Jewish Problem Essentially Religious Says Rabbi Schulman in Letter on Dr. Magnes’s Pamphlet, “like a
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Jewish Problem Essentially Religious Says Rabbi Schulman in Letter on Dr. Magnes’s Pamphlet, “like a

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people that expresses its unity in a political organization, called the State. State and Nation are synonymous in modern thought and in modern international law.

“The Jews are no ‘nation’ in any such sense. The Jews, therefore, are not seeking a national homeland in Palestine or anywhere else. Individual Jews have homes in all free lands. They are not internationalists. They are good nationalists of the countries in which they dwell. The Jewish People, as a people, does not need a unifying center in Palestine. Its center is its Torah. The foundation of that Torah, the Bible, it carries with it wherever it goes. That is its spiritual home. The unity of the Jewish people is exclusively religious. It is bound together by the faith and the ideals of life and the hopes as they speak in this Bible, and as they were revealed by God Who spoke through His Prophets.


“Dr. Magnes said that the three elements of Jewish life are the ‘People, the sixteen millions of Jews scattered all over the world, the Torah and the Land,’ meaning Palestine. I would modify this statement. I would say, the three elements of Jewish life are God, the Torah and the People of Israel. This is not merely a verbal difference. This is a very important difference, and rightly understood, has profound consequences. The Land was an incident in the life of the Jewish People. There was a People of Israel, covenanted to its God, at Mt. Sinai, before there was a ‘Land of Israel.’ A Jewish People has lived for nineteen hundred years without a land. And if we could imagine Palestine to cease to exist, the Jewish People, as Dr. Magnes admits, would live. In every discourse against Zionism, I have maintained that the People is greater than Palestine.


“The Jewish problem is essentially a religious problem. It is a problem in Palestine, as well as anywhere else. I look upon the Jews in Palestine, not as an ‘ethical community,’ a phrase which Dr. Magnes uses, but as a religious community. The Radicals in Palestine will have to come to some understanding again with Israel’s God. In short, I hold that the Jews are a religious community and nothing else. Belonging to such world community, a number of Jews might very well live in Palestine, and conditions might be found for their cooperation with the Arabs in building up Palestine. It would be best to speak of the Jewish community in Palestine, and to describe it by no other name, and not to speak of it as a nationality. I do not hesitate to say that Dr. Magnes’s views give up the substance of what is known as Zionism. That does not mean that he is not called upon to play a great role in the development of Jewish life in Palestine.

“My satisfaction, as a non-Zionist, with the rejection of political Zionism, is tempered with sorrow at the actual conditions of the Jews in Palestine. It is a sad spectacle to contemplate that, after fifty years of colonizing activity, after fifty million dollars, according to the official statement, or even two hundred million dollars, according to the testimony recently given, have been poured into Palestine, there are only one hundred and sixty thousand Jews—one Jew for six Arabs—and that ‘a sword is hanging over us.’ But I am not discouraged. I believe that the promise made in the form of the Balfour Declaration, endorsed by the League of Nations and adopted as its policy, will be maintained. We non-Zionists have never particularly cared for the phrase ‘a national homeland for the Jewish people.’ It would be much better to modify it and to say ‘a home for Jews in Palestine.’ This would help Arab orientation. If there is no national homeland, why say so? And if the Jewish people is not a nation, why use the adjective ‘national?’ But the policy, on the whole, of the Balfour Declaration, should be maintained, and Jewish rights should be secured. And it is sadly significant, when Dr. Magnes speaks of ‘Jewish and minority rights,’ which are to be protected.


“As a non-Zionist, and yet a believer in the possible settlement of Jews in Palestine, I envisage Palestine entirely from a practical point of view. I do not underestimate its sentimental value. I too, love the soil on which walked our Prophets. I know its possibilities of inspiration for those who live there. But in the main, the colonization in Palestine has meant finding an opportunity on Palestinian soil for some Jews who wish to go there to find freer and happier lives. With the doors of most countries shut in the face of the Jew, Palestine for me, is mainly important as an opportunity for transporting Jews from other countries to live there.

“I take my stand with the President of the Zionist Organization, who at the same time is the President of the Jewish Agency, when he said: ‘We do not seek a museum in Palestine.’ I do not agree with him, when he as a Zionist; speaks of seeking a ‘national home.’ But a so-called spiritual center, for however few in numbers, of Jews is not what Jewish colonization in Palestine should mean. In former ages, Jews went to Palestine to study the Torah, and were supported there. Today, young radicals are going to Palestine to build up a new culture, as it is said. I do not believe that, in the end, the Jewry of the world will continue to pour money into Palestine for the sake of the sentiment. Therefore, we must be clear in our minds as to what we want.

“We do want a sufficient number of Jews to settle there. And the rights of these Jews will have to be maintained by the proper power. Certainly I believe, as all Jews believe, in peaceful methods. We are always for peace, as the Psalmist puts it. ‘They are for war.’ But no one ought to commit himself today to any piece of political machinery in Palestine. If Jewish rights to ‘immigration, to land settlement, to the Hebrew language,’ and by a great power outside of Palestine, then the question arises if certain dwellers in Palestine should undertake to destroy these rights, or to engage in uprisings, how can they be dissuaded? Will an oration or a sermon do it?

“Certainly we should have conferences, consultations. Certainly, Jews in Palestine should learn the Arabic language, certainly as Dr. Magnes says, new parties might arise, not based on the Nationalistic bias. His spirit of peace is admirable. In the last analysis, however, as in every State and in every place in the world, right must be upheld by power. This will be so until, to speak with the Prophet, God’s law will come to be written in men’s hearts. The Jews who go to Palestine will not colonize it with the methods of Joshua. But they also cannot trust to the methods of Tolstoi. Good-will should be fostered. It will be fostered by dropping Nationalistic pretentions. But justice and right must ethically and uncompromisingly be upheld.”

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