§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. Whiteley.]
§ 3.37 p.m.
§ The Lord President of the Council (Mr. Herbert Morrison)
I am opening this Debate in the unexpected absence of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. As the House knows, the Prime Minister has gone to Paris for the Peace Conference. We also deplore the absence of the 958 Foreign Secretary from this Debate. He was to have taken part in it; indeed it is a subject in which he has taken a very keen interest. The House has already expressed, in its own way, its sympathy and best wishes to the Foreign Secretary. On his behalf, I should like to express appreciation and thanks. Therefore, the House will appreciate that I open this Debate somewhat unexpectedly. I will do my best to give the House the view of the Government in much the same scop*; as undoubtedly would have been the case with the Prime Minister. Indeed, we have had an exciting few days upon this subject, and only today telecommunication services of various kinds, and in various parts of the world, have been active, telling us the latest developments and the latest position.
This Debate takes place in the shadow of a tragedy that must have moved the most war-hardened among us. In the destruction of the Government offices-at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, 84 men and women—Arabs, Jews, British —were killed, and 46 injured, while 22 are still missing. These were people innocent of any crime, members of the public going about their ordinary business, and many loyal and single-hearted servants of the community. I am sure that the whole House would wish me to express again the deep sympathy felt by the whole British people for the victims of this outrage. Police and military forces have, on each occasion of acts of terrorism, instituted measures to track down and arrest those responsible.
The greatest obstacle to success in these operations has been the refusal of the Jewish population in Palestine to cooperate with the forces of law and order. Jewish settlers have resorted to passive resistance of the most determined kind against searches for terrorists. The Government have been equally determined to bring the perpetrators of these outrages to account, and reached the conclusion that radical action was needed against the organisers of illegal armed forces, and the organisations they control. Action to this end was initiated on 29th June when widespread arrests and searches were carried out by all the Security Forces in Palestine. The examination of detainees and the scrutiny of documents seized in those searches was still proceeding, when the latest and most tragic incident occurred—the destruction at the King 959 David Hotel. Immediate action was taken to pursue the perpetrators of the outrage and 446 Jews were arrested, whose records showed association with the terrorist organisations. As there was clear evidence that some, if not all, of the persons responsible for the Jerusalem crime came from Tel Aviv, military operations in that town took place on 30th July to apprehend them.
The House will expect me to say a word about the letter which, according to newspaper reports, General Barker, the military commander in Palestine, sent to 'his officers forbidding British soldiers from relationships of a social character with Jews, and stating that any association in the way of duty should be as brief as possible, and kept to the business at hand. First, let me say that though the Government are satisfied that the instructions given by the Commander were justified in the present disturbed state of the country, at the same time, making all allowances for the provocation to which our Forces are exposed, and recognising that the letter was written shortly after the outrage at the King David Hotel, the Government feel that they must dissociate themselves from the actual terms in which the letter is couched. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff is dealing with this aspect of the matter, and I am sure that it can be safely left in Field-Marshal Montgomery's competent hands. But the House will, of course, bear in mind the difficult and delicate nature of the operations on which our Forces in Palestine are at present engaged, and I am confident, too, that the House will wish me to say that we fully appreciate how heavy is the strain under which both the Army and the civilian officials have been carrying out their duties, and to express our admiration for the magnificent way in which they have discharged them.
At this point, I should like to say a word on the subject of the compensation payable to the dependants of the dead and to the injured. Nothing we can do can make up to them for the irreparable personal loss they have suffered, but it Is the duty of the Government to ensure that they do not suffer more than is inevitable and that they should be spared financial anxieties as far as is possible. The families of British and Palestinian civil servants and police are provided for 960 by special legislation which has been operative since 1935, dealing with pension and compensation questions arising out of acts of terrorism. This legislation will be interpreted and administered with the maximum generosity and special provision will, if necessary, be made to deal with cases which may for technical reasons fall outside its sphere, or in which special circumstances make the compensation provided under the legislation inadequate. The provisions of the Royal Warrant will apply to the dependants of soldiers who lost their lives. Dependants of other victims not included in the above category, will be provided for by special arrangements as necessary. In the meantime, instructions have been given to ensure that payments continue to be made to families pending the conclusion of final arrangements for their financial support.
The shock of the King David Hotel explosion has surely aroused us to a fuller understanding, if that were needed, of the horrible and monstrous nature of those "evil things"—to borrow a phrase used on a famous occasion—against which we are fighting. The curse of Hitler is not yet fully removed. Some of his victims fleeing from the ravaged ghettos of Europe have carried with them the germs of those very plagues from which they sought escape—intolerance, racial pride, intimidation, terrorism and the worship of force. We are reminded that, in discussing the Palestine problem, we are dealing not only with the question of the displaced persons in Europe—though, as I shall show, we have given most anxious attention to that aspect—but also with the clash of political forces, deeply rooted in history and stirring strong and, if unwisely directed, terrible emotions. Zionism is regarded by its supporters as the expression of a profound and splendid impulse in the soul of the Jewish people, and its purpose as transcending the material needs of the immediate present. Let them beware, however, lest this modern perversion of their faith brings ruin upon them and it. Sane and healthy nationalism has inspired many of the finest achievements of mankind; its perversion spells only degradation and depravity.
The leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine have, we feel bound to say, failed to preserve their movement from 961 the contagion of those false ideals of which I have spoken. Many of them seem to have been drawn into courses which their own consciences must at first have condemned. The death of Lord Moyne in November, 1944, came as a startling proof of the evil nature of Palestinian terrorism and the lengths to which it would go. After that for a time the Jewish Agency cooperated with the Government in a campaign against the illegal organisations, the Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern Gang. There was, for some months, a lull in terrorist activities, but in May, 1945, following threats by the Irgun Zvai Leumi that V-Day for the world would be D-Day for them, there was a renewed outbreak of violence.
The Anglo-American Committee have recorded how the Jewish Agency ceased to provide that cooperation with the Mandatory which is the duty expressly laid upon them by the Mandate. Indeed, after the attacks on the police headquarters and police stations in December, 1945, when eight lives were lost, Mr. Ben Gurion, the Chairman of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, in a statement issued to the Press by his authority, describing an interview which he and Mr. Shertok had had with the High Commissioner, indicated that the Agency could not assist in preventing such acts, excusing themselves on the ground that, in the words of the statement, it was difficult to appeal to the Jewish community to observe the law at a time when the Mandatory Government was itself consistently violating the fundamental law of the country embodied in the Palestine Mandate.
§ Mr. Morrison
I am afraid I cannot say. It was some time towards the end of last year; I am told it was in December. On this, the Anglo-American Committee comment:So long as this kind of view is put forward by the leaders of the Jewish Agency it is impossible to look for settled conditions.Several leaders of the Agency had already become directly implicated in the terrorist campaign. Of this His Majesty's Government have ample evidence, of which selections have been published in the recent White Paper. The cumulative effect of this evidence in recent months was such that, anxious as we had been 962 to avoid any additional disturbance of the situation while the Anglo-American discussions were in train, His Majesty's Government were driven to the decision that drastic action could no longer be postponed. The High Commissioner was accordingly authorised to carry out the operations which began on 29th June, with a view to breaking up the illegal organisations and detaining those responsible for the campaign of violence. I do not propose to dwell further on that matter now, though there will be ample opportunity to raise it, if hon. Members so desire, during the course of the Debate. I should myself prefer, and I think the House, generally, will take the view that it would be more profitable, to turn away from the sombre record of the past, and direct the attention of the House forward to the way by which we believe the peoples of Palestine may be led to a brighter and happier future.
Representatives of His Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States, whom I shall describe as the expert delegations, have completed their examination of the recommendations made in the report of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on the problems of European Jewry and Palestine. The experts made unanimous recommendations on both sides, British and American, as to the policy to be adopted in respect of all the matters covered by the report of the Anglo-American Committee; and I think that I should outline, inevitably at some length, the main features of their proposals.
The expert delegations first dealt with the recommendations of the Anglo-American Committee regarding the position of the Jews in Europe. The events of recent years, after Hitler's rise to power, have given a special emphasis to the character of the Jewish National Home as a sanctuary for those who could reach it from among the tragically few survivors of European Jewry. It is the pressure of immigration from Europe that has so intensified the difficulties of the Palestine problem. The Anglo-American Committee recognised that Palestine alone cannot meet the immigration needs of the Jewish victims of Nazi and Fascist persecution, and recommended that our two Governments, in association with other countries—for the whole world shares the 963 responsibility—should endeavour immediately to find new homes for all displaced persons, irrespective of creed or nationality.
The expert delegations proposed that our two Governments should adopt the following means of making an immediate contribution to the solution of this problem. First, they proposed that our two Governments should seek to create conditions favourable to the resettlement of a substantial number of displaced persons in Europe itself, since it is recognised that the overwhelming majority will continue to live in Europe. In the British and American zones of Germany and Austria, our two Governments are doing their utmost to assist resettlement and to eradicate anti-Semitism. In Italy and the ex-enemy satellite States, the authorities will be required by the Peace Treaties to secure to all persons under their jurisdiction human rights and the fundamental freedoms. As regards the countries in Europe, the expert delegations recommended that our Governments should support the efforts of the United Nations to ensure the protection of those rights and freedoms. Further, by assisting to reestablish political and economic stability in Europe, we should continue to contribute to the restoration of those basic conditions which will make possible the reintegration in Europe of a substantial number of displaced persons, including Jews.
But, when all that is possible has been done in Europe, it is clear that new homes must be found overseas for many whose ties with their former communities have been irreparably broken. The expert delegations outlined the following measures—some of which are already in train—designed to promote this movement. First, we should continue to press for the establishment of an International Refugee Organisation designed to deal effectively with the problem of refugees and displaced persons as a whole. Secondly, we should give strong support at the forthcoming General Assembly of the United Nations to an appeal calling upon all Member Governments to receive in territories under their control a proportion of the displaced persons in Europe, including Jews. I should here interpolate that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have already given 964 a lead in this matter by accepting a commitment to promote the resettlement of about 235,000 Polish troops and civilians and their dependants. This is, of course, in addition to refugees admitted during the period of Nazi persecution, of whom some 70,000 Jews remain in the United Kingdom. His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions have been informed of the action being taken by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, and they will, we hope, support the appeal to Member Governments of the United Nations, an appeal which will include an invitation to receive a number of displaced persons in the territories under their control. I also understand that the United States, where 275,000 refugees, including 180,000 Jews have permanently resettled in the same period, are now resuming normal immigration and expect to receive some 53,000 immigrants each year from the European, countries from which the displaced persons are drawn. Finally, pending the establishment of an International Refugee Organisation, we shall, in cooperation with the Government of the United States, continue to promote the resettlement of refugees and displaced persons through the agency of the Inter-Governmental Committee on Refugees. Plans are in preparation, in cooperation with the nations concerned, for resettling large numbers of displaced persons in Brazil and other South American countries.
It will thus be seen from what I have said that the broader aspects of the refugee and displaced persons problem have not been overlooked, nor the restoration of conditions in Europe permitting the re-integration there of as many displaced persons, including Jews, as may wish to remain. The ability and talent of Jews and others is needed for the difficult tasks of reconstruction that lie ahead. At the same time, we are taking urgent and practical steps to ensure that other countries as well as Palestine will contribute to the resettlement of those displaced persons, including Jews, who must look elsewhere than to Europe for their permanent homes.
In formulating a new policy for Palestine, the expert delegations accepted as a basis the principles laid down in the third recommendation of the Anglo-American Committee, that Palestine as a whole can be neither a Jewish nor an Arab State, that neither of the two communities in Palestine should dominate the other, and 965 that the form of Government should be such as to safeguard the interests in the Holy Land of both Christendom and the Moslem and Jewish faiths.
The expert delegations argue as follows. The political aspirations of the two communities in Palestine are irreconcilable. The conflict which these aspirations have provoked is so bitter, that there is little hope of securing within any reasonable period that measure of cooperation between Arab and Jew which would make possible the establishment in Palestine of a unitary system of Government, consistent with these basic principles, in which each people played its part. The only chance of peace, and of immediate advance towards self-governing institutions, appears to lie in so framing the constitution of the country as to give to each the greatest practicable measure of power to manage its own affairs. The experts believe that, in present circumstances, this can best be secured by the establishment of Arab and Jewish Provinces, which will enjoy a large measure of autonomy under a central Government.
It is their proposal that, for this purpose, Palestine shall be divided into four areas, an Arab Province, a Jewish Province, a District of Jerusalem and a District of Negeb. The Jewish Province would include the great bulk of the land on which Jews have already settled and a considerable area between and around the settlements. The Jerusalem District would include Jerusalem, Bethlehem and their immediate environs. The Negeb District would consist of the uninhabited triangle of waste land in the South of Palestine beyond the present limits of cultivation. The Arab Province would include the remainder of Palestine; it would be almost wholly Arab in respect both of land and of population. The provincial boundaries would be purely administrative boundaries, defining the area within which a local legislature would be empowered to legislate on certain subjects and a local executive to administer its laws. They would have no significance as regards defence, Customs or communications, but, in order to give finality, the boundaries, once fixed, would not be susceptible of change except by agreement between the two Provinces. A provision to this effect would be embodied in any trusteeship agreement, and in the instrument bringing the plan into operation.
966 The provincial governments would have power of legislation and administration within their areas with regard to a wide range of subjects of primarily provincial concern. They would also have power to limit the number and determine the qualifications of persons who may take up permanent residence in their territories after the introduction of the plan. The provincial governments would be required by the instrument of government which establishes the fundamental law to provide for the guarantee of civil rights and equality before the law of all residents, and for the freedom of interterritorial transit, trade and commerce. The provincial governments would have the necessary power to raise money for the purpose of carrying out their functions.
There would be reserved to the Central Government exclusive authority as to defence, foreign relations, Customs and Excise. In addition, there would be reserved initially to the Central Government exclusive authority as to the administration of law and order, including the police and courts, and a limited number of subjects of all-Palestine importance. The Central Government would have all powers not expressly granted to the provinces by the instrument of Government. An elected Legislative Chamber would be established in each Province. An executive, consisting of a chief Minister and a Council of Ministers, would be appointed in each Province by the High Commissioner from among the members of the Legislative Chamber after consultation with its leaders. Bills passed by the Legislative Chambers would require the assent of the High Commissioner. This, however, would not be withheld unless the Bill is inconsistent with the instrument of Government, whose provisions would afford safeguards for the peace of Palestine and for the rights of minorities.
It would also be necessary to reserve to the High Commissioner an emergency power to intervene if a provincial government fails to perform, or exceeds, its proper functions. The executive and legislative functions of the Central Government would initially be exercised by the High Commissioner, assisted by a nominated Executive Council. Certain of the departments of the Central Government would be headed, as soon as the High Commissioner deems practical, by Palestinians. The High Commissioner would 967 establish a Development Planning Board and a Tariff Board composed of representatives of the Central Government and of each province. In the Jerusalem District, a council would be established with powers similar to those of a municipal council. The majority of its members would be elected, but certain members would be nominated by the High Commissioner. The Negeb District would be administered, for the time being, by the Central Government.
This plan for provincial autonomy would greatly simplify the problem of Jewish immigration into Palestine. Though final control over immigration would continue to rest with the Central Government, this control would be exercised on the basis of recommendations made by the provincial governments. So long as the economic absorptive capacity of the province was not exceeded, the Central Government would authorise the immigration desired by the provincial government. It would have no power to authorise immigration in excess of any limitations proposed by the provincial governments. Thus, though the Government of the Arab Province would have full power to exclude Jewish immigrants from its Province, the Jewish Province would, normally, be able to admit as many immigrants as its Government desires.
As part of this plan, the experts suggest that it would become possible to accept the recommendations of the Anglo-American Committee for the immediate admission of 100,000 Jewish immigrants into Palestine, and for continuing immigration thereafter. The experts prepared a plan for the movement of 100,000 Jews from Europe into the Jewish area of Palestine, and this plan could be set in motion as soon as it is decided to put into effect the scheme as a whole. The immigration certificates would be issued as rapidly as possible, and every effort would be made to complete the operation within 12 months of the date on which the immigration begins. The immigrants would be selected, primarily, from Jews in Germany, Austria and Italy, and priority would be given to those who have already spent some time in assembly centres in those countries and to others who, though no longer in those centres, were liberated in Germany and Austria. Within those groups, priority would be given to building craftsmen and agri- 968 cultural workers, young children, the infirm and the aged. The bulk of the 100,000 would be drawn from Germany, Austria and Italy; any certificates available for the Jews in other countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe would be issued only to orphan children. Shipment would proceed at the maximum rate consistent with the clearance of the transit camps in Palestine, in which the immigrants would be temporarily accommodated until they could be absorbed.
Under this plan, the United States Government would be asked to undertake sole responsibility for the sea transportation of those Jewish refugees, to whom I have referred, from Europe to Palestine. They would provide the ships and would defray the whole cost of sea transportation. They would also provide food for the immigrants for the first two months after their arrival in Palestine. The cost of transferring and settling this number of persons in Palestine would, of course, be considerable. The Jewish organisations have accepted the financial responsibility, and the experts saw no reason why the required finance should not be found from reparations, from contributions by world Jewry and from loans. The experts accepted the recommendations of the Anglo-American Committee that improvements of the economic and social conditions of the Arabs in Palestine were desirable. The programme which they suggested would include the provision of a health service comparable to that already available to the Jews, an expansion of educational facilities, the provision of cheap credit for the Arab cultivators, and other measures designed to increase the productivity of the land, the promotion of the cooperative movement, the development of light industries and improvements in both rural and urban living conditions.
The expert delegations gave warning that, for some years, the implementation of these and other plans for the improvement of economic opportunities and living standards in Palestine would impose heavy capital costs not eligible for loans, and would constitute a severe strain on the finances of Palestine. The setting up of the provincial system would also entail a deficit in the budget of the Arab Province which would have to be met by a Central Government subvention. Further financial aid for Palestine would be required if the plan, as a whole, is to be 969 carried out. To meet this situation, the experts suggested that the United States should be asked to make a substantial grant to the Government of Palestine, to be used principally for financing Arab development projects not suitable for self-liquidating loans, and for assisting in the meeting of extraordinary expenditure during the transitional period, while this country should be asked to take ultimate responsibility for meeting Palestine's annual budgetary deficit up to the time when increased revenues made this unnecessary.
The experts believed that the need for economic development in Palestine should be considered against the background of the Middle East as a whole. They understood that the governments represented in the Arab League were now examining the possibilities of economic development in their countries, and they, therefore, suggested that if any of those States found difficulty in obtaining international loans for this purpose, the United States should authorise large scale development loans. These loans would be made through an appropriate agency for the development of the Middle East region, including Palestine. Most large scale development from which Palestine could benefit should be undertaken in cooperation, at least, with Transjordan, and probably with Syria and Lebanon. The experts proposed that, subject to the consent of the Government of Transjordan, the common water resources of both Palestine and Transjordan should be surveyed as soon as possible by consulting engineers acting under Government auspices.
I have now completed my outline of the recommendations of the expert delegations. His Majesty's Government, believing that these recommendations represent the best line of advance towards a solution of the problem, informed the United States Government of their willingness to accept them as the basis for negotiation. We had hoped before the Debate to receive from President Truman his acceptance, but we understand that he has decided, in view of the complexity of the matter, to discuss it in detail with the United States expert delegation who are returning to Washington for the purpose. The President is thus giving further consideration to the matter, and we hope to hear again from him in due course.
970 Meanwhile, however, the situation in Palestine will brook no delay. We are inviting the representatives of the Jews and Arabs to meet us for discussion of these problems, and we hope that we shall be able to bring before them as a basis for negotiation the plan recommended by the expert delegations. If it is found acceptable, our intention would be that it should be embodied in a trusteeship agreement for Palestine. But I should make it clear that we mean to go ahead with discussion with Arabs and Jews of a constitutional scheme on these lines. We believe that it offers many advantages to both communities in Palestine.
The Jews will be free to exercise a large measure of control over immigration into their own Province, and to forward there the development of the Jewish National1 Home. The Land Transfer Regulations will be repealed. It will be open to the Government of the Arab Province to permit or to refuse permission to Jews to purchase land there, but the area of the Jewish Province will be larger than that in which Jews are free to buy land at present. The Arabs will gain, in that the great majority of them will be freed once and for all from any fear of Jewish domination. The citizens of the Arab Province will achieve at once a large measure of autonomy, and powerful safeguards will be provided to protect the rights of the Arab minority left in the Jewish Province. To both communities the plan offers a prospect of development, of which there would be little hope in a unitary Palestine.
In the long term, the plan leaves the way open for peaceful progress and constitutional development either towards partition, or towards federal unity. The association of representatives of the two Provinces in the administration of central subjects, may lead ultimately to a fully developed federal constitution. On the other hand, if the centrifugal forces prove too strong, the way is open towards partition. Our proposals do not prejudge this issue either way. We believe that this plan provides as fair and reasonable a compromise between the claims of Arab and Jew as it is possible to devise, and that it offers the best prospect of reconciling the conflicting interests of the two communities. This, however, must be made clear. The full implementation of the experts' plan as a whole depends on United States cooperation. I hope that 971 that will be forthcoming. If not, we shall have to reconsider the position, particularly as regards the economic and financial implications, and this is bound to affect the tempo and extent of immigration and development.
These, then, are our proposals. I ask the indulgence of the House for the fact that, in the circumstances, I have had to stick closely to my notes in making this speech, because a great deal of it was necessarily based upon the recommendations of the expert delegations, and I was exceedingly anxious to be accurate in what I said. It would, in any event, be impracticable to enter, at this stage, into greater detail regarding proposals which it is intended shall form the basis of discussion with representatives of the Arabs and Jews whom we have promised an opportunity for consultation before a final decision is reached.
I commend these proposals to the House, and I would urge upon both communities in the Holy Land to give them their most earnest consideration. While our consultations are proceeding, I would appeal to all men of good will on either side, to cooperate with the Government in suppressing terrorism and in bringing to justice those responsible for crimes of violence. Let nothing be said or done that will render it more difficult to reach a final settlement. The world is weary of this senseless strife of Jew and Arab, and sickened by its barbarous incidents. It calls upon them to end a sordid chapter of history, and join with the civilised nations in building the foundations of a nobler and happier world. Their friends everywhere will anxiously await their verdict. Mere negation, however, does no good and would be particularly dangerous and regrettable in a combustible situation of the kind with which we are dealing. There is a responsibility on both Jews and Arabs to be willing to sit down as practical people to discuss, to negotiate and to talk with a view to reaching a practicable solution, with the expedition and with the sense of urgency which this grave problem demands.
§ 4.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
First let me join with the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council in the expression of regret at the absence of the Foreign Secretary. We 972 are, indeed, sorry that he is unable to take part in a Debate which must be of great importance to him, because in the last few months he has, of course, taken in this affair of Palestine a larger part than has sometimes been taken in the past by Foreign Secretaries. I am in entire agreement with that action. I myself, have always held that as the situation is today, with the immense international reactions which follow from every move in Palestine, the administration in Palestine is really more a matter for the Foreign Secretary than for the Colonial Secretary. I must admit that when I formulated those proposals, I had in view happier days when fairly frequent opportunities were given to the Foreign Secretary to visit England—a time when the Foreign Office meant something more to the Foreign Secretary than a place where he could have a hasty bath, and, of course, now, a scanty breakfast between one conference in one capital and another conference in another capital, the personnel of both being the same. Still, we do not give up hope that happier days may return, and I am still not without hope that, after, of course, a period of training and rehabilitation, we shall be able, some day, to resettle the new nomads of the 20th century.
