§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."— [Mr. R. J. Taylor.]
§ 12.40 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
I will start my speech, though I should 1301 certainly prefer not to go very far with it before a representative of the Colonial Office is here. Earlier this morning we were discussing another phase of Colonial administration. In the discussion on Malta, it is true that we on this side of the House were in disagreement with one part of the Government's policy, but at least all of us could look upon that particular part of our Colonial administration with some satisfaction, as something which reflected credit on the relationship between ourselves and our dependency, and something which, despite all the difficulties, did give bright hopes for the future. We now turn to another part of the Colonial Empire, or those territories administered by the Colonial Office, where there is no such relief, where the whole picture is sombre, and where we can feel neither great pride in the past, nor bright hopes in the future.
My purpose today is to deal with only one branch of the difficulties that face us in Palestine. I shall confine myself entirely to a discussion of the security problems there, of the recent outrages and of the maintenance of law and order. I shall not attempt today to go into what is, in fact, an even more important part of the Palestine problem, that is, a discussion of what the policy in future is to be. It would obviously be inappropriate, while a Conference is sitting, to discuss that matter, but I am sure that I speak in the name of the whole House when I tell the Secretary of State for the Colonies that immediately after that Conference, we shall expect a statement from His Majesty's Government, and we shall certainly want to debate it in this House. But if I do not today deal with the rival merits of the various policies which have been or may be suggested, I must refer to the fatal effect of having no policy at all. That has been the position of this country for the last 18 months. It is that fact, that for 18 months we have had no definite policy in regard to Palestine, which I consider as one of the causes, if not the chief cause, of the continually deteriorating security position. Nothing could be more calculated to set community against community and both communities against us than the absence of a policy. As reports and rumours circulate, there are, among the various communities, alternation of hope and 1302 despair, and behind all a feeling, however unjustified, that the people who make the most trouble are likely, in the end, perhaps, to get the better deal. Nothing can undo the harm of the passage of all these months, while successive commissions, joint meetings and conferences have been trying to find a policy for the Government, but at least we are entitled to hope that is now nearly at an end, that the Conference now sitting is to be the last one, that it will not result merely in a decision to refer the question to some other body, and will be followed immediately by some clear statement of policy. So far as I am concerned, I must confess that whatever that policy turns out to be, even if it is a policy with which I personally disagree, I should prefer it to the present state, where there is no policy at all.
The last time this House debated the security problems in Palestine was last July. The Debate followed immediately the arrest of the leaders of the Jewish Agency, and came, I think, shortly after the outrage at the King David hotel. Since that time outrages have continued almost incessantly. Hardly a week has passed since then when there has not been some loss of British life, or some injury to British personnel, or some damage to British property. During all that time the British personnel in Palestine, troops, police and administration, have been in constant peril and under conditions of never ceasing tension. All of us on every side of the House will wish to pay a tribute to their behaviour under those circumstances. It is difficult to imagine the strain under which they must be working. Many of us in this House have had some experience of war, and we have found that pretty beastly. But at any rate, under the conditions of war, as we knew it, we did know who our enemies were, where they were, and the rules permitted us to try to hit them before they hit us. Here, in the circumstances which our troops have to endure, no one knows who their enemy is. It may be the girl who has served one in the cafe; it may be the man one passes in the street. No one knows where one's enemies are. They may be at one's elbow at any moment and the circumstances are usually such that one has got to let them make their attack before, with safety, one is entitled to reply.
1303 We must admit that in circumstances of pressing dangers, our people in Palestine have shown great courage, and in circumstances of intense provocation have displayed great discipline and forbearance. It, is a little disquieting then to have reports coming from Palestine as to the conditions under which the troops are living. If we cannot give them safety and security, we should at least do what we can to give them what comforts are available. This is obviously not the appropriate occasion, nor is the right hon. Gentleman the appropriate Minister, for a discussion of this kind, but my hon. Friends will certainly, as soon as the opportunity presents itself, raise the point, and press upon the Government an improvement of the material conditions under which our troops have to act.
As I said, since last July there has been a continuation of this sordid story of outrage. During that time, it is necessary to point out, despite the number of murders of British personnel, no one responsible for those murders has been apprehended, convicted or punished. But I shall not deal today with the general run of the outrages in the past six months, I want to refer more particularly to the events of the last few weeks, because in that period we have seen in Palestine a most sinister development. We have seen the emergence of a new challenge, carefully thought out and skilfully carried out, before which, if it is not true to say that the Government have been forced to surrender, at least by some ill chance the facts have given all the appearance of such a course upon their part.
Let me recall to the House the details of the two incidents to which I wish to refer. First, there was the flogging case. On 27th December, a young Jew, who had been sentenced to imprisonment and caning, had the sentence of caning carried out. His offence, I believe, had been robbery with violence at a bank. On 29th December, a British officer and three noncommissioned officers were kidnapped and flogged. It was openly said by the Irgun that that was a reprisal for the caning of the youth. It was deliberately declared that reprisals of that kind would take place whenever a punishment of that nature was inflicted. That was 29th December. On 8th January, a sentence of caning on another Jewish youth, which 1304 had been passed by the military court and had been confirmed by the General Officer Commanding, was remitted by the acting High Commissioner for Palestine.
§ Mr. Stanley
It was a charge of being in possession of a propaganda bomb. I am pointing out the facts. The sentence had been passed by a military court after the man had been found guilty, but the sentence was remitted. The acting High Commissioner did it in the exercise of his discretion in the use of the High Commissioner's powers. I have no doubt that he saw differing circumstances between the two cases, but it is, at least, unfortunate that the differing circumstances have not been disclosed to us. That was on 8th January. On 21st January, it was announced that a Defence Regulation had been amended, whereby the age over which a sentence of caning was permissible was reduced from 18 to 16, a reduction which would have covered, I think, both the cases in question. I know that there are many arguments, one way or another, against sentences of flogging, and about the age at which it should be permitted. I am not saying that, as a wholly theoretical matter, even I myself would not be in favour of 16 rather than 18 as the age, but what I do say is that it is singularly unfortunate that all these arguments do not appear to have been discovered in the 18 months before this case, and that they should only be discovered in the three weeks after the commission of these reprisals. So much for the flogging.
Then there is the case of Gruner. On 1st January, Gruner was sentenced to death for taking part in an attack on a police post. On 24th January, that sentence was confirmed by the General Office Commanding. On the evening of 26th January, Major Collins was kidnapped, and, on the morning of 27th January, Judge Windham was kidnapped and taken from the very court in which he was sitting. Incidentally, it is curious to note, in view of the circumstances and the atmosphere in Palestine, that he was apparently allowed to attend his police court, and to leave his court for lunch, without any more care and security than if he was the county court judge at Bow or Lambeth. That, was on the evening of 26th January and the morning of the 1305 27th. These two gentlemen were kidnapped, under the express threat of reprisals, with the implied or actual threat that their kidnapping would be followed by their murder, if the sentence of death on Gruner was carried out. That was on the morning of the 27th.
On the afternoon of the 27th, it was announced that the sentence of death on Gruner had been stayed, because of an appeal to the Privy Council. On 28th January, Judge Windham was released, and, a day later, Major Collins We are glad indeed, for personal reasons, that these two gentlemen should have escaped from their ordeal as they did. I now want to ask a question of the right hon. Gentleman about the circumstances in which this sentence of death was stayed. In response to a Question from my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition last Tuesday, as to whether the staying of this sentence was in accordance with the normal procedure of the law, the right hon. Gentleman gave us the assurance that it was. He said there had been no turning aside from the normal process of justice. I understand that the normal practice is that, for an application for leave to appeal to the Privy Council to become effective, it has to be signed by the condemned man. One may assume that, if such an appeal is made, the staying of the sentence follows automatically. Was that procedure followed in this case? I understand that, on the afternoon of 27th January, when the staying of the sentence was announced, not only had no such signature been obtained from the condemned man, but that, actually, at that time, and up to then, he had steadfastly refused to make any appeal at all, and that, in fact, it was not until two days later that he was induced to sign an application for appeal, a signature which, according to this morning's newspapers, he has since withdrawn.
Will the right hon. Gentleman again tell the House that it is the normal process of justice to stay a sentence in this manner, on the declaration of some outside body that an appeal will be lodged, even though, at the time, the condemned man, who alone can make the appeal, had neither made the appeal nor had ever expressed any intention of doing so? The circumstances of both cases are certainly unfortunate. They both have this similarity. A British officer and a British judge have been kidnapped. In neither case have the Government been able 1306 to secure their release. In both cases they have been released by the good will of the criminals themselves. In neither case have the Government been able to bring anyone to justice In neither case have they taken any further or new measures of security, and, although, no doubt, it may be for other reasons, in both these cases, in fact, the Government have conceded what the terrorists demanded as a result of their reprisals.
I do not believe that, on these lines, it is possible to carry on the Government of Palestine. No authority can stand up against such blows. No troops, no police can carry out their duties in circumstances such as these. We cannot have a situation where the administration of justice and the punishment of offenders are being dictated by the criminals themselves. Frankly, so far as I am concerned, sooner than that this country should have to endure further humiliations of this kind, I would prefer that we should clear out of Palestine and tell the peoples of the world that we are unable to carry out our Mandate there. But, I myself believe that that would be a disaster, for Palestine and for all the communities there, and that such a retreat would only be the signal for a bloody civil war. Whatever the official policy is to be, any chance of its success depends on a firm and resolute authority in Palestine. Only so will the policy have any chance of rallying to its side what moderate men there may be in either community. It can have no chance in a country where violence is being allowed to prove itself to be the best policy. It must, therefore, be the urgent task of the right hon. Gentleman and of the Government to re-establish our authority in Palestine as an essential preliminary to any attempt at a final settlement in this country.
With that end in view, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman certain questions. The first point with which I want him to deal is this. In the so-called ultimatum which was issued by the Government in Palestine after the abduction of these two individuals, it was stated that unless they were returned unharmed within 48 hours certain security measures would be taken, which would involve the withdrawal of civil administration from certain areas and the establishment in those areas of military law. It is announced in today's papers that those measures are not to be imposed. It is 1307 quite true it was stated that they would be imposed unless these two people were returned, and it is true also that the two people were returned. But His Majesty's Government in Palestine and the Irgun Zvai Leumi are not two high contracting parties to a treaty, making alliances with each other and saying, "If you do this we will refrain from doing something else. "The Government are the Government of the country dealing with criminals. A crime, was committed; these people were kidnapped, and one of them suffered brutal violence. The mere fact that the criminals, out of the goodness of their hearts, did not proceed beyond that to the further crime of murder does not wipe out the original crime which they committed. Either the threats contained in the ultimatum were threats of measures which had a security value, which could have added to the authority of law and order, and which, by a deferent effect, could perhaps have prevented further crime—in which case they should go on—or they had none of those merits, in which case they should never have been made. I cannot believe that it is possible for a Government and criminals to make bargains of this kind, for a government to say, "We will not impose measures that we believe salutary and useful if only you will return these people unharmed." I would be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman whether these proposed measures are to be enforced, and if not why not.
The second question with which I want the right hon. Gentleman to deal is this. For many months, reports have been current of differences in Palestine between those who are responsible for security—the military and the police— and the civil Government in Palestine, which is the interpreter of the wishes of Downing Street and the translator of its orders. It is complained that measures asked for have been refused, that powers have been whittled down and that action which was considered necessary has either been delayed or impeded.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Creech Jones)
Would the right hon. Gentleman kindly give me some indication of the substance of those rumours?
