Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Wise and Lipsky Clash on Jewish Agency Ratification in Statements on Return to U.S.

January 4, 1929
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

A duel of words, re-echoing the battles at the Berlin session of the Zionist General Council where the Marshall-Weizmann agreement was ratified by a majority of 39 to 5, took place between Dr. Stephen S. Wise, vice-president of the Zionist General Council, and Louis Lipsky, president of the Zionist Organization of America, when they returned to New York yesterday on board the steamer Berengaria.

Together with Dr. Wise, came Mr. Samuel Rosensohn, New York attorney, and a leader of the Zionist opposition group, long affiliated with the Mack-Brandeis party.

Jacob Fishman, managing editor of the “Jewish Morning Journal,” returned on the same steamer from Berlin where he attended the session as a member of the General Council.

Dr. Wise, supplementing a prepared statement handed to newspapermen, declared that he was not opposed to the extension of the Jewish Agency in principle, but his fight was directed against the terms of the Marshall-Weizmann agreement. In his prepared statement, he charged that he learned in Berlin “things saddening and disillusioning.” He charged that the Zionist leadership has relinquished what was cherished for more than a generation as the Zionist ideal and that the Zionist Organization has “ceased to function in the interest of anything that may be called Zionism.” His principle objection was to that point in the Marshall-Weizmann agreement which deals with the contingency of a breach between the Zionists and the non-Zionists in the extended Agency. This provision, he stated, is already a matter of dispute.

Louis Lipsky, in his statement, declared that the opposition has now little left to do in the way of obstruction after it has been overwhelming defeated at the Berlin session. Noises and threats are to be expected, but the strength of the opposition is indicated by the Berlin vote. Most Zionists realize that the Zionist movement must inevitably go in the direction voted upon in Berlin which will lead to the creation of a world union for the building of a Jewish national home in Palestine, he said. The attempt to hold the building of Palestine within the limitations of the Zionist Organization is contrary to the will of the Jewish people. The future should be left to the free play of the competitive forces in Jewish life, Mr. Lipsky stated.

“As Vice-President of the Executive Council of the Zionist Organization, I went to its recent Berlin session together with Mr. S. J. Rosensohn of the New York Bar, long associated with the Brandeis-Mack group in American Zionism,” Dr. Wise said.

“We sought to learn what was the mind of European Zionists in relation to the proposed extension of the Jewish Agency.

“We learned things, saddening and disillusioning. The Zionist Organization has ceased to function in the interest of anything that may be called Zionism.

“That the Zionist leadership has, generally speaking, relinquished what, for more than a generation, we had cherished as the Zionist Ideal, came to light in the unconsidered and unques (Continued on Page 3)

“We found to our amazement that the Council was ready for endless discussion of the details of the Agency Agreement but only after virtually undebated acceptance of the Agreement, however loose and inadequate for the safeguarding of the Zionist principles at stake.

“We found that the Executive Council was belatedly and grudgingly hospitable to our insistence that no provision which looked to the safeguarding of Zionist interests could be left in the form of dubious verbal arrangements, however well meaning all parties to the agreement.

“It was left for us solemnly to warn the Executive Council that no Agency agreement should or could be accepted which omitted to state in the unamedable and undebatable terms of the Mandate the objects of the Jewish Agency: and such omission pointed not to extension but to attenuation-not to fulfillment but to surrender.

“In all this we were doing no more than calling upon the Executive Council not to violate the binding resolutions adopted and re-adopted by successive Zionist Congresses.

“We forced upon the more or less surprised attention of the Executive Council the truth that it would be faithless to fail to provide in unmistakable terms for the contingency, however remote, of Agency dissolution.

“We made clear that the failure to make such provision might well result in the Zionist Organization being brought face to face with one of several equally intolerable alternatives:

“(1) Zionists might be forced to endure the gravest infringement upon the Zionist objective, rather than relinquish their participation in the Agency.

“(1) If Zionist came under the necessity of withdrawal, the Non-Zionists might indeed claim the right to function as the sole Agency under the Mandate.

“(3) There might conceivably be a third not less abhorrent alternative-that of submission to the Council of the League of Nations of the controversy between the one time parties to the Agency agreement.

“In a sense we succeeded in bringing home to the Executive Council, though too late, viewing the previous unchallenging and subservient acquiescence in the Agency Agreement, the peril of failing to make provision for the automatic reinstatement of the Zionist Organization as the Jewish Agency, in the event of dissolution irrespective of its causes.

“We further made clear to the Executive Council that the supremely important matter of the resumption of responsibility by the Zionist Organization as the Jewish Agency could not be left to a disputable, verbal understanding between the authors of the agreement. The meaning of such agreement is already in dispute-the one party to the agreement maintaining that the dissolution could only be effected through mutual consent, and the other party maintaining that either party to the Agency Agreement possessed the right to dissolve it. Above all else we demanded that no agreement be finally ratified, unless the provision with respect to re-instatement should previously have been submitted to and formally sanctioned by the Mandatory Power and the Council of the League of Nations. To take any risk herein would constitute a gross breach of our Zionist trusteeship.

