The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann
July 1920 – December 1921
Volume X, Series A
Introduction: Bernard Wasserstein
General Editor Meyer W. Weisgal, Volume Editor Bernard Wasserstein, Assistant Editor Joel Fishman, Transaction Books, Rutgers University and Israel Universities Press, Jerusalem, 1977[Reprinted with express permission from the Weizmann Archives, Rehovot, Israel,
by the Center for Israel Education www.israeled.org]
The dominant theme of this tenth volume (July 1920–December 1921) of the Weizmann Letters, as of Weizmann’s political career as a whole, is one of struggle. Three major conflicts which absorbed most of Weizmann’s energies and thoughts in the period are reflected: the struggle with the followers of Justice Louis D. Brandeis within the World Zionist Organization; the struggle over the provisions and ratification of the Palestine mandate; and the struggle over the northern and eastern borders of the Jewish National Home in Palestine.
The backcloth against which these conflicts were enacted was one of turmoil. The pattern of the post-war settlement was still unclear. In Europe the Bolsheviks, as yet engaged in warding off enemies internal and external, seemed to pose a real threat to societies still suffering the economic consequences of the war and the peace. In the former Ottoman Empire the military successes of the Turkish nationalist forces of Mustafa Kemal threw once again into question the entire Near East settlement which had been accepted by the dying Ottoman regime in the Treaty of Sevres of August 1920. Serious unrest in Egypt and Mesopotamia meanwhile threw doubt upon the stability and permanence of the British imperial presence in the Middle East.
The Jewish world too was in disarray. In the heartland of world Jewry, Eastern Europe, pogroms and persecutions of a ferocity unparalleled since the Chmielnicki massacres of 1648 left hundreds of thousands dead, homeless and orphaned in the Ukraine alone. The nationalist government of Poland and the Soviet regime in Russia both in their different ways aggravated the Jewish predicament. At the height of the Polish-Soviet War in mid-1920 the Jewish civilian population in the area of battle was suspected of enemy collaboration by both sides—and treated accordingly. The Polish government did little to deter its troops and citizens from anti-Semitic outrages. In Soviet Russia Jews were (for the first time in Russia) granted equal rights. But Jewish political parties (most notably the Bund) were banned. Zionism, with the Hebrew language, was virtually proscribed; Jewish religious education and practice became ever more restricted; and Jews, large numbers of whom were petty traders, suffered disproportionately from the dislocations of the period of ‘War Communism.’
Meanwhile, in the U.S.A. the first Johnson Act, carried in 1921, began the process of limiting immigration, which was to culminate by 1924 in the virtual sealing of America’s doors against any further substantial Jewish influx. The identification of the Jews with Bolshevism (closely connected with the propagation of the notorious Protocols of the Elders of Zion) resulted in outbursts of antisemitism even in England, where The Times in 1920 speculated whether Britain had escaped from the jaws of a ‘Pax Germanica’ only to fall into a ‘Pax Judaica.’
In Palestine the Jewish population (the yishuv) welcomed the news in late April 1920 of the decision by the San Remo Conference to award the Mandate for the country to Britain, and the simultaneous decision by the Prime Minister, Lloyd George (after prior consultation with Weizmann), to appoint the Jewish former Cabinet minister, Sir Herbert Samuel, as first head of the civil administration. The end of the military regime, begun in 1917, was greeted by the yishuv with relief, since the personnel of that regime had shown themselves almost unanimously hostile to Zionism, especially after the anti-Jewish riots in Jerusalem of April 1920. When Samuel landed at Jaffa on 30 June 1920 the moment seemed to Jewish witnesses to be one of transcendent significance in Jewish history. But enthusiasm for the new British administration soon gave way to a feeling of disillusion and even betrayal among the Jewish population. The renewed riots which began in Jaffa on May Day 1921 not only demonstrated the depth of Palestinian Arab opposition to Zionism, but brought again to the surface the latent mistrust between the Mandatory and the yishuv which was to subsist throughout the period of British rule. The Zionists’ difficulties in mobilizing significant amounts of Jewish capital from the U.S.A. and Western Europe, the loss of contact with the Zionist movement in Russia, the internecine conflicts within Zionism culminating in the Brandeis-Weizmann schism of 1921—all these posed a formidable threat to the Zionist experiment within four years of the Balfour Declaration. In these critical conditions the role of the leader was paramount.
