Pre-State Israel: Zionist Organization Statement on Palestine at the Paris Peace Conference
(February 3, 1919)
PROPOSALS PRESENTED TO THE PEACE CONFERENCE
The Zionist Organization respectfully submits the following draft resolutions for the consideration of the Peace Conference:
1. The High Contracting Parties recognize the historic title of the Jewish people to Palestine and the right of Jews to reconstitute in Palestine their National Home.
2. The boundaries of Palestine shall be as declared in the Schedule annexed hereto.
3. The sovereign possession of Palestine shall be vested in the League of Nations and the Government entrusted to Great Britain as Mandatory of the League.
4. (Provision to be inserted relating to the application in Palestine of such of the general conditions attached to mandates as are suitable to the case.)
5. The mandate shall be subject also to the following special conditions:
1. Palestine shall be placed under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment there of the Jewish National Home, and ultimately render possible the creation of an autonomous Commonwealth, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
To this end the Mandatory Power shall inter alia:
1. Promote Jewish settlement and close settlement on the land, the established rights of the present non-Jewish population being equitably safeguarded.
2. Accept the co-operation in such measures of a Council representative of the Jews in Palestine and of the world that may be established for the development of the Jewish National Home in Palestine and entrust the organization of Jewish education to such Council.
3. On being satisfied that the constitution of such Council precludes the making of private profit, offer to the Council in priority any concession for public works or for the development of natural sources which may be found desirable to grant.
1. The Mandatory Power shall encourage the widest measure of self-government for localities practicable in the conditions of the country.
2. There shall be for ever the fullest freedom of religious worship for all creeds in Palestine. There shall be no discrimination among the inhabitants with regard to citizenship and civil rights, on the grounds of religion, or of race.
3. (Provision to be inserted relating to the control of the Holy Places.)
THE BOUNDARIES OF PALESTINE
The boundaries of Palestine shall follow the general lines set out below:
Starting on the North at a point on the Mediterranean Sea in the vicinity south of Sidon and following the watersheds of the foothills of the Lebanon as far as Jisr El-Karaon thence to El-Bire, following the dividing line between the two basins of the Wadi El-Korn and the Wadi Et-Teim, thence in a southerly direction following the dividing line between the Eastern and Western slopes of the Hermon, to the vicinity west of Beit Jenn, then eastward following the northern watersheds of the Nahr Mughaniye close to and west of the Hedjaz Railway.
In the east a line close to and west of the Hedjaz Railway terminating in the Gulf of Akaba.
In the south a frontier to be agreed upon with the Egyptian Government.
In the west the Mediterranean Sea.
The details of the delimitations, or any necessary adjustments of detail, shall be settled by a Special Commission on which there shall be Jewish representation.
THE HISTORICAL TITLE
The claims of the Jews with regard to Palestine rest upon the following main considerations:
1. The land is the historic home of the Jews; there they achieved their greatest development; from the centre, through their agency, there emanated spiritual and moral influences of supreme value to mankind. By violence they were driven from Palestine, and through the ages they have never ceased to cherish the longing and the hope of a return.
2. In some parts of the world, and particularly in Eastern Europe, the conditions of life of millions of Jews are deplorable. Forming often a congested population, denied the opportunities which would make a healthy development possible, the need of fresh outlets is urgent, both for their own sake and the interests of the population of other races, among whom they dwell. Palestine would offer one such outlet. To the Jewish masses it is the country above all others in which they would most wish to cast their lot. By the methods of economic development to which we shall refer later, Palestine can be made now, as it was in ancient times, the home of a prosperous population many times as numerous as that which now inhabits it.
3. Palestine is not large enough to contain more than a proportion of the Jews of the world. The greater part of the fourteen millions or more scattered throughout all countries must remain in their present localities, and it will doubtless be one of the cares of the Peace Conference to ensnare for them, wherever they have been oppressed, as for all peoples, equal rights and humane conditions. A Jewish National Home in Palestine will, however, be of high value to them also. It influence will permeate the Jewries of the world, it will inspire these millions, hitherto often despairing, with a new hope; it will hold out before their eyes a higher standard; it will help to make them even more useful citizens in the lands in which they dwell.
