In a letter published by the Manchester Guardian, Dr. Judah L. Magnes, president of the Hebrew University at Jerusalem, replies to the critics of his proposal to declare Palestine a permanent neutral.
Among the critics of Dr. Magnes’ proposal were Lord Melchett and Col. Josiah Wedgwood, M.P.
Dr. Magnes points out that in his reply to them that “an attitude of true neutrality imposes sacrifices upon the neutral country, for one thing because it cannot deal actively with either belligerent.” He explains that the purpose of his proposal was “to raise the whole question of the national and international status of mandated territories, more particularly of the Holy Land.”
Such an attitude, Dr. Magnes urges, was in the minds of those who devised the mandates system; for a mandated territory is kept from being made into a military, naval, or air base, and is removed, in so far as this is at all possible, from participation generally in international conflicts. This expresses itself, in a measure, in Article 17 of the Palestine Mandate, which forbids conscription and, in the opinion of some interpreters, permits the mandatory to use the mandated territory only as a place of passage for his armed forces.
“I adduced the additional consideration, which must weigh with multitudes of Jews, Christians, and Moslems,” Dr. Magnes goes on, “that this principle of neutrality for mandated territories might well begin with Palestine inasmuch as it is a Holy Land and shares a great variety of interests, religious, national, cultural, among.
its diverse population; and I thought that, if once applied to Palestine, this principle of neutrality might then find its way into other mandated territories and perhaps larger sections of the world, thus creating enclaves which the ravages of war would not touch.”
“I have merely wished to express the opinion,” Dr. Magnes continued, “that one of the chief reasons for favouring the mandates system is that as long as a territory remains under a mandate and is not independent and free to take its own decisions as to war and peace, it should be declared and recognised as neutral. This might be a very weighty reason for extending the mandates system over larger portions of the earth. In any event, the principle of neutrality should apply to Palestine, as the Holy Land of three great religions, whose adherents would be found in almost all the armed forces of the belligerent nations.
“I have seen the telegraphic account of a letter to you by Lord Melchett,” Dr. Magnes continues, “in which, in commenting on my suggestion for permanent neutrality for the Holy Land in all international conflicts, he says ‘that if Great Britain became involved in war thousands of young Jews would march to Government House to enlist and fight for Britain. I have no doubt that they would. They are appreciative of what Great Britain has done for Jews, and they are as amenable to propaganda and excitation as any other young men.
“But is it for this that Great Britain holds the mandate for the Holy Land? If this is so, then many of the worst charges brought against Great Britain by her enemies are true. I, for one, do not want to believe it. I have looked through Lord Balfour’s ‘Speeches on Zionism,’ and I find no hint of any such motive or thought. On the contrary, Lord Balfour talks of the revival of the ‘intellectual and moral destiny’ of the Jewish people and of “this little land of Palestine … which is a seed-ground of great religions. Its immortal claim to the gratitude of mankind largely rests and must rest on that.”
“Lord Melchett,” Dr. Magnes writes, “recently advocated making Palestine ‘a self-governing institution within the British Empire,’ and he says that this ‘imperial solution of the Palestine problem would provide the British Empire with a healthy and intelligent population in the Middle East, always ready in case of necessity to take up arms in an imperial cause.’ Colonel Wedgwood wrote a book some years ago about Palestine’s becoming Britain’s ‘Seventh Dominion.’ Lord Melchett has also said that what Singapore is to the British Empire in the Far East, Palestine could and should become in the Near East.
“This poses the problem very neatly. The Holy Land a second Singapore. What Lord Melchett says is doubtless good news to armament firms and the makers of chemical poisons. But does he represent true British opinion as to Palestine? Are the Jewish people in Palestine,” Dr. Magnes concludes, “to become, in fact, the outposts of British imperial policy, or is Palestine, as a mandated territory and as the Holy Land of three great religions, through its neutralisation or in some other way, to be given the chance to help the revival of mankind’s intellectual and moral destiny?”