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Zionist Congress to Air Plans for Large Merchant Marine in Mediterranean

August 14, 1939
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Plans to develop a large Jewish merchant marine in the Mediterranean with the Palestine Jewish port of Tel Aviv as a base will be taken up in Geneva during the Zionist Congress at a special conference called by the Palestine Maritime League, it was announced today.

The plans call for replacement to a certain extent of the Italian ships which have been carrying passengers and cargo to Palestine on a large scale and which are now being boycotted by Jews. The conference will be devoted not only to maritime problems but to questions of Jewish aviation, the announcement states.

With Jewish passengers boycotting Italian steamers and with Jewish citrus exporters alone paying more than $5,000,000 to foreign companies this year for shipping fruit abroad, leaders of the Palestine Maritime League, which is supported financially and morally by the Jewish Agency for Palestine feel that there are great possibilities for establishment of an efficient Jewish merchant marine of adequate size. It is estimated that since the World War the Jewish community has spent $130,000,000 for transportation of passengers and goods from and to Palestine, most of which traffic was carried by Italian lines. In recent months alone Palestine Jews spent $15,000,000 for sea transportation.

The Jewish leaders sponsoring the establishment of a mercantile marine therefore feel certain of its financial success. The possibility of a world war which would isolate Palestine and produce a food shortage there is also being taken into consideration by those organizing the conference. During last September’s war scare the Jewish community of Palestine found itself confronted with a grave problem of assuring an adequate supply of food and raw materials. In time of peace ships of 27 nations call at Palestine ports, but in wartime, leaders of the maritime league believe, this would not be the case and there exists a danger that in time of crisis Palestine might not even have a small commercial fleet to serve the community’s most essential requirements.

With these thoughts in mind, the league was founded during the last Zionist Congress in 1937 and will bring forward at the forthcoming Congress recommendations for expansion of Jewish navigation and aviation in Palestine. The league already counts 14,000 members in Palestine. It has a small fleet of merchant ships and a nautical school in Haifa with courses in navigation, mechanics, ship building and wireless telegraphy. Head of the navigation department is a former British naval captain and Jewish cadets are now undergoing training on British and Jewish steamers, the statement declares. The league has also has developed coastal shipping in Palestine. It is taking a census of Jewish seamen in various countries. It is training Jewish aviators in Poland and groups of Jewish fishermen at Gdynia, near Danzig, the statement says.

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