HL Deb 27 June 1923 vol 54 cc654-82

LORD ISLINGTON had the following Notice on the Paper:—

To ask His Majesty's Government if Papers can be laid on the Table showing (1) Budget accounts in Palestine during the past year, (2) a report of the recent Elections in Palestine; if His Majesty's Government can now publish the various correspondence and Papers dealing with our engagements and commitments in Palestine; whether, in view of the recent Election being declared void by the Government and a new Advisory Council subsequently nominated by them being rejected by the Arab community, His Majesty's Government are now prepared, in the light of the present situation, to reconsider their present policy.

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I make no apology for again raising this question of Palestine, but I will make my observations as brief as possible. The main matter involved in my Question on the Paper is in substance a repetition of a Question that I asked my noble friend the noble Duke, three months ago. I think it is really important that Parliament and the country should clearly be informed as to the reasons for events in Palestine which those who are following them can only regard as increasingly serious and grave. I hope the noble Duke will be able to give a more favourable reply to the Question than that which he gave three months ago.

Since the last debate on this subject-in this House, on March 27, much has occurred in Palestine, and from, the somewhat scanty and infrequent information available to the public through the Press it is quite clear that the hostility of the people of Palestine to the Zionist policy in that country has definitely developed and hardened. One cannot be surprised at this attitude. It has been repeatedly said in this House that you will never be able to persuade the Arab and Christian populations of Palestine, who form the large and preponderating majority of the people of that country, to assent to a Zionist system of Government, and unless you are prepared materially to modify the present system His Majesty's Government will find themselves obliged to shoulder the responsibility of forcing on the native community a form of Government that they greatly dislike. They will have to be prepared to face consequences which have invariably ensued in whatever part of the world such attempts are made in these days.

An Election has recently taken place in Palestine. The Arab Congress rejected that Election, and although prolonged to nine months, with every effort that is coupled with the prolongation of an Election in all countries to induce people to vote, in the three districts of Jaffa, Samaria, and the southern district, almost the entire Arab and Christian population refused to take any part, in the other two districts only a partial number took part. The reason why these people refused was quite clear. It was because they would not accept the form of an Election, however fair it may be, which places them at the end of it in an entirely ineffective position in regard to the Executive authority in the country; especially in view of the fact that the Executive authority was influenced by a Zionist policy, by Zionist officials, and by those who are enthusiastically pledged to a Zionist form of government in the country.

So few took part in the Election that the Government itself had to declare it void. Another attempt was made to set up a form of Government by nomination—the Advisory Council. The Advisory Council on paper looked very favourable to the Arab and Christian community, but again realising that they would have no effective power, that it was purely an advisory council, that the Executive could vote them down whenever they desired, they have refused that form of Government as well. Whilst the resignations have not actually taken place on the part of those who were nominated to the Advisory Council, I understand that they have all refused to serve upon it.

That is the present situation, and all such situations, when they develop on these lines, are coupled with rising political passions and discontent by those who feel they are suffering a grievance. You have practically arrived at a deadlock, and the administration of Palestine to-day can only be described as that of a Zionist bureaucracy carried out under the instructions of the British Government. This constitutes an arbitrary form of Crown Colony government, new and quite unprecedented in the long and hitherto honourable history of British colonial development; and it must be obvious to His Majesty's Government, as it has become obvious to every one who examines this question, that the present situation cannot really be maintained and that there must be some modification. In the debate which took place last March the noble Duke gave little satisfaction, but, later the noble Marquess the Deputy-Leader of this House summarised the position and told us that he regarded it as being under two heads. He said it was a question of honour connected with previous pledges, and a question of policy,

It is apparent to an increasing number in this country—it has long been apparent to me—that a distinct pledge was given of independence to the Arab community in Palestine. It is true that subsequent to that pledge an undertaking was given in a Declaration to endeavour to establish a Zionist Home in Palestine, but that was conditional on such policy not interfering in any way with the "civil and religious rights of the Arab and Christian community." It must be admitted that every effort has been made on the part of His Majesty's Government during the past four years through their Executive officers in Palestine to establish a Zionist system of government in that country. They must see, to-day, that you really cannot reconcile these two conflicting points in the Declaration and the Mandate—namely, the establishment of a Zionist system, in the shape of a Zionist Home, and at the same time undertaking in no way to interfere with the "civil and religious rights of the Arab and Christian community." May I remind your Lordships that as recently as 1018 a Proclamation was issued in the vernacular in every village in Palestine making it clear that as far as Great Britain was concerned they would undertake to establish a system of Government which was acceptable to the people of the country?

In the debate last March my noble friend Viscount Grey of Fallodon truly said that in the minds of many people there is still doubt; and there are, of course, numbers of people in this country who have not had the opportunity of some of us of going exhaustively into the different correspondence and Papers that are now extant on this question. My noble friend made an appeal to the Government to issue a White Paper giving all the correspondence which led up to our commitments in Palestine. The noble Duke said he would have to get the assent of King Hussein and that, subject to its being not opposed to the public interest, he would do his best to issue such a White Paper. I hope the noble Duke will be able to tell us, for the benefit of those who desire to have their doubts set at rest on this point, that such a Paper will be issued. I am credibly informed that King Hussein himself would welcome the publication of such a document, provided, of course, that matters dealing with the Sacred Places, which do not come into this controversy, were excluded from the Paper. So much for the pledges.

