§ 3.23 p.m.
§ THE PARLIAMENTARY UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA) moved to resolve, That this House approves the policy of His Majesty's Government relating to Palestine as set out in Command Paper No. 6019. The noble Marquess said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion which stands in my name. Most of the House are well aware of the background that lies behind the policy of His Majesty's Government in Palestine. I am well aware that many of your Lordships are not altogether satisfied with it, but I believe that I can persuade your Lordships that the Statement of Policy on Palestine which I am asking you to approve is a just solution of what we all know to be one of the most difficult problems of our Colonial administration. But I should at the outset like to make it perfectly clear that I entirely refute one particular criticism that has been directed against this policy. We have frequently been told by those who dislike it that this is a policy into which we have been forced by panic and which is the result of fear. Nothing could be further from the truth than that criticism. It is not Arab terrorism, it is not selfish considerations that have led us to this policy; it is the cumulative consideration which we have given to it for more than nine years.
§ Your Lordships will remember that there were grave disturbances in Palestine in 1929, and as a result the White Paper of 1930 and the letter of the then Prime Minister, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, to Dr. Weizmann in 1931, made it clear that we felt that the time had arrived for a further step forward in the grant to the people of Palestine of self-government. We also announced at that time that we intended to set up a Legislative Council on the general lines of Mr. Winston Churchill's 82 White Paper of 1922. The purpose of that was surely a very simple one: the desire to give to the Arab section of the population of Palestine an opportunity of putting forward their views such as was enjoyed by the Jewish Agency for the other section of the population. That general idea continued through Sir Arthur Wauchope's very fine administration. The municipal system was first reformed, and after that had been proved to be a success—or at any rate had been given a trial—the detailed scheme for the Legislative Council was worked out. It was Parliament that rejected that scheme in 1936, and I cannot help adding that—by the Arab population at least—the rejection of that scheme by Parliament was attributed to the pressure brought to bear upon Parliament by the Jews, who disliked the idea of the Legislative Council altogether. The result was that outbreak of disorder which occurred in the spring of 1936.
§ The Government, having been baulked once in their effort to bring together the two peoples of Palestine and to make them work together, thought the best plan was to send out, as your Lordships remember, a Royal Commission. The Peel Commission did bring out, at any rate, the one underlying cause of all the disorder, all the distrust, that had marred our administration of the Mandate ever since we had had it. That was the fundamental uncertainty and fear which existed in Arab minds that they would be dominated morally, financially and, above all, numerically by a richer and a cleverer race. That cause was surely brought out entirely clearly by the Royal Commission headed by Earl Peel—this continual fear of the Arab population. They did not know what was going to happen to them: they did not know at any moment when they might not be swamped by a further great influx of Jewish immigrants. Therefore, as your Lordships will all remember, the scheme of partition was set up, and His Majesty's Government accepted it in principle. Parliament did not accept it in principle. Parliament desired further knowledge about it. When, however, the Wood-head Commission was sent out to examine whether the scheme of partition, ideal though it may be, was in fact, practicable, they came to the conclusion that it was not, and that it was not possible within the terms of their reference to recommend any division of areas that 83 would give a reasonable prospect of the eventual establishment of self-supporting Arab and Jewish States. That was the position when the Woodhead Commission reported, and I do not think anybody can blame His Majesty's Government for having accepted their criticism of the partition scheme, or for having agreed that that criticism was just and that partition was in that sense impracticable.
§ It was in those circumstances, after three attempts had failed, and this problem seemed no nearer a solution, that His Majesty's Government decided to call a Conference, which took place early this year. They were told that it never had any chance of success, that it was an idiotic venture to attempt, and that it was a ghastly fiasco. I do not agree with any of those criticisms. I do not deny that none of us were very hopeful about the ultimate success of the Conference. It was perfectly obvious that the difficulties which had to be overcome, and the gaps which had to be bridged, were enormous, but merely because those difficulties were not overcome and those gaps were not bridged I cannot agree that the Conference was either a fiasco or that it should not have been called. On the contrary, I think that much that is good in this policy which I am recommending to your Lordships, is due to the personal contacts which were made between members of His Majesty's Government and the members of the two delegations, both of Arabs and of Jews.
§ But of course the Conference was unable to agree, and in calling it the Government had made it clear that if no agreement was found then they would lay down the policy which they intended to pursue, and that policy is the one which I have the honour of recommending to your Lordships this afternoon. At the end of all this long succession of efforts, culminating in the Conference, when we were faced with having to make a decision as to what we were going to do, the fundamental truth of the Royal Commission still remained, and that was that until we could remove doubt and uncertainty from Palestine we were quite certain that the rule of disorder would continue—of disorder and murder, and all that Palestine connotes nowadays to the ordinary man in the street. We had to give that certainty, and we were unable 84 to give it territorially, because we had been told authoritatively, and could not deny it in our minds, that that territorial partition was impossible. Therefore we had to give that certainty in some other way, and if we could not give territorial certainty and remove fear of domination from the Arabs by restricting certain areas to those whom they feared, then the only other way was to give them numerical certainty.
§ I do ask your Lordships not to underestimate the real and honest conviction that lies behind the Arab opposition to our policy in the past. I think I have only got to call in evidence the bitter resistance against very greatly superior force that they have shown during these last horrible years, to convince you that there was something more than agitation, that there was something more than banditry, and something more than a mere delight in fighting, that sustained them in their activities, however deplorable we may find those activities in this House. Their activities were deplorable, and I do not deny that, but I say that that resistance could never have been carried on if the fear had not been real, and the love of Palestine also real. As your Lordships know, we decided to give that certainty by limiting immigration. We have said that in the next five years 75,000 immigrants shall enter Palestine, and that after that further immigration shall depend upon the acquiescence or consent of the Arab population. We admittedly take a rather arbitrary figure in 75,000. We felt first that at this present moment, in Jewry's present plight throughout the world, Palestine should in the next five years do everything possible to help in that matter. Secondly, we felt, and we were very greatly struck by 'the argument, that it was not fair suddenly to cut off from the Jewish Home all immigrants on economic grounds, when everything had been built up on the supposition that more immigration was coming. It was not fair, in our view, in those circumstances, suddenly to shut down.
§ But we have been much criticised in this matter for giving what is called an Arab veto. I regard that criticism as remarkably unfair. Supposing we had said, on our own responsibility, that there would be no more immigration either in the next year or in five years' time, then 85 there would have been none of this criticism of our giving an Arab veto, but because we leave the door open and give the Jews an opportunity of coming to an agreement with, and of co-operating and making friends with, those with whom they have got to live, then we are bound to be criticised for handing a veto to the Arabs. There is no such veto. The principle remains the same, but we think it essential that the two people should come together, and if success is going to come either to the National Home or to Palestine as a whole it will only come when the Jews really try to make friends with their neighbours.
It is suggested that this limitation which we propose is contrary to the terms of the Mandate. I confess that I find that criticism most extraordinary, because it appears to me that, so far from being contrary to the terms of the Mandate, it is only by the fact of the limitation of immigration at this moment that we can carry out the terms and obligations of that Mandate. I think that those who argue in that way are too inclined to think that we have only one obligation under the Mandate. It not so; we have two at least. May I read to your Lordships Article 2?
The Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home"—
that is the first obligation, as laid down in the Preamble—
and the development of sell-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race or religion.
I draw your Lordships' attention particularly to that second obligation—"and the development of self-governing institutions."
§ Can it really be argued that if we go on with this policy of forcing Jewish immigrants into Palestine we are really helping the development of self-governing institutions? Do any of your Lordships really imagine that if this policy that we have pursued for so long is continued we can produce self-governing institutions in the Palestine of to-day? I feel that there is some misconception here, because the one hope of being able to secure peace in Palestine and to carry out our obligations under the Mandate is not merely to facilitate the growth of the Jewish National 86 Home, but also to facilitate it in a way which enables us to carry out our other obligations. I regard that point as of the very greatest importance. It is true we have agreed that we must facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions; but who thinks to-day that the conditions are suitable?
§ I hope I am not being over-controversial; I have lived with this matter for many months, and perhaps phrases come into my mind that are more violent than I really mean. There is the further point as to whether we are infringing pledges or promises that we gave to the Jews, or as to whether we are infringing the Mandate because we are abandoning the principle of economic absorptive capacity. That phrase, "economic absorptive capacity" has no sacred character to His Majesty's Government. There is nothing in the Mandate, not a word, about "economic absorptive capacity." Our obligation is to facilitate immigration, without prejudice to the rights and position of the non-Jewish sections of the population, and, as I have already said, under suitable conditions. It is perfectly true that the White Paper of 1922 was laid before the League of Nations Council when the Mandate was in draft, but His Majesty's Government cannot accept that fact as meaning that "economic absorptive capacity" is inherent in the Mandate. And in any case, even if we did regard that document as more important in relation to this matter than we do, we must not forget that the White Paper of 1922 never said that economic absorptive capacity was to be the only criterion of immigration. It merely said—which indeed was almost a truism—that immigration should not exceed the economic capacity of Palestine to absorb the immigrants.
I absolutely agree that since 1922 we have in practice adopted the principle of economic absorptive capacity, and the letter of 1931 of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald to Dr. Weizmann, to which I have already referred, made that matter quite clear. And indeed, leaving political considerations aside, it is the proper and obvious criterion when you are trying to facilitate immigration under suitable conditions. But I cannot really accept the view that, merely because that practice has been followed, the Mandate lays it down that for all time the only criterion of the amount of immigration to be permitted 87 into Palestine is that of economic absorptive capacity. Most of your Lordships can remember the atmosphere in which the Mandate was drawn up. You can remember the spirit of the League of Nations in those days. I cannot believe that the people who drew up the Mandate seriously intended that, come what may, by force or by persuasion, the only limit to the number of people who were to be forced into Palestine was one governed by purely economic considerations.
§ Nevertheless, we have honestly and loyally tried to carry out that part of our obligations which required us to bring about a Jewish National Home, and we did so at the cost of money and at the cost of lives, in the hope that sooner or later the Arabs would realise the value that they were getting—and I can hardly exaggerate the value that they were getting—from the Jews. That hope has not been realised, and it is high time that we recognised that fact. The Arabs are not more friendly to Jewish immigration than they were twenty years ago; they are less. Subject to all the persuasion that the Jews themselves can bring to bear on the Arabs when they show themselves anxious to co-operate with them in the Government of Palestine, at the moment I cannot see how we can hope they will become any more reconciled to it. Therefore, as I say, it looks as if—in fact it is quite certain—that the development of self-governing institutions is dependent on some limitation of Jewish immigration. I would add this further, that however vague the phrase "a National Home for the Jewish people" may be—and we have had goodness knows how many interpretations of it by various statesmen who co-operated in its drafting—at any rate we can surely agree on this: that our guiding principle can be that the growth of the Jewish National Home must be checked when it has become so great that it prevents us from carrying out our other obligations under the Mandate. That is the case, I submit, which exists to-day, and that is why the Government's immigration proposals have been made.
§ For the rest, we are intending in our Statement of Policy, to carry out as fast as we can the development of self-governing institutions. We have announced that our objective is an independent Pales- 88 tinian State, and we hope it may be created within the next ten years. I would like to emphasize this point, which some critics seem to have overlooked, that, subject to the general considerations of the White Paper, the Constitution of the new State is not laid down anywhere—it is not prejudged. It is a misuse of language to talk of the White Paper as creating a Jewish ghetto in an Arab State. There is not a word or a suggestion that could lead anyone to suppose that that is a proper or reasonable description of what Constitution is going to be given to Palestine in ten years. No, my Lords, we have laid down one general principle in the White Paper—that the independent State should be one in which Arabs and Jews share in the Government in such a way as to ensure that the essential interests of each community are safeguarded. When the time comes five years hence to discuss the Constitution, whether it be federal or whether it be unitary, that will be the overriding principle. Therefore the Jewish fear of domination by Arabs under the future Constitution is quite unnecessary and totally wrong.
§ We are, it is true, going to go ahead as fast as we can, as soon as peace and order have been restored, to give the Palestinians, who have had very little experience of self-government, some experience of it, and we are going to place Palestinians in charge of some Departments. I do not want to go into these points at very great length, but if there is any fear that one section of the community—say, the Jews—is going to be dominated by the other, I would like to remind your Lordships that, first of all, the Palestinians are only going to be put in charge of a comparatively few Departments until they have gained some experience of government; secondly, they will still have their British advisers at their elbow who will have the right of access to the High Commissioner; and, thirdly, they will, at any rate in the first stage, only exercise those advisory and administrative functions which at the present moment British officials discharge. In the transition period, Government will still remain the High Commissioner, and the High Commissioner will have none of his powers impaired.
§ Finally—and this concludes what I have to say as to the policy of the White Paper—I am afraid I am detaining your 89 Lordships at some length, but it is of some importance—the continual acquisition of land by Jews from Arabs has in many areas led to the creation of a class of landless Arab who is a danger to the law and order of the State. His existence is, I believe, deplored and regretted both by thinking Arabs and thinking Jews, and it is therefore decided that by amending the Palestine Order in Council, we will give the High Commissioner power, by regulation, to prohibit or restrict the sale of land in certain areas. I can assure your Lordships that he will not be given these powers without an instruction that he should follow as closely as he may the general recommendations both of the Peel and the Woodhead Commissions. That is the policy as laid down in the White Paper.
