Doing his utmost to raise morale during that dark period, when, since France had fallen and America had not yet entered the conflict, Britain and its Commonwealth faced the Nazi barbarians alone, the good clergyman entitled his message “Sursum Corda” (“Lift Up Your Hearts”).
Mindful that Chanukah and Christmas coincided that year, he referred in his message to the “world of wonder and mystery, in which the threads of life are so closely interwoven that were it not for the Jewish festival there would never have been a Christian festival, for the one is the child of the other”.
Inexplicably, that passage never made it to Agron’s newspaper – it was cut by the Palestine Censor employed by the British government during the Second World War.
Dr Maclean also wrote: “it is totalitarians today who must be changed from instruments of torture and tyranny into men of goodwill ‘ere peace can come”. For some reason the Palestine Censor disapproved, and through that passage too went his blue pencil.
The Censor also struck this through: “the Angels did not proclaim peace to gangsters, robbers, and mass murderers”.
“Bethlehem will conquer Berchtesgaden. In that great hope Christians and Jews can rejoice together. The Jews no less than the Christians. For it is the Jews who have given the world a universal religion. They gave the world the priceless gift of monotheism that through Bethlehem has gone until the ends of the earth. It is no exaggeration to say that there is nobody in the world today for whom life is not different because of Jerusalem or Bethlehem.”That’s right. Blue-pencilled as well.
In fact, 61 lines of Dr Maclean’s 100-line text were deleted by the Palestine Censor, so that only 39 remained.
As Time and Tide (a British literary and current affairs journal of liberal bent, founded in 1920 by Lady Rhondda) indignantly noted when it broke the story at the beginning of 1942 – over a year after the event – that official even reworked the translation from the Latin “Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis” to excise the words “to men of goodwill”.
Time and Tide maintained that the Censor’s changes constituted a “British version of the Index Expurgatorius”.
And it concluded, not unreasonably:
“If any underlying idea can be traced in the Censor’s excisions, it seems to suppress the connection between Christianity and Judaism. This connection is asserted by all the Christian Churches, while the Nazis deny it by suppression and perversion of evidence. Is Bethlehem not to conquer Berchtesgaden?”Following Time and Tide’s exposure of the story, a leading article in the Manchester Guardian (as pro-Zionist as its egregious successor, the London-based Guardian, is anti- ) called for an explanation of the Censor’s “eccentricities”, adding:
“There seems to be no reason for the fantastic exercise except that the Palestine censorship must have wanted to hide the origins of Christianity in the Jewish race and religion. But why? The Colonial Office, which is the Ministry responsible to Parliament, should be made to explain.”On 10 March 1942, in the House of Lords, a Welsh peer and former Liberal MP, Baron Davies of Llandinam (pictured; 1880-1944), who took a keen interest in international affairs, made a stinging indictment of British policy in Palestine. He cited the Censor's behaviour (italicised passage, below) as yet another example of Britain's "policy of appeasement" towards the Arabs.
'I always imagined that when the war started the policy of appeasement was dead, but now I do not believe it is, at any rate so far as Palestine is concerned. It will be remembered that on the very first day of the war a Jewish Congress was sitting in Geneva and they dispatched Dr Weizmann post-haste to the Prime Minister, Mr [Neville] Chamberlain, in order to assure our Government that the manpower and the material resources of the Jews were at our disposal in carrying on this war. There were two ways in which Jewish man-power could have been used to assist our war effort – first of all, recruitment in Palestine itself, and secondly, recruitment of Jews from abroad. Unfortunately these offers have never been accepted and given effect to. I believe at the outset, when Mr Malcolm MacDonald was Colonial Secretary, he turned them down, and he of course, was one of the arch-appeasers, who was not only prepared to sacrifice other people in a policy of appeasement but even to make a present of our ports on the West coast of Ireland which has caused us intense embarrassment ever since.