Lord Salisbury then said that he deprecated what he called a zig-zag policy. He added that the policy of the late. Government, once adopted, became the policy of the country, and that it was the duty of the successors of a Government to refrain so far as possible from reversing the commitments made by their predecessors. That is a perfectly sound doctrine with which in the majority of cases we all agree. Ordinarily, especially in foreign affairs, matters determined by one Government should be adhered to on continuous lines, so far as possible, by their successors. But I venture to say that occasions have arisen, and do arise, when experience shows that a continuity of policy is against the public interest and opposed to the welfare of the Empire. There have been many instances of this in our history, and we have certainly had a number of examples in the last few years. Nor can I think of any instance where adherence to policy will be to a greater and graver degree opposed to the Imperial interest than the continuance of the policy as laid down and prescribed at the present moment in Palestine.

Let me, if I may, examine for one moment the position. It is apparent to all, I think, that the vast majority of the people in Palestine will not accept the present system. No clearer illustration could have been given than that of last month, and I do not think that any amount of cajoling or bullying is likely to reconcile the Arab community to this scheme. Then may I ask His Majesty's Government how they are going to maintain this system? There is only way of maintaining a system which is disliked and discredited by the people of a country, and that is by force. Sooner or later, and I believe sooner than many people realise, this country may be landed in the very grave predicament foreshadowed by my noble friend Lord Grey in the solemn warning which he gave to His Majesty's Government three months ago, and we may find ourselves in the impossible position of having driven an otherwise friendly and peaceful people into a frame of mind of such exasperation and hostility to the Government that only by force of arms can order be maintained. That will mean that a British military garrison and a British recruited and controlled police will have to be employed to put down the violence that may occur, and against the very people whom we, the British nation, have gone to that country to support and to assist, according to our pledges, towards self-government.

If such an untoward occurrence takes place—and it is within the range of possibility in the present atmosphere of Palestine—when once the people of this country, who at present have very imperfect information and interest on this subject, come to realise what a crisis will arise, is there any shadow of doubt as to the opinion, that they will form of, or the verdict that they will pass on, a Government whose policy has been responsible for such an event? I appeal therefore—and I am speaking in no hostile spirit, still less, of course, in any Party spirit on this question, because it is far too grave a matter, a matter, indeed, of the highest, Imperial importance—I appeal most urgently to His Majesty's Government to take this matter seriously in hand, to regard it as a question of high Imperial policy, to extricate it once and for all from the meshes of the Departments who find it at present thrown backwards and forwards between them. I have a shrewd suspicion that this matter has been left to too great an extent in the hands of Departments and has not come under the corporate consideration of the Cabinet. I urge upon my noble friends, the noble Duke and the noble Marquess, to take the course of bringing it before the Cabinet and having all the facts before them.

The issues that are involved in this question do not rest with Palestine alone. As your Lordships are aware, a Treaty is under negotiation between the British Government and King Hussein the main object of which is to invite the constituent Arab States to come into a Federation. I have said before, and I will not repeat it at any length now, that I believe that the federation of those isolated States is the only possible solution of the future of the Arab communities. But it must be a Federation of Independent States. You have independence now in Iraq, in the Hejaz and in Transjordania, where free Governments are enjoyed, but I understand that under this scheme the condition of the inclusion of Palestine in the Federation is that it should still live under the Zionist system of administration. This has been a secret Treaty, as all such negotiations must be, but for some reason or other the substance of it has within the last week been published by Proclamation in Jerusalem. That Proclamation indicates to the people of Jerusalem and Palestine the maintenance of the status quo as regards Zionist policy in Palestine. But the Mandate, as I have already said, is so ambiguously phrased that I am given to understand that when King Hussein read it in the Hejaz he construed it in exactly the opposite direction, and thought that it would mean that Palestine, along with the other areas, would enjoy independence as a constituent part of the Federation.

This reservation regarding Palestine is obviously a very dangerous indication for the future. It cannot possibly be doubted that if we establish a Federation of the Arab States and insist upon a Zionist system of Government being implanted in one of those States, and that by no means the least important, it is only a question of time before the other States will find these influences coming over their borders, before Zionism will find its way, with all its activities, into those Arab countries. Is it unreasonable, as, I see, is suggested in the public Press to-day, that the Arab people should refuse a situation which gives them no power in their own country, and should wish to have nothing to do with a Treaty which binds them to a Zionist system under the projected Federation? The people of Palestine have rejected what one can only describe, if one looks into if, as nothing more nor less than a paper Constitution, where all the power is out of their hands and preserved to an autocratic bureaucracy predominantly Zionist. This is a very grave aspect of the mutter, and full of potential danger. Again I ask His Majesty's Government to pause a long time, and to consider in all its bearings a policy, for which they will have to shoulder the responsibility, of founding an Arab Federation, based as it must be on Zionist influences and those influences alien and utterly unacceptable to the Arab community and its aspirations

We are constantly being told that this country is pledged to this Mandate in the face of Europe. I will again point out, without fear of contradiction, that this Mandate has never been ratified. The Sevres Treaty has never been ratified, upon which the whole basis of the Mandate depends. I doubt myself whether a great deal of what has been done in Palestine during the last four years, if it came before an impartial legal tribunal, world be found to be legal in many respects. When you say, "in the face of Europe," what is the view of the Powers of Europe in regard to this Zionist Home? The views of France may be doubtful, but I question whether France would ever undertake such an enterprise. We all know that Italy is strongly opposed to it, and so is Spain. You might go through all the Powers of Europe and I suspect that the only one Power which would be found in favour of it would be Soviet Russia.

