§ VISCOUNT CRANBORNE rose to call attention to the situation in Palestine, and to move for Papers. The noble Viscount said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name. I understand that the Leader of the House has a statement to make on Government policy on Palestine, and I think it might perhaps be for the convenience of the House if I move my Motion formally, and then my noble friend will speak. Then, by leave of the House, I will address your Lordships afterwards.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DOMINION AFFAIRS (VISCOUNT ADDISON)
My Lords, it is a difficult and anxious responsibility to speak on this matter, and I think that that is recognized everywhere. The story of Palestine under the difficulties between the races inhabiting it is more than a thousand years old, and I need not recall its history to-day, except that which is relatively recent. After the last war, as we all know, hopes were born and Jews in many parts of the world were looking for a home settlement of their own in that country. It has been followed, as we all know, by considerable internal difficulties, and, as was to be expected, the Arab inhabitants at different time have displayed resentment. To come to more recent events, during recent years there has been a gradual development of defined and powerful organizations in the Jewish communities in different parts of the world, and, unfortunately, during still more recent times there has grown up a disposition to favour terrorist organizations; so much so that certain terrorist organizations are now in being.
As often happens in such cases, and as we have had many examples in history, it is very dangerous to give any countenance to organizations of that kind. Once any form of support is given, it is often much more difficult to withdraw than it was to afford it, and in the Report of the Anglo-American. Committee, which 1151 visited Palestine and made a most important Report, there is reference to this matter, of which I will only give one illustration. It is pointed out there that after attacks on the police headquarters in December, 1945, when eight lives were lost, Mr. David Ben Gurion, the Chairman of the Executive Jewish Agency, in a statement to the Press by his authority describing an interview which he and Mr. Moshe Shertok had with the High Commissioner, indicated that the Agency could not assist in preventing such acts, excusing themselves on the ground that, in the words of the statement, it was difficult to appeal to the Jewish community to observe the law at a time when the Mandatory Power itself was violating the fundamental law of the country. On this, the Anglo-American Committee commented that so long as this kind of view is put forward by any leaders of the Jewish Agency it is impossible to look for settled conditions. That is only an illustration of how dangerous it is to give any sort of countenance to terrorist organizations.
We are bound to recall that even as late as November, 1944, a very distinguished member of this House, Lord Moyne, was himself assassinated, to the horror of us all, and since then there have been a great many acts of terrorism—blowing up of bridges, kidnapping of British officers, and culminating only a few days ago in the blowing up of a large part of a very important hotel. It is undeniable, and quite understandable, that acts of this kind stir up deep resentment. That is inevitable, and I think it is true to say that this kind of thing has been reprobated by leaders of Jews all over the world, and they have joined with all the rest of us in pointing out the folly of this type of action. I know they are doing so at the present time. Of course, circumstances of this kind lead eventually to constant turmoil and increasing tension in the country.
I think we should all like to pay tribute to the self control of the soldiers in Palestine. They have been subject, for many months, to exceedingly trying conditions and, except for one incident, which was promptly dealt with, I believe it is right to say they have behaved themselves with exemplary discretion. I should mention one matter. The House will expect me to say a word about a letter which, according 1152 to newspaper reports. General Barker, the military Commander in Palestine, sent to his officers forbidding British soldiers from relationships of a social character with Jews, and stating that any association in the way of duty should be as brief as possible and kept to the business in hand. Let me say that although the Government are satisfied that the instructions given by the Commander are justified in the present disturbed state of the country, at the same time, making due allowance for the provocation to which our Forces are exposed and recognizing that the letter was sent shortly after the outrage at the King David Hotel, the Government feel that they must dissociate themselves with the terms of the letter as such. The Chief of the Imperial General Staff is dealing with this aspect of the matter and I am sure that it can be safely left in Field-Marshall Montgomery's very competent hands.
I felt it was necessary that that statement should be made. The same conditions to which our soldiers have been exposed have applied to all the civil services in Palestine, and we have received some exceedingly distressing accounts of what they have had to endure. I am sure we wish to pay our tribute and respect to their fortitude and exemplary conduct in exceedingly difficult circumstances. We should like, I am certain, to express on behalf of the whole House our sympathy with the relatives and friends of all those who have been killed, including those who died in the recent explosion in the King David Hotel. I find there were among them a large number of Arabs, some of them of a highly responsible and experienced type, and we recognize the deep resentment which acts of this kind must necessarily occasion.
I should like to say a word on the subject of the compensation which is payable in respect of those who were killed or injured. Nothing we can do will make up for the irreparable personal loss that has been suffered, but it is the duty of, the Government to ensure that no more suffering is caused than is inevitable, and the dependants and relatives should be spared financial anxieties as far as possible. The families of British and Palestine civil servants and police are provided for in special legislation which has been operated since 1935, dealing with the award of pensions where death 1153 arises out of an act of terrorism. Provision is also made for the grant of a pension to an officer permanently injured. This legislation will be interpreted and administered with the maximum of generosity, and special provision will, if necessary, be made to deal with cases which may for technical reasons fall outside this sphere, or where special circumstances make the compensation provided for under the legislation inadequate. The terms of the Royal Warrant will apply to dependants of soldiers who lose their lives. Dependants of other victims not included in the above category will be provided for by special arrangements as necessary. In the meantime I may say that instructions have been given to ensure that payments continue to be made to families pending the conclusion of these arrangements.
Do I understand from the noble Viscount that this is retrospective for former victims?
§ VISCOUNT ADDISON
I am afraid I should require notice of that question. This actually applies to those who were killed or injured in the recent incident, but I have no doubt the same principles would apply to other similar cases. Then we have to recognize that alongside of this terrorism there has gone on, on a large scale, a regular system of illicit immigration so that some thousands of people are sometimes brought to the shore in Ships in which there is neither food nor drink. They live in most distressing conditions. We have information also to the effect that a considerable number of ships in different ports are being prepared for continuing this illegal system of immigration. It is evident that steps must be taken to suppress terrorist organizations, and they are in hand. It is also necessary that we should make ordinary immigration possible and put an end as soon as possible to this system which really is productive of an unspeakable amount of human misery.
I have very briefly recited some of the details of this exceedingly distressing case which is of very long standing. We recognize that whilst it is the business of statesmanship to suppress disorder it is also the business of statesmanship to seek out the cause, and if possible to provide a policy that will give some hope of a remedy that will make possible the peaceable settlement and peaceable development 1154 of Palestine. To this end, some time ago, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary invited the Government of the United States to send officials to confer with our officials on various problems arising out of this situation.
Here I should like—and I think the House would wish to join with me—first to express the hope that the Foreign Secretary will soon be restored to good health, and, secondly, to pay a tribute to him for his statesmanship in inviting the thoughtful expression of opinion of the United States in this baffling and exceedingly difficult problem. Consultations have recently been held in London, and a number of collaborators under Dr. Grady from the United States have been here discussing this problem with us. As a result, this group of officers prepared a number of proposals for consideration by the two Governments concerned, and I think it would be right if I were to read them out from the document, as it must be represented correctly. As your Lordships know, it is not my custom to read speeches, but I will do the best I can in the circumstances.
Representatives of His Majesty's Government and the Government of the United States, whom I shall describe as the expert delegations, have completed their examination of the recommendations made in the report of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on the problems of European Jewry and Palestine. They made unanimous recommendations as to the policy to be adopted in respect of all the matters covered by the report of the Anglo-American Committee; and I think that I should outline the main features of their proposals.
The expert delegations first dealt with the recommendations of the Anglo-American Committee regarding the position of the Jews in Europe. The events of recent years, after Hitler's rise to power, have given a special emphasis to the character of the Jewish National Home as a sanctuary for those who could reach it from among the tragically few survivors of European Jewry. It is the pressure of immigration from Europe that has so intensified the difficulties of the Palestine problem. The Anglo-American Committee recognized that Palestine alone cannot meet the immigration needs of the Jewish victims of Nazi and Fascist persecution and recommended that our two 1155 Governments, in association with other countries—for the whole world shares the responsibility—should endeavour immediately to find new homes for all displaced persons irrespective of creed or nationality.
The expert delegations proposed that our two Governments should adopt the following means of making an immediate contribution to the solution of this problem. First, they proposed that our two Governments should seek to create conditions favourable to the resettlement of a substantial number of displaced persons in Europe itself, since it is recognized that the overwhelming majority will continue to live in Europe. In the British and American Zones of Germany and Austria our two Governments are doing their utmost to assist resettlement and to eradicate anti-Semitism. In Italy and the ex-enemy satellite States the authorities will be required by the Peace Treaties to secure to all persons under their jurisdiction human rights and the fundamental freedoms. As regards the countries in Europe, the expert delegations recommended that our Governments should support the efforts of the United Nations to ensure the protection of those rights and freedoms. Further, by assisting to reestablish political and economic stability in Europe, we should continue to contribute to the restoration of those basic conditions which will make possible the re-integration in Europe of a substantial number of displaced persons, including Jews.
But when all that is possible has been done in Europe, it is clear that new homes must be found overseas for many whose ties with their former communities have been irreparably broken. The expert delegations outlined the following measures—some of which are already in train—designed to promote this movement. First, we should continue to press for the establishment of an International Refugee Organization designed to deal effectively with the problem of refugees and displaced persons as a whole. Secondly, we should give strong support at the forthcoming General Assembly of the United Nations to an appeal calling on all member Governments to receive in territories under their control a proportion of the displaced persons in Europe, including Jews. I should here interpolate that His 1156 Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom have already given a lead in this matter by accepting a commitment to promote the resettlement of about 235,000 Polish troops and civilians and their dependants. This is, of course, in addition to refugees admitted during the period of Nazi persecution, of whom some 70,000 Jews remain in the United Kingdom.
His Majesty's Governments in the Dominions have been informed of the action being taken by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and they will, we hope, support the appeal to member Governments of the United Nations, an appeal which will include an invitation to receive a number of displaced persons in the territories under their control. I also understand that the United States, where 275,000 refugees (including 180,000 Jews) have permanently resettled in the same period, are now resuming normal immigration and expect to receive some 53,000 immigrants each year from the European countries from which the displaced persons are drawn. Finally, pending the establishment of an International Refugee Organization, we shall in co-operation with the Government of the United States continue to promote the resettlement of refugees and displaced persons through the agency of the Inter-Governmental Committee on Refugees. Plans are in preparation in co-operation with the nations concerned, for resettling large numbers of displaced persons in Brazil and other South American countries.
It will thus be seen from what I have said that the broader aspects of the refugee and displaced persons problem have not been overlooked, nor the restoration of conditions in Europe permitting the re-integration there of as many displaced persons, including Jews, as may wish to remain. The ability and talent of Jews and others is needed for the difficult tasks of reconstruction that lie ahead. At the same time, we are taking urgent and practical steps to ensure that other countries as well as Palestine will contribute to the resettlement of those displaced persons, including Jews, who must look elsewhere than to Europe for their permanent homes.
In formulating a new policy for Palestine, the expert delegations accepted as a basis the principles laid down in the third recommendation of the Anglo-American Committee, that Palestine as a 1157 whole can be neither a Jewish nor an Arab State, that neither of the two communities in Palestine should dominate the other, and that the form of Government should be such as to safeguard the interests in the Holy Land of both Christendom and the Moslem and Jewish faiths.
The expert delegations argue as follows. The political aspirations of the two communities in Palestine are irreconcilable. The conflict which these aspirations have, provoked is so bitter that there is little hope of securing within any reasonable period that measure of co-operation between Arab and Jew which would make possible the establishment in Palestine of a unitary system of Government, consistent with these basic principles, in which each people played its part. The only chance of peace, and of immediate advance towards self-governing institutions, appears to lie in so framing the Constitution of the country as to give to each the greatest practicable measure of power to manage its own affairs. The experts believe that in present circumstances this can best be secured by the establishment of Arab and Jewish Provinces which will enjoy a large measure of autonomy under a Central Government.
It is their proposal that for this purpose Palestine shall be divided into four areas, an Arab Province, a Jewish Province, a District of Jerusalem and a District of the Negeb. The Jewish Province would include the great bulk of the land on which Jews have already settled and a considerable area between and around the settlements. The Jerusalem District would include Jerusalem, Bethlehem and their immediate environs. The Negeb District would consist of the uninhabited triangle of waste land in the south of Palestine beyond the present limits of cultivation. The Arab Province would include the remainder of Palestine; it would be almost wholly Arab in respect both of land and of population.
The Provincial boundaries would be purely administrative boundaries, defining the area within which a local Legislature would be empowered to legislate on certain subjects and a local Executive to administer its laws. They would have no significance as regards defence, customs or communications. But in order to give finality the boundaries, once fixed, would not be susceptible of change except by 1158 agreement between the two Provinces. A provision to this effect would be embodied in any trusteeship agreement and in the instrument bringing the plan into operation.
The Provincial Governments would have power of legislation and administration within their areas with regard to a wide range of subjects of primarily provincial concern. They would also have power to limit the number and determine the qualifications of persons who may take up permanent residence in their territories after the introduction of the plan. The Provincial Governments would be required by the Instrument of Government which establishes the fundamental law to provide for the guarantee of civil rights and equality before the law of all residents and for the freedom of inter-territorial transit, trade and commerce. The Provincial Governments would have the necessary power to raise money for the purpose of -carrying out their functions.
There would be reserved to the Central Government exclusive authority as to defence, foreign relations, customs and excise. In addition there would be reserved initially to the Central Government exclusive authority as to the administration of law and order (including the police and courts) and a limited number of subjects of All-Palestine importance. The Central Government would have all powers not expressly granted to the Provinces by the Instrument of Government. An elected Legislative Chamber would be established in each Province. An Executive consisting of a Chief Minister and a Council of Ministers would be appointed in each Province by the High Commissioner from among the members of the Legislative Chamber after consultation with its leaders. Bills passed by the Legislative Chambers would require the assent of the High Commissioner. This, however, would not be withheld unless the Bill is inconsistent with the Instrument of Government, whose provisions would afford safeguards for the peace of Palestine and for the rights of minorities.
It would also be necessary to reserve to the High Commissioner an emergency power to intervene if a Provincial Government fails to perform, or exceeds, its proper functions. The executive and legislative functions of the Central Government would initially be exercised by the High Commissioner, assisted by 1159 a nominated Executive Council. Certain of the departments of the Central Government would be headed, as soon as the High Commissioner deems practicable, by Palestinians. The High Commissioner would establish a Development Planning Board and a Tariff Board composed of representatives of the Central Government and of each Province. In the Jerusalem District a council would be established with powers similar to those of a municipal council. The majority of its members would be elected, but certain members would be nominated by the High Commissioner. The Negeb District would be administered for the time being by the Central Government.
This plan for provincial autonomy would greatly simplify the problem of Jewish immigration into Palestine. Though final control over immigration would continue to rest with the Central Government, this control would be exercised on the basis of recommendations made by the Provincial Governments. So long as the economic absorptive capacity of the Province was not exceeded, the Central Government would authorize the immigration desired by the Provincial Government. It would have no power to authorize immigration in excess of any limitations proposed by the Provincial Governments. Thus, though the Government of the Arab Province would have full power to exclude Jewish immigrants from its Province, the Jewish Province would normally be able to admit as many immigrants as its Government desires.
