Geneva (Aug. 26)
Unanimous disapproval of Great Britain’s Palestine policy by members of the League of Nations Mandates Commission at the recent extraordinary Palestine session of the Commission is recorded in the minutes of that session made public today. The Commission’s report on the Palestine riots of 1929 made public yesterday sharply criticized the British policy. The disapproval of the Mandates Commission members is most striking when compared with utterances at the previous session when some members definitely showed anti-Zionist tendencies and others approved the British administration in Palestine.
The minutes of the extraordinary session reveal that the members of the Mandates Commission this time took the greatest possible pains to study the Palestine problem, reading most carefully all documents, whether brought to their notice officially or not, which as seen from the reply of the British government to the Commission’s report is not exactly pleasing to the British Government.
Even newspaper articles such as that by William Martin, editor of the “Journal de Geneve,” written after his visit to Palestine shortly after the riots, were quoted by members of the Mandates Commission during the discussion. The memorandum of the Jewish Agency in reply to the Shaw Commission’s report proved a most valuable document, figuring side by side with the Shaw report much to the dissatisfaction of Drummond Shiels, British under-secretary for the Colonies and accredited British representative at the Mandates Commission’s session. He was accompanied by Harry C. Luke, former chief secretary of Palestine and acting-High Commissioner during the riots, who replied to all questions connected with the riots, while T. I. K. Lloyd, secretary of the Shaw Commission, replied to all questions in connection with the investigation and inquiry of the Shaw Commission.
The minutes of the extrordinary Palestine session reveal that a painful scene so far as Harry Luke was concerned took place when the question of the press agitation before the riots was raised. Luke was supposed to answer but Dr. Shiels explained that since the former chief secretary was personally involved in the vigorous press criticisms he preferred that Mr. Lloyd should answer.
The main contention of the Mandates Commission, borne out in its report, was that the body of the Shaw Commission’s report was inconsistent with and often contradictory to the conclusions it reached. The minutes indicate that had the Mandates Commission had available the evidence and minutes of the Shaw Commission, which at the time of the extraordinary session were still unpublished, the severe criticism the Mandates Commission leveled against the British government would have been even more severe.
BRITISH MEMBER CRITICAL
According to the text of the Mandates Commission’s minutes even the British member, Lord Lugard, pointed out various instances where the Mandatory Power failed, while Dr. Shiels, accusing some members of the Commission of pro-Jewish sympathies, pleaded for complete impartiality and said that he was taking neither the Jewish nor the Arab side nor even the side of the Shaw Commission’s conclusions. Concerning these he remarked on one occasion that he “did not pretend to maintain that all the statements in the Shaw Commission’s report were correct.”
The retort of the British government to the conclusions of the Mandates Commission that the latter had not foreshadowed any criticism of the Mandatory Power seems to be unjustified in view of the statement of William Rappard, the Swiss member of the Commission, who pointed out that the High Commissioner of Palestine, during the Mandates Commission’s session of July, 1929, left the Commission with the impression that the entire situation in Palestine was becoming brighter and brighter. Consequently M. Rappard claimed that the Mandates Commission was until the present misinformed as to the situation, which he attributed to the fact that the High Commissioner himself had probably been misinformed.
In the course of the discussion D. Van Rees, vice-chairman of the Mandates Commission, in replying to Dr. Shiels’ question why the British government’s policy regarding the Jewish National Home had never before been criticized, referred him to the minutes of previous sessions of the Commission in which the British government’s policy was criticized but couched in perhaps more careful terms in order not to raise unnecessary public attention.
SHIELS DEFENDED MUFTI
The minutes of the extraordinary session also show that Dr. Shiels took it upon himself to plead on behalf of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem when the latter’s official position and relation to the British government while drawing a salary as a paid official were questioned. Dr. Shiels did not deny that the Grand Mufti had figured on the police blacklist in Palestine, but merely contended that many political leaders even in Western Europe were watched by the police but that their record hardly ever weakened their position. He added that the Grand Mufti’s prison term had been commuted like those of Jewish leaders, referring probably to Vladimir Jabotinsky.
An interesting point was raised by Marquis A. Theodoli, chairman of the Mandates Commission, when he asked whether the Mandatory Power had formed any definite opinion when the Jewish National Home would be established and whether it was possible to say when the Jews themselves will consider the Jewish National Home as established. On this question Dr. Shiels evasively preferred not to express any opinion.
The discussion on the suspension of immigration was considerably handicapped, the minutes indicate, by Dr. Shiels referring the Mandates Commission to the inquiry of Sir John Hope Simpson. When further pressed by various members of the Commission, Dr. Shiels argued that the matter was sub judice. To this argument even the British member, Lord Lugard, found it difficult to agree, emphasizing that the immigration certificates had been suspended on purely political considerations which he termed a clear departure from the declared policy of the government that immigration should be governed exclusively by economic considerations.
The Mandatory Power’s failure to encourage the close settlement of the Jews on the land, which is an important factor in the establishment of the Jewish National Home and is incorporated in the Mandate, was also pointed out by members of the Commission. The feebleness of the Shaw Commission’s conclusions regarding the Arabs evicted from the land as not based on figures or facts was emphasized, particular stress being laid on the fact that the term of eviction can not be applied when the purchased land is not confiscated.
SHARP VERBAL EXCHANGE
A sharp verbal cross-fire passed between Harry Luke and the chairman of the Mandates Commission when the smallness of the compensation paid to the riot victims by the Palestine government was discussed, Luke maintaining that it was an act of grace on the part of the British government to pay any compensation at all while the chairman remarked that it would have been an act of justice.
Lord Lugard, the British member, raised the question of the possibility of Jewish settlement in Transjordania which Dr. Shiels promptly dismissed as incompatible with the Mandate and then as impracticable because the existing legislative assembly in Transjordania would frustrate such intentions. Subsequently he admitted that the settlement of individual Jews in Transjordania was possible and permissible but this too he termed impracticable since the Jews prefer to live together.