§ Mr. Stanley
I am asking the right hon. Gentleman to say whether they are true 1308 or not. Those rumours have appeared in the Press and have reached one in private correspondence. Only he can know if they are true or not, and I am asking him to tell us if they are true. I appreciate and sympathise with the desire of the Government that there should be what is called a favourable atmosphere for the Conference which is now going on, but I would point out that, whatever may make for a favourable atmosphere for the talks, the thing that makes the worst possible atmosphere for a solution is a continued victory for violence over law and order. I, therefore, ask the Secretary of State to say categorically whether it is true that there have been occasions when he has not felt himself able to agree to measures which those responsible for security out there have thought advisable. I would also like him to say, of the future, what are the terms of this new directive to which he referred in his statement on Tuesday—a directive which, we understand, is intended to tighten up the security measures in Palestine and give a greater latitude to actions which are there proposed. Naturally, we would not expect him—it would not be right to ask him—to give details of this directive, but I think the House is entitled, at any rate, to the broad lines upon which it is worded.
I would now like to ask him a question concerning the present relationship between His Majesty's Government and the Jewish Agency. In the past it has been a fluctuating relationship. When we discussed this matter in July, the leaders had just been placed in a detention camp. In November they were released, and a reconciliation took place following the statement by the Jewish Agency that they condemned terrorism. Yesterday I saw that the house of the acting leader of the Jewish Agency was searched by the police. I do not know whether that was a mere accident of geographical location, or whether it involved some new departure in policy.
§ Mr. Stanley
I want the right hon. Gentleman to tell us what assistance has been received from the Jewish Agency in the suppression of these acts of violence by the terrorist minority since the statement he made to us in November concerning the Jewish Agency. Has anything been 1309 done by them which has led to the capture of the criminals or to the prevention of evil desire, or has their assistance been limited merely to a statement condemning outrages in general terms? Has there, in fact, been any real sign of active cooperation beyond a mere verbal demonstration? I accept, and I am sure it is the case, that since November there has been no active participation of the Agency and of the Haganah in any of these outrages. Yet, as leaders of the community in Palestine, they have a great responsibility, which is all the greater because, as far as the outsider can understand, the bonds of discipline in the Jewish community are considerably tighter than they are in a community such as this. These leaders, therefore, not only have more power but, having more power, they have more responsibility. I cannot believe that it would be possible for the campaign of the Irgun Zvai Leumi to continue if the Jewish Agency and, through them as their leaders, the Jewish community was giving really active co-operation to the forces who are attempting to suppress them.
Next, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he does not agree that it is nearly time there was a more complete change in the whole of the life of the British Army, police and civilians in Palestine. Are we not running a great risk by trying to maintain peacetime conditions of life in what really are conditions of war? Are we not running a great risk to British lives, whenever there appears to be some slight détenteor whenever there has been a week without an outrage, by attempting to restore more peaceful and, of course, more comfortable conditions to our people out there? Would it not be better that we should recognise the conditions which exist, and that British troops and civilians—and above all, British women—should now be placed in such a position and live a life which allows as little opportunity for enemy violence as is possible? Those are the questions which I wish to ask the right hon. Gentleman.
We on this side of the House have asked for this Debate for two reasons. In the first place, we believe the country is profoundly shocked at the events of the past few weeks, and expects this House of Commons, which is ultimately responsible for this administration, to discuss matters so grave which have involved not only danger to British personnel, but such 1310 blows to British prestige. In the second place, we have asked for it because it gives to the right hon. Gentleman opposite an opportunity—an opportunity which I am sure he must welcome—to say what the Government are going to do. It is an opportunity much fuller and more appropriate than the method of Question and answer, with all its limitations. The right hon. Gentleman must be as shocked as we are at recent events. He must be as anxious as all of us have been, to put an end to these outrages; and he must be as conscious as we are of the terrible consequences which will ensue if we are unable to do so.
We, therefore, expect from him today a clear statement of the Government's intention, a statement of what new measures he proposes to take to deal with the new situation which has arisen in the last few weeks. We expect a statement which will give not only to this House, but to our people, hope and confidence that the power of our authority in Palestine will be made to prevail against the rule of crime and violence. If the right hon. Gentleman does not or cannot give us a statement of that kind he will bear a very great responsibility. This situation cannot remain, even as it is now. If we are unable to tackle it if is bound to get worse, and its deterioration will lead, in the first place, to further loss of British lives, but will lead in the end, to turning the land of Palestine, which in our childhood we were taught to think of as "a land flowing with milk and honey," into a bloody hell for British, Jews and Arabs alike.
§ 1.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)
I need hardly say that I with every other hon. Member in this House, and indeed all reasonable people, will condemn, and do condemn, the outrages that have taken place. Not least among those who do that are the official Jewish bodies, including the Board of Deputies, which is the representative body of British Jews in this country, the Zionist Organisation, and the Vaadi Leumi, which is the representative body in Palestine itself. These violations of the rights of life and liberty are reprehensible, and are as contrary to the teachings of Judaism as they are to the concepts of all other codes of true civilisation.
I would like to bring to the attention of the House some resolutions passed in 1311 relation to these matters by the bodies to whom I have referred. On the 19th of this month, at a meeting of the Board of Deputies, its president, in the course of a statement, said:If there is any ideal dearest to the hearts and thoughts of Jews, it is that of peace; and the sympathy of the world for the work of the Jews in Palestine has been based on the fact that the National Home was being built by hard work and sacrifice, without the spilling of innocent blood. It is, therefore, with a troubled heart that we admit that much sympathy has been lost by the violent and fanatical acts, deeds of men crazed by the sufferings and slaughter of their nearest and dearest and by the obstacles put in the paths of their surviving relatives to join them in Palestine. But when all that is said, their acts are criminal and must be condemned without question. The Board is profoundly disturbed by the renewed outrages in Palestine. It has already placed on record and does so again, its unqualified abhorrence and condemnation of these acts of terrorism by irresponsible groups, whose criminal behaviour is contrary to all the teachings of Judaism and can only harm the interests of the Jewish people.In view of what has been said here, and in other places, I think it is important that the House should know the terms of the resolution which was actually passed at the recent Congress of the Zionist Movement held in Basle. It says:As well as upholding the right of the Yishu"—that means the settlers in Palestine—to resist the policies of the present oppressive regime in Palestine, the Congress condemns murder and the shedding of innocent blood as a means of political warfare. The terrorist campaign to which certain dissident groups have resorted in defiance of Jewish national authority serves to distort the true character of the Yishuv in the eyes of the world, and to defeat rather than promote its legitimate struggle. The Congress pledges the support of the Zionist Movement to the Yishuv in its efforts against terrorism. It calls upon members of the dissident organisations to desist from further bloodshed, and to submit to the national discipline of the organised Yishuv and the Zionist Movement:Then, on the 20th of this month, Vaadi Leumi, the Jewish National Council of Palestine, passed similar resolutions in order to do what it could to prevent the continuation of those acts.
The position in this regard is, therefore, amply clear. It is absurd for anyone to try to draw a distinction between Zionists and other Jewish people in the matter of condemnation of such anti-Jewish actions. 1312 Indeed, as has been pointed out already, the greatest loss accrues to those magnificent Zionist builders in Palestine, the result of whose efforts against the ravages of neglected soil have been so successful, and which have been praised so unreservedly by every person or committee of inquiry which has been there. I would, however, appeal to my right hon. Friend to consider the whole position. We know that his knowledge of the problem of the Colonies and Mandated Territories is vast. I ask him to use that knowledge in bringing about a change, which is essential to strengthen the hands of the Jewish Agency and the Vaadi Leumi, to enable them to be in a position to play a proper part in a land which these builders hold so dear. I agree it is the right and the duty of a Government to do all it can to condemn and combat terrorism, and to keep law and order. But surely military action alone is unable to change this position basically? It cannot be denied that the abnormal position in Palestine arises from the feeling of frustration and despair of the Jewish people after the terrible disaster which has befallen them in Europe. Surely, it cannot be gainsaid by this House, or by anybody who sees the position in a clear light, that in order to strengthen the hands of the representative Jewish bodies we must not place them in a position where terrorists or others can regard them as being ineffective in carrying out that with which they were appointed to deal?
I ask the House to look at the position in its correct light. It has been said here, and elsewhere, that the Jewish people can stop these terrorists. What military power has the Jewish people? What police power has the Jewish people in Palestine to enable them to effect what this House and they desire? I know it is suggested that the people in Palestine should constitute themselves a body of informers, but that is more easily said than done. Many hon. Members of this House know, and I ask them to draw on their recollections of these matters, that it is not easy to persuade people to inform, even if they know anything, upon those who may be near to them. Neither is if easy for an organised representative body to demand the respect of the whole community unless it is able to show to the members of the community that it is getting some kind of results in pursuance of proper and reasonable demands.
1313 Is not the position this? Here is a community which is anxious to open its arms and to welcome into the Jewish National Home men and women who have literally passed through hell, who represent the remnants of the 7,500,000 Jews there were in Europe before the war, 6,000,000 of whom they saw tortured to death before their eyes. It is true that some say, "Let them go somewhere else," but where are they to go? Are they to go back to Germany, to the scenes of those horrors? How could they stand it? I ask hon. Members to imagine themselves in the position of these men and women and ask themselves whether they would be prepared to go back to the scenes of these atrocities? Then it is suggested that they should go to other parts of the world. These men and women are still behind bars—if not prison bars, and it is not always prison bars that make a cage—they are in camps, and they see no hope. They have nowhere in the world to go to. Yet nearly every man and woman in Palestine has some relative or other still left, out of the dozens or scores of relatives who have been murdered, whom he wants to help, to have in his home, and to bring back to the normalities of life. That is not a problem that can be set aside very easily.
Even at this late hour, even while the Conference is proceeding, I would like to ask my right hon. Friend to give at least some indication, some sign of humanity to these people, so that those who are in Palestine will be enabled to receive some of their oppressed and depressed brethren from Europe. If, instead of continuing the White Paper policy, instead of curtailing immigration, we opened the doors of Palestine to some reasonable extent, I think that the terrorists power would be broken. The Vaadi Leumi, the Council in Palestine, would then be able to make an effective appeal to the people to assist fully in stopping these acts. I beg my right hon. Friend to regard the position in that light. Let us suppress terrorism, of course, let us do all we possibly can in this regard, but do not let us imagine that the Jewish communities referred to have any military of other similar power to prevent this kind of thing from happening. The only power they can have, is the moral power of propaganda to appeal to the people on the basis that justice is being done. That 1314 seems to me to be the only way in which the matter can be handled. I want the House to be assured that every single step that can possibly be taken by the Jewish bodies to which I have referred is being taken, but they have not the strength, the sanctions, or the moral basis for an appeal sufficient to bring about the desired end.
§ 1.28 p.m.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
I am very glad that this Debate is being held today. It is not being held a day too soon, because the situation in Palestine, tragic already, is getting more tragic every day. I welcome what the hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner) said just now in his condemnation of terrorism, and the resolutions which he read out, but I thought there was a certain inconsistency in what he said. He suggested that the British Government should make some concessions now with a view to clearing up the situation.
§ Mr. Janner
No, if the hon. Member thinks that he has misunderstood me. What I said was not that we should make concessions, but that we should do the right thing towards the Jewish authorities, so that they will have the power to stop the terrorists.
§ Mr. Lipson
It still remains my opinion that what the hon. Gentleman advocated would be a justification of terrorism, because he is suggesting buying off the terrorists by giving more power to the Jewish Agency, or others. He first said that the Jewish community in Palestine were themselves unable to give any substantial help to the Government in putting down terrorism, and later on he went on to suggest that if the Jewish Agency could get its way it could put it down. Either it can put it down, or it can not, but personally I believe that the British Government have a duty to perform before calling upon the Jewish community in Palestine to put down terrorism. After all, it is not a pleasant thing for them to have to do. Will the British Government guarantee security to those Jews who co-operate with them in Palestine in putting down terrorism? That is what they must do. They are not justified in calling upon the Jewish community to take that risk unless they are prepared to guarantee security against the terrorists to those who help them in this matter.
