HL Deb 29 June 1920 vol 40 cc1005-38

LORD SYDENHAM rose to ask His Majesty's Government (1) By what means, under the mandate which has been accepted for the government of Palestine, it is proposed to safeguard the rights of the immense, non-Jewish majority of the population, while setting up a "National Home" for the Jewish race; (2) Whether the term "National Home" implies the exercise of governmental authority over the whole or part of the population of Palestine; and to move for Papers.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, every one of us must thoroughly sympathise with those Jews who wish to make their home in Palestine. Although their rights are based upon a particularly ruthless conquest we respect, and wish to take into full account, their strong sentiment inherited from the five hundred years during which they were a ruling people. We cannot, however, go back three thousand years, and we must consider the equal rights of the present inhabitants of Palestine.

In November, 1917, Mr. Balfour expressed the sympathy of the Government with the aspirations of the Zionists, but he stated that it must be "clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." It is because it seems that this just and necessary reservation has been forgotten that I venture to raise this Question in your Lordships' House to-day. For reasons which can easily be understood it is only in your Lordships' House that a strong plea can be raised for justice to the immense non-Jewish majority of the population of Palestine.

We went into the country to end the Turko-German menace against the Suez Canal and Egypt, and to rescue the people from the centuries of oppression by the Turks. After General Allenby's brilliant campaign we were regarded by the people as their saviours, and the British prestige—using the word in its best sense—never stood so high among Syrian Moslems as it did then. Numbers of those Moslems served in our Armies, while others deserted from the Turkish cause and joined us. We then had a clean slate on which we could write, and I have no hesitation in saying that the problem of Palestine was, perhaps, the easiest of solution of those which had been left to us as the aftermath of the war. But now the situation has completely changed. Moslems, Christians, and many of the old Jewish 'inhabitants distrust and dislike us, and would welcome almost any other Mandatory Power to rake our place. The Moslems say openly that they would prefer to return to Turkish rule, which was at least roughly impartial, and under which the various elements lived in general harmony.

I hope, my Lords, to be able to explain the cause of this great change. But I want first to draw attention to the conditions of Palestine at the time of the Armistice. The population consisted, roughly speaking, of 515,000 Moslems, 62,500 Christians, 65,300 Jews, and 5,050 others. But the percentage of each of the communities employed in agriculture was— Moslems, 69; Christians, 46; and Jews, 19. Thus, the Jews in Palestine about the end of the war were playing an infinitesimal part in what is the only industry of that country. The recent Jewish colonies are prospering in viticulture and in citrons fruits, but some are not yet on an economic basis because they are supported by outside capitalists. No one could object to the setting up of more of such colonies. The Jews, as a rule, do not cultivate cereals, and many of them are employers of Arab labour or the labour of a particularly depressed class of Jews who come from the Yemen. Then there are a large number of Jews in Palestine who do no useful work but live on mendicancy or on remittances from their wealthy co-religionists.

Palestine has an area only twice that of Cyprus. It is not a naturally fertile country, as Mesopotamia is, but it could support a larger population if irrigation were resorted to, and if trained labour were available in sufficient quantities. The socalled Arab population contains strains of many races which have conquered and ruled in that country, and among those strains doubtless there is that of the followers of the Crusades. They are a fine people, far ahead in many way of their co-religionists to the East and to the South. They are a people who, I believe, would be very easily ruled by anybody who could win and hold their confidence. Jerusalem ranks next after Mecca amongst the holy places of Islam, and the agitation which has been engineered in India over the Khalifate question gives one an idea of the greater agitation which could be raised if it could be represented that the holy places of Islam were to pass under Jewish control. I need say nothing of the many places in Palestine which the whole Christian world holds in devout reverence.

Under such conditions as I have attempted to describe our first proceedings in Palestine required most careful handling. Now, what has happened in Palestine? A self-constituted Zionist Commission settled down in Jerusalem under the shadow of our military protection and quite close to our barracks. It began at once to interfere with the administration and showed an arrogance extraordinarily impolitic from the point of view of public interest. In March last I drew attention to a most significant performance on the part of that Commission. The Administration had arranged with the Anglo-Egyptian Bank to make sorely needed loans to cultivators at the rate of 6½ per cent.; of course, Jewish cultivators being included. The Zionist. Commission objected to the arrangement, and orders were sent from London to hold up what was really a great boon to some very poor people. Then Dr. Weissman proceeded to Palestine, and found this was going a little bit too far, and so he graciously withdrew the embargo and the loans were permitted to be made, after considerable delay.

But the most ominous part of this story was the answer to me with which the noble Earl, the Chancellor of the Duchy, was supplied. He said there was no evidence that the Anglo-Palestine Bank (a Jewish Institution which lends at double this rate) was concerned. Naturally there was no evidence. It was only necessary for someone to go from the bank to talk with the Zionist Commission over the way. He also said— This question was the key to the future and especially the Zionist future of the country, and the Zionist organisation maintained that it should not have been settled without previous consultation with them. It is a little difficult to believe that this temporary loan was really the key to the future of Palestine, but this answer seems to mean that the Government of Palestine, which was bound at this time, at least, to follow Turkish customs, had no right to act without consulting a self-constituted body, largely composed of aliens. Nothing could have been better calculated to create alarm among Moslems and Christians than this, and some of the other statements which the noble Earl made.

Several things followed this assertion of authority by the Zionist Commission. The military administrator at the time, a most able and experienced man, found that his position had become impossible, and then a most capable Indian Civil Servant, appointed by the War Office as financial adviser, and specially commended for good work, was suddenly dismissed. His sole aim had been to be impartial, as his Indian training had taught him to be, and no attempt was ever made to show that he had been otherwise than impartial. He was condemned unheard, because it was stated that he had adopted "an attitude inconsistent with the Zionist policy of the Government." As a subordinate he was only carrying out the orders and policy dictated by his superiors. Much more has happened since that, and I should particularly like to draw your Lordships' attention to the speech made by the Bishop at Jerusalem at a meeting at the Church House, and reported in the Guardian and Church Times. The Bishop said plainly that the present troubles were "largely due to the actions and behaviour of the Zionists" who settled in Palestine since the war. He then pointed out that— The Zionist Commission had been a very strong body; but it was not strong enough to control all its members, many of whom were extremists … They had behaved and spoken as if the country had already been given to them and was theirs to dispose of as they would. in ordinary conversation among Zionists at Jerusalem it had been asked. 'What shall be done with the Church of time Holy Sepulchre? Shall it be burned or razed to the ground?' It did not occur to them that Christians and Mohammedans had as much right to Palestine as they had. … The idea seemed to be to equalise the population and then demand full control of the Government. The emigrants so far brought in did not include many respectable English Jews; but they did include a great number of Russians, Poles, and Rumaniana, many of them thoroughly Bolshevistic in their attitude to the Government. The Bishop added— The attempt to intimidate the inhabitants had led to a deplorable state of things. … All this had been brought about by the injudicious attitude of Zionism, by the ill-advised behaviour of its members, by the definitely Bolshevist and in many cases anti-British attitude of some of them, and by the intolerance of many of its followers. This important speech throws a painful light upon the present position in Palestine, and gives us a serious warning. The Rev. G. Napier Wittingham, who has lately returned from Palestine, tells me that the Zionists demand rights of pre-emption on all sales of land in Palestine, and possession of all uncultivated lands, even if there are customary rights over those lands, which we always recognise in India. A number of Australian soldiers wished to settle in Palestine but have been prevented from doing so by the protest of the Zionist Commission. Lately the Government, at the instigation of the Commission, offered £150 for some land adjoining the Sacred Mosque of Omar. This is Wakf land, which anyone who has served in India understands. The proposal, of course, caused the bitterest resentment among the Moslems in the country, and Mr. Wittingham writes— All the various sects of Christians, all the Moslems are at one. A Society has been formed called the Moslem and Christian League, and I had a long talk with its President, his Excellency Aref Pasha. Be did not mince matters but said quite plainly that he and his friends had been deceived. They fought on the side of the British against the Turk because they believed in British justice, bat they would never have fought, their co-religionists had they imagined for a moment that a British victory meant Jewish domination.

