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The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948

Cecil Bloom

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948* CECIL BLOOM Until just after its victory at the 1945 general election, the British Labour Party was regarded as being supportive of Zionist ambitions for a national home for Jews in Palestine, and many Party conferences from 1921 onwards passed resolutions in favour of such a home. Not that all leading Labour politicians were sympathetic to Zionism, and there were pro-Zionist Conser? vatives and Liberals, but prior to 1945-6 the Labour Party more than any other political party in Britain favoured a Jewish national home in the Land of Israel and was sympathetic to the aspirations of halutzim ('pioneers') in villages and towns there. The Labour Party was a coalition of trade unionists, many of whose leaders had little interest in left-wing ideology, with moderate socialists and social democrats. The Yishuv (the Jewish population of Palestine) was based primarily on a socialist/social-democratic system, and only in the kibbutzim (collective settlements) was true socialism ever experi? enced. Despite the lack of enthusiasm for socialism among many in the Party, there was certainly a great deal of admiration for the kibbutz way of life. The policy of the Party in 1944, which became a plank of its 1945 election plat? form, went out of its way to support a Jewish national home. That policy formed part of a statement the acceptance of which was moved by the Party leader, who in August 1945 became prime minister, and which was promin? ently paraded in constituencies with significant Jewish votes. But then came Bevin. This paper will review the policies of the British Labour Party on the issue of a national home in Palestine for the Jewish people, as reflected in decisions made at annual conferences and in response to events that took place outside these conferences. The roles and beliefs of leading Labour poli? ticians will also be explored. Left-wing support for a Jewish homeland had not always been assured. The British branch of Poalei Zion (Jewish Socialist Labour Party) became affiliated to the Labour Party in 1920, but Poalei Zion (hereafter PZ) had previously been refused admission to the Second International because it pos? tulated the existence of a national Jewish working class, and international Paper presented to the Leeds branch of the Society on 8 March 1999 and to the Manchester branch on 21 March 1999. i4i</page><page sequence="2">Cecil Bloom socialism was not then prepared to differentiate between national and ethnic groups. Before 1914 the socialist press in Britain was largely anti-Zionist. The New Statesman, founded in 1913, was sympathetic and responded enthu? siastically to the Balfour Declaration, but the Daily Herald, the leading Labour newspaper, was ambivalent, although it did publish some pro-Zionist articles. Later, Sir Herbert Samuel's policy as High Commissioner in Palestine won the approval of the Labour press.1 Left-wing attitudes began to change by 1918 when the social-democratic parties, but not those further to the left, started to acknowledge that Zionism might be the answer to the Jewish 'problem'. Labour Party policy on a Jewish national home, however, preceded Balfour. In August 1917 it set out proposals for its postwar political platform - the War Aims Memorandum - drawn up by Arthur Henderson, a member of Lloyd George's Cabinet and future Labour Foreign Secretary, and Sidney Webb (later Lord Passfield), a future Colonial Secretary. It included a significant statement on Jews and Palestine: 'The British Labour Movement demands for the Jews in all countries the same elementary rights of tolerance, freedom of residence and trade and equal citizenship. ... It furthermore expresses the opinion that Palestine should be set free from the harsh and oppressive government of the Turk, in order that this country may form a Free State under international guarantee, to which such of the Jewish people as desire to do so may return and may work out their salvation free from interference by those of alien race or religion.'2 Soon afterwards this policy was also adopted by the Conference of the Socialist Parties of the Allied Countries. PZ later arranged for two senior Palestine Labour spokes? men, David Ben-Gurion and Shlomo Kaplansky, to visit Britain in order to lobby the Labour movement.3 The Labour Party fully supported Balfour. In 1920, just before the San Remo Conference which formally recognised the United Kingdom as the mandatory authority, Labour and the British TUC (Trades Union Congress) in a letter signed by, among others, J. P. Clynes, J. H. Thomas and Arthur Henderson, all of whom became cabinet ministers in the 1924 and 1929 Labour governments, urged Lloyd George to accept the Mandate and thereby facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home.4 As soon as the implica? tions of the San Remo Conference became understood, the parliamentary party, the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party (NEC) and the TUC unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Mandate for Palestine to be conferred on Britain in order to allow a Jewish national home to be restored 1 J. Gorny, The British Labour Movement and Zionism 1917-1948 (London 1983) 12-24. 2 S. Levenberg, The Jews and Palestine (London 1945) 204-5. 3 Gorny (see n. 1) 25. 4 Levenberg (see n. 2) 206-7. 142</page><page sequence="3">The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948 without further delay,5 and this was followed during the November 1922 election campaign by a statement from Henderson confirming Labour's sup? port for the Mandate.6 A review of the proceedings of the twenty-six Labour Party conferences held between 1920 and 1945 shows the party was consistent in its commit? ment to a Jewish national home in Palestine. The subject of Palestine was either on the agenda or raised from the floor of the conference on no fewer than eighteen occasions between 1920 and 1948, and until the 1946 conference there was little opposition to the pro-Zionist stance taken by the Party. From 1946 onwards Government spokesmen defended their policy, although PZ was still active in trying to win Party support for its cause. In 1920 a PZ resolution asking the Government to remove restrictions on Eastern European Jews settling in Palestine was passed without discussion,7 and a year later, in 1921, a PZ resolution urging the development of a Jewish autonomous commonwealth in Palestine based on socialist principles was car? ried unanimously. The Government was also urged to put an end to the 'unnatural and harmful division of the Mandated territory' by unifying East and West Palestine.8 In 1928 two Palestine delegates, Itzhak Ben Zvi and Dov Hos, briefed Conference on labour developments in the country.9 While the following year, in 1929, the Foreign Secretary, Arthur Henderson, assured Conference that there was no question of reconsidering Britain's tenure of the Mandate and that the policy laid down by Balfour remained Labour policy, subject to the condition that the civil and religious rights of all inhabitants of the country must be fully safeguarded. In response to criticism from the left wing of the Party that the Government was supporting capitalist organizations against Arab and Jewish workers, Henderson stated that the Government would always continue to do its best as trustee under the Mandate. Hos, the Histad rut (Palestine General Federation of Labour) emissary to Britain, who became a very popular figure in Labour circles, warmly congratulated Henderson on his 'wonderful' statement. Herbert Morrison in his chairman's address also reaffirmed the Party's policy on the Mandate and the obligations it carried towards Jews and Arabs.10 In 1930, during a major debate on Palestine, Maurice Rosette of PZ, who later became the first Clerk to the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), moved a long resolution of which the first paragraph read: 'This Conference reaffirms the 5 Jewish Chronicle (hereafter JC) 23 April 1920, p. 20. 6 The Times, 2 Nov. 1922, p. 14. 7 Report of the Annual Conference of the Labour Party (hereafter LP Conf) 1920, 176. 8 LP Conf 1921, 198-9. 9 LP Conf 1928, 310. 10 LP Conf 1929, 153, 206, 211-13. 143</page><page sequence="4">Cecil Bloom support of the Labour Party concerning the establishment of the Jewish National Home in Palestine, as declared in consecutive pronouncements and resolutions, and is of the opinion that the time has come for the Government to apply all the resources at their command in order to promote the policy of the Mandate by the development of the economic possibilities of the whole of the Mandated Territory and thus to encourage Jewish immigration and the close settlement of the land to its utmost capacity.' Rosette told Confer? ence that a Labour Government in London should counter the Palestine administration's lack of sympathy with labour ideals by encouraging the trade union and labour principles that the Jewish labour movement in Palestine was trying to introduce for the benefit of the working classes of both peoples. He reminded delegates that the Birobijan experiment showed that even Soviet Russia had accepted the Zionist thesis. Rosette's seconder pointed out that Jewish immigrants into Palestine were not the 'Whites' with the Arabs being the 'Blacks'. The resolution was accepted for the NEC by Hugh Dalton, who said he believed that Palestine would become one more of the Socialist Commonwealths of the world.11 In 1931, Conference Proceedings noted that, following protests against the 1930 Government White Paper from European and American Jewish socialist organizations, a subcommittee had been appointed to examine the implica? tions of that Paper. Delegates were told of a letter sent to a Palestinian Jewish labour conference in New York which emphasized that the present Govern? ment's policy was to secure a broader and more certain basis for the growth of the national home.12 In 1936, in view of disturbances in Palestine, the NEC put forward an emer? gency resolution. The Party's continued support for a national home and the continuance of the Mandate were reaffirmed and the Executive spokesperson, Susan Lawrence, was very positive. (Incidentally, the TUC had earlier passed a similar resolution.) One dissenting speaker who considered the Government was being told it could 'use force against the original tribes in Palestine' was against the Mandate because it gave capitalist countries the right to 'exploit all [those] countries in the world peopled by black people', but he was answered by Helen Bentwich (wife of a former Attorney-General in the Mandate Administration) who referred to Arab exploitation of Arabs and to the way Jewish achievements had improved life. The NEC resolution was carried by 'an overwhelming majority'. Another resolution on the agenda from the Furnishing Trade Union made similarly dissenting points. The Union asked Conference to express regret that Palestinian workers should 'allow themselves to be used as tools by their joint oppressors' and to urge them to unite to counter Jewish 11 LP Conf 1930, 221-2. 