What about the United States of America? The American Government three years ago sent a Commission, known as the King-Crane Commission, to investigate the whole situation in Palestine. Some of my noble friends have repeatedly asked for the publication of their Report. It has been published in the United States. It is a very long and exhaustive Report, but from the first page to the end there is one point which comes out quite clearly in their investigations, and it is their conviction, from all they heard and saw, that the Arab community will never accept the Zionist system of Government in Palestine.

In the face of all this, why do His Majesty's Government allow this question to drift, and to mingle with it so much subterfuge, so much ambiguity? It certainly is not in order to comply with the request of Jews who have lived for years in Palestine, because they have never asked for it. It is solely on account of the demand made by an outside political Jewish organisation, which I believe by no means represents the Jewish community throughout the world. In all the speeches I have made on this subject, and I am ashamed to say they are now becoming rather numerous, I have never suggested by any hint any antagonism or hostility to the Jewish race. My whole case in this matter has been that you cannot impose upon a native people an alien form of government, and that this Zionist form of government is an aggressive political organisation, which desires to take on the government of a people where, through their people, they are in no wise represented.

The only people in Palestine to-day who, I suppose, really desire the Zionist system of government, are those Jews who have been immigrated in the last few-years from Eastern Europe, and it does seem to me passing strange that His Majesty's Government, representing this great country, with its great Colonial and Imperial traditions, should be persisting in an enterprise which is so subversive of our Imperial interests in that country. I admit that the position to-day is a difficult one for His Majesty's Government, but it is not insuperable. The Government are not responsible for, this. Many members of the Government were the strongest opponents of this before they were in office, and therefore with perfect consistency His Majesty's Government can take a strong line on this matter. They have to choose between two things—namely, our Imperial interests on the one side and disappointing the ambitions of a political section of the Jewish community living outside Palestine, on the other.

Can there be any hesitation really as to the course that should be pursued? I admit that it requires courage and determination, but surely His Majesty's Government, on behalf of this country, possess a sufficient amount of courage to carry through this project. I know it is argued, and I have seen it in the Press, that this is a fictitious agitation. The answer to that in Palestine is perfectly conclusive. The Arab Congress represents the whole Arab community in that country. It is also suggested that the agitation is kept going from here. There has been no agitation in this country. The question was brought up at the Elections, and a good many candidates who spoke in regard to this, I have no doubt, when the matter was explained to their electors, received considerable support. My complaint is that in this country there has not been enough publication. I am convinced that if the whole facts of the case for the last four years in trying to establish this Zionist Home were known to the people of this country, and it was known that the Arab community were bitterly opposed to it, and rightly regarded that a pledge had been made to them of independence, the volume of opinion would be so strong as to compel any Government sitting on that Bench to modify the present situation.

His Majesty's Government, I know, have two very difficult problems before thorn. They are different in many respects, but they have a certain similarity. They have to deal with the difficult question of Kenya and with the difficult question of Palestine, and I hope they are going to deal with them. To this extent they are the same—namely, that the problem resolves itself into one of conflict of races. There is only one way in which, in our modern times, you are going to solve these most difficult problems of race, and that is to insist upon it that a Government is formed and constituted appropriate to, and effective for, the people in the country over which that Government is formed. That must be, I believe, the cardinal principle in Kenya Colony for Africans, and undoubtedly it should be the cardinal principle on which you should conduct your course in connection with Palestine.

If you lay down that principle, you can banish once and for all these ambiguities, these subterfuges, which really are regarded by many people now as duplicities, which are being used on behalf of the scheme, and in their place you can come forward with a straightforward policy—a policy on the main, sound lines of British constitutional development—and tell this country, and tell the world (because the world is looking on at this, and the world will respond to it) that, as trustees of the Arab State, you are going to fulfil your pledges and to insist upon granting to them a proper and a fair national form of government. If you do this you will get the general approbation, I believe, of everybody, except those who are keen partisans on the other side. You will certainly restore the prestige and influence of Great Britain in the Near East, which has been so seriously impaired, largely by this very policy. In conclusion, I beg His Majesty's Government to give this matter consideration, to deal with it, and to deal with it at once, before they have to face what may be a serious catastrophe.


; My Lords, it is with considerable reluctance that I rise to address you on this occasion, because it was only this morning that I became aware that this subject was to be brought up here to-day. I have not had any opportunity of preparation or of reference to documents, and I feel very strongly that, on a matter of this importance, it is dangerous to speak without preparation, because one might unwittingly utter words on the spur of the moment which would have a bad effect, perhaps a seriously bad effect, in the country about which we are speaking. You may ask why in that case I address you at all. Well, on the last occasion when the noble Lord who has just sat down advanced the very strong views which he holds about Palestine, and which he has expressed to-night with so mach eloquence, almost vehemence, I was in bed, and I had not an opportunity of speaking. However great my disadvantage in this discussion to-night, I do not feel that I ought to avoid speaking, because my convictions on the subject are quite as strong as those of the noble Lord. My views are entirely opposed to his, both as to policy and as to facts, and I am not aware that the view for which I stand has had any expression in this House, except to some extent from His Majesty's Government.

