HL Deb 20 January 1948 vol 153 cc445-98

3.5 p.m.

LORD ALTRINCHAM rose to call attention to the situation in Palestine; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I think this is the first occasion on which your Lordships' House has turned its attention to Palestine since the Assembly of the United Nations made its decision in regard to the future of that tortured country. I think it is also the first time that we have discussed Palestine since His Majesty's Government definitely announced their intention to put an end to the Mandate on what I hope will be an early date in the present year.

This is not perhaps an occasion when one should spend much time upon the past, but, since the end of our Mandate is now in sight, I feel that no one either at this box or at the box opposite, should get up without declaring that throughout a long and chequered story this country has done i: s best in regard to the Mandate it undertook to discharge. It was a terrible task. A little more than twenty-five years ago—it was, I think, in the summer of 1922—your Lordships discussed the Palestine Mandate which had then just been made public. It was a remarkable occasion because the defence of the Mandate was undertaken by Mr. Arthur Balfour, who had entered this House as Lord Balfour and was making his maiden speech. In spite of all Lord Balfour's advocacy—and you will know how immensely effective that always was—and in spite of his very close personal association with the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate, this House decided, by a considerable majority, that the Mandate was such that under it we could not reconcile our obligations to both the Arabs and the Jews, and your Lordships called upon the Government to withdraw the Mandate until its terms had been revised.

I quote that as an example of the foresight of your Lordships' House. I did not myself, at the time, in the least agree with what your Lordships then said. I believed that the Mandate could be carried out. I still believe it. I believe that we have been frustrated not by conditions in Palestine, not by any trouble that may have arisen between the Jews and Arabs—for that we could have dealt with—but because of events outside Palestine, such as the terrible persecution of the Jews in Europe, which gave an edge to this controversy and to Jewish feeling which would not otherwise have been given, and by the cynicism, indifference, and self-seeking of other Powers who have used Palestine for their own purposes without considering adequately the interests of the people there or of the Power which was responsible for discharging the Mandate. Those are the facts, and I am certain they will be established by impartial historians when the time comes for history to be written.

Now, however, we have to turn our attention to the terrible state of affairs which exists in Palestine to-day. I think your Lordships will ag: "ee that this Motion requires neither explanation nor excuse, because Parliament cannot be indifferent to what our people are undergoing there. Parliament should say what it feels about this matter, in order that they, at any rate, may be encouraged and comforted in what is becoming an absolutely intolerable task. The toll of British killed and wounded is rising rapidly every day, and clearly our responsibility must be ended at the earliest possible date. I would ask, therefore, for a definite statement from His Majesty's Government, if they can give it, as to when it is contemplated the Mandate should end. I believe the date to be May 15; I hope it is no later. Indeed, I would hope that it were even earlier. But I do ask for some definite statement on that point.

One of the most horrible features of the present situation in Palestine is that the common instincts of humanity appear to have been obliterated, either by habituation to slaughter or by hate. An illustration of this was Drought to my notice the other day by a young officer who has been serving out there. He described a scene which, in a way, makes one think of the story of the Good Samaritan. Two of our young N.C.O.'s were walking along a pavement in the vicinity of one of the larger towns in Palestine when, as so often happens, a car passed them, and from it there suddenly proceeded a volley of shots. Both the N.C.O.'s fell wounded upon the pavement. One was bally wounded; the other not so badly. The badly wounded N.C.O. was obviously bleeding to death, and his comrade called to the passers-by—of whom there were many—to go to his help. Not one of them would stop—not one.

The next thing that happened was that a bevy of Press photographers arrived.

They did not offer to help the wounded men, but they proceeded to take photographs. I am sure your Lordships will understand how it was that when our troops at last arrived to help their comrades they were a little tough with those Press photographers, who did not, I believe, belong to the British Press. I have no doubt that we shall hear something of these things from a young officer now in this House, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who is going to speak later in this debate. He and I have the honour of belonging to the same regiment. He can give us a first-hand account of what is happening in the Holy Land at the present time.

What I wish to emphasize is that these terrible conditions were not created by us. Bad as the conditions were before the decision of U.N.O. was announced, they have been enormously aggravated by the decision taken at Lake Success, and it is evident that the authority which took that decision must, at the earliest possible date, take full responsibility for the results. I think, however, that this House may contribute to a clearer understanding of what are the urgent necessities in Palestine today by some discussion of them this afternoon. I believe that to be an adequate justification—apart from the opportunity which is afforded of paying tribute to our own people—for the debate for which we have asked to-day. For my own part, I cannot find it in my heart to blame His Majesty's Government for their protracted efforts—protracted over nearly two and a half years—to secure the co-operation of the United States in finding a solution for the problem of Palestine. The delay has had terrible effects. But the co-operation of the United States was the only condition, I believe, which would make it possible to arrive at a solution without using a great deal of force. Therefore, as I say, having always supported the Foreign Secretary in the line which he took—I speak for myself, of course—I would like to repeat that I believe it was the right line. But I must also express my regret that our decision to terminate the Mandate was not taken and announced at a much earlier date. I believe that if it had been the effect upon the United States would have been much greater. It would have resulted in the creation of a greater sense of reality in the United States.

My impression—I may be wrong—is that leaders in the United States were never squarely faced with our determination to make an end of the Mandate until the appeal was made to the United Nations. If that was so, then I think a mistake was made. The decision should have been made and announced at a much earlier date. As a result of the delay, not only have there been terrible additional sacrifices and strain for our people in Palestine, but it has also been much harder to convince members of the United Nations of the sincerity of our decision to lay down the Mandate. People believed up to the last minute that we were not serious about it, and there are many who still think we are going somehow to cling to our position there.

As things are, the United Nations have confronted us with two dilemmas, one a practical dilemma and the other a moral one, in which our reputation as a great Power and also our regard for our own Services are much at stake. Let me speak first of the practical dilemma. The United Nations have proceeded on the assumption that we would keep order in Palestine until the two new States which have been proposed were actually in being. The fact that that assumption has been made and that no step has been taken to provide for maintaining order in the interim by other means has made an ordered withdrawal by us practically impossible. We are faced, as I understand it—I hope His Majesty's Government will enlighten us on this matter—with the alternative either of keeping order, and therefore interrupting all plans for withdrawal, or else carrying on with our plans for withdrawal and cynically allowing bloodshed, which we might have been able to reduce if not stop altogether, to take place in the Holy Land.

The second dilemma, the moral one, is in some ways even deeper and graver. I think His Majesty's Government have been absolutely right in saying that this country should take no responsibility for imposing by force a conclusion which was not a matter of agreement between the Arabs and the Jews. I am entirely with them in that. But, having as the old mandatory Power absolved ourselves of responsibility in that respect, we are left to take a most difficult decision as to our duty as a member of the United Nations. We shall still be a member of the United Nations when we have ceased to be the mandatory Power. This is a test case for the United Nations, and we cannot be indifferent to the manner in which the United Nations perform their duty in the terribly difficult circumstances with which they are faced.

For my part, I think we must try to find a solution of both these dilemmas, practical and moral, which is in keeping with our sense of right as well as with a study of our interests. My opinion of partition is well known, and it will be understood, therefore, that I am not saying that we should continue to take any responsibility in Palestine because I favour that particular solution. I have said again and again in various ways that partition was in my opinion morally indefensible, economically unworkable and politically insane, and I hold that opinion still. No one need suppose, therefore, that in saying that we cannot dissociate ourselves from what the United Nations are doing in Palestine I do so because I have any sympathy with the solution which the United Nations have proposed. Despite my disbelief in that solution, I feel a deep obligation to that organization and I agree that we ought to take some action to help the United Nations at the present time. After all, we are not only a member of the United Nations but we are still the only member with any intimate knowledge of affairs in the Holy Land. Nobody else really knows so much about them. Therefore I think it is impossible to disclaim all responsibility for what happens there and what it will involve for people in the Middle East. Our policy in other parts of the Middle East has, of course, aggravated the dilemma in the Holy Land, because it has been assumed that no British Government would ever abandon all its holds upon the Middle East. That may seem a cynical view, but the world is like that. People assumed that as we were giving up other things, we would not give up Palestine, and that belief has enormously complicated our position.

These are agonizing dilemmas, but I believe that an analysis of the actual resolutions passed by the United Nations will help to a solution of both dilemmas and I ask your Lordships for a moment to consider what those resolutions are. By courtesy of the noble Lords opposite, I have here the text of the Report of the United Nations Commission on which the Assembly took its decision, and I can therefore speak in detail with first-hand knowledge of what was proposed. In the first place the proposals assume—and this I think is a vital point—that when we leave, when we cast aside responsibility, that responsibility will devolve not on the two new States but on the United Nations Commission which is being sent out. There has been in many quarters of the Press an assumption that authority would pass at once to the two new States. That is not what the United Nations propose. They propose that authority should pass to the United Nations Commission in the first instance, and I think that should be understood.

I think it will be clear if I read this passage from paragraph 13 on page 10: There shall be a progressive transference from the mandatory Power to the Commission of responsibility for all functions of government, including that of maintaining law and order in the areas from which the forces of the mandatory Power have been withdrawn.

Clearly we are expected to hand over to the United Nations Commission and not to the new Governments, whether Arab or Jewish. The plan in fact, as presented by the United Nations, has two facets. In the first place it aims, and I think very rightly aims—and I am sure I shall have in this the support of the most reverend Primate, the Archbishop of York—at the protection of the City of Jerusalem, at the maintenance of common services, which are defined, and at maintaining security for the economic union of the two States which is regarded as an indispensable condition of their working at all. Secondly, when that central authority has been established and common services have been secured, it aims at carrying out the process of partition.

In the present state of affairs in Palestine, I think you will agree that it is the first of those undertakings which must be paramount. The first thing is to secure some authority for law and order in Palestine when we with draw. With that I think everybody will agree. Its importance will be obvious from the range of responsibilities which this central authority is instructed by the United Nations to assume, There is the protection of Jerusalem. There is no difference between the majority and the minority in regard to the protection of Jerusalem. The majority decided that Jerusalem should be a separate State with its own Governor, closely allied to the other States but quite independent. The minority, while wishing to make Jerusalem part of a federal union, nevertheless suggested that peace, order and security for the holy places in Jerusalem should be entrusted to an international authority. So really there is not much difference between the majority and the minority in regard to Jerusalem. That is obviously the first thing which the central authority must attain. It carries universal consent.

But when you go into it, it is inseparable from the wider responsibilities which the central authority have to undertake. Jerusalem cannot water itself. Jerusalem cannot feed itself. Jerusalem has no revenue. The water of Jerusalem comes, if I remember rightly, from somewhere near Haifa, or at least some distance off in the North, and the food of Jerusalem comes from outside. And it has practically no revenues, or only very small revenues from rates. It is clear that if any provision is to be made for water and food, and for financing the services in Jerusalem, the central authority must undertake further responsibilities which are very wide. The first which is laid down in this document is control of the whole transport system. The actual phrase is: Operation in the common interest on a non-discriminatory basis of the railways, interstate highways, postal, telephone and telegraphic services, and ports and airports involved in international trade and commerce.

That really means the whole transport service.

