HL Deb 08 December 1938 vol 111 cc412-67

LORD SNELL rose to call attention to the Report of the Palestine Partition Commission and to the statement by His Majesty's Government (Cmd. 5893) which accompanies it; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, you may perhaps feel that this Motion which stands in my name should have been put down for an earlier date. There appeared, however, to be some advantage in not asking your Lordships to consider this important matter until in another place His Majesty's Government had had an opportunity to defend their policy with regard to Palestine in the past, and to state their future policy. My concern for the convenience of the Government has not, however, been adequately rewarded, because they neither defended their policy in the past nor did they venture to reveal what their policy for the future would be. I think the reason was fairly obvious: the past was indefensible and the future is not yet known, even to His Majesty's Government.

I desire to speak on this matter with a proper reserve, and I venture at the outset to say that our English Colonial history provides, in my opinion, no parallel to the record of aimless vacillation, of fugitive proclamations and of half-developed and contradictory devices that our administration of the Palestine Mandate provides. We have had an immense experience in the great and difficult art of nation building, greater perhaps than that of any other nation. Our success on the whole has been extraordinary, and the envy as well as the admiration of other people. Placed in contrast with that record, our administration of Palestine is an affront to our own history and an unmerited humiliation before the world. We should remember that we accepted this very definite obligation, we accepted the Mandate, from more than fifty nations, and no other nation was so well equipped to perform this task as we were. In the whole of our Colonial history no greater opportunity was provided for helping to lead to peace and prosperity a land dear to us all; and also in the whole of our history there has been only one failure of equal magnitude and gravity. If we ask ourselves why this has been, we must each give the answer that appeals to him, and I believe that the answer that is appropriate is that our policy has not been consistent. It has been a policy of a dithering inconsistency, and one of constructive futility. I sometimes feel as if Palestine is the blind spot in our administrative eye, for nowhere else have we so much to repent of.

The excuse is frequently made that the Mandate has proved to be unworkable. We might ask ourselves when that discovery was made, and why, when it was made, we did not in all honesty go back to the Permanent Mandates Committee and ask for such amendments as would make it workable. But to continue to play with the situation, and then to excuse our faults at the end by saying that the Mandate was unworkable, is not really impressive. In fact we have dithered and we have floundered, and we have threatened and we have petted, and it has been difficult even for those of us in this country to know what our policy in Palestine really was. In this matter His Majesty's various Governments have been …always in the wrong, … everything by starts and nothing long. I think it right at this stage, with your Lordships' permission, to say that I do not consider that the present Secretary of State for the Colonies is a proper target for these shafts of criticism. In my judgment he was called to deal with a patient who was very sick, whose illness had been wrongly diagnosed, and whose wounds had been poisoned by false treatment. Mr. MacDonald, as I know, has a very close knowledge of this problem, and he also brings to it a keen sympathy for both races involved, which is a very considerable asset at this particular time.

As I see the Palestine problem our first essential need is the return of order, and our inability to preserve order has cost us clear in life, in substance and, above all, in reputation. The Arab, who is not exactly mentally blind, thought that he saw in the attitude of the Government a sympathy with his cause, and he believed that the Government would respond to violence. The source of this organised violence was perfectly well known. It was indicated in a note of reservation to the Report of the Parliamentary Commission in the early part of 1930, but even when notice had been taken of it the particular source managed to escape, and I feel convinced in my own mind that if he had been a poor Arab, and had stolen a bag of meal to feed his family, his escape would not have been so easy. The reign of terrorism which has existed in Palestine affects the decent Arab people as well as the Jewish people, and our own administrative responsibility. This agitation is not fundamentally anti-Semitic. It is anti-British. It is against the Mandatory Power. It is on behalf of a policy which is known as the policy of independence. It is not a clash, as is frequently believed, of two different races living on the same soil. It is a clash between the economy of the Middle Ages on the one hand and the economy of the twentieth century on the other.

What we are doing in Palestine, or what should be done, is not the only illustration of its kind. We find that in Libya, for instance, the Arabs are displaced to meet the needs of modern cultivation. The "Protector of Islam" has adopted a programme of compulsory transference of Arabs from one territory to another, in the interest of closer settlement. There has been no sort of protest against that. It is apparently approved of by everybody. If it is a right policy in Libya, I cannot see why it is a wrong policy if adopted in Palestine, but when Jews buy land at a high price, and fairly, when they redeem land and make it fruitful, when they give wealth to a population and wealth to a whole community, there is a great outcry. I cannot believe—I am sufficient of an economic student to allow myself that indulgence—I cannot believe that if an energetic people pour into an obsolete land something like £,40,000,000 to £50,000,000 as well as energy and efficiency, the whole community is not going to benefit therefrom. And the whole community has benefited. The population has increased. The natural increase of the Arab peoples has been greater during that time than the whole of the permitted Jewish immigration. Wages are higher, conditions are healthier, and it is only the usurer in Palestine who has a real grievance.

I feel that the second essential need is that the Government, quite firmly, definitely and finally, should make it understood that the Balfour Declaration is not going to be withdrawn, that Jews are not either aliens or intruders in Palestine, but that the Mandate gives to them a special position—a position that we, by accepting the Mandate, are bound to recognise and bound to honour. It is not even within our right to say a Jew should or should not be there. We are acting on behalf of fifty nations, who gave us the Mandate in order to facilitate the establishment of the National Home. The third essential thing is that our policy should not only be firm and consistent but should be enforced, and carried out without regard to what either one party in one place or another or any set of officials may think.

Well now, have the Government as a matter of fact got a policy for the future of Palestine? I do not know, but if they have they do not share it with such a vulgar assembly as the British Parliament. In due course, no doubt, we shall have a plan, which will come from the same factory as that from which the other plans that have departed so quickly from this life also proceeded. In the interests of brevity, as well as for other reasons, I do not think that it is useful for me this afternoon to go in any detail into the question of the Report of the Partition Committee. It is sufficient to say that four persons produced three different plans, and the only thing in which they agreed was to reject the scheme of partition proposed by the Royal Commission of which the late Lord Peel was Chairman. The Government in actual fact have not accepted any of these plans, and in that, for once in a while, I am thoroughly in agreement with His Majesty's Government. At long last we appear to have the opportunity of building from solid earth.

But notice with what reluctance and deviations we have arrived at that point. First of all, the Government threw at Parliament the scheme of a Legislative Council sitting in Jerusalem, which had in it all the elements of racial disorder, and which any student of Palestine could easily have foretold would be a disaster. Then, when Parliament would not have it, of course they had to retreat from that. The second stage was that, without consulting Parliament, the Government were suddenly converted, as if they were now youthful enthusiasts, to a scheme of partition. It was the plan of plans, we were told, the very embodiment of administrative wisdom, from which they would on no account ever retreat. Then, after those affirmations, a new Committee was appointed to see whether there was really any sense in the scheme or not, and it is the Report of that Committee which Parliament now has before it. The scheme of partition is abandoned for something that we do not yet know. This flap-jack, somersault policy of administration is in my view greatly responsible for the present situation.

I would like, in dealing with the proposed Conference, to say that in my judgment it is the first obviously sensible thing that has been done in this matter. It may not succeed, but it has hitherto not been tried. Whether it will succeed or not will depend in great part upon the way in which it is handled. Agreement on a complicated question such as this is not to be obtained by consoling phrases, by pious aspirations or mere expressions of good will. Conciliation has a technique of its own, and that should here be brought into being. We have tried it recently in India, with results which cheer our hearts and give satisfaction I think to all of us. There the principle of it was by giving responsibility to the Indian people to divert their energies away from the smaller things which divided them to the one great thing that united them, love of their common motherland and the desire to serve it. We ought to try to do something of that kind here. I am not so happy about the proposed composition of this Conference. I note that certain Arab rulers outside Palestine are to be invited to sit at the conference table, and for the life of me I cannot quite see what their claim is to sit at such a Conference. It looks to me as if the result of it would be altogether to outweigh the representations that the Jews will themselves be asked to provide. And then, if the Arab rulers are to be invited, why not other countries also? What has the United States of America done that she has not been asked to participate in this discussion? She has certain treaty rights in the matter which should not be overlooked.

In regard to the programme of the Conference, I think it is of immense importance that the problems of immigration in relation to the refugee problem should be discussed with thoroughness and generosity. I hope that, if nothing else can be done, it might be possible to draw on the lists for future years in order at this time to give some help to a people in great distress. I think we should interpret liberally the phrase "absorptive capacity" and bring, as I say, the lists of several years into the current year. The need is urgent, and Palestine of all the nations could make a great immediate contribution to the solution of this problem. There are tens of thousands of tortured human beings knocking at our doors, which we refuse to open. I am told that the Jewish families already in Palestine are ready to be foster parents, to open their doors to and to sustain at least ten thousand Jewish children whose lives at present make one sick to contemplate. So far as I know, His Majesty's Government have as yet made no response to that appeal. I should like to include in the appeal I am making the Arab people. They are a generous and chivalrous race, they have made great contributions to the history of civilisation, and they might be willing, without prejudice to any political view they may hold, to share in that redemptive work which is so immediately urgent. They are not persecuted wanderers on the face of the earth, for a vast territory mostly unexploited is in the hands of their own people.

It is my desire to be as little controversial as possible on a matter on which I feel deeply, but I cannot refrain from reminding your Lordships again that we have made very solemn pledges in regard to the Jewish people, especially in 1917, when their help was very urgently required and generously given. More than half a million Jewish soldiers supported the Allied arms, and a great many of them rest in the cemetery on Mount Scopus, where our fellow countrymen also lie. I feel that it is a pity from many points of view that the late Lord Allenby could not be here to tell us precisely what their contribution was; but remember that while the Jews claim only a small territory, the Arab peoples enjoy lordship over a territory as big as Europe with Russia included. It should also be remembered that a large Jewish population enthusiastically loyal to this country might be of immense use to us in the days which are yet to come.

The Conference, in principle, is to be commended, and I do so commend it. There is only one type of public man whom I always want physically to assault, and it is that inspired nuisance who on every occasion when something happens says, "I told you so." He is one of the by-products of humanity who ought not to be allowed to exist; but nevertheless I venture to remind your Lordships of certain proposals which are at least not new. In the Parliamentary Commission of 1929, on which I had the honour to serve in company with my noble friend Lord Rushcliffe, these matters were discussed, and though I found myself unfortunately in disagreement with my colleagues on the general question, we were all deeply concerned about the ultimate issues. As I saw the problem then—and I have never altered my point of view—it would have been possible at that time to have built a bridge of understanding across the gulf which divided these peoples in Palestine. As I saw the needs at that time, good relationships between the two races were a necessary condition of development; secondly, that development depended upon security and order in the land they wished to develop; and security and order depended upon racial co-operation and good will. Co-operation is a voluntary spiritual principle not to be inspired or maintained by military force.

I venture to read a short extract from the Note of Reservation that I issued at that time because it has still some importance in my own mind if not in the mind of anyone else: Peaceful economic and political development in Palestine will be dependent upon a corresponding growth of good will between the two peoples which should be fostered by equal educational opportunities for Jewish and Arab children and a wide expansion of adult training in the possibilities of racial co-operation. It is advisable, therefore, that steps should be taken to spread a knowledge of the history and the culture of the two races and of their respective contributions to civilisation.… As a first step towards racial co-operation it would seem that a few men of both races, carefully selected and of unquestioned character and influence, should meet together and explore the possibilities of common effort for agreed ends. Such a meeting might prepare the way for a larger bi-racial conference of a more representative character which could be charged with the duty of securing agreement on specific proposals affecting the welfare of the nation as a whole.… Neither the meeting nor the conference nor any committees established in villages or towns should attempt the task of solving the racial problem; these bodies should limit themselves to practical steps towards securing social improvements, inter-racial justice and good will. Their influence would spread throughout the land, practical benefits would ensue, suspicions would be allayed, and out of their efforts would grow a reserve of understanding and the good will to compose racial difficulties and to unite Arab and Jew in the task of building up a happy and prosperous land. I do not think those views are entirely out of date at the present time, and in a memorandum which I had despatched to people in Jerusalem, in speeches in this country and America, and in articles in the Press I developed those views.

