Letter to the Editor: David Werner Senator's resigns.
To the Editor:
I enclose a copy of my letter of resignation [from the Executive of the Jewish Agency] to Dr. Weizmann of December 24, last. For understandable reasons, I have withheld publication of this letter till now, but I think it would be useful if a larger Jewish public in America knew more about the situation in December 1945. A few paragraphs have been deleted in order to avoid any personal controversy.
David Werner Senator
Jerusalem, September 8, 1946
Dear Dr. Weizmann,
As indicated in my cable to you, I shall try in this letter to explain the reasons which prompted me to resign from the Executive of the Jewish Agency, to which I have belonged for almost 6 years, namely since March 1930.
I have taken this decision not lightly, but after full consideration of the facts and recent developments in the Zionist movement. . . .
Of course, I cannot put down black on white in detail all the reasons which have led to my decision. This is a great handicap: I shall personally suffer therefrom because I am still less able to explain these reasons in public. But I shall attempt in this letter to you to give an outline of the situation which caused my resignation.
During the almost 6 years I have been a member of the Executive, I have formally been a representative of the non-Zionists. But you, my colleagues, and the people who nominated me as their representative, know that I was a Zionist before the Balfour Declaration and that I had come to Palestine long before Hitler. Whatever work I did in the framework of the activities of the Jewish Agency, I have done as a Zionist, a member of the Yishuv, and a Jew. I think I have always been loyal to the cause and to my colleagues, although and even when I was in disagreement with them, and also to those non-Zionist groups who have chosen me as their representative.
When, a few years ago, the Zionist movement actually changed the political program of Zionism, substituting the Basle Program [which called for a “publically and legally assured home in Palestine” ] by the Biltmore Program [which called for a “Jewish commonwealth” ], I thought that a great political mistake had been made. . . .
But I did not resign then, because I did not see sufficient reason to do so, since nothing else but a political program, a political ideology to be realized in some more or less distant future, was involved.
The position became more difficult when the Executive seemed to embark upon a course of non-cooperation with the Government in connection with its postwar reconstruction program. There again I thought that attitude a political mistake. I wrote you at the time offering my resignation, because in this case direct political action was contemplated. Later on, however, it transpired that the question did not become as acute as it appeared at the time, and I did not want to create unnecessary difficulties by resigning. Now, however, the position is completely different.
You have been in this country a year ago, and for the first time since six years you had an opportunity of seeing for yourself what is going on in the field of Jewish political education, how our party system works, and what are the real determining factors in Jewish politics. This situation, which you noticed with great anxiety and which you tried to improve, has deteriorated even further. The tragic fate of our people, the utter despair of each of us in Palestine who has relatives or friends in the D.P. camps in Europe and cannot bring them over here, the knowledge of people rotting in these camps and, on the other hand, the indifferent attitude of the world powers towards this problem, their—and particularly the British—lack of action, and lately the Bevin statement, must be regarded as strong contributing factors to the general feeling here of which the pronouncements and decisions of the Executive and the acts of Jewish youth are but an expression.
The leadership of our movement, the majority of my colleagues in the Executive here, and men like Dr. Silver, have either been led by the Stimmung of the masses instead of influencing them, or are responsible for creating or inciting the destructive political attitude of the masses instead of directing them in a statesmanlike way. I respect my colleagues in the Jewish Agency Executive, including those to whose political opinions I take the greatest exception. They know what they want. I disagree with them fundamentally; I believe that they are leading our people and our cause into a chaos, but they surely are entitled to their views as much as I am entitled to mine, and only future history will show who was right.
I regret perhaps even more the attitude of some of my best personal friends who, in order to save party unity or the so-called unity of the movement, seem ready to sacrifice their personal beliefs, although they probably see the dangers involved as much as I do.
Recent developments have brought a further deterioration, but at the same time a clarification of the situation.
At the World Zionist Conference in London, Dr. Joseph and Dr. Sneh became members of the Executive in key positions. Moreover, the strength of Dr. Silver, both as a member of the Executive, and as the President of the ZOA, has been added to this wing.
In Palestine, the powerful personality of Ben Gurion dominates the scene, leading the movement and the Yishuv by his driving power, persuasion, influence, and authority.
I have elaborated a little on the psychological and political situation. I come now to the Bevin statement.
