It would be undesirable for me at this moment, to express any opinion on the actual circumstances of the regrettable occurrences of last summer. These matters are being closely inquired into by an impartial commission.
When that commission reports we shall know more about the immediate causes of the outbreak. We shall be in a better position to judge how far it was deliberately premeditated and organized beforehand, or how far it was a sudden conflagration spreading almost instantaneously among a credulous and excitable population. We shall be able to form a truer estimate of the manner in which the authorities on the spot, whether at Jerusalem or in the countryside, handled the terribly difficult situation with which they were confronted. We shall have more material to enable us to consider how far the authorities at home had provided their representatives in Palestine with adequate force for the emergency which arose. These considerations should, I think, affect anyone who is writing or speaking about Palestine at this moment. They naturally carry a special weight with myself as the Minister directly responsible for the administration of Palestine up to within three months of the trouble.
The Commission will present its report in due course early next year. It will bring out the essential facts upon which public opinion can then base its judgment, and upon which the Colonial Office can take its measures to prevent the possibility of a recurrence of similar trouble in the future. But the Commission is only concerned with a particular situation. The fundamental position remains unaffected either by the outbreak itself, or by such facts in connection with it as may be elucidated by the commission, or by such recommendations as it may make. Great Britain has undertaken, by the Balfour Declaration, and by its assumption of the Mandate, to carry out the policy embodied in those documents, and there is no question of any British Government, whatever its political complexion, going back either on the pledges given ten or twelve years ago, or upon all the work that has been accomplished since then.
After all it is not merely a question of having put our hand to the plough and taking it off before driving our furrow. The ploughing has been done, and even if there is still much more work needed, we are well on our way towards the harvest. The progress achieved during these years, whether by the Government or by the independent efforts of the Zionist Organization may, at each stage, have seemed slow to some of the more ardent spirits. But when the immense difficulties of the situation and of the time are realized-the condition of the whole fabric of law and administration, the absence of nearly all the elementary equipment of a civilized country in the shape of roads or sanitary water supply, the tangled complexity of the land position, the economic depression of the last three years, not to speak of Arab suspicion and resentment, breaking out at intervals as in 1921 and again this August and always latent-the sum of achievement is seen in better perspective and appreciated as a great constructive achievement.
The foundations have had to be laid in difficult and insecure ground, where hasty scamped work might have been fatal to the whole future. As it is they have, I believe, been well and truly laid and the set-back due to recent events is consequently nothing more than a set-back. It has, no doubt, retarded somewhat the recovery that was showing itself in the economic field. But the recovery will come all the same, and will cover, and more than cover, I believe, the direct addition to expenditure which may be called for in the direction of a larger establishment for internal security. The turn of the tide in the direction of immigration may be delayed, but only till experience confutes it, by nervousness outside as to the danger of a repetition of the horrors of that unhappy August week. Passion and bitterness will require time to subside and as Sir John Chancellor made clear the moment he arrived on the spot, the need for a considerable time to come will be for firm government and not for experiments in constitutional development. The main conclusion is that we should get on as quickly as possible with the work in hand, show unmistakably the sincerity and tenacity of our purpose, and make good, without further ado, any ground that may have been lost.
But if our first business is to make clear that there is no weakening in our determination, it still remains desirable, looking to the future, that we should also remove misunderstandings as to what our policy is, and endeavor in course of time to secure the concurrence or at least acquiescence, in that policy of all the inhabitants of Palestine. And in that task as in the task of material development, the help of the leaders of the Zionist movement as well as that of the Jewish settlers themselves, is an essential element.
The terms of the Balfour Declaration make it plain that the creation of the Jewish National Home did not imply the setting up of a Jewish nationalist state or the support, in favor of the Jews, of that essentially intolerant type of racial or linguistic nationalism which has devastated Europe by its conflicting claims for political domination. Equally it left no room in Palestine at least, for the assertion of that type of nationalism by the Arabs. Its basic conception is toleration, the right of both Jews and Arabs to develop a true national life with the framework of a common Palestinian state. Just as French and English Canadians have each developed their national life and culture within the wider framework of the Dominion of Canada. It is the British conception of the non-nationalistic state, giving free play within its borders to vigorous but mutually tolerant national cultures, which underlay the Declaration. But it is a conception, which has at the back of it not only the broad policy and the pledged word of the country, but the general support of the civilized world as embodied in the Mandate.
The Jewish national home is based, not on sufferance from the Arabs but on an internationally recognized right.
If, at this moment, the immediate task of the British Government in Palestine is to leave no doubt in the minds of the Arabs that this right will be upheld, and that no agitation or clamour will lead to concessions which will in effect impair it, there is no less an obligation upon the Government to work steadily to convince the Arabs that there is abundant room in Palestine for their national life, and no intention of suppressing or displacing that national life, and to endeavor to hold up before them continually the conception of a common Palestinian patriotism in which both communities can share. And it is on this side that the Jewish community, with its higher education and wider outlook can do much to help. By emphasizing their Palestinian patriotism as well as their zeal for their own Jewish national home, by making it clear that their nationalism is based on the same tolerance and good will towards others that they expect for themselves, by going out of their way, even, to show their interest in their Arab fellow citizens, the Jews of Palestine, and their friends throughout Jewry, can do much to dissipate the fears and suspicions that have underlain the Arab attitude in the past. It may seem fanciful, at a moment like this to dream of a day when Jewish and Arab leaders may come together as MacDonald and Cartier did in Canada, to frame their own constitutions for Palestine as a self-governing nation within the orbit of the British Commonwealth. But in no other way can the problem of Palestine find its ultimate solution, and to pave the way, and firmly keep the door open to that solution is the supreme task of British, and I might add, Jewish statesmanship.
(Copyright Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Ltd., December 1929.)