Views of Dr. Magnes Explained in Complete Text of Statement
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Views of Dr. Magnes Explained in Complete Text of Statement

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The following is the complete text of a statement made by Dr. Judah L. Magnes, chancellor of the Hebrew University, to the New York "Times" correspondent in Palestine, in which he outlines his views on Palestine and Arab-Jewish relations. In the present situation Dr. Magnes’s statement, a summary of which has already appeared in the "Jewish Daily Bulletin," is timely.

"The statement of Mr. Philby is a great advance upon what is usually put forward as the Arab case in Palestine. If one were to compare this statement with the intransigeant nationalistic attitude of the Arab delegation, as expressed in the Churchill-Samuel White Paper of June, 1922, it is apparent that much has been learned, fortunately, since that time.

"Whereas, then it was said that the ‘Balfour declaration cannot be accepted as a basis for discussion,’ now Mr. Philby sensibly declares that ‘no solution can be regarded as practical which postulates the abrogation of the Balfour declaration.’ Whereas, then the mandatory idea, with its great international background, was reduced to making the mandatory merely an ‘assisting power’ for the immediate creation of an Arab independent government, Mr. Philby says that no practical solution can envisage ‘the abandonment of her mandatory position by Great Britain.’

"Finally, as far as the Jewish position is concerned, Mr. Philby grants what the Arab delegation of 1922 refused to admit, that in any constitutional and legislative scheme the High Commissioner, representing the League of Nations and the mandatory, is to have wide powers, including the responsibility for the maintenance of security-something which the Jewish community, especially after the recent riots, must be fully guaranteed-and the right of veto, in order that international obligations may be set and the rights of minorities safeguarded. He grants also what has heretofore been resolutely contested, that ‘freedom of immigration, subject to the capacity of the country to absorb immigrants, might be stipulated as a condition precedent to the establishment of such a government; and the Arabs would certainly raise no objection even to the continuance of the present Jewish Agency to watch over and protect the interests of the Jews.’


"Men of good-will should be grateful to Mr. Philby for thus formulating so much of the case. For it ought to be clear that it is impossible for Great Britain, the principal allied and associated powers and the League of Nations to abandon international declarations, which they have made so often and with so much solemnity. Even those who felt, like myself, that the form of the Balfour declaration was a handicap rather than a help, because of its lack of clarity, and more especially because it emphasized unduly the Jewish relationship to Palestine rather than emphasizing the nature of Palestine itself as an international Holy Land, cannot wish to see international good faith discredited, as it would be should this declaration be nullified.

"From the point of view of international decency, if for no other reason, this is undesirable, ‘unthinkable,’ to quote Mr. Philby. It is necessary, of course, to strip the Balfour declaration of the extravagant meaning which the British Government permitted to be given it when it was issued, and the declaration was stripped in a series of interpretations, most notably in the Churchill-Samuel White Paper of June, 1922, which was accepted formally and officially by the Zionist Organization as the basis of its policy.

"Unfortunately that organization has done all too little to carry this policy into effect or to educate the Jewish public as to its implications. Many good Jews are still under the impression that Palestine was ‘awarded’ to the Jews. But this interpretation of 1922 put an end practically to what Mr. Philby calls ‘the political Zionist dream of ultimate domination of the Holy Land.’ What the Balfour declaration gives the Jews after being thus whittled down is nothing more and nothing less than, in the words of the White Paper, that ‘the Jewish people are in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance.’ This is a great thing-basing the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine upon a generally accepted international dictum, and this is, to my mind, no more than the Jews need ask or have in order to enable them to make a home in Palestine of the kind that Ahad Ha’Am pictured, a spiritual and intellectual centre for Judaism and the Jewish people, rooted in agriculture, industry and all kinds of labor.


"Mr. Philby says that ‘no solution is really feasible which ignores the unquestionable moral and legal rights of the Arabs.’ Here again he is right, and the only question is what these moral and legal rights of the Arab are.

