§ LORD ISLINGTON had given Notice to move, That the Mandate for Palestine in its present form is inacceptable to this House, because it directly violates the pledges made by His Majesty's Government to the people of Palestine in the Declaration of October, 1915, and again in the Declaration of November, 1918, and is, as at present framed, opposed to the sentiments and wishes of the great majority of the people of Palestine; that, therefore, its acceptance by the Council of the League of Nations should be postponed until such modifications have therein been effected as will comply with pledges given by His Majesty's Government.
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Motion that stands in my name raises issues concerning certain important Articles in the Palestine Mandate, and the subject on which I am going to ask the indulgence of your Lordships in the observations that I intend to make this afternoon specifically 995 relates to those particular Articles which deal with the Zionist Home. The policy embodied in the Mandate, and the administrative methods adopted in pursuance of that policy, have been for some time past, and I think with certain intensity are to-day, creating public concern and apprehension. Those who are familiar with the conditions in Palestine, and the traditions of the people in that country, take a very strong view in regard to the policy which is now being adopted. It is, therefore, in response to a widely-expressed desire that I have undertaken to raise a general debate on the subject.
§ I realise that the task upon which I enter this afternoon is made no easier by the fact, as I believe I am rightly informed, that the Minister who, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, is to reply to me and to those who follow me in the debate is no less a personage than my noble friend, the Earl of Balfour. Your Lordships, I am sure, will agree that, apart from the intrinsic merits and importance of the subject that comes under discussion in my Motion, a debate which elicits a speech from the noble Earl for the first time in this house, necessarily and inevitably clothes the subject with exceptional interest and significance. I am probably correct in saying that your Lordships will agree with me that this House has not experienced a similar or comparable occasion since the day, now over half a century ago, when Lord Beaconsfield, on his translation from another place, first addressed your Lordships' House. The records of these two great statesmen, both in regard to the pre-eminence of the services which they have rendered to their country, in regard to the renown and reputation that they enjoy, not only in this country but throughout the world, and in regard to the length of their services under the Crown, show a peculiar similarity which makes this particular incident this afternoon, of a speech from Lord Balfour, exceptionally interesting.
§ As one who, like many of your Lordships, has sat in another place with my noble friend, I realise that it is a somewhat formidable task to raise a Question which of necessity elicits certain controversy, and to feel that the reply is going to be made by the noble Earl. Those of your Lordships who have sat in another place will agree, from long experience, that the noble Earl, when he has a weak case has often, by his 996 inimitable power of debate, converted it into a strong one. I would venture to say, and I hope the debate will show it, that the field for the exercise of that particular prowess of which the noble Earl is so great a master, is a particularly facile one for him this afternoon.
§ As your Lordships are aware, there have been several occasions when the subject of the Mandates has been raised in this House, and there have been several debates raised by noble Lords on this specific Mandate of Palestine. The House and the country have on several occasions had their attention drawn to the situation in Palestine, and to the warning episodes that have occurred there from time to time in regard to the present policy, but I think this is the first occasion when a Motion has been made, and a debate will take place, of a definite character, proposing a modification of the policy in regard to the most vital aspect of this Mandate. Whatever may be the merits of the proposal that I am venturing to make in the Motion, your Lordships will agree—and it was very clearly and emphatically confirmed by the noble Marquess, Lord Curzon, whose absence we all deplore, and the cause of whose absence we all deeply regret—that all these questions which relate to policy in regard to Mandates should undergo full and ample discussion by Parliament. There is no doubt that if the decision in regard to a Mandate is left to be discussed and decided by Parliament after the Council of the League of Nations have ratified that Mandate, there are obvious difficulties, embarrassments and inconveniences that will arise. Therefore, if our constitutional system is to have its proper and full play, it is Parliament, as the representative assembly of the people and the taxpayers, who should have the determining voice in a question of this character, which so closely and intimately relates to their interests.
§ My Motion, if it were accepted by His Majesty's Government, or if it were agreed to by your Lordships' House, would necessitate a modification of the Preamble of the Mandate and of Articles 4, 6 and 11 of the Mandate. I will not weary your Lordships by reading these Articles, but Article 4 deals with the Palestine Zionist Executive which has been set up. In the Mandate it is called the Jewish Agency, which is a consultative and advisory body to the Administration in Palestine, purely of a Zionist character. Article 6 deals with the 997 powers and facilities that are to be given to Jewish immigration into Palestine, especially in connection with the advice of the Agency. The second paragraph of Article 11 deals with the controlling influence that the Jewish Agency is to have in regard to the construction and operation of the general commercial and industrial services and utilities that are to be developed in the country.
The first point I desire to make in relation to my Motion is that those provisions embodied in the Palestine Mandate are in direct conflict with the fundamental principles of the mandatory system. In order to make good that point I must ask your Lordships to listen to me while I read two governing Articles in the Covenant of the League of Nations which represent what I call the fundamental principles of the mandatory system. They are in Article 22, which states that—
To those colonies and territories which, as a consequence of the late war, have ceased to be under the sovereignty of the States which formerly governed them … there should be applied the principle that the well-being and development of such peoples form a sacred trust of civilisation.
Paragraph 4 of Article 22 goes on to say—
Certain communities formerly belonging to the Turkish Empire have reached a stage of development where their existence as independent nations earl be provisionally recognised, subject to the rendering of administrative advice and assistance by a Mandatory until such time as they are able to stand alone. The wishes of these communities must be a principal consideration in the selection of the Mandatory.
The establishment of a Zionist Home under the Palestine Mandate, as applied to the Articles that I have explained, is directly inconsistent with the undertakings embodied in those two Articles. The mandatory system, as your Lordships are aware, has been established in many parts of the world. It is still in its experimental stage. There are the "A" Mandates, of which Palestine is one, and there are the "B" Mandates for the less advanced and more primitive peoples, which, in their administration, more nearly approximate to our Crown Colony system.
§ It is not my business this afternoon, and it would stand outside the purview of this debate, to deal with the Mandates as such. I believe them to be still in an experimental stage. They have undoubtedly raised issues and difficulties 998 probably unforeseen by anyone when they were first established, and in all cases they have entailed very considerable expenditure on this country. But the mandatory system received a tacit, but generally cordial, acceptance by the people of this country, and it received it, for one reason, because the people read into the interpretation of the Mandate the continuance and the reinforcement of a great principle that this country has prided itself on discharging with great success to humanity for generations past. That great endeavour and task has been, through the employment of well-trained officials, and under a beneficent system of central administration, to assist less advanced peoples to work out their own destinies in their own ways in their own countries, and gradually to educate them and to help them along the path of self-government. It is one of the finest ideals that this country has ever set itself, and, with all its imperfections, I think your Lordships will agree that it has achieved great results through the ages.
§ Undoubtedly, it is for that reason that, without very much debate in either House, without very much public consideration, and confronted as they were with the issues involved and the expenditure entailed, the people of this country accepted the principle of the Mandate. But the moment it was decided to convert the Palestine Mandate, and to introduce into it the principle of the Zionist Home, the whole of that great ideal of leading the people on in their own way and by their own means to a system of self-government in their own country was at once and for ever abandoned. The Zionist Home must, and does, mean the predominance of political power on the part of the Jewish community in a country where the population is preponderantly non-Jewish. And that is what the Palestine Mandate, if it is ratified at Geneva, sets forth permanently to establish. If ratified, it imposes on this country the responsibility of trusteeship for a Zionist political predominance where 90 per cent. of the population are non-Zionist and non-Jewish.
§ In saying this I want to make it clear that I speak in no sense in hostility to the Jewish race. That suggestion, I hope, so far as I am concerned is once for all refuted. In fact, very many orthodox Jews, not only in Palestine but all over the world, view with the deepest misapprehension, not to say dislike, this principle of a 999 Zionist Home in Palestine. The scheme of a Zionist Home must, and does, entail direct Jewish bias as against the people of the country, who are mainly Arabs and Mahomedans. And it not merely introduces this influence by utilising the Jewish forces within the territory of Palestine, but it brings about this influence by importing into the country extraneous and alien Jews from other parts of the world, in order to make that predominance effective.
§ It may be contended that Sir Herbert Samuel, the High Commissioner, is gradually establishing, in spite of all this, a political system which affords satisfaction to, and receives acceptance from, all parties in Palestine. Here, again, I would state with all possible sincerity that I have no word to say against the High Commissioner in Palestine. From everything that I have heard, in accordance with the instructions that he has had to carry out in order to establish a Zionist Home, he has displayed that capacity and even judgment which characterised his public work in former high positions in this country. But so long as you have, as you have to-day, and as will be confirmed and regularised if the Mandate in its present form is ratified, what is known as the Zionist Agency and what I believe is now known as the Zionist Palestine Executive, so long will you have an undue influence in favour of Zionism brought to bear on the whole Administration in Palestine.
