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Jerusalem (Internationalisation)

Volume 463: debated on Thursday 14 April 1949

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2.10 p.m.

The question which I am now raising is one which has been too seldom discussed in this House in recent months. Almost a year ago, on 13th May, the day before we gave up the Mandate, the hon. Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) made a moving appeal for a truce between the potential contenders in the Holy City, but in the present Session the only reference to this question of which I am aware was that made by my hon. Friend the Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) on 26th January when he said:

"I see no chance of a secure and proper international organisation to look after the Holy places of Greater Jerusalem unless we and the United States get together very soon indeed. I hope we shall insist that it is an international organisation. … I notice that Mr. Ben-Gurion"—
who I may remind the House is Prime Minister of Israel—
"recently said that the Jews will never abandon their claim to Jerusalem. If that is the attitude of Mr. Ben-Gurion—and I hope it is not—I trust that the Government of the United States and of this country will not be slow to see that the position is made clear, and the sooner that is done the better …." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th Jan., 1949; Vol. 460, c. 1039.]
Those words are even more pertinent now than when they were uttered by my hon. Friend. I would point out that in that Debate there was an ominous silence on the part of both the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister about this question. The Jews, who once accepted the internationalisation of Jerusalem when it was proposed by the United Nations Special Committee, and accepted by the General Assembly, as part of a general settlement for Palestine, now seem likely to present the world with the accomplished fact of the incorporation of Jerusalem in Israel.

I hope that the hon. Member is not going to put the position in that way. It is quite true that they accepted it as part of a general settlement but the accomplished facts which followed were not of their initiation. After their acceptance of the general arrangements, of which this was a part, they were invaded by the armies of five neighbouring countries, and their population in Jerusalem had to fight for its life until it was nearly extinct.

I am not going into the 'general question of Palestine, and I was very careful to say that the Jews accepted the internationalisation of Jerusalem as part of a general proposal for Palestine.

I was careful in the words I used not to be unfair to the Jews in any respect. I am, in this Debate, concerned solely with the question of the internationalisation of the Holy Places, and it is more than likely I am afraid, that we shall very shortly be presented with an accomplished fact in respect of those places.

To which Holy Places is the hon. Member referring? He should make it clear whether he is referring to the Holy Places in the Old City or to the Holy Places in the Jewish part of Jerusalem, which are in no way interfered with, but are allowed to enjoy complete autonomy.

I can be trusted to make that clear in my speech. Mr. Ben-Gurion's words have now been followed by actions. The Consultative Assembly of the State of Israel has been held in Jerusalem, and Ministries are being transferred to that city. It is obvious that there is urgent need to make it clear beyond a peradventure that the incorporation of Jerusalem in the State of Israel would not be acceptable to world opinion. I wish to make it quite clear, especially to the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman), that I am not making any suggestion that the Holy Places would be any less safe in Jewish hands than they would be in any other hands.

We must get clear what we are talking about. There are no Holy Places in Jewish hands. All the Holy Places are in the Old City, and the Jews are not there.

That is not the case. For example, today the Christian world is observing Maundy Thursday, and to the best of my belief the place of the Last Supper is in Jewish hands at the present time.

I know the district well, I have been there. It is no use arguing with me on this subject.

I shall not give way to the hon. Member again. I do not think that he would have a useful contribution to make by intervening. I wish to make it quite clear, despite these interruptions, that I am not making any suggestion that the Holy Places would be less safe in Jewish hands than they would be in other hands.

The only observation I would make in regard to that point is that it would be a new task for the Jews. The Arabs have, over the course of centuries, developed a pattern of behaviour with respect to the protection of the Holy Places, and they could be trusted to continue. We, the British, faithfully observed the Mandate in the spirit of Allenby's famous Proclamation, and the Holy Places would have been safe in our hands. The Jews would, as I say, be embarking upon a new task and would of course find many problems in handling it. I am quite certain that they would wish to preserve the Holy Places inviolate for the three faiths to which they are sacred.

My contention in this Debate, and I hope that it will have the assent of the greater part of the House, is that the only regime which can be acceptable for Jerusalem is an international one, for the simple reason that Jerusalem and its surroundings are sacred to three faiths, and therefore must never become the possession of one. I do not make the claim that there ought to be a Christian regime. I make the claim that there ought to be an international regime for precisely that reason. This has been the attitude taken by every authoritative commission on this subject. Our own Royal Commission in 1937 said:
"The partition of Palestine is subject to the overriding necessity of keeping the sanctity of Jerusalem and Bethlehem inviolate and of ensuring free and safe access to them for all the world."
The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine said:
"The City of Jerusalem shall be placed under an International Trusteeship System by means of a Trusteeship Agreement which shall designate the United Nations as the Administering Authority in accordance with Article 81 of the Charter of the United Nations."
The Mediator, Count Bernadotte, just before his lamented death said:
"The City of Jerusalem, which should be understood as covering the area defined in the resolution of the General Assembly of 29th November, and be treated separately, and should be placed under effective United Nations control with the maximum feasible local autonomy for its Arab and Jewish communities, with full safeguards for the protection of the Holy Places and sites and free access to them and for religious freedom.
The right of unimpeded access to Jerusalem, by road, rail or air should be fully respected by all parties."
Lastly, and perhaps the most important of all for our present purpose, the Conciliation Committee which was set up by the General Assembly of the United Nations in December, on the initiative of His Majesty's Government, had among its terms of reference:
"To ensure the protection of the Holy Places, with guarantees of full access thereto; to secure the demilitarisation and internationalisation of Jerusalem."
I hope that the Under-Secretary of State, who is to reply to this Debate, will tell me what is being done to fulfil that instruction to the Conciliation Committee which was set up on our initiative. Will he, in particular tell me what leaders of the Christian communities it has consulted? Can he assure me that it is pursuing this part of its mandate energetically, and that it will not rest content until the internationalisation of Jerusalem has been achieved? I ask that question particularly because there is a very special danger at the present time. His Majesty's Government in the past have frequently said that they would accept any solution for Palestine which was acceptable both to the Jews and the Arabs. I think that in the circumstances of the time, and in the context of a general solution for Palestine, that was a sound policy. But in the circumstances of the present day, and in relation to the question of the Holy Places, there is a great danger that Arabs and Jews may be able to reach an agreement among themselves which the Government would automatically feel compelled to accept, but which would in fact sacrifice Christian interests throughout the world.