As part of this plan the experts suggest that it would become possible to accept the recommendations of the Anglo-American Committee for the immediate admission of 100,000 Jewish immigrants into Palestine and for continuing immigration thereafter. The experts prepared a plan for the movement of 100,000 Jews from Europe into the Jewish area of Palestine, and this plan could be set in motion as soon as it is decided to put into effect the scheme as a whole. The immigration certificates would be issued as rapidly as possible and every effort would be made to complete the operation within twelve months of the date on which the immigration begins. The immigrants would be selected primarily from Jews in Germany, Austria and Italy; and priority would be given to those who have 1160 already spent some time in assembly centres in those countries and to others who, though no longer in those centres, were liberated in Germany and Austria. Within those groups, priority would be given to building craftsmen and agricultural workers, young children, the infirm and the aged. The bulk of the 100,000 would be drawn from Germany, Austria and Italy; any certificates available for the Jews in other countries of Eastern and South-Eastern Europe would be issued only to orphan children. Shipment would proceed at the maximum rate consistent with the clearance of the transit camps in Palestine, in which the immigrants would be temporarily accommodated until they could be absorbed.
Under this plan the United States Government would be asked to undertake sole responsibility for the sea transportation of these Jewish refugees from Europe to Palestine. They would provide the ships and would defray the whole cost of sea transportation. They would also provide food for the immigrants for the first two months after their arrival in Palestine. The cost of transferring and settling this number of persons in Palestine would be considerable. The Jewish organizations have accepted financial responsibility and the experts saw no reason why the required finance should not be found from reparations, from contributions by world Jewry and from loans.
The experts accepted the recommendations of the Anglo-American Committee that improvements of the economic and social conditions of the Arabs in Palestine were desirable. The programme they suggested would include the provision of a health service comparable to that already available to the Jews, an expansion of educational facilities, the provision of cheap credit for the Arab cultivators and other measures designed to increase the productivity of the land, the promotion of the co-operative movement, the development of light industries and improvements in both rural and urban living conditions.
The expert delegations gave warning that for some years the implementation of these and other plans for the improvement of economic opportunities and living standards in Palestine would impose heavy capital costs not eligible for loans and would constitute a severe strain on 1161 the finances of Palestine. The setting up of the Provincial system would also entail a deficit in the Budget of the Arab Province which would have to be met by a Central Government subvention. Further financial aid for Palestine would be required if the plan as a whole is to be carried out.
To meet this situation the experts suggested that the United States should be asked to make a substantial grant to the Government of Palestine to be used principally for financing Arab development projects not suitable for self-liquidating loans, and for assisting in the meeting of extraordinary expenditure during the transitional period, while this country should be asked to take ultimate responsibility for meeting Palestine's annual budgetary deficit up to the time when increased revenues made this unnecessary.
The experts believed that the need for economic development in Palestine should be considered against the background of the Middle East as a whole. They understood that the Governments represented in the Arab League were now examining the possibilities of economic development in their countries and they therefore suggested that if any of those States found difficulty in obtaining international loans for this purpose the United States should authorize large-scale development loans. These loans would be made through an appropriate agency for the development of the Middle East region, including Palestine.
Most large-scale development from which Palestine could benefit should be undertaken in co-operation at least with Transjordan and probably with Syria and Lebanon. The experts proposed that, subject to the consent of the Government of Transjordan, the common water resources of both Palestine and Transjordan should be surveyed as soon as possible by consulting engineers acting under Government auspices.
I have now completed my outline of the recommendations of the expert delegations. His Majesty's Government, believing that these recommendations represent the best line of advance towards a solution of the problem, informed the United States Government of their willingness to accept them as the basis for negotiation. We had hoped, before the debate, to receive from President Truman his 1162 acceptance, but we understand that he has decided, in view of the complexity of the matter, to discuss it in detail with the United States expert delegation, who are returning to Washington for the purpose. The President is thus giving further consideration to the matter and we hope to hear from him again in due course. Meanwhile, however, the situation in Palestine will not brook delay. We are inviting the representatives of the Jews and Arabs to meet us for discussion of these problems and we hope that we shall be able to bring before them as a basis for negotiation the plan recommended by the export delegations. If it is found acceptable our intention would be that it should be embodied in a Trusteeship Agreement for Palestine.
I should make it clear that we mean to go ahead with discussion with the Arabs and Jews of a constitutional scheme on these lines. We believe that it offers many advantages to both communities in Palestine. The Jews will be free to exercise a large measure of control over immigration into their own Province and to forward there the development of the Jewish National Home. The Land Transfer Regulations will be repealed. It will be open to the Government of the Arab Province to permit or to refuse permission to Jews to purchase land there, but the area of the Jewish Province will be larger than that in which Jews are free to buy land at present.
The Arabs will gain in that the great majority of them will be freed, once and for all, from any fear they may have of Jewish domination. The citizens of the Arab Province will achieve at once a large measure of autonomy, and powerful safeguards will be provided to protect the rights of the Arab minorities left in the Jewish Province. To both communities the plan offers a prospect of development towards self-government of which there would be little hope in a unitary Palestine.
In the long term, the plan leaves the way open for peaceful progress and constitutional development either towards partition or towards federal unity. The association of representatives of the two Provinces in the administration of central subjects may lead ultimately to a fully developed federal Constitution. On the other hand, if the centrifugal forces prove too strong, the way may be open towards partition. Our proposals do not prejudice 1163 this issue either way. We believe that this plan provides as fair and reasonable a compromise between the claims of Arab and Jew as it is possible to devise and that it offers the best prospect of reconciling the conflicting interests of the two communities. This, however, must be made clear: the implementation of the experts' plan as a whole depends on United States co-operation. I hope that it will be forthcoming. If not, we shall have to reconsider the position particularly as regards the economic and financial implications and this is bound to affect the tempo and extent of immigration and development.
That, my Lords, is a summary, in precise terms, of the results of the deliberations of these distinguished experts. I am sure that you will join with me in hoping that it will be possible to realize the co-operation of the great English-speaking races to forward a settlement and to bring hope to this land, which so small in itself is yet priceless by reason of the contributions which it has made to humanity. In any event, the wretched misery of the whole case is the token of its urgency, and the call—as I am sure you will all agree—is for firm, friendly and constructive statesmanship. I know that this famous House, in its discussions, can be counted upon to make a worthy contribution towards the attainment of the end that is the heart's desire of every one of us.
§ 3.25 p.m.
My Lords, by leave of the House, I should like now to make the remarks which would normally have been made had I moved my Motion in the usual form. First of all, I should like to thank the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, very warmly for the full statement which he has made. I am quite certain that the House will have listened to that statement with absorbed interest. It is only two days since we were occupied with a debate on the general international situation. To-day the question which we meet to discuss—the future of Palestine—is one more limited in scope but, I think, equally international in character. Indeed, this is a problem, so far as I know, which is quite unique among the many with which the world is faced, and for this reason. In itself, it is one of the smallest geographically. It concerns 1164 a country which is only about 150 miles long and about 50 to 60 miles wide—an area very little larger than an English county. But it arouses passions throughout the whole of the length and breadth of the world. The question is international, as I say, in the fullest sense of that word, and if it were not settled it might have, and, indeed, must have, repercussions of the most formidable kind upon the good relations between nations which are far distant, nations which are absolutely remote from Palestine itself.
It is not my intention to-day to go into the past history of this country—the Leader of the House has already referred to it very briefly, and, moreover, I feel that the less the rest of us say about it on this occasion the better—for it could only lead to accusations and counter accusations of bad faith, and further embitter a situation which is already sufficiently inflamed. To-day, as I see it, the eyes of all of us—of the Jews, of the Arabs, of the British people, of the American people and of the United Nations as a whole—should be fixed not on the past but on the present and the future. Therefore, I propose only to look back so far as December last year, when your Lordships last debated this question. At that time, as noble Lords will remember, we had only a very preliminary and inconclusive discussion. The Anglo-American Committee had just been appointed, they had not then entered on their labours, and far less had they published their report. Most of us, I think, were reluctant to express views for fear of prejudicing the results of that inquiry. We confined ourselves to warnings to both parties, to the Jews and to the Arabs, concerning the dangers of further inflaming a situation by irresponsible propaganda, and to appealing to them to adopt a more moderate and statesmanlike attitude. And who will now, to-day, in the light of subsequent events, say that those warnings and those appeals were unjustified? I only wish that they had been listened to.
Since that debate, as we know, much has happened, but until to-day, unfortunately, there was no definite advance to record, and, as a result, the situation unhappily has steadily deteriorated. First we had the Anglo-American Committee's Report, and I feel that we owe a deep debt of gratitude to the members of that 1165 Committee—the American and the British members—who produced that Report. It is perfectly clear to anyone who reads it that they approached their problem in a most high-minded and unbiased spirit. They had the extremely unenviable task of going once again over ground which had already been covered by other Commissions and Committees of the utmost eminence and distinction. There was nothing new in the situation and it was difficult to see what novel solution they could produce. However, they did their best, and no one could do more.
If I have any criticism of the Report—and I say so with great deference—it is that it recommended what ought to be done rather than what can be done. It was idealistic, rather than realistic. In one respect, from the point of view of this country, it was an eminently satisfactory Report in that, broadly speaking, it constituted a justification for the policy that had hitherto been pursued by successive British Governments. It was good to have that policy endorsed by an Anglo-American body. The Report said that immigration into Palestine is not a cure for the whole Jewish problem. That is the view which we in this country have always held. The Report further said, in Recommendation 3:In order to dispose, once and for all, of the exclusive claims of Jews and Arabs to Palestine, we regard it as essential that a clear statement of the following principles should be made:That is a very clear statement of the principles on which our policy in the past has been based.
- (i)That Jew shall not dominate Arab, and Arab shall not dominate Jew in Palestine.
- (ii)That Palestine shall be neither a Jewish State nor an Arab State."
In Recommendation 4, the Report stated clearly that the establishment of a purely Jewish State at the present moment would run the danger of provoking civil war, and would threaten the peace of the world, and that therefore the mandate or trusteeship—whatever you like to call it—must temporarily continue. All these recommendations were in accordance with the policy which up to then had been adopted by successive British Governments in this country with regard to Palestine. It is true that the Committee made an effort to meet Jewish opinion by suggesting that 1166 100,000 certificates should be issued immediately to the victims of Nazi oppression. As I understand it, this, in default of a recommendation for a Jewish State, failed to appease the Jews and violently antagonized the Arabs. As a result, the Report did not receive the approval of either of the Palestinian communities. Like so many balanced recommendations, it failed to satisfy either party. It was a gallant effort, but it did not succeed in achieving its purpose.
It would still, of course, have been open for His Majesty's Government to accept that Report as it stood, whatever its practical difficulties as a solution to the problem, with a view to securing and maintaining a united Anglo-United States front. I understand that His Majesty's Government took the view that they could not lend themselves to a policy which might sow the seeds of civil war, unless they were certain that they were in a position to maintain law and order, In their view, the pre-requisite was the disarmament of private armies of both parties. And in the light of what has happened since, I do not think that we can blame them. It seems to me that that is a prime necessity for any responsible Government. If they were not going to accept that Report, it was desirable that they should have had an alternative proposal which they could have immediately put forward. If I may say so, with all deference, it was here that the Government have failed. There was a hiatus. During that period tempers on both sides became more and more inflamed, until the present lamentable situation was reached, with conditions not far removed from anarchy obtaining in the country. There is a wholesale slaughter of innocent people when Jewish terrorists are ranging the land with the secret connivance of some of the nominally more moderate leaders, and when the Arabs are apparently preparing (according to reports which I have seen in the Press) to take up arms on the other side.
It is perfectly clear that in a situation of that kind no further time must be lost. We must recognize, if we are at all fair-minded, the immense difficulties with which His Majesty's Government have been faced, especially in view of the importance of moving in this matter in step with the United States America, whose practical interest in the solution of this 1167 problem we so warmly welcomed. The announcement of policy that has just been made by the Leader of the House comes none too soon. If it had been delayed a few more weeks, it is difficult, to know whether the situation could have been recovered. Now I turn to the actual scheme—the scheme which, as I understand it, has been submitted to His Majesty's Government and to the United States, and which His Majesty's Government are ready to accept.
His Majesty's Government will not expect me now, without further consideration, to give any very considered reactions to the statement which the noble Viscount has made. It raises very wide issues, relating not merely to Palestine, but to the whole refugee Jewish problem throughout the world. There are, however, certain comments which I would like to make. I understand that this scheme envisages something in the nature of a middle course between a unitary State for the whole country and the partition of Palestine into two independent States. I suppose that at one time or another many of us have been strongly drawn towards the idea of partition. For one thing, it is the only way entirely to satisfy the ambitions of the Zionist movement. Indeed, I would have thought that partition was the obvious solution, had Palestine been a larger country. But I must say that the more I have examined the practical possibilities, the more doubtful I become whether complete partition is in fact feasible. In this little country—because it is a very little country—there are no actual boundaries at all, and the frontier between the two States would have been a long, "niggling" line over the countryside, cutting across roads and all other communications. I am extremely doubtful—and I think other noble Lords will agree—whatever the theoretical and political advantages of partition, whether it would ever produce a practical solution to our difficulties. And, of course, it does contain unending opportunities for friction between Jews and Arabs.
Therefore, I shall study with very great interest the new and modified version of partition put forward by the expert Committee. 1168 If I understand it aright, what is proposed is federalization of the country, giving a wide measure of local self-government, and including a large measure of control—though not complete control—of immigration to the four Provinces which it is proposed to set up. Wide questions of policy such as foreign relations, defence, customs, and so on, would be reserved to a Central Government, which I take it would be constituted in the Province of Jerusalem. It may be argued that this new plan is open to all the criticisms that have been made against partition, and that it will produce the same opportunities for friction. To an unprejudiced observer—and I hope I am an unprejudiced observer—this scheme has one advantage over full partition, in that it maintains—or should maintain—the strategic and economic unity of the country. In an area so small as Palestine, I should have thought that that might well be a conclusive argument.
Particularly interesting is the inclusion of the Negeb as the fourth Province. That area at present is barren, and largely uninhabited, but there has always been a school of thought which held that with proper irrigation it could be made fertile and prosperous. I was not clear from the statement made by the Leader of the House what is to be the final objective of the new scheme with regard to Negeb. Is it intended, if and when the area is restored to fertility, to open it to Jewish immigration, or what is to be done with it? Nothing, so far as I can see, was said about that in the speech of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House. I should be very glad if the Lord Chancellor—who I understand is to reply—could further elaborate this matter. Because, clearly, if the Negeb is to become more fertile, and is to be opened to Jewish immigration, it should make the new scheme more attractive to the Jews than it might otherwise be.