Secondly, the central authority is to take over control of the customs union and revenue. Thirdly, it is to make itself responsible for a common currency and for the service of the debt. I should add that this last provision is of some importance to our people. We are deeply concerned because upon it depends the pensions and other rights of all our civil servants in Palestine. It is a matter to which attention should be closely given, and I am sure is being given, by His Majesty's Government. Manifestly then, if the United Nations fail to maintain the Palestine revenue, the United Nations must undertake responsibility for finding the revenue itself, for the service of the debt and for the payments which are due to the old servants and the present servants of the Palestine Government. I do not believe that these essential services can be maintained without our help. It is our civil servants who are now conducting these services, and obviously their rapid replacement between now and May 15 is impossible. Therefore if we fail to help, chaos must supervene. I suggest that in these circumstances, while we can take no responsibility upon ourselves, we should say to our personnel in the services that if they wish to volunteer for service under the United Nations we shall commend them for doing so, provided, of course, that their future is thoroughly assured by the United Nations on taking them over.

One condition of such help to the United Nations should I think be categorical. There must be no suspicion that we are maintaining our hold on Palestine under some other guise. Our single responsibility must end. That decision should be unequivocal and immutable. On the other hand, if members of our Services choose to volunteer, they should be able to enter the new service of the United Nations, to which alone they will be responsible, and which in turn will be responsible for them. Given the necessary action by the United Nations to enlist their services, I believe that chaos may be prevented. But I see no other hope whatever of preventing chaos—indeed, I see no other means whereby the whole mechanism of the common services and the whole system of finance can be saved from collapse. That is a possibility which I am sure His Majesty's Government have in mind at the present time.

I believe that we should give this assistance to the United Nations by way of advice and recommendation, and I say that despite my utter disbelief in the solution which the United Nations have recommended. I say it, too, in spite of my distress—a distress which I believe is widely felt in many parts of the world—at the way in which this decision was reached by the Committee and the Assembly as a whole. No one who has spoken to members of the delegations or to observers can be happy about the manner in which those discussions were at times conducted, and the way in which the decision was finally reached. There is no question about that. Even worse do I find certain interim decisions of the Committee of the Assembly when they were discussing what course they would take. For instance, they apparently refused to consider at all the solution of a single Government for Palestine, with wide local government, either in the form of small provinces or, as I think better, in a cantonal form. They dismissed that as unworkable. I am bound to say it is astonishing that recommendations based on the authority of so great an administrator (I quote only one) as Sir Harold MacMichael, based on years of experience in the Holy Land, should be cast aside thus lightly by gentlemen at Lake Success who have about as much knowledge of Palestine as they have of the moon, or, perhaps, of one of the outer stars in the further nebulæ. It is terrible to read a finding of that casual sort.

But that is not all. There was also a refusal on the part of the Committee of the Assembly to pass a resolution which was, I think, urged by France, that the justice of the matter should, in the first instance, be referred to the International Court. The resolution was to ask Whether the United Nations, or any of its Member States, is competent to enforce, or recommend the enforcement of, any proposal concerning the constitution and future government of Palestine, in particular, any plan of partition which is contrary to the wishes, or adopted without the consent, of the inhabitants of Palestine.

That is a clear moral issue upon which I should have thought the advice of the International Court of Justice might well have been sought. The vote which was taken upon that resolution was twenty in favour, twenty-one against, with thirteen abstentions.

The other decision which seems to me wholly questionable is the refusal of other Powers to accept any responsibility on behalf of the suffering dispossessed Jews in Europe. Here, also, a resolution was moved recommending That the countries of origin should be requested to take back the Jewish refugees and displaced persons belonging to them, and to render them all possible assistance to resettle in life. That those Jewish refugees and displaced persons who cannot be repatriated should be absorbed in the territories of Members of the United Nations in proportion to their area, economic resources, per capita income, population and other relevant factors.

That seems to be plain justice, but the resolution when voted on found only sixteen in favour, with sixteen against and twenty-six abstentions. That is not a good omen for the way in which great moral issues are going to be treated by the United Nations. Given such cynicism, can anybody wonder at the anger and disillusionment with the United Nations of the whole Moslem world.

If, to crown this lamentable display, the United Nations fail to make any real attempt to shoulder their responsibility for protecting Jerusalem, for maintaining the common services and for preventing wholesale economic collapse, then, indeed, that organization, upon which so many hopes have been based, will be bankrupt, What hope, indeed, that it can win the trust or keep the peace of a distracted world? If, moreover, the United Nations fail, we are bound to have unregulated international intervention in Palestine. Troops will be brought in to protect consulates and to protect religious and other institution; which look to different peoples for their support, and there will be in Palestine a situation resembling (only, I think, worse than) the situation that existed at one time in Spain. We must do our utmost as a member of the United Nations to save both Palestine and the United Nations from that position. We owe it to our-selves, we owe it to the United Nations, and we owe it to the Middle East.

I have only one further word to say. Everyone knows that discord in the Middle East is terribly dangerous to the peace of the world. You cannot set Jews and Arabs at each others' throats without risk of embroiling the great Powers, or, indeed, of embittering the deep differences which already exist between the great Powers. The fact that Palestine may become a bone of contention—indeed, that the Jewish State itself may become a bone of contention—is already, I am afraid, evident. Clearly, then, the United Nations must try to maintain a framework within which even now a peaceful solution can be reached. It must put first things first: things on which the majority and the minority agree; things on which only one sane opinion has ever been expressed, whether by Jews, by Arabs or by anyone else. Those things are the protection of Jerusalem and the maintenance of the economic unity and the financial stability of Palestine as a whole. There has never been any difference of opinion on these things. The United Nations must undertake to maintain them, but they can only do so with our help. I would therefore like to ask His Majesty's Government whether they are making definite recommendations on these points, and with what success their recommendations are being met. I believe it is our duty, categorical and absolute, to help the United Nations in this state of catastrophe to keep the framework of government in Palestine intact. If chaos ensues, the United Nations must take the responsibility, not only for Palestine but for all Palestine's financial liabilities, including pensions and other rights of those who have served Palestine so faithfully for the last twenty-five years.

But failure is not, I believe, inevitable. I refuse in this matter to give way to such pessimism. I cannot believe that the combined authority of the civilized Powers cannot succeed in keeping peace in a country which, after all, is only the size of Wales and less than the size of Normandy, simply because the great Powers are distracted by their internal politics, by their differences with each other and by considerations of that kind which should have no bearing whatever upon a matter so vital to the peace of the world. I refuse to give way to pessimism. I believe that the United Nations can enforce and establish the indispensable central control, provided we give them the help. That is a point upon which I insist. Perhaps when all nations have seen, by the present state of Palestine, how terribly protracted, sanguinary and dangerous any attempt at solution by force must be, a new and better prospect may open for negotiation, agreement and peace. I beg to move for Papers.

3.42 p.m.


My Lords, I find myself in a good deal of agreement with what has fallen from the noble Lord who moved this Motion, and I certainly think it is time that we had a discussion in your Lordships' House upon this vitally important question. I have heard whispers from those who are much wiser than I that this was not the time to have the debate. No debate is ever opportune in the view of my noble friend the Chief Whip of the Government, who obviously has to get the business through, but I think the majority of your Lordships must agree that it is time this matter was discussed and ventilated. While I agree with most of the first part of the speech of the noble Lord opposite, I regretted very much indeed his attacks on the working of the machinery of the United Nations. I believe that, on reflection, he himself will regret them, too. After all, there is something more important even than Palestine or the future of Palestine; that is the prestige and survival of the United Nations as a means of preserving the peace of the world and furthering the interests of all mankind.

I do not remember that there was any objection made by the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, when His Majesty's Government referred the problem of Palestine to the United Nations. Now, when he does not like the finding, he sees fit to abuse the judges—it was a most unfortunate speech in that respect. I agree with him that the idea that we can just withdraw our troops, stores and civil servants by a certain date, and leave a kind of vacuum in Palestine, is quite impracticable. Obviously, the United Nations—to whom, I am glad to say, Lord Altrincham did appeal in the end—must accept the responsibility for carrying out their own decision, because otherwise they stultify themselves. That would be a terrible disaster, as I remarked just now.

The situation to-day is that we are supposed to be making all arrangements to evacuate our troops, and yet every now and then there has to be a re-deployment to meet some threat in this quarter or another. Quite recently there was a serious raid from Syrian territory into the northern tip of Palestine in the district of Dan. Immediately His Majesty's Forces were called on to repel the raiders, and our troops did so fighting side by side with the Jewish Haganah or the local units of the Jewish Militia of that part of Palestine. Yet I understand that at the same time we are still attempting—or were until quite recently—to disarm the Haganah.

The noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, does not like the decision of the United Nations. Neither do I. I have always been opposed to partition. I have studied this matter here and on the spot nearly as long as the noble Lord, and I have always thought, as he does, that partition was not a suitable solution. But there it is. It has been adopted by the United Nations, and as a member of the United Nations; this Government cannot possibly oppose it. I understand that my right honourable friend, the Foreign Minister, has said that we will not use our Forces to implement the finding against the wishes of the Arabs or the Jews. But, as a member of the United Nations, we have a higher duty, and if it comes to a question of an international force, responsible to the United Nations, being sent to Palestine, then it is obvious—and I am sure none of my noble friends on the Front Bench will disagree—that we must play our part and take our share of the burden. That is perfectly obvious.

Noble Lords: No.


I heard some murmurs of dissent, but so long as we remain members of the United Nations ourselves—and that is the policy of all three political Parties in this country, and in fact the whole foreign policy of the Labour Party is based upon the strengthening and support of the United Nations—and the United Nations is compelled to take some action which the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, himself admits is inevitable, then we must play our part and must provide our share. That is perfectly obvious, and I think to argue any other policy to-day is quite futile, unless we are to tear up the whole foundation of the foreign policy as supported by all three political Parties of the State.

The situation is that the Jews in Palestine, the Jewish Agency and spokesman of the Jewish communities have accepted—some of them reluctantly, I believe—the proposals of the United Nations for partition. I am also led to believe that a great many of the Arabs in Palestine would be perfectly prepared to accept it also and try to make a success of it, but the vocal elements leading the Arabs, or claiming to lead them, the so-called Arab Higher Committee, have rejected the proposals of the United Nations and are threatening resistance to the carrying out of partition. Therefore you have a situation in which the Jewish authorities are prepared to try to make this proposed settlement a success, and those who are vocal on behalf of the Arabs resisting them. In those circumstances, I do not think it is possible for our administration to maintain a position of strict impartiality between the two sections if there is an extension of the present disorders before the proposed date for terminating our Mandate.

In that connexion I would like to ask my noble friend Lord Listowel, who I understand is to reply for the Government, whether he can include in the information he gives to your Lordships, information on this point. I did not give him notice of this, but I gave him notice of another matter to which I will refer in a few moments. Is the militia of the Jewish Agency, the Haganah to be recognized and allowed to be organized openly as a means of preserving order as our troops withdraw? In that case, are they going to be permitted to purchase the necessary munitions and weapons? As a corollary to that, some sort of Government will. I presume, eventually establish itself in the Arab enclaves, and quite obviously that Government or administration must also have the means of preserving order within their own territories. I presume that in that case they would be recognized and permitted to purchase the necessary munitions and weapons for the police force required.

