§ 91. Mr. Mander
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the present 40 position in Palestine, and the number of casualties that have taken place among British, Jews, and Arabs during the last three months?
§ 92. Mr. T. Williams
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any information to give the House as to the position of affairs in Palestine?
§ 93. Mr. Graham White
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make with regard to the position in Palestine?
94. Mr. David Adams
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies what is the present position in Palestine?
§ 95. Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he will make a statement on the situation in Palestine?
Mr. M. MacDonald
On 5th October I described to the House the measures which were being taken to deal with the serious situation in Palestine. Since then I have conferred with the High Commissioner in London, and, as has already been announced, further reinforcements have been despatched to Palestine to bring the total strength of the garrison up to 18 battalions of infantry, two cavalry regiments, a battery of howitzers, and some armoured cars, with ancillary troops. The recruitment of additional British police continues. The General Officer Commanding has now at his disposal such forces as he requires for the purpose of restoring order but the process of suppressing the rebel bands and of reestablishing the civil administration in outlying areas may take a considerable time.
In order to ensure speedy action in the sphere of public security the High Commissioner has delegated to the General Officer Commanding power to appoint, with his consent, military commanders over districts, who will be responsible for all security and defence measures and will take over from the District Administration all the powers at present vested in the latter by Regulations under the Defence Order-in-Council. District Commissioners in such areas will become political advisers to the local military commanders, while continuing to be responsible for the administration of purely civil matters. Such military commanders have now been appointed in all the districts of Palestine.
41 The following are the figures of casualties desired by the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, East (Mr. Minder):
During the three months of August, September and October, 29 British, 144 Jews and 231 Arabs have been killed, and 75 British, 232 Jews and 179 Arabs wounded. These figures for Arabs ex-dude armed rebels killed or wounded in action. It is impossible to secure complete figures for casualties amongst the Arab rebel forces, but well over 400 are known to have been killed during the three months, and considerable additional numbers wounded.
The rebels recently intensified their efforts, and a fortnight ago made a concerted attempt to dominate the Old City of Jerusalem. This attempt was frustrated by the prompt occupation of the city by British troops and police, followed by a thorough search. The success of this operation has had a most salutary effect. Every precaution was taken to avoid injury of innocent members of the civil population and to preserve the sanctity of mosques and sacred buildings and I have been glad to learn from the High Commissioner that the conduct of the troops and police was exemplary. Subsequent intensive searches for rebels have been made in other centres and many arrests have been made.
The Government have now received and are carefully considering the report of the Palestine Partition Commission. I hope that it will be possible to publish the report and to issue a statement of the Government's intentions shortly after the beginning of the new session.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Now that the Government are re-establishing order in Palestine, will they consider the advisability of increasing what was definitely described as a reduced low level, for a temporary period, of immigration?
The announcement was made recently as to the schedule for the six months up to the end of April, and I have nothing to add to it.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
May I ask whether the Jewish quota of immigrants took into account the number of Jews who have been killed during the last three months, and further, how many Jews are now armed so that they can defend themselves against murder?
The principles which govern the schedule for those six months have often been stated in the House. With regard to the second part of the question, I am not certain that my figures are up to date, but when I last made inquiry, the figure was something over 6,000.
The figure of 6,000 covers the total figures of Jewish regular police and supernumeraries. Of these the great majority are supernumerary, but I could not give the exact figures without notice.
They have been lately, but whether they are still being increased, I am not quite certain.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
Will the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that the determination of the Government to restore order in Palestine will not be allowed in any way to delay their putting forward their proposals for pacification and conciliation in Palestine?
Yes, Sir. I hope to make a statement of the Government's intentions about that shortly after the new Session opens.
§ Mr. Petherick
Is close contact being maintained with the French Government, in view of the fact that the co-operation of neighbouring Powers would be of great advantage in dealing with this problem?
§ Mr. Gallacher
Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that if he withdrew the forces from Palestine, the Jews and Arabs could get on all right?