The special session of the General Assembly voted in favour of inviting the representatives of the Jewish Agency for Palestine to present its case before the First (Political) Committee. On May 8, 1947, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver addressed the Committee, and, on May 12, Mr. Moshe Sharett and the Chairman of the Executive of the Agency, Mr. David Ben-Gurion, addressed it.
Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, May 8, 1947
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and representatives of the United Nations.
I should like to say at the outset that were Mr. David Ben-Gurion, Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, here this morning, he would be making this statement. Unfortunately, the arrival of Mr. Ben-Gurion has been delayed. He will be here tomorrow, and I hope that he will have an opportunity to participate in the deliberations.
Permit me to thank the Assembly of the United Nations for granting the Jewish Agency for Palestine a hearing on the question which is before this Committee. We are grateful for the opportunity to take counsel with you in the matter of constituting and instructing a special committee which is to study the problem of Palestine and to make recommendations for the future government of that country. We trust that our participation in these deliberations will be helpful and will prove to be a contribution to the just solution of this grave international problem which this international community is now earnestly seeking.
Such a successful solution will not only prove a blessing to Palestine and to all its inhabitants, to the Jewish people and to the cause of world peace, but it will also enhance the moral authority and prestige of this great organisation for world justice and peace, upon which so many high hopes of mankind now rest. We are pleased that the Palestine problem will now be reviewed by an international body and that the thought and conscience of mankind will now be brought to bear on a situation which for some years now has been made extremely difficult by unilateral action and by decisions made, presumably within the terms of a mandatory trust, but actually without the sanction or supervision of the international body which established that trust and which defined both its limits and its purposes.
Since the outbreak of the war, the administration of Palestine has been conducted by the mandatory Power as if it were vested with the sovereignty of that country, whereas, in fact, it is expected to administer Palestine, of which it is not the sovereign, as a trustee for carrying out the purposes of the mandate, which clearly defined its rights and its obligations.
The problem of Palestine is, of course, of paramount importance to the Jewish people; that fact, I take it, motivated the General Assembly of the United Nations to extend an invitation to the Jewish Agency for Palestine to present its views. We thank all those who so warmly urged our audition for their goodwill and their gallant action.
The Jewish Agency, you will recall, is recognised in the mandate for Palestine as a public body authorised to speak and act on behalf of the Jewish people in and out of Palestine in matters affecting the establishment of the Jewish national home. It is the only recognised public body mentioned in the mandate. It is recognised as such, to quote article 4, “for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine, and, subject always to the control of the Administration, to assist and take part in the development of the country.”
Under article 6, the Jewish Agency is entitled further to co-operate with the Administration in permitting “close settlement by Jews on the land”; by article 11, it is given preferred status in respect to the construction and operation of public works and the development of the natural resources of the country.
The Jewish Agency, which we have the honour to represent, therefore speaks not merely for the organised Jewish community of Palestine, the democratically elected National Council of Palestine Jews, who are today the pioneering vanguard in the building of the Jewish national home; it speaks also for the Jewish people of the world, who are devoted to this historic ideal, for it was charged, by the same article 4 of the mandate, “to secure the co-operation of all Jews who are willing to assist in the establishment of the Jewish national home.”
I have spoken of “the Jewish people” and “the Jewish national home.” In defining the terms of reference of the committee of inquiry which you are to appoint, and in all the committee’s future investigations, these, in my judgement, should be regarded as key terms and basic concepts. They were the key terms and the basic concepts of the Balfour Declaration and of the mandate under which Palestine is, or should be, administered today. To proceed without relation to them would be to detour into a political wilderness as far as Palestine is concerned. To treat the Palestine problem as if it were one of merely reconciling the differences between two sections of the population presently inhabiting the country, or of finding a haven for a certain number of refugees and displaced persons, would only contribute to confusion.
The Balfour Declaration, which was issued by His Majesty’s Government as a “declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations”, declares: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The mandate, in its preamble, recognises “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine” and “the grounds for reconstituting” - I call your attention to the word “reconstituting” -”their national home in that country.”
These international commitments of a quarter of a century ago, which flowed from the recognition of historic rights and present needs, and upon which so much has already been built in Palestine by the Jewish people, cannot now be erased. You cannot turn back the hands of the clock of history.
Certainly, the United Nations, guided by the great principle proclaimed in its Charter, “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”, can never sanction the violation of treaties and of international law.
