Geneva (Aug. 25)
Defending itself against the serious criticism of the Mandates Commission contained in the report of the Commission made public today, the British Government, in observations annexed to this report, voices a sharp protest against the Mandates Commission for its strictures on the British Government’s Palestine policy during the last five years.
Taking up the criticism of the Mandates Commission point by point the sharply worded reply of the British Government points out that the most important criticism against it is that “the partial inaction of the Mandatory Power regarding its obligations to the Palestinian population, both Arab and Jewish, is the fundamental cause of the friction which eventually culminated in the serious disorders of last August.”
The British Government expresses surprise at the particular emphasis laid upon “the alleged failure of the British Government to promote agricultural and educational development, a more extensive program of public works and the encouragement of cooperation between Jews and Arabs as the cause of dissatisfaction on the part of the Arabs with the Mandatory regime.”
CRITICISM NOT FORESHADOWED
Particular surprise is expressed at this criticism in view of the fact brought out by the accredited British representative at the seventeenth session of the Mandates Commission that “since the acceptance by the British Government of the Palestine Mandate the comments of the Mandates Commission upon the British administration, based upon an examination of the annual reports, cannot be said to have foreshadowed the charges now brought against the manner in which the Mandatory Power has been carrying out its obligation.”
An inconsistency in the report of the Mandates Commission is seen by the British Government in the Mandates Commission’s statement that “the resentment which caused the Arabs to commit excesses was ‘ultimately due to the political disappointment which they attributed to the parties concerned in the Mandate and primarily to the British Government’.” Following up the charge of inconsistency, the reply of the British Government points out that in another part of its report the Mandates Commission argues that a more active policy on the part of the British Government in promoting Arab interests in social and economic spheres and in bringing the two sections of the population into close association would have blunted the edge of the antagonism.
ARGUMENT CALLED INCONSISTENT
Such an argument, the British Government finds, “appears to be somewhat inconsistent with what had been previously stated. It fails to take account of the paramount importance attached by the Arab leaders to the political issue and ignores the fact that Arab demands have always been for a particular form of representative institutions which are plainly incompatible with the execution of the Mandate. The repeated offers of the British Government to associate Arabs and Jews in a form of representative government which would be compatible with the Mandatory’s obligations have always been rejected by the Arab leaders. The difficulties created for the Mandatory Power by this Arab attitude seemed to have been inadequately appreciated by the Mandates Commission although they were more than once brought to its notice by an accredited representative of the British government.”
Emphasizing the complex character of the Palestine Mandate and quoting article two of the Mandate, which instructs the Mandatory Power to place Palestine under such political administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home, to develop self-governing institutions and also to safeguard the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race or religion, the British observations point out that nevertheless the Mandates Commission refers to “the immediate obligations of the Mandatory Power” as defined in the Mandate. In this connection the British government declares “it is remarkable that no reference is made by the Mandates Commission to the important qualifications in article two namely the safeguarding of the civil and religious rights of all inhabitants, irrespective of race or religion.”
This, the British government opines, is the core of the problem. Admitting that the difficult nature of its task in other matters is to some extent recognized, the British Government complains that the bearing of this particular obligation upon the problem of devising measures which would admit of the increasing developments of Jews and Arabs side by side is largely ignored by the Mandates Commission.
IGNORES SHAW REPORT FINDINGS
After referring to the Mandates Commission’s ignoring of the findings of the Shaw Commission on questions of fact, the observations of the British government proceed to show that, generally speaking, pronouncements of Arabs against the Jews and of Jews against the Arabs have been omitted from the report of the Mandates Commission as ultimately held to be outside the scope of the Mandates Commission, although they are lengthily discussed in the Commission’s proceedings.
As a result of this, the British Government charges, the Mandatory Power “has been made to appear as the only one of the parties concerned deserving criticism. The manner in which ex parte statements reflecting on the comments of the British government have been adopted by the Mandates Commission while the considered judgments of the Shaw Commission, based on an exhaustive inquiry on the spot and evidence subjected to a searching cross-examination by eminent counsel had been dismissed as untenable or have been ignored, suggests that undue weight had been given to criticism of the Mandatory Power which the British Government had insufficient opportunity of rebutting. The British Government feels called upon to protest against the procedure of the Commission in basing much of its criticism on information drawn from such sources.”
