Dr. Wise Criticizes British Policy in Palestine and Zionist Leadership
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Dr. Wise Criticizes British Policy in Palestine and Zionist Leadership

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Full Text of Address Before Cleveland Conference on Palestine Given

The address of Dr. Stephen S. Wise at the National Conference on Palestine has called forth wide comment in the United States and abroad. Many of those who were not present in Cleveland having expressed the desire to read Dr. Wise’s address, the Jewish Daily Bulletin publishes herewith the full text.

“Two years ago at Baltimore, where I was invited to assume, and assumed, the Chairmanship of the United Palestine Appeal,” Dr. Wise began. “I dealt inistently with what I called the priority, and even the primacy, of Palestine in very envisagement of Jewish affairs. that priority has since been denied from ithout and repudiated from within, but hether repudiated or affirmed, I am ere today to deal with fundamental values in Palestine, not with the primary place of Palestine but with our ultimate esponsibility for Palestine.


“If I stood alone today, I should still ay exactly what I am about to say. But do not stand alone. Two years ago at Baltimore there were seething, surging multitudes. Today, after all, facing the facts, I am surrounded solely by the old guard, only the old guard, and few, if any, more. But do not imagine that today I speak for myself alone, I believe,–am less sure of the validity of my udgments than I was before a recentisit to Switzerland–that I speak for a reat number, even for the vast majority, of Zionists in America. If what I am about to say had been said, at Atlantic City. the saying of it might have been avoided now. But it was not said, and much has happened since the Atlantic City Conference to make it more imperative even now than then and there to say what is to be said.

“When I shall have done, much will be said about the unwisdom, and the danger, and even, perchance, the disloyalty of criticism. But I call your attention to one thing, mine is to be not criticism but self-criticism.” Dr. Wise. declared. “When I speak in criticism of its leadership, whether here or abroad, it is not criticism that is mine but self-criticism. For I think I have earned the right to say I am part of the Zionist movement, and in a sense even a part of Zionist leadership. Remember the difference between criticism from without and self-criticism which is from within. Criticism may be dishonest and unfriendly–and there is much dishonest and unfriendly criticism of Zionism in America and elsewhere: but self-criticism is the reasoning integrity of an individual and of a collectivity alike. Self-criticism is not defeatism. The fear of self-criticism is defeatism and it is the only defeatism that I believe we need to fear. Self-criticism, far from being defeatism, is a milepost on the road to victory.

“If, as has been suggested, criticism of Zionist shortcomings, regret over unfilled Zionist opportunities, if determination to battle for a more effective and self-respecting and courageous Zionist leadership enrols one as an enemy of Palestine, then, for the first time in thirty years, let me be so enrolled. The fear of criticism is Ghettoism inspired by dread of our enemies. It is a token of the explicable though never justified fear and horror of Jewish disunion. Criticism is often regarded as a sign of disloyalty and antagonism. Know you what self-criticism is? It is the strength of men, who have nothing to conceal. In the self-criticism, which is the strength of men who have nothing to conceal touching a great purpose and the great fulfillment there of. I purpose to indulge myself now.


“Now what are the premises of our self-criticism?

“First, unhappiness over events in and out of Palestine in recent years. Secondly. lack of confidence in the policies of our leadership and the execution of its program. Thirdly, we are in nervous, even panicky fear of what may be the outcome of the present situation in Palestine. Perhaps it is not important enough to mention, but as a sign of wavering confidence–I will not say as a proof of deep distrust–I cite the fact that the Organization today has. I believe. 30,000 members, of Hadassah. makes a total of 70,000 enrolled and organized Zionists in America–a number which should be and I believe will yet be, counted in the hundreds of thousands. Whether this lack of confidence, whether this fear be justified or not, and even if it were unjustified, it surely is the part of expediency–you see that first I choose the lower ground–for an organization such as ours to face these things. If this criticism or self-criticism be justified, then it becomes a matter of public morality by which I for one am bound, as you are, to face these things.


“Now, after making all allowances and all discounts, I declare today in the presence of you, my fellow Zionists, that there is lamentably much justification for a state of mind, the causes of which we can control, the grounds for which it lies in us to correct if we choose. First, there is unhappiness over Palestine. Surely that term is not too strong–unhappiness’ over the failures of Palestine and fear for the outcome. That unhappiness had led to, even as it has grown out of, a deep distrust, and you get the vicious circle of distrust and fear and unhappiness, and ever deepening distrust in a perpetually vicious circle. Now, what are the causes? Have they been corrected in part? Have they been completely corrected? Can they be corrected?–that is the real question! Fellow Zionists, I give you my answer, which may be summarized in one sentence. The administration of our affairs in Palestine has not been business like. It has not been effective. It has not been adequate, and, therefore, being ineffective, inadequate and unbusiness like, has been unequal to the greatness of our Zionist cause. Beyond all peradventure, there has been a woeful lack of effectiveness in prosecuting our program and in realizing our aspirations in Palestine,” the speaker said.


