This is a discussion of the wording of a White Paper that was issued on May 23, 1939. It rejected the Peel Commission’s partition plan on the grounds that it was not feasible. The document stated that Palestine would be neither a Jewish state nor an Arab one, but an independent state to be established within ten years. Jewish immigration to Palestine was limited to 75,000 for the first five years, subject to the country’s “economic absorptive capacity”, and would later be contingent on Arab consent. Stringent restrictions were imposed on land acquisition by Jews. The Jewish Agency for Palestine issued a scathing response to the White Paper, saying the British were denying the Jewish people their rights in “darkest hour of Jewish history.
HC Deb 23 May 1939 vol 347 cc2129-97
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [22nd May]: That this House approves the policy of His Majesty’s Government relating to Palestine as set out in Command Paper No. 6019. Which Amendment was: In line 1, to leave out from the word “That,” to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof: as the proposals of His Majesty’s Government relating to Palestine, as set out in Command Paper No. 6019, are inconsistent with the letter and spirit of the Mandate and not calculated to secure the peaceful and prosperous development of Palestine, this House is of opinion that Parliament should not be committed pending the examination of these proposals by the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations.
Question again proposed, “That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.”
I must first apologise that it was impossible for me to be present in order to hear personally the speech of the Secretary of State for the Colonies in opening the Debate yesterday, but I have taken pains to read his speech, and, having apologised for my absence, I will now tell the right, hon. Gentleman what I think of his speech. The right hon. Gentleman took as his text two promises that appear to have been made by representatives of His Majesty’s Government during the progress of the Great War. If I were asked to select the text of the speech of the Secretary of State these are the words that I would select. The right hon. Gentleman said: There were two people who were interested from the point of view of settlement in Palestine—the Arabs and the Jews—and largely on the strength of promises made to them by His Majesty’s Government, promises touching Palestine, each of them played a certain part in the War and each of them took certain risks for the Allied cause. This question then is a matter of honour. The good name of Great Britain is involved. The obligations which we contracted towards the Jews and the Arabs during the War are debts of honour, which cannot be paid in counterfeit coinage.”—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1939; col; 1938, Vol. 347.] It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman took the view that we had made contradictory promises, that there was a moral and honourable obligation on our country to respect both of those promises, and that then he went on to face the problem that came to him. I am bound to say that, having read with great care the speech which he made, I cannot accept the view that His Majesty’s Government is doing anything other than counterfeiting this business, or that it is doing anything other than breaking its promises and acting dishonourably before the whole of the civilised world. The right hon. Gentleman, having referred to the two promises and to British honour, it seems to me, devoted the rest of an hour’s speech to an endeavour to twist the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate into some sort of harmony with the White Paper, notwithstanding the fact, as was proved by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen yesterday, that the White Paper is not in harmony with either the Balfour Declaration or the Mandate, is not in harmony with their wording, is not in harmony with their spirit. The policy which the Government have embodied in the White Paper, in my judgment—I do not think there can be serious argument about it—is in direct conflict with Ministerial declarations, including the declarations of right hon. Gentlemen who are now Members of the Government. They seem, first, to twist the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate to fit in with the policy of the White Paper, and then to prove that the White Paper was not out of harmony with the Declaration or the Mandate. I think the subsequent Debate showed that the right hon. Gentleman failed in that endeavour.
The right hon. Gentleman’s second purpose seemed to me to be to flatter the Jews for the purpose of reconciling them to becoming another permanent minority problem in the world. The Jews, already victims of other races as a minority in certain countries, are now to be made a permanent minority in the country that has been promised to them as the Jewish National Home in Palestine. I am afraid that the flattering of the Jews by the right hon. Gentleman will not reconcile them to becoming the victims of another permanent minority problem. Thirdly, the right hon. Gentleman referred to, but he avoided the slightest clarity as to the future protection of the Jewish minority. Having decided that the Jewish people were to be in Palestine a permanent minority, not exceeding one-third of the population, having said that His Majesty’s Government would at the time provide means for the protection of that minority, the right hon. Gentleman was utterly unwilling or utterly unable, or both, to give any indication as to how that protection would be afforded. In the course of his speech the right hon. Gentleman said: It is true that at some stage during the transition period, when there are Palestinian heads in charge of the departments of government, consideration will be given to the question of changing the executive council, with its purely advisory functions, into a council of ministers, so that the Arab and Jewish heads of departments may enjoy some executive and ministerial authority; but it is, of course, contemplated that there will be proper safeguards for the Jewish National Home when that stage is reached, and that such safeguards must be an integral part of any scheme during the transition period leading up to the independent Palestinian State. Thereupon the right hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) asked: What are those safeguards to be? and the Secretary of State replied: Those are matters for consideration when the time arrives.”—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1939; cols. 1950–51, Vol. 347.] His Majesty’s Government, looking round the world, witnessing the persecution of Jewish minorities all over the world, deliberately planned a policy whereby in their own National Home the Jews are to be a permanent 33⅓ per cent. minority, and no more, in that country. Knowing the problems of Jewish minorities, knowing of the persecution that is proceeding, the Government decides deliberately to make permanent that minority. When the right hon. Gentleman is asked, “What are you going to do to protect them; what steps are you going to take to prevent their being persecuted and oppressed by a 66⅔ per cent. majority, possibly possessing all the supreme powers of the State?” he says, “I do not know; I have not thought about it; I have not considered it; I am not going to consider it until that point is reached.” I say that the right hon. Gentleman has shamefully neglected his responsibilities and his duties; I say that he has no right deliberately to create this Jewish minority and then, in answer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness, to be lightly indifferent as to how protection for the Jewish minority is to be achieved. All that he did in his speech was to talk of honour, to talk of counterfeiting, then to twist the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate all over the place in order to fit in with this precious White Paper, then to flatter the Jews in the hope that they would be reconciled to becoming another permanent minority problem, and, finally, deliberately to avoid any clarity as to how the Jewish minority is to be protected in due course.
I do not wish to be violent in my language towards the right hon. Gentleman, but I am bound to say that on reading his speech the impression I formed was that the longer he spoke the more he quibbled, the more evasive and inconclusive he became. I should have had more respect for his speech if he had frankly admitted that the Jews were to be sacrificed to the incompetence of the Government in the matter, to be sacrificed to its inability to govern, to be sacrificed to its apparent fear of, if not, indeed, its sympathy with, violence and these methods of murder and assassination—that the Jews must be sacrificed to the Government’s preoccupation with exclusively Imperialist rather than human considerations. Probably the right hon. Gentleman’s speech was the best he could do with the case he had to present, but it is not a speech which is going to reflect much to the credit of British honour standing on the printed records of the House of Commons.
As for the reply at the end of the Debate by the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, there is little that needs to be said. It was true to type; that is to say, it was a meaningless speech, and it was meant to be a meaningless speech. There was some typical Sunday-school advice to the Jews and the Arabs to be good and not to quarrel, because it was inconvenient to His Majesty’s Government that they should quarrel. In fact, it seemed to me to be merely a sub-edited edition of one of his speeches on the Government’s policy in Spain, which at the end succeeded in handing Spain over to the Axis. May I say to the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs that, if he has nothing to say, would it not be better that he should say nothing, and thereby avoid what has become an habitual wastage of Parliamentary time by these empty speeches that are meant to be empty, and by sheer evasion of the issues that are before the House.
There were plenty of quotations yesterday from leaders of hon. and right hon. Gentleman opposite, and I may unwittingly repeat one or two of those quotations. I am not going to quote much, but the record is fairly conclusive as to what right hon. Gentlemen have said. The present Prime Minister, when Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1935, in the “Jewish Chronicle” of 8th November—there was an election coming, and this was one of a series of speeches that included Palestine, the League of Nations, collective security and a number of other things—the Prime Minister then said to the “Jewish Chronicle”: You may be assured that it is the policy of the Government to carry out in the letter and in the spirit the Mandate for Palestine. They will discharge without fear or favour their obligations under that Mandate; and while safeguarding the civil and religious rights of the non-Jewish communities will continue to facilitate the establishment of a National Home in Palestine for the Jewish people. If the right hon. Gentleman says that that is consistent with the policy of the White Paper, and I imagine he would be so bold as to say that it is, I want to know why the Prime Minister did not tell the “Jewish Chronicle” that the Jewish National Home was consistent with a maximum proportion, in this little, tiny country of Palestine, of 33⅓ per cent., and that it was consistent with their never being more than one-third of the population, under an Arab Government with a two-thirds majority of Arabs behind it. Why did he not say so? Why, before an election, did he lead the Jews to think that he really meant business, and then instruct his subordinate to come down here and lay before us a policy which is clearly inconsistent with the spirit of the declaration he made to the “Jewish Chronicle” at that time?
Does the right hon. Gentleman think that nothing has happened since 1935 to cause the circumstances to change?
The hon. Gentleman should not get indignant about that. I am well aware that many things have happened, some of them bad things, and largely the responsibility for them rests with His Majesty’s Government. Mr. Stanley Baldwin, as he was at that time, in a letter to the “Times” of 23rd October, 1930, and Sir Austen Chamberlain and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), whose sincere and very honourable speech was received with pleasure in all quarters of the House yesterday—these three prominent Members of the Conservative party were criticising the policy then laid down in the White Paper issued by Lord Passfield when he was Secretary of State for the Colonies. They wrote: They have laid down a policy of so definitely negative a character”— they were referring to the Labour Government— that it appears to us to conflict not only with the insistence of the Council of the League of Naions that it would be contrary to the intention of the Mandate if the Jewish National Home crystallised at its present stage of development, but with the whole spirit of the Balfour Declaration and of the statements made by successive governments in the last 12 years. I would draw particular attention to these words, that in their view it would be a breach of faith if the situation were crystallised “at its present stage of development.” It is true that under the present White Paper a limited further amount of immigration will probably take place, though that is not certain even under the White Paper itself; but the limited amount of increased immigration, with a final stablisation at one-third as against two-thirds, is obviously fairly described as placing the Jewish National Home in the situation of being “crystallised at its present stage of development.” That statement was signed by three distinguished leaders of the Conservative Party. Lord Hailsham and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer also made a declaration, in a letter to the “Times” dated 4th November, 1930, in which they said: This country cannot afford to allow any suspicion to rest on its good faith or on its determination to carry out to the full its international obligations. If, therefore, the terms of the White Paper are the deliberate and considered announcement of Government policy, we would suggest that immediate steps should be taken to induce the Council of the League of Nations to obtain from the Hague Court an advisory opinion on the questions involved, and that the British Government should not enforce those paragraphs which are challenged unless and until that Court has pronounced in their favour. If that were a justifiable request at that time, in order that all these quasi-legal arguments might be resolved and settled by an authoritative tribunal—if that were true in criticism of the temporary policy of the Labour Government, which was subsequently abandoned, is it not at least equally true of the White Paper which is before the House of Commons this afternoon? Therefore, whatever else hon. Members opposite may da—whether they agree with our general point of view or whether they disagree with it—I suggest that this point of honour ought to appeal to them, that the House of Commons and the Government ought not finally to be committed to a policy as to which grave doubts exist as to its consistency with the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate, until they have taken the course recommended by Lord Hailsham and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1930, namely, the course of obtaining the opinion of the Court at The Hague, and getting that point settled in the first place.
It is often said, though with untruth, that the Labour party has some unfriendliness towards the Arabs. May I assure you, Mr. Speaker, and the House, that there is not the slightest degree of unfriendliness to the Arab race among my hon. Friends on this side of the House? We know—I know, as my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) knows, for we have been there and have seen it—we know the hard, poor, rather poverty-stricken life that is spent, by a large proportion of the Arab community; and, just as we seek to uplift the social, economic and political status of the working people of our own country, so we have sought, and we shall in all our political activities seek, to promote and encourage the political, economic and social uplift of the status of the working people of all the countries of the civilised world. Therefore, there is no prejudice on this side of the House against the Arabs, and there is no reason why there should be. They have never done anything against us; we have never done anything against them; we wish them well. If at any time we were able to help the working people of the Arab countries to organise themselves in trade unions and lift their status—[Interruption.] If I may say so without being unduly provocative, this is where the class prejudice comes out.
May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that two-thirds of the Arab race are nomads and that therefore they are not very naturally suited to trades unionism.
