§ LORD SNELL had given Notice that he would ask His Majesty's Government what is their intention in regard to the proposed Legislative Council for Palestine; whether they have fully considered the widespread objections which have been raised to the inauguration of such a Council; and whether they will consider the advisability of deferring the proposal until greater experience of local government in Palestine has been obtained; and move for Papers.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion which stands in my name upon the Order Paper is not put there to embarrass in any way His Majesty's Government in the prosecution of a difficult task. Still less is it designed to prejudice the legitimate interests of the Arab peoples. The Labour Party, and, indeed, the whole of the nation, have the welfare and well-being of the Arab peoples very close at heart, and I have myself made proposals at an earlier time for an increase in friendly contacts between the Arab and the Jewish peoples. Fate has thrown these two peoples together on soil which is very dear to them both, and it would be a great privilege to any of us, in any Party, to be able to bring an understanding peace to a laud which is precious to Jew and to Christian, and to the Mahomedan people. It is therefore in the interests of that larger peace that I ask your Lordships' attention to the problem as stated upon the Order Paper, and I wish very seriously to ask the Government to reconsider proposals which have been made which, if carried into effect, would in my judgment, and in the judgment of those whose information I think is accurate, arrest the friendly growth between the two peoples in Palestine, would exacerbate racial feeling and almost certainly deprive this country of the friendship of a great people scattered throughout the world, and might even endanger the defence of Palestine itself.
§ This is a time when the attention of the nation is being given to the great question of national defence, and we can- 751 not help in that connection remembering that the Jews in Palestine have been able to provide a guarantee of safety for our Air Force there which could not be obtained in Iraq, and I think it is not at all an impossible thing that in the near future, granted peaceful conditions in Palestine, there should be a voluntary Jewish Defence Force in that area. With these things in our mind I want very seriously to ask the Government why they have chosen this particular time, with all these possibilities before us, when a peaceful bi-racial outlook is being created, to propose to rekindle the slumbering embers of racial passion and distrust by the inopportune, unrequired, and undesired imposition upon Palestine of a Legislative Council, which nobody at the present time very much wants. It is not in the interests of the country that it should be created now, nor is it necessary to ensure the smooth and efficient working of the Palestine administration.
A day or two ago I received a cablegram from Palestine, from a trained observer of many years experience, who has had some service as a member in another place. He said:
After nearly two months careful personal inquiry among all classes, including professional, industrial and agricultural, over a wide area here, am able to assure you that the terms of your Notice of Motion, as reported in the Palestine Post of February 18, urging deferring of proposals for Legislative Council, have unanimous support of Jews and Arabs. Government agreement to defer proposal will give greatest possible satisfaction and relieve deep and widespread anxiety, and avoid growing hostility.
The attitude of the Government is, I think, quite comprehensible. The Government position is that the development of Colonial legislative institutions should be on the lines of our long Colonial traditions. The Government have been perfectly consistent about that point of view. They proposed such a Council in 1922, when it was refused by the Arabs. Now they propose it in 1936, when the Jews on their part object. There is no established demand for it, and it is a purely administrative proposal. The idea is based, one assumes, on the responsibility of the Mandatory Power for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home, as laid down in
the Preamble of the Mandate, and the development of self-government institutions.
Note the words "the development of self-government institutions." As I understand the word "development," it means to develop something from a beginning and the natural basis for the development of self-government in Palestine is to enable the inhabitants to obtain practical experience of administration in the business of government. That is the justification for it. But there is nothing urgent or imperative about the instruction. Article 3 of the Mandate says:
The Mandatory shall, so far as circumstances permit, encourage local autonomy.''
It is a matter of very grave doubt whether the Palestinian Government have done all that the Mandate requires in regard to the fostering of local govern-merit in Palestine, and their record in this respect has not been accepted without serious question more than once by the Permanent Mandates Commission. The failure of the Palestinian Government to establish local government in Palestine is not due to racial disputes, to difficulties between the two peoples, because the failure is most obvious and most acutely felt in districts which are either wholly or predominantly Arab. If the Arabs are not ready for local government in areas in which they more or less predominate, why is it that the Government propose to impose upon them the responsibility for central government, which is a much more difficult matter'? Why place them in the position, through inexperience or lack of understanding or whatever it may be, to arrest development in Palestine?
§ The record of the Government in regard to the suffrage in Palestine requires some explanation. There is equal failure in that respect. There has been practically no progress since the time of the Ottoman Government. It is true we maintained the twenty-two municipalities that then existed, but at first councillors were appointed instead of being elected. In 1927 the Municipal Franchise Ordinance came into operation. The same electoral qualifications were preserved as under Turkish rule, except that the right to vote was extended to property owners who paid £1 annually in municipal rates, and those who were candidates had to pay £2. In actual practice the franchise 753 has been reduced rather than extended. In 1927, for example, the electoral district of Jerusalem had a total electorate of 2,732, but in 1934 the same district had only an electorate of 1,974. Thus in the district of Jerusalem, excluding Jerusalem itself, only one-sixth of the population were entitled to vote in 1927, but in 1934 even this number, in spite of an increase in population, had been reduced by a further 28 per cent. The same applies to other districts. Nothing or very little has been done for the development of self-governing institutions. In the whole of the southern district only one Arab village is governed by a local council, although there are at least fifteen Arab villages with a population varying from 1,700 to 3,600.
§ So that, summarising that criticism, we have this position: Firstly, that the zeal of the Government for the extension of sell-government has not manifested itself in areas where they already have the power the promote it. Secondly, in those areas where local government does exist it is of so restricted a character, owing to the regulations, as to deprive people who live in those areas of real experience in the art of government. Thirdly, we make the criticism that the numbers enabled to participate in such local government as there is are very low, and that point should be immediately considered. If the Legislative Council is desired, it should be preceded by some training in the art of self-government, such training being given through the development of local councils before a Legislative Council is attempted. There is a field which could be cultivated with great benefit to both peoples and to the country as a whole without any danger.
Now I want to say a few words about the implications of the Mandate in this respect. We must always remember that the main obligation of the Mandate is not to enforce self-governing institutions, but a quite definite, specific purpose: it is the establishment of a Jewish National Home. That is the very purpose of the Mandate itself. It is not something supplementary to other duties; it is the very raison d'être of the Mandate itself. It was proclaimed before the enactment of the Mandate, even before the occupation of the country itself. Therefore it is not open to us, I submit, to say that the conditions of the Mandate are irksome to us. The fact is that
we accepted them, and the terms were of our drafting. We knew exactly what we were doing. We assumed, with full knowledge of what was required of us on behalf of the civilised world, a specific duty, and that duty was the placing of the country under such political, administrative, and economic conditions as would secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home, as laid down in the Preamble. The Preamble of the Mandate says:
Whereas recognition has been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstructing their National Home in that country…
and then proceeds to describe the conditions under which it should be done.
I submit that we are bound by our obligations, solemnly undertaken, so to administer Palestine that the main purpose of the Mandate may be achieved, to create within the framework of the Mandate a new society for a national group which is represented in Palestine by only a few of its members. That was admitted by the Prime Minister in his famous letter to Dr. Weizmann in February, 1931, when he said:
The undertaking of the Mandate is an undertaking to the Jewish people, and not only to the Jewish people in Palestine.
At an earlier period than that the High Commissioner in Palestine, in 1921, said:
The words 'National Home' mean that the Jews, who are a people scattered throughout the world but whose hearts are always turned to Palestine, should be enabled to found here their home and that some amongst them, within the limits fixed by numbers and the interests of the present population, should come to Palestine in order to help by their resources and efforts to develop the country to the advantage of all its inhabitants.
Therefore I submit that the purpose of the Mandate is not only specific, but that we have over and over again acknowledged its binding quality upon us. As I understand it, the Mandate envisages the continuous development of Palestine, and therefore any constitutional change which will delay or thwart or deflect that development is contrary to the spirit of the Mandate. The time will come, and I hope it will not be too long delayed, when self-government in Palestine will be completed with a Council such as is suggested, but that is not to say that it should be established now before experience of local government has been obtained and at a
time when its chief effect would be to hamper and frustrate the very purpose of the Mandate itself.
§ Passing to another aspect, I just wish to say this before closing. The present administration has been very successful within certain defined limits. It has fostered economic progress to an extent which is unparalleled in any country in the time in which we are living, and since 1929, at least, it has given the country progressive order and peace. The present High Commissioner has won the good will, the trust, and the deep affection of both peoples in Palestine. The Arab peoples increasingly, I think, realise the economic and social advantages of the great experiment that is there being tried, and more and more are they associating with their Jewish fellow-workmen through trade unions, co-operative societies, and so on.
