Rabbi Isaac M. Lewin, Chairman of Agudath Israel
Speaking Before the United Nations Special Committee On Palestine
Held in Jerusalem, July 10, 1947

from http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/15503B6928DC319885256EB0006D1C9C
...After Chief Rabbi Herzog spoke...

CHAIRMAN: I recognize Rabbi I. M. Lewin (CHAIRMAN of Agudath Israel). (Rabbi Lewin spoke in Hebrew.)

Rabbi I. M. Lewin: In the name of World and Palestine Agudath Israel, I wish to welcome you here and say how much we all hope that you may succeed in your task.

I think this is a first and unique event in history of representatives of fifty-five nations organized in the United Nations having come to the Holy Land, to Jerusalem, in order to hold an enquiry into the question of Palestine and of the Jewish People.

We appear before you as the representatives of independent orthodox Jewry organized in Agudath Israel in Palestine and all over the world.

It is our view that Divine Torah alone forms the eternal constitution of the Jewish people, and that it, and it alone serves as the foundation and essence of the existence of the Jewish people as the nation of the Lord; that Torah alone is the soul and backbone of that nation, and that whatever is formative in Palestine and within the Jewish people can be of lasting value and can have a right of existence only inasmuch as it is connected with and flowing from, the Almighty's Torah.

This, our view, presents an unbroken tradition of about 3,000 years, one that has forever been absolutely based on the Bible and its teachings, both written and oral, and that is independent and uninfluenced from any other spiritual foundation. In making this short address to you, I should like to assist you in solving the difficult problem in connection with which you have come here from this our point of view.

First of all: we declare the following to be our main aspiration, in which we feel united with the entire Jewish people.

The land of Israel and the People of Israel form one complete entity forever inseparable. In practice we demand, therefore, that the gates of the Holy Land be opened to all Jews wishing to come here; that the absorptive capacity of the Land be developed to the only possible limit; and that a political regime be established capable of guaranteeing free immigration, the development of the country and exploitation to the full of its absorptive capacity.

You have been able to ascertain details of our demands in the memorandum which we have submitted to the Committee.

This demand of ours we hold to be dictated by justice and morality, and I should like to state reasons for my assertion. You will, gentlemen, before going deeper into your assignment, have to clear your minds on the question as to the essential meaning of what we call the "Jewish People."

May I, as a son of an old people, speak to you in a language as peculiarly singular as the People of Israel.

In 2,000 years this people has been wandering over the face of the earth and has failed to find a resting place under its feet; it has undergone the most hellish and inhuman sufferings and has been tossed about the wheels of nations, rulers, governments, regimes and parties.

The forms of war against the Jews have been varied, and evil plans, campaigns and persecutions have incessantly changed: but the People of Israel has preserved its life and existence outliving its torturers and persecutors who have vanished from the arena of History. You can destroy or assimilate large parts, but no power in the world can liquidate it or bring into oblivion the living memory of its past.

Since mankind split into nations, when the world turned against its Creator, the war of man against man has started. Then rose Abraham our Father and demonstrated that there is a Divine Leader guiding the world. It was Abraham our Father who revealed to the world its Creator, who brought the Lord's message to mankind. To him the Lord promised that he should be father of that Israel, which was to fulfil a sacred destiny: "You are my witnesses, saith the Lord." "This people I have created that they shall tell my glory"; who shall go through History as the Lord's nation and demonstrate in their very being and existence that there is a Creator unto this world.

It has thus been the destiny of Israel to realize in its life those great ethical principles laid down in the Torah and the messages of its Prophets.

By far the greater part of the Torah's precepts depends for realization on active settlement in the Land of Israel. In the Land of Israel, and nowhere else, can Israel fulfil the mighty mission with which the Almighty has entrusted it.

The land of Israel was promised to the first Jew, to Abraham our Father; and from the day on which the Lord spoke: "For all the land which thou seest, to thee and to thy seed shall I give it until eternity," there has been woven an eternal connexion between the people of Israel and its Lord.

In the Torah, in the Prophets, and in the words of our sages the idea finds forever recurring expression, that the final destiny of the land of Israel as the Land of the Lord, and the destiny of Israel as the People of the Lord, which become realized only when joined together, when both shall be bound to the Creator of Heaven and Earth.

In this Land alone it is given to the Jew to reach spiritual elevation and completion. Here men of Israel have reached the extreme light of human achievement: Prophecy. Here the Prophets have seen their visions. The air of this our land our great teachers of the Law have breathed, those giant leaders of the People of Israel, those greatest of its holy men.

That connexion of the Jewish people with Palestine has remained unbroken also after our people's expulsion from its soil by the Romans. There have at all times been Jews who left the comfort, or comparative comfort, of the countries of their dispersion and in often immediate danger of life flocked to Jewish Land, land that was waste and utterly destitute. The degree of Israel's loyalty to its land was reflected in the land's loyalty to its people. Not a single one of the country's conquerors throughout past centuries succeeded in returning to blossom the land's destitution. The Torah's words: "And your enemies shall be waste on it," was literally fulfilled. The land refused its yield to the stranger. The people of the Diaspora was become barren in the distance, longing and yearning for the land; and the land remained barren, longing for its sons.