The Moslem Christian League is surely a most remarkable development in the land of the Crusades, and the unanimity of all Christian Churches in Palestine seems a portent when one remembers the antecedents of the Crimean War. The League has branches all over Palestine, and the President of the Jaffa Branch has sent me a copy of this appeal, in which these words occur. It is addressed to "the Loyal Members of the British Parliament, to the ardent members of the House of Lords, to the British Liberal-Labour Party, to the Anglo-Saxon Churches, to the Professors and students of British Universities and Colleges, to the noble and just British Nation," and it says this— Since Mr. Balfour's announcement to make our country, Palestine, national home for the Zionists, the Zionists began treading upon our National Rights, monopolizing influences, appropriating every thing to themselves and insulting all that is sacred to us. Though their number hardly equal one-tenth of the population and the land they own hardly amounts to one in four hundred parts, yet they have nearly monopolised commerce and industry, tightened the clutch upon the natives causing miseries and discontent amongst Moslems and Christians, the original inhabitants of the land; and all this thanks to the money poring on them from outside and the privileges given to them. What will be the result if the Zionists influx of immigration, permitted by the British Government, continues? Now they are coming by hundred and thousands, but what will be the result later on? Will it not be the destruction of Moslems and Christians together? Who is to blame for this fearful result? Surely we are in a dangerous situation menaced by vanishment; that is why we appeal for a helping hand to protect us from this horrible end. To allow Palestine to be a Jewish national home would be to condemn us to death. This language may be Oriental in tone, but the main facts are real, beyond dispute, and the League has not funds enough to make its cause known in this country. The zionissts are demanding a monopoly of the railway concessions, and of port, developments and public works generally, and are insisting that Jewish labour and presumably capital should be employed in those services. They are also trying to substitute Hebrew for Arabic, and it is not surprising that many inhabitants are already trying to leave the country.

We have had a plain warning of what is before us. There have been two great demonstrations in Jerusalem. Then followed the Easter riots, of which we have heard very little. The Zionists have not hesitated to say that the riots were either encouraged or not disapproved of by the Government. It is an unworthy suggestion, but, I think what happened was that the Military Governor did not take sufficient precautions to prevent rioting. On Good Friday there was a Moslem procession from Jerusalem to the Tomb of Moses. It was played out by a British military band, and the processionists while the band was playing were shouting in Arabic, "To Hell with the Jews, down with the Mandate, down with the British." That does show a dangerous feeling which has arisen in a country where we were received a short time ago with open arms.

We have no official information regarding the riots at Jerusalem, but it is clear they might have been most serious. It appears that the Moslems came without firearms, which seems to show that they did not intend any harm to the Jewish population. On the other hand, the Jews had firearms, which were provided for them by Lieut. Jabotinsky. As they fired rather wildly from the roofs of the houses, I believe they killed or wounded some of their own people. Lieut. Jabotinsky was sentenced to fifteen years' imprisonment. That was immediately reduced to one year, and I believe they are now demanding his immediate release. There were many Moslems also sentenced at the same time, but I do not know if anyone has demanded their release.

If I have succeeded in conveying any impression of the prevailing excitement among the inhabitants of Palestine, your Lordships will imagine the utter consterna- tion which prevailed when the announcement of the appointment of a Zionist Governor for the country was made. Nothing could have been more unfortunate at this moment. I am perfectly certain that Sir Herbert Samuel will do his utmost to be completely impartial, though the forces which will be brought to bear upon him might be too much for a stronger man. But is it reasonable to suppose that the Moslems and Christians of Palestine will ever believe that we can be impartial, and must it not be thought that this appointment was designed to pave the way for a complete Zionist Government of the country? I cannot think that His Majesty's Government had full and accurate information of the conditions in Palestine when this appointment was made.

Whatever happens, our responsibility to the people whom we have not consulted must remain. Who will regulate the influx of Zionists, which Dr. Max Nordau says will reach 8,000,000 or 10,000,000, or much more than twice the number that this little country will ever support? He also says that half-a-million Zionists are to be settled in the next few years. I wonder what the people of Scotland would say to such a prospect as that? The Zionists of Jerusalem say that 600,000 Russians are waiting to be admitted. Will the character and the antecedents of those people be thoroughly investigated before they become citizens of the land, and before we become responsible for them and for their actions?

The Arabs of Palestine are a prolific people, and under a just Government, and when they get the help of our doctors to beat malaria they will multiply very fast. Are their children to be barred out of the land of their fathers by Russian Bolsheviks? The military administration of Palestine was a very cheap one, and paid its way, but not of course the expenses of the troops. The immediate result of the advent of a Civil Governor with a large staff must be to increase largely the expenses which will fall upon the cultivators or upon the British Exchequer. The worst is that we shall have to maintain a large force permanently in that country where a small force with a well-organised native gendarmerie might have sufficed. Many of the Moslems and Christians of Palestine will give their lives rather than see their country overrun by a motley mob of Zionists. We shall then have to use British troops against people who will have the right to believe that they are defending their national home.

The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem said this to Mr. Whittingham— Your country has such a reputation for taking the side of justice that I still believe it will not allow us to suffer. I trust that once England really knows the facts of the case, how the Moslems and Christians alike are bitterly opposed to the whole idea of Zionism, she will act fairly towards us. That is the question at issue, and it seems to me that there can be only one answer consistent with our national honour. In the second chapter of the First Book of Esdras there is a description of a situation which is curiously like that at the present moment. Jerusalem was then, just as it is now, a centre of intrigue. From that chapter your Lordships will gain an insight into the possible workings of Zionism in Palestine, and you will note the ruling of Artaxerxes which contains a lesson that we may have to learn.