§ The Amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Snell, asks us to defer a decision until the matter has been examined by the Permanent Mandates Commission. I can imagine nothing more disastrous for Palestine. It is perfectly true that we shall report to the League Council and to the Permanent Mandates Commission what we are doing, and we shall argue—and, I have no doubt at all, argue successfully—that we are doing nothing that is contrary to the Mandate. But I would like to add this. If by any inconceivable chance the advice we have been given on this matter by our own advisers is wrong, or the League Council take a different view, then I would like to make it clear that we would immediately ask the Council to alter the Mandate so as to bring it into accordance with the policy laid down in the White Paper. I cannot believe that that request would be refused, because I cannot believe that any reasonable body of men would ask us to pour out our money and spend the lives of our troops in carrying out a Mandate which we ourselves are quite certain is unworkable. That is the situation that would arise should the League Council tell us "No, you cannot alter the Mandate, you must go ahead just as you are." If your Lordships and another place pass this policy, I would like no one to have a shadow of hope that that policy will not go through. It is as certain as anything can be certain in this human life that, should the League Council come to the remarkable conclusion that we are not acting in accordance with 90 the Mandate, it would certainly agree with us to have it altered.
§ I would urge your Lordships not to delay any more in this matter. We have havered and dithered too long, and every time that we have havered and dithered it has been disastrous. Let us come to a decision to-night, and let us agree that this policy offers the best hope, and a real hope, for the future of Palestine. Above all, I would like to remind your Lordships that this policy represents a return to the real and traditional British policy of opposing co-operation to force. We cannot suit our policies for different countries. We cannot be democratic over all the rest of the world and totalitarian in Palestine. We all know that a continuation with the policy of forcing Jewish immigrants into Palestine against the wishes of the inhabitants has in the past been dependent upon force, and if it is continued it will have to be supported in the future by force. I believe that our English tradition is a great deal better, and I think that we should return to it to-night and come back to this policy which substitutes for force, reason, argument and co-operation. I believe that if we do so we shall not merely be doing the right thing for Palestine, but also that we shall be acting in accordance with our own traditional political heritage. I beg to move.
§ Moved to resolve, That this House approves the policy of His Majesty's Government relating to Palestine as set out in Command Paper No. 6019.—(The Marquess of Dufferin and Ava.)
§ LORD SNELL had given Notice of an Amendment to the Motion to leave out all words after "House" and insert "being of the opinion that the proposals of His Majesty's Government relating to Palestine, as set out in Command Paper No. 6019, are inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Mandate and not calculated to secure the peaceful and prosperous development of Palestine, is of opinion that Parliament should not be committed pending the examination of these proposals by the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, in moving the Amendment which stands in my name on the Paper I hope your Lordships will allow me to say at the outset 91 that such criticisms of the policy of His Majesty's Government as I may offer are not against the presentation of it by the noble Marquess who has just sat down. He has, in my belief, a case to argue that could not have been made impressive by anyone at His Majesty's Government's disposal, and he did his task with clarity and with appreciated efficiency. The noble Marquess first of all assured us that the policy of His Majesty's Government was not a panic policy, that they had come to the conclusion that quiet, calm deliberation disentangles every knot, although we know that over a series of years the Government have varied between one policy and another, first swallowing partition without examining it and then repudiating it without giving any reasons for such repudiation. However, we appear now to have arrived at a crisis in this tragic, momentous, and, as I believe, continuously mismanaged question, and Parliament has once more to decide whether it will accept a policy of expediency put forward in this White Paper or whether it will get back to fundamentals and ask whether it has really and truly honoured its obligations to the great body that entrusted it with this responsibility.
§ I would remind your Lordships that Parliament has previously refused to accept policies which were commended by the same arguments and with the same urgency. In 1930, for example, when the Government of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald appeared to be whitling down the conditions of the Mandate, and again when the Peel Commission presented their Report, Parliament withheld its approval, although this policy was liberal in comparison with the policy which is now presented to us. In the long run we are driven back here to consider the moral issues which confront us. It is, as was stated by the Secretary of State in another place yesterday, the honour of our nation that is engaged. "The good name," he said, "of Great Britain is involved," and debts of honour "cannot be paid in counterfeit coinage." I personally, knowing the right honourable gentleman the Colonial Secretary very well, and having a deep regard for him, cannot believe that he is either the author or the proud defender of the policy which your Lordships are asked to accept.92
The Mandate, as I understand it, was the most important international obligation ever entrusted to a single nation. If we had made a success of it it would have established for ever our prestige in history. If we make a failure of it—and our record up to now has been one of complete and unrelieved failure—that will count to us for incompetence or something worse. We accepted this Mandate knowing perfectly well what it involved. The Mandate is but an elaborated interpretation of the Balfour Declaration and in the Balfour Declaration the purpose of it was made perfectly clear, a declaration of sympathy with Zionists aspirations. Now the Jews, under the Balfour Declaration, were promised specific assistance in the establishment of their National Home, and other inhabitants were granted their civil and religious rights. In the policy which your Lordships are to-day asked to accept the scales are precisely reversed—that is to say, the Arabs are to have the veto. The noble Marquess has denied that a veto is involved, but sub-paragraph (3) of paragraph 14, on page II of the White Paper, says that
no further Jewish immigration will be permitted unless the Arabs of Palestine are prepared to acquiesce in it.
If that is not veto it comes to something perilously near to it. And in regard to land, again the Jews can only get more land with the consent of a political majority who, it is well known, will never concede an extra dunam.
§ The question for us, my Lords, is: Is the Mandate a legal document, or is it not? If it is not, then those of us who are laymen have been grievously misled. Various Governments have sheltered themselves behind its provisions on the ground that they were bound, their hands were tied and they could not move at their own will. In the House of Commons, as long ago as April 3, 1930, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, then Prime Minister, said it was an international obligation from which there could be no question of receding. Later the White Paper of that year was issued. Your Lordships may not remember the circumstances as acutely as I do, because I happen, together with my noble friend Lord Rushcliffe, to have been a member of a Parliamentary Commission to Palestine and I have had to examine this matter with some closeness. Directly this policy was proclaimed, there was outcry from every 93 Tory newspaper in the land, and two very distinguished lawyers who were members of His Majesty's Government—one is still and one was until recently, Sir John Simon and Viscount Hailsham—issued a statement that the proposal of that White Paper (the Passfield White Paper, as it was called) which restricted immigration, was a betrayal of the Mandate. Then it was the Mandate, the whole Mandate and nothing but the Mandate. But at that time there was a pure-bred Labour Government in office. That made, of course, some difference. Now that we have this mongrel infliction at the present time, what we dare not do—it was betrayal in those days—becomes righteous realism in these days of a National Government.
Well, what does the Mandate mean? The Peel Commission sustained the view that its main purpose was the establishment of the Jewish National Home. The Shaw Commission, to which I have referred, agreed that it governed the entire situation. It has never been previously in doubt that it was to enable the Jewish people to obtain one place on earth where they might be as of right, and not on sufferance, and on the soil that was made glorious by their ancestors. The language of the Mandate appears to my mind to be clear. The preamble says
.… the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the Declaration originally made on November 2, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people.
Later it says:
Whereas His Britannic Majesty has accepted the Mandate in respect of Palestine and undertaken to exercise it on behalf of the League of Nations in conformity with the following provisions"—
and then the provisions are given.
§ Now, it seems to me that that conferred upon our country an almost sacred obligation. Whatever the letter of the Mandate may be interpreted to mean, the spirit of it, beyond all doubt, was the establishment of a National Home for the Jewish people. It is perfectly true that the Mandate does not define what the National Home means. It is, in my judgment, the worst drafted document that was ever issued or accepted by a responsible Government. The noble Marquess spoke about "the Mandate and the people who drew up the Mandate"—to quote his own 94 words—but the people who drew up the Mandate were ourselves. It was not forced upon us. The terms upon which it was drawn by ourselves were accepted. Yet look at what it says. First of all, we are to facilitate Jewish immigration and to develop close settlement on the land of the Jewish people, but at the same time we are not to prejudice the rights and position of other sections of the community. But the very first dunam of land that was allotted to the Jewish people was touching the borderland of those established rights and the position of the people there!
§ The thing is so confusing that I can almost forgive His Majesty's Government for not having any clear idea as to what it means. It is as though we were to pass a law saying that the manufacture and sale of intoxicating liquor in England shall immediately cease, provided that the drinking habits of the people are in no way interfered with; or that Socialists and Labour men may sit in both Houses of the British Parliament, provided that no notice is taken of anything that they say, and that nothing they do must be allowed to interfere with the privileges and rights of the possessing classes—which, my Lords, as you know, is precisely what happens at the present time.
If we do not know what the Mandate means there are statesmen still living who know what it meant to them at the time the Mandate was formulated. Mr. Lloyd George, giving evidence before the Royal Commission, said:
The idea was that the Jewish State was not to be set up immediately by the Peace Treaty without reference to the wishes of the majority of the inhabitants. On the other hand it was contemplated that when the time arrived for according representative institutions to Palestine, if the Jews had meanwhile responded to the opportunity afforded to them and had become a definite majority el the inhabitants, then Palestine would thus become a Jewish Commonwealth.
So that the whole thing depended on whether the Jewish people responded. That they did respond history will prove, and that they have created miracles of redemption in a somewhat desolate land is known to all who have had the privilege to see their work.
§ What does a National Home mean? What does it mean in the language of homely, wayfaring men? Does it mean when a people are petrified, as a minority 95 amid a majority of hostile people? Is it a home when you are an unwelcome lodger in the house of somebody else who hates and tries to injure you? If so, then the Jews already have their national home in several places: in Germany, Poland, Russia and elsewhere. "National Home" can only mean one thing: that is what a home means to the individual, a place where he may be by right and not on sufferance, a place where he can erect his own altars, a place that is indeed his home. That is what the word "home" always has meant, and it cannot mean anything else. It was the main purpose of the Mandate; all the rest was auxiliary and precautionary. Yet the Jews, for whose benefit it was established, are to be condemned to a perpetual minority. Immigration is to cease after five years. A State is to be created in which the Arabs, by a majority of two to one, will control the situation, control the sale of land, control immigration, and indeed control the life of the Jewish people. I venture to say that that was not the original purpose of the Mandate.
§ There is also the question of economic absorption. This in 1922 was proclaimed as the sole determining factor, and we may now remember in passing that Palestine at that time was divided. In order that the last shred of suspicion and of grievance should be taken away from the Arab population, the whole of Trans-Jordan was given to them. Now for political reasons, not economic, the Jews are to be restricted to one-third of the population. Here, I think, beyond all question—and I very carefully refrain from accusing His Majesty's Government of betraying any trust—at least it seems to me that there is an inescapable breach of a promise that was solemnly made. The noble Marquess said that economic absorptive capacity was never sacred to His Majesty's Government. Perhaps not, but the word of the British Government was sacred to the Jewish people. That is the thing that matters. The mind of His Majesty's Government is past finding out, even if I were to delay you by speaking for a long time. But it does seem to me an extraordinary thing that they accepted partition on the ground that these two races could never live in happiness together, and now they expect a minority to live in the proportion of one to two and be subject to Arab 96 law. It is to be noted, however, that the Jews are to have the privilege of maintaining the economic and financial structure of the State. I do not notice that there is anything to prevent them from developing that to the utmost extent.
§ Now I must hasten to my close. In trying to be as short as possible one has to speak without shades and qualifications, and to put things in rather a bald way. If the noble Marquess asks me to excuse him because his language was vigorous, he will perhaps return the compliment and understand the difficulty that I am in. I would say only this about the future. The Jewish people, in my belief, have been heroically restrained. They have suffered one indignity after another. The Government have never fulfilled their elementary duty of keeping order and preserving life. The Jews have given no trouble: they have been patient, creative and orderly. I cannot tell what the reactions to this policy which you are asked to thrust through will be, but it will be very deeply resented, rightly or wrongly. It does rot matter whether the thing is true or not for the moment: the Jewish people feel deeply wounded in their soul. I cannot help reflecting that before our time a deeply wounded Jewish Samson pulled the pillars of the house about his ears. We have missed a great opportunity. We might have had in the Eastern Mediterranean a great defensive bastion manned by a people passionately devoted to the soil of their fatherland. We have turned that people's mind to a sullen and resentful passivity. I believe that this is a wrong policy, and the Amendment which I have proposed suggests that it is inconsistent with the letter and the spirit of the Mandate, that it will not promote the peace desired, and that Parliament ought not to commit itself before the Mandates Commission has had an opportunity of considering it. I ask the support of your Lordships on this matter, not only because it is right but in order to preserve the honour of our nation. I beg to move.
Leave out all words after ("House") and insert ("being of the opinion that the proposals of His Majesty's Government relating to Palestine, as set out in Command Paper No. 6019, are inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Mandate and not calculated to secure the peaceful and prosperous development of Palestine, is of opinion that Parliament should not be committed pending the
examination of these proposals by the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations").—(Lord Snell.)
