§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—[Mr. William Whiteley.]
§ 3.52 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for the Colonies (Mr. Creech Jones)
On 29th November, the General Assembly of the United Nations resolved, by a decisive vote, that Palestine should be partitioned. The decision is momentous, and the Government desire to inform the House of the position of the United Kingdom in the matter, and of the steps which will be taken to end our responsibilities under the Mandate. Palestine was last discussed in this House shortly before the Committee which had been set up by the Special Assembly of the United Nations had reported. The efforts which have been made by the Government in recent years to secure some reconciliation of interests as between Jews and Arabs inside the Mandate, and the various schemes submitted in the hope of establishing political co-operation and security in Palestine, are now a matter of history and have received the attention of the House.
Parliament is also fully aware of the reasons which finally led to the reference of the Palestine problem to the United Nations, and I need not cover that ground again. In all these discussions—in fact, ever since the abandonment of the partition recommendations made by the Peel Commission—the solution envisaged was within the structure of a unitary state, expressed from time to time in a variety of forms, with Jews and Arabs sharing in the government. The Government found nothing in the Mandate to entitle them to impose by force on either community a solution unacceptable to the other. As my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary told the House on 18th February this year:… if the conflict has to be resolved by arbitrary decision, that is not a decision which His Majesty's Government are empowered as Mandatory to take."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th February, 1947; Vol. 433, c. 988.]It was obvious that in the absence of agreement and because of the irreconcilable nature of the interests involved, not only was the Mandate unworkable, but also, in its place, no trusteeship agreement could be made to cover the period until Palestine achieved independence.
1208 The Government have felt throughout that they should make every effort to win a settlement without recourse to force. The violence of the past weeks fully confirms the Government in the steps they took to try to obtain from the two communities concerned some mutual accommodation inside or outside the Mandate. The perpetuation of the Mandate regime implied increasingly active and costly military commitments, and a situation deteriorating by lawlessness, terrorism, and non co-operation by the Jewish community with the Government. Faced with Jewish demands and Arab refusal, we could not, under the Mandate, establish either a Jewish State or an Arab State in Palestine by force, nor could we coerce either people in the interest of the other.
By reference of the question of Palestine to the United Nations, we asked that organisation to make an unfettered examination of the problem. I pointed out to the House that our sincerity as a nation was manifest by our reference of the problem to the United Nations. For reasons which I have previously given to the House, we suggested to the United Nations no particular solution. Manifestly, having asked the United Nations for advice, we could not then proceed to shape the advice which the Assembly would give, nor could we hope to secure acceptance of plans and proposals which had already proved unacceptable to the parties. A free judgment by the United Nations, without any suspicion or prejudice which might be engendered by Britain urging proposals of her own, seemed to His Majesty's Government, in all the circumstances, to be the wisest course to take.
We did, however, give all possible assistance to the Special Committee and to subsequent committees set up to study the problem. Sir Alexander Cadogan expressly stated to the United Nations at the Special Assembly, that the United Kingdom Government ought not to havethe sole responsibility for enforcing a solution which is not accepted by both parties, and which we cannot reconcile with our conscience.The Special Committee of the United Nations reported, in due course, to the General Assembly, that the Mandate should be terminated and that Palestine should proceed to independence. A majority of the Committee favoured a partition plan. The substance of the Report 1209 of the Special Committee is known to the House. Without any loss of time, on 26th September, the Government informed the United Nations that we would surrender the Mandate, and that we agreed that Palestine should enjoy independent status.
I made it clear at Lake Success that the British Government were not prepared to impose, by force of arms, a settlement which was not acceptable to both Arabs and Jews in Palestine and that, in the absence of such a settlement, the Government must plan for the early withdrawal of British Forces and administration from Palestine. I should add, also, that in the discussions at the United Nations Assembly I re-emphasised that I could not easily imagine circumstances in which the United Kingdom would wish to prevent the application of a settlement recommended by the General Assembly. Nor did I fail to assert that His Majesty's Government would not carry sole or major responsibility for the administration of Palestine and for enforcing changes which the United Nations regarded as necessary. I made every effort to persuade delegations that enforcement must be regarded as an integral part of any new policy by the United Nations in Palestine.
The announcement of our intention to end the Mandate and to withdraw the Forces was universally welcomed. All subsequent study of the Special Committee's Reports on the Palestine problem at United Nations, proceeded with the position of His Majesty's Government well understood by the delegations there. During these discussions, various nations proposed either that the British administration and Forces should continue in Palestine for security reasons while a partition policy was being applied; or that Britain should transfer its authority direct to the respective Arab and Jewish States which were being proposed; or that there should be a period in which both the British and the United Nations authority should operate while the latter was imposing a partition scheme.
All such proposals were inconsistent with the policy that His Majesty's Government had laid down. They were, sometimes, designed by others to entangle Britain in shaping, and accepting the responsibility, for the schemes evolved, and maintaining British Arms to enforce 1210 any scheme agreed upon. We have been criticised for this attitude of refusing to depart from the principles which His Majesty's Government laid down. In all this work we have sought to be co-operative with the United Nations and to avoid a negative attitude, whether in the work of the main Committee or the two sub-Committees—one concerned with the Arab plan of a unitary state, and the other with the plan of partition. Our officials and delegates gave all the help in their power. They provided factual information relevant to the matters under discussion based on our experience. But frequently they had to remind the Committees of the position and of the declaration which His Majesty's Government had made.
Before the conclusion of the discussions, Sir Alexander Cadogan announced on behalf of the Government that the withdrawal of our Forces and administration would be effected by 1st August, 1948, and that so long as British troops remained in any part of Palestine they would maintain law and order in the area of which they were still in occupation. A civil administration would not necessarily be maintained by His Majesty's Government throughout this period. We reserved the right to lay down the Mandate and to bring civil administration to an end at any time. His Majesty's Government would not wish to impede, he said, the implementation of any scheme approved by the General Assembly.
It is important that I should emphasise that we have been actuated throughout by the desire to bring the parties concerned to a realisation of the grave reactions which may arise in Palestine with the withdrawal of British administration, and how imperative is a settlement between the two communities. If His Majesty's Government were persuaded that their only proper course was to withdraw from Palestine—particularly in view f the dangers and losses experienced by our Forces and the necessity on financial and political grounds of ending commitments in Palestine—we certainly did not wish to leave Palestine in disorder after the tremendous and costly contribution Britain had made in developing Palestine and discharging our responsibilities under the Mandate.
Right up to the last at the United Nations, our delegates, therefore, directed 1211 attention to the problem of implementing and enforcing any scheme decided upon, and to the fact that British troops could not be used as the instrument of the United Nations for enforcing a decision against either community. I am sure that the House will agree that this was in accordance with the mood of our country as well as being politically wise. We were now surrendering an international instrument, and transferring authority, quite properly, to the appropriate international authority. That body was now engaged in determining the status of Palestine in the future and the form its structure of government should take. It was not for Britain, after it had given so much, to take up again the heavy commitments of bringing a new order fashioned by the United Nations into being in the face of new conflict.
It is a tragic fact that no conciliation of the conflicting interests of Jews and Arabs was possible at Lake Success. The long debates were sometimes recriminatory, but the open debates demonstrated to the world the intractable nature of the problem and the intransigent character of the parties. The plan which emerged is still bitterly opposed by a strong minority of the United Nations, which denies the justice of the decision.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
It must be said that the plan makes little provision for enforcement. Difficulties which may arise in Palestine may be referred to the Security Council of the United Nations for consideration and instructions. The substitute authority—the United Nations Commission of five drawn from five small states—will assume administrative responsibility and transfer authority directly to what governments or authorities it may create in Palestine.
A State of Jerusalem will be created under the administrative responsibility of the Trusteeship Council. It is proposed that a seaport and hinterland in the Jewish area should be evacuated at an early stage to permit of substantial immigration. The boundaries of the new states have been varied in important details from those recommended in the Partition Report of the Special Committee. It is not for me at this stage to examine critically the proposals in this new 1212 scheme. It has been adopted by the Assembly, and possibly certain aspects of it may be modified in the light of experience. I would like to mention, however, that certain of the essential features hark back to the various ideas expressed in the schemes associated with the names of my right hon. Friends the Lord President and the Foreign Secretary. But it was not until the recent meetings at Lake Success that the Jewish community officially accepted, or announced acceptance of the device of partition.
During the many debates the competence of the General Assembly to take any action along the lines now adopted was challenged on legal grounds. But the Assembly has voted, has offered its advice, and taken steps for action to proceed as it has directed. The Assembly was told that Great Britain would not obstruct any decision taken, and its result would be loyally accepted in so far as its terms did not conflict with the conditions His Majesty's Government had announced during the discussions. The decision of the Assembly is regarded by His Majesty's Government as the decision of a court of international opinion.
This is not a grudging acceptance, as a distinguished newspaper suggested. We have no desire to create new difficulties for the United Nations, or to encourage disorder and violence in Palestine, or to see undone, by resulting chaos, the great work which our Administration has performed since we took up the Mandate. We wish our authority transferred to our successors in an orderly manner. We can only express our hope that there will be by the parties a careful weighing up of the consequences of conflict and that no provocation may be indulged in by either of the principal communities concerned—indeed that the greatest respect will be shown for the decision of the international authority. That view has been made widely known to all concerned in the Middle East.
The Members of the Commission of the United Nations who are to apply the new policy have not yet been selected by their respective Governments. Our spokesman at the Assembly has not only notified the Assembly, but made representations already to the Secretary-General, regarding the preliminary arrangements for the work of this Commission. The outline plan which has been made by His Majesty's 1213 Government for withdrawal has been communicated to him and put forward as a basis for negotiation with the Commission. We hope that the Commission will be able to accept our proposals for terminating the Mandate and for taking up their own authority in Palestine. I repeat that His Majesty's Government intend to withdraw troops from Palestine by 1st August, 1948.
§ Mr. Creech Jones
In order that the withdrawal may be conducted in the most orderly manner, and with the least disruption of the ordinary life of the country, it is essential that the Mandatory power should retain undivided control of the country until the evacuation is well under way. It will be appreciated that the mandatory responsibility for government in Palestine cannot be relinquished piecemeal. The whole complex of governmental responsibilities must be relinquished by the Mandatory Government for the whole of Palestine on an appointed day. As I have indicated, once our military withdrawal is properly under way, the forces necessary for exercising this responsibility will no longer be adequately available, and it will not, therefore, be possible to retain full mandatory responsibility after a certain date. The Mandate will, therefore, be terminated some time in advance of the completion of the withdrawal, and the date we have in mind for this, subject to negotiation with the United Nations Commission, is 15th May.
I would repeat that, in our view, undivided control is essential until the Mandate is relinquished. As His Majesty's Government have made it clear that they cannot take part in the implementation of the United Nations plan, it will be undesirable for the Commission to arrive in Palestine until a short period before the termination of the Mandate. For reasons of administrative efficiency, responsibility and security, this overlap period should be comparatively brief. But much preliminary work can be done by the Commission outside Palestine before then, as I shall explain. The period till then is not long, if the Commission is to acquaint itself with the problems it has to tackle, and to make suitable arrangements for the assumption of its responsibilities in Palestine.
Once the Mandate has been terminated our troops remaining in Palestine will be 1214 responsible only for maintaining order in those areas in which they are still in occupation, with the limited object of ensuring that their final withdrawal is not impeded, and that it should be completed in the shortest possible time. The House would not wish me, for security reasons, to enter into details of the plan of withdrawal of our Forces. It is our purpose to cause the least possible disruption to the economy, of the country, and to interfere as little as possible with the normal trade, especially the citrus trade. We desire to carry out an orderly withdrawal producing the minimum dislocation in the country, and evacuating the greatest possible quantity of valuable Service stores now located there. This period, until 1st August, is also not too long to enable this to be done. It may be impossible to remove all our stores, but obviously we must incur no more loss than is inevitable, and make arrangements, where possible, for subsequent removal.
We do not know, of course, the degree of Arab opposition to the implementation of the United Nations plan. During the withdrawal of our administration and troops we are confident that both Arabs and Jews will show restraint and not become embroiled with our people. There are counsellors of moderation among the Arabs as well as those who demand violent action. Both are found in Palestine and the surrounding Arab states. There is a diversion and variety of view and interest among the Arab states. But there can be little doubt that the Commission of the United Nations, once it arrives in Palestine, will have no little difficulty in meeting its responsibilities, setting up the proposed Arab authorities and enforcing the plan. The Palestine Arab Higher Committee has already stated that it will not nurse the United Nations Commission in any way.
The Jews in their turn are also confronted with a tremendous task during the next few years in establishing their state. It is hoped that each side will show forbearance and tolerance in a decision which, in the nature of things, is imposed. The Security Council may have to be invoked by the United Nations Commission if insurmountable difficulties occur. It is disturbing that the Commission will go to its task with inadequate support for its decisions.
1215 Other matters on which negotiations with the United Nations Commission will have to be made include the proposal in the partition plan that an area situated in the Jewish state, including a seaport and hinterland, shall be evacuated by 1st February, 1948. This presents a considerable difficulty, and must be studied further with the United Nations Commission in connection with the thorny problem of immigration, about which I shall have something to say in a few minutes.
In a statement such as this, I cannot discuss all the many matters on which negotiations with the Commission will be necessary. There are the complicated facts associated with the finances of the country, its commitments and liabilities, the position of the assets, the service of the public debt, the responsibilities to the services and so on—but I can assure the House that we shall wind up our affairs in Palestine in a fair and reasonable manner, and, I hope, with little suspicion and ill-feeling about the transactions and the arrangements we make. We have to grant reasonable and just terms to the services which we have built up in Palestine—problems involving pensions and gratuity rights and compensation benefits—and we have to try to absorb in other services many of the personnel involved.
We have studied the situation of the Palestine Police Force, and I hope that before long I shall be able to inform the House of the decisions reached on this and other important Colonial Service questions. Some of these matters must be explored with the United Nations Commission at an early date. There are also questions concerning the interests of our nationals, and important public works, and of course, the arrangements with the successor authorities for the custody and evacuation of stores which we shall have been unable to evacuate before our final departure. I should also add that, with the withdrawal of our civil administration, political officers to co-operate with our troops will be left behind until their withdrawal. After that, it may be desirable for political officers to be attached to the various government authorities set up, in order to assist British interests.
1216 Now, perhaps I should say a word about the state of order in the country today. Between now and the termination of the Mandate, the British Government in Palestine will remain responsible for law and order. There have been serious disturbances in Palestine since the United Nations decision was announced, due mainly to Arab resentment. Arab attacks on Jews have been, in the main, sporadic and without central direction, but, nevertheless, they have involved serious loss of life. Jewish reaction to these attacks has further inflamed the situation, but the greatest efforts are being made to prevent communal strife and any such strife will be dealt with impartially and firmly.
The greatest danger of communal disturbances arises in the mixed areas; for example, in Jerusalem and Haifa. In order to strengthen the British police for action in these areas, all British personnel are being withdrawn from the purely Jewish area of Tel Aviv, Petah Tikvah and Ramat Gan. Their place is being taken by the Jewish Police in the Force, and a guard force called Mishmar, which will operate under the direction of the Government of Palestine and solely within that area for the protection of Jewish life and property against terror attacks. A similar Arab municipal police force is being formed for Jaffa, under arrangements now being made. It has been made quite clear by the High Commissioner to the leaders of the Jewish and Arab communities that, so long as the Mandate continues, the Mandatory Government is responsible for law and order, and will do its duty in protecting the life and property of citizens, irrespective of race.
I would add, if my voice could reach the people of Palestine, that it is vital to the future of Palestine that neither community should allow its passions to become inflamed, and that reprisal should not lead to further reprisals until chaos supervenes, with disastrous effects on the economy of the country and the life of every citizen. I was asked a few days ago about the return to Palestine of British women and children. No more wives and families will be returned to Palestine after 1st January, 1948.
I should now say a few words on the problem of immigration. I do not wish to inflame deep feelings, which exist among Jews and Arabs alike, regarding this matter, nor do I wish to incriminate 1217 states and groups which, in this illegal traffic, have done infinite mischief, aroused fierce passions among the Arabs and made our task of administering the Mandate extremely difficult. We are faced with a most difficult period between now and the middle of May, and we hope all nations and the Jewish community will appreciate the importance of control until the Mandate is laid down. If the traffic is encouraged during the next few months, a grave situation in Palestine will arise which will make an orderly withdrawal and transfer of authority extremely difficult. The camps in Cyprus have also to be emptied.
The Government are aware of the strong resentment already expressed by the Arab States in regard to what may appear to them as encouragement to immigration for strengthening the Jewish State. It is essential that feelings should not be fired while the British administration is trying to carry through the complicated tasks essential to maintaining orderly life in Palestine, while at the same time, preparing, in accordance with international decision, to transfer authority.
I should also say a few words about the future of Jerusalem and the Holy Places because of the public interest which has been shown in the matter. The United Nations plan provides for the setting up of a special international regime for the City of Jerusalem. The Trusteeship Council of the United Nations has been designated to discharge the responsibilities of the administering authority on behalf of the United Nations. The area to be covered by this special regime includes the present municipality of Jerusalem and some of the surrounding villages and towns. Bethlehem is included. A Governor for the city is to be appointed by the Trusteeship Council and will be responsible to it. The protection of the Holy Places, religious buildings and sites located in the City of Jerusalem, will be one of his special concerns. He will also be charged with supervision of the observance by the successor Arab and Jewish States of the requirement to be written into their statutes that they will guarantee the preservation of the Holy Places and religious buildings in their states, and liberty of access to those places for religious purposes.
The Trusteeship Council is charged with the elaboration and approval of a detailed 1218 statute for the city. The Council, which is sitting now, has appointed a working committee which will draft such a statute, and the United Kingdom, as a member of the Trusteeship Council, has been invited to serve on this committee. Our representative on the Council has accepted this invitation, and will place at the disposal of the working committee all factual information and advice possible based on our experience. The committee has already begun its work. Up to the date of relinquishment of the Mandate, the Palestine Government remains responsible for the security of Jerusalem and its Holy Places. After the termination of the Mandate, it will be the responsibility of the United Nations to ensure the safety of the city and its Holy Places, a responsibility which they have assumed in their resolution approving the establishment of a special international regime for the city.
I must, before I close this long statement, express our gratitude to our administrators, both past and present, who have worked so long and hard in Palestine discharging the onerous and dangerous duties which our responsibilities brought to Britain in the Middle East. I would like to pay tribute to the patience and statesmanship shown by the High Commissioner, Sir Alan Cunningham, the strength and ability of his chief secretary, and those who have worked and died in their efforts to build of Palestine a great country. We all acknowledge the devotion of the Services and the police, and of their commanding officers who have lived their lives a[...] great risk, and many of whom have paid the supreme price for performing an international duty. For the police, the situation has often been almost intolerable, and even today they are having a gruelling time. We express to them our thanks and sympathy in their difficult tasks.
This tragic chapter should not be ended without my paying some recognition to the splendid contribution of all those who have served Britain in fulfilment of the mandatory obligations. I should like publicly to thank Sir Alexander Cadogan and our fine team of officials who have helped us so much in our work at the United Nations—and I include also the men in our Foreign and Colonial Offices. They have been the 1219 butt of unfair criticism; but, nevertheless, the Departments concerned have performed their tasks and contributed their views—as always, working well together—to Ministers who must carry full responsibility for the decisions taken, and the policy pursued. I would wish to say that, in this, there has always existed a tolerance and a mutual appreciation which has made working as colleagues on a most difficult problem a great and memorable experience.
Britain has received little gratitude, and has been shamefully traduced for the great part she has played. We hope that the misrepresentation and misunderstandings have gone for ever. We entertain a great friendship towards the Arab people, and understand their feelings and unhappiness in these developments. We also trust that our present ties with them will be strengthened by mutual respect and by our practical interest in their affairs. At the same time, we also hope that a better understanding with the Jewish people will evolve as their new responsibilities develop.
We shall lay down our responsibilities in Palestine with relief, and yet with regret. All of us had hoped to see a more propitious development of Palestinian affairs, when the time came for us to depart, than we dare forecast at the present time. We hope that the spirit of moderation and tolerance will guide events in the future, and will restore order, peace and harmony in that most famous of all lands. If our civilisation owes much to Jewish culture, Britain has, in turn, contributed to the realisation by the Jews of some of their dearest hopes. At the same time, we have helped the Arabs to realise their political hopes in the nations they have recently founded, and we enjoy with them a relationship of respect and friendliness which I am certain will endure.
Palestine and the Arab world, we hope, can now proceed to play a larger part in the general pattern of mankind's march. Under international inspiration, from now on, it is our prayer that the peoples in the Holy Land will co-operate, and find that, while retaining their separate independence, they can join together to mutual advantage in making their country prosperous and happy.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Oliver Stanley (Bristol, West)
Whatever comments I may have to make on the rest of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, there is one part of it with which I, and, I am sure everyone in this House, can join wholeheartedly. It is the tribute which he paid to the administrators and soldiers, both present and past, who, in circumstances of the greatest difficulty, and often of the most acute danger, have rendered to this country and to the people of Palestine; a service which, too often, has not only been ignored, but indeed traduced.
I had come to this House prepared to make a complaint against the Government, which I will now certainly not make. Several of us on this side of the House—and, I think, some hon. Members on the other side—had pressed the Government to issue, before the right hon. Gentleman's speech, some details of the Government's proposals which we could consider beforehand. We felt that that would save us from the difficult position of having to comment, without due consideration, on any statements which were to be made. But I must say that I find no such difficulty as I expected, because I was disappointed to notice in the right hon. Gentleman's address none of those detailed plans for the evacuation of Palestine which I expected, for which I had hoped, and to which, I think, this House was entitled.
We are told that an outline plan has been submitted to the United Nations. I feel that that outline plan could have been submitted to this House of Commons. We are also told that everything is to be left to negotiations with the United Nations. I feel that, in the situation in which we are now placed, not everything should depend upon negotiations with the United Nations. We have a right, as we surrender our Mandate, to say when, and in what manner we propose to lay it down. I very much fear, owing to the lack of any precise details, which the prospect of lengthy negotiations in the future makes only more probable, that readiness will not have been achieved when the time finally comes for us to lay down our Mandate.
Like the right hon. Gentleman, I have no intention this afternoon of discussing, in any detail, the decision of the United Nations organisation. That decision is 1221 now out of our hands; it is no longer the responsibility of His Majesty's Government, and one which the Government must defend in bulk. As members of the United Nations, whatever we may think of the decision, we can only accept it as a decision which has been given by them under the constitution to which we have assented. But this, I think, I am entitled to say. For long, I have been a believer in the principle of partition, but in the particular scheme of partition which the United Nations have approved, I find many details with which I personally disagree. I hope, therefore, that the details of this scheme are not going to be regarded by the United Nations as the laws of the Medes and Persians, given once and for all, but that, when passions die down, if agreement can be found between the various parties for alteration of the details, such agreement will be facilitated by the United Nations, and that any agreement, when arrived at, will be executed by them.
