Wednesday, August 4, 2010

How a Rabbi really hurt efforts to establish Israel


*The official Zionist organization in America was throughout the war a dismal and unmitigated failure.

***In all those bitter years of terrible challenge there is not a single bright interval in the monotonous history of its inaction and pettiness.

In early 1943, Emanuel Newman, a veteran leader of the more activist wing, resigned from the American Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs.

Among the reasons he gave was:

“Recurrent factional and personal differences; vacillation in policy and action, failure to adopt a comprehensive programme of activities.”

In brief – bankruptcy.

There was however a deeper reason for this persistent decline.

The leadership of the Organization and particularly its central figure, Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, subordinated themselves to the desires of the American State Department.

The State Department was traditionally opposed to Zionism, throughout the war cooperated loyally with the British.

There was no counterweight to the State Department at the White House (as there was to be in the Truman era).

Traditionally American official support for Zionism did impose certain public obligations on a President, certainly on a President from the Democratic Party with its traditionally larger share of the Jewish vote.

*Hence the messages of stereotyped benevolence published on the eve of Jewish Festivals, or sent to Zionist gatherings where fellow-Democrat Stephen Wise presided; hence the more serious action designed to show concern for the Jewish lot or, as had sometimes happened, to offer mild reproof to London on some specially obnoxious manifestation of British policy in Palestine.

For Zionism, in its profound political and historic implications, Roosevelt had no sympathy.

After the United States had reached agreement with Ibn Saud for her exploitation of the gigantic oil resources of his desert kingdom, Roosevelt ensured that nothing should be done which might seriously disturb Ibn Saud’s anti-Zionist equanimity.

(see IZL proclamations – this is why the undergrounds attacked oil refineries)

Ibn Saud himself later told the members of the Anglo-American Committee on Palestine who visited him that when, at their famous meeting in Egypt in February 1945 he had unbraided Roosevelt for supporting Jewish immigration, Roosevelt had replied:

“… I neither ordered nor approved of the immigration of Jews to Palestine, nor is it possible that I should approve it.”

Roosevelt himself at a Press Conference after the meeting with Ibn Saud remarked that he had learnt more about Palestine from Ibn Saud in five minutes than he had learnt in a lifetime, a not so cryptic remark which said little for the official American Zionists who claimed to have his ear.

A succinct portrayal of the face of Zionism in the United States during the war was made by Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, then already the most dynamic of the Zionist leaders.

At the end of 1944 Silver lobbied Congressional Committees to pass a pro-Zionist resolution.

The State Department did not like this.

They communicated their dislike to Rabbi Wise, who sent a telegram to the State Department which could be used to influence members of Congress.

In it he (Rabbi Wise) wrote that he and many associates did not wish action to be taken on the resolutions contrary to the recommendations of the State Department and President.

The Under-Secretary of State, Stettinius, showed Silver the telegram.

*“This” wrote Silver in a public statement “more than any other factor was responsible for shelving the Palestine resolutions. Dr. Wise’s shtadlanut in Washington has been an egregious failure for many years, not only as far as Zionism is concerned. This weak-kneed shtadlanut policy has accomplished next to nothing for our people during these tragic years of slaughter and annihilation.”

Most significant of the temper of the Organization was that in the subsequent vote Wise, and not Silver, was upheld.

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