After him came Lord Lloyd. He was always regarded as a friend of the Arabs, but he realized the importance of accepting with both hands the offers which had come from the Jewish Agency of help in order to prosecute the war. He, I believe, did away with the stupid regulation of parity between the Jews and the Arabs in the matter of recruitment. Up to that time, I believe, only a certain number of Jews were allowed to be recruited, and that number could not exceed the number of Arabs who volunteered. Another thing which he did was to abolish the distinction between the combatant and the non-combatant categories in which Jews could be enlisted. At the outset they were allowed only to enlist in the Pioneers, but subsequently they were also allowed to enlist in the combatant units of the British Army, and many of them did so. The third thing which he did was to agree, in principle at any rate, to the formation of a Jewish Division, which would be recruited overseas, recruited in what are now – but were not then – enemy-occupied countries and in South America and other places. This Division was to be prepared to fight anywhere – not only in the Middle East but in any theatre of war. Unfortunately, Lord Lloyd passed away, and as your Lordships are aware he was succeeded by my noble friend Lord Moyne, and, regrettably, this proposal for the Jewish Division, as he explained to us here a few weeks ago, did not come to fruition. It was postponed, and more or less rejected. Now, of course, all these Jews who could have been mobilized at that time in what are now enemy-occupied countries have become, in effect, slaves of Hitler, and they are entirely lost to us.
I cannot help feeling that we have been guilty of pouring cold water upon the enthusiasm of the Jews to assist us and to aid our cause. In fact, there has been a succession of snubs. First of all, as I have said, we insisted upon the stupid rule of parity of enlistment. Then we said the Jews must only enlist in Pioneer units – they must not be allowed to join combatant units. Then we refused to allow them to have their own badges, or to form distinctively Jewish units. I cannot understand why, because that concession has been made to the Druzes. Fifty thousand Druzes in Syria have been allowed to form a Druze Legion alongside the British Forces in Syria, and each of the allied nations gets credit for whatever it contributes to the common cause. If it could be done in the case of the Druzes, why not in the case of the Jews? Then, I believe, we have a Division in Egypt which has been recruited from the Senussi tribe. They are called the Senussi Division. May I ask why is it that the same privilege, or, at any rate, the same treatment, should not have been accorded to the Jews? After all, any person who is prepared to wear a badge knowing that if he is caught by the enemy he will be put up against a wall and shot simply because he is wearing that badge, shows an offensive spirit and also that he has taken his courage in both hands.
Lastly, we have never recognized, so far as I am aware, the services which Jews have already rendered on all fronts in the Middle East. If you go to their commanders you will hear lots of praise of the Jews, but when it comes to reporting it in the Press or to extending any official recognition, not a word has been said or published. And so I cannot help feeling that this is a stupid and a wrong policy....
I must apologize to the House for continuing for so long, but I wish to bring to the notice of your Lordships two more instances which illustrate the kind of atmosphere which has prevailed in Palestine, and the attitude of our Administration there. Twelve months ago – it took a long time before it was published in this country – Dr Norman Maclean, an ex-Moderator of the Church of Scotland and a King's Chaplain, chanced to be in Jerusalem. He was asked by the editor of the Palestine Post to write an article for publication in that paper because it so happened that the celebration of Christmas by the Christians and the celebration of the Jewish Feast of Lights coincided that year. He was invited, as I say, to send an article for publication in this newspaper. What was the result? The result was in the publication which I hold in my hand. When this article appeared, the Censor had got hold of it and out of 139 lines he had struck out 100 lines. If your Lordships will read the article you will find that there is not a single word about any political subject at all. It is simply an endeavour to put the case from the standpoint of the Christians and from the standpoint of the Jews. I cannot help feeling that it was not only an affront to the Jews but an affront also to the Christians that this article should be dealt with in the way that it was. I wonder whether the censor has been reprimanded. The whole thing has a Nazi smell about it, and I cannot help feeling that it does show the extraordinary way in which our Administration carries on affairs in Palestine.
There is a second instance to which I must draw the attention of the House, and which happened quite recently. Dr Weizmann, who, as your Lordships are aware, is the head of the Jewish Agency, sent a cable to Palestine on the occasion of a great recruiting campaign, in order to encourage people there to join not Jewish regiments but the British Army. He said: "My heartiest greetings to the Palestine Auxiliary Territorial Service at the outset of its recruiting campaign. I know how eagerly our women will welcome this opportunity to share with the ten thousand of their men already serving in defence of their lives, homes and of all that Palestine means to them. That was the message, but the censor refused to allow it to be published in the Jewish papers in Palestine. I cannot help wondering how we can ever hope to win this war if this is the way in which we treat our friends and their efforts to help us in fighting the enemy. It is a stupid policy. It brings us into contempt with the Arabs, and it brings us into disrepute with our friends".
