After the adjournment until December of the Palestine Conference in London, representatives of the Jewish Agency entered into “unofficial” discussions…
After the adjournment until December of the Palestine Conference in London, representatives of the Jewish Agency entered into “unofficial” discussions with members of the British government in an attempt to establish conditions that would permit the Agency to participate in the Conference when its sessions are resumed. Besides demanding the release of the interned Agency leaders as a preliminary condition [already achieved], the Agency apparently also demands that Jewish immigration into Palestine be allowed on a larger scale, and that Britain promise full political independence to Palestine Jewry. The British government, on its part, requests, first of all, that the Agency cooperate to the full in stamping out terrorism in Palestine.
Meanwhile, the date of the twenty-second Zionist Congress has definitely been fixed, and the election of delegates to the Congress has already taken place. It is this Congress, starting on the 9th of December, that will decide whether or not Zionists will participate in the London Conference.
The highest authority of the Zionist Organization between Congresses is the Inner Zionist Committee, and this body, in a session held in Jerusalem the morning after the Congress elections, strongly denounced the terrorist outrages, and again declared by a large majority of votes that the only solution of the Zionist problem would be political independence for Palestine Jewry. But in “reply” to the Committee’s expression of disapproval, there came on that very same day an intensified renewal of terrorism, and innocent blood was shed like water.
Such has been the course of political events in Palestine on the eve of the Zionist Congress; and were it not for the light radiated on the Yishuv by the recent creation of fifteen new agricultural settlements, these days would have been very dark ones for us indeed.
What are the fundamental problems that the coming Zionist Congress will have to decide and take a definite stand on? They are: (1) future political policy, which involves the decision whether or not to participate in the London Conference; (z) policy on colonization; (3) the immigration and land question. The Zionist achievement so far can be divided into two essentials, one political, the other colonizational. On the eve of the impending Congress, we can say without hesitation or reservation that as far as the political sphere is concerned Zionism has met with complete failure—whereas in that of colonization it has achieved great successes.
The balance sheet in brief of our political achievement is as follows: the widening and deepening of the Jewish-Arab chasm; strained relations between the Zionist administration and the mandatory government, which have resulted in a tension that has the character almost of mutual animosity; and the present reign of Jewish terror in Palestine.
The balance sheet of Zionist colonizational activity is: a population of 600,000; 2 million dunams of land; 315 agricultural settlements; a great host of workers in city and country; the creation of an industry; and a record of production that by 1945 had reached the value of hundreds of millions of English pounds.
The Jewish-Arab quarrel was not brought about by the Zionists alone. The Arabs started it out of envy and primitive ultranationalism, and under incitement from abroad, an incitement greatly intensified after 1935 by the agents of Fascism and Nazism, who succeeded in turning the conflict into something like prolonged warfare. Nevertheless, the leaders of Zionism have a big share in the responsibility for the increased dimensions of the quarrel—not so much in a positive as in a negative way. For they have made no effort to settle the quarrel and have not utilized the good opportunities given them for that end.
In 1935, before the outbreak of the Arab disturbances, such an opportunity was provided by High Commissioner Sir Arthur Wauchope’s proposal to found Jewish-Arab independence in Palestine on the basis of equality. But the Zionist administration turned the proposition down. In 1936, at the very beginning of the disturbances, another opportunity was provided for a settlement by the understanding arrived at between Dr. Judah Magnes and his associates on the one side and responsible and influential Arab leaders on the other. But the Zionist administration also turned that down.
Then, upon the publication of the Royal Commission’s proposal for partition, Arab leaders showed a sincere readiness to liquidate Jewish-Arab differences; but the Zionist Administration, which knew about this desire, let the opportunity drop. On the very eve of the calamity that befell us at the Biltmore Hotel in New York in the adoption of the resolution demanding a Jewish state immediately, another good opportunity arose for a fair compromise, but it was again not taken advantage of. With the Biltmore resolution pouring oil on the flames of the Jewish-Arab dissension, direct Jewish-Arab pourparlers for a peaceful settlement of differences became almost impossible.
