§ LORD SNELL rose to call attention to the Palestine Royal Commission Report, and to the statement of the policy of His Majesty's Government in regard to the same; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the Motion which stands in my name, I feel sure that every member of the House will desire that the first word used in this debate should be one of sincere congratulation to the noble Earl, Lord Peel, and his colleagues on the Royal Commission for having placed at the disposal of Parliament a clear, courageous, and brilliantly drafted document. Whatever may be the fate of the proposals that are made in the Report, it will always occupy an honoured place among the great State Papers of our time. Perhaps better than anyone else in your Lordships' House my noble friend Lord Rushcliffe and myself can estimate the difficulties that the Commission had to face. We can understand their anxieties, and, personally, I very heartily congratulate them upon the conclusion of a wearying and thankless task. I congratulate them also on having produced a unanimous Report. It was my misfortune to place a different meaning upon the evidence submitted to the Commission of which I was a member than that of my colleagues, and it is perhaps only an evidence of a pugnacious and stubborn mind that I feel more certain to-day that I was right than I did at the time. That judgment, I venture to 600 suggest, is justified by subsequent events and by the Report which we are to consider to-day.
§ First of all I should like to express some regret that the Commissioners allowed their spirits to droop under the heavy task they had to complete. Their depression went from one stage to another till gloom settled into despair. They appear to me to have given up their patient before they tried to cure him, and handed him over to a surgical operation which may possibly be more dangerous to the patient than the disease of which they sought to cure him. I do not believe that it is ever any good to give up trying in this world to find a solution to a problem, and I do not believe that any problem is insoluble if we approach it persistently enough and in the right mind. It is possible that partition will succeed better than the method hitherto tried, but it is at least speculative, and the Commissioners seem to have arrived at the conclusion that Palestine will never be united until it is divided. That does not seem to me to be a real approach to the subject. Things are rarely as bad as they seem in this world, and turbulent seas are followed very often by calm weather. Personally, as I say, I do not believe that the problem is insoluble. I do not see that the short cut of partition is more likely to succeed than the experiment which we have tried. There is a more excellent way in my judgment: the right, the eternally sure way of understanding and co-operation between the two races. The reason why the problem has not been solved so far is, in my belief, that there has never been the will to solve it. I believe that the Jews might have done more than they have to promote appeasement. I believe that the Arabs and the Government could not have done less than they have.
§ In many ways the Mandate has been a great success, and before accepting this gospel of despair we might compare the situation of Palestine now with the situation as it was when this Mandate began. In those days the Arabs migrated from Palestine, now they smuggle themselves in with delight across the frontier. This Report at a hundred places testifies to the progress that has been made, and judged by every material test—of population, of the standard of life, of the amount of capital invested, of the position of the fellaheen, of the rate of wages, of public 601 health conditions—we are justified in believing that the success of the Mandate is a greater witness to what has been done than what has taken place in any other part of the world. In the Minority Report that I issued in 1930 I ventured to say that the achievements of the Jews in Palestine in the previous decade were as significant as anything that had happened in our time, and I am sure that that is the judgment of experienced observers at the present moment. The Mandate has been an enormous economic success. It has failed only in the administrative sphere and the spiritual.
§ I ventured to point out some years ago that if the Arabs had not been continuously and systematically inflamed by people in responsible positions in Palestine, the trouble would not have developed. The Arab peasant is a decent-minded, a chivalrous, hospitable, and kindly person, and it is only when he is taken advantage of by other people for their own ends that he develops into hostility against his neighbour. The source of this trouble was known. I ventured to indicate where it was to be found. The Government knew about it, the Colonial Office knew about it, and the Governorate in Jerusalem knew about it, but they took no notice. What they said was, "What we do not know is not knowledge," and the difficulty was allowed to grow unchecked until the present time. I ask your Lordships to remember that the root of disaffection in Palestine is not the Balfour Declaration, it is the Mandate itself. The hostility is not against the Jew ultimately, it is against the British occupation. In my judgment the first clear duty of the Government was to suppress disorder and ensure personal security. What happened was that the Jews were disarmed, forbidden to defend themselves; the Arab side was allowed to develop its passions unchecked. So we come to the point when we have to say that it is not right that the failure of administrative action should be held to be the failure of the Mandate.
§ There is another point which I must speak upon with some hesitation and yet I feel it must be said. I do not understand the haste with which His Majesty's Government felt it necessary to accept and endorse this Report. In my judgment it is an affront to Parliament. In a matter which involves the honour of 602 our country, which may very possibly have serious international reactions, we find Parliament committed before it has been consulted. That happened not long ago with the mad scheme of a Legislative Council which Parliament, in spite of the Government, had to kill. We are not yet a Fascist State and Parliament ought still to count for something in the story of our land. I should like to know what was the special hurry in this case. Is it possible that, stung by the scathing criticism of the Report, the Government sought to obscure what they could not possibly excuse? Delay, especially in the matter of Palestine, has been a habit with them. Why, then, should they rush with almost indecent haste into these decisions? One wonders whether other nations have been consulted. The United States of America, for instance, have some treaty rights in this matter. I wonder if they have consented to the vivisection of Palestine. I suppose the Government felt that their varied and aimless flock would accept anything without question; but in any case we, to the extent of our power, protest against Parliament being treated as if it were only a sub-committee of a Tory Club.
That unpleasant part of duty having been got over, let me say a word of astonishment at the excuse that the Government give. They say His Majesty's Government have taken every opportunity to encourage co-operation between Arabs and Jews. It would be interesting to know where and when. They have not fulfilled the elementary function which every Government should perform of keeping order. The Report says:
Arab nationalism in Palestine has been artificially puffed up by methods which the Government should never have allowed. Only a little firmness is needed to deflate it.
Nothing is more clearly established in the minds of informed persons than that the Government have neglected this first of their duties and that either bias or lethargy or indecision or whatever you may choose to call it, has had a great part in the trouble which has developed. The Government have hampered the establishment of the Jewish National Home which it was their special duty to promote, an obligation imposed upon them by the Mandate. The reply may be: "You yourself admit that economic progress has been made," and I do, but the progress that has been made has
been in great part—almost wholly indeed—by the Jewish people themselves. They have redeemed the desolation of their land. They have made the desert blossom as the rose, they have transformed the deadly swamps, the national home of the hornet and the mosquito, into smiling valleys where a healthy population can live. We do not in our Parliament criticise Government officers who cannot answer for themselves and I shall not do so to-day. I merely content myself with saying that in my judgment nobody connected with the Colonial Office or with the Governorate in Palestine can read this Report with anything like satisfaction.
Some years ago I came to the conclusion, whether rightly or wrongly, that the Palestine problem would never be solved until it was taken cut of the hands of the Colonial Office altogether. The present position is this; that we have made a complete mess of one of the most honourable and important tasks ever entrusted by the conscience of mankind to a single nation, and we are asked to confess now that we are unable to do what we solemnly engaged to do. We are to return the Mandate, as it were, to the League of Nations under every circumstance of national humiliation. The League of Nations may say: "Well, you knew what you were doing. You were not children in the art of nation building. You knew what was involved. These terms were not imposed upon you. You yourselves approved them, and they were passed in the exact words that you preferred to have." So we cannot make that excuse. That is the situation we have to face to-day.
I want, for a minute or two, and I will try not to delay your Lordships too long, to look at the question of partition. It seems to me that if it is inevitable the conditions proposed are inequitable and they are highly hazardous. I should like to ask a few questions. If it be true that the Jew and Arab cannot live together in peace under the Mandatory Authority, how is the Arab to live at peace, or the Jew, when one race or the other is in a dominant position? If the Arab is afraid of Jewish domination how will his fears be lessened when the Jews have complete control over him? How are the Jews who are to live in the Arab State to be protected against molestation and other things? I would say also that 604 to hand over the Arab worker in an Arab State to the permanent rule of the usurer and the absentee landlord is not right to the Arab worker and not right in itself. The business of the Arab and Jewish workers is to make common cause at all costs. They have to protect themselves against every form of capitalism, whether it is Jewish, Gentile or Arab. I should like the House to believe, and I should like the Arab people to believe, that I have as much concern for their welfare as for that of the Jewish people or any other people in the world. I should like to ask also whether the Jewish State is to be a free and independent Republic. Is it to be thrust outside the British Commonwealth of Nations? It may be replied that the Jews will ask for membership of the British Commonwealth of Nations. But they may not; they have had some experience of what it has meant. Then, again, the League of Nations may say that you have tried your hand at this Mandate, and offer it to someone else.
Then there is the question of boundaries. I feel that to hand over the southern part of Palestine, as is proposed, is to condemn it to sterility. Therefore, if that division is to take place, I think that Parliament, if it has any right still to offer an opinion, should urge that a line be drawn from Khan Yunis to the Trans-Jordan border and that this southern part should remain under the control of the Mandatory Power, to be developed by the Jews and Arabs to the best of their ability. Speaking for the moment on behalf of the Labour Party, I would say that we cannot support this scheme of partition. It may fail, and, inasmuch as Parliament has not decided that it should be done, the Government must take the responsibility. I should like also, as a personal matter, to say that the new State—this toy kingdom which is to be handed over to the Jewish people—may be just large enough to give them a cultural home, but it will not touch the Jewish problem. That will still be on the conscience of men. If this partition scheme has to go through and the boundaries have to remain as they are, I believe that the Government should consider whether there cannot be some additional outlet for the Jewish peoples in the anti-Semitic areas. But what I specially desire to say is that the Jews feel desperately disappointed about the treat- 605 ment of Jerusalem. Somebody has said that the Commissioners propose decapitation before creation. Some method might be devised whereby the old City could be retained under the Mandatory Power and the Jerusalem outside the walls, built by Jewish labour, might continue to be at the disposal of its builders.
I should like to close by saying this. There should be a period for reflection before this proposal becomes effective. I should like to sat something else. It has been to me a source of very great disappointment that the Jewish people have not done more in the matter of co-operation and developing the spiritual relationship between themselves and their Arab neighbours. I have done my best on a hundred platforms, in this country, in America and elsewhere, to urge that duty upon them. I have pointed out that in the Southern States of America interracial committees operate to the great benefit of both races in the areas concerned, as they do also in the Union of South Africa. Something on those lines might well be explored. In any case I believe that the poison-spots in Palestine should be discovered and ended, and that the aim should be to have co-operation.
May I express this final appeal? The Jewish people have a great ethical tradition in the world and the Arabs have a fine and chivalrous record. It is their business to find the way to peace and to live at peace one with another. That task should be attempted even once more before it is abandoned. It would be a task worthy of a man's finest powers. I do not believe it could be done now by a Jew or an Arab, or perhaps by anybody belonging to one of the dominant faiths; but perhaps some intelligent heathen could be discovered who, understanding the difficulties and what is required, might devote himself to this task—a social relations officer under the control of a joint committee. That is what I feel. Again let me say that I think this Report is wonderful in its power of analysis, and if its proposals do not meet with my approval, that is the fate which most constitution-makers have to face. The way of the constitution-maker is always hard. Therefore I plead for delay. Let there be given a breathing-time to try again. Co-operation and common love of their native land will surely bring these two peoples together. That and that alone 606 would be the brazen serpent which, if it were held aloft and observed by them, would bring to both of them peace and healing. I beg to move.
§ EARL PEEL
My Lords, perhaps first of all I may be allowed to thank the noble Lord who has spoken of our Report in such very generous and appreciative terms. Perhaps also, as I am the only member of that Commission in both Houses, I may be allowed to pay my humble tribute to my colleagues. I do not think it would have been possible to have as one's colleagues five men who should devote themselves more loyally, wholeheartedly and assiduously, with such great ability and such great energy, to an attempt to solve the difficult and tangled questions that were laid before them by the Government. I had thought that I had better sit quite silent during this debate and listen respectfully to the criticisms of noble Lords. After all, as Chairman of a Commission of that kind, one sits to some extent in a judicial capacity. One pronounces an opinion after examining the evidence, and really one has little more to say. I am sure that your Lordships would certainly not expect me to go through the Report or to give a general analysis of the whole of it. I do not think there would be any noble Lords left in the House if I did so! I assume, therefore, that your Lordships have all carefully studied and read that Report.
I differ in one respect from the noble Lord in his very carefully-considered and temperate speech, and that is about the action of the Government. I was immensely impressed—I will not say I was surprised, but I was very much impressed—by the sagacity and the swiftness with which the Government adopted the main lines of our Report. I thought it a great tribute to their wisdom, and I leave it to them to deal with this question of the insult which was offered to Parliament, on which I feel it is not for me to say anything. But the other point on which I think I might comment is this, if I am to make one or two observations on the Report and on the whole situation, that the noble Lord has taken an attitude not altogether unexpected on his side of the House, that is to say, a very Conservative attitude, which of course one always expects. It is that really no great change is wanted, and that if some- 607 body with great qualifications—if he had not said he was a heathen I should have been thinking about the noble Lord himself—should go to that country and deal with the situation, bringing a spirit of toleration, he could really settle these troubles and difficulties. I want to say that for my part I believe it is too late for anything of that kind.
We have passed in our Report, I agree, certain strictures on certain parts of the Administration, but supposing you had had an almost perfect Administration, if you like, and supposing that all the civil servants and officials who had gone there had been able to speak Hebrew and Arabic, and supposing they had been as familiar with every item and every Article in the Mandate as sometimes they were supposed not to be—if they had exhibited, shall I say, an almost inhuman impartiality as between Jews and Arabs, I still believe that the deep-rooted facts of the situation are such that it would not have been possible to carry on the government of that country under the Mandate, or anyhow without very grave and searching alterations in the Mandate itself. Of course many attacks have been passed upon the Government, and I would only observe in passing, because I do not want to dwell on this side of the picture at all, that however supine they may be accused of being, however indifferent to the setting up of the Jews in Palestine, the fact does remain, and it is a great tribute I think to them, that in spite of all these difficulties there are, to-day, some 400,000 Jews in that country, out of a population of only 1,125,000. That fact alone shows that there cannot have been that partiality or hostility which is sometimes attributed to the Government there.
