No. 1345
The Director of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Henderson) to the Acting Secretary of State

Office Memorandum

If time permits I believe you will wish to note the attached memorandum prepared in the Division of Near Eastern Affairs relative to the probable attitude of the new Labor Government in England toward the Palestine question.

You will note that in 1939 many Labor members of Parliament, including several influential members of the present Cabinet, were strongly opposed to the White Paper on Palestine setting forth the Chamberlain Government’s policy on Palestine, which is still in force but which will presumably require some modification in the near future.

You will also note that while the Labor Party is definitely committed to a pro-Zionist policy, there is some question as to the extent to which it will find it feasible to put this policy into operation.

L[oy] W. H[enderson]


Subject: The Probable Attitude of the Labor Government of Great Britain With Respect to Palestine

The leaders of the Labor Party, the rank and file of Labor Party members of the House of Commons, and the powerful labor unions among which are found a considerable number of the members of the Labor Party have consistently given their support to the Balfour Declaration.1

In 1939 the Labor Members of the House of Commons voted overwhelmingly against the White Paper of 1939. In the debate on the White Paper2 Laborite members argued that with its restrictions on immigration and land transfers the White Paper was contrary to the terms of the Mandate3 and a repudiation by the Government of its promises to the Jews. Of the 179 members who voted against the White Paper of 1939, 137 were members of the Labor Party. Among [Page 1404] the outstanding Laborites who voted against the White Paper were the following:

Rt. Hon. C. R. Attlee Age 62; Deputy Prime Minister in Coalition Cabinet; Prime Minister, July, 1945.
Mr. H. Dalton President of Board of Trade since 1942; Minister of Economic Warfare 1940–42; Chancellor of the Exchequer, July, 1945.
Rt. Hon. A. Greenwood Deputy Leader and Acting Chairman, Labor Party since 1942; Lord Privy Seal, July, 1945.
Mr. J. Maxton Chairman of the Independent Labor Party, 1926–31, 1934–39.
Rt. Hon. H. Morrison Minister of Supplies, 1940; Lord President of the Council and Leader in Commons, July, 1945.
Mr. P. J. Noel-Baker Joint Parliamentary Secretary to Ministry of War Transport since 1942.
Rt. Hon. F. W. Pethick-Lawrence. Vice-Chairman of the Labor Party, 1944.
Mr. E. Shinwell Member of National Executive of the Labor Party.
Mr. G. Tomlinson Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Labor, 1941.

In the debate on the White Paper of 1939, significant remarks were made by three leading members of the present Labor Cabinet.

Mr. Attlee, now Prime Minister, raised the question as to whether the British Government has the right to do as it wishes with respect to Palestine irrespective of the League of Nations.

Sir Stafford Cripps, now President of the Board of Trade, stressed the inconsistent and conflicting nature of the promises made to the Arabs and the Jews. After describing the Palestine problem as essentially an economic one and mentioning the obligation on the British Government to make a very large economic contribution to the people of Palestine, particularly to the Arabs, in order to raise the standard of living of the Arab peasants, he referred to the obligation of the British Government to protect the Jewish population of Palestine. He proposed that a Jewish enclave be set up, temporarily, in which Jewish self-government be allowed to operate, while at the same time leaving Arab self-government to be developed in the rest [Page 1405] of Palestine during the temporary “period of partition”. Cripps was of the opinion that through economic development Arabs and Jews would learn to cooperate. He stated that “…4with a view to an independent Palestine, we must partition the country temporarily in order to safeguard the interests of the Jewish people”.

Mr. Herbert Morrison, now Lord President of the Council and Leader in Commons, declared that the White Paper was not in words or in spirit in harmony with the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate. He maintained that the British Government had no right to deliberately create a Jewish minority and that the Government should not be committed to a policy “as to which grave doubt exists as to its consistency with the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate”.

Mr. Morrison asserted that the Labor Party was friendly to the Arabs and regarded it as a duty of the Labor movement and of the British Government to raise “the economic, social and political status of the Arab masses in Palestine, Trans-Jordan and the other Arabian countries without in any way prejudicing the development of the Jewish National Home”.

Mr. Morrison said in part: “…4I think it ought to be known by the House that, this breach of faith, which we regret, this breach of British honour, with its policy, with which we have no sympathy, is such that the least that can be said is that the Government must not expect that this is going to be automatically binding upon their successors”.

Labor Party Resolution

In December, 1944 the Labor Party at its 43d annual conference adopted the following resolution with respect to Palestine:

“Here we have halted half way, irresolute between conflicting policies. But there is surely neither hope nor meaning in a ‘Jewish National Home’, unless we are prepared to let Jews, if they wish, 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, after the unspeakable atrocities of the cold and calculated German Nazi plan to kill all Jews in Europe. Here, too, in Palestine surely is a case, on human grounds and to promote a stable settlement, for transfer of population. Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out, as the Jews move in. Let them be compensated handsomely for their land and let their settlement elsewhere be carefully organised and generously financed. 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 reexamine also the possibility of extending the present Palestinian boundaries, by agreement with Egypt, Syria, or Trans-Jordan. [Page 1406] Moreover, we should seek to win the full sympathy and support both of the American and Russian Governments for the execution of this Palestinian policy.”

The Probable Attitude of the Labor Government

In the near future the Labor Government will be faced with important decisions with regard to Palestine. The remaining quota of Jewish immigrants will be exhausted within a few weeks. A situation will then arise which will probably oblige the Labor Government to reconsider the terms of the White Paper of 1939 with respect to immigration. Likewise, the Labor Government will be obliged to formulate its general policy towards the future status of Palestine under the United Nations Charter5 within a few months time.

With the assumption of responsibility for the British Empire, it does not seem likely that the Labor Government will attempt to implement the resolution passed at the 43d Annual Conference of the Labor Party of December, 1944. It does, however, appear likely that the Labor Government will modify or repeal the White Paper policy of 1939, especially with respect to Jewish immigration. The Labor Government may be expected to consult the governments of the Soviet Union and the United States before putting into execution a new policy with respect to the future status of Palestine.

W[illiam] Y[ale]

  1. Palestine: Statement of Policy (London, His Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1939; Cmd. 6019).
  2. Of November 2, 1917. Text in Foreign Relations, 1917, supp. 2, vol. i, p. 317, footnote 1.
  3. See Parliamentary Debates: House of Commons Official Report, 5th series, vol. 347, cols. 1937–2056, 2129–2190.
  4. For the text of the mandate of July 24, 1922, see Treaty Series No. 728; 44 Stat. (3) 2184; Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. ii, p. 213.
  5. Ellipsis in the original.
  6. Signed at San Francisco, June 26, 1945 (Treaty Series No. 993; 59 Stat. (2) 1031).