Macdonald, Defending Entry Ban in Bitter Debate, Charges Jews Conspired to Flout Britain
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Macdonald, Defending Entry Ban in Bitter Debate, Charges Jews Conspired to Flout Britain

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Defending his decree banning Jewish immigration to Palestine for six months from a bitter onslaught by members of all parties, Colonial Secretary Malcolm MacDonald accused the Jews of conspiring, through illegal immigration, to flout British authority and to "smash the White Paper policy."

He asserted illegal immigration "is producing the gravest unrest among the Arab population.

"It is making that population — and it is designed by its authors to do so — suspicious of the sincerity of His Majesty’s Government in carrying out the White Paper policy," he said. "Once more distrust of our good faith and good word is becoming widespread not only among the Arabs of Palestine, but of the countries beyond."

He promised that if illegal immigration should cease, the Government would revoke its ban on legal immigration and allow Jews to enter up to the limits set in the White Paper.

Tom Williams, Laborite, launched the attack on the White Paper, charging that a majority of the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission had rejected it.

Williams announced that Laborite objections to the Palestine situation could be summarized under three points 1–refusal of the Permanent Mandates Commission to approve the White Paper; 2–failure of the Government’s policy as evidenced by disorders in Palestine and harsh measures used to repress them; 3–suspension of legal Jewish immigration into Palestine.

"It would not be untrue to say," the speaker declared, "that there has been a further surrender to violence.

"Europe being what it is, and Palestine being what it is to millions of people, illegal immigration during the past few months was almost inevitable. Just at the moment when the refugee problem was at its worst, the Government issued their White Paper restricting legal immigration and threatening complete cessation within five years.

Williams assailed MacDonald for using an "iron hand" not against the ex-Mufti of Jerusalem, the Arab terrorists and Hitler, but against the refugees. He accused the Government, amid vociferous dissent from the Government benches, of cooperating with the extremist terrorist Arab elements.

Geoffrey Mander, Liberal, supported Williams in his criticism of the Government, demanding that the White Paper be submitted to the Permanent Court of International Justice at The Hague.

He insisted that illegal immigration is natural and will continue, and asserted that all but ten per cent of Jews who illegally arrive in Palestine come from Germany. He also asked the Government to deny reports carried in the press that concentration camps will be created for illegal entrants discovered in the future.

Alfred Duff Cooper, Conservative, declared: "I am afraid British justice and popularity in Palestine are lower than they have ever been, both with Jew and Arab. It seems to me that the latest evidence of the failure of our policy is that because illegal immigration has succeeded, legal immigration is to be stopped. Is that not another proof — a lament able proof — of failure? It is punishing those who are observing the law for the success of those who are breaking it. That the Secretary of State for colonies should have been driven to adopt that measure seems to prove the policy is a failure."

Recalling that both Arabs and Jews have long been considered friends of the British Empire, Cooper said the two national groups are now asking favors which are mutually incompatible. In this circumstance, he suggested, Britain ought to favor the one in greatest need.

"If we look at the Arabs, we find," he declared, "that during the past 20 years they have enjoyed greater prosperity and freedom than they have known for centuries."

Cooper ascribed the recent prosperity of the Arabs to the outcome of the World War.

"What a different picture is presented by the present state of the Jews," he exclaimed. "In all their long and tragic history they have never gone through a period so terrible as this. To the claims of Jews at the present moment and our goodwill and gratitude for all they have done for civilization in the past — and few races have done more — we have to add the weight of our debt of gratitude."

This debt, he added, is so great that the world could not possibly repay it.

"The abominable regime to which they are being subjected in Germany," he said, "will be an indelible stain on Germany’s good name throughout her future history, shared to some extent by the whole world."

He suggested that in the future people might refer to the present day as the "age of the German concentration camp," as they now refer to the "age of the Spanish Inquisition."

"We should make a real home for the Jews in Palestine," he advocated. "Having made up our minds to support the Jews, we should say frankly to the Arabs: "This is what we propose to do."

"They understand that language. They can’t understand our present policy."

Nothing less than an autonomous state in which Jews could make their own decisions on immigration would solve the problem, Duff Cooper asserted.

In replying for the Government, MacDonald first recalled that Commons had already voiced approval of the White Paper. The opposition, he asserted, was trying to revive an issue that had been disposed of several weeks ago.

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