§ Colonial Office.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ " That a sum, not exceeding £122,923, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1940, for the salaries and expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies." — (Note. — £61,000 has been voted on account.)
I think it would be for the connvenience of the Committee if we had a general discussion upon the matters that will be raised and if the reduction were moved at the end of the Debate. I understand that Members would like to have a pretty wide discussion, and if that is an agreeable course we should be able to discuss all aspects of the situation. Further—and I hope the Committee will not think it presumptuous on my part—I would remind hon. Members that the last Debate on Palestine gave occasion for some pertinent remarks on the part of Mr. Speaker as to the length of speeches.
§ 3.50 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
I am rather sorry, Colonel Clifton Brown, that you did not delay that suggestion until my speech was completed, though I must say I do not feel like making a very long speech after having left the House this morning at about 8 o'clock. I am very sorry for those hon. Members who stayed here for a special purpose which, I understand, has been cancelled, but their loss may possibly be the gain of the House of Commons if it results in a larger attendance to-day for what I regard as a very important Debate.
I have no apology to offer for returning to the subject of Palestine. Since the Debate in May of this year, three things have happened which make the present Debate almost inevitable. What- 762 ever the right hon. Gentleman may have said in reply to questions regarding the Permanent Mandates Commission, we are assured that that Commission refused to approve of the policy embodied in the White Paper. We know, from the last Decree of the right hon. Gentleman, that that policy has completely broken down, and, because it has broken down, a suspension of all legal immigration has been decreed. Those three reasons not only call for a Debate, but call, I think, for reconsideration by the Government of this knotty Palestinian problem. There has, however, been what would be described as a major incident or as a minor incident, according to the view one may take. There was a Labour party conference in Southport at Whitsuntide, and, whether hon. and right hon. Gentlemen take note of Labour party conference decisions or not, I may point out that that party consists of over 2,000,000 members, and its conclusions are entitled to some consideration even by hon. Members who sit in this House. The Labour party's resolution with regard to Palestine reads as follows:This Conference endorses the stand taken by the Parliamentary Labour Party against the Government's Statement of Policy in Palestine. It declares that the White Paper, by imposing minority status on the Jews, by departing from the principle of economic absorptive capacity governing Jewish immigration, by making Jewish entry dependent on Arab consent, and by restricting Jewish land settlement, violates the solemn pledges contained in the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate. The policy of the White Paper represents a further surrender to aggression, places a premium on violence and terror, and is a set-back to the progressive forces among both Arabs and Jews. It also imposes new and intolerable restrictions on Jewish immigration at a moment when racial persecution increasingly divides the other countries of the world into those in which they find it impossible to live.This Conference reaffirms the traditional support given by the British Labour Movement to the re-establishment of a National Home for the Jewish people in Palestine. It recognises that considerable benefits have accrued to the Arab masses as a result of Jewish immigration and settlement. This Conference is convinced that under the policy of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate the possibility exists for continued and increasing peaceful co-operation between the Jewish and the Arab peoples in Palestine.This Conference calls upon the Government to rescind the White Paper policy and to reopen the gates of Palestine for Jewish immigration in accordance with the country's economic absorptive capacity.
§ Sir Arnold Wilson
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether that resolution was debated, and, if so, on approximately what date?
§ Mr. Williams
That resolution was debated on Tuesday of Whit week, and the hon. Gentleman will be able to find the Debate if he cares to look it up. The resolution met with almost unanimous assent in that great conference. So much for the Labour party's approach to this problem. But on 12th July last the Minister made a reply to a question— obviously an inspired question— which seems almost to be at the same time a reply to the resolution of the Labour party. A question was put to him on the subject of illegal immigration into Palestine, and his reply was as follows:As the House knows, His Majesty's Government announced their readiness to facilitate the immigration of Jews into Palestine up to a figure of 75,000 during the five years from 1st April last. We are particularly anxious to help the settlement of Jewish refugees from Central Europe, and special provision was therefore made for the admission of these.The reply then made reference to illegal immigrants, and went on to say:These numbers have been such lately that I have now authorised the High Commissioner to announce that no immigration quota will be issued for the next quota period, that is, for the six months from the 1st October to the 31st March next. Whether there will be a resumption of immigration quotas after that date must depend upon the circumstances then prevailing regarding illegal immigration." —[Official Report, 12th July, 1939; col. 2276, Vol. 349.]Over a period of time we have passed from economic absorptive capacity to what was termed a temporary political high level at the figure embodied in the White Paper, and now, finally, there is no legal immigration at all. To say that this is a further blow to Jewish aspirations is to put it very mildly; it would not be untrue to say that it is a further surrender to violence; and to say that it is in defiance of the decision of the Permanent Mandates Commission is also to put it very mildly. Whatever we may think about economic absorptive capacity as an immigration policy, whatever we may think about the political high level due to an internal rebellion, or whatever the House may have thought about the White Paper policy, with its immigration restrictions, certainly this latest 764 Decree is the last straw, since legal immigration is to be stopped altogether. I suggest that that Decree has no legal, moral or ethical justification, and ought to be withdrawn at once. I hope that the House at the end of this Debate will register its disapproval, not only of the Government's policy in the past, but of this latest Decree of the right hon. Gentleman, for which, I am satisfied, he can find no sort of justification whatever. We had 15 years of a policy in which immigration was based upon economic absorptive capacity, and the immigration was organised and controlled: and no hon. Member will deny that during that period economic development in Palestine was abnormal, and that all sections of the community, Jews and Arabs a like, benefited materially as a result of Jewish immigration, while during that period there were few so-called illegal immigrants.
All moderate sections of the community benefited from that policy. It was only when a rebellion broke out and when certain other factors— to which I shall refer later— occurred, that economic absorptive capacity was set on one side and the change of immigration policy followed. During the period of arbitrary political high level of 12,500 immigrants per annum, protests were made that it was inconsistent with the terms of the Mandate. But in the circumstances, despite the strong protest made, illegal immigrants during that period were comparatively few. The Permanent Mandates Commission when they learned of the Government's policy and of the so-called political high level intimated that this must not be understood to be permanent but merely for a temporary period. Then the right hon. Gentleman's White Paper came out in May of this year. The political high level was reduced from 12,500 to 10,000 per annum, plus. 25,000 refugees for a period of five years, at the end of which time further immigration is to depend on the consent of the Arabs. I need hardly tell the Committee that the White Paper was rejected by almost every Jewish organisation in the world.
Finally, we have complete suspension of all legal immigration, and according to the Minister himself none but illegal immigrants need apply for admission to Palestine. Such is the result of Govern- 765 ment policy that they absolutely cease organised, controlled immigration, because they admit they have failed to prevent illegal immigration. I want to suggest that that position is fraught with disastrous results. After all, it means that all those young men or young women in this or other countries who are being trained for land work, prepared for life in Palestine, are not to have any opportunity ever of going to Palestine. We have in one place in this country a thousand German refugees in training, preparing for life in the country to which they desire to go. Their hopes are now dashed. This means that no children can be sent to Palestine, no aged people, no fathers, no mothers, no fathers-in-law, no mothers-in-law, none of those who have relatives in Palestine anxious find willing to receive and help and nurture them. A complete cessation of immigration means that the hopes of tens of thousands of people all over Europe are completely dashed as a result of this new decree.
As I see it, the simple explanation of the Minister's action is that Government in Palestine has completely broken down. If there was moral or legal right for it, it has broken down, and the Minister himself is the first to acknowledge that by his latest decree. In these circumstances, Europe being what Europe is— I do not charge the Minister with being responsible for what happens in Palestine— Palestine being what it is to millions of people, illegal immigration during the past few months was almost inevitable. I am amazed at the right hon. Gentleman's acceptance of advice tendered to him, or I am amazed at his personal decision if he is wholly responsible for the decisions he takes. Only yesterday in this House I put to him a question about the birth-rate in Palestine of Arab and Jew, and part of his reply was as follows:The present Arab rate of natural increase is estimated at 23.75 per 1,000, and the Jewish rate at 20.53 Per 1,000." —[Official Report, 19th July, 1939; col. 390, Vol. 350.]Actually, of course, the latest figures for 1938 given in the statistical Blue Book issued by the Palestine Government show that the Arab birth-rate is 28.4 and the Jewish birth-rate 18.34 per 1,000. So that if the people who produce those figures which the right hon. Gentleman gave me yesterday in reply to a question are the people who are advising the right hon. Gentleman on his Palestinian policy, 766 there is no wonder that his policy continues to break down. I want to say clearly so that I shall not be misunderstood that we all recognise that Palestine cannot be a home for all the 20,000,000 Jews in the world. We recognise that Palestine cannot be a home perhaps for all would-be refugees in Europe. We do recognise, however, that Palestine is the one country capable of absorbing a considerable number of those who would like to emigrate, and yet apparently all recent events, which have been so important in the lives of the people in this as well as other countries, seem to have been ignored by His Majesty's Government and by the Minister in particular when they have been thinking of their Palestine policy.
I ask the Committee to recall for a moment what has happened since last November. We had the outrageous pogroms in Germany. Almost immediately after we had the absorption by Germany of Czecho-Slovakia. We had hundreds of thousands of Nazi victims fleeing from Nazi brutality, and grabbing at any opportunity to go to any other frontier on earth. Just at the moment when the refugee problem was at its worst the Government issued their White Paper restricting illegal immigration into Palestine and threatening a complete cessation of legal immigration within five years. The only possible door to those would-be immigrants was virtually closed. Was there any wonder, therefore, that illegal immigration increased? What were the conditions of many of these refugees who desired to come to this country, to go to America, to Palestine, or anywhere else? In the "New Statesman" of 13th May there appeared a letter referring to the German and Austrian Jewish Association, brought into being to deal with refugees. This is the statement made about concentration camps, and so forth, in Germany:It is hard to imagine what life in a concentration camp is like: 10 to 14 hours a day hard labour under constant menace of the supervisor's cudgel, hours of drill before and after work, exposed to hunger, cold in winter, thirst in summer, cruel whipping for the slightest oversight of prison regulations, a short night's rest in overcrowded barracks, often as many as four on one mattress. But even worse than the menace of death or physical suffering is the prevailing spirit of disregard and ridicule of elementary human rights and dignity.767 Therefore, that being the case, and those being the conditions endured by hundreds of thousands of victims of Nazi persecution, is there any reason to wonder that, should an opportunity present itself to any shipowner who desires to make profits by transporting would-be immigrants, he takes a chance? While we all deprecate illegality in any form, there has been quite a good deal of illegality in Palestine during the last three or four years and the Government to a large extent have ignored it. We do not want to encourage either Jews or Gentiles, Arabs or others in illegal actions of any kind, but I suggest that this illegality has got out of hand and beyond the right hon. Gentleman's control, because the legitimate door to immigration has been closed by his policy. I would put to the right hon. Gentleman a plain, straight, honest-to-God question. During a recent Debate in this House on Palestine the right hon. Gentleman said, "If I was an Arab I should be alarmed at continued immigration." Well, perhaps he would be. I ask him this question: If the right hon. Gentleman happened to be a German refugee in a concentration camp, robbed of his right to earn his own livelihood, brutally tortured and threatened with death, would he try to escape? Would he take the first opportunity that presented itself to go to Palestine, to this country or anywhere else? After all, that is the acid test. If the right hon. Gentleman, to avoid torture and persecution and possible death, saw an opportunity to escape to Palestine or anywhere else, would he take that opportunity? The right hon. Gentleman may reply later when he makes his speech. The answer of the right hon. Gentleman on 12th July, to which I have already referred, included this statement:We are particularly anxious to help the settlement of Jewish refugees from Central Europe, but as many of these illegal immigrants are Jews from Poland and Rumania the movement even threatens to some extent our effort to help refugees." —[Official Report, 12th July, 1939; col. 2280, Vol. 349.]I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman what he means by that statement. Is it not the case that a large number of those illegal immigrants may be Polish by birth but that they have been residing in Germany and have been pushed into a no-man's-land camp, a pestilential 768 swamp, and that although Poles at birth they are just as much victims of Nazi persecution as if they had migrated from Berlin? Is the right hon. Gentleman, in using that sentence in his reply to a question in this House, not misleading the House? In any case, should they be Poles or Rumanians, do we not all too frequently hear the statement that there are a million Jews too many in Poland, that there are 400,000 too many in Rumania, and that there are 500,000 too many somewhere else? Where are all these people to go? Why too many Jews? Why select one particular race all the time as being superabundant?
It seems to me that that part of the right hon. Gentleman's reply was calculated to mislead, and I hope he is going to tell us just what information he has as to the source and origin of those illegal immigrants who have found their way into Palestine in the past six months. The right hon. Gentleman ought to justify that statement or immediately to withdraw it. It is generally known that as far as Palestine is concerned for three long years we have almost refused to govern. Now the right hon. Gentleman at long last is going to use the iron hand. But against whom? Hitler? Mussolini? The Mufti? The murderers and terrorists of Palestine? No. Against the miserable refugees fleeing from Nazi terrorism. I ask hon. Members, is that British? Is that fair play? Can it be characterised as justice? Are we fulfilling the pledges that we have given? Are we showing that statesmanship for which Britain is supposed to be renowned? After all, this seems to be the best that the Secretary of State can think of. That was the best treatment that he could mete out to those who rank among the most loyal subjects of the British Empire.
The right hon. Gentleman's suspension of immigration is based upon illegal immigration. How many illegal immigrants found their way into Palestine during the past six months, and how many does the right hon. Gentleman expect will find their way there during the next six months? In the reply of the right hon. Gentleman to the question that I put: to him, there are two curiously contradictory sentences. First, the right hon. Gentleman declares the Government's determination to prevent illegal immigration; and, secondly, 769 he suspends all legal immigration. If they are going to prevent illegal immigration, why suspend legal immigration? I can make neither head nor tail of the reply. It is inconsistent not only with the Mandate but with the contents of the White Paper. The White Paper lays it down that there shall be 10,000 immigrants a year for five years, plus 25,000 refugees, who can go as early as possible according to the economic absorptive capacity of Palestine. Therefore, the 25.000 refugees, apparently, are wholly divorced from the 50,000 ordinary immigrants. But yesterday the right hon. Gentleman informed me that not only is he suspending legal immigration, but that no further refugees can go there, not even children or old men or women— those who do not want employment, who can and would be maintained by their children. I do not think there can be any legal or moral basis for the right hon. Gentleman's action. Moreover, it is both cowardly and punitive. It is inflicting hardship and punishment upon a body of innocent people because the Government's policy has broken down.
We had a Debate in May on the White Paper policy, and the Government obtained a very small majority. The result, from the point of view of Parliament, was very inconclusive, to say the least; and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman was not very happy about it. I dare say the Prime Minister told him all about it later on. When questions have been put to the right hon. Gentleman about the Permanent Mandates Commission, and it has been suggested that they refused to approve the White Paper policy, the right hon. Gentleman's reply has been that, according to his information, that suggestion was incorrect. The right hon. Gentleman was there, and he underwent a very mixed examination. I am sure that he enjoyed himself, and lost no feathers, but I do not think he was able to convince anybody except the British representatives. I know that there has been no publication of the documents, but is it not true that four members out of seven declared that the proposals of the White Paper were incompatible with the Mandate, that the fifth opposed the immigration proposals, and that all those five said that the White Paper was a unilateral breach of the Mandate? If that was the case, would the Permanent Mandates Commission have agreed to this 770 latest decree to suspend legal immigration altogether? Why is it that on such an important question hon. Members of this House have not had the Permanent Mandate Commission's report? The Minister knows that it is in the hands of the League Secretary, and that, on the request of any Government, copies would be made available.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
If the report has not been made available, how can the hon. Member indicate the character of what happened?
§ Mr. Williams
The hon. Member has been long enough in the House and in a university to know that there are official and unofficial reports. I am satisfied, in the absence of the Government's official report, to rely on the unofficial reports which have appeared in the newspapers in all parts of the world. I am asking why the right hon. Gentleman did not remove the ignorance of hon. Members, including myself, as to what actually took place before the Permanent Mandates Commission. He knows that if he had desired to make those discussions available he could have done so. Is he afraid of publication? Or is there another reason, that there is something in the right hon. Gentleman's mind which prevents him from allowing the report to be made available until, perhaps, September, when the League of Nations Council is meeting?
§ Sir A. Wilson
Is the hon. Member aware that no report of the Permanent Mandates Commission can be published until it has been seen and commented upon by the League of Nations Council, after being submitted to the Governments concerned?
§ Mr. Williams
I think the hon. Member will find that reports of the Permanent Mandates Commission are always published before the League Council has seen them.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
If the Government were to ask for the report to be made available before their own comments have been received, of course the Secretary would do it.
§ Mr. Williams
All I am anxious for is that hon. Members should have all the 771 information available. I am suggesting that if the right hon. Gentleman had desired to make the report available it would have been published. I suggest that he is either afraid of publication or has something in his mind that hon. Members ought to know something about. Does he hope to secure League approval of the White Paper policy before Parliament has seen the report of the Permanent Mandates Commission? It is generally known that the League Council always accepts the reports of the Permanent Mandates Commission. So far as I know, in no case has the League Council yet rejected a decision of the Commission. Is this to be the first occasion on which the League Council will reject a report of the Commission; and, if so, is it to be at the request of the British Government? We know that the League Council is a semi-judicial body made up of foreign secretaries, who are subject to intimidation and coercion; and it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the right hon. Gentleman has in mind the hope that between now and September such influence as this country can bring to bear on foreign secretaries of other countries will ensure the League Council accepting a policy which has not been approved by the Permanent Mandates Commission. Not only ought we to have had that report available to-day, but we ought to discuss the report before it is submitted to the League Council at all.
If this latest Decree by the right hon. Gentleman proves anything, it proves that the White Paper policy stands condemned, and neither the right hon. Gentleman nor any one else can superimpose on an unwilling people a policy contrary not only to what they regard as justice and fair play, but to everything that has been promised here. (Interruption.) I make this statement generally— contrary to the promises made to the Arabs and Jews during the past 20 years. I am not one of those who would separate the Arabs of Palestine, because we know that there have been rebellious Arabs, extreme Arabs, and moderate Arabs; and we know that the Government of this country have always co-operated with the extreme terrorist Arab element.
§ Lieut.-Commander Agnew
Is the hon. Member making charges that the adminis- 772 tration in Palestine co-operates with the extremist element?
§ Mr. Williams
I referred to His Majesty's Government, and the hon. and gallant Member cannot put words into my mouth. There is a moderate element of Arabs in Palestine which has been largely ignored by His Majesty's Government, and it is because of that that cooperation has not proceeded as it might have done— with disastrous results to the Jews, the Arabs, and Palestine as a whole. The Government's policy has broken down. We cannot ignore the fact that there were 15 years of fruitful cooperation, and that all enjoyed the benefit of it— even during the past few years, while the rebellion has been going on. While we in this country and people in other countries all over Europe have been spending colossal sums in preparations for an emergency, no fewer than 50 new agricultural settlements have been laid out by the Jews in Palestine. It is not too late, even now, to go back to the Mandate, and to encourage the moderate Arabs and Jews to co-operate as they did hitherto. It might mean some form of federation between the Arab States at Palestine, by which Arab objections would be liquidated and the Jews have larger opportunities provided for them. It might be that in that way is to be found the future salvation of Palestine.
The League Council ought to postpone consideration of the White Paper policy until this House has had an opportunity of discussing the reports of the Permanent Mandates Commission, and the right hon. Gentleman ought to suspend his immigration decree. If I read the signs aright here and elsewhere, he gets very little support for a punitive policy such as this, and, looking as clearly as one can at a highly complex problem, I am convinced that the postponement of this discussion by the League Council until the House of Commons has had an opportunity of discussing the report in advance is called for, and that the suspension of this immigration decree is also called for. That is the least that British honour demands, and I hope that at the end of this Debate Parliament will demand no less.
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Sir A. Wilson
I am reluctant to enter the lists as a protagonist of Jew or Arab.
773 I would sooner speak as one who has consistently tried, as an administrator in the harness of His Majesty's Government abroad, to promote good will between the various groups, nationalities and religions over whom it was at one time my duty, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, from time to time to attempt to exercise some measure of control or influence. I am far from wishing to make a partisan speech. I regret that the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) made so much of the resolution of the Joint Labour Council. Had the Arabs been allowed to speak to that body, or had it included a single Arab or Moslem representative, the Joint Labour Council would assuredly have worded their resolution more moderately. When they express regret at the abandonment of the principle of economic absorptive capacity, I am entitled to ask the hon. Member whether the Labour party in this country or in any other have not themselves declined altogether to agree to any considerable immigration which might in certain circumstances compete in the local labour market. What about our own Aliens Act? When we are told that Palestine is the only one door open to the miserable refugees of Europe, I am entitled to ask why the Joint Labour Council, who have not been otherwise than broadminded in their political affiliations, have made no attempt to induce the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics where there is ample room, to open their door at least ajar? As a matter of fact Russia has closed her door firmly to all Jewish immigrants.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Surely the hon. Gentleman is aware that the British Labour party have no responsibility for Russia, but they have the greatest responsibility for the carrying out of any undertaking entered into by His Majesty's Government.
§ Sir A. Wilson
The Balfour Declaration was not intended to deal with a situation such as has arisen in Europe, and, anyhow, the Balfour Declaration could not deal with the situation with which we are now confronted in Europe. There must not be one National Home, but half a score of National Homes throughout the world, if Jewish needs are to be met. Russia might have made a great contri- 774 bution, but her much advertised colony of Biro Bidjan is closed and not a single Jew is allowed to enter. I hoped that Brazil might have helped, but it has done nothing yet, and Australia has done little. If the Joint Labour Council had looked at the problem not as a mass of paper documents in which to pick holes, but as a broad, human problem, they would see that Palestine cannot be a door for the entry of more than a tiny fraction. They referred to the material benefit which has accrued to the inhabitants of Palestine, but I have lived long enough among Persians and Arabs to know that they are not exclusively concerned with material benefits. They are concerned with that spiritual independence which comes from being their own masters in their own homes. Nationalism is a growing force, with its good as well as bad sides. There is no possibility whatever of the Arabs accepting, as consolation for the loss of their homeland, a few more cinemas and a few more dentists, and two pairs of shoes were before they had one pair or none. There is no solution by that road here or elsewhere.
The next point of the hon. Gentleman was that of the Permanent Mandates Commission, to whose reports he attaches such immense importance. I do not wish to underrate the care, attention and the expert knowledge which goes into the work of that body, but let us examine it a little more closely. It should consist of 10 members, and, as a matter of fact, not more than seven, as far as my knowledge goes, have sat for some years past. A decision of this importance relating to the White Paper should certainly not be made by seven out of 10, but by the whole body. I find it difficult to understand why the Council of the League of Nations, with a discussion on Palestine in prospect, did not co-opt as soon as possible the remaining three members in order that it might be dealt with by a full Commission. It is alleged that four persons out of seven voted one way; had 10 persons been present the result might have been different.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Is not the hon. Gentleman aware that the Permanent Mandates Commission is made up of nine representatives, and that the Italian and the Spanish delegates did not attend because 775 they have both left the League, and that, therefore, seven members is the maximum?
§ Sir A. Wilson
The Permanent Mandates Commission consists of 10 members according to rules. The absentees did not represent Spain, Italy and Japan but were present in their personal capacity. There has been nothing whatever to prevent the appointment of other persons to take their places at any time in the past two years.
§ Mr. Lipson
Would the hon. Gentleman use the same argument about the right of the Permanent Mandates Commission to judge a matter of this kind if its decision had been unanimously in favour of the Arabs?
§ Sir A. Wilson
Yes, I should, and I regard it as a great mistake to have decisions of great importance taken by less than a full Commission. Who are the seven members other than Sir M. Hankey? There is M. Orts, of Belgium, a man with great administrative knowledge of Africa and of great experience, to whom all Europe is indebted, and M. Giraud, a Frenchman, also with considerable experience in the Colonies. There is a Dutch professor, Hr. Van Asbeek, who for some time taught international and Colonial law in Batavia, and a Portuguese Colonial expert. There are two professors of economics, one from Switzerland and the other from Denmark, who, to the best of my knowledge, have at no time travelled extensively or who have any personal experience whatever of these problems.
§ Sir A. Wilson
From personal conversation with their friends. The Permanent Mandates Commission as such has power to receive petitions, but it has not been allowed by the Council of the League of Nations to hear any petitioners who desired to appear before it or to visit the countries on which it makes pronouncements. It can only deal with matters on paper. It meets twice a year but once in its history it met three times. Its deliberations are limited to examining documents and the representative of the Mandatory Power concerned. To regard it as a tribunal whose verdict on a great political issue should be final and decisive 776 is to put on to its shoulders powers and responsibilities which I am certain they thmeselves do not claim or desire to possess. They are limited by the text of the Mandate, and they cannot go beyond that. If they tell the Council whom they advise that my right hon. Friend has gone beyond the text of the Mandate that may well be regarded as conclusive by the Council, but it is not conclusive whether or not the proposals of my right hon. Friend are right or wrong, expedient or inexpedient. The Council ought to have remitted the question to a larger, more experienced body than the Permanent Mandates Commission which could deal with broad issues.
There can, in the long view, be no solution of the Palestine question which does not bear in mind that Palestine is simply the southern half of Syria. For a thousand years the very name of Palestine was unknown to Arabs. It was merely a small section— the least important section— of Syria. The long-term solution, I have no doubt whatever, is that Syria should be governed as a whole. It should be a federation, with one Jewish State, one Christian State, and three Arab States working together in harmony, under British or French, or Anglo-French, supervision and control, subject to some measure of control and supervision by the League of Nations in whatever form it may exist in the future. Let us be perfectly clear of this that Palestine as it exists cannot fail to be a source of further irritation to Arabia as a whole. The only alternative system in the long run is a federation. One of the principal difficulties we have had in Palestine in the past three years is the unwillingness, for whatever reason, of the French Government in Syria to co-operate in regard to Palestine. It is true that the French have their own difficulties in Syria, just as we have in Palestine, but what is the use of talking at large about the virtues of settlement by negotiation when we ourselves, in dealing with France, are unable to get any settlement or agreement as to the political treatment of Syria as a whole? Syria is economically and to a large extent racially one country, and until 1919 as regards religion, and habits of mind.