This volume opens with the election of Weizmann to the Presidency of the World Zionist Organization at the Zionist Conference in London, July 1920. He had, of course, been the dominant personality in the movement since the publication of the Balfour Declaration in November 1917. But although Weizmann’s election to the Presidency in 1920 merely formalized the existing fact of his leadership, and although he was elected unopposed, the London Conference in fact inaugurated the struggle between Weizmann and Brandeis for control of the movement. A semblance of unity was preserved (Brandeis reluctantly consented to serve as Honorary President of the Organization), but the acrimony of the debates and private discussions left wounds which would not heal. In a letter to his close friend, Bella Berligne, after the close of the conference, Weizmann described his reaction:
‘The Conference and all that followed was one big, unbearable nightmare, and it is not over yet. I wanted to believe that things would improve, but the noose around my neck tightened more and more and did not ease up. I could not write, the pen fell from my hands. It seemed that all I worked for, that we all worked for, was falling apart. The Americans behaved like boors. They came with the intention of wrecking everything and rebuilding it in their own manner, according to their understanding, but for this they had no money, or people, or expertise. The fight was sly, underhand, furtive, dishonest; ignoble means were used. My heart bled to see how our good cause was being soiled. Though we did not break with them formally, in actual fact nothing is left of the American ‘help’. They give no money, their advice is unacceptable.’
The Brandeis-Weizmann quarrel reflected fundamentally different conceptions of Zionism and of the role of the Zionist movement. For Brandeis and his associates the political stage in Zionism had ended definitively with the Balfour Declaration and the award of the mandate to Britain. In their view these afforded a satisfactory basis for Jewish constructive effort in Palestine, and the Zionist Organization should therefore abdicate henceforth any political pretensions or aspirations in Palestine. The argument centered on the £25,000,000 Palestine Foundation Fund (Keren Hayesod) which the London Zionist Conference had optimistically proclaimed at its final session. The complicated disputes about the Keren Hayesod in 1920 and 1921 essentially concerned two issues: who was to control the fund; and, was the fund to be a general donation fund for all Zionist expenditures in Palestine, or was the Keren Hayesod to be used only for public services, with separate investment corporations established for specific commercial projects? The Brandeis group favored the latter procedure as being more ‘business-like.’ The bulk of contributions to the Keren Hayesod was expected to come from American Jewry, that is, Brandeis’s constituency, and the American was in a strong position to press home his policy by insisting that the control of the fund should be vested not in the world Zionist Executive but in the national Zionist federations—particularly, of course, the Zionist Organization of America. This would have implied the virtual dismemberment of the world organization.
Weizmann rejected the notion that the Zionist movement should henceforth have no political function. He insisted (and, at a private meeting in 1921 he got Lloyd George and Balfour to concur) that the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate marked not an end but a beginning—the first steps in a process leading to the ultimate goal of a Jewish state in Palestine. In a heated letter to his friend, Sir Wyndham Deedes, Civil Secretary (that is, deputy to the High Commissioner) of the Government of Palestine, Weizmann stressed:
What else are we striving for? […] What other meaning is there to the National Home? It is no use hanging on now to nebulous phraseology. What is all the struggle about? Is it to create a few more stray colonies or to settle 2,000 more halutzim? What are we all working for? If there is not the ideal of building up a Jewish Commonwealth then our halutzim could go at less cost and with more prospects for a material well-being to America, or Australia, or Argentina.
Weizmann did not accept the Brandeis view that investment funds should be separate from moneys brought by the Keren Hayesod for Zionist administration, educational and medical institutions in Palestine. The settlement of large numbers of non-capital-owning Jewish immigrants in Palestine necessitated initial capital expenditure which inevitably would yield a small or even negative return for many years. A ‘business-like’ approach was therefore ruled out. What was required was investment planned on a national basis with an eye not on the normal criteria of business efficiency but on the long-term economic and political goals’ of the Zionist movement. Weizmann therefore insisted that control of the Keren Hayesod must be centralized under the world Zionist Executive rather than dispersed with each national federation controlling the collection and disbursement of separate funds.