Now, all these failures befell us because we shut our eyes to reality—because in the Zionist offices in Rehavia, Tel Aviv, and New York, and among the broad masses of the Zionist public, people did not allow themselves a fair picture of Arab strength and greatly exaggerated our own.
It was likewise not the Zionists who began the Jewish-British conflict, but, unquestionably, the British. It was the British who drew up the White Paper, one of the most disgraceful documents of the period of “appeasement.” But the Zionist leaders committed themselves to a fatal error by believing that they could break the White Paper by other means than peaceful political campaigning and the continuation of creative Zionist effort. They issued a call for “war,” and appealed to physical “force”; they trained and incited Jewish youth in this country for these ends.
A year ago the Labor government proposed, as a temporary solution, to grant us x,500 immigration certificates per month, and it seemed almost certain that it was prepared to increase them to 2,500 per month, and that it was also willing to instruct local authorities to relax the restrictions on Jewish purchases of land.
This was an intimation or hint of the eventual abolition of the White Paper. Who knows? Perhaps if we had not disdained this “hint” and not reacted against it by blowing up railways and bridges, and had not perpetrated the crime at the King David Hotel—in which some of our best men perished, as well as some of our best British and Arab friends—who knows but that we might have been now standing on the threshold of that temporary solution, safe from the danger threatening us at present? The Zionist leaders let drop all the opportunities to settle the Jewish-Arab conflict, and turned down the first offer of a compromise in the quarrel with the British simply because they hoped to grasp the maximum—but they have failed in that, too.
The sources of our success in colonization are not far to seek. They are to be found in the more traditional Zionist policy of constant creation and construction. This tradition can be traced without interruption from the days of Bilu down to the last aliya to the Negev; that policy was, is, and will be the backbone of the Zionist movement.
I do not know what the composition of the Diaspora representation and, particularly, of the American delegation at the Congress will be. But the composition of the delegation elected in Palestine does not promise any change for the better in our policy. The “war” cry had greater influence over the electorate than the admonition to patience, the call to constructive and creative effort, the traditional laborious road of the Zionist movement. However, should there be no change, should we continue to tread the tortuous path of “warfare,” we shall—Heaven forbid—go from bad to worse. A Jewish “state” will not be our immediate lot, but utter ruin and destruction. For we are indeed quite likely to arrive at a state of real war on two fronts.
The fact that after a thirteen years’ absence, the Revisionists are again returning to the Zionist Congress with their “war cry”—which in the interim has become the slogan of many-this fact promises nothing good.
Simply to insist on political sovereignty for a population that constitutes a minority in the country connotes in itself the rule of might. And one sin is sure to bring another in its train. Our present terrorists are the disciples of those who twenty years ago demanded “a state immediately.” The results of the Congress elections in Palestine offer no hope of a change in this policy, but they do at least give hope that our present settlement policy will be maintained—provided, however, that our “foreign” policy does not bring about its ruination.
Zionist settlement policy has given preference so far to agricultural colonization, that is, to the extent that the investment of Zionist funds is concerned. But private funds and means have always followed the line of least resistance, which is urban settlement. Of late, demands have been heard for a change of policy in the investment of the funds of the Zionist Organization; it is being asked that these, too, be diverted to the easier course and spent on urban development. “Industrialization” has now become the stirring slogan.
In spite of the great positive advantages of industrialization, especially in enhancing the Yishuv’s absorptive capacity, let us not lose sight of present realities in Palestine.
Notwithstanding our great efforts in agriculture and the satisfactory results obtained, that department of our economy is still quite far from fulfilling all its functions and duties. By now it supplies the Yishuv with most of its primary necessities in food: milk, eggs, vegetables, and fruits. Nevertheless, it does not as yet provide even one-fifth of the bread, meat, oil, and fats we consume. These we must still obtain from abroad, from neighboring countries, or from afar. And whenever bread, meat, or oil does not arrive on time, the Yishuv is seized with the dread of hunger. This is a quite impossible situation, and it has to be radically changed. For the time being, the principal Zionist funds must still be poured into agricultural colonization. For private money will in any case not go to the country.
