§ Mr. Speaker
Before 1call on the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) I would ask hon.-Members who wish to take part in this Debate to keep their speeches as short as possible, as so many desire to speak.
§ 6.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has just concluded a most eloquent and moving speech in which he has surveyed the problems of the whole world in a spirit which I think everybody on both sides of the House will have recognised as the spirit of warm humanity and constructive statesmanship. I almost apologise to the House for having to bring its attention away from this wide sweep of world affairs and ask it to concentrate itself on one very small country, and one completely dispossessed people. In his survey, the Foreign Secretary could not avoid, and did not seek to avoid, a reference to the problems of the Middle East. There was, of course, no reference to Palestine and I make no complaint of that because it was agreed by all of us that the question ofPalestine, though it formed part of this Debate, should form a separate part of it, and should be separately discussed and separately replied to by the Government. However, to discuss questions of the Middle or Near East without discussing Palestine, is alittle like seeking to perform the play "Hamlet" without the Prince of Denmark. I think one of the best things done by the Government when the Anglo-American Commission was set up was that of taking the question out of the atmosphere— and I saythis without disrespect to the present Minister— the rather small-minded atmosphere, of the Colonial Department, and putting it into its proper place in world affairs.
In a short Debate of this kind, taking place at a time when the Commission is inthe very act of taking evidence in various parts of the world and considering recommendations, the Debate ought not to take too wide a sweep. I propose to devote myself to three questions only. One is the political background against which the Commission's work is to be 1367 seen; the second is the work of the Commission as it has gone so far, with particular reference to the question of an interim report; and the third, to action taken by the Government in and around Palestine since the setting up of the Commission, whether political action in neighbouring countries or territories, or administrative action in Palestine itself. With regard to the first, I would like to have it abundantly plain. It seems to me, and I hope if there is any doubt about it, the doubt will be cleared up, that it is not the task of the Commission to consider whether or not there shall be facilitated by His Majesty's Government the creation of a Jewish National Home in Palestine. It is not for the Commission to consider that.
Thiscountry is pledged to facilitate a Jewish national home in Palestine. It has been so pledged since 1917, and the Party on this side of the House has been so pledged at every annual conference it has held since 1918 onwards. I do not belong to that class of persons who seem to believe that the first thing that a Labour Government do, when they have obtained an absolute majority and full power, is to seek to run away from their obligations. I do not believe they are seeking to run away from this obligation.On the contrary, I believe they propose to implement that obligation. I am fortified in that belief by a letter which the Foreign Secretary was good enough to send to me after he made his statement, in order to correct precisely such a misapprehension. On12th December, 1945, the Foreign Secretary wrote to me:'' Dear Silverman,In answer to your letter of 6th December, I write to assure you that the phrase ' Jewish Home,' which I used in the House of Commons on 13th November, was intended to be understood as an abbreviation of the phrase'National Home for the Jewish people' which appears in the Balfour Declaration and in the preamble of the Mandate for Palestine.His Majesty's Government have no intention of evading their obligations under these instruments, which of course include the facilitating the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people.That reaffirmation of the general policy of Great Britain in this matter was made after the appointment of the Commission, and I think I am entitled to rely upon it as authority for my statement that the 1368 policy of creating a national home stands, and that the Commission is investigating things, and will report on things that may be cognate, incidentally, on a short view or on a long view, to the inplementation of that policy, but is not entitled to make recommendations that go behind it.
I wish to say another thing. If that were not so, Great Britain would have no right to be in Palestine at all. Britain's presence there is justified ininternational law by the Mandate and by nothing else. If the Government ever came to the conclusion either that the trust in the Mandate could not be performed, or ought never to have been undertaken, or was inconsistent with some other obligation, or that for any other reason they were no longer willing to carry it out, they would be in honour bound to take all their soldiers out of Palestine at once, because they would have no right to be there. The Minister of State assured the House last night, and weall agreed with him, that the primary purpose of the Government's foreign policy is to kill power politics. One is, therefore, entitled to infer that no reason of power politics would be relied upon by the Government to justify them in maintaining a hold upon Palestine. It follows that their hold upon Palestine is accepted by them as being solely for the purpose of discharging a trust imposed upon Great Britain, and accepted by Great Britain in 1918.
The policy adumbrated or promulgated by the Government in1938, the so-called White Paper policy, is believed by the overwhelming majority of this House and by the Government to be inconsistent with the discharge of that purpose. You cannot create a Jewish national home by prohibiting Jews from entering it. Youcannot create a Jewish national home by forbidding them to buy land in it. You cannot have a Jewish national home on the basis that the Jewish national home shall be the only country in the world to which a Jew shall not be entitled to enter only because he is a Jew. I take it that the terms of reference of the Anglo-American Commission have been drawn as they were drawn precisely because the Government do not believe that the policy of 1938 can or should be maintained. I take it that every door that was finally closed, or appeared to be finally closed in 1938, has been opened., I could wish that the Foreign. 1369 Secretary, in making his announcement in this House, had taken his enormous courage in both hands and had been as frank with the Arab League as he has been with the Soviet Union, laying his cards on the table, face upwards in both cases. It would have been wiser, and his statement would have received a better world reception that it did receive, if he had said what everybody knows to be true, thatthe policy of the White Paper, under which after this year no Jew could have entered Palestine at all, is a policy that is not practical politics. There is nobody today who believes that you can close the door of Palestine to Jews, and it would be betterthat that fact should be openly, specifically, clearly and unequivocally stated, so that there can be no further doubt or controversy about it.
I think that is all I wanted to say about that aspect of the matter, and I come now to what I said would be the second aspect of it, with which for a few minutes I should like to deal. I gather, from statements made by the Foreign Secretary and others at the time, that the Commission was to consider two separate groups of questions, and at one time I thought that there were to be two Commissions to do it. I asked the Foreign Secretary about it, and he said that there was to be only one. The two groups of questions were: first, the short term problem of what to do with the surviving Jews of Europe here and now, and, second, the longer term policy about the Jewish problem as a whole, seen, as it is rightly seen, as a world question.
No one expects the Government at this stage to seek in any way to anticipate or prejudge any recommendations which the Commission may ultimately think it right to make, but the short-term problem is an immediate one. What is to be done with the 70,000 or 80,000 Jews who survive, out of nearly 6,000,000 who were murdered, in the displaced persons' camps of Europe? Many people thought, and manystill think, that a Commission was not really necessary to find out what they wanted to do. It was known to many of us, and I think that, but for the political difficulties which some people inferred might have flowed from a frank recognition of the fact, no inquiry into what they wanted would have been thought necessary. But it would be a waste of the time of the House to go back into that. What I want to ask my 1370 right hon. Friend who is to reply is this. I gather from the various Press agencies that the Commission has completed its investigations in Europe. Its meetings have been held universally in the open, and if I may say so without impertinence, I think it was a wise thing for the Commission to decide to hold its inquiries in public. Some members of the Commission have even given Press conferences in Europe, at which they have appeared to be saying that they have arrived at a conclusion about this short-term policy— short term because immediately urgent.
I would like to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether that is so. I have heard rumours that they were prepared to make an interim report, and I have heard rumours that they have not made an interim report only, or largely, because the British members of the Commission were urged not to doso. I would like to ask whether there is any truth in those rumours, and, if there is no truth in them, I would like to ask, further, whether the Commission might not be invited by the Government— and by the United States Government, because they are responsible to both Governments— to say whether, having seen Europe, having taken evidence and assembled the facts, they are now in a position to make recommendations with regard to that limited part of their work which everybody agrees is an urgent problem— indeed, one that will not brook delay. It seems from the reports that they are in a position to do it, and if they are in a position to do it, they ought to do it.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
May I ask the hon. Gentleman to pursue this very important part of his speech? To whom is the Commission responsible? He does not suggest that it is responsible to His Majesty's Government, does he? It is entirely independent, I think, at this moment, and can do what it likes.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I donot think it is entirely independent, and I do not think it can do what it likes, but I agree entirely with the Noble Lord that it is not responsible only to His Majesty's Government, but to both Governments. I should have thought that the report would be made— one hopes it will be a unanimous report, though nobody knows— and one would expect it to be made, to both Governments.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Commission is not responsible to the Government or this House, and we are not entitled to criticise what the Commission will do, or when it wishes to report. They are an entirely independent body, and we are, so to speak, in their hands.
I do not know whether the word responsible "is being used in some technical sense, but certainly there is no Minister in this House who can answer for it as a Commission.
§ Mr. Speaker
There, of course, we come at once to one of our Rules— not to raise matters for which a Minister is not responsible.
I am asking the Ministerto keep this House informed, so far as he knows about it, of the development of the Commission's work, and to convey to the Commission, if he thinks fit and if he thinks that this House wants it, any request that he thinks it right to convey. Certainly Ido not put it any higher than that. I see no reason whatever, even if I had the right, to criticise the Commission. I certainly do not seek to do any such thing; I know of no reason why I should, and I know of no right that would enable me to do so even ifI had a reason. The Debate has to be seen against the background of the whole question, and I am asking whether the Foreign Secretary or the Government can do anything at this stage to invite, request, or suggest to, the Commission the advisability of making an interim report. It is not the first time that that suggestion has been made.
What makes me say that they may be thought to be in a position to do so is that some of their members have said so. One of the American members is Mr. Barclay C. Crum, and at a Press conference on or shortly before the 19th of this month he declared this:If we do not clean up the D.P. camps in the American zone of Germany, we shall have mass suicides of Jews, or they will try to fight their way to Palestine.That looks like a considered opinion on part of the work which the Commission was appointed to do, and I would like to read to the House one very short piece of evidence which they heard. After listening to what other displaced persons had to tell of the tragedy of European Jewry, a man called Boroshek, described as a 1372husky, blonde fellow of 28," said quietly:I do not speak politics, Zionism, Arabs and all such questions. I only relate a few personal facts. There are thousands more like me and my story is the story of my entire generation as Jews. I was born in Brest-Litovsk. I went to a general school, then to a high school— not a government school, for they did not admit me. I went to Vilna University in 1939, studying chemistry. The non-Jews,"—he said, pointing to his lips which were showing scars—beat the Jews and forced them to sit on separate benches. I finished my studies, but was unable to obtain any position. I am 28, and I have never eaten bread I have earned with my own hands. This shirt I wear was given me by the Red Cross; this coat I wear came from the partisans; this sweater— from my sisters in Palestine. My uncle in the United States sent me a dollar bill and J bought these boots I wear.During the war I wasin the Ghetto. Later on I joined the partisans and I was called ' The Jew.' When we were victorious, all was well. When we were defeated, the Jews were blamed. When I went to a village and was not recognised as a Jew, it was well and good. If I was recognised, the non-Jews reported me. Non-Jewish partisans were called ' partisans' Jewish partisans were called ' Jews.'As the war was over I returned to my town. Of 7,000 Jews, two small children remainedOne other quotation, which is very short:Pulling out a battered photograph from his. pocket, the witness said: ' This is all that remains of my family. One went to the war, was taken prisoner and killed by the Germans, all the rest were slaughtered by Poles. I do not even know their graves. I have a photograph showing a meadow supposed to be a mass grave Here is a photograph of my mother and father. Both were killed by the. S.S. They were told they are enemies of Hitler. This is a photo of. my school class. All who went to Palestine— six of them— survived. All who remained in Poland— 33— are dead.My uncle in the United States wrote me a letter saying ' I can send you some money.' My sisters in Palestine write, ' We want to see you.' This is my story and it is the story of thousands, thousands more.The comment of Mr. Crum on that was:I think one sign of hope is the fact that, tragic as their lot is, they are the only people I have seen in Europe who have something like inner security. That is based on the belief that they can rebuild their lives in Palestine. My recommendation would be "—This is why I quote him; he talks of what his recommendation would be—to clean out these camps and to let these people go where they want to go. From a simple pointof decency these people should be given a chance."1373 My only comment on that would be to read the words used by the Foreign Secretary a few minutes ago when he talked about our obligations to General Anders' army. I think I have them verbatim:When men have fought with you or stood by you it is against our religion to let them down.The Jews were the first of Hitler's victims. The Foreign Secretary made a hasty, ill-considered remark at a Press conference at the time when he set up this. Commission in which he talked about Jews seeking to go to the head of the queue. The Jews have been at the head of the queue since 1933. They were at the head of the queue in Warsaw, in Auschwitz, in Buchenwald, in Belsen and in Dachau and in all the other spots ofunutterable horror that spattered the European mainland. We owe them something and I do think, if the Commission is in a position to make a report now as to something that should be done for the people who are left, for this handful of survivors, we should be entitled to ask the Commission to do so. Certainly we should not seek to prevent them.
I have left myself no time to deal with the other aspects with which I wish to deal, and I will leave it. I am sorry I have detained the House for so long. I did endeavour to open this Debate not by going into all the bitter background of controversy that has surrounded all these matters, but by trying to deal with these matters with which we can deal now without prejudging anything that the Commission might do. I hope the Government may do what they can to relieve the situation, so far as they can relieve it, now.