The place to begin, in my judgment, with racial appeasement was in the villages and among people contiguous to the Jewish colonies in Palestine where neighbourly good relationships prevailed. I pointed out the history and importance of the inter-racial committees that had been established in the Southern States of America and had been enormously useful, and had been adapted to the necessities of South Africa also. I refrain from reading particulars of that at this point, but it is needless to say that the Colonial Office did not take the slightest interest in any proposals for racial co-operation either at that time or since. It was enjoying the fable of its own omniscience. I do not dare now, in conclusion, to offer to the Government any advice, but I say to your Lordships that after a definite policy has at length been decided on, it should be supported by educational activity, by such help as the films can give us, by the help of the radio and the Press, by lectures or by broadcasts which would interpret to the Arab and Jewish peoples the spirit and purpose of the Mandatory Power and the way in which democratic institutions work in our own land. If appeasement cannot be furthered on those lines, then I confess I despair and think that no appeasement in Palestine will be possible. But I cannot think of that tortured land, so beloved of the nations of the earth, without a feeling of shame and of humiliation at its present position. The way to peace is not through the valley of indecision and drift, not through bayonets, but through courage and faith and, above all, through wise planning. Let these virtues be accepted as the basis of a new policy, and if they are that policy may be rewarded with peace and good will between two great peoples. I beg to move.


My Lords, I am sure your Lordships will feel that it is the duty of this House of Parliament at this juncture to consider the question of Palestine, and will be grateful to the noble Lord who has just spoken for bringing the subject to the attention of the House. Our last debate upon Palestine was in July of last year. The Report of the Royal Commission presided over by the late Lord Peel had then just been issued, and the debate centred on its recommendation of a partition of Palestine between a Jewish State and an Arab State with a British enclave. There was a general consensus of opinion that that Report had given to the nation an admirable survey of the past historical events in Palestine and of the then existing situation. But in the minds of a few of us the recommendation of partition was a bad one; indeed I feel convinced that the Commission had no right to make that recommendation without taking any evidence on the subject. It took full and ample evidence on every other aspect both in Palestine and in this country, but when it came to its principal recommendation, whether partition of the country would offer a permanent solution, no one was consulted. There may have been some quite informal consultation of individuals, but no one was formally consulted; no witnesses were summoned; neither of the two highly intelligent and politically-minded communities were asked to express their views.

The proposal was adopted by the Commission precipitately, and then it was accepted by the Government with equal precipitation. The Government at that time received advice from many quarters that it did not matter so much whether their policy was right or wrong, that the important thing was that it should be firm, definite and decisive. They were told from many quarters that there had been too much vacillation, that no matter what the Royal Commission recommended it ought to be accepted straightaway by the Government and carried resolutely into force, and that the Government ought to declare a policy at once and keep to it. That to my mind was very bad advice. The advice was bad, and its acceptance was disastrous. If your system of government is to be based on compulsion and applied by coercion, then a course such as that might be adopted, but if you depend mainly upon government by consent, then to carry through a measure which would affect the fortunes of these two great communities for generations without any opportunity of hearing their views, was to my mind wholly wrong.

The concluding paragraphs of the Peel Report included this observation: Partition offers a prospect…of obtaining the inestimable boon of peace. In the light of subsequent events what irony there is in that opinion! However, this House accepted the recommendation of the Commission, and the policy of the Government. There were in a two days' debate, I observe on referring to the records, eleven speakers, and my noble friend Lord Strabolgi and myself were the only ones who definitely condemned and opposed the policy of partition. But the other House did not accept it; in fact, it referred the matter back for further consideration, and the Mandates Committee of the League of Nations did much the same thing. The reaction of the whole Arab community was immediate and emphatic, and a large part of Jewish opinion also was opposed to partition.

The Government, having been in my view too hasty in accepting the plan, thought to put the matter right by being exceedingly dilatory in revising their policy. After prolonged delay a further inquiry was held. I visited Palestine for a second time last spring and heard there that this Commission, which was appointed subsequent to the recommendations of the Peel Commission, was already nicknamed the Repeal Commission, and indeed it was fairly evident to everyone who was intimately acquainted with the subject that the policy of partition proposed by the Peel Report was utterly impracticable. When you got to close quarters with its proposals with regard to frontiers, to enclaves, to transfer of populations, Customs barriers, defence, finance, public security, this plan was revealed as nothing less than a monstrosity. It could not stand up to close examination, and anyone who reads the new Report, or rather the new Reports, published by the Woodhead Commission must come to the conclusion that partition in any form was impracticable.

Now I submit to your Lordships this fundamental consideration. All those who approach this question from the standpoint of areas, of geographical divisions, are on wrong lines. It is very natural for us to think in merely geographical terms. The whole of our own political system is built upon it. The seven hundred years of the history of Parliament has running all through it this principle of geographical areas represented in a Central Parliament. The minority in any particular area gives way and does not press its view because it relies on people of similar views being in a majority in other constituencies. So whenever there is conflict and controversy our natural course is to say: "Well let us divide the parties." In Ireland if there are Catholics and Protestants, Unionists and Nationalists, and if the majority of each is in particular areas it seems the natural and obvious course to say: "Let us set up one State for the one section and another State for the other." In India that policy was adopted to some extent. We are proceeding on the lines of saying that if certain Provinces are likely to have Hindu majorities let us form other Provinces which are likely to have Moslem majorities, and so on. So the question of Palestine has seemed to the average mind in this country like this: that since there were Arabs and since there were Jews and they did not get on together, why not create an Arab State for the one and a Jewish State for the other? If it should be impracticable to do that, some say: "Let us have cantonisation, still smaller areas here and there, in which the several sections can be concentrated."

For some purposes, no doubt, you must proceed on the basis of geographical areas. For ordinary local services—health, roads and so forth—you must have local divisions. But in dealing with these questions of race and religion you are on wrong lines from the beginning if you try to draw areas on a map. In Palestine they are inextricably intermingled. The Turks, who with centuries of experience had developed a certain amount of wisdom in these matters, recognised this, and they dealt with communities as such under the system known as Millets. When the new civil administration in Palestine was set up immediately after the War, and I was entrusted with the duty of taking over from the military, I came from the very first days to the conclusion that this system of communities was in the main the right one. By "in the main," I mean for most purposes, or for many purposes. Consequently I continued and developed it, and I made it my duty to organise and legalise these communal entities.

The Moslems, having been separated from previous control from Constantinople, had to have provided for them an entirely new constitution. The Jews had already the beginnings of an organisation but those beginnings had to be developed, formalised and legalised. The Orthodox Church had already its organisation although it was somewhat in disrepair and there were great financial difficulties. We made it our business to put it on a better footing and to assist in its operation. The Latin Church also had its own organisation. Education, religious endowments, marriage laws and other matters were dealt with, not in geographical areas, but by communities. The political system of that country should, in my judgment, be based mainly on these lines. Therefore all these proposals of partition and cantonisation ought to be discarded at the outset. I admit of course that this principle ought not to be carried too far. There are, as I have mentioned, many points which must be dealt with on a geographical basis. There are some districts which are almost wholly Jewish and others almost wholly Arab, and you must have that in mind. There may be districts which ought to preserve their Arab character as such, and if desired land purchases by Jewish organisations in these areas might be prohibited.

There is a second fundamental fact in this unhappy controversy which I would venture to submit for your Lordships' attention. The Zionist movement taken as a whole has from the beginning misconceived to a great extent the facts with regard to the Arab situation. The strength of the support for the Zionist movement has been derived mainly from the masses of the Jewish population in Poland and Rumania and in the United States of America. They are remote from the scene and they have no intimate knowledge of the circumstances of Palestine itself. Intent on their own movement, full of fervour and enthusiasm, they have set on foot one of the most remarkable and inspiring idealist movements of the modern world. They have been obliged largely to concentrate their attention upon the amassing of large funds, amounting in the total to many millions, which have been derived mainly from small contributions from the poorest homes in those and other countries. They have been eagerly looking to the prospect of opening a fresh place of refuge for the oppressed and persecuted in Eastern Europe. They have taken the keenest pride, and a justifiable pride, in the achievements of Zionism in Palestine and have looked forward to the restoration of the glories of ancient times. But in that fervour and with that impetus they have been impelled forward so that they did not even see the obstacles that stood in their path. They have been impatient and indignant that anyone should state that these obstacles were there and were real, and should venture to suggest the right means of overcoming them.

When this opposition from the Arabs became clearly manifest and intensified a theory was created to account for it. It was unforeseen and very disturbing, and it was urged that it was really due to a small group of wealthy Arab landowners who saw the day waning of their authority over the fellaheen and who took steps to maintain an agitation in order to preserve their own privileges and power. The deeds of violence, it was said, were committed by brigands, the outrages were the work of paid gangsters, and the funds, it was said, were contributed very largely by European Powers who wished to stir up trouble for the British Empire in the Eastern Mediterranean. All this was assumed to be in large degree the work of one individual, the Mufti of Jerusalem, who for the sake of his own personal power and the advantage of his partisans had fomented, stimulated, directed, almost created the whole of it. And it was further stated that the progress of this movement was due in the main to the weakness and even the connivance of British officials who either secretly or openly favoured the Arabs and hampered the very policy which they were sent there to carry out.

There is possibly some fraction of truth in all these allegations, but they leave out the factor which is more important than any of them—namely, that the Arab national movement exists, that it is a reality and not an artificial creation fostered by British timidity and foreign intervention. To think that is a mere de-lusion. The Arab national movement is a reality. Men by thousands laid down their lives for it during the War and since and men are still willing to lay down their lives for it. That movement is as much to be respected as the Irish national movement or the Indian national movement or the Egyptian national movement or the Jewish revival itself. True, during these disturbances it has been disgraced by the most brutal crimes and shocking massacres and murders, which have brought discredit on the Arab name, but these are not characteristic of the Arab people and are, I am sure, strongly disapproved by the best Arab leaders. The Jews, on the other hand, I think are entitled to great credit for the restraint that they have shown in the face of these outrages, and for not having had recourse to reprisals, except apparently in one or two instances. Even those have not been proved, but in one or two instances it seems possible that some among them have stooped to the crime and the folly of lowering themselves to the level of their opponents. But that has been instantly condemned by the responsible leaders of the Jews in Palestine and elsewhere, and such reprisals were speedily stopped.

May I say a word or two with regard to the Mufti, Haj Amin Al Husseini, whose personality has aroused great interest? I was responsible for his appointment, and, looking back over the circumstances of the case, I have no doubt that that appointment was a right one. If necessary I could give your Lordships the reason, but it would be going into too much detail and would take up too much of your time. During my High Commissionership, for some years, I never knew him to refuse his cooperation in maintaining law and order. On what has since happened I have no first-hand knowledge and therefore cannot speak, but in any case I feel sure of this: that if the Mufti were not there to give his leadership, someone else would be there, for a movement always throws up its leader, and if it were not one individual, then it would be another.

