we are planning, or thinking of planning, to put more people into that country. When I saw the figures in the Report of the Anglo-American Committee, I wondered how it was possible for them to recommend 100,000 immigrants now, having regard to the fact that in a very few years, with the natural increase, there will be far too many people in the country.
We are, therefore, facing a very difficult problem. As my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) said, the Jews may develop industries and, if so, they will have to be financed from outside. There is always the possibility of that, but surely, we cannot imagine the Jewish part of Palestine merely as a huge industrial town with a few plantations outside it. When we think of this problem we must remember that there is a limit to the absorptive capacity of the country and we must remember, also, that if a country, or part of a country, is built up on industry financed from outside, it is uneconomic, and may end in failure. That is mentioned in the last paragraph on page 25 of the Anglo-American Committee's Report, where a scheme of development is referred to. The Report says:We have in this immediate context another example of the manner in which Jewish zeal and energy are ready to outrun economic caution of the ordinary Western pattern.The Report continues:It is conceivable that the passionate expansion of an economic structure, upon a dubious basis of natural resources, might lead to overdevelopment on such a scale as to render it top-heavy to the point of collapse.1306 I do not wish to put a spanner into the machinery, but it is very important that we should all realise what will happen in the future if we try to force an increased population into what is already an over-populated agricultural country.
§ 8.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I speak as one who is deeply grieved at recent happenings in Palestine. To me it is heartbreaking that so-called Jews should have been guilty of such murderous outrages as took place in Jerusalem. I use the phrase; "so-called Jews" because there is nothing in the teachings of Judaism which could possibly justify an action of that kind. Judaism is a way of life. Its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace; there is no place in Judaism for murder and outrage. I say that these terrorists have done an injury to the Jew which Hitler was not able to do; he destroyed their bodies but their glory and their honour remained. These terrorists have inflicted an indelible stain on the name of the Jew and if they persist they will destroy the Jewish soul. He is no friend to the Jew who tries to justify or to condone in the slightest degree the action of these terrorists. The fact that 6,000,000 Jews have been killed by the Nazis is not the slightest justification for the murderous and treacherous attacks on British soldiers who saved the remaining Jews from a similar fate. If it had not been for Britain and the stand she took in 1940,, what would there be today of the Jewish National Home in Palestine? How many of those who vilify this country would be free to do so today if Britain had not stood firm in 1940?
It is necessary to say these things, and I should like the House to know that there-are many Jews in this country and in other lands who are and will ever remain grateful to Great Britain for what she has done. Whatever plan may be brought forward for Palestine it is a sine qua non of its success that terrorism there should end, because if gangster rule is to prevail in Palestine—and that is the danger to which that unhappy country is at present exposed—there can be no future for Palestine at all. May I say that I heartily welcome the plan which His Majesty's Government have brought forward and I think that it is to their credit that they have not been so provoked by recent happenings in Palestine 1307 as not to bring forward a plan for dealing with the problem there. I doubt if there is any other country in the world which, if exposed to similar provocation, would have continued with its policy and have produced a plan to try and settle the Jewish problem in Palestine. I believe that this plan which has been put forward by the Government is one which is practicable and which can work, provided there is a will to work it, and I hope that both Arabs and Jews will be willing to cooperate with His Majesty's Government in an attempt to make it work. Personally, I prefer the proposals put forward in the plan to partition because these proposals do not close the door; they leave open the possibility of realising what I think most people must appreciate is the best solution in Palestine—a Palestinian state in which Jews and Arabs would cooperate.
If we were to establish partition as it was suggested by the Peel Commission, I am afraid that it would be very much more difficult in practice and much less likely to succeed than the plan now proposed. I consider that it is to be welcomed that the plan does not impose finality because the conditions under which a final settlement of the right kind can be reached are not yet established. I hope, therefore, that both Arabs and Jews will cooperate and that in particular they will agree to come to the conference which is to be called by His Majesty's Government, and that as the result of their getting together these unhappy relations which have been established between Jews and the Arabs and the Government of this country will be ended and a new and happier chapter in the story of Palestine and the Jew will be begun.