§ In face of all these possibilities, why do the Government want to spoil everything at this time? The way seems to me to be open to the English people to provide an historic, splendid illustration in the great art of nation-building, an illustration of great historical significance such as I think the world has not seen. This experiment already has the support of Jews throughout the world and the selfless devotion of the Jews who are already in Palestine. Jews with a very great responsibility to their race upon them fear, if this Council is passed, certain definite results. They fear a reduction in Jewish status, that in future they will not be able to go to Palestine as of right but only on the sufferance of a hostile majority existing in the country. They would be in a permanent minority. Their development would be thwarted. The officials who would be on the Legislative Council would find themselves continuously embarrassed. They would have to subscribe over and over again to the demands of the majority in order to get other portions of their administrative work through, and I think that Jewish experience of the officials in Palestine has not been such as to arouse their enthusiastic expectation that their interests would be fully protected. Every measure introduced before the Council would be represented as injurious to racial interests, and there would be a continuous racial trouble which the Government would over and over again have to try and settle, bringing themselves into disrepute or unpopularity.756
§ Then there is the question of the position of the Jewish Agency, which would become ineffectual or would be ignored. I need not go into the special position which the Jewish Agency holds under the Mandate. That is within your Lordships' knowledge, but it does have a special place given to it for advising and cooperating with the Government in these great issues. Can the Government say that in this the greatest of all issues at the present time the Jewish Agency has either advised or co-operated in what it is proposed to do? The anxiety of Jews throughout the world on this matter is very grave and urgent. They fear that all the effort, love, devotion, and social idealism which they have poured into that historic land will be continuously frustrated. The declarations of Arab leaders give them a certain reason to fear in that matter, and so I want to ask whether the time is well chosen, whether it is worth while to jeopardise all that has been done by introducing this new possibility of discord into the minds of the Jewish and Arab peoples, to arrest the growing good will which I believe is taking place. I only wish to say that if it is done—and I hope the Government may see their way to postpone it—it should be preceded by a very solemn and authoritative undertaking that the provisions of the Mandate will be accepted by the Arab and Jewish peoples.
§ So I plead for delay. Let there be a ten years' plan for the development of local government in Palestine. Let the franchise be extended. Let there be an increase in the number of local councils in rural areas and an increase of municipal councils in urban areas. Let such as exist have extended powers. Then, at the end of that period, when the natural foundations and the walls of the structure of local government have been laid and built, let the Government, out of the experience that has been gained and the good will which will have been developed, put the roof on the edifice in the shape of an agreed and well-devised Legislative Council. Meanwhile I plead again that the Government should think twice and thrice before they throw unnecessarily this new instrument of discord into the land which, above all others, is entitled to peace and progress. I beg to move for Papers.757
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, I am very glad the noble Lord who leads the Opposition has brought this matter to the notice of your Lordships, because it is a very important subject, a much more important subject than the attendance in your Lordships' House this afternoon would lead anyone to suppose, and it certainly deserves ventilation. I do not propose to follow the noble Lord into a detailed discussion of the proposals for a Legislative Council in Palestine. My interests in that country are mainly industrial and commercial and not political. I hold no brief for either the Jews or the Arabs, though I have great sympathy with both of them. But I confess that the largest measure of my sympathy is reserved for the unfortunate person who fills the post of High Commissioner in Palestine and whose duty and obligation it is to look after the interests of both these peoples. I have said in a previous debate in your Lordships' House that the High Commissioner of Palestine was placed in the unenviable position of never being able to please anybody; but, however unenviable and difficult, his position may be, the present occupant of that post certainly possesses all the qualities necessary to make a success of it. He has no prejudices; he is the soul of tact; he has great personal charm; and everybody who has come into contact with him acknowledges his intense sincerity. Whatever criticisms, therefore, may be raised against the policy which it is his duty to carry out, for Sir Arthur Wauchope himself everyone in Palestine feels not only respect but real affection, and he has obtained that remarkable position largely, I think, owing to the fact that he is pre-eminently a soldier and not a politician, a very high-principled soldier.
Politics is the curse of Palestine, not perhaps of Palestine alone; and I am convinced that if only a few political agitators could be eliminated that country would rapidly become not merely the most prosperous, which it already is in spite of the politicians, but the most contented country in the world. Then you would be able to establish real self-government of the kind foreshadowed in the Mandate and in conditions which would be acceptable to all classes of the population. But I think that to establish sham self-government prematurely, and 758 in a form which cannot commend itself to any section of the population, is a very dangerous experiment. I agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken that the proposals which form the subject of his Motion have some of those characteristics. No one can say they are really democratic. Having created a Legislative Council on the basis of adult suffrage, it will be allowed, I understand, to discuss a grievance which it will never be in its power to remove, and I agree with Lord Snell that such a proposal is not calculated to improve the relations between the two communities in Palestine but rather still further to embitter them.
It is impossible to discuss these proposals without taking into consideration the conditions in which they have been made. First of all we have to remember the conditions of the Mandate itself, by which the administration in Palestine is governed and by which His Majesty's Government itself is governed. The difficulties of the problem are inherent in the Mandate itself, because some of its clauses are very difficult to reconcile with others. I thought the noble Lord who spoke last seemed to suggest that the main, if not the only, purpose of the Mandate, was to establish a National Home for the Jews, but any one who reads the Mandate will see that there are other obligations. The Mandate contains, in fact, a four-fold obligation.
There is first of all the general obligation, which is inherent in all Mandates, to administer the country as a sacred trust in the interests of all the inhabitants. Then there is the specific obligation to which Lord Snell referred, contained both in the Preamble and in' Articles 2 and 6, to facilitate the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jews. This necessitates a gradual and controlled but nevertheless a continuous migration of Jews from other countries, and this obligation at once creates a difficulty in carrying out the first overriding obligation of the Mandate to administer the country in the interests of all the population. This obligation, I say, is a difficulty because the majority of the population is bitterly hostile to this Jewish immigration, and this hostility is strengthened by the third obligation of the Mandate, which is to safeguard the interests and welfare of the Arab population. But all this is old 759 history, and I have no wish to dwell to-day upon the difficulty of reconciling various clauses of the Mandate because, as Lord Snell quite rightly said, the conditions were known to us when we accepted the Mandate. We drafted it and we undertook to accept the Mandate with a full knowledge of the conditions and difficulties inherent in it. I am bound to say that both His Majesty's Government and the Government of Palestine have done their best in the intervening years to reconcile these conflicting obligations and to administer the country in the interests both of Arabs and of Jews.
But there is a fourth obligation which is strictly relevant to the subject which we are discussing this afternoon—namely, to establish self-governing institutions. That obligation has never yet been fulfilled. The Arab leaders have constantly reminded the High Commissioner of this omission. I know that it is very much upon his conscience, and I certainly honour him for wishing to remove this reproach. But in justice to his predecessors it must be admitted that they have all had this wish. They have all realised this obligation and wished to carry it out, but there has been a very adequate reason why it has been impossible hitherto to fulfil this fourth obligation of the Mandate. That is that self-government in Palestine could only mean procuring the co-operation of the inhabitants through their elected representatives in administering the country under the terms of the Mandate. That presupposes acceptance of those terms. That is just what the Arabs in Palestine have never been willing to do. On the contrary, they have made no concealment of the fact that some of the terms of the Mandate are repugnant to them. They are bitterly hostile to them, and therefore their co-operation in working the Mandate has never been secured.
Now, my Lords, that obstacle still remains. Nothing has happened in recent years to change it, unless, perhaps, it be the faith of the present High Commissioner and the good will with which he has surrounded himself. In those circumstances there are only two alternatives open to the Government. One is to establish a Legislative Council and to withhold from it the power to discuss the subject of Jewish immigration, since 760 by the terms of the Mandate they cannot alter that fact. The other is to wait until such time as the benefits of this policy have become more generally recognised by the inhabitants. As the Arab leaders refused the first alternative, former Governments in Palestine have thought it wise to adopt the second. The present High Commissioner thinks the time has come to make another attempt to fulfil this obligation of the Mandate, and he may be right. As I say, I honour him for wishing to do this. He may be right in thinking it can be done, but if so I am convinced that the details of the proposed constitutional change should receive very careful consideration before they are adopted by His Majesty's Government. I venture to suggest to the Government that if they agree with the High Commissioner, the wisest course would be to send to Palestine a Royal Commission composed of men of knowledge and experience in constitutional procedure within the Empire, to take evidence on the spot and to report on the best way of developing self-government in the conditions that at present prevail in Palestine.
That was the procedure we adopted in India. When we wished to develop self-governing institutions there we began by appointing a Commission to consider all the local conditions and to report on the form of self-government which could be applicable to them. And it has the great advantage that it would enable the Government to ascertain public opinion both in this country and in Palestine before they announced their own policy. I submit that that procedure would be fairer both to the High Commissioner and to His Majesty's Government. I have said that the High Commissioner owes much of his popularity to the fact that he is a high principled soldier, but ability to frame a Constitution for a country is not one of the qualifications of a soldier. It is impossible at the present time to discuss these proposals, because if we criticise them it is impossible to criticise them without at the same time seeming to criticise the High Commissioner, which no one wishes to do. Indeed it is impossible to criticise them without at the same time criticising His Majesty's Government, which some people at least do not want to do. The noble Lord, Lord Snell, has pointed out some of the defects of these proposals, and I 761 have never found that he is under any reluctance to criticise His Majesty's Government. One would not expect such reluctance from him. But that is not the case with those who usually support the Government and who would feel much freer in discussing the merits of a Constitution for Palestine if the proposals came in the first instance from a non-official source.
