Page 4, 16th December 1949

16th December 1949
Page 4
Page 4, 16th December 1949 — Questions of the Week

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People: Hilton, Gollancz
Locations: Jerusalem, Moscow


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Questions of the Week

The Future Of The Holy Places

ml Michael de in Iliedogere

THE U.N. General Assembly's surprise decision to place Jerusalem and the outlying Holy Places tinder a Trusteeship Coun cil must surely be greeted even by those who appreciate most keenly the desirability of this solution with rather mixed feelings.

The Holy Father and. we imagine. all Catholics have prayed for the full protection of the Holy Places which. traditionally and historically. should be administered in such a way as to make this sacred religious spot cornpletely above and safe from any temporal stresses, quarrels and interests. Only the solution now agreed to by the United Nations can possibly effect this deepest demand of the whole world. The claims of both the Jews and the Arabs on the spot for the retaining of full sovereignty, plus promises of good behaviour. cannot for a moment he considered as suited to the supranational and supra-political status of the world's holy city par excellence, quite apart from the inadequacy of the protection thus presumed to be guaranteed. Nor are any of the compromise proposals really satisfactory since they all deny to these holy places the independent status which the conscience of the world so rightly requires.

Yet at the same time it is supremely unsatisfactory that this decision has been reached. at least as much because of the Assembly's general attitude of irresponsibility In facing the practical questions which face the world, as because of any conscientious insistence on the right solution in this particular problem. One cannot but see this vote as yet another lining-up of trouble-makers and busybodies against those who have the main influence and prestige in default of which there can be no settled order in the world. In part at least it is an Iron Curtain riposte to the usual anti-Soviet line-up, just as it pleases the smaller nations who like to see Britain and America put into a quandary.

Besides all this, it is useless to pretend that the Assembly's decision counts for very much when it is universally realised that there is no way of putting it into effective operation against the Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem.

The Legacy of Irresponsibility

The responsibilities in this tragic muddle go hack a very long way, and the safeguarding of the Holy Places should from the first have been considered as an absolutely vital matter in the whole policy towards the Jewish and Palestinian question. To imagine that it was possible to give way at every point to Zionist demands and actions, and at the end of it all to expect the Jews holding Jerusalem to submit tamely to the deprivation of the city which they have always regarded as their capital was supremely unrealistic.

And on the side of the United Nations itself, so irresponsibly initiated in the unrealistic fervour of victory days. there has never been any serious examination of the scope and limits of a world authority rest

ing on majority decisions and consequently involving the imposition of that authority on dissenting minorities which none the less hold themselves to be sovereign countries.

The avalanche of mistakes and even puerilities—as many of theta must seem to any experienced statesman or historian—is now falling about the world's ears, and this great supra-national and suprapolitical cause of the respect to be shown and protection to be afforded to the Places where Our Lord was born and suffered His passion and death has been allowed to become the traeic victim of all this irresponsibility.

As is so often the case when mistakes of this order are allowed to pile no man can point to any satisfactory solution.

The British and American plea for realism in this. as in other matters, is no more at bottom than a belated and somewhat undignified acknowledgment of the mistakes so enthusiastically agreed to in the past, and as such has no right to succeed. In any case it only cloaks an in• justice and an evasion of responsibility. The Assembly's decision can please no honest person in its origin and may well prove impracticable at this date.

So we all find ourselves coming a II it were full circle and awaiting in regard to this supremely international and sacred question the goodwill of the Jews, the most interested party and the one which above all should never have been allowed to he the judge in its own case. Nor. alas. is there any sort of assurance that the Jews in Palestine will bow to the world's demand.


IN science one often grasps bet ter the true nature of a substance or an organism by a concentrated study of some typical part or behaviour, even if these in themselves seem unimportant, than by generalised observations of the mass. One is reminded of this truth in reading a recent. very unassuming. book, called Military Attache in Moscow by Major-General Hilton

& Carter. 10s. 6d.).