As the Brandeis-Weizmann conflict developed it reflected deep ideological and social divisions within the Zionist movement. To some extent it was, as Weizmann himself characterized it in a famous phrase, ‘Washington versus Pinsk’. Weizmann’s transatlantic supporters were drawn to a considerable degree from men born in the shtetl, although their leader, Louis Lipsky, and many influential protagonists, bore the credentials of purely American Jews by birth and culture. The Brandeis group included men of substance, expertise, and social stature; Rabbi Stephen S. Wise was among them. But the shaft which struck home against them with the most deadly effect was the accusation that, as Weizmann wrote of Brandeis:
‘He is so un-Jewish in his outlook, in his feelings, and has never attempted to realize the deep causes which have moved the Jewish masses towards Palestine,. He is a colonizer purely and simply. He happens to colonise Palestine.’
Just as Weizmann had successfully mobilized Jewish democracy against the Anglo-Jewish patriciate in the internal struggle of British Jewry prior to the Balfour Declaration, so he now succeeded in channelling the enthusiasms, energies, and social animosities of the Lower East Side against the leadership of Brandeis, Julian Mack, and their supporters, who (like the Edwin Montagus and Claude Montefiores in England) had no roots among the Jewish masses.
The precise differences between the Weizmann and Brandeis conceptions of the Keren Hayesod can be seen in .the various resolutions adopted regarding the fund, first at the London Conference in July 1920, then at the annual Convention of the Zionist Organization of America in Buffalo in November 1920, and finally in the National Executive Committee of the Z.O.A. in April 1921. (See pp. xxv-xxvii.) The London Conference resolution represented Weizmann’s view, but the control over the Z.O.A. maintained by the Brandeis group enabled them to secure endorsement of their policy at the Buffalo Convention. Weizmann objected strongly to the Buffalo resolutions whose implementation, he declared in a letter to Felix Frankfurter, would mean that ‘the very life-blood of the Movement is endangered.’ In January 1921 Weizmann wrote to the Executive of the Z.O.A., denouncing the Buffalo resolutions as
‘proof of the dissension between the American and the World Organisation, a breach in the unity of the Organisation, a menace to the work of the Keren Hayesod […] As President of the Zionist Organisation I find myself placed before a very serious dilemma. My own conception of Zionism and the very practical steps which would follow from such a conception seem to conflict with the notions of my American friends, and especially with the spirit manifested at the last Convention […] Whilst I fully appreciate the necessity of colonising on a strictly economic and efficient basis, I cannot agree to the complete suppression of our political, social, and cultural aspirations […] Zionism cannot be converted merely into a development company […] From a practical point of view, the Keren Hayesod provides the acid test.’
In April 1921 Weizmann (accompanied by Albert Einstein and others) arrived in New York in order to launch the campaign for the Keren Hayesod in the U.S.A. It soon became clear that the differences between the supporters of Weizmann and those of the incumbent leadership of the Z.O.A. were too wide to be bridged. On 10 April Weizmann addressed the Executive of the Z.O.A. and presented candidly his view of what was entailed by the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate:
‘It means the creation of the most powerful Zionist instrument in Palestine, with the definite aim that this instrument should be so strong in a measurable and limited time, as to supplant the present administration […] What does all this presuppose? It presupposes a powerful Zionist Organisation […] not an Organisation broken up into fragments and pieces […] In the present situation, where America represents 80% of the finances of the Zionist Organisation, the control of the fund means the control of the Zionist Organisation […] You desire to have control of the funds which means control of the movement, which means control of the work in Palestine, and you desire us to take the responsibility.’
There were prolonged negotiations in an effort to find common
ground, but the Executive eventually decided against Weizmann’s view by a vote of 23 to 14. This marked the breaking point. On 17 April Weizmann on his own authority as President of the World Zionist Organization issued a manifesto ‘to the Jews of America’ in which he went over the heads of the Z.O.A. and announced the establishment of the Keren Hayesod according to his own formula, appealing directly to the American Jewish public for contributions.
