HL Deb 07 April 1948 vol 154 cc1198-242

4.49 p.m.

Order of the Day for the Second Reading read.


My Lords, I have it in command to acquaint the House that His Majesty, having been informed of the contents of this Bill, is prepared to place his Prerogatives and interests, so far as concerns the matters dealt with by the Bill, at the disposal of Parliament.

Before I proceed to the Bill, your Lordships will expect me to say a few words about the brutal murder of some of our soldiers yesterday by Jewish terrorists. So far I have received only preliminary reports of this incident. Early yesterday morning, a party of armed Jews forced their way into a military camp at Pardess Hanna, and shot indiscriminately at British soldiers. The commanding officer and six British other ranks were killed. A number were wounded. The attackers made good their escape, but four persons who are believed to have taken part in the attack were later arrested near another military camp.

This senseless crime adds yet another tragedy to the long list of outrages perpetrated against our troops and police in Palestine over the last few years by members of the Jewish community. The blight of terrorism spreads like a slow stain over the Jewish people in Palestine, and it is a sorry commentary on their claims to statehood that this menace should still stalk unchecked through the land. The bullet and the bomb are not the insignia of statehood. Protestations of condemnation by the leaders of the Jewish people are not enough. This monster of violence has been nurtured by Jewish refusal to recognise it as an evil and to co-operate with the British authorities to eradicate it from their midst. We have done our utmost to eliminate terrorism. But without co-operation from the people by whose complacency it has been fostered, success is impossible. This drain on British life is now being closed as quickly as we can. Meanwhile we shall pursue the assassins, and do our utmost to bring them to justice. I am sure your Lordships will wish me to express the sympathy of this House for the bereaved, and to offer them our tribute to the brave men who have given their lives in their country's service.

My Lords, this Bill is designed to give effect to the decision of His Majesty's Government to relinquish the Mandate for Palestine, and to provide for certain consequential matters arising out of that decision. Your Lordships will recall that in the forefront of the unanimous recommendations of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine was one that the Mandate for Palestine should be terminated at the earliest practicable date. When those recommendations were considered by the General Assembly of the United Nations the Secretary of State for the Colonies stated that this recommendation was endorsed without reservation. In order that there might be no misunderstanding of the attitude and policy of His Majesty's Government, he announced that they had decided that in the absence of a settlement they must plan for the early withdrawal of British Forces and of the British Administration from Palestine. We subsequently stated that the date we had in mind for the termination of the Mandate was May 15 of this year, and that it was our intention to withdraw all British troops from Palestine by, at the latest, August 1, 1948. It is provided in Clause I of the Bill that on May 15, or such earlier date as His Majesty may by Order in Council declare to be the date on which the Mandate will be relinquished, all jurisdiction of His Majesty in Palestine shall determine, and His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom shall cease to be responsible for the government of Palestine.

It has been argued in another place that the Bill ought to transfer His Majesty's jurisdiction to the Commission appointed by the General Assembly of the United Nations to implement the plan of partition with Economic Union which was adopted by the resolution of the Assembly of November 29, 1947. That is not possible for two reasons. First, we do not know that the Commission will in fact endeavour to take over authority there. Secondly, an Act of the United Kingdom Parliament cannot vest jurisdiction in some other international authority—it cannot establish any other authority as its successor in Palestine. It is indeed obvious that Parliament here cannot legislate for a country that will not be subject to the sovereignty of the Crown. That is a matter which lies in the international field. This Bill can only bring His Majesty's jurisdiction in Palestine to an end and thus leave the way clear for the establishment of any successor Government or Governments which can effectively exercise authority in the country.

Even now it is not certain that the United Nations Commission will in fact be able to carry forward the task assigned to them by the General Assembly. It is within your Lordships' knowledge that the Commission, on examining the problem which faced them, have reported to the Security Council that the difficulties caused by the worsening situation in Palestine, and the reactions of the Arab world to the decision of the United Nations to partition the country, have made it evident that without the backing of a strong international security force the Commission would not be able to carry out their task. After careful consideration of this report, the Security Council have resolved that, owing to the increasing violence and disorder in Palestine, it is of the utmost urgency that there should be an immediate truce between the conflicting communities. The Council have also decided, in view of the reports of the Palestine Commission, and the subsequent consultations which have taken place between the permanent members of the Council, to request the Secretary-General to call together a special session of the General Assembly to consider further the question of the future government of Palestine.

At the recent meeting of the Security Council at which these decisions were taken, our representative supported the idea of a truce, recalling that His Majesty's Government had always favoured the adoption of all possible measures to bring disorder to an end and establish better relations between the two communities in Palestine. He made it clear that in supporting the idea of a truce His Majesty's Government adhered firmly to the decision for the termination of the Mandate and final withdrawal of British troops, and that there could be no question of our retaining any responsibility for civil administration in Palestine after May 15, even in order to see that a truce was observed. Our representative also voted in favour of a further special session of the General Assembly. He pointed out that, in voting in this way, His Majesty's Government were not departing from the neutral position they had hitherto taken up and were not passing any judgment on the solution which the Assembly originally worked out. In view, however, of the intense disturbances that had arisen in Palestine, and of the apparent desire of the Security Council that the Assembly should be given an opportunity to review their decision in the light of subsequent events, His Majesty's Government had decided to vote in favour of giving the Assembly this chance to think again. The special session is due to meet in about one week's time, and I cannot forecast what may be the outcome of these further deliberations.

It is not even now clear in what way the Palestine Commission propose to interpret the task assigned to them, pending the outcome of the special session. One thing remains definite and unaltered: that is the fixed determination of His Majesty's Government to terminate the Mandate for Palestine at the latest on the 15th day of May, and to withdraw their troops at the latest by the 1st day of August. Nothing which has happened or can happen at Lake Success will modify this time-table. I am sure it is in accordance with the wish of this country and of the House that we free ourselves at the earliest possible moment from this commitment, which has caused heavy casualties through the years on many British soldiers and police, and a drain on our resources which can no longer be allowed to continue. We have again and again made it clear that British Forces cannot be used to impose on the people of Palestine a settlement of their differences which lacks the essential ingredient of mutual consent.

In the discussions which are now proceeding in New York preliminary to the special session of the Assembly, our representative has been instructed to make it clear that British troops will not be available after May 15 to support any policy upon which the agreement of both Arabs and Jews has not been obtained. We have given of our best to Palestine and it has brought us little reward. Our Mandate has proved a thankless and ultimately an impracticable responsibility. In the nature of things, neither Jews nor Arabs have been satisfied that their rights and claims have been fully acknowledged by the Mandatory Power. They have not felt able to take genuine responsibility for administration, or to acknowledge their differences and find mutual accommodation. No one can expect us to carry this burden indefinitely, and we have given ample warning of the circumstances in which we propose to relinquish it.

It is with no light heart however, that we see this chapter in the history of our association with Palestine drawing to a close. The storm clouds are gathering, and nowhere do we see that spirit of conciliation and compromise without which a peaceful future for Palestine seems impossible. Supported by sympathy and encouragement from the neighbouring Arab States, bands of armed Arabs have infiltrated over the frontiers of Palestine and have established themselves in the tangled hill-country, whence they descend to attack Jewish settlements and communications. Wherever possible, these bands have been intercepted by our security Forces, and either prevented from entering the country or driven back across the frontiers. Owing to the nature of the frontiers, however, it is not always possible to ensure continuous supervision by day and night, and many groups have escaped the vigilance of our patrols.

These forces, which style themselves units of the Arab Liberation Army, are dispersed among the villages of Northern Galilee and Samaria, with smaller concentrations in other purely Arab sections of the country. A conservative estimate of their total numbers is 6,000 men. The principal object of their operations appears to be to interfere with communications between the main zone of Jewish settlement on the coastal plain and the more isolated Jewish communities in the interior, particularly in Jerusalem. We have protested to the Arab Governments that they should not permit the incursion of such bands from their territories, and have urged them to take all possible steps to prevent further incursions. Our representatives with the States members of the Arab League have recently been instructed to reiterate to the Governments to which they are accredited the view of His Majesty's Government that the establishment on Palestine territory of irregular military formations recruited in Arab States is a major factor contributing to the ever-increasing danger of a large-scale outbreak of violence in that country. In bringing this danger to the attention of the Arab Governments we have expressed the earnest hope that they will take effective steps to prevent further violations of the frontier of Palestine and to restrain irregular forces already established in that country.

Meanwhile the Jews of Palestine have been clamouring for permission to import further quantities of arms, although in the past the Mandatory Power has never found the Jewish illegal armies lacking in weapons of war. We are convinced that it cannot be conducive to peace in Palestine to allow the importation of arms by either community, and so long as the Mandate continues we propose to maintain our impartial embargo on the importation of such supplies. The increasing turbulence in the country, and the appalling readiness with which each side resorts to force at the smallest provocation, has not only rendered more difficult and costly the task of our troops and administration in withdrawing from the country, but has led many of us to entertain grave fears lest chaos and bloodshed should be our successors. In this connection we are particularly anxious about the situation in Jerusalem. Since we referred the problem of Palestine to the United Nations, we have again and again drawn the attention of that organisation to the supreme importance in the eyes of the three great faiths of the Holy Places in Jerusalem, and have urged that satisfactory arrangements for the safeguarding of the City must be an essential feature of any plan for the future government of Palestine. Our representative on the Trusteeship Council has placed at the disposal of the Council all available information derived from our long experience, and has lent every assistance in the task assigned to the Council by the General Assembly of working out an international Statute for the City. The Council have now finished their work on the Statute, which they regard as being in a satisfactory form, but in spite of the strong objections lodged by our representative they have decided to defer final approval of the Statute, and the appointment of a Governor, to a further meeting towards the end of April.