1315 I have made my position perfectly clear in this matter right from the start. I condemn terrorism without any qualification whatever. My sympathy is not with the perpetrators of these outrages, but with the victims. I sympathise with the British troops in Palestine who are called upon to carry out an almost impossible task. I sympathise with the civil administration and the British civil population who are exposed to these outrages. It is only right that the British Government should be alive to their responsibility in this matter. Their duty is to ensure the maintenance of law and order. Whatever policy may come as a result of the Conference which is now taking place, the essential condition for the successful working of any policy is respect for law and order in Palestine, and that respect does not exist at present. It is the duty of the Government to see that the respect for law and order is restored.
The situation at present is such that I believe we have got to the state where the terrorists are almost enjoying what they are doing in Palestine. It is something of a game to them to be able to flout the great British Government with impunity, and to get away with it practically every time; the appetite is growing upon what it feeds on. The events in Palestine are having repercussions not only in Palestine, but in this country as well. These terrorists are doing a great disservice to the Jewish cause throughout the world, and it is not by methods such as these that the cause of Jewry can be advanced. I therefore ask the Government to say clearly whether they have given the authorities on the spot all the powers they require to restore law and order in Palestine. Will they say what exactly is the objection they have to the establishment of martial law, if that is considered necessary by the authorities on the spot?
The prime responsibility is that of the Government. They are bringing the British administration in Palestine into contempt, and if this goes on, no one can tell where it is likely to end. I hope, therefore, that the Minister now realises the weakness of the policy he has adopted towards the terrorists in not taking effective action to put down terrorism. Is he going to confess that he is unable to deal with terrorism in Palestine, and that all possible means to get rid of terrorism have been used by the Government? Is he 1316 prepared to say that he has given those on the spot all the authority they require to carry out their duties? If he can say that, I think that the House will be very considerably reassured. Many of us believe that if those on the spot were given all the powers they require, they could deal with the situation. Unless the Government assert and recognise their responsibility, it is no good calling upon others; it is no good calling upon British Jews, because they have no influence over these people. We are not dealing with reasonable men, but with fanatics who will pay no respect to the opinions of Jews in this country or anywhere else as far as I can see. I cannot agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) that there is strong discipline among the Jews—
§ Mr. Lipson
I should have thought it was very doubtful. Anyhow, I do not believe the responsibility is primarily theirs. I believe the responsibility is primarily the British Government's. We have the right to insist that the British Government should carry out in Palestine the responsibility that is theirs, and I hope, as a result of this Debate, that the Minister will say that he is prepared to do so.
§ 1.35 p.m.
§ Sir Peter Macdonald (Isle of Wight)
When the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) referred to the weakness shown by the right hon. Gentleman, he showed surprise and astonishment, but can anyone who listened to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) opening the Debate, and to the chronicle of events which he gave to the House, think anything else but that the Government have shown vacillation, procrastination and weakness in the handling of the whole of the Palestine situation over the last 18 months? That is the most obvious thing in the world to anyone who has followed these events. The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner), in his very eloquent speech, made the plea to the Government, after reading the resolution from different Jewish organisations, for the admission of further Jews into Palestine so that they might restore order and build up their country. I want the House and the Government to take note of a document which has been in their possession now for a considerable time, the Report of the Select 1317 Committee on Estimates. That Committee is the body which is responsible for reporting on the expenditure of our finances, and a sub-committee went to Austria last year, under the chairmanship of my hon. Friend the Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn). In case it might be thought that there is any prejudice, I would point out that the majority of the members of that Committee were members of the Labour Party.
During our tour and investigations, we came across a situation which I confess was not a surprise to me, because we had heard a good deal before about the exodus of Jews, and their being transported from Central Europe, through Czechoslovakia into the American zones of Germany and Austria, financed and supplied with passports, papers, and eventually finding their way to Palestine. I do not think anyone on this Committee had any racial prejudice whatever. I certainly have had no racial prejudice while I have been a Member of this House, but I must say that certain events which have occurred recently have made me very angry indeed. Reading, as one does, letters which are sent home by constituents serving in the police or in the Forces in Palestine, it makes one feel very guilty and very angry that our own people should be submitted to this humiliation and discomfort, not being able to deal with it themselves and not being given a free hand. One has only to trace the story, which was given today by the right hon. Gentleman, over the last 18 months to realise that from the start there has been gross interference with the administration in Palestine by the home Government. It is the most obvious thing in the world, and my hon. Friend is perfectly justified in blaming the Government, because they are the responsible body, and not the General Officer Commanding; he is under the supervision and restrictions of the High Commissioner in whatever he does, and he in turn is sent for when anything occurs in Palestine, and whenever he wants a change of policy he has to trot home to the Colonial Office.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
May I ask the hon. Member who has made these charges of interference by the London Government in the Palestine administration, in respect of law and order in that country, if he will specify or substantiate the charges he has made? What evidence has he of London interference with the responsibili- 1318 ties which the Palestine Administration have to carry?
§ Sir P. Macdonald
These charges are contained in the chronicle of events to which I have already referred. The High Commissioner was brought home, and the Commander-in-Chief was brought home, and they have been trotting backwards and forwards. Is that because they are given a free hand to carry out their own policy in Palestine? Of course it is not. They came home for orders and instructions.
§ Mr. Benn Levy (Eton and Slough)
How can the hon. Gentleman ride both horses at once? Two minutes ago, he was explaining that the Government should have complete responsibility, and, in the next breath, he was complaining of the Government interfering with the administration. How can they carry out their responsibility without interference?
§ Sir P. Macdonald
I know that the ultimate responsibility is always on the home Government. A Commander-in-Chief in the field must have a certain amount of responsibility so far as discipline is concerned, and the High Commissioner must have responsibility for administration. We all know how this thing works; but the ultimate responsibility is always on the home Government. When one finds that an atrocity occurred in Palestine, and immediately afterwards the Commander-in-Chief, or the High Commissioner, is called home to London, one obviously assumes that he has come home for some purpose— either to get his hand strengthened by the home Government, or for consultation and further instruction. That is what has been going on. What is obvious from the events which have occurred during the last 12 months, and particularly during the last six months, is that the Commander-in-Chief in the field and the High Commissioner have not had a free hand to deal with the situation. If they have had such a free hand they certainly have not dealt with the situation. I think that most hon. Members on this side of the House feel that the responsibility lies at home, and that there has been interference at home by this appeasement policy, which has been followed, I suppose, in order to make a favourable atmosphere for conferences. One can well understand the motive for that, but that can be carried too far, especially when no more is to be got out of this Conference than has been got out 1319 of the last one with no Jewish representation at all. This document to which I have referred—the Austrian Report—shows quite conclusively, that the plea which we have had for the admission of 100,000 oppressed Jews from Western Europe—old people chiefly, because it is said that it is the old people whose admission to Palestine is desired—is a complete farce, because the people actually going to Palestine today are not old and infirm but young people.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
On a point of Order. I know that this is an Adjournment Debate, but I understood that, by agreement, the general merits of the whole situation or the possibilities of permanent policy were not to be debated today. I do not mind—I would prefer if they were—but I understood that that was the arrangement, and it might be embarrassing for the rest of us if that arrangement were not adhered to.
§ Mr. Speaker
The Motion is, "That this House do now adjourn," and on that, an hon. Member may say what he likes.
§ Sir P. Macdonald
An hon. Member has made the suggestion that more Jews should be admitted to Palestine to restore order in that country. I want to bring to the notice of the Government the type of emigrant who is now going there. What did we find when we were making our investigation? We heard that in the British zone in Austria there were U.N.R.R.A. camps occupied by Jews— some of the displaced persons in connection with whom we were making our investigation—and we thought that we would like to visit them. We obtained permission from the general commanding, and we visited one camp. What did we find? We found that this camp was run under the auspices of U.N.R.R.A. A lady commandant—a very efficient lady, who had been a Labour candidate at the last Election—was in charge of this camp, and a very able commandant she made. She was as bewildered as we were, as to why she had been put in charge of this camp, because we found 5,000 or 6,000 Jews, who were there because the general commanding the American zone had asked our Commander-in-Chief if he would take these people off his hands temporarily, because his own zone was overcrowded with the same type of displaced person.
1320 The report will tell you that these people were young, fit men, and young women, many of them pregnant, who had their origin in Eastern Poland. When Russia occupied Eastern Poland some of them were sent to Russia to work, and they worked there during the war. They were young and fit, and looked well-fed and well-clothed, and I was told by people in charge of the camp that many of them had large sums of money. They had papers—or, at any rate, the displaced person's passport—and they were thoroughly well organised. When one asked them where they were going, they all said that they were on their way to Palestine. We had to state in our report that we could not trace the origin of this organisation, but the organisation is there, and there is no doubt whatever that the Russian Government are conniving at it. These people were brought down from Poland into Czechoslovakia, where they were fitted out with passports, clothes and money, and transported into the American zones in Germany and Austria. From there, they hoped to find their way to Palestine.
This type of emigration to Palestine is not, I hope, one which the Government are being asked to encourage, because these are recruits for the Jewish Army, and that is why they are on their way to Palestine, with the connivance of the American and Russian Governments. They can have only one purpose and that is to embarrass the British Government. General Morgan reported these things before we saw them. He has now been brought home from Germany and given a bowler hat. Anyone who knows General Morgan knows full well that he is one of the most brilliant soldiers turned up by the war. He was in charge of all the detailed planning organisation for the invasion of Europe and there can be no question about the efficiency of that organisation. I saw it being assembled around my constituency for weeks, and it was the greatest piece of organisation that I had ever seen, and I have had many years service. It was a most successful piece of planning and General Morgan is the man to whom the credit for it was given by the Minister of Defence, who ought to know. Because of General Morgan's great skill as an organiser, he was selected for this job of British representative on U.N.R.R.A. He was deputy to the heads of U.N.R.R.A—first Mr. 1321 Lehman and later ex-Mayor La Guardia —and because he told the truth in regard to the exodus of Jews, through Europe, to Palestine, he was suspended. Later he was reinstated for a time and then he was dismissed from his post by ex-Mayor La Guardia, and a Mr. Cohen was appointed in his place. Now we are told that he has been dismissed from the Army and given a bowler hat—not at his own request—at the age of 53. I think that is, a scandal. We can ill afford to lose the services of men like General Morgan when the Army is being reorganised as it is today. I consider that that soldier has had a very raw deal, just because, on this occasion, he exposed this exodus of Jews through Europe. He could do nothing else, in justice to his own friends in the Forces when he saw that sort of thing going on.
I am convinced that these people who are making their way to Palestine are creating most of the trouble there. No one has control over them; they owe no allegiance to anyone. They are prepared to undertake any kind of atrocity so long as they are provided with the weapons to carry out such atrocities. I hope that when the Secretary of State for the Colonies replies he will give an answer to some of the questions put to him by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley). Members of the House on all sides are getting heart-rending letters from Palestine. The situation that exists there today cannot continue. We cannot expect a large Army—which is getting larger every day, I believe—to put up much longer with present conditions unless they are given some support and encouragement from the home Government and this House. Few have been the words of encouragement for them, said in the House up to now. We have an opportunity today to tell our people in Palestine, including the soldiers, the Civil Service and the police forces, that the Government and this House of Commons are going to support them in the future. Such encouragement will enable them to carry on one of the most arduous, thankless tasks that any troops have ever been asked to discharge in the whole history of the Empire.
§ 1.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
I hope we can now return, after this reference to the exodus from Eastern Europe, to the 1322 central subject which we are discussing this afternoon—the conditions in Palestine relating to law and order. It is a large enough and serious enough subject to occupy us all our time. I think that we all appreciate the spirit and the tone of the opening speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley). I felt myself in a large measure of agreement with his opening remarks, but I was not quite clear from the implications of his last questions, what he was asking the Government to do. At one point he said that we could not make treaties nor negotiate with criminals; at another point he suggested we ought to recognise that there was a state of war. I believe that in the contradiction between those two attitudes, we find the real problem with which the Palestine Administration is now faced, and I think we have to be very careful in giving the Colonial Secretary advice which might, in fact, lead to the appeasement of the Jewish terrorists in the very way in which they want to be appeased. Many Members of this House do not know what the aim of the terrorists is. The Irgun declared war in 1937 against the British Empire. With the exception of a short armistice in 1941, it has claimed that there has been a state of war between Great Britain and the people of Palestine ever since. Its objective is to stimulate military repression.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
Is it not a fact that the terrorists declare that they are at war with the British Empire?