There has been published recently a book entitled Palestine Diary, written by the principal representative of the Zionist Organisation who was in Palestine from the year 1923 to 1931. Any one who reads that book will be able to understand why the Zionist movement in Palestine did not command a more general confidence and good will. The author, comparing the attitude of my successor Lord Plumer to my own with regard to submissions put forward on behalf of the Zionist Organisation there, says that Lord Plumer would have taken the attitude of asking himself: 'Is the request justified under the policy of His Majesty's Government? If so, I must grant it and carry it through. Sir Herbert Samuel's first reaction was, 'What will the Arabs say to this?' He there does an injustice, not to me, but to Lord Plumer. I feel sure that anyone in the position of High Commissioner had a duty, in viewing any proposal of any kind, to consider from the outset and at the same time, first, whether the proposal was in accordance with the policy laid down by His Majesty's Government, and also what would be its reaction upon the community who were the great majority of the population. Furthermore, the Balfour Declaration, which is embodied in the Mandate, specifically states that, while favouring the creation of a National Home for the Jews in Palestine, it must be clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of other sections of the population. These are the words of the Declaration.

That is just as integral a part of the Declaration and of the Mandate as the provision with regard to the Jewish National Home, and any High Commissioner who did not give it equal weight with the other would be guilty of a dereliction of the trust confided in him by the Crown as the Mandatory approved by the League of Nations. The policy of considering "What will the Arabs say to this?" and of not excluding from office members of the distinguished Husseini family, who for generations under the Turks had played an eminent part in the administration of the country, at all events had the result of keeping the country at peace. While the Arab leaders always maintained their principles and made it quite clear all through that they did not surrender any of their objectives, there was a considerable measure of co-operation between the communities, and with the Government also. The country from 1921, through Lord Plumer's time and on until 1929, was at peace. There were no disturbances between Jews and Arabs. For eight years not a blow was struck. The Jewish National Home developed far beyond any previous expectations. The population, both Jewish and Arab, rapidly increased, and so did the prosperity of the country and its revenue. From 1929, unhappily, everything has changed and the situation has rapidly deteriorated. In my speech in the former debate I suggested what the reasons may have been, and I do not desire now to repeat those observations.

Now at the present juncture His Majesty's Government have invited the two parties into formal conference. I agree with my noble friend who has just spoken that that was a very wise course, but I disagree with him on one point, and that is about inviting the co-operation of representatives of the surrounding Arab States. That also, I think, is a wise course. You will have there the presence of some trained statesmen, who will be a moderating influence, and therefore you will have a greater prospect of success. Further, the invitation is a visible proof that His Majesty's Government recognise that Palestine is not a merely local question and that, just as it interests Zionists all over the world outside Palestine, so also it interests Arabs outside Palestine wherever they may be, and particularly in the contiguous countries. Is there any possibility of agreement from this Conference? Is there any conceivable plan on which the parties might agree? There, again, I dealt with that question in my earlier speech, and would not wish to trouble your Lordships with a repetition of the proposals which I then ventured to put forward for consideration. I then gave some elaboration to those proposals and to the reasons which might be advanced in support of them, but perhaps I might now be allowed to repeat them in summary form.

I would say again to-day, as I said then, that I hope your Lordships will understand that, in making these proposals, I am not authorised to speak on behalf of anyone. This is not the plan suggested by the Zionists, or by the Jewish community in Palestine, or by anyone else. I have consulted no one, and I am putting forward merely the plan which my experience led me last year to suggest. In very brief and summary form it is this: First, that the British Mandate should continue. Secondly, that Jewish immigration should be limited, for political, apart from economic, reasons, so that it should not exceed for a substantial term of years a specified percentage of the whole. The suggestion that was made was forty per cent.—that is to say, that after a period of ten years, or whatever it might be, the Jews should not have more than forty per cent. of the total population and the Arabs, including Christian Arabs, sixty per cent. Thirdly, I suggest that measures be taken for the development of Trans-Jordan and that a loan, guaranteed by His Majesty's Government but ultimately charged on the revenues of Trans-Jordan itself, should be made in order to promote closer settlement of what is now a very undeveloped country, and thereby enable Arabs, both Trans-Jordanians and Palestinians, to find settlement there, and also a proportion of Jews from Palestine and elsewhere.

Next, that an area within Palestine now entirely Arab should, if the Arabs so desire, be reserved and its character so remain. Then, that a Legislative Council should be created, not at once but after an interval, which should not be elected on a basis of geographical constituencies, but consist of delegations from the governing bodies of the several communities. Again—and this is a matter of great importance—that the Moslem Holy Places should be guaranteed in their present ownership in perpetuity, even if the Mandate should come to an end. This would involve establishing some form of protection by the Moslem States, just as before the War the Orthodox Holy Places were under the protection of Russia, and the Latin Holy Places under the protection of France.

Lastly, there should be extended encouragement to the creation of a confederation of Arab states, in which Palestine and Trans-Jordan should form part. This is not likely to be a rigid association, but there would be an association sufficient to deal with matters of common concern, to indicate a joint interest and an ultimate common purpose. Any such settlement should be a settlement for a term of years. You cannot determine the future for all time. That was the error of the Treaty of Versailles, to think that the 1919 map of Europe had to be clamped upon the nations indefinitely, without a clear and definite opportunity for review. This association of Palestine with the neighbouring countries might, after no long interval, change the whole aspect of the problem. Further, if for some years Palestine were able to have peace and quiet, and growing economic co-operation between Jews and Arabs, the matter could be approached ultimately in a different spirit from now, and if after a decade, or whatever period of time, the atmosphere were different, it might be that problems up to now insoluble would be then found comparatively easy of settlement. I would say no more on the question of this Conference as a possible solution. I believe we should all be anxious not in any way to embarrass the Colonial Secretary, who is handling a most difficult and complicated problem in a spirit of resolution and wise circumspection. I do not, therefore, deal with the question of immigration, which is now so acute, although in general I agree with the noble Lord who has just sat down.

In conclusion, my Lords, of the three parties that are now engaged in this matter, one, Great Britain, has every reason to desire, of course, a speedy settlement. We are all unanimous about that. The present situation is injurious to British prestige, it does damage to the strategical position of the whole Empire, and more than that, it shocks the religious sentiment of all the Christian peoples. The Western world will soon be celebrating Christmas, and it is a tragic and lamentable thing that we can read such a passage as this in a newspaper. It appeared in The Times a few days ago: The courtyard in front of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is filled with armoured cars, sandbags, and barbed wire barricades, and in the adjoining monasteries the sandalled tread of the monk has given place to the hobnailed step of the British soldier.… Such a statement as that, unavoidable in the circumstances of the moment, offends the deepest feelings of a large section of mankind.

Of the two other partners, Arabs and Jews, both are often hard bargainers, but we can hope that when they go into this Conference they will not carry intransigence too far. The Jews are known of old to be "a stiff-necked people," but I hope that the representatives of the Jewish case in this Conference will not be too intransigent. If they are, they will alienate public opinion in Great Britain, in this Parliament, and in the League of Nations. The Arabs also need peace. They have lost a thousand men, killed in these disturbances. A number of their leaders have been foully murdered, not by the British, not by Jews, but by other Arabs. A large part of the population is being ruined. If there were to be a political settlement there would be a swift economic recovery, and a rapid return to prosperity, for all the elements for such a return are there. The Arabs should remember that it is untrue that their people have been driven out by the Jewish invasion. It is not the fact. Since the War the population of Palestine has been doubled. There were then 700,000, and the population is now 1,400,000. Of that increase of 700,000, 350,000 are Jews and 350,000 Arabs. There is, by coincidence, almost exact equality in the increase of the Arab population in Palestine and the increase of the Jewish population during the period of the creation of the Jewish National Home. This Arab increase, moreover, has not been in spite of, but, as was stated by the Secretary for the Colonies, because of the creation of the Jewish National Home. If there had not been that creation the Arabs would still have been in the same state of stagnation as they were in under Turkish rule.

Let them also recognise that the National Home itself has virtue in it. The Peel Commission said that every impartial investigator who has seen it must wish it well. The new Arab Confederation would find in this Jewish National Home valuable elements that would be lacking to them elsewhere. They would find there a population with great energy, supported by large capital resources, introducing all the most modern scientific methods of industry and agriculture, an example and a stimulus to other surrounding Arab districts, which should be a source of revenue, wealth and employment to the whole region. It would give them also cultural co-operation; in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem the Arabic language and culture is one of the principal studies. In earlier centuries, when the Arabs developed a civilisation which was illustrious in history, they achieved it partly by co-operation with Jewish philosophers and poets, scientists, merchants and Ministers of State, and if the Arabs wish to revive that golden age let them renew the connections which helped to make it so.

There are those in other and unfriendly countries who think that the greatness of the British Empire is on the wane. In India and in Palestine particularly they see decadence and surrender. But they are peoples who see the principal and almost the only element in national greatness in the constant use of force. With a longer Imperial experience the people of this country have learnt better. If in these days Britain can provide India with a framework in which her own national genius may develop once more, in full liberty, a specific Indian culture authentic of the soil; if in the Middle East we can give a helping hand to the Arabs to do the same; and if simultaneously we can in Palestine foster the growth of a Jewish centre in which the moral, intellectual and practical Jewish spirit, which history shows is a thing not to be despised, can flourish and can radiate among millions of Jews, dispersed throughout the world, a stimulus and a hope, then in this and in the coming generations, the British Commonwealth may achieve new elements of greatness and render yet further services to mankind.


My Lords, I cannot of course claim to speak with anything comparable to the knowledge, the experience and the authority of the noble Viscount who has just spoken, but I naturally take such a profound interest in this subject which is before us that I must be allowed to make a very short contribution to the discussion of it now. The conflict of rights which the late Lord Peel, when he last addressed this House, described truly as a tragedy, has been intensified since he spoke. It is a story we all know, marked by a series of mistakes, misunderstandings and misfortunes. Think of the ambiguities concealed in the MacMahon Correspondence after the War which is still a source of bitter exasperation to the Arabs. Think of the ambiguity involved in the term "The National Home," which has never so far as I know been really faced or clarified. And I am bound to say I seem to see some evidence of that confusion in the speech to which we have just listened with so much admiration, for I found it difficult to understand how the development of Millets up and down the whole country of Palestine could be reconciled with what was intended by a National Home for the Jews. Think of the ambiguities in the terms of the Mandate itself, of which the late Lord Reading said in this House that he had never been confronted with anything more confused, ambiguous or obscure. Naturally the result of all these ambiguities has been a confusion of interpretations, so that at one time an interpretation was given to please the Jews which exasperated the Arabs, and then another interpretation with precisely the reverse effect.

I think we must add to these misfortunes the failure of the Government in Palestine to check disorder at its earlier stages, whatever the admirable motives of not dealing severely with it may have been. Then came the Royal Commission of 1936 when the proposals which we all know were laid before us in their brilliant Report. The Government accepted these proposals, the scheme of partition, in principle. It was eloquently vindicated by the noble Marquess when he spoke. And now, after two years, as the result of another Committee these proposals thus adopted have been abandoned. Therefore we seem to be in the same position in which we were in 1936, but with the very great difference that since then there has been this destruction of life and property, which would be lamentable anywhere but is infinitely more lamentable in a country which is regarded by the three great religions of the world as a Holy Land. I do not think any of us can have failed to have a stab in the conscience when we heard that particular quotation which the noble Viscount has just put before us about the courtyard of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, which I remember so well and where I was myself received with every token of respect by both Arabs and Jews.