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
My Lords, once more the two Houses of Parliament are called upon to discuss the question of Palestine, an issue that has proved to be one of the most lamentable episodes in the modern history of the British Empire. Conspicuous to all the world, it has given food for the derision of hostile critics, it has brought suffering and death to hundreds and thousands of innocent people in Palestine, and it has caused the utmost distress of mind to many millions in all countries to whom Palestine is the land of all lands that is holy. I deeply regret to have to say that to my mind this policy which is now placed before your Lordships by His Majesty's Government is also not calculated to be the basis of a happy and a lasting solution. The noble Marquess who opened the discussion said that all thought must be abandoned of this policy not going through; that it will be pressed through as it stands. Now at last, he said, we have something definite, and we must cease havering and pursue this course to the end. I remember the noble Marquess himself two years ago at that desk using almost precisely the same language with regard to the recommendations of the Peel Commission. "Here," he said in effect, "is an authority, impartial and unanimous. They propose a definite plan for the partition of the country into two States, and the Government formally accept this plan, and will press it through." That plan is now dead and buried; and I ventured at that time, having an intimate knowledge of the country and of the two contending parties, to assure your Lordships that the partition scheme was utterly impracticable. So it proved to be, and I am bound to say, to-day, that this present plan also cannot be accepted.
The White Paper, it is true, does clear the air in certain particulars. There are passages in it which I for one welcome. It deals with one most important matter, fundamental to the whole controversy, the question whether any pledge was given by His Majesty's Government to the Arabs to induce them to enter the Great War on the side of the Allies, which pledge has now been broken. I say that that is fundamental to the issue, because 98 the vehemence and the bitterness shown by many Arabs in this conflict are largely due to the fact that they have been taught to believe that they have been tricked—that the representative of the British Government the High Commissioner for Egypt, Sir Henry McMahon, was sent to see the Sherif of Mecca soon after the outbreak of War, and made to him certain assurances on the strength of which the Arabs came with great fervour and energy into the War on the side of the Allies, and that amongst these assurances was the promise that Palestine should be included in their future domain.
For years and years that assertion has been allowed to go without being gainsaid. It is true that consistently successive Governments have declared that that was not so, but it is only now that the documents have been published and that the Government have made a formal and definite declaration that Palestine was not included in the McMahon pledge. Not unnaturally many people have asked: Why was it not declared in terms? Why was the wording of these letters obscure, giving rise to any possibility of uncertainty? Why, it is asked, was it not set down in words—"excluding Palestine"? The reason was that Palestine was not a country known to the Turkish Empire. There was no division of the Turkish Empire named Palestine. Although for years and centuries, here in this country, the name Palestine has been known, and everyone knows what its frontiers were in ancient times, in the Turkish Empire there was no such geographical unit. The wording therefore had to be somewhat obscure, and to be framed by reference to other districts, because also at that time no understanding had been reached between the British Government and our Ally the French Government, and any quite specific references to those parts of the country might have given rise to great diplomatic difficulties.
Now His Majesty's Government have declared categorically that Palestine was not included. To my mind that is undoubtedly the case, and is proved not merely by the wording of the document itself, which as I have said is obscure, but by two other facts. One is the fact that the British negotiator, Sir Henry McMahon, and his colleague Sir Gilbert Clayton, have both declared in terms since that date, that Palestine was not 99 included, and that it was so understood by the Arab leaders; and the word of those men of honour is not to be doubted. The second is that at the Conference in Paris after the War, when the future fate of Palestine had to be determined, the Arab delegation there, led by the Emir Feisal, who had taken a leading part in the Arab revolt, never once suggested that Palestine had been allotted to the Arabs by virtue of the McMahon letters. Many of your Lordships may have read an able book by George Antonius on The Arab Awakening, which omitted any reference to the vital fact that Sir Henry McMahon and his colleague Sir Gilbert Clayton had emphatically denied the foundation of his case. This matter is of vital importance. Furthermore, it has been said that Colonel Lawrence was himself embittered after the War because he held that the Arabs had been betrayed, and his own pledges had not been fulfilled, and that was so. But it is not reported that later, after the settlement reached in 1921 and 1922 with respect to the Arab dominions, at a conference which Mr. Winston Churchill held in Cairo, and which I among others attended, the whole disposition of affairs was altered, and afterwards Colonel Lawrence wrote as a footnote to a later edition of his book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, these words. He said that solutions had been foundfulfilling (I think) our promises in letter and spirit (where humanly possible) without sacrificing any interests of our Empire or any interest of the peoples concerned. So we were quit of the war-time Eastern adventure, with clean hands, but three years too late to earn the gratitude which peoples, if not States, can pay.This matter is now dealt with by the White Paper and I think in a satisfactory fashion.
The White Paper also deals, in a way which appears to me in all the circumstances to have been wise, with the vexed question of a Jewish State. It is quite true that immediately after the War many of us concerned in this matter did contemplate that some day or other there might be established a Jewish State. Mr. Neville Chamberlain used language in that sense and so did Mr. Winston Churchill and General Smuts and myself incidentally. I do not like placing myself in the same sentence, but I did use lan- 100 guage of that kind at that time, though fuller knowledge convinced I think everyone that the establishment of a Jewish State covering the whole of Palestine was not possible, and in the Mandate of 1922 the words were used of the Balfour Declaration "Jewish National Home" and that was accepted by the Zionist Organisation.
It is true that a minority, a small body who used to be called Revisionists and are now known as the New Zionists, mostly young men, of extreme character, have always claimed that the whole of Palestine should be constituted a Jewish State, and that a certain section of orthodox Jews depending on Biblical prophecies refuse to contemplate any other destiny for Palestine than that. But the Zionist Organisation, the great movement of Jews throughout the world, has not pursued that policy, and has accepted in 1922 and since the more moderate proposal of a Jewish National Home in Palestine. Unhappily, as I think, the Peel Commission—not the Jews but the Peel Commission—revived the notion of a sovereign Jewish State occupying a part of Palestine. And now His Majesty's Government unequivocally declare in the White Paper that it is no part of their policy that Palestine should become a Jewish State. In view of the fact that there are a million Arabs in that country, it appears to me that no other conclusion could be reached.
But I fear that is all that I can say in acceptance of the provisions of this White Paper. The most unsatisfactory of its proposals are those which relate to immigration. During the next five years it is to be limited. One cannot say what the economic absorptive capacity (to use that sanctified phrase) may allow in the way of immigration, but certainly more than the 10,000 a year that are contemplated. Perhaps the possible immigration may have been reduced by a half. Then at the end of the five years all Jewish immigration is to stop—though Arab immigration may continue—all Jewish immigration is to stop unless the Arabs acquiesce in its continuance. Well, of course, that is a veto. The noble Marquess demurs to the word "veto." The situation will be this: if the Arabs say Yes, the immigration can go on; if the Arabs say No, it is to stop. Is not that the situation? And is not it right to say that the Arabs consequently are given 101 a veto upon continued immigration? And what does that mean? That on a given day all Jewish immigration is to cease; for of course the Arabs, so far as we can at present contemplate, will exercise their veto. On a given date no more Jews are to come in. Even the settlers who are there may not bring in their parents or their children who are left in other lands. No matter how great may be the demand for skilled Jewish labour, no matter how seriously the stoppage of immigration might interfere with the economic development of the country, it is to stop. The great building industry which has been flourishing on the rapid expansion of the Jewish population will become stagnant. Capital will no longer be brought in by tens of millions, as has been the case, adding enormously to the prosperity of the country and of all sections in it.
Now why is this being done? That it will strangle the Jewish National Home is certain. Why is it being done? If this Jewish enterprise had been a failure, if all the people were poverty-stricken, if it could be said that they were not engaged in productive labour, that the whole of the Jewish National Home was parasitic on the Jewish communities of the world, then I could understand the Government saying, "This must stop at the end of five years; your experiment has not been a success." But the opposite is true. The Peel Commission again and again say that the enterprise has been conspicuously successful. They say that no impartial person who has seen the Jewish National Home could do other than wish it well. And this very White Paper speaks of it as "a remarkable constructive effort which must command the admiration of the world." Stronger language than that could not be used. If again it were proved that the Arab population had suffered from this development, then I could understand that Great Britain would say, "Injustice is being done, hardship is being inflicted, we cannot consent to this, and so immigration must stop."
If the Arab population had declined, and the people had left the country, all that could have been said; but here again the opposite is the case. The noble Marquess himself said that the value which had been received by the Arabs from the development of the Jewish 102 National Home could not be exaggerated. The spokesman of His Majesty's Government, proposing that this enterprise should be brought to a stop by an Arab veto, says that the benefits that it has brought to the Arabs themselves cannot be exaggerated. As to people being driven out of the country, the Arab population of Palestine has increased since the War by 50 per cent. What other Arab country can show anything like that? It has increased by more than 50 per cent.—from 600,000 to 950,000. In fact, the increase of the Arab population, through natural growth and immigration, is exactly equal to the influx of Jews from this great immigration effort: both parties have gained to the extent of 350,000 in the same period.
The noble Marquess spoke about the dangers that might arise from a class of landless Arabs driven from their land, and in previous years much was said about thousands and thousands of Arabs who had been forced off the soil by Jewish immigration and land purchase. An inquiry was made after a previous Commission in 1931 and 1932, set up under the direction of the Colonial Office by the High Commissioner in Palestine, and out of that Arab population, then about 800,000, it was found that 664 cases were established of people having left the land, but of those only 347 desired to go back to the land. So that the whole problem, as judged by those figures, means that there are perhaps 300 cases which have unfortunately happened in a population of 800,000. I deeply regret that there should have been those few, because both the laws of Palestine and the practice of the Zionist bodies have aimed at safeguarding, so far as possible, the people who have been established on the land. And if it is essential that they should be moved, for example, in cases where there are large malarial swamps, which have to be drained at an immense expenditure of capital—there may be some small settlements in them, and the people have to be moved—always it is required that there should be alternative land and provision made for them.
Now what are the proposals with regard to immigration? The critical page in this document is page 10, the first paragraph. I will venture to read to your Lordships two sentences:The alternatives before His Majesty's Government are either (i) to seek to expand 103 the Jewish National Home indefinitely by immigration against the strongly expressed will of the Arab people in the country; or (ii) to permit further expansion of the Jewish National Home by immigration only if the Arabs are prepared to acquiesce in it.But those are not the only alternatives. What should we say of an engineer who was called in to consider how a river should be treated, and who should say: "There are only two alternatives in dealing with this river: either you must allow it to flood the whole of the surrounding country, or you must clam it at its source"? We should say that that was not a particularly competent engineer. And we must say the same: these are not particularly capable or resourceful statesmen.
And immediately, in the very next paragraph, they contradict their own assertions that there are these two alternatives—either to allow indefinite expansion, which will swamp the Arabs, or else to stop immigration at its source, failing Arab agreement—because in that next paragraph they say:It has been urged that all further Jewish immigration into Palestine should be stopped forthwith.That, of course, is the Arab claim.His Majesty's Government cannot accept such a proposal. It would damage the whole of the financial and economic system of Palestine and thus affect adversely the interests of Arabs and Jews alike. Moreover, in the view of His Majesty's Government abruptly to stop further immigration would be unjust to the Jewish National Home.They reject, quite rightly, both alternatives, and say immigration must continue, but only for five years. Why should these considerations apply to a period of five years and not to the sixth? If there is a third alternative for the time being, why should it be said that that third alternative cannot possibly apply at a later date?
Then the last paragraph which I was quoting goes on to say:But, above all, His Majesty's Government are conscious of the present unhappy plight of large numbers of Jews who seek a refuge from certain European countries ….That is a forcible argument, and it has led them to reject both their own alternatives. But here again one cannot be sure that such considerations would not still apply after the preliminary five-year period. It is suggested that the Jewish refugees from the countries of persecution may go elsewhere, and British Guiana, for 104 example, is mentioned as though that now removed from this Palestine question the very important consideration of the fate of the refugees. I have read the reports of the experts on British Guiana, and I think anyone who has read them with an impartial mind must doubt whether in two or three years from now as many as boo people could be settled in British Guiana, or in five years as many as 5,000, even if the conditions proved to be as favourable as the more optimistic experts consider likely. As for its providing a settlement of the refugee question, it certainly cannot do so; nor indeed can Palestine, because Palestine is too small to accept all the refugees. But, at all events, tens of thousands have gone there and found a way of escape from intolerable oppression, and tens of thousands more could go there, consistent with the economic absorptive capacity of the country, if His Majesty's Government did not slam the door in their faces.
No, these two alternatives—either unregulated immigration to swamp the Arabs or its complete cessation on Arab veto—are not the only alternatives, and these parts of the White Paper show a lamentable lack of resourcefulness, and I must say reflect very little credit on the members of the Government who drafted it. The actual situation proposed by the White Paper can be summed up in a single sentence. The Government link together immigration on the one hand and the constitutional question on the other, and they say that Jewish immigration is to stop after five years unless it has the assent of the Arabs, and Arab independence is not to be granted after ten years unless it has the assent of the Jews. That is the proposal. After five years the question of immigration is to be stopped unless the Arabs agree, and after ten years Arab independence is to be established provided the Jews agree. In other words, each side is given a veto on the aspirations of the other in order to induce both to become friends. Both of them will, of course, exercise their veto, and I presume His Majesty's Government proceed on the principle that, since two negatives make a positive, that is the way to secure a general settlement.