The interests to which I am referring are twofold. I may as well make it clear now. In the first place the protection of the Holy Places and safe access thereto, and in the second place—and I use words used by the Jews themselves for a long time—that Christians should have a place in Palestine to which they can go by right and not on sufferance. Those are the two elements in the policy which we should seek. I should like an assurance from the Under-Secretary that that is the policy of the Government, and that, irrespective of any agreement which might be reached between Jews and Arabs they will regard themselves as having a direct interest in this question. This has been the permanent international interest in Palestine for many centuries. It has been the main British interest in Palestine since the year 1090 A.D. and it is difficult to find any other policy held so continuously. It stirred us in distant centuries to send forth men to fight for those things in Palestine, and I hope we shall not hear that the sole interest of the Government in Palestine is in strategic considerations and in the oil question. I trust we shall hear that the Government do realise that Christians throughout the world have a deep and abiding interest and that the Government will be prepared to stand up for that interest.

If it is contended that the Arabs and Jews have an interest in Palestine I would point out that Christians throughout the world have an even greater interest. If it is pointed out that Jewry is a world force, and that Islam is a world force, I hope it will be remembered that Christianity is a world force. There are throughout the world 700 million Christians to whom the question I am raising is one of the utmost interest, and there is a danger that in the present military situation, when the Arabs have been defeated by force of arms, there may be something in the nature of a "swap" on the spot between Jews and Arabs. For example, the Hebrew University and the Hadassah hospital are in Arab-held land. The road to Bethlehem, which is itself in Arab land, is controlled by the Jews, and therefore the Arabs have no means of access from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. It is conceivable that some exchange might be arranged locally. I would urge the Government not to accept such an arrangement for it would be a sacrifice of those great Christian interests throughout the world. Incidentally the Christian Arabs in such places as Katamon would be left isolated in the State of Israel. In normal times there were 120,000 Christian Arabs in Palestine.

Let me answer the question raised by the hon. Member for Preston (Dr. Segal) who asked me to state precisely the area for which I am asking. This international régime which I am seeking cannot be confined to the old city of Jerusalem. It would be quite impracticable so to do. Hon. Members who know the Old City will recall that it consists of very narrow streets sometimes built in terraces and in which no wheeled traffic can move about. It would be quite impossible to build a headquarters for an international régime there. It would be merely of an island in the surrounding territory, on which it would be completely dependent, and so an international régime in the Old City would be quite impracticable. That was pointed out some while ago in a letter in "The Times" by that excellent mayor of Jerusalem, Mr. R. M. Graves. There are a very large number of sites sacred to Christians which are not in the Old City of Jerusalem. If we may follow the memorable track which will be commemorated throughout the Christian world today and tomorrow, there is the site of the Last Supper, which I have mentioned; the Brook Kedron, and the Garden of Gethsemane. These are outside the Old City and it is inconceivable that they should not be brought into an international régime. The Mount of Olives and Bethany are also outside the walls. It is equally inconceivable that Bethlehem should be left out of such a régime.

So far as Greater Jerusalem is concerned, we should clearly abide by the frontiers laid down by the United Nations special committee, that is that the area should stretch to a point south of Bethlehem in the South, to 'Ein Karim in the West, to Abu Dir in the East and in Shu' Fat in the North. I would make one plea which goes beyond that area. It is true that the whole of Palestine is sacred to the three Faiths, and indeed it ought to be all a Holy Land. I recognise that it is impossible to have enclaves dotted about all over the country. But I would urge that Nazareth should be included as an enclave in any international régime; the special reasons will be obvious. In normal times Nazareth was almost entirely a Christian Arab city.

This week in normal times Jerusalem would be thronged with pilgrims from all over the world. I am afraid that will not be so today. It can be said of Jerusalem today as was said by one of the ancient writers of the country:
"The mourners go about the streets and the sound of the grinding is low."
On such a day I hope the Under-Secretary will be able to assure us that the policy of the Government is governed not only by considerations of a material order, but that they attach paramount importance to the two points which I have mentioned: the protection of the Holy Places and safe access thereto, and the giving to Christians of a place in Palestine to which we can go by right and not on sufferance.

