Presentation of the Jewish case by representatives of the Jewish Agency
(October 2, 1947)
Dr. Abba Hillel Silver spoke in the Ad Hoc Political Committee on 2 October 1947, and Dr. Chaim Weizmann, former President of the World Zionist Organisation, on 18 October.
Statement by Dr. Silver, 2 October 1947:
Dr. Silver (Jewish Agency for Palestine) stated that the Jewish Agency greatly appreciated the conscientious labours and good faith of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine, which had been made up of the representatives of neutral nations. Its efforts to arrive at a morally justifiable and politically sound solution had found expression in a comprehensive and impressive document. To quote the preface of the report, "the opinions of members of an international committee who represent various civilisations and schools of thought and have approached the question from different angles may be of some value".
He recalled that the Jewish Agency had regarded it as an inescapable obligation to co-operate to the fullest extent with the United Nations and had made available to the Special Committee on request all possible information and suggestions. The Arab Higher Committee, on the other hand, as the report indicated, in spite of an appeal by radio and a letter from the Special Committee, had maintained its decision to abstain from any collaboration.
Dr. Silver was at a loss to understand that attitude. The Jewish Agency likewise had been subjected to the strains and disappointments of the numerous previous inquiries. Yet the Arab Higher Committee now came forward to ask justice at the hands of the United Nations, whose authority it had flouted and whose competence to organise the future of Palestine it denied.
History was not a story out of the Arabian Nights, and the Arab Higher Committee was indulging in wishful thinking. Its theory that the Jews of Western Europe were descended from a tribe of Khazars in Russia was a relatively recent invention, politically inspired. He was surprised that the Arabs of Palestine should wish to engage in genealogical research.
He recalled that at the time when the Allies had liberated Palestine, the country had formed part of a province of the Ottoman Empire and there had been no politically or culturally distinct Arab nation. The Arabs had held sway over a heterogeneous population between 636 and 1071 AD, and later the Seljuks, the Kurds, the Crusaders, the Egyptian Mamelukes and finally the Ottoman Turks - all non-Arab peoples - had conquered the country. But by 636 AD the Jewish people had already had 2,000 years of history behind it, and Jewish civilisation, besides giving rise both to Judaism and Christianity, had also brought forth spiritual leaders venerated also by Islam. In contrast to that, Dr. Silver quoted the report of the Royal Commission of 1937, which stated that in the twelve centuries and more that had passed since the Arab conquest, Palestine had virtually dropped out of history, and that in the realm of thought, of science or of letters, it had made no contribution to modem civilisation.
Palestine owed its very identity to the Jews, losing it with the Jewish dispersion and resuming its role in history only at the time of the Mandate, which had given it a distinct place alongside the Arab world. Dr. Silver recalled that President Wilson had declared on 3 March 1919 that he was persuaded that the allied nations were agreed that in Palestine should be laid the foundation of a Jewish commonwealth.
In a speech made in the House of Lords on 27 June 1923, Lord Milner, who had called himself a strong supporter of the pro-Arab policy, had said that the future of Palestine could not be left to be determined by the temporary impressions and feelings of the Arab majority of the day.
Dr. Silver considered, therefore, that the Mandate, by recognising "the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine" had done no more than acknowledge a universally admitted fact. The recognition of the Jewish National Home, which Field Marshal Smuts had called one of the greatest acts of history, reaffirmed the fact that, for the Jews, Palestine was the home of their exiled people, the land of their national destiny, and that throughout centuries of persecution and wandering they had never abandoned their efforts to return to it.
With regard to the economic grievances formulated by Mr. Husseini, Dr. Silver held that the report of the Special Committee, that of the Royal Commission of 1937 and the memorandum submitted by the Palestine Government to the Special Committee proved that the Palestine Arabs had benefited considerably and directly from Jewish development in the economic, financial and social spheres.