My interpretation of that interjection is that the very idea of working people in what are known as backward races being organised in trade unions is a funny idea to hon. Gentlemen opposite. Let me tell them that, so far as we are concerned, we have a fellowship and a friendship with the working people of all lands and races, and that we will, wherever the circumstances are appropriate, encourage them industrially to organise and to lift themselves up. As a matter of fact, there are, or at any rate there were, considerable numbers of the Arab population organised in trade unions in Palestine. It may be news to hon. Members opposite, but that is so. I met some of them, and there was a time when there was co-operation in trade union organisation between them and the Jews. There is still, but it has to be very discreetly done. There is still a desire for that co-operation among many Arab workmen in Palestine, and there is among the Jews a very wonderful trade union organisation. If that sincere co-operation has lessened as time has gone on, it has been as a result of terrorism, which has made it more difficult.
Therefore, we are not at enmity with the Arabs. We have no prejudice against them, and there is no reason why we should have any prejudice against them. We are the friends of the Arabs as we are of every people in the world, and in particular we regard it as a duty, not only of the Labour movement in all countries, but of His Majesty’s Government themselves, by their own administration and their own actions, to lift up the economic, social, and political status of the Arab masses in Palestine, Transjordan, and the other Arabian countries without in any way prejudicing the development of the Jewish National Home. But the Government here and the Government in Palestine have, I am afraid, looked upon Arab workmen just as hon. Members opposite look upon them, not as people to be brought up to face these matters, not as people to be given a higher economic and political status, but as subordinate, backward races to do the work of capitalist civilisation and to be exploited by capitalist civilisation. If the Government had taken pains, if the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary, who was once a Socialist—
I will give him the benefit of the doubt, and say that if the right hon. Gentleman had remembered what he learned in the days when he was a member of this party, he would have given painstaking and energetic attention to this policy, by social and economic legislation steadily lifting the economic, the social and, in the end, the political status of the Arab masses. He has done precious little and, as a matter of fact, the Jews have done more for the Arabs in that direction than His Majesty’s Government have done during almost the whole of the Mandate. I wish it had been otherwise. I would sooner the Government of my own country had done that job than left it to the Jewish people building their National Home. In that direction, I say that His Majesty’s Government have miserably failed. Moreover, who was it that started all the discussions that led up to the admission of Iraq to the League of Nations? It was the Labour Government, and Iraq is an Arab country. Who was it that laid the foundations of the substantial independence of Egypt? It was the late Arthur Henderson also, and the Labour Government quarrelled with Lord Lloyd and some hon. Members opposite in the process. Therefore, it is an untruth to declare that Labour has any enmity towards the Arabs, for, unlike the Government, we are the true friends of the masses of the Arab people.
This White Paper contains a lot of wishful thinking which is in conflict with the hard facts of the situation. It is useless continually wishing and hoping that the Arabs and the Jews will live together in friendly harmony. Wishing for things does not make those things happen. Hoping for change does not make the change occur. If change is to be brought about, if improvement is to be achieved, things have to be done, Ministers have to act, Administrations have to make changes in their administration in order that things may be done. I am weary of listening to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, and still more weary of listening to the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, saying to the Arabs and the Jews, “Be friends, live together in harmony,” just as they said it to the Franco people and the Republicans in Spain. At least, I would not mind them making these moral urgings if they would do something about it and make some contribution to a new situation. It is not enough merely to wish that things may get better. Statesmanship must create social, economic, and political conditions that make that possible. Government must be just, but it must also repress disorder, or Government must abdicate, and His Majesty’s Government, faced with this disorder, have not consistently faced the implications of the disorder. They have run away. They have neither repressed disorder effectively and permanently, nor have they abdicated from their functions.
Knowing that most of the trouble in Palestine has been created, not by the masses of the Arab people at all, but through a minority of certain classes of the Arabs, probably mostly by the agents of Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini, knowing that that was so—and it began in the days when the Prime Minister had a particular friendship with Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini—knowing that this trouble was largely the creation of foreign intervention and the activities of foreign agents, the Government nevertheless ran away in the earlier days of these difficulties. Then they plucked up some courage, and the Army was sent out. The disorders were largely stopped, order was largely restored, and now the Government propose to run away again. Properly handled, the Government need not send any material British force to Palestine at all to keep order. Properly handled, the Government could have had, and can still have, the active co-operation of the Jews and of a large proportion of the Arabs in maintaining order in Palestine; and I do not see why the Government should not at any rate in part, solve this problem on that line. There are people willing to train themselves to fight for the defence, order, and security of their own country, and I suggest that, subject to proper safeguards and answerable to the High Commissioner, they should be able to co-operate with the British Government in preserving order in their own country.
But instead of taking such a line, the Palestinian Government have been weak and uncreative, and so have the home Government, with their consistent inconsistencies of policy and with their constant vacillations. The unfortunate consequence is that a widespread impression has been created that the way to make the British lion run is to make disorder, to murder, to ambush, and to assassinate. I venture to say that it is really a most unfortunate state of affairs when the impression has been created that the way to get things out of the British Government, the way to impress them, the way to modify their policy, is not to be reasonable, not to argue, not to persuade, but to resort to force and violence. As the noble Lord, the present Paymaster-General, said in the House of Commons on 29th April, 1920: It would be intolerable, if the legitimate hopes of the Zionists were in any way affected by serious disturbances in that country.”—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th April, 1920; col. 1514; Vol. 128.] That is exactly what is happening today, and it is almost admitted in the words of the White Paper itself, to which I now come. This White Paper can be shortly summarised. It proposes to see to it that there shall be a minority in Palestine. That is definitely laid down, but it was said in the 1922 Declaration, for which the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was responsible: But in order that this (that is to say, the Jewish) community should have the best prospect of free development and provide a full opportunity for the Jewish people to display its capacities, it is essential that it should know that it is in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance. If they are going to be there in a permanent minority and in due course under a Government in which they are a permanent minority, they will obviously be there, not “as of right,” but “on sufferance.”
The White Paper goes on to say that the Government are now anxious to engage in experiments in self-government. The Government said this years ago. They declared quite a long time ago that they were anxious to develop, in particular, local self-government in Palestine, and it was urged upon them from many quarters of the House that that was the best avenue through which training in democratic self-government could be achieved. But the Government have not done it. The Government have in the past obstructed these very local governing institutions which would have conferred great benefits on the country. The Government undertook to develop local government, and in the course of a Debate here in 1936 that was urged upon them from all quarters of the House, but in fact no progress has been made since 1936. Moreover, due to the troubled state of the country, one Arab municipality after another has been dissolved. Even Jaffa and Haifa are administered by appointed municipal committees co-called, and even existing municipalities are increasingly deprived of their elementary rights.
I have learned, for example, a most extraordinary thing. There has been a municipality in Jerusalem for quite a long time, but I have learned that, not long ago, without the request of the municipality itself, the Government of Palestine compelled the municipality of Jerusalem to appoint to the post of town clerk, for the first time since the Mandate, a British district officer, incidentally a person who had no experience of municipal affairs. There is not an urban or rural district council in this country that would tolerate the Government appointing someone, apart from its own decision, to be its clerk. That is how the right hon. Gentleman is training the Palestinians in local government. If anything, he has gone backward rather than forward. It is still the case that the municipality of Tel-Aviv spends nearly all its money in a year before its gets the official approval of its estimates from the authorities at Jerusalem. The House is familiar with the difficulties which are put in the way of the municipality of Tel-Aviv. The Royal Commission found it necessary to devote a whole chapter to that particular problem, but their recommendations were ignored by the Colonial Secretary and by His Majesty’s Government. Therefore, I cannot but feel that this reference to the development of local self-government is merely lip service, without any particular meaning at all.
Then there is the whole of the argument on economic absorptive capacity. I do not wish to repeat the arguments that were put before the House with great effectiveness yesterday, for what the Government are really doing in all this discussion about economic absorptive capacity is this: They know that there are on record declarations by Minister after Minister that the test is economic absorptive capacity. Indeed, that was declared by the late Mr. Ramsay MacDonald to be the sole test. To justify their introduction of other qualifications, including the qualification imposed, in their judgment, by violence, including political considerations, the Government then do not look to the Mandate to see whether those considerations are justified by the Mandate, nor do they look to the Balfour Declaration to see whether they are justified by the Balfour Declaration, but they say that as those things are not mentioned in the Mandate or in the Balfour Declaration, they are perfectly entitled to administer the thing as if they were in the Mandate or in the Balfour Declaration. That is not a particularly accurate interpretation of either the Mandate or the Balfour Declaration, nor is it a particularly honourable instance of British administration in these matters. The Government are introducing into these instruments qualifications which are not actually there.
On page 9 of the White Paper there is, almost in words, a complete surrender to disturbance, violence, murder and assassination, for the White Paper says, after argument about immigration, and so on: The lamentable disturbances of the past three years are only the latest and most sustained manifestation of this intense Arab apprehension. The methods employed by Arab terrorists against fellow-Arabs and Jews alike must receive unqualified condemnation. It may be said that it is not fair to blame the whole thing on the Arabs. The Government ought to have given equal credit to Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini for the part they have played in this matter. The Government then go on, in terms, to set out that it shall not be the British Government that is to determine the quota or degree of Jewish immigration, that it shall not be actual conditions in Palestine themselves, that it shall not be economic absorptive capacity, or other considerations, because on page 10 of the White Paper they say: The alternatives before His Majesty’s Government are either (1) to seek to expand the Jewish National Home indefinitely by immigration, against the strongly expressed will of the Arab people of the country or (2) to permit further expansion of the Jewish National Home by immigration only if the Arabs are prepared to acquiesce in it. That alternative (2) means that the Arabs—and it is well known that the agents of Hitler and Mussolini are working with the Arabs—are to be the sole arbiters as to the degree and extent of Jewish immigration into Palestine. The Government having stated the alternatives, the second of which was to permit further expansion of the Jewish National Home by immigration, only if the Arabs are prepared to acquiesce in it, the White Paper says: Therefore, His Majesty’s Government, after earnest consideration, and taking into account the extent to which the growth of the Jewish National Home has been facilitated over the last twenty years, have decided that the time has come to adopt in principle the second of the alternatives referred to above. So they go on to the immigration formula, with its limitations, and finally give power to the High Commissioner to restrict dealings in land, which will put another economic stranglehold upon Jewish immigration and will be a double check to them in another and a direct economic way. The Government, ought to think again about giving that great power to the High Commissioner.
We regard this White Paper and the policy in it as a cynical breach of pledges given to the Jews and the world, including America. This policy will do us no good in the United States, where we need to be done good, and where we need the good will of the great American people. It comes at a time of tragedy and apprehension for the Jewish race throughout the world, and it ought not to be approved by the House to-day. The Mandates Commission of the League of Nations ought to have an opportunity of discussing it. If there is dispute about the quasi-legal arguments, they ought to be referred for decision to an appropriate international legal tribunal. I beg of the House not to approve this White Paper, but at the very least to insist that the Government shall engage in the appropriate international consultations before the House is asked to make a decision on a matter which is not only a British matter but one for the international conscience of the world, and a matter in which all other countries of the world are by implication involved.
If we do this thing to-day we shall have done a thing which is dishonourable to our good name, which is discreditable to our capacity to govern and which is dangerous to British security, to peace and to the economic interest of the world in general and of our own country. Moreover, it will not work. The Jews and the Arabs have both said they will not have this solution. Therefore, illegal disorders will probably go on and the friction will continue. This does not solve the problem. It is not even an effective surrender that brings peace to a country that so badly needs peace. Remember, that if the troubles continue scope will be given to the agents of Herr Hitler and Signor Mussolini who in various places seem to have the habit of lodging bombs in canvas suit-cases; it happened in Jerusalem and I gather that it is happening in London, and I am apprehensive that if things go on as they are there will soon be a shortage of canvas suit-cases in Germany and Italy.
Remember that ten years hence there is to be, if all goes well, responsible self-government in the country, subject to certain reservations in the interest of Imperial strategy. We are told that there is to be responsible self-government. There will be at least a two-thirds Arab majority. It is known in all parts of the House, it is known to Ministers, that a number of the leaders of the Arab disturbances in Palestine have been acting by the encouragement of German and Italian agents. It is known that part of those disturbances, a large part, can be traced to German and Italian activities in that country. Suppose Herr Hitler is in power in ten years time and suppose Mussolini is in power, what is to stop them then still sending their agents to Palestine and working upon the Arab people in the way they have been doing—working for the persecution of the Jewish race, working for the disarmament of the Jewish race by the new Government, working for the exclusion and persecution of the Jewish race in Palestine? What is to prevent them from doing that? As far as I can see, nothing, and about that possibility the right hon. Gentleman thinks nothing at all.
I do not know what Government will be in power in ten years time, and it would certainly be wrong for me to indicate what such a Government would do in circumstances that we cannot foresee and cannot know, but I think it ought to be known by the House that this breach of faith, which we regret, this breach of British honour, with its policy, with which we have no sympathy, is such that the least that can be said is that the Government must not expect that this is going to be automatically binding upon their successors. They must not expect that. I will go no further than that, but they must understand that this document will not be automatically binding upon their successors in office, whatever the circumstances of the time may be.