Until quite recently, apparently, His Majesty's Forces in Palestine who were not engaged in actually suppressing raiders from across the borders or in putting down the extremists who committed the atrocious murders and killings referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, which we all regret as much as he does, were trying to disarm the Jews. Until recently our Armed Forces were actively engaged in disarming the Haganah. I am not talking now about the Stern Gang or the Irgun Zvai Leumi, but of the militiamen, recognized and organized in the war and relied on during the war as auxiliaries of the British Army in Palestine, but whom it has been necessary to try to disarm since because of other developments which it is unnecessary to describe.

A letter appeared in the Manchester Guardian dated December 29, from Tel-Aviv from the Executive Committee of the Central Federation of Jewish Labour. I particularly noticed that, because, after all the Central Federation of Jewish Labour in Palestine is, I believe, in communication or collaboration with our own Labour Party here; at any rate it sends fraternal delegates, and it is the corresponding Party in Palestine to our own Labour Party in this country. When such a body makes a complaint of the kind to which I intend to refer, I do not think you can waive it aside and say, "These people are mere extremists and hotheads." This is the Labour Party of Palestine, and a responsible body, I will quote only one sentence from this remarkable letter: The Government is viciously pursuing its policy of disarming Jews even in the most exposed dangerous areas, while allowing Arab armed gangs to act freely without intervening or trying to take away their arms. I want to make it clear that I do not accept that at all. I believe that in any case it is exaggeration. But that such an accusation should be made by a responsible body and published in a responsible British newspaper I think really needs an answer. There may be an overhang from previous policy; but to disarm the official Jewish forces of Haganah would, I suggest, be a mistaken policy.

Now I come to the other matter, about which I did give notice to my noble friend. There have been many reports lately in responsible newspapers in this country of ex-Service men in this country seeking to enlist, or being invited to enlist, in certain Arab forces, apparently to be responsible to the Arab Higher Committee. I hope my noble friend will be able to tell your Lordships that the Foreign Enlistment Act applies here and that such an enlistment or taking of service would be improper and illegal; or else that His Majesty's Government will do their best to prevent it—and that applies to enlistments to the Jewish forces as well: I am taking a perfectly impartial stand here. It would be intolerable if, while there is already disorder in parts of Palestine, British ex-officers and other ex-Service men were to be allowed or were encouraged in any way to enlist in either of the contending forces. It would be a highly undesirable development.

I have looked at the Foreign Enlistment Act. I admit that it could be more clearly worded, and I daresay that if the present Lord Chancellor were responsible for amending the Act to-day it would be in much clearer language than it was in 1870. The Act has not been amended since 1870. I was not alive then, but that was the time of the Franco-Prussian war, and I dare say the Act was introduced for that reason. The wording is as follows: Any British subject who accepts engagement in the service of any foreign State at war with any foreign State at peace with His Majesty's Government shall be guilty of an offence … and so on. That is the operative clause. The definition of a "foreign State" includes any foreign prince, colony, province or part of any province, or people, or any person or persons exercising or assuming to exercise the powers of government … Obviously that is intended to cover the case of insurrectionists, insurgents, or civil wars generally. I should have thought that that definition of a foreign State would have covered both the authorities in Palestine, who will presumably gradually be given the various administrative powers at the hands of the United Nations Commission. I should have thought that the Foreign Enlistment Act would have applied fully and could have been used to prevent any British nationals engaging in the armed forces of either of the contending parties. I am sorry to have to use those words "contending parties." I do not want to go over the past any more than the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, does, but I still think that a great deal of this trouble could have been avoided; I still think that if proper encouragement had been given to the moderates on both sides a unified State could have been brought about. But as things are we have to speak of "contending parties."

I understand that the most reverend Primate will intervene in this debate, and no doubt he will mention the situation of the Christians in Palestine. This reinforces the argument which the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, has addressed to your Lordships and which I myself respectfully reinforce: that we just cannot wash our hands of these persons and of other interests. I will refer to one or two practical reasons why that is so. I believe there are something of the order of 130,000 Christian Arabs in the country. They are in a very difficult position if we or the United Nations allow general disorder to increase. Apart from our religious interests in Palestine as a Christian Power, we have very important commercial interests—our stategic interests apparently do not matter any more, though I should have thought that these would have been of overwhelming importance. Take, for example, only one of our commercial interests, the Anglo-Palestinian Company which works the immensely valuable potash deposits in the Dead Sea area which are needed by the whole world.

Take the United States' interests. United States' nationals have been permitted or encouraged by the State Department, quite legitimately and properly, to embark on vast adventures in the oilfields of the Middle East, and I understand that the petroleum is to be brought out through pipe lines to the Levant coast at the port of Haifa. Are the Americans going to allow their nationals to be inconvenienced and put to loss because of disorder there? I understand there are also 20,000 technical American subjects in Palestine, mostly Jews who have gone there to help in settling and developing the country, but who have not yet taken Palestinian nationality and are therefore technically American subjects. According to a report I have seem in one newspaper, there are 2,000 American ex-soldiers serving in this same Haganah, who are American subjects. No doubt the American State Department would say that these people go out at their own risk, but public opinion in the United States may take a different view. The Russians also have interests in Palestine—perfectly legitimate interests, just as legitimate as our religious interests. The Orthodox Church in Jerusalem is of great antiquity and highly venerated. The noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, mentioned the case of the Powers wanting to send in consular guards—


If the noble Lord will forgive my interrupting, I would point out that I particularly said that all Powers with religious institutions in the Holy Land would want to intervene. I know how important the Orthodox institutions are.


Then we are in entire agreement. With reference to consular guards, suggestions have been made that certain consular establishments should be guarded by their own nationals. The noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, was good enough to put the proper words into my mouth—that other countries with religious institutions administered by other nationals will also demand the right to come in. The noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, said that we might have a situation like that which prevailed in Spain during the Civil War, or even worse. A nearer parallel would be Pekin in the time of the Legation quarters, the Boxer Rebellion, the siege and the international force, which he and I can well remember, which had to be sent at the end of the last century to relieve the Legation quarters, and in which I believe he served. I just missed it; I was three months too late on the China station, so I was not guilty of the subsequent looting either!

I think the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, and myself would agree that each of us has now said enough to show how impossible the situation would be if we simply withdrew, evacuated our nationals and our troops and left a vacuum there before the United Nations had the means to maintain order. The obvious policy which must be followed—I hope that this is now being tackled in earnest at Lake Success—is some sort of international police force, which need not, I believe, be a very great one. I noticed that the Czechoslovakian Chairman of the United Nations Commission said that he was going there armed with only two weapons—the prestige of the United Nations and his Chairman's gavel. Well, the prestige of the United Nations is still very great, in spite of all those who attack it, as I think, most unfairly; it is, indeed, worth many battalions. It need not perhaps be a very great force. I used to say during the old controversies and the old arguments on Palestine that if only the United State; would send a hundred soldiers under a captain to Jerusalem, and they were to march through the streets once a week on their way to church, that would be all that would be required. But that was two or three years ago and a great deal has happened since.

I know the difficulties with which His Majesty's Government are faced and I do not want to add to them in any way. We have decided on the policy of leaving this matter to the United Nations and, now that a decision has been reached, whether we agree with it or not, we must play our part in implementing the scheme. I would particularly like to support that part of the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham where he said that experienced civil servants from the administration should be invited to take service under the new United Nations Commission. I know that the hope of noble Lords in all parts of the House is that wiser counsels will prevail in Palestine and that the more moderate elements amongst the Arabs and the Jews will make their influence felt. I am not without hope that when they are really faced with the fact that we are giving up the Mandate—and quite a lot of doubt has been thrown upon that aspect that we are withdrawing—the vast majority of the people of Palestine will assert themselves and show that they are heartily sick of the chaos and bloodshed that have been going on, and will force the more extremist leaders to step aside in favour of more moderate men.

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that we are all grateful to the noble Lord who has introduced this subject. His speech was a very moving speech, and I am certain that we all feel profound anxiety about the present position in Palestine. The problem is sometimes regarded as the special concern of the Jews and the Moslems, and we are frequently reminded that those who are in Palestine represent many millions who are outside Palestine. It is true that the Christians in Palestine are in a very small minority, and that they represent tens of millions throughout the world who are intensely interested in, and concerned over all that is happening in Palestine to-day. Sometimes that fact is not recognized. When I speak on this subject I find that I am pursued by a virulent correspondence denouncing me for taking any part in this particular matter. Not long ago, I was accused of preaching hate against the Jews. I detest anti-Semitism. I have stood on a platform in the past, with the Jews, protesting against it. If anti-Semitism ever broke out again in this country, I have no doubt that I should be found on the same platform. My detestation of anti-Semitism must not stand in the way of my doing all that I can to safeguard the interests of those Christians who are in Palestine and the preservation of holy places.

The position at the moment is indeed tragic, almost beyond words. When the Mandate was given to this country, I welcomed it—I probably knew much less about international politics then than I know now. We seemed to have been given a great and honourable responsibility for the building up of order and prosperity in this country which is so sacred to three religions. I welcomed also the Balfour Declaration, for I felt that that would give to the Jews a spiritual culture of their own, without interference from those already in possession of the land. All those hopes have come to an end, and we have to give up the Mandate under conditions which are both tragic and squalid. I remember my first visit to Palestine, some thirty-five years ago, when I could see the misrule of the Turks; and I decided that I would never again go to that country while the Turks were there. I went to Palestine again some thirteen years ago. I then saw signs of hope. I saw great buildings, put up by the Jews and their universities, coming into existence; desert places had been turned into fertile gardens. But even then I saw also the Arabs arming and drilling. On inquiring about this, I was told that they were openly preparing for rebellion.

When I went to Jerusalem some eighteen months ago, it was an armed camp, and throughout the whole land murder and treachery were stalking unashamed. The position there is simply tragic. Our Government are not to blame for this. No doubt, we have made mistakes, as any other nation would make mistakes, in dealing with a most complicated problem; but we have quite honestly tried to carry out impartially our Mandate. We are attacked by both sides because we have attempted to be impartial. If we had thrown all our strength on to one side or the other, we should not have been a double target, as we are to-day. We are all fearful of what the future may bring for us. Our soldiers and our administrators in Palestine are in no way to blame for the present position. We owe them deep gratitude for the courage, perseverance and self-discipline which they have shown in the most difficult circumstances. I have known many who have been out in Palestine for a long time and, from the High Commissioner down to the youngest private, we owe them a debt of gratitude. I hope that so long as they are out there they will feel that they have behind them the fullest support of the Government and of the people of this nation.

The failure of our Mandate, as the noble Lord has pointed out, has been due to causes beyond our control. The narrow stream of refugees which we expected turned into a great torrent of people, eager to escape from the most horrible persecution which has ever fallen upon any race in the history of mankind. In addition to this, Zionism became a violent and political Zionism, demanding not the home which we had given them but a State—regardless of the rights of the people who are already living in Palestine. This militant Zionism, through its terrorism, made our task out there almost impossible. It is a disgraceful episode in the history of Zionism that these murders and crimes are being committed time after time, and that the Jewish Agency has been either powerless or unwilling to co-operate with the Mandatory Power in suppressing them.