But the noble Lord adds his name to a very distinguished list of persons, official and otherwise, whom we have quoted in our Report, and who keep on saying, with a steadiness and unanimity that is remarkable, that all will come right in the end if we only persevere. In my view that has been rather well called a spirit of retrospective prophecy that really does not go to the root of the trouble at all. The trouble has been, although we did not see it at the time, that the situation there is such that there really could have been no other result of this Administration in the sixteen or seventeen years. Let us look therefore, 608 at one or two points of the situation itself. You have introduced one race into a small country already occupied by another race, and may I remind your Lordships that I am not sure that at the time there was full appreciation of the numbers of Moslems in the country? If there had been, I do not think that in the Mandate you could have had the phrase used "the Jews and the non-Jews inhabitants of the country," because the non-Jews were about ten times as numerous as the Jews themselves.
You have the further fact that this race, introduced into the country, were determined, in their own words, not to remain in a minority. That is to say, the people of the country knew that those who were being introduced from certain sources into the country were determined not to be in a minority, but to become a majority. I will say, of course, in fairness to the Jews, that they always maintained that, although they had no intention of remaining in a minority, yet they did not want to dominate the Arabs. I have no doubt that what they told us was true, but the Arabs might say that the same attitude was not taken by the Jewish leaders as is taken by the Jews to-day. If, therefore, these emigrants were powerful, tenacious, hard-working, and well equipped with financial and mental resources, able to command the advice of all Jews, whether Zionist or non-Zionist, in all the countries of the Dispersion, must it not have been inevitable that the Arabs would fear that either themselves or their descendants would go down before the forces with which they themselves were unable to cope?
May I take an instance from recent history, because we are often charged, and I think to some extent rightly, with being rather deficient in a sense of history? Take the Irish case. We, in this country, found it hard to understand that the campaign of Cromwell and the Battle of the Boyne were not to the Irish, as they were to us, far-off distant events, but the actual present and living furniture of their minds. So the Arabs, living under a village and land system long discarded in the countries of the West, with what we should call their primitive habits and customs, did not see themselves as we saw them. They thought and saw themselves as men who had over-run Africa and ruled in Spain, and who for a time 609 at least were the world conveyors of culture and science. As regards the Jewish position, I do not think we find the same difficulty in appreciating that. After all, we have all been brought up on the Bible; the Judges and the Prophets and the Kings are as familiar to us as Richard Cœur de Lion and Queen Elizabeth. We know as well as the Jews about the history of the Temple, its building and its rebuilding and its destruction. We can, I think, rather easily enter into the Jewish passion for a return to Zion. But it is the clash of these great rival historical claims which forms the great tragedy of this situation, a tragedy played out, if you like, on a small stage, but with all the dignity of a great historical sweep and whop centuries of ambition behind it.
Again, I think things might have been different if this Palestine had been an isolated country and the Arabs had been isolated there. But of course that is not so; they were connected, and have been connected, with the great Arab world outside by ever-growing ties. Are they, do you suppose, indifferent to the fortunes and the growth of the other countries of Arabia? Have not they seen Mandate after Mandate melting away around them? The only Mandate that is not reduced is the one under which they are governed. Are they not proud of the great position, for instance, which Ibn Saud of Arabia has attained? Must they, as they say to themselves, be relegated into the position of second-class Arabs, who are not allowed the privileges which are given to other Arabs in the Arab world? Have not they been told, and told on high authority in this country, that the granting of free institutions, which they otherwise might enjoy, must be held back because of the necessity of securing the Jewish Home? All these things are working in their minds. It is not merely a question of how the Mandate is administered; it is a question of what are the historical memories, and what are the feelings, and what are the emotions of the Arabs in that country.
A good many people have said—a good many people have said to me, and indeed I think it was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Snell, himself—"But do not these people see that they profit by the wealth and by the improvements brought about by the Jewish immigrants?" We have paid tribute, certainly not too high, 610 to the great changes that have been wrought by the Jews in so many aspects of agriculture and industry in that country, and our judgment was that, anyhow up to the present, the Arabs certainly in social services and the price received for their vegetables and other products, had scored financially by the coming of the Jews. And I think that was true. But they do not live in the present. They are constantly looking into the future, and it is their view and estimate of the future that has so largely governed their minds in these difficulties. They said: "What is going to happen?" They know that their factories, their rather easily run Arab factories, must go down in the keen competition with the better equipped and more scientifically run factories of the Jews. And so in all the different departments of industry. Well, they may be wrong, I dare say, but they have weighed all these things in the balance and have found them wanting compared with the right of governing themselves. In that, I quite agree, they may have made a deplorable mistake.
One other point on the same subject. We were told of the great services this country had rendered to the freeing of the Arab world from the rule of the Turks, how it had set up self-government in so many countries through the length of Arabia. Why should the Arabs grudge this little notch, as it were, cut out of Arabia? Why should they not allow the Jews to come in freely, and be ready to submit, if necessary, to their rule? But there again, they cannot see why they should be sacrificed to the successes of their relatives in Arabia, and they urge that the price of redemption should not be paid by one part of the country only. These are some of the matters that weigh in their minds and really make it impossible for us, unless we appreciate them, to understand the position, which many think is an unwise one, taken up by the Arabs. I have not said a word, and I do not intend this afternoon to say a word, about that long, historical controversy over the promises that were made on the one hand to the Jews, on the other hand to the Arabs, and that were not, if I may say so, very perfectly conveyed to the other side when they were made to one side. I say nothing about that because I think that the actual differences, divergencies, and discrepancies of this situation are quite enough to 611 account for our difficulties, and quite enough on which to base the suggestions that we have made.
Looking for a moment at the Government itself, that much-criticised Government, I think the least that has been said about it is that it might have governed much better. It is a criticism I have often heard in the course of my life made against a great many Governments. But I ask this: How really can a Government flourish and unite all these deep gulfs of discrepancy? A conciliation policy has been tried: some think it has been pressed too far. I think that was the view of the noble Lord, Lord Snell. But how is it possible to conciliate two parties who do not want to be conciliated and who have rival and contradictory ambitions? Again, the Government is under a Mandate, one of the most difficult forms of government you can possibly have. It makes one very pleased in this country that, with one exception, we have not got a written Constitution to interpret. But it was always the case that the Government, trying to consider what was best as it were for the general interests of the country, had to ask: "But is it against the Mandate? Is it in contradiction of some Article of the Mandate?" So that really the question of congruity with the Mandate came to be more important and to hold a larger place in the public eye than the question of good administration in the country.
Take another problem with which one is met. You had to establish the Jewish Home, and to establish it without detriment to the rights of the existing inhabitants. Now I cannot think of a more terrible problem to set any Government. Strictly speaking, any action taken on behalf of the Jews might be said to affect the position of the Arabs. If more land was granted to the Jews, why then in the future the small amount of land cultivable or irrigable that there is in Palestine might be diminished, not so much for the Arabs themselves then existing but for their descendants. There is hardly a single action that can be taken by a Government in that country which must not be tried upon that anvil and weighed against the interests of one existing section of the people. I am bound to say I found it extraordinarily difficult to say, merely on 612 the basis of government alone—and good government—how that difficult puzzle can be solved.
Take another instance of it, on which the noble Lord, Lord Snell, commented and which has been the subject of debate in both Houses—the question of self-government. There it is, first of all, in the Articles of the Mandate. First of all the Jews say that it must be subordinate to the interests of the Jewish Home. The Arabs, on the contrary, maintain that it is a separate Article—part of the Articles standing by itself for the introduction of self-governing institutions. I am not going to pronounce on the interpretation of these Articles. It is entirely beyond me. We spent a great many anxious hours in trying to interpret them, and we thought that on the whole it was better to use our common sense in a large way and try to see what the difficulties were, not what the Articles were. But there they are. The Arabs want—and want it at once, as they said—the establishment of these free institutions. Of course the Jews were opposed to it, naturally opposed to it, because the Arabs made no bones about their desires. They said that what they wanted was that not another Jew was to be admitted into the country, that not another dunum, not another quarter of an acre, was to be sold to the Jews. Indeed they gave hints that in their opinion there were a good many more Jews than were wanted in the country already, and if they had the authority their numbers might be slightly reduced. On the other hand, this promised development of self-governing institutions must necessarily be opposed by the Jews.
Again, as the numbers of the Jews increased, and as they got nearer to a majority themselves, the views of the two parties would change. It would be the Jews who would be keenly anxious for self-government, and the Arabs who would be determinedly against it. It is rather difficult to govern a country where these swaying majorities and minorities are for or against this development of self-government and where their interpretation of the Mandate and its Articles depends upon numbers. There, again, can you defend this Mandate? One of the assumptions that must have been in the minds of the creators of the Mandate was that there should be some sympathy and working together, as was very eloquently 613 referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Snell; that there must be, on the part of the people, some attempt at friendliness and conciliation between these two great races in Palestine.
What do you find? I only give one example of it. They are supposed to be cousins, I believe, but neither side as far as I could see laid any great stress on the relationship. One Arab eloquently compared, not offensively, the Jews to salt, He said: "You like to have a little salt on your plate to flavour your dinner, but you do not want to upset the whole saltcellar on it at the same time." Look at the system of education. Under the Mandate—and it must be followed by any Government there is—the Jews and the Arabs are brought up in their separate schools. They are taught in Hebrew, they are taught in Arabic, they are taught by Jewish teachers, and they are taught by Moslem teachers. They have, speaking generally—there were a few little instances to the contrary—no contact, no bringing together in their early and formative years of the young Jews and the young Arabs. Their loyalties are to Jews or to Moslems, their affiliations are with them. Are you really to expect that these young people, educated and brought up as they have been under the Mandate, are going to work comfortably together when the whole of their training has been to segregate them into opposite camps and with opposite loyalties?
If the Jewish Home meant that there should be, as it were, a large camp of Jews perpetually in Palestine, separate from the rest of the people, it must surely also mean that somehow or other there should be established between the two races arrangements for conciliation and friendship. But just look at the symbols—and we know how great a part symbols play in the life of a nation. There is the thing called Palestinian citizenship, but I never found anybody who paid the slightest attention or respect to Palestinian citizenship. We asked what flags there were. There was, of course, the Union Jack, and there was the Jewish flag and there was the Arab flag. "But," I said, "where is the Palestinian flag?" Nobody had ever heard of it, and nobody had ever dared to try to invent it. But again we are rather apt—it must be so in the course of general speaking—to talk about the Jews as if they were much the 614 same in character, tradition, and culture. Of course that is not so. They have come—and that is part of the question—through the instance of the Jewish Agency, recognised as we know in the Mandate, from all the countries of the world and all the countries of Europe, and they bring with them all sorts of different standards of culture, administration, expectation, knowledge, social services, and so on. It is not easy—it may be possible under this "divine heathen" we heard about—to reconcile these things, but I do say it is a great achievement of government, and a very difficult one, to have legislation and administration for two sets of people so utterly different in culture, tradition, character, expectation, standards, and money as the Jews who have come in under this immigration and Arabs who have been living in the country.
I am not going to multiply reasons. I have only alluded to some. We set them all out in our Report, but I want to put emphasis on some. It was all these discrepancies and difficulties and divisions which drove us slowly to the conclusion that even a reform of the Mandate was not enough, and that the abolition of the Mandate was essential if we were not to move or to be driven to disaster and discredit. The noble Lord has spoken of a confession of failure. He has said: "You have undertaken the Mandate, and you say you have not succeeded—what a confession to make for a country like Great Britain with its experience of government." I am not ashamed at all of that charge. I agree that we are not tyros in government, but very old hands in the art not only of governing ourselves but of governing other countries. I say boldly that if we fail, if we cannot make, as it were, both ends meet in the art of government, then I think we ourselves and other countries may fairly conclude that the failure lies not in our own incapacity but in the intractable character of the material with which we have got to deal. I myself see no discredit in saying that you have failed in what I believe to be an impossible task. We moved, as I say, slowly to these conclusions, but I want to assure your Lordships that it was not until after the most thorough and tremendous sifting of all the operations of Government, and of all its activities, after endless questioning of witnesses, after trying to assure ourselves what had been 615 done during the last fifteen years in that country, that we moved slowly and reluctantly to the assumption that no mere change in the Mandate was enough, but that we must attack the whole system.
I hope your Lordships will not think that I am dogmatic when I say this. There may be hundreds of opinions about the form of partition, about the kind of State, but I believe, and I believe firmly, that if you had sent out any six men of some competence in public affairs on that point they would have arrived at a similar conclusion to our own. But we did not, I can assure your Lordships, reach the idea of partition without long hesitation and prolonged meditation. We were not in love with partition. After all, we have lived through these years when we have seen the establishment of new and of small States, and we knew very well the difficulties that had to be overcome, the troubles inseparable from the setting up of new States, the relations between them, and all that complex of questions of administration and citizenship which must necessarily obtain if you try to set up new States. But we were driven to it by the force of facts, and when we were driven to it we were determined to put it plainly and frankly before you for your judgment.
