- The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 15 Apr 1948, p. 354-363
- Stewart, Dr. Herbert Leslie, Speaker
- Media Type
- Item Type
- The importance of the settlement of the Palestinian problem for us all. A discussion of the relation of Palestine to the project called The United Nations. What must happen to the UNO if it fails to solve this difficulty. The purpose of the UNO. The issue of the failures of the UNO and perhaps the need to redescribe its purpose. A succinct list of what the speaker is not going to talk about. One perfectly clear question to which the speaker is going to address: "That is, if UNO fails this time, how can it ever succeed, because this question [of Palestine] was one which we might have judged singularly suited to UNO's machinery." The sort of question with which the UNO might be expected to deal. A forgotten quotation from the Arab representative at the Conference of Versailles in 1919, indicating a deep sympathy with the Zionist Movement. "We will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home." Some words from T.E. Lawrence. The Palestinian problem of today as a heritage largely due to the weakness with which the Nazi enterprise was handled and a policy of acquiescence was tried. Conclusions of various Commissions. Partition. The principle of partition that was not satisfactory to either Jews or Arabs. Response by each. The proper attitude for the distinterested world authorities in these circumstances. Parables told for illustration of the problem. An analogy between the Arabs and Northeast Ulster and the Jewish Agency and the Irish Nationalist Party. The UNO learning some lessons from the situation of Eire and North Ulster with the British Empire. The upcoming departure of the Western Powers from Palestine. The resignation of the Mandate by Britain on May 15. What will happen on that day. Looking for a rescue from this situation over the next three weeks.
- Date of Original
- 15 Apr 1948
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- Full Text
PALESTINE AS A U. N. RESPONSIBILITY
AN ADDRESS By DR. HERBERT LESLIE STEWART M.A., Ph.D., F.R.S.C.
Chairman: The President, Tracy E. Lloyd
Thursday. April 15, 1918
REVEREND SIR, DISTINGUISHED GUESTS, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
The Empire Club of Canada is very glad indeed to welcome back as its guest of honour, Dr. Herbert Leslie Stewart, M.A., Ph.D., who is so well known to all of us as well as to all Canadians.
Our guest of honour is professor of philosophy at Dalhousie University, Halifax, and is a well known author and student of international affairs, and for many years was one of Canada's greatest radio commentators.
Our guest is an Ulster man and graduated with high academic honours from the Royal Academy, Belfast and Lincoln College, Oxford. Dr. Stewart has acted for the Dominion Government as investigator and conciliator in labour disputes and his articles and reviews on various questions of the day are outstanding in excellence. Our guest of honour is also Associate Editor on International Affairs of the National Home Monthly.
I am sure the members will be interested to know that this is our guest's fifth address to our Club.
I take pleasure in introducing to this audience Dr. Herbert Leslie Stewart, M.A., PhD., F.R.S.C., who will address us on the subject:
"Palestine as a United Nations Responsibility"
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen: It is a pleasure to me once again, as it has been repeatedly in the past, to come to address this particular audience on a topic of world affairs. One who addresses a great many audiences of varying interests and sometimes of interests that conflict with one another, may be permitted to indulge a certain preference for the audience to which he speaks on certain subjects. I particularly like to speak to this audience on a matter of Imperial concern. I like an audience on which I can depend that it shares some fundamental convictions of my own on a matter of grave moment.
Now, whether we use the word "Empire" or shy at that word, whether we think it is a word to be treasured with affection or one for which we should like to devise some substitute in a more colourless word such as "Commonwealth", they mean I think substantially the same thing. I doubt the propriety of disguising a purpose such as that.
I was just saying to one of my neighbours close to me at the table that Hardy in one of his novels presents a cynical old politician who remarks that "Few ideas are correct ones and what they are no one can tell, but with words we govern mankind."
Now, I am not depreciating the importance of a selection, a careful choice of words, but the fundamental thing is we should not disguise from one another what we mean and I reckon in speaking to this Association of yours I can reckon on an audience that shares my own conviction or the value for all mankind of the preservation of the British unit. (Applause.)