The weakest feature of the scheme I thought in the initial stages was the lack of local representation on the Central Government. So far as I can see—if I understood the noble Viscount rightly—the High Commissioner is to be sustained, at any rate for the first period, by a Government purely of officials. That may be inevitable, but I hope that it may be possible to bring in local inhabitants as soon as practicable, because I do not believe that you can make the Central Government a 1169 reality on any other basis. Then there is the question of Haifa. In what Province will Haifa be included? This is a matter of very considerable importance. Haifa is the main port of Palestine. Strategically it is of the first importance to the whole area. Anyone who holds Haifa holds the key to Palestine. It is very important that we in this House should know into which Province Haifa will come.
Those are the initial comments that I should like to make on the scheme, but, broadly speaking, one's initial reactions to the practical merits of this proposal are, I think, favourable—at any rate, not unfavourable. It appears to me to be a genuine and an imaginative attempt to harmonize what so far it has been impossible to harmonize, namely, the aspirations of the Jews and Arabs. Of course, no one can expect the scheme to be received with any particular enthusiasm by either party. The Jews will have to accept very considerable modifications in their conception of the Jewish State for which they have so long been working and pressing. The Arabs will have to accept an area in Palestine entirely administered by Jews. They will also have to accept immediately the further immigration of 100,000 Jews into the country. It is no good blinking the fact that this scheme involves very real and very definite sacrifices on both sides. It will be an extremely bitter pill for both parties to swallow. On the other hand, one may fairly ask them the question: What alternative is there? I can only see one alternative. That is a long and bloody civil strife which will seriously weaken both parties and do no good to anybody.
This plan, as I understand, is not finally fixed. It still has to be considered by the Governments, and then has to be further considered by all the parties concerned. It is what the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, has called a basis for discussion at a conference at which not only representatives of His Majesty's Government and one may hope (although I do not know) of the American Government will be present, but also representatives of the Arab States and representatives of the Palestinian Arabs and the Palestinian Jews. I feel that both Governments would be very wise to accept this proposal as a basis for discussion and agree to study the scheme objectively. What is most needed now in Palestine? It is 1170 a lowering of the temperature. That applies not only to the Jews but to the Arabs as well. Were the Palestinian Arabs to carry out the declared threat of the Higher Committee and refuse to sit with Jews in any conference concerned with the future of Palestine, I think they would fatally prejudice their cause in the eyes of Britain, the United States and indeed of the whole world. I cannot believe that they would adopt such a mad attitude.
It does not mean that it will happen again. I am glad to see that the noble Lord has such a respect for precedent.
In the meantime, every effort must be made by the responsible leaders of the Jewish community to stamp out this wave of terrorism which has so greatly shocked the world. They must show their determination not only by words but by deeds and by active collaboration with the authorities. I do not know if it is true, but I read reports in the Press that the assistance which has been given up to now by the general Jewish community in Palestine has not been very forthright. I hope that that is not true. At any rate, if it is true, I hope that it will not continue, for surely the present deplorable situation must be condemned by all people—whatever their political views—who believe in an orderly and civilized life.
I think that all of us have welcomed the very firm and statesmanlike declaration of Dr. Weizmann which has been reported in the Press. Dr. Weizmann is one of the great men of our time, and no one who knows him could ever conceive that he had any knowledge of the irresponsible activities which have been entered into apparently by certain of the less wise members of the Jewish Agency in Palestine. One can only sympathize with him and with the other moderate Jewish leaders—of whom there are many—in the cruel situation in which they are placed as a result of what has happened. I hope that his firm and moving words will do something to settle the present situation. I think that is essential for the Jews themselves. For it is perfectly clear 1171 that any further outrages would gravely prejudice the Jewish cause at a time when it is absolutely essential that they should show wisdom and moderation. In this connexion I do not propose to ask a question, but to make an observation. It concerns the position of the Jewish leaders who are at present detained. I do not know and I will not ask to-day what the Government's intention is with regard to them, but I hope that whatever it is those leaders will not be kept in prison for an indefinite time without trial. I think that nothing could do more harm than that that should happen, and nothing could cause greater resentment or create greater suspicion of His Majesty's Government. Whatever decision is to be taken about these men, it should be taken as soon as practicable.
In conclusion, I should like to join the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, in paying a tribute to the British troops in Palestine for the magnificent restraint which they have shown during many trying weeks and months, when the strain upon them must have been almost unbearable. Their conduct must evoke the warmest admiration from any unprejudiced person. Certainly, it has been in accordance with the very highest traditions of the British Army. We in this country undoubtedly assumed a very heavy burden when we accepted the Mandate for Palestine. I do not say that we have not made mistakes. I suppose that we have made a great many mistakes. But I believe that we have tried honestly and sincerely to strike an even balance between the conflicting interests of the two main sections of the community in that sadly disrupted country. The United States Government have now come in to lighten by their counsel, and we may hope by their co-operation, the weight of this burden. We welcome their collaboration in trying to find a solution to the present difficulties. I hope that this plan, which has now been put forward to the two Governments, contains the germs of a settlement of this problem which, were it to continue, could only inflict a fatal injury on the cause of peace, which we all have at heart, and bring misery to Jews and Arabs alike.
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, let me make it plain at the outset that on this occasion I do not purport to speak on 1172 behalf of my noble friends on these Benches, although I have no reason to think that from anything I may say they will need to dissent. For myself, remembering very vividly the beginning of the Palestine question in this country thirty years ago, remembering the high hopes that were then entertained, the world-wide sympathy for the idea of a Jewish National Home in Palestine, encouraged by leading statesmen and by Governments serving many of the countries of the world, and remembering, too, the eight years of peace and prosperity in Palestine from 1921 to 1929, it is a matter of bitter grief to view the situation in which we now find ourselves: seeing only the other day, in the very centre of London, a recruiting poster calling upon some of the population to enlist in the Palestine Police; and seeing, as I did not long ago, in Palestine itself, the enormous police barracks which are like fortresses commanding all the strategical points throughout the country, and all these things culminating in the terrible crime committed in Jerusalem only a few days ago.
The Anglo-American Committee in their Report said: "Palestine is an armed camp." Later they said, "We are clear in our minds that if British Forces were withdrawn, there would be immediate and prolonged bloodshed, the end of which it is impossible to predict." Today, His Majesty's Government have come forward with new proposals. I shall make some observations upon them later in My address to your Lordships, but, at the outset, I should like to say, speaking for myself alone, for I have no title to speak for others, that the plan proposed appears to me to be a very valuable initiative, and if the United States does agree to participate, it may open up a new and a more hopeful prospect than has hitherto been possible.
But why has this situation come about? Previously there was the closest cordiality and good will between the Jewish population in Palestine and the British Administration, inspired by their gratitude for the help they had received and for the action of Great Britain in accepting the Mandate. Why is it that there has been this tension lately, embittered into antagonism, and ending in outrage and crime? The reason is, and the fact must be faced, that from the point of view of the Jewish population it is solely due 1173 to the White Paper of 1939, which declared that after a period of five years the doors of the Jewish National Home were to be closed, and no more immigrants were to be admitted into the country unless with the consent of the Arabs. It was known by everyone beforehand that the Arabs would not consent. That meant that by the year 1944 the Jewish National Home was to be forbidden to grow or expand and no Jewish refugees from Europe were to be admitted into the country. That White Paper was attacked with the utmost vehemence in this country, by no one snore firmly than by the former Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, and by no one more consistently than by the present Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, while the Mandates' Commission of the League of Nations declared that the provision of the White Paper was contrary to the interpretation which they and the world had always set upon the Mandate and the Balfour Declaration.
Well, the war was close at hand in 1939, and war came. Jewish opposition in Palestine was suspended—Hitler was evidently the major danger, and the whole Jewish population threw itself into the war on the side of Great Britain and under the orders of the British military authorities with the utmost enthusiasm. There was no conscription in Palestine—that was forbidden under the Mandate—but voluntary recruitment was active. The Jews offered a whole division, but only a brigade was accepted, which conducted itself well. I well remember seeing in Tel-Aviv in 1942 the first few hundreds of the Women's Auxiliary, the Palestine A.T.S., marching through the streets, acclaimed by the whole population. All Palestine became a base for supplies, and the Hebrew University, containing many able scientists, gave the utmost help in technical and medical equipment and stores. The war continued and was marked by the most monstrous crime in all history, the deliberate extermination—physical extermination—by Hitler of the Jewish population of Central Europe. The Attorney-General, Sir Hartley Shawcross, in his magnificent oration the other day at Nuremburg, accepted the figure that 6,000,000 Jews had been slaughtered. I have seen several people, refugees now in this country or in other countries where I have been travelling, who are the sole surviving members of their own families—father, 1174 mother, brothers, sisters, sometimes ten, fifteen, even twenty members of their families or close relatives having been slaughtered in the gas chambers. They are the remnants, ruined, broken, bereaved, and alone in the world.
The only place where they could take refuge, where they would be welcomed by the local population, where they would find themselves amongst friends and breathe freely, is Palestine. More, there is for them no question of difficulty in getting employment; there is an acute shortage of labour in Palestine. There is no question of demanding public funds to assist them, funds could be found privately. When they did succeed in escaping, what happened? They crossed the Mediterranean in ships, as described by the noble Viscount, Lord Addison, in conditions of the utmost hardship. And they found what? British aeroplanes spotting the ships when they came near the coast. If they got by, they found British control boats and destroyers waiting to seize them and to take them into custody. They were illegal immigrants. Is it surprising that the whole Jewish population was aligned against the Government on those terms?
In the Jewish population of Palestine, who could defend the action of the Government? And when it was said that this immigration was illegal under the ordinance, they said, "The ordinance itself is illegal under the Mandate, which has a higher and international authority." Consequently, during that period, the whole Jewish population was being accustomed to act illegally, in revolt against the orders of the Administration of Palestine.
The war ended, and the Report of the Anglo-American Committee, which is an admirable summary and is quite an impartial one, states:When the war ended and the Labour Government came to power, the White Paper still remained in force. The Jews, who had expected the immediate fulfilment by a Labour Government of the Labour Party programme with regard to Zionism, felt a sense of outrage when no change of policy occurred. The bitterness reached a new peak of intensity, and the position of the moderates became almost impossible.All through the war, the constructive work went on in Palestine. Villages were founded, land was brought into cultivation, industries established, population expanded, cultural life developed. The 1175 Peel Commission had given to the Jewish National Home as it has been built up, the highest praise, and the new Anglo-American Committee say of the Jewish Agency "It is one of the most successful colonizing instruments in history." Again, speaking of the new form of village community, they say:Here indeed, is a miracle, both of physical achievement and of spiritual endeavour, which justifies the dream of those Jews and Gentiles who first conceived the idea of the National Home.But all the time there has been a sense of insecurity. This work was being carried on in an atmosphere of possible hostility and of danger. Their Arab neighbours in the neighbouring villages, with whom as a rule they were on very good terms, could at any time be stirred to hostility. They remembered the shocking massacres at Hebron and Safed in 1929, not of Zionists, but of old-fashioned orthodox Jews who were slaughtered during the disturbances of that year, and the assassinations, the riots and the bombs during the years 1936 to 1938. In Europe they had the experience of their own relatives in millions being slaughtered like sheep. How far could they rely upon the Palestine Government to protect them, if they did not protect themselves? Is it to be wondered that they said, "These horrors shall not happen here," and they built up a militia which was intended simply for their own defence?
The Prime Minister, Mr. Attlee, said a few days ago in the House of Commons: "I quite agree that the Haganah"—that is, this organization—"started off by being an orderly and useful body." Now he says there has been a change. The war ended, and everyone waited for the Government to announce their policy. They were obviously in a state of great embarrassment. If they abandoned the White Paper they would offend the Arabs, and if they maintained it they would outrage the Jews. They appointed the Anglo-American Committee after some months, fortunately enlisting the co-operation of the United States, and with the utmost dispatch, with complete impartiality, and contrary to all expectations with unanimity, the Anglo-American Committee presented the Report in which were stated the principles that have been quoted by the noble Viscount to-day, that 1176 Palestine was not to be a Jewish State and not to be an Arab State, and neither people should be allowed to dominate the other. They recommended the reopening of immigration on a large scale. There was all the material for a fresh start, and for a moment there was a complete détente. The strain was relaxed. Here was an inquiry; here was the matter put to trial, and here was the verdict and the judgment.
But what happened then? On May I the Prime Minister made a statement on behalf of the Government in the House of Commons which included these words. He said it was clear that on account of the existence of illegal armies in Palestine, and of recent activitiesit would not be possible for the Government of Palestine to admit so large a body of immigrants unless and until these formations had been disbanded and their arms surrendered …. Jews and Arabs in Palestine alike must disarm immediately.That came as a very big shock to the Jewish population. Here was the recommendation of the Committee; here were 100,000 immigrants waiting to come in, and here was the American Government urging it. But the British Government said that none were to be admitted until the defence militia was disbanded and the arms surrendered, and the Arabs were disarmed also. It is a very difficult thing to disarm a population in a country like Palestine. Even if the Jews were completely disarmed, and even if the Arabs were completely disarmed, everyone knew that such Arabs as wished could, without difficulty, send their arms to some hiding place in the neighbouring territories, from which they would at once emerge if disturbances arose. The position was put to the Jews: "No 100,000 immigrants unless you lay down your arms." The matter was one of extreme urgency, and at best that process would have to take many months.
That is not all. There was another Government statement that had an even worse effect. I must preface it by drawing attention to an earlier statement made by the noble Viscount in this House on November 13, 1945, and a similar statement in another place, which included these words:His Majesty's Government wish to make it clear that the Palestine problem is not one that can be settled by force, and that any attempt to do so by either party will be resolutely 1177 dealt with. It must be settled by discussion and conciliation, and there can be no question of allowing an issue to be forced by violent conflict.I had the honour of following the noble Viscount, and I acclaimed his statement and particularly those words, which appeared to me and to all your Lordships to state absolutely the right principle. But what happened later? The Foreign Secretary, Mr. Ernest Bevin, in a speech reported in the Press on June 13, said this—and the words have since become very famous:If we put 100,000 Jews in Palestine tomorrow I would have to put another division of British troops there. I am not prepared to do it.What became of all those fine words about not being influenced one way or the other by threats from either side? It is a complete contradiction. If those words of his meant anything, they meant that, whether the admission of 100,000 immigrants was right or wrong, they were not to be brought in, because they would give rise to such disturbances that another division of British troops would have to be sent there. Is not that being influenced by threats from one side or the other?
