§ 3.52 p.m.
§ Commander Locker-Lampson
On a point of Order. Would it be in order, on the Government Motion which stands on the Order Paper, to discuss the British Guiana Amendment in the name of my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton) and other hon. Members—in line I, to leave out from "House," to the end, and to add:while regretting the circumstances that have rendered such a course inevitable, welcomes proposals which promise to remove a source of friction with our Moslem fellow-subjects and our Moslem allies and the alleviation of an onerous task upon our Army, but urges upon the Government the need, in consultation with other Governments, for pressing on with the creation, if it proves feasible, of a Jewish state in the Guianas and adjacent unoccupied territories, as offering the only solution of the Jewish problem, having regard to the numbers involved and the widespread increase of anti-Semitism.We should like to know whether the scope of the Debate could be extended in that way and whether we might be free to discuss the paradise which is being prepared for the Jews.
It would be in order to make reference to British Guiana, but I should not like the Debate to develop into one on that part of the world.
§ 3.53 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)
I beg to move,That this House approves the policy of His Majesty's Government relating to Palestine as set out in Command Paper No. 6019.When the Prime Minister appointed me to the Colonial Office, a misguided friend of mine offered me warm congratulations. I replied that his sentiments seemed hardly appropriate, since whatever policy the Government pursued in Palestine, within 12 months I should be the most bitterly criticised Colonial Secretary of modern times. My calculation was wrong by two days. It was one year and two days after my assumption of my present office before the White Paper, which the House is to discuss to-day and to-morrow, was published. The Government would wish that they were able to present this policy to the House under different circumstances. When we last debated Palestine in Parliament, we hoped that, despite the bitter years of strife, there 1938 was still a possibility of some understanding between Arabs and Jews regarding the future, but our hope was dashed, and so we have to come forward now with our own unagreed policy.
This is not an easy problem, a solution of which is to be hurriedly devised and light-heartedly offered. It is a most grave, contrary, head- and heart-searching problem. Let the House weigh the arguments most carefully. Of course, there are arguments to be presented against our policy. That is rather in the nature of the situation which has arisen. It was the Royal Commission that visited Palestine in 1937 which said that the conflict which had arisen there between the Jews and the Arabs was not a conflict between right and wrong, but a conflict between right and right. That is true. To come to a judgment between the claims of the two parties in those circumstances, to find the firm line of justice between them is indeed as difficult a task as this House has ever had to perform. How has this critical situation in Palestine arisen? It was born in the tumult of war, when the great nations of the earth were engaged in a deadly struggle and were searching around for friends and allies. There were two people who were interested from the point of view of settlement in Palestine—the Arabs and the Jews—and largely on the strength of promises made to them by His Majesty's Government, promises touching Palestine, each of them played a certain part in the war, each of them took certain risks for the Allied cause. This question then is a matter of honour. The good name of Great Britain is involved. The obligations which we contracted towards the Jews and the Arabs during the War are debts of honour, which cannot be paid in counterfeit coinage. In some quarters in the last few days we have been charged with breaking our promises, but His Majesty's Government confidently repudiate that charge.
Let us look at these two sets of promises, the purpose of which was afterwards enshrined in the Mandate. First, there was the promise to the Jewish people. In November, 1917, Mr. Balfour, who was then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, addressed to the Zionist organisation, in the name of the British Government, a historic Declaration. The Declaration had already been approved by President Wilson on behalf of the United States of America, and it was afterwards supported 1939 by others of the Allied and associated Powers. It promised that His Majesty's Government would use their utmost endeavours to see established "a National Home for the Jewish people in Palestine." What was the meaning of that novel, carefully-chosen expression, which was without precedent in constitutional charters? It has sometimes been suggested that it meant definitely that Palestine should become a Jewish State. Certainly the possibility of a Jewish State was not excluded. It was far from excluded. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), who was Prime Minister at the time, has assured us of that. In evidence before the Royal Commission he said:The idea was that the Jewish State was not to be set up immediately by the Peace Treaty without reference to the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants. On the other hand it was contemplated that when the time arrived for according representative institutions to Palestine, if the Jews had meanwhile responded to the opportunity afforded to them and had become a definite majority of the inhabitants, then Palestine would thus become a Jewish Commonwealth.In the speeches of other leaders of the nation about that time the same possibility was definitely indicated. Nevertheless the authors of the Balfour Declaration, the authors afterwards of the mandate, did not say, "a Jewish State"; they used a more indefinite expression. Though they had high hopes they felt the need of proceeding cautiously. They recognised that Jewish settlement in Palestine on the grand scale was an experiment, the extent of which must depend upon certain then incalculable factors. So, deliberately, they chose a phrase "a National Home for the Jewish people" which could mean a Jewish State in Palestine, but which also might mean something very much less.
And, of course, the dimensions to which the Jewish National Home would grow, with our help and with the encouragement and help of many other nations, must depend on two factors in particular. The first is the extent to which the Jewish people themselves seized the opportunity so dramatically presented to them. Eighteen hundred years ago Palestine was their home. Then came their dispersal, and in the intervening centuries they have been scattered over 1940 the face of the earth. Their country was other peoples' countries and their home was other peoples' homes. But it was written in their sacred literature that one day they were to return to Palestine. In that faith they lived and hoped. So, to them, the Balfour Declaration was not a mere political document. To them it was the fulfilment of a prophecy, an inspired summons to go back to their own historic land. And the manner of their return has indeed been something of a miracle. There are places where they have turned the desert into spacious orange groves. Where was a bare seashore, they have made a city. They have advanced the frontier of settlement into waste and plague-ridden spaces. Wherever they bought up the land they made it produce its fruits more abundantly, and they have started in Palestine a score of thriving industries.
At the time when the Balfour Declaration was made it was said that the Declaration's purpose was to give the people who had no country a country which had no people. I wish that that phrase had been as true as it was picturesque. But it was not true. I wish with all my heart that Palestine were an empty land so that its bounds were the only limits set to the remarkable creative work of these devoted people rebuilding a National Home. But Palestine was not empty. Already in 1918 there was a population living in it of some 600,000 Arabs, whose ancestors had been in undisturbed occupation of the country for countless generations. If the first factor which must influence the extent to which the Jewish National Home grew was the zeal of the Jewish people themselves to restore it, then the second factor was necessarily the attitude to be adopted towards it by this long-established and considerable existing population.
There are some people who urge that in effect we should ignore the feelings of the Arabs in Palestine. They say that over a vast part of Arabia the Arab peoples are free, largely as a result of our help to them in war and peace. Their peninsula is filled with kingdoms and principalities which to-day acknowledge no foreign master. Surely, these critics say, when they have got all that, we can over-ride the wishes of the Arab population in that tiny fragment of land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. Well, no doubt physically 1941 this country could force upon the Arabs of Palestine any kind of Jewish National Home that it liked. But we could not do that with any moral justification, for we are bound to the Arab also by a pledge in this matter. I am not referring to any of the contents of the celebrated McMahon Correspondence. We do not recognise any claim to Palestine based upon that exchange of letters. But there is a later promise.
When the Balfour Declaration was published at the end of 1917 it was a shock to the Arab world. Our advisers in the Near East were apprehensive lest it might even make the great Arab revolt hesitate in its magnificent stride across the desert. They feared lest its effect would be to damp the enthusiasm of that valuable ally. So a few weeks later the British Government sent a messenger, Commander Hogarth, to Jeddah to explain to Sharif Hussein the exact significance of the Balfour Declaration. He explained very frankly that His Majesty's Government looked with favour upon a return of Jews to Palestine, and that His Majesty's Government were determined that no obstacle should be put in the way of this return. But Commander Hogarth was instructed to say also, and he did say, that this would be allowed only in so far as it was compatible with the economic and political freedom of the existing population. He also added, on instructions, that the British Government were determined that no people in Palestine should be subject to another.
What British Government was it that gave this solemn promise to the Arabs? It was the same Government of which Mr. Balfour was still Foreign Secretary, the authors of the Balfour Declaration. There cannot have been any misunderstanding; there cannot have been any conflict between those two promises given by the same Cabinet. We are often abjured to keep our promise to the Jews. Certainly we must do that. But we must also keep faith with the Arab world. Surely that Hogarth assurance must mean that a Jewish National Home in Palestine did not mean a Jewish State in Palestine against the wishes of the Arab population. In the years that have followed the Arab population have showed beyond any shadow of doubt that they are opposed to that change, and in those circumstances the authors of the Balfour Declaration 1942 themselves envisaged that the Jewish National Home would be something less than a national State.
I do not need to describe the nature of that less ambitious conception. Its nature was described a few years later in the White Paper of 1922, a quotation from which is printed on page 4 of the Command Paper now before the House. There the national characteristics of the Jewish National Home in Palestine are described in language which betrays the hand of that master of beautiful and powerful English who has put upon our bookshelves the Life of Marlborough and a brilliant array of other works. I fear that when he rises to speak to-morrow my right hon. Friend will brush aside that little olive-branch which I offer to him, But in accepting that as the authoritative account of the nature of the Jewish National Home, and declaring that it is no part of His Majesty's Government' policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State, His Majesty's Government are acting absolutely consistently with the War pledges which were made to the Jews and to the Arabs.
I shall return to this constitutional problem later; but before pursuing it further I ask the House to consider the question of immigration. This is another department in which we are being charged with a breach of promise. A Jewish National Home had to be built up. The Government had to play their part in that work by facilitating Jewish immigration and settlement on the land in accordance with the terms of the Mandate. To-day we are being accused of breaking the obligation to encourage immigration up to the limits of the economic absorptive capacity of the country. There is no such obligation in the Mandate. No such words appear either in the Balfour Declaration or in the Mandate. What exactly are our mandatory obligations about immigration? They are these. We are to aid in the establishment of the Jewish National Home by facilitating immigration "under suitable conditions "and also without prejudice to "the rights and position" of the other sections of the population. It is quite true that within that general instruction of the Mandate, and for the guidance of our administrators in Palestine, we did ourselves lay down some years afterwards our own more particular principles for regulating immigration. We said in 1922 that immigration 1943 should not exceed the economic absorptive capacity of the country, and in 1931 that economic absorptive capacity should be the sole criterion for measuring immigration. These decisions were noted by the Council of the League of Nations.
In the circumstances of that time we thought that conditions were suitable to receive immigrants up to the highest level which the economic progress of the country would permit, but we cannot accept those declarations as meaning that we bound ourselves for all time and in all circumstances, however different those circumstances, to maintain the strict economic principle governing immigration without any qualification. However, for more than a dozen years that principle guided our practice. Under it the Jewish population grew from some 80,000 people in 1922 to some 450,000 to-day—a community displaying all the characteristics which are described in a passage of my right hon. Friend's White Paper. The Arabs always objected to this immigration. From time to time there were violent outbursts against it. We suppressed them one after another. We did our duty to the Jewish National Home as it developed, sometimes at the sacrifice of the lives of our own men. We were fulfilling our promise to the Jews. Moreover, we felt justified in protecting and encouraging that immigration from the point of view of the Arabs also. There was no denying that Jewish immigration and Jewish development in Palestine were bringing great material benefits to the country. Industry and employment increased, and the revenue from this expansion went to create social services such as the country had not known before. The Arabs shared the greater wellbeing which flowed from these services. Under the new dispensation, unlike the old, the population of the Arabs increased in something like 20 years from 600,000 souls to over 1,000,000 souls.
We hoped as they experienced these things that the Arab fellahin would be reconciled to this new and improved state of affairs and that peace would come at last between Jew and Arab. But that hope has been disappointed. Why? The Arabs were not free to consider dispassionately the benefits which their country was getting from Jewish capital and activity. The material improvement was overlaid by a more serious considera- 1944 tion. The Arabs were not thinking of material things at all. They were thinking of their freedom; they were afraid that if Jewish immigration continued indefinitely this energetic, clever, wealthy incoming people would dominate them numerically, economically, politically and in every way in the land of their birth. I do not need to tell the rest of the story. For three years there has been a grimly sustained revolt. The conflict has rendered all property in Palestine insecure. It has caused a severe setback to the economic progress of the country. It has produced a hatred between the Arabs and the Jews in Palestine which, if it were to become permanent, would be disastrous to people who have to live side by side in the same land. It has spread mistrust and unrest in the neighbouring countries, so that it threatens to become a permanent source of friction and strife throughout the Near and Middle East.
The high priests of the principle of economic absorptive capacity say that these things are of comparatively little importance, and that as long as an immigrant can be economically absorbed in Palestine it does not matter whether he can be politically absorbed. We say that it does matter. My right hon. Friend has not been one of the high priests of the principle of economic absorptive capacity.
§ Mr. MacDonald
My right hon. Friend is the author of the phrase, but I am a little surprised that he should own the parentage of so awkward though so understandable a phrase. When he coined it it was put into a context in which he said that the immigration should not exceed the economic absorptive capacity. He did not say, as those about whom I am speaking have said, that immigration was always to be up to the top level of the economic absorptive capacity. I say that these other considerations are of great account, and that when these other events occur as gravely as they have done, they are very relevant to the policy which His Majesty's Government should pursue with regard to immigration.
I do not think that conditions are suitable for immigration. Under the Mandate we have to encourage immigration "under suitable conditions." That is our instruction. I do not think that condi- 1945 tions are suitable for immigration if that immigration, however advantageous it may be in certain other directions, is the direct cause of distrust and hatred which threaten fatally for a long time to come to destroy the welfare of Jews and Arabs alike in Palestine. Critics say that we can crush the Arab rebellion and that we had already overcome it before we made our announcement of policy. I believe that is true. But if the soldiers remove every rifle, every bomb and every land mine that is stored by Arab villagers, they cannot remove the distrust and fear and hostility which are lodged in these people's hearts. This is not a military problem. It is a political problem, and if we do not do something to remove the unrest which the Arab feels, if we merely go back to a policy of unlimited immigration which would confirm and augment his fears of being dominated, then we are only sowing dragon's teeth which one day will spring up again as armed men. There is no knowing how far that conflict will spread. There are Jews and Arabs in Iraq. There are Jews and Arabs in Egypt. There are Jews and Arabs in Yemen. This House should have a sober sense of responsibility towards a situation which is pregnant with tragic possibilities in more countries than one.
Moreover, let me remind the House that the Mandate lays down another condition which is to govern the extent to which we permit Jewish immigrants into Palestine. We are to facilitate immigration as long as it does "not prejudice the rights and position" of the non-Jewish inhabitants in the country. What are the rights of the Arab population? They have lived in Palestine for centuries. Do their rights give them any title to say that beyond a certain point they should not have imposed upon them a population which may dominate them, even though we do recognise that the people coming in have a historic connection with and rights in the land? Is there no point at which we, in consideration of our obligations to the Arabs under the Mandate, should pay heed to their opinions on a matter so vital to them? Let me take a simple test. Suppose that instead of 1,000,000 Arabs in Palestine there were 1,000,000 Americans, or Englishmen, or Frenchmen whose ancestors had lived in the country for generations past.
§ Mr. MacDonald
Would we say that they had no rights in this respect? Of course we should say that they had, and that a point must come when we could not force immigration on them against their will. If that principle applies to Americans and others, it should apply to the Arabs. Hon. Members opposite talk about blacks in this or that part of the Empire. Let me remind them that we are the rulers of an Empire in which there are peoples of many races and many creeds, and one of the principles of which we are proudest in the Empire, indeed, one of the principles upon which the Empire is based, is the principle of equality of rights between different peoples and different races. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] I ask hon. Members opposite to recall Wednesday afternoon after Wednesday afternoon in this House when they put questions to me showing how fervently they maintain this principle of equality of rights in different parts of the Empire, and I cannot believe that there are many hon. Members on the benches opposite who do not realise that the Arab people of Palestine have certain rights with regard to the question of immigration.
Nevertheless, we have rejected the Arab demand that all immigration should stop forthwith. We propose that the influx of Jews should continue for another five years, even regardless of Arab wishes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because we believe that Palestine could, and should still, make a further substantial contribution towards relieving the tragedy of the Jewish refugees in Central Europe. I say that beyond a certain point the Arabs must have their wishes observed in this matter, but I do not think we have come to that point yet, especially in the light of the world situation of Jewry. Under our policy the rate of immigration will actually be higher during the next five years than it has been during recent years, and under our policy tens of thousands of refugees will escape from their unhappiness in Europe into the security of the Jewish National Home in Palestine. But we do believe it is consistent with our obligations to the Arabs under the Mandate that they should be given some definite assurance about the future. Therefore, we have 1947 decided that after live years a further expansion of the Jewish National Home by immigration should depend on the Jews securing the acquiescence of their Arab fellow-citizens.
As regards land policy, every Commission which has visited Palestine in recent years has stated that there are areas where the Arab population, with their present methods of cultivation, are so congested that further sales of land should be prohibited. They have said that there are other areas where the situation is such that sales of land should be restricted, and we propose to give the High Commissioner powers in that respect, and to instruct him to carry them out in accordance with the general recommendations of recent Commissions. But that does not mean that the land policy will be static. It will continue to be a policy of land development and of improving methods of cultivation, so that the areas of land for new settlement shall be made as wide as conditions permit. Details of the policy regarding land of all sorts will appear when the Order in Council is published and will bear out the general principles which are laid down in the White Paper.
It is suggested that the Jewish National Home as it is now constituted, with its great potentialities for steady expansion as the years go by, will be a weak community at the mercy of those who may be hostile to it. But whatever may have been the position of the Jews in Palestine 10 or 20 years ago they cannot answer to that description to-day. The Jewish community is large, being composed of nearly one-third of the entire population of the country; it is self-assured and perfectly disciplined; it has an economic power which, perhaps, more than anything else makes it unconquerable. It has made many friends among the Arab people in the past, and it will make still more in the future once the fear of the Arabs of becoming a subject minority in their own land has been removed. If there is one thing certain in this world I believe it is that the work of the Jewish pioneers of our time has not been in vain, but that they have created something in Palestine which will continue to prosper. Moreover, just as His Majesty's Government desire to reach a solution of this problem which ensures 1948 the Arabs against domination by the Jews, so we desire to reach a solution which ensures the Jews against domination by the Arabs.
I return therefore to the constitutional problem and to the actual constitutional proposals contained in the White Paper. One of our obligations under the Man date is to secure the development of self-governing institutions. In 20 years we have made practically no progress at all in that direction—
§ Mr. MacDonald
—but it is not the fault of His Majesty's Government. Our efforts have every time been frustrated by the animosities produced by the carrying out of the other obligations for the establishment of a Jewish National Home. From time to time we have put forward proposals for a beginning to be made with self-governing institutions, but in every case they have been rejected either by the Arabs because they were considered too favourable to the Jews, or else by the Jews because they were considered too favourable to the Arabs. Of course, it will not be easy to adjust the political relationships between these two peoples in Palestine. It will be made all the more difficult because there are not just two different peoples in Palestine living side by side with different capacities and different temperaments. Placed cheek by jowl in the tiny land of Palestine there are, in a sense, two different civilisations, the Arab civilisation conservatively looking to the past, and the Jewish civilisation, modern and progressive, with its eyes set to the future. Certainly, when it comes to the work of constitution-making in Palestine the framers of the constitution will have a task which rivals in difficulty that which was set to the framers of the Indian Constitution.
But because the work is difficult. we must not abandon it. It would be contrary to the spirit of the age in which we live, it would be contrary to the spirit of the Mandate system in general, and it would be contrary to the specific instruction of this Mandate in particular, if we did not begin now to work towards self-governing institutions in Palestine, and this White Paper devotes some space to the consideration of constitutional matters and proposes some first steps. But this part of our proposals, also, has 1949 been the subject of severe criticism. Let us look at the main part of that criticism. It was contained in the statement issued by the Jewish Agency on the day that the White Paper was published. It was said in that statement that our proposalstransfer authority over Palestine to a present Arab majority and put the Jewish population at the mercy of that majority.If that criticism were true, I agree that these proposals should be condemned. We cannot in honour put the Jewish National Home at the mercy of a possibly hostile majority. It would be a breach of the Mandate, which binds us to place the countryunder such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home.Moreover, it would be contrary to the principle set out in Commander Hogarth's message to Sharif Hussein—a principle which seemed to satisfy the Arab leader at that time that in Palestine no people shall be subject to another. The crux of the problem in Palestine is how to prevent the Arabs from being dominated by the Jews and the Jews from being dominated by the Arabs. It is not true that our proposals transfer authority over Palestine to the present Arab majority and place the Jews at the mercy of that majority. Perhaps the best comment on that statement is the fact that our proposals have been rejected by the Palestine Arabs, precisely because they do not hand control in Palestine over to the Arab majority.
What are the proposals? First, certain things are said about the transitional period before the establishment of an independent Palestine State, and secondly, certain things were said about the independent State itself. Let me consider the proposals about the transitional period. During that period Arabs and Jews are to be directly associated, if they are willing, with the Government of their country. They are to be put in charge of administrative departments. The purpose of that beginning is to make them acquainted with the actual work of government in Palestine. It is true that Arabs and Jews are to be appointed in the transitional period in proportion to their respective populations in the country, two Arabs to one Jew. But that does not mean that during this transition period the Jewish minority is to be at the 1950 mercy of the Arab majority. That description is a caricature of these proposals. There are various safeguards against it. In the first place, there is this safeguard. At the beginning Palestinians are to be put in charge of only certain of the departments of government. A majority of the departments will remain under the charge of British officials. For some time, at any rate, there will, therefore, be a British majority in the administration of the country.
It is true that it is intended as soon as may be to increase the number of Palestinians in charge of departments until ultimately they are in control of all the departments. That is where the second safeguard enters. The Arabs and the Jews who are in charge of departments are to have associated with them, each, a British adviser, and in cases where that adviser does not agree with the Palestinian head of his department he is to have the right of direct access to the High Commissioner The High Commissioner, therefore, in considering questions which arise will have the advice not only of his Palestinian adviser but of his British adviser in the same department. But, above all, there is the third safeguard. The Palestinian heads of departments are not in the first instance to have executive and ministerial functions. They are to sit as ordinary members on the executive council, which is a body purely advisory to the High Commissioner. They will perform exactly the same advisory functions as are performed by the British heads of departments, and in all matters, therefore, the final decision will rest with the High Commissioner. He can override any of his advisers, whether British or Arab or Jewish, and there is nothing, therefore, in that proposal for the beginnings of the transitional period which hands the Jewish minority over to the mercy of an Arab majority in Palestine.
It is true that at some stage during the transition period, when there are Palestinian heads in charge of the departments of government, consideration will be given to the question of changing the executive council, with its purely advisory functions, into a council of ministers, so that the Arab and Jewish heads of departments may enjoy some executive and ministerial authority; but it is, of course, contemplated that there will be proper safeguards for the Jewish National Home when that stage is reached, and that such 1951 safeguards must be an integral part of any scheme during the transition period leading up to the independent Palestinian State.
§ Mr. MacDonald
Those are matters for consideration when the time arrives. I am certain that the right hon. Gentleman, with his great experience in these things, would be averse to working out a timetable now, and for laying down the heads of that time-table, saying exactly what changes and modifications were to take place at this or that period. Every time we have tried to do that kind of thing when we have been constitution-making it has turned out to be the worst enemy of the sort of political evolution which we were trying sincerely to promote. In this case, that principle would be as unsound as in all other cases.
I come to the other proposal that, if practicable, within 10 years an independent Palestinian State should be established. Again, there is nothing in this White Paper suggesting that a Jewish minority is to be handed over to the mercies of an Arab majority. The very opposite is the case, because in this White Paper we set down what the principle of the constitution of an independent State shall be. Let me quote it. We declare that it shall be:A State in which the two peoples of Palestine, Arabs and Jews, share authority and government in such a way that the essential interests of each are secure.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The right hon. Gentleman is explaining why the constitutional safeguards will guarantee the rights of the Jews if they are a minority. Would he explain why the constitutional safeguards would not safeguard the rights of the Arabs if the Jews were a majority?
§ Mr. MacDonald
I have already spoken about the whole question of removing the fear which the Arabs have of domination by the Jews, but clearly the sort of suggestion which the hon. Member puts forward now would not only not remove those fears and give us a chance to restore some kind of peace in Palestine, but would actually make worse the situation which already exists. One has to recognise the different natural qualities which the Jews and Arabs have, in Palestine or 1952 anywhere else, and one has to weigh the balance between those qualities. I say that the principle which we have laid down in this Paper for the constitution of the independent Palestinian State is absolutely consistent with the protection of proper Arab and proper Jewish interests. Beyond stating that principle, we do not attempt to set out the constitution of the State. The body which will commence work on that constitution will not meet for five years or more. We are anxious first to gain experience of the first part of the transition period and to see how matters work out in actual practice. We shall then have a clearer idea for the constitution which may be necessary in Palestine to protect the interests of those very different peoples.
