202 Mr S. M. Bruce, High Commissioner in London, to Mr R. G. Menzies, Prime Minister

Cablegram 1023 LONDON, 20 November 1940, 5.40 p.m.


PALESTINE. The United Kingdom Government's statement of policy in May, 1939, set a definite limit of 84,000 to further Jewish emigration except with Arab consent. This policy was reaffirmed in March of this year after considerable discussion in War Cabinet, certain members of which-in particular, Winston Churchill-very sympathetic towards the Jews.

Zionists have never accepted this position and attempted to break the policy down by organizing transport from central European countries of considerable numbers of Jews of all ages and both sexes in unseaworthy vessels to the shores of Palestine, where attempts were made to disembark passengers in small boats under cover of darkness. Owing to difficulties of interception at night Palestine Government took the power to seize vessels which were brought into Haifa, the captains and crews being sentenced to long terms of imprisonment and ships confiscated. The Jewish passengers, however, had to be released, but this was met by deducting their numbers from the next six months' quota.

This procedure had a deterrent effect, but problem has again become acute and has assumed a serious aspect. There is evidence that the Axis Powers are behind the recrudescence, their object being to arouse the Arab world against the United Kingdom and to introduce enemy agents into Palestine and the Middle East.

So gravely does the Secretary of State for the Colonies [1] regard the danger of inflaming the Arabs that he has induced the War Cabinet to agree to the deportation to Mauritius of the two shiploads already arrived at Haifa with 1,800 Jews, where they will be interned for the period of the war. Another ship with a further 1,800 Jews is now approaching the coast of Palestine. The Secretary of State for the Colonies is determined to prevent their landing, but is in difficulty as to where to send them as the possibilities of Mauritius are exhausted and shipping is not available to take them to West Indies, the only other place with which the Secretary of State for the Colonies might be able to make necessary arrangements. The Secretary of State for the Colonies is convinced that if he can deport and intern the 1,800 now in sight, plus possibly another shipload-3,500 in all-in addition to those sent to Mauritius, he would stamp these attempts out.

Being very worried as to serious effect on Arabs if this illicit emigration cannot be stopped and knowing that I had strong views in regard to the danger of arousing the Arab world against us, he approached me in the first instance to enlist my support behind him with the War Cabinet of whose attitude he was a little apprehensive owing to pro-Jew tendencies of some of its Members.

In the course of my discussions with him he asked me what I thought would be the reaction of the Commonwealth Government if an approach were made with a view to Australia agreeing to take up to say 3,500 of these illicit Jews and interning them for the period of the war, of course on the understanding that the United Kingdom Government would bear whole of costs and specifically undertake to re-export them out of Australia on termination of hostilities.

I told him that it would be asking a great deal as in addition to the obvious political difficulties, you would probably have to pass special legislation to take power to intern them, they not being enemy aliens.

The upshot of our discussions was that I undertook to put the whole position to you and get your reactions. I made clear to him that I was only doing this because I was apprehensive that there was not a sufficient realization in the minds of some of the members of the War Cabinet of the danger of inflaming the Arab world and if some way of handling the position was not found the War Cabinet might allow the illicit Jews into Palestine with results upon the Arab world that are unpleasant to contemplate.

Please let me have your reactions as soon as possible.

Personal and self only. Is not this perhaps sort of question that ought to be considered by your Advisory War Council.


1 Lord Lloyd.

[AA:A981, PALESTINE 8, vi]