Dr. Silver pointed out that the regrettable acts of some dissident Jewish groups had been severely condemned by the official bodies of Palestine Jewry, whereas no qualified Arab representative had ever condemned the terrorist acts committed by the Arabs between 1936 and 1939. In answer to an assertion by Mr. Husseini regarding the nobility of the Arab attitude, Dr. Silver quoted a statement by the High Commissioner, Sir John Chancellor, on the Arab riots in 1929. Sir John had said that he had learned with horror of the atrocious acts committed by bodies of ruthless and bloodthirsty evil-doers, of savage murder perpetrated upon defenceless members of the Jewish population, regardless of age or sex, accompanied, as at Hebron, by acts of unspeakable savagery, by the burning of farms and houses in town and country and by looting and destruction. He had added that those crimes had brought upon their authors the execration of all civilised peoples throughout the world. With regard to the riots of 1936, Dr. Silver quoted from the report of the Royal Commission of 1937 which spoke of assaults upon the persons and property of the Jews, conducted with the same reckless ferocity as in 1929 and without sparing women and children.
Commenting on the statement made by Mr. Creech-Jones at the Ad Hoc Committee's second meeting, Dr. Silver wondered why the United Kingdom had asked that the problem of Palestine should be placed on the agenda of the General Assembly if, as would appear from its representative's statements, it did not intend to accept the recommendations made and to help in implementing them. In that case, why appeal to the United Nations and waste months, during which time the situation had gravely deteriorated? Sir Alexander Cadogan, speaking on behalf of the United Kingdom, had said at the special session of the General Assembly, "We should not have the sole responsibility for enforcing a solution which is not accepted by both parties and which we cannot reconcile with our conscience". Mr. Creech-Jones had gone further and had reserved his Government's right to refuse co-operation if the final decision of the United Nations did not comply with its own criteria of justice and preferences as to implementation. Such an attitude was hardly calculated to help the United Nations at that crucial juncture. It was difficult to understand why the United Kingdom had employed such a large military force to implement a policy which no international body had approved, which was contrary to the Mandate and which had thrice been disapproved by international bodies.
According to the Special Committee's report, compulsory measures were necessary because it was impossible to find a solution acceptable to both parties, and it was the realisation of that fact that had prompted Mr. Bevin to turn the problem over to the United Nations. Mr. Creech-Jones' undertaking to give effect to any plan on which agreement was reached between the Arabs and the Jews did not, therefore, advance the solution at all.
Dr. Silver recalled that after the report of the Royal Commission, the British Government had recognised the advantages of the partition solution: the Arabs of Palestine would obtain their independence, would be on an equal footing with the other Arab States, and would have nothing more to fear from Jewish domination, while the Jews would secure a National Home, would no longer need to fear being dominated by the Arabs, and would have control over immigration, so that peace would reign in Palestine.
Dr. Silver criticised British policy in recent years: he recalled the appointment of the Royal Commission which had recommended partition, the White Paper of 1939 which was in complete contradiction with the approval given to the Royal Commission's report of 1937, the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry of 1945, which had proposed a unitary State and had condemned the White Paper policy, particularly in regard to immigration, the Morrison and Bevin proposals which were diametrically opposed to the spirit of the Anglo-American Committee and, finally, recourse to the United Nations, whose Special Committee had submitted a report on which the United Kingdom had expressed no opinion, yet offered nothing in its stead.
The announcement of the withdrawal of British troops, which Dr. Silver welcomed, made a decision even more urgent than it had been at the time of the special session of the General Assembly.
On behalf of the Jewish Agency, Dr. Silver approved, with one exception, the Committee's eleven unanimous recommendations contained in chapter V, section A of the plan. In regard to recommendation VI, on Jewish displaced persons, of which the Agency did not disapprove, he recalled that the Anglo-American Committee, while recommending that new homes should be found for displaced persons, had pointed out that the information received from countries other than Palestine held out no hope. The refugees would spend their third winter since the end of the war in camps. Dr. Silver called attention to the intense urge to proceed to Palestine, as mentioned in the Special Committee's report, which sprang not only from the fact that there was no other solution but also from the refugees' desire to find a real home with everything the word implied - congenial surroundings, friendliness and stability; it was all the longing of those uprooted people for a life of peace and dignity, for a normal and secure existence, which found expression in that intense urge.