§ Mr. Crossman
I said that they declared war in 1937 and they consider themselves at war ever since. It is the aim of the Irgun to get that war recognised by the British Empire if possible. It wants to force us into military operations which will strengthen its position among the Jews of Palestine and seize power from the Agency. I have never known a more Machiavellian plan, and I believe the Colonial Secretary has shown a far deeper understanding of the dangers of Palestine than some of his critics opposite. He has realised that appeasement of the Irgun means permitting them to whip Palestine into a state of war and to "shoot it out" between the British generals on the one side, and the illegal Irgun on the other. We should carefully consider whether the use of savage methods of repression is 1323 not playing into the hands of and appeasing the very men we must not appease.
I should like to pay my tribute to the troops in Palestine. During the summer I received many allegations from there of serious atrocities in Palestine. I took them up with the Colonial Secretary, who had them investigated and in a few cases there was evidence of atrocities and looting but, by and large—and I believe Palestine Jewry would say the same thing—the incredible thing is how little has happened in the last seven months under the provocation to which our troops have been subjected. A Palestine Jew said to me only the other day. "Thank heavens it was not 20 American G. 1s. who were blown up in the King David building for then there would have been a pogrom." In that perspective it is incredible how little the men have done under almost intolerable conditions. Atrocities have, undoubtedly, occurred, but they have been minute compared with what would have been done by the troops of any other country.
Let me turn back for a moment to this problem of the suppression of terrorism. As Arthur Koestler says in his novel, "Thieves in the Night," the terrorists are extremely systematic. They drew the conclusion from the Arab revolt that if the Arab obtained the White Paper by violence then they must play the same game from the Jewish side. They believe it can be proved that the British Government only understands "the Esperanto of the revolver and of the bomb" and that that is therefore the only language which the Jews should speak to the British Government. I think it is well to remember in this House, and especially on this side of the House, that the Irgun and the terrorists are a semi-Fascist organisation, drawn very largely from the upper classes. It has been fought tooth and nail by the organised labour movement in Palestine since its inception. There have been, inevitably, underground conspiracy talks between the Irgun, the Haganah and the trade unions; but the struggle for power in Palestine is between the Left— the trade unions and the labour movement—and its defence force, the Haganah, and this new semi-Fascist organisation which says, "Your methods with the British Government are old-fashioned and out of date. Blow them up and blow the bridges. That is the only way we will get them to understand what we want."
1324 The record of this country and Palestine since last May is that of the weakening of the position of the Jewish moderates and the strengthening of that of the Irgun. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will agree that when we were in Palestine the Irgun was a relatively small force which could be handled. By our method of half repression it has steadily grown, has recruited men from the Haganah and has brought people over to its side because they have seen that after months of waiting with no decision—I would say that each day which the London Conference sits is a victory for the terrorists in Palestine because it makes it more likely that they will be able to have martial law imposed and turn the situation into a shooting war, which is their objective. It must be the objective of His Majesty's Government to prevent that happening if it is humanly possible.
I believe that the Colonial Secrtary has shown a considerable appreciation of the position in Palestine in refusing to allow himself to be cajoled, even by the advice of security men on the spot—who are not all able politicians and do not always realise what the true methods of suppressing terrorists are. When the 2,000 Jews were arrested last June it does not appear as if we got the terrorists. As I warned the House at the time, if the military people think they can hunt out the terrorists by arresting every trade union and labour leader they are in fact doing the very opposite and taking away to prison the only men who could end terrorism by encouraging the Jews with moderation and patience. That is the position we have to face, and we have also to recognise that law and order can be restored only if the situation of the moderate Jews can be strengthened vis-à-vis their own people.
We have seen during this year the greatest Jewish statesman and the most loyal friend of Britain dismissed from the presidency of the Zionist movement, not because of any failings of his and not because his policy was wrong, but because his policy failed to achieve results which only the British Government could bring about. We, by our indecision, threw away the leadership of Weizmann in the world Zionist movement, and thereby strengthened the position of the terrorists in Palestine.
§ Mr. Gammans (Hornsey)
Is the hon. Gentleman implying that the full responsibility for the settlement of the 1325 Jewish problem throughout Europe rests entirely on this country?
§ Mr. Crossman
I was implying that the full responsibility for the conditions in Palestine, for the growth of terrorism there and for the administration, rests with this Government. I do not believe that any other hon. Member would dispute that. If the Palestine position deteriorates then friends of Britain in world Jewry will lose their influence in world Jewry and their control over its finances, some of which are flowing to most injurious ends into Palestine today.
I suggest to the House that we should appreciate the position of the moderate Jew in Palestine today, whether he is a leader or an ordinary man in the street. He is really between the hammer and the anvil. On one side he is threatened with "ruthless repression"—that is a quotation—that is what we are prepared to do, if terrorism does not stop. On the other hand, if he tries to stop terrorism, he is threatened with murder by the terrorists themselves. There is no chance for the moderate Jew in Palestine as there was for British families in Tel Aviv, to be taken to a safe place and protected by British troops. The moderate Jew is between the devil and the deep blue sea. He detests terrorism because he knows that it is destroying his country as he sees it growing month my month. Bui how is he to co-operate with the British authorities when terrorism is a greater power in Palestine than the British Administration itself? How can he personally take the risk? Lastly, how can he aid us with a good political conscience when the Government have spent 18 months on what he feels is a "White Paper policy."
That is the situation with which the moderate Jew is faced. He dare not support us and he dare not oppose the terrorists. He remains passive, inactive and helpless. I would remind the House that this has nothing to do with whether one is a Jew or not. During the Arab revolt more moderate Arabs were "bumped off" by the Mufti than Jews. There was a reign of terror by the Mufti from 1936 to 1939, and I do not blame the moderate Arab at that time for doing nothing about it and for not being impressed by the British Administration. It is exactly the same thing the other way round today as it was between 1936 and 1939. It is exactly 1326 the same position as that which existed in Ireland after the last war, when the Black and Tans and the I.R.A. fought it out over the prostrate, helpless body of a people waiting for a policy from London. We have to recognise the fact that if we simply say to ourselves that terrorism calls for ruthless measures of repression without a policy—and I believe the Colonial Secretary agrees with what I am saying—we shall produce the war in Palestine for which the Irgun have been working for seven years and we shall destroy the last position of the moderate and intelligent Jew who stands for co-operation with this country. If this situation degenerates into war, the position not only of Weitzmann, but of every left wing trade union and labour leader, will be undermined, for Palestine will rally to the extremists as countries always do when indecision and lack of policy make people desperate. We should not, therefore, have any illusions that a policy of ruthless repression would cost us less blood and fewer troops. We have already had to put the "extra division" into Palestine in order to prevent the carrying out of the Anglo-American report. There will certainly be no more troops required to carry out a policy than not to carry out a policy.
That is why I would say, in conclusion, that I believe it is a futile illusion, though easy to have in London, that one can find an agreed solution between Jew and Arab. That illusion was exposed in the Royal Commission's Report in 1937, and what was unworkable in 1937, is increasingly unworkable today. A solution has to be found to terminate the Mandate and substitute something else in its place. I do not intend to discuss what that solution should be. The House knows that there is only one possible solution, and we must insist that the Government shall not postpone by a single day the declaration of their policy. They must not postpone their decision week after week in the vague hope of achieving "an agreed solution." It is pleasant, of course, for a democrat to sit in London and say, "We must do everything to reach an agreed solution," but if by delaying our decision we let Palestine go down in ruins it is a poor sort of humanity and democracy that we are practising. We are suffering for the results of 10 years of not making up our minds. It is not the fault of this Government or the previous Government; it is the result of 10 years of indecision and of refusing to im- 1327 pose a solution. I am fully aware that in imposing a solution we must and should seek support from the United Nations, but I devoutly hope that in going to U.N.O, we shall do so with our minds made up. I trust that we shall say not, "Will you tell us what to do?" but, "We are going to do this, and we want your support."
§ 2.10 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
I have listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), and, speaking solely for myself, I am substantially in agreement with a considerable part of it. I was glad to hear the hon. Gentleman's view that the Mandate in its present form is unworkable. I entirely agree with him. I disagree with him, however, when he says that there is only one possible policy for Palestine. We may differ in our views as to what policy should be adopted now, but I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), who opened this Debate, when he says that, whether or not the policy decided upon is one with which an individual agrees, at any rate a policy is much better than no policy.
The indictment against the Government in this matter really falls under two heads. The first is that they have delayed so long in the production of a policy. That indictment was largely supported by the hon. Member for East Coventry. It is most regrettable that the Government, which in November, 1945, were so aware of the urgency of the situation that they required the Angle-American Committee to report in 120 days, have let the matter drift since then into a series of plans which get discarded and prolonged conferences. I add my plea, and express my hope, that the time will not be long delayed now before a firm, sound policy for the solution of the problem is put forward. I entirely agree with the hon. Member for East Coventry that it really is hopeless to try to secure common support for that policy from both Jews and Arabs. I hope that, in making these observations, I have not transgressed the agreed bounds of this Debate.
When I come to the earlier part of the speech of the hon. Member for East Coventry, I am sorry to say that I cannot entirely agree with him in his remarks. I would not accept for a moment that the Irgun is a Right-wing movement.
1328 From what I know of it, I should have said that it is an extreme Left-wing movement, and that it consists largely of those who belonged to Labour organisations and have now moved further left; but be that as it may, no one on this side of the House has advocated a policy of ruthless repression. All that we say is that, pending any declaration of policy, it is vitally important to maintain law and order, and that the course adopted by His Majesty's Government has been such as to make that task most difficult of achievement.
I was glad to hear the tribute which the hon. Member for East Coventry paid to the part played by our troops, in spite of the misrepresentation to which they have been subjected from certain quarters. I would like to add my tribute to them, and in particular, as well, to the part played by the Palestine Police. When we were in Palestine a little less than a year ago, the situation was most acute both for the police and for the troops, and I think that all of us who were on the committee were very greatly impressed indeed by their demeanour and by the way in which they were bearing the strain that was cast upon them. Many months have gone by, and that strain has persisted, and the conduct of the Palestine Police and of the British troops in that country is conduct of which I think every hon. Member can well feel most proud. What does the hon. Member for East Coventry suggest? He suggests that a policy of ruthless repression would be playing into the hands of the Irgun.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I am sorry it I missed the words "without a policy," but no one is suggesting a policy of ruthless repression. What does the hon. Member suggest? He suggests that there should be no policy of ruthless repression. There I agree with him. As I understood what he said, he was not making any suggestion for an altered course by the Government pending the declaration of a policy, but, while paying his tribute to the troops, he was prepared to let these murders go on being committed with impunity. That, I think, fairly follows from his speech. I hope that his speech in that connection did not correctly express his view, because our view is that law and order must be maintained at all costs, and that unless we maintain law and order in the 1329 interval before a policy comes out, there will be little chance of its ultimate acceptance by either community, which will realise that terrorism pays. Unless we maintain law and order, there will be little chance of the ultimate acceptance by either community of the policy decided upon by the Government.
