EINSTEIN 1929…ARAB MOBS

Einstein 1929…Arab mobs” in Palestine, October 1929

Letter to the Manchester Guardian

Arab mobs” in Palestine,

October 1929 Letter to the Manchester Guardian
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Letter to the Editor Manchester Guardian 12th October 1929

 

It was with a wonderful enthusiasm and a deep sense of gratitude that the Jews, afflicted more than any other people by the chaos and horror of the war, obtained from Great Britain a pledge
Letter to the Editor Manchester Guardian 12th October 1929

It was with a wonderful enthusiasm and a deep sense of gratitude that the Jews, afflicted more than any other people by the chaos and horror of the war, obtained from Great Britain a pledge to support the re- etablishment of the Jewish national home in Palestine. The Jewish people, beset with a thousand physical wrongs and moral degradations, saw in the British promise the sure rock on which it could re-create a Jewish national life in Palestine, which, by its very existence as well as by its material and intellectual achievements, would give the Jewish masses, dispersed all over the world, a new sense of hope, dignity, and pride.

Jews of all lands gave of their best in man-power and in material wealth in order to fund the inspiration that had kept the race alive through a martyrdom of centuries. Within a brief decade some £10,000,000 were raised by voluntary contributions, and 100,000 hand- picked Jews entered Palestine to redeem by their physical labour the almost derelict land. Deserts were irrigated, forests planted, swamps drained, and their crippling diseases subdued. A work of peace was created which, although still perhaps small in size, compelled the admiration of every observer.

Has the rock on which we have built begun to shake? A considerable section of the British press now meets our aspirations with lack of understanding, with coldness, and with disfavour. What has happened?

Arab mobs, organised and fanaticised by political intriguers working on the religious fury of the ignorant, attacked scattered Jewish settlements and murdered and plundered wherever no resistance was offered. In Hebron, the inmates of a rabbinical college, innocent youths who had never handled weapons in their lives, were butchered in cold blood; in Safed the same fate befell aged rabbis and their wives and children. Recently some Arabs raided a Jewish orphan settlement where the pathetic remnants of the great Russian pogroms had found a haven of refuge. Is it not then amazing that an orgy of such primitive brutality upon a peaceful population has been utilised by a certain scion of the British press for a campaign of propaganda directed, not against the authors and instigators of these brutalities, but against their victims? No less disappointing is the amazing degree of ignorance of the character and the achievement of Jewish re- construction in Palestine displayed in many organs of the press.

A decade has elapsed since the policy of the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine was officially endorsed by the British Government with the almost unanimous support of the entire British press and of the leaders of all political parties. On the basis of that official recognition, which was approved by almost every civilised Government, and which found its legal embodiment in the Palestine Mandate, Jews have sent their sons and daughters and have given their voluntary offerings for this great work of peaceful reconstruction. I think it may be stated without fear of exaggeration that, except for the war efforts of the European nations, our generation has seen no national effort of such spiritual intensity and such heroic devotion as that which the Jews have shown during the last ten years in favour of a work of peace in Palestine.

When one travels through the country, as I had the good fortune to do a few years ago, and sees young pioneers, men and women of magnificent intellectual and moral calibre, breaking stones and building roads under the blazing rays of the Palestinian sun; when one sees flourishing agricultural settlements shooting up from the long deserted soil under the intensive efforts of the Jewish settlers; when one sees the development of water power and the beginnings of an industry adapted to the needs and possibilities of the country, and, above all, the growth of an educational sysem, ranging from the kindergarten to the university, in the language of the Bible – what observer, whatever his origin or faith, can fail to be sezied by the magic of such amazing achievement and of such almost superhuman devotion? Is it not bewildering that, after all this, brutal massacres by a fanaticised mob can destroy all appreciation of the Jewish effort in Palestine and lead to a demand for the repeal of the solemn pledges of official support and protection?

Zionism has a two-fold basis. It arose on the one hand from the fact of Jewish suffering. It is not my intention to paint here a picture of the Jewish martyrdom through-out the ages, which has arisen from the homelessness of the Jew. Even to day there is an intensity of Jewish suffering throughout the world of which the public opinion of the civilised West never obtains a comprehensive view. In the whole of Eastern Europe the danger of physical attack against the individual Jew is constantly present. The degrading disabilities of old have been transformed into restrictions of an economic character, while restrictive measures in the educational sphere, such as the “numerus clausus” at the universities, seek to suppress the Jew in the world of intellectual life.

There is, I am sure, no need to stress at this time of day that there is a Jewish problem in the Wetern world also. How many non-Jews have any insight into the spiritual suffering and distortion, the degradation and moral dis-integration engendered by the mere fact of the homelessness of a gifted and sensitive people?

What under-lies all these phenomena is the basic fact, which the first Zionists recognised with profound intuition, that the Jewish problem cannot be solved by the assimilation of the individual Jew to his environment. Jewish individuality is too strong to be effaced by such assimilation, and too conscious to be ready for such self effacement. It is, of course, clear that it will never be possible to transplant to Palestine anything more than a minority of the Jewish people, but it has for a long time been the deep conviction of enlightened students of the problem, Jews and non-Jews alike, that the establishment of a National Home for the Jewish people in Palestine would raise the status and the dignity of those who would remain in their native countries, and would thereby materially assist in improving the relations between non-Jews and Jews in general.