I want to emphasise what has been said by previous speakers—that the solution of the problem of Palestine cannot by itself solve the Jewish problem. I reject the policy of those who say that the Jews should leave Europe. That is not only a policy of defeatism and despair but it means the triumph of Hitlerism, for that is the policy for which Hitler stood. It would mean that although Hitler was dead the evil he did still lived after him. There-lore, I hope that the Western Powers will realise their responsibility in this matter. I cannot agree that this country will be fulfilling its responsibility if it refuses to 1308 take in any more Jewish immigrants.. I believe that the United States Government are taking up a position which is morally indefensible when, in one breath it asks Arabs to accept 100,000 Jewish immigrants into Palestine and refuses to take more than the normal quota of Jews into America. The proposed solution of the Palestine problem must be accompanied by a real effort to find homes for these displaced Jews who so badly need them; so that, at long last, Jews everywhere may enjoy the peace, the security and the equal opportunity for the full life which Jews enjoy wherever the Union Jack flies.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. George Hall)
It is remarkable that we should have a two days' Debate on the question of Palestine with so little political feeling displayed, so many constructive speeches made and so much agreement as to the policy before the House. The Debate will encourage His Majesty's Government to go forward, we trust with the full cooperation of the Government of the United States, to get the conference going as quickly as possible, to reach a settlement of a matter which has baffled Governments over the last quarter of a century.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) dealt in his speech with the Mandate and the growth of the Jewish National Home, not only in respect of population, but also in respect of the development of that part of Palestine which has been occupied by the Jews. I do not think that it is yet fully realised by a number of people what has been done during the last 24 or 25 years, notwithstanding the great difficulty with which Palestine and the Palestinian Administration have been confronted. The right hon. Gentleman rightly said that the Jewish population in Palestine had increased six-fold or seven-fold whereas, as he also rightly says, the Arab population has increased by some 100 per cent. It is not only a question of population, it is a question of what has been done. I regret very much that I have not yet had an opportunity of visiting Palestine to see the result of that work but I would remind many people who criticise His Majesty's Government of the terms used by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr.Lipson) 1309 who addressed the House in the most moving manner, as he usually does. He pointed out, as he always does point out, what the National Home owes to the British people. Others refused the Mandate when it was offered and it was the British who accepted it. Who is there in this House who will say that as far as it has been possible, taking into consideration the conflicting interests of both races, that Mandate has not been faithfully carried out? I think it has.
The right hon. Gentleman stressed the point of Anglo-American cooperation in this matter. It has been surprising to hear some of the speeches which have been made during the past two days blaming the Government for delay and vacillation. The whole of the time that was taken up from August of last year until last Friday was spent in seeking Anglo-American unity or cooperation in dealing with this very grave problem. I am hopeful, as I have already said, that we shall obtain that cooperation until the scheme has been put through. The right hon. Gentleman also talked of giving up the Mandate. He said that unless we obtained that cooperation we should name a date and put the Palestinian problem at the feet of the United Nations. The Lord President said yesterday that it is our intention, if the scheme is found acceptable, that it should be embodied in a trusteeship agreement for Palestine. In that event we shall prepare the draft of a trusteeship agreement for submission to the United Nations as soon as it is practicable, but His Majesty's Government have already made it clear that while they are anxious to place mandated territories under trusteeship agreement, their agreement to do so must naturally depend upon their being able to negotiate terms which, in their view, are generally satisfactory, and achieve the objectives of the Charter and are in the best interests of the inhabitants of the territories concerned.
We hope that the forthcoming Conference with the Arabs and the Jews will assist us in achieving the fulfilment of those conditions. It is not easy to obtain a trusteeship agreement under the trusteeship organisation which exists at the present time. There is a lot of preparatory work to be done There has to be a designation of the States directly concerned, and one can imagine that in 1310 negotiating a trusteeship agreement for Palestine, surrounded as Palestine is by Arab States, it will not be very easy for the trustee, whether it is a single trustee or an Anglo-American trustee or, indeed, a United Nations trusteeship, unless we can get the Arabs and the Jews to come into conference, as we propose getting them to come, with a prospect of obtaining an agreement. If that agreement is obtained, there is no reason why we could not go on, as has been suggested by so many hon. and right hon. Members in the course of this discussion, and obtain a trusteeship agreement.
It is not easy to lay the Mandate at the feet of U.N.O. unless there is an organisation to take its place, and that is what we are hoping to do. I thought the right hon. Gentleman towards the end of his speech brought in a good deal of politically controversial matter, not helpful at all in obtaining American cooperation with the scheme. I thought it was, as my hon. Friend said, very mischievous, and sitting here and hearing what he said, I thought that notwithstanding his desire to obtain Anglo-American cooperation, he did his best to destroy it. Why did he bring Egypt into this discussion? He knows that at the present time negotiations are proceeding for a new agreement with Egypt. In this connection we have undertaken to withdraw British troops from Egyptian territory. We still maintain our belief that the policy we have adopted is the right policy, and the policy best calculated to secure British interests. The right hon. Gentleman has spoken of strategic interests. Why, our greatest strategic safeguard in the Middle East is the friendship of its Governments and its peoples We do not intend to lose sight of this principle in Palestine, any more than in Egypt. If a solution is found that is just and right and acceptable to both peoples, we shall not allow military considerations to prevent us from adopting that principle.