Indeed, the Jewish people said in Palestine, "Here are our friends forbidden to come in. Why is it? Because the Government have yielded to Arab threats and violence. Let them have threats of violence from the other side too." Some of the Jews did not say this. There has always been an extremist section in Palestine; they call themselves at one time the New Zionists, and at another time the Revisionists. Their movement has made things extremely difficult for the Jewish population, because it has caused widespread antagonism, and it is one of the main causes of the setback to Zionism in recent years. The Arabs and others did not distinguish between the Zionists and the New Zionists, and they never knew but that the Zionist organization as a whole might embrace the policy of the New Zionists, the extremists. Beyond this, even more extreme, is the group of Terrorists. I quote very frequently from the Anglo-American Committee's -Report, because it naturally will carry much more weight with your Lordships than any individual opinion. The Report says that the Terrorists—this group—derives its inspiration and its methods from the revolutionary traditions of Poland and 1178 Eastern Europe. Many of these extremists are boys and girls under twenty, of good education, filled with a political fanaticism as self-sacrificing as it is pernicious.The Zionist organization has been placed in a very difficult position during all these years and, if I may say so without offence to them, it has been guilty of two errors. The first was when during the war the International Zionist Conference announced as a policy. "That Palestine be established as a Jewish Commonwealth." That was not the policy which they had hitherto pursued, which was to respect the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate which provided that a Jewish National Home should be favoured in Palestine but without prejudice to the interests of the Arab population. Whether it is called a Jewish Commonwealth or a Jewish State makes no difference; it means exactly the same thing. But they went on to add that in this Jewish Commonwealth or State all people were to have equal political rights from the beginning. If I may quote the Anglo-American Committee once more, they say:The Jewish community in Palestine has never, as a community, faced the problem of co-operation with the Arabs. It is, for instance, significant that in the Jewish Agency's proposal for a Jewish State the problem of handling the million and a quarter Arabs is dealt with in the vaguest generalities.That is perfectly true; the Zionist movement has never faced the existence of more than a million Arabs in Palestine as a fact, and a fundamental fact. If there were a million Jews and a million and a half Arabs, it would not be a Jewish State; and if there were two million Jews and one million Arabs it would still not be a Jewish State. If a man has a mule in his stable and puts up a notice on the door "This is a horse," it does not make it a horse.
The second mistake made by the Zionist organization has been in the way they have treated the extremists during the recent outbreak of violence. I concur with every word that the noble Viscount who has just spoken has said about Dr. Weizmann; I am quite certain that he has had no hand or lot in this movement of terrorism. But apparently there have been some within the Zionist organization who have connived at, or at the very least acquiesced in, this campaign of violence. It has been said that if strong action had been taken against them, it would have split the movement, bit if that was necessary, the movement ought to have been 1179 split. Some say that Dr. Weizmann ought to have resigned. I do not think he should have resigned but should have insisted upon the withdrawal of those who were disloyal to one of the root principles of the Zionist organization, namely, that it was a constitutional movement, attracting millions of adherents and raising in voluntary contributions tens of millions of pounds, on the basis that it was law-abiding, relying for its success on the merits of its cause and the efficiency of its methods. Propaganda, political pressure, protest strikes and possibly non-co-operation may be wise or they may be unwise, depending upon the circumstances of the case, but at all events they are not criminal. When, however, you come to assassination and when you come to bombs, there you are at a line which ought to be impassable.
How strange are the resemblances that history sometimes presents! Now we are in the twentieth century, but let us look back for a moment at the history of the first century. Now it is the British who bear sway in Palestine; then it was the Romans. Now it is the organization called Irgun and its associates; then it was the party called the Zealots. They displayed much heroism, a great willingness for self-sacrifice, and in a cheerful spirit challenged the whole might of the Roman Empire, but what was the result? The Zealots were slaughtered to the last man. At the historical siege of Massada the last thousand slew their own wives and children and then each other, so that not one was left alive when the Romans came in. For the Jewish people there was complete destruction; they were wiped out from the land and dispersed over the world from that day to this. They were full of heroism but nothing was achieved. Let them beware of treading again along those courses. If there are more outrages such as the recent one it will not be only bridges, Government workshops or administrative headquarters which will be destroyed; it will be the National Home itself, because its moral and spiritual foundations will be blown to pieces, and without them it cannot stand.
In this situation the Government might have said, "These things are really beyond endurance. Things being as they are, we will not lift a finger to deal with Palestine's political problems. We will not in any circumstances permit any 1180 resumption of Jewish immigration; we shall have to adopt a policy of mere repression." In those circumstances it might have been natural for a Government to have taken that course, but it would certainly have been unwise and it could not conceivably have brought good results, because one set of reprisals would merely breed counter-reprisals. The Government have taken what appears to me to be the course of great wisdom; they have said, "We will not be deflected from sound statesmanship; we will go on with our effort to find some plan which will restore peace to Palestine. "We have the proposals made to-day; they include the immediate resumption of immigration on a large scale, if the plan as a whole is agreed to, and they include even the large figure of 100,000 in the immediate future. Consequently it is clear that the two statements to which I drew attention, the one by the Prime Minister and the other by Mr. Bevin, now no longer apply.
As to the plan itself, necessarily I must ask for time before coming to any very definite opinion, but I can see very clear differences between this plan and the one proposed by the Peel Commission. The Peel Commission plan, nearly ten years ago, met with the strongest criticism. I was one of its most active critics and I denounced it as being entirely impracticable. The Government, however, proceeded with it and sent an expert committee out to draw a frontier line. It was found from their report that, as had been foretold, it was utterly impracticable to draw any line at all on that basis. The Peel Commission proposed two sovereign independent States, but that was an impossible proposal because frontiers, customs, police and a crowd of administrative questions would have had to be dealt with which could not possibly have been dealt with on those lines. This plan is very different. A strong Central Government will be maintained with large powers, and that, I think, is essential. The provincial authorities will have comparatively limited powers, and while as I say I reserve my right of criticism, it appears to me that the implementation of this plan, while difficult, need not prove to be impracticable. Above all, it does not propose to establish any system which would govern Palestine according to numerical majorities. It is against that that in your Lordships' House and elsewhere 1181 I have always pleaded. The two Provinces, irrespective of their populations, are apparently to stand on an equal footing in the Central Government, and that is right where you have a population which is not homogeneous but which is so basically divided as the Arabs and the Jews are in Palestine. If the Arabs have the weight of numbers, on the other hand, from the economic, financial, cultural and historic point of view, the Jews also have a great deal of weight to be put in the balance on their side.
I will submit one point to your Lordships to which I do not think attention has yet been drawn in all this controversy. The Indian Moslems have taken a keen interest in the Palestine question. They have constantly passed resolutions and issued pronouncements strongly supporting the whole of the Arab claim. In Palestine the Arabs are 70 per cent. and the Jews are 30 per cent. and the Indian Moslems say that the principle of majorities must prevail. But in India, where the Moslems are 25 per cent. and the Hindus 75 per cent., the Moslems are emphasizing exactly the opposite principle, that there are actually two peoples and that they must be given equal weight in basic matters of policy in the government of that country. Why is a principle right in India for Moslems and wrong in Palestine for the Jews? Myself, I have always pleaded that we should turn away from the geographical basis of Government which seems so natural in this country and to which we are all accustomed. We must move towards Government through communities, and that element does appear in the Constitution which is now being laid before us. The boundaries and the questions of powers must be considered at greater leisure, but I think that this scheme might well be accepted as a basis for discussion, and not only for discussion, but for action. It is not rigid; it has in it a capacity for growth. If it can be made to work it gives opportunity for further development. If it fails, at all events we cannot be worse off than we are to-day.
There are two new factors in the situation in these days. One is that happily the United States has been brought into close and active collaboration. The other is that the neighbouring Arab States are taking a part. The Palestine Arabs, all through these years, have limited themselves 1182 to a sheer blank negative: No more Jews; get rid of those, or some of those, who are here. There is nothing of a constructive nature, no solution of any kind propounded. Now the leaders of the Arab States have said that if other countries of the world are willing to harbour Jewish refugees the Arab States would not refuse to do their share. The Arab States contain men who are accustomed to the handling of public affairs, to statesmanship of responsibility. They must surely know it is to the interest of the whole Middle East that this question should receive a solution of some kind. They must see that the Jewish contribution in Palestine may be of advantage economically and financially to the whole area, and they may be prepared some what to modify their attitude.
On both sides there must be one clear-cut definite sacrifice. The Arabs must abandon their uncompromising resistance to any development of any kind of the Jewish National Home. World opinion is, I believe, against them on that. Frankly, the Jews must abandon their plea, their demand, for all Palestine as a Jewish Commonwealth, which is utterly impracticable and could never come about, and again where world opinion is hostile. It would be hard to embroil the United Nations in the present tangle, but once some approach to a measure of agreement has been achieved, then the United Nations could unquestionably be invited to take the ultimate control, and to establish a trusteeship over what should rightly be regarded, owing to its history, its associations and its spiritual appeal, a land which is a part of the common heritage, the common treasure of mankind.
§ 4.25 p.m.
THE LORD ARCHEISHOP OF YORK
My Lords, I have listened with very great sympathy to the speech by the noble Viscount. He has consistently done his utmost to help in building up a National Home for the Jews in Palestine, and he has as consistently condemned any resort to violence. I hope indeed that Jews in this country and overeseas will take to heart the closing words of his speech when he says that the Jews must give up all hope of turning Palestine into an exclusively Jewish Sate. Whenever I speak on this subject of Palestine and the Jews I speak with the consciousness of 1183 the quite appalling horrors and wrongs which the Jews have suffered. There is a long record of crimes against them, but never have crimes been more horrible than those committed by Hitler and the Nazis against them. We must always bear that in mind when we are criticizing acts and words of the Jews to-day.
I was in Palestine for a short time last March and my visit had nothing whatever to do with the difficulties between the Jews and the Arabs. I was doing what I have been doing elsewhere, visiting our Forces overseas. But directly I reached Palestine I was in a totally different atmosphere than that of any other place I have visited. There was a sense of strain and tension which is almost impossible for anyone to understand who has not experienced it. I visited our Forces at least on two occasions just before a great battle. On one occasion the battle had actually started. There was nothing like the strain there which there was in Palestine last month, although I was told that things were not quite as bad as they had been a short time before because the Anglo-American Committee was actually in Jerusalem. I was immensely struck by the calm level-headed way in which those who were responsible for civil and military affairs were carrying out their duties. Some of them I see are on the death roll due to this mass murder at the King David Hotel. They were not taking sides with the Jews or with the Arabs, but were doing their utmost impartially for the good of the whole of Palestine. Another thing which impressed me was the feeling among the men. I visited the men and talked to them in their clubs and welfare centres. I did not try to lead up to the subject of the dispute between the Jews and the Arabs but everywhere I went the men spoke to me about it. They were feeling the strain, and I am sure we ought to feel the utmost sympathy with this great number of young men who are out in Palestine to-day living under this quite tremendous strain. What they said to me from time to time was this: "We cannot stand the treachery. We do not know where we are. These Jews dress up"—I am quoting their words—"in British uniform and they come behind us and shoot us with a British gun." The strain over that was great.
Wherever I went I was carefully guarded, and the only place in which I 1184 was told I would be perfectly safe was in the Arab part of the old city of Jerusalem. Various people told me that these men came out to Palestine with the greatest sympathy towards the Jews; they felt they had had a very bad time indeed. Within four or five weeks, so they told me, that sympathy was turned into resentment. One of the men—and the men were behaving with great forbearance—said to me, "It is fortunate for the Jews that the Australians are not out here now." These men are writing home telling of their experiences and that, combined with the Jewish propaganda, is doing immense harm to the Jewish cause throughout the whole world.
I want to say a word about Jewish propaganda, and I want to speak perfectly plainly on the matter because again and again in the past I have studied the Jewish problems. I can understand the protests of Jews against the outrages which they have suffered. I believe that this last outrage, the climax of many acts of violence, was not only due to the men on the spot but was due to the people who have been carrying on an unscrupulous and venomous propaganda against this country until they worked up a number of young Jews into a state of almost hysterical hatred of this country.
I do not know if others of your Lordships have had sent to you, as I have had sent to me—by some Jewish agency no doubt—an account of a meeting held in Madison Square, New York. If you have you will have learned from it that the Foreign Secretary's name was greeted with hoots, and that this country was accused of every kind of perfidy and of lacking good faith. One of the speakers even said that we had been responsible for the escape of the Mufti so that he might stir up feeling against the Jews. Such statements are sheer lies, of course, but they are lies which go down with a certain number of people, and they cause quite infinite harm. After all, if it had not been for this country where would the Jews have been to-day? It was this country which invited them to Palestine, it was this country which defended them when the Arabs might have destroyed them; and if this country had surrendered in 1940 instead of standing out alone against the Nazi hordes there would have been no Jews in Palestine or elsewhere to carry on this propaganda against the British Commonwealth. I dread the effect of this 1185 propaganda on the minds of the people in this country. They are hearing about these outrages, and hearing, also, about these charges against the British Government, and I know—I speak from experience—that it is affecting popular opinion in the great towns in the North.
I dread anti-Semitism in any form whatsoever, and I hope, therefore, that the very clear and definite statements which have been made by the noble Viscount and by other leaders of the Jewish community in England—they have spoken out quite plainly on this matter—will sink into the hearts of the Jews who, in America and elsewhere, are carrying on this kind of attack. As one who believes that it is essential that Great Britain and the United States should co-operate in the affairs of the world I sometimes wonder what the people of the United States would think if they read that a meeting had been held in Trafalgar Square by the Jews of London to demand the admission of 100,000 Jews into the United States, if they learned that in the course of that meeting attacks were made on the American Secretary of State, and that the Americans generally were accused of bad faith and perfidy. We are accustomed to take any kind of criticism, but I do not think that if that happened, it would make for better understanding with the United States.
Turning away from that matter to the proposals which have been put before us to-day, I want at the outset to say how thankful I am that the Government have produced constructive proposals. We have been waiting for them. There have been great difficulties in the way of forming them, and, as I say, I am indeed glad that the Government have produced definitely constructive proposals. I am also very pleased that these proposals have been brought before us, so far, with the co-operation of the United States. It will be a bitter disappointment to us if the United States do not continue that co-operation right to the end. I sincerely hope that they will, for it will be a very great help towards the restoration of peace in Palestine.
About the actual proposals, your Lordships will not expect me to say more than just a word or two. Obviously, proposals of this kind need careful consideration before it is possible to pass any kind of opinion upon them. I gather 1186 that there are three great groups of proposals. The effect of the first is that everything shall be done to gain admission for the Jews, and the settlement of Jews, in countries other than Palestine. Palestine cannot hold an indefinite number of Jews. It is going to be a difficult task to persuade some of these other countries to admit large numbers of Jews. The responsibility must not rest only on this country. It is a world responsibility, and I hope that, with the help of the United States, doors will be opened to these unhappy Jews which so far have been bolted and barred. Secondly, there is the most important proposal for what, I think, may be called a provincial system in Palestine. I think that that policy has been reached by a process of elimination. We are driven back on it. Every one is agreed today—certainly everyone in this House is, I believe—that it is impossible to have in Palestine either an exclusively Jewish or an exclusively Arab State.
We are then driven to consider partition. But to divide that small country, a country about the size of Wales, into two Sovereign independent States, seems to me to be utterly impracticable. It was tried for two or three centuries after the days of Solomon. Occasionally those two States were in alliance with one another, but much more frequently they were fighting against one another, and very frequently one or other of them would appeal to one of the totalitarian Powers by which they were surrounded to assist them in their enmity against their neighbour. I think that probably, if we had two sovereign States now, we should find them fighting with ore another, and then appealing to some Great Power—I am not naming any Power which might be tempted to intervene. In the end, as the noble Viscount I think hinted, all independence for those two States would vanish. We should find some other Power, not necessarily the British Commonwealth, restoring order in Palestine. So I hope that a fair trial will be given to this provincial policy, and that it will be fully discussed as a basis on which a new future may be built.