The Palestinian delegates to the Congress, 60 per cent of whom come from the ranks of labor, will doubtless support the policy of rural settlement regardless of variant political views. An appreciable portion of the so-called “middle-class” delegates, barring Revisionists and their “shield-bearers,” will also vote for this policy.
It is unquestionably incumbent upon us to develop our industry, and especially to assure markets for it, so as to prevent the dreadful eventuality of having production exceed demand. Private initiative, however, should and doubtless would care for that. Public initiative must as before direct itself principally towards the land.
About immigration there is no difference of opinion in the Yishuv or in the Zionist Organization at large. The British government has indeed sinned greatly by closing the gates of our country to us. It should be admitted, however, that the problem of immigration is not an easy one under present conditions. For while the forebodings we had about the transition from wartime to peacetime conditions have fortunately only been confirmed in part—and even that part is being compensated for in some measure by the pronounced gains made in the citrus industry—nevertheless, what happened to our metal trades with the close of the war, and to the diamond industry more recently, may happen any day to our other industries.
Meanwhile, the high cost of production, deriving from the high cost of living, weighs heavily upon us. And the high cost of living derives in turn from the shortcomings of our rural colonization and from our low efficiency.
Another limiting factor upon Jewish immigration to Palestine is the rather low capacity for work manifested so far by the new immigrants, obviously due to their life during their exile in the “camps” of devastated Europe.
All this must not be lost sight of, and we must prepare for every eventuality. Nevertheless, the recommendation of the Anglo-American Committee that hundreds of thousands of refugees be admitted to Palestine still stands in full force as something that ought to be complied with. To be sure, it is not practicable to do this at one stroke, as certain individuals propose. It can only be achieved gradually, in the course of a year or a year and a half. The thousands of refugee children, however, could all come at once, for the Yishuv can absorb and assimilate them with little difficulty
Immigration from the “camps,” however, is not enough in itself for the building up of the Yishuv. To absorb and assimilate these immigrants, the Yishuv must have reinforcements from countries that were not seriously devastated by the war. This means America in particular. This immigration must be composed of halutzim and also of capital. Unless such immigration takes place, the Yishuv will find it very hard to stand the strain and carry on.
With respect to the land problem, there are likewise no divergences of opinion in the Zionist camp the world over. Land is, was, and will always be the very soul of the Zionist movement. The British government took upon itself a heavy sin indeed by establishing the “Land Law,” which smacks of the Nuremberg Laws because it distinguishes between two brother peoples living in one and the same country. We Jews do not wish to be endowed with superior rights in our country, nor do we want the privilege of domination. On the other hand, we certainly do refuse to be relegated to inferiority.
Equality between the two peoples of Palestine with respect to all their rights, political, social, or economic, and only equality will free us from distress and put us upon the broad and open highway of salvation and redemption.
Is It possible or permissible, when every thing is so fraught with danger, to delay a settlement with the British and Arabs and hold out for an iota of “prestige”?
I do not by any means speak of a final settlement or solution. That is impossible under present circumstances, with neither the situation nor the generation—Jewish and Arab alike—trained or educated for it. Nor is the required training and education a thing to be effected by the stroke of a magic wand. It is just here that the heaviest guilt of the Jewish Agency lies—in striving for a final settlement at this precise and particular hour.
But a temporary solution must be at the top of the agenda. It is absolutely indispensable. For we cannot go on without a solution that will turn us from the paths of adventurism and restore the life of creative labor that made the Yishuv grow, and which can alone offer Zionism the balm of life.
The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry worked out a desirable solution, but all parties concerned spurned it because of the narrowness of their conceptions, the wildness of their imaginations, and the vanity of their ambitions.
But even before this Committee was brought into being, the Labor government had guardedly suggested its provisional solution—a solution not so good or so complete as that of the Anglo-American Committee, but nevertheless a kind of beginning. We in our impatience kicked it overboard.
Late as the hour is, it is not altogether too late. Let us not chase after the wind in the fields; let us not seek the unrealizable and the excessive; let us content ourselves with less than the maximum: and let us save all that can be saved.