§ I speak, of course, subject to correction. One can only accept a portion of what one hears in all these matters and I do not want to over-state the case, but one does hear from many sources that this Zionist Commission, this advisory body to the Administration, is the real power behind the throne, and really very largely controls the whole political machinery of Palestine. If that be the case, and I think it will be difficult to disprove it, I venture to say that Zionism, as it is now in practice in Palestine, is really the antithesis of the true principles embodied in the mandatory system. One sets out, by assistance, by education, and by encouragement, to bring people along in their own country to self-government, whilst the other sets forth avowedly to impose from outside a political system upon the vast majority of the people in the country.
In order to confirm what I have said I would like to quote one passage from many speeches and notes which have been
published by Mr. Churchill, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, because to my mind he gives away the whole case for Zionism if it is to be reconciled with the mandatory system. On more than one occasion he has been asked by Arab Delegations and Palestinian organisations to remove the Zionist bias and to substitute in its place a national system. His reply has been—and although I quote this as part of a long passage I do not think it is an unfair sample—
The difficulty about the promises of a National Home for Jews in Palestine was that it conflicted with our regular policy of consulting the wishes of the people in mandated territories and giving them a representative institution as soon as the people were fitted for it.
Then he went on to say:
The only cause for unrest in Palestine arose from the Zionist Government and our promises in regard to it. But for those promises and that movement the garrison could be sensibly reduced.
I ask your Lordships again to bear in mind the true conception of the Mandate, and I ask you whether that quotation from Mr. Churchill is not an eloquent confession of a direct repudiation of that high ideal and conception.
§ It seems to me that the Palestine Mandate as it stands to-day is a real distortion of the mandatory system—where a small portion of the population is to be given preferential treatment and where British authority is to enforce that system. Surely, that is at variance with the whole of our administrative conceptions in the work that we have done in the cause of civilisation and in raising depressed and ill-advanced races throughout the world to a higher state of citizenship. Who in this country, of those who willingly accepted the Mandate as they understood it, would have accepted that Mandate amid all that it entails in risk, responsibility, and expense, had they known for one moment that it was to be interpreted on the lines that are in operation at present in Palestine?
§ Now I wish to give your Lordships one or two instances of how this Zionist influence is brought to bear upon the social and economic life of the country. One of the Articles in the Palestine Mandate deals definitely with immigration. I am given to understand, by an official document, I think, that since the occupation 25,000 Jews have been introduced into Palestine, that one-fourth of that number have found their way on to the land and have been absorbed in the agricultural districts 1001 and that three-fourths are littered about in the towns. That large invasion into this small country, depressed as it has been, like every other country, as the aftermath of the war, has caused very considerable embarrassment, and the result of their introduction has been that in order to find them subsistence the Administration has had to create artificial employment in Palestine at a high rate of wages; and of course the wages and all the expenses attached to the project have come out of the pockets of the taxpayers, who are, let me remind your Lordships again, non-Jewish to the extent of 90 per cent., and have no voice whatever in the control of that immigration.
§ Now, Palestinian organisations have put forward what would appear to be a quite reasonable demand for a share of the control of the immigration of the people that are to come into their own country. That has been refused. I believe that a special Consultative Committee has been formed of members of the Legislative Council, but so long as the Palestine Zionist Executive—the Jewish organisation which is the real influence in the Administration—is in existence, so long is any committee that is formed neutralised in its influence and effect; because so long as the principle of a Zionist Home is prosecuted in Palestine as long must the Administration turn down any proposals from any other bodies which are likely to clash with that principle.
§ The Palestinians have asked for an early recognition of self-government in their country and they have been told that it must be very gradual, although, as your Lordships are aware, in Iraq where you have just the same kind of people, self-government has been established, and although you have self-government established in Egypt, where it will be found that many of the officials are similar to those who in Palestine would be forming part of the Administration in Palestine. Why is this delay? One can draw only one conclusion, and that is that before self-government is given to Palestine time must be allowed for that amount of immigration of the Jewish community to take place which will enable the system of self-government to be based upon a Jewish Constitution. When one sees in Article 22, which I read just now, that the well-being and development of such peoples should form a sacred trust of civilisation, and when one takes 1002 that as the note of the mandatory system, I think your Lordships will see that we are straying down a very far path when we are postponing self-government in Palestine until such time as the population is flooded with an alien race.
§ The Jewish people in Palestine have lived in the past in harmony with the Arab community. They have enjoyed in largo measure the same privileges as their Ottoman fellow subjects and, I venture to say also as a fact, they never agitated for Zionism. I do not think—I speak subject to correction—that there has ever been a demand from the Jewish Community in Palestine for the introduction of a Zionist Home in that country. The whole agitation has conic from outside, from Jews in other parts of the world. I go further, and say—I think I have said it before; if so, I repeat—that a very large number of the Jewish community in Palestine to-day look with considerable aversion not only upon the Zionist Home but upon the Jews who are being introduced into the country from Eastern Europe.
§ I will give another instance, if I may, of the manner in which the sacred trust of civilisation is being adopted in order to comply with the conditions of Zionism. That instance is the Rutenberg concession. I have not a word to say against Mr. Rutenberg, because I do not know him, and, like everybody else, I have to take with a certain consideration anything that one reads in the public Press. I have no quarrel with him as an individual, but I say that if his scheme, as we have read it in the newspapers, ever were allowed to materialise, unless it were subject to enormous modifications it would give to a Jewish syndicate wide powers over the economic, social and industrial conditions of an Arab community, and it would give that power for no less than seventy years. It is about the widest power I have ever read of in a concession, because it deals with the whole water and electricity power, and goes to the very heart of the economic and industrial conditions of the country. It extends itself beyond the borders of Palestine into Trans-Jordania, which is a different State, enjoying its own system of government. It is inconceivable to me that that concession can be extended by His Majesty's Government into Trans-Jordania, unless the authorities in Trans-Jordania are prepared to accept the conditions embodied in the concession. That 1003 they will be prepared to do that I very much doubt.
§ It may be said that commercially a syndicate of this character would be very good for the country. But I ask, would it be good for a country to impose a commercial system of this character on it if 90 per cent. of the non-Jewish population refused to accept it? I would ask further, why has this Rutenberg concession been granted to the extent that it has been granted? I am told—again I speak subject to correction—of a whole stream of quite reliable applications that have been made from native sources in Palestine for concessions identical with, or similar to, that embodied in the Rutenberg concession. I am told that a British engineering firm, two or three years ago, asked for a concession to develop, extend and modernise the ports of Haifa and Jaffa, and they were refused, with the result that those ports remain undeveloped, to the detriment of the commerce of the country.
§ My next instance is not actually a concession, but it is very apposite to my contention. After the war, and at the commencement of the Armistice, certain Australian officers who had been fighting there applied for land with a view to introducing dry farming, which they regarded as peculiarly suitable for the conditions of the country, and in which they were experts. They were refused, and yet within the last two years 25,000 alien Jews from Eastern Europe have been introduced into the country. I am also told that British banks asked for leave to open branches, and were refused, whilst the Anglo-Palestine Zionist Bank has been accorded permission. I am further told that the Deputy Governor of Bethlehem forwarded to the Palestine Administration a proposition on the part of two wealthy Bethlehem Christians, who were able to put a considerable sum of money into a scheme, to operate the electric power and agricultural development. The answer was, "No concessions can be given at present"—I think until the Mandate is ratified. Yet within the last few months we see, that a gentleman—I think he is a Russian Jew—has made his application, and has been accepted.
§ If these instances are correct—and I believe that in the broad sense they are—it is obvious that the granting of this concession to Mr. Rutenberg is not based on its merits, but on a deliberate policy of 1004 economic preference to the Zionists. I point that out only to show your Lordships where the principle of the Zionists' Home is leading us in our application of the true conception of the mandatory system. If it is allowed to go forward in its present form without modification it is going to be stereotyped, and to be permanently established under the ethical title of the Mandate, and all that it connotes. I again say that one is driven to believe in the truth of the allegation made by many impartial witnesses who have recently visited the country, that the Zionist Commission, or as it is now called the Zionist Palestine Executive, has gone a long way towards usurping the position of Government in Palestine.
