A Test Case For Humanity

by Albert Einstein (October, 1939)

Einstein wrote the treaties, A Test Case for Humanity in October, 1939. It was first published in a 1944 issue of the Princeton Herald, in reply to an article by Dr. Philip K. Hitti, the Arab scholar. It accurately reflects the title to my book, ISRAEL – Covenant Land, and is hereunder quoted in part:

A Test Case for Humanity

Both Jews and Arabs are said to stem from a common ancestor, from Abraham who immigrated into Canaan, i.e. Palestine, and so neither of them seem to have been earlier in the land than the others. Recent views assume that only part of the Israelites migrated to Egypt – as reflected in the Joseph story – and part of them remained in Palestine. So of the Canaanite population encountered by the Jews when they entered the Promised Land under Joshua were Israelites too. Therefore, the Arabs have no priority on the land.

To the Arabs Jerusalem is only the third holy city, to the Jews it is the first and only holy city, and Palestine is the place where their original history, their sacred history, took place. Besides, to the Arabs Jerusalem is a holy city only insofar as they trace their tradition back to Jewish origins, insofar as after the Arab conquest of Jerusalem in 637, the Omar Mosque, the Dome of the Rock was erected by the Omayyad Caliph Abd el Malek on the very place where the Jewish Ark of the Covenant and the Temple of Solomon had stood, on a rock Even Shetiyah (world foundation stone), which was considered by the Jews as reaching down to the bottom of the cosmic ocean, the navel of the world.

And Jerusalem was a qiblah, a direction of prayer, under Mohammed only as long as he counted on the Jews as the main supporters of his new creed; he changed it, when his hopes failed, together with other institutions established out of pure consideration for his Jewish adherents, as, for instance, the fasting on the Jewish Day of Atonement – both are today abolished in their religious significance.

It seems a little far-fetched to use this abrogated rite as an evidence on which to base the Arab claim to Palestine.

If, finally, the Arab conquest of Palestine is considered holy it would be only fair to admit the corresponding holiness of the peaceful claim and the peaceful reclamation of the country by the Jews. To refer to the legitimacy of a “holy war” sounds rather queer for a people which denounces peaceful immigration as a violation of their rights.

No people, unfortunately, understands why it should contribute anything to the solution of the Jewish problem. The surface of the globe is everywhere occupied, and wherever the Jews could be given a piece of land to live under fair climate conditions, they would encroach on some property rights and sovereignties and would face friction with a population already firmly established on the spot. No country has been found where the Jews could possibly form an autonomous community, however small.

Palestine – Its Religious Foundation and Historic Tradition

There is still one difference between the other peoples and the Arabs. Every people has one country of its own which it developed with all the care of its generations and none of these countries has any connection with a specifically Jewish tradition or concern. The Arabs possess four major countries – Saudi Arabia, which harbours their holy places, Yemen, Iraq and Transjordania – if we leave aside Egypt, which is only partly Arab, Syria and all the North African colonies and provinces as yet not enfranchised from European rule.

And the least and obviously most neglected of their settlements was the part they occupied in the tiny Palestinian country; only nine hundred thousand of fifty million Arabs live there.

This tiny Palestinian country, on the other hand, is the only place in the world legitimately and most deeply connected with the Jewish people, its religious foundation and its historic tradition as an independent people.

In order to clarify the Palestinian problem let us compare the situation of the Jews with that of the Arabs. The Jews are and have always been numerically a small people. They have never exceeded fifteen and a half million.

Deprived of their homeland through the ancient and medieval conquests of Palestine, they lived dispersed all over the world, and what they have suffered since by persecutions, expulsions and tortures of all kinds, are far beyond anything that other peoples had to endure.

Of the fifteen and a half million computed in 1938, at least two millions have been slaughtered or starved to death by the Nazis, in the various European countries during the past few years. So the Zionist movement, or better the striving for a haven in the place of Jewish origin, is by no means an “exotic, artificially stimulated movement” (as Professor Hitti calls it), but a movement urged forward by utter need and distress.

The promise held out to the Jews in the Balfour Declaration after the First World War has been whittled down bit by bit in the course of the British appeasement policy yielding to interests partly British, partly Arabian – a policy bitterly denounced by Mr. Churchill himself before he became Prime Minister.

Palestine is a link in the lifeline of the British Empire between the Near East and India; and the Jewish people, by necessity a dependable ally of the British, have been sacrificed to the Arabs, who, by their numerical and political strength and the trump of the Islam portion of the Indian population, were in a position to sell dearly even their neutrality in the present conflict. The final result has been the complete prohibition of Jewish immigration into Palestine at the very moment when hundreds of thousands of Jews were threatened with annihilation.

Arab and Jewish Needs Compared

This is the Jewish situation; and there is no guarantee whatever against the persistence or recurrence of anti-Semitic outbreaks everywhere after this war. Even if we put aside the spiritual, religious and cultural ties making Palestine the only place in the world which persecuted Jews could consider their home, and develop with all the devotion a homeland inspires–there is not even any other country acceptable to human beings, which the numerous refugee conferences were able to offer to this hounded people. The Jews are prepared for extreme sacrifices and hardest work to convert this narrow strip which is Palestine into a prosperous country and model civilization. What Jewish youth has already achieved in the few decades of Zionist settlement may be gathered from Mr. Lowdermilk’s book.* They took over from the period of Arabian predominance, deserts and rocks and barren soil and turned them into flowing farms and plantations, into forests and modern cities. They created new forms of co-operative settlements and raised the living standard of the Arabian and the Jewish population alike.