12 LP Conf 1931, 43. 144</page><page sequence="5">The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948 and Arab exploitation. It was claimed that most of the Union's Jewish members supported the resolution and that 'the whole Zionist conception of a national home for the Jews is from a socialist point of view reactionary' because Palestine was the national home for the Arabs. The Jews' national home was in the coun? tries in which they lived. This Union was clearly following the Communist Party line and was firmly slapped down by Miss Lawrence. Its resolution was defeated by an undisclosed majority.13 In 1937 the Party leader himself, Clement Attlee, replied to a debate on the NEC report which referred to Labour's successful efforts against the Peel Commission's proposals committing Britain to partition without full League of Nations discussion. Maurice Rosette was again prominent. Tom Williams for the NEC vigorously condemned the Mufti of Jerusalem's terrorist activi? ties and reiterated that Labour would always be watchful of Jewish interests in Palestine. This was endorsed by Attlee who assured Jews that Labour would always look at the Palestine situation with interest and take whatever action was necessary.14 In 1939 there was another important debate on an NEC resolution approv? ing the Parliamentary Party's stand against the White Paper of the Colonial Secretary, Malcolm MacDonald (the third such Paper), which was accused of imposing new and intolerable restrictions on Jewish immigration and of violating the pledges of Balfour. The Conservative Government was criticized for betraying world Jewry, and Conference was once more asked to reaffirm its support for a national home. Arthur Creech-Jones made a strong speech in support, and the resolution was carried with only two hands raised against it.15 In 1940 the MacDonald White Paper was again criticized and the parlia? mentary party's opposition to Palestine being treated as a colony and not as a mandated territory was endorsed. PZ put forward a far stronger and more detailed resolution than its previous one, and this was seconded by Ernest Bevin's Transport and General Workers' Union. There was opposition from two anti-Zionist delegates, but they were forcefully answered by a leading Zionist, Barnett Janner. The PZ resolution was carried 'by a large majority'.16 In 1941 the Jewish plight in Europe and the need to allow the Jewish national home to grow was raised in a speech by the PZ delegate.17 A year later, in 1942, Philip Noel-Baker moved a resolution on the international situation which referred to the need to promote the Jewish national home in Palestine by immigration. It appears, however, that no further speeches were 13 LP Conf 1936, 217-22. 14 LP Conf 1937, 95, 217-18. 15 LP Conf 1939, 253-6. 16 LP Conf 1940, 172-4. 17 LP Conf 1941, 160. HS</page><page sequence="6">Cecil Bloom made to this section of the overall resolution. The parliamentary report from the House of Lords referred to an allegation from the Labour benches that the Palestine administration was anti-Jewish and that resentment was caused because it had refused to allow a Home Guard to be formed.18 The following year, in 1943, there was unanimous agreement on a PZ resolution concerning the rights of Jews to a national home in Palestine. Harold Laski said that it was fitting that he, a Jew, was accepting the resolu? tion on behalf of the NEC, and he was happy to say that any appeasement on the subject of Palestine had disappeared from Labour's policy, perhaps indicating that there had previously been, under the surface, some disagree? ment on the issue. Conference also noted that a Labour delegation had met the Foreign Secretary, Anthony Eden, in December 1942 to discuss steps that could be taken to secure a United Nations policy on the German persecu? tion of Jews.19 Palestinian labour leaders, despite the clear message of support given to Jewry, were, however, becoming wary. One week after this confer? ence, Ben-Gurion warned his Mapai (Palestine Labour Party) executive that Labour's commitment should not be regarded as a 'promissory note'. He shrewdly told colleagues that a conference resolution was no guarantee of implementation if the Party gained office. It is the view of Joseph Gorny, Professor of Modern Jewish History at Tel Aviv University, that Ben Gurion's comments reflected two schools of thought in Labour circles, one fully pro-Zionist and the other far more cautious. Gorny argues that a more influential group consisting of those in Churchill's Cabinet, plus the General Secretary of the TUC, Walter Citrine, were anxious to 'water down' the pro-Zionist statements.20 Early in 1944 the Party had produced a statement on its 'International Post-War Policy' which was presented to the conference. The section relating to Palestine, drafted by Hugh Dalton, was unequivocally pro-Zionist: There is surely neither hope nor meaning in a 'Jewish National Home' unless we are prepared to let Jews, if they wish, to enter this tiny land in such numbers as to become a majority. There was a strong case for this before the War. There is an irresistible case now. . . . Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out, as the Jews move in. . . . The Arabs have many wide territories of their own; they must not claim to exclude the Jews from this small area of Palestine, less than the size of Wales. Indeed we should re-examine also the possibility of extending the present Palestinian bound? aries, by agreement with Egypt, Syria or Transjordan.21 The statement, though welcomed by the Jewish Chronicle as a 'clear, precise, 18 LP Conf 1942, 59, 152. 19 LP Conf 1943, 39, 188-9. 20 Gorny (see n. 1) 177-8. 21 LP Conf 1944, 9. 146</page><page sequence="7">The British Labour Party and Palestine. 1917-1948 direct, wise and just' one which 'brought a welcome spirit of realism onto the subject',22 frightened Zionist leaders who had not been consulted on its preparation. Ben-Gurion announced that Palestine Labour had had no involvement in it and asserted that Jewish immigration and colonization must not be carried out at the expense of Arabs.23 But matters were not straightfor? ward in Labour Party support for Zionism. One of four pro-Zionist motions on the agenda referred to a 'free Jewish commonwealth', and prior to the conference, the Policy and International Sub-Committee asked the NEC to support this resolution provided its sponsor agreed to replace 'free Jewish commonwealth' by the term 'national home'.24 This does not appear to have been agreed and there is no reference to the motion on the order paper. Attlee moved the acceptance of the overall policy statement, which was carried by an overwhelming majority, but neither Attlee nor any other delegate made reference to the Palestine section or to matters connected to Palestine issues.25 Nevertheless, this policy statement went further than any previous one and much further than any Zionist could have hoped for. But Labour policy was to change substantially within sixteen months. Between the 1944 and 1945 conferences, in November 1944, Britain was stunned by the cold-blooded assassination by two young members of the Stern Gang of Lord Moyne, British Resident Minister in Cairo and a close friend of Churchill. Weizmann later declared that the murder was 'one of the greatest catastrophes that could have happened to [the Zionist movement]'.26 Although the Jewish Agency completely dissociated the Zionist leaders from the atrocity, Moyne's murder changed the thinking of many British politi? cians towards Zionism, even though on the face of it the assassination had, at that time, no effect on the Labour Party's position on Palestine as expressed by Conference. At the 1945 conference, which took place just before the historic election that swept Labour into office, Dalton made Party policy abundantly clear on Palestine: 'This Party has laid it down and repeated it so recently as last April. . . that this time having regard to the unspeakable horrors that have been perpetrated upon the Jews of Germany and other occupied countries in Europe that it is morally wrong and politically indefensible to impose obs? tacles to the entry into Palestine now of Jews who desire to go there. . . . We should facilitate their going by the provision of economic assistance. ... We 22 JC 27 April 1944, p. 10. 23 G. Kirk, The Middle East in the War - Survey of International Affairs 1939-46 (London 1953) 317. 24 Labour Party Policy and International Sub-Committee, 14 November 1944. Card 326 m Archives of the Labour Party. 25 LP Conf 1944, 131, 140. 26 The Times, 17 Dec. 1946, p. 3. H7</page><page sequence="8">Cecil Bloom consider that Jewish immigration into Palestine should be permitted without the present limitations.' Dalton referred to the hope for a free and prosperous Jewish State of Palestine. Conference proceedings noted the declaration of the Conference of European Socialist parties in March 1945: 'The time has come, moreover, when the civilized world must recognize the existence of Palestine as a fact and must guarantee to the Jewish people the full opportun? ity for the achievement of their national home'.27 This seems to have been a rare example of International Socialist policy on Zionism. In 1946, with Labour in government, the debate on Palestine was domin? ated by the Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, who urged patience. PZ put forward a motion specifically calling on the Government to remove the bar? riers both on immigration and on land acquisition, and its resolution declared that the setting up of the Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry on Palestine did not absolve the movement from its responsibilities. Bevin replied that he would strive to meet the Jewish and Arab request not merely for a home, but for a Palestine State, but that patience was going to be needed. He was careful to emphasize the term 'Palestine State' in contradistinction to 'Jewish State', and he made it clear that he was not in favour of allowing 100,000 Jews to go to Palestine even though the Anglo-American Committee had recom? mended their immediate admission and he had agreed to implement a unan? imous report. He was not prepared to risk British 'Tommys' in keeping order and he referred also to the consequent financial burden. But he caused a furore across the Atlantic by accusing the Americans of not wanting too many Jews in New York, which he said was one reason for American agitation over the 100,000. He asked PZ to withdraw its resolution, which they meekly did. Its delegate stated that he believed his resolution was the expression of Labour policy, but would do as Bevin insisted in the hope that the Govern? ment would act swiftly on the short-term recommendations of the Anglo American Committee.28 Richard Crossman, a Committee member who later became a strong Zionist supporter, urged caution. He was in favour of restor? ing the rights of Jews to their national home, and reminded delegates that the committee of enquiry had confirmed the thirty-year-held Labour line that the spirit of the Mandate should be maintained, adding that at the present time support for a Jewish State would not help a difficult situation.29 Ben Gurion was cynical about this committee of enquiry, which he saw as a clever move to 'keep the Labour Party quiet'.30 In 1947 much Party policy was discussed and debated outside the confer 27 LP Conf 1945, 103, 169. 