Jews (Fighting Services).

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 6th August 1942.

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Photo of Mr Daniel Lipson Mr Daniel Lipson , Cheltenham

I have one advantage over my hon. Friends who have addressed the House on the subject of a Jewish Army to-day in that they are not Jews and I am. I therefore hope to be able to put before the House this problem as I see it as a Jew and from the inside. I do not claim to speak on behalf of others although I believe that a large number of Jews will find considerable agreement with what I have to say. All Jews will, I think, agree with my first statement which is one of gratitude to the hon. Members who have spoken for the sympathy they have shown towards the Jews. I fear, however, that from some of the remarks that have been made there may be some misconception. My hon. Friend the Member for Bilston (Mr. Hannah) suggested a Jewish Army because apparently from the illustration that he gave it would then not be necessary for some of his constituents in Bilston to serve in the Armed Forces of the Crown. I would remind him, and the country ought to be reminded, that British Jews are liable to service and are playing their part, and that in all the countries in which they have the right to serve Jews, are serving. Indeed Jews above anybody else surely have a vital interest in this war. It is from that point of view alone that I approach the question of a Jewish Army. Will the establishment of a Jewish Army add to our war effort, will it make it easier or more difficult for us to win the war? Having answered that question I would add this: Is the proposal to establish a Jewish Army in the interests of Jews themselves?

With regard to the effect on the war effort, nobody is going to suggest that the British Government will not be willing to take soldiers from whatever source they can get them. British Jews, as I have said, are serving in the British Army. But nothing must be done by making proposals of the kind before us to embarrass in any way the British Government in any part of the world. We have before us today two different proposals. My hon. Friend the Member for Bilston seemed to advocate a Jewish Army to include Jews from all over the world. Other speakers were more limited in their proposals, which were for a Jewish Army for Palestine only. We are all agreed that Palestine must be adequately defended, but whether the best defence of Palestine is to establish a Jewish Army only the British Government, I submit, can decide, in the light of all the circumstances.

I want to draw attention to a point of view which has been expressed in the Debate to-day and which to my mind is harmful in its conception. Reference has been made continually to the Jewish people. I want to submit that the Jews are a religious community, and I think it is right that that view should be stressed. The anti-Semites argue that the Jews are a separate people, and that is how they justify the discrimination which is exercised against them in various parts of the world. That argument is also supported by the views put forward by the Jewish Nationalists, who also talk about a Jewish people. You cannot have the best of both worlds. You cannot at the same time say "There is a Jewish people and therefore I am a member of the Jewish people, and I want to get all the advantages and privileges that that carries with it" and also to say "I am a British subject"—or a Frenchman or an American—"with equal rights with other citizens." Therefore, I feel that the Nationalists in their arguments are playing with fire, because they are proving the anti-Semitic case that the Jew is an alien in every country where he is. It is not true. In this country, thank God, we Jews enjoy all the rights and privileges of citizens, and that is why we love this country, and we accept with the privileges of citizenship the responsibilities of citizenship. Jews here and, I would add, Jews everywhere want no additional argument about a Jewish Army to induce them to play their part in the fight against Hitler. They know that everything they stand for, the teaching of the Jewish prophets and everything they believe in, are threatened by the Nazi menace. If that is not a sufficient motive for them to put their all into the fight against Hitler no political argument of the advantage of a Jewish Army is likely to carry any weight.

I want to say a word about the Jewish Army from the point of view of Jews themselves, Jews less fortunate than those in Britain and who do not enjoy full rights of citizenship. It seems to me that there is a great opportunity in this war, when Jews and non-Jews fight together and share a common danger in the same units, for them to learn to understand each other better and break down the existing barriers. The only hope for Jews all the world over is that the same sort of tolerance and understanding which happily exists in these islands should extend to all countries, and I believe that fighting together and sharing a common danger are likely to advance that object. It certainly will not be by isolation, by forming separate Jewish Armies. This is not a time when one wants to emphasise the difference between the Jew and the non-Jew. In this war we have a great common interest. It is for these reasons that, while I appreciate the generous motives which have prompted those who in this House to-day have advocated a Jewish Army, I, speaking as a Jew, cannot support the proposal. I believe that in the long view it will not help our war effort, and that must be the outstanding consideration, and I believe also in the long view it is not in the interests of Jews themselves.