Let me recall to you the view expressed by the present Prime Minister as recently as May, 1939. This is what he said: "To whom was the pledge of the Balfour Declaration made? It was not made to the Jews in Palestine, it was not made to those who were actually living in Palestine. It was made to World Jewry and in particular to the Zionist associations. It was in consequence, and on the basis, of this pledge that we received important help in the war, and that after the war we received from the Allied and Associated Powers the Mandate for Palestine. This pledge of a home of refuge, of an asylum, was not made to the Jews in Palestine but to the Jews outside Palestine, to that vast, unhappy mass of scattered, persecuted, wandering Jews whose intense, unchanging, unconquerable desire has been for a National Home.... It is not with the Jews in Palestine that we have now or at any future time to deal, but with World Jewry, with Jews all over the world." Does not that apply to these unfortunate refugees who sought refuge in Palestine, who journeyed there on the Patria and on the Struma, who were refused admission, and so many of whom were sent to their doom? I cannot help feeling, therefore, that this policy is not really the Prime Minister's policy; I cannot believe that he has joined the ranks of the appeasers.
I come now to another declaration, which was made in November of last year, when General Smuts said: "The case for the Balfour Declaration has become overwhelmingly stronger. Instead of the horror of new ghettos in the twentieth century, let us carry out the promise and open up the National Home. The case has become one not merely of promises and International Law, but for the conscience of mankind. We dare not fold our hands without insulting the human spirit itself." That, I think, goes to the root of the matter. This is not merely a question of expediency; this is really a moral question. Since Hitler has for years past made the Jews the target of his persecution and of his outbursts of hate, I feel that anyone who refuses to accept the challenge is playing a double-faced game and is injuring the cause for which we are fighting. I do not believe that there can be any neutrality in this matter, and I believe that the whole attitude of the administration in Palestine has been in complete contradiction of our declared war aims, the rescue from oppression of all the oppressed peoples of the world.
.... I am sure that we shall not make a real effort to win this war if we go on in this way, and indeed if we continue on these lines it is doubtful whether we shall win it. I ask myself whether we shall deserve to win it if we treat in this way people who are prepared to help us to the limit of their capacity, and who arc willing to pour out their blood and their treasure for our cause. I am not a pro-Jew or a pro-Arab, and I hope that most of us, at any rate, take that line and will welcome assistance from both Jews and Arabs. If the Arabs want to have their own Division and their own units, why cannot they have them, and why cannot the Jews have them as well?
I know that the Jews are not popular in this country, for reasons which we all know, at this moment, but I should like to point out that there are good Jews and bad Jews, just as there are good Christians and bad Christians. Although we see in the Law Courts every day "black-market" prosecutions, and so on, obviously the thing to do with people who are guilty of these offences is to put them up against a wall and shoot them, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. That would soon put a stop to this sort of thing. That, however, does not mean that the Jews in Palestine are of this type. They, as I have said, have helped us, and are helping us even now; they are exhorting their people to join our Forces and to fight against their arch enemies. I think that it is only reasonable, just, fair and wise, therefore, to give them every encouragement and ever recognition.'
Baron Wedgwood (pictured), that genuine and stalwart philosemite about whom I blogged in October ("We Who Have Urged Patience on the Jews..."), followed Davies in addressing the House, and was characteristically blunt and forthright in his condemnation of British policy:
'I think that the whole gist of the speech of my noble friend Lord Davies points to one self-evident truth, which is that the Administration in Palestine is anti-semitic. I think that all our troubles in connexion with that country have come from this constant anti-semitic bias of the Palestine Administration. The evidence of that anti-semitism has been given in the speech of my noble friend, and, in addition to the things which he mentioned, I should like to refer to certain other facts. I will quote as evidence the toleration shown by the Administration to the Arab side in the riots of four years ago, and the escape of El Fawzi and the Mufti from that country when the riots were suppressed and their capture could have been effected. Then there was the question of the imprisonment of those Jews who dared to drill. They attempted to drill with the rifles that had been issued to them. It was against the law. They were all sent to prison, with sentences which range up to seven years' imprisonment for merely drilling in order to learn how to defend themselves. Some of them are still in prison. That, I think, is evidence of anti-semitism.
