Powered by WebAds

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

How the British used Steven Wise to keep Jews in DP Camps

Former US Jewish leader Steven Wise conspired with the Truman administration to approve a massive loan to Britain while permitting the British to maintain their anti-Jewish immigration policies in mandatory Palestine according to an article in today's Jerusalem Post. As a result, thousands of Jews remained in the DP camps or were forced to immigrate illegally to Palestine between 1945-48.
Late 1945 and early 1946 were periods of mounting turmoil and anxiety for world Jewry. Hundreds of thousands of Holocaust survivors languished in displaced persons camps in Europe, prevented from traveling to Palestine by the same British immigration restrictions that had doomed millions of Hitler's victims. The Labor Party, after winning Britain's July 1945 elections, had brushed aside the pro-Zionist promises in its campaign platform and was maintaining the pre-war White Paper limits on Jewish immigration.

That drove the Hagana to join the armed revolt that the Irgun Zvai Leumi and Stern Group had launched against the British occupation authorities. The British, in turn, responded with increasingly severe police actions intended to deter Palestine Jewry from supporting the rebels.

As a result, American Jewish criticism of British policies reached new heights and ranged across the political and religious spectrum. The Labor Zionist journal Furrows called British police actions "Gestapo tactics." Henry Monsky, leader of the American Jewish Conference, an alliance of most major Jewish groups, said England's arrest and deportation of would-be immigrants was "patterned on the Nazi practice."

In a striking example of how British actions were radicalizing American Jews, the annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis - the Reform rabbinical association, which was still officially non-Zionist - would denounce the "Black Sabbath" arrests of Jewish Agency leaders the following year as "Gestapo acts" and "a deliberate desecration of the Jewish Sabbath... a wanton violation of religious freedom [and] a reversion to the barbaric practices of ancient Syria and Rome."

By the autumn of 1945, Jewish anger at the British was beginning to focus on the loan request. The British ambassador in Washington, Lord Halifax, reported to London that Republican Senator Robert Taft of Ohio, who had close ties to Zionist leaders, was working to link the loan to changes in Britain's Palestine policy. Congressman Emanuel Celler of Brooklyn declared at a Jewish rally in Washington that the US should withhold economic aid "unless Great Britain gives us assurance that she will live up to treaty pledges and platform promises concerning Palestine."

Celler, joined by other prominent congressmen, was addressing a crowd of between 600 and 1,000, many of them rabbis, who had taken part in a "Zion March" through the nation's capital. It was strikingly similar to the only Jewish demonstration in Washington during the Holocaust - a march by 400 rabbis just before Yom Kippur in 1943, organized by the maverick Jewish activists known as the Bergson Group. Now, two years later, veterans of that 1943 rally organized another march, but with similar results: They, too, were refused a meeting with the president, but were warmly received by members of Congress.


[Abba Hillel] Silver's approach gained ground in the Jewish community as the Palestine controversy intensified during the spring of 1946. An Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry recommended the admission of 100,000 refugees to Palestine, but the British refused to implement that proposal and the Truman administration declined to intervene.

Meanwhile, the mufti of Jerusalem escaped from house arrest in France, seemingly with the tacit approval of the French and British authorities. And British foreign minister Ernest Bevin sparked international outrage by charging that Americans favored the immigration of Jewish refugees to Palestine "because they do not want too many of them in New York."

On the heels of Bevin's remark, Silver publicly announced his opposition to the British loan. England's "shocking record of broken pledges" regarding Palestine proved the US could not afford "to make a loan to a government whose pledged word seems to be worthless," Silver declared at a Zionist rally in Madison Square Garden on June 11. His speech inspired an avalanche of anti-loan letters and telegrams to Congress from Jews across the country.


FEARING THAT American Jews would be blamed for postwar suffering in Britain if the funds were denied [Who says there were no dhimmis in 1945? This is the same attitude that let the Roosevelt adminstration ignore the existence of concentration camps and refuse to even bomb the railway tracks during the war. It's no wonder that today there are major streets in Israel named after Silver, but I don't recall any named after Wise. CiJ], Wise suddenly announced his support for the loan. "Noisy Jewish disapproval of the loan" would make it appear as if "we [have] become Jews resident in America rather than American Jews," he wrote. He was anxious that it not appear as if Jews "decide Anglo-American and world affairs on the basis of Palestine."

Wise had breached the wall of Jewish opposition to the loan, and others quickly followed suit. The American Jewish Committee mobilized 26 public figures to endorse the loan, and AJC president Joseph Proskauer cabled Congressman Bloom that "Palestine should not be a factor in fixing the attitude most beneficial to America." The Jewish War Veterans announced it did not oppose the loan since, despite Britain's "unjust and illegal" actions in Palestine, "we are not opposed to any measure which will help promote world peace and international cooperation."

A Jewish congressman from New York, Arthur Klein, said that although he had received "many hundreds of letters" from constituents opposing the loan, he would support it because "we must put the interests of our country above partisan politics or self-interest."

Most significantly, Bloom was persuaded to reverse his position by Wise. He announced he would vote "as an American and not as a Jew." At the urging of presidential adviser David Niles, Bloom read aloud Wise's endorsement at the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearings on the loan in early July.

By the final day of the hearings, supporters of the loan were increasingly confident that they had enough votes for passage. A front-page article in The New York Times reported that "the most clear-cut factor in the shift of attitude was believed to have been the statement read in the House yesterday from Rabbi Stephen S. Wise ..."


Silver publicly blamed Wise for the failure of the anti-loan effort. Prior to his intervention, "passage of the loan was definitely in doubt," Silver asserted. "Enough of our friends had rallied to our side, in addition to those who were opposed to the loan on other grounds, to make the postponement of [approval] very likely," but then Wise "came forth as the champion of the loan in the name of Americanism, [which] demoralized and scattered our friends in Congress."

Silver was convinced that a united American Jewish front would have forced a delay of "six to eight weeks," and generated enough pressure on the British to force concessions on Palestine.
Read the whole thing.



Post a Comment

<< Home