I differ so much from the noble Lord that I am glad to begin by emphasising the only points on which I agree with him. The first is that I am convinced that, as he has said, this is a grave matter of Imperial policy. I think it would be a very grave matter indeed, and would have a very disastrous effect on our prestige throughout the East, if we were to adopt what I believe the noble Marquess the Deputy-Leader of the House has called a zig-zag policy on this question, still worse if the Government were to allow itself to be hustled into a total reversal of policy, which undoubtedly is a course which a strong section of opinion in this country, supported by a vigorous agitation in the Press, is trying to promote. That is one point of agreement between myself and the noble Lord—my conviction, equal to his conviction, of the Imperial importance of the question. But there is another point of agreement. He has expressed the hope that all the documents bearing on this question may be published. I must sincerely hope they may. It is not, perhaps, worth while discussing this, because, if the documents are published, that will settle the question between the noble Lord and myself, but I hold strongly that, if the documents were published, it would be proved that we had not broken faith with the Arabs, though the noble Lord holds that it would be proved that we had done so. With all the strength in my power I second the request of the noble Lord that, if it is by any means possible without serious injury to public interests in other respects, all the documents in these matters should be published.

My interest in the question of Palestine arises from the fact of my having paid two visits to that country, one shortly after my Mission to Egypt three years ago, and one last year. On the second occasion I was there for a considerable time, I must say that my own experience of what was going on there makes me feel a sense of absolute bewilderment when I read these extraordinarily pessimistic pictures of the effect of our policy in Palestine and the position of affairs there. When I was last there the Moslem and Christian agitation against the Zionist policy—which was supposed to be identical with the policy of His Majesty's Government—was in full swing. Wherever I went I was confronted with deputations got up by the association which works these things—deputations denouncing the Balfour Declaration, and advocating a reversal of the policy of His Majesty's Government in Palestine. To all those deputations I listened with respect, and from all of them I tried to elicit what were the grievances under which the Arab population was suffering, and what cases they were able to bring-forward in which the supposed pro-Jewish tendencies of the bureaucracy had led to injustice to the Arab. In no case except one—which the complainant himself stated had been rectified when it had been brought to the notice of the High Commissioner—was any alleged injustice established.

Another thing that struck me very much about these representations was that they were all identical, not only in substance, but in words. I listened to the very same speech half a dozen times in different parts of the country. That is not, to my mind, characteristic of a genuine agitation. It suggested to me very strongly the idea that these verbally identical speeches had been supplied to the different speakers from a common source. What I want particularly to impress upon your Lordships at the same time is that there was other evidence, as far as the country generally was concerned, of a state of quiet and tranquility, and I could not see any signs of that growing hostility to the Administration which, in the opinion of the noble Lord, is going to compel us to increase our forces in Palestine. If, in fact, the feeling of hostility to the Government is growing as strongly as he represents, it is very curious that it has been found possible continuously to reduce the garrison of Palestine.

One of the strongest arguments which I hear and one which is constantly used in this country now against the policy of the Government in Palestine, and even for our abandonment of that country, Is the enormous burden which it is supposed that this occupation in discharge of out-duty as Mandatory there is going to impose upon this country. One would naturally think that if things were going from bad to worse that burden would be a growing burden. What are the facts? Not only has the force in military occupation been enormously reduced, until now there is hardly any military occupation at all and the security of the country is almost entirely provided by the constabulary, but this great burden of expenditure on Palestine of which we hear so much is in steady course of reduction. The total cost of that country to the British taxpayer three years ago was £4,000,000, in the next year it was £2,500,000, in the present year it is £1,500,000, and there is every reason to suppose that in another year it will have fallen below the million. My personal conviction is that before long Palestine will cease to be a financial burden upon this country at all.

That is on the point of the grave consequences which it is supposed would result if His Majesty's Government were to pursue the policy which has hitherto been pursued. May I say a few words about the policy itself? I was a party to the Balfour Declaration. I do not believe that the Balfour Declaration is inconsistent with any pledges which have been given to King Hussein or to anybody else. It is my conviction that when all the documents are published it will be clearly established that in the promises which we made to King Hussein a distinct reservation was made of the country about which we are now speaking. Still, as I say, let that be decided by the documents themselves when they appear. At any rate, the Government which made the Balfour Declaration was under the impression that it was free to make it and that it was under no obligations inconsistent with it, and whether the policy of that Declaration is actually embodied in a legally valid Mandate or not to-day, it is quite certain that it has received on a number of occasions the express approval of other Powers, our Allies in the great war. Whether it is approved by popular opinion in those different countries I cannot say, but I think it, would be tonally impossible for the Government either of the United States, or of France, or of Daly to dissociate itself entirely from the policy of that Declaration. Personally, I believe the policy is a sound one and that, steadily persisted in, it will lead to good results.

But I am speaking of the policy of the Balfour Declaration as it has been interpreted by His Majesty's Government in the White Paper which was laid on the Table of this House last year and which has been, so far as I know, honourably and straightforwardly carried out by the Government in Palestine. I am not speaking of the policy which is advocated by the extreme Zionists, which is a totally different thing. Let me say that when I was in Palestine, as often as I was confronted with Arab eloquence denouncing British policy, it was never the declared policy of His Majesty's Government; it was never the policy of the White Paper; it was never the interpretation which we have put upon the Balfour Declaration which was attacked, nor was it anything that had been done which was attacked. It was always the interpretation which the speaker chose to place upon our policy. If was not what we had said was our policy but what he said was our policy which was attacked; and it was not anything which had been done but something that he asserted we were going to do.