The third plank—if I may use that phrase—in this policy is a round-table conference. I hope that the Jews and Arabs will both agree to attend this conference. And here I may say in passing that I hope it will never be forgotten that 1187 there is a third religion deeply interested in what is decided for the future of Palestine—that is the Christian religion. It would cause the greatest consternation if some decision were arrived at which neglected the deep interests which all Christians have in the sacred places in Palestine. I think, indeed, that the statement made by the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, showed that that is fully recognized. Although the Christians are not asked to send representatives, as such, to this conference, I hope that their needs and their claims will not be forgotten. Meantime, I would join with others who have spoken in saying that I hope everything will be done to persuade Jews and Arabs to attend this round-table conference. I know it is going to be terribly difficult to induce them to do so, but I see no happy and prosperous future for Palestine unless Jews and Arabs do come together, in that spirit of self-sacrifice to which the noble Viscount has referred, and hammer out some policy which will lead to the restoration of order and peace in Palestine and to the gradual building up of a constitutional State in which Arabs and Jews will be able to co-operate side by side.
§ 4.40 p.m.
§ LORD ROTHSCHILD
My Lords, it is with considerable embarrassment that I speak on the subject of to-day's Motion. I am embarrassed because it was only a few months ago that I was a British Army officer. During the war, even though one may not have been very near the front line, it was unfortunately a fairly commonplace occurrence to hear that one's fellow soldiers had been killed. But there is something dreadful about fellow soldiers being killed in time of peace, and no Jew, quite apart from those who were in the British Army, can fail to feel despair and shame when confronted with the stark fact that his co-religionists, who have traditionally abhorred war and violence, should have been responsible for the deaths of British soldiers. It is also embarrassing for me to say something about the aspirations of the Jews in Palestine when, in fact, I do not entirely share those aspirations. Nevertheless, I feel impelled to say something about the situation in Palestine from a point of view which almost by definition must be strange to nearly everyone in England.
1188 I have noticed that it is customary for noble Lords, when they are speaking in certain debates, to make quite clear what is their personal position in regard to the subject under discussion. I should therefore like to say that I have never been a supporter of Zionism, or what is called political Zionism; nor have I been connected officially or unofficially with any Zionist organization.
It would be a waste of your Lordships' time to go over the old ground again; for me to try and interpret the Balfour Declaration or Sir Henry MacMahon's letter, which is said by some to contradict the Balfour Declaration; or to go into the history of Palestine—who got there first; who "kicked" who out, and so on. Such matters have often been discussed before by your Lordships, and in any case there are great authorities in this House on that subject. I need only refer to the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Opposition, and the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Liberal Party, who have already spoken. I should, however, like to say a few words to your Lordships about something rather strange to all of us; that is, the mentality of the Jews in Palestine and the causes of that mentality.
When I put before you their reactions and their interpretation of the Palestine situation, I think it is necessary to remember two basic facts which have had a profound effect on the Jewish mentality. First, whatever the reasons, there are few countries in the world where the Jews have not been harried or persecuted for many hundreds of years. Even in 1946, pogroms go on in Europe—I refer to the one at Kielce in Poland, in July—pogroms based on the old, old story of the Jews murdering Christian children. And Cardinals, in spite of the precepts of many Popes, refuse to condemn such acts, even when the person who invented the story has admitted that it was a lie.
The second basic fact is that almost all the young Jews in Palestine have had fathers, mothers, and relations who were among the six million Jews tortured and gassed to death by Hitler. It is a strange feeling to have had relations put to death in some terrible way. I wonder how many of your Lordships are in the same position that I am, of having had an aunt whom one loved dearly—she was seventy-five years old, and quite blind—clubbed to death by the S.S. on the railway station 1189 outside an extermination camp. She had kept a small farm in Hungary for many years, and was much liked by the other farmers in the district. Please do not think that by telling this story I am trying to evoke any personal sympathy. I tell it quite objectively, because I believe such episodes help one to understand the despair and desperation which have led to the unforgettable events of the last few months. When such things happen to people without the advantages we have in England, the results are terrible and the wounds may take long to heal. They need all the understanding and forgiveness of which we are capable, however sorely tried we may be.
But there was more to be superimposed on this intolerable suffering. There was the White Paper. Many Jews felt that it was a betrayal of previous promises. Some were doubtful about their interpretation of these promises and thought they might be biased and illogical, but they were fortified in their beliefs by no less a person than Winston Churchill who said, referring to certain parts of this White Paper:That is a plain breach of a solemn obligation, a breach of faith …. What will those who have been stirring up these Arab agitators think? Will they not be tempted to say, 'They are on the run again. This is another Munich'.Naturally, this did not influence any Jew, Zionist or non-Zionist, when the war came; they fought, died, and shed their blood like all other democratic people. But the Palestinian Jews could not help but notice the Arab record during the war; the Rashid Ali rebellion in Iraq, in which a member of the Irwin lost his life while on a special mission for the British. He is now a captain—in the Habbaniyah cemetery. Nor can they forget the Egyptian Minister of Defence who, in 1941, delivered the defence plans for Egypt to the Axis. They cannot help noticing that the Mufti, quite commonly known in the war as an agent of Hitler—and your Lordships will remember that the Mufti trained the Bosnian S.S., and for that reason was at one time wanted as a war criminal by another country—is an honoured guest of a King who has always expressed his sympathies with the Arab cause, and a King in whose country bomb outrages in which British soldiers have been killed are by no means unknown.
1190 Finally, we come to the recent Anglo-American Committee and its recommendations. The Committee recommended that 100,000 Jews should be allowed to enter Palestine. A pre-requisite of this recommendation being implemented was that no further acts of terrorism should take place. The Government added what at any rate appeared to be a further condition, that illegal armies in Palestine should all disarm before these displaced people were allowed into Palestine. The Jews, constrained in Palestine, felt, quite wrongly no doubt, that this added condition was directed against them, rather than against the Arabs, who had all the surrounding countries, such as Transjordan and Syria, in which to prepare for resistance. They remember that one of the reasons for their being armed was to guard themselves against attacks by the Arabs on their communal settlements—attacks which the British authorities admitted they could not prevent. This Jewish Army, the members of which, as your Lordships know, did many acts of valour for England during the war, was actually trained by a national hero of ours, General Wingate. The Haganah became powerful at a time when Jewish settlements were being ruthlessly attacked and pillaged by the Arabs, who have quite recently announced their intention of resisting by force any immigration into Palestine, just as they did before when they were responsible for the growth of this Jewish Army.
In this country, the idea of any organization having an Army of its own is inconceivable. But it is not easy for us to understand the life of someone in a communal settlement in Palestine, where at any moment he may be the victim of a savage and murderous attack. These communal settlements have a special place in Jewish life. Row often have we all heard that the Jews do not work with their hands, cannot till the soil, and are destined for ever to be urban dwellers engaged in small urban business? Palestine, for whatever the reason, is the only country where the Jews, after 2,000 years, have been able to get back to their real business of tilling the soil and living on the land. Can we put ourselves in their position and realize what it means, having at last settled down in what they believe to be the Promised Land, when their fields are burnt and ravaged by 1191 gangs of marauding Arabs, while they are utterly unable to defend themselves?
These factors, extermination in Europe during the war, pogroms in Europe after it, and what they believe to be discrimination against them in Palestine, have produced absolute despair and absolute desperation. Now what sort of person is it who has these suicidal feelings? Perhaps this story may give an indication. During the war my work took me into a house in France where there had been an explosion. I learnt there about a Jewish member of the Resistance Movement who was arrested by the Gestapo and asked to give certain information about the whereabouts and names of his colleagues. He, of course, refused. The flesh on his arms, near his shoulders, was carefully cut round with razor blades and the whole skin peeled off as if it were gloves or sticking plaster. The same was then done to his legs. He refused to give any names. He was bricked up in a wall for 48 hours and, on being taken out, was suspended from the ceiling by his wrists with weights attached to his body. He still refused to give the names of his colleagues. He was then sent to an extermination camp and by some ironical miracle escaped, to be mercifully killed in the explosion which I investigated. The courage of that man is difficult to appreciate in the comparative security of England.
How fortunate it is that human beings find it so difficult to appreciate the horrors and miseries that go on in the world. We hear that millions of Indians have starved to death, or that countless Chinese have been drowned in floods. We say, and even perhaps feel for a short time, "How terrible," and then we go about our business. It is lucky that we can do this because if we could really feel what has happened we should perhaps be unable to go on living. The same applies about the Jew who was skinned alive, or his six million co-religionists who were gassed, tortured, and experimented on by Hitler. We say, "How terrible," then we forget and go about our business. But, and this is the thing I find so difficult to keep in my mind, not one Jew in Palestine forgets one of these episodes—forgets that the woman in the next settlement had her one-year-old daughter roasted alive in front of her eyes. And when the scales seemed once more to be weighted against them, the last tonuous threads snapped 1192 and they said: "There is no hope; therefore let us die fighting as we did against Hitler."
I believe and pray that the Government's proposals, which we have heard to-day, may eventually produce a new state of mind in Palestine and hope, given some good will and moderation on both sides. I said at the beginning that I would try and explain to your Lordships the state of mind which has produced the recent events in Palestine. With the many advantages that I have, it is comparatively easy for me to say that I do not entirely share the aspirations of the Jews in Palestine. I am thinking not so much of the material ones as the advantage of being accepted as an Englishman. But even I remember that only a few years ago my grandfather was the first Jew your Lordships allowed to sit in this House, and I therefore felt it my duty to try and explain something of the trials and torments of my co-religionists in Palestine.
THE EARL OF PERTH
I must protest at one statement made by the noble Lord. He said, in the course of his very eloquent and moving speech, that Cardinal Hlond had not condemned, and indeed I think he even said had approved, the terrible massacre of Kielce. I do not know on what evidence the noble Lord bases that charge. All I can ask your Lordships to do—and I ask you in all solemnity—is to read what the Cardinal himself said about that case and not what his enemies have said. You will find that reported in the pages of the Tablet.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ LORD MORRISON
My Lords, so many statements have been made about the Anglo-American Committee that, as the only member of your Lordships' House who was privileged to be a member of that Committee, I thought I ought to make some comments in this very interesting discussion. May I say at the outset that I am speaking entirely on my own behalf? Since we finished our task and returned to this country, some of the Committee have been writing articles in the newspapers, and some have been addressing demonstrations and taking part in meetings. The question whether one should do so is purely a matter for any member of the Committee to decide for himself, and on his own responsibility. Like other members of the Committee, I have not uttered one word in public. This 1193 is my first word in public on this subject. I have refrained deliberately from speaking because I felt that, while our respective Governments were considering the Report which we prepared, it would not be altogether right to take sides with one section or the other in public discussion.
As has been mentioned several times, the Report was unanimous, but I need hardly tell your Lordships that that does not mean that all the members of the Committee thought entirely alike. What I think it does mean is that we all felt that, difficult as our task was, the implementation of our recommendations by our respective Governments would be made infinitely more difficult if the Committee could not agree among themselves. Your Lordships all realize the difficulties and complexities of this problem. Try to picture to yourselves what the position would have been like if, instead of one report from the Anglo-American Committee, we had produced two or even three reports. What would our respective Governments have expected to do as a result? Throughout our investigations, discussions were taking place in the newspapers and questions were even being asked in another place. I was too far away to get reports from your Lordships' House. While we were in Austria, however, and again when we were in Egypt, certain discussion took place, particularly in American newspapers, as to why there was not going to be an interim report.
I can tell your Lordships that a discussion did take place at some length between the members of the Committee as to whether or not there should be an interim report. Some of the members of the Committee thought that, with the terrible sights which we had seen in the European camps, and considering the urgency of the matter, it would be better if we produced an interim report. The argument against an interim report was that, as the Committee had been asked by both Governments to finish their labours in 120 days, the time which would elapse before the final report was ready was so short that it was hardly worth while issuing an interim report, and that, in any case, such an interim report could not have dealt in any way with Palestine, because at that time the Committee had not been to Palestine. The result was that the Committee decided not to 1194 issue an interim report. That decision was at once interpreted by powerful American Zionist organizations as clear evidence that the British members had been instructed by the British Government to oppose an interim report. I need hardly tell your Lordships that this allegation was quite untrue. No instructions of any kind were at any time given to the British members of the Committee by the British Government or by any member of it, nor was any attempt made at any time to influence the Committee. As for the charge that the British members were opposed to an interim report, I am sure that all my American colleagues would gladly testify that this was also untrue. Having said so much, I may as well go further and state that every member of the British side, without exception, was in favour of an interim report.
My reason for dealing with this point is that the first recommendation in our Report is the recommendation which would have formed the basis of our interim report if we could have got unanimity in the Committee. The recommendation is perfectly clear, and the extraordinary thing to me is that this recommendation, in my opinion the most urgent, has been largely overlooked by the public and many of the national Jewish and Arab organizations. The recommendation was perfectly specific. Recomendation 1, page 1, paragraph 2, states:Palestine alone cannot meet the emigration needs of the Jewish victims of Nazi and Fascist persecution.Viscount Samuel has already quoted this statement.The whole world assumes responsibility for them, and, indeed, for the resettlement of all 'displaced persons.'We therefore recommend that our Governments together, and in association with other countries, should endeavour immediately to find new homes for all such ' displaced persons,' irrespective of creed and nationality, whose ties with their former communities have been irreparably broken.In recommending that our Governments, in association with other countries, should endeavour to find new homes for 'displaced persons We do not suggest that any country should be asked to make a permanent change in its immigration policy. The conditions which we have seen in Europe are unprecedented, and so unlikely to arise again that we are convinced that special provision could and should be made in existing immigration laws to meet this unique and peculiarly distressing situation.1195 That, I venture to say, would have been the basis of the interim report if the Committee had decided to make an interim report.
That brings me to a matter which I mention with some considerable reluctance. If we are ever going to achieve real Anglo-American co-operation, we must be perfectly frank with each other. Speaking entirely for myself, and on my own responsibility, I have been disappointed with the attitude to this problem taken up by the President of the United States. If I am correctly informed, and I think I am, his original request that 100,000 Jewish refugees from Europe should be admitted into Palestine was made without any consultation either with the Mandatory Power or with the Arab State. This public comment on the Report, which contained, I would remind your Lordships, ten important recommendations, was merely to express delight that the Committee had decided to recommend admission of 100,000 Jews into Palestine. This gave a lead to powerful and unscrupulous American Zionist organizations to by-pass the body of the Report and focus public attention on one item only. That was certainly not the intention of the Committee. I hope that the President, who is a man with a load of trouble in his own country, has now found time to look a little deeper into this problem and that he has also realized that co-operation does not mean one nation telling another nation what it ought to do, but if it is to be real co-operation, it means sharing the task of carrying out the new policy formulated by a Committee, half of which was appointed by himself.