It is a very difficult problem, and I submit that there is real need for the fullest examination of it by people who have knowledge and experience of constitutional matters. As I have said, there is very good precedent fur such a procedure, and I sincerely hope the Government have not gone too far to consider this suggestion. I am not putting it, forward with a view to blocking or to stopping the development of self-government in Palestine; on the contrary, I make the suggestion with a view to promoting that development. If the Government were to appoint a Commission it would be evidence of their good faith, of their good intentions both to the League of Nations, from whom they received the Mandate, and to the people of Palestine. Of course it would involve some delay—I admit that—but I think the time would be well spent if the result of such delay were the establishment of a farm of self-government which all the communities in Palestine could accept, and which would have the effect of diminishing rather than of increasing controversy in that country. I have intervened early in this debate in order that subsequent speakers may be able to express their opinions upon the suggestion I have put forward, and also in the hope that His Majesty's Government may give us an assurance that they will give to this suggestion their favourable consideration.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
My Lords, it is with some hesitation that I address your Lordships on this subject because my knowledge of Palestine is of the most slender description, but I have been engaged for a good many years of my life in the problem of Constitution making, partly in the Dominions and partly in relation to India. When I bring some of that experience to bear upon the proposals which have been put forward for creating a Legislative Council in Palestine, I must confess that the proposals fill me with a great deal of alarm. 762 I do not propose to-day to say anything about the merits or demerits of the great policy of the Mandate itself. I have always been a whole-hearted sympathiser with the Balfour Declaration, ever since I had some conversation with the late noble Earl and read the eloquent speeches with which he commended it to this country, because I feel that civilisation does owe some redress to a people which for nearly two thousand years has been without a home, to a people which, wherever it is, is in a perpetual minority, and a people whose sufferings are so forcibly brought home to everybody by what is going on in Europe to-day. I think it is a noble policy and one which history will come to commend. But nobody can fail to realise that in adopting it we are putting a very great strain on the Arab population, and it is incumbent upon everybody in this House to consider their difficulties and their anxieties with the greatest sympathy and try to meet them.
My little experience of Palestine was gained in not much more than a few hours which I spent there, but I drew from that experience one very vivid impression, and that was the extraordinary transforming effect of life in Palestine on the Jewish youth in that country. I felt what I so often felt when I lived in South Africa: that the healing of racial and political differences based on differences in creed and culture must spring from the youth of the country, and that, just as in South Africa you are now getting an Afrikander nationality, so in due time you will have a true Palestinian nationality which will gain the allegiance both of the Jewish and the Arab populations. But when I come to look at the proposals of the Council, they fill me with alarm. My understanding of the institutions of self-government with which this country has been particularly associated, and especially of the system of responsible government, is that they depend for their success wholly on there being a real sense of community in the countries to which they are applied. Nobody can study, as I have had to study, the history of the constitutional problems of India without realising that the attempt to apply responsible government in a country in which racial and religious difficulties are extremely acute is a very dangerous experiment, because the system of respon- 763 sible government itself inflames and exaggerates all those differences.
My own personal conviction is that, whereas it has been inevitable that in India we should proceed, though it involve a contradiction of responsible government, along the lines of separate electorates and that we are bound to proceed on those lines because there is a long history behind them and because, in point of fact, conditions in India are very different from conditions in Palestine; yet it would be a fatal mistake, in any attempt to create representative institutions in Palestine, to build upon the principle of responsible government in that country to-day.
When I look at the proposals, I confess that they are not complete, and it is not very easy to understand all their implications, but are they meant to lay the foundation from which responsible government will naturally and inevitably grow, or are they not? It seems to me that they are, and that, if they are, we are introducing something which will inflame and exaggerate the differences and not heal them. That is a foundation on which we should not build yet. Until there is a sufficient community feeling between the Arab and the Jewish populations, until the principles of the Mandate are reasonably well accepted by both sides of the population, I do not think we ought to lay any foundation at all which can reasonably be called a system of responsible government.
On the other hand, I feel very deeply the obligation which lies upon the Mandatory Power to do something towards the development of what is called in the Mandate "self-governing institutions." As the last speaker said, I understand that the High Commissioner feels that very strongly himself, and feels that he is under some obligation or pledge towards the Arab population. I understand that there are sections of the community in Palestine, including the Arabs, who feel that some better system than now exists should be provided by which their views can find public expression. But is it necessary that we should proceed thither upon the lines of responsible government? In a great many countries, and for a great deal of our own history, we have proceeded on quite different lines: what may perhaps be 764 eventually distinguished as representative, as opposed to responsible, systems. India for a great many years rested on the durbar system, a system in which every section of the community had full access to the ruler; in which everybody could ventilate his grievances; in which reply could be made; in which there was an adequate degree of publicity, but in-which there was never a question of a majority deciding the issue. It seems to me that if we are going to proceed at all in Palestine, it ought to be on that sort of line, by which the various sections of the community can find some adequate means by which they can give public expression to their views but not basing the functioning of the Council on anything like a, majority vote; in which the final decision must be taken by the Governor or High Commissioner, with such advisers as he may choose to have, in the light of full publicity. But you should not introduce the full function of responsible government into a country where the conditions are not ready and are quite inappropriate for it at the present time.
Therefore I would very strongly support the views of the last speaker, that the Government should not proceed with the proposals in their present form. The whole question requires a great deal more consideration from the constitutional side. There is a great deal to be learnt from the experience of other countries in which parallel conditions exist, and in every one of which the system of responsible government has done more harm than good. By bringing those lessons to bear on this problem we might find a method by which some degree of representative institutions can be produced that will be fully compatible with the obligations of the Mandate, and may lead to a better relationship between the two communities and eventually to the success of what I regard as this great experiment.
§ LORD JESSEL
My Lords, I should like to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition upon his very temperate and statesmanlike speech. I do not want to inflict my views upon the House at any length, because they have been so well put by other speakers; but I should like to say that, as far as I know, not only do the Jews in Palestine disapprove very 765 strongly of this proposal but the Arabs themselves are not very keen upon it. Apart from that, representative Jewish bodies all over the world are not in favour of this proposal. There was recently an Anglo-Jewish Conference, held with the support and co-operation of that great body here in England, the Board of Deputies of British Jews. Representatives of the Zionists and the non-Zionists alike unanimously declared their solidarity with the view of opposing this proposal. As I have said, protests have also been made against that proposal by Jewish communities all over the world.
The noble Lord who leads the Opposition talked about local government and the dangers of going wrong in it. You have in London a very good example of the years it took to get local government right in London because you superimposed the London County Council on very inefficient foundations. I hope the Government are not going to make the same mistake with the Government of Palestine as happened here in this country and in London. The proposal of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, for a Royal Commission would be of the greatest benefit. It is necessary to refer to both parties and see what they really require. I remember Lord Balfour, at the time when we were both members of the House of Lords, talking about the so-called animosity between the Jews and Arabs. "All I know is," he said, "that in the gendarmerie there I have seen Jews and Arabs serve side by side in the same squadron without the slightest sign of hostility." I think the time will come when, with judicious management, there will be a better feeling between the two communities. After all, there is a good deal to be said on both sides. It is true that the Arabs are in a vast majority; that is to say, they are three-quarters of the population compared with a quarter composed of Jews. On the other hand, the Jewish population contribute not less than 65 or 70 per cent. of the revenue of the country. So that there is something to be said on both sides, as I have stated.
As regards this particular proposal—as your Lordships know there are fourteen Arabs, seven Jews and seven representatives of the Government with the Governor or High Commissioner presiding—you might possibly get a similar 766 position to that found in Cyprus, with reference to which Colonel Wedgwood write to The Times in these terms:We had just that 'rule' in Cyprus; for fifty years we ruled on the Governor's casting vote; and it only ended when the Christians stormed Government House and the Constitution went up in the flames.We do not want that sort of thing going on in this part of the world, which is important not only to this country but to the Jewish people all over the world. I hope, therefore, either that the Government will accept the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition, or, if they do not feel disposed to do that, will adopt the suggestion of Lord Lytton for a Royal Commission to look into the whole subject.
My Lords, I do not think any noble Lord need excuse himself for taking part in this debate to-day, because this is a matter which may have its repercussions not only in Palestine but throughout the world. We are greatly indebted to Lord Snell for having put this Motion on the Paper, and for having introduced it in the way he has to the notice of His Majesty's Government. Like other noble Lords who have spoken, I secured a copy of the Mandate under which Palestine has been placed in our care, and there is no doubt that, as Lord Snell has said, the essence of that Mandate is the establishment of a National Home for the Jews in Palestine. I do not for a moment depreciate in any way the other points that my noble friend Lord Lytton has raised, but I feel after reading this Mandate and referring to the Preamble and to Articles 2 and 3—I think Lord Lytton added Article 6 as well—that the question of the Jewish National Home is referred to in every one of them and with great insistence.
The other consequence (and this I take to be the second most important point in the Mandate) is that it demands fair play for all sections of the community. How has that obligation been carried out so far? I venture to submit that apart from a certain number of clashes, if I may put it in that way, the Government of Palestine has admirably held the balance of power between the two principal sections in the country. How has that been accomplished? It has been accomplished through what I might term 767 a form of benevolent autocracy. In other words, through the able and sympathetic administration of the High Commissioner of the time, and at the present moment of the High Commissioner to whom Lord Lytton has referred in such favourable and sympathetic terms. I have not the honour of the acquaintance of the present High Commissioner of Palestine, but I have no doubt that every word that Lord Snell and Lord Lytton have spoken with regard to him is absolutely true.