The proposal for an international régime in Jerusalem forms part of the Plan for Palestine approved by the General Assembly in November last, and the implementation of the Plan as a whole is the responsibility of the United Nations Commission. In considering this aspect of their task, the Commission have pointed out to the Security Council that the City, with its mixed population, cannot be in peace if there is no peace between the two main communities. There are approximately 100,000 Jews and more than 105,000 Arabs resident in the area designated by the General Assembly as that for which an international régime is to be established. The City constitutes an island in territory which is almost exclusively Arab, and it depends for its essential supplies and communication with the outside world on the good will of its neighbours. Its water supply, its electricity supply and its food supply are at the mercy of any hostile force which may invest the City.

The Jewish community in Jerusalem depend for their food on supplies brought to them by road from the main Jewish area in the coastal plain, and the authorities in Palestine are at the moment much concerned to devise some means whereby Jewish food convoys making for Jerusalem can be protected against ambushes by Arab bands. Negotiations with the Jews have been undertaken by the military authorities in the hope that some mutually acceptable arrangement can be made for the safeguarding of essential convoys. Similarly, the economy and finances of the City depend on the general economy of Palestine. Without peace in Palestine as a whole there are, therefore, grave dangers facing Jerusalem, dangers which might be mitigated if international authority could be effectively established there to keep the peace between the communities. The Government of Palestine have been working unremittingly for months to gain the consent of religious and political leaders of all Parties to a holy truce within the City. They have also taken steps to form a municipal police force of 600 men, half Arab and half Jew, to be left behind on our departure to protect life and property in the quarters of their respective communities.

The task of providing a special police force to keep the peace between these communities rests with the United Nations, and we have stated that no obstacle will be placed in the way of any members of the British section of the Palestine Police Force volunteering on the termination of their present contracts for service with an international force. As I have said, it is by no means clear at the moment how the Palestine Commission will interpret its functions now that a further special session of the General Assembly is contemplated. We have heard that the Commission intend to create a special interim police force for Jerusalem to operate from May 15, until other arrangements are made by the United Nations. That is the latest information available. This emergency force, it is hoped, will be formed and paid for by the United Nations. It is not the force which the resolution of November 29 contemplated would be raised by the Governor of Jerusalem. Nevertheless, if it can be raised, it will be a substantial neutral force, and we certainly wish the Commission well in any efforts they may undertake to preserve peace in Jerusalem, and we shall afford as great a degree of co-operation as we can.

We are particularly concerned about the dangers to the fabric of the Christian Holy Places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. This danger arises not from the risk of any direct attack on the sacred buildings themselves, but rather from the fact that they are situated in what may well become a battle area, where they may suffer damage incidental to the main conflict. It is our sincere hope that this conflict will not develop. The safety of the Holy Places depends on peace in Jerusalem, and this in turn depends on peace in Palestine. The best hope of their preservation lies in pressure from the conscience of the world at the United Nations which is now, as an organisation, responsible for the future of Palestine, and also on the warring peoples of Palestine itself, between whom some accommodation must be reached if tranquility is to be restored in the Holy Land.

I now turn from the main provision of the Bill to consider those consequential provisions which necessarily flow from the surrender of His Majesty's jurisdiction in Palestine. From this it follows that proceedings before the Privy Council must abate. That is provided for in Clause 2 (1). It seems likely that all pending cases from Palestine, lodged with the Judicial Committee before the introduction of this Bill, will be disposed of by May 15. In this same clause, Clause 2, we provide for an indemnity conferring immunity from action in British courts in respect of acts done by our Forces in Palestine in good faith and in the execution of their duty for the protection and withdrawal from Palestine of His Majesty's Forces or stores or other property. Acts which they may do similarly for the protection in Palestine of the life or property of British subjects will also be covered by this immunity. The position of our Forces still in Palestine after the termination of the Mandate will be that of armed forces in a foreign territory. We have not much doubt that tinder international law they will be entitled to protect themselves and exercise such powers as may be required to secure their own withdrawal. We have thought it right, however, to give them the support and encouragement of knowing that they need not hesitate, through fear of proceedings, to do any acts which they conceive to be their duty, and which they do in good faith.

Similarly, immunity has been conferred on the Civil Government in respect of acts done for peace, order and good government in Palestine before the appointed day, or for the purpose of, or in connection with, the termination of His Majesty's jurisdiction. This does not imply that the Civil Government intend in any way to act illegally. In the closing stages of the Mandate, in the increasingly disturbed state of the country and in circumstances and amid difficulties which cannot be foreseen, it may not be possible for the servants of the Palestine Government to complete all their duties as though they were conducting a normal administration in a peaceful country.

The enactments repealed by Clause 3 (1) of the Bill authorise the raising of loans by the Palestine Government and their guarantee by the Treasury. There is only one outstanding loan, the 3 per cent. Guaranteed Loan, raised under the Finance Act, 1934, which was guaranteed as to principal and interest by the Treasury. This guarantee continues, but it is our intention to make arrangements with the successor authorities in Palestine to assume continuing responsibility for this loan. Clause 3 (2) deals with the future application of Acts of Parliament to Palestine. These Acts will, after May 15, cease to apply to Palestine so far as the law of the United Kingdom is concerned, but they are left to continue in force as part of the domestic law of Palestine unless and until they are altered by the successor authorities. These authorities will thus inherit as a working basis an existing body of law which, in its validity in Palestine, is in no way affected by this Bill.

Clause 3 (3) and the Second Schedule contain certain transitional provisions relating to Acts which will cease to extend to Palestine as part of the law of the United Kingdom under the preceding sub-section. For example, persons who have obtained judgments in the Palestine courts before May 15 will be able to register them in the High Court here if they wish to enforce them in the United Kingdom. We have also provided for the modification of the Colonial Prisoners Removal Act, 1884, so as to authorise the detention in the United Kingdom after May 15 of convicted prisoners removed from Palestine before that day. It is our intention to remove to the United Kingdom (as we have done in the past) any British subjects domiciled here who have substantial terms of imprisonment to serve. Whether we shall remove other prisoners must depend in the first instance on what arrangements can be made for their continued detention in Palestine after that day. We had hoped in our discussions with the United Nations Commission to reach some acceptable arrangement with them on this matter. That may not be possible, but I am unable to say more on the subject at the moment.

Clause 3 (4) enables Orders in Council to be made dealing with transitional matters arising from the termination of the Mandate, some of which, of course, we cannot at the moment foresee. Paragraph (a) will enable us to transfer to appropriate authorities here the liquid assets of the Palestine Government to enable us to meet obligations remaining undischarged on May 15. We shall also be able to transfer here funds ear-marked for special purposes in respect of which we have responsibilities—for example, liquid German enemy assets in the hands of the Palestine Custodian of Enemy Property; and a fund established to provide special compensation for officials killed or injured by terrorist activities. Paragraph (b) of Clause 3 (4) enables us to adapt the Acts relating to superannuation so as to avoid any break in the service of officers of the Palestine Government which would otherwise be caused by that Government coming to an end. Under Clause 4 of the Bill Orders in Council are subject to annulment by resolution of either House of Parliament, in the ordinary way. I submit this Bill to your Lordships and I commend it to you because it is, I think, the logical fulfilment of the policy which has already received the approval of your Lordships' House. I beg to move.

Moved, That this Bill be now read 2a.—(The Earl of Listowel.)

5.16 p.m.


My Lords, before proceeding to the main subject of the debate, I should like most sincerely to associate those of us who sit on these Benches with what was said by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, in regard to the shocking outrage announced in the Press this morning. The brutality and irresponsibility of this outrage is on a par with others which have been inflicted on British Forces doing what is, after all, an international duty. I hope that all possible steps will be taken to apprehend and punish the criminals. I hope, too, that the responsible leaders of the Jewish community in Palestine will both assist the authorities in this object and express wholeheartedly their detestation of this last example of the policy of violence which, if only they would realise it, is alienating sympathy with their cause throughout the civilised world. I would also like, if I may, to express our very real and deep sympathy with the relatives of those who have suffered in this shocking event.

May I now pass to Palestine and the Bill? To-day must have meant an exhausting Parliamentary experience for the noble Earl. He has already made three full speeches and, I am afraid, is threatened with one more. We ought to be very grateful to him for the full and lucid exposition he has given, both of the short but extremely complicated measure which we are now discussing and also of the general situation in Palestine. I must confess that the story he told us was even darker and more alarming than I had anticipated. I am afraid that I have little that is new to add to what has already been said, either with regard to the unhappy position which has led to the introduction of this Bill or to the Bill itself. It was only a few weeks ago that we in your Lordships' House had a full discussion on Palestine, and I have no doubt this afternoon that much will be said by others well qualified to speak.

