Monday, March 30, 2020

The Irgun and MP John Platts-Mills

Moshe Phillips drew my attention to this item which appeared recently in the Camden Journal:
A READER’S email from Mireille Burton about a famous barrister, John Platts-Mills, sent me diving backwards into my memory – and the very first public meeting I attended in my life as a 16-year-old in Manchester.

It was a protest against the government’s policy in 1947 to hunt down the Jewish independence movement in Palestine led by a group called Irgun Zwei Leumi proscribed by Britain as “terrorists”.

On the platform in the small hall were two main speakers – a fiery Methodist minister, Amphlett Micklewright, who would bend at the knee and cry “Chuck it Bevin”, a sharp reference to the foreign minister Ernest Bevin; and the tall, elegant, handsome Labour MP John Platts-Mills, member for Finsbury, who also attacked Bevin and the prime minister, Clement Attlee.

That night John Platts-Mills became my hero. 
As for Micklewright, his memoir is here. He was an Anglican from 1935 then Unitarian in 1941, rejoined the Church of England in 1949 and became Roman Catholic Church in 1974. He has been described as a liberal and a humanist.

Platts-Mills 



is another story.

He was what I would call a hard-left politician from this obituary. Even pro-Soviet according to this  
he was a member of the Society for Cultural Relations with the USSR (SCR), a Labour party proscribed organisation. He also had close links with members of the International Brigade, the People's Convention and the Popular Front movement. It is possible that, during their association in the latter campaign, Cripps learned of his sympathies. Platts-Mills had also enlisted to fight in Spain, but was refused because he was married with a child. Equally he had been prominent during the 1930s in prosecuting cases against fascists and defending their Communist opponents following street fights, activities that had brought him to the attention of the League of Socialist Lawyers.
It seems his motivation to speak out on behalf of the Irgun was less a full understanding of what the Irgun was fighting for but more on viewing Bevin as bigoted, anti Semitic, and  horrible and Platts-Mills fundamental desire to end British colonialism.  

He was also involved in a number of international inquiry committees including the  International Commission of Inquiry into Israeli Crimes Against the Lebanese and Palestinian Peoples in the 1980s.  


In 1947, he displayed a general concern for anyone, including Arabs, who were being simply unfairly treated as this snippet on an incident of impounded documents discussed in the House of Commons on May 23, 1947 (vol 437 cc306-7W306W)
Mr. Platts-Mills asked the Secretary of State for the Colonies whether he is aware that on Sunday, 27th April, 1947, officers of the Palestine police force searched the baggage of Mr. Emile G. Thouma, a Palestinian citizen returning from Great Britain, where he had been attending a conference; that his papers, comprising notes on the labour, trade union and progressive movements in Britain, were impounded for censorship; that those papers are still retained at C.I.D. head-quarters, Jerusalem, in spite of protests; and if he will issue instructions for the release of those papers.

Mr. Creech Jones: The documents found in the baggage of Mr. Emile Thouma on his return to Palestine on 27th April were impounded by the Palestine Police and sent to Jerusalem for examination. After examination they were sent to the police station in Haifa, where Mr. Thouma resides, and were available for him to collect from 8th May. In spite of several requests, Mr. Thouma has so far neither called for the documents, nor has he made any protests concerning them to the Palestine Government.
Touma by the way


was a lifelong Communist, a leading member of the Palestine Communist Party.

The intervention of Platts-Mills on behalf of Touma is so much similar to what goes on today by EU and American politicians, with a false and misplaced sense of idealism, as well as various NGOs in favor of pro-Arab activity here in Israel.

^

3 comments:

Batya said...

This post is featured in A Jewish Grandmother : Corona Lock-down Boredom, Try Reading Blogs, my most recent blog carnival aka roundup. Glad you're still blogging in these "interesting times."

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