Jerusalem (Feb. 8)
Dr. Chaim Weizmann came before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine today, as it opened hearings here, and in a calm, at impassioned four-and-a-half hour statement pleaded with them to allow the building of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
The high points of Dr. Weizmann’s testimony, which was frequently interrupted by questions from the visibly interested committee members, were:
1. Although he favors the eventual establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, when the Jews are in a majority, he does not demand the establishment of such a state immediately, but wants maximum Jewish immigration.
2. He is not interested in the “trappings” of a Jewish state, but wants state power” for Jews to develop the country, and the immediate abolition of the White paper.
3. He wants peace with the Arabs and is willing to meet with them at any time to discuss the future of the country.
4. He does not believe that there is any future in Europe for most of that continent’s Jews.
5. He revealed that Winston Churchill, when Prime Minister, promised that when the war ended, he would try to convince the U.S. Government to go along with Zionist aspirations.
6. He is “profoundly opposed” to violence and would do everything in his power to curb it.
The hearings opened to the grinding of newsreel cameras, as tanks and radio wars toured the streets outside the places where the hearings are being held and the committee members are quartered. The security measure are so rigid that not even the committee personnel can leave the King David Hotel, where they are staying, without previously informing the guards of where they plan to go, and accepting the company of sicked bodyguards.
Correspondents were searched for arms as they entered the YMCA building where the hearings are going on, and police with their fingers on the triggers of tommy guns surrounded the building. The large rectangular hearing room in the $1,000,000 YMCA building was jammed. Ninety correspondents filled eight rows and Jewish and Arab witnesses were in the first two, although carefully separated by the central aisle.
DUELLE ON FUNDAMENTAL CAUSES OF ANTI-SEMITISM
The first witness was Chief Secretary John V.W. Shav, who greeted the committee on behalf of High Commissioner Sir Alan Cunningham and presented a 26-chapter “completely objective” report outlining the Palestine Government’s opinions on the Jewish Arab issue. Shaw spoke for less than five minutes.
After a brief adjournment, Dr. Weizmann took the stand. He was welcomed by British co-chairman Sir John Singleton, on behalf of the entire committee. Declaring that he was aware of the tremendous responsibility involved, Dr. Weizmann said that “I will be as objective as possible for a man in my position.” He then launched upon a careful analysis of the change in the numerical disposition of world Jewry, which, he said, was homeless long before Hitler.
“One of the fundamental causes of anti-Semitism,” the world Zionist leader said, “is the fact that Jews exist, and the growth of anti-Semitism is proportionate to the number of Jews per square kilometer. We carry the germs of anti-Semitism in our knapsack. We are told that we are the ‘salt of the earth.’ But this is a left-handed compliment, because too much salt means that both the dish and the salt are discarded.
“Here is a group of people who have lost all the attributes of a nation, but still it has maintained its existence as a ghost nation, stalking the arena of history, maintained it for thousands of years. It is a belief in a mystical force, our conviction of a return to Israel, which has kept us alive.
“Of the 1,250,000 Jews remaining in Europe,” Dr. Weizmann said, “sixty percent wish to leave, and this is a most conservative estimate. The prospect before them, of living amid the tombstones of the past, is too much. They must go.”
FEARS JEWS MAY BECOME HOSTAGES OF ARAB MAJORITY
Concerning the Arabs, Dr. Weizmann stressed that “I do not want to charge the Arabs with illiterate anti-Semitism. That would be unjust. But listening to their leaders speaking in the heat of polemics, one feels a bit uneasy. The pogroms in Bagdad, Tripoli and even Cairo make one feel that Jews may some day become hostages in the hands of the Arab majority. The Moslem world has treated Jews with considerable tolerance. Jews should never forget this. But there is no use in blinking at the fact that these great human traditions are on the wane under the pressure of growing nationalism.”
Dr. Weizmann invited the committee to tour Palestine, and “see the life, energy and vitality which has flowered in this earth.” The Jews of Europe, he continued, want to go only to Palestine, and only Palestine is willing to accept them. He asserted that the country can absorb double and triple its present population and added that he still has not given up hope of an agreement with the Arabs.
POUNDS ON TABLE WHEN SPEAKING OF 6,000,000 MURDERED JEWS
“My brain reels,” Dr. Weizmann said, “when I think of the 6,000,000 Jews who were killed off in such a short time, and nothing has been done to prevent a repetition.” His voice was rising and his fist pounding the table, he declared passionately:
“We are an ancient people. We have contributed to the world. We have suffered. We have a right to live-a right to survive under normal conditions. We are as good as anyone else, and as bad as anyone else.”
A country’s absorptivity, Dr. Weizmann stated, “Does not grow on trees or in the streets. It must be developed, and developed by those to whom it’s a matter of life and death. We have the vital raw materials – the nature of our people.” Replying to the charge that the Jews took over the best land in Palestine, Weizmann said that marsh and stones had become “the best land,” because it was built up by the Jews.
Recalling that he personally negotiated the issuance of the Balfour Declaration, the venerable Zionist leader said: “I have seen it whittled down. I have always been an adherent of gradualness, and I was turned out of office for four years, because would not fix a goal. I felt that as long as Jews enter the national home, a Jewish state would automatically develop. I was imbued with the British mentality, which does not cross bridges until it comes to them.