If, as the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, has pointed out, we had had to deal only with the Zionists in Palestine, we should have been able to grapple with the situation. But the difficulty has become tenfold greater through the unfriendliness—to put it mildly—of other countries. I must speak plainly. We all know that the Zionists in Palestine have had great moral support from the United States. The Zionists there have supplied those in Palestine with the money; and lately, at any rate, they have attempted to supply them with the arms to carry on their terrorism. Their advertisements and their propaganda have done much to poison the feelings of America and other countries towards us. In the American newspapers there have appeared, quite openly, advertisements asking for funds to support those who are engaged in illegal acts in Palestine. We have been told by a leading Zionist in the United States that when he hears of a successful explosion, or a successful crime committed against British forces, the Jews In America have "a little holiday in their hearts." Those are the words of a certain Mr. Ben Hecht.

All these causes made it impossible for us to continue to administer the Mandate successfully. Inevitably we had to turn to the United Nations Organization to tell them we were giving up the Mandate and to ask them for their decision. Now they have made their decision and, whether we like it or not, we are bound to accept it. I would say only this on their decision. I am extremely glad that the Government have made it quite plain that we will not allow our forces to be used to carry out this decision of partition. In this country there are a large number of people who feel that this policy of partition is both unjust and impracticable. They feel that it is unjust to put 400,000 Arabs into a new State, which at the moment would consist of 500,000 Jews. They feel it unjust to take away from the Arabs a country which has been theirs for a thousand years. Many of us are extremely doubtful about the practicability of this proposal. When I looked at the map, and saw the frontiers of the different States, it seemed to be modelled on a jigsaw puzzle. It is impossible to understand how two States which are not friendly to one another will be able to live peacably, side by side, when their boundaries are so interlaced.

I am especially concerned, however, about the fate of the Christians in the new States, and I want to impress three points upon the Government, for even when they have given up the Mandate, they will, as members of the. United Nations Organization, still have a certain amount of responsibility. First of all, I hope they will see that real religious freedom is secured for all Christians, and of course for Jews and Moslems, in the different States. There is a grave danger that there may not be religious freedom in these two new States. By "religious freedom," I mean freedom of worship, freedom of education, freedom of conversion and evangelization, and freedom from any legal discrimination on account of a man's religion. That is not found in Palestine to-day. The Jewish Christian, for instance, is not helped in any kind of way by the Jewish Agency. I understand that the Agency accepts as a Jew anyone who is wholly Jewish, or partly Jewish by blood, who belongs to any religion or none, provided that he is not a Christian. That, I believe, is the official position there and has been recognized as such by the administration.

The Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem and the Presbyterian Moderator of the Church of Scotland there presented a memorandum to the recent Committee of the United Nations. In this they said: We speak from long experience of many individual cases when we say that, in spit? of theoretical religious liberty, converts to Christianity in Palestine are liable to be, and frequently are, deprived of their inheritance, boycotted in and even dismissed from their employment, turned out of their houses, pilloried in the press, 'framed' in the law courts, and threatened with, and often subjected to, personal violence. It is simply an unreality to speak of freedom of religion when converts to Christianity, whether from Islam or Judaism, have neither freedom from fear, nor often freedom from want. That, of course, refers to the Moslems as well as the Jews. I hope, therefore, that when arrangements are made for these new States effective provision will be made for complete religious freedom.

Secondly, I ask the Government to give us reassurances about the city of Jerusalem. As the noble Lord has pointed out, it has been recognized that Jerusalem should be under international government. That has been recommended by Committee after Committee. I always thought there was complete unanimity about this, and I had always assumed that by "Jerusalem" was meant not only Jerusalem within the walls, but also the large part of Jerusalem which is outside the walls. I had assumed that, until the decision for partition was made and until the lady at the head of the Jewish Agency—Mrs. Merson, I believe her name is—at once put in a claim for the new city to belong to the Jewish State. When, not so long ago, I spoke about this, a representative of the Jewish Agency in London replied that I need not have any anxiety about it for it had always been recognized that Jerusalem within the walls would be under international control. That is a most important point. If Jerusalem within the walls, and Jerusalem within the walls only, is to be under international control, the position will be quite hopeless.

No doubt in Jerusalem there are a number of very important buildings belonging to the Agency, and erected by the Jews. They have that amount of case in their favour; I admit that. But outside the walls there are churches and convents, schools and hospitals, built by Christian communities. More than that: outside the walls there is Gethsemane; there is the Mount of Olives; there is the British Cemetery; and there are other places sacred to us. Even apart from all these associations, it is impossible to control the city itself, except by possession of the entrances to the gates. If the outer city were to belong to the Jews, it would mean that at any time they could blockade the city. And recently they have shown how easy it is, even under British rule, to throw bombs at the harmless people gathered outside the gates. I hope that we shall have very definite assurances that it will not be only Jerusalem within the walls but the whole of the city of Jerusalem, and Bethlehem also, which will be put under international control.

A third question which I wish to put is this. Suppose that that is granted, what is to happen in the interval? Here I find myself completely in line with the two noble Lords who have already spoken. What is to happen in the interval between our giving up control of Jerusalem and the arrival of whatever force is going to protect it in the future? Unless arrangements are made for such protection, there will be a scramble for the city on the part of both Jews and Arabs. Already there has been fighting within the city. If the city is left unprotected, there may be bloodshed there on a horrible scale. I want to press this very strongly. I wish to know what arrangements aire being made for the custody of the city during this interval. Surely the United States, which have been so enthusiastic about this matter, will send some protection. Surely the United Nations Organization, which has made itself responsible for the decision, will do something at any rate to see that Jerusalem is placed effectively under international rule the moment we give up control of the city. This is a vital matter. Those who know Jerusalem know what inflammable material is there, and know how terrible the danger will be.

There is only one other observation which I wish to make. Even when these two States have come into existence we shall still have the Jewish problem with us. Even when large numbers of Jews have been admitted to Palestine the Jewish problem on the larger scale will still remain unsolved. Not long ago I ventured to say that if all the Jews who desired to go into Palestine were admitted, it would become a slum State. This was resented, and in the Jewish Press I was described as saying that there was a slum State, and arguing—I think with a gleam of my archiepiscopal ring, whatever that may mean—that an international ghetto or workhouse was sufficient for the Jews. I thought it was taken for granted that Palestine could not possibly hold all the unhappy Jews who desired to escape from Europe. I have the utmost sympathy with those Jews who wish to get away from countries where they have suffered such agonies. I feel that the whole human race has a responsibility towards them. But they cannot all be housed, and cannot all find a home, in Palestine.

Here again, I should like, if possible, to know (I have not given notice of this, and probably the noble Earl will not be able to give me an answer to-day) what other nations have been doing in recent times for these Jewish refugees. What have the United States, with all their enthusiasm, done? How many of these refugees have they, with their warmhearted generosity, accepted during recent times? This is not merely a national question—it is an international question. The Jews have suffered so terribly in the past that all of us, whether we are Christians or not, have a duty to see that, if possible, they have a home in which they can be secure and happy. We shall give up our Mandate, hated by the Jews, disliked intensely by the Arabs, and criticized by the other nations of the world. But I believe that when the verdict of history is given, history will declare that during the time we held our Mandate we did our utmost, with complete impartiality, to give order, peace and prosperity to the land which is sacred to so many of us.

4.25 p.m.


My Lords, I beg the indulgence of the House as I rise to address your Lordships for the first time. I do so because I have just recently returned from Palestine, where I have been serving throughout the past year. I would like to lay before your Lordships a few of the impressions of our troops in Palestine on the main problems which have been facing them there, and which will confront the United Nations in the future. During the past year we have witnessed in Palestine the enactment of a great tragedy. It has culminated in the decision of the United Nations which has rendered impossible the already difficult task confronting those responsible for law and order in that country.

Most fair-minded people would welcome the setting up of some form of Jewish State which would satisfy the longing of the Jewish peoples for national status. I believe that there would not have been serious opposition from the Arabs to this plan had it not been for two main factors with which we have been dealing in Palestine lately, which have such dangerous complications for the future and which will inevitably follow the partition of Palestine. I refer to the illegal immigration of Jews into Palestine and the further territorial ambitions of the Zionists. I would speak first of immigration. Dealing with this has undoubtedly been the most unpleasant and disagreeable task with which our troops in Palestine have been faced, and your Lordships will be pleased to hear that our soldiers have always behaved with the most remarkable restraint in the face of every provocation. On one occasion when I was present a party of illegal immigrants attacked a number of our men with axes and other steel weapons. Yet within five minutes these same soldiers were good-humouredly and gently assisting the Jews to disembark and were helping them to carry their baggage off the ships.

Zionist policy with regard to immigration is simple. Anyone in Europe who says he is a Jew, and can pay the requisite sum of money to those organizers who traffic in human misery, can, after an interval in Cyprus, become one more recruit to fight for the Jewish State. What will happen when we leave? Once our Navy and Army have left there will be nothing to stop a mass entry into Palestine. The orthodox and old-established Jewish communities, who for years have been dwelling peacefully side by side with the Arabs, will be still more perturbed at the prospect of the Holy Land being overrun by the most undesirable elements in Europe, many of whom will not be Jews. This mass influx will clearly be most detrimental to the social structure and to the future development and prosperity of the young Jewish State. I therefore say, without qualification, that there should be no connexion between the setting up of the Jewish State in Palestine and the problem of displaced persons in Europe. In this unlimited immigration the Arabs of Palestine see the prospect of such a rapid growth and expansion that they would inevitably be forced to minority status and be faced with more demands to give up land.

I come now to my second point, which is the further territorial ambitions of the Zionists. It may be of interest to your Lordships if I quote the following extracts from articles in the Jewish Standard, a Jewish national weekly, dated December 5, just after the announcement of partition. These extracts should serve to convince those who believe that Zionist ambitions are confined only to the achievement of a Jewish State in a part of Palestine. They should also adequately explain the acute disquiet of adjacent Arab States whose actions in the coming months are likely to be prompted less by sympathy for Palestinian Arabs than by the very real menace to their own national and economic survival. The Jewish Standard of December 5,1947, said: Above all, let us confess openly and unhesitatingly that the Partition State which is now offered to the Jewish people is not the complete home of the nation, cannot solve the whole of our problem and guarantee security to the whole of our people. It is but a first step towards full Jewish Statehood in the whole of Palestine and complete and undiminished redemption. We Revisionists have always believed, and still believe with perfect faith that Trans-jordan—the Eastern portion of the Land of Israel—will return to us in the fullness of time, provided the nation directs its footsteps towards that objective and knows how to use circumstances as they develop and arise. We proclaim to-day our faith that this first step forward is but the beginning of a march that will not end until Israel is ingathered within its ancient boundaries, stretching from the sea to beyond the Jordan, and from the River of Egypt to the frontiers of Lebanon and Syria. Can one wonder that the Arabs are suspicious?