We have been told that the Arabs, who form the biggest section of the community, have been fundamentally opposed to the Mandate since its institution. They are more numerous and more firmly established in the country, and more vocal, and consequently, if one regards the form of the Council or Government now to be imposed, they have been able to make a greater impression on the Government there and on the Government here, in spite of the fact that, as Lord Jessel has just pointed out, the Jews on their side provide 65 per cent. of the revenue of the country. I do not contest the point that local autonomy should be encouraged in the country, but I would like to emphasise the words which appear in Article 3, where it says that the Mandatory Power, so far as circumstances permit, shall encourage local autonomy. The form of local autonomy proposed to-day is not a local autonomy which will encourage all sections of the community. It is a local autonomy which will, I might say, create Arab supremacy, and I believe, looking at this Mandate, that that is a form of autonomy which will not give a square deal to the Jews.
Why do I say this? I should like to emphasise just a little more the figures of the composition of the Legislative Council which were referred to by Lord Jessel. As he pointed out, on this Council there will be fourteen Arabs, seven Jews, two commercial representatives and five British officials. If one of those commercial representatives is an Arab, as probably he will be, that will give fifteen Arabs to thirteen other people. In other words, the Arabs on that Council will be in an absolute majority of two. It has been said, and the terms of the Council provide, that the High Commissioner will have the last 768 word on all questions that arise; but what does this do? The High Commissioner may have the last word, but it still remains a fact that the Jewish people on this Council will be placed in a permanent minority. They will all the time be overwhelmed by the numbers against them, and instead of being able to approach any subject from a detached point of view they will always feel that they have to struggle against the more numerous arguments which the very much larger number of Arabs who will sit upon this Council will be able to provide. I believe that the Government are not justified in placing the Jews in Palestine in that position, and that the Jews certainly deserve very much better treatment than that, especially for the manner in which they have supported the Government in all their measures and in every direction.
The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, has suggested that perhaps this question might be solved by the appointment of a Royal Commission. I always view Royal Commissions of this nature with the greatest suspicion; and, whilst sometimes they may be of value in finding a solution, I cast my mind back to two Royal Commissions which have not proved valuable, as we hoped they might do. I refer first of all to what is generally known as the Simon Commission, the Report of which was thrown overboard almost before the ink was dry on the paper. I should like to refer also to the Commission that went out to Ceylon some six or seven years ago, Lord Donoughmore's Commission. I happened to be in Ceylon for several weeks at that time, and I know that the actual findings of that Commission were not worked out in Ceylon, but were formulated very largely in this country after the return of the Commission, because of the difficulty that they found in arriving at a solution. The Constitution which was given to Ceylon as the result of that Commission, as I think most noble Lords will agree, has not proved very satisfactory.
I suggest to the Government that if they will not leave the matter alone until it is possible for the High Commissioner, or a High Commissioner, at some future date to make a recommendation which would be more practical than the recommendation that is being made to-day, we should use perhaps a form of Constitu- 769 tion which proved useful in connection with our Crown Colonies when we were trying to bring them out of the Governors' leading strings into a greater measure of responsibility. I would suggest for the consideration of the Government that it might be possible to set up a Legislative Council consisting of none but nominated members, and that there should be nominated by the Government on that Council, we will say, five Arabs, five Jews, and six officials. In that way it would be possible to secure at the commencement of this entry into self-government the very best material to be found in Palestine, and at least both races would know and feel that their interests were being directly represented to the Government by persons of their own race and persons in whom they would probably have great confidence. I would much prefer to see a measure of that kind introduced at once into Palestine than to see a Royal Commission go out, which would take evidence, stir things up, probably lead to all sorts of agitations and troubles and difficulties between the two races, and come back here, perhaps a year hence, plunging Palestine into a state of uncertainty as to what was going to happen, leaving almost certainly an interval of a year before the Commission's Report could be considered, and probably retarding and damaging the good work which has been done during the past few years in bringing the two races together.
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
My Lords, there has been this afternoon a most marked and striking consensus of opinion among those of your Lordships who have preceded me, and I have no intention of disturbing that unanimity, because I fully share the anxieties which have been already expressed. This is fortunately one of the occasions, far more numerous in your Lordships' House than in another place, when debate can rise above Party politics, but I do think it is worthy of notice that this Motion should have been introduced to-day by the noble Lord the Leader of the Socialist Opposition, a Party which usually has what I may perhaps be pardoned for describing as a pathetic belief in the value of representative institutions. These anxieties are evidently common to people of all Parties, and I submit to your Lordships that, whether we think the original Balfour Declaration a good 770 thing or not, we are all bound to realise that the honour of this country is involved and that we have pledged ourselves to do our utmost to make Palestine a National Home for the Jews.
In accepting these premises one need not, I think, be accused in any way of being pro-Jew or anti-Arab, but I suggest that it is not necessary, in order to implement the first three conditions of the Mandate, that the fourth should be brought into operation long before a great many people think that the country is ready for its application. There seems to be little enthusiasm even among the Arabs for this proposed Legislative Council, and absolutely none among the Jews; and surely it would be better to postpone matters a little until we have some reason to believe that racial and sectarian feeling is not so strong as it would appear to be to-day. Two suggestions have been submitted to your Lordships this afternoon. The first is that a Legislative Council composed exclusively of nominated members and of officials should be set up. There are, of course, pros and cons regarding this proposal. It may well be that both Arabs and Jews would complain that the members nominated to represent their interests were not, in point of fact, representatives of their communities as a whole. It is also open to the objection that eventually, whatever the vote might be, it would be determined by the casting votes of the official bloc.
What I said was, five Jews and five Arabs, which is ten, and six official votes, which is six. Therefore the officials would not have a superiority of votes.
THE EARL OF MANSFIELD
That is quite true, but I think the noble Viscount is perhaps a little optimistic in assuming that in nine cases out of ten there would not be, even among the nominated members, five voting one way and five voting the other. I hold to my contention that the balance of power would remain with the official bloc, and I afraid that the balance of power would have to be exercised more often than not. The alternative is to set up a Royal Commission. While I appreciate that many people look upon a Royal Commission as a very useful way of putting a subject into cold storage for an indefinite period, I think that that is at the present time 771 possibly a better way of dealing with the problem. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, suggested that such a Commission should have a remit to consider how representative institutions could best be brought about. For myself, I would respectfully suggest that the remit should be of a slightly wider character, and that the first question put to the Commission to determine should be: Should any attempt be made at the present time to set up representative institutions, or would it be better to postpone consideration of that question altogether for a period of either five or ten years? Then, if the Commission decided that there was a case for the setting up, at no distant date, of some form of representative institutions, it should go on to investigate what form, in the opinion of its members, those institutions could most conveniently and safely take.
I feel that to give a flat "No" to the proposals put forward by a man of the experience and sagacity of the present High Commissioner might be a mistake. I suggest, therefore, that His Majesty's Government should consider the appointment of a Royal Commission to investigate the whole question. By so doing they would at least avoid undue precipitation in forcing upon a country a system of legislation which seems scarcely likely to be suitable at the present time. Our own Constitution, which, by its flexibility, is the wonder and usually the admiration of most other countries, has grown up steadily over many centuries from Magna Charta to the Statute of Westminster. It has been continually altering in form, and I submit that we are at present rather indulging in a tendency to hasten too much in forcing upon Oriental peoples a form of government which has proved satisfactory to Occidental peoples. Therefore I hope the Government will accept the suggestion of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, and appoint a Royal Commission, lest by undue precipitation they bring about a conflict between the races in Palestine.
§ LORD MELCHETT
My Lords, I rise to address your Lordships on this subject with some difficulty this afternoon, because it is a subject upon which I feel very deeply. It has been discussed and debated with very great fairness to all sides and with that impartiality and justice to which we are accustomed in 772 this House. I should like to put forward three points which I feel make a background against which the views I shall express later should properly be seen. In the first place, the Jewish Agency and the Jewish people have found it impossible to co-operate in this scheme for a Legislative Council, and I wish to assure the Government that it is only with the very greatest regret and after the most careful thought that the Agency have placed themselves in a position of opposition to the Government of this country or the Government of Palestine. They are deeply appreciative of all that both these Governments have done, grateful for the opportunities that have been afforded them, and very conscious of the extent to which they are dependent upon these Governments; but at the same time they feel that this is not a scheme in which they can properly join. Secondly, I should like to make it very plain that their reason for not joining and not co-operating is in no way animated by hostility towards the Arab population.