Now, I scarcely need to dwell upon the significance of this problem of Palestine in that connection. Anyone who reflects for a moment on how the Palestinian problem, as we know it, was pressed on the world's attention, anyone who thinks how deeply the fundamental value which we love to regard as especially British values are implied in the project of thirty years ago, anyone who recalls how vital is this British lifeline stretching through the Middle East to the interests of the whole Empire must realize that on the settlement of the Palestinian problem a great deal depends for us all.
Now, I am going to limit what I have to say to one aspect of a very complicated problem. There are many aspects, but the one I have in mind is the relation of Palestine to the project called The United Nations: what must happen to UNO if it fails to solve that difficulty? What difficulty can it solve if it fails before that one?
The purpose of UNO is very, very clear. At least it was until failure after failure has suggested to those who have failed that they might in some measure conceal their lack of success by re-describing what they had set out to do. But for the rest of us who are detached from any such purpose, those who souse have remarked have not the direction of things, but only the sufferance of them, there is no temptation to evade in any such way.
We recall that UNO was established for the purpose of securing the world against wars, and wars arise through quarrels between races, groups, nations. It is the function then of LINO to devise some method of assuaging these disputes, bringing the parties together. Now, if they can't do that in a case such as Palestine, in that small country, a little less than half the size of Nova Scotia, between races that, however, they may differ in certain respects have some fundamental agreement, how can it face big problems, such as Central Europe? Such as the Balkans? Such as the manifold issues that cluster around the settlement of a treaty with Germany?
Is it not then a melancholy spectacle to observe so many persons reaching no conclusions about the Palestinian question, except the simple one that it is very hard to say--there are so many things, they tell us, to be taken into account--if only Jews and Arabs would come together then it would be easy.
I can't see what would be the use under those circumstances of UNO. If problems would solve themselves there would be no need for the extremely self-conscious organization that has told us it can solve what would otherwise be a horror.
This cult of irresoluteness, this satisfaction with pointing out the difficulties, this inability to make up one's mind and carry it out, recalls to me a jest in Punch about how the sculptors have carved many a hero seated on a horse but up-to-date have never carved a hero seated on a fence.
When the United Nations Organization was first launched there was a certain cynical Editor of a London monthly who ran a series of articles, one of which was entitled "The Dumb Barton Oaks", the second, "Sham Francisco", and the third, "San Fiasco". You will have no difficulty in conjecturing the strain of those articles. Some of us hoped, myself among the number, it would turn out to be the exercise of a somewhat unseemly satiric mirth. I wished I had not been so hard pressed at least to bethink myself of an adequate answer to such an insinuation.
Now, for the sake of clearness, for the sake of saving you from confusion and myself from being diffuse, I am going to point out certain irrelevant matters which I shall carefully avoid in this discussion.
I am going into no question as to who owns Palestine in the sense of having been there first. I am not quite sure that having been there first should always constitute ownership. You may remember how Scott suggests the impropriety of suggesting that the ownership of the country belongs to that race which was there first, else Scotland might be said to properly belong to the first buccaneering pirates who occupied her coast. Besides, it is very difficult to tell who were the first inhabitants of any old country.
Nor shall I discuss which race was there for the longest period in predominant position.
Nor again whether there was a breach of treaty obligations, and who broke a treaty.
I have nothing to do with the questions of antiquary, the questions of the moralist who, with unsatisfactory degree of success has been trying to determine what constitutes essential ownership, nor with these international lawyers who will discuss any topic as long as it lasts. I am going to limit myself to one perfectly clear question; That is, if UNO fails this time, how can it ever succeed, because this question was one which we might have judged singularly suited to UNO's machinery. What sort of question might UNO be expected to deal with? A question surely on which there was fundamental agreement of purpose but unfortunate difference from time to time in respect to execution and of details. There is not much good in a conference of persons who want fundamentally conflicting things. They, as the Irish critics say, never come together except for the purpose of a row. Getting to know each other won't do any good. Sir Thomas A. Kempis once said, and he was by no means a cynic, "People tell me if you get to know people you will get to like them and admire them. Alas, Alas! I have found the better some people are known the less can they be esteemed. The chance of getting along with them is not to know them too well."