We cannot prevent this evil thing being done. We cannot prevent this White Paper being approved. Hon. Members opposite alone can stop this thing happening, and I appeal to them. I ask them to remember the sufferings of these Jewish people all over the world. I ask them to remember that Palestine, of all the places in the world, was certainly the place where they had some right to expect not to suffer or to have restrictions imposed upon them. Look at the extent of the country—this little patch of territory. Transjordan has been taken away. The rest of the Arabian countries released from Turkish rule as a result of the War have an enormous area. This tiny patch, Palestine, about the size of Wales, is left, and we are to stop these people from going there. I appeal to hon. Members opposite to take their courage in both hands, to put the honour of their country before the narrow claims of party, and to bring to bear all the pressure they can, all the influence they can, to prevent His Majesty’s Government from doing this thing that they ought not to do.
We always expect to hear from the right hon. Gentleman a constructive policy, and those of us who have been associated with him for some years in this House would expect that of him, but I regret that in his closing remarks he used what was tantamount to a threat that, should there be a change of Government in this country, the people of Palestine and the Arab States might feel no certainty of any continuity of policy. I feel strongly, and I hope the House will forgive me, because this is a question on which we all have very strong feelings. Some of us who are associated with the Arab Bureau, under Sir Gilbert Clayton, remember, and I hope we shall never forget, the services which the Arab people rendered to us in the War. We also know what was done in the way of promises to the Jews. Frankly, I often feel that we may have committed ourselves to inconsistencies, but what matters much more than what happened in the past is what is to be done in the immediate present and future.
The right hon. Gentleman said not one word about the Conference that took place in London a few weeks ago. That Conference was presided over by my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary, with astonishing tact and patience. Those of us who saw the delegates there from the Arab States, and the Jews, know that although they realised that the Conference had not been a success in coming to any final conclusion, they all felt that there was a Minister in the Government who was trying to take an impartial view and to bring us out of this extraordinarily difficult problem. If we are to do our duty as a mandatory power, at a time when the whole ideal of the League of Nations is being held up, perhaps, to ridicule, those of us who believe in the ideals of the League of Nations must realise that a greater responsibility rests upon us as a mandatory Power to try to act in this regard in the most impartial possible way. I know from the letters I am receiving—and I suppose other hon. Members are receiving letters from their constituents—that a number of Jews quite rightly, feel keenly about this matter, and are writing to their Members and trying to bring influence to bear upon them. If we had Arab constituents I suppose they would write to us as well, and seek to bring their influence to bear, but we have none. It is then, surely our definite duty not to be carried away by any spasm of sentimentalism but to remember that we have a responsibility to all the people who inhabit that part of the world.
It is a tragedy that whereas to-day we have these troubles in Palestine, in former days when Palestine and the holy places were guarded by Turkish soldiers, infidels as they were called, they were more successful than we seem to have been. Let us remember that we have now our Treaty with Turkey, to which we all attach great hopes. I believe that Turkey will be able to assist in the ultimate federation of the Arab States, which must come. Already, there are treaties between Turkey, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan, a chain of States across that part of the world. It has never been impossible for British genius to try and help peoples to come forward and take their place, and it is true that the Arab people look to us. I have no fears, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite seems to have, that they are ever going to be under the influence of Herr Hitler. One of the most foolish things ever done by the Axis Powers was when Signor Mussolini went into Albania. Some of us who know that country know the strength of Moslem feeling there. Nothing could have been done better to help our position than the action taken by Signor Mussolini in regard to Albania.
But there is one matter on which, I hope, the Government will give us more assurance. I feel we must provide more than mere words for helping the economic development of the country as a whole. The potash concession in the Red Sea and the power and light concession have been worked successfully, I think, by Jewish enterprise—and I know some of the people concerned—but no effort has been made to form public utility societies, whereby the Arab cultivators can obtain grain and fertilisers at easy prices; nothing has been done to equip them with modern tools or to help them in marketing. If you analysed what is going on in the Jewish territory, at Tel-Aviv and elsewhere, if you had a Scottish firm of chartered accountants to go into what is the supposed prosperity of these regions, you would find that it would not all be on the favourable side of the balance sheet. Much of this prosperity depends on contributions provided by Jewry throughout the world. The very fact of their success in producing oranges has knocked the price of oranges down considerably. We should consider that without prejudice, because our obligation is to help both Jews and Arabs. When the right hon. Gentleman quoted the Secretary of State he did not quote the words which the Secretary of State quoted from the White Paper: A State in which the two peoples of Palestine, Arabs and Jews, share authority and government in such a way that the essential interests of each are secure. We live in days of strict attention to realities, and the dreamers of dreams have not much chance. I agree that if we are to justify our position as a mandatory Power, we should put down disorder from whatever side it comes. I assume that the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared to see martial law established in Palestine if necessary. He rightly said that it was a few people who led this terrorist campaign. I think it is foolish and dangerous to-day to say, “We shall never treat with this person, that person, or the other person.” We have all been long enough in public affairs to remember instances, such as the case of Ireland, where we said we would never treat with certain persons, and in the end it was those persons who signed the Treaty. If this policy is to be carried through, there should be no restriction whatever as to whom we deal with. This scheme of the Government’s is, I think, a chance which should be accepted. I think it is a great opportunity; it may be the last opportunity. How many of us realise the immense sums which have been poured out in this small country since 1930. I think it averages between £7,000,000 and £10,000,000 a year. That cannot go on. Listening to some of my friends who are Jews—and I am glad to say I have many—I find it difficult to understand why they do not appreciate what has already been done by this country. Surely we have set an example to the world; and I am very anxious we should continue to do that.
Does the hon. Member wish to imply that this country is spending £7,000,000 to £10,000,000 per annum in Palestine, or does he wish merely to imply that the taxpayers of this country are maintaining an army in Palestine? He is certainly not correct.
The hon. gentleman may have looked up the figures; but I put a question in the House some years ago, and got the total figure spent by this country as the mandatory Power in Palestine. I think he will find that, quite apart from the Army of occupation in Palestine, that is the figure which has been spent. But be the amount £1,000,000 or £10,000,000, the sum does not matter. The Jews should be a little more confident that the spirit we have shown will ensure them that they will have a square deal in Palestine. The two people both have to live together in Palestine. I did not hear a word from the right hon. Gentleman opposite as to what he would do. I know it is not the Opposition’s business to form a policy; it is their business to oppose; but we should not let party prejudice spoil this scheme. If the right hon. Gentleman has no definite suggestion to make, I should like to make one or two suggestions to him. I should like to ask him whether he spoke for the Opposition when he said that he wished to see the Arabs formed into trade unions and their status and position developed. We all wish that. Some of us who have lived with them know that they are by nature a nomad people; and if you settle them on territory it is against their nature to stay, unless they know they are to have an opportunity of developing that territory. The first essential is law and order; and the second, irrigation and so on. I see no other Power but us who can do that for them. I assume that the right hon. Gentleman would like to see the Arabs allowed to remain and bring up their families there; and, if so, why should he quarrel with the fact that only one-third of the population are to be Jews and two-thirds are to be Arabs? You have to lay down a line of some kind.
I come to the very vexed question of the Jewish National Home. I listened to the Debate yesterday, and I did not hear any two hon. Members agree as to the definition of the National Home. Lord Balfour felt—and I feel—that what we should do is to work for the Jews to have a spiritual National Home, a sort of Vatican City, where they can have extended universities and a new Temple of the Covenant; where they can enshrine that wonderful history and traditional belief in custom which has kept them together, scattered as they are over the face of the earth. The world cannot afford to lose the Jewish art and culture. That is something we can help to preserve without doing any harm to the Arab. Where we have gone astray is in assuming that this is all on a material, or territorial, basis. We must get our minds on to the other plane: the plane which is non-material, and the things which are eternal. I believe the Jews would flock to Palestine, and from there go back to their own countries, fortified and strengthened by the knowledge that they have a common place for Jews of all kinds to study their language, customs and faith. It is towards that end that we should all direct our attention. If we go on muddling and meddling with the affairs of the Arabs who are there, and thinking only in terms of land settlement, we are likely to forget things which matter much more.
I believe this House has a tremendous responsibility. I shall certainly support the Government, because this scheme is the only one that I can see that can bring peace and hope to the country. We shall look to the Opposition, who may be the Government at some future time within the next 10 years; and I believe they will not shatter what may be the frame for a building which will prove to be a triumph of British administration. If so, I believe this can be done on a sure foundation, so that the Arab people may greatly benefit from contact with the Jews. Why should we in this House always emphasise difficulties, and never try to help those people who are wanting to build up something worth while in Palestine? We should help them by concentrating on points of agreement and promising them that they shall have law and order, and that not only we but the whole of Western civilisation is there, under the Mandate of the League, ready to show that, in these days of horror and persecution, we have still time to think of building something that is worth while.
I am under no temptation to fail to follow the hon. Member for Abingdon (Sir R. Glyn), who has spoken with such good humour and breadth of view. I have no Jewish blood and no Jewish constituents, so I am able to speak, as he has done, with impartiality. But the hon. Member has told us, with great eloquence, what his idea of a Jewish National Home would be—a sort of Vatican City, a centre of Jewish art and culture. It is that now. It has a great university and a great school of medicine. While that may be the hon. Member’s idea of a Jewish National Home, while it may have been his idea from the beginning, it was certainly not the kind of National Home that was in fact promised to the Jews on behalf of His Majesty’s Government and the British people. I will not delay the House with quotations, though I could do so, but I will refer the hon. Member to innumerable speeches which have been made by great leaders of the British people, like Lord Balfour, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), the present Prime Minister, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, and many others, who held out to the Jewish people the hope of returning to that land which they loved so much, but which the hon. Member for Abingdon seems to think a matter of such very little importance. I do not happen to be a Jew, but I am a Scotsman; and the people of my country really do love the land with an instinctive feeling which the Englishman, I think, does not quite understand. So we understand the Jewish love of the soil of Palestine. It is that feeling which has held together the 16,000,000 Jews throughout the world through the centuries of their dispersion, the love of their own homeland to which they always hope and believe they are destined to return. That was the conception of the Jewish National Home which the leaders of British public opinion have since the War constantly encouraged the Jews to hold. While the hon. and gallant Gentleman may have a different conception, that will not shield the Government, and Parliament, if it endorses this policy, from the accusation of betrayal which will be levelled against them by the Jews of the world and by their innumerable sympathisers who are not of the Jewish race.
The hon. Gentleman said that we really ought to help the Arabs to develop then-share in the life of Palestine, and certainly there would be no opposition from anybody in any part of this House to any well-judged measures which the Government might devise for that purpose. Indeed many of us have for many years been urging the Government and the local administration in Palestine to be more active in the development of the country along these lines. If they had been more active, some of the more unhappy developments of recent years might have been avoided, but at the same time I feel bound to say this in the name of that impartiality which the hon. Member enjoined upon us, that the Jews have devoted themselves with energy, brains, sacrifice, money to the development of that country, and such development as has been carried out in Palestine by the Government has been with the fruits of Jewish labour. It is not true, as the hon. Gentleman thinks, that the British taxpayer has been subscribing substantial sums of money to Palestine. I assure him that it is quite untrue. If he looks at the facts, he will find that, apart from the cost of the Army in Palestine and apart from Transjordan, no money at all has been spent from British funds in Palestine since 1920. The Jews have spent this money and energy and have made these sacrifices for the development of the country. Why do not the Arabs do the same? It is not true to say that there are no Arabs that have the capital. We have met these wealthy Arabs. We know them, and if they can find money for arms and equipment for organising revolts against British rule, why cannot they find money for a little development on behalf of the poor Arab people?
It is often said that the Arab case is indifferently put in this House, and that it is only the Jewish case which gets put effectively. I cannot help thinking that there is a great deal of truth in that when I listen to the Debate which is taking place during these last two days. A number of hon. Members have made eloquent speeches which were ostensibly on behalf of the Arab case. The hon. Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley) told the House that he was going to deploy the Arab case. But did he? He did not at all. He deployed the case of powerful feudal families in Palestine. When I think of the Arab people whom I want to help I do not think of those powerful feudal families, and of the Mufti or the Nahashibis. I think of the fellahin living by the hundreds of thousands on the land, and living there more prosperously, as the Royal Commission reported to us, than they were before the Jews came to establish their National Home in 1920.
