Norman and Helen Bentwich Reminisce: 'Their
Book a Valuable Addendum to Israel's History
Few are as well equipped with background material to describe
the era of British rule in Palestine as are the Bentwiches.
That is why "Mandate Memories 19184948 — From the Balfour
Declaration to the Establishment of Israel," by Norman and Helen
Bentwich, published by Schocken Books (67 Park, NY 16), is so vitally
knportant as part of the history of Israel.
The Bentwich reminiscences have additional special merit: this
volume is a valuable supplement to Leonard Stein's monumental his-
tory of the Balfour Declaration.
"Mandate Memories" deals with events and personalities, and it
makes comments on Zionism and Zionist leaders which may be to the
dislike of some who played historic roles in Israel's rebirth, yet the
opinions are of great aid in developing the histories of both Israel
While some of the Zionist attitudes undergo criticism in this
joint work by the former attorney general of Palestine and his
wife, their combined effort in dealing with the mandatory era in
Palestine does not whitewash the British. The truth is told about
many of the British officials who were anti-Semitic, and those
with a sense of fairness are given due credit for their labors in
behalf of what they had hoped might be a peaceful Palestine.
While reviewing the activities of the British High Commissioners
of Palestine, the Bentwiches also review the roles of the Arab leaders
and describe the Arab opposition to Zionism.
There are only warm feelings for the first high commissioner,
Sir Herbert Samuel. General Sir Arthur Wauchope is highly com-
mended but the era that followed his commissionership, starting with
Sir Harold Macmichael in 1938, is viewed as "turbulent." About Mac-
michael Bentwich writes:
"He failed to win the personal friendship of the Zionist Leaders.
Dr. Judah Magnes, who, in the eyes of the leading Jews, held heretical
views about Jewish-Arab-English relations, was the only Jew outside
government to enjoy his confidence. At my first talk with him he
complained that the Jews treated him just as a civil servant, one of
many bureaucrats in the country, while authority for them lay with
the Executive Committee of the Jewish Agency."
The manner in which "the cup of bitterness" was filled against
the British during the sinking of the Patria with 750 people who
sought refuge in Israel and who were declared to be "illegal"
immigrants is described in the detailing of that stormy war period.
"Yet," Bentwich declares, "in the gravest crisis of the war in the
Middle East 1942, when Rommel threatened to occupy Egypt and
advance on Palestine and Syria, an agreement was made between
Hagana and the British Middle East headquarters, for arming and
training the Hagana groups to be an underground resistance force.
Moshe Dayan, later one of the heroes of the War of Independence,
who had been imprisoned by the British authorities for illegal
drilling, volunteered for service against the Vichy French in Syria;
and lost an eye and a finger in the campaign."
The era of anti-Zionism in British colonial and foreign office ranks,
and the early days of harsh policies restricting Jewish immigration,
also is under scrutiny, and Bentwich relates about the struggle against
the prejudices of Ernest Bevin and the attitude of the Labor Party
under his domination. He tells inter alia:
"Harold Laski, one of the brains of the Labor
Party, uses his influence with the Prime Minister
and the Foreign Secretary, Arthur Henderson, to
secure a partial reversal of the policy. While he
was a student at _Oxford. Laski wrote an essay on
the Jewish problem: 'I cherish love for the Jewish
nation because I believe its continuance is necessary
to the existence of civilization.' The Hitler persecu-
tion 20 years later. brough", a deepening of his sym-
pathy for his people. The Jews were the first
victims of the counter-revolution. and anti-Semitism
was the loathsome instrument of the counter-
revolution. And for the rest of his life he was
a stout friend and fighter for the Zionist cause."
Mrs. Bentwich, whose excerpts from her diary are inter-
spersed throughout this book, tells of the difficulties that were
encountered by her husband. She describes his serious efforts to
retain a balance, to retain friendships with the British while not
sacrificing the Zionist ideal, and during the sad days of the Arab
rioting she recalls: "The Jews are now turning against Norman
because some of the Arab rioters have been let off by the Court.
They can't forgive ' us for being English, any more than the British
can forgive us for being Jews. It's a hard world!" Indeed, theirs
was a hard lot, but while being a loyal British official Bentwich
was always the dedicated Jew.
A determined high commissioner, Chancellor, functioned during
the 1929 riots. According to Mrs. Bentwich:
"Chancellor's pronouncements have shown that he is being firm,
but make the anti-Jewish officials say 'poor Arabs.' One bad thing
the government did during the riots was publicly to disarm the British
Jews who had enrolled as special constables, with the feeble pretext
that the Arabs and the auxiliary had asked that this should be done.
Jose, Norman's brother, was one of those disarmed."