With this situation and similar situations in mind, a specific provision, you will recall, was written into the chapter of the Charter of the United Nations which deals with territories which might become trusteeship territories, and which is therefore especially applicable to territories now under mandate. This is Article 80 of the Charter, which reads: “Except as may be agreed upon in individual trusteeship agreements, made under Articles 77, 79, and 81, placing each territory under the trusteeship system, and until such agreements have been concluded, nothing in this chapter shall be construed in or of itself to alter in any manner the rights whatsoever of any States or any peoples or the terms of existing international instruments to which Members of the United Nations may respectively be parties.”
It is the perspective of your committee of inquiry on the entire problem which, in our judgement, will prove decisive. It will give direction to and greatly expedite its work, and its conclusions will prove of constructive significance, only if it always maintains the proper perspective.
A generation ago, the international community of the world, of which the United Nations today is the political and spiritual heir, decreed that the Jewish people should be given the right, long denied, and the opportunity to reconstitute its national home in Palestine. That national home is still in the making; it has not yet been fully established. No international community has cancelled or even questioned that right. The mandatory Power, which was entrusted with the obligation to safeguard the opportunity continuous growth and development of the Jewish national home, has unfortunately, in recent years, grievously interfered with and circumscribed it. The opportunity must now be fully restored.
When will the Jewish national home be an accomplished fact? The answer to that question may well be given by the man who was Prime Minister of Great Britain at the time that the Balfour Declaration was issued. I am quoting the testimony of Mr. Lloyd George, given before the Palestine Royal Commission in 1937:
This same answer could also be given by Mr. Winston Churchill, who was an important member of the Government which issued the Balfour Declaration; by Field Marshal Smuts, who was a member of the Imperial War Cabinet at the time and who foretold an increasing stream of Jewish immigrants into Palestine and “in generations to come, a great Jewish State rising there once more”; by Lord Robert Cecil, and by many others. American statesmen shared this view of the Jewish national home. Thus, President Wilson, on 3 March 1919, stated: “I am persuaded that the Allied nations, with the fullest concurrence of our own Government and people, are agreed that in Palestine shall be laid the foundations of a Jewish commonwealth.”
That the Government of the United States does not now consider the Jewish national home as already established is clearly stated in the letter of President Truman to King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia, dated 28 October 1946. President Truman wrote as follows:
It should, of course, be clear - and I regret that statements made by certain representatives in recent days have tended to confuse what should be clear - that when we speak of a Jewish State, we do not have in mind a racial State or a theocratic State, but one which will be based upon full equality and rights for all inhabitants without distinction of religion or race and without domination or subjugation. What we understand by the Jewish State is most succinctly stated in a resolution adopted in 1944 by the British Labour Party, now represented in the present Government of the United Kingdom which requested this special session of the United Nations. I quote from that resolution:
When your committee of inquiry comes to consider proposals for the future government of Palestine, this inescapable and irreducible factor - the international obligation to ensure the continuous development of the Jewish national home - should in our judgement be kept constantly in mind. I believe it would be extremely helpful to the committee of inquiry if the mandatory Government would present the account of its stewardship of the Palestine mandate to it rather than wait for the next Assembly of the United Nations. It would assist the committee in thinking through the problem and in arriving at helpful recommendations for the future government of Palestine.
It is illogical, I fear, to ask the committee of inquiry to consider the future government of Palestine without first making a thorough study of the present government to discover what is faulty in the present administration, what neglect and what deviations have occurred to bring about a condition so dangerous and explosive as to necessitate the convening of a special session of the United Nations Assembly to deal with it.
I believe that the committee of inquiry should most certainly visit Palestine. Written documents are important, but infinitely more instructive are the living documents, the visible testimony of creative effort and achievement. In Palestine, they will see what the Jewish people, inspired by the hope of reconstituting this national home after the long, weary centuries of homelessness, and relying upon the honour and the pledged word of the world community, has achieved in a few short years against great odds and seemingly insurmountable handicaps.
The task was enormous: untrained hands, inadequate means, overwhelming difficulties. The land was stripped and poor, neglected through the centuries, and the building took place between two disastrous world wars when European Jewry was shattered and impoverished. Nevertheless, the record of pioneering achievement of the Jewish people in Palestine has received the acclaim of the entire world. And what was built there with social vision and high human idealism has proved a blessing, we believe, not only to the Jews of Palestine, but to the Arabs and to other non-Jewish communities as well.
