Jews (Fighting Services).

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

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Photo of Wing Commander Archibald James Wing Commander Archibald James , Wellingborough

Before the summons to another place, I had observed that the full Zionist case was to stake a claim upon Palestine for the post-war period. It is made quite plain to anybody who takes the trouble to read the current Jewish Press that they are trading upon the appalling sufferings of the Jews in Europe to press this very, specific demand. It is most important to distinguish clearly between the old-established British Jews, those who have been here for generations and who form a most valuable element in our national life, and the Zionist Jews, who for the most part are those Jewish elements which came to this country in the 1880's and later from the pogroms in Poland, then under the Russian Government. This difference between the old-established British Jews and the Zionist Jews is clearly shown by the extreme virulence of the attacks upon the former in the Jewish Press in connection with demands for what amounts to a freehold of Palestine after this war. The Jewish demand, in my submission, raises the fundamental issue facing world Jewry, an issue which has to be faced, and probably can only be solved, in the immediate post-war period—the decision between nationalism and assimilation. On that, the Jews alone have to make up their minds. They cannot go on trying to have it both ways, to have the benefit of citizenship of countries and an overriding external nationalism.

If they decide to go for nationalism, the Jews must face the fact that Palestine cannot possibly offer a solution. Even if you gave it to the Jews, it could not solve their problems. The numbers involved make that obvious. A Jewish speaker, Professor Brodetsky, has said recently that there were in Europe 9,500,000 Jews, largely oppressed and almost entirely dispossessed, who after the war would need homes. Another Jewish speaker—I have the quotation here—recently gave the number as 8,000,000. It is obvious that this problem cannot be solved by Palestine. These people, for the most part, are dispossessed, and horribly oppressed. It is certain that in the post-war settlement of Europe the anti-Semitic feeling which is prevalent in most of South-East Europe—to which, for example, Mr. Harold Butler referred in his recent book "The Lost Peace"—will preclude, or will make extremely difficult, the resettlement of the dispossessed Jews. I do not think they can be re-absorbed. I believe the logical outcome of the Zionist attitude must be the creation under the Peace Treaties of a specifically Jewish State in South-East Europe which Jews can have as their homeland, seeing that Palestine cannot possibly take them. The Jewish claim on Palestine is only a sentimental one—sentiment, of course, is a powerful factor, but, neither historically nor ethnologically, have the Jews in reality as much claim to the soil of Palestine as the Arabs have.

We, as a democratic people, fighting for freedom, have no right whatever to seek to impose a Jewish minority, aiming openly at majority, brought in from the outside, on a native, indigenous Arab majority. We have no right whatever to do so. It is rather significant to notice the extremely ruthless, realistic attitude to the Jewish problem as usual adopted by the U.S.S.R. In Russia while Jews are, I understand, given complete equality in other respects, any separatist or Zionist tendencies are ruthlessly repressed, and to that the Jewish Press in this country makes constant and bitter reference. Russia at least is apparently going to solve the problem of Jewish nationalism in its own way. Both the opening speaker, the hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Hannah), and the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Colonel Cazalet) referred to the interest taken in this problem by the United States of America. In nearly all the discussions in the Jewish Press on this matter something very much like a veiled threat is made and it is constantly asserted that the United States interest in this matter is so vital and means so much, that our relations with the United States largely depends upon our handling of the matter of Zionist aspirations in Palestine to-day. As the extreme Zionists demand its handling, of course.

Photo of Mr Ian Hannah Mr Ian Hannah , Wolverhampton Bilston

I would like to repudiate that.

Photo of Wing Commander Archibald James Wing Commander Archibald James , Wellingborough

I apologise. I do not want to misrepresent the hon. Member, but the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham certainly so represented it, as did the hon. and gallant Member for Handsworth (Commander Locker-Lampson). I do not know whether this is true or not. I have not been to America for a long time. If it were the case, provided that it meant that the United States of America are prepared to share with us the burden and the responsibility, and I must say also the ingratitude and the odium to which we are exposed, and have been exposed for years past in endeavouring to be fair and generous to the Jews, then I should welcome that interest. We have had all too little thanks for the immense amount which the British Government have done for the Jews. Lastly, I would like to ask how many British and American Jews who support in writing and by subscription a demand for a Jewish Palestine themselves want to go and settle in Palestine. It would be far more convincing if that were the case.