A fierce public controversy between the rival groups ensued, and it gradually became clear that although the Brandeis group continued to control the administration of the Z.O.A., a great part of the rank-and-file membership supported Weizmann. In a letter to Sir Alfred Mond in May 1921 Weizmann asserted:
There is certainly one incontestable fact in the whole position. The masses of American Zionists and Jews have nothing in common with B. and his group which is only a small oligarchy of men with a certain social position in this country but without influence on Jewry, with the exception of a few assimilated, non-Zionist or anti-Zionist Jews. 95% of American Jewry are those who understand a 100% Zionism full-blooded, and are ready to follow and give money to such a Zionism and no other.
Moreover, Weizmann was able to point to tangible successes in the Keren Hayesod campaign:
I am writing this note from Boston, which is Brandeis’ town, the citadel of assimilated Jewry. Last year they tried to raise here money for the Palestine Restoration Fund and exerted themselves throughout the year and have collected 28,000 dollars. At one dinner yesterday 20,000 were raised, and so it goes on in every city. We don’t get big contributions, but the masses are giving in smaller sums but in large quantities.
The climax came in early June 1921 at a special convention of the Z.O.A. held at Cleveland. The convention had been called by the incumbent (pro-Brandeis) leadership of the Z.O.A. in the expectation that their control of the administrative machinery of the movement would enable them to secure a popular endorsement of their stand against Weizmann. But the tremendous enthusiasm generated by Weizmann’s campaign had resulted in the election of large numbers of delegates representing ‘grass-root’ Zionist opinion which had turned strongly against the Brandeis group. The result was a triumph for Weizmann: by a vote of 153 to 71 the convention upheld his policy and rejected a resolution sponsored by the incumbent administration headed by Judge Mack. The supporters of Brandeis (the Justice did not personally appear) withdrew from the convention and from all official positions in the Z.O.A. A new administration, composed of W.’s supporters, was installed. Brandeis resigned as Honorary President of the World Zionist Organisation. His supporters established a rival fund to the Keren Hayesod entitled `Palestine Development Associates,’ but neither he nor his supporters ever regained the leadership of the American Zionist movement. The secession of the Brandeis group undoubtedly weakened American Zionism, particularly in its capacity to raise funds, but it ensured the unity of the Zionist movement under a centralized leadership following a coherent policy. At the end of his American trip, in a letter to the British Ambassador in Washington, Weizmann concluded that,
‘a rupture between the World Zionist Organisation and the American leaders was inevitable, nay, almost necessary? in order to bring about the establishment of the Fund in America and the creation of a real Zionist movement.’
The second great struggle waged by Weizmann in the period covered by this volume concerned the provisions of the Palestine Mandate. Although the San Remo Conference had decided in April 1920 to award this to Britain, and although the Mandatory Government headed by Sir Herbert Samuel had actually taken office at the end of June, the terms of the Mandate had yet to be approved by the League of Nations Council. Until this happened the legal authority of the Government of Palestine could be held open to question. There was a long delay (until July 1922) in securing the Council’s approval. This arose mainly from the upset to the entire Near East settlement by the victories of Mustafa Kemal, partly from difficulties of the French in Syria and of the British in Mesopotamia, and partly from American tardiness in giving its approval (felt by the British to be necessary even though the U.S.A. was not a member of the League).
His long delay afforded ample opportunity for second and third thoughts on the part of the British Government as to the extent to which recognition should be given in the draft Mandate to the claims of the Zionists. So long as this uncertainty continued Weizmann was engaged in diplomatic efforts to try to ensure that the aspirations of the Zionists would be explicit in the final text. The evolution of the key passages in the mandate through the successive drafts prepared by the British Government is illustrated in the table on pp. xxviii—xxix.
There were three primary points which Weizmann sought to secure in this long series of negotiations. The first was the inclusion in the Preamble to the Mandate of recognition of ‘the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the claim this gives them to reconstitute Palestine as their National Home.’ These words were included in the draft prepared in June 1920, but deleted in October 1920, giving occasion to great Zionist concern. Weizmann wrote to Balfour:
‘The profound significance which Palestine has never ceased to have for the entire Jewish people throughout the dispersion is the fundamental basis of the policy which the Mandate embodies. Its formal recognition as a matter of international concern is, in Jewish eyes, of vital importance.’