Dr. Silver spoke of the desperate efforts and the hardships of the passengers on board the Exodus 1947 who had been sent back to Germany. Mere desire did not create a right, but it was because of the Jews' desire to return to Palestine that their right had been created by the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate. That desire had such a strong moral force that the Allies in the First World War had accepted solemn international commitments guaranteeing the legal right of Jews to go to Palestine.
While hoping that nations would welcome displaced persons who wished to emigrate to countries other than Palestine, the Jewish Agency considered that it would be unjust to deny the right to go to the Jewish National Home to those who wanted to do so.
Recommendation XII, to the effect that any solution for Palestine could not be considered as a solution of the Jewish problem in general, was unintelligible. It was no more than a postulate which, moreover, had not been unanimously approved. The Jewish problem in general was none other than the age-old question of Jewish homelessness, for which there was but one solution - that provided for by the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate - the reconstitution of the Jewish National Home in Palestine.
In Dr. Silver's opinion, the plan proposed by the minority of the Special Committee, contained in chapter VII of its report, was unacceptable: though it called them States, it actually made provision only for semi-autonomous cantons or provinces. Palestine would be an Arab State with two Jewish enclaves. The Jews, who would be frozen in the position of a permanent minority in the federal State, would not even have control over their own fiscal policies or immigration; the latter, with many other matters of fundamental importance, would be left in the hands of the Arab majority. That proposal was a variant of the Morrison plan, which had been rejected by the Jews, the Arabs and the United States. It entailed all the disadvantages of partition and very bad partition geographically - without the compensating advantages of real partition, namely, statehood, independence and free immigration.
He recalled that the Jewish Agency's proposals had been ruled out by the Special Committee and that the majority proposals did not satisfy the Jewish people. According to Mr. Lloyd George, who had been Prime Minister at the time, the Balfour Declaration implied that the whole of Palestine, including Transjordan, should ultimately become a Jewish State. Yet Transjordan had been cut off from Palestine in 1922 and later set up as an Arab kingdom, and now a second Arab State was to be carved out of the remainder of the country. Thus the Jewish National Home would finally represent less than one eighth of the territory originally set aside for it. Such a sacrifice should not be asked of the Jewish people.
Dr. Silver quoted a letter of 28 October 1946 from President Truman to the King of Saudi Arabia, in which the President had noted with satisfaction that most of the liberated peoples of the Near East had become citizens of independent countries, but had pointed out that the Jewish National Home had not yet been fully developed.
Seventeen million Arabs occupied an area of 1,290,000 square miles of great wealth, including all the principal Arab and Moslem centres, while Palestine, after the loss of Transjordan, was only 10,000 square miles. The majority plan, set out in chapter VII of the Special Committee's report, proposed that that area should be reduced by one half. The plan, unlike that of the Royal Commission, eliminated western Galilee from the proposed Jewish State: that was an injustice and a grievous handicap to the development of the Jewish State.
The majority plan proposed that the City of Jerusalem should be established as a separate unit. But modern Jerusalem contained a compact Jewish community of 90,000 inhabitants and included the central national, religious and educational institutions of the Jewish people of Palestine. Moreover, Jerusalem held a unique place in Jewish life and religious traditions. It was the ancient capital of the Jewish nation and its symbol throughout the ages. "If I forget thee, 0 Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning": that was the vow of the Psalmist, and of an exited people throughout the ages.
Dr. Silver strongly urged that the Jewish section of modem Jerusalem, outside the walls, should be included in the Jewish State. He also reserved the right to deal later with other territorial modifications.