DEFENDS SHAW COMMISSION’S FINDINGS
Dealing with the Mandates Commission’s statement that it dissents from the definite conclusion of the Shaw Commission that last year’s outbreaks were not premeditated, the British Government points out that the suggestion of the Mandates Commission, supported by reference to various passages in the Shaw Commission’s report “shows that the view that the disturbances had not occurred simultaneously in all parts of Palestine but had spread from the capital over a period of days to the most outlying centers of population and to some rural districts, has been accepted by the British Government, which cannot but emphasize that the care with which the evidence was collected and sifted by the Shaw Commission and exhaustively dealt with in cross-examination, make the grounds on which the Mandates Commission differs from the conclusion arrived at, scarcely adequate.”
These grounds, the British observations point out, “are solely certain statements made by the Shaw Commission itself in a variety of context. It is obvious that all these points cited as inconsistent with the conclusions were necessarily taken into account by the Commission and their importance carefully appraised by it before arriving at a considered opinion which the Mandates Commission, who without any further evidence before it, accepts ex parte and untested statements, seems inclined to call in question.
NO EVIDENCE FOR COMMISSION’S STAND
“The British Government does not find any evidence for the Mandates Commission’s arguments that the Shaw Commission was wrong in holding that the outbreaks were not directed against British authority. It may be that the outbreak was ‘ultimately due to political disappointments.’ Evidence to which the Mandates Commission refers in support of its view is apparently the protest by various Arab authorities against the fundamental position of Palestine as fixed by the Mandate itself. These protests are not in any sense against British authority but against the Mandate and the action of the League of Nations.
“British authority is only implicated as being the mechanism by which the Mandate worked. On this point the Mandates Commission announced its opinion as ‘to all sections of populations which are rebelling against the Mandate whether they object to it on principle or wish to retain only those of its provisions which favor their particular cause.’ The Mandatory Power must obviously return a definite and categorical refusal.”
NO ATTACKS ON BRITISH AUTHORITIES
Continuing its criticism of the Mandates Commission’s charge that the outbreaks were to some extent an attack on British authority, the reply of the British Government declares that “whatever may have been the attitude of the Arab leaders the significant fact remains that during the disturbances no attack was made or attempted on the local British authorities. This fact, which speaks for itself, and which was directly brought to the Mandates Commission’s notice by an accredited British representative, finds no place in the Mandates Commission’s report.”
The reply of the British Government also vigorously defends the Mandatory Power and the Palestine Government from charges of being responsible for the immediate causes of the oubreak. Saying that the conclusions of the Mandates Commission “condemn the government for not having defined the status quo regarding the Wailing Wall before the disturbances, and suggest that details and regulations such as those issued by the Palestine government after the outbreaks might have been promulgated at an earlier date with a favorable affect,” the British observations point out that it was, however, “obviously the right course for the government in matters of a religious nature (especially having regard to the doubtful juridical position created by the failure, for which the British government cannot accept responsibility, to establish a commission on the Holy Places, as announced in the Mandate itself) to arrive at a definition of the status quo by agreement rather than by imposing it.
“That is exactly what the Palestine government was attempting before the outbreaks. The delay which occurred was due to the failure of one of the parties to comply promptly with a request that they submit their claims with evidence on which it is based, and also partly to the necessity which obtained for authoritative legal advice on certain points connected with the powers of the Palestine Government under the Mandate.”
“RIGHTS” TO HOLY PLACES
Recalling in this connection that one month before the disturbances High Commissioner. Chancellor, who had been continuously seeking to obtain information as to the nature of “rights” involved, had explained to the Mandates Commission the problem of the Wailing Wall, and was congratulated by the chairman of the Mandates Commission upon the endeavor to find a satisfactory solution to the problem, the British Government feels that it is therefore, “inconsistent for the Mandates Commission to take the view that the policy which it approved in July, 1929, was entirely wrong in August, 1929.”