“In truth, the reakdown in Palestine is notorious. We may ignore it, we may deny it, we may conceal it from others and even naively or disingenuously seek to conceal it from ourselves, but there has been a breakdown. The Palestine Executive in the past has been, even up to this day, responsible for the mismanagement leading inevitably to this breakdown. Many causes went before and tragic results have been sequent upon those causes, and not the least of those causes has been an executive made up not as the Executive of which Henrietta Szold is become a member, but an Executive made up through political logrolling and partisan compromises–an Executive that did incredibly well, seeing that it was not chosen to be an Executive in Palestine but to place one group or another, to circumscribe the action of one faction or another, nominally, I repeat, an Executive, actually a sop to the demands of the parties and factions, which did not even cease their factionalism when the Organization surrendered to them. If only they had been decent enough to play the game and cease to be factionalists and partisans after our leadership surrendered to them. the leadership might have been half-defensible and the factions and sections and groups might have been forgivable. Happily, that evil is in process of correction. I believe it will never recur, I believe that that no Zionist leader, whether Lipsky or Weizmann, Mack or Wise, could survive for one hour, who would return to that log-rolling, partisan Executive which has been a curse to Palestine.

“Basle saw that–and curiously enough, and even unaccountably, it was somehow seen more clearly after I was on my way to America! I use no terms for which I am not prepared to give a moral accounting, not merely a technical, verbal, legal accounting. I have used the term, ‘breakdown.’ What do I mean? Well, by breakdown, I have reference to the destruction, not to the restriction, but to the virtual destruction of Zionist credits in Palestine during the last few years. If that be not a breakdown, or its equivalent, I would wish that in the discussion of the afternoon someone shall enlighten me as to what constitutes a breakdown. By breakdown I mean a morally unworthy, financially disastrous system of financial juggling. That spells moral breakdown even when there be no financial breakdown. I speak here on the authority of those best informed touching that matter with which I shall for a moment deal.– namely, that the breakdown of the American Zion Commonwealth is due in part–some of my friends and comrades believe in largest part–to the unwisdom and weakness of the Palestine Executive. I will not join in the hue and cry of those who hold the Labor Group primarily responsibe. The Labor Group in Palestine, which, after all, is the heart of Palestine–you may build Palestine without even American millions, but you cannot build Palestine without the workers who are giving all to its upbuilding,–was coddled into making intolerable and intolerant demands, demands so intolerant as to have been unworthy of the Agudah. let alone a group of enlightend and aspiring workers in the ranks of Zion. It must therefore be exempted from ultimate responsibility for the breakdown in Palestine.


“My fellow Zionists. there has been yet another breakdown. I am not satisfied as a Zionist. as an American Zionist. I am not satisfied either with the Mandatory Government. nor with our own leadership in relation to it. There has been failure. and the responsibility must be fixed for the failure in the joint operations, shall we say. within the relationship of the Mandatory Government and the political leadership of the Zionist movement. First. I am not anti-Weizmann; I am not pro-Weizmann. I am not anti-Rrandeis; I am not pro-Brandeis. Secondly, I am not anti-British. If I had said that six months ago–or, to be accurate, if I had said it before early September, in Basle–those of you who know me would have smiled, because you know that one of my minor foibles has been my in-and-out-of-season defense of and support of the British Government.

“Whether you like it or not. I remind you that from the day the War began I was a supporter of the British Government. I paid the price, too. I was warned, for example, in 1915, that my leadership in the Provisional Executive Committee was threatened and even endangered, because of the insistence of such as affirmed that we must be evenhanded as between Great Britain and Turkey. I answered that the Turkish Government is not a government but an assassinocracy and that between Turkey and Great Britain, I give my unmeasured support to the British Government and Allied Powers. Some of you did not like what I then said. Some of you do not now like what I said in Basle Iess than two months ago, but it must be said. And if things must be said,–and said they must be–to the British Government, who shall say them if not one who is at one and the same time disinterested and unafraid touching the British Government. one, who all his life, for decades before the war, was, as he remains, a warmly admiring and sincerely honoring friend of the British Government. So I am not to be disposed of by being labelled either here or in London as anti-Weizmann or anti-British.