We began our task by taking public evidence in Washington. I kept a diary and, if I may, would like to read to your Lordships very brief comments which I wrote on my way back to England. In Washington the following points impressed me:
These matters did not appear to interest them, and the conclusion I noted on my way back from America was that any proposals short of a Jewish State will be denounced as a betrayal of the Jewish cause.
- (1) The influence of the extreme Zionist movement in the United States is considerable, and they have powerful and influential support.
- (2) They insist on a Jewish majority and Jewish control in Palestine and nothing less.
- (3) The effect of their campaign in the United States is to discredit Britain in the minds of the American people and thus hinder the development of Anglo-American co-operation.
- (4) They are reluctant to admit that Jewish immigration into the United States might at least form part of the remedy for the problem of the homeless Jews of Europe and they are not interested in any plan for dealing with the victims of Nazi and Fascist persecution, except by sending them to Palestine.
- (5) Their failure to face up to the question of how peace and security can be preserved in Palestine; how and by whom opposition by Arabs, both inside and outside Palestine, would be kept in check; whether any defence force would be required, and, if so, whether they favoured a United States force to share the task of preserving peace and share the danger.
The Committee spent a good deal of time in Europe, and distressing sights were seen which I will not mention. One or two things stand out in my mind very clearly: A procession of Jewish refugees from one of the camps carrying banners which said, "No one to leave this camp except for Palestine"; another procession of Jewish children in Italy with banners, "Down with Britain, down with the White Paper"—little children of six or seven years of age, carrying these banners marching along the streets. A third was a discussion with an official of a Zionist organization in Vienna, whom I informed that I had some information that at least 1,500 Austrian Jews now in England had opted to return to Vienna. His reply was: "So far as my organization is concerned, we shall do all we can to prevent it." Then an interview in Berlin with one of the sad remnant of all that was left of the few Jews. I asked him whether they would be willing to try and restore European Jewry, to restore their life there, and the pathetic reply was: "If we can only get some hope from some of the Jewish organizations, and some help, we would be able to do it, but up till now there seems to be an abundance of money for people who wish to go to Palestine but not for anyone else." Those are some of my memories.
Then, the Committee arrived at the Holy Land, and we found it, as we say in the Report, on the verge of civil war. Men of long experience and sound judgment told us three things quite definitely:
In these circumstances, it was obvious that whatever the recommendations, trouble was certain either from one side or the other.
- (1) A report against a Jewish State would mean serious trouble.
- (2) A compromise report would mean equally serious trouble from both Zionists and Arabs.
- (3) A report in favour of a Jewish state—in other words, a report against the Arabs—would be less serious at first, but equally serious later on.
There has been a good deal of comment in your Lordships' House this afternoon about the matter of private armies. Arguments go on, and will go on, but whether these dastardly outrages are the work of large and well-organized private armies or of a mere handful of terrorists, the Report is quite clear in regard to what we found. I ask your Lordships to turn to page 40 of the Report. We found:a static force composed of settlers and townsfolk, with an estimated strength of 40,000; a field army, based on the Jewish Settlement Police and trained in more mobile operations, with an estimated strength of 16,000; a full-time force (Palmach) permanently mobilized and provided with transport, with an estimated peace establishment of 2,000 and war establishment of some 6,000.That is in the Report of the Committee. Whether the majority of Jewish Palestinians support the private army or not is, to my mind, entirely beside the point. Frankly, I do not believe they do. I think the overwhelming majority of the Palestinians are opposed to the private army and strongly object to it. However, the point I wish to make is that while we were there it was perfectly obvious that the illegal armed forces are dominating the situation, and the majority, who only ask for peace and security, are terrorised to such an extent that they are afraid to oppose them. If I may be forgiven for mentioning someone by name, I do believe that Dr. Weizmann, the great and wise and statesmanlike leader of the Jews, would himself feel much safer in London than he would in some parts of Palestine.
Why did the terrorist blow up the King David Hotel? What was the object of it? I believe the King David Hotel was blown up in desperation, because the illegal army leaders feared that the discussions which are going on now—in order to take part in which Dr. Weizmann had just arrived in this country—might be accepted by both Governments, might be accepted by responsible Jews in many 1198 sections of Jewry and might even be accepted by responsible Arabs. It has been welcomed by an ever-increasing number of Jews throughout the world. It seems to me a strange thing that as soon as Dr. Weizmann left for London this terrible blow was deliberately struck to wreck the negotiations for a peaceful settlement. I make that statement emphatically, because I want to tell your Lordships that while we were in Jerusalem, living with our headquarters in the King David Hotel, one morning a document was found among our papers. No one knows to this day hew that document: came to be there; it had been left there. The police endeavoured to find out who had left it there but, so far as I know, they failed. I have here the document that was left on our desk. It is signed in the name of "Head of Command the Jewish Resistance Movement." I have no intention of reading the whole of this very long and very ably drawn up document, but I think I ought to read a few sentences from it in order that your Lordships may understand the seriousness of this problem. It is headed, "The Jewish Resistance Movement."
This is what they say:Our struggle has just begun. It has confined itself thus far to defence against hostile assaults and a few warning actions. We have resolved not to interfere as far as possible with the work of the Inquiry Committee"—that is the Anglo-American Com-mittee—… if the solution is anti-Zionist, our resistance will continue spread and increase in vigour …. Our resistance is liable to result in the creation of a new problem in this country—the British problem, the problem of British security in Palestine, and this problem will be resolved only by a Zionist solution …. We do not threaten. We only wish you to know Our intentions clearly …. The number of our people trained and ready for military action is net the point, as we do not intend to throw all our forces into one decisive battle with the forces of the Empire. The training and equipment of our forces are sufficient for a long and difficult struggle. But that is not our main strength. Our strength lies in the fact that every Jew in Palestine is on our side and twelve million Jews stand behind us, and that hr every hundred or thousand who might be imprisoned or killed other hundreds and thousands will step forth to take their places …. We are not merely a secret society—we are the fighting Jewish Nation …. We regard it as our duty to caution you against any attempt to decide on an anti-Zionist solution and make good for it by an increased grant of immigration certificates. The transfer of a certain number of refugees from Europe to Palestine will not solve 1199 the political question of the existence and independence of the Jewish people. We shall not accept the status of a minority in our own land, whether the minority be 33 per cent. or 49 per cent. … We shall not accept a symbolic independence in a dwarflike token State which will not give us the chance of developing all the resources of the country and creating here a safe asylum for all Jews who are compelled or wish to come. … A halfhearted compromise on the Palestinian question can only lead to disaster. It will not solve the Jewish problem, it will not gain the approval of the Arabs, it will not halt Jewish resistance, it will not ensure the interests of the Powers as regards peace and security. You must decide. … We regard it as a duty to utter another warning. Do not postpone the political solution for ten years. No one knows how long it will take to transfer the first million Jewish immigrants or to carry out the development programme. … There is no doubt that the Jewish force is superior in organization, training, planning and equipment, and that we ourselves will be able to handle any attack or rebellion from the Arab side without calling for any assistance from the British or Americans. If you accept the Zionist solution but are unable or unwilling to enforce it, please do not interfere, and we ourselves will secure its implementation. We have no interest in asking for the removal of British forces from Palestine, but we do not consider their presence for any active interference on our behalf.This document concludes by saying:The Jews are a nation. The Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel. The Jewish State will be established. It is better that it should be established with your help and for your benefit, than against you.It may be said—it has been said—that this document was bluff. One or two of the members of the Committee expressed that opinion when we read it and said that it was put there merely to try and frighten us. I do not know. Your Lordships can make up your own minds as to whether you think it was bluff or not. I think the answer to the question is what happened at the King David Hotel the other day.
I have spoken at greater length than I intended to do, and I only want to add this. Criticism of the Committee has been made in that the proposals they bring forward are going to place a heavy financial burden, and a heavy burden in other respects upon Britain. My answer to that is that the burden is the outcome of twenty-five years of uncertainty. The Anglo-American Committee have now stated a policy. I believe in no Jewish State and no Arab State but equality of treatment for both, and at long last there is a basis for 1200 initiating constitutional development. I believe this can be achieved but only on two conditions. One is that Jews all over the world, not only in Palestine, must decide that terrorism in Palestine must end. It is creating anti-Semitism in every country in the world at an alarming rate. The second condition is complete and firm Anglo-American co-operation in working out the policy and, what is equally important, co-operation in securing peaceful conditions while it is beng worked out.
Like other speakers, I do not feel justified at this moment, without further consideration, in making any detailed comments on the statement made to-day on behalf of the Government, but, as a member of the Committee, I feel I am voicing the opinion of all members of that Committee, both American and British, in generally welcoming this statement. I think the Committee's recommendations have been dealt with in a very able way. May I finish up on this note, because it is the one thing that dominated the minds of many of the members of the Committee, both American and British, while they were engaged on this work? Some means must be found of bringing peace and security to the Holy Land. Hundreds of thousands of people who are in the European camps to-day are longing to go to Palestine, and when you ask them, "Why do you want to go?" the answer is always, "Because we want peace and security." Unless some means can be found of obtaining peace and security, I fear very much that Palestine has a very unhappy future for the Arabs, for the Jews and everyone else.
§ 5.22 p.m.
My Lords, this has been a very remarkable debate. We have just listened to an important speech from my noble friend Lord Morrison. When his name appeared as a member of the Committee, as an old friend I took the opportunity of commiserating with him and at the same time of congratulating him. I shall congratulate him on the efforts that the Committee made and on the great tenacity and patience they brought to their task. I do not think the anonymous document he found on his hotel dressing table would be admissible in a court of law, and I very humbly suggest to him that he should not take 1201 that sort of document too seriously. I have copies of documents like that sent to me from all over the world, as do many of your Lordships, but fortunately I have a large waste-paper basket. May I be permitted to make a brief comment on two points in the most interesting speech of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Opposition? He made a great point about the disarming of private armies, but one of the things that has puzzled me very much indeed during the last year, and especially during the last six months, is that only the Jewish private armies, as they are called, have been disarmed—at any rate, the attempt has been made to disarm them. Why should not the Arabs' arms be taken away? Did the noble Viscount mean both armies to be dissolved?
Then could he explain, with his great interest in these matters, why the military are concentrating only on the Jewish settlements, pulling down walls and blowing up buildings to discover arms, and why they have not examined almost entirely Arab towns like Nablus and Gaza? That seems to me to be a one-sided policy, and I have been very puzzled by it, but there may be an explanation forthcoming. Then the noble Viscount said something about a measure of partition being needed to satisfy the Zionists, but my information for many years, and especially since the Peel Report came out, has been that the Zionists resist partition very strenuously.
I am sure the noble Lord does not mean to misrepresent me. What I said was that partition appeared to be the only chance of creating a purely Jewish State. I understood that was the main aim of the Zionist Movement. The noble Lord may say that the whole of Palestine ought to be turned into a Jewish State, and from his point of view that might be better, but I do not think that is a practicable proposition. I said that some of us had been attracted by the idea of partition because it afforded some chance to create a purely Jewish State, even though a very small one. I am sure the noble Lord does not want to misrepresent me.
I certainly did not mean to misrepresent the noble Viscount, and I am grateful for his explanation. 1202 I have always understood that partition is strenuously opposed by both the Arab and the Jewish leaders in Palestine. When I was recently in Cairo I heard that there was talk of a new scheme of partition, and the rather grim jest was made that both the Jews and the Arabs were so opposed to it that they might possibly join together to resist it, which would be one solution to their troubles. Of course, I would prefer the whole of Palestine eventually to be a Jewish State, but I want that State to be a member of the British Commonwealth. I have consistently taken that stand publicly and openly during the last twenty years, ever since the idea was first mooted in serious quarters and supported by some very distinguished colleagues of the noble Viscount. There is high sanction for a Jewish State, rather higher sanction even than the views of my noble friend Lord Morrison and his colleagues on the Commission, or even the views of the most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of York.
The noble Viscount—if I do not offend him by congratulating him—made, I thought, a very apposite proposal about the release of certain of the Jewish leaders. I really think that if we are going to make progress now (and I can see the chance of making some progress, as I shall presently venture Lo suggest), we must release the men who have great authority amongst their own community.
The noble Lord really must not insist upon misrepresenting me. I did my best to make myself clear. I never said I thought the Jewish leaders should be released; I said I thought it would be dangerous if they were kept indefinitely in prison without trial. It is not at all the same thing.
I see; they ought to be tried. That would be something. Would the noble Viscount agree with me if I said that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander? If the Jewish leaders are to be tried what about the thousands of others who have been arrested in Palestine and kept in confinement without trial? Would he like to see them brought to trial too? I suggest that it is only just and right; it is not only the leaders who have suffered in this way. I must say I thought he was hinting at the suggestion that they might be released, but I will give him that point. I have 1203 tried to follow all the speeches (and they have been very interesting indeed), but I must confess I do not always follow the workings of the mind of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the Opposition. Would he agree with me when I say that what is really needed now is a truce on both sides? I hope that the attempts to suppress and disarm the resistance movement, or whatever term may be used, will be suspended for the time being. I sincerely hope, as everyone else here hopes, that there will be no more acts of criminal violence—that there will be, in other words, a kind of armistice. I see no other way in which we can begin the discussions of these most important and interesting proposals explained by my noble friend Viscount Addison this afternoon, and I will venture to say a word about those before I bring my brief remarks to a close.
It is a terrible thing, after our long record as a nation of centuries of tolerance and fair treatment for the Jews, and after the friendship we have built up between British and Jewish people everywhere, that the present atmosphere should have been created. We have heard again and again in this debate of the propaganda in displaced persons' camps or in Italy or Palestine or New York. The most reverend Primate spoke of the terrific attacks made on the Government of this country by Jews in various parts of the world. I am afraid, from all the reports that have reached me, that the feeling of the mass of the Palestinian Jews, whatever they may think of these acts of violence, is at the moment definitely hostile to Britain. That is a dead loss to both the Jews and the British, and it is a thing which I am sure we all regret very deeply. The record of this country towards the Jewish question in the past has been splendid. One of the things that undoubtedly roused the hostility of the people of this country to Hitler's Germany was the treatment of the Jews there. I have always said that I believed the heart of the British people towards, this problem was perfectly sound, that their judgment could be relied upon and that His Majesty's present Government, as representing the British people, or at any rate the majority of them (all the best of them, I certainly believe) would, in the end, find the solution which was most just and equitable in all the circumstances. 1204 When I land presently in New York I know I shall be interviewed by the Press and have to receive Jewish leaders, and I shall say exactly the same thing.
Now here is the contrast. I had a letter recently from a Jewish officer who, having served with great distinction from the beginning of the war, on the formation of the Jewish Brigade was transferred to that Brigade and fought with that body of troops through Italy and France and into Germany. He was with one of the contingents of the Brigade which returned to Palestine. He was a man of most distinguished military record, and this was the reception he received, together with his comrades. They were stripped, searched and sent off in cattle trucks to a concentration camp. These were men against whom there was not a tittle of evidence of hostility against this country, men who had proved by their valour and conduct that they were whole-heartedly fighting for our cause. It is a terrible contrast, and I find it difficult to regard this situation as one possible to continue. The truth of the matter is, of course, that His Majesty's Government—including the Lord Chancellor who will reply—inherited this situation. It is not the creation of the last twelve months, as has been pointed out by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. This breach between British and Jewish peoples really dates back to the White Paper of 1939.