§ 7.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I am very glad to be able to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) because I hope it will give me the opportunity of killing at least one lie about the Jews— that they all think alike. He and I are both Jews. I do not belong to a political party, as he does, nor do I share his views about Palestine or about the solution of the Jewish problem. I would ask the House, however, to believe that I feel as strongly as he does, the need to find a proper solution of the Jewish problem. My sympathy for the unfortunate Jews who have been persecuted and who are still suffering is as
1374 greatas his. 1 am glad that this Debate is taking place at this time, because I think it might help the Commission in its work. The Commission has been taking evidence from all sorts and conditions of people on the problem of Palestine. It will have the opportunity through Hansard of getting the views of the House of Commons on this problem. I hope it will be possible for a cross-section of the House to put forward its views to that end.
I welcome wholeheartedly the action of His Majesty's Government in appointing this Commission. In particular, I am glad that the Government has secured the co-operation of America in this Measure. It is right that the United States of America should come in and help us to solve this problem. It is not fair that this country should have to bear the whole burden of solving it ' America has a very great interest it it. Something like half the Jews of the world— about 5,000,000— live in America. There has been evidence that recently they have been throwing their weight about politically in that country. In this country, there are only something like 400,000 Jews— one per cent. of the population. Another reason for American participation is that I-believe the American people have been moved by the tragedy of theJew, and particularly by the sad happenings of recent years. The Americans are a greathearted people I believe they will be very willing, if they can to contribute to a happy solution of this problem. Lastly, America is now a world Power, and I submit, with all respect, that the problem of the Jew is a world problem. It is a problem which may endanger the peace of the world unless it is properly handled.
For that reason also, American cooperation is to be welcomed. Anybody who speaks about Palestine at this time must do so with a proper sense of responsibility. There can be no concealing the fact that the situation there at the moment must cause great anxiety, and, unless it is firmly handled, may well be fraught with disaster. For myself, the solution I want to see is a just solution— a solution which shall be just to both Jews and Arabs. I do not want a one-sided solution, and that is where 1 quarrel with my Zionist friends, who desire to see a Jewish State established in Palestine. My hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne 1375 referred to a Jewish national home in Palestine as being the avowed policy of the Government. I agree, but the hon. Member did not say whether, when the Commission reports, he will be prepared to accept the Commission's interpretation as to what is meant by a Jewish national home.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I thought I was careful to say that I thought it would not be within the jurisdiction of the Commission to decide what was a Jewish national home. That is the business of the Government and the United Nations.
§ Mr. Lipson
I will not pursue that matter, because I am not going to presume to tell the Commission what is within their terms of reference, and what is not. I am satisfied that they are competent to decide that for themselves. But I do hope that, whatever solution may be recommended by the Commission, it will be acceptable both to this country and the United States, and that the United States will be prepared to accept responsibility with us, for implementing the proposals. I stand as a Jew who regards the Jews as members of a religious community. I rejoice at the achievements of the Jews in Palestine, but my quarrel with the Zionists is that, by the extreme policy which they are advocating at present, they are endangering everything that has been achieved in Palestine. How long is it likely that all that has been done in Palestine since the Balfour Declaration will survive, if, which God forbid, there should be civil war in Palestine? Like my hon. Friend, I would like to see the large numbers of Jews who want to go to Palestine allowed to go there, but what is the chief obstacle to their going there? It is not that the British Government would not be willing, if conditions made it possible, for them to go there. It is largely the policy of the Jewish nationalists which has created this difficulty. Their avowed policy is to get enough Jews into Palestine to create a majority there, and, therefore, form a Jewish State. I ask the House whether it would expect any country to admit immigrants into its territory, if the avowed object was a political one of this kind? Therefore, I regret that, in, this hour of need, when it is most desirable, on humanitarian grounds, that Jews should be allowed to go into Palestine, the 1376 extreme views put forward by the Jewish nationalists or Zionists, have made it still more difficult.
It is obvious that the position which has been created in Palestine cannot be allowed to continue. In Palestine, as in Ireland, there are two nationalisms in conflict one with another. Before it is too late, we must try to rectify that position. Otherwise, it seems to me that the result is bound to be disastrous, and that the Jews will be chief sufferers. I do not want to see a Jewish State in Palestine. I do not want to see an Arab State, either. I want to see a Palestinian State, and I believe that it is on those lines that a solution of the Palestine problem can be found. One has only to look to see where the agitation for a Jewish State has led us to condemn it. What are the fruits of that policy? The whole Moslem world has been inflamed against Jews because of it. There are hundreds of thousands of Jews living in Arab countries who are, as it were, hostages to fortune. Upon them will fall the effect of any agitation carried out by the Zionists in Palestine. With regard to this country, not only is there a Press war carried on among many Zionist newspapers in Palestine and elsewhere against this country, but there have also been armed conflicts, and some extremists are describing themselves as at war with the British Empire. If it were not for Great Britain, there would be no Jewish problem to solve, because, if Britain had not stood firm in 1940 and Hitler had won the war, Jews everywhere would have been massacred and there would have been no Jewish problem left. Great Britain has shown herself to be the best friend the Jews ever had, and it is not only folly but also ingratitude, to pursue a policy which brings Jews anywhere into conflict with the people of these islands.
§ Mr. John Lewis (Bolton)
Does the hon. Gentleman include those Jews now suffering in Germany, about whom we heard tonight?
§ Mr. Lipson
I have tried to take a broad sweep of the Jewish problem. I sympathise with the illustration which was read out by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne, but that is not the case of a typical Jew.
§ Mr. S. Silvermanrose—1377
§ Mr. Lipson
It I may be allowed to continue, I want to say that the Jewish problem can be solved if the nations of the world will try to solve it, but not in the way suggested by the.hon. Member. It has been solved in this country, in the United States and in Russia. Under the Tsarist regime, the persecution of the Jews went on more than in. any other country, but, when Russia obtained a strong Government, no longer dominated by feeling against the Jews, it put an end to the persecution of Jews.
Will the hon. Member allow me one explanation? He said that the case I read out was not typical. The whole point of the evidence was that the witness said that his case was typical, and represented a whole generation. Out of a class of 43, 37 were killed and the other six escaped, and, of 7,000 people originally there, only a few remained.
§ Mr. Lipson
I said it was not typical of the 5,000,000 Jews in America, of the 3,500,000 Jews in Russia and not typical of the Jews in this country and the British Empire, and I believe that we could solve the Jewish problem throughout the world as it has been solved in the countries I have mentioned. I want to see Jews as full citizens in every country, carrying out also the full responsibilities of citizenship. That is the long-term solution. With regard to the temporary solution of the problem of displaced Jews., I hope that many of them, in spite of all they have suffered, will be willing to go back to the countries from which they came, and play their part in trying to rebuild those countries on healthier and better lines. I hope that other countries besides Palestine will be prepared to open their doors and admit the remaining Jews. In those ways I believe a solution can be found.
For over two thousand years the life of the Jew in many lands has been a tragic one. He has suffered slander, his life has been in danger, and for very little time has he known security. All this has culminated in the tragic happenings of recent years. This has brought suffering to the Jew, but there has been no shame attaching to him; the shame has been rather with the Christian communities that have allowed this thing to happen. I hope and pray that, as a result of the findings of the Commission, a solution will be found that will put an end to the
1378 Jewish tragedy that will enable the Jew to play his part as an equal citizen in every land in which he lives, that will enable what has been achieved in Palestine to remain secure—a solution that will be just to the Jew and the non-Jew alike.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
In rising to address the House for the first time, I know I shall be accorded that indulgence which is generally shown to new Members making their maiden speeches. I am beset with difficulty, because I am told that the problem before the House is a controversial one. But it is not a party problem, so how can it be controversial? Moreover, from the time I became interested in this problem many years ago, I have been, like all other hon. Members, in favour of justice, and since we are all seeking justice, how can the problem be controversial?
The Palestine problem was created by the fear of the Arabs that they would be dominated politically by the Jews. They were afraid that the national home would in time become a Jewish State. In recent times, the Zionist organisation have come out flatly and openly with a demand for a Jewish State. What is meant by that, I am not certain. I do not know whether they mean that a Jewish State should be imposed upon Palestine by some legal document, or that immigration into Palestine should take place on a big scale until there is a Jewish majority there. Whatever they mean, their open demand is for a Jewish State I propose in my remarks to deal with the question whether a Jewish State should be established in Palestine. I suggest that the only basis on which we should consider this subject is the basis of justice. All sorts of red herrings are dragged into this question. One hears arguments about whether or not the Jewish colonies in Palestine are self-supporting; whether the rehabilitation of Palestine was carried out more by the Palestine Government, by British companies, by Jews or by Arabs; whether Arabs have increased their citrus cultivation since 1920 by 500 or 600 per cent.; whether the Jews or the Arabs have committed most acts of violence. There are propaganda allegations that in the first World War the Arabs were Turkish conscripts, and the contrary allegations that the Jews were the Kaiser's conscripts. All these things have nothing to do with the 1379 matter. We have to consider the thing from the point of view of plain morality and justice.
What fundamentally is the demand for a Jewish State based on? It is based upon the historical connection of the Jews with Palestine. Therefore, we must go through history briefly and see what was the historical connection of the Jews and of the Arabs with Palestine. Before the Israelites entered Palestine in 1100 B.C., the country was inhabited by Philistines and others, and had been ruled from Egypt. The Jews fought against the people who were in Palestine before them, the Philistines being their chief enemies. In the 10th century B.C., the Jewish State rose to greatness under Solomon and David, and conquered the greater part of what is now Palestine. Then they quarrelled among themselves and split up into two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, and existed in a precarious way for two centuries. In the 8th century B.C., the Assyrians descended upon them, conquered them, and dispersed the Jews. In the 6th century B.C., Babylon conquered them, dispersed them, and drove many of them to Babylon. There followed in the 6th century the invasion of Persia and the country became a satrapy of the Persian Empire for centuries. In the 4th century B.C., there was the Greek conquest, and the struggle of the Maccabees in the 2nd century, and for a brief period the Jews had a kingdom again. In 63 B.C. the Romans conquered Palestine, and since that time there has 'been no Jewish State in any part of Palestine. That was nearly 2,000 years ago.
Those are the facts, and since many people seem not to know these elementary facts, it is necessary to put them into Hansard. Rome ruled the country for about 500 years. After their conquest, for a time they allowed the governors of the country to be called "kings." King Herod was merely a Roman governor. Later, the title was changed to "procurator," and one of the procurators was that well-known gentleman Pontius Pilate. In 70 A.D., Titus sacked Jerusalem. Rebellions followed and, finally, in 135 A.D., the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and utterly dispersed the Jews, of whom only a few thousand were left in the whole country. At the same time, it is a fact that there were five times as 1380 many Jews in the rest of the Roman Empire as there had been in Palestine before the dispersal. Roman rule continued until the 7th century A.D., when the Arabs broke out of the Arabian desert and conquered Palestine and Syria. They created an Empire which, in 300 years, they extended, roughly, from Baghda: to Spain. It was one of the great empires of the world. In turn, in the 11th century, the Arabs were conquered by the Turks, but the Arabs were not expelled. In the 12th century there was the Crusaders' Kingdom of Jerusalem. In the 13th and 14th centuries there were Mongol raids, and finally, in 1517, the Turks conquered Palestine and remained there until 1918.
There were 400 years of blighting Turkish rule The country was handed over to the tax-gatherers, and all that the Turks were concerned about was getting revenue. They did nothing for the country, and there was no progress. They conscripted thousands of young men into the Turkish army, and during the war the country was afflicted with famine and disease, hundreds of thousands of people dying from starvation The country was ruined by the war, and by the end of the war Palestine and the whole of Syria were down and out. The territory seemed tobe very easy booty for anybody who wished to take it over, and evidently it appeared so to the political Zionists who wanted at that time to set up not a national home, but a Jewish State, in Palestine. But that was not as easy as it looked, because Oriental people have passed the stage at which they will allow themselves to be bulldozed by anybody. Lord Samuel, who was one of the originators of the Zionist movement, and who was rendered wiser by experience, when he was High Commissioner, said in 1939:The Arabs are intensely aware of their history—that they acquired great territory, built up a remarkable culture, and gave to the world one of its greatest civilisations.It is very unwise to tackle people who have such a background as that, as aggressors have found to their cost. The Jews in Europe were persecuted during all these centuries. Some of them trickled back to Palestine and in 1845 there were 12,000 Jews in Palestine. Then Baron Rothschild established colonies and settlements. At the end of the first world war there were in Palestine 60,000 Jews and 650,000 Arabs, whose ancestors had lived 1381 in the country for 1,300 years. All the jurisprudents that I have ever come across have admitted the right of prescription, which is common sense and good law. People who have been for 13 centuries in possession of a country have the prescriptive right to the ownership of the country. I am dealing with the historical claim of the Jews. That claim, vis-a-vis the historical claim of the Arabs, is utterly baseless. At the end of the first world war the sovereignty of Palestine belonged, in common sense, by all the technicalities of law and morality, to the people of Palestine, over. 90 per cent. of whom were Arabs. Therefore, the claim after the first world war that the people of Palestine should be deprived of their sovereignty, and that that sovereignty should be transferred to immigrant Jews, was fantastic and immoral. Mr. -Asquith said words to that effect.
