NEW YORK (May. 18)
Dr. Nahum Goldmann, president of the World Zionist Organization, took sharp issue at a press conference here today with the statement against American Zionists voiced last night in the Knesset by Israel’s Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Dr. Goldmann said:
“I regret to be forced to take strong issue with the new statements of Mr. Ben-Gurion which he made on May 17th in the Knesset with regard to American Zionists. On the assumption that he is quoted correctly by The New York Times, Mr. Ben-Gurion said: ‘They are reluctant to say that they are not Americans and not part of the American homeland like any other Americans.’ He further said: ‘As long as there is no movement of personal emigration and personal good in emigration the Zionist Movement has no right to call itself a Zionist Movement.’
“I want first to reduce this statement as other such statements of the Prime Minister which he repeated again and again to its real meaning. With all my respect to the Prime Minister, when he acts as Prime Minister of Israel I want to make it perfectly clear that whenever he expresses what has become now an ‘idea fixe’ of his regard to Zionism, he speaks purely as an individual without being supported in it either by the Government nor by any of the major parties in Israel nor by his own party, and I don’t know why Jews and non-Jews should get excited about statements of an individual completely isolated in his opinions however important he may be.
“In addition, Mr. Ben-Gurion is all the time contradicting his own statements. Only on May 26, 1960 after a day long joint meeting between the executive of the World Zionist Organization and the Government of Israel a statement was issued which reads as follows:
“‘ The Government of Israel and the executive of the World Zionist Organization declare their unshaken determination to maintain close mutual relations according to the Charter of 1954 and in accordance with the spirit of the Zionist Organization statutes of 1952 stipulating that the State of Israel sees itself as the creation of the entire Jewish people and expects from the Jewish Agency to unite the Jewish people for the upbuilding of the State. The joint meeting regards the plan to expand the Zionist Organization as outlined by the Zionist General Council as a step in the right direction. The Government of Israel will give its full support to the implementation of this plan.’
“The Prime Minister approved this statement and, together with the Minister of Justice, Dr. Rosen, and myself, was a member of the Drafting Committee which formulated it. Furthermore, the Prime Minister headed the list of his own party in the elections to the last Zionist Congress to which he was a delegate. It is deeply regrettable that he consistently takes the liberty of violating the Law on the Status of the World Zionist Organization which is the Law of Israel, the Agreement between the World Zionist Organization and the Government which gives the World Zionist Organization exclusive rights in Israel and contradicting decisions of his Government to which he was a party.
“I am sorry that the Government of Israel does not insist on a minimum of collective responsibility that would prevent its Prime Minister from repeating again and again statements in full contradiction to the position and the policy of the Government; nobody is usually more sensitive to the principle of collective responsibility of the Government than Mr. Ben-Gurion. There can, in the long run, not be two rules, one for all the other members of the Government and a special one for its Prime Minister. Democracy in Israel is certainly not enhanced by the liberties which the Prime Minister takes for himself.
QUESTIONS BEN-GURION’S RIGHT TO DEFINE THE DUTIES OF ZIONISTS
“As for the content of his statement, I reject it on behalf of the World Zionist Organization most emphatically. Zionism has never demanded from its members not to regard themselves as full and complete citizens of their countries. Were Mr. Ben-Gurion’s definition to be accepted, neither Theodor Herzl nor Justice Brandeis nor Stephen Wise would have been real Zionists.
“I deny the right of Mr. David Ben-Gurion, speaking as an individual, to define the duties of Zionists. He is neither the spokesman nor the official leader of the movement. Only the Zionist Congress and its elected bodies can commit the Organization. Zionists have the full right to regard themselves as full citizens of their countries while at the same time helping build the State of Israel, work for its growth and development, encourage emigration of all those who wish or have to go to Israel and seeking to tie up Jewish life in the Diaspora with the new civilization developed in Israel.
“By his unauthorized statements Mr. Ben-Gurion undermines the position of millions of Zionists in all parts of the world and does great harm to the World Zionist Organization to which Israel has given a specific status and has entrusted with the task-as defined in the joint resolution of the Government and the World Zionist Organization of May 26, 1940-‘to unite the Jewish People for the upbuilding of the State.’
“As, judging by past experiences and despite the rejection of his views by the Zionist movement, by the parties in Israel and his own party, I am sure that Mr. Ben-Gurion will continue making his statements, I appeal to disregard them in the future and not to indulge in continued discussions with Mr. Ben-Gurion. It is fruitless, meaningless and harmful, ” Dr. Goldmann stated.
CLARIFIES POSITION WITH REGARD TO HIS SETTLING IN ISRAEL
Dr. Goldmann then went on to clarify his position with regard to his possible settlement in Israel, his joining the Liberal Party there and the eventual possibility of his giving up his American citizenship. He declared:
“I have announced in Israel that I intend, in some near future, to establish my legal residence in Israel and that I am joining the Liberal Party which I regard as important became, for the first time, a party is established which may become an alternative to the predominant role of Mapai in Israel’s political life; such an alternative party is necessary for the functioning of real democracy. This position, incidentally was shared in the past also by the Prime Minister and other leaders of Mapai who encouraged me again and again to help establish it.
“I stated in Israel that I cannot move to Israel now because of my various positions in Jewish organizations outside of Israel which I could not abandon abruptly. I stated that once I will have my residence in Israel I may be available for an appropriate position or work. Then, I have never specified what kind of a position this ought to be nor have I made any claims to special posts. Everybody will understand that because of the many positions I occupy in Jewish life, my moving to Israel is not a simple thing.
“As for the question of my citizenship, I stated that obviously if I should one day accept an official position in Israel, be it as a member of Parliament or a member of the Government or any other official task, it would be obvious that I would accept Israel citizenship. Having been a Zionist all my life, it would be only natural for me that when my work in Israel and for Israel would require it, I should give up my American citizenship-inasmuch as I cherish and appreciate it-to become an Israeli. I regret the somewhat sensational form in which this matter was reported and I take this opportunity to clarify my position.”
SAYS HE DID NOT OBJECT TO CONTENTS OF BEN-GURION-BLAUSTEIN STATEMENT
In regard to a statement issued by leaders of the American Jewish Committee, which criticized him for allegedly “threatening free expression of religious and cultural relationships” between American Jews and Israel and charged him with demanding that the contacts between American Jews and Israel be channeled exclusively “through a particular intermediary.” Dr. Goldmann said he never made such demands.
He said he did not take issue with the content of the joint statement issued by Mr. Ben-Gurion and Jacob Blaustein of the American Jewish Committee. He objected only, he said, to Mr. Ben-Gurion issuing such a statement with a representative of an organization which, “with all its merits, is far from being representative of the American Jewish community.”
Dr. Goldmann noted: “I referred to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization as a much more representative body, and criticized the American Jewish Committee for its stubborn refusal to join any such representative body both in American and in world Jewish life. But, at the same time, I did not put forward the claim that relations between Israel and Jewish organizations or communities must be channeled exclusively through the World Zionist Organization.”