§ It is impossible, I think, for any one to contend that this partial, and I might almost call it unnatural, condition of affairs is going to be developed in Zionism without meeting bitter hostility from the Arab community. I say with all possible deliberation, regarding all the facts that have been brought before me, that unless this policy is checked, and unless it, is very materially modified, it will lead to very serious consequences. It is literally inviting subsequent catastrophe. The modification of this policy will be no injustice to the Jews in Palestine, because they have never asked for it, while the continuance of it will be a growing injustice to the Arab community who will bitterly resent it.
I come to my next point—and I must apologise for being so long—and that is the allegation that Zionism in Palestine is a breach of faith, because it fails to fulfil engagements made by this country to the Arab community. Your Lordships will see that I definitely allude to that in my Motion. I challenge the issue on that point on two grounds. First, the Proclamation made on the instructions of His Majesty's Government in 1915 by Sir Henry Mac-Mahon, High Commissioner of Egypt, to the Sherif, stated that:
Great Britain is prepared to recognise and support the independence of the Arabs within the territories included in the limits and boundaries proposed by the Sherif.
It is contended that those limits include Palestine. It is true there is a verbal quibble as to whether Palestine is included or not, but I shall not enter into that. It was certainly recognised and realised by the whole Arab community that Palestine, which was an integral part of Syria at that time but unhappily is not now, would
certainly be included as a very important Arab territory. The year 1915 was, of course, a long time before His Majesty's Government had ever heard or thought of a Zionist Home, although I have no doubt Zionists were incubating the system among themselves.
Then, in 1917, came the Balfour Declaration. I will not trouble your Lordships by reading that except on one point. It laid it down that—
His Majesty's Government will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of a National Home for the Jewish people.
But this is the important point, to which I ask your Lordships to give attention. In 1918, after the Balfour Declaration, and when Zionism had become known in Palestine, unrest, discontent and apprehension so showed itself that it was found desirable to issue a further declaration of policy on behalf of His Majesty's Government. This was translated into the vernacular and published in every village in Palestine. It was the Proclamation made by Lord Allenby, and in its translation it reads as follows—
The object of war in the East on the part of Great Britain was the complete and final liberation of all peoples formerly oppressed by the Turks and the establishment of national Governments and administrations in those countries deriving authority from the initiative and free will of those peoples themselves: … that Great Britain agrees to encourage and assist the formation of native Governments and their recognition when formed.
That is a quite recent Proclamation, and extremely precise in character. It is in accord with the fundamental principles of the Mandate, but it is in complete discord with the Declaration and the Mandate, with the Zionist Home embodied in it, as presented to your Lordships now.
§ I say that the Proclamations of 1915 and 1918 constitute a definite undertaking to the Arab community by Great Britain, whilst Zionism, as embodied in the Balfour Declaration, as implied in the Palestine Mandate, and as given effect in the administrative system now prevailing, cannot constitute other than a direct repudiation of these solemn and authoritative undertakings. I ask your Lordships' serious consideration to that point.
§ It is most unfortunate—it may be only a coincidence—but in many parts of the world, and at the same time, we find ourselves entangled in quarrelsome explanations as to past promises and their present 1006 non-fulfilment. In the last two years the whole Ottoman situation, involving our position in the East and our relations with the Moslem community, has been prejudiced and embarrassed by what appears to them a repudiation of past pledges. I have only to mention the word Smyrna to give my example. To-day, we are immersed in an unnecessary and foolish wrangle, in which one of our great Dominions is involved, regarding a pledge that has been given for the removal of the embargo on Canadian cattle. And here we are to-day, I say it with all respect but deliberately, jeopardising the good feeling that should always exist between ourselves and the Arab community by adopting a policy which no amount of dialectics will ever persuade any one in that part of the world, or even in this country when the facts are known, that it is other than a direct repudiation of solemn pledges made to them.
§ In the light of all these facts, entailing, as they do, far-reaching issues which extend beyond the borders of little Palestine, I ask your Lordships to pause before committing yourselves to the acceptance of the Palestine Mandate as at present drafted. It is contended, and I have no doubt will be contended in this debate, that the policy of Zionism is one to which we are now irrevocably committed. The Palestine Declaration itself says that "We will use our best endeavours to facilitate" a Zionist Home. I do not think any one can accuse the Government of not having used their "best endeavours" in the last two years. They have done so to the full. They have used their best endeavours, but if these best endeavours are going to fail then there is no irrevocability in making a modification of the scheme.
§ I put it on another ground: on the constitutional ground. I say that Parliament is not committed to Zionism. Parliament has never given its decision in regard to it. We, as a country, are no more committed to Zionism than the United States were committed to an adherence to the League of Nations on the Declaration of President Wilson. The Parliament of the United States thought otherwise, and decided otherwise, and, what the Constitution of the United States can do the Constitution of this country can do as well. It is open to the British Parliament to do the same thing in regard to Palestine.1007
§ The people of Palestine ask, and I think most reasonably, for a national form of Government representative of the people in their own country. They will welcome every kind of British assistance to enable them to make effective that form of government, and under such a Constitution both the Jewish community and the Arab community can live in perfect harmony. This Constitution is affording a most exceptional and violent contrast from other Constitutions that we are implementing in the regions surrounding Palestine itself. Within the last year we have established a self-governing system in Egypt; we are in process now of establishing a self-governing system to enable the people of India to work out their own destinies in their own way; and we have done the same in Iraq. Why, in Heaven's name, are we not going to do it in Palestine?
§ I venture to say, and this is one of my last remarks, that this Zionist scheme really runs counter to the whole human psychology of the age. There has never been a time in our history, I believe, when nationality, as such, has been a stronger force. By nationality, I mean the jealous adherence on the part of a people to its own rights and its own privileges. You see it wherever you go. Half the troubles which are causing embarrassment in the world to-day have as their foundation the real, elemental conception of nationality. This scheme of importing an alien race into the midst of a native local race is flying in the very face of the whole of the tendencies of the age. It is an unnatural, partial and altruistic experiment, and that kind of experiment is a very grave mistake to-day, wherever it is tried, and particularly in the East and among Eastern peoples. Finally, it is not the proper function of His Majesty's Government to spend the money of the British taxpayer for purposes of this kind. I do not know what amount of money has been spent on Zionism in Palestine, but I expect it would be nearer to £25,000,000 than to £20,000,000. In these days of stringent financial conditions, this is not a proper way of spending the money. I would also remind your Lordships that this expenditure, which is reduced to £2,000,000, may at any moment undergo a serious and dangerous increase in the future.
§ During the last four years His Majesty's Government have made many very well-meaning efforts towards social and racial reconstruction. Some of them have 1008 succeeded; others have not been so successful. I venture to suggest that the fault in almost every case has been that their schemes have been too precipitate, that they have not waited for a deliberate discussion in which all sides of the question could be considered, and attention brought to bear upon the efficacy of the proposals made. Experience of the working of many of them has shown that they have been extremely embarrassing; that they are in all cases intensely expensive; and, in sonic instances, they have proved so impracticable that they have had to be repealed by their authors.
§ I suggest to your Lordships that this Zionist, project in Palestine is a conspicuous instance of the last-mentioned category. I would earnestly appeal to His Majesty's Government to apply the "Geddes Axe" to Zionism in Palestine, and to constitute in its place a national system. I am convinced that it will have to be done sooner or later. Surely it is wiser to do it now, instead of waiting for it to be the outcome of revolt and, possibly, bloodshed. It is for these broad reasons that I earnestly ask His Majesty's Government to give the spirit of my Motion their most earnest and sympathetic consideration, and, if I fail to receive that earnest, consideration, I would appeal to your Lordships this evening to register your determination that this Mandate shall undergo that amount of modification which will make it acceptable to the Arab community, and will bring it into consonance with the true constitution of our great Imperial system, which has earned for us the high reputation of being pioneers in civilisation throughout the world. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Mandate for Palestine in its present form is inacceptable to this House, because it directly violates the pledges made by His Majesty's Government to the people of Palestine in the Declaration of October, 1915, and again in the Declaration of November, 1918, and is, as at present framed, opposed to the sentiments and wishes of the great majority of the people of Palestine; that, therefore, its acceptance by the Council of the League of Nations should be postponed until such modifications have therein been effected as will comply with pledges given by His Majesty's Government.— (Lord Islington.)
