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Terrorism (Preventive Measures)

Volume 437: debated on Wednesday 7 May 1947

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23 and 25.

asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies (1) whether, in view of the continuance of terrorist outrages in Palestine, more vigorous and sustained operations against terrorists will now be undertaken, including the placing and keeping under martial law of all Jewish towns and settlements;

(2) whether, in order to impress upon the Jewish population of Palestine the necessity for its full co-operation in the suppression of terrorism, collective fines will in future be levied and prominent citizens taken as hostages in localities in which outrages are perpetrated.

The maintenance of good order in Palestine depends very largely on the co-operation of the people with the administration and the discharge of the normal requirements of citizenship. In present circumstances, the administration is obliged to carry a difficult and onerous responsibility. It is for the High Commissioner to consider, in consultation with the military authorities, and in the light of events, whether the situation calls for the introduction of military administration in any particular area. The authorities are tackling this problem of terrorism with the greatest resolution and with the most appropriate methods within the capacity of the available resources.

Collective fines have not, so far, been levied on any groups deemed collectively responsible for terrorism. As I mentioned in reply to a question on 30th April by the hon. Member for Orpington (Sir W. Smithers), the question of possible steps to recover the cost of damage done in terrorist outrages is now under consideration, and I cannot, at this stage, add to my reply of 30th April to the hon. Member for Orpington.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that these are two separate Questions, and that his answer gave very little information? Is the right hon. Gentleman further aware that the intermittent operation of martial law which has so far been exercised in Palestine, is far from being effective, that the strain on the troops is very serious indeed, and is being given expression to by the troops, and will the right hon. Gentleman go into this matter much more fully than he has done at present and give a free hand to the local commander to knock out terrorism?

All I can say is that the High Commissioner is charged with the responsibility of order in Palestine; he is working in the fullest co-operation with the military authorities; there are no hindrances put in the way of either the High Commissioner or the military authorities by London, and so their decisions are made in the light of the local situation.

Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House whether any new action will be taken as a result of the incident at Acre gaol, which has brought British prestige very low?

I shall be replying later to a Question concerning that outrage. I have caused very special inquiries to be made, and will be considering what further action can be taken.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the system of hostages advocated by the hon. and gallant Member for Petersfield (Sir G. Jeffreys) was used without success by the Nazis during the war, and will he also bear in mind that vicarious punishment is completely foreign to the traditions of British justice?

When my right hon. Friend is considering these matters, will he please bear in mind that the towns and villages referred to played a very active part, with the Allies, in the course of the war, and will he see that the innocent in Palestine who are doing their share in attempting to stop terrorism will not be prejudiced by such measures as may be taken to put down the terrorists?

Obviously, all these points will be taken into consideration, but I am not in a position to make a statement with regard to collective fines.


asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies how many convictions of terrorism have been recorded in Palestine in the 12 months ended 30th April, 1947; how many death sentences have been passed; and in how many cases the death sentence has been carried out.

Ninety-seven Jewish terrorists were sentenced by military courts to terms of imprisonment, and z8 to sentences of death. There were no convictions by civil courts. Of the Jewish terrorists sentenced to death, two committed suicide while awaiting execution, and four were executed.

Was not this leniency very misplaced, and cannot the persistence of outrage and murder be attributed, to some extent, to the leniency with which offenders and murderers have been dealt with?

Could the right hon. Gentleman say how many of the 97 terrorists sentenced to imprisonment have since escaped?

I am not in a position to say, but I am trying to get that information.

Does not my right hon. Friend agree that all these lamentable events will never be fully eradicated, and law and order will never be restored in Palestine, until His Majesty's Government announce and introduce a constructive political policy, and that it is impossible for the Government to impose order merely by force without any policy of any kind?