§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. Pearson.]
§ 5.29 p.m.
§ Brigadier Mackeson (Hythe)
I do no; think that it would be right that the House should adjourn without a Debate on the present situation in Palestine and without referring to the insecure position in which many British men now find themselves in that country. There have been constant attacks on British personnel recently which, judging from my postbag. undoubtedly have created very wide and deep resentment. These culminated in-the case of the two sergeants who were found recently hanged by the neck from trees in the most barbaric way. I believe that this feeling of resentment has spread, not only throughout this House and this country and the Christian world, but also throughout a great body of Jewish opinion in this country and elsewhere. But these feelings of resentment, grave as our anxieties for our men in Palestine now are, do not, in any way or in any circumstances, justify those who in this country have been responsible for anti-Semitic demonstrations. I believe them to be most deplorable and un-British, and I am sure that other hon. Members in other parts of the House will join with me in dissociating themselves from any anti-Semitic activities at all.
The time has come when expressions of regret by moderate Jewish opinion and by the Haganah in Palestine should be translated into positive action. I cannot but feel that someone, outside the immediate criminals in the case of the two British sergeants, must have known something about where these men were in hiding, yet no word reached the Palestine authorities, so far as I am aware, and nothing was written. I believe that is due to the fact that moderate Jewish opinion and the moderate leaders of the Haganah are frightened to give information, even if willing to do so and, in support of that theory, I would quote the case of 12th May this year, when two British men of the C.I.D. were lying dying after being shot in the streets of Jerusalem, while members of the Jewish community passed by on the other side.
I do not believe that the Jews are a craven race, but I believe this attitude was only adopted because they felt that, 2307 if they had crossed the street, they would have been shot or their loved ones would have suffered from their helping these dying Britons. I feel very strongly that this fear must be conquered, or the future of the Jews in Palestine will consist in being run by a small Gestapo. A great deal has been said by 60 or 70 hon. Members of this House on benches opposite who hold pro-Jewish or Zionist views, and the case has been put in another place, though, perhaps, not quite so strongly. I do not feel that His Majesty's Government have really paid sufficient attention to the present situation, to the British personnel involved, both police and troops, in Palestine. I know that the right hon. Gentleman is as anxious as anybody else, but their position has now become intolerable and the Government must bear a very heavy share of that burden.
What is the position at the moment? So far as I can make out, we now have, in round figures, between 80,000 and 100,000 troops in Palestine. I will not attempt, for security reasons, to give the exact number, but that figure has been widely bandied about in the Press. Since the present Government took office, 79 military personnel have been killed and 180 wounded, 40 policemen have been killed and 69 wounded, while the civilian casualties have numbered 16 killed and 10 wounded. That comes to about 400 British casualties. Now, we have reached the final climax, in which Sergeants Paice and Martin, with their hands tied behind their backs, have been hung, struggling and gasping, in a noose and have died the most horrible death. The anxiety in more than one hundred thousand homes in this country is now very great, and I believe that the odium for these events must fall heavily on the terrorists in Palestine, though I cannot exonerate the Government or the Party opposite of a large share of responsibility.
I say that for three reasons, which I will explain. First, there are the election pledges made to the Jewish community in the world by responsible Ministers who were Members of the Coalition Government, who must have had the facts at their disposal, and who must have known the effect on the Middle East when their pledges were made. They must have known the effect that would have been 2308 caused in the Middle East had their pledges been immediately implemented. When it was clear that the pledges were not going to be honoured, world Jewry began to feel resentment and disillusionment, and that turned to abuse, and abuse has now turned into open attack. These attacks, however, do not consist of what we would understand by attack; they consist of cloak and dagger attacks and everything appertaining to such matters.
Secondly, I believe that the Government delayed too long in reaching a settlement, difficult though that was. Two years have passed and the Foreign Secretary has completely failed to reach a solution of this question or to implement his pledge to find a solution. I myself find it rather difficult to understand who is responsible for this, and whether it is the Colonial Secretary or his right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, but one thing which I am absolutely clear about is that the Cabinet and the Government as a whole hold this responsibility and are answerable to this House for the lives of our men in Palestine.
Thirdly, I believe that there has been some vacillation and weakness in handling the internal affairs of the Palestine situation. I make no reflections on the men who are serving or on those who lead our troops in Palestine. They have stood a strain which no other army in the world would stand. Any other army would have broken out in the most frightful outrages. Though there may have been some minor cases here and there, I think we can say that, if any other army than ours had been put under that strain, it would have been doubtful whether they would have acquitted themselves so well.
To return to the first of the three reasons I gave—the broken election pledges—in 1944, the present Prime Minister, who was then the Deputy Prime Minister, with full access to all Government secrets, supported, as the leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the report of the National Executive of the Labour Party, which said: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.I believe that the present Prime Minister, for whom I have great respect, made a bad error of judgment when he made that 2309 prophecy, and I can only think that he must have done it for vote-catching reasons.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
I hope the hon. and gallant Gentleman will appreciate that it is important that it should go on the record that the first part of that quotation goes far beyond what the Prime Minister said?
§ Brigadier Mackeson
That is the attitude taken up by the hon. Member's party, and it surprises me, having some slight knowledge of the Middle East, that anybody having knowledge of the Middle East should have used the word "encourage." Surely, the candid thing to do would be to use the word "eviction"?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer followed that up at the Labour Party Conference in May, 1945. He said:Last December the conference accepted and welcomed, without even the challenge of a card vote, the document entitled 'The Post-War International Settlement.' That stands as the policy of this Movement and of this Party, and in that document there is a clear and definite statement regarding Palestine and the Jewish people. This Party has laid it down and repeated it, so recently as last April…that this time, having regard to the unspeakable horrors that have been perpetrated upon the Jews in Germany and other occupied countries in Europe, it is morally wrong and politically indefensible to impose obstacles to the entry into Palestine now of Jews who desire to go there.I will not weary the House with other extracts from Labour Party speakers, but will confine myself to this statement thatthe Jews, if they so wish, must enter this tiny land in such numbers as to become a majority.That is contained in the Labour Party's Notes for Speakers issued during or before the General Election in 1945. The Lord President of the Council, as a member of the Coalition Government and as the Party organiser must have known the effect of that statement. That has done a great deal of harm; it is an aggravating cause, and it is time that the Government and the party opposite told the country, World Jewry and the Arab world where 2310 they stand. I do not know where they stand, and I do not believe that they know themselves.
It was said in one of these statements that there might be some question of expanding Palestine, the Transjordan or Egypt. There was never any chance of the Egyptians, the Syrians or the new State of Transjordan accepting such an expansion. I think that a further statement should be made, and that it should be made clear to the world as a whole that there are tens of thousands of unfortunate Jewish people who are in fact hostages in the large Arab cities in the Middle East. Their future worries me just as much as does the future of our own troops. I would say to the three right hon. Gentlemen, that, unless they change their attitude and tell us where they stand, I can only say of each:His vows are lightly spoken,His faith is hard to bind,His trust is easy broken,He fears his fellow-kind.Turning to the second charge, that of procrastination, I do not know how much that has cost this country—perhaps £100 million during the past two years. But when we were elected to this House in November, 1945, the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary announced the appointment of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry. On 20th April, 1946, the Committee reported. In June and July the report was examined by representatives of this country and the United States who made recommendations, which they were prepared to accept, and which the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council put before the House on 31st July, but which differed from the Anglo-American Report. In the autumn of 1946, a conference took place which was boycotted by the Jews and at which the Arabs attended. Finally, on 25th February, 1947, after the conference had broken down, the Government announced their decision to refer the matter to U.N.O.
I want to know how we stand in connection with this reference to U.N.O. On 25th February the right hon. Gentleman was asked by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) whether we were pledged to accept the decision of U.N.O., whatever it might be. I think we ought to have an answer to that question before we rise for the Summer 2311 Recess. The last time that this subject was raised, it was rather talked out. In another place, the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor said he could not imagine His Majesty's Government carrying out a policy which it did not approve. I do not know what is going to happen if U.N.O. produce a policy which we do not like. Surely, we must know whether we are going to stand alone, and whether we are going to use the veto or not.
I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman another question. Will he say that no decision on this question of Palestine will be taken without a full Debate in this House of Commons? If things go wrong, it will not only be a question of the unfortunate emigrants in Europe and of British troops suffering; but the whole of the Middle East may be set ablaze. This House has a responsibility, and I think we should be assured that an opportunity will be given for a full Debate before any irrevocable decisions are taken. To revert to the late Colonial Secretary, all that could be extracted from him in another place was his advice to their Lordships to "wait and see."
The immediate problem is that of our troops in Palestine. I will not go back before 31st January this year when we had our last Debate on Palestine, and when my right hon. and hon. Friends on this side of the House asked for firmer action in connection with the outrages which had taken place. It was a very Short time before extremely serious events took place. The Goldsmith's Officers' Club was attacked during the past six months, and that was about the most serious episode; 18 were killed and 85 were injured. There was also, of course, the attack on Acre gaol. I was in Malta shortly before one of these episodes and I can tell the House that after it had taken place—a British officer had been whipped—an article appeared in one of the local papers in which it said:We will get our own way, even if it means beating British officers.Since that time there has been a certain stiffening in the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman and the Government. After the explosion at the Officers' Club, certain areas were made controlled areas. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman why, in two cases, controlled areas were declared and then called off. I believe that, in the 2312 case of the Officers' Club, the reason was that evidence was given by certain Jews which enabled arrests to be made That appears to be a reasonable action, but when we come to the question of those poor men, Sergeants Paice and Martin, a very different state of affairs seems to exist. These men were kidnapped on 13th July, as hostages for young Jews under sentence of death for murder.
§ Mr. Silverman
The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that the Jews were under sentence of death for murder, whereas, in fact, they were under sentence of death for having made an attack on the Acre prison in which no lives, except their own, were lost.
§ Brigadier Mackeson
The hon. Gentleman is perfectly right. I withdraw that statement entirely. But, anyhow, these two British sergeants were kidnapped, and Nathanya was declared a controlled area on 13th July. That control was taken off on 26th July, and, on or about that date, several other incidents occurred which included two soldiers being killed by a mine, an officer being injured by another mine, a railway bridge near Benyamina being blown up, and an unsuccessful attempt being made on the Cairo-Haifa passenger train in the Nathanya area. On 31st July these two soldiers were found hanged near Nathanya. Why put on these controls and then take them off before those two soldiers were found hanged? I hope there is an explanation. Why put controls on and off, or declare martial law and cancel it before it has achieved its object?
Why have the Jewish mayors been arrested? Has additional information come to light which has made it obvious that these people were co-operating with the Irgun, or the Stern gang, or other terrorists? Why have they been suddenly "pulled in" and treated as the supporters of terrorists in Palestine?. The country has been gravely shocked. I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman if he intends to employ the same policy in regard to the use of British troops in Palestine as he has employed up to now. It seems 2313 to me that they are spread all over the country in penny packets, and if, as has been said, some young Jews, or, possibly, young Arabs, are arrested on any charge, any of these illegal organisations can, if. they wish, pick up an English soldier. They can do that very easily if the soldiers are searching lorries in ones and twos. Far be it from me as a very humble soldier to express an opinion, but I believe that the principle of concentration is a much better one than the principle of dispersion. I believe that the troops should be withdrawn from immediate contact with the population, that they should be used to cordon the big Jewish cities, and that transport should be confined to convoys going in and out at prearranged hours on permit. Would it not make it more difficult for the extremists if the use of taxis and private cars was forbidden for a period after such attacks?
I am convinced that the mines used in these outrages have been laid by people driving down the roads and not by people walking across the country carrying the mines with them. I am convinced that the terrorists have been able to use cars and taxis and that this should be stopped. They are some of the things which are causing most casualties. I can understand the reluctance of any British Government to impose collective fines or collective punishment of any sort. Through the long turbulent history of the North-West Frontier of India, it has always been a moot point, but I must remind the right hon. Gentleman that before the war, during the Arab rebellion, when I was there, collective fines were imposed and houses were blown down, in a somewhat ruthless manner. Why is it that the first Jewish house has only now been blown down? Why take this decision now, so late? If it is a right decision, as presumably the Palestine Government think it is, why was not it taken as a salutory step earlier? I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman this question; I am not quite certain if I have got it right or not. I understand from the Press that a 3d. tax has been put on petrol as a result of these attacks on the Haifa oil installations. Surely, that is a collective fine, which, as it happens, will fall on both communities, although in this case there seems to be no doubt that only one community is guilty.
2314 I believe a bold decision has to betaken in regard to Palestine, because I do not think we can afford to have between: 80,000 and 100,000 soldiers deployed in. penny packets. We must concentrate our troops, so that we do not wake up one morning and find two more of them hanging from a tree, and thinking, as we shall do, of the misery it will cause in the: homes concerned. I believe it is necessary now for economic pressure to be brought on the Jewish community as a whole—there need be nothing brutal about it—to make them realise that unless they can pull themselves together and control these extremists, the future of Palestine will be very unpleasant for anybody who does not subscribe to the views held by these gangsters—for that is the only word we can apply to them. I must repeat my question about U.N.O. before I conclude. I want to tell the right hon. Gentleman what I thought when I looked at the "Daily Express." I thought of the words of the British Legion:If ye break faith with us who die.We shall not sleep, though poppies growIn Flanders fields.Next spring, poppies will be growing in Palestine, and I beg the right hon. Gentleman to take steps to prevent any more of our boys being murdered before those-poppies flower.
§ 5.53 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Creech Jones)
It may be convenient to the House if what I have to say is said now. I do not complain, of course, that at the end of this Parliamentary Session the question of Palestine has been raised. It is a problem which is always before us in our work at the Colonial Office, and it is, unfortunately, a tragedy which is always before the eyes of the British public. I do not propose this afternoon to discuss the administration of the Labour Government over the past two years. The Foreign Secretary made a speech to this House, in which he related the processes which had engaged the attention of the Government, and the reasons why, with the breakdown of the negotiations with the Arabs and the Jews, the matter was sent to the United Nations. I think the reference to the United Nations was done with the general approval of the House, but we were all conscious, I think, that a very difficult period lay ahead of us before 2315 we could expect a decision or a recommendation from the United Nations. I think we were all conscious that during the spring and summer there would be a period of very considerable strain and difficulty, and that there would be very grave danger of civil administration degenerating possibly to a degree when it might not be possible to carry on.
The appeal that was made in this interim period, that the parties concerned should show some restraint, unfortunately brought no response from the Jewish terrorists. It was unfortunate, too, that what was called illegal immigration was condoned and actively assisted by Jewry not only in Palestine but in other parts of the world. In this period since reference to the United Nations, terrorism has piled tragedy on tragedy, and outrage has succeeded outrage, with grievous loss of life not only to British soldiers but also to Arabs and Jews alike. If I may say so, it has brought about infinite harm and loss of good will to the Jewish cause, and we are all experiencing how strong is the reaction of British opinion in our own country to these outrages. All of us have received the most passionate and indignant letters urging that strong steps should be taken to repress this evil in Palestine. Among the British public there is fierce questioning as to the burden and cost to Britain, and the tragedy involved by Britain continuing to shoulder this international liability.
I believe that Britain has honestly and disinterestedly tried to work an instrument that has proved to be, both to Jew and to Arab, unworkable. Unfortunately, there is on the part of Jewry little disposition to delay until the decision of the United Nations is made, lest it be not made in accordance with their own views of the situation. I want to say very strongly that in this period of difficult and dangerous conditions in Palestine, integrity and a high standard of administration have been maintained unimpaired, and I think we owe a great debt to the Administration for the difficulties they have faced, the dangers through which they have passed, and the magnificent way in which the difficult problems of maintaining civil life have been tackled.
In this period 1,500 Jews a month have been admitted into Palestine, nearly 400 a week; 30,000 over and beyond the 2316 75,000 laid down in the notorious White Paper. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why notorious?"] It is notorious for the reason that it is a bone of fierce contention. Repeatedly in these discussions we are brought back to the terms of the White Paper, and it has assumed a notoriety in all our discussions with Jews and Arabs alike. But I do want to make it clear that the terms of the White Paper in respect of political institutions and immigration have not been invoked. Meanwhile, the Cyprus camp has been established. It is contributing its quota to the immigration into Palestine. More recently, 985 orphans from Cyprus have been admitted, or are being admitted, into Palestine.
