Menu JTA Search

Refugee Problem Can’t Be Solved in Palestine, Commons Told; Obligations Held Fulfilled

A warning that “the problem of the Jews of Central Europe cannot be settled in Palestine” was sounded today by Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald, opening a debate on the Holy Land question in the House of Commons. When the British Government promised the Jews a national home, it never anticipated such fierce persecution as is prevalent in Europe today, Mr. MacDonald said, adding that the Government had never promised a home in Palestine for everyone seeking to escape from calamity.

He declared, however, that the Government would carefully consider the Jewish Agency’s detailed proposals submitted today. It was understood he referred to proposals for immediate settlement in Palestine of 100,000 German Jews.

Declaring the Palestine problem was not military but political, the Colonial Secretary defended the British policy, asserting that the Government was fulfilling its obligations to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home. He declared that many in the Arab movement were moved by genuine patriotism.

Mr. MacDonald, declaring that the British Government had fulfilled its obligations to the Jews, said that since 1922, 250,000 Jews have established themselves in Palestine, not as a favor, but as a right. Horror felt by all as a result of the current Jewish tragedy, he said, should not destroy the judgement of statesmen.

He said that it was in the interest of the Jews themselves that the Palestine problem should be solved on the basis of a comprehensive agreement. Pointing out that the Arabs had lived in Palestine for centuries, he said they were not consulted when the Balfour Declaration was made, and that persons who put themselves in the place of the Arabs would understand their uneasiness when they saw the arrival of a new population of tens of thousands of rich and energetic people. “If I were an Arab I would be alarmed,” he added. While admitting that terrorists of the worst sort had taken part in the Arab movement, the Colonial Secretary said the House “ought to recognize that many in the Pan-Arab movement are moved by patriotism.”

Pointing out that the Arab population of Palestine was 600,000 twenty years ago and 999,000 today, Mr. MacDonald said that in another 20 years it will be 1,500,000. Nobody, he said, could have foreseen this increase at the time the Balfour Declaration was made. While the original calculations as to the possibilities of settling Jews in Palestine had been shown to be wrong, he continued, it could not be said the Jews had driven the Arabs from their country, but it must rather be concluded that both populations gained something from the Balfour Declaration.

Saying that in these circumstances the Jews should not be subjected to Arab domination, and that the British Government had a double obligation, MacDonald added: “On the one hand we are pledged to facilitate Jewish immigration into Palestine under suitable conditions and encourage the close settlement of Jews on the land. On the other hand we are pledged to see that the rights and position of the Arab population are not prejudiced. How to reconcile justly and peacefully those two obligations is a problem we have got to solve, a riddle whereto we have to find the answer. We are prepared to make a supreme effort to achieve that understanding.”

It is in this spirit, the Colonial Secretary said, that discussions are being held with a view to bringing all interested parties into a round table conference which may begin either before Christmas or early in the New Year. If this effort does not succeed, he concluded he British Government will take full responsibility for the future of Palestine.

Winston Churchill then proposed a 10-year plan for controlling Jewish immigration to Palestine to keep the present population ratio. After declaring it would be preferable for the plan to be put through with the consent of all the interested parties and support of the British authorities, Churchill stipulated that “Jewish immigration shall be no less in any given period than the growth of the Arab population arising largely from the animating and fertilizing impulse of the Jews.”

The conferences will be started within a few weeks, as soon as composition of the various delegations has been announced, Mr. MacDonald told the House of Commons yesterday. He said that formal invitations to the negotiations had been dispatched to the Arab states. At the same time, he declared, High Commissioner Sir Harold MacMichael has been asked to arrange for the Palestine Arab delegation through consultation with groups and individuals and to report on it as soon as possible. Confirming exclusion of the exiled ex-Mufti of Jerusalem, Mr. MacDonald declared that the Government would facilitate passage to London of other exiled Arab leaders if they were proposed as members of the delegation.

Nazi press attacks against British policy in Palestine brought a sharp, official warning to the German Government in the House. Denying charges of British cruelty in the Holy Land, Chancellor of the Exchequer Sir John Simon, speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, declared that the German Government must be well aware of the “unfortunate effect” of such allegations upon Anglo-German relations.

ZIONISTS SEEK ENTRY OF 100.000 REFUGEES

The Zionist attitude was reflected in a Jewish Agency statement which declared that the schemes proposed by Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain for colonization of British Guian and Tanganyika fell short of the necessities both in scope and speed of execution. The Agency stressed that immediate rescue measures were needed and were possible only in Palestine, which it said would be prepared to take responsibility for immediately absorbing 100,000 German Jews.

“Two hundred and fifty Jewish agricultural settlements and Jewish urban communities in Palestine, under direction of the Jewish Agency and the National Council of Palestine Jewry, assisted by those Jews living in countries where they are still free, are prepared to undertake the financial responsibility and organization involved in the immediate absorption into Palestine of 100,000 German Jews, which would include practically the whole of the young generation of German Jewry able to migrate and adapt themselves to a new life,” the statement said. “This would be the first installment of what is necessary. Bigger schemes could be realized if friendly governments would help by guaranteeing a loan for this purpose. We appeal to the mandatory power for Palestine to admit these Jews into the Jewish national home and we appeal to the British people to support us in making this request.”

Dr. Solomon Goldman, president of the Zionist Organization of America, today criticized Lord Winterton, chairman of the Intergovernmental Refugee Committee, for summarily dismissing in his radio address Tuesday night, Palestine’s possibilities for aiding refugees and called on the British Government to permit immediate transfer of 100,000 German Jews to Palestine. “One word from the British Government and practically the whole younger generation of German Jewry can be saved,” Dr. Goldman said. “I appeal to a British Government with a tradition of humane treatment to the oppressed to give the word.”

A delegation representing 40,000 Jews of the Manchester and Salford regions yesterday outlined to a group of Parliament members the importance of Palestine for a solution of the Jewish problem. They submitted a memorandum on the question and said that in a few days a petition would be sent to the Government carrying 25,000 signatures from the Manchester region alone asking that Palestine be thrown wide open to Jewish immigration. The petition will also ask that Jews be given a greater share in the Palestine Government and that all efforts to keep the Jews in the minority in the Holy Land be rejected.

NEXT STORY