It may be a unitary State. It may be a federal State. It may be that it should be a State in which there is a predominantly Arab province and a predominantly Jewish province, each enjoying a considerable amount of local autonomy, but both united in a federal government dealing with matters of common concern. That issue is not prejudged in this White Paper. When the constitution-making does take place, the British Government must have a part in the work. The only other comment that we make in this Paper on the independent Palestinian State is a declaration that we shall have to be satisfied that in the constitution of the State there is adequate protection for "the special position of the Jewish National Home in Palestine." The whole spirit of this arrangement and this Declaration is that the interests of the minority and majority in Palestine shall be adequately secured and that we shall be satisfied that they are adequately secured before we surrender completely our mandatory control of the country.
I must say a few words about two or three other matters on which we shall require to be satisfied, and then I have finished. We have some interests of our own in Palestine. We have, for instance, certain vital strategical requirements—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I am glad that there is something in this policy about which everybody is unanimous—in that quarter of the world. When we discussed with Arab and Jewish representatives in the recent London Conferences they both expressed their willingness in principle that those requirements should be fully protected. It can, 1953 indeed, be said that the interests of the people in Palestine in that respect and the interests of this country are mutual. We should need to be satisfied that in our Treaty with the Palestinian State there was provision for our maintaining in Palestine sufficient military and air forces to give security to our interests, for the use of military facilities, such as ports and aerodromes, for proper consultations on military matters and for mutual assistance in case of trouble.
Then there is another set of interests which we have to protect; there are certain foreign interests in Palestine. In a Motion which appears on the Order Paper in the names of some of my right hon. and hon. Friends mention is made particularly of the Anglo-American Convention of 1924. We are, of course, anxious that the interests of America referred to in that Convention shall be properly assured at all times in the future. This statement on policy does not propose any alteration at all regarding the protection of those interests during the period while we retain mandatory control. The same is true of other foreign interests. Therefore, this question does not arise at all on the present White Paper. It is true that when Palestine becomes an independent State some new security for those interests will have to be given, but we state specifically in, this Paper that before we can agree to the constitution and the Treaty with the State, we shall have to be satisfied that the interests of foreign countries in Palestine for which we are at present responsible are being adequately safeguarded.
Finally, in addition, the unique characteristic of Palestine is that within its borders are Holy Places which are dear to millions of Christians, Moslems and Jews throughout the world. We could not give up our trust in Palestine without being assured that everything that appertains to them, and the right of their devotees to have access to them, are preserved for all time. It is indeed a tragedy that around those sacred shrines should be repeated in modern times the folly of human hatred, violence and dispute. The whole world yearns for peace in Palestine, but it cannot be secured unless each people in the present dispute is ready to give up some part of its demands and to pursue a policy of conciliation with its fellow-citizens in that country. No doubt in the present circumstances there is no ideal 1954 scheme for Palestine, but the proposals of His Majesty's Government are conceived in a spirit of absolute impartiality between Jews and Arabs, and we believe that they are consistent with the obligations which we have undertaken to both people.
Some of my hon. Friends urge that the House should postpone reaching a decision upon these proposals until after they have been examined by the Permanent Mandates Commission. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Certainly it is the proposal of the Government that this policy should be considered by the Permanent Mandates Commission at the earliest possible date, when we shall maintain the view which I have just expressed, that this policy is entirely consistent with our obligations to both people. But I would urge this House not to delay its own decision on this matter. Delay will lead in Palestine to a supposition that policy is once more to be uncertain and unsettled, and is once more to be changed. Uncertainty is the soil in which is grown most swiftly the bitter fruits of suspicion, agitation and violence in Palestine.
§ Sir A. Sinclair
Is there not bound to be uncertainty until the Permanent Mandates Commission have given their approval?
§ Mr. MacDonald
Let the House put an end to this uncertainty regarding policy in Palestine. Let the House make the contribution it can make to peace in Palestine by approving by a large majority to-morrow evening the policy of His Majesty's Government.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. T. Williams
I beg to move, in line I, to leave out from the word "That," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof:as the proposals of His Majesty's Government relating to Palestine, as set out in Command Paper No. 6019, are inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the mandate and not calculated to secure the peaceful and prosperous development of Palestine, this House is of opinion that Parliament should not be committed pending the examination of these proposals by the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations.I listened word for word to the right hon. Gentleman, and, although one might congratulate him upon the delivery of his speech, I am bound to confess that I was very disappointed with a good deal of its matter. I do not think that for 1955 many years I have heard a speech which contained so much special pleading as did that of the right hon. Gentleman. Indeed, were I a representative of the Arab Nationalists, or of the Arabs at all, sitting in the Gallery listening to that speech, I should have been very disappointed, for, while the right hon. Gentleman was very loud in his praises of Jewish work and Jewish effort in Palestine—no words of mine could quite match those of the right hon. Gentleman—to not one solitary virtue of the Arabs did he make reference. Indeed, the only thing he said about the Arabs from beginning to end was that they were in fear and trembling lest they might be dominated by the Jews. He said that in a year and two days he had become the best-hated Secretary of State for the Colonies for many years—perhaps that was not quite the phrase—
§ Mr. Williams
The most intensely criticised Secretary of State for the Colonies for many years. He has this consolation, if my reading of the White Paper is correct, that he has been able in one year and two days to destroy what it took a great War and many years' efforts of Allied statesmen to build up. I repeat that, if my reading of the White Paper is correct, the right hon. Gentleman has destroyed the very basis of the Balfour Declaration. In all previous Debates on this question I have been careful to explain that, whatever else hon. and right hon. Members on these benches think about Palestine, they have never been anti-Arab or pro-Jew as such; they have been pro-Palestine all the time; if they have any partial affections, their partial affections are for the workers of both races. I did not hear the right hon. Gentleman make reference to the workers, either Arab or Jew, during the whole of his long speech. He talked about the Nationalist movement and the fears generated by that movement, but I did not hear him make a single observation with regard to the Arab workers.
I will concede this to the right hon. Gentleman, that the Prime Minister landed him with one of the most complex problems that has ever confronted this or any Government. We have always recognised that any set of proposals would be 1956 criticised from some quarters. To satisfy the Arab Nationalists would obviously dissatisfy the Jews, and to satisfy the Jews would obviously dissatisfy the Arab Nationalists. To that extent some sympathy is due from us to the right hon. Gentleman. But, having said that, we also recognise that we cannot readily and easily get rid of our solemn pledges. We are living in an age when far too many pledges have been broken, when far too many treaties and gentlemen's agreements have been broken, and the whole world in general, and this country in particular, is now suffering as a result of those broken pledges. In any case, we in this House ought to be very jealous of the reputation of this country where pledges or treaties or gentlemen's agreements are being undertaken. That is our approach to this problem, and I hope we shall not deviate from that point of view.
What is our reading of the White Paper? The right hon. Gentleman not only explained very carefully the pledges given to one side and the other, but he talked sufficiently long to be able to satisfy some Members of the House that in fact our pledges were not pledges at all, or that our pledges were so mutual as to cancel each other out, and we were left at the end of his speech without having made a pledge at all. It is my confirmed opinion that this White Paper and all that it implies is directly contrary both to the spirit and to the letter of the Balfour Declaration, and is in effect tantamount almost to its abrogation. Even on the most generous interpretation of the right hon. Gentleman's proposals, they must conflict violently with the opinions expressed by those who devised the Balfour Declaration and by every statesman, be he British, Empire or American who has expressed opinions on the Balfour Declaration since. If our view is correct, this House certainly ought not to commit itself to that set of proposals. Perhaps, if we start at the very beginning and see exactly what our pledges were, we shall be better able to understand whether these proposals fulfil or whether they fail to redeem the pledges we made. The Balfour Declaration started with the letter sent by Mr. Arthur James Balfour to Lord Rothschild. It commenced as follows:I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, 1957 the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.Then follow the contents of the letter which was to be sent to the Zionist Federation. I want to draw the special attention of the right hon. Gentleman to these words, because to me they are definitely fundamental:The following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been…approved by the Cabinet.What, in essence, are the Jewish Zionist aspirations? If they mean anything at all, clearly they mean that the Zionist movement is in existence to get away from that inferiority, born of being of minority status, which the Jews suffer in every country in the world. If that is the true interpretation of what the Cabinet approved, then the proposals in this White Paper are an abrogation of the very essence of the Balfour Declaration. If we abandon this, then the whole object and purpose of the Balfour Declaration has gone. Under Article 6 of the Mandate our obligations are more concrete and precise. Our obligations are defined as facilitating immigration and encouraging close settlement on the land. My reading of the White Paper is that it cancels both those obligations, as I shall try to show later. The facilitation of immigration and the encouragement of close settlement on the land will be no more at the end of five years from the acceptance of these proposals. Lest there should be any doubt about our statesmen's interpretation of the Balfour Declaration, one or two quotations may not be out of place. Take Lord Balfour himself:As to the meaning of the words 'National Home,' to which the Zionists attach so much importance, he understood it to mean some form of British, American or other protectorate, under which full facilities would be given to the Jews to work out their own salvation and to build up, by means of education, agriculture and industry a real centre of national culture and focus of national life. It did not necessarily involve the early establishment of an independent Jewish State which was a matter for gradual development in accordance with the ordinary laws of political evolution.No Government can guarantee that a Jewish State shall be set up in Palestine. Quite obviously, economic development will determine the progress of immigration and the date, should there be a date, when a Jewish State can be set up. But it is clear that Lord Balfour did visualise 1958 the possibility of a Jewish State. That seems to me to be very clear. Then the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), in one of his rare bursts of optimism, when he was Secretary of State for War, said:If, as may well happen, there should be created in our lifetime on the banks of the Jordan a Jewish State under the protection of the British Crown which might comprise three or four millions of Jews, an event will have occurred in the history of the world which would from every point of view be beneficial.The White Paper visualises the stoppage of immigration after five years, and it argues that the Government see no reason why they should be called upon permanently to facilitate immigration. At least the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, who was a member of the Government when the Balfour Declaration became known, at some time in 1920, when he made that statement, did visualise a Jewish national home of far greater size than the one the Government now contemplate. It is true that the right hon. Gentleman could not have foreseen the possibility of a National Government, but he did see the possibility of 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 people going to Palestine, which at that time, of course, would include Transjordan. Then Lord Milner made this statement relating to Palestine and the Arab and Jewish question:If the Arabs go to the length of claiming Palestine, as one of their countries in the same sense as Mesopotamia or Arabia proper is an Arab country, then I think they are flying in the face of all facts, of all history, of all tradition and all associations of the most important character, I had almost said, the most sacred character. The future of Palestine cannot possibly be left to be determined by the temporary impressions and feelings of the Arab majority in the country at the present day.That was the opinion which Lord Milner expressed in 1923, when the present Prime Minister was a Minister of State. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman, did he object to that statement at that time, or did he acquiesce in Lord Milner's interpretation of the Mandate and the obligations that accrued upon us as a result? If so, perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will tell us later on why he changed his mind. I need not quote the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), or General Smuts, or Lord Baldwin, or the present Prime Minister.
§ Mr. Williams
I should like to make one observation with regard to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer. There was a time when a Labour Government was in office, and when there was some talk of toning down the rate of immigration. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was very startled about this decision on the part of the Labour Government, and he, with Lord Hailsham, immediately wrote an indignant letter to the "Times" suggesting that it would be breaking our pledges, and that, before the Government did anything of the kind, they ought to send the question of the economic absorptive capacity or the rate of immigration to The Hague for a legal decision. Has the Chancellor of the Exchequer forgotten that? Is he now satisfied that not only is the economic absorptive capacity being stretched too much, but that no immigration at all five years hence is enough? There is one other quotation that I should like to make. It concerns America, and America, after all, is not altogether disinterested in this problem. President Wilson, stating the case for America, said:I am persuaded that the Allied nations, with the fullest concurrence of our Government and our people, are agreed that in Palestine shall be laid the foundations of a Jewish Commonwealth.It may be that any one, two, three, four or five of those statesmen were wrong, but surely they could not all have been wrong. If only some were right, two or three things were perfectly clear but the Government admit, on page 3 of the White Paper, that a Jewish Statewas not precluded by the terms of the declaration.If it was ever intended by those who produced the Balfour Declaration that the Jews should remain a permanent minority in Palestine, why were those very careful safeguards provided for the non-Jewish population? It must have been clear to those who produced those safeguards that the possibility of a Jewish majority was there; to that extent, a Jewish majority, a Jewish State or Commonwealth were, rightly or wrongly, all visualised at that time. It might take 40, 50 or 100 years for that majority to be created, but, as long as it was a question of economic absorptive capacity and as long as safeguards were applied, the Arabs need never be in fear of the 1960 domination of the Jews. The White Paper definitely cancels all those possibilities. On page 9, the Government deny that the Mandate required them to facilitate immigration for all time; but on page 4 are recorded these words from the Command Paper of 1922:But in order that this community should have the best prospect of free development and provide a full opportunity for the Jewish people to display its capacities, it is essential that it should know that it is in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance.If the Jews can go to Palestine "as of right and not on sufferance," how can the right hon. Gentleman suggest that the Government have no further obligation to facilitate immigration? Moreover, if the Jews are going to Palestine as of right, quite clearly the Government are under almost a permanent obligation, as long as their mandatory authority continues, to facilitate immigration in accordance with the economic absorptive capacity, and I suggest that either that part of the White Paper is special pleading or the Government have misread their obligations. The White Paper states:Nor do they find anything in the Mandate.…to support the view that the establishment of a Jewish National Home cannot be effected unless immigration is allowed to continue indefinitely.The right hon. Gentleman repeated those words this afternoon. It all depends on the kind of home one has in mind. If one thinks in terms of the home envisaged by Lord Balfour, obviously immigration must continue. If one thinks on the lines of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping, of some 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 Jews making their home there, immigration will have to go on for a long time indeed. If one thinks in terms of a home where a happy, free and contented people are working out their destiny, that would be one kind of a home; but the White Paper seems to think in terms of a ramshackle council house—what has been described as a "territorial ghetto"—and which is not theirs to occupy, but where they are to be, like a lodger, in a position to be turned out at any moment. If the White Paper is correct, the same sort of reasonable immigration could have stopped five or 15 years ago, and the same sort of justification could have been given for it as has been given to-day. The right hon. Gentleman can find no more justification in the White Paper for establishing an 1961 Arab State and placing the Jews in a permanent minority than he can for doing the opposite. He is going to turn those Jews who have gone to Palestine into persons who have gone there not as of right, but only on sufferance, which is directly contrary to the words of the Command Paper.
The Government, on page 3 of the White Paper, categorically declare that the Arabs should not be made subjects of a Jewish State. It may be that the Government are correct: that the Arabs ought not to be subjects of a Jewish State; but they go on to turn the Mandate completely upside down, and to turn the Jews into subjects of an Arab State. They are to remain a minority in perpetuity, and when an independent State is set up, the Jews are to become subjects of an Arab State, particularly if the Arabs have the power to prevent any immigration after the first five years. In one of the Sunday papers a writer commented on the volte face of the Government in these words:But how a Government that began by accepting partition on the ground that it could not induce the two races to live comfortably together should have come to think it would make for friendly co-operation if the Arabs were assured a majority of two to one, the Jews put under their control and we faded out, is indeed hard to explain. The plan has alienated the Jews without any guarantee that the ex-Mufti's Arabs will make their peace and co-operate with them. Nor is it clear, if the Arabs oppose all Jewish immigration while we are in the country as mandatory, how we are going to prevent them ten years hence, when we lay down the Mandate, from expelling the Jews who are already there.The right hon. Gentleman said that certain safeguards may be made when the new constitution is set up; but, in the meantime, those safeguards are not available for the Jewish minority. After the Assyrian experience, I should have thought that the right hon. Gentleman at least would have ensured, if he insisted upon a policy of this description, that there were doubly adequate safeguards to avoid a repetition of what happened to Assyrians. In any case, are the Jews to be dependent upon the benevolence and generosity of the ex-Mufti's gangsters? There is no safeguard against those who have gone to Palestine being ultimately turned out. Does the right hon. Gentleman think this is going to encourage peaceful, prosperous development?
1962 I know that he calls for co-operation from the Arabs and from the Jews. He admits that so far there has been no co-operation; and he knows very well that the moment the Jewish minority start to co-operate with the Arab majority, he will be able to state that "the relationships are so good that now we can start developing self-governing institutions." At that moment will the Jews seal their own fate in Palestine? If the Jews do co-operate, they will expedite the independent Arab State. They may get a few more immigrants for a time, but what is to be their position immediately the independent Arab State is set up? I want the right hon. Gentleman to say whether he thinks that in existing circumstances this is going to encourage the continuation of the very great constructive effort which the Jews have made in Palestine, where we have seen the greatest colonisation scheme on earth? Does this White Paper not visualise five years of slow progress; five years of stagnation, and perpetual uncertainty thereafter? It seems to be a real victory for the swamp, in which the mosquito and the terrorist alike will share.
The right hon. Gentleman said sufficient this afternoon about Jewish achievements and accomplishments, and I need not waste time in dealing with them. On what grounds, other than those that he explained, does this violent change take place? He told us that the Government hope for co-operation, but for over 20 years that co-operation has not been forthcoming. He told us that the Arabs objected to the Mandate. Well they always have objected—in 1919, in 1920, in 1921. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping in 1921 had to tell them that, in spite of their objections, it was an undertaking into which our country had entered, and that it would be faithfully carried out. So 1939 is not so much different from 1919. The third explanation of the right hon. Gentleman was that the Arabs were in fear of Jewish domination. There are a few Nationalist revolutionaries in every country—the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), for instance, here—but in Palestine there has always been a large moderate element. Unfortunately, they have always been ignored by the Government; and the White Paper is another slap in the face for those Arabs who would have cooperated with the Jews for the benefit of Palestine. When the right hon. Gentle- 1963 man refers to fear on the part of the Arabs, is he thinking in terms of the peasant farmers, workers, or the few overlords? We are entitled to know, when he talks about fears, which section of the Arab population really do fear Jewish domination.
§ Mr. Williams
No doubt the hon. Member will be speaking later and will tell us the story in his own way, but he cannot justify the statement that all the Arabs all over the country fear Jewish domination. If that were the case, how does he explain that in many areas throughout three years of terrorism Jews and Arabs have continued to work together? How does he explain the fact that this rebellion, started originally to disturb and to destroy the Jews, sooner or later turned into an Arab versus Arab war, since when nearly 3,000 Arabs have been killed by Arab terrorists? It is not sufficient for the hon. Gentleman, to-day at all events, to talk about the number of acres the Arabs required upon which to live. I hope that he has much more substantial arguments than those he has ever put before. I suggest that the so-called fear of the Arabs being dominated by the Jews refers to a comparatively small number who have been encouraged by the enemies of this country and to whom this country at long last has finally surrendered.
On page 9 of the White Paper the right hon. Gentleman talks about intense Arab apprehension and widespread fear of immigration. If there is this apprehension and this widespread fear of immigration, how is it that the population has increased during the past few years from 600,000 to over 1,000,000? How is it that none of these terrified Arabs have gone to Iraq and Transjordan, if it is true that they are all in fear and trembling? How is it, if these Arabs are terrified, they have not raced across the border to Transjordan and Iraq? Why do these terrified Arabs want to remain in this Jewish chamber of horrors? It simply is not true, and the fear referred to by the right hon. Gentleman does not exist. The only persons that the Arabs need fear—the Arabs for whom I have any thought—are the Arab terrorists encouraged by the ex-Mufti, who have been responsible for killing about 3,000 of them during the 1964 last year or two. It is ridiculous to talk about the fear of Jewish domination, with Arabs States all around Palestine where not only could they come to the aid of their fellow Arabs, but where no body of Jews would dare to dispose of the safeguards that have been provided for them. This fear argument is a mere excuse. It is another victory for Hitler and Mussolini and those who think as they think, and those who have been guiding the terrorists activities during the past three years.
We have watched the rise and fall of this Palestine problem. In 1917 Jewish hopes were raised in all parts of the world. It was thought that at long last here was the Jewish Magna Charta. By 1921 Transjordan was lopped off; in 1922 free immigration became immigration on the basis of economic absorptive capacity and very properly; in 1930 land sales were restricted; in 1937 partition was accepted by the Government; in 1938 partition was rejected by the Government; and in 1939 we see the funeral of the Mandate. That is not a very proud record either for this, or for any other Government that has gone before. I hope that the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley), when he makes his statement, will not forget the fact that, while we have dealt with the Jewish problem in a very delicate and half-hearted manner, we were not nearly so delicate or half-hearted when dealing with the Arabs. Since the War they have established independent States in Iraq, Saudi Arabia Yemen, Syria and Transjordan, an area as big as Great Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain combined. Whereas the latter countries have 300,000,000, in the Arab State they have a mere 12,000,000 or 13,000,000. To talk about these landless Arabs is not only special pleading, but has no relation to the facts at all.
The right hon. Gentleman talks glibly about this vast nationalist movement. I ask him, or the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who may be replying to-night, why he thinks in terms of an independent Arab State? Is it any form of government or type of government whose object would be to promote economic prosperity in Palestine, to improve the conditions of the workers, to establish democratic institutions, trade unions, co-operative societies and the rest? Can he visualise the possibility of 1965 that independent government rising above the Jewish tide of economic prosperity, or is there a possibility that they may descend to the economic swamps of Iraq, Transjordan and other Arab States? The right hon. Gentleman is not only responsible for the rich landlord Arab or the High Churchman Arab, but for the hundreds of thousands of Arab workers who stand to gain most if economic prosperity is developed in that country. We have had 20 years' experience of Palestine, and I agree that some modification of our original desires and intentions may be necessary. It is a crime always to promise more than one can fulfil, but, as far as this scheme is concerned, it seems to have no moral foundation and is wholly inconsistent with the Mandate, and sacrifices moderate Arab—I emphasise the word "moderate"—and Jew to administrative expediency. It is a turning back of the wheels of history, and this House ought not to commit itself to these terms until it knows more about Government intentions.
I want to commend these words to every hon. Member sitting on the benches opposite, and I am sure that they will not fall loose on hon. Members sitting on these benches. A certain speech was made which will be instantly recognised by hon. Members in this House. Part of that speech contains these sentences:The terms which I was able to secure at Munich were not those that I myself would have desired, but as I explained then I had to deal with no new problem.This was something which had existed ever since the Treaty of Versailles, a problem which ought to have been solved long ago if only the statesmen of the last 20 years had taken broader and more enlightened views of their duties.It had become a disease that has been long neglected and a surgical operation was necessary to save the life of the patient.The operation was performed, but the patient died none the less. To-day the Government are asking us to perform another surgical operation. The patient is not yet dead, but he is lingering in a painful attitude, and if the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister performs some more operations of this kind he will not only be struck off the surgical register, but he will be struck off the political register, too. In that same speech the right hon. Gentleman went on to say:Every man and woman in this country who remembers the fate of the Jews and 1966 political prisoners in Austria must be filled to-day with distrust and foreboding.And who can fail to feel his heart go out in sympathy to a proud and brave people who have so suddenly been subjected to these inflictions, whose liberties are curtailed, whose national independence has gone?I repeat that question, which was submitted by the Prime Minister in his Birmingham speech, "Who can fail to feel his heart go out in sympathy … to those who have so suddenly been subjected to these inflictions, whose liberties are curtailed to-day, whose national independence have gone?" I plead with this House not only not to accept the right hon. Gentleman's reading of Parliament's obligations, but not to accept the instruction of the Government, who, after all, appear to be the only persons ready and willing to sell their friends for known and potential enemies, who are failing to redeem honourable pledges and doing this country an ill-deed by once more forfeiting the confidence of the people in this country, in all parts of the Empire, and, in fact, in all parts of the United States, too.
§ 5.42 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossley
The force of the hon. Gentleman's final quotation was a little lost because it could equally be applied to the Arabs. They also have been denied for 10 years their legitimate aspirations, but it is at least surprising to hear the Labour party of Great Britain denying to a subject population the right to govern themselves.
§ Mr. Crossley
They have been denied their political aspirations. The hon. Gentleman asked me two or three specific questions, and I do not wish to answer them at length, but I will answer two of them. He asked me whether I could say that Arabs and Jews had not lived in certain parts of Palestine in happiness together even during the troubles. It is true that there were a few Jewish colonies which were absolutely unmolested throughout the troubles. What were they? They were the old Jewish prewar settlements, and they were not Zionist settlements at all. That is the significant fact, and the true one. He asked me why Arabs had killed Arabs, and I can only answer that by saying that 1967 whenever you get a population engaged in what is really civil strife, that sort of thing occurs. There is the analogy of Ireland. The whole of the Irish people were against us after the War. It is no use denying that. The whole of them to a man in the whole of Southern Ireland, except a very few who are known as the Irish loyalists, were against us. The extremists, undoubtedly, gained control and many Irish moderates at that time were killed. But I hope those unhappy days for Palestine are over.