I am sorry that the Jews ever went to Palestine, but, hiving gone there 777 under the Balfour Declaration, they have the same right to exist and flourish as the Christian States or the Arab States, but as a single autonomous State. That would be in conformity with the terms of the Mandate, Article 3 of which says that the Government must do all in their power to encourage local autonomy and to deal with local autonomous Governments. It will be equally in conformity with Article 6, which says that nothing may be done in regard to immigration which will conflict with the civil and religious rights of the existing inhabitants.
The Arabs cannot be blamed for regarding Palestine as their country. They cannot be blamed for taking a somewhat jaundiced view of the vast illegal immigration. Illegal immigration is far worse for them than legal immigration, which is dealt with on a rational basis. If they come in reasonably large groups they are not a burden to the State; illegally they may come in a rush, destitute, only wishing for the tune being to have a place in which to lay their head. The Official Journal of the League of Nations, from which I now quote, takes a very fair and broad view, and this is as recently as December, 1937. It says:As for the mandatory Power itself [Britain] the concern with which it has for nearly twenty years sought to appease the antagonistic feelings prevailing in Palestine must awaken in any man of goodwill a degree of admiration all the higher in that it was exercised in a world in which ruthless violence often stills the voice of humanity. Let the Jews, who all too often, and without justification, show impatience, at the delay and hesitation which the mandatory Power has felt compelled to bring to the building-up of their National Home, ask themselves whether there is any other nation by which they have been so little persecuted and to which, for generations past, they owe so many benefits. Let the Arabs, whose opposition to what is nevertheless a measure of higher justice which cannot be carried out without a sacrifice from their side can be readily understood, remember the origin of their national emancipation. Without British efforts, certainly, there would have been no Jewish National Home; but also there would have been, on the threshold of the 20th century, no independent Arab States.That is an opinion which should bear weight with us and with our critics. The Permanent Mandates Commission's task is not to act as statesmen but as auditors, charged with the duty of saying whether the policy that we have adopted is in conformity with the strict terms and letter of the Mandate. It is not the 778 Mandate— a document rendered obsolete by the efflux of time and by tragic events in Europe— that will govern the future of Palestine. That must be dealt with on a far wider basis.
We want not one but half a score National Homes all over the world to accommodate the Jews for whose plight we are in no way responsible. We must not allow ourselves to be deflected from doing justice to them by the almost criminally foolish circulars sent out from time to time by them. I have in my possession a circular from the New Zionist Organisation, and I suppose other hon. Members have received a copy of it. It would have us ignore Arabs, Arabia and Moslems, wreck the whole system of Mandates, wreck Palestine, in the vain hope that Jews, unfortunately situated as they are, may find in Palestine a solution for their troubles. The Jew in Europe will never find a home in Palestine in large numbers. His only hope is to go to other countries, and in larger numbers than before.
§ 4.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Mander
If anybody a year or two ago had visualised that we should have a Debate such as we are having to-day on the issues that confront us, nobody would have believed it. We are faced with nothing less than a breakdown of the Government's White Paper policy already. How extraordinarily different are the circumstances in which we find ourselves to-day compared with the position which existed at the time of the statement that was made by the late Foreign Secretary to the League Council in September, 1937:The Mandates Commission had drawn attention to the reduction of Jewish immigration to a total of 8,000 in the next eight months. That, as the Commission recognised, was a purely temporary measure designed to meet temporary and exceptional conditions. If, as the Commission said, it were a departure from a principle sanctioned by the Council on a former occasion, Mr. Eden's colleagues on the Council would appreciate the special circumstances in which that decision had been taken.My hon. Friend has just said that there ought to be not one but 20 different National Homes throughout the world for the Jews. That is true, but what we complain of is that there is not one allowed. The other 19 that the hon. Member spoke about have never been promised to the Jews, whereas the one was solemnly promised to them at a time 779 of grave crisis. The Secretary of State's policy has not satisfied anybody in Palestine. It has not satisfied the Arabs and it has certainly not satisfied the Jews. One must look at it from the dual point of view as to how it affects and satisfies both of the races concerned.
The two matters which will centre in the Debate to-day are the decision of the Permanent Mandates Commission and the decision to prohibit any further immigration into Palestine. I wish first to deal with the question of the Permanent Mandates Commission and to contribute some further information on the subject. The Secretary of State stated in reply to me on 12th July that:The Commission have asked His Majesty's Government's comments on the two first documents, which will be sent as soon as possible, when the Commission will no doubt complete their report." —[Official Report, 12th July, 1939; col. 2233, Vol. 349.]I am sure that, unintentionally, the right hon. Gentleman stated something that is not accurate. The Mandates Commission have made their report. The members of the commission have scattered to all parts of the world and they are not to meet again until October. Their report is complete. In fact, they are awaiting certain comments which the right hon. Gentleman may send in, according to usual custom, and they will be in the form of an appendix to the report. There is no question of the completion of the report. The right hon. Gentleman said in regard to publication that this is a matter for the commission itself. I say again that he is wrong. The Mandates Commission cannot deal with this. As I have said, they will not meet until October. That is a matter which always has been on previous occasions one for the League Council. As a rule, the reports of the Mandates Commission have been put together in September, and if any member of the Council, if the British Government, for instance, were to make representations to the League Secretariat, there is not the slightest doubt that they could get publication at the earliest possible date. I hope that as a matter of common justice, in accordance with the will of this House, the right hon. Gentleman will send in his comments as early as possible and that he will be able to assure us that he will ask the League 780 to be good enough to make arrangements to publish their report as early as possible.
In regard to what is contained in the report, no doubt it is true that, officially, we do not know what is in it, but it happens that at Geneva, as in other places, facts do get out, and I have taken some trouble to satisfy myself as to the authenticity of the statement that was published in the "Daily Herald" the other day. That information, which is given by Mr. A. L. Easterman, is I am sure substantially reliable. It says:The Government has suffered a serious defeat over its plans to set up an Arab-controlled Palestine State, with a permanent Jewish minority. Five out of seven members of the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, to which the Government submitted its recent White Paper proposals, have denounced them as incompatible with the terms of the mandate, which provided for the creation of a Jewish National Home in Palestine. The majority members of the commission who condemned the British policy are the representatives of Holland, Switzerland, Belgium, Norway and Portugal.It is true that the Portuguese representative, while he was strongly adverse on the-question of migration, did not take such a strong line as the four other members. Those persons are not there as representatives of their Governments. They are there as experts selected by the League because of their qualifications to do the work, and it is a little late in the day for the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson), having discovered that the Permanent Mandates Commission has not given him the report he wanted, to turn round and try to decry them.
§ Mr. Mander
It would have come much better earlier on the suggestion that the Government should go straight to the Council and not to the Mandate; Commission.The minority members are Lord Hankey, the British representative, and M Giraud for France.Lord Hankey is a very distinguished British civil servant, but it cannot be contended that Great Britain is not an interested party.
§ Lieut.-Commander Agnew
Has the hon. Member authority from these distinguished people to quote their opinions?
§ Mr. Mander
Let me say that the other day I asked the Colonial Secretary whether he would care to deny that the statements in this paragraph were true, and he was very careful to do nothing of the kind.
§ Mr. Mander
I hope the hon. and gallant Member will take note of that fact and draw the obvious conclusion. Reference is made to Lord Hankey and the French representative. Great Britain and France work very closely together. They have mutual interests in regard to Syria and Palestine, and I understand that there has been some sort of working arrangement between them.Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, who put the case for the Government, underwent the severest cross-examination a Cabinet Minister has ever had to face in connection with its trusteeship of Palestine.That is saying a great deal.M. Rappard accused Mr. MacDonold of ' turning the Mandate upside down,' and took him severely to task for his failure to create a Jewish majority in Palestine— which the commission declared was the major element in the Mandate. Miss Dannewig, of Norway, said that the White Paper was a betrayal of the Jewish people and the Mandate.The right hon. Gentleman can say that this is all untrue, if he cares to do so.The whole world knew, she told Mr. MacDonald, that Britain had promised the Jews a National Home. To suggest that the Jews should be in a permanent minority of one-third would be considered an act of treachery and was an insult to the Commission's intelligence. M. Rappard stated that to stop Jewish immigration into Palestine after five years, subject to Arab consent, would be a unilateral denunciation of the Mandate. The majority members expressed the strongest condemnation of Mr. MacDonald's introduction of the ' Hogarth Message ' to suggest that Arab interests in Palestine were paramount. The Commission had been meeting in Geneva for 15 years, and had discussed Palestine with successive British Governments. During that time its members had never heard of the Hogarth Message. It was never once mentioned. Mr. MacDonald thereupon agreed to withdraw the Hogarth Message.No doubt the right hon. Gentleman will take the opportunity of replying.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)
Perhaps I had better intervene straight away. In the 782 first place, in regard to any observations made by the members of the Permanent Mandates Commission it would be quite improper for me to say "yes" or "no" to the question which the hon. Member has asked. He must know perfectly well that it would be improper, but seeing that he has made reference to something that I am supposed to have done at Geneva, let me say straight away that I have never withdrawn the Hogarth Message. I could no more withdraw the Hogarth Message than I could withdraw the Balfour Declaration. The Balfour Declaration was made on behalf of the British Foreign Secretary to the Jews and to the Arabs. The Hogarth Message was made on behalf of the British Foreign Secretary to the Arabs. Both those declarations must stand, and I certainly have not either the power or the desire to withdraw either of them.
§ Mr. Mander
I see what the right hon. Gentleman means. He means that the Hogarth Message, whatever value it has, is still in existence in the world, and that he has not destroyed it. That is true, but the right hon. Gentleman will not deny what I have said that it was generally condemned by the members of the Mandates Commission I have mentioned, and that in fact it ceased to have any operation as far as the Mandates Commission is concerned. That is my point, and I say that substantially the account that I have given of the proceedings is accurate. What is to be the next step? Is the right hon. Gentleman going to defy— I hope he will not contemplate defying— the Mandates Commission? It is true that in accordance with their usual practice they have not sent in a unanimous report. They have sent in separate statements by individuals. I hope he will not try to ride off by suggesting that, after all, they are merely statements that we can all look at and consider, and then pass on with the Government's policy without taking any further notice.
Some suggestion was made just now that the council was a better body to deal with this question than the commission, but I cannot imagine that a body so subject to political pressure as the Council of the League can be superior to the objective approach which is given by these experts. Is the right hon. Gentleman going to apply some kind of political pressure to the members of the council when it 783 meets in September? Is he going into some manoeuvre which will permit him to carry on and side-track the report of the commission? I hope he will not put outside his consideration the possibility in certain circumstances of submitting this grave issue to the Permanent Court of International Justice. A request has been put forward for that, and it certainly is a possibility which ought not to be turned down, because you would there get an interpretation by a body which I do not think could be suspected of political bias. Surely it is of vital importance at this stage that we should not be put in a position of appearing to defy any international authority that may be set up. Surely it is vital that we should indicate our willingness to accept third-party judgment whenever it presents itself. If we are not willing to do that, if we show an inclination to repudiate a decision of this kind, are we not placing ourselves in the same position as Hitler when we criticise him for arrogating to himself the sole right to judge what is the correct policy for his country? The Permanent Mandates Commission is an expert body which has always maintained a high standard, and its report should not be brushed aside lightly. It would be lamentable if that were done. We should have no moral case left before the world. I hope the Secretary of State will reflect again and decide to suspend any further action in carrying out his policy until the international authority has come to a definite decision on the matter.
I turn to the question of immigration. It seems to me that the policy of the Government, in effect, though not in intention, is working out to one of encirclement of the Jews. They are being encircled now. Hunted from Germany and other countries, they are not welcome anywhere else in the world. They are refused in the National Home that was promised to them. They were even fired on on one occasion. There was one incident when a ship was fired on. I feel sure that it will never happen again. They really have no place to which they can turn at present, except illegal immigration into Palestine. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will deal with the question put to him as to the 25,000 refugees who would not appear to be in the 10,000 annual quota at all. It is difficult to understand why he should now suddenly say that 784 none of them will be allowed to come in, even old people who would be no real trouble to the country and who would be supported by their families. It seems a cruel injustice that all these refugees should be shut out and it seems to me a decision quite inconsistent with the terms of the White Paper.
Who are these people who are coming in illegally? No doubt there has been for some time a slow trickle of individuals who have come in over the Frontier, but it has increased to a tremendous extent during the last few months, and to a very large extent increased as a direct result of the right hon. Gentleman's White Paper policy. In the old days Jewish organisations were able 1o say to their compatriots in different countries, "Wait your time. You are on the list. You will be able to get in in a few years." They cannot say that now. They have to get in now or never, and they are taking every opportunity, legal or illegal, to get into the country before the doors are finally closed. Who can blame them for trying to do that in present circumstances? There is no doubt that many of the ships that are sent out have on board people who have been driven out of Germany by blackmail and have been given an offer either to go back into a concentration camp or be put on board a ship and take their chance of getting into Palestine. Natural]]' they take the chance of getting in there
When the Secretary of State; is dealing with the question of the Rumanians and the Poles that he referred to, will he indicate the percentage of those who really have been living in Rumania and Poland for a long time? According to my information it is only about 10 per cent, who really are from those countries, the others having been driven out of Germany and elsewhere. In the present circumstances it is impossible for the Zionist organisations to properly control the situation. They feel that the Government's own illegal act in breaking the Mandate has freed them. They have no moral power or authority to compel their compatriots to co-operate into any scheme that may be in operation. Moral support which previously existed for carrying through immigration schemes has gone altogether and you will never revive it while the present policy is pursued. There is a kind of sauve qui peut all over the world. Jews are rushing in knowing that 785 they will find in Palestine friends who will help them and do their best to keep them going, whatever the rest of the world may do. No doubt this situation has given a great opportunity to private speculators. There are people whose one idea is to make money, who are making large profits in getting these people into Palestine.
That is the result of the White Paper policy. It is inseparable from it. It cannot be avoided. It ought to be made perfectly clear that the policy now being pursued is not going to satisfy the Arabs. They know that this policy cannot be maintained. They realise that the Government have no power to keep the Jews out of Palestine legally or illegally. As a result, you are not going to get their support. You will have during the next few months and years— nothing can stop it— a great flood of unselected Jews pouring in from all parts of the world in vast numbers, and nothing that the Government can do will ever be able to stop it, or ought to be able to stop it. I have a great many cables from all over the world sent to my right hon. Friend as leader of the Liberal party. I will read one:Three and half million Polish Jewry shocked by Colonial Secretary's announcement depriving Jewish masses opportunity settle their national home. Identifying ourselves with Jewish agency's declaration we protest action which punishes whole Jewish people for acts desperate men women seeking refuge from certain destruction by immigrating Palestine homeland.This is from the executive of the Zionist organisations of the whole of Poland. It has been stated in the Press that the Colonial Office has under consideration the possibility of setting up concentration camps in Cyprus or elsewhere, perhaps in the British Empire, for putting in these Jewish refugees who are wandering around in these ships. Will the right hon. Gentleman say whether that is so? If that is really true— of course from their point of view it would be a very fine thing — why not let them into Palestine? If it is true, are they going to be kept there at the expense of the British taxpayer? All this time Arab violence is going on. It has not been checked. Your policy has not succeeded in bringing it to an end and, while it may be that there are certain extremist Jewish organisations which have been driven in desperation to the same end, any action of that kind is wholly condemned by the responsible Jewish 786 organisations. The only remedy for this state of affairs is to alter the policy of the White Paper, otherwise we are heading for disaster. This policy is the result of the general policy of retreat before violence which the Government have been adopting in Europe for the last few years. They have abandoned that policy, to the delight of the country, as far as Europe as a whole is concerned, and the situation in Palestine is really nothing more than a hang-over from the days when it was the policy of the Government to give way to aggression and violence wherever it arose. Arab violence and association with the Mufti produced the White Paper, and the White Paper has produced an uncontrollable situation from both the Jewish and the Arab point of view.
What is the policy that I would suggest as an alternative to the White Paper? First of all, we should loyally accept the decision of the Permanent Mandates Commission when it is published and if, as I have prophesied, it is adverse to the contentions of the Government. They have a good opportunity of accepting a verdict of that kind. We should then make it clear beyond doubt that we intend to be masters in Palestine and either carry out the Mandate in its present form unchanged or so better it as to create a Federal State where the Jews can control their own immigration on a sufficiently large scale. That is a vital point. In either case the Jews should be given the responsibility of arming and defending themselves. Make it clear that we intend to tolerate no disorder there either from Germans, Italians, Arabs or Jews. Make it clear to the administration that their first object should be to carry out a great creative work, building up a National Home where the Jews can live inside a Federal State. If it is necessary to have public officials there in order to carry out this work, let them be sent there, though it has not always been the case in the past that administrators on the spot have been inspired by any ideas of this kind whatever. Lastly, if you carry out a policy of that kind you will build up a bulwark of British strength in the East End of the Mediterranean, steady and reliable, which may be of infinite value to us in the days to come. You will raise the moral authority of Britain, make it clear that we intend to stand by our pledged word and the international 787 obligations which we have undertaken, and you will be helping a gifted race which, at the present time, is being cruelly persecuted and daily crucified.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Major Kellett
I crave the indulgence of the House on rising to address it for the first time. I am told that a very eminent politician once advised his son not to speak until he had been in the House for at least six months. I am drawn to disregard this advice and take part in the present debate for the reason that the problems of our Colonial Empire have been my great interest and study during the last years. I find myself very fortunate in that I have travelled widely through Palestine and neighbouring countries, and have had an opportunity of studying matters at first hand. I do not wish in any way to add to the burdens and difficulties of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State, and, therefore, before putting forward two suggestions I have to make I hope the House will bear with me while I trace the background which has brought about the present situation. It will be remembered that in the letters written by Sir Henry McMahon to the Sheriff of Mecca in 1915 he promised independence to the Arabs in what, for the purposes of this speech, I propose to call Greater Arabia. That Greater Arabia is an area of over 1,000,000 square miles— nearly 1,500,000 square miles. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 stated that this country favoured a home for the Jews in Palestine, but it did not take from the Arabs their independence in that State which they had been promised by Sir Henry McMahon.
The Committee set up recently with Lord Maugham as President found that there was no justification for this country giving Palestine as a national home for the Jews, but I submit that we cannot leave the matter at that point. One of the oustanding facts is that by our intervention we gave the Arabs independence over a vast area and we only gave the Jews the hope of a home in a very small area, and allowed the Arabs to have independence there, too. These two promises, the McMahon Letters and the Balfour Declaration, are the dragon's teeth sown during the War so that we could win the War at any price, not sown by the Secretary of State or his advisers, but it is 788 they who are quite certainly reaping the armed men who are producing the antagonism in Palestine to-day. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation a national home was started in Palestine some 20 years ago, and during that time the population of Jews has gone up from approximately 50,000 to over 450,000. These people, by their hard work in that country, have earned the right to live in and govern that country alongside the Arabs who were there before.
I hope hon. Members will bear with me for a moment if I picture the difference between the Arab and the Jew, and show therefore, yet another reason why these difficulties have arisen. The Arab lives in Palestine without attempting in any way to improve agricultural conditions, to till the soil, or take any action to improve it whatever. The Jew comes along, and, by advanced methods of agriculture and extremely hard work, makes the land a prosperous land, and starts the realisation of his cream of a land flowing with milk and honey. When the Jew by his hard work has created that situation the Arab, who wants to have his cake and eat it, comes along and says, "You have bought this land from me at much too cheap a price. I want it back. You have cheated me out of my birthright." I contend that if the Arabs were to take charge of Palestine again and the Jews were swept away, the country would go back into the desert it was before; it would not remain the smiling countryside which we see it now.
I am sure that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will not mind if I put forward the two suggestions I have to make. One concerns the question of immigration. I am sure he will be the last person to feel that the ideas put forward in the White Paper are a perfect solution of the Palestine problem. Having worked at it for so long he must realise that a perfect solution is very hard to come by. I have spoken recently in London with leaders of both Arabs and Jews, and there is no doubt that the Arabs, who have never admitted the possibility of a National Home for the Jews, will shut down on immigration at the very moment it rests with them to do so, and, therefore, at the end of five years no Jew will be admitted into Palestine on any pretext whatever. I ask the Secretary of State to consider the 789 possibility of setting up an immigration committee consisting of Englishmen, Arabs and Jews, so that the whole question may be considered on the lines of the economic absorptive capacity of the country, so that the curtain will not be shut down on the Jews, and that in the future an equal number of people from the different races may be allowed to enter Palestine.
Finally, I want to say, with all humility, that I feel there have been too many commissions, too much vacillation and not enough strength shown in regard to Palestine. A famous soldier of the past once said that it is better to do the wrong thing with conviction, strength and determination than to do the right thing with neither strength, determination nor conviction. I submit that this has ceased to be a matter of local government. The eyes of the whole British Empire, and of the whole civilised world, are turned towards Palestine and our conduct of affairs there. If we fail at this moment, at this important hour, then the prestige of the greatest Colonial Power that the world has ever seen will go right down, and finally cease altogether.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Duff Cooper
I should like to be the first to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member on a remarkably successful maiden speech. He marshalled his arguments with skill and stated his case with moderation, and I am sure that the whole House will look forward with pleasure to hearing him again. I think, also, he has shown the House a very good example in the temper in which he has discussed this question. There are difficulties and differences of opinion which cut right across party differences in this House and sometimes hot feelings are engendered in regard to this problem. It is a problem which should not divide us. It is a problem of administration, not of political principles. It is a problem much more of political expediency, and I am quite sure it is the object of all Members in the House to assist the Government in the extremely difficult task of finding a solution for this Palestinian problem. Having studied this question for some time, although I have never troubled the House with my views on it before, and reading in the Press the events which have recently happened, it seems to me, 790 quite frankly, that the Government's policy is breaking down. I do not think it is a bad policy; it has been a consistent policy followed ever since we took over this great responsibility.
I do not know whether the Secretary of State will object to my defining his policy for him, but I should say that what he and previous Colonial Secretaries of State have endeavoured to do, is to give absolutely impartial and fair treatment to Jew and Arab in Palestine, to fulfil the pledges we made, although they may seem at times quite incompatible, and endeavour to set up a National Home for the Jews in Palestine which should be a real National Home, and, at the same time, make sure that the Arabs do not suffer in any way and should continue to own a fair proportion of the soil in the country where they have lived so long. I think that is a fair statement of the policy. It is a good policy, but it is a policy which has not worked, and I am afraid it is a policy which will not work. We have endeavoured to be fair to both, to make friends of both, with the result that both think we have been unfair to them, and instead of making friends of both, we have made friends of neither.
I am afraid it cannot be denied that at the present time our prestige and popularity in Palestine are lower than they have ever been both with Jews and Arabs. The hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said that His Majesty's Government had co-operated with the extremists. That so moderate an hon. Member as the hon. Member for the Don Valley should make a statement like that, with which I do not agree shows how far misconception can go, and if he, living in this country, feels like that, what must the Jews in Palestine be feeling and how much more strongly must they share that misconception. We know perfectly well that the Arabs are by no means satisfied with the system as it exists to-day. A system which permits such misconceptions honestly held by a most moderate Member of this House must, obviously, have produced in the country where it has been practised and among people who are not moderate but bitter partisans, a conviction far deeper than His Majesty's Government are deliberately dealing with the extremists.
791 It seems to me that the latest announcement that, because illegal immigration is succeeding, therefore legal immigration is to be stopped, is another lamentable proof of failure. It is like a petulant schoolmaster who, because some boys play truant, keeps in those who come to school. It is punishing those who observe the law for the sins of those who break it. That my right hon. Friend should have been driven to adopt such a measure seems to me to be proof that this policy is failing. I am convinced that no Minister and no Member could have worked harder at that policy than my right hon. Friend. I would not vote for any reduction of his salary. I know with what labour, devotion, patience, tact, breadth of vision and broadmindedness he has approached the problem, seen both sides of it, and tried to satisfy both; and the very fact that he has failed is to me one of the most convincing proofs that the policy will not work. It is not my right hon. Friend who has failed; it is the policy itself that is failing.
If we are in agreement that the policy is failing— and its most enthusiastic supporters, if any of its supporters are enthusiastic, cannot pretend it is a great success— if we admit that it is failing because it was ill-conceived, it seems to me that we must fall back upon another policy. Perhaps the policy was too difficult. Perhaps it aimed too high. We sought to administer that country impartially. If impartiality has led only to misrepresentation and incurring the ill-will of both sides, then I suggest that we must take a stronger and more definite line. We must make up our minds what we want to see in Palestine and take the necessary steps to see that what we want comes true. In the past, both Arabs and Jews have been friends of this country, both Arabs and Jews have served us well and done us valuable service in time of great emergency. When you have two old friends coming and asking for your assistance at the same time, and you are not in a position to satisfy both of them, what is the first consideration that leaps to your mind as being a reason for preferring one to the other? Surely, the first consideration is the condition in which those old friends find themselves at the present time. Which has the greater need of the two? If we look at the Arabs at 792 the present time, we are bound to admit that, during the last 20 years, they have enjoyed greater prosperity and freedom than they have known for centuries.
§ Mr. Cooper
The Palestinian Arabs, together with all others, up to the last War, were the vassals of the Turkish Government.
§ Mr. Crossley
Under the Turkish Government, the Palestinian Arabs had representatives in the Turkish Parliament. It may not have been a very satisfactory Parliament, but such as it was, it was an institution to which they could send representatives. In present circumstances, they have no sort of representation or freedom.
§ Mr. Cooper
If my hon. Friend is so Victorian-minded that he really thinks Parliamentary representation the greatest benefit that any people can possibly enjoy, if he would rather have Parliamentary representation and be governed by the old Turkish Government than be without Parliamentary representation and be part of the British Empire— if he takes that view— I am afraid I cannot agree. Excepting the happy Palestinians who were so well represented in Constantinople under the beneficent rule of Abdul Hamid, the other Arabs have benefited enormously as a result of the War. As a result of the victory of the Allies in the War, they enjoy independence and prosperity. Three great independent Arab States have come into being, and, personally, I am extremely glad to see those States prospering, and I look forward to the future prosperity and development of the Arabs under their own Government.