That the return of the Jews to Palestine would prove a blessing not only to themselves but also to their Arab neighbours was envisaged by the Emir Feisal, who was a great leader of the Arab peoples, at the Peace Conference following the First World War. On 3 March 1919, he wrote the following:
Your committee of inquiry will conclude, we are confident, that if allowed to develop uninterruptedly, the standards of life which have been developed in Palestine, the concepts of social justice and the modern scientific method will serve as a great stimulus to the rebirth and progress of the entire Near East, with which Palestine and the destinies of the Jewish national home are naturally bound up.
Your committee of inquiry should also consider the potentialities of the country, which, if properly developed, can, according to the expert testimony of those most qualified to speak on the subject, sustain a population much greater than the present one. Many more pro, which will result in great economic and social improvement not alone in Palestine but in all the neighbouring countries, are awaiting development pending a satisfactory political solution.
The committee of inquiry should, while in Palestine, also look into the real, the fundamental causes of the tragic unrest and violence which today mar the life of the Holy Land to which our Jewish pioneers came, not with weapons, but with tools. It will inquire, I am sure, why the members of a peace-loving community, whose sole interest was in building a peaceful home and future for themselves and their children, are being driven to a pitch of resentment and tension; why some of its members are being driven to actions which we all deplore.
The members of the committee will ask themselves, I am sure, why shiploads of helpless Jewish refugees - men, women, and children who have been through all the hells of Nazi Europe - are being driven away from the shores of the Jewish national home by a mandatory Government which assumed, as its prime obligation, the task of facilitating Jewish immigration into that country.
They will also investigate, I hope, how the mandatory Government is carrying out another of its obligations - to encourage close settlement of the Jews on the land whereas, in actual practice, it is severely restricting free Jewish settlement to an area which represents less than six per cent of that tiny country, and is enforcing in the Jewish national home discriminatory racial laws which the mandate, as well as the Charter of the United Nations, severely condemns.
By way of digression, let it be said - if it need be said at all - that we are not engaged, nor shall we be engaged, in any criticism or condemnation of the people of the United Kingdom. We have no quarrel with them. On the contrary, we have the highest regard and admiration for that people and for its monumental contributions to democratic civilisation; and we shall never forget that it was the United Kingdom which first among the nations gave recognition to the national aspirations of the Jewish people. We condemn only a wrong and unjustifiable policy which contradicts and tends to defeat the farsighted British statesmanship of earlier years.
We hope most earnestly that the members of the committee of inquiry will also visit the displaced persons camps in Europe and see with their own eyes the appalling human tragedy which mankind is permitting to continue unabated, two years - it is exactly two years today since V-E Day - after the close of the war in which the Jewish people was the greatest sufferer.
While committees of investigation and study are reporting on their sad plight, and while inter-governmental discussions and negotiations are going on, these war-ravaged men and women are languishing in their misery, still waiting for salvation. They ask for the bread of escape and hope; they are given the stone of inquiries and investigations. Their morale is slumping terribly. A spiritual deterioration, I am afraid, is setting in among them. It is only the hope that tomorrow, perhaps tomorrow, redemption may come that keeps their spirit from breaking utterly. Most of them are desperately eager to go to the Jewish national home.
I hope that the conscience of mankind, speaking through you and through your committee of inquiry, will make it possible for these weary men and women to find peace at last and healing in the land of their fondest hopes. I hope that their liberation will not be delayed until the report of the committee is finally made and the action of the Assembly is finally taken, but that, pending ultimate decisions and implementations, these unfortunate people will be permitted forthwith to migrate in substantial numbers to Palestine.
There is a desperate urgency about this tragic human problem, my friends, which brooks no delay. An immediate relaxation of the restrictive measures on immigration into Palestine, and a return to the status which prevailed before the White Paper policy of 1939 was imposed, will not only be a boon to these suffering humans, but will greatly relieve the present menacing tensions in Palestine, will wash out much of the bitterness and will enable the deliberations of your committee of inquiry and of the next Assembly to be carried on in a calmer spirit, in an atmosphere of moderation and goodwill. We are all eager for peace. We must all make a contribution to achieve it. But the decisive contribution can only be made by the mandatory Government.
I hope that I have not abused your patience, Mr. Chairman, and the patience of the representatives of the United Nations here assembled. Permit me to conclude with this observation.