And in a letter to the Foreign Secretary, Curzon, he stated:
‘You told me once that you thought the clause unnecessary because the San Remo decision definitely fixed the status of Palestine and nothing more was required. That is, of course, true from the purely legal point of view. But it is not unnecessary or unimportant from the standpoint of those of us who must seek from the Jews of the world the sacrifice and treasure required to make Palestine again a healthful and happy land, to which we hope England may look with pride and satisfaction in the years to come.’
However, in a letter to Lloyd George, Curzon pronounced himself unconvinced by this argument and declared:
‘What they really want this particular clause in the Mandate for is, not in order to get money now, but in order that this sentence may be the foundation on which, at every stage, they may hold a claim for preferential treatment in Palestine, and ultimately for the complete government of the country.’
In a memorandum to the Cabinet Balfour supported the Zionist view, and Weizmann’s submissions received the approval of Lloyd George. Consequently the clause was reinserted in the Preamble. But the final version was less favorable to the Zionists than the original draft, since it referred not as before to ‘the claim this gives them to reconstitute Palestine as their National Home’ but merely to ‘the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.’ Much was to be made of this distinction later.
The second vital point which Weizmann sought to secure in his negotiations was the inclusion of a clause stating that the ultimate aim of the Mandatory Government was the establishment of a ‘self-governing commonwealth’ in Palestine. This formula, included in the June 1920 draft of the Mandate, was, in fact, a watering-down of the original Zionist proposal that reference should be made to a `Jewish commonwealth.’ In October 1920 the passage was amended so as to refer not to the establishment of a ‘self-governing commonwealth,’ but to ‘the development of self-governing institutions.’ Whereas the aim of the original Zionist formulation had been to secure a formal guarantee of the eventual creation of a Jewish state, the amended version carried the implication, unsatisfactory from the Zionist viewpoint, that representative institutions might be developed gradually in Palestine before Jews were a majority of the population. Weizmann tried to secure the re-insertion of the June version; in a letter to Milner in November he argued that the October version was ‘unfortunate’ and ‘exposed to serious misconstruction.’ On this point, however, the Zionists did not get their way: the final version of the mandate retained the reference to ‘self-governing institutions,’ and this did indeed provide the basis for successive schemes of the Mandatory Government for the establishment of representative institutions in Palestine (none of which, however, came to fruition). Nevertheless, although Weizmann failed to secure formal British assurance for the eventual establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, he did succeed in 1921 in obtaining such an assurance informally. In July 1921 he attended a private luncheon at Balfour’s house in London, where, according to the account of the meeting which survives in the Weizmann Archives, Lloyd George and Churchill both stated that by the Balfour Declaration they had always meant the eventual establishment of a Jewish state. At a later stage in the conversation the discussion turned to the question of representative government and Lloyd George said to Churchill: `You mustn’t give representative government to Palestine.’
The third point in the Mandate which exercised Weizmann was to be of the greatest practical import for the future development of the Yishuv. This was the clause detailing the status and functions of a recognized ‘Jewish Agency’ for Palestine and accepting the Zionist Organization as such an agency (which might be expanded later so as to include non-Zionist Jews). The clause was attacked by Zionism’s opponents on the ground that it provided for the creation of a state within a state. It was further alleged that reference in the June 1920 draft to a ‘preferential right’ of the Jewish Agency ‘to construct or operate public works, services and utilities, and to develop the natural resources of the country’ unduly favored the Zionists, even though the clause specified that this right was to be exercised ‘upon fair and equitable terms.’ In the October 1920 version reference to a `preferential right’ was deleted; nor was it re-inserted in the final version of the Mandate. But the final version did provide a secure legal foundation for the most important project of public works planned by the Zionists—the hydro-electric scheme of Pinhas Rutenberg. This scheme was fiercely attacked by anti-Zionists in the British parliament and press. But Churchill, who met Rutenberg when he visited Palestine as Colonial Secretary in the spring of 1921, was greatly impressed by the potentialities of the scheme and gave it his full backing. The development of the Rutenberg project during the 1920s was of primary importance for the economic development of the Yishuv.