I think also of the increasing number of Arab industrial workers. The hon. Member for Stretford referred rather contemptuously to the 25,000 whom he found cooped up in little shacks on the outskirts of Haifa. He rather indicated to the House that they were wretched, unemployed, destitute people. You have only to look at the report of the Royal Commission to find them described as living in what the Royal Commission describes as Tin Town. It may be that their housing is bad and that it reflects discredit upon the Government of the country, but not upon the Jews who were not responsible for it. The Royal Commission also says that they are people who find employment in the industrial life of the country and are earning increasingly good wages and improving their conditions. When a little time ago the Government set aside £250,000 to resettle the Arabs who had been turned off their land in order to make room for Jewish enterprises, only one-third of the money was used. The other Arabs had either got into agriculture again and obtained other holdings on their own account or had entered industry and were earning good wages.
I think of the fellahin, of these people who are working in industry and improving their position, of the villagers terrorised by the bands of the Mufti and working where they can in close co-operation with the Jews. I think of those trade unionists of whom the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) spoke, who were also, as he pointed out, terrorised by the so-called Arab leaders. These people, with their standards of living rising and their social services improving, and the increased happiness of their families dependent upon Jewish enterprises under the protection of the Mandatory Power—these are the Arabs whom the House ought to protect against the feudal Arabs and the foreign agitators, and protect them against the loss of the spring of their own happiness which is the Jewish National Home. It is from that that their increased prosperity is derived. The benefits which the Arabs have derived from the Jewish National Home depend on the continuance of its prosperity. That is in the report of the Royal Commission. We must not ignore the mass of the Arab people whose welfare, along with that of the Jews, should be our primary consideration in Palestine. It is only if we think of that that we shall be able to reconcile the interests of the Jews and Arabs in Palestine. In concluding his eloquent speech last night the Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs referred to the blessings of retirement, rest, quietness and confidence in a very eloquent passage. It is our task to confer these blessings upon the Arabs and Jewish people in Palestine, and until we have done so His Majesty’s Government must forego them for themselves.
I do not want to take up too much of the time of the House to-day, as there are, no doubt, many other Members who want to speak, and therefore I propose to concentrate almost entirely upon one point for the rest of my speech, and it is the impropriety of asking Parliament to endorse the policy of His Majesty’s Government at the present time. The Under-Secretary of State in his speech winding up the Debate last night said: The Amendment of the official Opposition requests that the House should await the examination of the proposals by the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League. In the view of His Majesty’s Government it will not be necessary for the House to await such a decision because there is nothing inconsistent between the Mandate and anything contained in this White Paper.”—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1939; col. 2055; Vol. 347.] It is my very strong representation to the House, and especially to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, who, I understand, is going to answer this Debate, that the White Paper is inconsistent with the terms of the Mandate. I am going to base myself not on my own unsupported assertions but upon the highest authorities there are available. I have first the report of the Palestine Royal Commission of 1937, and on page 39 it says: Unquestionably, however, the primary purpose of the Mandate as expressed in its Preamble and its Articles, is to promote the establishment of the Jewish National Home. On page 374, the same Commission say: To put it in one sentence, we cannot—in Palestine as it now is—both concede the Arab claim to self-government and secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home. And on the following page they say: We do not think that any fair-minded statesman would suppose, now that the hope of harmony between the races has proved untenable, that Britain ought either to hand over to Arab rule 400,000 Jews, whose entry into Palestine has been for the most part facilitated by the British Government and approved by the League of Nations; or that, if the Jews should become a majority, a million or so of Arabs should be handed over to their rule. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman will say that we ought to trust to the safeguards, if we hand them over to the care or supervision of self-governing institutions in which the Arabs will have a majority of two to one over the Jews. But what safeguards? We have no right to believe that the safeguards will be effective unless we are told very clearly what they are. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney has already quoted what occurred between the Secretary of State and myself yesterday. The Secretary of State, in answer to my interjection, said that I ought not to hurry at this stage. I ought not to ask him to lay down a time-table. I did not ask him to lay down a time-table but to tell us what the type and character of the safeguards for the five-year period of transition were going to be. Are they to be solid and real safeguards for the continuation of the Jewish National Home, so real that the Government would be ready to enforce them if necessary, as they have not been prepared to enforce the undertakings which successive Governments have given to the Jews up to now? These are questions to which we are entitled to an answer, and we ought to have an answer before we endorse the proposal which His Majesty’s Government have brought before us. There could be nothing more unfair and more likely to lead to confusion and to renewed disturbance in Palestine than any uncertainty about what the fate of either the Jewish or the Arab people is going to be under the new dispensation. Here I would call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the report of the Partition Commission of last year. On page 103 they say: The worst possible form of settlement would be one which left both Jews and Arabs in any part of Palestine uncertain whether in a few years time either of them may not be subjected against their will to the political dominance of the other. Could there be in a single sentence a clearer summary of the situation which would arise if we endorse this White Paper? In the words of the Partition Commission this White Paper, because it leaves the uncertainty as to whether in a few years time the Jews may not be subjected against their will to the political domination of the Arabs, is the “worst possible form of settlement.” That judgment prophetically condemned this White Paper. Again, if, as the Royal Commission reported, the promotion of a Jewish National Home is the primary purpose of the Mandate, and if, as they also reported, it is impossible to concede both the Arab claim of independence, as the White Paper does, and secure the establishment of a Jewish National Home His Majesty’s Government’s proposals are clearly contrary to the Mandate by the judgment of the Royal Commission. Let me quote from a letter written by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald to the Prime Minister in February, 1931. This is what he wrote: The words (in the Mandate) are not to be read as implying that existing economic conditions in Palestine should be crystallised. On the contrary, the obligation to facilitate Jewish immigration “— the obligation was to facilitate, not to stop, Jewish immigration if the Arabs objected—and to encourage the settlement by Jews on the land remains a positive obligation of the Mandate. If it remains “a positive obligation of the Mandate,” to discourage and stop Jewish immigration must be contrary to the Mandate: and it can be fulfilled without prejudice to the rights and positions of other sections of the population in Palestine. I cannot imagine that the Government can disavow the opinion expressed by the Royal Commission, by the Partition Commission, and by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald when he was Prime Minister, and if it is true then it is my submission that this White Paper is contrary to the Mandate. Indeed, less than two years ago, when the Government went to the Mandates Commission to consult them about the proposals of the Partition Commission, the Mandates Commission said: The (Mandates) Commission does not question that the Mandatory Power, responsible as it is for the maintenance of order in the territory, may on occasion find it advisable to take such a step (as to restrict immigration), and is competent to do so, as an exceptional and provisional measure; it feels, however, bound to draw attention to this departure from the principle, sanctioned by the League Council, that immigration is to be proportionate to the country’s economic absorptive capacity. The right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden), who was then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, said at the meeting of the League Council the following month that this reduction of Jewish immigration was a purely temporary measure designed to meet temporary and exceptional conditions. Not only was the then Foreign Secretary most anxious to prove that it was “temporary and exceptional,” but the Mandates Commission pointed out that unless it was temporary and exceptional it would be contrary to the Mandate. As it is suggested in the White Paper that immigration is to be restricted and finally made subject to the approval—”acquiescence” is the word used in the White Paper—of the Arabs, I say that it is, in fact, a departure from the principles of the Mandate as recognised by the Royal Commission, the Partition Commission, Mr. Ramsay MacDonald, the Mandates Commission, and the right hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington when he was representing His Majesty’s Government only two years ago. It may be argued—although it is not my argument—that circumstances make it impossible to carry out the terms of the Mandate in Palestine at the present time and that His Majesty’s Government cannot be under an obligation to perform the impossible. But it is clearly under the obligation to report such circumstances if they exist to the Mandates Commission; it cannot brush it aside as the Under-Secretary of State suggested in his speech last night. He said: I think it is very important that the House should make up its mind on this question in view of the definite and routine arrangements under which this policy will come before the League. ”Routine arrangement”! It is the vital duty of the Government to consult the Mandates Commission of the League: Hon. Members should be under no illusion that the responsibility for the government of Palestine does not rest upon our shoulders. While we wish at all times to pay due weight to the valuable opinions of the Permanent Mandates Commission it is for us to discharge this responsibility.”—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd May, 1939; col. 2055, Vol. 347.] If there is any doubt as to whether we are departing from the terms of the Mandate quite clearly we have to go back to the Mandates Commission and consult them and get their opinion as to whether the proposals and the policy of the Government are in accordance with the Mandate or not. The Secretary of State is bound by the Declaration of his predecessor, the Duke of Devonshire, who, in 1923, said: It is not possible for us to say that we wish to reserve certain portions of the Mandate and dispense with others. If we resign that position of trust it would be for the League of Nations to determine what new arrangements should be put in force. It amounts, in fact, to this, that if we are compelled to admit the impossibility of carrying out obligations placed upon us we shall have to retire altogether. Therefore, I say that this restriction of immigration within arbitrary limits, unrelated to the economic absorptive capacity of the country, and the undertaking to make its continuance dependent on Arab sufferance, this restriction of Jewish immigration without any corresponding restriction on Arab immigration, thus having swept away the obligations imposed by the Mandate to facilitate Jewish immigration, introducing into the immigration policy, contrary to the specific terms of the Mandate, an element of discrimination against the Jews on grounds of race and religion, the reduction of the Jews to the status of a permanent minority—all these things, whether justified or not in the existing circumstances in Palestine—that is not a question which I am arguing at the moment—are all grave departures from the terms of the Mandate, and they call in question our moral right to continue to hold it. They are not matters within the sole jurisdiction and responsibility of His Majesty’s Government or even of Parliament, but require the most careful study and examination at the hands of the Mandates Commission.
Indeed, we ought in these grave matters of the true interpretation of the Mandate to obtain, as the right hon. Member for South Hackney argued, on the precedent of the letter signed by Lord Hailsham and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1930, to get an opinion from the Hague Court. I support the demand which the right hon. Member for South Hackney made that that opinion should be obtained. My contention is that such an opinion from the Hague Court should be obtained forthwith, and, having been obtained, that His Majesty’s Government should either consult Parliament afresh or go straight to the Mandates Commission. But Parliament ought not to commit itself to proposals which there is at least a strong case for regarding as conflicting with the fundamental principles of the Mandate until they have been approved by the Mandates Commission.
If we now follow His Majesty’s Government in yielding to violence in Palestine we shall create confusion in that country, we shall incur the scorn of Europe, we shall not propitiate either the Palestinian agitators or the Governments of Egypt and the Arab States, all of whom have rejected these proposals, and we shall anger public opinion in the United States of America. For generations the hostility of the Irish people has poisoned our relations with the people of the United States of America. For that hostility, now so happily allayed, we should, if we accept these proposals, substitute the hostility of 5,000,000 Jews and their Protestant sympathisers in the United States.
This White Paper is a spring not of healing but of bitter waters. There comes to my mind a saying of Prince Max of Baden, that Great Britain has two great sources of strength—her fleet and her good name. The good name of Great Britain will be tainted if Parliament accepts this White Paper and endorses it before obtaining the impartial judgment of The Hague Court and the Mandates Commission. It is a repudiation of solemn pledges which Parliament and the people of Great Britain have given to the Jews. If His Majesty’s Government really think otherwise, let them fortify themselves by the impartial judgment of The Hague Court and the Mandates Commission. Until they do so I, for my part, shall refuse, and I hope Parliament will refuse, to endorse their policy.
I rise for the first time to speak in this House under a solemn sense of duty and with a deep sense of responsibility, and I ask with all my heart for the indulgence and sympathy of the House. I was sent here to act in conjunction with my colleague by, I understand, the largest constituency save one in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I was sent here to support the Government, not to embarrass them, and I am not going to embarrass the Government, but I am not going back on my own opinions to please anybody. God has given me what intelligence I have, it may be much or very little, but what He has given me I am going to use. As they say in Ulster, I am no “yes-man.” I do not intend to embarrass the Government in the least, but I am going to have my say.
To me, there is quite a remarkable similarity between the conditions as they prevailed in Ireland before the Treaty and the state of affairs in Palestine to-day. After personal experience of many years of what has happened in Ireland since the Treaty, and what is happening to-day, I say to the Government, in that old Latin phrase of two words, festina lente—”hasten slowly.” The Irish Treaty was drawn up by the Government of that time with an eye on the terrorists in Ireland. On Saturday last, I left the noise of London and went to Hyde Park in order that I might get away from the noise and bustle and try to understand the White Paper; and as I read it, I came to the conclusion that it was drawn up with an eye on the terrorists in Palestine. Just as the arrangement in Ireland has not brought peace but a sword, so I am sure the very same thing will happen in Palestine. I have no place for terrorists. To them I would make no concession, for wherever one finds them, on the Continent, in Palestine, in Ireland—and now they have transferred their activities to England—they are nothing more or less than the humbugs of the world. There is something wrong with the mentality of men in Palestine who will go out and shed innocent blood; and there is something wrong with the mentality of men here or in Ireland who will face a long sentence of penal servitude for the empty satisfaction of crying, “Up the Republic”—an idea for ever impossible in Ireland.
