Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver Speech to the United Nations
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Without the tireless efforts of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, spiritual leader of The Temple-Tifereth Israel for 46 years, there might not be the State of Israel. His brilliant oratory at the United Nations as chairman of the American Section of the Jewish Agency and his persistent lobbying of key political figures were crucial to the UN passing a measure in November 1947 to partition Palestine and establish a Jewish state. Read a transcript of his speech now:
The Jewish agency had indicated and that it is now ready through its authorized spokesman the member of this delegation to make this statement which they have been invited to make by decision of the Assembly. I would suggest to the committee that it might be desirable to hear that statement now.
No member of the committee objects to that procedure.
At the end of that statement it may be that some member of the committee or members of the Committee may wish to address oral questions to the representative of the Jewish Agency, to the spokesman of the Jewish Agency on points arising out of that statement, and when those questions are dealt with, then the committee will proceed.
On its discussion on this item on the agenda and there are several Members on the list to speak. There's no objection. Then we will ask the spokesman of the Jewish Agency for Palestine and his colleagues to take their place around the table.
Permit me at the outset to thank the Assembly of the United Nations for granting the Jewish Agency for Palestine a hearing. On the question which is before this committee we are grateful for the opportunity to take counsel with you in the matter of constituting and instructing a special committee of this body which is to study the problem of Palestine and which is to bring in recommendations for the future government of that country.
We trust that our participation in these deliberations will be helpful and will prove to be a contribution to the justice solution of this grave international problem which this international community is now earnestly seeking.
Such a successful solution will prove a blessing not only to Palestine and all of its inhabitants to the Jewish people, to the cause of World Peace, but it will also enhance the moral authority and prestige of this great organization for world justice and peace upon which so many high hopes of mankind now rest.
To treat the Palestine problem as if it were one of merely reconciling the differences between 2 sections of the population presently inhabiting the country or finding a haven for a certain number of refugees and displaced persons will only contribute to confusion, the mandate in its preamble recognizes the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the grounds for reconstituting, I call your attention to the word reconstituting their national home in that country.
These international commitments of 1/4 of a century ago which flowed from the recognition of historic rights and of present needs and upon which so much has already been built in Palestine by the Jewish people cannot now be erased. You cannot turn back the hands of the clock of history.
Certainly the United Nations, guided by its great principle, proclaimed in its Charter to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained.
Certainly the United Nations can never sanction the violation of treaties and of international law. It should of course be clear, and I regret that statements made by certain delegates in recent days have tended to confuse what should be clear.
But when we speak of a Jewish state, we do not have in mind any racial state or any theocratic state but one which will be based upon fully equality and rights for all inhabitants, without distinction of religion or race, and without domination or subjugation.
When your committee of inquiry will come to consider proposals for the future government of Palestine, this inescapable and irreducible, the international obligation to ensure the continuous development of the Jewish national home should be kept, in our judgment, constantly in mind.
I believe that the committee of Inquiry should most certainly visit Palestine. Written documents are important. Were infinitely more instructive are the living documents - the visible testimony of creative effort and achievement.
In Palestine they will see what the Jewish people, inspired by the hope of reconstituting their national home after the long, weary centuries of their homelessness and relying upon the honor and the pledged word of the world community has achieved in a few short years against great odds and seemingly insurmountable physical handicaps.
The task was enormous. Untrained hands. Inadequate means overwhelming difficulties. The land was stripped and poor, neglected through the centuries and the period of building took place between two disastrous world wars, when European Jewry was shattered and impoverished.
Nevertheless the record of pioneering achievement of the Jewish people in Palestine has received the acclaim of the entire world and what was built there with social vision and high human idealism as proved a blessing, we believe not only to the Jews of Palestine but to the Arabs and to other non Jewish communities as well.
The Jewish people places great hope upon the outcome of the deliberations of this great body. It has faith in its collective sense of justice and fairness and in the high ideals which inspire it.
We are an ancient people and though we have often on the long, hard road which we have traveled, been disillusioned, we have never been disheartened.
We have never lost faith in the sovereignty and the ultimate triumph of great moral principles.
The Jewish people belongs in this Society of Nations. Surely the Jewish people is no less deserving than other people's, whose national freedom and independence have been established and whose representatives are now seated here.
The Jewish people were your allies in the war and joined their sacrifices to yours to achieve a common victory.
We hope the black people now rebuilding again its national life and its ancient homeland, we will be welcomed before long by you to this noble fellowship of the United Nations.