I am not an expert on foreign affairs, but may I suggest that the United Nations obtain a solemn pledge from the new Jewish State that they have no further territorial designs in the Middle East? The new State must curb its ambitions, or we shall doubtless see within a very short time a situation in Palestine which may well give rise to a major war. Further, I would most earnestly beg the Government to allow no sales to either side of material which could be turned to war purposes. It would be far better to destroy our large stocks of stores if we are unable to evacuate them. In reply to the noble Lord who spoke on the question of the Haganah, may I say this? We in Palestine were far too busy in the past dealing with extremists to waste our time dealing with the Haganah. However, the Haganah have admitted that they have recently blown up buildings in Jerusalem; they have admitted blowing up the hotel in which the Spanish Vice-Consul was killed. If we allow the Haganah to be armed, then we shall have to allow the equivalent Arab organization to be armed also.

I will not detain your Lordships much longer, but I cannot sit down without paying tribute to our soldiers who throughout the last two years have had to endure not only bullets and bombs and kidnappers, but also the endless campaign of lies and abuse which have been levelled against them in the Jewish Press. Their unpleasant duty is nearly done, and I would ask the Government to cut short, so far as military requirements allow, the overseas tours of those who have spent a long time in Palestine. They well deserve a rest at home. I can only hope that the bitter struggle and bloodshed which now seems inevitable in Palestine can somehow be averted, and that Arab and Jew will learn to live beside each other in peace and mutual tolerance.

4.34 p.m.


My Lords, I should like at the outset to congratulate the noble Lord who has just sat down on a really excellent maiden speech. He spoke as one with most recent experience of what we are discussing this afternoon, and he has done it in a manner which is admirable in its sincerity, clarity and fairness. I would like to emphasize one thing which he mentioned in his speech, and which was said by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York—that there is a danger in using the word "Zionist" to cover so many things. The extract which the noble Lord read represents the views of a body who call themselves Revisionists, who rebelled long ago. I had a great deal of trouble with them when I was at the Colonial Office ten years ago. They regarded Dr. Weitzmann, then Head of the Zionist Organization, as a traitor. These extremists in Palestine are quite impossible. They are one of the major obstacles to-day to a settlement of any kind. And they claim to speak in the name of a man now dead, whom I knew very well in the old days and who, I am sure, would not share their views to-day. In fact, they are the organization out of which grew all too many members of the Irgun Zvai Leumi.

It is absolutely idiotic for any body of Jews to-day, conditions in the Middle East being what they are, to threaten Transjordan, where the mandate has just terminated and whose independence is now recognized, with violent invasion and incorporation in a Jewish State. Such propaganda does the Jewish cause nothing but harm, not merely in the Middle East but throughout the world. I was a Zionist—I say this frankly—before the Balfour Declaration. I was the first Minister to have to develop partition after the resolution of the Palestine Commission, and I did so with all sincerity. I took the matter to Geneva, where I spent a long time with the Mandates Commission, of which I was a member before I became a Minister. I am still convinced that some form of partition is necessary. But partition, like Zionism, is a word that can cover a great deal or a very little. I have been clear from the first that the idea that Palestine can be divided into two parts, one a continuous Arab area and the other a continuous Jewish area, is quite impossible to carry out.

Equally I have always been clear that there must be a tripartite division, if only for the reasons given by the most reverend Primate this afternoon. A great many of the most important Christian sites are outside the city of Jerusalem. I used to go frequently to the house of Jewish friends outside the walls of Jerusalem, and immediately opposite were the headquarters of the Abyssinian Church and the representative in Jerusalem of the ancient Church of Ethiopia. And what about Bethlehem, the most sacred of all places to every Christian, and which is entirely inhabited by Christians? It is some miles outside Jerusalem. Obviously there must be a very considerable area around Jerusalem, and possibly other places such as Nazareth, under a quite separate international government and not under either the Jewish or the Arab State.

It is unfortunate that some of the people who have been dominating the policy throughout the United States and the United Nations have shown only too clearly that they have not yet appreciated some of the major factors which anybody who knows Palestine well and is clearly unprejudiced—as I was when I was there—could tell them. That is the tragedy of to-day. But the principal point we wish to make in this debate is to ask the Government to make it clear once again that all the suggestions we continually see in the Press of the world, whether beyond the iron curtain in Eastern Europe or in the New World, that the British are at this very moment encouraging disorder in Palestine because they want to stay there for their own imperialist interests, are intolerable, and we resent that propaganda, whether in the New World or in Eastern Europe. It is singularly unfair.

How soon can His Majesty's Government make it clear to our troops, to our civil servants, and to other British interests—because I drink the commercial interests will have to go—when they can be got safely out of Palestine, lock, stock and barrel? After all the propaganda against us, I do not see how it could be expected that British troops, who are now so abused, should stay and keep law and order for the United Nations. If all these accusations are made against us, and we are told that we have done nothing but wrong and that the British are so at fault, then let the United Nations' farces be composed of other people. I have felt that for a very long time. I would like to see a bag-and-baggage, root-and-branch withdrawal by the British from Palestine.

I agree with those who have said that history, when it is written impartially, will say that from the time the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, was High Commissioner until to-day, our record in the face of enormous difficulties has been unfairly criticized and unfairly attacked by all too many people. I think our record in Palestine is a proud one. When I was responsible for the Colonial Office there was the Mufti and his armed bodyguard, and his relations with Hitler and Mussolini. Andrews, one of the best officers we ever had, was murdered by Arab extremists as he came out of church at Nazareth. Even now we are still abused by the Arabs, and are being more than ever abused, not by the fair Jews or the religious Jews but by the element in the United States that has been illegally financing the immigrants and has now been caught red-handed trying to ship arms illicitly to the Jews in Palestine. When history is written it will record that the extremists on the Arab and the Jewish sides did badly, both by the Jewish Home and the Jewish State which is to be established in part of Palestine, and by the interests of the Moslem people. I have watched and taken an interest in this country, and it is tragic to me that things have come to this pass; nevertheless I am perfectly clear that there must be no faltering by Britain as to the urgency of getting out at the earliest possible moment. That is vital. The sooner we get out the better.

I do hope that we shall not have—as we have had too often, whether in relation to Burma or to India—any parsimony in the treatment of our servants, military or civil, whether they have absolute contracts or not, and whether or not they belong to the Secretary of State's Services. I know the old argument of the Treasury, that if a man has got a contract they, of course, will honour it, but that if he has just been taken on—if he is just a policeman, or a public works employee—no compensation will be paid, even though the whole of his life or many years of his life have been bound up in working for the British Government or the British authorities in Palestine. I am getting a little tired of Government representatives in debate after debate in both Houses of Parliament getting up and defending a parsimonious policy towards British servants when a change takes place in a ré gime. If ever there was a case for generous treatment of people who lost their jobs because of our evacuation of a country, it is here and now over Palestine. I hope the Cabinet Ministers responsible for that decision will on this occasion take a very firm line on their behalf.

One had hoped for a far better solution in Palestine than the one now proposed by the United Nations. It is, indeed, a tragedy. Even if the proposed Jewish State is enlarged, it is not the sort of thing for which the old Zionists fought. The aim of the old Zionist movement—I knew personally Dr. Weitzmann, Dr. Sokolov, and Dr. Nordan—was not just a home of refuge for displaced persons, but a place that would attract only those Jews who wanted to build up all that was best in traditional Jewish culture. Among the thousands of displaced persons still in the camps in Central Europe there are people who would never have thought of going to Palestine if they had not been uprooted by the war. They would have come to this country, or they may have gone to America, as so many thousands have done. They have had no spiritual call, but merely want somewhere to live. I think it is up to the Americans and to others not to put obstacles in the way of the admission of any of these displaced persons into their country, as they are now doing. A great many Jews are attempting illegal immigration into Palestine only because they are told they will not be allowed to go anywhere else. That is absolutely wrong.

It behoves all members of the United Nations to do more to relieve the pressure upon Palestine at this moment by a more liberal policy in accepting these people. I agree that they should not be accepted in great hordes but that they should be dispersed. It is up to all countries to take a share, and not still further to complicate the Palestine problem. As for the suggestion that these displaced persons are wanted in order to fight the Arabs in Palestine, could there be a more mischievous propaganda in the whole Moslem world? It is disastrous to Jew and Arab alike. We are not yet out of our troubles in Palestine or the Middle East and it does behove this or any British Government to-day to make their position absolutely clear. His Majesty's Government should make clear what they are going to do for our servants in Palestine, and they should indicate that for us there is to be no further responsibility, no further share, and no turning back from our declared policy.

4.50 p.m.

The Marquess of SALISBURY

My Lords, I am sure that the Government will not complain of the temper of this debate. It has throughout, I think, been both moderate and constructive, and I do not think that any unbiased listener would regard it as a debate without value. Much has been said which it will be useful for your Lordships and for the country to know, by persons well qualified by their experience to say it. In that connexion, I would mention in particular the speeches of the most reverent Primate, The Archbishop of York, the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, and many others. In particular, if I may say so, I would refer to the extremely wise and successful maiden speech of the noble Lord, Lord Montagu. I hope that the Government will give all those speeches the attention which they deserve. I thought the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, made a particularly valuable contribution. It is true that he had a very sombre story to tell, but it was one which the country ought to hear. It was, moreover, told with the authority of one who has just come back from Palestine and who speaks from personal experience.

This debate, like many others I am afraid in recent months, has been to me at any rate, in one particular respect a depressing one. It marks the end of our direct connexion with a country where, I believe, we may fairly claim that our presence has been to the advantage of the local inhabitants and has added lustre to the British name. At the same time, we must not forget that, from the first, we were in Palestine only in the character of trustees; it was always envisaged in the Mandate itself that our stay there would be a temporary one. Indeed, we have stayed as long as we have in that country only because it was so rent with racial and religious differences that it was impossible to create a central administration to whom we could hand over. That is the only reason why we are there now, and have been there for a great many years. We had to hold the balance between bitterly opposed elements who were unable to take a national view because they themselves were not a single community. That, of course, is the whole crux of the Palestine problem. Nor, as the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, has just said to your Lordships, has the situation been eased by the action of pressure groups in other countries who have given advice and assistance to one party or the other for reasons not in the least connected with the welfare of Palestine itself, but irresponsibly, in accordance with their own predilections.

I do not believe that any other nation would have carried the burden so long as we did, and I would agree with all the other speakers who have already addressed your Lordships that the highest credit is due to the British soldiers and the British officials who, under constant provocation and at the risk of their lives, have carried on the government and have maintained justice, law and order with patience; fairness, tolerance and good humour. I hope that the Government will be able to announce to-day that these public servants, to whom we owe so much, will be treated with the full generosity which they deserve. No doubt we have made mistakes in Palestine. Possibly we have made many mistakes. That was perhaps inevitable in the circumstances. But I believe that the judgment of history will say that we have done nothing of which we need be ashamed. My main regret—I think the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, has already made this point—is that the Government did not tackle this problem more resolutely in the period immediately following the war. I still believe, from what little experience I gained during the time I was at the Colonial Office, that something might conceivably have been done then.