So far as the Arabs are concerned, I think this House should note that, in the trying conditions of Palestine, they have shown restraint. I hope that, even if at the present moment they are a little afraid, we shall not witness grave demonstrations because of their displeasure with the somewhat aggressive attitude which a minority of the Jews are assuming at the present moment.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I will come to that point in a moment if the hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me. I most emphatically declare that I regret that the Administration of Palestine has not received the full co-operation of the Jewish Agency in this period. It was a situation in which Palestine and the Jews had everything to gain by co-operation. The Administration, divorced from the people through no fault of its own, had to deal with a lawlessness condoned by Jewry. So far as terrorism is concerned, the Agency in February was invited to assist the police in stamping it out. Then and since they have publicly declined to co-operate.
Nevertheless—and I think this must be put on the record—Haganah have in their own way done, and I hope will continue to do, a great deal of helpful preventive work. But I say emphatically that denunciation and condemnation of terrorism are of no value at all unless the Jewish community reflect their determination by relentless action to rid themselves of this manifest evil. The situation in Palestine today is grave and extremely difficult, but 2317 I want to say, emphatically again, that the British authorities have not flinched from action which, in their judgment, the conditions demanded; and they will not flinch from any measures calculated to destroy the evil, and to restore order and law, and to bring to justice the people responsible for the hideous crimes committed.
The High Commissioner has, under the Palestine Emergency Regulations, full powers to take any action that may be necessary for the security of life and property in Palestine, with or without consultation with London. In practice, he has acted expeditiously, and with the full approval of His Majesty's, Government. He has acted in full collaboration and harmony with the General Officer Commanding, and, in recent events, no action proposed by the military authorities has been denied. The powers concerning the controlled areas enable him to suspend, if he thinks fit, civil liberties and Government services to any extent he may deem necessary. I say that there can be no weakening of the powers of the High Commissioner in the stern discharge of his difficult duties. Neither he nor the military authorities seek new powers which they have not had in order to cope with terrorism or the emergency situations which arise in Palestine from time to time.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor (Paddington, South)
On that point, would the right hon. Gentleman say whether they have sufficient troops in Palestine, in view of the present situation?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
All I can say is that the authorities have all the powers which they have asked for in dealing with the troubles about them. They have been denied no power which has been asked for, and so far as I am aware, the military have made no representations to us for further troops in order to deal with these difficulties. As I was saying, there can be even the complete abrogation of civil government—a condition that is undesirable, though one which cannot be lost sight of altogether in a country where government is heavily weighted with political and psychological problems. That is, I suggest, a step which cannot be too readily contemplated, but there are the fullest and completest powers to prevent, and to respond to, any situation which may exist. The Palestine authorities have the completest confidence and 2318 the fullest support of His Majesty's Government in London.
We have heard today from the hon. and gallant Member for Hythe (Brigadier Mackeson) something about military arrangements in Palestine. I am not competent to pass judgment as to the manner in which the military resources in Palestine are used. I can only say that the arrangements have been discussed with the highest military authorities of this country; they have been brought into constant review in the light of the changing situation; and nothing has been done by the civil authority to prevent any action which the military authorities thought, in their wisdom, desirable to take. I shall, obviously, forward the Debate and the views of the hon. and gallant Member to the authorities in Palestine; and also, of course, to the authorities here, the military authorities in London. But I want to say that I cannot imagine that all possibilities in handling this difficult situation have not been fully explored by the authorities on the spot, and in consultation with London itself.
§ Brigadier Mackeson
I would certainly not venture to give military advice to, or to insist that my military opinion should be considered by the General Officer Commanding in Palestine at the moment. What I said was that if the authorities are made to disengage the troops and, if necessary, the administration is allowed to become concentrated, then, in my humble opinion, personnel may be saved. That is what I am worried about.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
The safety of the troops is a matter which has been under the constant and very lively consideration of the military and civil authorities. The disposition of troops has been worked out in the light of all the experience and difficulties they have to surmount. The continuation of terrorist activities, notwithstanding the efforts of the security forces in Palestine, is due largely to the fact that the terrorists—a relatively small but highly organised and well trained body of misguided criminals—operate under the cover of the Jewish community in general. I think all who have been actively employed on this work in Palestine—military and civil authorities, the police, and all sections who have observed the situation—are agreed that the problem can be solved less by military operations, important as they are, than 2319 by police measures and action by the Jewish community itself. Therefore, I hope that at this moment the Haganah will supplement the Government's activities and continue its own measures in the most determined mood.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
If the Haganah say they are willing to do that, could the Secretary of State tell us whether or not they would be armed. That is a question to which we have never had a clear answer from the right hon. Gentleman. If the Haganah help, will they be allowed to carry arms?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
There have been discussions between the High Commissioner and the Jewish Agency in regard to cooperation with the Administration, but the Jewish Agency have not replied definitely. The operations of the Haganah cannot be divorced completely from the Jewish Agency. I believe that a fair amount of preventive work has been done by the Haganah. Our own Forces in Palestine have themselves prevented a very considerable number of outrages, and have prevented the outbreak of a great deal of serious crime. When one looks at the outrages, let us not forget the great risks and dangers which our Services undertake, and the great amount of outrage and crime which they are able to prevent. Just as a moment ago I paid tribute to the Administration for its work, so I should like to pay tribute to the security forces for their magnificent endurance in danger and hardship.
Since the brutal murders occurred, a number of further steps have been taken in Palestine to strengthen the general security. Of course, the searches and preventive measures have continued, and have been carried on in suspected areas. Certain areas have been brought under control; some buildings have been demolished, and the property of unlawful organisations has been seized. The Revisionist Youth Organisation has been suppressed because it was believed to be a breeding ground for young terrorists; and its journal has been suppressed also. A number of mayors, and some 40 others, have been detained—chiefly Revisionist members of Jewry—because of their known association, sometimes their contact, and sometimes their activities 2320 with terrorist groups, or because they have been thought to have given assistance to them. Further, the search for the murderers has continued intensively by both military and civil authorities.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
Presumably, the search was instituted immediately these two unfortunate sergeants had been kidnapped. Can the right hon. Gentleman say what measures were actually taken?—because it was 18 days before the men were murdered.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I want the House to appreciate that security measures are in continuous operation in Palestine. Searches are a continuous process; sometimes areas are cordoned off, when information comes to the knowledge of the authorities. What happened in the case of these lads was that the searches were intensified in certain areas where it was suspected they had been taken, but unfortunately no real knowledge as to where they were taken was in the possession of the authorities.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
That is a question I cannot answer directly, except to say that Jewry generally did show enormous concern about the kidnapping of these men and, in certain areas, did themselves try to discover the whereabouts of these men.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Is not it the case that in certain areas joint search operations took place in co-operation between the military and the Haganah?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
My hon. Friend is perfectly correct. That did happen. Certain expedients against the Jews generally have been suggested. If some have not been adopted it is because, on examination in Palestine or here, it is felt that they do not achieve their ends, or they blindly hit the innocent and allow the evildoer to escape, or cause the situation to degenerate into one which is even worse. But there is no irresolution in dealing with the evils as severely as our resources permit. It is difficult for me to add very much about the steps which have been taken by the authorities in maintaining their security arrangements. I want the House to believe that we are not irreso- 2321 lute; we are fiercely determined to play our part, as effectively as we can, with all our resources, in suppressing this evil.
I should like now to express my regret at, and to condemn, recent violent expressions of anti-Jewish feeling in this country. Provocation elsewhere may have been great, but no good purpose is served by irrational attacks upon people innocently pursuing their daily avocations in our midst. I feel deeply, as do His Majesty's Government, the horror and misery perpetuated by the folly of criminal groups of Jews in Palestine and their abettors elsewhere. But I say to the public here that the Palestine authorities have our complete confidence, and that His Majesty's Government will not slacken in the stern duties which lawlessness in Palestine demands. Our task has not been made easier by the spate of malicious abuse and vilification against Britain which has appeared in some of the American and French Press, and the bitter, unrestrained campaign pursued by some irresponsible American nationals to find the means for making intolerable the duties of the United Kingdom under the Mandate. The Jewish Agency in Palestine have a responsibility too, because in their passionate criticisms of British policy, they have lent themselves at times to the grossest misrepresentations.
There can be no solution of the Palestine difficulties until the immigration problem is solved, and the future status of Palestine determined. I hope that we are nearing that point. We made every effort to speed the United Nations Organisation in tackling this problem when it was referred to them. A Special Assembly of the United Nations was called, and a fact-finding Committee was appointed. We, in turn with the Palestine Government, proffered our evidence to that body, and the matter will be discussed at the next meeting of the Assembly five or six weeks hence. Pending the report of the Committee, it would be unwise and injudicious for His Majesty's Government to make any pronouncement without having studied the report and its recommendations. There is obviously a limit to the commitments with which Britain can burden herself overseas. Our sincerity as a nation was manifested by our reference of the problem of Palestine to the United Nations. We are a good member 2322 of the United Nations Organisation, and our record stands high. I have every hope that the United Nations will recommend a line of action which will prove acceptable to both Jews and Arabs, and will be a guarantee, by international obligation, of the peace, good order, security and development of Palestine.
§ 6.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
When the acting Leader of the Opposition first asked for this Debate, the Lord President of the Council replied that his instinctive reactions were that a Debate would not do any good. I am very glad that the Lord President of the Council has had second thoughts, because it is unthinkable to me that this House should have gone away for two months' Recess without discussing a matter about which, during the last few days, this country has been deeply stirred. No doubt my experience is that of all other hon. Members, namely, that for the first time, as a result of the recent outrage, I have been having communications from ordinary people in my constituency; from people who, before this, had taken little interest in the Palestine problem on one side or the other. It is essential that these people should realise that the Government and this House were just as shocked by this occurrence and just as stirred by this development, and are just as interested in the future of this Palestine problem.
It is quite true that the recent outrage, because it was deliberately surrounded by every circumstance of horror—nothing was left undone by the criminals to pile on the agony implicit in it—has stirred this country more than anything else; but we must not forget, in our deep sympathy for the relatives of these two young victims, that there have been no fewer than 108 members of the Armed Forces and the police killed in the two years of the life of this Parliament. The whole House will support the right hon. Gentleman in his expression of gratitude to and admiration for those in the various British Services who have been carrying this burden in Palestine. Few of us can think of a more thankless and more dangerous task than that which they have been carrying out, the danger which stalks you by night and day, from which you can never feel relief; thankless because there appears at the moment to them to be no end and no object, but merely the dreary 2323 continuance of the sordid murders to which they are getting accustomed.
I realise the difficulty which this House is in and is bound to be in when it comes to discussing a quasi-military situation such as this. We in this country obviously cannot set ourselves up as military experts in contradistinction to those who are in charge of operations, nor can we suggest with confidence measures which occur to us and appear to have been overlooked by them. Certainly, none of us would attempt on this occasion to try and teach to those responsible for law and order and for the military operations in Palestine the business of which they are past masters. But the action of the Services on the spot does depend not only upon the powers that are given to them by the Government at the centre, but also on the general appreciation of the situation and of the objects which the Government alone can supply.
Quite rightly, the right hon. Gentleman was asked whether the authorities on the spot were getting all the powers and all the support they require. To that question the right hon. Gentleman has given an unequivocal affirmative, and we must and do accept his word on that point. So much for the powers, but what of the appreciation? I cannot help feeling myself that the Government do not feel, as I do, that within the last few months there has been a complete and irrevocable change in the whole situation in Palestine. When the right hon. Gentleman says today, as he has done before, that he believes most in police measures and that the tasks in Palestine are really tasks for the police, then it appears to me that he does not appreciate this immense change. I feel myself that the vacillations of the last two years, coupled with the submission to the United Nations in the spring of this year with no policy of our own, really means the abdication of the old position to which in no circumstances can there ever be a return.
The object of the police is to keep order under some form of settled policy. That, I believe, has gone. They are now occupying a country which, in the main, is hostile until a decision is taken elsewhere. That is no longer an operation of police; it is a military operation, and should be treated as such. It is for that 2324 reason—the stoppage of all ordinary transport, the formation of convoys, the dropping of penny packets of troops, which is all right for a police operation, but which is becoming intensely dangerous if looked upon as a military operation—that this should now be treated as a military operation, in which the object is not to maintain comforts, conveniences, or the ordinary civil occupations of the people of Palestine, but to prevent any outbreak of disorders between Arab and Jew until a final decision can be taken, and whatever new measures are then decided upon can be put into effect. I beg the right hon. Gentleman and the Government to see that until that decision is taken, our troops and services in Palestine are put on a war footing, taking no more than the risks of war, and that we do not add to that an attempt to live a life of peace in the middle of what has become a hostile country.
The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech, referred to the question of the Jewish Agency and the Haganah. He said that the Haganah had done helpful preventive work. Well, neither the prevention nor the help have been very obvious to the ordinary observer in this country——
§ Mr. Stanley
I will tell the hon. Gentleman how preventive work could have been helpful. It could have been helpful at any time within the last two years. Whether it can still I am not so sure. At any time until recently, if the Haganah and the Jewish Agency, by real cooperation with us, by dropping conditions, the desire to negotiate as equal partners, the feeling that they must maintain their position as a State within a State, had given to the people in charge of Palestine the information which was in their possession, the whole of the extremist movements, the Irgun and Stern gangs, could have been wound up once and for all. It would not only have saved British lives and made our problem easier, but would have made easier, in the future, the problems of the Jewish Agency and the Haganah themselves.
§ Mr. Crossman
I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's point, but does he realise that at the time when Haganah was ready to do this, we undertook, in 2325 June of last year, the complete destruction of Haganah? We raided their arms dumps, but we did not attack Irgun. We put them all in prison, and the St. David's Hotel went up. Surely, it was a bit late to ask after that that they should come to us and say, "Here are the arms dumps, arrest us again."
§ Mr. Stanley
There were many opportunities before this time last year when Irgun could have been destroyed finally with the help of the Jewish Agency. There were opportunities which occurred at that time, when, I sincerely believe, the Jewish Agency and Haganah disapproved of the activities of the Irgun. The hon. Gentleman has selected a moment when Haganah appeared to take sides with Irgun, and joined with-them——
§ Mr. Stanley
I ask the hon. Member to ask his own Government, which published a White Paper which gave them convincing proof that Haganah had been responsible for outrages. We have been assured on several occasions since then, by the. Minister, that the Agency or Haganah were co-operating. At any of those periods, by real co-operation and a frank disclosure of all information, I believe that the terrorists could have been brought to an end.
May I come back to the point I was making when the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) interrupted. I believe that the chief sufferers from this; in the long run, will be the Agency themselves. They have allowed to grow up a monster which will end by destroying them, as it has already destroyed a great deal of the support which they were receiving before from the outer world. It may now be too late. It may be that this movement has gathered strength now, and achieved a position where it is no longer easy or possible for Haganah to help in their destruction. For the sake of the Jewish cause, I hope that for the first time real, open, complete, co-operation will now be given to the Government which will make no conditions, strain at no difficulties, and which will accept the necessity of putting an end to the people who are dragging its name in the mud.
I would like now to come to the question of illegal immigration. I know the strength of the feeling there is in Jewish 2326 circles upon this subject. Here, again, quite apart from the illegality of the action, of the immigrants, I cannot help thinking that it was foolish on their part, and on the part of Zionist organisations all over the world, so completely to ignore the appeal made, not by us, but by the United Nations, to stop this immigration during the hearing of the case. They have chosen not to do so. They have chosen to go on for these few months with what is not so much a humanitarian object, as it has been in the past, over so many years, but action with the intent of forcing incidents and strengthening, in some way, the case they are putting before the United Nations. I believe that they would have strengthened their case much more if they' had been content, during these few months, to respond to the request of the United Nations themselves.
But I confess that I am not very happy, about the treatment by the Government of this question of illegal immigration. It seems to me to have been characterised, in the last few months, by a good deal of vacillation and a considerable lack of foresight. When it was decided to send to Cyprus the illegal immigrants, and from Cyprus to give them a proper place in the admitted quota for Palestine, the Government, to that extent, were-condoning illegal immigration, or making it plain that such immigration carried no great penalties. Suddenly, without making any announcement that henceforth this plan was to be abandoned, and that there was to be no back door through Cyprus into Palestine, one ship was stopped. The announcement was then made that these people would be taken back to their port of departure. I do not quarrel with that policy, although, I think, it should have been announced beforehand, and everyone should have known exactly what was to happen. What does surprise me is to learn that, after that action had been taken, there have been, I think, two ships arrested and sent back to Cyprus. The only reason I can gather for that is that they did not know from what port these ships had come. If that is the reason, I think that they had only to inquire of any newspaper in this country to have been told exactly the ports from which these ships had left, both of them, I understand, in North Africa.