There are difficulties about partition, but there are enormous advantages. First of all it starts both races on a new keel and on a new course. It gives them at once, if you like, that freedom for managing their own affairs and for self-government which they both desire and which neither of them can enjoy at present because they are gathered together in the same country. We are not insensible of this either, that it frees the Jews from the hostility and the rivalries of that great encircling number of Arab States which now watch so jealously and so carefully the relations between Jews and Arabs in Palestine. It abolishes, if you like, Jewish freedom, but it gives them instead something far greater and of far higher status, that is a Jewish State. It does not of course fulfil all the ambitions of Jews and Arabs; no settlement can do that; but it does relieve the Arabs from those anxieties about the future which darken their existence and drive them sometimes, unfortunately, into crime and terrorism.
616 Just one word, if I may be allowed, on the scheme of partition. Any scheme of partition—and many other suggestions have been made—must, in our view at least, conform to three principles. First of all, you must have as far as possible the Jews gathered together in their State and the Arabs in theirs. Now, unfortunately, it has not been possible to do that and there are a substantial number of Arabs left in the Jewish State. Then you ask: "Will they suffer?" I do not want to say that there are Jews left in the Arab State. I do not want it to be a matter of hostages, because I firmly believe that when these enmities are relieved there will not be harsh treatment of Arabs by Jews or of Jews by Arabs. Their natural tolerance will be able to exert itself. But I will not go into all these details. I will merely say that I wish it could have been more cleanly arranged. But we tried almost every permutation possible before we arrived at this one, which we thought the least difficult. It is true, as the noble Lord has said, that a large number of Jews are left in the British enclave, the neutral enclave, outside Jerusalem, or in that part of Jerusalem where so many Jews live and where, for instance, all the public buildings of the Jewish Agencies are. We should have liked, if possible, to have put them into the Jewish State, but there were enormous difficulties in the way, and I think your Lordships will agree that to have two enclaves close together so curiously related would have subjected itself to a good deal of criticism. The second point is that we have to try to get a formidable State with the best possible boundaries for a major State. There was another limiting factor. I think your Lordships will agree with this, and neither Jew nor Arab, I think, will really strongly disagree. They feel that the Holy Places sacred to three religions should be placed under the control, as a trust for civilisation, as we call it, of a neutral Power.
Those are the three conditions which we think have to be fulfilled before you can construct a partition scheme at all. A better scheme could easily be devised no doubt, but, as I say, it must conform to those conditions. It is true that neither side has received our proposals with any enthusiasm. But how could they? Both sides are being asked to abate something 617 of those ambitions, those honourable ambitions, which both sides have so long held. On that I will only make this observation, that if either side would look not so much at the sacrifices which they are asked to make as at the sacrifices which the other community are asked to make, then I think they would be rather happier. If freed from this forced companionship, each in separate and independent States, why should not these great communities strike a new trail of friendship? When the tangle of present perplexities is cut away then, my Lords, the field is open for peace and good will.
THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA)
My Lords, I feel that I cannot begin my reply to my noble friend with a greater confidence of securing the unanimous consent of your Lordships than by paying a tribute to the noble Earl who has just spoken and to all his colleagues for the very remarkable way in which they discharged the difficult task which was laid upon them. Their Report, so comprehensive in its survey of the historical background of the problem, so penetrating in its analysis of the complexities of the present situation, so just and impartial in its criticism, has already been described as one of our great historic State documents, and I believe that, when all this difficult matter is subjected to the analysis of history, this verdict will be confirmed by the judgment of posterity.
I would call attention if I may to the very remarkable fact that a Royal Commission of six members, whose impartiality is above suspicion and whose qualifications for this inquiry are unquestioned, has produced not only a unanimous Report but a Report unanimous on no fewer than four major issues. The Report was unanimous in the first place in its interpretation of the obligations which His Majesty's Government have incurred towards the two peoples the conflict of whose national aspirations forms the main theme of the Report. In the second place the members are unanimous in their judgment—critical at times but always generous—of the methods by which the Mandatory Power and the Government of Palestine have endeavoured, in the face of severe discouragement, to implement those obligations. In the third place they are 618 unanimous in their searching and fearless exposition of the root of the problem. Finally, the Commission are unanimous in their conclusion that only by means of what they describe as the "surgical operation" of partition can there be found a solution which is just to both the contending parties and conformable with our obligations, a solution which in their view offers at least the prospect of peace. Therefore I do not think it can have come as a surprise to your Lordships to learn from the Statement of Policy which was published as a Command Paper with the Report, that His Majesty's Government find themselves in general agreement with the arguments and conclusions of the Commission and have decided that a tripartite scheme of partition on the general lines recommended by the Commission represents the best and most hopeful solution of the deadlock.
But in accepting that decision I cannot on any account accept the imputation of weakness or of lack of determination which has been laid at our door in the Sunday Press and by the noble Lord who spoke first in this debate and who now has the honour to represent what is rapidly becoming the strong-arm Party in the State. It is not weakness but strength to decide to end a situation which has become intolerable for ourselves and a menace to those whose interests we are trying to protect. After the powerful arguments put forward by the Commission have been fully considered, it would in His Majesty's Government's view be not a sign of strength but of futile obstinacy to attempt to prolong the present unhappy situation in Palestine. It is better in our view to admit that our honest endeavours during the past years have not been successful, and to accept boldly the full responsibility for the new course which we now intend to pursue, rather than to attempt by methods which on all sides are admitted to be only palliative to disguise a failure which affects the lives and happiness of so many thousands of Jews and Arabs alike. His Majesty's Government having made that decision, it is unnecessary for me to dwell upon the various detailed recommendations for administrative reforms which are contained in Part II of the Report and which are mainly intended for adoption in the event of a decision to continue administration under the existing Mandate. For the same reason I do 619 not propose to take up the time of the House with discussion of the unhappy events of recent months.
I would only stress the point that the results of the careful investigation which the Commission have carried out into the past policy of His Majesty's Government and the method of administration have dispelled two illusions which have prevailed in certain quarters for many years. The first of these illusions is the belief that what is called the Palestine problem is really no problem at all, and that the existing Mandate could have been made to work if Palestine had been blessed with a strong and efficient Administration with an intelligent and sympathetic appreciation of the specific obligations involved in the Mandate. I do not think anyone who has read the Report of the Royal Commission can hold that view seriously any longer. It is perfectly true that certain features of the administration are criticized, but the unenviable and almost superhuman difficulties of the task are generously recognised. Various complaints against the Administration were preferred by Jews and Arabs. These were carefully sifted by the Commission, who found in most cases that the complaints were unjustified or only justified to a limited degree.
Of course the main criticism on which many people have already fastened lies in the observation of the Commission that "To-day it is evident that the elementary duty of providing public security has not been discharged." Taken by itself this statement might look like an unqualified condemnation of the Palestine Administration. But a glance at the context and a perusal of the closing words of Chapter VII show that this is not so. While the Commission advocate more drastic action in the event of future disturbances, in fact, that a revolt should be treated as a revolt, the Report most clearly states that the application of the armed might of this country, easy as it would be for us to apply it, could not possibly provide a solution of the problem.
The second illusion which I think the Report goes far to dispel is illustrated by the contention that Arab nationalism in Palestine is an artificial development fostered by a handful of irreconcilable 620 politicians in Jerusalem, and that the Mandate could have been, and even now might be, enforced without difficulty if strong measures had been taken, or were now taken, to deal with the activities of a few highly-placed agitators. I feel that if anything is proved by the history of the recent disturbances and by the enormous amount of evidence adduced before the Commission, it is that the force and the widespread nature of Arab national sentiment are genuine, spontaneous and deep-seated throughout all classes of the community.
Ever since the outbreak of the trouble in Palestine in April, 1936, His Majesty's Government have carried forbearance to the utmost limit, and once again we have been accused of weakness as a result. Our policy of conciliation was carefully thought out, and was based on the assumption that in the process of time the two races would so adjust their national aspirations as to render possible the establishment of a single commonwealth under a unitary Government. His Majesty's Government were throughout actuated by the conviction, which was shared, indeed, by the Royal Commission, that a policy of forcible repression could have afforded no solution and, in the words of the Report, would only "widen the gulf that separates the Arab from the Jew." But having said that, and having admitted that conciliation was right and wise while we were trying to work the Mandate and while the Royal Commission were investigating the grievances which it was alleged had arisen under the Mandate, it must clearly be understood that the position is now substantially altered. The Commission, after a lengthy investigation of all the relevant facts, have come to a certain conclusion. The Government have accepted that conclusion and will do their utmost to put it into effect.
With that purpose in view they do not intend to allow the calm consideration of that decision in Palestine to be prevented by terrorism or by threats of violence. Many methods, both of persuasion and of violence, have been used by both sides in the past to put forward, as they thought, their own interests. The Government have been very tolerant, perhaps too tolerant, of those methods—
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
We have now reached a conclusion, our decision has been taken, and we will tolerate no action by either side which would inflame once again the fires of a controversy which we hope our decision will put out. We have now come to a final end, and should like to make it quite clear that it is our intention that the day of the wrecker, whether he be Arab or whether he be Jew, is done with, and that the hour of the statesman, whether he be Arab or whether he be Jew, has arrived.
So much for the past. I will, if I may, turn now to the main recommendations of the Commission, which have been accepted by His Majesty's Government, and I will emphasise once again that the Government have decided in favour of a scheme of triple partition on the general lines recommended by the Report. This scheme, as indicated in the sketch map appended to the Report, appears to His Majesty's Government to be equitable and well-conceived in its main outlines. Neither the Commission nor the Government under-estimate the practical difficulties which will have to be faced in giving effect to such a scheme, but I would deprecate, on the other hand, making too much of those difficulties. We believe that in its general lines a scheme 622 such as has been proposed is both just and practicable, and we believe that its inherent difficulties can be overcome. Representations have already been received, both from the Arabs and from the Jews, in favour of variations in the proposed boundary line and of other modifications in the Commission's proposals, and these representations will in due course receive consideration.
I would refer for one moment, for instance, to the claim advanced in certain Jewish quarters for the inclusion of the Nageb in the proposed Jewish State. It has even been suggested that as many as two million Jews might be settled in that area by means of intensive cultivation. I would only point out that this sort of suggestion is based on estimates of the irrigability of that comparatively waterless locality which are not supported by recent technical investigation. I took that only as one example of many, and I would make it perfectly clear that, while His Majesty's Government recognise that various modifications of detail may be found necessary when the time comes to work out a scheme and to appoint the Boundary Commissions and the other Commissions which may be required, yet the Government, as at present advised, are not disposed to entertain proposals for large or substantial variations of the territorial features of the Commission's scheme unless the Arabs and Jews, in joint agreement, put forward proposals which commend themselves to us.
May I ask a question of the noble Marquess? It has been running through my mind, if he will forgive me for saying so, all the time he has been speaking. Suppose the Jews and the Arabs join together in completely repudiating the scheme; do you then go on with it?
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
Well, I will now come to another, and that is with regard to the régime to be established in the British enclave. I am now laying before your Lordships the proposals of the Government. It is 623 quite clear that that régime is going to be a complicated and difficult fence, but I think it would be highly undesirable if we were now to enter into questions of that kind of detail at this moment. Other difficulties are bound to arise as the scheme develops. It has been stated, for instance, that some of the orange groves in the neighbourhood of Jaffa will fall within the proposed Jewish State. But of course it is quite clear that whether this be so or not will largely depend on the lines of the boundary of the British enclave between Jaffa and Jerusalem, and I anticipate that when the Boundary Commissions are appointed their first task will be to delimit the boundaries of the British enclave. And so on, my Lords; the difficulties mount up.
We have been accused on the ground that this Corridor between Jaffa and Jerusalem will only be a repetition of the Polish Corridor. I would remind your Lordships of one important fact in that connection: that this is not going to be an Arab Corridor running through a Jewish State or a Jewish Corridor running through an Arab State; it will be a British Corridor, and I would like to emphasise at this point that the adoption of this scheme of partition does not mean that Britain is leaving Palestine. The Jerusalem-Jaffa Corridor, containing the most important railway junction, the great new air-port at Lydda, and the Royal Air Force Headquarters at Ramie, will remain under British control. Apart from the Corridor there is the question which was raised by the noble Lord opposite as to the fact that there is bound to be a very large Arab community within the boundaries of the Jewish State. On this matter, all I think that need be said at this moment is that should partition come about the Government accept the recommendation of the Royal Commission as to the extreme desirability of effecting a transfer of population as rapidly as may be feasible, and will use their best endeavours to secure that end.
I have dealt with a number of points of detail which must arise out of any detailed consideration of any scheme of partition. In spite of the interruption of my noble friend I think it would suit your Lordships best if I now explain the programme we propose to pursue in the immediate future to implement these decisions. The first step in the programme 624 of procedure is to obtain the consent in principle of the Council of the League of Nations to the termination of the existing Mandate in respect of the areas in which it is proposed to establish independent Arab and Jewish States, and to the modification of the existing Mandate in respect of the remaining areas containing the Holy Places and the smaller enclaves, so as to provide for permanent British control over certain of them as recommended by the Commission. The normal procedure would have been to submit these proposals in the first instance to the Council of the League, who would doubtless have invited the Permanent Mandates Commission to report upon them. It has, however, already been decided to hold a special meeting of the Permanent Mandates Commission at the end of this month for the purpose of considering outstanding points in the Annual Report on Palestine and Trans-Jordan for the year 1935, the Annual Report for 1936, the Report of the Royal Commission and the Statement of Policy of His Majesty's Government. In the circumstances, it has been suggested by His Majesty's Government to the Chairman of the Council, that in order to expedite a decision the Permanent Mandates Commission should be invited by him to report to the Council on the issues raised in the Report and the Statement of Policy after their coming special session, and it is hoped that if the Chairman of the Council can see his way to meet this request, the need for a later reference back to the Permanent Mandates Commission from the Council may be obviated.