“These things will seem of little importance only to those who are unconcerned about Zionist aims and principles, and whose concern is limited to the minutial of organization.”

Asked whether they meant to challenge or to seek to end the rule of Dr. Weizmann, Dr. Wise and Mr. Rosensohn answered:

“We are concerned not with men but with measures. The urgent duty at this hour is not to change leadership but to prevent, if it be not too late, the surrender of Zionist principles, and at the same time to insist that the Zionist Organization, having entered into an agreement with the Non-Zionists, shall live up to its terms in the utmost good faith.”

“With me from America were Jacob Fishman, managing editor of the ‘Jewish Morning Journal’ and Dr. A. Coralnik, contributing editor of ‘The Day,’ both of whom are members of the Council and with me, were interested in facilitating the organization of the extended Jewish Agency upon which depends united action by all Jews in the upbuilding of Palestine as the Jewish National Home,” Mr. Lipsky said.

“I am glad to state that the Berlin meeting gave Dr. Chaim Weizmann authority to sign the Weizmann-Marshall agreement on behalf of the Zionist Organization and also to proceed with the organization of the Jewish Agency, and to prepare for holding the first session of the Council of the Agency as soon as possible after the forthcoming Zionist Congress in July. The agreement reached with the Marshall group was ratified after full discussion and there is every reason to be pleased with the result. Of course, the few irreconcilable members of the General Council are still displeased and disappointed and they will do everything possible in a parliamentary way to obstruct and delay action. Turbulent noises and threats are to be expected, but the relative strength of the opposition is indicated by the vote taken at Berlin. When the Council met in Berlin in July the vote on the Jewish Agency was forty-one to four. The vote in December was thirty-nine to five, the additional vote being Dr. Stophen S. Wise’s.

(Continued on Page 4) (Continued from Page 3)

“Dr. Wise came late to the Berlin meeting, and delivered an impassioned address that lasted over an hour, but it had no effect upon the voting nor upon the views of the Council members present. There is little left for the opposition to do in the way of obstruction or public debate. They have lost the fight. They have been overwhelmingly defeated. The work of actually organizing the Jewish Agency now takes the place of contentious argument.

“Steps will be taken at once by the Zionist Executive to assemble the so-called non-Zionist representation for England, Poland, Palestine, Germany, France, Holland and Belgium. Much progress has already been made. Dr. Weizmann will devote himself during January and February to this task. In the meantime the proposed constitution for the Jewish Agency is being prepared. In a tentative form the constitution was submitted to the General Council at Berlin. It will now be referred to a special commission which will seek the views of Zionists and non-Zionists and present their conclusions to the next Zionist Congress. Final action on the constitution is to be left to the Council of the Jewish Agency, in which the Zionist Organization will be represented by fifty per cent of its membership,” he said.

“In short, the Berlin conference of the Zionist General Council effectively cleared the way for setting up the administration of the Jewish Agency this Fall. In my judgment, the policy of extending the Jewish Agency, which has been in discussion for over five years, is now fixed and cannot seriously be deflected by any combination of oppositional Zionists. Most Zionists recognize that the Zionist movement must inevitably go in that direction. It is the first step in the effective organization of a World Jewish Union for the building of the Jewish National Home in Palestine in accordance with the terms of the Mandate and in consonance with Zionist ideals. The attempt to hold the building of a Jewish Palestine within the confines and limitations of the Zionist Organization making interest in the redemption of Zion conditioned upon acceptance of Zionist formulas, runs counter to the will of the Jewish people and is not in accord with fundamental Zionist principles. Those of us who are not formalists feel that the essentials of Zionism will be safe-guarded by the creative life we shall establish in Palestine and by the inherent strength of the Zionist Organization. The future is to be left to the free play of competitive forces not only within the Zionist Organization, but also within the framework of the House of Israel-all cooperating in the making of a national future for the Jewish people in Palestine,” Mr. Lipsky concluded.

With the exception of Poland and Palestine, where some difficulties are to be expected, the prospect for enlisting non-Zionist cooperation in the extended Jewish Agency are good, Jacob Fishman stated.

The project of the constitution for the Jewish Agency, prepared by the Zionist General Council, will not encounter any difficulties at the forthcoming Zionist Congress. If there will be any differences of opinion, they most likely will be smoothed out by the Committee of Seven which was appointed for this purpose. The proceedings of the Zionist General Council in Berlin were smooth and impressive. The only discord was the address by Dr. Wise, whom the members of the Zionist body could not understand since he has not uttered a word of opposition in the course of the two months which elapsed between the non-Zionist conference in New York and his arrival in Berlin, Mr. Fishman stated.

Recommended from JTA