It is perhaps profitless to dwell upon this sorry story of the past. Indeed, I am a little apprehensive lest I may be physically assaulted by the noble Lord opposite as coming very near his description of the particular man on whom he desires to exercise these qualities which we have not hitherto associated with him—corning very near, that is, to the person who says "I told you so." But we must look forward now to the future. We have all welcomed the proposal of the Government to invite this Conference of the Arabs and the Arab States and the Jewish Agency to London, to see whether at long last there may be some prospect of mutual agreement between these contending nations. But I cannot but ask why, if that is conspicuously and by common agreement the right step now, it was not taken at an earlier stage. It might perhaps have been taken in those early days about which the noble Lord was speaking, but in this House on July 20, 1937, I ventured to make precisely this proposal. I used the analogy to which the noble Lord referred of the way in which, after the Report of the Royal Commission in India, there was immediately, not a decisive decision on the part of the Government but a Round-Table Conference, and we know how that prepared the way for such ultimate settlement is was reached.

I asked then that a Conference might be assembled of Arabs, of the neighbouring Arab States and of the Jews. I added, I remember, that even if such a Conference failed, at least the parties would feel that an opportunity had been given them for full discussion and the soreness would have been removed, due to the thought that a form of settlement had been merely imposed upon them by the Mandatory Power. But I recollect that the noble Viscount, Lord Swinton, who replied then for the Government, was not even pleased to pay any heed to the suggestion. Yet I believe that if it had been adopted it might conceivably have improved the situation; and your Lordships will understand that I cannot but ask now why the step which the Government regards as of such great importance now was not even considered less than two years ago.

But that is again of the past. Now for the future. I am sure that the Secretary of State has taken every care in the invitations which he has issued to see that the Conference will be in every sense really representative. I had intended this afternoon to press upon the Government that, although for obvious reasons it might not be desirable to allow the Mufti to be present, yet care should be taken that some members of his Party should attend the Conference—they might be men, even if they had been excluded from Palestine or deported, who could have been selected by the six National Arab Committees who form the Arab Higher Committee. But it is needless for me to dwell upon that matter now because I have read with the greatest satisfaction the announcement this morning that such persons will be admissible and available from whom the representatives at this Conference can be chosen. I hope care will be taken to see that the Arab Christians are adequately represented. Although a comparatively small minority, they have made, and are making, a very great contribution to the life of Palestine. I make another suggestion, which I hope may not be inopportune, that possibly there might be some representative or representatives of Jewry not associated with the particular Zionist Organisation. With regard to the presence of members of the Arab States, I agree with the noble Viscount that that is most important because they may have a moderating influence on the Palestinian Arabs such as no one else can possibly have.

In view of this Conference I have no wish to speak on general policy, and therefore I shall not attempt to follow the noble Viscount in his rehearsal of the interesting proposals which I well remember he put before us in July, 1937. I will allow myself to make only one observation. I do not wish to say more now before the Conference because I have some experience of the way in which words spoken by me here have been isolated, misinterpreted, and misunderstood in Palestine; but this one observation I must make. This is no mere Palestinian problem with which we are now confronted, affecting some 400,000 Jews or 900,000 Arabs. It is, even more than it was in 1936, a world problem of unusual magnitude and urgency. It is plain, as has been said, that one main subject that must be dealt with in this Conference is that of Jewish immigration. It is quite plain that that is the main cleavage between the contending parties, and if there is to be any success in this Conference each of the parties must abate some of their extreme claims; but we must regard this question of immigration as at present sub judice. I do not wish to express any opinion about it. Meanwhile I hope, with the noble Lord who introduced the subject, that no obstacle will be raised to the generous offer of the Jewish community in Palestine to make themselves responsible for 10,000 Jewish children, or at least that the largest possible number of them will be allowed to enter without regard to any present limitations upon immigration in general. The condition of these helpless children from every part of the world is one that must needs command general sympathy.

In view of the Conference, like the noble Viscount I have no wish in any way to embarass its task, but let me say just this, for it is something I cannot refrain from saying. None of us in your Lordships' House is wanting in full sympathy with the Arabs, with their history, with their claims, with their deep sentiment about Palestine itself, however much we may deplore their recent excesses; but at the present time our sympathy with the Jews must be stronger, must be most profound. When not tens, but hundreds of thousands of them have been driven from their homes in Europe by a new and relentless persecution on which I forbear to comment, are being treated everywhere with every sort of ignominy, treated as outcasts and aliens, incapable of any kind of civil rights, is this the time to whittle away anything that was hoped for and desired in the phrase, "National Home in Palestine"? It may be the case that the particular scheme of constituting a Jewish State in Palestine advocated by the Royal Commission has been proved to be impracticable, but surely we must all desire intensely that there may still be found some sphere in Palestine where the Jews can live within their own control, which can at least be a symbol of that national unity to which they have so passionately clung through their whole history, a sphere in which, as the noble Viscount said, they can exercise real influence over what may be large Jewish settlements in different parts of the world, a place of their own within the land which the Eternal Wanderer has always regarded as the historic home of his ancient race.


My Lords, Lord Snell in the opening part of his very interesting speech—and he, like everyone else who has spoken, is familiar with Palestine—accused not only this but other British Governments in their relations with Palestine of having been continually vacillating and self-contradictory. It is only fair that I, as a recent Secretary of State who was no doubt one of his targets, should remind him that when he was a member of a Government between 1929 and 1931 there was issued the Passfield White Paper which caused a perfect fury throughout the Jewish world. There was then a conference at Downing Street, when the Passfield White Paper was wiped out and the MacDonald letter substituted. Never was there a case of a quicker change or a more complete volte face in policy than took place on that occasion. It was that episode, among other factors that I shall mention, that caused really serious difficulties in Palestine, because both communities, Jewish and above all Arabs, were convinced that you only had to put enough pressure on people in London to get the policy in Palestine changed. That has dogged the footsteps of successive Administrators in Palestine and has led to many false accusations being made against the very loyal Civil Service who have been endeavouring to carry out your policy.

The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said that in spite of the inherent difficulties of the problem, in spite of the fact that under the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate you were inducing the new wine of European Jews, with all their élan and technical ability, into the old Moslem East, the first ten years of the experiment after the War looked to be going well. The real trouble began—and I believe this was the kernel of it—when Jewish persecution became intensified in Central Europe, and the pressure on the Zionist movement, on the Jews themselves, on the British Government in the Administration in Palestine, was inevitably what it is to-day—"Oh can't you take a few more of these persecuted people?" The whole architecture of the National Home was forced into rapid and rather lop-sided growth in Tel Aviv and elsewhere by the pressure of events in Europe.

I speak as a pre-Balfour Declaration Zionist, one who hoped to see the National Home grow, I admit slowly, but on very sure foundations and mainly on the land. My sympathy with the Zionist movement was partly the sympathy that I think anybody familiar with the Bible has with the people who wrote it, and it was partly due to the fact that I believe, rightly or wrongly—with English Jews, German Jews, American Jews, Russian Jews, Polish Jews and all these people, some of them only with a veneer of the civilisation of first one country then the other as they wandered about across the face of Europe—that if you can get a nucleus born and bred in their original home on the land, which they will always regard as the land of their forefathers, there you will get a cultural and spiritual revival that will be good for all the Jews of the world and good for humanity as a whole.

It is what is called the spiritual aspect of the question that attracted me long before the Balfour Declaration. But that could only be achieved as a gradual process, and would probably take two or three generations to bring to fruition, if you had really friendly co-operation with the people already natives in Palestine and if the growth was not too fast. It is the tragedy of the National Home, as I see it, that it tended to become regarded as the National Home for refuge for people flying from persecution. All the trouble comes from that. Why? Because the figures of immigration went up from a few thousand a year to 60,000 or 70,000 a year owing to this pressure of the persecutions, particularly in Germany. That genuinely frightened, not the effendis, not the small number of selected Arabs, but the Arab cultivator and the Arab villager.

The root of the problem in Palestine to-day is still mutual fears concerning the future. The Jews are afraid that their great cultural success, their great achievements of the last twenty years, are to be finally brought to an end and put under the domination of an Arab majority; and, equally, the fear of the Arabs is that vast numbers, with whom we naturally sympathise, who are now being persecuted in countries of Europe, will be dumped into Palestine, and that inevitably in course of time, by numbers, or if not by numbers then by superior organising capacity and by money power, they will overwhelm the Arab civilisation and dominate the Arabs. I am convinced that there is no solution of the problem of Palestine by handing over the Jews to government by Palestinian Arabs. Equally there is no solution by handing over Palestinian Arabs to government by the Jews. I am convinced, Round-Table Conference or no Round-Table Conference, success or failure, that there can be no lasting success unless it is perfectly clear that British administration is going on in Palestine. I think that is a sine qua non. And that is one of the troubles arising from the Mandate. That document has been the bane of all administration by successive Governments in Palestine, not in its general intention but in the details of its articles. It definitely lays down that as in Iraq, as in Syria, the present Mandate is purely temporary, and that it is in accordance with Article 28 of the existing Mandate to have some new Mandate conferred, and that by Article 2 of the existing Mandate our first duty is to hasten and facilitate the creation of self-government in Palestine. Well, as I have already said, I do not believe self-government is practicable. The noble Lord opposite taunted my noble friend Lord Swinton over the attempt to set up a Legislative Council. That was done in order to try to carry out the Mandate. Another thing the noble Lord complained of, and I think Lord Samuel supported him, was the procedure of the Government since the trouble following the Peel Commission.

Everybody agrees that the setting up of the Peel Commission was right. That Commission produced a most remarkable and valuable Report and then, it is said, the Government precipitately adopted it. Why? Because they were faced with this fact. The parties at Geneva had adjourned and demanded from the Mandatory Power an immediate explanation of their policy and an immediate statement. I had to go hot foot to Geneva, which was waiting and had adjourned twice, in order to produce something. As the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said, we only agreed in principle, and I still think that, if the two communities, or even if either of them, had been prepared to accept and work partition, not necessarily with the boundaries proposed by the Commission but with any boundaries, there was a great hope that that policy would have succeeded. But everything pointed to the fact that neither the Jews nor the Arabs were willing to accept partition as a solution, and that therefore no boundaries mattered. None of the Reports in the Woodhead document really are practical politics, because you cannot work self-government or civil administration except with the good will and the consent of the governed. I regret that the idea of partition has been postponed. I will not say sine die but for many years. That is the fact we have to face to-day; that is the all-important new fact. But let us take it as a fact that partition is impracticable to-day, and we have to look again for some alternative solution.

I agree—and the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has been courageous in telling the Jewish people—that there is no solution of the Palestine question which either the Arabs in Palestine or any Arabs outside Palestine are likely to accept that does not involve some quite clear, definite limitation of Jewish immigration. One regrets that at this time, when there are literally hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees longing for any place of domicile and naturally most of all for Palestine, but I am quite sure that unless there is some definite limitation of immigration—the Arabs demand complete stoppage, but I hope that will not be agreed to—unless there is some definite limitation of such a kind as to remove the fear of the Arabs that they will be overwhelmed by Jewish numbers, and a quite definite limitation for a considerable period of years, there is no hope of the success of this Conference or of peace in Palestine. One regrets to have to say that, but I believe it is the naked fact.