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (THE EARL OF BALFOUR)
My Lords, I am sorry that I was not present at 1009 the opening remarks of my noble friend who has just sat down. I was unavoidably detained by circumstances which your Lordships will easily conjecture, and I could not be in my place when my noble friend rose. I understand that he began his speech with some very kindly remarks about myself. I wish I had heard them, and I have no doubt that they would have given me at least as much pleasure as any other part of the powerful speech which he has just delivered; but he will take my thanks, although was not actually an auditor of what he said. I do not think that I have lost any essential points of my noble friend's case. As I understood him, he thinks, in the first place, that the Mandate for Palestine is inconsistent with the policy of the Powers who invented the mandatory system, who have contrived the mandatory system, and who are now carrying it into effect. That is his first charge. His second charge is that we axe inflicting considerable material and political injustice upon the Arab population of Palestine. His third charge is that we have done a great injustice to the Arab race as a whole.
I should like to traverse all those statements. Let me take them in the order in which I have named them. I think it must have occurred to my noble friend, when he was giving us an account of the transactions during the war and up to the end of the negotiation of the Treaty of Versailles, that it was rather paradoxical to maintain that the people who invented the mandatory system did not know what it meant. The mandatory system always contemplated the Mandate for Palestine on the general lines of the Declaration of November, 1917. It was not sprung upon the League of Nations, and, before the League of Nations came into existence, it was not sprung upon the Powers that met together in Paris to deal with the peace negotiations. It was a settled policy among the Allied and Associated Powers before ever the Armistice came into existence. It was accepted in America, it was accepted in this country, it was published all over the world, and, if ever there was a Declaration which had behind it a general consensus of opinion, I believe it was the Declaration of November, 1917.
Your Lordships may, perhaps, have in mind that President Wilson, whose declarations were so intimately connected with the whole policy of the Mandates, was most strongly in favour of the policy embodied 1010 in the existing Mandate, that it was pressed upon him by the population of the United States, that it was fully accepted by him, and that he came to Paris to early out, so far as the Government were concerned, the very principles embodied in these Mandates. As for this country, I happened to be the mouthpiece of my colleagues in making the Declaration of November, 1917. I do not know why we have waited—I do not know why your Lordships' House has waited—until 1922 to attack a policy which was initiated in 1917 or before, which was plainly before the world and was dealt with in detail in 1919 in Paris, and is now being carried out by the Allied and Associated Powers and by the League of Nations.
The League of Nations, I may incidentally say, has asked His Majesty's Government to continue to carry out the policy of the Mandates. As your Lordships are aware, the Mandates are not yet part, so to speak, of the law of nations. The fact that we have not yet concluded, most unhappily as I think, peace in Eastern Europe and in Western Asia, has prevented these Mandates passing through all the stages which will ultimately be required of them, but we are carrying out the policy of the Mandates. It is known to the Council of the League of Nations that we are carrying out that policy, and it is with their assent and approval that we are continuing to do so. Only recently, I believe, the whole question came up before the Senate of the United States. They had before them, if I am rightly informed, witnesses competent to give evidence upon every aspect of the case, and they came to the unanimous conclusion that the policy of a Jewish Home was a policy for the benefit of the world, and they certainly, by the very terms of the Resolution at which they arrived, were not oblivious of the interests of the native Arab population.
Therefore, when my noble friend tries to maintain the paradox that the Powers who adopted the mandatory system, the Powers who laid down the lines on which that system was to be carried out and have embodied it in the League of Nations, and have set going Governments in different parts of the world, who are at this moment carrying out the mandatory system, are so ignorant that they do not know their own child, and are violating all their principles when they establish the policy of a Jewish Home in Palestine, I think 1011 my noble friend is not only somewhat belated in his criticism, but is asking us to accept a proposition which, as men of common sense, we should certainly repudiate. I will therefore leave what I may call the legal or juridical aspect of the criticism of my noble friend, which I think he will admit is essentially paradoxical, and will conic to his more particular charges.
Those particular charges were, in the first place, as I understood him, that it was impossible to establish a Jewish Home in Palestine without giving to the Jewish organisations political powers over the Arab race with which they should not be entrusted, and which, even if they exercised them well, were not powers that should be given under a British Mandate to one race over another. But I think my noble friend gave no evidence of the truth of these charges. He told us that it was quite obvious that some kind of Jewish domination over the Arabs was an essential consequence of the attempt to establish a Jewish Home. It is no necessary consequence, and it is surely a very poor compliment to the British Government to a Governor of Palestine appointed by the British Government, to the Mandates Commission under the League of Nations, whose business it will be to see that the spirit of the Mandate as well as the letter is carried out, and beyond them to the Council of the League of Nations, to suppose that all these bodies will so violate every pledge that they have ever given, and every principle to which they have ever subscribed, as to use the power given to them by the Peace Treaty to enable one section of the community in Palestine to oppress and dominate any other.
I cannot imagine any political interests exercised under greater safeguards than the political interests of the Arab population of Palestine. Every act of the Government will be jealously watched. The Zionist organisation has no attribution of political powers. If it uses or usurps political powers it is an act of usurpation. Is that conceivable or possible under the lynx eyes of critics like my noble friend, or of the Mandates Commission, whose business it will be to see that the Mandate is carried out, or of a British Governor-General nourished and brought up under the traditions of British equality and British good government, and, finally, behind all those safeguards, with the safeguard of free 1012 Parliamentary criticism in this House and in the other House? These are fantastic fears. They are fears that need perturb no sober and impartial critic of contemporary events, and whatever else may happen in Palestine, of this I am very confident: that under British Government no form of tyranny, racial or religious, will ever be permitted.
Now, I go from that broad charge of putting the Arab population under the domination of the Zionist organisation, and I come to the more detailed attacks made by my noble friend. He criticised the whole system of immigration. I do not know why he did that. No human being supposes that Palestine is an over-populated country. It is, I believe, an under-populated country at the moment at which I speak, before all the economic developments to which I look forward have had time to take place, and if the hopes that I entertain are not widely disappointed, the power of Palestine to maintain a population far greater than she had, or could ever have, under Turkish rule, will be easily attained in consequence of the material well-being which under Turkish rule were wholly impossible. The whole policy of immigration is subject to the most careful study, and the character and qualifications of the immigrants are subject to the most rigid scrutiny under the control of the Government, and, so far as my information goes, no single immigrant has been a charge upon any public fund since he entered the boundaries controlled by the British Administration.
The hopes that I have just expressed with regard to the growth of population in Palestine, with regard to the numbers it could support, of course are based, and necessarily based, upon the amount of capital expenditure you can give to that country, upon the character of the population who are going to make use of the machinery provided by that capital expenditure, and upon the character of the Government under which all these operations will be carried out. Now, I ask my noble friend, who takes up the cause of the Arabs, and who seems to think that their material well-being is going to be diminished under the new system, how he thinks that the existing population of Palestine, of whom he has—very rightly from his point of view—constituted himself the advocate in this House, is going to be effective unless and until you get capitalists to invest their money in developing the resources of this 1013 small country—small in area, though great in memories—which, according to all the information we possess, might carry a population far bigger—I will not venture to give figures, but far bigger—than that which it now supports. But it can only do so, I believe, if you can draw upon the enthusiasm of the Jewish communities throughout the world. As soon as all this Mandate question is finally settled, as soon as all the existing legal difficulties have been got over, they will, I believe, come forward and freely help in the development of a Jewish Home.
That is not going to be a great speculative investment; that is not going to bring millions into the pockets of international finance; that is not going to prove wildly exciting upon the Stock Exchange of London or New York; that is going to be carried out as much, indeed far more, in order to carry out this great ideal, or idealist design, if you prefer that name, than to earn dividends or to make fortunes. My noble friend almost gave your Lordships to understand that investors were clamouring for opportunities which had been improperly—I do not think he suggested corruptly, but improperly—given to Jews. He is under a great delusion. I am not going in detail into the Rutenberg controversy. I am given to understand that it will be debated in another place at length at a very early date.
But I can tell my noble friend that this whole scheme was examined in the most critical spirit by the experts of the Colonial Office, and that they were quite unanimous that the terms, which anybody can get for himself, and the character of the undertaking were such that you could with no prospect of success hope for any better contract being made than that which was offered by Mr. Rutenberg. I have not myself personally, I need hardly say, investigated these financial problems, but I know they have been examined by persons who are not only wholly disinterested, and wholly impartial, but who are also extremely competent; and I think your Lordships may take it quite safely from me not only that in the Rutenberg scheme was there nothing in the nature of undue favouritism, but that if the scheme can be carried, as I hope it will be carried, into effect, it will give economic advantages to Palestine which could be obtained in no other manner.