28 LP Conf 1946, 153-5, 165-6, 169. 29 LP Conf 1946, pp. 160-1. 30 N. A. Rose (ed.) Baffy. The Diaries of Blanche Dugdale 1936-1947 (London 1973) 226. 148</page><page sequence="9">The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948 ence, but Rosette made sure that Palestine was not set aside by Conference. He reminded the Party of its previous commitments and asked the Govern? ment to 'act in the spirit of [the] declarations'. There was a contrary speech from a Jewish delegate who did not want to see an independent Palestine ruled by one section of the community. He believed there was no real animos? ity between Jew and Arab and he was supported by Bevin who said he wanted the United Nations to take over the problem. Bevin claimed there was nothing in the Mandate or the Balfour Declaration which allowed uncontrolled Jewish immigration, but his speech contained no mention of previous Labour commitments.31 Laski was reported to have threatened to leave the NEC if the Government's intention was to retain 100,000 troops in Palestine.32 In 1948 the conference was held just as the State of Israel was born. The parliamentary report to the conference criticized the violence in Palestine, which 'had brought infinite harm and loss of goodwill to the Jewish cause', and the Jewish Agency was accused of being unhelpful by not cooperating fully with the Administration. The American and French press were blamed for abusing the British position. Rosette, however, was applauded when he said that he had waited 2000 years to make his speech, and pleaded with the Government to have the British-led and -subsidized Jordanian Arab Legion withdrawn from the conflict with the new State. Morrison, not Bevin, was the Government spokesman and claimed that the Party, including himself, had 'always been keen, sympathetic and enthusiastic in advocating the estab? lishment of a Jewish Home in Palestine. . . . We have worked for it, we have advocated it and we have no reason to think otherwise than what we formerly thought about it.' Referring to his 1930s visit to Palestine which had made a lasting and favourable impression, Morrison was anxious to show that, just because the Party believed in a Jewish national home, it was not anti-Arab. 'The story of Palestine is one of great and fine effort on the part of the Jewish community to build their home', and he added that he hoped 'the sad days of the recent past may evolve into better, brighter and happier days in the future.'33 In the light of his Government's policy on Palestine from when it took office in 1945, Morrison's comments were somewhat presumptuous, but he was presumably chosen to respond to the debate because of his former support for a national home. It is worth adding that in 1949 Bevin adopted a different line by saying that the Government was convinced there was a desire among Jews and Arabs to achieve a lasting peace, and added that Britain would give all aid to the 31 LP Conf 1947, 169-71, 177. 32 JC 30 May 1947, p. 5. 33 LP Conf 1948, 59, 164-5. 149</page><page sequence="10">Cecil Bloom UN on the Israeli-Arab truce. This conference was significant for Dalton's comments that 'it is best when speaking of Palestine today not to say much about the past but to turn rather to the future. . . . The last chapter had best be forgotten.'34 Dalton at least was more frank and open than his colleague Morrison. One can therefore conclude, on the basis of conference proceedings, that the Labour Party up to 1945 was fully committed to a pro-Zionist policy and that on the few occasions when delegates put forward contrary views, they were quickly put down. After 1945, however, Conference policy was equi? vocal. Over the period of this review the NEC was responsible for four motions on Palestine (all sympathetic to Zionism) and PZ six, but the subject was also raised at eight other conferences. The future of Palestine was clearly not ignored by the Labour Party, but it is also clear that apart from the official NEC spokesmen very few non-Jews spoke on the subject, and that the official spokesmen were usually prominent pro-Semitic figures such as Dalton and Morrison. Attlee spoke twice on the subject, while Bevin, of course, did so in order to defend his policies. Despite the lack of direct Labour Party reaction to Lord Moyne's murder, however, there is no doubt that terrorist activities post-1945 did influence Labour thinking, as they did that of politicians of other parties. The actions of the Irgun (a Jewish under? ground army) and the Stern Gang which resulted in the blowing up of the King David Hotel in July 1946, and the hanging of the two British sergeants a year later, cost the Zionist movement many friends. Some leading pro-Zionist Labour figures such as Dalton and Creech-Jones were appalled by these actions which in this way seriously hindered the Zionist cause. It is worth noting that TUC conferences also took an interest in Palestine. The 1929, 1930 and 1931 ones all reported on labour concerns in Haifa35 and, as we shall see, two important speeches were made at TUC conferences. The 1938 conference condemned persecution of Jews in Germany and urged the Government to fulfil its obligations to the Jewish people under the Mandate.36 The TUC also referred to the way 'Fascist' governments were fostering Arab opposition to the establishment of a Jewish national home. Gorny's comments on the lack of enthusiasm for a pro-Zionist policy refer to a later period. Let us now examine events that took place outside the Party conferences as well as considering the attitudes of leading Party figures. Already in 1919, the British Zionist David Eder had discussions with a number of leading Labour figures. He concluded that many were sympathetic to Zionism, but 34 LP Conf 1949, 60, 199. 35 Levenberg (see n. 2) 251-5. 36 JC 16 Sept. 1938, p. 22. 150</page><page sequence="11">The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948 that no Parliamentary support was likely because the Party was committed to an anti-imperialist policy.37 When Labour first took office in 1924 the Colonial Secretary, J. H. Thomas, reaffirmed its support for Zionism and announced that the Balfour principle would be adhered to. But he made it clear that the civil and religious rights of other Palestinian communities should not be prejudiced,38 and the Prime Minister, Ramsay MacDonald, confirmed this policy in his second (1929) administration, when he went further to emphas? ize that the rights and political status of Jews outside Palestine must not be prejudiced.39 MacDonald was in fact the Labour politician pre-1931 who most publicly praised Zionism and had, with his Labour colleagues Philip Snowden and Josiah Wedgwood, helped to organize a Palestine Mandate Society to disseminate pro-Zionist information.40 MacDonald visited Palestine in 1921 as a guest of the Histadrut, and wrote a pamphlet entitled 'A Socialist in Palestine' which gave a favourable impression of Yishuv life. He had great admiration for the pioneers, but was apprehensive about the various promises made to Jews and Arabs. He believed the Balfour Declaration was correct and capable of being implemented successfully.41 Once in the House of Com? mons he spoke with pride of his friendship with some of the halutzim and was enthusiastic in his praise of their achievements in turning bogs into cul? tivable land.42 MacDonald built up a good relationship with Hos following his visit to Palestine, and when Hos came to London in 1928 to spread Zionist socialist propaganda among the political left, MacDonald told him that a number of British politicians were anxious to court the Arabs and that there was a danger that Britain would abandon her Balfour obligations. Hos, never? theless, concluded that neither MacDonald, despite his pro-Zionist creden? tials, nor the Labour Party would go 'through fire and water' to fight for the Jews in Palestine.43 One non-Jewish Labour MP in the 1929 Parliament who became a con? vinced Zionist was Harry Snell, a member of the Shaw Commission of Enquiry sent by the Government to investigate the causes of serious Arab Jewish rioting in 1929. This Commission concluded that while the Arabs were directly responsible for starting the conflict, it was motivated by worry about the effects of Jewish immigration, and confirmed that there was no room in Palestine for large Jewish numbers. Snell dissented from the majority 37 Gorny (see n. i) 27. 38 Hansard Parliamentary Debates 5th Series, House of Commons (hereafter Hansard HC) CLXX 63. 39 Hansard HC CCXXXVII 1466. 40 J. B. Schechtman, Fighter and Prophet (London and New York 1961) 107. 41 Gorny (see n. 1) 31-5. 42 Hansard HC CCXXXV 116-20. 43 Gorny (see n. 1) 43. i5i</page><page sequence="12">Cecil Bloom report on a number of issues, believing that Arab leaders, for political ends, were responsible for the disturbances and rejecting their case against Jewish settlement based on the claim that there was a lack of land for cultivation. As an ex-farm worker he was certain that Arab farming methods were primitive and that more intensive cultivation would allow the needs of both peoples to be satisfied.44 MacDonald himself was not impressed with the Shaw Commis? sion's report, seeing it as too pro-Arab. Rather than accept it he sent a new commission to Palestine to examine the land question. In May 1930 he told Chaim Weizmann that he was standing firm against Arab pressure,45 and yet a few months later he allowed the Passfield White Paper, which would have weakened Zionism considerably, to be published, although he later took steps to neutralize it following pressure from his Foreign Secretary, Arthur Hen? derson, and from Weizmann. Henderson consistently supported the Zionist cause and was especially angry when the cabinet discussed the White Paper in his absence. It was at his instigation that MacDonald wrote to Weizmann to repudiate the White Paper.46 Lord Passfield (Sydney Webb), Colonial Secretary in the second Labour Government, was an enigma. Originally friendly towards Zionism, he had been joint author of the 1917 Labour programme which included support for a national home. Weizmann impressed him and he was sympathetic to agricultural settlement in Palestine. When he first became Colonial Secretary he favoured Zionism, but his views soon changed, influenced by the Shaw Commission and by reports from his High Commissioner in Jerusalem, Sir John Chancellor. Just after the 1930 Labour conference, which had accepted a PZ resolution, his White Paper was issued, indicating that there was no room for mass immigration. Arrivals should depend on the overall employ? ment situation, Jewish and Arab. Jews were also threatened with an embargo on further purchase of land. This White Paper (the second of three written on Palestine - the first, issued in 1922 when Winston Churchill was Colonial Secretary, had rejected Arab demands for the renunciation of the Balfour Declaration) was denounced by politicians of all parties and led to the first political conflict between the Zionist movement and a British Government. It also temporarily affected relations between the labour movements in Britain and Palestine, until MacDonald stepped in to make it harmless. Passfield had told Ben-Gurion only a few months before issuing the White Paper that there was room for only a few hundred more immigrants,47 but later told his wife that the Government had no intention of restricting Jewish immigration. 