Referring to the statements of the Mandates Commission that the Palestine Government had in several instances been taken by surprise by the events of the outbreaks, events which the Mandates Commission attributed to the inadequacy of the Intelligence Service, the reply of the British Government points out that “this inadequacy had already been recognized and steps have been taken to remedy it. The force of this conclusion, however, depends largely upon the acceptance of the Mandates Commission’s view that there was premeditation, but if the Shaw Commission’s view is accepted that there was no premeditation, it is, of course, not unnatural that the local authorities were taken by surprise.”
INADEQUACY OF FORCES
Referring to the Mandates Commission’s conclusion that there was an inadequacy of armed forces, the British Government points out that the Shaw Commission had similarly pointed out that there had been a premature weakening of the garrisons and disbandment of the British gendarmes.
In connection with the Mandates Commission’s various charges that the Mandatory Power failed in important respects to carry out the Mandate the British Government’s reply claims that in taking this view the Mandates Commission accepted “the more extreme Jewish contentions regarding the meaning and object of the Mandate. The duty imposed on the Mandatory power is not to establish a Jewish National Home in Palestine. This is the function of the Jews themselves directed by Jewish agents.
“The Mandatory Power is ‘responsible for placing the country under such administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish National Home and the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safe-guarding the civil and religious rights of all inhabitants irrespective of race and religion.’ The difficulty is serious enough in itself in fulfilling the first two objects and would be even more difficult if further increased by the addition of a third object.”
Commenting on the Mandates Commission’s statement that “in the interests of a restoration of a peaceful atmosphere in Palestine the time has come to define the legal foundation of the assertion that the obligations laid down by the Mandate regarding the two sections of the population are of equal weight,” the British Government’s reply “fails to see how any ambiguity in the terms of the Mandate can be removed by any act of the Palestine Government or the Mandatory Power. The British Government would, however, welcome any elucidation of the Mandates Commission’s suggestion which the Council of the League of Nations may care to offer.”
DEFENDS DEVELOPMENT POLICY
The charge that the British Government failed in its Mandatory obligations to the Arabs by neglecting agriculture and other developments is one which the British Government feels called upon to deal with at length in its reply to the Mandates Commission’s report. The Mandates Commission seems to imply, say the British observations that “a proper development policy would have so increased the general productivity, prosperity and contentment of the population as to reconcile the Arab section of the community to a progressively increasing inflow of Jewish immigrants.
“Having regard to the unpromising local conditions such a view assumes that practically unlimited funds for this purpose are at the disposal of the Palestine Government. Their resources, on the contrary, are strictly limited. It implies, moreover, a fundamental misconception of the British Government’s general policy regarding the territories for which it is responsible. It has been its consistent aim, justified by long experience, to emancipate as soon as possible such territories from dependence upon grants in aid from the British Exchequer.
“If the territory is to be developed on sound economic lines it must be on a self-supporting basis. It is true that until recent years it has been necessary to assist the Palestine Government by grants from the British Exchequer. In fact, the expense which has fallen on the British Government in connection with the Palestine Mandate has been considerable. Taking only the period since 1921, when the present system of Colonial control was inaugurated, the sums provided by the British Government amounted to more than $45,000,000. This expenditure naturally includes the cost of defending the territory in addition to the Palestine loan of $22,500,000.”
MANDATE MUST BE CONSIDERED
Pointing out that the Mandates Commission’s conclusions in 1924 that the interests of the Palestine population be taken into consideration and that the immigration policy ought to be directed primarily by considerations of the economic needs of the country, the British reply to the Mandates Commission’s report emphasizes that any policy of development in Palestine must take account of the obligations imposed by the Mandate.
The British reply declares that “if account be taken of these general considerations the British Government feels it may justly be claimed that it has not been neglectful of its obligations regarding development. No reference is contained in the Mandates Commission’s report to the work which has already been done in this direction by the Mandatory Power in developing and improving conditions in Palestine. Previous to this report the Mandates Commission at no time expressed any dissatisfaction with the progress made.”
The foregoing remarks deal with the more serious criticism levelled against the British Government by the Mandates Commission. The last part of the Mandates Commission’s report dealing with the future policy in Palestine will be further considered by the British Government before any reply is made.