I conceive it as my task to-day to deploy the Arab case in this Debate just as the hon. Gentleman has deployed the Jewish case. I do not believe that there has ever been a Debate in this House when this House would have been more justified in calling to the Bar an Arab speaker to explain the Arab point of view from the point of view of his own countrymen and his own country. I would have liked to have seen Mr. George Antonius called to the Bar. There are no Arab Members of Parliament. There are no Arab constituents to bring influence upon their Members of Parliament. There is no Arab control of newspapers in this country. It is impossible almost to get a pro-Arab letter in the "Times." There are in the City no Arab financial houses who control large amounts of finance. There is no Arab control of newspaper advertisements in this country. There are no Arab ex-Colonial Secretaries, who one by one can get up and thunder, as they will, at the Government during this Debate, because of the mistakes they themselves have made in the past. Finally, and I want the Colonial Secretary to pay particular attention to this point, to-morrow night there is to be a broadcast. There is to be himself giving the Government point of view. There is to be the hon. Member for the Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) to advance what is undoubtedly the Zionist point of view although there are many Arab supporters on his benches. There is to be the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) supporting the Zionist point of view. There will not be a supporter of the Arabs who can advance his point of view. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Colonial Secretary."] No. He has advanced and will advance what I call the compromise point of view.
1968 I congratulate the Minister on the presentation of his case to-day, but if it gives any comfort to hon. Members opposite I may say that I found myself as violently disagreeing with parts of his speech from the Arab point of view as some of them did from the Zionist point of view. There is this to be said about violence in Palestine, that in face of absolute misrepresentation, or lack of representation, the Arabs have had in this House for 20 years, it is a lamentable fact that only violence brought their claims to our attention. I have been consistently and steadily an adviser of moderate methods. The more I advised moderate methods in the past the less I got a hearing. It is a fact that in the first speech I ever made in this House I was interrupted over and over again. I could not put the Arab case across the Floor of the House at that time, when I was practically the only Arab supporter called.
I should like at the outset to try and clear away five fallacies—two about Jews, two about Arabs and one about the Britons. The first fallacy about the Jews is that they are returning to their native land which they occupied in Biblical times. Of the Jewish increase of population of 400,000, only 4,000 have gone to any part of the territory ruled over by the Kings of Judah and Israel. The rest have gone to the country of the Philistines or to the valley of Esdraelon, which was usually subject to Tyre. If my hon. Friend will read his history he will find that, with the exception of King David for 10 years and with the exception of Judas Maccabeas, no King of Judah or Israel ruled any portion of the coast.
Not only are these people not going back to the same land, but they are not the same people. There are four different kinds of Jews. There is the Bagdadi Jew. For example, the First Commissioner for Works. The Bagdadi Jews, who have lived in the utmost harmony with the Arabs, are descended from people who left Palestine in the days of the captivity. People who sat down and wept by the waters of Babylon but after a time ceased weeping and did not return. Then there are the Sephardi Jews, of whom a very good example was Disraeli, one of the finest Prime Ministers this country has ever had. They came via Spain, Portugal and Italy. None of them are Zionists. There was not a more ardent supporter of that class of Jew than the 1969 late Edwin Montagu and the present Lord Mancroft. Then there is the Ascenasi Jew, the ordinary modern European Jew who is descended from Tartar and Hittite tribes in Asia Minor and was converted to the Jewish faith in the eighth or ninth century. There is the other kind of Jew whom I need not mention. These facts ought to be made clear, because there is plenty of authority behind them; but even the late Lord Balfour did not understand them.
Let me give a few facts about the Arabs. Let me first take Scandinavia as an analogy. It is very often said of the Arabs that they have this vast Kingdom, these huge fertile areas. Why cannot they give this little corner away to the Jews. Suppose that after a war the whole of Scandinavia were liberated from a tolerant but rather corrupt rule, let us say, Russia. Suppose we liberated the Norwegians and said that they should live in Norway, that the Swedish Scandinavians should live in Sweden, that the Finnish Scandinavians should live in Finland, but as for the Denmark Scandinavians, surely they could afford their little corner. Therefore we will put Jews there in large numbers. That is an exact analogy. The hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) compared the Arabs with Australian aborigines and the hon. Member for the Don Valley made deprecatory remarks about them by referring to terrorism and mosquitoes. Certainly, he used strong language about the Arabs.
§ Mr. T. Williams rose—
§ Mr. Crossley
No. I should like to proceed with my speech. When I made an interruption during the hon. Member's speech, I was told by him to wait.
§ Mr. Crossley
I do not think that I have misrepresented him. If so, I am subject to correction. I thought he said that we had done this in Australia with the aborigines, and it did not strike me as being a fair comparison with the position of the Arabs. It is true that these Arabs in Palestine have been there for 1,400 years as a settled population of peasant farmers. If ever a people were entitled to look forward to the helpful tutelage of the British Empire it is these 1970 people. This brings me to the point about the increase in the Arab population. Has this House ever realised that we brought the war to Palestine and that 300,000 Arabs in Palestine died of starvation during the war in that country—died as the result of the war which we brought to that country. That makes it more and more an obligation on us to see to their future well-being. Since that time we have done much for them in regard to health services. Improvements in this respect are more due to our tutelage and our health services than anything which the Jews have brought to Palestine.
The last fallacy which I should like to clear away is one which is more often said in private than in public, although the right hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) has advanced it in public. It is a harsh criticism of the British civil servant in Palestine. I do not believe that a more disinterested, hard-working or honest body of men exists than the British civil servant in Palestine. It is perfectly true that they are all pro-Arab at heart. So is every soldier. They do not go there pro-Arab, but they see the things for themselves and they see that no race of men under the Colonial standard of government in the British Empire has been so harshly or so unfairly treated or has had so raw a deal as the Arabs in Palestine.
My right hon. Friend will not expect me to pass from this subject without mentioning the McMahon correspondence. These are documents of enormous significance. Indeed, the Government have departed some way from their original view of the McMahon correspondence. In the White Paper in which they reported the findings of the Committee which sat upon the question, they not only admitted that certain Arab claims had greater force than appeared hitherto but that also the language in which the alleged exclusion was expressed was not so specific and unmistakable as it was thought to be at the time. They say in the last paragraph:In the opinion of the Committee it is, however, evident from this statement that His Majesty's Government were not free to dispose of Palestine without regard for the wishes and interests of the inhabitants of Palestine.Those wishes and interests were never 1971 taken, and that in itself was an injustice. I want to state very briefly the cause of tile McMahon correspondence. The first thing that happened was that the Sharif of Mecca laid down certain conditions on which he would wage war against the Turks. He claimed that Arab kingdoms and principalities should be set up all round Arabia, bounded by the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and the borders of Persia. Sir Henry McMahon was then High Commissioner of Egypt, a friend of mine, and I regret to have to say anything against him. He sent the Sharif's demand to the Foreign Office, and having received the reply of the Foreign Office he wrote his operative letter, in which he accepted the boundaries of the Sharif of Mecca, subject to certain exclusions. Those exclusions were two:The two districts of Mersina and Alexandretta and portions of Syria lying to the West of the districts of Damascus, Hama Horns and Aleppo could not be said to be purely Arab, and should be excluded from the limits demanded.There was this possible exclusion:As for those regions lying within these frontiers wherein Great Britain is free to act without detriment to the interests of her ally, France.So far as the first exclusion goes, it is at least amazing that no point South of Damascus was mentioned, and I cannot believe that that is a basis of exclusion. As to the interests of France, the Government argument is as follows: It says that France claimed the country in 1915. England contested France's claim and in 1916 France relinquished her claim. Therefore, in 1917 because France had claimed the country in 1915, Palestine or Southern Syria was specifically excluded from the McMahon correspondence. If the House studies carefully the map they will see that no Arab could consider that to be an honest answer. There is one document which possibly throws some light on this dispute with the French. It is a quotation from Mr. Asquith's diary about the views of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. Mr. Asquith was not at the time aware of the McMahon correspondence because it had not yet been written, but I hope, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you will forgive the strength of Mr. Asquith's language.
1972I have already referred to Herbert Samuel's dithyrambic memorandum urging that in the carving' up of the Turks Asiatic Dominion we should take Palestine, into which the scattered Jews would in time swarm, back from all quarters of the globe, and in due course obtain home rule. Curiously enough the only other partisan of this proposal is Mr. Lloyd George who, I need not say, does not care a damn for the Jews or their past or their future, but thinks I will be an outrage to let the Holy Places pass into the possession or, under the protectorate of agnostic atheistic France.That is a quotation from the diary dated 13th March, 1915, and was in fact just before the McMahon correspondence. It may be said that the Government still maintain the McMahon correspondence as being irrelevant. I want to put this before hon. Members. What use did we make of it? We dropped leaflets promising independence to the Arabs as contained in the McMahon pledge. We dropped leaflets in Iraq, on the Yemen, on Saudi Arabia. Did we drop them on Palestine? Yes and surely this should be taken into consideration by His Majesty's Government as being something in the nature of a pledge. There is far more than mere historical interest in these documents. They have for us exactly the same historical interest as the Balfour Declaration has for the Jews, exactly the same, no more and no less, except that they came first. I make this challenge to the Government, that if they want to decide on the rights and wrongs of that correspondence they ought now to submit it to a purely judicial tribunal. The Arabs at any time are willing to see that correspondence submitted to a judicial tribunal. It is interesting to note that when the Lord Chancellor appeared before the committee which discussed the McMahon correspondence he did a little surprise my Arab friends when he explained at length that he was not there in his judicial capacity but as an advocate of the policy of the Cabinet.
I want to say a few words about immigration. At the end of paragraph 12 there is reference to fear on the part of the Arabs of a Zionist immigration into Palestine, and hon. Members opposite will not find many of the workers in Palestine who do not share that fear. The White Paper says:If in these circumstances immigration is continued up to the economic absorptive capacity of the country, regardless of all other considerations, a fatal enmity between 1973 the two peoples will be perpetuated, and the situation in Palestine may become a permanent source of friction amongst all peoples in the Near and Middle East.It is a pity that they have been waiting 20 years and constantly increasing the rancour in that country before they discovered this. Later on, in paragraph 13, it is said:It has been the hope of British Governments ever since the Balfour Declaration … that in time the Arab population, recognising the advantages to be derived from Jewish settlement and further development in Palestine, would become reconciled to the further growth of the Jewish National Home.What were the advantages to the Arabs? The Woodhead Report lays it down that the average holdings for an Arab family was in dunums, or 28 acres, but all the land that is available to-day for an Arab peasant is on average from 50 to 58 dunums or 12½ to 14 acres. In 1931 about a quarter of the agricultural population in Palestine, that is the Arabs, could not subsist on their holdings, now it is a half. The price of citrus has gone to nothing, trees have had to be cut down, planting is stopped, and indeed many of the old citron growers are completely ruined by the entirely non-commercial over-development of the industry. We may as well face the fact that to many of the Arabs, immigration has meant penury, a dispossession of their land, and they are not by the terms of the Jewish agency leases even allowed to be engaged as were the Hivites of old as hewers of wood and drawers of water. There is no economic case for any further immigration whatever. Then the Government in paragraph 14 say they:are conscious of the present unhappy plight of large numbers of Jews who seek a refuge from certain European countries, and they believe that Palestine can and should make a further contribution to the solution of this pressing world problem.There again they are putting forward an extraneous argument to which the Arabs have always naturally objected. They say why cannot Palestine be treated solely and simply as a problem to be judged by the criterion of its own wishes? In 1931 Sir John Hope Simpson reported that immigration should be drastically limited. In 1933 10,000 people were allowed in, in 1934 30,000, in 1935 42,000 and in 1936 62,000, and that was solely for political reasons. Nobody more bitterly hates the policy of the leaders of Germany than I do, but that was done 1974 for political reasons in Europe, and does it not justify the fears of the Arabs as to the possibility of an actual Zionist majority? It was also the same with land sales. It may interest hon. Members to know how these sales came about. It may be true that only one-ninth of Palestine belongs to the Jews but that one-ninth is by far the most fertile area of the country, as it happens to be the valleys of Sharon and Esdraelon. How was this land bought? Eighty per cent. of it was sold over the heads of the Arab tenants, who were forcibly dispossessed, and if anyone does not believe there is unemployment in Palestine let him go to the tin shanties about Haifa, where he will see 25,000 unemployed Arabs who have been dispossessed of their land. There is a proverb which says:The Fellah dies in his furrow.And too often the fellah dies in a tin shanty at the end of an alien town listening to the sound of a strange tongue and with hatred seated in his heart. That is not what British rule should bring; but it is what British rule has brought to this country. I come now to the constitutional point and I would like to draw hon. Members attention to paragraph 9 on page 6 of the White Paper. It says:The establishment of an independent State and the complete relinquishment of Mandatory control in Palestine would require such relations between the Arabs and the Jews as would make good government possible.No one in this House will quarrel with that statement if it means that if the Arabs commit murder, if their armed bands roam the country and if life and property are not safe, it is therefore right to withhold the reward of self-government. But does that phrase mean—and it is what the friends of the Arabs in this House want to know—that mere Jewish non-co-operation will deny the Arabs what have been admitted to be their legitimate aspirations? I cannot believe that most hon. Members opposite do not consider it a just aspiration for any subject race to go towards self-government. If so, by what point of logic, by what dictate of reason, by what principle of justice, can the non-co-operation of a minority refuse or cause to be refused the legitimate desires of a majority? The other constitutional point to which I want briefly to refer is on page 7 of the White Paper, sub-paragraph (6). After so long a process would it not be possible to speed up 1975 responsible government a little quicker? Many of these men who have been fighting the battle for independence for 20 years are longing to take part in the responsible government of their country. I wonder whether the right hon. Gentleman can recall the old story of Rachel at the Well. I often wonder whether Rachel was really so attractive after 14 years.
§ Mr. Crossley
I take that as being so from the Noble Lady, but all the same it would be very desirable if the process could be speeded up because it seems to us that the restoration of peace and order again may be retarded by Jewish non-co-operation and the constitutional conference is summoned only five years after the restoration of peace and order. I have reached the close of my remarks. On the whole it is undoubtedly a compromise. It is not what we want; it does not go nearly as far as we want. It still continues to treat Palestine to some extent as a legitimate oasis for people from other countries, and to that extent it disregards the wishes of the native population. But, nevertheless, this compromise does at least show some regard for truth and honesty to the Arabs. For the first time the Arab case has been recognised. It is not an absolutely honest document. There is a good deal of cant and a certain amount of desire not to blame their own past mistakes or the mistakes of previous Governments in the White Paper, but at least you can see the sepulchre showing through the whitewash for the first time. That is something.
In conclusion, I offer to the Government two truisms and one prophecy. The first of my truisms is, "Hesitate and you are lost," and the second—which is indeed more than a truism—is, "You do not ever right one wrong—the wrong that has been inflicted on the Jews in other countries—by inflicting another, the wrong inflicted on the Arabs." For that reason, I think it is best, on the whole, if the Government take the White Paper as a basis and act strongly and firmly on it. I will make this prophecy. Sooner or later, the Arabs will get their way in Palestine, if for no other reason than that they have right on their side. I know the Arabs; I have heard them abused, but they are courtly, 1976 fine, considerate gentlemen, and they are doing their best for their people. I am certain that if it is sooner, it will not be found that they either misuse their trust or prove to be other than good friends to this country. After all, they desire only to achieve what every Colonial population which has reached a certain standard of government in every part of the Empire also desires to achieve, and what no party in the House ought to deny to them—legitimate self-government in their own land.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ Mr. de Rothschild
We have listened this afternoon to three very interesting statements. We have listened to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies, who has expressed to the best of his ability what he considers to be an impartial view. We have listened to the impassioned appeal of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), who said that he regarded the impartial point of view put by the right hon. Gentleman as one that was full of holes and would not hold water. Lastly, we have listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley), who has put what he considers to be the Arab case. I want only to allude to one or two things that were said by the hon. Member for Stretford. He tried to explain that there is no reason for saying that the Jews are returning to their own land when they go to Palestine. I should like to remind the hon Member of what has been said ever since 1917 by various statesmen in this country and in other countries. In all these statements that have been made, he will find that what is pointed out is the return of the Jewish people to their homeland.
If the hon. Gentleman says that, for ethnological reasons and other reasons, the people who are returning to Palestine now are not the same Jews as used to be there 1,500 years ago, let me tell him that for the last 1,500 years these people, their parents, their grandparents, their ancestors, have prayed from day to day for the return of themselves and their children to the land which they revered. Surely, that is a sufficient claim. The hon. Member then said that the part of Palestine which has been peopled by the Jewish immigrants during the last 20 years is not that part of the country 1977 which belonged to the Jews before the days of dispersal. Why did the Jews go there? Why are they there to-day? Why have they gone to that coastal plain, where, as a matter of fact, there was a great number of Jews even in the days when they fought the Philistines? Those swamps and uninhabited parts of the country, uncultivated and undeveloped, have been turned into gardens and prosperous holdings. Surely, it is wrong of the hon. Member to say that the Jews occupied this land by stealth and that it should really belong to the Arabs—who never lived there.
But the whole spirit of the hon. Member's attitude towards Palestine can be summed up, not in the speech he made to-day, in which he billed and cooed like a dove, but in a speech that he made in March, 1936. On that occasion, he told a story of how, when he was in Palestine, he was riding a pony in that part of the country which was then owned by the Palestine Electrical Corporation, which was setting up the great works that to-day furnish the whole of Palestine with electricity. He was followed by his Arab guide, and on arriving at a gate on the road, where the electricity works were being built, he found a Jewish watch man who said that his orders were not to allow anybody to pass. What did the hon. Member do? He told us, in his speech, that he went back about 20 yards, turned his pony and charged at the unfortunate man, and that the man, in order to avoid the impact of the pony, which would no doubt have caused him great injury and possibly death, stepped aside and allowed the hon. Member to pass. To the hon. Member's great joy, as he described in his speech, his retainer also took his pony back 20 yards, and then, at full tilt, swearing and cursing, rode up to the watchman, flung him aside, and as he rode past him, spat in his face and said, "Your father was a dog." The hon. Member pointed to that story as showing the animosity that exists between the two races. But what was the hon. Member doing? He was guilty of what in this country is called ordinary trespass, for which he would have been prosecuted. [An HON. MEMBER: "And assault!"] And assault. He was shoving the man aside—
§ Mr. de Rothschild
If the hon. Member found that somebody was riding at him full tilt, like a Crusader, he also would get out of the way. That is the sort of policy which the hon. Member advocates—drive the Jew out of the road, drive him into the byeway, the alleys, for he has no right in the road. I will leave the hon. Member's speech at that. I would like to refer to a speech that was made only a few months afterwards in another place—expressing the point of view which the hon. Member for Stretford so much deprecates—by a former Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Swinton. He told how, when he was in Palestine, he went to several villages and found that there was great disunity between the Jews and Arabs, and that finally, in one of the colonies, he was greeted by Jews and Arabs together, and that together they took him in to their little hall and made him welcome. He went on to say:I shall never forget the end of the old Arab leader's speech. He said, 'We have been together here, Arab and Jew, for many years. We have stood together in good times and bad. If the stones of the wall hold together, the wall stands. But if the stones fall apart, the wall falls, and much falls with it.'That is the policy of good understanding, friendship and good fellowship between Arabs and Jews, for which I have always stood, and for which Jews stand to-day. I remember that old sheik—as fine and gallant a gentleman as the hon. Member for Stretford described the Arabs to be—with the magnificent, piercing eyes which the sons of the desert still have even when they retire to the towns. He shook hands with me, too; but we shall never shake hands again, for he was murdered in his own village by a man who was sent to do the foul deed, and who later on came to London, as a guest of the Government, to negotiate with their representatives. But I do not want to get hot under the collar. As hon. Members will realise, I feel very deeply on this matter, but it behoves me to discuss it in a cool and temperate manner, and, therefore, I will refer to what is contained in the White Paper. I will dissect it to the best of my ability.
The White Paper proposes in many words that Britain shall wash its hands of its obligations. It is stated that it will take 10 years to do this—10 years to clear out of Palestine. Who asked the Govern- 1979 ment to do this? The Mufti, and the people who have created the troubles, disorders and deaths that have taken place. There is no other consideration that demands it. Do British interests demand it? I do not think so. Justice does not demand it. Certainly, Jewry does not. Above all, the Mandate does not require it. I know that the White Paper puts forward a contrary view. It says that an independent Palestine must be set up under the general terms of the Mandate. I will go into that view, because it is the basis of the Government's proposal, and it requires careful attention. That is the premise on which the Government base the legality of their aims. Article 2 of the Mandate says:The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home, as laid down in the preamble, and the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.There is not a word about an independent State in that article. There is a reference to self-governing institutions, but that does not imply an independent state. Many self-governing institutions exist in states within the British Commonwealth, even within the Colonial Empire, and to quote an instance, the great Dependency of Ceylon has, at the present time, what is equivalent to self-government. There is not a word about an independent state in that article, and in that the Mandate differs from two other Mandates, the Mandate for Syria and the draft Mandate for Iraq. That is no accident. When the Palestine Mandate was under discussion a reference to a self-governing commonwealth was proposed, but the British Government did not accept it. Why was there this difference between the Palestine Mandate and the other Mandates? For the very simple reason that there lay upon Britain the obligation to establish a Jewish National Home. May I refer to the words of the Peel Commission, to which the right hon. Gentleman never alluded once in his speech to-day, although only a few months ago the Government tried to put forward the very policy which that Commission advocated? The Peel Commission declared unanimously: 1980The primary purpose of the Mandate as expressed in its preamble and articles is the establishment of the Jewish National Home.That view, I submit, is unchallengeable. It therefore follows that other obligations must be subordinate to the establishment of a Jewish National Home and cannot take precedence of it, and this applies to self-governing institutions and independence. It also follows that if the Mandate is to be terminated, as proposed in the White Paper, the regime which succeeds it must permanently secure the fulfilment of the Mandate's primary purpose. But if you terminate the Mandate, how can you assure the permanence of the Jewish National Home? I will suggest a way to the right hon. Gentleman, which is, I submit, both fairer and more effective than the proposal in the White Paper. Let him ask the permission of the League to make Palestine a British colony. This solution would have several very great advantages for all. There would be greater security for the Jewish National Home and a more effective safeguarding of the rights of all communities. Surely under British rule, in a British colony, the Arabs need not fear Jewish domination and I ask the Government seriously to consider that proposal.
If the White Paper proposals are indeed carried out, on what will the preservation of the Jewish National Home depend? It will depend on a treaty. Treaties for the protection of minorities are not worth the paper on which they are written and what prospect is there to-day, and what prospect will there be in 10 years' time, that the Arab State will protect and maintain the Jewish National Home? What is the attitude of the Arab leaders on whom will fall the duty of governing the new State? We have the evidence given by the Mufti before the Peel Commission. It is no doubt to that evidence that Sir Horace Rumbold and his colleagues allude in a letter to the "Times" this morning in which they use the word "sinister." The Mufti was asked:Does your Eminence think that this country can assimilate and digest the 400,000 Jews who are now in the country?The answer was "No." The next question was:Some of them would have to be removed by a process kindly or painful as the case may be?And the answer was:We must leave all this to the future.1981 It is to such men that you are preparing to commit the Jewish National Home. Do you think they will respect your treaty? If not, what are the sanctions? The troops that you are going to keep in Palestine? Will you enforce the treaty, when you decline to enforce the Mandate, or shall we see the rights of a Jewish minority flouted as they have been, in country after country, of late?
It may be said that the Mufti does not represent the Arab leaders. He may not represent the Arab people of Palestine, but he does represent those to whom Britain to-day bows the knee. Who were the Arab delegates to the Conference in London? They were all representatives of the Mufti except two delegates who were, later on, smuggled in and who were hardly allowed into the presence of those men who represented the Mufti. Who are those Arab leaders? They are men who, when they left the Conference at St. James's, went straight to Berlin. The right hon. Gentleman knows that at least two very important members of the Conference went straight to Berlin. What did they go there for? To visit the Arab bureau in Berlin and to get the orders of those people who have urged them to resist this Government. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that they just went there to get a Homburg turban? These men beyond doubt are being and have been maintained by the enemies of Britain, and does the right hon. Gentleman think that they have more respect for treaties than their paymasters?
If the mandatory regime is to be ended at this stage, while one of the two larger communities is in a substantial majority, then I say permanent British rule is the only satisfactory safeguard. The right hon. Gentleman in his speech a few months ago, before the Conference, said that if he were an Arab he would be alarmed, but if he were a Jew would he not be ten times more alarmed? British rule could ensure a regime under which neither Jew nor Arab need fear the domination of the other. If it is said, "We will not clear out but will retain a privileged position in the new State" then I ask by what right? By the right of a treaty? But an independent State may refuse a treaty, and if it does will you then refuse independence? If you do that what of the argument that the Mandate, according to the White Paper, 1982 enjoins independence? Will we then, on the one hand reject this interpretation of the Mandate for the sake of British interests, while on the other hand, we are basing our actions on it to-day? The right hon. Gentleman and the Government are using it to justify their breach of the essential purpose of the Mandate itself.