What has been done, as a matter of fact? The noble Lord repeatedly used the expression: "The Zionist Government of Palestine." I do not know what that means, unless he is referring to the fact that there are a certain number of Jews, not. I believe, all of them Zionists, in the Administration. Certainly anyone would think from the tone of his speech, if not from anything that he actually said, that there was an anti-Arab and pro-Jewish bias in the Government of that country. I believe that this is not the case. There was one thing which I heard with great satisfaction when I was in Palestine and heard from all quarters there, even from the most extreme advocates of the Arab cause, and that was that the High Commissioner was scrupulously fair in holding the balance as between Arab and Jewish interests and, indeed, between all interests concerned in that country. I believe that the British Administration as conducted in Palestine to-day is free from the taint of any partisanship whatever, and I believe that we have only to go on steadily with the policy of the Balfour Declaration as we have ourselves interpreted if in order to see great material progress in Palestine and a gradual subsidence of the present agitation, the force of which it would be foolish to deny but which I believe to be largely due to artificial stimulus and, to a very great extent, to be excited from without.

The symptoms of any real and general dissatisfaction among the mass of the Arab population with the conditions under which they live, I think it would be very difficult to discover. And, indeed, why should they be dissatisfied with the, conditions under which they live? What possible injury has been inflicted upon the Arab population by the influx of the 20,000 or 25,000 Jews who have come in since the Peace? There is plenty of room in that country for a considerable immigrant population without injuring in any way the resident Arab population, and, indeed, in many ways it would tend to their extreme benefit. I venture to express the hope that His Majesty's Government will adhere to the policy which was adopted by their predecessors four years ago, the results of which have in many respects been highly satisfactory.

I can imagine few contrasts greater than the condition of Palestine as I saw it between three or four years ago and as I saw it last year. The progress made has been really extraordinary. You may say: "Well, that is only material progress, and in gaining the affections of the people you have made no progress at all." I very much doubt even that, but what I am certain of is that no country could make the material progress that Palestine has made in recent years if it was really convulsed by those feelings of deep political excitement and hostility to the Government which we are asked to believe do exist in Palestine to-day.

The last word I should like to say is this. I am, and always have been, a strong supporter of the pro-Arab policy which was first advocated in this country in the course of the war. I believe in the independence of the Arab countries, which they owe to us and which they can only maintain with our help. I look forward to an Arab Federation. I cannot imagine how any fair-minded Arab can fail to recognise either the sincerity of British policy with regard to his race, or the enormous advantages he has derived from British assistance, but if the Arabs go the length of claiming Palestine as one of their countries in the same sense as Mesopotamia or Arabia proper is an Arab country, then I think they are flying in the face of facts, of all history, of all tradition, and of associations of the most important character—I had almost said the most sacred character. Palestine can never be regarded as a country on the same footing as the other Arab countries. You cannot ignore all history and tradition in the matter. You cannot ignore the fact that this is the cradle, of two of the great religions of the world. It is a sacred land to the Arabs, but it is also a sacred land to the Jew and the Christian, and the future of Palestine cannot possibly be left to be determined by the temporary impressions and feelings of the Arab majority in the country of the present day.

There are about 700,000 people in Palestine, and there is room for several millions. There is something far more important than the present population of Palestine, and it is all that is involved in Palestine for millions and millions of the human race. I am convinced that the Arabs will make a great mistake, and I believe the Arabs with the best political brains are perfectly well aware that they do make a great and fatal mistake, in claiming Palestine as part of the Arab Federation in the same sense as are the other countries of the Near East which are mainly inhabited by Arabs. My firm conviction is that you cannot have either an Arab Government in Palestine or a Jewish Government in Palestine, but that you must have in that country some neutral Power which will keep the balance between the different races, and which, without allowing any injury to be inflicted on the Arabs, will allow the Jews also to settle in the vacant spaces of their ancient home as long as they provide, as they are willing to provide, the means of developing those districts, and enabling them to support an adequate new incoming population. You must always have regard for the great Christian interests of Palestine, interests not, confined to the Christian population of the country, but which affect the Christianity of the whole world. To hold the balance even between these various interests—to administer fairly what is, in a sense, and must always remain, not an Arab country or a Jewish country, but, if I may use the word, an international country in which all the world has a special interest—I think some Mandatory Power will always be required.

It is a high trust which has been committed to this country, and it is a matter of honour, I think, for us to discharge it in such a way as will make the world recognise that that trust has been well placed. I think we have only to go on (steadily disregarding the present agitation) with the policy of establishing not a Jewish Government of Palestine but a Jewish Home there which will receive as many Jews as the country can reasonably support while at the same time taking care, as we have, I believe, taken care, that the interests of the Arab population do not suffer—we have only to go on steadily in the policy which has already been laid down, and I think it will not be many years before Palestine, instead of being, as we are told it is going to be, a great burden to this country, will become a source of strength and credit to us.


My Lords, before I deal with the more general topics which have been raised in the course of the debate I will answer the specific Questions on the Paper. I should like, however, in the first place, to express, my appreciation of the speech to which we have just listened from the noble Viscount, who has considerably eased my task to-night. The first Question the noble Lord asks is whether the Budget accounts in Palestine during the past year can be laid before the House. After the debate on March 27 last I telegraphed to the High Commissioner and asked for the information. The Appropriation Account for the year in question is not yet available, but it will be laid on the Table as soon as it is received. The Appropriation Account for the year 1921–22 could be given if that would be any satisfaction to the noble Lord, and I shall be glad to lay it on the Table of the House or communicate with him privately. Then the noble Lord asks for a Report of the recent Elections. That Report was laid on the Table of the House on June 8 last and is now in the hands of your Lordships.