There is one more grave matter on which I will say a few words. I believe that throughout the world Christianity is at stake at the present moment. In Russia, where it has been stated that 90 per cent. of the Commissaries are Jews, there has been a determined attempt to root Christianity out of the land. The Eastern Church has suffered persecution Unparalled since the days of Nero. Bishops and priests have been murdered and tortured. Churches have been defiled, and a generation of children is growing up in utter atheism and immorality. It is the soul of Russia that Lenin and Trotsky have done their best to destroy. India is not a Christian country, but the administration of India has been inspired since we went there by a good Christian spirit. That is all to be changed. We shall now have in place of it a reactionary Brahmanism, and the Christian missions which have been doing fine work in the past will find their activities most seriously curtailed. But here at home, and in other countries, there are socialist bodies at work endeavouring to destroy the Christian religion. Some time ago I drew attention in this House to the Socialist Sunday schools which had been at work in the country for about forty years. What they have accomplished we do not know, but I think we can see some fruits of their vile teaching. Some of the wisest of our English Jews do not tolerate and do not approve the attitude of the political projects of the Zionists, and unless the Government now cry a halt there will be a rush of Bolsheviks from Russia and Central Europe which might drive Christianity out of the land of its birth. In any case, Palestine is to be governed under Mandate, and that Mandate will lay it open to the greatest possibilities of intrigue in all countries where a paid propaganda is a power.

I hope that the noble Earl will clearly indicate the policy of the Government If it is to facilitate the settlement of suitable and carefully-selected Jewish colonists, then I feel sure no one will object to it. I thought that was what was meant when Mr. Balfour's original pronouncement was made. But if it is to permit irresponsible Zionists to manipulate the Government and ultimately to control the country, then it will certainly lead to very grave disaster. The permanent military charges will be very heavy. There will be continuous troubles throughout the country, checking its progress and reacting dangerously throughout the whole of the Middle East. I think that the most rev. Primate, who has had the advantage of seeing the Bishop of Jerusalem, as I have not, will support me in the earnest plea that the Holy Land which has come under our protection shall not be allowed to fall into alien and anti-Christian hands. I beg to move for the Report of Sir Herbert Samuel on the conditions of Palestine after his visit there, and also for the Report of General Lord Allenby on the Easter riots at Jerusalem. I think that both these documents ought to be in the possession of Parliament.

Moved, That there be laid before the House the Report of Sir Herbert Samuel on the conditions of Palestine after his visit there, and the Report of General Lord Allenby on the Easter riots at Jerusalem.—(Lord Sydenham.)


My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on having asked this Question. This is a subject that I have wished for a long time to bring to the attention of the House, but at the request of the noble Earl it has been put off because it was inconvenient or because a critical time of the settlement of affairs was upon us. I was therefore prevented from putting a Question. I should like to preface my remarks by saying that I must not be taken to be anti-Jewish in feeling. A short time after Mr. Balfour's famous declaration there was a great Zionist meeting held in the London Opera House which I attended, and I had the honour of addressing an overflowing meeting on that occasion. Therefore I am not naturally antipathetic to the idea of Zionism and the establishment of a Jewish home in Jerusalem.

But since that time I have been in Palestine and Syria, and I have learnt how extraordinarily intricate is this problem of the future Government of those parts. I was also not then aware how repeatedly we have given pledges to the Arabs that they should enjoy their independence in that part of the world. The other day when the question of Mesopotamia was under discussion I mentioned this fact, and the noble Earl, the Leader of the House, then said there were certain reservations—and I quite admit there were —reservations with regard to Baghdad, Basra, and, I think, Jerusalem, which should be under international control. I think those were the main reservations, certainly Palestine as a country was not included.

Under the stress of the war we entered into various undertakings which undoubtedly clashed with one another. There was the Sykes-Picot Treaty as regards Syria, there was this declaration of Arab independence, and, finally, the undertaking given to the Jews to establish a national home in Jerusalem. The result, at the present time, is that we are accused of having broken faith with the Arabs, and on the face of it I cannot see that the accusation is an unjust one. I may quote the words of Bishop McInnes in a speech made about a fortnight ago. He said he was grieved to find how the Arbas and the Moslems are learning to disbelieve our British word, and how entirely convinced they are that, while the Government may be in name British, it will in fact be mainly entrusted to Jews. That is the present feeling that has been created in Palestine.

I should like to show how we as a country have absolutely no interest in Palestine, nor indeed in Syria. We have no commercial interest there, except Thomas Cook & Son's tourist agency, I do not believe there is a British trader to be found in either of those countries. Of course, we sell our goods through the ordinary channels of trade, but that is all. I mentioned the other day—though the noble Earl did not give me any answer on the subject—a scheme to make a great port at Haifa, which would be the terminus of a railway across to Damascus, and then across the Desert to Basra or Baghdad— I do not know where, but at all events, the scheme was adumbrated in that direction. I protest most strongly against any such idea. Such a scheme should not be even thought of. As we ought to work in harmony with the French, I am fully convinced that by the utilisation of the Baghdad Railway, which is almost completed, you would have the necessary railway communication to establish a connection between the shores of the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. With the exception of that possible scheme I do not believe that we have any commercial interest whatever in Palestine and Syria. Therefore it is not to our interest to go there. Some Zionists advance the argument that our being in Palestine is essential to the security of the Suez Canal and Egypt. I cannot mention my authority — the highest military authority—but I am told there is no value in such an argument, and that Palestine is not essential from a strategic point of view.

Thus, we have in the first place these declarations to the Arabs, secondly, there has been a general statement, reiterated again and again, that we have made this war partly to secure the self-determination of small communities, and, as was pointed out in a letter to The Times the other day, it is, I believe, entirely contrary to so-called international law that we should at the present time be making any serious departure in the government of Palestine. Article 354 of the Laws and Usages of War lays down that in occupied enemy territory (which, of course, it is, because we have not made peace with the Turk) it is not permissible to alter the existing form of administration, to upset the constitutional and domestic laws, or to ignore the rights of the inhabitants. That is what we are doing now. Therefore, we have violated. the very principle with which we entered the war, we have violated the pledges given to the Arabs, and we have violated technically the laws and usages of war.

We have done this undoubtedly to support the Jews. Some time ago there appeared an article in The Times saying that the arrangements made at the Peace Conference in Paris were really the work of the Jews. In this country some of our chief offices of State are now held by the Jews, and we are undoubtedly under a great debt to those of the Jewish persuasion for carrying on the usages, customs, and government of civilisation. Therefore we cannot disregard them, or treat them in the way that other countries have done. I should be very sorry to see us do it. Still, we are now undertaking a distinct burden of government on behalf of the Jews, and not on behalf of British interests. That must be remembered, and the country should realise it, whenever there is any declaration of our policy in Palestine.

The position in Palestine has not been made any easier by the claims of the extreme Zionists, which have already been alluded to by Lord Sydenham. I do not think he mentioned one fact, that one of their leaders has said that all the present good land under cultivation, or land that could be cultivated without some extensive scheme of irrigation, is already held by owners, and, inasmuch as they are not making the best possible use of that land, three-fourths of it should be taken away from them and handed over to Jewish settlers, and only one quarter left to the present holders, who are not tilling the land properly. Lord Sydenham has also told us that they claim all uncultivated land. And if I may quote again Bishop McInne's speech, they go further and claim all Crown land and, in addition, say that all the German lands, colonies, and buildings should be give to them—possibly at a price, but they should have the right to take them over—besides railways and monopolies. Lord Newton may be interested in that because on two occasions he has inquired on what pretext the Germans are interned in Egypt, and perhaps there may be some connection with that fact. The idea is that their lands and properties in Palestine should be acquired for the benefit of settlers—at all events that is the statement made by Bishop McInnes. If you are to make Palestine a Jewish country it is right that the Jews should claim to go east of the Jordan, not merely on the heights behind the Jordan but to have the Hedjaz railway south of Damascus down to Maan.