A great deal has been said during this debate on behalf of the establishment of the National Home for the Jews. I should just like to say a word in this matter on behalf of the Arab population. I do not think anything could be more mistaken than the view that the Govern-merit, in pressing this matter forward, are doing something to better the Arab population as a whole. They may be doing something to please a small body of political leaders of the Arabs, but they are doing nothing to help the Arabs as a whole. The feeling of hostility between the Jews and the Arabs is diminishing. I know Palestine intimately, and I have seen plenty of examples of that happening. One very striking example I saw the last time I was in that country about twelve months ago. I went to the final match of the Football League between Police football teams. I think Nazareth were playing Jerusalem. I forget the result, but I think Nazareth won. The captain was presented with the cup and the team carried him off the field in triumph. The captain was an Englishman, and he was chaired by an Arab constable on one side and a Jewish constable on the other. That is a symbol of what we wish to see in Palestine, and that is what I believe will come about in time. But the present proposal will do nothing to bring it about. The idea 773 expressed by the Government, both publicly and in writing, that it is better that any agitation or displeasure on the part of the Arab population should be ventilated through some official means, seems to me to be based on entirely false grounds. It is going to place the Arab population more in the hands of a group of political leaders than they are to-day, and I think it will be doing the Arab population the greatest possible disservice.
The third point I should like to make is in regard to the High Commissioner himself. Everyone who has the privilege of his acquaintance and, if I may say so, of his friendship, has the highest regard for Sir Arthur Wauchope. We have all admired the skill and energy with which ho has pursued his most difficult task; but no one in the world is infallible, and on this occasion I believe him to be misguided and wrong. I think he has hoped that his personal influence was such that he could at this stage weld together these admittedly difficult populations into one whole. I am afraid that is not possible in the form he is trying to do it, or at the present time, arid for his sake and for the sake of peace in that country I think it would be a most excellent thing if the Government were, for the time being, to drop these proposals so that the High Commissioner's own position should not be imperilled by having to go on with a scheme which I believe is unpopular with every section of the population.
The Jewish Agency have announced that they will not go on and will not cooperate. In this they have the support of all representative Jewish organisations in this country, and indeed throughout the world. It is not a line that has been taken lightly or with any idea of obstruction. We take the view that we cannot put ourselves in a minority in a National Home. A minority status of the Jewish people is neither novel nor singular. It has lasted for centuries, and it is world-wide. But if "National Home" is to have a real meaning we cannot of our own volition and free will accept a minority status there. I feel that is a point upon which we can never go back however convenient it might appear to be to bow to the wishes of the Government, and entirely dependent as we are upon them for all future progress. It is the Jewish population of Palestine that has 774 built that country up, The Jewish population of Palestine has given you a surplus on the Budget at a time when practically no other country in the world had a surplus. It is the Jewish population which has developed the country, which has drained the Emek, which has developed the Dead Sea, and which has brought into Palestine a culture of which ninny European nations might be proud.
I ask your Lordships to consider—I do not say this in any way as hostile to the Arab population, as I shall later make clear—is there an Arab University in Palestine? Is there an Arab theatre? Is there an Arab symphony orchestra? All these things have been created by the Jewish population. There is a magnificent University. There are two fine theatrical groups whose missions into Europe have been praised by the highest critics in London, in Paris and in all the capitals in Europe. There is a symphony orchestra which would do credit to any of the great capitals of the civilised world. I mention this as showing that it is not only on the industrial side and it is not only by immigration, but it is in the fundamental culture of civilisation that we are bringing something to that country which we alone can bring, and we do not feel we can subject all this to the whim of the population to whom it is extremely novel but who in the long run will benefit enormously from it. There is a job to be done. There is a new country to be created. We can do that job, the Arabs cannot, and we want to be allowed to do it. But I think it is a matter of common sense that the Arab population will benefit enormously from the result of all that. The time will come when the Palestinian Arab, standing head and shoulders above his contemporary in Syria or Iraq, or any other of the great Arab countries, will provide the leaders to develop those countries and those great territories at their disposal—provide leaders who have been educated and who have grown up in the civilisation which we shall create. That is the vision that I have of the future of Palestine and of the co-operation of the Jew and Arab together. It is the attitude of the Jewish Agency and is what we believe to be a sound line of development.
It has been brought up against us by the Government that in 1922 when this proposal was made we accepted it, and 775 I have no doubt that will be brought out again this afternoon in the Government's reply. I should like to say a word or two about that. In 1922 when the Legislative Committee was then proposed the Mandate for Palestine had not been promulgated. It was put to us that this was an essential part of the Mandate, that it was going to be incorporated in it. We objected as strongly as we could at that time to the minority status, but we were persuaded that this was a thing which would greatly facilitate the task of His Majesty's Government, and we believed that by holding out the hand of friendship to the Arab people we might lay the foundation for a real and lasting co-operation. So we agreed. But there is no possible connection between the situation in 1922 and that of the present day. Fourteen years have elapsed and we have found certain things out.
First of all we have found that so far as the political Arab leaders are concerned they have not changed in the slightest in that period. They are just as much opposed to the fundamental basis of the Mandate, to our presence in that country, and to all our work there, as they were at the beginning. There is no hope or prospect of co-operation with them on this Council, and the Government know perfectly well that the Arab leaders would never dream of coming into this Council except that they believe it gives them an opportunity for obstructing our work. That is the real fact of the case, and that is the real position. I do not see how we can be asked to come in on those conditions. As I have said, I believe that the population is far more friendly than the leaders would have us suppose; but it is the leaders who are going to be in the Council. It is the leaders with whom we are supposed to work. It is the leaders who have said quite plainly that they only propose to consider the thing because of the opportunity it gives them of obstructing.
And in the last fourteen years we have also proved, what was not proved in 1922, that we are capable of creating the National Home. That was still a matter that was in doubt, it was still a matter for the future. To take only one example, the development of the City of Tel-Aviv from a handful of houses on a sandy shore to a great City of 100,000people. It was described by Lord 776 Allenby, who has perhaps as great a right to speak on this subject as any living man, in these terms:The faith which upheld the founders and inspired the builders of Tel-Aviv has been magnificently justified by the Tel-Aviv of to-day which is a glowing testimony to the creative genius of the Hebrew race.That creative genius can continue to operate, but why should it be subjected in a minority status to a number of people who have only one object, and that to hamper it and to stop it at every turn?
What is the real basis of this proposal? One side is not going to co-operate, the other side is only coming in so as to hamper and obstruct the Government. Surely, this job, if I may say so, is a make-believe Constitution, which can only do harm and can never do good. If it were possible to arrive at a point where both sides, coming together upon some equal basis, could assist the Government in the task which they have, I for my part would welcome it. There are many reforms necessary in that country, many points of minor administration which both parties could look after. These things are to-day ventilated on the floor of another place, which is entirely wrong. It would be far, far better if they were ventilated in Palestine. But under the proposals which the Government are putting forward there is not the remotest prospect of that happening. You have on the one side an absent party and on the other side a number of people whom you will have undertaken to suppress in the one thing which they desire. We are told, and we have been informed by the Colonial Secretary in his recent reply, that nothing will be allowed to take place in the Legislative Council that will hamper the carrying out of the Mandate in all its provisions. We are told that there will be adequate safeguards. In a matter of this kind there is only one safeguard that is of any use to me and that is the safeguard of good will. That safeguard is not there and no one can pretend that it is. It may be that in time good will, growing from the bottom to the top (which is the way it is growing to-day), will be strong enough to sustain this final roping stone of a Legislative council with full powers; but I am perfectly certain that is not the case to-day, and I do not believe that a Royal Commission or any impartial body would come 777 to the conclusion either that now is the time or that this is the scheme.
I do not intend, my Lords, to go into the details of the question to-day except to make this one observation, that over and over again we have asked the Government to discuss with us the question of a Legislative Council on the basis of equality, on the ground that the Mandate itself provides an equal obligation to both sections of the population. You cannot settle the matter merely by setting up a Legislative Council and enfranchising an enormous electorate who have never used a vote in their lives and have not the remotest idea of how to use it. The Government replied that they could not discuss it because on those terms they could not get in the Arab leaders. Where does that take us takes us to the point that in reality the Government are going to impose upon the population of Palestine a franchise which is totally unsuited to the people and in which they have never been instructed.
The point was taken by the Colonial Secretary, in replying to a question we put to him, that the High Commissioner's statement that he intended to develop municipal government before proceeding to the establishment of a Legislative Council must not be read to mean that the people were going to get experience in local government first, but merely that the municipal ordinance would be developed first. It is only necessary to read the White Paper of 1930 to see that even if that is a correct interpretation of the High Commissioner's observation it is certainly quite contrary to what was said in the White Paper. These are the words in the White Paper and they are quite clear:It is obvious that in order to establish effective self-government on a national scale, it is imperative first to introduce on a more solid basis a wide measure of local self-government in order to enable the inhabitants, and especially the more frock-ward section of the population, to obtain practical experience of administrative methods and the business of government and to learn discrimination in the selection of representatives.That is a, clear and obvious point with which any one will agree and which any wise statesman or administrator would naturally take.
What are the facts? They have been already dealt with in some respects by 778 the noble Lord who moved the Motion, but I would like to emphasise this point. You are proposing to enfranchise for national government 164,000 people in the Jerusalem district where to-clay for local government there are enfranchised not more than 2,000 people. The thing will not bear examination. It cannot conceivably succeed. I do not wish your Lordships to imagine that I am pressing this because there is some Zionist ambition to overrun Palestine and to oppress the Arab population. That is not our desire, and it would never be permitted by this country. But we do need to build up a new country. We have a problem of slum clearance which begins in Vienna and goes across tile world in every direction. From Berlin to Bucharest, from Vienna to Warsaw, we have oppressed people, and we have got to move them. We must be allowed to develop a National Home. It means life and death to the young men of our generation. It is our only hope. I beg the Government not at this stage and not to-day to put an obstacle in our way. They may not believe it will do us great harm, that may not be their intention; but it is not a question of intention, but of interpretation. You are going to put despair into the minds of hundreds of thousands of people. You are going to create difficulties—additional difficulties where there are perhaps difficulties enough already. You are going to prevent us doing that job which we have proved ourselves able to do and which no one else can do for us or do so well.