The hon. Member said that there was an inconsistency in the speech of my right hon. Friend when he said that we cannot negotiate with criminals. What I say is that we in this country really cannot continue to allow a condition to exist whereby British men and women, civilians, soldiers and police, walk in daily peril of their lives at the hands of Jewish extremists I wish one could see an end of this matter, but I think that responsibility for these most sad and distressing events lies very fairly and squarely upon the shoulders of His Majesty's Government. So far as the policy of the administration of law and order is concerned, they have vacillated from one thing to another. I should have thought that His Majesty's Government would have been fully aware of the dangers of allowing the course of justice to be deflected by political considerations. I believe that if steps are taken to carry out justice, to carry out sentences when those sentences have been lawfully imposed as proper punishment, this will be welcomed by the moderate Jews, to whom the hon. Member for East Coventry referred, and that that will ease and facilitate their participation and their co-operation with His Majesty's Government in Palestine.
The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner) spoke of giving more powers to the Jewish Agency. I thought that, having regard to the past record of that Agency, that was indeed an astounding observation to be made at the present time. I should welcome some real sign of a desire on the part of the Jewish Agency, representative as it is of the Jews, to stop this terrorist activity forthwith. In our Report, we drew attention to what their conduct had been. Since then we have had a multitude of words, a number of resolutions, and a paucity of action on their part. I think that the right hon. Gentleman will really have to consider extremely closely, if he has not done so up to now, what the position of the Jewish Agency is with regard to the preservation of law and order.
1330 I did not intend to speak for any length of time in this Debate. I would like to conclude with the observation that I, for one, am certain that the moderate Jews, the Jews who are long-sighted and who can see a permanent future for their kindred in Palestine, must and should all join together in taking action to prevent a repetition of these terrorist activities, and that His Majesty's Government must pursue a consistent line of seeking to preserve law and to carry out justice, and not allow themselves to be deflected therefrom.
§ 2.20 p.m.
§ Mr. Sydney Silverman (Nelson and Colne)
The more I have heard of this Debate the more confirmed I become in my original belief that it was a great mistake to have held this Debate at all. On these occasions one usually wishes to have a Debate in order to express dissatisfaction with the Government's policy or in order to proffer them advice as to how the subject under dispute could be better handled. All the speakers I have heard have agreed in saying two things to the Government. One is that the present situation in Palestine is the inevitable result of failing to make up one's mind as to what one's policy is and failing to apply it. But then it has apparently been agreed that this Debate is not to be about that at all, and for very good reasons. Whatever the arguments may have been earlier for having constant and repeated Debates, nobody believes that today was a very good day for debating the question of Government policy in Palestine, except in order to say to them, as I would like to say to them, "For Heaven's sake, make up your mind what it is and get on with it." But we are not to discuss the remedy.
If then, we are to discuss the question of the present situation in Palestine without discussing the only possible remedy for it, I am at a loss to know—because I hesitate to think it was done only for mischief—why the Debate was initiated. Was it in order to say to the Government that their handling of the particular incidents as they occurred was wrong? I gathered from the speech of the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) that that was what he wanted to say, and he picked out two cases. What did he really mean? What is he really saying to the Colonial Secretary? One case was of a 1331 boy who was found with a political leaflet in his possession—
§ Mr. Silverman
The method of distributing the leaflets may have been unorthodox, but the foundation of the charge was the leaflets. This is not a question of explosives or an attempt to do harm to life or property or to do violence. It was a method chosen for distributing leaflets which it was thought could not otherwise be distributed, but the point was that it was a distribution of leaflets. For that there was a sentence of flogging. The right hon. Gentleman's complaint, as I understand it, was not that three weeks later the ordinance under which such a sentence could be inflicted had been cancelled. His complaint was that it had ever existed at all or that it had not been cancelled 18 months before. I hope I am doing justice to what the right hon. Gentleman said—
§ Mr. Silverman
If the right hon. Gentleman will read his speech, he will see that he was saying first, that he did not like sentences of flogging, and if there were sentences of flogging, the age in the ordinance was the wrong age. I know he said something else as well, and I will come to that, but I wanted to deal with one point at a time. He seemed to be saying quite clearly that there ought not to have been such an ordinance at all. He was not saying it was wrong to abolish it but that it was wrong to abolish it too late. He was also saying—I want to be quite fair —that it was wrong to abolish it under pressure or to appear to be abolishing it under pressure. I will deal with that later. If it is agreed that that sentence ought never to have been inflicted and that the ordinance under which it was inflicted ought never to have been there; if it was abolished three weeks later; if it was abolished too late and should have been abolished long ago—if that was what the right hon. Gentleman was saying to the Colonial Secretary, ought he nevertheless to have insisted on the carrying out of that sentence merely because some terrorists had threatened what he would do if he did carry it out?
That—in an inverse way if one likes— would be exaggerating the influence and 1332 power of these people. Is he really asking the British Government to carry out sentences which he believed ought never to have been passed merely in order to prove to a handful of extremists that they are not so powerful as they thought they were?
The right hon. Gentleman's other instance was that of Gruner, who was convicted, probably rightly—he never offered any defence so no one will ever know—
§ Mr. Silverman
I said, probably rightly convicted, and I added that no one will ever know because Gruner offered no defence. The fact that one is found wounded is not necessarily conclusive. At any rate we may assume—and I do—that he was rightly convicted. He was sentenced to death. It is said that sentences judicially arrived at and properly inflicted ought to be carried out but the sentence was not the only thing in the law. There were two further matters. One was the sentence which was not valid until confirmed by the Commander-in-Chief. The other was that even if it were not confirmed the High Commissioner had the power if he chose to remit the sentence.
Gruner was not a man who began in enmity to this country. He now regards himself as at war with it. His plea was? that he would offer no defence in the court because he regarded himself as a prisoner of war and that one should not try and execute prisoners of war—a fantastic belief, but these fantastic beliefs are the very political facts on which these matters have to be considered. At any rate, he offered no defence and claimed that he was a prisoner of war. How did he come to be at war? He was not originally at war with this country. He had spent five and a half or six years of the war fighting in our ranks and had a very gallant record. It is conceivable that, supposing there had been no Irgun at all, no kidnapping and no terrorists, and having regard to his own personal record and to the whole general situation, the Commander-in-Chief might have said that he would not confirm the sentence.
§ Mr. Silverman
Yes, I still say it was conceivable, although it did not happen, that the Commander-in-Chief might have said, having regard to this man's record, 1333 and having regard to the general circumstances, that it was not necessary to exact the extreme penalty. He did not do that. People who understand the situation a good deal better, might have taken that course. I want the right hon. Gentleman to assume that either General Barker had taken that view, or that the High Commissioner had taken the view that I think most people would wish that General Barker had taken. Is the right hon. Gentleman saying to the Colonial Secretary that instead of that, the sentence ought to have been carried out, because a handful of people had sought to bring pressure to bear? It is very important that the right hon. Gentleman should say exactly what it is he wants the Government to do. For my part, in an extremely difficult situation, I would like to congratulate the Government on their handling of affairs in Palestine in the last few months.
I want to say a few words about the general situation, and I do not propose to talk about ultimate policy. I agree, everyone must agree, that the situation in Palestine cannot continue. But I think it is quite futile and unreal to talk about the return of law and order. There can be order in a police State; there can be no law, and there has been no law in Palestine since 1938. Since that date, and I think anyone who knows anything of the situation will not dispute it, the Government in Palestine have had no moral authority with any section of the population—none at all. The Commission established the, fact. It is not possible for government to be carried on in the modern world without the consent of the governed. There would be ways of maintaining order in Palestine on the basis of justice. It is sometimes said that all moral authority in Palestine has broken down. That is not true; the real situation in Palestine today is that those who have the power have no moral authority, and those who have the moral authority have no power.
Complaint is made that the Jewish Agency, or the Yishuv as a whole, take no active steps to bring this thing to an end. It is said that they only talk, pass resolutions, and make speeches and appeals. What active steps can they take? There is only one way in which the Irgun and the Stern Gang could be suppressed. They could be suppressed by force, exercised by those who have the authority to exercise it, and whose exercise of it carried 1334 with it the moral approval of the bulk of the community. In other words, it might be done by the Yishuv itself, through the activities of it own institutions and its own defence organisation, Haganah, against both of whom these groups are in revolt. If it is asked why the Haganah do not do if by force, the reply is that it is not entitled to exist. It is regarded as an illegal conspiracy itself. It is not entitled to possess the arms to use against the Irgun, and if it used them, it would itself be committing a capital offence against what the right hon. Gentleman calls law and order in Palestine. I was amazed to hear him say in his speech, as he did on two occasions, that the Government had yielded to terror, telling those people in Palestine that they had succeeded, with the implication that, if only they went on they would gain more victories. That is a most dangerous and mischievous thing to say, and is quite contrary to the truth. So far from terrorism in Palestine having advanced the political cause of the Jews, it has been the worst obstacle we have had to overcome in the last 12 months.
Look at the facts. When the Government made their disastrous blunder on 30th June, of treating the Agency and Haganah and its leaders as though they were responsible for this type of thing, and put them into gaol, we had a Debate in this House, more than one, and I think we persuaded the Government that they were wrong. We got very far indeed towards a sounder and saner policy, and then a handful of these criminal idiots blew up the King David Hotel, and set us back four months. I think the very worst contribution that could be made by responsible people to the situation in Palestine today, is to tell these idiots that they win political victories other people do not win. It is not true, there is not a word of truth in it. The point is that they are in revolt, not against the British Administration in Palestine, to which they owe no moral duty of any kind, but against their own community and their own people. I think we might get a long way towards restoring order in Palestine —we will not restore law until we establish proper policy on a basis of justice—if we recognise that the Jewish Yishuv in Palestine has already the moral status of a nation entitled to exercise authority over its own people through its own institutions, and through its own armed forces. Recognise them, and give them the legal 1335 right, as well as moral right, to do it, and call upon them to do it. We would then have the right to expect it to be done.
I want to say one other word which may not be very popular, but I shall nevertheless say it. Murder is murder wherever it is committed, by whomsoever it is committed, and for whatever motive. I hope the House will permit me to say that in my own humble opinion, although I am no theologian, it is a thoroughly un-Jewish thing. The whole of the philosophy that inspires these acts is an un-Jewish thing. Everybody has been very wise and prudent about this, and I hope I shall not be too unwise and too imprudent about this, but I think for the sake of the historical record it might be remembered that these young men and women have no motive of personal gain. They are not inspired by any unworthy motive. They show great discipline, great courage, and complete indifference to their fate. They act with dignity when they are caught and tried, and when they die. It is a tragic thing that great human qualities of that kind should be so frustrated and so perverted, and I think that one might have more influence upon guiding them into wiser, more constructive and saner channels if one ceased to use words which might be appropriate to Al Capone in Chicago, but not to young people, however misguided and however wrong, who are acting selflessly for purely altruistic ends.
§ Mr. Silverman
I leave the hon. Member to make what comparisons he feels are appropriate for what young people have always done throughout the many generations, and in many places, when they have felt they were in despair and that they must fight for the future of their people or die. I hope I shall not be misunderstood and that I have said enough to show that I regard these things as morally wrong, I regret them as wicked, I regret them as having no justification of any sort or kind. I do not think anything can justify them, I do not think that anything does justify them. I think that they are not merely wicked and wrong, but hopelessly 1336 ineffective. Nevertheless, I think one has to remember that these people have, in an irresponsible but sincere way, been driven into these courses by utter desperation, by despair, and by the utter failure of His Majesty's Government so far to show them any immediate, or indeed any ultimate, hope of a lasting kind.
My last word must be to urge the Government to make up their mind what their constructive policy is to be, and, believing in it, decide, not recklessly but fearlessly, to put it into practice. I have no doubt that then we might very shortly see the end of the tragedy of Palestine and a resumption of the constructive work in Palestine which has made it for a generation an example to the world.
§ 2.43 p.m.
§ Brigadier Low (Blackpool, North)
The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has spoken to us, as he always does on this subject, from the heart, but I am tempted to ask him whether his heart was even half full of the interests of the country to which he belongs. Are the interests of British prestige, and of the troops and policemen of this country, who are giving their lives and their service in Palestine, near to his heart, or are there some other interests that have taken priority over them?
