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The National Home
For ten years after the foisting of “the Mandate” on the British people the pretence was continued that the “Jewish National Home” in Palestine, under their protection, would be simply “a cultural centre” of Judaism, harmless to the Arabs; a Judaist Mecca with university, library and farm-settlements. The Arabs were never beguiled; they saw that they were the objects of an attempt to reinforce, in the 20th Century AD, the Law of violent dispossession set up by the Levites in the 5th Century BC They responded with riotous protest and warlike uprising which have never since ceased, so that “the war to end war” started warfare without end.
At once it became apparent that Zionism had been inserted like a blasting charge into the life of peoples and that in “a small country the size of Wales or Vermont” (just “liberated” from the Turk) the time-fuse of a future world-conflict had been planted. Nevertheless, a new British Colonial Secretary, Mr. Leopold Amery, went to Palestine in 1925 and (he says) “frankly told the Arabs that there was no possibility of change in the British policy” (Jewish Telegraph Agency) .
These words (like Mr. Balfour's earlier statement that British policy in this question was “definitely set”) contain the central mystery and challenge. In what other issue in history was a reversal of policy ever declared to be impossible? This policy had been proved impossible of fulfilment, and disastrous. What power dictated that it must be pursued in those or any circumstances whatever? No British or American political leader ever explained this secret capitulation to the electorate, to Parliament or to Congress (in the 1950's statements similar to those of Mr. Balfour and Mr. Amery were often made in America, as will be seen).
During this decade, when the project of the “national home” proved a fiasco, the Western politicians continued to congratulate themselves on what they had done. Mr. Lloyd George told an applauding Zionist audience in London: “I was brought up in a school where I was taught more about the history of the Jews than about the history of my own land.” His day was ending, but candidates for his shoes hastened to declare their allegiance. A coming prime minister, Mr. Ramose Macdonald, though unable to attend this meeting, sent a message declaring support for Zionism; another, Mr. Stanley Baldwin, joined the circle of “friends” (Dr. Weizmann); In South Africa General Smuts saw in his “work for the Jews the justification of his life.”
Lord Balfour considered his Declaration the great achievement of his life and in 1925 first went to see the country he had been privately bartering for twenty years. He was (characteristically) a bad sailor and emerged pale from his cabin at Alexandria. At Tel Aviv he said (with intention to flatter) that the Herzliah High School boys “might have come from Harrow” and the mayor “might easily be the mayor of Liverpool or of Manchester,” and he “opened” the still unbuilt
Hebrew University. He toured Palestine under strong guard and said his cordial reception reminded him of a general election “with everybody on the same side.” Then (against Dr. Weizmann's pressing advice) he continued to Syria, where he was besieged by an Arab mob, clamant for his life, in the Victoria Hotel in Damascus, being rushed to the coast amid a strong escort of French cavalry and restored (still seasick) by ship to England.
Mr. J.M.N. Jeffries records what went on in Palestine during this decade. The Zionists began to buy up Arab land (which under the Talmudic Law might never under any conditions be resold to Arabs). The Arabs cheerfully sold them some land but too well knew the Torah to yield enough for Palestine ever to be taken from them by simple purchase (as the too-simple King-Crane Commission had foreseen). Moreover, they bred fast and soon showed that Zionist immigration, in any normal circumstances, could never produce a population nearly equal to them. From the start it was clear, as all experienced observers had stated, that they could only be dispossessed through a new world war.
The intention to dispossess them was not admitted at that time. Mr. Churchill's White Paper of 1922, indeed, proposed that they should be allowed to hold elections in their own country! Dr. Weizmann forbade this and thus was placed “in the curious position of seeming to oppose democratic rights to the Arabs”; he then complains that the Arabs, who drew the obvious conclusion from his denial of elections, were the victims of “the deliberate misrepresentation of Zionist aims.”
The uproar in Palestine caused the British government to send out more “investigators” (and again, one wonders why, if there was “no possibility of change” in British policy). The Shaw and Simpson Commissions followed the earlier King-Crane and Haycraft Commissions and, once they saw the facts, produced substantially the same reports. On this account Dr. Weizmann asks plaintively why “as often as a commission went out to Palestine to investigate” it was “an almost universal rule that such administrators as came out favourably inclined turned against us in a few months.”
The fiasco of the “national home” was so clear that even the politicians began to hedge. Mr. Lloyd George in 1925 told the Zionists publicly “any policy of expropriation or anything that suggests it will only make difficulties in the path of Zionism.” Dr. Weizmann at once replied: “Mr. Lloyd George will believe me when I say that the Jews are the last people in the world to build their home on the back of somebody else. The Jews have suffered so much from injustice that they have learned their lesson and I can assure you that the Arabs will not suffer at our hands.” Again “the word” invites comparison with “the deed” that ensued later.