Fundamental also was the recognition afforded by the Mandate to the Zionist Organisation as the Jewish Agency. This was sustained against a proposal emanating from the Government of Palestine in December 1921 that such a clause be deleted. Weizmann was outraged by the suggestion, as he wrote to Samuel:
‘I need hardly remind you that the elimination of Article 4 would be a death-blow to the Zionist Organisation. Any such suggestion would have to be resisted to the last, and would inevitably excite a storm of indignant protest throughout the Jewish world.’
The suggestion was withdrawn. The clause was included in the mandate. And the Jewish Agency (as the anti-Zionists had forecast) did gradually develop into a quasi-government of the yishuv. Although the proposed enlargement of the Agency to include non-Zionists did not come about until 1929, Weizmann made efforts from 1920 onward to lay the basis for such enlargement by securing the cooperation of non-Zionist Jews in economic and social work in Palestine. A notable advance in this direction was the establishment in 1920-21 of the Economic Council for Palestine under the chairmanship of Sir Alfred Mond (with whom Weizmann paid a brief visit to Palestine in early 1921).
Linked to the diplomatic struggle over the mandate was that over the borders of the Jewish National Home. (See map on p. xxxix.) The Zionists sought to ensure first, that the eastern border of Palestine should be not the Jordan River but a line further to the east such as the Hejaz railway, and secondly, that the northern border should encompass within it the, northernmost Jewish colonies of Tel Hai and Metulla and the headwaters of the rivers Jordan and Litani. Weizmann could do little to affect the outcome. The eastern frontier was fixed by the British themselves, the northern by Franco-British negotiation.
In the east a new situation arose in the autumn of 1920 with the occupation of Transjordan by Abdullah ibn Hussein. In return for a promise by Abdullah of good behavior (viz. peaceful relations with his French and British neighbors), the British confirmed him as Emir of Transjordan.
In March 1921 a conference of British officials (headed by the Colonial Secretary, Churchill) met at Cairo to plan the political geography of the British Middle East. Abdullah was established on his throne, and Transjordan was separated from Palestine, with Samuel as High Commissioner of both areas. A corollary which followed in 1922 was the exclusion of Transjordan from the area of the Mandate to which the provisions regarding the establishment of the Jewish National Home were held by the British to apply.
As to the northern border, Weizmann’s efforts to stiffen the resolve of the British negotiators in their talks with the French in late 1920 were partially effective. The Anglo-French Convention on the frontiers of Palestine, signed in December 1920, failed to secure for Palestine the headwaters of the Litani. But the convention provided for a joint Anglo-French commission to delimit the frontier in consultation with ‘Zionist engineers’ in such a way as t secure the source of the Jordan for Palestine. The commission’s work proceeded at a leisurely pace, and was accompanied by various alarums, but the frontier as finally agreed in 1923 provided for the inclusion within Palestine of all existing Jewish colonies, and enabled Rutenberg to establish a hydro-electric plant on the banks of the Jordan—one of the key Zionist aims in the negotiations.
These three concerns—the dispute with Brandeis, the negotiations about the mandate, and the demarcation of the frontiers of the Jewish National Home—formed the core of Weizmann’s ‘ political activity during the period covered by this volume. But never far from his mind was the internal political situation in Palestine. The appointment of Samuel as High Commissioner had marked a favorable turning point for the Zionists, and Weizmann’s correspondence with Samuel during his first year in Palestine demonstrates the closeness of their cooperation and of their political conceptions at that time. But in May 1921 renewed, and even more bloody, anti-Jewish riots broke out in Palestine. The outbreak was a profound shock for Samuel and had a lasting effect on his political outlook. Henceforth his policy was geared to the belief that Zionism could not and should not be imposed in Palestine by force. If the Jewish National Home was to be established Arab opposition must be assuaged by the granting of some form of representative institutions. Weizmann too was deeply horrified by the riots. But he did not concur with Samuel’s analysis of the problems posed by Arab opposition to Zionism. From mid-1921, as a result, a new tone enters Weizmann’s correspondence with Samuel. Zionism, he complained, was being
‘gradually, systematically, and relentlessly “reduced” […] A great depression, almost despair, prevails in Palestine, and it is almost universal […] We all view with the greatest concern the establishment of an elective assembly in Palestine […] The situation is very critical indeed. We Jews are placed in a cruel, vicious circle. It is an article of faith with us that Palestine will be ours some day, but for the present it seems as if everything is conspiring to render our task almost impossible. We believe in the indestructibility of our People, and in the justice of our claim to establish our home in Palestine. Jewry will go on suffering and working and hoping for Palestine; I nevertheless dread the day when Jewry comes to realise that all the hopes and promises of the last seven years which have been held out to the suffering masses of Poland and Ukraine as the only ray of hope in their untold misery are a mirage.’