It was decided at that time—and the decision was carried forward and the policy was solidified—to attempt to build up a kind of bulwark in the Middle East of the Arab speaking peoples, first against Germany (which was understandable and excusable) and now, I suppose, against Russia, a kind of insurance in case the United Nations Organization is not developed and strengthened, or in case it fails. And the Jews had to be sacrificed accordingly. If I understood correctly the document which was read to us by the noble Viscount the Leader of the House, we have at last been able to disentangle ourselves from that policy, and I therefore see some hope for the future. We are now prepared, by the policy which has been explained to your Lordships, once again to return as far as we can—we cannot do it completely yet—to the original policy of the Balfour Declaration. I therefore regard the federal system which 1205 is now suggested for Palestine as a temporary settlement which can be developed and can grow and which, in the course of years, may do for Palestine what a federal system—which was the original system in Australia—did for Australia. I have always believed that the inhabitants of Palestine can play the same part as the peoples of South Africa and Canada. In both countries you have racial differences, and in the case of Canada religious differences as well, which at one time seemed insoluble. In the Dominions of the British Commonwealth, in Canada and South Africa, you find that those racial and religious differences have been gradually diminished, and on the whole the two communities have worked together perfectly well and happily. I believe in time—time being the essence of everything in Palestine—that the Jews and the Arabs will come to the same solution.
But as the noble Lord, Lord 'Morrison, has said, time, patience, peace and tranquillity are required. In this case we have to look twenty, thirty, or forty years ahead; but what is that in the history of a country which dates back 10,000 years? My advice to my friends whom I can reach who take an interest in this matter, many of them Gentiles and many of them Jews, is that this proposal should be accepted as a basis of negotiation, and that they should do their best to improve it, to work it and to make it a success. I hope that the Arabs will do the same, but if the Arabs do not, then I hope that the experiment, if I may so call it, will be carried through, and that we will not falter. Perhaps I might quote the words of a great figure in our public life, spoken in 1938, words which are peculiarly relevant at the present time. I am visualizing, in quoting these words, a situation in which the Jews in their wisdom, and knowing that it entails, are prepared to accept this much smaller province instead of the territories from Dan to Beersheba which they believe they were promised in Holy Writ. The words were spoken in 1938, but they may apply to-day or to-morrow:If we have not the good will and agreement of the Arabs to a plan, we must look to other means in that country to discharge our policy, and this can only be found—if the Arabs will not hearken to our counsels and will not accept any offer—in the strong armament of the Jewish population and the main reliance of the British Administration in Palestine upon Jewish military strength.1206 Those words were spoken by Mr. Winston Churchill in 1938, and I believe that policy may have to be adopted.
A great deal has been said in this debate about anti-British propaganda in the United States of America. I deplore that as much as any of your Lordships, and I can foresee it doing a great deal of mischief in the future. There are great similarities in some ways between the situation in Palestine now and the former situation in Ireland. Most of your Lordships here will remember the damage and the harm that was done in critical years to Anglo-American relations by the incessant propaganda of a powerful and influential Irish-American movement in the United States. The Irish-Americans had great influence and political power and they used it in the way they thought best designed to serve the cause of the freedom of Ireland. That ceased with the settlement with Eire. You have now a powerful and numerous group, not only in a few big cities but scattered all over the United States, prepared to step into that role in certain circumstances, which was so long filled by Irish-Americans. I believe that, as a result of the combined wisdom of the British and American Governments, we can presently find a just and equitable solution which satisfies the reasonable people on both sides of the Atlantic, both Jews and Gentiles. I rather think we have found it here.
I would venture to repeat that this can only be a beginning, although it is a small beginning. Fitteen per cent. Of the total territory of the country, or whatever is the area given over to Jewish administration, may seem very little. It is easy for eminent statesmen, like certain American Senators, to say it is only another ghetto, but ii is a beginning; and I can frankly see no alternative except more turmoil and distress in which much more may be lost than lives. I make what appeal I can to have this scheme looked at favourably and worked, if possible. I would quote the words of the leader of the Irish patriots of some generations ago, Parnell: "Who can set hounds to the march of a nation?" The Jews are a nation. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, referred to the destruction of the Zealots. The Zealots may have been misguided, but the Jews are still a power in the world, and where is the Roman Empire to-day? All nations 1207 which have ill-used the Jews have suffered, from Babylon to Spain and Germany and Fascist Italy; all have ended in their own ruin or discomfort. It is for those reasons that I hope we have found a solution which will enable us to escape from appearing in the rôle of oppressors of the Jews, and that we may once more return to the part which we formerly played as their friends and protectors.
§ 5.40 p.m.
My Lords, I shall ask for only a very few minutes of your Lordships' time this afternoon. I shall not rumble threats, I shall merely suggest something that seems to me to follow clearly from the speeches of the most reverend Primate, Viscount Samuel and many others. I must, of course, be careful not to disregard the caution of my noble Leader not to stray into history, but I think that anybody who knows the history of the last thirty years in Palestine will admit that a temperate-minded and reasonable Arab might easily feel that he had not been very justly treated by the world. I do not know if the deep and long experience of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack has shown him any formula which can mitigate a sense, a reasonable sense, of injustice in anybody. I think that the proposals of His Majesty's Government which have been laid before us to-day do deserve very temperate consideration by both parties in this unfortunate dispute, the more so because, as your Lordships will, I am sure, agree, we, in Britain, stand to lose more, unless we find a good settlement and a just settlement, than any other nation. I think, therefore, that if His Majesty's Government would themselves offer to open our doors in this country to a contingent of displaced Jews it would do more to show the Arab world that we are bearing our share of the burden than anything else that could be suggested. I know that the housing situation in this country is difficult, but the numbers involved are not so immense as all that. I believe that, as evidence of candour, such an action would do more to help to bring about the acceptance of these proposals than anything else that could be done.
§ 5.43 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, I apologize to your Lordships for taking any part, however brief, in a debate in your Lordships' House the earlier stages of which I did not hear. But I think your Lordships will forgive me, realizing that I was prevented from being here by business of your Lordships' House in another part. I wish to say very little now if only for the reason that none of us has really had the opportunity, as yet, to study the statement which has been made to-day. I have always found that not only are people eager to generalize, but, for some reason, those who wish to generalize appear to find peculiar satisfaction and peculiar facility in generalizing about Jews, as if all Jews thought, felt and acted to one pattern. I am not, to-night, going into such differences as exist between them in many fields. Certainly, Palestine is one of the matters on which it would be difficult to get any unanimous expression of opinion from them. There are many Jews who are not Zionists just as there are many Zionists who are not Jews.
To-night I say only this. I am, so far as I can see, the only person in this House at the moment who had the experience of being a member of the conference which met in London to discuss this Palestine question, under the Chairmanship of Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, in 1939. I entered that conference perhaps by a rather strange and devious back entry, not because I was a Zionist but because I was not a Zionist. I have always thought that my noble friend Viscount Bearsted and I were invited by Dr. Weizmann to participate for the reason that while we were not Zionists, at the same time it was thought that as we at least desired to help to a solution of this matter, not only in the interests of the Jews but in the interests of this country and of all the nations concerned as a whole, we might have some valuable part to play, and might even act as a very inadequate counterpoise, perhaps, to the Arab States which were represented.
Having had that experience, and having, in the course of that and other work, been in active contact in the past with some of the leaders of Zionism I want to say no more this afternoon than that I do hope with all my heart that neither the Zionist nor the Arab leaders in Palestine will rush at once into protestations 1209 from which they might afterwards find it difficult to recede. I trust that they will give the scheme which has been elaborated their serious and careful consideration before they make a pronouncement about it, and will do their level best to see whether it does not at least provide a basis on which valuable discussions may start, leading possibly in the course of time, and by the reestablishment of good will, to the restoration of peace and accord in that land of three faiths.
§ 5.47 p.m.
§ LORD ALTRINCHAM
My Lords, the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, appealed at the beginning of this debate with confidence to this House to address itself to the question before it with its usual sense of responsibility. I am sure he will agree that the House has not fallen below its own standards in the debate this afternoon. I should like to say, in particular, how proud we are that amongst our members we have the three Jewish Peers who have addressed the House this afternoon from the standpoint of their own people and also as Englishmen. The noble Marquess said rightly that it is a pity to generalize about Jews. But if we were to generalize in this House from our own acquaintance with them such generalizations would certainly be extremely favourable. The noble Marquess pleaded that there should be no hasty judgment passed on these proposals. Certainly, I am not going to attempt anything of that kind. One could not give anything but first impressions and such impressions may be corrected later.
Some comment, I think, is desirable if only to help forward the round-table conference which, I hope, is going to take place, and to assist in giving real substance to its deliberations. I am not going to dwell on the strategic aspect of these problems, though it is most important. I do not expect the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack, or any other noble Lord representing His Majesty's Government, to say anything on that subject this evening. But I should like to follow my noble leader Viscount Cranborne in emphasizing the immense importance of Haifa. It is not only practically the only harbour of any value on the whole eastern coast of Palestine, the Lebanon and Syria, but it is also the end 1210 of a pipeline. It is true that who holds Haifa holds Palestine, and I trust that it will be agreed that full recognition should be given to the importance of giving the Central Government, which is responsible for defence, complete control of Haifa and the area surrounding it.
At a first glance there are in the statement of the noble Viscount, the Leader of the House, many points on which we can congratulate the Government. It is only about six or seven months since the Foreign Secretary succeeded in achieving agreement with the United States Government to the appointment of an Anglo-American Committee. That in itself was a milestone in the history of Palestine, and I congratulate the Foreign Secretary and the Government on it. Six Americans, and six Britons were brought together to consider the facts upon the spot, and to give us their recommendations. And it is significant that, addressing themselves to the facts with complete impartiality, they arrived at unanimous recommendations. Criticisms can be made of the form in which some of those recommendations were expressed. One can point to gaps in the Committee's analysis of alternatives, but I agree with noble Lords who have preceded me that the work of this Committee was of the utmost value, and that, in spite of all the criticisms, the Report is a fair and impartial statement of the problem which confronts us in Palestine at the present time.
This afternoon we have gone a step further. What the noble Viscount called, I think, the expert delegation, have continued this agreement and they have largely accepted the principles laid down by the Anglo-American Committee. I welcome most warmly that further step in Anglo-American agreement, because I am convinced that we cannot reach a settlement in Palestine without Anglo-American co-operation. I regret, therefore, that in some Arab quarters there has been criticism of what is described as American interference. That seems to me both ill-advised and unrealistic. In its better and also its worse forms Zionism has depended very greatly all along on the moral and material support of the United States; and American influence will be indispensable if extreme Zionism is to be abated, and we are to have that general co-operation between the races for which everybody has pleaded 1211 this afternoon. I would say what practically all speakers have said, that some measure of co-operation between the races is now absolutely indispensable. I welcome the American agreement to these proposals, so far as it has gone, for the help which it gives in securing co-operation. I hope that before long the noble Viscount may be able to tell us that the American Government have approved the proposals of their own delegation as—I think he put it—a basis of discussion.
I also congratulate the Government whole-heartedly on acceptance of the principle, and on their determination to apply the principle, that the relief of Jewish suffering in Europe—and indeed of the suffering of all displaced persons—is a duty for all the civilized Powers, according to their capacity. I do not wonder at Arab indignation at the suggestion that the burden of western humanitarianism should be cast exclusively on one small Middle East country. That was the form which western humanitarianism was taking for quite a considerable period, and one can easily understand the anger which that aroused and the contempt which that brought upon us. The figures which the noble Viscount gave in his statement about refugees already accepted in this country and in the United States seemed to me to be very impressive. I am glad to know that in the United States, as well as here, everything is apparently to be done to make it possible for them to receive more displaced persons. I am glad, also, that there is a recommendation for the United Nations to make a reality of the work of the Refugee Committee. I am sure we can count on the nations of the Commonwealth to co-operate.
Then I am glad that the noble Viscount emphasized the fact that these proposals are only proposals; that they are merely a basis for discussion. We are not attempting to dictate to the people concerned; particularly we, as one great Power, and the United States, another great Power, are not attempting to dictate to the small peoples of the Middle East contrary to our own principle of having regard for the status of the smaller nations. Arabs in some quarters—I think so far only in Palestine—have said that they will not come into conference with the Jews, and that there is no reason why they should recognize the right of the 1212 Jews to share responsibility for the future of Palestine. I hope that extremism among some of the Palestinian Arabs will not be reflected in the Arab countries as a whole. After all, the Jewish population represents one third of the total population of Palestine settled by international guarantee; therefore for any race to say that they will not recognize the existence of this population, or to discuss with its representatives the future of that population, is not to behave as a responsible member of the United Nations. I am sure that Arab countries will realize that.
Nationalism is often a force beyond the reach of argument, but surely membership of the United Nations, of which all these peoples are now proud, does itself imply a willingness to transcend the narrow limitations of nationalism? The status of the small nations depends, and will depend in the world to come, almost entirely on the strength of the United Nations; and it is as well that they should remember that. If they are to draw anything from the United Nations, they must be prepared to put something into it. There is rather a tendency in regard to the United Nations to adopt a policy of all "Take" and no "Give." It will be true of the United Nations, as of every other human organization, that, on the whole, people will get from it what they put into it; and no more.
I do not know whether the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will be able to tell us what will happen if, against our hopes, this round-table conference is declined. I can see that that would be embarrassing to him, but I think I may say this about it. I presume—at least I hope—that even if that round-table conference fails, these proposals will be taken to the United Nations. I do not think they should be dropped merely because one particular process of discussion is not accepted. There must in due course be discussions by the United Nations. Approval by the United Nations to whatever is done is necessary under the Charter. I would much prefer that there should be preliminary discussions in a roundtable conference, but if for any reason they cannot be held, I hope we may count on the Government to take its proposals to the United Nations in September.
Finally, I welcome the fact that the proposals in principle accept the third and 1213 fourth recommendations of the Anglo-American Committee—which I think the noble Viscount read out in his opening statement—that Palestine shall be neither a Jewish Stale nor an Arab State and that neither community shall dominate the other. I am convinced that that is the only basis on which peace can be organized and assured in the Middle East. Whether the proposals, as they stand, are going to meet satisfactorily the gap left by the Anglo-American Committee it is impossible at the present moment to say. I think that they should be studied very largely on the basis of one criterion. The Peel Commission said that the greatest trouble in Palestine was that neither Arab nor Jew has any sense of service to a single State. If that sense of service to a single State is not built up in Palestine, there will be no co-operation and no peace in Palestine. The peoples there must begin to recognize some common loyalty. In one respect—I am only giving first impressions—I find the proposals equivocal. There is danger in equivocating upon such subjects as that of partition. I think that we should be perfectly clear what we mean about it.