If that heavy sacrifice was the inescapable condition of a final solution, if it made possible the immediate re-establishment of the Jewish State, that ideal for which a people had ceaselessly striven, if it allowed an immediate influx of immigrants, which would be possible only in a Jewish State, then the Jewish Agency was prepared to recommend the acceptance of the partition solution to the supreme organs of the movement, subject to further discussion of constitutional and territorial provisions. That sacrifice would be the Jewish contribution to the solution of a painful problem and would bear witness to the Jewish people's spirit of international co-operation and its desire for peace.
The Jewish Agency accepted the proposal for economic union despite the heavy sacrifices which the Jewish State would have to make in that matter too. It was a promising and statesmanlike conception for, as stated in part 1, chapter VI, of the Special Committee's report, "in view of the limited area and resources of Palestine, it is essential that, to the extent feasible, and consistent with the creation of two independent States, the economic unity of the country should be preserved". The limit to the sacrifices to which the Jewish Agency could consent was clear: a Jewish State must have in its own hands those instruments of financing and economic control necessary to carry out large-scale Jewish immigration and the related economic development, and it must have independent access to those world sources of capital and raw materials indispensable for the accomplishment of those purposes.
Referring to the equal division between the two States of the net revenue from customs and joint services, which was provided for in the majority plan, Dr. Silver said that that would in fact mean a large subsidy from the Jewish to the Arab State, but the Jewish Agency was prepared to assume that additional burden in order to find a way out of the impasse.
The Jews of Palestine wanted to be good neighbours in their relations not only with the Arab State of Palestine but with all the other Arab States. They intended to respect the equal rights of the Arab population in the free and democratic Jewish State. What the Jews had already achieved in Palestine augured well for the future. Nevertheless, if that offer of peace and friendship were not welcomed in the same spirit, the Jews would defend their rights to the end. In Palestine there had been built a nation which demanded its independence, and would not allow itself to be dislodged or deprived of its national status. It could not go, and it would not go, beyond the enormous sacrifice which had been asked of it.
With reference to unanimous recommendation IV of the Special Committee on United Nations responsibility during the transitional period, Dr. Silver felt that after the declaration made by the representative of the United Kingdom at the second meeting, it was difficult to form an idea as to what would be the "authority entrusted with the task of administering Palestine". He favoured an international authority which, under the auspices of the United Nations, would ensure the implementation of that Organisation's decisions.
Dr. Silver asked that the transitional period should be as short as possible. He thought that two years would be too long an interval. Presumably, since the Jewish people for its part was ready to assume without delay all responsibilities involved in the establishment of the Jewish State, the transfer of power and administrative functions would be carried out immediately.
Dr. Silver declared himself in agreement with the comment to recommendation IV, namely, that whatever the solution, enforcement measures on an extensive scale might be necessary for some time He hoped for a minimum of conflict. Once the boundaries were defined, the States established by the United Nations would, in accordance with the Charter, be entitled to have their territorial integrity and sovereign rights respected and protected. All Members of the United Nations, whether in the neighbourhood of Palestine or elsewhere, would be expected to respect the rights of those new States, under pain of being subjected to the international sanctions directed against aggressor States. He assumed that in the constitution of whatever military or police force might be required, use would be made of the available trained Palestinian manpower, which would be prepared to offer its services to the United Nations to maintain law and order.
The Jewish State, when established, would respect the sovereignty of its neighbour States, as it would defend its own. The Jewish people was not impressed by idle threats. A people that had survived the fury of the centuries, had faced empires, and during the recent war had seen hundreds of thousands of its sons fighting at the side of the Allies - while the head of the Arab Higher Committee had been broadcasting Nazi propaganda from Berlin - such a people would not be intimidated, any more than the Members of the United Nations during the special session of the General Assembly or the representatives on the Special Committee. The United Nations should be guided by the two underlying principles of the Charter, truth and justice, not by fear. The Jewish people was prepared to defend itself but would welcome any support given to it by the United Nations or its Members, pursuant to the decisions of the United Nations.