Let us examine briefly the proposals for immigration. What is to be the eventual position, if the Government's policy is realised? The Jewish population is to be at most one-third and it will probably be less. How is it to be brought to that proportion? By the immigration of 50,000 people, not more and probably less, in the next five years, and the Government make that conditional on the economic absorptive capacity of the country. Concurrently with this, the Government will take steps to limit economic absorptive capacity by restricting its main determinant, the acquisition of land by Jews. In those circumstances it will be fortunate indeed if the full quota of 50,000 is admitted. Besides this 50,000, there are 25,000 who may or may not be allowed into Palestine as refugees. These, according to the White Paper, are to be mainly children and persons advanced in years. Both those classes, I submit, should be altogether outside the quota. In 10 years' time these children will hardly have reached the age of manhood, while aged people who go to Palestine to die ought not to be added, in the right hon. Gentleman's calculations, to the Jewish population. They make no real addition to the Jewish population and there is no immediate addition in the case of the children.
Even if the full 75,000 are admitted, even if the proportion of one-third is reached in five years, the Jewish proportion is virtually bound to decline mainly because of the higher Arab birth rate and the absence of restrictions on the influx of Arabs from outside into Palestine, to which I would call the right hon. Gentleman's special attention. Not one word is there in the White Paper about the immigration of Arabs, yet we know that it has been going on for years and is going on to-day. It is in such conditions that the Mandate is to be given up. It is in such conditions that the Jewish National Home is to be definitely abandoned, and the Jewish minority of at most one-third left to its fate.
1983 I would point out that the people whom it is thus proposed to abandon are people of education and culture comparable to the British people. The right hon. Gentleman asked if there were, among the British population, a population of 1,000,000, what would we say if they put forward a claim of this kind? Is not the converse true? Are not these 400,000 people equal in education and culture to any people in the world? Were they not settled there with the encouragement of the British Government relying on the promises given to them over and over again? Is it conceivable that they would be treated as it is proposed to treat them now if they were British citizens, or Americans for the matter of that? The White Paper is condemned in advance by many passages of the Royal Commission's Report. They record their opinion over and over again that the Mandate can never be terminated without violating its obligations, general or specific. At any given time, they point out, there must be either an Arab or a Jewish majority in Palestine and the government of an independent Palestine, freed from the Mandate, would have to be either an Arab or a Jewish Government, and they state emphatically, that in the event of the majority being an Arab majority:the obligation in Article 2 of placing the country under such administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home would not have been discharged.Of course, for that reason the Peel Commission rejected the idea of one State, and the Government, of which the right hon. Gentleman was a Member, accepted that view and put forward the partition proposals. Now it is proposed to reverse that policy and to set up an Arab State, because an Arab State it will be. Yet the Peel Commission stated:The answer to the question, which of them in the end will govern Palestine must surely be 'neither.' We do not think that any fair-minded statesmen would suppose … that Britain ought to hand over to Arab rule 400,000 Jews whose entry into Palestine has bean for the most part facilitated by the British Government and approved by the League of Nations.Similarly the Woodhead Commission supports the contention of the Peel report. What are the considerations which are driving the Government to such a policy? It is not the Arab plea that the McMahon 1984 letter promised the Arabs independence West of the Jordan. That plea was rejected by the Government, yet their policy is framed as if the plea were good. The Government, it is clear, are breaking their promise to world Jewry that Jewish immigration is to be of right and not on sufferance. When the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) put this in his White Paper, the promise was not only to the Jews at that time in Palestine, it was to the Jews all the world over. That promise has been whittled down in the past, it will be whittled down further in the next five years, and finally it will be set aside. Is that justice? Or is it done to appease the Mufti? Or is it done to buy the favour of the Arab world, I regret to say, at the cost of the Jews and of British honour. If Jewry must be sacrificed at the behest of the Arab world, we may well ask, Where does justice lie?
For the majority of Jews who go to Palestine it is a question of migration or of physical extinction; for the Arabs, it is a question of addition to their present vast territories. I disagree with the hon. Gentleman who spoke before me when he said that the question of Palestine should not be mixed up wth the general development of the Arab countries. I submit that for the Arabs it is merely a question of addition to their vast territories, territories as large as Russia, as large as the rest of Europe without Russia. In these territories they enjoy independence as a result of the British victory in the War. They have been able to build up four magnificent kingdoms. Of these vast lands, Palestine is only 1 per cent. and yet it is asserted that it was necessary in order to settle the fate of this 1 per cent. to bring here and consult the rulers of these vast lands, who really can have but very little interest in a country of that kind. The report to the League Council in 1937 bears me out. The Mandates Commission, in its report, was well aware of this disparity and said:It should be remembered that the collective sufferings of Arabs and Jews are not comparable, since vast spaces in the Near East formerly the abode of a numerous population and brilliant civilisation are open to the former, whereas the world is increasingly being closed to settlement by the latter.The Mandates Commission did not bear 1985 out the contention of the hon. Member for Stretford. The benefits which the Arabs have derived from Jewish settlement have been remarked on by Commission after Commission, but the Woodhead Commission proved that further Jewish immigration is necessary if it is wished to improve the Arab standards of life. In fact, the White Paper itself gives its reasons for continued immigration. Then why restrict it to a small number, and why eventually close it down? The Government might indeed have been less blatant in revealing the purpose of this limited immigration—to provide a few thousand more taxpayers for the Arab State, for a State where the Arabs shall rule and the Jews pay taxes.
The House, of course, knows the sufferings of the Jews in many parts of the world in the last few years. I will not describe the plight of refugees; I will not use them as an argument. But this I want to say, that no country in the world has shown more sympathy and more understanding than Britain, and in no country have individuals of all kinds and all walks of life been more ready to give their personal help and to give subscriptions. I am certain—I know—that the Jewish people throughout the world, the refugees and their friends, are fully appreciative and grateful, but I feel certain that the injustice of the White Paper is not realised by the generous public outside, a public which has followed with interest during the last 20 years what has been going on in Palestine in regard to the development of the National Home. I firmly believe that if the great public outside, generous and noble-minded as they are, did realise what the Government have put before them, they would view it with intense disapproval.
The right hon. Gentleman has blamed the vagueness and the ambiguity of the Mandate for some of the difficulties of the Palestine problem, but the right hon. Gentleman is no doubt thankful that the English language contains such potentialities for vagueness and ambiguity, so that the injustice which is to be committed in the name of the British people can be dressed up as an act of justice. But one Member, at least, of His Majesty's Government is reported to have recently made a very unambiguous statement, when he said that "ethical principles must give way to administrative 1986 necessity." [HON. MEMBERS: "Name."] The right hon. Gentleman will know which one of his colleagues it is that said that. [HON. MEMBERS: "Who?"] It was the Foreign Secretary, and it was reported in several papers.
§ Mr. M. MacDonald
As the hon. Member has quoted the name of a Minister, I should like to say that the statement is quite inaccurate.
§ Mr. de Rothschild
If that is the case, I am delighted to have drawn the right hon. Gentleman, and I am very much relieved to know that the statement is inaccurate and that the Noble Lord did not make it, but I hope that the statement as I am making it now is not true, and that the Government are not considering that these ethical principles must give way to administrative necessity, because indeed this could justify many things, even, let me say to the right hon. Gentleman, illegal immigration. Surely it would have been kinder to the Jews if he had said frankly that this was the reason for his proposals.
The White Paper is going to be submitted to the League. It should not go with the approval of the British House of Commons. It is not consonant with Britain's undertakings. When we are guaranteeing the integrity of other countries in Europe, when we are trying to build up a peace front on a basis of new promises and binding pledges, we should not treat older obligations so lightly. First, let the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations adjudicate, and then let this House of Commons decide on the policy to be pursued. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister since 1918 has often expressed sympathy with the Jewish aspiration to establish a National Home in Palestine, and as lately as 1935, at the time of the election, he sent a warm message to the Zionist organisation assuring them of his support for the National Home. In 1920 he signed a memorial endorsing the Balfour Declaration and calling on the Government to accept the Mandate, and other signatories of this document included five members of the present Government. Let me quote this memorial:We now respectfully and solemnly urge upon His Majesty's Government the necessity of redeeming this pledge by the acceptance of a Mandate for the administration of Palestine with a view to its being reconstituted the National Home of the Jews.1987 I wish the hon. Member for Stretford were here now, because "reconstituted" is the word used by these memorialists, among them the Prime Minister. One reason indeed for the Prime Minister's warm support was the interest which his father had taken in the question of a territory for the Jewish people. Speaking in 1918, the Prime Minister recalled his father's anxiety in 1903 that a national territory should be constituted for the Jewish people, and suggested that this national territory should be constituted within the British Empire. In that same speech he gave evidence that he shared that hope, and he said:If the new Jewish State which is to be established in Palestine is to be merely another isolated separate nation, then I think it is evident it is conceivable it must be the prey of political intrigues as have other small nations in the past. But if, as I rather hope, while preserving its own nationhood intact this new State should be associated with some great progressive people, such as those of the American Commonwealth or the British Empire, then in such a case these fears would be groundless.To-day Britain still holds the Mandate and, therefore, still has the opportunity to create the Jewish National Home in association with the British Empire, with all the advantages to the Jewish people that such a consummation would entail, and with all the advantages that we should find in a community in the Near East friendly to Britain, with the same culture and ideals as inspire the British Empire, and ready and anxious to stand by Britain in time of peril. I beg the Colonial Secretary, I beg the party opposite, to think twice and thrice before they abandon this opportunity, before they cast away for ever the instrument by which they can yet, if they will, bring to reality that hope of the Prime Minister and of his father.
§ 6.59 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Wickham
I am sure the whole House has been impressed by the passionate sincerity that informed the speech of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild). So far as I am concerned, his case was weakened rather than enhanced by his references to the Arab leaders who recently came to London. I would ask the hon. Gentleman to cast his mind back to the days when the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) was his 1988 leader and Prime Minister, and when he summoned the Irish leaders to London. Did the hon. Gentleman then feel the same towards those Irish leaders? They had blood on their hands, and they were fighters, but they were patriots fighting for an ideal. I trust that the Government will persevere in resisting the proposal that they should place the responsibility of taking a decision on the policy outlined in the White Paper on the Permanent Mandates Commission, for, in my submission, it is the plain duty of His Majesty's Government in the first instance to shoulder that responsibility themselves. I feel that we have in this proposal a step forward from the stagnation in which we find ourselves at the moment, a constructive attempt to solve this baffling problem, which has defied solution for so many years, after exploring avenues and turning over stones only to encounter dead ends and black beetles, after examining the possibilities of partition and endeavouring to bring the parties together in voluntary agreement, the Government have announced a policy which, I think, offers a reasonable prospect of a balanced settlement between these conflicting interests, provided they give proof that they mean business and that they are not to be deflected from their purpose by intrigues or outbreaks on the part of those interested in Palestine, or by any other measures taken in the world outside.
There are two fundamental causes behind the successive disturbances, outbreaks and rebellions on the part of the Palestine Arabs, causes which must be remedied if Palestine is ever to enjoy peace. Firstly, there is this fear, this Arab despair of ever attaining the independence which they were led to anticipate under the Mandate granted 16 years ago. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely maintains that in this Mandate there is no provision stating that Palestine should be given independence. I think that is a fundamental point, and I hope the Government spokesman will aid us in clearing it up. To my mind that is the very spirit of Article 22 of the Covenant that an A-class Mandate should lead the country concerned to independence. In the second place, there has been this well-grounded fear of Jewish immigration indefinitely prolonged and measured by that imponderable criterion, economic absorptive capacity, which the Arabs have learned to regard with the 1989 most profound suspicion. This will inevitably result in Jewish preponderance and domination.
I have spent eight out of the past 28 years in independent Moslem countries. No one can pretend that over that extended period the regimes of those countries were perfect. In fact, the very contrary is the case, but I have travelled for thousands of miles on horse-back, mule-back and camel-back. I have hobnobbed with all sorts and conditions of people, I have slept in the mud huts of the peasants and the black tents of the nomads where I encountered far more formidable things than mosquitoes. In every stratum of society I found a very definite preference to be badly governed by their own folk to the prospect of being well governed by anyone else. I must challenge the contention of the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), that is is only the squires and landowners who feel as they do about the influx of the Jews. That feeling goes down through every stratum of the people. The love of independence is characteristic of Persians, Afghans and Arabs alike. It is as deeply rooted in their hearts as in our own.
When they look around them to-day, the Arabs of Palestine see the rest of the Arab world rejoicing in their independence. That does not reconcile them to their fate. It makes them all the more eager to obtain their independence, and all the more bitter at being in tutelage. If Tony, Jimmy and Nancy get a stick of toffee, does little Tommy feel that there is no need for him to have any? Their neighbours in Syria are well on their way to this cherished goal while the remnants of the old Turkish Empire, Saudi Arabia, the Yemen, even Transjordan, are independent sovereign States. To the Palestine Arab Transjordan is a primitive, backward tract. It is to them as if the inhabitants of some great industrial area in Scotland, with its civil institutions and its highly developed social structure, were told that it must remain indefinitely under foreign tutelage by reason of the presence in its midst of an Irish minority to which the paramount Power was under a special obligation, while in the neighbouring countryside the shepherds, the crofters and the farmers were masters in their own house. The Arabs have been in continuous occupation of the country for 1990 1,400 years. Their forbears were tilling the soil when condition here was almost as primitive as theirs. They were in Palestine hundreds of years before it occurred to any inhabitant of these islands to take a bath. I feel that their tragic condition as the only Arab community left which has been denied its independence should excite the sympathy and compassion of all who love their freedom and are prepared to fight for it.
I note with satisfaction that the Secretary of State has had the courage and the wisdom, born perhaps of bitter experience, to revise the policy laid down by his father, the late Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, whereby economic absorptive capacity was to be the sole criterion for the control of immigration. One has only to glance at the immigration figures to see how that control operated. In 1933 they suddenly sprang from 9,500 to over 30,000. In some mysterious manner the economic absorptive capacity of Palestine multiplied more than three-fold in the space of 12 months. In 1934 and 1935 the figures leapt from 40,000 to over 60,000. Then the fact emerged that the more immigrants came into the country, the more work they created for local industry which had to meet their needs, and thus made even more room for immigrants under the labour schedule. So we arrive at the reductio ad absurdum that, the more came in, the more room there was for others. [Interruption.] If the hon. and learned Gentleman pursues that argument to its logical conclusion, he will in due course arrive at thereductio ad absurdum to which I have referred.
The figure of 75,000 to be admitted in the next five years, of whom 25,000 are a contribution to the refugee problem, may appear to be small, but Palestine is a small country. It is no bigger than Wales. It is far less fertile and infinitely less productive of wealth. In order to get an idea of what that figure means in relation to this country it is necessary to multiply it by 40. If we were called upon to accept 3,000,000 alien refugees within the next five years and keep them in work, I wonder what the trade union leaders would have to say about it. I do not maintain that that is a fair comparison, but I think it helps one to realise that to the Arab this figure of 75,000 is a formidable figure. One can only hope that the other interested party will realise 1991 that it is a serious contribution to the needs of the National Home. If it is clear that the Palestinian Arabs are bent on attaining their independence and are absolutely determined at all costs to resist domination by the Jews, it is also clear that the prospect of Arab domination is equally repugnant to the Jews. That is a position that must be faced, and the questions arising therefrom have to be answered.
What are the alternative courses open to the Government? A solution by partition has been found to be unworkable. It can be put on one side. If we had from the outset taken over Palestine as a British colony it is possible that, with our genius for compromise, we might have succeeded in reconciling the conflicting interests of our Jewish and Arab subjects, but I am afraid it is much too late even to contemplate such a possibility now. The policy which has caused so much bitterness and strife, the policy of continued immigration, practically uncontrolled, which would in due course give the Jews a majority in the country, apart from the fact that it has been definitely rejected by the Government, is unthinkable. It would be contrary to justice and commonsense, and it would arouse the intense hostility of the entire Moslem world, and we should remember that 100,000,000 Moslems are subjects of the British Crown.
The vast majority of the Jews in Palestine entered the country after we had accepted the Mandate. I maintain the opposite view to that of the hon. Member who spoke last. I say that the purpose of an A Class Mandate is to lead the country concerned to independence in the near future. Had those Jews who have come into Palestine since the Mandate was granted any right to assume that we should prolong the period of tutelage indefinitely? Had they any right to assume that, while accepting the Mandate, we were not prepared to carry it out in the spirit of Article 22 of the Agreement? I do not think we can accept any such assumption. The policy of delay, of political stagnation and of military repression, has borne bitter fruit indeed, and it is essential that something more constructive should take its place.
There seems to be but one course left, and that is to endeavour to create a con- 1992 dition in which, in course of time, both Arabs and Jews will be ready to forget their racial differences, as we in these islands, for political purposes, have learned to forget ours. That may sound a tall order, but I believe it can be achieved if only both parties can, somehow or other, be induced to put their trust in the Government. The Arabs have to be convinced that the Government will not let them down and that we are sincere in our intention to lead Palestine to a state of independence. That should be made abundantly clear. The Jews must be satisfied that the pledges contained in paragraph 10 of the White Paper will be amply fulfilled, that in the constitution of the future they will be adequately protected, and that the special position of Palestine as the Jewish National Home will be guaranteed. This is a question for the future. It may be possible to develop a system of federation, for, after all, the frontiers of Palestine were drawn only 20 years ago.
In the meantime, let us proceed with the task of trying to train Palestinians in the administration of their own country so that they may be able to take over the reins of government when the time comes. In the field of international affairs, about the only people among our numerous friends who do not put their trust in the National Government are His Majesty's Opposition. I think that the reason for this remarkable confidence is clear. It is because the Government have given proof of their determination and of their strength and because the foreign policy of the Government has received the assent of an overwhelming majority in Parliament. If this thorny problem is ever to be solved, if this horrible tale of bloodshed, anarchy is ever to come to an end, the Government must prove its strength and its determination to grapple with this problem firmly and without hesitation. I trust that when we go into the Lobby we shall strengthen the hands of the Government by approving the proposals contained in the White Paper by a large majority.
§ 7.17 p.m.
§ Colonel Wedgwood
We have had the views of the Arabs stated as well, possibly, as they could be by the hon. and gallant Member for Taunton (Lieut.-Colonel Wickham) and the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley). We have had the views of the Jews stated admirably and 1993 cogently by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild). We have had the views of the Labour party stated equally eloquently. We have had the Government's views as to how to obscure the issue and to avoid any definition admirably stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State. May I be permitted to put forward the point of view of Great Britain? May I say how pleased I am, for the honour of my country, that the right hon. Gentleman did not say anything about Guiana? I had a feeling that he was keeping Guiana as a sort of bonne bouche. I regard Guiana as the British concentration camp for Jews, and I am confident that it will not be a great success, even if it is run cheaply at the expense of the Jews themselves. I am also glad that we have had efforts made by the right hon. Gentleman to prove that we have not broken our word to the Jews. The most important thing in our public life, in a world where pledges are being broken with enthusiam right and left, is that we in this country should make the attempt to keep our word to those people who cannot enforce it but who are dependent on the pledges we have given.
We must realise in this House that the White Paper proposal which we have had put before us to-day is a belated example of the policy of appeasement. The country and the Government have dropped the policy of appeasement as regards the Axis, appreciating at last that continual retreat merely invites further kicks. But here we have brought forward still another example of the policy of appeasing those people who have been sufficiently violent to make things uncomfortable. This is just another surrender to force. Therefore, it is extremely bad for our general reputation throughout the world. The right hon. Gentleman will have noticed that directly we put our foot down in foreign affairs and said, "Thus far and no farther," the danger of war has vanished and our position and the position of all peace-loving nations has become infinitely stronger. The right hon. Gentleman and the House must recognise, too, that this surrender will not be the last surrender. It is merely the latest of a long series of surrenders to violence which can be indefinitely continued. The Arabs are not satisfied even with this, and I warn the House and I warn the Jews of the world that the next step will be a demand 1994 for the disarmament of the Jews in Palestine so that they may be handed over, bound hand and foot, to this new Arab State.
We have to consider before we permit this crime—for it will be recognised as a crime—the effect it will have on our relations with other Powers. We must realise the effect this policy has had upon America. We have certainly destroyed any faith which the Jews in Palestine or elsewhere may have had in the Government, but the effect on America is far more serious. Many hon. Members will have had cables from the United States. I have had over a dozen, four of them from Texas—from Galveston, Houston, San Antonio and Dallas. It will be remembered that 100 years ago the Americans in Texas were faced with almost the same position as that with which the Jews are faced in Palestine today. They were then under Mexican rule. The Mexican Government stopped immigration and attempted to disarm the Americans. The Americans were not "taking any" and in three years Texas, the lone star state, was one of the States of America, free for all time. That is an illustration, because it is as well that we should realise the past history of America as well as our own history.
This Debate is the culmination, I am afraid the final one, of a struggle which has been going on for 20 years between this House and officialdom, as represented principally by the administration in Palestine and by the permanent officials in the Colonial Office. The last two Secretary's of State for the Colonies have gone to that office fervent supporters of Zionism and of justice in Palestine. The administration has been too strong even for them. It smashed both of them. They both brought forward proposals something like this, which meant retreat in obedience to official views. I have taken part in every Debate on this subject during the last 20 years, and I am certain that the reason for this struggle is that in this House there has always been a majority in favour of a scheme which has produced wonderful results without injuring anybody. In our history we have colonised all over the world, but this is the first case in which we have colonised without injuring the native population. In America, Australia, Africa, particularly South Africa, and even in Ireland our colonisation has been at the expense of 1995 the people who occupied the country that we were colonising. The record of that colonisation is a black one. It has been black right down to the present time.
We see in the Jewish colonisation of Palestine something quite different, something of which everyone in the House can approve. It is the first case in which the native population have not been exploited or exterminated, have not had their land stolen from them, and have been able to benefit by the civilisation which the settlers brought. One has only to go today to the neighbouring countries of Syria, or Egypt to see the condition of the fellahin, of the Arab workers of those two countries, and compare it with their position in Palestine, to see how enormously the natives of Palestine have benefited by the immigration of the Jews. It has been that superb example, something which none of us ever hoped to see, which has all along made this House take what I might call the Liberal view that it was right to banish prejudice and to encourage the settlement of Jews in Palestine and to take a certain reflective pride in the success of their colonisation. All along in every Debate the permanent officials, those in Palestine in particular, have complained that the House did not see the Arab point of view, and that this House, persuaded by the Jews, controlled by Jewish influence, was continually taking a view hostile to the Arabs and causing trouble. It was nothing of the sort. Throughout we have been taking the side of civilisation and of the improvement of the native inhabitants of Palestine. Every time the officials have said that Debate in the House of Commons has been responsible for insurrection and for all the trouble; our refusal to allow the setting up of a representative responsible government under the Mufti has caused the trouble.
Everything has been put down to this House trying to check, and check successfully, in spite of the Government on various occasions, the illiberal point of view, in the interests of the population of Palestine, neglecting the interest of the landowners, the capitalists, the exploiters and, above all, that Arab intelligentsia, which sees in this agitation the chance of getting good Government jobs. The hon. Member for Stretford, who spoke for the Arabs, has rightly said that the officials in Palestine are to a man 1996 pro-Arab. I am glad to have that from the friend of the Arabs, because it is a statement which I have often made, but perhaps without having the same kind of authority for making it. I am perfectly certain it is true; and not only the officials but, I am afraid, the bulk of the officers in the Army are pro-Arab. I do not think I need argue it. Why are they pro-Arab and anti-Semite? Unless we can realise what is wrong with the administration there, or why they think like the hon. Member for Stretford, we shall not be able to improve matters.
I should say that those officials have never liked, and have never been willing, to carry out the Balfour Declaration. They are pro-Arab for reasons which really do appeal to many of us. In the first place the whole official class in this country, and, indeed, throughout the world, has a certain latent sympathy with Nazi Germany. The authoritarian idea appeals particularly to officials. The totalitarian state also appeals instinctively to officials. Therefore, we have in the Civil Service, in the Army, in the Navy, and in the Air Force, among a good many of the people on top—I am not talking of the rank and file, but of the officers—a great deal of sympathy with the authoritarian view which is predominant in Germany and in Italy. We have changed all that here, but we have changed it very recently. It is the experience of the last six months which has changed the sympathy with Nazi Germany which prevailed among the governing class in this country.