He also raises a question which has been frequently discussed—namely, the desirability of publishing the various correspondence and Papers dealing with the engagements and commitments of His Majesty's Government in Palestine. I informed your Lordships on the last occasion that I would consult with my colleagues and the Foreign Office as to whether it was possible to lay these Papers. I much regret to say that we have come to the conclusion, in addition to the reasons which I gave last March, that it is contrary to the public interest that these Papers should be laid, and I am unable to accede to the request of the noble Lord. The other part of his Question relates to the recent Elections and the failure of a large portion of the population of Palestine to take part. There has been a considerable degree of misapprehension on that subject. Under the Constitution which was framed last year arrangements were made for holding an Election on a plan which was well-known [...]o the inhabitants of Palestine— the plan of a secondary Election—and it was hoped that it might have enabled a Legislative Council to be elected which would have been of material assistance and value in the government of the country. However, for reasons which have been stated this evening, a large portion of the inhabitants of Palestine refused to take part in it. I regret that decision, and I think their action was unwise and unfortunate.

In consequence of the failure of the Election, efforts were made to obtain an advisory body which would act in that capacity to the Government of the country. A thoroughly representative body of Arabs agreed to serve, and the constitution of the council was largely extended from the original Advisory Council in order to secure a greater representation of all classes in the country. I regret that for various reasons it was represented to the Arab members that they would be subscribing to the Constitution which was originally proposed. That is a complete misconception, and I am afraid that, possibly for other purposes, efforts were brought to bear upon those who had originally agreed to serve in order to prevent them doing so and to make the government of the country a little more difficult.

It must be clear to your Lordships that even if the Arabs are unwilling and refuse to take part in the Constitution which has been framed, it is our duty as the Mandatory Power to continue the government of the country. Full provision is made for this in the Order in Council, and it is the intention of His Majesty's Government to give every support to the High Commissioner in carrying out the government according to the instructions in the Mandate. Later on, I hope that perhaps some of the prejudices which surround this question may be dissolved and that the people of Palestine will be ready to take an active part in the administration of their country.

May I refer for a few moments to some of the more general questions which have been raised during the course of the debate? I hope your Lordships will fully appreciate the position in which His Majesty's Government is placed to-day. We occasionally hear, even from responsible quarters, the Balfour Declaration discussed, criticised, possibly sometimes defended, as if it was something which we could cither take up or lay aside just to suit our own convenience. The noble Lord who introduced this Question to-night seemed to be under the same apprehension. At the risk of detaining your Lordships for a little time, I am afraid I must ask you to consider the position in which we find ourselves to-day as regards the Mandate. The Mandate is not merely a national obligation, it is an international obligation, and the Balfour Declaration was the basis on which we accepted from the principal Allied Powers the position of Mandatory Power in Palestine. The British Government accepted the position of Mandatory for Palestine from the principal Allied Powers at the San Remo Conference in April, 1920. In assigning the Mandate to Great Britain the Conference laid down that: The Mandatory Power will be responsible for putting into effect the Declaration originally made on November 2, 1917, by the British Government in favour of the establishment of a National Home for the Jewish people, subject to the conditions included in the Declaration itself. That was the Declaration and the policy confirmed by the Mandatory Powers.

We hold the trust not in the first instance from the League of Nations but from the Conference of the Allies. The next step was to obtain the approval of the League of Nations to the actual terms of the Mandate. A draft Mandate was submitted to the League of Nations in December, 1920, and a revised draft early in the following year. For various reasons the League of Nations did not find it possible to take the draft Mandate into consideration at once, but in October. 1921, the President of the Council of the League wrote on behalf of the League to the British Prime Minister, inviting His Majesty's Government to continue to carry on the administration of the territories committed to their charge in the spirit of the draft Mandate until such time as the position should have been definitely regularised. The next step was taken when a final decision was reached by the Council at their meeting in July, 1922. On that occasion the Council passed the following Resolution:— In view of the Declaration that has just been made and of the agreement reached between all the members of the Council, the Articles of the Mandates for Palestine and Syria are approved. The Mandates will enter into force automatically and at the same time as soon as the Governments of France and Italy have notified the President of the Council of the League of Nations that they have reached agreement upon certain particular points in regard to the latter of these Mandates. That is, in regard to Syria. So far as our Mandate in Palestine is concerned, we have the direct and full approval, in the first place of the Allies, and in the second place of the League of Nations.

When we talk, perhaps rather lightly, of altering our Mandate and reversing our policy, I ask your Lordships seriously to consider the position in which we should be placed. No doubt it would be possible for this Government, or any other Government, to go to the League of Nations and resign the Mandate. I am not familiar with the procedure, but I believe that such a step is provided for. Your Lordships must remember, however, that if we do that we lay down the whole of the Mandate. It is not possible for us to say that we wish to reserve certain portions of the Mandate and dispense with others. If we resigned that position of trust it would be for the League of Nations to determine what new arrangement should be put in force. It amounts, in fact, to this, that if we are compelled to admit the impossibility of carrying on the obligations placed upon us we shall have to retire altogether. That is a serious position, and I ask those who criticise our action, as they are fully entitled to do, and those who criticise the Balfour Declaration, to consider what steps they would take and what suggestion they have to make to the Government for replacing this arrangement. I know the position is not an easy one, but we should be taking a grave risk, not only in regard to Palestine but in regard to our relations with other Powers, if we resigned that trust, which has been deliberately placed upon us and which has been confirmed by the League of Nations.