With regard to the people who were returned to France, everyone must have 2327 foreseen that the probable action would be that they would refuse to leave the ships, and one would have thought that there would have been some plan to take care of a situation of that kind, instead of which we have had the rather lamentable sight of these people sitting in these ships outside Port Bouc for three weeks.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
Can the right hon. Gentleman say precisely what he would do with the people on the ships?
§ Mr. Stanley
I am prepared to say what I myself would do. I feel, however, that it is more important that the Government should have had a plan as to what they were going to do. Quite frankly, I should have taken them not to Cyprus but to some other port within our control, and have made it plain, when landing them there, that far from acquiring a right to take part in the quota to Palestine they had sacrificed any immediate chance of getting a proper permit. I would remind the hon. Gentleman that I am not the Government. I am anxious that he should put a similar question to the people who have the responsibility——
§ Mr. Stanley
—and who should by now be in a position to tell us exactly what was going to happen. No one can wholly dissociate, or even partly dissociate, the question of outrages and security which we have been discussing from the question of policy which, at the present moment, we are not able to discuss. The right hon. Gentleman said that the reference to the United Nations had been supported by all Members in the House. That was only partially true. It was only supported by me, and I think by most of my hon. Friends on certain conditions which were not fulfilled. First, there should be some speed-up in the machinery of the United Nations, because anyone could foresee that the intervening months were bound to lead to the kind of situation that we have seen. Here we are in August——
§ Mr. Creech Jones
May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that every effort was made to speed up the machinery; indeed, a special meeting of the Assembly was called?
§ Mr. Stanley
My only answer to that can be that these "every efforts" have 2328 not resulted in very much. It is now August, and they have not to report until September, and it may be two or three months before this matter can be considered. That was not the only condition to which I referred. There was another, and, to me, a much more important one. I felt, and still feel, that with no guidance from us and no expression of views on our part, it is almost inevitable that, when we have waited the full nine months, there will, in fact, be no agreement, no new policy, and we-shall be where we were.
We have all of us followed the proceedings of the Commission in the last few months. They must have been extremely familiar to an hon. Member opposite. The same evidence was given by the same people; the same places visited with the same photographs—just the same as with every other Commission that has gone to Palestine in the last 15 years, and I think that we must be optimistic indeed if we think that, when the time comes in October or November, there will emerge from the United Nations some new agreed solution which can be immediately put into effect. What I suggest we should have said at the start is: "This is our plan and this is what we believe to be best in Palestine. Consider it, discuss it, amend it if you like. We are only too anxious to discuss it with you, but if you do not feel that we are right, and if you yourselves want to do something quite different, we surrender to you the Mandate." Had that statement been made in the spring it might have had some effect. It was not made. We shall face, in October, I am sure, the actual situation that so many of us foresaw, and we will have to make our decision and announcement then.
I have been for a long time a firm believer in one particular solution in Palestine. I realise, as every one of us realises, what tremendous changes have come in the last two years, and how a solution which might have been possible two years ago, is becoming less and less practicable today. I do not mean to pretend for one moment that I still have the certainty that I had two years ago, or that my doubts and fears are not much greater today than they were even one year ago. So far as I am concerned, I see only one alternative to partition. If partition is not found to be practicable, there is only one alternative to partition, and that is evacuation.
2329 I do not believe that this country can continue to carry alone a burden in blood, in treasure, in work and labour in Palestine, on anything like the same lines as for the last 20 years. After all, the chief interest in Palestine today, with all the alterations that there have been in world strategy, is the interest in the peace of the area. The people chiefly interested in peace in the Middle East are the United Nations. If they have an interest, let them do something to carry the burden as well. I believe that is the choice with which the people of this country are bound to be faced within the next few months, and our task is to try to maintain the security of life and of property in Palestine until that decision has been taken.
No one, I think, can complain of the attitude of the Opposition on this question. I was not here myself, but I am told that the Attorney-General, speaking this morning, twitted the Opposition with always making party capital out of every point. I will not attempt to correct the Attorney-General. To try to do anything to relieve his massive ignorance would be like Mrs. Partington trying to sweep back the Atlantic with a broom. It was a question on which a great deal of party capital could have been made and hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have not been entirely guiltless in this matter. It could have led to continual debate and it certainly would have in the old days with another Opposition. We deliberately refrained, because we believed that the national interest, and, above all, the security of lives in Palestine, stood above any advantage that could have been gained. We do not want the fact that we have refrained to be taken any longer as meaning that we are not interested in the matter or that we do not feel that a time for a definite solution has come. That time has come, and when the House returns and when the meeting of the United Nations is over, the Opposition will expect from the Government a definite, decisive and final answer as to what their policy will be, and until they get it they will take every Parliamentary opportunity of bringing the matter before the House and the country.
§ 6.52 p.m.
§ Mr. Edelman (Coventry, West)
The right hon Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), like his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hythe 2330 (Brigadier Mackeson), dealt justly and fairly with the problem of Palestine, and I should like to say that I share his concern in the matter though perhaps with more personal feeling. It is only three months ago since I myself was in Palestine talking to men from Coventry who were serving in the Forces there, discussing with them familiar things at home of which they knew. Now one of them is dead, killed by the Irgun. I felt when I was there that terrorism was something that destroyed not only its victims but also the cause which it purported to defend. At that time the Administration in Palestine was preparing an anti-terrorist campaign, and I asked the Chief Information Officer on my behalf to denounce terrorism and to repeat the words which I have just used.
Later on when I heard that one of my constituents had been kidnapped in Palestine and was being held as a hostage, I together with my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) asked the Palestine Government to put out a broadcast calling on every Jew to help in finding the kidnapped men and in returning them to their comrades. We added in our broadcast that the crime which they were committing was a crime which would outrage the conscience of every decent person whether Gentile or Jew. In addition to that we said that if that crime were brought to fruition the crime would stain for ever the history of Palestine. Unhappily our forecast proved to be true, but this Debate, which has its origin in the death of two gallant men who were performing their duty, will only achieve its purpose if from it comes the possibility that something will be done to-save the lives of the comrades of these men who have died.
I particularly welcome, therefore, today the constructive and balanced suggestions which have been put forward for dealing with the situation in Palestine in future. The murder of these two sergeants cannot be considered in isolation. It is part of a vicious circle of blood and terror, a sequence of reprisal and counter reprisal. I am thinking this evening not of the sporadic outbursts of anti-Jewish rioting that has taken place in this country. I believe that they are the work of hooligans and looters, and when the Lord Mayor of Liverpool described them as un-British he said all that needed to be said about it. I am thinking rather 2331 more of the greater reprisals which took place in Palestine when five Jews on the night of the hanging of the sergeants were murdered in a cafe in Tel-Aviv and the murders that have taken place since. Those murders are part of an endless sequence of terror and counter terror.
§ Brigadier Peto
Would the hon. Member make it clear that it was not the troops who carried out the reprisals but that it was Arabs who murdered the Jews in the Tel-Aviv cafe?
§ Mr. Edelman
There were two separate instances. The first instance was when five Jews were killed in the cafe and the murders were committed by men officially described as being dressed in uniform. Later on there was another crime in a cafe near the River Yarkon when five more Jews were murdered.
§ Mr. Edelman
By Arabs, exactly. When mentioning this case I should point out that these murders were not representative of the life and mood of Palestine as a whole. The fact is that in Palestine as a whole there is a day to day life going on which has little reference to those crimes. Moreover, the troops in Palestine and the police as a whole are discharging their difficult job magnificently. I pay this tribute, because I have actually seen them in action in carrying out searches and doing their day to day jobs. I want to speak particularly of the Welsh Guards to whom every Jew I met in Palestine was willing to pay tribute. All of these men are carrying out their job under difficulties. The administration itself is kept in behind barbed wire and has very little contact with the rest of the country. The troops are hemmed in and by the nature of things are separated from the civil population with whom they have practically no contact except in discharging their official duties. The result is that the tension in Palestine has steadily become greater during the whole of the period that these unnatural conditions have existed.
I should like to say something about the High Commissioner in Palestine, who is discharging his most difficult task with moderation and fairness. The Jews as a whole in Palestine would be agreed in recognising that, despite all the difficulties of the civil administration and despite all the 2332 provocations of the terrorists, the High Commissioner has steadily gone ahead with his task of trying to administer the country. He, too, has had a major difficulty, and that major difficulty has been that he has not had a policy from London. His administration has to be pragmatic and has to deal with each day's circumstances as they arise. He has never been able to plan for himself any definite course of administration with the knowledge that next week or next month he would have a predictable set of circumstances with which he would have to cope.
The thing which causes the greatest emotion in Palestine is the question of immigration into Palestine, and whenever a refugee ship approaches Haifa a shudder of feeling passes through the whole country. One has to be there in order to appreciate exactly what that means. There is an immediate stand-to and an immediate condition both of exasperation and tension; every Jew in Palestine, recognising that the boat which is approaching is bearing some relative of his—however distant that relative may be—is in a state of agitation. I felt some months ago that the situation in Palestine was rather like that of a boiler with very high pressure which was continually being piled up The pressure was being piled on by the fact that the immigrants were being forced into Palestine in the face of resistance by the authorities. One had the feeling all the time that something was about to explode.
When I returned from Palestine I suggested to my right hon. Friend that until U.N.O. had delivered its report it would be a far better thing, in the meantime, to have a limited but controlled immigration which could be deducted from the total which U.N.O. might ultimately decide rather than have this sporadic, unorganised and desperate movement of men, women and children into Palestine. I felt that if there were this kind of controlled immigration it would serve as some kind of safety valve to that boiler with the excessive pressure. I regret very much that that was not done. I very much regret that instead of that the situation continued in which the Agency continued to send ships to Palestine while the whole question was being considered by U.N.O., and I regret it particularly because it has exacerbated a state of affairs already inflamed.
2333 I have said that the High Commissioner lacked a policy and that consequently it has been difficult for him to administer the country, and I feel that I ought to say what I regard as being the policy which should be applied in Palestine. I am not a Zionist in the political sense; I believe that a Jewish State in Palestine might, in fact, defeat its very purpose. At the same time, as long as all the entrances to the countries of the world are blocked to immigrants, and as long as there are Jews who still lie rotting in the refugee camps of the continent, it seems to me that Palestine must be called on to take a certain proportion of Jews. I have always believed that Palestine could become a unitary State in which Jews and Arabs could live comfortably together, and I believe that had it, not been for political influences that form of a unitary Palestine might have been achieved. I have seen Jews and Arabs working together in the Haifa Municipal Council. I have seen them working together with British administrators—I have in mind, particularly the British municipal engineer; and I have seen Arabs and Jews when doing a job which affects them together doing it well, successfully and happily.
Therefore, I certainly do not despair of Jews and Arabs being able to live together, but I think that in the present circumstances the form of living together may probably have to be some kind of federal Palestine in which there will be a Jewish area and an Arab area. I hope that if that federal Palestine is established its treaty relationships will enable Great Britain to retain control or influence at the Port of Haifa and will give an area of cantonment for British troops in Palestine. In that way it should be possible for Britain to preserve her essential interests, while Jews and Arabs find a modus vivendi.
There have, however, been things which have exacerbated feeling in Palestine and the occurrence of which I regret. One of those things seems to me to be the arbitrary manner in which the refugee ships containing the 4,500 immigrants were turned round and sent back to Port de Bouc. Whatever else one says about that action—whether one believes it was humane or not—the fact remains that from an administrative point of view it was inefficient. Surely the Colonial Office 2334 should have assured itself before the immigrants were returned to Port de Bouc that the French Government would confirm in the most categorical terms that they were prepared to assist in their disembarkation? Quite clearly that has not been done, and tonight I want to ask the Colonial Secretary where are these people going? Are they to be sent to Mombasa, as has been predicted, or to some other of our East African possessions? Or, will the Colonial Secretary take a step—which I believe will be one which will indicate strength—and, as an act of mercy, allow these immigrants to enter Cyprus?
There are times when an act of mercy may be interpreted as weakness, but I hope that my right hon. Friend will take that action and allow these men, women and children to go to Cyprus and to await their turn to enter Palestine. I believe that if he does so he will win not only their gratitude but also the gratitude of all people who recognise that whatever is the motive of those who organise the movement of the illegal immigrant ships, the people who are actually conveyed in them are merely unfortunate victims. When people talk about the racket in hell ships I would ask them to remember that for a refugee leaving a D.P. camp in Europe a so-called hell-ship may seem like a luxury liner if he goes to what he considers to be home. Conversely if an immigrant is turned away from Palestine and sent back under the most comfortable circumstances, the luxury liner might have for him the appearance and the feeling of a hell-ship if he is going into an unknown exile. I hope, therefore, that the Colonial Secretary will recognise that these people who have gone as immigrants to Palestine are people who are merely seeking sanctuary. For that reason I ask him, as an act of humanity, that he will allow them to go to Cyprus and there wait their turn.
Before I conclude, I want to make one practical suggestion in connection with future relations between the Jews and Arabs and our own country in Palestine. The question has been referred to U.N.O. and I hope that U.N.O. will give a firm decision which we shall be able to accept. I cannot help feeling that in dealing with Palestine successive Governments have been rather like a man suffering from a disease—a Palestine ulcer— 2335 who has gone from one doctor to another seeking not a diagnosis but the assurance that he is perfectly well and that all he needs is a rest and to leave matters exactly as they are. I hope that this time, in referring the matter to U.N.O. the Government will accept U.N.O.'s decision, but here is an opportunity for U.N.O. to play a constructive part in the development of Palestine.
I hope that U.N.O. will examine the idea of a Jordan Valley Authority in which the Jews, the Arabs, our own country and possibly the Americans, if they are interested, will be represented, in order to develop a portion of that region so that Jew, Arab, and all who are concerned, can co-operate together. I believe that is a practical understanding which the Economic Council of U.N.O. can tackle. I hope that that suggestion will commend itself to the United Nations and that my-right hon. Friend will take the opportunity of bringing it to the attention of U.N.O. I do not believe that the problem of Palestine will be solved by bullets or by troops. The major question will be solved by statesmanship, but I believe that if that statesmanship has not an inspiration from the Jews, from the Arabs, and also, from the Christian nations of that brotherly love which was first preached in Palestine, it will never succeed. On the other hand, if statesmanship has that inspiration the Palestine problem can be settled, and Jew, Arab and Briton can live in amity.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Brigadier Peto (Barnstaple)
The last point made by the hon. Member for West Coventry (Mr. Edelman) that a solution of the Palestine problem can be found in brotherly love may be all very nice in theory, but we have not so far seen much sign of brotherly love from the terrorists who confront our unfortunate British soldiers and the Palestine Police. Another point which I desire to clear up is that the murders to which the hon. Gentleman referred are a repercussion or a reprisal following the hanging of our two sergeants. When I asked the hon. Member about the second of the two cases, the murder of five Jews in a café outside Tel-Aviv, he admitted that that had been done by Arabs. The previous case where murders 2336 were carried out was by men reported to be in uniform. The situation in Palestine today is something like the situation during the Irish troubles from 1918 to 1920. Some of the worst crimes of murder at that time were carried out by Sinn Feiners dressed as British soldiers. There have been many cases already, as the hon. Member will know, in which Jews have been arrested in British uniform Therefore, I do not think that it is good to put about the idea that our troops, who have been magnificent throughout every trial, carried out a reprisal of that sort.
§ Mr. Edelman
I was making no reflection whatsoever on British troops in Palestine. On the contrary, I said myself that the behaviour of British troops in Palestine has been exemplary. I believe that to be the case. So far as the Jews in the café in Tel-Aviv are concerned, the matter is sub judice and I cannot say anything about it, except that the Jews were killed and that the murders were part of a vicious circle of reprisal and counter-reprisal which has been going on in Palestine for a long time.
§ Brigadier Peto
I thank the hon. Gentleman for that explanation. I was going to read from a headquarters report which categorically denied that any British troops were in the town at that time.
Having cleared up those points, I would like to deal with one or two others that occurred to me while I was sitting about during the long hours last night. We have heard it admitted by the Colonial Secretary today that he was not surprised, in fact, that he foresaw, like many other people, after the breakdown of the Conference and the long hiatus between that breakdown and any decision by U.N.O. of what our ultimate policy shall be in Palestine, that there would be a great increase in terrorist activities. I well remember on 18th February, when the Foreign Secretary was making his statement, that the hon. Lady the Member for North Hendon (Mrs. Ayrton Gould) said in so many words that unless more definite action was taken in the interim period than had been taken in the past, she could foresee only an increase in terrorist activities.