4. Such a Palestine would be of value also to the world at large, whose real wealth consists in the healthy diversities of its civilizations.
5. Lastly, the land itself needs redemption. Much of it is left desolate. It present condition is a standing reproach. Two things are necessary for that redemption -- a stable and enlightened Government, and an addition to the present population which shall be energetic, intelligent, devoted to the country, and backed by the large financial resources that are indispensable for development. Such a population the Jews alone can supply.
Inspired by these ideas, Jewish activities, particularly during the last thirty years, have been directed to Palestine within the measure that the Turkish administrative system allowed. Some millions of pounds sterling have been spent in the country, particularly in the foundation of agricultural settlements. These settlements have been, for the most part, highly successful.
With enterprise and skill the Jews have adopted modern scientific methods and have shown themselves to be capable agriculturalists. Hebrew has been revived as a living language; it is the medium of instruction in the schools and the tongue is in daily use among the rising generation. The foundations of a Jewish University have been laid at Jerusalem and considerable funds have been contributed for the creation of its building and for its endowment. Since the British occupation the Zionist Organization has expended in Palestine approximately =A3 50,000 a month upon relief, education and sanitation. To promote the future development of the country, great sums will be needed for drainage, irrigation, roads, railways, harbors and public works of all kinds, as well as for land settlement and house building. Assuming a political settlement under which the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine is assured, the Jews of the world will make every effort to provide the vast sums of money that will be needed.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews pray for the opportunity speedily to begin life anew in Palestine. Messengers have gone out from many places, and groups of young Jewish men proceeding on foot have already reached Trieste and Rome on their weary pilgrimage to Zion.
The historic title of the Jews to Palestine was recognized by the British Government in its Declaration of November 2nd, 1917, addressed by the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to Lord Rothschild, and reading as follows:
"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this objective, it being clear that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."
The French Government gave its support to the British Declaration to M. Sokolow as follows:
Ministre des Affaires Etrangres de la
Le 14 Fevrier, 1918
"Comme il avait convenu au cours de notre entretien le samedi 9 de ce mois, le Gouvernement de la Republique, en vue de preciser son attitude
vis-a-vis de aspirations sionistes, tendant por les juifs en Palestine un foyer national, a publi un communique dans la Presse.
"En vous communiquant ce texte, je saisis avee empressement l occasionde vous feliciter du gereux devouement avec lequel vous poursuivez la realisation des voeux de vos coreligionnaires et de voux remercier du zele que vous apportez el leur faire connaitre les sentiments de sympathie que leurs efforts eveillent dans les pays de le Entente et notamment en France.
"Veuillez agreer, Monsieur, les assurances de ma consideration tres distinguee.
(Sgd.) S. Pichon
Paris, Le 9 de Fevrier, 1918.
"Monsieur Sokolow representant des organisations Sionistes, a et reu ce matin, au Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres, par M. Stephen Pichon, qui a heureaux de lui conformer que l entente est complete entre les gouvernements francaise et britannique en ce qui concerne la question dun etablissement juif en Palestine.
The Italian Government has declared its approval on the same lines. The President of the United States has expressed his sympathy with the Zionist aspirations in the spirit of Mr. Balfour's declaration. The Governments of Japan, Greece, Serbia, China, and Siam have added their approval to the declaration.
Great Britain as Mandatory of the League of Nations
We ask that Great Britain shall act as Mandatory of the League of Nations for Palestine. The selection of Great Britain as Mandatory is urged on the ground that this is the wish of the Jews of the world, and the League of Nations in selecting a Mandatory will follow as far as possible the popular wish of the people concerned.