§ Mr. S. Silverman
I do not know what the hon. and gallant Member means. It is a lamentable thing that lives should be lost in a quarrel which should not be there at all, but the policy which I would like to see the Government adopt in Palestine is one in which I see the true greatness of this country of Great Britain.
§ Brigadier Low
I am not questioning the hon. Member's sincerity for one moment.
This Debate has been, in my opinion, and will be, of great value. The hon. Member thought it was a mistake. Surely it can never be a mistake for this House to discuss the complete destruction of law and order in a country for whose government we are responsible, to discuss a situation which has resulted in the last year in 28 policemen being killed, 45 members of our Armed Forces being killed and 93 of them wounded, and in 300 civilians, whether British, Arab or Jew, being killed and wounded. My right hon. Friend who opened this Debate with such 1337 a clear statement of his position referred in particular to the events of the last month or two, but I would say that those events are the logical result of the Government's vacillation in the period that has elapsed since June last year. The hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), who I am sorry to note is not here, has said to us that the Labour movement in Palestine wished to fight tooth and nail against Irgun. If that is so, I wonder whether that is true of the Labour movement in England. We have not been using teeth or nails to eradicate this terrorist menace in Palestine.
I am no advocate of ruthless repression. I wish to make that quite clear. I do not believe that anyone who has spoken in this House this afternoon or in the past months has advocated such a thing. But there is a wide gap between vacillation and weakness on the one hand, and ruthless repression on the other. I wish to suggest to His Majesty's Government that by their interference, which they may think is justified, and to which the hon. Member for East Coventry referred, interference with the security measures proposed by those on the spot in Palestine, they have, in fact, prolonged the existence and possibly strengthened the hands of the terrorist movement. I cannot believe that the right hon. Gentleman will deny to us that he or his office in London has from time to time had to negative proposals put forward by the security men on the spot.
§ Brigadier Low
It seems to me extraordinary—[HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."]—and I withdraw. I will continue with my argument. It is worth pointing out to the right hon. Gentleman that one of his own supporters used in one of his arguments, the supposition that His Majesty's Government had had to interfere in security measures proposed by the Army and policemen on the spot. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will remember that. Perhaps he will refer to it when he addresses the House. It seems to me extraordinary if, as I am bound to do, I accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement, that those on the spot have not been able to propose to His Majesty's Government any more effective method of uprooting this menace. It seems to me that at a time when we 1338 are short of manpower in this country, when every resource in the country is strained, it is definitely a wrong policy on the part of the Government to use soldiers and policemen in Palestine purely for the purpose of guarding. They should instead use the forces they have at their disposal to search and hunt out the headquarters and posts of this Irgun.
That is not the policy which the Government have in fact attempted for the last six months. They have drafted in extra troops; they have from time to time allowed these troops to conduct searches, but there has never been, so far as I know, any large-scale search of the area around Tel-Aviv,-where the activities are always reported to us—a large-scale search without any interference from the civilian authorities. I know there have been searches in Tel-Aviv itself but these things appear to take place just outside Tel-Aviv. One is tempted to ask why our Army, which was so efficient throughout the war in its intelligence methods and its operations, is not able to locate and wipe out the headquarters of Irgun. That is a question which I hope the right hon. Gentleman will answer today, or, perhaps, he will give us some indication of the later date on which he can give us the answer.
My right hon. Friend, in referring to the wonderful way in which our troops and police have carried out the extremely difficult task with which they are faced, made certain suggestions about the conditions under which they are now forced to work. He said we should make it quite clear that we should pass from a peacetime to a wartime basis and that we should take the necessary precautions for the protection of civilians. If that is so, I hope the Colonial Secretary, after consultation with his colleagues, will say what further steps are also to be taken to look after our troops. So far as I can understand from correspondence which I have had from men in my constituency, these men serving in Palestine are constantly on duty and are never given relief, as they would be if an active state of war were recognised. They are serving, "betwixt and between," in the most frightful conditions and under a terrible strain, not knowing who is their friend or who their foe, or whether they are to be called out at midnight or early in the morning. They are reading also, day by day, of their friends who have met with what people 1339 euphemistically call "new trouble," and yet we allow them to continue living permanently—not just for the week they are on duty—in the most terrible conditions. I ask the Government to pay attention to the point put to them by my right hon. Friend.
I turn from that to a wider question, which is, I believe, very important, not for Palestine only, but for the whole world. Can we go on appearing before the world as a country which is unable to carry out the responsibilities given to us? Does the right hon. Gentleman, and do his colleagues in the Government, realise the tremendous harm being done to us, not only in Palestine or the Western part of the world, but particularly, in the Eastern part of the world, by the publication of day-to-day events there, which show that we are no longer a firm people; that we vacillate and show weakness and are quite unable to uphold law and order? The hon. Gentleman who has just spoken used an argument about law and order, on which I shall not touch. We believe that it is a responsibility of the Government to uphold law and order in those territories for which they are responsible, and we believe that the prestige of this country is a thing which we, and the Government, must always hold close to our hearts, and keep in the forefront of our policy.
§ 2.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Younger (Grimsby)
I want to refer briefly to the narrow issue of the security measures for which hon. Members opposite are asking. We all feel the same indignation about the terrorists activities and about the outrages which have been committed, but I think the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for North Blackpool (Brigadier Low) shows that there is a lack of appreciation of what is meant by security measures. What does this involve? I think the events which have been reported in the newspapers show that all the more normal types of security measures, which could assist the Services in picking up the individuals responsible—and they are, we know, a very limited number—are already in existence.
We have read in the papers of large-scale searches, in spite of what the hon. and gallant Gentleman has said, and of large areas being cordoned off and of fairly numerous arrests. What further measures 1340 can be taken? I doubt whether any further measure would seriously assist in picking up this limited number of individuals, or whether it would assist in the intelligence work involved. There are steps which can be taken, as anybody knows who has studied the records of the Nazis in Europe, but these further steps involve, not action against a limited number of terrorists, but war on the population. No hon. Member opposite has specified what further powers the authorities in Palestine should have. I have had some experience, and not a very brief experience, of security work in several parts of the world, and I can think of none, except the highly objectionable ones used by the Nazis—collective punishment, the taking of hostages, and the mass detention, without trial, of people against whom nothing is known. Those are the only kinds of measures, so far as I know, which have not already been attempted.
The hon. and gallant Member for North Blackpool talks about mass searches at Tel Aviv. Any police or intelligence officer would tell him how unlikely it is that a mass search by whole divisions who are untrained in this work will unearth any of the activities of a highly trained body like the Irgun. The trouble is that although the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate was quite right in describing the terrorists as criminals, he was not telling the whole truth. They are criminals, and something else as well. They are political bodies, and, as such, they excite a certain amount of sympathy and a very considerable amount of dread among the population. They have therefore the co-operation, passive if not active, of a large number of the population, and I believe that purely military repression would be likely to turn a large portion of the Jewish population in Palestine into their active allies. I agree with the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Cross-man) that Irgun wants the war for which some hon. Members opposite have been asking.
The hon. and learned Member for Daventry (Mr. Manningham-Buller) said that we must have law and order at all costs. It is an easy thing to say, and it sounds well, but I am sure that every hon. Member will agree that we are not prepared, when we use the phrase "at all costs", to resort to mass extermination of the population in the way that the 1341 Nazis did. If we are not prepared to go to that length, I think purely military measures are more likely to stir up violence than to lead to the capture of the criminals. If we do take stronger measures, we may pay the cost and still not have law and order. We are all equally concerned about the protection of our troops who are having such an appallingly difficult time in carrying out their task, but the suggestion that this problem can be tackled by military security measures is entirely unfounded. It would, in fact, lead to more violence instead of less. There is only one solution, and that is a quick policy decision by His Majesty's Government.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Air-Commodore Harvey (Macclesfield)
The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) said there are only a few criminals at work. If there are only a few criminals, they are certainly creating a lot of bother. The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) congratulated the Government on what they have done in the last few months. I am sorry that I am unable to congratulate the Government on their policy during the last six months. What worries me is that by this lenient policy the right hon. Gentleman has made more difficulties for himself with the Arabs. I do not agree with what happened in Palestine in 1937 or 1938, but, nevertheless, the Arabs are now saying to themselves, "One hundred and eighty of our people over a period paid the supreme penalty for criminal offences, and not one single Jew has paid the penalty when he has committed murder." That will create difficulty in any negotiations which the right hon. Gentleman may undertake—
§ Air-Commodore Harvey
I cannot give way to the hon. Gentleman now, as I have only a few minutes available. When Major Brett and the N.C.Os. were kidnapped, they were not armed. I would like to confine myself to a few practical questions on this aspect. Why were they not armed? Surely, it is no inconvenience to a soldier or an officer to carry a revolver. He will not use it unless he is absolutely driven to it, and I would have thought that the first thing to do should be 1342 to see that our troops are properly armed. The local commanders have authority to allow them to walk out without arms, and it ought to be made a general rule that they should always carry their arms. That would mean that we should have armed pickets over the whole of the country, and I think it would help in keeping law and order. These terrorists must, to some extent, have the connivance of the civil population, and these activities cannot just be limited to the few terrorists who are committing the crimes. From where are the Jewish arms coming? That is something we have not been told. They may have picked up a number of guns and bombs during the war; in fact, they undoubtedly did, but they are getting arms and money from somewhere, and my information is that it is coming from other countries. Steps should be taken on an international scale to protest against the assistance which is being given to the terrorists.
I would like to raise the point regarding the Palestine Police. Are they up to strength, and is the right hon. Gentleman satisfied that they are getting training to enable them to carry out their arduous duties? I am told they are rushed out there, and do not get the training or the rest periods which policemen who are almost on active service should have. In view of the risk, are the Palestine Police sufficiently well paid and are they getting the right type of people? I know they are doing well, but will the right hon. Gentleman give us some information about the Palestine Police? Also, are we still allowing British wives and children to go out to Palestine? If we are, that will only complicate the difficulties in the immediate future. While I appreciate that families do not want to be separated, I would have thought it would have been a good policy to delay sending our families for the next two or three months.
In conclusion, I would like to pay my tribute to the British troops and police. They have carried out a most magnificent job of work under most difficult circumstances. The Government are failing miserably in their weak policy. Our prestige throughout the Middle East has been gradually going down, and unless something is done to form a policy and go right ahead with it, we are in for severe trouble throughout the whole of the Middle East.
§ 3.4 P.m.
§ Mr. Churchill (Woodford)
The House has listened to two speeches from opposite sides of the Chamber, both of which have been characterised by a great deal of knowledge and thought, and distinguished, if I may say so, by grace of delivery. Both these Members have evidently acquainted themselves closely with the problems of maintaining law and order in Palestine. We should all agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Macclesfield (Air-Commodore Harvey) in the tribute which he paid, and which other speakers have also paid, to the behaviour and restraint which our troops have observed. None of us underestimates the prolonged trial, not only physical but moral, to which they have been subjected by this series of detestable outrages.
The hon. Member for Grimsby (Mr. Younger) said that it was impossible for us to imitate the mass extermination methods of the Germans. There, again, we would all be in agreement. The idea that general reprisals upon the civil population and vicarious examples would be consonant with our whole outlook upon the world of affairs and with our name, reputation and principles, is, of course, one which should never be accepted in any way. We have, therefore, very great difficulties in conducting squalid warfare with terrorists. That is why I would venture to submit to the House that every effort should be made to avoid getting into warfare with terrorists; and if a warfare with terrorists has broken out, every effort should be made—I exclude no reasonable proposal—to bring it to an end.
