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Jewish Agency Executive Discusses Resistance

Mr. Gruenbaum: If the Germans in Poland had encountered bloody resistance from the Jews, our situation there would have been no worse, because it could not be worse than it is now. But our respect in the world would have been much greater. The problem of the Diaspora Jews is that they preferred the life of a beaten dog to an honorable death. Even here, Dr. Senator prefers the life of a beaten dog, as it were, in order to save the Yishuv. There is no hope of sparing anything that we have created here from the German invader, if he succeeds in occupying this country. [In my] opinion, the Jewish community here will fare much worse than the Jewish inhabitants of Poland. The Nazi theoretician Alfred Rosenberg said in one of his lectures, citing Herzls memorandum to the British minister Lansdon, that the Jews are playing the role of British agents. It is superfluous to speak about their attitude toward our Yishuv. If the moment of invasion comes, Heaven forfend, we must at the very least ensure that we leave behind a “Masada” legend. Heaven forbid that we be likened to the Jews of Germany and Poland, for if that happens Zionism will never be able to recover anywhere in the world. Some soldiers in the company regret having joined it because it is not a combat company, and [I fear] that the British will not use these companies to defend the country. We applaud those who have joined the partisan combat in Russia and take pride in Jews who are fighting heroically there. Should we behave differently here? We must not hesitate, because we have no other way.

These are the fundamentals of Zionism. There is no Zionism without them. Mr. Shertok should spare no effort to put our young people in uniform; but this is not an essential condition. Every person who can be mobilized should be mobilized and everyone should be stationed at the weak points in order to defend the country and the peoples' dignity.

Dr. Shmurak: In our previous meeting, there was a debate about our actions in defending the country. We must already determine, from this point on, the situations in which we should organize an armed Jewish force to withstand the invaders. We are striving to build up our force in the army and the supernumerary police, but [the British] are not letting us participate in these forces to the extent that we desire. If the invaders endanger the Yishuv, they present a redoubled menace to us if we have to wage a guerrilla war with illegal arms against them. We can fight commandos with illegal arms, but the enemy will say that we're doing this as partisans and that we're not part of the British Army. It is also worth bearing in mind the fate of the Jews of Kishinev and other locations and the Germans' behavior toward partisans in all countries.

From this standpoint, we should defend Palestine with all legal means and we must demand that the government integrate us into the army legally. Only in the event that the British abandon the country—let us hope that things do not come to this—and the country is left without government for the interim period, will it be our duty to defend ourselves from the Arabs with our own forces. However, [I] do not want Diaspora Jewry to suspect that the Jewish Agency Executive brought about the annihilation of the Yishuv by its own actions.

Werner Senator: In the main issue, I share Dr. Shmuraks apprehensions. We have all read and heard about the partisans war in Russia, but none of us has given any thought to the number of victims that this war has claimed. Russia is a mighty country, with a population of 180 million and vast territory. Such a country cannot be annihilated. Everything we have done here in Palestine can be destroyed within twenty-four hours. No one knows what fate the Yishuv will await under the invaders jackboot if, Heaven forbid, he conquers the country. Partnership with the British is our only hope, and we must not destroy this only hope with our own hands.

The decision is not in our hands, either. Although the large majority will listen to us; many will not. Instead, they will take actions on their own counsel, and this may lead the Yishuv to devastation.

I agree with Dr. Shmurak that our war with the invader should be conducted in military fashion, in uniform, and that the invader should not be given an opportunity to destroy us.

Source: Central Zionist Archives June 30, 1942.

Yad Vashem