2.28 p.m.

I intervene mainly to try to dispel some of the confusion imported into this Debate by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas). It is true that in 1947 the Jews accepted the Statute of Jerusalem which was intended to give an international force for the whole of Jerusalem. I do not think they ever imagined at that time, when they accepted that Statute, that within a very short period New Jerusalem, with 100,000 Jewish people living in it, would be assaulted by five armies or subjected to the awful tortures of modern warfare as it was. They feel today that any international force for the whole of Jerusalem would never protect Jerusalem, or the 100,000 Jews who live there, in days when the world as a whole is in a very tense and difficult situation. They cannot help feeling that. They realise what has happened in the past and they look forward with dread to what may happen in the future if the whole of Jerusalem should be under international control.

I think that most of the Jewish community in the Holy Land, in Israel, and the Jewish people of this country, many of whom have been to see me on this question, are putting forward a compromise which ought to be acceptable to the hon. Member and the Foreign Office. It ought to be acceptable to all of us who follow the Christian faith and who, like the hon. Member for Keighley, desire to see the Holy Places safe, with reasonably safe access to them. It is a reasonable compromise to ask that the old Walled City, wherein are what are, and always have been, known as the Holy Places, should be under international control.

I agree with the hon. Member for Keighley that the Holy Places should be inviolate. Not only our own Holy Places but those of Islam and of the Jewish faith should be under international control. All should be under international control, and access to them should be safe. I entirely agree with that, but today, after we have arrived at this precarious and difficult situation, after a period of bloody warfare when one considers the small area of the territory over which it was fought, after having arrived at a balance now, nothing should be done to upset that balance or to give rise to what I thought was the rather bad feeling expressed in the speech of the hon. Gentleman.

I trust that the Under-Secretary will assure us that the Holy Places will be safe, that access will be easy to anyone who wishes to visit them, but that the Walled City, in which it is possible to set up international control and international buildings, will be under international control. I am as keen about that as the hon. Member for Keighley or anyone in this country of Christian faith. I go further than that and say that to internationalise the whole of the New City, with its 100,000 Jewish inhabitants, would be to upset the delicate and precarious situation which has been reached after years of terrible warfare. I hope that the Under-Secretary will give us some hope that, on the one hand, we shall have the Holy Places of the Walled City internationalised but, on the other hand, the New City of Jerusalem with its 100,000 Jewish people will be part of Israel, as the Jews of that community and elsewhere desire.

2.33 p.m.

I am sure that the House has been much impressed by the speech of the hon. Lady the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning). From time to time she has made speeches in this House of a highly practical character, making suggestions for a constructive policy. Throughout the world today Christian feeling is centred upon Jerusalem. In every branch of the Christian Church the ceremonies which take place today, tomorrow and on succeeding days will be centred upon that tragic and terrible story with which Jerusalem has been identified in the whole course of history. I am anxious to say that the Catholic Church would like to be associated with any movement for the safeguarding of the Holy Places, for the reasons indicated so vividly by the hon. Lady in her charming speech. The question of the safety of the Holy Places has given profound concern to members of all branches of the Christian Church throughout the world.

I should like to quote to the House the attitude of the Catholic Church on this matter as indicated in an encyclical letter from the Pope on 24th October last year. In that letter the Pope indicated from the point of view of the Catholic Church the attitude which we seek to take. The encyclical states:
"We are full of faith that these prayers and these hopes"—
he was referring in general terms to the unhappy situation in Palestine at that time when Jews and Arabs were at each other's throats, when the outlook was confused and obscure and it was difficult to see daylight—those were the circumstances in which he referred to prayers—
"… will strengthen the conviction in the high quarters in which the problems of peace are discussed that it would be opportune to give Jerusalem and its outskirts"—
here the encyclical differs substantially from the point of view expressed by the hon. Lady the Member for Epping—
"… an international character. It would also be necessary to assure, with international guarantees, both free access to Holy Places scattered throughout Palestine, and the freedom of worship and the respect of customs and religious traditions."
That encyclical is not merely confined to the Catholic Church. It expresses the faith of all Christian peoples in their anxiety that the Holy Places should be preserved. From time to time in this House I have called the attention of the Foreign Secretary to the immense feeling in Christian circles on the question of the safety of the Holy Places in Jerusalem. Anyone who has had the privilege, as I had in the old days, of visiting the Holy Places would feel it a terrible crime against civilisation, against humanity, against all faiths of the Christian Church, against Mohammedanism and the Jews, if the Holy Places were not regarded with the veneration attached to them down the centuries since the beginning of the Christian era.

I support the view held by my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas). At the same time I am bound to observe that I cannot help feeling the substance of the observations made by the hon. Member for Epping. What she said must give serious concern to the Foreign Office. A compromise must be effected so that these Holy Places, which have been the object of pilgrimages throughout the Christian era, in which we in this country took a profound interest in the days of the Crusades, when the whole of Europe was stirred to its depths, shall be preserved for the future. Then Christian communities throughout the world will feel that the action of His Majesty's Administration, side by side with the Government of the United States, will secure for the future of Christianity the opportunity of visiting with veneration and attachment these shrines in the Holy Land.

