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Einstein Warns Against Partition As Leading to “narrow Nationalism”

April 19, 1938
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Professor Albert Einstein last night opposed the proposed partition of Palestine as against Jewish spirituality and as leading to a narrow nationalism. He addressed 3,000 laborite Zionists who crowded the Hotel Astor’s grand ballroom far beyond capacity for the sixth annual “Third Seder” of the National Labor Committee for Palestine.

Speaking in German, Dr. Einstein declared he would much rather see a reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together. He urged that if the Jews are forced to accept partition, they bear it “in the knowledge that it will be in contrast to our nature.”

The laborites, who had given the noted scientist a thunderous three-minute ovation as he arose to speak, applauded him somewhat less enthusiastically when he had concluded. Many in the audience, not knowing German, did not understand the address, and no translation was read.

Other speakers were Herbert Morrison, chairman of the London Country Council, who urged the British Government to restore the absorptive capacity principle of Palestine immigration; Maurice Feinstone, secretary of the United Hebrew Trades; David Pinski, president of the Jewish National Workers’ Alliance; Goldie Myerson, of the Palestine Histadruth; Isaac Hamlin, secretary of the National Labor Committee for Palestine, and Chaim Greenberg, editor of The Jewish Frontier.

The early part of Professor Einstein’s address dealt with anti-Semitism. He declared that “we shall survive this period” of oppression, “no matter how heavy a loss of life it may bring.”

“A community like ours, which is a community purely by reason of tradition, can only be strengthened by pressure from without,” he said. “For today every Jew feels that to be a Jew means to bear a serious responsibility, not only to his own community, but also toward humanity.”

Coming to the subject of Palestine, he praised the accomplishments of Jewish pioneers, despite “fanatical Arab uprisings.” He paid tribute to the solidarity and confidence of the Palestine Jews. The disorders, he charged, were fomented by those interested in embarrassing not only the Jews, but particularly Great Britain.

On the subject of partition, he asserted that “I would much rather see a reasonable agreement with the Arabs on the basis of living together than the creation of a Jewish State.”

“Apart from practical considerations,” he said, “my awareness of the essential nature of Judaism resists the idea of a Jewish State, with borders, an army and a measure of temporal power, no matter how modest. I am afraid of the inner damage Judaism will sustain — especially from the development of a narrow nationalism within our ranks, against which we have already had to fight strongly, even without a Jewish State.

“We are no longer Jews of the Maccabean period. A return to a nation in the political sense of the word would be the equivalent of turning away from the spiritualization of our community, which we owe to the genius of our prophets. If external necessity should, after all, compel us to assume this burden, let us bear it in the knowledge that it will be in contrast to our nature.”

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