Armed Jews (Attacks On Railways)
(By Private Notice) asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he has any statement to make on the outbreak in Palestine on the night of 30th October?
On the night of 31st October/1st November, a series of concerted attacks was made by armed Jews on the Palestine railway system, culminating in a full-scale attack on the railway station and goods yards at Lydda. Owing to the widespread nature of the attacks, information is still necessarily incomplete, but reports so far received show that the permanent way has been blown up and cut in over 20 places, on the main Gaza-Acre line and especially on the lines between Lydda and Jerusalem and between Haifa and Samakh. In other places there have been reports of explosions and unexploded mines have been found on the line. The attack on the station and goods yard at Lydda resulted in extensive damage to a signal box, a train and three locomotives. The locomotive shed was set on fire and large numbers of unexploded mines and bombs were found in the vicinity.
During the attack, the following casualties occurred:—
1 British soldier.
1. Palestinian policeman.
1 British soldier.
1 Palestinian policeman.
6 Palestinian members of the railway staff.
Subsequently the dead body of one Jewish attacker was found near Lydda. During the night, two police launches at anchor in Haifa harbour were damaged, apparently by limpet bombs. A third police launch was blown up and sunk at Jaffa. Unsuccessful attempt was made on the installation of Consolidated Refineries Limited at Haifa. An explosion occurred and the dead body of a man, believed to be a Jew, was found buried beneath rubble but the installation itself was undamaged.
An order has been issued by the General Officer Commanding, under the Defence (Emergency) Regulations, prohibiting the use by mechanically operated vehicles of all roads, throughout the country, municipal or local council areas, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. I have not so far received a report as to the number of arrests that have been made.
The House will, I know, share His Majesty's Government's feelings of abhorrence at this dastardly series of outrages. They show evidence of very careful planning by a considerable organisation among the Jewish community. I would prefer not to say more at the present regarding the nature of that organisation but I am sure the House will agree that nothing could do greater disservice to a cause which otherwise commands much sympathy in many quarters. While His Majesty's Government are examining all possible means of finding a solution of the Jewish problem, it is a matter of profound regret that there should be this wanton resort to force. Unless it is stopped and suppressed, then progress in relation to Palestine will be impossible and the further steps we had in mind in our endeavour to settle this difficult problem will be brought to nought.
The House will, I am sure, wish to express their sympathy with the relatives of those killed and with the injured.
May I first associate myself and my hon. Friends with the expression of sympathy which the right hon. Gentleman has extended to the relatives of those who have been killed and injured? Secondly, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he is satisfied that he has sufficient force in Palestine to deal with these outrages, which must be condemned by all, and particularly by the responsible leaders of the community concerned?
We are satisfied that, at the moment, there are sufficient forces to deal with the situation, but I am sure that the House will understand that both the Palestine police and the Forces have a very difficult and very delicate task to perform. We trust that they will not be required to continue efforts such as those with which they have been engaged during the last day or two, but in the event of their being called upon to protect human life, they would like to know, I am sure, that the House and the Government will support them.
While associating myself with the expressions of sympathy, and of regret that these things should have happened at all, might I ask my right hon. Friend whether he can say anything about when the Government's policy will be announced, seeing that many people are feeling themselves driven to desperation at the end of many years of bitter tragedy? Really these matters are much better solved by finding plans to remove the causes than by resort to force.
On that question, I am afraid I have nothing to add to the reply which was given by the Prime Minister to the Question put to him earlier in the week. The delay in making an announcement ought not to be regarded by anybody as justification for these events in Palestine.
While associating myself unreservedly with everything that the right hon. Gentleman has said, may I ask if he is aware that Jews, everywhere, will deplore these outrages, and will give all possible support to the measures which His Majesty's Government think necessary to deal with the perpetrators, and to prevent further such outrages? May I also ask that what has so frequently happened in the past shall not happen this time, and that all Jews will not be held responsible for the action of a few miscreants?
I can assure my hon. Friend that the Government are aware who is responsible for acts such as these. I am very pleased to hear what the hon. Members has said about Jewry generally who are denouncing these terrorists acts.
Will the right hon. Gentleman make it absolutely clear that these acts of intimidation will, in no way, affect the nature of the statement which the right hon. Gentleman will make shortly in this House?
The hon. Gentleman can leave that to His Majesty's Government.
While agreeing, in large measure, with all that was said by the Minister, and with the view that nothing can damage the cause of the Jewish people more than these outrages in Palestine, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman if he is aware that the tension and uncertainty caused by the lack of policy on the part of the Government in relation to Palestine—and the long-drawn-out period of waiting is adding to that tension—are responsible? Will he convey to the Government the necessity of speeding up the decision, so that an end can be put to the uncertainty and to the tragedies happening in that land?
His Majesty's Government need not be informed, and the statement made by the hon. Member need not be conveyed to His Majesty's Government. All I can say is that they are doing their utmost to deal with what my hon. Friend must recognise is a most difficult question and problem.
High Commissioner (Resignation)
I very much regret to have to make the following further announcement. Field-Marshal Viscount Gort, High Commissioner for Palestine and Trans-Jordan, has tendered his resignation to His Majesty on grounds of ill-health which, in the opinion of his medical advisers, makes it necessary for him to return immediately to England for investigation and treatment. In these circumstances, His Majesty has been graciously pleased to accept Lord Gort's resignation with very great regret.I am sure that the House will join with me in expressing deep sympathy with Lord Gort. I know well that it is a grievous blow to him to be compelled to leave, at this difficult moment, a post which he has filled with outstanding ability and distinction. I should like to convey to him on behalf of the House our best wishes for a speedy recovery. An announcement regarding his successor will be made as soon as possible. In the meantime, Mr. J. V. W. Shaw, Chief Secretary, will administer the Government.
May I say with what regret we on this side of the House and, I am sure, hon. Members on all sides, have heard the right hon. Gentleman's announcement? It has been obvious for some time that Lord Gort's health had not been fully restored by his visit, on medical grounds, to England this summer, and we very much regret that he should now have to return. May I add this to the graceful tribute which the right hon. Gentleman has just paid him? In the comparatively short time that he was in Palestine, he personally won the hearts of both communities, not by any measures that he was able to announce on behalf of His Majesty's Government, but by sheer force of his own character. His outstanding simplicity, sincerity and courage have been great assets to us in that difficult part of the world in these difficult times. May I also condole with the right hon. Gentleman and His Majesty's Government on being deprived at this most critical moment of such an outstanding representative, and express the hope and, indeed, the certainty that Mr. Shaw, with his distinguished record and great ability, will cope sufficiently with the situation until a successor can be found?