Then there was the prohibition of the right to buy land in Palestine. You do not find any other part of the British Empire where a certain number of British citizens are denied the right to buy land, except in the Punjab where it is denied to the Hindus. I think they may buy land which was not previously owned by Moslems. But the Jews in their home land are refused permission to buy or lease land. Another piece of evidence was the case of the partition of Palestine. You will remember that the first partition included Galilee in the Jews' part of Palestine. The Administration there objected very strongly. A fresh Commission was appointed which acceded to their point of view that Galilee should be excluded from the Jewish area. In all these cases there may be two sides to the question, but I am merely citing them as evidence of the consistently anti-semitic attitude of the British Administration in Palestine.
I pass to the case which has just been referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Davies, the case of the Patria. The Patria had about 1,300 Jews on board. It got into Haifa harbour and they were not allowed to land—they were to be sent on to Mauritius. The Jews blew a hole in the bottom of the ship and those who managed to get ashore were allowed to land: the rest were drowned. The Patria case was a pretty bad one, but at any rate those Jews were allowed to go to Mauritius; they were not to be sent back to Hitler. But what I would draw your Lordships' attention to, because it is such evidence of anti-semitism, is the fact that [High Commissioner] Sir Harold MacMichael on that occasion went to the microphone and broadcast messages to the Jews in which he specially pointed out that even at the end of the war these people whom he was sending to Mauritius would not be allowed to land in Palestine. It was not necessary to say that at all: there was no reason for it; besides, who knows what will happen at the end of the war? It was simply that he wanted to show that he did not want these people to have a chance of feeling safe or coming to Palestine. I think it was a particularly brutal thing, when you remember that the sons and other relations of those people on the Patria were actually waiting on the shore ready to receive them.
Next I come to the consequences of the Patria, which everybody realizes, except the Administration there – the case of the Struma. The Struma was not allowed to get as far as Haifa, because after the Patria trouble the Government arranged with the Turkish Government not to allow ships to sail for Palestine. Therefore the Struma never reached Haifa and remained in the Bosporus. It remained there for three months – 760 people on a ship of 200 tons, with no food and no medical appliances. Nothing more nearly approaching the Black Hole of Calcutta can be imagined. Meanwhile the Colonial Office were pestered with telegrams from America and all over the world, begging them to allow these people to proceed to Palestine. I do not know who it was that refused, but, moved by some feeling of humanity, they said, "Oh well, if we must have any Jews, take the children between eleven and sixteen." I do not know whether that offer ever reached the Struma, but I can imagine that the parents of the Jews on board the Struma would not have accepted the offer – I doubt whether the children would. They could not take the little children, but they could take the children between eleven and sixteen.
Your Lordships know that when garrisons surrender they sometimes pick out by lot the people who will be shot: here the Palestine Administration were more humane, they picked out those who might be saved. But they were not saved. Whether they had the chance or not I do not know. They went back, or rather the ship went back – back to Hitler. You must remember what had happened to Jews in Rumania already. They had had thousands murdered. There were tales of people being roasted alive in bakers' ovens. Every atrocity and inhumanity had been perpetrated on that unfortunate people. The Rumanians are almost worse than Hitler. We sent the Jews back there. It is no wonder they did not go. But when the sinking did take place we got the final, beautiful comment of The Times correspondent in Palestine. I am told that this gentleman is a clergyman of the Church of England. This is what he said, as quoted from The Times: "It is not fully appreciated by outsiders, or even by the Jews, that Hitler's policy would be doubly served if Great Britain were jockeyed into the position of having to accept in Palestine any Jewish refugees forced out of countries under Hitler's rule, for this would reduce the number of Jews in those countries and would arouse disquiet among the Palestinian Arabs." That, I think, is typical of the frame of mind not only of this Times correspondent, but of the whole Palestine Administration, and it is on such evidence as that that I base my first charge that the Administration there is anti-semitic.
