LONDON (May. 24)
while pleased by the showing made against the White Paper on Palestine, which won House of Commons approval by the slim majority of 89 votes, Zionist circles today voiced concern over the Government’s expressed intention not to be bound by any decision that may be taken by the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations.
Speaking in the House of Lords last night, Colonial Undersecretary Lord Suffering and Ava bluntly stated that if the Mandates Commission took the view that the Government’s new Palestine policy was inconsistent with the mandate, then Britain would ask the League Council to amend the mandate to conform to the policy.
Meanwhile, Jewish Agency President Chaim Weizmann was understood to be undecided on whether to return to Palestine or proceed to Geneva or New York. Geneva, however, was considered his most likely destination. He closely followed the entire debate from a seat in the House gallery.
The small majority obtained for the White Paper came as a shock to the Government, being the smallest the Chamberlain regime has received on any major issue for several years. Twenty Conservatives, including ex-Colonial Secretary Leopold S. Amery, Winston Churchill, Oliver Locker-Lampoon and Capt. Victor Cazalet, voted against the Government and 140 abstained.
The Chamberlain Government’s failure to secure a substantial majority for its policy was generally considered a serious setback, evidencing a lack of confidence in its proposals. The Manchester Guardian said editorially that the vote constituted a “virtual defeat” for the Government, while the Times asserted that the opposition would have been more formidable but for the reluctance to embarrass the Government at a time of great international tension.
It was pointed out, also, that the shortness of the debate prevented many of all parties from participating, while the abstention of 140 Conservatives despite the three-line whip on a question of confidence was taken to show that an important ant section of Government supporters were unable to follow the Government line although unwilling to join the Opposition.
The next formal step will be taken at Geneva, where the Mandates Commission is expected to consider the Palestine policy without regard to politics and solely on the basis of whether it conforms to the mandate. Zionist circles are confident that the Mandates Commission, in keeping with its attitude on restriction of immigration, will find the policy inconsistent with the mandate, but expect that Britain will then exert pressure on the League Council to amend the mandate.
Meanwhile, strong sentiment is developing here to commit the Government to include a form of federalism for the ultimate independent state. The Archbishop of Canterbury and others advocated this during the debate, while Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald, in last night’s broadcast, admitted that the Palestine constitution might take the federal form with predominantly Jewish and Arab provinces.
The Times editorial strongly urged a federal state that would permit each community to control immigration and land in its respective autonomous areas, while the Manchester Guardian insisted that a form of separation must be the ultimate solution.
Modification of the policy, establishing an autonomous Jewish province with control of immigration and land, thus eliminating the most objectionable feature of the White Paper, might now find strong favor among the Jews if only as an alternative to the present policy.
Features of yesterday’s debate in Commons were Mr. Churchill’s denunciation of the policy and his vote against the Government on the grounds that it was alien to the spirit of the Balfour Declaration and constituted a breach of the pledge given to the Jews of the world. Also outstanding was Archibald Sinclair’s warning that the policy would anger public opinion in the United States and arouse new hostility of 5,000,000 Jews and Protestant sympathizers in place of the previous hostility of the Irish.
Dominions Secretary Sir Thomas Insist asserted that the Jews had in fact realized their national home during the past 20 years. He said the new policy must be pursued in the light of the present situation rather than that which prevailed in 1922.
In the House of Lords, Lord Samuel made a strong plea for a policy that would furnish a basis for possible agreement. He proposed that the Jews accept restriction to 40 percent of the total population. The Archbishop of Canterbury also attacked the policy, declaring it did not give “reasonable justice” to the Jews.
A further debate on the White Paper was broadcast last night, with participants including Mr. MacDonald, Laborite Tom Williams and Liberal David Lloyd George. Mr. MacDonald asserted his belief that the policy was consistent with the mandate and declared the Jews and the Arabs, as well as the British Government, must pursue a consistent policy because they had to live together in Palestine.
Mr. Williams denounced the policy as a “crude breach of solemn pledges” and charged the Government was sacrificing the Jews without bringing peace and was surrendering Britain’s friends to enemies.
Mr. Lloyd George charged the British were seeking to “crawl out of their share of a definite bargain entered into in return for Jewish support during the war — a bargain their side of which Jews kept honorably.” He was Prime Minister in the Cabinet that issued the Balfour Declaration.
British pledges to the Arabs, he declared, were more than fulfilled while the pledges to the Jews were only implemented reluctantly. The wartime Prime Minister paid tribute to Jewish contributions to Arab life and asserted there was room for 2,500,000 more Jews in Palestine. He declared the surrender to Arab violence would bring dishonor to the British name and strengthen the deepening conviction that the British word was no longer reliable.