Ito Redivivus: Conference Held in Poland to Consider Steps to Restart Activities of Jewish Territori
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Ito Redivivus: Conference Held in Poland to Consider Steps to Restart Activities of Jewish Territori

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A Conference of Jewish social workers and writers was held here this week, at which a decision was adopted to take steps to revive the activity of the Jewish Territorial Organisation (Ito), which was founded by the late Israel Zangwill, and was wound up in 1925.

The new Ito, it is stated, will base itself on the realities of the Jewish situation all over the world, and will aim at the improvement of the Jewish economic position in the East European countries by endeavouring to provide an outlet for Jewish emigration in lands which appear to offer big Jewish immigration and colonisation prospects.

At a meeting of the Headquarters Council of the Ito held in November 1922 a resolution was adopted “that this Council decides, in view of the work of the Zionist Organisation, that its own activities will continue to be in suspense. The President, Mr. Zangwill, is, however, empowered to deal with any territorial proposition which may arise and to summon the Council when he considers it desirable”.

Dr. Eder, one of the leaders of the Ito, who joined the Zionist Commission as its representative, reporting at the meeting on the Zionist activities in Palestine, declared that from the point of view of establishing a national home there, the prospects were excellent.

The late Mr. Lucien Wolf, who was a member of the Council, contested the statement, declaring that in view of the 250,000 Jewish refugees in Eastern Europe, homeless and desperate, Palestine, which would not receive more than 8,000 or 10,000 a year, offered no solution whatever to the Jewish question.

In June 1925, the Ito was wound up at meeting held under Mr. Zangwill’s chairmanship, a resolution being adopted “that this headquarters Council of the Ito decides to close its activities”.

Palestine had never been excluded from the Ito’s programme, with which he had done his best to get the Mandate equated, Mr. Zangwill said at that meeting. Their colleague, Dr. Eder, he went on, had first filled the office in Palestine. which was afterwards occupied by Colonel Kisch, the son of their colleague, Mr. H. M. Kisch. Since the date of the Ito’s 1922 resolution, the Zionist Organisation had made considerable progress industrially, he continued, but its political situation had gone from bad to worse. With the withdrawal of Sir Herbert Samuel and Mr. Norman Bentwich, the Palestine Government had been denuded of every Jewish high official. The determining point politically was that the Jewish receptivity of Palestine was limited to a few hundreds of thousands, and meanwhile the status of the Jews both politically and economically had degenerated calamitously in many parts of Europe, so that the need of a Jewish territory on an autonomous basis, had become more urgent than ever.

He himself, he said, had almost from the first regarded the Balfour Declaration as fatal to Territorialism for our generation at least, because, although it was unobtainable in Palestine, any attempt to establish it elsewhere would be fanatically opposed by Zionists. He had been equally convinced that the pressure of tragic forces would perpetually bring to the surface this, the only political solution of the Jewish question.

A few weeks after the winding up meeting of the Ito, in 1925, a movement was begun by some London members to restart the Ito’s activity in order to participate in the Jewish colonisation movement in Russia, with a view to establishing there a Jewish autonomous region by means of concentrated Jewish land settlement. Nothing however, came of the project. Mr. Zangwill made a reference to the Jewish colonisation movement in Russia, in the course of his speech to the winding-up meeting of the Ito, saying that he was afraid that however valuable, it failed to represent the Ito programme of a single “territory on an autonomous basis for those Jews unable or unwilling to live where they are at present”. He had asked the Soviet authorities, he said, whether they intended to establish a Jewish republic, and the reply had been: “No, but in the distinctively Jewish districts something of this kind is desirable”. It might have been possible, he commented in this regard, for the Jewish colonisation territory in Russia to have been made continuous and of adequate area to fall in line with the Ito programme, but that necessity had not been understood or insisted upon sufficiently.

In the field of Jewish emigration, the Ito accomplished an important work in directing the Galveston emigration movement, largely as a side issue to its main purpose, and a large number of Jewish immigrants were sent cut to Galveston, Dr. D. Jochelman having been responsible for the Galveston work from Russia.

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