GENEVA (Jun. 9)
The British Government today defended its course in Palestine before the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, describing its war on Arab terrorism and denying that it was guilty of procrastination or lack of clarity in defining future policy.
The defense was made by Sir John Shuckburgh, Deputy Undersecretary of the Colonial Office, heading the British delegation, during examination by members of the commission on Britain’s report on Palestine to the League for 1937.
Sir John was questioned at length about the present situation and about future policy. Some commissioners expressed dissatisfaction with the temporary restrictive immigration policy, voicing doubts as to whether it conformed to the Palestine mandate, with which the League entrusted Britain in 1922.
During the examination, Sir John asserted that Britain could not act more quickly on its proposed three-way partition of Palestine since the League Council had expressed the opinion last September that the British Government could not adopt decisive measures without League authority.
In addition, he said, Arab terrorism had greatly increased, climaxed by the murder of Lewis Y. Andrews, District Commissioner for the Galilee, last September. The Government took the strongest measures, he declared. It put the Arab Supreme Committee, which he held morally responsible for the bloodshed, outside the law and deprived the Mufti of Jerusalem of all the posts from which he had derived his dangerous powers. In the Spring, the position improved, making possible the appointment of the Palestine Partition Commission.
Regarding the charge of lack of clarity in its policy, Sir John said that as long as no fair plan existed it was impossible to expect the Government’s Palestine policy to be clear. The Mandatory Power is convinced, he asserted, that partition is the best and fairest solution of the problem, and it clearly expressed this view in its statement of policy last July as well as in the declaration by Government representatives in Parliament.
The immigration policy is closely connected with the question of partition, Sir John declared. He held that the Government’s present policy of arbitrary restriction of immigration was temporary, but also just and conformed with the mandate. As soon as the frontiers of Jewish and Arab States and a British corridor are drawn, and as long as the mandate is in effect, the British Government is ready to regulate Jewish immigration in accordance with the principle of absorptive capacity, he said.
Sir John stressed the Government’s attention to the security problem, pointing out that the authorities were forced to conduct a real war with the terrorists. He asserted that the situation was now improved. Acts of terrorism had assumed an isolated and sporadic character, although the situation in the Galilee, Haifa and Samaria districts was still insecure.
Referring to intensified Arab agitation against Britain, Sir John declared that Arab agitators were attempting to accuse the religious fervor of Moslems by spreading rumors that the English were tearing up the Koran. He declared that an inevitable consequence of the disorders was deterioration of the economic situation.