Palestine: An Impasse?

"The two enemies of peace in the Holy Land are fanaticism and fear."

Let us suppose this economic difficulty surmounted. Note simply that, to accomplish this, the settlements must have every advantage, including the intensive application of modern methods, the spread of electric power and motor roads. Industry must be developed wherever possible, with a sprinkling of small shops and factories. The landscape of Palestine, already marred, must take the consequences.

Let us leave out of account also the dismaying difference in temper and spirit between the newer immigrants from Eastern Europe and the older Jewish residents, the fifty-five thousand Jews of the pre-war period and the devoted Zionist pioneers. One must speak here from impressions, since there are no statistics of the hearts of men. To me it appeared that the new arrivals are commonly devoid of religion except the social gospels of the oppressed; that they hope much from the future, but are free from sentimental attachment to the past, whether Jewish or other. In that ill-omened march to the Wailing Wall of a year ago, they carried, not the means of worship, but the Zionist flag! If the soil has any sacredness to the piety of Moslem, Jew, or Christian, they show but a subconscious awareness of it, and are ready to disfigure Palestine unconcernedly with the marks of a Western experimental civilization. Their hope is to enrich the world by demonstrating some advantageous novelty in social order, education, literature, drama.  Zionism will be justified, they think, in proportion as it hastens to 'contribute.' It is no light task to make these emancipated spirits into a moral unity with those who see that Zionism is justified in Palestine only for those to whom Palestine is a holy land.

But let us suppose this task also accomplished. There remains the social-political side of a truly national home. This side is essential—perhaps from the psychological point of view the chief essential; for of all the human functions it is just this one of running his own nation of which the Jew, whose genius is the Law, has in his dispersion most keenly felt himself deprived. And it is just this side which in Palestine is most demonstrably incapable of achievement.

For how can the social and political spirit of any people express itself without a connected community, and without that community under its own control?

Physically speaking, Zion in Palestine is a dappling of separate settlements, interspersed with far greater numbers and areas of alien elements. Further land purchases on a large scale might mend to some extent this physical brokenness. But when will a Jew be able to stand on any hill in Palestine and say of the land in sight, 'This is ours'? Not until the 660,000 Moslems and 80,000 Christians are required to cede the ground. With four Moslems to one Jew, and the Moslems not inclined to go, what can happen? Double the number of Jews: the Moslems are still two to one. Give the Jews all the good land: the Moslems are still all about, on the hillsides and in the rocky pastures. The Jews remain a physically scattered minority.

But what of that? This group of detached patches on the map has already a unified political life of its own. There is an official Jewish Community, with powers of taxing and making rules for its own voluntary membership; there are Jewish representative bodies, organs of national thought and will. Can we not imagine this complex but lively organization a budding political entity, and the present Government of Palestine a temporary protecting mantle, to be withdrawn as the new state-within-a-state gains in numbers, consistency, and strength? The land would thus quietly come under Jewish control, either as an independent state or as a ‘Seventh Dominion;’ and Jews would then begin to enjoy a fully responsible political experience.

One would prefer to believe that there are no longer any well-informed Zionists so far deluded by an inexorable wish as to cherish this impossible expectation. For it remains the elementary truth of the situation that until the inconceivable happens—that Moslems and Christians, through consent or through force, accept the right of the Jews to make laws for all—the Zionist Community must remain under a major law which it does not make, and accept a military protection which it does not provide. And indeed the leaders of the movement, in view of this crucial discord between the logic of the facts and the logic of their ideal, have for the most part, after some natural hesitation, resigned the near prospect of political control, preferring to forget the ominous words of Dr. Weizmann about 'making Palestine as Jewish as England is English,' and proposing some intermediate objective.

Some would aim at parity in numbers with the Moslems, reasonably assuming that this would mean a preponderance of political influence. Others, like Mr. Harry Sacher of the Zionist Executive, would hope ultimately for a Jewish majority. There are some who would cantonize Palestine, making, say, six Jewish, seven Moslem, and three Christian cantons—in a country two thirds the size of Switzerland, or nearly the same as Vermont. Jewish cantons would naturally be drawn about existing Jewish centres in the best land, the Northern and Southern Plain of Sharon, the Valley of Jezreel, Upper Galilee,—and by the subtle coercion of bringing contiguous Arab land under Jewish rule would tend to complete Jewish ownership within the canton boundaries. On the other hand, the all-or-none spirit of the canton would lead to the presumption of unwelcome for Jews in the non-Jewish cantons; and Jerusalem would resist cantonization. These halfway measures all lack the essential political virtue of national control; and their proposers do not too closely ask themselves the question of Solomon, whether such a half of the Zionist infant would have as much as half the value of the whole child.

They continue to interest themselves in those partial goals, I believe, because the logic of the Zionist conception continues to work in them; and this logic makes for a Jewish Palestine. It shows itself most widely in the arguments by which Zionists assert their right in Palestine. For any argument based on historic possession or on a di vine mission is logically a claim to the whole land. The voice of religious orthodoxy is explicit: 'The sins of Israel have brought about the loss of their independence as a nation, of their land and Temple. But the Divine decree that ordered the exile of our nation has also promised the restoration of Israel.' The more philosophical statement of the case may be read in The New Palestine:—

The Jews are entering Palestine because they have a right to. They are building a homeland in Palestine because there is an organic indissoluble connection between the identity of the Jewish people and the country from which it was ejected hung ago.

An organic connection is normally complete and exclusive: heart, lungs, and liver cannot well be shared. Once Zion is conceived as a political entity on earth, the consistent Zionist is driven, consciously or subconsciously, to claim not a right in Palestine, but the right to Palestine.

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