I want to say at once that, so far as I am concerned, and I think I can speak for the great majority of my hon. Friends, in the existing circumstances we see no alternative to the decision of His Majesty's Government to lay down the Mandate and evacuate Palestine at the earliest possible moment. But to say that, in the existing circumstances, we see no alternative to this course, does not mean that this is a moment at which we feel either happiness or pride. Events in Palestine are in tragic contrast to the hopes of many in the past. I am afraid it will be a humiliating end to the honourable role which hitherto we have played in chat country, very different indeed from the dream of those who first inspired the idea, very different from the object for which many thousands of our fellow citizens worked, indeed, died in Palestine.
We have always foreseen that the time would come when we should leave that county. Indeed, it is implicit in the Mandate that that time should come and that it should be our duty to make it come as soon as possible, but we did imagine ourselves leaving with the affection and gratitude of Jew and Arab alike, leaving behind us a country which was settled, which might have been filled with happy memories of the past and with proud hopes for the future. Instead, I am afraid that when we leave we shall leave 1222 as a target for hostility for both sides and with all we have done—and we have done much in these 30 years—forgotten. I am afraid when we march to the sea we shall leave behind a country rent with internecine strife and seething with the most bitter hostility. When we talk about the Palestinian problem we must not talk as if any decision we are taking today has led to a solution of that problem. All that has happened is that the problem has been transferred and the responsibilities and dangers which we were not prepared to face are now to be borne by the United Nations.
I believe that much of this might have been avoided. I believe that the circumstances which now make it inevitable need never have arisen. Had we, in the last two years, had a clear, definite and decisive policy, we might have achieved the end which the inspirers of this great idea had in mind. I do not pretend that it was possible anywhere to find a policy which would have met with universal support. As I have often said in this House, I have myself been a supporter of the policy of partition. I am not going to pretend that that was an easy policy, one which met with universal support, either here or abroad; I am only too conscious that many of my hon. Friends, viewing this problem with equal sincerity with myself, took quite a different view as to what would have led ultimately to the well-being of Palestine. No doubt any other alternative which could have been proposed would always have been opposed both here and in Palestine. There never was a chance, therefore, of finding a solution which was going to be agreed by all. You never expect to find that in any major political problem; there is no real fundamental problem in our lives in which we can expect to find every one agreed.
If we are always to be frightened off by fear of opposition, would anything ever be settled? The decision on the part of the Government to wait until a unanimous approval was secured—until the impossible had happened—has led inevitably first, to months of frustration and increasing tension, secondly, to reference to U.N.O. without a recommendation from us—however skilfully wrapped up it is now exposed to the world that we had no solution to offer—thirdly, to the inability of this country even to say whether the 1223 solution which the United Nations proposed was right or wrong, and finally, to this now inevitable conclusion, the surrender of the Mandate and the evacuation of our troops.
But that is in the past. What we are concerned with now is the very difficult and dangerous future, and today's Debate will, I hope, be chiefly concerned with such practical details and practical consequences of the decision which has been taken. I believe that, now, the most important thing of all is for us to get out as soon as we possibly can. By staying in Palestine we are doing no good to any one. It is quite impossible for us effectively to impose an authority which everybody knows is shortly to be terminated. You have only to read the newspapers—the statement in "The Times" today—to see that everything which happens in Palestine is now being attributed to us, however unjustly. We are being blamed impartially by both sides whatever happens, and hostility on both sides is growing day by day.
Meanwhile, many thousands of our fellow citizens are having to live in conditions of great danger and of actual loss. Therefore, I am sure it is the primary concern of this House that, the decision to leave Palestine having been taken, it should now be implemented with the greatest practicable speed. I must confess that I was extremely disappointed at the statement made by the Secretary of State for the Colonies with regard to the date of the handing over of the Mandate. It is not only that I hoped it might have been possible to find a date earlier than 15th May, but I was even more disturbed to understand from what he said that that date—15th May—had not been laid down definitely, was not our last, final and conclusive word, but was to be the subject of some further discussion and decision.
We must impress on the Government how strongly we feel about this question of the date. We recognise, of course, that we have a responsibility as the retiring trustee. We have a responsibility, too, as a member of the United Nations and we have, therefore, to give adequate time to the United Nations to set up and to improvise the new machinery which must be evolved. There must be somebody and something to which we can hand over. I certainly wish we had seen more sign 1224 in the past that the United Nations were treating this problem of implementing their decision with anything like the urgency and importance that they have attached to discussing their decision; and that we had a clearer sign that they were going to proceed from the easy task of talking about what they are going to do to the much more difficult task of planning how they are going to do it.
I feel that it is absolutely vital—and this is a point which I am sure all my hon. Friends on this side will stress—that we should affix, here and now, the final date by which we intend to hand over the Mandate. Nothing except that will, I think, bring to the United Nations the sense of urgency which this problem demands. So long as they believe that further time can be gained by more negotiations, that if they are not ready the date can be pushed further back, so long as they are not brought up against it completely and finally then so long will some of the delays we see continue.
His Majesty's Opposition hopes that a different turn will be given in the reply to the Debate—which is to be made, I believe, by the Foreign Secretary—from the statement which has been made by the Colonial Secretary, that a definite, final, date will be given beyond which we do not maintain our authority in Palestine, whatever may have happened. I am sure that unless that is done we shall find ourselves still holding tenuously on to this authority for months, maybe for years, ahead. It is very essential that there should be brought home to the United Nations the amount of work which remains for them to do and the speed at which, therefore, they have to go about it. Naturally, in thinking of the machinery that is to be set up our minds turn, first of all, to the question of law and order.
That is supremely important, but it is not the only task which the United Nations have to be ready to meet. Palestine is not by any means a primitive State: it has reached a state of development where, even if law and order is maintained, chaos may ensue if other services collapse. If the whole financial position of Palestine is allowed to collapse unemployment on a large scale may result. If transport organisations break down, not only internally, the life of Palestine and our evacuation may be upset. If health services are allowed to 1225 lapse the country may be swept with epidemics in which, again, our own Army may be involved. I am sure that the Government will lose no opportunity of impressing on the United Nations the necessity for a speedy consideration of the problems which so soon will confront them.
I want to say a few words now on the special problems which confront us. First, on the question of authority, I was very glad to hear the Colonial Secretary make the unequivocal statement that so long as we retained the Mandate authority will be ours, and ours alone. I was glad to hear him explain the proposals for Tel-Aviv and Jaffa, which put a different complexion on the matter from the summarised reports which the Press have sometimes given. I assume that it is not a question of handing over either of these towns to the Jews or to the Arabs. The Jewish and Arab police, in the two towns respectively, will continue to work as they do now, under the authority of the officers of the Palestine Police and then of the Governor and the civil administration. This is merely a convenient way of bringing into the various towns those junior ranks who will be most suitable there.
The second point on which I think we need a further assurance is with regard to the future of the general Colonial Service, of the local Palestine services and, above all, the Palestine Police. We must not forget that until the last few weeks enlistment was still going on for the Police, and that people were still being offered a man's job. It is clear that these Colonial servants now in Palestine cannot merely be treated on the basis of the abolition of a particular office. As the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies knows, there are special pension arrangements on the abolition of office, but they are not wholly satisfactory; they are not very generous and they are, in fact, quite inadequate to a situation such as this, where it is not a question of the abolition of a particular office but the abolition of a whole and important section of the work of the Colonial Service. I therefore hope that before long—because this is not a matter on which we need negotiate with the United Nations; we can decide for ourselves—we shall hear proposals for these three elements which, if they are to err at all, will err on the side of generosity.
1226 We must also insist, soon, on a much more detailed statement as to what will become of Government property in Palestine, what will happen to private businesses now being conducted there, and what will happen to the concessions which are now enjoyed. I know that the question of concessions was dealt with in the Committee's report, but we are entitled to know what plans the Colonial Office are making to ensure that the rights which have been legitimately acquired are not prejudiced under the new plan now proposed. The Minister told us a great deal of what the plan for immigration in the interval should or should not do, but omitted to tell us what the plan was. At the end of his statement on immigration I had no conception at all of what the Government intended to permit between now and the time for handing over the Mandate. So long as we retain authority that is something which lies within our capacity, and not within that of the United Nations. It is clear that some alterations will have to be made because, apart from anything else, if the evacuation of our troops is to be completed Cyprus must be cleared. Those now in Cyprus must be returned to Palestine.
So much for the position up to 15th May which, I hope, will be regarded as the conclusive and final date. Now for the position between 15th May and 1st August, which is the latest date by which our troops will remain in Palestine. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman made it clear that after 15th May our troops will remain in Palestine only because it has been impossible to get them away before, that they will be there only to evacuate themselves and their warlike stores and not to carry out the sort of role in that country for which they have so long been responsible under His Majesty's Government. It is right to make it quite clear that these troops will not be available for police duties under the authority of the United Nations. It would be intolerable if that were to be a condition.
I am quite sure that although that position is right, and one which we must maintain, Members will recognise what a difficult position it will be, how difficult it will be for British troops in that country to protect themselves and their immediate surroundings and to have to ignore perhaps bloodshed and riots going on not far 1227 away from them. It is because the position will be so difficult that all of us want to see that stay shortened as much as possible. I have had occasion several times to talk on the matter of economy, but I assure the right hon. Gentleman that in this case, so urgent are the reasons for our withdrawing and so great are the dangers of our remaining, it may well be wise policy to hasten this evacuation, even at the risk of some increased material loss owing to inability to remove certain stores.
Lastly, the Government have said before and it has been reiterated today by the right hon. Gentleman, that the Government are not prepared to enforce partition upon unwilling participants. I believe that that decision is right. It would be an impossible position if British troops and British police were expected to enforce a decision to which His Majesty's Government have never given their assent. There is all the difference between enforcing partition, and facilitating the work of the United Nations Commission. I agree that it is not right for us to bear the brunt of enforcing a decision from which His Majesty's Government abstain, but I am equally certain that it is right that we, as a member of the United Nations and as people who have an interest in the future of Palestine and an interest in our troops still remaining, to facilitate as much as possible the difficult work of the Commission which will take over.
I certainly gathered from the speech of the Colonial Secretary that that was his view, and that between now and 15th May all facilities will be given to this Commission to assume, with as little delay as possible, the various offices and functions when the day of the transfer comes.
§ Mr. Mikardo (Reading)
Would not the right hon. Gentleman say that the announcement made by my right hon. Friend that the Five Power Commission were to be kept out of Palestine until a little before 15th May, is the very opposite of facilitating their work?
§ Mr. Stanley
I can see certain difficulties that might arise either by having too little or too much overlap between the two authorities. We cannot have two Kings of Brentford. But that will not prevent officials of the Commission coming in beforehand. I would suggest that 1228 it might not prevent, not the whole Commission, but say the chairman or one of the members also coming, in such a way as not to offer an alternative to the authority of our Government, and being there for a somewhat longer time.
§ Mr. Stanley
Certainly. I assume that the administrative staffs will be brought in and will be taught their jobs as soon as they are available. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will realise the necessity for making the transfer as smooth as possible in the interests of everybody. As I tried to show before, it is in nobody's interest that law and order and other vital services should break down at the time when the transfer is made.
This may be the end of the chapter. I do not believe that it is the end of the story. We are now on the verge of abandoning our authority and of laying down our responsibility, but I am sure that this country will never lose its interest in, or its concern for, Palestine. We have a particular interest which comes from years of past association, and from years of effort, hope and achievement which we have seen in that country. We have the general interest that all shall share in a part of the world which we want to see made to contribute to the peace and prosperity of the world as a whole.
Therefore, I feel that, whoever we are, there is one thing on which we can unite. Wherever we sit in this House, wherever our past sympathies in this problem have lain, and however we may regard the present solution, all of us, I am sure, will unite to condemn any attempt by either side to solve this problem by force of arms. We read of many explosive statements in the Middle East today, and we see only too clearly how, with an inflammable population, explosive statements can result in disastrous action. We see the advice given to the peoples there to shoot it out. I believe that that will do no good to anybody. Whatever the military results of a civil war in Palestine might be, I am sure that to the great mass of the people it can bring nothing but bloodshed and chaos, and it can only result in Palestine having to remain for years in the economic 1229 abyss from which the rest of the world is trying to climb.
I am sure that people in Palestine will realise, and can be made to realise, that the future can hold for them better things than just the bomb, the bullet and the knife. After all, here is the solution of the United Nations, in other words, the solution of the nations of the world assembled together. A particular responsibility is therefore imposed upon the United Nations—upon the nations of the world as a whole—for the country for which their solution has been accepted. I believe that that particular responsibility is not only negative. It is not only the negative one that aggression must not be allowed to sabotage the solution, but a constructive one, too, of ensuring that the solution that they propose can be made a success of by the people, if they so desire. It carries with it an obligation on all members of the United Nations to help, and indeed to make sacrifices, for the economic prosperity of that area.
I hope, therefore, far distant as those hopes may seem today in the growing unrest and violence which, unfortunately, we see in that country, that the day may come when the Palestine which is now to be divided may unite in a wider interest in the Middle East. All of us feel that, upon economic grounds alone, that area of the world is never likely, except through some form of unity, to achieve the new standard which the Arabs themselves are beginning to reach. Far away as the prospect may seem to us today, the act of division which we are now having to accept may, in the long run, prove to be the prelude to a still wider unification. If and when that day comes we, in present circumstances, shall not be able to claim any credit; at least we shall be able to feel that our efforts and achievements in the past have not been wasted and that the labours and sacrifices of our people will have met with a reward.
§ 5.8 p.m.
§ Mr. Ivor Thomas (Keighley)
One of the difficulties in Debates on Palestine has been that our sympathies can become engaged much too easily on one side or on the other. The two right hon. Gentlemen who have so far spoken in the Debate have given us an admirable lesson in objectivity, which I shall try to follow. I must confess, however, that 1230 there is one party in this matter with whom my sympathies readily become engaged, that is the British administrators and British troops who have given such an example of patience, courage and forbearance in the most difficult of tasks which this country has had to face for a long time. To all of them, from Sir Alan Cunningham downwards, I am sure the House would like to express its warmest gratitude and its best hopes for that most difficult part of the chapter which is now opening.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies has made an eloquent and cogent defence of the policy of His Majesty's Government. I fear, however, that even his grave words did not do full justice to the sombre pageant which is now opening before us in the Middle East. I have weighed my words carefully, and I think it is no exaggeration to say that unless there is a marked change of heart we shall see the obliteration of many Jewish communities in the Middle East, we shall see a long and squalid warfare—the warfare of the gunman and bombardier in the back street—in which the Jewish national home will probably be engulfed, and we shall see the United Nations, already to some extent discredited both by the lines of the solution and by the methods taken to obtain it, shaken to its foundations.
§ Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)
Will my hon. Friend say on what grounds he suggests the United Nations conclusions have been discredited? If he looks at the list of nations who have agreed to those conclusions he will find the conclusions are held by the vast majority of the nations, and certainly by all the independent nations.
§ Mr. Thomas
Surely, my hon. Friend cannot have failed to notice the immense pressure that was used in bringing about the solution.
§ Mr. Janner
Nonsense. Would my hon. Friend suggest that Australia, Canada and New Zealand were under any pressure?
§ Mr. Thomas
My hon. Friend must really be very ingenuous if he believes what he has said. I cannot believe that the solution has come about wholly by the force of reason. The solution itself contains many obvious defects. The right hon. Member for East Bristol—
§ Mr. Thomas
I apologise to the right hon. Gentleman. I concede that in the case of the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) and the right hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), the twain shall never meet. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, there are many obvious defects in the proposals made by the United Nations. One of them was the original proposal that Jaffa should be given to the Jews—a proposal which the Jews themselves have rejected, and which has now been rectified. I do not think such matters redound to the credit of a great international organisation. I view the future with a great deal of despondency, and I am bound to say that I think His Majesty's Government have contributed in some measure to the grave outlook.
I should like to make it clear that I have no quarrel with the policy of His Majesty's Government so far as it has gone. There cannot be any quarrel with the decision to surrender the Mandate and evacuate British Forces from Palestine. As my right hon. Friend has said, it corresponds exactly to the mood of the nation, and, in the circumstances, I do not think we could have done otherwise. Where I differ from the policy pursued by His Majesty's Government recently is that I think the negative attitude which we have adopted throughout these proceedings is not worthy of a great Power and of our special responsibilities in this matter. It is perfectly proper that, having remitted the matter to the United Nations, we should then not try to influence the decision of the committee, but when the committee had reported we should have taken some more positive action to try to get the best possible settlement in the light of that decision. The question of of boundaries to which the right hon. Member for West Bristol referred is typical. I am glad to see that in the important question of the future of Jerusalem and the Holy Places, to which this country and many others in the Christian world pay particular attention, our representative on the Trusteeship Council is going to take a positive part. I wish we had taken such a positive part 1232 in shaping the plan which has come to us, because I think it might then have been a better plan.
I do not think any good purpose will be served by raking over the past. The best we can do in this Debate is to try to see if we can make any suggestion which will avoid the tragic events which now seem to be looming up in the Middle East. For my own part, I think that it, with all the knowledge we now possess, we were living in 1917 we should not have given the Balfour Declaration. It is very easy to be wise after the event, and I do not claim that I should necessarily have acted any more wisely in 1917. But we are not now living in 1917; we are living in 1947, and we have to face the fact that under the stimulus of the Balfour Declaration and the promise of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, there are about 650,000 Jews in the country. Ever since the persecution of the Jews in Germany, and certainly since the time of the Peel Report, some form of partition has become inevitable. The only way of settling the relations between Jews and Arabs is to give them separate communities of their own, but that by itself is not sufficient. I do not think partition is the main element in this matter. If it were a question of partition alone, I see no reason why the Arabs should not agree with Mr. Balfour's description of Palestine as "a small notch in the Arab lands."
§ Mr. Thomas
He was referring to the whole of Palestine at that time, and included Transjordan. A fortiori the present territory described in the United Nations Report is a still smaller notch in the Arab lands. What the Arabs fear is that this small notch will be used, if I may rapidly change the metaphor, as a bridgehead for an expansion into the other Arab lands, and, indeed, there is a good deal of evidence in support of that view.
I have here a pamphlet, which many hon. Members will have received, purporting to be the record of a discussion between the commander of the Irgun Zvai Leumi and the chairman of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine. I do not know what authenticity is to be attached to it, but if it is the case that the 1233 chairman of the United Nations Special Committee made contact with the leader of this illegal movement while he was there, I am bound to say that I think it is a grave abuse of the hospitality which was accorded him. In this pamphlet the commander of the Irgun Zvai Leumi is alleged to claim that they will not accept partition and that they intend to do all they can to resist it. Therefore, can we wonder at the attitude which has been taken by the Arabs towards partition?
In my view there is only one hope for a solution to this problem. It is that the Arabs on their side should be willing to accept partition within the frontiers now proposed, or, at least, within revised frontiers drawn with more knowledge of the problems of Palestine; while the Jews on their part should surrender their claim to unlimited immigration. Immigration is the key to this problem. It is the Arabs' fear that they are going to be flooded by millions of immigrants that creates the problem, not the relatively small amount of territory that is involved. We cannot hope to solve the problem of the Jewish displaced persons in Palestine. That has been recognised by the United Nations organiation itself.
There are hundreds of thousands of Jews who hope to get out of Europe. We are in the middle of one of the great secular movements of the Jewish people. It has been going on since about 1890—a great movement of Jews out of Russia westwards into Europe, on to the New World, and now into Palestine. It is out of the question to think that Palestine can absorb all these numbers. The Je[...]s should accept the fact that Palestine cannot absorb all the Jews who wish to leave the countries in which they are at present. Even so, partition will achieve for them what they have said is their major aim: it will achieve a national home. The complaint of the Zionist Organisation has always been that the Jews throughout the world have a feeling of homelessness. They have said, "Give us a State, and then this feeling of homelessness, which make us wanderers throughout the world, will be removed." If the Arabs would be willing on their part to accept the Jewish State, within something like the, frontiers now proposed, and if the Jews on their part would be willing to surrender the claim to unlimited immigration, then there would be a possibility of a solution.
1234 It is late to advance the suggestion, but I should like to see the Arab and Jewish communities facing the prospect that lies before them. Unless they attempt to come to some solution there is a grim prospect that the best hopes on either side are likely to be deluged in blood. It is with small hope that the parties will come to an agreement that I make this suggestion; but unless it is adopted, I am bound to confess that the prospect before us will be one that fills me with horror.
§ 5.23 p.m.
§ Mr. A. R. W. Low (Blackpool, North)
I am in the position of a comparatively inexperienced man in these affairs, following as I do the Secretary of State, the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) and the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) who have studied these matters very closely and have given of their best in the service of their country in so doing. I am sure that the House will not expect me to achieve the high standard which they reached. I do hope, however, that I shall follow them, at least, in their fairness and objectivity. The hon. Member for Keighley has made it very difficult for me to make my speech without boring the House, because so much of what he said I had hoped to say; but, perhaps, that is to the advantage of hon. Gentlemen who have got to listen to me, for I now have less to say.
Let me add my tribute to our administrators, to our High Commissioner and his predecessors, to our Colonial servants, and particularly, to our soldiers and the officers who have responsibility for them, whose problems I have chosen to study particularly. I was very glad to hear both right hon. Gentlemen pay well deserved tributes to them. I should also like to emphasise what the hon. Member for Keighley said, that in the next five months the difficulties of those who are out there in Palestine are going to be not less but far greater than they have been before. We in this House owe to them the duty of seeing that in this period we do not make their task one whit more difficult, one whit more dangerous.
I should like the Colonial Secretary to pass on to the War Office a suggestion I am going to make which affects our soldiers particularly. I believe that Palestine is no place for the very young National Service men at this moment. I understand that men of only four months' 1235 service are being sent out there. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pass on to the Secretary of State for War the feeling, which, I expect, is that of the whole House, that that is not a country for those men at this time. Although the evacuation and withdrawal from Palestine is not an operation comparable to those withdrawals we had to undertake at the beginning of the last war, it is still difficult. It is well known that, even from the administrative angle, the operation of withdrawal is the most difficult of all the operations which fall to any of the fighting Services. It is, therefore, necessary not only that the very young men should not be sent there, but that our Services there should consist of the very best men we have.