If I started with condolence with the Government, I want to continue with criticism. I think that in this matter this House has been treated in a rather extraordinary way. I say "this House" and not the Opposition, because I think it is a matter in which hon. Members on all sides are interested. For many months now, since the end of April, many hon. Members have desired a Debate upon this subject. We have postponed that Debate at the desire of the Government, in order not to embarrass them. That, I think, must have convinced them that the desire of the House when it came to debate the matter was, not to debate it in a hostile, controversial spirit, but to enable hon. Members on all sides who take differing views, which do not differ necessarily according to the side of the House on which they sit, to give some expression to their feelings about the problem and its solution. It has been obvious from the Press in the last ten days that there has been in existence this agreement, document, or whatever it is called, of this committee of experts to which the Lord 973 President has referred. Almost every day, in one or other of the journals, here, in America or in Jerusalem, there have been references to the document and to its contents. Of course, we do not know how they came there. If they came there by way of leaks, all I can say is that this has been the father and mother of a leak; it has leaked in such quantities, and so simultaneously all over the globe, that it must hold an all-time record. If it is merely journalistic anticipation, then I would say, in view of what the Lord President has told us today, that anticipation has been so intelligent as almost to make one believe it has also been inspired —and those things do happen; even Governments which abuse the Press in public sometimes use the Press in private.
§ Mr. Morrison
I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman may be speaking purely in a humorous sense. However, if he is seriously suggesting that His Majesty's Government have deliberately inspired Press anticipations of what I was going to say, or of the nature of the report, that would be a serious accusation and might involve us in difficulties with the United States. I do not want to get cross about it; I only wish to say to the right hon. Gentleman that it is quite untrue, and I ask him to accept my assurance on that.
§ Mr. Stanley
I certainly accept the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman. In turn, perhaps he would allow me to say, that being so, that it is necessary for him to inquire into the source of this leak, and how it happens that, for the last week, the Press has had what has proved to be such accurate knowledge of exactly what is in the document. My point is this. I cannot see why it would not have been possible to have issued to this House in the form of a White Paper the substance of what the Lord President has told us today. He has given us a very full and very detailed statement. However, it is one which is almost impossible for anybody immediately to discuss and to dissect with any value. Although it has been an interesting statement, it is not a novel one. I cannot see that there is any secret in it which could not have been divulged last week. Naturally, we would not have expected the right hon. Gentleman to say before the Debate whether His Majesty's Government or the American Government agreed. But if we could have had the substance of this report before, it would have 974 enabled us, I am sure, to discuss the matter with much greater intelligence, and, I think, with much greater assistance to the Government as well. As it is, we must all try to do our best to deal with a complicated proposal which we have not previously had the opportunity of seeing. Therefore, we can only deal with it on rather broad lines, and as a matter of personal impressions.
Before I come to a discussion of the Government's plan, I would like to say a few words upon some of the other matters which were raised by the right hon. Gentleman. He dealt first with the problem of the resettlement of Jews and other displaced persons elsewhere than in Palestine. Of course, we welcome any attempts which can be made in that way. We do not believe either that Palestine is the only destination which might provide a happy home for Jews. We hope with the right hon. Gentleman that a large number of Jews will, in fact, decide, under better conditions, to make their homes still in the countries in which they have resided, because we feel that during a period of European reconstruction, the complete abandonment of Europe by Jewry, the complete exodus of the Jewish race from the Continent, could only have upon that reconstruction a damaging effect. They have much to contribute in the task which lies before Europe.
§ Mr. Stanley
No, but I think the whole House would feel it a matter of regret if, in fact, every Jew felt that there was no future life for him in Europe. I have not had an opportunity of studying the actual proposals that have been made. At first sight they do not appear very novel, with one exception, which it might be possible perhaps for the right hon. Gentleman or somebody else to expand later in the Debate, namely, the negotiation for extensive settlement in Brazil and South America; that, indeed, would be a new development, and might be a very valuable one. The other point to which the right hon. Gentleman referred was the letter of General Barker. In view of the fact that, as he states, it is a military matter in which the C.I.G.S. is now concerned, I want to say little about it, except this. It does not require much imagination to realise the strain under which our 975 troops in Palestine have been in the last few months, the strain under which officers are who have seen their men murdered, under which people are who have seen their friends, their subordinates and their co-workers killed in a brutal manner. It is easy enough for us, sitting here in comfort and security, to criticise language which we ourselves would certainly never use, and to forget that the conditions under which it was used may not have been quite the same. Although in those circumstances, in a military officer, nothing, no amount of strain, could excuse an irresponsible action, strain of that kind may well be held to excuse a certain bitterness of words.
I now wish to say a few words about the question of law and order in Palestine. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that, whatever is the long-term policy, whatever the long-term solution—if there is one—it will have to depend eventually upon the growth of confidence between the two communities. It is impossible that that confidence should ever begin, or should ever grow, if it is known that either one or both of the communities has, not only the will, but also the means to seek a solution in its own favour by force and not by argument. Unfortunately, for the last four years we have seen in Palestine a steady deterioration in the security position. I have seen it myself, during my term of office, pass from the lull which there was when I first came in, to isolated action on the part of the Stern gang, from that to bigger scale action by the Irgun Zvai Leumi, at first under conditions which were carefully arranged to prevent the loss of life, and then I have seen that limitation abandoned and life as well as property become exposed to danger. All that time the Hagana and the Jewish Agency who control them not only stood aside but condemned those outrages by dissident bodies and, as the Lord President says, after the murder of Lord Moyne cooperated with the Government.
Unfortunately, it is clear that since those days the position has changed. When we last debated this matter on the Adjournment, the Prime Minister, speaking for the Government, said that he would produce in a White Paper evidence that would implicate both the Jewish Agency and the Hagana in responsibility for those outrages, and would show that 976 they had cooperated with the other dissident bodies which they had condemned before. Having seen the White Paper, I regret to have to say that I find that the Government's charge is proved. I say I regret it because it is a matter of great regret that a policy of violence, which before was followed merely by a small and dissident minority, should have received the approval of a body such as the Jewish Agency, which represents so very much in the whole Jewish community in Palestine. I feel that the incident at the end of October, and the exchange of telegrams in connection with that incident which are published in the White Paper, show quite clearly that a definite planned outrage was undertaken by members of the Jewish Agency, and that in that outrage they were acting in the closest cooperation with the Irgun Zvai Leumi and with the Stern group.
There is no allegation, and I do not believe that any hon. Member will allege, that those telegrams have been faked by His Majesty's Government. If they are not faked, if they are genuine, as all of us believe them to be, published as they are on the responsibility of the Government, to my mind they can bear no other meaning than that which the Government have attributed to them. In that light, I certainly do not question the action the Government have taken, and have had to take, to restore the position, to maintain their authority and to stop, if possible, the murderous attacks upon our own troops. In fact, the question I would ask them would be a different one, namely, why did they not act earlier, because it is the evidence in the White Paper with reference to October and November of last year which to me is the conclusive part of the evidence? The various incidents in connection with the radio later on in the year, though they may confirm the conclusion, add very little to it, and I should have been as convinced by the earlier evidence as I am convinced today by the whole Paper, of the complicity of the Agency and the need for action.
If this White Paper has justified action in July, the early part of the evidence contained in it would have justified action last December, and who can say that action taken last December might not have been more efficacious than action taken today, might not have avoided some 977 of the incidents that have occurred, and, by bringing home to the Agency in Palestine, at an earlier date, the horror with which the whole world would receive the news of these outrages, and of their implication in them, might it not have prevented them from being so deeply committed as they have become to this policy of violence? But I echo the appeal made by the Lord President of the Council for the cooperation, even now, after all that has passed, of the whole Jewish community both in Palestine and in the world at large, in ending atrocities such as these, which cannot do any good to their cause but which can only alienate the sympathy which up to now has been extended to them from all parts of the world.
I myself believe that the time for merely verbal denunciations of these outrages is past, even if they are wholehearted denunciations, and they are not always wholehearted. On Monday I came across in the "Daily Telegraph" a report of a meeting presided over, I think, by an hon. Member of this House, which had been called to denounce these crimes, and one of the speakers at that meeting was a Mr. Locker, a member of the Executive of the Jewish Agency in this country, or certainly a man who holds a responsible position. These were some of his words:We abhor crime, but non-Jews and the British people the British Socialist Government, should ask themselves, 'Is not the sin of these misguided criminals also on us?'.
§ Hon. Members: On whom?
§ Mr. Stanley
On us, including this present Government—"Is not the sin of these people also on us?" I am a critic of the Government, and I shall have something to say later about their handling of this situation in the last 12 months, but to suggest that, say, the Foreign Secretary or the Colonial Secretary share the sin of the criminals who placed the bombs in the King David Hotel is, to my mind, monstrous. And what effect can such statements have on the people for whom they were presumably intended? The object of that meeting was to express the horror and abhorrence of the Jews of this country at the action taken by their more violent compatriots in Palestine, but when those compatriots read a speech of that kind, do they read into it condemnation or do they read into it condonation? I hope that 978 we shall have not only wholehearted denunciation by the whole community of the outrages, which they must regret, but that we shall also have real and definite cooperation in bringing to book the participants in this particular culminating outrage, and thereby have afforded to us a proof that the Jewish community, as a whole, reject those methods, and will have nothing to do with the criminals.
I should like now to turn from the question of law and order, important though it is, to the question of policy. If all of us agree, as I think we do, that the re-establishment of Government authority is the necessary preliminary to any solution, I think we shall all agree that the re-establishment of authority and the suppression of violence, however successful, do not in themselves provide any permanent solution for the problem. They will, course, secure an interlude of peace, but violence of that kind will always return, unless statesmanship can point to some hope for the future in which both communities in Palestine can believe.
Today, for the first time for 12 months, we have some idea of the Government's long-term policy in Palestine. Twelve months has been a long time to wait. Who would have believed, after hearing some of the declarations given during the Election, that we should have to wait 12 months for a declaration of policy? Who would have thought that the world would have to wait 12 months. Anyone reading those declarations would have been justified in believing that they were made by people who had made up their minds, who knew what they were going to do if, as a result of those declarations, they were returned to power, and who were in a position immediately to announce their decision. The fact that they were made by right hon. Gentlemen who were not in Opposition but in the Government, who must have been presumed to know the difficulties and reactions, and who must have been presumed to have discounted them in advance, must have strengthened the belief that the people who made those pledges in June, 1945, would be in a position to announce a policy earlier than July, 1946.
Now, of course, having to speak immediately after the announcement of this policy, I am, as I think other hon. Members will be, in some difficulty. I confess I had expected that we should spend most 979 of our time discussing the Report of the Anglo-American Palestine Committee. But, as I understand from the Lord President's statement today, that Report is dead, although, it is only fair to say, it has been buried with the very highest honours. The Committee were 12 very distinguished people, people who had a great many responsibilities of their own, and a great deal of valuable work to do. They were, however, called by the two Governments to this service and they came, they saw— and it appears now that they have vanished. I have my own opinion upon their Report, and I propose to deal with that later; but I do feel that the treatment to which this Committee has been subjected—in fact, the whole history of its appointment and the reception of its Report—is rather extraordinary.
The solution which the right hon. Gentleman has read out to us now was in the Colonial Office last autumn. The discussion of these experts could have started last September. We could have got as far as we are today last November; and the policy, which we can only hope now will be implemented in the next two or three months, might have been in force at the end of the year. Instead of that, everything has been at a standstill for a Report of a Committee, which, as soon as it is received, is abandoned. There is in the Committee's whole report only one definite statement without any reservation, provision or condition, and that is the condemnation of partition. I do not know— perhaps the right hon. Gentleman would tell us—whether the particular scheme which is the basis of the Lord President's statement today was submitted to that Committee in evidence, and forms the basis of the rejection. It does really seem that the result of the self-sacrificing labours of those gentlemen has merely been to postpone a solution for a number of months, at a time when a decision is imperatively urgent. And then, when the solution is arrived at, it is an entirely different one.
§ Mr. S. N. Evans (Wednesbury)
Surely, it was desirable to get the Americans associated with these proposals?
§ Mr. Stanley
I could not be more agreed; and I am wholeheartedly in sympathy with the work the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have been doing since the Committee reported to 980 get the Americans to agree to a wholly different set of proposals. But the point I am making is that these proposals, to which we are listening now, were not the proposals of the Anglo-American Committee, and in fact, were rejected by them. I am glad that the Government have taken that decision. I did not think that the proposals of the Committee did, in fact, offer any permanent solution to the Palestine problem. Their Report, of course, was in the nature of a compromise. That, it was bound to be. I have no complaint of that, because any solution in Palestine must be in the nature of a compromise. But, frankly, it struck me as not a very good compromise, a compromise in which one side got all the action and the other side just got the words.
The main fundamentals of the Report are the entry of 100,000 Jews immediately into Palestine, and a declaration that neither Jew nor Arab is to dominate the State. Well, of course, if one has to choose between the two, there is considerably more value in the act of the admission of 100,000 Jews which, once done, cannot ever be repealed, than in a mere statement that a certain situation may never be allowed—a statement which may, in time, be altered, as similar statements about Palestine have been altered in the past. The result has been that the Arabs have seemed to detect in the Committee's Report a complete acceptance of the Jewish case, whereas, on the other hand, the Jews have seen in the words which are supposed to be, and should be, a reassurance to the Arabs, something which they need not accept, and have not accepted, but which they can wait to reverse when the time is more propitious. I did feel that the mere introduction of this Report would settle nothing; that it would, of course, produce a violent reaction immediately; and that violent Arab reaction would barely die away, before new demands would be made, and new violence created.
Nor, frankly, do I think we are any nearer a solution by going to the other end of the scale; by trying, instead of accepting the Report of the Anglo-American Committee, to go back to the full implementation of the White Paper. I know there are some who think that that is correct policy; I myself cannot agree. I agreed to the White Paper in 1939, but I—and I think many others would agree 981 with me—at that time had certain hopes, which have since been shown to be incapable of fulfilment. We thought that the White Paper might provide a period of cessation in immigration; and that, during that time, tempers might fall, accommodations might begin, and an experiment of government, which was also an integral part of the White Paper, might have some effect in bringing Jew and Arab together, and that, therefore, that provision, that there should be no further immigration without the acquiescence of the Arabs, was not an empty one but might, in time, be fruitful of good. No one can now believe that, at the present moment, those hopes have been fulfilled. It has been impossible, owing to circumstances, even to start on the experiment of self-government. Jews and Arabs are further apart, much further apart, than they were in 1939, and it is idle to believe that one can hope to look, according to the White Paper policy, 10 the acquiescence of the Arabs in Jewish immigration into Palestine.
That being so, I do not believe that this solution, either, will bring any permanent hope to that country. Can we really leave 600,000 Jews as a permanent minority in an Arab State? I do not believe anyone could contemplate doing that, and still be faithful to the pledges that we have given. Certainly, we could not contemplate doing that without bloodshed on a terrible scale. If that is not so, if immigration is to stop and the number is always to be fixed as it is now, and there is to be no Arab State in accordance with the Arab majority, what is the alternative before us? If this country has forever to rule Palestine as a sort of police State, and is able to hold out no hope to two progressive peoples—make no mistake that the Arabs today are becoming progressive as well—of ever really having any effective say in the government of the country in which they live, I do not believe that that is a prospect which this country can look forward to with any belief that we shall be able to carry it through to the end. If we cannot' carry it through to the end, nothing is worse than to start upon it, and then fail.
I and many others have, over the last two or three years, been forced to consider whether the dreams with which people started this great experiment in Palestine—it is now nearly 30 years ago 982 since the Balfour Declaration—may not have been proved incapable of attainment. The dream which everyone had— all the objective and neutral people—was of a Palestine in which Jew and Arab would settle down together, would be members together of a Palestinian State, where they would be able to rule themselves, and not desire to rule each other, and where the division between political parties and political thought would not be purely on racial and religious grounds, but on grounds of economic and social interest. For many years, in pursuit of these dreams, various solutions have been proposed for Palestine, and various actions have been taken. Every time the dream has proved further away from realisation than ever before. I wonder whether the time has not come to say that we are deluding ourselves if we really believe there is any prospect, in any period which politicians or statesmen can consider, of an outcome of that kind in Palestine. The Peel Commission warned us of it in their Report. They warned us of something else—a prophecy quite apart from the state of things as they found it then. They said:The estranging force of conditions inside Palestine is growing year by year. The educational systems, Arab and Jewish, are schools of nationalism and they have only existed for a short time. Their full effect on the rising generations has yet to be felt.That, I think, was a true prophecy. Year by year we have seen the nationalistic feeling growing. We have . seen this gulf widen, and I am forced back on the conviction that it is idle any longer to base our attempts to solve this problem on the belief that in any reasonable period of time these two people can ever come together in the way in which the English, Welsh and Scottish peoples have come together in this country, and themselves share the Government of a unitary State. For that reason, when I was at the Colonial Office, I gave a considerable amount of time to trying to work out some scheme of partition. All of us with any interest in this problem are familiar with the Peel Report, and we are familiar with the theoretical case for partition. No one pretends that partition is an ideal solution, but because it is not the ideal solution, it does not mean that it may not be the only solution.
The difficulties of partition are obvious. To take a small country, divide it, and 983 then set up no less than three governmental machines is uneconomic. It is wasteful, it is extravagant, and it leaves all kinds of common problems, such as communications, Customs, and so on, to difficult arrangement. Anyone can see at once the technical practical difficulties in the way of partition, but if you can solve these problems, then the advantages are very real. It gives both Jew and Arab one great advantage. To the Jews it gives an area in which they can have a life of their own, governed by their own people in the interest of their own people. It will give them control of immigration into their own State, limited in number only by their own decision as to the economic life which they can give to the people coming there. It is true that the State they would have would be smaller than;the State which they have desired in the past. I see that some leading Jewry spokesmen in America talked about this as bringing the Jews back into the ghetto, but that kind of exaggerated argument really defeats its own ends. It is a smaller State, but I think that the important future function of the Jews in Palestine is not agricultural but industrial. I know that the hon. Gentleman can go through all his usual contortions, but I am supported in that belief by the Report of the Anglo-American Committee and by the fact that 85 per cent. of the Jewish community in Palestine do, in fact, live in the towns. If it is to be, as I believe it is to be, an industrial economy, then the mere size of land does not matter nearly so much. It certainly does not matter nearly so much as the friendliness of the natural markets upon which their industry might have to depend.
For the Arab it offers one real advantage. The Arab territory in Palestine, if joined, as it might be, with Transjordania, would make a solid sovereign State. As such a sovereign State, it might well become part of a greater Arab federation in the future. They would have, within that State, complete power to prevent any further encroachment of the Jews, and no longer would they have to feel that the only barrier which stands between them and further Jewish immigration into their own area, is a Mandatory Power which may be subject to political pressure from outside. I have often been asked by those who support the Arab case, whether the 984 disadvantage is not this: that partition might secure two or three years of peace, but during that time the Jews would bring immigrants in large numbers into their own area and fill it to overflowing, and then immediately begin pressing for elbow room outside and the demand for living space would be heard once more.
My answer always has been that under partition there would be a fundamental difference. Such pressure in future would not be pressure between two communities, both subject to our authority—perfectly legitimate pressure upon the political authority—because in the new circumstances it would be pressure by one sovereign State upon another, and any encroachment would be an encroachment by one sovereign State upon the other. It would not be merely a matter for discussion in Parliament on the Colonial Office Vote, but would call into question not only the treaties under which we would naturally guarantee the frontiers, and the treaties with which any other great Power might be prepared to enter into as a guarantor, but would also call into play all the machinery of the United Nations. It would be a definite infringement of the sovereignty of one Power by another, an infringement which quite clearly might lead to war, and one, therefore, which the United Nations organisation would expect to deal with, and where their power would inevitably have to be given to the protection of the Arab State.
Everyone knows the history of the Peel Commission, no one better than the hon. Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid). He was a member of the Woodhead Commission, whose report on the practical issues destroyed temporarily, at any rate, the policy of partition. I do not regard that as final. The Commission worked under certain difficulties in its terms of reference. They were limited as to security; they were limited as to financial stability—all things, I think, which need not have been inserted in the terms of reference, and without which a different conclusion might have been arrived at. All I need say is that during the Coalition Government, I, and some of my colleagues, worked out a plan on those lines, which I thought was practicable and which many of my colleagues thought was practicable, and it was accepted as practicable by many people who were authorities on Palestine. It would be for the 985 Government of the day to produce any detailed plan in support of this policy, but I am convinced that if everyone once came to the conclusion that there was no alternative to partition, and that it was the only policy to adopt, then, somehow or other, these practical conclusions would be found to work themselves out.
We have heard today the Government's scheme. As I understand it, it is not that form of partition which was recommended by the Peel Commission in Chapter 20 of the Report, but that form of partition which was rejected by the Peel Commission in Chapter 21 under the name of cantonisation, although it is now called federation. During my time, some work was done at the Colonial Office on a scheme of this kind as an alternative, in case the final definite scheme of partition, for some reason or other, proved unacceptable. I always regarded this scheme as a second best. It is, at any rate, some step towards cantonisation, towards giving some separate life to Jew and Arab, but it is far from going the whole way.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I would like to ask a question, and if the right hon. Gentleman cannot answer it, I shall quite understand. Could he tell the House whether, in the scheme which he says he thought of when he was Colonial Secretary—the partition scheme—any power was reserved to a non-Arab, non-Jewish central Government?
§ Mr. Stanley
None at all. The Jewish part and the Arab part in conjunction, possibly, with another Arab country become sovereign States. There might be treaty rights between us as the administrators of the Jerusalem enclave; but they would both be sovereign States. We, as administrators of the Jerusalem enclave, would have treaty rights, but would not be responsible—
§ Mr. H. Morrison
I wonder why, when the right hon. Gentleman is accusing us of indecision and delay, he did not carry this through.
§ Mr. Stanley
The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that it was the unanimous decision that the Coalition Government expressed to this House and to both Jews and Arabs that nothing in this matter should be done until the end of the war. I see in this scheme of federation certain very obvious advantages over 986 the scheme of full partition. It removes a great many of the technical difficulties with regard to such things as Customs, communications and strategic necessities —many of the things in which division is extremely difficult, but, under this scheme, they are still kept together, and, therefore, those difficulties are avoided. Certainly, I for one, when I have had time to consider the scheme, shall hope to be convinced by it. To my mind it certainly goes some way towards recognising the keeping of two compartments. It presents certain obvious advantages in technical matters, but it has one serious disadvantage. It cannot give any sense of finality. It does not give sovereignty to these two States. It retains for the federal Government certain authority, which I have not yet had time to study. As I gather, on the whole, immigration would be in the hands of the two Provinces, but, in the last resort, the central authority might have to come in. The central authority would be responsible for law and order, although the provincial governments would be responsible for immigration, which might well be, and usually is, the cause of any breach of law and order.
I am not myself convinced, and I cannot at the moment see exactly how that division of authority is to work, and whether there is not a danger that we might appear to the world to be responsible for something over which we have no control. I hope that in any further consultations with the Americans, and with the Arabs and the Jews, it might be considered whether, if all minds are moving towards partition—all minds moving towards the abandonment of a unitary State—it might not be an advantage to take the bolder, rather than the more cautious, step; and whether, in fact, it would not be more in accordance with the facts of the problem and the desires of all those concerned to go straight to. some form of partition, rather than take-the intermediate step, which, as the right hon. Gentleman quite properly said, might well, in time, lead itself to the full partition.
As the right hon. Gentleman has told us, this policy still awaits the agreement of America. Until that is received, he can make no definite statement on behalf of His Majesty's Government. I think we all realise the immense importance of 987 getting American agreement upon a policy. I do not say upon any policy, or upon a policy which we ourselves would not feel was fair and just. But I, quite frankly, say that I am prepared to accept a policy which is not exactly the one which I should consider best, if the other enabled us to go forward, step by step and hand in hand, with America. Therefore, all of us on this side of the House must express the hope that we shall be able in the future to deal with this problem in agreement with America; and, above all, we must express the hope that whatever is necessary to enable these policies to go forward, will be done soon. I recognise the difficulties of international negotiations in which, quite rightly, the agreement of another Power is desired. But time has been going on, tempers have been rising, and the situation day by day has been growing tenser; and the solutions which are possible today may tomorrow or next week become impossible. Therefore, we hope that it will be possible for the Government before long to give a final declaration of policy in agreement with America, and to put before us a policy which will appeal both to us and to the world. Having done that, we trust they will be prepared to go forward with determination to put that policy into effect, and to end a situation which is bringing no happiness to the people of Palestine and is imposing a heavy burden of blood and treasure on the people of this country.