I feel, personally, that there has never been a sorrier page in recent history than the story of Palestine during the last thirty years—a story which started with such high hopes but which up to now has resulted only in bitterness and bloodshed. I cannot imagine a more melancholy monument to the fallibility of human endeavours. From the start, right away back at the end of the last war, it was clear that the earliest years of the Zionist experiment were bound to be turbulent and troublesome. In a small country such as that, the superimposition on the existing inhabitants of an entirely new population, with different traditions and different standards of life, was bound to be a difficult and delicate operation. But it was hoped that under the guidance of a Mandatory Power—an independent and unbiased Power—the two communities, Arabs and Jews, with good sense would gradually weld themselves into a single unity. As your Lordships know, it was with that aim, and that aim alone, that Great Britain accepted the Mandate.

We had no personal interest in Palestine, except, of course, a general interest in the peace and prosperity of the Middle East. We undertook the extremely invidious task from quite disinterested motives, and we carried it out to the best of our ability for nearly thirty years. I think we may fairly claim that we achieved very considerable success. Under our temporary administration—and it was known from the first to be merely temporary—the country flourished. The Jewish community established themselves in Palestine, and by their energy and enterprise increased the wealth of the country. The Arabs also flowed in and shared in that prosperity. The mandatory Power carried on the administration of the country in accordance with the Mandate with fairness between the two communities. No doubt mistakes were made—mistakes are always made—but, broadly speaking, law and order were equally maintained, and the conditions for the success of this great experiment appeared to have been established.

But that happy situation depended upon two considerations: either the two communities had to blend themselves into one single unity—which is what was hoped—or the Mandatory had to remain and maintain the balance between the two. Unfortunately, this essential fact was not recognised by the leaders of either the Arabs or the Jews, or, what was even more important, by their backers in foreign lands. The Jews thought they could do without the Arabs; the Arabs thought they could do without the Jews; and both of them thought they could do without the Mandatory. In this last opinion they were supported by propagandist groups in other countries, who, in turn, influenced their own Governments to bring pressure on the Mandatory, first in one direction and then in the other. So the moral backing of the world, which was essential if the Mandatory was to be able to carry out its task effectively, was withdrawn. The Palestine Administration, as I know very well from the time I spent in the Colonial Office during the war, was under constant attack by the supporters of both sides, both inside and outside Palestine. In its desperate efforts to resist this pressure, it gave the impression inevitably to each party that it was favouring its opponent, whereas, as a matter of fact, it was merely attempting, with considerable success, to maintain a central, unbiased position. However that might be, eventually it became evident that that situation could not continue; the burden on the Mandatory was too great.

As I see it, two alternatives remained. Either world opinion—and especially opinion in the United States—must face up to facts and give moral, and possibly physical, support to the Mandatory in maintaining the law and order on which the Zionist experiment depended, or the Mandatory must hand back its responsibility to those who conferred it and leave it to them, if they could, to devise a better plan. If we on this side of the House have a complaint against His Majesty's Government over Palestine, it is that in the years immediately following the war they did not appear to recognise this fact and either attempt to enforce an effective policy, or, if they found the difficulties of the Mandate too great—as they might well have done—immediately take steps at that time to renounce the Mandate before the situation got entirely out of hand. They still continued (I am not blaming them for it; it was a well-intentioned effort) to strive for a solution agreeable to both Jews and Arabs, when it ought to have been abundantly clear to them that such a solution was no longer possible.

So, when they eventually decided to renounce the Mandate, the bitterness was so great, and the passions in the country so inflamed, that it was impossible for bloodshed to be avoided. I cannot help but feel that the appalling situation which has been disclosed by the noble Earl's speech to-day might conceivably have been avoided if it had been possible for His Majesty's Government to act earlier and with rather more resolution. But having said that, we on this side of the House have no quarrel with their final decision to renounce the Mandate, and to hand back a problem which I agree with them is too great for any single nation, and leave it to be dealt with on an international plane. I do not think the Government have any alternative but to do what they are doing now. Therefore, it is not our intention to oppose this Bill, with the main purpose of which we are in full agreement.

So far as the details are concerned, these are largely legal, and I expect there are others more competent than I to deal with them. There is a point—a very difficult point, as I understand it—about the future nationality of the people of Palestine. I understand it is the view of the legal advisers to the Crown that these people have never been British subjects; they have merely enjoyed the protection which is given to people living in an area where we are temporarily in charge of the administration. Now that, on May 15, we are divesting ourselves of responsibility for this administration, I gather that the legal position is that they revert to their original nationality—the nationality, I suppose, of their birth—until some new State or new States are set up of which they can become citizens. I understand that to be the position. It seems to me to be a queer one. So far as I know, there are considerable numbers of these people who had no previous nationality, and are what are called "Stateless persons." I do not know whether they revert to being Stateless persons when we leave Palestine. Perhaps the noble Earl can inform me on that matter. What I think is clear—and here I am in complete agreement with His Majesty's Government—is that we cannot continue to be responsible for their protection when we no longer have any special connection with the country.

There is then the question of the general act of indemnity for acts of our soldiers and officials during the interim period between the surrender of the Mandate and our departure from the country. I think that is the period covered by the indemnity. That is undoubtedly an extremely strong measure, which probably would not be thought justifiable in normal conditions, but in the exceptional circumstances of the case I am bound to say I think it is absolutely right. If I may go a little way back into the past, I remember a story that was told me about my grandfather when he was Foreign Secretary. In his day difficulties arose in a remote quarter of the world where we had administrative responsibility, and those difficulties involved the possible use of force. The young officer in charge—apparently he was quite a young junior officer—faced with appalling decisions, telegraphed back asking for instructions, and received a reply from the Foreign Secretary: "Do as you think best. You will be supported." That seems to me rather a similar situation to that with which our troops and officials are likely to be faced in Palestine. It is to be noted that the Government of that day took exactly the same view as the one incorporated by the present Government in this Bill.

Another point is about the incorporation of the date of the termination of the Mandate in the Bill. That was not in the Bill as it originally appeared before another place. I must confess I am very glad it has been included. I think it is important, so that there shall be no doubt in any quarter as to the possibility of our weakening on our decision. If we were to give that impression we should do a great deal more harm than good.

I would like now for a few moments (I am going to speak only briefly to-day) to advert to the future. Though, as I have said, I think the Government are entirely right to terminate the Mandate, and to terminate it at a fixed date, I must confess that I am a little shocked by their apparently frantic desire to underline the fact that they are washing their hands entirely of the whole business. No doubt this altitude (though I am sure this is not their intention) will be extremely popular with wide sections of the electorate of this country. The British people are, if I may use a colloquialism, "fed up" with Palestine, and they want to hear no more about it and to have no more to do with it. But we, who are responsible people in Parliament, must recognise that we remain members, of the United Nations, and we cannot entirely divest ourselves or absolve ourselves from the responsibilities which such membership involves. We shall, of course, no longer have any special responsibility to the country. We are giving up our Mandate; we are disposing of that responsibility. But we shall continue to have the same responsibility as other members of the United Nations. Moreover, it is in the interest of general peace—which is, after all, the supreme British interest—that chaos should be avoided in that country. A civil war in Palestine might easily flare up into some thing very much wider. Wars in modern days have a habit of spreading rather like a forest fire, which quickly involves areas a long way from the original source of the conflagration.

Finally, there is the question of the protection of Jerusalem and the Holy Places, which must be of vital interest to all Christian peoples. I deeply deplored hearing from the noble Earl that the United Nations had decided still further to defer the appointment of a Governor. I gather that last-minute attempts are being made to recruit an international police force for the defence of the City, but how this defence force is to be operated before May 15 it is difficult to discover. I am afraid that the outlook in that respect is formidable. I do not suggest with regard to this question, or any other question, that we should do more than any other country; but, as I say, we, as a member of the United Nations, cannot divest ourselves of all interest in the matter. I hope that the Government will make this clear, and publicly clear. I should have thought this was a matter where Governments should not follow public opinion but should lead it; because this is far too vital and too important a matter for us to act in any irresponsible manner.

What is the immediate future of this distracted country? I suppose no one could actually say. The position is extremely obscure. As I understand it, partition for the immediate future is now dead, since it would have needed enforcement, and the Security Council have found themselves unwilling to take the necessary measures to enforce it. As a result, the United Nations have no longer any scheme for Palestine, and have been driven back upon the expedient of calling on Jews and Arabs to agree to a truce. That is really all that is left to the United Nations at the moment. In the meantime, I gather, it is proposed by the United States that the country should be put under International Trusteeship, under the direct administration of a Trusteeship Council, through a Governor assisted by an International Police Force.

What does that in fact mean? It means the renewal of the Mandate in a new form. It is a renewal of just that form of government whish the protagonists on both sides have worked so hard to destroy. That, surely, is a melancholy commentary on the actions of those irresponsible people in the United States and elsewhere who made our own administration impossible when it was doing an admirable job. One can only pray that in the light of the appalling events of the past few months the appeal for a truce will fall on more fruitful ground than it did when it was made in the past. For what is the alternative? It is purely and simply chaos. There is no other alternative. It is extremely improbable that the Jews could impose their will upon the Arabs. It is equally improbable that the Arabs could impose their will upon the Jews. But what either can probably do is to make organised government by the other impossible. If that were to happen no one would benefit. The whole Zionist experiment—which has brought such prosperity to the country—would go down in smoke and ruin; and the Arabs, who have also benefited by that prosperity, would suffer equally.

