GENEVA (Jun. 16)
The Permanent Mandates Commission today opened its examination of the new British policy on Palestine, which was outlined and defended before it yesterday by Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald. Members of the Commission closely questioned Mr. MacDonald on a number of vital points in the White Paper, particularly the problems of immigration and security.
Well informed circles said later that a majority of the commissioners indicated their desire to see the absorptive capacity principle continue to regulate immigration and their opposition to termination of immigration at the end of five years.
According to these sources, five of the ten commissioners voiced their disapproval of the new policy during the questioning of the British spokesman. One of the chief points of attack was declared to have been the question of why the British Government had brought the Arab states into the Palestine dispute. The commissioners wanted to know why it was believed that the entire Near East would be involved if the policy were not accepted.
Because of differences between Mr. MacDonald and the Commission, the League Secretariat did not issue a communique on today’s session. Mr. MacDonald said that he would remain in Geneva to defend the British policy.
Acting on behalf of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, Dr. Nahum Goldmann issued a statement attacking Mr. MacDonald’s declaration before the Commission yesterday as based on “artificial argumentation.” The statement warned the British Government that the Jews would be strong enough to prevent implementation of the White Paper.
The impression was prevalent in League circles that the Colonial Secretary had failed to convince the Mandates Commission yesterday, in his defense of the White Paper, that the new policy for the Holy Land was in conformity with the mandate. The British spokesman was deemed particularly unconvincing in his argument that the Jewish national home should be interpreted to mean something less than a Jewish state “despite the fact that he himself admitted that President Wilson and other leading statesmen familiar with the Balfour Declaration had interpreted it to mean eventual establishment of a Jewish state.”
Members of the Commission were not clear why “something less than a Jewish state” must mean stoppage of Jewish immigration after five years and why there should be no parity in a Palestine bi-national state on a fifty-fifty basis with neither Jews nor Arabs domin ating. The commissioners were also not impressed by Mr. MacDonald’s arguments on the necessity for abandoning the absorptive capacity principle of immigration at this time, particularly since it had been introduced as a solution by the British Government itself.
In his address to the Commission yesterday, Mr. MacDonald admitted the possibility that a Jewish state was not excluded from the term “Jewish national home.” He declared, however, that if the Jews did not respond to the opportunity afforded or if the Arabs objected to the country becoming a Jewish state, the conception of a Jewish national home should be interpreted as “something less than a Jewish state.”
Mr. MacDonald said the absorptive capacity principle of immigration was not mentioned in the mandate and argued that the important sole condition laid down in the mandate with regard to immigration was that it should be facilitated under suitable conditions as long as the rights and position of other sections of the population were not prejudiced. He declared there was nothing inconsistent with the mandate in the declaration contained in the White Paper that it was not part of British policy for Palestine to become a Jewish state.
Mr. MacDonald paid warm tribute to Jewish achievements in Palestine. He concluded with the declaration that announcement of the new policy was the final act of a prolonged consideration of a “stubborn, contrary problem.”