Now I want to say another thing. The noble Lord, Lord Snell, says that he believes that if more attention had been paid to the very able Report which he added to the Report of Lord Rushcliffe's Commission, following the disturbances of 1929, the foundations of racial co-operation would have been already laid in the villages—primarily in the villages. I can assure him from my own personal knowledge that certainly two men laboured unceasingly, and not without some success, to carry out exactly what he proposed. One of them was Sir Arthur Wauchope, who went round village after village himself preaching that gospel and endeavouring to get joint committees working. Nobody did more than he did to carry out the very proposal which the noble Lord repeats to-day. Another man who stands out in the history of Palestine as carrying out that proposal was Andrews, the man who was murdered—and whose murder, we know, was directly traceable to the Mufti of Jerusalem—when he was succeeding in bringing the Jews and Arabs together.

Next to immigration, of course, the important question is land. If you look anywhere where we have Colonial responsibilities, you will find that sooner or later we have had to have Commissions to demarcate native reserves whenever there has been immigration of a more technically highly qualified race into a country. Sometimes they have come rather late in the day. But look at Kenya. You have to demarcate areas for the native population when you are going to have immigration with great capital and modern science coming into the country. You have got to shut out areas of the country and say that, although by admitting white settlement you would get greater production and the land would be cultivated on more modern lines, you must for political, for social and above all for moral reasons, establish native reserves. And in those native reserves you have to prevent the alienation of land to other than native people. Wherever you get mixed communities of quite different grades of culture and experience you have to come to that sooner or later. In Palestine we have got to have that if there is to be peace. It would be quite unreasonable to expect that every acre of land owned by an Arab should never be owned by a Jew, or vice versa, but it is essential that there should be demarcated areas in Palestine which are reserved for Arab cultivation and Arab cultivators if there is to be peace.

Possibly these are very bitter pills for the Jews to swallow. Naturally they want every acre of land they can get, and naturally they want to get every one of their suffering brethren from Europe into Palestine if they can, but it is the path of political wisdom from their point of view to see that the Jewish National Home cannot possibly succeed in the present atmosphere of Arab hostility. They would be foolish, I agree with the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, to imagine that it is merely because the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin El Husseini, has shown himself to be their implacable enemy, as indeed he has shown himself to be our implacable enemy. There is a genuine Arab case, and unless that is met, the geographical position being what it is, there will be no ultimate success of the Jewish National Home. I am quite sure that peace for Palestine is as much a desideratum for the Jews as for ourselves to-day.

Now let me say something about the Conference and its composition. I am delighted that the neighbouring Arab rulers, including the ruler of Egypt, have been invited, but I hope it is not going to be just a conference between Arabs and Jews. It is essential that we should make clear to both that there are British interests in Palestine, that there are Christian interests in Palestine as well as Jewish and Moslem interests, and that the sole reason why Palestine is not part of Syria, and can never be regarded just as any other part of the Arab world, is the fact of the Bible. It is not merely the existence of Jewish and Christian minorities, but the fact that in the history of civilisation Palestine has been unique, is unique, and always will be unique because it has produced the great religious literature which we call the Old Testament and the New Testament. That is the fundamental fact which Arabs always ignore. By all means let a complete guarantee be given by the nations of the world that their Holy Places are sacrosanct and under their control, but they must recognise that we Christians want our Holy Places under our control, and that we are not prepared to hand over control of those Christian Holy Places ever again.

I said that I would say a word about the composition of the Conference. I am very glad that some of the old Arab Higher Committee who were deported to the Seychelles are coming, and I hope others are coming. I became early convinced that Haj Amin El Husseini, as has now been openly said by other Arab leaders with considerable courage in Palestine, has been and is exploiting the clash of the national movements for his own dynastic purposes. We have always known, of course, that he has been bitterly hostile to the Sheriffal families. He was hostile to King Feisul and has always sought to undermine the position of the Emir Abdullah in Trans-Jordan, and the Emir Abdullah has been a loyal friend to us. At the conclusion of the War he was in arms against us. The noble Viscount pardoned him and selected him for the Muftishy. We cannot blame him. It is very easy to be wise after the event. As long as the noble Viscount was there as High Commissioner, I believe this man Haj Amin—who was not selected by the Moslem authority in Palestine but, as the noble Viscount said this afternoon, was selected by him—remained loyal.


It is not quite accurate to say "selected" by me. The Moslem procedure was adopted, but it is a very complicated matter and much too detailed to go into now.


As I understand, the three names submitted to the noble Viscount were rejected by him, and he suggested to them that they should think again, and let it be known that Haj Amin El Husseini would be favourably received by him, and then they did submit the name. At least, that is the account given in detail in the Peel Commission's Report. But I am not blaming the noble Viscount; probably any other High Commissioner would have done the same in his place. I am merely speaking of my experience during all the time I was at the Colonial Office. I am satisfied that, quite apart from the position that he thereby acquires, he is playing his own dynastic game, and that game undoubtedly is to become, not merely the sovereign of Palestine, not merely the crowned or uncrowned king of Palestine, but first head of Palestine, then of Palestine and Trans-Jordan combined, and then of the whole of Syria, and, of course, in that position to be regarded as the leader of the Sunni world, in view of the great changes that have taken place in Turkey.

He is a man of quite unlimited political ambition. He was a Turkish Staff officer—and incidentally, a Turk who knew him in those days told me he thought that he was the blackest-hearted man in the Middle East. Though King Ibn Saud will be able to hold his position as long as he lives, make no doubt about it that Haj Amin El Husseini's ultimate objective is the control of the Holy Places of Islam in his family, the foundation of a dynasty of the Husseinis, who have a considerable claim by descent, and the domination by him of the Arab world. I am satisfied that he is a deep-seated enemy of Great Britain, just as I am satisfied that King Ibn Saud, the King of Egypt, the King of Iraq and the Amir Abdullah of Trans-Jordan are good friends of this country. Therefore I rejoice that His Majesty's Government are welcoming to this Conference the co-operation of the neighbouring Arab rulers and their representatives, and I am very glad that they are excluding one man—namely, Haj Amin El Husseini, who uses for his own ends the private murder of Arabs in Palestine not friendly to his dynastic ambitions. Members of the other leading families have been foully murdered, men who are just as good Nationalists and almost as prominent leaders in the national cause as he is. That man stands condemned in the Arab world, and if he were admitted he would be a danger to all neighbouring Arab rulers.


My Lords, it has long been the reputation of this House that it contains within itself a large number of persons who speak with real knowledge and experience on public affairs. We have certainly had a conspicuous illustration to-day that that reputation is true. It is therefore with some hesitation that I rise to speak having had practically no direct contact with Palestine, and therefore bringing to bear on this problem merely the suggestions of a spectator, of one who has been interested in the problem for a good many years, and has read all the documents and has discussed it very largely with people in neighbouring countries, like Egypt and India. It is from that point of view that I venture to make a few suggestions to your Lordships and to the Government to-night. In the first place I am going to put in a plea that the Peel Commission's Report shall not be dismissed, in the way in which it has been dismissed since the Woodhead Commission, as a document almost of little value in dealing with the Palestine problem. The Peel Commission's Report, though not perhaps in the details of its final recommendations, was a very remarkable and profound document, and we should make a big mistake if we did not pay, even now, great attention to its recommendations.

The plain, obvious truth, which is admitted, I think, by almost all the expert speakers to-night, and especially by my noble friend Viscount Samuel and by the noble Lord who has just spoken, is that you have a situation which arises partly out of conflicting promises and partly out of conflicting national movements. Whatever might have been the case fifteen years ago, that is the fact to-day; and they are conflicting national movements which are not merely confined to Palestine; they are world-wide. There is world-wide Jewry on the one side, and there is the Arab world, now supported by the Islamic world, on the other. That is what makes it so difficult to deal with. I have always felt a deep sympathy for the Zionist movement for this reason. One basis of it, as it seems to me, has been the intense and passionate desire of the Jewish people to escape somewhere in the world from being a minority. That is, as I see it, one of the real foundations: "Let us go somewhere where we can create something positive and national, in order that we may escape the effects of two thousand years of being minorities, and persecuted minorities, in every country in the world." I do not think you will ever solve the problem of Palestine without recognising that aspect of it. It is a problem which, I think, was fully dealt with by the Peel Commission.

On the other side you have what the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, very eloquently described: the equally passionate determination of the Arabs not to be dominated by the Jews. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and others have expressed the hope that it will still be possible, either by the maintenance of British administration or by some limitation of immigration, to maintain the unity of Palestine with a National Home within it. I need hardly say that, if that were possible, it would be the best solution, but I confess that I feel that the arguments of the Peel Commission are almost unanswerable: that that to-day is impracticable and that the one thing you cannot do is to go on with a policy which involves any considerable degree of immigration into Palestine by the Jews, and the keeping of that country as a single home.

I venture to ask whether a solution which has been applied in other parts of the British Empire might not be applicable in this case. You all remember the history of Canada, where you had French Canadians and British Canadians. For a great many years attempts were made to solve that problem. There was first of all the attempt to run two separate Governments, a French Canada and a British Canada, each of them independently controlled from Downing Street. You then, after Lord Durham's Report, had the attempt to unite them. It was trying to unite oil and water, and it did not work. It was only when you introduced the federal principle that you got the beginnings of the solution which has finally, as I hope, solved the Canadian problem: an arrangement where each side has real autonomy, real control of its local affairs; where the unity of the country is recognised in some form of federal organisation. That is the principle that has been applied, though as yet without the federal aspect, in Ireland; the basis of the solution has been laid. You have also got it, in a not very perfect degree, in India. Where you are not able to apply it because of too much intermingling, you get the perpetuation of racial antipathy and racial jealousy, which you find in South Africa. That is the answer I would make to my noble friend Lord Samuel, when he talks about the possibility of organising the country in communal communities. Communal communities work all right as long as the country is a dictatorship, but the moment you introduce the principle of self-government the communal community becomes an intolerable source of trouble and friction, because every politician in the country inflames racial feeling in order to get elected.

Therefore I am driven back to the view that there is substantial wisdom in the basic contention of the Peel Commission, that at any rate to-day, whatever the future may bring about, you have got to have—I do not like the word "partition"; I think the Peel Commission went too far in proposing two sovereign States—the principle of administrative division and local autonomy. I believe that is really to-day the only foundation upon which you can found a solution—that you give to the Jews an area in which they are not a minority, in which they can begin to construct something for themselves, in which they can allow immigration more or less at their own discretion within their own area; that you give them territorial limitation but not numerical limitation. On the other hand you give the assurance to the Arab world, which administrative division involves, that they will not be overwhelmed and will not be dominated by the Jews, and that they can obtain unity with other Arab communities.

Is it not possible to find a basis upon which you can get such a solution by agreement, because admittedly you cannot solve any of these problems unless you do get agreement? By giving to the Jews rather greater freedom and a rather greater area for their National Home, in return for introducing the federal principle into the problem, and by bringing in, say, Lebanon and Syria as well as Trans-Jordan as the nucleus of a loose federation you give an assurance to the Arabs that the Arab world will never be dominated, and that assurance might enable them to look at the boundaries in a far more friendly way than they look at them to-day, and it would eliminate the possibility of having to have strategic frontiers, transplantation of populations and other things which make the thing impossible to-day.

