Basle (Dec. 9)
The twenty-second World Zionist Congress – first post-war gathering of the highest body of the World Zionist movement – opened here today in the Mustermesse, largest hall in Basle, with an address by Dr. Chaim Weizmann, president of the Jewish Agency, in which he appealed to the British Government either to carry out the provisions of the Palestine Mandate “in the spirit and in the letter,” or to surrender the mandate after first creating a “political finality” in Palestine by establishing a Jewish State.
More than 370 delegates from 61 countries, as well as 2,000 guests and spectators, including diplomats from various legations in Switzerland, heard the veteran leader of the World Zionist movement bitterly charge Britain with being largely responsible for the annihilation by the Nazis of millions of Jews in Europe. If Britain had not kept the doors of Palestine closed to Jews, under its White Paper policy, many could have found refuge in Palestine instead of being asphyxiated in gas chambers, he stressed. At the same time, he pointed out that the Jews to not want to drive the British out of Palestine, but insist that they carry out the terms of the mandate which provide for the establishment of a Jewish National Home.
Dr. Weizmann made no direct reference in his 5,000-word keynote speech to the question of Jewish participation in the Conference on Palestine which will resume in London next month. Nor did he refer to the burning issue of partitioning Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states. These two questions are the central points of interest at the Congress.
CONDEMNS TERRORISM IN PALESTINE; CALLS IT “MORAL COWARDICE”
The aged Zionist leader scathingly condemned the use of terrorism in Palestine. Terrorist activities, he said, are alien to the Jewish spirit and an insult to Jewish history. “Jews came to Palestine to build, not to destroy,” he pointed out. He denounced the “heroics of suicidal violence” and called for the “courage of endurance.”
“Terrorist acts,” he told the Congress, “apart from being morally abhorrent, are also barren of all advantage. They expose our hard-won achievements to the prospect of destruction, and they lead us to a bottomless abyss of Nihilism and despair.” He expressed the certainty that the Congress will support the efforts of the Jewish institutions in Palestine to combat the “vicious movements which threaten the good name of the Yishuv and its very survival.”
Dr. Weizmann pointed out that he does not underestimate “the cruel pressures which have been at work” on the minds of Jewish youth in Palestine and have given rise to a feeling of despair. “It was the cruel destiny of our young generation,” he said, “to see their kinsmen brutally murdered in Europe while they stood by helpless and impotent. The White Paper policy prevented them from rising to the rescue, and later that policy forbade them to receive the few survivors whom Providence had spared. In their native homeland, the country of the National Home, they found themselves excluded on racial grounds from all but five percent of the land.”
ASSURES ARABS OF JEWISH DESIRE TO LIVE WITH THEM IN PEACE
Touching upon the question of Arab-Jewish relationship, Dr. Weizmann said that this relationship “is too often envisaged in terms of incompatibility and conflict.” He reviewed Arab-Jewish relations since the period following World War I to prove that “it was not always so,” and pointed out that the Arab people now possess seven independent states and that they have emerged unscathed from wars which have devastated the Jews.
“Before the whole world I have said that our work has brought no injury to the Arab peoples,” he declared. “Against the sterile assumption of conflict, we set the higher conception of potential accord. We wish to bring Jewish effort into harmony with the wider interests of the Middle East. But if we are to do this, the respect which we give to the national rights of others must be recognized for us.”
Dr. Weizmann pointed to the recent letter sent by President Truman to King Ibn Saud asserting that it is not against the interests of the Arab world to urge the immigration of Jews into Palestine and the recognition of the Jewish National Home. “I wholeheartedly concur in that opinion,” he stated.
THANKS PRESIDENT TRUMAN FOR AMERICAN AID TO ZIONIST CAUSE
“I have mentioned the name of President Truman,” Dr. Weizmann continued, “and I would like to express here our deep appreciation for the sympathy and support which the President and the Government of the United States has consistently lent to our cause in these difficult days. Wherever American influence has been brought to bear on our problem – whether in treatment of our survivors in Europe or in the wider issues of preservation and development of the Jewish National Home – we have felt the great liberal impulses of that great country to be warmly alive. For all this, we are deeply grateful.” The reference to the U.S. brought applause from the audience.
Dr. Weizmann, whose sight is now seriously impaired, read his address from a specially prepared manuscript in large type. On the platform seated behind him were, in addition to the other members of the world Zionist executive, representatives of the Swiss federal and cantonal governments and of the Basle municipality.
BRITISH ABSENT FROM SESSION; U.S. AND SOVIET DIPLOMATS ATTEND
British representatives were conspicuously absent from the diplomatic gallery, but diplomats from 24 other countries were present, including United States Vice-Consul John A. Lehrs and I.F. Lumkow, First Secretary of the Soviet Legation. The British Consul in Basle sent a letter expressing regrets on behalf of the British Minister to Switzerland, T.M. Snow.
A huge portrait of Dr. Theodor Herzl, father of political Zionism, dominated the assembly from the rear stage, flanked by huge blue-and-white flags. The session opened with the playing of Hatikvah as the delegates stood at attention. They remained standing and cheering as Dr. Weizmann ascended the platform. He delivered a short greeting to Palestine in Hebrew, which was broadcast, and then introduced various Swiss dignitaries, including the mayor of Basle, who welcomed the delegates.
Following their addresses, David Remez, chairman of the Jewish National Council, made a brief address on behalf of the Jews of Palestine, during which he invited the next Zionist Congress to meet in Palestine, “the land which Zionism created as a home for all Jewry.” Replying, Weizmann said that he, too, hoped that the next Congress will be held in Jerusalem.
Speaking at tonight’s session on “Fifty Years of Zionism,” Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, who was English secretary of the Second Zionist Congress, held in this city in 1898, called on the Jews of Palestine “to resist, resist oppression of our brothers, but let no deeds soil the blameless record of our long, unsullied history.” If the high moral standards of Zionism are forgotten, he warned, it will sink to “the level of rabble-rousing chauvinism.”
Reviewing Zionist history, he said that “nothing worse befell us throughout two generations of resettlement than the White Paper, the failure to reject which out of hand was a terrible blunder by all of us,” which, he added, “cost the lives of tens of thousands of Jews.
“It is barely credible that the British Government should in one generation descend from the heights of the Balfour Declaration to the depths of Yagour and Cyprusism,” he continued. “Surely this government, which long stood as a friend of the Jewish people, will not be satisfied with the role of the betrayer of Zionism.”