The Jewish people places great hope upon the outcome of the deliberations of this great body. It has faith in its collective sense of justice and fairness and in the high ideals which inspire it. We are an ancient people, and though we have often, on the long, hard road which we have travelled, been disillusioned, we have never been disheartened. We have never lost faith in the sovereignty and the ultimate triumph of great moral principles. In these last tragic years, when the whole household of Israel became one great hostelry of pain, we could not have built what we did build had we not preserved our unshakeable trust in the victory of truth. It is in that strong faith and hope that we wish to co-operate with you in the task which you have undertaken.
The Jewish people belongs in this society of nations. Surely the Jewish people is no less deserving than other peoples whose national freedom and independence have been established and whose representatives are now seated here. The Jews were your allies in the war, and joined their sacrifices to yours to achieve a common victory. The representatives of the Jewish people of Palestine should sit in your midst. We hope that the representatives of the people which gave to mankind spiritual and ethical values, inspiring human personalities and sacred texts which are your treasured possessions, and which is now rebuilding its national life in its ancient homeland, will be welcomed before long by you to this noble fellowship of the United Nations.
Mr. Moshe Sharett, May 12, 1947
I am here to reply to the questions which were put to Rabbi Silver after the conclusion of his address to the Committee. In so doing, I hope I may be permitted also to clear up some of the underlying issues, in order to bring out the meaning of my replies a little more clearly.
I would begin with a question asked by the representative of Poland as to the organisation, composition and functions of the Jewish Agency for Palestine. In the mandate, the Zionist Organisation was recognised as the Jewish Agency, with powers to advise and co-operate with the mandatory administration in matters concerning the Jewish national home and to take part in the country’s development. At the time, the World Zionist Organisation, founded fifty years ago, was already twenty-five years old. Subsequently, certain non-Zionist groups joined in forming an enlarged , Jewish Agency, but the Zionist Organisation has remained the main driving force. The World Zionist Organisation has today local organisations in more than sixty countries - with a few exceptions, in every country where Jews live.
Within the Zionist movement, as in any democratically organised society, there are parties: the Labour Party and other labour groups, the Centre or General Zionists, the Mizrachi or the orthodox religious Zionists, and the Revisionists. This party division is reflected in our Congresses, which are held once every two years after a general election in all countries. The Congress elects our executive; the present executive was elected by the 360 delegates to the twenty-second Zionist Congress in Basle last December, who, in turn, were elected by nearly two million Zionist voters throughout the world. The executive has headquarters in Jerusalem and branches with resident members in New York, London and Paris.
Two things must be stressed. First, the Agency is the spokesman, not merely of Jews already settle in Palestine, but of all Jews who are devoted to the idea of the Jewish national home. The entire Jewish people, I might say, hold the Jewish Agency responsible for the success of that great enterprise. Secondly, the Agency is not merely an organ of national representation, but an instrument of nation building, an institution of immigration, development and settlement. It mobilises the energies and resources of our people for national reconstruction, and in Palestine it directs large-scale practical development work.
It has been responsible for bringing hundreds of thousands of Jews to Palestine and settling them there. It has carried out an extensive programme of settlement on the land. It has stimulated major industrial development. It has supplied guidance and co-ordination to the vast volume. of free initiative and enterprise in the work of Jewish resettlement. Our Jerusalem headquarters is divided into departments: political, financial, immigration, agricultural settlement, trade and industry, labour, etc.
During the war, the Jewish Agency acted, in a way, as a recruiting authority. It mobilised the Jewish war effort in Palestine in the cause of the United Nations. It has supplied 33,000 volunteers for armed service within the British forces. They defended Palestine, served in most Middle Eastern countries, and fought in the campaigns of Africa and Europe. All industrial, technical, and scientific resources of Jewish Palestine were harnessed to the war effort.
So much for the Jewish Agency as such. Politically, its primary function has been to uphold and defend Jewish rights under the mandate. Immigration is the crux of the problem and several of the questions put to Rabbi Silver bear on that issue. In answering these questions, I must make one basic point clear by way of background.
If it is granted that the Jewish people are in Palestine as of right, then all the implications and corollaries of that premise must be accepted. The foremost is that Jews must be allowed to resettle in Palestine in unlimited numbers, provided only they do not displace or worsen the lot of the existing inhabitants who are also there as of right. If that basic premise is not granted, then there is very little to discuss. It may sound quite plausible to argue that if the right of the Jews to return to Palestine is admitted on the grounds of ancient history, then the whole map of the world would have to be remade and chaos would ensue. But does the question really arise? Do the descendants of the Romans, for example, claim entry into England? Do they need England? Does their future, their very existence depend on settling there? Or do the Arabs, for that matter, press to return to Andalusia in Spain? Is it a matter of life and death for them? The analogy is fallacious and misleading.
