Jews (Fighting Services).

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

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Photo of Mr Somerset De Chair Mr Somerset De Chair , Norfolk South Western

That is possible, and it is for that reason that they go on to argue against setting up a Jewish Army. I am talking about the reaction in America, and I think that my hon. and gallant Friend will agree that the New York "Times" is a considerable source of public opinion in America.

I would like to try and meet the argument of the hon. Member for Llanelly as to what constructive measures can be taken in view of existing conditions in Palestine in order to meet the situation. The present arrangements for recruiting out there seem to me to be a trifle archaic. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham (Colonel Cazalet) referred to the existing companies of the Palestine Buffs. There is something a little bizarre about Jews and Arabs in Palestine being recruited for the defence of the Holy Land and finding themselves joining companies of the Royal East Kent Regiment. It calls up a picture of a march down the Old Kent Road rather than the Seven Sisters approach to Jerusalem, or something of that kind. We are an incalculable people in the matter of our nomenclature. It was said long ago that the Lord Privy Seal was so called because he was neither a lord nor a privy nor a seal. I cannot see what inducement to recruitment in Palestine it would be for the Arabs and Jews to be members of the Royal East Kent Regiment. It is a fact that when Arabs and Jews are recruited they go to Sarafand, where they train together. I have seen Arabs and Jews drilling side by side on the square at Sarafand, and although they do not appear very military in their bearing when they first arrive, I can assure the House that after a few weeks' training these companies have a discipline which would be a credit to the Brigade of Guards.

It seems to me that here is a framework within which the Government could consider some improvement in the present recruiting arrangements for Palestine. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham suggested that the companies of the Buffs should form the nucleus of a Jewish unit in Palestine, but that, I think, would immediately rouse the antagonism of the Arabs. These companies are already Jewish and Arab companies, and if we use the Palestine companies of the Buffs as a nucleus for some Palestine unit it would be essential to preserve the even balance of the companies between the Jewish and Arab recruits. I do not see any reason why this should not go a long way to meeting the demand for some unit in which local patriotism could share in the defence of the Holy Land without engendering hatred between Arabs and Jews. I remember a similar friendly rivalry between the two regiments which comprised my own regiment in Palestine. We had companies of the Blues and the Life Guards showing a stimulating rivalry in their activities which was wholly beneficial to the efficiency of the composite regiment. I think that we could get something of the same kind if we had Jewish and Arab companies in the same unit working side by side as we have already in the Buffs. A word of tribute ought to be paid to those in Palestine who have been carrying on the recruiting of Arabs and Jews, because they have managed to create at Sarafand an atmosphere of co-operation and good will which should form a nucleus, if such a proposal could be adopted, which would go a long way to making this unit an efficient force. I believe that by reorganising the Palestine Companies, the Arab and Jewish Companies of the Buffs into a Palestine Brigade or something of the kind, we would be able, without disturbing Arab sentiment in the Middle East, to create a force which would be a potent reinforcement to the defence of the Holy Land.