It seems to me that the Government are not really taking a straight or creative line in this matter. They are trying to temporize, to do little things to satisfy both sides. That policy cannot succeed. A bold and constructive policy I believe can succeed. The work which Great Britain has done in the Near East since the War, a work which has liberated three or four great Arab kingdoms, which has provided a National Home for the Jews in Palestine, is one of the noblest actions of this country. Surely a more worthy solution can be found than a policy of trying to give away a little on each side, a policy based upon no true foundation and which no single member of your Lordships' House can be found to support this afternoon. The Balfour Declaration was a great act. It was put forward in a great spirit. It can only suc- 779 ceed if it is administered in a great spirit, with true regard to the deep tragedy which it was created to relieve, and with a real knowledge and real understanding of the difficulties of the country to which it applies.
§ LORD MARLEY
My Lords, I venture to intervene for a moment or two only to emphasise one aspect of the problem which is before your Lordships' House. It would appear that no member of your Lordships' House who has so far spoken supports the proposition for a Legislative Council. The Government will have to deal with that fact, and they must make, I suppose, one of three decisions. They must decide to go on with the proposal for a Legislative Council, or they must decide to modify that proposal so as to build up self-government in Palestine upon a broader basis, or they must consider the constructive suggestion of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, for a Royal Commission—a Royal Commission which would have a most valuable effect but the composition of which would be one of extreme difficulty.
In each case, however, there is one aspect that I want to emphasise, an aspect which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, touched upon. It is that in the last three years the problem of Palestine has become not a British problem nor a Jewish problem nor an Arab problem, but has become an international problem, which is of vital importance to many nations of the world. During the last few years Jewish people have gone to settle in Palestine, and last year the number reached a figure of something like 40,000. In those years Palestine has contributed to dealing with the problem of German refugees by receiving no fewer than 30,000 Jewish refugees who had been compelled to flee from Germany. That is a contribution to a problem facing the whole world, for which the whole world must be grateful. A member of your Lordships' House and Sir Herbert Samuel, who have made a recent visit to America, have envisaged a plan whereby eventually the whole of the Jewish population of Germany might be evacuated, based on an emigration of 100,000 over four years, and the proposition is that Palestine should contribute to the solution by receiving some 50,000 of those refugees.
Further, the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, pointed out that there is an equal and 780 to some extent even a worse problem in Poland. In the Polish Parliament at the beginning of last week one speaker—the Prince Radziwill—complained that the quota allowance in Palestine for German-Jewish immigrants was higher than the allowance for Poland although there was a much larger number of would-be emigrants from Poland, because Germany had instituted a reign of terror. Had not Poland also, he asked, better institute a reign of terror, to secure from Palestine a bigger share or quota for her Jewish emigrants? Poland, Rumania, Latvia, Esthonia, and Lithuania are all involved in this problem, and I urge that, before the Minister who is replying for the Government comes to any hard-and-fast decision, nothing shall be done to make more difficult the reception of these refugees and would-be immigrants in Palestine in the future, but that rather, whatever solution is reached—whether it is a Royal Commission, a postponement, or a continuation—everything shall be done to increase the capacity of Palestine to receive them. During the last fifteen years the whole emigration from Europe of the Jewish people has been dammed up by the impossibility of their going to America. Before the War, and even up to 1918 or 1920, the emigration across the Atlantic had reached something like 200,000 a year.
§ LORD MARLEY
I mean Jews. That has been almost entirely stopped, with the result that, in this economic depression from which the whole world is suffering, the fact that emigration is impossible has caused the Jews to be blamed in many countries and has been the basis of anti-semitism. I hope that in the reply the Government make they will say that nothing will be done which will make more difficult the receipt of these refugees, and that on the contrary more and more will be done to secure a refuge for them in Palestine.
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
My Lords, I have listened to the whole of this debate with the closest attention, and I think I need hardly say that I have been very deeply impressed with the sincerity and conviction, and indeed the eloquence, with which the case against the establishment of a Legislative Council in Palestine at this moment has been put forward. I hope that nobody has any 781 doubts on that score. I want, however, to say that this matter has been very thoroughly considered, both in Palestine and here at home by His Majesty's Government, from every possible angle. I hope your Lordships will excuse me if, in view of the nature of the debate to which we have been listening, I have to detain the House for some time in stating the position of the Government. I want to add that I am particularly anxious to avoid saying anything which might possibly or conceivably make the position more difficult than it is at present. So far as is in my power I wish to avoid saying anything contentious.
It is necessary for me to go into the history of this matter in some little detail, and I think I can fairly begin by saying that we find common ground so far at two points are concerned. The first is that there is nothing new in principle in the proposals which have been put forward; and the second is that there is nothing in them contrary to the Mandate, either in the letter or in the spirit. Indeed, as has been recognised, Article 2 of the Mandate specifically imposes upon the Mandatory a responsibility for the development of self-governing institutions in that country. As your Lordships will have realised by now, the proposals for the establishment of a Legislative Council were originally put forward as far back as 1922. In 1930 the Labour Government announced their intention of proceeding with the matter and of setting up a Legislative Council, and in 1932 the High Commissioner, with the approval of the Government here at home, informed the Permanent Mandates Commission at Geneva that the Government's intention in this respect remained unchanged.
I will quote just two passages from his remarks upon that occasion. He said:We shall take steps towards the formation of a Legislative Council when the new Local Government Ordinance which is now n preparation has been brought into working order.And he added:These proposals will necessarily contain certain safeguards so that under no circumstances could the position and security of the country be endangered or the carrying out of the Mandate hampered.I think I can safely say that nothing that has been said since could be regarded as evidence that the Government 782 had changed their policy with regard to this matter. Indeed, I think I can go so far as to say that these proposals seem to me the perfectly logical sequel to all previous Government pronouncements on this subject. I cannot agree with the views that were expressed by the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition; namely, that these proposals for a Legislative Council were both undesired and unrequired. Of course I do not know from what source the noble Lord obtained those views, but in this matter I must accept and prefer the views of the High Commissioner rather than the views of that source from which the noble Lord had his information.
But, my Lords, I cannot help feeling that any indication that the Government intended to postpone these quite definite pledges—and I do not think anybody can deny that they are definite pledges—for an indefinite period would seriously shake confidence in the Government in Palestine and lead to the greatest uncertainty and unrest. Having said that, it seems to me that the only questions which can reasonably be raised are two: first of all, whether now is the fitting time for the establishment of this Council to take place; and secondly, whether the scheme for the Legislative Council ensures full power to the Government for executing their mandatory obligations, including those relating to the Jewish National Home. With regard to the first, I must begin by pointing out that as early as 1922 the Government considered that the time had come to take this step. I do not want to dwell upon that too much, but I think it is fair to say this, and I say it in no derisory spirit at all, that if one dislikes a proposal it is always, easy to argue that the present time is not the fitting and best time to put it into operation. I can only tell your Lordships that it is the considered opinion of the High Commissioner that this important step should now be taken and should no longer be postponed. It is the High Commissioner's view that the establishment of a Legislative Council is eminently desirable in the general interests of the country as a whole, and he does not agree that its establishment could only lead to friction and discord. On the contrary, he hopes and believes that its establishment will afford a constitutional means for the expression of public opinion.
783 In spite of what Lord Melchett said in his very eloquent speech, which must have impressed all of us, it is definitely the High Commissioner's view that the taking of this step is not only desirable in itself, but specially so in order to afford an opportunity for the expression of public opinion, as an alternative to violent Press propaganda and public demonstrations which at present take place in Palestine. I had hoped that your Lordships would agree—I cannot say that I still hope after listening to this debate—that it must be in the interest of a Jewish National Home itself that the views of all sections should be expressed by constitutional means. In order to support the High Commissioner's view, that the establishment of a Legislative Council need not necessarily lead to friction, I may say that the Arab and Jewish communities are already working in harmony in a number of different directions. They are working together satisfactorily in some of the municipal councils of the larger towns, and particularly are they working together satisfactorily in various administrative councils and committees which have been set up, such as those dealing with industry and commerce, agriculture and road and rail communications. It is therefore clearly possible, as I think everyone in this House will admit, for Jew and Arab to co-operate for the common good. We know this from experience, and personally I cannot see why this co-operation should not be extended to the Legislative Council.