1014 I was rather surprised at the whole tenor of my noble friend's criticism of the Rutenberg scheme, but nothing surprised me more than one particular charge he made against it. He said: "This is going to put the native population under the control of that part of the Jewish community who are interested in the Rutenberg scheme." What does that charge of my noble friend mean? It means, and it can only mean, one of two things, so far as I can see: either that the general wealth of Palestine is going to be used illegitimately to support a project which in itself is of no economic value, or of inadequate economic value—and if that is the charge it wholly disposes of the view that Mr. Rutenberg is favoured among all mortals in having been given the possibility of finding money for this most unprofitable project—or it may mean that when these great water and electric power works are constructed they will be used to help the Jews, and they will be refused when they are demanded by the Arabs.
The first charge is that there is favouritism in giving the contract; the second that when the contract is accomplished and the works are finished, there will be favouritism in their employment as between different sections of the population. I can hardly believe that my noble friend seriously thinks that that possibility can occur. Palestine is no vast area in which there are remote places where abuses may exist which even the most vigilant Government is incapable of examining. It is small in extent, it is under the eyes of the Government officials from end to end, from East to West, from North to South, from Dan to Beersheba; and the notion that this great scheme, sanctioned by the Government, is going to be used as a method of oppression by those who have found the money against those for whom the money is to be used, seems to me one of the most fantastic accusations ever made, here or elsewhere.
I would like to ask my noble friend, therefore, whether even from the most material point of view, it is not in the interests of time Arab population itself to encourage this great project of the Jewish Home. My noble friend committed himself to the statement that Jews and Arabs up to the present time had enjoyed the same privileges. So they have—the privilege of being under Turkish rule. That privilege was impartially extended to every section 1015 of the population, and with the result which has not uncommonly followed the exercise of the same privilege, or the enjoyment of the same privilege, in other parts of the world. That state of things has happily come to an end. But if the populations who were trampled under the heel of the Turk until the end of the war are really to gain all the benefits that they might, it can only be by the introduction of the most modern methods, fed by streams of capital from all parts of the world, and that can only be provided, so far as I can see, by carrying out this great scheme which the vast majority of the Jews—not all, I quite agree, and very often, perhaps commonly, not the wealthiest—the great mass of the Jews in East and West and North and South believe to be a great step forward in the alleviation of the lot which their race has had too long to bear. I do not think I need dwell upon this imaginary wrong which the Jewish Home is going to inflict upon the local Arabs.
But that is not the only charge which my noble friend made. He told us also that we were doing a great injustice to the Arab race as a whole, and that our policy was in contradiction of pledges given by General MacMahon and the Anglo-French Declarations conveyed to the native populations by General Allenby. Of all the charges made against this country I must say that the charge that we have been unjust to the Arab race seems to me the strangest. It is through the expenditure largely of British blood, by the exercise of British skill and valour, by the conduct of British generals, by troops brought from all parts of the British Empire—it is by them in the main that the freeing of the Arab race from Turkish rule has been effected. And that we, after all the events of the war, should be held up as those who have done an injustice, that we, who have just established a King in Mesopotamia, who had before that established an Arab King in the Hejaz, and who have done more than has been done for centuries past to put the Arab race in the position to which they have attained—that we should be charged with being their enemies, with having taken a mean advantage of the course of international negotiations, seems to me not only most unjust to the policy of this country, but almost fantastic in its extravagance.
Again I would ask: Why is it that now, for the first time, towards the end of June 1016 in 1922, we hear these accusations? If they have any basis at all that basis was as strong three years ago, or four years ago, as it is now. My noble friend has kept silence for those years—
§ THE EARL OF BALFOUR
Then I am sure my noble friend must have very thoroughly covered the ground, and I really most respectfully apologise for the fact that I have not read these orations. It was entirely due to the fact that I have, unfortunately, spent so much of the time outside the frontiers of this country.
THE EARL OF BALFOUP
And they had not reached foreign parts. However, I think I have traversed the main lines of my noble friend's attack. Those who listened to it must have been surprised, I think, atone omission from it. I am prepared to maintain that the policy of His Majesty's Government in Palestine, and the policy not merely of His Majesty's Government but of the Allied and Associated Powers in Palestine is and will be most helpful to the Arab population. I see no reason why those who lived, according to my noble friend himself, in amity under Turkish rule should insist on quarrelling under British rule. I hold that from a purely material point of view the policy that we have initiated is likely to prove a successful policy. But we have never pretended, certainly I have never pretended, that it was purely from these materialistic considerations that the Declaration of November, 1917, originally sprung. I regard this not as a solution, but as a partial solution of the great and abiding Jewish problem.
My noble friend told us in his speech, and I believe him absolutely, that he has no prejudice against the Jews. I think I may say that I have no prejudice in their favour. But their position and their history, their connection with world religion and with world politics, is absolutely unique. There is no parallel to it, there is nothing approaching to a parallel to it, in any other branch of human history. Here you have a small race originally inhabiting a small country, I think of about the size of Wales or Belgium, at any rate 1017 of comparable size to those two, at no time in its history wielding anything that can be described as material power, sometimes crushed in between great Oriental monarchies, its inhabitants deported, then scattered, then driven out of the country altogether into every part of the world, and yet maintaining a continuity of religious and racial tradition of which we have no parallel elsewhere.
That, itself, is sufficiently remarkable, but consider—it is not a pleasant consideration, but it is one that we cannot forget—how they have been treated during long centuries, during centuries which in some parts of the world extend to the minute, and the hour in which I am speaking; consider how they have been subjected to tyranny and persecution; consider whether the whole culture of Europe, the whole religious organisation of Europe, has not from time to time proved itself guilty of great crimes against this race. I quite understand that some members of the race may have given, doubtless did give, occasion for much and I do not know how it could be otherwise, treated as they were; but, if you are going to lay stress on that, do not forget what part they have played in the intellectual, the artistic, the philosophic and scientific development of the world. I say nothing of the economic side of their energies, for on that Christian attention has always been concentrated.
I ask your Lordships to consider the other side of their activities. Nobody who knows what he is talking about will deny that they have at least—and I am putting it more moderately than I could do—rowed all their weight in the boat of scientific, intellectual and artistic progress, and they are doing so to this day. You will find them in every University, in every centre of learning; and at the very moment when they were being persecuted, when some of them, at all events, were being persecuted by the Church, their philosophers were developing thoughts which the great doctors of the Church embodied in their religious system. As it was in the Middle Ages, as it was in earlier times, so it is now. And yet, is there anyone here who feels content with the position of the Jews? They have been able, by this extraordinary tenacity of their race, to maintain this continuity, and they have maintained it without having any Jewish Home.
1018 What has been the result? The result has been that they have been described as parasites on every civilisation in whose affairs they have mixed themselves—very useful parasites at times I venture to say. But however that may be, do not your Lordships think that if Christendom, not oblivious of all the wrong it has done, can give a chance, without injury to others, to this race of showing whether it can organise a culture in a Home where it will be secured from oppression, that it is not well to say, if we can do it, that we will do it. And, if we can do it, should we not be doing something material to wash out an ancient stain upon our own civilisation if we absorb the Jewish race in friendly and effective fashion in those countries in which they are the citizens? We should then have given them what every other nation has, some place, some local habitation, where they can develop the culture and the traditions which are peculiarly their own.
I therefore frankly admit that I have been, in so far as I have had anything to do with this policy, moved by considerations not one of which was touched upon by my noble friend in the course of his speech. I could defend—I have endeavoured, and I hope not unsuccessfully, to defend—this scheme of the Palestine Mandate from the most material economic view, and from that point of view it is capable of defence. I have endeavoured to defend it from the point of view of the existing population, and I have shown—I hope with some effect—that their prosperity also is intimately bound up with the success of Zionism. But having endeavoured to the best of my ability to maintain those two propositions, I should, indeed, give an inadequate view to your Lordships of my opinions if I sat down without insisting to the utmost of my ability that, beyond and above all this, there is this great ideal at which those who think with me are aiming, and which, I believe, it is within their power to reach.