THE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
I do not quite follow the argument of the Jewish veto. I cannot find anything of it in the White Paper.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
It says that after ten years the Arabs have to agree to such obligations as relate to the special position in Palestine of the Jewish National Home. They have to consent to the Jewish National Home. I am sorry I had not anticipated that question, but there are words here in these paragraphs that both sections of the country are to take part. It is contemplated that the conditions will be such that both sections will take part in the future government, and that His Majesty's Government will not establish the independent Palestine State—that is on page 8, sub-paragraph (8) of paragraph 10—if it appears that "contrary to their hope, circumstances require the postponement of the establishment of the independent State."
TUE MARQUESS OF DUFFERIN AND AVA
I must make it clear that if my noble friend cares to read into these words a Jewish veto on the establishment of the independent Palestinian State, he must do it on his own authority. I myself do not accept that interpretation, nor does His Majesty's Government.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
I certainly thought it was the policy of His Majesty's Government to induce the Jews to agree to the limitation on immigration by the Arabs having a veto on it if they did not consent, and to induce the Arabs to agree to the establishment of fair conditions for the Jewish National Home at the end of the ten-year period for the reason that if they did not win the assent of the Jews, and if there was not a fair prospect of co-operation between the two sections, the Government would not proceed with the establishment of the independent national Arab State. I think that is clearly implied in the White Paper. Why should the independent national State not be definitely promised at the end of ten years? It is not definitely promised. It is promised on certain conditions. His Majesty's Government contemplate that these conditions may not be fulfilled, and they say that in that event they will go to the Mandates Commission and to neighbouring States, and consider with them what should be done and why this independent State should not be set up. Obviously the only reason why the independent national State should not be set up is if His Majesty's Government were not satisfied that the Jews would co-operate and that the Jews would receive 106 fair terms for the Jewish National Home. It is true to say it would be Jewish opposition to the independent national State which would at that time prevent its coming into operation, and that there are, in effect, veto powers given to the one and to the other. Perhaps the "veto" is not so definite as in the other case. I should not say that "veto" must be accepted as a precise definition, but in effect that is what it would come to at the end of ten years.
Let me, in the last part of my speech, come to what appears to me to be a possible way out of the impasse in which we are now. I should again make it clear, as I have done previously, that I speak in no representative capacity. I speak neither for noble Lords on these Benches nor for any Jewish or other organisation concerned with Palestine. My last speech in the House of Lords on this subject brought upon my head most vehement protests from the Jewish people of Palestine, who were exceedingly indignant with me—I think mainly because one or two sentences in which I referred to the ex-Mufti of Palestine were divorced from their context and telegraphed out to Palestine, giving the impression that I was a defender of the Mufti, which I certainly was not and never intended to be. I would suggest that there are two preliminary conditions that must now be recognised in dealing with the question of Palestine
The first is that at the present stage, in this year 1939, no final solution of any kind is possible. Feelings are so embittered, passions have risen so high, and the situation there is so grave and difficult that the wit of man could not devise any acceptable and lasting solution now, and that the White Paper, I think very wisely, recognises. But where the White Paper is in error, if I may say so, is in trying to forecast what may happen five years or ten years hence. As the noble Marquess said, the situation was left open. It is to some extent but not adequately. I do not think that any attempt should be made now to lay down conditions after five years, or after a decade. The whole situation then may be entirely different. Who could have foreseen in 1929 what would be the condition of Palestine now, or the conditions in Europe and the Far East, and how can we tell now what will be the situation in Palestine in 1944 or in 1949? But meanwhile, 107 if there is to be an interim period, there are certain obvious safeguards that should be conceded to both sides. It would not be right to shut down the development of the Jewish National Home during the intervening period until, possibly, in a calmer atmosphere a solution might be found, nor, on the other hand, should the Arabs be kept in a state of apprehension that they may be in the meanwhile outnumbered, swamped and dominated. I think that the situation must be kept open if there is to be an interim period.
Secondly, it appears to me quite clear that you will get no solution on a territorial, geographical basis. Many people are still hankering after some kind of division of Palestine into States or into Cantons. One reads about that in the Press and elsewhere. I am convinced for my own part that that is not feasible. The Peel Commission put forward a plan which involved the creation of a Jewish State and that Jewish State was to have 46 per cent. of its population Arabs. Forty-six per cent. were to be Arabs! That was to be a Jewish State! Imagine what would have been the Legislative Assembly of that State if it contained one hundred members, fifty-four of them Jews and forty-six Arabs. That was to be the Jewish State; and at the same time one-third of the Jews of Palestine were left outside it altogether. Then, when the Woodhead Commission went out to try and divide the country into two spheres, they found that the only homogeneous State they could suggest was a miserable little patch of land on the sea coast. The Jews at once indignantly rejected that, and it was not pressed in any quarter.
You may have certain areas in which land may be reserved for purchase by the Arabs. That is quite a feasible proposition. There are still parts of the country which are mainly Arab, but not large enough or so distributed as to constitute a State or a political area, but which might certainly be scheduled as reserved for land purchase, if it were found to be necessary and desirable, as I think it may be. And there are towns like Tel Aviv and Nablus which on the one side or the other have homogeneous populations and which certainly could have local governing bodies of a specific type. But, apart from that, the country in its very nature and in the distribution of its population is not 108 susceptible of political division on racial lines.
I see that four surviving members of the Peel Commission have written a letter in which they advocate again the federal solution, but they use the federal solution on this occasion in a wider sense as involving a possible union of Palestine with neighbouring Arab States. That is a different matter. I have myself advocated that in this House and elsewhere on various occasions. I think it is highly desirable that the venue should be changed, that the whole conception should be altered, and that could be done if Palestine were not considered merely as a small State by itself but as a member of a possible confederation of States which would include not only Trans-Jordan and Syria, but also some of the remoter Arab Principalities. If that were done then the whole question would wear a different aspect, because, if Arab federation came into being, there would not be the same fear and resentment felt at a great increase of the Jewish population in Palestine West of the Jordan. On the contrary, it might be welcomed as a most useful economic and financial element in the whole of the Federation and might possibly tend to bring about that co-operation between the Jews and Arabs which led to the glories of Islam in the days of their illustrious Empire.
But if this is to come about, if there it to be an interim period pending a development of that kind, or pending a change of atmosphere, it is absolutely indispensable that both sides, for the sake of peace, should consent to some modification of their full demands. Both sides must be pressed to make some sacrifice, and on the Jewish side the sacrifice could only be consent to a limitation of immigration, not only on economic grounds, but also definitely and avowedly on political grounds, in order to gain peace and in order to secure a time for passions to quieten down and for co-operation to grow. In my view the Jews would be wise, over this interim period, leaving the matter open for a more distant future, to consent to immigration being restricted so that Jews should not at the end of the period number more than, say, forty per cent. of the whole population, or whatever might be agreed upon. That is a possible alternative which the Government White Paper 109 ignores. On the one hand, there should not be an unlimited immigration which would leave the Arabs fearing that they might be quite overwhelmed. Immigration should be limited to a certain proportion so that the Arabs might feel that in the meanwhile they would not be swamped and overwhelmed and dominated; and if they were allotted a reserve in certain areas at the same time that would further safeguard their position.
On the other hand, the Arabs should be pressed, I think justifiably pressed in view of the fact that a Jewish State is not now contemplated, to withdraw their uncompromising opposition to any Jewish immigration and to any development of the Jewish National Home in Palestine. Furthermore, there ought to be the provision to which everyone I think would agree, that the Holy Places, whether Moslem or Christian or Jewish, should be absolutely safeguarded and in the hands in which they now are. They should be safeguarded in perpetuity and in all circumstances, even if the Mandate came to an end; and that, if necessary, might be done by the Moslem Holy Places being placed under the protection of the neighbouring Arab States. Furthermore, measures should be taken for the development of Trans-Jordan with the assistance of a guaranteed British loan.
I think that we have all long been of the opinion that the material factors are not the only ones, nor are they the most important. It is no use saying to the Arabs: "You are better off with the Jews there." The Arabs are thinking of national prestige. It is no use on the other hand saying to the Jews: "Why don't you go to British Guiana or San Domingo or wherever it may be?" Those projects may have some value, but the Jews, on the whole, are not interested. They are interested in Palestine, and in Palestine they care not only for the agricultural and industrial development of the country but also for the cultural and spiritual development. Above all else, those are the factors which must be taken into account. Nor is population, mere numbers, the only factor to be envisaged. An eminent writer recently said:The only reasoned views of life which Europe knows came from Greece and from Palestine.Palestine—that land which gave to the 110 world prophets, and saints and sages, and might do so again.
§ 5.10 p.m
§ LORD RENNELL
My Lords, if I rise to say a few words in support of the policy set forth in the Command Paper it is because it has occurred to me, after carefully studying it, that it offers perhaps the only solution which at the present time has any prospect of success. We have been confronted with a problem due very largely to our desire, having always before us the idea of fair play, to give fair consideration to two divergent claims, the antagonism between which has been very much encouraged I think by our failure in the first instance to define clearly the extent and limitations of undertakings which each of the parties receiving them regarded as justifying their own aspirations.
Such aspirations on the part of the Zionist group have no doubt also in later times been stimulated by the very strong feeling roused throughout the world, long subsequently to the Balfour Declaration, by the treatment in certain countries of the Jewish communities settled in them and the urgent necessity of finding room for the victims of persecution elsewhere. However strongly we may, indeed we must, feel on this subject, we should not allow sentiment on this particular issue of Palestine to out-balance the sense of justice to the Arabs, as we have come conventionally to call the other populations in Palestine, very much as the French designate des Arabes the population of North Africa, although of course the proportion of them is very small. One cannot equitably contemplate the dispossession, either of their lands or of a future voice in the administration, of those peasant farmers who have been in occupation there for much more than one thousand years. I was very glad to hear it announced by the noble Marquess that there would be consideration given to some control of the transfer of land in view of the temptation offered to primitive people by the large prices offered for its surrender.
The noble Lord who introduced the Amendment from the Labour Benches spoke to us in very solemn tones of the gravity of violating what was regarded by the Jewish people as a definite and concrete engagement. But, so far as I 111 have been able to make out, very much the same feeling is entertained by the Arab population. In the old days, when I was more in touch with Eastern people I was always very much impressed by a proverbial expression they used when they desired to confirm the inviolability of some engagement they had undertaken. The words were: "Kalimat Ingiliz"—"the word of an Englishman." I think it is quite as serious that we should be concerned to fulfil our engagements to one party as to another. Therefore it seems to me that we are driven back on compromise.
The idea of a National Home for the Jews no doubt means different things to different people. Personally, I had always interpreted it myself rather in a social than in a territorial sense. I hoped it might have been possible, somewhat on the analogy of the Vatican City, to set aside a certain area—not larger, say, than a small English county—where a Jewish University might be founded and administrative offices established which would be able to issue passports without the obligation of residence to Jews deprived of any other nationality, in order to give them a definite and regular status enabling them to move from place to place and establish themselves elsewhere for their lawful occasions. I had at that time some justification for believing that a solution on those lines would not have been unacceptable to a good many of the Arabs. It would, of course, have implied sovereign powers in a small symbolic State in Palestine. That, I suppose, would have been an outrage to International Law as we have been accustomed and brought up to understand it, but the world has moved on since the days of Grotius and even of Mill, and I do not think that sort of objection need daunt us.
It appears now that any idea of partition, even on such a minute scale, has been definitely abandoned, so, as I say, we can only look for a compromise. I was very glad to hear my noble friend Viscount Samuel approaching the problem from this point of view and putting forward arguments with which I must say I had a great deal of sympathy. A compromise, of course, will not satisfy the extremist partisans on either side, but we must have faith and believe that it will go a longish way to satisfy reasonable ambitions. Such a compromise is, I think, 112 really to be found in the statement put forward by His Majesty's Government, but which, if one reads the text carefully, is realised to be to a great extent provisional and subject to modification later.
I must say I fail to see any justification for the contention in the Amendment that its proposals are inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Mandate. That spirit does not connote permanent mandatory tutelage, though modification and termination of the Mandate would have to be referred to the League which confers it. I would, however, submit, in view of the conditions laid down in paragraph 10 of the Statement, sub-paragraphs (1), (2) and (6), for the institution of a future Palestinian State, that some such procedure as I suggested for an autonomous Jewish State might be taken into consideration as likely to make the compromise more acceptable—namely, that while the future State should have power to restrict immigration according to capacity for absorption and to control the transfer of land, it should be enabled to confer Palestinian nationality on non-resident Jews who have been deprived of any citizenship and to issue to them nationality registration papers and passports enabling them to establish themselves where they desire as Palestinian citizens in other countries which have recognised the new State. It is not likely that any of those Jews who have been for long citizens of countries where they have been assimilated as a worthy and esteemed element would desire to renounce the nationality they enjoy in favour of Palestinian nationality. The suggestion, therefore, would only affect that section which had been deprived of any status, and in any case no one should be allowed to claim a double nationality. The cost of maintaining agencies in other countries for the issue of nationality papers might be covered by requiring periodical renewal of their registration, for which appropriate fees might be charged. The future Constitution of the Palestinian State should also, in my opinion, include provision for a Jewish University, which might be accorded certain extraterritorial privileges.