The Bevin statement has been carefully analyzed by Ben Gurion both at the meetings of the Executive and in his speech before the Assefat Hanivharim. It is perhaps useful to review our political situation internally and externally in relation to this speech. Before the Bevin statement, we were told that the Coalition and Conservative governments, those governments in which we had a friend like Churchill, had betrayed us. When the Labor government came to power, that government in which we believed to have a large number of good and old friends, most of us felt relief. But soon rumors started about the future policy of H.M. government, unrest in Palestine followed, and then came the Bevin statement.
It seems to me that there should be some political logic in the attitude of political leadership. It must be prepared, in decisive hours, to draw the consequences of political success or failure.
Now, either the Labor government, which comprises close political friends of members of our Executive, has betrayed them and ourselves, and consequently the Biltmore policy pursued by our radical group has collapsedand that is the impression which is obtainingthen our Executive, or at least, those members who were the radical exponents of this policy, should have resigned. That would have meant to the Jews and to the world at large, including the British government, a significant political change, and indeed, I have made this proposal, which was, however, rejected. It is no answer to say that it would have been impossible to form another Executive. In almost every party, perhaps with the exception of the General Zionists ‘B’, one would have been able to find representatives of a different political attitude, and one could have enlarged the Executive by adding representatives of the Hashomer Hatzair and the Aliya Hadasha. Such a re-grouped Executive could once more have been headed by you.
But a different analysis of the Bevin statement is at least possible. The Bevin statement, admittedly unfortunately worded in many respects and very disappointing with regard to the immediate future, particularly concerning immigration, could still be regarded as an attempt at abolishing the White Paper policy by bringing in the Americans, and we, I think, are interested in putting forward such interpretation.
But what actually happened was a very strong condemnation of the Bevin statement, not only by the chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive in Jerusalem at a public meeting of the Assefat Hanivharim, but even before that by means of rioting in Tel-Aviv, for which of course, as always in such cases, everybody declines responsibility. Moreover, even in anticipation of the Bevin statement, when rumors were spread about the future policy of H.M. government, acts of sabotage on a very large scale were committed in the whole of Palestine.
You in London and I, who happened to be away from Palestine, in Johannesburg, have publicly condemned these acts, but in Palestine, I am informed, they were condoned by the Jewish public, and not by the Jewish public alone. This is a point to which I shall have to refer again.
All of us are united in the question of immigration. A man like Magnes, whose political views certainly differ in the extreme from those of Ben Gurion, has said privately and in public that he is in favor of “illegal immigration.” So did I. So did others. I am going a good deal further. If our people are prevented by force from landing in this country, I think we have no other choice than to resort to force.
But in these matters extreme caution is required: the attacks on the police stations were in my opinion a mistake, although it is of course possible to construe a direct connection between these acts and the fight for immigration. One may argue that this is a borderline case. What one cannot argue is that if government forces are attacked—and that was the case both in Tel Aviv and at the police stations—and if subsequent loss of Jewish life ensues, that this is murder. It is contrary to all experience to believe that if thousands of people assemble on the one side—even unarmed—and thousands of soldiers on the other side, bloodshed can be avoided, particularly in an atmosphere as tense as it has become in Palestine not only since yesterday.
A political leadership must be aware of this situation and of the consequences of its actions.
Coming back to the Bevin statement, I believe that the policy announced by Mr. Bevin in fact means the imminent abolition of the White Paper and an attempt to solve the Jewish and Palestinian problem by introducing the American factor. Of course it does not mean the fulfillment of the Biltmore program. But even the resolutions adopted now in the American Senate and the American House of Representatives, while outspoken and favorable with regard to immigration (reverting as they do to the Churchill White Paper formula of 1922 of economic absorptive capacity) do not promise a Jewish State.
At this stage, I would like to say a few words with regard to the political contents of the Biltmore Program, as I see it. If it is not assumed that the great powers are prepared to transfer the Arabs of Palestine from this country to other Arab countries, the Biltmore Program can only mean partition. But here again, a workable partition seems to be possible only if at least a partial transfer is effected. I don’t say that it is impossible, or immoral, but I doubt whether any partition could be arrived at which would be feasible from the economic, political, and military points of view.