2.38 p.m.

The hon. Member for Moseley (Sir P. Hannon) has put the point of view of the Roman Catholic faith for which he speaks, and he has recognised that this matter is one of concern to all Christians, and indeed to a great many non-Christians. There are a few places which are the shrines not of any one race or creed but of humanity, and Jerusalem is one of them. It is most appropriate that on this day in Holy Week, before we adjourn for Easter, we should express our concern in this House for the safety of the Holy Places in Jerusalem and the widespread demand for an administration which will ensure free access to those places which have been venerated and hallowed throughout the centuries.

The hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) referred to some remarks I made about a year ago at a time when the Secretary of State for the Colonies replied, because then we had a responsibility for Palestine, including Jerusalem, which we no longer have. Although we no longer have any responsibility, we have a deep and direct concern which it is right we should express. I have not had the advantage which the hon. Members for Keighley and Moseley have had in visiting the Holy Places, but we should remember that they are venerated by very many people who have never been there, and, indeed, are never likely to have an opportunity of going there, either on a pilgrimage or any other visit. They have acquired through the centuries a symbolical value of humanity.

I think the hon. Member for Keighley rather overstated his case. I am not sure that there is complete archaeological proof that all the places in and around Jerusalem, to which he referred and which have become venerated by tradition, can with certainty be identified with the historic events with which they have become associated. Most of what we regard as the Holy Places, and particularly the Holy Sepulchre, which are sacred to Christians, Jews and Moslems alike, are within the Old City. I think it would be going too far at this date to ask the Government to press for an extended area around Jerusalem, and including Bethlehem and Nazareth, to become a reserve under international administration, but I do feel that it is very desirable, both on general international grounds and in deference to the religious convictions so widely held, that there should be a peaceful international administration in Jerusalem. I think it is for His Majesty's Government and the American Government to examine most sympathetically how far it is administratively possible to have an international régime in the Old City.

It seems to me that this is the crux of the matter, and it is here that the case can be put without any opposition on religious grounds. It seems to me from this point of view irrelevant at the present time to be biased by the consideration that the Arabs are in occupation of the Old City, and would therefore be called upon to make a sacrifice, whereas the Jews are in occupation of the New City. What I think is the concern which hon. Members on all sides are seeking to express is that there should be some international régime in the Old City to ensure the safety of these Holy Places which have been hallowed through the centuries, and to ensure that there will be proper machinery for their protection and free access to them as of right. It would be an advantage, on broad international grounds, that there should be an international organisation of that kind in Jerusalem in which one might hope that Jew and Arab alike would participate.

Now that the unhappy differences between Jews and Arabs look like receding, it is the hope of us all that they will be able to work together, as indeed they must if harmony, peace and prosperity are to be preserved in the Middle East. It would be of assistance in that area if some international organisation could be established in the Old City of Jerusalem itself, and I hope that the Under-Secretary, when he replies, will tell us that, as far as His Majesty's Govern- ment are concerned, they will press that point of view, and not allow any considerations of mere administrative difficulty to deter them from lending support to a scheme which, I am sure, would be generally welcomed throughout the country.

2.44 p.m.

I cannot help wishing that this matter had been raised by my hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) rather than by the hon. Gentleman opposite, because I think the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) made a dangerous and mischievous speech, whereas my hon. Friend made a thoroughly helpful and constructive one. The salient fact, of course, is that we are dealing in this Debate with a very small part of the earth's surface, but a part which is holy ground to nearly the whole of the human race, and it would be quite fantastic to endeavour to deal with the question on purely military, strategic, administrative or diplomatic grounds. There is far more than that involved.

I have been waiting for the hon. Gentleman to justify the assertion which he has made, and I should be glad if he will do so. He said that I had made a dangerous and mischievous speech. Will he please justify that statement?

I think the hon. Gentleman did make a very dangerous and very mischievous speech. I am not proposing to argue that at all, and I think I would take too long if I did, and that I myself would be making a dangerous and mischievous speech, which I have no intention of doing.

I think there is. The hon. Gentleman imported into his speech an element of controversy which was better left out.

Of course, it is a matter of opinion. I rose to express mine.

The next thing I would like to say is that the whole matter shows how tragic it was that the United Nations, including the Government of this country, could not have been more positive and constructive in adopting the decision of the General Assembly in 1947. I am talking about the whole question, and not merely this particular aspect of it. If that had been done, and if the attempt of a number of Arab countries to upset the settlement by force could have been prevented—I am not arguing whether it could have been or not—then, of course, this question would never have needed to be discussed today, because the whole of Jerusalem would have been under an international regime with everybody's consent, as the General Assembly of the United Nations recommended. It is no fault either of the Jews in Palestine or the Arabs in Palestine that that decision was not implemented, though I have always thought that the chief blame rested upon His Majesty's Government; but I do not wish to argue that matter now.

One must remember all the new facts. This modern part of Jerusalem, within the area as set down in the Resolution of the General Assembly, other than the Old City, is a modern city containing not Jews alone, but very nearly only Jews, who have cultivated, built upon and developed it and whose home it has been for many years. There are more than 100,000 of them. They were prepared at the beginning, and so was the whole State of Israel, as it is now, to submit their security to international control.