But what a different picture is presented by the present state of the Jews. In all their long and tragic history they have never gone through a period so terrible as this. When we think of the claims of the Jews at the present moment upon our good will and gratitude for all that they have done for civilisation in the past— few races have done more, and very few have done even as much— when we think of the weight of that debt of gratitude at the present time, it is more than we can possibly hope to repay. There is this also. The abominable regime to which they have been subjected in Germany— which will be an indelible stain 793 on Germany's good fame throughout her future history— that shame and that infamy are shared to some extent by the whole of Europe. When the history of this time comes to be written, people will wonder at the state of civilisation which permitted such crimes to be committed. It may well be that this period will be known as the time of the German concentration camp, just as people talk of the time of the Spanish Inquisition:The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.And it is by evil deeds that periods are remembered. How many people there are who, when they talk of the Rome of the Caesars, think first of all of the cruelties of Nero and quite forget the wise, benign administration of the Antonines. It may be that this generation will be known as the time of the German concentration camp, and it is our duty, as citizens of Europe, to do all we can, all that lies in our power, to rid ourselves of that stigma and of sharing in any part of it. For these reasons, our obligation towards the Jews is greater than it has ever been, but it is coupled with an obligation towards our-selves and our own posterity. It may be said, What, then, about the promises that have been made in the past? A new situation has arisen. Those promises which have been so often discussed in the House— the McMahon correspondence, the Hogarth letters, the Balfour Declaration— belong to a different period. I feel confident that at the bar of history we shall be acquitted of any wish or desire or attempt not to fulfil all those promises to the hilt. For 20 years that has been our policy. We have tried to fulfil them. If the time has come when they seem to be impossible of fulfilment, it really is not our fault.
Therefore, it seems to me that now we should decide that it is our policy, first and foremost, to make a real home for the Jews in Palestine. I see no reason why this policy which I advocate differs very widely from that advocated by the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson), although I know his sympathies are very strongly in one direction. He also advocated an autonomous State— an autonomous State within a Syrian Federation. I suggest that, having made up our mind to support the Jews— not to forfeit Jewish friendship as well as Arab friendship, but to make sure that out of this 794 muddle that exists to-day at least we shall emerge with one friend— we should say frankly to the Arabs what our intentions are. Talk not to the Arab Committee or the Mufti, but to the important Arabs in the Hedjaz, Transjordania and Iraq; say to the Governments and kings of those countries, "This is what we propose to do." They understand that language; they cannot understand our present policy. Say to them," We intend here, in this small corner of Syria, to support the Jews and to make there an autonomous State where the Jews themselves shall control their own immigration. You have all these vast spaces of Syria and Arabia in which to expand, and you are free to do as you wish." If there are other matters— and there are— which they desire to change in the Near East, matters in which we can meet them, we should do so freely, and with the best will in the world.
We should endeavour to find some compensation for the loss which they would feel was being inflicted upon the Arab people in Palestine. What would that loss be? I do not want to minimise it. The Arab sees his land passing out of his hands into those of another race. It is a hateful experience, but what hateful experiences are other races going through at the present time? Compare it, for a moment, with the long torture that is being inflicted on the Jews. Compare it even with what is happening in the Tyrol. There, one of the most ancient German populations in Europe, which has been settled there for hundreds of years, has suddenly been given notice to quit, and been given notice with the approval of its own Government. It is a fearful fate that is overwhelming those people at the present time; it is far worse than anything that is contemplated for the Arabs. I see the Arab case. I appreciate it. Even though you sell your country yourself, even though you get a good price for it, it is hard and bitter to see it pass from you. But there is no other solution. Somebody has to suffer, unfortunately, in this great difficulty, and as it is at present, it seems to me that every body is suffering and nobody is benefiting. If the Arabs wish to leave the country, if they will not accept Jewish domination, they can do so.
§ Mr. Cooper
I am endeavouring to answer that. It is quite impossible to keep the two peoples living there together on equal terms. We have tried to do it, with hon. Members' approval, for 20 years, and we have failed, and I do not think we have failed through our own fault but owing to reasons, racial, religious and historic, which make it impossible for those two races to inhabit that small territory together. I am driven to the conclusion that we should support one of them. Great suffering will not be inflicted. Great suffering has not been inflicted on any of the Arabs where Jews have come in. The Arab population has increased wherever the Jews have gone. We have to face this fact. The Arab will be beaten in business transactions by the Jew. The Jew is a better business man, and the Arab solution of that problem is to massacre the man who has done him out of his land or who has bought the land at a good price. You have to choose whether you are going to allow the Jews, by good business methods, to expropriate fairly and squarely the Arabs, or allow the Arabs to massacre the Jews. I believe the rulers of the Hedjaz, Transjordania and Iraq would not nurse a lasting grudge against the British Empire for insisting upon this comparatively tiny portion of those vast territories being made into a real independent National Home for the Jews. Before these Islands began their history, a thousand years before the Prophet Mohammed was born, the Jew, already exiled, sitting by the waters of Babylon, was singing:If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget her cunning.In the course of their long persecution, they have begun once again to see a hope of a return. It is us, it is the British people, British statesmen, the forerunners of right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench, who have raised that hope in their hearts. It is the strong arm of the British Empire that has opened that door to them when all other doors are shut. Shall we now replace that hope that we have revived by despair, and shall we slam the door in the face of the long-wandering Jew?
§ Mr. Dingle Foot
Before the right hon. Gentleman concludes, may I put a question to him? I am very anxious to 796 understand what it is that he is proposing, Does he propose that the Palestinian Arabs shall become a permanent minority in their own country, under Jewish domination?
§ Mr. Cooper
If the Jews have autonomous control, as has been suggested by other hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Hitchin, and allow a free immigration of Jews, they certainly will in the end form a majority in that territory.
§ Mr. Cooper
I think we could easily have a Boundary Commission to cut down the boundaries of Palestine. I would remind the hon. Member that the Jews accepted the Royal Commission's recommendation for a partitioning of Palestine. I saw all the Government's reasons for turning that down, but the Jews accepted it. I will not now go into the details of what the boundaries of a new Palestine should be.
§ 5.45 P.m.
§ Mr. Stokes
I have listened to the rhetoric of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's (Mr. Duff Cooper) very attentively and I am bound to say at once that I do not take the view of the present situation which he sought to impress on the Committee. I speak as one of the comparatively few Members of this Committee who pay frequent visits to the Middle and Near East and I hope hon. Members will bear with me if I say to-day, what I intended to say on a previous occasion when I sat through two days of Debate on this subject and was unfortunate enough not to be called. That is not a threat, however, that I propose to occupy as much time with my remarks as many right hon. and hon. Gentlemen did with their speeches on that occasion. But I feel that as there is no direct Arab representation here it is incumbent upon me to speak.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's seemed to give the show away when he sought to attribute the great improvement which has taken place in Palestine entirely to the work of the Jews. I do not belittle in any way what the Jews have done in Palestine, but I ask the Committee not to lose sight of the fact that the really great and important change which took place in Palestine 797 was the abolition of the Turkish tyranny. Once that was removed, the Arabs had the opportunity of putting things right for themselves. I hope nobody will think that I am not in every way sympathetic towards those Jews who have been persecuted in Central Europe. I feel for them as much as anybody in this Committee. I say at once that my solution of that problem is simply this. Let this Government and the Governments of the Dominions get together and find room for all the persecuted and exiled Jews within the confines of the British Empire. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) chided the hon. Member for Hitchin (Sir A. Wilson) for suggesting that 20 Jewish homes might be established throughout the world and said that not one had been established. I agree that it is most regrettable, but it does not seem to be any argument in favour of attempting to give something to the Jews which is not ours to give.
I approach this subject from a practical point of view. I have no intention of wasting the time of the Committee by attempts at rhetoric for which I do not possess the ability. The simple fact is that, in regard to Palestine, we carried out a dual swindle. In the first place, we promised Palestine to the Arabs and in return we got their blood. Secondly, we promised Palestine to the Jews and in return we got their money. [Hon. Members: "And their blood."] I agree, we got their blood as well. But whichever way out we find, whatever solution we adopt, I do not think it can be very creditable to us. I want to emphasise to the Committee a point which was not made sufficiently plain during the previous Debate, namely, that definite pledges were made, not only to the Arabs in Palestine but to the whole Moslem world. My hon. Friend the Member for Burslem (Mr. MacLaren) in the last Debate quoted the Government of India communication of 15th May, 1920, No. 1159. It was not, however, quoted in full, and I think it important that the Committee should realise what was contained in that paper:Similar conditions apply to Kurdistan in which the right to local autonomy is provisionally recognised and to those areas in Asia over which Mandates have been entrusted by the Peace Conference to Great Britain and France, namely, Palestine, Mesopotamia and Syria. It cannot be too clearly understood that in all these three cases the Mandates 798 have been granted for specific purposes and for a temporary period. … The work of the Mandatory Powers is to assist the local inhabitants in administration, with advice and help until such time as they are able to take over with success the business of administration without outside assistance.That was at a time when there was great unrest in India and elsewhere because the Moslem world was beginning to see that the great Powers were not carrying out their promises, but were setting about parcelling out Arab territory to suit their own ends. I put it to the Committee that there is clear proof that a very definite promise was made.
I would put a commercial parallel which I often put to my Jewish friends in relation to this question, and to which I have not had as yet any sufficient or satisfactory reply. I would liken the position to that which arises out of a commercial transaction in which two lots of bills have been drawn, one lot dated 1915 and another lot dated 1917, and all fall due at the same date. If those bills cannot be met when they fall due, what does the ordinary business man expect? Does he expect the bill of the earlier date or the bill of the latter date to be met first. Certainly not the bill of the latter date. In fact, however, what happens in business is that they are all put back together, to use the language of banking circles, and that, as far as I can understand, would in this case mean the return of the territory to the Turkish Government. I do not suppose anyone suggests that that is the proper solution. I do not propose to take up time in quoting the McMahon and the Hogarth correspondence, but I would mention one extract from the Balfour Declaration:It being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.How can any practical person suggest that the introduction of nearly half a million people into a comparatively small territory like Palestine will not interfere with the civil and religious rights of the inhabitants? I agree that we promised to the Jews that we would do it. At the same time I hold that it is impossible to do it, without infringing the civil and religious rights of the Arabs.
§ Mr. Stokes
I would put it to the hon. Member in this way. Take a country the size of Wales. Does he think it would be possible to introduce half a million people into it without interfering with the civil and religious rights of the inhabitants?
§ Mr. Stokes
Well I do not think so. It is a matter of opinion and I am afraid the hon. Member and I would disagree for ever on it, as I should probably disagree with a great many other hon. Members on this subject.
Supposing the Welsh sold their land at very good prices to English buyers, would the hon. Member say that the English buyers were taking away the civil and religious rights of the Welsh people?
§ Mr. Stokes
I am surprised that the hon. Lady should ask me that question, knowing the views which I hold about land. I recognise that that is the root of the problem in this country and everywhere else. The root of the trouble everywhere is the private ownership of land.
§ Mr. Silverman
Why is it that of all the territories in the world, it is only in the case of Palestine that my hon. Friend is on the side of the landlord?
§ Mr. Stokes
My hon. Friend has got me wrong. I have tried to put my case clearly. I said we carried out a dual swindle in Palestine and that whatever we do it is not likely to reflect any credit upon us. We promised the same thing to two different sets of people. They cannot both have it, and we have to find some practical way to get ourselves out of the mess as best we can. I do not wish the Arabs to own the land of Palestine, and I do not wish the Jews to own it, and I certainly do not wish the English landlords to own the land of this country. I want the land to belong to the people as a whole. To turn again to the Balfour Declaration I would point out that it was made long before the persecution of the Jews in Central Europe. I question very much whether, if the state of things which exists to-day had existed then, that Declaration would have been made. It might have been practicable to put it over 20 years ago, but it is impossible to do so now.
800 I ask the Committee to consider what is happening in Palestine. It is a great mistake to think that the type of person who is going to Palestine is the type of what the Arab understands to be a Jew. Of all the Arabs to whom I have spoken, not one has been anti-Semitic. They are anti-European. They do not want to have their country invaded and this huge mass of people from Central Europe is being dumped into Palestine against the will of the Arabs. I remember discussing these matters with a pasha of Iraq. He was at one time Minister over here and he was subsequently murdered in Iraq. He was a very fine man, and when we were discussing the development of his country and certain schemes which we wanted to see carried out but he did not, he said: "We do not want to visit on the people of this country the evils of your Western civilisation." That statement reflects the point of view of the Arabs in that part of the world.
Perhaps I may put another imaginary parallel case which some Members of the Committee may consider ridiculous but is, I think, applicable. My history may be bad but I ask hon. Members to suppose that the Virginians were suddenly turned out of Virginia by the niggers in the Southern States. Suppose they said: "We came here from Devonshire and we will go back to Devonshire." Would anyone consider turning out the people of Devonshire to make room for them? It seems to me that is just the sort of thing that is being attempted in the case of Palestine. I put an even more ridiculous case, but one which has just as much logic to commend it as what some people are proposing should be done in Palestine. Would it not be just as logical to say that Great Britain should be returned to Mussolini because Ceasar conquered it in B.C. 54? The point of view which I have just expressed is one which the Arabs hold very strongly. I have spoken to people in Egypt, Iraq and Palestine and they have said to me: "We are faced with this astonishing paradox. You had us in to help you in the War. You got the Jews in to help you also— you did another swindle there. But you are asking us to make a home for the very people against whom we were fighting in the War." That is a ridiculous situation and no Arab is ever going to accept it.
801 May I say, in passing, a few words about the Mufti? I think there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the position which he occupies among the Arabs. I am personally acquainted with him, though I cannot say that I am on very familiar terms with him. But I can say to hon. Members that you will do no good whatever by deriding and belittling him in this House. He is very highly regarded in the Arab States and by adopting that attitude towards him, whatever your solution is to be, you are more likely to harden the Arabs against it than to soften them. No responsible person whom I have met in Iraq, Egypt or Palestine believes that partition is possible. The Prime Minister of one of those countries said to me: "You can go home and tell your people that we will fight to the death — all of us— rather than have Palestine taken away."
I hope there will be no more delay. Delay is the worst possible thing that could happen at this stage, and I say that with some feeling, because I have travelled along all the North coast of Africa. I have Arab and Jew friends in all those Northern territories, and I know the feeling that there is on this question. I say that unless we are very careful, there will be trouble all the way along there. To my mind, the Christian thing to do is for our Government and the Governments of other British territories to set about solving the problem of the Jews by finding them homes, or a home, within the confines of the British Empire.
§ 6.1 p.m.
§ Mr. M. MacDonald
It is no more than a few weeks since we had a discussion in this House regarding the Government's White Paper policy for Palestine, and after a keen Debate the House approved that policy. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), who opened the Debate this afternoon, is now seeking to get that policy reversed, and as a preliminary manoeuvre towards that objective he has suggested that we should suspend the operation of this policy pending its consideration by the Council of the League of Nations. The hon. Member is very familiar with the Palestine problem, and I believe that he will agree with me about this, that perhaps the action which would do most to destroy any prospect that there may be of peace in Palestine would be an action by this Government 802 which consisted either in determining on a policy and commencing it and then completely reversing it, or else in determining on a policy, then hesitating about it, saying that it had no confidence in that policy, and therefore commencing another long period of having no policy at all. In fact, I not only think the hon. Member would regard that as a disaster; I know that he would, because he has told us so in this House himself. In the Debate which we had last November, he was referring to the prospect which we opened up then of discussion between Jewish and Arab representatives in London, and he used these words, speaking of the Government:They ought to have a policy, and whether the discussions succeed or fail no more time ought to be wasted. We have waited for one commission and then waited for a second commission, and now we are to wait for discussion and negotiations. The Government ought not only to be ready with a policy but ought to be determined that that policy shall be carried through." —[Official Report, 24th November, 1938; col. 2096, Vol. 341.]That was very sound advice, and it is advice which the Government propose to follow. We have produced our policy. It has met with criticism in many places and on many accounts. One criticism that it has met with is that it has not brought immediate peace in Palestine. On that, I would make two comments. In the first place, I have yet to meet the individual who will produce a policy which will bring immediate peace in Palestine.
My right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's (Mr. Cooper) made a characteristically interesting and forceful speech. He had the great courage, which is not surprising in him, to advance a policy of his own, and he advanced very forcibly certain arguments in favour of it. I would like to advance very briefly certain arguments against it. He suggested that we should talk, not to the leaders of the Palestine Arabs, but to the leaders and the authorities in the Hedjaz, in Saudi Arabia, and other powerful surrounding Arab States. That is exactly what we have done, and, having done it, I can tell him, here and now, what would be some of the results of those discussions with those authorities and of supporting the policy which he proposes. Every single one of those Powers would regard Great Britain as having broken her solemn 803 promise to the Arabs in general and to the Arabs of Palestine in particular; they would lose all faith in the honour of Great Britain, and their distrust of us would be communicated to other peoples throughout the Moslem world.
I cannot think that that would contribute to the prestige of Great Britain, and I certainly know that his policy would not produce peace in Palestine, because it would quite definitely and finally add to the Palestine Arabs the whole of the rest of the Arab world as implacable enemies of the Jewish National Home in Palestine and cause them to do whatever they could to sweep that home away at the earliest opportunity. I believe that the House, which is always very fair on these important questions, would recognise that there is no policy which will produce immediate peace in Palestine, and no spokesman of this Government has ever claimed that the White Paper policy would produce that early peace. I myself have said on more than one occasion that the bitterness and the hatred of the last few years have gone far too deep for that. Time must be allowed to elapse for the present tempers to cool down, and I do believe that the White Paper policy contains the basis upon which ultimately the Arab people and the Jewish people can settle down side by side in Palestine and upon which ultimately they will find peace together.
The hon. Member opposite criticised the policy for other reasons. He criticised it— and he has been joined by the hon. Member below the Gangway and others— on the ground that it breaks pledges which we made to the Jewish people. We entirely disagree with that contention. We hear a great deal in this House about the promises which have been made to the Jews, but we hear very few references from the benches opposite to the promises which were made to the Arabs of Palestine. The promises which were made to the Jewish people have been balanced from the very beginning by promises made to the Arab people. From the very beginning, in the Balfour Declaration, the promise to the Jewish people was partnered by an assurance to the Arabs, and in Article 6 of the Mandate the undertaking which was given to the Jewish people was balanced by an undertaking to the Arabs. Let me remind the House of that balance, which has been kept in 804 these various declarations. First of all, there is the Balfour Declaration:His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine. …When we come to Article 6 of the Mandate, we find again:The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage … close settlement by Jews on the land. …
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
If the intention of that was that the Arabs were to remain in a majority, why was it that the rights and position of the non-Jewish elements should be safeguarded and not those of the Jewish element?
§ Mr. MacDonald
It would be hopeless to go into the details of all the old arguments, on which the House has already reached a decision, some weeks ago, but in the light of what has been said in the House this afternoon, it is proper that the House should be reminded that there is this double set of promises to the Jews on the one part and to the Arabs on the other part, and that the whole problem of Palestine is to reconcile those two sets of promises. We regard the White Paper policy as carrying out faithfully and reconciling faithfully the promises which we made to the Jews on the one hand and to the Arabs on the other.
§ Sir John Haslam
Will the right hon. Gentleman mention who gave those two pledges, one to the Jews and the other to the Arabs, and also the positions that they occupied? One was the leader of the most historic party in this country, ex-Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary, and the other was a servant of the Crown, a soldier; and if the managing director of a concern gives an order and the office boy gives a contrary order, whose order do you obey?
§ Mr. MacDonald
My hon. Friend is confusing two things. He thinks that I have quoted a promise made to the Arabs by Commander Hogarth on behalf of the British Government. I have done nothing of the sort. I have read the original Balfour Declaration, a declaration made 805 by that very distinguished statesman, ex-Prime Minister, and leader of the Conservative party, who was Foreign Secretary at the time. It was he who made this double promise of a National Home for the Jews in Palestine,it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.I know that other Governments besides the British Government are concerned in this matter. I know perfectly well that the members of the League of Nations have a responsibility in this matter, and that the views of the members of the League must carry very great weight in this matter. We have not sought to escape from the fact that we only share responsibility with regard to the carrying out of the Mandate in Palestine. We sent copies of the White Paper, as soon as it was published, to the Secretariat of the League for distribution to members of the council and to members of the Permanent Mandates Commission. I myself paid a visit to the Permanent Mandates Commission, and spent three or four very friendly days discussing very thoroughly the whole policy with the members of that Commission. They are in process of completing their report. It is quite true that the members have drawn up their observations, and that they have attached to them the minutes of their private discussions on this matter. But they are following a perfectly normal practice. They have sent their observations and those minutes to the accredited representative of the Government concerned, and have asked us for our comments on what they have said, and the report cannot be completed until those comments have been put in. I do not think it is entirely impossible that the comments of the Government concerned will then produce an alteration in certain other parts of the report.
I know that there has been a great deal written in the Press as to what the Permanent Mandates Commission say, and what they do not say, but it would be absolutely improper for me, however great the temptation, to make any observations on those alleged facts. The document concerned is not yet complete, and is in any case an absolutely secret document until it is published. I can assure hon. Members that we shall lose no time 806 in putting in our comments, so that the League authorities may publish the report as soon as and in whatever form they desire.
§ Mr. Maxton
I have been in the House a good many years, and have heard before about things that were improper. Will the right hon. Gentleman explain wherein would lie the impropriety of a Minister stating in this House that a particular Press report was entirely misleading and untrue?
§ Mr. MacDonald
If that Press report purports to state the views which are held by members of an independent body— independent of this House— like the Permanent Mandates Commission, and if those views are supposed to be confidential and secret until they are put into a final form, I think it would be absolutely improper for a member of a foreign Government, this Government or any other, to begin to make comments and to reveal information which he has got confidentially. We recognise fully that the Permanent Mandates Commission have a certain function to perform in this matter. It is purely an advisory function. They present their report not to His Majesty's Government, not to Parliament, but to the council of the League of Nations, and their function-towards the council is a purely advisory one. The authority in this matter is the council of the League itself; and when the council receive the report of the Permanent Mandates Commission we shall, of course, be present at the council. We shall present to the council then our arguments for believing that this policy is essential if there is ultimately to be peace restored in Palestine, and our arguments also for believing that this policy is entirely within the terms of the Mandate. That will be the time for the council to consider the matter and to reach whatever conclusions they are disposed to reach.
I know that hon. Members contemplate the possibility that the Council will take a decision on this matter which is not the same as the conclusion which His Majesty's Government have reached. I know that they contemplate the possibility of the Council saying that this policy is not within the terms of the Mandate, and that right hon. and hon. Members are apprehensive lest His Majesty's Govern- 807 ment may take some action which will involve the alteration of the Mandate before this House has had another opportunity of considering the situation. I can understand that apprehension, and I give the House the assurance straight away that if the Council of the League were to reach a decision which would, in our view, involve the necessity of altering the Mandate, then we shall not take steps to bring about that alteration until this House has had another opportunity of considering the situation. I think that is quite proper, and I hope that statement will remove, at any rate, some of the misapprehensions and fears which are lodged in hon. Member's minds.
§ Mr. Mander
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point, will he be good enough to say whether he will, on behalf of the British Government, ask the Secretariat of the League to arrange to publish at the earliest possible moment and separately the report dealing with Palestine?
§ Mr. MacDonald
No, I cannot make any promise of that nature without consultation with the authorities at the League, whose opinion in this matter has to be considered. The possibility will be borne in mind, but we are not here to give instructions to the Council of the League or the Secretariat of the League as to how they should perform their duties. Obviously it would have to be a matter for consultation and agreement.
Then I would pass to the other question which has mainly concerned this Committee this afternoon, the question of illegal immigration. Reference has been made to the fact that a short while ago I authorised the High Commissioner to announce that there would be no quota of legal immigrants in the next six-months period, because of the volume of illegal immigration into Palestine at the present time. An hon. Member has suggested that that itself is a modification of the White Paper policy, but it is not. It follows directly from the White Paper policy and is in harmony with it. What is the White Paper policy with regard to immigration? We announced that 75,000 immigrants would be allowed into Palestine over the next five-years period, but we stated specifically in paragraph 14 Sub-section (4) of the White Paper that 808 the numbers of any Jewish illegal immigrants who might succeed in getting into the country and who could not be deported would be deducted from the yearly quotas.
§ Mr. MacDonald
In the light of the volume of illegal immigration and of this provision in the White Paper we should have been committing a breach of the White Paper policy if we had not taken the decision we recently have taken. Before I come to the details of this matter I should like to make a general observation.
§ Mr. T. Williams
May I intervene before the right hon. Gentleman leaves that point? He is dealing with the White Paper and has coupled it with his reply to a question on 12th July in which it was stated that they are suspending legal immigration. I want the right hon. Gentleman to satisfy the Committee that he is not departing from the While Paper. I do not want to score any cheap debating point. He said the White Paper says 75,000, and that is true, but it says 10,000 a year for five years plus 25,000 refugees. The two things are separated in the White Paper. My submission was that he has departed from the White Paper policy since he suspends not only the 10,000 but any portion of the 25,000 refugees, things which were different and apart.
§ Mr. MacDonald
I was going to deal with that point if only the hon. Member had left me to make my speech in my own way, but as he has raised it perhaps I had better deal with it straight away. It is true that in the White Paper there is that distinction between the 10,000 per year and the 25,000. Half-yearly quotas of 5,000 on the basic figure, and whatever quota is possible under the 25,000 provision, are being treated in practice, as is necessary, as one quota for the six-monthly period, and there is no distinction. The quota which is brought out every six months is a quota which includes not only the basic 5,000 but also whatever addition is possible, in the light of the economic situation of the country, on account of the 25,000 quota-arrangement for refugees.
