Lord Melchett, the former Sir Alfred Mond, who was chairman of the Joint Palestine Survey Commission, was one of the principal speakers at the opening session Saturday night at the Biltmore Hotel of the Non-Zionist Conference Concerning Palestine.
Urging speedy action in the rebuilding work, he appealed to American Jews who are reputed to be in the habit of making decisions quickly to apply their effort to the work of rebuilding Palestine, which has many agricultural and industrial possibilities. “We cannot afford to waste five years discussing questions of representation on agencies. There are steps that must be taken quickly. Take a quick decision here, because if you do not take it, you will be sorry and regret it the rest of your lives and the lives of your children after you,” Lord Melchett declared.
In the opening sentences of his address Lord Melchett took occasion to deny the rumor spread recently that he was opposed to the Jewish Agency. This was not accurate, he stated, declaring that he hopes some day to be a member of the Agency.
“This movement is to me the most important, not merely for us, but for the whole world,” Lord Melchett declared. “Think back only a few years. Let me take you back to 1913. If I had stood here in 1913 and said to you, come to a conference to discuss the reconstruction of a national home in Palestine, you would have looked upon me as an idle dreamer; even if I had told you in 1913 that the Austrian Archduke would be killed and that out of all that followed would come the chance, the opportunity, the occasion for establishing a national home for the Jews in Palestine. Has it ever occurred to you how remarkable it is that out of the welter of world blood there has arisen this opportunity? Do you really believe that this is an accident? Do you really in your heart believe that we have been led back to Israel by nothing but a fluke? Do you believe there is no great inner meaning to the opportunity we have been given? After 2,000 years of wandering in the wilderness, we have a chance and an opportunity bestowed upon us, and many sit back and say that it is of no interest to them. I wonder if they have thought of that train of circumstances?
“I am glad to have the opportunity of correcting a few misapprehensions which have seemed to creep into various statements in the press. I always feel rather nervous about speaking on Palestine, although I myself have fairly clear views on the subject, but I don’t seem always to be able to convey them to those to whom I am talking. There was published an interview with me which I have never even seen, containing a number of statements which I have never made. I saw one in which I was attacking my old friend and colleague, Dr. Weizmann, which, of course, as President of the British Zionist Organization, I could not have done. I also saw that I was opposed to the Jewish Agency, a body to which I may some day have the honor to belong. I saw that I was in favor of doing away with everything except private enterprise, because I remarked that private enterprise must have a large share and part in the building of Palestine or any other country in the world. As a matter of fact, the various ideas entering into the development of all countries are complementary. The development of Palestine is not a fancy stunt; it is a proposition absolutely like that of any other country in the world. With this in our minds, a great many of our differences should disappear.
“Something happened to me tonight on entering the hotel. I understand this conference is a non-partisan congress. I asked: ‘Where is the congress?’ and the doorman said: ‘The Zionist Congress is upstairs.’ (Laughter). Gentlemen, may I speak frankly? I assure you that outside our community, the entire Gentile world has never yet been able to understand the difference between Zionist and non-Zionist.
“Jewry is not taking the chance and opportunity which the Mandate has given them to rebuild their home land. Mr. Lloyd George, when I was a member of his Cabinet at the time the Balfour Declaration came into being, said to me one day: ‘I can’t understand your people. Here we have given them a great opportunity for which they pray every day, an opportunity to return to Palestine. Here is their opportunity, and the whole world is watching to see what they can do for themselves, and yet they seem so reluctant and terrified at entering into the heritage which is placed before them.’ I endeavored to explain to him the differences between Zionists and non-Zionists. And he said to me: ‘Look here, I am a Welshman, I am a British subject, and I am as proud of my little hillside that is Wales as any patriot, and yet I am a loyal British subject.’
“The distinctions between Zionists and non-Zionists don’t exist except in the figments of our people’s minds. I assure you they don’t exist among people outside. The whole world is not judging the Zionist or non-Zionist organization, but the whole of Jewry for what we make out of Palestine. The thousands of tourists going around that country don’t ask about the Zionist Organization or the Commonwealth Organization or any other body. They ask: ‘What are the Jews doing in this country?’ And if we don’t do well, it will be a disgrace to our community and our people in every part of the world, and if we do well, it will be a stimulus to new achievements, and a cause of pride. Go to the University of Jerusalem, for which Mr. Warburg has done so much, for which American Jewry has done so much, and the block of magnificent buildings you behold is a pride to every Jew who comes to Palestine, the object of admiration of every Gentile who sees it. They don’t see in it an opportunity for a few Jews to contribute funds; they see in it a symbol of Jewish culture, Jewish spirituality, the benefits of which hold good right through this country.