On 31st January, during the Debate on Palestine, my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) said that if this matter were referred to 2337 U.N.O. with no policy, nothing but an increase in terrorist activity could be expected. He went even further and said that in his opinion any policy was better than no policy. Like other hon. Members, in the discussion during the Debate on 25th February I repeated that statement. Therefore, it is no surprise that we have seen this succession, day by day almost, and certainly week by week, of the worst sort of atrocity going on in the last six months, and culminating in this last dastardly murder by the hanging or throttling of two British sergeants. I blame the Government, for they were warned and they foresaw it, and they took no action and gave no lead to the Government of Palestine during that difficult period.
The situation today in Palestine is one that no one in any quarter of the House can look at with equanimity. It is definitely worse, and I heartily agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol that from now on, it is essential that we should treat this matter as a military operation. The time has gone, as the hon. Member for West Coventry has just told us, in which people could live at peace one with the other and at the same time see murders going on. There was a time, as' I said when I spoke last on this question, when Arab, Jew and British soldier could still live side by side in a friendly spirit. In present circumstances it is much wiser to treat this whole effort as a military operation and as the occupation of an enemy country. That is as far as I am going to deal with the failures of the past, particularly in regard to the Government in the past two years. It is more useful to look at the future and to see in what way, by any suggestion of ours, we can arrive at some helpful solution to the immediate problem.
I ask the indulgence of the House while I look back again upon the Irish question, to which I have already referred. Following three years in the first great war, I was immediately posted to Ireland, and I know a little bit about it. The more I sec of this Palestine problem, the more certain I am that the two situations are extremely similar. There are points where one might almost believe that the Irgun organisation had deliberately copied the organisation, methods and tactics of the Sinn Feiners of those days. The two 2338 countries are not dissimilar in size, there is a similarity between the number of troops occupying the two countries, and the tactics are very similar. The problems of ambush, murder, beating up, taking hostages, wearing our uniforms, and, perhaps the most important, never knowing one's enemy, are identical. Never knowing one's enemy is probably the most difficult of these problems for the soldier. People have asked me why it is that we could beat the Germans and yet have all this frightful trouble in Palestine. The answer is that one never knows one's enemy and can, therefore, never strike until one is struck by him. The enemy is not in uniform and one does not know if he is carrying arms. It is an impossible task for soldiers to carry out unless it is treated as a military operation, as it was in the end in Ireland. It was about December, 1920, that Mr. Lloyd George declared martial law.
There, again, people have often said—I have heard the suggestion in this House—that it would be advisable to declare martial law in Palestine, but the Government of Palestine already have all the powers they need without martial law. Similarly, many people have really no idea what martial law is. There is a very easy definition of it at the beginning of the Army Act with which I will not burden the House now, but it amounts in a sentence to the transposing of civil law by military courts and the dealing with and punishing of any form of crime by military courts and not by civil courts. The normal consequence of the proclamation of martial law is the passing by this House of an Act of Indemnity. I should like to know whether such an Act would be helpful in this instance. An Act of Indemnity is really to protect all, whatever rank, who are carrying out their duty from the legal side should they have to use force or be guilty of a crime carrying a civil sentence. We have not passed an Act of Indemnity for those occupying Palestine. In addition, an Act of Indemnity serves to confirm all sentences passed by military courts.
Until I heard the Colonial Secretary, I wondered whether the Government and the troops in Palestine really felt that they have the full support of this Government behind them, and that in whatever step they take, they will be supported. That was not always so in Ireland, and it has 2339 not always been so in Palestine. I have lived there a little and I know it. If the troops have that assurance it gives them an enormous sense of well-being and of confidence to go forward in their duty. History has a most curious way of repeating itself. I remember that in April, 1920, in Dublin, a police inspector was murdered by being shot down. I believe he was deserted by his colleagues while he was being shot. Curiously enough his name was Dalton. In April, 1947, an almost identical crime was committed outside Tel-Aviv when a police sergeant was shot, with two others, and killed. I will not carry the analogy any nearer or any further, but these things do happen, and I would hate to think that, for instance, any other member of the family of Dalton was likely to be destroyed in such a barbarous manner.
I want to ask the Colonial Secretary whether our troops are taking the situation seriously enough. From reports that I have and from what I have read, if the troops are really taking the matter seriously I cannot see how they can be kidnapped while bathing. That sort of point should be looked into. No good unit would allow its men to be kidnapped while bathing. My right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol and my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hythe (Brigadier Mackeson) referred to the question of concentration. I firmly believe—though I would hate to give advice to the military on this—that if we got out of the three big centres, Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and Jaffa, leaving the Jews inside them, and patrolled outside, had road-blocks, check points and a curfew, and allowed vehicles to move only at certain times and incertain densities, we should be more successful in controlling what was going on, including the movement of arms in and out of the cities. I hate the thought of spreading out one's men and having them murdered individually. The last question I shall ask is one I asked 12 months ago. Are the amenities of our troops in camp improved? They were in an extraordinarily poor way, and I have heard nothing to suggest that the amenities have been improved in the last few months. I have not time to go further with these questions.
I would emphasise, in conclusion, the importance of taking the very strongest measures promptly, and never relaxing 2340 when one has taken them. This cannot be over-emphasised because, as everyone knows, we will have to re-establish authority in that country, and prove to the Jews and Arabs that as long as we are there we are masters. It is well to remember, as was said in the last Debate, that we are not a bloodthirsty nation nor a bloodthirsty people by habit, but when a totally unexpected act of violence, and probably a cowardly act is used against a British subject, it can only be met with an act of violence. As Mr. Lloyd George said in December, 1920, it is our duty, and the duty of the Palestine Government and of our troops—to intensify their campaign against that small but highly organised and desperate minority who are using murder and outrage in order to obtain the impossible."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1920; Vol. 135, c. 2602.]I thoroughly endorse that, and as Field-Marshal Montgomery used to say, "I wish them" Good hunting '."
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Lever (Manchester, Exchange)
I confess to some disappointment in this Debate, not because of the pious platitudes—they were expected—but because of the lack of policy shown by the Government. I confess also to a measure of surprise that the House is allowing the Government on this issue to get away so lightly with two years of planless, gutless and witless behaviour which has not only cost us treasure in terms of money but uncountable treasure in manpower and loss of life, all in order to prove that we are master of a situation of which we obviously axe not master, and all for some obscure reason made plain not to our troops, not to the people of Palestine, and certainly not to us.
I want to know when we are going to hear from the Government what their policy is in regard to Palestine. The House must not allow the Government to come here again and insult the House by a collection of sayings such as we were treated to at the Despatch Box today, two years after our Government have taken office, and at a time when the country faces the gravest economic crisis I think the House is failing in its duty unless it gives the Government, and the Colonial Secretary in particular, a public castigation for the happenings in Palestine. Two years ago I spoke in a Palestine Debate, and I said it seemed to me 2341 obvious that this was a matter which ought to go to the United Nations organisation. Nothing was done about it. Then a commission of realists and sensible people, and, as far as one knows, completely impartial people, were appointed by the American and British Governments. It reported what we all knew, that the first thing to be obtained in Palestine was some pacification. Although I have never espoused any claims of an exaggerated kind made by Jewish Nationalists or Zionists, it seemed that a substantial immigration of Jews was needed for this purpose. The commission recommended that 100,000 men should enter the country, and the British Government refused to allow those recommendations to be carried into effect. Since the passage of two years 100,000 men have gone into Palestine, and the 100,000 men are armed British troops.
We are told that we must not allow Jews into Palestine from displaced persons camps because that would infringe the national sovereignty of the Arabs in Palestine. I think there is a good deal of persuasive force behind that argument, but if anyone inside or outside the House thinks that the Arabs of Palestine welcome 100,000 armed British soldiers any more than they would welcome 100,000 Jews, or regard it as a less infringement of their sovereignty, they are very mistaken. No one who understands anything about the Arab Nationalist movement, or events in the Middle East, can have any doubts about that. We introduced 100,000 armed soldiers, not to pacify the land, but to put up a senseless military dictatorship which has now existed for some months with increasing terror. I have never hesitated to show my contempt for terrorism and murder because it is repugnant to me, and I hold some old fashioned Socialist views about the sacredness of human life. But I think all human life is sacred, Jewish, British, and Arab lives, and this Government bear a ghastly responsibility by their policy in Palestine for Jewish lives, Arab safety and future, and above all they have a responsibility, which they have not discharged, for the safety of British, troops in Palestine, who are apparently there for no purpose which has been disclosed to us.
I will not venture into the fields of strategy. I have it on the authority of the Leader of the Opposition that we have no strategic purpose in Palestine. Then 2342 what in Heaven's name are 100,000 troops doing in Palestine at a great cost to this country's labour power, anxiety to parents, and costing dollars for their maintenance? I want to ask the Colonial Secretary what moral or legal grounds we have for remaining in Palestine at the present time? What is our purpose there? Why do we not go out? He may reply that it is because of the Mandate, and Balfour Declaration, and the like; I am not going into that now. But is he going to tell me of this military dictatorship in Palestine, this police State, this State of the flogging block and the gallows—that we are there with these gentle instruments in the interest of the Mandate, and that when he supports collective terror in Palestine and the blowing up of property, that it is because we are very altruistically holding the ring?
If the Colonial Secretary goes on much longer in this attitude to Palestine he will cover his hands with more purposelessly shed blood than any other Minister of the Crown in this generation. There is no purpose in risking the lives of troops in Palestine nor in coming here with platitudes about "We shall not flinch." Apparently, the Colonial Secretary is prepared to flinch from nothing save forming a policy, and that he has been prepared to flinch from since he took office, and he shares an unenviable record with his predecessor in that regard.
The Government have told us that there has been a reaction of British opinion. Of course there has been a reaction of British opinion, and it has been an unhappy reaction of British opinion, and one which shows signs of polluting English public life with anti-Semitism, precisely because the public have not been told the facts about the situation in Palestine. The troops in Palestine have probably behaved better than any other occupying troops would have behaved in similar circumstances. My experience of British soldiers is that they are about the most decent people in the world, and the most decent and kindly soldiers, but if anyone asks me to subscribe to the repeated hypocrisies we hear about the kindly attitude of the soldiers to the Jews and the Arabs in Palestine, I can only be amazed at their insincerity.
When there is a situation in which there is one armed soldier to each male adult Jew in Palestine, obviously they are not 2343 going to get a situation which will lend itself to peaceful development—terrorism breaks out and helpless, hopeless and cheated people who have been defrauded over the years and seen their relatives suffer, lose their balance—the Lord President of the Council said they picked it up from the Nazis—and I must confess that it is not a circumstance best. calculated to promote stability of judgment and temperance of behaviour when one sees half one's family murdered in cold blood in Europe, and the other half denied any form of reasonable hope in life.
Worse than that, when people speculatively and insincerely promise things which they do not fulfil, and continue to use the carrot and the whip without any clear-cut policy to relieve the land of this miserable military occupation and the sufferings which it has brought the people of Palestine and this country, only the unthinking optimist can expect a happy outcome. Apparently both sides of the House are gradually realising that mere "blimpery" is not enough. I observe that one hon. Member opposite wanted to know if we had enough troops in Palestine. I suppose that he will not rest until we have as many troops there as the entire number of people in the area. I wonder if he is serious or whether he is living in a bygone age. Indeed, I often wonder whether those who conduct our policy in this matter are not living in a bygone age.
An hon. and gallant Member opposite who has had some experience in these matters, says that there is a great resemblance to the Irish situation. I do not want to follow him in detail, but there are points of resemblance and some of difference. If there is a resemblance to the Irish situation it is that we did not add to the British reputation in the world by Black-and-Tannery, by a stupid military attempt to hold on until it became impossible, after we were detested by the entire population of Southern Ireland. It did not help our future relations with that part of the world. We went too late and after brutality. We stayed on in Ireland until we were virtually driven out.
§ Brigadier Peto
We were not driven out. We decided, quite wisely at that time, that the right form of solution of the problem was partition, which is 2344 exactly the same solution which has been put forward by my right hon. Friend, and has been put forward over the last few years by many of us—in the case of Palestine, a temporary partition, with the hope that ultimately the two parts will come together as one unit.
§ Mr. Lever
As far as Southern Ireland was concerned, we got out when we were forced out, because of the impossibility of remaining on any terms agreeable to British opinion, when it became impossible to hold the population down any longer. Because we did not go out when we ought to have done, because the House was treated to the bellicose nonsense of Mr. Lloyd George, just as it is now treated to the unflinching determination of the Colonial Secretary and of those who have no policy at all except unflinching determination, has this country benefited; have we improved our relations with the people of Southern Ireland or the Irish people of America because of that senseless cruelty? There are many humanitarians who hold my old-fashioned views about the sanctity of human life, and who ask whether we gained by inflicting so much misery on so many people in Southern Ireland.
Are we gaining anything by doing the same in Palestine at the present time? I want to refer to the worst murder of all that has received some publicity recently, that of the two sergeants which has some relation to the public reaction. There are some aspects of this murder which were referred to by the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), certain aspects which were peculiarly loathsome and provocative. I would add too that in the eyes of the desperate section of the Jewish population of Palestine, the hanging of armed Jews, who should be punished, but not by hanging, was no less provocative, than this has been to the British people—one has to put oneself in the position of the more demented and unstable element in Palestine.
At this point I want to deal again with the question of British reaction. We have to face some of the paradoxes of the situation. A Socialist Colonial Secretary has boys of 17 flogged in Palestine for the carrying of leaflets, inciting Jews to violence against the British. It may be a good thing, but again I ask, who profits by this sort of behaviour? In England, 2345 it is perfectly all right for Gentile Fascists to issue as many provocative leaflets as they like telling Gentiles to attack Jews in Britain. Apparently no one is flogged or punished for that. That is one of the paradoxes which some people find a little difficult to understand. Jews in Palestine are flogged for behaviour which is certainly wrong, but which does not warrant the brutal method used to put it down, especially in the case of youths. Here we have certain sections of the Press seeking to pollute this land by the reactionary use of anti-Semitism against people who have no possible connection with, or control over, the terrorists in Palestine. Apparently here the Fascists may, with impunity, issue as much agitation to violence as they please without fear of any punishment of any kind.
I think some mention should be made by someone about a picture which appeared in the "Daily Express" quite rightly headed, "A picture which will shock the world"—perhaps not in the sense of the hack who affixed that title. I wonder why the "Daily Express," in spite of its shortage of newsprint, printed that picture? Was it that the sentimental Mr. Christiansen, the Editor, was anxious to bring some consolation and comfort to the suffering families of these unfortunate men by displaying their freshly-hung bodies to public view in an immense photograph on the front page, or was it speculative incitement to violence? Was it an intention to speculate on the anti-Semitic feeling which the ignorant were already manifesting because of the brutal murder of these sergeants in Palestine.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I am afraid I cannot remember the date or exactly how long ago it was—and I have no connection with the "Daily Express"—but I do clearly remember that at least at a time when there was an outburst of anti-Semitism in Great Britain, the "Daily Express" made an outstanding stand against it.
§ Mr. Lever
I wish to be perfectly fair. After publishing this piece of provocation, about three days later, when the obviously guiltless shopkeepers of Liverpool and Cheetham Hill had been the victims of violence—one of my constituents who lost his son in the war had the pleasure of seeing hooligans breaking his window—in fairness it should be 2346 said that the "Daily Express" expressed reproof two or three days after the damage was done. I am not saying that the "Daily Express" did this to speculate on anti-Jewish feeling. It may have been the work of some conscienceless and cruel hack who cared nothing for the feeling of the relatives or the consequences of his action provided that it was good news and something which was going to create some excitement. I think this is the greatest descent from decent journalism and good taste that has appeared in any British newspaper in my life. I think it is to be reprehended. I think that even our unflinching administration in Palestine should know that the Jews at Cheetham Hill, Liverpool and Leeds have no possible connection with events in Palestine and that they should express themselves more forcibly on what has happened, especially when it is followed up by minnow-like Fascists like the gentleman who edits the "Morecambe Visitor," who goes so far as to incite the population of the area to violence against the Jews.