What would be the effect of that upon the poor Syrian kingdom it is proposed to set up? To describe it briefly, the place is like a long, bare backbone from Aleppo in the North to Mecca in the South, without any vitality in it; and if this Zionist demand is acceded to that would be cut with regard. to the portion of the railway from Damascus to the Maan. The Syrian kingdom would have no vitality whatever, which would be in contravention of the declarations which, I must repeat, have been made again and again. The noble Earl the Leader of the House was not responsible for the various negotiations that took place during the war; he is, I think, rather the victim of circumstances, and he must find himself faced with a problem which to my mind is insoluble on peaceful lines.

There are two comparatively minor points in regard to which I think the Government have lately made a great mistake. The first is that pressure was brought to bear on the Emir Feisul to return to Europe and discuss the position. The Emir Feisul was recently crowned king in Damascus, I think in March last, with the approval of the notables to be found in that city. The conception of the idea of bringing a responsible ruler over here at a time when his country is in a disturbed state shows how entirely out of touch the Government arc with the real conditions. The Emir Feisul was here twice last year, and it would be fatal to his rule in Syria if he had to come here again now. If you lose the Emir Feisul you lose the one man who can give peace and security to the country. He is the one man in whom we can have confidence to carry out any agreement we might make with him. The other point in regard to which I think His Majesty's Government have shown themselves out of touch with the feeling in the Near East is in connection with the appointment of Sir Herbert Samuel. I freely echo all that is said to Sir Herbert Samuel's personal credit; indeed, I think it is a most self-denying ordinance on his part to go out to Palestine at such a moment as this. But, at the same time, I think his appointment was most injudicious. I believe that the Arabs will regard it as a distinct challenge to them that you should send a Jew to Palestine at the present time. In my opinion it was a most unfortunate selection. The best solution—I do not say it is an adequate one —is that you should give some confidence to the Arabs by saying that the administration of the country will be carried on in some degree by Arabs, Jews, and Christians as far as possible in proportion to the number of those different creeds in that country, and that the administration will be conducted under the suzerainty of the Emir Feisul. That is the only possible chance of peace there. If you do not do that I should look with dismay on what may happen to Palestine in the future. If you do it, you will be redeeming the pledges you have made time after time.

I know the Emir Feisul. I have had frequent conversations with him and his, representatives, and I am confident that they will faithfully discharge any agreement you enter into with the Jews and others as to their special rights and prerogatives; but it is impossible to conceive that you will have peace in Palestine so long as there is the idea prevalent that the whole of that country is going to be under Jewish control. If you do not mean that, what do you mean? A "Jewish home" is too narrow a term to convey any other meaning, I believe it to be the views of eminent Zionists that they should obtain practical control of Palestine. Ever since I went out to Syria I have regarded with dismay the idea that we should become responsible for the Government of that country, or of Palestine. To think that we are going to establish British control in Palestine seems to controvert the very principle on which our Empire has been built up. Our Empire has been built up by the individual enterprise of the British; but here we go to a country where we have no interests to establish a rule which I cannot see will have any practical benefit to us, and which will be in defiance of almost every instance in which we have extended our rule over the world. The Government have had to follow the enterprise of our trailers and others, and have had, reluctantly, to give them protection. This will not be the case in Palestine. We shall go there on a strictly artificial basis Hence I regard with alarm our ticking any course which will lead to disaster in that country and, at the same time, bring us no good as an Empire.


My Lords, I rise only for the purpose of asking my noble friend when he replies whether he will deal with the question I have twice brought before the House without receiving any information whatsoever. I am alluding to the presence of 400 or 500 men, women, and children, of German origin, who were formerly colonists in Palestine and who, have now been interned in Egypt, incredible as it may sound, for something like two years. On the last occasion when I questioned the Government upon this point my noble friend Lord Peel agreed that I was justified in raising the question, and he added that in his opinion it was most emphatically necessary that an early decision should be given and early action should be taken with regard to it.

Hitherto I have not been able to ascertain from any one in this country why these people were ever deported from Palestine, why they are interned in Egypt, and why they are forbidden to go back to Palestine. No one here seems to know anything whatever about it. I have applied to the principal Departments concerned, and each of them rather gave me to understand it was the business of the other, with the result that I am no wiser now than I was in the beginning. No one has ever alleged anything against these people, but it has been suggested to me in a somewhat vague manner that they are confined for military reasons. If it has really been necessary to confine them for military reasons for something like two years it is to me rather an astonishing fact that a large proportion of them, if I am correctly informed, consist of old men, women and children. I cannot help pointing out that these particular people must be in a singularly unfortunate position, because, as they do not want to go back to Germany (Germany being the last place to which they desire to return), the German Government, I presume, takes no interest in them whatever. Therefore, so far as I know, nobody is looking after their interests.

I am quite aware that in many quarters it is extremely bad form to take any interest in former enemy aliens. In many quarters the opinion is entertained that these people ought to be considered as vermin and treated as vermin. That is a theory to which I have never been able to subscribe, and I do not mind confessing that with my experience of the war and of prisoners in general, I have a profound sympathy for any civilians, whether they be of British or German or any other nationality, who have to undergo two years' internment for no ostensible reason that I am able to ascertain. I should like to add this. So far as my experience goes, in connection with prisoners and interned civilians—although I did not always agree with that Department—the attitude of the War Office, which is the Department I believe to be directly concerned, was always, in the main, not only reasonable but humane, and it seems to me singularly unfortunate that a case of this kind should have attracted the attention of a neutral body such as the Committee of the Red Cross at Geneva which brought the facts originally to my notice.

My noble friend opposite, Lord Lamington, suggested that there was a somewhat sinister explanation of this apparently inexplicable circumstance. He suggested that in the opinion of certain people these Palestinian Germans are being detained by the desire of the Zionists in order that their property in Palestine may be acquired. I should be very sorry to think that that was true, and I should be ashamed to believe—I cannot believe—it possible that His Majesty's Government would countenance any action of the kind. I prefer to believe that it is a blunder of some stupid subordinate and that it will be put right. My noble friend Lord Peel, when he last made a statement on the subject, gave me a promise that the matter would be brought to the attention of the new Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, and I trust that my noble friend will be able to assure me that Sir Herbert has been given express directions to deal with this question without further delay.


My Lords, before my noble friend replies I should like to make two brief observations. I think the debate to-day—especially the speeches of my noble friend Lord Sydenham and my noble friend Lord Lamington—has shown the very serious situation in which we find ourselves in Palestine. The situation is one that may have issues of the utmost gravity, and may result in great dangers to our interests, both locally there and throughout the East. I think it is another illustration, and a very conspicuous one, of how far afield we have gone from our Parliamentary system of Government. We are told to-day that this system, for better or for worse, is now established; that a Zionist system of government is there; that it is unwelcome to large sections of the population; and that we have undertaken very serious responsibility in connection with that system. And this, I think, is almost the first debate that has taken place in this House with regard to it since it has been done. We are rapidly allowing ourselves to abrogate our Parliamentary position in matters that are of the most vital concern to every man, woman and child in this country and to our whole position in the East.

