HC Deb 11 October 1944 vol 403 cc1746-8
74. Mr. Hamilton Kerr

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make regarding recent terrorist outrages in Palestine.

Colonel Stanley

There has unfortunately been a recrudescence of Jewish terrorist activities in Palestine. On the night of 27th September attacks were made on four police stations by members of the Irgun Zvai Leumi, the military organisation of the New Zionist organisation. They were planned and executed by a force estimated to have been at least 150 strong and armed with bombs and automatic weapons. There were casualties among Palestinian police and civilians and considerable damage was caused to police buildings. Casualties were also inflicted on the terrorists and two men were arrested, one of whom had been wounded. Quantities of ammunition, two bombs and Irgun flags were seized. On the morning of 29th September a senior British police officer, Mr. J. T. Wilkin, of the Criminal Investigation Department, was assassinated while walking to his office in Jerusalem. The assailants escaped. On the night of 5th-6th October the Tel Aviv offices and stores of the Department of Light Industries were raided by 50 persons, some of whom were armed, and textiles valued at £100,000 were removed. The raiders announced themselves as being members of the Irgun Zvai Leumi.

These attacks, the object of which is to further political aims, seriously impede the war effort of the United Nations and can do nothing but harm to the Jewish cause. They are the work of a relatively small body of extremists and are condemned by responsible leaders of Jewry in Palestine and throughout the world. I am sure that the whole House will join with me in condemning these outrages and in expressing its sympathy with the victims of this murderous campaign.

Colonel Sir Arthur Evans

Can my right hon. Friend tell the House whether His Majesty's Government have any information as to how automatic weapons and ammunition are procured by these people; and what steps will be taken to prevent such occurrences in the future?

Colonel Stanley

I am afraid that there have, during the last five years, been a great many troops moving about in the Middle East and that undoubtedly a certain number of arms have either been stolen from them or, in some cases, sold by them.

Earl Winterton

Is my right hon. and gallant Friend aware that those of us who are in touch with opinion in that country, are most alarmed by the information which is reaching us that both sides are arming preparatory to civil war after the war? Will he consider publishing a White Paper on the subject, as the majority of people in this country have not the least idea of the seriousness of the situation, and the terrible strain placed upon the administration in Palestine?

Colonel Stanley

I agree with my Noble Friend that it is most important that people should realise the very tense situation there. I will consider in what way we can bring it to the public's attention.

Mr. Lipson

May I ask whether an order has been issued, or will be issued, stating that all unauthorised persons in Palestine having arms must surrender them to the authorities?

Colonel Stanley

It is, of course, already a criminal offence to have unauthoirised arms.

Mr. Mack

Cannot the Minister make it clear that the action of these elements in Palestine is execrated, not only by the responsible leaders of Jewry there, but also by the whole of the Jewish population, who are willing and anxious to give every kind of assistance to the authorities to see that this kind of thing is stopped?

Colonel Stanley

Yes, Sir, but verbal denunciation is not, in itself, enough. What we want, and what we shall hope to get, is the active collaboration of the whole of the Jewish population in Palestine.