Jerusalem (Jun. 17)
The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine held its first open hearing today, receiving testimony from Moshe Shortok, chairman of the political department of the Jewish Agency.
The 11-member committee sat around a huge horse-shoe table in the main hall of the $1,000,000 American-built YMCA building, with Shertok seated next to Indian delegate Sir Abdur Rehman. A surprising lack of public interest was indicated by many empty seats in the unreserved section. Only slightly more than 100 of the 450 seats were filled.
Mr. Shertok spoke for more than an hour on various aspects of the Palestine situation, tracing the historic connection of the Jews with Palestine and emphasizing that Jewish immigration to Palestine was “a movement of mass return.” He denied that Jewish land purchases in Palestine had created a class of landless Arabs.
The Jewish Agency spokesman revealed that of the 640,000 Jews living in Palestine today, about 230,000 were native-born. He outlined at great length the role Jews have played in the economic development of Palestine, and sharply criticized the White Paper restrictions and their effect on Jewish life, and on the growth of the country.
INDIAN DELEGATE IRRITATES CHAIRMAN BY POINTLESS QUESTIONS
The Indian delegate asked whether Shertck wanted immigration regulations lifted in every country in the world. He also asked how much money was being sent to the Jews in Palestine from abroad; how much money they made on the Palestine potash concession and how many non-Jews were converted to Judaism. His frequently pointless questions irritated Judge Emil Sandstroem, chairman of the committee who cut him short, while Shertok promised to get the necessary figures.
Questioned by other delegates on the extent of cooperation between the Palestine Government and the Agency, Shertok replied that relations between the two are abnormal and haphazard. They have become “extremely strained” as a result of the White Paper policy, which the Agency regards as a deliberate violation of the Palestine mandate, he explained.
The Netherlands delegate, Dr. Nikolas Blom, wanted to know who was legally considered a Jew by the Jewish Agency. Shertok replied that any person declaring that he is a Jew is accepted as a Jew, but the religious test was definitive. The same delegate asked for examples of Arab-Jewish cooperation. Shertok cited a number of instances, including the activities of Arab members of the Haifa municipality under the Jewish mayor of the city, the joint economic efforts on the part of Jewish and Arab orange growers, and the joint strikes of Jewish and Arab workers. “Were these strikes caused by economic or racial reasons?” Chairman Sandstroem asked. Shertok emphasized that the reasons for the strikes were purely economic. “From the point of view of recial cooperation the strikes went off with remarkable smoothness,” he added.
“Did the examples of Arab-Jewish cooperation mean the possibility of Palestine independence?” the delegate from India interjected. Shertok replied that in paramount issues, such as Jewish immigration, Arabs and Jews are diametrically opposed. “While practical cooperation exists in day-to-day life, this does not mean that the two sides are ready to pull together politically within one unitary state,” he declared.
In his presentation, Shertok stressed the fact that the Jews come to Palestine with the primary mission of preparing land for other Jews. “We take away no livelihood from others,” he pointed out, “we create it ourselves. We are a new society built up by immigration, and our outstanding feature is that this new society absorbs itself.”
IRGUN. STERNISTS TELL PROBERS THEY REJECT TRUCE BECAUSE OF GOVT. STAND
The Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern Group today submitted memoranda to the committee, declaring their refusal to accede to the U.N. request for a truce unless the Palestine Government ceases deporting visaless immigrants, stops street searches and military activities and abolishes military courts.
The Irgun asked the probers to intervene with the government to halt such activities. The Sternists asserted that “if the occupying authorities evade a response to the appeal of the U.N. and continue to practice cruel methods of repression, we will be compelled to react to such acts of provocation.”