We listened, as we always listen, to a very moving speech from my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). Naturally, as we expected of him, he devoted a good deal of his speech to pressing for the immediate admission of the 100,000 Jews into Palestine. His Majesty's Government have made the position quite clear. They wanted the recommendations of the 1311 Anglo-American Committee accepted as a whole. It was felt, and indeed rightly so, that, with all that is involved in the admission of 100,000 Jews into Palestine, it was a burden greater than His Majesty's Government could carry. The cost involved is a very heavy cost and, indeed, as is laid down in the plan and was mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Lord President, as soon as this plan comes into operation, a plan already exists for the intake of the 100,000 Jews into Palestine. If not, then it will be for His Majesty's Government to consider the whole position. That is the agreement between His Majesty's Government and, we hope, the agreement with America—
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman but I really do not understand him. He said: "That is the agreement between His Majesty's Government and, we hope, somebody else." Is it an agreement or not?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am not trying to be funny and did not know the right hon. Gentleman was trying to be.
§ Mr. Hall
Perhaps not. The hon. Member might show a little bit of the breeding of the university. My hon. Friend also dealt with the question of the scheme. I would put it to him, as to everyone who has talked of the plan, that this is a provisional plan, both in regard to the suggested central legislature, and in regard to the Negeb. It is quite open for discussion between the two parties when they meet, although it is not easy to deal with the Negeb scheme in view of the conditions which exist in the Negeb at the present time. The recommendation is that there should be a survey taken as soon as possible, because, from information we have received about the Negeb, it appears that there is very little 1312 prospect of more than a very few people obtaining a livelihood unless there is a considerable amount of preparatory work done in the first instance. His Majesty's Government are prepared, we hope in conjunction with America, to undertake that preparatory work.
§ Sir William Darling (Edinburgh, South)
If America does not agree, I take it that His Majesty's Government will still proceed with the plan.
§ Sir W. Darling
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) said they would finance it themselves.
§ Mr. Hall
It is a matter, of course, which His Majesty's Government will have to take into full consideration. The hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) put a number of questions. I regret I was not here to hear his speech. He asked whether the Jewish Agency can go on, in view of its relation to the illegal army. It was made quite clear by the High Commission when the action was taken originally, that it was not taken against the Jewish Agency as such. It was taken against members of the Jewish Agency, those members who in accordance with the telegrams which are published in the White Paper, were involved in acts for which the High Commissioner thought he was justified in detaining them. There were others not in any way involved, and others whom he did not deem it necessary to detain. The hon. Member for Cambridge University put a straight question to me as to who is "Hayyim." We are of the opinion that "Hayyim" is Dr. Weizmann. But, at the same time, I would like to say that Dr. Weizmann, in accordance with the information given in the telegrams, was not in any way, and has not in any way been, involved in anything which is illegal or, indeed, in adopting anything which would lead us to think 1313 that he was anything other than a great Zionist, and a very great friend of this country.
This makes it a little difficult:It Hayyim meant us only avoid a general conflict not isolated cases,"—cases of at least violent sabotage—send greetings to Chill for the birth of his daughter.
§ Mr. Hall
No, he did not; we have no knowledge that he accepted the telegrams.
My hon. Friend the Member for Central Newcastle (Mr. Wilkes) asked what was the object of the present operations in Tel-Aviv, and the number of persons who have been detained. Up to 10 a.m. today, 664 suspects have been arrested, of whom some are already identified as dangerous terrorists. We had a very interesting speech from the hon. Member for the English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay) yesterday. He dealt with the educational work which was being done by the Jewish Agency, and pointed out the disparity between the educational work of the Arabs and the Jews. It is true, and in the Report of the Anglo-American Committee the reasons as to the disparity are fully given. I am sure that the hon. Member has seen in the Report of that Committee the amount of money which has been spent upon the maintenance of law and order and the amount which has been spent upon education. Had it not been for that fact, not only would there have been a much greater increase in the amount spent upon education, but in that spent upon health services as well. I hope that the time will soon come when the educational standard of the Arabs will be greatly raised from what it is at the present time.
Other speakers have referred, in sympathetic terms, to the hard task which our Armed Forces, including that fine 1314 body of men, British and Palestinian, the Palestinian Police, are carrying out, and the grievous losses they have suffered from time to time at the hands of political extremists on both sides. May I stress also, perhaps with greater emphasis than we have yet heard, the part played by the civil servants in Palestine throughout all these years of strife, and the catastrophic losses sustained by them in the King David Hotel outrage last week. These non-combatant civilians, Arabs, British, Jews, Greeks and Armenians, men and women of all ranks, from the higher civil servants to humble cleaners, have been wantonly sacrificed for no offence and no cause. In the face of discouragement, hostile propaganda and violence, they have done their duty, impartially and steadfastly, for the good of the country and of the people they serve, irrespective of politics and communities. They have been an excellent body of people, and it has been my pleasure to examine their work at a distance, and to have seen all the fine work they have done. I know that the House regrets very much that such a number of fine public servants have been sacrificed in the way in which they have been sacrificed.
My hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) raised the question of cooperation between the Government and the Jewish Agency. For a time, the Jewish Agency cooperated with the Government, as the Mandate required, and in certain spheres it has continued to do so, but in other directions it has abused its privileged position, and become the instrument of an extreme nationalism. I well remember receiving a Zionist deputation, led by the Chairman of the Agency, a week or two after I had entered upon my present office.
With no recognition of the rights of the existing non Jews in Palestine or the mandatory obligations of His Majesty's Government towards them, he not only demanded the immediate admission of 100,000 Jews into Palestine, but demanded fundamental changes in the constitution, and also asked that there should be an immediate declaration by His Majesty's Government in favour of a Jewish state. Even in all the important spheres of public order, the Agency has in recent months failed in its duty of cooperation with His Majesty's Government. The outrages in Palestine on the 1315 night of 31st October last, which are described in the recently published White Paper, evoked an equivocal condemnation from the Agency, who published a statement containing the following words:'The Agency repudiate recourse to violence but find its capacity to impose restraint severely tried by a policy which Jews regard as fatal to their future.Some newspaper reports of speeches made by members of the Jewish Agency, which I feel sure my hon. Friend has seen, are an indication of their attitude towards the work of the administration. My hon. Friend also raised some matters in which he alleged that there had been cooperation between the Palestine administration and the Hagana. I have made inquiries concerning this matter. There was some truth in the fact that the Jewish Agency, after the death of Lord Moyne, made available to the police a number of suspects, of whom about 300 have been traced and arrested, and some small stores of arms were uncovered. Prominent members of the Irgun were included and a few of them were detained. He also referred to the alleged assistance given by the Hagana to the police authorities in Jerusalem concerning the discovery of sites connected with the new rocket weapon for shooting up the King David Hotel. I am informed that no assistance was at that or any other time rendered by the Hagana to the Palestine police and that the police discovered that these weapons were mortars without any assistance either from the Agency or from the Hagana. Even assuming that everything the hon. Gentleman said is correct, I am sure he will agree that it cannot in any way justify the various acts of terrorism, particularly the blowing up of the King David Hotel.
The hon. Member also raised a question with regard to the Palestine police force and said he hoped that it would not become a "Black and Tan" organisation. I feel sure the House, while they will not expect me to deal with the past history of the Palestine police force, will agree when I say there is no danger at all of this police force, which is made up mainly of British men, becoming anything like a "Black and Tan" force.
Captain Delrgy (Manchester, Platting)
The "Black and Tans" were British too.
§ Mr. Hall
Reference was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) to the conditions under which the Palestine Police are working. He hoped that all the "plum jobs" would not go to the regular soldiers. The number of appointments to commissioned rank in the police and mobile forces from among officers serving in the Army is about 20. About 30 men serving in the Palestine Police have been promoted to commissioned rank. Promotion to the regular police force is almost wholly from the ranks and, apart from the Inspector-General, the great majority of the senior officers have been promoted from the ranks.
We have come to the conclusion that it will be best, at the outset of the scheme which is before the House, to make no arrangements for the immediate constitutional development at the centre. There is, at present, no common ground between the two communities, and any representative Central Government would consequently be a house divided against itself. The strife, which we trust will soon disappear, would almost inevitably endanger the scheme right from the start, and we are of the opinion that it is very much better that the plan should continue, as it exists, as a basis for discussion. The plan recognises this obligation both to the Arabs and to the Jews in Palestine, and, while admitting the difficulties of reconciling that obligation, it is hoped that, with the growth of common interests and good understanding, and a determination to face these complex issues from the standpoint of the wider interests of the United Nations, it will make a consequent contribution to the foundations of international security, both from the point of view of the Jews and that of the Arabs alike. It holds out the promise of a new and better era, and it is hoped that the influence of world opinion will strengthen those elements, hitherto too little regarded amidst the partisan clamours, which are working in cooperation between all who dwell in Palestine. If that cooperation can be achieved, Palestine will stand as an example of a country, which has overcome those divisions of creed and race which have so often constituted fatal obstacles to successful endeavour.
§ Mr. Stokes
Will my right hon. Friend answer the question specifically put to him as to what is meant by "to London" in the four telegrams? They cannot just have arrived at the General Post Office. To whom were they addressed?
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Will my right hon. Friend make it perfectly clear that the Jewish Agency have declared publicly that none of these telegrams ever reached them?
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay
Several hon. Members asked whether the suggestion had ever been put forward that the British Government or the United States Government should themselves offer to take some immigrants from Europe. Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether that suggestion has ever been made?
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.