The great historic phenomenon of the Jewish return to Palestine is unique because the position of the Jewish people as a homeless people and yet attached with an unbreakable tenacity to its birthplace is unique. It is that phenomenon that has made the problem of Palestine an issue in international affairs, and no similar issue has ever arisen. Were it not for the presence in Palestine today of over 600,000 Jews who refuse to be left in a minority position under Arab domination; were it not for the urge to settle in Palestine of hundreds of thousands of homeless and uprooted Jews in Europe, in the Orient, and elsewhere; were it not for the hopes and efforts of millions of Jews throughout the world to re-establish their national home and build it up into a Jewish State, the United Nations would not be faced with the problem of Palestine as it is now. The problem is real and pressing....
... By the way, my Arab countrymen make much of the fact that Palestine has already taken in so many immigrants. These immigrants, they said, were received by the Arabs. We are very sorry but we cannot concede them that credit. Conversely, they say that the Jews have settled in Palestine at the expense of the Arabs. That debit item, too, we cannot admit. There has been no receiving of Jewish immigrants by Arabs nor any settlement of Jews at the expense of the Arabs. The Jews did not come as guests of anyone. They came in their own right. They received themselves and their brothers; and they did so by their own efforts and at the expense of no one else. Every acre of land we tilled was bought and had to be wrested from wilderness and desolation. Nothing was taken away - not one house, not one job. A tremendous amount of work, wealth, and well-being was presented to the Arab population.
The representative from India also asked what was the age of the Jewish communities in Europe; and whether, since the Hitler regime had been crushed, the Jewish displaced persons would not be better advised to stay in Germany.
As to the age of European Jewry, it is on the whole quite venerable, but age has not made for security. Three-quarters of that Jewry - six million people - are no more. But let us go back into the past. Jews had lived in Spain for a whole millennium when, in 1492, they were despoiled and expelled, and only those who gave up their Jewish identity and became Christians were allowed to remain. Jews have lived in Poland since the eleventh or twelfth century, but in the seventeenth they were the victims of ferocious massacres. Then there were pogroms under the Russian czars in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; and in the last war, as we have just heard, came the final catastrophe. Nearly all of Polish Jewry - three million men, women and children was wiped out by the Nazis.
In Germany, the beginnings of Jewish settlement are traced back to the fourth century. But just six centuries ago, most of the Jews in Germany were destroyed in a wave of frenzied persecution which swept Europe. Then, by the twentieth century, German Jews had reached the pinnacle of emancipation and were largely assimilated. Yet they were hurled down into the abyss of degradation and death. Even converts to Christianity were not spared.
It is true that Hitler is gone now, but not anti-Semitism. He was the product, not the source of German Jew-hatred. Anti-Semitism in Germany and in many other parts of Europe is as rife as ever and potentially militant and fierce. Some Governments have tried their best to keep it down, but they have a very hard job in doing so. The very age of European Jewry serves only to accentuate the basic historic insecurity of Jewish life in the dispersion.
The representative of India has also asked whether the Jewish displaced persons would be assimilable in Palestine. The answer is yes. They would be perfectly assimilable in the Jewish community there, the one Jewish community in the world with a self-contained economic system and an independent cultural life which is eager and able to receive and absorb them. He asked whether they would not be better assimilable in Germany. The answer is no. You cannot settle in a graveyard, nor can you build a dwelling out of heaps of rubble.
Actually, most of the Jewish displaced persons are not from Germany itself, but from other countries. Today they are in camps, or they continue as refugees, because they cannot be resettled in Europe. They have now waited for two years, and in all this time no one has come forward with a solution to their problem. The clear recommendations of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry have remained on paper and, to them, they have proved a mockery. No one has offered an alternative to Palestine. But even if there were an alternative, they refuse to be treated as mere chattels. They appeal to the world to realise that they form part of a people which has a national will of its own. They want to go to the only country where they will feel at home, both individually and collectively. Their problem is inseparable from the problem of Palestine. It is the problem of Palestine. To treat the issue of Palestine in isolation from the immigration issue would make as much sense as to study the beating of a heart while disregarding the circulation of the blood. A solution for the problem of Palestine which would ignore the Jewish claim and the need for immigration would solve nothing. Whoever undertook to implement such a solution would be driven by the sheer impact of reality to face the problem of immigration.
