HC Deb 22 January 1947 vol 432 cc198-201
21. Sir W. Smithers

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether the persons who flogged British soldiers in Palestine have been arrested; what punishment they received; and if he will make a statement.

22. Mr. Butcher

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement concerning the flogging by Jewish terrorists of a British major and three non-commissioned officers.

Mr. Creech Jones

At half past seven on 29th December a British Army major was kidnapped from the hotel at Nathanya by a party of armed Jews, flogged with 18 strokes of the whip, and returned to the hotel. The same evening two British staff sergeants were abducted by a party of armed Jews at Tel Aviv and taken by car to the Zoological Gardens. Each was flogged with 18 strokes of the whip. Later that evening, five armed Jews entered a cafe; abducted the most senior officer present, a British staff sergeant, and flogged him with 18 strokes of a rope's end. He suffered severe bruises and abrasions and was admitted to hospital.

Responsibility for these floggings was accepted by the Irgun Zvai Leumi. They were evidently a reprisal for the sentence of 18 years' imprisonment and 18 strokes of the cane passed by a Military Court on a 16 year old Jewish terrorist convicted of taking part in an armed robbery at the Ottoman Bank, Jaffa, on 13th December, when the manager and two Arab policemen were wounded. On the night of the flogging five Jews were fired on by a military patrol when the car in which they were travelling failed to stop. One of the occupants was wounded and has since died. The remaining four persons have been charged with illegal possession of arms. Although, in addition to firearms, a whip was found in the vehicle, there is no positive evidence to connect these five persons with the flogging incidents. I should inform the House that in a series of searches which were intensified as a result of these flogging incidents over 30 persons wanted by the police as suspected terrorists have been taken into custody.

Sir W. Smithers

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether His Majesty's Government will take the most drastic steps to maintain law and order in Palestine, or admit their failure by clearing out? Further, will they ask the advice of the Russian Government as to what steps they would take in similar circumstances?

Mr. Stanley

Can the right hon. Gentleman say whether any of the suspects detained were people who had been detained before but had been released by His Majesty's Government only a month or two before this incident?

Mr. Creech Jones

I am sorry, I am not in possession of that information but I will try to obtain it.

Mr. Pickthorn

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman two supplementary questions? First, when he says the Irgun Zvai Leumi accept responsibility, what does he mean? Does he mean that they boast of this achievement, or does he mean that the persons managing that organisation have come forward and wish to be tried? Secondly, with apologies for repeating a suggestion I have made more than once before, would it not be wise to refer to these people always—and fairer from anyone's point of view—as Zionists and not as Jews?

Mr. Creech Jones

In a statement which was issued by the means open to these people, they did accept responsibility—

Mr. Pickthorn

What does the right hon. Gentleman mean by "accept responsibility"?

Mr. Creech Jones

They accepted responsibility in the sense that they assumed themselves liable for the action which they themselves organised. On the second point, I think a distinction must be drawn between normal Zionist organisations and terrorist groups.

Sir Ronald Ross

Have the soldiers concerned been given any compensation for having been the object of these terrible outrages?

Mr. Pickthorn


Mr. Creech Jones

May I ask the hon. Gentleman to repeat his question?

Sir R. Ross

I was asking if the soldiers concerned, the officer and staff sergeants who were flogged, have received any compensation for their obviously great sufferings as the innocent subjects of these disgusting outrages?

Mr. Creech Jones

I would ask the hon. Member to put that question on the Paper.

Mr. John Paton

May I ask my right hon. Friend if these deplorable floggings by the terrorists were not the direct outcome of a Hogging imposed by the authorities—[HON. MEMBERS:."Oh."]—and would it not be preferable that we should set an example by abandoning this humiliating form of punishment?

Hon. Members


Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Arising out of the right hon. Gentleman's original reply, does he not think the fact most deplorable that immediately after the flogging outrages on these British troops a flogging sentence on a young Jew named Aaron Cohen was remitted after the general officer commanding had confirmed it?

Mr. Creech Jones

That is a matter within the discretion of the general officer commanding—[HON. MEMBERS: "Not at all."]—and it can be remitted subsequently by the High Commissioner.

Mr. Butcher

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman if any commendation has been conveyed to the troops for their very commendable forbearance and restraint in the face of this widespread provocation?

Mr. Creech Jones

Yes, Sir, we have repeatedly expressed our acknowledgements to those who have been suffering this admirable restraint.

Sir W. Smithers

May I give notice that I will raise this matter on the Adjournment in view of the disgraceful answer I have received today?