HL Deb 01 June 1949 vol 162 cc1329-65

3.2 p.m.

THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF YORK rose to ask His Majesty's Government whether they are in a position to make a statement about the future of Jerusalem and the Holy Places; and to move for Papers. The most reverend Primate said: My Lords, some few weeks ago I brought before the House the problem of the Arab refugees who had left their homes in Palestine and were in a position of great anxiety and want. On that occasion I deliberately confined myself to that one special problem. I thought that was the most urgent of all the immediate problems connected with Palestine. This afternoon I shall be asking your Lordships to consider Jerusalem and the Holy Places, and I shall ask the Government whether they can make some statement on this matter. I realise that there may be special difficulties in the way of making a full statement at the present moment, but, like many of the Questions which appear on the Order Paper of your Lordships' House, this one is partly intended to enable me to express the intense anxiety which millions of Christians throughout the world are feeling about the future of Palestine.

Let me make it plain at the very outset that Christians are not asking for any kind of special privileges. What they ask for themselves, they ask for the Jews and for the Moslems. There is no desire for any kind of discrimination. We ask that the three religions should have their sacred places carefully protected, that they should have free access to them, that their members should have complete freedom of worship and belief, and that Jerusalem and its immediate neighbourhood should be put under international control.

This plea for the special treatment of Jerusalem is of course due to the fact that Jerusalem is a City of three great religions. It is the City of the Jews, which for 460 years was the capital of their independent State. For over a thousand years the Temple stood in it. It is the City of David, of Isaiah and Jeremiah. The Jews, dispersed in all parts of the world, have always carried with them a deep affection for the City of their forefathers and a great longing that it may be restored to them. The Psalms of David express this feeling in: If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning. To the Moslems it is also a sacred City, the third most sacred city of the Mohammedan religion. In fact, at one time Mohammed regarded it as so sacred that he ordered all his followers to turn towards Jerusalem when they worshipped, though later he substituted another direction for that. It is the City from which Mohammed made his nocturnal ascent to the Heavens. It is the City to which Mohammedans believe all people will be gathered at the Judgment Day. And it is the City to which their pilgrims come with great devotion, year after year.

I would venture to say, however, that Jerusalem and Bethlehem are even more sacred to the Christians than to either Jews or Mohammedans. The Jews and Mohammedans look upon Jerusalem as a City connected with their great prophets. We look on Bethlehem as the City in which our Lord was born and Jerusalem as the City in which He died and rose again from the dead. The City of Jerusalem is of the very heart of Christian faith. In that City the Christian Church was founded. In that City there was the first martyr. From that City there went forth missionaries to preach the Gospel in every part of the world. And to that City there have come, year after year, thousands of pilgrims. All Christendom is profoundly interested in the future of the City of Jerusalem.

It is for this reason that Christians have of late expressed so fairly and emphatically their conviction that the City ought not to be placed under the control of any one of these religions but under an international authority. This view has been expressed very fairly by His Holiness the Pope, who on three different occasions has asked that Jerusalem should be put under an international authority and that all the sacred places in Palestine should be safeguarded, with free access to them. Our Lambeth Conference, at its recent meeting, when some 300 Bishops were present from all parts of the world, unanimously asked for the placing of Jerusalem under international control. The most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury has again and again spoken out clearly on this matter. The Oecumenical Patriarch said in the same way as recently as last May that the only satisfactory solution was the placing of Jerusalem under international control. Apart from these statements, I have here a whole list of resolutions passed by various Protestant bodies, both American and British, who have an active interest in Palestine. All of them demand that Jerusalem should be placed under some form of international control. I know, too, from private correspondence how anxious the various ecclesiastics and Christian bodies in the Near East are that the City should come under the control of neither Arab nor Jew, but of some international authority.

These expressions of opinion by various religious leaders have been more than endorsed by the recommendations of impartial Committees. For instance, a Royal Commission of 1937 recommended that: The partition of Palestine is subject to the overriding necessity of keeping the sanctity of Jerusalem and Bethlehem inviolate and of ensuring free and safe access to them for all the world. The United Nations Special Committee have stated: The City of Jerusalem should be placed under an international trusteeship system. Count Bernadotte, just before his death, stated: The City of Jerusalem (and the area around it) should be placed under effective United Nations control. The General Assembly of the United Nations, on December 11 of last year, resolved: In view of its association with three world religions, the Jerusalem area should be accorded special and separate treatment from the rest of Palestine and should be placed under effective United Nations control.

Until fairly recently I think most of us assumed that this would be the case. I had understood that the Jews themselves had agreed to such a plan. Some months ago I happened to state publicly that there would be very strong objection if the Jews obtained control of the City. The Jewish Press, and private letters I have had from Jews in this country, state that there is no fear of that, and that by making that kind of statement I was stirring up prejudice against the Jews. Let me say in passing that I hate anti-Semitism; it is a sin against God and an offence against man. But it is quite another matter to oppose some of the political ambitions of the Zionists which can be gained only at the expense of the great religions which have equal or even greater claim to Jerusalem.

There are, I understand, three policies under discussion in connection with the future of Jerusalem, if it is not put under international control. First, it is suggested that old Jerusalem should be put under the control of the Arabs and the new city under the control of the Jews. I do not intend to spend much time in discussing that particular proposal. I am sure it would be opposed by the Jews, and it would be opposed by the Christians. I can imagine no policy which is more likely to create friction and controversy in the future than two States with nothing dividing them—a State owned by the Jews and a State owned by the Arabs. We had an example of that on a small scale in connection with Tel-Aviv and Jaffa. There were in those years continual murders, treachery and acts of terrorism. We should find those multiplied if Old Jerusalem were under the Arabs and New Jerusalem were under the Jews; and there would be extremely difficult questions which would have to be dealt with inside the city itself.

The second proposal is that both Old Jerusalem and New Jerusalem should be put under the authority of the Jews. That would cause the greatest sorrow to millions of Christians; it would be bitterly opposed by many of them, and certainly bitterly and fiercely opposed by the Moslems. I noticed the other day that Professor Weizmann, in speaking about this—I saw only an abbreviated report of his speech—said that the fullest guarantees would be given for the protection of the Holy Places and access to them. Professor Weizmann is held in universal respect, and I have no doubt at all that that would be his wish. I would go further and say that I believe that is the wish of the existing Government of the State of Israel. But I am bound to ask the question which concerns those interested in this matter: Will the present Government of Israel be strong enough to control their more fanatical followers? I do not wish to rake up past troubles, but I cannot help remembering that Professor Weizmann and many of those who are now in the Government of Israel denounced terrorism, but they were not able by their denunciations to stop 150 women and children from being massacred in a village not far from Jerusalem; nor were they able to save Count Bernadotte from being treacherously murdered. Whatever their good intentions may be—and I am sure they are good—we cannot help wondering whether their Government will have the strength to control some of their more fanatical followers. That is a matter which undoubtedly causes us great anxiety.

Moreover it would be very difficult for the Jews in authority over Jerusalem to deal with some of the controversial matters which arise from time to time in regard to the sacred places. I am not thinking for the moment of the disputes between Christians. They have been deplorable, of course; but I was told when I was in Jerusalem some three years ago that those disputes in their more extreme form had completely died away; certainly, it has been a great many years since there was bloodshed in connection with those disputes. But that is not the case with the Wall of Wailing—that Wall belonging to the Moslems, to which the Jews for centuries have had right of access. The disputes which have arisen over that Wall have been most dangerous in nature. Some twenty years ago a dispute meant not only rioting in Jerusalem but the massacre of many Jews in various parts of Palestine. It would be difficult indeed for a Jewish Government to deal impartially with a dispute which arose between the Jews and Moslems in connection with the Wall of Wailing, and the repercussions of such a dispute might affect: the whole peace of the world.