However, what happened in Palestine during this decade was all incidental to the greater purpose of retaining control over the politicians of London and Washington, so that “policy” there should continue to be “impossible to change.” That, and not the success or failure of the “national home” in Palestine,
was decisive, and Dr. Weizmann at the end triumphed again.
At this period he had to deal with a greater difficulty than any offered by the Western politicians: the alarm, and hostility, of that “World Jewry” which he and his associates from Russia claimed to represent. The emancipated Jews could have offered effective opposition to the Zionists if they had formed an anti-Zionist organization. They feared to do so, and this was their undoing. They did not want Zionist nationalism and a Jewish state, but they did want the Judaist Mecca, the cultural and religious centre, and feared that the term “anti-Zionist” would imply antagonism to that. Through this chink in their armour Dr. Weizmann unerringly reached.
His whole undertaking in Palestine was then near collapse. The “Mandate” provided that the British government would recognize his Zionist Organization as “an appropriate Jewish agency for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the administration of Palestine” in matters affecting “the establishment of the Jewish National Home.” However, there was a qualification: this agency was “to take steps in consultation with His Britannic Majesty's government to secure the co-operation of all Jews who are willing to assist in the establishment of the Jewish National Home.”
As masses of Jews were openly opposed to Dr. Weizmann's Zionism, even he could not pretend that he spoke for them. Thus he transferred his canvassing from the antechambers of the Gentiles to the Jews and for eight years sped about the world in search of a solution to this problem, The great mass of emancipated Jews of the West resolutely opposed any project that might turn out to be one for the recreation of “a Jewish nation.”
Then Dr. Weizmann found the riddle's answer. He coined the term “non-Zionist.” The Jews in Britain remained aloof but those in America fell into the trap. “Non-Zionist” seemed to offer the best of both worlds; it would enable them to oppose Zionist nationalism while supporting the Judaist-Mecca idea. In 1928 a group of Jews announced that they represented “the non-Zionists” and would work with Dr. Weizmann for “the upbuilding of Palestine.” On this basis Dr. Weizmann in 1929 set up his “Enlarged Jewish Agency,” thereafter claiming that, by including “non-Zionists,” it fulfilled all provisions of “the Mandate” and that he once more represented “all Jews.” The dilemma from which Dr. Weizmann was rescued is shown by his words: he says he regarded the Zionist situation as “hopeless and helpless unless the non-Zionists came to the rescue,”
The Arabs at once saw that this “enlarged” Jewish agency would be the true government of Palestine and intensified their resistance. The result was that at last a British government felt forced to admit the fiasco and in 1930 the Passfield White Paper undertook to suspend Zionist immigration and to curtail the authority of the Jewish Agency. The “set” policy was “changed”! Dr. Weizmann, his authority reinforced by the recruitment of the “non-Zionists,” struck at once. He gave audience to the British prime minister, then Mr. Ramsay Macdonald,
who behaved like a man held up by a gun; he not only revoked the White Paper but humbly asked Dr. Weizmann whom he should appoint as the next High Commissioner in Palestine.
Thus the years that the Zionists have eaten continued. What these politicians feared, none can confidently say; their memoirs are uniformly silent on this central mystery and their capitulations are unique in history. Mr. Macdonald's surrender re-established the principle that “policy” in this matter was “set” and immutable, and during the ensuing twenty years this became the paramount principle of all British and American state policy. The politicians of both countries evidently held Dr. Weizmann to be the emissary of a power which they dared not disobey; their demeanour resembled the African Native's rolling-eyed fear of the witchdoctor.
Mr. Macdonald's submission restored the situation in London to its former shape, but in Palestine the “national home,” an artificial growth forcibly implanted in a hostile soil, continued to wither. In ten years the Jewish population increased by less than a hundred thousand immigrants. In 1927 three thousand more emigrants departed than immigrants came. A small revival followed in 1928, but the average yearly exodus from Palestine, up to 1932, was almost a third of the immigration.
The Zionist adventure was in collapse, as all qualified parties had foretold. Left alone, the Jews of the world clearly would never in any substantial numbers go to Palestine; if events took their natural course the Arab population evidently would increase its preponderance.
Nothing was to take its natural course. At that very moment the mysterious Hitler arose in Germany (and at the same instant Mr. Roosevelt in America) and the Second World War loomed up ahead.