§ 5.11 p.m.
§ Captain Delargy (Manchester, Platting)
I want to make reference to one point which is not usually raised in this House when Palestine is debated, probably because it is a subject that is rather disagreeable—the danger of a fresh outburst of anti-Semitism, not merely in Palestine among the Arabs but here and everywhere. It is a danger which does exist and is particularly acute after the recent explosion in Jerusalem. No good whatever can come from hiding the fact and pretending that the danger does not exist. However strongly and sincerely the Jewish leaders and people deplore and condemn the recent outrages in Palestine, nevertheless, there still remains in the minds of many people a suspicion, and more than a suspicion, that these outrages have some connection at least with the extremist 988 political attitude of some Jews here, and more particularly in America. Indeed, the very fact that these acts were committed by Jews makes them appear to some people even more shocking than if they had been committed by other people, simply because there does exist a latent and potential hostility to the Jews.
This is something which is not too often openly ventilated in this House, but I think it ought to be. It is a fact which must be faced, and it must be faced, I think, first of all, and principally, by the Jews themselves. They can do more themselves in the long run to combat this danger than anyone else. They ought, I think, to insist that their leaders in Jerusalem and in Palestine generally should dissociate themselves openly and entirely from the terrorist groups, which are carrying out this stupid and wicked policy, and openly declare that they are not in favour of a solution by violence. They ought to impress upon their leaders in Palestine that the ultimate result of these activities, even if they were to succeed in Palestine and achieve the very objects which the Jews there desire—and I do not for one moment believe that they will—could be nothing but bad for the Jews everywhere.
We ourselves, particularly in this House, must also in the face of the growing danger of anti-Semitism remind ourselves of our own responsibility. We must refuse to allow our decision to be influenced, even indirectly, by the vulgar clamour of those people, who preach aloud or, worse still, who whisper this ancient and damnable creed of racial and religious hatred. We must take care to remind ourselves that the recent happenings in Palestine, although they have certainly not helped to solve the problem, have, nevertheless, not fundamentally altered it. A solution which may have been correct just a month ago is still no less correct and just now. The problem has not altered. What has altered is merely that there is a fresh urgency to find a solution. That is why I, and no doubt everyone else in this House, is delighted that the Government have come forward with a solution, and Heaven knows, the Government have kept us waiting long enough for it. I see no reason why the plan which has now been put forward, which has nothing fearful, novel or revolutionary about it, could not 989 have been submitted to this House six months ago. At any rate, we have some sort of solution to work upon and I hope the solution will be tried very speedily.
I welcome it, but I do not feel that it is ideal chiefly because, as the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) said, there is no element of finality about it. However, perhaps that is just as well at the moment. We are faced with a position in which we must give an urgent and speedy answer, and in that case it is just as well that the solution put forward has in it nothing of absolute finality. But, as the Lord President of the Council pointed out, it can at least serve as a basis for a future final solution, a final solution which must be found. He has stated that it can lead either to partition of the country or to some form of federal unity. When he speaks of partition, I presume that he means complete partition. I believe that he means the existence of two States, and only two, with no central Government, and one completely independent of the other. I hope that such a solution will never be adopted. I do not agree that partition can solve anything. As a matter of fact, such a solution would really create new problems. There would be again a new frontier problem and a new minority problem. There must obviously be a minority problem unless these two States, set up as a result of partition, are hermetically sealed. This Government recently decided finally and wisely against partition in India. I hope, whatever happens in the meantime, that that policy in India will be most strictly adhered to. Similarly here the Government should resist and should discourage other people from thinking about a solution for Palestine by partition. We certainly in this House have no excuse whatsoever for ignoring the dangers of the evil of partition—we who have on our own doorstep and under our very eyes the sad and sorry result of the bitter experiment of partition in Ireland. No man in his sane senses would like to see a Stormont erected on the hills outside Jerusalem.
I think, on the other hand, that federal unity, to which the Lord President has made reference, is considerably more attractive, more just in the long run and more sensible. It is a system which has worked in most places; in fact, in every place where it has been tried. It has not 990 always been tried in the same manner, but the underlying principle can be found in many parts of the world. It has worked well in Switzerland, for instance, and in the United States. Speaking of the United States, it makes one rather shocked to find that certain American publicists have spoken against federal unity for Palestine and are in favour of partition when one remembers that the Americans themselves, when faced with a similar difficulty in their own country, thought it worth while to fight a long and bitter civil war precisely in order to avoid American partition, and to create a government of federal unity. This same system of federal unity will eventually work in India. There is no reason on earth why it could not work now smoothly and easily in Ireland. I believe that it is, ultimately, the solution which will be found for Palestine. Meantime, I hope that the plans which the Lord President announced to the House today will be negotiated with the utmost speed. We cannot afford to lose a single moment.
§ 5.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
Had I not been told that the speech we have just listened to was a maiden speech I should not have known it, because the hon. and gallant Member for Platting (Captain Delargy) spoke with such ease, freedom, and conviction that I am sure many of us thought that he had often taken part in our Debates. May I most sincerely offer to him my warmest congratulations, and hope that he will not remain silent for so long again without joining in our discussions? May I also express my regret at the absence of the Foreign Secretary, who has taken such a very keen interest in Palestine? He has had a very strenuous time over a long period of years, first as the Minister of Labour and National Service, and as a member of the War Cabinet, and then in the responsible office of Foreign Secretary. The right hon. Gentleman has probably had a more difficult task than any other Foreign Secretary has had for a long time. We wish him a speedy return to health, and will want to welcome him back once more into this Chamber.
We are meeting today at a sad and most depressing moment. Not only have we been deeply shocked by the murders, the inexcusable acts of terrorism, which 991 have been committed recently in Palestine, but there is at this moment a strained feeling between the people of this country and the great Jewish race, which is an even sadder thought. I wish all Jewish people would recall how much the British Government and the British people have endeavoured to assist them over the generations. We not only opened our shores to them, but opened every office to them. I know of no other country where a member of the Jewish race became the occupier of our most cherished position—Prime Minister. Jews have occupied the highest positions in law and on the Bench, and we are under a deep debt of gratitude to them for all they have done in art, culture, and science, and for what they have contributed to the well-being of the world.
I, myself, probably have a closer sympathy with them, because I belong to a small and minority nation. In our younger days, in our close adherence to our Sunday schools, I expect that we people of Wales knew the history of the Jewish race better than we knew our own. So, there is naturally imbedded in us a deep debt of gratitude for the great part that they have played, not only in the philosophy, but also in the religion, of the world. It is, therefore, a sad moment for me that there should be any breach of the good understanding there has been between the Government and peoples of this country and the Jewish race. Nothing that anyone can say can in any way mitigate the horror of, or lessen the condemnation for, the acts that have been committed recently by young, maybe old, but at any rate thoroughly irresponsible members of the Jewish race. But, at the same time, without condoning those acts, one cannot but have regard to certain events which have happened. This country was the first to suggest that there should be a possibility of a Jewish return to their ancient home of Palestine. I, myself, have had no doubt whatever, ever since it was issued, of the meaning that I attached to the wording of the Balfour Declaration. We all know that those words were most carefully chosen. They appeared above the name of one of the most honoured statesmen that this country has ever had, a Prime Minister in his day, and a Foreign Secretary under a coalition. It never occurred to me, at 992 any rate, that the word "home" could be applied to lodgings, I thought that it meant a place where the occupier was in charge—
§ Mr. Davies
I never thought that any other construction could be put upon it except the one which I have suggested. Moreover, there is not the slightest doubt that that was the construction that was put upon it when disputes arose, and the matter was again discussed in 1922. That is the interpretation which has been put upon it by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill), who is responsible for drafting the Declaration of 1922. A new hope was given to the Jewish people, a new hope of returning to the land with which they were so closely associated by their religion. With our help and assistance they have gone back until, today, they number over 600,000. They must also remember that we took upon ourselves the responsibility of protecting them, and that we did it when the United States of America was refusing to do it. She had the opportunity, and the request was made to her before we undertook to do it. We undertook to do if not only on our own behalf, but on behalf of all the United Nations which are at present in Paris to sign the Peace Treaty which is supposed to bring peace on earth.
We held the Mandate under international law, and the hope that we instilled in the Jews was a great hope. I have nothing but admiration for the way in which our people in Palestine, commissioners, civil servants, police and army, have carried out their difficult duties during the whole of the period. They have conducted themselves with tolerance, understanding, and patience. But the Governments of this country, from that time on, have not been without blame. Hope deferred certainly maketh the heart sick. There was comparative quiet until 1929, but then, unfortunately, outbreaks occurred from time to time, for which both the Jews and the Arabs were responsible.
Then we came to the period 1937, 1938 and 1939, to the Peel Commission and their Report. I agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Platting in that partition certainly does not appeal 993 to me. The hon. and gallant Member very rightly cited two bad instances of partition in America and in Ireland. As the Woodhead Commission promptly found out, partition, such as was suggested by the Peel Commission, was not possible. The suggestion that was put forward was one that really could not be carried out. What happened? There was the unilateral issue by the Government of this country of a White Paper which brought disappointment and disillusionment to Jews the world over. Unfortunately, I was unable to catch Mr. Speaker's eye on that occasion, but as far as I could, I registered my protest against that White Paper in the Lobby. I shall never forget the powerful speech made at that time by the right hon. Member for Woodford. I only wish that he had had the courage to come into the same Lobby with us to register his objection.
After that period of disappointment and disillusionment came the period of the war. The Members of the present Government—who at that time had not become the Government—in June, 1945, while we were still awaiting the decision, not only condemned the White Paper, but went further, and gave to the words of the Bal-four Declaration the definition that I myself have given—that "home" meant, eventually, control of affairs within that home, which meant a Jewish State. That was in June, 1945. The Government came into power a month later, and not a word was then said; now they say, "We are in power, and we propose to undertake the following measures with regard to Palestine."
If there is a minority feeling itself helpless at any time, losing its optimism, undoubtedly some of the hotheads will leave reason and resort to terrorism and underground movements. The hope of a minority is that the power of its own reasoning will succeed. Unfortunately, no hope came from the Government at that time. Every one of us welcomed, however, the effort they made to bring in America; we welcomed the fact that America came in, and that the Anglo-American Commission was formed, and set about its work. When that Commission reported, one expected that at any rate there would be a declaration somewhat similar to that which has been made today, on the lines that the Government of this country, for their part, would do 994 certain things; but unfortunately, all that was said was that the Government would consult with America and would do nothing until they had carried out those consultations—again deferring hope about what might happen.
There was, then, a speech which, to my mind, would have been better undelivered. The words that were used by the Foreign Secretary at the Bournemouth Conference were unworthy of the occasion and of the Foreign Secretary, and would have been better not uttered. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] They were insulting to the Jewish people, and it is not wise to insult anybody, still less a Jew. Never sneer at anybody. I was glad to hear the Lord President today, on behalf of the Government, dissociate the Government from a sneer that appeared in another communication. I have every sympathy with the people in Palestine who are at present responsible for the maintenance of law and order. One can well understand that they are deeply moved at the moment, but that does not justify anyone in using words which have only a sting and a sneer behind them. I am glad the Government have dissociated themselves from that.
There has been a vacillating policy for a great number of years. We are faced now with a new situation. I only wish that the Government had given us a longer opportunity of considering their proposals. I was amazed to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) say that these proposals were in the possession of, or actually in writing in, the Colonial Office as long ago as last autumn.
§ Mr. Stanley
I did not say exactly that. I said that this is no new scheme, and that there were papers on it in the Colonial Office last autumn.
§ Mr. Davies
Surely, if the Government were considering a scheme of this kind, the sooner they published it, the better for all concerned—Jews, Arabs, and the people in this country and in every country who are interested in these matters. We were presented this afternoon with a statement that was read by the Lord President of the Council. I do not complain in the slightest degree of the Lord President reading that statement—one sympathises very much with 995 him in being put in that position suddenly overnight—but a document which is to settle the fate of at least 600,000 Jews present now in Palestine, and 1,000,000 Arabs, is worthy of longer and quieter consideration than a rapid reading from the Government Front Bench. It puts each one of us under a disadvantage. What we want is peace in our time for all peoples. The Jews, for 2,000 years and in every country have suffered. The Jewish problem has been a problem for everyone and for every Government throughout those 2,000 years.
No people have ever suffered as these people have suffered, no people have had five-sixths of their number exterminated in five years as they have. It is time all the peoples and Governments of the world got together to put forward a solution which will put an end to all this misery, agony, and murder through which these people have passed during generation after generation. I do not know whether the solution which has been presented now will bring peace for the time being; I hope sincerely that it does, but at the best I should imagine that it would be only a very short-term policy. The best part of it that I heard was that the doors of Palestine are to be opened again and opened immediately to those Jews in Europe who have suffered so much and desire to go. One realises that there are the two problems concerning the suffering Jewish people who. still survive after all the horrors, and who are in Europe. I agree that as many of them as desire to remain in those countries where they were born and brought up should be encouraged to do so. They add to the proper wealth of the people amongst whom they are. I agree also that it might not be possible to accommodate them all under one State, but, at any rate, the hope that was given them in 1917 should not be closed down upon them in 1946. Those gates should be opened again. Whether the rest of the proposals will bring the benefits which have been suggested, I do not know; one needs further time and a further inquiry.
May I end with this comment? As I have said, this has been a problem which has worried every country over a long period. At one moment a country opens its gates and the next thing, in another generation, we hear that it has closed those gates and that there is a pogrom there 996 and murder and slaughter. The problem of Palestine is not a Jewish problem alone, it is not merely an Arab problem, and it certainly is not merely a British problem; it is a problem which concerns every country in the world, and I would ask this Government to bring the matter urgently before the United Nations now sitting. Let them put forward their suggestions for dealing with this, bringing in the Arab as well and saying to him, "If you will help us with regard to this, is there anything we, the rest of the world, can do to show our gratitude to you for coming in to help us to settle this long porblem that has lasted for two milleniums?" It is in that spirit that I would approach this matter, not reproaching anyone any further, but looking forward to a new future and a new hope for these amazing people wherever they may be.
§ 5.44 p.m.
§ Mr. G. Lang (Stalybridge and Hyde)
Neither in this Parliament nor in any other during the time that I have sat here, have I risen with a greater sense of anxiety and responsibility than I do now, to say something in this Debate. There are things which should be said and which must be said, but nobody would desire, I think, to add in any way to the difficulties of the present situation, either here in this House with His Majesty's Government, or in Palestine itself. We all sympathise with the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House in being called upon, among his many other duties, to undertake the presentation of the Government's case in the opening of this Debate, and I think responsibility must not be laid upon him for the fact that it was difficult for us to grasp what was actually being proposed with that clear detail we would wish.
When the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) was speaking, I felt that he made a very important point which I should like to reiterate at once, when he spoke of the distinguished positions held and the very great services rendered to the community in which we live, by members of the Jewish race. I go a step further than that and say that it is those instances which make me realise how much the whole world has lost by not having, in the last centuries, the focal point of this culture in the Jewish National Home 997 itself, to be directed once again to the world as it was thousands of years ago. These outstanding cases are indicative of the general thing, and who can say what great genius and what powerful contributions to our civilisation have been cut short in the appalling carnage to which the hon. and learned Gentleman so feelingly and so eloquently referred.
The loss in numbers is awful to think about, the suffering is indescribable, and the loss to the culture of the world is, I believe, incalculable. The time has come when we in this House must say clearly not only that justice must be done to the Jews, but that these outrages must not again be possible. There has never been before, and there will never be again, quite such an opportunity for this House to rise to all its possibilities, and make it an actuality that at long last these suffering people return to their own home.
If I may say so with great respect to the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the House, and to the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) who spoke with great care and moderation, I think the episode of General Barker's letter was passed over much too lightly. It will not do merely to talk about the intolerable conditions under which officers and men are acting. I agree about that, and greatly regret what has happened, and we all condemn with horror and emphasis the outrages that have taken place. I am certainly fully aware of the work which the British soldier has to do in all parts of the world. Even while I speak and plead for justice and the Jewish National Home I feel inclined to say at once, "For mercy's sake, let our own country's soldiers return from their trying task in Indonesia, Greece, and God knows where." I am not satisfied that there has always been the consideration for the British soldier that there ought to be, at home as well as abroad, but it will not do merely to say that letters such as General Barker's were written under great strain. If we are to have the vicious circle of intolerable circumstances producing wicked and criminal acts, and then those wicked and criminal acts are used as a sort of excuse, or reason for continuing the intolerable conditions, we shall never get anywhere at all. If a thing was right a month ago, the mere fact that some people have committed criminal acts between then and now does not make it 998 wrong now, and a very grave responsibility must lie upon those persons who have now had for a considerable time the unanimous report of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry and have not acted upon it. Are we again going to see the Report of the Commission which was set up brushed aside for another committee of experts? That is what I understand to be the position hurriedly outlined to this House this afternoon. It will not do, and I wish to register as emphatic a protest about that as I can.
May I now turn for one moment to this letter of General Barker's? It is one of the misfortunes of this Government— and I do not know whom to blame for it —that their beneficent activities and their general policy are very largely hamstrung outside this country by the maintenance of most reactionary people in key positions. How can it be expected that the Government can carry out their policy? This is a matter about which hon. Members on the other side of the House may be pleased, but, sitting on this side, I am not pleased about it, because I know that it exists. Take this letter of General Barker. I should like to know, and I hope an answer may be given to me presently, why it was sent. With great respect, I suggest that the letter is just vulgar anti-Semitism. I would like to know whether there is any connection between that attitude and the fact that the recent attack made upon Jerusalem took place upon the Jewish Sabbath day. Not a word was said about that by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon in outlining the case, although I regard it as one of the most deplorable things that has happened in our time. I remember the horror with which I read of the entry of Mussolini's barbarians into Albania on a Good Friday. I am not a Roman Catholic, and I am not a Jew, but I thought that was quite a dreadful act. I had exactly the same feeling on that Sunday when I heard what had happened on the previous day.
I would like to know whether that had been deliberately arranged and whether the loathing and contempt which General Barker so freely expresses in his letter inspired it. He is certainly not a man with a judicial mind, if the reports of his letter are accurate, and he ought not to assume the position of judging the rights 999 of the general mass of the Jewish population of Palestine. Anything more immoderate and injudicious than this letter, I can scarcely conceive, and I earnestly hope that somebody will deal with it on behalf of the Government.
I hesitate to offer advice to members of the legal profession, but it seems to me that there is a fair field in that letter, and in this extraordinary White Paper, to which the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery referred. He seemed to accept it with childlike innocence, but it gives these queer telegrams of some nine months ago, as serious evidence justifying the wholesale arrest of some of the most moderate members of the Jewish community, and friends of this Government and of this country. Most of the friends and members in Palestine of the party to which I belong, are now in concentration camps while representatives of the party opposite are still free. I hope we shall hear a little more about this White Paper. I am not a lawyer, and I cannot, of course, say how much of this paper would be of the slightest value in a law court, but I know that in the long ago and happy years when I was a boy, I used to get a weekly publication called "Sexton Blake," and that it was a penny and was rather better written and almost as exciting as this "twopenny-plain" White Paper. I hope that we shall have something more than just a quick passing over of this justification for wholesale arrests.
It is time that the House was given some reason for the incarceration of the people who were protesting against violent activities. I hope we shall hear from the Minister who is to reply, something more about this letter of General Barker. I am not the only hon. Member who has received from men in the Army in Palestine letters of protest, or more often of plain inquiry, asking what the attitude is at home towards the Jews, because they have been told that there is now, definitely, a note of anti-Semitism in official propaganda. We had better face these facts. I should like to hear something more about them. I was thoroughly glad that my right hon. Friend dissociated the Government from this letter, but I hope we shall have something much stronger than that. I should like to know whether it was this gentleman's idea of loathing and contempt of 1000 the Jews which led him to launch the attack recently on the Sabbath day and to order the arrest and transport of aged rabbis, as was done.
The people in Palestine were among many, at home and abroad, who were full of great new hope, after the General Election. They felt that now there had come into power a Government of freedom and humanity that would not carry on the stupid tradition of saying that what was done by higher authority must be right, and that there must never be any advance. I am sorry that, in some ways, those people have been greviously disappointed, and I hope that their questions will be answered. I hope that the matter will be dealt with adequately by later speakers who know exactly what the Jewish reaction to all these things is. Once again, if my poor words can have effect, I would re-emphasise what the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery has so eloquently stated. The sufferings that we have witnessed in our time, and which have been visited upon the Jewish people, are not only a crime that calls for justice, but they are apt to make us hardened to these things. Our capacity for tragedy is becoming blunted. Tragedy is becoming so usual, that it no longer makes us indignant and anxious to put things right.
I would like here to recall the fine phrase which was used by the Leader of the House in 1938, in an article he wrote in the newspaper "Forward." He said:The words of one of our Socialist Zionist leaders are that the countries of the world are being divided into two categories: those which Jews are forbidden to enter, and those in which they find it impossible to live.My right hon. Friend thus proved himself a true prophet, because that is the position today. I hope that the Government will use its tremendous opportunities to end once and for all that situation. I hope that we shall have some definite statement about the plan mentioned by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery. That plan, or a substantial part of a fraternisation plan, was known to the Colonial Office a long time ago. The present position simply gives rise to suspicion and anxiety, and it is important that they should be immediately allayed. As one who is not a member of the Jewish race but who is just—God help me!— attempting to be a practising Christian, I believe that it is the Divine Will of Almighty God that Palestine should be 1001 the national home of the Jewish people. The more I become convinced of that, the more ephemeral and evanescent the present situation seems. It will be a fatal thing if we attempt to put ourselves in the path of what I believe is a Divine Ordinance and Decree.
I know, and I regret it, that it is not now fashionable to talk of these things here. There was a time, as I have read with pleasure and longing, when matters of deep moral conviction could be voiced in this House, and when hon. Members were not afraid to quote Scripture to one another, in endeavouring to base their case upon the Scriptures. Fashions no doubt change, but fundamental things do not. Eternal values do not. I am certain that there will be no permanent peace in this world and no real prosperity for humanity until right things are done, and one of those right things is that the Jewish people shall, once again, return with songs to their own land and be domiciled there. For so long they have had no land of their own, and no rest for the soul of their people. They have borne for many of us the brunt of the misery, cruelty and infamy of man, and, despite that, so often in their tragic history they have had from the people they helped far more kicks than halfpence. Yet they have still come to their aid, as they did to ours during the last war, and as they would come to our aid again. Let nothing of the dreadful acts of violence which have taken place cause us to lose our sense of proportion. This is a great and fundamental matter. This is a crying aloud for real justice. There is an opportunity for the reassertion in this House, in this country and in the world of a great spiritual truth. I hope and pray that this Government will have the courage to take this decision, and to grant the Jewish people their rightful place.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I find myself in a little difficulty in taking up the argument of the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Lang). I must mention one or two things which he said. There is the matter of General Barker's letter. The hon. Gentleman seemed to consider it a fit moment in which to liken the procedure taken by British troops to that taken by Mussolini on a Good Friday in Albania. There is 1002 one great thing the hon. Gentleman left out. Mussolini was committing an act of aggression, and these troops in Palestine were doing their level best to restore law and order. It seems to me rather astonishing that we should have anybody in this House even mentioning the conduct of British troops in the same light as the conduct of Mussolini—
§ Mr. Lang
I am sure that the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not want to misrepresent what I said. The only point I made was about the date, saying that as I myself was tremendously moved with indignation when Mussolini's gang went in on a Good Friday, so I was equally moved when our troops moved on the Jewish Sabbath. It was the date I was referring to.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I am quite prepared to accept the hon. Gentleman's argument, except that I would add that it was highly unfortunate that he should use that particular example—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] The hon. Member mentioned General Barker's letter in some detail. It was with great horror that I heard the Lord President imply today that the Government were not entirely behind General Barker. If, as the right hon. Gentleman said, it is necessary for the C.I.G.S. to look into the matter before a final decision can be come to, then it seems to me that it is definitely an obligation on His Majesty's Government to back General Barker until the C.I.G.S. has made up his mind. Making a statement like that is merely going to undermine the authority of British troops in Palestine—
§ Mr. Mack (Newcastle-under-Lyme)
Mr. Deputy-Speaker, may I ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman a question?