I may leave that portion of the subject and refer for one moment to a point upon which I have already touched lightly, namely, the organisation and the means by which we propose to carry out that Mandate. Obviously, we must have a very wide discretion in our interpretation and in the methods by which we are going to discharge the obligations placed upon us. The late Government, I think very wisely, arrived at the conclusion that the most satisfactory method to adopt was to establish by successive stages various degrees of self-government. Your Lordships are aware, or can acquaint yourselves from Papers which have been published, what those proposals are. We never intended that this should be necessarily a final instalment of self-government. In fact, it was a first instalment, and we hoped, in accordance with the policy which has been pursued in many other parts of the world, that we could gradually extend the principle of self-government with a view ultimately to arriving at responsible government for that part of the world. The late Government adopted that policy, and we have done our best to carry it into effect. It was carried out under British auspices and by British administration, and I must say that I am completely mystified when I hear such observations as so freely-fell from the noble Lord who asked this Question when he referred to Zionist domination and Zionist bureaucracy.

What are the facts? If we look at the numbers—I quote from the Paper circulated on March 12 this year—we find that of the thirty-six persons at present holding the highest administrative posts in Palestine, thirty-three are Christians, and only three are Jews. Of the thirty-three Christians, two are Christians by religion but of Jewish extraction. But even if we add those two to the number of Jews, we shall have a proportion of only five Jews out of thirty-six officials.


Can the noble Duke tell us the posts which these five Jews occupy?


The thirty-six officials are holding the highest offices in the administration. Taking the total of officials of every kind, 680 posts were held by Jews, 630 by Mahomedans and 1,250 by Christians. Again I may mention that of the ten officials who it was suggested should be members of the Legislative Council, eight were Christians and two were Jews. I think, therefore, that when we hear this easy flow of language regarding Jewish domination and Jewish bureaucracy, I have some claim to say that we have to look at facts as they are.

May I trouble your Lordships with two quotations from the White Paper published in June last year? The first is this: It is also necessary to point out that the Zionist Commission in Palestine, now termed the Palestine Zionist Executive, has not desired to possess, and does not possess, any share in the general administration of the country. Nor does the special position assigned to the Zionist Organisation in Article IV of the Draft Mandate for Palestine imply any such functions. That special position relates to the measures to be taken in Palestine affecting the Jewish population and contemplates that the Organisation may assist in the general development of the country, but does not entitle it to share in any degree in its Government. Again:— When it is asked what is meant by the development of the Jewish National Home in Palestine, it may be answered that it is not the imposition of a Jewish nationality upon the inhabitants of Palestine as a whole, but the further development of the existing Jewish community, with the assistance of Jews in other parts of the world, in order that it may become a centre in which the Jewish people as a whole may take, on grounds of religion and race, an interest and a pride. But in order that this community should have the best prospect of free development and provide a full opportunity for the Jewish people to display its capacities, it is essential that it should know that it is in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance. Again and again it has been stated that the intention from the beginning has been to make a National Home for the Jews, but every provision has been made to prevent it from becoming in any sense of the word a Jewish State or a State under Jewish domination.

We hear of criticisms that can be directed against it, but I venture to say that when we get away from vague generalities we have had no case brought to our notice of anything like oppression or domination exercised by the Jews.


Can the noble Duke give us specifically the five offices occupied by Jews?


I am afraid that I cannot at the moment. Well, my Lords, we certainly realise that a heavy responsibility is placed upon us, but I need hardly inform you that we watch with the greatest care and anxiety the position in Palestine. The High Commissioner arrived in London last night. I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing him, but I hope thoroughly to discu6s the situation in all its bearings, and I hope, if I may venture to address an appeal to those who have taken an active part in this question, that they will use their influence—I believe it will be in their best interests—to urge their friends in Palestine to act in a constitutional manner, and to avail themselves of those opportunities of taking their share in the development of the country. What Palestine needs to-day is a period of quiet development, and I am quite, sure that the enthusiastic account which Lord Milner was able to give us, from personal knowledge and personal experience, will be amply justified. I am informed that the five Jews mentioned by Lord Islington are the High Commissioner, the Attorney-General, the Director of Commerce, and one or two other of the District Officers. I hope I have been able to satisfy your Lordships that the policy which we are carrying on is strictly in accordance with the Mandate which has been placed upon us, and that we are endeavouring to discharge those functions to the best advantage not of any one section of the community in Palestine but of all sections in that country.


My Lords, I will not attempt at this late hour to traverse the whole field opened up by the speeches to which we have listened. I would only reinforce one or two points which I have made before. One of the points raised by Lord Milner, who made such an interesting contribution to the debate, was with regard to the publication of Papers. I can quite understand that there may be Papers which cannot be published in their entirety. In time of war there are things said or done relating to purely strategic matters, or owing to the exigencies of war, which but for those exigencies would not have been said or done, and which after the war is over have no consequences at all, and which had better not be published after the war is over, because they would only revive memories that had better be allowed to die out. I fully understand that the Papers may not be published in their entirety, but when things have been said during the war which really do impose obligations upon us in time of peace, after the war is over, I think it is a great pity that it should be found impossible not to take out of the Papers which exist anything which really is regarded or can be regarded as a pledge, in order that we may judge how the matter stands.