I read the reply of the Foreign Secretary on this very point in a debate on December 18 last in another place. He explained the delay by saying, as I understand it, that he always preferred to get a settlement by agreement. Well, so do we all. Of course we do; that is the British way of doing Things. But surely it must have been apparent by then that no voluntary agreement was possible between Jews and Arabs. We had either to impose a solution or we had to refer the matter back, as we have now, to the United Nations. Either course would have been better than allowing things to slide as they did during that period. If definite action had been taken at that time, I still believe—I may be quite wrong—that before tempers had been allowed to become exacerbated to the point which they have now reached, a settlement might have been achieved without the present bloodshed. But the opportunity was not taken, and it is no good crying over spilt milk.

Once the matter had reached its present stage I do not believe that the Government could have adopted any other course than that they have now taken. In particular, if I may say so with all deference, I think they have been extremely wise not to submit a United Kingdom plan to the United Nations. The only result of that would have been that the other nations would have concentrated their attention on riddling the British plan and no advance would have been achieved. If we once made up our minds to submit the problem—a problem which we by ourselves had been unable to solve—to the united wisdom of the world, it was far better to face them with it bleakly and baldly, and to force them to find a solution. Now they have made their attempt, and the time has come to put it into effect. It surely cannot be the purpose of any of us to-day to say anything which might possibly prejudice the success of the United Nations scheme. No one can underestimate—no one will be inclined to underestimate—the difficulties of the task which faces the United Nations Commission. Palestine as a whole was a small enough administrative unit. To divide it still further into two independent entities must have been a task of the utmost complexity, even if these two States had the closest friendly relations with each other. But now this has to be done under conditions approaching civil war between the two communities, communities which unfortunately must inevitably overlap each other's borders.

Even with the services which are reserved to the central authority under the United Nations scheme, that must be, I should have thought, a herculean labour, and clearly it can only succeed if both Jews and Arabs are willing to moderate their present temper. I think we all recognize that this must involve extremely unpalatable concessions on both sides. We all appreciate how unpalatable those concessions must be to communities in their present temper of mind. But what is the alternative? I say that not so much to ourselves as to the two communities, the Jews and the Arabs, who are now so deeply disturbed. I am afraid that the alternative is already painfully apparent. It is what I believe the noble Lord, Lord Montagu, described in graphic terms—battle, murder, sudden death and the destruction of all that prosperity which has grown up under a just British administration. On one side, it will mean the possible ruin of the Zionist experiment. On the other, it will mean a catastrophic reduction in the standard of life and security of the Arab population, and the death by murder and starvation of many thousands of innocent women and children on both sides.

That is the alternative to the acceptance of this scheme. I should have thought that that was a prospect at which even the most fanatical mind might quail. It must be the earnest plea of all of us who love peace that that alternative will be rejected by the responsible leaders of both the two parties, and that, faced with stark realities, as they are now, they will try to find some permanent modus vivendi on the basis of the present plan. That is what I may call the long-term aspect. It does not affect us individually, except as a member of the United Nations, as a civilized country with interests in the Middle East as a whole. Before success or failure can be fully realized we shall have surrendered the Mandate, and our troops and our administration will have left the country. But where we are vitally interested is in the interim period, while the transfer of power is taking place. During that period there is bound to be a time of intense difficulty and constant danger; British lives are bound to be in peril, and British statesmanship and tact are bound to be strained to the utmost.

It is natural, I think, that the British Parliament, which is vitally concerned, should wish to know how these difficulties are to be surmounted. We all know—it has been stressed again and again in the debate to-day—that there are two vital days, May 15, when we surrender the Mandate, and August 1, when, as I understand it, the evacuation is to be completed. I hope the noble Earl who is to reply for the Government will be able to assure your Lordships that there is no question of retarding either of these two dates, and especially the second. I would ask the Government to give absolute assurances on that point to-day. Any uncertainty must have a deplorable effect upon both Jews and Arabs, for it will encourage them to think that British troops will still be there after that date to hold the ring, and to prevent the worst excesses, as they have done in the past.

Moreover, after the surrender of the Mandate, the British troops will have no locus standi at all in the country. They will be put in an almost impossible position; in fact, they are in an almost impossible position already. I was rather alarmed by what was said in an apparently authoritative despatch to a Sunday paper which stated that we could not hope to get out of the country by August 1. It appeared from that despatch that new complications had arisen, that the present state of chaos in Palestine was paralyzing transport and would be likely to make any movements to the coast more difficult. In addition, the despatch said that there appeared to be an entire lack of labour in the ports themselves. This despatch was dated from Jerusalem, and it indicated that there is now talk in Palestine of postponing for another two months the final date of evacuation. I hope that the Government will not acquiesce in any suggestions of that kind. If there is any clash, as I am told there may be, between the need of carrying the citrus crop and the protection of British lives and property, surely it is the citrus crop that ought to go by the board. I should have thought that from the purely financial point of view alone that was clearly the right course. I understand that we have at least £50,000,000 pounds worth of stores in Palestine. Surely it would pay us to get these away, even if we have to compensate the citrus growers. Moreover, if there are at present insufficient facilities at the ports for embarking stores, surely it would be possible for us to retain one port after the due date, concentrate the stores there, and evacuate them after the due date as rapidly as possible. I should not have thought that that was a difficulty which it was beyond the power of our military authorities to surmount.

But, at all costs, do not let us leave in Palestine large forces without any authority or security. That would not redound either to our prestige or to our honour. The United Nations have now taken the plunge, and if they have sent a Commission without adequate forces behind it, as I am afraid they have, they must deal with the problem which their decision has created. They must face up to it and find a means of solving it. If individual officers in the present Administration volunteer to help this Commission through the emergency, as Lord Altrincham suggested, of course none of us would wish to discourage them. They may feel it is their duty; and very possibly it is their duty. If they wish to undertake it, we should commend them for it. But they should be there purely as individuals, and not as the tail end of a British Administration.

In conclusion, I would once more appeal to the interested parties inside and outside Palestine to avoid acts liable to exacerbate further an already sufficiently horrible situation. We have all seen stories of arms and equipment shipped from the United States, and of shiploads of young men proceeding from Western Europe to help the Jews. We have read accounts, on the other side, of forces being recruited in Syria, complete with field hospitals and so forth, to help the Arabs. Such a mobilization and strengthening of hostile forces can only make more certain utter disaster for jew and Arab alike. Moreover, it would be entirely inconsistent with the obligations which the nations concerned have undertaken as members of the United Nations.

I feel sure that all Governments concerned will do their utmost to prevent the exportation to Palestine of such explosive—I use the word in its fullest sense—material as that. One of the most tragic developments of our time, I feel, is that this little country, which is after all a holy place alike for Christians, Jews and Moslems, should become a cauldron in which are brewing all those evil passions which are repellent 10 devout adherents of all these religions.

Palestine is a very small country, one of the smallest, but what happens there is bound to have repercussions throughout the whole globe. There never was a time, I should have thought, when cool and temperate statesmanship, based on the highest ideals, was more necessary than with regard to the Palestine problem to-day. This problem has in it—and one cannot ignore it—all the seeds of a religious civil war; and that is the most horrible and most atrocious of conflicts. Religion can be the greatest safeguard of human happiness; it can, if misdirected, be its greatest danger. To-day we can only pray that the minds of the leaders of these two ancient communities, in both of whom there is so much of good, may be so guided that they will be turned from the ways of violence into the paths of peace. That, I am sure, is the earnest hope of all of us, on whatever side of the House we sit. And in anything which the Government can do to further that happy result they may rely upon the wholehearted support of every one of us, to whichever Party he may belong.

5.9 p.m.

Viscount SAMUEL

My Lords, your Lordships have listened to a series of very interesting and impressive speeches. I rise, not to endeavour to make any substantial contribution to this debate, but rather to explain very briefly why it is that no one has risen from these Benches to take a share in it. As a rule, we on the Liberal Benches take our full share in the privilege of participating in your Lordships' debates, but we are bound to say that we do not feel that at this particular juncture we have any fresh or helpful contribution to make to the question of Palestine. The reason is this. Long ago, His Majesty's Government announced that the whole basis of their policy in international affairs was support for the United Nations, and from all quarters that declaration was approved and applauded. More recently, they stated that they would refer the vexed issue of Palestine to the United Nations, and again neither in your Lordships' House nor in any other quarter was any note of dissent struck. Indeed, we are all profoundly thankful that such a body as the United Nations should now exist, to whom controversial questions of this kind can be referred. Similarly, if there were no United Nations, the position in respect to India and Pakistan might before now have developed into open civil war. Similarly, too, the grave trouble between the Dutch and a section of the Indonesians might have proved insoluble.

The matter has been referred to the United Nations, and the Assembly of the United Nations has given its decision on the main point at issue. For my own part, on the various occasions on which I have addressed your Lordships' House I have made it plain that, from my knowledge of the country and the history of this question, I have not approved the policy of partition. I have no word of commendation to say to-day for that policy, but I see no advantage at this moment in re-opening the argument or in endeavouring to apportion blame for any of the situations that have given rise to this decision. So far, it is true, the United Nations have put forward only half a plan. They have declared what should be done, but they have not yet stated how to secure that it shall be done. The organization, however, is now devoting all its mind to that issue. It is as well aware as anyone in this House, or anyone throughout the world, what the present situation is and how near Palestine is to complete chaos. It is not for us here, in this Legislature, to anticipate that such measures as the United Nations will take will necessarily lead to failure. Therefore, I agree with what has just been said by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, that our task in this House is to say nothing that would tend in any degree further to complicate the situation or to embarrass, in however slight a measure, the action of the United Nations.

For our part, sitting on these Benches, we realize to the full the gravity of the present situation and the even greater dangers that may be impending and imminent. While we feel that we must once more express, as all your Lordships have done, our unqualified condemnation of the detestable crimes that have been committed by the terrorists in Palestine, and particularly those events which have caused the deepest resentment throughout the British people, in which our own men, our soldiers and our policemen, have been the victims of detestable crimes and treacherous assassination, still, when we come to the main point at issue at the present time, we feel that we cannot here carry the matter further pending the remaining decisions on action to be taken by the United Nations, and that we can hardly expect His Majesty's Government to make any further statement until the United Nations have made their final declarations and their final dispositions.

5.15 p.m.

The Earl of LISTOWEL

My Lords, I should like to start by associating myself with the congratulations that have been offered to the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, on his maiden speech. I think we all appreciate it, particularly because, apart from its other merits, it was based on first-hand experience derived from his own period as a serving officer in Palestine. I, for my part, cordially welcome his tribute to the work that has been done by the Forces, and I will certainly ask my right honourable friend, the Secretary of State for War, to consider his suggestion about curtailing the overseas tours of those who have served for a long period of time in Palestine. I am sure, however, that the noble Lord will appreciate that the requirements of the Army must be paramount. We are all particularly pleased when a noble Lord starts his duties in this House at an early age. I hope very much that we shall hear him speak on many future occasions.