Of course, changes like that take place more slowly in the outlying parts of the Empire, and one can quite well expect that point of view to drag on in Palestine. It is illustrated in the Palestine administration in various ways. For instance, "Mein Kampf" was allowed to be sold freely in Palestine, whereas a reply to it was not allowed to be published or issued in that country. Representation on the Legislative Council was desired for the German colony in Jerusalem—by nomination. Propaganda which has gone on from Germany, and which is recognised now, has been repeatedly denied from the officials as not existing. In all these ways we have seen the German attitude of mind; and, of course, with that there is the German attitude towards the Jews. There are a great 1997 many uneducated people in this country who do not like Jews—and sometimes they are rather nasty. That attitude towards the Jews on the part of the officials has made it extremely difficult to hold the balance fairly between Jew and Arab. In addition to that—and let us realise it—the Arabs seem so helpless, so dependent upon the officials. To the officials, they are rather like their children. They look after the Arab interests more than they look after the Jewish interests. They realise that the Jews of the world can look after the Jews, and therefore they concentrate on looking after the Arabs.
That is a reason for this anti-Semitism among not only the official class in Palestine but in the Colonial Office. But the real reason for it is the attitude, which we all share, of liking people who stand up and fight for their rights. We like people who will fight, even though we think they are entirely wrong. I am bound to say that I have a certain respect for the I.R.A. when they jump up and say in court, "We refuse to plead," or "God save Ireland," or "Up the Republic." You never get that from the Jew. The Arabs stand up and fight, and massacre. Make no mistake, they have killed as many of their own people as they have Jews, and they are murderers. On the other hand, the Jews are always complaining and begging for justice. That, of course, is the result of 1,800 years of servitude. For 1,800 years they have been dependent on the good graces of governments and never on their own right arm, and therefore they have this attitude which instinctively antagonises every Englishman in Palestine and a great many in this country. The attitude of supplication, of living on your knees, has a very bad effect upon the respect of all nations for the Jews. Exactly the same thing applies to India. We have the officials sympathising with the Mohammedans and feeling exactly the same about the Hindus as they do about the Jews in Palestine. That attitude is the instinctive reaction of the fighting man to those who can make trouble as against the attitude of the suppliant.
Now that this last scheme has been brought forward I hope and believe that we have seen a change. Dr. Weizmann, during the Conference discussions, would 1998 never go quite as far as I should have liked. He did say, "We will not accept this solution"; he did say, "We will resist," but he did not say how the Jews were going to resist, and that is the key. If they will resist now—and with their backs to the wall they must resist unless they are to lie down for ever—they will realise that the sympathy and the respect of the entire Anglo-Saxon world goes out to those who stand up for justice, stand up for equal treatment, and who will not continue indefinitely petitioning for justice and whining for mercy. Humanity! What has that got to do with the present world?
So to-day we seal the defeat of Parliament, as well as the eclipse of honour, friendship, humanity and common sense. So far as we are concerned this is the end—unless by some miracle some Members on the other side dare to vote against the Whips. But it is not the end so far as the Jewish people are concerned. They can yet secure liberty and gain the respect of all men. I do not think people realise how much of what we enjoy to-day is owing to the self-sacrifice of our forerunners. We are speaking here freely in Parliament because people have broken laws, because men have dared even to go to the stake rather than obey the law. Because Prynne's ears were gouged out in Parliament Square, because Hampden died in the field and Sydney on the scaffold, because the seven bishops were thrown into the Tower rather than obey the law, because of the martyrs memorial on Carlton Hill, we have achieved a measure of freedom in this country. Because the American Colonies dared to break with England, dared to fight, America, that great Republic on which we rely so much to-day, came into being. Everything the Anglo-Saxon race has achieved has been achieved by breaking laws, laws which have had the sanction of man but against which we have put the sanction of our own conscience. When you place people in the position of having to choose whether to obey man or to obey God, then you will find a determination to obey God first, and man second—and to face prison if need be. That has always been the only thing that has moved us forward in the past.
How can we instil that lesson, which no other nation in the world has ever learned or known, into the Jews? We know that 1999 they have said they will not go into the new Government in Palestine. Officially they are going to boycott it. Officially they are going, apparently, to refuse to pay taxes. Unofficially I hear all sorts of excellent ideas about blowing up the pipeline, blowing up bridges, bombing, and doing all that the I.R.A. are doing. But that is not good enough. Your self-sacrifice must be for something that you believe in more than that, and there are three things which the right hon. Gentleman will have to realise. In the first place, the Jew has a human right of access to his home. Whatever the law may be about keeping out immigrants, every Jew will feel justified in doing everything he can to break that law. And, of course, it is easy to break. As long as there is unity nothing can withstand them. An immigrant ship can land immigrants at Tel Aviv as long as there are 150,000 Jews in Tel Aviv who want it.
We must realise that laws made to prevent people from doing something which they have a God-given right to do, to live somewhere, particularly in their home, cannot be insisted upon. The law which has been passed is not only to punish people who land illegally but to punish those who harbour them. An exactly similar law was proposed in the French Convention in 1790. It was a law to make it a capital crime to emigrate and punishing all those who harboured the emigrants. Mirabeau, then nearly at the end of his life, rose in the Convention and said, "You may pass this law, but I swear that I will never obey it." And the French Convention, being a very emotional assembly—quite unlike this House—were so moved by Mirabeau's speech that they rejected the law. Now here, in the twentieth century, we are inflicting precisely the same penalties upon people who have nowhere else to go, who have had the promise of Palestine not as their home but as "a" home, and we are asking 450,000 intelligent liberal minded Jews to co-operate with Government in enforcing that unjust law. The Government will never get it; I hope they will not get it. I shall certainly do my best to prevent it, and I hope everybody else here will do so.
But there is another thing. In his speech the right hon. Gentleman emphasised the fact that we must treat 2000 the two classes of people in Palestine with the strictest equality, that there must be exactly the same laws for both. I heartily agree, and I am very glad to hear it, because that is a policy very different from that which has been pursued by the right hon. Gentleman in Kenya. But enough of that. It is an excellent thing to try to have one law for everybody. We have had it in this country for so long that we do not realise what it would be like without it.
The second law which to my mind is contrary to the law of nature and humanity and to the law of God is that you say that the Jews who go to Palestine shall not be allowed to use land whereon to live. All production and all life begin with access to land. If you make a law to say that Arabs may have land but that the Jews may not have land, that is the most invidious form of discrimination that can possibly be drawn. If the Jews of Palestine say, as I hope they will, that the law is inhuman and that they consider it their duty to break the law, I hope they will all unite to do so. The other day they started a colony somewhere out north of Huleh and Dr. Weizmann wrote to the Commander-in-Chief saying that they intended to plant their colonies on that land. If there was any opposition to it Dr. Weizmann intended to lead the march himself. Of course there was no opposition and they did start their colony there. They planted something else, because as a matter of fact one of the features of the plantation of this Jewish colony was that the Arabs of the neighbouring villages entertained them when they got there, so fictitious is the agitation. In future, when they buy land and the transfer is not authorised by the State, I hope the Jews will do exactly as they have done in respect of this colony.
And when they are there, let them stop by their land as the crofters did in Scotland and as the Irish did by the land from which they were legally evicted—stand fast; practise even an illegality. Very often the Jews feel that they must be respectable at all costs and the idea of doing anything illegal sounds to them disreputable. They have to get over that feeling and to realise that the really great thing is to make the sacrifice of their respectability and even of their lives in order to secure justice. Let them not think of unity as meaning, as it often has 2001 in the past, assassination of those who do not agree with them. That has been practised too often, but it need not be continued. Social ostracism is enough. As long as enough refuse to speak or to buy from these people who betray the cause they are finished. I beg the right hon. Gentleman to realise that we are putting the Jews in the position of having to look after themselves—that he is casting off all responsibility for them. If they are to survive, they can survive only by solidarity and sacrifice. They must all stick together even where they disapprove of each other. I am confident that in that way, they will also gain the respect of the officials in Palestine.
I will take a further illustration. The other day, after the rioting in Jerusalem, the General sent for all the leaders of the Jews and he told them quite frankly and properly: "Please remember that the killing of an English constable is murder." For 200 years after the Norman conquest we remained in this country a subject people. There was a considerable number of assassinations of Normans. For 200 years we had a law here which said that if a Norman were assassinated it was a crime of murder, and fines were levied on the hundred. One can see now, as I have seen it over and over again in the old records, the words in Latin: "Englisheria non fuat presentata; ideomurdrum" which being translated means: "As it was not proved that he was only an Englishman, the crime was murder." Then came Parliament and Simon de Montfort and ended all that. I think we might remember the days when we were a subject race and when it was no crime to kill an Englishman but only a crime to kill a Norman. So let General Haining remember, and let the Jews remember, that it is just as much murder to kill a Jew or an Arab and that you cannot have one law for one race and another law for another. But I introduced the story to ask why the leading Jews obeyed Haining's summons? It would have been more respectable to have stayed away. This House has never been able to enforce the pacification of Palestine; and resistance must now be carried on respecting themselves; so will they achieve the respect of others.
I would point out a third unjust law. The Government of Jerusalem is manifestly unjust at the present time because 2002 there is a Jewish majority in Jerusalem and the Government insists upon the mayoralty and administration being in the hands of the Arabs. That is something which nobody can justify. There, too, the Jews will have the right and the duty to break down that form of Government. They have already refused to take any part in it. Much the best way to smash that local administration is to refuse taxes and to see that taxes are not paid. In that way you can break down any Government. Let us realise too that in this House we are yielding to force, and so compelling resistance; that the only way which the Jews in Palestine and in the world have of securing justice is by using those forces which we have blamed in other people although we have always exercised them ourselves.
We are now saying "good-bye" to control by this House and to constitutional methods. We are saying good-bye also to our dreams of seeing Palestine a happy colony within the British Empire. It is now joining Iraq. The intelligent civilised and educated people of that country must look after themselves. The constitution is at an end. I inform the right hon. Gentleman that in spite of his policy, men are preparing to sacrifice their lives as our ancestors did, and in the long run to win that same freedom that we ourselves achieved.
§ 7.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Amery
The hon. and gallant Gentleman can hardly expect me to endorse the advice which he has given to the Jews of Palestine. All the same, he has thrown light upon an aspect of the question which we cannot altogether ignore. I would rather turn from his speech to that of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I listened to it with very mixed feelings, and the first question I asked myself was: If all the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman used to-day for putting an end to the development of the policy of the Balfour Declaration and of the Mandate are sound and good, why were they not sound and good three years ago, or indeed many years ago? Another question was, Why did not the Secretary of State tell us something, at any rate, of the reasons that have been responsible for all the changes in the policy of the British Government during the last three years? Why were we not given some of the reasons why the 2003 Government rejected the recommendations of the Royal Commission or how far they considered that the Woodhead Commission had really disposed of them?
My right hon. Friend began with an account of the origins of our policy in Palestine. I confess that that account did not tally altogether with my own recollections. I had the privilege of being, as a Secretary to the War Cabinet, very closely associated with the discussions, the long discussions, which preceded the Balfour Declaration. My right hon. Friend referred to that policy as having been born in the tumult of war, and he suggested that there was some lack of full consideration about it. He hinted to-day, indeed he told us more definitely last November, that the authors of the Balfour Declaration were not aware of the existence of a population of 600,000 Arabs in Palestine. Believe me, that is entirely remote from the situation as I remember it. That memorable document was not issued in haste or lightheartedly. It was not a sudden happy thought, a piece of war propaganda, meant to win the support of American or Russian Jewry; still less was it issued in ignorance of the facts of the case in Palestine.
On the contrary, all the relevant facts, all the difficulties that might arise, and were indeed bound to arise, from the natural reaction of a primitive population in contact with a new element, separated from it even more by centuries of development than by race and religion—all those aspects were canvassed for many months and were fully understood. But the statesmen of that day viewed the problem from a wider perspective. They saw in the approaching dissolution of the Ottoman Empire a unique opportunity, which could never recur, for contributing to the solution of that baffling and tragic problem, the fate of a people which is yet not a people, which is a minority everywhere, with no home to call its own, whether as an actual refuge from oppression or merely as a focus for their pride and affection. They knew that that problem might become acute again at any moment, though they never dreamed of the insane orgy of persecution, of extirpation, which has since swept over Europe. In that respect, at any rate, they builded better than they knew. If foresight is the measure of statesmanship, then 2004 surely, we should be proud to-day that it was British statesmanship which, by bold, constructive prevision, planned the framework of a Home, a City of Refuge, which might, if it were allowed, be at this moment affording immeasurable relief, spiritual as well as material, to the agony of the Jews. I should have thought that we might have been heartened and encouraged to-day to carry on a policy, so far-seeingly initiated and already so fruitfully advanced, with fresh confidence and with a keener determination to overcome all obstacles. Instead, we have this White Paper, which, from beginning to end, is a confession of failure, a direct negation of the principles on which our administration in Palestine has been based, and, in my view at any rate, a repudiation of the pledges on the strength of which the government of Palestine was entrusted to our hands.
There was another aspect of the question which appealed more particularly to some of the younger men like myself and the late Sir Mark Sykes—too soon lost to this House—who had travelled in the Near East and who had taken a keen and sympathetic interest in the affairs of the Moslem world long before either of us had ever come in contact with Zionism. We believed that it was Britain's mission to restore prosperity and civilisation to those ancient lands that had once been the very centre of the civilised and prosperous life of the world and of its creative thought. We knew that, while we might give the indispensable framework of law and order and of modern administration, real regeneration could only come from some more intimate and directly quickening influence. It seemed to us that the Jews alone could supply that influence. They alone could bring Western civilisation to the East with an instinctive understanding of its outlook. Above all, they would come, not as transient administrators, not even as colonists looking back to a motherland elsewhere, but as a people coming back to their own homeland, prepared unreservedly and wholeheartedly to identify themselves with its fortunes. That was a view which appealed, not only to the Zionist leaders, but to the best among the Arab leaders at that time. Some day, I dare say, it may appeal to them again, but that will require a very different approach, a very different attitude on our 2005 part from that revealed in the White Paper.
There was, lastly, a more narrowly British view—and I, at any rate, have never been ashamed of regarding these issues primarily from the point of view of their effect on British interests. It was based on the fact that Palestine occupies a position of unique strategical importance in relation both to the Suez Canal and to the junction of the air routes between the three Continents of the Old World. In our view it was a vital British interest that Palestine should be a prosperous, progressive State, bound to us by ties of good will and gratitude, able in the hour of need to furnish resources both of personnel and of material which only a densely populated, developed modern community could furnish. Had we known of the dangers which face us today, how much more eagerly should we have pushed on the policy in which we then believed! Now, with the terrible dangers which confront us, it is tragic to think of the use we might be making today of the man-power, the ability, the enterprise, the loyalty and trust—for till now the loyalty and trust were still there—of the Jews in Palestine.
Those were the reasons which justified the policy of the Balfour Declaration, and for those reasons the statesmen of that day had no hesitation in demanding of the Arabs, whom they were liberating over the whole of the vast Arab world, that to this one small corner of it, containing at that moment perhaps one-fifteenth of its population, the Jews should be admitted on the basis of equal rights of citizenship with the older population. My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) objected. He took the view that the population of any given area, whatever its size or character, is entitled entirely to dispose of its own destiny, regardless of all circumstances, domestic or international. I would ask him, if he were here, whether the view he has taken about the indefeasible and unlimited right of the 600,000 Arabs of Palestine to control their destiny would apply equally to the unlimited right of the 450,000 Germans of Danzig to dispose of their destiny without any regard to the wider issues at stake? In any event that demand was admitted, and readily admitted, by the one person most entitled to speak for the Arabs, by King Feisal 2006 and by his Arab colleagues at the Peace Conference. Whether that admission involved or did not involve some limitation or qualification of what the Arabs thought was implied, either in the McMahon correspondence or in Dr. Hogarth's statement, is surely completely irrelevant to-day. Of course it is equally irrelevant for the Jews to go back to any expectations which they may have been encouraged to entertain before their position was definitely laid down by the Mandate and the White Paper issued in 1922 by my right hon. Friend the. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). For the Arabs the Peace Negotiations, and for the Jews the Mandate and the White Paper, must mark the limit of their claims.
Of that final settlement of 1922, I would only say that it marked a drastic scaling down of Jewish hopes. It began by taking out of Palestine the larger and better half, the half more suitable to large-scale colonisation, namely, Transjordan. That was the first partition. It also made it clear to the Jews that there was no question of Palestine ever becoming a Jewish State or a Jewish country in the sense in which England is English. It made it clear that not only the individual civil and religious rights of the Arabs, which the Balfour Declaration affirmed, but the existence of the Arab community as such, with its culture and its language, had to be recognised. We took the view then, and I should have wished to see it maintained to-day—the White Paper does not maintain it—that Palestine, like Canada or South Africa, must always be a State in which two different elements had to recognise each other's equal rights. The essential fact was that they were to be equal rights. The Jews were to be in Palestine as of right, and not on sufferance, and no other consideration was to be allowed to prevent their free entry and free settlement as long as that entry and that settlement did not inflict direct injury upon the existing community, Jew or Arab. That was the meaning, the only possible meaning, of the test of economic absorptive capacity. To the principle of that test every British Government since has been pledged. My right hon. Friend has said that it is not in the Mandate. That is quite true, but the Permanent Mandates Commission and the League of Nations accepted it as a legitimate limitation of wider demands which the Jews 2007 might otherwise have been encouraged to advance. They never accepted it as a mere maximum which might be whittled down at the convenience of the administration at any moment. I quote what the Commission said less than two years ago:The Commission do not question that the Mandatory Power, responsible as it is for the maintenance of order in the territory, may on occasion find it advisable to take such a step and is competent to do so as an exceptional and provisional measure. It feels, however, bound to draw attention to this departure from the principle, sanctioned by the League Council, that immigration is to be proportionate to the country's economic absorptive capacity.That does not mean that the economic absorptive capacity of the country is an outside limit to which you might work up if it suited you. Now, in the present White Paper, the whole settlement of 1922 is thrown overboard. It is a direct reversal of principle and policy. It means that henceforth, after a brief interlude of drastic restriction, Jews will only be able to enter their national home on sufferance of the Arabs. The word used in the White Paper is "acquiescence." I should be glad if my right hon. Friend could tell me the difference between the two words.
The policy of 1922 was one of equal rights. It neither assumed nor precluded an eventual Jewish majority; that was left to the course of development, and in the hope, not so unreasonable then, that, by the time it became a political issue, a question of government, Jews and Arabs would be prepared to work together in a common citizenship. That hope, unfortunately, has been frustrated by the steadily increasing intensification of a militant Arab nationalism. That nationalism has been partly based, no doubt, on a perfectly natural love of home and of the old ways with which all of us must sympathise. I do not think that any serious person has ever minimised the inherent difficulties of the situation, or has failed to give full weight, or, indeed, full sympathy, to Arab sentiment in that regard. At the same time, it is well to remember that, in the main, Arab villagers have lived in the friendliest relations with the new settlers. My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford said that that was only the case in the old colonies. But all the settled colonies will be old some day, and I would remind my hon. Friend that only the other day, when, in 2008 the extreme north of Palestine, a purely Arab district, two new Jewish settlements were established, they were not only welcomed by the Arab villagers, but those villagers gave their active assistance and help in the creation of the settlements.
In view of those facts, it is somewhat misleading for my right hon. Friend to give the impression that it is the policy of the Mandate which has "driven the Arabs into three years of sustained revolt", as if it were the whole Arab population which had risen against some intolerable oppression. The trouble has come from a different class of the community—a class animated increasingly by the intolerant totalitarian conception of race, as preached in some European countries—and I may add that it is being run increasingly on totalitarian lines. That outlook is opposed not merely to the still very distant possibility of a Jewish majority, but to the very existence of the Jewish community. It is opposed to the whole policy on which the Mandate is based, and to every conception which has governed policy in the British Empire. With that outlook there ought to have been no compromise. It should have been answered, in the first place, by something in the nature of effective propaganda by the Administration itself. More important still is it that the assassinations and violence which were its manifestations should have been dealt with firmly. We have not had a word from the Secretary of State to-day in condemnation of the campaign of violence or in explanation of why the campaign was not more firmly dealt with, as the Royal Commission said it ought to have been. From first to last, the problem of Palestine, probably, has not been intrinsically more difficult than other problems of a communal character with which our administrators in India have dealt again and again.
That brings me to the visit of the Royal Commission and their report. That body, the ablest and most authoritative that has yet looked into the Palestine question, was convinced, rightly or wrongly, that the breach between Jew and Arab had become so wide that there was no possibility of their co-operating to develop a common Palestinian citizenship, and that the only alternative that the Commission could devise to indefinitely continued autocratic government was a 2009 scheme of partition. As the authors of that report pointed out in a very striking letter in the "Times" to-day, that alternative still has to be faced to-day. The case they stated was one—admitting their premiss that Jewish-Arab differences had become too inflamed to allow of any real co-operation—that was of almost irresistible force. It has lost none of its force in the interval. Indeed, I fear that the certain consequences of the Government's latest proposals by inflaming mutual animosity yet further is to make some form of partition, whether complete or on federal lines, inevitable. In any case, the Commission's argument was that partition would enable the Arabs to secure immediate independence for most of Palestine, free from any interference with their accustomed way of life. On the other hand, the Jews, while submitting to a second and even more drastic amputation of the National Home, would be compensated by complete control of their own affairs, and more particularly of immigration.
What happened? The Government jumped at the scheme of partition, and asked for its immediate endorsement by the House. This House did not reject partition, but it asked—and rightly so—to be assured that the proposal was accepted by the League of Nations as being within the spirit, if not the letter, of the Mandate. More than that, it wanted a definite scheme, and not a mere sketch outline such as the Royal Commission provided. The House would have welcomed a Joint Select Committee. The Government pleaded that the matter was far too urgent for that. That was two years ago. Within a few weeks of that Debate, the Government began to repent of their first enthusiasm. They came to a new decision: the decision to mark time, until things became a little quieter in Palestine. When many months had passed, and they could mark time no longer, they sent out a new Commission. By then what had been originally regarded as a mere frontier delimitation was converted into a new roving investigation. What is more, the Woodhead Commission was sent out with terms of reference which, whether they were designed to kill partition or not, were in fact so interpreted.
It was, of course, obvious that any scheme which could in any sense fulfil the spirit of the Mandate would have to assign 2010 to the Jews an area large enough to allow of substantial immigration. No such area could be found in Palestine which would not at the outset include a very substantial Arab minority, though obviously one decreasing in importance as Jewish immigration developed. It was equally obvious that partition, while it gave the Arabs in their own area political independence, would deprive them of the economic benefits of Jewish enterprise. That was what happened in the case of the first partition. Transjordan, since its severance from Palestine, has lived on a lower economic plane than Palestine, in its own way—and has not complained. We all have a certain sympathy with the attitude of the Arab witness before the Royal Commission, who said:We do not care how poor and bare our home is if we are masters in it.That was not how the Commission understood partition. In their view, a self-supporting Arab State meant a State which must continue to enjoy all the amenities which Jewish enterprise and Jewish taxation has brought to the present undivided Palestine. In their view, the active continuance of Jewish immigration was essential to the welfare of the Arabs. On the assumption that in an Arab area the Arabs must both eat their cake and have it, both be masters in their own house and have the furniture and the catering provided by the Jews, obviously no scheme of partition was possible—but only on that assumption. I do not know how far the Government ever inquired into the real meaning of the Woodhead Report; how far they compared its arguments with those of the Royal Commission. All I do know is that they jumped at the Woodhead Report as eagerly as they jumped at the Peel Report. In November last, my right hon. Friend said:We lost no time in accepting the position.I agree that they lost no time—except for the three years spent on Commission and counter-Commission. So, at the end of three years, the Government were no nearer a policy than they were before. The Commission business was exhausted, so they said, "Why not try a conference?" Anything might come of it. At any rate, it would carry things on a little longer and keep the House of Commons quiet. Personally, I could never understand what the Government 2011 could possibly hope to get out of a conference of Arab States, or why the Arab States should ever have been encouraged to have a say in Palestine. I gather that the idea is that they would exercise a moderating influence. Surely it was obvious that in such a conference, especially with Palestinian delegates, Mufti delegates, present, no representative of neighbouring Arab States could afford to be anything but a whole-hearted nationalist, whole-hearted in his rejection of the whole idea of the Mandate, whatever they might have thought in private. The only possible result of that conference was to consolidate, if possible, the neighbouring Arab States into a block against the whole policy of the Mandate. If our presence and policy in Palestine have created difficulties with neighbouring States in the past, I venture to say that that conference will have aggravated these difficulties. It was bound to be so. It was bound to be a failure from the start. The Government never even succeeded in getting the Arabs, except once at tea, even to meet the Jews. After that failure one might have thought that the Government, having tried all other expedients, would have found justification for trying a really novel expedient—the expedient of governing Palestine. They might have announced that the divergence of opinion was too great at this moment to make any scheme possible, and that they proposed for the time being to content themselves with restoring order, admitting whatever temporary quota of Jews they thought proper, and carrying on until the situation could be considered afresh in a somewhat different atmosphere. Instead of that, they have jumped at yet another policy.