In Palestine, we are dealing with people of two races who have different ideals, and in Ireland the same difficulty existed. In Palestine there will happen what happened in Ireland—the projected settlement will drive the two peoples farther and farther apart. I stand here and say that with sorrow. To my deep sorrow, it happened in Ireland. At the time the Irish Treaty was entered into—a treaty that was made and signed only to be broken by the present rulers of Eire, who have driven a coach and four through it—there was nothing more than an ordinary border between the North and the South. Now that line of demarcation has become an unbridgeable gulf, deep as an abyss. Everything that the mind of man could invent has been done South of the border to make the union of Ireland for ever impossible. I can foresee, without having the vision of a prophet, the very same thing happening under the proposed settlement in Palestine between the Arabs and the Jews. The House is being asked to set up a witches’ cauldron in Palestine, something similar to that which a former Government set up in Ireland.
It is not without significance that in Ireland, when there came a breathing-space and one hoped that a more friendly atmosphere might prevail, and that, although any thought of a union of North and South was wholly out of the question, a better understanding might be reached for the welfare and good of all the inhabitants and the prosperity of the country, someone was found to stir up the hell broth in the cauldron. I am sorry to say this is what has happened time and again. All the prosperity of Ireland, North and South, has been retarded, to my deep sorrow and that of every lover of Ireland. I fear the same thing in Palestine. The House had an example of this in connection with the recent Military Training Bill. The Prime Minister of Northern Ireland said that Northern Ireland was with Britain heart and soul. We share in your successes and difficulties, we are one with you, and we intend to remain one with you. But immediately the Prime Minister across the border intervened. He held up a paper constitution, and said, “I am going to dictate for all Ireland, and there is going to be no conscription.” To the chagrin and embitterment of the people of Northern Ireland, he was heeded by the British Government. They may have had some good cause for that—it is not known in Ulster—but nothing has ever embittered the Protestant people of Ulster so much as being slighted by the British Government in this respect. For we are one with you, we rejoice with you and fight with you, and we stand up for the rights of Britain and the civil and religious liberty for which our forefathers paid dearly and which we enjoy. Now, under the White Paper, it is not improbable that the Arabs will dominate the Jews in the very same way and seek to bend the Jews to their will, and the Jews will no more stand this than we in Ulster stand it. Let that not be forgotten.
I am not leaning either to Jew or Arab. I want fair play. There is not one in the whole of that vast constituency which I have the honour to represent who does not know that I came to this House to stand for fair play for Jew, Arab and Christian. I rather like the idea of the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Mr. de Rothschild) that Palestine should become a British Colony in which all the inhabitants, irrespective of race, would receive British justice. I would ten thousand times rather see that than see the White Paper put into force, for, to take the analogy of Ireland, I know what the stirring of the witches’ cauldron will mean there also. I can foresee, when the Arabs take over the State, as is contemplated, after ten years, a marked decrease of the Jewish population. There may be no expulsions—and it is likely that there will not be—but circumstances will wear them out, so that they must seek sanctuary elsewhere. That is what has happened to the Protestants of Eire. Is it not marvellous that those so-called persecuted people in the North—so persecuted that they are just as happy and well-protected as I am—the Roman Catholics, are increasing in the North, and that the Protestants are dying out in the South, where we are told they are pampered? They have not been expelled from Eire, but conditions there are such that the Protestants number only 6 per cent. of the population. The Lord Primate of all Ireland, who knows the circumstances well, and who was Archbishop of Dublin for many years before his recent appointment to the Primacy, in his speech at the General Synod two weeks ago, made reference to this abnormal decline, and gave some of the causes of it. I would commend that address to members of the Government and Members of the House. I am convinced that something similar will happen to the Jews if the arrangements set forth in the White Paper are carried out.
The White Paper is not all bad—far from it. It contains the foundations, I believe, of a just and permanent settlement, if it were thoroughly taken up; but I cannot see even the remotest prospect of peace in Palestine in the plan sponsored by the Government. If the Arabs are so strongly opposed at the moment to Jewish immigration, will they not be ten times more strongly opposed to it at the end of ten years, when the British Mandate no longer runs? Then the chances will be that not merely will the incoming of the Jews be stopped, but it will be impossible for them to dwell in the land. I thank you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for giving me this opportunity to speak. I hold no brief for the Jews—there is not one drop of Jewish blood in my veins, and I would pass even Herr Hitler—but before I close, I wish to say that there is no country on the face of the earth that has dealt hardly with the Jews but has suffered for it. Go back to the old civilisations—Babylon, Ninevah, Assyria, Rome, that mighty Empire, and the Russia of yesterday—and study the facts for yourselves. Today Germany, by her treatment of the Jews, is laying up for herself wrath against the day of wrath. I am convinced of that. I am proud to be an Irishman and to have been born an Irishman. I am proud to be a British citizen. I do not wish anyone ever to have the remotest ground for saying that Britain has even once dealt hardly with the Jews. Notwithstanding the fine gilding which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State placed on the White Paper yesterday, I do not believe that the White Paper, if carried out, will deal justly with the Jews. I believe with that grand old man, St. Paul, that: All Israel shall be saved. I have prayed and worked all my life for it. For these reasons, I ask the Government solemnly—as one of their own supporters and one who will never set himself to embarrass them—to take back this White Paper. Greater things than that have been done by Governments in this place, and done successfully. I want the Government to take back the White Paper and, without looking at terrorists or for that matter to any man, or asking anybody whether it pleases him or not, to seek Divine guidance, and under that Divine guidance find a more equitable settlement of affairs in Palestine. Despite all their defects, God still has a deep interest in the Jews.
Once or twice during the period of my Parliamentary experience I have had imposed upon me by the House the duty of congratulating a new Member on his maiden speech. I do not think I have ever done it on an occasion when it was so fully deserved as it is on this occasion. I am sure there has not been a maiden speech for a very considerable period of which the House so fully appreciated and enjoyed the oratory and Parliamentary skill. The hon. Member for Down (Dr. Little) may have misunderstood the laughter of the House and believed that it might be derisive. That was not the case. It was laughter that arose from all the older Members of the House because we were delighted at the way with which this novice was getting away with something that all the rest of us would have been stopped doing. I am barred by the etiquette of the House from making any comment on or criticism of the speech. We welcome the new Member in our midst. His predecessor was a kindly, genial, but very silent colleague. I am sure that the hon. Member is going to be kindly and genial, but I am not quite so sure about the silence. May I say that I thought of him as a kindred soul, when I heard him declare that he was not going to be a “yes-man.” But he will be very lonely, and he will find some difficulty in maintaining that attitude along with the other one which he promised at the end of his speech of not embarrassing the Government. But I leave him to make the necessary compromise and to find the line himself.
I rise, as others on this side of the House have risen, to oppose the White Paper very strongly from the point of view which has been put in many quarters, that it should, at least, be submitted to the impartial and judicial consideration of bodies which have not the same close political interest in the matter as this House has. One consideration has been present in my mind during the whole of this discussion. The guiding idea in the White Paper is that 5 years hence, or 10 years hence, the time will be more propitious for doing something in the way of bringing democracy and self-government to Palestine, than it is at present. Looking back over the period during which this subject has come up for discussion over and over again in this House what strikes me is that one would have said, 5 years ago or 10 years ago, that 5 years or 10 years forward from that period, the position would be better for extending self-government to Palestine than it was then. If we look back over the last 5 or 10 years we must all realise now that Palestine then, was a simple problem compared with what it is to-day. I do not know what reasons the Colonial Secretary has for assuming that 5 or 10 years hence, the Palestine problem will have simplified itself.
Five years ago we had not the huge complication of the refugee problem. I do not know how it affects other people, but the refugee problem has altered my way of looking at this subject in a very substantial degree. We had not the strategical problem then and it seems to me, though I may be wrong and unduly suspicious, that one of the big motives behind the production of this White Paper is that of strategic considerations. Those two problems have arisen in an acute form only in the last five years. We here in Great Britain have told the world that we are champions of democracy against all others. I have a strong feeling that one of the best things we could do for democracy in these times is to show some confidence in it. I have grave doubts about the democracy of us in this House, 2,000 miles away from the scene, holding the destinies of the people in that territory in our hands. I have grave doubts as to the democracy of Arabs in Syria, in Egypt and in Iraq, telling me how to deal with the lives of the people in Palestine, just as I have grave doubts of the democracy of Jews in Glasgow, Edinburgh, London or New York, telling me how to decide the lives, of the people in Palestine. I have grave doubts as to the democracy of the conferences which the Colonial Secretary-calls in London, and to which he summons people from all over the place, while he never makes any serious attempt to summon the ordinary Arab and Jewish folk from Palestine, who have to live and work and earn their livelihood there, to hear their views of the situation.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) said that he had no Jews in his constituency. I have a few. They are not of such numbers as to make them a very important consideration electorally. They are a friendly, decent section of our community. I have had no word from one of them about this issue. In all the huge barrage of stuff that has been sent out from all quarters and from all sorts of organisations, I have not had one letter from any of my Jewish friends in my own constituency about this issue. I have had one letter from a personal friend who is a Jew, but is not one of my constituents, and he suggests that the appropriate way of dealing with the problem is to hand over the Mandate to Turkey. I put that view to the House. Turkey in these days has become one of those nations ranked against the dictatorships. It is now one of the great democracies of Europe. My friend’s suggestion might be worthy of consideration, but my own personal view is that nobody can save either the Jews or the Arabs of Palestine, except the Jews and Arabs of Palestine themselves. For us, it is an impertinence to assume that we are capable either of tutelage over them or of conferring self-government on them. Neither Jews nor Arabs can imagine that they are likely to get freedom and decent ways of living in that country, without shouldering responsibilities and going through struggles, just the same as other people.
The Jews under present conditions are in a minority of one to two. The hon. Member for Down (Dr. Little) spoke about the position in Ireland. He takes a certain view of how Ireland should be run. We Scottish have taken a different view of our relationships with this country. In this House we are in a permanent minority of one to ten, but from years of historical experience, we have learned how to make the best of that position. We do it by not exaggerating our national sentiments, which are very real, and also by not exaggerating unduly the superiority of our rulers. We do not take them half so seriously as they take themselves, and that seems to me to be a suitable basis for democratic life in any community. I do not see why the Jews, with their experience of centuries of struggle, should be afraid to face life on a democratic basis in the minority which is only one to two. They have lived through the centuries, in all quarters of the globe, as insignificant minorities without any civic rights, in many cases, without working rights, without trading rights. To me it seems that the right thing to do is to say that we are going to have democracy now in Palestine in the fullest sense of the word, not a democracy in which Arabs are manipulated by people outside, or Jews manipulated by people outside, or the British Government or the British armed forces, but a democracy which puts on the people living in that territory the task of making themselves into a proper democratic community, shouldering all the responsibilities of a democratic community.
My contacts with the people of Palestine have been with the ordinary working-class people, the labourers, the men living in the Jewish communes, and the fellaheen, and my friends in Palestine have, from the outset regarded their work as being equally for Jew and Arab. They have not recognised national divisions at all and my hon. Friends and I in this House stand for the Palestinian worker, without regard to religion or race. Those workers have conducted strikes, and they have conducted movements, in the interests of all. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison) referred to the significant happening of a fortnight ago when the Jewish families moving into a new agricultural commune were welcomed in the heartiest fashion by the local Arab fellaheen, who prepared a feast for them and brought them appropriate Arab gifts in token of complete friendship and harmony. A friend of mine there informs me in a letter that one of the things for which he hoped from that invasion of Jewish workers into that district, was that he and his friends would have some assistance in resisting the rapacity of their Arab absentee landlord who seized a big proportion of the fruits of their labour, while he spent his time abroad in Cairo or Paris.
That is the road which the working people of Palestine, Jew and Arab, have to take. They have to take part in the working-class struggle for an entirely new kind of social order, the same sort of struggle as that in which the workers of this and other lands have to participate. The struggle about nationality to-day is, to my mind, completely out of date. It is an anachronism. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) smiles. It is there, I admit—nationalism, in excelsis, perhaps more furious, more bitter and more cruel than ever it has been, but I believe that this is the dying kick. The problem to-day is not a problem of frontiers but of social and economic conditions and the future of Palestine lies with the working-class people who are living there. What does it matter who lived there 1,500 years ago? What does it matter what Balfour said 20 years ago? What does it matter what McMahon wrote. The problem is how the ordinary folk there are to live decently, securely and happily in the future. It can be solved only by the people themselves shouldering the responsibility. It cannot be solved by us. We need not think that we can do anything for them.