I have said what I have said with a deliberate lack of restraint, because we have been too restrained about what has been going on in Palestine, which is getting us nowhere at all, except bringing death and danger for our lads out there, and ruin for our economy, because tens of thousands of our young men are there in these circumstances. Nobody in the two years we have sat in this Parliament has told us why they are there, what purpose they are serving and what possible benefit it is going to be to the people of this country to send their lads out to risk danger and death in this way. Nobody has told us that. Nobody has told us of one single effort by the Government to use any imagination or plan in connection with Palestine. I agree with everything which has been said from all parts of the House indicating that our time is up in Palestine. We must go, and the sooner we go the better it will be for the people of Palestine and the people of this country.
I urge upon the Colonial Secretary to go to United Nations now, before we get dragged any deeper into the morass of vengeance and counter-vengeance, and deeper into the rivers of blood as a result of the planless hopeless approach to the situation. The Colonial Secretary is a 2347 Socialist who has spent a lifetime of devoted work on behalf of the subject peoples of the Empire. I am not going to reproach him with whether he is or is not a Zionist. I only know that he has given a lifetime of great public service as a Socialist. Is he now going to end his days as the Minister responsible for this hopeless ruin which is being brought upon the land of Palestine? Is he going to allow the situation to go on from one equivocation to another, from one gramophone record of a prepared brief from the Colonial Office to another? Is he going to wait until more people are hanged or murdered in some other way? Is he going to take responsibility for being in Palestine for no purpose which he can honestly declare? Are the gibbet, the flogging block and the demolition squad to be our sole contribution to civilisation in the Middle East? Is he going to crown his lifetime of service to Socialism by doing that? I ask him to go to the Cabinet and to insist that, when this matter goes to United Nations, Britain should take the only honest course left and should ask United Nations to relieve her of responsibility so as to allow her to call out her troops as early as possible.
There is nothing left for this country in Palestine except grief and suffering. There is no reward but only prospects of further bloodshed for a bad cause. There is no moral basis for our presence and no wish on the part of anyone in Palestine that we should remain. We are detested already by both the Arab and the Jew in the Middle East. They want no part of us. They do not want us there. What right have we to remain? What right have we to demand of the people of Britain that we should make the sacrifice of their lads who go out there to maintain this senseless rule? What right have we to ask the people of Britain to sacrifice 100,000 men from their economy to perpetuate a police State in Palestine which denies to the people of Palestine every democratic right which we claim for ourselves? This is probably the last chance this Government will have of leaving Palestine with some decency and with some semblance of dignity before she is irretrievably committed to a hopeless policy. I beg the Colonial Secretary, as a Socialist not to echo the Foreign Office hacks, to get out of Palestine, to go to United Nations and 2348 ask them to let us withdraw our troops at the earliest possible opportunity so that United Nations can take over responsibility.
§ 7.54 p.m.
§ Major Tufton Beamish (Lewes)
I listened with much respect to the moderate speech made by the hon. Member for West Coventry (Mr. Edelman) a little earlier in the Debate. I was in agreement, though not in complete agreement, with much of what he said. What a contrast his speech was to the unbalanced and illogical speech made by the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester (Mr. Lever).
§ Major Beamish
When listening to his criticisms of our military policy in Palestine, I thought how interesting it would be if we knew exactly what military knowledge he had during the war and exactly what personal knowledge he has of actual conditions in Palestine. With one thing which he said——
§ Major Beamish
I made no offensive suggestion whatever. I simply said that it would be interesting to know——
§ Major Beamish
I made my remarks simply because I feel that those who have not as much military knowledge as those who are handling affairs in Palestine should be most careful when they set out to criticise. I feel, too, that hon. Members who have scanty knowledge of actual conditions in Palestine also should be most careful how they set out to criticise.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Major Milner)
The hon. Gentleman is not entitled to interrupt, and may I say that I do not think there was any personal reflection on the hon. Gentleman in any way?
§ Major Beamish rose——
§ Major Beamish
I can only suggest that the hon. Gentleman should read his speech which, as regards nine-tenths of it, was purely destructive of the efforts which are being made. I do not propose to deal with all the points in what I thought was a particularly useless speech. I wish to protest that in this Debate there is no representative of the War Office on the Treasury Bench. It has been made clear—and I think it is agreed by both sides of the House—that the suppression of terrorism is essentially a military problem. I fail to understand why we should be treated in this somewhat disrespectful manner by not having present either the Secretary of State for War or his representative, or in their absence, perhaps even the Minister of Defence. The last Palestine Debate which we had was very largely inconclusive. I very much fear that this Debate may also be somewhat inconclusive.
I want to deal with two general subjects. The first is the question of illegal immigration which has already been touched upon. The second is one which I treat with some diffidence. It relates to the military measures being taken at present to suppress terrorism in Palestine. The hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester seemed to overlook completely the fact that His Majesty's Government have a duty to the United Nations to govern in Palestine and to maintain law and order in that country and, thus, to enable economic life to proceed as normally as possible. In regard to illegal immigration, inevitably I must ask a certain number of questions. The reason I propose to do that is because I feel that this House has been kept in the dark regarding the situation in Palestine. I understand that the cost of maintaining the Jews in Cyprus is about £45,000 per month. We should be 2350 told who is paying this very large sum. Is the cost falling entirely on the Jewish community or is the Arab community in Palestine being asked to bear a part of the cost through some form of taxation?
§ Major Beamish
I am simply asking for information. I propose, with the hon. Gentleman's courtesy, to make my speech in my own way; it may be that he will be fortunate enough to catch your eye later, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. Irgun claim, I believe, that 33 illegal immigrant ships have set out for Palestine since early in 1946, but the Colonial Secretary said recently that 25 ships—a difference of eight—had set out between November, 1945, and 19th March, 1947. Will the Government tell us whether, to their knowledge, any ships carrying illegal immigrants actually got to Palestine and discharged their passengers? So far as I know, that has not yet been made quite clear. I would also ask the Government, and this is not a fantastic idea, whether, as far as they know, illegal immigrants have gained entry into Palestine by means of aircraft. It is easy to imagine that two aircraft each night could put immigrants into Palestine at the rate of 1,500 per month, and I hope we may be told whether there is any information in regard to that.
Immigration from Europe is highly organised, and, when I was in Austria and Germany earlier this year, I visited a considerable number of Jewish camps, and it was well-known in those countries that staging camps of one sort or another existed for this illegal movement towards Palestine. I visited Jews who were in camps in large numbers, and I found that many of them were unwilling to do a job of work. I also found, although I raise no objection to it, that they were better fed and better clothed than any other displaced persons in Austria or Germany, but that fact is due to the kindness of world Jewry. As I understand it, when they arrive in Austria or Germany, Jews are specially treated, in direct contrast to other displaced persons. For example, if a Pole from Poland, who is politically persecuted by the Communist regime there, arrives in Germany, I do not believe that he is able to get any international help, but, if that person happens to be a Jew, he is entitled to international 2351 help. That seems to me to be the situation, according to my information, and, if that is so, it is wrong. If it is not so——
§ Mr. Crossman
Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman know how many there are in Belsen who are not recognised as Jews?
§ Major Beamish
I have not got that information, but, certainly, as regards the American zone in Germany, what I say is true, and that is a point which, quite clearly, needs examination. Seventy-five per cent. of the Jews arriving in Austria and Germany, and hoping to make their way to Palestine, come from Poland. That figure may not be exactly accurate, but I believe it to be approximately correct, and I want to ask the Government whether they have made any investigation from the Polish Government as to the reasons for the present exodus from Poland. I am aware of the small pogrom that took place a few months ago, but I am also aware that three of the biggest and most powerful Ministers in Poland are, in fact, Jews.
§ Major Beamish
I believe that they are Communists, but they are, in fact, Jews. The Polish Government, I believe, has set apart a large area in Silesia, which I believe is well equipped, to which the Jews in Poland are encouraged to go, and where I believe they have every facility, so that it does seem to me that the Government should go into this problem and make some definite inquiries. I hope the Minister will let the House know what is being done in this connection.
Next, have the Government taken any legal action against the masters, owners or crews of ships taking illegal immigrants to Palestine, and have they power to do so? Further, what talks have they had with the Italian, Panama, Greek, Turkish or Egyptian Governments in this connection? I hope the Colonial Secretary is noting these points, because they are extremely important. Fake visas are being issued, and every newspaper in the country has told us so. What protest has the Government made in that direction? Has the Government any policy for the future to send all ships carrying illegal immigrants back to the port of origin. 2352 and have they, as I was assured by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, received the complete co-operation of other countries? I was assured that that was so, but recent events hardly seem to bear that out.
Part of this tragedy, as has been mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hythe, is that encouragement has been given to illegal immigration by irresponsible Socialist promises issued as the time of the General Election and which were clearly designed to capture Jewish votes. Illegal immigration is organised by a section of Haganah. I am afraid I am not clear as to the activities of the Jewish Agency at the moment, but we all know that these events are not unconnected with elements in the Jewish Agency, and we can expect an intensification of these attempts at illegal immigration. What plans have the Government made to meet this intention? We might find faster and smaller boats, and more of them, and I hope we can be assured that adequate plans are ready to meet any possible situation. Will the Government refuse to grant entry visas for those who attempt to enter Palestine illegally? That is a practical question, and I hope the Minister will give us a direct answer.
Regarding the number of Jews in Palestine, which is of practical relation to the quota, Irgun claims something in the nature of 750,000, although I believe that the official figure is nearer 670,000. I am not quite sure when the census takes place, but I would like to ask if the Government have borne in mind the number of illegal entries that may have been made, and whether they have checked up, because I drew their attention to this matter not long ago, that according to the number of ration cards issued, the Jewish population in Palestine is very considerably in excess of 670,000. I hope that, at any rate, if the Government cannot give an answer this evening, they will look very carefully into this matter. In the last resort, will the Government consider—and this may not necessarily be a good plan—consider stopping entry permits until the illegal attempts to enter Palestine cease? I cannot see that that would be unreasonable, in view of the fact that it is generally admitted that the Jewish Agency and Haganah could practically stop illegal entry, just as they could practically stop terrorism, if they wished.
2353 I want to deal now with the military aspect of the situation in Palestine, and I do this with great diffidence, but I do not see why we should ignore it completely. I would like to pay my tribute to our troops and police for the way in which they have behaved. They have suffered, as we always have suffered in the Army, from Treasury restrictions. I see the Financial Secretary to the Treasury sitting on the Front Bench. Of course, it is not his fault, and it is, I suppose, inevitable, but they do suffer great discomforts through living in uncomfortable camps under bad conditions, and especially throughout the winter, and with a serious lack of entertainments. Our men out there have been overworked, and any hon. Member listening to this Debate, or anyone reading it outside, who has had to go on sentry duty night after night, two hours on duty and four hours off, will realise what a great strain it can be. I think all would agree that our congratulations are due both to our troops and the police.
Is the number of our troops in Palestine to be cut down, and, if so, are the Government entirely satisfied that there will be sufficient British troops in Palestine adequately to maintain law and order until our responsibilities end? It is quite clear, in view of the crisis through which we are now going, that our troops will have to be cut down. But we have not been told anything definite about that. Regarding the Palestine General Service Medal, why have not the Government made a definite decision that this medal will be issued to all those British troops who have undergone these great discomforts and stresses and strains since the end of the war? It would do them a great deal of good to know that their efforts are appreciated and recognised, and I hope that the Government will consider making an early announcement on the subject.
We must not overlook the fact—I do not think it has been overlooked in this Debate—that the Irgun and the Stern Gang have actually declared war against our Forces in Palestine. We are faced with a very big problem—there are something like 12,000 trained men in Irgun, and rather more than 1,000 in the Stern Gang—although there are as many as 100,000 British troops in Palestine. The Haganah and the Jewish Agency have expressed their horror at the methods of 2354 the terrorists. The Jewish Agency has recently spoken of the elimination of terrorism as "an inexorable necessity." But both the Jewish Agency and Haganah are known to be, and have frequently said they are, in sympathy, at any rate, with the objects, though not with the methods, of the terrorists, and it is because of that fact that our great difficulties have arisen.
I wish, very briefly indeed, to contrast the military activities of our Forces in Palestine in 1938 and 1939 with our military activities today. In 1938, 282 Arabs were sentenced by military courts, of whom 54 were sentenced to death, and the death sentences were confirmed by the G.O.C. In 1939, 454 Arabs were sentenced by military courts; 55 were sentenced to death, and the death sentences were confirmed by the G.O.C, making a total of 109 who paid the extreme penalty in less than two years. In 1938, 2,463 Arabs were in detention, and in 1939, 5,700 were in detention. The total Arab casualties in 1938 and 1939 rose to as high as 4,000. But yet the terrorist activities of the Arabs in those years were never on such a large scale as are the Jewish activities today. These figures provide an extraordinary contrast with the total of only seven Jews who have paid the extreme penalty for their terrorist activities during the last 18 months. I feel that we are entitled to know the reasons for this contrast, and I hope that the Minister, when he replies, will do his best to explain how it is that this apparent differentiation comes about. I hope that, in what I have said, it will not be thought that I have presumed to try to teach the soldier his job, because, when I was a Regular in Palestine, there was nothing which annoyed me more than the knowledge that a lot of amateur soldiers thought they knew the soldier's job better than he did himself. Therefore, if I have offended in that way, I trust that I shall be excused.
I had also intended to draw a contrast between the methods employed by the Army in 1938–39 to deal with these terrorist activities and those employed today. In 1938–39, it was well known by the Arabs, and particularly by the muktars of the villages, that, if they harboured or sheltered terrorists, they were liable to get into serious trouble on many counts. I am not sure that the 2355 same stringent steps are being taken today. I may, perhaps, quote one small example out of many which I have here. In Palestine during the 1938 and 1939 troubles, we took what appeared to be the ruthless but very effective step of sending a trolley ahead of every train carrying British troops which moved through Palestine, and those trolleys were loaded with Arabs. It was well known that this policy was taking place. The effect of the policy was that no more trains were mined. Is that being done today? If not, what is the reason for the contrast between the two periods? The High Commissioner has similar powers today as he had in those days.
I wish to raise one other point, which is also a military point. I am not certain of my facts here, but I am as certain as it is possible to be. Where are the terrorists being trained? It is obvious to all of us that highly skilled terrorists could not be trained in the small country of Palestine with so many British troops in the country. They must undergo an intensive course of training; I think that will be conceded by everybody. These men are not amateurs. I have a publication, though I do not propose to give its name, for the reason that the people who obtained the sort of information which I am going to pass on—which I believe to be accurate—have to run very considerable risks. I do not think it would be fair to the publication in question to give its name, although I am perfectly prepared to give its name to the Colonial Secretary or to the Under-Secretary of State who, I understand, is to reply. I expect he has already seen the document. Actually, it only came to my attention today.
I understand from this document that in a place called Kislovodsk, which is in Northern Caucasia, 87 miles south-east of Stravropol, and near a place called Piatygorsk, there are several hundred—I believe as many as 600 or 700—Kurds and Jews undergoing an intensive course in terrorist activities. It includes political training. The chief instructor on this course is a senior Soviet officer, according to my information, and the course is housed in some sanatoria which are the property of the Central Council of Soviet Trades Unions. These men undergo 2356 political training, and training in diversionary activities, according to my information, in this place which I have mentioned; and in a place not far away—a few hundred kilometres away—they undergo six week's weapon training and field training, I have no means of checking whether or not this information is accurate. [Laughter.] I do not see that it is particularly funny. It seems to me that if this information is accurate, it is extremely serious, and I would point out, too, that it is a perfectly logical outcome of the present foreign policy of the Soviet Union, which is designed to embarrass us at every turn.
§ Mr. Benn Levy (Eton and Slough)
Would not the hon. and gallant Gentleman admit that it is equally serious, if his information is inaccurate, to lay it before the House?
§ Major Beamish
No, I do not think so, because I have no doubt at all that the Minister who is to reply, advised by the Colonial Office, will be able this evening to confirm or deny the accuracy of what I have stated. Are we to suppose that no terrorists have been captured during the past 18 months, and that no investigations have been made to ascertain where these men are receiving their specialised training? If what I have said proves to be inaccurate—and I hope it does—no harm will be done. I hope the Minister will be in a position to reply on that point.
§ Mr. Crossman
Surely, we all know where most of these men received their training. It was in the British Army during the war, where they were trained in sabotage work, either in Palestine or in the Balkans. The great majority of those men received an excellent training from British officers.
§ Major Beamish
That is perfectly true, but it does not alter the facts in the information I am imparting to the House. This information is nothing new. It has been circulated in thousands of copies, and I am not producing something quite fantastic and new. If I were, I think I should be acting improperly. The fact is that this document has been circulated to many Members of this House, to my certain knowledge. The fact that it has been circulated seems ample justification for seeking an answer to it.