Much has been said in the course of this debate, and in my view rightly said, about the exceptional difficulty of the task with which our men in Palestine have been entrusted at the present time. Indeed, the burden now being borne by the officers of our administration there has never been heavier in the whole troubled history of that country. The security forces, in particular, both police and military, have to carry out their exacting duties while exposed to constant and imminent danger, and without substantial relief from the nervous tension of living, wherever they may be, in the front line. In the full knowledge of much criticism and many allegations that have been directed against them, we can say without hesitation that the conduct and bearing of our public servants in Palestine have been beyond praise and have added fresh lustre to the traditions of the civil and military services to which they belong. I am sure we all share on both sides of this House an equal admiration for the patience and fortitude with which these men are serving their country today in Palestine. I should like to pay a special tribute, because I think a special tribute is proper, to the Palestine Police, who continue to show characteristic devotion to duty under almost impossible conditions.

I should like to remind the House, in a few sentences, of the main decisions of policy that we are now working out in Palestine and in our relations with the United Nations organization. The House will remember that His Majesty's Government have made it abundantly clear again and again that they cannot allow our Forces to be employed in imposing a solution upon either community in Palestine. We cannot use British Forces to impose a plan which is not freely accepted by both parties in Palestine. We have, however, informed the General Assembly of the United Nations organization that we shall not obstruct any decision taken by them, and that we will loyally conform with that decision in so far as its terms do not conflict with the conditions which we had announced previously during the discussions at Lake Success. We have therefore decided to terminate the Mandate for Palestine and withdraw our administration from that country at the earliest possible practicable date. We have declared our intention to terminate the Mandate not later than May 15,1948, and to withdraw our troops not later than August 1 of this year. I should like to make it quite plain that those are terminal dates which cannot be postponed, which may be advanced, but which cannot be retarded, because I am quite certain mat no one would wish any possible misunderstanding to arise on a matter of that importance.

We are now seeking agreement, in discussions with the United Nations Commission in New York, upon a satisfactory time-table for the replacement of our authority by theirs. We should like to see this replacement effected in the most orderly manner possible, and we deplore as keenly as any of your Lordships the possibility of violence and disorder. I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Akrincham—he mentioned this matter in his speech—that we share his anxiety to avoid a complete collapse of authority in Palestine, because, amongst other things, this would inevitably have the gravest consequences on the whole future of the country. It would be, from our point of view, highly tragic if chaos overtook the great work done by or under the British administration in Palestine during the last twenty-five years. Nevertheless we are determined to withdraw our administration and our troops at latest at the dates which we have laid down in our provisional time-table, and I have no reason to believe, from the latest information available, that events in Palestine have made it likely that we shall not be able to complete our military withdrawal by August 1 of this year.

Meanwhile, so long as the United Kingdom continues to hold the Mandate, the Mandatory Government remains responsible for maintaining law and order in Palestine. We shall continue, so long as we exercise authority, to do our very utmost to discharge that responsibility with firmness and impartiality, which is, as I think all noble Lords will agree, the spirit in which we have discharged this responsibility in the past. Unfortunately neither community in Palestine has responded to the appeal made in another place last month by my right honourable friends, the Secretary of State for the Colonies and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, when they expressed the hope that all parties would carefully weigh up the consequences of conflict, and refrain from indulging in provocation. I regret to say that there are elements in both principal communities in Palestine which have been guilty of severe provocation since that appeal was issued. Disturbances which at the outset were neither grave nor frequent have now multiplied through provocation and counter-provocation, until many peace-loving citizens live in daily dread of their life and property.

Some knowledge of the serious character of these disturbances can be gained from the number of casualties that have occurred in the last seven weeks, since the United Nations' decision was taken and made public. From November 30 of last year to January 18 this year the official casualty lists give the following figures of casualties sustained by British troops and police: 20 soldiers killed, 72 wounded; 14 police killed, 40 wounded; 8 British civilians killed, and 2 wounded. During this same period—and these are the latest figures that we are able to give—345 Arabs have been killed and 877 are known to have been wounded. The record of Jewish casualties is 333 killed and 633 wounded.

In these grave circumstances we have concentrated our own security forces in the mixed areas, where the risk of intercommunity conflict is greatest, and we have endeavoured to assist both communities, in areas where either Arabs or Jews are in the great majority, to make arrangements for their own security. On the Jewish side we have withdrawn British and Arab police from the Tel-Aviv-Petahtiqvah area and have agreed to the formation there of an armed Jewish civilian guard. On the Arab side it is similarly our policy to assist in the establishment of a civilian guard force in the form of municipal and local police in the towns and villages. The Jaffa municipal police force has now been expanded and Arab police under British control have been in charge of the Hebron and Nablus sub-districts, with some British troops for general security. These arrangements in no way affect the centralized control of the security forces under the High Commissioner and the G.O.C. who, of course, retain overall direction of security operations.


Do we understand that these Jewish and Arab police still remain responsible to, and under the orders of, our own administration?

The Earl of LISTOWEL They will remain subject to the British administration in Palestine, which has an overall responsibility for the maintenance of law and order. These are local arrangements. The general purpose of these moves is to strengthen the British police force in Jerusalem and other centres where communal clashes are frequent. This arrangement is also necessary to provide sufficient security for Government officers and departments to carry on their work without interruption. Orders have been given that there are to be no searches for arms except in cases where there is evidence that arms have been misused, or are likely to be misused, for offensive purposes. For instance, it has been made clear to the Jewish Agency that nothing will be done to obstruct Jewish self-defence organizations so long as they act in a purely defensive role. In the case of offensive or provocative action, however, I must make it clear that our authorities have taken, and will continue to take, strong measures to counter any such action.

So long as we remain responsible for order and security in the country we will not tolerate the violation by Jews or Arabs of the frontiers of Palestine. His Majesty's Government had occasion recently to lodge a protest with the Syrian Government regarding the use which had been made of Syrian territory as a base for a raid into Palestinian territory by armed bands bent on offensive action. This protest is in accordance with our policy to do everything we can to prevent aggression by Jews against Arabs or Arabs against Jews. Suggestions have been made that the security forces have shown negligence in protecting Jews against Arab attacks. Such accusations are entirely unfounded. I should emphasize that the role of the security forces is to protect life and property without discrimination, and in recent incidents in the Huleh area, at Kfar Etzion, Shafr Amr, and Beit Safafa, to quote only a few, the security forces have been instrumental in repelling Arab assaults on Jews. Our troops and police have no desire to come into conflict with either Arabs or Jews, but it should be clearly understood by both communities, and by their supporters outside Palestine, that any attacks by one against the other are bound to bring the attackers into conflict with British forces. It is only just to acknowledge that members of the Arab Higher Committee in Jerusalem have made genuine efforts to curb Arab violence and to co-operate with the Palestine Government to this end.

Owing to the generally disturbed state of the country at this moment there must inevitably be some reduction of the activities of the Government. The policy of the Palestine Government is to maintain in operation all those departments whose work is essential to the life of the community, and to draw in those staffs whose work in present conditions is no longer possible or fruitful. The loyalty of the Arab and Jewish officers of the Palestine Government in the present difficult circumstances deserves high praise. They man by far the largest part of the administrative machine in Palestine, and it is on their devotion and efficiency that the ordered functioning of any Government in Palestine must in the last resort depend. So far as we can, we are replacing British officers in posts of responsibility by Palestinians. This policy is designed not only to effect that continuity in experienced administration, to the desirability of which the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, rightly drew attention, but also to enable the administration to send out of Palestine those officers and their families who can no longer fully contribute to the work of the Government. In this way it is hoped to expedite the withdrawal from the country of those British civil servants who can now be spared.

It is against this background of tension and strife between the communities in Palestine that the United Nations Commission now meeting in New York is making its plans for the establishment of the successor authorities. The noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, emphasized the obligation which he felt rested upon His Majesty's Government to make available to the United Nations the accumulated knowledge and experience of our administration in Palestine. We are fully conscious of this obligation to do whatever we can to help forward the work of the Commission. For Sir Alexander Cadogan's discussions with the Commission we have sent two expert advisers to New York, one from the Administration in Palestine and one from the Colonial Office, in order that they may from the outset place their knowledge and experience at the disposal of the Commission. Our experts will be in a position to supply the Commission with all possible information which they may request to assist them in their task.

As the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, pointed out, however, the greatest difficulty facing the Commission will be the establishment in Palestine of some central authority which will ensure that the life of the community will continue to function normally while constitutional changes are being made. It is one of the duties of the Commission to establish a Joint Economic Board, representative of both the Arab and Jewish States, and of the United Nations, to run the common services. We propose to point out to the Commission the many matters they will have to provide for in this sphere, of which several have been mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, in the course of his speech. Our representatives at the United Nations discussion in the Autumn of last year, when the Report of the Special Committee on Palestine was being examined, made it clear, however, that the Mandatory Government could not undertake to maintain responsibility for Palestine while the United Nations were putting their plan into operation. Consequently, the proposal which the noble Lord propounded—namely, an interim period of two or three years before the United Nations plan would be finally implemented—was taken out of the provisions of the plan as finally approved by the General Assembly. In fact, the present position requires the United Nations Commission to establish independent Arab and Jewish States in Palestine not later than October 1,1948, thus reducing to the minimum the transitional period that will elapse before the setting up of the successor states.

There have been many references in the course of this debale to the special problems connected with Jerusalem, and much anxiety has been expressed about its future. I think we all agree that Jerusalem must be regarded as a moral trust held by civilization. Any damage or destruction done to Jerusalem would be an injury, not to one country alone but to future generations of civilized men wherever they may live. It is not only the inhabitants of Palestine but all those who adhere to the three great monotheistic faiths who are most intimately and deeply concerned about the future of the Holy City. This was recognized by the General Assembly when they decided to place it under an international regime. The Mandatory Government, of course, retain full responsibility for order in the city until the date of the termination of the Mandate. Thereafter their responsibility ceases, and the responsibility is assumed by the United Nations. The General Assembly have laid down the broad principles on which the successor regime in Jerusalem will be based.

The precise boundaries of the city have still to be determined by the United Nations Commission, but the plan to which they will work involves the inclusion in the international zone of the Holy City of Jerusalem, both ancient and modern, and also its immediate environment, which will include Bethlehem. I am glad to be able to reassure the most reverend Primate on that point. I think we were all deeply moved by the terms of his speech, and particularly by his concern for the future of Jerusalem. I am glad to be able to assure him that the international regime will not be limited to the old city, as I believe he thought it might be. It will include many holy places outside both the old and new cities, such as Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives and Bethlehem. I will gladly send the most reverend Primate a map which will give him the exact proposed boundaries of the new international regime under which Jerusalem is to be placed. Responsibility for the establishment of this regime was laid upon the Trusteeship Council, who immediately set about the task of preparing a Statute for the city. Our representative on the Trusteeship Council has served on a Working Committee of the Council which has been engaged in drafting this Statute, and the work of the Committee is now on the verge of completion. The report of this Working Committee will be submitted to the Council at a special session on February 9, and it will then be the duty of the Council to decide what measures will be necessary, in their judgment, to put the Statute into operation. I can assure noble Lords that I will draw the attention of my colleagues in the Government to the deep concern which has been expressed by many speakers in the debate about the future of Jerusalem, and that our representative on the Trusteeship Council will be informed.