The third proposal is that Jerusalem within the walls should be put under international control, but that new Jerusalem—the Jerusalem outside the walls—should belong to the State of Israel. There is a much more arguable case for that; it is not a demand which one can simply brush aside with indifference. It is a very natural request, and there are strong arguments which I admit can be advanced in favour of it. For instance, the Jews complain that they have a great population there; they complain that they have built a number of splendid institutions; and, of course, at the moment they are holding it. On the other hand, there are strong arguments against it. Whoever controls the new City really controls the old City, as no one can enter the old City without passing through the new City. At times there are processions of pilgrims and others who wish to reach the old City. Those pilgrimages might easily lead at times to outbursts of disorder.

I remember some years ago watching in Jerusalem in Holy Week a procession of Mohammedans back from a place somewhere near Jericho, where they regularly meet at that time. It was a moving procession: a great crowd A people, close to one another, with occasionally a man climbing up on and walking along the shoulders of the people M the crowd as it moved through the streets. As I looked at that crowd and saw the excitement and enthusiasm, I thought how easily, if wrongly handled, it might burst out into dangerous flame. That kind of procession year by year would have to pass through the Jewish part of Jerusalem, and there would be grave danger. The Christian who goes as a pilgrim to Jerusalem would be allowed to reach the city only on sufferance, and not as a matter of right. In the area which would belong to the new City there are also a number of sacred places—namely, Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives and Bethlehem. All these are sacred places to the Christian. Besides those, there are a large number of buildings—churches, hospitals, convents and schools—built and maintained by the different Christian churches, which are all within the area which it is proposed might be handed over to the Jewish Government to control.

What is not always realised is that in one part of this area the Arab Christians have had—I am afraid I have to use the word "had," indicating the past tense—a very large number of houses. I am told, by someone who has first-hand knowledge of the position, that most of these houses have now been occupied by the Jews, and few of the Arab Christians are able to remain. These are all reasons which would make it a very dangerous policy to divide Jerusalem in this kind of way. All sorts of possibilities—smuggling, the escape of fugitives from justice across the border from one country to the other—and all sorts of disputes might easily arise. It is for this reason that I, and a great number of us, hope most earnestly that not only part but the whole of Jerusalem may be put under international control. It is only right and fair to say that the Holy Places have been and are respected, both by Jew and by Arab. So far as I know, except in the actual fighting no harm has been done to any of them. There are a large number of religious institutions which are now in the hands of the Jews, but I believe that a promise has been given that they shall eventually be restored to the Churches to which they belong.

Nevertheless, there is a very great anxiety about the future of Jerusalem. I fear that if Jerusalem is divided it will become a centre of anxiety, insecurity and intrigue. If Jerusalem is held together as one, under strong international control, it may easily become an oasis of peace and security in the midst of a very troubled world. I noticed this morning, as no doubt your Lordships did, a letter in The Times from Lord Halifax, who is unable to be bere to-day. In it he said he could imagine no single act on the part of the Government of Israel that would immediately win them a larger measure of good will than if they were prepared in the spirit of large generosity to meet this request"— that is, for the internationalisation of the City. It is a difficult thing to ask of the Jews, and it would be a very hard thing for them to grant; but it would be a generous and statesmanlike action which would remove much of the anxiety and fear with which Christian and Moslem now view the establishment of the State of Israel. With Jerusalem under international control, Christian, Jew, and Moslem might co-operate in making it in reality what for 2,000 years it has not been a City that is at unity in itself. I beg to move for Papers.

3.13 p.m.


My Lords, I intervene unwillingly in this debate, but not because I am not wholeheartedly with the most reverend Primate in the appeal which he has just made for the internationalisation of Jerusalem. I thought he made a most eloquent, cogent and deeply-moving speech; and I believe that the whole Christian world—and, indeed, the Moslem and Jewish world, too—will feel indebted to him for what he has said. If I can support him in any way, I unfeignedly wish to do so. My sense of unwillingness comes from the fact that we have spoken so much about the questions of the Middle East in this House in the last few years, and the end of it has always been a humiliating sense of frustration and impotence. This House has shown great wisdom upon the Middle East; it contains great wisdom upon the Middle East; but it has not had the slightest influence upon the course of events. Fortunately that is not so on most subjects, but it has been a bleak fact in regard to all that has happened in the Middle East since 1922.

To reinforce what the most reverend Primate has said, I would ask your Lordships to look back for a moment at what has passed in the last eighteen months and at the record of the United Nations in the Holy Land. I pass over with only a word the decision of the Assembly upon which all the recent history of Palestine stands—I mean the decision of partition, which was taken in November, 1947. That was an unhappy episode, not because of the decision itself—it would have been less unacceptable if the procedure had been fair—but because the whole Arab world and the whole Moslem world at that time felt undue pressure had been exercised—and, indeed, facts bear that out. I pass over also the vote which was taken at that time on a Resolution, introduced, I think, by France, that the whole question of dealing with Palestine against the wishes of its inhabitants—which, after all, raises a great principle of the Charter of the United Nations—should be referred to the International Court. The vote on that occasion was 20 in favour, 21 against, with 13 abstentions.

Also at that time there was the vote calling upon other countries to do their part in finding accommodation for the expatriated and suffering Jewish refugees in Europe. On that occasion there were 16 in favour of the Resolution, 16 against and 26 abstentions. I am afraid—and I am sure your Lordships will agree—that that was a black page in the history of the United Nations and of the West. As a result of it, over 600,000 Arabs are now out of their homes and destitute. I regret that, by reason of my absence abroad, I was prevented from being here to support the most reverend Primate when he raised that question the other day. I say that until the United Nations put right that terrible wrong that organisation will bear the brand of Cain upon its breast.

Given the decision of the United Nations at the end of 1947, what was the next step? As your Lordships may remember, this House debated the question on January 20, 1948. In all quarters it was urged that adequate international control should be established, if necessary with armed forces, to implement the decision and carry it out, and so prevent an appeal to force. That was the unanimous feeling in this House. In the result, as your Lordships know, the United Nations did nothing. They gave us nothing but a pitiable and protracted display of indecision and impotence. In consequence much has taken place not only in violation of the original decision of the United Nations, but also at many points in violation of the Charter itself. The present situation has not been created by any proper international act. It has been created by fraud, by assassination and, mainly, by a naked appeal to force.

It has been created by fraud in the fact that munitions were brought in from Czechoslovakia during the negotiated truce, while we on our side loyally observed the embargo to Transjordania and other Arab States. It has been created by assassination—worst of all in the case of Count Bernadotte. The most reverend Primate has referred to Count Bernadotte, who seems to me to have been a devoted servant of humanity. I believe that the least the United Nations could do would be to perpetuate his memory, as one of the first great servants to give his life for that organisation, by establishing some memorial to him at Lake Success. As to force, your Lordships know the story. Time after time Israel has ignored the rulings of the United Nations; has taken military action against those rulings; has established a fait accompli; and then the United Nations has capitulated. That is the story of what has taken place, and no one disputes the fact.


Really, I must intervene here. There is force on the other side as well. You cannot throw the whole blame for the fighting on to Israel. Somebody else had to fight as well.