Furthermore, under the Anglo-American Convention of 1924 the Government of the United States have certain rights in connection with Palestine, and these rights will not, of course, be overlooked. The Government of the United States have been supplied with copies of the Report of the Royal Commission and of the Statement of Policy, and will be kept fully informed of future developments. I need hardly say that any communication from that Government will be taken into consideration. After those fences have been surmounted consideration must be given to the procedure which is to be adopted for obtaining the views of the two communities, and for securing their acceptance of a scheme of partition. If these negotiations meet with success, 625 His Majesty's Government will seek to enter into agreements with the Jewish Agency on the one hand and any suitable Arab authority on the other, for the purpose of establishing provisional Governments and formulating the conditions under which His Majesty's Government would in due course recognise the two sovereign independent States, the creation of which the Report envisages.
These agreements, which would of course require the approval of the Council of the League and of Parliament, would, as recommended in the Report, contain effective safeguards under the guarantee of His Majesty's Government for the protection of minorities, and when the States came into existence would form the basis of Treaties which would be entered into between His Majesty and those States. In addition His Majesty's Government would undertake to support any requests for admission to the League of Nations which the Governments of the Arab and Jewish States might make in accordance with Article 1 of the Covenant. Furthermore, Military Conventions would be attached to the Treaties, dealing with the maintenance of military, naval and air forces, the upkeep and use of ports, roads and railways, the security of the oil pipe line, and other matters affecting the defence and security of Palestine as a whole.
I am keeping your Lordships rather long, but I think I must now touch on certain decisions which will have to be taken on the policy to be followed in connection with immigration and land during the immediate coming period while steps are being taken to work out the form of a scheme of partition. As regards Jewish immigration, the Commission have come to the conclusion that the criterion of economic absorptive capacity, by which His Majesty's Government and the Administration of Palestine have endeavoured to regulate Jewish immigration for the past fifteen years, is not in itself sufficient, and that in future account must be taken, not only of economic, but of political, social and psychological considerations for the purpose of a just discharge of our dual obligations in Palestine. The equality of our obligations to Jews and Arabs respectively is stressed throughout the Report, which endorses the declaration on this subject which was made by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald in the House of Commons as Prime Minister on 626 April 3, 1930. That declaration, which was quoted in the statement laid before the Permanent Mandates Commission at Geneva in 1930 by Dr. Drummond Shiels, was as follows:A double undertaking is involved to the Jewish people on the one hand and to the non-Jewish population of Palestine on the other; and it is the firm resolve of His Majesty's Government to give effect in equal measure to both parts of the declaration and to do equal justice to all sections of the population of Palestine.The subsequent Report of the Permanent Mandates Commission, which was accepted by the Council of the League, agreed that the obligations laid down by the Mandate in regard to the two sections of the population were of equal weight, and associated itself with the view put forward by His Majesty's Government.
That being so, His Majesty's Government have therefore decided that, as a provisional measure for the next eight months, after which the matter will be further considered, 8,000 Jewish immigrants of all categories shall be admitted into Palestine, provided that the economic absorptive capacity of the country is not thereby exceeded. The overriding limit of 8,000, which is admittedly arbitrary, conforms with the Commission's "political high level" of 12,000 a year which is recommended for adoption over a period of five years. I should like to dispel, if I may, any misunderstanding that there may be as to the sanctity of the criterion of "economic absorptive capacity." There is not one word about economic absorptive capacity in the Mandate. The relevant Article of the Mandate requires the Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, to facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions.
The decision to take other than economic factors into consideration, I quite admit, involves some departure from the interpretation placed by the MacDonald letter on the policy which was first laid down by Mr. Winston Churchill in 1922. But I feel convinced that that departure is fully justified, and it is equally consistent with the terms of the Mandate. Also it is equally clear that the terms of the Mandate preclude His Majesty's Government from acceding to the demand of Arab witnesses that they should stop Jewish immigration altogether, even if we had the 627 mind, which we have not, to do anything of the kind. As regards the land, we think it is essential to ensure in the immediate interim period, pending definite demarcation of the boundaries of the respective States, that no transaction should be permitted which might tend to prejudice the scheme as a whole, and it is therefore proposed that the High Commissioner should be given legal powers to prohibit any such transaction, although the details of those powers will have to be discussed with him.
I have given as close an account as I may of His Majesty's Government's views, following on the decisions of the Royal Commission, and I do not think that I could add very much to the very eloquent appreciation of the advantages of partition, to the Arabs and to the Jews and to ourselves, which is to be found in the Royal Commission's Report. All I would say is that the alternative which is contemplated, as far as I could see, with such equanimity by the noble Lord who moved this Motion, the alternative of maintaining the present régime, with no prospect of relief from repressive measures, which would earn both for us and for the Jewish people the hostility of the whole Arab world, which would involve a continuous drain on the British Exchequer as well as the Exchequer of Palestine, and which might well vitiate our whole policy in the Middle East—that alternative is not one on which I would care to dwell. The recommendations of the Royal Commission do at least offer a real prospect of peace, and a foundation on which the two great peoples whose destinies are linked in that historic land may one day learn to cooperate for their own mutual benefit.
It is perfectly clear that obligations and undertakings were entered upon not only by the British but by the Allied Governments to the Jews and to the Arabs and that both must be honoured. In the view of His Majesty's Government these commitments can best be carried out in Palestine by means of a scheme of partition. And although, naturally enough, prominence has been given throughout this debate to the clash between the rival nationalisms of Jew and Arab in Palestine, it must not be forgotten that the Holy Land is not a matter solely for Jews or for Arabs, but one that concerns the whole Christian world and many 628 Christians in Palestine who are neither Jew nor Arab by race. It is therefore proposed that we should invite the League of Nations to confirm to Great Britain in perpetuity our responsibilities of government under Mandate for the Holy Cities of Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth, together with the necessary areas to make that government practicable and effective. I would not like any of your Lordships to have listened to this debate without realising that in His Majesty's Government's view this third sector of Palestine is as vital to the future well-being and good government of that country as the creation of the Jewish and Arab States within its boundaries. Furthermore, the guarantee of peace between Arab and Jew in the future in Palestine will be assured not merely by specific treaty relations between Great Britain and both States, but also by our continued presence in that land.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, I was in Palestine during the years from 1920 to 1925, and since then I have had an opportunity of re-visiting the country and have kept in close touch with what has been happening there, but I have spoken no word during those twelve years with reference to any of the controversies with which the Government have had to deal. There is a wise rule of reticence that those who have presided over Administrations either in parts of the British Empire or in the mandated territories should keep aloof from all controversies; but when the government of a territory is to be reconsidered from the foundations, and when a fresh start is to be made, then, as in recent years in the case of India, those who have held office in those territories are expected to state the views their experience has led them to form, and, if they have the great privilege of being members of this House, to state their views first in this Assembly. I would wish to make it clear that I am speaking here only as an ex-High Commissioner, and not in any way on behalf of my noble friends on these Benches, for this is not a matter that arouses any Party issue; nor on behalf of any group or section connected with Palestine, for I have not been, and am not now, a member of any organisation of that kind.
Let me add my own to the universal tributes that have been paid to the Report, a remarkable document, direct, 629 outspoken, incisive written in a human and lively style that is too seldom found in official documents, showing also remarkably sympathetic understanding both of the Zionism of the Jews and of the nationalism of the Arabs. Its preparation has involved much labour and much sacrifice, and I think the first duty of members of either House of Parliament is to express public thanks to the Chairman and his colleagues for the great service they have rendered. The historical survey appears to me admirable, with one exception. There is what I regard as a grave omission. The grievance of the Arabs largely rests on the fact that they claim that before the Arab revolt, before they entered the War, they received assurances from the British Government that if they did so a great Arab domain would be constituted, if the Allies were victorious, of which Palestine would form part, and this they base mainly upon an official letter from Sir Henry McMahon, who represented the British Government in the negotiations with King Hussein, then Sherif of Mecca, which they say gave that promise; and they say the Balfour Declaration, which came two years later, was a breach of that promise, and therefore they were brought into the War under false pretences. That is their main grievance.
It is true that the McMahon letter does not specifically exclude Palestine west of the Jordan from the territories mentioned in that letter which were to be the Arab dominion, and that was because at that time there was no agreement between the British and the French with regard to territories in that part of the world and it was considered inexpedient specifically to mention Palestine, but that letter declared that districts west of certain districts in the Turkish Empire were to be excluded. The Arabs deny that interpretation, but the British Government adhere to it, and in the White Paper of 1922 the British Government finally and specifically declared that the McMahon letter excluded Palestine from the pledge to the Arabs. Here was a matter which was of vital importance in this controversy, but the Commission said this:We have not considered that our terms of reference require & us to undertake the detailed and lengthy research … needed for a full re-examination of this issue "—and to-day the noble Earl, who was Chairman of the Commission, said he did not 630 propose to say one word on that question because they had sufficient troubles without it; that was in effect what he said.
The terms of reference to the Commission were "to ascertain the underlying causes of the disturbances which broke out in Palestine," and surely this is undoubtedly one of the "underlying causes" for the whole Arab world has been vociferating for years that they have been betrayed, and that has been one of the main reasons for their grievance against the Mandate and against the British Government. The Commission say, in their Report:The Arabs understood (before and after the revolt in the Hedjaz) that in the event of an Allied victory Palestine would be included in the sphere of Arab independence.That implicitly could be taken to mean that the Arabs have a legitimate grievance in that regard. I can throw some light on this matter. There was a debate in your Lordships' House as long ago as 1923 in which an old colleague and friend of mine, the late Lord Grey of Fallodon, took part, and in the course of his speech he used language which rather implied that, in his view—speaking as an ex-Foreign Secretary his view was of great importance—the Arabs had a legitimate grievance in this regard. I was then in Palestine, and was much disturbed by his speech, and determined to write to him on this point.
I had working with me at that time Sir Gilbert Clayton as Chief Secretary. Sir Gilbert Clayton was a man who had been closely acquainted with this matter from the beginning, and had been with Sir Henry McMahon during the conduct of these negotiations. He was a man of the highest honour and repute, and was afterwards High Commissioner in Iraq where, unfortunately, he prematurely died. Speaking to him of Lord Grey's speech, I said I wished to write to him on the subject, and he said he could tell me facts that I could communicate to Lord Grey. He gave me, quite unofficially, this note dated April 12, 1923:I was in daily touch with Sir Henry McMahon throughout the negotiations with King Hussein, and made the preliminary drafts of all the letters. I can bear out the statement that it was never the intention that Palestine should be included in the general pledge given to the Sherif. The introductory words of Sir Henry's letter 631 were thought at the time, perhaps erroneously, clearly to cover that point. It was, I think, obvious that the peculiar interests involved in Palestine precluded any definite pledges in regard to its future at so early a stage.At the time of the Versailles Conference the Arabs were represented in Paris by the Emir Feisal, afterwards King of Iraq, who was head of the Arab Delegation. The Zionists were represented by Dr. Weizmann, then, as now, leader of their movement. I had occasion at that time to have correspondence with Feisal, and in the course of a letter which he wrote to me about another matter into which I need not enter, he used this language. This letter was written for publication, was published at the time, and has been quoted since. It throws a light indirectly on the point to which I have been referring. The letter is headed "Secretariat of the Hedjaz Delegation, Paris, December 10, 1919," and is as follows:The mutual confidence between Dr. Weizmann and myself and the perfect accord in our point of view has permitted a perfect understanding between us, and will maintain that harmony between us which is so necessary for the success of our common cause.That was two years after the Balfour Declaration, and four years after the McMahon correspondence. Is it possible that if, at that time, the Arabs were smarting under a sense of grievance that they had been betrayed by the British Government, that they had had promises from us with regard to Palestine which were ruthlessly and unfairly overridden by the subsequent Balfour Declaration, the head of the Arab Delegation should have referred to the perfect understanding between himself and Dr. Weizmann and have referred to the policies of those two parties, as a "common cause"? Therefore, it appears to me that the Commission have failed in that respect to fulfil their duty in merely saying it would involve much research, and that they did not think it necessary to go into this matter, which has been, from the beginning and is now, a fundamental point in the whole controversy.
But if Palestine west of the Jordan is excluded from the McMahon pledge, I regard it as clear and certain that Palestine east of the Jordan was included, and the Balfour Declaration therefore could not have been made 632 to apply; so that those Zionists who criticised me when I was High Commissioner and who criticised the British Government on the ground that we agreed that the Balfour Declaration should not apply to Trans-Jordania, have engaged in criticisms which were totally unwarranted. They declared that the British Government must be bound by their pledge under the Balfour Declaration. That pledge is sacred, but the pledge in the McMahon letter to the Arabs was equally sacred, and on the strength of it the Arabs came into the War and many of them laid down their lives. Years afterwards to say that that paper should be torn up and regarded as of no account appears to me to be a wholly indefensible position to take up.
I do not propose to dwell on retrospect for more than a few moments, but I wish to draw your Lordships' attention to certain points which are outstanding in the Report of the Commission. They pay tribute to the intensity of the Jewish effort, and they pass a very favourable verdict on the Jewish National Home in itself. They point out that 350,000 Jews have come there, and that they have been supported by an expenditure of £14,000,000 all collected by voluntary contributions throughout the world, and in addition by an investment for agricultural and industrial purposes of not less than £63,000,000. They point out again and again that the Arabs economically have greatly benefited by the Jewish National Home. They point out how taxation on the corn lands of the Arabs has been reduced, and that wages are much higher than in the neighbouring territory. They also point out that while the Jews have increased their population since the Mandate by 350,000, the Arabs have increased their population by a precisely equal number. It is not true that the Arabs have been wiped out in Palestine. Their population has increased, mainly by natural growth and partly by immigration, to exactly the same extent as the Jewish population has increased, mainly by immigration and partly by natural growth.
