Chaim Weizmann Analyzes British Partition Plans and Prerequisites for Statehood; Blasts American Jewry

June 20, 1937

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Chaim Weizmann Analyzes British Partition Plans and Prerequisites for Statehood; Blasts American Jewry
Autograph Letter Signed
5 pages | SMC 380

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      Background

      An important letter, in which Chaim Weizmann accepts Wingate’s historic offer to organize guerilla Special Night Squads, comprised of Haganah members and a smattering of British officers, to combat Arab terrorism - thus setting into motion what would become the Haganah’s, and later the IDF's, policy of “active defense.”

      Treated at length is the Report of the Royal Commission, proposing the partition of Palestine between Arab and Jew. Assuming that a “Jewish State has become theoretically at any rate a possibility”, Weizmann argues that there will of necessity be a transition period from the present regime to the new one and unless the State is allowed to handle its own immigration and provide of its own defense, it is unlikely that it could live through “the transitory few years.”  

      Weizmann also assails the temerity and faithlessness of the “assimilated Jew.” With American Jewry clearly in his sights, he blasts these Jews as thinking of themselves as Americans and not Jews. Their religion, he sniffs, is “a poor imitation of Protestantism. It has nothing in it of the austerity, severity and the real tradition of Jewry sanctified by so much martyrdom.” These people will send money, but Palestine is a challenge to them: “It stirs some memories… that they have tried to bury under their American civilization. They fasten on the Arab problem which offers them a sort of escape from their Jewish consciousness; they are mostly useless to us, if not harmful.”

      Weizmann predicts that “these next few weeks here will be crucial...On us will rest the responsibility for taking decisions which will affect the fate of Pne [Palestine] and Jewry for a generation at least.”


      Autograph Letter Signed (“Chaim”), 5 pages, recto and verso, quarto, 16, Addison Crescent, Oakwood [London], June 20, 1937. To Orde and Lorna Wingate.
       
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      Western 2485.

      Oakwood,
      16. Addison Crescent,
      W.14.

      June 20th, 37.

      My dear Friends, I need hardly tell you that both Mrs. W. and myself we were genuinely happy to receive your letters. Your Mother has brought them personally. I happened to be at home and in the hall when she came in. I did not believe my eyes when I saw her and must have looked very foolishly surprised. But she smiled at me and told who she is and that was enough to break the "conventional ice"; she came for tea and came in again the same evening, as we happened to have the Toscanini's dining with us. As soon as Toscanini saw her he pounced on her and monopolised her for a good part of the evening which is an additional confirmation of the maestro's good taste. But leaving prattle aside I would like to say that I am more than delighted to have met her and to have heard from her a full account about both of you.

      Now to business. What a wonderful thing that Capt. W. is making such progress in Hebrew and Mother tells me that he has a good teacher. I am proud and happy about the offer you are making and naturally I accept it with the greatest pleasure. In fact we were talking about it amongst ourselves before your letter arrived. But let me explain what the situation is just at present. The report of the R.C. is to be signed this week - I think on the 23rd. The proposed partition is on the lines indicated on the enclosed map. It is self-explanatory. We have indicated our attitude to H.M.G. in the enclosed copy letter to the S. of S. I think that the map and the letter give clearly the salient facts of the situation as I know them at the moment of writing. But there is so much vacillation and pulling hither and thither going on that we shall not be absolutely certain of the situation until a) the report is published b) H.M.G. has announced its own policy c) the House of Commons had an opportunity of expressing its views. 

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      Presumably all that should happen until about July the 15th. Even after that there are still a few hurdles to jump: 1) the permanent Mandates Com. 2) the Council of the League 3) the attitude of U.S.A.