Before I come to the details of what has been happening in Palestine during the last two months I should like to make 809 a general observation. The impression is put about, in some cases deliberately, that the Government are somehow indifferent to the fate of those who seek to be refugees from Central Europe, that we are hostile to their attempts to settle in more happy and secure circumstances overseas, and that in particular we are bent upon barring the door of Palestine to them. That is not true. The very reverse is the truth of the White Paper policy. It is quite true that we disagree with people who hold a certain view— and so does the hon. Member opposite disagree with them. There are certain people who seem to think that Palestine can provide the solution of the whole refugee problem. [Hon. Members: "No."] It has been suggested over and over again. [Hon. Members: "Who thinks so?"] Well, an hon. Friend of mine has referred to a manifesto issued this morning which clearly indicates that view. We maintain that the comparatively small country of Palestine cannot provide the whole solution of the refugee problem, but we do believe that Palestine can still make a very considerable contribution towards its solution, and in the White Paper we make special provision for Palestine making a very considerable contribution to the settlement of refugees from Central Europe throughout the next five years, which are likely to be the critical period for those refugees. In the first place, we provided that there should be a basic quota of 10,000 Jews going into Palestine every 12 months. Of course, many of them would be refugees, and possibly a majority of them would be refugees from Central Europe. In addition to that, we provided a special quota of 25,000 who should be exclusively refugees from Central Europe, and which should pay special attention to the children and dependants among the refugees. So eager were we, having the responsibility that we have in Palestine, that Palestine should make a very considerable contribution during the five-year period for settling refugees, that we made that very special provision for it.
How is it working out in practice? We decided that these quotas of immigrants should be made up for six-monthly periods. The first quota was to run from the beginning of April this year until the end of September this year, but it was impossible, because the Parliamentary 810 Debate did not take place in time, for the quota to be issued actually at the beginning of April. It came out some time later, but before the quota figures were announced there had been a certain amount of illegal immigration into Palestine. Between 1st April and 24th May there were 1,300 illegal immigrants into Palestine. Those, therefore, had to be taken into account. Legally, in addition to those 1,300, we have permitted to go into Palestine during this six-monthly period 9,050 immigrants, the great majority of them refugees. Therefore, the total of immigrants that we have recognised as going into Palestine during this six months is 10,350. Let me make a certain comment with regard to that. It is a larger quota for a six months period than has been allowed in Palestine for more than three years. It is the largest amount of immigration which has been allowed into Palestine during a six months period at any time since before the serious troubles began, away back in 1936. Very often we are accused of having surrendered to the Arabs during the recent negotiations and in the statement of our policy. Well, I can assure hon. Members opposite that the Arabs were not in favour of an actual increase in the number of Jews who should be allowed to go into Palestine over the next five-year period.
Let me take another point. An hon. Member has suggested that we should hold up the implementation of the White Paper policy until the Council of the League has a chance to consider the matter and until Parliament has had a further opportunity to debate the matter. I do not deny that a certain argument could be put forward in favour of that course, but there are certain arguments to be put forward against it. One of the things that we have in mind is the effect upon immigration if the policy were not to be put into effect straight away. What would happen in regard to immigration if we did postpone the putting into operation of the White Paper policy? If we had not been practising the White Paper policy we should have been continuing the policy which immediately preceded it. [Hon. Members: "No."] Certainly; there was no alternative. During the operation of the earlier policy the rate of legal immigration was 6,000 per month as a temporary expedient, until the new policy came into 811 operation. It would have been continued until the new policy came into operation.
That was the policy which had been agreed to by the authorities in Geneva as well as by the authorities in this country, and I say that if we had postponed bringing into operation this policy the quota for legal immigration would have been 6,000 per month, whereas the quota for legal immigration during the six months has been 9,050. It was exactly because of our anxiety that Palestine should start as early as possible to make a bigger contribution towards the settlement of this crucial refugee problem that we determined that the policy should be, not postponed, but put into operation straight away. That is one of the reasons against delaying the implementation, and it is absolutely impossible for anybody to say honestly and truthfully that the White Paper policy is a sign that the Government are barring the door of Palestine to the settlement of refugees from Central Europe.
What actually has been the result of this policy during the last few months? These 9,000 legal immigrants have been going into the country. They are going in now and will continue to go in up to the end of the six months' period on the last day of September. We are facilitating, and are anxious to facilitate, the immigration of those people. No individual who has been accepted as a potential immigrant under this quota will be denied entrance to Palestine. We hoped, of course, that when it came to the end of the first six monthly period we should be able to issue another quota for legal immigration of approximately the same sort of figure, something between 8,000 and 10,000 legal immigrants. "What has happened? Despite the fact that, as a result of putting the White Paper policy into operation, the volume of recognised immigration into Palestine has increased, illegal immigration has continued and is continuing on a very large scale. It has continued as a very carefully organised and regularised traffic. In the current six months quota we took account of 1,300 illegal immigrants. They went into the country between 1st April and 24th May. Since 24th May some two months have elapsed and during that time our patrol vessels out at sea or our partol forces on land have captured 3,507 812 illegal immigrants. In addition to that, because our patrols are not at their maximum efficiency yet, something between 500 and 1,000 have got into the country undetected. In addition, some 4,000 intending illegal immigrants are now in ships on the sea approaching the coast of Palestine and are intending to force their way into the country.
Therefore something like 8,000 illegal immigrants have either got into Palestine or are about to go into Palestine at the present time. That figure cancels out the quota of legal immigration which we had contemplated permitting during the next six months' period. If we are to carry out the White Paper policy at all, which says that the number of illegal Jewish immigrants who might succeed in going into the country and could not be deported, would be deducted from the yearly quotas, we have no alternative to the announcement which we made the other day. I admit that this is cruel luck for those trainees in this country, children in Germany and other refugees who would have gone into Palestine and who we intended should go into Palestine under the legal quota system.
In connection with the position of those people I would like to say something about the nature of the illegal traffic that is going on. I think that every Member is horrified at the persecution of the Jews which is going on in Central Europe and is anxious to do the utmost to enable those Jewish people to escape and to settle overseas. This traffic in illegal immigration is being represented as inspired by a spontaneous and altruistic desire to help those Jewish refugees. The Jewish authorities in this country are appealing to the British people to be indulgent on that ground towards this illegal immigration. I do not deny for a moment the great force of that appeal to our sentiment, and I do not deny that the majority of the illegal immigrants are refugees from Central Europe. Those refugees are going in illegally and they are keeping out other refugees who might have gone in legally. But there are other motives in this traffic. I am not going into all of them. I do not want to stir unnecessary passions on this matter, because we feel very deeply about it. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Mander
On a point of Order. The Noble Lord spoke in a voice which was audible to many Members on this side of the House. He made a very serious criticism of what was going on, and he said that there was money in it.
§ Mr. Maxton
Is it not a most improper thing that a member of the Government sitting on that Front Bench should make a statement suggesting that other hon. Members, expressing a point of view different from his own, were doing it because there was money behind it?
§ Earl Winterton
I must apologise now to the Committee if I gave that impression. It was an unfortunate remark which was made to my hon. Friend beside me in a voice louder than I intended. The intention attributed to my remark by hon. Members opposite was not what I intended at all.
§ Mr. MacDonald
Perhaps I might get back to the point which I was making. I recognise that the majority of these Jews who are going to Palestine illegally are refugees from Central Europe, but let us see the whole picture; There are many Jews going into Palestine illegally who do not come from refugee countries in Central Europe. Large numbers of them come from Poland —
§ Mr. MacDonald
The hon. and gallant Gentleman knows perfectly well that, when private authorities in this country make an appeal to the British public to be indulgent to this illegal immigration 814 because it is an immigration of refugees, those authorities are not referring to Jews from Poland or from Rumania.
§ Mr. MacDonald
It is perfectly clear that the British public do not regard those people as coming within the definition of refugees. The appeal which is being made to the British public is not on account of those people, and I say that a great deal of this illegal immigration is immigration of Jews from Poland and Rumania, many of them Jews who have lived there for years past. An hon. Member wanted to know what the figures were. Let me tell him. Something like 40 per cent, of the immigrants going into Palestine illegally are not from any part of Greater Germany, but are from Poland or Rumania. Hon. Members may ask, if these people are coming from Poland or Rumania, why are they not deported? [An Hon. Member: "It is no man's land."] Not at all. Many of them have been resident in Poland for many years past. It is very easy to misrepresent this position, and even to refuse to listen to the facts.
§ The Chairman
The hon. Member has made his speech, and has made a great many interjections, some of which may have been justified, but I cannot allow him to continue to interrupt.
§ Mr. Mander
I was only going to ask the right hon. Gentleman to reply to a question I put to him during my speech, and I thought he would be willing to do so.
§ Mr. MacDonald
I say that many of these illegal immigrants into Palestine are Jews from Poland or Rumania, and these 815 immigrants from Poland and Rumania are being organised. They are being instructed, by those who are responsible for this traffic, when they get on board ship to throw their papers overboard, so that, when they come to Palestine, we have no proof whatever on which we could get them taken back into their countries of origin. These Polish and Rumanian Jews who are going into Palestine illegally are also keeping out of Palestine some of those Jews, refugees from Central Europe, whom we would like to see going in. Although I recognise to the full the spontaneous movement to help refugees from Central Europe to immigrate illegally into Palestine, that is not the whole story.
What is going on in connection with the immigration of Polish and Rumanian Jews makes it perfectly clear that this is an organised movement to break the immigration law of Palestine for the sake of breaking the immigration law of Palestine; it is an organised movement to try to smash the White Paper policy for the sake of smashing the White Paper policy. That is a position which we cannot tolerate. Every country has its immigration laws and no country will allow its immigration laws to be broken with impunity. Palestine has its immigration law and we cannot allow a situation to develop in which that law is broken wholesale with impunity. If I may say so, the breaking of this law in Palestine is even more serious in the circumstances than it would be in other countries, because this illegal immigration — the right hon. and gallant Gentleman smiles and is glad — is creating a most grave situation in Palestine in three ways.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
On a point of Order. Shall I have an opportunity of replying to the right hon. Gentleman's accusation?
§ Mr. MacDonald
I say that a wholesale breach of this law in Palestine is more serious than it would be in normal circumstances, because it is steadily creating a graver and graver situation in the country. In the first place, it is producing very grave unrest among the Arab population. It is making that population, and it is designed to make them, suspicious of the sincerity of His Majesty's 816 Government in the carrying out of the White Paper policy. The Arabs have seen us, during this first six months, allowing a legal immigration of more than 9,000, which, as I have said, is a higher figure than has prevailed for years past. The Arabs see us enabling these Jews to go and settle in the country. At the same time they see an almost equal number of illegal Jews getting into the country and settling there, and the Arabs are saying that the British Government is condoning this illegal immigration, that it is simply a trick to get round the White Paper policy; and once more distrust of our good word and good faith is becoming widespread among the Arabs, not only in Palestine, but among the Arabs in the countries beyond. That is only to breathe on the embers of Arab revolt and violence, and to fan that revolt into flame again, with results which would be at least as serious for the Jewish community in Palestine as for anybody else.
The second point I would make is that this illegal immigration has aggravated the bitter hostility and hatred that exists to-day between Arabs and Jews in Palestine, and, if it is allowed to get worse indefinitely, there can never be any prospect of peace in Palestine. My third point is that, if I may presume to say so, from the point of view of the Jewish National Home itself illegal immigration is bad. It means that immigrants go in who are not selected, who are not regulated in any way, who are not related in any way to the economic and social conditions in the country; whereas, if you have regulated legal immigration, you can select, with the assistance of the Jewish Agency, the right number of capitalists, the right number of workmen, the right number of students, the right number of dependants and so on, so that they will fit in with the economic and social conditions in Palestine at any given time. From the point of view of Jewish development in Palestine itself, I do not think anyone would deny that legal immigration is good and that illegal immigration is bad. We are extremely anxious to get back to legal immigration.
It is quite true that, because of the volume of the illegal immigration that is going on now, there will be no legal quota in the next six months, but after that there will be other quota periods. There 817 will be another six months from March next year to the end of September next year, and there will be further six-monthly periods after that right through the five years; and if the illegal immigration can be checked and reduced, we shall be the first to be anxious to get back to properly regulated quotas of legal immigrants. If we can get the help of those who have the power to help in this matter, if we can get an improvement in the position as regards illegal immigration, I can promise that we shall not hesitate to bring the quotas of legal immigrants up to the maximum which the White Paper policy allows.
Of course, we have to do what we can to check this illegal immigration, which is doing such untold harm in Palestine to everyone concerned. We have under review the possibilities as to what action we can take in the countries from which these people are embarked; we have under review the circumstances in Palestine itself; and we are considering whether there is anything more effective that we can do by way of punishment of masters, detention of ships and so on, to deter this traffic. But I do not hide from the House and, indeed, the House does not need to be reminded by me, that the people who can have the greatest control over this illegal immigration are the Jewish leaders and the Jewish people themselves. If they were so minded, they could reduce this illegal immigration very greatly indeed, and I think we are entitled to ask for their co-operation in this matter.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the official Jewish Agency in Palestine are in any way responsible for this organised illegality?
§ Mr. MacDonald
If there has been any misunderstanding, let us clear it up. I do not go so far as definitely to suggest that, but we all know that there are other authorities besides the Jewish Agency. There are many sections of Jewish opinion, even inside the agency itself, as well as outside, and some of them are responsible in part for this; while even the Jewish Agency itself, although it may not be directly responsible for organising this illegal traffic, has, I think, condoned and encouraged it in some of the statements it has published. I think we are entitled to appeal to the Jewish authorities and the Jewish people to put a check on this illegal traffic.
818 I have often discussed the Palestine problem with the leaders of the Jewish and Zionist movements. I have often discussed with them, for instance, the attitude of the Arab people of Palestine and of the Arab people of the neighbouring States, and over and over again those Jewish leaders have said to me, "Surely the Arabs ought to recognise that you, the British people, have been their best friends, and ought to be ready to cooperate with you and make a concession to you. If it were not for the British people and the British Government the Arabs of the greater part of Arabia would not be enjoying independence and freedom to-day." And that is absolutely true. I always thought there was tremendous force in that argument. May I say that what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander? If that is true of the Arab people, it is true of the Jewish people also. I believe that the British people have been for generations past the best friends of the Jewish people. As far as the residents in the British Empire are concerned, hundreds and thousands of them have lived in different parts of the Empire, and are welcome there. Whatever may have been happening to them in other parts of the world, inside the British Empire they have always enjoyed absolute equality of status and rights and opportunities with other subjects of the King.
§ Mr. MacDonald
I am not denying that. I am only making a comparison with what is meted out to them by certain other peoples. Now in their time of gravest trouble also the British people are their very best friends. During recent months tens of thousands of refugees have come for asylum to this country. As far as the Empire overseas is concerned, one of the great Dominions, Australia, agreed to take 15,000 of them over the next three years. In the Colonies we have had surveys in Northern Rhodesia, in Nyasaland, in Kenya, in Tanganyika and in British Guiana, and we are prepared to do the utmost that we can to help the settlement of Jewish refugees in those British countries overseas. Above all, in Palestine the British people are the friends of the Jewish people. After all, it was the British Government which drew up the Balfour Declaration itself. It is the 819 British nation, and the British nation alone amongst Governments and nations, that has done practical work to help the Jews to establish this National Home in Palestine.
During the last 17 years we have facilitated the immigration into that country of more than 300,000 Jews. We have helped them in building the Jewish National Home to a stage in which a community of 450,000 souls is established; they are secure, they are rich, and they should go on growing by immigration for some years to come, and by steady natural increase. And it is the British people alone who have defended that Jewish National Home in Palestine with millions of pounds from the pockets of the taxpayers in this country, yes, and with the lives of our own civil servants and our own soldiers. I say we are not going to desert the Jewish National Home. We do not desert it in the White Paper policy. We have to be satisfied, before we cease to be responsible for government in Palestine, that the constitution, whatever it may be, secures adequately the special position in Palestine of the Jewish National Home. I say the British people have been the best friends of the Jewish people for generations past.
I know perfectly well that perhaps my appeal is a feeble appeal. I know perfectly well that any Secretary of State who seeks neither to favour the Jew against the Arab, nor the Arab against the Jew, is going to earn the enmity of both in present circumstances, and his influence and his authority with both peoples are bound to be impaired. But I believe that what I am saying this afternoon is being said by the great majority of the British people in this country. We have been the best friends of these people. We are determined to go on being their firm and their loyal friends; and if they say that, because we have been the best friends of the Arabs, the Arabs should co-operate with us and make concessions to us, we are perfectly entitled to say that we have been the best friends of the Jewish people, and the Jewish people should also make some effort to co-operate with us. I would urge upon this House that the policy of His Majesty's Government, both in the White Paper and subsequently, is a policy which is fair to the Jews in the light of 820 our pledges, and to the Arabs in the light of our pledges, and that the only honourable policy for this Government and this House to pursue is a policy which goes on, despite all the difficulties, trying to keep our faith with the two peoples in Palestine.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ Mr. Silverman
The words of the right hon. Gentleman in the last part of his speech make it extremely embarrassing for one who is a Jewish Member of this House to follow him, but let me say at once that I suppose everyone would agree that the British people have been the best friends the Jewish people have had in the modem world. Nobody denies that. But I think the right hon. Gentleman would be the first to admit that that, by itself, would not be sufficient to justify a mistaken policy. And what the Committee is concerned with this afternoon is to consider whether that policy is or is not a mistaken policy. No one supposes for a moment that it is actuated by anything but the best intentions, the friendliest intentions, but, after all, the world has seen a lot of good intentions go astray. You have to consider the effects of the policy, and not the intentions and the motive that inspire it.
Let us deal with this illegal immigration about which the right hon. Gentleman was so indignant. What is it that makes the immigration illegal? The right hon. Gentleman said that every country has its immigration laws, that Palestine is entitled to its immigration laws, and that these immigration laws ought to be observed. No doubt as a general proposition that is true. But what is in issue here is whether the regulations for immigration which the Government are seeking to enforce in Palestine at: this moment are or are not justified by international law — international law on which the Mandate is being administered. The right hon. Gentleman answers that question in his own White Paper. He says that this policy is within the Mandate and, having answered it in his favour, he proceeds to say that the Jewish people ought to co-operate with them in enforcing it. But it is just that which is in issue. It is just that that the Mandates Commission and the Council of the League of Nations have not yet determined; and it is because the international sovereign authority, in so far as we have 821 one, has not yet determined whether the policy that the Government is seeking to enforce by its immigration law is according to international law or not, that we on this side of the House, and so many Members on all sides of the House, are appealing to the right hon. Gentleman not to put it into force until this question of its validity in international law has been settled in his favour — if ever it is settled in his favour. He is not entitled, surely, to assume that it is going to be settled in his favour and, until it is, it is a moot question whether it is the law as he calls it that is illegal or whether it is immigration that is illegal.
The right hon. Gentleman said something about some attempt to make a distinction between immigrants from Central Europe and immigrants from Poland and Rumania. I confess that I was utterly incapable of following that distinction. I should have thought that Poland was in Central Europe. But if he says that the laws are different in Germany, and that the Nuremburg laws do not run in Poland, I suppose that is true. But if there is an organised attempt by Jews in Poland or Rumania to run all the risks of trying to make their way into Palestine, or anywhere else against the attempts of his Department to prevent them, why does he suppose that they are trying to get away? Why do they run these vessels? Why are they prepared to bear these burdens? Why do they crowd themselves into these small, un-seaworthy ships? Why do they sail the seas from port to port? Why do they run the risk of being fired upon by British ships in Palestinian waters? Why do they do these things if they are not refugees? The right hon. Gentleman must accept the verdict of the facts. People do not do that kind of thing except under the pressure of the direst compulsion; and if people do it in those conditions, then they are just as much refugees as the others, and the right hon. Gentleman has no right to distinguish between them, and to say that some are refugees and some are not.
The right hon. Gentleman said in the course of his speech that legal immigration was better than illegal immigration. If he means that the ordered, selective immigration of trained people, adapted to the new conditions of life, is better than the haphazard, casual influx of people, getting in as best they can, everyone will 822 agree with him. But who is responsible for changing the ordered, regulated immigration under the Jewish Agency into what he describes as the illegal immigration, which he thinks bad? No one but himself and the policy with which he has identified himself. He talked about the desirability of getting back to legal immigration, and when I interrupted and said, "Yes, for five years" he agreed. But he did not seem to see what the implication of that was.
What are these people to do? Does he blame them for trying to get out of the conditions in which they are living? Does he blame them for taking any opportunity that seems to present itself to get into better conditions? And if you tell those people, "We will allow a limited, selected immigration for five years," and at the end of that five years you are going to stop it for ever, is he really surprised if they say, "Well, we will get in as best we can, taking such risks as there are?" It is inevitable that they should do that; and they will go on doing that. No control of the Jewish agency or any other body, no law that the right hon. Gentleman has any power to pass, no machinery that the local authority in Palestine can devise, will prevent these people from using every device that human ingenuity can contrive in order to get out of those conditions into conditions in which they are genuinely able to live.
I ventured to interrupt my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes). I am sorry that he is not in his place. What is the real claim of the Jews to be in Palestine? It does not really depend, in the last analysis, on mutually conflicting policies — if, indeed, they are mutually conflicting — made 25 years ago. Somebody said something about being good business men. The hon. Member for Ipswich, when he goes to the Near East, goes as an excellent business man. That is the reason for his going. Nobody complains about that. But in Palestine it is not the Jews who have been the best business men. Every inch of soil that the Jews have worked in Palestine has been soil that they have bought from the Arabs. They have bought land that has been waste for hundreds, and even thousands, of years, and bought it at prices which have been continually rising, so that the prices to-day reach astronomical proportions compared with the 823 prices prevailing before. The hon. Member for Ipswich is always the first to claim that no private individual should be allowed to take for himself the whole result of the communal activity of others, working on the land and increasing the value of it. Only in Palestine, of all the countries in the world, does he say that the landlord should be protected.
But the Jewish claim to the land in Palestine does not depend even on its purchase at fabulous prices. The true claim is one which the hon. Member for Ipswich would be the first to admit — the claim that they themselves created the value in it; that they have gone into these waste places, and not merely made two blades of grass grow where one grew before, but made a thousand-year-old desert blossom like the rose. What makes Palestine pulse and throb with activity? What makes it the only place, perhaps, in the world where Jews have no inferiority complex? Not the fact that they go there as business men, but the fact that they go there as creators and producers. It is the same claim that gives the British Empire the only real title it has to the places that it has colonised and now rules: the claim of having made a contribution, for the first time, at any rate for thousands of years, to the civilisation of the world.
I think the time will come when the right hon. Gentleman will look back with a certain regret, if not a certain shame, on the speech that he made this afternoon. I think the time will come when he will wish that in these days his efforts, his energies, his ingenuity had not been employed to place further and further difficulties, greater and greater obstacles, in the way of those who are trying to create some place in the world where they can live constructively. No one in Palestine has suffered by what the Jews have done. No civil rights of the Arabs have been injured; no religious rights of the Arabs have been injured. The only Arabs in Palestine who have suffered are those who have been, or whose forebears have been, the exploiters of the Arab peasants. They have no longer the power to hold the land and the people down. The Arabs have seen a better way of life. There is none of this deep hostility, of which so much is made, between 824 these people. The right hon. Gentleman, I think, knows that the necessity which he feels to pursue this policy is dictated not by the rights and wrongs of the situation in Palestine, but by the policy which the Government have chosen to adopt in other matters, by the same kind of yielding to force and pretending it is appeasement, by the same policy of following the line of least resistance and pretending it is the path of justice. The right hon. Gentleman will live to learn that that kind of policy is not appeasement, because it does not lead to peace, not justice, because it does not lead to justice; and if it is pursued the Government will find themselves in a deeper morass than that out of which they are now struggling to rise.
§ 7.23 p.m.
I hope my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will not think me patronising if I say that I sympathise with him. Probably he does not want or require sympathy, but the reason I offer it is because I believe he has an absolutely impossible case to defend. I know that if tact, hard work, and complete disregard of red-tape had had their reward he would have succeeded in finding a satisfactory solution at the Palestine Conference a few months ago. I am afraid that that sweet reasonableness with which he tried to convince the Arabs and Jews, without success, has not to-day persuaded me that the Government are following a wise, right or just policy. A few weeks ago I voted against the Government's White Paper policy on Palestine. I did so for two reasons. I believed that it was morally indefensible and that it was practically impossible to put it into operation. I think it was morally wrong because it was completely contrary to the obligations we have undertaken when accepting the Mandate for Palestine. We shall soon know what the individual members of the Mandates Commission think about this policy. I do not want to put it too high, but I think, at any rate, it is possible that they are not unanimous in their opinion.
Some of us feel it is a little unwise of the Government to pursue this White Paper policy actively before knowing what the council of the League may decide. I am one of those who would rather that the Government had come to the House and said, "We cannot work the 825 mandate any more. We must find some other policy." I could have understood that point of view, though I should not have agreed with it, but that they should try to square what they are doing to-day with our obligations under the mandate is, to say the least, very regrettable. I said also that it was practically and politically impossible to bring the White Paper policy into operation. It is obvious to anyone in touch with Jewish opinion here, in Palestine and in other parts of the world, that the Jews never would and never could accept the White Paper policy. To-day the Jews in Palestine and the great majority of Jews outside believe that policy to be a definite breach of the solemn obligations given to the Jews by this country, and endorsed by every Government since 1917. Unless you are going to use overwhelming military force, you never can impose a law on democratically-minded and otherwise law-abiding citizens if the majority believe that law to be unjust. The Jews, in Palestine and elsewhere, regard not immigration, but these restrictive measures in regard to immigration, as being illegal. You could not have a better example of the futility of trying to impose a law on people who believe it to be unjust than the complete failure of the attempt to impose Prohibition on the people of the United States of America. There the majority of law-abiding citizens thought the measure unjust. It failed.
Some people say that the Jews are unreasonable. The Secretary of State has suggested as much to-night. He said we are the best friends of the Jewish people; no one will deny that. But the right hon. Gentleman inferred that the Jews ought to be grateful, and that they ought to accept his policy with equanimity if not with alacrity.' Let us examine whether that is a just thing to say. I am sorry to have to touch on this point, but it is germane, and unless one refers to it one cannot see the situation in proper perspective. Two years ago this same Government offered the Jews a scheme known as Partition, and this same Government, in urging the Jews to accept Partition, stressed certain advantages that would result. They said that it would mean the establishment of a Sovereign Jewish National State, they said, "If you accept it you will never be a minority under Arab rule," and, lastly but by no means of least im- 826 portance, they said, "If you accept it you will be in complete control of immigration of your own people within a certain area." Will anyone deny that the proposals in the White Paper abandon or deny every single one of these advantages?