I may perhaps interpose here an answer to the question put by the representative of the Union of South Africa. He asked whether we wanted the question of the displaced persons in Europe examined solely in connection with Palestine, or in its general aspect. Our answer is that we believe that only in Palestine can the problem of these people be permanently and constructively solved, for only there can their lives be rebuilt on secure foundations and their homes become part of the home of the entire people.
The immigration issue is not confined to the Jewish displaced persons and unsettled refugees in Europe. Various Jewish communities in Europe are involved, as well as the Jews of the Arab and Oriental countries. With regard to these, Members of the United Nations have heard during the present session idyllic accounts of the conditions of complete equality and true brotherhood under which they live. The Jewish Agency is naturally very intimately acquainted with the position, and the picture as we know it is totally different. In most of these countries Jews are treated as second or third rate citizens. They live in perpetual fear of eruptions of fierce fanaticism, of which there have been tragic examples both in recent years and in the more remote past. Their lot ranges from precarious sufferance to active persecution. All formal statements under duress notwithstanding, their hopes and dreams are centered on Zion, and their youth has no other idea but to join its builders.
We very strongly urge that the position of these communities should form part of the committee’s investigations. But the most urgent problem is, of course, that of the displaced persons in Europe who are now on the brink of despair.
The present political crisis in Palestine is nothing but a clash between the dire needs of Jewish immigration and the current anti-immigration policy of the mandatory Power. We were asked by the representative of India why public servants of the British Government in Palestine are today the victims of terrorist activity. The answer is because the White Paper of 1939 is still in force. Terrorism is a pernicious outgrowth of a disastrous policy.
The Jewish Agency has unreservedly condemned terrorist bloodshed, and in that attitude it is supported by the large majority of the organised Jewish community. Its harm to the Jews and to the Jewish future is far graver than to the Government and people of the United Kingdom. But Jewish efforts to resist and check terrorism are continually frustrated because Government action in pursuance of the White Paper adds fuel to the fire. Our efforts will continue, but the representative of India will no doubt agree that Palestine is not the only country which has been afflicted with this most hateful disease.
Another question was why, in contradiction to the Amir Faisal’s attitude, the Palestine Arabs were now opposed to Jewish immigration. Since that question was put, we have heard a very able exposition of the Palestine Arab case which fully covered the point. All I would add is that the uncompromising opposition to immigration now voiced does not invalidate the broader conception and bolder vision expressed in the Faisal-Weizmann agreement, which indicated a way of harmonising Jewish and Arab aspirations within a wider framework, taking fully into account the independence then promised and now achieved by the Arabs in vast territories.
While I am on the point of promises, may I be permitted to recall that Sir Henry McMahon himself stated that Palestine was never included in the promises made by him to the Arabs, and that this was well understood at the time by the late King Hussein, also that Transjordan, which was originally included in the Balfour Declaration, is today an Arab State.
Finally, the representative of India asked whether we recognised the distinction between a Jewish State and a Jewish national home. The answer is that we do, but perhaps not quite in the sense in which the question was meant. The establishment of the Jewish national home is a process. The setting up of a Jewish State is its consummation. That such consummation had been intended by the authors of the Jewish national home policy and that a way was definitely left open for its achievement was conclusively proved by the Palestine Royal Commission. The point was fully understood by those responsible for the 1944 statement on Palestine by the British Labour Party Executive.
The Indian representative drew attention to the use in that statement of the term “Jewish national home” and not “Jewish State.” But may I recall the words of Mr. Hugh Dalton, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, when reporting on that statement of the Executive to the Labour Party Conference? He urged common support, in consultation with the United States and Soviet Governments - and now I quote - “for a policy which will give us a happy, free, and prosperous Jewish State in Palestine.” That was only two years ago.
The matter has a most vital bearing on the question of Palestine’s independence. Unlike other mandates of category A, the declared object of which was to prepare the country for independence, the Palestine mandate has no such clause. Its primary purpose, in the words of the Royal Commission, is the establishment of the Jewish national home. But, of course, the ultimate goal must be independence and the mandate must be terminated.
Therefore if, upon the termination of the Palestine mandate, its original purpose is to be fulfilled, if the future of the Jewish national home is to be permanently secured, if the national interest of the Jewish people is to be harmonised with other interests and not sacrificed for their sake, then a Jewish State must come into being. A home, in the words of a British statesman, in the debate on the White Paper for Palestine, is a place to which one is always free to come back. How is the national home to fulfil its primary function of being open to Jews in need of it, if it is to remain forever subjected to non-Jewish sovereignty?