The Preference on the part of the Jews for a British Trusteeship is unquestionably the result of the peculiar relationship of England to the Jewish Palestinian problem. The return of the Jews to Zion has not only been a remarkable feature in English literature, but in the domain of statecraft it has played its part, beginning with the readmission of the Jews under Cromwell. It manifested itself particularly in the ninetenth century in the instructions given to British Consular representatives in the Orient after the Damascus [Blood Libel] incident; in the various Jewish Palestinian projects suggested by English non-Jews prior to 1881; in the letters of endorsement and support given by members of the Royal Family and Officers of the Government to Lawrence Oliphant; and, finally, in the three consecutive acts which definitely associated Great Britain with Zionism in the minds of the Jews, viz: the El-Arish offer in 1901; the East African offer in1903, and, lastly, the British Declaration in favour of a Jewish National Home in Palestine in 1917. Moreover, the Jews who have gained political experience in many lands under a great variety of governmental systems, whole-heartedly appreciate the advanced and liberal policies adopted by Great Britain in her modern colonial administration.
It may be stated without doubt that all of these things account for the attitude taken by the Jews with reference to the Trusteeship, as evidenced by the following:
On December 16th, 1918, the American Jewish Congress composed of delegates representing 3,000,000 American Jews adopted the following resolution:
"The American Jewish Congress instruct their delegation to Europe to co-operate with representatives of other Jewish Organizations and specifically with the World Zionist Organization, to the end that the Peace Conference may recognize the aspirations and historic claims of the Jewish people with regard to Palestine, and declare that, in accordance with the British Government's Declaration of November 2nd, 1917, endorsed by the Allied Governments and the President of the United States, there shall be established such political administrative and economic conditions in Palestine, as will assure under the trusteeship of Great Britain, acting on behalf of such League of Nations as may be formed, the development of Palestine into a Jewish Commonwealth; it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which shall prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in other countries."
Similar action was taken in Jaffa in the month of December, 1918, by a conference of representatives of the Jewish population in Palestine, and on January 4th, 1919, by Jewish Congresses representing about two million Jews of the reconstituted States of Austria-Hungary and of Poland.
The boundaries above outlined are what we consider essential for the necessary economic foundation of the country. Palestine must have its natural outlets to the seas and the control of its rivers and their headwaters. The boundaries are sketched with the general economic needs and historic traditions of the country in mind, factors which necessarily must also be considered by the Special Commission in fixing the definite boundary lines. This Commission will bear in mind that it is highly desirable, in the interests of economical administration, that the geographical area of Palestine should be as large as possible, so that it may eventually contain a large and thriving population which could more easily bear the burdens of modern civilized government than a small country with a necessary limitation of inhabitants.
The economic life of Palestine, like that of every other semi-arid country, depends on the available water supply. It is, therefore, of vital importance not only to secure all water resources already feeding the country, but also to be able to conserve and control them at their sources.
The Hermon is Palestine's real "Father of Waters," and cannot be severed from it without striking at the very root of its economic life. The Hermon not only need re-afforestation but also other work before it can again adequately serve as the water reservoir of the country. It must, therefore, be wholly under the control of those who will most willingly as well as most adequately restore it to its maximum utility. Some international arrangement must be made whereby the riparian rights of the people dwelling south of the Litani River may be fully protected. Properly cared for, these headwaters can be made to serve in the development of the Lebanon as well as of Palestine.
The fertile plains east of the Jordan, since the earliest Biblical times, have been linked economically and politically with the land west of the Jordan. The country which is now very sparsely populated, in Roman times supported a great population. It could now serve admirably for colonization on a large scale. A just regard for the economic needs of Palestine and Arabia demands that free access to the Hedjaz Railway throughout its length be accorded both Governments.
An intensive development of the agriculture and other opportunities of Trans-Jordania make it imperative that Palestine shall have access to the Red Sea and an opportunity of developing good harbours on the Gulf of Akaba. Akaba, it will be recalled, was the terminous of an important trade route of Palestine from the days of Solomon onwards. The ports developed in the Gulf of Akaba should be free ports through which the commerce of the Hinterland may pass on the same principle which guides us in suggesting that free access be given to the Hedjaz Railway.