If ever there were a case when not fanaticism but hard common sense is necessary, it is now. We have failed, and we must confess our failure. Yet I personally feel that it is a failure of which we have no cause to be ashamed. It is now for the leaders of the Jews and Arabs to show that spirit of statesmanship which, up to now, has been so conspicuously lacking; and it is for their backers in other lands to counsel moderation where hitherto they have counselled violence. Only in this way, as I see it, can this problem—which has so great potentialities for good or evil to the whole world—be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. The proposed truce at any rate gives the chance of a breathing space, if it does no more; we can only pray that the leaders of the two sides will seize it. Our task as Mandatory is ended. We have handed back, and this Bill is designed to take the necessary statutory measures to give effect to that decision. As such, though we may have something to say of the details on the Committee stage, it receives our general support to-night.

5.36 p.m.


My Lords, this Bill is of a juridical nature; its clauses are legal provisions designed to cover evacuation from Palestine. We on these Benches regard the Bill as necessary for its purpose and support it on Second Reading. If there are any matters of detail to be discussed we will leave them for the Committee stage. As the interesting speech from the noble Marquess who leads the Opposition indicates, our minds this afternoon are not so much upon the actual provisions of the Bill, as upon the situation out of which the Bill arises. We still ask ourselves whether there may not be some way out from the present impasse and, if so, what that way can be.

Having myself a very special experience of the problem of Palestine, and having kept in close touch with movements there since I ceased to be High Commissioner about twenty years ago, I would venture to-day, at this moment of crisis, to lay before your Lordships, in brief outline, some concrete proposals. They are, I think, of a character that both sides, if they wished for peace, could accept without dishonour. The last debate in this House was held at a time when we were awaiting action by the United Nations. Since then it must be confessed that the proceedings at Lake Success have been marked by vacillation and failure. We have had an almost exact repetition of the course of events of ten years ago, when the Royal Commission, under the Chairmanship of the late Lord Peel, in despair of any alternative, advocated partition. Some of us in this House and elsewhere opposed that proposal and declared that it was impracticable. The Government of that day proceeded. They appointed an expert Committee, the Woodhead Committee, to go to Palestine to draw the lines of the frontiers between the two States. That Committee reported that they found it impossible to draw any lines which would be workable, and the plan was dropped.

Now the special Committee of the United Nations, for the same reason, has adopted another plan—the same in principle, but with the boundaries drawn in different places. They have appointed a Commission to put it into effect, and the Commission have reported that they found their task an impossible one. Both these plans, to my mind, are marked by the same fundamental error of principle. Palestine, by its racial, economic, religious and cultural conditions, does not allow itself to follow any geographical pattern. It has its own pattern, which cannot be made to coincide with any division into areas. Nevertheless, all the plans recently put forward, except one, have proceeded along the same lines. We are so familiar in Europe and America with constituencies and boundaries and democratically elected assemblies, majority Governments and minorities acquiescing, that we cannot realise that there are countries where this system simply does not work and cannot be applied. Nevertheless, as I say, every one of the schemes put forward has been upon those lines. We have had what is called the Morrison Plan of 1946, which suggested divisions into provinces—an Arab province and a Jewish province, each with its elected Legislature and its Executive. That plan also provided for a British Trusteeship for Jerusalem and certain other areas.

In the following year, 1947, we had the Bevin Plan. The scheme then was to divide up the country into cantons according to the character of the populations. Those cantons, after a period of four years, were to elect a Constituent Assembly. In August, 1947, the United Nations Committee proposed by a majority a Plan which was endorsed by the Assembly, and this Plan has been under active consideration with a view to adoption. It proposes two States, with an enclave under Trusteeship, all the three together to form a special organisation to preserve the economic unity of the country—the map itself of Palestine looking more like a patchwork quilt than anything else. A Minority Report proposes two States with frontiers which could be federated together for common action for certain purposes.

But to my mind all these plans are mistaken. They are all, in essence, geographical. The plan which I myself have advocated for many years—which has received support from Dr. Magnes, President of the Hebrew University at Jerusalem, and some support from many of the most sober and wise elements in the country—rests upon an entirely different principle, the principle of communities.

The only exception to this melancholy procession of futile plans has been the Report of the Anglo-American Committee. That body, appointed by the Governments of this country and the United States in 1946, came unanimously to the conclusion that Palestine could not be as a whole either an Arab State or a Jewish State, and that partition was equally impracticable. They declared that the country should not be governed on the basis of dominant majorities and passive minorities but should be organised under Mandate or Trusteeship; and that there could be no complete self-government in the country until the two sections had learnt how to live and work together. To my mind the refusal of the present Government in this country to press for the adoption of that plan was a cardinal error of policy.

Before we went there, the Turks governed all those countries, with mixed populations and religions, on the principle of what they called Millet—that is, an organisation in each community which the Turkish Government recognised, and which was taken into consultation on all matters of importance, used as agents of the Government and allowed a considerable measure of freedom for the management of its own specific affairs. In spite of the universal corruption and the general incompetence of Turkish administration, this principle allowed then to keep their ramshackle Empire in being for several centuries. It is this principle which, twenty-five years ago, I endeavoured to put into effect in Palestine and which was the basis of my policy there. The Jewish community already had there the beginnings of an organisation, which the Administration encouraged and gave statutory authority. It provided for the raising of a revenue and it was created on a freely elected central assembly, known as Va'ad Leumi, a Council of the People. It has worked ever since that time, on the whole successfully. It is working to-day.

I was anxious to establish a similar organisation for the Arab community, but they were so torn by internecine disputes and personal and family feuds—or perhaps I should say differences—that it was impossible to establish any organisation except the supreme Moslem Council which was set up for the government of purely religious affairs. The Christian communities also had their own organisations as such. The Latin was effective. The Orthodox was at that time inefficient and, in fact, insolvent. We built it up again and made it strong, self-reliant and financially sound. Partition between Jew and Arab is now being regarded as out of the question. Another plan on different lines should therefore be submitted for consideration. But first it is essential to settle what has been done with regard to immigration, because that matter is fundamental and must be decided beforehand; otherwise it will bring down any Constitution or any organisation which leaves to local decision this question of immigration. It is far more vital to the Jews than the question of the establishment of a State—least of all of a State which would draw at least one-third of its citizens from among the Arabs.

The White Paper of 1939 is the beginning of our present troubles. That Paper proposed to shut down Jewish immigration absolutely at the end of five years, unless the Arabs consented to its continuance. Everyone knew that the Arabs would not consent, and that in effect vitiated the Mandate for Palestine—an international document. And that was being done without the approval of the international authority which had endorsed the Mandate, the League of Nations. That was denounced by no one with greater vigour than by Mr. Churchill—unless it was by the Leaders of the Labour Party, who were then in Opposition. All the various authorities I have mentioned have disagreed more or less on every point except this: they are all in favour of the reopening of immigration. The Anglo-American Committee advocated that it should be reopened and facilitated, and that 100,000 should be allowed in within two years. The Morrison Plan proposed the admission of 100,000 Jews at once and others to follow. The Bevin Plan proposed the same. The United Nations Committee Majority Report advocated the admission into the Jewish State in two years of 150,000, and afterwards of 60,000 a year.

The United Nations Minority Report, which was not so favourable to the Jewish cause, advocated that immigration into the Jewish State should be reopened up to the capacity of that State to absorb whatever numbers there might be—the question of absorptive capacity to be decided by an International Commission consisting of three Jews, three Arabs, and three members appointed by the United Nations. In Palestine, there is a great demand for labour, and a very great number of immigrants can be absorbed economically without difficulty, and to the benefit of both communities. Under the British Mandate the population of Palestine increased threefold, and there is no unemployment. The Jews have increased by 525,000. Meanwhile the Arabs, so far from being driven out of the country and being superseded, have increased by 626,000–100,000 more than the Jews—and their standard of living has been greatly raised above anything that has ever previously been known in the history of the country.

In those circumstances, I would suggest for consideration that a settlement might be advocated on the following lines: that the administration of Palestine should be transferred, at the ending of the Mandate, to the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations—I think that is generally agreed—and that the Trusteeship Council should appoint a Commission to administer the country. Perhaps there should be a Governor-General, but whatever the actual procedure adopted might be, that is not of first importance. The important point is that there should be constituted in Palestine an Arab Council and a Jewish Council. Each Council would be elected by the members of the respective community wherever they might be resident, and not on a geographical basis. Each Council would make and administer laws on matters to be specified, relating to education, religion and other communal affairs applying to its own community. Provision would be made for adequate revenues, to be under the Council's control. The Commission would consult with each Council on all matters of importance, whether communal or general, before taking action. All that is now in operation on the Jewish side through the Va'ad Leumi.

Then, if desired by the Christian communities, there should be constituted a third Council, with similar functions for those communities as a whole. Alternatively, any one of those communities might be empowered to elect such a Council. The Arab Council and the Jewish Council, and any Christian Council, should have direct access to the United Nations on any matters concerning Palestine. That is a new proposal which would go far to meet the psychological case of the Jewish community. Next, the present system of local government in towns and districts should continue. Wherever the population is homogeneous now, there is a local council or municipality of its own colour, using its own language and carrying out local administration in accordance with the wishes of the people.