Miss Rathbone:

Is the hon. and gallant Gentleman really consistent? He has first told us how many millions of Jews will not be able to settle in Europe and will want to go to Palestine and that now Jews do not want to go and settle in Palestine. Is it not a very good thing to leave room for those who cannot find any home in the countries in which they were born?

Photo of Wing Commander Archibald James Wing Commander Archibald James , Wellingborough

I am afraid I have failed to make myself clear to the hon. Lady. I referred to the depressed 9,500,000 Jews in South-Eastern Europe and argued that Palestine would never be able to hold them. I referred quite separately to the American interests and to British Zionists and asked how many of these people were themselves able to settle in Palestine, and I do not think that there was any inconsistency. The policy of His Majesty's Government to the Jews over a period of years has been generous in the extreme. I instance the treatment of refugees, the grants of large sums of money. Jewish affairs have occupied an enormous amount of our time in Parliament, and anybody can check this for themselves. I look at the index of the last pre-war published volume of the OFFICIAL REPORT and observe that the affairs of Palestine occupied six columns of our time and the affairs of India three and a half. That is the measure of the interest and sympathy this House has taken in Jewish affairs in normal peacetime.

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

I have noticed in the Debate to-day a certain confusion because a number of hon. Members mean different things when they are talking about a Jewish Army. There have in fact been before the House to-day, not always clearly defined, three different projects. The first is that of a world-wide Jewish Army not confined to recruitment in Palestine, but recruited from Jews all over the world. Then there is another project, which is for a self-contained Jewish force of all arms within the British Army, and then there is the much narrower project of a Palestine Regiment recruited from Jews in Palestine. It has not always been quite clear which of those three projects hon. Members favoured. The hon. Member for Bilston (Mr. Hannah), who initiated this discussion, was, I think, in favour of the first, though even that was a little difficult to discover. He ranged very widely in time and space and in subject.

Photo of Mr Ian Hannah Mr Ian Hannah , Wolverhampton Bilston

Was it not wise to leave it a little vague?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

He ranged in space from New York and then by a natural and easy transition through the Jerusalem Chamber to the Jewish Home in Palestine, and in space and in time he ranged from Vespasian to the brave new world which is going to exist after the war, and his range in subject was very much wider still. The hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Colonel Cazalet) mentioned some of them. The one which interested me most was a certain arithmetical calculation which followed his reference to the fact that the Semitic race in Bagdad had invented algebra. When I was listening to the arithmetical calculations of the hon. and gallant Member, I realised how far mathematics had moved since 30 years ago, when I used to be taught them at Cambridge. But I gathered from the figures mentioned in his arithmetical calculations that what he wanted was a world-wide Jewish Army without any doubt. Then we had the hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham, and I was not certain what he wanted, though it was clear that his main consideration was to enable the Jews to defend themselves in Palestine at the present moment. I must say that I take it to be a bit hard that he of all persons should complain that the Poles have been put ahead of the Jews in arms priority.

Colonel Cazalet:

I did not complain. I said that what we can do for the Poles we can do for the Jews too.

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

My hon. and gallant Friend might reflect that when there is priority one must be before the other. Perhaps I may be allowed to deal with the Debate rather in two compartments. The first is that of the Jewish Army and the second that of the ability of the Jews or the desire of the Jews to defend them- selves in Palestine. As regards the project of a specifically Jewish Army, whether it takes the form of a world-wide Army or a self-contained Jewish force of all arms inside the British Army, it has been pointed out that the Government have already decided this question, and that they decided against this project, and Parliament has been informed of the reason on more than one occasion. As the House is aware, and as my hon. Friend the Member for Cheltenham (Mr. Lipson) pointed out in a very moving speech, Jews of British nationality are liable for service in the British Forces, and are able to volunteer for service in the British Army, just as other British subjects. This is an obligation which they have carried out very fully and faithfully, and every honour is due to them and to their desire to do this. I assume that a similar liability to serve, and corresponding freedom to volunteer, exist for Jews of United States nationality in relation to the United States Forces. There is another thing which ought to be mentioned, and it is that Jews of alien nationality have very abundant opportunities for service in the British Army, as volunteers.