The noble Lord will have the opportunity of making his own speech later. I am stating what I believe to be incontrovertible facts, and I think I have world opinion on my side. Stable peace is now past praying for. The dragon's teeth have been sown, and the best hope is to secure somehow for the time being an uneasy armistice. Even now, however, one of the United Nations' decisions can be redeemed and enforced—I mean the decision regarding the internationalisation of Jerusalem, of which the most reverend Primate spoke. The Holy City, at any rate, can still be lifted above the danger d further carnage and made secure; but only by an international act.

Since the most reverend Primate went into them so effectively, I will not go into the various compromises which have been suggested for dividing Jerusalem between the Arabs and the Jews in one way or another, except to say that I agree absolutely with all that he has said. I do not believe that any of those compromises would work. Anything, of course, can work for a short time. Such compromises have been tried elsewhere for a brief period of years. As the most reverend Primate said, one of them was tried in Jaffa and Tel Aviv. They have been tried in other parts of the world, but never in cases of this kind has there been found any permanent solution from opportunism of that sort. In the case of Jerusalem, quite apart from the arguments which have been advanced by the most reverend Primate, I feel that there would be a danger of a very special sort in a compromise. I am sure that, if a compromise were effected, Jerusalem would still remain a sacred object for extremist ambition, a focus for the breeding of fanatics, who would be taught to regard the compromise merely as a makeshift. There would be no security in a compromise of any sort. Thus the Holy City, instead of shining as an oasis of peace, would infallibly become the most sensitive point along a line of frontier which is bound to have a great many highly sensitive points.

Of course, the solution urged by the United Nations requires some sacrifice. Israel would have to give up the site of her University; she would have to surrender some Jewish population and some public buildings which she has set up. In the Old City the Arabs would have to surrender the Mosque of Omar to international control. But, after all, the Christian world is entitled to a say in this. Jerusalem has been under a Christian Power for thirty years. If Christians are ready to accept internationalisation, so should the Moslems and the Jews.

Under international control, the rights of the Jews can be more firmly established than they were in the past, because one of the evils of the past—I am sure the noble Viscount who is sitting below the gangway will agree with me—was that no satisfactory solution had ever been reached about the Wailing Wall, a problem which ought to have been settled long ago. That can be done under international control, and the rights of the Jews and the Moslems can be secured as fully as those of the Christian churches. My Lords, cannot the conscience of three great Faiths be mobilised for the only solution which promises permanence? I say that it is the sacred duty of the Christian world to insist upon this. In this way, Allenby's victory in Palestine, so humbly and so reverently crowned by his entry into Jerusalem on foot, and in this way, too, the sacrifice of many British, Dominion and Indian soldiers lying in the cemetery on Mount Scopas and in other parts of Palestine, will not have been wholly in vain, gone with the wind and buried in the desert dust.

But there is one cardinal condition of success. The present state of chaos in the Middle East—I say so frankly—is due mainly to the American Government, not to the State Department but to various political influences and perhaps also to the White House. For this, I do not in any way blame the American people. They are a magnanimous and generous people. They have shown no generosity to the Arabs, but I think the explanation of that is simply that they have never had access to the facts. They have been misled by the maintenance of an extraordinary curtain in the United States against the Arab side of the case.

If I may give your Lordships an example of that, it is the treatment accorded to General Glubb's book about the Arabs, the Bedouins of the desert and the formation of the Arab Legion. It avoided all controversial subjects; it was not political in any sense. It simply gave the story of the Arab Legion in a most interesting and picturesque way. The rights of that book were bought up by a publisher in the United States with, everybody supposed, a view to publication. It was thereupon suppressed. It has never appeared in the United States. The extraordinary position now exists that one can buy General Glubb's book in Tel Aviv but not in New York. That is an example of the kind of influence and pressure that has been used to suppress the Arab case. I myself had a small example of it because I was asked at one time to broadcast and also to speak. I have no doubt that I am very bad at broadcasting, but my American friends assure me that it was not my own shortcomings in that line alone which confined me to a single broadcast and made it impossible for me to state a full case. That was the kind of thing that occurred.

Happily, there are now signs of a change. A series of articles has appeared in the last week or so in the New York Herald Tribune by an American correspondent, Mr. Kenneth Bilby, which have stated very frankly what he found to be the state of feeling in the Arab world, which he has been touring in the last few months. He has reported fearlessly what that feeling is. He sums it up by saying that the Arabs will have "neither war nor peace." They are simply waiting until they have a chance to redress what they consider a terrible wrong. He also reported—and this is an astonishing change from what I remember—that as regards American nationals in the Middle East and American officers with the United Nations truce staff, almost to a man, they are strong Arab sympathisers. That may be the case or not. He may be mistaken. What is interesting is that these statements are now appearing in the American Press, and that is a very great change from what has been the case in the past. I feel sure, therefore, that the curtain is now lifting a little and that there is an opportunity, which we ought to seize without delay, of working with the United States on this question of Jerusalem.

Everything depends on the United States Government, but I think that His Majesty's Government can do a good deal at present to influence their decision in the right way. I venture, therefore, to offer one or two brief suggestions on this point. They may already be under consideration—very likely they are; but at any rate I put them on the table for what value they may possess. In the first place, it is quite clear that if Jerusalem is to be placed under international control with the enclave which was laid down in the Assembly decision in November, 1947, it must have an international police force. I think we should offer to contribute generously in money, and of course by opening up this country to volunteers, to the establishment of that force. That is the first point. An offer to contribute generously to the establishment of that force would show that we were in real earnest about it, and. I hope that if His Majesty's Government are not already considering it, they will do so.

In the second place, I think we should offer to join the United States in a joint guarantee of the frontiers of the Jerusalem enclave against aggression or disturbance of any sort. It may very well be that other Powers might volunteer to join in that guarantee. If so, well and good. It seems to me that the more fully the Jerusalem enclave is guaranteed, the better. The only reserve I would make is that great caution should be exercised as to limiting this guarantee to the Jerusalem enclave. The Jerusalem enclave should be regarded as a special and limited commitment which we ought with other Powers to be ready to undertake. But a wider guarantee of frontiers in the Middle East must, I suggest, require much deeper consideration and must, in any case, be part of some wider security system established for the whole of the Middle East.

Finally I would suggest to His Majesty's Government—because division in the Commonwealth on this issue has been most tragic—that they should try to secure unity amongst the members of the Commonwealth when this question of Jerusalem is brought to the United Nations, whether it be to the Security Council or to the Assembly. Remember that Dominion troops—Australian and Indian troops—have given their lives in Palestine. It will be a terrible thing if their sacrifice as Christians and Moslems cannot be justified at the last by the lifting of Jerusalem above all danger of further strife. I am sure we would have the support of the Asiatic members of the Commonwealth, and I cannot believe that the other members would not be prepared to join us on this point. I cannot believe that in demanding international security in Jerusalem the Commonwealth would prove unable to unite. Assuredly, if action on these lines is taken, the British Commonwealth and the United States together can make Jerusalem safe.

3.34 p.m.


My Lords, although I am speaking from this Bench I must make it clear that I speak as a Roman Catholic, and that what I say must not be taken in any way as representing Liberal opinion. With that preface I would like fully to support the Motion pat down by the most reverend Primate and his case in favour of it. It seems to me, and I think to most of your Lordships, to be an unanswerable case. I, too, would wish to emphasise the decision of the United Nations taken in November, 1947, by which partition was effected and consequently the State of Israel was constituted. By that decision the City of Jerusalem, including the existing municipality plus the surrounding villages and towns, was to be placed under an international trusteeship agreement and the United Nations were to be the administering authority. That decision was reaffirmed in December, 1948, by the General Assembly of the United Nations, which resolved that the area to which I have referred should be accorded special and separate treatment from the rest of Palestine and should be placed under effective United Nations control.