“I was very honored to be Chairman of the Joint Palestine Survey Commission and to be associated with you gentlemen of such international standing and reputation. In a matter of finance or administration, the report of the Commission bearing your names is a prospectus on the strength of which many millions could be gotten in Wall Street in a day. We can’t sell this proposition to you, although we can sell any other outside proposition. This document was based on a series of reports which I would say, having been on many large commissions, governmental and otherwise, are almost unequalled in ability and seriousness and clarity. I am sure my fellow commissioners have put in many days and many nights of very heavy work and very serious reflection. We had all we could do to work out a program for the most critical people in the world, the most difficult people to satisfy. We do not claim this document is an inspired book, but we do claim that it is an honest endeavor to lay down laws which in the future no one who is responsible for the management of that country should try to ignore. Take one or two fundamental facts of the report, the fact that Palestine has from an agricultural point of view a large number of attractions for people economically, the fact that Palestine is a country in which our people can live, and live in the finest land you have ever seen, multiply and be safe from persecution and safe from oppression and from the feeling that they are not wanted in their own country in which other people would as soon not see them. That is a great deal. Add to it that thing you feel when you go to Palestine, when you walk about a country where you are by right and not by favor, where you live because the nations of the world have told you that you are entitled to establish yourselves there. Every stone you lay, every field you plow, belongs to our community and our people, and when you once feel it, you never can forget it. It is something which induced me to build myself a modest little home on the shores of the Lake Tiberias, which is now nearly finished, and which I am going to see soon.
“Mr. Warburg and I are supposed to be hard business men. Yet neither of us has been able to escape not merely the charm but that deep-rooted feeling which seizes you when you first see that sacred soil of Eretz Israel. 1 can’t give you that emotion. Go out and get for yourself. The report of our Commission is a genuine document and I trust it will be carried out. It is merely an outline of the skeleton on which the building is to be erected.
“The Jewish Agency is not merely an economic weapon. It is not merely a body to administer funds or land to colonists; it is a great diplomatic machine which the League of Nations has entrusted to Jewry. I from my experience know, during a period of three High Commissions, that we have to have for that purpose a most unusual assembly of Jews in the world, one that would speak with the greatest possible authority. The problems to be considered are not necessarily Jewish problems. They are problems which affect all countries,-the tariff problem of Palestine, the railroad transportation problem of Palestine, the taxation problem of Palestine. They are all big problems which the government of these countries have to deal with and upon the solution of which depends the future economic upbuilding of Palestine.
“I am myself president of the Economic Board for Palestine in Great Britain, and that body constitutes Zionists, members of the ICA, and members of no organizations at all, but men who care about Palestine. People thought we could never work together. Gentlemen, we have never had the slightest difficulty when we have met. We have never had any division of opinion, never any division on those lines. When you get ten men around a table to discuss a problem, they do not say, ‘I am a Zionist; I am a non-Zionist.’ They say: ‘This is our problem.’
“I hope that the Jewish Agency when it is formed will be a similar body. I sincerely trust that you will put the very great weight which you have in this country behind this movement. It is worth it. It is not only worth it; it becomes an absolute necessity. And let me tell you, you cannot afford to wait While we are discussing, other people are acting. Whereas we have reports as to possibilities in Palestine, Gentiles are acquiring land and beginning to take possession of the best things in the country. It seems curious, but I have found it easier to get money from Gentiles for Palestine than from my fellow-Jews. Let me warn you of what is going on. Powerful syndicates are being formed by wealthy men, non-Jews, and this movement is growing rapidly.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a proposition which has one great merit, and that is why I am so greatly attached to it. It is one out of which nobody wants to make any money. I regard the upbuilding of Palestine as a privilege. To be able to., lay a small stone in the re-erection of the Temple of our people is an honor. It brings a moral force and a moral victory which simply cannot be replaced by anybody else or by anything else, and although perhaps I have received in my life distinctions more than I merited, there is none that I feel a greater one than being privileged to help build up the Land of Israel,” Lord Melchett declared.
N. Y. FEDERATION LAUNCHES $5,300,000 CAMPAIGN
Ninety-one local philanthropic and communal institutions, through the Federation for the support of Jewish Philanthropic Societies, launched a $5,300,000 campaign to meet their 1928 budgetary needs. At a dinner meeting to 1,500 workers at the Hotel Commodore following meetings of industrial and professional groups it was reported that $3,610,299 in annual recurrent subscriptions toward the 1928 quota had been received.
Officials of the Federation stated that this left the Federation with a deficit of $1,778,000 yet to be met, the largest shortage in the twelve-year history of the organization.
Felix M. Warburg, chairman of the Federation board, in the principal address of the night meeting, declared that the greatest optimists in the group which helped found the Federation in 1918 did not expect that standards of work would improve so markedly in so short a time.