It may fail. I do not deny that this is an adventure. Are we never to have adventures? Are we never to try new experiments? I hope your Lordships will never sink to that unimaginative depth, and that experiment and adventure will be justified if there is any case or cause for their justification, surely, it is in order that we may send a message to every land where the Jewish race has been scattered, a message which will tell them that Christendom is not 1019 oblivious of their faith, is not unmindful of the service they have rendered to the great religions of the world, and, most of all, to the religion that the majority of your Lordships' House profess, and that we desire to the best of our ability to give them that opportunity of developing, in peace and quietness under British rule, those great gifts which hitherto they have been compelled from the very nature of the case only to bring to fruition in countries which know not their language, and belong not to their race. That is the ideal which I desire to see accomplished, that is the aim which lay at the root of the policy I am trying to defend; and, though it be defensible indeed on every ground, that is the ground which chiefly moves me.
§ LORD SYDENHAM
My Lords, the noble Earl, in his very eloquent and forcible speech, expressed surprise that the question of Palestine has never before been raised in this House. It has been raised many times, and nearly the whole story of the difficulties, and, as we think, the injustices, upon the Palestinians has been already told. We may have told it feebly, but at all events those who took up the cause of the Palestinians were in thorough and complete earnest. If the noble Earl had read the report of the Zionist Executive at the Zionist Congress at Carlsbad he could not have made the speech to which we have just listened. That report explains in detail exactly how the whole of this Jewish National Home business was organised, and it explains also the apparent unanimity of the beliefs to which the noble Earl has referred. The Government of which the noble Earl was a member offered Uganda to the Jews as a National Home in 1903, and Uganda was accepted by Dr. Herzl, then the leader of the Zionists. The idea, which was suggested by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, was most excellent, and if it could have been carried out we should have been saved much trouble and great expense, and at the present time some real danger.
But the extremists, who seem to have been quite aware that a world war was coming, opposed it very strongly, and this very excellent suggestion was dropped. Extremists, whether in India, or in Ireland, or in Palestine, generally get what they want, or at all events they get what they want temporarily. In August, 1020 1914, directly war broke out, there began a tremendous intensive campaign, which is lucidly explained in the report to which I have referred, carried out all over the world. That report is a revelation of a well-organised agitation begun by the "Greater Actions Committee" with the co-operation of the "Smaller Actions Committee," and it shows exactly how the thing was done. The interesting point about it is that there was at first strong opposition from the "Conjoint Committee of the Board of Deputies," which in March, 1916, prepared a very moderate formula which the Palestinians and the Government might have accepted. That formula, and opposition, was broken down by the extremists, and the report says that after the Declaration many anti-Zionists went over to their side. That was quite natural; nothing succeeds like success.
There are leading Jews in this country, and especially in America, who have strongly denounced the Zionist idea as spiritually false and economically unsound, and that I firmly believe to be the ease. It is impossible, without detaining your Lordships too long, to give any idea of the revelations in this wonderful report. Communications were set up all over the world, and the Chinese, Japanese, Siamese, Serbian and Greek Governments were all induced to support Zionism. That was to give the impression of that unanimity to which the noble Earl has referred. The Emir Feisul was at first hostile, but they managed to bring him round. All the very powerful Jewish organisations in America were organised and President Wilson's blessing was obtained. But it was obtained, as the report says, by the agency of Judge Brandeis. The Labour Party in this country was captured, as it is always captured on such occasions. The report says:Zionist propaganda in England during the war performed an invaluable function.We are also told that an arrangement was made at San Remo by which Mr. Herbert Samuel, who had been specially active in the Zionist cause, was to be appointed the first High Commissioner.
Of the Declaration itself it is stated in the "Guide to Zionism," which is published in America, that:The wording of it came from the British Foreign Office, but the text had been revised in the Zionist offices in America as well as in England. The British Declaration was made in the form in which the Zionists desired it.1021 I sympathise entirely with the wishes of the Jews to have a National Home, but I say that this National Home must not be given if it cannot be given without entailing gross injustice upon other people. Palestine is not the original home of the Jews. It was acquired by them after a ruthless conquest, and they never occupied the whole of it, which they now openly demand. They have no more valid claim to Palestine than the descendants of the ancient Romans have to this country. The Romans occupied Britain as long, or nearly as long, as the Israelites occupied Palestine, and they left behind them in this country far more valuable and useful work.
If we are going to admit claims based on conquest thousands of years ago, the whole world will have to be turned upside down. We do not forget that some of the best blood of Christendom was shed in the Crusades for the Holy Land, and the claim of the whole Christian world to have a voice in the settlement of Palestine is a claim that cannot be denied. I note that the Vatican has apparently entered a strong protest against the terms of the present Mandate. The only real claim to Palestine surely is that of its present inhabitants, some of whom descend from the pre-Jewish conquest population, and others from Israelites converted to Islam.
I confess that I dislike and distrust the mandatory system. I regard it as an insult to old nations like France and Britain, who have long traditions and honourable traditions of government of native races. Why should such old countries as ours submit to the supervision of Ecuador, Bolivia, Liberia, tribal Albania, and of any little State which pays a subscription to the League of Nations? I cannot help noting that the mandatory system has not been applied where it might have been most valuable. Poor little Montenegro, which was forcibly annexed by one of its Allies, with the acquiescence of other Allies, might benefit from a Mandate. So might Transylvania. Both these countries are being shockingly mal-administered, but no one seems to care in the slightest.
The Declaration has priority in time over the Proclamation, but I am sure the noble Earl will pardon me reminding him that the Declaration was given in a private letter to a section of the Jewish people while Lord Allenby's Proclamation was made by His Majesty's order in every 1022 town and village in Palestine. That Proclamation pledges us in the most direct fashion to the whole Palestinian people, Moslems, Christians and Jews at that time in Palestine. To sum up, I do not think it is unfair to say this: In 1915 we were certainly to have an Arab State. In 1917 we were to have a Jewish National Home. In 1918 we were to have a self-governing Arab State under British guidance; that is quite clear from the Declaration of General Allenby. But in 1922 we come back to a Jewish State under a Mandate.
Is it possible to reconcile these various policies, wobbling from side to side, year by year? We have, and I do not think the noble Earl contradicted it, distinctly violated two formal undertakings. We have done more than that. I maintain that we have distinctly violated the Declaration itself, and violated it in the most cynical fashion possible. The Declaration promised that nothing should be done which would prejudice the "civil rights" of the Palestinians. Is it possible to say that we have done nothing which prejudices those civil rights? These rights have been trampled upon ever since the Zionist Commission established itself at Jerusalem. The Administration of Palestine at the present time is distinctly Zionist, and it is Zionist in the sense that it frequently acts in defiance of the unanimous wishes of the people, Moslems, Christians and orthodox Jews. Palestinians would never have objected to the establishment of more colonies of well-selected Jews; but, instead of that, we have dumped down 25,000 promiscuous people on the shores of Palestine, many of them quite unsuited for colonising purposes, and some of them Bolsheviks, who have already shown the most sinister activity. The Arabs would have kept the Holy Land clear from Bolshevism.
Two years ago, I quoted in this House the opinion of the Anglican bishop of Jerusalem upon those immigrants, based upon what he had himself seen. I am sorry that the noble Earl did not see the opinion of the Anglican bishop, but the Latin bishop, who has been in this country, has confirmed in every way the statement of the Anglican bishop, and has told us of the moral injury which some of these people who have congregated in Palestine have inflicted upon the people of the country. Those are serious statements, which I am afraid the noble Earl has not 1023 seen, or he might have modified some of the rather strong expressions which he used. In many ways—and it must be so—the immigrants are clashing with the civil rights of the people, and the Zionists are telling them plainly that the process is to go on until they are entirely submerged. We have forced Hebrew upon the people of Palestine, in order, of course, that the services which require Hebrew night be filled with Jews. The immigrants, of course, do not speak Hebrew; they only speak Yiddish, and I am told that harsh and cruel methods are being adopted by the Zionists to force all Jewish children to learn Hebrew.
We disarmed the loyalists of Ireland, but we armed the Jewish colonists. Those colonists were perfectly safe in Turkish days, and would be perfectly safe now, if it were not for the presence of the Zionist Commission at Jerusalem. But that is not enough for them. The Zionists have since been smuggling in arms, and a very considerable quantity of arms have reached Palestine. Recently, I alluded, in this House, to the sale of the lands of the Greek Church. That sale was so arranged, and the plots were so large, that the Palestinians could not purchase them, and I believe that they all went to a Jewish syndicate for the sum of £E320,000. Nobody knows who are the real owners of these valuable suburban plots.
I say nothing about the Rutenberg contract, as the noble Earl has told us that it is going to be most carefully looked into, and that, I am perfectly certain, will be most satisfactory, but I must say—and I am quite accustomed to criticising contracts—that some of the terms of this contract seem to me to be distinctly improper. Surely, some British or Palestinian citizen could have been found to tender. It could not have been necessary to give this contract to a revolutionary Russian Jew, who really, of course, hails from Germany. The point is that the people of Palestine, the people for whom we are responsible, strongly object to this contract.
On Monday last I received this telegram from Jaffa—On the strength of substantiated authentic statements and documents by officially recognised representatives and leaders of 12,000 inhabitants of Ghor Beisan, the site of the Rutenberg scheme, proving its utter detriment to their legal rights and lands, and on the strength of facts proving the absolute prejudice of such scheme to all rights 1024 and interests of the Arab real public of Palestine, this officially recognised Arab Economic Development Association most emphatically protest against the said concession, requesting its immediate cancellation, as having been considered before the determination of the status of the country, and without previous public notification for the best terms—Nassar, Secretary, Arab Economical Development Association.That comes from the Arab Economical Development Association. It may be wrong, but those are their wishes, and surely we are bound to consult their wishes. If we arbitrarily dismiss and go against their wishes, we are not maintaining the civil rights of the people of Palestine, which the noble Earl himself has promised to guarantee.
The other day the Government ordered that His Majesty's birthday was to be kept on June 5 instead of June 3, against the wishes of the people, and in order, of course, to show that Palestine had become a Jewish State. I could add many instances to what I have tried to say, and I maintain that these are violations of the civil rights of the people, which the Declaration affects to guarantee in an effectual manner. But, as my noble friend has said, all this is rendered possible only by British bayonets in Palestine, British bayonets which are maintained by our own taxpayers. We have already spent millions of money upon Zionism, which the noble Earl admits to be an adventure, and an experiment of which we are only at the beginning. We have no idea what may happen in the future, requiring a very much larger military force than is now maintained there. But, far worse than the loss of money, we have lost the confidence of the Palestinian people, who trusted us implicitly when they heard the Declaration which General Allenby made to them. That confidence we must, in my opinion, get back.
Mr. Crane, who was a member of the American Commission which went all over Palestine in 1919, and made a very important Report to the Government of the United States, which we have never been able to see, has visited the country again, and says that he found that—The feeling against Zionism was unanimous even among the old Jews.By that he means, of course, the old colonists. Surely, the noble Earl would admit that this statement of a man who has been all over the country does show that the people are not in sympathy with 1025 Zionism, and that we are acting directly against their will. Mr. Crane added these very significant words—The Zionist situation, that seemed clearly impossible three years ago, has been getting worse with time. The Zionist Commission which has so much control over the political machinery of Palestine—I know the noble Earl said that they had no political control, but there are many ways in which political control can be exercised—seems to have more power than the authorised Government. Practically all the official world is under its control, and is more ardent to carry out its instructions than to carry out the policy of the Mandate Government.Coming from a very experienced American, that is a serious statement, and I confess that I did not find in the noble Earl's speech any valid contradiction of this outside and impartial opinion.
It accords entirely with the information which frequently reaches me from Palestine. There has been a recent dismissal of ten British officials, and the effect of that will be to strengthen the power of the Zionist Commission, or the Zionist Executive, as I believe it now calls itself. It is really a painful and humiliating fact that the Palestinians under Turkish rule were more contented, more lightly taxed, and had far more share in their Government, than they have under the British flag at the present moment. Nowhere in our history could you find a parallel to that case. In no place where we have gone has freedom become less. What we have done is, by concessions, not to the Jewish people but to a Zionist extreme section, to start a running sore in the East, and no one can tell how far that sore will extend.
Zionism will fail, the experiment to which the noble Earl referred will fail, but the harm done by dumping down an alien population upon an Arab country—Arab all round in the hinterland—may never be remedied. All that is certain at the present time is that a very heavy expenditure upon British troops, which we cannot afford, will have to be maintained to enforce a policy which, I contend, conflicts with the pledges of His Majesty's Government, and also with the elementary rights of the Palestinian people. The Mandate as it stands will undoubtedly, in time, transfer the control of the Holy Land to New York, Berlin, London, Frankfurt and other places. The strings will not be pulled from Palestine; they will be pulled from 1026 foreign capitals; and for everything that happens while this transference of power is going on we shall be responsible. Your Lordships' House prevented the ratification of the Declaration of London, but failed to avert the very serious consequences which, in the early months of the war, resulted from that most disastrous instrument. I hope that the House to-day will adopt the very moderate Motion of my noble friend, and will save the Empire from the intolerable situation which the Mandate, as dictated from first to last by the Zionists, will inevitably bring about in Palestine. I feel sure that if the facts about Palestine were known to this country the Mandate would have to be most materially changed.
§ LORD BUCKMASTER
My Lords, it is only for a few moments that I desire to occupy your time. The noble Earl who has answered Lord Islington has, if he will permit me to say so, answered him with his usual address. It has been for many years my privilege to hear the noble Earl, and I can assure him sincerely that it is a privilege from which I have greatly profited. It has also been to me a matter of considerable personal enjoyment, because, if I may say so respectfully, I regard myself as a very humble follower of the noble Earl in this respect, that I much prefer ideas and ideals to facts, and I must own that I was greatly tempted this afternoon, when I found the noble Earl departing from what appeared to me to be the correct and rather dusty road of debate and wandering into the pleasant pastures of history and philosophy, and partly, I think, of religious discussion with regard to the origin and the action of the Jews. I would very pleasantly indeed spend some time this afternoon in joining him in those wanderings, were it not for the fact that we are brought face to face with a Motion, and that I am requested, as each of your Lordships is, to form an opinion upon the Motion and decide how you are going to vote.
Now I find that the Motion confronts, and I might say affronts, us with a most unpleasant fact on its face, because it says in plain language that this Mandate, as being at present executed, is in contradiction of definite pledges given on behalf of His Majesty's Government, and if that be so I find myself unable to support the Mandate. It was upon that that I was very anxious to hear the noble 1027 Earl, and I am bound to say that I could not find that he answered that part of the complaint at all. What he did was to explain to us, in a most interesting manner, the form and character of a Mandate. He pointed out to us that our acceptance of the Mandate was popular everywhere, excepting, apparently, in Arabia, and that it was really for the good of everybody there that we should be entrusted with these powers. I am not prepared to deny all that, but I say, none the less, that if that Mandate is, in fact, in contradiction of something that we have promised to other people, we have no right to carry it out, and I cannot be led away by the contemplation of the wonderful benefits that we may bestow upon the backward populations of Palestine, into a denial of something that we promised those people at times of our great and urgent distress. Being a person altogether unfamiliar with the East, I wanted to know whether Lord Islington was right or wrong in what he said, because it is upon that my vote must depend, and up to this moment I have not found that his statements were challenged; but what I understand is said is that it was much better that the Mandate should be acted upon than that the promises which we had given should be carried out. That is a policy which I find myself unable to adopt.
Finally, there is one thing that I should like to add upon a matter which is possibly not irrelevant to this discussion, although I do not think it touches the heart of the matter, and that is the way in which concessions are being granted in regard to Palestine. The noble Earl points out that the whole matter of these concessions will be the subject of consideration in another place. That may be so, but at the moment what we find is that a special privilege has been granted to one person to go, so far as I can see, and exploit America or other countries for the purpose of raising the capital that is necessary to carry out some very important engineering scheme. Now, I do not doubt that that is of the greatest value to all, and I do not think it is conceivable that the carrying out of that scheme will be done partially. I have the greatest confidence in Sir Herbert Samuel, and, so far as I know, in every one of the people working with him, and it is unthinkable that a monopoly of that kind should be exercised to the disadvantage of any section.
1028 But the noble Earl illuminated this debate by suggesting that a large number of capitalists, not for sordid reasons of gain but for the high and lofty purpose of establishing, or re-establishing, a great nation, would provide the necessary capital to fertilise this country. Then why has it not been provided? Why is this man, who admittedly has not got the capital, to be despatched to get it? And what is the difference between this and any ordinary system of company promotion? I can see none, and if there be other reasons why this man should be used, I still do not understand why the offer was not made publicly, or what is the advantage that you gain from having offered it to this particular person privately. It may be a very good or advantageous scheme, but I am bound to admit that in all these matters I am strongly in favour of public and open competition, and I should like to have seen whether there were other people who could give the necessary guarantees and get the necessary capital from their friends. I do not like the suggestion that this is being done to benefit a person who is a member of what is said to be a favoured race.