I think it can be fairly said that the Israeli authorities accepted these conditions without demur, and that by so doing they acknowledged that the Israelite State would not include Jerusalem and its surrounding territory. The question of the future of Jerusalem and of the Holy Places is now being discussed by a United Nations Conciliation Commission at Lausanne. That Commission ought to bear in mind (and I assume they will) the decisions of the Assembly in both 1947 and 1948. But, my Lords, there is to my mind a real danger that the Commission, which have for their main task the bringing about of an amicable agreement between the Arab and Israeli Governments, may, in order to reach a settlement, overlook or minimise the vital Christian stake in Palestine, and may even abandon the internationalisation plan for Jerusalem and its adjoining areas.

I think it probable that in spite of the previous Israeli acceptance of internationalisation, the Conciliation Commission will now be faced with intense Israeli opposition to the internationalisation of the new City. Although formerly the Israeli authorities accepted internationalisation, I doubt whether to-day they are willing or able to accept it—probably they are not willing, because they are in the position of beati possidentes and in the heart of every Jewish Israeli there must be a passionate desire that Jerusalem, or part of it, should be included in his home land. That is a very natural desire. They are not able because the Government which have been democratically elected, must pay strong attention to the wishes and the feelings of their electors and because, clearly, the terrorist movement would be revived and again become active in Jerusalem. The Israeli Government are therefore likely to be led to what I fear is a definite violation of international morality, and to take up a completely negative attitude about the internationalisation of the new City. My Lords, international morality is already at a very low ebb; unhappily, this would be another wound in its poor body. In short, as I see it, the Israeli Government would yield only to force; and I cannot feel that force—even if it were available, which it is not—should be used for the purpose of enforcing internationalisation.

I have tried to set out the facts as I see them. If, as I believe, they are correct, I hope it is not too much to ask of the Israeli Government that they will at least have the courage to state openly what their real views are, and the reason why they cannot and will not accept internationalisation. I do not think any excuse such as that it is diffi- cult to set up an international administration for a place like Jerusalem has any validity at all. I have some experience of international administration, and I am quite sure it could be made to function satisfactorily in Jerusalem and the neighbourhood, provided always that the Jewish and Arab authorities showed good will. I shall not dwell on the question of the Arab Government and of the Old City because I am convinced that opposition to internationalisation will come chiefly from the Jewish side; very little will come from the Arabs. If the Israeli Government and Israeli people will not accept internationalisation for Jerusalem and the neighbourhood except under compulsion, and compulsion cannot or will not be used, what is to be done? It is in my view intolerable that after all that has happened the places in Palestine which are holy to Christians should be placed under the sole jurisdiction of the Israelis and Arabs and that the Christian communities should have no say whatever about them. Frankly, that is a position that we can never accept.

But I desire if I can to be constructive, and I will therefore submit to your Lordships and to His Majesty's Government the outline of the scheme which, if adopted, might safeguard the Christian position. I must make it clear that if I make any suggestions they are made on my own purely personal responsibility, and without any higher authority. I propose that the responsible heads of the three great religions which are peculiarly associated with Palestine and particularly with the Jerusalem area should each make a list of the places throughout Palestine which they regard as holy. An International Commission should be constituted by and under the authority of the United Nations. It should be composed of Christians, of Moslems and of Jews. The list, when completed, should be handed to that Commission, which should be responsible for the protection of the Holy Places mentioned in it and ensure completely free access to them for both pilgrims and others. The Commission would be the overriding authority for all matters concerning the Holy Places, and the Israeli and Arab authorities would have to undertake to give full effect to any recommendations which the Commission might make. Those authorities would then remain sovereign except as regards the Holy Places, and as to these the Jewish and Arab authorities would become the executive agents of the Commission. Surely this would not be too much to ask of the Israeli and the Arab Governments. It would afford the Christians those international guarantees which the Pope has stated he considers necessary. It would also have the advantage of including such Holy Places as Bethlehem, Nazareth and Gethsemane, which otherwise would be excluded if only the old municipality of Jerusalem were internationalised.

One thing is quite certain: we are not prepared to abandon the principle of international guarantees of the Holy Places. The new Israeli State has a considerable fund of good will both in this country and in the United States, but if they oppose such guarantees, not only will that fund diminish but it may disappear altogether and ill will take its place. My noble friend Lord Reading and I are Vice-Presidents of an organisation called the Council of Christians and Jews, whose objects are to further tolerance and promote co-operation, civic and otherwise, between members of these two religions. I hope what will ultimately be decided for the Holy Places will promote that co-operation and not make it far more difficult to obtain. The responsibility rests to-day mainly with the Israeli Government. May they realise how great it is and prove worthy of it!

3.46 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Earl said he was not speaking for the Liberal Party, and I do not pretend to be able to speak here for the Labour Party policy either, because so many things have happened in the last year or two, since we formulated our policy on these matters. We shall probably discuss the matter at Blackpool next week; at Scarborough last year there was a tendency to damp down all discussion on Palestine affairs. As to the policy of His Majesty's Government, I suppose we shall hear that from the Lord Chancellor; but that also has undergone a great many changes during the post-war years. This explosive and delicate subject is now sub judice in the international sense before the United Nations.

I notice that so far in this debate no reference has been made to the attitude of the Government of Israel. There was some doubt in the noble Earl's mind about the attitude of the Arabs, but he should not have had any doubt about the attitude of the Government of Israel. That has been stated as recently as May 5, before the ad hoc Committee of the United Nations, by Mr. Eban, the permanent representative of the Government of Israel on the United Nations. There is no doubt at all about the attitude of the Government of Israel. Perhaps I may be allowed to quote presently the relevant parts of Mr. Eban's statement. I do not see why there should be so much indignation at the idea that Jerusalem should be Jewish. Indeed, I almost visualised the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, as a descendant of Peter the Hermit, preaching a new crusade for the liberation of the Holy City, not from the Moslems but from the Jews. I do not know whether Peter the Hermit was married and had any descendants and I have not examined the pedigree of the noble Lord recently; but if he meant what he said, he is certainly the spiritual if not the physical descendant of Peter the Hermit.

I will read the relative parts of the statement made by the representative of the unfortunate Government of Israel—who seem to have very few friends in this House. I am going to be so bold as to try to champion their cause, to a certain extent. After saying that the Government of Israel have co-operated to the fullest extent with the Statute drawn up in November, 1947, this statement goes on to say that it was not the Israelites who started the fighting, and the Israelite Government—


The noble Lord was good enough not to interrupt me when I was speaking and I did not want to interrupt him now, but the point I was making was that Israel took action against the decision of the United Nations. I did not say they were the only people to fight, but they did take action against the decision of the United Nations and then the United Nations gave way. In other words, Israel presented the United Nations with a fait accompli.


