Lord Brentford, who as Sir William Joynson-Hicks was Home Secretary in the Baldwin Government, died to-day at the age of 67.
At many points during his long political career, Lord Brentford touched Jewish, and particularly, Zionist interests, in the one in relation to his administration of the aliens and immigration laws, and in the other as one of the outstanding opponents of the Zionist policy in Palestine and a supporter of the Arab claims.
Before he joined the Baldwin Government in 1923, he was constantly attacking British policy in Palestine and initiating debates for that purpose in the House of Commons. While he was a member of the Government, he subordinated his own views on this question to the collective policy of the Cabinet, and abstained from anti-Zionist activity, but after the fall of the Government, when he regained his independence he resumed his previous anti-Zionist activity, and as Lord Brentford he was again one of the leaders of the anti-Zionist group in Parliament. He was announced as the Chairman of the Albert Hall meeting which Shaukat Ali was to have addressed on the last anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, but which was afterwards abandoned.
In July 1922, he initiated the big Palestine debate, in which Mr. Winston Churchill, as Colonial Secretary, defended the British policy, and in that debate Mr. Ormsby-Gore sprung a surprise when he read out a statement which Sir William Joynson-Hicks had sent to the Zionist Organisation on November 4th., 1917, immediately after the issue of the Balfour Declaration, in which he had written: “I consider that one of the greatest outcomes of this terrible war will be the rescue of Palestine from Turkish government, and I will do all in my power to forward the views of the Zionists, in order to enable the Jews once more to take possession of their own land”.
Sir William Joynson-Hicks, Mr. Ormsby-Gore said when he had finished reading the statement, went even further than I, who have been a consistent supporter of the Zionist movement have ever gone, in using the phrase “take possession of their own land”.
HIS DENIAL OF ANTI-JEWISH DISCRIMINATION
While he was at the Home Office, Sir William Joynson-Hicks was repeatedly accused of administrating the aliens laws in a spirit of anti-Jewish discrimination, but he indignantly repudiated these charges. On one occasion, Mr. Samuel Finburgh, who was then a Conservative member of Parliament, challenged him from his own side of the House.
It was a little unkind, Sir William said in his reply, for a member of his own political party not to have seen him first on the subject, but if a single instance could be given where he had shown any anti-Jewish bias, he said, he would go into the facts.
I accept the challenge, Mr. Finburgh replied.
The matter was discussed at the next meeting of the Board of Deputies, where several of the members congratulated Mr. Finburgh on his stand.
On another occasion Lieut. -Commander Kenworthy made a similar allegation that he was practising religious discrimination against Jewish immigrants into England, and Sir William in his reply described this statement as “offensive and incorrect”. He did not discriminate against Jews, he declared, but at a time of severe unemployment, undesirables of all creeds must be guarded against.
The antisemitic British fascisti League petitioned him about the same time for severer restrictions against aliens and Sir William replied to them that the present regulations were adequate and that he saw no need to extend them.
In an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 1926, when he was still Home Secretary, Sir William said:
It is absurd to suggest that P show discrimination against the members of any particular faith. Only this morning I signed about 12 naturalisation papers, and judging by the names fifty to sixty per cent. off them are Jews. We do not investigate, however, whether the applicants are Jews or not. Religion has nothing whatever to do with the matter. The fact is that I have naturalised during the last year more aliens than my predecessor in the Labour Government did. As for restrictions against immigration, he added, I fear that while unemployment exists to the present extent, such restrictions will stand for many years to come.
The Jews as a community have always been supporters of law and order, Sir William wrote in a message to a Jewish paper at that time. It is my duty in my present office to uphold law and order, and anything which you and similarly minded loyal people can do to support the Government and prevent social disruption and political disorder will be most gladly welcomed by us.
Lord Brentford was an extremely religious man and on one occasion when he spoke at an annual meeting of the British and Foreign Bible Society, he claimed that if the Bible were applied in every-day life it would solve all social, political and economic questions.
It was Lord Brentford who presided at the big Albert Hall demonstration called to protest against religious persecution in Soviet Russia, at which the Chief Rabbi, Dr. J. H. Hertz, was one of the principal speakers.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.