HC Deb 24 February 1948 vol 447 cc1777-9
Mr. Eden

(by Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is now in a position to make a further statement on the outrages in Palestine last Sunday.

The Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Rees-Williams)

The inquiries which are being made locally are not yet complete, but it is clear that there is no ground for the suggestions that members of the British security forces were responsible for the outrage. The Zionists in response to the challenge to produce evidence in support of their allegations have produced none. Statements have been made on behalf of the Arabs admitting the responsibility. I deeply regret to inform the House that the number of British soldiers or policemen killed in the incidents immediately following the explosion was nine and not eight as stated by me yesterday. No further casualties have been reported.

Mr. Eden

May I ask the hon. Gentleman if he can now reply to the question asked yesterday by the hon. Member for Shoreditch (Mr. Thurtle) whether it is true that two British soldiers, or airmen, were murdered when undergoing hospital treatment?

Mr. Rees-Williams


Mr. Eden

In hospital?

Mr. Rees-Williams

That is so.

Earl Winterton

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that statements have been made in certain quarters in this country supporting these monstrous charges against British troops, and will he communicate with the Attorney-General with a view to an action for seditious libel against those people who accuse British soldiers of this crime, when those soldiers have been murdered by treacherous and brutal people?

Mr. Rees-Williams

I will consider that matter.

Mr. Thurtle

May I ask the hon. Gentleman if he has any information from Jerusalem confirming the acceptance of responsibility for this outrage by the Arabs?

Mr. Rees-Williams

Yes. Arabic pamphlets have appeared in Jerusalem today, and I have a translation of one of these pamphlets which is to the effect: A group of Arab commandos carried out, by blowing up buildings in the Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem, reprisals for the Jewish bomb in the Ramleh. We warn the Jewish community that if they do not stop blowing up houses and killing innocent people we shall take severe revenge. we have enough explosives to blow up all the chief Jewish towns and colonies in Palestine. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.—Signed Abdul Khader Husseini.

Mr. Gallacher

I wish to ask the Minister if it is not very desirable, in view of the situation that exists in Palestine, that, as a preliminary to the transfer of all the lads to this country, hospital cases should be transferred immediately to this country, and not kept there.

Mr. Lipson

Now that this foul calumny against British Security Forces has been exposed, may I ask if the Minister will convey to His Majesty's Forces in Palestine the admiration of this House for the restraint they have shown under great provocation.

Mr. Rees-Williams

I shall be very glad, and indeed proud, to convey that message from this House.

Sir Arthur Salter

Does the Minister intend to see that appropriate action is taken, not only against the perpetrators of these two outrages, but also against those who, as it now appears without any evidence, broadcast this infamous and unfounded slander, which apparently led to the second outrage?

Mr. Cocks

In view of the statement the Minister has just made, have any steps been taken to arrest Abdul Khader Husseini?

Mr. Rees-Williams

Abdul Khader Husseini is very difficult to catch.

Lord John Hope

May I ask the Minister whether he will do his best to see that the original answer to the right hon. Gentleman gets the widest possible circulation in the United States of America, in some quarters of which there may be far more readiness to publish the sort of innuendoes expressed in this House yesterday rather than his answer today?

Mr. Rees-Williams

We will do all we can to meet the hon. Member's point.

Mr. Norman Smith

May I ask whether the British High Command in Palestine is acquainted with the identity of the murderers of the nine British policemen and soldiers, and if so, whether steps are to be taken to bring them to justice?

Mr. Rees-Williams

Investigations are still proceeding. As yet I have not any definite evidence on that point.

Mr. Wilson Harris

Has the Minister observed that a statement has been issued by Mr. Henry Wallace to the effect that Arabs have been supplied with arms from British sources, on United States money, and will he categorically repudiate that particular slander?

Mr. Rees-Williams

I did notice that statement in the Press. If Mr. Wallace did make it, then I regret it, because it is not so at all.

Mr. Sydney Silverman

May I ask the Minister whether the is now in a position to amend the number of casualties which he gave as having occurred in the original outrage?

Major Tufton Beamish

Before the Minister replies may I ask whether he is not expecting an apology to the House from the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) for his attitude yesterday?

Mr. Speaker

Personal attacks are really quite out of place at the moment.

Mr. S. Silverman

I asked a Question about figures. Could I have that Question answered?

Mr. Rees-Williams

The only alteration I have in the figures is the one I have given. I have had no alteration at all from Jerusalem with regard to the civilian casualties in the explosion.