The Commission also point out, explicitly or implicitly, that certain defects have marked the British Administration during these years. To my mind there have been three defects. The first, and the greatest, was that in 1926 and the following years the country was entirely 633 denuded of all military force. With the exception of a few aeroplanes and armoured cars, which are useless for dealing with the sort of problems that arise in the old cities of Palestine, there was no military force of any sort or kind. When I was High Commissioner, I had the advantage of a body of British Gendarmerie, a force of 700, afterwards reduced to 500, very mobile, with a camel corps and cavalry. They mixed with the people, and often knew Arabic, and were a most excellent force. That force was disbanded—I think that was a grave error—and no regular troops were brought in. When disturbances broke out in Jerusalem in 1929, they, as the Commission quote one of the witnesses as saying, could easily have been stopped at the beginning. But, as we all know, there was nobody to stop them, and an excitable population, eagerly ready to listen to, and equally eager to welcome, any rumours, went up in flames, and there were horrible massacres, much blood shed on one side, and in the suppression of the revolt on the other side; and ever since then things have gone from bad to worse. That was a great mistake.
The second mistake on the part of the British Government or of the Colonial Office here has been in the appointment of officials to posts in Palestine who had no knowledge of the country no interest in the country, no understanding, some of them, of the special problems and underlying ideas which make that country so difficult to administer, who regarded their sojourn there as merely an incident in a career which might be spent partly in Africa, partly in the West Indies, and partly in the East or wherever it might be, who regarded it just as part of the ordinary routine of Colonial promotion. That, again, was a mistake. The Commission recognise it and say that, for such officials as there are to be in the future, there ought to be a special list from which would be chosen men who understand the problems of these countries and these populations; and, I would suggest above all, people who know the language and are able to speak directly to those persons over whom they have to rule.
The third error has been with regard to Arab education. The Commission refer to that in emphatic terms in more than one passage. It seems to me in- 634 excusable, after seventeen years of British rule, that of 260,000 Arab children of school age only one in five is receiving an education. It is not as though the country had been starved of revenue. There has been an abounding revenue for many years. I do not plead guilty under this head, for when I was there I had the privilege of opening two hundred schools in Arab villages in little over a year, and that action was only stopped by the fact that our revenue declined very rapidly. We lost a third of our revenue owing to economic conditions, we were in a heavy deficit, and we could not proceed with our programme. But I share the view of the Commission that the Arabs cannot really have great faith in British professions of real zeal and eagerness to raise the standards of the Arab population when this question has been left in abeyance for all these years.
However, we are all of us much less interested in the past than in the present situation and in the plans for the future. Whatever the causes may have been, whoever may have been to blame, I agree in the conclusion of the Commission that we have now reached a deadlock and we cannot go on as we are. I can see no reason why a British Government should engage in a policy of repression and coercion. It seems to me a monstrous thing that we should be required to lock up a whole division of our small Army in Palestine, with the possibility that in any world crisis we might have to lock up even two or three divisions. Meantime, while the British Government are subjected to active and sometimes bitter criticism from the Jewish side, they find that they are alienating the whole of the Arab world, and offending the Moslem world outside the Arab countries. Furthermore, they have been called upon, and at any moment may be called upon again, to sacrifice the lives of British soldiers and British policemen in order to maintain our authority there.
I agree with what has just been said by the noble Marquess speaking on behalf of the Government, that the British Government are right to say that this cannot continue as it is indefinitely. It is a delusion to think that all that is necessary is to remove the Mufti, and that then all will be well. We used to hear that kind of thing in the old days with regard to Ireland. It was said: "Only let the 635 priests and the land agitators be quiet and the Irish people will be entirely contented." We used to hear it with regard to trade disputes and strikes—"Only let the paid agitators be still and the working people will give no trouble." We heard it in regard to India—"Arrest Gandhi"; and with regard to Egypt—"Deport Zaghlul." But movements of this kind cannot be dealt with in that way. As the Commission rightly point out, the Arab national movement is the same in Palestine as it is in Syria, as it is in Egypt, and as it is in Iraq. It is analogous to the movement of Indian nationalism and similar movements in other countries in the world, and it is not to be disposed of easily and lightly simply by using the strong hand and applying methods of coercion.
So far I agree. When we come to the proposal for partition then I part company. It appears to me a bad proposal and I shall give reasons for my various criticisms. I know that all the time that I am making these criticisms there will be in the minds of noble Lords the thought: "What is the good of criticising this scheme; is there any alternative?" Therefore, beforehand, I will give the assurance to noble Lords that before I sit down, if they will bear with me so long, I will give what appears to me to be the practicable alternative. Meanwhile let us examine this proposal for partition. We are told that we are now to make a clean cut, or as clean a cut as may be, that the Jews are to be on one side and the Arabs on the other, and that if they cannot agree when together they may be able to agree when separated.
What is this Jewish State to consist of? The number of Jews in Palestine, the Commission say, is 400,000. But these are not all the Jews. The Jews of Jerusalem are to be excluded, and they number 76,000. But also for a period of years the towns of Haifa, Acre, Safad and Tiberias are to be kept under the Mandatory Power. They contain 58,00o Jews. In addition, Jaffa, is to be in the Arab State. There is no figure given by the Commission of the Jewish population of Jaffa, but Jewish sources state that it is 8,000. In any case the precise figure matters little. That means that out of 400,000 Jews one-third or 142,000 will not be in the Jewish State at all. The 636 number that is left is 258,000. Two hundred and fifty-eight thousand Jews in the Jewish State, and in the same territory, the Commission tell us, there will be 225,000 Arabs. And that is to be an independent Jewish State, which is to have a seat in the League of Nations, which is to fulfil the aspirations of the Jews. Two hundred and fifty-eight thousand Jews and 225,000 Arabs! But it may be said these four towns of Haifa, Acre, Safad and Tiberias are only temporarily to be removed and will be brought in before long; but when they are brought in it will make the position worse from this point of view, for there are 10,000 more Arabs than Jews in those four towns. There would thus be this position, that the majority of Jews over Arabs would be reduced by 10,000.
It is now suggested that the Jewish quarter outside Jerusalem, in which almost all the 76,000 Jews live, should be brought into the Jewish State, connected with it as a kind of enclave. The noble Earl, the Chairman of the Commission, rather deprecated that, and thought that there was difficulty about it, but even if it were done—in my view, if partition goes through it certainly ought to be done—still that would make the total only 344,000 Jews, and the proportion of the population of the Jewish State would still be two Arabs to every three Jews. The Commission say there ought to be a removal of population, or what is called, strangely enough, an exchange of population, that the Jews from the Arab State should be brought into the Jewish State and the Arabs in the Jewish State should be transferred. But how can you have an exchange of population where there are 225,000 Arabs in the Jewish State and 1,250 Jews in the other? The Royal Commission say: "Well, after all, a great exchange of population was effected voluntarily in the case of the Greeks and Turks." Quite true. It was admirably done. I have had the opportunity, as no doubt some of your Lordships have had, of seeing something of those settlements in which the Greek population from Anatolia have been settled. But the circumstances are not in the least the same. Then the Greeks who lived in Asia Minor were fleeing from the country. It was immediately after the disastrous Greek campaign there. Their armed forces were heavily defeated and the Turks were sweeping down upon them 637 and the whole population fled. They took whatever ships they could secure and fled to Greece where they were afterwards settled.
There is nothing of that kind Palestine. There is nothing of that sort to induce 225,000 Arabs to leave the land in which they and their fathers have been settled for a thousand years, where they have their mosques and where they have their graveyards. But the Royal Commission say that strenuous efforts should be made to secure agreement for the transfer of population and in the last resort the population of the plains should be removed compulsorily. That is the proposal—that the new Jewish State should be built upon the basis of taking away 100,000 Arabs, or whatever the number may be, from this district, compulsorily dispossessing them, no doubt with compensation, and finding them land elsewhere. Yet in another part of the Report there is reference to the need of guarantees for the protection of minorities in each State. Protection of minorities! Will not these he minorities, and is the form protection is to take that they should be compulsorily uprooted and put elsewhere?
I very much question whether it would be possible to relieve this extraordinary discrepancy in the population of the so-called Jewish State by securing a transfer of this kind. It is said that the Jewish population will be increased, and that it will be left to the Jews themselves to limit or not to limit immigration. But in this tiny territory, possibly cut off from any hinterland for the sale of produce by an unfriendly Arab State, how can there be any guarantee that the numbers would be increased in a reasonable time to any considerable extent? We have to contemplate a State in which 258,000 Jews will have to govern 225,000 Arabs. The Royal Commission say that you will get rid of the complications due to the mixture of races, that now you have three official languages, the laws published in three languages, officials of three different communities, three separate holidays, one for each religion, and that all that will be ended. Does that mean that this half or nearly half of the population of the Jewish State are to have no Arab officials, that they are to be governed simply by Jews, that they are to have all their public affairs 638 conducted in Hebrew, which they do not understand, that cases are to be tried in courts of law in a language foreign to them? You will have exactly the same complications in that regard as before, except that there will be two languages instead of three. The noble Earl, Lord Peel, said that at all events this plan would free the Jews from the watchful hostility of neighbouring Arab States. Will not these Arab States be watching day by day what is happening to their irredenta, the Arabs living in the Jewish State, making grievances of every small point? If there are not a sufficient number of Arab officials, if there are not sufficient Arab schools, you will have exactly the same problems as you have with regard to minorities throughout Europe.
I would ask your Lordships to look at the map to see what is proposed. You have as part of the Jewish State a strip of land sixty miles long and between ten and twelve miles broad running along the coast with a larger piece away to the north. But that is not the only division. Let me say, in passing, that I have carefully measured the length of this frontier and I find that this tiny State will have a land frontier of almost exactly two hundred miles and a seaboard of eighty miles. Then you are to have the enclave under British administration. That contains Jerusalem and Bethlehem and a Corridor to the sea. That Corridor, may I point out, is not a Corridor merely for the British, it is a Corridor for communication with the Arab States beyond who will have rights to go down the Corridor to the port of Jaffa. There are to be other places all over the country under British Mandate, Nazareth, Acre, Tiberias, Haifa, Safad. But observe what is to happen to the town of Jaffa. Geographically Jaffa will be within the Corridor, but politically it is to be part of the Arab State with Arab law no doubt and Arab officials. There is to be a strip of land between Jaffa and the Jewish port of Tel Aviv, but the two towns are to be provided with a joint harbour to be managed by a joint harbour board. The Commission seem to have gone to the Versailles Treaty and picked out all the most difficult and awkward provisions it contained. They have put a Saar, a Polish Corridor and half a dozen Danzigs and Memels into a country the size of Wales.
639 Furthermore, the Arab and Jewish States are each to have their own Customs tariffs. It is true the Commission say it would be a great advantage if as far as possible they were identical, but they do not say they will be identical throughout. Therefore with regard to some articles you will have different duties, and you must have Customs examination because otherwise you cannot enforce the duty. Imagine a Customs system in which you have to have Customs examinations all along this frontier of two hundred miles, besides the sea coast and around all these little enclaves each of which is apparently to be under a separate administration. There is another point. The main railway goes in and out of this boundary, at one moment in the Jewish State, at another moment in the enclave, and at another moment in the Arab State. Is it intended that there shall be a Customs office and passport examination for each train, or is it intended that goods should go through in bond as they go in and out of this extraordinary patchwork?
Then again, there is road transport. What is proposed with regard to the roads which run across the frontiers at every moment; the village lands, the movements for pasturage of the flocks and herds? How to regulate immigration? It is difficult enough now, with one State, but when you have this map—which is less like a map than a patchwork quilt— how are you to establish and enforce rules with regard to immigration? Much illegal migration goes in and out now, but what will it be in the future? You might as well attempt to hold water in a sieve as attempt to apply any form of regulation to frontiers such as this. Systems of law, national status, passports—is there to be differentiation in all these little odds and ends of territory? Defence: is it intended that the British Army shall guard the frontier? Certainly not; why should it? Well, then, the Jewish State and the Arab State will have to have their armed forces watching each other continually on each side of the frontier—unless they happily arrive at some stable treaty of amity and friendship. They may, or they may not. I wonder whether the Government have received military advice with regard to this plan? I should be very interested if, when the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, replies in this debate, he would 640 say whether the Committee of Imperial Defence have advised on it, or whether the military authorities in Palestine regard it as a feasible scheme.
Are not all these points valid? What about public security and the prevention of crime? I look at this matter from the standpoint of an administrator. Let any noble Lord suppose himself in charge of the administration of a territory such as this. A political terrorist, or any ordinary criminal, could come across from the area of one State to an area with another police authority, commit his crime and depart again half a mile away into another State under another police authority, and have to be dealt with, perhaps, by diplomatic conversations between the two countries. How is it possible to maintain public order in countries such as that, unless, indeed, you have the utmost measure of good will and continuous co-operation between the two authorities? The Report says nothing whatever on this point of public security, not one word; and indeed, in an admirable volume of 397 pages, only 12 pages are given to the merest sketch of this scheme of partition. Finance: what is to be the position of the Jewish State with regard to its finance? It will have to guard its frontier, it will have to maintain order, it will have to care for the Arabs, who are two-fifths of the population; and, in addition to all this, it will have to pay a subsidy to the Arab State. Will it be possible for the Jewish State to establish any adequate system of finance?