I would venture to suggest that that offers a possibility which might reasonably be explored. You give to the Jews an ampler area in which they have complete local control, in return for their accepting membership of a federation which includes a much larger part of the Arab world—the Northern Arab world as well as the Palestinian Arab world. It seems to me that there is a possibility of an agreed solution on that basis which does not appear to be present in any other way to-day. On the other hand, I think that it is difficult to believe that you are going to get agreement unless you are able to bring, not the coercion of force, but the coercion of facts against both sides. If His Majesty's Government meet the Conference and merely do what was done at the beginning of the Indian Round-Table Conference and allow the other side to make all its proposals without having any clear mind of their own, then I think you are going to get into fatal difficulties. You must not only have at any rate a provisional plan. You must also have a plan for dealing with the extremists, and that plan, as I see it, must be something on these lines: on the one hand, of course, law and order; on the other hand, some solution on the lines I have discussed, and proof that if agreement is not reached then both sides are driven back to the old impossible position.

The figures which were used by the Secretary of State in the debate in the House of Commons a fortnight ago seemed to me very significant. He said in effect that for every Jew who enters Palestine another Arab goes with him because of the immense economic development which the pouring in of Jewish capital into Palestine has produced. In other words, the Arab fear of a Jewish majority disappears by reason of the efficiency of the Jewish development. And I should like to see His Majesty's Government say: "If you cannot reach agreement, then we take it that unless the absorptive capacity makes it impossible, the Jewish immigration will be 25,000 a year, because the Arab population will increase also by 25,000 to 30,000." In other words, if the extreme view on either side prevails, it still leads to a hopeless deadlock. By maintaining law and order and by saying to the Arabs "Unless you agree to an agreed solution, 25,000 Jews at least going in every year," and by saying to the Jews that in sending in those 25,000 Jews a year you are going to have at least as many Arabs coming in, you have got in front of you the facts which prove to both sides that unless they compromise they are simply going to go on with their present troubles. I would like to suggest that His Majesty's Government when dealing with this matter should consider the possibility of what I might call a loose federal organisation.

The only problem I have not touched there is how is the organism to be defended. Presumably each area can manage its own internal affairs of order, but it obviously is not able to defend itself from outside, and that is, I think, where the principle of the Mandate can be maintained, since Great Britain can not only protect the Holy Places, but make an arrangement whereby it assumes the responsibility for preserving it from attack from the outside world. Unless you can convince both sides that the extreme view cannot possibly succeed, I do not believe you are going to get the temper in which you will get an agreed solution; and unless this Conference arrives at an agreed solution it will arrive nowhere.


My Lords, I think this debate is very opportune, and I hope it will be productive of more satisfactory results than the debate that took place in 1936. We then debated the question of the new Legislative Council as proposed by the Palestinian Government and endorsed by the Colonial Office. They stated that they intended putting it through whatever happened, even by force. In the debate in this House and in another place there was no sympathy shown towards that proposal, and in the result the Government withdrew from their declaration that they would insist on the plan being put through, and the whole idea of the new Legislative Council collapsed. The Arabs, who had been disappointed at least half a dozen times after inquiries by committees which had reported on the position in Palestine, when they read the reports of the debate felt that they were at their wits' end to know what to do. They recognised that they had not sufficient influence to press upon the Government the necessity of carrying out their declaration. On the contrary, they said that Jewish influence was paramount, and they resorted to what they imagined was the only means to redress their grievances, that is, by guerrilla warfare such as obtained in Ireland. It was a great mistake on their part, no doubt, but still it was a fact that they felt they had not sufficient influence over here as compared with the Jewish influence. In that view there was no doubt some exaggeration, but still it was understandable, as they had not got the social position and the means of associating with the British which the Jews had.

The result is that we now see this very deplorable state of affairs in Palestine and the only means of getting rid of that state of affairs is, I fancy, by this new Conference which it is proposed to hold and which we hope will bring about agreement between the Jews and Arabs, and thereby bring some prosperity to that unfortunate country. If it does not, then I am convinced that the only thing to do is for the Government to pronounce that a Zionist State is impracticable. We have never yet heard on what precise ground the Zionists claimed that they should have a State in Palestine. No one who has studied the Balfour Declaration can understand any such ground, and when last July I asked whether any such promise had ever been made to the Zionists, the answer was to the effect: As my noble friend knows, the promises of His Majesty's Government are set out in the Balfour Declaration of 1917. Where is the promise in that Declaration? It is one of the vaguest Declarations ever put before the country. The noble Lord proceeded in his answer to me to say: No private promises have ever been made to any body or individual.


Had not the noble Lord better read the final statement of the answer?


The concluding portion of the answer was to this effect: The terms of the Balfour Declaration did not preclude the possibility of a Jewish state in Palestine. Surely that is not a promise that they are going to have one. I think my noble friend has rather weakened his case.


I only wanted the full answer, that is all.


I am perfectly unable to understand how the Zionists can claim that they have a right to have a Zionist State. The King-Crane Commission appointed by President Wilson went entirely upon what had been a previous opinion as to the right of Zionists to have a share in the governing of Palestine. I am quite confident that if the Government would announce, to-day, that there could not be a Zionist State, and that there would be a limitation on immigration, you would have peace and harmony in Palestine. As I have already said, if the Conference arrives at a solution so much the better, but if it does not then I am confident that the best course would be to take the bull by the horns and say at once that there cannot be a Zionist State. The Jews and Arabs previously lived together in Palestine in perfect harmony, and in 1919, I think it was, Sir Philip Magnus and other leading Jews in London made a deputation to Mr. Balfour, to ask him to reconsider his Declaration, and he would not hear their proposal.

At the present time there are large numbers of Jews who are quite hostile to the proposal that there should be a Zionist State, and Rabbi Dr. Mattuck, speaking on "The Jews in Palestine," on October 4, said: Surely the way out was not to emphasize more the nationalism which has caused all hatred, but if possille to sacrifice it. It would not be the first time in Jewish history that they had been forced to sacrifice nationalisms for something higher—for spiritual ends. Whenever Jews had made a sacrifice they had triumphed. Whenever they had refused they were defeated. Only when working for spiritual ends did the Jews show the greatness of their lives. By such a sacrifice Palestine torn might become Palestine healed. For the most part Zionists come from Central Europe, and are not of the most elevated class. How many British Jews are to be found among the Jewish population? Not one per cent. Yet how many British soldiers and others are to be killed so as to force a majority of foreigners on a people opposed to them?

As I have said before, if this Conference fails our hope must be that the Zionists will see the wisdom of abandoning their claim to a State. After all, a Zionist State, founded on British bayonets and so maintained, is hardly a fulfilment of a Biblical prophecy, nor could it be regarded as a home worthy of the chosen people. If Zionists will realise the position and abandon their claim, then I think they will win the respect and good opinion of the whole world. At the same time they will co-operate with those who are trying internationally to find lands in which Jews could settle in peace, and retain the vision of their religious and cultural home to which they could always freely resort. I hope that this debate will show greater sympathy with the views of the Arabs than did that which took place in 1936.


My Lords, as one who for four years was responsible, as Colonial Secretary, for the administration in Palestine, and during those four years did my best to work for co-operation, I should not like this debate to pass without taking the opportunity of saying how whole-heartedly I support the action which the Colonial Secretary has taken in summoning this Conference—subject, of course, to two conditions, which I am sure he would endorse as readily as I do. The first is that there can, of course, be no relaxation in the restoration of law and order and the suppression of violence in that land. The second is that this Conference, while having full opportunity to take all matters into consideration, must proceed with reasonable despatch. I know that it is not at all in his mind that this should be a way of gaining time. On the contrary, it is, I believe, a very genuine attempt to get agreement—an agreement which may perhaps he possible to-day, when every alternative has been put forward and when all the facts are so fully presented that the Conference can, as my noble friend Lord Lothian said, be brought up against the facts, which, I agree with him, more than anything else are going to convince and to bring reason.

I think it is profoundly wise to have invited the adjoining countries to take part in this Conference. I do not in the least agree on that point with Lord Snell. It is right that they should be there, because they have a legitimate interest in this matter, and I think it may well be, as has been said, that interested as they are, and standing a little further from the immediate scene of the trouble, they may take a wider, longer, more detached and more balanced view. The most reverend Primate asks why, if this is done now, it was not done before. He joined the "I told you so" school, and said: "I made this proposal, and Lord Swinton, replying for the Government, did not even answer it." Sometimes it is not very easy to answer a proposition which is eminently reasonable in itself but which, on grounds of expediency—and I use the term in its broadest sense—it is not politically practicable to adopt at the time. The Conference will have a better chance of success now that it has the Report of the Woodhead Commission as well as the Report of the Peel Commission before it. I am not shirking my share of responsibility at the time I was in the Government when I say I was never attracted by partition—I disliked it—but faced with the Report of the Peel Commission, with its very definite recommendations, pressed, as Lord Harlech said he was, by the Mandates Commission adjourning from month to month, pressed as the Government were from all quarters to have a definite policy and act when they had appointed the Commission, it would have been very difficult for the Government of the day to do other than they did at the time.

Partition was most emphatically advocated by the Peel Commission. Indeed they said it was the only feasible solution, and it still has its attractions for the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, though he dresses it up in another way. I am bound to say they presented that very definite conclusion on slender evidence, but it would not have been a very easy thing for the Government of the day to act otherwise than in the way they did. The Government were wise to appoint the Woodhead Commission to examine the practicability of this proposal. The findings of the Woodhead Commission are thorough, complete, and conclusive, and so far from partition being the best way out, it is proved to be, economically, a thoroughly unsound and wholly impracticable method. If division is not practicable, we turn back on combination, and on combination which must be made as real as possible.

I do not agree with the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, that it is so wholly impossible to get these two nations to work together that it is necessary to make two enclaves, with the Jew separate in one and the Arab separate in another. That is an almost impossible thing to do in Palestine to-day. When the Royal Commission attempted it, they only found a solution on the basis of saying 250,000 Arabs will either pass into the Jewish State or be transferred out of it—and where on earth they were to be transferred, it passes the wit of man to understand. If it be true—and I am sure it is true—that financially, agriculturally, and industrially the advent of Jewish capital, Jewish experience, and Jewish technique has been of great general value to Palestine, then surely the more that experience, capital, and training can be shared and can inure to the common benefit of Jew and Arab alike, the greater the opportunity not only for peace but for effective development in Palestine.

I believe it is possible for such effective co-operation. It has been done. Long before the Balfour Declaration a great and generous pioneer, the Baron Edmond de Rothschild, founded his colonies in Palestine, founded them with a wide generosity, a wide vision, and without any exclusive characteristic. I very well remember when I was in Palestine, after a long and tiring day in which I had heard many Jews criticising Arabs whom they would not meet and Arabs criticising Jews whom they would not meet, and both parties criticising His Majesty's Government, coming at the end of that day, at evening, to one of Baron Edmond's colonies above the Sea of Galilee. I was met by the Jews and the Arabs together, and together they took me in to their little hall and made me welcome, and both spoke. I shall never forget the end of the old Arab leader's speech. He said: We have been together here, Arab and Jew, for many years. We have stood together in good times and in bad. If the stones of the wall hold together, the wall stands. But if the stones fall apart, the wall falls, and much falls with it. These colonies of Baron Edmond's stood the stress of trouble and the test of time, and seeing that co-operation there, which had gone on—these people living and working together through the insurrection of 1929 and, for aught I know, through these later and more serious troubles—I could not help feeling that there was a real hope for Palestine in that spirit of co-operation in which this great Jewish pioneer had induced these two people to live together for their common good. That experiment succeeded because the co-operation was complete.