44 Report of the Commission on the Palestine Disturbances of August 1929. Cd 3530 (March 1930) 168-70. 45 Gorny (see n. 1) 79. 46 Ibid. 100-1. 47 Ibid. 70-1. 152</page><page sequence="13">The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948 Passfield's wife, Beatrice Webb, who was very influential in Labour and left wing circles, became highly antagonistic to Zionism even before her husband. Her diaries record how in September 1929 she described the Zionist move? ment as 'a gross violation of the right of the native [Arab] to remain where his father and grandfather had been born', and how for Jews to talk about returning to a land after a 2000 years' absence was 'sheer and hypocritical nonsense'.48 Webb's writings were full of invective on the ills of Zionism.49 In her view the responsibility for the debacle in the Middle East lay with 'the fatuous promise of a Jewish Home which if it meant anything worth having for the Jews meant a Jewish Palestine from which the Arabs would be gradu? ally extruded [sic] by economic pressure'. When the Jewish authorities came to realize the 'anti-God and communist character' of the new settlers they would 'gradually give up the idea of a Palestinian Jewish State and possibly even of a Jewish Cultural Home'.50 Few ministers in MacDonald's two Labour governments were positively anti-Zionist. Passfield, of course, became so, but the most radical was Lord Thomson, Secretary of State for Air, who perished in the R101 airship disas? ter and whom Weizmann identified as a 'deadly enemy'.51 On the other hand, a number of leading Labour personalities were positively pro-Zionist, such as Josiah Wedgewood. His book, The Seventh Dominion, published in 1927, was a convincing document of support for a Jewish national home, and it was also he who later in the House of Lords accused the Palestine Administration of anti-Semitism.52 Nevertheless, he was concerned about the interests of the Arab working-man and was not in favour of any system which distinguished between Jewish and Arab workers. Wedgewood was, of course, associated with MacDonald and Snowden in the Palestine Mandate Society. H. N. Brailsford, an important left-wing journalist, met Berl Katznelson, a Palestin? ian labour leader, in 1930, and made a great impression on him, publishing an article in Davar (the Histadrut Hebrew newspaper) stating that the right of the Jew to set up home in the Land of Israel was anchored in international law and morality.53 He visited Palestine later that year and took a great interest in its future. His book, A League of Nations, in which he expressed support 48 M. Cole (ed.) Beatrice Webb's Diaries, 1924-1932 (London 1956) 217. 49 Following the storm over her husband's White Paper, Webb wrote that nobody had consid? ered Palestine as the Holy Land of Christendom and Webb, a non-believer, was outraged that the killers of Jesus, who furthermore denied he was the 'Son of God' and who were not really Semites but Slavs and Mongols, followers not of Moses and the Prophets but of Karl Marx and the Soviet Republic, were gaining the upper hand. (Cole [see n. 48] 256.) 50 Cole (see n. 48) 257. 51 The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann [hereafter W Papers) xv 7. 52 Hansard Parliamentary Debates, 5th Series, House of Lords (hereafter Hansard HL) CXXII 210. 53 Gorny (see n. 1) 65. 153</page><page sequence="14">Cecil Bloom for a Jewish national home, had been issued before the Balfour Declaration was issued,54 and he published a number of articles favourable to Zionism in the British left-wing press over several years. Sir Norman Angell, the journal? ist, economist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was probably the only non Jewish Labour figure who fully supported Zionist aims. To him the Jewish question was a universal moral issue which could be solved only by Zionism.55 George Lansbury, Labour Party leader in 1931 after MacDonald deserted to form a National Government, held traditional left-wing intellectual attitudes, being in favour of Britain holding the Mandate. He supported the concept of a national home, but differentiated the Jewish masses from the 'egotistical rich Jews who were against the establishment of a Jewish kingdom'.56 On the eve of the 1935 election, Labour's new leader, Clement Attlee, spoke of the Party's pride in being associated with the concept of a Jewish national home, and reiterated his Party's determination to co-operate with the work of polit? ical and economic reconstruction being carried out in Palestine. Attlee also reminded his followers of successive annual conferences which had affirmed Labour's enthusiastic support for a Jewish national home in Palestine.57 Although never a parliamentarian, Harold Laski was for many years an influential figure in Labour Party politics, but his opinions on Zionism under? went several transformations. In the mid-1920s he had detested it, but this did not stop him from arranging for MacDonald to meet the leading Amer? ican Zionist, Judge Brandeis, when MacDonald was alerted to Zionist suspi? cions of Passfield,58 and he also helped Weizmann negotiate with Passfield on the White Paper.59 He then became a supporter of a binational state in Palestine60 which he believed would be a good example of socialism, but he gradually grew closer to Zionism. During the War he liaised with Aneurin Bevan, George Strauss and Dalton to try and ensure that postwar Labour would be committed to a national home that would eventually lead to self government. At Labour's 1943 conference he did, of course, speak for the NEC in support of the PZ motion. In February 1945 he told PZ that he was 'firmly and utterly convinced of the need for the rebirth of the Jewish nation in Palestine'. No other country would have any other meaning for Jews.61 Laski concerned himself a great deal with Zionism after 1945. Soon after Labour took office, the Cabinet's Palestine Committee, headed by Morrison, 54 H. N. Brailsford, A League of Nations (London 1917) 159. 55 Gorny (see n. 1) 83-4. 56 Ibid. 22. 57 Levenberg (see n. 2) 209. 58 M. Newman, Harold Laski. A Political Biography (Basingstoke and London 1993) 125. 59 W Papers xv 6-7. 60 Newman (see n. 58) 311. 61 I. Krammick and B. Sheerman, Harold Laski (London 1993) 476. 154</page><page sequence="15">The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948 concluded that immigration into Palestine should continue as an interim measure on the basis of the 1939 White Paper quotas (a policy, incidentally, opposed by Dalton, Arthur Greenwood and Aneurin Bevan). As Party chair? man, Laski arranged for a deputation to meet Attlee, Bevin and the Colonial Secretary, George Hall,62 and Attlee subsequently authorized Laski to tell the NEC that the Government agreed that the White Paper policy could not continue, and that proposals would be designed to ensure fulfilment of the Mandate. Since no clear policy had yet been formulated on Palestine this was mere talk on Attlee's part; his proposal was simply aimed at keeping the NEC quiet. The writing was on the wall for the Zionists.63 When the Anglo American Committee of Enquiry, which dealt a heavy blow to the Zionist movement, was announced, however, Laski praised Bevin's action as a 'great success' that would open the way for a long-term solution.64 It was Laski's plea at Labour's 1946 conference for 100,000 Jews to be allowed quickly to enter Palestine as recommended by the Anglo-American Committee that stung Bevin into his claim that America did not want too many Jews in New York. By 1947 Laski was criticizing Bevin's strategy, believing Britain was 'selling the Jews down the river' and 'backing the wrong horse'.65 Another incident demonstrated his growing attachment to Zionism. Bevin decided not to enforce the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) majority report which the Zionists accepted and the Arabs rejected, because 'it was manifestly unfair to the Arabs'. Laski spoke forcibly at the NEC against this decision and was strongly supported by Bevan and Emmanuel Shinwell.66 Laski once wrote of the 'Attlee-Bevin betrayal of the Jews',64 and was one of the few to criticize Attlee as well as Bevin. Together with Cross man and Michael Foot, he eventually viewed British policy towards Zionism as comparable to the betrayal of Czechoslovakia in 1938,67 and he once com? mented that the breaking of every Labour pledge made to the Jews about Palestine was 'one of the best-known examples of the imperialist pattern'.68 As for the Zionist movement, Weizmann's papers make it clear that he cultivated a relationship with several Labour politicians, and especially Dalton. He wrote to Dalton in September 1938 to remind him of an agree? ment to meet the Labour NEC, and although he saw Attlee and others soon 62 LP Conf 1945, 26. 63 Gorny, who has perused contemporary Cabinet papers, formed the impression that the Labour Cabinet took some time to formulate a clear policy on Palestine, but that a short-term one which rejected large-scale immigration had been developed by the beginning of Sep? tember 1945. (Gorny [see n. 1] 204.) 64 Krammick and Sheerman (see n. 61) 553. 65 Ibid. 557. 66 Newman (see n. 58) 334-5. 67 Ibid. 340. 