A better understanding is acquired of the Arab opposition from
a reading of the Bentwich accounts. The reader will learn much here
about the Grand Mufti Haj Amin el Husseine who was intimately
acquainted with the Bentwiches because of the attorney general's
important role in the mandatory government.
Describing the debates at the United Nations during Israel's re-
birth and the Arab war waged on Israel in March and April of 1948,
Bentwich refers to the proposal at the UN of a
temporary trusteeship over Palestine. "It was soon
recognized that that was baying for the moon,"
Bentwich writes. "Then Dean Rusk (later Secretary:,:,
of State), at that time in the State Department,
prepared an agreement for a truce in Jerusalen
which, had it been adopted by Arabs and Jews, ,
would have meant a postponement of Israel's decla-
ration of independence."
He tells how the Rusk proposal was rejected
by the Jewish National Administration, describes
the secret meeting of Friday afternoon, May 14, in
Tel Aviv, and the declaration of Israel's statehood. Rusk
An interesting incident is told about Menahem Ussishkin, the
head of the Jewish National Fund, and Sir Ronald Storrs, then
Reminiscences . Piety
Abused by Vile Zealotry
Governor of Jerusalem: "An amusing encounter on the speaking
of Hebrew took place between the Ussishkin one evening, when
we were attending a concert with Storrs. Ussishkin, who was
sitting behind us, was a passionate Zionist from Russia, lacking
the diplomatic talent of Weizmann. He was speaking Russian to
his companion, and Storrs turned to him: `Mr. Ussishkin, Rak
Ivrit."It is not the Russian language we mind, but the English,'
replied Ussishkin. `And it's not the Hebrew language we mind,
but the Russian,' retorted Storrs. Russia was then the `bogey-man'
of the Middle East."
There is one other incident worth quoting from the Bentwich
record. It is about Adolph Ochs. Bentwich reports about an occurrence
"The tourist season is in full swing. Mr. Ochs,
ju dias ,:.
is keen on Reform
family m to
ism and an anti-Zionist, being afraid that Zionism
might interfere with the position of American
zens. We had to meet him Rabbi Meir, the Chief--
Rabbi of the Sephardic Jews, a most enlghtenedf_.---- :
person. Ochs asked him what he would say if a
Reform synagogue were to be started in Jerusalem,
and the Rabbi replied: 'Why not?' Ochs then asked
him what they would say if they prayed in English:
and the Rabbi quoted from the Talmud: 'It is better
to pray in one's own language than not to pray
at all.' "
Chaim Weizmann comes in for praise and for appreciation for
his diplomatic skill and hisdevoted Zionist efforts.
There are interesting evaluations of the legal system in pre-Israel
Palestine and the spirit of British law is hailed also as being the spirit
of Hebraic law, and Bentwich asserts:
"It has been said that the English Common Law and Equity
reflect the character of the English and American gentleman, which
they have helped to mould. They continue to mould the character of
the Israelis. 'The Bible and Blackstone, on this rock shall they build
who work for an enduring project of friendship between England and
Indeed, a main effort in this work is to cement such a friendship,
and both Bentwiches performed remarkably well — both in encourag-
ing such amity and in evaluating the events which made history in
Palestine, leading to creation of Israel.
A Judaism Council in Sanctimonious Garb
A few weeks ago, a rabbi representing the extremist elements
led a group of his followers through some areas of Israel. To him
and his group there is no Israel. Perhaps he still calls it Palestine.
It is to them, indeed, the holy land—uncapitalized. They don't. rec-
ognize Israel. But they were not treated as enemies. While in Israel
they made certain there was no flag suggesting an Israeli state, they
would not speak with anyone in authority. But authority treated them
with respect, made certain there were no incidents, permitted them
to travel as if they were citizens in a domain all their own.
But one of them didn't like a report about their trip in the New
York Times and he wrote this letter which appeared in the Times
on July 20:
To the Editor:
In reporting the arrival of Rabbi Joel Teitelbaum in Jerusa-
lem. The Times (June 30) referred to the Jewish masses
participating in the reception as "ultra-Orthodox." It was not
mentioned that this is the Chief Rabbi of the independent orthodox
community of Jerusalem. Rather he was described as merely
the spiritual head of the "extreme Neturei 'Carta sect."
Due to the dominating influence of Zionist sources in the
reporting of Jewish news in the American press, such terminology
and characterization have become the rule rather than the
exception. Some facts may help to shed light on the actual
Grand Rabbi Teitelbaum is not just the head of a few thou-
sand "extremists" but—besides being the orthodox Chief Rabbi
of Jerusalem—is the president of the Central Rabbinical Congress
of the U.S. and Canada, which counts among its members more
than 200 well-known and highly respected rabbis throughout North
Their congregations have tens of thousands of members, their
yeshivas and schools equally large numbers of students (one
school in Brooklyn alone has 4,200 pupils). Hundreds of thousands
of Jews in all parts of the world look to Rabbi Teitelbaum as
their spiritual leader.