In November my right hon. Friend told us that he had adopted from my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping the watchword "not partition, but perseverance." What is the watchword now? Partition has faded into the background; perseverance has oozed away. The watchword is, "appease the Arabs," appease the Mufti. Appease them at all costs. Appease them by abandoning the declared policy of every Government for 20 years past. Appease them by breaking faith with the Jews. Appease them at the cost of sacrificing all the prestige which we might have gained from either Jews or Arabs by consistency, by firmness, 2012 by justice to both sides. After all, stripped of all verbiage, what does the White Paper mean? It means, to begin with, that the Arab contention that Palestine is an Arab country in which the Arab point of view must prevail over all other considerations, is accepted without qualification. No, with one very important qualification—delay. The Jews are to be a permanent minority. After an interval their entry is to be on sufferance, and no longer as of right. After that they are to live—subject to indefinite safeguards under a guarantee, which, we imagine, will be pretty worthless—in a National Home carried on under the rule of the Mufti. In every pledge that we have given—and I need not delay the House by repeating all the pledges that have been given right through to the Debate last November; repeated to a deputation by the Prime Minister only a few weeks ago—the Jews were not to be placed in a position of permanent minority under the Arabs.
Why has this policy been adopted? The House is entitled to ask why there should have been this sudden and complete reversal of policy at this moment. Arab resistance in Palestine has been largely overcome. So far as Palestine is concerned, it may to-day prove easier to override the Arabs than the Jews. Is it the fear that the Arab States will suddenly espouse the cause of the Axis Powers? They know better than that. If ever they should attempt to desert us, it will not be for anything we may do in Palestine, but because they have lost confidence in our power to defend them. These are not the reasons, even if they may be the excuse. The real reasons that have brought us to the present position are not the inherent difficulties of the situation. They are not the difficulties either of the internal or external situation. They are lack of purpose, lack of that belief in our mission both to Jews and Arabs which underlay the policy of the Mandate, lack of faith in ourselves, sheer inability to govern. The state of Palestine is deplorable to-day, and is likely to be even more deplorable before long, as the result of what Burke once called "the irresistible operation of feeble counsels."
Looking at the matter from the point of view of one who has had to administer Palestine, I ask myself, how is the new policy going to work out on the spot? 2013 The Arabs have had all their claims acknowledged. The actual settlement of these claims is relegated to the future. Jewish immigration will not be stopped for five years; self-government is to come, perhaps, in 10 years. Knowing that what they have secured has been secured by violence, they will draw the obvious conclusion that, unless His Majesty's Government are kept on the run, by more intransigence, more violence, more pressure from neighbouring States, the hopes that are now raised may possibly never be fulfilled. The White Paper is a direct invitation to the Arabs to continue to make trouble. As for the Jews, they are now told that all the hopes that they have been encouraged to hold for 20 years are to be dashed to the ground, all their amazing effort wasted—in so far as it was an effort to create a National Home—all the pledges and promises that have been given to them, broken. That is to be their reward for loyalty, for patience, for almost unbelievable self-restraint. Let us not forget of whom we are asking this. These are not like the Jews in Germany, a helpless, hopeless minority. They are a formidable body of people. They are composed largely of younger men who have undergone military training and are quite capable of defending themselves, of holding their own, if only we allowed them. They are people who have felt the breath of freedom and who mean to remain free. They are people who believe the land in which they are living is their own, not merely by old sentimental association, or even international sanction, but because, such as it is to-day, they have created it. Does my right hon. Friend believe that these people will be content to be relegated to the position of a statutory minority, to be denied all hope of giving refuge and relief to their tortured kinsfolk in other countries; that they will wait passively until, in due course, they and the land they created are to be handed over to the Mufti? That is not only my view, but the view of the Royal Commision, whose language I could give if I did not hesitate to keep the House much longer.
I wonder how the Government envisage the actual administration of Palestine under their new policy. New heads of departments are to be appointed immediately. They are to be "Palestinians," a blessed word, like Mesopotamia, under 2014 cover of which, the White Paper shirks all the difficulties of the position. No Jew will accept office. No Arab dare do so, without the Mufti's express permission, without his visa. The Government still keep up the pretence of treating the Mufti as a criminal and an outlaw. But they made no attempt to exclude his nominees from the conference. I assume that they will make no effort to exclude them from these quasi-ministerial appointments. My right hon. Friend says that in the last resort they will be subject to the High Commissioner. If a man has to choose between two masters, one of whom can dismiss him, but who may find it very embarrassing to do so, and another who would have no hesitation in ordering his assassination, which master is he the more likely to obey? If any man is to be pitied in this world under the new project it is His Majesty's High Commissioner in Palestine. I wonder if Sir Harold McMichael was ever consulted about it. I wonder if General Haining was ever consulted. I wonder if Sir Charles Teggart, who has worked so valiantly to restore order, was ever consulted. The whole of this policy is stillborn. If it is not swept away by the greater storm that may break upon us at any moment, it is bound to peter out in bitterness and confusion.
Meanwhile, this panic scheme is to be pushed in panic haste through Parliament. Why? The whole matter is to come up before the Mandates Commission in a few weeks. Would it not be wiser for the Government to make sure that the Mandates Commission are prepared to endorse so complete a departure from the conditions of the Mandate? Why should this House make itself look foolish by approving a scheme in advance which is more than likely to be rejected as a breach of our mandatory obligations? That was the view taken by this House even on so minor a question as partition two years ago. Again, two years ago this House insisted upon having something more definite than the Royal Commission's proposals. Those proposals were precision itself compared with the scheme which my right hon. Friend has asked us this afternoon to approve. With the exception of the one definite figure of Jewish immigration, the whole of it is vague and absolutely undefined. There is to be this scheme of new heads of Departments. Which De- 2015 partments? Is the Mufti to appoint his nominee to the department of justice? Is his nominee to control immigration or land? We ought to know. Land, we are told is to be under the absolute discretion, to sanction or veto transfer, of the High Commissioner, through his head of Department. On what principle? Within what area? We ought to know. What about the Holy Places? We were assured by my right hon. Friend in general terms that something is to be arranged about them. The Royal Commission made very definite provision in respect of the Holy Places. It said they should be permanently under British administration.
Lastly, we are told that when the independent State is set up Arabs and Jews are to "share in the government in such a way that the essential interests of each are safeguarded". What on earth does that mean? Does it mean some equal voting power by which the Jews can veto legislation prejudicial to them? Is it a vague hint at some sort of quasi federation? If so, why are we not told? Why is it not made clear that no federal scheme is possible, consistent with any fulfilment of the Mandate, which does not give the Jews control of immigration and land settlement? Or does it just mean nothing at all? It is preposterous to ask the House to shut its eyes, open its mouth and swallow this half-baked project.
I hope even now the Government may accept the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Cazalet), and secure the agreement of the House upon it. If not then we must each vote for or against the Government as our conscience may direct. For my part I feel that I cannot divest myself of a definite personal responsibility in this matter. For nearly Seven years I was directly concerned in the administration not only of Palestine, but of Transjordania, Iraq and other Arab countries. I worked wholeheartedly for what I believed to be the interests of all the peoples of those countries, of every race. I believe that I enjoyed the good will and the respect of both Jews and Arabs. I could never hold up my head again to either Jew or Arab if I voted to-morrow for what, in good faith, I repeatedly told both Jews and Arabs was inconceivable, namely, that any British Government would ever go back upon the pledge given not only to Jews but the 2016 whole civilised world when it assumed the Mandate. In the absence of any alternative accepted by the whole House, I shall most certainly give my vote for the Opposition Amendment to-morrow. I should be ashamed to take any other course.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. MacLaren
In entering upon a Debate like this, with all that is implied in it, one fully appreciates the necessity to be as courteous as possible and not to arouse too highly those passions which I am afraid are already on the move. I listened to the speech of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) and was much impressed by it. In some of its passages it reminded one of the old salutation of the Jews: "Next year in Jerusalem." That has been handed down for centuries by the Jews. Jerusalem has been the spiritual home and the central inspiration of the Jewish people down the ages. Let us admit that fact, and in view of it let us try to appreciate their point of view and their feelings, faced as they are with the propositions embodied in the White Paper. It would be a glorious thing for this House if to-morrow we could establish the attachment of the Jewish people to their historic home, if there were no impediments in the way; but there are impediments, and they have given rise to the problem which confronts us.
In listening to the Debate I could not help observing that the promises made by the late Lord Balfour and others to the Jewish community have been emphasised. There is a tendency to hide, to blanket, or shadow the promises which this country made to the Arabs. I noticed that the Minister began with the Balfour Declaration, but he quoted only half of it, which was significant. I do not suppose he had any particular purpose in doing that, but he did it none the less. I noticed, too, that in succeeding speeches there has been a tendency to emphasise the Balfour Declaration. I will not worry the House about the McMahon correspondence. In my opinion that is not material. It is not substantial evidence. I would not have wasted five minutes with that correspondence.
The historic facts are that for more than 150 years the Arabs have been agitating for home rule in that country and the throwing off of the yoke of Turkish 2017 tyranny. That did not start with the Balfour Declaration or immediately in front of it. That agitation has been carried on by the Arabs against Turkish tyranny for a long time. We found ourselves in the War, and the Sharif of Mecca was approached. Does any hon. Member who has read that correspondence not appreciate the fact that from Kitchener's beginning of it, down to when McMahon wrote his last syllable, there was a tacit belief on the part of the Sharif and his friends that what Great Britain meant was that land occupied by the Arabs should be freed from Turkish tyranny in the event of his coming in on behalf of the Allies. I was pleased to hear the right hon. Gentleman refer to a fact which seems to have been forgotten, that later, when the Balfour Declaration became known, the Sharif of Mecca and his colleagues immediately threatened to call off the revolt, and of the hurried intervention of Commander Hogarth to assure King Hussein that it did not mean setting up a new Palestinian State. Where are we with this conglomeration of promise and counter-promise, made according to the people with whom we are talking? Let us be honest. There was a promise to the Arabs to fulfil their aspirations and later on a promise to the Jews by the Balfour Declaration.
There is another thing which we must weigh in the balance when we are talking about promises to one party or the other. What happened when we were at actual war with the Turks? Our officers were delivering speeches to Arabs in the Turkish army who were taken prisoners and asking them to "come in and fight for us." We also sent aeroplanes over the Turkish lines to drop literature to the effect that if the Arabs deserted the Turkish forces and came in on our side they would be fighting for the religion of Islam and for their colleagues throughout Arabia. I will quote the actual words of the documents which were scattered over the Turkish trenches. If this is not a promise I do not know what a promise is.To all Arabs and other officers and men of the Ottoman Army. We have with much regret heard that you are fighting against us who are working for the preservation of the soul of the Moslem Religion from being altered. We believe that the real truth has not reached you. We have therefore sent you this proclamation, sealed by our seal, 2018 to assure you that we are fighting for two noble aims, the preservation of religion and the freedom of Arabs generally. We have sent strict orders to the heads of the men on our line that if our Army happens to capture any one of you they should treat you well and send you to my sons who will welcome and keep you well. The Arab Kingdom has been for a long time in bondage to the Turks who have killed your brethren, and crucified your men and deported your women and families and have altered your religion.Come and join us who are labouring for the sake of religion and the freedom of Arabs so that the Arab Kingdom may again become what it was during the time of your fathers, if God wills. God is the leader to the right path.That is an exact copy of the document thrown from our aeroplanes into the Turkish lines. It was a promise that if they deserted the Turkish forces and fought for us we would liberate their own land and overthrow the Turkish power. Later on, when there was an inquiry into the cause of the disturbances in Jerusalem in April, 1920, this statement was made:The general result of this, that is the rapprochement effected with King Hussein in 1915, was to convert any feeling the population may have had in favour of the Turks into one of friendliness towards the British occupation. There is no question but that was encouraged during the War by every kind of propaganda available to the War Office. They were promised in pamphlets dropped from aeroplanes, peace and prosperity under British rule. As late as June, 1918, active recruiting was carried on in Palestine for the Sherifian Army, our allies, the recruits being given to understand that they were fighting in a national cause and to liberate their country from the Turks. These men, it is believed, actually took part in the offensive against the Turks.All I am submitting is that to the Arab this meant a restoration to him of lands then under Turkish rule without any delimitation of any kind, and it is significant that when the Hogarth interview was first mooted and when the Balfour Declaration was coming into being the whole revolt, upon which the Allies depended so much for victory in that part of the world, nearly collapsed. This is evidence that there was a profound belief among the Arabs that we were wholly behind them in giving them jurisdiction and control over the entire land which they considered to be the land of the Arabs then under Turkish rule.
I want to put one question to the Government and I think it is very important. It would seem to me, after 2019 making inquiries as to what happened during this period—and I remember a good deal of it—that there were too currents running, both emanating from the Government. One was the capture of Arabian enthusiasm and, if possible, to get the enthusiasm of the Jewish influence. I should like to know from the Government, if, between 1915, when we were making advances to the Arabs, and the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the Government of that day had at any time attempted to correlate the two policies involved in these declarations. On the face of it, it is strange that there should be two different promises made to two different people. The Government are faced with this difficulty, that they have, as one newspaper said some time ago, sold the same horse to two men. I heard an Arab say some time afterwards, "No, what happened was that the British Government sold the Arab horse to the Jews." Whatever simile one likes to use, that is the difficulty we are in now.
When listening to the Minister this afternoon, I could not help admiring the method he adopted in trying to explain away the difficulty of the Balfour Declaration and the promises to the Arabs, but all his efforts to-day have not in the slightest degree removed the suspicions in everyone's mind. It is a sad history, this history of all the pledges that we have made; running as it were like a canto from at the same time as the counterpoint of diplomatic approaches were going on. Again the Sykes-Picot Agreement was one of the most scandalous things ever attempted. The French, the Russians, and the British were politely cutting up between them the Arabian Empire, and we should not have known what was happening had it not been for the good offices of the Bolsheviks, who divulged the document from the Russian archives. At the same time as the Balfour Declaration was heaving in sight, and copies of it were being dispatched to countries in Europe, at any rate among the Allies, as an accepted document, we had trouble with Hogarth and King Hussein. The Sykes-Picot Agreement for a time seemed to disappear. I cannot at this point miss the opportunity of reminding the House that suspicion was aroused among the Muslims that the British were not playing a straight game with their promises. This suspicion was 2020 beginning to shake confidence in India. What happened then? On 15th May, 1920, three years after the Balfour Declaration, the Government of India issued a circular, which read:Indian Mohammedans must remember that the independence of their Arab coreligionists remains intact throughout a very large proportion of a former Ottoman Empire, and that the only areas which have been removed entirely from Muslim control are the comparatively small areas of Armenia, Thrace and Smyrna, in each of which, according to pre-war statistics, the population was predominantly non-Muslim. A similar condition applied in Kurdestan, to which the right to local autonomy provisionally is recognised, and to those areas of Asia over which Mandates have been entrusted by the Peace Conference to Britain and France, that is to say, Palestine, Mesopotamia and Syria.That circular was issued to the Muslim people of India in 1920 to steady their faith in British promises. There was nothing in that circular about a "state within a state." I submit that, in view of these documents and promises, whatever one may think of the Jewish case or of the Arab case, one has to admit that both of these communities were entitled to believe that they were to have the full results of all that for which they had laboured, or at least the full price for which they were prepared to submit their allegiance. I listened this afternoon to the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), and I wish that he were in his place now so that he could hear me quote the words of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, who was his leader in 1922, and who well summed up the whole matter. Mr. Ramsay Mac-Donald said:We encouraged an Arab revolt in Turkey by a promise to create an Arab kingdom from the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, including Palestine. At the same time, we were encouraging the Jews to help us by promising them that Palestine would be placed at their disposal for settlement and government; and also, at the same time, we were making with the French the Sykes-Picot Agreement partitioning the territory which we had instructed our Governor-General in Egypt to promise to the Arabs. The story is one of crude duplicity, and we cannot expect to escape the reprobation which is bound to follow as a sequel.I will not repeat all the promises that have been made by one statesman after another. But I cannot refrain from remarking, in passing, that this country is now reaping the harvest of having allowed the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) to become 2021 its Prune Minister. And we have not got through with it yet. His was the Government that did all this. It is true that in those days they were rather caught up by the distractions of the War. I have no doubt there were emissaries running about the corridors of the Foreign Office saying, "Will you fill up this; will you agree to this? "and that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs said, "Oh, yes, get on with it." They were all handing out promises without being quite sure where they were going. Now we have them here. I am glad that the hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) referred to the famous passage of Mr. Asquith. I notice that Mr. Asquith, in his Memoirs, began his reference to this particular matter by call calling it "Sir Herbert Samuel's dithyrambic memorandum" and he wound up the passage by saying that the only other partisan of the proposal that the Holy Places should be kept under British control was Mr. Lloyd George, whodoes not care a damn for the Jews, their past or their future, but thinks it will be an outrage to let the Holy Places pass into the possession or under the protectorate of agnostic, atheistic France.We all know his deep religious disposition and how firm he would be in demanding the protection of the Holy Places and the keeping of them under British control. There is another remarkable point to which I want to refer in passing. The late Sir William Joynson-Hicks, as he then was, put a question in the House to the present Lord Halifax, who was then Mr. Edward Wood, asking:If he would state the terms of what was then called Lord Allenby's proclamation in Palestine in 1918?All hon. Members will remember that famous proclamation, because it was broadcast throughout the length and breadth of Palestine, and it made no reference whatever to the proposal to establish a National Home in Palestine There was not a word about that in the proclamation. It is interesting to note that when that question was asked, Mr. Edward Wood, now Lord Halifax, seemed to have a sort of plucking at his conscience as he answered it. He said that he would circulate the proclamation in the ordinary way, as it was a rather long document, but he went on to say:I would remind my hon. Friend that the Declaration of His Majesty's Government in favour of the establishment of a National 2022 Home for the Jews in Palestine was made in November, 1917"—that was a year before the question was asked—a year before the Joint Declaration to which I have just referred. It is obvious, therefore, that nothing contained in the latter can be regarded as abrogating in any way the earlier pledge."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th July, 1921; col. 35, Vol. 145.]Although the proclamation was published a year after the Balfour Declaration, there is not a word in it about the Declaration. But the Minister replying in this House said in effect, "Although there is nothing in this proclamation about the Balfour Declaration, you must not take it that we do not mean to get on with the Declaration." There, again, is evidence of deceit. If the Balfour Declaration was to be carried through, the Government ought to have been honest about it when they issued their proclamation. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) who was much to the fore in those days had a rather comical interlude on this subject with Mr. Meighen. The right hon. Gentleman who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies was asked by Mr. Meighen at a meeting of the Imperial Cabinet in 1921:How do you define our responsibilities in relation to Palestine in the Balfour pledge?The right hon. Gentleman replied:We do our best to make an honest effort to give the Jews a chance to make a national home for themselvesThen there was the following passage:Mr. MEIGHEN: And to give them control of the Government?Mr. CHURCHILL: If in the course of many years they become a majority in the country they naturally would take it over.Mr. MEIGHEN:Pro rata with the Arabs.Mr. CHURCHILL: Pro rata with the Arabs, yes. We made an equal pledge, we would not turn the Arab off his land or invade his political rights.A moment earlier one would have gathered that the Jews were to take the lot. I ask hon. Members' attention to the quickness with which the right hon. Gentleman jumped from the one trapeze to the other. Another thing to be observed in this tangle is that while one document refers to "Jewish home," in another document one finds that merging into "Jewish state." The Government never seem to be sure whether it was to be a "home" or a "state," but as time went 2023 on, it tended to take the form of a Jewish state and the pious talk about a Jewish home began to disappear. I wish to deal with a few points in the White Paper. It adumbrates a policy which is, no doubt, intended to solve the difficulty. I suggest that it will take one of the greatest geniuses on this earth to solve this problem. I see no end to it. There is, first, a bland admission in the White Paper that the Government are not sure of what is to be in the future:His Majesty's Government are unable at present to foresee the exact constitutional forms which government in Palestine will eventually take.They then proceed to sketch out in the rough, as it were, what they would like to see on the canvas. They begin with a pious hope and then on page 6, we come to this:The establishment of an independent State and the complete relinquishment of Mandatory control in Palestine would require such relations between the Arabs and the Jews as would make good government possible.I ask hon. Members to correlate that passage with the following passage on page 7:At the end of five years from the restoration of peace and order, an appropriate body representative of the people of Palestine and of His Majesty's Government will be set up to review the working of the constitutional arrangements.What steps do the Government propose to take so that Palestine may arrive at a state of peace and order in the shortest possible time? Have the Government in mind an idea of what they would deem to be peace and order? Unless some positive conception of what they mean by peace and order is given to us all our arguments here represent so much wasted time, because even if this policy is accepted it is not to be put into effect until peace and order has been established, and we do not know what the Government will deem to be a state of peace and order. There are conditions prevailing which make peace and order very difficult at the moment. There are people outside Palestine carrying on a very powerful agitation against peace and order in that country in the present circumstances. How long are we to wait until peace and order, as accepted by the Government, prevail in Palestine?
There is another consideration. All our hearts must go out to any people who have been brutally expelled from other 2024 lands. But one can imagine people who have been brutally expelled from other lands and who are seeking sanctuary, coming towards Palestine fired with the hope and belief that they are coming to the home of their forefathers, the Land of Fulfilment. One can imagine how these refugees may not be disposed to abide by something which is called peace and order, if they are given to understand that what they regarded as a promise to them is not being fulfilled to the letter. How can any Government say that they have peace and order if, in each shipload of refugees that arrives, there are potential rebels against the status quo? That makes peace and order almost impossible.
Then there is this period of 10 years. I cannot discuss the 10-year proposal without asking hon. Members to cast their attention for a moment across Europe. Dr. Weizmann at a meeting last week upstairs, told us that when he was begging the Prime Minister to reconsider these proposals and suspend them for a time, the Prime Minister said that in these days one could scarcely count on what would happen six weeks, let alone 10 years ahead. There is a good deal of truth in that. With Europe in its present state, how do we know what may happen in Syria or Palestine within the next few months? Here we have a proposal, assuming that nothing untoward happens in Europe, to suspend for 10 years decisive action in the formation of a Government in Palestine. We know the intense propaganda which is going over to that part of the world from Italy and Germany. The only solid phalanx against the dangers which may visit that part of the world from the aggressive Powers, would be a confederation of the Arab States. If you are to have this open wound in Palestine for 10 years, you are making that confederation, that solid, strong front, an impossibility.
I beg of the Government to look at these points in view of the position as we find it in Europe. Take China. European Powers left China weak, disorganised, without any power to defend herself, and what happened at the impact of a well-organised military power? We have seen the result. Not merely has China been losing, but even those who had settlements in that country have lost heavily also. Such would be the result of the first attack that would come from 2025 Germany and Italy, were it to take place next week, and the Arab people, worried as they are with something like nine different currencies and with all the different forms of education in the various States, which are barriers between them, feel that these divisions are in themselves weaknesses that would help to lead to their downfall should an impact come from these Powers in Europe.
I have heard speeches to-day suggesting that the Arab demands are supported from foreign forces which are anti-British. They are nothing of the kind. Indeed, it is changed days in this House if we do not salute the man who gets up and defends his own land, and if we call him a traitor. I heard the Mufti's name being bandied about in this House to-day, and I tell those who have so lightly spoken of the Mufti, that there is not an Arab, be he in high or low station, in the world to-day, who does not hold the Mufti in the highest estimation. [Laughter.] I cannot understand the jeering of our superficial students. You might as well go into a Catholic household and insult the Pope as to go into some of these Arab houses and insult the Mufti. I am not saying that it is a good thing or a bad thing; I am merely saying what is the fact, and why it provokes laughter I do not know. I have heard in this House to-day that the Mufti is the leader of a crowd of gangsters and murderers, but I would ask hon. Members to be a little careful. They might as well use that language in connection with the high religious and political leaders of other communities. In this House I heard the same language used about de Valera when he was fighting for the Irish. It is very convenient, when people want to buttress their own prejudices against certain people, to use the most reactionary arguments. The Mufti, in the eyes of the Arab people, is a semi-religious and political leader. He is a man who has allied himself with the demand of his own people for their liberation, and, therefore, it does not help matters when language has been used, as it has been in this House to-day about him being the leader of gangsters and murderers.
