House of Commons Discusses Pledges to Arabs That May Void Balfour Declaration

James de Rothschild asked the Foreign Secretary yesterday in the House of Commons whether the British government had made any promises or pledges to the Arabic-speaking population of Palestine or of the neighboring countries which might invalidate in any way the Balfour Declaration or the clauses of the Palestine Mandate as approved by the League of Nations.

Drummond Shields, Under-Secretary for the Colonies, replied that Great Britain’s position had been fully stated in a recently issued White Paper wherein the British government had stated that there was nothing in its policy to invalidate the Balfour Declaration. Amid cheers from the opposition benches, Rothschild asked that the Arab leaders be informed that this is the policy of the British government.

At this point, Col. Howard Bury started the question: “Wasn’t it because on October 24, 1915, Sir Henry MacMahon-” and the rest of the question was lost in the roar of protest emanating from the ministerial benches, Kenworthy shouting across the floor to Bury, “Sit down, you sheik!” Sir William Davidson, managing to make himself heard on a point of order, declared that “this matter is so very important that we ought to have a reply.” Rothschild repeated his demand for an answer to his question.

Replying to Rothschild, Shields said that the facts he had stated before were perfectly well-known as the position which the British government had taken in the matter. Answering Bury, Shields declared that no pledge had been made to the Palestine Arabs and that the British government had always taken the view that Palestine had been excluded from Sir Henry MacMahon’s pledge in 1915. Bury wanted to know whether it wasn’t definitely stated in Sir Henry’s letter that he agreed to include Palestine, which always had been Arab. Shields gave no answer to this query.