A very comprehensible sentiment has no doubt played a large part in the claims which the Zionist movement has advanced. While the solution indicated—indeed, almost any solution but their 113 own—may not satisfy those who envisage the establishment of a powerful and dominant Jewish State in Palestine, I cannot but think that the symbolic value of Palestinian nationality would mean a very great deal to a member of that race. The Jews would with the passage of time probably realise it as more to be appreciated than a continued aspiration towards exclusive conditions which it is in practice impossible to realise. If this principle were accepted, that a Palestinian nationality might be accorded without actual residence in the contemplated Palestinian State, the fear of the other local populations that they would be swamped by immigration would be considerably eliminated. While therefore, I support the Government's statement of their intention, I should like to submit that when the time comes for the future consideration of the proposed State, consideration should be given to some action more or less on the lines which I have submitted towards the future status of Palestinian citizens.
§ 5.22 p.m.
THE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY
My Lords, I very greatly regret that, as I was in duty bound to preside over the Convocation of Canterbury this afternoon, I was prevented from hearing the speech of the noble Marquess who moved this Motion, and also the speech of the noble Lord opposite who moved his Amendment. I have no doubt that what I have to say would have been modified and improved if I had had that privilege. In any case I must speak with the greatest possible diffidence, because I imagine that we all agree that this Palestinian problem is one of the most difficult, complicated and intractable that any company of statesmen ever had to face. At the same time, I have taken such a long, deep and close interest in Palestine that I cannot be altogether silent.
We all agree that it is useless at this stage to review all the events that have occurred in the long and unhappy story which lies behind these Motions. It is quite useless to discuss the wisdom or the unwisdom of the famous Balfour Declaration. How little could any have foreseen the entanglements to which it would reach! It is useless to consider the ambiguities both in the meaning of the term "National Home" and in the meaning of the promises given to the Arabs in the 114 McMahon letters, and the way in which the whole matter was allowed to drift. It is useless to consider whether any other terms that could have been used would have produced any other situation, and it is still more useless to grieve over the lamentable events of the last two or three years in Palestine. Also I suppose we are agreed that it is hopeless now to discuss the question of partition, although I am bold enough still to think—in spite of the noble Viscount opposite, who has so much more reason to speak than I have—that if that policy had been adopted at once by the Government and had been immediately pursued with courage, it might have proved better than these other suggestions as a solution of the problem.
But it is otiose to consider these matters now. We have to face the situation with which at the present time we are confronted. I think the Government have made a most gallant effort to face that situation. They have held their Conference. It was right, and I only wish, as I have already said in this House, that it had been held earlier, before passions had become as embittered as they are. I must also pay my tribute of admiration to the patience and pertinacity of the Secretary of State in his conduct of these long and difficult negotiations. But when I come to the actual Government policy as outlined in this White Paper, then I am bound in honesty to say that I have very grave misgivings. I cannot feel that it holds out a prospect of reasonable justice to the Jews. Consider their position—as indeed it was put before your Lordships by the noble Viscount opposite. In 1914 they were 80,000; they are now more than 450,000. They have been encouraged to enter the country; they have been encouraged to invest great sums of money in industrial and other enterprises; they have erected very noble buildings; and, apart from the industrial and agricultural improvements which they have wrought, they have set a seal upon the genuineness of their belief in a Jewish culture of their own by their noble University in Jerusalem.
As far as concerns the results of their presence in the part of Palestine in which they chiefly dwell, those of us who have seen those Jewish settlements must feel that they are a fulfilment of the old prophesy that "the desert shall blossom as the rose." All the while that they have 115 carried out a plan about which the noble Viscount rightly quoted what was said, that it ought to excite the admiration of the world, they have been buoyed up by the thought that in some special way this territory which they have so wonderfully improved would justify the title of a National Home. Hitherto the immigration of the Jews has been governed by the limits of what has been called "economic absorptive capacity." I am told that if immigration for the next five years is confined to the limits of the White Paper, it will only reach about one-half of the possible economic absorptive capacity of the country, and then it is to cease altogether when the numbers reach one-third of the total population, unless the Arabs are prepared to acquiesce in an extension. If the Arabs were willing to allow an extension over that one-third of the population, another of the wonders of the world would have occurred! The position is, therefore, that the Jews are reduced to the status of a permanent minority in a preponderatingly Arab State. After all their hopes, they shall return in their National Home to that minority status which has been their lot through long centuries in every part of the world!
I venture to think that it was precisely from this permanent minority status that they had hoped to escape. They had hoped that in one place upon this earth this people of something like sixteen and a half millions might have a sphere of their own, where they could show what was in them, where they could be masters of their own destiny and affairs, and where there could be a centre of Jewish life, culture, and influence throughout the world. If they have, for obvious reasons, thrown very special emphasis upon numbers, I believe that in their hearts what Zionists have desired more than anything is that they should get their freedom from this minority status. Now, I have to repeat, they are given the prospect that the minority status will be permanent, and whatever a National Home may have meant—we all know how many interpretations are put upon it—it surely cannot have meant that. It surely must have meant that somewhere in Palestine there would be a place where the Jews would be able to fulfil their aspirations, in some territory in which they had some autonomous control.
116 I have always had the greatest possible sympathy with the Arabs. I am bound to say that those who have been in Palestine cannot but have that sympathy. It is very widely felt in this country. I recognise the force of their claims and of their fears, but I feel bound to quote to your Lordships some words spoken in this House in 1923 by Lord Milner, at the very time when he professed himself in favour of a pro-Arab policy. I quote them as showing that it is not possible to regard the Arabs as those to whom a predominating influence in the future of Palestine should be entrusted. Lord Milner said:Palestine can never be regarded as a country on the same footing as the other Arab countries. You cannot ignore the fact that this is the cradle of two of the great religions of the world. It is a sacred land to the Arabs, but it is also a sacred land to the Jew and the Christian, and the future of Palestine cannot possibly be left to be determined by the temporary impressions and feelings of the Arab majority in the country of the present day.Then, I submit, it is still less reasonable that it should be determined by a permanent Arab majority in a single future Palestinian State.
I am well aware of other reasons, of another kind, which lie apparently behind these proposals, and which have led the Government to be particularly careful lest they should offend Arab susceptibilities. I recognise the force of those reasons. I think they may be exaggerated, but at least I cannot think they are sufficient to justify what seems like very scant justice to the Jews. I could not myself use the language which comes very bitterly from the lips of that most remarkable man Dr. Weizmann, that this White Paper is a breach of faith. I am quite certain His Majesty's Government themselves have no kind of consciousness that this is the fact, and I am sure it certainly was not in their minds, but can we be surprised that Dr. Weizmann and his comrades regard it almost as taking back all that had been promised? Certainly they feel it so strongly that it is useless to dismiss from our minds that resistance to these proposals on the part of the Jewish community in Palestine will be obstinate and bitter.
Remembering the desire of all our hearts that this strife should come to an end, I cannot but wonder whether on one condition the Zionist leaders might not 117 persuade the Jews in Palestine to abstain from acts of violence, or even of passive resistance, which can only increase the present evils and exaggerate the evils which are yet to come. What is that condition? That there should be some hope at the end of this period of transition of a better prospect for the Jews than the White Paper at present holds out. Is any such hope possible? I think that the answer to that question depends upon the answer to another, and after what was said by the noble Viscount I do not think your Lordships will be surprised when I put that other question. It is whether a single unitary State, with an Arab majority, is the only possible plan? In the five years of transition, before the final form of the Constitution is decided, might it not appear that a federal system would be better? Of course that would mean that there would be at least large autonomous provinces for the Jews and the Arabs, but would also mean—at any rate could be regarded as meaning—that the system would not be limited to Palestine proper, but would embrace areas outside the artificial structure of frontiers created only twenty years ago.
This is the question which, as your Lordships have seen, has been raised in a letter to The Times signed by the surviving members of the Peel Commission. I think that anything which comes from members of the Peel Commission is entitled to our most careful consideration. After all, they produced what is admittedly one of the very ablest Reports ever laid before Parliament, and admittedly had a special insight into Palestinian problems and knowledge of Palestinian conditions. Your Lordships will have noticed that they suggest that this is a better thing to aim at than the fulfilment of the policy of the White Paper. I notice that the Secretary of State in another place does not close the door to the consideration of it. Your Lordships may have read his words about the future Constitution: "It might be a unitary State, it might be a federal State. This is not prejudged in the White Paper." The difficulties may be very great, and may seem almost insuperable, but I believe that it would at least secure for the Jews some real autonomy without injustice to the Arabs. If the possibility of this plan is not barred, and if His Majesty's Government would let it be plainly known that they are prepared to 118 give it full and careful consideration, and if meanwhile they are not content to let things drift during these five years, but will themselves initiate every effort to see, by communication with those who are involved, how far such a federal system could be created, then I wonder whether Dr. Weizmann and his friends might not be persuaded during those five years, as I say, to call their people off from violence and passive resistance.
I suggest that this of all times is not one in which we in this country can afford even the appearance of treating lightly promises on which we have led others to trust. It is for that reason that even at the last minute I make this appeal, though I know how natural it is for your Lordships to say: "Well, in this long affair the Government have made up their mind, let us stand by it and regard it at last as bringing finality." Admittedly it does not mean finality, and possibly along the lines which I have only roughly suggested a better solution may be found. I close by saying that I share with you all a longing, which no words can express, that at long last we might see this Palestine, with all its hallowed memories, a place of good will, and not of ceaseless strife.
§ 5.41 p.m.
THE EARL OF LYTTON
My Lords, like the most reverend Primate, I wish it were possible for me to give support to the Motion which has been moved by the noble Marquess. I wish it, because I know how much time and careful thought the Secretary of State for the Colonies has given to it, and how sincerely he has tried to do justice to all parties. But, like the most reverend Primate, I feel I cannot support the Motion for reasons which I will endeavour to express to your Lordships. I read with care the speech which the Secretary of State made in another place in defence of this policy, and I can honestly say that I agreed with a great part of his speech except for this one fact, that it seemed to me to bear no relation whatever to the policy which it was defending. I cannot understand how the same people can defend both the recommendations of the Royal Commission in favour of partition and the policy embodied in the White Paper which is before us this afternoon. I can understand that some of your Lordships may favour one of these policies and others may favour the other. I can even understand 119 how some noble Lords, like the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, are opposed to both. What I cannot understand is how anybody who is defending the first can to-day defend the second. At least in another place it was a new Secretary of State who put this policy forward; but in your Lordships' House it is from the same voice that we have to accept the recommendations of both.
I realise what a very difficult task the noble Marquess had, and I have every sympathy with him. When he told us that we had havered and dithered too long I felt he was almost thinking he was a member of the Opposition, and forgetting he was supporting the policy of the Government of which he is so prominent a member. I have often heard epithets of that kind used by an Opposition against the Government, but it is the first time in my Parliamentary experience that I have heard a member of the Government describe the policy of the Government to which he belonged in those terms. I do not know whether previous Secretaries of State, like my noble friend Lord Swinton, or the present colleagues of the noble Marquess will thank him for his description of the policy on which they have been engaged for the last few years. The speech of the noble Marquess bristled with controversial points, which I do not propose to answer, because I have no desire either to create or to increase controversy. I only want as shortly as I can to give to your Lordships the reasons why I am unable to support the policy of the White Paper.
The reasons are these. In my opinion this policy will not bring peace to Palestine. It is inconsistent with pledges and promises, solemnly made and often repeated to the Jews, and it will not secure either the respect or the friendship of those Arabs who are at present hostile to the existing régime. And, lastly, I feel it will lower the prestige of this country, and seriously impair our relations with the United States of America. It is obvious that no one who thinks that the policy recommended to us this afternoon will have those consequences could possibly defend it. Let me therefore take these points in order, and give to your Lordships the reasons for the opinion I hold.
First, it will not bring peace to Palestine. I say that because, although I am 120 convinced that it is untrue to say that Jews and Arabs cannot live in peace in Palestine, I am equally convinced that there is one condition essential to that harmony being achieved, and that condition is that neither should fear the domination of the other. That is not merely an expression of opinion. What I say is based upon personal experience. I have had close contact with Palestine for the last eight years. In the company of which I am Chairman we employ some 800 Jews and Arabs in almost exactly equal numbers, and there has never been the slightest friction between them. They have worked for a common purpose in perfect harmony and sympathy with each other. And why? Because in the first instance politics was eliminated from the business on which they were engaged, and, secondly, because we were able to afford them complete physical protection. And I would ask your Lordships to remember, when we speak about Arab hostility, and this opinion and that opinion of Arabs, that it is not true to say that all the Arabs of Palestine feel in this way. In fact, there have been, I think, even more Arab victims of the recent terrorist crimes than Jewish victims.
Our workmen, just because they were not concerned with politics and refused to go out on strike during the Arab strike, were threatened with their lives, and they came to us and said: "What are we to do? Can you protect us?" We said: "Certainly we can protect you." And the whole of the property of our company is surrounded by an electrified wire entanglement, which affords complete security for those who live and work inside, and because that security is afforded to them we did not lose a single man. The relations between our Arab and Jewish workmen were as harmonious during those troubled times as they have always been. I am convinced that if it were possible to afford an equal security to the Arab population in the whole of Palestine against the mere handful of terrorists who are responsible for these outrages and disorders, you would find an equal harmony was possible. I am convinced that the attitude of our Arab workers is also the attitude of the majority of the Arab population of Palestine, and that the opinions of a small number of terrorists no more represent the opinions of the Arabs of Palestine than they represent the opinions of Indians in India.
