D. V. Duff Discusses Some Solutions
Palestine Picture, By Douglas Dull. (Hodder and Stoughton. 12s. 6d.) Reviewed by J. M. N. JEFFRIES
Mr. Duff served in the Palestine police till four years ago. He was the officer who, on the Day of Atonement in 1928, removed the screen which had been introduced at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem by the Jews holding their -annual service. This led to one of the better known of the outbreaks which have distinguished Palestine during the last decade. in what he did Mr. Duff was acting under orders, and his part in this affair only deserves to be singled out because it is a proof of his very intimate connection with the troubles of that land, and in consequence of his close knowledge of them at a crucial period.
A few months ago Mr. Duff, an unattached civilian now, went back to Palestine on a business-trip. In this book he has recorded what he saw and heard on this occasion.
Mr. Duff, it will be clear, was in an ideal situation to see and to hear. Very many of his old friends were still serving in Palestine and he was well remembered throughout the country. He had therefore an official's access to information and
an ,uInofficial ability to make use of it—the rarest and most valuable of all combinations.
The book which has resulted from this enviable status is really two books in one. It is composed of a non-political guidebook, and of a book of political impres sions and judgments. The former is splendidly done, being particularly rich in what " dryasdusts" call the "identification of Bible-sites." But Mr. Duff makes the scenes of the Bible and of other epochs live again on their sites in a way which scholars cannot achieve. Anyone who intends to visit Palestine of all ages and not merely of to-day should take this book with him. I should add that it contains some wonderful stories drawn from the author's experience, such as that of the officer who, during Allenby's campaign, one evening was reading his Bible, the first book of Samuel. In a passage he recognised suddenly the peculiarities of the countryside which he and his men had before their eyes. There were certain identifiable rocks there. He read the account of how Jonathan had attacked and outmanoeuvred the Philistines on the very spot. He based his own attack at dawn next day on Jonathan's plan, and he met with the same success in the same manner over the Turks that Jonathan had met over the Philistines!
Then there is the story of the skeleton of the Crusader, found not long ago, still clutching a great reliquary he had abstracted from Saracen search. There is not so much the story as the revelation of the condition of the Holy Sepulchre Church. Badly damaged in the earthquake of 1927, this is in a state of increasing disrepair, and, incredible as it seems, it is the divisions of Christendom which prevent an appeal being made to save a building which should be dear to every believing man.
* * * * The pages which chronicle this fact are the most important in the whole volume. But there is another kind of importance attached to the political section of it, which Mr. Duff treats in his own way. He quotes at every point the untouched conversation oS Arabs, Jews, British and Arab police, soldiers and officers, priests and layfolk of all races, with whom be has discussed the Palestine question. All these sidelights, taken together, illumine the subject clear as the sun. The reader will be startled probably to learn how desperate is the situation. It is very difficult to see how it can be remedied. The present Royal Commission, I very much fear, is but curing a headache with a piece of plaster on the forehead.
This is a review of Mr. Duff's book, not a political disquisition, but, in addition, I shall venture to say this. The author puts forward a cantonization proposal. Most of those who have served in Palestine put forward cantonization proposals for a noteworthy reason. Their proposals are the product of practical experience, and practical experience will always run to rule of thumb solutions.
I do not believe in cantonization overmuch, though. It is too practical. Some day we shall realise that when we have to deal with people of a theoretical bent of mind, such as the Arabs, we must give them theoretically-based solutions. If we were confronted with two populations long established in Palestine, having warring tendencies, we might segregate them in Jewish and Arab cantons. But we are not so confronted. Of the 350.000 to 375,000 Zionists there 270,000 have been brought into the country by main force against the will of its inhabitants, and it was we who arranged and assured their entrance. For us to cantonize these people upon a level with the inhabitants is morally intolerable.
The only way out of the dilemma is an ex gratia act by the Arabs, preceded by a recantation of policy by ourselves. I do not see that we can ask the Arabs to be generous till we have first acknowledged publicly our own perfidy, that is to say till the perfidy of Lord Balfour and of other statesmen has been acknowledged.