Now, I want to point out to you that here we had an agreed principle, for from the beginning the Balfour Declaration might be described as substantially an agreed policy among the nations that won the first World War. Moreover, it was by no means offensive to the Arab world of 1919.
Now, I want to quote new evidence for that which has been too much forgotten. Here are the verv words of the Arab representative at the Conference of Versailles in 1919: "We Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy upon the Zionist Movement. Our deputation here in Paris is fully acquainted with the proposals submitted yesterday by the Zionist organization to the Peace Conference, and we regard them as moderate and proper. We will do our best in so far as we are concerned to help them through. We will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home."
That was the official Arab statement. It is very much forgotten. Just as it is so easily forgotten that Colonel T. E. Lawrence who was nearly always quoted when this matter was discussed was himself a Zionist. How many times have I told my correspondents who write to me that T. E. Lawrence felt so deeply that the Arabs had been wrong, as to refuse to have anything more to do with the Government that had honoured the pledges given through him. Let me quote one sentence, sufficient to dispose of that, from T. E. Lawrence's own writings, "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom", page 176, footnote--if anyone will take pains to look it up: "In my opinion", he said, "the promises to the Arabs have been fulfilled both in the spirit and in the letter, wherever humanly possible."
Now, the project thus launched with general approval and sympathy wonderfully for a number of years. The cities and towns began to grow up in what was previously an Arab waste in Palestine. Wholesome, healthy places of residence took the place of malaria swamps. Roads, water power, electrical devices, scientific agriculture--all were the products of the enterprise, the skill, the talents, the efforts of those who came in response to the Balfour Declaration, the Jewish settlers who came back to the Holy Land.
I do not for a moment question the statement that from time to time there were grievances and that there were disputes in which there was from time to time an element of truth and honesty and importance on both sides, but on the whole it was a situation which, if any, should have lent itself to the adjustment of that disinterested body first called the League of Nations, and afterward the United Nations.
The Hebrew University at Mount Horeb was a sample of the progress to which the Holy Land was destined under the new enterprising regime.
The rise of the Nazis to power, the rise of Adolf Hitler, the anti-Semitic campaign which he inaugurated, made a vast difference. It created a spirit of insurgence in those who would previously have acquiesced, encouraged the purveyors of a gospel of disorder to run a risk they would never otherwise have run.
Thus I regard the Palestinian problem of today as a heritage largely due to the weakness with which that Nazi enterprise was handled and a policy of acquiescence, deplorably unwise, was tried.
Now, there were successive Commissions that investigated what should be done, and those Commissions reached various conclusions. Finally, the conclusion that on the whole the wise thing to do was to partition the country.
That principle of partition, that method of partition was not satisfactory to either Jews or Arabs. That in itself was rather suggestive that it might be right. And solution of a long vexed problem which is perfectly satisfactory to one side deserves to be suspected of being inadequate.
The attitude of the Jews on the matter was to this effect: We are disappointed. It is nothing like what we were promised. But events have changed the situation since the Balfour Declaration was made. It is a decision of the United Nations. We accept it and we will do our best to carry it out.
The attitude of the other party was: We shall sacrifice every life man, woman and child, before we submit to it.
Now, what was the proper attitude for the disinterested world authorities in those circumstances? What is the proper attitude toward the disputants, one of whom is prepared to make concessions, and the other of whom relies on threats, on violence, on outrage?
Well, one thing to do, and perhaps the easiest thing to do, is to bully the party that will be most submissive to be bullied.
I recall an interesting anecdote which comes from one of Carlyle's papers, that describes how in the same town there were two shoemakers. One was called MacPashorn, and the other was Sparable. Sparable made good shoes, genuine shoes that would stick to you in a difficulty in the middle of the street. The other used a good deal of paper and was given to ardent spirits, but he had a wife and ten children and the community reflecting on their respective necessities, decided that MacPashorn, though a bad shoemaker, had got to be supported against Sparable who didn't need it so badly, so they withdrew custom from Sparable, and gave it to MacPashorn. That meant that he drank more expensive refreshments and in larger quantity. Not being solvable he was not saved, and now Sparable was drinking, too.