121 Though I refer to the operations of these people as terrorism, I do not deny for a moment that, however large or small their numbers may be, the Arabs who are opposed to the political régime in Palestine are very sincere in their attitude. Their opposition is based upon a fear—the fear that if Jewish immigration into that country continues unchecked, it is merely a question of time before they must find themselves in a minority, and the fear that all their political interests will be dominated by a majority of Jews. The White Paper does not remove that fear; it merely transfers it from one to the other. The fact that under this scheme the Jews will be placed in exactly the same position, with the certainty that they must for all time be a minority in Palestine, as every-where else in the world, is a feature which will defeat the object of the White Paper. This policy means the creation of an Arab State to which the Jews will no longer have any access as of right. That is a policy which, as other speakers have said, I am certain the Jews will never accept. I am confident that all their resources—and they are great—will be used to resist it, and for that reason I say this policy will not bring peace to Palestine.
Secondly, I say it is inconsistent with the promises made in the past to the Jews. Let me remind your Lordships what these promises are. There was, first, the Balfour Declaration which promised, not just to the Jews in Palestine, but to Jews scattered throughout the world, that they might come to Palestine and make a National Home in that country. Secondly, there are the terms of the Mandate under which we administer the country, and which embodied that promise and placed upon the Mandatory Government an obligation to facilitate it in every possible way. Thirdly, there is the White Paper of 1922, which assured the Jews that they were in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance, and went on to explain that their numbers would be regulated only by the absorptive capacity of the country. The noble Marquess says that this formula, "the absorptive capacity of the country," has no sacred character for His Majesty's Government. I would ask him has also this assurance of the British Secretary of State, that the Jews are in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance, no sacred character for His Majesty's Government, 122 because that statement was contained in the same document? Lastly, we have the letter of Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, who was then Prime Minister, to Dr. Weizmann in 1931, which added the further assurance that considerations relative to absorptive capacity were purely economic. The Jewish National Home in Palestine rests on these four promises made on the authority of British statesmen and accepted with faith in their honourable intentions. They will all be broken if this policy is adopted.
I know it is argued—the noble Marquess argued it to-day—that all the promises to which I have referred have, in fact, been fulfilled. They base that on the ground that there are already some 400,000 Jews in Palestine to whom they say in effect: "We promised you a National Home, and you have got it. We never promised you Palestine, and all we are doing now is to provide for a Constitution for that country in which your National Home is situated." This argument entirely ignores the nature of the promise given. There has been, as usual, much discussion in the debate this afternoon about the meaning of the words "a National Home in Palestine." Whatever that somewhat novel phrase may mean or may not mean, it quite clearly meant this, that the Jews were promised in Palestine something which was not to be found anywhere else in the world; otherwise what was the meaning of the promise if merely some half million Jews may live in that country? That offers to them no conditions of life different from those which they enjoy to-day. As the noble Lord who spoke from the Front Opposition Bench reminded us, there are more Jews in Poland, in Germany, and in this country than there are in Palestine; but will any of your Lordships contend that because of their numbers they have a National Home in Poland, in Germany, or even in Great Britain? If not, what is the difference between the Jews in Palestine and the Jews in any other part of the world?
What security are you going to offer them that when the Mandatory Administration is withdrawn, and you have set up this independent State, even those who have come into the country will be allowed to remain there? I remember when I was being shown over the Mosque at Hebron by an Arab official, I was shown an opening in the wall which those 123 of you who have visited the Mosque will well remember, and he said to me in these words: "Until the time of the expulsion of the Jews, the Jews were allowed to come to this hole and put their petitions through it and drop them down into the cave of Macpelah, the tomb of their ancestor Abraham, but since the expulsion they have not been allowed to do so." I asked, "What historical date are you referring to?" He said "The expulsion of the Jews in 1920!" If the Arabs think that after the Mandatory Administration is withdrawn it is undesirable that the Jews should remain, there will be another expulsion of the Jews, not from Hebron merely, but from the whole of Palestine. Although the Secretary of State for the Colonies gave assurances in his speech in another place yesterday that the continuance of the National Home would be safeguarded, I can find nothing in this White Paper to indicate the way in which it will be secured. It is impossible to maintain that the policy indicated in this Paper is consistent with the various pledges to which I have referred or with the terms of the Mandate under which we administer the country.
I come to my third point. This policy will not secure the respect or friendship of those Arabs who are at present discontented. I am sure you can never win the friendship of anyone at the price of breaking faith with somebody else, because it will always be known that what has been done once can be done again. Those whose friendship you invite on the strength of a broken promise will always know that the promise you are making to them is worthless because, as you have broken one, you may break another. I am certain that both the Jews and the Arabs will remember the means by which His Majesty's Government were forced to change their policy and break their promises. My last point, therefore, is that this will not add to the prestige of this country anywhere in the world. On the contrary, political unrest will be encouraged everywhere, and that in turn, I fear, will impair our friendly relations with the United States of America which it was one of the objects of the original Balfour Declaration to secure. For these reasons I am unable to accept the Resolution submitted to us by the noble Marquess this afternoon.
124 There are others of your Lordships desiring to speak, and I have, therefore, no time to develop as I should have liked to do the chances of success of some of the alternative policies which have been referred to in this debate, but, like other speakers, I do hope that His Majesty's Government will give serious consideration to the arguments of those members of the Royal Commission which were set forth in their letter in The Times yesterday. I can only conclude, as I began, by saying that peace can only be secured in Palestine by a policy which is not a compromise, as suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Rennell, of breaking promises equally to both sides, but by a policy which is consistent with all the promises that have been made both to the Jews and to the Arabs and to international authority, and which creates a federal State in which the Jewish National Home is effectively secured and from which all possibility is removed of domination either of Arabs upon Jews or of Jews upon Arabs. I am well aware, after reading the speech of the Secretary of State, that this is also the object of His Majesty's Government, but I fear it is an object which will not be achieved by the White Paper which is recommended to us this afternoon.
§ 6.4 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF GLASGOW
My Lords, I am only going to speak for ten minutes, and I am afraid I shall be rather blunt, for the reason suggested by the noble Lord, Lord Snell, that one cannot produce light and shade in a short speech. On May 19 the Liberal Party met and denounced the White Paper on the grounds that it was consonant neither with our solemn pledges nor with the lasting welfare of Palestine and that it represents a surrender to violence. On the contrary, I believe that the Government's policy is in agreement with the pledges given. One pledge was for a Jewish National Home. That pledge has been secured. Can anyone say with truth, even in the language of the homely, wayfaring man, that there is no home for Jews in Palestine? The noble Lord, Lord Snell, mentioned that there is no home for the Jews in Palestine, and other speakers have emphasized that the Government have never had in contemplation a Jewish National State in Palestine, which would, anyway, be quite impracticable. The gist of the other obli- 125 gation which is set out in the Mandate and confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922 was to ensure that the rights and positions of the other sections of the population, not Jewish, were not prejudiced. That in my opinion is carried out by the proposal that Jewish immigration shall cease after five years. As to the other part of the Liberal denunciation, that we are surrendering to violence, the fact that 75,000 more Jews are to be allowed in before the end of five years shows that we are not.
Admittedly this is a compromise and will not please the extremists on either side. I am sick and tired of extremists, whether they are Nazis, Communists, Jewish Dictators or Muftis. There are too many of them in this world. The noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, whose authority to speak on this matter is unquestioned, made to my mind a very moderate speech. He was not very much against the Government plan. I do not know whether he was present at the Liberal meeting to which I have referred, but certainly in his speech he was not very much against the Government plan. The only difference I could see was that he wanted 40 per cent. of Jews in Palestine instead of what the Government propose, one-third of the population. That is the only respect, so far as I can see, in which his argument differs from the Government's plan. In the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Snell, and even in those of the noble Earl, I could not find anything constructive which might have shown the way to help forward the lasting welfare of all the people of Palestine. As the solution before your Lordship's House to-night appears to me to be wise and fair to both sides, if there is any Division I shall certainly support the Government.
The attainment of the aims of His Majesty's Government as expressed in the White Paper can only be achieved through the good will of the people of Palestine. Why should that not be forthcoming? Jews have lived happily alongside Arabs for thousands of years, and there have been many cases during the recent trouble of hunted Jews being sheltered by Arabs and vice versa. There is only one criticism which I wish to make. On page 8, in sub-paragraph (8) of paragraph 10 of the White Paper there is a statement which has been referred to by one noble Lord. The short 126 point of that statement is that if at the end of ten years it appears to His Majesty's Government that, contrary to their hopes, the whole scheme is a failure, there will be another Conference between the representative parties to decide what to do. I wish that had been left out, because it is suggesting possible non-success and will be an incentive to the extremists to make it a failure with a view to another Conference, whereas I am sure that had the Government clearly shown that this is the only plan—and I think they have done it now after the speech of the noble Marquess—and that they meant to see it through with earnestness and determination, success would have been assured. I still believe and hope that success will be assured.
There is one other point that I wish to make. The Government have been accused of vacillation. In such a difficult problem as Palestine vacillation, in my opinion, is an honourable fault, and I take this opportunity of paying a tribute to the Secretary of State for the Colonies for his handling of the whole business. He has refused to allow himself to be rushed. Two Royal Commissions were sent out, and after unfavourable reports on partition the Government have formulated the present scheme. That scheme demonstrates the wise reflection, prudence and courage with which this whole problem has been treated by His Majesty's Government, who, after all, are only exercising the same care as those of your Lordships, like myself who have reached years of discretion, take when they make the next step forward on rough ground.
The noble Lord opposite, Lord Snell, said the Government should have been firm and not vacillating. What does he mean? And what do those who think with him mean? Do they wish the Government to act like Hitler? Of course Hitler would have flooded the country with Aryan Germans instead of Jews. Would they have His Majesty's Government ignore our promises to the Arabs and allow the Jews to enter in such numbers as to dominate the country? That would mean ruthless government by force and the perpetuation of the feud between Jew and Arab besides the hostility of the whole Moslem world. I would like to say from my humble position as a Back Bencher how pleased I 127 am that a pact has been made with Turkey. I think that during the last fifty years nobody perhaps has known the Turk better than naval officers. We have always looked upon "Johnny Turk" as a gentleman and a sportsman, and I personally am very glad that we have made this pact. If the noble Lord, Lord Snell, wants to put the Jews in such a position in Palestine that they would have domination over the Arabs, it would so incense our friends the Turks, and indeed the whole Moslem world, that in my humble opinion we should jeopard-ise all our interests in the Mediterranean and in many parts of the Empire. Representative government which it is hoped to introduce into Palestine after a period can only succeed if there is tolerance between different sections of the people.
I must say that I think the speeches of the noble Lord and of the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, are not likely to bring about that tolerance and good will which we all want. It is the working together of the people for their own prosperity that the policy of the White Paper is intended to accomplish, and it is the only policy for which there is any chance of success. Certainly no other policy which has been promulgated in this House has any better chance of success. I look forward to a prosperous Palestine where there will be neither Jews nor Arabs but only Palestinians, and I wish the very best of luck to the policy of the Government.
§ 6.12 p.m.
§ LORD LAMINGTON
My Lords, if the Amendment of the noble Lord had been confined to the last sentence I would gladly have supported it, but as it is condemnatory of the policy of the White Paper I cannot do so. Unless I misunderstood the noble Lord, he went so far as to say that our original object was the creation of a Jewish State. It is just the fear of a Jewish State that has been the real cause of all the difficulties and the terrorism in Palestine. The one fear of the Arabs has been that they would be subject to the rule or the sovereignty of the Jews or Zionists. It is perfectly untrue that such a promise was made to the Jews in the Balfour Declaration. It has never been laid down that a Jewish State was to be created, and that was emphasized in a strong 128 article written by my noble friend Viscount Samuel in the Sunday Times, in which he said that there had been no occasion given for saying that a Jewish State had been promised.
Why should there be a Jewish State, when there are so many eminent Jews who object to the idea of a Jewish State? I read only recently a statement in the Baltimore Sun that Dr. Morris Lazaron, an early and enthusiastic worker in the Zionist cause, said:I have watched with growing concern the emphasis upon political and Diaspora nationalism among the Jews with its dangerous repercussions here.There is strong objection to the creation of a Jewish State, and it has had the unfortunate effect of being the real cause of all the terrorism in Palestine. I hope, therefore, that there is not going to be a reopening of the idea that we have promised a Zionist or Jewish State.
On the other hand, I understand that the proposals in the White Paper were accepted in principle by the Arabs, but that there is some disquiet because they think that five years is too long a period. In that period, they fear, some discord might arise and there would be a further postponement of the proposals of the Government. I do not share that view myself. I think it is a pity that Arabs should not warmly embrace the opportunity of being reconciled with the present hostile section in Palestine. That is the only chance that I can see—to try and work together in harmony and friendship. There are, of course, other proposals made in a letter to the Press by Sir Horace Rumbold and his co-signatories, but one cannot say anything about them until one knows whether it would be feasible to carry them out. Partition has been absolutely disavowed, I think, by all parties, and therefore we come back to the proposals in the White Paper.
I hope that all the parties interested will realise that some compromise must be come to, and I hope we shall not see a repetition of what has happened in the past, when reports have been presented to Parliament holding out hopes of compromise and then promises have been withdrawn. It has been a cause of bitterness on the part of the Arabs that so often when they thought there was a chance of some rectification of their grievances the Government failed to carry out that 129 policy. I shall support the Government on this occasion.
