Chaim Weizmann and Lord Montagu of the Zionist Commission, 1917.

Chaim Weizmann and Lord Montagu of the Zionist Commission, 1917. Anglo-Jewish statesman Lord Edwin Samuel Montagu (1879-1924), was British Minister of Munitions in 1916, and Secretary of State for India from 1917 until 1922. Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952), pictured here at the head of the table, was president of the World Zionist Organization (WZO), and in 1949 became the first President of the State of Israel.

(Photo by Jewish Chronicle/Heritage Images/Getty Images)

Many Jews and Jewish Organizations Recognized the Dangers of Zionism. They Were Right

The American Jewish Committee, going back to 1917 in the United States, expressed grave warnings that a Jewish state could oppress non-Jews in Palestine.

Jewish organizations that now are staunch supporters of the Israeli state were concerned with the same issues that Palestinians protest now.

At the November 1917 issuance of the Balfour Declaration of the British government in favor of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, many American Jewish Committee members and officers had observed that, if successful, the goal of a Jewish state to rule the multi-ethnic land of Palestine would lead to oppression of non-Jews.

In an April 1918 executive committee meeting considering the declaration, a member noted the goal of the AJC to protect civil and religious rights of Jews living as minorities around the world, and worried that a Jewish state could oppress non-Jews:

If a national home in Palestine be established, it may be that there too the good offices of this Committee may become necessary to protect a minority against an arrogant majority.

In 1919, AJC President Louis Marshall asserted an AJC statement on the Balfour declaration had been definitive in rejecting political Zionism:

In April last the American Jewish Committee defined its position in terms which could not be misunderstood, which indicated that, while it hailed with satisfaction the Balfour Declaration, it did so because of the two conditions annexed, namely, that it would not affect the rights of the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine and that it was not to be regarded as in any way affecting the status of Jews who lived in other lands.

In September 1946, when the organization reluctantly adopted a pro-partition position and began lobbying the UN and US government, AJC President Joseph Proskauer told his board, “The so-called Jewish State is not to be called by that name but will bear some appropriate geographical designation. It will be Jewish only in the sense that the Jews will form a majority of the population.”

Mainstream Jewish organizations knew endless violence and oppression would result from imposing a Jewish state in Palestine against the stated wishes of its non-Jewish inhabitants.

The pernicious results of insisting on forcing Jewish sovereignty over Palestine—and necessarily disrupting Arab life there—was well understood within the Jewish organizations and in the general press.

In November 1939, Louis D. Brandeis objected to a planned visit to the United States by Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann: "He (Brandeis) believed the whole thing was a mistake. He was afraid Weizmann would press his plan for political action, based on a future re-shuffling of populations."

In a February 1940 meeting with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Weizman said that "of course they (Jews) would compensate the Arabs in a reasonable way for anything they got," creating a Jewish Palestine and incentivizing Arabs to leave.

Historian George Antonius wrote in the widely-read book The Arab Awakening (1939) that “the logic of facts is inexorable. It shows that no room can be made in Palestine for a second nation except by dislodging or exterminating the nation in possession.”

Journalist I.F. Stone wrote on a 1945 visit to Palestine, “Without the Zionist movement, what has been achieved in Palestine would never have come to pass. …But the strength associated with such a movement also has its corresponding defects, and the defects of Zionism are its failure to take into account the feelings and aspirations of the Palestinian Arab.”

A November 1947 CIA memo noted, "many [American] Zionist organizations, while supporting the objectives of a National Home for Jews, do not advocate an independent Jewish nation in Palestine."

In a public letter, Albert Einstein, Hannah Arendt, and others stated that in the years up to statehood, Jewish terrorists "inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, window-smashing, and widespread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute."

Commentary monthly magazine (then published by the AJC) reported in March 1948, "The terrorists defeated us," British officers admit. "We couldn't track them down. The Jewish population was too frightened of them to help us."

The AJC knew, from news reports and its on-scene correspondent in Palestine, of the militant fervor that was building for a Jewish state among the Zionist component.

Radical Zionist militias engaged in increasing violence against Arabs, British mandate administrators, and insufficiently-Zionist Jews in Palestine. Zionist terrorism spread to incidents like the 1944 assassination of British administrator Lord Moyne in Cairo, the 1946 bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, and attacks on Arab communities, markets and busses. The terrorism spread abroad to bombing of British facilities in Rome(1946) and Vienna and a British troop train(1947).

In December 1947 AJC analyst Milton Himmelfarb wrote that one reason for the AJC change of position to favor partition of Palestine was that “The terrorists' activities in Palestine, and the posterings and mouthings of their supporters here and abroad, led a number of AJC people to wonder whether a Jewish state was the chief enemy. They began to feel that after the state was created, the daily papers in New York at least would no longer carry headlines screaming of King David Hotel explosions and hangings of British sergeants; in short, ‘better an evil end than an endless evil.’”

On the cusp of the implementation of the partition plan, one AJC analysis of the coming "Zionization" of Jews in the United States warned diaspora Jews would be enlisted to the Zionist cause "beyond any consideration of good or evil."

Terrorist leader and future Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Shamir led the September 1948 assassination of UN mediator Count Folke Bernadotte in Jerusalem – to foil the diplomat’s efforts to encourage compromise on land taken by Israel beyond the partition plan, and return of Arab refugees forced from the new State of Israel.

In a draft section that was removed from a February 15, 1948, speech that chairman (and future AJC president) Jacob Blaustein gave on the subject of Palestine partition, he reported "terrorist groups of Palestinian Jews took the offensive" and that "If Partition fails, it is more than likely that these Jewish extremists will resort to terrorism and violence in spite of efforts to control them."

In the years since, the AJC and other mainstream Jewish organizations have given up any notion of restraining Jewish nationalist ambitions, abandoned concern they had for the right of return of Palestinians exiled from their homes, and serve in the US as defenders of whatever military power the Israeli government exercises against the non-Jewish people of Palestine.

American Jewish leaders increasingly took their cues from Israel, and by 1953 the AJC set up a program of pro-Israeli propaganda, being fed by the Israeli consul in New York obvious falsehoods such as that Israel was a "feat of colonization unique in history, which was accomplished without displacing anyone."

Mainstream Jewish organizations knew endless violence and oppression would result from imposing a Jewish state in Palestine against the stated wishes of its non-Jewish inhabitants. This has proved accurate, most recently in Israel's methodical destruction of the means of life for millions in Gaza, and increasing state and settler terror against residents of the occupied West Bank.

[Above citations are from the author's book: The Speech, and Its Context: Jacob Blaustein’s Speech, “The Meaning of Palestine Partition to American Jews,” Given to the Baltimore Chapter, American Jewish Committee, February 15, 1948]

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