Therefore, you have a parable. The acquiescent Jewish Agency, observing that the way to succeed is to be violent, has developed, I am sorry to say, some suggestion of fulfillment of the motto, the melancholy motto of Oscar Wilde, "Nothing succeeds like excess."
Now, there is another parable that occurs to me which I think has the suggestiveness of Lord Northcliffe who has a keen eye for a situation. He had been to Palestine a very few years after the Balfour Declaration began to be put into force and he came back with the suggestion, "It seems to me the proper, description in Palestine is another Ireland."
If you think that over and reflect on how you might for the Arabs remember Northeast Ulster; for the Jewish Agency, the Irish Nationalist Party; and for the Arab Holy War recall the Ulster Covenant--you have symbols fairly close to suggest what is taking place. And I am bound to say I think you must go on to make some further comparison, and say of the Irgunists and Stern Gang, in Ireland they had the Sinn Feiners-the movement of that physical force party in 'Ireland which exulted in the discomfiture of the constitutional movement and appealed only to force.
Now, can't the United Nations Organization take some lesson from that melancholy experience which no one who lives in the British Empire can regard with any satisfaction or pridethe establishment of Eire and North Ulster--not united, but from time to time asking, at least suggesting union with each other, but a union which I fear would be like the one described by Paul Sebastion, as not so much an embrace as a grapple, and neither venturing for a moment to let go their hold.
Can't we do something better than that?
Now, I am speaking to you within about three weeks of the departure of the Western Powers, the forces of Western Civilization from Palestine. On May 15th the Mandate comes to an end. The resignation of the Mandate by Britain, which was accepted, becomes effective. From what we have been told in the press of the last couple of days, on that (late there will be, respectively, the proclamation of an independent Jewish State, of which a head of the Government and a Cabinet of twelve have already been chosen, and on the other side, a Provisional Government established by the Arabs.
The picture is one which I would leave to your imagination to develop further.
Does that have to happen? Is there no remedy? Well, if there is none, then the United Nations Organization has become incomparably less efficient in action, appears incomparably feebler than that League of Nations about which the depreciatory terms that we used are always recalled with apologies to those who did much better in the previous venture.
As things stand such is the outlook and prospect, but I cannot believe it is going to be left that way. I can't say how it is going to be remedied. The inference I wish to present to you with all the force I can today is that everything depends for the future of UNO upon its showing it has power to deal with just such a case as the Palestinian case. All the materials favouring the machinery of such an Organization of UNO were present. The advantages were all on its side. It was a small area. It was an area very well known. The features, the conditions of the case were familiar. If there was the will to apply the machinery of the United Nations Organization it was simple indeed to solve it.
We shall look forward with despair, I think, necessarily reasonable despair on what will happen in Central Europe, what will happen in the disputes with the Soviet Union, what will happen in that vast antagonism which is growing up between the Western United States, on the one side, the United Powers on the one side, and the Soviet Union and its satellites on the other, if this relatively slight and manageable question, where one side at least is perfectly ready for conciliation, for concession, for compromise, if the United Nations are so, either weak or so much more concerned for manoeuvres of one power against another in some other area, as to leave things to drift along until we have an inter-racial war which may rise to dimensions of any size, beginning from the 16th of May next.
I can't believe, I won't believe until I must, that there will not be achieved in the intervening three weeks, that there will not be achieved some rescue from this appalling situation, that we shall have to contemplate in helpless distress the scene that would necessarily ensue, using only the words of the old Hebrew lamentation, "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?" (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I shall ask Mr. Gelber to thank our speaker.
Mr. GELBER: Mr. Chairman, Dr. Stewart, Distinguished Guests, Members of The Empire Club. On this issue of Palestine the Government and the people of Canada have made a significant contribution as a member of the United Nations. I am sure on this issue and other issues where the moral voice of Canada can be, and is heard, we have a great debt to those men of independent spirit who speak on this and other issues. We value the contribution which Dr. Stewart has made to the discussion of these great public issues in this country and I am sure I am speaking on behalf of every one here when I say how delighted we are that he came here today to give us this very distinguished address. (Applause.)