Judged on its merits, this is clearly a bad scheme. I do not think anyone would have invented it if he had not considered himself compelled to do so in default of something better. Therefore the question arises, is there any alternative? The Commission declare that there is an incompatibility which is absolute and that no accommodation can be looked for in the future. They dwell upon every element in the situation which would lead to that conclusion. They rather remind me, if I may say so, of the speaker who said at a meeting: "It is difficult to exaggerate the gravity of this matter, but I will do my best!" They have forgotten that from 1921 to 1929, during my time and the time of my successors, the country was quite peaceful. Not a blow was struck between Arabs and Jews; there were no riots, no disturbances of any kind. It is true that there was an underlying tension 641 all the time. It is true that the Arabs missed no opportunity of declaring their opposition to the régime. It is true that they maintained their political position consistently throughput. The fact remains that there was a considerable measure of co-operation and the country was completely peaceful. There were no riots, no troops had to be called out, and, so far as I know, there was nothing involving the use even of a considerable body of police. It is true that now the position has greatly deteriorated and we are faced with a much harder condition of things than we were faced with before 1929. Still, it cannot be said that it is in the nature of things that these two communities cannot dwell together.
Now the alternative—and I should have been wasting your Lordships' time if I had merely contented myself with negative criticisms and left the matter there. The suggestions that I would make are not improvised. I have considered them long and deeply and have consulted persons representing both points of view, and they have found favour, although I am not entitled to quote the approval or support of anybody. My proposals are these. It appears to me that the Jews must be ready to make a sacrifice. They must reassure the Arabs. We cannot go on without it. Therefore they must consent to a limitation of immigration other than on the principle of economic absorptive capacity. They must accept the principle proposed by the Commission: that political considerations must be brought in. I see no reason why the figure of 12,000 should be the one adopted. The Commission give no reason for the figure of 12,000. The noble Earl said that it is quite arbitrary; apparently it was chosen because it would just keep the present balance of population between the Arabs and the Jews in the future, but they do not say so. The Jews might well be asked to consent to an agreement covering a period of years—it might well be a substantial period—and during that period the Jewish population of Palestine should not exceed a given percentage of the total population, perhaps 40 per cent. or whatever might be agreed upon, but that is the figure I have in mind.
Secondly, the Jews must consent to recognise the reality of Arab national aspirations, and that those aspirations are 642 entitled to respect and to their co-operation. The Arabs are intensely aware of their own history. They know that they began merely as a group of desert tribes, that there were centuries of expansion during which they acquired great territory, built up a remarkable culture and gave to the world one of its greatest civilisations. Then there was a period of standstill, then of recession, and now, after the Great War, there is the beginning of a revival. Arabism is once more in the ascendant; once more Arab kings and princes tread the stage of history. The Arabs of Palestine, the younger generation, regard themselves as an outpost of that movement. They have in their charge one of the three most sacred places of Islam, the Haram esh Shari; they regard themselves as the trustees of a sacred charge, and they would rather die at their posts than surrender that position. The Jews have never been sufficiently aware or sufficiently understanding of this underlying loyalty.
Now let them frankly recognise that there is this Arab movement, and that it is a great movement, entitled to respect and, indeed, to admiration. Let them co-operate with the Arabs as they did in the great days of Arab civilisation, when Jewish statesmen, philosophers and scientists helped the Arabs to keep alight the torch of knowledge. And let Britain also help in this movement. Indeed, the Commissioners say that "British public opinion is wholly sympathetic with Arab aspirations towards a new age of unity and prosperty in the Arab world." Therefore, the first point being the limitation of immigration, my second point is that Britain, with the assent of France and with the full co-operation of the Zionist movement, should assist in every way the formation of a great Arab Confederation—not to be built up in a day or a year, but gradually, perhaps, built up, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Trans-Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Palestine as well. In that great Confederation Palestine would bring wealth. It would be the wealthiest member of it. And that Confederation would bring to the industries of Palestine a hinterland and a market that would make them far more prosperous than they otherwise would be.
Thirdly, I suggest that, in consideration of these points, the Arabs should consent to the opening of Trans-Jordan to de- 643 velopment and settlement both by Arabs and by Jews, with funds provided for that purpose. I see no reason for the recommendation by the Commission that the British taxpayer should make a gift of£2,000,000, either to Trans-Jordan or to any other country in that part of the world. I think that the British Government might guarantee a loan to Trans-Jordan, and that the interest and sinking fund should begin after a period, as soon as it appeared to be justified by the development of the country. I suggest, fourthly, that the Holy places of Islam in Palestine should be guaranteed solemnly by the League of Nations, in perpetuity; and fifthly, that within Palestine there ought to be two communal organisations, Jewish and Arab. The Jewish one already exists, and an Arab one should be created. Those organisations should have large powers, should be representative bodies, and should have the control of the education of their children, public health, agricultural development, and local government, with considerable revenues drawn from the public revenues of the country under their own control, to expend upon those purposes. Further, the Arab organisation, if they so desired, should have power to prohibit land sales within their own territory, and there should be a Central Council in Palestine, not elected by the people and not based on numbers, but representing the two communities; that is, a kind of Federal Council, with British officials present there to help and advise. Will that be agreed to? Is it practicable?
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR AIR (VISCOUNT SWINTON)
Who would govern? There is to be a Parliament elected by two communal organisations. With whom will rest the function of government? With that Parliament, or with the British mandatory?
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
In my view each communal authority would manage its own communal affairs throughout the country. The Council should be an advisory body, and the British Government should continue the Mandate. This would be a kind of Federal Council, representing Arabs and Jews, with the help of British officials. It should have an advisory character at the outset, at any rate. If the two bodies came together it might 644 grow into something more definite, formal and democratic. As I have said: Will this be agreed? I doubt it. I should be sorry to prophesy that it would be agreed, but the Arabs, perhaps, may be brought to recognise that the links of the Jews for four thousand years with this country cannot be broken; that because they are not economic they are all the stronger. They are intangible links and in the long run spiritual ideas are more potent than material things.
The Commission recognise that Jewish immigration cannot be stopped altogether. The Arabs must recognise that. The Commission reported:We cannot accept the view that the Mandatory, having facilitated the establishment of the National Home, would be justified in shutting its doors.These are realities of the situation which the Arabs must be called upon to recognise. I am not unhopeful that perhaps they might, for intolerance and terrorism are foreign to their nature. I am sure that the Arabs would prefer, after the safeguarding of their main position, an accommodation of that kind. It is often said that this proposal of the Commission is a judgment of Solomon. That, to my mind, is a false analogy. In the case of Solomon you had one claim which was spurious and fraudulent. Here both claims are legitimate. If King Solomon had had before him a man and a woman, husband and wife, the authentic parents of the child, who had quarrelled and separated, and each demanded the custody of the child, and then he had said: "Let the child be cut in two, and half given to each," and then the story had ended happily by the two claimants being reconciled and saying "We will come together and live together for the sake of the infant," that, perhaps, would be a better analogy.
So my conclusion is that we cannot preserve things as they are, that partition is a bad solution, that better than that would be a scheme of which I have ventured to sketch the leading features. We are not here at the last stages, in this debate and the debate to-morrow in another place. As the noble Lord has said, the matter has to go to the League of Nations. The League of Nations cannot compel the Mandatory to undertake a policy of which it disapproves, but if, when the matter comes before the Mandates Commission, the two parties were to come and each say that rather 645 than partition they would prefer some scheme of this kind, then I am sure that His Majesty's Government would readily accept such an agreement. If not, then we should have to agree to partition, and make the best of it, in spite of all its disadvantages. This country has great concern in Palestine. The graves of ten thousand British soldiers link the British Empire, and powerful religious influences link the British people, with Palestine, and I am sure that the whole nation would rejoice if now this period of strife and struggle could be brought to an end, and that at last we could fulfil the behest:Speak comfortably unto Jerusalem and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP or CANTERBURY
My Lords, I rise with some diffidence after the speeches to which we have listened, spoken by men who have in their various ways such special responsibility and knowledge. I feel particular diffidence in following the noble Viscount who has just spoken, in his closely reasoned and brilliant speech, with all its wealth of illustration and instructive detail, bur, may I say this, that the speech to wb.ch we have listened shows what value we shall gain from the presence of the noble Viscount in this House. After such a speech any generalities must necessarily seem somewhat tedious, but I have such a natural, deep, abiding interest in the Holy Land that I feel I cannot be altogether silent. That interest was quickened by my visit there six years ago, and since then I have had constant communications with successive High Commissioners, with civil and religious officials in Palestine, with representatives of the Arabs and also of the Jews, notably that most remarkable and powerful personality Dr. Weizmann. As a result I have been gradually driven to the conclusion which the Commissioners have reached, and which the noble Viscount seems to have reached, that the Balfour Declaration, accepted and embodied in the Mandate of 1922, with its double obligation, has imposed upon the administration of Palestine an insoluble problem and an impossible task.
We used to think that Mr. Balfour, as we always like to call him, made that Declaration as a stroke of war policy in order to secure at a critical time certain invaluable financial securities for this 646 country. We have since learnt in the admirable biography of his niece that at least twelve or thirteen years before Dr. Weizmann, then a young lecturer in chemistry in the University of Manchester, had already inspired Mr. Balfour with the Zionist ideal. When the War came Mr. Balfour appeared to be ready to use it as an opportunity for endeavouring to fulfil these ideals. It has always seemed strange to me that a man of his most acute intelligence should not have foreseen the almost inevitable difficulties which that Declaration, with its double obligation, would impose. The origin of all the difficulties, as it has seemed to me, following this matter for all these years, has been the original ambiguity in the term "a National Home"—a wholly new term, so far as I know, in diplomacy or international relations. What did it mean? Was it a National Home for the Jews within Palestine, or was it that Palestine was to be itself a National Home for the Jews; or was it to be, as Mr. Lloyd George, who was then Prime Minister, seemed to think, a Home of which it could be said that if the Jews became a definite majority then Palestine would become a Jewish Commonwealth? It was this uncertainty which seems to have underlain all the declarations and documents during the course of the experiment.
The result was, of course, that when an interpretation was made which seemed to favour the Arabs it was followed by another interpretation which seemed to favour the Jews and vice versa, until we had the position created in 1930 by the famous White Paper, immediately followed by what the Arabs called the "Black Letter" addressed by the Prime Minister to Dr. Weizmann. Naturally, the result was that wherever there was any qualification of the Jewish claims it gave offence to the Jews, whenever there was any allusion to a Jewish State it gave offence to the Arabs. There were two reasons, I suppose, which led to the increasing Arab hostility, and here may I say to the noble Viscount (Lord Samuel) that, while I am sure he knows it, he did not in his speech seem to realise sufficiently the immense increase in the strength of Arab nationalism since the days when he presided with so much ability over Palestine as the High Commissioner? The first reason was, of 647 course, the sudden and, to them, alarming increase of immigration which followed 1933. Thus in 1935 the number of Jewish emigrants rose from 9,500to 61,854. The whole Jewish population thus rose to 400,000, whereas only fifteen years before it had been only 65,000 in a population of 600,00o Arabs. Was it to be wondered at that the Arabs asked themselves: "Whither is all this tending? Are we not drawing near the time when the Jewish National Home will mean that Palestine itself is to become a Jewish State?"
In the second place, there was the rapid increase of their nationalist aspirations. When they came to the Government here and asked for some recognition of that nationality in 1925, Mr. Churchill, who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies, replied that:The creation at this stage of a national Government would preclude the fulfilment of the pledge made by the British Government to the Jewish people.Was it unnatural that from that moment the Arabs considered that it was the Jewish Home in Palestine that stood in the way of the fulfilment of their national aspirations? Nor can it he said, indeed, that at any time did the Jews show much inclination to abate the extent of their claims. I am not going to weary your Lordships at this hour with quotations from the Report, but I would refer you to the summary of the claims made before the Commission in the Report of the Commission, page 143. Thus it became apparent that the one essential condition for the success of the Mandate—namely, a willing co-operation between the Arab and the Jew—was unobtainable.
Perhaps here I may be forgiven if I quote a sentence from the Report, because it summarises the whole conclusion with great terseness and force:The Arabs of Palestine, it has been admitted, are as fit to govern themselves as the Arabs of Iraq or of Syria, the Jews of Palestine, it is clear, are as fit to govern themselves as any organised and educated community in Europe or elsewhere; yet, associated as they are under the Mandate, self-government is impracticable for both peoples. It is here that it is manifest that the Mandate cannot be fully and honourably implemented unless, by some means or other, the national antagonism between Arab and Jew can be composed, but it is the Mandate which created that antagonism and keeps it alive. As long as the Mandate exists we cannot honestly hold out the expectation that either Arabs 648 or Jews will be able to set aside their national hopes and fears and sink their differences in the common service of Palestine.In other words, it has proved to be a struggle of two national ideals, and they are irreconcilable:'tis true' tis pity;And pity 'tis' tis true.The noble Earl (and I join with everyone in the tribute paid to him and his colleagues) spoke of the situation, I think, as being tragic. I do not think that is an exaggerated term. The Commissioners say that it is a conflict of right with right, and that seems to me the essential definition of a tragedy. I see no reason why we should be partisans upon one side or the other. We ought to be capable of full sympathy with both. The Jews—how can we fail to sympathise with the ideals of Zionism? When we consider the history of that most remarkable race, one of the most remarkable in the world; when we think of the position they have occupied for centuries as, at the best, an unwelcome and sometimes a persecuted minority in many countries, and of the way in which, in spite of all, they have cherished their national ideals; when we think of their determination to find some means of securing for themselves a place of cultural influence and of political strength, can we wonder that they should long to have a home of their own in the original home land of their race? On the other hand, is it not equally possible to sympathise with the Arabs? I say nothing upon those questions of the hopes or promises which may have been held out to them in the days of the War, with which the noble Viscount dealt in a most interesting way. It is enough that they, as the noble Earl said a short time ago, have been in occupation of these territories for long centuries, and ask why they should be excluded from them by an alien people. They have become conscious more than ever of the great days of their race, and long to have a national position which reflects the honour of those early days, and they ask why they should be denied that national position for a cause about which they were never even consulted.
