Posts Tagged ‘Palestine in the heart of the Middle East’

Plan Is Opposed as Source of dissension

Plan Is Opposed as Source of dissension


To the Editor of the NYT-March 23, 1944

At the annual meeting of the American Palestine Association Senator Taft announced it as the primary purpose of his bill “to find a place of refuge for the 4,000,000 surviving Jews of Europe”. To achieve this end extraordinary means are proposed. Our congress is asked to exert pressure on the British government to revise its White Paper of 1939. In my judgment, Senator Taft and American public need to weigh carefully to what extent the proposed means will serve the humanitarian end, and to what extent it will serve other ends.

On the humanitarian objective; places of refuge for Jews driven from Europe must be provided. This is an imperative international responsibility. It is easy to run from this axiom to the conclusion that Palestine ought to be thrown open at once to freer immigration, and without the terminus proposed in the white paper. This conclusion would follow if Palestine were the only place, or the best place, or even a possible place for more than a limited number; and if there were no substantial obstacles in the way.

Agricultural possibilities are limited.’ Only half of the total area of this New Hampshire-size country can be cultivated. The best parts are occupied.


The Industrial Possibilities


What of a program of intensive industrialization? Each must judge for himself the lasting promise of forced industrializing of a land so little favored by nature for this purpose. In any case there can be no industry without market outlets and lines of supply. And these cannot be developed on any but a local scale prior to a general world settlement. As a immediate resource for Jewish refuge this program has no extensive contribution to make.

It is not as a place of refuge, but as a “National Home” for the Jews, that Palestine is all-important. On one ground, Palestine is not only the best place but the only place for a National Home-the ground of religious association.

Not only are these two purposes distinct-the place of refuge and the national Home-they are to some extent at odds with each other. For the Jews who are in Palestine because of a burning and historical piety are not at easy with the recent influx of refugees from Europe, pregnant with nationalism and animated by visions of social futures rather than by devotion to the historic sacred law and the return to Mount Zion.

New, the Balfour Declaration was concerned with the National Home, not primarily with the place of refuge.

The declaration (issued November, 1917) held out no engagement for “the reconstitution of Palestine as the National Home of the Jews”, although it is now being frequently so represented.

It committed Great Britain to “view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people. “it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”. There is a world of difference between building a Home within Palestine and reconstituting Palestine as a Jewish commonwealth.

When, therefore, one of the groups now pressing for these bills announces that the Jews of Palestine “did not come to form a new minority”, they are in effect not appealing for enforcement of the Balfour Declaration but for its replacement.

In 1919 (to use the figures of the Palestine Partition Commission of 1938) there were in Palestine 58,000 Jews and 642,000 Arabs (Moslem and Christian): Jews were roughly 10 percent of the total. In 1937 there were about 402,000 Jews and 990.000 Arabs.

Today we may estimate about 600,000 Jews and 1,000,000 Arabs. Allow some weight to the concentration of Jews in towns and their superior skill and practice in political action, and it would seem that a Jewish-controlled Palestine is not far out of reach. It is this which the Arabs fear.

Putting these various items together, does it not appear that the animus of the present drive is not primarily humanitarian but political?

The Arab has certainly profited by the general improvements incident to the influx of new capital and the energy of the settlers. At the same time he feels his total economic position less secure. One item, relating to farm labor, must suffice. The Jewish National fund buys land in Palestine, to “be held as the inalienable property of the Jewish people,” and leases it to Jewish farmers.

But why should not the Arabs give up a small percentage of their immense domain” (chiefly desert, with a thin “green crescent” around the rim) and even accept an exchange of population, if it will make for the realization of the Jewish dream?

Those who are now urging this view do not explain what they propose to do with the detail that to the Moslems also Jerusalem is a sacred city; that the very site of the former Jewish Temple is now occupied by the great El Aksa Mosque (began in 690 AD);

And that to maintain these and other religious establishments in Palestine a considerable local Moslem population is required as well as a free flow of worshipers and pilgrims. The entire Moslem world is concerned in this.

But look at the matter from the national and economic point of view. The material advantages of Palestine come largely from its position on the Mediterranean coast.

Commercially it belongs to the European area. Though its natural harbors are few and poor, it stands in a strategic position between Europe and the building industrial development-not of Palestine so much as of the Arab lands behind Palestine, as far as Iraq and the Nedj, which will need the aid of outside finance. A direct face on the Mediterranean is as important for the Arabs as for the Zionist; and the important Northern harbors are in Lebanese or Turkish hands.

Cultural relations with Europe, too, will be increasingly important for the new Arab life. Surrender of Palestine to exclusive Zionist control would amount to the surrender of an eye toward Europe.

Arabian Cultural Status


The disconcerting thing about these proposals, to which the United States is asked to become a party, is not the rivalry of interest but the silence of political-Zionist spokesmen in regard to the existence of any such Arab interest. They tend to backwash the cultural status of the Arab peoples, to ignore their new university life, their new literature, their new economic prowess and their wonderful museums.

It is not the bad effendis, it is the entire Arab population of the Near East which protest. And we are asked to make a national commitment whose consequences would be not only a new tension in a situation already strained with the demands of war but a revulsion against everything Anglo-American on the part of the Moslem world.

I speak with all consideration when I say that I believe the political Zionists at this moment, as distinct from the cultural Zionists who have built the noble Hebrew university on Mount Scopus and who know what a National Home must be, these political Zionists are the chief enemies of the Jewish interest in the world of tomorrow. What can they hope to gain by extricating their brethren from the prejudices of Europe only to build a community in Palestine which has to be protected by Western force because it is cradled in an environment of sedulously cultivated distrust and fear?


Cambridge, Mass, March 23, 1944

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