During the first world war Mr. Wilson, then President of the United States, offered many expressions of opinion. One was that after the war the people of the world were not to be bartered about from sovereignty to sovereignty. I think that principle was generally accepted by the Allies. He also enunciated the policy of self-determination for small nations. His Fourteen Points were expounded in 1918, published before the war was over and accepted by the Allies. The points which interested the Arab peoples were that they were to beassured unmolested opportunity of autonomous development.That pledge was given by America. Some people might say, "What about the right of conquest? The Allies conquered Palestine." Who were the Allies? British, French, American—and Arabs. The Arabs fought valiantly in the first World war. General Allenby, who knew all about them, said that their services Were invaluable. Mr. Lloyd George admitted at the Peace Conference that their help was essential. Anyone who studies that campaign and reads the remarks of the military strategists, will find how important the Arab help was. There is no ground for claiming that the people of Palestine should be deprived of their sovereignty by right of conquest; the Arabs themselves were among the conquerors.
The Arabs in Palestine made a treaty with Britain in 1916, by the McMahon 1382 correspondence, and entered the war on the condition that Syria, which included Palestine, was to be independent at the end of the war, except certain coastal districts. I have gone into the whole of this subject of the McMahon letters and what they mean. The Maugham Committee was set up by the British Government in 1915 to examine these matters. The Arab members of it said that Palestine was included in the area to be made independent. The British members said Palestine was excluded. I have gone into this thing, and I can assure hon. Members that any tribunal examining that document would not doubt for a moment that the McMahon letters promised independence to Palestine." I have been asked to be brief, otherwise I could prove that statement. The McMahon letters were not published for 25 years. Finally, the Arabs forced publication when even the Maugham Committee had to admit at the end of the inquiry that there was "more in the Arab contention than has hitherto appeared." The Arab contention was absolutely true and correct.
In 1916, not long after the treaty to which I have referred was made, the French who had not been informed of the treaty caused trouble, and the Sykes-Picot Agreement was made. Its terms were directly contrary to the McMahon treaty. It carved up the country between France and Britain, and was in direct variance with the McMahon terms. Palestine was to be not an independent State, but some sort of international organisation. That agreement deceived the Arabs. They were never consulted and the whole agreement was kept secret until after the 1917 revolution the Bolsheviks revealed it. That was very bad treatment of the Arabs, in my opinion. When the agreement was revealed the Turks got hold of it and offered the Arabs a separate peace. The Arabs were very bewildered because things were taking a turn directly contrary to what they expected and to what had been promised by the McMahon letters. They asked for an explanation. They declined the offer of a separate peace made by the Turks, and they asked for an explanation at Cairo, of 'the British authorities.
Next year comes the worst part of all this history, when, without consultation with the Arabs and even without their knowledge, the Balfour Declaration 1383 was issued, viewing with favour the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine while preserving the civil and religious rights of the Arabs. It was done without the knowledge of the Arabs, who had fought for us in the Far East. When the Arabs got to hear of it they appealed to Britain for an explanation. In later years Mr. Lloyd George stated that the object of the Balfour Declaration was that the Jews should get a majority in Palestine and thereby establish a Jewish State but the secret intention was not disclosed to the people of Palestine. Talks took place between the Arabs and the French on the subject. Finally the British Government sent Dr. Hogarth, an Arabic scholar, to see the Sharif of Mecca, who was the leader of the Arabs. To keep the Arabs quiet he made a promise to them, and there was corroboration of it by the Colonial Secretary during a Debate in this House in 1932. Dr. Hogarth promised that Jewish settlement in Palestine could only be allowed in so far as it would be consistent with the political and economic freedom of the Arab population. Is this promise to be a scrap of paper like the McMahon treaty? Are we to honour those pledges or not? An attempt was made by Dr. Weizmann in 1918 to get round the pledges by an agreement with Feisal, the Sharif's son. The attempt nearly came off, but at the last moment Feisal put in a clause that the whole thing would be null and void on certain conditions, which were never fulfilled.
A number of intelligent Arabs became very nervous about what was to happen to the Arab States after the war. Several of them asked the British Government point blank what the policy was. A long reply was given which covered the whole Arab area. The reply was promulgated and sent to Arabs everywhere. It stated that the future government of Palestine was to be based on the will of the governed, and that Great Britain would work for the freedom and independence of the country. Is that pledge to be honoured? In 1918, before the war was over, President Wilson said that the postwar settlement was to be based on the free acceptance by the peoples concerned of Governments of their own choosing. Finally, Feisal told General Allenby that he could not keep the Arabs quiet unless he obtained a clear declaration of British policy. So the Anglo-French declaration 1384 was made in 1918 and here is what the joint aims were—I will read the principal words:The complete and final liberation of the population living under the Turkish yoke and the setting up of National Governments chosen by the people themselves.It that pledge to be honoured? To keep the Arabs quiet again, we dropped thousands of leaflets from aeroplanes during the war promising them independence and asking them to receive us as liberators, which they did. Are these pledges to be honoured?
What happened after the war? France wanted the whole of Syria, and Britain wanted to keep France out of Southern Syria, Palestine. Finally, they came to a decision. France took the North and we the South. Since then, the Jews have poured in to the number of over 500,000. About 50,000 have emigrated, but there are still 600,000 Jews in the country. In addition, 60,000 have illegally entered the country since 1920, and at the present time the Jewish population is about 35 per cent., and the Arab population a little over 60 per cent. The Jews have set up their universities, schools, synagogues, settlements and cultural institutions of every kind. Every person I met in Palestine in 1928 said the Jews had established their national home 100 per cent. Is the Jewish national home not to be established until the Jews force in as many emigrants as they please and thereby establish a Jewish State? I do not think so.
In 1918 Dr. Weizman, head of the Zionists, went to Jerusalem to survey the country and was invited by the Governor to meet Arab notables and have discussions with them in a friendly way. Here is what Dr. Weizman then said:Let my hearers beware of treacherous insinuations that Zionists are seeking political power. Rather let both progress until they are ready for a joint autonomy.Political Zionists are now asking for a Jewish State, not a national home. The Balfour Declaration was embodied in the Mandate and its object was an independent Palestine State of which I am strongly in favour—snot a Jewish nor an Arab, but a Palestinian State. Institutions were to be developed, and so on. An attempt was made to set aside the Mandate in 1937 by the Peel Commission which proposed setting up three States by means of partition. I helped to destroy that iniquitous scheme. It was imprac 1385 ticable, anyhow, on political, economic and financial grounds and on strategic and moral grounds as well.
In 1939, the Maugham Committee decided that the British Government had no right to dispose of Palestine, and the British Government have no legal right to dispose of Palestine today. In 1939 the British Government declared unequivocally that "it was no part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State." They also limited immigration to 75,000 more unless the Arabs consented. I have gone over the history, briefly, to show that the setting up of a Jewish State would be contrary even to the Mandate. In my opinion, it is only if this idea of a Jewish State is abandoned, that we can get peace and conciliation in Palestine. 1 held in 1938, and I hold now, that conciliation between Jew and Arab is possible in Palestine. On the other hand, if this Jewish State policy goes on, as my hon. Friend on the other side said, it is going to lead to disaster for everybody, but especially for the Jews of Palestine.
To conclude, I ask, Is the British taxpayer going to keep on paying money to keep this policy going? Since 1920, the British taxpayer has provided over£13,000,000 to keep Palestine out of bankruptcy. He has contributed tens of millions also on military expenditure owing to this unfortunate policy. The policy of establishing a Jewish State can only be maintained by force. Are the American or the British Government to send their boys to fight in Palestine to establish a Jewish State by force? The thing is untenable and impossible. I ask that this question should not be decided on grounds of expediency, but on grounds of decency. The following words, those of Burke, which I quoted in Palestine in 1938, are applicable:It is with the greatest difficulty that 1 am able to separate policy from justice. Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society; and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all.
§ 747 P.m.
§ Mr. William Teeling (Brighton)
I have great pleasure in congratulating the hon. Gentleman the Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) on a speech which has been very full of the most interesting historical details, and I feel sure we will hear from 1386 the hon. Gentleman, with great profit, in the coming Debates as this Parliament goes on, more historical points of great interest.
I am speaking in this Debate today because, first of all, I think it ought not have taken place just now. Had it taken place about Christmas, or before, there would have been a real reason for it. Just now, before the Commission reports, and when people are already hearing rumours of interim reports, and of conclusions already reached, it may, in many ways, do more harm than good. I am inclined to think it is a proof of the fact that the Leader of the House has not been in sufficient consultation with the Foreign Secretary on this matter. I do not think the Foreign Secretary would have wanted this Debate to take place just now. But, as it is taking place, I must put forward my own opinions, and say what I feel and have felt for the last 25 years. Personally, I have been genuinely keen on Zionism for the past 25 years for two reasons, first, for the defence and protection of our own Empire, because I think the Jews in Palestine are more use to us than anybody else, and, secondly, for the sympathetic reason of my interest in the Jews and their troubles and problems, and the desire to find for them a home.
As regards the first reason, I have talked it over often, especially during this war. when I was stationed at the same station as Dr. Weizmann's son in Northern Ireland. We discussed this problem frequently together before he was killed. The appeasement on the part of Mr. Chamberlain with regard to the handing over of the ports in Southern Ireland, never helped us at the time I was stationed in Ireland, and was very practically brought to my notice during that period of the war. We compared it with the appeasement of the Arabs before the war. Great Britain did not succeed in making great friends of the Arabs in Palestine, as a result of this appeasement, and I do not think we are doing it now. I remember that the Suez Canal was created for us by a Jew with borrowed Jewish money, and I feel that we would have been in a much safer position about the Suez Canal during the earlier part of the war, if we had had properly developed a greater amount of Jewish industry and had had a larger number of Jewish people in Palestine.
1387 Palestine, as far as 1 can see, is crucial to us, from the point of view of the defence of the Suez Canal. I feel certain that, up to date, the Jews with modern ideas and modern machinery can be far more use to us than a country slightly backward, to say the least of it. The Jews are now becoming of more and more use from the point of view of war.
As more machines are invented and developed, and as the methods of waging war become more mechanised, do not let. us. forget that the Jews become increasingly useful, because they are the great inventors and scientists, and they have been of the very greatest help to us during the war. For that reason it is up to the British people to remember that we have to decide whether the Jews would be of more use to us in Palestine than the Arabs.
Let us turn to the other side—the sentimental side. I well remember just after the last war, when inflation took place to an appalling extent in Germany, how everybody laid the blame on the Jews in Germany. It was no more the fault of the Jews than of anybody else. They may have been partially responsible, but everybody said it was entirely the fault of the Jews. As the years went on, and unemployment and misery developed in Germany, Hitler made full use of that and joined with the Communist elements and the elements of the Right to form what was first and foremost their main joint strength—anti-Jewry at all costs. That anti-Jewish propaganda started in 1921. In the near future, we in this country may find ourselves in financial difficulties, suffering great hardships and faced with serious problems. I would not be surprised to find the blame eventually laid on the Jews, and we may yet find in this country and in America considerable anti-Jewish feeling. It certainly exists in most of Europe at the moment, and to my mind it is very unfair to say that the Jews as a whole should go back to those parts of Europe from which they have been brutally ejected. Why, even, should they stay here? Do not let us forget the propaganda which has gone on during the years in Germany, Holland, Belgium and France while the Germans were there, and in other parts of Europe as well. That has not been eradicated yet. The blame for every misfortune has been laid on the 1388 Jews. Yet they are asked to go back there, and to other parts of the world. Those ideas will spread to other parts of the world, including America and South America.
I can understand why the Jews do not want to go. They want at long last to feel they have a home. As I said, I have felt for 25 years that they ought to have a home. As the persecution of the Jews has gone on, I have remained convinced that Palestine is the main centre where they ought to be. I believe the Jews ought to be treated in the same way as Canadians, Australians and New Zea-landers. They belong to Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but every one of them has a right to sit in this House of Parliament, if they come here, and if they are elected by a constituency in this country. England is their centre as well as Canada, New Zealand and Australia. Therefore, why cannot it be the same for the Jews all over the world? Let them go to the countries where they want to go, but when there is danger, why not let them feel they can go back to their own home, which is Palestine? That is my personal feeling about the Jewish question. The present Government, after all their promises over the years to the Jews, should surely be only too willing to carry out those promises.
I warn the. Government that if they continue in this way, as was shown the other day by the Member of the Government who spoke in regard to the friendly societies, and are unwilling to implement pledges made before the General Election, they will cause a feeling of great distrust. This is one of the main points on which I think they will be judged, because they were so explicit in all that they said. Let them, therefore, in this case stick to their guns and let them not say, "If we go on and back up the proposal for a Jewish home in Palestine, we are going to have the most frightful troubles with the Arabs and in India, and so on." I do' not feel that is a justifiable argument. If that is how they feel, why do they fight in Java?—because they ought equally to be frightened of the reaction in India.
The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) told us that one of the reasons for the hatred by the Arabs of the Jews was the reference to a Jewish national home. I have seen in many parts of North Africa the contempt with which 1389 the Arabs treat the Jews, but that has nothing to do with 1914 onwards. It has been going on for hundreds of years. Anybody must see that the Jews cannot feel really happy or safe in Palestine unless they have some certainty that we would always back them, and back them with fairness. Since the Jews have been in Palestine, the Arabs are in many ways better off than they ever were. Hundreds of thousands more Arabs have gone into Palestine because they find more work there, they find greater comforts and usually greater opportunities for themselves in the future. I have yet to be shown Arab proofs from Palestine itself of real Arab discontent, which are not really fomented from outside. I am firmly of the opinion that the Arabs will be better off and happier under, not necessarily Jewish control, but Jewish-cum-British control, than they can possibly be elsewhere, and I believe there are enough Arab stales in the world to render it unnecessary for them to be jealous of allowing this little bit of land to go to one of the most tortured people in the world.