It is always a pleasure to have the noble Lord interrupt, and I hope he will continue to do so. What he really means by a fait accompli is that the Jews won the fighting. The statement continues: It bears no responsibility for the failure of that project, a failure which arose from the deliberate armed resistance of the Arab States and the refusal of organs of the United Nations to ratify or assume the obligations necessary for the fulfilment of the Statute. The statement goes on to declare that the Government of Israel advocate and support the establishment by the United Nations—by the United Nations, your Lordships will note; I do not know whether the most reverend Primate is familiar with this statement, but I am sure that if he has read it he must have had some comfort from it—of an international régime for Jerusalem concerned exclusively with the control and protection of Holy Places and sites. After a passage which, for the sake of brevity, I omit (I hope the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, is not leaving the Chamber for good, as I have something else to say concerning him shortly), this sentence occurs: The Government of Israel will also agree to place under international control Holy Places in other parts of its territory outside Jerusalem. That includes Bethlehem, Gethsemane and Galilee, which last I do not think the most reverend Primate mentioned. I find myself in complete agreement with the proposals of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, that the heads of the three great religions should decide which are the Holy Objects and which are the Holy Places to be safeguarded, and that measures for safeguarding them should be taken. And here you have the Government of Israel saying that they are prepared to do that very thing throughout that part of Israel over which they have jurisdiction. They are prepared to safeguard all the Holy Places there. I think that is very satisfactory. Further in the statement. Mr. Eban goes on to say, on behalf of his Government: We support the suggestion that guarantees should be given for what the representative of Argentina"— that is a great Catholic State— calls 'the protection of the sacred places in Palestine and for free access thereto'. I was loath to interrupt the moving address of the most reverend Primate, but I had the advantage of a word with him afterwards. I think he must belong to that school of thought which would like to go back to the old proposal, not only for the whole of Jerusalem and its area to be internationalised but for the establishment of a corridor to the sea, with some kind of a port. That was the original proposal. It is all very well talking about pilgrims and religious processions having to pass through the new city, and the possibility that that might lead to trouble and strife. After all, unless there is this corridor to the sea, unless international control and guardianship and police forces are set up, pilgrims from overseas will have to pass through Israelite or Arab territory. I do not know whether that is the proposal of the school of thought represented by the most reverend Primate. If it is, I suggest that it is rather out of date and that we have to find some other international safeguard for the access of pilgrims and the devout generally to these Holy Places.

I have only one other sentence from this very complete statement by Mr. Eban with which I wish to trouble your Lordships. It is this: The Government of Israel is prepared to offer the fullest safeguards and guarantees for the security of religious institutions in the exercise of their functions. The Government of Israel is, I suppose, the newest Government in the world today. Its existence represents one of the great events in all history—the re-birth of this nation, the coming together of this people after nearly two thousand years of dispersal. And this Government is in a very difficult position. It is in a difficult position financially, politically and strategically, and in many other ways. I have many Jewish friends, among whom are ardent Zionists and also anti-Zionists. I hope that they will counsel their Government and their co-religionists in Israel to try at all costs to come to reasonable terms with their Arab neighbours. It is absolutely essential that they should do so, that they should find means of living peaceably with them.

Economically it is necessary. For a time, this new State of Israel, with its enthusiasms, hopes and ambitions, is largely dependent on overseas contributions by the faithful in Jewry all over the world. The Government of Israel is confronted with a terrible problem with regard to its own refugees who are coming in from Europe. Doors have to be opened to them, and there are great housing and commercial difficulties to be faced. To live, they must trade; and for trade they must have friendly relations with their Arab neighbours. Obviously, as the most reverend Primate and several noble Lords have pointed out, Jerusalem is one of the "burning spots," and suitable arrangements should be made to satisfy the reasonable apprehensions and desires of the members of the other two great religions—Christians and Moslems.

Having said that, I would like to take this opportunity of supporting one thing, at any rate, which fell from the lips of the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham. He said that these events of the last two years had constituted a black page in the history of the United Nations, though I think he said in the history of the West. I do not think that the latter remark is altogether fair. The States of North and South America and the States of Asia were just as much to blame. They were members of the United Nations and they are equally blameworthy. The fighting in the most holy City in the world, the bombardment of Jerusalem and of the most sacred places, passed with little protest. I respect the righteous indignation of the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, but I should have respected it more if he had displayed it more at that time when his friend, Glubb Pasha, with his artillery was bombarding the ancient stones of this City which are sacred to three great religions. What protest came from the noble Lord then? I do not blame him in particular; the whole of Christendom was to blame for this disgraceful and scandalous episode. The failure of the United Nations in that respect, I agree, was a black spot in its history, in the history of what should be a tremendous institution for the good of humanity, at the beginning of its existence.


I am sorry to interrupt the noble Lord again and I do so only on a question of fact. I would like to tell him that on the occasion when I was asked my opinion of the bombardment of Jerusalem, I said that I thought it was an atrocity, whichever side was responsible.


I am delighted to hear that. I wish the noble Lord had raised his authoritative voice out loud and in public and used his powerful pen in the Press at the time and perhaps broadcast to America again on that sub- ject. Had he done so before, perhaps his words would have been heeded and the great Christian heart of America might have responded to him. I regret very much the noble Lord's reflection on the President of the United States. I think it is abominable that a noble Lord in your Lordships' House should cast reflections on the Head of a great and friendly nation—yes, it is abominable.

Again with regard to this question of safeguarding the Holy Places, may I remind your Lordships of the state of affairs in the whole of Palestine before the First World War—that is, when the Turks were in control? I had the privilege of visiting Jerusalem during that period and in my recollection the Turks were excellent guardians of the Holy Places. They did their best to prevent the unfortunate strife between the different religious sects of Christianity which have been referred to by the most reverend Primate. The Turks were quite neutral, and, given goodwill, I do not think it is necessary to have actual physical possession of the areas around, for example, Nazareth or Bethlehem. There have been these unfortunate disputes—for instance, over the Wailing Wall and the Mosque of Omar—but they have been settled. After all, the Jews have been using the Wailing Wall for centuries, and there was little trouble about it in the time of which I am speaking, because the Turks very promptly knocked on the head anyone on either side who made trouble.

That brings me to what fell from the lips of the noble Earl, Lord Perth, which I would like to reinforce very strongly. He said that there must be an international police force at the disposal of the United Nations. I do not mean the great international force, strong enough to coerce an aggressive Power, which is part of the Charter—and Which one day, I hope, will be formed—but a mobile international force which can be sent to any centre of trouble anywhere in the world. Such a force need not necessarily be large, but it must be in every way reliable, and powerful enough to do local police duties. If the United Nations had had such a force in November, 1947, this scandal, this tragedy, which the noble Lord, Lord Altrincham, regrets—the bombardment of the Holy City of Jerusalem, and the fighting around it, to the possible damage to places of great sacredness to Christians—could have been avoided.

I think one of the lessons of this horrible event has been that it is necessary that the United Nations should dispose of such a force. I entirely agree with the noble Lords, Lord Altrincham and Lord Perth, that such a force should be recruited and organised as soon as possible. Apart from their statesmanship and good sense, the reason why the Turks were able to preserve order and peace in this vital area was that they had on the spot just enough soldiery, who were quite impartial. They were Turkish peasants trained as professional soldiers under reliable officers, and when any trouble started in Palestine they promptly suppressed it. Such a force is needed now. I do not know whether the Israeli Government are prepared to facilitate the service and use of such a force, but I suggest that it would be great statesmanship on their part to do so. An international gendarmerie would be a very great advantage in Jerusalem. I am talking about the Old City and the Holy Places outside it.