We have undertaken in this scheme to ensure internal order and external security. That means that we have to employ a force to meet those possible, and one almost fears probable, contingencies that may arise in that part of the world. We are always being urged to gird ourselves to these great enterprises in the East, because, we are told, it is our destiny and our duty as a great world-power to undertake them. If I may I would like for one moment to make an observation on that point. Is it the British Empire that is undertaking these responsibilities, and therefore placing itself in the position of having to bear the possible subsequent burden? Is it the British Empire that is undertaking, as it did during the war, and co-operating both in regard to the decisions upon and the discharge of, these responsibilities which we have assumed through the Middle East? I say emphatically it is not.

It is Great Britain by herself who assumes these responsibilities. Our Dominions have no participation in any of these undertakings, and I would venture to say that if they were asked they would not feel very disposed to co-operate in any way in them. It is Great Britain who, at the bidding of an international tribunal and not on the authority of Parliament, is undertaking these responsibilities, whether in Palestine or especially in Mesopotamia which we discussed last week. Great Britain has to bear the financial burden and every day brings evidence of how almost impossible Great Britain finds it to bear. How is it that Great Britain alone—and I would ask your Lordships' earnest consideration of this point—can cope with this increasingly heavy military obligation imposed by these commitments in the East? We are doing our best to supply troops for this purpose in these different areas, but it is only to a partial extent that those troops can be supplied from these shores. If I am credibly informed, there is increasing difficulty in regard to this matter as the obligations become more numerous.

Where are the rest of the troops coming from that are undertaking the garrisoning of these centres in the Middle East? They are all coming from India. They do not come from our Dominions. India supplies the bulk of the troops to-day in the independent State of Persia, the protection of which, apparently, we are undertaking. India supplies the great bulk of the troops in Mesopotamia. India supplies a large number of the troops in Egypt, in Palestine, and around Constantinople. During the war India came forward, like the rest of the Empire, and gave magnificent support to the extent of over 1,000,000 men to fight the battles against our enemies, but I would ask this— How long in time of peace will the present policy be pursued which entails a demand upon India for a supply of troops to garrison our territorial commitments lying far outside India throughout the East? These troops in many instances, as your Lordships are well aware, are posted in countries and in many places quite unsuited to the characteristics and the traditions of Indians. This is conspicuously so in Palestine, and I venture to say, in the interests both of the Indian troops and also of India, that those troops should be withdrawn from Palestine at the earliest possible date.

But it is on the broader aspect that I venture to ask the noble Earl if he would give us some enlightenment in regard to the question of the disposal of these troops and their employment; how long and to what extent His Majesty's Government propose to employ the Armies of India, to garrison countries far outside their Own borders. This is a quite new policy, anyway to the immense extent that it has now developed. It is, in my judgment, a most dangerous policy. It is a wrong policy, both in regard to the Middle East and its future, and in regard to India; and it is one that I fail to see can be reversed as long as the present policy is pursued by His Majesty's Government in these countries.


My Lords, following the cherished and traditional practice of your Lordships' House, the noble Lords who have so far addressed you have claimed for themselves no small measure of licence in the range of the questions which they have asked. Indeed, some of the questions that have been put to me have only the remotest connection, if indeed they have any connection at all, with the Question that is in print upon the Paper. I am, however, much too old a hand now to protest against this form of traditional digression. I meekly bow my head, and will do my best on this, as on all occasions, to give such information as I can.

First let me take the noble Lord who has just sat down. I hope, even after the dictum which I have just pronounced he will excuse me from going into the exceedingly important, but also the exceedingly complex, question of the methods which we are likely to adopt, or which we ought to adopt, for the future garrisoning of those great territories in the Middle East for which we have assumed, for the time being at any rate, some measure of responsibility. Nobody knows better than he how grave are the issues involved in the discussion, and, much more, in the decision of such a question; and if at some other time he likes to raise that question upon its merits, it is a matter upon which, of course, I should conceive it my duty to consult the views of my colleagues and to give such information to the House as I can. Clearly, it cannot be tagged on to a Question relating, at any rate so far as the words on the Paper are concerned, exclusively to the civil administration of Palestine at the present time.

I pass to my noble friend Lord Newton, whose incurable suspicion about anything concerned with enemy aliens it is, I am afraid, quite impossible for me or anyone to allay. However, on the present occasion I am, perhaps, in a position to give him a little more satisfaction than he appears to have derived from my noble friend the Under-Secretary for War on a previous occasion. Let me answer quite simply and directly the questions which I understood him to put. He asked, in the first place, "Why were these Germans and Austrian originally in Palestine interned?" They were interned for the ordinary reason for which, while a war is going on, you exclude, as far as you possibly can, from the area where your forces are operating—which is necessary under military law—persons who, either by birth or otherwise, are connected with the enemy. They were accordingly removed from Palestine to Egypt. Very well. Then they were offered the choice whether they would prefer, at the close of hostilities, to go to Germany or to go back to Palestine. Some of them chose Germany, and they were sent there. As soon as they arrived we received indignant protests from Germany that these gentlemen— and, as I understand it, ladies also—were not wanted because they were unsuitable or destitute persons. Others of them chose to go back to Palestine, and to Palestine it is our firmest intention to repatriate them. Noble Lords must remember that even now Palestine is technically a military country, and it is only with the arrival of Sir Herbert Samuel this week that we are in process of setting up a form of Civil Administration. Even as regards the Mission of Sir Herbert Samuel, my noble friend Lord Newton could not abate his ineradicable suspicion, because, as recently as June 8, he said in this House, "I do not imagine that there is the remotest prospect of his starting for a month or so."


Well, it is a month ago.


Three weeks have not elapsed, and Sir Herbert Samuel as to whom there was "not the remotest prospect of his starting for more than a month," has not only started but is so far on his way that he will land in Palestine to-morrow or the next day.


I was only a week too long.


The Instructions which are given to him provide for the repatriation of these persons who want to return to Palestine as soon as it can conveniently be done. The only other thing that remains for me to say upon that point is that for the particular suggestion, or imputation, contained in one of the speeches preceding mine—I forget whether it was Lord Lamington's or not—namely, that they were being kept away in order that their houses or property might be acquired by the Jews or by others—there is not a shred of foundation.

I pass on to the speech of my noble friend Lord Lamington. I think that he is imperfectly acquainted with what has happened in respect of the Emir Feisul. With what he said about that potentate, about his loyalty and his good faith, I am in close agreement. I know the Emir Feisul, as does my noble friend, and I have always found him animated not merely by friendly sentiment towards this country but by a high sense of personal honour. And when my noble friend suggests that we have been unwisely and unduly pressing the Emir to come to this country, he is really speaking in ignorance of the facts. As far back as March 28, the Emir of his own accord announced his willingness to. come to Europe—this was after his nomination or election to the Throne of Syria—as soon as he received recognition of his independence. It was mindful of that expression on his part that, when we met with our Allies at San Remo, we agreed there— and I think I was largely responsible for that agreement—to recognise Syria as an independent State. Having done this, we again tendered officially to the Emir Feisul the invitation to come to Europe, conceiving that, having satisfied his own condition, he would carry out his undertaking.