It is quite certain that what is going on now in Palestine is doing us a great deal of harm in every way. Whatever view is taken by the partisans of the Jews or the partisans of the Arabs it is doing us harm in our reputation all over the world. I deplore very much this struggle that we have got into. I do not think we ought to have got into it. I think it could have been avoided. It could have been avoided if promises had not been made by hon. Members opposite at the Election, on a very wide scale, and if those promises had not been woefully disappointed. I must say that. All my hon. Friends on this side of the House do not agree with the views which I held for so many years about the Zionist cause. But promises 1344 were made far beyond those to which responsible Governments should have committed themselves. What has been the performance? The performance has been a vacuum, a gaping void, a senseless, dumb abyss—nothing.
I remember so well nine or ten months ago my right hon. Friend, now sitting beside me here, talking to all of us in our councils and saying that whatever happens this delay and vacillation shall not go on. Well, that is what he said today. But certainly a year has gone by, and we have not advanced one single step. We have not advanced one single step either in making good our pledges to those to whom we have given them, or in reaching some broader solution, or in disembarrassing ourselves of burdens and obligations—burdens which we cannot bear, and obligations which we have shown ourselves unable or unwilling to discharge.
My right hon. Friend dealt particularly with one aspect, and one aspect only. This is a conflict with the terrorists, and no country in the world is less fit for a conflict with terrorists than Great Britain. That is not because of her weakness or cowardice: it is because of her restraint and virtues, and the way of life which we have lived so long in this sheltered island But, Sir, if you should be thrown into a quarrel, you should bear yourself so that the opponent may be aware of it. I deprecate this quarrel, and I will deal a little further with its costs. I deprecate this quarrel very much indeed, and I do not consider it was necessary. Great responsibilities rest on those who have fallen short of their opportunities. Once you are thrown into a quarrel, then in these matters pugnacity and willpower cannot be dispensed with.
It is a terrible thing to be drawn into a quarrel and cowed out of doing your duty. My right hon. Friend gave instances. There was another some four or five months ago where death sentences were revoked because of threats. He gave two other instances, one which I will look into in a little more detail because it rather affects the answer the right hon. Gentleman gave me across the Floor the other day. He gave the instance of the caning. I am not discussing the merits or the demerits of that punishment or the age at which it should be inflicted, but when sentences of caning are inflicted upon 1345 people who have committed offences against the law, to commute and abolish further sentences because one poor British major and three British sergeants were taken off and flogged is to show all the vices of overcaution and to show that we have not the willpower to face up to this small, fanatical, desperate minority who are committing these outrageous acts.
You may remit a sentence of caning because you do not like that form of punishment, you may remit it because you have a tender heart, you may remit it because some new circumstance has arisen since the magistrate or tribunal gave the decision, but you do not remit it because a British major is fished out of his apartment and three British sergeants are caught and subjected to that punishment, and because you are afraid it may happen to some more. How should we have got through the late struggle if we had allowed our willpower to relax in that way? What would have been said if, when the Germans were bombing London, we had sent them a message, saying, "If only you will leave off we will guarantee never to touch Berlin"? This is the road of abject defeat, and though I hate this quarrel with the Jews, and I hate their methods of outrage, if you are engaged in the matter, at least bear yourselves like men.
Now, I come to the particular case of Mr. Dov Gruner, the man under sentence of death. He was going to hang, I think, the next morning, and the terrorists seized a judge off the bench and an officer in the street and took them off, saying they would kill them if the sentence was carried out. And sentence was not carried out. We were immediately told that the prisoner had appealed to the Privy Council. That was not true. It was an excuse, and a procedure vamped up; the Jewish Agency were brought in to make some suggestions and, as far as I can gather from the accounts, he was persuaded only with great difficulty to make an appeal. The fortitude of this man, criminal though he be, must not escape the notice of the House. He made his appeal and now he has withdrawn it. I shall come in a minute to the question of how this works, but what are we to say about altering the course of justice because criminals threaten to add to their crimes?
1346 Let us suppose that there was a murder gang at work in England and that one member was caught and was going to be executed after due process of law. If it were then said by his associates that if sentence were carried out they would kill the Home Secretary, does anybody imagine that a British Minister would not go forward with the process of law? As W. H. Smith said many years ago, he would make his will and do his duty. Does anybody imagine that the path of justice would be turned aside by a hair's breadth because of a threat of that nature? It may be replied that here there were hostages, which made it a harder case, but let me again put it in terms we can all understand. Suppose the friends of this criminal, members of a gang, decide that they will catch some Member of this House, some Minister, or the son or the relative of a Minister, and say "We have him in hiding; you hang So-and-So, and we will kill him." Is there a Member in this House who would tolerate the slightest movement of the course of justice from its path, whatever happens, even if it was his own flesh and blood affected? I think not.
Here, we are giving this exhibition on the wide stage of the Middle East, with the United States looking on and following this matter with the closest attention, here we are giving this spectacle and exhibition of the fact that under the threat of the killing of these hostages, the Government are unable to carry forward the course of justice. Was it true—let us look at the details—that the course of justice was not interrupted in any way? I should like to know. I am sorry that we have not had an answer to the question which was put by my right hon. Friend earlier in the day. I am sorry that we have not had an answer from the Minister, because naturally one would be influenced by it. Three days ago the the right hon. Gentleman said:Yesterday afternoon information was received that an application for special leave to appeal to the Privy Council on behalf of Dov Gruner was being lodged. The General Officer Commanding accordingly was obliged to grant a delay."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 28th January, 1947; Vol. 432, c. 773.]Is it a fact, or is it not a fact, that it is the criminal himself who has to make the appeal? If it can be done by some outside agency, it is another matter, but if it is a fact in law—and I cannot pretend to be informed on the matter—that the criminal himself has to initiate the pro- 1347 ceedings, then the statement which was made was not in accordance with the facts. I should just like that to be cleared up. The right hon. Gentleman said in reply to a question I asked:There has been no turning aside from the normal process of justice."—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 28th January, 1947; Vol. 432, c 775.]If the Jewish Agency were invoked, and if they brought pressure to bear on this man against his inclinations—for he was ready to be killed for the crimes for which he had been convicted—on what grounds was the statement made that an appeal had been lodged? I should like that to be explained. I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman's answers, according to the facts as now known, correspond to the actual facts. We have seen it stated that he did not want to ask any favours of the British Government. The appeal at that moment—he was going to be executed the next day—could only have been made by some outside body. Is that valid? Then we are told that he gave way two days afterwards, and after the surrender of hostages he said he would appeal, but now we are told that he has withdrawn even this application. You cannot wonder that you will be defeated and humiliated, if you allow threats of maltreatment of hostages to turn you from the administration of the law as it would otherwise have been carried out. I should like the right hon. Gentleman to speak upon this subject and give very precise answers. If he would like to give the answers now I will gladly give way to him, but he may prefer to include them in his speech.
This is a lamentable situation. However we may differ, it is one of the most unhappy, unpleasant situations into which we have got, even in these troublous years. Here, we are expending hard earned money at an enormous rate in Palestine. Everyone knows what our financial difficulties are—how heavy the weight of taxation. We are spending a vast sum of money on this business. For 18 months we have been pouring out our wealth on this unhappy, unfortunate and discreditable business. Then there is the manpower of at least 100,000 men in Palestine, who might well be at home strengthening our depleted industry. What are they doing there? What good are we getting out of it?
1348 We are told that there are a handful of terrorists on one side and 100,000 British troops on the other. How much does it cost? No doubt it is £300 a year per soldier in Palestine. That is apart from what I call a slice of the overheads, which is enormous, of the War Office and other Services. That is £30 million a year. It may be much more—between £30 million and £40 million a year—which is being poured out and which would do much to help to find employment in these islands, or could be allowed to return to fructify in the pockets of the people—to use a phrase which has dropped out of discussion now, but which was much in vogue at one time in Liberal circles, together with all sorts of antiquated ideas about the laws of supply and demand by people like Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and other worthies of that kind. One hundred thousand men is a very definite proportion of our Army for one and a half years. How much longer are they to stay there? And stay for what? In order that on a threat to kill hostages we show ourselves unable to execute a sentence duly pronounced by a competent tribunal. It is not good enough. I never saw anything less recompensive for the efforts now employed than what is going on in Palestine.
Then we are told, "Oh, well, we must stay there because we have evacuated Egypt, and we need a place for strategic purposes in order to guard the Canal." I should have thought that was a very wrong idea. At any rate, you have an easement in this respect, because the negotiations already clumsily begun with Egypt have ended up in a reversion, as the Prime Minister promised, to the 1936 Treaty, which has another 10 years to run. Let us then stay in the Canal Zone and have no further interest in the strategic aspects of Palestine. At any rate, there is that argument, but I have never thought that we had a strategic interest there. I have always believed that in other ways we should maintain our interests. But then one may say, "We have to stay there because of our faith and honour." Good gracious, Sir, we cannot say that. We have broken our pledges to the Jews. We have not fulfilled the promise made at the Election, and, having found ourselves incapable of carrying out our policy, we have no right to say, "Oh, we have to stay there from motives of honour." Then others say, "You must stay, because, if you go, Jew and Arab 1349 will be at each other's throats." It is said there will be a civil war. I think it is very likely indeed, but is that a reason why we should stay? We do not propose to stay in India, even if a civil war of a gigantic character were to follow our departure. No, that is all brushed aside. We are not going to allow such things to make us stay. We are told to leave the Indians to settle their own affairs by getting a verdict from a body which is unrepresentative and then march out. In Palestine we are told we cannot go, because it would lead to a terrible quarrel between Jews and Arabs and there would be civil war as to who would have the land.
I do not feel myself at all convinced by such arguments. If it be the case, first, that there is no British interest—which I declare with a long experience that there is not—then the responsibility for stopping a civil war in Palestine between Jew and Arab ought to be borne by the United Nations, and not by this poor overburdened and heavily injured country. I think it is too much to allow this heavy burden to be put on our shoulders, costing £30 million a year and keeping 100,000 men from their homes. I see absolutely no reason why we should undergo all this pain, toil, injury and suffering because of this suggested advantage.
I urge the House as I did six months ago before we went for our summer holidays in August—[An HON. MEMBER: "There is a Conference going on now."] —I quite agree that there is a Conference going on now, but when that Conference is over, unless it produces a solution which it is in our power to enforce effectively, then in my view we should definitely give notice that, unless the United States come in with us shoulder to shoulder on a fifty-fifty basis on an agreed policy, to take a half and half share of the bloodshed, odium, trouble, expense and worry, we will lay our Mandate at the feet of U.N.O. Whereas, six months ago, I suggested that we should do that in 12 months I suggest now that the period should be shortened to six months. One is more and more worried and one's anxiety deepens and grows as hopes are falsified and the difficulties of the aftermath of war, which I do not underrate, lie still heavily upon us in a divided nation, cutting deeply across our lives and feelings. In these conditions we really cannot go on, in all directions, taking on burdens which use up and 1350 drain out the remaining strength of Britain and which are beyond any duty we have undertaken in the international field. I earnestly trust that the Government will, if they have to fight this squalid war, make perfectly certain that the will power of the British State is not conquered by brigands and bandits and, unless we are to have the aid of the United States, they will at the earliest possible moment, give due notice to divest us of a responsibility which we are failing to discharge and which in the process is covering us with blood and shame.
§ 3.29 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Creech Jones)
I think the whole House shares the horror of the recent outrages and disasters which have occurred in Palestine during the last year or so. I should like on behalf of the Government to pay tribute to those in Palestine who have borne the strain and the responsibilities of administration in that very unhappy territory. It is not often recognised that, in spite of the difficulties, civil government has continued, and that alongside the police and the soldiers our civil administrators have played a great part in contending with the obstacles and difficulties made for them by the conditions prevailing in that country.