With regard to the New City of Jerusalem, I ask your Lordships, and even the most reverend Primate, if I may be so bold, to be a little realistic. A great deal has happened since November, 1947. The New City is a Jewish cultural and political centre which, I presume, will eventually be the political capital of Israel. After what has happened and in the present state of affairs, I think we are asking too much of the Government of Israel to surrender the New City of Jerusalem. I think it will be better from every point of view, and more practical, if we abandon the idea of a territorial enclave with a corridor to the sea, which would take a lot of guarding, and try the suggestion of the Israeli Government of submitting to international control. There can be no international control without an international force behind it. After all, what is the power of a British policeman? He is not armed and he is usually alone. It is that behind him is the whole sanction of a great State. An international gendarmerie in Jerusalem could and ought to have behind it the whole strength of the United Nations.

These are the suggestions that I venture to throw out in this difficult and delicate situation. I understand that there is a distinguished sub-Committee examining this whole problem in order to place it before the United Nations. I venture to say that we should not ask too much in the way of sacrifice from the new State of Israel; but that the new State of Israel has a tremendous opportunity of reinforcing the good will felt for it and, above all, of perhaps healing the breach with its Arab neighbours, by supporting a just and equitable solution.

4.5 p.m.


My Lords, I do not propose to detain our Lordships for more than a few minutes on this subject, but since I regard it as of enormous importance, and since I fear that a bad decision might be productive of infinite harm, I feel it right to say a few words in support of the general thesis of the most reverend Primate who introduced this Motion. I must admit that I have no special qualifications for expressing an opinion on this matter, except possibly the circumstance that I am one of the very few persons still alive who have any official responsibility for the Balfour Declaration. It is true that as to its contents I was not consulted, but I was Lord Balfour's Under-Secretary at the time, and I approved its object.

I have never forgotten the very deep impression that was produced on my mind by my first interview with the first President of the Israeli Government. Doctor Weizmann. From that time forward I have always been a Zionist, not so much because of the Jewish historical claim to Palestine, but because I thought that the Allied and Associated Powers, having conquered Palestine from the Turks, were entitled after the conclusion of World War I to utilise their conquest in whatever way they conceived to be most in the public interest. Because misapprehensions on the subject still continue, I must mention in passing that the League of Nations never had anything whatever to do with the allotment of the Mandate for Palestine, or with the settlement of the terms of that Mandate. That was considered by the Allied and Associated Powers; and by them alone. That is of no great importance, but it is irritating to me to find this allegation about the League of Nations repeated. As we all know, the Allied and Associated Powers decided to make Palestine a homeland for the Jews, so that they should no longer be landless wanderers in the world, with, perhaps, a divided allegiance to the State in which they might happen to reside. That was the conception of the Balfour Declaration at the time and it was an essential part of that policy that any existing interests, not only political but of any kind, in that country should be safeguarded.

The House know—indeed, we have had echoes of it from more than one speaker this afternoon—of the tremendous difficulties that have been caused between the Jews and Arabs on this point. We have nothing to do with that question on the present occasion, if I may venture to say so to my noble friends, Lord Altrincham and Lord Strabolgi. We are dealing only with the question: In what way can the very great and deep interests and convictions centring in Jerusalem be safeguarded? It is neither an Arab nor a Jewish question specifically. From the very outset, too, it was always intended that these interests should be safeguarded. We now have the task of saying how that intention shall be carried out. What I want to press upon your Lordships is the reality of this tremendously deep and powerful sentiment which centres round Jerusalem and the Holy Places there. It is possible that some of your Lordships may not share those sentiments—I do not know. But whether you do or not, you must recognise that, apart from the dangers spoken of this afternoon by the most reverend Primate, this is a matter which has caused the deepest anxieties—and at times, I regret to say, disturbances—in many lands, from the time of the Crusaders onwards. It will be simply madness if in any settlement of Palestine—whatever settlement on a material basis is reached—steps are not taken to deal with these deeply held convictions.

As to the practical measures that should be adopted, I do not want to add anything to what the most reverend Primate and others have said. I have great sympathy with what fell from the noble Earl, Lord Perth; but, if I may say so, I think he pressed it a little too far. It is all very well to say that you do not want force to deal with this matter; I agree with that. But you cannot get away from force in the end. Even the noble Earl was driven to advocating a body of international police. In point of fact, whatever settlement you have, you must be prepared to stand by it and see that it is enforced. I feel very strongly that the time has come when we should lay down quite clearly what policy we intend to pursue, and that that policy should be firmly adhered to. That is the only hope of reaching a real settlement of this question—or, indeed, of any question. I venture to press that point of view very strongly on your Lordships. I hope the Government will be able to give us a satisfactory reply on this question, for it is one of the greatest importance.

4.13 p.m.


My Lords, I do not know that I can put before your Lordships a reasonable justification for intervening upon this subject, because it involves so much with which. I cannot say I am very familiar. But I feel that the terms of the Motion rather encourage an element of emotion and sentiment that is somewhat out of place in a debate of this character. I am afraid the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, got a little "hot under the collar" about the question of the Holy Places. First of all, I would like to ask the noble Lord what he meant when he said that the State of Israel would hold on to the New City. The New City is very difficult to define.


My noble friend has asked me a question. I did not say that the State of Israel would hold on to the New City. I said it was asking a great deal of them to give up Jerusalem outside the walls.


But Jerusalem outside the walls is partitioned, and the barrier is not far from the Jaffa Gate; and it excludes, so far as I understand, the area of St. George's. To refer to the New City outside the walls of Jerusalem as particularly Jewish seems to me a little away from the point. However, I do not want to make much of that. I just want to say this in justification of my argument. In this House of all places we need to discuss a subject of this character without so much emotion.

The term "Holy Places" is used in this Motion. What do we mean by "Holy Places"? I bivouacked for some time in Potters' Field, quite near the Tree of Judas, and I had the job of taking a number of military parties over Jerusalem. I had to look up the history of Jerusalem in order to be able to talk to these people about the Holy Places, as they were called. I was struck by the fact that the Holy Places were very doubtful indeed. In the year 70 Titus razed Jerusalem, and the Holy Places were evacuated. The evacuees came back, but whether or not they returned to the original places is very doubtful. I remember taking parties three times in the quadrangle or kind of yard in which Peter was supposed to have thrice denied his Master; and I heard the cock crow three times on each occasion. Whether it was a real cock or a mechanical one, I could not tell you, but I certainly doubt very much whether that is a Holy Place at all, and whether there is any historical basis for it. The Saracens and Crusaders fought many years ago over the Tomb of Christ. But which is the Tomb of Christ? Where is it? There are three Holy Places connected with the Tomb of Christ. One was that popularised by Doctor Ferguson underneath the Mosque of Omar. That was supposed by a large number of people to be the real place where Christ was buried. In addition to that there was Gordon's Calvary, outside the walls of Jerusalem, near to the Damascus Gate, which looked very much more like the "green hill far away" of the hymn than either of the other two places. But no one knows whether that Golgotha outside the walls was the real Tomb of Christ.


May I interrupt the noble Lord? A Holy Place is made holy by the people who believe it to be holy. Can he not have some respect for their feelings?


I understand that. I was going to make much the same remark. But I am talking about the standard of debate in this House. I believe in the principle of defining the terms of your argument. What do we mean by "Holy Places"? If you take the more legendary tomb in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, covered by the most ugly mausoleum ever erected, there are many objections to the view that that is the real Tomb of Christ. You can go through the whole of these histories in connection with the Christian view, apart from any other—I cannot speak with regard to Bethlehem—and there is some doubt. I do not know whether the Grotto under the Church of the Holy Nativity is the real Manger. I think it is very doubtful. But I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, that we must respect the feeling, and the historical feeling, that has been held by so many generations of people who believe that these were Holy Places. At the same time, I think we should have some reservation upon the matter when we are discussing the question. I think we ought to discuss it objectively. I realise the fact that, after all, there is a lot of myth about this.