But Zionism springs from an even deeper motive than Jewish suffering. It is rooted in a Jewish spiritual tradition, whose maintenance and development are for Jews the raison d’etre of their continued existence as a community. In the re-establishment of the Jewish nation in the ancient home of the race, where Jewish spiritual values could again be developed in a Jewish atmosphere, the most enlightened representatives of Jewish individuality see the essential preliminary to the regeneration of the race and the setting free of its spiritual creativeness.

It is by these tendencies and aspirations that the Jewish reconstruction in Palestine is informed. Zionism is not a movement inspired by chauvinism or by a sacro egoismo. I am convinced that the great majority of the Jews would refuse to support a movement of that kind. Nor does Zionism aspire to divest anyone in Palestine of any rights or possessions he may enjoy. On the contrary, we are convinced that we shall be able to establish a friendly and constructive co- operation with the kindred Arab race which will be a blessing to both sections of the population materially and spiritually.

During the whole of the work of Jewish colonisation not a single Arab has been dispossessed; every acre of land acquired by the Jews has been bought at a price fixed by buyer and seller. Indeed, every visitor has testified to the enormous improvement in the economic and sanitary standard of the Arab population resulting from the Jewish colonisation. Friendly personal relations between the Jewish settlements and the neighbouring Arab villages have been formed throughout the country. Jewish and Arab workers have associated in the trade unions of the Palestine railways, and the standard of living of the Arabs has been raised. Arab scholars can be found working in the great library of the Hebrew University, while the study of the Arabic language and civilisation forms one of the chief subjects of study at this University. Arab workmen have participated in the evening courses conducted at the Jewish Technical Institute at Haifa. The native population has come to realise in an ever growing measure the benefits, economic, sanitary and intellectual, which the Jewish work of reconstruction has bestowed on the whole country and an its inhabitants. Indeed, one of the most comforting features in the present crisis has been the reports of personal protection afforded by Arabs to their Jewish fellow-citizens against the attacks of the fanaticised mob.

I submit, therefore, that the Zionist movement is entitled, in the name of its higher objectives and on the strength of the support which has been promised to it most solemnly by the civilised world, to demand that its unprecedented reconstructive effort – carried out in a country which still largely lies fallow, and in which, by methods of intensive cultivation such as the Jews have applied, room can be found for hundreds of thousands of new settlers without detriment to the native population – shall not be defeated by a small clique of agitators, even if they wear the garb of ministers of the Islamic religion.

Does public opinion in Great Britain realise that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who is the centre of an the trouble, and speaks so loudly in the name of all the Moslems, is a young political adventurer of not much more, I understand, than thirty years of age, who in 1920 was sentenced to several years’ imprisonment for his complicity in the riots of that year, but was pardoned under the terms of an amnesty? The mentality of this man may be gauged from a recent statement he gave to an interviewer accusing me, of all men, of having demanded the rebuilding of the Temple on the site of the Mosque of Omar. Is it tolerable that, in a country where ignorant fanaticism can so easily be incited to rapine and murder by interested agitators, so utterly irresponsible and unscrupulous a politician should be enabled to continue to exercise his evil influence, garbed in an the spiritual sanity of religion, and invested with all the temporal powers that this involves in an Eastern country?

The realisation of the great aims embodied in the Mandate for Palestine depends to a very large degree on the public opinion of Great Britain, on its press, and on its statesmen. The Jewish people is entitled to expect that its work of peace shall receive the active and benevolent support of the Mandatory Power. It is entitled to demand that those found guilty in the recent riots shall be adequately punished, and that the men in whose hands is laid the responsible task of the adminisration of a country of such a unique past and such unique potentialities for the future shall be so instgrued as to ensure that this great trust bestowed by the civilised world on the Mandatory Power, is carried out with vision and courage in the daily tasks of routine administration. Jews do not wish to live in the land of their fathers under the protection of British bayonets: they come as friends of the kindred Arab nation. What they expect of Great Britain is that it shall promote the growth of friendly relations between Jews and Arabs, that it shall not tolerate poisonous propaganda, and that it shall create such organs of security in the country as will aford adequate protection to life and peaceful labour.

The Jews will never abandon the work of reconstruction which they have undertaken. The reaction of all Jews, Zionist and non-Zionist alike, to the events of the last few weeks has shown this clearly enough. But it lies in the hands of the Mandatory Power materially to further or materially to hamper the progress of the work. It is of fundamental importance that British public opinion and the Governments of Great Britain and of Palestine shall feel themselves responsible for this great trust, not because Great Britain once undertook this responsibility in legal form, but because they are deeply convinced of the significance and importance of the task, and believe that its realisation will tend to promote the progress and the peace of mankind, and to right a great historic wrong.

I cannot believe that the greatest colonial Power in the world will fail when it is faced with the task of placing its unique colonising experience at the service of the reconstruction of the ancient home of the People of the Bible. The task may not be an easy one for the Mandatory Power, but for the success it will attain it is assured of the undying gratitude not only of the Jews but of all that is noblest in mankind.

{signed} Albert Einstein – Albert Einstein, About Zionism , pp 54-62

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