Fight over Partition Issue Starts at World Zionist Congress; General Debate Opens
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Fight over Partition Issue Starts at World Zionist Congress; General Debate Opens

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The crucial issue of the partitioning of Palestine, as proposed by the Jewish Agency executive, came before the plenary session of the World Zionist Congress today with the initiation of a full dress political debate which is expected to last several days.

The debate followed addresses yesterday by Dr. Abba Hillel Silver, president of the Zionist Organization of America, who indicated his opposition to the partition scheme, and by David Ben Gurion, chairman of the Jewish Agency executive, who stated that the Zionist movement should not propose any partition plan to the British Government, but should be amenable to compromise. “If we have discussions with the British Government,” Ben Gurion stated, “we must stand on our full right to the whole of Palestine, but if Britain proposes an acceptable compromise, the executive should bring it for discussions before the authoritative organ of the world Zionist movement.”

This statement by Ben Gurion was punctuated by cries from various parts of the hall. Several delegates rose and shouted: “So you agree to partition! Why don’t you say so plainly!” Ben Gurion replied that “the compromise which we are prepared to consider does not exist. At any rate not at this moment. We have no alternative, therefore, but to stand on our full, historic and legal rights.”

Ben Gurion then assured the assembly that in the negotiations with the British Government, the following three basic demands will be advanced by the Jewish Agency: 1. Opening the gates of Palestine to Jewish immigration; 2. The Jewish Agency should have control over immigration and Palestine development, and 3. The establishment of Palestine as a Jewish state.


Prior to the opening of today’s debate, Ben Gurion addressed a meeting of all laborite delegates at which he pleaded for unity and urged the creation of a united front at the Congress of the Palestine Labor Party, the L’Achduth Avodah and the Hashomer Hatzair. He stressed the serious external and internal political situation of the Zionist movement, and urged the two opposition groups within organized Palestine labor to join at the Congress with the Mapai, the Labor Party, of which he is the leader.

Delegates of the Hashomer Hatzair expressed their reluctance. They emphasized that they cannot join with the Mapai unless Ben Gurion comes out clearly against partition and until he is ready to pledge that he will not favor unconditional participation in the talks on Palestine, in London. All indications point to the fact that the Hashomer Hatzair leaders will not retreat from these demands.

Criticism of Dr. Nahum Goldmann for having submitted the partition plan to the U.S. Government was voiced by some of the laborite delegates but Ben Gurion defended Dr. Goldmann’s mission. He pointed out that it was undertaken with the authorization of the Agency executive. If the mission failed, he argued, it was a failure that all members of the executive should share, and if it was a success, the whole executive should share the credit. He made clear that he strongly believed that the mission was a success.


The debate was opened by Dr. Emanuel Neumann, vice-president of the Zionist Organization of America, with a slashing attack on the executive which, he said, has abandoned the principle of a Jewish state in an undivided Palestine. He also warned against the participation of the Jewish Agency in the London conference on Palestine.

Dr. Neumann charged in a speech which was frequently punctuated by applause that the “new line” adopted by the executive at its conference in Paris was a failure without any results to justify it. “The executive experimented and its experiment failed,” he said. They speculated on the hope that a compromise would be accepted and they lost. It was a costly experiment. The Zionist movement will continue to pay a heavy price for it in many ways.


As far as the governments of the United States and Britain are concerned, Dr. Neumann continued, the executive presented the partition plan to them as an expression of the Zionist policy. “If this policy is to be changed now it means that new methods are to be applied and new men elected,” he declared.

The partition plan has not been accepted by the British as a basis for discussion, nor does it find favor with the Arabs, Dr. Neumann pointed out. He added that if some Arabs are inclined to accept the partition scheme, they are “discreetly silent” about it. “The Arab official position is as inflexible, as adamant as before,” he asserted.

Discussing the question of participation in the London Conference, Dr. Neumann stressed that the Zionist movement had once before accepted an invitation to a round table conference in London, which resulted in the issuance of the White Paper. He also cited the report of the Anglo-American inquiry committee whose recommendations the British Government refused to accept.

“We have not declared war against the British people,” he stated, “but we must frankly recognize the fact that Britain is waging a war against the most vital interests of the Jewish people.”


Pointing out that the Zionist movement has not dissolved and does not intend to dissolve its historic association with Britain, but cannot behave as if nothing had happened since the Balfour Declaration, Dr. Neumann declared: “Britain will understand if we say that no Zionist executive will ever be elected by the Congress to participate in the liquidation of the Zionist movement. We cannot change our policy to follow exclusively a British orientation.”

The American Zionist leader said that the time may have come to symbolize the change in the relations between Britain and the Zionists by shifting the center of Zionist political activity to a country which is not under a British flag. At the same time, Dr. Neumann told the Congress that the recent statement issued by U.S. Secretary of State Byrnes urging Jews to attend the London Conference on Palestine was an attempt to make the Zionists agree to unconditional participation in the parley.

Discussing Jewish resistance in Palestine, Dr. Neumann said that the Yishuv itself must determine the form that the resistance should take and the point to which it should be carried. “If responsible elements in the Yishuv are engaged in a struggle not for themselves, but for the sake of all people, we intend to back them to the limit and to extend them every moral and material assistance,” he stated.


While the general debate continued, the various delegations were holding special party conferences to hammer out their stand on the many critical issues facing the assemblage.

The Canadian and American Poale Zionist delegations, which comprise 32 delegates, voted to give full support to the policies of the present executive on the future status of Palestine and to back the stand of the Haganah against terrorism.

The meeting of the Mizrachi delegates was marked by sharp clashes on the question of partition and the composition of the executive. In a letter read to the meeting, Rabbi Meir Berlin, influential Mizrachi leader who is in Palestine, outlined the following program which he urged the movement to support: unmodified rejection of partition in any form, revamping of the executive to include new personalities and assignment of seats on the basis of party strength and opposition to placing Keren Kayemeth funds under control of the Jewish Agency.

These views were challenged by 71-year-old Rabbi Judah L. Fishman, Mizrachi representative on the executive, who favors the executive’s present policies. Rabbi Fishman said that he would not be a candidate for office again and that this was his farewell speech.


The Labor Mizrachi meeting heard Moshe Shapiro, head of the organization and its representative on the executive, propose a political platform which would reject the Jewish Agency’s position on partition, as formulated in Paris last summer, and return to the demand of the 20th Congress in 1937, which called for a Jewish state. Shapiro called on the Zionist Congress to authorize the new executive, when elected to decide whether or not to participate in the London conference. He urged that all efforts be concentrated on immigration and the suppression of terrorism.

The question of whether the Revisionists had a legal right to be represented at the Congress in view of the fact that the New Zionist Organization was still in existence came up for discussion at a Revisionist caucus this morning. The conference adopted a resolution stating that the United Zionist-Revisionists were now a part of the World Zionist Organization and had no connection with any other movement, but the NZO could not be dissolved until a special conference is held for that purpose.


Speakers declared that the Revisionists will not assume responsibility for the policy of the Jewish Agency executive and will continue to fight with the Zion-

Swiss police are maintaining the rigid security precautions which have been in effect since the Congress opened. Every floor of the Mustermesse, the hall in which the Congress is meeting, is patrolled nightly by a policeman accompanied by a police dog. The various Congress offices are also closely watched. A 24-hour guard has also been placed around the British consulate for the duration of the Congress to prevent possible extremist attacks.

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