On your recent tour you have seen with your own eyes the great wonder: the barrenness of parts of this land uninhabited by Jews, and blossoming freshness wherever the Jew has grown attached in love, sacrifice, and devotion, to the soil of the land. May, that this miraculous sight before your eyes shall become living evidence and manifest proof of the metaphysical connexion linking Israel with the Land of Israel, a connexion imprinted by the Divine Creator from the days of Abraham to the end of Messianic days.

In the course of 2,000 years of dispersion we have been persecuted to unending lengths, but these two treasures: the Lord's Torah and the Lord's Land we have never forgotten.

The Jew's love of his land knows no limits; it suffers no comparison with what is called love of country. In his land the Jew sees not merely the land of his birth but land hallowed by the Divine Creator, the cradle of prophecy chosen by Him and whereon rest the eyes of the Lord your Lord from the beginning of the year to the end of the year.

From the moment of his birth to 'his departure from the world, in all his thoughts and contemplations, during his meals, in his hour of mourning and of joy, the Jew raises the land of Israel to his lips in prayer for his return to the Land. "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget" is the oath we have taken, and the very course of our history speaks out to the fact that not for a single moment have we forgotten the Land of Israel.

The settlement of Palestine stands out in the commandments of the Law of Torah. And ever since the beginning of our dispersion settlement has never ceased. Every stone, plant, each grain of sand of our land has been dear and hallowed to us for the love of people and land is in truth a divine inspiration forever present in the soul of every Jew.

It is, then, only natural that we can imagine the nation's existence in its land on no other but the Torah's foundations.

A well-known statesman .".has :said that there is a war going on between Jews and Gentiles. We cannot, with regret, admit this. There has been and still is going on a wholly one-sided war against the Jew. As I have stressed before, that war is being conducted in many different forms and for various excuses. That war runs like a red line throughout history from Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezar, Haman, Titus, Torquemada, Chamilnitzki, up to Hitler. How many are the persecutions run over our heads, and why should we have been so persecuted?

Are not we all sons of one father, has not one God created us all?

Have we not brought to the world the recognition of God? How many are the values of goodness, truth, magnificence, righteousness and justice which the nations have accepted at the hand of this most ancient of their number? Why, then, are we persecuted?

Our answer to all this is: whenever the forces of evil have risen in rebellion against the Creator of the world they have spent their ire against this people, the People of Israel; their hatred against Israel sprang from a hatred against the preachings of Torah, the visions of the Prophets.

You have come here in the name of the United Nations. In your own time the disaster occurred. We should be in need today of an Isaiah, a Jeremiah, to pronounce their probation against the nations.

We are sustained by knowledge of a Lord, the Leader of Creation. We are persuaded that no amount of suffering and cruelty is ever lost; that the sufferings of our people through thousands of years are summed up in one total account. There is justice and there is a judge in this World. But what happened during the years 1940-1945 is unprecedented in the annals of world history.

It may appear boring to reopen the chapter of the destruction of six million Jews, but we cannot help repeating and again repeating the subject; six million Jews have perished. Europe's Jewry has been put to destruction.

The slaughter took place in Poland. It was my privilege to have been one of Poland's three million Jews. They stand in front of my eyes. Every one of them a world to himself, a heavy treasure of Torah and life's wisdom. We look about forlorn for one-third of our people, but in quality by far the most important part.

Europe once contained the reservoir of our people, the brain and heart of world Jewry. But all that has vanished from the face of the earth, vanished in the most cruel and most horrible deaths, the victims of unrivalled sadism and evil ingenuity. Old and young burned alive.

I lived in Poland. I lived the life a Jew lived there. I was brought up on the principles of faithful Judaism. I lived among my people, my family. My brothers and sisters were done away. Three of my beloved grandchildren were burned together with all the other children of Israel 'in all one a half million Jewish children, innocent and ignorant of sin, of whom every one might have become the pride of our people and of mankind.

I am one of those who as if by miracle was saved from the wide-open jaws of the monster. I do not know why I of all should have been privileged to escape the fire that enveloped us all in the crematories of Trablynka and Auschwitz, or is it that I should be their messenger to bring their cries before you?

We, of Agudath Israel, have suffered perhaps the greatest losses. The best of our leaders and friends arc no more.

Six million Jewish souls stand crying before you, their blood storms and cannot find rest; it moves the very foundations of the universe. One an a half million children! When has the world heard of such a like? When has such war happened? Can you at all imagine the meaning of these words? One and a half million dear children, whose hands we were not allowed to kiss before they ascended to the flames to be burnt alive in the ovens. How can mankind, how can any human being stand such unimaginable sadism.

And how they went from us? In sanctifying His great name, in speaking thus to their oppressors: You may destroy our bodies, but never our souls! Their blood continues to storm and shake the foundations of all living. World, world, where art thou? And through you may I ask the world: Where is their conscience?

