United Jewry Voices Determination to Resist Attempt of British Government to Throttle Zionist Moveme
Menu JTA Search

United Jewry Voices Determination to Resist Attempt of British Government to Throttle Zionist Moveme

Download PDF for this date

Resistant and defiant, a solidly united Jewry that proved itself well worthy of being called the “stiff-necked people” rose today to reply to the blow dealt to Zionism by Lord Passfield’s public discussion of the Simpson report on Palestine, in which Lord Passfield virtually denied the Balfour Declaration. In statements made to the Jewish Telegrahpic Agency, and in declarations made at a remarkable all-day meeting in the committee room of the Zionist Organization of America, the leaders of every Jewish organization interested in Palestine voiced their determination to resist Great Britain’s attempt to throttle the Zionist movement.

Like scattered members of a family drawn together by a sudden bereavement, the heads of widely differing organizations, without preconcertment, with one impulse hurried to the offices of the Zionist executive. Robert Szold acted as chairman throughout most of the improvised meeting, except for an hour when Dr. Cyrus Adler presided in his absence.


When, just before noon, the door opened and Felix Warburg entered, a dead silence fell. The members rose. Mr. Warburg quietly and with force discussed his impending resignation as chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency. “Of course I shall remain with the work,” he said, “and the work will go on.”

The meeting concerned itself first with plans for the protest demonstration at the Mecca auditorium. Then its devoted its attention to forming a resolution to be presented at the meeting.

The resolution, when finished, called Lord Passfield’s Palestine policy “a defiance of Great Britain’s international obligation” and charged the British government with attempting to “reduce the Balfour Declaration to a scrap of paper.” It reads:

“Thirteen years ago the British Government evoked solemn and enthusiastic expressions of gratitude and hope from the Jewish people throughout the world by issuing the Balfour Declaration which pledged Great Britain to facilitate the re-establishment of the Jewish National home in Palestine. This Declaration was made with the approval of the other Allied powers and was issued only after receiving the express endorsement of the President of the United States. This solemn pledge by the Allies and the United States was written into the law of nations when the Mandate for Palestine, which embodied it, was entrusted by the League of Nations to Great Britain.


“Since the conclusion of the war, the Jews of the world, in reliance upon these international guarantees, have made notable progress in the economic, social and cultural development of Palestine. These Jewish achievements have at the same time brought unquestionable benefits to the Arabs. In this work of development, as the League of Nations through its Mandates Commission has recently declared, the British Administration of Palestine has failed to furnish that measure of cooperation and assistance which the Mandate expressly required. In spite, however, of its disappointments with the Palestine Administration, the Jewish people continued to repose confidence in the British Government. Now, contrary to the assurances given by the representative of the British Government to the League of Nations, a statement has been issued by that Government announcing a policy with respect to Palestine which is a breach of its trust and a defiance of its international obligations.


“To this repudiation and violation the Jews will not submit.

“We denounce as utterly unfounded the suggestion that Jewish development in Palestine has been prejudicial to the welfare of the Arabs. The contrary is the truth. Improvement in Arab life, as the proceedings before the Mandates commission have conclusively proven, steadily followed in the wake of Jewish effort.

“We declare the professed adhesion of the statement of the British Government to the Jewish National Home policy simultaneously with a denial of the right of immigration and land purchase by Jews as a travesty of that policy and as a violation of the Declaration by a previous Government in 1922, that the Jews are in Palestine ‘as of right and not on sufferance.’

“We point to the fact that the Palestine Mandate, which embodies the Balfour Declaration, is based upon the explicit recognition of ‘the historic connection of the Jewish people with Palestine.’ We declare this connection unbroken and unbreakable. This connection will subsist despite the present attempt to nullify the Palestine Mandate and to reduce the Balfour Declaration to a scrap of paper.

“In this hour of keen disappointment, we invoke the sense of justice of the British people and the enlightened sentiment of mankind in support of the rights of the Jewish people. We pledge our continued devotion to our brothers in Palestine and reaffirm our unalterable determination together with them to go forward with the historic task of re-establishing the Jewish National Home in Palestine.”


Dr. Stephen S. Wise was one of the most determined personalities at the meeting. With precise, clipped words he responded to Jacob de Haas’ pronouncement that the time has come for the Jews either to “resist or desist” in their Palestinian effort.

“If Great Britain were frankly to say that it can no longer stand by the Balfour Declaration then we would know she has said ‘no.’ But a policy of the present sort is the worst we could have to deal with.”

Although his health was in such a state that his physicians forbade him to attend the evening meetings, Dr. Wise sent his message: “We stand aghast over the tidings from England. The Hope Simpson report, which there is reason to believe was doctored and worsened by the British Colonial Office would be of little moment had it not been seized upon by the present government as the excuse for a statement of policy.


“A frank and open breach of faith were grave enough, but this breach of faith has not even the merits of candor. The statement of policy that has come from the British government is cynical and sinister in its disregard of England’s solemn vow to facilitate the establishment of the Jewish National Home. Up to this time there has been little, if any, facilitation. Yesterday’s statement of policy means that, instead of facilitation there is to be the obstruction, in truth, the attempted undoing and even destruction of the Jewish National Home.

“I believe that Arthur James Balfour came nearer to the heart and spirit of Great Britain than does Lord Passfield. The British Government announces that it will remain unmoved by threats. The answer of the Jewish people everywhere must be that we have survived many such statements of policy, however evil, and of perfect malign. In days to come we shall carefully consider and formulate a program of action. Tonight, let us resolve and let us make clear to the British Government, that this is not the end. Our pioneers in Palestine will carry on despite a thousand statements of policy. We, too, are resolved to labor and to serve and to sacrifice until the day comes when the British people will see that this statement of policy is a blot upon England’s escutcheon, and that England dare not remain guilty of a breach of honor touching not people, least of all, the people of Israel.