§ 6.17 p.m.
§ LORD RANKEILLOUR
My Lords, I shall take up only a very few minutes of your time. I realise the inherent difficulties of the subject and the special difficulties of the Government, but I am bound to say I feel no confidence in the outcome of these proposals. Ever since Mr. Balfour made his Declaration I have had the utmost sympathy with the aspirations of the Jewish people throughout the world for a settlement in Palestine, and that has been greatly increased by a visit some years ago to Palestine, where I saw a new rural population springing up that helped one to recall some of the passages of the Old Testament which one had learned long since. I have this sympathy because I am an orthodox Christian, and not in spite of it. I think no matter what may be the opinion of others that that is a sentiment which orthodox Christians ought to have. But of course it does not mean that this sympathy extends to creating a Jewish State to the detriment of the existing inhabitants. I have never understood the phrase "a Jewish Home" to mean a Jewish State, and I think the statement on that subject of the noble Marquess who opened the debate was absolutely final. The noble Earl, Lord Lytton, who spoke of breaches of pledges, made no attempt to refute the words of the Mandate which have been read out and the statement of the noble Marquess on that. He merely asserted the contrary. He gave no proof whatever, and his speech cannot contribute to the solution of this problem.
But what I am concerned with is the future position of the Jewish Home itself. It is idle to say that the Jews are not in a position in Palestine very different from that which they have in other parts of the world. If they have their special settlement safeguarded, their educational system safeguarded, the practice of their religion fully guaranteed to them, and power to establish Universities and other institutions of their own—that does place them in a position totally and absolutely different from that which they enjoy, or rather fail to enjoy, in many other countries. But it is the practical future about which I have my doubts. Subparagraph (7) of paragraph 10 says that the Government will require to be satis- 130 fied —that is at the end of the five years—that in the contemplated treaty adequate provision has been made for'the protection of the different communities in Palestine in accordance with the obligations of His Majesty's Government to both Arabs and Jews and for the special position in Palestine of the Jewish National Home.Now I submit that that is altogether too vague. It ought to be laid down in the very first legislative enactment that the protection of the Jewish National Home—and, I may add, of the Christian Holy Places and traditions—should be governed by organic and fundamental laws and that there should be some international tribunal to judge of any breach of them; that if any breach were declared it should be made null and void, and that our obligations under the treaty should be voided also. I cannot help thinking that that is an absolutely essential provision if the future is to work smoothly. I am, however, very doubtful whether it can be worked smoothly.
On the question whether there is a mutual veto: it is quite true that that is not expressed in words, but if you read paragraph 9 together with the last item of paragraph 10, it will be in the power of either community in Palestine to veto the aspirations of the other, although that is not explicitly set out in words. Therefore it is the more necessary that the existing rights of both sides should be guaranteed.
The only other thing I will say is that I think the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, absolutely made out his case against the stopping of immigration at the end of five years. All the rest of the scheme is tentative: it contemplates a revision at the end of five years. Why, then, should the only thing which is made definite and not left indefinite be the cessation of immigration? In the meantime the Arab population may itself have increased by natural process and by immigration until it bears a far larger ratio to the Jewish population than it does at present. Yet you lay down from the first that there shall be no more immigration at the end of five years. If you put in provisions that, as has been suggested, the ratio of population shall—at any rate for a long period ahead—secure that the Arabs shall not be swamped, that is another matter altogether. I was greatly struck with the argument of the noble Viscount, whom I have opposed in ordinary politics 131 for nearly forty years. At much cost to himself from extremists among his own friends, he has formulated a safe and, I believe, a sound policy, and I trust that what he says will be adopted.
§ 6.25 p.m.
THE MARQUESS OF READING
My Lords, my only title to intervene once more in a debate upon this highly controversial subject is that, since the last occasion when it was discussed in your Lordships' House, I happen to have been a member of that unfortunately abortive Conference which met a short while ago. So far as the opinion of the Jews is concerned, Palestine is, of course, primarily a question for those who follow the Zionist faith. The question has, however, many ramifications, especially in these days when we see a savage and sustained persecution in some countries of Europe, and menacing portents in others. None of us can afford to ignore the question, if only because of the possibilities which it holds out, not of offering a permanent solution of the refugee problem, but at least of making some substantial contribution towards its relief. In those circumstances it was arranged with the delegation of the Jewish Agency that the noble Viscount opposite, Lord Bearsted, myself, and two or three others of like view should be available for consultation; and in fact the noble Viscount and I attended every formal meeting of the Conference, and one of us was present at each informal meeting.
Something has been said about the stiff-neckedness of the Jews in refusing to move forward and meet the Arabs. For weeks we sat at that Conference and with almost humiliating importunity begged to be allowed to sit round a table with the Arab delegates. Yet down to the end of the time there was never one occasion on which the Palestinian Arabs were prepared to step forward so far as to meet and discuss a project with us. I make no special point upon that now, but there is this to be considered: that after long weeks of intensive discussion, at the end the noble Viscount and I and those associated with us found ourselves no more able than the delegates of the Jewish Agency to accept the terms which are contained in the Government's White Paper. It is perhaps not putting it too high to say that if you get a unanimity 132 of opinion from the strident nationalism of the Revisionists at the one end to the objective moderation of the noble Viscount—and I almost venture to add, myself—at the other end, that at least is some evidence that those proposals do not fulfil the desire with which we attended that Conference. That desire, if I may put it again in words which I ventured to use at the opening session, was to assist in arriving at a settlement which should be just to the Jews, fair to the Arabs and worthy of Great Britain. We looked at it, I think, not only exclusively from the Jewish point of view; but, having decided that it was unfair to the Jews, could we be expected to go on and decide that it was worthy of Great Britain? After all, Great Britain is the trustee for civilisation in Palestine. I like to think for my own part that, if I had not been a Jew at all but merely what I also am, an average well-meaning citizen with a vaguely Liberal bent of mind, I should have been exactly as much opposed to these proposals as I am when I take into consideration all the circumstances of my position.
We were not alone at the Conference among the Jewish representatives in considering the aspects of this question from the point of view of Great Britain. There were sitting round that table on behalf of the Jews, men drawn from a dozen different countries of origin who were united upon two fundamental principles: their passionate devotion to Palestine, to which those of us who may not share it to that extent can only bear humble and admiring tribute, and at the same time their fervent gratitude to this country for having been the agent in transforming what they regard as their reunion with the soil of Palestine from a vision into a reality. There were men amongst them whose life work had been concentrated upon binding ever closer the ties which attach the Jews of Palestine to Great Britain, and although I am not saying that that was their objective, I believe that six months or even less time ago the vast majority of the Jews of Palestine would have asked nothing better than to find themselves an integral and permanent part of the British Empire. Now the Government, by the proposals which are incorporated in this White Paper, have I fear largely thrown away the active good will and devotion of 133 more than 400,000 people, energetic, enterprising, predominantly young, and situated in one of the strategic and economic nerve centres of the world. I can only hope that they have made a good exchange.
Even if one does not share it, it is not very difficult to see the point of view of the Zionist population of Palestine. What they say is this: We came here with certain promises, with certain assurances. For three years now we have endured not only hardship but danger. We have seen not only great material damage, but we have seen hundreds of the flower of our young men destroyed. Thousands of us have been trained by British noncommissioned officers, worn British uniforms, and formed part of historic British regiments. What is our reward? The provision in the White Paper, in my reluctant view, is not a Constitution but a capitulation. It seems to me indeed—I use no stronger word—strange that at a moment when the Government are with enterprise and determination taking the lead in organising resistance to violence in other parts of the world, they should even given the appearance, however fallacious that appearance may be, of surrendering to violence in Palestine. It is very difficult to look upon the proposals contained in the White Paper as anything else, from the Jewish point of view, than the putting of the Jewish community of Palestine under the domination of an Arab majority. The last two or three noble Lords who have spoken have devoted their speeches to protesting against the setting up of a Jewish State. Who is claiming the setting up of a Jewish State at this moment? Until the Peel Commission revived it in its Report some two years ago, who has claimed it for years? We have enough to consider in the practical aspect of the question without going into matters which at the present moment are not questions of practical discussion.
Lord Glasgow seemed to think—indeed he seemed to attribute this offence to the noble Lord who leads the Opposition—that it was claimed that the Jews should be allowed to dominate the Arabs. I do not think Lord Snell claimed it, and I certainly know that the Jews do not claim it, but after all fear of domination is not the peculiar perquisite of the Arabs. The Jews are entitled, and perhaps not less entitled after the experi- 134 ence of the last few years, to some security against being dominated in their turn. We are told that the Constitution proposed in this White Paper is hedged round with a number of valuable protective safeguards. All I can say for my part is that the more safeguards are considered to be necessary the more unsound I should believe the scheme to be, and after the experience of the last two years can we really set so much store upon the value of beautifully drafted and devised safeguards which are attached to treaties for the protection of minorities? I do not know what the safeguards which are contemplated are. I happened in another place, yesterday, to hear the Colonial Secretary asked that somewhat pointed question straight out from more than one quarter of the House, and I was confronted with the spectacle of the right honourable gentleman diving into a series of dialectical deep shelters rather than give an answer to the question. Therefore I am still unaware what effective safeguards can possibly be introduced.
It is too late in time both to-day and this year to enter into a discussion of the original Balfour Declaration, but what does surprise me is the tendency of the Government now to suggest that that document was issued in a moment of mental aberration, and presumably with the corollary that this is the first lucid interval in over twenty years. There is another strange tendency abroad, and that is to take out from the central registry of the Foreign Office letters passing between Commander Hogarth and King Hussein, which are apparently designed to be in some sense an official interpretation of the Balfour Declaration which after all had the support of a number of nations. If they are designed to interpret that Declaration, and are now discovered after over twenty years to be of such importance, it is surprising that it has never been thought worth while to submit them to the various Commissions which have inquired into the problems of Palestine, or even to make reference to them in any one of the Statements of Policy issued during those intervening years. If this policy in the White Paper is all that the Government claim for it, it is a little surprising that they should have to go to such strange sources for ammunition in support of it.
I am frankly more concerned with the immigration aspect of this policy 135 than with any other, as far as my own interest is concerned. It is impossible to divorce the one topic wholly from the other, for when you are in the position of examining almost through a microscope the atlas of the world in order to find some place where these unhappy, and alas! largely unwanted, people can go, you cannot afford to overlook one country—almost the one country—to which they can go as permanent settlers in the knowledge that the population already established there will be waiting with a welcome for them on their arrival. Under the Mandate immigration is to be encouraged under suitable conditions. The noble Marquess who moved the Resolution suggested that the conditions were not now suitable. Is that a final answer to the provision of the Mandate, or does not the Mandate mean this? Does not that phrase of the Mandate lay upon the Mandatory Power not one obligation, but two—to facilitate immigration, and also to see that the conditions for such immigration are suitable? I think those words are very capable of the meaning which I put upon them.
When you come to this White Paper this must be borne in mind—I am not now discussing the refugees, they are on a different basis—that you will admit in five years 50,000 Jews, based still on economic absorptive capacity. Just consider for a moment what that means. At the end of five years your immigration stops. At the end of ten years the present intention is to set up a State which I persist in calling an Arab State, whatever the Government may profess to call it. Do your Lordships imagine that during those intervening years there is a great encouragement to the Jews to increase, or even to maintain, the absorptive capacity of the country? Is there much to lead them to build new houses, to establish new industries, drain more marshes?—and unless there is an incentive to them to do that you will not get your economic absorptive capacity, and unless you get your economic absorptive capacity you will not get even your 50,000 immigrants over the period of five years. So in effect what the Government are doing is this. They are with one hand laying down the condition that you must have economic absorptive capacity in order to justify immigration, and with the other throttling just that economic absorptive capacity 136 which they make a condition of the immigration being allowed at all. That is a very serious aspect of the matter.
I had the satisfaction of seeing most of the speech which I had intended to make made, with far more force and cogency than I could make it, in the letter in The Times yesterday morning, which has already been referred to, from the surviving members of the Peel Commission. If that plea required reinforcement it surely received it from the most reverend Primate this afternoon. I believe, with apologetic difference from the noble Viscount who sits below me (Lord Samuel), that the solution is to be found in the federal system. But I believe that that solution requires one of two immediate courses. Either you must say here and now that you are going definitely to adopt that course, to pin your faith to a federal solution; or you must make it your ultimate aim, and during the interval keep the whole position open by abolishing this two-to-one standard of Jews and Arabs on the administration, and establishing, until you have made up your minds finally, a basis of parity between the two, in order that you may keep the ultimate decision open. If the Government were prepared to make even that small change I believe it would have an enormous effect.
The noble Marquess in moving this Resolution talked about dithering and hesitating. Uncertainty has been the curse of this problem for years, and in my view the great fallacy of the constitutional proposals in this plan is that they propose to keep that state of dithering uncertainty alive for another ten years, until you have made up your minds what is going to happen—what Constitution you are going to adopt, what is going to happen in five years, and what is going to happen in ten. If the Government would make up their mind now that they were going to take the federal course—even if it is wrong, make up your minds and do something about it, and stick to it—if they would make up their minds and say that they would put that course into operation at the end of five years, and preserve the principle of parity during the interval, I believe still that you could get the support of both peoples in Palestine for the proposals which you are making. Even if you could not get the consent of both, you would be doing a great deal less of an injustice to one.