Finally, nothing is further from my mind than to attach too much importance to a statement in the newspapers. I believe I am quite as incredulous as is necessary upon all these matters, but I am bound to admit that if the statement in yesterday's Times with regard to this person is true, he appears to have been, among other things, engaged in a treacherous and cold-blooded murder. It may prove that this is a piece of imagination, but it is an unpleasant thing to have such a statement made at a time when the public mind is most undoubtedly exercised about what they regard as a preferential right given to a special and favoured race of people. I hope that when a debate occurs in another place, and fuller opportunities are given of explanation than are afforded us here, we may have these unpleasant impressions removed from our minds. For the present I have to say that while accepting all the splendid idealism of the noble Earl and being most anxious to accompany him in all his new idealistic adventures, I find myself quite unable to vote against this Motion, unless I am sure that the Mandate, as it stands to-day, does not violate the pledges that we gave to the native races.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, may I offer my humble tribute of welcome to the noble Earl on this notable occasion? I admired the eloquence of his speech and the dialectical skill with which he skimmed over thin ice, but I was very much disappointed with the matter. There is nothing in that speech which will give any degree of confidence either to the Arab Delegation here or to the Palestinians in the East. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Buckmaster, has just referred to the fact that the noble Earl made no reference to the breach of pledges given to the Arabs at the time when we so urgently needed their help. Lord Islington also mentioned the fact that Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations had not been observed in that passage where it says that it is necessary that the wishes of the people should be considered in the selection of the Mandatory Powers. There has been no attempt whatever on the part of our Government to ascertain the wishes of the people dwelling in Palestine.
The noble Lord, Lord Sydenham, read out passages from some remarks of Mr. Crane. I was in Damascus at the time Mr. Crane came out with a Commission to try to find out what the people of Syria really wanted. I dare say your Lordships will have forgotten that a Commission of Inquiry had been formed, representative of France, Italy, the United States of America, and ourselves. France, for one particular reason, dropped out of that Commission, followed, I think, by Italy, and finally, finding that France was not going to take her share in the Commission, we also declined to send representatives. The result was America was left by herself. She sent this Commission under Mr. Crane to try to find out what the people of Palestine wanted. I have before now asked for the publication of their Report, but His Majesty's Government, with their usual clever evasiveness, said they could not obtain it. I have no doubt they could have obtained it time after time, and I fancy, if that. Report had been kid before the public, it would have been found that there were three main deductions arrived at by that Commission.
One was that Syria was wholly indivisible. The one strong feeling of all Arabs was that Syria should not be cut up into what we term Syria and into Palestine. Geo graphically and ethnographically, those two countries are one. That is one point 1030 which, I think, would be found to be laid down in the Report of the Commission. The second is that on no account should the French obtain any Mandate over Syria as we term it. The third was that the Zionist organisation should have no control whatsoever in Palestine. Of course, this is only what I have heard, but I believe it to be absolutely true, and it is borne out by those passages just read out by Lord Sydenham from Mr. Crane's remarks as to the condition of affairs at the present time in the Near East. Referring to the result of the Commission of which he was the chief, he said—The Moslems wish to be reconciled with the Western world. They were entirely reasonable in the things they asked for, and the Moslems in the things they asked for were largely supported by the other native peoples—Christians, Marmites, Druses, and Jews. The feeling against Zionism was unanimous.And yet we give this Mandate which entrenches Zionism in such a very strong position.
I had the good fortune the other day at a joint meeting of Members of both Houses of Parliament to hear Sir Herbert Samuel deliver an address upon this Palestinian question—a very able, lucid and fair-minded address. Taking that by itself, I should have complete confidence in the intentions of Sir Herbert Samuel to behave perfectly impartially towards the different people living in Palestine. But whatever may be his intentions, if you pass this Mandate as it is now, you give an overwhelming strength to Zionism or the Zionist Organisation. I regret that the noble Earl did not come to close quarters with these particular points.
Lord Islington made special mention of Articles 4 and 6 of the Mandate. I believe it would be in the best interests of everybody concerned if those two Articles were omitted. But if the Government would not go so far as that, at least I think they might amend Article 4 by leaving out the words which allow the Zionist Commission to assist and take part in the development of the country. That goes far beyond their prerogative, which is to look after strictly Jewish interests. Sir Herbert Samuel, at the meeting to which I have referred, said distinctly there was no intention of allowing the Zionist Commission to act as an imperium in imperio, and that they were to be absolutely confined to carrying out the objects which strictly concern the Jews, and not those which concern the 1031 Palestinians in general. Surely, that is a very small modification, which, I am sure, would give great confidence to the Arabs.
Article 6 deals with immigration and the alienation of land. I should like to see an amendment there, stating that no land at present cultivated by Arabs should be allowed to be alienated to the Zionist Organisation, or to Zionists. That would show that there was no chance that the Arabs, by a gradual process of absorption, would find themselves dispossessed of the land which they are at present cultivating. These are, perhaps, very small matters, but I am confident that you must do something to try to allay the present suspicion of the Arabs.
The noble Earl said that when the Declaration was made all the Allies at that time were in favour of it. I was myself. As I have stated before in this House, I went to address an overflow meeting held to celebrate the fact that this Declaration had been made. But I have learned wisdom since then. I have been out to that country, and found that if you try to establish this Zionist settlement in Palestine you are bound to have trouble.
I implore His Majesty's Government to reconsider this question. We have had an experience of how, if you give concessions in time, you avoid giving far greater concessions later on, when violence has been resorted to by those who claim greater liberty. I am thinking of Egypt at the present time. Had the policy towards Egypt been more liberal not many months ago, I do not think there would have been such great anxiety as is now entertained by many people as to our position in that country, and I feel that if the Arab Delegation goes back to Palestine without any concession being made to them, nothing but trouble will be before us, and, as Lord Sydenham said, you will probably have to go much further than you would if you made some concession to reconcile this Delegation now. I do not think anybody expects that the Declaration should be cancelled: that would be going too far. We have given a distinct pledge to Zionists throughout the world, and we must do our best to carry it through. I am confident—and this is not only my own opinion on the matter, but it is supported by those who have been quite recently out in Palestine—that if you only give some concession now and allow a period of five or ten years for the Arabs 1032 and the Jews to work together, a happy solution will probably be found.
You must do something; you cannot allow the Mandate to stand as it is without incurring a very heavy responsibility as to the future good order in Palestine. If you would only allow suspicion to be somewhat allayed I believe it would be perfectly possible to reconcile the Moslems with the Jews. The noble Earl himself said that the Jews and Arabs had lived in peace in the past, and it was difficult to see why, because they had come under British rule, there should be trouble between them or they should quarrel. It is not a question of the Jews in the country; it is the introduction of numerous Jews from all over the world that is the point. I have always understood that the Arabs are an easygoing people, but these suspicions ought not to be allowed to engender doubts as to their future position in their own country. I will not delay your Lordships further than to express the hope that His Majesty's Government will take good counsel and try to find some way of modifying this Mandate, which, otherwise, will only serve to engender very bad feeling among the original inhabitants of Palestine.
§ LORD WILLOUGHBY DE BROKE
My Lords, I was once a humble follower of the noble Earl, Lord Balfour, in another place, and I should like to be allowed very respectfully to greet him. I am sorry to say, however, that the extremely able and interesting speech which he delivered failed to convince me on this subject. Like Lord Buckmaster, I have been exceedingly anxious to hear this question debated, and if my noble friend, Lord Islington, goes into the Lobby I shall be bound to follow him there. The noble Lord, Lord Islington, said, I think, that he had no prejudice against the Jews. The noble Earl, Lord Balfour, said that he had no prejudice in their favour. Following upon that, he delivered a eulogy of that nation which I hope he will not think it impertinent if I say was almost as good as Disraeli at his very best in his two chapters on the Jews in his "Life of Lord George Bentinck." In listening to the noble Earl I almost wished that I was a Jew myself because they came in for some very handsome treatment at his hands.
If I have any prejudice at all in this matter, my prejudices are in favour of the people of this country who are going to be 1033 asked to pay for all this. The noble Earl put in an eloquent plea for experiments, and he entered into the idealism of trying experiments. No doubt we must all have certain abstract sympathies, but I believe we shall be correctly interpreting the feelings of the man in the street and the people outside this House if we say that at this moment they are not in the humour for trying experiments, especially if they are asked to pay for it themselves. We are asked to try experiments at a time when the Income Tax is so many shillings in the and I sincerely hope that the views of the noble Lord, Lord Islington, will prevail on this occasion and that the vote we shall obtain will be a warning to His Majesty's Government from this House and from the
§ Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.