The Jewish Agency took note of the announcement that the British forces might not be available to the United Nations during the transitional period and might at any moment be withdrawn from Palestine. In that event, in order to avoid the creation of a dangerous vacuum which might affect public security, the Jewish people of Palestine would provide without delay the necessary effectives to maintain public security within their country.
Dr. Silver hoped that the momentous decision to be taken by the United Nations would be wise, just and courageous. He recalled that, twenty-five years before, another international organisation had recognised the historic claims of the Jewish people, sanctioned its programme, and set it firmly on the road of realisation. The Arabs themselves had at that time regarded the Jews not as intruders or invaders but as a people returning home after a long, sad exile; and the world had approved. The Jewish people had been confirmed in its right to a national life in its historic home and had evoked general admiration when it had made the wilderness blossom as the rose. The United Nations would wish to see that work continued, that hope of the centuries consummated; that would be an achievement which would redound to its everlasting glory and would be a supreme act of international justice.
Statement by Dr. Weizmann, 18 October 1947:
Dr. Weizmann, former Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, said that the purpose of the Mandate had been to give the Jewish people a National Home, to enable them to become once more a nation among other nations and to set up institutions in conformity with their own genius and traditions.
He paid a tribute to the vision, courage and spirit of justice which had inspired the signatories to the Mandate, and pointed out that the names of the statesmen associated with the idea of international co-operation - Wilson, Balfour, Lloyd George, Smuts, Masaryk and Cecil - as well as the names of the men who had established the United Nations, were also associated with the plan for the establishment of a Jewish State. The Mandate had enabled the Jews in Palestine to create new social, cultural and economic values and to reach the threshold of independence.
For several years Dr. Weizmann had been convinced that the partition of Palestine, proposed in the first place by the British Royal Commission on Palestine, was the only possible way of emerging from the deadlock and reaching a practical compromise. The Mandate had envisaged a far more extensive territory for the Jewish State, eight times larger than that which was now proposed, and, as he had stated before the Special Committee, it was not easy for the Jews to accept such a compromise. That Committee had been composed of unbiased members and had studied the problem objectively. The principles of partition and immigration recommended by the majority were realistic and had been accepted by the representatives of the Jewish Agency. They had received the approval of a large number of the representatives of the Ad Hoc Committee, who were equally unbiased.
The establishment of a Jewish State was not a new idea; it arose out of the Mandate. Nevertheless, as the USSR representative had said, historical and legal considerations were secondary as compared with immediate realities. In Palestine there was a Jewish community of 700,000 people with its own language, its own religion, its own traditions, its own distinctive social outlook, its own scientific, industrial, agricultural and artistic achievements, its own schools and universities. That community was profoundly democratic; it had its own distinctive organisation. Its members felt a solidarity with their kindred scattered over Europe, survivors attached to the past and lingering in the graveyards of their brethren. It was confronted with another group, which had reached a different stage of development, which was numerically superior and which had no characteristic in common with the Jewish community.
The Assembly had to decide who was to govern that community and who was to regulate its life. Dr. Weizmann saw only three alternatives, namely, government by a Mandatory Power, government by the Arabs, or self-government.
The first recommendation in chapter V of the report of the Special Committee, providing for the termination of the Mandate, had met with general approval. In any case, it would be difficult to continue the mandatory regime after the British statement. Dr. Weizmann hoped that after the Jewish State had been established, friendship would again flourish between the British and the Jews and that the incidents provoked by the White Paper would be forgotten, while the memory of the assistance given by the United Kingdom to the cause of Jewish independence would remain.
Hence, only two solutions remained: for the Jewish National Home to become independent or to become and to remain a minority subject to the will of the Arab majority. Those who had spoken against the majority plan had advocated the latter solution simply because there was no other alternative except the establishment of a Jewish State.