I should like this afternoon to reply to the series of charges which has been made against the Government in regard to alleged weakness and leniency, and also to repudiate the view which has found expression in many quarters that His Majesty's Government have no policy concerning the status and future of Palestine. It is not today that we can discuss that very wide and difficult problem. I hope that we shall have in this House an opportunity of dealing with the problem of long term policy, but I want to say quite clearly that the Government share with all Members of the House a deep sense of the urgency of finding a solution of this problem and achieving a settlement which can be really final. A conference is sitting in London and other consultations are going on, and therefore it would be unfortunate if, in the midst of those discussions both at the conference and between other parties, I were to refer to the problem of long-term policy and discuss it at any length this afternoon.
1351 I repeat that we share with other hon. Members the feeling of humiliation, and we are conscious that the prestige of Britain is assailed when terrorism and outrages of this kind are perpetrated in a territory for whose administration we carry responsibility. During the past few years it has been a story of great tragedy, loss of life and property, and infinite hardship imposed on communities. But I would like to remind the House that the facts are not quite as stated by hon. Members this afternoon when they alleged that people had not been brought to punishment for the crimes that have been committed. I promised the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) that I would give the House as much information as I could in regard not only to current events but to happenings in Palestine in the past few months. During 1946 there were 22 Jews sentenced to death, but the sentences were commuted to long terms of imprisonment up to a maximum of 20 years. There have been 83 Jewish terrorists convicted by the military courts for carrying or discharging firearms, and all of them have been sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. By way of information, 26 terrorists have actually been killed and 28 wounded, during actions with the Police and Military.
I want now to come to the two events referred to by the right hon. Member for West Bristol—the kidnapping of Major Collins and the kidnapping of Judge Windham. In regard to Major Collins, it is quite true that this was an outrage of the worst possible kind, that he was manhandled and severely hurt, and that immediately the information came to the notice of the authorities, appropriate action was taken to round up, where they could, those who were thought to be concerned in it. In regard to Judge Windham, I promised that I would inquire for the information of the House as to the degree of protection which was afforded to his court. The facts are, of course, that hitherto the terrorists have confined their main attention to the police and the military, whom they regarded as their opposite number—the enemy to be fought—and, so far, in the civil life of Palestine the greatest esteem has been expressed in regard to the administration of the courts. The Chief Justice himself Said that he would abhor the thought of a 1352 judge sitting in wig and gown surrounded by tommy-guns. It was the Chief Justice's view that, because of the high esteem in which the courts were held, these exceptional precautions should not be taken, particularly at a time when the forces for security and good order were stretched to the utmost.
In regard to Judge Windham's court, let me say what the position was. During the hearing of criminal cases, two armed British and two armed Palestinian constables are on guard, in addition to armed escorts provided for the safe custody of the accused. When no criminal cases are due for hearing—as was the case on the day this outrage occurred—only one unarmed Palestinian constable is on duty. Normally, mobile police patrols operate in the vicinity of the court. I put the point that so far as the civil Government is concerned, the local authorities have taken all precautions within their powers to protect the activities of the Government. I have particulars here of some of the arrangements which are made, and in all the circumstances, knowing the dangers, I think it can be argued that adequate preventive measures generally operate so far as the continuing work of local government is concerned.
I want next to say what happened when the judge was kidnapped. I am informed by the High Commissioner that counter measures were at once taken by the Palestine authorities. Curfews were imposed in the Jewish quarters of Jerusalem and Haifa and the greater part of Tel Aviv, and road restrictions over the Jewish area of Palestine were imposed. Extensive police and military searches in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Petah Tiqva were made, and also the ultimatum was isued to which reference has already been made. It should also be noted that in that work the Jewish community generally rallied to the aid of the Government, because they too felt outraged by the kidnapping which had taken place of Judge Windham.
§ Mr. Stanley
When the right hon. Gentleman says that the Jewish community rallied, will he say what they did?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
Yes. The Mayor of Tel Aviv isued a warning. He said:Tel-Aviv has been disgraced by the kidnapping of the President of the District Court. If we have lost the wit to defend the honour 1353 or liberty of those who dwell among us we have lost our link with the past and struck a blow at our future. No man or woman in Tel-Aviv will be able to rest so long as the shackles have not been removed from Judge Windham. So long as the two residents have not returned to their homes I will not rest until they return to walk freely among us. I demand their immediate release at all costs.At the same time the High Commissioner met the other representatives of Jewry, and put to them the seriousness of the problem, and they took what action was within their powers to track down those who had been guilty of the outrages complained of.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
Would my right hon. Friend tell the House, in view of the interjection of the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley), whether there was anything which, in his opinion, the Jewish community in Palestine could have done to assist after this kidnapping, that they failed to do?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
I am not aware, so far as this particular incident is concerned, that there was any refusal of cooperation. Indeed, the whole community responded in trying to help to deal with the problem which had arisen.
Major Collins was released on the night of the 29th. He is now in the Government Hospital of Jerusalem. His condition, however, is not said to be serious, but it has not yet been possible to take a full statement from him. It appears that he was taken under armed guard to a cave near Jerusalem and was visited by a man purporting to be a doctor, by whom he was treated for his injuries. I want to come to the case of Mr. Dov Gruner, because certain charges have been made that because of the desire to be lenient with the terrorists, because too, we wished to secure the return of these two men, we were prepared to deflect the course of justice. I want most emphatically to deny that. The circumstances were these. The execution was arranged for the morning of 28th January. It was Gruner's legal representative who gave notice on 27th January of his intention of applying for special leave to appeal to the Privy Council on Gruner's behalf. There was a not in the prison in Jerusalem virtually the whole of that day. Jews or Arabs provoked one another; the prisoners got out of hand, and it was impossible at 1354 that moment, and on that day, for the legal representative to get access to the prison. But when I said in the House that the normal course of judicial procedure was proceeding, that it was not being deflected as the result of the terrorist threats against the two kidnapped men, I spoke in perfectly good faith. I spoke on the advice which had been given to me in regard to the legal procedure, and other lawyers certainly confirm the view which was held in London, that a respite of the sentence must inevitably be given in the circumstances which had arisen.
§ Mr. Churchill
This is a matter on which we wish to be precise. Is it necessary for an appeal to be made to the Privy Council by the person concerned? Is that a necessary and essential step, and was this step taken by the prisoner formally before the sentence was respited?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
The information which I have, is that the legal representative of the man made application for the right to appeal to the Privy Council, and in order to give effect to that intimation, it was necessary for him to obtain the signature of the prisoner. Because of the riot, in view of the fact that the intimation had been given by the man's legal representative, it was felt, in those circumstances, by the General Officer Commanding, that there was no other course open to him but to make the respite.
§ Mr. Stanley
This is the first we have heard, either in this House or in the newspapers, about these riots. We would like to hear something more about them. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to say that during that afternoon the rioting was such that it was impossible for this man's legal representative, on a matter of life and death, to approach, under the charge of warders, the cell in which this man was confined? Were people rioting all over the passages and corridors, all over the prison? Were they not confined to their cells?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
The prison was in complete disorder. I have already said that security measures have been very stretched, and that there were real difficulties, owing to the disorder, in securing an arrangement for the legal representative to get access. I have pointed out that in those circumstances, as it was the legal representative who had made the application, a respite was conceded.
§ Mr. Churchill
Could the right hon. Gentleman—this is an important point—give the House an assurance—and we all accept his own personal good faith—that the desire to save the lives of the judge and of Major Collins, played no part in the decision to respite the execution?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
So far as all the news I have been able to gather is concerned, that was the case. The respite was not a turning aside, as I have said before, of the process of justice because of duress exercised by the terrorists. It was a perfectly legitimate procedure, within the discretion of the General Officer Commanding.
On the next point which has been raised, with regard to the withdrawal of the signature of Gruner from his request that this appeal should be made, I gather, though my information on this point is incomplete, that he has now withdrawn his signature, and I am in communication with the High Commissioner in, regard to the position now created.
§ Mr. Churchill
But withdrawal of his signature destroyed his appeal; is not that so? It must not be imagined that I am pleading for a bloodthirsty cause. On the contrary, I am endeavouring to follow out a principle.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
It is true, is it not, as I said when I spoke earlier, that the High Commissioner still has rights of his own, over and above those exercised by the Commander-in-Chief in this matter?
§ Mr. Creech Jones
Oh, yes, the High Commissioner may exercise a certain prerogative which is invoked by these instruments from the King. I want to come to the point that has been urged by the right hon. Member for West Bristol, that the Government must show much firmer resolution in putting down terrorism, and must re-establish authority in Palestine. What are the powers which are at the present time employed, and enjoyed, by the High Commissioner? We appreciate the very difficult circumstances in which the High Commissioner has had to work. We are conscious that he has not only had to weigh up the difficulties of the very acute military situation, but also to carry on civil government as well in those difficulties. From his mind, political considerations have never been eliminated. He had to keep in mind how he could 1356 maintain peace in the country, and at the same time secure the maximum of pressure for eliminating terrorism. The High Commissioner may make, under the Palestine Defence Order in Council, 1937, such Defence Regulations as appear to him in his unfettered discretion to be necessary or expedient for securing the public safety, the defence of Palestine the maintenance of public order, the suppression of mutiny, rebellion, and riot, and for securing the essentials of life for the community.
Those are the wide powers which are given to the High Commissioner, and in exercising those powers, he has the aid of the police, and also of the military forces. But civil government goes on, and for the maintenance of law and order, the High Commissioner may employ the military. He may bring them into operation when the circumstances, in his judgment, warrant it, and any major military operation must be with his sanction. If it were otherwise, one would then usurp the position of the High Commissioner. Martial law has not been proclaimed; he is reponsible for civil government, and that is the position in which he remains. He has a particular difficulty which all of us will appreciate. It has been pointed out in this House that the British Administration in Palestine is not rooted in the lives of the people. Accordingly, it often appears to the respective communities that here is an alien Government in possession imposing its administration on them, and that fact very often reveals itself in the efforts of that Administration to maintain lawful procedure, to establish good order and get the proper recognition of law. That is a very difficult position for an Administration to be in, because it does impede the good work of the Government when it has not the cooperation of the people of the country and it is felt that, often, its will is being imposed on the people.
What are the powers which have been given to the High Commissioner to deal with this matter? I pointed out, in my reply the other day, that, recently, another directive had been given to the High Commissioner in Palestine. That directive, as previous directives have been, was worked out in consultation with the civil authorities in Palestine as well as with the military authorities here, and I think one can say that, without attempting to impose great harshness on the people as a whole, a very wide field of action has been and is being extended to the High Commissioner 1357 in regard to the objectives, which he must seek. It has been made clear in the directive, that the efforts of the police and troops are designed to take the offensive against the breakers of the law and to secure that the initiative lies with the Forces of the Crown. His Majesty's Government have given its whole-hearted and unreserved support to the High Commissioner and the military authorities in applying all possible measures for rooting out the terrorist evil and securing good order.
There is no reason to suppose that, faced with these difficulties, the authorities in Palestine, whether military or civil, have failed. I want to repudiate the suggestion which has been made that there has been interference from London. In fact, we have left good order in Palestine very largely in the hands of those responsible for the administration there, and, in reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol, it is not true that there has been a difference, or that there has been conflict in ideas, as to the policy in regard to the application in Palestine of the directive—neither this directive nor previous directives. There has been the completest harmony between the military authorities and the civil authorities. The special position of the High Commissioner has been recognised, and the military have been invited to play a very active part, as was shown by the searches they have carried out and the degree of preventive work which they done, and they have the wholehearted encouragement of the civil authorities in the work which they have sought to do.
There have been, of course, necessary restraints because of political considerations. It would have been fatal if the whole of the civilian population had been flung into the arms of the terrorists. It is vital, if we are to root out terrorism, that we should have the cooperation of the people. Terrorism cannot be rooted out by military suppression alone. Military arms may play a part, but, in point of fact, unless we get the good will and cooperation of all the people, we cannot completely eradicate terrorism in any community.
So far as the police services are concerned, I was asked whether the police force was now up to standard and whether 1358 everything had been done in the matter of re-equipment and reorganisation—
§ It being Four o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.