“Now we see that the Balfour Declaration did not give us the Jewish National Home, the Passfield Declaration shall not take it away, cannot take it away.”

Emanuel Neumann, president of the Jewish National Fund, insisted before the meeting that the Jews should take the battle against Great Britain into international circles, emphasizing the victory only recently won in the rebuke administered Great Britain by the Mandates Commission of the League of Nations. “There is a great deal of documentary evidence showing that Great Britain actually intended to give the Jews the right to govern themselves in Palestine. This document should be made public.


“We gathered in this room in a meeting similar to this after the horrible massacres in Palestine last year. We issued protests. But this year we will do more than pass resolutions and issue protests. This is not a clamor that will die down in a few months. We are undertaking a struggle for justice.”

Jacob De Haas said, “The Jews have not received such a blow as this in nineteen hundred years. We must resist, or

declare that the Zionist movement is over. The Jews of the whole world will resist.”

Among the leaders present at the meeting were Berel Locker, member of the Zionist Executive and leader of the Poale Zion, who has recently come from Palestine. “The Yishub will not admit defeat. The Jews in Palestine will never leave,” he said.

Rabbi Meyer Berlin, international president of the Mizrachi, and Rabbi Gedalia Bublick, president of the American Mizrachi, represented the orthodox Jews before the meeting. Revisionist leaders were present, and leaders of the various women’s organizations.


As the meeting worked itself up to a stronger and stronger note of resistance, resolutions came in from all forms of Jewish organizations, emphasizing the same note, resounding with strength and hope. The Youth organizations, too, were represented and pledged themselves to work forward.


Outside of the meeting, Jewish leaders were voicing their resolution to carry on. David M. Bressler, one of the national chairmen of the Jewish Campaign, made the following statement: “It is important to bear in mind that quite regardless of this report there are approximately 160,000 Jews already settled in Palestine whose economical problem is acute. The Jews in Palestine, struggling so bravely, so devotedly to make its reluctant soil yield a living for them and their loved ones, need the help of their American fellow Jews in the solution of their economic problems, in the development of their educational and cultural institutions in the safe-guarding of their health, and the improvement of their hygienic conditions in the same degree as do our brethren in poverty stricken, anti-Semitism ridden Eastern Europe.

“This, together with the program of the Jewish Agency for Palestine for the further economic and cultural development of the land, has been and continues to be the basis of the appeal of the Allied Jewish Campaign in their behalf, as it is in behalf of the Jews in Eastern Europe. More than ever now it is imperative that the campaign already in progress be pressed with vigorous, relentless determination to succeed.”


Morris Rothenberg, former vice-president of the Zionist Organization of America, now one of the four co-chairmen of the Allied Jewish Campaign, stated for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency: “From what has been published of the Simpson report it is impossible to understand how the government can square its newly announced policy with its repeated avowal of intention to carry out the terms of the Mandate with repect to the establishment of the Jewish National Home. The policy announced to be pursued in Palestine appears to be a substantial emasculation of the Mandate. Apparently in its eagerness to promote the welfare of the Arabs, the Government has completely subordinated not only the interests but the rights of the Jews as recognized in the Balfour Declaration by previous British cabinets, by the White Paper of 1922, by outstanding international statesmen and by the recent pronouncement of the League of Nations. It is difficult to believe that the British Parliament which will soon meet will sanction this extraordinary action, this repudiation of solemn pledges.”

James Marshall, son of the late Louis Marshall, moving spirit in the establishment of the Jewish Agency, said, “There is not so much fault to be found with the Simpson report as with the statement of the British Government which accompanies it. It is inexcusable that Jewish immigration into Palestine should be terminated, especially in view of the fact that nothing has been done to prevent Bedouin migrations.”


Mrs. Robert Szold, president of Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, said, “Hadassah has already devoted eighteen years to building up its activities in Palestine. All of the financial resources of the organization and all of the energy of its workers both here and in Palestine were devoted to the organization and administration of the Hadassah Medical Organization in Palestine. Zionism will go on. And because Zionism and Haddassah are synonymous, Haddassah, too, will go on.”

Junior Haddassah, through its president, Miss Frances Lesser, pledged its faith with the Jewish Youth in Palestine to continue to build, “no matter what political situations may develop.”

Dr. Cyrus Adler, who came to the Zionist offices with Felix Warburg, was inclined to be philosophical about the situation. Leaning back in his chair, he spoke deliberately to the Zionist group. “It is probably natural that the Zionists who had the highest hopes now feel something akin to despair. We of the Jewish Agency who entered it as non-Zionists and who had moderate hopes of the gradual upbuilding of a beautiful, spiritual and cultural life alongside of a sound economic development, as did all of our brethren, do not despair.


“There is a Jewish will to live which for more than 2,000 years has overcome many obstacles, disappointments and rebuffs. We shall overcome this one too. And it will best be carried out by deeds and not by words. There are over 100,000 Jews in Palestine and many institutions which have been built up by the loving aid of Jews throughout the world. If this support is continued, as long as it is needed we shall consolidate what we have undertaken as we trust in God that the future of Israel in the Holy land will soon wear a brighter aspect than it does today.”


Felix Warburg spoke with him: “This is not the last word from Great Britain. They cannot bottle up Zionism at its present state of development. They cannot leave the situation as it is, with a large Jewish population in Palestine ill at ease among a preponderance of Arabs; Lord Passfield’s statement would indicate that they want to keep the Jews and Arabs just as they are at present, with the British police between them. This was not Balfour’s intention toward Zionism, and it is not our intention. Zionism cannot be bottled up. It will go on growing.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund