Washington, O. C. (Oct. 10)
Secretary of State Stimson, in reply to Congressman Celler, declined to adopt Congressman Celler’s suggestion, recently made, that the State Department handle the Palestine damage claims for American claimants before the Commissioner of Lands of the Palestine Government without the necessity of employing their own attorneys, according to a letter from Secretary Stimson to Mr. Celler, made public by the latter today.
Secretary Stimson, however, informed Congressman Celler in this reply of two important steps taken by the Department, which were included among the suggestions originally made by Mr. Celler in his proposals to Secretary Stimson. These two steps are: first, that the State Department has instructed the American Consul General at Jerusalem to obtain an extension of the time limit for filing claims with the Commissioner, which has since been extended from one to three months, and second, the Consul was also instructed to “make suitable reservation” as to the provision that payment of compensation is to be dependent upon the imposition or collection of collective fines. This reservation made by the American Government presages a possible future conflict with the British Government over claims of American citizens who suffered personal or property damage in Palestine during the recent disorders, if these claims are rejected on the ground that no collective fine can be imposed to their satisfaction and if, in that event, the Palestine administration refuses to pay claims out of its own treasury.
Secretary Stimson, in replying to Mr. Celler’s proposal that the State Department handle the claims, declares that before the Department may decide on the propriety and advisability of presenting diplomatic claims of this character, it is a fundamental prerequisite to show that the remedies afforded the claimants by the Palestine Government have been exhausted. The Palestine Government has taken steps, however, to hear and pass upon claims, and therefore the Department at this stage can only suggest that American claimants should take advantage of this opportunity afforded them by the authorities. “Obviously the Department is not in a position to undertake to handle the cases for the American claimants before the Commissioner,” Secretary Stimson observes. He also calls attention that the original suggestion of the Consul General that the claimants employ attorneys to present their claims was intended in an effort to be helpful, but that claimants are at liberty to decide this for themselves, although pointing out the possibility that competent attorneys could render valuable assistance to the claimants in (Continued on Page 4)