      I think that both the R.C. and the government realize that there is very little hope of carrying this project into effect if the Jews oppose it, as the Arabs are bound to take up a violently negative attitude. The attitude of the Jews is at present one of suspicion and fear and I don't wonder at it. If however we can get the "State" as adumbrated in any letter to the S. of S. I believe that I would be able to carry it at the next Congress which begins on the 3d Aug. in Zurich. The passage won't be a smooth one but we might reach port in safety. The attitude of our Parliamentary friends (Churchill, Atlee [sic], Ll.G., Wedgwood and many more) will be largely informed by what we shall say; we on the other hand cannot force a definite opinion until we know definitely how serious the plans of H.M.G. are and how much they are prepared to implement them even if a considerable display of force should be required. The H.C. is coming over here this week and I don't feel altogether easy about it! 

      But there is another point of importance which needs very careful consideration. Let us suppose that all the stages have been passed safely and that the Jewish State has become theoretically at any rate a possibility. There will of necessity be a transition period from the present regime to the new one. Such an interregnum may last 3-4 years. You will no doubt agree that these will be very delicate and very dangerous years unless elaborate precautions are taken which would allow us to "occupy" the country soon. The two necessary prerequisites for that would be: a) we should manage our own immigration within the area allotted to us b) we should begin at once to organise our defense.

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      Will they have the courage and the goodwill to allow us to do so? Only when we are really safely in a position to carry out these two functions can we hope to live through the transitory few years.


      Incidentally this bears on your proposal. You could only come when we are [text is crossed out] quite clear in this respect not before. I hope that it may be very soon and nothing would make me happier.

      There is one more problem - the Eastern Boundary as marked on the map. It is a long line; the Arabs will be on the hills the Jews in the valley. How is this line to be defended, unless some of the hills are in our hands? The drawing of this frontier will depend largely on the opinion of the Military authorities in Palestine.

      I think I have placed the case fully before you. You understand that we feel most anxious about it all.

      - . - 

      In comparison with the problems which confront us now, the questions raised in Mr. Salzberger[']s letters are perhaps academic. S. belongs to the type of an "assimilated" Jew. He thinks himself an American and his connection with Jewry is a loose "religious" bond. His "religion" is a poor imitation of Protestantism. It has nothing in it of the austerity, severity and the real tradition of Jewry sanctified by so much martyrdom. At best he is prepared to be charitable to his "poorer brethren" to show he is [text is crossed out] inclined to send some of his surplus but with whom he would not like to consort. Palestine is a challenge to these Jews. It stirs some memories in them which they have tried to bury under their American civilization.

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      They fasten on the Arab problem which offers them a sort of escape from their Jewish consciousness; they are mostly useless to us, if not harmful. Between these fully assimilated Jews and us stands a clan of Jews who at some time or another toyed with Zionism, but never could rise to giving up the fleshpots offered by the non-Jewish world; these people are trying to get the best of both worlds; they usually pose as the objective neutrals in contradistinction to the "fanatical" Zionists; they are so impartial as not to distinguish between what's right or wrong; they are like the unbearable neutrals [text is crossed out] on the truce of the Great war who always had something to say for both sides and did say it with a vengeance while the others have been pouring out their blood. They somehow manage to get hold of the plans and make their careers on the back of the movement; you have I think "spotted" them in Jerusalem, some of them at any rate. But I would not worry too much about them, Mrs. Lorna! They are not worth it; they are like the drawing room communists or socialists just good to guide some rich tourists through the country and they are quite proficient at this job and not without their uses. They [text is crossed out] can do us no good and I think little harm. As soon as there is a Jewish State they will emigrate back to their respective countries because they always prefer an already established running concern to something which has to go through all the pangs of creation. May I be forgiven if I'm doing them an injustice.

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      5.

      I better finish my screed. These next few weeks here will be crucial - and then will come our own Congress with all the heartsearching and heartburning! On us will rest the responsibility for taking decisions which will affect the fate of Pne and of Jewry for a generation at least.

      Do write to me; you might send me a letter through Shertock who will be coming to Europe towards the end of July. I might try and keep in touch with you through your Mother.

      We both send you our fondest love and I remain

      Ever yours Chaim

      I wish you could both be with us now!