§ 7.58 p.m.
§ Mr. Hopkin Morris (Carmarthen)
I join with some of the previous speakers in congratulating the Government on uniting with the United States in the appointment of this Commission. The state of affairs in the Near East demands that this Commission should be appointed to inquire into the situation. Everyone knows the danger which besets the position, and if it is not promptly dealt with,it will lead to serious trouble, not merely in the Near East but further afield. I do not want to sayin the course of this Debate one word which would prejudge the work of the Commission or make it more difficult for the Governments either of this country or of the United States to solve this problem. The history of the last 25 years shows how urgently a solution is required.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) referred to the terms of reference of the Commission. He also referred to the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate, and pointed out that the Balfour Declaration provides for the setting up of a Jewish national home. That is true, but there is also in the Balfour Declaration another clause, which says that the religious rights of the non-Jewish population shall be protected. There we 1390 have the two elements. 1 am not criticising one side or the other, because one of the difficulties in taking part in this Debate is that one is immediately labelled pro-Jew or pro-Arab. I am neither. I am interested in this problem as a problem of justice and of ensuring the peace of the world. Jews throughout the world naturally thought that the phrase "Jewish national home" meant that we were setting up a Jewish national State. That belief was fostered by the leaders of the different nationalities, but, as far as I know, the only definition of the phrase ' Jewish national home "occurs in the White Paper of 1922.
I know of no other definition. If there is another definition of it, perhaps I shall be corrected. The White Paper of 1922 is important to note. That was the White Paper of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). By that White Paper the phrase "Jewish national home" is not clearly defined but it is defined to some extent. It says in terms that Palestine is not to be converted into a Jewish national home, but that a Jewish national home shall be established in Palestine, which is a very different thing. It goes on further to say that the establishment of the Jewish national home shall not subordinate the Arab population. I do not know the definition, but if it is intended that a Jewish national home in Palestine shall be established so that the Jews become a majority, then let the United Nations clearly say so.
§ Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)
The hon. Member is very conversant with the opinions expressed by the framers of the Balfour Declaration. Am I correct in saying that those who participated in the preparation of the Balfour Declaration,and who had positions of responsibility,have almost to a man, if not all of them,stated that, provided the Jews did what was intended by the Mandate of the Balfour Declaration, it naturally followed that a Jewish State would be established in Palestine?,
§ Mr. Morris
I am accepting that. I am not at pains to deny that the Jews have been led to believe that a Jewish State can be established in Palestine. That is perfectly true. The language used recently in the Presidential Election in the United States indicated that.
§ Mr. Morris
Oh, yes; in language used by President Roosevelt and by his opponent Mr. Dewey. Both of them talked of immigration into Palestine by Jews to establish a Jewish majority in setting up a Jewish State. I am not attempting to deny it. I am admitting that; and in admitting it I am emphasising what is really the urgent problem. If that is the new view, then that view is clearly inconsistent with the definition of the White Paper of 1922. It is not for me to say which view is the correct view.
§ Mr. Weitzman (Stoke Newington)
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in the preamble to the Mandate the words used are, "for reconstituting their national home in that country? Not "a" but "their."
§ Mr. Morris
Yes, "their national home," that is, the Jewish national home. 1 agree, but the definition of the White Paper of 1922 is after the Mandate and after that preamble. It is the definition which implements it, and that is later. If those speeches are the correct interpretation of the Mandate, then they are contrary, and the policy is contrary, to the definition of the White Paper of 1922. As I pointed out, I am not concerned with the Tightness or the wrongness of one definition or the other. All I am saying is, that the time has come— and this inquiry provides the opportunity—to determine which is the correct policy. Until the correct policy is known neither Jews nor Arabs are fairly done by. The opportunity is now provided by the United Nations, and it is a matter for the United Nations to deal with and solve. Let us look at the last 25 years, and see how the difficulties have arisen by this lack of a clear definition in the Declaration itself, in the Mandate and in the series of White Papers issued. As an illustration, I will take the White Paper of 1939. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford described that White Paper as a breach of the Mandate. [Hon. Members: "Hear, hear."] I am again prepared to accept that. He alleged that it was a breach of the Mandate. The Government of the day clearly thought it was consistent with the Mandate. [Hon. Members: "No."] They did. Hon. Members may disagree with that View.
1 will deal with what the Mandates Commission have done The problem of the last 25 years is one which the Mandates Commission should have dealt with but the Mandates Commission" shirked its duty every time, it left one White Paper after another to be issued. The very fact of this discussion taking place tonight, and the fact that this Commission has had to be appointed, Shows it is an open question Whether we decide in favour of a Jewish State or a Palestinian State, as has been suggested here, does not matter for the purpose of my argument. Let the United Nations enunciate their policy, and let it be clearly understood by Jews and Arabs alike. Let them decide upon a policy which can be enforced. As it is, merely to continue the present Mandate and try to work it, is to look forward to a series of situations.
§ Mr. H. Hynd (Hackney, Central)
This is very important. The hon. Member talks about continuing the Mandate. We are not continuing the Mandate. We are continuing the policy of the White Paper of 1939.
§ Mr. Morris
I will accept the hon Member's argument. He is saying that the policy of the Mandate is the whole crux of the matter. What is the Mandate? What does the Mandate mean? That is the point at issue. One side says that it is a breach of the Mandate, and another side says that it is consistent with the Mandate.
§ Mr. Janner
The hon. Member, as a lawyer, knows very well that the interpretation of the Mandate was in the hands of the League of Nations, for which he holds a great respect. The Mandates Commission of the League of Nations declared categorically that the White Paper was illegal and immoral.
§ Mr. Morris
It is all very well for the hon. Member to say that. Until the Mandates Commission has gone a step further and said— and if it had been so minded it could have done so—what "a Jewish national home" meant in the preamble to the Mandate—a step it has never taken—it is very easy to say that what 1393 the British Government did was immoral and illegal. The major issue is the first one. What does "Jewish national home" mean? That issue has never been decided. I hope, now that a new opportunity has arisen, it will be decided.
It has been assumed that my argument goes against the Jews. It is nothing of the sort. That is the issue. Let us see what is the result of it: what the result has been as far as the High Commissioner, who has had to deal with the position in Palestine for the last 25 years, is concerned. The practical issue is, How many Jewish immigrants—leaving out the White Paper of 1939 for the moment—shall be allowed to enter Palestine every year? There is an advisory body set up by the Mandate, or provided for by the Mandate. It does not matter what the figure is in any given year. It did not matter in any given year what figure the Government decided, the Jewish agencies, on the one hand, said the Government were acting against the Mandate because they were admitting too few Jews, and the Arab world, on the other hand, said the Government were acting contrary to the Mandate and were breaking it because they were admitting too many.
What was the test? The test was a vague one—the economic capacity of the country to absorb them. Who is to say what that means? The only person upon whose shoulders the duty rests is the High Commissioner on the spot, and the Government on the spot. It is an unfair burden to put upon the Government or the representative of this country. It is a burden that should be taken by the United Nations themselves. That is the issue, and because I feel that it is an issue of the utmost importance, not merely to Jews, not merely to Arabs, but to the peace of the world, I welcome the step taken by the Government of this country "and by the United States of America to set up a joint board. I trust that they will be able to find a solution.
I hope it will not be inferred from what I have said that I have not every sympathy, as every human being must have, with the cases cited by the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman). That is not the issue. But it is a very poor redress if we are to add to the suffering Jews in Europe another lot of suffering Jews in Palestine because we cannot 1394 solve this problem properly. Another opportunity has been given now to the United Nations to deal afresh with this problem and to provide a solution for it; and I wish them good luck and God speed.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Lieut. - Colonel Morris (Sheffield, Central)
I crave the traditional indulgence which this House so generously gives to those who address it for the first time. May I say at once that had it been left to any choice of mine, I should not have ventured to impose myself on this House for the first time in a Debate on this subject? May I say, too, that I agree with the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Teeling) who said he did not think that this particular time was the most opportune to discuss this matter? But I remind him, and I remind the House, too, that the time was not chosen by us. It was not for want of asking, that no earlier Debate was allowed in this House upon this question.
I do not claim in this Debate to be the authentic voice of Jewry. I make no claim to speak for anybody in this Debate but myself. It seems a pity that the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) is no longer in his place, because I would say to him that he represented the point of view of a very small minority of Jews. I know the hon. Gentleman very well. I know his background. He comes from the town in which I was born. I know his family. I knew of his father. May I say this—perhaps he will have the opportunity of reading it later—without the smallest intention of being offensive to him, that his late father would turn in his grave if he could have heard his son speak as he did in this House? I intend to indulge in no polemics, with the protagonists of the Arab case, and as regards what was said by the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris), I do not propose dubbing anybody anything. He knows very well from his experience in legal matters that intention is judged by what a man says and does; and if a man does not want to be dubbed anti-Semitic or pro-Arab, or by any other appellation, he must choose his words carefully. I also should like to refrain, as far as I can, from embarking on the discussion of the tortuous question as to what is the meaning of the Jewish national home. But I do not go as far as some hon. Members 1395 in apologising in advance, or in any desire to apologise in advance, for any criticisms I may offer. My criticisms are not directed to what has happened in the distant past; they relate to the immediate past and the present day.
In case I am tempted to embark on a discussion of the meaning of the Jewish national home, I would say to those right hon. Gentlemen who now sit upon Olympus here, that I will examine the speeches which they have already made in this House and out of this House; and so far as I am concerned I am prepared,to accept the interpretation that they have already put upon the Jewish national home. To point my argument I call in aid one of the series of speeches, made by those right hon. Gentlemen in the past. They have expressed the most lofty sentiments in connection with this important matter. They have thundered aloud in righteous wrath and indignation on the iniquitous policy of the White Paper. I do them the credit of accepting that they believed all they then said. The principle of anti-Semitism has long been known as a rallying ground for all those subversive forces which would like to upset the existing Constitution; but to use pro-Semitism as a stick with which to beat one's political opponents seems to indicate a depth of cynicism I had hoped never to see plumbed. So I will accept that those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen in their speeches inside and outside this House meant exactly what they said. I call in aid a speech of the right hon. Gentleman the present Minister of State, who in this House on 22nd May, 1939, when this question was being discussed, said:But look a little closer at the Balfour Declaration. The White Paper says that the Government did not contest the view of the Royal Commission that ' the Zionist leaders at the time of the BalfourDeclaration recognised that an ultimate Jewish state was not precluded by the terms of the Declaration.'That is a very disingenuous version of what the Royal Commission actually said: ' The Jews understood that if the experiment succeeded the National Home would develop in course of time into a Jewish state.' Why did the Jews understand that to be the case? Because from 1918 to 1920 they were told so by the rulers of the world. They were told so by President Wilson, by Lord Balfour and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for.Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd-George). Not one leader ever hinted that there would not be a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine in time to come. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has said that 1396 the notion that Jewish immigration would be restricted never entered into anybody's mind because it would have been regarded ' as unjust and as a fraud on the people to whom we were pledged.' I know that is true, because I talked to the men day byday who made the Mandate."— [Official Report, 22nd May, 1939; Vol. 347, c. 2039.]That is one of the sentiments to which I wish to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. George Hall), who is, presumably, going to reply to this Debate. But there is another passage by the same right hon. Gentlemen:' It the Secretary of State's policy is now adopted, the illegal immigration of these tortured people from German' and elsewhere will enormously increase. The Jews of Palestine' will go by the tens of thousands down to the beach to welcome them and to cover and protect their landings. The only way to stop them is to tell those kindly British soldiers to shoot them down. Does the Secretary of State believe that he could give that order? He knows that he could not. For that, if for no other reason, this policy is bound to fail. It will fail because in the most tragic hour of Jewish history the British people will not deny them their Promised Land."— [Official Report, 22nd May. 1939; Vol. 347, c. 2047.]None of the prophets of old ever manifested more real insight into what was likely to happen in the future than was manifested by the right hon. Gentleman who made this speech. I pose this question to the Colonial Secretary. What does he propose to do about the alleged illegal immigration? I say "alleged" advisedly, because it probably has not occurred to these people in Palestine, who are responsible for this, that there is anything illegal in inviting their people to come into their home. That is a question which I would like the right hon. Gentleman who is to reply to have in mind.