68 Krammick and Sheerman (see n. 61) 557-8. i55</page><page sequence="16">Cecil Bloom after, he does not say what transpired.69 Even at this stage, Zionist leaders were unsure of Labour's commitments on Zionism despite all the conference resolutions, and after Labour joined Churchill's Coalition Government a lead? ing Mapai figure, Moshe Shertok (Sharett), evaluated some of the Labour leaders. Morrison was considered to be untrustworthy, but might help because of 'political calculations', while Greenwood was assessed as the only Labour minister unmistakably a supporter. Shertok judged Bevin to be a man who 'might be helpful'.70 This assessment of Bevin was not all that strange, because he had many positive contacts with Palestinian labour leaders and had an especially good relationship with Hos. He was always keen to learn of the Yishuv's problems, sometimes offering advice. For a while, Bevin had friendly meetings with Weizmann, and it was after one such meeting that Creech-Jones, Bevin's Parliamentary Private Secretary throughout his term as Minister of Labour, wrote a Party paper which assessed Palestine as the only possible sanctuary for homeless Jews, concluding that a Jewish State was essential for this. Creech-Jones could not have written this paper without Bevin's knowledge and approval.71 But Zionist doubts intensified soon after the 1945 general election. Rumours that George Hall rather than the sym? pathetic Creech-Jones would become Colonial Secretary so worried the Zion? ists that Berl Locker, then head of the political bureau of the Jewish Agency in London, spoke to Greenwood to see whether the latter, as a senior Labour figure, could influence Attlee's choice. It was taken for granted that the For? eign Office was not supportive of Zionism, and the hope was that a pro Zionist Colonial Secretary would compensate for and perhaps neutralize For? eign Office policy. Greenwood was unable to intervene successfully. At the World Zionist Congress held in London in August 1945, Weizmann optimistically remarked that Winston Churchill had been a sincere friend of Zionism and that 'it is with singular gratification that we recall the unequi? vocal support given to us in our struggle by the leaders of the Labour Party, the solid vote of the Party against the White Paper of 1939 and the recent resolutions of the Labour Party Conference endorsing our political aims'.72 Nevertheless, he must have had some qualms because, when it soon became evident that decisions were about to be taken by the new Government affecting the future of Palestine, Weizmann wrote to Attlee to express his concerns and to remind him of his Party's commitments.73 He also wrote to Morrison to ask for a meeting,74 but it is not known whether this was granted. 69 W Papers xviii 456-7. 70 Gorny (see n. 1) 167-8. 71 Ibid. 168-70. 72 JC 3 Aug. 1945, p. 7. 73 W Papers xxii 54-5. 74 Ibid. 56 i56</page><page sequence="17">The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948 Weizmann also made contact with Leon Blum, the French socialist, and per? suaded him to raise the Palestine issue with Bevin, but he received an obscure reply in September 1945.75 Weizmann also saw Bevin's Deputy, Hector McNeill, who gave him the impression that Zionism would be supported, but Blanche Dugdale, Lord Balfour's niece and biographer and someone close to the Zionist leaders, doubted McNeill's sincerity, believing it was a ruse to create a rift between the radical Shertok and the moderate Weizmann.76 Ben-Gurion was less optimistic than Weizmann. In 1943 he had, of course, voiced caution about Labour's intentions and just as the war was coming to a close he told PZ that Labour leaders were just as responsible as Churchill for attempting to perpetuate the White Paper policy (he was a little unfair to Churchill). He urged PZ not to 'rest satisfied with nice declarations', adding that Zionists were not going to be as naive as they had been in 1918 on the 'eve of a new world of universal fraternity'.77 At the London Congress he returned to his theme and warned Zionists not to be too reliant on the Labour Party. 'What a party says in opposition is no indication of what it will do when in power. In many countries it is not only the Government but the Civil service that decides. . . . We shall judge the new Government by whether it maintains the White Paper or establishes a Jewish state'.78 Ben-Gurion went straight to Hall for, according to Crossman, 'a disastrous interview',79 in which he demanded the immediate admission of 100,000 Jews into Palestine as well as a declaration of the country as a Jewish State. Hall offered 2000 certificates, with a further 1500 per month if the Arabs agreed.80 Eliezer Kaplan, Israel's first Minister of Finance, was another who was very unsure of Labour's plans from the start, and under no illusions about the seriousness of the situation. He returned to Palestine from the London conference to warn that Zionist hopes could be disappointed, and he told the Mapai Secret? ariat that some of Labour's leaders were unfriendly. Mapai was advised to 'reduce their [Labour's] promises and resolutions to practical policies'. Kaplan said they had started badly in failing to speak to the important minis? ters such as Bevin and Morrison.81 The record of specific members of Attlee's Government will now be examined. Herbert Morrison had been an enthusiastic pro-Zionist since he had been impressed by his visit to Palestine in 1935 to see the kibbutzim and 75 Ibid. 42. 76 Rose (see n. 30) 225. 77 JC 15 June 1945, p. 7. D. Ben-Gurion (ed.) The Jews in their Land (London 1946) 139. 79 R. H. S. Crossman, Palestine Mission (London 1946) 201. 80 A. Bullock, Ernest Bevin. Foreign Secretary 1945-51 (New York and London 1983) 173. 81 Gorny (see n. 1) 203. 157</page><page sequence="18">Cecil Bloom the work of land reclamation. He stated kibbutzim to be 'one of the most wonderful demonstrations of the moral capacity of the human race in the whole of the civilised world', and accused the Conservative Government of appeasing the Arab population.82 After May 1948, Morrison, who was chair? man of the Cabinet Committee on Palestine, maintained contact with a number of Zionist leaders and also with those Labour backbenchers (100 of them) who rebelled against Government policy in January 1949, making their views known to the Cabinet.83 In Cabinet, with Bevan and Dalton, he did make some attempts to challenge Bevin, but whatever the strength of their pro-Zionist sympathies it did not make an impact when it mattered. As chair? man of the Palestine Committee, Morrison was involved in some of the nego? tiations. He was co-author of the July 1946 Morrison-Grady plan rejected by President Truman, proposing a federal system of two autonomous provinces, one Jewish and one Arab, with a strong central government supervising immigration and controlling the religious centres of Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Morrison may not have had much influence on events in Palestine from 1945 onwards, but he often showed where his sympathies lay. Laski, however, was not so sure of Morrison's position, believing him to be 'uneasily neutral' on Palestine even though he had fully committed himself publicly to Zionism before the War.84 Hugh Dalton, one of the most pro-Zionist of non-Jewish Labour politi? cians, had drafted the Palestine section of the Party's 1944 Post-War Settle? ment, with its key sections that Jews should be allowed to enter Palestine in such numbers as to become a majority and that Arabs should be encouraged to move out and accept compensation. Dalton wrote that he had long been in favour of partition and that on several occasions he had unsuccessfully attempted to persuade the Cabinet to accept such a policy. Had he been Foreign Secretary, he claimed, he would probably have acceded to President Truman's request for 100,000 immigration certificates, but he confessed that he did not support that request in Cabinet and regretted his failure to do so.85 In January 1947 he wrote that 'the present state of things cannot be allowed to drag on. There must be a Jewish state - it is no good boggling on this - and, even if it is quite small, at least they will be able to get lots of Jews into it which is what they madly and murderously want.'86 Dalton comes over in his writings as a man who retrospectively showed contrition for not acting differently in office, indeed one of the very few who made such a 82 Hansard HC CCCXIII 1385-8. 83 B. Donoghue and G. W. Jones, Herbert Morrison: Portrait of a Politician (London 1973) 434-5 Gorny (see n. 1) 220. 85 H. Dalton, High Tide and After (London 1962) 150. 86 Ibid. 189. 15?</page><page sequence="19">The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948 confession. He thought very highly of Weizmann, but went 'absolutely cold' towards the Yishuv after the two British sergeants were hanged by the Irgun, and wrote then that he did not care what happened to the Jews in their fight with the Arabs. He did, however, return to the Zionist side after Israel's military victories.87 Arthur Creech-Jones, Colonial Secretary from October 1946, was initially very sympathetic to the Zionist cause. In a House of Commons debate in 1936 he said it was vital for 'this great experiment in Palestine' to succeed.88 When he was appointed Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies in 1945 he stipulated that he should be consulted on all matters relating to Palestine. It has been claimed that Hall's replacement by Creech-Jones was an attempt by Attlee to win the good faith of the Zionists.89 Creech-Jones told Bevin in December 1946 that he would not despair of finding a solution to the problem of Palestine which did not require the use of force, and remained optimistic that a partition scheme acceptable to both sides could be developed. His views horrified the Foreign Office, and one official commented that Creech-Jones was giving the impression that the principal object of Government policy was to reach agreement with the Zionists, whereas it was the Foreign Office's aim to avoid a quarrel with the Arab States. At a crucial Cabinet meeting a month later, with the support of Dalton and Bevan, Creech-Jones argued for parti? tion as the only reasonable solution and followed up these views with a mem? orandum rejecting Bevin's pro-Arab plan as unworkable since it included many of the 1939 White Paper tenets. 'It would spell the cessation of immig? ration, the arrest of Jewish development in Palestine and the permanent sub? jugation of the National Home to a backward Arab electorate.' Disorder and bloodshed would result. Such a policy, Creech-Jones argued, would, more? over, be indefensible to the United States, the Commonwealth and to the British electorate and would amount to a 'gross betrayal' of the Jews and would conflict with Labour Party resolutions. At this point Creech-Jones saw partition as the only solution, and tried to reach agreement with the Zionists while hoping it would be possible to design a partition scheme fair to both sides.90 According to Dalton, as soon as Creech-Jones took over the Colonial Office, supported by some other ministers, he 'shouted for partition', but his ideas were spoilt by Attlee and Bevin who were 'trying to tangle up the merits of various solutions with hypothetical discussions of who would vote for this or that at the UN'.86 In Government, until Bevin showed who really was the 87 Ibid. 190. 88 Hansard HC CCCXIII 1352. 89 R. Ovendale, 'The Palestine Policy of the British Labour Government 1945-46', International Affairs LV(iii) 429. 90 R. Ovendale, 'The Palestine Policy of the British Labour Government 1947', International Affairs LVI(i) 75-80. 