The idea of giving the Jews a minority status in an Arab State had been rejected by all the committees and by all impartial tribunals. It was morally impossible to subject the only Jewish national community to the domination of the Arab Higher Committee. It would be impossible even if the Arab Higher Committee were not hostile to the ideals of the Jewish people. It was not in order to become citizens of an Arab State that the Jews, on the strength of international promises, had made their home in Palestine. Certain minorities in Arab States could testify as to whether their status was agreeable; it was sufficient to say that that status did not correspond to the idea of the National Home and was unacceptable. A separate national community could not be forcibly subjected to another people in the name of majority rule. Dr. Weizmann endorsed the view of the Canadian representative (13th meeting) that unity could not be imposed without consent. It was by virtue of that principle that the representative of Pakistan, for instance, was present at the United Nations.
Thus only one solution remained, namely, the partition of Palestine and the establishment of a Jewish State, as was proposed in the majority plan. That was the only solution which could be successful, which could define the limits within which the Jews and the Arabs could develop their own national lives and which could give the Jews and the Arabs the equality which was the primary condition of their co-operation. The Jewish State of Palestine, in its own interests and in accordance with its ideals, would seek co-operation with the neighbouring Arab States. The majority plan described the possible results of such co-operation.
As the United States representative had pointed out (11th meeting), the Arabs had been able to create several independent States, extending over vast territories. The Jews were asking only for what the Arabs had already obtained on a larger scale. Emir Feisal had signed an agreement with Dr. Weizmann declaring that if the rest of Arab Asia were free, the Arabs would concede the right of the Jews to settle in Palestine. The stipulated condition had been fulfilled in respect of the Arabs. The Jews had the same right to independence. The Arabs' desire to possess an eighth State could not eliminate the Jews' right to possess one. Dr. Weizmann expressed his confidence in co-operation between the Jews and the Arabs after the establishment of a Jewish State.
The majority plan not only correctly defined the terms on which Jews and Arabs could collaborate but its adoption would also help to solve the Jewish problem in general. Dr. Weizmann recalled the words of the USSR representative (12th meeting) regarding the tragedy of the Jewish people and that people's right not to be dependent on another State for its security and welfare. The adoption of the majority plan would make it possible to solve the problem of the Jewish displaced persons. The proposed Jewish State, by intensive irrigation, agriculture and industry, would be able to provide homes for about a million of those people. Industrial development was possible even with no great access to raw materials, provided skilled labour were available and scientific research were encouraged. The example of Switzerland was proof of that. The solution proposed in the majority plan was thus the best: it offered the Jews not only a home but also a chance of contributing to the rebirth of their nation.
There was no need even to repudiate the accusation of conspiracy in regard to Jewish immigration into Palestine. For the Jews who had escaped massacre, Palestine was the only solution. To suggest that they should rebuild their ruined homes or ask refuge of countries reluctant to receive them was mere mockery.
While supporting the principles of the majority plan, Dr. Weizmann would ask the Committee to give consideration to the modifications proposed by the representatives of the Jewish Agency, especially in respect of western Galilee and the Jewish district of Jerusalem. He thought that the proposed economic union was a progressive idea and was bound to triumph.
He would likewise ask the Committee, in examining the possibilities for the implementation of those proposals, to make use of the assistance which the Jewish people could give in organising the defence of the Jewish State. While he found it hard to believe that any States would challenge the Assembly's recommendations or contravene the Charter, he thought that the prospects of peace would be brighter if inside their own State the Jewish forces were accompanied, at least at the outset, by international forces symbolising the United Nations. The Jews intended to observe the Charter scrupulously, but in all circumstances they were prepared to make full provision for their own defence.
The creation of a Jewish State would be a great event in history and a practical demonstration of liberal and humanitarian thought. A persecuted people would achieve recognition of its national sovereignty, desert soil would be redeemed for cultivation, progressive social ideas would flourish in an area that had fallen behind the modem standards of life, and an ancient culture would be revived.
The libellous comparison which had been made between Zionism and Nazism could not stop the Jewish national liberation movement. Dr. Weizmann was gratified by the general sympathy and understanding shown for Zionism.
He asked that the plan of the Special Committee should be endorsed and appealed to the bar of the world's conscience.