The same Gentleman, speaking one year later—in my submission this paragraph is particularly important in relation to the questions I have in mind— said this:Then why has he done it? Does he still believe that he or any man can in future close the land of Palestine to homeless Jews? Last week in Brussels I met a Jew who left Warsaw three weeks ago He told me that then the Gestapo alleged they had just discovered a conspiracy against the German Army which they said was headed by a certain Jew named Kot. In accordance with their custom, they declared the collective responsibility of the Jews. They arrested 100 of the leading Jews of Warsaw, and they informed the others that these 100 would be shot if Kot was not found and handed over within 48 hours. The stated time elapsed. 1397 and the 100 men were shot. Another 100 were arrested, and so on every 48 hours. And no Jew in Warsaw had ever heard of Kot or even knew whether he existed. Does the Secretary of State believe that when the war is over Jews will continue living in a country where things like that have happened? Does he still pretend that we can solve the problem by our cruel futilities about British Guiana and the West Indies, where in two bitter years we have not found safety for even 1oo hunted Jews? He knows, as we know, there is one indispensable solution—the Jewish National Home in Palestine—and whatever else there may be, there must be that as well. He knows, as.we know, that in Jewish brains and courage there lies the one living force that can reclaim the wastes of Zion, and which, by its leadership and its example, can revitalise the arid deserts of the Middle East We ask him to withdraw these Regulations and to tell the world that this Parliament and this nation will faithfully fulfil the sacred trust which in the last great war we undertook. If he will not do it, then this House and history will judge him as he deserves."—[Official Report, 6th March, 1940; Vol. 358, c. 424-5.]I commend these observations to the very earnest attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary. At this time, when these observations were made in 1939 and 1940, the Jews were just beginning to feel the weight of Nazi brutality and savagery. If these observations had any validity and force in 1939 and 1940, how much more force have they today when the veil has been lifted, and all the unspeakable horrors to which the Jews have been subjected during the past few years have been revealed? Am I not entitled to say now that, when I heard the Foreign Secretary on 13th November in this House, I was bitterly disappointed? Although as I say I make no claim to speak for anybody but myself, I imagine that the sentiments I express will be echoed by many people outside this House and maybe even inside this House. Why was it that the right hon. Gentlemen who now comprise His Majesty's Government appear—I say "appear" advisedly—to have changed their minds? If these criticisms mean anything, there is implicit in them surely that it they had been in power at that time, they would not have acted like this, and, on the very first occasion when they come to power, repeal or abrogate the policy of the White Paper.
Why was it not possible then, when the Foreign Secretary came to Parliament, to say: "Well, let us at least open wide the gates of Palestine, to this poor, miserable collection of human wreckage that exists in the concentration camps?" That 1398 would have been a magnificent gesture for which the world had been waiting, and it would have confirmed the moral leadership of this country in the world. That would have been a magnificent gesture. Why was it not done? Is it surprising now, in this period of the history of this question, that we are being accused of temporising; is it surprising that we are being accused of appeasement—we of all the people in the world? I would remind hon. Members on this side of the House that at least one of the factors, and not the least, to which we owe our presence in this House was the violent reaction of the people of this country to the policy of appeasement which we have been following for the last 15 years—and that we should now be accused of appeasement passes comprehension. Why is it the Government have changed their minds, or appear to have done so? I repeat that question because it is an important question. I want to know.
Perhaps I am misjudging the Government; perhaps these criticisms of mine are not warranted. Are the Government not leaving themselves open to another major criticism: that while around the corner, we are endeavouring to put international relationship on a new footing, we ourselves are playing in the Middle East the game of power politics? Would it be surprising if that allegation were made against the Government? Is it the fact that, over the last 25 years, they have listened slavishly to their advisers in the Middle East, who have, somehow or other, managed to convince them that if you play ball with the Arabs, and truckle to them and appease them, you will be able to set up a collection of Arab States which will be the best bulwark you can have against the imperial aggression of any other Power? Why do they believe that? All history is against them. Yesterday, Egypt told us to get out; today it is Syria and The Lebanon, and if you established an Arab State in Palestine tomorrow, it would be the Palestinian Arabs. Am I not entitled to say now that I feel the very gravest disappointment?
This is the present position. A Commission is now sitting. What the Foreign Secretary did was to come to the House and say: We have considered this matter. The Government regard it as a very serious problem, and we have now decided to run away from it. You shall 1399 have another Commission. What in heaven's name do the Government expect to get from this Commission which they did not get from the others? The Commission is now sitting, and it would be idle to speculate on what its findings will be. I do not know, and I refuse to guess. One other question to the Colonial Secretary and it is this: When this Commission has finished its deliberations and made its findings and published them what happens then? Do they come before this House for consideration and go to America for their consideration and from us and America to the United Nations organisation? What happens? Is temporisation to be put on temporisation, and delay to be added to delay? Is a new chapter in the bloodstained history of Jewry going to be written? These are questions which I would like to ask. I apologise, for I fear that I have transgressed and perhaps unwittingly overstepped the bounds of maidenly propriety. My apology is that I have spoken on a subject on which I may be forgiven for feeling very deeply, and on which I do not desire to remain inarticulate.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
It falls to my privilege to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Central Sheffield (Lieut.-Colonel Morris). I think that the least we can say of his speech is that it had all the trueness of the steel of Sheffield in it, and I hope we shall—and this view is shared by all sides of the House—have the pleasure of listening to further contributions from him. This subject of Palestine is one which interests me, particularly in view of the fact that I spent a good many months there during the war. It may seem dangerous, even after a visit like I had, to deal with the subject which for so long has proved insoluble by men of wide experience in humanitarian problems; and 1 believe this is a humanitarian problem. Today, in this Debate, which, I submit, is all too short, we have had so far a wide expression of view, and I should like first to take up one point which the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) raised in the first speech. I think these were his actual words: '' Nobody believes that the door can now be closed." As far as I am concerned, 1 consider that the door should never have been opened. The reason I say that is that we, as a country, 1400 have to make up our minds, whether or not we have committed a wrong and an injustice. If we have committed a wrong and an injustice, it seems to me that we have to make up our minds whether or not we are going to perpetuate that wrong and injustice by continuing a policy which it has engendered, or whether we are going to be quite frank and open about it, and say where we went wrong and whether we are now open for further consideration.
That seems to me the great issue, and,in so far as it affects Palestine, the first great mistake we made was in 1920. In1920 the San Remo Conference took place, when it was agreed that Great Britain should have the Mandates of Iraq and Palestine. That Mandate could not be ratified by the League of Nations until the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, but in 1920 we sent out Sir Herbert Samuel,as he was then, as our High Commissioner, and we began to implement the Balfour Declaration in that year. That was before the Arabs in Palestine, who were then the inhabitants, had agreed under Clause 4 of Article 24 of the Covenant of the League of Nations to the Mandate being set up at all. I submit that we cannot possibly go back as regards the present population as it exists in Palestine today, but we should go back to the situation at the time we made the mistake with regard to the future—
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Do I understand the hon. and gallant Member to say that he was sorry we accepted the Mandate and the trust involved? If he thinks that we were mistaken should we surrender it, and does he think we should remain in possession of the trust property after renouncing the trust?
§ Major Legge-Bourke
In so far as the State is concerned, I think the hon. Gentleman has got the wrong argument.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
What 1 was trying to say—and I think I made it quite clear at the time—was that in so far as the Arabs were concerned the Mandate was founded on a false hypothesis in the first place.
§ Mr. Silverman
It does not seem to me to matter what it was founded on. This country accepted a trust and has adminis 1401 tered it ever since. It may come to the conclusion some day that it no longer wants to continue it. What I am asking is that if it comes to that conclusion, will it stick to the trust fund?
§ Major Legge-Bourke
What I am saying is that before the Mandate could be set up, Clause 4 of Article 24 of the Covenant of the League had to be abided by, and that Clause insisted that the population concerned should agree to the Mandate being set up. In the case of Palestine that was never agreed to.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I think I have made it quite clear already The argument as far as I see it about allowing immigrants into the country about which the local inhabitants have not been consulted or with which they are not in agreement, is I think an argument which we must consider in the light of this country; and if we allow people to go into Palestine without the Arabs agreeing to it in the first place, it is the same thing as saying that all those Italians who are descendants of the ancient Britons sold into slavery in the days of the Roman Empire should be allowed to come back to the Isle of Ely and take over a large part of that island and become predominant. That is the argument and we cannot have it both ways.
I think that hon. Members of this House are not under the same impression as the hon. Gentleman I have just had the privilege of congratulating because I notice that there is some confusion on the word "Semitic." I would point out that it was said by the Emir Feisal in 1918 that two great branches of the Semitic family understand one another. I do not think there is any question of anti-Semitism in this case and I say we must be proSemitic. Our duty is to the people who originally, at the time of the Mandate, owned the country. There are many reasons why we must look towards the Arabs, not only because of the principle which I have already mentioned, but for other reasons. Whatever goes on in Palestine and whatever goes on outside Palestine is reflected outside or inside accordingly. We cannot separate Palestine and imagine that what goes on inside that country will not have any effect outside. Nor can we expect the various 1402 troubles that are threatening outside Palestine at this moment not to have their effect inside. Are we then to add to the reason of those troubles? 1 hoped there would have been more time to speak on what Russia is trying to do in the Middle East and in the Arab world, but the time at my disposal would not allow me to do justice to it. I will say instead that all these problems that arise in Egypt and India and particularly in North Iran will have repercussions in Palestine, do what we will.
Therefore, let us be very cautious not to put salt on the wound. I believe that this Debate is a good thing; I wish it had happened earlier. I hope that as a result of it we shall be able to help clear the mind of the Commission which is sitting through a vary arduous time. There is no more humanitarian task than the one which they have before them.
I would like to take the House back through the years to 1940, to a post on the Syrian frontier between Palestine and Syria. I was at that time officer of the guard, and I remember a convoy coming from the north one morning, and from it a Rumanian Jew getting down on to the road. He more or less staggered from the car, and, with tears in his eyes, he said: "If only you knew what it means to see a British uniform again." He proceeded to tell me of the many terrors of his journey. I say to Members, who believe that we should allow as many Jews as possible, particularly Zionists, to enter Palestine: Palestine has served its purpose from the point of view of offering a refuge to distressed persons of this world. That purpose has been served, and we must now say to ourselves, "Can we, as a nation, ask another country to absorb displaced persons if we ourselves are not prepared to do the same? "It is the height of hypocrisy for America to say that she will not take any more than 3⅛ per cent. of Jews into her population, or for us to say that we will not take more than 1⅛ per cent., if, at the same time, both of us say that the Jews must continue to enter Palestine.
About displaced persons, I would stress this: Jews or Zionists are not one section. There is a difference between them. The Jews who go to Palestine at the moment are not true orthodox Jews, in many cases. I think it is to the orthodox Jew that Palestine means most. Jerusalem means perhaps more to the orthodox Jews 1403 than to the Christian. We must now say that Palestine's time for offering refuge to other distressed people is over. Let us now open other doors. I believe the Prime Minister was right when he said, in December, 1944, "Moreover, we should seek to win the full sympathy and support both of the American and Russian Governments for the execution of this Palestinian policy." I would like to see right hon. Gentlemen opposite fulfilling that pledge. That is the first pledge that should be fulfilled, because displaced persons today are creating the greatest problem the world has ever known. We must do something for then now, but we cannot go against one great principle, that if people who have lived in their own country for many years do not wish to take in people whom they have not agreed to accept, we cannot enforce immigration upon them of another race.
Mr. S. Silveman
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman allow me to interrupt? How does he reconcile his last two sentences? First, he said that displaced persons arc an urgent problem, and that we must real with them at once, and then he said that if people already in a country do not want to admit displaced persons they must not be compelled to admit them. What, then, would the hon. and gallant Gentleman do with the displaced persons?
§ Mr. Silverman
As the hon and gallant Member has asked me a question let me answer him. I am not at all suspicious, but I have looked at the map of Europe, and I find that in every country where asylum has been suggested, including Palestine, the local inhabitants are not prepared to open their doors. On those facts, what would the hon. and gallant Gentleman do with the survivors?
§ Major Legge-Bourke
What I was going to say in the closing part of my speech would, I think, answer the hon. Gentleman as well as anything. One of the most brilliant biographers of Jewry, a 1404 man who, just before he died so tragically, decided to write a novel, "Beware of pity." Beware of it unless you yourselves are prepared to act, and to implement that pity. Otherwise you will never be able to hold up your heads again. Pity, at this time, demands that if we are saying that more displaced persons or Jews should go into Palestine we should say, at the same time ' We will take our share."
§ 8.46 p.m.
§ Squadron-Leader Segal (Preston)
It is with some diffidence that I rise to inflict on the House yet another maiden speech, particularly in view of the subject we are discussing. But this House is traditionally so temperate in its indulgence that I hope no cravings of mine may impose an undue strain upon its tolerance. Palestine, as we know, is a subject on which feelings run very deep, and rightly so. For this small country, sacred to Christian, Moslem and Jew alike, has been the scene of the greatest spiritual experiences that have ever moved mankind, and it would indeed be a sad day if we in this House ever failed to be stirred by those experiences. Whatever our feelings today, however, it is our duty to hold them back, and to restrain our passions while the Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry is sitting. Until it publishes its Report the whole subject must remain sub judice. There is general agreement that the Debate on Palestine in another place, on 10th December last, served a useful purpose. It certainly did no harm, and it may be of some assistance to the Government if they were to be made aware of the views of this House, even during the very limited time that we have been allotted.