General Hilton describes his very recent experiences in MoscoW as a diplomat hedged in by all kinds of restrictions on any foreigner in Russia's capital. But the General was both curious and courageous, and so he was determined to try to find out what he could about the ordinary life of the peonle in Moscow and round about, He was only able to go for the tamest drives and walks such as would hardly count as interesting evidence in any other country (including "Fascist " Spain). Even so he was dogged alt the time by sleuths, and the oddest traps were set him in order to put him at fault by Soviet law and to deter him from his importunate habits. Most revealing of all was the attitude of the officials when General Hilton stood up to them-an attitude which illustrated *with startling clearness that to the Soviet mind truth itself has absolutely no relevance whatever to policy and action, whether in dealing with even a diplomat or in concocting suDsequent publicity stories to support the Communist thesis that all foreigners are enemies and spies. All this may seem a long way from the recent Hungarian trials and the present Bulgarian ones; but in fact the two things are very closely related. The small and petty incidents of which General Hilton was made the victim betray as it were under a microscope and in this apparently unimportant and casual field a type of behaviour carried to its logical end of unutterable viciousness, cruelty and mendacity when the tyranny finds it necessary for selfpreservation to destroy even its loyalest servants.

The reading of this apparently unimportant book may well be more effective in destroying any possibly lingering illusions about Sovietdirected trials than many a much more pretentious work.


THE world's conscience is once

again indebted to Mr. Gollancz for a forthright denunciation in the columns of The Times of Amercian justice in re Eard to the German diplomatist, rnst von Weizsaecker, now serving a long term of imprisonment as a guilty instrument of Nazism.

Von Weizsaecker, it will be recalled, served for a period as German ambassador to the Vatican where he earned the respect of the highest Catholic dignitaries who pleaded for him at his trial. It always seemed to us highly unlikely that a person who had deserved such recommendations would prove on inquiry to have been guilty of the gross offences for which the conscience of the victorious nations, including Russia, demanded condign punishment.

In fact, he was pronounced not guilty of nine of the ten charges made against him; and the tenth of which he was found guilty deals with his failure to have made a sufficiently firm stand against the pre-war attack on Czechoslovakia. Now apart altogether from the technical question of formal guilt in this one instance (and another relating to Jews in France, despite the evidence of his protection of Jews everywhere else), are the Allies in a position to condemn to seven years of imprisonment a good German of whom it is clear that he actually did all he could in his responsible diplomatic position to oppose the evil as he saw it in his master's policy, even if in making this fine stand he failed on one or two occasions to maintain the standard he set himself ?

The world's conscience may well judge those who have clearly stood out as criminals by the accepted standards of civilised conduct, which are low enough everywhere. But is it not arrant hypocrisy for the world as it is today to presume to judge and condemn a man, placed in extremely difficult circumstances. whose motives and conduct in the vast majority of instances were in courageous defence of these standards—a line of conduct which many of those who presume to judge him might well in similar circumstances have failed to imitate ? SIN AND CRUELTY TO CHILDREN IT is sometimes said by foreigners who resent the British accusation of Continental people's unkindness to animals that the British, while so keen on kindness to animals, are notoriously unkind to children. And the argument is capped by making the point that Italy, for example, has no need of a society for the prevention of cruelty to children.

Such generalisations are not worth

great deal oven if it is true that there do exist people who will neglect and even be actively cruel to children while they will devote themselves heart and soul to the indulgence of a pet.

It may well be that a greater vigilance in this country brings to the courts a far greater percentage of cases of cruelty to children than is the case elsewhere.

However this may be, we cannot deny that the public is still regularly revolted by incredible cases where parents or guardians are found guilty of conduct that seems to :he ordinary citizen almost incompre hensible. And even if it is true that in many of these cases we are dealing with people of sub-normal morality, it still remains strange that this misfortune should so often express itself in this horrible way. No wonder then that Parliament should express itself unanimously in favour of an official inquiry into the extent of the evil and of how to prevent it. and that the Home Secretary should give obviously deeply sincere promises to pursue the matter in what he believes to be the quickest and most effective way.

But there is one caution that is worth giving. Our people still suffer from the delusion that great evil is always to be explained by sonic sort of mental deficiency or some social injustice. Very often, no doubt, these factors are allimportant. But it still remains true that a course of deliberately-willed and chosen self-indulgence and selfishness can in course of time harden the heart to such a degree as to make even cruelty to children possible. And this is particularly the case when all sense of the supernatural is lost and the person is without the aid — so much more widely spread in Latin countries—of that moment of self-examination which even the most mechanical practice of sacramental confession demands.

Let us not in this. as in other inquiries into gross evils, forget that plain, deliberate sin, as the result of habitual disregard of the very idea of the possibility of virtue, is also a very important factor in building up the whole picture.

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