Jewish immigration would he permitted as proposed in the recommendation of the Majority Report of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine—namely, up to 150,000 in the first two years and 60,000 a year thereafter. Certain unanimous recommendations of the United Nations Special Committee should be applied dealing with Holy Places and religious interests, with Jewish displaced persons, with democratic principles and the protection of minorities, and with peaceful relations. Lastly, Palestine should maintain the closest relations of cordial co-operation, political and economic, with the neighbouring States. In particular, unrestricted access to the sea through Palestinian ports should be assured to the inland States. If such a system were established, it might be hoped that the two communal Councils, though separate at first and consulted separately by the Government at the centre, would gradually grow together by joint committees dealing with special subjects for the sake of administrative convenience. After a series of years, it might be found that the two Councils would gradually become more and more amalgamated, until they would at last form a Central Assembly.

If some such plan as this, or any plan, is not adopted, or if the United Nations do not establish some effective administration backed by an adequate force, then after May 15 (five weeks from to-day) anarchy, in the literal sense of the word, will prevail in Palestine. There will be no government—that is the meaning of anarchy. When this Bill was being discussed on Second Reading in another place, the Attorney-General in His Majesty's Government made a statement which he repeated textually in the Committee stage, showing the importance he attached to his observations. He said this, in the circumstances which I have just described, the position in that unhappy country will be that it would no longer have any de jure government or be entitled to recognition in international law. In that event, after May 15, if not earlier, there would be open and unrestrained civil war in Palestine. That might last for months; it might last for years. Already there have been hundreds of casualties on both sides; hundreds of splendid young lives have been sacrificed. With full civil war, casualties would number thousands, possibly tens of thousands, with immense material destruction. At the end, it might well be that the problem would be exactly the same as it is now. Consequently, it will be obvious that it would be far better to have a settlement before these events instead of after them.

The first condition of any settlement must be abandonment of terrorism. I agree with everything that has been said on this point by the two previous speakers. Nothing can excuse morally such brutal murders as those which have been reported to-day. Terrorism is always politically suicidal. It destroys the very cause which it is intended to promote, first because it evokes such universal anger and hatred that it alienates every friend of the movement it is supposed to assist, and stimulates every enemy; secondly, because sooner or later the terrorists, whose boast is that they are unrestrained and ruthless, always turn their weapons against their own leaders when these begin to displease them, so that, in the common saying, which we all know, "the revolution devours her own children." Thirdly, and most important of all, terrorism deprives any movement of its moral basis and its sense of mission. Instead of its members being able to take pride and satisfaction in the cause they serve, they have a sense of guilt and of shame. There could be no blessing on a Jewish State founded on assassinations and wholesale murder. Let them remember the words of the Jewish prophet Micah, who denounced those who build up Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity. The British Government must show a greater spirit of co-operation with the United Nations in this period of transition. They seem to take pride in declaring that, after May 15, they will be utterly unconcerned with what may occur. The Colonial Secretary in another place a few days ago said: We cannot do more. It is not our responsibility. They wash their hands of all that surely will happen. There was once a Governor in Jerusalem, the representative of an occupying Power, who disclaimed all responsibility with regard to a deed that was about to be done— …he took water and washed his hands before the multitude. History does not praise him. Let His Majesty's Government, and the Foreign Secretary in particular, bend their energies to aiding the United Nations by constructive co-operation. Let the Zionists restrain their own extremists, and the Arab League do the like with theirs. Then, and only then, shall we find a way out of these confusions and dangers.

6.0 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure we all feel this to be a very melancholy occasion. We are debating the failure of a very great enterprise. We took on the Mandate in Palestine with high hopes. We believed that we should be able to restore order and prosperity to a land which for centuries had suffered under misrule. We believed that we should there be able to create a religious and cultural home for the Jews. Now, within five weeks, we shall surrender our Mandate and, as the noble Viscount has just said, we shall be leaving the country in a state of disorder, on the verge of chaos and anarchy, and we shall leave the country hated by both Jew and Arab.

We are bound to ask what is the cause of this failure, for we have to admit that we have failed. There were times when it looked as if we should be successful. In the early years of the Mandate all seemed to be going well; but everything has changed since then. The noble Viscount who has just spoken puts a good deal of blame on the White Paper. I have often heard that argument, and I have no doubt that there is something to be said for that point of view. I would remind the House, however, that there is another side to it, and I prefer to answer in the words of a Jew, Professor Zander, who has quite recently written a most valuable pamphlet on the whole subject of the Jews in Palestine. Speaking of the White Paper he says: It was impossible to pretend indefinitely that our right to enter the country was unlimited; that it was Britain's duty to enforce the admission of every Jew for whom we could provide a living until at last we reached the majority in the country. It was impossible to demand that Britain by this method should do just what she had refused to do from the beginning—that is to establish a Jewish State against the will of the Arab, and thereby run the risk of violence and even war. It is no good concealing the actual hard facts of the position. The Mandate has failed through the inveterate hostility shown towards it by the Zionists, and by the acquiescence of the Agency in their violence. We went there to form a home. The Jews demanded a State, and they followed up their demands with crimes of violence. Remember, the crimes of violence started with the Jewish terrorists. There was the blowing up of the King David Hotel and the hanging of those two young boy sergeants. Murder after murder has followed and, side by side with these murders, there has been carried on a campaign of what I can describe only as venomous slander against this nation and those who attempted to carry out the Mandate. What has happened now? The results are plain. The Jews are now surrounded with the hatred of the neighbours in their immediate neighbourhood. From Pakistan to Greece there is not a nation which does not oppose all thoughts of a Jewish State. The suspicion of the Arabs in Palestine has been turned into bitter hostility. The Jews have despised the Arabs. They have looked upon them as hewers of wood and drawers of water.

I hope the noble Viscount will forgive me for referring to his remarks about the material benefits which the Jews have undoubtedly brought to the Arabs in the land. I feel that he was forgetting that even the Arab has something higher in his mind than material benefits—that he also feels the urge of nationalism and patriotism. That is what the Jews out there have never recognised. They felt that the Arabs could be ignored, and they declared that Arab opposition was simply a bluff. The result is they now have the Arab nation in full hostility towards them. It is no good disguising that the Jews have lost the friendship of this country, which for centuries has been their friend. These events have started in this country a dangerous and deplorable movement of anti-Semitism. Now it look as if the Jews might easily lose the friendship of the United States. Those are deplorable facts, and I cannot see how the Government could have adopted any other course than that which they have adopted—namely to withdraw our Forces from the country. How can they allow our soldiers to remain out there, to be murdered by the very people they are trying to help, exposed to every kind of treachery?

I was speaking to a man only a day or two ago who had recently come from Palestine. He told me that both Jews and Arabs are murdering our soldiers simply for the sake of getting possession of their weapons and uniforms. This last attack was a cold-blooded and cruel outrage which could have been carried out only by people who delight in murder. I have no doubt the Agency would denounce this; in fact they may have denounced it, for all I know. But no help whatever has been given by the Agency in bringing to justice the perpetrators of this and other outrages. I know the men out there; I have met them. I know many members of these Forces who are going through this terrible ordeal, and that is why I speak strongly. I feel that if we have failed out there it has been due to the actions of the Jews themselves, and to the failure of the Agency to recognise their responsibility towards the Mandatory Power. It is no good merely looking back upon the past. I know, of course, that the noble Viscount and a great number of the Jews in this country deplore as strongly as any of us here what has been happening in Palestine, but we have to think of the future. What is to happen in the immediate future? Here we come to the anxiety which has been expressed already by those who have spoken—anxiety about Jerusalem.

I find it difficult to state fully how deeply anxious many of us are about the future of Jerusalem in the next few weeks. Jerusalem is in the very heart of millions of Christians. It is true that they may sometimes idealise it, more perhaps than they would had the circumstances there been different. It stands for them not only as a symbol; if there are doubts about the authenticity of some of the sacred spots, there is no doubt that it was on the spot where Jerusalem is built that the Saviour of the world died and rose again from the dead. It is for those reasons that the whole of Christendom—and I am not thinking of any particular Church—is deeply and profoundly concerned with what happens in Jerusalem. I think of the great work which has been done there, by the Latin Franciscans for instance, the courteous and cultured custodians of the Holy Place. I think of the Orthodox and the Armenian Greek Church. I think of the devotion (and we must remember this) which was shown to Jerusalem and to the Holy Land by the Russians before the Revolution. I think of the millions of pilgrims who used to go there. I shall never forget the spectacle of great bodies of those pilgrims in Jerusalem. The Russian Church has many possessions still in Palestine, and the interest of Russia in Palestine might easily revive.

Then I think of the work which has beer done by our own Church of England, its schools and its hospitals, and of the work done by the Presbyterians. There is not a Church in the world which has not a real living interest in Palestine. Now there is a danger that this City may be destroyed. The Jewish Agency have recognised that. In a statement made in Palestine and reported in the newspapers, I think, on Easter Monday, it was said that when the British left Palestine there might arise fierce fighting in and around Jerusalem, and they could not guarantee the safety of the Holy Places. A few days later, another Jewish spokesman said that next year there might not be any Holy Places in which there could be worship at Easter. I fear that the dangers are terrible. There is danger of fighting in the streets as Jews and Arabs seek possession of the City, danger that the City will presently be found piled up in ruins, rot one stone left standing on another, and that the Holy Places will be destroyed in the general ruin. It is easy to prophesy these things; the real question is: what can be done?