Let is also be remembered that the Jews accepted, at the invitation of the Government, a scheme of partition, and then what happened? Two years later they are rewarded, after having accepted the proposals of the Government and in the testimony of the whole world having also demonstrated amazing self-control over their own people in Palestine, by the offer of a scheme which omits these very things which the same Government urged as reasons for accepting partition. In face of that does any detached, unprejudiced person really think that the Jews are unreasonable in turning down the proposals of the White Paper? It is like offering a man £ 1,000 for something and, instead of paying him you ask him to wait for two years. Then you say to him, "I am very sorry; I am afraid I cannot give you £ 1,000 but only £ 250, and you are very lucky that it is not only £ 100." You cannot expect that man to be grateful for that, especially when he knows that the other £ 750 has been given to his chief competitors. That, I believe, is not an unreasonable picture of the transactions and relations between Jews and the British Government in the last two years.
This is the way the majority of the Jews look upon the policy of His Majesty's Government to-day, but this was debated at length a few weeks ago, and I, therefore, turn to the subject of immigration. I appreciate the attitude of the Government up to a certain point. I recognise that they must make every effort to see that the law is carried out. I, in a very humble capacity, have always counselled patience and restraint among the Jews, both here and in Palestine. I have done it in the past, I do it to-day, and I shall do it in future whatever the Government decides. No one would deny that the responsible authorities, both here and in Palestine, with very few exceptions, have succeeded in restraining the feelings of their own people under great provocation in Palestine during the last six months. I admit straight away that on the subject of immigration there has been tacit, if 827 not active, support given to illegal immigration. It would be very foolish to deny that, but do not let anyone think for a moment that the Jews like this illicit immigration. They dislike it as much as anyone else. It prevents them from having that control and selection of immigrants which alone allows them to bring in the right kind of people to build up their National Home. I wonder whether hon. Members in this Committee, no matter what their party or individual views may be, would in similar circumstances act any differently from what the Jews have acted in Palestine? If people of our own religious beliefs, or people with whom we had some intimate association, arrived on our shores, helpless, homeless, half-starved and wholly destitute, would anyone in this House turn them back?
The right hon. Gentleman said that in his calculation some 40 per cent. of the illegal immigrants coming into Palestine to-day come from Rumania and Poland and not from Central Europe, and, accepting that figure, my information, rightly or wrongly, is that of that figure of 40 per cent., only 10 per cent. are Jews who have been for any length of time resident in either Poland or Rumania. The rest are all Jews who have been driven out of Germany, Poland and Rumania. I have no objection to Jews from Poland and Rumania, and even from Hungary, going into Palestine. If hon. Members had seen the condition of the Jews in Poland and in Palestine as I have done, they would see that there was nothing objectionable about that. If we ever get back to some proper scheme of controlled immigration, Poland, Rumania and Hungary should have a small percentage of certificates for the entry of Jews into Palestine. I believe that the general consensus of opinion in this Committee would be, if any of us were placed in a similar position to that which obtains in Palestine to-day, we should behave in exactly the same way as the Jews are behaving.
Many of these Jews who have gone to Palestine as illegal immigrants have been forced by the Nazi Government into ships against their will and they have been threatened and blackmailed that if they did not go, they or their relations would be put into concentration camps. If there were anyone in this Committee who, 828 under those conditions, would turn back these people he would deserve neither the title of British nor that of Christian. The right hon. Gentleman might ask me, what would I do? What could be done? It is always difficult to arrive at the right destination if you start out, in my view, in a completely wrong direction. It will be very easy under the right hon. Gentleman's policy to drive the Jews to desperation. I do not suppose that he wants to do that. It cannot be in the interests of anybody anywhere in the world that the position of the moderate Jew, both at home or in Palestine, should be made impossible.
We have to recognise that this policy has already failed, and will continue to fail. I realise that that is a very difficult proposition for the right hon. Gentleman to accept. I believe that his position is that of the man described by Tennyson:His honour rooted in dishonour stood, And faith unfaithful kept him falsely true.The right hon. Gentleman might even go so far as to say, "Our policy has already succeeded. We have already been able to remove a brigade from Palestine to Egypt, which is a matter of vital importance to the defence of the British Empire at this moment." He is perhaps justly entitled to say that, but I would immediately reply that the real reason he has been able to do that is because of Jewish restraint in Palestine, and if the Jewish discipline and control disappear in Palestine, it will not be merely one brigade that will be required to restore order in the land. He will never be able to enforce his policy. He has destroyed the basis of co-operation with the Jews, and he cannot and never will stop this illicit immigration without the support and co-operation of the Jewish authorities themselves.
What is the position in Palestine? You will get not only a continuation, but I believe, also, an increase of this illicit immigration. You have then either to order the authorities to shoot down the immigrants, or send them back to the sea in boats where they will be drowned, or you have to let them come in. No one imagines for a moment that you would ever give orders to do the former. Why do I say that? Because it is contrary to every tradition of our race and administration. I would recall to the right 829 hon. Gentleman the circumstances of the landing of 200 odd illicit immigrants a few months ago. They were thrown upon the shore weary, sick, and hungry, and soldiers and police were sent to round them up and put them into concentration camps. What did these soldiers do? The very things you expect English soldiers to do. They gave them cigarettes and oranges. They tried to comfort and help them.
Their hearts were immediately touched to the quick by the misery of these people. They responded as we would expect them to respond, and as they always will respond. They were stirred by the passionate devotion and love that these people showed to the Holy Land. Do you imagine for a moment that these same soldiers who extended this natural and highly loveable demonstration of affection and sympathy would, in other circumstances, shoot such people down? Of course they would not, and, therefore, the illegal immigrants will continue in ever increasing numbers until or unless you change your policy. What would I do? I would go back to the Government's own policy of two years ago. I am not suggesting anything new. It was the policy they put forward, and they asked me to support it, which I did. They should initiate discussions on some kind of partition or federation, and I beg of the Government to do it now and not five years hence. I believe that it would have the support of the great majority of the Jews, of a large number of moderate Arabs, and of a considerable number of officials in Palestine, and of Government supporters in this country.
What would I do in regard to the immediate question of immigration? I have a suggestion to make to the right hon. Gentleman. I would allow the 10,000 as arranged under the White Paper, and I would say, with regard to the 25,000 additional that they should be spread over a period of the next two years, as the need of refugees will not we hope be so pressing after that time. Therefore, I would divide the 25,000 and admit an additional 12,500 in the first two years, and also, in addition, I would allow the admission of an extra class of old people who can neither work, fight 830 nor breed, but who only want to go to Palestine and die there. I have a letter in my pocket and I do not want to make use of sob-stuff, but these are human cases with which we are dealing.
Here is the case of a man who is in Palestine. His wife is in Vienna. She is 60 years of age, and both her husband and her son are in Palestine, and they asked for a permit to bring their mother to Palestine. There were complications and difficulties in the way, which might have been overcome — and now it is impossible. I would ask any Member of this House, if he had a wife or a mother living in Germany to-day, what would he not do to bring her out of Germany into this country or anywhere else in the world? Therefore, I would beg of the right hon. Gentleman to make an exception of a few thousand in this category. We should then give certificates in the next two years to some 25,000 legal immigrants into Palestine. If we did this we would get the co-operation of the Jews. Certainly I would advocate it, and I believe that the great majority of Members in this Committee would do so. You would by this policy stop illicit immigration. In the meantime you must begin discussions in regard to some form of federation or partition, and while these were going on the actual numbers of immigrants would be very nearly the same as you yourself propose in the White Paper.
I apologise for having detained the Committee for so long, but I wanted to make these more or less practical suggestions, because I realise how difficult the problem really is. The Jews have suffered persecution for some 1,500 years. It may be that they have deserved some of it, but they have paid very dearly for it. But never in the whole of their history have they faced trials and persecutions equal to those through which they are going to-day. To hundreds of thousands of Jews in Central Europe who themselves never hope to see the promised land, the thought that some day, somewhere in the world, there will be a land where some of their children may one day go and live, free from the stigma and restriction of being a minority, has been of immeasurable comfort and consolation to them; yet to-day, without offering them any alternative, you are denying them 831 this pleasure, comfort and consolation. I and hon. Members feel convinced that nothing can stop the development of the Jewish National Home. After all, we have very definite Scriptural authority for it, and that is better even than the promise of a National Government. We believe that the great work which has been so magnificently begun and established in Palestine, a work which benefits Jew, Arab and Christian alike, will continue. No White Paper can stop it. It must and it will go on, and I beg His Majesty's Government to change their policy and to help it to go on, so that they may make some real, permanent contribution to a solution of the Jewish problem and, incidentally, consolidate the interests and the security of the British Empire in the neighbourhood of that thrice Holy Land.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Lansbury
I should like to congratulate the hon. and gallant Member on the speech to which we have just listened. I should have been inclined to leave the case where he left it, so far as I am conerned, were it not for some considerations which I might be allowed to put to the Committee. This question of the persecution of the Jews and of the National Home in Palestine is not a new one. I have been connected with the movement for the National Home ever since it started, and I have seen the hope grow and have seen it almost brought to fruition. Now there is a possibility, a bare possibility, that it all may be smashed. I could not help noticing one remark in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, and that was when he said there were other questions concerning Palestine besides the interests of Jews and Arabs as two separate peoples — I am putting what I think he said in my own way — and that was, the British Imperial interest in connection with Arab populations outside Palestine. What I think he meant to convey was that there are 80,000,000 Mohammedans in India and a very large number in between Palestine and India. That complicates this problem so far as we in this country are concerned.
Having met many Jews who take an official part in this business of settlement in Palestine, and having met a good many members of the Arab Centre, I can- 832 not believe that it would have been impossible to have brought about an agreement if there had been no other question at stake but how best to develop Palestine. I do not think that there is the terrible hatred and bitterness between the ordinary people in Palestine that events sometimes appear to show and that speakers on either side tell us does exist. I do not propose to enter into a discussion as to whether partition will be a good or a bad thing, or whether it is possible now to take up the question of a federal settlement. I have my own views about that. Everybody has a scheme schemes of all kinds come from all kinds of quarters. We are told that if this or that were done the difficulties in Palestine would be determined. The House might well take an unconventional or a heterodox step in regard to Palestine. We have had two or three official investigations, certainly with responsible men engaged on the last two occasions — I mean responsible in the sense that they were representative of different opinions here, and they had very good official people to aid them; but in the end they failed. I should like to see half a dozen men, perhaps some women, from this House visiting Palestine and meeting, not the representatives of any official bodies that claim to speak for the Arabs or the Jews, but meeting at first hand the people who are most concerned — the peasants and the workers.
As I have thought about Palestine during the last 25 years, I have realised the miracles that have been achieved by the Jews. My own information, for what it is worth, is that the Jewish trade unions and co-operative bodies are, when left alone, in quite friendly relationship with the Arab population. When I have said that, some people have flatly contradicted me; but I have heard from both sides in the matter. It has been said to me over and over again that if the Jew and the Arab in Palestine were left alone from the outside they would very soon come to an agreement. Knowing the intense interest which this House takes in this question, I think that if a few men went out, not as partisans, but definitely with the intention of making an endeavour to discover whether it is possible to find a solution, there would be hope. It must be obvious to the Arab population that what the Jews have done has been to turn part of Palestine which was a desert into gardens 833 and places where an abundance of food and other things necessary for life are produced.
That is all that I wish to say on the question as to what is to be done at the present time. I do not want to attempt to pass judgment on the score of schemes that have been sent to me and to other hon. Members, but realising that this is a question on which the House feels very intensely, I think that if, without any guidance from the Government and without any connection either with the Arab centre here or with the Jewish Committee, some group of members representative of us all would go out and make an endeavour — I am going to use a hateful word — to promote true appeasement, it would be very useful. There is no crime in wanting to bring about a righteous appeasement between people who are in disagreement with one another.
I should like to say a few words on illegal immigration. For a considerable time I have been chairman of a committee which has been trying to raise money on behalf of Polish Jew refugees. Let me say this about the Polish Jews. I never knew them under the Czarist rule ever to be free of pogroms and persecutions. The hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) said that to-day the persecution was probably worse than at any other period in the history of the Jewish race. I do not know whether that is true or not, but I do know that in the East of London at one time we received tens of thousands of poor destitute Jews from Russian Poland, and also Jews from German Poland, who were driven out by pogroms and persecutions of the most foul kind. That has been going on to my knowledge for 50 or 60 years. I have met these poor people coming with their baggage. At one time it appeared as if in East London, all those years ago, we should have serious anti-Semitism. We did have a wave of it, and had there not been a true, decent, Christian democratic nation here that anti-Semitism might have produced terribly evil results.
When I was in Poland two years ago — and we ought to keep this in mind when we are considering the attitude of European Governments towards the Jews — I was told, and the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations was told by 834 the Polish authorities, that there were 3,500,000 people, mainly Jews, in Poland for whom the League must find a place. That was reported in a Debate that took place at a meeting of the League of Nations Mandates Commission. It is no use putting our heads in the sand and imagining that this is a new problem or that it is a problem connected merely with Nazi-ism. There has been an educational wave through Europe since the War, and I was told by those in authority in Poland that as Polish children were being educated more and more they would demand that the places filled by Jews before must be filled by them in the future. There is no secret about this because, if you read the Debates in the Polish Parliament, these things are stated quite openly though it is denied, and I believe to some extent truthfully denied, that there is anything approaching the pogroms that used to take place under the Tsar. You will never understand the attitude of certain people towards the Jews unless you understand that a Jew can never become a Polish citizen. It was quite in vain that I said that I lived in London amongst a thousand or more Jews and they were just ordinary citizens of London like myself. That had no effect on the people with whom I was discussing the question. In Rumania I was told, less than a year ago, that the problem there was not the descendants of the old Jewish families but the new flood of Jews that had come into the country. I was told that it was quite impossible that a Jew could ever become a Rumanian citizen in the sense that a Rumanian national is.
At the present moment the committee of which I am chairman has on its hands a problem in what is called no-man's-land, between Poland and Germany, of what to do with 17,000 to 20,000 men, women and children. I could tell the most harrowing stories of what these people have endured during the last 15 or 18 months, how they have died of privation and semi-starvation, how they have committed suicide and how again and again they have appealed for something to be done. We hold meetings in this country, and the Jewish people and those who attend respond magnificently to appeals for funds, but those that we can get out are a drop in the ocean. Some of them have been got out quite illegally. The 835 authorities have assisted in getting them out, but they have been taken to Palestine illegally. I know the difficulty that the Colonial Secretary has to face. I know that every Government considers it its duty to administer the law and not to allow it to be thought that the law can be contravened with impunity. But I beg the Government to understand that it is dealing with abnormal circumstances. These people who, we are told, have gone from Poland were originally Poles who emigrated to Germany, and their Polish visas allowed them to settle there and to travel in the country if permitted to do so. The Polish authorities have taken away their papers now and they have been chased to the border with the bayonets, the guns or the bludgeons of the German soldiers on the one side and the bar of the Polish authorities on the other. That condition of affairs is a scandal and a disgrace to the whole of Europe. It is well known by every Government and every organisation dealing with this question.
You may pass all the laws you please, and you may say that people like myself ought not directly or indirectly to sanction getting them out in the way they are being got out from that part of Central Europe or from Rumania. I agree with the hon. Member who spoke last. I am very doubtful whether many of those who are said to have gone from Rumania did go from that country. I believe a fair number have come from Vienna and the district around. You must not say it to me, anyhow, that I ought not to sanction, as it were, getting them out in this way. You may pile up the safeguards as they have been piled up. No one certainly recognises more than I do the position that the Colonial Secretary has to face. Everyone must recognise that we would not care to change places with him in present circumstances. Whatever you do will be difficult, but I should like him to realise that there is something higher than the law of man, and that is the law of humanity, which some people call the law of God. These people ought to be dealt with in some way. I think the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) does not realise the depth of feeling that there is here and elsewhere on this subject. It is, perhaps, impossible to deal with as many of these people 836 in Palestine at this moment as many of us think should be dealt with, but when the Colonial Secretary tells us what has been done in Australia and what is going to be done somewhere else, I would implore the House to remember that this thing has been going on now for years and that, while the kernel of the refugee problem is the Jews, it concerns tens of thousands, if not millions, of other men and women who are denied the right of freedom of life from one end of Europe to the other.
I appeal to the House to do something further than send a small commission unofficially to Palestine. I should like the House to tell the Government that we want to vote a very large sum of money to be used for the purpose of enabling the Dominions to take, not a paltry 5,000 over a period of years but tens of thousands now. I deny altogether that there is no room for these people. There are only 17,000,000 Jew? In the world, and in the British Commonwealth of Nations and in the United States there is room for many more than 17,000,000. It is a denial of intelligence to tell us that there is no room in the world for them. It is something to which none of us at this time of day ought to give the least credance. We are dealing with a tremendous problem in dealing with the Jews in Palestine. I believe they are destined to go back there and to help to build a new civilisation in the world. Why should we not hope that, out of the blend of knowledge and comradeship between Arabs and Jews living, as these people are trying to live, in a co-operative and not a competitive sense, they will make a start at teaching us how we can live and how we can co-operate with one another for life instead of for death? Why should we not also say that the great British Commonwealth of Nations, with its vast open spaces, should be thrown open not only for the Jews but for the tens of thousands of people of other races who are being driven out and persecuted in a fashion altogether unknown in the past? I appeal to the House to take the question very seriously and make up their minds not to take any excuses from the Government at all, but to tell the Noble Lord that we expect him to enter into the heart of this refugee problem and throw himself into its service with the same enthusiasm that he used to throw into the service of half-baked Toryism.
§ 8.13 p.m.
§ Colonel Ponsonby
I expect many Members have often to meet queries from their constituents who say, "Poor Jews, why not put them into Palestine?" I wish to deal with the question whether there is room for them in Palestine. We all have the deepest sympathy for these Jews, torn from their homes, treated cruelly, and frequently drifting about in ships seeking a refuge. But we must also face hard facts as regards the country itself and the possibilities of the population there. I have walked from South of Gaza to North of Jerusalem and I was in Palestine again last October, and I know a little about the country. This is no longer a sentimental problem. It has be come a business problem, and for that reason it is necessary to put aside from our minds all Biblical associations and all historical associations —
§ Colonel Ponsonby
I will tell the hon. Member later. There is no need now to argue the fact that the Arabs have been in Palestine for 13 centuries and that the Jews were cut off from Palestine 18 centuries ago. It is no good arguing about the interpretation of the McMahon letter and the meaning of the Balfour Declaration, or even the terms of the Mandate. What we have to do is to face the facts of the country of Palestine itself, and it is to that aspect of the matter that I wish to confine my few remarks this evening, although possibly in the future the question of some arrangement with Syria and Transjordan may be dealt with.
I am afraid that I must give the House a few figures because what I have to say and the arguments which I wish to put forward are based on figures. Palestine has about 10,000 square miles of territory and the population is about 1,500,000. I shall be told at once that Wales has 8,000 square miles and a population of 2,500,000. I have no doubt that many hon. Members in Wales will be the first to point out that its population is largely due to its minerals and to its industries. I may be told that Belgium is 11,750 square miles in extent and has a population of 8,250,000, but Belgium is a great manufacturing country. It has coal, iron, zinc, lead and copper; the basis of its prosperity is its mineral wealth. There 838 is no comparison at all with Palestine because except for two or three industries Palestine has no mineral wealth at all, if we except the potash in the Dead Sea.
The future of Palestine, therefore, depends entirely on agriculture; it is agriculture alone which will have to support the population now and in the future. Anyone who has been to Palestine will remember the Valleys of Sharon and Esdraelon, and will have seen barley and wheat, and oranges and grapefruit, the last two being practically the only exports of Palestine. They will remember also the hills of Ephraim and Galilee and the mountains of Judaea, and will probably remember how shallow is the soil and how, if it is cultivated at all, for vineyards and olive and fig groves, it is necessary to build up terraces to conserve the scanty water supply. This is a country to which it is suggested innumerable emigrants should go. Up to a few years ago it was cultivated in a most prehistoric manner, and if anyone desires to read a Jewish eye-witness's account of Palestine in 1913 he will see it on page 223 of the Palestine Commission's Report. There has, of course, been an improvement, certainly a great improvement due to the Jewish immigrants in the past and in the last few years, but the question before us is what is the cultivable area of the country, and these facts we must get before we can pour innumerable immigrants into the country.
An area of 10,400 square miles is equal to 27,000,000 dunums and if you deduct the area of Beersheba, about 12,500,000 dunums, that leaves a balance of land area of 13,700,000 dunums. As the administration told the Palestine Commission that you can take as uncultivable about 6,600,000 dunums thus you are left with a balance of cultivable area of just over 7,000,000 dunums or 1,780,000 acres. All this information is available to hon. Members in the report of the Palestine Commission on page 220, and they say that:Unless there is a marked change in the methods of cultivation the land in Palestine is unable to support a large increase in the population. …There is already congestion on the land in the hill districts. As regards the population, it is hardly necessary to mention that in 1919 the total population was about 700,000, of which 65,000 were 839 Jews, whereas the population, as I have already stated, is now pretty well 1,500,000, of whom about 1,000,000 are Arabs. Anyone who studies the graph on page 281 of the report will see what the commission thought might happen under different circumstances of immigration in the next 10 or 15 years. When I was in Palestine I went into this subject, and, after all, it is really the most important question we have to consider. I was told on very good authority that if there were no immigrants, either Arabs or Jews, in the next 15 years the natural increase in population would make the country overstocked. We are reputed to be business men, and the Jewish people are reputed to be good business men. We know what overstocking means in business, and I am certain that we all realise its danger. If immigration goes on there is no doubt that in 15 years time Palestine will not only be an over-promised land but an over-stocked land. I am not certain whether the right hon. Member for St. George's (Mr. Duff Cooper) or the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet) had in mind that the only course to pursue was to take 1,000,000 Arabs out of Palestine, put them somewhere else, and replace them with Jews. Apart from the fact that the Arab ancestors have been in the country for 13 centuries, I am certain that hon. Members will agree that such a course would be absolutely impossible. The commission themselves said:The Arab has not the capital or the education necessary for cultivation; the Jew has; but the lack of these requisites does not justify the expropriation of the Arab to make room for the richer and more enterprising colonists.It is not a question of keeping the balance of population, it is a question of whether it is possible to pour the contents of a bucket into a pint pot, and I am afraid that if this great inrush of immigrants, which is desired by many people in this country, who do not know the facts, takes place, we shall get a crisis in the future which at the moment is not conceived. I am afraid that if we depart from the policy laid down in the White Paper the next generation of the people of Palestine, Jews and Arabs, will call down upon us their European sympathisers' curses for not having foreseen 840 the danger of over populating the country.
§ 8.25 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I should not like to speak in this Debate without making a brief remark about the charges of atrocities and outrages by our troops in Palestine that have been circulated in this country recently. The matter was dealt with by the Colonial Secretary at Question Time the other day, and the charges were completely refuted by him, but at the same time I think the matter is one which might be referred to briefly this evening. When I was in Palestine last year, these same charges and rumours were being circulated, and I made what effort I could to investigate them. Certainly, I did not approach the task in any white-washing frame of mind, but I could find no substantial evidence and no real basis for these allegations. On the contrary, I was amazed at the restraint that was shown by our troops. I will quote one case to the Committee. Two lads of the Royal West Kent Regiment were sent out with a water-carrier who was going to draw water. He was a very old and infirm man and the two lads, instead of remaining with their rifles ready while the man was drawing water from the well, as they should have done, put their rifles on the ground in order to help him with his task. While doing that, they were shot in the back, and killed. I think there is no instance on record of the men of that regiment ever showing any lack of control or lack of discipline after that incident in spite of what they must have felt about this atrocious murder of their comrades.
§ Mr. Crossley
I do not interrupt the hon. and gallant Gentleman in order to contradict what he has said, with every word of which I agree, but as a corollary of what he has said, is it not true that every soldier who comes back from Palestine is deeply sympathetic towards the Arabs —
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
With great respect to the hon. Member, I would prefer to leave the matter to the Committee as I have stated it.
§ Mr. Maxton
I apologise for interrupting the hon. and gallant Gentleman, but I have a special interest in the matter. I will very readily take his assurance about the restraint of the soldiers and regular forces that are properly organised and disciplined, but is he just as sure that nothing could have happened through irregular associations or groups of people in the way of harsh treatment of individuals?
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I am afraid I do not fully gather the purport of the hon. Gentleman's question. As I have said, I would prefer to leave the matter to the Committee. I listened with the deepest interest to the speech of the Colonial Secretary. I interrupted him at one moment because I understood ho: was saying that there were Members of the House who had suggested that Palestine could absorb all the refugees created by the European situation. I understand that was not his intention, and that he was referring to remarks made outside. I must confess that I was very perturbed by certain passages in the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He spoke, I will not say with anger, but with what I thought was considerable exasperation in some passages, when he said that the Jews have not shown proper gratitude to this country for what we have done for them. There was almost an anti-Semitic ring in his voice during those passages. He spoke as if the Jews had contributed nothing whatever to us in return for what we may have done for them. I certainly remember the great contribution that Dr. Weizmann made to this country, when we were hard pressed during the War, with regard to munitions, and I think the Jewish Agency and other Jewish organisations will resent the imputation which the right hon. Gentleman made that, if they did not actually promote, at any rate they encouraged and condoned, illegal immigration into Palestine. The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the intentions of the Government to secure the existing position of the Jewish National Home in Palestine, but I feel some doubt about that when I realise that the Government are going to leave that Home in future at the mercy of a two-thirds Arab majority.
Something has been said in the Debate about the question of broken pledges. I feel that the matter of broken pledges very largely cancels out on the one side 842 as against the other, save in one all-important particular. The White Paper of 1922 gave Transjordania to the Arabs as a quid pro quo for what the Arabs alleged was a broken pledge. In order to compensate the Jews for the loss of Transjordania they were given the undertaking about immigration up to economic absorptive capacity. The present White Paper, with which we are dealing in this Debate, deprives the Jews of that compensation of immigration up to economic absorptive capacity, although it does not deprive the Arabs of anything. I think that is particularly bad, because, as regards the White Paper of 1922 and the undertaking about immigration that was given to the Jews, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who was then Colonial Secretary, asked the Zionist Organisation to endorse that decision and say that they would take that as a basis for the future administration of Palestine. The British Government confirmed it, too. In fact, if I may remind the Colonial Secretary of it, it was also confirmed by his father as late as 1931. The Permanent Mandates Commission twice endorsed the undertaking to the Jews about immigration up to the economic absorptive capacity. In this matter, I think we have broken faith. We have broken that pledge, especially as now the quota of immigration which is fixed by the White Paper is below the economic absorptive capacity of the country.