For that “basis”—a Jewish “statelette” established by partition—to which the Jewish Agency aspires, and which constitutes the rock of dissension between it and the British government, is not viable. Partition with its “statelette” is opposed by considerable sections of all Zionist parties and the Yishuv—possibly by a majority of the Jews of Palestine. And it is opposed by all the Arabs of Palestine.
No, this is not the time for a final solution; we must strive with all our strength toward a merely temporary one. Let us seek this: the continuation of the British Mandate; freedom of acquisition of land by Jews throughout Palestine, along with the strict protection of the fellah’s and tenant’s small but adequate holdings; gradual but steady development and enlargement of self-government in towns, settlements, and villages; expansion of the system of government committees on which Jews, Arabs, and British would serve in common, to the legislative as well as the economic sphere; increasing participation of Jews and Arabs in the administration of the country, from the lowest to the highest offices.
This temporary solution is possible right now, and it palpably offers benefits and blessings to all concerned. If we seek it, we shall attain it. As for the final solution, let us leave that to the future and to a generation educated for it. It is with the training and education of such a generation that we must concern and occupy ourselves from this very moment.
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Palestine Issues and Congress Agenda: Construction, Not War
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Not a departure but a partial return to the norm.
President Trump’s address to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday stuck to the core themes that have defined his foreign policy since he took office. The ideological cocktail was two or three parts John Bolton, one part Steve Bannon. From his national-security adviser, Trump absorbs the traditional GOP hawkishness and sovereigntism that forms the cocktail’s base. Meanwhile, distinct traces remain of the ex-Breitbart chief’s harder-edged populist nationalism. Call that the modifier.
The main elements of the cocktail blend smoothly in some areas but not in others. Boltonians are wary of liberal, transnational institutions that seek to restrain U.S. power, and they aren’t shy about sidestepping or blowing past those institutions when the national interest demands it. Bannonites detest the transnationalist dream even more intensely, though their hatred extends to mutual defense treaties and trade agreements that GOP foreign policy has historically welcomed.
Both camps, moreover, claim to have shed the illusions that they think got Washington into trouble after 9/11. They don’t believe that all of human history tends toward liberal democracy. “We are this,” they say to non-Western civilizations, “and you are that. You needn’t become like us, but don’t try to remake us in your image, either.” The Boltonians might pay some lip service to Reaganite ideals here and there, but as Bolton famously wrote in these pages: “Praise democracy, pass the ammunition.”
That’s where the similarities end. The Bannonites don’t share the Boltonian threat assessment: Vladimir Putin’s encroachments into Eastern Europe don’t exercise them, and they positively welcome Bashar Assad’s role in Syria. Boltonism favors expansion, Bannonism prefers retrenchment, if not isolation. Boltonism in its various iterations is the default worldview of the key national-security principals; not just Bolton himself but also the likes of Nikki Haley and Mike Pompeo. Bannonism is where I suspect the president’s own instincts lie.
It is hard to assess fully how these tensions are playing out in American foreign policy in the age of Trump. But one intellectual temptation to guard against is the tendency to view every move and every piece of rhetoric as a crazy Trumpian violation of the Eternal and Immutable Laws of American Strategy. In the main, Trump’s foreign policy appears alarming and discontinuous only to those who forget how far Barack Obama departed from mainstream, bipartisan foreign-policy traditions.
Bashing or withdrawing from UNESCO and the Human Rights Council because anti-Semitic, anti-Western “jackals” have taken these bodies hostage? That’s straight out of the Reagan-Bush-Daniel Patrick Moynihan playbook.
Ditto for rejecting the universal jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court because it would mean ceding American sovereignty to “an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy,” as Trump put it Tuesday. Successive American administrations, including President Bill Clinton’s at various points, have opposed the creation of a world court that could be used by the “jackals” and their transnationalist allies to legally harass U.S. policymakers and soldiers alike.
Nor was there anything uniquely Trumpian, or uniquely sinister, about the decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Legislation enacted by Congress more than two decades ago had required the State Department to recognize Jerusalem and move the American Embassy, and as the president noted in his speech, peace is “is advanced, not harmed, by acknowledging the obvious facts.” The move also reinforces the sovereigntist idea that a nation’s decision about the location of its embassy is not open to scrutiny by foreign busybodies.