§ Major Legge-Bourke
The Lord President of the Council has said that the C.I.G.S. will investigate it. Personally I am prepared to allow the C.I.G.S. to do that and then make up my mind rather than attempt to forestall the C.I.G.S. and make comments upon this. We all agree that British troops in Palestine are faced with a very terrible and grievous problem and it is our earnest desire that that problem should be solved as quickly as possible. But they have had to put up with some rather strange things. Not so long ago the Prime Minister told us about the terrible events at the King David. After he had made that statement, I saw fit to draw his attention to a report which had appeared in "The Jewish Standard" of 12th July of the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman). I apologised afterwards to the hon. Member for East Coventry for not having given him previous warning that I was going to do so. I would have done so if I had had the opportunity.
That statement is one of great importance because of the effect which it had. It is very important that we should look into the effect these things have had rather than the actual content of them. In the same way we should look on the effect of promises which have been made on the matter of Palestine rather than on the actual contents of them. It seems to me rather important that the hon. Member for East Coventry should know that in ''The Scotsman" of 8th July, the following appeared. It was a report from the "Daily Telegraph—Scotsman" correspondent, T. S. Steele, in Jerusalem on the Sunday before. It reports a statement made over the "Voice of Israel"—"Kol Israel." It finishes up by quoting the statement:We cannot promise Mr. Crossman (Labour M P. for Coventry and a member of the Anglo-American Commission of Inquiry on Palestine), that we will use only passive resistance. We shall use all the means at our disposal at the time we choose.When I raised that matter about the hon. Member for East Coventry, it seemed that he should be given an opportunity to explain it. [Interruption.] I am quite prepared to accept his word that he never made the statement which he was reported 1004 as having made in the "Jewish Standard" of 12th July.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
It might be shorter if I said that I never stated the thing, and I was preparing to make a personal statement, as the hon. Member well knows.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I fully appreciate what the hon. Member has said. It is because he may perhaps desire to make a further explanation after he has heard what I have to say that I am saying this now—
§ Mr. Crossman
The hon. and gallant Member was fully aware before this Debate started that I intended to make a personal statement on this issue, and it is quite gratuitous for him to continue as if he did not know.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
The hon. Member will, I hope, have the good fortune to catch your eye later on, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. What is most important is that although I respect the honour and feelings of the hon. Member opposite, there is something which is far more important at the present time—that is, the reaction which anything that takes place in this House is going to have amongst British troops in Palestine. For that reason it is only right that I should draw attention to the effect of that statement, but I will not read it again. I am perfectly prepared to accept what the hon Member said about it. What I say is that if "Kol Israel" reacted to the hon. Gentleman's speech in the way they did—in fact they referred to him and said that they could not adopt passive resistance—it seems very hard for the hon. Member to explain how it comes about that there is that impression in Palestine if he did not make a speech recommending passive resistance. It surely is utterly wrong for any hon. Member of this House or, indeed, any British citizen, to go out and advise any people to adopt passive resistance against British troops.
§ Hon. Members: Why not?1005
§ Major Legge-Bourke
The word "resistance" is what I object to; not so much whether it is passive or violent. Surely, no hon. Member, inside this House or outside, should issue any statement like that?
I do not want to go on with this, although I believe behind it will be seen that there is a constructive line, in that I earnestly pray and hope that British troops in Palestine will be able to restore law and order very soon. That, it seems to me, is the greatest tragedy at the moment; a tragedy which is storing up vast potentialities of danger in the future. I am thankful that today the Government intend to take action. What I cannot agree with is the solution which they seem to be considering. I listened with the greatest interest to what the Lord President had to say this afternoon, and I found myself in entire agreement with the comments of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley).
§ Major Legge-Bourke
I deeply regret the fact that we have not had time to consider this in a White Paper before we debated it. We should have had the White Paper to study at great length and in detail, but we must take it as we find it. My own immediate reactions to the scheme put forward are, first of all, that it errs fundamentally in the fact that in the provinces to be set up there will be a minority of the population other than that ruling the province. That is the beginning of trouble, and whether we have partition or provinces it seems to me that if you put Jews or Arabs in command in any area in Palestine, with the opposite race in that area, it will be extremely difficult ever to achieve very much success.
Also, it is absolutely essential to any successful outcome of this settlement that immigration is divorced utterly from any land settlement. I do not believe that we can implement the report of the Anglo-American Committee at the present time. As hon. Members know, it heard a great deal of very valuable evidence, and I think it has served a very useful purpose. I will go so far as to say that I agree with a great many things in it. In fact, I disagree with only three things in it, and one is the 100,000 Jews. We cannot allow 100,000 Jews in according to the line of 1006 the Report. Furthermore, it seems to me that some hon. Gentlemen opposite, and particularly supporters of the Jews, have given the impression in the world that the recommendation of that Report was that 100,000 Jews should go into Palestine straightaway. That is an unfortunate impression because it has raised false hopes, and is far from being the truth of the matter in the Report as I understand it. I would have thought it better if the right hon. Gentleman had said today, "We will get agreement outside Palestine as to who takes the Jews. We will not send another Jew to Palestine until we have done that." If we had done that, then conceivably we might have produced a different reaction in the Arab world from what there has ever been before. The one thing which the Arab cannot understand is why he should be made to take Jews when nobody else will take them, and I am certain we shall never make the Arabs agree that, until we show, first of all, that we have it cut and dried that we will take so many, and America and the Empire and the Commonwealth—let them all come in, if they will.
I have come to the conclusion that we must make some sacrifice in this matter. We are short of houses in this country, but I believe the time has come when Great Britain has to face this issue. Have we the face to ask the Arabs to take in more Jews, if they dispute the immigration, if we are not prepared to take in some? I am perfectly prepared to welcome some. Let us take as many as we possibly can in our present plight of housing, but let us say also that we will ask the four corners of the earth, if need be, to join us in trying to find other homes for them. Until we do that, I do not believe we shall ever get the Arabs to work in with the administration of Palestine.
I have spoken too long and I apologise to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, and to the House. In conclusion, may I say that during this war I spent quite a time in Palestine—a long session to begin with, and on and off after that. It is a country which at once inspires any person who visits it, and a country which one cannot help loving in one way or another. I love it for rather the same reason as the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde. I believe other right hon. Members love it for a different reason but, whatever it be, that land was called a Holy Land, and pray God, we keep it so.
§ 6.18 p.m.
Mr. Grossman (Coventry, East)
I want first to deal with the statement made by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) with regard to myself. He raised this matter first in a supplementary question to the Prime Minister. I am not a regular reader of "The Jewish Standard," and at that time I had not read the article in question. However, outside this Chamber I told the hon. and gallant Gentleman that I had not made the statement, and I am therefore somewhat surprised, since he is so strong in his feeling that the spreading of this statement would be dangerous in Palestine, that he has repeated it all over again this afternoon, despite my personal assurance to him that it was a gross perversion of anything I had said. I feel that party propaganda may be more powerful sometimes than the interests and good of our troops in Palestine.
I feel it is necessary, therefore, that I should make a full statement. I have looked at the paper, of which I now have a copy, and I want to say emphatically that I never said, and never could have said, the words attributed to me, in which I was alleged to advise the Jews of Palestine to go underground and to oppose an airborne division by all means other than violence. It would be strange to advise 600,000 Jews to go underground, and oppose an airborne division, and I think I can safely assure the House that that was not what I said and that the reporter—I regret I have to say this of a journalist—must have been someone who knew Hebrew better than English.
The whole burden of the speech which I made on that occasion at St. Pancras, as hon. Members who were present will confirm, was a very strong appeal to the Jews of this country to use all the influence they conceivably could at this time of crisis to prevent violence in any form or resistance to the British troops, whatever provocation the Jews of Palestine may have felt. That was the purpose of that meeting; the purpose which every speaker, including myself, carried out to the letter. I hope that that deals with the matter finally. I will give way, if the hon. and gallant Member wishes to withdraw.
Let me deal with the crisis of Palestine in three parts. I want to deal with the 1008 immediate crisis, the Government's federal plan, and the general problem of the Middle East. The last time we debated the question on the Adjournment, we raised this matter because in our view, to use my own words in that Debate:That the course of policy adopted by His Majesty's Government will not stop, but precipitate, violence."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Monday, 1st July, 1946; Vol. 424, c. 1883.]In that Debate, I used two arguments in support of that view. I suggested that as far as I knew the situation there, it was almost certain that the British would arrest everybody except the real terrorists. I suggested, further, that they would lock up the moderates whose influence would be absolutely essential to prevent acts of violence in Palestine. Thirdly, I suggested that resistance cannot be broken by pure repression. I believe that what I said on that occasion has been lamentably, and tragically, confirmed by events. It has been confirmed indeed, that among the 3,000 Jews locked up without charge, the active members of the Irgun were not to be found. All the elements who could have cooperated with the authorities, who could possibly have restrained the Irgun from acts of lunacy, were put into prison camps and could have no influence against such action. Since that day four and a half British divisions have been in action against 5,0,00 terrorists. It is indeed like searching for a needle in a haystack— this house to house search by British soldiers who do not know the language of the Jews, and who are given lists of names of Jews translated into English. It is highly unlikely that more than a small percentage of the terrorists will be found by the methods which are now being adopted in Tel-Aviv.
I wish to refer to one or two of the statements of the Lord President of the Council in regard to the relationship of the Hagana and the Irgun. He stated, and I think he was quite right, that after the murder of Lord Moyne there was cooperation between the Hagana and the Agency on one side, and the British authorities on the other, to find out the people behind the plot. No less than 25 Jews in Egypt who had taken part in the plotting of the murder of Lord Moyne were handed over to the British authorities by their fellow Jews of the Hagana. He should have added that long before 1009 the murder, indeed ever since the founding of the Irgun and its breakaway from the Hagana in 1938, the Hagana had cooperated with the British in checking on Jewish terrorism. I would like to ask whether it is not in the Colonial Secretary's knowledge that more than 1,000 men, members of the Irgun, have been handed over to the British police authorities in Palestine by the Jewish Agency and the Hagana in the course of that period. There was a prolonged and steady cooperation between the Jewish illegal army and the legal Intelligence of the British Army. Strange things have happened in Palestine, and no one should be shocked by that strange relationship. It happens in relation to the Arab side as well.
I think it was 12 months ago that the Hagana came to the police authorities in Jerusalem and told them that the Irgun had developed a new rocket weapon for shooting at the King David Hotel. The pipes, from which the rockets were to be shot, were placed in a field 400 to 500 yards from the King David Hotel in a position so deep in the earth that they could not be seen. It was thought that there were two bombs there. The British police, I believe, sent out mine detectors, but failed to find the bombs with mine detectors. They came back to the Hagana and asked for more accurate information. The Hagana thereon, with great risk to themselves, kidnapped a member of the Irgun and extracted from him—by means which I cannot indicate, as I do not know them—the precise location of one of these things. With the British, they discovered the thing, and took it to pieces. I am told that the British G.O.C. admired the mechanical ingenuity of the instrument. That particular outrage was in fact prevented owing to the assistance given to the British by the Hagana intelligence service. I am putting these things forward for check. I do not know whether they are wholly true.
I am also told that on no less than three occasions since the discovery of the V3, as the rockets were nicknamed, the Hagana intelligence have warned, and repeated their warning to the British security that the King David Hotel would, one day, have an assault from the inside, and that better security should be employed by the police and military there. All these warnings were disregarded at a 1010 moment when all the Hagana were locked up, and the terrorists of the Irgun were given a free hand. No further security was imposed on the King David Hotel, and the kitchens and night club were left inadequately guarded. In considering the responsibility for this terrible outrage, part of it, at least, must rest with those concerned with security. It is time one said this. A partial responsibility rests on anyone who knows the King David Hotel and left it, in this time of crisis, in this unguarded condition.
Let me return to the Government White Paper on the subject of collaboration between the Agency, the Hagana, and the Irgun. I have described the intimate relation between the Hagana Intelligence Service and the British authorities. Indeed, one might say that the British C.I.D. regularly reckoned to set a Jew to catch a Jew, as Arabs were set to catch Arabs. In the autumn of last year came the fatal decision—I described it as fatal every time I spoke of it to the Jews —that it was futile to continue collaboration with us against the terrorists. It was a criminal thing to say, but my own view is that it was impossible at that time, and that that was literally true. The men of the Hagana were despairing of the situation in Europe, and convinced, rightly or wrongly, that the Labour Government were not carrying out their pledges. In those months, none of them was prepared to go on kidnapping further members of the Irgun. The strain, and lack of confidence, had reached a point where this extremely delicate and unpleasant operation, in the best of circumstances, was literally impossible. The men were not prepared to carry out an arrest. But this does not excuse the political leaders who publicly stated the futility of doing so. At that time they should not make such statements, as though they positively approved of being unable to collaborate.
There was at that time an appalling problem facing the Agency. Before the House makes up its mind that the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) is correct in saying that the case against them is proved, should understand the problem that was being faced. As the White Paper states, there were members of the Agency who wanted to keep their hands clean, and not touch the Irgun, unless the British would back them up.
1011 There were obviously others who said, "If you do that, they will blow up the King David Hotel and commit all sorts of appalling outrages, and our men will not be there to check them." It was an impossible dilemma with which the Agency was faced. If they broke the contact which had existed for years with the illegal organisations in Palestine, they knew that the Irgun would go ahead and do the appalling and atrocious deeds of which the men of that particular organisation are capable, men who, as my right hon. Friend has said, have had the poison of National Socialism soaked into them, which has turned them into what is indistinguishable from Fascists. That was, I believe, the battle which was fought out in Telegram 5: "Shall we keep our hands clean or shall we attempt to prevent the Irgun's operations against human life, and attempt to limit them to blowing up railway bridges and other lesser outrages which do not take such a toll of human life." That might appear to some of us to be a fine distinction, but in Palestine it is a real one. Rightly or wrongly, certain members of the Agency regarded it as their duty to try to keep in check the terrorists with whom they had contacts. They thought it would be wiser to—
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am not sure whether the hon. Member meant to be as ambiguous as he was in his last two sentences. Is he stating what he knows, or indicating an inference from the correspondence?
§ Mr. Crossman
I am obliged to the hon. Member. I was indicating an inference from Telegram 5. I conclude from Telegram 5 that it illustrates this conflict of view; one group is saying one thing, and another is arguing a plan which would limit the loss of life. I do not intend to judge who was right or wrong. But I say that the problem which faced them was very difficult. Before they are condemned as criminals, it must be admitted that the only motive the Government have proved in the White Paper, for Agency collaboration with the Irgun and the Stern gang is to prevent loss of life and atrocious crimes. That is the only thing those people were doing. I do not defend the decision to cooperate, but I say that we have to understand it before we say that these men are pariahs and must be condemned.
1012 There is one other point. We have now locked up all the leaders of the Left in Palestine—the trade union leaders, the cooperative leaders and the leaders of the Hagana. Simultaneously, we are demanding the cooperation of the Jewish people in the extermination of terrorism. But a people can only cooperate through its leaders. We can, if we wish, try to smash the terrorists on our own, without Jewish cooperation, as we are attempting to do at the moment. But no one can expect people to cooperate with them when those people are being arrested in the streets and their homes are being searched house by house. If we wish to have cooperation, we must permit the Jews to have leaders whom the people trust with whom we can cooperate. I believe that the Government have still to make up their mind whether they are determined to smash terrorism by the present method—excluding the cooperation of the Jewish people—or whether they wish to have their cooperation. In the latter case they should release from prison the men with whom they will have to cooperate, because the Jews recognise them as their legitimate and elected leaders.
Palestine is a land with a history of violence. We cannot judge it by the standards of law and order of this country. We are in consultation with the members of the Arab Higher Committee, every one of whom has crimes of violence on his' conscience, extending over no fewer than the three years of Arab revolt. If I had been speaking in this House at that time, I hope that I would have given the same advice to the Government about the Arab resistance movement as I am now giving about the Jewish resistance movement. We must make up our minds whether we intend to smash resistance to smithereens without the cooperation of the Jews. If we want cooperation we cannot say that anyone whose hands have in any way been sullied by any contact with violence must be excluded. If we said that we should exclude all the best leadership in Palestine. It is all tough and determined, and not too constitutional. On neither side, Arab or Jew, is there much leadership which is not prepared to do these things when it comes to the worst.
Very wisely, the Government have taken the view that it will be unwise to 1013 seize the Mufti of Jerusalem and put him on trial. I believe that they were quite right in that decision. It would have turned him into a martyr. But if that applies to the Mufti, who, goodness knows, has crimes on his conscience, not merely of violence but of active cooperation with Hitler, how much more does it apply to Jewish leaders who throughout the war. as it is not denied, actively stood by us, who actively aided us in this difficult job of dealing with the Irgun, and then certainly made one political mistake? Is it not the better way to let bygones be bygones, as the Lord President said, and if we are to let Arabs of the Mufti type not be tried not to act differently towards the Jews whom we have imprisoned indefinitely without trial? One thing is certain: If the four members of the Agency who controlled the Hagana are put on trial, it will be a magnificent demonstration for Jewish extremism and fanaticism. Whether they are condemned or not, it will make no difference to the effect on the Jewish mind.
But if they are not to be tried, how can we know that they are guilty? If they should not be allowed the right to defend themselves, to tell their side of the story of the C.I.D. in Palestine—and if a quarter of what their friends say is true, there is another and interesting story about the contact of British officers with the Irgun during and after the war— where are democracy and justice? I suggest that it would be unwise to put them on trial, or to detain them for an indefinite time. It would be far wiser to call upon the Jewish Agency now to cooperate in suppressing terrorism, to release these men on condition that they come out and do again the job they did for years, and reverse the lamentable mistake of a few months ago.
May I turn to General Barker? I am not so much concerned with him as with anti-Semitism. I was a little shocked at the roars of applause on the Benches opposite when the right hon. Member for West Bristol defended General Barker from the point of view that there was a great strain in Palestine, and that little errors of tact must be explained or excused. When one's troops are doing a military operation against the Jewish people, the danger of anti-Semitism is extraordinarily high. The natural instinct is to dislike the race or people one is 1014 fighting. There is an inclination rather to have it out with the Jewish community than to limit one's hatred to terrorism. This is a natural inclination, and it is all-important that the men at the top should give no sign of countenance, by word or praise, to support anti-Semitism. They should not officially give those under their command the feeling that it will not be ruthlessly penalised.
We are living in a strange world. I spent 120 days meeting and talking with Jews and others in Palestine, and elsewhere. I became aware of the deep unconscious anti-Semitism which there is in us, a virus, a poison which has been put into us by Hitler. I became more aware of it last Monday, when I listened to a moving Debate on Germany, in which I heard hon. Members advocating that Habeas Corpus must be given back to S.S. men; that it was impossible, as two hon. Members said, to indict a whole people. One even said that to indict an organisation was impossible. One Member said, "After all, liberty means liberty to be a Nazi." Those are sound sentiments. But I thought it a monstrous irony that a year after the war has finished hon. Members are making speeches forgiving the nation which killed six million Jews and pleading from all sides of the House that we should be fair to the Germans at a moment when they are condoning the removal of Habeas Corpus altogether in Palestine. There has not been a right to Habeas Corpus for any Jew or Arab in Palestine since the emergency regulations were introduced. They have been living under a more ruthless form of dictatorship in Palestine than the people living in the control division of Germany or Austria.
§ Mr. Paget (Northampton)
The hon. Member has referred to what I said in another Debate. I would like to make it quite clear that I have not condoned the removal of Habeas Corpus in Palestine. I disapprove of the imprisonment of Jews or Germans or anybody else.
§ Mr. Crossman
I am very grateful to the hon. Member. He is, I am sure, one of the logical people who does not extend to the ex-enemy, better conditions than he would extend to the ex-enemy's victims in Palestine. I indicated that there was an unfortunate tendency at the 1015 moment on the other side of this House to condone General Barker for his indictment of a community, of a race, for the sins of 5,000 terrorists three weeks after the High Commissioner had stated expressly that this military operation was directed for the benefit of the Jewish community and against the terrorists only. Such, in three weeks, was the decline from no anti-Semitism, to anti-Semitism. I hope the Government will do something more than merely dissociate themselves from that statement. I hope the Government will make it overwhelmingly clear that we are determined not to wipe out the Zionist Movement, not to liquidate the Jewish Agency, as is suspected by every Jew in Palestine, but that we are determined only to wipe out the terrorists for the sake of the Jewish people and that we will not condone any anti-Semitism, whether it comes from a private soldier or from a general. Anti-Semitism is bad not only for the Jews but for us. Why I hate this war in Palestine is because of the bad effect it is having on our own troops. I have had letters which are openly anti-Semitic in sentiment—"Why can't we wipe out the Jews?" It is a terrible thing. We should not assist the prevention of it by condoning General Barker's unfortunate letter to his officers.
I will now say one or two words on the federal solution. When we were in Jerusalem I became convinced, rightly or wrongly, that there were only two possible alternatives for Palestine—a unitary solution or partition. I discussed this at great length with my colleagues on the Committee. They agreed with me, in view of what I said, that if the time came when it was suitable, I should be allowed to tell this part of the story. I agreed with my colleagues that partition was a counsel of despair, but I was despairing in Jerusalem. I was pessimistic, foreseeing what has happened. I was, therefore, one of the people who advocated partition during our private conversations. But I was finally convinced that one could not come back and report to the British and American Governments the counsel of despair which was in my mind, and that we must have one more try at a unitary solution. We must try to go back to 1938, before the White Paper, and that is what we reported the Government should do. They should rescind the 1016 White Paper and go back to the old Mandate as it really was.
I still believe that if our Report had been acted on immediately, a great chance might have come off. I still believe it was rightly calculated, though I know the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol suspects me on this point. I still believe it was calculated in such a way that it was just tolerable for the Arabs, and it was sufficient to prevent the rising tide of violence among the Jews. I believe a quick acceptance in principle would have prevented all the horror in the King David Hotel and all the horror of Tel-Aviv today. But it is no good crying over spilled milk, or rather spilled blood.
I must say that, two months later, that unitary solution is, to my mind, out of the question. I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol. The document we wrote is dead—dead because events have gone beyond it, because relations have got so bad not only between Jews and Arabs but, much more serious, between them and us. After all, a unitary solution depends upon good relations between the British Mandatory and the other two. I noticed much talk today about getting Jews and Arabs to love each other. Let us never forget the people they hate most of all are our troops and police. The confidence in us must be restored. I believe it can never be restored among the Jews after the events of the last six weeks and that the unitary solution must be finally abandoned. My instinct would have been to move from it with a jump to partition. But all that the Lord President said impressed me a great deal about the difficulty of jumping, with a sudden leap, from a unitary Mandate into partition. Anyway, the sudden leap would have to take two or three years. If therefore I can regard this federal scheme now propounded as the transitory stage between the present unitary Mandate and two separate States, I can accept it as a practical scheme. But —and here comes the but—I notice already that the police are to be retained by the Central Government. If the police are retained by the Central Government, in the present state of Palestine, the hate of the police will continue. There are 18,000 policemen in Palestine, and the police barracks are the fortresses which dominate the country. That dominance 1017 of the country symbolises the continuance of a police State. Under federal police what hope can Jew or Arab have that this plan is genuine?
