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Palestine Conference Urges Chamberlain to Lift Entry Restrictions

January 16, 1939
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The National Conference for Palestine, closing its two-day sessions at the Mayflower Hotel decided today to send a memorial to Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain urging the British Government to demonstrate the sincerity of its concern with the refugee problem by lifting Palestine immigration restrictions. The conference, attended by 1,500 delegates from 44 states, paid tribute to President Roosevelt and Secretary of State Cordell Hull for their “historic role in safeguarding the Jewish rights which underlie” the Palestine mandate. The meeting also approved the formation of the United Jewish Appeal for Refugees and Overseas Needs.

Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver of Cleveland, national chairman of the United Palestine Appeal, and other officers were re-elected, Prof. Albert Einstein was elected honorary chairman of the U.P.A.

Solicitor-General Robert Jackson, the principal speaker at today’s session, in an address broadcast throughout the country, deplored the lack of opportunities for immigration of refugees throughout the world and urged increased absorption of refugees in Palestine and the United States. “The plight of the Jews is a challenge to Christian conscience to make good the promise of a Jewish national home in Palestine,” Mr. Jackson said. There is more room for refugees in Palestine than in any other country in the world, he declared. In the United States, he asserted, “it is but just that the democracy afford shelter to the Jew, who early furnished the vision of democracy to the world.” He emphasized the contributions of Jews in intellectual and other fields.

Denouncing racial prejudice, Mr. Jackson called upon liberal government to “provide sanctions to enforce our covenant to respect each other’s rights and advance a measure to support the dignity of man.” He added: “A terrible debit is written in the book of history against the non-Jewish world — the non-Jewish world is earning for itself a day of retribution, leaving its children a legacy of shame.”

Jan Masaryk, former Czechoslovakian Minister to Great Britain and son of the late President Thomas G. Masaryk, founder of the Czech Republic, told the conference that the world should take warning that “the Nazi propaganda machine should not be successful in the case of the Arabs as it was with Sudetenland.” World conditions in the Middle Ages were “not half so bad” as they are today, Mr. Masaryk said. “As long as I live,” he declared, “my time will be with the oppressed victims of terrorism.” He added that Jewish reconstruction in Palestine was “not jeopardizing” the Arab Empire, citing the small amount of land held by the Jews in comparison with the huge Arab land area.

Addressing the opening session last night, Mr. Masaryk bitterly denounced the Munich pact and pleaded that Palestine, which he said was the major hope for Jewish refugees, be not allowed to suffer the fate of his nation. Since at the present time his country did not need him, Mr. Masaryk said, he was enlisting in the service of helping the Jews rebuild and settle Palestine because like “the Czechoslovakia of a little while ago, Palestine is today trying to preserve democracy.” He termed the Munich pact “the latest step in Europe’s humiliation” but expressed confidence in the ultimate victory of the democratic forces in his country despite the fact that his people “were betrayed and their ideals were trampled underfoot by heavy totalitarian goosestepping boots.”

In the opening address, Rabbi Silver voiced stern warning that the Jews of America would have no part of the refugee “ransom” scheme now being discussed in Berlin. He condemned the scheme as a degrading and a debasing offer that would not free but plunge into far greater slavery Jews throughout Europe. The plan, he asserted, “constitutes the highest refinement of humiliation for the Jews and a blanket invitation to other countries with anti-Semitic leanings to mulct the Jews and intensify expulsion activities.”

Expressing similar sentiments regarding the “ransom” plan, Dr. Stephen S. Wise, chairman of the U.P.A. executive committee, called upon the civilized world to prevent Nazi Germany from sending its Jews out of the country as “pauperized salesmen of German-made goods.” He pointed out that not only the Jews of the world but also those countries which might be inclined to extend hospitality to the prospective immigrants must insist upon a basis of emigration that would permit German Jews to take with them a maximum amount of their property and savings so that they might have an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves elsewhere.

Led by Dr. Silver, who announced that Palestine was prepared to receive 100,000 German Jews this year and condemned as “cruel deception” any schemes for their settlement in Africa and South America, all speakers demanded that Great Britain demonstrate its sincerity on the refugee question by lifting Palestine immigration restrictions. The speakers included Dr. Israel Goldstein and Louis Lipsky, U.P.A. co-chairmen; Leon Gellman, president of the Mizrachi Organization of America; Joseph Baratz, Palestine colonist and writer, who came to the United States to report to the conference, and Robert M. Bernstein, of Philadelphia, who presided at last night’s session.

Underscoring the capacity of Palestine to absorb Jewish refugees, Mr. Baratz told the conference that there was a great demand for additional Jewish labor to take care of the growing economic and cultural needs of the Jewish homeland. He asserted that Nazi and Fascist propaganda were among the chief factors responsible for Arab terrorism in Palestine, adding that 25,000 Arabs had emigrated to neighboring countries to flee the terror. He revealed that 55,000 Jews entered Palestine in the past two and a half years.

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