I should like to say a word about the security arrangements in Palestine between now and 15th May, or such earlier date when we hand over the Mandate. I was sorry that we had no fuller account from the Secretary of State today. The vote of the Assembly on 29th November, whichever way it went, necessarily made our authority less in Palestine; necessarily, therefore, made the job of keeping law and order more difficult. I do not know what plans His Majesty's Government have for effecting the withdrawal of our troops from Palestine. All I do know is that the Government have had 12 months in which to make up their mind about such plans, and that in those 12 months they should have been able to get rid of most of the stores and equipment to which the Colonial Secretary referred. It was the declared intention of the Government to hand over the Mandate following its reference to the Assembly.
It seems to me quite wrong for the right hon. Gentleman to justify the delayed withdrawal, when he has had 12 months to plan it out, by saying he has not got enough stores and equipment out. I hope that the Foreign Secretary, or he himself at some other time, will be able to tell us that we are well on the way to the completion of the evacuation of the stores and the tail part of our Forces. I hope that so long as we are responsible for law and order we shall not make it all the more difficult for those soldiers and police we have there, and who are exercising responsibility for us, by weakening them too much. I do not 1236 know whether we have ever been told—I do not think we have—what is the proportion between the troops that actually keep law and order, and the administrative troops—the tail; but I am certain that there is a great majority of services, the administrative tail, that could be, and quickly ought to be, pulled out.
Yesterday, I asked the Secretary of State a Question about the Haganah. I mention this now, not because I wish to embitter feelings between the Jews and the Arabs, but because I want to know the position. Hitherto, the position has always been that the Haganah was not a legal body, and, therefore, no member of it could carry arms. I was glad to learn from the Under-Secretary in a written reply to my Question:The Haganah has not been in any way recognised as a legal body by the Palestine Government."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th December, 1947; Vol. 445, c, 209.]I now ask the Secretary of State: Why, then, is it that every Press reporter who sends messages to any of the British newspapers seems to take it as a matter of course that members of the Haganah are recognised and are allowed to carry arms? This is not a matter to which we should shut our eyes. Either the Hanagah is a lawful body—and the Secretary of State may like to justify that that should be so in the present state of affairs—or it is not. I feel that in the interests of peace between the two parties concerned, the position should be made absolutely clear, not merely by question and answer in the House, but by the facts as they are in Palestine for all to see.
I have one further point about evacuation. I hope the Secretary of State has studied closely the reports of what happened in India, where we have seen how uncertainty about their future affected the work and general competence of the servants of the Government of India. I cannot stress too much the importance of telling the Colonial servants, the Palestine Government servants and the police what their position will be in the future, what compensation is to be paid—
§ Mr. Wyatt (Birmingham, Aston)
Surely, the hon. Member is not suggesting that uncertainty in any way impaired the efficiency of the British elements in the Indian Civil Service?
§ Mr. Low
I am suggesting that it made it much more difficult for them to work, because they were worried about their future. However well they did their work, I am certain, from what many of them have told me, that their anxiety about the future was very great, and must have resulted in taking their minds off matters which were much more important. I am now putting this to the Secretary of State as my view. Surely, we have enough experience of these matters now to make up our minds what should be done? Let us publish the terms which are to be offered by way of compensation, pension and so on. Do not let us go on bargaining to try to save the last pound. Let us be generous, as my right hon. Friend said, and, above all, certain.
Turning now to the United Nations aspect, I have always supported the United Nations and hold it as a gain that when one great Power draws out of Palestine, the vacuum of authority or power thus created is to be filled, not just by another great Power, but by the United Nations. However, at the moment the United Nations organisation has very little actual power; that is the trouble. One cannot remove authority from a place and leave nothing, that state of affairs will not last effectively for any length of time. This is the first time upon which the United Nations organisation has acted as such and taken over responsibility for a part of the world, and the sooner it is made clear that the Commission must arrive there with authority and power the better, because unless that is done we shall very s[...]on see the end of an effective United Nations organisation.
I wish to refer to the way in which the United Nations organisation has handled this matter, because in some people's minds it is bound to create a precedent for the future. That is why this problem has always been so important, and is the significance of the pressure for votes mentioned by the hon. Member for Keighley, about which we have all heard; although we have no firsthand evidence, we can accept or not what we read and are told. That is why, too, I consider of the utmost importance the fact that the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine met the commander and two other representatives of the Irgun Zvai Leumi. If they did—and I 1238 believe they did, because all the delegations other than the [...]ritish delegation at the United Nations General Assembly received a memorandum to that effect, and apparently nobody denied it—then it seems to me that they did something utterly wrong; it is utterly wrong that the United Nations should send a Special Committee who have powers, or who take powers unto themselves, to talk to wanted men who have blood on their hands—because that is the position of those particular men.
I ask—I hope without embittering feelings, but this is a matter of importance at the present time—how it was that members of the United Nations Special Committee could go to Palestine and, in a moment, as it were, find out, not only the name of the commander, but where he lived, so that they could meet him; whereas we, who have been there for years, with all the security instruments and arrangements of a governing Power, are unable to name either the man or his location at any time. That seems to me a most extraordinary thing. I know the difficulties. We have tried—and it is a credit to us—to obey the rules of ordinary government, and we have not arrested anybody without proof that he or she was responsible for a crime. It is a shocking thing that, on the first occasion when the United Nations actively enters into responsibility for a part of the world, they should make what I believe to be this most outrageous of mistakes, to put it no higher.
I pass to the Middle Eastern aspect of the whole problem. I was very glad to hear the Foreign Secretary say—I think in his first statement to the House as Foreign Secretary—that he treated the problem of Palestine as a Middle Eastern problem. I am sure that is right. I sometimes wonder how much it was treated as a Middle Eastern problem by the United Nations Assembly, who have perhaps less experience in these matters than statesmen in this country. If it was then right to treat Palestine as a Middle Eastern problem, it is still right, and will be so even when it is under the control of the United Nations Commission, and even when it is independent. I hope we shall have some statement from the Foreign Secretary on his future policy in this regard, but I will not detain the House in referring further to that aspect.
1239 As has been said, what we are really concerned with in this House is looking to the future, and to the immediate future, of this unhappy country. I wish I were able to put forward suggestions which I was certain would ease the problem in any way. Of one thing I am quite certain, and that is that when we announce our intentions to withdraw, we should stick to the date, and should not on any account postpone our withdrawal. Secondly, we should by announcement of our plans and policy, by advice, and if necessary by our outspoken criticism, emphasise to the United Nations Commission the importance of hurrying on with their arrangements. One of the ways in which our security arrangements in the next five months will be most helped, will be if the Arabs and Jews know that when we go, there will be as good, if not better security arrangements to follow on. That will help us, and it will also help the Arabs and Jews.
I hope that we shall impress upon the United Nations Commission the urgency o[...] the matter, and the tremendous amount of work that has to be done in a short time, much of which might have been done a little earlier. I hope that both Jews and Arabs will realise that this country has always had a friendship for them, and has always recognised their problems and needs. I hope that when they get independence, in circumstances vastly more difficult than those for which we had hoped they will realise that they have the goodwill of this House and everyone in this country.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. Crossman (Coventry, East)
It has been generally agreed in the Debate so far that the conditions under which the Arabs and Jews are now achieving independence, for which both of them have fought the British, could not be worse. We have to record in this Debate, looking back over the last two and a half years, that we have missed golden opportunities to solve this problem. We should record also the losses which have been involved in our policy. Something like £200 million has been spent on this campaign in Palestine, which is ending now in evacuation. Stores are to be left behind because we cannot take them with us. The gigantic aerodrome at Lydda which has been vastly extended since the war, has to be 1240 abandoned, as well as the huge barracks at Gaza costing £5 million. We have to record the fact that someone has blundered and blundered very expensively. Another thing we have to record is that a few men in Palestine with a genuine devotion to the country never got a chance.
During the 18 months before the reference of this matter to U.N.O., there has been no British policy. What happened was that we got the worst of both worlds. For 18 months we imposed by force "no policy" on Jews and Arabs, and I find it very strange—
§ Mr. Crossman
We imposed a status quo, which neither the Arabs nor the Jews wanted. We imposed a vacillation which pleased no one. By imposing "no policy," we have made it infinitely more difficult to impose a sensible policy after that delay. All these criticisms must be made in this Debate, which, in a sense, is the obituary of the British rule in Palestine. Criticisms have also been made of our conduct at the United Nations assembly. In my view, after the matter was referred to the United Nations, the attitude of the Government has been that of the skilful negotiator. Before I went to Lake Success, I wrote a letter to "The Times" to the effect that we should accept the U.N.S.C.O.P. report, and have a positive policy at Lake Success. Having spent a few days in the atmosphere of that place, which is so singularly misnamed, one begins to realise the wisdom of the Colonial Secretary's policy. Because of our record during the last two years in Palestine, we were suspect from the start. That is why it was only by remaining quiet, and by taking no positive action, that the Colonial Secretary could produce the situation in which an American-Russian agreement on partition was possible. A good deal of credit is due to the Government for having created that situation.
I was really amazed at the performance of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas). I am very pleased that what was said came from below the Gangway and not from above it. We find that when Britain has referred this question to U.N.O., and when U.N.O. decides on something which some of us do not 1241 like, then up get Members to say the decision is partisan and prejudiced. If the United Nations is ever going to work, it will be because people accept not only the, things they like, but the things they do not like. Far the most important part of the Colonial Secretary's statement today was his acceptance of the United Nations decision. He set thereby an example of good U.N. behaviour. When a decision which is given is unpopular it must be accepted by the country most affected. I think it is highly discreditable for Members to try to explain away the overwhelming majority decision, with eight votes beyond the two-thirds majority as the result of American "pressure."
I went through the list of names of those who voted. There is one country in Europe which could have been pressed by America, and that is Greece. It could have been alleged that there was certain pressure there, but Greece voted against partition. Six Latin-American countries abstained, and one voted against partition. Where was the bloc which voted for partition? It was all the British Dominions, with the exception of Pakistan, and every European State, with the exception of that famous part of the American bloc, Yugoslavia, which abstained. Where are the signs of pressure? Were the French under American pressure, the Dutch or the Norwegians?
This is the most outrageous assertion to make, and it is being made by people who are not prepared to accept the basic principles of the United Nations, namely, that we have to accept things even if we do not like them, and loyally carry them out. The Government are to be congratulated for the unreserved way they have accepted the decision.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
The hon. Member tells us that he was at Lake Success for three days. Can he give an assurance that during that time he saw no evidence that the United States were bringing any undue pressure?
§ Mr. Crossman
On the contrary, I was horrified to observe that the Latin-American States were being rather actively advised to abstain. Pressure in U.N.O. is not all one-sided, and we ought not to complain of pressure because we do not like a decision. It occurs with every decision.
1242 Let us turn to the practical question of what we can do to help this decision. I do not think that we ought simply to consider getting out as fast as possible. We have to do that, but do not let us put our whole mind simply to getting the troops out. We have a serious responsibility in that area. On our policy depends greatly the success or failure of partition, for firstly we have a great influence on the Arab League. In fact, we created it and still sway its decisions. I hope that the Foreign Secretary will use all his influence. He went on record against partition. His personal view was opposed to it. He could, I think, go to the Arab League and say, "The peace of the world depends on U.N.O. I do not like this either, but we have to accept this if we believe in law and order." I hope that will be the attitude of British diplomacy in all its dealings with the Arab League. Secondly, we have quite special influence in Transjordan, which covers the whole Eastern frontier of Palestine. We can make certain that no illegal arms go through Transjordan to Palestine to either side. We can make sure that no "volunteers" from the Arab Legion go into Palestine. If they do go in, the rest of the world will rightly say, "If Transjordan soldiers volunteer for Palestine it is done with British consent." I hope that it will be part of the Government's policy that Transjordan remains really neutral.
There was one point that worried me in the Colonial Secretary's speech, and that was the suggestion that the U.N.O. Commission should come in late. I see the point that we cannot have a period of many weeks before the actual transference of sovereignty, but the presence of the U.N.O. Commission at the beginning seems to be essential if the idea of U.N.O. and the authority of U.N.O. is to be brought to bear in Palestine. That authority is the only thing today that stands between Palestine and civil war, confusion and disaster. Unless U.N.O. can make itself felt with something of real authority there is no hope for that country. I beg the Colonial Secretary to see that in every way the presence of U.N.O. is made real and effective in Palestine from the earliest possible date, and that the transfer takes place speedily and effectively.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
This part of the hon. Gentleman's speech is very important, but very nebulous. Can he 1243 tell us how our Government is to make U.N.O. effective? Does he mean that our Government is to put its forces at the disposal of U.N.O.?
§ Mr. Crossman
I do not mean that. But if we were to give the impression that we were trying to keep the U.N.O. Commission out till the last moment, that would not be the best way of establishing its authority in Palestine. We want the secretariat set up there at once. We want some sign in Palestine of the activity of U.N.O. immediately if there is to be a successful transference of sovereignty to this unfortunate U.N.O. Commission.
The other thing that I would suggest as our policy is that we should still encourage the Russians and Americans in their attitude of stopping out. I think that one of the most short-sighted British complaints is that the Americans are not taking an active part in Palestine. If we bring the Americans politically and militarily into the Middle East, there are certain things that inevitably will follow. The Middle East will become the battle ground between two great Powers. The only hope of the Middle East and of Palestine is that it becomes a political vacuum and that each of the two Powers will be content not actively to interfere on the understanding that the other will also refrain from interfering. I believe that we should not go on jeering at the Americans as though we wanted to see American soldiers in the Middle East, and a third world war brought appreciably nearer.
May I now say a word on the position of the Arabs and of the Jews. The main spring of Arab nationalism today is their hatred of imperialism, by which they mean being treated as puppets in the struggle for oil and the strategic jockeyings of the great Powers. What we want to see is that when we go out of Palestine these people are given a chance to live on their own, and to collaborate on reasonable terms with the West not as subjects, but as equals, and not with troops imposed as would be the case if we had Americans and Russians going into Palestine today. Of all the Westerners who have gone to the Middle East, there are only two groups who have done so with completely disinterested view. The first was the American missionaries who founded Beirut University, to whom the Arab nationalist movement owes a debt 1244 of gratitude. They founded the universities for the Arabs and stimulated the Renaissance. The only other group of people who went with complete disinterest to the Middle East to build it up and develop it were the Jews. It is one of the tragedies of the Jews that they are associated in the Arab mind with Western Imperialism and hated as a symbol of the West. They are linked in the Arab mind with the British soldier, the oil magnate and all the other things which the Arab wants to be rid of. That is why I do not think that we want to urge American Armies to go into the Middle East.
If the Americans and Russians are not to send troops, where is to be found the armed force that will take the place of British soldiers? I entirely agree with the Colonial Secretary, and I think that it is our job to say, "If these five men of the U.N. Commission are sent out there with only a secretariat and no armed forces at their disposal, there is no reasonable chance of the partition being carried through successfully." I believe that if that view were expressed from all sides of the House, it might have some effect. It might make America and Russia realise that they must be prepared to agree to the proposal which was put forward by Guatemala; that an international police force should be sent to Palestine, composed exclusively of contingents from the middle and smaller Powers. I believe that is the only proposal with any prospect of success. Why was the U.N.S.C.O.P. Committee so successful? Because there was no great power on it. I believe that if from one of our Dominions, one of the Latin-American bloc, one of the Eastern bloc and one of the smaller European States contingents were sent to Palestine, they would really act as a deterrent, and prevent the spread of confusion from Palestine to the whole of the Middle East.
The importance of having a U.N.O. police force in Palestine, is to prevent rioting in Palestine spreading to the whole Middle East, and to prevent aggression from outside Palestine. A small symbolic force would deter States from around Palestine from acts of aggression which we have seriously to fear on the present plan. Such a police force is a practical proposal on one condition—that the 1245 Americans support it. As the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) knows better than I, you cannot have partition without enforcement. Nobody on the Peel Commission ever supposed that you could have partition by agreement. Now we have the U.N.O. proposal for partition but without the armed force essential for its imposition. Yet unless it is imposed, there is no chance of Jews and Arabs getting together after the two States are established.
I am not particularly alarmed about the rumours of Arab armies massing on the frontiers of Palestine. I am very alarmed by the impact of the U.N.O. decision on the Arab world. It has been an enormous shock to those peoples, and I do not think we ought to underestimate it. Particularly on this side of the House we ought not to oversimplify the situation by saying that, if the pashas and the effendi were not there, everything would be smooth. The real tragedy in the Arab world is that conciliation is far more possible to achieve with the pashas and the effendi. But if the volcanic forces now being held back ever get going, there would be the wildest xenophobia directed against the western world, in which the Jews would be engulfed as well. That is what we are really concerned with when we are concerned with the effect of partition on the Arab world.
It is not the immediate question of rioting and guerilla armies; it is whether the relations of the whole Western world are not endangered by this conflict. British diplomacy has, alas, concentrated Arab attention to the Zionist issue. At meetings of the Arab League British representatives have been in attendance regularly, even when the most violent anti-Jewish actions were approved. We are now suffering the consequences of creating the Arab League on the basis of a single programme of denying a Jewish State to the Jews. So much for the Arabs.
As for the Jews I do not think they are celebrating in Palestine today. They know quite well the problem they are facing, but I have found a very dangerous tendency amongst Jews outside Palestine. I have heard Jews say, "We do not want an international police force in Palestine. Our boys can do it." That is the sort of irresponsible nonsense which every Jew and every friend of the Jews in this House should condemn. A field 1246 cannot be ploughed if the ploughman has a musket in one hand, and oranges cannot be picked if the pickers have to carry hand grenades. If all the Jews in Palestine are going to be called up permanently to fight the Arabs, the economy of that country will break down. One of Dr. Weizmann's great sayings was, "We cannot be imperialist in Palestine since we are only 600,000 men, women and children and we cannot afford the loss of one of them because they are so valuable to us."
I would appeal to the House to realise that any incitement to the Jews of Pales-time to "rely upon themselves" and their own military strength is completely disastrous to the national home. I believe that that is the message that we should send out from this House of Commons to the Jews—that they must not rely on the partition of Palestine by force or conquest, but by international sanction. U.N. must give them time to come to terms with the Arabs, for without Arab-Jewish conciliation there is no national home, and there cannot be a Jewish state unless the Jew and the Arab live peaceably together. The Jew has got to make the running in conciliation in the Middle East, because he is the one who is wiser, more civilised and more progressive.
I conclude by saying this. There are two great things which we have got to think about this afternoon and tomorrow. One is to ensure—and here the Colonial Secretary relieved my mind a great deal—that in every possible way we will facilitate the work of the U.N.O. Commission. I am completely confident that that is going to happen. We shall do it inside Palestine, and I hope it will also be our policy in the whole Middle East in our dealings with Transjordan and other Arab 'States. Secondly, we have got to persuade the Americans that they cannot hang back on this issue of the international police force. We can excuse them for not wanting to do anything themselves, but to prevent the formation of the only force which can possibly achieve the peaceful imposition of partition would turn into hypocrisy their continually expressed desire to help the Jewish cause.
§ 6.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Lipson (Cheltenham)
We have had this evening from the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) what 1247 we always expect from him, a very interesting speech on the problem of Palestine, but I cannot say that I found a good many of his arguments convincing from the practical point of view. He seemed very anxious, for instance, that America and Russia should not send their troops into Palestine. I think most people would say that, as the policy of partition which is now to be pursued in Palestine is their policy, they ought to be prepared to accept responsibility for implementing it. I do not believe for a moment that his alternative suggestion of an international police force representing the smaller Powers is likely to achieve the objects which he has in mind. We have had in Palestine 100,000 men for some time and we have found it impossible to maintain law and order there.
The passions that are being aroused by the decision to bring about partition in Palestine are at least felt as strongly by the Arabs as were those felt previously by the Jews and we must be prepared for a resistance from the Arabs as strong as we had to face from the Jews. Therefore, it is quite obvious that it should be a very strong force that should be sent there, if it is to achieve its object, and a strong force can only be provided by the United States of America and by Russia. I am not clear how long it is suggested that it will be necessary to impose partition by force, because the Arab opposition will be strong, and I believe it is a fallacy to think that it will not continue for a very long time.
§ Mr. Crossman
I was not suggesting a police force for maintaining law and order inside either Jewish or Arab State. That of course, must be left to the Jewish and Arab forces. It was as a sanction to prevent exterior pressure on Palestine.
§ Mr. Lipson
The practical value of that proposal is, in my opinion, very little indeed. What will be required is some kind of authority which is strong enough to maintain law and order in Palestine, and, indeed, the hon. Gentleman confesses himself that the international police force will not do it. Personally I was very disturbed—and I speak as a strong supporter of the United Nations and realise what it means to the 1248 future of the world—by the new version of "my country right or wrong," which I thought was out of date. The hon. Member for East Coventry has now laid down the doctrine, "U.N.O. right or wrong." If that doctrine is insisted upon, in my view, it will kill U.N.O., because we will never get the peoples of the world—and after all it is upon the support of the peoples of the world that U.N.O. depends—to support an institution if they see it time after time taking decisions which they believe are contrary to, their conscience. Therefore, it is not being friendly to U.N.O. to suggest that we must accept whatever U.N.O. decides whether it is right or wrong.
§ Mr. Lipson
I would say that the purpose of U.N.O. is primarily to maintain the peace of the world and that the peace of the world can only be maintained on a basis of justice.
I oppose the partition of Palestine because I believe it is unjust. Now that Great Britain has decided to lay down the Mandate which she has held for some 25 years, it is only right and proper that tribute should be paid not only to those who are responsible in Palestine today, but for what this country has made possible in Palestine during the period of the Mandate. When Britain accepted the Mandate in 1922 there were some 60,000 Jews there; today the number is nearly 700,000. What other country in the world has during that period made a comparable contribution to the problem of the homeless Jews seeking a home? During the period of the Mandate cities have developed and grown, colonies have been established, flourishing trade and industry have been built up and a Hebrew University established. All that has been possible under the terms and conditions under which Great Britain has held the Mandate.
§ Mr. Lipson
I do not deny the part the Jewish settlers have played, but some credit is due to the nation which made it possible for the Jews to go there. When Great Britain has been, to my mind, unfairly attacked and abused in recent years for what she has done or is supposed not 1249 to have done in Palestine, it is just as well to remember these things.
I say unhesitatingly that Great Britain has no reason to be ashamed of the record of what she has made possible in Palestine during the past 25 years. The shame is upon those who have been able to benefit by what she has made possible and have not shown any appreciation for it. The pity of it is that all that has been accomplished in Palestine during the past 25 years is endangered by partition. The period of progress could have continued but who can doubt that partition inevitably means civil war in Palestine? We must face the fact that that means loss of life, the destruction of property, the creation of a barrier between Jew and Arab which it will be impossible to surmount, the creation of an irredentist movement and of a new plague spot in the world whenever there is any threat of war, and who can say how much of what has been done in Palestine in the last 25 years will survive all that?
That has happened because of the overweening ambition of Zionists engaged in a purely political gamble. They have sacrificed the substance of progress for the shadow of political power by the creation of a Jewish State. Today in various parts of the world Zionists are celebrating the establishment of a Jewish State. I would remind them of the words used by Prospero in "The Tempest":Praise in departing.They should see how this policy develops and what the result is. Or they might also remember the words which the British statesman, Walpole, used when against his better judgment he was forced to agree that the long peace which had been maintained during his period of office should be broken and war should be declared upon Spain:They are ringing their bells now; they may be wringing their hands soon.I believe that many thousands of Jews who are today celebrating the laying down of the Mandate by this country, may very well, before long, come to wish that Great Britain had never left the country and that she were there to maintain law and order, life and security, for all.
I am not one of those who think that because the United States of America and Russia have agreed with regard to the partition of Palestine, it is necessarily right. What is wrong does not become 1250 right because the United States and Russia agree about it. After all, it was always possible for us to come to terms with Hitler, and it has been possible for us at any time during the negotiations with Russia to agree as to the settlement of Europe and to the terms of a peace settlement with Germany; but we believed in regard to Hitler, and we believe in regard to the negotiations with Russia that we can only agree where we believe that agreement is right and just.
Therefore the test we should apply to the partition of Palestine is whether it is a just and right settlement. I am not convinced that it is. I cannot believe that the influence of U.N.O. in the world is likely to be strengthened by its decision about Palestine or by the manner in which that decision has been arrived at. It is no good pretending that there were not all kinds of intrigues and influences and that a tremendous amount of pressure was not brought to bear on States in order to bring about a settlement. I deplore that settlement because I believe that partition will bring to Palestine not peace but the sword, and for that reason I believe that it is no solution.
I am glad that the Government have decided that they will take no part whatever in trying to enforce partition. I am sure that in deciding that British Forces shall not be used for that purpose they have behind them the overwhelming support of public opinion in this country. I would go further and say that in view of what has happened in Palestine recently, it would be putting an intolerable and unfair strain on our troops to ask them to risk their lives to enforce the partition settlement. I urge that we should withdraw at the earliest possible date, and in particular we ought to withdraw without delay our soldiers who are under 21. It is really not fair to expose young and inexperienced soldiers to the conditions of service in Palestine at present, and even if it is difficult to withdraw the mass of troops, I hope that some effort will be made in regard to the younger ones.
I am concerned with what is likely to happen to the quarter of a million or more Jews who are living in Arab States. We have already had evidence of the physical danger to which they are exposed. They are innocent hostages and 1251 may become innocent victims, and I would ask His Majesty's Government to make friendly representations to the Governments concerned and point out what a matter of concern it would be to the people of this country if any harm should come to them. I know that a mob roused by political passions may be difficult to restrain, but I am sure that the Government would have the agreement of every hon. Member if they could make friendly representations and say to the Arab States that they should not stain the cause which many in this House and this country believe to be just by allowing mob violence of that kind.
I would like to pay a tribute to the very well-balanced and fair statement made by my right hon. Friend earlier this afternoon, and to ask him what exactly is to be the position with regard to immigration until we surrender the Mandate? Is immigration to be allowed to continue up to a certain point and if there is—I do not want to offend any hon. Members who may be Zionist by using the term "illegal immigration"—but if there is to be immigration over the quota before we surrender the Mandate, shall we try and prevent it or, because we are laying down the Mandate, shall we take no action at all?
I wish it were possible for me to share some of the rosy hopes that have been expressed with regard to the future of Palestine under partition, but I would not be honest if I were to say that I believe that as long as partition remains, they are likely to be realised. We have to face the facts, to understand the bitterness which has been aroused. I believe that Great Britain has done her part worthily in Palestine. She has made many sacrifices for that country but, whatever the future may hold for. Palestine, we cannot accept responsibility for what follows the decision to bring about partition. The effects of that must be accepted by those who are responsible for making the decision.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. Warbey (Luton)
The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) always speaks with great sincerity, and I am sure that in the speech he has just made he was fully convinced of the genuineness and sincerity of what he was saying. 1252 Nevertheless, I must confess I was shocked at the doctrine he seemed to enunciate. He was saying, in effect, that he preferred to set up his own individual judgment, or that this country, as a single nation, should set up its own national judgment against that of the international authority on which we are building our hopes for the future—the United Nations organisation.
That seems to me to be the very doctrine which killed the League of Nations. It was when the leaders of this country, in the years between 1931 and 1939, were prepared to place the judgment of this country before the judgment of an international body, and were not prepared to use collective enforcement action, for example, against Japan; it was when we made our position clear on that point that we killed the League of Nations and the whole of the rule of international law and justice. Much as I would like to see the canons of abstract justice applied in every sphere of the world, before you can get justice applied you must have law, and until you have a rule of law in the world, there is no hope whatsoever of getting justice.
We are engaged in a tremendous struggle in this postwar generation, a tremendous effort to build up a world rule of law and, until we have done so, until we have built up a rule of law with the power of enforcement behind it, there is no hope of achieving justice in international relations. Therefore, I regard this decision of the United Nations organisation as a test case for the world, and for this country in particular, of whether or not the United Nations is going forward to be a genuine and effective world organisation, or whether it is going the same way as the League. The duty of this country, since the United Nations General Assembly has taken its decision, is no longer simply its duty as a Mandatory Power. It has now a second and a greater duty. It has a duty as a member nation of the United Nations organisation, and it is to that particular duty that I wish to direct attention this evening.
If we are to carry out our duty, there are certain things we must do. First, we should make it unequivocally clear that we will accept the decision of the General Assembly of the United Nations, recalling that that decision was made not merely 1253 by the United States and the U.S.S.R., but by more than the competent two-thirds majority required under the Charter of the United Nations organisation itself, and with the support of a considerable number of the smaller and medium Powers, including all four of the older British Dominions. Therefore, that decision has the full authority—not merely the legal authority of the Charter, but the moral authority—of the opinion of the leading nations of the world behind it. I was glad to hear the Colonial Secretary say that we accept loyally that decision of what he calls the international court of opinion, not merely as an expression of an opinion, but as a decision which we intend to carry out.
The second aspect of our duty is, so long as the Mandate lasts, so to operate our mandatory power as to facilitate the work of the General Assembly and of the Commission entrusted with carrying out its task. There I must say that I was rather disturbed at some of the statements made by the Colonial Secretary, because the resolution passed by the General Assembly lays down certain specific responsibilities to be carried out by the Mandatory Power. I would like to know more specifically from whoever replies for the Government which of those responsibilities we accept and are prepared to carry out, which of them we do not accept and are not prepared to carry out. If there are any which we are not prepared to carry out, as I gathered there were from the statement of the Colonial Secretary, can we be given precise and overwhelmingly important reasons why we cannot carry out the responsibilities specifically placed upon us?
Other hon. Members will no doubt refer to these matters in detail, but I want to refer to the general responsibility contained in Part I, B.12, of the recommendations, which says:The Mandatory Power shall co-operate with the Commission in the execution of its functions.The Colonial Secretary, in his statement to the ad hoc Committee, and to the House this afternoon, said, in my opinion quite rightly, that we should not be prepared to accept sole responsibility for the enforcement of the United Nations decision. But, when Sir Alexander Cadogan was speaking to the Committee on 20th November, he said: 1254The United Kingdom Government would not be prepared to transfer the authority of the Palestine Government to councils of government, or any other local representatives. … Such action would amount to participation in the implementation of a partition scheme. The United Kingdom Government would not participate in any scheme not acceptable to both Arabs and Jews.I would like to know whether or not we are still standing by that statement of Sir Alexander Cadogan, because it seems to me that if we say we will not participate in a scheme, we are getting very near to saying we will not co-operate with the bodies charged with carrying it out. I would like a specific statement that we are not still resting on that statement by Sir Alexander Cadogan.
A very important qualification was made by the Colonial Secretary in the statement he made to the ad hoc Committee on 26th September. This affects the question which has already been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), namely, the question of collective enforcement action. The Colonial Secretary said:In considering any proposal to the effect that his Government should participate with others in the enforcement of a settlement, the Government would have to take into account both the inherent justice of the settlement and the extent to which force would be required to give effect to it.It seems to me that here we need a very clear and explicit statement, and, before the end of this Debate, we should know whether or not the Government are prepared, not to take sole responsibility for enforcement action, not even to take the major role in enforcement action, but whether they are prepared to play their part as a member nation, and one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, in carrying out collective enforcement action.
Are we still resting upon those qualifications? Do we regard the settlement as so inherently unjust that we are not prepared to take part in collective enforcement? Do we regard the extent of the force required to carry it out as so great that we would not be prepared to participate in collective enforcement? I hope we shall have a clear statement on that question, and that before the end of this Debate it will be definitely said by the Government that we are prepared to uphold this decision of the United Nations 1255 organisation, along with other member nations by whatever means are necessary to uphold it.
§ Mr. Warbey
Oh, yes, I am not shirking that question at all. I mean quite explicitly that if it should prove as a result of the threats already made to oppose the decision by military force, that those threats should be carried out, quite clearly there is only one way in which this decision of the United Nations can be upheld, and that is by the use of military force in order to prevent that resistance. This is the very test of whether or not the United Nations organisation is going to mean anything more than the League of Nations did. This is he test whether or not the nations of the world, including this nation, are prepared to back up the decisions of the world assembly, if necessary by the use of force. That is the really vital question.
We have already seen that there is violence in Palestine, and that there have been threats of force from outside. We know the situation is critical; we know it is highly dangerous. Therefore, there is a strong possibility—I will put it no higher than that—that the Security Council, which is the competent organ of the United Nations in this matter, may have to take note of the existence of a threat to the peace, or even of a breach of the peace, and to decide what action is to be taken to enforce the decisions of the General Assembly. It is necessary to prepare in advance for this situation; it will be too late for action to be taken when the situation flares up.
Now is the time when the Security Council ought to be preparing for that situation, and now is the time when we, acting in our capacity as one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, ought to be assisting that body to carry out its proper responsibilities. The Colonial Secretary has quite rightly told the ad hoc Committee, and the sub-committees time and again, that there was a weakness in their plan in regard to enforcement. The weakness exists, and it has been pointed out, but it is not enough fo[...] us now the decision has been taken to be content to sit back and point to 1256 others. Now is the time for us to come forward to the Security Council and propose what should be done in order to enable the Security Council to carry out its responsibilities.
I hope no one will suggest that the Security Council has not the authority or power under the Charter to carry out those responsibilities. I hope no one will suggest that because the provisions of Article 43 have not yet led to anything, and because no agreements have been made for the use of national contingents in collective enforcement action, no action can be taken by the Security Council. The Security Council has the duty under Article 39 to,… determine the existence of any threat to the peace … or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 45 and 42 …Under Article 42 it is stated:Should the Security Council consider that measures provided for in Article 41 would be inadequate or have proved to be inadequate it may take such action by air, sea or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security.No reference is there made to Article 43, or to the agreements to be made under Article 43. There is no restriction on what type of land, sea or air forces may be employed. In other words, it would be perfectly competent for the Security Council under Article 42, and under Article 48, either to summon the member nations to provide forces for use to deal with the situation arising out of Palestine, or to set about establishing their own United Nations international armed forces.
That is the proposal which our Government should now table before the Security Council, that the Council should set about the task of creating a U.N.O. Force, if I may use the kind of cablese expression which seems to be fashionable in international terminology these days. We have had a U.N.S.C.O.P.; let us follow that up with a U.N.O. Force, an international armed force, preferably recruited from volunteers, under a commander-in-chief appointed by the Security Council, and instructed by the Military Staffs Committee, acting upon its behalf. This is the only way in which we can deal with the situation that may well arise in Palestine. A corporate force of this kind, used to enforce a corporate decision of 1257 the United Nations, would avoid the obvious political difficulties of the employment in Palestine of the armed forces of any single nation. The creation of a U.N.O. Force would develop amongst its members a loyalty to the organisation as such which would be greater than the loyalty of forces under national command. The employment of such a force, and the character of such a force, would arouse a greater degree of respect amongst other nations of the world, and have a far greater prestige, and, therefore, influence and respect, than the forces of any single nation.
I believe that the Government of this country have now a great opportunity over this Palestine question. We have an opportunity to help to make the United Nations organisation begin to become something of a reality. We have an opportunity which may not exist again, if we now allow it to pass, not only to see that we set the example in upholding a collective international decision, even when we dislike some of its aspects. We also have the opportunity, out of this situation, to bring into being, through our initiative, the nucleus of a force which alone will make the United Nations organisation capable of becoming what we all hope to see it become in future—an organ of genuine world authority, capable of introducing an era of law and order, and, eventually, of justice.
§ 6.44 P.m.
§ Mr. Pickthorn (Cambridge University)
I think that on this occasion it is more difficult than on any earlier occasion I can remember to be sure that one has something to say that conceivably might do some good, and does not perceptibly run the risk of doing harm. Normally, when a Member has that feeling before rising to his feet, I am sure that he is well advised to refrain, and perhaps I should have been, but you, Mr. Speaker, will remember better than any one, how these Debates on Palestine first came to have the character which they now have. It may be remembered, though younger Members of the House can hardly know it, that there was a time when Debates on Palestine in this House were conducted—and this is not an exaggerated thing to say—wholly, almost 100 per cent., by Zionists and friends of Zionists, and it was action by one who was then a Private 1258 Member which started something hardly to be called an organisation, but a collection of friends, who made it their business to try to see that other points of view were put, especially Arab arguments, even when they did not agree with them.
I have been intimately, if undistinguishedly and quite ineffectively, concerned with this business of Palestine and Zionism since I gave, or tried to give, advice to the Army Council in 1918, which, of course, the Army Council did not take. I have been particularly intimately concerned with the Debates in this House for the last 12 years. This is, I suppose, the last occasion upon which the House of Commons is to have a Palestine Debate, and, therefore, I found it almost impossible not to attempt to address the House.
There is, perhaps, one useful task which may be undertaken by one in my position. So far, I think that nobody has spoken from the point of view of a man who has thought that political Zionism was throughout wholly wrong, at least no one has specifically avowed that view. I have always held that view. I held it in 1918 when I saw something of the conception and gestation of the thing; I have held that view ever since. Even if what I say of a positive or practical nature has been said before, there is perhaps some slight importance in getting on to HANSARD'S last pages of this kind, confirmation of one or two things already said, from the point of view of a man who has had that conviction, or prejudice, or whatever one may choose to call it.
Almost the last words of the Colonial Secretary were "regret" and "relief." I think both words ill-chosen. I think "regret" far too small a word for the sadness and repentance which I think incumbent upon all of us, because this trouble is a trouble which, very largely, we have created. It is not like most of the great political and strategical troubles in the world, which were placed there by geography or an inscrutable Providence or by the history of our ancestors. This trouble is a trouble which has been made by us; there is no party point involved here, for all I have to say to the contrary one or two of the leaders of my party are concerned at least as much as the leaders of any other party, though I 1259 do think it fair to say, and I hope that hon. Members opposite will not think this excessively partisan, that the trouble was made quite gratuitously worse by the extreme uncriticalness with which the Socialist Party, in the years before they were in office, rushed into the most profuse promises of anything and everything which any political Zionist might want.
I say these things, not by way of congratulating myself on my wisdom when I was extremely immature and extremely ill-informed nor for the pleasure of reproaching those I always thought mistaken—I have no doubt that the people who take the opposite line will continue to believe that they were right and that misfortunes have undeservedly overtaken them—but for this reason: I believe we are led into an unnecessary and fatal mistake about this matter by calling it a problem, which gives a sort of subconscious notion that there is a solution somewhere. It is not a problem in the sense that all we have to do is to get hold of a teacher's book, where we will find the solution on one of the pages at the end. It is not a problem in that sense.
My belief is that we cannot begin to diminish the chance of continued suffering out of this matter, for others and for our country and countrymen, until we go back to the point at which we left what seems to me to be a defensible line. That was a long time ago. I think that one has only to state the proposition that the armed force of a great Power is to be used to compel a long-settled society to admit immigration over whose quality and quantity it shall have no control, to see at once that it is really an untenable proposition, and that to try to maintain that proposition through a period when everyone is talking about democracy such as never was before, and a new epoch of superior law, order, justice, self-determination and all that—that that was a hopeless moral and intellectual paradox from the start. So here I think we should have much more than regret at the terrible situation in which we now find ourselves and in which we now see Palestine. And I think we should have much less than relief, which was the other word the Colonial Secretary used for his climax. Let us wait and see whether we are relieved by these decisions. It is too early yet, I think, to acclaim relief.
1260 I have avowed those prejudices because I wish to come, if I may with all due modesty, to reinforce the plea that was put from the Front Opposition Bench, that now we have announced our decision to get out, we should get out quick. I think that all the arguments used from the other side against that are false arguments and must land us in more and more trouble. While we were in Palestine, I myself, and friends of mine, challenged the present Colonial Secretary and others—whichever side was in power we have done it; we have done it more than once—upon this point: that we have allowed the Jewish Agency to be built up into something which was far more than we had any authority to allow it to be built up into. As has been pointed out already today, we also allowed the Haganah to be built up, so that now there is in Palestine something which almost amounts to a state, more or less in control of something which almost amounts to an army. We have done that. Even if I am wrong in thinking that the whole conception was unpardonably mistaken from the beginning, we have done that ill, even upon the terms upon which we were there and upon the terms of the Mandate.
The Mandate also I have always regarded as largely bogus. Never forget that we were in Palestine for years before there was a Mandate. It is no use really referring the whole thing back always to the Mandate and saying that anything that comes within the Mandate must be right. Even taking it on the terms of the Mandate, we had no right so to govern that country that there would be formed by the immigrant section an alternative state inside the state and an alternative army inside the state.
Now here we are on the point of stepping out. I speak with some diffidence in the presence of the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman), who did not surprise me by the authority with which he told us all about what Zionists think and feel, but who did slightly surprise me by the equal omniscience which he had about Arab opinion and sentiment. Still, I venture to say this: that nothing anybody does or says now can possibly take out of Arab heads, and I think out of the heads of almost all of the East, the view that all the time we are staying there that is a help towards one side rather than the other side.
1261 That may be just or unjust. I am not arguing whether it is just or unjust. But I think that whatever be the view taken about the competence of U.N.O., whatever view be taken about the log rolling and whip cracking, and so on, at U.N.O., of which the hon. Gentleman told us (a) that there was none, and (b) that it was on both sides—whatever view be taken about these things, and about the decision to partition without consulting with those who had been against partitioning, a queer thing to do, something like a return to a long abandoned procedure of this House. I think I am right in saying that at an early stage in this House the rule was that if one voted against the Second Reading of a Bill one automatically disqualified oneself from being on the Committee. But this House, in its wisdom, long long ago saw the fallacy of that and abandoned it.
Whatever view be taken about the question whether this particular partition scheme is a good one—and I have not yet met anyone who does not think it a very bad one; whatever view be taken about the special competence of Bolivia, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Panama and the Philippines, to put this difficult and unprecedented bit of business through; whatever view be taken about those things, I do not think anyone can doubt that the longer we hold soldiers and authority in Palestine, the more it will be felt by the Arabs that we are thereby assisting this partition scheme. If only for that reason—
§ Mr. Pickthorn
I said "by the Arabs." If only for that reason, though I think there are many others, I think, therefore, that we ought to get, out at once. I say this to the Treasury Bench, I do not know who is going to wind up. Really they are treating the House, I think, unfairly unless they give us far more details than they have given so far about how the thing is to be done. We really know no more now, almost, than we did when we came in this morning. Certainly we were told nothing in the right hon. Gentleman's speech that he could not have printed yesterday so as to give us some opportunity of criticising and asking him to fill in the gaps. Certainly we ought to have answers about 1262 property in Palestine, as was mentioned by the hon. Member for East Coventry, and why contracts were not stopped for spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on aerodromes and barracks, and so on. We ought to have exact details about those things.
One other thing I want to say and then I will sit down. It is about immigration. There was rather an assumption in an earlier interchange that, of course, all the Zionists—if they are Zionists, and my own belief is that many of them are very conscript Zionists—in Cyprus, at any rate, ought to be decanted back into Palestine. Is that right? I think that we ought to get out well before May if we possibly can, and certainly before August. But, however long it is to be, are we to put all these back? What other immigration are we to allow? When we get out, what is our understanding of what U.N.O. intends? Are the Arabs to be allowed to permit quite unrestricted immigration into their territory, of Arabs, non-Arabs and anyone they choose? Are the Zionists to permit quite unrestricted immigration in their territory in the intermediate period before they are really independent powers, while they have still a U.N.O. Commission brooding over them? Are they to be permitted to have any amount of immigration they like from wherever they like?
These are the most important questions of all. I think that the House has proper cause for complaint that we did not have these questions explained to us at all in the opening speech. I hope that the House, at any rate tonight, will be told something about these questions so that there will be a chance of discussing them tomorrow. My last word of all is that I do beg the right hon. Gentleman opposite to believe that the thing being where the thing now is—and I would not for worlds say a word to exacerbate anyone's feeling in this situation—the thing being where it now is, it having been declared to be our policy to get out, for heaven's sake let them expedite the getting out.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Harry Morris (Sheffield, Central)
Any excuse which I needed to offer a comparatively rare contribution to one of these Debates is in the speech by the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson). On the very first occasion on which I had the privilege of addressing this House I thought it desirable to offer 1263 a few strictures to the hon. Gentleman. It is a pity he is not here now. I did point out to him at that time, or I suggested the possibility, that his honourable father might be turning in his grave when the hon. Member made his speech. Perhaps I might say now of the hon. Member, even in his absence, that I heard him refer to his Zionist friends. May I suggest that he has no Zionist friends.
I had hoped that when the Colonial Secretary opened this Debate he would tell us something about the mechanics of this project. He did tell us, and I expected him to tell us, what Britain's attitude would be. He told us that now at long last the Government were prepared unequivocally to support the decision of the United Nations organisation. He did tell us that, having asked for advice from the United Nations organisation, it was not our duty to shape it. It seems to me we are going to be brought to the view that the only way for the world at large to be able to content the United States and Soviet Russia is for Britain to keep quiet. That seems an astonishing situation. However that may be, if that is right, and it was not our duty to offer any advice to the United Nations organisation, how was it that we chose this particular moment to say we were going to get out of Palestine and to say that we were going to give up the Mandate? Why was it considered desirable for Sir Alan Cunningham, the High Commissioner, to send for the leader of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem and tell him what Great Britain proposed to do and for him to state that that would bring about a state of chaos, anarchy and bloodshed. One explanation was that it might have been intimidation. If that is too harsh a word, why was it that Great Britain chose that particular moment, if no attempt was being made to shape the decision of the United Nations organisation. Why was it that Great Britain said, just when the United Nations organisation was considering the problem: "We are going to get out of Palestine"?
The Colonial Secretary says we are not prepared to enforce a settlement which is not acceptable to the Jews or the Arabs. Although the hon. Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) says this is not a problem in the sense that we can find a 1264 very easy solution of it, it was the Foreign Secretary, the House will remember, who said he was prepared to stake his political reputation on the solution of this problem. Perhaps he treated the problem lightly. Perhaps he treated his political reputation lightly. Perhaps a little of both. Was not the reason that Great Britain referred the problem to the United Nations organisation because Great Britain could not find a solution acceptable to both Jews and Arabs? If that is right, it ill becomes Great Britain now to say "We are not now going to accept the decision of the United Nations organisation, because it is not acceptable to Jews and Arabs." A greater inconsistency and paradox does not seem to be possible.
I do not propose to argue with the hon. Member for Cheltenham as to whether partition is or is not a good settlement. He seems to have no enthusiasm for it. He may be surprised to hear that I, as a Zionist, have no enthusiasm for the partition. I agree with the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) when he says that what we are seeking to do today is not what we had hoped to do. It is not the solution visualised by Lord Balfour, or by Mr. Lloyd George. It is not the solution which would have been visualised by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition if he had been here today, and it is not the solution visualised by Zionists.
I would remind the hon. Member for Cambridge University that just about 30 years ago to the day, I also was in in Palestine. I was in Palestine following the designing of the Balfour Declaration. I had good reason to know what negotiations were going on in Palestine and what it was intended to give the Jews. The Jewish National Home was not the little hit proposed to be given to them now but the whole geographical and political entity of Palestine as it was known at that time. That was the arrangement and the result of the negotiations going on between Jews and Arabs at that particular time. It cannot be pretended today by anyone—no matter on which side of the fence he happens to sit—that anyone is going to scream with enthusiasm about the suggestion that the United Nations organisation has made. But the United Nations has come to a decision by an overwhelming majority 1265 and it is plain poppycock to talk about any improper pressure by the Jews. I do not know where this pressure is alleged to come from: This myth of Jewish pressure, this sinister influence which the Jews are supposed to be able to bring about, does not appear to have been explained. It does not appear to occur to anyone who holds that view, that if there were such an influence, there would have been no Hitler and we would not be discussing these problems today.
The decision of the United Nations organisation was completely and utterly overwhelming. They came to that decision not because they thought it was an ideal solution, but because they thought it was the only practical solution. I put it to the Government today that, having passed the problem to the United Nations organisation, and a decision having been made, it is not for us to sit in the corner like a sulky boy and say that we are not going to play. I agree with the Colonial Secretary when he says that the enforcement of this decision must not be by us alone. He is entitled to say that and I think that Zionists will agree. But he is not entitled to say, and Great Britain is not entitled to say: "We will take no part in the enforcement of this decision." After all, we are a constituent member of the United Nations organisation. So far as I know, our foreign policy is based on the United Nations organisation and if we do not take part in the decision, then we do not accept it.
What is the point of having an organisation at all, if the minority refuse to accept it. We set it up, and we are part of it, and we are bound to accept its decisions. We are bound to do what we can to implement them. If that is right, and I firmly believe it to be right, I absolutely agree with what has been said from both sides of the House that the matter cannot be left just there. It is not sufficient for Great Britain to say that we are going to get out of Palestine as quickly as possible. That will not do. Great Britain cannot just walk out of Palestine and leave it, in the words of the High Commissioner of Palestine, in a state of "chaos, anarchy and bloodshed." We must hand over to some organisation, no matter how constituted. Great Britain cannot go out of the country with relief that we have been able to hand over the job and let somebody else do it. 1266 That is not statesmanship. It seems to me to be the negation of statesmanship.
I want to know, and I think everybody who is interested in this problem is entitled to know, what is to be the position of the Government now? Great Britain says "We are coming out at a particular date." What is going to happen in the meantime? The Colonial Secretary says that it is the responsibility of the Mandatory Power to maintain law and order. I hope the Mandatory Power will do just that. I hope that whoever winds up this Debate will tell us what is going to happen with regard to the whole of the problems of Palestine. What about the administration of Palestine, carrying on the public services, what about Palestine being allowed to continue as a going concern as a social, political and economic entity? Great Britain cannot just walk out and say "We are going, and we do not care very much what happens." That just will not do.
I have always believed, and I am sure the right hon. Member for West Bristol would support me in this, that a Mandate works out something like this. The Mandatory Power, when it came to the conclusion that the country for which it held a Mandate had reached that stage of social and economic evolution at which it was able to stand on its own feet, would walk out. Does Great Britain believe that that is the situation in Palestine? I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, to see that you are exhibiting some impatience, and I am sorry I have spoken so long, but, as the hon. Member who spoke last said, this may be the last occasion on which we shall be able to discuss Palestine at all.
§ 7.12 p.m.
§ Major Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I do not think I can recollect any day, either in my Army career or in my short life in this House, when I found it more difficult to make up my mind as to what is right than on this occasion. I fully endorse what my hon. Friend the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) said when he declared that it would be wrong to say anything in this Debate which one felt was likely to lead to greater harm than has already been done, and that remark has caused me a great deal of thought. Therefore, I feel very hesitant about saying what I propose to say.
1267 First, I must tell the House that I reject this plan completely, because I believe that it will lead inevitably to world war. I believe that partition cannot work in Palestine, and I believe that, if we have a problem which is very grave and apparently insoluble, it is no use dividing it into two, so that in each part we reproduce the same problem. I feel that I should tell the House the reasons which lie behind my decision. I believe that the main principle which matters in this world from the democratic point of view, is that we do not achieve prosperity until we have established peace, and that we do not achieve peace until we have established justice. I maintain that there are three incidents in the whole of the Palestine picture and in the history of our rule in Palestine for which there is no justification whatever.
The first was the Balfour Declaration. I maintain that that cannot be found to be just in any way, and it was made clear by Mr. Landman, one of the younger Zionists, who, at Dr. Weizmann's request, was transferred from M.I. 9 in 1918, that the price of American aid at the end of the first war was considered to be an effort to secure Palestine for the Jews, and he emphasised that the new Jewish leaders were anxious lest a Jewish Palestine should affect their civic rights here in this country, and that they were also generally concerned for the Arab inhabitants of Palestine. The second injustice to me is that the Mandate for Palestine conflicted with Clause 4 of Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, and was therefore unjust to the Arab population. The third injustice is the subsequent action in implementing the Balfour Declaration without the Arabs having either agreed about immigration or as to the Mandatory Power, and I maintain that that injustice has simply served to exacerbate any rivalry or jealousy which may have been in existence between Jew and Arab at the time of the Mandate.
These conclusions on the subject of these injustices are the three premises which I have in mind when approaching the problems which we are discussing today, and I would now like to try to apply the principle which I mentioned at the beginning, when I said that a solution which had to be just must also promote peace. The U.N.O. proposal splits Palestine into two. I am quite convinced that 1268 the inevitable result of that is world war. I think it is only right, however, that, if I criticise and challenge this U.N.O. scheme, I should at least try to provide an alternative, and that is, of course, the hardest task of all today. Before I put forward my views and suggestions, I want to say a few words about Zionism. On page 11 of the Report of the General Assembly, paragraph 9, these words appear:In physical resources … Palestine is extremely poor, having neither coal, iron, nor any other important mineral deposits. Indeed, the only considerable non-agricultural resources are the potassium and sodium salts which are extracted from the Dead Sea.Then it goes on:Oil, on which some people have set hopes, has not been discovered in payable quantities, though tests are proceeding in the South.I maintain that that statement is fundamentally incorrect. The resources of the Dead Sea are enormous, but at the same time they are themselves but a small part of the total resources, most of which are underground. The largest of these underground resources are potash and oil, but there are other resources in Palestine, including gold in solution in the Dead Sea which has been valued at between £10,000 million and £5,000 million, and the magnesium chloride, which was estimated by the Crown Agents for the Colonies in 1925 to amount to 22,000 million tons. As long ago as 1864, it was suggested to the Turks that potash could be produced in the Dead Sea, and I mention the date of that because I think it is important that it preceded by 33 years the first Zionist Congress of 1897. Since then, various Zionists have commented on future economic prospects, and, at a meeting addressed by Mr. Ettinger on 29th May, 1929, of the Zionist Federation of Sydney, Australia, Mr. Ettinger is reported to have said this, referring to the Novomeysky concession which since has become the Palestine Potash Company:Had we lost this concession, our whole future in Palestine might have been in danger. All these matters are of an economic nature, but it is in this sphere that our political work is most important.A year before that, the late Lord Melchett, addressing a conference of Zionists and non-Zionists at the Biltmore Hotel, New York, on 20th October, 1928, said, in urging non-Zionists Jews to join the Zionist movement: 1269Let me tell you, you cannot afford to wait. While we are discussing, other people are acting. Whereas we have reports as to the possibilities in Palestine, Gentiles are acquiring land and beginning to take possession of all the best things in the country …. If we do not get together and do something within the next five years, the opportunities may be so slight, and the ideal we have set before us in Palestine may never be realised. I am not troubling about the economic development of Palestine. That is assured. The problem is who will do it.A debate took place in another place on 20th March, 1929, in which Lord Melchett did his best to discourage unwary investors from thinking that there was what he called "a golden fortune in the Dead Sea potash." It is, perhaps, naturally difficult for hon. Members of this House who are also Zionists to avoid it, but, throughout the history of this movement, there has been a tendency towards what I might call "political schizophrenia," which is borne out by the two quotations which I have given. The concession was granted on 1st January, 1930, to Mr. Novomeysky. Sir John Hope Simpson, in his Report of 30th October, Command 3686, page 117, said:If the Dead Sea concession proves to be a successful venture, it is impossible to forecast the magnitude to which the chemical industry arising therefrom may expand.It is obviously true that the idea of a National Home has appealed to the less-informed Jews, but the interests of political Zionism have other aims in view. In his book, "The Jew in Revolt" W. Zuckerman said:A Jew can do nothing but follow the road shown by the Soviet Union. There is no other way for him. As a Jew he must join the army, fighting for the social revolution, or perish. … Spiritually, the social revolutionary movement is saving the Jews for the world.I do not suggest that all Jews automatically agree with that, but I submit that the inspiration of political Zionism is similar to that which lay behind Bolshevism in 1918. The Netherlands Minister when in Petrograd on 6th September, 1918, and as reported in Letter No. 6, Command Paper 8, which was the White Paper entitled "Russia, No. 1, 1919," said:I consider that the immediate suppression of Bolshevism is the greatest issue now before the world, not even excluding the war which is still raging, and unless, as above stated, Bolshevism is nipped in the bud immediately, it is bound to spread in one form or another over Europe and the whole world, as it is organised and worked by Jews who have no 1270 nationality and whose one object is to destroy for their own ends the existing order of things.I submit that the aim of people who finance Zionists is to get control of the economic resources of Palestine which have been deliberately kept out of the public eye. I hope it will be realised that there is a far bigger issue in this than a mere war between Arabs and Jews. It is an economic war, and power politics of the very worst sort.
I would commend to the attention of the House the oral evidence given by the Communist Party of Palestine to the representatives of U.N.O. on 13th July this year. I am not going to read it to the House, but hon. Members will find it on page 145 of Annex A, Vol. 3, of Supplement No. 11 of the Official Record of the second session of the General Assembly. I suggest that they should compare it with Dr. Weizmann's remarks on page 78 of that report and with Mr. Preminger's remarks on pages 235 and 237. I believe that once Arabs and Jews are left to the mercies of an unsupported Commission, as is, apparently to be the case, "the big show" will start to develop. If this proposal of U.N.O. goes, forward, and we acquiesce, we shall have sown the seeds for the next world war, and the harvest may be far earlier than we expect, and may produce a bumper crop.
How, then, is peace to be maintained? I maintain that partition is an impossible way. The only way it might work—and even then I think it is remote—is when it is enforced. Partition multiplies by at least two the present troubles, however forcibly it is imposed. I recommend that His Majesty's Government should, before it is too late, go back to U.N.O., and say that this country cannot possibly agree with its decision.
I suggest that His Majesty's Government should propose a three months' moratorium, announcing that, at the end of that time, they are prepared to meet both sides in Palestine, or all the Jewish and Arab representatives throughout the world. If at the end of that three months' period nothing has transpired, and neither side has come forward and agreed to meet, Great Britain should herself impose the following. A provisional elected government of Arabs and Jews in the relation of two-thirds to one-third, excluding all those on both sides who have 1271 bad criminal records behind them; maintaining law and order by giving at long last the British Army a completely free hand. I would then suggest that the Palestine Police Force which, apparently, is already moving in the right direction, should gradually have its British element thinned out, as has been done in the Egyptian Police, and that the Defence Force of Arabs and Jews should be gradually Palestinised, as the Indian Army was Indianised. We should set then a provisional period of nine years in which to complete this process, allowing three three-year elected assemblies in that time.
I do not think that anybody hoped more than I that U.N.O. would be a success, and would unite the world in a just peace. Therefore, I feel it all the more bitterly that, in the first real testing which U.N.O. has had, it should, apparently, have shown itself quite incapable of discerning where true justice lay. Justice is more important than the judges, even if the judges happen to be the United Nations. Because I believe that, I cannot accept this proposal, which I can foresee resulting in mass bloodshed. It does not matter whether that blood be Jewish, Arab or British. Some will inevitably be shed. Let us see, at all costs, that the blood shed is as little as possible, and that what has to be shed is shed in the cause of justice, and not in the perpetuation of yet another unjust blunder which gives the final shove to the tottering foundations of peace. If and when His Majesty's Government accept what I propose, and recommend it to U.N.O., I believe that, when the time comes for setting up the joint state, the only way to do it will be, in the words of the Duke of Milan in the last scene of the "Two Gentlemen of Verona":Know then, I here forget all former griefs, Cancel all grudge, repeal thee home again, Plead a new state in thy unrivall'd merit, To which I thus subscribe.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. Janner (Leicester, West)
I am bound to say that I listened to the remarks of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) with real consternation. I could not understand for the life of me why he should introduce what seemed to be perfectly irrelevant matter unless he intended to say that we should not have accepted the United Nations organisation's findings 1272 and that if we go to arbitration to U.N.O. at any time we should accept that arbitration only if it is in our favour.
§ Major Legge-Bourke
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he does not think it would have a very disturbing effect on U.N.O. if we were to go back and say we could not accept U.N.O.'s decision and that they should reconsider the whole matter?
§ Mr. Janner
That is precisely what I mean. Of course, we cannot turn down the U.N.O. decision; of course, we have to proceed with it and to take our share as Members who have signed the Charter which calls upon its members to take a proper share in fulfilling a decision. With due respect, I suggest my hon. and gallant Friend is trying to draw red herrings across the track in relation to the real position, and I am sorry he has taken that course because it had been my intention to deal only with the immediate problems before us. But his speech and those of several Members who have spoken this afternoon prompt me to answer points they have raised. What was the Balfour Declaration? Was not the Balfour Declaration given to Lord Rothschild the president of the Zionist Federation in this country to hand over to them? Nobody misunderstood the matter at all. Everybody knew very well that the Balfour Declaration was an important step further in the development of the objects of Zionism. Balfour declared himself a Zionist Lloyd George declared himself a Zionist and the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition has always regarded himself as a Zionist.
If there is a suggestion that there is a difference between political Zionism and any other kind of Zionism that is obviously wrong, because Balfour knew, and we knew in this country, and everybody concerned with the Balfour Declaration knew, what Herzl had propounded, and the result was that the declaration was a Zionist declaration and everyone knew just exactly what it meant. Then an hon. Member complained that several years passed after that before the Mandate was accepted and he used this argument as a cause to complain. What happened was this: The League of Nations most carefully and minutely considered the terms of the Mandate and unanimously—52 nations—after years of study, 1273 decided to implement the Balfour Declaration by producing the Mandate, and in addition to that America, who was not a member of the League, also gave her seal to this decision.
What my hon. Friends overlook is the following important fact. The Jewish people were a party to that transaction and after some 25 to 30 years of dragging out of the soil of Palestine something which is the wonder of the world, you cannot turn round to the settlers—neither my hon. and gallant Friend, nor any of his colleagues—to these men and women, many of whom are successors of those who fell and died in the swamps, to make Palestine a fruitful land and say, "You have no say in the matter. We are now going to try something else." The truth of the matter is that the test of the League of Nations was the mandate system. The Mandate for Palestine was one of the few successful ventures that emanated from the League of Nations. What my hon. and gallant Friend does not understand again is this: that the free Arab States that today are admitted into the United Nations organisation—Syria, Iraq, Saudi-Arabia and the Lebanon—were all created under Mandates given by precisely the same League of Nations that introduced the Palestinian Mandate. Turkey, which before the Great War had them in its power, and was a very hard taskmaster indeed, would have retained these countries and retained them in the parlous state in which they were then; unfortunately, most of them are in that condition at the present time in consequence of the fact that they are being neglected.
What my hon. and gallant Friend and his colleagues should do is this: instead of adopting the dog-in-the-manger policy with regard to the Jewish State, they should encourage the freed Arab States to develop the culture and education that lie within their power. Instead of encouraging the ex-Mufti—there you have one of the biggest traitors that has ever crossed the scene and who to-day—[Interruption.] He is the person to whom everyone today in the Arab Higher Committee in Palestine looks for guidance. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nothing of the sort."] Oh yes, indeed. Everyone knows that they came together in Beirut and discussed matters under his chairmanship. He is the chairman of that 1274 committee. He is a traitor to this country and to the Allies. The Arab Higher Executive Committee take their instruction from him.
I do not want to go further into these points because I believe we have reached a stage when it is essential to deal with matters that are declared to be right by the United Nations organisation. May I say how ridiculous it is for anyone to suggest that he knows the situation better than the United Nations organisation after the exhaustive inquiries that have taken place? What is the United Nations organisation for? This matter was submitted by us to the United Nations organisation. We said that this constituted an independent inquiry. When the result is a report which declares that partition is to be put into effect there is a clamour by some Members. They say, "We will not accept the United Nations organisation report. We want to enter into these arbitration proceedings on the understanding that the result must conform to our point of view." As U.N.O., in their wisdom, have discovered that the right thing to do here is to create a Jewish State, of course that does not fit in with their book.
What has the United Nations organisation said, after examining the situation fully and thoroughly? They have formed two or three conclusions of importance to which I want to refer. First of all, they tore to shreds the 1939 White Paper. Then they said the Jewish people have a right to settle in Palestine and they are fit to run a State there. A number of arguments have taken place in this House and elsewhere on academic grounds as to whether Balfour or Lloyd George meant the formation of a State or a Mandate when they gave the Declaration. Sufficient has been said, I think, to fill many volumes. But the truth of the matter is that U.N.O. says that this is what the Mandate means. That is the answer of U.N.O., an independent body, and then my friends say that U.N.O. were coerced. I am bound to say that if someone had the temerity to approach Mr. Pearson of Canada or Mr. Evatt of Australia and suggest that someone had coerced them into coming to this conclusion, I am inclined to think they would not take too kindly to the suggestion, nor would New Zealand's representative. But what is more interesting 1275 is this: Field-Marshal Smuts, who participated in producing the Balfour Declaration and in the production of the Mandate has frequently reaffirmed, and his country has reaffirmed, the right of the Jewish people to have a State in Palestine.
I deviate for a moment to answer a question raised about the products of the Dead Sea. If the hon. and gallant Gentleman looks at the map—I have it here—he will find that his anxiety will be removed. What astonished me was that a person of the Jewish religion could speak in this House in the manner in which the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) spoke. He desires to have large immigration into Palestine. If it had not been for Zionism there would not have been, in Palestine, opportunities for more than a trickle of Jewish immigration. The hon. Member wanted the ha'penny and the bun. He cannot have both.
He has an entirely wrong view of the situation. If he will refer to the U.N.O. Report, he will there see what is the right attitude to take. What did America, Russia, and four of our Dominions say? They said in effect that to call immigration into Palestine illegal—if it is a question of 150,000 within two years and more afterwards—is wrong. Do not let us forget that they concluded that Jewish Palestine should be open to Jewish immigration. Those who hold a different point of view have brought us to a terrible condition as a consequence of their refusal to accept the conclusions which the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations arrived at on the White Paper of 1939. We have ignored what the Mandates Commission said; they said, in effect, by a majority of four to three, that it was illegal and immoral to prevent the immigration of Jews into the Jewish National Home. How many lives might have been saved if their view and now U.N.O.'s had been accepted. It is all very well to shed tears, as the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) asks us to do, for those German prisoners of war who survived in Germany and elsewhere. Why does he not occasionally think of those who were killed, and what might have happened if the doors of Palestine had been opened to them? What harm would have been effaced by doing that?
§ Mr. Janner
It is no good talking in hypothetical terms. What is the good of the hon. Member putting forward theories in the practicability of which he does not believe? The Jewish people in Palestine were prepared to take these people. They did not quibble about whether any work was available for these hapless creatures; they did not quibble about whether there was sufficient food for them. The people in Palestine would have taken them even if they had arrived naked, rather than that they should be destroyed in the gas chambers of Germany. Many could have escaped. Has their war record been such a bad one for Britain? Why are there such large stores in Palestine? Could these stores have been safely left in any other part of the Middle East? Why did our troops go to Jewish Palestine in the war? Was it because Egypt was anxious to help us, or the Mufti, or Iraq, or Syria? No. It was because Jewish men and women, the Haganah, who have been referred to with such contempt from time to time, were in the vanguard of the attacks against the enemies of the Allies. Although it was a case of the mouse and the lion, the mouse, nevertheless, helped to extricate the Allied lion from the meshes of the net.
I am not surprised that Australians and New Zealanders were prepared to take the line they have taken at U.N.O. Many were in Jewish Palestine during the war, where they were well looked after and happy. It was the only reliable and safe place in the whole of the Middle East for such troops to be in. What other Ally of the last war has been repaid by the type of argument and hostile statements that we have heard in this House from some Members? Why do not Members look at this matter from a realistic standpoint? I have taken the trouble to work out the exact area of land of the New State of which we are talking. It is 5,469 square miles. Transjordan has gone; half Palestine has gone. It is not even the size of one of the larger counties in England. What is all the fuss and bother about? Does anyone think that the effort of the Yishub, in setting an example to the rest of the world, is not worth at least the holding of a portion of land that size? The suggestion that the Arab worker in Palestine is left alone against the Jewish 1277 worker there is nonsense. The agitation is coming from without.