The noble Viscount, Lord Milner, in his speech, said he did not believe there were any conflicting pledges. It is part of the case of the other side that the pledges do conflict, and they publish passages which they say are authentic. You can only decide that question by the publication of the actual documents themselves, and I would like to see an end put to this controversy as regards conflicting pledges by the publication of such Papers as it is possible to publish. Now I must say that the situation in Palestine, as far as we know it, has about it some elements which entirely justify Lord Islington in bringing the matter before your Lordships. Of course, if what Lord Milner said turns out to be true in the future, we shall be only too glad. We want to see this thing disappear. But we have to set against the favourable forecast which Lord Milner gave us, very confidently and very rightly if he feels confident, the solid fact that we have tried to get people representing over 90 per cent. of the population of this country to take some share in the government, and so far they have absolutely refused. It is a solid fact which the noble Duke admitted and which he deplored.

That really does give rise to great apprehension. I understand that at present—I think it is admitted—the Arab in Palestine is not anti-British in feeling. Therefore we have not yet reached that point when we have to deal with irreconcilable people; but I am sure that if things do drift and become worse, and if instead of the hope's of Lord Milner being realised the fears and apprehensions of Lord Islington are justified, and His Majesty's Government finds itself face to face with the necessity of using force and spending money on a considerable scale to fulfil the obligations we have undertaken in Palestine, there will be something which will fall not far short of Consternation in this country. It is not my business to deprecate a change of Government, but if things do develop in the way in which Lord Islington fears they may develop, I think His Majesty's Government might find itself in such difficulty, and face to face with things so disagreeable to this country, that its position might be shaken. It there is to be a change of Government, I should very much regret to see it brought about in that way by external trouble.

I cannot say that I feel easy in my mind as to the future. We have had hopes held out to us before that things would get better, but so far as we can judge from overt action of the Arab population they seem to get more irreconcilable. Although I think there is certainly some force in the statement made that a certain amount of this feeling is encouraged and fomented from outside, we have to bear in mind that, so long as the feeling is there, if it leads to untoward results the results will be the same whether they are fomented from outside or spontaneous from within.

The situation is, I agree, as everybody has said, really a very difficult one. I welcome the latter part of the speech of the noble Duke, in which he pointed out that there had been some misapprehension as to what the Zionist policy meant. I have had some experience of that since I last spoke in this House. I have been bombarded with various documents, coming from the organisations which put forward the Arab case, continually referring to Zionist policy, and saying how impossible it is ever to reconcile the Arabs to Zionist policy. But those documents do not define what the Zionist policy is. It is becoming a phrase, which is evidently used by people who are so accustomed to using it that they feel quite sure what they mean by it, and that, what they mean by it is the same thing as that which the Government mean by it. On the other hand, I have had represented to me from the other side, from a source at any rate not unfavourable to the Zionist movement, that when I spoke in this House and said that Zionist policy meant a Zionist Government, it was not in accordance with the facts; that the pledges which have been given by the Government of this country with regard to Zionism do not mean or imply a Zionist Government of the district; and that it, is a misunderstanding to say that the aim of the policy now pursued by His Majesty's Government is to establish a Jewish Administration or to expropriate Arabs from their land. That last thing I should have hoped was not believed anywhere. I should have thought there was no question in any way of ousting the Arabs.

But that has suggested to me this. There is no getting past the fact that the Balfour Declaration was made, and also that it was received with a good deal of sympathy, by myself among others, at the time when it was made. Now we are in great difficulties with regard to that pledge, and the problem really is how can the Balfour Declaration be reconciled with itself; that is to say, how can you reconcile the Zionist policy of the Balfour Declaration with doing no prejudice to the religious or civil rights of the population of the country. That is the real problem. It is quite easy with regard to religious rights, because, whatever Government there is, I suppose nobody contemplates that there would be any prejudice to those. But civil rights are a very different matter. If this Zionist policy is to mean a Zionist Government it means a predominantly Zionist element in the Government, when over 90 per cent. of the population is really Arab. That is really not consistent with the civil rights.

What I would urge is that the noble Duke opposite should take advantage of the presence of Sir Herbert Samuel, the High Commissioner, in this country to confer with him on this subject. I have never attacked Sir Herbert Samuel's actual acts of administration; I do not know that they have been attacked, even from the Arab side, or that he has been accused of unfairness or oppression. But that is not the only question. We must not drift into the position of saying to the Arabs who refuse to take part in the government of the country: "You have got a very good Government, but you are a very unreasonable people." That is the sort of argument that we have used before with regard to some other cases. It is always satisfactory to the people who use it, but it never has the least effect upon the people who are discontented with the Government. It is not mere acts of government, it is the question of their own share in the Government, and the spirit of it, that matters.

If, while Sir Herbert Samuel is here, the noble Duke, in conference with him, could really work out some more definite plan in the sense of not implying Zionist Government of the district, or Jewish administration, while yet preserving what, I think, everybody would like to see preserved for the Jews—an opportunity of founding their own University, for instance, of founding their own home of Jewish culture inside a State which is mainly Arab—if the noble Duke can work out with Sir Herbert Samuel some clearer view of the policy, which will show how Zionist policy can be interpreted in such a way as to bring it more into harmony with the civil rights of the people than they believe at present to be possible, I hope the opportunity of making some step in that direction will be used. I really feel that, unless it can be proved, to the satisfaction of the leading Arabs, that the Zionist policy does provide for the Arab population, the vast majority of the inhabitants of the country, an opportunity to take a real share in the Government, and that the spirit of the Government will not be predominantly something which is not Arab—unless that can be done, I do fear that there will be serious trouble in the future.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes before eight o'clock.