As one who lived in Palestine for a long time, first in 1918, when half the country was still in Turkish hands, and later, during the precarious inter-war period, and again for long periods during the recent war—both in the Arab zone of Gaza, and in purely Jewish areas elsewhere—I believe that the great tragedy of Palestine is that the problem has been allowed, during the last 25 years, to resolve itself into a contest between Arab and Jew. The nations of Europe and America have been content, merely as interested onlookers, to watch the problem develop, without realising that they had a vital stake in the future of 1405 that country. There is one thing, however, I would like to ask of the Government. Now that the Anglo-American Commission is actively engaged on its work, and we are awaiting its Report, may we hope that it will be a unanimous Report, although, in all fairness, it behoves us not to prejudge it. In another place, on 10th December, the Lord Chancellor said:The Commission will propound a solution, not, I should suppose, a final solution, but one which may carry us through the years to come, and may lead to a final solution. which we shall put forward to the United Nations' organisation.May I now make a plea that once the Commission has reported, the Government will embark on a definite policy and put to an end, once for all, further Palestine Commissions? Such Commissions act as an irritant upon all sections of the Palestine population. The danger is that, like another well known irritant:Big commissions set up little commissions upon their backs to bite 'em,Little commissions set up lesser commissions, and so ad infinitum."When the Government have been able to declare their policy can we ask them to embark upon the next step? Why not trust the inhabitants of Palestine to find an accommodation among themselves, and withdraw our 50,000 troops? The Arabs of Palestine certainly do not wish them there. Some of us heard the Secretary-General of the Arab League, Azzam Bey, say in this building on 17th October last, "We say, British quit. Get out of the whole problem. You have disturbed this part of the Middle East for the past 25 years. If the Zionist loses the hope that he is going to have British bayonets to back him then he may be wiser and able to come to a settlement." That, I believe, is an authoritative Arab point of view. Certainly the Jews do not wish the British troops to remain in Palestine, for are they not now engaged in a guerilla campaign against them?
May I say here how greatly we deplore the incidence of violence in the Zionist movement? To my mind it is an abnormal manifestation of men goaded into a frenzy, the frenzy of despair. I believe that fundamentally there is no violence in the Zionist movement at all, but, on the contrary, a desperate desire to return to the soil and to the pursuits of peace. Can we condemn the defenders of the 1406 Warsaw Ghetto of violence? They felt they were doomed, trapped on all sides by the Nazi terror, and were determined, like the Maccabees of old, not to surrender their lives without a struggle. Today there are men in Palestine who feel the same way. They were urged on to this course by a speech of one of the greatest and best loved figures in English Parliamentary history, Colonel Wedgewood, delivered during the Debate on Palestine in this House on 22nd May, 1939. To these men the outbreaks in Palestine are but another phase of the battle of the Warsaw Ghetto. They feel themselves, however misguidedly, as martyrs to their people and their faith. But I bedieve that Palestinian Jewry today is well able to defend itself against all attacks coming from any quarter in the Middle East.
Why not let Palestine, then, revert again to a purely R.A.F. command as it was before the war? I firmly believe that, instead of 50,000 troops, eight R.A.F. squadrons would be ample today to protect the peace of Palestine. We could, I think, feel reasonably sure that a few months after the withdrawal of our troops, Palestine would settle down to a new era of peace and progress. Our neighbour, Ireland, knew no peace for 30O years while our troops were in occupation, and when we withdrew, instead of civil war that country settled down to such an era of peace that not even a world upheaval was able to disturb it. Certainly our 50,000 troops do not themselves desire to remain in Palestine. There are 50,000 homes waiting to receive them and to welcome them back. What is even more difficult for them is that they do not know why they are being kept in Palestine. Is it until the Commission reports or until the Government can proclaim their policy, or even until a later date than that?
As well as their 50,000 troops the Government might also consider withdrawing their English-recruited Palestine police. During the war many of them longed to join the Armed Forces but they were refused permission. That refusal has rankled ever since. Many of them, with their wives and families around them, deeply resent the conditions of their service. Why force them to remain in Palestine against their will? The lives of our men in the Palestine police are no less precious and valuable to this country than the lives of our men in the Armed 1407 Forces. Why not, instead, recruit more Palestine Arab and Jewish police volunteers and direct them under English officers as is done today everywhere in the British Empire exceptin Malta and Singapore? Now that the withdrawal of our troops from various parts of the Middle East is the order of the day, why not include Palestine? We are committed to withdraw from Persia, from Syria and the Lebanon. We are to negotiate with the new Egyptian Government about the withdrawal of our troops from Egypt, and I am sure that all parties in the House will join in wishing success and prosperity to our Egyptian Ally and a happy outcome of the negotiations. Why not employ our 50,000 troops now in Palestine more usefully in the work of reconstruction at home, and in Palestine why not let the forces of culture, wisdom, and enlightenment rule the country instead of the forces of any military Power?
There is a further matter on which I should like to touch. The term "economic absorptive capacity," first coined by the right hon. Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), can, I believe, be applied to any country in the world except Palestine. There it has been the cause of endless suffering and misery, and outside Palestine it has involved the sacrifiec of many thousands of Jewish lives. Even today those to whom this country looks for spiritual guidance are still obsessed with that phrase. In the Palestine Debate in another place on 10th December last, these words were uttered:I asked one question again and again when I was out there. How many people can this small country economically receive? How many more can Palestine hold if there is unlimited immigration? There is the danger that you may have a State or nation on the dole. You may have a slum occupied by millions of unemployed."Well may we exclaim, "0 ye of little faith." What was the absorptive capacity of the multitudes on the shores of Galilee who were fed on the loaves and fishes? What was the economic capacity of the widow's cruse? What was the economic capacity of the desert of Sinai where the Jewish people lived for 40 years?
To many of us Palestine is still the land of miracles, and there are forces at work in it today that can break the barren hillsides into foliage and make the desert blossom as the rose. Many of us believe 1408 that there is still a divine purpose guiding the destinies of that sacred land. Perhaps we in this country have been appointed as mandatory Power to be the instrument that may shape that destiny. But the Arabs of Palestine very properly protest that they have been in the country for 1400 years and that there they must remain. There I sincerely and profoundly hope they will remain. But I am reminded of a painting, in the corridor outside this Chamber, showing the sailing of the Pilgrim Fathers in 1620.
Let us remember that 300 years are but as yesterday in the history of Palestine. The inhabitants of North America in those days were in a greater majority than two to one against the Pilgrim Fathers. Would that have given them the right to turn away the refugees on board the Mayflower as illigal immigrants or to sink it off the shores of New England, like the "Patria" lies today, sunk in Haifa Harbour, or the "Struma" in the depths of the Black Sea? It would have been a woeful day for civilisation if that had happened. Perhaps the world might never have known a Washington or a Jefferson, a Lincoln or a Roosevelt, but only a permanent Red Indian majority in North America. Perhaps, but for the aid of the descendants of these Pilgrim Fathers during the recent war, we in this House might now have been languishing in a concentration camp. Twice in our own lifetime has this young nation, only 300 years old, come to the aid of our European civilisation in its hour of peril and helped to save it from disaster. The Jews in Palestine have already achieved miracles in 30 years; who knows what they will not achieve in 300 years, or even in the next 30 years if we, in this House, were now to feel the stirrings of history and rise to the height of our opportunity? There are indeed forces of the spirit; great movements towards a predestined sanctuary which cannot be crushed or deflected. They are inexorable, and we as a nation would do well to recognise this fact.
There is another aspect of the Arab claim to Palestine, based on 1,400 years of occupation. Can anyone name a great Palestinian Arab? I wish the supporters of the Arab claims in this House might be able to enlighten us. The great figures of the Jewish occupation of Palestine have gone down in history. They are the 1409 common heritage of mankind—poets and prophets, sages and psalmists, known to every child in every school in every country of the civilised world. We shall indeed bequeath a sad legacy to posterity if we leave the future of Palestine only in the hands of its present inhabitants, as the White Paper suggested, and deny to the Jews access to the land of their former greatness. To many today Zionism is a great spiritual movement; it is the spiritualisation of Judaism for millions of Jews in their exile. It is as old as Zion itself, and as eternal. The Balfour Declaration, the McMahon Letter, the British Mandate, the innumerable' commissions and White Papers, are. just passing milestones on the highway of Zionist history. The founder of modem Zionism was dead 13 years before the Balfour Declaration was issued. That Declaration was merely the worldwide recognition of an accepted fact, that Zionism was a movement destined to redress the greatest blot on the history of civilisation.
I believe that today the threat of a Holy War against the hapless remnants of Jewry has no basis in reality; it belongs to the era of an outworn mediaevalism. To the Arab of today there are Holy Wars all around him waiting to be fought. Not Holy Wars of bloodshed and destruction but Holy Wars against poverty, ignorance and disease. There are Holy Wars waiting to be fought against typhus and malaria, typhoid and trachoma, against bilharzia and dysentery, against smallpox and syphilis; Holy Wars on behalf of countless millions of Arabs stricken down in suffering in despair. In the winter of 1943-44, when malignant malaria ravaged the Middle East and slew in its thousands, many English and American Army doctors offered these Arab countries their help. Owing to the war, these doctors were fortunately available, and their help was freely given. Today the tide of war has happily receded, and these Army malariologists are there no more. To whom are these great countries of the Middle East now to turn in their Holy War against disease? Could there be any vision more splendid than that Jewish doctors should work hand in hand in the countries of the East, as they have done in the countries of the West to stamp out these scourges and save millions upon millions of Arab lives? Or of Jewish engineers, agriculturists, and irrigation experts helping to remove from 1410 the lives of millions of Arab peasants the threat of hunger and poverty, and to create anew in Iraq and Trans-jordan the granaries of the ancient world?
I think the Foreign Secretary is absolutely right in his statement that Palestine alone will not solve the Jewish problem. But what is far more important is the fact that the Jewish problem, about which we know he feels so deeply and on which he has staked his whole political future, can never be solved until the problem of Palestine has first been solved. Whenever we wish to malign and villify the Jew, we denounce him as "the International Jew ''; whenever we wish to keep him out of Palestine, we denounce him as "the Nationalist Jew." Cannot we seek out the good in both these attributes? Cannot the true destiny of the Jew be to synthesise into a living reality on the sacred soil of Palestine the highest attributes both of internationalism and of nationalism so essential to the survival of our civilisation, and to proclaim once again a new gospel full of hope for humanity?
And so I would venture to suggest to the Government a five point programme for a fair settlement of the Palestinian problem: (1) Get the Anglo-American Commission's Report published with the minimum of delay—on that there would be no disagreement in any part of the House; (2) As soon as possible afterwards withdraw our 50,000 troops out of Palestine and let it revert again into an R.A.F. Command with an enormous economy of manpower as the result; (3) Open the gates of Palestine freely to pilgrims of all races, of all religions or of none, who may wish to go there either to worship at its shrines or to till its sacred soil, and leave the economic absorptive capacity of Palestine for a time at any rate to look after itself; (4) Enlarge the principle of the Mandate on a wider basis of collective trusteeship under the aegis of the United Nations; (5) Let self-governing communities develop in Palestine freely of their own accord and have done for ever with this chimera of Palestinian nationhood.
About Point (3), in Palestine today every Jewish home is thrown open to welcome the refugee, to share its last crust with the hungry, to succour the widow and the orphan. That is a unique phenomenon in our postwar world, which the conscience of mankind cannot afford to 1411 ignore. If only we could say the same of ourselves— we, great nations of the Western world. That is not the least of the claims of Jewish Palestine to provide a national homeland for the Jew, in according him a welcome which I believe no other land can parallel. About Point (4), I believe it is not tc Britain to will away Palestine as she pleases through having once been granted a Mandate by a now defunct League of Nations. Certainly let us hope that no Labour Government will be guilty of such an infamy. Single-nation Mandates are a concept of power politics dating back to the first world war. Today, they must give way to the principle of collective trusteeship if we are ever to escape from the catastrophe of another world war Nor can the present Anglo-American Commission lay down, for all time the future destiny of that sacred land. Britain has been in Palestine these last 25 years merely as the instrument of a great purpose, and I believe that only as we assist that great purpose to unfold itself, can we hope as a nation to survive. Well may we pray in the words of our great poet Milton:What in me is dark Iliumine, what is low raise and support; That to the highth of this great argument I may assert eternal Providence, And justify the ways of God to Men.Let us this evening seek to justify our high hopes of this Labour Government to uphold our great Labour movement, in its oft-declared conference resolutions on the subject of Palestine, to vindicate our nation in the pages of history, and to salvage the conscience of mankind.
§ 9.9 p.m.
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke (Dorset, Southern)
It falls to me as a very pleasant duty to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member for Preston (Squad-ron-Leader Segal) on his maiden speech. I think the House appreciated the distinctive and closely-knit contribution which he made. He made some suggestions to the Government which in my opinion are worthy of consideration. He spoke of the failure of the policy of economic absorbtive capacity, and I agree with him, but will seek to assign other reasons for it. He also asked the Government to formulate their policy with all due speed and to proceed to carry it out. That introduces the very theme upon which I wish to address my remarks to the House this evening. 1412 What is the object of our policy in Palestine? I believe it to be to carry out Britain's obligations under the League of Nations Mandate as that may be modified under the trusteeship arrangements of the United Nations organisation. I want to make the main burden of my speech the stressing of that obligation. It seems to me all too clear from the experience of the last 20 years and the circumstances of today that the responsibility of British administration needs sharper definition and wider recognition. In short, I believe that there is a growing need for Britain to govern more firmly in Palestine, and at the same time to conciliate with greater skill.