It may interest your Lordships to know something about recent events in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, in recent weeks the old city has been the scene of violent conflict. Much of this conflict has been stimulated by indiscriminate bomb attacks by Jewish terrorist organizations on groups of Arabs going about their normal avocations at the gates of the old city. These attacks have engendered a feeling of insecurity in the Arab inhabitants, who have taken steps for their protection which have made the position of the Jewish community in the old city one of difficulty and sometimes of danger. It has been alleged that this community was besieged by Arabs, starved and about to be massacred. Throughout the whole period of disturbance, however, there have been adequate British forces within the old city to protect the Jews, and there has been no question of a general assault on them by the Arabs. Whenever required, food convoys have been taken to the Jews in the city under strong military escort. Contrary to allegations that the British troops are idle spectators of this communal conflict, it can be said that but for our intervention the Jews in the old city would probably have suffered severely in life and property. In fact, their total casualties have been two killed and three injured. The general situation is now much easier, and I would appeal to both communities, in the spirit which has been expressed by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury, to refrain from those acts of provocation which can lead only to desolation and destruction at the heart of Christendom.

I would like now to say one or two words about immigration. In spite of the appeal that has been made to the Jewish community to refrain from illegal immigration during the present period, the two largest ships yet to engage in the traffic, "Pan York" and "Pan Crescent. "have reached Cyprus with over 15,000 persons on board. In addition, three other ships, carrying some 2,300 immigrants, have arrived there. There are now over 31,000 Jews in the Cyprus camps. I would here recall that His Majesty's Government have already announced that they cannot have illegal immigrants on British territory after the military withdrawal, and that our delegation in New York are charged with discussing the arrangements that will have to be made with the United Nations Commission. One of the recommendations of the United Nations Assembly was that the Mandatory Power should use its best endeavours to ensure that an area situated in the territory of the Jewish State, including a seaport and hinterland adequate to provide facilities for a substantial immigration, should be evacuated not later than February 1,1948. Your Lordships, I am sure, are aware of the great difficulties inherent in this proposal. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said in another place that His Majesty's Government cannot agree to open a port until we lay down the Mandate. We cannot have two administrations at one time, nor can we take the risk of the widespread conflict between Jews and Arabs which would certainly result from this concession. Of course, we do not underestimate the importance attached by the Jews to this facility. There are, however, only a few months to pass before we lay down the Mandate, and I would ask those concerned to exercise patience and restraint for a little longer.

At an early stage of my speech, I associated myself with tributes which have been paid, to the uncomplaining fortitude of British civil servants and police. The Government have given much careful consideration to their future after the termination of their service in Palestine, and to the question of compensation in cases where such payments will be required. Anxiety about the future of these men was expressed by both the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, and the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. I can say now that I hope, and believe, that it will be possible to publish the compensation terms in the very near future. I can only assure your Lordships that His Majesty's Government and the Government of Palestine are most anxious to treat the men with the utmost fairness, and to behave with as much generosity as possible. In the meantime, we have ensured that Palestine staff would be considered for all current vacancies in the Colonial Service, and as they become available many will be transferred, after a period of well-earned leave, to other posts in the Colonial Empire.

The Palestine Police Force will present a special problem in the matter of rehabilitation, on account of its size. The present strength of the British section of the Palestine Police Force is about 4,000 men. Of these, about 2,500 have less than two years' service, and many chose service with the Palestine Police Force in preference to serving with the Armed Forces of the Crown. These men should find no difficulty in obtaining employment in the productive system of this country: certainly no greater difficulty than if they had served with the Forces and had been demobilized in the ordinary way. The residue of 1,500 may have anything up to twenty years' service, although the number who have served as long as that is very small. The main difficulty for them is that the longer a man. has served with, the Palestine Police Force the more difficult it will be for him to find future employment, except as a policeman. We are actively engaged in doing what we can to help these men to obtain suitable alternative employment. For example, the Home Office and the Prison Commissioners are willing to recruit men for the home police and the prison service from the Palestine Police Force on its disbandment. With this in view, a Police and Prisons Commission is leaving this country by air to-day with the object of informing members of the Force about the conditions and requirements which they would be expected to fulfil, and to select men who may be accepted by the Police authorities here. We understand from the High Commissioner that a large number of the members of the Palestine Police Force have expressed a wish to be considered for the home police or the prison service.

We are receiving welcome assistance in this matter from other parts of the Commonwealth. Australia and Southern Rhodesia have both come forward with proposals which will assist in the absorption of these men. The Agent-General for Victoria is anxious to recruit men from the Palestine Police for service with the Victoria Police Force Particulars of the conditions of service have been sent to the High Commissioner for Palestine for circulation to members of the Palestine Police and, if the response warrants, it, the Agent-General is prepared to consider sending a recruiting officer to Palestine to interview applicants. The British South Africa Force in Southern Rhodesia requires a number of foot and mounted constables to fill vacancies. A recruiting officer from Rhodesia expects to reach this country in March, with the object of selecting recruits as a result of advertisements inserted in the Press here, and it is hoped that it will be possible for this officer to go to Palestine to select men from the Palestine Police Force before he reaches this country. I have mentioned these examples to show the effort that is being made by all concerned to secure the future of the members of the Palestine Police Force.

I have been asked by the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, about the bearing of the Foreign Enlistment Act of 1870 on the alleged intention of certain British subjects to take part in irregular warfare in Palestine. My legal advisers have examined this matter, and I am told that Section 4 of the Foreign Enlistment Act is not free from ambiguity and can, in fact, be construed in different ways. The noble Lord construed it in one way with great force and clarity. Whether it would apply to British subjects enlisting in irregular forces in Palestine is, therefore, a legal question which can only be settled if a test case comes before the Courts. I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, however, that it is highly undesirable for British subjects to become involved in communal warfare in Palestine, and I am sure this view is shared by everyone in the House.

I should like to express a special sense of gratitude for the speech made by the noble Marquess, Lord Salisbury. His appeal for the acceptance of the plan of the United Nations, and for the exercise of restraint and moderation by both communities in Palestine, is exactly the appeal that we feel will do most good at the present time, and I hope very much that his speech will be widely read outside this House. I also agree with him that this has been a useful, moderate and constructive debate. Not only have many speakers contributed views, based on their special knowledge of Palestine—I think we heard two former Secretaries of State for the Colonies and one former High Commissioner for Palestine—but several of those who have spoken have spoken as representatives of important elements of public opinion in this country. I can assure all the noble Lords who have spoken that their speeches this afternoon will be carefully studied by the Government and by the Departments concerned, and I am quite certain that they will not pass unheeded in the world outside.

5.47 p.m.


My Lords, I am sure that no one will suggest that this debate was not worth having, in so much as it elicited from the noble Earl opposite a most useful, informative and reassuring statement, for which we are really very grateful to him. That alone, I think, would have justified the debate. I may also add from these Benches, however, that, while we do not consider it our duty in any way to offer advice to the United Nations as to how they should carry on the task they have undertaken, we do consider it our duty to say from time to time what the role of this country should be. Even if the Liberal Party is not interested in it, it will always be our view that the role of this country is an important one and that we are entitled to express an opinion about it at critical moments.

Before I make my brief remarks about the noble Earl's reply, I should like to join those who have congratulated the noble Lord, Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, on his admirable maiden speech. We were all delighted to hear him and we look forward to many contributions from him. I should like to make it plain, in view of something Lord Harlech said about partition meaning so many different things, that when I speak of partition I mean the creation of two independent sovereign States. That is the only real meaning which can be attached to partition. Anything which implies less than that and government under some central authority is not partition in the proper sense. I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, that there should be no co-operation by our troops. They must get rid of their responsibility at the earliest possible moment. What I suggested was that the civil servants should be encouraged to co-operate as individuals, on their own responsibility, if they felt inclined to do so, and what the noble Earl opposite said about that matter was extremely satisfactory. He said truly that the greater part of the personnel is Arab or Jewish, and if they are prepared to cany on under the United Nations, all the better.

I am also much reassured by what he said as to the withdrawal of British officers who are non-essential. It is obviously better that those who can be spared should go at the earliest possible moment, but I expect it will be found before the United Nations has completed its work that some are essential, and I hope we shall not restrain them from offering their services as individuals to the United Nations, if they themselves feel inclined to do so. We are particularly glad to have from His Majesty's Government a definite assurance of May 15 for the termination of the Mandate, and of August 1 for the military evacuation, and to hear that those dates may be advanced, but will not be postponed. That assurance in itself is immensely comforting to us, and we are greatly obliged for it. I am glad also to know—for we were not aware of it—that conversations are now taking place with the Commission in New York, and that experts have been sent out to assist Sir Alexander Cadogan in carrying on those conversations. Obviously in the circumstances it would be unreasonable to press for any further information as to how those coversations are going, and I do not intend to do so. All I will say is that I wish them extremely well. A great deal is going to depend on their success.

If I may echo what the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, has said, I hope it will be perfectly clear that any local forces which are encouraged to keep the peace in either Jewish or Arab areas—Jewish forces or Arab forces—will be kept responsible to us so long as we are in Palestine and so long as we have the responsibility, because it is clear from the Report of the Commission that when we leave those forces are to be responsible to the Commission and not to the new States. That is very carefully laid clown, and I think it needs emphasis. As to the undertaking about which the noble Earl spoke in regard to economic union between the two States, he very truly said that the Report proceeds on the assumption that those two States will be in being and will have arrived at agreement by October 1. Everybody must know that that is not going to take place. There are not going to be two States in being on October I, whatever exhortations we offer. That is certain. Therefore, the Commission will have to undertake the duty, which is laid down in the resolution, of carrying on all these common services concerned with economic union and everything else.

There are only two other points upon which I would like to say a word. I was glad to hear what the noble Earl said about illegal immigrants. It was obviously impossible to accede to the suggestion made by the Jews, but it is most important that we should make it clear that illegal Jewish immigrants cannot be left in British territory after we have ceased to be responsible for Palestine, and the United Nations must make provision for them. The only other point is in regard to the Palestine Police. I was glad to hear of the efforts that are being made to re-employ the men who will lose their occupation in that respect. I would like to press this point. I think the men with longer service are entitled not only to re-employment, or to such assistance as we can give them, but to a bonus or to compensation of some kind for the termination of their service from the authority which has, after all, terminated it, and that is the United Nations. I think we ought to press the United Nations for some form of compensation or consideration for all the servants who are having their period of service curtailed because of a decision to which the United Nations have come. That does not seem to be an unreasonable demand. It would mean that these servants are more generously treated, and it would prevent the whole burden being thrown on this country, which appears to me unfair.

Apart from those matters, there is nothing for me to say other than to reinforce the appeal to both parties which was made by the noble Lord, Lord Harlech, by my noble friend the Marquess of Salisbury and by the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, to show all the moderation they can, and more particularly in Jerusalem. If we can save the area about Jerusalem from the worst of this appalling situation we shall, at any rate, have done something. I am glad to have it confirmed that the area of Jerusalem, and the neighbourhood which is to come under international Government, is the full area recommended by the Commission. That is an area, I think, at least ten miles square, including Bethlehem and other places. I am sure the most reverend Primate will be glad that that reply has been given in response to his most moving appeal. Once again, let me thank the noble Earl opposite for his very full and reassuring reply, and for the trouble which he has obviously taken to meet all the points put to him. I beg leave to withdraw my Motion for Papers.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.