The Biltmore Program and its possible consequences have a direct bearing on the present psychological situation in the Yishuv, and not only in the Yishuv but also in the leadership of American Zionism. A psychology has developed both in the Yishuv and the Zionist leadership here, and the Zionist leadership in America, and likely enough also in most other countries, which regards compromise as treason and political thinking as weakness.
Regrettably, the Arab front is expanding and Arab reaction and resistance are stiffening to a point when they may soon go over to attack. We have indeed succeeded for a considerable time in belittling Arab nationalism, and in the last year the Arab League, in the eyes of the Jewish and particularly Zionist public. But in the meantime Arab nationalism and the Arab League have gained considerably in strength on the world political scene.
At the same time we are being told that we have to fight the English: of course not the English people, only the English government. It is the third English government we are fighting: we have tried them all, a Coalition government, the Conservative government, and now the Labor government, but still we maintain the fiction that our fight does not concern the English people.
And now, the newly-elected leader of American Zionism, in his first political utterances, publicly attests to the stupidity of the American President, who is being duped by the shrewd Englishmen and led into the trap of the Anglo-American Committee. Let us fight by all the means at our disposal this first attempt by America to become a partner in the Palestine problem, for instance by boycotting the Commission! Thus Dr. Silver.
That, Dr. Weizmann, is the political background against which votes are being taken in the Executive and decisions of major importance made. It is a political and psychological background for a spirit of despair and violence which I cannot associate myself with.
I refuse to find myself again in a situation in which I was when returning to Palestine from South Africa. There, as a member of the Executive of the Jewish Agency, I have on the 2nd of November condemned emphatically the acts of violence which had been perpetrated in Palestine. Here, as such member, I have apparently to condone them and to bear a moral and in my opinion also political responsibility therefor. . . . It may happen again that I shall read in the newspapers about acts for which morally and politically the Executive and every individual member thereof will be held responsible. I refuse to be a party to that game. That in fact is the main reason for my decision.
Obviously, I could not discuss these matters here, except with my colleagues, but to them I had given notice during the meetings, and I have also informed the Actions Committee of my attitude before they decided on the unlimited powers to be given to the Executive to act in accordance with its political wisdom. After all that has happened and in view of the personal composition of the Executive, I have no confidence in its wisdom and I am not prepared to share responsibility for what I believe an utterly dangerous and destructive course.
With kindest personal regards,
Your very sincerely,
David Werner Senator
Jerusalem, December 24, 1945
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Dr. Senator Explains His Resignation from Jewish Agency
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Banality and evil.
A week ago, I wondered what was going on in Sunspot, New Mexico. The FBI had swept into this mountain-top solar observatory, complete with Black Hawk helicopters, evacuated everyone, and closed the place down with no explanation whatever. Local police were politely told to butt out. It was like the first scene in a 1950’s Hollywood sci-fi movie, probably starring Walter Pidgeon.
Well, now we know, at least according to the New York Post.
If you’re hoping for little green men saying, “Take me to your leader,” you’re in for a disappointment. It seems the observatory head had discovered a laptop with child pornography on it that belonged to the janitor. The janitor then made veiled threats and in came the Black Hawks.
In sum, an all-too-earthly explanation with a little law-enforcement overkill thrown in.
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The demands of the politicized life.
John Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan, has been the subject of withering criticism of late, but I’m grateful to him. Yes, he shouldn’t have refused to write a recommendation for a student merely because the semester abroad program she was applying to was in Israel. But at least he exposed what the boycott movement is about, aspects of which I suspect some of its blither endorsers are unaware.
We are routinely told, as we were by the American Studies Association, that boycott actions against Israel are “limited to institutions and their official representatives.” But Cheney-Lippold reminds us that the boycott, even if read in this narrow way, obligates professors to refuse to assist their own students when those students seek to participate in study abroad programs in Israel. Dan Avnon, an Israeli academic, learned years ago that the same goes for Israel faculty members seeking to participate in exchange programs sponsored by Israeli universities. They, too, must be turned away regardless of their position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
When the American Studies Association boycott of Israel was announced, over two hundred college presidents or provosts properly and publicly rejected it. But even they might not have imagined that the boycott was more than a symbolic gesture. Thanks to Professor Cheney-Lippold, they now know that it involves actions that disserve their students. Yes, Cheney-Lippold now says he was mistaken when he wrote that “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel.” But he is hardly a lone wolf in hyper-politicized disciplines like American Studies, Asian-American Studies, and Women’s Studies, whose professional associations have taken stands in favor of boycotting Israel. Administrators looking at bids to expand such programs should take note of their admirably open opposition to the exchange of ideas.