I do not think this has anything to do with the Motion at all.


I am sorry if I am not dealing with the subject. I am dealing with what are called the "Holy Places." I am just putting the fact—and it is a fact, not a point of view—that it is questionable what the Holy Places are. For that reason, I suggest that in discussing a matter of this kind it is not desirable to become emotional about it. I realise that a large number of people, both Moslem and Christian, regard Jerusalem and many parts of Jerusalem in particular as being very holy indeed. For instance, the Mosque on the Temple Plateau is regarded by the Moslems as a very holy place. I do not personally believe the legends attaching to it. But what I believe does not matter at all.



At the same time, surely we ought to take these things into consideration, and regard the matter as a whole as one of immediate and present political interest. I will not enter into the subject of the general question of the State of Israel, and the differences between the Jews and the Arabs. I think the Arabs have as much right to their mode of life as anybody else, and I do not know that thousands of years' back history ought to count so very much. But I will not enter into that, because I may be totally wrong on the matter. I do not profess to be a student of the question, and we must deal with the facts as they are. But if there is any justification for debates in this House, it is important that we should regard the question not from an emotional but from a realistic point of view. The realistic fact is that there are no guaranteed Holy Places, either in Jerusalem or in any other part of Palestine.

4.21 p.m.


My Lords, I think we shall all agree that we have had a really valuable debate, notable in particular, I think, for the fact that those who have taken part in it—and among them we might almost include the noble Earl, Lord Halifax, in view of his letter to The Times to-day—have included some of the most eminent and highly respected figures in public life to-day. The subject of the future of Jerusalem has been exhaustively examined by all these authoritative figures and clearly, in the circumstances, there is not very much that I can add. I can at any rate assure the noble Lord, Lord Amwell, that it is certainly not my object—though I hardly think, if he will allow me to say so, that he quite lived up to his own advice—to arouse controversy or stoke up heat. Nor is it my purpose, I may say in passing, to indulge in archæological researches as he did. I feel, like the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, that the important thing about Holy Places is that they are regarded throughout the world as "holy." And that is the reason we are discussing them to-day.

My real reason for rising is to support briefly, but wholeheartedly, the plea put forward by the most reverend Primate in the debate this afternoon. Indeed, I feel that we owe him a deep debt of gratitude for raising this question. It is one, I would agree with him, the settlement of which brooks no delay. It is not one of those questions which will settle itself: some rapid and effective decisions are necessary. The future status of this great and ancient City is undoubtedly not the least of the difficult problems which attach to the question of Palestine. I think many of us—indeed, perhaps most of us—had the impression at an earlier date that whatever decision was reached as to the future of the country as a whole, there was one aspect on which it might be hoped there was at any rate a measure of common ground; and that was that the City of Jerusalem itself (and by the City I mean the whole City and those surrounding areas which include Bethlehem) was to be placed under international administration. That was certainly my impression at an earlier date.

In the course of his speech the most reverend Primate quoted the views on this subject of religious leaders of many Churches and many denominations. He referred also to the definite recommendation of a Special Committee on Palestine which framed the basis of partition in 1947, and the view expressed by Count Bernadotte in his Report which was published after his assassination. I do not think it is necessary for me to repeat those quotations, except to say that Count Bernadotte made his view of the position absolutely clear. He said: The City of Jerusalem, which should be understood as covering the area defined by the Resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, should be treated separately and should be placed under effective United Nations control…. There is no doubt at all a bout what Count Bernadotte felt.

As I understand it—and I think the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, would agree with me—the general principle that there should be some element of internationalisation for Jerusalem has always been accepted also by the Israeli Government. It would therefore be correct to say that the only question which is still at issue is: How extensive should that area be? That really is the issue between the various parties to this dispute. At an earlier stage the Israeli Government urged that the area to be excluded from Israel and handed over to international administration should be limited to the old City of Jerusalem. But that, I gather—and I am not an expert; I have never had the opportunity of going to Jerusalem—is, for practical reasons alone, not a feasible proposal. For one thing, as has already been said, the old City is inseparable from the new City as an administrative unit. But, apart from that, the particular Israeli proposition—as I think the most reverend Primate pointed out—means including in the Jewish State and excluding from the international area such places as the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives and Bethlehem itself which is, after all, the cradle of the Christian religion.

It is to meet that difficulty, as I understand it, that the Israeli delegate put forward to the Political Committee of the United Nations on May 5, 1949, the alternative suggestion which was quoted by Lord Strabolgi this afternoon. I read this document very carefully, as I am sure he did, and it came to this: that the Holy Places in and outside Jerusalem should remain Israeli territory—that is to say, under Israeli sovereignty—but that a special ad hoc international administration should be set up to administer it. That new suggestion received a certain amount of support from the noble Earl, Lord Perth. He did not, I think, actually support the Israeli proposal. I do not know whether he knew of the Israeli proposal; but the proposition he himself put forward was very much on the same lines.


I agree, but I think it went a little further—it gave additional guarantees. As a matter of fact, I knew of the Israeli proposal only a quarter of an hour before I began my speech.


Although I have no doubt this Israeli proposal was put forward with the idea of being helpful, and although I do not want to criticise it on any ground of insincerity, I am afraid that it will not meet the case which the most reverend Primate and most noble Lords have put this afternoon. For one thing, I do not think it would work in practice. The noble Earl, discussing what I may call his parallel scheme, said that this administration must, of course, be guaranteed. But, like my noble relative Lord Cecil, I feel that the essence of a guarantee is that it should be enforceable; and the noble Earl made it clear that he is against the use of force in any circumstances.

The noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, who followed him, mentioned an international police force. But I could not feel very optimistic about his plan either, because really what it envisaged was a scheme under which the Holy Places should be under the sovereignty of Israel, and should be administered by an international cultural commission, aided by an international police force operating in Israeli territory. I cannot believe that that would work. It would be bound to fail.


I would like to give a similar example of where it did work. For many years in Pekin, after the Boxer troubles, there was an international force set up for the protection of the Legations which were scattered over a wide area, and the rest of the territory was under Chinese sovereignty.


It was not quite similar. The Legations were not Chinese territory. All these Holy Places are to remain Israeli territory, and that fact causes the difficulty in using an international police force to protect them. I may be wrong; I am putting forward to the House merely my own impressions of the proposals which are now being advanced.


As I understand the Israeli Government's proposal at Lake Success, they are prepared to put these Holy Places under international control. May I use the word "extra-territoriality," which might solve the difficulty.


It is difficult to tell exactly what they do mean from their document, but that is not the impression that I gained from it. In any case, I do not want to go on debating that particular scheme, with the details of which none of us is very familiar. I believe that it would be difficult to work in practice. But I equally think it is wrong in principle. Whatever may be said about Palestine as a whole, Jerusalem and its surroundings, in my view, cannot be regarded, and ought not to be regarded, as the sole appanage of any individual State. As the most reverend Primate indicated, those of us who share his view regard Jerusalem and its surroundings as the common spiritual heritage of Jews, Christians and Moslems alike. We cannot speak for the Moslems, but, as Christians, we can say this. It is to Christendom, above all, that the Jews owe the creation of the Jewish State. Without the support of Christendom, the State of Israel would never have been started at all. We can, therefore, I should have thought, surely claim of them in this matter that our deepest convictions—and they are very deep convictions—should be weighed heavily in the balance by them and by the United Nations in coming to a conclusion.