The clarion calls of Zionism, the confused murmurs of European Jewry, the growing cohesion of the Arab League, the criticism of intellectual America, the deepening interest and swelling influence of Russia, all these point, not at Palestine, not at the Jewish immigrant, not at the Arab settler, not at the police official or local administrator; they point at us, at Britain, at our very heart. The world is all too conscious of the problem of Palestine, and through it of the position of Britain. Armed clashes are now almost weekly occurrences. British, Jewish and Arab lives are being lost. Even in the short period since the Commission was appointed there have been six or seven outbreaks of violence. If these violent disturbances continue nations great and small can scarcely be blamed if they call in question Britain's reputation for competent and vigorous overseas administration. Palestine is or ought to be the great focal point in the world of social history, of divinity, of pastoral life and of the things of the spirit. The Peel Report speaks ofthe tragedy of conflict in a land which is consecrated to three world religions.Looking back on the history of the last 20 years I am forced to the conclusion that the sword of British justice has been too blunt, and the scales of British justice too coarse, for the proper discharge of the obligations we took on 20 years ago. Whatever provocation there may have been under the stress of two wars, it cannot be denied that in the time of our Mandate racial antagonism has grown to such dimensions that a considerable army is now required to keep law and order in Palestine. I attach no blame to the 1413 administration on the spot. I think that the fault lies at home.
There are many faults, but I will only give what I conceive to be an important one, because time is short, and that is, over-centralisation of administration at the Colonial Office. That leads inevitably to impotence on the part of local commanders and administrators. Vital action is often required on the spot at short notice. Such action ought not to be delayed while civil servants in Whitehall are shuffling with their files. We have had repeated opportunities in the last six or eight months of alleviating the tense situation in Palestine by the institution of disarming activities. The location of supplies and ammunition are known to our Intelligence, yet very little important or serious has been done to reduce the potential, with the result that considerable quantities of arms now exist on both sides—Jews and Arabs—and a threatening situation persists. I think that the fault lies with the Colonial Office, in not giving sufficient power to the men on the spot, with the knowledge that they have, to carry out disarming operations as the need has arisen.
May I say a word about the Commission, because I notice that some people have been taking its appointment as a sign that we are trying to shelve our responsibilities on to the United States? I do not think that anything could be further from the truth. I take the United States participation in the Commission as a recognition of the United States as an important centre of world Jewry, carrying with it a right to representation, suggestion, and access to the facts. But let us be quite clear about it, the duty of interpreting and applying the results of the Commission's inquiry is a British responsibility, an honourable task for which we have adequate power and means. Meanwhile, I ask the Government to say that outbreaks of violence will be put down with the most ruthless energy. It is quite intolerable that our system of administration should be undermined by secret and subversive organisations, whether of Jewish or Arab origin, which take the lives of His Majesty's subjects and demonstrate their intention of usurping the functions of the Government, itself the Mandatory Power under the League of Nations.
1414 In that connection I would like to ask the Government for an assurance that so far as demobilisation measures affect our Army in Palestine its numbers will be kept up by reinforcements of highly trained troops. We need, for very many months to come, to have a large and powerful Army in the Middle East. Palestine is by no means the only centre of unrest in that part of the world., A period of tension may well follow the report of the Commission, and we must have on the spot ample strength to enforce our policy when that policy is decided upon.
May I say a brief word about the Balfour Declaration? I think that I am at one with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) in saying that the Balfour Declaration never contemplated that all Palestine would be converted into a Jewish national home, much less a Jewish nationa1 State. It spoke of a national home to be founded in Palestine. That is quite clear, and the point has been made in the Debate by many hon. Members, notably my hon. Friend who spoke from the Liberal benches. But after that, I part company with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne. I believe that we have gone far beyond the Balfour Declaration. To my mind it is not a question of going further, much less on present lines, but of going back to it, in spirit and in essence. We departed from the true purport of the Balfour Declaration in 1922 and after, when the Governments of the day began to weight their pronouncements with economic considerations. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, in his famous letter to Dr. Weizmann in 1931, laid it down as a matter of policy that economic absorptive capacity was to be the sole criterion.
How is it possible to solve the ultimate political problem, which is based on racial hatred, in terms of economic prospects for immigrants? I believe that economic absorptive capacity has been an unfortunate touchstone of policy. For some years after 1931 we fared no better. There was a short history of disastrous vacillation over partition, a solution which to my mind is the very negation of policy. Then just before the war we began to recover lost ground. The 1939 White Paper went far to re-establish British prestige and to restore to the forefront of our policy the terms of the Mandate in which the Balfour Declaration was 1415 embodied. His Majesty's Government then declared that the framers of the Mandate did not intend that Palestine should be converted into a Jewish State against the will of the Arab population. They went further. I quote from the 1939 White Paper:His Majesty's Government do not consider that the Mandate requires them for all time and in all circumstances to facilitate the immigration of Jews into Palestine subject only to considerations of the country's economic absorptive capacity. If immigration has a seriously damaging effect on the political position in the country, that is a factor which cannot be ignored.Can anyone deny that immigration has had that serious damaging effect upon the political situation? I am not defending the Arabs; they have been just as guilty as the Jews of stealing and concealing arms. Responsibility lies with them, as with the Jews, for the disturbances which have taken place. But the main factor in the growing situation of anxiety in Palestine is the factor of immigration. I think it would be very hard to disprove that statement.
I come to the Foreign Secretary's statement of 13th November, and was particularly glad to find in it the same note of firmness which, is evident in the White Paper. He said:His Majesty's Government cannot divest themselves of their duties and responsibilities under the Mandate while the Mandate continues.—[Official Report, 13th November, 1945; Vol. 415. c. 1931.]He went on to define three stages in which the question would be dealt with. Two of them must be deferred until the Commission has reported, but the first which deals with current immigration does, I think, need some examination. I believe that the House needs a comprehensive picture of the movement of Jews in Europe. The reinstatement of General Morgan the other day in part justified the allegations which he made, though I see he toned down the high lights of his original remarks.
I want to ask the Government the following questions: Do they know what are the intentions and what is the purpose of organised Jewry in Europe? Do they know how many persons are involved and what proportion is seeking entry into Palestine? What contact, if any, have His Majesty's Government with the authorities 1416 of European Jewry through the States' Governments concerned? What of the refugees from Hitlerism who are now in Palestine? Is it true that a large number of Jews of the professional classes are in Palestine for no other purpose than to avoid Nazi persecution? I am told, for example, there is one doctor to every one hundred of the population, compared with a proportion of one in three thousand here.
There are men of many professions now in Palestine who have very little opportunity of practising their skill. What about Germany? We control a large zone of Germany besides Palestine. How many Jews are there in our zone in Germany and, if there are fewer than there were in 1939, how many Jews are there in Palestine who might be willing to return to Germany?
§ Viscount Hinchingbrooke
I do not wish to be guilty of discourtesy, but I am speaking against the clock, and I am afraid I cannot give way. Have the Government made any attempt to find out these things? I am quite convinced that the Palestine problem will never be solved upon the basis of continuing immigration on the present scale. It is economics which has been the governing factor in Palestine, but it is so no more. It is politics. However many immigrants the economic situation will permit, politics, in the. long run, is more important. We have long ago reached the limit of political absorptive capacity, and, if permanent peace is to be restored to that unhappy land, a halt must be made to immigration on the present scale.
Let me add one final word. The Foreign Secretary has said that he would stake his political future on solving the problem of Palestine. Let him proceed to do something with Palestine which has not been done for 20 years. When he has read the report of the Commission and sought fresh credentials from the United Nations, let him declare a long-term policy and govern the country in accordance with it. In doing that, he will have the support of the people of this country and of all parties in this House.
§ 9.27 p.m
§ Mrs. Ayrton Gould (Hendon, North)
I am sure the hon. Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke) will not mind if I do not take up his points, but I want to deal with what, in my view, is the most urgent problem connected with the Jews, and that is the problem of the displaced Jews. In any case, I think that the question of a national home should definitely be left to the Palestinian Commission. It is an old problem and a problem that has gone on for many years; and it needs a wise decision. But there is one thing that is desperately urgent, and that is the position of the suffering displaced Jews. It seems to me absolutely vital that we should look at these unhappy beings in a human way, that we should not look upon them from on high, as British people are inclined to do, taking the view that they should be patient and that ultimately their case might be settled, but we should look upon it from their point of view.
What is the point of view of the Jews, both Zionists and others? I am not concerned with the attitude of this or that particular section. What I am concerned with is what is the morally right thing to do, and I appreciate the great difficulties which face our Government, because we have the responsibility of the mandate. On top of that, there was a conflicting White Paper, which made completely contradictory promises to the Arab League, and I realise that it is quite impossible for a Government in power to take no heed of what previous British Governments have done, however much the Government in power may dislike them, but that they must look at it from the Jews' point of view.
What do the Jews think? They think that in 1939, when the White Paper was introduced, all the people who are today leading Members of the Cabinet condemned that White Paper up hill and down dale as being politically indefensible and morally wrong. Therefore, what do we see happening today? Even since the Palestine Commission was set up, there have been several incidents. Some months ago, I suggested to the Government that unless something was done for these immigrants, there would be incidents, and that it was impossible that anything else should occur.
Who are these people? The Jews outside Palestine are the remnants of 1418 6,500,000 people who have been most foully murdered. Almost every one of the displaced and roaming Jews in Europe is the only surviving member of his or her intimate family. They have been through hell during the last six years. They have seen their families destroyed in ways so terrible as to be unprintable. We in this country, the Government and everybody else, rightly protested time and again against the horrors that were being inflicted upon the Jews by the Nazis. But do not let us forget, as some hon. Members seem to have forgotten, the one thing that Hitler succeeded in doing. He has been completely rooted out materially, but his hideous ideology of anti-Semitism stilllives and thrives in many countries in Europe. These few Jews who are left, about 1,000,000 out of 6,500,000, are all sole survivors. Who have they as relatives or friends to go to? Not parents, not children, but cousins or aunts or uncles, some in this country—for I am glad we have opened our doors to them to a certain extent—some in America—and I wish they would open their doors more widely—but most of them in Palestine. That is the only place to which these Jews can go, and to which they will go.
Finally, I ask the House to think what would have been done in this country if, in fact, we had been placed as the Palestine Jews are placed. If a superior force had refused to allow our prisoners of wax coming home to land in this country, would we have lain down under that? We would not. We would have fought to get them in somehow. That is the attitude, much as I deplore it, of many of the terrorist Jews, and incidents are bound to continue until we give them a square deal and allow in the immigrants.
§ 9.33 P.m..
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
This short but. important Debate has been marked by three maiden speeches of great interest and delivered with great sincerity. I was particularly interested in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Sheffield (Lieut.-Colonel Morris), because while he was speaking, naturally couching his first speech with that virginal diffidence which is appropriate to it, I could not help wondering what he would be like if he got on to something really controversial, and I could not help hoping that when he 1419 did do that, he would continue to attack his own Front Bench rather than ours.
The subject of Palestine is always a difficult and a delicate subject to debate. It is particularly so today. Had it been possible to have had this Debate directly after the announcement of the setting up of the Commission, and before it had started to take evidence, the Debate would have been easy. It will be easier in the future when the Commission has made its Report and what we have to discuss is a decision. Today, it is difficult for everyone—and everyone, I think, has surmounted the difficulty—to show that restraint which all of us must do at this time. But if it is difficult for us, I think we must all realise that it is far more difficult for the Secretary of State.
We, after all, can put forward our views and can regard them as having been put before the Commission,. but the Minister when he replies cannot possibly speak as though he were announcing a decision of the Government, because that can only be given after the Commission's Report. My hon. Friends and I will not expect him, when he winds up this evening, to trench on those matters.
I confess that, having had some three years of direct Ministerial responsibility for this subject and knowing something, therefore, of the difficulties, 1 have nothing but sympathy for right hon. Gentlemen who are now responsible for this problem. Whatever any of us might have thought about the substance of the statement made by the Foreign Secretary, and whatever we might have thought about the utility and the prospects of the Commission, all' of us must have been struck with the sincerity with which that statement was made. Speaking for myself, and I am sure for all my hon. Friends, I can say that none of us on this side of the House cares in the least what individual or what party, or indeed what country, gets the credit for a settlement, as.long as we can, in the long run, get some cure of a running sore which has caused the death of thousands, the un-happiness of millions, and has meant to us a perpetual poisoning of international relationships.
One of the greatest difficulties in this Palestine problem is that two opposing cases are both good. We have to recognise at the moment that they are opposing 1420 cases, those of the Jew and the Arab. Put separately, as I am afraid they nearly always are, both are convincing. No one can help feeling the emotional appeal which can be made upon the Jewish side. I have heard the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) speak in this House before. Today he spoke with more restraint in his tone than he usually does, and I confess that, as before, I was deeply moved by the account he gave of Jewish sufferings and Jewish aspirations. Nobody can fail to be struck, even we who in the last six years have been hardened to tragedy, by the tragedy of the Jews.
Until I came into close contact with this problem there was something I did not realise. I had thought of the Jewish connection with Palestine as a historic and traditional one which had been interrupted for 2,000 years, perhaps not very different from other historic cases of emigrant peoples separating from their homelands. It was not until I came into contact with the problem myself and had to deal more closely with the Jews and their leaders, that I began to realise something of what feeling lies behind Jewry today for the Palestine of 1,900 years ago. I realise how much the thought of Palestine has, through all these intervening centuries, sustained the Jews in that retention.of their own individuality which no other emigrant nation in the whole world has ever succeeded in doing. It was brought home to me far more vividly than hitherto what a great part Palestine inevitably must play in any solution of the Jewish problem. That does not necessarily mean that we have to accept, whole, 100 per cent. political Zionism as being exactly synonymous with the solution of humanitarian aims for the Jewish people.