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Dominions is to reply. He is head of a Department that walked into Newfoundland and took away self-government from that country. It is true that he was not the Minister at the time, but he is carrying on the policy, and he inherits the responsibility. His Department said, “We will walk into Newfoundland and by ruling directly, as a strong Government, we will make a new kind of community there.” Everybody knows that under the dictatorship of Whitehall the position of the Newfoundland people is infinitely worse than it was when we destroyed its democracy. The right hon. Gentleman has admitted that from the Box, but he has said something about international complications and so on, as if a democratic Government did not have international complications also. Do not let us imagine that in these days the British are capable of managing the affairs of people in all corners of the globe. Let us assume that among the Jewish people and Arab people in Palestine there are as good political brains as there are in this House. I talked with simple, plain men who were as well informed on the general politics of the world, of Europe and their own country as anybody in this House. They must have a chance of facing their problems in a responsible way, and what Great Britain and the British Government have to do is not to postpone for five or ten years the shouldering of that responsibility, but to give it to them now.
I should like to add my tribute to the very happily couched tribute of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) to the maiden speech to which we listened from the hon. Member for County Down (Dr. Little). It reminded me of my earliest experience in this House nearly 40 years ago when I heard the late Mr. Timothy Healy, who was not allowed to raise the difficult question of Irish land policy upon the Address or to refer to Ireland in any way, deliver a speech entirely concentrated upon “the melancholy island of Uganda.” I am sure we hope that the great adroitness in skating round the edge of the abyss already shown by the hon. Gentleman will carry him to the highest levels of Parliamentary eminence. The speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton—I call him so, breaking the Parliamentary tradition of opponents, but, after all, he is, as he said, rather a solitary figure—reminded me of a story I heard of the late Lord Balfour, whose name seems curiously pertinent to-day, who at a conference during the War made a very lucid, interesting and captivating speech, exactly like the one to which we have just listened; and at the end of it M. Clemenceau was forced to ask him, “Mr. Balfour, are you for or against?”. That, no doubt, is a secret which will be revealed when we go from this Chamber into the Lobbies which surround us. I gladly acknowledge the extremely complimentary terms in which the Colonial Secretary referred to my literary exertions, but I am sure he will be the last man to wish that I should be at all drawn from my public duty by any such insidious, seductive processes, however gratifying they may be at the moment.
I say quite frankly that I find this a melancholy occasion. Like my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), I feel bound to vote against the proposals of His Majesty’s Government. As one intimately and responsibly concerned in the earlier stages of our Palestine policy, I could not stand by and see solemn engagements into which Britain has entered before the world set aside for reasons of administrative convenience or—and it will be a vain hope—for the sake of a quiet life. Like my right hon. Friend, I should feel personally embarrassed in the most acute manner if I lent myself, by silence or inaction, to what I must regard as an act of repudiation. I can understand that others take a different view. There are many views which may be taken. Some may consider themselves less involved in the declarations of former Governments. Some may feel that the burden of keeping faith weighs upon them rather oppressively. Some may be pro-Arab and some may be anti-Semite. None of these motives offers me any means of escape because I was from the beginning a sincere advocate of the Balfour Declaration, and I have made repeated public statements to that effect.
It is often supposed that the Balfour Declaration was an ill-considered, sentimental act largely concerned with the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), for which the Conservative party had no real responsibility, and that, as the Secretary of State said yesterday, it was a thing done in the tumult of the War. But hardly any step was taken with greater deliberation and responsibility. I was glad to hear the account which my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook gave, derived from the days when he was working in the Secretariat of the War Cabinet, of the care and pains with which the whole field was explored at that time. Not only did the War Cabinet of those days take the decision, but all Cabinets of every party after the War, after examining it in the varying circumstances which have arisen, have endorsed the decision and taken the fullest responsibility for it. It was also endorsed in the most cordial and enthusiastic terms by many of the ablest Conservative Private Members who came into the House when a great Conservative majority arrived after the General Election at the end of 1918. It was endorsed from the very beginning by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister.
I make him my apologies for going back as far as 20 years, but when you are dealing with matters which affect the history of two or three thousand years, there is no reason why the continuity of opinion should not be displayed. My right hon. Friend, on 13th October, 1918, said: The sympathy of the British Government with Zionist aspirations does not date from yesterday… My father was anxious to find such a territory within the limits of the British Constitution…To-day the opportunity has come. I have no hesitation in saying that were my father alive to-day he would be among the first to welcome it and to give it his hearty support. Then other members of the Government, most distinguished members, who were then Private Members in the House—a brilliant crop, if I may say so, in their young first fresh flight—made a strong effort. The Dominions Secretary, quite a slim figure on the benches up here was heavily engaged. There were also the Minister of Health, the Home Secretary and, above all, the Prime Minister; and this is the memorial they sent us. I abridge it, but not in such a way as to alter its sense. I may in abridging it diminish its force, but its force is evident from the extract: We, the undersigned, having cordially welcomed the historic Declaration made on 2nd November, 1917, by His Majesty’s Government “— that is, the Balfour Declaration— that it would use its best endeavours to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine…now respectfully and solemnly urge upon His Majesty’s Government the necessity of redeeming this pledge by the acceptance of a Mandate under the League of Nations. Here was this statement which was made and which was put forward, and while I say I do not compare the responsibility of private Members with that exercised by Ministers of the Crown or by the head of the Government, nevertheless I think, when all is said and done, that Zionists have a right to look to the Prime Minister to stand by them in the days of his power. They had a special right to look to him because he was not only giving effect to his own deep convictions, but was carrying forward the large conceptions of his father whose memory he reveres and whose renown he has revived. I was not a member of the War Cabinet in the days when this pledge was given. I was serving under it as a high functionary. That was the position of the Secretaries of State. I found myself in entire agreement with those sentiments so well expressed by the Prime Minister and his friends when they were sending in their memorial.
When I went to the Colonial Office it was in this spirit that I wrote this dispatch, under the authority of the Cabinet, which is quoted so much in the White Paper now before us. Great use is made of this dispatch of 1922 in the White Paper. It is sought to found the argument of the White Paper largely upon it. I stand by every word in those lengthy quotations which have been made from what I wrote. I would not alter a sentence after the 16 years that have passed, but I must say I think it rather misleading to quote so extensively from one part of the dispatch without indicating what was its main purpose. The particular paragraph quoted would do little to cool down the ardour of the Zionist and little to reassure the apprehensions of the Arabs. The main purpose of the dispatch was clear. This is what I said in paragraph (1): His Majesty’s Government have no intention of repudiating the obligations into which they have entered towards the Jewish people. I then proceeded to say that the Government would refuse to discuss the future of Palestine on any basis other than the basis of the Balfour Declaration. Moreover, the whole tenour of the dispatch was to make it clear that the establishment of self-governing institutions in Palestine was to be subordinated to the paramount pledge and obligation of establishing a Jewish National Home in Palestine. In taking up this position on behalf of the Government of the day I really was not going any further than the views which were ardently expressed by some of the ablest and most promising of our back-benchers at that time. The fact that they are leading Ministers to-day should, I think, have gained for the problem of Palestine a more considered and more sympathetic treatment than it has received.
Last night the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs used a surprising argument. He suggested that the obligation to introduce self-governing institutions into Palestine ranked equally with the obligation to establish a Jewish National Home. In this very dispatch of mine, which represented the views of the entire Government of the day, the greatest pains were taken to make it clear that the paramount duty was the establishment of a National Home. It was said on page 6: The position is that His Majesty’s Government are bound by a pledge which is antecedent to the Covenant of the League of Nations, and they cannot allow a constitutional position to develop in a country for which they have accepted responsibility to the principal Allied Powers which may make it impracticable to carry into effect a solemn undertaking given by themselves and their Allies. There is much more to the same effect. It seems to me that the Under-Secretary of State had some reason to complain of the manner in which he had been briefed on this subject, because his argument was exactly contrary to the tenour of the dispatch from which the Government have quoted with a strong expression of approval and agreement wherever they have found it possible to assist their case.
Now I come to the gravamen of the case. I regret very much that the pledge of the Balfour Declaration, endorsed as it has been by successive Governments, and the conditions under which we obtained the Mandate, have both been violated by the Government’s proposals. There is much in this White Paper which is alien to the spirit of the Balfour Declaration, but I will not trouble about that. I select the one point upon which there is plainly a breach and repudiation of the Balfour Declaration—the provision that Jewish immigration can be stopped in five years’ time by the decision of an Arab majority. That is a plain breach of a solemn obligation. I am astonished that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, of all others, and at this moment above all others, should have lent himself to this new and sudden default.
To whom was the pledge of the Balfour Declaration made? It was not made to the Jews of Palestine, it was not made to those who were actually living in Palestine. It was made to world Jewry and in particular to the Zionist associations. It was in consequence of and on the basis of this pledge that we received important help in the War, and that after the War we received from the Allied and Associated Powers the Mandate for Palestine. This pledge of a home of refuge, of an asylum, was not made to the Jews in Palestine but to the Jews outside Palestine, to that vast, unhappy mass of scattered, persecuted, wandering Jews whose intense, unchanging, unconquerable desire has been for a National Home—to quote the words to which my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister subscribed in the Memorial which he and others sent to us: the Jewish people who have through centuries of dispersion and persecution patiently awaited the hour of its restoration to its ancestral home. Those are the words. They were the people outside, not the people in. It is not with the Jews in Palestine that we have now or at any future time to deal, but with world Jewry, with Jews all over the world. That is the pledge which was given, and that is the pledge which we are now asked to break, for how can this pledge be kept, I want to know, if in five years’ time the National Home is to be barred and no more Jews are to be allowed in without the permission of the Arabs?
I entirely accept the distinction between making a Jewish National Home in Palestine and making Palestine a Jewish National Home. I think I was one of the first to draw that distinction. The Government quote me, and they seem to associate me with them on this subject in their White Paper, but what sort of National Home is offered to the Jews of the world when we are asked to declare that in five years’ time the door of that home is to be shut and barred in their faces? The idea of home to wanderers is, surely, a place to which they can resort. When grievous and painful words like “breach of pledge,” “repudiation” and “default” are used in respect of the public action of men and Ministers who in private life observe a stainless honour—the country must discuss these matters as they present themselves in their public aspect—it is necessary to be precise, and to do them justice His Majesty’s Government have been brutally precise. On page 11 of the White Paper, in Sub-section (3) of paragraph 14 there is this provision: After the period of five years no further Jewish immigration will be permitted unless the Arabs of Palestine are prepared to acquiesce in it. Now, there is the breach; there is the violation of the pledge; there is the abandonment of the Balfour Declaration; there is the end of the vision, of the hope, of the dream. If you leave out those words this White Paper is no more than one of the several experiments and essays in Palestinian constitution-making which we have had of recent years, but put in those three lines and there is the crux, the peccant point, the breach, and we must have an answer to it.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs may use his great legal ability. He is full of knowledge and power and ingenuity, but unless this can be answered, and repulsed, and repudiated, a very great slur rests upon British administration. It is said specifically on page 10 of the White Paper that Jewish immigration during the next five years will be at a rate which, if the economic absorptive capacity allows, will bring the population up to approximately one-third of the total population of the country. After that the Arab majority, twice as numerous as the Jews, will have control, and all further Jewish immigration will be subject to their acquiescence, which is only another way of saying that it will be on sufferance. What is that but the destruction of the Balfour Declaration? What is that but a breach of faith? What is it but a one-sided denunciation—what is called in the jargon of the present time a unilateral denunciation—of an engagement?
There need be no dispute about this phrase “economic absorptive capacity.” It represented the intentions of the Government and their desire to carry out the Palestinian Mandate in an efficient and in a prudent manner. As I am the author of the phrase, perhaps I may be allowed to state that economic absorptive capacity was never intended to rule without regard to any other consideration. It has always rested with the Mandatory Power to vary the influx of the Jews in accordance with what was best for Palestine and for the sincere fulfilment—one must presuppose the sincere fulfilment—of our purpose in establishing a Jewish National Home there. It was never suggested at any time that the decision about the quota to be admitted should rest with the Jews or should rest with the Arabs. It rested, and could only rest at any time, with the Mandatory Power which was responsible for carrying out the high purpose of the then victorious Allies. The Mandatory Commission of the League of Nations, as was mentioned by the spokesman for the Opposition when he opened the Debate this afternoon, has recognised fully that the Mandatory Power was entitled to control the flow of immigration, or even to suspend it in an emergency. What they are not entitled to do, at least not entitled to do without reproach—grave, public and worldwide reproach, and I trust self-reproach as well—is to bring the immigration to an end so far as they are concerned, to wash their hands of it, to close the door. That they have no right whatever to do.
I cannot feel that we have accorded to the Arab race unfair treatment after the support which they gave us in the late War. The Palestinian Arabs, of course, were for the most part fighting against us, but elsewhere over vast regions inhabited by the Arabs independent Arab kingdoms and principalities have come into being such as had never been known in Arab history before. Some have been established by Great Britain and others by France. When I wrote this despatch in 1922 I was advised by, among others, Colonel Lawrence, the truest champion of Arab rights whom modern times have known. He has recorded his opinion that the settlement was fair and just—his definite, settled opinion. Together we placed the Emir Abdulla in Transjordania, where he remains faithful and prosperous to this day. Together, under the responsibility of the Prime Minister of those days, King Feisal was placed upon the throne of Iraq, where his descendants now rule. But we also showed ourselves continually resolved to close no door upon the ultimate development of a Jewish National Home, fed by continual Jewish immigration into Palestine. Colonel Lawrence thought this was fair then. Why should it be pretended that it is unfair now?
I cannot understand what are the credentials of the Government in this matter of Palestine. It is less than two years—about 18 months if I remember aright—since they came forward and on their faith and reputation, with all their knowledge and concerted action, urged us to adopt a wholly different solution from that which they now place before us. The House persuaded them then not to force us into an incontinent acceptance of their partition plan, and within a few months, though they did not thank us for it, they had themselves abandoned and discarded it as precipitately as they had adopted it. Why, now, should they thrust this far more questionable bundle of expedients upon us? Surely it would only be prudent and decent for the Government, following the advice given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when he was a private Member in 1930, following the opinion of the jurists of those days, to ascertain the view taken by the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, before whom these proposals are to go, before claiming a Parliamentary decision in their favour.
I cannot understand why this course has been taken. I search around for the answer. The first question one would ask oneself is foreshadowed in a reference made in the speech of my hon. Friend, and is this: Is our condition so parlous and our state so poor that we must, in our weakness, make this sacrifice of our declared purpose? Although I have been very anxious that we should strengthen our armaments and spread our alliances and so increase the force of our position, I must say that I have not taken such a low view of the strength of the British Empire or of the very many powerful countries who desire to walk in association with us; but if the Government, with their superior knowledge of the deficiencies in our armaments which have arisen during their stewardship, really feel that we are too weak to carry out our obligations and wish to file a petition in moral and physical bankruptcy, that is an argument which, however ignominious, should certainly weigh with the House in these dangerous times. But is it true? I do not believe it is true. I cannot believe that the task to which we set our hand 20 years ago in Palestine is beyond our strength, or that faithful perseverance will not, in the end, bring that task through to a glorious success. I am sure of this, that to cast the plan aside and show yourselves infirm of will and unable to pursue a long, clear and considered purpose, bending and twisting under the crush and pressure of events—I am sure that that is going to do us a most serious and grave injury at a time like this.
We must ask ourselves another question, which arises out of this: Can we—and this is the question—strengthen ourselves by this repudiation? Shall we relieve ourselves by this repudiation? I should have thought that the plan put forward by the Colonial Secretary in his White Paper, with its arid constitutional ideas and safety catches at every point, and with vagueness overlaying it and through all of it, combines, so far as one can understand it at present, the disadvantages of all courses without the advantages of any. The triumphant Arabs have rejected it. They are not going to put up with it. The despairing Jews will resist it. What will the world think about it? What will our friends say? What will be the opinion of the United States of America? Shall we not lose more—and this is a question to be considered maturely—in the growing support and sympathy of the United States than we shall gain in local administrative convenience, if gain at all indeed we do?
What will our potential enemies think? What will those who have been stirring up these Arab agitators think? Will they not be encouraged by our confession of recoil? Will they not be tempted to say: “They’re on the run again. This is another Munich,” and be the more stimulated in their aggression by these very unpleasant reflections which they may make? After all, we were asked by the Secretary of State to approach this question in a spirit of realism and to face the real facts, and I ask seriously of the Government: Shall we not undo by this very act of abjection some of the good which we have gained by our guarantees to Poland and to Rumania, by our admirable Turkish Alliance and by what we hope and expect will be our Russian Alliance? You must consider these matters. May not this be a contributory factor—and every factor is a contributory factor now—by which our potential enemies may be emboldened to take some irrevocable action and then find out, only after it is all too late, that it is not this Government, with their tired Ministers and flagging purpose, that they have to face, but the might of Britain and all that Britain means?
You signed the Irish Treaty.
I do not complain of that interruption. The Prime Minister of the day, Sir Austen Chamberlain—who was the leader of the Conservative party—myself and other Ministers signed that Treaty. You would not wish me, Sir, and I should not be allowed, to go into that discussion at all, but let me say that the former Mr. Baldwin was a prominent supporter of it. I remember at a most critical juncture being refreshed by the most active support of my right hon. Friend the present Prime Minister, when he spoke from another bench. If these ancient taunts are being flung about, about which I do not at all complain, by my hon. and gallant Friend, with his great knowledge of Russia, which was so serviceable to us in the War, but which has somewhat overclouded his mind since, he had better realise that they do not strike only at the breast of the Member now in possession of the House.
It is hoped to obtain five years of easement in Palestine by this proposal; surely the consequences will be entirely the opposite. A sense of moral weakness in the mandatory Power, whose many years of vacillation and uncertainty have, as the right hon. Gentleman admitted yesterday, largely provoked the evils from which we suffer, will rouse all the violent elements in Palestine to the utmost degree. In order to avoid the reproach, the bitter reproach, of shutting out refugees during this time of brutal persecution, the quota of immigration may be raised, as we were told by the Secretary of State, and may be continued at an even higher level in the next five years. Thus, irritation will continue and the incentive to resist will be aggravated. What about these five years? Who shall say where we are going to be five years from now? Europe is more than two-thirds mobilised tonight. The ruinous race of armaments now carries whole populations into the military machine. That cannot possibly continue for five years, nor for four, nor for three years. It may be that it will not continue beyond the present year. Long before those five years are past, either there will be a Britain which knows how to keep its word on the Balfour Declaration and is not afraid to do so, or, believe me, we shall find ourselves relieved of many oversea responsibilities other than those comprised within the Palestine Mandate.
Some of us hold that our safety at this juncture resides in being bold and strong. We urge that the reputation for fidelity of execution, strict execution, of public contracts, is a shield and buckler which the British Empire, however it may arm, cannot dispense with and cannot desire to dispense with. Never was the need for fidelity and firmness more urgent than now. You are not going to found and forge the fabric of a grand alliance to resist aggression, except by showing continued examples of your firmness in carrying out, even under difficulties, and in the teeth of difficulties, the obligations into which you have entered. I warn the Conservative party—and some of my warnings have not, alas, been ill-founded—that by committing themselves to this lamentable act of default, they will cast our country, and all that it stands for, one more step downward in its fortunes, which step will later on have to be retrieved, as it will be retrieved, by additional hard exertions. That is why I say that upon the large aspect of this matter the policy which you think is a relief and an easement you will find afterwards you will have to retrieve, in suffering and greater exertions than those we are making.
I end upon the land of Palestine. It is strange indeed that we should turn away from our task in Palestine at the moment when, as the Secretary of State told us yesterday, the local disorders have been largely mastered. It is stranger still that we should turn away when the great experiment and bright dream, the historic dream, has proved its power to succeed. Yesterday the Minister responsible descanted eloquently in glowing passages upon the magnificent work which the Jewish colonists have done. They have made the desert bloom. They have started a score of thriving industries, he said. They have founded a great city on the barren shore. They have harnessed the Jordan and spread its electricity throughout the land. So far from being persecuted, the Arabs have crowded into the country and multiplied till their population has increased more than even all world Jewry could lift up the Jewish population. Now we are asked to decree that all this is to stop and all this is to come to an end. We are now asked to submit—and this is what rankles most with me—to an agitation which is fed with foreign money and ceaselessly inflamed by Nazi and by Fascist propaganda.
It is 20 years ago since my right hon. Friend used these stirring words: A great responsibility will rest upon the Zionists, who, before long, will be proceeding, with joy in their hearts, to the ancient seat of their people. Theirs will be the task to build up a new prosperity and a new civilisation in old Palestine, so long neglected and mis-ruled. Well, they have answered his call. They have fulfilled his hopes. How can he find it in his heart to strike them this mortal blow?
There are few Debates which raise issues of such far-reaching importance as this, and still fewer in which the ordinary party divisions have had so little influence upon the formation of opinion. Speeches on this side, as we have just heard, have put what I may call the Jewish case higher even and more pointedly than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Hackney (Mr. H. Morrison), and speeches on the other side of the House have put the case for the Arabs contrary to the opinions held by the majority of hon. Members opposite. One speech from the Box opposite was made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) last night in which he jettisoned the whole argument of his companions, but he made some constructive and helpful suggestions which both deserve and need examination before they could be fully adopted. Perhaps, even though the hon. and learned Gentleman is not here, I may be allowed to say, in response to his suggestions that a good deal more help should be given to the Arab fellaheen in developing their own capacity, that a reference to the Peel Commission Report will show what has been done in that direction with the co-operation both of the Jews and the Arabs serving upon the same committees and, if further attention to that matter can secure better results, I can assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that his ideas will bear fruit.
Amongst other speeches which have broken across the ordinary party divisions there has been the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). He described it as a melancholy occasion. I do not know whether the melancholy nature of the occasion was due to the fact that he was out of agreement with the views of the Government. If that was the case, he must by this time be fairly well inured to the buffets of fate. This is not the first occasion on which he has found himself in this situation. The outstanding question which all speeches, of whatever colour and from whatever quarter, have discussed has been the nature and scope of our obligations, which, as the Secretary of State for the Colonies stated, are debts of honour which we must repay if we are not to be dishonoured. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping took as his thesis the position that we had repudiated some obligations solemnly undertaken. He did not, as some others did perhaps, engage, too much as I think, in reproaches of the Government for past vacillation and delay. Such reproaches seem to most of us to-day, I suppose, to be futile and unfruitful. I am not claiming that this Government, or preceding Governments which have had to deal with the question, are impeccable or free from blame. All of us may have been, other Governments may have been, too sanguine, hoping that the sun might one day rise upon two races in Palestine, rivals only in their contribution to the peace and prosperity of that land. I shall examine the Mandate in a moment, but it is perhaps relevant to remind the House of one passage in the White Paper of 1937 in which a statement of policy by the Government is contained. It says: His Majesty’s Government and their predecessors have taken the view, which the language of the Mandate itself implies, that their obligations to Arabs and Jews respectively were not incompatible on the assumption that in the process of time the two races would so adjust their national aspirations as to render possible the establishment of a single commonwealth under a unitary government. That is the sort of optimism to which I referred when I said that possibly we had been too sanguine in the past as to the development of happy relations between the two communities. Unhappily to-day, and for some months past, there has been an uncompromising temper which has belied the hope that we held, and now, as all hon. Members must recognise, whoever has to bear the blame for the mistakes of the past, we have to begin afresh even if we come to the conclusion that my right hon. Friend has arrived at. It would be unpardonable on the part of this Government, still more impossible, on the part of this country, to abandon in despair the task committed to it when it received the Mandate which we are considering today. I have received a communication to-day in which it is suggested that we should return the Mandate to the League of Nations. I hope the House is agreed that we must bend our minds and wills to some better execution of the Mandate than that.
I will show that we are going to fulfil it. It is not useful perhaps to discuss and analyse the terms of the Balfour Declaration. It has been the subject of endless debate and analysis. If I do not put it under the miscroscope it is because the broad intention of the Declaration is plain. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, and I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery) also, seemed to think that we doubt the binding character of the Declaration. We do not seek to diminish the full meaning of a single word or phrase in it. The obligation which we recognise is to fulfil the Declaration, and I am hoping to submit to the House considerations which may persuade them that the White Paper is the fulfilment of the Declaration as well as of the Mandate.
