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Balfour Declaration Basis of Palestine Mandate, Lords Are Told

June 29, 1923
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Speaking in the House of Lords Wednesday night, the Duke of Davonsnire gave an unequivocal reply to the critics of Britain’s Palestine policy. He declared the Government had full intenten or giving every support to the High Commissioner for Palestine according to the instructions in the Mandate, since the mandate was an international obligation and the Balfour Declaration the basic on which it was accepted from the Allied Powers.

The debate which evoked this reply was postponed from Tuesday. Lord Islington, long an enemy of the Zionist arms, opened the debate, saving he hoped to receive a more favorable reply than three months ago.

The Arab and Christian population of Palestine will never assent to the "Zionist system of government", he said, however fair the election may be, if it places them in a subordinate position. Lord Islington attributed the present "deadlock" to the distinct pledges of independence given to the Arab community and simultsanoutly the pledges to endeavor to establish a Zionist home.

Although the civil and religious rights of the Arabs and Christians are guaranteed, Lord Islington said every effort made by the Government to establish the Zionist system of government was unreconcilable with the promise to respect these rights.

Continuing, Lord Islington said that ordinarily, and especially in foreign affaires, the Government should treat matters as far as possible continuously, but there are cases where experience showed that the continuity of a certain policy is against the public interests and imperial welfare. Sooner or later a friendly people could be driven to such hostility that only force of arms could maintain order, he warned.

If a federation of Arab states is established and the Zionist system implanted in one of them, it is only a question of time when its influence would go over the borders.

In conclusion, Lord Islington asked that all documents pertaining to the Palestine question be laid on the table.

Lord Milner, who visited Palestine a year ago, declared if all the documents were published they would prove that the government had not broken any of its pledges to the Arabs, that none of the alleged injustice to the Arab population had been perpetrated, and that the so called burden of expenditure was rapidly failing and before long Palestine would cease to be a financial burden to Britain at all.

Lord Milner further said he hoped the Government would adhere to its present policy as the progress made in Palestine was "really extraordinary". "If the Arabs claim Palestine as one of their countries, in the same sense as Mesopotamia and Arabia, they are flying in the face of facts and of history." he said in conclusion.

The official Government reply was given by the Duke of Devonsnire, the Colonial Secretary. He said he had consulted his colleagues as to their opinion regarding the publication of the correspondence and the papers dealing with the engagements and committments concerning Palestine, and they found it would be contrary to the public interests to grant Lord Islington’s request.

Proceeding to the latest political developments in Palestine, the Duke asserted there was considerable misapprehension regaring the Palestine elections. Under the Constitution promulgated last year, arrangements were made for the holding of the elections in accordance with a plan well-known to the population, and it was then hoped the Legislative Council would be elected. However a large proportion of the inhabitants refused to participate. The Duke said be regretted this decision and thought the action "unwise and unfortunate."

Efforts have been made, however, to obtain an advisory body in lieu of the Legislative council but he regretted that through complete misconception of these efforts, pressure was brought to bear upon those who had originally agreed to serve and they were prevented from doing so.

"This makes the government of the country more difficult, he said. "but even if the Arabs are unwilling to participate in the Constitution it is our duty as the Mandatory to continue the government of the country. It is the Government’s full intention to give every support to the Hig-Commissioner in carrying on the government according to the instructions in the Mandate."

The Duke of Devonshire expressed the hope that later, when the prejudice surrounding this question would be dissolved, the people of Palestine would be ready to take an active part in the adminstration.

Passing to the Zionist pledges, the Duke of Devonshire made this statement:

"Occasionally people are heard to speak of the Balfour Declaration as though it were something we could take up or lay aside to suit our own convinience. The Mandate is not merely a national, but an international obligation, and the Balfour Declaration is the basis on which we accepted from the Allied Powers our position as the Mandatory for Palestine. We should be taking grave risks, not only with regard to Palestine but the other Powers, if we should resign that trust.

"As far as the Mandate is concerned, we hold it with the full approval of the Allies and the League of Nations. No doubt

it would be possible for us to resign the Mandate, and then it would be for the League to decide what new arrangement is to take its place".

"Obviously", he continued, "we must have wide discretion in the interpretation of the obligations placed upon us. It was never intended that the present form of government would be final, and it was hoped that it would gradually be extended with the view of ultimately arriving at a responsible government in that part of the world."

Lord Grey urged the Colonial Secretary to take advantage of the presence of Sir Herbert Samuel in London and mark out some more definite plan wnereby the "Zionist policy, which yet preserving for the Jews the opportunity of founding their own University and of giving a home to the Jewish culture inside a state mainly Arab, could be so interpreted as to bring it more in harmony with the civil rights of the people." Unless this is done, Lord Grey feared there would be serious trouble in the future.

The question was then dropped, no vote being taken.

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