It has been further argued that this is not a fitting time because of international conditions, and that the introduction of a Legislative Council in Palestine would be a very disturbing factor in that country. I can only repeat that, however this may be, there would without the slightest doubt be very serious dissatisfaction and unrest in Palestine if it appeared that the Government did not intend to give effect to their repeated assurances with regard to this matter. A good deal of reference has been made during the debate to the question of the working of the local and municipal councils. As your Lordships will have realised from the extract from the remarks, which I quoted, made by the High Commissioner to the Permanent Mandates Commission some time ago, it was categorically stated to be the inten- 784 tion of the High Commissioner to take up the question of the Legislative Council when the Local Government Ordinance had, as he termed it, been brought into working order. It has been argued this evening that there has not been a sufficiently long probationary period for these councils, and that in fact they are not working satisfactorily at all. I cannot help feeling that this contention is based on some misunderstanding of-the High Commissioner's statement.
Actually the High Commissioner considers that the municipal councils are working satisfactorily. Municipal Corporations exist in fifteen Arab towns, and are working with tolerable efficiency; but the point which I wish to bring out is this, and it is a matter which has been referred to by my noble friend Lord Melchett, that the Local Government Ordinance was a very important and complicated piece of legislation. The High Commissioner very naturally wished to see it completed before entering upon the active stage of consideration of the Legislative Council. It would not be correct to say that he contemplated any extended probationary period for the councils.
§ LORD MELCHETT
May I say that what I quoted from was the White Paper of 1930, the words of which are quite explicit on the point?
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
The noble Lord has taken certain extracts from a White Paper, but, as I have pointed out, it seems to me that the action now proposed is a quite logical sequel to the statement made on the subject. It is clear that if you intended that these assurances should be put off for an indefinite period you would, I think, with certain justification, be charged with bad faith by that section of the population that wishes to see these pledges put into effect. That is the view of the High Commissioner, and I think it must be accepted from the action which he has taken with regard to this matter.
Then another point has been brought forward to-day as an argument against the introduction of a Legislative Council at the present moment. It is argued that it would be wrong to establish a Legislative Council now, as the Arabs, who are one of the chief parties concerned, have never accepted the principle of the Mandate and the idea of a Jewish 785 National Home in Palestine. That is, I am sorry to say, perfectly true, but I think it is relevant to remind your Lordships that the position was exactly the same in 1922. They had not at that time agreed to what, it was common knowledge, would be in the Mandate when it was actually promulgated. That happened to be, as a matter of fact, at the end of 1922. No objection was taken at that time by the Jews to the proposals for a Legislative Council on that particular score, but in any case I cannot accept the contention that this is an overriding consideration. There are innumerable instances of members sitting in various Legislatures who are fundamentally opposed to the Constitutions under which those Legislatures exist. And it seems to me that, leaving aside the question of the acceptance of the Mandate by the Arabs, there remains a large field in which Jew and Arab could fruitfully co-operate with the Government for the common good of Palestine.
May I now go into the question of safeguards for the Mandate that have been introduced into this scheme. I can readily understand the fears and doubts which have been expressed lest the establishment of the Legislative Council should interfere with the carrying out of the Mandate in its full implications. In some quarters the extreme view has been taken that the establishment of the Legislative Council will result in the virtual abandonment of the Mandate. I cannot see that those fears are in any way justified. I can give the House the categorical assurance that under the constitution of the Legislative Council it will not be possible for the validity of the Mandate to be called in question, or for any suggestion to be made that it should be abolished or disregarded. I can give the further assurance that the powers and duties of the High Commissioner under the new Constitution will be of such a nature as to enable him to carry on the work of Government and fulfil the international obligations of His Majesty's Government in respect of Palestine. Indeed, in making known to the Arab and Jewish leaders his proposal for the Legislative Council, the High Commissioner categorically stated that this was the case.
Something has been said with regard to the very important question of 786 immigration, which is closely bound up with the aspect of the situation which I have just been discussing. It is true that it will be possible for a member of the Legislative Council to move a Resolution in the Council in respect of the question of immigration, but the responsibility for decision on absorptive capacity and the determination of labour immigration schedules will rest as heretofore with the High Commissioner. That I want to make perfectly clear. I cannot believe myself that there will be the slightest alteration in the practice of consultation between the Palestine Government and the Jewish Agency with regard to these schedules, or that there will be any alteration in the principle by which the determination of these schedules is governed by the capacity of the country to absorb immigrants.
Much stress has been laid on the fact that the Legislative Council scheme provides for representation only of the Jewish community in Palestine, and does not take into account the Jewish people as a whole. I certainly agree that in one sense, and perhaps in a number of senses, Palestine is the concern not only of the Jews in Palestine but of the whole Jewish people throughout the world. But I cannot agree that this is so in the sense that Jews throughout the rest of the world should have the right to intervene in the legislative and executive work of Palestine. I may parenthetically add that, so far as I know, this contention was not put forward when the original proposals for a Legislative Council were made in 1922, and I cannot see how it can well be argued that to accord Jewish representation in the Legislative Council of Palestine on a basis of world Jewry could be consistent with either the letter or the spirit of the Mandate.
The Legislative Council, in order to be representative of Palestine, must take account of the interests of all sections of the population in such proportion as His Majesty's Government consider a fair reflection of the various interests involved. The interest of World Jewry in the National Home is demonstrated by the definite recognition, under the Mandate, of the Jewish Agency. The relationship between the Jewish Agency and the Palestine Government provides for effective contact between the Administration and the World Zionist Move- 787 ment. It has been argued that the establishment of the Legislative Council will completely alter the status of the Jewish Agency and undermine its influence. I strongly disagree with that view. I can certainly say that it is not the intention that the position of the Jewish Agency in relation to the Palestine, Government should be affected. Under the Mandate the Jewish Agency is accorded a definite position, and nothing will be done contrary to the Mandate to affect that position.
I take up another point that has been made during the debate. Strong criticism has been levelled at the constitution of the Council on the ground that it puts the Jews once again in the minority, as they have been so often before. I need hardly say that I sympathise very warmly with the feelings which have been expressed with regard to this matter, but for the sake of clearness I hope your Lordships will allow me for a moment to compare the composition of the two proposed Legislative Councils—that of 1922 and the present one. In 1922 there were to be ten official members and twelve unofficial elected members, as follows:—Eight Moslems, two Christians and two Jews.
Has not the whole situation changed since 1922? I cannot see why the position in 1922 should be compared with 1936, because there has been a very large influx of Jews in the interval.
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
Of course I readily admit that. I was not going to draw any unfair conclusions from the comparison I was going to make. Merely for the sake of clearness I wanted to explain what the position was. Of course, the position is changed to that extent and in other ways as well. In the present proposals there are to be five official members, eleven nominated unofficial members, and twelve elected unofficial members. The unofficial members will be made up as follows: Elected: Moslems 8, Jews 3, Christians 1; Nominated: Moslems 3, Jews 4, Christians 2, commercial interests 2; making a total of Moslems 11, Jews 7, Christians 3, and commercial interests 2. So far as the elected members are concerned, I do not think that any one would contend that these numbers are an unfair representation judged by the proportions of the various communities to the total popula- 788 tions of the country. In 1922 this was taken as the basis upon which the scheme was built. As far as nominated members are concerned, these have been included now to ensure a full representation by unofficials of the interests of the Palestine population as a whole. In making his announcement to Arab and Jewish leaders regarding this scheme, the High Commissioner stated that the allotment of seats in the Council, as among elected members, was based upon the numbers of the different communities in the total population of Palestine. He said that the normal term of the Council would be five years and that no revision of that distribution was contemplated within the five years term of the Council. No one is in a position to say anything further than that at the present time on this particular point.
I must now refer to various suggestions which have been made during the course of the debate, particularly to the pleas put forward by my noble friend Lord Lytton and the noble Marquess opposite, that this matter should be accorded further consideration. The noble Earl has suggested what he thinks might be a way out—namely, the appointment of a Royal Commission. The noble Viscount who sits behind me has made proposals for a Council founded on different principles from those actually proposed, but I think his suggestions are not likely to find favour with any part of the population of Palestine. I can only say that, naturally, these suggestions will be brought to the notice of the Secretary of State, but I am afraid they come too late. The High Commissioner has made known these proposals to the leaders of the two Parties in Palestine, and they have become public. These proposals are now known throughout Palestine as the proposals of the Government, and I venture to say that the further postponement of these proposals by means of a Royal Commission or in any other way would undoubtedly be regarded by the Arab population as merely an excuse for going back on the pledges which have already been made, and for going back on the High Commissioner's statement. I think it only right and fair I should say that, though, of course, as I have assured your Lordships, these suggestions will be brought to the notice of the Secretary of State.
THE MARQUESS OF LOTHIAN
May I ask the noble Earl whether a more definite form of Constitution will be brought forward or whether the text here will be the order which will bring the Legislative Council into effect? My reason for asking that question is that the text of the Constitution may make all the difference as to whether you are founding it on the principle of responsible government or introducing it in the form of representative institutions, a distinction on which I shall venture to say something later on. I imagine, if these proposals are carried through, a much more formidable and precise document would be published. Will that be the case?
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
They will be incorporated, I have no doubt, in an Order in Council. That would be the procedure.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
Would the Order in Council lie on the Table of this House as Orders in Council have to do under the Government of India Act?