159</page><page sequence="20">Cecil Bloom master, Creech-Jones was most supportive of Zionism, but the Zionists were beginning to irritate him. They refused to take part in a conference in London, and Ben-Gurion was now talking of the need to allow 1,200,000 Jews into Palestine. This, together with the general Zionist attitude, was responsible at least in part for Creech-Jones losing sympathy with the Zionist cause. Within three weeks of writing his memorandum rejecting Bevin's plan, he wrote another jointly with Bevin which reflected the latter's thinking.91 Eventually he found he could not stand up to Bevin, and yielded to his position which he accepted as 'inevitable'.92 Creech-Jones became embittered at Jewish terrorism and never forgave the Zionist movement for this. In a House of Commons debate, just before the establishment of the State of Israel, he complained of the lack of gratitude that Britain had received for its part in administering the Mandate, and resigned himself to leaving Palestine 'in a state of chaos'.93 Emmanuel Shin well, Secretary of State for War in 1947 (but not in the Cabinet), was a Jew, but has little to offer on the subject of Palestine in his memoirs (he wrote two) except to describe some of the events that took place, even though he seems to have been one of Bevin's opponents in Government. He did, however, comment that Bevin became embittered because he under? rated the Yishuvh fighting qualities and that some of his words had 'the flavour of anti-semitism'.94 Shin well considered Bevin's policy to be one of placating the Arab world 'no doubt encouraged by his Foreign Office advisors'.95 Tom Williams, Philip Noel-Baker, James Griffiths and George Isaacs were other members of Attlee's administration with some pro-Zionist credentials. Williams, Attlee's Minister of Agriculture, spoke favourably of Zionism on a number of occasions and led the parliamentary party's opposition to the 1939 White Paper when he reminded the House of British obligations to the Balf our Declaration. In a vigorous speech he condemned the White Paper as 'contrary to the spirit and to the letter of the Balfour Declaration' and 'tanta? mount almost to its abrogation'.96 In the same debate Noel-Baker argued that a Jewish home in Palestine was the only solution to the Jewish problem and described the White Paper as 'grotesque' as well as 'cowardly and wrong'.97 But as Foreign Office Minister of State and under Bevin's influence in 1945 6, he adopted an anti-Zionist stance when the UNSCOP report was consid 91 Ibid. 83. 92 W. R. Louis, The British Empire in the Middle East, 1945-51 (Oxford 1984) 458. 93 W. R. Louis and R. W. Stookey (eds) The End of the Mandate (London 1986) 21. 94 E. Shin well, Conflict without Malice (London 1955) 198. 95 E. Shinwell, I've Lived Through It All (London 1973) 186. 96 Hansard HC CCCXXXXVII 1956. 97 Ibid. 2038-46. i6o</page><page sequence="21">The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948 ered by the NEC. He said that thanks to terrorism the Jews had brought all the problems down on themselves, and he now believed that Zionism was doomed if they could not reach agreement with the Arabs.98 Griffiths, a minis? ter not of Cabinet rank, had in 1942 supported the idea of a Jewish fighting force in Palestine.99 George Isaacs, a non-Jew and Attlee's Minister of Labour, took a positive stance at the 1936 TUC conference. A resolution which included a reference to the 'continuous support by the labour movement' to the establishment of a Jewish national home, was unanimously adopted. In moving it Isaacs referred to his recent visit to Palestine where he saw 'a miracle of modern times taking place'. He believed much of the trouble was caused by 'the greed of Arab landowners'.100 There is no indication of Isaacs's involvement on Zionist issues while he was a member of the Cabinet. Aneurin Bevan had not initially been active in Zionist affairs although he was sympathetic to the movement, but in November 1945 he became a strong supporter after meeting Weizmann, who 'fired his imagination'.101 At one point he was in favour of partition. Vera Weizmann had written that he became a 'sympathetic listener', but she conceded that he could do nothing to sway his Cabinet colleagues.102 Like Morrison and Dalton, Bevan did attempt to challenge Bevin's policy and once argued in Cabinet against the need to mollify the Arab States by arguing that a friendly Jewish State would give Britain better strategic protection, especially if India and the Muslim countries came under Russian influence.103 Bevan was the only member of the Cabinet who considered resigning over its Palestine policy, but he was advised not to do so by Dalton.104 As for Stafford Cripps, in the mid-i930s he showed little interest in Zionism, although at one point he referred to the activities of Arab leaders as 'fascist gangsterism'.105 The plight of German Jewry in 1938 aroused him to propose that Palestinian nationality should be granted to all homeless Jewish refugees, and in the White Paper debate in 1939 he spoke in favour of partition.106 He published some strongly pro Zionist articles in the left-wing journal Tribune in which he criticized the Government for its policy of imperialist intrigue in Palestine. Arthur Greenwood was the Labour politician closest to the Labour Zion? ists. At a meeting to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Balfour Declaration he said that everything must be done to continue laying the 98 Newman (see n. 58) 334-5. 99 Hansard #C CCCLXXXII 1247-50. 100 JC 18 Sept. 1936, p. 14. 101 Gorny (see n. 1) 205. 102 V. Weizmann, The Impossible Takes Longer (London 1967) 210. 103 Ovendale (see n. 90) 79-80. 104 M. Foot, Aneurin Bevan 1945-60 (London 1973) 2: 89. 105 Gorny (see n. 1) 152-3. 106 Hansard HC CCCXXXXVII 2036. i6i</page><page sequence="22">Cecil Bloom foundations of a national home so that full Jewish nationhood could be achieved. He exhorted his audience to be 'of good cheer to know that the next twenty-five years will see the fulfilment of your hopes'. He added that he and his Labour colleagues who opposed appeasement could look back on their Palestine policy with some satisfaction.107 At a PZ meeting in 1944 he affirmed again the need for a Jewish national home in Palestine and reminded PZ that all through the War years the Labour Party had made unanimous declarations on Palestine.108 But like many of his colleagues, when it really mattered he was powerless. The Lord Chancellor, Viscount Jowett, who also had some pro-Zionist sympathies, once attempted to intervene on behalf of Zionists when the Cabinet discussed passing on the problem to the UN, and he was supported by John Strachey, a junior minister and leading left-wing theoretician, who argued that the Jewish claims were just and that British interests would best be served by military facilities in a friendly Jewish State.109 With Bevan, early in 1947, Strachey attempted to persuade Bevin to nofollow a more pro-Jewish policy in Palestine, which was then a demand of the Left.110 Harold Wilson, who joined the Cabinet in October 1947, was a well-known Zionist, but was likewise in the end powerless to redeem the many pledges given to the Jewish people. Clement Attlee had little to say in his memoirs about his Palestine policy and how it conflicted with official Labour Party policy. He referred both to the wealth of sentiment enlisted for a Jewish national home and the legacy of incompatible promises to Jews and Arabs,111 but what assurances the Labour Party had given the Arabs were not specified. Attlee must take most respons? ibility for the turnaround in Labour policy in Palestine and must go down as probably the most Machiavellian figure in the history of Zionism between 1917 and 1948, his record showing a mass of contradictions and inconsisten? cies. He gave some indication of what was supposed to be his prewar thinking at a meeting with Weizmann and Churchill just before the Peel Commission was due to report. With the likelihood that partition was going to be recom? mended, Weizmann indicated his support for this as a means of securing some 50,000 immigration certificates per annum. Churchill was less optimistic than Weizmann on its possible effect, but Attlee said he was shocked at the idea of partition because Jews had done marvellous work and their great experiment had been so successful. Partition would be 'a concession to viol? ence' and 'a triumph for Fascism'.112 Within a short time, however, he was 107 The Times 2 Nov. 1942, p. 2. 108 JC 5 May 1944, P- 1. 109 Ovendale (see n. 90) 85. 110 M. Newman, John Strachey (Manchester and New York 1989) 105. 111 C. R. Attlee, As it Happened (London 1954) 174. 112 Gorny (see n. 1) 136-7. 162</page><page sequence="23">The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948 playing a different tune, for at about this time Berl Katznelson had a meeting with Attlee that he described as 'bitter' and at which he detected that Attlee was 'already tired of Zionism'.113 (Katznelson, in fact, was more impressed with Bevin than with Attlee or Morrison.) In 1943 Attlee wrote a Cabinet paper concluding that 'no-one but a visionary imagines that Palestine can absorb all the Jews even if they were willing to go. Millions will desire and be obliged to live [elsewhere]',114 but a few months later he was telling Weiz mann that he and the Labour Party were committed to a pro-Zionist policy.115 After he retired, Attlee recorded a series of interviews for his book entitled A Prime Minister Remembers in which he expressed views contrary to those he apparently held when the 1939 White Paper was issued. At that time he was completely supportive of Morrison's description of the Paper as a breach of faith and of honour,116 but the later interviews make it clear that after becoming Prime Minister he quickly decided against significant Jewish immigration into Palestine. He did not accept that Jews in Europe under British or American control were living in worse conditions than other victims of Nazi persecution and blamed the Jewish vote in America for much of the problem with President Truman in October 1945. Attlee declared the Balfour Declaration to have been 'a wild and thoughtless experiment which had been made without perceiving its consequences',117 and even claimed that it had not been the intention of the Balfour Declaration to ensure the creation of a Jewish State.118 In 1958, in a House of Lords debate, he argued that on the basis purely of British interests the creation of a Jewish national home had been a mistake, although he conceded that Israel's safety had to be guaranteed now it was in existence.119 There is little evidence of real Zionist sympathy in Attlee, and his comments to Weizmann and at the 1935 election and the 1937 conference seem, in the light of history, to have been shallow and cyn? ical. The relevant section of Labour's vital 1944 statement on Palestine was not even mentioned by him when he moved the composite resolution. Another example of duplicity followed President Truman's sending an emis? sary (Earl Harrison) to Europe to investigate the conditions faced by displaced persons there. Harrison recommended granting 100,000 immigration certi? ficates, and as soon as Attlee became Prime Minister, Truman asked him to agree to this. Attlee replied that the British had to consider the Arabs as well as the Jews, making a trenchant reference to Roosevelt's pledges to the Arabs. 113 Ibid. 131. 114 N. Bethell, The Palestine Triangle (New York 1979) 147. 115 M. W. Weisgal and J. Carmichael (eds) Chaim Weizmann (London 1962) 267. 116 K. Harris, Attlee (London 1982) 389-90. 117 F. Williams (ed.) A Prime Minister Remembers (London 1961) 182. 118 JfC 23 Nov. 1945, p. 7. 119 Hansard HL CCXI 329. 