As an independent ruler?


As head of an independent State. Twice since then the Emir, in correspondence with us, has discussed the question of his coming, and he has by no means given it the negative which my noble friend seems to suppose. As recently as June 4 he was in correspondence with us about the matter, and on that occasion, so far from saying that in no circumstances could he come here, the words he used were that he had to delay his departure because of the conditions in his country, which my noble friend has correctly described as those of a good deal of disquietude. It may be that for the time being his services are more important there than they would be here, but I should be loth myself altogether to dismiss the hope that we may see the Emir in Europe, and for this reason, that it surely is to the interest of all of us, the Allied Powers as much as ourselves, to regularise his position. My noble friend spoke of him as having been elected to the Kingship of Syria. That is quite true, but it was a very irregular election, and nobody is more anxious than ouselves, if he is to continue there, as it seems very likely he will, as the country was conquered by his forces in conjunction with our own, and as it is going to be taken away from Turkey by the Allies by a Treaty made by the Allied Powers, that his position should have the sanction of the Allied Powers behind it. Therefore it is that I hope that at some time not too distant we may see the Emir in Europe.

There is one other portion of the noble Lord's remarks to which I cannot help devoting a few passing words. He recapitulated more than once, with great emphasis, that in his view Palestine is no British interest. It is true that he rather narrowed down his own definition by saying that we had no commercial or industrial interest in the country. My Lords, our interest in Palestine never has been, and I venture to say never ought to be, measured in terms of £ s. d. It certainly has not been the view from which English- men have ever looked at Palestine, from Cœur de Lion to the present day. Our interest is historic, traditional, religious, and perhaps to some extent sentimental, but when we went there in the early stages of the war we went there for another reason, for distinct military and strategic objects—namely, to protect the flank of Egypt, which was threatened by the direct menace of the Turkish arms. Anybody who was familiar with the views of Lord Kitchener will know how serious was the importance, and, as it appeared to some of us, exaggerated importance, which he attached to that danger, and it was on military grounds that we found ourselves advancing into the Holy Land.

And, my Lords, when the noble Lord rather dogmatically laid down that Palestine has no strategic value for Egypt now, I doubt very much, if he went to the War Office and put the proposition in this form, "Would you, the authorities at the War Office, be willing to see another Power, and possibly a hostile Power, in the future in possession of Palestine? Would you consider your position in Egypt safe in these circumstances,"— I doubt if he would get an affirmative reply. However that may be, we were drawn in for military reasons, and conquered Turkey, and there then remained the question—what was to be done? Broadly speaking, the question which, we had to put to ourselves was, Should we go? I do not know whether it is a tribute to our sincerity or to our powers, but nobody wanted us to go. Everybody insisted upon our remaining. Lord Islington asked what voice the Dominions had in this, and whether they are going to provide troops to hold Palestine in the future? No. I should not dream of asking them. But no body of men was more insistent that the duty remained upon us than were the Dominion representatives who came to this country. That view was almost universally shared, and it was as the result of the practically unanimous request of all parties that we, by no means eagerly or joyously but very reluctantly, accepted a mandate for Palestine which we could not refuse. It was thought by almost common consent that we were the nation best calculated to hold the sacred places in trust and to act as guardians of that which is regarded as holy ground by so many millions of people throughout the world. So much for the circumstances in which we went to Palestine. Now I come to the speech of my noble friend Lord Sydenham, who introduced this matter this afternoon. He drew what was a very gloomy picture of the present position of affairs in that country. I cannot help thinking that it was a somewhat one-sided picture. I would not accuse a man of such natural impartiality as my noble friend of taking a prejudiced view in any racial or religious matter. Still I do think that in the whole of his speech there was evidence of a strong anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist feeling—I will not say bias, but feeling. It is true that in that country passions have been aroused. There is a great deal of explosive material lying about. Many foolish things have been said, and some of them have been quoted here tonight. Many unwise things have been done. The Holy Land seems to have the peculiar faculty—it has had it at all periods of history—of arousing passions which provide scope for the wildest enmities and bitterest feuds, and it is only too true that under the new conditions Palestine has not settled down to perfect harmony and unity. And indeed there seems a tendency to resume some of the unfortunate habits and traditions of the past. I would add this, that the mistakes, which I admit, are not mistakes exclusively confined to one side. The noble Lord himself quoted things said and done against the Jews quite as violent as any which he cited as having been done or said by them. Ought we not to try ourselves to place the whole matter in a rather wider perspective and form some idea of the best way in which, having undertaking the mandate, we now ought to discharge it in the best interests of all parties concerned?

My Lords, what are the essential facts of the case? Palestine was conquered by one of the most brilliant campaigns of which we have any knowledge in our annals. I need say no more about that. What did we find when we had absorbed the whole country up to and beyond the Syrian border on the North? We found a country which, owing to the long and pestilential blight of Turkish administration, had become depopulated, impoverished, and relatively poor. Many of your Lordships have travelled in Palestine, and I believe that you will, broadly speaking, accept my account of the situation. Whatever your views about the potential resources of the country, there cannot be any doubt that Palestine is a country where there is scope for more people, for more scientific cultiva- tion, for the construction of more railways, for better sanitation, for afforestation on a more scientific scale, and for development of all the resources of the country, whether great or small. Where is that development to come from? The Turks were quite incapable of doing it. The Arabs are equally incapable. There is no friend of the Arabs who will claim that they have the resources, wealth, or energy to do it on the scale at which, at any rate, we should like to see it done. It was in these circumstances that an opportunity was afforded to the Jews to undertake this task in their old home.

It seems to have been assumed this afternoon that the Jews or Zionists, if they are to be so called, are in necessary and increasing antagonism to the Arab population of the country. I wonder if that is altogether the case. The Jewish colonies were mentioned, many of them well-to-do and flourishing communities, who, I believe, have long lived in perfect amity with their neighbours; and indeed, by reason of the wealth they brought into the country and the means of developing it that they have provided, they have been extremely popular. I have known of cases in which Arab sheikhs—and important Arab sheikhs—have been on terms of the closest friendship, and are still so, with the heads of the Jewish colonies. There was nothing, therefore, inherent in the circumstances of the case—the juxtaposition of Jews on the one side and Arabs on the other—to lead one to think that they were incapable of getting on in the future. Indeed, are not the two races really essential to the salvation of the country? The one, the great majority of the people, the Arabs, between 500,000 and 600,000 strong—are they not by virtue of their indigenous character, their local interests, their patriotism, essential as one factor in the problem? On the other hand, do you not want the enterprise, the wealth, the resources, the tremendously fervid spirit of the Jews or Zionists to help the country along? I ask your Lordships not to regard the situation as one involving any natural or necessary antagonism between the two. I would far rather regard them as two facets of one and the same problem.