Nor, finally, does praising imperfect but valuable allies somehow take Trump beyond the pale of respectable American policy. Trump’s support for Riyadh, Warsaw, and Jerusalem is a course correction. For years under Obama, Washington neglected these powers in favor of the likes of Tehran.
That isn’t to say that there aren’t some wild elements to Trump’s foreign policy. For those who came of age in the shadow of certain postwar certainties, it will never be easy to hear the commander in chief threaten tariffs against various rivals and partners from the podium at Turtle Bay. And if Obama disrespected allies with his policies, Trump does so with his rhetorical outbursts against allied leaders, especially in Western Europe, and his bizarre refusal to directly criticize Vladimir Putin.
That’s that irrepressible Bannonite modifier in the cocktail, though the color and flavoring are all Trump’s own.
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A blow for sanity.
At some point earlier this year, America’s sources inside the Kremlin went dark. U.S. officials who spoke to the New York Times about their dangerous new blindness said they didn’t believe that their formerly reliable sources had been neutralized. Instead, their spies went into hiding amid a newly aggressive counter-espionage campaign from Moscow. The Times sources offered a variety of theories to explain what could have spooked their assets, but the most disturbing among them was the fact that the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee had exposed a Kremlin-connected FBI and CIA source as part of a campaign of unprecedented disclosures regarding America’s intelligence gathering process.
The disclosure that compromised a U.S. informant is only one in a seemingly endless cascade of classified information that Republicans claim must be revealed to the public if we are ever going to get to the bottom of the sprawling conspiracy that was put together to prevent Donald Trump from becoming president. The president’s allies in Congress have appealed to previously unused methods to reveal confidential House Intelligence Committee memos and even highly secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrants, but none of it has satisfied Donald Trump or his defenders. There is always another document to release.
Last week, President Trump publicly ordered his Justice Department to declassify the redacted portions of a FISA warrant targeting Trump campaign advisor Carter Page, related FBI interviews, and text message sent by former FBI Director James Comey. These documents were supposedly related to the special counsel’s investigation into his campaign, even though he confessed that he had “not reviewed them.” Of the investigation, the president said, “This is a witch hunt.” The move satisfied many in Congress who insist that the president’s own Justice Department is persecuting him, but Trump confessed that he had ordered the declassification at the behest of his ardent supporters in conservative media such as Lou Dobbs and Jeanine Pirro.
Trump’s order triggered a brief review of the most sensitive aspects of the intelligence he was prepared to declassify, and it seems that this information was sensitive enough that Trump’s advisers were able to convince him of the need to reverse course. And so, he did. On Friday, Trump announced that he would not allow the release of documents that “could have a negative impact on the Russia probe” and would jeopardize American relations with its key allies. And though he reserved the right to disclose these documents in the future, they would not be forthcoming anytime soon.
Trump’s allies in Congress were crestfallen. Three members told Fox News Channel’s Catherine Herridge that they were “blindsided” and “demoralized” by Trump’s about-face, but the president made a sober and rational decision. Not only has the withholding of these documents avoided the appearance of interference with Robert Mueller’s probe, but the president has also preserved America’s intelligence-sharing relationship with what he described as “two very good allies” that objected to the declassification.
Trump’s defenders in Congress who are inclined to flog the “deep-state” conspiracy theory should not be so disconsolate. According to ABC News’ sources, the documents Trump was prepared to disclose—just like documents before them—contained no smoking gun. Their sources insist that the documents and communications at issue would not have confirmed the suspicion among some observers that the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign was based on the intelligence provided by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele. Instead, they would have confirmed that the investigation into Trump’s campaign began well before the FBI’s receipt of the “Steele dossier.” And when these disclosures failed to satisfy those who are most invested in nursing Trump’s persecution complex, there would be demands for more declassifications and more disclosures.
