More than seventeen hundred men and women heard Dr. Chaim Weizman, President of the World Zionist Organization, denounce Arab agitators in Jerusalem for disturbing the peaceful relations between Jews and Arabs in Palestine, and charge that an anti-Semitic attack was being fomented, at a mass meeting held under the auspices of the New York Zionist Region on Thursday evening, November 1, at the Hotel Astor, on the eve of the eleventh anniversary of the issuance of the Balfour Declaration, which the meeting was intended to celebrate.
A unanimous resolution protesting against the interference of the British officials at the Wailing Wall last Yom Kippur was adopted following upon Dr. Weizmann’s vigorous indictment of a band of Arab agitators. In his address, Dr. Weizmann emphasized his confidence in the British people, and declared that they would see to it that justice was done to the Jews in Palestine.
The meeting was opened by Leo Wolfson, Chairman of the New York Zionist Region, who pointed out that the was the first of a series of greater Zionist activities to be sponsored by New York Zionists. He introduced Louis Lipsky, President of the Zionist Organization of America, who acted as chairman of the evening. Reminding the audience that it had gathered to celebrate the eleventh anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, Mr. Lipsky emphasized the obscure character of the Declaration, but said that it held a nucleus of great hope which had inspired the Jews of the world to work in Palestine. He concluded with a eulogy of Arthur James Balfour, saying:
“In gratitude for that which has come to us through the Declaration, we should not pass without the attention of reverence for him who was its author. A man of vast achievements, intricately bound up with all that is best in the life of the Anglo-Saxon world; a man of keen vision and deep insight; a statesman serene and magnanimous; the crowning years of his life have been given to the cause of a people long oppressed and unfairly dealt with. His deep reverence for Israel’s past made it imperative that he should become the instrument for helping to create a future for the heirs of that past.”
During the evening, addresses were delivered by Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, of Cleveland; Schmarya Levin, member of the World Zionist Executive, and Rev. Z. H. Masliansky. In an exposition of the aims and achievement of Zionism, Rabbi Silver declared that two elements were dominant in Jewish history, and those have been the democratic tendency, and the will to unity. In the latter part of his address, he devoted himself to the unifying character of Palestine, and said that though no other project had been able to unite American Jews, it remained for Eretz Israel to bind all segments of the Jewish people. He referred to the recent Non-Zionist Conference as an historic occasion, which demonstrated the power of the land of Israel.
Describing the course of events since the issuance of the Balfour Declaration, Dr. Chaim Weizmann lauded the Declaration for the encouragement it had given to Jews for their work in Palestine. He said that Zionists were now “a living factor in the structure of Palestine” as regards the administration of the country. Referring to the obligations of the British Government, under the Mandate, Dr. Weizmann protested against the recent Wailing Wall incident, saying:
“We solemnly register our protest. We solemnly demand, and we shall continue to demand, in all respect and with all loyal means at our disposal, a speedy settlement of this question. It is intolerable that in Jerusalem, where we are of right and not on sufferance, where we have come by right not only of the Mandate or the Balfour Declaration, but by a declaration which was issued thousands of years ago–in this Jerusalem, which is equally sacred to us as it is to the other two religious in Jerusalem, we shall demand freedom of worship and non-interference with divine service at the Wailing Wall. I regret to have to state that this incident, trivial as its beginning may have been, will or may, if it is not settled, have serious consequences.
“Today, Arab politicians, small Arab politicians, are trying in Jerusalem to stri up hatred between Jew and Arab. They are trying to undo the work of cooperation for which we have consistently labored throughout these years They are utiliting methods of anti-Semitism which have been long ago discarded in Europe and America. They are today trying to publish in Palestine the Protocols of Zion–a ridiculous forgery which even Mr. Ford has recognized as being false.
“These methods will not help the Arabs. They will not help Palestine Anti-Semitism has not served any nation, least of all the Arabs, who have had a struggle before them. We are still as always, ready to cooperate with them, but we shall not tolerate their unjust interference in our business. We are in Palestine of right and not on sufference and Arabs must not interfere with our legitimate business.”
Dr. Weizmann’s address led to the adoption of a resolution to be forwarded to the British Government, to the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations, and to the Palestine Government. The resolution, presented by Mr. Herman Bernstein, Chairman of the Political Committee of the Zionist Organization of America, read as follows:
“Gathered on November 1st, 1928, at the Hotel Astor in the City of New York to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, this assembly, on behalf of the Jews of America, extends its affectionate greeting to Lord Balfour. To reaffirm our faith in the British Government, acting as the Mandatory Power, to carry out the terms of the Declaration and the Mandate based thereon.
“Nevertheless, wer must, in common with the Jews of other lands, express our solemn protest at the affront committed against the Jewish people, on the Day of Atonement by local officials of the Palestine Government, in interfering with religious services held at the Western Wall of the ancient site of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem. This we hold to be a violation of the letter and spirit of the Balfour Declaration, and of the terms of the Mandate relating to holy places in Palestine. We ask that the historic Jewish right of unrestricted and unmolested access to the Western Wall be safeguarded.”