There is one other point to which I would like to refer in regard to that matter. The Colonial Secretary said that we have an obligation under the Mandate to maintain and safeguard the civil and religious rights of the Arabs. I should like to ask him in what way the civil and religious rights of the Arabs have been prejudiced since the Jews went to Palestine. This phrase is used, but I have never heard any details given in the House as to how it can be substantiated that those rights have been prejudiced. The Government frequently announce their support of the principles of the Covenant of the League of Nations. I think it is now clear that they intend to do their best to defy the Permanent Mandates Commission which apparently disapproves of our administration in Palestine. It has been said to-day that the Government are not doing what they 843 might do to make the report of the Permanent Mandates Commission available to Members. It is also being said that they will seek to bring some influence to bear upon the League Council to persuade that body not to accept that report. It will be a remarkable coincidence, if it happens that the first time the League Council refuses to accept a report of the Mandates Commission, it should be in connection with a Mandate about which the policy of the British Government is at variance with the view of the Mandates Commission.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Does not the hon. and gallant Member think it an equally remarkable coincidence that in spite of the want of publication of this document, the guesses made at it in this House are correct?
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
I see nothing remarkable about it. I imagine the most capable and the most talented journalists in the world are to be found in Geneva, and it does not surprise me in the least to find the very accurate foreknowledge of that report published in the Press. As we are talking of that subject, I might remind the Committee of a very good instance of leakage in regard to reports, when certain decisions of the Government in regard to the recent Palestinian Conference in London leaked out to the Press. I think what we have seen in this White Paper is another in stance of how the Government get out of their difficulties by sacrificing the easiest victim. The Government are now joining in the hunt of the Jews which is going on in Europe. Last year, to get out of a difficulty, they did not hesitate to sell the Czechs down the river. This year we see them prepared to sell the Jews down the river. There is no need to go over again the long history of the events which have led up to the present situation or to go into the details of the White Paper. In the course of three Debates we have listened to that history and to those details up to the limits of our auditory absorptive capacity. I would only say of the White Paper, that it runs true to form. The Government's handling of Palestine for many years has shown the nerveless hand of a victim of fatty degeneration of the will to govern.
It is no pleasure to me to criticise the Government in this respect. When I 844 went to Palestine last year I heard from every official, from every business man, from everybody to whom I spoke, that the trouble in Palestine was due to the fact that for many years there had been no clear expression of policy on the part of the Government. The people there said, "Give us a policy and we will carry it out, but we go on year after year with out any policy." Shortly afterwards the right hon. Gentleman was appointed to his present post, and in everything I wrote or said and in every question which I put, I endeavoured to refrain from criticism, hoping and believing that in the long run a firm, just policy would emerge. I think the White Paper is a very poor reward for such patience as I and, I am sure, other hon. Members exercised. I had a letter the other day from a man in Palestine whom I regard as one of the wisest judges of the situation there. He was writing before the issue of the White Paper, and this is what he wrote:The solution should be simple, clear-cut, honest and definitive, not containing any ambiguities, loopholes, grounds for suspicion or unwarranted hope such as will lead to end less conflict in the future. The administration must be told what is to be allowed, what is safeguarded and what is to be put up with.I believe that to be a wise commentary on the situation at this moment and I would ask hon. Members whether they feel that the White Paper fulfils those conditions. We are a great Imperial Power. We stand or fall in the world by our ability to govern in difficult situations. We have had two supreme tests imposed upon us —in Ireland and in Palestine—and in each case, the world has seen our policy fail and our intentions deflected by a murder campaign. In each case, it has seen surrender to terrorism and I think it very unfortunate that in each of these two cases, the United States has been vitally interested and has drawn certain conclusions about our ability to govern. The inference drawn is that we are apt either to take up impossible positions, or else to vacillate about a position which we could defend, if we had the will to do it, and the world is not slow to mark the failure. In regard to immigration which is, of course, the crux of the matter, it seems to me that we cannot play with the words of the Mandate, which are quite definite. The responsibility is imposed upon us.
845 "to facilitate Jewish immigration" and "to encourage close settlement by Jews."
§ Lieut.-Commander Agnew
I am quoting from that part which is in the White Paper:while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced.
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
Possibly the hon. and gallant Member was not here when I asked that details should be given to us to show how those rights had been violated. I have never yet heard specific evidence of those rights having been violated. But these new decrees undoubtedly violate the two responsibilities laid upon us by the Mandate. If it is our duty to facilitate immigration, we cannot stop immigration without failing in our duty; and we cannot settle the Jews closely on the land if we decide not to allow them into the country. At the same time, it has been truly said that the Mandate did lay it down that the immigration was not to prejudice the rights of other sections of the community. If the Government are stopping immigration, presumably it is because they think those rights have been impaired. If that is so, let them tell us how those rights have been impaired. The position in which we are left is that any further expansion of the Jewish National Home must depend on Arab acquiescence. If that is not good bye to the Jewish National Home it is at any rate a final good-bye to the Jewish State which was to be founded on the National Home. I see no reason to accept the view that the development of the Jewish National Home depends on unrestricted immigration and that such immigration must of necessity swamp the Arabs.
The Mandate enjoins us to ensure the rights of both races. You cannot ensure the rights of the Jews by allowing the Arabs to control their immigration, as is now the policy of the Government. Many pious hopes are expressed in the White Paper, but a collection of pious hopes does not make a policy. What 846 hope can a plea for "mutual tolerance, good will and co-operation" between the two nations have when the selfishness, the intolerance, and the short-sightedness of one race have been allowed to ship wreck all the dreams, the ideals, and the practical achievements of the other race, and to shipwreck them at a time when the persecution of the Jews is reaching its peak in Europe—the persecution of the Jews by Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini —and every scoundrel in history has persecuted the Jews—has reached its peak. I would like to remind the Committee that Herr Hitler said, "Let those who disapprove of what I am doing show what they will do for the Jews." The White Paper is our answer to Herr Hitler's statement. Culture, intelligence, wealth, drive, everything that makes for progress is to be numerically swamped in Palestine by backward elements be longing almost to the Middle Ages. In face of that the Government enjoin good will in Palestine. It hopes for tolerance on a basis of a two-thirds Arab majority. We can imagine the ex-Mufti practising "co-operation" with a one-third Jewish minority. He is more likely to persecute and expel them when the mandate ends. Why does the Government now look for "tolerance, good will and co-operation" when in 1937it said "it was driven to the conclusion that there is an irreconcilable conflict between the aspirations of Jews and Arabs"?
I want to say a word or two upon the strategic side of the question. The White Paper must be considered in the light of our security and our interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. I should have thought that a Jewish National Home might have provided a very useful military material in Palestine. The Jews I saw in Palestine were young, virile, vigorous, full of health, whereas many of the young Arabs seemed to me to be sickly, stunted, and diseased. I presume that the Government fear that during a war the Arabs in Palestine or elsewhere might come in against us. I can only say that in any case I, personally, from the military point of view, would prefer a Jewish to an Arab buffer State in Palestine. Are the Government prepared to trust the Arabs to fight for Palestine as the Jews undoubtedly would do? Can the Arabs contribute financially to the defence of Palestine, a vital strategic point, as the Jews could do? Further, I should like 847 to ask whether the Arabs have shown themselves as impervious to German and Italian money and propaganda in Palestine as the Jews have done. I think, myself, that we cannot afford to risk a stab in the back in Palestine from a race whose leaders at any rate have certainly shown themselves open to penetration by the Axis Powers.
When I returned from Palestine I formed certain conclusions, and I did make them known to the right hon. Gentleman, for what they were worth. He was extremely courteous in his reception of them, and, as I am criticising what has been done in the White Paper, I think it is only right that I should refer to those conclusions which I formed as I agree that to some extent they runparallel to what is found in the White Paper. It is true that I came to the conclusion that some restriction of immigration was necessary, and that probably it would be a good thing if in future land was sold only to the mandatory Power and that the mandatory Power should lease the land back, advised by a committee representing both races. But what I advocated would all have been done as part of the administration of the mandate and not as a concession to the Arabs, and certainly I felt that if those two things were to be done, they ought to be accompanied by a declaration that the mandate was to continue until Jew and Arab learned to work together, and that under no circumstances whatsoever would Palestine ever be given either to the Jew or to the Arab. I think all that I proposed was consistent with the terms of the mandate, but the White Paper is inconsistent with the terms of the mandate, and certainly the policy that it contains is not the policy which the League had in mind when it entrusted us with the mandate.
So far as I am concerned, I detest the position into which I find myself forced in this matter; I detest finding myself forced into taking sides with one race or the other in this matter, a matter in which the mandatory power ought to have held the scales completely even between both parties; I detest having to take part in a Division which will show this House divided in such a vital matter as our ability to administer this Mandate; and, if I may say so, finally, I detest having to accuse a British Government of bad faith. But I cannot consider this White 848 Paper as anything else than a manifestation of bad faith. I feel that it is in fact a matter of dishonour. The White Paper says, in effect, that subject to our strategic and economic interests—those must be maintained, of course—the Arab is to rule the land, while the revenue of government comes from the efforts of the Jewish remnant which is to be allowed to remain there.
Does the hon. and gallant Member think that it would be a good thing in this country that those from who most of the revenue comes should control the Government?
§ Lieut.-Commander Fletcher
Let me recommend to the hon. Member the book called "Tory M.P.," which will give him a better answer than I have time to give. The revenue for the Government of Palestine will come from this small Jewish remnant which the Government are allowing to remain there. Well, in history we see that the Jews have always been saved by a remnant, and even this remnant of the Jewish National Home, all that is to be left, may yet fulfil that old tradition of the Jewish race. When I was thinking of this blow coming to their hopes at this moment, when I read of these shiploads of refugees being turned away from the Promised Land, some verses that Keble wrote came into my mind, and I would like to quote one of them. It is from the "5th Sunday in Lent," and one verse of it runs:… a homeless race. Yet seeking the most holy place, Or like pale ghosts, that darkling roam. Hovering around their ancient home, But find no refuge there.That is the exact position of these refugees at this moment. This race is being crucified, and we, whose symbol is the Cross, choose the moment of almost their extreme agony to break faith with them.
§ 8.55 p.m.
§ Sir J. Haslam
I am very grateful in deed for the privilege of addressing the Committee and giving the reason why I did something which was very obnoxious to me and which I did with great diffidence and hesitation but which I have never regretted doing, and that was to give my vote some time ago against the White Paper. I was present I think for almost every minute of the two days Debate upon the White Paper, and I 849 have sat here all the time to-day, and I am still as convinced as ever that the proposals of the White Paper are in the wrong direction, and do not redound to the credit of this country and this Empire. An hon. Member representing one of the Kent divisions gave us a few moments ago elaborate figures about the acreage and the population of Palestine. There is a county of which I know something. I have walked its streets and its fields, and I have been inspired by it. Every thing I have in the world I have drawn from that county of Lancashire, and I want to tell the hon. Member that in rough figures the acreage of Lancashire is about a third of that of Palestine and the population is about four times the population of Palestine. It does not therefore need a mathematician to tell us that the population of Lancashire is 12 times the population of Palestine, and it will take a lot of figures to convince me that Palestine cannot accommodate more people than it has at the present moment. I shall be told that Lancashire is a manufacturing area, and I appreciate that point, but it is also one of the largest agricultural counties in this country. It produces more eggs than any other two or three counties put together, and also oats, cheese, and all sorts of other agricultural produce. I think no subsequent speaker will argue that Lancashire has not its agricultural areas as well as Palestine, which is and must be predominantly agricultural.
The hon. Member also said that we must take no notice of the Bible. I propose to take particular notice of that Book. It has been my guide, philosopher and friend in this world, and I am hoping it will be until I reach the next. The law of this country insists that the Arch bishop of Canterbury, before he puts the crown on the head of the King, before he can make him King of this country, shall say: "Those are the oracles of God. This is the most precious thing this world offers." Is it surprising that after that some of us appreciate the doctrines and the tenets contained in that Book? That is the law of this country, and what ever the hon. Member may say I am prepared and always shall be, to take notice of the tenets contained in that Book.
I have no desire to criticise too severely the young man who is the present Secretary of State for the Colonies. He has 850 perhaps the most difficult position, apart from that of the Foreign Secretary, of any man in this country. But he is a young man. I interrupted him while he was speaking and I begged his pardon for doing so. I did not know whether I could get an opportunity of speaking later, or I should not have done so. I want to quote against him a statesman whom as a very young man I learned to revere and for whom I have not lost that reverence, and that was the late Lord Balfour. When I first came into political life Lord Balfour was the Member for perhaps the most densely-populated area in Manchester, East Manchester. He sat for that constituency for many years, and many of us learned our political faith, figuratively speaking, at his knees. We thank God for him. We have stuck to those principles ever since, and shall do, I hope, to the end of the chapter.
Lord Balfour saw clearly that materialism was not the only object in life of either individuals or nations. Some people seem to think that the persecutions and the difficulties of the Jews are a matter of the last few years, but the right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury) demonstrated to us that during the lifetime of everyone present the Jews have been persecuted and harassed from pillar to post. Lord Balfour saw the Jews scattered over all the countries of the world. He knew many of them had an ideal, a longing, an ambition, a soul-stirring desire. Those ideals and desires were then and are now centred in Palestine, the Promised Land. Solomon said, "Where there is no vision the people perish," and the Jews then and the Jews to-day dream of Palestine. It is in their sleeping dreams and in their waking thoughts, and I refuse to blame them for it. Lord Balfour, the man who knew, revered and endeavoured to follow out the teachings contained in that Book which the hon. Member said we must take no notice of, said there was a new day dawning for the Jews— to use his own words from his famous Declaration:The coming of a new era in the life of a deathless people.He said there was a new prospect of life for an unconquerable and everlasting race whom no tyranny or persecution could ever vanquish or destroy.
851 I am quoting the words of one of the greatest Prime Ministers who ever sat on that Treasury Bench, and he used those words when he was Foreign Secretary. Some say that Palestine was never promised to the Jews. Hear what the author of the promise says. At the time he was Foreign Secretary:So far as the Arabs are concerned, a great and interesting and attractive race, I hope they will remember that while this Assembly and all those it represents through out the world desire Great Britain to establish this Home for the Jewish people, it was the great Powers, and especially Great Britain, who freed them from the tryanny of their brutal conquerors.He goes on to say that the Arab race has received great benefits from this country and ought to be grateful, and the present Colonial Secretary insinuated that they were grateful. I have never seen much sign of it; and I have seen from the Jews quite as high an appreciation of the blessings they have received from the British people as ever I have seen from the Arab people themselves. Lord Balfour also said that the Jews had a title to develop on their own lines in the land of their forefathers. There is no double meaning there. Now they are to be restricted. They cannot develop on their own lines in the land of their forefathers. We are told that circumstances altered after Lord Balfour had made his famous Declaration. He had no doubt about what England had embarked upon. He said to the Jews speaking at a meeting in the City of London at which Lord Rothschild was in the chair:If we fail you you cannot succeed. I feel assured we shall never fail you.I ask myself are we failing them to-day? We have given a pledge to the Jews. About six weeks ago I was in Rumania and I was asked to address the students at the University there. I felt very diffident. I am a rather shy individual as most of you know. I was asked to address those young men and the place was packed to the ceiling. The national Chancellor of the Exchequer thought so much of that address that he ordered 5,000 copies to be printed at his expense and distributed among the people. I do not say that in egotism but as showing what they thought about that address. I was commenting that at that time we had not compulsory military service, and that 852 we had not made or promised them a grant. I excused this country in these words: I said that we are "slow in moving and somewhat dilatory incoming to a decision." I said that we had been accused of being so—That is perfectly true and sometimes causes us to be misunderstood by other nations. What other countries can settle in 24 hours we take days, nay frequently weeks to decide upon. But let me also add that when Britain has come to a definite decision she sticks to it. Her word is her bond. When she has pledged herself she honours that pledge to the last man and the last shilling.Can I go back to Rumania and repeat that, after this White Paper? I shall hesitate, at all events, in addressing any audience, without putting in a reservation, if the conditions of this White Paper are to be enacted in Palestine. Ten years after Lord Balfour had issued his famous proclamation he spoke again and repeatedly in the House of Lords. Those who doubt should read his speech in the House of Lords on 21st July, 1922, five years after, and the tenth anniversary of his famous Declaration. I will not weary the Committee by quoting the speech. Hon. Members can read it for themselves. They should read particularly where Lord Balfour answered the charge of injustice to the Arabs in regard to the setting up of a National Home for the Jews in Palestine, and I think they will be astonished at the cogency of his argument and of his repudiation of the suggestion that there was any injustice to the Arabs. He said that Palestine was in every sense of the word to be regarded as a home for the Jewish people. Need I say more or give more evidence of Lord Balfour's true intentions?
It is not always good to investigate too closely the words used in a declaration. What we have to do is to ask ourselves what the recipients of the promise think the promise means. What matters is not what the man means when he makes the promise but what those who have received the pledge think he means. Of that there cannot be the slightest doubt. All Jews throughout the world took it to mean one thing only, and that was "home" in the fullest sense of the word. What does each Member of this House mean by home? He means either where he was born or where his ancestors were born; where his soul dwells, wherever his body chances to be stationed. Everybody who knows me at all knows where my home is and where 853 my soul is, wherever I happen to be. My right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary has spent most of his time in London. I do not know whether he was born in London but, if I judge him rightly, I know what he regards as his spiritual and ancestral home. I do not blame him for that, but I appreciate him for it. Perhaps I do not need to quote:Breathes there a man with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said ' This is my own, my native land '.The Jews regard Palestine as their native land, whether they were actually born there or not. Millions of them who have never been to Palestine at all regard that country as their home, just as millions of people of the British race who have never set foot in this country regard this country as their home.
As long as I can remember, Palestine has been known as the Promised Land. Promised to whom? Promised by whom? It was promised to the Jews by Lord God Almighty. Almost every book of the Old Testament and many of the New Testament repeat that promise. I did not want to quote from the Bible at this moment and I should not do so but for what was said by the hon. and gallant Member for Sevenoaks (Colonel Ponsonby), who is not present at the moment. I think I am entitled to give one or two quotations to justify my remarks about the Old Testament. I hope that all hon. Members know Deuteronomy, one of the greatest Books in the greatest series of Books ever bound together. I have pointed out to hon. Members what the law of the land says about this great Book. I want to add also what the Book of Deuteronomy says in the thirty-fourth chapter. I could give a dozen quotations. After I left this House this morning at a quarter to eight, and after sitting all night, I was looking at the Bible, and I turned to this chapter. In the first verse I read:And the Lord she wed him "—Moses—all the land of Gilead, unto Dan.And all Naphtali and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea.And the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar.And the Lord said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see 854 it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.I could give innumerable examples to this Committee, and I am sure that the two present occupants of the Front Government Bench, who I know are students of the Scriptures, could give quotations from that Book as well. I will content myself with one further quotation. It is from Amos, chapter 9, verse 14, and it is very apt to the present discussion. It is as follows:And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities "—notice that—and inhabit them "—and how can they inhabit them if they cannot enter the country—and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them.And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.This was written 700 or 800 years before Christ, but it is being fulfilled to-day. Who are we to attempt to frustrate that promise made by the God of all the earth? Rather is it that this generation, this nation and this House of Commons should assist in fulfilling that promise. Other promises have been made, and I could give innumerable examples, but I have satisfied myself just with those. Every hon. Member who has spoken to-day has borne testimony to the fact that the land is no longer desolate. Before the Jews attempted to return there, in response to our pledge, it was desolate, without man or beast. Now, instead of the thorn has come up the fir tree, instead of the briar has come up the myrtle tree; the wilderness and the solitary places are glad, and the desert is rejoicing and blossoming as the rose. This is happening under our very eyes, and I think it ill becomes this House to attempt, and I refuse to have anything to do with attempting, to stop that process. I will add one more quotation. I know of three translations of the Psalm XV, but I think the best of them, and, indeed, the best of all the translations of all the Psalms, is that of Miles Coverdale, which is to be found in our historic Prayer Book—the book that is the law of the land so far as the Church of England is concerned— from which daily we read Psalm LXVI 855 in opening the proceedings of this House. Psalm XV says:Lord, who shall dwell in thy tabernacle: or who shall rest upon thy holy hill? Even he, that leadeth an uncorrupt life: and doeth the thing that is right, and speaketh the truth from his heart.I am trying to speak the truth from my heart to-day. It goes on to say:He that sweareth unto his neighbour and disappointeth him not: though it were to his own hindrance.Whoso doeth these things: shall never fall.That psalm has come to be known as the Gentleman's Psalm. We claim to be a Christian nation; at least we can all claim to be gentlemen. I would repeat:Whoso doeth these things shall never fall.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. Hannah
It has been said by a great magnate of industry that history is "all bunk," and when one is travelling about the world one is at times a little inclined to take that view. In the Balkans, for instance, history gives rise to all sorts of claims that cannot possibly be satisfied at the same time. When we come to consider the subject with which we are dealing this evening, namely, the relations between the Jews and the Arabs history is of the very essence of the case. We must realise that perhaps the best work that the Jews have ever done was in close colaboration with Moslem civilisation, and I confess that, as a Scot, realising how Presbyterianism has failed to produce any Puritan art, I have a particular enthusiasm for Mohamme dan culture. The Jews have built in Jerusalem—and this, I think, is one of the best things they have done of recent years—a great Hebrew university. That university, I understand, is already doing good work, not merely for the Holy Land but for neighbouring countries, in connection with forestry and various other matters of that kind. It seems to me that in that university we should find, more than anywhere else, the key to our difficulties.
Let there be a cultural contact between Jew and Arab; let them teach the children of both races the glories of days gone by when these two races were working together. Let us seek, as an Imperial nation, to inspire both Arab and Jew with a tremendous enthusiasm to revive the 856 greatness of the work they were carrying on a few centuries ago. There, as it seems to me, is the root of the problem; there is the possible reconciliation; there is the way in which those who at present are largely at enmity may be brought to work together. Until we can reach that goal, it is no use talking about immigration or anything else. What is the use of letting people immigrate into an area that is not a promised land at all, but a cockpit? Does anybody doubt that, if we allow much further Jewish, immigration into Palestine, as things are at the present time, we shall greatly in crease our own difficulties? We must lay the foundation of co-operation between the different races of the Holy Land. While I feel very sympathetic and enthusiastic about the prophecies that have been repeated by the hon. Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam), I would point out that Jerusalem is also a sacred city to the Moslems, as it is to the Jews. Outside the cities of Mecca and Medina, Jerusalem contains the holiest mosque in all the world. To the Arab no less than to the Jew Jerusalem is a very holy town, sanctified by traditions that go back to the time of Mohammed himself. In mutual toleration, in working together to bring back the glories of ancient days, I see salvation for the Holy Land and for both the races that occupy it.
It will naturally be asked, what are we to do with these people who are homeless at the present time? There is one part of the Holy Land, at any rate, that I am rather surprised has not been mentioned. It is generally known as Negeb; it is the triangle south of Palestine, which touches three seas—the Red Sea, the Mediterranean and the Gulf of Akaba. If I was wrong a few weeks ago in claiming that it was one of the most prosperous provinces in the Byzantine empire, at any rate there is no doubt that it was the site of a very splendid culture, with magnificent dams to conserve the water, great cities, and prosperous fields. If the Jews can bring back cultivation and prosperity to Negeb, by all means let them do so. But even if they can do that, nobody supposes—it has been repeated again and again to-day—that the Holy Land could provide a complete solution of the problem. It is all very well to quote Scripture and to say:If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her cunning,857 but some years ago, while I was in the United States, a Jewish congress of some sort passed a resolution declaring that America was their promised land, and Washington their Zion. I know that they were criticized—it was before the days of the movement technically known as Zionism—but I think that nobody could see the Jew in New York without realising that he has found there a true home. There are parts of the British Empire in which from every point of view it is absolutely essential that the Jews should find new homes, since practically all the countries of Danubia and the Balkans want to get rid of their Jewish population. My hon. colleague in the representation of Wolverhampton— the eastern part of that borough—has talked about concentration camps to keep temporarily those Jews who are no longer wanted in their own homes, but whom it is impossible at the moment to admit to the Holy Land. I would much rather see them pioneering in British Guiana or somewhere else, cutting trees, building roads, laying the foundations of new settlements, but I do realise how very necessary it is to find immediately some new home for the Jews who are being turned out of their own lands.
§ Mr. Mander
I think my hon. Friend the Member for the Bilston part of Wolverhampton has rather misunderstood me. I was merely asking the Secretary of State a question as to whether there was any truth in the statement that the Government were contemplating putting concentration camps in Cyprus.
§ Mr. Hannah
I need hardly say that the last idea in my mind was to criticise anything said or spoken or thought by my honoured colleague from Wolver hampton. At the same time, we do realise that that is the immediate problem. I foresee some improvement in European tension if we can arrange with the different countries that want to get rid of their Jews for an orderly emigration of the young men to other lands in order to do pioneer work. I will not detain the House, as others want to speak, but I do feel that if we appeal to all that is noblest and best in our traditions we need to do all that we possibly can to reconcile warring races and to bring into the Pax Britannica that large part of the world inhabited by peoples with utterly diverse cultures for which we are responsible.
858 Two great Empires have done a magnificent work for the world—that of China and that of Rome—and I would remind the House that in both cases they were founded, not on racial superiority or racial purity or anything of that kind, but on brotherhood and co-operation. So I urge the Government, with all the earnestness of which I am capable, to make it their very first preoccupation to attempt to bring together Jew and Arab in co-operation for their general welfare and the restoration of the glories of days gone by.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Mr. Hopkin
I believe that the Committee will be entirely in agreement with the hon. Member who spoke from below the Gangway just now, when he said that the right hon. Gentleman has a very difficult task to perform. Everybody who has thought about this subject knows the tremendous difficulties that he has to face. Of that there can be no possible doubt. But it seems tome it is quite clear that the present state of Palestine is due very largely to the fact that for the last 20 years British policy in Palestine has been absolutely uncertain. I see in his place the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington(Mr. Eden), and I think it is a great pity that he has not been able to intervene in this Debate, because he may indeed be able and to give the Committee some reason why the right hon. Gentleman has changed entirely the policy which this country has previously applied to Palestine.