Conservatives with a healthy mistrust of federal agencies and the prevailing political culture within them may scoff at skeptics who are not eager to see U.S. intelligence documents sloppily released to the public. There are, after all, valid questions about the FISA Court’s oversight and the extent to which Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights are protected in counter-intelligence investigations that long predate Carter Page’s travails. But the interagency process and the oversight of appropriate redactions are designed to protect American intelligence assets and the assets of U.S. allies. It is all intended to preserve the integrity of U.S. sources and the methods they use to keep Americans safe.
If the Democratic Party was demanding these unprecedented disclosures with no regard for the geopolitical fallout and national-security risks they could incur, Republicans, you could be certain, would be raising hell. And they would be absolutely right to do so.
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RIP Paulina Płaksej.
It’s only Monday evening, which means Americans face another full week of political and cultural squalor. For an antidote, consider Paulina Płaksej, who died Sunday, aged 93. Our former COMMENTARY colleague Daniella Greenbaum broke news of Płaksej’s death on Twitter, which alerted me (and many others) to her inspiring life and that of her family, Polish Catholics who fed, hid, and rescued Jews during the Holocaust.
Zachariasz and Bronisława Płaksej, Paulina’s parents, moved from Lviv, Ukraine, to Kałusz before the outbreak of the war. There, Zachariasz worked as an accountant at a local mine and developed warm relations with the area’s Jews. Toward the end of 1941, when the Nazis forced the Jews of Kałusz into a newly created ghetto with an eye toward their extermination, Zachariasz and his family “acted as couriers, smuggling notes in and out of the ghetto,” according to the Jewish Foundation for the Righteous. Soon, assisting persecuted Jews became the family’s main business.
It helped that they resided on the outskirts of town. As Paulina later recounted, “we lived in seclusion and not in the center of the town, so it was very convenient for us. We were surrounded by gardens, orchards, the river was flowing nearby, and there was a slaughterhouse not far away. The Germans rarely visited this place, so our life was peaceful…” Even before the creation of the ghetto, Jewish children would stop by the Płaksej home for a bowl of hot soup and a brief respite from the cruelty of daily life under occupation.
Her father, Paulina recalled, “was a very religious person, and he believed that you should always help a man, your fellow creature, as our religion has it. The Jewish victim was not simply a Jew, but your fellow, a human being, wasn’t he?”
The Płaksejs took extraordinary risks to that end, creating an underground pipeline from the Kałusz ghetto to safety for Jews targeted for liquidation:
The first family to escape [the ghetto] was Sara, Solomon, and their son, Imek. They temporarily hid at Paulina’s house. When it became too dangerous for them to stay there, Zacharias found a safer place for them to hide. He brought Sara, Solomon, and Imek to a trusted friend who was already hiding Jews in a bunker beneath his barn. Later, another Jewish woman, Rozia, escaped from the ghetto and sought out the Plaksej family. They also brought her to the farmer’s bunker. Paulina regularly brought whatever food and supplies were needed. Sara, Solomon, Imek, and Rozia, along with thirteen other Jews, stayed in this bunker for over a year. To this day, the identity of the farmer is not known.
In 1944 Miriam, another inhabitant of the ghetto, learned that the Germans planned to liquidate the ghetto and deport or murder the inhabitants. Miriam asked Zacharias to save her two-year-old daughter, Maja. Zacharias contacted Miriam’s former maid and arranged for her to come rescue Maja. The maid brought a horse and cart, and the Jewish police helped smuggle the little girl out of the ghetto. The maid told her neighbors that this little girl was her daughter who had just returned from living with her grandparents.
Miriam was in one of the last groups of Jews to be deported to Auschwitz. As her group was marched to the train, Miriam quickly took off her armband and joined the crowds in the street. She went straight to the Plaksej house asking for help. They hid her in their wardrobe for a number of months. Zacharias obtained forged papers for her and took her to another village where she would not be recognized as a Jew. There she was picked up as a Pole and sent to a German farm as a forced laborer. After the war, she returned to the maid’s house, picked up her daughter, and reunited with her husband. Due to the efforts of Paulina and her family, all of the Jews they helped survived the war.
The State of Israel in 1987 recognized Paulina and her parents as Righteous Among the Nations. May we never forget these stories, and may we all strive to follow in their footsteps, even and especially amid our contemporary squalor.