The argument that has been used to me, and I think is going to be used here this afternoon, is that it would have been dangerous to allow these refugees to come into Palestine because they might contain among their numbers some who were in Hitler's pay. That was said at the time of the sinking of the Patria. That is why most of the people who managed to swim ashore then are still interned, though some have been allowed out to do work of national importance. It has been the argument used in this country. It has been used by my noble friend Lord Croft [a right-wing peer who was Under-Secretary of State for War] – we ought not to allow refugees into this country because some of them might be in Hitler's pay. That is the argument on which we based the internment of all refugees a year and a half ago—some of them might be in Hitler's pay. There has never been a particle of evidence which would convince anybody that any of the refugees have been in Hitler's pay. It is manifestly improbable that Hitler would employ a Jew in any circumstances. It is ridiculous to suppose that even our own Intelligence system would employ in Germany a person who spoke German imperfectly. There is the further reason that the Jews have certainly more cause to hate Hitler than anybody else in this world. In Palestine you have the additional argument that Hitler can get Arab agents more easily and cheaply than anybody else.
That allegation regarding the Jews is a bare-faced excuse which supplies fresh evidence of anti-semitism on the part of people who admit quite openly, "We do not like Jews" What is the excuse given by the Colonial Office? I am sorry it will be given by my noble friend opposite [Colonial Secretary Viscount Cranborne, the prominent Tory politician who eventually succeeded as 5th Marquess of Salisbury]. The need to appease the Arabs! The Arabs have rebelled. They have never fought for us, and they never will fight for us. The probability is, if the Germans get there, they will fight against us. Hitler's propaganda continues to advertise and jeer at our weakness in Palestine. It keeps on telling the Arabs in Palestine that this is a Jewish war. Mussolini, I believe, avers that he is the protector of the Mahomedans, and indeed we have seen in Iraq how successful this propaganda was. The rebellion in Iraq was due principally, I believe, to the weakness we showed in Palestine – a weakness that indicated fear. Iraq rebelled, and we repressed the rebellion with the most perfect kid-glove diplomacy. Egypt will not fight. By this sort of appeasement we only give Orientals the impression that we fear them. Are we afraid of them? If we are afraid of them, arm the Jews, and then we shall not need to fear the Arabs. If we are not afraid of the Arabs, then we really ought not to continue conciliating our enemies at the expense of our friends.
The last example I shall give of this policy of appeasing our enemies and injuring our friends is the refusal of the Colonial Office to allow Home Guards to be formed in Palestine. It is four months since some of us went to see Lord Moyne on this question. We thought it was going to go all right, but nothing has been done. The danger has certainly become more obvious—danger not only from Germany, but also from Japan. Why has nothing been done? For the same reason - because we must not annoy the Arabs, because of this continual passion for appeasing at the expense, in this case, not merely of the Jews, but of our honour. If we abandoned the Jews in Palestine as we abandoned the unfortunate Chinese in Malaya and Hong Kong, we should blacken our history beyond repair. To refuse people the power to defend themselves, to refuse them the right to carry a rifle, own a rifle, and to drill when their most deadly enemy is on the borders, with a knife at their throats, is neither the act of a sane man nor of a gentleman. That is the crime we are committing in Palestine to-day. I have said that the real reason of all our troubles in Palestine is that the Administration does not like Jews. All other reasons they may give are excuses on the part of a pro-Arab, pro-Italian clique who are the enemies of this country and the abettors of Fascism.
What is the Secretary of State going to do about it? Is the policy going to change? We have had twenty-two years of this policy – this attempt to appease the Arabs, this continual bias against the Jews. Now we are in the middle of a desperate war fighting for our own lives. Cannot we, even now, revise that policy and provide ourselves with friends who can fight and die - friends who dare not surrender. If we had that support, our morale in this country would be better than it is. We might get as good an example from these people in Palestine as we are getting from the Russian morale. We are throwing it all away through a stupid prejudice carried to excess in Palestine and, believe me, my Lords, carried to excess in this country also.'