In spite of the differences which thus emerged between the two men, Weizmann was prepared to go a long way towards accommodating Samuel’s views. The Zionist Congress, held at Carlsbad in September 1921, passed a notably moderate resolution on relations with `the Arab people in Palestine’ which called for the transformation of `our common homeland into a flourishing community that will assure both peoples’ unhampered national development.’ Weizmann acceded to Samuel’s wish to meet members of the Palestinian Arab Delegation, which travelled to London in 1921 to press for the abrogation of the Balfour Declaration and the abolition of the Jewish National Home. Such a meeting took place at the Colonial Office in November 1921. The discussion was, however, completely unproductive. Weizmann did not form the same respect for these interlocutors that he had had for the Emir Faisal as a result of their meetings in 1918 and 1919: in a letter to his wife in August 1921 he refers to the Arab Delegation as ‘that trash.’ The letters in this volume reveal that Weizmann authorized the secret disbursement of funds to facilitate two further Zionist expedients for dealing with the problem of Arab opposition: bribery of Arab notables, and the purchase of arms for the fledgling Haganah, the semi-underground defense force established by the Tishuv in 1920.
The letters in this volume afford a striking illustration of the extent to which Weizmann’s political outlook was suffused by a concern for Jewish cultural values. The longest letter hardly relates to politics at all, but to the Jewish educational system in Palestine. Weizmann writes penetratingly of the psychological problems of adaptation faced by Jewish teachers who went from Russia to Palestine:
‘The Jew in Russia is cut off from the great stream of real facts always strives to become a university professor because the career which make up the life of a normal community. The Russian Jew of a chimney sweep is closed to him […] He lives in a world of thoughts and sentiments which revolve round himself. The Jew reproduces himself always, and creates values out of his own inner existence detached from nature surrounding him. He becomes self-centred and learns to consider the world outside as a medium averse to the existence of the Jew. This produces an intellectual type who is as weltfremd, as devoid of a sense of reality, as was the type of the old Jew who lived only within the walls of the moral and material Ghetto which was constructed round him.’
It was because Weizmann believed the ultimate justification of Zionism to lie in the liberation of the Jew from the social and psychological detritus of the ghetto that he laid such stress on the foundation of a radically new system of Hebrew education in Palestine. Of this the crown was to be the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, plans for which gradually moved towards realization during these years.
These letters chronicle a period of almost continuous crisis for the Zionist movement. The crushing personal burden of responsibility imposed upon Weizmann created almost intolerable strains which occasionally led him to think of throwing up politics altogether and retiring to his laboratory. The ‘combination of intellectual maturity Encount and emotional instability’ which Richard Crossman remarks in his essay on the young Weizmann remains evident in these letters written when Weizmann was aged forty-five and forty-six. But if Weizmann often seems over-imperious, self-pitying, hyper-sensitive, too ready to impute impure motives to his enemies, he also emerges as a man who can be sentimental, eloquent, warm-hearted, relentless but realistic in his diplomacy, by turns uncompromising and conciliatory in Zionist politics, a loyal son, an attentive father, the `Exilarch’ of Jewry, as Sir Isaiah Berlin has described him. Weizmann’s letters of this period constitute the state papers of a people without a state. They relate a history of tremendous political creativity; but they also form an archive of the frustrations and torment inherent in the leadership of a revolutionary movement.