2357 I apologise for the length of my speech, but I was interrupted rather a lot at the beginning. I hope that when the Under-Secretary of State winds up he will give us a reply which, unlike that during the last Debate, will contain some detailed information on what steps the Government are to take to halt illegal immigration; and I hope we shall be given an explanation of the apparently half-hearted military effort—half-hearted in comparison with that of 1938 and 1939. The indecision of which the Government have been guilty is a sign of weakness which has given added encouragement to elements in the Jewish Agency and Haganah. World Jewry should remember that under our auspices, under our control, the Jewish population of Palestine has increased from approximately 45,000 in 1917, who were mostly naturalised Jews, to something in the nature of 700,000. I submit that that is something more than world Jewry or the Zionists had any right to expect.
No country has shown a greater sympathy to the Jews than ours, or a greater understanding of their sufferings. The recent deplorable—and, fortunately, small—anti-Semitic demonstrations in this country have shown that even our deep sympathy may have some bounds. Every sensible Jew should realise that the activities of the illegal immigrants, coupled with the activities of the terrorists, are straining British tolerance to breaking point. I hope that in what I have said—and I apologise again for the length of my speech—I have been constructive. I do particularly hope that the Under-Secretary of State will do his very best to provide me with answers to those questions to which answers are readily forthcoming, and that, perhaps, I may be allowed to contact him to obtain answers to those questions which cannot be answered tonight.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael Foot (Plymouth, Devonport)
The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) began his speech by an attack on my hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester (Mr. Lever) on the ground that he had made an unbalanced and an ill-advised speech. I thought that the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester was a most remarkable speech, a most 2358 courageous speech; and, if there were exaggerations in that speech, I believe still it is the most realistic speech which we have heard in this Debate. I believe that if the Government continue that policy which they have not announced, then it is much more likely that the prophecies of the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester will come true, rather than the prophecies which have been uttered in some other quarters. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Lewes also criticised my hon. Friend on the ground that he attacked those responsible for the military organisation in Palestine, for carrying out military affairs in Palestine. I think that that was a most illegitimate criticism. I do not think that anyone can believe that my hon. Friend failed to make it quite clear that he was attacking the Government and those responsible for the policy of the Government. I thought that his was a most realistic demand for the type of policy that is obviously lacking.
I think it is a good thing that this Debate was organised and demanded. We have been told, as a result of this Debate, some information. We have had an opportunity of putting several questions to the Secretary of State for the Colonies and to the Government. We have had no answers from the Government on the major issues of policy. Candidly, I did not expect to get answers on the major issues of policy tonight. I believe, however, this Debate may have served a better purpose than most Debates we have had on Palestine if the Secretary of State for the Colonies can tell the Foreign Secretary and the Government that there has been an almost unanimous opinion in all the speeches, from whichever side of the House they have come and whatever view they have taken, that there ought to be a clear and emphatic statement of British policy before the United Nations' meeting.
It is hopeless to continue the situation in which we have been drifting along ever since mention was made of referring the question to the United Nations; a situation in which we have no policy, and in which nobody thinks that the Secretary of State for the Colonies' conception can turn out right, namely, that the United Nations will reach some decision on a matter which has baffled all inquiry for the last 10 years. The idea that they will reach such a decision is 2359 fantastic, and it is essential that we should have a statement before that United Nations' meeting.
I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester in his attack on the outrageous behaviour of the "Daily Express." That was a criticism which might be applied more generally to the Press, because on the day after the diabolical crime against the two sergeants had been committed in Palestine, a message was received by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman)—a very remarkable message, in my view—from the Jews who were housed in the area near Belsen, in the Belsen concentration camp. It was a message, presumably, for publication in this country. My hon. Friend immediately took steps to circulate that message to the British Press. I should like to read it to the House, because that message has not received a proper reception by or a proper publicity in the British Press. This is a message from a number of Jews in Belsen concentration camp, who had been waiting for two years to get to Palestine:We liberated Jews in camps and communities of the British zone of Germany learned with horror of the murder of two British sergeants in Palestine We are thankful to Yishuv (the settlement) in Palestine for its efforts to help liberate us from our hopeless situation. However, we know such irresponsible action cannot help us, and we declare with conviction that we dissociate ourselves from them.In German concentration camps our hearts were filled with deep contempt against any form of terrorism. Also, today we oppose all terroristic actions whose pretext is to help us towards our land of promise. We appeal to all groups whose influence will affect our fate to facilitate our entry into Palestine. Never will we permit ourselves to be identified with un-Jewish actions which draw the contempt of Yishuv in Palestine and all humanity.I do not know what hon. Members think of that message. I regard it as a remarkable and moving message. It was circulated, through the Press Association, to all the British newspapers by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne. On the following day an abbreviated version was printed in three newspapers, the "Daily Worker," the "Manchester Guardian" and the "Daily Herald." "The Times" printed it on 6th August, after a letter from my hon. Friend had called their attention to the fact. However, "The Times" refused to print a letter from my hon. Friend calling atten- 2360 tion to the way in which this message had been treated by the British Press. I think it is disgraceful that at that time, when there was this danger of an outbreak of anti-Semitic feeling in this country, that almost the whole of the British Press should refuse to publish a remarkable message of that kind. I believe it is all the more to be condemned in the case of the "Daily Express" which, if it wanted to make amends for the monstrous publication of that photograph, had a fine opportunity of printing this message in full on its front page. That would have made some amends. But not a word of that message appeared in the "Daily Express." I can well understand the feelings of my hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester on that subject.
This is a melancholy and tragic Debate, not only because of the diabolical crimes which have to be discussed in this Debate, but even more because no glimpse has been given to us of the end of the miserable situation in Palestine. The only prospect we can see, if we continue this course, is one of mounting passions on either side, and a kind of bloody and futile vendetta. All agree that our passions and the passions of the British people are aroused by the terrible crimes committed by the terrorists, but I must confess some astonishment that the Secretary of State made no mention of some of the causes for the kind of passions which are being aroused among the Jews in Palestine. The Secretary of State did not refer to that incident which has caused a wave of horror and emotion throughout the world, and that is the turning away of those ships from Palestine. That has caused a wave of emotion throughout the whole of the Jewish world, which is natural.
The Secretary of State, although he did not do it intentionally, gave the false impression that those who disagree with our Palestine policy in other countries are only Mr. Ben Hecht in America and some obscure papers in France. The truth is the exact opposite, and that we are morally isolated in the world in regard to our present policy in Palestine. The Secretary of State made one or two references to the attitude of people in other countries, and I should like to quote a statement made by a man who is respected—certainly by the Secretary of State—by many Members in the House as a great statesman, a great Frenchman 2361 and a great fighter for liberty, and one who knows all about the inside of a Nazi prison camp. I am referring to Léon Blum. This is what he says:Let the British at least realise how and why their law is not our law. The British began by interning on Cyprus boatloads of clandestine immigrants intercepted in Palestinian waters. Later they decided to turn such immigrants back to their port of embarkation, and this is how the "Exodus" came to a French port. The passengers have been told that if they landed voluntarily, they would find on French soil a hospitable and friendly refuge. All of them said 'No.' The exceptions were very few. The sick, of whom there are many on board, to whom the Red Cross offered assistance and hospital treatment, gave the same answer. All declared with one voice: 'We are grateful to France, but it is in Palestine that we want to live. We shall all die rather than leave the planks of the ship which was to have taken us there.'The next logical step in the British operation would have been to compel disembarkation on French soil by the use of naked force. But this could not be done without the consent and the co-operation of the French Government. The French Government, faithful interpreter of public opinion—as proved by the unanimous comment of the Press—faithful interpreter of world conscience, withheld its consent and co-operation. Our British friends must admit it: it could not do otherwise, and it did well Let them be grateful to our Government for having spared them so terrible an extremity.That is a remarkable message from a remarkable man, a man who is one of the firmest friends of this country. I believe it voices the opinion of the great majority of decent people all over the world outside this country on this Palestine question. That brings me to the question of how the right hon. Gentleman will get these people off these ships. That is a problem which faces the Government. They have to decide what to do. It is all very well to say "Take them to some other part of the British Empire," but you still have to get them off the boats. They will have to be removed from the boat by force. I understand that today, or yesterday, six British sailors who were on these ships walked off saying, "We were hired as sailors, we are not going to run a prison ship." What are the Government going to do about it? They will have to go back on what they have done if they are to get out of the present situation with any humanity at all. Who but the British Government was responsible for saying that this was just a return to the prewar practice? Some of us on this side of the House do not appreciate very much the idea of a 2362 return to prewar practice. We remember the stories of Abyssinia, Czechoslovakia and Spain, and how the people there were betrayed—yes, and even in Palestine before the war, in 1939.
We have been, asked why we have referred to the notorious White Paper. Those who have asked that should ask the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Woodford (Mr. Churchill) why he called it the notorious White Paper." One of our charges against the Government's administration is that they have been carrying out the White Paper policy of 1939. So long as they try to do that, they will meet with most favourable results. What do we gain by all this? Nothing. We have this fantastic situation of 95,000 British soldiers, sailors, and airmen trying to pursue 5,000 Irgun terrorists. We have won, by this policy, the hatred of the Jew and Arab; we have won the hatred and discord of many people in many parts of the world; we are jeopardising the friendship of people like Leon Blum and many others, and we have done this despite manifold chances of changing the policy. There was a chance when the Anglo-American Report was issued. We could have changed the policy then. There was a chance when we made a reference to U.N.O. I believe that if, when we made that reference to U.N.O., we bad said we would step up immigration from 1,500 to 4,000, we would have immensely changed the situation in Palestine.
I hope, with the Minister, that there will be much closer co-operation between Haganah, the Jewish Agency and His Majesty's Government than there has ever been in the past. I will not go over the argument as to who was responsible for failures in the past, but if we are to try to get a changed atmosphere we must give something as well—a sign. If we are to wait until U.N.O. report, saying nothing and doing nothing, except sending back ships to spread this emotion throughout the world of Jewry, I do not believe that we shall be successful in stamping out terrorism. I believe that we shall have repetitions of the ghastly events which we read about in the newspapers last week.
I do not believe that we have a right to keep British soldiers in Palestine doing the job they are now doing. I think it is wasteful, but it is also inhumane. I 2363 do not think there is any justification for it, and I urge on His Majesty's Government to make an act of policy for the first time in two years, and declare now that whatever decision is arrived at by U.N.O. we are going out of Palestine, that we shall play our part on an agreed U.N.O. basis so long as others make their contribution, but under no conditions will our troops remain in Palestine six months, or, even better, three months, after U.N.O. has reported. Members may disagree with a lot I have said, but I think most will agree about that. That is the message that we ought to give to the Government. It is a measure to deal with the present crisis. One of the things we have to try to do in the next few weeks is to improve the economic situation of this country.
The hon. and gallant Member for Barnstaple (Brigadier Peto) made reference to Ireland. The analogy is close, but the deduction is different from that which the hon. Gentleman was trying to draw, because the Irish won in the end. The analogy is even closer, because when we refused to have a policy for dealing with the Irish and they asked Parnell who was going to rule Ireland, he said, "Captain Moonlight rules." Captain Moonlight rules Palestine today, and he will go on ruling Palestine, bringing bloodshed and disintegration to that country, until we make a policy. I say, therefore, that the Government should act speedily in this matter, both in the interests of the British people and the Jewish people. To have a strong alliance between British and Jews is a good thing for this world, because the Jews, after all, whatever the charges made against them, had the honour of being the first people attacked by Hitler. I think, therefore, that in the interests of the British people, the Jewish people and the Arab people it is right that we should make this declaration of policy as quickly as possible. That is the message which we want the Secretary of State for the Colonies to take back to the Government. If they do not do that, the epitaph on this Government's policy will be:And the Imperial Ministers pursued with proscriptive laws and ineffectual arms the rebels they had made.
§ 8.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker (Banbury)
I think that we shall find much in which to agree 2364 with the hon. Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot). What I do not think he entirely realises is that the difficulties in which the Government found themselves were largely due to the various promises which they are failing to carry out. There is much in which to agree with the hon. Member, but if during the weeks ahead he thinks back on the causes of these difficulties in which we now find ourselves, he may find even more on which to ponder.
I wish to put one or two constructive points. I hope that the Under-Secretary, who, I understand, is to reply, will deal with the points made by my hon. and right hon. Friends in asking for certain information about what action the Government are taking in Palestine. The Colonial Secretary, for reasons which we all understand, gave to the House a very carefully prepared statement. He did not answer any of the questions put to him by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hythe (Brigadier Mackeson). I think that one point of interest is that of collective fines. Anyone who has had anything to do with collective fines and demolitions realises that there are considerable difficulties in the way. We reach a stage in any administration attempting to curb disorder at which it is essential that these things should be considered. Why is it that at this moment greater use is not being made of collective fines and demolitions? I press the Under-Secretary to give us some answer on that point.
My next question is how the Foreign Office stands in relation to this whole question of Palestine at the moment? About a year ago we heard the Foreign Secretary make a plea in which he staked his reputation on finding the answer to this Palestine problem. Since then he has not taken a particularly leading part in the day-to-day handling of Palestine problems. Why does he not take more action in this House? I should have thought that on this occasion, someone from the Foreign Office, and also someone from the War Office, might have been present in order to answer some of the questions put from this side of the House.
My hon. and gallant Friends the Member for Lewes (Major Beamish) and the Member for Hythe put certain questions about this widespread net throughout 2365 Europe which picks up Jews all over Europe and brings them to Palestine, or attempts to do so. What is happening in that respect in Europe? The hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) obviously has detailed knowledge of what goes on in that way, where the various camps are and from where the people are coming. I do not know to what extent he is aware that they are going through Italy or France. Surely, there should be someone from the Foreign Office to tell us what is being done to check the stream of Jews sent by the Zionist organisations throughout Europe to Palestine.
Where does the Foreign Secretary stand in all this? He said that he staked his political reputation on this issue. For a year he has not addressed the House on this particular subject. This is the last occasion we shall have for about two months to Debate this issue. It will be a year almost before anyone from the Foreign Office will be able to stand up in this House to answer questions about this wide-scale organisation. I am even more amazed at the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Silverman) making the remarks he made against a friendly Power like the United States, when one knows what American money has done to facilitate in Palestine——
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I really do not know why the hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) should drag me into this discussion, or why he should think, or expect me to think, that because a nation does something that is right in one respect, that imposes upon me some obligation not to criticise its policy in some other respects which I think are wrong. It would be a very dangerous situation once we began to chop and change our policy according to considerations of that kind. While I am on my feet, let me say I made no attack of any kind upon anybody. I gave a plain statement of what everybody knows to be the facts, and if anybody wants to regard that as an attack, he is at liberty to do so. I did not intend it as an attack but merely as a plain statement of what everybody knows to be the facts.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
—he will see it was a monstrous attack. The third point I wish to put to the Parliamentary Secretary is to ask him to give us an undertaking that we will have an opportunity in this House of debating whatever findings the United Nations Commission come to on Palestine. I hope he will give us a definite undertaking that the Government will not take action upon that report before the House of Commons have an opportunity of debating this subject again.
§ 8.49 p.m.
§ Colonel Clarke (East Grinstead)
I want to intervene for only a very few minutes to ask two questions which arise from the communications about Palestine which I have received from my constituents. The first one has been asked already by my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker), which is whether the Parliamentary Secretary has anything to tell us from the Foreign Office side. We know that Jewish economy and civilisation in Palestine have roots that extend all over the world and it may be possible that by influencing those roots in other countries the situation in Palestine itself may be improved. The second point arises from the burden of most of the letters I have which are not concerned with Jews or Arabs in Palestine, but with my correspondents' sons or nephews who are serving out there. Certain anxieties still exist about conditions of service, and for that reason I am sorry that there is nobody here from the War Office, but I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will pass on the gist of the few remarks I am about to make, because I believe that it is in the interests of his office that the soldiers should be given every amenity and every possible comfort in the strenuous duty they are performing.
I know Palestine myself from a soldier's point of view. Actually, I am one of those who, in a way, bears the primary responsibility for helping to land us with the burden of Palestine in 1917 since I was one of those who went out to help to conquer it. Sometimes I think it might have been better had we left it to the Turks. I feel that our men there are performing a hard and ungrateful task. Aiding the civil power is a horrid form of service, and, as has already been said, one does not know who is friend or foe. Are 2367 we doing all we can to alleviate that condition of service? I know that some six months ago there were a number of camps which had not then been modernised. I believe they have been improved, but there are still deployment camps that are very primitive, and where they are alongside the ordinary camps this causes a good deal of feeling between different bodies of troops in one or the other.