PROPOSALS TO THE MANDATORY POWER
In connection with the Government to be set up by the Mandatory of the League of Nations until such time as the people of Palestine shall be prepared to undertake the establishment of representative and responsible Government, proposals will be made in due course to the Mandatory Power to the following effect:
1. In any instrument establishing the constitution of Palestine the Declarations of the Peace Conference shall be recited as forming an integral part of that constitution.
2. The Jewish people shall be entitled to fair representation in the executive and legislative bodies in the selection of public and civil servants. In giving such representation the Mandatory Power shall consult the Jewish Council hereinafter mentioned.
Neither law nor custom shall preclude the appointment of a citizen of Palestine as chief of the Executive.
1. That in encouraging the self-government of localities the Mandatory Power shall secure the maintenance by local communities of proper standards of administration in matters of education, communal or regional activities. In granting or enlarging local autonomy regard shall be had to readiness and ability of the community to attain such standards. Local autonomous communities shall be empowered and encouraged to combine and co-operate for common purposes.
2. Education without distinction of race shall be assisted from public funds.
3. Hebrew shall be one of the official languages of Palestine and shall be employed in all documents, decrees, and announcements and on all stamps, coins and notes issued by the Government.
4. The Jewish Sabbath and Holy Days shall be recognized as legal days of rest.
5. All inhabitants continuing to reside in Palestine who on the day of , 19 , have their domicile in Palestine, except those who elect in writing within six months from such date to retain their foreign citizenship, shall become citizens of Palestine, and they and all persons in Palestine or naturalized under the laws of Palestine after the day of , 19 , shall be citizens thereof and entitled to the protection of the Mandatory Power on behalf of the Government of Palestine.
Recognizing that the general progress of Palestine must begin with the reform of the conditions governing land tenure and settlement, the Mandatory Power shall appoint a Commission (upon which the Jewish Council shall have representation) with power:
1. To make a survey of the land and to schedule all lands that may be made available for close settlement, intensive cultivation, and public use.
2. To propose measures for determining and registering titles of ownership of land.
3. To propose measures for supervising transactions in land with a view of preventing land speculation.
4. To propose measures for the close settlement, intensive cultivation, and public use of land, where necessary by compulsory purchase at a fair pre-war price and further, by making available all waste lands unoccupied and inadequately cultivated lands or lands without legal owners and state lands.
5. To propose measures for the taxation and the tenure of land and in general any progressive measures in harmony with the policy of making the land available for close settlement and intensive cultivation.
6. To propose measures whereby the Jewish Council may take over all lands available for close settlement and intensive cultivation.
7. In all such measures the established rights of the present population shall be equitably safeguarded.
THE JEWISH COUNCIL FOR PALESTINE
1. A Jewish Council for Palestine shall be elected by a Jewish Congress representative of the Jews of Palestine and of the world, which shall be convoked in Jerusalem on or before January 1st, 1920, or as soon thereafter as possible by the Provisional Jewish Council hereinafter mentioned.
The Jewish Congress shall determine its function as well as constitution and functions of the Jewish Council in conformity with the purpose and spirit of the Declarations of the Peace Conference and of the powers conferred by the Mandatory Power upon the Jewish Council.
2. The Jewish Council shall be recognized as a legal entity and shall have power:
1. To co-operate and consult with and to assist the Government of Palestine in any and all matters affecting the Jewish people in Palestine and in all such cases to be and to act as the representative of the Jewish people.
2. To participate in the development and administration of immigration, close land settlement, credit facilities, public work, services and enterprises, and every other form of activity conducive to the development the country. The organization of Jewish education to be entrusted to such Council.
3. To acquire and hold real estate.
4. To acquire and exercise concessions for public works and the development of natural resources.
5. With the consent of the Jewish inhabitants concerned or their accredited representatives, to assess such inhabitants for the purpose of stimulating and maintaining education, communal, charitable and other public institutions (including the Jewish Council), and other activities primarily concerned with the welfare of the Jewish people in Palestine.