I see only two possible courses. One has already been referred to; it is that there should be a truce between Arabs and Jews until further order is taken. I wish, indeed, that I could feel that this was probable. I wish, indeed, that Jews and Arabs, would say: "At any rate, we will regard Jerusalem and the country around it as sacred, and will allow no kind of fighting there." But I fear that the Jewish Agency would not be able to control their terrorists and that the Arab headquarters would not be able to control their independent bands. The other course is to appeal in the strongest possible way to the United Nations Organisation to act at once. I felt almost despair when I heard the noble Earl who moved the Second Reading of this Bill tell us, as he was bound to tell us, that nothing has yet been decided. He says that there is the intention of doing this and that, and that in two or three weeks' time a meeting of U.N.O. is to be held to decide about a Governor. That is merely playing with the whole question. I am sure that the Government—it is hardly necessary for me to ask them to do so—will not fail to press upon the United Nations Organisation in the strongest possible way what is at stake. Of course, His Majesty's Government cannot shelve all responsibility. They must take their part as one of the United Nations, and I understand that they are ready to do so. But they must press and press again upon the United Nations the gravity of the present position. There is no time to waste.

Here, I would venture to say that we ought to make a special appeal to the United States of America. I hesitate to say anything which might appear to be criticism of a nation which is, at the present time, doing so much for Europe, and acting in such an unselfish and statesmanlike way. Yet, I am bound to remember the fact that from the United States there came the strongest criticism of our management of the Mandate, and that the United States, more than once, apparently, hindered agreement which was almost in sight. It was from the United States—not of course from the Government of the United States—that there were sent many of the sinews of war to the people who were supporting the terrorists. It was the United States who pressed this policy of partition from which there has lately come the worst evils, though it is only right to say that Mr. Marshall and those working with him have shown great courage in admitting recently that they were wrong in pressing for partition and that they are now prepared to advocate another policy. I say that, in view of these facts, we have a right to appeal to the United States to do everything in their power to see that a Governor is appointed at once, and that forces are sent out—if necessary, that Americans are sent out—so as to save Jerusalem and its environments from destruction.

I cannot stress too strongly the urgency of this matter. If Jerusalem is destroyed, there will come from the whole of Christendom a cry of horror and indignation. Christendom will be grievously wounded, but a vital wound, I believe, will be inflicted on the United Nations Organisation, for it will show that they are incapable of dealing promptly and firmly with a question like this affecting a small place like Palestine. And, if they fail there, how can we expect the Organisation to keep the peace of the world? I therefore hope that the Government will do everything in their power again and again to press upon the United Nations Organisation and the United States the vital importance of taking action, and taking action at once, to preserve Palestine from the misery of anarchy and bloodshed.

6.17 p.m.


My Lords, I think it is true to say that if we hesitate in any way to pass this Bill, we may give an impression to the world that we are wavering in our determination to end the Mandate. But I suggest that this Bill does not mean that after May 15 we shall have no further interest in Palestine. On the contrary we shall be gravely concerned in the future of that unhappy country. There is little doubt that we have reached the most critical period in the affairs of Palestine, and I cannot help feeling that the call of the Security Council of the United Nations for a truce is nothing more than a despairing gesture which can have little hope of realisation. The Jewish representative has already made it clear that he cannot support a truce which would involve the interruption of the partition scheme, and to-day we have heard of another murderous attack on a British post for the seizure of arms by Jewish extremists.

I think it is quite clear that whatever solution has so far been proposed, whether it be partition, federation or trusteeship, under the present conditions in Palestine it can only be imposed by force. I suggest that of those three solutions, trusteeship is the only one which can be imposed by force on a fair basis in the interests of both parties. It is, of course, a trusteeship which has been proposed by America to be implemented by the United Nations when we lay down the Mandate. I am sure that this is a wise proposal: but how can it be accomplished? Mere words and exhortations can be of little value at the present time. It is now clear that the Security Council have taken the realistic view that the scheme of partition has broken down, and, in fact, they confirmed this view by refusing to comply with the request of the Palestine Commission for an international force to put the scheme into operation. Therefore, the affairs of Palestine are again in the melting pot.

No doubt the question of trusteeship and other solutions will be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the Assembly. But the sands are running out, and no amount of discussion will avert the appalling calamity which is impending in Palestine unless some force is available to maintain order and allow some form of administration to function after May 15. I was glad to hear from the noble Earl of the proposal to form an interim police force for Jerusalem, but this does not go far enough. As your Lordships are aware, America has now put forward certain proposals for trusteeship to be discussed in the Assembly, which include a new Government for Palestine to act on behalf of a Trustee Council, and further, that this Government are to rely on local police and volunteer forces to maintain order. It has also been suggested that if those forces should prove insufficient, the new Government should be authorised to call upon the assistance of certain other Status who may become parties to the trusteeship.

I fully support those suggestions, but they are provisions for a long-term policy and it is essential that a short-term policy which will operate effectively after May 15 should be found as soon as possible. All these American suggestions for the future are admirable, but what is to happen in the intervening period? I now wish to put forward a short-term policy. I want to make it quite clear that I am speaking for myself on this very controversial matter. I do not wish in any way to suggest that we should not terminate the Mandate on May 15, but I do suggest that if America were prepared to give an undertaking, with an agreed date, to assist us with troops and finance on an equal basis, we should be prepared to enforce a trusteeship on behalf of the United Nations and hold the scales of justice until such time as American help was made available.

But we cannot continue to carry the burden unaided until the long-term policy is in operation, which is bound to take a long period of time. Our troops have behaved magnificently, in spite of every form of provocation, but we cannot expect them to continue their unpleasant duties for an indefinite period. On the other hand, I think it should not be forgotten that America has already given assistance to Greece and Turkey. I suggest that our withdrawal from Palestine without putting anything in our place would undoubtedly mean a general weakening of the barrier against the Red Front and Communist infiltration in the Middle East. It is essential that a joint Anglo-American policy should operate as a co-ordinated whole in this area until the long-term policy can be put into force.

The joint Anglo-American policy which I suggest will have to be a realistic one. I think it should be established within a period of six months. It should continue until the new Palestine Government has been effectively established and the trusteeship upheld. But I maintain that we must not be manœuvred into a position by which we remain in Palestine until such time as the long-term policy for a new Government is in operation, except with financial and military assistance from America, guaranteed and available within six months from May 15. If trusteeship is enforced until such time as the ringleaders of the extremist elements have been brought to justice and passions have cooled, it may well be that the federal solution will succeed. Such a federal solution, in my view, should mean that both the Jews and Arabs will be Palestine citizens, with equal rights and responsibilities, but with autonomy in all matters relating to domestic questions within their own communities. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has put forward many useful suggestions on those lines.

What is the alternative to a joint Anglo-American policy? It is civil war on a large scale. It can be nothing else. Surely we cannot take the cynical view, which is prevalent in many quarters, that the Jews and Arabs should be allowed to settle their differences by civil war, which will undoubtedly happen unless a force is available to keep the peace after May 15. The long-term policy for a new Government in Palestine cannot possibly operate quickly enough to prevent such a war. Apart from the humane point of view, I suggest that we must not forget our interests in the Middle East, and that civil war invites interference from other Powers which may well have disastrous effects on world peace.

I maintain that there is only one possible alternative that will preserve peace in the Holy Land, and that is the evolution of a joint policy between ourselves and America. With such a policy, it might be possible to improve the relations between the Jews and Arabs. Alternative arrangements for immigration of the displaced Jews in Europe might be made, and assistance could perhaps be given to the Arabs in their economic difficulties. But we must make it quite clear that we cannot carry out any scheme single-handed and that there is only one conceivable condition under which we would remain in Palestine, and that would be to help carry out an agreed Anglo-American policy, provided the Americans were prepared to carry at least half the burden, both with finance and with troops, until the long-term policy could be established.

We have got beyond the time for declarations by the United Nations and the Security Council. We are now down to stark facts. Action, and not talk, is absolutely necessary. If the Americans will give an agreed date, within six months, when troops will be landed in Palestine, I suggest that British troops should remain to enforce a trusteeship on behalf of United Nations. With a properly integrated Anglo-American force in sufficient numbers, the right degree of control could be established in that unhappy country and the ringleaders of the extremists could be brought to justice—they are nothing less than murderers and thugs—and I think the majority of the unfortunate people in Palestine could have the peace they are already looking for. If America is not willing to share this burden with us, I agree that the only alternative is for us to leave Palestine on the agreed date and concentrate our efforts on localising the ensuing conflict as much as possible and preventing arms and materials of war from reaching either of the contending parties.

Our withdrawal will be a declaration of failure, but a failure for which we are by no means entirely responsible. We cannot forget that it was the declaration by the President of the United States that 100,000 Jews should be allowed immediately to enter Palestine that largely caused the failure of the settlement. If only for that reason, I feel that the United States have a great responsibility in the matter. I hope His Majesty's Government will press forward a scheme for joint action by both Governments on the lines I have suggested, which may avert a catastrophe in Palestine the outcome of which is fraught with the greatest danger to world peace.