Cheney-Lippold, like other boycott defenders, points to the supposed 2005 “call of Palestinian civil society” to justify his singling out of Israel. “I support,” he says in comments to the student newspaper, “communities who organize themselves and ask for international support to achieve equal rights, freedom and to prevent violations of international law.” Set aside the absurdity of this reasoning (“Why am I not boycotting China on behalf of Tibet? Because China has been much more effective in stifling civil society!”). Focus instead on what Cheney- Lippold could have found out by Googling. The first endorser of the call of “civil society” is the Council of National and Islamic Forces (NIF) in Palestine, which includes Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups that trade not only in violent resistance but in violence that directly targets noncombatants.
That’s remained par for the course for the boycott movement. In October 2015, in the midst of the series of stabbings deemed “the knife intifada,” the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel shared a call for an International Day with the “new generation of Palestinians” then “rising up against Israel’s brutal, decades-old system of occupation.” To be sure, they did not directly endorse attacks on civilians, but they did issue their statement of solidarity with “Palestinian popular resistance” one day after four attacks that left three Israelis–all civilians–dead.
The boycott movement, in other words, can sign on to a solidarity movement that includes the targeting of civilians for death, but cannot sign letters of recommendation for their own undergraduates if those undergraduates seek to learn in Israel. That tells us all we need to know about the boycott movement. It was nice of Cheney-Lippold to tell us.
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“We’re really reinventing the traditional insurance model with our vitality program,” said Marianne Harrison, the CEO of one of North America’s largest life insurers, John Hancock, in a recent appearance on CNBC. The beaming insurance executive boasted of her firm’s effort to marry a “technology-based wellness program” with an “insurance product.” That’s a loaded way of saying that this American insurer is soon going to charge based on the real-time monitoring of your daily activities. Behavior-based insurance will track the health data of policyholders through wearable devices or smartphones and distribute rewards based on individual choices. You don’t have to wear a tracking device to participate in this program—at least, not yet. Harrison assured skeptics that they could also dole out rewards to policyholders who take simple steps like reading preapproved literature, the consumption of which they presumably track.
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A similar rationale—the primacy of collective health—can be applied to any number of activities that invite unnecessary risk that technology can mitigate. Foremost among these is the terribly dangerous American habit of driving a car.
In 2017, there were over 40,000 automobile-related fatalities. This was the second consecutive year in which the roads were that deadly and, if observers who attribute this rate of fatal traffic accidents to an increase in smartphone ownership are correct, there will not be a decline anytime soon. A 2015 study purported to show that replacing manual vehicles with autonomous cars or vehicles with advanced driver-assistance systems could eliminate up to 90 percent of all fatal accidents and save as many as 300,000 American lives each decade. It is perhaps only a matter of time before the option to own a driverless vehicle becomes a mandate with a hefty financial penalty imposed on those who opt out.
“[T]he threat to individual freedom that the driverless car is set to pose is at this stage hard to comprehend,” wrote National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke. Presently, the car transports its diver to wherever they’d like to go, whether there are roads to facilitate the journey or not. In a driverless world, as Cooke noted, the driver becomes a mere occupant. They must essentially ask the car for permission to transit from point A to point B, and the whole process is monitored and logged by some unseen authorities. Furthermore, that transit could ostensibly be subject to the veto of state or federal authorities with the push of a button. That seems a steep price to pay for a little convenience and the promise of safety.
The pursuit of convenience, as Professor Wu explained, has resulted in remarkable social leveling. We enjoy more time today for “self-cultivation,” once only the province of the wealthy and aristocratic, than at any point in history. And yet, we cannot know true liberty without hardship. “The constellation of inconvenient choices may be all that stands between us and a life of total, efficient conformity,” Wu concluded.
There is more to celebrate in the technological revolutions of the last quarter-century than there is to lament. But in the pursuit of convenience, we’ve begun to make spontaneity irrational. In life, the rewards associated with experience are commensurate with that which is ventured. In a future in which the world’s sharp edges are bubble-wrapped, your life may exceed today’s average statistical length. But can you really call it living?
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