I beg the Government to realise that if this federal scheme is to work, it will work because we give to the two Provinces something that we do not want to give them. If we give them what we do not care about, they do not value it. We have to take a risk with the Jews and the Arabs to make them believe we are going towards emancipation and not going to try and keep a domination of the British for ever in Palestine. Let them try to run the police for themselves. Why should the British people go as "Black and Tans" to Palestine and do this lamentable job? Let the Jews and Arabs do their own work. We shall have our troops there anyway. Let the Jews and Arabs have their own police to work out that part of the peace for themselves.
The test of the present scheme is the confidence we instil in the Jews and Arabs that we are being honest. There is, through the Middle East, a conviction that we are staying in Palestine, not to look after Jews and Arabs, not to conduct a Mandatory obligation, but because we have cleared our troops out of Egypt, and want to put them somewhere else. Every Jew and every Arab in Palestine will say, "If there were good reasons for the British troops going out of Egypt because the Egyptians did not want them, why on earth should we have the troops when we don't want them?" Everybody will suspect in Palestine that the federal scheme is designed to play off Jew against Arab, to ensure that we are there for ever, so that we can have the barracks at Gaza and the headquarters at Ramleh. If that is the conviction we are leaving in their minds, there is no hope of peace in Palestine. Every Arab will continue his struggle for Arab independence and every Jew will hate the police who have done to him the things which have been done in the last six weeks. There will be no peace. There will be a continuation of the situation in which four and a-half divisions have to be used to keep down a country smaller than Wales.
How are we going to give them something which is not in the Lord President's statement? How are we going to give them a proof that we mean to get out? I 1018 suggest to the Government, and I would like an answer, that there should be a time limit. We should say that we propose to run this federal system for a certain period, five, seven, or 10 years, and after that it will be their federation or their partition, but we are not staying "for keeps." If that is promised, of course, we can go in under a treaty of alliance and our troops could stay there afterwards, but, unless we can get them to realise that we are not holding Palestine simply as a military base, and that all our moralising about Jews and Arabs is not merely the excuse for a military base, there will be no military base, because it is an untenable military base as long as both Jews and Arabs detest us. Imagine if war comes tomorrow and we have to call on the Hagana again to help us, as we did after the last war. How can Palestine be a military base when both Jews and Arabs detest the autocracy of British military rule?
§ Brigadier Low (Blackpool, North)
Will the hon. Member make it quite clear whether he wants a military base or not?
§ Mr. Crossman
That is a perfectly fair question, and the answer is that I am not a strategist. If the Government want a military base, they should say openly to Jews and Arabs, when it comes to the question of independence, that we should like to negotiate a treaty and would like to have this concession in the treaty. The argument used by the Government about Egypt must also apply to Palestine.
That brings me to my last point. I believe that the same thing applies to the whole of the Middle East. Palestine is only part of the problem. We should be prepared to say to the world that, within a given number of years, we are going to give up our unilateral military responsibility for holding this vital line of communications, and put the matter before U.N.O. There a scheme should be worked out, in which we would participate, for a joint sharing of that responsibility, not only with America and the adjacent Arab States, but also with Russia. If that happened I believe it would be an essential step to the peace of the Middle East, and it is to that final end that we should go forward.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
This is the first occasion on which I have spoken in this House on this subject since the publication of the Report which we all signed, and I do not propose to spend much time, if the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) will forgive me, in following the arguments which he has just adduced, but I would like to make this quite clear. So far as his interesting account of the relationship between Haganah and the Irgun is concerned, no evidence with regard to that and to the effect which the hon. Member stated, was given before members of the Committee. I hope I misheard the hon. Member about this, and, if I did, I hope he will correct it, but he did seem to me to cast some responsibility for the outrage concerning the King David Hotel upon those responsible for the security measures in that neighbourhood.
§ Mr. Crossman
I was putting the responsibility on them for permitting the Irgun to enter the hotel—not for causing the outrage, but for permitting it to occur.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
When the hon. Member looks at the words he uttered in HANSARD tomorrow, he will probably be grateful to me for giving him the opportunity to make that quite clear. Thirdly, so far as the appeal for release now of members of the Jewish Agency is concerned, I part company with him entirely upon that, and upon the ingenious interpretation which he has given to the telegrams set out in the White Paper. I do not want to take up time over these matters, and I think it would be unfortunate if when we are having to discuss the whole future of Palestine, too much time is taken up in discussing the letter written by General Barker.
I make no claim to speak on this subject as an expert. Many of us in this House have studied this problem for many years, and some hon. Members have a long acquaintanceship with conditions in that country. I have not been there for very long, nor have I studied the problem for very long, and I do not commit anyone by what I say, nor do I speak for any of my colleagues on the Committee, but I do maintain that a report written, as it was, in a very considerable hurry, after hearing masses of evidence in many parts of the world, and 1020 without the literary merits of the Peel Report, whose authors were fortunate in having much more time at their disposal, none the less did point the way to the restoration of peace in Palestine. We signed that Report on 20th April, and the fact that we -all signed it should not be lightly disregarded. As to whether events subsequent to that date have made all our recommendations capable of fulfilment or not, and, in particular, the recommendation as to the 100,000, I shall have something to say later on. but it is right to say that we carefully examined each proposal that was put before us— partition, federation, cantonisation, and the rest. The hon. Gentleman was not quite accurate when he said that our objection to the partition solution was because we felt that we could not come forward with the same recommendation as the Peel Report, which had been turned clown. The hon. Gentleman implied that—
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I think the hon. Gentleman went a little further than that in indicating the reasons for our rejection. Looking back on it now, I regret that we did not set out more fully in that Report the good and sufficient reasons, as I think, for rejecting these solutions. I do not want to delve deeply into past history, but, if a solution is to be found, I think two things must be constantly remembered. The first is that, ever since the Balfour Declaration came out, there has been a steady and sometimes rapid growth of Jewish nationalist feeling. Since 1942, we have had the creation of a Jewish State adopted as part of the official Zionist programme, and Nazi oppression has increased the belief that only in a land ruled by Jews can they live without fear, in freedom and security. Now, such is the intensity of nationalist feeling and the effect of propaganda, that most of the Jews in Palestine, and, I think, most in America, and, certainly, a considerable number here, appear to hold the firm belief, that, if Palestine does not become a Jewish State, Great Britain will be guilty of a breach of faith, though a Jewish State has never, in fact, been promised. That, on the one side, is one factor of the situation which must always be remembered.
1021 The other is that, from Easter Day of 1920 until the outbreak of the war, the history of Palestine has largely been that of outbreaks of Arab violence, due, from the first, to fear of political and economic subjection to the Jews. The Arabs want to go on living in that thickly populated land which their own forefathers have occupied and cultivated for hundreds of years, and theirs is the feeling which every Welshman, Scotsman, Englishman and American would have if he was told that hundreds of thousands of another nationality were going to settle in what he regarded as his own country and convert it into an alien State.
That was the problem which we and the Committee had to face, and it is the problem which this House has to face. How are these deeply held and conflicting views to be reconciled—the Jewish view that Palestine is Eretz Israel, their acknowledged, and, according to them, their promised land; the Arabs regarding it as the land of their forefathers, of which they cannot, rightfully, be dispossessed? I believe that, if we consider these two angles, we arrive at the position by which any solution of the Palestine problem must be judged. There are really two tests. The first is, To what extent will the proposed solution bring about a reconciliation, and make it possible for Jew and Arab to live together, or side by side, in friendship, and so bring peace to Palestine? The other test is, Is the solution a final one, or is it going to leave the door open for further pressure to be put upon the mandatory or trustee, for further violence, in the hope of gaining some advantage? That, perhaps, is as important a test as the first I mentioned, and any solution that is put forward should be judged by those two tests.
The possible solutions are, of course, either to give way to the Jews or to the Arabs, or to find a compromise. For good reasons, into which I do not think I need now enter at length, we rejected both the Jewish and the Arab cases. But if it was right and just to accede to the Jewish claim for domination over Palestine, and if that would bring peace, we should not be deterred from the adoption of that course by the mere fact that, by so doing, we might appear to be giving way to Jewish violence. That wanton violence, the complicity of certain members of the Jewish Agency, as was clearly 1022 established and long suspected, in the commission of outrages which have involved the loss of British lives, solely to meet Jewish demands, and the carefully stimulated bitter anti-British propaganda in the United States to the same end, should make us think long and carefully, but should not prevent us from meeting their claims, if it is right to do so.
But it was my view, and, I think, the view of all who signed the Report, that that was not the right solution. Such are the respective birth rates that, in spite of what has been done in the way of facilitating immigration, there is always likely to be in Palestine a Jewish minority, unless the Arabs are driven out. I cannot contemplate the domination by a minority of the majority, of the Jews in that country becoming a sort of Herrenvolk. I think that they might have been wiser in their treatment of the Arabs in the years gone by and, had they been, one might have had more confidence in their government in the future. It is impossible, on moral or legal grounds, to justify making the Arabs in Palestine, whose ancestors have lived there for so long, the subjects of the Jews. But it is equally impossible to turn the clock back to before 1917 and subject 600,000 Jews to Arab domination. Any such conclusion would immediately lead to an uprising of the entire Jewish community. Therefore, one is driven back to one of the three compromise solutions— partition, federation or cantonisation. At first sight, partition is the most attractive. It was recommended by the Peel Report, it has not been tried, and it has all the attraction of a new medicine when others have failed to cure the patient.
The argument used in support of it is that, if people are quarrelling in one room, they should be put into different rooms. That may. of course, be the solution provided it can be ensured that they remain in different rooms. But I believe that, to be effective, partition can only come about by agreement between Jews and Arabs. It is not a solution which can be imposed from above unless we are prepared to maintain the division of the land by force. If partition is adopted, Jewish control over immigration into the Jewsh State would apparently be given, and many of the arguments against the creation of a Jewish State would apply to the State created by partition. I believe that the Arab reaction to it would be far 1023 worse than it was to the recommendation of the admission of 100,000 immigrants, for, after all, the Arabs would say that, by partition, the Jews were getting unlimited immigration and a portion of the land. I quite appreciate, so far as the Jews are concerned, that partition might secure peace for a few years, but I think it likely that it might lead to a more acute and more difficult problem hereafter, a cry for Lebensraum and, possibly, stronger armed forces to deal with it. It would clearly lead to artificially unmanageable frontiers, and to some Arabs being ruled by Jews, and some Jews by Arabs.
One has got to face up to this issue. Either the time has come when we must say that Jew and Arab can no longer live together, or we must say that there is still hope of their getting on together if the obstacles to their doing so can be removed. If we come to the conclusion that all hope of their living together has gone and that they must be kept separated, I say that, in spite of my criticisms of partition, it is a better solution than the one which the Government have put forward today. I myself am against partition, and all the members of that Committee signed the Report because we were against it and because we then believed that it was not impossible for Jews and Arabs to go on working together in the future.
If we divide this country on the basis that Jews and Arabs cannot live together, it seems to me that we are not likely to secure a reduction of their present nationalistic feeling. I believe that that solution would be welcomed by some Jews as a step towards their ultimate objective of making Palestine a Jewish State, particularly if it included more land than they now own. But if that basic premise, that they cannot live together and must be separated, is accepted, we are really sounding the death knell of the Jewish national home. If Palestine is to support the natural growth of Jew and Arab populations, it must have greatly increased industrialisation and intensified agriculture, and it is necessary, whether Palestine is unitary, bipartite or tripartite, for its economic survival, that it should be an integral whole economically and an integrated part of the Middle East. Are we going to secure that by dividing Jew from 1024 Arab in Palestine? Are we going to make it easier for the two nations to merge and become friends by forming divisions between them, which either side may not willingly accept?
Judging by the two tests which I have put forward, reconciliation and finality, I believe that partition is better than federation. But partition does not hold out very great promise of finality and, in that connection, may I quote from a document which was handed to us in Palestine by the Jewish resistance movement and which is signed by the head of Command of that movement? It contained the following passage, which makes me doubtful whether these proposals for partition or federation will lead to the absence of violence:We shall not accept a symbolic independence in a dwarf like token state which will not give us the chance of developing a1ll the resources of the country and creating here a safe asylum for all Jews who are compelled or wish to come.If I may turn to the proposals put forward by the Government today, I would like to start my comments by saying that I hope they will lead to more peace in that country. I have only had the chance of hearing what the Lord President has said.
It appears to me to be a variant of partition, to have most of the disadvantages of partition and some additional ones. I think that if the suggestion that the Jewish Province should control the police within that province were adopted the British would be held responsible for all that went wrong without having any opportunity of maintaining law and order in the country. Again, federation would mean unmanageable boundaries, the allocation of land by race, and I am sorry that the Lord President was not a little more definite in his explanation when he said that the Jewish Province would include Jewish land, an area between and around the Settlements.' That may cover a great deal or very little, and we ought to know, because when we are considering either partition or federation, the first thing we want to know is what area is to be taken into which province, the populations and the resources of the various provinces. We had put before us early this year detailed proposals which bear a remarkable resemblance to the plan which the Government have now adopted. I think I can almost say that 1025 they were probably entirely the same. We considered them and the Committee rejected them.
§ Mr. Mikardo (Reading)
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman say from whom these detailed proposals were obtained?
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
They were submitted to us, I think in writing, by a witness in this country.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I do not think I need go into any more detail on that. If the evidence is published the hon. Member will be able to see it. The scheme was put forward, and the hon. Member for East Coventry will confirm what I have said.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I think it was Scheme "C." It was very similar to the proposals which we are now considering. We rejected it because it did not appear to have the merits of finality, it appeared to be leading to unworkable arrangements, it might lead to greater friction, and instead of giving an incentive to Jew and Arab to get together in that country it was an incentive to them to keep apart and distinct, when the whole future of Palestine will depend upon that division being removed.
I will say a few words about the scheme which is before us, because the details are very important. The scheme before us would have covered, I think, in the Jewish province 301,000 Arabs and 451,000 Jews. It would have taken into the Jewish Province 68 per cent. of the Arab citrus plantations, and 70 per cent. of the plain lands which might be irrigated if water can be taken there. The Jewish Province would have had 63 per cent. of the revenue, 12 per cent. being left for the Arab Province and little for the central Government. I doubt whether that can work. But if we accept the assumption that Jew and Arab cannot get on together, I would have preferred the Government to have gone straight for partition. Our solution was to put forward an incentive to collaboration and not to conflict, and to make Jew and Arab realise that this intense and excessive nationalism is really harmful. I am sorry that our recommendation No. 3 did not receive an emphatic endorsement on both sides of the Atlantic 1026 at the time of the publication of our Report, and that so much emphasis should have been put upon the Recommendation with regard to the 100,000. I think the recommendation that there should be no Jewish or Arab domination was, perhaps, far more important for peace in Palestine. It would remove Arab fears and lessen the tension. I agree that it might involve a long trusteeship or continuance of the Mandate, but I do not sec any alternative to that, and I do not think the Government's proposals will lead to a short cut solution. Indeed, I think what appears most difficult and most onerous will be a short cut in the end. If we can once remove from the Arab the fear of domination by the Jew, and remove from the Jew the aspiration of domination over all the Arabs, I think we will have gone a long way towards enabling those two peoples to live together. I think the Arabs would then be able to take an entirely different view of the question of immigration, and they would not then regard each Jew as a recruit for an illegal army.
In that connection, I would like to say a few words about our recommendation No. 6, which, of course, will go by the board, as I understand it, in view of the Government statement today. We recommended there that the governing consideration with regard to ail immigration should be the wellbeing of all in Palestine, and we did not recommend in our comment, which has to be read with the recommendation, that in the new trusteeship agreement there should be any obligation to facilitate Jewish immigration. Indeed, if one takes our comment there with our comment on recommendation No. 7, where we point out that the country is thickly populated and unless there is a marked change in the method of cultivation it will not carry much of an increase in population, one may well wonder whether, after the implementation of our recommendation of 100,000, there would be room for many more inhabitants in that land. Whether there would or would not must depend to some extent on the practicability of the irrigation schemes, on which we were unable to express an opinion.
We may be asked why we recommended 100,000 immigrants to go from Europe into Palestine. That recommendation was largely due to what we saw of conditions in Europe, the great desirability for empty- 1027 ing the Jewish displaced persons' camps and for giving them some hope, and to the Jewish Agency's promise to look after them. The immigration was to take place as rapidly as conditions would permit. I am sorry to say that I think recent actions by the Jews in Palestine have made it more difficult, and may have delayed, if not prevented, the immigration of that number within the time which otherwise might have been possible. I do not think that one can move victims of war in Europe into another arena where fighting and violence is as frequent as it is at present.
That recommendation of ours was linked with recommendation No. 1, and I am sorry, too, that no action on that recommendation has been taken from 20th April until now. We know that the United States were admitting 39,000 of all nationalities this year, and now we are told by the Lord President that the United States are resuming normal immigration and expect to receive 53,000 in each year from European countries. One does not know how many Jews will be included in that number, but we reported that there were 500,000 Jews who wanted to leave Europe, and that Palestine could not take them all. I wish the United States, who recognise the situation in Europe, would sectan example—and it would be a very helpful example—by making a great and generous gesture in offering to admit to within her shores some of these victims of Nazi persecution. I remember being told in the course of the deliberations of this Committee, that there was scarcely a Polish Jew surviving who had not got a relation in America. I feel certain that many of them would like to go to the United States if only the facilities were available, and I feel strongly that, if that attitude could be adopted in the United States, it would lead to a different attitude on the part of the Arabs to the admission of a large number of Jews into Palestine.
Finally, I want to say a few words with regard to the land transfer regulations and the Jewish Agency. In our report we did not recommend the removal of protection to the Arab land cultivator. We recommended that he should have protection wherever he should be in Palestine. I appreciate the difficulties of the Lord President, but I should have 1028 liked to know what were the powerful safeguards the Arabs would possess in the Jewish Province, and that the Jews would possess in the Arab Province, in view of the local legislative powers which would be conferred upon the Governments of those provinces. Nothing has been said —perhaps it cannot be said yet—as to the future of the Jewish Agency. I hope that that Agency will cooperate more in future than it has in the past. I hope, too, that it will become more representative of the Jews in Palestine, and, in particular, that it will include among its members representative of the Agudas Israel, the orthodox religious Jews. Any solution which will bring peace to the Holy Land and, at the same time, lighten the intolerable burden on British shoulders and on the British Army will, I am sure, be welcomed by both sides of this House. I hope the Government's proposals will bring about more success in those directions than I, at the moment at any rate, think they will. I feel myself that if this desire for power can be removed, the time has not come when we can say it is impracticable for Jew and Arab to get on together. However, if it has, then I cannot help feeling that the only alternative is to go to the other extreme of partition rather than federation, leaving the Mandatory Power or the trustee, whoever it may be, still to be pushed from one side or the other, on either immigration or the many other kindred problems.
§ 7.22 p.m.
§ Lieut-Colonel Harry Morris (Sheffield, Central)
I feel that no words of mine would adequately convey the horror I felt last week when I heard of the blowing up of the King David Hotel. I can do no more than say I regard it, as do most Jews in the world outside Palestine, as an act, not only of incredible wickedness but of incredible stupidity. The dreams some of us had of the Jewish future lie in the ruins of the King David Hotel. I am sincere in my remarks, and I can only leave it to those Who listen to the observations I make to decide whether they believe it or not. The Government say now, as they said during the last Debate, what they were engaged in doing, and what they were entitled to do to preserve law and order. No one challenges the right of the Government as the Mandatory Power, but I hope it will be remembered that the Government are only the Mandatory Power in Palestine; 1029 Palestine is not a British Colony; the Jews are not natives, and the Arabs are not natives who are being, or are likely to be, treated as are backward peoples in a British Colony. The British Government have the right to maintain law and order, but there must be in the minds of those who speak for the British Government just what the Government mean by "law" and by "order." If it is the law of the tank and the tommygun, if it is the law of repression, of which the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) has spoken, the British Government must not be surprised that the order they are seeking to maintain is an unreal order, the sort of order that on some occasion may break out into the bitterest disorder.
For the Government to talk about terrorism and no more is to show a fundamental disregard of the basis of the whole policy. This Government have a past in connection with this matter. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, who has spoken about it, also has a past in connection with it, of which I will remind him in a moment. When talking about terrorism, it seems to me the Government might consider this: Why is it that those who have in the past been commended for their exemplary patience and forbearance suddenly embark on a career of terrorism? Why is it they begin to do things which apparently they did not do before? Why is it they manifest a spirit which they have not hitherto manifested? The Government cannot entirely rid themselves of some responsibility in this matter. It is true that when this Government came into power the Jews, in Palestine certainly, and Jews throughout the world, were entitled to assume that at last there had come into being a Government pledged, and fully pledged, to support the idea of the Jewish National Home. When I say "pledged," that is exactly what I mean. It is idle for the Foreign Secretary to pretend that resolutions which had been passed in succeeding conferences —apart from observations made in announcements from the Government Front Bench in this House—were irresponsible outbursts in the enthusiasm of a Labour Party Conference. They were serious and considered resolutions, which had been contained in a set declaration of policy. I would like to quote the declaration of policy made by the British Government —at any rate, by those who now comprise 1030 the British Government—in connection with the Palestine situation:Here we have halted halfway, irresolute between conflicting policies. But there is surely neither hope nor meaning in a ' Jewish National Home ' unless we are prepared to let Jews, if they wish, enter this tiny land in such numbers as to become a majority. There was a strong case for this before the war. There is an irresistible case now, after the unspeakable atrocities of the cold and calculated German Nazi plan to kill all Jews in Europe. Here, too, in Palestine, surely, is a case, on human grounds and to promote a stable settlement for transfers of population. Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out, as the Jews move in. Let them be compensated handsomely for their land, and let their settlement elsewhere be carefully organised and generously financed. The Arabs have many wide territories of their own; they must not claim to exclude the Jews from this small area of Palestine less than the size of Wales. Indeed we should re-examine also the possibility of extending the present Palestinian boundaries by agreement with Egypt, Syria, or Transjordan. Moreover, we should seek to win the full sympathy and support both of the American and Russian Government for the execution of this Palestine policy.That was a declaration of the postwar international settlement, made in 1944, at the Labour Party Conference.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Would the hon. and gallant Member mind telling the House the title and nature of that document, and its date?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Morris
That is the declaration on "The Post-War International Settlement," 1944. This was adopted by the Labour Party Conference in December, 1944. It went a good deal further than that; it did not stop there. Many hon. Members, who are members of the party to which I have the honour to belong, have probably seen this document. This is a speakers' handbook, comprising instructions as to party policy, which was given to Labour candidates during the last General Election. One was given to me.
§ Mr. M. Philips Price (Forest of Dean)
May I interrupt the hon. and gallant Member to inform him that there were plenty of members of the party who did not follow that lead, and I was one of them?
§ Lieut.-Colonel Morris
I am reminding hon. Members opposite what the policy was. I understand that a very large part of the responsibility for the production of this particular handbook belongs to the Lord President of the Council, who opened 1031 this Debate. Let me quote, because this is official policy:There is neither sense nor meaning in a Jewish national home unless we are prepared to let Jews, if they wish, enter this tiny land in such numbers as to become a majority. Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out as the Jews move in.That was official party policy. It was the policy which I myself expounded on platforms. I did not come into this House to represent Jews, let me be perfectly clear about that, but I had, and still have, some Jews in my constituency, and I represent them, and they asked me, as they were entitled to do, what was the policy of the Labour Party in Palestine, and I was entitled to say to them, and I did say to them, "Here you are, read it for yourselves."
Is it really surprising that when the Labour Party came into power last year the Jews of the world hailed their coming with delight? They relied on the party pledge to support the idea of the Jewish National Home. Other hon. Members have spoken of the intentions in regard to Palestine, and I have heard Jewish leaders against whom there is no charge of any sort of complicity in the recent outrage, and British leaders as well, who have said that the tension in Palestine was growing to incredible heights and there was bound to be an eventual outburst. Is that surprising, when during these 12 months, nothing has happened—and when I say nothing, I mean nothing. In November of last year the Foreign Secretary announced to a very surprised House that he intended to set up a new Commission, and he was asked by me in February what he expected to get from it that he had not got from previous Commissions; he was also asked what he would do about it when he got the report of that Commission, whether he would implement its decisions or would there be delay, further temporising, and would the tension grow still further?