6.29 p.m.


My Lords, we have reached a late hour and most of your Lordships have had a long day, especially the noble Earl opposite, who has been dealing so adequately with the two great questions which have been posed to-day. But I hope that in spite of the lateness of the hour your Lordships will forgive me if I deal, as briefly as I can, not so much with the Bill (because we are all agreed about the Bill) as with the situation with which the Bill is intended to cope. I want to do so and I want to do so to-night because, after all, it is just possible that words spoken in this House may be read elsewhere and even marked elsewhere. All of us who have the slightest chance of moving opinion in any quarter of the world upon the situation in Palestine at the present time have a great responsibility. No-one who knows the history of the Mandate in Palestine can look upon this Bill without affliction and distress.

The ending of our Mandate takes my mind back to three places in Palestine. One is a little Crusader church—which I am sure the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, remembers—in a green valley close beside the road which leads from the coastal plain up to Jerusalem. It was the last stage of the Pilgrims going to Jerusalem, and it stands beside a lovely stream. In that church now there is an altar to Australian soldiers who fell in the First World War. I remember praying there that those soldiers might have done more for the good of Palestine and the peace of the world than the Crusaders, who came there and merely left that church behind. Move up the road, and pass through old Jerusalem, and you are faced at once with the great war cemetery upon Mount Scopas. Again there are there British soldiers, and others, who laid down their lives. There are many such cemeteries in Palestine. It is terrible that all that sacrifice should have been in vain. Finally, I remember the War Memorial in Jerusalem itself, at the point where Lord Allenby entered on foot, the humblest of conquerors.

All that sacrifice, all that hope, all that faith, now seem to have been in vain. We have not succeeded. But let us say here to-night that, whoever may have failed, it is not our men who have served in Palestine. They have served magnificently, and even now I do not believe that their sacrifice will have been all in vain. Let us then say to our living, and to our dead, that we are proud of them; and let us be certain that when the judgment of history is given upon this thirty years of Mandate it will absolve at any rate the Forces of the British Crown from the appalling misrepresentation, the cruel misrepresentation, which they have suffered in recent times. I believe that history will give us credit for a noble effort, long and patiently sustained.

There are only two points in the Bill which I should like to mention before I come to the main situation. The first, of course, is absolute approval of the principle of the Bill and the surrender of the Mandate. That was urged upon us from all sides last year, and it was accepted by the United Nations, as the noble Earl made plain, many months ago. The United Nations took the responsibility, and they must discharge it. We must make it perfectly plain that we are not to be diverted from our resolve to bring the Mandate to an end in the middle of May. The country demands it. I believe there was a great turning of opinion in this country at the time when the two young sergeants were murdered. Often opinion is mounting, and then it suddenly crystallises, and I think that was the time when this country made up its mind that it had had enough, and that no more of its young men were to be sacrificed in this apparently hopeless cause. The country is right. We have sacrificed enough, if we are to be called upon to make all this effort without moral support from the world; to do it absolutely alone; to do it, indeed, while the rest of the world juggles with the world issue which is centred in Palestine.

The only other point about the Bill which I would like especially to support is the clause which deals with amnesty. I am sure that that is wise. The situation in Palestine when our troops are trying to evacuate will be an exceedingly difficult one. The only possible way of enabling our leaders and Forces to carry out evacuation with the minimum of loss to others, as well as to themselves, is to give them an absolutely free hand. That is what the Bill will do, by giving them an amnesty in advance. With enthusiasm I support that clause of the Bill. There are other points that we may wish to raise in Committee, but I will not detain the House with them at this late hour.

The Bill concludes a chapter. We are all thinking of the chapter which opens when we go. More than one eloquent speech—the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, and that of the most reverend Primate—has been made upon that theme, and there are just a few words which I should like to say upon it before the noble Earl replies. The ghastly fact that confronts us is that there will be bloodshed and chaos throughout the Holy Land in the middle of May unless the United Nations take up the Mandate and discharge it with absolute impartiality, as we have striven to do, supported by Armed Forces at least as strong as ours, and representing two of the major Powers. I believe that to be absolutely indispensable. It is a delusion to think that the minor Powers can undertake this task. If the great Powers do not face their responsibility to the United Nations, then the United Nations will not survive. I could not feel more strongly in agreement with all that the most reverend Primate said about Palestine.

I fear that at Lake Success they are nursing the delusion that steps may be taken to preserve the peace of Jerusalem without preserving the peace of the whole of Palestine. That is absolutely impossible. They have talked of an area of ten square miles. What is ten square miles? The people cannot live or be sustained in ten square miles. The power that keeps the peace of Jerusalem must, in my opinion, control the airport of Lydda and the seaport of Haifa, and must have free access to water and electricity supplies. It must control the whole of Palestine. Palestine is a very small country; you can drive from end to end of it in two or three hours. After all, it is only about 50 miles across and 120 miles long. It is ludicrous to suppose that you can deal with this country unless you deal with it as a whole. The authority which attempts to protect Jerusalem, in taking the measures which are necessary over the rest of the country, must find itself at odds with both races, as we have done, unless it has very strong forces which it can deploy everywhere. That is all the more certain because Haifa is one of the key points where battle will be waged, if battle is not prevented in time. Moreover, it is inconceivable to my mind that the population of Jerusalem will remain calm and indifferent in a sheltered area, while their friends and relations are being slaughtered throughout Palestine. To suppose that a Governor-General can maintain peace with a newly raised local gendarmerie, where the whole strength of the British Army, the Royal Air Force and the British Palestine Police have failed, is one of those pipe dreams in which only politicians far removed from the facts and bemused with their own political convenience can indulge. Peace in Jerusalem means peace in Palestine from Dan to Beersheba and from the Jordan to the sea. I hope that will be realised at Lake Success, where these questions are being considered at the present time.

Why have we failed? This is the last question to which I would seek to give my own humble answer, because I believe that even now a solution may be found by looking back to what has gone wrong. Many consider that the policy of the Mandate was doomed from the cradle, because it was devised without adequate knowledge of the facts. I have never agreed with that point of view. The men who made the Mandate thought much further and knew much more than their critics nowadays pretend. Every word of the Mandate was carefully devised and thought out at every point. It is because the message and meaning of the Mandate have been distorted that our task has been impossible. The Balfour Declaration, upon which the Mandate was framed, was a great document, carefully and laboriously devised. I was not present when it was made, because I was then in the Army, but as a temporary civil servant I was later closely associated with Lord Balfour, Mr. Lloyd George and Mr. Churchill, who made the Declaration, and were then carrying out the policy. I know that what I say is true.

There were behind the Balfour Declaration three ruling ideas which we should remember now. One was the belief that Christendom and Islam would be rendering tardy justice to the Jews by enabling a representative section of that people to live as of right, as equal citizens, in the land where their great history began. No one can deny the Jewish contribution to Western life and thought, or the age-long yearning of the Jews to recover some real footing in their ancient home. That idea commended itself, and rightly so, to many leading Gentile minds at that time, Arab as well as European. In the second place, behind the Balfour Declaration was the idea that Jerusalem should be the heart and centre of the project. Palestine, without Jerusalem, without Zion, is really nothing at all. It was believed that a great university could be established there, where all the leading Jewish men of thought and science in the world would ultimately resort, men like Einstein and Bergson. It was thought that there would be a centre of research there which would help the whole Middle Eastern world. Such a centre would indeed have helped the Middle Eastern world, but unfortunately many of the great men never went there, partly because conditions lacked the security which that kind of work requires. Professor Magnes, the Principal of the Hebrew University, has, however, done splendid work and, as the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said, he has had the courage throughout these years to take a moderate and practical view. I pray only that the influence of the Hebrew University may even yet prevail.

In the third place, behind the Declaration was the idea and the belief that the project would enlist Arab co-operation and good will, and could be carried out so as to strengthen and not prejudice the standing of Jews in other parts of the world. The wording was carefully framed to show that that belief was held. That that was our interpretation was made clear once again by Mr. Churchill's White Paper of 1922. We then undertook the Mandate, honestly, because only a great Power could lay the foundations for this project. We were quite ready at that time to concede it to the United States, if the United States had been prepared to undertake it. Let no one say that the Mandate was not a noble document and that the project in it was not one upon which the civilised world, Christian, Moslem and Jewish, should even now attempt to do its utmost to agree.

Why then did it fail? I say that it failed for two main reasons. One great figure at that time in the Arab world, and himself a great man, King Feisal understood the problem, and understood how special a case was Palestine. If King Feisal had controlled a great Arab Kingdom in Northern Syria, giving security, dignity and cohesion to the Arab cause, conditions would have been different. Unhappily, European conditions prevented a settlement in Syria and the Lebanon on terms which the Arabs could approve. King Feisal was driven out of Damascus—a tragedy. Northern Syria was atomised and practically annexed, and the Arabs became deeply embittered and impregnated with fear. That was what happened in the early years when the Mandate was first undertaken and when our work in Palestine began.