As regards the arrangements that have been made, the famous Declaration of Mr. Balfour of November, 1917, has been quoted. That Declaration was then accepted successively by all the other Great Powers, and when we came to San Remo, in April last I think it was, it was embodied verbatim, in the terms of the Turkish Treaty. This was what we put in the Treaty, not yet of course signed, still less ratified, about Palestine— The High Contracting Parties agree to entrust the administration of Palestine, within such boundaries as may be determined by the principal Allied Powers, to a mandatory to be selected by the said Powers. The mandatory will be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2, 1917, by the British Government and adopted by the other Allied Powers in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights mid political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. With reference to the particular point about religious communities, we went on as follows— The mandatory undertakes to appoint as soon as possible a special Commission to study and regulate all questions and claims relating to the different religions communities. In the composition of this Commission the religious interests concerned will be taken into account. The Chairman of the Commission will be appointed by the Council of the League of Nations. In the Mandate, which is in course of being drawn up for submission to the Council of the League of Nations, we are taking seeps to ensure that this Commission shall secure that the holy places, religious building or sites regarded with special veneration by the adherents of one particular religion, are entrusted to the permanent possession and control of suitable bodies representing the adherents of the religion concerned. The selection of the holy places, religious buildings, or sites to be so transferred is to be made by the Commission subject to the approval of the mandatory.

As regards the actual Questions put upon the Paper, my noble friend Lord Sydenham only asked them by implication, and did not put to me the specific points which are here in print, but he will, perhaps, expect me to give a direct reply to the Questions in the form in which he put them. His first Question is as follows— By what means, under the mandate which has been accepted for the government of Palestine, is it proposed to safeguard the rights of the immense non-Jewish majority of the population, while setting up a "national home" for the Jewish rats. My answer to that is quite simple. We hope to do it by the institution of civil government, and by the provisions which that civil government will make for the internal security and development of the country. His second question is— Whether the term "national home" implies the exercise of governmental authority over the whole or part of the population of Palestine. 1 would say, "Yes," if the exercise of governmental authority refers to governmental authority by the mandatory—that is to say, the British. I would say "No" if my noble friend means authority to be exercised by the Jewish minority over the non-Jewish majority. The actual conditions under which these provisions will be secured will, of course, be contained in the Mandate which has to he submitted to the League of Nations, but I may say that Sir Herbert Samuel, who arrives in Palestine in the course of the next day or two, will, immediately upon taking over the civil administration, make a statement regarding several points connected with that civil administration which he has been authorised by His Majesty's Government to lay down, and as that will occur within a day or two it would, I think, be unfair on my part if I were to anticipate this evening anything he may say.

There is, however, one remaining point about which I think the House is entitled to something a little more precise, and that is the point which was raised by certainly two of the preceding speakers—namely, about immigration. I would ask the House not to be unduly frightened by the colossal and really extravagant figures that are bandied about. My noble friend Lord Sydenham quoted front sonic document about hundreds of thousands of persons already pouring into the country.


I thought be said hundreds and thousands.




I gladly acquit my noble friend if it was the more modest figure that he used, but in another part of his speech he spoke of some authority who anticipated an immigration in a few years of eight millions or ten millions of persons.


That was on the authority of Dr. Max Nordau.


For my own part I am content with much more modest estimates. As regards our general policy, which is what the House is much more concerned with than with speculative conjectures as to the future, I should like to say this. Our general policy is that no man or woman shall be admitted whom the country is incapable of supporting, and that indiscriminate mass immigration, whether of Jews or non-Jews, whether of Jews from Russia or from other parts of the world, will most certainly not be permitted.

There was another point about which I was asked. Non-Jewish landowners will. not be expropriated or compelled to give up their property for the benefit of Jews. The Administration will reserve to itself the right to develop the natural resources of the country on such terms and conditions as it may think best. It will be left to Jewish enterprise to secure in the open market and on equal terms with non-Jewish purchasers such areas as are undeveloped but are capable of development. For the development of those areas it will be left to the purchasers to secure their own labour, and it is only if His Majesty's Government has reason to suppose that any organised effort is being made to prevent the establishment of the Jewish national home that it may be found necessary to take special steps to secure this object. I ought to add also that I agree with my noble friends in thinking that we must be very careful about introducing into the country the right class of immigrant and, as I have before remarked, about not introducing too many at a time. I think it is very likely that among the Zionist Commission, to which reference has been made, there may be hot-heads who have said, and perhaps clone foolish things.

You have now got at the head of the Administration a judicially-minded and sensible and experienced man. Although it is true that no remarks have been made this evening disparaging to Sir Herbert Samuel himself, very grave doubts have been expressed as to the wisdom of sending a Jewish Administrator to the country at this moment. That is a perfectly tenable view. It is a perfectly tenable view to say that—an Arab, of course, not being available, and the Zionists, as representing the minority, being disqualified—you ought to have sent somebody else. That was not the view taken by the Government, and in their search for someone who would loyally carry out the policy to which Mr. Balfour had committed us, with the consent of our Allies, it was thought that no more competent person could be found than Sir Herbert Samuel. I had the honour of serving as a colleague with him in Mr. Asquith's Administration for a year and a-half, and, though I do not think any of his then Liberal colleagues are now in the House, I am sure all will agree with me in saying that lie takes to the discharge of his duties there a mind of singular impartiality and fairness. I have had many opportunities of discussing the matter with him, and, while it may be true that when he goes there he will for a time find himself in I somewhat difficult circumstances with the Arabs, a great authority on the country told me the other day that six months later lie was quite certain he would be equally unpopular with the Jews. That was a testimony to the character of Sir Herbert Samuel which, I expect, is not unlikely to be borne out by the facts.

As regards the future, there is no part of the world at the present moment where it is more necessary, I admit, to go slowly than in Palestine. I do not think going quick is ever a wise policy in the East—pretty soon you get tripped up, and you very likely have a bad fall. But if there is a part of the world where your pace should be extremely staid I would name Palestine. The fact is that, owing to the conditions which I have described, resulting from all those centuries of Turkish misrule, there is a terrible lot of back way to be made up. You want a policy of steady progress in building, in irrigation, in the scientific combating of malaria—everybody knows that the Jordan Valley is an absolute pesthole in which European peoples, at any rate, cannot live or work—you want a cadastral survey of the country, you want facilities of banking, in fact, you want all the machinery of administration. I think we must trust Sir Herbert Samuel to carry out the broad principles of policy which I have laid down,, and which I believe, the mandate having been accepted and the national home having been taken as one of the principles of our action, will be broadly endorsed by both sides of your Lordships' House.