But, on the other side, let us be honest and sincere The Arabs, too, can put up a good case. It is no good brushing it away on a class basis—as is sometimes attempted to be done—by saying it is only a few rich Pashas and a few millionaire Effendis; sweep them away and between the peoples there is no difference. That is not true. I am not defending the existing social system in Arab countries. I think they have either to make great changes or learn very great lessons, but I believe the gulf which exists today between Jew and Arab goes right down the social scale, and that it is felt as much 1421 among the peasant classes as it is among the Pashas and Effendis. After all, it has been their land for 1,900 years; it has been their home and that of their ancestors. They, too, had their historical and their religious institutions in the place. Now they are faced with the coming in of a new civilisation, the impact of which upon them is very severe.
I am not denying for a moment the great material advantages which Jewry in the last 20 years has brought to Palestine and to the Arabs, too. But not all peoples in the world—and certainly not the Arabs, I think—measure everything by material standards. You may be offered considerably increased prosperity by Western standards, but it may be at the cost of something that you value very much more Your own mode of life, we may think, is lazy, inefficient and backward, but it may be the mode of life that you like, believe in and want to continue. In the Arab race there is undoubtedly a fear of the domination by a race which is alien in character, in religion and in economic concept.
Between those two extreme cases of Jew and Arab there can be no reconciliation. That is why I decline to listen to those who, either on one side or the other, say that what you have to do is to be firm and put into effect the whole of the case, whether Arab or Jew. I believe that in this case there is no fair, just and permanent solution on the 100 per cent. case of either side, and that it is only when we can find and when both sides will accept some middle course that we can hope for any permanency.
welcome the decision of the Foreign Secretary to set up this Commission. I believe it offers a new chance of finding some solution. In the first place, I think we are entitled to expect from it a number of decisions on facts which are important. We cannot, when trying to settle this matter on a long-term basis, be guided entirely by emotion. We must have some regard to the facts, too. I expect to get from this Commission a real definition of the Jewish problem and the extent of the possible number of applicants there may be for refuge in Palestine or elsewhere.
In that connection I regret to see—I do not know if the right lion. Gentleman can tell us anything about it—that this Commission was refused permission to 1422 enter Hungary and interview what is now one of the most populated and important communities left in Europe. Presumably the same refusal or inability extends to Rumania, which is now probably the second in size and importance. If they are not able to get the full facts from those two communities, information on this point will be sadly deficient. Secondly, I think they will be able finally to dispose of the alternatives to Palestine. I would not accept the suggestion that there can be in no circumstances any alternative to Palestine.
§ Mr. Stanley
I did not mean the hon. Gentleman, but that suggestion has been made. There are a number of places where refuge could be found for these refugees, such as this country, the United States, and some of our Dominions, where they could live in settled communities and be certain they would not encounter antisemitism, and where they would be allowed to live their lives in comfort, which many of them would prefer to Palestine. Frankly, I do not believe very much in the alternative solutions which have been put forward, such as British Guiana or wherever it may be. They must be absorbed as part of existing Jewish communities in other settled countries, because I do not believe we shall ever be successful in making a new Zionist experiment in another country which is not Zionist.
Thirdly, although my Noble Friend poured scorn on it, I think this question of economic absorptive capacity, which is only another way of saying the economic prospects and possibilities of a country, is a matter of very considerable importance, and, to me, of very considerable doubt. One hears such conflicting accounts. There are excellent reports which appear to show that, if large sums of money were spent, enormous development might take place and an immense increase of population might result. There are others which say of the same districts, and in particular the Negeb, that no money which may be spent can ever make this waterless and almost soilless area anything but a refuge for a few nomadic tribes. Always, of course, there is the political background, the fear of propaganda, the fear that the reports of each side are being coloured by what the particular side wants to think.
1423 Now we have the chance of a purely objective Commission who can tell us the truth. A disclosure of the facts can clear a great deal of the undergrowth from the problem which we have to face, but I expect more than the facts. I expect, at any rate, the outline of a solution. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will be able to tell us that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne is incorrect when he says that the existing terms of reference bind the Commission in such a way that they are not free to put forward for the consideration of this Government and of other Governments whichever solution they consider best. It would obviously be improper and useless, in anticipation of that report, to try to make the solution for them, but I am certain that the crux of any solution to the Palestine problem is somehow or other to eliminate. the fear by one side of domination by the other. There is no long-term solution in a country as small as Palestine, unless the two sides themselves somehow or other get together and agree. They have not done it because there is on both sides a fear of being dominated by the other, and, I am sorry to say, in certain quarters a desire to dominate the other. Until we can eliminate that we will never get these people really getting down to it and trying to live together. At the present moment each of them is living in the hope that the wheel is going to turn that it is to be their turn to be on top, that they are to be the upper dog and are to dominate. As long as they believe that, they will not settle down to trying to get on together, and trying to make a country in which neither side dominates the other but in which both are equal.
I am sure that that is the only way in which we can solve this problem. That means making it clear to them and to the world that we—and by "we" I do not mean Great Britain only, but Great Britain, the United States, and the United Nations organisation, whatever part it intends to play—will not go out to Palestine until we go at the request of both, Jew and Arab together, because both Jew and Arab must settle their own differences and know that in future they can live happily together as equals. Once we can remove the fear of domination, I believe much of the trouble in Palestine now will fall into 1424 its proper proportion. Whatever immigration we have into Palestine, whether 1,500 a month, 2,000 a month or 5,000 a month, if we remove the fear that it would lead to a political majority and that the political majority would lead to domination by an alien race, the whole question becomes merely a question of economic possibility.
I will close by saying that all of us must hope that this Commission is the first step along a new path, a path that is going to lead to a solution. It is a tragedy that the land of Palestine, which to most of us in our youth was a name connected with peace and moderation, with a new doctrine of human comradeship, should now, when we are grown men, be associated with irreconcilable hatred and insoluble problems. Let us hope that we are now taking the first step which will lead along the path to a new and better land.
§ 9.53 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. George Hall)
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) rightly said that this was a Debate under difficulties, but it has been a Debate worth having. The speakers have been good in tone, moderate and very helpful, and no speech more helpful than that of the right hon. Gentleman. I am convinced the Committee will read the report of the proceedings today with a good deal of interest. There is one thing upon which all hon. Members who have taken part in the Debate are agreed, and that is the setting up of the Anglo-American Committee. The Committee is now entering upon a most important part of its work, and it can be rightly said that the work is proceeding very well. As announced, the Committee will soon visit Palestine. I would like to express the thanks of the Government and the House to those public spirited men from the United Kingdom and the United States who are devoting so much of their time, knowledge and experience to this difficult task.
A just settlement of the Palestine problem is of major interest not only to the United Kingdom and the United States but to the United Nations as a whole. The repercussions of this conflict between Jew and Arab in Palestine are now felt throughout the Eastern and Western Hemispheres, and are arousing on one side 1425 and another partisanship which threatens to create new ills which may have serious consequences throughout the world. In these circumstances, I do not propose, as has usually been done in every other Palestinian Debate, to give any general exposition of policy; but shall confine myself in the main to dealing with the specific questions which have been raised in the course of the Debate. But may I express my earnest hope and that of the Government, that when the Committee proceeds to Palestine all parties will combine to ensure such conditions that the inquiry may be conducted in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity, and that both sides will take the opportunity offered to submit their cases fully and dispassionately for judgment. If this is done we have every hope that the Committee's report may light the way to a satisfactory solution of the problem, a problem with which this country and the Middle East have been confronted for the last 25 years
Running through almost every speech has been that great humanitarian plea for the suffering refugees, and particularly Jewry, in Europe. I can understand and share the feelings of my hon. Friends who have made those emotional and moving references to the plight of the refugees, particularly the refugees in Europe, to the terrible plight and suffering of European Jewry, which has lost millions of its people from mass murder, starvation and persecution; their sufferings cry aloud to the peoples of the world. And we say that that cry should be heard. The Anglo-American Committee is now visiting some of the European countries. They are examining the problem on the spot. Provision is made in the terms of reference of that Committee that it should, in the light of their investigations, make recommendations to the two Governments dealing with the problem.
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) raised two different points in the course of his speech. He asked whether the terms of reference of the Committee are sufficiently wide for them to consider every aspect of this case and for them to issue an interim report. He also said that he had rather expected that there would have been two Committees instead of one examining the two aspects of the problem. I can assure him that the terms of reference to the 1426 Committee are wide enough to cover the points which he put. The procedure of the Committee will be determined by the Committee themselves, and it will be open to them, if they think fit, to deal simultaneously through the medium of subcommittees with their various terms of reference. The Committee will be invited to deal with the. matters referred to in their terms of reference with the utmost expedition.
I have no information as to whether the Committee are now in a position to submit an interim report. It is, of course, not true that British members have been told to discourage an interim report. The right hon. Gentleman opposite also asked a question as to whether it is true that the Committee were not allowed to enter Hungary and Rumania. We have seen a report to that effect in the Press, but we have no official report whatever that there had been a refusal. My hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) rightly referred to the dangers of the present situation in Palestine. His Majesty's Government have been for some time concerned about the activities of certain organisations there. He can be assured, as can the Noble Lord the Member for South Dorset (Viscount Hinchingbrooke), that every effort is being made to strengthen the administration on the spot to deal with any emergency which is likely to arise.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
1 apologise for interrupting, but a third aspect was the Defence Regulations in Palestine. They really do go beyond anything that can be imagined in this House as compatible with anything but an out and out police State Would the right hon. Gentleman care to say anything about these Regulations?
§ Mr. Hall
The Regulations have only recently been promulgated and they have only come into my. hands during the course of the last 24 hours. They are being considered, but it must be remembered that these Regulations were given under an Order which was passed in 1937 for purposes of security. With the situation as it is in Palestine, and after consultation between the High Commissioner and the General Officer Commanding, and, indeed, with the executive council in Palestine, it was deemed necessary that powers such as these were required to deal with any situation that 1427 was likely to arise in view of all the circumstances. That does not necessarily mean that they will be used. But it is necessary for the powers to be obtained. I will look at them.
My hon. Friend the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin Morris) referred to the question of immigration. I think that it would be as well that the House should know what the position is so far as the immigration which has taken place since Britain became the mandatory power. The official estimate made in 1920—the year in which the civil government began to function—put the total population of Palestine at 673,000 of whom 67,000, or ten per cent. were Jews. Between 1920 and 1932, 118,000 Jewish immigrants were admitted, the annual admissions averaging 9,000 a year, so that by the end of 1932 the number of Jews in Palestine had increased to such numbers that they amounted to 18 per cent. of the population.
Between 1933 and 1936 came the great flood of emigrants due to the rise of Hitler and his regime in Europe. In those four years 164,000 Jewish emigrants, an average of more than.40,000 a year, were admitted. In four years the Jewish population doubled itself, rising by emigration and natural increases combined from 192,000 to 384,000. From 1936 to date the increase has been such that the total number of Jews in Palestine is 554,000 or 31 per cent. of the population. That is an indication that there has been a considerable increase in the number of Jews through emigration during the period in which Britain has been the mandatory Power.
I should like to congratulate three of my hon. Friends upon their excellent maiden speeches. They brought out various points, and my hon. Friend the Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) certainly gave us an historic review of the history of Palestine which was very interesting. But one thing we all want to do' is. to see to it that the solution, which we hope will be recommended by the Committee, will receive the consideration of every one concerned, which I know it will be by the Government of this country and the Government of the United States. Amid the clamour of partisanship the counsels of moderation 1428 are heard only with difficulty. There are many Jews who deprecate the political aims of the more extreme of their race and plead for brotherly comradeship for the Arabs. There are many Arabs who accept the Jews as an equal and permanent element in the Arab world and would not deny for the relief of Jewish suffering such alleviation as Palestine and the world could give.
It is among men so minded that lies the real hope for the future of Palestine, and the Government feel that through Anglo-American co-operation comes the best plan for relief for the present plight of the suffering Jews. It recognises an obligation to both Arabs and Jews, in Palestine, and while admitting the difficulty of reconciling their obligations. bases its hopes upon what we trust will be the beginning of understanding and recognition of the common interests of the two races.
We hope as a result of the work of the Anglo-American Committee a solution of the Palestine problem will be found, and that an end will be put to the strife and dissension which have so marked its history for the past quarter of a century. Here again I would refer to the warning which was issued by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) and I want to say a few words of warning on behalf of His Majesty's' Government, for at the moment strife and dissension are rampant and terrorism has again roared its ugly head. I would very solemnly repeat what the Foreign Secretary said in his statement last November that the problem is not one that can be settled by force, and that any attempt to do so by any party, Jew or Arab, will be resolutely dealt with. The fact that we had shown great forbearance in an attempt to ease the tension does not mean that we are prepared to let an issue be forced by violent conflict. We are not, and I appeal to those who wield influence in Palestine or, indeed, outside it, in connection with this very pressing problem, to bring the whole of their weight to bear, at this fateful juncture, on the side of law and order, so that disturbances may cease and that calm deliberation maybe possible. For it is in calm deliberation alone that there lies hope of a just solution and therefore future peace.
§ Mr. Janner
Is it true that at this time ex-Nazis, or Nazi prisoners of war, are being brought into Palestine with a view to carrying out labour there? If so, will my right hon. Friend see that the action of the military authorities, if it is the military authorities, is stopped, and that these men shall not be admitted into the country to exacerbate the existing position?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Morris
Do I take it that my right hon. Friend proposes to answer none of the questions which I put to him?