137 I have tried on previous occasions when I have spoken on this subject in the House, and indeed elsewhere, to be moderate and reasonable and, so far as I could, constructive; and if I saw any hope of the Government's object in putting forward these proposals being realised, if I believed in my heart that there was any possibility of their resulting in the peace which they are designed to achieve, I would welcome them as warmly as any member of the Government. I would strive my utmost to commend their acceptance, even at a great sacrifice, to any with whom I have influence. It is just because regretfully I believe that they will tend to perpetuate and to exacerbate the present conflict that I beg your Lordships even now to pause and to remember that expediency is at best only a base and impermanent counterfeit of justice.
§ 6.48 p.m.
§ THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR INDIA (THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND)
My Lords, I hope that the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition will permit a member of what he pleasantly describes as "this mongrel infliction," by which I assume he meant His Majesty's Government, to make a few observations in reply to the debate in which your Lordships have been taking part this afternoon. I should like to say at once to the noble Lord opposite that he really did the Colonial Secretary far less than justice when he said that he could not believe that he was the author or the proud defender of the proposals which are embodied in the White Paper which is now before your Lordships. I can assure the noble Lord that I have the greatest admiration for the initiative, the courage, the resource and, above all, the patience of the Colonial Secretary, who from first to last since he occupied his present position has been giving the whole of his mind—and, I might say, his heart too—in the endeavour to find a solution of what is admitted on all hands to be one of the most difficult problems with which statesmanship has ever been confronted.
There has been much criticism of the proposals of His Majesty's Government. The noble Marquess, Lord Reading, spoke with great eloquence and great force, and clearly with great sincerity, when he gave expression to the feelings 138 of many members of the community of which he is himself so distinguished a member. The noble Marquess is well qualified to appeal to the emotions of your Lordships. He has the gift of oratory and that melodious and appealing voice which, whenever I hear it, recalls so vividly to my mind so many speeches of the noble Marquess's distinguished father. The noble Marquess spoke strongly. Of course, he spoke strongly. This is a question that arouses strong feelings; but the strong feelings are not all on one side, and the noble Marquess himself, whether consciously or not, gave your Lordships an illustration of the strength of the feelings of the Arab community. The noble Marquess told us that though he had sat throughout the whole of the meetings of the recent Conference which was held in this City, and though he had begged and prayed time after time that the Arabs should sit round the table with him and the other representatives of his community, he was unsuccessful in rendering his appeal effective. That is, in itself, a striking illustration of the strength of the feelings not on one side only, but on the side of the Arabs also.
It has been pointed out in the course of this debate, perfectly rightly, that His Majesty's Government in this matter are not free agents. They are serving under a Mandate, and the three main instructions which they are given under the terms of the Mandate are set out in the first page of the White Paper. They are, briefly, first, to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish Home in Palestine; secondly, to safeguard the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion and, whilst facilitating Jewish immigration and settlement, to ensure that the rights and the position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced; and, thirdly, so to administer the country as to secure the development of self-governing institutions. Any purely impartial onlooker at your Lordships' debate this afternoon must inevitably come to the conclusion that there had been a tendency—I do not put it higher than that—on the part of nearly all the speakers to lay great stress on the first of the instructions in connection with the establishment of a Jewish Home and practically to ignore the second of these instructions, which imposes upon His 139 Majesty's Government the obligation of seeing that the civil and religious rights and the position of the other communities in Palestine are not prejudiced.
His Majesty's Government can make no distinction between the force of these three obligations. They have to do their best to give effect to all three of them. The first of these obligations, as we have been reminded in this debate, derives from what is known as the Balfour Declaration. It was, of course, inevitable that the Balfour Declaration, when it was made, should give rise to aspirations which, while they were not necessarily precluded by the language of the Declaration itself, were as a matter of fact wholly incompatible with the geographical and ethnological circumstances of the country. Both noble Lords who spoke from the Liberal Benches have tended to discount the force of the desires which are certainly still cherished in some quarters for the establishment, not merely of a National Home for the Jews in Palestine, but of a sovereign Jewish State. That is an aspiration with which we can all sympathise. It is an aspiration which appeals to all of us who have been brought up on the sacred volumes of the Christian religion, but, as I have said, it is really not a practical proposition.
Let me remind your Lordships of what the circumstances were, even at the time when the Balfour Declaration was made. Briefly speaking, they were these. There was at that time a Jewish population scattered over the world which was estimated at some 12,000,000 people, a very small fraction of whom was to be found in Palestine. You had in Palestine a land which, of course, was quite incapable in any case of supporting more than a small fraction of the total Jewish population of the world. The Palestine of the Scriptures, running from Dan to Bersheeba, if you exclude the deserts, is approximately the size of Wales, and it is not a bountiful country. The biblical phrase, "a land flowing with milk and honey," has to be read in relation to the desert features of Sinai, and it loses something of its picturesque charm, as the late Lord Curzon once remarked, when it is remembered that the milk was the milk of the herds of goats which roamed on its hills, and the honey was the juice of the small grape which was used as a substitute for 140 sugar. Moreover, a Jewish State with its Capital at Jerusalem was rendered incapable of realisation by the historical position of Jerusalem itself. Too many peoples and too many religions have a passionate and a permanent interest in that City to make any such solution even dimly possible.
These were the facts—on the one hand a population of some 12,000,000 people and, on the other, a small and poverty-stricken country which was already occupied (and this is sometimes overlooked) by the people who were dwelling there, people whose forefathers had been in Palestine for something like 2,000 years, who owned the land which was either in the hands of individual landowners or of village communities; and even at that time when the Balfour Declaration was first formulated there were members of the Government of that day who foresaw that these people would not be prepared either to be expropriated in the interests of any immigrant people or to serve as hewers of wood or drawers of water for them. Surely, in those circumstances, what was intended by the National Home for Jews in Palestine was a cultural and a spiritual home where, through the agency of the Hebrew University and other institutions, there might be kept alive and enriched the literature and the arts of Judaism, and where their religion might be practised at their Holy Places.
His Majesty's Government claim that they have done much to establish a National Home for the Jews of that character. The 80,000 Jews who were to be found in Palestine at the time of the Balfour Declaration have been increased by immigration mainly, as has been remarked already this afternoon, to between 400,000 and 500,000, and while I was listening to the speech of the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel—a speech if I may say so of great cogency, of great moderation and containing valuable suggestions—it passed through my mind to ask him, supposing there was no restriction upon Jewish immigration and the Jews were permitted to immigrate until the people of the land were become submerged, what would happen to the instruction to His Majesty's Government under the second provision of the Mandate to which I have referred? It is quite true that the noble Viscount himself 141 admitted that there was ground for some restriction not only on economic but on political grounds also, and when he went as far as that I am bound to say that I found it very difficult to see where precisely the difference between the views of the noble Viscount and those of the Government lay. He admits that immigration must be restricted. He saw much in the White Paper with which he agreed. He agreed that it was desirable that a statement should finally be made that the establishment of a sovereign Jewish State was not a practicable proposition, and indeed, so far as I was able to understand the noble Viscount, the only respects in which he differed from the policy of His Majesty's Government were as to the actual percentage which the Jewish community ought to be permitted to reach as compared with the Arabs, and with regard to the character of the future self-governing institutions.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
There are two other differences. One was that the 40 per cent. limitation that I suggested was during the interim period until the whole matter could be reviewed. The second was that I object very strongly to the proposal in the Government's White Paper that at the end of five years there is to be no more immigration at all, whether restricted by a percentage or in any other way, unless the Arabs give a formal assent to it.
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
I agree that really the fundamental difference between the noble Viscount and ourselves is the one that has been described in the course of this debate as the Arab veto on Jewish immigration at the end of five years. Before I say a word with regard to the future character of the Constitution I must say something as to the promises which this country has made to the Arabs. It certainly is true, and it is most unfortunately true, that for the reasons which the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, gave, there was a certain lack of precision in the language which was used in the course of the negotiations which took place between His Majesty's Government and the Arabs in the course of the War. Undoubtedly we did promise the Arabs that we would recognise and support Arab independence in the greater part of the Arabian countries. There is no difference of opinion, I think, as to that. That undoubtedly was a promise 142 which we made to them, and we claim that we have already handsomely fulfilled that promise, as witness the present state of affairs in Iraq and the other Arab countries; but where we come to our difference with the Arabs is, of course, when they claim that Palestine was included in that pledge. We claim with equal vigour that Palestine was specifically excluded from the pledge, and since in the course of the discussions which took place at the recent Round-Table Conference neither party was able to accept the interpretation placed upon the pledges by the other party, there was nothing for it but for His Majesty's Government to lay down their own policy, and in doing so they have declined to accept the Arab view that our pledges to support their independence embraced the country of Palestine.
That brings me to the third of the instructions imposed upon us by the Mandate—namely, the encouragement of self-governing institutions. The principle by which we are actuated can be found at the bottom of page 5 and the top of page 6 of the White Paper. I have noticed that very little attention has been paid to that in the course of the debate this afternoon. Let me, therefore, draw your Lordships' attention to the principle which we have set before us:His Majesty's Government are unable at present to foresee the exact constitutional forms which government in Palestine will eventually take, but their objective is self-government, and they desire to see established ultimately an independent Palestine State.I really must join issue with the noble Marquess, Lord Reading, when he says that whatever may be our intentions what we are doing is to create, not an independent Palestine State, but an independent Arab State. That is not what we are doing. We have completely guarded ourselves against that, and if I may read to your Lordships the following sentence you will see that that is so:It should be a State in which the two peoples in Palestine, Arabs and Jews, share authority in government in such a way that the essential interests of each are secured.Really I must claim that that is not, as the noble Marquess suggested, the establishment of an independent Arab State.
Various suggestions have been made in the debate as to the form which the future Constitution might take. Let me say at once that I do not for a moment rule out 143 any of the possibilities which have been mentioned this afternoon. There is nothing in this White Paper to rule out the possibility of a federal solution. The most reverend Primate asked whether a single unitary State with a permanent Arab majority was involved or whether a federal system was possible. My answer to that question is that certainly a federal system is possible, and that even if a unitary system was eventually adopted as a result of the discussions which are arranged for at the end of the five-year period, there are means by which parity so far as the Legislature and the Executive are concerned can be achieved. I do not therefore rule out any form of Constitution which will give effect to the principle which His Majesty's Government have enunciated and which I have read to your Lordships.
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
May I ask the noble Marquess a question with regard to that? The sentence he has read out says it should be a State in which the two peoples are represented and share authority. If then the Jews refuse to share authority in the Government, would the independent State not be created?
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
That is a matter which would certainly be a subject of discussion when the situation arose, but is the noble Viscount suggesting that the Jews would be unwilling to come into a Constitution in which parity was guaranteed?
§ VISCOUNT SAMUEL
Suppose there was not equality, but suppose the proportions were two to one, as is contemplated in the Executive offices during the interim period?
§ THE MARQUESS OF ZETLAND
Well, I should doubt myself whether a Constitution under which the Arabs were in a majority of that kind in the Government would give effect to the principle which we have laid down. But the noble 144 Viscount is really asking a rather hypothetical question about a situation which might arise in five years time, or possibly only in ten years time. I must not be held to be bound by anything I may have ventured to prophesy as likely to happen at that distance of time.
There is only one other point to which I wish to refer. It is a matter to which my noble friend Lord Rennell drew attention, concerning the restriction which it is proposed should now be placed upon the transfer of land. Hitherto there has been no restriction placed upon the transfer of land, and the result has been that there is growing up a landless Arab population which is becoming a danger to the State. Some figures were quoted—I think by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel—but they were some seven or eight years old and they really have very little bearing upon the present situation. It is always a difficult problem in any country when you find a peasantry tempted to dispossess itself of its land when it is offered a good price by a wealthier community. It is a problem which gives rise to great political and social difficulties. We have been faced with that problem long before now in India, and in that country it has been dealt with by legislation. Let me cite to your Lordships, as an example of what I mean, the Punjab Land Alienation Act which was passed some forty years ago in order to prevent the evil which was then becoming apparent of the dispossession of the peasantry of their land. The Secretary of State for India at that date was very conscious of the difficulties of the problem, and he wrote to the Viceroy in August, 1899, in these terms:The subject to be dealt with is like a porcupine, and do what we like, and from whatever point we endeavour to attack the evil to be overcome, we are sure to some extent to hurt ourselves.I would like to suggest that the whole of this Palestine problem which we are seeking to solve to-day is equally very much like a porcupine. Whatever policy is adopted will give rise to violent reactions in all directions. You cannot avoid them. His Majesty's Government honestly believe that the proposals which are contained in this White Paper are the fairest and the best which it is possible to produce in the circumstances of the present time. The noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition is asking us to refrain from endorsing these proposals until 145 they have been submitted to the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations. These proposals have already been explained to the Council of the League of Nations. The Permanent Mandates Commission are at liberty to take note of them and to make such observations as seem fit to them, and I cannot help thinking that it will be an advantage to the Permanent Mandates Commission themselves to know before they take these proposals into serious consideration what are the views of the Parliament of this country upon them. The proposal of the noble Lord is put forward in all good faith, and I have no doubt with every desire to help His Majesty's Government, but I find myself unable to accept his suggestion.
§ LORD SNELL
My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I beg to withdraw the Amendment which stands on the Paper in my name.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.