An Arab minority in a Jewish State will be secure, if for no other reason because the State will forever remain surrounded by Arab countries with which it will be most vitally interested to be at peace; also because there will always be Jewish minorities in other lands.
But a Jewish minority in an Arab State will have no such security at all. It will be at the mercy of the Arab majority, which would be free from all restraints...
The question of our living with the Arab peoples and the relationship of a Jewish State with them is, of course, the dominant question of the future. The representative of Poland has asked, in his second question, whether there have been attempts at collaboration between Jews and Arabs. The answer is yes, there have been, on both sides. Arabs and Jews have co-operated and are co-operating successfully in the wide and varied fields of municipal, commercial and labour affairs. Arabic is taught in all Jewish secondary schools and in a large number of primary schools. The Jewish Agency is particularly active in spreading knowledge of Arabic in the Jewish settlements and promoting friendly relations between them and their Arab neighbours. From personal observation and direct experience accumulated over a period of forty-one years’ residence in Palestine, I can affirm that there is nothing inherent in the nature of either the native Arab or the immigrant Jew which prevents friendly co-operation. On the contrary, considering the admitted great difference of background, they mix remarkably well. By mixing I do not mean assimilation, for the Jew does not come to Palestine to assimilate to the Arab, but to develop his own distinctive individuality. Nor does he expect the Arab to assimilate to him. What I mean is co-operation between a self-respecting Jew and a self-respecting Arab, and between the two communities.
Today the issue is overshadowed and practco-operation is hampered by the political conflict over the country’s future. present official leaders of the Arab States, having achieved practically all they wanted with so little sacrifice, refuse to admit the legitimacy of the national aspirations of another people. At the head of the Arab Higher Committee of Palestine stands a man who, apart from other well-known aspects of his activity, was directly involved during the war in the Nazi policy of the extermination of the European Jews.
Nevertheless, the Jews do not lose heart. They come to Palestine not to fight the Arab world, but to live at peace with it. They are not an outpost of any foreign domination. Their ambition is to integrate themselves into the modem structure of reviving Asia. They are an old Asiatic people returning to their home. At the same time, they are anxious to make their contribution to the great work of bridge-building between modem Asia and the rest of the world. Their intense experience in development within the narrow confines of Palestine is yielding results which may be of value to all who are interested in social and economic progress in the Middle East and beyond. But their true partnership with their neighbours can be based only upon equality of status and mutual respect. They claim what is the natural right of any people on the face of the earth: that as many of them as possible should live together in their own country, freely develop their civilisation, make their contribution to the common stock of humanity, and be self-governing and independent. They cannot possibly surrender that claim, and for its attainment they appeal for the assistance of the entire family of nations....
Mr. David Ben-Gurion, May 12, 1947
I am grateful for the opportunity afforded to me to make a few supplementary remarks to the statement made by my colleague, Rabbi Silver, on behalf of the Jewish Agency for Palestine.
First of all, I should like to try to clarify further the nature of the problem which the mandatory Power has placed before the United Nations as this is essential for defining properly the terms of reference of the special committee. Last Friday, the representative of the United Kingdom, on behalf of his Government, declared that it had tried for years to settle the problem of Palestine and had failed. It has, therefore, brought the problem to you in the hope that the United Nations would find a just solution.
This statement is open to misunderstanding. The mandatory Power was not charged with discovering a solution to the Palestine problem and its failure was not in its inability to find the right solution. The mandatory Power was charged by the League of Nations with the carrying out of a definite settlement. That settlement was set out and determined originally by the United Kingdom itself and subsequently confirmed by all the Allies and associated Powers in the first world war, as well as by the Arabs through Amir Faisal and the Syrian Arab Committee. It was later embodied in the mandate, approved by fifty-two nations and made international law.
The terms of that settlement as decreed by the conscience and the law of nations are common knowledge. It is the restoration of Palestine to the Jewish people.
At the time the United Kingdom took over the mandate, the problem of Palestine had been clearly adjudicated and settled. The failure of the mandatory Government, as admitted by the British representative, was a failure to carry out the settlement agreed upon and entrusted to it by the nations of the world. That failure became manifest with the introduction of a policy, set forth in the White Paper of 1939, which violated the most essential terms of the mandate and vitiated its entire purpose.