I have a number of questions which I would like to ask the Government. Is it true that the Palestine Government have refused to provide arms to the Jewish Civil Guard while, at the same time, supplying arms to the Arab Civil Guard? If so, why? Are the Jewish people there to be destroyed, because they are not given the arms with which to defend themselves? The Minister knows very well that there is no attack commenced by the Jews on Arabs. I would like to ask him about immigration. When will a port with an adequate hinterland be evacuated to enable immigration to go on in accordance with the special decisions of U.N.O.? Does my right hon. Friend realise that the Arab agitation and disturbances are being encouraged, by the fact that although Jewish quarters and Jewish transport have been attacked, the Jews are not permitted to defend themselves? Why? No one wants to see any British Tommy doing it. There are 30,000 Jews who served in the Allied cause as a Palestinian force during the war—perhaps less by 2,000 or 3,000 who were killed in the war—still in Palestine. Why not let them defend themselves? I suggest that adequate liaison should be provided between the Palestine Government and the Jewish community of Palestine for the planning of the British evacuation. Why not? Who will suffer by it?
Why have members of the Haganah been arrested for carrying arms defending Jews against Arab attacks? How can they defend themselves if they have no arms? The Minister knows that all the talk about Irgun Zvai Leumi has nothing to do with the authorised movement, that they were as big a menace to the Haganah, even a bigger menace, than to anybody else. How many Arabs have been arrested? More Jews than Arabs have been killed. Has even one Arab been arrested?
In conclusion, I would like to make an appeal to the Arabs. I have no desire to create discord between Jew and Arab in Palestine. On the contrary, I want to see them working in the fields together, enjoying the cultural activities of the country together. When the Jewish people built the Hebrew University in Jerusalem the first thing they did 1278 was to found an Arab research department. Everybody in the Jewish community wants to live in harmony with the Arabs in Palestine. It is my honest belief that there will be an opportunity for them to do this so long as we do not adopt the kind of publicity which we have adopted in the past. We in Britain have irritated and aggravated the situation by the wrong type of publicity.
We could tell the Arabs, "It is in your interests to live peaceably with the Jews." Why not? Is it not in their interests? Have they not prospered during the period of the Mandate? Has not disease diminished, has not infantile mortality gone down? Is there not a different standard of living in Palestine, for example, from what there is in Transjordan? Why not let us adopt a publicity campaign, through His Majesty's Government, which will emphasise that it is in the best interests of the Arabs as well as of Jews that this U.N.O. decision should be honoured? I believe that if we did that properly we would remove the hostilities which are being fanned into flames against the wish of the residents of Palestine.
§ 7.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Stokes (Ipswich)
The argument to which we have just listened contained so many fallacies that I have not time to deal with them all. I will take up one or two. The hon. Member for West Leicester (Mr. Janner) complained that whilst the Arabs were armed to the teeth, the poor Jews had been disarmed. Of course, that is absolutely untrue, as anybody is well aware who knows anything about the situation in Palestine. I well remember during the war the complaints there were about raiding Arab villages while the Jews were left alone. Secondly, my hon. Friend went on to argue—the point has been really argued to death—that we are concerned with only such a little bit of Arabia that we need not bother about it. Never let us forget that the Arabs base their claim upon Palestine upon promises that were made long before the Balfour Declaration.
I want to take up the point about the Balfour Declaration. I have often wondered how the Balfour Declaration originated. I have managed to get a copy of the original letter which Lord Rothschild wrote to Mr. Balfour. I will read two extracts from it to the House. I will not read the whole letter because that would 1279 take too long. The letter is dated 18th July, 1917; and it is written from 148, Piccadilly, London, W.1. It is as follows:DEAR MR. BALFOUR,At last I am able to send you the formula you asked for. If His Majesty's Government will send me a message in line with this formula and they and you approve it, I will hand it to the Zionist Federation at a meeting to be called for that purpose.The draft declaration was as follows:
Anybody who knows exactly what the terms of the Balfour Declaration are knows perfectly well that Mr. Balfour rejected that draft and made it clear in the statement that was subsequently put out as our policy, that he would not accept Palestine as a Jewish State. There was to be constituted in Palestine a National Home for the Jewish people. Let us be quite clear about the Balfour Declaration. Mr. Balfour clearly rejected the specific claim from Lord Rothschild, who had suggested that Palestine should be reconstituted as a national home for the Jewish people. Mr. Balfour had replied "No, nothing of the sort; we will arrange a National Home in Palestine for the Jewish people."
- "(1) His Majesty's Government accepts the principle that Palestine should be reconstituted as a national home for the Jewish people.
- (2) His Majesty's Government will use its best endeavours to secure the achievement of this object, and will discuss the necessary methods and means with the Zionist Organisation."
If my hon. Friend does not like what Mr. Balfour said perhaps I might take a more modern authority, none other than Mr. Harold Laski. In November, 1945, writing in "Forward" he said, on the subject of Palestine:I do not see in the Balfour Declaration, or in the terms of the Mandate itself, any plan that there shall be a Jewish majority or a Jewish state in Palestine.If Mr. Harold Laski is not a sufficient authority for my hon. Friend, I do not know who else is. [Laughter.] The hon. Member for West Leicester can laugh, but Mr. Harold Laski was at one time—
§ Mr. Janner
I suggest that the hon. Member consult the Opposition leader, to see what was said to the Peel Committee, when he will get an answer.
§ Mr. Stokes
I have quoted to my hon. Friend from Lord Rothschild, Mr. Balfour and Mr. Harold Laski. They seem to be conclusive.
1280 I congratulate the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) on his speech, which I thought was a very brave speech indeed. I agree with almost everything he said, which is not always the case in this House, and particularly with his appeal to the Arab States. The thing that always fills me with horror about imposing any form of partition is the fear that even now may be realised—I hope it will not—that there should be a religious war. I join with the hon. Member in the hope that every effort will be made on the part of our Arab friends to see that no injustice is done to the hundreds of thousands of Jews who live in towns on the coast of Africa and in Bagdad, and who have lived there for years with the Arab population. Once a religious war breaks out, God help them. I hope, with my hon. Friend, that every kind of effort will be made to see that that does not happen.
My hon. Friends the Members for Luton (Mr. Warbey) and East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) seemed to indicate that they have seen the red light. They have thought, quite erroneously, what lots of people have said to me, that the Arabs would in the end not fight and would accept partition. There is going to be very considerable and prolonged resistance to that proposal, however it is introduced or proposed. It comes ill from them, after the confidence that they showed, that they should ask the Government to turn round on their own terms with the Arabs. Let us make no mistake about the matter. The Arabs are convinced that His Majesty's Government mean what they say that we shall have no part in imposing a solution which is not acceptable to Arabs and Jews. There is no question that the proposal for partition is not acceptable to the Arabs.
I understood the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) to say that we should facilitate the implementation of this policy. I would like to be quite clear what he means by facilitate. If he means that we should hand over the books in good order and show the other people the way into the countryside and that we should not just drop everything and run, or show them how to find their way about, well and good. If by facilitate he means keeping order in such a manner in the country as it is kept today so that the Jewish police can do what they like 1281 and the Arab police are prevented from doing what they think is right, it will not be a good idea at all.
I read into the speech of the hon. Member for East Coventry the idea that we should use force to deal with the Arabs, who have never accepted the Mandate or the Balfour Declaration. They have certainly never accepted this partition and they are prevented from taking such steps as they think fit to defend what they regard as their interests. I agree with the right hon. Member for West Bristol that we should get out as soon as possible, and the sooner the better, even if it should be necessary to leave some of our stores.
What puzzled me about the speech of the right hon. Member for West Bristol—I know that he is an ardent partitionist—was that, at the same time as demanding partition, he was also demanding greater unity. That seemed to me a curious course to follow. I do not see how greater unity can be achieved by indulging in partition. There is no use at the present time talking past history to any considerable extent. I hope that whatever the Government may decide, they will turn a completely deaf ear to the clamours of the armchair strategists who are so anxious that the Government should reverse their policy and indulge in the imposition of force. I hope the Government will not do anything of the kind. I shall not mention any names, but it always seems astonishing to me that people who have not done very much fighting always seem very keen on having a nice war. I am confident that the general feeling of the public in this country is that the sooner our men are out of Palestine the better, and I hope that the Government will adhere to that policy and get our men out as soon as possible.
While I say it is no use harking back to the past, in justice to our Arab friends I think it is useful to recapitulate one or two points, and particularly the point to which I have already referred in connection with the Jewish settlements in the bazaars on the north coast of Africa—namely, that the Arabs in Palestine and elsewhere have always lived at peace with the indigenous Jews. The quarrel is with the European. It is not the fact that the European who happens to come in is a Jew that the Arab dislikes, but the idea 1282 that he is going to be kicked out of his country and dominated by a foreign invader.
I must remind the House that the Arabs are the only group of nations who really offered sanctuary to the Jews. They have excepted Palestine, I agree, but the Arab nations themselves have always said that they will join with others in solving the problem of displaced persons, particularly the Jews, and will accept them in all the Arab territories with the exception of Palestine. It has nothing whatever to do with the Arabs that the Jews were persecuted in Europe. Why the Arabs should be asked to find a solution to the problem I fail to understand. It certainly is not just. While I do not want to harp on this problem of the persecution and the horrors which were perpetrated in Central Europe, may I say to my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester that my co-religionists lost as many people in gas chambers as his own. That fact is not always recognised as often as it should be.
I would like to say one or two things about the present partition proposal. What staggers me is, first, that anybody should think it will work, because it will not; and secondly, that anybody should think it is just. How can one possibly envisage areas which are almost 50 per cent. Arab being handed over to the Jews? So far as I know—my right hon. Friend or anybody else can correct me if I am wrong—the population concerned consists roughly of 450,000 Arabs under Jewish control. If one leaves out Tel Aviv altogether, in which there are about 170,000 Jews and 5,000 Arabs, under this partition there will be 445,000 Arabs dominated by 380,000 Jews. How can you say that such an arrangement will work satisfactorily or can be considered just? I am sure that it will not make for peace, but that it will make for war and the frightening situation which we have already discussed. Whatever else you may say about the Arabs, it is true that they have always sought a peaceful solution. Right up to the very end at U.N.O. they threw everything into the pot and tried hard to find some sort of federal system which would be acceptable, but the intransigents among the Zionists made it out of the question.
The hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) said that there are some interests in this 1283 matter, and I think there is something in that suggestion. The Dead Sea salt is one of those interests. The hon. and gallant Member spoke of there being 33,000 million tons of it. I remember asking questions in the House and eliciting the information that on the 1925 valuation—and there is no difficulty in getting it if one goes about it in the right way—it was worth £240,000 million, and it would be worth double that amount today. That does not take into account gold and other minerals. There is another point which the House ought to know. The Arabs have been told—and I myself was told by one of the most prominent Arabs, King Ibn Saud—that the American Zionists' plan for the Arab peninsula is to get a foothold in Palestine and then spread and take all the surrounding areas. [Laughter.] Hon. Members may laugh, but that is the official doctrine as preached to the Arab leaders by the Americans who say that that is the American Zionist policy. One can understand why the Arabs are very loth to agree to any partition.
A great deal has been said about what has happened at U.N.O., of how fair the decision was, and that, because the decision had been taken, we ought to put our wills, consciences and intelligence into the locker under the bed and just do what we are told. I never realised when I became a supporter of U.N.O. that that would be expected of me. I agree that I expected that I should have to abide by the majority decision, and I am prepared to do so, but it does not make me change my view because the majority of an organisation like that take a certain decision. The question is whether the decision was fairly taken. It is well known in Arab circles that the State Department gave the most specific assurances of complete neutrality, and that they would do nothing whatsoever to persuade the nations at the Council of the United Nations to vote one way or another. According to my Arab informant, had the votes been taken on 26th November, partition would have been defeated by 30 votes in favour, and 18 votes against, because there would not have been the necessary two-thirds majority; whereas three days later, on 29th November, it was carried by 33 votes 1284 to 13, giving the necessary two-thirds majority.
I want to quote from the "Philadelphia Record" of 3rd December, 1947:Only a few people knew it, but President Truman cracked down harder on his State Department than ever before to swing United Nations votes for the partition of Palestine. Truman called acting Secretary of State Bob Lovett over to the White House on Wednesday and again Friday, warning him he would demand a full explanation if nations which usually line up with the United States failed to do so on Palestine. Truman had in mind the fact that such countries as Liberia"—which, incidentally, was anti-partitionist on 26th November—wholly dependent on the United States; Greece, which would fall overnight without American aid;"—she voted against partition—Haiti"—which was against partition one night and for it the next—which always follows Washington's lead; and Ethiopia, also indebted to the United States, were stepping out of line on Palestine. Half a dozen Latin-American countries were doing likewise, and Truman had inside word that the reason was secret sabotage by certain State Department officials. Mrs. Roosevelt was among those who urged Truman to get busy … In the end, a lot of people used their influence to whip voters into line. Harvey Firestone, who monopolises the rubber plantations of Liberia, got busy with the Liberian Government. Adolph Berle, Adviser to the President of Haiti, swung that vote, Frieda Kirchwey, Editor of the Nation, called Foreign Minister Cal Berenson of New Zealand on the Trans-Pacific telephone and won New Zealand's vote. China's Ambassador Wellington Koo warned his Government that he would resign if China failed to take a stand on Palestine. He did not succeed. French Ambassador Bonnet pleaded with his crisis-laden Government for partition, despite Moslem threats in North Africa which face harrassed France. He did succeed. However, the two men who swung the most important influence were Foreign Minister Evatt of Australia, who was defeated for the Presidency of the United Nations, and his friend Oswaldo Aranha, who defeated him—both of whom worked together to put acrsos Palestine partition.Had the vote been taken on 26th November partition would have been defeated. It was delayed until 29th November while the pressure was put on, and so it was carried through. That is the background of what is supposed to be a fair and proper decision. When it was discussed whether the United Nations could legally decide this problem the vote in favour of United Nations legality was only carried by 21 votes to 20. In other words, very nearly 50 per cent. of the nations 1285 really thought that U.N.O. had no legal right to come to a decision at all.
The Arab peoples, of course, merely think they have been let down—as it seems to me they have—and they have no intention whatever of accepting the proposal. For further American opinion on this subject I will quote another extract, written on 20th November, 1947, from the "New York Times," signed by Mr. Harold Hoskins, who was for a considerable time President Roosevelt's adviser in the Middle East during the war years, and some nine or ten other people whose names I do not remember. This is what Mr. Harold Hoskins and his friends wrote:The Jewish national home already established"—meaning as it is, and as we know it—" can continue, but if the United Nations permit mass immigration, and if the Jews establish their own sovereign State, bitter war in the Middle East is inevitable. The 40 million inhabitants of the Arab League States regard Palestine as vitally important to their renascent heritage.It is 20 years too late to consider the partition of Palestine.
Having said that, and put that on record, let me say that the Arabs still want a peaceful solution. They still believe that if somebody would take the lead, a way would be found out of the difficulties. They have offered every kind of federalisation, and they have offered security to the Jews, with whom they intensely desire to live at peace; but they are not going to agree to partition of any kind whatever, and they wonder if it is not possible for an approach to be made between the Americans and the Arabs or the Arabs and the Jews, even at this late hour, in order to prevent what will certainly be a long and bitter period of bloodshed.
If there is no alternative to partition, then I do wish to add my own voice to those who have already expressed their desire that the Government should clear out quickly. The example has been set in the way in which Tel Aviv has been handed over to a Jewish police force working with the British Police. There is no reason whatsoever why, in other parts of the country, similar arrangements should not be made with both parties. If my right hon. Friend is not satisfied that they have enough strength or organisation to do this, surely there would be no difficulty in suggesting to the Arab States 1286 that they should lend a hand? I want our troops out as soon as possible. I do not want to see them left there until 15th May or 1st August. The sooner we get out the better for everybody.
It must be made abundantly clear to everybody—to the Arabs, in particular—that our method of handing over is a fair one. If, as a result of circumstances, unlimited Jewish immigration takes place, then that clearly, will be non-fulfilment of our promise. If, as a result of our trying to keep control until 15th May, what we call illegal immigration goes on at ever increasing speed, then the Arabs will consider themselves completely and utterly betrayed. Whatever anybody may think about the findings of U.N.O., in my view U.N.O. committed political suicide when it came to this decision. I think it has killed itself stone dead already, and that is absolutely deplorable. I hope some solution other than a Holy War along the whole of the North Coast of Africa and eastwards may be prevented, and that some sort of federalisation, even at this late hour, between the Arabs and the Jews may be found as a possible solution.
§ 8.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Clement Davies (Montgomery)
Most of us in this House have very good reason for knowing that the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) has a most kindly and generous nature, but anyone listening to his speech tonight will wonder in what way he really thought that it would contribute towards a peaceful solution in Palestine. I was amazed at the whole tone of his speech; but the last few words that he uttered were really almost devastating—referring to the possibility of a blood bath, and ending with a prophecy that U.N.O., in having arrived at a decision with which he does not agree, has really signed its death warrant.
§ Mr. Davies
My recollection was that it was a more definite statement. However, this is a unique problem—quite unique. I hoped that no one would have indulged to night in recriminations. The whole situation has altered since this matter was put before U.N.O. and the United Nations decision was taken. I am grateful to the Colonial Secretary for a forthright, downright, straightforward statement, clearly put before us, of what the position was, 1287 and I hope that his words will be listened to in every corner of the globe.
No people in the history of the world have suffered as a people so grievously as the Jewish people. Two thousand years ago they lost their homes, and since then they have been hunted and persecuted from country to country. They have been kept together by one thing, and one thing only—by their faith; but while even guests—and in most places honoured guests—among the nations, and while they acquired the nationalities of those other nations, they have, by keeping their faith, remained a separate but landless and, what is worse, a Stateless people. In that respect they are unique amongst all the peoples of the earth. When at last one sees a possibility of the beginning of the settlement of this age-long problem, I should have thought it would have been hoped by every man and woman that it would have been a real settlement, and a peaceful settlement; and I should like to think of it as a bloodless settlement, leaving behind it neither rancour nor anger.
I have all along felt that the problem set by the Jewish people was not merely a Jewish problem. The desire of the Jewish people for resettlement in their ancient land of Palestine was not merely a Jewish problem, not an Arab problem, nor a Jewish plus Arab problem. It was certainly not a British problem. It was, indeed, a world problem, and it was necessary for all the nations of the world to come together to try to find a fair, reasonable, and, if possible, an acceptable solution. That is why I welcomed the decision to place this matter before the United Nations organisation, so that it might be debated by the nations of the world, discussed by their representatives, so that they could consider and understand the difficulties, and all the arguments pro and con, and then, having heard everything, endeavour to arrive at a settlement.
Let me, however, before I turn to the settlement, pay a tribute, which it is right and proper should be paid, to the peoples and Governments of this country. We have a record with regard to the Jewish people of which we may be justly proud. We admitted them into this country, protected them by giving them our own nationality, and, in course of time, made every office in the State open to them; 1288 and they have, in their turn, brought great benefits to this country. They gave us one great Prime Minister, a great Lord Chancellor, a great Lord Chief Justice, a great Master of the Rolls, and great masters of law; they have rendered inestimable service in almost every walk of life—science, music, art, and so on.
After all, we were the first to suggest, and to bring forward before other nations, the granting to them of a Jewish home in Palestine; and we also undertook that very onerous task of trying to work the Mandate, which we have endeavoured to work fairly. In passing, I would say that we could not have placed the first Commissionership in better hands than those of the man first appointed, Lord Samuel; recognised by all as a man of upright character and great knowledge, a great philosopher, and one who desired to do only what was right and fair amongst all people. In my view, we were guilty of only one slip-up—and I mention it only in passing—which was the policy of the White Paper of 1939.
A great tribute is justly due to the peoples and the Governments of this country, and to the British Commonwealth of Nations; but a still greater tribute is due—as was so rightly paid by the Secretary of State and the right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley)—to the men upon whom falls, hourly and daily, the burden of administering that country. A still greater tribute is due to the soldiers who had to try to preserve peace and good government, and did so in order to preserve the good name of this country, and in so doing offered their lives in sacrifice.
Then, having failed ourselves to arrive at a solution of the problem in the first place, we rightly turned to the United States of America. The solution then offered could not be enforced by them or by us. It was necessary that the matter should he referred to all the nations of the earth, and, thereupon, we finally took the right step by submitting it to the judgment of those people, and they have now given their judgment.
I do not think one can bandy the word "justice" about, as has been done in this House tonight. Justice is not an abstract theory. Justice is what is done by men exercising the best judgment they possibly can; it is a human matter. This problem was submitted to all the nations; 1289 they have given their judgment; and it does not lie in anyone's mouth to say that that judgment is unjust merely because he himself disagrees with the verdict. Life and administration would be impossible, and no rule of law could ever be carried out, if we all took up the attitude that we would accept a judgment which was in our favour but would reject it if it was against us. It is to be hoped that now all parties will accept that judgment.
I am glad to think that the Jewish people as a whole accept the judgment, despite the fact, as has been pointed out, that they have made very great sacrifices, and that the land which they have regarded as their own home and State will be only roughly 12½ per cent. of what they thought they would get under the Balfour Declaration. They are accepting that judgment in the hope that it will bring peace. I deeply regret that the Arab peoples feel the judgment to be an unfair one to them, and I hope they will consider the matter again, and consider it well. We have been their friends and guides, and, what is more, we were the people who emancipated the Arabs. We came to their assistance, helped them, guided them, and then pleaded their cause and helped to form that great unity of the Arab peoples, of which they are so justly proud today. Even under this settlement they are not without many advantages. If they so choose they can create a new Arab State to which 800,000 Arabs will belong, but alongside them will be working the people of the Jewish State.
The hon. Member for Ipswich said he could not understand how peoples could possibly work in unity by having the peoples of two states together as in Palestine. There are plenty of examples where people do work in perfect unity in such circumstances, and I am certainly hopeful that when the terms of the economic situation are considered they will try to work them together. Many things have been mentioned in which they can help one another, such as education, in their institutions and their productive capacity. For example, electricity—which is, I believe, in the main, produced within the Jewish State—is made available to all Arabs who can be reached; so they can work together, and probably more harmoniously than under any other possible system.
1290 The problem remains: Under what conditions will the Mandate be terminated? I am grateful to the Secretary of State for what he said in that regard. Too often have words been used and cheered in this House, saying that we shall come out of Palestine at the earliest possible moment. What does that really mean? Does it mean that we should leave tonight, leaving those people without a guide, and leaving no one there to maintain order and a rule of law? We have taken up this Mandate and carried it out under great difficulties for a number of years. We have done our best to maintain a rule of law and justice, and it must be the earnest desire of everyone that that should be maintained as long as we are there. When we leave Palestine we should leave it in order; and we should leave in a dignified manner, worthy of the great nation that has undertaken this tremendous duty.
I agree, we must give a specific date. The Secretary of State has given, and rightly given, two dates: one when we hand over the Mandate and the other when we ultimately leave. I am perfectly sure it will be the desire of the Government, and of all nations, that every assistance, help and guidance shall be given to the Commission, every opportunity given to their administrators of studying the problem, and every help given to them to take over when the time comes. I earnestly pray that all will go well, and that there will be no trouble, but that if there is it will be confined to a very few people, because we would like to see this great old country of Palestine become a land of peace and contentment once again.
