Jews (Fighting Services).

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 6th August 1942.

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Photo of Colonel Victor Cazalet Colonel Victor Cazalet , Chippenham

I dissociate myself altogether from the idea of raising a Jewish Army of 200,000. I am not asking for that to-day. The 200,000 referred to by my hon. Friend who preceded me refers to a Jewish Army which could be raised in the United States and elsewhere. I take no responsibility for that figure of 200,000. I have said that the only body which can speak with authority is the Jewish Agency, and they agree that the figure I have given—20,000—is the effective number that could be raised in a short time. I have no desire to give any support to a figure greater than that. What are the conditions under which these additional recruits could be raised? We are not asking to-day for any separate Jewish Army; all we are asking is that these men might serve together as an integral part of the British Army, commanded by the British. We would very much like them to have a badge, like almost every other unit of the British Army. They should be known not as a Jewish Army but as a Palestine Jewish Force. You have the nucleus already with the police and companies of the Buffs. What they are asking for is to be made fighting units. At present they drive lorries, wash pots, guard bridges and so on. What they are asking for is to be allowed to fight with rifles and, if necessary, die in the defence of their homeland in order to make their contribution towards an Allied victory.

What are the objections? I am only too glad to face them. The first is that the Arabs will object, but I am sure that the majority of Arabs—I am not talking about the discontented minority who are the followers of the Mufti—are as desirous as the Jews of defeating the common enemy. I do not believe that the Arabs as a whole will oppose something which is in the common interest, namely, the defence of their own homeland. Besides, the case has already been admitted. A Jewish force has already been raised, and in these days, when war is so near to the boundaries of Palestine, no political considerations should be allowed to stand in the way of giving these Jews the unalienable right of self-defence of their own homeland. The second objection is that the Jews might make political use of this armed force when the war is over. Surely the answer to that is this: This force is an integral part of the British Army. If it is considered right, they will have to hand in their arms, like the rest, when the war is over. After all, this small force of 20,000 can be in no position to stand up against the united force of ourselves and the United States. They know well enough that the Jewish Home in Palestine could not exist for 24 hours unless they had the support of both this country and the United States.

The other argument is lack of arms. I believe there is some substance in that argument, but I should like to say that the Jews have been standing in the queue, asking for arms, for nearly three years. I read an article to-day which said there were 30,000 or 40,000 Poles in Palestine, with the possibility of the number being increased to 100,000, and it went on to say that equipment and arms were slowly but definitely coming forward. Yet there is never anything for the Jews. When the Iraqi army wants arming something is provided, but if it is for the Jews the answer is that there are none available. Surely it is possible out of the total rationed strength of the Army in the Middle East of over 1,000,000 for enough rifles to be found for 20,000 men. Surely, if there are sympathy at home and goodwill in the Administration in Palestine, this is not something that is beyond the powers of achievement of the British Forces in the Middle East. Moreover, I believe that a good many of the things which a Home Guard wants, bombs and so on, could be manufactured in Palestine. There are some 400 of the best engineers and scientists in the world domiciled in Palestine at the present time. There is another aspect. The Jews know every inch of the country, and if war should come to Palestine, their services would be invaluable. I believe that purely on military grounds we cannot afford to dispense with the specialised knowledge which the Jews could contribute if war should ever come to that area.

The material is good. I have already said, but I want to repeat, that wherever the Jews have played their part already, in Syria, Greece, Crete and Libya, they have won golden opinions from their generals, who have publicly given expression to their views. Is not this an opportunity when Jew and Arab might well unite in a cause which is common to both of them? Is it not possible that out of the sacrifices and services which they will both have to make, and are making to-day, for the defence of their homeland, a new understanding may arise and emerge between these two races, which must forever dwell together in that part of the world, which will be to the eternal advantage of both? The Jews have been fighting this war, our war, against Hitler for ten long years. What is happening to the Jews in Europe to-day is beyond the imagination of ordinary tolerant, decent, Christian English men and women. Tens of thousands are being starved to death, shot or massacred. Poland is becoming one vast mass execution yard for the Jews from the whole of Europe. I plead with the Government to give that comparatively small Jewish community in Palestine a chance of fighting, a chance of defending their own homes, a chance of showing the Jews in Europe that somewhere in some part of the world the Jews are not utterly defeated and overwhelmed. I believe it would give to those poor masses in Europe a wonderful moral sense of comfort in this terrible hour through which they are passing. I believe also it would be looked upon with great favour in the United States of America. Pray God the war may never come to the Holy Land, but if it does, let it never be said that while we ourselves were unable to defend the Holy Land at the same time we deprived those who could do so, who wanted to do so, of the necessary arms, thereby inflicting upon them annihilation and upon ourselves eternal shame and disgrace.