JERUSALEM (May. 18)
Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion charged again last night that the Zionist movement, particularly that of the United States, was meaningless as long as Zionists declined to agree that Zionism had to mean eventual settlement in Israel.
The Prime Minister resumed his polemical assault on the Zionist movement in a vigorous defense before a plenary session of the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, of his recent Joint statement with Jacob Blaustein, honorary president of the American Jewish Committee, on relations between Israeli and American Jewry. During the stormy, hour-long debate, the Prime Minister said flatly “I have no grounds to retract even a single word” of the joint declaration.
The Knesset decided to hold a plenary debate on the issue with the Prime Minister’s acquiescence and only a few Cabinet Ministers voted against that motion. The subject was introduced by Peretz Bernstein of Israel’s new Liberal party, Israel Bar Yehuda of Achdut Avodah and Miss Emma Talmi of Mapam. Miss Talmi questioned Mr. Blaustein’s right to speak for American Jewry and criticized the fact that the joint statement was released during the recent session of the Zionist General Council in Jerusalem.
Miss Talmi also asserted that the Joint statement contravened the spirit of the 1952 law granting special status to the Jewish Agency as representative of the Jewish people outside of Israel, Mr. Bar Yehuda said that the Prime Minister was “apt to express opinions” not held by a majority of his Cabinet and asserted that the joint statement was devised to hit the Zionist movement.
The Prime Minister retorted that Mr. Blaustein did not claim to represent American Jewry and he then proceeded to read into the Knesset record the full text of his part of the joint declaration originally published in 1950 when Mr. Blaustein met with him for the first time on the issue. The portion reiterated that the only political loyalty of the American Jew was to the United States and that the decision to settle in Israel was one which could be made only by each Jew for himself.
SAYS U.S. ZIONISTS ‘SAY EMPTY WORDS’ IF THEY DON’T SETTLE IN ISRAEL
The Prime Minister said that there was no contradiction between the statement and the 1952 status law because that law concerned the unification of the Jewish people in Israel. He added that American Zionists refused to come to Israel because they considered themselves Americans.
Mr. Ben-Gurion insisted that Zionism meant the centering of the Jewish people in Israel and that if the Zionist Organization of America and others accepted this but said that Zionism did not impose a personal duty for Aliyah, “then they say empty words. ” He added that no one represented American Jewry because American Jewry was unorganized. This, he said, included the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“I have spoken with American Jews on all kinds of subjects, ” he said, adding that Mr. Blaustein “is not one of those Zionists who are called Zionists in America. In my eyes, they, too, are not Zionists. ” He declared that he knew “of only one Zionist in America I would call a Zionist. And I will not give his name. He does not think of himself as an American. He thinks of himself only as a Jew. He thinks these two are different things, being an American and being a Jew.”
No one can impose aliyah on others, the Prime Minister said. If Jews who are not under duress come to Israel to live a full Jewish life, he added, then this and only this is Zionism. His speech was frequently interrupted by remarks from the floor in a debate of unusual interest and intensity. There was no indication when the proposed plenary debate on the issue would be held.