My second point concerns rations. I have heard that a great many men are complaining about their rations, and although I know that soldiers on active service always say that they have not enough, I would suggest that they should have the best scale of rations possible. In this country we give the miners preferential rations, and out there I think that the soldiers and police should be given the best rations possible. Living in the open always makes one hungrier, and they are doing a great deal of night duty. As Members of Parliament know that also makes one hungry, and one has only to go to the cafeteria to see what effect late sittings have on the appetite. The long boring periods of waiting and watching also make these men hungry, and there is no chance of them going away for the week-end and the messing officer thus saving part of their rations. I know that this is a bad time to ask for improvement, but I feel that they should have the best and I hope that this appeal will be passed on to the War Office.
Finally, I feel with the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) that everybody in Palestine ought to be on active service. I support that contention because I believe many of our personnel there are suffering from the fact that they are on an active service basis for some things and on a peace-time basis for others. Whatever they ask for they cannot have, because they are on active service or, alternatively, if something is required to be done by way of a return it must be done because it is on a peacetime basis. I rose merely to make these points, and I hope they will be brought to the notice of the appropriate Department.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Benn Levy (Eton and Slough)
The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker), who I am sorry to see has just gone out, opened his speech in a 2368 surprising manner. He jeered at my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot), who had just delivered himself of I speech which I should have thought anybody in the House was capable of admiring. I do not wish to be provocative, but we have just had two days' Debate largely on the subject of liberty, in which the hon. Member or his Friends have put themselves forward as champions of liberty. I can only say that when they have really acquired a love of liberty, when they have really got the root of this matter into their bellies, then they will be able to make a speech such as my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport made.
Once more the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) gave us, if I may say so, a very temperate, statesmanlike speech which was marred in my opinion by only one passage, in which he saw fit to rake up some past history, twelve months old, of the Jewish Agency, when he denounced them for their policy then of non-co-operation. The Jewish Agency, like other political organisations, has more than one wing, and it may have been—I do not say that it was not—regrettable that they did not decide as the right hon Gentleman suggested, to throw all their weight on to the side of co-operation, to abandon—which would have been a bold policy—their poor little bargaining points in their struggle with what they regarded as an antagonistic administration, and to throw themselves on the mercy of a Foreign Secretary who, in this field, had not shown himself particularly merciful. Whether they were right or wrong, I do not think it is really quite fair to relate those conditions, which the right hon. Gentleman admitted to be very different and very much less grave than now, with the conditions which exist today. I believe there is little profit in raking up past history just now.
Indeed it is perhaps one of the failings of the protagonists of Zionism that they are accustomed, quite understandably, to parade the long tale of their very real grievances and tragedies. All I want to do tonight is very briefly to speak of the most immediate and nightmarish problem of terrorism. I think the House will probably recognise that for British Jews these hideous criminalities have a double horror, because British youngsters are being killed and Jewish youngsters are doing the killing.
§ Mr. Levy
Yes, but I am talking about the terrorists and not about the reprisals. As I see it, there are only three ways to tackle the question. One is by a redoubled military force, which has been suggested. Another is a radical change of policy. The third is by some kind of internal re-orientation among the Jewish community themselves. We heard something about the possibilities of the first alternative from the right hon. Member for West Bristol. Many others have pleaded for more vigorous military action. But when one asks exactly what more can be done, what more drastic action taken, there appears to be no answer at all. In all fairness to the Government, that point should be made. One hon. and gallant Member who knows about these things explained to the House the limitations of martial law. But what has been done already? We have what is virtually a police state in Palestine, we have martial law in certain areas, and when terrorists are caught they are hanged. What more could be done or could be expected from force except the Hitlerian method of reprisals executed upon the innocent in order to deter the guilty? I do not believe anything of that kind would be tolerated by the British people for a moment, and I do not think that anybody who calls for greater force has that expedient in mind.
The second way of tackling the matter, which I believe to be the only real and effective one, is by policy. I will not say by changing the policy, but by providing a policy. One of the heartening things about this Debate and one of the reasons why the Lord President has I think, been proved to be mistaken when he said that his first instinct was that this Debate would be of no value, is the real unanimity on all sides of the House on at least two points, one of which is that even now, at this late stage, a declaration should be made that we will bind ourselves to a certain course of action whatever the result of the United Nations Commission may be and the other is that sooner or later we have to get out of the unilateral responsibility for Palestine. On these two points, thank Heaven, there seems to be the widest measure of agreement. I hope that the Colonial Secretary, who has not got—and it is not fair to suppose that he has got—sole responsi- 2370 bility in this matter, will carry that message from this House to the Foreign Secretary.
There is a third thing which I have mentioned. It cannot do the trick but possibly it can contribute. That is, measures taken by the Jewish community themselves in Palestine. The best that that can do is not to solve the problem, but at least to mitigate it and even then only for a very limited period of time, but so far as it is possible I appeal to them to do everything they can. There is a good deal of misunderstanding and of ill-intentioned propaganda about this. They are sometimes accused almost of having condoned the situation in Palestine. People ask why they have not at least in very clear tones denounced terrorism. They have done so most repeatedly. I do not want to burden the House with lengthy quotations, but the latest of those denunciations has just come into my hands and it might be well for the record to read it. This one comes from the United Labour Parties in Palestine. It says:The undersigned parties have responded to the call of the authorities, the Zionist Organisation and the Agudath Israel, to eradicate the plague of terrorism from our midst. We regard the very existence of terrorist groups in Palestine as a disgrace, a disaster and a danger. We regard it as our duty to isolate members of those groups, to drive them from our camp and to make it impossible for them to indulge in acts of robbery and terror and to put a stop once and for all to their attempts to gain mastery over the Yishuv in any possible way.That could not be said in less ambiguous terms, and similar pronouncements have been made by the Jewish Agency, by Haganah, by the Chief Rabbi, and by other responsible people. Sometimes we are told that there are no such denunciations; then, when they are quoted, we tend to be told that denunciation is not enough and that action is wanted, military action by Haganah. As already pointed out in this Debate, it is superficially a little paradoxical to demand military action from an illegal organisation; and no very clear answer has been given by the Colonial Secretary to the question put to him earlier, whether this demand for active policing—which I hope sincerely the Haganah will provide—whether the request apparently made for it by the Colonial Office has been accompanied by the undertaking that any activities in the furtherance of this re- 2371 quest, which must necessarily involve the bearing of arms, will not lay them open to a charge of illegality. It should be made clear that that is not the case.
Even apart from this new appeal, the Colonial Secretary has made it quite clear today—he admitted rather than announced it—that already Haganah has been co-operating to a very considerable extent in rounding up and in opposition to the terrorists. I am very glad of that. Some of its members have already lost their lives. They have lost their lives in protecting British lives. There has been a little publicity about this, but not very much; and about those many more cases where acts of protection have been undertaken by Haganah without loss of life there has, of course, been practically no publicity whatever. I think it would be in accord with the Colonial Secretary's character if he takes what steps are open to him to give that the maximum publicity possible.
When the aid given by the Haganah is recalled, we are often told it is a pity they have not done more, and that they should have done more. I am not expert in military matters, and I do not know whether it is possible for them to do more. But, if they can do more, I most earnestly, as one individual with no particular influence, appeal to them now at this eleventh hour to do more, and to do all that is possible. I make this appeal not because I believe that their good behaviour, or even their heroic behaviour would win them the goodwill of the Foreign Secretary. It would be completely disingenuous and hypocritical of us to pretend that it would do that, because the Foreign Secretary's policy is not based on sentiment. If sentiment had anything to do with it, he would have fulfilled the party pledges long ago, and abrogated the White Paper and relieved the broken residue of Hitler's victims from their tragic camps long since.
I appeal to the Jewish community in Palestine firstly for the sake of their own pride and self-esteem and, secondly, in order that they may preserve the friendship of the ordinary men and women in this country which is still of first-rate importance. I know there has been much provocation, much tragedy to bear, and disappointments to swallow. I know that constant appeals have been made here to 2372 the Foreign Secretary and that they have fallen on deaf ears. Nevertheless, I appeal to the Jews in Palestine in the belief that peace and prosperity can only come to them if they forget their past wrongs and outstrip the Foreign Secretary in magnanimity and in statesmanship.
§ 9.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
We have had a Debate which has been serious and sombre, in my view rightly so,. considering the situation in Palestine at this time. The Debate was opened by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hythe (Brigadier Macke-son) in an able and moderate speech in which he put a number of questions to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies, to which, as yet, we have not really had an adequate reply. Then we had a speech from the right hon. Gentleman which I must say I for myself regarded as both disheartening and depressing. It was disheartening because he held out no hope that there would be any improvement for many months to come in the conditions in which so many of our people are now living in Palestine. The hon. Member for West Coventry (Mr. Edelman), in a speech to which I listened with great interest and with which I was largely in agreement, said that this Debate really raised the questions of terrorism and of the saving of British lives in Palestine. He described in graphic terms the tension which rises immediately there is any report of a ship approaching carrying illegal immigrants. I am quite certain, from my knowledge of that country from the time I was there, that his description of that is entirely accurate.
I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Bristol West (Mr. Stanley) in the view that, from the Jewish point of view, this organised illegal immigration may not in long terms prove to be to the advantage of the Jews. I have no doubt myself that this immigration question is one of the major causes, if not the major cause, of Jewish hostility towards the British in Palestine. The record of the Government in handling this problem in the last two years really cannot be praised. The Government have vacillated, and their lack of foresight has gone far to accentuate the tension which results from attempts at illegal immigration. The Anglo-American Committee, in its report, recommended among other things, the immigration of 100,000 Jews into Palestine 2373 "as rapidly as conditions permit," and went on to suggest that there should be certain priorities in the selection of immigrants, that the aged, the infirm and the very young should come first. But, of course, these recommendations about priorities in the allocation of certificates have been completely annulled and defeated, until recently, by the policy of the Government in dealing with illegal immigrants. Until quite recently—and now it would appear again—what has been the policy? It has been that the illegal immigrant who has been caught has then been put at the head of the queue for securing legal admission into Palestine. I do not know what the policy is to be in future. We know that after the ships were brought back to France, other immigrants were again taken to Cyprus.
It would be of advantage if some policy with regard to that, at least, were made known to the public. I regard it as of great importance now that this illegal immigration should not be encouraged by the feeling that persons engaging in it can jump to the head of the queue. I am inclined to think that as a step towards this discouragement, it might be advisable to announce that those detected engaging in it, should not get certificates for admission. I should like to know to what extent the cost of the immigrants in Cyprus is being met by any Jewish organisation or the Jewish Agency, and whether it is not a fact that the Zionist organisation have a network throughout Europe, and that the Jewish Agency also have representatives in European countries? The hon Member for West Coventry and the hon. Member for Devenport (Mr. Foot) suggested that the tension might be lowered if the number of immigrants were substantially increased. The hon. Member for West Coventry suggested that the increase might be set off against what he assumed the United Nations would ultimately recommend. One can see that that policy might lead to a lowering of the tension in the Jewish community, but it would inevitably lead to a raising of the tension in the Arab community. In the course of this Debate, naturally because of the very nature of a discussion concerning Jewish terrorism, the Arab angle has not been sufficiently borne in mind.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The hon. Member has not correctly quoted that report, the precise terms of which I quoted a few minutes ago—the admission of 100,000 "as rapidly as conditions permit." If the hon. Member will read that report, he will see that it did not say "admission within 12 months," but the granting of a certificate within 12 months and admission "as rapidly as conditions permit." I have not, in anything I have said, departed from the views expressed in that report.
I imagine that no matter what demand there may be from either side of the House for a policy from His Majesty's Government, the Government will say that at this time it is their bounden duty, having regard to the steps they have already taken, to preserve the status quo in Palestine so far as they can, until they have obtained a decision from the United Nations—indeed until the Government have come to a decision when they have considered the views of the United Nations. That being so, I do not propose to take up any time this evening in repeating the views which I expressed on a previous occasion as to the desirability—expressed tonight from the benches opposite, but expressed from this side of the House on the last occasion—that when this reference was made to the United Nations it should have been made with our recommendations as to what should be done, and what we in this country were prepared to carry out.
Whatever may be the final settlement, whether it be partition or something else, everyone in this country must and does pray that that final settlement will come speedily. I was surprised at the right hon. Gentleman's optimism in the light of the past history of Palestine, when he said that he had every hope that the United Nations would recommend a line of action acceptable to both Jew and Arab. That is a very good example of wishful thinking; I hope it may, to some extent, come true. One thing at least is clear—that is, that this strain upon Great Britain and upon British men and women in the Forces and police and the ordinary Administration in Palestine, cannot go on indefinitely. The sooner it comes to an end the better, but one duty does lie upon His Majesty's Government at this stage— 2375 a duty they cannot deny—and that is to do everything which lies in their power to reduce that strain at this time and in the, months to come.
The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech, really gave little indication of any new steps that Were to be taken. He told us, with a great deal of emphasis, that he was not irresolute, and I do not know quite what the converse of that might be, whether it is somewhat vacillating, but I appreciate that, having regard to the Government's pre-Election policy and to their lack of a policy since then, it is not surprising that they should find the situation somewhat difficult to deal with. When we are dealing with security in Palestine, it would, of course, be impertinent for me to put forward any criticisms of what the military, in their discretion and their wisdom, have done and have sought to do, but I would like to know, and to have the assurance, that the questions put forward by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Hythe (Brigadier Mackeson) will receive, if they have not already received, serious consideration. Surely, the incidence of these terrorist outrages would be largely reduced if motor transport between the chief cities of Palestine were put under strict control, and if the convoy system under British supervision were applied, for instance, to all motor traffic. When one reads the reports of these outrages and these tragedies, how often does one see that the terrorists have made use of a stolen taxi or some other vehicle? Is there any possibility of putting some check in some way on the use of transport which would be likely to reduce the occurrence of these horrible affairs?
Then, the right hon. Gentleman did not really deal in any detail with the question of the imposition of collective fines. No one likes a collective fine, because, of course, it must mean, in some cases, the punishment of the innocent, and, in some cases as well, of those who are guilty; but, where we find in any one area that there are a great many of these events, would not the announcement that a collective fine was going to be imposed if another such occurrence took place have the greatest deterrent effect? Was it not found to be so when collective fines were imposed during the Arab rising? Is there any good argument why that should not 2376 be tried in an effort to enhance the safety of our soldiers and of British civilians in Palestine? I hope that the hon. Gentleman, when he replies, will be able to give us a little more information about this.
The right hon. Gentleman said this evening that the Jewish Agency had publicly declined to co-operate, but then he said a few sentences later that he still hoped that Haganah would supplement the Government's activities, and, a little time later, he also told us that Haganah had, in fact, co-operated, I think, in one search, or it may have been in more than one search. I was interested by that, because is it not the case that there is some connection between the Jewish Agency and Haganah, and, if there is some connection, how can one reconcile the two statements that the right hon. Gentleman made? I am a little puzzled about that matter, and I hope that perhaps the hon. Gentleman can clear it up.
In conclusion, the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester (Mr. Lever), made a speech which, I must say, I regarded as offensive, and as a speech which was intended to be offensive to the Government and not to hon. Members on this side of the House, although, in one particular, it was unfair to my right hon. Friend, in that he said that the right hon. Gentleman's predecessor would have had no policy for Palestine. That, I can assure him, is entirely inaccurate. But be that as it may, the hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester commented very strongly on a photograph which appeared in the "Daily Express." I do not propose to make any comment on that photograph, because I do not think it is relevant, but I do make the point that anti-Semitism, which we all deplore in this country, or which the vast majority in this country sincerely deplore, is, I fear, likely to grow so long as terrorist activities continue while we have a large number of British people in Palestine who are able to report to their relations and friends in this country what is happening there.