Now perhaps I may move to the Middle East. So far as Palestine is concerned, I told the House on 7th July that there are over 10,000 Palestinian Jews serving in units in the British Army in the Middle East, and if you take the Air and other Forces, I daresay the number will come up to the 14,000 which, I think, was mentioned by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Thornbury (Sir D. Gunston). There are also nearly 24,000 in various police formations which perform functions, some whole-time, more analogous to the constabulary in Ireland, and some part-time, who perform functions analogous to those of the Home Guard in this country. Also, Palestinian women are recruited in the Middle East for service corresponding to that of the Auxiliary Territorial Service. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chippenham gave the figure as 1,500. I have not the figure by me, and I have no reason, therefore, to challenge it. Although The decision against the formation of a Jewish Army stands, there is no doubt that the Jews have abundant opportunities of taking part in the struggle against the arch-persecutor of their race, but that does not dispose of the question, because, as many Members have pointed out to-day, there is a second question, namely, the desire of the Jews in Palestine to be in a position to defend Palestine against possible attack by Axis forces, and, quite obviously, this question has assumed greatly added importance in view of the natural anxiety created by Rommel's advance into Egypt.

The House will remember that on 7th July I answered a Question and said that the Colonial Secretary had telegraphed to the High Commissioner for Palestine urging acceleration of the arming and training of all police formations in Palestine and the immediate expansion of part-time police. Since then we have been in communication with the High Commissioner for Palestine and the Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East, and as a result I am able to make an announcement as to the policy of His Majesty's Government. The Government have recently had under review the adequacy of the existing arrangements for affording all sections of the community in Palestine the opportunity they desire to defend their country against a possible attack by the Axis forces. They have come to the conclusion that the following further measures to strengthen the defences of the country should now be adopted. Firstly, a Palestine Regiment of the British Army will be created at once, consisting of separate Jewish and Arab infantry battalions for general service in the Middle East. Normally, the Regiment will be employed in Palestine or adjacent countries for the defence of Palestine. The existing Palestinian companies of the Buffs will be incorporated into the regiment, and it is hoped to obtain at least 10,000 additional recruits for it.

Colonel Cazalet:

Will there have to be equal numbers? Suppose 8,000 Jews and only 2,000 Arabs volunteer?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

There will be no insistence on strict numerical parity.

Miss Rathbone:

Will they be mixed?

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

I have already said that they will be separate battalions. Secondly, the Palestine Volunteer Force—[Interruption.]

Photo of Mr Oliver Locker-Lampson Mr Oliver Locker-Lampson , Birmingham Handsworth

The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton) is always interrupting most offensively; his interruptions to-day are those of a full-time Fascist.

Photo of Sir James Grigg Sir James Grigg , Cardiff East

Secondly, the Palestine Volunteer Force, recruitment for which is open to all sections of the community, will be expanded to a maximum of 2,000 as arms, equipment and training facilities can be made available. Thirdly, the establishment of the Jewish Rural Special Police will be completed by the enrolment of 1,500 additional recruits, requisite training staff and co-ordination officers, arms and equipment to be provided by the Commander-in-Chief, Middle East, as soon as circumstances permit. Fourthly, in addition, the training and equipment of existing units will be continued as rapidly as possible.

I think the House will agree, whatever may be felt about the aspect of a specifically Jewish Army—and the Debate today indicates quite clearly that, to put it mildly, there is a great cleavage of opinion on that point—His Majesty's Government are doing their utmost to enable Palestinian Jews to defend their country against the universal enemy. I go further and say that if the facilities now offered are taken advantage of there will be only a very small part of the man-power available in Palestine which is not being employed to good advantage against the common foe. One final word. One Member to-day referred to the possibility of the Jews and Arabs uniting in defence of their common country. Surely the facilities now offered whereby they can unite as battalions of a single Palestine Regiment is the best assurance that this may ultimately happen.