What happened? For three months, these people were continually shelled and bombarded day and night. Their food supplies were cut off, their water supplies were cut off, and only a miracle of scientific devotion prevented the whole 100,000 being wiped out by the ravages of typhus. That went on without any intervention from the hon. Gentleman opposite, and without any intervention from anybody. They were left to fend for themselves, and the little State had to undertake the task of relieving them. The defence and relief of Jerusalem is one of the minor epics of modern times. In the end it was relieved. Water was taken to it another way; another road was built; food was taken in. But it took three months of bombardment, starvation and disease. The place was on the verge of extinction; it was saved just in time, and only just in time. It is absolutely inconceivable that the State of Israel should now hand over 100,000 of its citizens in those circumstances to the kind of regime which we failed to implement when they accepted it. That is the salient fact of the situation.

It is no good trying to deal with these matters as though practical politics do not matter. If His Majesty's Government, the United States, or anybody else in the wide world wish to detach modern Jerusalem from the State of Irael and hand it over to anybody—international administration or anything else—they would have to do it by force. It could not be done in any other way. I hesitate to believe that anybody in this House is prepared to recommend such a step, or that it is, in fact, practical politics at all.

The hon. Gentleman admitted very fairly that there is no reason to believe that the Holy Places are in any danger. They are certainly not in any danger from the State of Israel because they are outside its frontiers. I do not think they are in any danger either from the Arab Legion or from the Forces of Transjordania who are, in fact, in occupation. I really could not follow what the hon. Gentleman meant when he said that, even if the Jews and Arabs on the spot reached agreement, the rest of the world ought not to accept that agreement, but ought to start a new war in order to alter it.

But if one does not accept it, then, presumably, one seeks to alter it, and he who wills the end wills the means. If the hon. Gentleman does not will the means, then the end does not matter. What I am saying is that there would have been ample justification for saying that we should not accept an agreement on the spot if there were danger to the real and deep interests involved such as those which he regards as paramount in this matter. But the hon. Gentleman expressly said that there would be no such danger, and, in the absence of any such danger, it is inconceivable why anyone should suppose that an agreement reached on the spot between Arabs and Jews should not be accepted by the whole world. If, on the other hand, the Transjordan Government could be persuaded to accept an international régime for the Old City, that, I think, would be an admirably constructive solution, but I would certainly not be in favour of using any degree of force to compel them to do so.

2.54 p.m.

I am very sorry that immediately after this short Debate began, the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) should have tried to attack my hon. Friend the Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) who, quite rightly, Mr. Speaker, asked your permission to raise this subject this afternoon. It seemed to me that there was nothing mischievous or unnecessarily controversial in my hon. Friend's speech. I thought he set out the facts in an excellent way, and though, of course, we in this House are entitled to differ in our opinions, I really cannot understand why the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne should have been so bitter in his speech, and in his interruptions and attempted interruptions while my hon. Friend was addressing the House. I am certainly very grateful to my hon. Friend for having obtained your permission, Mr. Speaker, to raise this important subject. I can think of few more suitable subjects for discussion in this House on the day before Good Friday, and I hope that while I am speaking for a short while and when I say things with which the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne or any other hon. Member does not agree, they will not attack me and accuse me, as they accused my hon. Friend, of being mischievous or controversial.

The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) was entitled to say what he said.

We are all entitled to say what we feel about this most important matter. I have not attacked the hon. Gentleman for what he has said; I would argue with him, but I would not accuse him of being mischievous because of what he said.

The hon. Member for Nelson and Colne would probably agree with his hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) in the line she adopted. He did not go quite so far as she went, but I think that, in the end, he would agree with her. He appeared to agree with his hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher). I take the other view; I think that there should be an international authority over Jerusalem in its grand entirety, including Bethlehem; over the area that was set out in the report of the Special Committee of the United Nations, and which was accepted in the United Nations Resolution in November, 1947. It is that area over which I think there should be an international authority, and I will say why.

It appears that all those who have studied this matter most closely since 1936, in every report that has been issued whether by Royal Commissions or by High Commissioners belonging to this country, or by United Nations commissions, have taken the view that the proper area is the larger area. It is quite wrong to say that the Holy Places of Christianity are all included in the Old City. Anybody who knows Jerusalem will know that it is wrong to say that. I include not only the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives and Bethlehem itself, but also Ein Karim which has a place in the history of Christianity.

I would also argue that it would be quite impracticable to confine an international authority to the Old City itself. But I am not going to argue the details of the case; I am going to point out to the House that those who have had the chance to study this problem most closely, those impartial men entrusted with the administration of Palestine on behalf of this country and of reporting on Royal Commissions, and also the men sent out by the United Nations, have all come to the same conclusion. I understand that the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne agrees that the leaders of Israel accepted the United Nations' Resolution in November, 1947. But he argues that something has happened since that date, to make what was right then wrong now. I cannot understand how anything that has happened since then can upset the inherent rightness of the conclusions then reached by all who had studied the matter up to that date.

I think the hon. Gentleman is confusing the use of the words "right" and "wrong." I do not think their acceptance of it was based on a conception that it was right; I think that in the circumstances which then existed as part of a general settlement, they regarded it as a reasonable concession to make, whereas, in the light of what has happened since, they would now regard it as an unreasonable concession.

I understand that the hon. Gentleman is putting forward his own views, and, as I apprehend, the views of the leaders of Israel, but I do not accept them. Moreover, I go so far as to say that the leaders of Israel were not the only parties to the acceptance of the United Nations Resolution. Indeed, this country was a very important party once that Resolution had been passed. It always seemed to me that once that Resolution was passed and agreed by the United Nations, we in this House and the Government should have accepted it, and we did indeed. [Interruption.] Indeed, we did. I am on record as having said so in this House. I am talking about myself. I am not talking about the speeches of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, which are sometimes difficult to understand, and of his right hon. Friend. It is quite clear that that was part of the whole settlement.

I cannot quote the words, but I think it was always explained to the House by the Foreign Secretary that when we were going to hand over this Mandate, one of the basic conditions of that surrender was that we would arrange some form of international authority for Jerusalem itself. Certainly once the Resolution had been accepted by the United Nations the Foreign Secretary and my right hon. Friends the Members for Warwick and Leamington (Mr. Eden) and Saffron Walden (Mr. R. A. Butler) are on record as having accepted and stressed the importance of that part of the United Nations Resolution which dealt with the international authority for Jerusalem. That being so, I must say again that I do not see how anything that has happened since, whether it be the epic about which the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne has spoken, or any of the other tragic events, can affect the rightness of the decision taken by the United Nations and previous Commissions for the future of Jerusalem. It seems to me that what was right then, must be right now.

I think this is the right time of year to express the hope that the nations of the world, the United Nations, are great enough to live up to their duty to protect the shrines of world religion. Great causes have been fought out in Palestine with arms and in debates and discussions about its future, but I believe the greatest cause is the protection of the centres of the great world religion. The bickerings and disputes between the nations of the Levant seem to me to have nothing on earth to do with the problem of Jerusalem itself. It is no good laughing. The hon. Member for Preston (Dr. Segal) may not agree with me—

On what ground does the hon. Member accuse me of laughing at what he was saying? On the contrary, I was laughing at something which was mentioned to me by another hon. Member. I was not in the least listening to what the hon. Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) was saying.

I was supposing that the hon. Gentleman was doing me the courtesy of listening to me, as I was talking about something in which he should be interested. I apologise for having flattered him.

I hope that the Government will take a lead in this matter in the United Nations. I noticed in this morning's paper that the future of Jerusalem was, in fact, discussed by the United Nations General Assembly yesterday, and there is a short report of the speech of the Lebanese delegate, in which he reminded the delegates to the United Nations Assembly that no international authority had yet been set up. I agreed with the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne when he said that if that authority had been set up, much misery would have been prevented, much doubt would have been prevented and, indeed, this Debate this afternoon would have been unnecessary.

Perhaps I might finish with two quotations. First I would like to remind the House of what the Archbishop of Canterbury said in a letter which he wrote to "The Times" in November last year. He was dealing with the argument that only the old city of Jerusalem need be put under this international authority. He said:
"It is necessary to re-assert in the plainest terms that Jerusalem, new and old—for the two cannot be separated—with the Holy Places, must remain under international control."
Finally may I read the opening words of a letter written by Sir Harold MacMichael to "The Times" on 14th February. I read these words because they sum up what I feel about this matter so very deeply. He said:
"Many values have changed in this modern world, but can it be that the conscience of mankind is now able, with only a passing qualm, to regard the fate of Jerusalem as a matter for bargaining or fighting between the bickering races of the Levant?"

3.6 p.m.

I apologise, first of all, for intervening in this Debate, particularly as I was unavoidably detained and was unable to hear the speech of the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) who raised this subject in which we all have a great interest. I happen to have been in Jerusalem and Nazareth somewhat more recently than some hon. Members.

I do not think there will be any disagreement with the statement that we are all deeply concerned with the preservation of the Holy Places. What puzzles me is the belief that internationalisation is necessarily the best way of preserving the Holy Places. When I observed the situation in Danzig before the war, I would not have said that Danzig was one of the cities which was the most secure in the whole of Europe. When I look at Berlin and Vienna today, two internationalised cities, I would not say that they are examples of security. There seems to me to be a far too facile belief that in trying to get the maximum administrative co-operation between the Eastern and Western Powers in Jerusalem, the Christian values will thereby be preserved in that area. My hon. Friend the Member for East Islington (Mr. E. Fletcher) asked us not to be put back by what he described as mere ad- ministrative problems. The problem of international control of Jerusalem is not a mere administrative problem. It is the serious problem of whether or not there is the possibility of collaboration between East and West. I should not have thought that there is much evidence of that at present. I should have thought that an attempt to introduce it into a country where political issues are in greater conflict than anywhere else in the Middle East, would be the craziest way to obtain security in that area.

Respectfully I say to the House that in my view, the Jew and the Arab, with all their limitations, may be better able than the competing great Powers to look after the Holy Places. I saw something of the Jewish Military Government in Nazareth. I talked to the Catholic authorities there. They had nothing but praise for the respect shown to the Holy Places. I have never heard anybody say that the Arabs in the Old City had failed to preserve the Holy Places; the worst vandalism was committed by soldiers during the heat of the war. I see every reason why Jew and Arab should have a common interest in the Holy Places if for no other than the mercenary motive that the tourist traffic in Palestine will be the most important invisible import that they will have. It is overwhelmingly in their interest and in the interest of Jew and Arab to ensure free access to those Holy Places for pilgrims from all over the world.

The hon. Member for North Blackpool (Mr. Low) spoke of incorporating Bethlehem. Palestine is a very small country. I cannot believe that by taking out this section of Arab territory and putting it under international control, peace will be introduced into Palestine. I do not believe that many people would have proposed the internationalisation of Jerusalem if it had not been for the fact that 100,000 Jews were living in Jerusalem. Now, with the rectification of the frontiers, new Jerusalem is part of Israel, old Jerusalem is naturally part of Transjordan—an entirely new position.

I have never felt that there was much evidence that many of the Holy Places go back to much beyond the fourth century A.D. I think that we have to think of Palestine as a whole as being holy. What is unmistakably genuine are the mountains, the lakes, the plains by the sea and the country as a whole on both sides of the Jordan. What we want to preserve for the pilgrims is Palestine East and West of the Jordan as a whole, as a country where they can go to the sea where the great religions were founded; not looking at the mere stones but to the countryside and the atmosphere. If the House is concerned in seeing that the pilgrims have access to Palestine, it should look towards the neutralisation of Israel and Transjordan and the breaking down of the divisions between them. If the solemn pledge of the great Powers were concentrated on guaranteeing their common frontier, that would produce a Transjordan and an Israel working together. It would be a more genuine service to Christian, Moslem and Jew if the great Powers worked together to take Israel and Transjordan out of strategy and make them a neutral area of the Middle East. That is the real aim of internationalisation, and not this crazy notion of setting up an international zone right in the middle of the area, thereby creating international friction in that country. I am baffled that people should suggest that that is the way to safeguard the Holy Places.

3.12 p.m.

In the Debate we have had the advantage of the views of hon. Members of various religious convictions, all of whom, I think, have been united in a common concern for the safety of the Holy Places in Jerusalem. If I may say so without presumption, the tone of the Debate seems to me to have been appropriate both to the subject and to the season of the year in which we are called upon to hold it.

The Debate has also shown the extraordinary difficulty of the problem. I think that it is not enough—I know that my hon. Friend will forgive me for saying so—to dismiss the view that the whole city of Jerusalem should be internationalised as unduly controversial or mischievous. I think that we must face the fact that it is a sincerely held view which must be very carefully considered. May I begin by putting on record some of the background of the problem which we have to discuss?

It is familiar to the House that when the General Assembly of the United Nations met in the autumn of 1947, they had before them the recommendations of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine. An important item in these recommendations was the proposal that an area comprising the City of Jerusalem and the surrounding villages should be internationalised. This proposal was approved by the United Nations in the November Resolution of 1947. It will be recalled that the United Nations' partition plan could not be implemented—as His Majesty's Government had from the beginning warned the United Nations—owing to the lack of an effective force for this purpose.

The late Count Bernadotte was appointed by the United Nations as a mediator, and, after he had secured a truce between the two parties, he made his report to the United Nations with recommendations for a settlement. In this he said that the State of Jerusalem, because of its religious and international significance and the complexity of interests involved, should be afforded special and separate treatment. He suggested that it should be placed under effective United Nations control with the maximum feasible local autonomy for its Arab and Jewish communities, with full safeguards for the protection of the Holy Places and sites and free access to them, and for religious freedom. He also recommended that the right of unimpeded access to Jerusalem by road, rail or air should be fully respected by all parties.

The General Assembly in the Autumn of 1948 considered this report and finally adopted a resolution introduced by His Majesty's Government, but considerably modified during the course of the Debate. This resolution instructed a Conciliation Commission, consisting of representatives of the United States, France and Turkey, to present to the next regular session of the Assembly detailed proposals for a permanent international régime for the Jerusalem area, which would provide for the maximum local autonomy for distinctive groups, consistent with the special international status of the Jerusalem area. The Commission were authorised to appoint a United Nations representative to co-operate with the local authorities with respect to the interim administration of the Jerusalem area. The resolution also emphasised the importance of free access to Jerusalem.

I was asked by the hon. Member for Keighley (Mr. Ivor Thomas) about the work of the Conciliation Commission on the problem of Jerusalem. Shortly after their appointment, the Conciliation Commission met in Switzerland and proceeded thereafter to establish their headquarters at Jerusalem in accordance with the instructions of the United Nations. They have since been active in pursuing discussions with both the Israeli and Arab Governments, but I think that it is true to say that most of the recent negotiations have been on the perhaps still more urgent subject of the Arab refugees in and around Palestine. I know, however, that they regard the problem of Jerusalem as of great importance, and I know that they have that in mind at the present time. I cannot give a list of the Christian leaders to whom the hon. Member referred. He wanted to know whether they had been interviewed by the Conciliation Commission. I have not that information, but I know that their interests have been well in the forefront of the minds of the Conciliation Commission, and we welcome the fact that the headquarters of the Commission are at Jerusalem. That is clear proof of the United Nations interest in the City, and also a stabilising factor.