§ Mr. MacLaren
It all depends on what he is fighting for. Apparently it is wrong for a patriot to stand by his own people. [An HON. MEMBER: "TO murder 2026 them!"] If I may use Ireland as a simile, we had de Valera, then we had the extreme people who did not agree with him, the Irishmen who said he was compromising with the British Government, and those Irish went into the houses of other Irish and murdered them, in the same way as you are complaining about Arabs doing in Palestine. There is nothing in it. It is all very characteristic of an unsettled condition of affairs, where you have extremists and ultra-extremists fighting in what they call a forward movement. There is really nothing in this. There is no point in asking me, "Do one set of Arabs kill other sets of Arabs? "I say that it is characteristic of all revolutions within a country, when you have one set of people and a more extreme set, and the more extreme set always think the others are compromising with the enemy, and so you have a civil war between the two extremists. The very fact that that should happen in Palestine is common to the experience of people in other lands. In passing, I hope that whatever people may feel on this subject, they will appreciate the fact that abusive names do not advance the argument on behalf of their own case.
We have heard a good deal of nonsense about absorptive capacity, and I am amused at what the right hon. Member for Epping said about that. Anything that flies into florid language, which is not capable of being translated into practical economic fact, be sure he is the author of it. You cannot talk about the "absorptive capacity" of a country unless behind it you have some conception of the geographical possibilities of absorption, or the mineral wealth of the country and the area of the country. I notice that at last this White Paper has accepted the Wood-head Commission's statement on the difficulties that are arising owing to the taking over of more land from the Arabs, and the danger that threatens should this go on. Indeed, I should say that the last part of this White Paper gives the direct reply to those who still believe that there is an enormous margin still left in the country's absorptive capacity. If hon. Members will look at the battom of page 11, they will see it stated:The reports of several expert Commissions have indicated that, owing to the natural growth of the Arab population and the steady sale in recent years of Arab land to Jews, there is now in certain areas no room for 2027 further transfers of Arab land, whilst in some other areas such transfers of land must be restricted if Arab cultivators are to maintain their existing standard of life and a considerable landless Arab population is not soon to be created.That, to my mind, is the reply to those who think that there is a lot of loose slack to be taken up, and that we can have inordinate supplies of refugees from other countries. In fact, some of the more sober students on the Jewish side admit that this might become an economic danger, even to the Jewish National Home conception itself, because it only requires something in the nature of a world depression, with an ever-increasing flow of refugees into that country, to bring to Palestine a first-class condition of economic distress. There is another thing linked up with that. How can we talk about the absorptive capacity of that country if, at the same time, we do not review a major problem which has been before that country for a very long time, namely, irrigation? Since the Ruttenberg concession, granted illegally under the Mandate, has taken possession of the waters of that area, we find that many of the Arabs who would endeavour to use these waters to irrigate their land are not able to do so. Such schemes as artesian wells have been tried, but anyone knows that they are of little avail in a broad scheme of agricultural development. Viewing the whole matter from the point of view—and I know that many hon. Members will now be interested—of land and the possibilities of settling people upon it, the margin, if there is one, that can still be thrown open to numbers of refugees must, in my opinion, be very small. I think it is cruel in the extreme to build up hopes of uncounted opportunities in the country and to bring them there only for them to find that the opportunities are non-existent.
The White Paper is drawn vaguely. It makes suggestions which in my opinion cannot be fulfilled. It proposes throwing upon the High Commissioner powers which it will be almost impossible to exercise with efficiency. Ten years, in view of the circumstances prevailing, seems to me to be quite fatuous. Many of the Arabs have held in the past highly responsible positions under the Turkish Government. They do not require the tutelage of a civil servant for 10 years in order to learn how to govern the coun- 2028 try. I suggest to the Government that they should trust these people more, shorten the time, if a transition period is necessary, and see to it that responsibility is given to the people there, more especially on the Arab side, in matters affecting education, irrigation and land settlement. It seems, from some remarks that have been passed, that there is a belief that the Arab population have an innate resentment against the Jewish people. One Arab after another to whom I have spoken has said, "we have lived side by side with the Jews for years without any difficulty. We have no hatred against Jews as Jews. We, like most people, are sorry for them in their plight, but why should we have to face the full impact of the distress thrown upon the Jewish population if that distress means bringing distress on our own people? "I think it well that that should be said.
I shall be interested to hear what happens to-morrow but I cannot see what concessions the Government can make, and what machinery they may build out of the White Paper we do not know. It is true that to-day there have been one or two suggestions which were outside the White Paper as such. It is in the nature of the problem confronting us to-day that one should endeavour to appreciate views of the two parties in conflict. But in attempting this there are difficulties and dangers.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Ralph Beaumont
When, six months ago, the Government announced their decision to call a conference of representatives of the Arabs and the Jews, we all welcomed it because it seemed to offer a last chance of breaking through the deadlock in Palestine. It was hardly to be expected that the two sides would come to an agreement, and as the Conference proceeded it became obvious that such an agreement was going to be out of the question, in spite of the almost superhuman efforts of the Colonial Secretary, to whom we should all pay our tribute for the immense work that he did during that Conference. But those of us who have for a long time sympathised with the Arab point of view had very great hopes that the Conference and the opportunities of personal contact with the delegates would at last bring the Government to see the utter futility of continuing the policy which successive Governments have tried to carry out in Palestine 2029 for the last 20 years and the inevitability of recognising and accepting the justice of the Arab claims. It is, therefore, a source of satisfaction to us that at last the Government have accepted these claims to a considerable extent. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) stigmatised the White Paper as being an example of surrender to violence. I should like to put another point of view and say that, in spite of the immense power, the propaganda and the influence of the Zionists, the Arabs have at last achieved recognition of the justice of a case which was entirely ignored, and even deliberately disregarded, for so many years.
There have been three main causes of Arab discontent. The first is the breach, as they assert, of the McMahon pledge to King Hussein; the second was the fear of economic and political domination by the Jews by the creeping invasion which has gone on so steadily and relentlessly; and the third is the withholding of self-government for 20 years in spite of the attaining of it by other Arab States, and also in spite of the fact that Palestine was classed as A Mandate, whose people, to quote the words of Article 22, had "reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations could be provisionally recognised." As regards the McMahon pledge, the Government have unfortunately been unable to accede to the Arab claim. This is a case which has been argued over and over again and it has been extremely well dealt with in this Debate by my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley), and I would merely say that I do not believe that any one studying the correspondence and reading the Hogarth Message, the Declaration to the Seven Arabs and the Anglo-French Declaration of 1918 could possibly imagine for a moment that Palestine was excluded from the area in which Arab independence was to be recognised, and the Arabs will continue to have, and, I think, justifiably, a sense of grievance over this matter.
But the Government have certainly gone a long way towards meeting the other two points. In the first place it is at last definitely laid down that it is not our policy that Palestine shall become a Jewish State, and Arabs are assured that, after the immigration of the next five years, the Jews will not number 2030 more than a third of the total population and that no further immigration will take place without Arab consent. In the second place, the Government definitely pledge themselves to set Palestine upon the road to self-government, with independence as the ultimate aim, and they even go so far as to mention a period of time at the end of which they hope that independence will be attained. I only wish they could have mentioned a period shorter than ten years for, if self-government does come at the end of ten years, it will mean that it will only have been granted after nearly 30 years have elapsed since the time when the people of Palestine were classified as being on the road to independence.
Many speakers from the Jewish point of view have given the impression that the Government have entirely accepted the Arab claims. The Government, however, have by no means gone the whole way to meeting the full Arab case and there will still be considerable disappointment throughout the Arab world. The putting off of self-government for another 10 years will be a great disappointment to a people who have already waited so long for it. The failure to fix a definite limited period of transition and the postponement for another five years of any consideration of the eventual constitution of Palestine will appear to them as leaving the door open to a possible further withholding of self-government; and again while the Arabs are ready to make a further contribution to the Jewish problem by taking a considerable number of refugees, they will view with mistrust the continuation for five years of immigration and the greater expansion of the already large National Home.
Even although the right hon. Gentleman was unable to accede to the full claims of the Palestinian Arabs, it is even more unfortunate that he was not able to meet the views of the representatives of the other Arab States, for one gathers that towards the end of the conference there was really very little difference between their proposals and the proposals of the Government, and that the main divergence was as to whether the transitional period should not be more definite, and fixed in actual time. It is the greatest pity that the representatives of these Arab States should have gone away dissatisfied, for their good will is 2031 of vital importance to us, and if we had been able to arrive at an agreement with them they would have been of the greatest assistance in persuading the Palestinian Arabs to accept a reasonable compromise.
Now that the Government have announced their policy it is essential that effect should be given to it at the earliest possible moment and that we should take action as soon as possible to show that this time we really mean what we say. If we do this it will, indeed, be a welcome change from our practice hitherto. Time after time reports and White Papers have favoured the Arabs, and time after time they have been shelved or ignored; and it can hardly be wondered at that the Arabs have lost all faith in the politicians of this country and have given up all hope of receiving justice from any British Government. Uncertainty and delay have been the curses of our administration in Palestine, and the Arabs know full well that delay is the opportunity for the immense Zionist influence to be mobilised against their interests. As it is, there are several phrases in this White Paper which, through their vagueness, may cause uncertainty and will probably give rise to Arab doubts and fears, and which should, therefore, be elucidated. We should particularly like to know what precisely is meant by the phrase in paragraph 9 about the establishment of an independent State requiring "such relations between Arabs and Jews as would make good government possible." The Arabs are very much afraid that Jewish collaboration will be deliberately withheld. We should like to be assured that the non-co-operation of one section of the population will not necessarily invalidate the whole project of self-government, and that if one-third of the population refuse to co-operate the other two-thirds will still be able to attain the promised independence. This is a very important point, especially in view of the statements which have already been made by prominent Zionists that they will not co-operate and their declared intention to defeat by obstructive tactics the policy which the Government have laid down for the future of Palestine.
There is one matter which I would put forward for the consideration of the Zionists. The idea is still apparently 2032 widely held that Palestine should be regarded primarily as a place of refuge for Jews who are unable to remain in their own countries, and one is also given the impression that Palestine is the only place of refuge that commends itself to them in any way. I do not think it can be denied that Palestine has already made a great contribution to the Jewish problem. There were about 80,000 Jews in that country at the end of the War and to-day there are over 450,000. Yet the Arabs are perfectly ready to make a still further contribution by taking a considerable number of refugees. But Palestine, a small country with a large existing population, could never absorb more than a limited number of immigrants and could certainly never provide anything approaching a solution of the refugee problem. Besides, I believe that the attitude which the Zionists adopt with regard to Palestine is much against the interests of the Jews themselves, and it is making it very difficult for those people who are trying so hard to find other homes for Jewish refugees. There have always been a number of prominent Jews who have not agreed with the Zionist policy, and there are also a number of non-Zionist Jews who are co-operating with the Inter-governmental Refugee Committee and are working to facilitate the entry of Jews into other countries. I feel sure that the Zionist insistence on Palestine must be very unhelpful to them and, indeed, a source of great embarrassment to them in the difficult work that they are trying to carry out.
Subject to assurances on certain points which at present appear to leave the door open to further delay, I welcome the Government's statement of policy, and I hope that they will carry it out at the earliest possible opportunity. Unless and until a start is made the Arabs will never believe that we are in earnest even this time. They have seen the shelving of the Shaw and Hope Simpson Reports and the dropping of the proposal for a Legislative Council in 1936; and they have now seen two more years wasted since the Royal Commission assured us that the most fatal thing to do would be to continue to postpone the day of decision. It is only natural that Arab confidence in our good faith should have been severely shaken and it is essential that it should be restored.
2033 I hope that the Arabs will come to see that this White Paper gives them the greater part of what they have been demanding. I hope that the Jews will remember that racial bitterness between Arabs and Jews has existed only since the time of the Balfour Declaration, that prior to that date the two races lived happily and peacefully side by side for centuries in Palestine, and that there is no reason why there should not be a return to the former good relations, once the causes of Arab fears are removed. And I hope that the British people, who may not altogether relish the prospect of being saddled with the Mandate for another 10 years, will realise that the White Paper promises the end of the disastrous policy of the last 20 years and gives us a real opportunity of restoring peace and harmony to a country which is now exhausted and prostrate after years of bloodshed and disorder.
§ 9.45 p.m.
§ Sir Stafford Cripps
I rise to support the Amendment which has been moved from these benches. It seems to me to be quite unprofitable at this stage in the controversy to examine with long argumentative justifications either the Balfour Declaration, or the Mandate, or the McMahon Letters, or the Hogarth Declaration. Surely it must be clear that the origin of all those statements was the giving to two different races of mutually-inconsistent promises about Palestine. They were given at a time when this country was hard pressed, and in order to get those two races to give us their assistance, and surely it is far more honest now for us to recognise the inconsistency of those declarations and to start, as it were, from that starting-point. If we do that, we must at the beginning realise that we are very largely responsible for the troubles of the last 20 years in Palestine, and we must be prepared, as part of that responsibility, to make something much more than a verbal contribution towards the solution of those problems. It can, indeed, be truthfully said that of the making of White Papers there is no end, so far as Palestine is concerned, but I believe that the time has come when we must be prepared to make a really large economic contribution towards the solution of these problems.
I am sure that the Palestinian problem is in its essence very largely an economic problem, and that the way in which to 2034 wean the Arabs away from extremist influences is to give them a great deal of support towards rapidly developing their economic condition. The Arab inferiority feeling is, I believe, very largely due to the fact that they feel that the Jew as a cultivator is better equipped, with more capital and with more opportunities, and that in the race, if there be a race, between them the Jew will inevitably win. The right way of trying to equalise this position is for us now, as the price of the difficulty we have created in the past, to throw all our energies into bringing the Arab peasant up to the standards of the Jewish cultivator. The real problem is the problem of the peasant and the worker. It is not the problem of the landlords and the moneyed class. I am certain that the way to win the confidence of the Arab who matters, that is the Arab workers and the Arab peasant, is to do all we can, spend all the necessary money, in order to demonstrate to him that his standards can be brought up to the standards of the Jewish cultivator, that he need not fear the Jewish cultivator because of the latter's better equipment or his better opportunities. In that way we shall not only cut away the basis upon which nationalist propaganda battens but also create a greater feeling of equality between the two races who are living in Palestine, and so create a greater opportunity of eventually solving the problem. A great deal, I am convinced, could be done in that way in the 10 years that are to come if we were seriously to tackle the problem.
Of course if we say that it will take many years to make it possible for the Arab to live on 50 acres, and look at it as a long-term hopeless task, we shall fail; but if we look at examples elsewhere, such as are to be found in the Soviet Union, where some of the most backward agricultural races have been rapidly brought to efficiency by intense capitalisation and education, there is no reason why, with a real effort, we should not be able to bring the Arab cultivators up to the necessary standard to make them feel that they are on an equality with the Jews, who, after all, have had very great advantages from extraneous capital and extraneous assistance. I am certain that it is along those lines alone that we shall be able to make an impact on what is the real problem. Merely to lecture the people, as the White Paper does, telling 2035 both parties to behave themselves nicely, and telling them also that at the end of 10 years one of the major considerations will be the preservation of the strategic and commercial interests of the British Empire, is to make it quite clear that we are not regarding the problem from the point of view of the responsibility which we really carry for that problem.
I am very glad that something has been said about independence within a limited period of time, but to my mind that is not a very valuable contribution when it is linked up with undefined necessities as regards the strategic and commercial interests of the British Empire. It really only means that Palestine is to continue as an annex of the British Empire, though it will be annexed by treaty and not by conquest. What is to be done in the meantime? I am certain that the plan of the White Paper will not bring about the settlement that the right hon. Gentleman and everybody else desires. Merely to say that we are going to stop Jewish immigration in five years—which seems an odd way of facilitating it under the Mandate—and at the same time to say that we are going to take into the administration everybody who will come, will not make friction less but will increase friction, because the type of people who will come into this administration will not be the trusted leaders of either the Jews or the Arabs. The type of person will be the one who cares more for his own career than for the future of Palestine, and what we shall have at the end of 10 years is a state of affairs as bad as we have to-day, and then it will be said, "We cannot do anything, we have to continue as we were before because Palestine is not ready for this new condition of affairs."
Somehow or another we have to protect the Jewish people in Palestine during the next 10 years, quite apart from anything as regards immigration, and one is driven back to the idea of temporary partition. I believe that the only way in which we shall give any feeling of security in Palestine during these 10 years is by setting aside temporarily a limited part of Palestine as a Jewish enclave, or whatever you like to call it, in which Jewish self-government will be allowed to operate, where it can be developed as it ought to have been developed for the 2036 last 20 yars and never has been, at the same time leaving Arab self-government to be developed in the rest of Palestine. If during that period of partition intense development of Arab economic life is carried on I believe we shall have a chance of getting these two economies much nearer one another in their standards. There will be a realisation by the people in both the Jewish and the Arab parts that by a continuance of the type of development which we have initiated and encouraged they can both, working together, make a far more prosperous Palestine.
As long as we leave the Arab standard below the Jewish standard and do nothing to raise it we shall always have the difficulty that the Arabs will feel the fear of the superior economy of the Jews; and that is a far greater fear in my view than either the racial or political fear. The Government should say "We acknowledge our faults as a nation in the past; we acknowledge that, whether we meant it or not, we did mislead Arabs and Jews, we have to make a contribution to the settlement of this difficulty that we have created and we are prepared to make a really serious financial contribution now to the raising of the standard of the Arabs, so as to get the Arab and the Jewish economy on the same basis; but while doing that with a view to an independent Palestine we must partition the country temporarily in order to safeguard the interests of the Jewish people." I believe that it is along those lines alone that any real solution can be brought about.
§ 9.55 p.m.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
My hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) said this afternoon that we are against the policy which the Secretary of State for the Colonies explained. We are against it, not because we are anti-Arab or pro-Jew, but because we are pro-Mandate. We believe in the Mandate; we believe that we ought to carry out the trust we undertook; we believe that it is only by the policy of the Mandate that the problem of Palestine can be solved and that the real interests of the Jews and the Arabs can be served.
I saw the Mandate being made in Paris and Geneva 20 years ago. Day by day I talked about it with those, on the Arab side, on the Jewish side and in the British 2037 Foreign Office who worked it out. Perhaps it is because of that experience that I have never been able to understand why some people think that the Mandate does injustice to the Arabs. I have never been able to understand how the Secretary of State could tell the House last November that if he were an Arab he would be afraid of the coming of the Jew. I thought it the more extraordinary that he should have made that statement last November because, in the very same speech, he told us that, thanks to the Mandate, thanks to the Jews, there were 400,000 more Arabs alive and prosperous to-day than there would otherwise have been. No one has forgotten the generous tribute he made last November, and which he repeated in a lesser measure this afternoon, to the work which the Jews have done, and to the way in which they have expanded the soil of Palestine and have enlarged the common patrimony of the country for both Arabs and Jews.
It was because I remembered what he said then that I was utterly mystified by what he said about the Hogarth Message this afternoon. He relied very much upon that Message. I leave aside the point that he put it upon almost equal footing as a pledge with the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate—a procedure which by any test is utterly grotesque. I leave aside also the point that a year after the Hogarth Declaration the Emir Feisal and the Arab delegation in Paris accepted the Mandate and the Jewish National Home—
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
Yes, on conditions, which have been fulfilled, that the other Arab countries should be made independent; they have been made independent, except Syria and Transjordan, which are very nearly so. In 1919 the Emir Feisal wrote to the Jewish agency to say that the Arabs looked forward to collaboration with the Jews, that he understood their plans, and that the Arabs would welcome them back to their Home. I leave aside those points, and I come simply to the text of the Hogarth message itself.
The Secretary of State read a little section of that message; I will read the whole of the last paragraph on which he principally relied. It said:Since the Jewish opinion of the world is in favour of the return of the Jews to 2038 Palestine, and inasmuch as this opinion must remain a constant factor; and further, as His Majesty's Government view with favour the realisation of this aspiration, His Majesty's Government are determined that, in so far as is compatible with the freedom of existing populations both economic and political, no obstacle should be put in the way of the realisation of this ideal.After what the Secretary of State told us last November of the economic work of the Jews and of the 400,000 Arabs alive and prosperous to-day who would not have been so but for that work, he cannot say to-day that the coming of the Jews imperilled the economic freedom of the Arabs.
So there remains their political freedom. How can the right hon. Gentleman interpret the Hogarth message as he did this afternoon unless he is ready to say that political freedom means that the Arabs must always be in a majority in Palestine? That is what he does say. By all his talk about the fears of the Arabs of Jewish domination, the Secretary of State has got himself into a very strange position. He said to-day that it would be repugnant to our own national spirit and traditions, repugnant to the spirit of the Mandate and, if I understood him aright, repugnant even to the letter of the Mandate itself, to convert Palestine into a Jewish State against the will of the Arab population. So he arrives at this extraordinary result: That the will of the Arab population, or what the Mufti and his followers choose to call the will of the Arab population, must be decisive, and that, after a period of adjustment, the Jews must not exceed the number to which the Arabs will agree. Thus under the Mandate and the Balfour Declaration, the Arabs are to be in the majority for ever.
If the speech of the Secretary of State and the White Paper do not mean that, they do not mean anything at all. An ingenuous leader writer in the "Times" put the matter very plainly the other day in his comment upon the White Paper. He said:The unrestricted increase of Jewish immigration must in time contradict the terms of the Mandate by converting the Arab population into a minority and thereby varying or subverting their existing political rights.That is the doctrine of the White Paper, writ plain and large. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to deny, that in the 2039 light of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate, that doctrine is utterly grotesque. The Balfour Declaration provided for the establishment of the Jewish Home; and went on to say that nothing should be done which might "prejudice the civil and religious rights "of existing non-Jewish sections of the population. Why "non-Jewish," if the Arabs were to be in the majority? In that case, it would plainly have been necessary to protect the Jews.
But look a little closer at the Balfour Declaration. The White Paper says that the Government did not contest the view of the Royal Commission that "the Zionist leaders at the time of the Balfour Declaration, recognised that an ultimate Jewish State was not precluded by the terms of the Declaration." That is a very disingenuous version of what the Royal Commission actually said:The Jews understood that if the experiment succeeded the National Home would develop in course of time into a Jewish State.Why did the Jews understand that to be the case? Because from 1918 to 1920 they were told so by the rulers of the world. They were told so by President Wilson, by Lord Balfour and by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). Not one leader ever hinted that there would not be a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine in time to come. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has said that the notion that Jewish immigration would be restricted never entered into anybody's mind because it would have been regarded "as unjust and as a fraud on the people to whom we were pledged." I know that is true, because I talked to the men day by day who made the Mandate. The Secretary of State reminded us to-day that the White Paper of 1922 tells us that we did not intend to make a wholly Jewish State. It went on to say something which is very important, that we "did not intend to stamp out or subordinate the Arab population, language or culture." Of course not; no one ever suggested such a thing. That White Paper may have repudiated the suggestion that Palestine was to be made as Jewish as England is English; but did anybody doubt that it was the in- 2040 tention that Palestine should be as Jewish as Canada is British?
The analogy is exact. The Secretary of State said this afternoon that we would not in any part of the world force immigrants on unwilling populations in countries that we rule. What did we do in Canada? We had a violent conflict with the French, and they were in a majority. We conquered Canada, and we sent immigrants there for centuries; and to-day the peoples live in harmony together, as some day the Jews and Arabs will in Palestine. In 1922, as in 1919, we meant to create a Commonwealth in Palestine in which Jews and Arabs would have common democratic rights and freedom, but in which the Jews would predominate in numbers. But for that, the experiment of a National Home would never have been attempted. As late as 1937, both the Royal Commission and the Government themselves in their White Paper said that the primary objective of Zionism, and, therefore, of the Mandate, was "escape from minority life." And, in this regard the present White Paper and the policy of the Secretary of State are in flagrant violation of the Balfour Declaration of the Mandate, and, indeed, of the whole policy which the British Government as Mandatory has hitherto pursued. The Royal Commission declared in 1937 thatThe primary purpose of the Mandate as expressed in its preamble and its articles, is to promote the establishment of a Jewish National Home";and the Government, in the famous letter written in 1931 by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, which has already been quoted this afternoon, recognised that that was an undertaking, not only to the Jews in Palestine, but to Jews throughout the world. All these solemn pledges, these international obligations—for such they are—the Secretary of State puts aside. For him, the primary purpose of the Mandate is no longer the establishment of a Jewish National Home, but the protection of Arab rights; and not the rights of the Balfour Declaration—political freedom and civil justice in a free State—but a new right which he has invented, the right that the Arabs shall be in a majority for ever. So he condemns the Jews for ever to minority status; minority status among Arabs—not minority status among the European peoples, or among the 2041 American people, whose countries they have left to go to Palestine; Minority Status, from which the whole purpose of the Mandate was that, after 15 centuries of dispersion and persecution, they should at last escape.