The White Paper policy, as you know, was condemned by the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations as incompatible with the mandate and with the pledges repeatedly given by the mandatory Government itself. It was also denounced by the most eminent political leaders of the United Kingdom itself, including all the prominent members of the present Government of the United Kingdom, as a breach of faith. Only recently, the White Paper was again unanimously condemned by the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry.
The White Paper policy is responsible for the misery and deaths of a large number of Jews and for cruel acts of expulsion of Jewish refugees. It is responsible for establishing in Palestine a police State without parallel in the civilised world. It is responsible for the introduction in Palestine of racial discrimination against Jews in land legislation. This is the real nature of the failure of the mandatory Power.
Therefore, I venture to suggest that the first problem facing the United Nations is how to set right that failure and to ensure that international obligations toward the Jewish population in Palestine are faithfully fulfilled.
The second point to which I should like to invite the attention of your Committee is the fact that in Palestine you are faced not merely with a large and growing number of Jews, but with a distinct Jewish nation. There are Jews and Jewish communities in many countries, but in Palestine there is a new and unique phenomenon - a Jewish nation, with all the attributes, characteristic resources and aspirations of nationhood. This nationhood springs from a long history and an uninterrupted connection, for three thousand five hundred years, with its ancestral soil.
Palestine, which, for the Jewish people, has always been and will always remain the land of Israel, was in the course of centuries conquered and invaded by many alien peoples, but none of them ever identified its national faith with Palestine. The Jewish nation in Palestine is rooted not only in past history but in a great living work of reconstruction and rebuilding, both of a country and of a people.
The growth of this nation and its work of reconstruction must not and cannot be arrested - and this, for two reasons. One is the existence of large numbers of homeless Jews for whom there is no other salvation in the future except in their own national home. The second is that more than two-thirds of the land in Palestine is still waste land, uncultivated, unsettled, and believed by the Arabs to be uncultivatable. The history of our settlement in the last seventy years has shown that this land can be and is being cultivated by us. This is not because we are more skilled or more capable than others, but because this is the only soil in the world which we call our own. We are not, like our Arab neighbours, in possession of vast underpopulated territories, like Iraq, Syria, Arabia, etc. We must therefore make use of every bit of free land in our country, even desert land.
Another observation is this. We are told that the Arabs are not responsible for the persecution of the Jews in Europe, nor is it their obligation to relieve their plight. I wish to make it quite clear that it never entered our minds to charge the Arabs with solving the Jewish problem, or to ask Arab countries to accept Jewish refugees. We are bringing our homeless and persecuted Jews to our own country and settling them in Jewish towns and villages. There are Arab towns and villages in Palestine - Nablus, Jenin, Ramleh, Zamuka, Lydda, Tarshiha. You will not find a single Jewish refugee in any of them. The Jews who have returned to their country are settled in Petah Tiqva, Rishon le Zion, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Jerusalem, Deganiya, the region of the Negev, and other Jewish towns and villages built by us.
The return of the Jews to their country is a work of self-liberation and self-reconstruction, which is contributing to the reconstruction and liberation of the country as a whole.
My fourth and last remark, is this. We have no conflict with the Arab people. On the contrary, it is our deep conviction that, historically, the interests and aspirations of the Jewish and Arab peoples are compatible and complementary. What we are doing in our country, in Palestine, is reclaiming the land, increasing the yield of the soil, developing modem agriculture and industry, science, and art, raising the dignity of labour, ensuring women’s status of equality, increasing men’s over nature and working out a new civilisation based on human equality, freedom and co-operation in a world which we believe is as necessary and beneficial for our Arab neighbours as for ourselves.
A Jewish-Arab partnership, based on equality and mutual assistance, will help to bring about the regeneration of the entire Middle East. We Jews understand and deeply sympathise with the urge of the Arab people for unity, independence, and progress, and our Arab neighbours, I hope, will realise that the Jews in their own historic homeland can under no conditions be made to remain a subordinate, dependent minority as they are in all other countries in the Diaspora. The Jewish nation in its own country must become a free and independent State with a membership in the United Nations. It is eager to co-operate with its free Arab neighbours to promote economic development, social progress, and real independence of all the Semitic countries in the Middle East.
Mr. Chairman, I most earnestly suggest to your Committee that the real, just, and lasting solution of the problem before you is a Jewish State and a Jewish-Arab alliance.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.