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
I am afraid I should like notice of that question, as they say in another place. I cannot give a categorical answer on that point at present, but I shall find out and inform the noble Lord if he so wishes. I have attempted to deal with the various points, though I am afraid not all, raised during the course of the debate as fairly and fully as possible. The task of the Mandatory Power in Palestine and, as the noble Earl has so willingly recognised, of those on the spot to whom has been entrusted the duty of carrying out that task, has not been, and is not, an easy one by any means. The statements made in the Permanent Mandates Commission some years ago were that, in the first place, the obligations laid down by the Mandate in regard to the two sections of the population are of equal weight and, secondly, that the two obligations imposed on the Mandatory are in no sense irreconcilable. These two statements are still accepted by His Majesty's Government.
It is perhaps not out of place to recall the words of the High Commissioner him-self when speaking on the question of the Legislative Council at Geneva. He used these words:We would gladly govern Palestine in accordance with the wishes of the two races; 790 and when these wishes conflict I use every means to reconcile them. If these efforts prove of no avail, then the Government must, regardless of criticism, carry out whatever policy it considers best in the interests of the people as a whole and in accordance with the Mandate.I have always felt that the central object of Sir Arthur Wauchope's policy has been to establish good feeling and to bring about a willing co-operation between the various communities in that country. No man could have attempted to give practical effect to these sincerely held views with greater courage and with greater impartiality than the present High Commissioner, and everybody will be only too willing to pay tribute to the work he has carried out for the advancement and welfare of Palestine during his administration. Co-operation and good will are his guiding stars, and I know he will continue to strive for them both.
Personally I admit quite frankly that I regret very much that the Jewish people have so definitely refused to co-operate on this question of the Legislative Council. I can easily, as I have said before, understand their doubts and fears. At the same time I do not think they are well founded. I can only conclude by saying that I sincerely hope that in the course of time the Jewish people may see their way, and be prepared, to take their place in the Legislative Council in Palestine and to co-operate in that body in work which we all hope and believe will be for the welfare of the people of Palestine as a whole.
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
My Lords, I am very sorry to intervene at this very late stage, and I apologise for doing so, but my noble friend, I am sure, will not be surprised if I say that his speech has been a very deep disappointment to a great many members of this House, including myself. I do not think I have ever listened to a debate in this House where there has been such complete unanimity of opinion in every section of the House—Labour Party, Liberal Party and, if I may say so, Diehard Party—
§ VISCOUNT CECIL OF CHELWOOD
—not yet a separate Party!—.and the Cross Benches have all been united for once in the opinion that this proposal is one which is likely to produce grave disadvantage 791 to the administration of Palestine. I was deeply impressed by the speech of Lord Melchett in which he explained the deep anxiety which Zionist Jews feel in the matter, not from any feeling of temper or irritation or anything of that kind, but from a profound feeling that the great work they are accomplishing, and have accomplished there, will be hopelessly paralysed if these proposals go forward. I do not propose to argue it at this stage. I only want to put one single consideration which seems to me very, very important.
You have here a country profoundly divided in opinion, and divided on the very essence of the Constitution, the question of whether the other section is to be admitted and to be allowed to come into the country at all, and whether the whole Constitution and the Mandate shall be carried out or not. This is a profound difference of opinion. And you propose to constitute an Assembly in which there will be avowedly two Parties—one Party who stands for the Mandate, the other Party who stand against the Mandate. I would not like to say that under such conditions no Legislative Assembly has ever succeeded, but I would like to say that there are many instances where a Legislative Assembly constituted in that way has dismally failed. We need not go further afield than our own country. We all remember the condition of the House of Commons when you had not a very large section but a comparatively small section of its members deeply opposed to the Constitution of the country and sitting there with the object of making that Constitution impracticable or unsuccessful. That occured for very many years when we were all younger, and I do not think that any one doubts that the presence of the Irish Home Rulers then in the House of Commons was a very, very serious strain for the whole Constitution of this country and did in fact gravely hamper the administration of the country in every way.
You are going to repeat exactly that experiment under much worse conditions in a new country with no traditions, or relatively no tradition's, and still struggling to establish itself. I cannot conceive that there is any possibility of an experiment like that succeeding. I quite agree that there is the undertaking that you will develop self-government, but it must be conditional on this, that 792 the parties shall be ready to carry out the Constitution that exists. That is the essential condition, as I venture to submit, of the success of any representative institution. What is it that makes our marvellous success in this country of that system? It is that underlying all our differences of opinion there is a genuine desire to co-operate for the great purpose of government. If that genuine desire failed, if there was a genuine Party in the House of Commons, as there was in the Irish time, opposed to the whole thing, that would bring it to grief, as the Irish party very nearly did bring it to grief while they were in the House of Commons.
That is the anxiety I feel. I do not think that is a small matter which ought to be put aside or, if I may say so with great respect to my noble friend, be dealt with by debating references to what the Jews did or did not do in 1922. That really is irrelevant, if I may say so. The question we now have to consider is not what the Jews said in 1922, on which there is considerable dispute by the way, but whether this proposal is likely to succeed, whether there is any reasonable prospect of its success. Many of us feel a profound doubt about that. Under those circumstances, that doubt having been expressed temperately but forcibly, I venture to say, from all Parties in the House, I think we had a right to a more sympathetic answer from the Government than we have received. I do not mean that my noble friend was not most courteous—he was and always is—but I think we might have received an answer to the effect that the Government were impressed by the case that has been put forward, that they would consider the matter again carefully, that at present their opinion was so-and-so, but that they did not shut the door absolutely to any concession or modification. We have received a very stiff reply that in point of fact none of the arguments were thought to be of any serious validity, and that, though the suggestion even of a Royal Commission would be submitted to the Secretary of State, it was practically intimated that would be more or less of a form, because the Secretary of State was quite certain to reject it. I feel that is a very unsatisfactory position.
And the suggestion of safeguards is never very satisfactory. You say: "We recognise that there is a danger that 793 these powers may be misused, and we will take care that the danger shall be warded off." It is not that. I do not for a moment believe that any Government of this country will sacrifice the Mandate. I do not think that is the danger. The danger is this, that you will have a Party in the Legislative Council whose whole object will be to bring the Government to confusion if they possibly can manage it, because their case is that it is a bad Government and ought not to go on, that it is wrong fundamentally. Therefore their object is not to make it work, but to prevent it from working. That is the object which will infallibly inspire them. I think in those circumstances the matter ought to be further considered. I am sorry I cannot agree with my noble friend that the fact that the Palestine Government and the Secretary of State (both marvellously wise people I have no doubt) have definitely arrived at this conclusion, is conclusive. I think Parliament also has a right to express its opinion and to be consulted, and the least I think we can ask is that no irrevocable step will be taken without the definite approval of both Houses of Parliament. I venture to submit that to that at any rate we are entitled.
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, I will not detain the House for more than a few moments. I hope your Lordships will agree that I have introduced this most serious question not with the idea of embarrassing His Majesty's Government but because of the very great anxiety which is felt respecting it outside the House in a good many classes of society, and if I have to excuse myself for what the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, said, that it was strange that such a Motion should come from these Benches, I can only hope that my association with the Motion has not done the cause I advocated any harm. We have had what I think is a most impressive debate. I do not remember a debate that has been more impressive, and certainly not one that has been so unanimous. My hope was to help the Government out of a difficulty, the magnitude of which they did not appear to be able to measure, by asking them to reflect again on what they propose to do. But the noble Earl who has replied for the Government has been quite obdurate about it, and his arguments are such as convey to my mind no very satisfactory conviction. He says the 794 Government cannot retreat because there has been a definite pledge made. He says they cannot withdraw. But the Government have withdrawn before on this very question, in 1922. It was made almost imperative then and the Government did withdraw. They have held it up for fourteen years. There would be nothing very dreadful if the Government imitated what their predecessors did.
§ LORD SNELL
The circumstances were different on both sides. If I wanted to detain your Lordships I could deal with that aspect also. The noble Earl will remember that I did not, either in my speech or in my Motion, ask the Government to withdraw. I asked for a postponement, that the inauguration of the Council should be deferred to allow for further consideration. Any Government can do that without loss of self respect. I can only ask in passing, why, if the Government are so keen about the development of local government as the noble Earl suggested, have they been so apathetic about the development of the local councils to which I have referred? They have done practically nothing for ten years when there was a field open to them which they might without controversy have exploited. It is for the Government to say what they will do, and I personally regret that the Government should throw the whole weight of this decision upon the shoulders of the High Commissioner.
§ THE EARL OF PLYMOUTH
That is a very unfair interpretation of what I said. I should like to make it perfectly clear that the Government fully support the decision. They take full responsibility for it.
§ LORD SNELL
I understood the noble Earl to say it was the High Commissioner's decision and therefore it must stand.
§ LORD SNELL
I say it is for the Government to decide and finally for Parliament to decide whether a great matter like this, which may bring years of trouble and unrest and racial division, should be undertaken at this particular 795 time. I have done my best, I have given the Government an opportunity of repenting, but they intend to proceed on their own wayward path. It is almost useless to ask the Government to reconsider the composition of the proposed Council, so that some of the anxieties of the Jewish people may at any rate be relieved. I am very greatly tempted to divide your Lordships' House on this issue, but on the whole I think perhaps the statements we have made had better stand for themselves. We have done our best. I have tried to avoid a Party attitude on the matter, and I deeply regret that the Government have given so unsympathetic an answer to a well-meant effort. I beg leave to withdraw.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.