163</page><page sequence="24">Cecil Bloom 'It would', he commented, 'be very unwise to break these solemn pledges and so set aflame the whole Middle East',120 conveniently forgetting Labour's solemn pledges to the Jewish people. Attlee's official biographer concluded that his failure to produce a solution to the Palestine problem was 'the worst entry on his record',121 a view with which it is difficult to quarrel. Labour's change of policy emanated from the very first days of Attlee's election victory. His original plan had been to make Bevin Chancellor of the Exchequer and Dalton Foreign Secretary, but he changed his mind at the last moment. Dalton's account is that Attlee told him just after the election victory that he (Dalton) would go to the Foreign Office, but that within four hours he was told he would be Chancellor. There has been much speculation on the reason for Attlee's change of mind (including the claim that King George VI and Churchill, as well as some senior civil servants and diplomats, may have influenced him), but he told Dalton some years later that it had been his own personal decision and that he made the switch because he wanted to separate Bevin and Morrison, who he feared would quarrel if both were involved in home affairs.122 Bevin's vehement dislike of Morrison, which was well known, had begun when Morrison had been Minister of Transport in MacDonald's 1929 government, and it became an important factor in the internal politics of the Labour Party. Their clash continued long after Mac Donald's government fell;123 but Attlee could still have sent Morrison to the Foreign Office, which is what he did when Bevin gave up the Foreign Office. Morrison, however, is not considered to have been a successful Foreign Sec? retary and since, according to Dalton, Attlee is on record as having said that had he won the 1951 election he would not have sent Morrison back to the Foreign Office,124 Attlee may well have had serious reservations about his suitability for this office in 1945. The likely conflict between Bevin and Mor? rison does not, however, explain why Morrison was given responsibilities for Palestine, such as his chairmanship of the Cabinet's Palestine Committee, when Bevin was Foreign Secretary. Dalton, who had been Foreign Under? secretary of State in the second Labour government and was chief Labour spokesman on Foreign Affairs in 1931-9, seemed to be the man with the right requirements for the Foreign Office. But Attlee's feeling that Morrison and Bevin had to be kept apart might account for his change of mind. Other possible factors are that Attlee was convinced by Whitehall diplomats that it was essential to have a Foreign Secretary whose commitment to Zionism was slender. Bevin was the only senior colleague who fitted this bill - hence the 120 Ovendale (see n. 89) 414. 121 Harris (n. 116) 399. 122 H. Dalton, The Fateful Years (London 1957) 468-9, 472-3. 123 F. Williams, Ernest Bevin (London 1952) 184-5. 124 B. Pimlott (ed.) The Political Diary of Hugh Dalton, 1918-40, 1945-60 (London 1986) 554. 164</page><page sequence="25">The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948 rapid change of strategy. It is of interest that shortly after he was made For? eign Secretary, Bevin told Attlee that 'according to my lads in the Office, we've got it wrong. We've got to think again'.125 Had Attlee's original choices stood, Dalton would not have lightly given up his deeply held pro-Zionist credentials, and he had the intellect to argue his policy. What this would have meant for a future State of Israel is an interesting speculation. Attlee has been accused of being motivated by anti-Semitic feelings, and Laski believed that this had indeed become a factor in British attitudes towards the Palestine issue, identifying Attlee as one who was particularly hostile to Israel.126 The man considered the most important British participant in the Palestin? ian saga was Ernest Bevin. At the beginning of his period as Foreign Secretary he told the House of Commons that he would stake his political future on solving the Palestine problem,127 but he has rather been judged by many historians primarily on the manner in which he dealt with the Cold War. When Bevin appointed Crossman as a member of the Anglo-American Com? mittee of Enquiry on Palestine, Crossman felt that Bevin had an open mind on the subject and was ready to accept advice,128 but he quickly found this not to be the case. Bevin may have been the most uncommitted of Attlee's senior colleagues towards Zionism, but in his trade union days he had shown some interest in and sympathy for the subject. He gave the Zionist movement some help over Passfield's White Paper and, soon after its publication, when the parliamentary seat in the Whitechapel constituency with thousands of Jewish voters became vacant, Labour, worried at its possible loss, tried to persuade Bevin to fight the seat on its behalf. Bevin's friendship with Dov Hos was well known and he showed a great deal of comradely interest in the progress of the working-class movement in Palestine. He declined the candid? acy because of his trade-union duties, but worked hard on behalf of the can? didate sponsored by his union. He became a critic of the White Paper and was largely influential in MacDonald's rejection of it.129 Ben-Gurion publicly paid tribute to Bevin for his work on the White Paper and unlike many others was reluctant to accept that Bevin was an anti-Semite.130 Bevin's interest in Palestine did not stop there, because some years later, in his 1937 presidential speech to the TUC, he showed some understanding of the problems faced by Palestinian Jews. He made no pronouncement on the merits or demerits of the Peel proposals to partition Palestine, but argued that the Labour move? ment would have to apply the test of whether it would contribute towards 125 Harris (see n. 116) 390. 126 Newman (see n. 58) 343. 127 Hansard HC CCCCXV 1934. 128 Crossman (see n. 79) 23. 129 A. Bullock, The Life and Times of Ernest Bevin (London i960) 1:456-7. no jyj pearlman (ed.) ?en Gurion Looks Back (London 1965) 71. i6s</page><page sequence="26">Cecil Bloom the ending for all time of the persecution of Jews. 'Would the fact that they were a state with Ambassadors at the various Chancelleries of the world assist them to a greater extent than the Mandate granted by the League?'131 He singled out Palestine as a colonial example of fair labour relations thanks to Jewish achievements in creating a national home.132 British Foreign Office policy in the Middle East had long been based on pro-Arab sentiments; it was more important to have friendly Arab countries than resettling Jewish survivors from Europe in Palestine. The conflict in India was another factor. Field Marshal Lord Wavell, Viceroy of India, was worried about the attitude of the 90,000,000 Muslims of India and began urging the new Government to retain the policy of the White Paper in order to prevent agitation.133 Briefs started to arrive on Bevin's desk from all parts of Whitehall - the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, the War Office and from Jerusalem and the Arab Office in Cairo - all with similar messages, namely that the key to Britain's future in the Middle East rested with the Arabs and that to pursue the declared aims of the Balfour Declaration would be highly inimical to British interests. This assessment would not have come as a surprise to Attlee and his Cabinet, since members of the Coalition Cab? inet would have been receiving many similar briefs throughout the War. Churchill understood Whitehall's thinking only too clearly. Shortly after Labour's victory he drafted a letter to Weizmann (which he did not send) to warn him that the Labour Party had 'lost its zeal', and he was planning also to advise Weizmann to try to have the Mandate transferred to the United States.134 Churchill knew that all the Defence Chiefs would be advising the new Government on the need to have troops in Palestine to defend the Suez Canal and that Britain's military position in the Middle East depended on Arab support. Bevin was quickly converted to traditional Foreign Office thinking. Soon after he became Foreign Secretary, a Cabinet subcommittee recommended that a small monthly quota of Jews should be allowed into Palestine even beyond the limits prescribed by the White Paper, but this policy was soon changed.135 He called a conference in September 1945 to determine the scope of Britain's strategic interests in the Middle East and it was from this that Bevin's policy towards Palestine began to be formulated. The conference was attended by all the key British diplomats associated with the Middle East area of operations and included the ambassadors from Bagh? dad, Cairo and Teheran, ministers from Beirut and Jeddah, the High Com? missioners of Palestine and Transjordan and representatives from the Middle 131 The Times 7 Sept. 1937, p. 6. 132 Bullock (see n. 129) 614. 133 M. J. Cohen, Palestine and the Great Powers, 1945-48 (Princeton 1982) 23. 134 M. Gilbert, Exile and Return (Philadelphia and New York 1978) 273. 135 E. Monroe, 'Mr Bevin's Arab Policy', St Antony's Papers XI(ii), Middle Eastern Affairs 23. 166</page><page sequence="27">The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948 East Office and the Middle East Supply Centre. The conclusion was that it was essential for British influence in the area to be maintained, from which it followed that protection of the Suez Canal and of Britain's naval bases in the area were vital if oil supplies were to be maintained.136 It was then a logical step to the development of a policy which ensured that Britain's relations with Arab States would not be harmed. From this viewpoint, any support for the Zionist cause which the Labour Party had so consistently espoused collapsed. Bevin was subjected to a battery of criticism for the way his policies were developing from Jews in America in particular, and some attacks were venom? ous. He deeply resented being compared by Jews to Hitler, and this made it more difficult for him to form cool judgements. As a former trade union boss he anyway found it difficult to accept opposition to his own strongly held views, and his anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish feelings increased. Morrison has claimed that Bevin was in full agreement with co-operating with Jews on building a national home until terrorism became a serious matter, but he was excessively annoyed when events showed that large sections of Jewry did not appreciate his idea of how their aims should be attained.137 Many observers have concluded that Bevin was anti-Semitic, but opinion is split on this. Weizmann's encounters with Bevin were said to be 'warm and friendly' in the early years of the War, but later became 'acrimonious and harsh'.138 Weiz mann described Bevin's first major parliamentary speech on Palestine as 'brutal, vulgar and anti-Semitic'.139 Morrison, on the other hand, wrote that he never was an anti-Semite 'in the sense of having a racial hatred',137 but Laski was certain he was an anti-Semite in a 'brutal way' and might have filled 'with victims of his angry fury the graves that Hitler had left empty by his defeat', because he hated Jews 'just as much as he hated communists'.140 Some of Bevin's most implacable opponents in his own Transport and Gen? eral Workers' Union were Jewish communists which may, at least partially, have conditioned his attitude towards Jews. Gladwyn Jebb, a Foreign Office diplomat who worked with Bevin, believed he was 'prejudiced against Jews, Catholics and the lower middle class'.140 Bevin indeed made a number of remarks tinged with anti-Semitism and reserved some of his bitterest words for American Jewry whose electoral strength he believed influenced US Gov? ernment policy towards Palestine. Shertok noted that his anger and fury against the US were 'unimaginable', although he conceded he was sincere.141 Harold Wilson was emphatic about Bevin's feelings, writing that 'it is not too 136 Ovendale (see n. 89) 411-3. 