My right hon. Friend quoted passages from some Memorial that the Prime Minister and others, including myself, addressed to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) when he was Prime Minister 20 years or so ago. I am bound to say that I found that quotation good sense and free from any vice. I should be very glad to append my signature to it again if my right hon. Friend would put his above mine. I do not attempt to paraphrase the Balfour Declaration. New words only excite fresh contention, and I might be guilty, unwittingly, of putting in words more attuned to my argument. The House must know it almost by heart now. The fact was that everyone was conscious of the Jewish sufferings at that time and the history and the effects of the Jewish dispersion, prolonged to this very hour, and both policy and pity seemed to demand that we should provide for them some place in which they might make a centre or, if you like, a home of Jewish aspirations. It was to give them new hope and courage if we could do it. But surely everyone will recognise that we certainly did not contemplate the expulsion or the supplanting of the existing population of the country. These Jewish people, the new immigrants, were not going to occupy an empty land nor, surely, were they going to subject the people in the land to the domination of what was to the inhabitants a foreign race. The word “rights,” everyone remembers, has been used thrice in these documents that we are contemplating, once in the Balfour Declaration and twice in the “Mandate.” The word must mean something of great importance. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook, if I do not do him an injustice, suggested that it is a word co-terminous with “cultural interests.”
I thought that it affected not only civil and religious rights but also the existence of the Arab community as a community living equally in Palestine with the Jewish people.
Of course I do not want to summarise my right hon. Friend’s contention but I think he used with some emphasis the phrase “cultural interests,” or something of that sort. But it is surely inconceivable that the rights of the Arab population meant only that. What my right hon. Friend said confirms me in my opinion that “rights” meant something of the greatest importance and substance. I agree with my right hon. Friend that the Mandate must be taken as the governing document. It is fuller, it is more detailed, and even more precise, of course, than the Declaration. I agree also with him that it is a document which marks the limit of the Jewish claims. But then look at this word “rights” in the Mandate, which is of such vital importance in this matter. It is mentioned twice in the document. In Article 2 it is the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, and in Article 6 it is the rights and the position of every section of the population which are not to be prejudiced. I should be very much surprised as an Englishman if I were told that my civil rights and the civil rights of my fellow-countrymen did not include the right to be secured from the political domination of an immigrant alien race.
Surely, even if there is some doubt about the word “rights,” when it is the position of this population that is not to be prejudiced, that must connote some reference to the relative position which they are to hold with these people for whom a fresh place was to be found in Palestine. Let the House realise that in the Mandate these words about ensuring the rights and position of the inhabiting race are the controlling condition upon which alone the Mandatory Power was authorised and enjoined to provide for the close settlement of the Jewish population. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook is inclined to add the White Paper of 1922 to the Mandate as the authority for measuring the extent of our duties.
He quoted a great deal of it.
I am not making any complaint; I am agreeing. My right hon. Friend need not be apprehensive. But, if that is so, may I look at what the White Paper of 1922 said, in a passage which, I think, has not been quoted, from the letters written by my right hon. Friend’s direction, in which a statement by the High Commissioner was included. He said: These words ‘National Home’ mean that the Jews, who are a people scattered throughout the world whose hearts are always turned to Palestine, should be able to found here their home, and that some amongst them, within the limits fixed by the numbers and the interests of the present population, should come to Palestine in order to help, by their resources and efforts, to develop the country to the advantage of all its inhabitants. I find it difficult to imagine a more complete exposition of the view for which I stand, that the position of the Jews in this land of theirs, as it once was, has to be related to the rights held and owned by the Arab population. My right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook was inclined to reject the Hogarth statement as irrelevant, because the Hogarth statement was made to Arab representatives. But, if he prayed the White Paper of 1922 in aid of the Jewish case, I should have thought that I had an equal right to pray in aid the Hogarth statement in support of the Arab case.
My right hon. Friend will forgive me, but he is really misrepresenting me. I said that the complete acceptance at the peace negotiations by King Feisal and his Arab associates of the Mandate, and, indeed, I might add, its subsequent endorsement by Colonel Lawrence, made previous expectations irrelevant, just as previous expectations of the Jews were made irrelevant by the Mandate.
Of course, I accept what my right hon. Friend says is his contention, but I think he said, as he has admitted, that the Hogarth statement was irrelevant.
It was irrelevant after the statement of King Feisal.
I was not discussing why it was irrelevant, but simply saying that my right hon. Friend said that it was. I should have thought that it was relevant, but it is not of sufficient importance for my right hon. Friend and myself to spend much time on it. Then there was a phrase in the White Paper which was quoted from a previous statement of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping in debate, and the importance of which I do not want to whittle down by one jot or tittle. He said: It”— he was referring to the Jewish people— is in Palestine as of right, and not on sufferance. Of course, my right hon. Friend did not mean by that that all Jews were in Palestine as of right, because that is a possibility which is not to be contemplated. What, of course, he meant was that those who came into Palestine came in as of right, and not on sufferance. It was said by an hon. Member in the course of the Debate that we were changing “as of right” to “on sufferance.” I deny that altogether. Every Jew who is in Palestine to-day, or who will be there under the policy of this White Paper, will be there, and I assert it plainly, as of right, and not on sufferance. The position will be perfectly clear to hon. Members if they reflect upon it for a moment. Every country or Dominion within the British Empire admits the right of a British subject to be wthin its territories, but some of them have rules preventing even British subjects from entering except on certain conditions. A British subject is not prevented from being in Canada or in Ireland as of right because he is not able to go there unless he goes within the rules of some law made by the Dominion concerned. I assert once more that the Jewish population will be, and ought to be, in Palestine as of right, and I have no intention of admitting for a moment the view that they ought to go there on sufferance, subject to expulsion if some dominant political power which may for the moment be in Palestine subsequently attempts to expel them. I am sure that this House, and every House that will consider the matter, will protect the Jew against any such outrage as an attempt to convert them into persons who are there by permission of the Arab population.
We reject, of course, the high claims that have been made by the Arabs to sovereignty over Palestine. My hon. Friend the Member for Stretford (Mr. Crossley), who spoke yesterday, put the Arab case much higher than the Government could ever admit. I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping that the promised recognition of Arab independence over the vast part of Arabia has been handsomely carried out, and they have no right of complaint of the way in which up to now His Majesty’s Government have fulfilled their obligations. Now we are face to face with the question whether the White Paper and its policy are in conflict with the obligations undertaken under the Mandate, and we have cause to be grateful to my right hon. Friend for addressing himself to this one point. Until he spoke, apart from some general and vague observations in different quarters of the House as to departure from the terms of the Mandate, we had been given no particulars of the conflict. We were told that there was disagreement, but my right hon. Friend fastened upon this one point, and I should like to address myself to it for a few moments in accordance with the invitation that he gave. The House knows that the Jewish population has expanded by hundreds of thousands of immigrants, and it is now proposed to restrict further immigrants to the number of 75,000. Is objection taken to the imposition of any limit upon the number; or is it an objection to the particular number selected?
To the total cessation.
I do not follow the hon. Gentleman. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping seemed to me—
My point was that for five years there is to be immigration up to a total of 75,000, and I said that what was objected to in principle was the total cessation of immigration at the end of that period.
The objection is to the total cessation at the end of the period. My right hon. Friend the Member for Epping seemed to me really to admit the Government’s case. He said he had never taken up the position that the number of Jews to be admitted as immigrants was to be as they liked, but that the number had to be settled by reference to what is best for Palestine.
I was speaking of the annual quota. Certainly that must be regulated.
The House will at once follow that, if there is power, in the interests of what is best for Palestine, to fix the annual quota at so many thousands, or at nothing, there must be power at some point to say that the limit has been reached. I suggest that the fallacy underlying the argument of my right hon. Friend is this: We are supposed to be putting the Arabs in a position to veto the establishment of a Jewish National Home. We are not. Putting the matter at its very highest, what we are doing is putting the Arabs in a position to veto the future number of immigrants into Palestine. I repudiate at once the suggestion that we are giving the Arabs the power to veto the establishment of a Jewish National Home.
I can satisfy any hon. Member who is prepared to consider the facts as they exist to-day, when I remind the House that the Jews now own a large proportion of what they have made some of the best land in Palestine. They have established their own religious courts, they have set up their own educational system, they own and conduct their own hospitals, they have their own social services, they practise their own culture in art and music, they have their own agricultural settlements and their own industrial enterprises. I suggest that this makes the Jewish National Home, not a place where every Jew can resort as of right, but certainly a place where those Jews who are admitted will have a perfect right to resort. My right hon. Friend defined a home as “a place to which they can resort.” Who are “they”? Not the whole 15,000,000 of the Jewish race. They are the people who will be admitted on the consideration of what is best for Palestine, and opinions may differ as to what is best for Palestine. My right hon. Friend and I are evidently not going to see eye to eye on that question. I join with him in agreeing that the criterion in any year—and if it applies to any year, it must apply to a sum of years—must be what is best for the country—
And the Arabs are going to decide.
The right hon. Gentleman will forgive me, but I understood him to assert that there was to be no Arab veto on Jewish immigration. In the course of my speech I drew attention to the top of page 10 of the White Paper, where the second alternative Government policy is set out as: To permit further expansion of the Jewish National Home by immigration only if the Arabs are prepared to acquiesce in it. Later in the same paragraph, the White Paper says that that is the policy which His Majesty’s Government have accepted, and that means that the Government have in principle accepted a complete Arab veto on Jewish immigration.
The right hon. Gentleman may cross-question me as he likes, but there ought to be no mistake at all about the meaning of the words. The fact is that the Government have decided, having regard to the interests of the country and the rights of the Arab population, that the number of immigrants to be admitted in the next five years is to be 75,000, and then it is to stop, and if there is to be any extension of that number, it must be done with the acquiescence of the Arab population.
That is the breach.
The right hon. Gentleman says that that is the breach, but I say that it is not a breach, because there is not a single word in the Mandate to compel us indefinitely to prolong the immigration of Jews. That is the vital point at which we part company on this issue, and those who assert that there was an obligation of an unlimited character to admit Jewish immigrants are, I suggest, writing into the Mandate something that they will not find a single word there to support. Nor is there a word in the Mandate to support the theory that we were to contemplate the establishment of a Jewish State. It would have been a stupendous pronouncement to make, and it would certainly have been made in clear and unequivocal terms, if that had been the intention of the Government. It is true that General Smuts said that in generations to come there would be a foundation, he hoped, for a Jewish Commonwealth, but General Smuts was there taking on more the role of a prophet than of a politician, and I suppose that General Smuts would be very much surprised to hear that “in generations to come” meant in 1939.
The fact is—and we come back to the position which my right hon. Friend the Colonial Secretary has made so plain—that as the Peel report said, this is “a conflict of right with right.” I would like to say upon that that one of the tasks for which the British race are peculiarly well-fitted is to reconcile a conflict of right with right. [Laughter.] Hon. Members opposite may smile at that, but they know very well that in many a great reform in the history of the British race rights have been reconciled with rights. Our own common law teaches us that the individual rights that we ourselves enjoy are limited by the rights that other people enjoy, and the rights of the Jews in Palestine, as I am sure they would admit, must be limited by the rights of other people in Palestine. The only question is as to what effect that limitation may have on the exercise of a particular right.
Here you have the Jews with ages, not centuries, of possession in Palestine, under the goad of savage persecution, sick with hope deferred, supremely efficient, but, on the other hand, you have the Arabs in possession, dominant, or their kith and kin dominant, in the greater part of the Arab Peninsula, members of a widespread political system, nurtured and supported by a fervour of religious enthusiasm which our colder Northern character cannot fully understand. How are we to satisfy the hopes, and how are we to allay the fears, of each? I can only say that if Palestine is the citadel of Jewish hopes, it is the native land of a large Arab population, and the task, intricate as it is, is to reconcile the hopes, and the fears of those two populations. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams), who spoke yesterday, agreed—I think he volunteered the statement—that some modification of our original desires and intentions may be necessary. It is again a question of degree, and the problem is one of pure statesmanship. Hon. Members opposite may pour reproach after reproach on the Government and on myself, but they are barren of hope or promise for the future. The purpose of the Government is to give the healing hand of time an opportunity of doing its work, and then the two races will have it in their power to hallow with the blessings of peace this land in which we are all interested.
May I say one word more? The Jewish cultivators and the Arab fellahin alike are indispensable contributors to the cause of peace, and humble folk very often are more ready than are their leaders to compose their quarrels. I heard with satisfaction the incident to which reference has been made this afternoon—occasions on which Arabs have welcomed Jews to some new settlement. Such instances make us full of hope, if only we can give time and opportunity for passions to subside and for the natural feelings of friendliness to show themselves in that land. The leaders on both sides have a great responsibility. Something has been said about the use of violence by the Jews. We have condemned the use of violence by the Arabs, and the same judgment must be passed upon violence whoever uses it. But these leaders can, if they so decide, make the land of Palestine a reproach among the nations. Also they can, if they will—and I hope they will—vie with each other in making that land of blessed hope, a land of fulfilled promise.
Question put, “That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question.”
The House divided: Ayes, 281; Noes, 181.