“What did the British Government undertake to do? Let us see. Next Wednesday will be Balfour Day. November 2nd, a great day! Truly we may say, ‘Zeh ha-yom Asah Adonai,’–It is a day which God gave to the Jewish people and the Jewish hope! But what did the Balfour Declaration promise or affirm? You can not have forgotten the promise to ‘facilitate the establishment in Palestine of a Jewish National Home?’ What does ‘facilitate’ mean? With entire candor I make the confession that I define the term ‘facilitate’ differently from the way in which I defined it ten years ago,–the way in which I defined it five years ago. Surely even Zionists may learn something in the course of ten years. I insist upon giving content to ‘facilitate.’ When the Balfour Declaration was submitted, I said exactly as you did, that Great Britain would not give us Palestine, for a nation cannot give a land to another people. What we expected and asked of the Mandatory Government, which was not yet the Mandatory Government at the time of the Balfour Declaration, was that it keep the door open. We are so humble and modest in the things that we believe may be hoped for from them that are not unfriendly to us, that we reduced ‘facilitate’ to a minimum. A hundred times on the platforms of this and other cities of America I too have urged that what we ask of Great Britain is to keep the door open. As Miss Szold said. it had come about that there is only one door open to Jews. I have come to see that to facilitate means more than opening the door, becasue one may open a door and after the door has been opened, neutralize the effect of that open door. We long opened the doors of America, but who among us will claim that as a nation we lived up to the promise of an ‘open door’ to the immigrant peoples to the United States, and that we have dealt justly even while the doors were open to the strangers,–from the point of view of those imponderables that make up the attitude of hosts to homeseking guests.


“Has Great Britain as the Mandatory Government facilitated the creation of a Jewish Homeland in Palestine? No! I do not maintain that it has opposed or has made impossible such establishment. But ‘facilitation’ is a positive term. a term of affirmative content, and I am prepared to say to you today that the Mandatory Government has not facilitated the creation in Palestine of the Jewish Homeland. And this is said by one than whom, outsde of the number of British citizens, no man has done more with his voice and every power at his command to give and to win. within the limits of his loyalty to his own land, support and admiration for the British Government in war and in peace alike. This is not said by a Zionist in some Central European land who, after all, was not overmuch rejoiced ten years ago over Great Britain becoming the Mandatory Government for Paestine. It is said by one who had a part in bringing it to pass that the British Government took the responsibility for the Balfour Declaration. Great Britain would not have issued the Balfour Declaration, if some of us in America standing at President Wilson’s side had not moved the President of the United States to see the fitness of making an informal agreement with the British Government, without which the Balfour Declaration would never have been uttered. In those conferences with the President, wherein ours was the advantage of having Justice Brandeis as our chief spokesman, the speaker was one of two or three in America who in that sense helped to make possible the Balfour Declaration,” Dr. Wise declared.

(The concluding part of Dr. Wise’s address will be given tomorrow.)

Expenditure from the Earthquake Relief Fund was confined to three services, namely, the immediate relief of distress, the provision of free housing next winter and the issue of grants to destitute persons. Relief of distress had already absorbed L. E. 2,100. The provision of huts for 150 families at Nablus and 240 families at Ramleh and Lydda, and of similar accommodation, needed in Salt was well in hand, and was estimated to cost L. E. 10,000.

With regard to the provision of grants to destitutes, it was not possible at this stage to tell what amount would be available.

Amin Bey Tamimi, Said Bey Husaini and Mr. R. Lorenzo made suggestions for the improvement of hutting arrangements at Nablus.

The Chairman declared that the design of the huts had received the approval of the Director of Health; and added that he would refer the suggestions of the Departments concerned.

Amin Bey Tamimi referred to the presence in Nablus of a large number of persons whose houses needed slight repair but who lacked the means to carry them out. He was of the opinion that a small grant would enable such persons to repair and re-occupy their habitations and thus aleviate the need for huts. The Chairman stated that this point would be duly considered.

The text of an official communique which had been prepared for immediate publication was then discussed.

The Chairman informed members that the sum of L. E. 100,000 was all that could be obtained for the purpose in view and that it was hoped, in the light of available statistics. that it would be sufficient to meet cases of genuine need. He also pointed out that this sum was intended for Palestine only. and that the needs of Transjordan would be met from another provision.

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