20 MARCH 1942, Page 13


Sm,—In the first post-Munich debate, Sir Sidney Herbert limped into the House and attacked the Government with fiery indignation. The burden of his speech was this: " What have you done with the England I knew? " I was reminded of that when I read Lord Cranbome's speech in the House of Lords on the Struma ' tragedy. Though that speech will be some days past ere this letter reaches you, yet I trust that you will allow me to draw attention to it, for the issues it dealt with are eternal. "Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation," said Mr. Churchill on June t8th, 1940. That is why we have to face this question as Christians.

Lord Cranborne accused his critics of trying " to drive a wedge between the Administration [of Palestine] and the Government." Surely the Colonial Secretary will admit that Lord Davies and Lord Wedgwood are persons endowed with common intelligence. Nobody can drive a wedge between a voice and its echo. The seat of all power is Whitehall, and also of all responsibility Jerusalem is only the instrument. That 76o Jews were drowned in the Black Sea because the British Government refused them sanctuary was entirely the act of the Colonial Office. Lord Cranborne only seeks to ride off on a false issue when he speaks of wedge-drivers

There must be an inquiry into the acts of the Colonial Office. Some of these in recent months were illegal and it_ defiance of all good feeling. Let me give you one example. In 1939 the Colonial Office ordered the Abyssinian property in Jerusalem to be handed by force to the Italians. The Government of the day hats -` surrendered to blackmail "—to use Lord Cranborne's own histori, phrase. When that order was issued the ownership of the properties was being debated in the Law Courts. When the Administration tried by force to hand over the property, the Abyssinians resisted and there was a riot. Now the greatest of our Queens had placed the Abyssinians in Jerusalem under the protection of the Anglican Church. The Arch- bishop of Canterbury voiced the Christian conscience of the world. The friends of the Abyssinians came to their help. An action was raised in the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, and the Chief Justice issued a decree nisi against the Government. Lord Cranborne's predecessor challenged the Church and he found himself in .Fe dust. The impression left on me by Lord Cranborne's speech was that he too challenged the Church.

Nothing worthier of the late Government has been spoken than Lord Cranborne's peroration. He actually warned the noble Lords that " on our capacity to show wisdom and self restraint . . . may well depend the survival of free speech throughout the world." That, in plain words, means that whatever wrongs the Colonial Office may commit, however great the number of innocent Jews escaping from bloody persecution that may be drowned in Haifa or the Black Sea, yet if you draw the attention of the world to these tragedies you will be deprived of free speech. I do not think any member of the late Government ever exceeded that.

Let me make a practical suggestion which Lord Cranborne should be the first to welcome. It is that an inquiry by a competent legal authority be held as to the acts of the Colonial Office. There is the precedent of Amritsar. In a striking book, My Brother's Face, by Mukerji, there is this sentence about Amritsar: " I found that every peasant believed the English must go And why? Because, they said, the English had abandoned righteousness." What saved the situation then was a Commission of Inquiry presided over by Lord Hunter, a senator of the Court of Session, whose Report, with its subsequent policy, restored the trust of India in British righteousness. What we now need is to restore the faith of the world in British mercy. It is time another Scots judge inquired into those acts of the Colonial Office ny which nearly one thousand Jews have been drowned in these last two years. If we acquiesce in that we can no longer appeal in the name of a Christian civilisation.—I am, yours faithfully,