And if partisanship is needless, so surely is it needless to be eager to assign the blame to one side rather than the other. Certainly some episodes have been most blameworthy. I need not speak of the outbreak 649 of the armed rebellion of 1936. I can but note the strictures passed by the Commission on the Mufti in Jerusalem with whom I had conversations some time ago. Here I must, in contrast, pay tribute to the extraordinary patience and self-restraint of the Jews during that most difficult time. Though we need not be partisans in giving praise or in assigning blame, the real truth is (is it not?) that an ultimate deadlock was inherent in the terms of the Balfour Declaration and in the Mandate. It seems to be, judged from the Report and from all I have been able to discern from all these communications and conversations, impossible to hope for any further progress along that line. No doubt the British Government are strong enough to quell any opposition from the Arabs, but every one in this House will agree with what has been said, that that policy leads nowhere. It is unthinkable that this country should ever attempt to rule the Holy Land, of all places, by repression and make bombs and bayonets the instruments of its government there.
Is there any escape, then, from the conclusion—I do not think any one can seriously escape from it—that a deadlock has arisen which cannot be terminated by the continuance of the existing Mandate? I need not dwell on that point. The Commissioners make an appeal to the friends of the National Home, among whom I would wish to include myself, urging that the best service they can render it is to recognise frankly that the situation in Palestine has reached a deadlock and to bend their minds to finding a way out. That way out has been indicated by the unanimous conclusion of this very able Commission. It is partition. It is not a solution that any of us could welcome. On the contrary, all our instincts are against it, and the difficulties that it will involve have been most forcefully pointed out by the noble Viscount who has just spoken. If I might, with great diffidence., allude to what he has said, I would say this. One alternative he would propose is a restriction on Jewish immigration. What chance is there of that receiving the agreement of the Jews? It is the one thing they have steadily resisted from the very first. As I happen to know, when representations were made that, for political reasons and for the sake of political harmony, they might abate immigration during the time of the meeting of the Royal Commission, they would not listen to the suggestion even then.
650 The noble Viscount's other alternative is this beautiful conception of a great Arab Federal State. I do not know what position Palestine would have within it, but he afterwards pointed out that all the self-government that would be given would be an Advisory Council in which both communities would have a place. I would be very greatly surprised if the Arabs would look at the creation of such an Advisory Council as any sort of fulfilment of, as they think, their legitimate aspirations to independence. I am quite certain that the scheme itself, in its detail, will require a great deal of fuller and further investigation. I am equally certain that such difficulties as those the noble Viscount has pointed out will have to be very seriously considered. Even the responsibilities that will be assigned to the Mandatory Power will remain very great.
I do not wish to detain your Lordships, but there are two of these responsibilities on which I ought to dwell at the outset for one moment. One is the responsibility for the guardianship of the Holy Places. That, I am glad to recognise, has been fully accepted in the Report, and it is to Christians very satisfactory that they have included among the Holy Places belonging to all the three great religions very especially Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee. I do not think any of us could contemplate the possibility of the Sea of Galilee suffering from developments which might mean not merely disfigurement but profanation.
The other responsibility is one which I feel bound specially to stress, and that is the adequate safeguarding of the rights of all minorities. In a country where obviously religious and racial jealousies are only too rife, this is the more necessary, and it will be useless in any treaties with these independent States, if they are created, to be content with general terms. There must be specific undertakings. The example of what happened to the Assyrians in Iraq is one to put us on our guard. These undertakings should certainly provide for complete freedom, not only of conscience, but of worship and teaching. They ought to provide for the maintenance of the schools of the different minorities, and it is specially important that the position of those to whom the noble Earl alluded and for whom I have a special responsibility—the Hebrew and Arab Christians—should be fully con- 651 sidered. Indeed I am not sure that it will not be found that the territory remaining under the Mandatory Power will have to be increased to find room for persons, not only Arab but also Jewish, who do not wish to live under the political control of either of those communities. I do not dwell more on those points.
What is the chance of the success of the scheme put before us by the Royal Commission? I wonder if it is impossible to be sanguine. I do not think that the position suggested by the noble Viscount is any more likely to commend itself—either to the Jews or to the Arabs—than the position which will be given to them under the Report of the Commission. I cannot help thinking that, when time has been given for consideration, it will appear to the Arabs that they will gain an independence comparable to that which is enjoyed by neighbouring Arab States, and freed from the fear of being swamped by the Jews. I cannot help thinking that the Jews will come to see that here is something more than a precarious National Home—a Jewish State administered by themselves which they can fill with as many of their race as they themselves think can be absorbed.
There is one point here on which I feel the Jews have some legitimate grievance in the proposals made by the Royal Commission. It was alluded to by the noble Earl, but it requires further consideration. That is the position of Jerusalem itself. I am bound to say that it seems to me extremely difficult to justify fulfilling the ideals of Zionism by excluding them from any place in Zion. How is it possible for us not to sympathise in this matter with the Jews? We all remember their age-long resolve, lament, and longing:If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning.They cannot forget Jerusalem in any terms of partition, and, as has been pointed out, the actual population of Jerusalem at the present time is 76,000. Of these, 72,00o—one-fifth of the present population of Palestine—dwell within that portion of Jerusalem which is outside the old city walls, outside the region for which the Mandatory Power must undertake special responsibility. There are only 4,000 Jews living within that area. Is it quite inconceivable that that large modern suburb, with these 72,000 people, and 652 containing, I suppose, as it would, the great Hebrew University, should not be assigned to the Jewish State with access to the British Corridor? I feel quite certain, if that could be done, that the objections and difficulties of the Jews might be largely met.
Lastly, we must all feel, especially after the speeches that have been delivered, that it would be worth almost anything if it were possible to obtain some kind of agreement among these nations as to the future of Palestine. Your Lordships will all remember that in the case of India—no one knows better than the noble Earl himself—there was a Royal Commission. It was followed, whatever we may say about the treatment of them, by Round-Table Conferences, and it was not until these Round-Table Conferences had been concluded that the stage was reached of appointing a Joint Parliamentary Committee and thrashing out the whole subject in detail. Is it quite inconceivable that, once the Government have made it perfectly clear that the continuance of the existing Mandate is impossible, they might summon on the basis of such a clear declaration representatives of the Arabs, including perhaps representatives of neighbouring Arab kingdoms and of the Jews as well as of themselves, to consider together what settlement on other lines than the continuance of the Mandate might be possible? It is conceivable that such a conference might succeed.
His Majesty's Government may have reasons to suppose that if there were any delay there might be the chance of the outbreak of some disorder—I do not know—but when I heard the noble Viscount a short time ago speaking of what he felt might be the attitude of the Jews towards a just and fair recognition of the national aspirations of the Arabs, and when he assured us that fundamentally the Arabs were tolerant people, I thought it might well be that in such a conference, if not the actual details of the present scheme, at least something analagous to it or possibly even on the lines suggested by the noble Viscount, might be reached by agreement. If such a Round-Table Conference failed, at least the parties would feel that opportunity had been given them for full discussion, and all soreness would have been removed due to the thought that a form of settlement had been merely enforced upon them by the 653 Mandatory Power. If it failed, then the ground would be clear to proceed with the only remaining solution.
In conclusion, I would only say that we must needs pay great deference to the Commissioners who have surveyed the whole situation with a fulness and care that have never hitherto been given to it, and I would like to congratulate the noble Earl and his colleagues not merely on the ability with which they have discharged their duties but on the impression of impartiality which they were able to convey. I know from many sources in Palestine that they succeeded in making everyone who appeared before them, or with whom they had any, dealings, feel that as a body of men they were entirely detached, disinterested and impartial. That being so, we cannot refuse the most careful consideration to the conclusion to which they have unanimously come. It may not prove to be the ultimate solution. I am quite sure there are many points which His Majesty's Government will still have to consider; but, having regard to the present position and to the possibilities of the future, I think we are bound to trust the judgment of the Commission and to give at least a most favourable consideration to their verdict in the fervent hope that it may bring about the reconciliation of two rightful national ideals in a country where, above all others in the world, peace and good will should prevail.
§ LORD MELCHETT
My Lords, I rise to address your Lordships with a very great sense of the responsibility that must be upon any one in my position who speaks on this question this afternoon, for, by the accident of fate, I not only have the privilege of addressing your Lordships House but I also happen to be the Chairman of the Jewish Agency. I am acutely conscious of the fact that words uttered in this House this afternoon will sound far beyond these walls and will have repercussions in many parts of the world. Before I pass on to the more general observations that I would place before your Lordships, there are one or two remarks in regard to previous speeches which I wish to make.
In the first place I should like to congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Peel, not only on the very able Report which he has prepared but also on the extremely able speech with which he supported it this afternoon. I should like to add my 654 meed of gratitude both to him and to all his colleagues for the hard work which they undertook and carried through. But I must say I listened to the noble Earl this afternoon with great astonishment. It seemed that, in spite of the long time during which he and his colleagues have made research and inquired into this question, the mainspring of it still remains concealed from them. Not one word fell from his lips during the whole course of his speech in regard to Jewish persecution. Neither now nor in past times has there been any question of the motives that actuated the Zionist cause. The noble Earl talked of our ambitions. What are those ambitions? Ambitions to relieve the suffering and the distress of millions of our people in Eastern Europe; ambitions to be able to bring into the light and sunshine of Palestine young men and young women who have no hope but starvation or suicide in Germany or Poland or Rumania. If those are our ambitions, I am glad to own them. I want to preface what I have to say this afternoon by making it quite clear that that is the basis of all that we have to discuss at the present time. When the most reverend Primate says that we do not abate our claims that is because, at any rate so far as I have any responsibility in this matter, I have nothing that I can abate. I should be giving away only the suffering of other people, and to that I have no right to agree.
The noble Marquess who spoke for the Government also made, if I may say so, a striking and a vigorous speech in defence of the Government's policy, but I remember, I must say with some pleasure, the fact that he himself has been in no way responsible for this policy and has only within recent months come into this controversy at all. He has put before your Lordships this afternoon a new definition of absorptive capacity. He has called it psychological absorptive capacity. He can correct me if I am wrong, but that seems to me to mean that as many Jews can come in as are wanted by the Arabs. If one takes an atlas one can find a very large number of countries, in fact on almost every page a country, in which Jews can come in if they are wanted by the inhabitants.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
If the noble Lord will pardon my interrupting, I think it should be made 655 clear that that is his own definition; it it not mine, nor that of the Government.
§ LORD MELCHETT
It seemed clear to me that the words were open to that interpretation, but perhaps the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, when he speaks, will give us a more exact interpretation. I have tried to give a fair interpretation. Psychological economic absorptive capacity seems to me to mean, and can only mean, one thing—that is, as many Jews will be allowed to enter as will not annoy the Arabs, will not disturb their psychology and will not provoke political agitation either in small or large degree. If that is not so I should be very glad to hear exactly what it does mean. I would only like to say that to present us with a proposition of that kind is to reduce the National Home in Palestine to the same level as that of the many countries in which our people suffer to-day, and would be the most grave and the most serious change that has been proposed since the Balfour Declaration was first issued.
I would like also to deal with one other point, it may be a small point, in the speech of the noble Marquess. He grouped together persuasion and terrorism in regard to both Arab and Jew. I would like to say, and I say it with great sincerity, that I think the noble Marquess did not do a good service to the cause of peace when he grouped those words together. I was one of those many people who spent a great deal of time and trouble in persuading the young men of Palestine, outraged by many acts of terrorism and sabotage, from retaliation. There was a great temptation to adopt terrorism—shooting in the dark, throwing bombs from behind walls—which we have learned in Palestine to a large extent goes unpunished. It was a very great effort of self-discipline on the part of the younger generation to refrain from such activities. It was an act of discipline which I had hoped might be an example to other people in the world—how to behave in face of great provocation. To group together persuasion and terrorism in one phrase, so that it is hard to distinguish one from the other, is not to my mind doing a good service to the cause of peace and international understanding which all of us have at heart.
656 After these prefatory observations I would like to deal, if your Lordships will bear with me for a few minutes, with the broad historical view of this question. We have heard this afternoon from a number of speakers that the Balfour Declaration was wrong, that it was dead, that the Mandate was hopeless and could not be applied. We have also heard that with irreconcilable obligations the Government have no option except to agree to dividing the country. If your Lordships will allow me to assume for the purpose of my argument that these statements are correct, I would like to deal for a few moments with the way in which the obligations which have been so frequently referred to have been requited in fact. I said at the beginning of my remarks that for the Zionist movement the main purpose of the National Home was the relief of millions of suffering people in Eastern Europe, Russia and elsewhere. When the National Home was promised by the Balfour Declaration it was received with unanimous acclamation by everyone. There was no section of public opinion in this country, there was no country in the world that did not approve of it, and approve of it heartily. There was no political Party that did not support it, and no prominent statesman in almost any country who did not receive it with acclaim. It is quite true—and I put it forward at once—that at a later stage there was a Resolution in your Lordships' House which was hostile to the Declaration, but apart from that I do not think there was a voice raised against it. So far as the Arabs were concerned, not only representative Arabs at that time, but King Feisal and the then Mufti of Jerusalem were completely in favour of the whole scheme.
It was based not only on providing a refuge for a persecuted race, it was also based upon the idea which was so well expressed in the Royal Commission's Report when they say:Considering what the possibility of finding a refuge in Palestine means to many thousands of suffering Jews, we cannot believe that the 'distress' occasioned by partition, great as it would be, is more than Arab generosity can bear. … There was a time when Arab statesmen were willing to concede little Palestine to the Jews, provided that the rest of Arab Asia were free. That condition was not fulfilled then, but it is on the eve of fulfilment now. In less than three years' time all the wide Arab area outside Palestine between the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean will be 657 independent, and, if partition is adopted, the greater part of Palestine will be independent too.That is the appeal which the Royal Commission made to the Arabs. It was the basis upon which the Balfour Declaration was originally founded. There was to be a National Home for the Jews which might grow into a Jewish Commonwealth, an independent Commonwealth, and it was felt that this was not too much for the Arabs to concede in view of the fact that they were obtaining more than other people obtained in the way of enlargement and liberty as a result of the War.