Was the suggestion I made in February, that the decision to appoint that Commission was unfortunate, unjustified? Was there some substance in it or justification for it, because what did happen? The report was before this House; it was issued by the Vote Office on 1st May, and as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) pointed out repeatedly, the only persons concerned in the question who had not yet stated their policy were 1032 the very people who were responsible, the Government, and that was the situation until today. Until today we have had no clue from the British Government as to their policy for Palestine. All that we have had have been descriptions of the administrative action which the British Government thought it necessary to take. Is it possible that the patience and forbearance we have been recommending to other people have given out? It is very easy for us sitting here to counsel patience and forbearance to others who are perhaps differently situated. But how does that sound to a man whose father and mother perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz, whose sister perhaps went into a German brothel, whose family is gone and whose children, perhaps, if any remain, are still in concentration camps when, but for the dilatory policy of His Majesty's Government, they might already be in Palestine? Is it surprising that that particular man should lose patience; in the same circumstances, should we be quite so patient?
No one excuses or seeks to condone terrorism, but it seems to me that if we do not examine the background of terrorism we are manifesting a fundamental disregard of the whole question. Why all the delay about the present solution, which the Government have kept to themselves while the tension has been getting worse? The Lord President of the Council comes along like a conjuror producing a rabbit out of a hat—a rabbit which has, apparently, already escaped and created a certain amount of mischief. "This," he says, "is the new policy which we propose, and which we hope will provide a just and lasting settlement of the Palestine problem." I do not invite the House to accept from me an accurate description of what that policy would mean. Let roe read to the House a description given by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Agriculture of a similar proposal, in a Debate which took place in this House on 22nd and 23rd May, 1939. He said:The right hon. Gentleman repeated those words this afternoon. It all depends on the kind of home one has in mind. If one thinks in terms of the home envisaged by Lord Balfour, obviously immigration must continue. If one thinks on the lines of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, of some three or four million Jews making their home there, immigration will have to go on 1033 for a long time indeed. If one thinks in terms of a home where a happy, free and contented people arc working out their destiny, that would be one kind of a home; but the White Paper seems to think in terms of a ramshackel council house—what has been described as a ' territorial ghetto '—and which is not theirs to occupy, but where they are to be, like a lodger, in a position to be turned out at any moment."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1939; Vol. 347, c. 1960.]That is a description of this policy which was pronounced by a Member of the present Government. I invite the House to accept, not my view of the present proposal, but the view adumbrated by the right hon. Gentleman who is now the Minister of Agriculture.
One more word about that particular policy. It has been said that it has all the disadvantages of partition with none of the advantages. It is a policy which, though they themselves have rejected it in the past, this Government now bring here as a solution and fulfilment of all the pledges and promises they made. This policy, so far as we have been able to judge from the Press, and it is very difficult indeed to form any tangible views on the policy as expressed by the Lord President this afternoon, envisages something like this: 15 per cent. of the land of Palestine goes to the Jews, 40 per cent. or so to the Arabs, and the British Government have the remainder. Why do the British Government have the remainder? Perhaps the answer is this. During the last Debate we had on Palestine in which I had the opportunity of taking part I suggested to the Government that it would appear—I put it no higher than that—that they were playing the game of power politics in the Middle East while paying lip service to the ideals of U.N.O. If that is not true, perhaps the Government will tell us what this means: "Treaty of Alliance between His Majesty in respect of the United Kingdom and His Highness the Emir of Transjordan." It is a treaty of military alliance between the British Government and the Emir of Transjordan, purely and simply a military alliance and nothing more. We wondered, as we were entitled to wonder, what it was in the political institutions of Transjordan which had so compelled the admiration of His Majesty's Government as to warrant the granting of such an alliance. But there is another argument.
There was a Debate which took place in another place in which Lord Strabolgi 1034 spoke on behalf of the Government, and gave an answer to those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen of the Conservative Party who manifested some concern about the Government's equanimity in removing British troops from Egypt, and who, apparently, saw in this the giving up of the British Empire. Lord Strabolgi gave an answer in another place why British troops were there. Are the British Government playing power politics in the Middle East? Is it the fact that, in Palestine, the ideal of a Jewish National Home does not fit in with the picture of the British Imperial position in the Middle East? I am sorry we are manifesting signs of military imperialism. It may be, perhaps, that I have engaged in bitter recriminations against the Government which may not help the situation, but I, and all of us, desire to see some solution to this really dreadful problem. Here is the Government's opportunity. Here is an opportunity for the Government to bring about a just and equitable solution. We are, I think, on the threshold of a new chapter in the history of the Jews. There are many chapters in that history that have been written in blood, and there are many chapters soaked in tears. We ask the Government not to write another bloody chapter in that history, but to write a new chapter, with a pen dipped in the well of justice.
§ 7.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Raikes (Liverpool, Wavertree)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Sheffield (Lieut. -Colonel Morris) has painted the picture more vividly than I could. False hopes were, undoubtedly, raised in the minds of many Jews by the Labour Party before that party became the Government. It so often happens in this world, particularly in this country, I think, that men find, when they come to Government, and have responsibility, many things far more difficult to do than they appeared to be before. Nevertheless, hopes falsely aroused always have evil effects as time goes on. Beyond saying that, I do not propose to comment on the past. I want to look, as certain other hon. Members have, a little to the future.
I am certain of one thing beyond all else. So long as we assume that Palestine is simply and solely a solution to the problem of European Jewry, we are in 1035 or disappointment. We have these vast numbers of Jews in Europe today, many of whom have got to be found new homes. It is a little ironic that, after we have fought the greatest war in history for freedom and, presumably, amongst other things, to bring freedom to the Jews as well as to others, that there are still such vast numbers of Jews who, probably rightly, are longing to get away from Europe. Be that as it may, there are still several hundred thousands who cannot get away. They must have an outlet, and unless and until the United States of America, Great Britain and the British Empire, and the great civilised nations of the world are prepared to take their quotas of these men and women we shall never get a change of heart in the Arab world.
One of my main criticisms of the Anglo-American Committee's Report, on which I want to say a word or two, is that in it there are fine phrases about the Holy Land and the brotherhood of man. They are dotted about all through the Report. They express admirable sentiments, but, nevertheless, are not the sort of thing to appeal to those who are expected to take 100,000 extra Jews into a small country about half the size of Wales, while, behind these high moral platitudes, the Christian nations of the world are not really making even a gesture. I take the view that, the Jewish problem being as it is, whatever amount of immigration of Jews there may have to be, the Empire and America should be prepared to take a quota, and a substantial quota, of these Jews. If we do that we can then turn to the Palestine problem with an easier conscience, because then, in time, we may succeed in arousing a feeling amongst the Arabs that does not exist today—the feeling that we are really prepared to play our part in shouldering the burden, and are not trying to force it on to those in other parts of the world who are weak.
That brings me to the new solution which was produced this afternoon. I want to emphasise that I do not believe that that solution or any other solution can play an effective part unless it is accompanied by a real gesture by Britain and America to take a larger number of Jews. The scheme put up is not an entirely new one. It is a scheme that was 1036 rejected, broadly speaking, by the Peel Committee, and that was rejected by the Committee we set up last year. That does not mean, of necessity, that this scheme will not work. There are one or two questions I would like to ask about it. For example, I do not know, in the new Jewish and Arab partition, where the line will be drawn. Under the Peel Report, North Galilee was to go to the Jews, and Jaffa to the Arabs. I understand that North Galilee is largely populated by Arabs, and that that region will go to the Arab share. But I do not know what is the position regarding Jaffa. The position of Jaffa is extraordinarily important, if we are to get the Arabs to play their part. The difficulty over Jaffa, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite will appreciate, is that that is the largest of the Arab cities in Palestine, but surrounded by Jewish communities that have grown, to a large extent, since the time of the Peel Commission's Report. Nevertheless, whatever the difficulty may be, it does seem to me that if Jaffa, which is an Arab city, were to be outside the Arab province, that would prejudice the chance of the new scheme being considered, at the very outset.
Unless the Government and the Americans can obtain the cooperation of Arabs and Jews, this new scheme is no earthly good. It is no good forcing it upon them, because if we do that, it is bound to fail. I say to hon. Members opposite, who may have a strong feeling towards the Jewish case, not to forget that if conditions arise in which the people of this country have to risk expenditure and lives in order to force a settlement which they are not satisfied is just, we shall inevitably have a recrudescence of anti-Semitism. All will agree that we must avoid that if we are to maintain our liberal spirit of toleration. There is anti-Semitism today, and that feeling will inevitably grow if an unfair solution is imposed. I think that the Government may find that their halfway house will be like so many compromises, and that it will not be as effective as complete partition, or a return to the position of 1939. There is no finality about this scheme. We were told vaguely by the Lord President that somehow it might bring Jews and Arabs closer together, and that it might pave the way towards partition. The compromise has many of the worst elements of partition 1037 without any of its clear-cut advantages. If the Government can get a reasonable number of Jews and Arabs to cooperate, then they will have the support of the House.
There are only two alternatives. Either we must go forward to complete partition, or go back to the situation of 1939. That is our difficulty. Whatever may have been the views expressed by the Labour Party at their Conference in December, 1944, the Government have never committed themselves since they came into office, that they were going to have a Jewish State as against a Jewish National Home. By giving harbourage to Jews in Palestine and not giving them control of Palestine, we are going forward on the basis of never allowing the Jews to get a majority by immigration. If we go beyond that and allow unlimited immigration on the lines of a Jewish National State, we are doing the very thing which will cause trouble with the Arabs. All along, the Arabs have feared what they call this creeping conquest of immigration, until other people are in the majority, . and have complete power over them. I hope that the Government will have the courage to reach some finality in dealing with this problem, and say whether they mean to use immigration as an instrument to make Palestine a Jewish State—which I consider would be fatal—or whether they propose to retain the idea of a Jewish National Home, and assure the Arabs that, for all intents and purposes, they will still have a reasonable say in their own land.
These are great problems, and anyone who stands up and says that he has an immediate solution to this extraordinarily difficult state of affairs is nothing but an ass. I believe that we are having a useful discussion on this question, and I only hope that the right hon. Gentleman will not close his mind against either a reversion to the 1939 position, or complete partition if he does not get any real cooperation for the present scheme.
§ 7.56 p.m.
§ Mr. Gallacher (Fife, West)
As I listened to the Leader of the House making his statement, I could not help feeling, particularly in that part which related to displaced Jews in Europe, that I was listening to a quotation from the statement submitted to the Anglo-American Committee by the hon. Mem- 1038 ber for Mile End (Mr. piratin) and his colleague, County Councillor Jack Gaster. The suggestions made in the statement today were made by them before the recent terrorist acts, and had they been accepted then the situation in Palestine might have been easier. The so-called plan which has been put forward and presented to us as a reasonable compromise is a miserable makeshift, and it will solve no problem. It will make the position worse than it was before, and bring further suffering to the Jewish people.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) was in favour of partition. He thought that we should keep these people in two separate compartments. What sort of people are we? An hon. Member who sits behind me said that God was anxious to get the Jews into Palestine—I do not know much about that; it is the hon. Member's business and not mine—but the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol seems to be taking on the attributes of a god, saying "We will put some people in this compartment, and some people in that compartment." What an attitude to adopt, and what an opinion we have of ourselves. But there are other and greater gods, for we were told by the Minister, and it was reiterated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol, that we cannot decide on what we are going to do until the bigger gods across the Western ocean speak their minds. What a come-down for the mighty British Empire with all its history and traditions. We must wait to see what the almighty dollar says. That is a shameful position.
This question has two facets. There is the simple direct solution—and there is no other. One can play about with cantonisation, federalisation and partition, but there is one solution only, and that is independence for Palestine. When I make that suggestion, I am told that if we give independence to Palestine, take away the British troops, and, instead of letting them be killed there, bring them home—and why should they not be brought home to their mothers and families?—the Arabs and Jews will slaughter one another. But I am also told that if the troops are brought away from India the Muslims and Hindus will slaughter one another. The same in Ireland, if the partition is removed Catholics and Protestants will tear one 1039 another to pieces. Is it not a very significant and a very sinister thing that where British Imperialist influence is predominant, these murderous impulses exist? I say take away this unsavoury influence, and ordinary people will find ways and means of living together in harmony and cooperation. That is the solution.
The next question, and one which has to be dealt with, is that of anti-Semitism. It can only be dealt with when one understands and gets at the cause of anti-Semitism. I have heard many fine sentiments expressed in connection with it. This question of the solution of anti-Semitism is related to the question of independence for Palestine. There is a serious wave of anti-Semitism which is being encouraged by the higher-up in Palestine. The views expressed by General Barker are a disgrace, and this man should be immediately withdrawn and vigorously prosecuted by the War Office. We are told they are under a heavy strain. Of course the soldiers and officers there are under a heavy strain. But it does not matter how heavy the strain is, if such sentiments are not inside they will not come out. The sentiments were there before the strain came on, or this would never have come out in the form in which it has come out, so I say that this man should be brought home, and dealt with by the War Office. It is an easy thing to condemn terrorists, but that does not get us anywhere. We have to try to understand what is happening over there to throw them into that situation. I have always been opposed to terrorism, because there is nothing more calculated to confuse, demoralise and to disrupt the working classes as terrorist acts.
In principle, I have always been against terrorist acts. Many of these young men and women, a few years ago, had no thought that they would be in the position in which they are in today. They are Zionists. They believed in Palestine for the Zionists and in a Jewish State in Palestine. It was an illusion; it was a goal impossible of realisation.
§ Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)
Was not the Mandate actually given by 52 nations? Was it not confirmed by America? And was not that the Zionist principle as Lord Balfour declared it?
§ Mr. Gallacher
I do not care if there were a hundred thousand mandates. It is an illusion that Palestine could be, in the sense that the Zionists put it forward, a Jewish State. At Zionist meetings, I have tried to persuade them that they were seeking after something impossible. They could tell me that they had the support of much more important and much more influential political leaders than I. They had the support of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill). Do not let hon. Members go after the Labour Government. It was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford to whom, throughout the war years, they were looking as the man who was standing up as a friend of Zionism and who could help them to gain their ends. After the hell which they had suffered under Nazism in Europe, they felt, when their friends had won the war, that they would help them to gain their ends. They had the idea that at the end of the war that they were going to get Palestine. It seemed to them that the goal was practically realised. So the call went forward. Another short march and they would be there. They made a short march and came up against a brick wall. In the Mandate, Palestine has two banks. On one side is Transjordania. It is a part of Palestine recognised as such in the Mandate although different treatment had to be given to it compared with the other part of Palestine. Transjordan has always been recognised as a part of Palestine; about that there is no question. What happened? A new regime under Emir Abdullah came into being in Transjordan. Is there any democracy under the Emir Abdullah in that country? Is there any Parliament, a democratic council or a democratic organisation of any kind? There is nothing. This Emir Abdullah—
§ Mr. Quintin Hogg (Oxford)
On a point of Order. I understand that the Ruler to whom the hon. Member is referring is a reigning sovereign, King Abdullah of Transjordan, and any reference which is derogatory to a ruling Sovereign who is a friendly Ally, is not in Order in this House.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (MAJOR MILNER)
That is so, but I had not gathered that the hon. Member was saying anything derogatory of the Emir Abdullah personally.
§ Mr. Gallacher
When the Zionists speak of Palestine, they mean the country on both banks of the River Jordan. In the well known song, "Song of the Jordan," Vladimir Jabotinsky, the late leader of the Revisionists, wrote:The Pillar that supports the bridge's span,The spine that doth uphold the frame of man,So Israel's spine and pillar as of yore,Is holy Jordan, mine for evermore,Two banks has the River Jordan,A left bank and a right,Both of them are oursYes, there are two banks to the River Jordan and when the Zionists believed they were going to get Palestine, they thought they were going to get all of it and not a bit of it. Right in the midst of their hopes of realisation this deal was made with this fellow Abdullah. I do not know whether he is the king or whether he is a gang leader.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
This is the second time that the hon. Member has referred to His Majesty the King of Transjordan. I would ask you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, whether it is in Order for the hon. Member to make a derogatory reference to His Majesty.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
It is not in Order to make an opprobrious reflection and if the hon. Member is making such a reflection on a reigning monarch he is out of Order.
§ Mr. Gallacher
I am sorry, but I do not think I made any reflection. All I said was that there was no Parliament, no democratic council, no democratic organisation of any kind. We have made a treaty with the Emir of Transjordan, which gives to this exalted personage a great tract of territory, and this exalted personage is agreeable that the British troops should remain there. No doubt he will need them. This happens when these Zionist young men and women are looking forward eagerly to the realisation of their hopes in regard to Palestine as a home for the Jews. Can we not appreciate the terrible blow that this is to their hopes? The goal was near and then this happened. A desperate and futile solution occurs to them. On the road to their goal which is so near there is erected a road block, and 1042 in a last desperate effort they believe they can blast that road block out of the way. We can understand their reason, though we cannot sympathise with their methods. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford and others encouraged these young men and women to travel that road and there is a responsibility on them when it comes to such a situation as this. I want to draw attention once again to the danger of anti-Semitism. I have been at quite a number of meetings recently, and at each of them ordinary men have asked me the question, "Is it not a case that the Jews control the finances of this country?" That is not the case; indeed it is far from it, because the directors of the Bank of England and the directors of the Big Five are Gentiles, the land is owned by Gentiles, and the owners of big industry are Gentiles.
§ Mr. Gallacher
Have a look at the Tory benches, when they are loaded; they are a real cross section of the robber gang of this country. Almost all of them, with very few exceptions, are hard-faced Gentiles. It is entirely wrong to make suggestions of that kind about the Jews. The Jewish people are a hard working, abstemious race. [Interruption.] Yes they arc. Let any hon. Member go into any of the industrial areas wherever there are Jewish people employed, and they will find they are a hard working, abstemious race, who are in a peculiar position because of the way they have been treated by history. Through persecution they have been brought into such a situation that the searchlight of public criticism is continually glaring upon them, and we always see one or two of the more undesirable characters. If we turned the same searchlight on the Gentiles we would get the same result. The courts and the prisons will testify that. Do not let us have any misunderstanding about this— that the Jewish people are hard working and abstemious. They were thrown into Europe at the time of the Dispersion when Europe was under feudalism and they came up against walled cities and walled occupations. They were unable to break into the guilds and could not therefore work at the trades the guilds represented. So it was that they were confined to domestic industries, and these have followed them right through history. Anyone who cares to read the history of that 1043 period, will find that the merchants gradually extending trade and increasing their political power were continually forcing new charters from the barons when they came for loans. These thrifty people, the Jews, were robbed by the barons and if the barons robbed the Jews they did not have to get loans from the merchants and did not have to part with new charters. The merchants looked upon the Jews, not as unfortunate people being robbed by the common enemy but as an obstacle to their own political advancement, and that is where we get the roots of anti-Semitism. They were a buffer between the barons and the merchants. The merchants of this country saw what was happening in other countries, and they got the king to expel the Jews before they could play the part of buffer here. That is why anti-Semitism was never as strong here as it has been in other countries of Europe. What Zionism has not appreciated is that they deliberately proposed to put the Jews into a buffer position in Palestine between the Arab Nationalists and the British Imperialists
§ Mr. Janner
Will the hon. Gentleman please inform the House whether there was any real antagonism between the Arab workers and the Jewish workers?
§ Mr. Gallacher
I could show the hon. Member Jewish Press cuttings which will show where Jewish writers and speakers proposed that Palestine should be a Jewish Dominion of the British Empire, that they could always rely upon the Jews in Palestine as an outpost' of the Empire. That was making the Jewish people a buffer between British Imperialism and Arab Nationalism. If hon. Members read the reports of the early twenties they will see that the leaders of the Jewish Agency and of Histradurth were telling how the Arab masses were welcoming the Jews into Palestine, because the Jewish immigrants were bringing into Palestine, western economy which meant a step forward in progress, thus bringing prosperity, not only to the Jews but to the Arab masses. Why have they not kept the Arab masses as their friends? Because in the later twenties when the Arab campaign for independence began no support was given by the Jews for independence for Palestine. The Zionists said there would be no independence for 1044 Palestine until they had a Zionist majority. Actually majorities and minorities are formal things. The main thing is to build the masses around you wherever you are. It is true you have got Jewish minorities in all the capitalist countries and they are in a very vulnerable position. But then they are outside of the main industrial army. They are only auxiliaries and camp followers. But, in Palestine, is the Jewish minority in that position? No, according to their own declarations, they were leaders in the economic, social, and political life of Palestine. Is not that a different kind of minority? It has no relation to the minority in this country, or in America. It is very important to have an understanding of Marxism, because if they had studied it they would have realised that the minority in Palestine is in an entirely different position from a minority in any other country.
They had the opportunity, because of the possibility of economic development, and the social and political leadership that might have been theirs, of keeping the Arab masses around them. Some have told me that the demand for independence was a trick of the Mufti and the Effendi. Maybe they were playing tricks by using independence, but how can they be defeated? Not by standing in the way of independence, but by taking the lead and joining with the forces that are working for freedom, and seeking to break the chains of Imperialism.
I appeal, at this late hour, to Zionism and to the Arabs to understand the great opportunity that lies before them of building a happy and prosperous country, to put an end to their feuds, and to unite for the purpose of achieving the realisable aim of an independent Palestine, where they can work together for the common good. I appeal to the Labour Government, to the great Labour movement, to honour the pledge which they have given, the pledge to provide the Jews with a safe and secure home in Palestine. They can only do that by finishing forever with Imperial policy. Let them give independence to Palestine so that Arabs and Jews, Semitic brothers, may live in harmony and cooperation, and build up the prosperity of the country in order to provide a safe and happy home in which Jews from other lands will always End a welcome.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. William Teeling (Brighton)
After hearing the very simple solution of the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher), that we should clear out of Palestine, I began to wonder whether there was any need for this Debate at all. I am quite certain that the Government feel that they have a far more difficult problem to deal with than that. I would like to add my protest to that made by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), about the way in which the solutions proposed by the Government have been put before us today, the way, in fact, in which the whole of this Palestine problem has been dealt with by the Government since the Foreign Secretary's statement, last November. At that time, we were asked not to speak about this matter, not to ask any questions for fear that we would arouse feeling in Palestine. Then came the Debate in February, and at that time it was also considered by many to be unwise that we should say what we thought, because it might in some way affect delicate negotiations. The next Debate was forced on us by the arrests of members of the Jewish Agency.
Tonight, we find ourselves still in a position of great difficulty in trying to bring forward concrete suggestions after having had only a very brief notice of the plans which the Lord President of the Council announced and which, no doubt, he knew about a long time ago, certainly several days ago. The nearest thing we have had to anything of detail has come from my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller), who pointed out how similar were the Government's proposals to those which were put forward by an official to the Anglo-American Committee. All that was told us there is that the Jews will have control of certain parts of the country in which there are a large number of Arabs. I remember, after the last war, the refusal of the Danes to take any parts of Germany from the Germans, because they did not want to have a huge and unwilling minority in their area. Will the Jews be blamed if they do not like this new proposal? They are not even in the position of the Danes, living in their own country. They are—and many seem to forget it—from many other parts of the world. They are not Jews from one nation, who have been, all along, in 1046 Palestine. They have come from many places. We have been treating them recently as if they were a Colony. When people talk about atrocities and fighting and resistance among them they are inclined to think of them as being British people who are doing these dreadful things, whereas vast numbers have never been to Britain in their lives, and know nothing of Great Britain, except the officials they see in Jerusalem and the troops we send to that country. People are apt to forget that.