In a very courageous and, if I may say so, very wise speech, Lord Samuel said there were facts which the Jews and the Jewish Agency must face up to, and he criticised elements in their policy. I profoundly agree with his criticism. I share with him admiration for the work which they have done—the marvellous research and development, not only agricultural but industrial as well; but there is one thing which the Jewish Agency always insisted upon, and in which I think they were wrong. Where land was bought, that land had to become, and remain, the exclusive property of the Jews. Where the Jewish Agency bought land, the Jews alone remained on that land. I say at once they paid high prices for that land, and generous compensation to smallholders and tenants who were on it. They paid in full, but what happened? The Arab may have been an absentee landlord who got the purchase money. As to the little occupier, the Arab who worked on the land, his compensation money, generous as it was, was soon spent, and there were in a year or two landless and workless Arabs, although it is quite true that the land was producing five and ten times what it had been producing before. The Arab did not see that that accretion of wealth to the country was doing anything to him but turning him off his lard.

The fear of the Arab is terribly real, that however much money he may get—and everyone knows quite well that the Arab will take the money when it is offered—he will become more and more landless. That is the problem. In the future, where these great development and irrigation schemes take place, it should be the principle and the rule that, where there are Arabs on land which is bought by the Jewish Agency for colonisation, those Arabs shall go back on to the land, on to an economic holding irrigated and developed. Then you keep your Arab on the land, the Arab benefits by the cultivation which the Jews can teach him, and nobody knows better how to teach than they do. You will then get the Arab and the Jew side by side with a common interest. Get that in the Huleh basin, get it on some great development scheme down the Jordan Valley, let there be seen that co-operation in being, and who can say how wide then this common work and this common colonisation may not spread? It may well be that once that has been seen in operation the way to settlement in Trans-Jordan may be open, not under the protection of British troops but under the knowledge that it is to the mutual benefit of both the nations. That is the spirit of co-operation which I hope to see.

I would only say this in conclusion. The Jews and the Arabs have their great, their legitimate interests in this land. So have we. It is not depreciating the part which Jewish soldiers or Arab legions played in General Allenby's campaign to say that it was British victory which gave Arabs freedom, it was British victory which gave to the Jews their National Home. Without that victory there would be no Arab States anywhere in the world, there would be no Jewish Home. Arab freedom and Jewish Home alike were bought with British lives.


My Lords, the problem of Palestine has now haunted a succession of British Governments for too long a number of years. It was never more complex than it is to-day, but in spite of, indeed because of these difficulties it was never more necessary to find a solution. At the same time neither opportunism nor impatience ought to lead us to snatch at the first solution which comes along, for if any solution is to be valuable it must be lasting, and if it is to be lasting it must be just. So far as I personally am concerned—and I am expressing only a personal view—I have always been in favour of such a Conference as is now being called, and indeed I wish that it had been possible to call it some years ago when the atmosphere was less embittered than it is to-day. It is perhaps not making an excessive claim on behalf of the authorities of the Jewish Agency to say that they have always been anxious and willing that such a Conference should take place, although they have evoked no very ready response up to date. Only during the last few years of lawlessness and violence has that willingness been withdrawn. I have no doubt that their response to-day to the Secretary of State's invitation will be acceptable to him.

I should like, if I may, to reinforce the point which the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, made a little while ago. There are, after all, three parties concerned in this matter. There are not only the Arabs and the Jews, but there are the British as well, and I confess that I should like to see the British Government playing a rather more positive and constructive role in this Conference than that of a benevolent but baffled go-between. The Government have had great difficulties. The Peel Commission's Report, in spite of its healthy condition at birth, has apparently perished of malnutrition. The Woodhead Report is apparently stillborn, and the Government are now searching to see if somebody can bring forth a child which they may adopt in the hope that their adopted child may prove of sturdier growth and may grow to be a comfort to them in their old age. All of us who are concerned with this question hope that their anticipations may be fulfilled.

One understands the point of view of this country, which is the predominant point of view in the matter—the great importance of retaining the support and co-operation of the Arab States. The Arab States, very naturally and very rightly, will attach themselves to those who seem to be able to give them the greatest measure of protection in times of trouble, and they will not attach themselves to those who seem prepared to make concessions to violence, nor will they be attracted by the spectacle of derelict railway stations, deserted post offices and abandoned police stations in Palestine. There may also be some virtue in retaining the support of the Jews. So far as the Jews of Palestine are concerned, that ought not to be a very difficult task for this country, for they are, after all, not Poles, or Russians or Germans, but, after a very short time, Palestinians with the interest of that country at heart, with their faces to an Arab hinterland which extends over an illimitable tract before them, and with their backs to the Mediterranean. If they did not turn to Great Britain for support, and if they did not offer their support to Great Britain, to what nation in the world could they turn?

Various schemes have been put before your Lordships this afternoon. The proposed Conference will no doubt have to work out its own salvation, and I only pause to say of those schemes that I know my noble friend Lord Samuel, in putting forward his views, was expressly putting them forward as representing his individual opinion, and it may be that they would not find very wide acceptance in other Jewish circles. But I should be sorry if your Lordships went away with the idea that those who were in a position to deal with this situation from the Jewish aspect were intransigent and exacting on this question. I have had no direct connection with this problem, but I have discussed it during the past months with a number of persons, approaching the problem from the Jewish point of view but from many diverse angles. I have found throughout all discussions with those persons a desire to arrive at any solution consistent with justice, a desire to appreciate the point of view of the Arabs, and, so far as could be done without betraying their own people, to give every possible weight to their contentions.

The noble Lord, Lord Lamington, devoted a large portion of his speech to asking what was the basis upon which the Zionists were claiming a State and taking them severely to task for so doing. The noble Lord is not in his place at the moment, but surely the answer to that is obvious. It is not quite fair to put it on the Zionists. It was the Peel Commission which produced this idea of the Jewish State. It was the Peel Commission which proposed partition and which said that as part of the plan of partition there must be set up a Jewish State. There may perhaps have been a very extreme, and as far as the Jewish Agency is concerned an unofficial, body which always contended that the Balfour Declaration involved a Jewish State, but the responsible authorities of the Jewish Agency made it perfectly clear that it was not their claim. When it was revived it was revived by the Peel Commission. Really the strictures and queries which the noble Lord addressed to the Zionist Organisation can be answered by a very cursory reference to the recommendations of the Peel Commission.

Out of the recent disturbances in Palestine perhaps two factors have emerged which ought not to be passed over in complete silence. The picture has not uncommonly been drawn of the Jews of Palestine cowering behind the British troops, afraid to take any steps in their own defence. That picture I believe to be a travesty of the situation. If until recently they have taken no part in that defence, it was because their repeated and energetic requests to be allowed to take part in it have been consistently refused. They are certainly deeply grateful for the protection that has been given them by the British troops, and most certainly they deeply deplore the casualties which have been inflicted on these troops, but it is not they who have inflicted them. Now in more recent times opportunity has been given them to take part side by side with British troops in the repression of lawlessness and violence, and I think if any of your Lordships inquire from those who have had actual experience of the recent fighting in Palestine, you will find that you will be given an account of the services of those troops which will convince you that they have been gallant, disciplined and hardy soldiers. You will realise that they are only too glad that the moment has now come when they have been at last allowed to take some of the burden of a harassing and exhausting form of warfare from the British troops. The second thing which emerged is that there is, in spite of much lawlessness and much assassination, a moderate party among the Arabs. That has given a real basis for optimism for the success of this Conference, and for what my opinion may be worth I prefer to be an optimist about it.

I only want to say one thing more. In the earlier stages of this debate requests were addressed from more than one quarter to the Government that they should no longer delay decision as to the offer by the Jews of Palestine to give asylum to some ten thousand children from Germany. I have had some very close experience of the refugee problem. I do not propose to dilate on it to-day, but I do trust that they will find it possible at least to throw open the doors to these children, who cannot for many years to come complicate the problem of population, and who will at least be saved from the hell in which their lives are at present laid. On what ground can that request be refused? Is it that it will provoke or offend the Arabs? I cannot help thinking that it is doing an injustice to the Arabs themselves to suggest that if you give a permission of that kind they are going to be offended or outraged by your so doing. If it is doing an injustice to the Arabs, it is certainly also doing an injustice to the Jews. We are not asking for a large access of grown-up men and women to be brought in. All that is being asked is that the children shall be allowed in. There is nowhere else on the face of the world—not in Kenya, and not in British Guiana. Grateful though we are for offers made in that direction, those are long-term proposals. There is nowhere else where, here and now, within a few days or a few weeks, these children can be given a new home, a new life, and a peace of body and of mind which they must have despaired of finding anywhere on the face of the earth.


My Lords, I came down to your Lordships' House this afternoon expecting to have much criticism to meet, but that has not been the case. I must confess that I put that largely down to the fact that I have seldom heard so many of your Lordships in the position of having been right all the time while His Majesty's Government have been equally consistently wrong. Speaker after speaker manifested his good temper by praising the Government, when as far as I could make out he was praising himself. Many things have happened since I last addressed your Lordships in July last year about Palestine, and very few of the things that have happened have been good. I am therefore glad that this matter has been raised, and I am very grateful to the noble Lord for having raised it at a much more convenient time than he might have done. I say that not merely because the debate has provoked a great number of ideas which are going to be very useful to us in the future, but also because it enables me to give your Lordships some account of the present position in Palestine as we see it.

I do not want to waste time by going over past history which is familiar to all of us. I would only make this remark about past history since I led off the discussion in which the Government accepted partition. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition has accused us of being too tardy and too indecisive. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, accused us at the time of partition of being over-hasty and over-decisive. Whatever we have done we have fallen between two stools. I am prepared to deal later with the criticism that we were tardy and indecisive, but I should like to deal now with the criticism that we rushed into partition without full consideration. Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing was more certain to wreck the prospects of partition than a prolonged wrangling in this country about its merits. The only hope was to act, and to act quickly, in the hope, which I still believe might have eventuated, that both sides would be glad to accept as a fait accompli what neither of them really desired but both of them realised to be more or less just. That was why the Government accepted the policy of partition with the speed they did, and I believe they were entirely right in making the attempt.

But many factors, of course, intervened to destroy that effort. The boundary suggested by the Royal Commission was far too vague. The administrative details had not been worked out. A technical Commission had to be set up; its sending out was delayed by riots in Palestine, and its deliberations, of course, took time. All those things were working against us, and while all those things were happening, feeling was rising in Palestine. Gradually the whole Arab resentment was concentrated against partition, and it had ceased to be a panacea and had become a political catchword. That is no unique phenomenon. Time is the essence of modern politics and modern history. It is the one physical factor which has loomed larger than any other in recent political developments. Speed of communication has not lessened that importance of time; it has greatly increased it. On this occasion the time factor was working desperately against us. Therefore, by the time that the Woodhead Commission had reported, we found that not merely were all the Arabs united in opposing partition, but many of them were in actual rebellion against the Government who were investigating its possibility. It was in those circumstances that the Woodhead Commission made its Report, and it immediately became quite clear to the Government that the administrative and financial difficulties of partition were so great that, although they might have been overcome if there had been a real desire on the part of both Arab and Jew to work the scheme, without that desire the scheme was doomed to failure. I am not going into the details of their arguments here, because they are familiar to all. Partition was dead, and His Majesty's Government had to think again and try to discover some other way out of the difficult position in which we found ourselves.