§ 8.29 p.m.
§ Colonel J. R. H. Hutchison (Glasgow, Central)
I do not think that any good purpose would be served by raking over the ashes of the past. There are in front of us enough burning embers to demand all our attention at the present time. I, too, welcome the firm decision given by the Colonial Secretary, that we shall carry on our Mandate up to and until 15th May, and that then we will definitely lay it down. I agree with the right hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. C. Davies) that, however anxious this country may be—and, indeed, we are all anxious—we cannot walk out and leave the thing in a turbulent mess for the United Nations to carry on after us. I 1291 think this clears and defines the position—not very well understood by certain earlier speakers—that upon our shoulders lies the responsibility, and the whole responsibility, until 15th May, and that thereafter none of the responsibility will be ours, except that we shall still be members of the United Nations.
It cannot be too clearly understood, nor can that line of demarcation be too clearly defined, so that all the world may know just what we are prepared to accept, and where our responsibility will finally end. Out of this sombre and humiliating picture, certain major details stand out. This is, perhaps, the last chance we shall have of putting questions on these details, and our last chance to ask how this plan, fraught with so much danger to all concerned, will be carried out.
The first question I should like to ask the Colonial Secretary is in connection with the Arab area of Jaffa, and the small areas around Tel-Aviv and Ramat Gan. I understand that, as from February, responsibility for the Tel-Aviv pocket will pass into the hands of the Jewish community in that area, and there will be only a rather loose liaison with the British, although we are ultimately responsible. I consider that to be a very dangerous situation. Is it in the form of a sort of dress rehearsal that these two small and highly inflammable areas are to be handed over to the Jews, on the one hand, and to the Arabs, on the other? It must be remembered that the ultimate responsibility throughout all that time is ours.
Those who know about these matters, tell me that the situation is highly explosive. All the world knows that the whole of Palestine is dynamite, but these two small pockets may, after February, become T.N.T. What is going to happen with this Jewish police force responsible for the Tel-Aviv pocket, and the Arab police force responsible for the Jaffa area, which are both ports and liable to be used for immigration, about which we have heard so little, in spite of the many questions that have been asked, with a no-man's-land between, and these two rival races arming, as they are doing at the present time?
Is it likely that these two areas will remain quiescent from February to May, with untried police forces and with only a British liaison officer, until we finally 1292 lay down our responsibilities? What is going to happen if one of these two areas explodes while we are still responsible? We shall surely have to go back and take up the position where we left it in February. I should like to know why this great risk is being taken. Surely it would be much better to accept our responsibilities in full up to 15th May, and not to have some sort of dress-rehearsal for these two pockets.
I will not recapitulate the questions on what will be the immigration programme during this interim period; but I hope that we shall have a reply to the insistent demands which have been made by Members in all parts of the House. Finally, I wish to ask what is to happen to the British women and children who are at present in Palestine. We have not heard anything said about those who are already there. We have been told that there will be no further landings of British women allowed in the future. That does not solve all the questions. There is great interest in this matter. There was in the past, not so long ago, an evacuation of women and children from Palestine known as "Operation Polly." That was one gigantic muddle. They were sent to remote camps, some in Egypt; many of them had to wait up to eight weeks for shipping facilities. I hope that lesson has been learned. I hope that our women and children will be evacuated at an early date, and proper arrangements will be made to bring them home in relative comfort.
Finally, under what conditions are the British policemen at present serving in Palestine to be taken into the International Force which will look after Jerusalem? That is a question which many are asking. They do not know on what terms, or, indeed, whether they are to be eligible for service in that force. We owe it to them that they should know, at as early a date as possible, on what conditions they will be allowed to serve, and what is to be the law operating in that area. Many problems still remain to be solved. The tempo of anxiety in this country will, in my view, not grow less, but greater, as we approach the date of 15th May. I hope that at that time, and not until then, we shall be able to hand over the burden which we have carried for a long time. I claim that we have greatly benefited this country. On 1293 15th May, we shall, perhaps, with a sigh of relief, be able to depart and hand it over to some one who may be able to solve the troubles that we have been unable to solve.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Henry Usborne (Birmingham, Acock's Green)
This is the first time that I have made any contribution in a Debate on Palestine, although for a long time I have taken a great interest in this subject, and I have followed most of the Debates which have taken place. Before, on this occasion, making the one main point which I want to develop, I would like to take up one or two of the points made by previous speakers.
The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) drew the conclusion, as it seemed to me, that it was intolerable to support the decision arrived at by the United Nations, because he felt that decision was unjust. Whereupon, he was followed by the hon. Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) who metaphorically knocked him for six, or thought he had. I believe that there is more sense in what the hon. Member for Cheltenham had to say than apparently meets the eye. It is true, I think, that the decision was made legitimately, so far as it is possible to make a decision legitimate on the basis of the Charter of the United Nations, by a clear majority, but it should be remembered that the vote of a nation like Luxemburg, with a population of 300,000, is counted as equal to the vote of India, with 300 million.
I cannot myself believe that there is a great deal of justice attached to a decision which is arrived at on the assumption that one vote by one nation is of equal value to a vote representing 1,000 times that number of people. I would like to remind the House that 150 years ago it was decided by the founding fathers of the American Constitution that one Negro equalled three-fifths of a white man, which was largely the cause of the civil war in 1861. Now we apparently are endeavouring to base justice on the assumption that one Luxemburgois is equal to 1,000 Indians. I do not think that one can assume that there is in that sense a great deal of justice attached to it; nevertheless we have done the best we can. The decision was arrived at by the United Nations, and it is right and proper 1294 that we should accept that decision and carry it out.
I should like to make the main point which I wish to argue. On Friday, 3rd October last, I was interviewed on the radio in Detroit, and during the course of that interview I was asked to give my opinion on the Bevin policy with regard to Palestine. I have not a record of exactly what I said, because the interview was unrehearsed, and impromptu and without a script. But I recall that I said then that I believed the British foreign policy in Palestine was wrong, because in my opinion the issue of partition had become clear at least a year ago, and that I could not, therefore, see any good purpose served by further delay in accepting that conclusion.
At the time I was interviewed I believed what I said, and I held those views with complete sincerity, but, as I suppose not infrequently happens after one goes on the record, one has another think; certainly I did. It then subsequently occurred to me that there were a number of factors, the true emphasis of which I had not previously appreciated. I should like if I might to develop that line of argument tonight, because it did greatly impress me as it began to unfold against the background of the American scene and in view of that radio interview I had given. Earlier this year I had taken part in a discussion on the report of the Anglo-American Commission, and during the course of the discussion I was told by the expert who was addressing us that partition was opposed by a number of people on the ground that if it were imposed the Russians might get behind the Arabs, who clearly would not accept the decision, and that would produce an extremely dangerous situation.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
Would the hon. Gentleman specify which Anglo-American Commission he means?
§ Mr. Usborne
The most recent one which I think reported at the beginning of this year. It was the most recent Anglo-American Commission, not the U.N.S.C.O.P. one, but the one that produced the Debate out of which the Morrison Plan arose. The information I am quoting was given by the speaker who was discussing Palestine.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
As the hon. Gentleman is referring to the Anglo- 1295 American Commission which reported in 1946, of which I was a member, I think he ought to make it clear by whom such information was given. I will perhaps later, if he is referring to that matter, be able to deal with the point, but I am not sure from his speech whether, in fact, he is referring to that Commission.
§ Mr. Usborne
I am referring to that Committee, but I do not think it would be right to name the speaker. This was a discussion at a meeting I was attending, and I am merely quoting an opinion which I am proposing to use in a moment as an illustration. At that meeting the opinion was expressed that partition was opposed by a number of people on the ground that it would be extremely dangerous if the Russian forces were to support the Arabs. I do not believe there was ever any substantial evidence to support this view, but I do believe that at that time there was a real danger that the conflagration might spread, not because the Russians would support the Arabs, but for an entirely different reason. The whole Islamic world and the Moslems might support the Arabs and then the issue which was bound to produce conflict and a certain amount of bloodshed might have spread all over the world. If that danger were real, and I believed that it was real, it seemed to me that there might therefore be good cause for delaying the decision to impose partition—a decision which undoubtedly had ultimately to be taken, there was no shadow of doubt about that—until we had done something to neutralise the possibility of that conflagration spreading far beyond Palestine.
What happened? We were then in the process of giving freedom to and getting out of India as quickly as possible, and we succeeded in doing that finally only on 15th August this year. In the case of Burma, the final treaty was signed only yesterday. Is that, therefore, an argument for delay? It seemed to me the other day that it might be. The only argument for delaying the decision to partition Palestine, a decision which was inevitably bound to be opposed by the Arabs. I do not believe we can say that partition is just either for the Jews or for the Arabs. It is not. I cannot see that there is any solution that will be regarded as just; nevertheless some solution that provides equilibrium must ultimately be 1296 accepted. Since one cannot find a decision that is just—that can be recognised as just—or will be tolerated by both sides, we must accept that there will be trouble. British foreign policy, being concerned more than anything else with endeavouring to keep world peace, must make it a paramount objective not to take any action or to come to any decision in any part of the world which might precipitate the one appalling conflict in which Jews and Arabs alike and all mankind are bound to lose.
It was necessary, as I saw it—at least these arguments support it—for us to do two things before we could decide on partition. One was to get out of India and the second was to give freedom to Burma. In so far as that has tended to neutralise the support which might otherwise have been thrown behind the Arabs, delay is justified. Had that not happened, we would have been allowing something to occur, a difficulty to arise, a quarrel to be provoked which meant bloodshed we might not have been able to cordon off.
Clearly there is grave danger in the world at this moment, as the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Major Legge-Bourke) pointed out. In his opinion, partition means world war. In my opinion, it does not mean world war, but every action of British foreign policy should now be measured in the context of keeping peace. Palestine was an extremely dangerous focal point. It seems to me that there is, therefore, an argument for doing first those two things which I have detailed before finally accepting the inevitable decision of partitioning Palestine with all the bitter consequence that is bound to involve. About a year ago, the Foreign Secretary said in a Debate in this House that he was prepared to stake his reputation on finding a solution to the Palestine problem. I believe now that history in the future, if there are historians to write it, will record that he has won his bet.
§ 8.51 p.m.
§ Mr. Harold Roberts (Birmingham, Handsworth)
It was not my intention to intervene in this Debate but, as I have sat here I have felt it is the duty of all of us to try, if we can, to assist the Government by putting whatever ideas we have into the common stock, however ragged and disjointed they may be, in case they are of some help to Ministers.
1297 When I stood for Parliament I received a deputation from the Birmingham Hebrew Congregation, who asked me for assurances in support of the claims of Jewry. I told them that in my humble judgment, the tragedy of Palestine lay in the fact that it was not a conflict between right and wrong but a conflict between two rights; that none of us is entirely free from prejudice, and that in so far as I had any prejudice, it was in favour of the Jews. Indeed, it is difficult to think of any man of any sensibility who cannot pity the sufferings of those people over 20 centuries. However, I went on to say that the matter was one of such difficulty that, no matter what party might be in power, it would take a great deal to goad me into severe criticism of the Government which had to bear the burden of implementing the policy decided by this House and by the nation.
In the two years which have passed, I have seen no reason to vary my opinion. I disagree with the senior Burgess for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) when he deprecates the suggestion that this should be called a problem, thereby implying that there is a solution. It may well be that there are problems to which there is no tidy or clear-cut solution and, indeed, if I am asked whether I have anywhere seen any helpful suggestion for solving this terrible problem, I have only found it in one place—in a memorandum put forward some two years ago by the Society of Friends which urged that there should be a new start made by an attempt to call a goodwill conference between high-up Jews and high-up Arabs. That might be a forlorn hope, but it is the only one I have seen which would lead to a true solution. I do not believe that a solution can be obtained, tidy, well-knit, by exterior force.
Therefore, I am bound to say that we must have regard to what burdens the people of this country can bear, for they have a right to be considered. I get letters from parents whose sons are serving as conscripts in Palestine. Parents in time of war have to make, and will make, great sacrifices of their dearest ones; but I ask myself, have I any moral right, in order to enforce a tidy solution, to condemn one of my constituents to have his or her son in a country where his fate may be, not to fall in battle on behalf of 1298 his country, but to be murdered by those whom we are trying to help? I am bound to say that my answer to that question must be in the negative. I have no children of an age to be exposed to that, but if I had I should feel strongly about it.
I think the Ministerial decision to terminate our connection with the country is the right one. Furthermore, I say to the Ministers, "Expedite it, if you can." I do not say that with any intent to embarrass Ministers, or to throw sand into the machinery, or make their difficult task yet more difficult. But do not let us be deluded into believing that by staying on we shall ever be able to leave the country nicely tidied up. We did not leave Ireland nicely tidied up. When we left that country there followed for a year what have been called "the troubles." We accelerated our departure from India. I hope and pray that that great sub-Continent may settle down to an era of peace and prosperity, but no one could pretend that the first three or four months after our departure have been tidy or harmonious times.
§ Mr. Roberts
I do not think the hon. Member would find anything in my remarks which suggested otherwise. For his benefit I will repeat what I said—I hope and pray that that great sub-Continent may settle down to an era of peace and prosperity, but no one could pretend that the time since our departure has been one of peace or ease. If the hon. Member has followed the course of events, he will not think so either. Whether we leave on 15th May, or any other date, we shall not leave things tidied up. I beg of Ministers if they think they can do so without any very serious detriment, to accelerate our departure. We must remember that the frailty of man must inevitably condemn parts of this globe to quarrels and to unhappiness, but not only is it not our duty, but it is not our moral right, to act as censors, or as policemen for the whole world.
It is our duty when we have undertaken a task and discharged it with 1299 obloquy from both sides for nearly 30 years, to leave it as little unfinished as may be. But there comes a time when we are entitled to say, "We must consider our own people; we decline any longer to carry this burden for the whole world while the greater part of the world shirks its responsibility; we will not submit to being lectured by those who do not themselves do a hand's turn to help carry our burden; we will throw responsibility back where it must ultimately belong, on to the people, Jew and Arab, who live in that country." I say, not in any bitter spirit, but from the bottom of my heart, may God bless them. May they take heed of the wise advice I mentioned when I began—that of the Society of Friends. Only along those lines is it possible to compose their differences and, one hopes, bring them a happier future.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. Thomas Reid (Swindon)
In the course of the Debate many speakers have praised the work of our staff in Palestine. I was there in the middle of the Arab Rebellion, and it was a very unpleasant time to be alive in Palestine; there was a good chance of being dead before nightfall. This unfortunate staff of ours have had to work, not for a year or for six months, as I did, in the midst of that atmosphere, but year after year. They were the targets of abuse from many sides, and yet they carried on. I join with the other hon. Members in paying my tribute to their work. I hope, and sincerely believe, that the Government will, when we leave Palestine, see that these officers are generously treated.
The right hon. Member for West Bristol (Mr. Stanley) says that the Government have had no policy for the last two years, and had no policy for the 18 months before we referred this dispute to the United Nations. That is a little ungenerous to our Foreign Secretary. What did the Foreign Secretary take over? He took over the policy which had been carried on by the Coalition Government, and before that by the Conservative Government, and during all those years the various Governments had failed to solve this problem. Then, of course, the Foreign Secretary was saddled by resolutions passed at Labour Conferences in the two years before we took office, policies for which, I am proud to say, I am not responsible, and if the people who passed 1300 that policy, including the executive, had listened to me, we should not be in the mess which we are in today. The right hon. Gentleman and his party, in 1938, when I was mixed up with this subject, had a policy—partition. Why did they not carry it through if it was such a sound policy, and if the present Foreign Secretary is so backward because he does not carry through such a policy?
The Government of that time sent to Palestine a Commission, of which I was a member, and I took a foremost part in destroying that policy limb by limb. In my dissent I did not leave room for a needle to get through it. I had the privilege of making a Tory Government abandon the policy which they had adopted in principle, and adopt roughly my policy 100 per cent., including the policy of my colleagues on the Commission. Is the present Foreign Secretary then, so greatly to blame for not adopting a policy which a Conservative Government adopted and abandoned because they could not see their way to put it through except by force? When the right hon. Gentleman opposite now sees his beautiful policy adopted by the United Nations, what does he do? He says, "Run away from it, do not implement it, leave it to the United Nations." Is the right hon. Gentleman's criticism of the foreign policy of our great Foreign Secretary justifiable? As he has referred to past policy about Palestine, I would say of all the people who handled the Palestine problem from the time of the Balfour Declaration down to the day when my right hon. Friend came into office, that I hope they will be dead before their history is written, because anything more incompetent does not exist in our annals. That is the view of all people who know Palestine, especially of those who worked and lived in Palestine, and who had to carry out the administration there, in spite of the vacillations of the people at home who had control of Palestine.
§ Major Guy Lloyd (Renfrew, Eastern)
The hon. Member has quite rightly mentioned the Foreign Secretary and his policy and attitude, but the Foreign, Secretary has not been in the House all day on the occasion of this vital Debate.
The Minister of State (Mr. McNeil)
I am quite sure that the hon. and gallant 1301 Gentleman did not mean that thrust. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, has, of course, been at Lancaster House.
§ Mr. Reid
I have been mixed up in this matter very intimately indeed since 1938. I had a considerable knowledge of the East long before that. I take off my hat to the present Foreign Secretary for his courage. He did not believe in the policy which the Conservative Government had, and why should he therefore carry it out? He did not believe in it because he knew, as I do, that it was unjust and unwise. In spite of the fact that the Labour Party, by an overwhelming majority, or unanimously, had passed at two conferences, an absurd and impossible proposition that the Arabs should quit Palestine to make room for Jews and a Jewish State, and all the rest of it, he had the courage to stand up against that also. Of all the people who have handled the Palestine problem, the last one who should be attacked is the present Foreign Secretary.
I have criticised our politicians adversely regardless of party, for their handling of the Palestine problem. The thing started off with the Balfour Declaration. Other hon. Members have mentioned that, and I have a right to come back to it. The Balfour Declaration was an iniquitous thing passed without the consent or the knowledge of the Arabs. There is no getting away from that; no quibbling can get round that. It promised a Jewish National Home. That was a promise made by the British Government in regard to territory over which they had no control, which they did not own and did not even possess. Hon. Gentlemen who raise these questions must expect to have their criticisms answered. I am able and willing to answer them.
Following that, they got the Balfour Declaration entwined in the Mandate. Then they said they would wipe out all the past. They said, in effect, "It is true that we have given half a dozen promises to the Arabs that after the war—in which they fought so valiantly on our side—we would give them independence." They are all wiped out by the Mandate. What did the Mandate promise? It did not promise a Jewish State. Indeed, the British Government refused the Zionist demand for a Jewish State and offered instead this National Home which was a 1302 cultural and religious home which the true Zionists wanted. Also, the Mandate envisaged independence at the end of a temporary period under British rule. What is offered now? Now the Mandate is to be cast aside and, in defiance of it, we are to have Palestine carved up with a Jewish State set up contrary to the Mandate, contrary to all our and Allied promises and contrary to justice. We are to give a Jewish State in Palestine, to a minority of immigrants in a land in which the Arabs have lived for 1,300 years, because the Jews had a state there 2,000 years ago. Can anyone justify that on any principles of legality or morality? Nobody can. The Jewish leaders themselves admit that it is unjust, but they say that it is a smaller injustice than to have the Jews marooned in Europe in displaced persons camps.
We went out to Palestine—some of us were trained administrators and politicians—in the Commission of 1938. We worked at this problem for six months, not in the superficial way in which it is often treated in the Press and on the platform. We went through all Palestine, studied its maps and everything else, and we looked at the system from the financial, strategic, economic and political points of view. Finally, we decided that the most we could do was to pick out the best of four plans in which there would be a little Jewish State on the coast—and then we decided that it was impracticable on every ground. The Conservative Party decided that on every ground partition was impracticable. What has happened since then to make it practicable? What has happened since then to make it just?
The partition plan drawn up by U.N.O. if it could be termed a plan—it is a little sketchy—is very different from the partition plan which we drew up in 1938, after six months of patient work. It is a jig-saw puzzle, ridiculous to look at, and utterly unjust. The proposal is to hand over a vast part of Palestine, about 60 per cent. of it, to immigrants, and to leave the unfortunate Arabs that part of the hill country which is of little use. We went into all this in 1938, and we found out that if we set up a Jewish State then a viable Arab State could not exist either financially or economically. As is well known the best part of Palestine is the maritime plain, with good rainfall and 1303 subsoil water. Half of Palestine is a semi-desert, and the hill country is not of much value.
Is this preposterous plan what has the "conscience of mankind" done in U.N.O. for the settlement of Palestine? The conscience of mankind, if you please! It is an iniquitous scheme, and the chief instigator is a country for whom I have the profoundest love and admiration, next after my own, namely America. I do not believe all the tales about America, about the almighty dollar, and the rest. Americans are a very noble people and have more idealism than most nations of the world. But I have a criticism to make of America on this occasion, or at least of the American delegates to U.N.O. What is the motive? Let us be frank about it. One of the chief motives is that the Jews have a controlling voice in the election for the President in the States of New York, Illinois, Ohio and elsewhere in America. I suggest that the chief reason for this evil proposal of U.N.O. is that the political parties in America, or their party machines, are partly at the electoral mercy of the Jews. That is public knowledge.
I would ask, if my voice travels as far as America—and it is weak and I am only a back bencher—whether Abraham Lincoln would not turn in his grave if he saw what the Americans are proposing to do with Palestine. He fought a civil war for four years to prevent the citizens of the Southern States, of their own free will, breaking off from the Union. Now America says "This Palestine problem is troublesome. We are going to carve it up in a most unjust fashion whether Palestinians like it or not," and give the best part of the country to a minority composed mostly of immigrants. It is necessary to speak of these things, and to let the world know what is going on. The Americans also have an anti-Communist policy in Europe. I am not saying whether that is right or wrong, but what is happening now? Communist Powers are being brought into the Middle East. That is a fact.
Several hon. Members have said that our boys must not fight to establish this Jewish state. I say so too. Both Arabs and Jews have said recently that they want us to quit. I think that in their 1304 heart of hearts neither of them want us to quit. Each side wants us to stay and fight their battles. But they have said they want us to quit, and that is one reason why we should. Secondly, we should quit because we cannot use our boys to implement this iniquitous policy, and, thirdly, we should quit from the point of view of practical politics. Any Government that sends our boys to fight Jew or Arab in Palestine will not remain long in office. I think it is only right that those people who proposed this monstrous scheme and tried to get us to implement it, and then tried in vain to get America to implement it should do their own fighting, and carry out their own scheme.