The Jews are to be asked to take in Arabs without themselves being a proper nation as yet. I am certain it will not be possible, or feasible. Nor do I think that the Arabs will accept this suggestion. They are to be given a lot of money, I understand, and I would like the Minister who is to reply to the Debate to give us some idea as to whether the Arab States around Palestine are not themselves quite well off at the present time. The Jews presumably, are not to be given money, because they can get it from Jewish relations and friends in Great Britain and America. The Arabs, it is suggested, are always poor. But are they so poor? I think they have done better, since the 1914 war, than people in many other countries, and certainly as well as the Jews in what has been given to them in Palestine. Furthermore, what have they done for us in return? Certainly, less than the Jews. Be that as it may, I am certain that the solutions which have been presented to us today will not be acceptable to either side, and that we shall be faced with as difficult a position in a few months, or weeks, as we have been in the more recent past.
That brings me to refer briefly to a similar situation in which I was brought up as a child. I lived in Ireland during the difficult days at the end of the 1914–18 war, and immediately after it. Home Rule was given to Ireland before the beginning of that war, but it was put aside for some time; because it was put aside, the whole of the Redmondite Party completely lost its influence in Ireland, and because of that, and that alone, the I.R.A. got its start. There is' a similar position today in Palestine. The Labour Party have promised, and made every Jew in Palestine believe, that when they got into power they would give everything to the Jews, but since coming into power they 1047 have procrastinated, and by their procrastination have made people very desperate.
I believe that the more one studies the Jewish Agency, and what it has done and tried to do in the past, the more one will come to the conclusion that the main reason it is now fast losing its hold is that the British Government have for too long promised something and not given it. To my mind, the Jewish Agency soon will have completely lost control, and everything will be in the hands of the terrorists; there will be the same situation as with the I.R.A. in Ireland after the 1914–18 war. I remember that as a boy I was highly indignant because, although I was known to be a Loyalist, I had to have to walk along the road with a gun at my back because I was out in Dublin after the curfew time. Many people had far worse things than that done to them, because the Black-and-Tans and others did not always have time to go into details, but swept in people who were loyal to this country, and thus made in Ireland vast numbers of enemies who are only now, after 20 or 30 years, beginning to become friendly to this country again, largely because of the Nazi horrors and because they got more angry with the Germans. During the war, when I was serving in Northern Ireland, it was heartbreaking to find people who might have been on our side if only we had acted differently.
All this we have to think of in regard to Palestine. As has been mentioned already, there is always the possibility that, in the years to come, we shall need Palestine from the strategic point of view. The final thing to be remembered about the Irish situation is that, in the end, the solution of having partition was brought about really because of our need for friendship with the United States and because of the pressure that was brought to bear by the United States. Today, there seems to be a somewhat similar situation. In the end we shall find ourselves in a much more difficult position because we have not had the courage to come to a decision and get on with the job before so many people were killed. Anti-Semitism is undoubtedly growing very fast in this country, and it ought to be stopped. I refuse to believe that all these atrocities, horrible and disturbing though they are, and though our troops 1048 are suffering them, are the responsibility of all Jewry in Palestine. I maintain that if the Jews had been properly backed by the British Government, and if the British Government's promises had been carried out, there would have been none of this whatsoever. Therefore, I am inclined to think that the Labour Government have a great deal of responsibility, and will have more responsibility, if they do not take care, for the troubles in that country at the present time.
There has been very little reference to the Christians in Palestine. Why should not the Christians be in control of the country? We went there and fought in the Crusades in the old days in order to take that country from the Arabs and keep it for Christianity. We have now got it. Many of us were proud when Allenby marched in early after the last war; today everybody is talking about giving the country to the Arabs and the Jews. I maintain that it is our Christian duty to keep that country, to look after it, and to make it possible for Jews to go there. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol said that 30 years is long enough after the Balfour Declaration to show that the Balfour dream will not work. How can 30 years be enough? For 1,000 years the Arabs have been there. For 2,000 years the Jews have been wandering. How can it be possible for them to settle down, to get to know each other and to agree in 30 years?
We must remember also that the troubles in Europe have made things ten times worse. We must remember the hundreds of thousands of Jews in Europe who have gone through hell. One hundred thousand of them could be allowed into Palestine; I believe that would be possible and I think it is our bounden duty. The Vatican has shown over a period, and the Archbishop of Canterbury has shown in the last two or three days, that Christians, and especially Christian prelates can take a very great interest and have a very great concern for the Jews of the world. Let us as a country not be afraid to face up to the difficulties which I believe are definitely ahead and try to apply a little today the lessons of what happened over Ireland. We must remember that it is the duty of a Christian country, when it has been given an area like Palestine 1049 with such a past, to do all it can to bring in and look after as many Jews as possible—we believe that round about 100,000 is the possible number now—and to do everything possible to make them and the Arabs get on together, as I believe we can as time goes on. That would be my solution as far as there is any solution at the moment, but I would beg the Government to be more careful in what they do and in the way in which they deal with people in that country, and to realise that they are on the edge of a volcano which may mean very great dangers, not only for Palestine but for the whole of the Colonial Empire later on.
§ 8.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
I did not intend to depart an inch from the statement made by the Lord President with regard to the solution before the House as "a basis of this discussion," but I could not let pass some of the statements made by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies). After all, he is the leader of the Liberals in this House and therefore holds a responsible position, and I am sorry to say that he has made statements which arc not historically correct. He began by referring to the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and saying practically that it meant nothing if it did not mean a Jewish State. I have studied this thing very minutely and it is a fact that before the Belfour Declaration was issued the political Zionists placed before the British Government various drafts in which they explicitly demanded a Jewish State or Commonwealth. The British Government rejected these drafts and passed the Balfour Declaration, which gave a promise of a Jewish National Home. The hon. and learned Gentleman then went on to base on that the plea that a Jewish State could be legally established in Palestine— at least that was the gist of his remarks. In the first place the Balfour Declaration was illegal and immoral if anything ever was. It was made without the knowledge of the Arabs, who were the inhabitants of Palestine and our loyal allies in the war, but worse still the people who framed the declaration had purposely concealed their intention that the Jews were to be allowed in until they formed a majority and thus to set up a Jewish State in fact.
1050 The hon. and learned Gentleman mentioned only the National Home, and I wish the National Home all success. When I was out in Palestine I often discussed the question with that fine Jew, Dr. Magnes, the principal of the Hebrew University, and although I argued against him he at least convinced me that cultural and religious Zionism can be a noble endeavour indeed, and I wish it all success. But from 1938 up to date, I have opposed in and out of season the proposal to set up a Jewish State in Palestine. No such State was ever promised by the British Government and indeed the British Government had no right to make promises about Jewish emigration to Palestine, and we have no right to try to set up a Jewish State in Palestine because Palestine never belonged to us and does not belong to us today.
The hon. and learned Gentleman made no mention whatever of the numerous concrete and definite proposals and promises made by us to the Arabs that they would be given their independence at the end of the first world war. I am not going through all those proposals and promises now since I have previously discussed them in the House. Apart from the illegality and immorality of the thing, in my opinion the worst thing we can do to the Jews of the world is to set up a Jewish State in Palestine. It is the bone of contention in Palestine and the main cause of the trouble, and until the request of the political Zionists for a Jewish State is abandoned there will be no peace in Palestine. As a friend of the Jews I appeal to all Jews in this House, some of whom are prominent in Jewish public life and take part in Zionist meetings, to throw in their lot with the Arabs in Palestine, and evolve a Palestinian state in which they would have an immense power for good.
I now come to the speech of the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley). He is in favour of partition, which means dividing Palestine into two or more independent States. As he said, I took a prominent part in destroying the scheme of partition which was accepted in principle by the Tory Government at the time Since then, that scheme has been abandoned. If the proposal to set up a Jewish State in the whole of Palestine would cause friction and is immoral, unjust and impracticable, the proposal to set up a Jewish State in 1051 a part of Palestine is equally so. It would be a disastrous expedient, which has been condemned again by the Anglo-American Committee. It would be a breach of faith with the Arabs who were promised independence, and a breach of the Mandate, which specifically stated that self-government was its final object. The right hon. Gentleman stated that conciliation between Arab and Jew was impossible. I beg to state that I entirely disagree with that view. The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) made a speech with which I did not fully agree, but there was one thing he said with which I did agree, and it is that the ordinary people of Palestine are longing for peace. If only these political differences could be removed I am sure that they would all be willing to live and work together. While the plan for a Jewish State in the whole of Palestine, or in only a part of Palestine, is under consideration, there tan be no peace in that country.
We are asked today, in an impromptu Debate, to discuss the material which has been placed before us by the Lord President of the Council. I have been for long mixed up with this affair. I spent seven months at it on one occasion, working 10 hours a day, and I understand its difficulties and intricacies. I would not for a moment pretend to express now any opinion on the proposals. We need to see the exact written word and to examine the details and also to have a thorough knowledge of the background and of the country before coming to any decision about it. I am glad that the proposal is only a "basis for discussion." That is a very wise proviso.
Secondly, my right hon. Friend the Lord President enunciated the doctrine, which pleases me greatly, that Arabs and Jews will be consulted before any decision is taken on these proposals. If Governments of this country in the past had consulted the Arabs at every stage, instead of enunciating a doctrine and imposing it upon Palestine without consulting the Arabs, Palestine would have been saved a lot of bloodshed. The Foreign Secretary has told us now that in North Africa the Senussi are to be consulted. At last we are coming to commonsense and justice. Why should people be trafficked with without being consulted? 1052 Arabs and Jews are to be consulted, and I hope that those consultations will result in some good.
There is a proposal to try to provide for the differences between Arabs and Jews by setting up provinces under a central Government. I would like to see the boundaries of the provinces before coming to a decision. This device is a genuine attempt to get over the difficulty of the differences between Arab and Jew in Palestine. There is the question of minorities to be considered. That is a very serious question and a very formidable problem. We went into it thoroughly on the Partition Commission. Above all there is the question of boundaries. From the statement read out today it seems that there is to be a British enclave around Jerusalem and another in the Negeb in the south. What for, I have not the slightest idea. I am not condemning it, because I do not know why. It would be very rash for any hon. Member to come to an opinion on these proposals without further study.
I appeal to the Arabs, who are far away, to try to settle this problem at long last. There are representatives of the Jews—strong Zionists—in this House. I appeal to them—I am a friend of theirs —to try in their own interest to settle this problem by abandoning once and for all the demand for a Jewish State. I appeal to the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner). He and I have often discussed it. We do not always agree but I have a profound respect for his sincerity. I beg Jews in this House who are the representatives of their people in their own interests to try to settle this problem by abandoning the demand for a Jewish State.
§ 8.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Kenneth Lindsay (Combined English Universities)
The only reason I dare speak on this subject, for I have no special knowledge, is that I have recently been in Palestine; though I have long taken a theoretical interest in it, and as a junior Minister sitting on the Front Bench I did something which is regarded as a serious thing—I abstained from voting on the 1939 White Paper. I did it because I had been to Europe and because I felt so horrified at the condition of the Jews and could see no finality to the Government policy. In February I 1053 was in Jerusalem and had the experience of living there for nearly two months during a period when the terrorism was partly in process and partly withdrawn during the stay of the Committee. I say that my only reason for speaking is to try to convey in a few sentences a little of the atmosphere I found there. Unless the Colonial Secretary or some other Minister can make a defence of the Government, which I am prepared to believe they have got, the story of this last year demands some criticism.
The condition in Palestine in January was quite impossible. It was suspended civil war. It is not only the Irgun or these terrorist organisations, It is almost every boy and girl. We are dealing with the whole population. I will recount two stories. A Jewish lady who had been to an American university herself wanted her daughter to go to the same college. In my presence her daughter said, "Mother, you may go to America but I am not going. I am staying here. I am dying for my country." I have another story of a girl in one of the best settlements I visited, Ben Shemen. The Jew Dr. Lehmann, who ran that school, said, "That is my daughter passing by. You might think she was going to some college but she is going to the rockiest place in Palestine to start a new settlement and nothing I can do will stop her."
Transjordania has been given what is called independence, and I heard comments about that. People asked what it meant and made disparaging remarks about 300,000 Bedouins being looked after. They asked whether they could have some sort of consideration. Whatever the Committee reported, I believe it would have made little difference. I talked to Arab and Jewish leaders day after day. I visited about 15 settlements and many industries. During that time the Committee was partly in the country, and it was my experience that as the Committee receded there was a joke in Palestine, "Mercy for the Jews; Justice for the Arabs; Palestine for the British."
The hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) is, I am afraid, only too right in some of his remarks. Nobody has mentioned strategy today. Nobody has mentioned oil. Nobody has mentioned the one thing on which Arabs and Jews in the last six months have found common cause, and that was in the general strike 1054 of Government employees. There are things far more subtle in our policy. From the beginning I have never believed that the Balfour Declaration was such a high-minded proposition. I have to say it. The longer I stayed in the Middle East, the more I felt it was a strategic question, and the hon. Member for West Fife deserves answers to some of the questions he put about strategy. When I was there, rumours were going round that we were building a base which would cost £3 million or £4 million in the Southern part of Palestine, and the Jews had to hear these rumours of vast constructive work going on. I had the definite feeling that the time had come when my countrymen ought not to stay in the country and be shot at. The hon. Member for West Fife said, "Clear out." I do not necessarily say that. I did not hear at that time one Jew say, "We want you to go." The reason was because, as the hon. Member for West Fife hinted, they feel not only that we are their protection, but, as they often say, they would be our protection.
If the future of Palestine is to be settled by the votes of millions of American citizens, and if the future of Palestine is to be affected so largely by outside influences, both Arab and British, I do not think there is any future at all. Until the last few days, I was wholly against any form of partitioning. I do not believe we have ever tried to make the Mandate work. We have two entirely separate worlds in education, and a fiery nationalism which was condemned by the Peel Report, was condemned by the Anglo-American Report, and is now condemned by the McNair Report which has come out within the last 24 hours. There is no common purpose. What is the good of talking about Canada or even of South Africa? There are two entirely different systems of education, two entirely different languages. No Arabic is taught in the Jewish schools and no Hebrew in the Arab schools. Do not let us fool ourselves.
§ Mr. Lindsay
There are about 400 Arab schools, and to our eternal discredit, the Arabs themselves are paying for many of them. This is not a normal country, it is a police State. I thought they were 1055 Colleges at first, but wherever one goes he sees these vast police posts. It is an impossible situation, and I say to my right hon. and learned Friend the President of the Board of Trade that, if it was necessary for three Ministers to go to India, it is probably necessary for somebody to go to the Middle East before the situation gets hopeless. Hon. Members may think that is a rather foolish suggestion, but I would like to go further and lose the identity of party on this question. It would not be at all bad if somebody like the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) went with Members of the Government. I know hon. Members may say, "Precious little security for them if they did,"or" What a hopeless thing to do at this late hour."
I have a letter from a friend of mine in Tel-Aviv and he writes, trying to put a good face on it—this is only three weeks ago:The sea-shore is thick with happy families bathing: Normal life may yet kill both the Army and the Hagana.This is a British official writing. There are thousands of people in Palestine who can cooperate, Jews and Arabs. They cooperated to do a whole series of things in the war, because there was a common purpose. But now there is nothing left to cooperate about. I do not believe we ever tried to give responsibility. Time and again, as Dr. Magnes says, we made a half-hearted attempt. I think partition is a mistake, and we are only pushing the problem a little further aside. I speak with feeling on this, because anyone who has had the privilege and chance of going through that beautiful country, with its great scientific agriculture, its research work at Rehovoth, knows that trachoma is not the disease, tuberculosis is not the disease, cholera is not the disease—the disease is politics and fanaticism. Unless enlightenment can come in through some door, there is no hope. These young Jews will fight to the death in Hagana or Irgun.
I knew many of those officials who were killed in the King David Hotel. I beg, whether America comes in or does not—I only hope she will—that our Government should sound a new note. I wish the Colonial Secretary had gone out in the first month of office without his hat on, 1056 like Gort, whose name was held in such high regard. When I was in hospital there, I thought the Jews were speaking of some local person, because of the sad look on their faces when they said they had lost him. That was simply because his character shone throughout the whole country like a good deed. Unless that sort of spirit can come back, unless education is not perverted to an entirely wrong use, as it is at the moment by both sides, there is no hope for Palestine, and no hope for the future of our name in the Middle East.
§ 8.59 p.m.
§ Mr. S. N. Evans (Wednesbury)
It is all very well for hon. Members on both sides of the House to seek to lay the blame for recent happenings in Palestine on the Labour Government, but the fact is that for 25 years the problem of Palestine has been bedevilled by high powered, heavily subsidised propaganda and emotion, with a paucity of logic. Emotion is a very good petrol but a shockingly bad driver.
We have to warn those who failed to cooperate in apprehending murderers that events in the King David Hotel have their repercussions at King's Cross. For the first time in my experience, ordinary decent working men are talking in their pubs and clubs, at the barber's and at work, about the lot to which our lads are being subjected in Palestine at this moment. Reference has been made to some words uttered by a gallant and distinguished British soldier in the course of his duty. The hon. Member for Staly-bridge and Hyde (Mr. Lang), for whom I have considerable respect and, I may add, no little affection, said that this gentleman was guilty of vulgar anti-Semitism. With great respect, my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde had no right to use words like that. It is all very well for gentlemen whose lives have been cast in pleasant ways, speaking from this reservoir of freedom and toleration, to criticise words used by soldiers labouring under great stress. But soldiers are not men of letters, coiners of slogans and catch phrases, word-spinners. Generally speaking, they are plain and simple persons.
§ Mr. Janner
Would my hon. Friend be good enough to read the actual words, and say whether they are reasonable?
§ Mr. Evans
I shall discuss them in the course of my speech. If we are to discuss the General's words, we must have regard to the background which evoked those words. Surely, it is the irony of ironies, and the epitome of ingratitude, that it is the men of Arnhem and of the Normandy beaches who are being subjected to these murderous attacks. I say ingratitude, because it is incontestible that without the courage and gallantry of these men, there would have been no Jewish problem in Europe and no Jewish home in Palestine.
It is a most unpleasant business to be hunted, stalked and ambushed by evilly disposed persons armed with sticks of dynamite, tommy-guns and other lethal weapons, a very unpleasant business indeed. I have had some. And it does not console the victims of these attacks to know that their assailants are Zionist gentlemen with political ambitions. Neither does it console their bereaved mothers and wives, our constituents. Had I fought with my regiment from the beaches of Dunkirk, via Alamein, Cassino, Normandy and Arnhem to victory, and had I, in the course of those six long years, had comrades who were now to be assassinated in a hole and corner manner in some Tel-Aviv back street, had that happened to me I fear that the General's words would have seemed temperate compared with what I would have been saying tonight.
To get this matter in the right perspective it is necessary brieflly to go over the background to this recent outbreak of violence. The background was that the British and American Governments, fully conscious of the difficulties surrounding a country in which 1,200,000 Arabs and half as many Jews lived, set up a committee to investigate and report. In due course that committee reported unanimously, and made several recommendations. The technicians, the experts, were then set to work to examine the mechanics of these recommendations, including the assimilation, transportation, housing, feeding, clothing and employment of the 100,000 persons it was thought desirable to evacuate from Europe.
That was the background, and it might have been thought that tranquility would reign, at any rate for the period in which these problems were being considered; but not so. An outbreak of violence unprecedented in ferocity was set in train, and in due course the British Government 1058 were compelled to take the steps which they have taken. I do not think any one of us can discuss with profit the statement that was read out by the Lord President of the Council. I do not underestimate my powers—sometimes I am tempted to think I have got a fair degree of understanding—but I would not attempt to understand and to make a constructive contribution on the basis of the statement of the Lord President. I shall read it with great care and, in due course, if we are called upon to discuss it, I shall hope to make a contribution. Meanwhile, and I say this as one who in the comparatively short lifetime of this Parliament has twice felt compelled to vote against the Government—I hope it will not occur again, but, of course, it might—on this occasion I feel I should be lacking in courage and political honesty if I did not range myself behind the Government in the steps they have taken, and which I hope they will take, to protect the life and limb of our kith and kin in Palestine.
§ 9.8 p.m.
§ Brigadier Low (Blackpool, North)
I agree with so much of what the hon. Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans) has said that I shall be able to put my few remarks to the House quite shortly. Today we have been discussing the question of Palestine under two broad headings. First, some hon. Members have brought to bear considerable knowledge and discussed the future scheme for Palestine. I quite agree with the hon. Member for Wednesbury, and with another of his hon. Friends, that it is very difficult to discuss the statement of the Lord President with any certainty in one's mind, having had only a few hours to study the scheme. If I may refer for a moment to what was said by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) at the beginning of his excellent speech, he said that the two tests of any scheme for the future of Palestine, which stood a chance of success, were whether or not the scheme would reconcile Arabs and Jews and whether or not the schema had an element of finality in it. The chance of reconciliation seems to me to depend upon certain matters referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for the English Universities (Mr. K. Lindsay), in particular upon the policy which we carry out on education. But it depends mainly 1059 on the degree with which we are able to maintain law and order in that country, for there is no chance of reconciling Jews and Arabs as long as freedom from fear is absent from that country.
I want to say a word or two on the difficulty of restoring and maintaining law and order in that country today. We all know how the situation has deteriorated in the past six months. We know it has deteriorated so much that our troops there have now been given, we understand, full powers. I hope the Colonial Secretary will tell us whether or not they are full powers, or only modified powers, or whether they are restricted in any way. They have been given full powers to deal with the terrorists in the country. That task in peace time is a job which no soldier who has done it ever wishes to have to carry out again, and it is a job the difficulty of which cannot really be understood by those who have not done it. In war, a soldier's job is difficult and dangerous enough, but, in peace time, and when dealing with people in the countryside, friends and foes together, the task of the commander and the troops under him in dealing with a large terrorist organisation is indescribably more difficult. I hope hon. Members, particularly on the other side of the House, who have sometimes condemned actions by the troops, and, more frequently, by our commanders, will believe me when I say that. To use an expression which was used by the hon. Member for West Fife (Mr. Gallacher) earlier, when referring to the terrorists, it is very easy to condemn the general.
Now I want to refer to the letter of General Barker, the full text of which I do not believe any hon. Member has seen, and which I doubt if the Government have fully considered. Yet it is the letter on which some hon. Members have seen fit to condemn, out of hand, a high officer of the Army. Whatever words that officer has found it necessary to use, I venture to suggest that the error which he made is certainly no greater than the error of the hon. Member who stands up in this House and accuses a general of "vulgar anti-Semitism." Surely, it is the duty of all of us in this House to uphold the confidence which our troops, in this difficult situation, have in their commanders. I venture to suggest that the Lord President 1060 has done little service to the country today, by announcing, before the Government have had time to look into this matter, that they dissociate themselves from the terms of that letter. Until we are told the terms which the general used in that letter, until we have seen the words which he actually used and until we know the contents of the letter, and the circumstances in which it was written how can we condemn the general or dissociate ourselves from the letter? The matter certainly seems to require explanation, as I think many hon. Members would agree. Some of the explanation has been given by the hon. Member for Wednesbury, but we do not know the conditions of strife and difficulty under which the troops and their commanders are still working in that country, and we surely cannot explain the General's words completely until we do.
I hope that, as the result of the opinion which the Government seem to have formed upon General Barker's action, they are not going to make it more difficult for our troops in Palestine to carry out their job, by restricting their powers and by hamstringing their commanders. I do not know whether they have appointed any man with great political knowledge to assist our commanders in Palestine in the same way as our commanders-in-chief during the war had Ministers of State or political advisers to assist them. If they have not, it might be well worth their while to consider the wisdom of appointing someone with great political knowledge and understanding of the peoples with whom the generals in Palestine are dealing, so that the burden of any commander out there may be lightened, and so that, if the Government do find that mistakes have been made, such mistakes shall not be repeated.