It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister has been influenced perhaps by the former Foreign Minister to this extent, that he has departed from principles which are fundamental and which have been laid down and followed for years. I am only wondering whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Warwick and Leamington could throw any light on this change, because the public anyhow now interpret the changes which taken place in the Colonial Office by the introduction of Sir George Gater as showing that everything is not well in the Colonial Office. And may I offer the right hon. Gentleman my very hearty congratulations on taking in such a man as Sir George Gater? I had the privilege of soldiering with him, and if he has the colossal luck which he had as a soldier, combined with his undoubted 859 ability, then I am perfectly certain that he will be of very great help to the right hon. Gentleman when he comes to deal with such problems as that which he has to solve in Palestine.
Is it not a fact that after every Com mission which has been to Palestine there have been concessions given to the Arabs, without any reason at all? I went to Palestine in 1929 immediately after the outbreaks there, and I saw for myself the dreadful things which the Arabs did to the Jews, followed at once by concessions, and it is really the same story all the way through, that the people in Pales tine have never known where they stood because of this uncertainty in policy, which has led them now here. I was un able to follow the views put by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's (Mr. Duff Cooper), but anyhow this is clearly what he said: "Do let us have a policy and stick to it, do let us think out clearly the policy that is best for us and for that country, and then afterwards not in three months or six months time put it aside." It seems to me a very remarkable thing that the Minister should say again in this House to-day that the White Paper of 1939 sums up the terms of the Mandate. Let me read an extract from the White Paper on Palestine published in 1930 by the Labour Government:Nevertheless the statement of policy issued after long and careful consideration in 1922 provides the foundations upon which future British policy in Palestine must be built up.Can it really be argued that the White Paper of 1939 carries out the effect of the Mandate? I agree, that far from carrying out the Mandate, this has turned it upside down. A phrase in the 1922 statement which seems to go to the root of the question is the statement that the Jews are in Palestine "as of right and not on sufferance." The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) in 1930 wrote an article in a newspaper called "The Pioneer." If I may respectfully say so, in this one paragraph he has set out the case for carrying out the Mandate on the principles which were in force then. He said:The Jews have done no harm to the Arabs of Palestine. On the contrary, they have brought nothing but good gilts, more wealth, more trade, more civilisation, new sources of 860 living, higher employment … a better water supply—in a word, the fruits of easy and modern science.Following on the White Paper of 1930, hon. Members will remember, the Government brought out their latest policy of Partition. How long did they stick to it. Barely six months. Then they plunged into the policy shown in this White Paper. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman, in handling this great problem of Palestine, has made two fundamental errors. One was in calling in the representatives of the surrounding Arab states for the conference of last year. In so doing, he himself was organising the opposition which must come immediately he failed—as fail he must. The second great mistake he made was that too quickly he plunged from the policy of Partition to the policy set out in the White Paper. Hearing the arguments put forward on the other side, it seems to me that to many hon. Members whatever the Jew does is wrong. If he takes up land for which he feels an urge, and for which he pays and on which he himself works, the complaint is that he is keeping off the Arabs. On the other hand, if Arabs are employed, he is told, "You are exploiting cheap Arab labour." To many people Einstein is always a German, but Lenin is always a Jew. Those of us who have been in Palestine know that the Jews have done a tremendous work, of which they are justly proud.
The centre of this problem is immigration. Can the Minister tell us why he has departed from the principle, to which many hon. Members have referred, of regulating the number of immigrants by the economic absorptive capacity of the country? The Jews make themselves responsible under that system for the people who enter the country. If too many go in, it is not the Arabs who suffer; the whole burden falls on Jewish funds. After the 1930 Commission, it was said that there were a certain number of homeless Arabs. Several people investigated the matter and found that there were, in fact, 906 Arabs who had been displaced by Jewish purchase of land; but of these 906 alleged homeless Arabs all but 10 had either been provided with land and compensation or had gone to the towns. One thing is certain, that through the Jews going to Palestine, the Arabs themselves have gained. What is 861 there about this problem that makes it different from the problem which existed when the Minister's father went there to see things for himself? I do not know whether the Minister has read this little book "A Socialist in Palestine," by J. Ramsay MacDonald. If he has, he must be shocked at the difference between his own approach to this problem and the approach which his father had. Here is one sentence which sums up very admirably the answer to all these suggestions that you can put the Jews into Canada or British Guiana or any other place. To the Jew, that is the most arrant rubbish. [Interruption.] To all the Jews who understand. The hon. Member does not understand, because he is not a Jew, and I doubt whether he has been to Palestine. Here is the sentence:The Jew seeks a National Home in Palestine, not only because he is denied a home elsewhere but because Palestine has always been calling to him from his heart, and he must go.The whole spirit of this book is contrary to the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman has faced this problem. What is the difference in the circumstances, which to-day will not allow the right hon. Gentleman to return to that principle? Why is it that this principle has been good enough for his predecessors, but is not good enough for him? Could he not, even now, return to that, and so get back to a complete working arrangement with the Jewish Agency? He has, from that Box to-day, issued a challenge to the Jewish Agency, and he knows they cannot comply with it, because he has destroyed the foundation upon which the Zionist organisation was built. That organisation depends on two things: a reasonable policy of immigration and a certain amount of sales of land. It cannot be anything but most distasteful, particularly for the Navy, to keep away these poor wretched people—whether they come from Poland, Sudeten Germany, Rumania or anywhere else—knowing their history. Is it beyond the wit of man, beyond the right hon. Gentleman's ability, to frame some kind of regulation by which this really terrible practice can be stopped? I beg of the right hon. Gentleman, irrespective of the result of the Mandates Commission, to tell the Committee whether, even now, he cannot modify in some way the principles which he has laid down in the White Paper 862 regarding the whole policy of immigration.
§ 9.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Although I wish to be as brief as possible I cannot omit to begin with a few words of personal explanation especially as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin) accused me of not being a Jew. Through out this Debate to-day the word "Zionist" has been used only once, and that was about 15 minutes ago. All the rest of the Debate has been conducted upon the assumption that the word "Jew" is synonymous with the word "Zionist." That assumption is false. I would take no part in this Debate if I thought that by doing so I ran the least risk of it being supposed by my Jewish friends that I am in anyway at all anti-Jewish, and I am perfectly certain that my Arab friends all know well enough that I am in no way at all pro-Arab. But political Zionism, the Zionism which claims that there is a racial body recognisable as the Jews, who have the right to say that British bayonets should be employed in order that they may set up a Zionist State in a small territory which for hundreds, almost thousands, of years has been, in the conditions of those parts, pretty closely occupied by another race, political Zionism in that sense I regard as a very great mistake and a very great crime against humanity and above all against the Jews, and so, I know, do many Jews.
In this Debate there have been three or four remarkable features. Perhaps if I may say so without being accused of toadyism, the first remarkable feature was the speech we had from the Government Front Bench. It seemed to me to be more like a speech from a Government Front Bench than many speeches we get from the Government Front Bench. It had a clarity and a firmness which are remarkable in our Debates. Another feature of this Debate which seemed remarkable is that to which I have already alluded, that until 15 minutes ago the word "Zionist" never occurred. The third feature which was remarkable was, if I may say it without impertinence, the speech, the very skilful speech, of my right hon. Friend the Member for St. George's (Mr. Duff Cooper). When he got up my heart sank, because I remembered the Debate which took place here 863 on the Peel Commission, and what was done then by Cabinet Ministers out of place. I remember all that right hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway did on that occasion, and I could not now tell, be cause there is not time to tell all they did do. But I was frightened a little to day when the right hon. Gentleman got up, and more particularly as he is so powerful not only with the tongue, but also with the pen. But I do not know, when I come to think of it, why the word "particularly" should be used, because it appears by coincidence that all ex-Cabinet Ministers are extremely powerful with the pen, although this particular one was known to be so before.
I felt rather frightened when the right hon. Gentleman rose, but I am bound to say that on the whole as the result of what he said I do not think that the right hon. Gentleman did very much harm to the White Paper or to the Government. I do not think that it was very damaging that the right hon. Gentleman, who not very long ago ceased to control all the King's soldiers and who ceased to control all the King's ships because under his control and even with his assistance His Majesty's Government had not attained that strategical and political strength in international affairs which he considered to be necessary, it was not very damaging to the Government that that right hon. strategist should recommend that at this juncture British bayonets should be used to turn 1,000,000 Arabs out of the country which they inhabit. I do not wish to be unfair. It is true that at the end of his speech, in response to an interjection, he talked about cantonisation, or something of that sort: but I think he will agree with me, if he reads his speech exactly as it was taken down, that a perfectly fair impression from it was that he thought it did not matter now, now that the Jews and the Tyrolese had been so badly treated by Hitler, that it did not matter whether we proceeded to treat the Arabs equally badly. The whole of the country we were discussing to-day was therefore to be deprived of its ancient population by force, and nobody could suppose it could be done without over whelming force, and the immigrant, rather less than one-third of the population which is now there, was to be given the country, and what used to be, before we 864 went there, the population of that country to be driven out, in order to make it a Zionist State, though he did not make use of the word "Zionist." That pro position from that speaker seemed to be a very remarkable feature of this Debate.
Although the right hon. Gentleman told us that this was a matter not of principle but of political convenience—I would argue that distinction with him on some future occasion—I would like to go back now almost to the first principles of this question. As was said by Herbert of Cherbury, about the reign of King Henry VIII, there is no one thing in it which any man could propound with certitude. In this story there is really nothing on which any man can make an assertion with complete confidence. On the whole I think that where we must begin and where the thing is clearest, in spite of what has been said about ambiguity, is the Balfour Declaration. It is always said, and it was said again to-day by almost innumerable speakers, including the Secretary of State, that the Balfour Declaration is a dual pledge. That is not quite correct. It contains a triple pledge. His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home. That is one pledge. It being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities. That is the second pledge. The third is safeguarding all the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country. The third pledge is the one which is always forgotten. I believe that in a very real sense it is the most important of the three. Neither Mr. Balfour nor any succeeding British Government, I believe, pledged them selves to the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine, and indeed if there had been any such pledge it would have been the duty of this House to repudiate it. Quite clearly, no British Government would have the right to make such a pledge, and in any case I do not think it can be argued that any such pledge was made.
Why was not such a pledge made? It is generally said in Jewish pamphlets that it was not made because it was not certain at that time whether sufficient Jews wanted to go to Palestine. That is doing them less than justice. There were several reasons why the pledge was not 865 made in that form; one, and if there was time I could give many quotations in proof of the statement, to the credit of the British Jews and the American Jews, most of all the British Jews. Many influential Jews were against the pledge being given in that form. Montefiore, whom to know was to honour, Lucien Wolff, Professor Alexander and Edwin Montagu, all took that view. I think it was Mr. Asquith who said of Edwin Montagu that nobody listened to what he said about the Jews, although he knew about them, but they swallowed all that he said about the Indians as if it were gospel. These influential Jews said that it would be the end of what they meant by Judaism if political claims of that kind were made. Therefore, no such pledge was made. They thought at that time that any kind of political Zionism, any kind of political racialism would be very detrimental to their cause.
There is, incidentally, a close parallel that can be made between Hitlerism and Zionism. There were many Jews with enough wit and honesty of soul, to repudiate all claim for racial political rights, because they realised that it would mean an increase in anti-Semitism. I said this 18 months ago, and the right hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) rebuked me. He said that no Jew and no friend of the Jews would admit that Zionism had been a factor in post-war anti-Semitism. I could give the names of a considerable number of Jews and Zionists who have said that it was a factor. Why was Zionism for bidden in Russia? Why did Italy become anti-Semitic for the first time?
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I believe that a contributory reason was Zionism, and I can produce a considerable amount of evidence to that effect. However, I do not want to pursue this point at any greater length now. There is another side to it —if a point may have a side—which is worth mentioning, although there is some risk in being misunderstood in mentioning it. It is a side that has not been put to the Committee. I do not know 866 whether any hon. Members are familiar with a newspaper published in German called "Die Weltwoche." It is not a Ger man paper, but a German-Swiss paper of extreme anti-Nazi opinions. It ends up an article on this problem with a sentence which I will translate in halting English:The German Jews England cannot on the whole help. This gruesome tragedy of hundreds of thousands takes unchecked its course. Whoever blames the British for this, let him, good as his arguments may be, be think himself that Great Britain, if it really did more for the German Jews, would thereby open the sluice-gate through which the East States would chase millions of their Jewish citizens. Had German anti-semitism full success, then England could no longer bridle Polish and Rumanian anti-semitism.I am prepared to go, within conscience and reason, as far as any Member of this House in doing every thing that can possibly be done for Jewish refugees, either in my personal or my public capacity; but I beg the Committee to take what I have said into account and to believe that it is a real consideration.
A good deal has been said to-day about British interests, strategic interests, and so on. On that, I would quote what was said by Mr. Ussishkin. Nobody will doubt that he was and is a good Zionist.There can be no doubt that the interests of the British people in Palestine should be based upon the sympathy of the local in habitants for those interests.I agree that there can be no doubt that British interests in Palestine should be based upon the sympathy of the local inhabitants for those interests. If this is to be so, is it not time that the second part of the Balfour Declaration began to receive a little more attention? The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) has spoken to-night. The last time that reference was made to him was by an hon. Member who said that he would not and could not disagree with anything he said. Although the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton is one of my constituents, I do find it possible on occasion to disagree with some of the things he says. The hon. Member seemed to me to make a mistake in adducing so much unexaminable evidence. For such an extreme League of Nations addict it was surprisingly disrespectful to that body that the confidential proceedings of one of its subsidiary committees should be used in the way in which he used them. Since he did use them, I am prepared to 867 lay a small bet with him—although an hon. Member opposite referred to the writers as the best team of journalists in Europe, those employed by the remark able organisation under the aegis of Lord Southwood—I would bet that the in formation he quoted about the division is not correct.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Whatever we may guess about that, whoever may be right, I am certain that if the hon. Member is right in saying that M. Rappard found that the pledge to the Zionists was the major part of the Balfour Declaration, then M. Rappard was talking nonsense, and the report of the Mandates Commission to the council of the League cannot have very much effect. There can be no question of a major part in such a combination of pledges.
Now I come to the question of Arab interests. Let us not forget that our rights in Palestine from the first, so far as they had any legality, were not the rights of conquest over the Arabs, and once they ceased to be rights of conquest over the Turks they were rights in the purview of an A Mandate. The characteristic essence of an A Mandate was that it applied to territory occupied by people already fit for provisional recognition of their autonomy, and who ought to be brought for ward by the mandatory Power to complete self-government. For 21 years there has been this A Mandate, and we have got no further towards autonomy. We have had the curious and paradoxical spectacle that the Labour party, which as a rule, finds it easy enough to believe anything to be a national rising against a British control, said, in the last Debate through the spokesmanship of the right hon. Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) and it has been said to-day by the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher), that because the Jews pay most of the taxes they ought to have the biggest share in controlling the Government.
I wish to say a little also about the strictly economic side of the matter. We have had at least two speeches to-day which have suggested that the Arabs have economically benefited from the immigration of nearly half a million Jews.
868 They may have to some extent. If they had to a great extent it would not be relevant to the problem, but I do not believe that in the main and on the whole, they have, certainly not in the form in which the argument is generally presented. The population has not gone up more than in other similiar territories where the Turk has gone out and European administration has come in. There have been earlier cases—Egypt, for in stance, and the Sudan—where British ad ministration has taken over and the death rate has gone down and the birth rate has gone up, and so on. The hon. Member for Nuneaton really spilt the beans rather badly. I have lost the notes that I took down but he said, roughly, he had found in Palestine that all the Jews were rosy-cheeked, deep-chested, broad shouldered, big-bicepped, vigorous, bright-eyed—just like the chaps on the Opposition benches—but he found that the Arabs were weakly, stunted, diseased, and two or three other denigratory adjectives which I have forgotten. If that is true, it rather bursts the opposite end of the argument. But, in any case, it is not the gist of the matter. The gist of the matter is a question of feeling and of sentiment. It will not do to say the Arabs are getting better wages than they used to get. It will not do to say, "Why with all these vast spaces cannot they get out of this little notch of territory?" You might as well say that Danzig is a little notch. None of these arguments will do.
In particular, on the economic side, I wish to ask this question. What is happening exactly about the trade agreement now in negotiation with Syria? It seems to me to be time perhaps for some practical and, in a literal sense, concrete gesture to be made to the inhabitants of Palestine. Could it not be done perhaps by way of loans helping to rebuild towns? Could not we do something, if only as a gesture, for Arab children? Could not something be done in the way of facilitating rebuilding? At any rate, do not let us do anything in the way of making rebuilding more difficult. Do not let us have tariffs on cement.
Almost everyone has said or agreed tacitly that there ought to be a clear policy and that it ought to be gone on with. We cannot get the thing as clean and clear as we should like, but do not 869 let us now say that we have got to put this off. Let us go on with it. The essence of it must be that, however much the hearts of any of us may bleed for the Jews (and let it not be supposed that hearts on sleeves always bleed more than hearts kept in more appropriate places) however much our hearts may bleed for the Jews, there must be limitation of immigration. There must be assurances to the Arabs that after a period there shall not be more immigration without their co-operation. Secondly, there must be some move back to what an A mandate should always have been, towards autonomy, even, in the long run, to responsible central government. After all the shifts and tergiversations that we have had for 21 years, you will never get Arabs or Jews to believe that there are those things unless the Government starts moving and keeps moving in that direction, moving always except when, literally and with a strict examination of its own conscience, it is prohibited from movement by actual physical impossibilities.
§ 10.13 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
We have not put down our Amendment to reduce the Vote in any party spirit. On the subject of Palestine the House has never been divided on party lines. In this Debate, if my arithmetic is correct, there have been 10 speeches against the White Paper and four in its favour, and, of the 10 against, five were from the Government benches. That shows the House and the Secretary of State that we are not divided on party lines. It shows the right hon. Gentleman that there is grave anxiety in the ranks of those who support him about the policy that he has decided to pursue. It is true that the vast majority of our party are neither pro-Arab nor pro-Jew but pro-Mandate and that the vast majority hold, as my hon. Friend showed by reading the Labour party resolution, that in our view the White Paper, with its stoppage of immigration, with its minority status for the Jew within an Arab State, is inconsistent with the Mandate which we under took. Two months ago we gave our reasons in a detailed form. In our view the plain terms of the Balfour Declaration, the plain terms of the Mandate, are in flagrant conflict with the White Paper. We cannot doubt that the Royal Commission was right, and that M. Rappard was 870 right, that the primary purpose of the Mandate was to establish a Jewish National Home where the Jews, after 15 centuries of dispersal and persecution, could at last escape minority status.
We cannot doubt that it was the intention of those who made the Mandate that through the National Home Palestine should become as Jewish as Canada is British, and that within the National Home the Arabs should have the same rights, the same position, the same liberty and the same prosperity as the French have in Canada to-day. It is our view that this is really in the interests of the Arabs, and that the Secretary of State was right last December when he said that there were 400,000more Arabs in Palestine because of what the Jews have done, and that their prosperity lay in working with the Jews in a Jewish State. We do not doubt that if the British Government had pursued the right policy with the determination which was required, that policy would have been achieved. We are quite certain that it was for this purpose and end that the Mandate laid such tremendous stress on immigration and that the Permanent Mandates Commission in Geneva has always maintained, as it maintains to-day, that the economic absorptive capacity of the country is the only permanent limit that ought to be placed on the right of immigration, and that within that limit the Jews go to Palestine not on sufferance but as a right. Nothing has happened in the last few months to change our view; indeed, it has been strengthened.
A few months ago the Secretary of State defended his policy of the White Paper by three arguments. He said that we had an obligation to the Arabs as well as to the Jews to protect the freedom, both economic and political, of the Arab population, and he relied a great deal on the Hogarth Message. He said that if we went on sending in Jews unless we were prepared to rely on armed force we could not do it, and that to rely on armed force was contrary to the Mandate, contrary to the spirit of the League of Nations and contrary to the traditions of our colonial administration. He also argued, very elaborately, that the policy of the White Paper was consistent with the Mandate and entirely consistent with our obligations to both peoples. What has happened since the Secretary of State 871 produced these three arguments a few months ago? He tried the Hogarth Message on the Permanent Mandates Commission in Geneva without success, for the Mandates Commission said that in 15 years discussion the meaning of the Mandate, the interpretation of the Balfour Declaration and the Hogarth Message, had never once been mentioned in their deliberations. The Secretary of State failed two months ago, and he has failed to show to-day that the Balfour Declaration or the Hogarth Message makes any promise to the Arabs which goes beyond the rights and status which the French enjoy in Canada to-day.
What has happened to his second argument about armed force? What does he mean? Does he mean that we cannot go on with Jewish immigration unless we are prepared to impose it by armed force? Does he mean that we ought to surrender the policy which every British Government has pursued to those terrorists who have disgraced the name of Arab during the last few years? Does he believe that His Majesty's Government are carrying on government by armed force because they suppress the bombing of the I.R.A. in this country, who are probably receiving their money and their bombs from the aggressor States, as have the Arabs in Palestine? The Secretary of State told the Mandates Commission that there were only about 3,000 terrorists, that is 0.3 per cent, of the Arab population, and he has told us that many of them are of the worst type of cut-throats. He knows that great numbers have been imported from abroad; everybody knows that they have been paid and organised, and even officered, by Germans and Italians.
Since the last Debate, we have had the full truth, in a document to which the Secretary of State himself has referred, about the real nature of a great part of this Arab movement. These refugees in Syria have published a manifesto about the Mufti and some other leaders. They say that the Mufti and some of his trusted men are serving foreign interests in consideration of a fixed remuneration, and they go on to describe the life history and character of many of the leaders who took part in this movement. I should have hoped—indeed, I still hope—that this manifesto of these Arab leaders in Syria would have buried for good and all 872 the second of the arguments of the Secretary of State. To surrender the law, to abandon just policies to the menace of paid gangsters, will never bring peace and order in any country, least of all in Palestine to-day.
I come to the right hon. Gentleman's third argument, which is by far the most important. He says that the White Paper is consistent with the Mandate. That is the very kernel of his case. Without that argument, he could never have got his Vote two months ago. The House would never have agreed that our inter national obligations should be set aside. What has happened to that argument during the last two months? We have the answer. The Secretary of State has taken his White Paper to Geneva. He has discussed it with the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League, and the Permanent Mandates Commission have turned it down. I am very sorry the right hon. Gentleman has not decided to publish at once the full minutes of the commission in so far as they relate to Palestine. The Secretary of State is under a misapprehension. I say to him, with great respect, that he is leaving the Committee under a misapprehension if he implies that the commission will now make a further report in the light of the comments which His Majesty's Government will send to them. I believe I am right in saying that never in the history of the commission has such a thing been done.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
Since the hon. Gentle man is talking about misapprehensions, may I ask him a question? I am not quite sure that I am right about one thing, and as he is very learned about the League of Nations, perhaps he will put me right if I am wrong. Is it not a fact that His Majesty's Government need not have sent this document to Geneva, that the annual report which must go to the Permanent Mandates Commission would normally go in June, 1940, and that it was purely a matter of grace and courtesy that this document should have gone to Geneva at all? I may be wrong about this, and I think it would be a good thing to have an expert view.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
If I remember the Statutes of the Commission rightly, the Mandatory Power must send with the annual report all important documents relating to the period under review.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Of course, not even the present Government would dream of making so vital a change in policy in Palestine without submitting the White Paper to the Permanent Mandates Commission. Under the Statutes of the Commission, the Mandatory Power is given the last word. Its comments come after the Commission's report, and together they go to the council. They are published in August, before the council meets. The delay until August is not a matter of principle. It is not because they are secret for a given period of time, but because a period is required for printing and correction, and in truth, the matter rests entirely in the hands of the Secretary of State. If the right hon. Gentleman wrote to the Secretary-General of the League to-morrow and said that he wanted the minutes of the Mandates Com mission on Palestine to be printed now, of course the Secretary-General would agree to do so. What it comes to is this, that the Secretary of State has chosen that the House of Commons shall not have the minutes before the end of July, He could do it, but he will not. He has decided that we shall not have the minutes before the White Paper is laid before the Council of the League on 8th September. The Committee will not forget that action, and I think that in time to come the Secretary of State may find it very hard to defend.
In spite of the withholding, as we consider it, of this information we do know what has happened. We do know that the great majority of the commission emphatically rejected his thesis that to stop Jewish immigration is consistent with the Mandate. We have a great many extracts from the minutes which I will not repeat. The Secretary of State said it would be improper for him to correct any misapprehension about what has been said by members of the commission. I wonder why. Their statements are on record. They are not going to change those statements, which are in the hands of the printers and will be published in a short time. If the reported statements are untrue, then it is not only the right of the Secretary of State to correct things said to him which were wrong. It is his duty to do so, and he will render a service, not only to us, but to the commission, if he will tell us that 874 the reports are untrue. Until he does so, we shall continue to believe that he could not get the approval of the Man dates Commission for the White Paper. We shall continue to believe that the minority of two who lent him support consisted of Lord Hankey, a new member without experience of the commission or of Colonial administration, and his French colleague. No Zionist enthusiast could have hoped for a better result from the Mandates Commission.
§ Captain Alan Graham
The hon. Gentleman has quoted the Permanent Mandates Commission as if it were an infallible authority, to be taken far more seriously than the authority of His Majesty's Ministers in this matter which is an intimate concern of the British Empire. It is only fair to remind the Committee of the great misfortunes suffered by the Assyrian minority, directly in consequence of the absolutely mistaken conclusion arrived at by the Permanent Mandates Commission in fixing the Northern frontier of Iraq where they did.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
I may also remind the Committee that the Permanent Mandates Commission warned the league and warned His Majesty's Government that very serious guarantees should be required in regard to the minority in Iraq, before Iraq was made independent. If the hon. and gallant Member will look at the records of that matter, I think he will find that they present an impression rather different from that which he has given just now. I am very glad to talk about the Permanent Mandates Commission for this reason. The Secretary of State now proposes to adhere to the White Paper exactly as it is. He proposes to set aside the views of the commission. He is going to try to persuade the Council of the League and to use the influence of the British Empire to ensure that the White Paper policy shall not, at least, be openly condemned. If he succeeds he will carry through that policy and, as we think, destroy the Jewish National Home. What does it mean? It means that the Secretary of State is claiming to be judge and jury in his own case. It means that he is rejecting the decision of the competent international tribunal set up for the purpose of deciding whether the administration under the Mandate is being properly carried out. It means that he is persisting in what that authority 875 believes to be a violation of an international charge.