Therefore, I hope that, even now, in the interests of the Jews in Palestine, in the interests of what has been done in Palestine since the Mandate, and also in the interests of Jews in Europe and displaced persons' centres in other parts of 2377 the world, the terrorists will reconsider their actions, and will bear in mind that this matter has been referred to the United Nations, and that the decision on the great problem of Palestine has now passed, for the time being, from the hands of the British Government, and that no final decision can be, or will be, arrived at by the British Government until after the United Nations have made up their minds. That being so, I hope that, even now, the Irgan and the Stern Gang will consider whether any really useful purpose in the cause of Jewry will be served by the depriving of one British soldier, or more British soldiers, who are doing nothing more than their duty, of their lives, and that even at this stage they may reflect that responding to appeals for a cessation of hostilities is more to their advantage and to the advantage of everyone else.
§ 9.28 p.m.
The Under-Secretary of the State for the Colonies (Mr. Ivor Thomas)
The hon. Member for Banbury (Mr. Dodds-Parker) inquired about the respective responsibilities of the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office with regard to Palestine. Naturally, the question of Palestine is so important that it engages the collective responsibility of the Government, and it may be presumed that anyone who speaks from this Box on Palestine will have informed himself about the views of the other Departments concerned, and about the latest situation as known to them. The division of work between the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office is, roughly, that the Foreign Office deals with Palestine in so far as matters of international relations are concerned, while the Colonial Office deals with questions of internal administration in Palestine.
It was understood that the question to be raised this evening would be primarily the measures that have been taken, or may be taken, arising out of the most deplorable murder recently of the two British sergeants, and that is the reason why my right hon. Friend took part in this Debate earlier, and why I am now speaking. These outrages have brought a dark smear across a very noble ideal. The song that was first raised by the waters of Babylon:How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?has been raised over the centuries since by the Volga, the Danube, the Vistula 2378 and the Rhine. It has awakened in the imagination of all peoples a keen desire to see the Jews re-established in a National Home. That National Home must naturally be in Palestine, for there is no other place that could compete with it. Since effect has been given to that ideal, many of us have also been stirred by the great achievements of the Yishuv in Palestine. There are some features of it which may not commend themselves so wholeheartedly as others. For example, the creation of a lido on the shore of Galilee has given unnecessary offence to Christian sentiment——
§ Mr. S. Silverman
If I may interrupt my hon. Friend, he is making a common mistake in supposing that that was a Jewish affair. It was not.
I am glad to have my hon. Friend's assurance on that point. If I am in error, I will, of course, withdraw my remark completely. I was in course of paying a warm tribute to the Jewish achievement in Palestine. I was proceeding to say that the noble ideals, which have the sympathy of all nations throughout the world, have received a very sad check recently by this trail of outrages, culminating in the murder of the two British sergeants.
We have, of course, other obligations in Palestine as well. I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester (Mr. Lever) why we are in Palestine. The reason is two-fold. We are there because we wish to fulfil this obligation to Jewry which we undertook in the Balfour Declaration, and we are there also because we have sought to fulfil other undertakings to free the Arabs from those who ruled over them at the time. Until the hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) spoke, almost the most remarkable feature of this Debate was that no question of the position of the Arabs had been raised. One would have thought from the speeches up to that point that the only persons concerned in this matter were the Jews and ourselves, but of course, in any picture in perspective we must remember the obligations that we have to the Arabs and we must remember the rights of the Arabs.
The legal basis, of course, is the Mandate of the League of Nations which makes full provision for military as for other matters,
My hon. Friend will know that immigration and the creation of a National Home for the Jewish people in Palestine is a very important part of the Mandate, but it is not the whole Mandate. We have, for example, to carry out all the obligations of Article 22 of the League of Nations Covenant.
§ Brigadier Mackeson
Perhaps I may be permitted to say that if the hon. Gentleman would be good enough to read the report of my speech in HANSARD he will find that the question of the Arabs was adequately covered.
I make no reproach to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, with much of whose speech I was in complete sympathy, but I am trying as best I can to put the matter into a little better perspective. As has been pointed out by the hon. and learned Member for Daventry, it is perhaps inevitable, owing to the circumstances in which this Debate has arisen, that attention should have been concentrated on the Jews and not on the Arabs.
At the time when we undertook the Mandate it was thought the two obligations could be fulfilled. Not only did we so think; there was one moment—perhaps, only one moment—when the Jews and the Arabs thought so themselves. At any rate, Dr. Weizmann and the Emir Feisal thought so. I suppose it was the coming of Hitler and the persecution of the Jews that shattered that hope. The prospects of co-operation between Jews and Arabs have become much more slender in recent years. The position of Great Britain has also become correspondingly more difficult. Indeed, the situation is now well-nigh intolerable.
There are two matters in particular that make this situation almost unbear- 2380 able. The first is the violence that is taking place in Palestine itself, for the condemnation of which there are no words sufficiently strong. The second is the question of illegal immigration, which has been raised tonight by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) and others, especially in connection with the return of the "President Warfield" to France. The right hon. Gentleman, in particular, has asked what is the reason for this policy, and why two ships have subsequently been allowed to land illegal immigrants in Cyprus. It is not, of course, the case that there has been any change of policy. It always has been the contention of His Majesty's Government that the proper course in dealing with illegal immigrants is to return them to the country from which they sailed, very often in defiance of the international rules of safety at sea, and in defiance of bans by the country concerned. It was not, however, always practicable to carry out that policy.
In the case of the "President War-field" we had, however, to face the fact that this was an exceptionally large batch of illegal immigrants, no fewer than 4,500; and action was particularly required. It so happened also that, owing to the presence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in Paris, he was able to get an assurance from the French Government that the immigrants would be received if they were taken back to France. It was that conjunction of circumstances which led to the return of the "President Warfield."
§ Mr. Stanley
Are we really to understand that the treatment of these illegal immigrants is to depend on the size of the shipments—that if it is a small ship with small numbers they can go to Cyprus, but that if it is a large ship with large numbers they are sent back to the port of departure?
No, Sir, that is not the right deduction from what I was saying. The fact that there were so many passengers in the "President Warfield" was one of the factors that had to be taken into account. Another was that in this particular case we knew the port from which the ship had sailed. The fact that she was such a large ship was one of the factors which enabled us to know that 2381 port. In the case of the two vessels which have subsequently been received in Cyprus it is the case, as the right hon. Gentleman inferred, that we did not know the ports from which those ships sailed. The right hon. Gentleman says we can find out from the newspapers, but I am fairly certain that when he held high office he was not content to rely on any newspaper, however reputable, for his information; and we have no knowledge of whence those ships came. This a highly organised traffic, as has been pointed out tonight. The utmost vigilance is used to defeat the immigration regulations of Palestine, and it is by no means an easy matter to detect this traffic. Just as a matter of interest, I may say that the two ships which have gone to Cyprus, although they arrived in Cyprus after the passengers of the "President Warfield" had been returned to French territorial waters, were to the best of our knowledge, on the high seas before the "President Warfield" set out. Therefore, from that point of view there has certainly not been any change in policy.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Can the Under-Secretary tell us what is to be the fate of the people on ships now lying off French ports?
I cannot give an answer to that question because it depends so much on the persons concerned. They have only to walk down the gangway——
§ Mr. Silverman
No, it is not a hypothetical question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Sit down."] I should like to put this point to my hon. Friend. He ought not to say it is a hypothetical question. It might have been a hypothetical question a fortnight ago, but it is not a hypothetical question now. The people on board have refused to go. It is no longer a hypothesis, but a fact. What now do the Government intend to do about it?
I think the French Government are feeding them. They are in French territorial waters. I cannot 2382 answer the question put by my hon. Friend the Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) because—and I repeat my words—it depends so much on the persons concerned. It is true that, except for about 100 of them, they have so far declined to go into France. But it may be they have been under the impression that there will be some weakening in this policy, and that they still hope to get to Palestine, or at any rate to Cyprus, which they regard as a half-way house to Palestine. I hope it will be made clear to them that it is not the policy of His Majesty's Government that they should go to Palestine or to Cyprus. If that is made quite clear to them by those who have influence with them, then they may feel more disposed to walk down the gangway, when they will find comfortable conditions awaiting them in the country whence they set out.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
Are they going to remain on board as long as they like, or are the Government unable to make up their minds what to do with them?
I have said all that I can usefully say in this subject tonight. It is a very delicate question, and I think it had better be left there for reason to try to play its part with those on board. Before leaving the subject I should like to refer to my hon. Friend the Member for Devonport (Mr. Foot), who quoted an article by M. Blum. M. Blum is a man whom I, like everyone else on these benches revere; and, despite the difference in our ages, I believe he would permit me to call myself a friend. But I am bound to say that in such a matter as this he is not an entirely disinterested person; he is not likely to give us objective views. As is well known, he is himself a Jew, and he would certainly not wish to conceal the fact. For many years he has been an ardent Zionist——
What constitutes an ardent Zionist may be a matter of opinion, but I should have thought my description was accurate.
So much for the question of illegal immigration. I have said that this situation is wellnigh intolerable——
§ Major Beamish
Does not the Under-Secretary intend to say anything on any of the questions I asked, about discussions with the Polish Government, or protests to those countries under whose flags the ships sailed, or the visas issued illegally, or any of those other points which I raised?
A very large number of questions were addressed to me during the Debate, and I hope to answer many of them in the course of my reply. On others I shall write to the hon. Members concerned. I have, of course, implied that we have had the co-operation of the French Government to the extent of their receiving these ships back. I ought also to mention that we have had the close co-operation of the Italian Government in this matter, but as it would take me a very long time to go into details I hope the hon. and gallant Member will let me leave it at that point.
§ Vice-Admiral Taylor
Has there been any consultation with the French Government so that they will prohibit Jews going on board these ships?
Illegal immigration into Palestine causes us difficulties, and it must cause many difficulties to the countries where the immigrants collect. It is not quite so easy as the hon. and gallant Gentleman implies. The "President Warfield" was forbidden to sail from its port by the French authorities.
I wish to turn to the more important question of the remedy for this situation, which, as I have said, is wellnigh intolerable. In the first place, the remedy certainly does not lie in reprisals. I do not wish to add anything to the very strong words of condemnation which have been given tonight, except to endorse them—whether reprisals take place in this country or in Palestine. In answer to a direct question, however, I ought to say that an inquiry is being made by the High Commissioner into the disturbances 2384 at Tel Aviv. In anticipation of the result, I can say definitely that troops were not involved. While I am on this question of reprisals, I think I might conveniently deal here with the question of collective fines, which belongs in a sense to the category of reprisals. I must point out that there is a difference between the present situation and the Arab revolt, when that policy was successfully used. In those days, the persons who led the revolt were known and could be easily detected, but at the present time it is exceedingly difficult, in the large urban Jewish population, to detect who are the terrorists. Therefore, in the days of the Arab revolt it was posible to levy a collective fine which would be just, in the sense that it punished the people responsible, but at the present time collective fines would inevitably fall on the innocent as well as the guilty, and more probably on the innocent than on the guilty.
That aspect has been very carefully considered, and some of the tax is to be used for social services for the benefit of the Arab community. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol has a different remedy. He says the situation should be treated as a military situation, but it is, in fact, being so treated. The troops in Palestine have sometimes been described as carrying out police duties, but it is only in a very loose sense that they can be so described. Their function in Palestine is to give help to the civil authorities, when it is required, in preserving order. It is recognised that they are living under quasi-wartime conditions and their mode of life is regulated accordingly. This naturally means a great deal of discomfort for the troops.
The question of amenities, which was raised by several hon. Members, is important. Since the question was raised in the House, I have made such inquiries as I could. I can say at once that no complaints have been received about amenities. "No complaints" is a familiar phrase in the Army, but I know that the High Commissioner and the General Officer Commanding have been very solicitous in this matter. I have every reason to believe that the amenities are as satisfactory as they can be, in the 2385 very strained situation existing in Palestine at the present time. The hon. and gallant Member for Hythe and the hon. and learned Member for Daventry asked, in particular, that the convoy system should be introduced for motor traffic. My right hon. Friend made it clear that there has been no interference with the military in whatever they considered necessary for the preservation of order in Palestine. But I will see that their suggestion, along with others which have been made in this Debate, is conveyed to the High Commissioner.
For my part, I am convinced that the only remedy for this situation is a political remedy. It is not possible to solve such a problem as this purely by military methods. Military methods have their place, of course, and if necessary we shall be quite firm in applying them to any extent that may be necessary. But these cannot, by themselves, create conditions which will be satisfactory in Palestine. The parallel of Ireland has been cited frequently in this Debate, and it is the case, of course, that what produced a solution in Ireland eventually was the Treaty. It was a political solution, though military methods might have had their place in leading up to that solution. In the same way, in Palestine——
No, I was saying that the Irish question has been cited tonight, purely for the purpose of illustration, and that in some respects it illustrates the problem, although, in other respects, it is very different. The lesson I wish to draw is that to remedy this situation we must approach the problem by political methods, in addition to any military measures that it is necessary to take. Such a solution must be sought through the United Nations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol said that in his view there was only one solution, and that if partition could not be obtained—and I inferred that partition was the solution he would have liked to have seen—we ought to evacuate Palestine. I must point out that to obtain partition or to evacuate Palestine we must take the matter to the United Nations. We are in 2386 Palestine in virtue of a Mandate; if that is to be altered, or given up, we must have the consent of the United Nations.
§ Mr. Stanley
Does the hon. Gentleman mean to say that we cannot give up the Mandate without the consent of the United Nations?
We must give it up to someone, and that someone is now the United Nations, as the successor to the League of Nations, from whom we received it. The right hon. Gentleman is not the sort of person to run away from a task, and he would know that we just cannot walk away from Palestine without consulting the United Nations. We should have been under an obligation to go to the United Nations whatever solution we adopted in this matter. The right hon. Gentleman has charged us with delay by this reference to the United Nations. As my right hon. Friend said, the calling of a special Assembly of the United Nations has speeded up this matter by several months. If this reference had been left to the regular meeting of the General Assembly, due in September, the same course would have had to have been followed. A fact-finding Committee would have had to be appointed, and it would have had to conduct its investigations in Palestine and to report later to the next Assembly. The course adopted has, in fact, speeded up this matter by several months.
The right hon. Gentleman also urged that we should have accompanied the reference to the United Nations with a policy which we ourselves favoured. This matter has been fully and exhaustively treated by the Foreign Secretary himself. I must briefly point out the obvious disadvantages of such a course. We have, for a long period, tried to find a satisfactory policy in Palestine. Our latest effort was the scheme known as provincial autonomy. It found favour neither with Jews nor with Arabs, and, to be candid, I do not think that it found a great deal of favour in this country. What could we have done? Ought we to have presented to the United Nations a policy which had been so decisively rejected both by the Jews and the Arabs? Moreover, if we had strongly supported any particular line of policy we should have been accused of trying to influence the United Nations in forming a policy.
It is surely much better, while giving all the help to the United Nations which they ask, to leave them free to come to whatever judgment, after very full consideration, they consider proper.
§ Mr. Stanley
Does the hon. Gentleman mean that we are not going to try to influence the United Nations?
I have said that, having tried ourselves for a long period to find a satisfactory solution, and having failed to do so, we have submitted this matter to the United Nations and asked them to find a solution. That course has already done a great deal of good. I think that it has already brought out, for example, that this is primarily a dispute between Jews and Arabs and not a dispute between both and Great Britain. I have followed very closely the deliberations of the Committee and that is certainly the impression left on my mind and, indeed, I think on the Press of the world. I have been asked also whether we will accept the recommendations of the United Nations when they are made. The United Kingdom is a good member of the United Nations and forwarded the problem in good faith for the United Nations to explore the whole question and make a recommendation on the future status of Palestine. We should not be asked unilaterally to make a declaration if the other members of the United Nations have not yet declared themselves. We submitted the problem in good faith and will 2388 loyally meet our obligations in regard to any recommendations made by the United Nations. With regard to the question of carrying out any recommendations made by the United Nations, obviously His Majesty's Government cannot be committed in the absence of any knowledge of what these commitments may be.
§ Mr. Dodds-Parker
Will the hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the House will be consulted first?
I cannot give an assurance so categorical, for this touches one of the fundamentals of the constitution and also a practical necessity. Executive action must remain in the hands of His Majesty's Government; and it may be necessary in the United Nations itself to make known our attitude to this question at a time when there is no possibility of learning beforehand the views of the House. Of course, matters of this importance obviously would have to come before the House.
My time is almost up and in the remaining moment I should like to say that there is one other element which must come into the solution. The co-operation of the Yishuv is absolutely essential in bringing about a solution to this problem. It is also in its own interest so to do. I noted with approval the statement of one hon. Member earlier that the Jewish Agency had created a monster which it might find very troublesome later on.
§ It being Ten o'Clock the Motion for the Adjournment lapsed without Question put.