6. With the approval of the Mandatory Power and upon such terms and conditions as the Mandatory Power may prescribe, to administer the immigration laws of Palestine in so far as they affect the Jewish immigration.
7. With the approval of the Mandatory Power, to issue bonds, debentures, or other obligations, the proceeds of any or all of which to be expended by the Jewish Council for the benefit of the Jewish people or for the development of Palestine.
8. The Jewish Council shall hold all of its property and income in trust for the benefit of the Jewish people.
1. A Provisional Jewish Council of representatives of the Zionist Organization, of the Jewish population in Palestine, and of such other approved Jewish organizations as are willing to co-operate in the development of a Jewish Palestine shall be formed forthwith by the Zionist Organization. Such Provisional Jewish Council shall exercise all of the powers and perform all of the duties of the Jewish Council until such time as the Jewish Council shall be formally constituted by the Jewish Congress.
2. Finally, when in the opinion of the Mandatory Power, the inhabitants of Palestine shall be able to undertake the establishment of a representative and responsible government, such steps shall be taken as will permit the establishment of such government through the exercise of a democratic franchise without regard to race or faith; and the inhabitants of Palestine under such government shall continue to enjoy equal civil and political rights as citizens irrespective of race or faith.
THE ZIONIST ORGANIZATION
The foregoing proposals with reference to Palestine are submitted to the Peace Conference by the Zionist Organization. The Organization in the present form dates from the year 1897, when the first Zionist Congress was held at Basle, Switzerland, under the leadership of Theodore Herzl. This Organization absorbed at that time all Zionist Organizations which had been in existence previously. The Zionist Movement is supported by Jews in every country where there are Jewish mass settlements, i.e., in Eastern Europe, the United States of America, in Western Europe, in all the British Colonies, in the Argentine, in Siberia, in Shanghai, in Morocco, and in Tunis. Zionist federations actively engaged in furthering the principles for which the movement stands are to be found in all these countries.
The supreme body which controls the activities of the organizations in the different countries consist of delegates elected by the various local Shekel payers (poll tax) by a democratic franchise, and this body meets biennially.
Through the several financial agencies which the Zionist Congress has created to enable it to carry forward its work in Palestine, the Organization and associated bodies have raised and have expended in Palestine since its inception; millions of pounds. Notwithstanding the fact that since 1913 no meetings of the Congress have been held, the Organization has greatly increased its enrolled membership, and has the support of hundreds of thousands of Jews who sympathize with aims of the movement, and contribute to its funds. Since the war, the centres of political activity have been transferred to London and the United States of America.
In the allied countries the conduct of the political activities of the Organization has been entrusted to Dr. Chaim Weizmann and M. Nahum Sokolow, members of the Executive. In the United States of America the Provisional Executive Committee for General Zionist Affairs, created at the outbreak of the war, has been replaced by the Zionist Organization of America, the Honorary President of which is Louis D. Brandeis, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Zionists are to be found at the head of all the greater Jewish national institutions which depend upon mass opinion for moral and financial support; and in addition, take a prominent part in all the Jewish National Councils established in the new states in Eastern Europe.
In every part of the world on the Day of Atonement the Jews pray that "all nations may be united by a common bond, so that the will of God may reign supreme throughout the world." In the fulfillment of this prayer, the Jews hope that they will be able to take an honorable place in the new community of nations. It is their purpose to establish in Palestine a government dedicated to social and national justice; a government that shall be guided, like the community of old, by that justice and equality which is expressed in the great precept of our Lawgiver: "There shall be but one law for you and the stranger in the land."
All of which is respectfully submitted.
Rothschild (Lord Walter Rothschild)
On behalf of the Zionist Organization,
On behalf of Zionist Organization of America,
Julian W. Mack.
Stephen S. Wise
Jacob De Haas.
On behalf of the Russian Zionist Organization
On behalf of the Jewish Population of Palestine in accordance with Mandate received,