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Rutenberg Starts New Move to Unify Palestine Jews

November 7, 1940
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Undertaking of a renewed effort to unify the Palestine Jewish community was announced today in a lengthy statement at a press conference by Pinchas Rutenberg, who resigned two months ago as president of the Vaad Leumi (Jewish National Council) with the assertion that his attempt to achieve unity had failed.

In his statement today Rutenberg demanded establishment of a small, authoritative Jewish body, reorganization of work distribution, a ban on strikes and reorganization of social welfare activities.

“I left the Vaad Leumi executive because I was unable, physically and mentally, to digest the party slough,” Rutenberg said, “but I cannot, in this grave hour, desert the Yishub and countenance the present state of affairs.

“There is no order and discipline in the Yishub. The Jewish Agency and Vaad Leumi executives do not possess adequate prestige. Money is still everybody’s principal worry. The Yishub’s demoralization is growing daily. Formerly we had broken heads because of unjust distribution of work. Now we have reached Herzlia (referring to a clash at the Herzlia colony on Aug. 18 in which one person was killed and 19 wounded) and robber gangs.

“Jewish life in the diaspora has pushed to the left, and the young generation is carrying to Palestine its lofty ideals. Palestine has raised a new, important factor–Jewish workers–to whom I contributed much. However, the Histadruth (Palestine Jewish labor federation) outgrew the proportions of the former Jewish social frame. But now the Histadruth is ‘lo be-seder’ (not in order), causing opposition and blind hatred which brings immeasurable harm to all. This shows that something is wrong in the Histadruth itself.

“Nothing can be won by a ‘majority.’ I feel it my duty to criticize organizations. I have much to say to the Revisionists, to the farmers, to Zionists of all shades, but I shall criticize most severely the Histadruth because it has given and received more than anybody. The Histadruth can and must do more than anybody for unification of the Yishub, though the same responsibility rests on the other parties.

“We are facing extermination. Therefore we must not lose time in discussions and negotiations. The elections for the Asefath Hanivcharim (Palestine Jewish assembly) are expensive and absurd. The Yishub must rule itself by a single and authoritative–not fictitious–Vaad Leumi, by a small body of authoritative persons to whom all practical work in Palestine will be transferred, together with the respective budgets under the Agency’s control.”

Rutenberg said reorganization of work distribution was necessary because “every worker has the right to work.” He said labor exchanges should be organized by the Vaad Leumi and labor, teacher and other strikes should be suspended for the duration.

He demanded reorganization of social welfare so that all the needy would receive assistance and amalgamation of all health organizations. Fund collections, including the Palestine Keren Hayesod and other money from the Yishub and abroad, should be distributed by the Vaad Leumi under the Jewish Agency’s control.

“The world and we are facing the hardest times,” Rutenberg concluded. “We must face them bravely and fall, if need be, bravely, as befits the Jewish nation.”

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