The Jews are willing and ready to give any guarantee of protection for the holy places and the civil rights, indeed the autonomy, of Arabs and Christians, a guarantee safeguarded by the overwhelming power of their neighbours, on whose co-operation they depend. They offer their assistance and their experience for the economic and scientific advancement of the Arab countries, for the lifting of the population to a modern standard of living.

But this, unfortunately, is just what the Arab leaders do not want. For the true source of Arab resistance and hostility toward a Jewish Palestine is neither religious nor political, but social and economic. The Arabian population of Palestine is negligible in comparison with the vast number of Arab elements in the European provinces of North Africa and Asia. The Arabian chieftains did not arouse the Moslem world against Mussolini’s regime in Libya: most of them were on splendid terms with him. The Mufti of Jerusalem and other Arab leaders were greatly honoured guests in Rome. The rich Arabian landowners did nothing to improve the nature, the civilization, or the living standards of their countries. The large Arabian states are underpopulated, the masses of the people are held in a backward and inferior condition. “Life in the Damascus of the eighth century was not greatly different from what it is to-day,” says Professor Hitti in his book about the Arabs.

But the big Effendis fear the example and the impulse which the Jewish colonization of Palestine presents to the peoples of the Near East, they resent the social and economic uplift of the Arab workers in Palestine. They act as all the fascist forces have acted: they screen their fear of social reform behind nationalistic slogans and demagogy. If it were not for these leaders and instigators, a perfect agreement and co-operation could be achieved between the Arab and the Jewish people.

Why a Jewish-controlled Palestine

The purpose of this statement is not a nationalistic one. We do not, and the vast majority of the Jews does not, advocate the establishment of a state for the sake of national greed and self-glorification, which would run counter to all the traditional values of Judaism and which we consider obsolete everywhere. In speaking up for a Jewish Palestine we want to promote the establishment of a place of refuge, where persecuted human beings may find security and peace and the undisputed right to live under a law and order of their making. The experience of many centuries has taught us that this can be provided only by home rule and not by a foreign administration. This is why we stand for a Jewish-controlled Palestine. We do not refer to historic rights, although if there exists something like an historic right on a country, the Jews, at least as well as the Arabs, could claim it on Palestine. We do not resort to threats of power, for the Jews have no power; they are, in fact, the most powerless group on earth. If they had had any power they should have been able to prevent the annihilation of millions of their people and the closing of the last door to the helpless victims of the Nazis. What we appeal to is an elementary sense of justice and humanity. We know how weak such a position is, but we also know that if the arguments of threats of power, of sacred egoisms and holy wars continue to prevail in the future world order, not only the Jews but the whole of humanity will be doomed.

Ancient Home of the People of the Bible

The Jews will never abandon the work of reconstruction which they have undertaken…I cannot believe that the greatest colonial Power in the world will fail when it is faced with the task of placing its unique colonizing experience at the service of the reconstruction of the ancient home of the People of the Bible. The task may not be an easy one for the Mandatory Power, but for the success it will attain it is assured of the undying gratitude not only of the Jews but of all that is noblest in mankind.

– Albert Einstein, Ph.D**

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Bibliography:

*

Palestine, Land of Promise by Walter Clay Lowdermilk.

**

Albert Einstein was a German Jew, who immigrated to the United States in 1932, accepting a position as Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University and becoming an American citizen. He was a brilliant physicist, best known for his Theory of relativity, and his Energy Formula. Einstein obtained a post as engineer in the Swiss Patent Office in 1902, which position he occupied till 1909. The main ideas involved in his most important theories date back to this period. Amongst these may be mentioned: The Special Theory of relativity, Inertia of Energy,Theory of the Brownian Movement, and the Quantum Law of the Emission and Absorption of Light(1905).The sewere followed some years later by the Theory of the Specific Heat of Solid Bodies, and the Fundamental Idea of the General Theory of Relativity. During the interval 1909 to 1911, Einstein occupied a post of Professor Extraordinarius at the University of Zurich,afterwards being appointed to the University of Prague, Bohemia, where he remained as Professor Ordinarius until 1912. In the latter year, Professor Einstein accepted a similar chair at the Polytechnikum, Zurich, and continued his activities their until 1914,when he received a call to the Prussian Academy of Science, Berlin,a ssuccess ortovan’t Hoff. Professor Einstein was able to devote himself freely to his studies at the Berlin Academy,and it was there that he succeeded incompleting his work on the General Theory of Relativity (1915-17). Einstein also lectured on various special branches of physics at the University of Berlin,and,in addition,he was Director of the Institute for Physics Research of the Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft.

Following are some of Einstein’s own words:

I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element; I want to know His thoughts; the rest are details. – Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. – You must be able to distinguish between what is true and what is real. – The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. I am satisfied with the mystery of the eternity of life. – I do not know with what weapons W.W. III will be fought, but W.W. IV will be fought with sticks and stones. – True scientific thought is not possible without faith in the inner harmony of our universe, and from this axiom I developed my theory of relativity.

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