Monday, January 7, 2013

The Jeffries-Dugdale Exchange 2

Jeffries wasted no time in responding to Baffy's letter of July 3. The following appeared in the July 10, 1936 issue of The Spectator:

"SIR,-Mrs Dugdale, in your issue of last week, says that she doubts whether I am doing the best service to the cause of peace when I 'encourage Palestinians to consider their racial problems in terms of 'majority' and 'minority' rights.' Firstly, I do not encourage Palestinians. I encourage Arabs. The use of the word Palestinian is prejudicial because it assumes that there is a genuine nation established in the Holy Land, to be distinguished by this adjective from the Arab race which surrounds it. This is not so. 

"Secondly, I am not encouraging the Arabs to consider, after any fashion whatsoever, a racial problem of theirs. Here again is a false assumption, but a much graver one. There is no racial problem in Palestine inherited by its inhabitants. We have created one by importing the Zionists. It is bad enough that we should be guilty of the wilful introduction of a problem into the Arabs' land, but that we should go on to describe it as 'their racial problem' passes all bounds.

"Thirdly, it is very significant that Mrs Dugdale, when dealing with Palestine, puts into inverted commas the words 'majority' and 'minority.' I did not employ them and the text does not call for them. Mrs Dugdale, however, inserts them because by those who support our present policy majority cannot be given its plain sense in Palestine. Yet, if one looks into it, the long democratic struggle for free institutions comes to little else than the removal of inverted commas from the words 'majority' and 'minority' and the establishment of each as a practical body, the former enjoying its privileges, the latter its safeguards.

"Today in Palestine, alone in the world, this is reversed. The minority has the privilege, the majority the safeguards. But now, indeed, is a reason for inverted commas: the 'safeguards' of the majority in the Mandate are worded deliberately so that they cannot be accurately defined and enforced. 

"In the space of a letter I am not able to answer in full all the issues raised by Mrs Dugdale. The Arabs have been able to give utterance to their grievances, but they never have been listened to. Their perfectly founded appeals against the legitimacy of the 'Balfour Declaration' have been met by mere unproved denials from successive Colonial Secretaries. Mr Winston Churchill, Mr J.H. Thomas, Mr Ormsby-Gore and others, after acting as the witness for the Crown, have then returned to the bench and given judgements in their own favour. On the one occasion upon which it was possible to bring the acts of the Colonial Office before a neutral court of justice, in the matter of the Mavrommatis concessions, the verdict was given by the Court of the Hague against the pretensions of the then Colonial secretary.*

"Economic pleas are irrelevant. The death of British soldiers in Palestine is due to the insistence of Whitehall that the country is one where there are no political issues and that economic issues stand in their place.

"Nor is there any Jewish right in Palestine. The historic claim mentioned by Mrs Dugdale is not so much historic as prehistoric. If we are to engage in extravagant reconstitutions of the world of two thousand years ago, let us instal these enforced pageants amid our own people. I am sorry for the Jews driven from their homes by the tyranny of the Nazis, but we must not impose them on Palestine and try to cure tyranny with tyranny. Let us find room for them in our own Empire, not add to our reputation for hypocrisy by giving them a warm welcome to the shores of another people.-I am, dear Sir, yours faithfully, J.M.N. Jeffries The Bath Club, W.1."

So much sense - but to so little avail. Typically, in exchanges of this kind with those suffering from indelible ideological blindness, Baffy shot back in the following issue (July 17), skirting the substantial matters raised by Jeffries - the deliberate subordination of the rights of an indigenous majority to the dubious claims of an imported minority; the absurdity of attempting to remake the world in accord with ancient tribal mythologies and traditions; and the blatant hypocrisy of European powers palming off European problems on non-European peoples:

"SIR,-Mr Jeffries objects to the use of the term 'Palestinian' because he thinks that it 'assumes that there is a genuine nation established in the Holy Land to be distinguished by this adjective (sic) from the Arab race which surrounds it.' He is evidently not aware that the word 'Palestinian' applies to all persons who were born in Palestine, or who, by fulfilling the necessary legal conditions, have become domiciled in the country, and are therefore entitled to receive a Palestinian Passport. The bulk of these people are Arabs and Jews, and it is in respect of them that I deplore Mr Jeffries' allusions to majorities and minorities, because it is they who must find means of living in peace, side by side, and the gateway to peace is not through numerical calculations.

"Mr Jeffries excuses himself, on grounds of space, from any full reply to my last letter, but he selects from it one question - namely, on what occasions have the Arabs been 'side-tracked' or 'unheard'? In this context he quotes the decisions of the International Court of Justice at the Hague in the matter of the 'Mavrommatis Concessions.' This was a case involving a pure question of law, which turned on the question of whether, under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne, certain Concessions granted to a Greek by the Sublime Porte before the War still remained valid. The Concessions were for supplying electricity to Jerusalem and to Jaffa. In the first case the verdict was in favour of M. Mavrommatis, in the other against him. But in neither case were Arab rights or interests in the slightest degree involved.

"I cannot congratulate Mr Jeffries on this choice of an illustration to support his theory that the British Government is deaf to Arab grievances. His general accusations against Mr Winston Churchill, Mr J.H. Thoms and Mr Ormsby-Gore would require to be formulated before he could hope to make them impressive.-I am, Sir, yours obediently, 1 Roland Gardens, S.W.7. BLANCHE E.C. DUGDALE."

[*In Palestine: The Reality (1939), Jeffries writes of the Mavrommatis case: "[T]he one real trial, on the rights and wrongs of the case, was that of 1925, and at that trial, the Court of International Justice of The Hague unanimously declared that the British Government had violated its obligations in Palestine by the creation of the monopoly [over industrial projects in Palestine: MERC] which it had granted to the Zionists." He elaborates on the ruling's significance thus: "Who can doubt that if it were possible to cite the incriminated series of Governments for the rest of their deeds in Palestine, as for this one, before the same tribunal, a like verdict would be attained. I draw attention again to the quiet statement of the Hague Court, interpolated in its solitary judgment, that in 1921 'the document entitled 'Mandate for Palestine' was not yet in force.' What caustic appreciation lies in that term 'The document entitled 'Mandate for Palestine'.' It was under the document entitled 'Mandate for Palestine' that between 1920 and 1923 the expropriation of the Arabs, like so may Mavrommatises, from the proprietorial rights granted to them by nature and by contract was thoroughly begun." (pp 594-595)]

The 3rd and final round next...

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