The only other point which I must allude to is the Motion, with which my noble friend concluded, for Papers. I had no idea to what Papers he was going to refer until he spoke, and then lie told us that the two Papers he wanted were Sir Herbert Samuel's Report and Lord Allenby's Report on the circumstances at Jerusalem. As regards Sir Herbert Samuel's Report I had no idea until this moment—in fact, I have not now—that it had any official character at all. Sir Herbert Samuel went out really in a private capacity to Palestine, at the suggestion of Lord Allenby. He went round the country and wrote a Report, which he afterwards allowed me to see, but I do not think it was written for publication. There was nothing in it in the least unsuitable for publication, but I certainly could not undertake to lay it as a Parliamentary Paper without his consent, and I would far rather wait for the results of his administration, after he has been there three or four months, than rely upon the results of his journey three or four months before he took up the post. The other Paper, Lord Allenby's Report, on the unfortunate events at Jerusalem, it is impossible to lay, for this reason. The matter is sqb judice at the moment. A Court of inquiry was appointed to go into the circumstances of the case. Whether its investigations have been completed I do not know, but the report, at any rate, has not reached us. I hope, therefore, that my noble friend will not feel it necessary to persist in this Motion for Papers, and I hope he will allow that I have done, my best to answer the greater part, at any rate, of the questions which he addressed. to your Lordships' House.


My Lords, the noble Lord who opened the debate referred to me as likely to contribute something to the discussion this evening. I admit this is a matter in which I take the very keenest interest, not only owing to some personal knowledge of the localities and successive visits there over a prolonged period,. but also because I have been during the past year in very close touch with very many of those who know the facts on the spot—not ecclesiastical friends only, though I have those belonging to different sections of the Christian Church, but civil friends as well. I therefore came here to-night with a very anxious hope for the elucidation of the subject, which I admit, to me and to most other people, was exceedingly perplexing.

The terms which have been used—the term "Zionism" itself, or the term "A Jewish Home"—are equally elusive, and it is extraordinarily difficult to find out what those who use those terms really mean by them, either when they emanate from government authority or from the critics of that authority. To some extent we have had enlightenment on that subject to-night. The noble Earl has given us perhaps as much as we had any right to expect of detailed information as to what is at this moment happening. I will not conceal from your Lordships that I have had exceedingly anxious forebodings as to what are going to be the results of the present movements in Palestine, and those are based not on conjecture but on a great deal of detailed information which has come into my hands. There were certain points on which I should have desired to make critical observations, but it seems to me, after what the noble Earl has told us, that it would do nothing but harm for us at this moment to indulge in further criticism or discussion of the details, which are to some extent going to be revealed to us when Sir Herbert Samuel speaks a few days hence. It is too late now merely to criticise, as I think some of the speeches did overmueh, what has been done, because those criticisms, unless they are really necessary for something that is going to happen, seem to me to tend rather to embitter than to smooth things. And therefore I should not at all desire to criticise things, even if they seem to me to have been said, which are already fails accomplis.

On the other hand, if we are going to learn in a few days' time—what must have already been settled, if it is going to be announced by Sir Herbert Samuel himself—about his work, surely we should wait until then, before we can usefully criticise the things he is likely to say and to have planned. I am prepared to expect a great deal. My own knowledge of Sir Herbert Samuel, which is limited as compared with that of some of your Lordships', has been, in two or three different fields of interest and of common work, such as to make me feel the greatest confidence in his judgment, his common sense, and his largeness of view in matters of this kind, and what I have heard as to what has passed between him and some of those who have been his critics, now that he is appointed to go to the East, has reassure me on some of the very points on which I have felt anxious I have no desire whatever to criticise in advance that which we are likely to hear, but I shall feel that we are all at liberty to open this question again, because it is an anxious and important one, when we are better informed, when we have read what we are told Sir Herbert Samuel is about to say.

The interest of this matter in the minds of the British people was not in the least exaggerated by my noble friend who spoke for the Government. Lord Lamington said that we had no really British interests in Palestine, but I entirely agree with what was said by Lord Curzon that there is no subject in which—using the word "interest" in another sense—interest is so wide in this country. For one person who cares about what is happening this moment in Asia Minor there are at least 10,000 who care immensely to know and to understand as far as they can what is happening in Palestine. That is due to other grounds altogether than those of present political interests. But the interest is keen and will need to be satisfied; and I have great hopes that before long we shall be able to understand better than we do now what is planned, and to feel more complete satisfaction in its prospects than some of us have been able to feel as yet.


My Lords, I feel that a great deal of mischief was done by using ambiguous words at the start such as "National Home." "National Home" might be interpreted in a harmless way, but it has also been interpreted as giving priority to a small minority of Jews over the mass of people in Palestine. It is idle to propose that preference should be given to one-tenth who have gone to the country only lately over the nine-tenths who have been there, from father to son, for generations.

The noble Earl is, perhaps, too busy to read a publication which I have been reading for two years and which throws a light on the view of Zionists. I refer to their official organ called Palestine. That publication is not written by Bolshevists; it is written in England for English people and, therefore, intended to be as moderate as possible. All I can say is that if some subordinate of the noble Earl in the Foreign Office makes it his business to see that organ he will perceive the very wide claims that have been systematically put forward for two years on behalf of the Zionists, claims which are entirely incon- sistent with a mere "place in the sun"—claims for priority and preference. If Jews go back in reasonable numbers and show by their ability, industry and character that they can take the lead, they will take the lead and no one will object; but it is the duty of the Government to hold an absolutely fair balance and not to consider that there should be a balance of equality between one-tenth and nine-tenths. Claims have been put forward by the Jews that the Jewish language should be put on an equality with the national language of the country. I have seen claims put forward also by them that the Sabbath should be observed as a day of obligation, whereas it is only such a day for a small section of the people. I remember what happened when it was proposel to send a number of workmen from Malta to make a pier at Haifa. The claim put forward was that any immigration to Palestine must be pre-erupted and demanded for the Jews.

The Government are under suspicion by many people of trying to smooth the way so that when things ripen the Jews can step in and take possession of their "Promised Land." That would be a thoroughly vicious principle. The Government should administer Palestine under the mandate for the benefit of all the people there. The Jews comprise only one-tenth of the inhabitants. They are not an important part of the people. They have raked up an ancient name with which the present-day Jews have nothing whatever to do. The noble Earl said they would not allow Palestine to be the dumping ground for all the rowdies of Europe. Respectable Jews should come in as other people, but there should be no attempt to prevent others from coming in. There ought to be perfectly fair play. No doubt Sir Herbert Samuel will try to be perfectly fair, but there is no doubt that the people of the country, when you select a man of the religion and race of only one-tenth of the inhabitants and send him to rule the whole country, must feel suspicious. I hope that Sir Herbert Samuel will disappoint the hopes of his co-nationalists and co-religionists. When the noble Earl talked of Jewish energy and enterprise coming, he seemed to thing, to develop this country part passu on equality with the Arabs and the other people there, I thought he, wanted to give too much of a push to the Zionist movement. I trust that the Government will take care that nothing will be done against the wishes of the mass of the people of that country to pamper the expectations of people spread all over the world who are being pushed forward to intrude themselves where they are not wanted.


My Lords, I think that the speech of the noble Earl the Leader of the House will reassure many people who have felt anxiety in this matter. He has told us plainly that there is to be no Zionist Government in Palestine, that the antecedents of immigrants will be scrutinised, and that no rush of unruly people into the country will be allowed. The noble Earl has also said that there will be no preferential treatment with regard to the purchase of land. All those things will do away with a great deal of the alarm which is being felt in that country. I beg to with draw my Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.