The proposal was put forward tonight that we should organise a U.N.O. police force which, in the words of the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) would prevent disaster in the whole of the Middle East. I am glad he is converted. When he came back from Palestine he was under the impression that the Arabs in Palestine would soon be scuppered and the Arab states did not matter much.
§ Mr. Reid
May be now, when the scheme of which he is so fond—partition—exists on paper, he sees it in a different light. I suggest to my hon. Friends on this side of the House that they might ask themselves who has been the better guide—the hon. Member for East Coventry or myself? On two occasions, in the first speech which I made in this House two years ago and again recently, I said that the policy of partition would send the Middle East up in flames, and I say the same now. It is no use hiding these things; everyone knows them.
Who is the better guide? Supposing U.N.O. decides to send their Commissioners out and that they find that a force is essential? They will then have the opportunity of putting themselves at the head of Haganah and of becoming head of a Jewish party, or of getting troops from outside, because our Government is not going to help them. If it is decided to create a U.N.O. force, how many years will it take to organise it? We know the rate at which things move in U.N.O., and I do not know whether this would have to be sanctioned by the Security Council, 1305 though we all know how that Council works—with a veto to prevent anything happening. The proposal is that we should wait until the international force is organised, and that we should hold the baby until then. That is the last thing we should do. My hon. Friend gets out of that by saying, "We do not want this force to do any fighting in Palestine, but only to secure the boundaries against in-corners." In other words, he does not want the Arab States to take part, while the Jews would be free to send forces from overseas. It is too ingenious for words, and I imagine the hon. Member must think we are all children.
There is another point. The question was raised that we are bound to carry out the decision of U.N.O. Well, are we? First of all, this territory of Palestine was a Mandated Territory. We never put it under the trusteeship of U.N.O., and, therefore, U.N.O. really has no authority over it. When America destroyed the chance of making peace in Palestine at the dictation of political Zionists, we felt bound to refer the matter for advice to U.N.O. They have gone into it, and have given us thoroughly bad and impossible advice, which cannot be carried out, and therefore, we are not bound to accept the advice of U.N.O. This territory is not under the trusteeship of U.N.O., and what will happen to it in future I do not know. I say that, on purely legal grounds, we are not in the least bound to carry out the advice of U.N.O.
Secondly, there are the moral grounds. I think I am right in saying that my right hon. Friend said that he was opposed to partition long ago. There is no reason why this Government should carry out a policy of which they thoroughly disapprove. Before the U.N.O. meeting occurred, it was announced in another place that we would not necessarily accept the decision of U.N.O., and my right hon. Friend at Lake Success told U.N.O. exactly what we would not do, so that we are not bound, morally or legally, to carry out the advice of U.N.O. The wise people who framed that advice should carry it out themselves, and I wish them joy in the task.
The people of this country will not let any Government send out their boys to die in a Palestine fight between Jews and Arabs, and I am quite sure that those hon. Members on all sides of the 1306 House who desire to see a reduction in the Forces, or a reduction in the period of service, will all vote against sending our troops there or keeping our troops in Palestine. I am also perfectly certain that any hon. Members who object, on religious or other grounds, to making war will not approve of our sending troops to kill the Arabs who are fighting for their independence.
If we get out according to the programme which my right hon. Friend outlined, on 15th May, and again on 1st August, I shall be greatly surprised. This matter may be settled according to the timetable, but a great many things will happen to prevent that policy being carried out. The U.N.O. people want to entangle us; they want us to stay after the Commission arrives, when the balloon may go up. I beg my right hon. Friend and the Government to see that we are not dragged into this war. It is not a war of our making; it is against our policy, and we must not get entangled in it.
One final word. When I was in Palestine on this Commission, we met Jews and a few Arabs. I stated then that the Arabs and the Jews of Palestine could live together in amity. I say the same today. The mischief makers are from outside. I know the people I am speaking about; the Jews who wrote us confidential letters telling us what their real opinion was. I know the opinions of the Jews in Palestine. The ordinary Jew and Arab who are in the front line and who know what disasters will come to them, want peace. I appeal to the Jews and Arabs in Palestine to say to all the outsiders, "Get out, and let us settle this matter ourselves." I say to the Jews in this House, and everywhere, as I have said all along, that they are on the high road to ultimate destruction, whatever happens in the next few years. I have told my Jewish friends that I am a better friend to them than any political Zionist. I am trying to save them and the Arabs from destruction. The only way is for them to get rid of their evil advisers, and to make an arrangement among themselves which can be submitted to U.N.O., even at this late hour, and which could then be implemented.
No one would oppose any action decided upon by the Arabs and Jews 1307 together. If the Jews would drop this wretched Jewish State, which is going to be disastrous for them, then they and the Arabs could get together and agree on a Constitution giving equal rights to all, and Palestine could flourish. That is the solution I think which my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary has been working on for all these years. Unfortunately, it is the outsiders who are interfering. If the Arabs and Jews in Palestine would only take the matter into their own hands, come to a decision, and get it implemented by U.N.O., we might, at last, have peace and prosperity in the Holy Land.
§ 9.23 p.m.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller (Daventry)
The hone Member for Swindon (Mr. T. Reid) speaks, of course, with knowledge of Palestine, and with great experience of schemes of partition. He has confessed to, or claims the credit for—I do not quite know which it is—being one of the chief persons responsible for the non-fulfilment of the recommendation of the Peel Commission. He has engaged in considerable criticism of prewar Governments with regard to their policy in Palestine, and, at the same time, has paid a great tribute to the present Government and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
I was interested to hear that tribute because, since this Government was formed, I have never heard the right hon. Gentleman, or the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies, or any Member of the Government, either in this House or in public anywhere else, say what, in the view of this Government, was the right course to pursue in Palestine. It may comfort the hon. Gentleman—I do not know whether It does—to contrast the tribute which he paid to the right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary with the fact that partition is now recommended by U.N.O. The hon. Gentleman will have to pursue the efforts which he made so many years ago with less chance of success if he wants that partition scheme not to come about.
§ Mr. T. Reid
What the hon. and learned Gentleman says is quite true, but I did point out that America was "the nigger in the woodpile" most of the time, preventing the Foreign Secretary effecting 1308 settlements he might otherwise have reached.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
That may or may not be so, but I think it is absolutely true to say that since this Government came into power there has been a contrast with the pre-Election statements of the party. We have had no statement of what policy in their view was the right one in Palestine.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The Morrison plan was not a statement of Government policy. It set forward proposals on which it was hoped both sides would agree. The Government have not said that the Morrison plan was right. I speak with a feeling of acute anxiety as to the future and of deep depression as to the course of events in Palestine. The Secretary of State talked about relief, but I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Cambridge University (Mr. Pickthorn) that it is too early yet to claim any relief. I wish the time had come when we could claim relief, but it has not come yet. I hope it will not be long delayed. It is true that by their decision of 29th November, the United Nations have made it inevitable that British rule in Palestine shall be terminated. It has always been the intention that it should be terminated—that has always been recognised—but I deplore the manner of its termination and the consequences likely to arise. For 30 long years—a great part of my lifetime—this country has tried to implement the conflicting provisions of the Mandate. We have never had much assistance in our task. This country has been subjected to much harsh criticism and many unfair attacks, and not least among those unfair attacks have been those on the right hon. Gentleman, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in the last two years. He has been abused in a manner quite foreign to us, even in the heat of political controversy.
In our efforts to fulfil our duty we have been unsparing, and many British men have devoted their best years to this work. I wonder what the future will be for those British civil servants and British police still in Palestine? My right hon. Friend said he hoped they would be dealt with generously. The Secretary of State for the Colonies really said nothing specific about their treatment and I would ask 1309 that when proposals are formulated to deal with them they should be included in a White Paper which we could discuss and not merely contained in a regulation which we either have to throw out or accept without any power of amendment.
Not only have many British people worked throughout their lives in Palestine, but, as has been pointed out, many lives have been sacrificed and vast sums of money expended. We are entitled to consider now whether all that has been in vain. In my view the answer is in the negative. If you contrast the conditions of the Arabs in Palestine, as I saw them in 1946, with the conditions at the time we liberated them from the Turks, that contrast is immense. It is doubtful indeed whether there would be so many Arabs alive in Palestine today but for the health services we have provided and it is doubtful whether they would enjoy their present standard of life had it not been for our rule. On the other hand, we have done much to promote the Jewish National Home. The Jews have done great work in Palestine in the impetuosity of their demands, but they should not ignore the facts that under British rule the Jewish National Home has grown and flourished. To both Jews and Arabs our rule has brought great benefits.
Now, in my opinion, all we have done, all the Jews have done, all the achievements of the last 30 years, are in jeopardy. The decision of the General Assembly may have been the judgment of Solomon, but I must confess that, in my personal view, I do not regard it as such. I do not say that because they have decided on partition. Many in this country are in favour of that. Much depends on where the boundary lines are drawn. Personally, I have never thought it possible to achieve partition without the presence in that country of very considerable forces for the maintenance of law and order. Of course, if agreement between Jew and Arab can be secured, partition becomes feasible; so does federalisation; so does cantonisation.
Perhaps agreement might have been secured in 1945—I do not know—but I have no doubt that the prospect of agreement between Jew and Arab at that time was gravely prejudiced by the pledges of the party opposite before the General Election. I am satisfied that there was no prospect of securing agreement by 1310 1946, and by February, 1947, the Government had come to that conclusion. Once we come to that conclusion, what follows? Surely, it is this: that there is a necessity for some other Power in that country to prevent Jew and Arab from flying at each other's throats, to keep the peace in Palestine, and to preserve the progress made in years gone by. Surely, if agreement is unobtainable, there must be some such Power prepared to put in men and money.
My personal criticism of the decision of the United Nations is not so much that they decided on partition—though I think that their scheme itself is open to some criticism, and I hope it will be adjusted—but that they decided it without any adequate provision to secure its enforcement on people two-thirds of whom are unwilling to accept it. The Secretary of State himself said that they had made little provision for enforcement. Had the General Assembly any reason to suppose we would implement any decision to which they came? I think it is clear from what the right hon. Gentleman said in opening the Debate that the answer to that question is in the negative. If that is clear, then I think it follows that this country has very little responsibility for the consequences of that decision.
I say "very little" and not "no responsibility" for this reason: I think the duty lay with His Majesty's Government, with all the experience that we have had, and all the knowledge that we possess of conditions in Palestine, not merely to place the problem on the table and say, "We want your advice," but to go further, and to take a line of our own about what should be done in Palestine. That is what His Majesty's Government have not as yet done. The Government should have said, "This is the course that we advise should be followed in Palestine, these are the alterations to the Mandate which we suggest, this is the assistance which we require." They should have said: "If you adopt our suggestions we can and will carry on until peace is established and we can depart." That bold course, that policy, would have commanded respect even if it invited criticism.
It is because we did not adopt that course—indeed, because we put no policy forward as to what should be done, and have not done so since the last Election— 1311 and, indeed, because apparently from the right hon. Gentleman's statement we have no clear policy as to the course we should pursue now, that I say that the attitude and conduct of His Majesty's Government has in this respect been unworthy—that was the adjective used by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas), who was formerly Under-Secretary of State—unworthy of this great country. I say that the Government are not entirely free from responsibility for the consequences of that decision.
I said that this scheme of partition was open to grave criticism. I see from the report of the General Assembly, Volume I of the United Nations Special Commission on Palestine, at page 59, that the Jewish State will contain 498,000 Jews and 407,000 Arabs, and the Arab State will contain 10,000 Jews and 725,000 Arabs. It then says:In addition, there will be in the Jewish State about 90,000 Bedouins, cultivators and stockholders.Therefore, if those figures are correct, the total in the Jewish State will be a majority of 498,000 Jews, and a minority of 497,000 Arabs and Bedouins. Those figures, of course, will require some adjustment if Jaffa is excluded, and some more of the country round Beersheba included in the Arab State, but I do not know to what degree the adjustment will be. The hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) gave some figures, upon which I cannot express any views, but it would be interesting if we could be given the figures officially.
For a moment, I should like the House to look at the position of this large majority, and, indeed, of the Jewish minority in the Arab State under this scheme. Those 497,000 Arabs and Bedouins under the proposals contained in this document, and the Jews in the Arab State, will not have any vote in the State in which they reside; in the State in which they and their families may have lived for generations, they will have no say in the Government.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I turn to paragraph 9 of the report of the ad hoc Committee on the Palestinian question:The Arabs of the Arab State and the Jews of the Jewish State shall be entitled to vote in the Arab and Jewish States respectively.1312 That is quite clear. That does not mean the Arab in the Jewish State shall have a vote in the Jewish State. To my mind, that is quite clear. I will also read from Chapter III, paragraph 1, dealing with citizenship:Arabs residing in the area of the proposed Jewish State and Jews residing in the area of the proposed Arab State who have signed a notice of intention to opt for citizenship of the other State shall be eligible for election to the constituent assembly of that State, but not for election to the constituent assembly of the State in which they reside.
§ Mr. Crossman
I think there is a misunderstanding. I have never heard any suggestion that full citizenship rights were not allowed on both sides. Indeed, under the agreement they are guaranteed.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman who replies for the Government will make the position clear, but I think the hon. Member will find the voting power is given in page 9 of the document, where it says:The Arabs of the Arab State and the Jews of the Jewish State shall be entitled to vote in the Arab and Jewish States respectively.Nothing at all is said about—
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
It goes on:Women may vote and be elected to the constituent assembly during the transitional period. No Jew shall be permitted to establish residence in the area of the proposed Arab State and no Arab shall be permitted to establish residence in the area of the proposed Jewish State.I do not see that that has much to do with it. I hope that I am wrong, but it is a point that should be cleared up.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I am a little puzzled whether the inclusion of such a large minority is consistent with the terms of the Atlantic Charter, that is, under the third provision which refers tothe right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they shall live, and to the restoration of self-government to those who have been deprived of it by force.I take the view that the Government are right to say they will not enforce this scheme. I am a little puzzled about the discrepancy, to which the hon. 1313 Member for Luton (Mr. Warbey) drew attention, between the statement made in this document that we will not enforce this scheme, and the statement by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State that Sir Alexander Cadogan said we ought not to have sole responsibility for enforcement. I hope it will be made clear that we are not prepared to use force to carry out this particular provision. The hon. Member for Luton went a great deal further. Apparently he was prepared to advocate that British troops should be supplied to form part of a collective force, presumably to take part in a collective war if one occurred. I wonder who would command that force if that happened. Would it be under the command of this Commission consisting of Bolivia, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Panama and the Philippines?
Whatever view the Government may take upon the use of force to implement this scheme, I would say that we of this country have done so much for Palestine that we really ought to be relieved of the burden of using manpower to carry out this particular scheme, and that those who voted for it and are really responsible for the decision are the people who should step forward now; that on no account should British troops be put under the command of any other nation, or combination of nations, for the purpose of carrying out partition, and for fighting against the Jews or Arabs, or both, to achieve the fulfilment of this scheme.
§ Mr. Warbey
Does the hon. and learned Member mean that if the Security Council, to which we belong, took a decision in regard to collective enforcement action in Palestine, we should contract out of our share of responsibility?
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
The veto surely applies if we were not prepared to act. In any case, I think that is a question which the hon. Member should address to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I am not. I am expressing my personal view that after all we have done in Palestine, we 1314 are entitled to say now that if men are required, they should not be British troops. As I said at the commencement of my speech, I fear for the consequences. I fear that the United Nations may regret the decision to which they have come, and fear that those Jews who have always advocated a Jewish State, who have not refrained from attacking those who have protected them in the past and are risking their lives to protect them now, may come to realise that as Samson brought down the pillars of the Temple, so they have brought down the Jewish National Home to ruin and destruction.
I hope, indeed, that will not happen, but I fear that it may. I would like to see peace in Palestine, and I would not like to say anything—and I hope that I have not said anything—to exacerbate the situation, which is full of dangers for both Jews and Arabs. I would hesitate to predict who would win the war if there were a war between Jew and Arab in Palestine, or to what areas it might not spread. I would like to do anything I can to help bring about agreement, and that peace on which development and prosperity for Jews and Arabs alike in Palestine depends. I hope that it will not be too late for wise counsels to prevail, and if they do not, then, I suppose, bloodshed may ensue. I join with the hon. Member for Ipswich (Mr. Stokes) and the hon. Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) in expressing the hope that it will not spread to the other Arab States which contain within their boundaries so many Jews who have lived for so many years in perfect peace and friendship.
What should our attitude be? I take the view, already expressed from this side of the House, that we should get out and get out as soon as possible. I do not believe that there is anything to be gained by delay. The longer we are there, the more will each side prepare for the day when we go, and the greater then may be the conflagration. The right hon. Gentleman said we had in mind the date 15th May for the termination of the Mandate. He gave no reason for the selection of that date, and he did not even state that it was the final date. He rather intimated that it might be later than that. He said, "We hope the Commission will be able to accept our proposals for the surrender of the Mandate." It would be, indeed, nice and 1315 desirable if we could get agreement with the Commission about the date. I hope that it will be made quite clear that 15th May is the definite date.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I am glad to receive that assurance; indeed, it is most important. I would have hoped that if it had been possible we might have surrendered the Mandate even before then. From September to May is a long time, but it is some assurance and comfort to know—
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
It was September when we talked about the surrender of the Mandate originally. September to May is a long time. Now that we have received that assurance, I am glad to have it. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman, in his speech, could have given us some more positive information as to what will happen. I am sorry it cannot be earlier than 15th May. I should like to know the reasons why it cannot. Doubtless, we shall hear something on that point in due course.
§ Mr. Bevin
May I help the hon. and learned Gentleman? We could not take a decision as to the final date of the surrender of the Mandate until the final decision of the United Nations. The thing was then planned and measured out quite properly, I think, to fit in with the withdrawal and the surrender of the Mandate.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman for what he has said. I will say no more on that subject tonight.
I now turn to another matter. Reference has been made to our nationals now in Palestine—the British in the Civil Service and the British in the police. It is, as I have said, our duty to take care of them. It is a clear obligation that rests upon us. I hope that nothing I have said has given any indication that it is my view that we should not accept the decision of the United Nations. My view is that we must accept that decision on partition, and we must do our best to facilitate the commission in taking over from us. I conclude by saying that at this season of the year—
§ Mr. Creech Jones
Reference has just been made by the hon. and learned Member to the position of the Civil Service and the police in Palestine. I thought it was within the knowledge of the House that an announcement had appeared both in this country and in Palestine some time towards the end of September, when definite promises were made to the staffs concerned in regard to the future, and I tried to give some indication that as soon as we had concluded certain immediate negotiations a final statement would be made as to their position.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I hope we shall have an opportunity of considering that final statement pretty soon and having a Debate on it. The other matter upon which we are still in great ignorance is the question of immigration, which is a very important question indeed. The right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary did refer to immigration in his speech, but he gave no indication of what was to happen. Is immigration to go on pending the surrender of the Mandate at the rate at which it has been going on up till now, or are we, before the termination of the Mandate, going to put into Palestine all those Jews now in Cyprus. I suppose that from the time we deliver up the Mandate we are no longer concerned with that question, but the position with regard to that issue is by no means clear to me, listening as intently as I could to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. S. Silverman
What does the hon. and learned Member say ought to be done about it? Does he think that we ought to use the British Army, Navy and Air Forces to enforce a policy which in a few months would be at an end in any case.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I would answer in this way—that I think it is a question that the hon. Gentleman should really put to the Government.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
But I am asking questions about it. I am seeking information because the right hon. Gentlemen dealt very lightly and very shortly with this matter. If I am asked what my view is, my personal view is that while the Mandate is in existence, until we surrender it, we are bound by the obligations contained in the Mandate.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
At this late hour I do not want to engage in controversy with regard to the White Paper of 1939. I see no reason why at this stage we should go back to that, because if we go back to it we shall probably go back further even to the McMahon letters or the Balfour Declaration.
§ Mr. Manningham-Buller
I should like to say one further thing. The hon. Member for Acock's Green (Mr. Usborne) referred to the Anglo-American Commission on which the hon. Member for East Coventry (Mr. Crossman) and I served. He said that he had been informed by a speaker whose name he was reluctant to reveal, that our reason for rejecting partition was because we feared if there was an Arab State it would mean Russian intervention. That is a wonderful story, but I am sure the hon. Member for East Coventry will agree that there is absolutely no foundation for it. It is a pity that the hon. Member for Acock's Green should circulate reports of that sort when, if only he will turn to page 43 of the Report which we signed, he will find this:Partition has the appeal at first sight of giving the prospect of early independence and self-government to Jews and Arabs, but in our view no partition would have any chance unless it is basically acceptable to Jews and Arabs. There is no sign of that today.That states quite accurately the reasons why we at that time, expressing our personal views, were opposed to partition.
Most hon. Members who have spoken have done so with great feeling of anxiety as to what will happen in the future. At this time, at this season of the year, the thoughts of all Christian people turn towards Palestine with memory of events that happened there nearly 2,000 years ago. In a short time we may once again hear on the wireless the bells of Bethlehem carrying their message to us all, and it is a terrible thing to think that that land, that Holy Land, is still torn by struggle and by faction. But I believe that the course that we should follow is absolutely clear. As I said, we must adopt the decision of the United Nations. We have no alternative to that. We must assist the Commission 1318 and facilitate the achievement of their most difficult task. We must hope and pray that the controversy and conflict between those two Semitic races will not lead to war, bloodshed and the loss of very many lives. We must pray that our assistance, advice and guidance may perhaps be usefully employed on a future occasion in the promotion of peace and prosperity in that land and its development, and that in spite of what has happened in the last years, in spite of the fears which some of us have, when we come to leave Palestine the inhabitants of that country will forget the friction in which we were involved—almost entirely because of their controversy with each other—and will reflect upon the good work that was done by British men and women in the course of the long years during which we held the Mandate and, in the most difficult circumstances, tried to administer justice in its true sense.
§ 9.58 p.m.
§ Mr. A. Edward Davies (Burslem)
At this late hour I would have preferred to leave what I have to say on the subject of Palestine until tomorrow, but now that you have called me, Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that as an ordinary observer, not an expert on the subject of Palestine, I hope we shall pay due attention to the responsibilities which this great nation has in the event of the United Nations organisation being called upon to "hold the ring." There is no desire among the people of this country to be engaged in war, and as a man of peace, I hope that we shall advocate all peaceful measures and keep out of a world conflagration. But we have pinned our faith to the United Nations, and although it may seem momentarily embarrassing to honour our obligations, I believe that in the long run and in the best interests of all countries we must courageously face the position. If called upon to take our share with the other nations of the world—America, Russia and some of the others—we should do so. I know this will not be a popular thing with hon. Members opposite, but we are not here to study their point of view; we are here to study all the circumstances in their true perspective—
§ It being Ten o'Clock, the Motion for the Adjournment of the House lapsed, without Question put.