I do not deny that we have changed our view. I do not deny, if the noble Lord likes the word, that we have "vacillated." What I do deny is that we were wrong in so doing. The noble Lord smiles, but throughout his speech he seems to have confused moral wisdom with obstinacy, and political wisdom with decision. Those two things are not correlated. If the noble Lord were to express that modern worship of speed for its own sake in one of your Lordships' transport debates, he would find himself in a very small minority. There is no virtue in speedy decision as such, unless the decision is right. Therefore there is no possible advantage in persisting in crossing a bridge which you know to be rotten merely for the sake of your own obstinacy, merely because at one time you have said: "I think this bridge will take me to the other side," when it is perfectly obvious to any sane man that it will no longer do so. This is a difficult and ever-changing problem, and it is really no serious criticism to make of His Majesty's Government that, instead of charging straight ahead like a bull at a matador's cloak, they have tried to adapt themselves as best they may—I do not say always successfully—to the changing circumstances in which they have found themselves at one time or another. They have changed their ground, always with one object only in view: that of doing justice to both sides in Palestine and bringing about a peaceful settlement there.

Having answered that criticism as best I may, I admit that we were faced, after the presentation of the Woodhead Commission's Report, with an old problem in a new setting: the problem of bringing Jew and Arab into an agreed settlement without partition at a moment when the land was in revolt. The first step to take was that advocated by many of your Lordships and one with which the Government wholeheartedly agree: the restoration of law and order. Troops were poured into the country, and every possible step was taken to obtain the co-operation of the military and the administrative sides so that law and order could be restored as quickly as possible. It is true that at the present moment the Arab campaign of sabotage and terrorism still continues, but there has been during the last month a very great diminution in the number of outrages reported, and since the reinforcements arrived in October we have made very good progress indeed towards the restoration of the authority of Government, particularly in those areas which, I regret to say, had at one stage fallen more or less into the hands of the Arab gang. In November, as your Lordships will remember, the old City of Jerusalem, Gaza, Jaffa, Jericho and Beersheba were all occupied by troops and cleared of terrorists.

I do not think that we can be accused—no one did accuse us—of not having acted decisively in that particular matter; and that policy will continue until by other means—to use a word which I dislike, but which is popular at the moment—"appeasement" is reached in the land. It was quite clear that other means were necessary if we were going to get permanent peace in Palestine. We cannot garrison Palestine for ever with an enormous number of troops; nor is there any solution of the problem by force. Therefore we did attempt to pursue a parallel course of political appeasement, and we decided to hold discussions in London with the representatives of the Palestinian Arabs and the representatives of the Arab countries near Palestine, as well as with the Jewish Agency. We have had acceptances from Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Trans-Jordan and the Jewish Agency, and we have also sent an invitation to the King of the Yemen. So far as the representation of the Palestinian Arabs is concerned, we have not ruled out any representative except the Mufti from the discussions, and I was very glad indeed to hear that that decision to exclude the Mufti was not merely supported—as I knew it would be from his previous writings—by my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition but also, with the accumulated indignation of years, by the former Colonial Secretary, my noble friend Lord Harlech.

But having excluded the Mufti, I would like to make it quite clear that we are most anxious that the Mufti's party should be properly represented at this Conference. We want the Arab delegation to be as representative as it possibly can be, both of moderate and of extreme opinion, because, even though it might perhaps be easier to reach a settlement were the delegation to be more restricted, we do not believe that such a settlement would have half the value of a settlement achieved with a fully representative delegation. In fact, as an earnest of our good intentions, and to make clear what our intentions are, we have not merely said that people excluded from Palestine may come to London, but also we have released the deportees from the Seychelles, and their release is final. If any of them are selected to come to London as representatives, we will consider their names very carefully and no doubt accept them. It of course may be asked how this delegation is to be chosen, and it is certainly difficult, in the lack of any authoritative body in Palestine, to explain exactly how it is possible to select a delegation of this nature, but in the Middle East things are done in a quiet and friendly way, and the Arab Kings are in close contact with each other. No doubt they are also in close contact with the leaders of Palestinian thought, and I have no doubt at all that quite shortly I shall be able to tell your Lordships the names of a reasonably representative Palestinian delegation.

That, I think, explains the personnel of the forthcoming Conference. Now for its form. I was not sure whether one or two speakers quite took in the fact that in the first place we do not intend to, have a Round-Table Conference. I think it was the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, who referred to it as though it was a Round-Table Conference. It is not at the moment intended to start as a Round-Table Conference, though we very much hope that it will end up as such. The first method of approach will be separate delegations, interviewing His Majesty's Government separately. So far as matters for discussion are concerned, we have been asked on several occasions during this debate whether we had a plan, and we have been twitted, as Governments are always twitted, with not having a policy. It is not our intention to go to this Conference or to present these delegations with any definite, set plan. We believe, on the contrary, that every subject should be open for discussion at this Conference, and we think that only harm would be done if His Majesty's Government attempted to confine the speeches or the suggestions of delegates into one channel, however wide. But though when the Conference starts we do not produce a hard-and-fast plan, at any rate I will guarantee this, that we will have advanced very far in the direction of thinking out the sort of way in which we should like to see a solution arrived at.

After all, by the nature of things we are bound to have done that, because, should the Conference fail, or should it be prolonged too far, we have announced our intention of imposing a settlement which we hope will do justice to both sides. Therefore I can assure your Lordships that we shall not go entirely empty-minded into these discussions, although we will not flaunt our plan or restrict discussion in any way. That of course means that I need not discuss any of the various plans—either the plan of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, or the plan of the noble Marquess, Lord Lothian, or any of the other plans which have been suggested this evening. They are all for discussion, none of them is ruled out, none of them is favoured, none of them is opposed. It is for the Arabs and the Jews to decide what is the right and best solution, in consultation with us as the Mandatory Power.

Having said that nothing is ruled out, I would also say that His Majesty's Government enter these discussions in full consciousness of, and bound by, the obligations of the Balfour Declaration and of the Mandate. But should it happen that agreement is reached by both sides on a basis that requires the alteration of the Mandate, then I do not think that we should hesitate to take the proper steps to obtain that alteration. Should agreement not be reached and a settlement have to be imposed, equally we would hold ourselves free to take the proper steps to make a similar alteration.

A noble Lord raised the question of federation. That, of course, is open for discussion. His Majesty's Government would not prevent its being raised in the Conference, but they do very strongly feel that the question of federation is a matter for the Arab States themselves, and we are not prepared either to give them advice or to give them a lead on that matter. As I say, federation is a matter which may be raised, but only on that understanding. The other thing that qualifies my statement that all things are open for discussion is the question of the immigration during the present six months period. His Majesty's Government do not intend to move on that matter. Before this Conference was convened we decided that immigration should be permitted from October to March at the same rate as during the previous six months. For that decision we have been attacked by both sides. We have been attacked by the Jews, who demanded much more, we have been attacked by the Arabs, who demanded the complete cessation of all immigration. The decision is taken, and it is quite obvious that under either of those conditions—the stoppage of immigration or a greatly increased immigration—the future of the Conference would be in danger. In fact, I might almost say that it would be almost certain that one or other side would refuse to come.

I do ask all of your Lordships who have brought in this horrible question of the persecution of the Jews in Germany to regard that as a different matter from the problem of Palestine at the present moment. The first object must be to get this Conference together, and I am afraid that although the matter is still under discussion, it would be difficult for us even to let in those ten thousand children of whom the most reverend Primate and the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, have spoken so feelingly, if to do so would mean that the Conference would not take place. Although the noble Lord, the Leader of the Opposition, will disagree with me on that from his heart, I am sure that from his head, having regard to his criticism that we have vacillated and wobbled all through, he would not desire us at this moment, when the Conference is decided upon, to endanger it with yet another change in our policy with regard to immigration. I am afraid it is only too true that Palestine offers in any case no possible solution of the German Jewish problem, or of the Polish Jewish problem either, but I think that it is in the interests of the Jews themselves, at this moment, to get the Conference together and try to reach an agreement. Then, if agreement is reached, Palestine will perhaps be able to make a larger contribution towards the solution of the refugee problem than it is at the present moment.

I would only say a few words on a general line to close my speech. I do not think that anyone who has ever read anything about Zionism can deny what a great and beautiful ideal it is. I do not know anyone who has read history who has failed to be moved at the thought that the Jews, even under the persecutions of Torquemada in Spain, have always had this great desire of Zion before them. We have been accused of trying to smother Zionism by political or other difficulties. That is not so. If the reasons that I could give for the difficulty of realising Zionism were only material or political, His Majesty's Government would not now be putting them forward. The difficulties which have arisen out of Zionist aspirations, or more directly as a result of the Balfour Declaration, are only incidentally political or material. On the contrary, they come from an equally intangible conception: the love of the Arabs of Palestine for the soil that they have cultivated for over a thousand years. I do not deny that there are material and political elements in this argument, but I am convinced that this matter is the result of conflicting ideals and not of conflicting interests.

That is why I think that Lord Snell was wrong when he seemed to imagine that the problem can be solved on economic lines. That is the fallacy, if I may say so, on which Jewish elements have based many of their arguments. It is no good to tell the Arab that his birth-rate has gone up by so many thousands, or that he is able to obtain goods at a lower price. I may perhaps be thought to be speaking as an Arab partisan, but I do want their case to be stated in this House. I remember that Lord Samuel made a wise remark in the course of the passage of the India Bill in another place. I was there in the Gallery and heard it. He said: "I see around me the members for Lancashire, and members representing Scotland, and I ask myself: 'Where is the member for the Punjab, and where is the member for Madras?'" I think as a fairminded man, he will agree that it is right that the Arab case should be heard in this House, just as the case of Jewry has been heard here.

Therefore I beg your Lordships not to take the easy course of believing, on the one hand, that the Jewish ideals are only a question of the money changers trying to get back into the Temple, and, on the other hand, that the Arab revolt is simply a matter of bandits out for loot and plunder. I think that to dismiss this matter in that way is to make a terrible and vital mistake, and I do not believe that the difficulties which we are having now, and the difficulties which we have had for so many years, could have existed, and could have continued, if the Arab case had not been sustained by an idealism equal to that of the Zionist cause. Therefore, having made that case, I cannot help expressing the hope that the Arabs, whose idealism has been so evilly expressed by banditry and sabotage, and who at one time despaired of having their views heard in the councils of the Empire—in some way a not unreasonable despair, although His Majesty's Government had not forgotten the Arab case—will by this Conference have restored to them the confidence that their case is going to be heard in London through the mouths of really representative delegates from the Arabs of Palestine and nearby countries, and that if the Conference fails it will not fail through lack of hard thinking and good will on the part of His Majesty's Government.


My Lords, in thanking the noble Marquess for the courtesy of his reply, I should like also to congratulate him, on behalf I think of the whole House, for the way in which he has performed his very difficult task on this occasion. It was a part of one of my duties here to initiate this discussion, which I think has proved to be of a very impressive character, and which I hope will be useful to the Government and contribute towards a settlement in this matter. My duty was to be irritating without being offensive, and I hope I succeeded in that task. I would just like to add one word about the coming Conference, arising out of what the noble Marquess has just said. I hope that in considering representation at the Conference the Government will not exclude a definite Labour representation. Those of us who know the Jewish Federation of Labour know that it has a great deal to contribute, and I should like at the same time to say that I hope, with equal sincerity, that the Arab workers will be represented at the Conference too. They have trade unions of their own. They are going to be increasingly important, and I hope that their claim will not be overlooked. I would just pause to remind your Lordships that in the long, protracted, very difficult, and involved discussions we had in the Round-Table Conferences and the Joint Select Committee of the two Houses over the Indian question, the help of Labour representatives like Mr. Joshi and Dr. Ambedkar, as the noble Marquess, Lord Zetland, and the most reverend Primate know quite well, was of the utmost importance. If we are to have a Conference, let us give it its best chance by making it completely representative. I shall not attempt to have the last word in argument on this matter, but with your Lordships' permission I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.