I would not like any member of your Lordship' House to imagine that I do not sympathise with Arab national feelings. My own national feelings are far too strong for me not to have the greatest sympathy with them. I wish them every possible success in the great territories which are open to them for development. I hope they will have prosperity, and I hope it will be attended by peace. But I do not think the little bit of country no larger than Wales that was offered as the National Home for the Jews was too great a strain on their generosity. Originally the proposal, as we all know, was supposed to include Trans-Jordan and Palestine as we now know it. The noble Viscount produced evidence with regard to that this afternoon and I fully accept what he said. I have no means of being able to controvert it. But originally the proposal was stated and discussed on the larger scale of Trans-Jordan and Palestine. That represented a territory of about 45,000 square miles: 10,000 square miles of Palestine and 35,000 square miles of Trans-Jordan, a territory about as big as England without Scotland and Wales. As the noble Viscount has told us, 35,000 square miles of this were cut off when Trans-Jordan was removed. The area was reduced to 10,000 square miles, and, it having been then reduced to 10,000 square miles, it is now proposed to reduce it to just under 2,000 square miles. In other words, having started on a territory about as large as England, and having reduced it once to a territory about as large as England south of the Thames, the proposition is now to reduce it to a territory rather smaller than the County of Norfolk.
658 I put it to your Lordships as a very simple proposition, one that I do not think any of your Lordships, not even the noble Viscount who is about to reply, will controvert, that the statesmen of the world, British Cabinets, foreign Governments and all the great panoply of State representatives at the Peace Conference would not have considered the proposal to set up a Jewish National Home for the salvation of the Jewish people in a territory the size of the County of Norfolk. On that basis Great Britain would not have involved itself in these very difficult and complex obligations, would not have entered into treaty obligations with a mighty country like the United States of America. None of all that we know has been gone through would ever have been done unless it had been clear that the experiment was intended to be carried out on a scale large enough to have some real meaning. What, in brief, has happened has been that under a series of persistent and violent attacks it has been whittled down to what is now proposed. Those attacks have been made over a long period of time and by many different people, but I do not think that anybody can fairly say that we have not carried out our part of the bargain. I should say that our principal penalty has been our success; our success on the one side and the pressure created by the persecution in Germany on the other side. That has provoked the matter to a point where it is now decided that our effort is to be limited to an area which will certainly increase our difficulties enormously, if it does not make it impossible for us to achieve anything.
It is remarkable that we have been driven back to this extent. It is very curious and very hard to understand why it should be. The British Parliament has consistently stood up upon every occasion when this matter has been debated in the House, and has never deserted the point of view originally expressed. Successive Governments have also taken the same attitude. Although pressed very strongly on different occasions to prevent Jewish immigration or to stop the National Home, they have never done so. In spite of that, the persistent, vigorous and unrelenting pressure against our ideals has been immensely successful. It has 659 succeeded to some extent because it has never been checked by the Administration in Palestine. Every time it has shown its head in the form of violence, the Administration has allowed it to run, and political Arab nationalism in Palestine—that is, the total negation of the Mandate—has always been allowed free rein.
It has been understood, and there could be no question at all, by the Arabs that certain elements, at any rate, concerned with the Government of the country were not averse from the policy which they advocated. It is only necessary to take one or two figures in the Report of the Commission itself to support that point. On page 194 they tell us that, although it has been found necessary to impose collective fines upon villages for acts of arson and terrorism, and £61,000 worth of such fines have in fact been inflicted, they have not been collected. Only £18,000 out of £61,000 has ever been collected. So far as murder is concerned, 27 sentences for murder as a result of the 1929 riots were confirmed upon appeal; not murder cases, or even sentences, but sentences finally confirmed upon appeal. There were three executions. In 1936 there were 260 cases, there were 67 convictions, there were no executions. I am the last person in the world who would desire either bloodshed or repression, but I put it to your Lordships' House, and I defy contradiction, that you could not run India on that basis, that you could not run England on that basis, and that if you allowed Communist and Fascist in this country free rein for terrorism, murder and arson, the reins of government would be snatched out of your hands.
That has been the condition of Palestine, and it is summed up by the words of the Commission in this Report on page 14o in paragraph 55:And, if one thing stands out clear from the record of the Mandatory administration, it is the leniency with which Arab political agitation, even when carried to the point of violence and murder, has been treated.I do not want to carry this too far, but I say that if there was at any time a chance of conciliation, the only opportunity and hope of conciliation was under a Government with a firm hand—not a violent or repressive hand, but a firm hand. If there ever was a chance of Jew and Arab coming together, as the 660 most reverend Primate appealed for in his speech, there was no prospect of our coming together with moderate Arabs as long as terroristic Arabs were unpunished. I and others, over and over again, have in fact been in contact with Arabs, have discussed matters with Arabs, but the only Arab to whom the Government paid any attention was the Arab with a bomb or the Arab with a rifle. I believe that earlier on it might have been possible to arrive at a considerable measure of pacification on both sides and a considerable measure of co-operation between Jew and Arab. But it did necessitate a Government which would maintain law and order, would prevent terrorism, and would prevent any moderate Arab from ever being in danger of assassination or of some physical injury.
Now it may be true that you have gone too far to hope that you will achieve any result, but I should only like to point out that if that is so and if you go back upon the Balfour Declaration, and go back upon the Mandate, you do so in the blackest hour of Jewry's history. You do so at the worst hour for ourselves, and you do so at a time which is worst for yourselves, because, much as you may choose to try to ignore it, you will not succeed in ignoring the oppression and the persecution of four or five million people in Central Europe. You will have to face it one day, and you might just as well face it now, while you are making the big change which you contemplate. You may say that Palestine is not large enough, and that it is of no use for this purpose. Where else is there a place? One goes over the atlas. Can the noble Marquess find any country where there are prospects? I have not seen it. There are plenty of countries which are ready to have us on the basis of its psychological absorptive capacity, but our psychological experience has been that it means an immigration capacity of nil, if not of a minus quantity, because our people are driven out.
The Commissioners in their Report come forward and offer us, as the noble Earl has said, sovereignty. That seems a great and precious thing. It is two thousand years next year since there was a Jewish sovereign State. Do they mean sovereignty? I wish I knew, and I wish we could get a clear answer from the noble Viscount who will reply. Can he tell us how our sovereignty will accord 661 with the provisions with regard to Tel Aviv, the Customs, Haifa, and so on? It is sovereignty minus the only four great cities in the territory. These are all to be placed under a temporary Mandate. What is to become of the Mandate which was so solemnly undertaken fifteen years ago? We have heard all about it in the House this afternoon. It is impossible, and it is going to be thrown away. Are we to have four unspecified Mandates at the same time, or Mandates to which a period is put, so that we know that they will terminate at a certain time? Sovereignty! It is proposed that the Customs revenues shall be collected by other people. Is that to be as a result of agreement reached after full discussion between the sovereign State and an appropriate authority, or is that to be imposed upon us?
In regard to the Mandate for Haifa, I would like to say it, and I do so quite frankly, that we all know, no one more than myself, the interest of Great Britain in the port of Haifa. I have been advocating its importance for many years. But I would suggest that if Great Britain wants the port of Haifa there are two ways in which she can obtain rights under the present scheme—either to take Haifa and say she takes it in defiance of whatever international obligations there may be; or else to leave Haifa in the Jewish territory and negotiate a treaty. It would not be consistent with the dignity and honour of Great Britain to try to obtain military, naval and air force rights in Haifa under the cloak of a Mandate for a temporary period. I can assure the Government that there will be no treaty rights they may ask for which will not be freely acceded, but do let us have clarity and real intention displayed when it comes to negotiations on these matters.
There is another question, that of boundaries. The boundaries as they have been drawn by the Royal Commission would be hard to protect and police. Those who have studied boundaries from a geographical point of view mostly agree that boundaries have to be situated in defensible areas. Is there any intention of creating our sovereign State with such boundaries that we have the remotest hope of being able to protect them? Then there is the question of transfer of population. Greece and Turkey have been quoted as an example of successful transfer. I have often quoted them myself. I have often pointed out that they show an example of how 662 the Jewish population might be transferred from Eastern Europe into the Eastern Mediterranean. The transfer, I believe, can be accomplished, but do the Government really seriously intend to pursue the transfer? What are their real intentions in that matter?
I would like to say just one word about the Nageb—a desert, and likely to remain a desert. Probably it always will be a desert, except for the capacity and power of the Zionist Organisation to bring to it water, to bring to it a population, and to bring to it the opportunity of cultivation and of fruitfulness. That has been relegated under the present proposals to a desert area. I would suggest that something might be arranged even at the present day that will allow for the development of that area and make provision for Jewish immigration.
One further point which I wish to make is with regard to finance. Reference has been made to the surpluses which the Palestine Government have achieved from time to time, and I would like to draw your Lordships' attention to the words of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, speaking in another place on March 24, 1936, where he informed the House that there was a surplus of £6,000,000, which he stated was mostly Jewish money. I would like to draw attention to the way in which this money is to be distributed. Two millions of it have been spent in quite unnecessary military display, when a few policemen, at a negligible cost, could have done all that was necessary. Two million pounds are to be given to the Arabs, and two millions remain. I think that the financial provisions are the least important of anything which is put forward, but I merely add them because they do show the way in which this matter is being handled. I should not have raised them at all but for the fact that this money has been taken from Jewish refugees, flying from persecution. It will be distributed in the way which I have described.
I was very glad indeed that the question of Jerusalem has been raised. I do not think it is necessary for me to add much to what the roost reverend Primate has already said. But it is hard to make the ordinary person understand what is meant by Zionism without Zion, and when one is going to do a surgical opera- 663 tion it is not usual to cut the heart out of the patient before one starts with the rest. To the great mass of Jewry throughout the world from time immemorial Jerusalem has been the very heart of their hopes and their desires.
Now, having drawn such a very gloomy picture of one side, I would just like to say a few words in regard to the other side. I am glad to think that it is a much happier picture. I have no desire that other people should suffer our despair. The Arab population are offered, as the Commission state, the greater part of Palestine as it now exists. They have now already under their control a territory as large as about half of Western Europe, and inside that they have some twelve million people. Actually I believe it is correct to say that, as far as territory is concerned, 99 per cent. of the Arab territory will be totally released under Arab self-government if the Report goes through in this form, and 98 per cent. of the Arab population. So that at any rate, so far as they are concerned, their claims will have been satisfied to a higher degree perhaps that any nation's claims have been satisfied for years, and certainly than any nation's claims were satisfied after the War. I can only hope, as I said before, that peace and prosperity will attend their efforts to govern and to develop these very great territories.
With regard to the position of the Jewish Agency, I do not think any of your Lordships will envy me the task of trying to explain the whole of this matter to the people who will be gathered together to decide and give their verdict on it in a few weeks' time. I have to tell them that Great Britain has thrown down the Balfour Declaration; I have to try to explain where the policy that their advisers have so constantly put before them, that of co-operation at all costs with the Mandatory Government, loyalty to Britain in every way and at every turn of the long and tedious history of the last fifteen years, has brought them. The rock foundation of the policy of the Agency has been co-operation with Great Britain; the rock foundation of Dr. Weizmann's policy has been co-operation with Great Britain; the rock foundation of Arab policy has been opposition to the Mandate, and the results of the way in 664 which those two policies have been requited are quite plain before your Lordships.
No sane or sensible man would be prepared to reject out of hand the proposals made by His Majesty's Government on a question of this importance, or at a time like this. There are no proposals before us at this moment either to accept or to reject, but when the time comes and final proposals are put forward, they will be considered by the Agency and the Agency will either accept them or reject them. If they reject them they will go back to the beginning, and we will fight our case, because it is a just case, from the beginning, as we did before. It will be a dark hour; it is a dark hour now. The noble Earl and other people will not mind. They will say: "That is all right. We have got out of our obligations and our difficulties." And they will be right, because you do not need arguments when you have got battleships. We shall have to go back to the beginning, and we shall. And what I hope above all is that history will show that the people of this country will have an opportunity to redress a grave wrong. I believe that Jewry will one day have the opportunity of showing the world that they deserve better at your hands.
§ VISCOUNT SWINTON
My Lords, the Royal Commission is due, I understand, at seven o'clock, and I venture to make a suggestion about the course of the debate. As your Lordships know, the Agriculture Bill has to be taken to-night, and it can conveniently be taken after dinner. Therefore what I would suggest is that we should resume this debate immediately after the Commission, that we should give an opportunity for perhaps one or two more speeches, and then adjourn this debate at, say, a quarter to eight, and resume it to-morrow. There are two Motions on the Paper to-morrow, which I think would take precedence of an adjourned debate on this Motion, but I understand that neither of them is likely to take very long. That ought to enable us to meet the general wish that we should be able to complete this debate before dinner to-morrow. That would give the opportunity of completing the debate on the noble Lord's Motion to-morrow after those other Motions have been disposed of. If that is convenient to your Lordships I suggest that it is the 665 most convenient course to adopt. If we adjourn this debate at a quarter to eight we could then take the Agriculture Bill at rune o'clock.
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, we recognise the difficulty the House is in, and we should like to co-operate in any way possible so that speeches can be made. We have no objection.
§ House adjourned during pleasure.
§ House resumed.