The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine opened hearings here this morning in the circular hall of the Royal Empire Society, the galleries of which were jammed with spectators, including representatives of Jewish organizations and the head of the Arab Office in London.
The principal witness today was Prof. Selig Bredetsky, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, who recommended to overcoated committee members, who huddled together in the cold drafty hall, that they immediately issue an interim recommendation that all displaced, and other Jews, who wish to go to Palestine he assisted to do so. Later, he said, the committee should define a broader policy on Palestine in accordance with the memorandum submitted to it by the Board, which included a demand for establishment of a Jewish state.
Replying to a question by U.S. member Bartley Crum as to when he wanted the interim report to be issued, Brodetsky said: “Immediately. This afternoon, if possible. As soon as the committee gets sufficient information.”
American chairman Judge Joseph C. Hutcheson asked Brodetsky for a definition of a Jewish state, stating that it was still not clear to him, while Sir Frederick Legget wanted to know whether the constitution of a Jewish state would provide that Jews must remain a majority, in view of the testimony by an expert in Washington that under no conditions could Jews maintain a majority status after 1970.
In reply, the British Zionist leader said that “the essence of a Jewish state is: Wherever Jews are now, their position is determined by others. They wish to live in a country where the civilization, their status and similar matters are determined by them.” He added: “Our conception of a state is not that Jews should become a power, but that they should live freely, with their traditions, and not have a minority status.”
BRITISH JEWS WANT UNDIVIDED PALESTINE “WEST OF JORDAN”
Brodetsky stressed that British Jews want “an undivided Palestine, west of the Jordan, to be established as a Jewish state. After a period of transitional government, such a Jewish state could become part of the British Commonwealth,” he continued. “We British Jews feel that under the British flag, there is a possibility for freedom to exist as under few others. It is also vital to Britain and the world that the Middle East be secure. We think Jews should help establish this security.”
Answering a query by American member James B. MacDonald, Prof. Brodetsky said that Zionists do not contemplate the establishment of a theocratic state. They had no intent, he added, of having laws laid down by religious authorities.
British member Richard Crossman pointed out that large members of foreign Jews living in Palestine have not sought to obtain Palestinian citizenship, and asked Brodetsky whether he thought that this was a “healthy” situation. The Board president agreed that it was “unhealthy,” but stressed that the uncertainty concerning Palestine’s future status is the chief reason for the failure of some Jews to seek naturalization.
Crossman then asked whether it would not be helpful if displaced Jews took out Palestine citizenship before entering the country, adding: “Would you be ready to throw the weight of British Jewry behind this encouragement of Palestine patriotism?” Brodetsky replied: “Yes.”
He emphasized that the vast majority of displaced Jews do not want to return to the countries from which they were deported. Referring to the statement by Lieut. Gen. Sir Frederick Morgan, he said: “No sensible human being would give up any comfort to live under the conditions of the displaced persons. The overwhelming desire of these Jews is to make a new home – for them a new home means Palestine. I have also heard,” Prof. Brodetsky continued, “that the Jews should return to their countries and help upbuild them. But that’s the task of heroes, not of ordinary human beings.”
Wilfred Crick, one of the British members, asked what effect it would have on anti-Semitism in Western Europe, if all the Jews were taken out of Europe. Brodetsky replied that if anything was done to eliminate Jews anywhere in the world, it would be a disaster not only for Jews, but for the whole world.
JEWISH COLONIZATION ASSOCIATION HEAD URGES PALESTINE IMMIGRATION
Leonard Montefiore, chairman of the Jewish Colonization Association, told the committee that Palestine was the only country which would and could take in displaced Jews in Large numbers.
Sir John Singleton, British chairman, asked him if other places, such as Australia, Africa or Eritrea, were not worthy of consideration. He also wanted to know if Britain withdrew from Palestine, whether the displaced Jews would still wish to go there, in view of possible uncontrolled Arab-Jewish troubles. Montefiore said that he thought they would.
Hutcheson commented that the desire for Palestine is not essentially a religious idea, but the resurgence of the idea of a national state. The Palestine problem, he said, is essentially one of Europe and Palestine, rather than one of world Jewry and Palestine.
The first witness today was Dayan Gruenfeld, who read a statement which had been prepared by the late Chief Rabbi Hertz, asserting the “claim of Israel to the land of Israel.” The White Paper, the statement declared, was in conflict with the divine promise, and was, therefore, unacceptable to religious Jews.
Today’s hearing was marked by a note of cordiality, although Prof. Brodetsky engaged in several mildly heated exchanges with several members. Judge Hutcheson expressed pleasure at the absence here of “the rising crescendo of denunciation of Britain, which was evident in Washington.
There were reports circulating here today that the committee would issue an interim report on the situation of the displaced Jews after completing its inquiries in Europe, and before it goes to Palestine. According to circles close to the committee, the members will assemble in Switzerland to prepare the report.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.