“But since 1931 the situation has changed. First there was the whittling down of the Mandate, which culminated in the White Paper, which definitely formulated final solution, declaring that Jews must until the end of time remain a one-third minority in Palestine. Second, there was the Jewish tragedy. The problem became one of survival. Therefore, I wrote an article in 1942 advocating a Jewish State.”
ASKS INQUIRY COMMITTEE TO FOLLOW A LINE OF “LEAST INJUSTICE”
Weizmann asked the committee to follow a line of “least injustice.” He pointed out that the Arabs had emerged from the war with two kingdoms, four republics, six seat in the UNO and one seat in the UNO’s Security Council, adding that “I do not know whether this is commensurate with their efforts in the war. What is the number of their casualties? What have they suffered? He said that the Arabs cannot suffer economically, culturally or religiously from what the Jews ask, and reiterated his willingness to “extend our hand” at any time to the Arabs to discuss the Palestine Problem.
To a question by James MacDonald, Weizmann said that while he felt that President Truman’s request for the admission of 100,000 Jews to Palestine immediately was not unreasonable,” he would be agreeable, if a “certain number of the 100,000” were admitted “to see how it works out.”
He was equally moderate in answering a query by American co-chairman Joseph Hutcheson concerning a Jewish state, declaring that “I am not interested in the trappings of a Jewish state. I am interested only in the development of the country to its fullest extent, which is only possible if we have state powers.”
HUTCHESON ASKS HOW WILL A JEWISH STATE ELIMINATE ANTI-SEMITISM IN U.S.
Hutcheson then said: “I’ll ask you two questions. First, you ask support for a Jewish state on two grounds: that thereby, and only thereby, can be accomplished the purpose of permitting full immigration and that if only you could establish a Jewish state in little Palestine, or a little Jewish state in Palestine, you will bring about some strange metamorphosis among the people of the world, whereby anti-Semitism will vanish. I would like to ask how establishment of a Jewish state will benefit the citizens of Jewish faith in my country, and how it will eliminate anti-Semitism so that they could live – as I thought they did, but as you say they don’t – safely and securely?”
After a fifteen-minute reply by Weizmann concerning the psychological position of the Jew in most countries, Hutcheson interrupted to say that Weizmann had misunderstood his question, and said: “I am asking how establishment of a Jewish state will eliminate from these strange people among whom you are living, this psychological cruelty of anti-Semitism.”
Weizmann replied: “We appear to the Gentiles to be a peculiar people, suspended between heaven and earth. This produces a problem. The Jew must explain himself, and everyone who must explain himself is condemned beforehand. As soon as there is trouble – economic or otherwise – we are suspected.” He then analyzed the changing position of world Jewry in the years 1880 to 1914 and up to today, and pointed out that 60 percent of the world’s Jews live in Anglo-Saxon countries.
Frank Crossman asked Weizmann if he did not think that taking the Jews out of Europe would be an acceptance of anti-Semitism and acceptance of the idea that European democracy is finished. Weizmann replied that he would not force anyone to go, and that “all it would mean is that Europe is sick, and the presence of Jews might not only prevent the curing of its sickness, but acerbate it.”
WEIZMANN ANSWERS “NO” TO QUESTION WHETHER HS WANTS A JEWISH STATE NOW
Bartley Crum asked whether he believed that a Jewish state should be established now. Weizmann said:
“No. What I want is the abolition of the White Paper and the beginning of immigration and settlement. I went to bring in a maximum number of European Jews during a transitional period, eventually leading to a Jewish state, after a Jewish majority has been realized.”
MacDonald asked Weizmann to comment on the fact that some of the members of the committee had gotten the impression that the young Jewish leaders in the camps in Germany feel a “sort of fascist superiority,” and, he said, it had been suggested that the Jewish Agency was somehow responsible.
Weizmann replied: “I am so astonished as to be almost speechless. I can see that these youths are bitter, and can see that they say that they want to go to Palestine and will not be stopped, but that is not fascism. I utterly repudiate and the Agency repudiates and does not give support to any theory of the ‘ubermensch.'”
He said that he was strongly opposed to political violence and that “whatever my power to stop it–and I do not know whether I can–I will do it, not condoning what is being done, but understanding why people are driven to it.”
Crum asked Weizmann to confirm the conversation concerning Palestine he is reported to have had with then Prime Minister Churchill before the end of the war. Weizmann said:
“It was the Saturday before the assassination of Lord Moyne. The substance of the conversation was that Churchill said that he would like to bite into the Palestine problem and, together with President Roosevelt find a way cut. I understood that his mind was veering around to something such as partition. He said that as soon as the war with Germany was over, he would tackle the problem with whoever was in power there at that time, and try to persuade them to agree to what we wanted. I felt for the first time in my life that I had seen something of a glimmer of light at the end the tunnel.”
HOOFIEN TESTIFIES OF PALESTINE’S ABSORPTIVE CAPACITY
The only other witness heard today was Sigfried Hoofien, head of the Anglo-Palestine Bank here, who testified concerning the country’s absorptivity. He stressed that absorption does not mean replacement of people, but additions. He pointed out that when Benjamin Franklin was touring Europe seeking support for the new American republic, he would have been unable to say how many people it could absorb in 1946.
The hearings will be resumed on Monday, when representatives of the Jewish Agency are slated to appear.