137 H. Morrison, Autobiography (London i960) 272. 138 V. Weizmann (see n. 102) 199. 139 W Papers xxii 72. 140 Krammick and Sheerman (see n. 61) 552. 141 Bullock (see n. 80) 178. 167</page><page sequence="28">Cecil Bloom strong a phrase to say that Ernie was anti-Semitic. In his policy for Palestine and the Middle East generally, he never accepted the conference commit? ments and election pledges of the Labour Party. Nor did he for a single moment suggest during the critical period that he paid any account whatso? ever of the Balfour Declaration. A contributory factor was his growing ennui with the whole subject.'142 These comments were a rare example of a senior Labour politician publicly referring to broken conference pledges (although Creech-Jones did so in Cabinet papers). Bevin's Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, Christopher Mayhew, had no doubt that Bevin detested Jews and reported that he had once declared Jews to be preachers of violence and war, which was only to be expected when people were brought up from the cradle on the Old Testament.143 A Labour MP, George Wigg, questioned the anti-Semitic label and excused Bevin, during the 'tragic months of 1946-7 when Foreign Office policy touched a Hitlerian low by blockading the Palestine coast against Jewish refu? gees', on the basis that he took his foreign policy from the Foreign Office.144 Attlee once defended Bevin in the House of Commons from accusations of anti-Semitism by saying that he had many good friends among Jews and that he had often been thanked for his services to their cause. He added that he had seen a paper in which Bevin had been listed with many other eminent people as one of the architects of Zionism and that he (Attlee) could not understand the vendetta against Bevin.145 It would be interesting to see the paper that he referred to, but perhaps Attlee was thinking of the Passfield White Paper affair, of Bevin's presidential speech to the TUC in 1937, or of his friendship with Hos. Creech-Jones has described Bevin a little differently from most others. He believed Bevin's frustrations and irritations over the problem of Palestine led him 'to make uncomplimentary and hurtful remarks about the Jews generally. These indiscretions were not confined only to the Jews, although it must be said that his prejudices were sharpened by aggressive Jewish attitudes, subterfuge and pressures in those post-war years, by the distortions of Jewish publicity and assertions of what appeared to him to be disproportionate claims.' Creech-Jones revealed that when the two of them discussed Palestine, Bevin 'invariably threw aside his prejudices and surmounted his human frailties'.146 These comments come, of course, from a man with a pro-Zionist record, at least until he became close to Bevin later in his career. 142 H. Wilson, The Making of a Prime Minister (London 1986) 125. 143 C. Mayhew, Time to Explain (London 1987) 119-20. 144 Lord Wigg, George Wigg (London 1972) 144. 145 Hansard HC CCCCLX 1058-9. 146 Cohen (see n. 133) 20. 168</page><page sequence="29">The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948 It has been argued that although Bevin was labelled a pro-Arab by virtu? ally all Jews, most Americans and many Englishmen, his was a policy that was never pro-Arab in Arab eyes, but pro-British and rooted in British inter? ests.135 This is too simple a view, however, for it is difficult to find critical statements from Bevin in the 1945-8 period about Palestinian Arabs. Bevin may at one time have shown some sympathy to the Zionist movement, but all his ire later was directed against Jews. Statements such as 'It is sometimes forgotten that the Arabs are in the world - because there is so much propa? ganda on the other side',147 are characteristic. He once declared in the House of Commons that 'we must remember the Arab side of the case', and pointed out (to loud cheers) that there were no Arab MPs, implying that the Jewish case was being disproportionately supported by Jewish MPs.148 There is no doubt that the activities of the Stern Gang and other terrorist groups influ? enced Bevin's thinking, weakened the position of pro-Zionists in the Govern? ment and caused especial bitterness. There was a feeling that many opponents had been victims of an over-facile approach from the Zionists.149 But Bevin could not have pursued his Middle East policy without Attlee's full support; both became convinced that Arab hostility had to be allayed, but Attlee was less outspoken and did not attract the odium heaped on his Foreign Secretary. Crossman was in no doubt about Attlee's and Bevin's intentions, believing that both had 'plotted to destroy the Jews in Palestine and then encouraged the Arabs to murder the lot'.150 Where were Labour backbenchers and rank-and-file Party members during the Bevin period? According to Crossman, many backbenchers were 'embar? rassed' by the Government's response to the Anglo-American Committee's findings and some did set up an informal group to monitor the situation. The External Affairs Committee of the NEC welcomed the Committee's report and urged its immediate adoption, but it was soon realized that Cabinet policy was not going to be modified through backbench pressure. Only a few MPs harassed the Government, which led to comments about the lack of protest. One correspondent in the Jewish Chronicle pointed to the failure of Labour Zionists to do anything positive to influence Government policy. 'Now that Jewish socialists have been betrayed as never before in Zionist history, one might have expected the Party and PZ to retire from politics in disillusion? ment. Instead . . . only six [Jewish Labour MPs] could be persuaded after desperate lobbying by PZ to venture the slightest opposition in Parliament.'151 There were, in fact, twenty-six Jewish Labour MPs, of whom three were 147 P. Weiler, Ernest Bevin (Manchester and New York 1993) 171. 148 Mayhew (see n. 143) 119. 149 J. Kimche, 'British Labor's Turnabout on Zionism', Commentary IV (1947) 512. 150 J. Morgan (ed.) The Backbench Diaries of Richard Grossman (London 1981) 326. m JC26 April 1946, p. 5. i6q</page><page sequence="30">Cecil Bloom members of the Government. A joint Board of Deputies of British Jews and English Zionist Federation campaign was organized in the constituencies, but even PZ was uncertain how to react. Rosette is on record as saying that the threat of electoral retaliation against the Party by PZ would have been 'irresponsible'.152 Maurice Orbach, a Jewish MP whose constituency had many Jewish voters, refused to criticize the Government. The Government had a large majority and could easily have enlisted support from the Opposi? tion benches, which partly explains the weakness of the Zionist lobby in Parliament. Even though the activities of the Irgun and the Stern Gang turned many away from Zionism, it is clear that very few in the higher reaches of the Labour Party were prepared to draw attention to all the broken and often reiterated pledges on Palestine. One must not conclude that all Labour backbench MPs had Zionist sym? pathies. Some, like Richard Stokes, MP for Ipswich, were vigorously anti Zionist, as were some trade union MPs, too. In January 1949, Attlee received a report from one of his junior ministers that many MPs resented those of their colleagues who 'put Zionism before socialism'.153 Bartley Crum, an American member on the Committee of Enquiry on Palestine, left an interest? ing vignette: Thomas Reid, a retired Ceylon civil servant and Labour MP from 1945 to 1955 appeared before the committee and responded to the com? ment that nothing could be more equivocal than the Labour Party's policy on Palestine by asserting that his Party's pledges had been highly overplayed. They had been hurried through conference without much discussion, and the average Party member had 'about as much knowledge of the Palestine prob? lem as I have for the moon. . . . Parties sometimes make promises that they do not carry out.'154 This comment speaks volumes for the cynicism of some politicians. To supporters of Zionism, the day on which Bevin announced the setting up of the Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry on Palestine, 13 November 1945, was an infamous day in the history of the Labour Party. As Weizmann wrote in his autobiography: 'If ever a political party had gone unequivocally on record with regard to a problem, it was the British Labour Party with regard to the Jewish National Home; within three months of assuming office, the British Labour Government repudiated the pledge so often and clearly - even vehemently - repeated to the Jewish people.' He added that this Gov? ernment now wanted the Jewish survivors of mass murder to stay on and 'contribute their talents towards rebuilding Germany so that the Germans 152 G. Alderman, The Jewish Community in British Politics (Oxford 1983) 199. 153 K. O. Morgan, Labour in Power (Oxford 1984) 217. 154 B. C. Crum, Behind the Silken Curtain (New York 1969) 51-2. It is of interest to note that Crossman made no reference to the Reid interrogation in his book Palestine Mission. 170</page><page sequence="31">The British Labour Party and Palestine, 1917-1948 might have another chance of destroying the last remnants of the Jewish people'.155 As Crossman has suggested, 'things may have been different had there been 20,000 Jewish voters in Bevin's constituency or in Morrison's [sic]\156 But the destiny of a Jewish national home in Palestine was not import? ant enough to cause electoral problems. Every senior Labour statesman had denounced Conservative policy, and a number, in particular Dalton, Mor? rison, Creech-Jones and Greenwood, had played a prominent role in the Zionist crusade, but all Labour's pledges, reiterated at conference after con? ference, were of no consequence when matched against perceived national interests. Only one, Aneurin Be van, who had never really been at the centre of the debate, contemplated resignation from the Government on this issue. Nevertheless, after the tragedies of the Holocaust, the final story of Palestine, which cast a huge blemish on the good name of Britain and the promises of Balfour, ended in humiliation for Britain and especially for Ernest Bevin and the Foreign Office. 155 C. Weizmann, Trial and Error (London 1949) 539-40. 156 Crossman (see n. 79) 61. i7i</page></plain_text>

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