Statements such as that by Mr. Ben Gurion, which was quoted in another place on January 6 of this year and which I now quote, for this sentence has not so far as I know been contradicted: Jews will never abandon their claim to Jerusalem. show, if I may say so with all deference to him—for I know of the deep conviction with which he himself speaks—an utter misunderstanding of the position which we, as Christians, feel bound to take up. He regards Jerusalem solely as a Jewish city, though no doubt it is the greatest Jewish city and the religious centre of the whole of the ancient Jewish faith. We regard it as much more even than that. We regard it as the cradle of our religion, as it is the cradle of his. We regard it as a shrine, perhaps the greatest of all shrines in the world, visited by pilgrims of many religions from many lands; we regard it as a place which, above all others, should for that very reason be under international control and international administration, should be a great international charge and responsibility for the world. Such statements as that by Mr. Ben Gurion which I have quoted can, I am afraid, only alienate sympathy with the Israeli cause and prejudice the success of the great experiment upon which Zionism is now embarked.

I believe it is to the interest not merely of Christians and Moslems but also of Jews that this question should be settled as rapidly as possible. A continued wrangle over the status of the Holy City would not only be deplorable in itself, but is fraught with danger for the future. I hope that the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor, who is, I understand, to reply this afternoon, will make the views of His Majesty's Government abundantly clear on this particular issue. I understand that at the present moment the matter is under consideration by a Conciliation Commission which is being charged to settle all the outstanding problems connected with Palestine, including Jerusalem. A firm declaration that His Majesty's Government favour the internationalisation of this area would undoubtedly be invaluable to the members of that Commission who favour the cause which we all have at heart. I am sure, too, that it would be greeted with a sigh of relief by innumer- able thousands of Christians throughout the world.

Obviously, this is not a matter to be settled by His Majesty's Government alone or by the United Nations alone; it requires also the willing co-operation of the Jews themselves. Therefore, I appeal once more, as I have often done in this House, to the Israeli Government to show in this matter not an unyielding but a statesmanlike and moderate point of view. I think we can assure them that, by doing so, they will remove a focus of ill-will which otherwise will be likely to poison the relationship between them and Christian and Moslem peoples, perhaps for many centuries to come, and that they will, in addition, cement the position of Jewry throughout the whole of the civilised world.

4.37 p.m.


My Lords, I certainly think that the most reverend Primate has earned the thanks of the House for initiating this debate at the present time. The mere fact that we have had this debate has been useful. I think the fact that has been established, that this is a matter upon which Christians of all denominations feel very deeply, is itself valuable. It is right that that should be known. This matter cannot be settled without the Christian voice being heard and Christian desires being taken into account. It a matter on which the deepest convictions are felt. In respect of the interesting speech of the noble Lord, Lord Amwell, as to the actual historical value of those places, I agree, as he himself says, that the fact that they are venerated as they are makes the archæological controversy comparatively immaterial. I want to be realistic. I want to set before your Lordships quite frankly what is the view of His Majesty's Government, but, on the other hand, I do not conceal from your Lordships that it is a very delicate question and this is a very delicate moment of time at which to discuss it. That is a view which is almost universally held on any question involving foreign affairs, but I will show your Lordships that in this case I believe it to be the fact.

I am not going back into ancient history. I need not consider anything further back than the resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations of December 11, 1948. Then, a resolution, introduced by our representatives, was adopted which set up a Conciliation Commission, consisting of representatives of the United States, France and Turkey. That Commission was instructed to present to the next regular Session of the Assembly, which I think takes place next September, detailed proposals for a permanent international régime for the Jerusalem area, including recommendations concerning the Holy Places in that territory. The Commission were called upon to ascertain the views of the political authorities of the areas concerned, and to ask them to give appropriate formal guarantees as to the protection of the Holy Places and access to them, and to present those undertakings to the General Assembly for approval. So that in some sense the matter which we are now debating is sub judice.

A Special Committee has been set up by the Conciliation Commission and has had interviews with representatives of the Arabs and the Jews alike. Preliminary reports that we have obtained from the Commission are to the effect that the Arab States in general are prepared to accept the principle of an international régime for the Jerusalem area, on condition that the United Nations offer the necessary guarantees regarding the stability and permanence of such a régime. On the other hand, they have reserved their right to give their final point of view after they have been acquainted with the text of the Commission's detailed proposals. The Government of Israel have been reported by the Commission—and the more recent statement which the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, read in his speech to-day, supported it—as being willing to accept an international régime for, or at any rate an international control of, the Holy Places in the City of Jerusalem and, I think, outside. But that of course, is quite distinct from the internationalisation of the Jerusalem area as a whole. The Government of Israel have informed the Commission, however, that, when they were in a position to do so on an equal footing with the Arab States—presumably, when they had become members of the United Nations, which they now have done—they intended to request the General Assembly to revise that part of its resolution of December 11, 1948, concerning Jerusalem.

It is clear that the future of Jerusalem is bound to be a vitally important part of any peace settlement and cannot be treated entirely in isolation. Your Lordships will follow that I must be most careful to say nothing which may in any way embarrass or render more difficult the task of that Commission. But I can express His Majesty's Government's view and I think I can do it quite shortly. We are in favour of the internationalisation of the whole area of Jerusalem as laid down by the United Nations, and we feel that the United Nations express the will of the entire civilised world in insisting that the Holy Places should be protected and that free access to them should be ensured for all religions. Of course, we are aware of the practical difficulties involved in the implementation of the proposal for the internationalisation of Jerusalem, and we have no doubt that the Conciliation Commission, too, are aware of these difficulties and of the other various suggested modifications of the original proposal. It is for the Conciliation Commission to formulate the proposals and for the United Nations to decide how best they can be put into effect. Until concrete proposals are submitted to the United Nations, His Majesty's Government do not wish to comment in favour of one or other particular plan; but they do wish to make it clear, beyond doubt, that they yield to no one in their desire to see the Holy Places suitably protected and free access to them accorded to all religious bodies.

My Lords, we cannot support any proposal that the Old City alone should be internationalised. Such a suggestion would be entirely contrary to the 1947 recommendations of the United Nations and is not in line with the terms of reference given to the Conciliation Commission by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December, 1948. Apart from the practical difficulties involved in establishing a special international régime for an area which depends upon the larger part of the City—the New City—for essential supplies, it would be manifestly unjust to imply that the Arab part of the City required United Nations administration while the New City did not. As I have said, His Majesty's Government were originally responsible for introducing into the United Nations the resolution which gave birth to the Conciliation Commission. We feel confident that, in guiding the parties to a settlement of their differences, the Commission will bear in mind the interest of the nations in the future status of Jerusalem and the world wide concern for the suitable protection of the Holy Places and free access to them. Therefore I think the Archbishop will realise that, while I, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, have indicated complete sympathy with the point of view which he has put forward, circumstances make it impossible for me to say more at the present time than I have in fact said.

4.47 p.m.


My Lords, I rise to thank the noble and learned Viscount for his reply—a reply which I found most satisfactory and a most definite expression of policy. The noble and learned Viscount may be quite certain that millions of Christians throughout the world will warmly and wholeheartedly support that policy. I ask permission to withdraw the Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.