Having dealt with the Army, I will now refer to a point mentioned in many of the speeches made today and particularly by the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman)—How far do the needs of strategy play their part in the actions and decisions of His Majesty's Government when dealing with the problem of Palestine at the present time? The hon. Gentleman, in what I thought was a rather over-modest way, declined my invitation to him to set himself up as an expert on strategy. I do not pretend to be one myself, but I did think that he would tell the House that he had certain views 1061 about strategy, because he has written a book, entitled "A Palestine Munich," in which he has argued that it would be most unwise in any way to restrict the immigration of Jews into Palestine. In the course of the argument, contained in page 29 of that book, he says that if we restrict the immigration of Jews, the Arabs will get so strong that they will come to us and ask us to remove ourselves from Palestine. He then says:The last base of the defence of Suez would have gone.It is no part of the policy of any of my hon Friends that the defence base of the Suez Canal should be in Palestine; in fact, I remember my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition roundly condemning such action in the course of the Debate on Egypt. It is certainly very regrettable, to say the least of it, that, if, as a result of our curious method of negotiating in Egypt, we have put ourselves in the position of having to keep large forces in Palestine.
Perhaps I may say a few words on the general and wider subject of the future of Palestine. Just as, in my view, law and order is essential in order to bring about a chance of reconciliation between Jew and Arab, so that the suspicion, fear and mistrust which they now have of one another may be uprooted, so it is essential, in order that there may be some chance of governing the country and maintaining law and order, that His Majesty's Government must have, and declare, their future aim in regard to Palestine. As so many hon. Members have said, it is largely because of the procrastination and delay, brought about by whatever cause, that the situation in Palestine has deteriorated so rapidly during this year. The proposals put to us today will need to be studied. They will be studied by hon. Members of this House and, as other proposals were studied in India, by the people to whom they refer. Just as in India, no proposals will be of any avail unless they are accepted by the parties concerned.
Therefore, these proposals will be of no avail unless Jew and Arab accept them. By "Jew and Arab," I believe we mean the opinion of world Jewry and of the Arab League and the Arab world. Much emphasis has been laid upon the consultations with world Jewry. I have heard far too little of consultations with 1062 Arab opinion. I am sorry that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs is not here today. I regret his illness as much as others in this House. He has more than once reminded this House that Palestine is part of the Middle East. No decision can be reached unless we bear in mind that the Arabs in Palestine are culturally connected with the Arabs who live around them, that the economics in Palestine must be connected with the economics of the Middle East, and we can never exclude the fact that the strategic interests of Palestine, whether they be British, Arab or universal, are connected with the surrounding country. I hope that, in due course, the Jews and the Arabs will come to the council table with His Majesty's Government, and will discuss these and any other proposals which may be submitted, for I am convinced that only by discussion and by getting a conciliatory atmosphere, can we get down to the real problem of producing a scheme for the future of Palestine, which will meet with the general consent of Jews and Arabs in Palestine and of all peoples throughout the world.
§ 9.22 p.m.
§ Colonel Wigg (Dudley)
There are one or two aspects of the Palestine problem which have a significance beyond the problem itself. There are Members of this House who think that if we could remove all the Jews from Palestine the Arabs would then settle down and live a life of peace and harmony with themselves and with us, but I believe that the experiences during the period between the wars and, indeed, during the war itself do not bear out that suggestion. The Colonial Office was responsible for the administration of Iraq from the time when General Maude captured Baghdad onwards, and the history of what has happened in Iraq does not support the view that if there had not been a Jewish problem, the Arabs would welcome our administration. Indeed, during the war the Iraqi Arabs seized the opportunity to try to take their affairs into their own hands. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why not? "] I am not arguing that they should not have done so. I am trying to establish the point that the solution to the Arab problem does not depend upon the elimination of the Jews.
The point I want to make over and above that, is that the Colonial Office administration of Palestine is called in 1063 question by what the hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low) called the breakdown of law and order. It is true that there is a breakdown of law and order, and that points to the fact that there has been a failure on the part of the civil administration. The soldier is not called in to carry out a policing function with the aid of tanks and similar weapons until the civil authority has failed to discharge its duty. I think the Government, as a whole, bear a responsibility which they cannot avoid merely by calling in Field-Marshal Montgomery or using his prestige, when a military commander, faced with an impossible situation—to use an expression of my hon. Friend the Member for Wednesbury (Mr. S. N. Evans)—acts indiscreetly. The commander there is called upon to deal with 70,000 or 80,000 men armed with mortars, and certainly other light weapons, with what is probably an inadequate force. He is forced to take action under instructions from the Government at home, and he is asked to handle it in such a way as not to cause a violent reaction of public opinion, not only to this country but also in the United States. It is a frightful thing to ask the soldier to do a job that the civil administration has failed to do without giving him adequate means for carrying it out.
I now turn for a moment to some of the events of the past few weeks, from which the Government cannot escape responsibility. The Foreign Secretary, speaking in Bournemouth, used these words:If we put 100,000 Jews into Palestine tomorrow I will have to put another division of British troops there. I am not prepared to do itIt is true to say that, although he is not prepared to put the 100,000 Jews into Palestine, the extra division is there. It is there, I suggest, because the Government are not fully informed as to what is happening. I am as sure as a private individual can be of the kind of advice the Government are getting. I have no doubt they are being told that troops are straining at the leash, that positive action has got to be taken, and orders are given accordingly. I do not believe such advice is wholly true. I have a letter from a private soldier, a constituent of mine, who expresses ad- 1064 miration for what he calls "the guts of the Jews." He goes on to make the point—and this is one of his worries, and one of the worries of other private soldiers serving in Palestine—that if, as a result of American opinion, we have to put 100,000 Jews into Palestine, then let American troops come and help to enforce law and order. His Majesty's Government ought not to be so tender to American opinion.
If it be that there have to be four, five, or six divisions in order to put 100,000 Jews into Palestine, quite clearly we have not got the extra divisions to put there. Let us be honest about it and say to the Americans: "A generation ago we gave two irreconcilable promises. As men of integrity we are seeking a solution which will enable us to carry out our obligations. The fact is, if we do what you want and put these 100,000 Jews into Palestine, it can only be done by force, and we have not the military capacity to put that into operation." That seems to me to be the honest way of stating the problem.
I hope His Majesty's Government will not seek to hide behind the kind of solution which the Lord President of the Council put across this afternoon. It is not new, and it leaves the Government open to the charge that what has been put forward today could have been put forward a year ago. I quite agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Blackpool, that the first job is to enforce law and order. The parallel is what happened in Ireland. In short, we have to secure an armistice before any solution is possible. It is quite improper to ask the military commander on the spot, or, indeed, the High Commissioner, to tackle what is, after all, a political problem. May I remind the House of what happened during the war? In the Mediterranean theatre we had Field-Marshal Alexander, a soldier of very great experience and a man of affairs. Yet attached to his staff—perhaps I am putting it a little crudely—there was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bromley (Mr. H. Macmillan) to advise on political affairs. I suggest very earnestly that a Member of the Government of Cabinet rank should go out and seek a solution in Jerusalem. That is where this problem will have to be solved. It cannot be solved by asking British troops to pay 1065 the price for the political mistakes which are the consequence of the mistakes of policy in the past.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
I am glad to have this opportunity of making a short contribution to this Debate, especially as I have some very small knowledge of Palestine, having served there during the 1938 troubles as a regular soldier and, during that period, having made many friendships with Jews and Arabs. I apologise if what I say is somewhat disjointed, but I do not wish to go on as long as I originally intended, in view of the number of hon. Members who wish to speak. First of all, I want to appeal to hon. Members on both sides of the House, and particularly on the opposite side, to cast aside what I might call woolly thinking and sentimentality. There has been too much of that altogether in connection with this problem. [An HON. MEMBER: "Why exclusively this side?"] I did not say exclusively that side. I believe the terms of reference of the Committee were wrong, in that they confused the plight of the Jews in Europe—for which we all feel very much—with the actual future of Palestine under British mandate. The two problems cannot be entirely separated, but they should not be confused to that extent.
In Poland, for example, out of some four million Jews before the war, only 80,000 are supposed to be alive in Poland today, apart from some 200,000 or 300,000, according to official Polish figures, who have had an enforced stay at the invitation of Marshal Stalin in Siberia since 1939. I have been to Auschwitz and I know of the appalling and incredible suffering of the Jews there, and of the Poles themselves, and we are all desperately sorry for the plight of the Jews in Europe. As another example, many hon. Members in the past, and I think even today, have stressed the fact that some 26,000 Palestinian Jews, most of whom were members of Hagana, volunteered for the British Forces during the war, and there have been people who have been only too quick to compare that with the number of Arabs who volunteered. To my way of thinking, that is an extraneous issue. I know, too, of the rising in the Warsaw Ghetto, about which very little is known. I have actually seen the space in Warsaw where thousands upon 1066 thousands of Jews lost their lives before General Bor's rising, a space, which now has not one brick standing upon another, about two miles wide by one mile. About 400,000 out of the 600,000 Jews in Palestine are supposed to have close relations now in Europe among 1,500,000 survivors, and I imagine it would be also true to say that almost every one of the 1,500,000 survivors could claim to have a relation in Palestine. We all admire the Jewish contribution to the war effort, and we have great sympathy with their sufferings, but neither our admiration nor our sympathy should be allowed to fog the issue of the problem of Palestine. That is the first point I want to make.
Next, I want to draw a contrast between the behaviour of the Arabs from 1936–1939 and the behaviour of the Jews since V.J. Day. It was reliably estimated that in 1938 some two-thirds of the Arab population were supporters of Haj Amin Husseini, the Grand Mufti, and perhaps the other third were supporters of Fakri Bey Nashashibi. The number of armed Arabs was never large, several hundreds perhaps, a thousand at the most, and most of them came from Syria under the command of Aref Abdul Razzek and under the direct orders, of course, of the Grand Mufti.
The population as a whole, however, were not behind the Arab rising. I know this very well, and I can tell hon. Members from my own experience, that the greatest difficulty one had, as an officer, in those days was to maintain discipline, which was excellent in itself, amongst one's men, because so soon as they were left alone they would be making friends with the Arabs which, at that moment, was incompatible with their duty. One would find them playing with the kids at the very time when there were armed gangsters in the vicinity. We never lacked Arab helpers in those days, and there were very few villages, indeed, to which one went—and other hon. Members who were there will bear me out—where one was not offered a cup of coffee or a glass of arrack, which was better still.
§ Mr. John Lewis (Bolton)
Can the hon. and gallant Gentleman say how many Jews were killed in that period?
§ Major Beamish
The hon. Gentleman can easily find out for himself. I am not an encyclopaedia to inform him.
§ Major Beamish
On the Jewish side of the picture, we all know that from 1936 to 1939 Hagana openly collaborated with the Palestine police, and, indeed, we actually formed a Jewish Settlement police, and organised, armed and trained them. They took full advantage of that fact. In 1940, we saw the secession of the two terrorist movements. Recent events have shown, as all hon. Members know, close collaboration between the two terrorist groups and Hagana, and, worst of all, between them and the Jewish Agency, the latter fact not coming as a surprise, I may say, to any of those of us who kept closely in touch with the situation. But this is the point I wish to draw from this: The activities of the Jewish terrorists in Palestine would now be absolutely impossible had they not got the backing of the very large majority of the Jewish population. I do not think that we should lose sight of that fact in considering this whole matter. Let us, therefore, give our wholehearted support to the actions of the General Officer Commanding in Palestine, and ignore such irresponsible outbursts as that of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman)—whom I see in the House but not in his place—in questioning the Prime Minister last week.
I want to say a word or two about the Palestine Police, who have been mentioned so far today only in passing. The British section of the Palestine Police was some 1,000 strong in 1936. My figures are only approximate. In 1938 it was about 3,000 strong. When the war came about 75 per cent. of the personnel who had been Regular soldiers—that is, the large majority of them—wished to volunteer to return to their own regiments to take a more active part in the war. Hon. Members may not know this, but it is a fact to which I attach importance. In order to get away, after being conscripted, many of them—a considerable number of them—laid down their arms and refused to do duty; and as a result they were confined for one month or three months—for varying periods—in Acre prison, and were then repatriated via South Africa, where many of them were welcomed by the South African Forces, only to find themselves back in Palestine either as warrant officers or with commissions. Hon. Mem- 1068 bers will understand how that caused some discontent, to say the least of it, in the Palestine Police.
In 1944, the Police Mobile Force was formed, a striking force with police powers, and when this was formed—I say this as a soldier—all the plum jobs— without exception, all the best jobs—were given to Regular soldiers, who were put over the heads of extremely experienced Palestine policemen with twice their service. I do not think that that was right. The British section is, I believe, nearly 50 per cent. under strength—it may not be quite 50 per cent., but I believe that it is well over 25 per cent. under strength. At the present time we can see a poster campaign being conducted in this country for recruitment, and there is a recruiting headquarters in Victoria Street. I think we are entitled to know from the Government whether the outstanding questions of the award of medals and pensions and the questions of pay and gratuities, which have been worrying the personnel of the Palestine police for many months since the end of the war, have been satisfactorily settled, whether the right sort of men are now coming forward, and whether they are being offered proper conditions of service in that Force.
Like other hon. Members, I resent the way in which this Debate has been conducted. This extremely important plan, with its far-reaching results, has been sprung on us at a moment's notice. It has not given us an opportunity to consider it. Like other hon Members, I maintain that it is wholly impossible to discuss the details of the plan in the Debate today or tomorrow. I think that is a pity. I wish to give three short quotations. I consider that the Government, among other things, should base their future action on these quotations. I wish to quote, first of all, from the "Summary of the Arab Point of View," which was presented to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry by the Arab office. It states:The Arabs of Palestine are descendants of the indigenous inhabitants of the country, who have been in occupation of it since the beginning of history; they cannot agree that it is right to subject an indigenous population against its will to alien immigrants, whose claim is based upon historical connections which ceased effectively many centuries ago.To my way of thinking, that is hard to controvert. It puts it concisely. The 1069 second quotation is from the first of the ten recommendations of Chapter I of the Committee's Report. In the second sub-paragraph, I read:But Palestine alone cannot meet the emigration needs of the Jewish victims of Nazi and Fascist persecution. The whole world shares responsibility for them and indeed for the resettlement of all 'Displaced Persons.' We therefore recommend our Governments together, and in association with other countries "—I would emphasise that—should endeavour immediately to find new homes for all such 'Displaced Persons,' irrespective of creed or nationality, whose ties with their former communities have been irreparably broken.Finally, I would quote what the Foreign Secretary said at the recent Labour Conference. This quotation is taken from its context, but I do not think the sense is altered as a result:For my part I cannot bring myself to accept the theory that has been adumbrated in America and elsewhere that because a man is a Jew he must be hounded out of Europe to some other country. My goal as Foreign Secretary is to bring him back again, after all the terror that he has had, on terms of equality with the other citizens throughout Europe.I am glad to find in brackets the word "Applause." Arising from these quotations, and because of the fundamental principles contained in them, I do not believe that the proposals which the Government have put forward today will work smoothly. In Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, under which our Mandate was granted, the words "sacred trust" are mentioned. I would say that the onus is as much on Arab and Jew, as on the people of this country, to preserve that sacred trust, by avoiding the extremes of nationalism and prejudice, and I would say, too, that it rests as much on Arab and Jew as it does on the United Nations as a whole. I am more than doubtful whether the Government's plan can work, because I feel that it fails to carry out the sacred trust so far as the Arabs are concerned.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Mr. Lever (Manchester, Exchange)
It is with some diffidence that I join with other non-experts on this subject in the Debate, but there are a few remarks which I feel ought to be addressed to the House about it. I have never myself been a Jewish nationalist. I have never supported extreme nationalism in 1070 Palestine on in Great Britain. I hold no brief for the Jewish Agency leaders in much of their propaganda, particularly that adopted in the United States and in this country, and particularly that which merely contents itself with being anti-British, and which has been used in the United States largely to encourage popularity. Still less have I any sympathy with the villainies of the terrorists of the extreme national movement in Palestine. I am somewhat sickened at the mealy-mouthed hypocrisy which permeates the atmosphere whenever the terrorists are discussed in this House. These terrorists are villainous, stupid and unbalanced people. If anyone is responsible for the deaths of Jews, Arabs and Englishmen in Palestine, it is those who have fomented the desperation of these terrorists, and encouraged their extreme nationalist ambitions, without any hope of their being fulfilled. When we have played on the hopes of a tortured people and encouraged desperate young men in their ambitions, it will not do to come into this House and satisfy ourselves in a smug way by merely rebuking them with some pious generalisations about law and order.
In case any hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House think that I am referring exclusively to hon. Members on the Government Front Bench, I would gently refer them to the speeches made by political leaders of all the main political parties in this country, including the Leader of the Opposition, and Prime Ministers who, over the years, have encouraged all these Jews in Palestine and in Europe to hold these views and, finally, when their hopes are frustrated, fail to meet the dreadful disasters that have taken place. I claim the right to concern myself about the safety of the British Tommy. [Interruption.] I think that sometimes some hon. Members think that their vociferations are a substitute for a war record. I take the view that anyone who really cares about the interests of the British soldier in Palestine, is not content with cheering on the kind of stupidity which will lead to further bloodshed and deaths. I hold the view that it is sometimes contemptible for hon. Members of this House to attack generals or civil servants for carrying out a general policy. But General Barker was not carrying out the Government's policy when he issued the stupid, inflammatory and insulting message to his commanders which he did. I hold the view that per- 1071 haps now that the Government have disassociated themselves from his remarks and indicated that appropriate action is being considered, the best thing that hon. Members can do is to suggest alternative posts for this general.
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay (Solihull)
On a point of Order, Mr. Speaker. Is it correct to criticise the action of general officers commanding troops in a situation such as this?
§ Mr. Lever
I can understand that there may be hon. Members on both sides of this House who resent conducting this Debate on an adult level. They prefer, the moment that anyone criticises a general or other brass hat, to suggest that it is out of Order or that it is stupid. Normally, when a general is carrying out a policy which he is ordered to carry out by the Government, only a fool or a knave would venture to hurl abuse at his head. This general has gone far beyond that. Without thought of the consequences, he has been guilty of an act of grave irresponsibility which will inflame the situation there, and cause loss of life and embittered feelings which cannot be in the interests of our soldiers.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
Is it not a fact that this letter of General Barker's was not for publication, that it was privately sent to his divisional commanders?
§ Mr. Martin Lindsay
On a point of Order. Surely, it is contrary to the traditions of this House, Mr. Speaker, to suggest that a general officer commanding sent a letter for the purpose of inflaming his officers?
§ Mr. Lindsay
The hon. Member has just said that General Barker wrote a letter for the purpose of inflaming his officers. I put it to you, Sir, that that is quite contrary to the tradition of this House, to make an attack of that nature on a G.O.C. commanding troops, especially at this moment.
§ Mr. Speaker
I cannot rule that an attack on an officer commanding troops is out of Order; it may be out of taste, but it is not out of Order.
§ Earl Winterton (Horsham)
Further to that point of Order. Is it not a fact, Sir, that on many occasions your predecessors, while giving the same Ruling as you have just given, strongly deprecated attacks being made on a general, or anyone else, who could not answer in this House? Is it not, therefore, desirable, in all the circumstances of this Debate, which is sufficiently inflammatory, that Members should be induced to depart from attacking someone who cannot defend himself?
§ Mr. Speaker
That is entirely a matter of opinion. If the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester (Mr. Lever) chooses to go on like that, that is his affair. It is not out of Order, so far as I am concerned.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
When a Member is dealing with the case of a G.O.C. in a difficult situation, who has published a letter which was—
§ Mr. Silverman
—written to some of his officers, a letter which, in some people's opinion, is inclined to do harm, and when the Government have stated that in doing so he was not carrying out his instructions, are not Members entitled to comment upon that action?
§ Mr. Speaker
The question is whether that letter was published or not, or whether it was more or less a private instruction to some of his intimate officers under his command. Personally, I deprecate interfering with an officer who is responsible for a very difficult situation, and criticising his action when we do not know all the facts of the case.
§ Mr. Lever
I shall not pursue the matter further, Sir. In any case, I did not intend 1073 to make more than a passing reference to it. Now I come to this point. Are Members on both sides who, in my submission, share responsibility for the unbalanced state of mind which has led terrorists to do shocking acts, content to shelve their responsibility by hurling at each other a collection of clichés about these young terrorists, or do they intend honestly to get together to try to find a solution which will be of a constructive nature? I appeal to my right hon. Friends who form a majority in the Cabinet. When I was going around expressing a considerable less popular view among the Jews of this country and elsewhere, and when I was being criticised for it, those right hon. Gentlemen were basking in the glow of warm admiration by encouraging sentiments and hopes which they had no expectation of fulfilling. I understand that a tendency to hardened conscience is a well-recognised occupational disease among Cabinet Ministers, but is it too much to hope that the process is not sufficiently far advanced to make them lose sight of their grave responsibility to the Jews in Palestine, as well as to the Arab population?
We ought to be a little more candid in this House and outside as to what is our object in Palestine. It is no good deploring the fact that outside this House, relations between Jew and Gentile are being made worse because of terrorist action in Palestine. It is no good deploring it unless you explain to the British people where the responsibility lies for the events in Palestine, why you are there, and what you propose to do about it. Why are we in Palestine? Let us be clear about our purpose. Are we in Palestine as trustees for the local population? I am as much concerned for the welfare of the Arab population as for the Jewish. Are we there because we need a strategic base? Do not say that we are there as trustees if we are there mainly for strategical reasons, or to secure our oil supplies, or even to improve the value of oil company shares. Do not be mealy-mouthed. Do not give windy lectures to the exasperated Jews who have temporarily lost their reason. Be honest about it, and tell them within what limits they can have votes, or no votes at all. I feel a little sorry that the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) did not have a chance to speak today, because he would probably have made a 1074 realist approach to this subject, from the Tory point of view. I think that is often to be preferred to the more dishonest moralising that one so often hears on this subject. If we are in Palestine as trustees for the Jewish and Arab populations, let us be quite clear that our actions are solely conditioned by their welfare. It is rather a novel interpretation of trusteeship action for one trustee to lock up another and to assault the beneficiaries. This is something that is novel to me, speaking as a lawyer, in the interpretation of trusts. That applies whether one is dealing with the Jews or the Arabs.
Right hon. Gentlemen on the Government Front Bench and the Opposition Front Bench have entered into a conspiracy of impartiality in which they say that there are the wild Jews and the wild Arabs, and the poor British Government between is struggling to be an honest trustee for all. May I make a suggestion to any hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who feel themselves in a difficulty as to how to be trustees? Two courses are open to a bewildered trustee. One is to resign, and the second is to go to the court. In this case, in my submission, the appropriate action is to go to the only court available, the United Nations, and submit the matter to them in order that the weight of world opinion will be behind the solution, whatever it may be, and, in so far as this country has a legitimate right, in the interests of its safety, to be in Palestine, to have that right safeguarded by the United Nations. It is only right that these frank words should be spoken, because nobody outside the House, and nobody in any other country, takes at their face value the protestations that are being made. We are not adding either to the British reputation or to the chances of a peaceful solution in Palestine by the kind of action we have pursued, encouraging Arab nationalism on the one hand and Jewish nationalism on the other hand. We are not adding to the chances of a peaceful solution in Palestine. Certainly, we are not doing anything that will benefit the interests in this country in that area.
May I say a word or two about the question of partition? I believe that the partition of Palestine is rightly to be described as a counsel of despair. Only if we are satisfied that the essential minimum needs of both the Jewish and Arab 1075 communities cannot be reconciled are we entitled to contemplate partition? What are the essential Jewish demands in Palestine? They are that the community there should live peacefully and that they should have the right to bring in large numbers of their brethren in Europe. What is the essential minimum Arab demand in Palestine? It is that the Arabs should enjoy political equality, that they should not be subjugated by an alien minority, that they should not be the victims of any National State which would deprive them of their political rights, as a Jewish State or a Jewish majority would seem to do in their eyes. I do not believe that those essential minimum demands are irreconcilable. I do not believe that the Jews and Arabs could not get together to make a workable union in Palestine, provided that Britain acted as trustee and in the interests of both the Jewish and the Arab population. One thing I am completely convinced about is that the aim of trusteeship is to help the people of Palestine. That is what we want. If that is so—and that is what we all say—
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.