The other cause of our failure, ten years later, was, I believe, Hitler. Hitler made Zionism—and quite naturally—a devouring nationalist ideal. He led to the arrival in Palestine of a very different type of immigrant. It was from that time that our difficulties began, with the frustration which came from the kind of life the young people were living and the terrorism which had grown up. I submit that the moral of all this is plain: we must get back, if we can, to the spirit of the time when the Mandate was first planned. It is only in that spirit, and with that ideal firmly grasped, that the civilised world can do any good in Palestine. That ideal, our ideal, the ideal of the Balfour Declaration and the ideal of the Mandate, is still the thing for which we should strive as the only hope of peace in Palestine.

Clearly, as many speakers have said, we must try to get a truce; and we must try to get some sign that the two sides in Palestine will abate their extreme demands and consent to consider some form of compromise. But there is no hope of a truce—on this I agree with the noble Lord who has just spoken, although I do not entirely agree with the personal view which he expressed about our common action there in the next few months—unless it is certain that some adequate force will be sent immediately to Palestine. That is the only condition upon which a truce can be made. The small Powers cannot do it. The plain fact is that the United States of America now hold the peace of Palestine in their hands; and that must be recognised. If a force is promised to guarantee security, then an appeal for a truce may at last succeed. After all, the Jews cannot establish a sovereign State in the conditions which prevail; nor can they hope that such a State would work even if it were founded and proclaimed.

If the fanaticism continues—the fanaticism exemplified in the tragedy which took place yesterday, which has been so rightly denounced—the fanaticism of these modern Sicarii will once again lay Zion in the dust, will make its destruction inevitable, as did their predecessors. Professor Magnes, in the Hebrew University, has long urged a more moderate course, and I was in agreement with what the noble Viscount said about attempting to work out a system of government in Palestine based upon communities. I have always shared that view, and I believe it is the only hope. Frankly, I do not know any administrator really intimate with Palestine—and I have discussed it with many of them—who does not think that that is the only hope for peace between the races, and for real collaboration between them in Palestine. I hope, therefore, that the Jews may see the reason for speaking out against terrorism and for consenting to consider some form of compromise such as their wiser leaders have long urged.

As for the Arabs, can they not hark back to the wisdom of Feisal? This is an appeal which I would like especially to make them to-night. They have sovereign and independent States in all parts of the Middle East, except in Palestine. That sovereignty, that independence, most of them owe to the Allied arms and more particularly to British arms. As Feisul recognised, Palestine is a case apart in which the whole world is concerned. It is a pity that the Arab League have hitherto been mainly negative in their policy and activities, and that they have not given the attention which we, who favoured them from the start, had always hoped they would give to the social and economic problems which at the present time are so grave in most of the countries of the Middle East. Warfare in Palestine, as the wiser Arab leaders must recognise, is bound to endanger the security and development of those countries. Alter all, the Arab States are members of the United Nations and must be deeply concerned in assuring its success. No Powers need the United Nations so greatly as Powers whose international standing is guaranteed by its Charter and bound up with its success. The Arabs owe their freedom to the victory of the United Nations. Can they not bring themselves now into a compromise which will show true greatness of spirit, and be worthy of the splendid contribution which Arab genius has made to the progress of humankind in the past?

It has been said to-day that immigration is the crux of this issue, and that no agreement is possible between Arabs and Jews until agreement can be found on that point. There is no hope of getting the Arabs to agree to immigration into Palestine in any form whatsoever at the present time, unless Christian nations recognise that they also have a duty to the dispossessed Jews. It is inconceivable that we should go on telling the Arabs that they, in Islam, should take the sufferers from cruelty which has been inflicted for years in Christian lands, if the United Nations and the Great Powers in particular do not show willingness to take their share and do their part in succouring the dispossessed Jews in Europe. If they were to play their part, then indeed it would be possible to appeal to the Arabs on that ground. The response at Lake Success was not promising. Only if there is more of that willingness can there be any hope of compromise between the Arabs and Jews.

In those circumstances I believe that Britain could still play a part in Palestine and share with others in a creative and harmonising rôle such as she has endeavoured to carry out during the last thirty years. In such circumstances—but only in such circumstances—would the British people, I believe, be prepared to approve further responsibility in Palestine. I agree with the noble Lord opposite that it is with the United Nations that that partnership must be made, and it is on the United Nations that success depends. The only alternative is bloodshed and choas, under the sun by day and under the stars by night, throughout the lovely summer months, in Jerusalem and the Holy Land. I pray God, my Lords, that reason may still prevail.

6.55 p.m.


My Lords, we have had a long series of constructive, earnest and often moving speeches, and I should like to thank the House very warmly for the support that has been given to the Bill and for the constructive and sympathetic spirit which every speaker has shown towards the problem of Palestine. The noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, raised among other points the question of the nationality of Palestinians after the termination of the Mandate. That is a legal point, as the noble Marquess himself said. My noble and learned friend, the Lord Chancellor, has been good enough to say that he will deal on the Committee stage with any legal points which noble Lords wish to raise, and I shall therefore leave that task to be discharged by him. The noble Marquess also said that we are washing our hands of the responsibility for the future of Palestine. I think he would have said that we were, like Madame de Pompadour, saying "Après nous le déluge." That view was endorsed by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, who compared our behaviour to that of a more despicable figure in history. I deny that charge. We should be unworthy of being the Government of this country if we abjured our moral responsibility for the welfare of Palestine and its people—in spite of all we have suffered at their hands and for the peace of the world. I do not believe that the view to which I have referred would be held by those who have had the opportunity of studying what we have been doing in our attempt to find a solution of this problem.

I cannot, of course, cover more than a very small part of the ground. We have been co-operating with the United Nations. We have placed our long experience of the administration of Palestine unreservedly at the disposal of the United Nations Commission and of the Security Council of the General Assembly. The High Commissioner and the Governor of Palestine have been doing their utmost to ensure that chaos does not ensue after the termination of the Mandate. We are allowing British police in Jerusalem to enlist in the international police force which the United Nations Commission is trying to recruit and which will take the place of the British forces that will be disbanded after May 15. Everyone knows that without such a neutral security force in Jerusalem there cannot be peace between the two communities.


I apologise for interrupting the noble Lord, but can he say how far recruitment of that neutral police force has gone?


I cannot say how far it has gone, but if the noble Lord will be good enough to refer to my first speech he will see the latest information we have received from the United Nations Commission on that point.

Then secondly, in view of the possibility—which is a very real possibility—that no effective central authority will be available to take over from us in Palestine after May 15, His Majesty's Government have taken such steps as they can to retain the power and increase the responsibilities of local authorities so that they may assume the task of maintaining essential services after the dissolution of the central Government. Legislation has been introduced to empower municipalities to levy taxes hitherto levied by the central Government, in order to finance the increased services they will undertake.

Municipal police forces for the maintenance of local order and the suppression of crime have been established in many of the towns. These forces are part of the Palestine Police Force and will be transferred to the control of the local authorities on our departure. Hospitals are being placed in the charge of municipalities, with the exception of two for which the International Red Cross have assumed responsibility. Certain water supplies have been handed over to local authorities for custody and operation. Plans for handing over Arab schools, which have hitherto been the concern of the central Government, to the management of local authorities are in train. The Government farm is to be maintained by the Acre Municipality. In these, and in many other ways, action has been taken and is being taken to ensure, so far as possible, that the disappearance of the central Government will not throw into confusion those vital services which have hitherto been their concern, and on which the, welfare of the inhabitants of the towns and villages of the countryside of Palestine will depend.

Many speakers in the present debate have eloquently endorsed the plea of the Security Council that an immediate truce be effected in Palestine, with a call to Arab and Jewish armed groups in the country to cease forthwith acts of violence. The High Commissioner for Palestine, in a broadcast to the people of the country on April 3, drew their attention to the text of the Security Council's resolution. He pointed out that, as the case of Palestine is now to be reviewed by the United Nations, those who intend to continue with the policy of violence in face of the United Nations demand should think carefully of the damage which such action may do to their cause when the Assembly meet, and should consider, whichever point of view they take, what possible good am come from a continuance of violence when the future remains doubtful, and when there is still what may-prove to be the last chance of peace On behalf of His Majesty's Government, I would most earnestly endorse the appeals of the Security Council and or the High Commissioner, and the appeal that has been made from all quarters of this House this afternoon. I would urge all Parties and peoples in Palestine to respond to this call, to lay aside their weapons in a supreme effort to reach a settlement of their differences without-further bloodshed. In the remaining weeks of their existence, the Palestine Government are anxious and willing to do everything possible to negotiate and maintain a cease-fire agreement between the communities. They have already called on the civil and military leaders on both sides to discuss the details of negotiation required for the conclusion and enforcement of a truce.

For more than a quarter of a century, we have laboured in Palestine to build up the prosperity and happiness of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants, and it is tragic indeed to think that on our departure our work may be destroyed through the determination of both communities to settle their differences by force. It is still not too late for Arab and Jew to listen to the voice of reason of the United Nations, and indeed to the prayers of mankind, and to seek, even at this last moment, some basis of agreement which will spare the Holy Land from being ravaged by bloodshed and destruction. Not least, let them think of the peace of Jerusalem, a city sanctified by its association with three great faiths. If, by persisting in the course of conflict, they bring ruin and disaster to the Holy City, the memory of mankind will not easily forgive them.

On Question, Bill read 2a and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.