This afternoon the Secretary of State tried to comfort us by talking of constitutional safeguards for the Jews. I ask him, what safeguards? I hope the Undersecretary will tell us. He spoke of federation. In the Jewish unit of the federation, will there be freedom of immigration? I ask him to tell me. I wish he would tell me now. If he uses a word like" federation," he ought to have clear ideas on a fundamental point like that. I ask him, if constitutional safeguards will protect the Jews, why will they not protect the Arabs, especially with the great Arab hinterland behind? I ask him why, if the Arabs are afraid of Jewish domination, he never mentioned the Jewish offer of political parity which they have made, and have always stood by, from the very start? He cannot give us an answer to these questions, for there is none. By inventing this new Arab right to be in a majority, he has utterly destroyed the purpose and the meaning of the Mandate, and has violated its spirit in every possible way.
But in his White Paper and in his speech he not only violates the spirit and purpose of the Mandate, but he violates the letter of its articles as well. Article 2, which deals with immigration, lays it down that we as Mandatory shall—not may or should but shall—facilitate Jewish immigration, and encourage close Jewish settlement on the land. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs has said no one at the time ever dreamt that there would be a restriction on that right of immigration; they doubted, rather, whether the Jews would really want to go. But a restriction was in fact instituted. As the Secretary of State said, in 1922 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) brought in the principle of economic absorptive capacity. It was a restriction on Jewish rights, on their right to go to Palestine; but it was accepted, however reluctantly, by the Jews. The Secretary of State said to-day that that principle does not mean that we must allow the Jews to go up to the limit of economic absorptive capacity; he challenged that interpretation completely. 2042 Has he forgotten that, when the White Paper of 1922 was issued, the Jews wrote a letter in which they gave exactly that interpretation to the new principle, namely, that they should be allowed to go to the limit of economic absorptive capacity? Has he forgotten that the British Government of the day sent that letter, together with the White Paper and their draft of the Mandate, to the League of Nations, without any dissenting note of any kind, and that is was on those three documents together that the Mandate was approved? Not only that, but the Government have gone on asserting almost ever since that the principle of economic absorptive capacity means precisely what the Jews claimed that it should. I could quote a score of Government declarations; I will quote only one. Lord Swinton, who was then Secretary of State for the Colonies, said in 1933:It has always been the policy followed by the Mandatory Power—and no other policy could possibly be pursued in Palestine in carrying out the idea of a National Home—that the economic conditions of the country must govern the number of immigrants.Time after time, in 1933, 1934, 1935 and 1936, Government spokesmen have used the word "govern" or "determine" in that same sense. To-day, the Secretary of State challenges that principle; he says that political factors must also be considered—that if the Arabs are against continued immigration, it must stop. And so he substitutes for economic absorptive capacity what my right hon. Friend the Member for South Hackney last November called the principle of political absorptive capacity, with the consent of the Mufti and his colleagues as the test of the application of this new principle. I again without hesitation that this new principle is in open conflict with the Mandate and with the White Paper of 1922, and I am certain that, if the right hon. Gentleman who wrote that White Paper were here, he would agree. I cannot believe that the Mandates Commission of the League will approve of this new principle, or that this House should approve of it until it knows what that Commission is going to do.
This is not the first time that the Secretary of State's argument about political considerations has been put forward, and he, if anyone, ought to remember that fact. It was put forward in the famous and ill-fated White Paper of 1930, 2043 which was the Government's response, as this White Paper is, to Arab violence. It proposed, as the Secretary of State now proposes, to throw over the principle of economic absorptive capacity, and drastically to reduce Jewish immigration on political grounds. What happened? British opinion was so incensed that the Government were obliged virtually to withdraw the White Paper, abandon their restrictions on immigration and reassert the principle of economic absorptive capacity as the decisive and the only test. The restrictions proposed in that White Paper of 1930 were challenged at the time as a violation of the Mandate. They were challenged by Lord Baldwin, the late Sir Austen Chamberlain and the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), who together said that it would have been contrary to the intention of the Mandate if the Jewish National Home had "crystallised at its present stage of development." They were challenged also on legal grounds by two of the greatest legal luminaries in the country, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and Lord Hail-sham, who together wrote a letter to the "Times" in which they analysed the White Paper, recited its restrictions on immigration, and then said:In all these respects the White Paper appears to us to involve a departure from the obligations of the Mandate. This country cannot afford to allow any suspicion to rest on its faith or on its determination to carry out to the full its international obligations. If, therefore, the terms of the White Paper are the deliberate and considered announcement of Government policy, we would suggest that immediate steps be taken to induce the Council of the League of Nations to obtain from the Hague Court an advisory opinion on the questions involved, and that the British Government should not enforce these paragraphs unless and until the Court has pronounced in their favour.Such persuasion from such quarters brought Lord Passfield—with the help, if I remember rightly, of the present Secretary of State himself—to his knees. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald wrote the letter to which I have already referred, in which he laid down "that no political factor should affect the right to immigrate, and it should be based on purely economic considerations." And in another passage of that letter, the then Prime Minister said:The obligation to facilitate Jewish immigration.… can be fulfilled without prejudice to the rights and position"—2044 the phrase that the Secretary of State quoted this afternoon, and on which he considerably relied—the rights and position of other sections of the population of Palestine.That sentence of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald's letter demolishes, at a single blow, the whole case put up by the Secretary of State this afternoon. Nor is that the end. The point arose again in 1936. We then restricted immigration because of the troubles which began the year before. The Mandates Commission raised the question, and our Foreign Secretary was compelled to tell the Assembly of the League that it was a purely temporary expedient to meet a temporary situation. Will the Secretary of State accept the plan which the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed in 1931? Will he send the matter to the Hague Court. Will he let the Mandates Commission draft the question which is put? Will he accept the verdict given?
I do not believe that, in his heart of hearts, the Secretary of State greatly differs from much that I have said. He knows that he is proposing a change in the meaning and purpose of the Mandate. He justifies it because he says that to continue Jewish immigration means government by force. None of us wants government by force; but in the present situation the Secretary of State's proposition is a euphemism for giving way to lawless force. It is a polite way of saying that we will surrender to the Mufti and his gang that, in the hope of getting peace, we must do another Munich on the Jews. When you contemplate a Munich the first question to ask is, "Shall we really get peace or shall we not?" What is the terrorism to which the Secretary of State is now surrendering? When did the present disturbances begin, and by whom were they organised? They began in 1935, at the time of the Abyssinian affair, when we were imposing our feeble economic sanctions on Mussolini. They were organised by the Mufti, who for nearly 20 years has worked against the Mandate, and who threatened to the Royal Commission that the Jews would be expelled when the Arab State had been set up. It was paid for and assisted by the aggressive Powers who have kept Europe in a ferment, and against whom to-day we are compelled to prepare for war. Money, arms, officers, organisers, everything came from Italy 2045 and Germany. Already in 1935—I am quoting the editor of the "Quarterly Review "—50 German agents were sent to Africa and the Near East. Their destinations, among others, were Haifa and Jaffa. They were given instructions to carry on the most intense propaganda efforts among the natives. In 1936—I am quoting the "Daily Telegraph "—the Jerusalem police intercepted documents proving that the Arab raiders received £50,000 from Germany and £20,000 from Italy for the purpose of strengthening their resistance. We know that British officers in Palestine talk freely of the German and Italian arms and money that the terrorists have received. We know that the land mines by which British soldiers have been murdered could not be made and could not be operated by the Arabs. We know that on one occasion the bloodhounds followed the trail from a land mine to a blacksmith's shop in the German Colony of Waldenheim. We know that Dr. Goebbels has established a propaganda school for Arabs in Berlin.
Is this terror really the work of the Arab population of Palestine? Have they done the fighting? If so, why have cut-throats and gangsters come in from all over the Middle East? Lord Lytton goes to Palestine every year. He knows the country well. He told me last week that in his belief the real followers of the Mufti do not number more than about 1,000 men. All through the trouble far more Arabs have been killed by Arabs than have Jews. All through the troubles the Arab fellahin, in many places, and in many ways, have been trying, in spite of terrorism, to show their friendship for the Jews. Two weeks ago 1,500 Jews went to occupy a new settlement in the Gallilean Hills. The Arabs of the region came to bid them welcome. They stayed three days, and helped them to make the road. They said that they thanked God that they had come because they would" now be free of the Mufti's armed bands and their incursions. That is not an isolated example. There is a settlement at Hanita on the Lebanon frontier, where for 18 months Jews have lived without being molested in any way. All over the country there are such settlements, including out of the way and most difficult parts.
As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook said to-night that the 2046 British Empire has dealt with many more serious revolts than this. Indeed, although it sounds like a paradox, it may well be that at the present moment there is a better chance of securing real Arab-Jewish co-operation than ever before. Before this White Paper was produced, the Mufti was utterly discredited, and his gangsters had been scattered or destroyed. The vast majority of the Arab people were known to be longing for the end of terror and for peace; they knew that the Jewish immigration had brought not only Jewish prosperity, but Arab prosperity as well. It is at this moment, when the foreign-fomented terrorism has been almost ended, when order has been very largely restored, when the Jews are suffering a persecution such as they have not known in their long history, and such as was not dreamed of in 1919 when the National Home was first conceived, when the National Home has proved that, spiritually, financially, and economically, to be a practical success; it is at this moment, when very many of the doubts of 1919 have been resolved, that the Government throw aside the policy of the Balfour Declaration of the National Home. It is not that policy which has failed; it is the Government who have failed because they have never really tried to make the policy work.
If one thing is more certain than another it is that this new policy will be a failure. The Jews will not have it. The British will not have it. They will not have it because it is cowardly and wrong.
Last Friday I sat by chance in the train beside a German Jewish girl. She had left the Rhineland the day before. She told me of her life at home, how the Nazis had attacked her father's house a score of times, smashed their windows, their furniture, and their cups and saucers, torn up and scattered their mattresses and feather beds. Her aged mother had to sleep on the floor. Her brother had just come home from Dachau where he had been for nine months. He had not been tortured, only kicked and beaten every day. But he was so broken that if the door bell rang he rushed to hide himself away. We forget it, but this is what is happening every day in Germany under Dr. Goebbels' devilish decrees—no homes, no work, no hope, brutality and starvation for half a million Jews. And when these Jews try to escape and go to 2047 Palestine, they are what the Government call "illegal immigrants."
Three weeks ago a Greek ship arrived with 500 "illegal immigrants" from Germany. I have here the facts, typed out by the hand of Michael Clarke, whom the Mufti murdered last week on the road to Tel Aviv. In this ship of 750 tons there were 500 passengers. They paid fares of £20 each. The captain raised by blackmail £2,000 more. They travelled the Mediterranean from port to port for 48 days, almost without food, often without water, always without soap or sanitation. Men from Dachau said the ship was worse. At last, one dark night, they made their landing. They waded up to their shoulders through the sea. Three hundred of the younger and more active managed to escape to Jewish colonies and homes, but the rest, too beaten, too exhausted to do more, fell on the beach and kissed the holy ground. There British soldiers found them and took them into camp, clothed them, fed them and gave them tea.
If the Secretary of State's policy is now adopted, the illegal immigration of these tortured people from Germany and elsewhere will enormously increase. The Jews of Palestine will go by the tens of thousands down to the beach to welcome them and to cover and protect their landings. The only way to stop them is to tell those kindly British soldiers to shoot them down. Does the Secretary of State believe that he could give that order? He knows that he could not. For that, if for no other reason, this policy is bound to fail. It will fail because in the most tragic hour of Jewish history the British people will not deny them their Promised Land.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Butler)
Anyone who has been brought into intimate association with the problems of Palestine throughout the long negotiations of the Palestine Conference must have had his imagination stretched and his emotions profoundly stirred by the experience. The experience of having seen two races looking towards Palestine, to have realised the passion in which Rabbis learned in the law have summed up the aspirations of 1,500 years and more, and listened, on the other hand, to those who have 2048 insisted on the unity of Islam, is indeed an experience which it is difficult to forget. But the House this evening is in the position of looking to the future and of planning for the future. That is the spirit in which I think we shall all be well advised to examine this question. The plan which my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary has laid before the House, attempts to establish a new set of conditions in which each race may gradually be brought to realise the rightful place of the other in a common country. It might seem grander and nobler for the Government to come down to the House and suggest the imposition of some detailed settlement, some ambitious constitution, worked out, as the hon. Member seemed to expect at this stage, in every particular. Such is not our plan. It establishes a new set of conditions which I will with the permission of the House examine.
When I had the somewhat lengthy and laborious experience of assisting in piloting the great Government of India Act through the House I became somewhat accustomed to explaining the details of a great constitution, and perhaps the experience I gained was of some value in that I was at any rate grounded in the principles which have animated those who have developed the British constitution. In the introduction to the report of the Joint Select Committee Lord Bryce says:Our constitution works by a body of understanding which no writer can formulate.It is upon understanding that any constitution must work, and if understanding is not present in any of the persons who have to operate the constitution, steps should be taken to try and induce that understanding and the necessary co-operation. We maintain that by bringing both sides in Palestine up against certain stark realities, and by showing them that certain of their claims are not realisable, we shall bring nearer the date of co-operation and understanding than if we do not face these stark realities. They are that immigration cannot continue indefinitely at the present rate without trouble worse than there is in that country at the present time, and that Palestine cannot be exclusively either a Jewish or an Arab state. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) referred to my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister as having performed a 2049 surgical operation in another part of the world last Autumn. Here we are submitting the patient to as distasteful an experience, to the extent that we are recommending a distinct change in the way of living. We are recommending that the patient must come up hard against certain facts if his health is to be improved. The experience may be unpleasant, but what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies is recommending on this occasion is not a surgical operation, but a healing diet. He is suggesting that if these realities and facts are faced, health will return to the body politic, and there will be more opportunity of co-operation and understanding than before.
If we are to examine the state of Palestine, we must realise the need of that unhappy country for toleration and understanding. If we are accused by the opposition of being responsible for the delays and perhaps the mistakes of British policy in the past, if muddle be a characteristic of this country, then toleration is also one of her great characteristics, and I am convinced, from my experiences of association with both sides in this question, that the record of the British Empire has been fully appreciated both by the Jews and the Arabs, and that they have both realised that they have no greater friend than Great Britain. One has only to examine the record of Great Britain towards either race to realise that what I have said is true, and how wise it will be for both sides in the present international difficulties to realise that fact; and, difficult as may be the times through which we shall pass, to realise that we have common interests, and common ideals of liberty and justice and objection to force.
I was particularly pleased to meet the representatives of the Arab States who came to assist us on the occasion of the conference, and while I should like to acknowledge the help of all those of both races who took part in the conference I should like in particular—and I am sure that the House would wish to associate itself with me—to remember the statesmanlike attitude of the representative of the Arab States, the representatives of royal houses. I feel sure that those statesmanlike qualities will be present in the times which lie before us, and that they will assist us in the difficulties which lie ahead.
2050 The reputation of Great Britain and British policy in the Near and Middle East is a high one. It is well know that the typical British policy of encouraging the independence and self-government of nations with whom we have been associated has been carried out to the full, and there is a latent confidence in the attitude and word of this country. In Palestine, the British Empire is facing a particular and, for it, a novel problem—the desire of the two nations to live in that country as of right. Successful as we have been throughput our Empire in establishing self-government, and successful as we have been in the history of our association with Egypt and Iraq, we have here a particularly intractable problem, which will require, not only all the wisdom of the Government but the united wisdom of this House. I think I am right in claiming that the White Paper represents an attempt to establish new conditions; I find on examination of different views which have been expressed about it, that there is a concentration on one feature of the plan and that is the fact that it gives both sides an opportunity to get together. I take first, the view expressed by a paper, the leading article in which cannot, by the wildest stretch of imagination, be described as friendly to the proposals. I refer to the "Jewish Chronicle" I find in a leading article of 19th May, published immediately after the plan was brought out the following words:The White Paper and" its implications by their very objectionableness force again the importance of achieving Arab-Jewish understanding, an importance which is being realised daily more vividly by the majority of Palestine Arabs and by Jews throughout the world. Given time, freedom from interference and genuine encouragement by the Palestine administration, this understanding will grow like a living thingDespite the criticisms contained in that article, I was glad to notice that passage in it. The article goes on to say that this understanding cannot be manufactured by what it describes as intricate policies. My first point was that we are not laying down to-day any intricate policy. We are laying down certain conditions under which, after facing the realities of the situation, both sides in Palestine can get together and work out their own future with our help. That is the course which the House will be asked to approve when it votes on this question to-morrow. I take an extract from another source, 2051 namely, the "New York Times" which, in an article, published on 18th May uses the following words:The conditions which obtained at the time of the Balfour Declaration and the McMahon correspondence have greatly altered and the pressure on Palestine is now so great that immigration has to be strictly regulated in order to save the country from overpopulation and avoid increasingly violent Arab resistance.It recognises that there is no solution of the problem acceptable to all and points put that the choice before the Jews in Palestine is to co-operate in building up a State in which they can preserve their present influence. There is the same note of co-operation in this journal. When the hon. Member for Don Valley asks me whether we are endangering the great constructive effort of the Jews, my answer is that it is by co-operation and by achieving a closer understanding with the other side that the Jews will best serve their great constructive effort in Palestine, to which so many tributes have been paid. This is their great opportunity and I fail to see why the Jews should feel so depressed as to consider that they are to become in Palestine the inhabitants of what is known as a ghetto.
§ Mr. T. Williams
Has the right hon. Gentleman forgotten the previous experience to which reference has been made?
§ Mr. Butler
I was about to say that Jewish influence in Palestine is so strong and the position which they have made for themselves so great that I have never understood the depressed attitude which they sometimes adopt. I feel sure that if they display the courage which they have shown throughout the centuries and the faith in the future of their race, their constructive achievement in Palestine will be saved. I take another section of opinion in order to show that I am not prejudiced, and I follow the quotations I have given with one from a source which is in sympathy with the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). The "Daily Worker," which cannot be regarded as friendly, contains an article in which we find exactly the same note:The essential thing is that the proposed independent State does make possible Arab and Jewish co-operation.It is a remarkable fact that in almost all the criticisms of the plan there is this 2052 theme running through, that this plan does make possible Arab and Jewish co-operation. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol asked me a question on the subject of the workers of Palestine, in whose interests, naturally, any plan should be framed. Since we took over Palestine much has been done, by agricultural and other education and by financial assistance, to raise the standard of living of the workers and peasants in Palestine. The wages of Arabs in Palestine are higher than in other Arab countries, but, as the White Paper shows, and as the hon. and learned Member, who has, I am sure, studied the Royal Commission's report will see, the problem is fundamentally political and arises through a fear of the Arabs about the future of their own country.
I want to ask the House and both sides in Palestine to try and face the difficulties of the Mandatory Power. After all, we have a great responsibility—this country and this House—in conducting this Mandate and bringing Palestine to a more peaceful situation. I have always thought that the crux of the situation is to be found in the Royal Commission's report, in paragraph 50, where it says:It is clear that the policy of the Balfour Declaration was subjected to the operation of the Mandate system in 1919 in the belief that the obligations thereby undertaken towards the Arabs and towards the Jews respectively would not conflict.That was the underlying assumption of those who brought in this Mandate. Later, in paragraph 51, the Royal Commission go on to say this:It must have been obvious from the outset that a very awkward situation would arise if that basic assumption should prove false.That is exactly the problem which His Majesty's Government are facing to-day, that the obligations towards these two races have conflicted, and our object now is to face that fact, not to blind ourselves to it, and to set up conditions in which they will not conflict. This, I think, can best be done by interpreting the spirit of the Mandate to the full, and I am certainly ready to accept the challenge of the Opposition, in which they say that the proposals of this Command Paper are inconsistent with the spirit and the letter of the Mandate. I claim that our proposals are nearer the spirit of the Mandate than are the critisicms of hon. and right hon. Members opposite, and I prove my case, I trust, as follows: 2053 The Mandate has three objectives. The first, to be found in Articles 2 and 6, is to set up the National Home; the second is to safeguard the civil and religious rights of the inhabitants; and the third is to develop self-governing institutions. It is not just one limited objective, but three objectives. I make bold to say that the balance of the Mandate has been upset by stressing the injunction to encourage immigration. For instance, I believe it to be true that the self-governing portion of the Mandate has been delayed perhaps largely for that very reason. Some of the opposition claim that the Mandate, read with other documents and statements, proposes an absolute obligation to continue immigration to the maximum of economic absorptive capacity, apparently irrespective of its effect on the development of self-governing institutions and the present peace and future development of the State.
§ Mr. Butler
If we then examine this, what I should like to describe as policy towards immigration, and take on the other hand the more balanced interpretation of the Mandate which I have attempted to give, we see that the policy towards immigration in it cannot and should not be construed as overriding the other obligations and general intentions of the Mandate.
§ Mr. Noel-Baker
The hon. Gentleman has not forgotten that the Royal Commission said that the object was the establishment of a National Home in order that the Jews might escape from minority status?
§ Mr. Butler
I also realise that the Mandate has the two other features to which I have drawn attention, and one of the main criticisms of British policy has been that self-governing institutions have not been more quickly developed. If we are to fulfil the Mandate in its entirety, I believe it is true that the other features have not had sufficient weight and attention paid to them. If the two races are to live together, a balance must be struck in the present White Paper between the various obligations in the Mandate. In fact, the question of policy towards immigration, the question of developing 2054 self-governing institutions and the question of safeguarding civil and religious liberty must be considered together and must have equal attention. I think the overriding and fundamental obligation is to have regard to the development of the country as a whole, and the National Home within it, making possible internal peace, good order and mutual understanding, upon which alone self-government can be based. Had the Government not decided on the policy contained in the White Paper I do not believe that the possibility of internal peace, good order and mutual understanding would have been as great as I believe it will be thanks to the decisions that we have taken in the White Paper.
There have been one or two questions asked upon constitutional issues. The question whether Palestine should be an Arab or a Jewish State has already been answered by my right hon. Friend. I have been asked whether one side can restrict the progress towards self-government of the other. I would draw attention to the phrase in paragraph 10 (3), which says that both sections of the population will have an opportunity of participating in the machinery of government, and the process will be carried on whether or not they both avail themselves of it. I have been asked what is meant by peace and order. That is one of the things which you recognise when you see them, but which are very difficult to define, but I know that my right hon. Friend wished me to say that there is no intention on the part of the administration to prevent the development of those self-governing institutions in the intervening period more than can possibly be prevented by the circumstances of the moment.
I have been asked about the question of the Jews being a minority in Palestine. My answer to that is what I said at the beginning of my speech, that it will be for both sides to take this opportunity of getting together and co-operating with the object of finding the best constitutional solution of the present difficulty. We have given an undertaking in the White Paper that we shall not introduce the independent state until we are satisfied, as described in paragraph 10, Sub-section (7) (b), of the protection of the different communities in Palestine in accordance with our obligations to both Arabs and Jews 2055 and for the special position in Palestine of the Jewish National Home.
The Amendment of the official Opposition requests that the House should await the examination of the proposals by the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League. In the view of His Majesty's Government it will not be necessary for the House to await such a decision because there is nothing inconsistent between the Mandate and anything contained in this White Papr. If there were I can see that a case could be made out for waiting for the Permanent Mandates Commission to examine the matter. The White Paper will, of course, be communicated in the ordinary way to State members of the League and to the Permanent Mandates Commission, who, while examining the records of British administration over the past year, will examine the statement of policy made by His Majesty's Government. Their report will presumably come before the Council. In the view of His Majesty's Government, as there is no alteration in the Mandate contained in the White Paper, there is no question of the approval by the Council of changes in the Mandate. In any case, if need be, we shall be able to explain our point of view, which I have already expressed to the House, to the Council of the League, before whom the report of the Mandates Commission will come, as we are a member of the Council of the League.
Is it right that the Government should be judge and advocate in their own case and ask the House to decide upon it before the Mandates Commission have come to their decision?
§ Mr. Butler
I think it very important that the House should make up its mind on this question in view of the definite and routine arrangements under which this policy will come before the League. Hon. Members should be under no illusion that the responsibility for the Government of Palestine does not rest upon our shoulders. While we wish at all times to pay due weight to the valuable opinions of the Permanent Mandates Commission, it is for us to discharge this responsibility.
§ Mr. Attlee
This is a very important point. Do I understand the right hon. Gentleman to say that His Majesty's Government have the right to do what they 2056 please in regard to Palestine without regard to the League from whom they have the Mandate?
§ Mr. Butler
The right hon. Gentleman has no right to say that. What I said was that the matter would come to the League, that we are a Member of the League Council, and that we do not consider there is any change in the Mandate in our policy. When the matter comes before the League Council we shall be allowed to discuss it and express our point of view again. I do not think that that absolves this House of responsibility for taking a decision in this matter. I consider that the House would be abrogating its responsibility if it shrank before the decision which it is asked to take. To take a decision on this problem and to be definite is the responsibility of this country, and on the part of the Jews and Arabs it is to co-operate. A combination between these policies will, I think, result in a better future for that country and the hope that, in the words we know so well:In retiring and rest shall ye be saved. In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.
§ It being Eleven of the clock, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.