Truly, the freedom-loving nations fought Hitler, but not our fight. Hitler's fight against the Jews preceded the World War by five years. Hitler sent up experimental balloons to find out how far the world was prepared to let him go in his evil. When in 1939 the refugee vessel "St. Louis" with her 700 Jewish passengers on : board was cruising the seas, there was not a ? single country, including America, that was ready to accept the Jews, to the accompaniment of Hitler's barbaric laughter. Having accomplished minor "action," that is to say, slaughter of Jews on a small scale, before the j eyes of a silent world, he proceeded to larger "action." Again the world was silent. And so at last he continued on his path of insane cruelty to the work of most awful destruction the world has ever witnessed.

I do not propose to put before you here facts showing how Jews might have been saved, and a world stood by our blood motionless.

While the White Paper bears undoubtedly a great share in the responsibility for inactivity in the rescue of Jews, the world at large, and particularly the great Powers, cannot be freed from answering this charge.

We do not feel ourselves sitting in the dock. Permit me to say that it might be more rightful to place in it all those who must accept responsibility for the destruction of our people.

We cannot believe that in any natural way it will be possible to comfort us and to find a substitute for our disaster, for the loss of six million brothers. What then is the problem?

There have remained alive one and a haft million Jews who have escaped destruction. Jews have no longer any place in the world. They must therefore be enabled to return home, to the land of their fathers. You will have to visit the camps yourselves, see their position, find out what has happened, what is there still to be seen. You will then convince yourselves that Jews no longer can nor want to stay in the European graveyard. They simply cannot go on living where their families and everything dearest to them was murdered. In a part of those camps which Hitler had set up for them, complete with barbed wire, these our unfortunate' brothers continue living an imprisoned life within a world liberated two years ago.

You have toured the country. You have seen wonderful cities and flourishing settlements. All this could have been worked only by that enormous love for Eretz-Israel. Beginning with die so-called "Old Yishuv" who had maintained Jewish settlement in past generations, those orthodox Jews who became the founders of Petah Tiqvah, the mother of our settlements, and j others more, from all those who laid the foundation for the modern Yishuv, right down to our contemporary builders, who with the sweat of their brows moistened the desert land and transformed it into the greenery of settled land. You have also seen the destitution awaiting hands, awaiting its builder sons. The land awaiting the Jews, the Jews expectant for the land: how can their reunion be stopped?

The Jews have become mere remnants, one in a town, two in a family, having lost their dearest and nearest, and whose only desire is to come up to the Land of Israel and kiss its stones: how can one deprive them of this?

Here, within the Yishuv itself, there is not a house where there is not one dead. And should there have been left a survivor in the dispersion whose only longing is for coming here and joining his family, and his family here aching for the last survivor of its house; how can they be kept separated?

We have not stolen a thing from the Arabs. Whatever we took we have dearly paid for. Their standard of living we have raised, we who have gone through exile and have learnt to value the lives of others. The Jewish people wants peace with the Arab people. There is room for us all in this country.

Mending but little the unrighteous done to the people of Israel, there is need for good will, for finding the courage in your hearts to a decisive and energetic step.

The United Nations will be bound, we should think, to brace themselves for really generous action, action that will not merely permit the Jewish people to return to its land, but to aid it in developing the country and settle it.

If you are willed to set mankind on a moral basis, on a basis of justice, the union of nations, and the repair of our world, repair then the great injustice done to the People of the Lord. The Creator, who seeth and observeth the world, what has that world done for His people?

Hitler, starting with the Jews, want to enslave and destroy an entire world. If you wish to help return the world into its joint, you will have to start repairing the injustice done to the Jewish people.

In 1914 the First World War started, and its result was the creation of a "League of Nations." Mankind was then filled with the hope that at last we were approaching disarmament and the brotherhood of nations.

With the world starting to reconstruct the devastation left from the war, the Balfour Declaration was given as a measure of compensation for the sufferings of the Jewish people. Had there been a will to fulfil it in the spirit in which it was given, who knows but that the world might have been saved a renewed outbreak of the flames of war. The Declaration was not materialized, and disarmament turned into preparation for a second World war. We are once again going through all that. The world is trying to rebuild the ruins left by the last war and has organized in the United Nations for the establishment of peace. The world will need the grace of Heaven to prevent itself from falling into the most awful and most deadly of all wars. May the world be privileged of such grace by rendering justice to the Jewish people.

We are fortified and confident in the knowledge that our redemption will be by the Lord, and that we are approaching that redemption.

Just like the days of our exodus from the first exile, the exile of Egypt, through the desert, to the Lord's revelation on Mount Sinai, so are we wandering today through the desert of nations, stepping forth towards Israel's redemption and that of the entire world.

Thus we trust in the Almighty that He may help us!

But the day of reckoning will come and the question go out to the nations of the world: What have you done? Where were you when great parts of the People of the Lord were murdered?

What have you done to repair and make good the terrible evil?

Who will measure the benefit to the nations and to mankind should they be able to give affirmative reply in now doing the first important step on behalf of our suffering people?

An historical feat will have been accomplished, gentlemen, in your assistance towards such aim. May the Almighty help you and stand by you. Thank you.