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman again. [Hon. Members: "Oh!"] I have never heard a Minister's speech interrupted more than that of the Secretary of State, and we have been told just now that there have been 10 pro-Zionists speakers against five on the other side, so we have certainly not taken more than our share. The hon. Gentleman is a technical expert in these matters and I wish to ask him whether he is using the word "tribunal" in the technical sense when he refers to the Mandates Commission.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
That is so, but it is quasi-judicial and from the beginning every Government, including all our Governments, have always treated it as such. Lord Balfour, who played a considerable part in setting up the Commission, insisted that it must be absolutely impartial. Its members are independent persons not in Government employ. Their task is difficult. They have to criticise the Colonial administration of the most powerful Governments in the world, and, as I say, in a quasi-judicial way they have to advise the Council whether Mandates are being observed.
In their whole history, even in the most acute controversies, the Council of the League has never failed to treat them as quasi-judicial and has not failed to uphold their views. I may have made a mistake. There may be one or two exceptions, and if so, the Secretary of State will put me right, but I believe there are none. I remember very well in the early years of the Commission the case of South-West Africa, when there were severe criticisms made of the administration of the Union of South Africa. Two members of the Commission thought the remainder went much too far, but the Council and the Assembly, in a special resolution, upheld the Commission's view, congratulated the Commission, and re quested it to pursue its task with the same zeal and impartiality in the future. In 1926 there was the much more serious 876 affair of the Jebel Druse rebellion in Syria, when the French delegates went to Geneva and made an attack upon the Commission. It does not look very strong in the Minutes, which I read yesterday, but I heard it, and it fully justified what was said by the Vice-Chairman of the Commission, that the French delegates had charged them with having "prolonged a bloody war." What happened? The Council and the Assembly upheld the Commission and again passed a special resolution and asked them to continue their work in the same spirit, in order to ensure the application of the principles of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League. No one can doubt from the history of those two events that the Mandates Commission, the Assembly, and the Council were right and that the history of South-West Africa and of Syria has been better because of what the Commission did.
We have had experience of it ourselves, only two years ago, when we stopped immigration, on political grounds, into Pales tine, and when the council secured from the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs an assurance that that was only a temporary expedient and that we were going back to the principle of economic absorptive capacity, to which the commission held us. I submit that, as a result of this long history of nearly 20 years, the com mission has become a body of great authority and of considerable prestige, which is everywhere respected for its independence and its courage, and I venture to say, therefore, that its work, with the great experiment of the Mandate system, which may yet be a vital factor in real peace, if we ever get it, has been a reality and not a sham. Yet now, if I understand the plan, the Secretary of State proposes to set aside the judgment of this authorised, expert body, which has been established for the very purpose of seeing whether the policy of the Mandatory Power is in accordance with the Mandate which it accepts, and he proposes to seek, by political persuasion, a political decision from the Council of the League that he can represent to us and the country as a proof of the lightness of his policy. That is a very dangerous course, and if he carries it through, he will strike a blow, not only at British prestige and at the mandatory system, but at the very thing for which we are now telling our people they must be prepared to fight, namely, inter- 877 national good faith, the rule of law in international affairs.
Such treatment of the League is a grave affair, and no less grave is the Secretary of State's treatment of this House. His whole argument implies that this House would have voted two months ago, as it did even if it had known what the Permanent Mandates Commission was going to say. I cannot believe it, and I would plead against him what happened when the Labour Government brought in the mistaken policy of the Pass field Paper in 1930. I remember very well the revolt of opinion in this House. I remember how the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lord Hailsham, two of the greatest legal authorities in the land, wrote a letter to the "Times" in which they cited the various ways in which the Passfield Paper would have restricted immigration, and in which they said that that involved a departure from the obligations of the Mandate, and they ended by saying that if there was any doubt about it our Government ought at once to take steps to induce the Council of the League to obtain from The Hague Court an advisory opinion on the question involved, and that the British Government should not en force those paragraphs unless and until the court had pronounced in their favour. That is what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said. That is not the Labour party speaking. That legal case was unanswerable then and is unanswerable to-day, and if the Secretary of State will tell us now that he is not going to try to force this policy through the Council of the League until this House has had a free Debate in the light of the com mission's minutes, really knowing what was said, then we will not Divide to night. If he will not do that, if he insists on using the fortuitous sequence of events to deprive the House of what ought to be its right, then we shall Divide.
We shall vote on that above all things, but we shall vote also on the second issue which arises to-day, the subject of immigration. My hon. Friend, in his very powerful speech—and that is why I am giving less attention to it—said this also is of immense immediate importance. I am sure that the right hon. Member for St. George's (Mr. Duff Cooper) is right when he says that it cannot be a sound policy to punish legal immigrants because illegal immigration is going on. We 878 believe that is wrong and short-sighted. I am very sorry that the Secretary of State this afternoon obscured the fundamental issues of this Debate by what he said about illegal immigration. Of course the White Paper has increased illegal immigration. We told him it was going to do so, and his present stoppage of legal immigration will only make it worse. He hopes by this new method to enforce the White Paper policy. He is utterly mistaken. It will only be another mile stone in the failure of the policy of the White Paper. I think it is probably true that within a short time illegal immigration, which he will not be able to stop, will be greater than legal immigration has ever been, even when the figure was 60,000 a year, as it was in 1936.
I regret the Secretary of State's prohibition, but I resent the way in which he defended it this afternoon. He said, in effect, that he has had to do it, that he wanted to use the legal immigration to bring in Jews from Germany but could not because there were so many from Rumania and Poland being brought in illegally. That is a new doctrine with a vengeance. Since when has the National Home been closed to Jews from Rumania and Poland? If it is closed why did Colonel Beck receive a promise on 8th April that the emigration of Jews from Poland and Rumania would be helped by His Majesty's Government? Why has Sir Herbert Emerson, at the instigation evidently of the Foreign Office, put the question of the emigration of Jews from Poland and Rumania on the agenda of the Evian Conference, which is about to meet? I do not believe the Secretary of State would say that more than 10 per cent, at the very outside of these Poles and Rumanians were really from Poland and Rumania. They are people who have been in No-Man's Land. They are people whom Germany turned out who have Polish descent but whom the Poles would not receive. In one place where 15,000 of these people congregated last November, thousands of them still remain to-day. I heard of one small camp of eight souls, four of whom went mad. Then the Poles received them—7in an asylum.
Even if there were a large proportion of real Poles among them, nevertheless the vast majority are Germans from Germany itself. The Secretary of State for the Colonies will find it only too easy to 879 guess what happens in Sachsenhausen and other camps. I read the other day a first-hand account by a man who has been in there for months. He described the regular régime,? and it is so bestial and so filthy that when the Secretary of State reads it he will be physically sick. When at last this man was discharged, as the survivors sometimes are, he had to listen to a speech by the commandant of the camp, who said to him and to his comrades: "Any of you who dare to come back to Germany again from abroad will be confined in this camp for life." Not only in the camps but in the towns and villages of Germany the screw of the Jewish rack is being turned. People are being forced out.
The Secretary of State did not answer the question put to him by my hon. Friend. I ask it again: What would he do if he were a German Jew? Would he try to go to Palestine or would he stay in Germany and die? Where does he suggest that they should go? They have tried to go to China, to Latin America and to the West Indies. They are turned back from every port. One ship was for six weeks in the Mediterranean. Another was off Spain with its human cargo cast adrift. Another was driven away from Beyrout by a French military aircraft. The Secretary of State says that this traffic is organised and that this suffering is endured in order to break down his law. He went on to say or to imply, and I thought it was the most disastrous thing he said, that if the Jewish leaders wanted to they could stop the traffic. I ask him again: If he were a Jewish leader would he try to stop it? Knowing what is hap pening in Germany to-day, does he think he could stop it if he tried? Does he not know that if the Jewish leaders tried to stop it those leaders would be swept away on a current of national indignation?
I am afraid that the speech the right hon. Gentleman made to-day will help to complete the work which his policy has begun, the work of destroying the influence of the moderate leaders among the Jews. This policy of the White Paper will fail. It is not only moribund already, but it stinks of death. I hope that the Secretary of State, knowing that, will give the House a chance of considering the policy again when we really know what the League Commission says. I hope that he will suspend his reference to 880 the Council of the League. I hope that he will suspend his prohibition of immigration until the House has had that chance. If so, as I said before, we will not press our Amendment to a Division; but if he refuses that offer and forces a Division, if he pushes this policy through without letting Parliament see what the Mandates Commission says, if he uses political persuasion in the council to set aside the view of the commission, presents the House with a fait accompli and up holds his prohibition of immigration, and if he forces the Jews back on those methods which they deprecate and hate, we may be very certain that not only he but the British people will live to rue the day.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Mr. M. MacDonald
I rise with some hesitation, because I addressed the Committee at considerable length earlier in the afternoon, and am reluctant to inflict myself upon them again, but I should like to answer some of the points which have been raised. In the first place, the hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker) has asked me one or two perfectly fair questions, and I should like to answer them absolutely frankly. He said to me, if I were a German Jew, what would I do? I will tell him absolutely frankly. I would do my best to escape from Ger many. Let me add that, if I were an Arab in Palestine, I should be passionately opposed to Jewish immigration in Palestine. What we have to try to reach in our administration of Palestine is an understanding of the Jewish point of view, and an equal understanding of the Arab point of view. We have not to act as though we were a Jew, or as though we were an Arab; we have to act as administrators who are trying to keep a fair balance between these two different points of view. That is what this Government is trying to do.
The hon. Member charged me with treating the House of Commons improperly, in the first place, and, secondly, with treating the League of Nations with disrespect. My offence towards the House is that, in the hon. Member's words, I have chosen to withhold from it the observations and minutes of the Permanent Mandates Commission with regard to our White Paper policy. I have done nothing of the sort. We are following the perfectly normal and proper course in this matter.
881 We received last week the observations of the commission, and the voluminous minutes of their discussions. They told us that they did not want to have our comments until we had had a chance of receiving those minutes and studying them carefully. As I have said, those minutes arrived last week; they are very voluminous; they are important; we are giving them as quickly as we can the very careful attention that they deserve, and we are drafting the comments that we would wish to make upon them. We are losing no time at all. Of course, as the hon. Member himself has said, when the report of the Permanent Mandates Com mission is published, there are published in the same volume whatever comments the Government concerned may wish to make; and the report cannot be published — it would not be fair to those who want to give proper consideration to this matter that it should be published— until there can be published at the same time the comments of the Mandatory Power.
With regard to the charge of improper treatment of the League of Nations, I am supposed to be flouting the League. The hon. Member assumes that the Permanent Mandates Commission are going to disagree with the views of the Government on the White Paper policy. I refuse again to be drawn into a discussion of that matter, because it would be absolutely improper for me to reveal what has taken place in the Permanent Mandates Commission. But let us assume for a moment that the Permanent Man dates Commission will disagree with the Mandatory Power on this matter. The hon. Member then says that I am going to set aside the judgment of the Permanent Mandates Commission. It is not for me to set aside the judgment of the Permanent Mandates Commission. It does not rest with me whether the judgment of the Permanent Mandates Commission is accepted or not. The Permanent Mandates Commission is an advisory body, but it is not advisory to me; it is advisory to the Council of the League of Nations; and it is for the council of the League to decide what it does about its advisory bodies, and it will be for the Council of the League either to accept what the Permanent Mandates Commissions says, or to set it aside.
The hon. Gentleman says he hopes we shall not use any persuasion with the 882 Council of the League. Since when have we got to give up our rights as an equal member with 14 other members on the Council of that exceedingly important body? As long as this Government is in office this Government will maintain its rights in the League of Nations, as anywhere else. We have at least as much right to express our views about Palestine on the Council of the League as any other Power there, as we have carried the responsibility of government in Palestine for the last 17 years. We shall express our views fully and frankly, and without any hesitation. Then I have already told the House that if the Council, when it considers this matter, comes to any decision which would involve an alteration being made in the Mandate for Palestine, then we would not propose to press that course upon them until this House has had another opportunity to consider the new situation. I do not make that concession in order to keep hon. Members out of the Division Lobby; I make it to the House of Commons because I believe it is a proper concession to make to the whole House.
With regard to certain other points which were raised, we have been charged again and again with breaking our pledges to the Jews, with breaking the Mandate. The hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Noel-Baker), the hon. and gallant Member for Nuneaton (Lieut.-Commander Fletcher) and the hon. Member for Carmarthen (Mr. Hopkin) have all said that the point where our broken pledge comes in is in stopping Jewish immigration into Pales tine from reaching the economic absorptive capacity of the country. They have quoted the White Paper of 1922 as the great authority which lays down the principle that immigration should always be up to the maximum of what the economic absorptive capacity allows. But may I point out that the White Paper of 1922 says nothing of the sort? It says:This immigration cannot be so great in volume as to exceed whatever may be the economic capacity of the country at the time to absorb new arrivals.It says that immigration must not exceed that, but there is no prohibition whatever against immigration falling below the absorptive economic capacity of the country. [An Hon. Member: "A quibble."] Let me quote the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who was the author of those 883 words in the White Paper of 1922, my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), who said:As I am the author of the phrase, per haps I may be allowed to state that ' economic absorptive capacity ' was never intended to rule without regard to any other consideration. It has always rested with the Mandatory Power to vary the influx of the Jews in accordance with what was best for Pales tine and the sincere fulfilment of our purpose in establishing a National Home for the Jews.He has said that it was perfectly open for the mandatory Power, under the White Paper of 1922, to take into consideration other factors than economic absorptive capacity. I believe we are acting in complete conformity with the Mandate in taking into account political absorptive capacity as well as economic absorptive capacity. I do not deny the very brilliant achievements of the Jews in Palestine; I am a firm, humble sup porter and admirer of them; but hon. Members cannot deny the passionate opposition of the great majority of the Arab people in Palestine to Jewish immigration, not only now but over the last 17 or 18 years. The hon. Member for Bolton (Sir J. Haslam) said that the Jews regard Palestine as their home, even though they were not born there. That is perfectly true, and if nobody else had been in Palestine and had regarded Palestine as their home, this problem would be a very simple one.
Judging from the speeches that are made, one is sometimes tempted to think, although I know it is not true, that some hon. Members opposite think there is nobody else in Palestine. The fact is that there is another people there, and the Arabs of Palestine also regard that country as their home. They are entitled to regard it as their home seeing that they actually were born there, and that their fathers and forefathers have been born there for the last 13 centuries. We have made promises in regard to
§ Palestine to the Jews and to the Arabs. The hon. Member opposite said that the proper view was that the promise to the Jews was paramount, that our paramount obligation was to establish the Jewish National Home. [An Hon. Member: The Royal Commission said so."] The Royal Commission did say so. But the hon. Member has laid great stress on the Permanent Mandates Commission. The Permanent Mandates Commission has rejected that view, and has said that the two promises to the Jews and the Arabs must be regarded as having absolutely equal weight. We have to regard those promises as of equal weight, and to carry the two promises out.
§ I am not going again, especially at this late hour, to start analysing those promises and giving my view of their exact significance in relation to each other. I am going, in conclusion, to refer to the much-despised Hogarth Message, because it seems to me that, when we have had all our discussions about the exact significance of the promise to the Jews and the promise to the Arabs, if we are to have a peaceful and happy solution of the problem, we have to go back to one important sentence in the Hogarth Message. That is the declaration, on behalf of the British Government, that, so far as Pales tine is concerned, we are determined that no people shall be subject to another. I regard that as a very good text for policy in Palestine. I am not going to make any more comment on it than that I think we ought to pay very great heed to those proposals for a federal constitution in Palestine.
§ Question put, "That a sum, not exceeding £122,823, be granted for the said Service."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 119: Noes, 188.885
|Division No. 266.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland, Sir R. T. D.||Benn, Rt. Hon. W. W.||Day, H.|
|Adams, D. (Consett)||Brown, C. (Mansfield)||Dobbie, W.|
|Adams, D. HI. (Poplar, S.)||Buchanan, G.||Ede, J. C.|
|Adams, S. V. T. (Leeds, W.)||Burks, W. A.||Edwards, Sir C. (Bedwellty)|
|Adamson, Jennie L. (Dartford)||Close, W. S.||Edwards, N. (Caerphilly)|
|Alexander, Rt. Hon. A. V. (H'lsbr.)||Collindridge, F.||Evans, D. O. (Cardigan)|
|Ammon, C. G.||Cove, W. G.||Evans, E. (Univ. of Wales)|
|Banfield, J. W.||Cripps, Hon. Sir Stafford||Fletcher, Ll.-Comdr. R. T. H.|
|Barr, J.||Daggar, G.||Frankel, O.|
|Baiey. J.||Dalton, H.||Gardner, B. W.|
|Beaumont, H. (Batley)||Davles, R. J. (Westhoughton)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)|
|Bellenger, F. J.||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesey)|
|Green, W. H. (Deptford)||Leonard, W.||Roberts, W. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A.||Lipson, D. L.||Robinson, W. A. (St. Helens)|
|Grenfell, D. R.||Lunn, W.||Rothschild, J. A. de|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (M'ddl'sbro, W.)||Maodonald, G. (Ines)||Sexton, T. M.|
|Griffiths, G. A. (Hemsworth)||McEntee, V. La T.||Shinwell, E.|
|Griffiths J. (Llanelly)||Maclean, N.||Silkin, L.|
|Groves, T. E,||Macmillan, H. (Stookton-on-Tees)||Silvarman, S. S.|
|Hall, G. H. (Aberdare)||Mainwaring, W. H.||Simpson, F. B.|
|Hall, J. H. (Whiteehapel)||Mander, G. le M.||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. Sir A. (C'thn's)|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Marshall, F.||Sloan, A.|
|Hardie, Agnes||Mathers, G.||Smith, E. (Stoke)|
|Harris, Sir P. A.||Master, F.||Sorensen, R. W.|
|Harvey, T. E. (Eng. Univ's.)||Montague, F.||Stewart, W. J. (H'ght'n-le-Sp'ng)|
|Hayday, A.||Moreing, A. C.||Summerskill, Dr. Edith|
|Henderson, A, (Kingswinford)||Morrison, Rt. Hon. H. (Haekney, S.)||Taylor, R. J. (Morpeth)|
|Henderson, J. (Ardwick)||Nathan, Colonel H. L.||Tinker, J. J.|
|Hills, A. (Pontefract)||Naylor, T. E.||Tomlinson, G.|
|Hopkin, D.||Noel-Baker, P. J.||Viant, S. P.|
|Horabin, T. L.||Parker, J.||Watkins, F. C.|
|Isaacs, G. A.||Parkinson, J. A.||White, H. Graham|
|Jenkins, Sir W. (Neath)||Pearson, A.||Whiteley, W. (Blaydon)|
|Jones, A. C. (Shipley)||Poole, C. C.||Williams, T. (Don Valley)|
|Jones, Sir G. W. H. (S'k N'w'gt'n)||Pritt, D. N.||Wilmot, John|
|Kennedy, Rt. Hon. T.||Quibell, D. J. K.||Windsor, W. (Hull, C.)|
|Kirby, B. V.||Rathbone, Eleanor (English Univ's.)||Woods, G. S. (Finsbury)|
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. G.||Richards, R. (Wraxham)|
|Lathan, G.||Ridley, G.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—.|
|Lawton, J. J.||Riley, B.||Mr. Charleton and Mr. Adamson|
|Lee, F.||Rltson, J.|
|Agnew, Lieut -Comdr. P. G.||Edmondson, Major Sir J.||Mabane, W. (Huddersfield)|
|Albery, Sir Irving||Elliot, Rt. Hon. W. E.||MacAndrew, Colonel Sir C. G|
|Allan, Col. J. Sandaman (B'knhead)||Ellis, Sir G.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Elliston, Capt. G. S.||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. M. (Ross)|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Emery, J. F.||Macdonald, Capt. T. (Isle of Wight)|
|Baldwin-Webb, Col. J.||Emmott, C. E. G. C.||MacDonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Balfour, Capt. H. H. (lale of Thanet)||Entwistle, Sir C. F.||McEwen, Capt. J. H. F.|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Erskine-Hill, A. G.||Magnay, T.|
|Beauchamp, Sir B. C.||Evans, Colonel A. (Cardiff, S.)||Makins, Brigadier-General Sir Ernest|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'h)||Everard, Sir William Lindsay||Manningham-Buller, Sir M.|
|Bennett, Sir E. N.||Foot, D. M.||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Bernays, R. H.||Fox, Sir G. W. G.||Marsden, Commander A.|
|Bird, Sir R. B.||Furness, S. N.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Blair, Sir R.||Fyfe, D. P. M.||Mitchell, H. (Brentford and Chiswick)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel Sir T. C. R.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Glyn, Major Sir R. G. C.||Muirhead, Lt.-Col. A. J.|
|Bower, Comdr. R. T.||Goldie, N. B.||Munro, P.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N. (Buckrose)||Gower, Sir R. V.||Neven-Spence, Major B, H. H.|
|Brocklebank, Sir Edmund||Graham, Captain A. C. (Wirral)||O'Connor, Sir Terence J.|
|Brooke, H. (Lewisham, W.)||Grant-Ferris, Flight-Lieutenant R.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Brown, Rt. Hon. E. (Leith)||Greene, W. P. C. (Worcester)||Orr-Ewing, I. L.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Newbury)||Grimston, R. V.||Palmer, G. E. H.|
|Burgin, Rt. Hon. E. L.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||Patrick, C. M.|
|Burton, Col. H. W.||Guest, Maj. Hon. 0. (C'mb'rw'll, N.W.)||Peake, O.|
|Butler, Rt. Hon. R. A.||Guinness, T. L. E. B.||Petherick, M.|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Gunston, Capt. Sir D. W.||Pickthorn, K. W. M.|
|Cary, R. A.||Hannah, I. C.||Plugge, Capt. L. F.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hannon, Sir P. J. H.||Ponsonby, Col. C. E.|
|Channon, H.||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Raikes, H. V. A. M.|
|Chapman, A. (Rutherglen)||Hepburn, P. G. T. Buchan.||Ramsay, Captain A. H. M.|
|Cobb, Captain E. C. (Preston)||Higgs, W. F.||Rathbone, J. R. (Bodmin)|
|Colville, Rt. Hon. John||Horsbrugh, Florence||Reed, Sir H. S. (Aylesbury)|
|Conant, Captain R. J. E.||Howitt, Dr. A. B.||Reid, J. S. C. (Hillhead)|
|Cooks, J. D. (Hammersmith, S.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Haok., N.)||Remer, J. R.|
|Cooper, Rt. Hn. T. M. (E'nburgh, W.)||Hume, Sir G. H.||Riokards, G. W. (Skipton)|
|Croft, Brig.-Gen. Sir H. Page||Hntehinson, G. C.||Rosbotham, Sir T.|
|Crooks, Sir J. Smedley||Inskip. Rt. Hon. Sir T. W. H.||Rowlands, G.|
|Crookshank, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. F. C.||James, Wing-Commander A. W. H.||Royds, Admiral Sir P. M. R.|
|Cross, R. H.||Jarvis, Sir j. J||Russell, Sir Alexander|
|Crossley, A. C.||Jennings, R.||Salmon, Sir I.|
|Crowder, J. F. E.||Kellett, Major E. O.||Sandeman, Sir N. S.|
|Cruddas, Col. B.||Kerr, Sir John Graham (Sco'sh Univs.)||Sandeman, Sir F.B.|
|Culverwell, C. T.||Keyes, Admiral of the Fleet Sir R.||Schuster, Sir G. E.|
|Davidson, Viscountess||Kimball, L.||Scott, Lord William|
|De Chair, S. S.||Knox, Major-General Sir A. W. F.||Selley, H. R.|
|Donner, P. W.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G.||Shakespeare, G. H|
|Dower, Lieut.-Col. A. V. G.||Latham, Sir P||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's U. B'lf'st)|
|Duckworth, W. R. (Moss Side)||Leech, Sir J. W.||Smith, Sir R. W. (Aberdeen)|
|Dugdale, Captain T. L.||Llewellin, Colonel J. J.||Snadden, W. MoN.|
|Duggan, H. J.||Lloyd, G. W.||Somervell, Rt. Hon. Sir Donald|
|Duncan, J. A. L.||Loftus. P. C.||Somerville, Sir A. A. (Windsor)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Lucas, Major Sir J. M.||Southby, Commander Sir A. R. J.|
|Spent, W. P.||Touche, G. C.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel G.|
|Stanley, Rt. Hot). Oliver (W'm'l'd)||Tree, A. R. L. F.||Wilt, A. R.|
|Storey, S.||Tryon, Major Rt. Hon. G. C.||Womersley, Sir W. J.|
|Strauss, H. G, (Norwich)||Wakefield, W. W.||Wood, Hon. C. 1. C.|
|Stuart, Lard C. Crichton- (N'thw'h)||Wallace, Capt. Rt. Hon. Euan||Wragg, H.|
|Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Wright, Wing-Commander J. A. C.|
|Sutcliffe, H.||Wayland, Sir W. A.||York, C.|
|Tasker, Sir R. l.||Webbe, Sir W. Harold||Young, A. S. L. (Particle)|
|Taylor, Vice-Adm. E. A. (Padd., s.)||Wells, Sir Sydney|
|Thomas, J. P. L.||Wiekham, Ll.-Col. E. T. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Thomson, Sir J. D. W.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord||Captain Waterbouse and|
|Thorneycroft, G. E. P.||Wilson, U.-Col. Sir A. T. (Hitehin)||Lieut.-Colonel Kerr.|
Bill read the Third time, and passed, with Amendments.
§ Original Question again proposed.
§ Several Hon. Membersrose—
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, The CHAIRMAN left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.