Among these so-called "zealots" and "fanatics" one can find
college professors and scientists, writers and philosophers, in-
dustrialists and businessmen.
What is much more important is the fact that Rabbi Teitel-
baum's opposition to the state of Israel is not an isolated opinion
but is shared by the rabbis of the Central Rabbinical Congress
and many others.
The state of Israel, the fruit and the embodiment of political
Zionism, in the opinion of all these rabbis and Jews, constitutes
a complete distortion and falsification of the most fundamental
Jewish beliefs and ideals. It is for this reason that these Jews
do not participate in the parliamentary elections in Israel.
(Rabbi) S. M. BERSOWITS
Central Rabbinical Congress
of the U.S.A. and Canada
Brooklyn, July 7, 1965
What an amazing revelation ! The truly pious undoubtedly sat
disgraced by such shamelessness. We often hear of abuses by a
Council for Judaism, but this surpasses the Judaists. It is the Judaism
Council in a new sanctimonious garb. It is the Council for Judaism
in kapotes and beards, without respect either for the kapote or beard.
But they are so few ! Yet even the few can cause trouble—especially
when they present their case of hatred and bias to a non-Jewish world.
Just imagine—pious Jews who three times a day recite in
their prayers: "May our eyes behold a return unto Zion with
mercy," boasting about "opposition to the State of Israel!"
We wonder who were the laughing stock for the many of the
As Crux of Agency
Needs in Israel
Ey JOSHUA H. JUSTMAN
(Chief JTA Correspondent in Israel)
(Copyright, 1965, JTA, Inc.)
JERUSALEM — Aryeh L. Pin-
cus, who has been elected acting
chairman of the Jewish Agency
executive in Jerusalem, replacing
the late Moshe Sharett, told us:
"I hope I can proceed in the direc-
tion of the progress set by
Sharett," he said. However, the
fact that his election was a unani-
mous one, seems to indicate that
there was little doubt about his
capacity to fill the post.
Pincus, now 53, came to Israel
in 1948 from South Africa, where
he was a successful lawyer. Over
the years, he held here high
government positions and, for a
number of years, also was manag-
ing director of Israel's Natio
Airlines, El AI. In 1960 he
named treasurer of the Je
Agency executive, a post which
continues to hold.
He is a man of action, but far
from being concerned with merely
dry facts and figures. There is
nothing that angers him more than
the inverted commas in which the
word Zionism is nowadays being
put by some. The establishment of
the State of Israel — he insists--
by no means signified the end to
Zionism; the State of Israel is an
instrument for the realization of
the Zionist ideal.
Pincus also firmly believes that
there can be immigration froro. the
Western countries on a scale much
larger than at present. It is the
task of the Zionist movement, he
insists, to imbue at least part of
those living in the countries of af-
fluence with the consciousness of
their historical and moral duty to
physically participate in the build-
ing of Israel. It has to be pre-
sented, he says, as an intellectual
challenge. There has to be a
strengthening of the awareness of
the oneness of the Jewish people
and of the fact of Israel's cen-
When we asked Pincus what was
the major task presently confront-
ing the Agency, he had no diffi-
culty in pointing it out: Absorption.
This, he said, was the major task
confronting the State of Israel. In
the past four years, about a quar-
ter of a million imimgrants came
to Israel — almost all destitute.
Absorption does not mean only
housing. The task is one of inte-
gration, of creating a homogeneous
community — the danger of hay-
ing "two Israels" is not just s
slogan; it has become a stark and
Chiefly, this is a financial prob-
lem and, we believe, says Pin-
cus, that we are entitled to expect
the Jewish communities in the
world to supply us with sufficient
means to meet these urgent and
vital needs. Over the next four
years we expect a b out 200,000
more immigrants to c o m e, and
they too will not be from the
countries of affluence. The prob-
lem is not merely one of meeting
the increasing cost involved in
briniging these immigrants to the
shores of Israel — it is one of the
whole process of absorption.
Crowds Cheer Eshkol
on Visit to Beersheba
BEERSHEBA (JTA) — Premier
Levi Eshkol, cheered by thousands
of Beersheba citizens on a visit,
declared that high school educa-
tion would soon be free, and that
the city would soon get a universi-
The Premier came to Beersheba
for a ceremony in City Hail at
which he was given freedom of
the city. He said he had received
similar honor from many munici,
palitles, but valued that of seer%
sheba the most. He said the Israel
government was constantly en-
gaged in development of the Negev..
Beersheba is the capital of the
Times non-Jewish readers: the handful of fanatics for whom a preju-
diced rabbi spoke so bitterly or the mass of Jews everywhere who THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS
were disgraced by the handful of their kinsmen?
2—Friday, August 13, 1965