It is also satisfactory to note that the situation has been quiet in Jerusalem now for some months. As some hon. Members said, it is going to be a sad Eastertide in the City. But at least, in sharp contrast to the constant guerilla warfare which went on for many months after the end of the Mandate, things are quiet and have been quiet there for many months now. The City is divided by a military line of demarcation between the Israeli and Transjordan Forces which forms part of the line of demarcation agreed upon in the general armistice agreement signed by Israel and Transjordan. The Israelis hold all the New City while Transjordan controls the Old City in which are situated the principal Holy Places.

As to the possibilities of internationalisation, I am sure that the United Nations express the will of the entire civilised world in insisting that the Holy Places should be protected and free access should be ensured to them for all religions, as well as for all inhabitants of Palestine. Our view is that whatever solution is come to—internationalisation or not, or part internationalisation—we feel that there must be free access to the Holy Places for all religions.

The United Nations proposed that we should secure this by setting up an international régime, and that of course is what several Members have asked for today, but in talking about internationalisation it is necessary to consider carefully just what this involves. We are here up against the same problem as the United Nations were up against when they laid down the Partition Plan of 1947. The main difficulty is implementation. The plain fact remains that to impose an international régime in the considerable area foreseen by the United Nations would he a very formidable task. It would require a very large police force and administration.

We must therefore have some doubts, though His Majesty's Government were amongst the first to suggest that this was the ideal solution, as to how far the scheme of full internationalisation can in fact be worked. It is, of course, possible to imagine variants of such a scheme that might be more praticable, such as an increase in the automony of the local municipalities to a point where the international governor became a titular head concerned almost entirely with the protection of the Holy Places. I do not think it would be useful at this moment to consider all the possible variants on this theme, as there are many of them.

Another consideration, which I am sure the House will understand—I want to be careful not to say anything which may embarrass the work of the Conciliation Commission on the subject—is that Jerusalem is bound to be a vitally important part of any peace settlement, largely through the help of the Commission, and it cannot be treated entirely in isolation. A number of Members referred to the question of part internationalisation—that is to say, the internationalisation of the Old City. This, of course, is contrary to the 1947 recommendations of the United Nations, and it is not in line with the terms of reference given to the Conciliation Commission by the United Nations General Assembly. It does raise, undoubtedly, a number of serious practical difficulties which cannot be ignored. It is a very small area, and to erect a special international regime for that area would involve considerable difficulties. The area depends on the larger part of the City—the New City—for essential supplies and for all forms of administration.

We must not forget that there is also an Arab point of view. We do not need much imagination to realise what the Arabs would feel about a solution of this kind, with the implication that the Arab part of the City somehow required United Nations administration and the other side did not. For these reasons, I cannot say what I think my hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mrs. Manning) wanted me to say, that the Government would support this scheme. I will say, however, that we are awaiting the result of the Conciliation Commission's report, and that I am not at this stage anxious to say anything which may embarrass them one way or the other. As I mentioned before, we were originally responsible for introducing the resolution which gave birth to the Commission. May I take this opportunity of stating that His Majesty's Government have confidence in the Commission and hope that they will find it possible to guide the two parties chiefly concerned—there are more parties concerned in the problem than two—to a reasonable settlement, and that the Commission will bear in mind the interest the civilised world has in the preservation of the Holy Places and free access to them?

I know that the Under-Secretary was very careful in the words he used, and I do not want to exacerbate any feelings. He talked about the difficulties of implementing an international organisation if that were decided upon. Will he say whether he is absolutely convinced that that will lead to fighting, or does he not think that there is some hope? Surely he does not agree that that would necessarily result in fighting, and surely he is not going to have it said in this House that just one party, the people of Israel, can flout the will of the United Nations?

It was not my intention to suggest that at all, and I do not think there is anything I want to add to what I have said already.

3.27 p.m.

Has the Under-Secretary considered at all how much the future of the Holy Places depend upon where the eventual capital of Israel is to be? It seems to me that so long as Israel has hopes of making Jerusalem its capital, we cannot hope for any willing acceptance by Israel of an international commission being in charge of Jerusalem and the Holy Places. I should have thought—and I said this when we were discussing the Palestine Bill—that the real solution lies in Israel being told quite firmly from the United Nations, as it ought to have been told by us before, that the capital of the Jewish part of Palestine should not be Jerusalem. So long as there is that possibility in the mind of Israel, there is not much likelihood of acceptance of the idea of an international commission to look after the Holy Places in Jerusalem.

I hoped that the Foreign Secretary would have by now made up his mind about it. This matter has been called to his attention before. I hoped that the Government would have had a policy on the matter and would have aired it in the United Nations. I am in sympathy with what has been said on the future of the Holy Places in this Debate, but, as the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. S. Silverman) has said, I do not completely divorce this matter from practical politics. I am sure the practical politics of the matter is that some people in Israel believe that they can have the capital in Jerusalem, and so long as there is that feeling there, we shall not get a willing acceptance of an international regime. I believe that we cannot divide the Old City from the New City. I believe that the Garden of Gethsemane and the Mount of Olives must go with it. We want peace in that area, and we shall not get it so long as Israel thinks it can establish its capital in Jerusalem one day.