"Mr. Philby cites the promises made to the Arabs through Sir Henry Mac-Mahon in 1915 as the legal ground for the Arab demand for the ‘cancellation of the Balfour declaration, the relinquishment of the mandate and the establishment of an independent national government in Palestine.’ In the White Paper of 1922 the British Government has declared that ‘it is not the case-that during the war his Majesty’s Government gave an undertaking that an independent national government should be at once established in Palestine.’ It is not unthinkable that governments in war time should, unfortunately, make contradictory promises and declarations, and it is high time that this controversy be cleared up. This could perhaps be done through the appointment of a committee of historians-an Englishman, an Arab, a Jew-to go through the Arab archives at the Foreign Office, and to publish authenticated and annotated texts of the fundamental documents, in some such way as is being done with other diplomatic archives in various countries, including England.

"But the crux of Mr. Philby’s argument, as is the Arab contention from the beginning, lies in what is called an independent national government. Mr. Philby himself qualifies the term ‘independent’ by saying that ‘the mandate cannot simply be abandoned.’ Indeed, I should add that from the international point of view, from the fact that Palestine is a land sui generis, sacred to three religions, it should always be under international control through a mandatory. This is probably the only way for safeguarding international obligations here and of guaranteeing to all elements of the population-the majority as well as the minorities-their equal rights and privileges, including immigration, settlement on the land and the living of a free cultural life.


"On this account, too, it seems to me that the High Commissioner, who is to be clothed with such great powers, should, to be sure, be nominated by the mandatory, but he should be confirmed by the League of Nations in order to emphasize his position, not as administrator so much as the symbol and guarantor of international obligations, rights and duties. Moreover, the Palestinian Government should have much more contact with the League of Nations generally.

"But what is meant by the term ‘national’ government? If it means Arab national or if it means Jewish national, I am opposed to it. If, however, it means a bi-national government, a Palestinian Government, in which the word Palestine includes all three religions equally, a Palestinian Government, moreover, that is more than a petty autonomous Balkan thing and that has its great international function to fulfill, i. e., to keep Palestine as the Holy Land and to help make it into a home for Jew, Christian and Moslem alike, then I am for it.

"I am not unmindful of the risks of such an experiment, particularly because of the political immaturity of large parts of the country, and the low state of morals and of education. But if Jew and Arab are to live together in Palestine, it must be as an act of faith-of faith that they are brother peoples, and that they can rise above their weaknesses and their pas- (Continued on Page 5)

sions, however difficult this may now seem. And it is only through an act of faith that living together under such complex conditions is at all thinkable; the more generous and open-hearted Jew and Arab are to one another right now during these times of hatred and distress, the longer they will remember each other in gratitude and friendship. If political concessions are to be made, let them be made now with an open hand and ungrudgingly. The Jew must say to the Arab. ‘We want no political domination,’ and the Arab must say to the Jew, ‘We recognize the Jew’s full right to be here.’ Jew and Arab should sit down together and then submit their joint proposals to the mandatory power.


"I should like the Palestinian nationality to mean that Palestine is no place for the Arab State or a Jewish State or a British State, but that Palestine is a place where all together will create an international enclave, an interreligious and an interracial home. If a constitution and a legislative machinery can be worked out with this in view, it is everything that I, personally, should desire so far as the Jewish cultural and spiritual centre is concerned. Palestine should not be a place of political ‘domination’ at all on anyone’s part. It is of much more importance to mankind than that. It does not ‘belong’ to Jew, Christian or Moslem, but to all of them together, to humanity. It does not belong, even in the narrower sense of that term, to its actual inhabitants, but to Jews and Christians and Moslems everywhere, for whom their brothers in the Holy Land have the privilege of acting as trustees. This making of Palestine the football of politics-Jewish, Arab, European-ought to be brought to an end. Unless Palestine can be built up upon a high ethical basis, it is not worth any one’s having. Let the political issue be settled so that work of real cooperation along economic, cultural and social lines can begin in earnest. It is one of the high privileges of the present Labor Government in England to bring all its international idealism and all of its political ingenuity to bear in order to make the Holy Land sacred not only to religious bodies, but also to all those whose aim is peace on earth and good-will to men.

"The Joshua method is not the way for us of entering the Promised Land. The retention of bayonets in the land against the will of the majority of the population is repugnant to men of good-will, and the Eternal People should rather continue its long wait than attempt to establish a home in the Holy Land except on terms of understanding and peace."

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