In the past there has been too much political manipulation of this question. Attention has frequently been called by the noble Earl, Lord Perth, to the fact that between the two world wars the information, the advice and the judgment of men who knew the facts of the situation in Europe, were burked for political convenience. That was one reason why we entered the second world war, and, in particular, why we entered it unprepared. There is the same danger in Palestine. It is better not to burk the immense importance of this question of whether you mean to have one people in Palestine, a biracial community with a single Government, or whether you are going to try to escape from your responsibility under the Mandate by falling back on partition. That is the real issue. I rejoice that partition nominally is ruled out, because it seems to me that, under partition, a continued conflict and preparation for war would be quite inevitable.
A Jewish sovereign State would inherit all the organizations that at present exist in Palestinian Jewry. It would be a State organized and controlled as Palestine is now controlled under the Jewish agency. You cannot expect a State which starts with that kind of history behind it to be a 1214 State which is not going to have an intense —I might almost say a totalitarian—militaristic organization. Once they had been given complete sovereignty you would have no reason for quarrelling with the kind of organizations they chose to maintain. The proposals seem to imply that the Jews may be satisfied with the creation of a province which has no sovereign attributes, the life of which will very largely be dominated by a Central Government. They would be cut off from Jerusalem and from a very large part of Palestine.
I find it vary difficult to believe that even the more moderate Jews would accept any such solution except as a stage on their journey to We Promised Land. I do not for one moment believe that such a State, if accepted by the Jews, would be regarded as final. I am absolutely convinced that the Arabs would not regard it as such. They would say that here was a State endowed with sovereignty, endowed with money, capable of getting arms all over the world, controlled by men of very great ability, able to play its part in the difficulties arising between the Great Powers, and holding a critical strategic position in the hub of the strategic centre of the globe. They would ask how it could be imagined that such a State would not assume a militarist character. They would say it would at any rate keep its present militarist character and end up perhaps by embroiling the whole Middle East, with the Great Powers taking sides with one community or the other. That is the issue when you come to this question of partition, and I hope that we may believe that under these proposals partition is quite definitely set aside.
When I was in the Middle East I saw a lot of the Jewish community. I am sure that the great mass of the Jewish community in Palestine has a very special feeling for Jerusalem, just as has the Jewish community throughout the world. Zionism without Zion must be to the Jewish people dust and ashes. It is, after all, the seat of the great Hebrew University. It is the ancient fountainhead of their culture, and I do not believe that even the most moderate Jews would be willing to accept a solution which definitely cut them off from Jerusalem. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning." That idea, I think, is deep in the hearts 1215 of the Jewish people. The extreme expression of that feeling may be seen in the badge of the Irgun Zvai Leumi. It depicts a map of the Jewish Commonwealth and incidentally includes Transjordan, as well as Palestine. In the centre there is a hand grasping a rifle, and underneath is the motto, "Only thus!" That is the extreme expression of this Jewish feeling that they should inherit Palestine as a whole. The Jews may be able to inherit Palestine as a whole, but only in co-operation, in association, in partnership and in friendship with the Arab people. There is no other way. The alternative is war in the Middle East, a war in which the whole world would be embroiled. I hope that, after what the noble Viscount has said this afternoon, we may count on firm action to suppress the illegal armed organizations which are represented at the moment particularly by the Irgun Zvai Leumi.
The existence of these bodies is irreconcilable with any progress whatever in Palestine, and the inevitable outcome of their activities is the collapse of law and order and, ultimately, open warfare. I think the consciousness of that went right through the world when that explosion in the King David Hotel reverberated everywhere. I would mention, incidentally, that it is a reflection on our Colonial Government in Palestine that the headquarters of the Secretariat itself, and the headquarters of the Army, should have had to be housed in the two upper stories of an hotel. Think how many years have we been in Palestine. Opposite the King David Hotel is a magnificent building—the Jewish Agency—and our Secretariat, the headquarters of the Mandatory Government, is compelled to live in two stories of an hotel not built by its own enterprise, and to incur the great danger involved in using part of an hotel which, in its lower stories, was taking in ordinary guests and conducting its ordinary business. That seems to me a most indefensible state of affairs. I have called attention to it so often that I can hardly speak with patience on it. I hope that whatever happens in the future, attention will be given to the necessity for having a building for Government headquarters in Jerusalem. It is really a vital question. It applies also to the houses for the official population. It is a scandal that 1216 no building has ever been done to accommodate them properly.
I insist, therefore, that the first essential in Palestine is the elimination of local military organizations, and I am glad partition is ruled out because the elimination of these organizations would be impossible under partition. That elimination is necessary because the patience of our Services is now at breaking point, and the strain has become intolerable. The most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of York, spoke with great eloquence of recent experience on that point, and there was not one word that he said that was in any way exaggerated. The suppression of terror will be impossible unless all the armed forces are definitely under the control of the Central Government. I understand that to be in the proposal, but I hope the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack will be able to confirm that when he speaks later in the evening. I hope also—and I refer now to the statement which the noble Viscount made about the letter issued by the General Officer Commanding in Palestine—that there will be no hasty judgment upon that letter, and I am very glad indeed that the matter has been handed over to the proper military authorities and to Field-Marshal Montgomery. The Commanders in Palestine have a terrible task in dealing with treachery at the present moment, and we must remember, when we criticize Commanders, that the soldiers are very likely to take it as a slur upon themselves and to feel that they, also, are being unfairly criticized. We have no criticism whatever for our troops or for our Government services in Palestine. I did my utmost to pay a tribute to them in the debate held in your Lordships' House before Christmas, and I will not repeat what I then said; but there is no question that they have shown the most exemplary impartiality and patience in circumstances of the utmost difficulty. I am sure that the honour in which we, in this House hold the Fighting Services, and every Service alike, is absolutely wholehearted.
So much for the suppression of the armed organizations. I take that as the first essential, and I hope that it is a principle of the new proposals that the Central Government shall have complete control of all armed forces, including the 1217 police—in fact, final responsibility in every way for law and order. The second essential is, it seems to me, to ensure, if possible, that in this new Constitution everything is done to promote co-operation between the two communities. I say that for many reasons. In the first place, the viability of the Jewish Province must depend entirely upon co-operation. Take the ordinary mechanical difficulties of the kind of division which is proposed in Palestine, the minorities which must be left in the Jewish Province—a large minority—and the boundaries which must be made. Artificial frontiers, minorities, corridors, and all the guarantees they necessitate—these things are familiar in Europe and they have almost invariably produced trouble. I am sorry, indeed, that these proposals talk of provinces and not rather of a different form of local government—local government for the communities such as has often been recommended by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. I believe that would have been more promising. In any case, however, let us recognize that the Jewish Province cannot prosper without the collaboration of its neighbours. We must remember, too, when it comes to water supply and its development, whether for irrigation or for industrial power, when it comes to markets and when it comes to immigration, that everything will depend upon the friendship of its neighbours. The Jordan rises in Syria; the Litani, the only other source of water, is in the Lebanon. The markets, of course, are in the Arab countries, and this province, if it is to prosper, must depend upon the friendship of its Arab neighbours.
Now the Arabs have always resented the partition of historic Syria. That was one of their complaints against the French and British Mandates which were imposed upon them after the last war, and we must be careful not to multiply these terrible mechanical inconveniences which run absolutely counter to nature and the geographical facts in Palestine. This is my anxiety about the proposals. The whole life of the Jewish Province will depend upon questions of policy which are in the hands of the Central Government, and the more important questions affecting its life will be questions which are reserved to this Central Government. The Arab Province, on the other hand, will have no revenue to speak of except what 1218 is given it by the Central Government. Both these provinces, therefore, although they are to have independent Executives and Legislatures, will, in fact, be creatures of the Central Government. I really feel anxious about a system in which you are going to divert the best men, both amongst the Arabs and the Jews, to provincial government, to minor questions in which you are going to keep them in blinkers in the provinces instead of inviting them to come and take responsibility under the Central Government for the questions which are most vital to their own future. So far as I understand it, the Central Government is simply to be the old form of Colonial Government, an official executive, although some mention was made of inviting representatives of the two communities to become heads of departments later on. I am suspicious of that responsibility being left to the Colonial Government.
We have been carrying on the system of Colonial Government in Palestine far too long. I have been told for years that there were no Arabs fit to take responsibility in the Palestine Government, yet across Tansjordan you find that the last two Prime Ministers were Palestinians who left Palestine in order to show their capacity under another Government. Nobody can say the Jewish people in Palestine have not produced men of great ability who could have taken responsibility. These leaders have been frustrated. I am afraid the same thing may happen if, so far as responsibility is concerned, there is concentration solely upon the provinces, and responsible Arab and Jewish advisers are not brought into the Central Government.
The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, very rightly asked why we should do that in India and not do it in Palestine? Why should there be a different principle? I hope the Government will bear that in mind when they are considering the elaboration of the proposals. There is a bias, it seems to me, towards provincialism, and if the Central Government is not to be a zone of co-operation between the races, how are we to get co-operation in Palestine? Surely the Indian model that we have attempted to set up is much better. I appeal to the noble Lord the Secretary of State for India, who has done so much, to try and establish that common sense of responsibility at the centre. Finally, I would say: Why 1219 despair of co-operation? There has been a tendency to say (and in the statement itself there appeared to me to be this tendency) that you are not going to get Jews and Arabs to co-operate in a Central Government. I do not think the attempt has ever been made with adequate vigour. I hope it will not be neglected. After all, the breach between the two great sections of the Semetic race is a very recent one, and behind that recent breach they have many common memories. They have leaders who are conscious of that. I agree with what has been said about Dr. Weizmann, who is a great man, and also with what has been said about Dr. Magnes, the head of the Hebrew University.
Let the Jews remember not only what the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said, that the fanaticism of the Zealots ended the rule of the Sanhedrim in Jerusalem and led to the dispersion of the Jews, but also that the Jewish patriarchs flourished in Palestine for three and a half centuries under the Roman Emperor. And let the Arabs, on their side, remember that in the days of the early Caliphs of Baghdad the tolerance shown to the Jews was much greater. I was looking the other day at a history of the Arabs, and this was a description given of the status of the Exilarch, the head of the Jews in Baghdad:The 'Prince of Captivity'"—that is what he was called; that is a title that came down from the original captivity—seems to have lived in affluence and owned gardens, houses and rich plantations. On his way to an audience with the Caliph he appeared dressed in embroidered silk, wore a white turban gleaming with gems and was accompanied by a retinue of horsemen. Ahead of him marched a herald calling out: 'Make way before our lord, the son of David!'It is difficult to find a parallel for that respect for a leader of the Jews in medieval Europe. The tradition of tolerance in the Arab countries is really much greater than it has ever been in centres of European civilization. I hope, therefore, that we shall strive all we can for co-operation amongst the races. I think Disraeli was right when he said that the Arabs are the complement of the Jews, and the Jews are the complement of the 1220 Arabs, and together they gave us great things, prophets, kings and law-givers, when we were savages in our northern forests. In a flippant moment Disraeli remarks in Tancred:What are the Arabs? After all, they are only Jews on horseback, and there are more of them.Always he preached the closeness of those two great branches of the Semitic race. Divided, they must travail in hopeless conflict which will ultimately embroil the world; but if they will work together, then certainly they can ensure peace in the Middle East, they can ensure that the Middle East will not become a centre of intrigue between the great Powers, and they can, I believe, restore the ancient prosperity of the whole of Syria.
§ 6.27 p.m.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (LORD JOWITT)
My Lords, I do not intend to keep your Lordships more than a few minutes. I am conscious of the fact that the situation we are discussing is extremely delicate and I think your Lordships will, perhaps, forgive me if I do not answer the few specific questions that I have been asked. I feel that the speeches on the whole have given His Majesty's Government great support and have given us courage to go on to try and solve this almost insoluble problem. I will merely say this: so far as this country is concerned, so long as we remain the mandatory Power, it is our elementary duty to maintain law and order. If we do not maintain law and order we have no right to remain there at all. Secondly, so far as we are concerned, I should like to say this. Tributes have been paid, and very rightly paid, to our forces who have been working, as I know very well, under circumstances of almost unbearable strain. It is plain that we must all of us at the present time try to show ourselves as nonpartisan. We expect that from your Lordships' House, and we have received it. We expect it from our officers and men in Palestine from the General down to the private. They are there to carry out their orders and to enforce law and order, and beyond anything else they must give no one any excuse for thinking that they are partisan. Thirdly, I would say that in the task of maintaining law and order it is essential that the Government of any country should be able to rely upon the good will 1221 and the co-operation of the citizens in that country. At the present time we are not receiving that co-operation as we should. I earnestly hope that from now onwards, not looking back at the past and not considering the mistakes that have been made in the past, we shall be able to rely on the co-operation of all sections in Palestine to assist us in our task of maintaining law and order and preventing murderous outrages such as we have had in the last few days. The eloquent words of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, and the noble Lord, Lord Rothschild, will, I hope, have some effect.
I would appeal to the Zionists who are strong and have great influence both in America and in this country, to help us, to build up this scheme into something good. It is easy to shout with the crowd and to run with the majority. I firmly believe that what is needed at the present time is moral courage, and I pray that the leaders of the Zionist movement in this country, in the United States of America and in Palestine will show that moral courage at the present time. So far as I am concerned I do not pretend that I have not taken a line against the 1939 White Paper. When the Labour Party moved a vote against the White Paper, it fell to my lot, in the early days of the war"—I think it must have been October or November of 1939"—to say that I thought then, as I believe now, that the Whit, Paper was not consistent with the carrying out of the Mandate. It is no good going back to those matters now. For better or for worse, that was done. I can understand the Jewish attitude only too well. I know that they thought that Arab violence had paid and that the Arabs had been appeased; and I know that they thought that the time had come for them to be violent in order that someone might appease them. That is a false doctrine, and I earnestly hope that in the future it will be eschewed.
As I appeal to the Jews, so I appeal to the Arabs. During the meetings of the United Nations Organization over here, I got to know"—perhaps no one more intimately"—the Arabs. I was privileged to have their friendship and I understand their point of view. Statesmanship and moral courage are needed there. It is easy to shout with the majority, but it will require 1222 courage to stand up and support this new conception for Palestine.
Your Lordships will not, I know, think me discourteous if I say no more. There is much at stake here—the attitude of the American people, depending, as it no doubt does, on the attitude which the Zionists here and there are going to take up; the attitude of the people in Palestine; the attitude of the Arabs, and the attitude of the adjoining Arab States. This, at any rate, does offer the hope of something better in the future. If we reject this, then there is nothing that I can see but chaos and war. I pray that Palestine may get back to a peaceful condition again, and that those restraints which are necessary in, and indeed inseparable from, a state of war"—restraints which we had to have here when this country was at war"—may be abolished by the simple fact that Palestine once more becomes at peace.
§ 6.34 p.m.
My Lords, we have, I think, had a debate this afternoon which has maintained that high level which is always in evidence here when great matters are under discussion. The debate has ended with the powerful and moving appeal from the noble and learned Lord, the Lord Chancellor, which we have just heard. I certainly could not hope to add to or improve upon what he has said; I agree with every word of it, and I hope that it will be re-echoed outside this House. I wish the Government the best of luck in their negotiations, and I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.