The Jewish Legion of Honor

[The Literary Review; July 13, 1918]

A Jewish Legion of 8,000 men are now fighting with the British for the complete conquest of Palestine, but a force ten times as great is expected to form the Jewish Legion of Honor to march in behalf of the coming Jewish Republic. On July 1 the East Side of New York gave over two thousand of its sons who went to Canada for training before proceeding to the East. At the recent convention of the Zionist Organization of America, held in Pittsburg, it was stated by Dr. A. A. Newman, of Philadelphia, that "every Jew who has enlisted in the Legion from the United States has pledged to remain in Palestine for the remainder of his life." There also the statement was made by Manner Brooman White, chief of the British recruiting office in this country, that he had learned unofficially that more than 50,000 American Jews are now in Egypt on their way to join the Legion already with General Allenby in the Holy Land. A representative of the British Embassy also said:

"Great Britain, in taking Palestine from the Turk, did not take it for herself, but for the Jewish people. It is the policy of England to do everything reasonably within her power to put the Jews back in the home of their ancestors in the Holy Land, and Great Britain looks to the Jews to set up a civilization there."

But the Jews themselves declare that they "do not want Palestine as a gift from England"' instead, they want to fight for Palestine, their ancient home. The national consciousness of the Jew is exprest by Mr. Aaron J. Levy in a recent issue of the Jewish daily, Warheit (New York):

"He believes that the Jews are something more than a purely religious body; that they are not only a race, but also a nation; tho a nation without, as yet, one important requisite—a common home. He believes that if an end is to be made to Jewish misery and to the exceptional position which the Jews occupy—which is the primary cause of Jewish misery—the Jewish nation must be placed once again in a home of its own. He believes that such a national regeneration is a fulfilment of the hope which has been presented to the Jew throughout his long and painful history. He believes that such a home can only naturally, and without violence to the whole past of the Jews, be found in the land of their fathers—in Palestine. He believes that such a return could not be effected except through the great Powers of the world now united in the Allied cause. He knows that Palestine is now in England's possession and that England has spoken the word. For this he is exceedingly grateful. But we all know that only through the influence and aid of President Wilson and the American people will the liberation and rejuvenation of the Jews be accomplished. If America, should fail in this war, not only do we defraud our children of the heritage which we received from our fathers, but we blast the hopes of the friends of liberty throughout the world to the end of time."

Opposition to Zionism has disappeared almost in its entirety, declares a statement in a Pittsburg dispatch to the New York Tribune. "Every class of the Jewish people, in every land, is fast approaching unanimity on the subject. The extreme orthodox and the radical-reform religious wings are drawing closer together. The proletariat and the bourgeoisie among the Jews stand on one platform, so far as Palestine is concerned." The dreams of the Palestine Jews for the establishment of a United States of the Near East are based on the principles of the United States of America, but, so far as feasible, "laws relative to divorce, parent and child, inheritance, occupancy of land, and such" will be based upon the old Hebrew laws. A dispatch from the convention states:

"That the ancient Jewish law of equality and justice to all should be made the guiding principle of the new life in Zion was declared at a gathering of the provisional Zionist executive committee. The gathering was addrest by leading Jewish scholars of the country. The acceptance of the declaration of principles was the occasion for an outburst of applause and cheering which lasted for several minutes."

"This declaration of principles, or 'resolutions bearing on Palestinian policy,' revealed that the purpose of the Zionists is not alone to reestablish the ancient homeland, but to build up a model commonwealth in which extremes of both riches and poverty should be averted and the old-time Hebraic morality and justice become the law of the land. Embodying both the ancient Jewish law and the new social platforms of the labor parties of England and other Allied countries, the declaration presents a striking program of economic reconstruction."

In turning toward a new home, the Jew leaves one in which his loyalty is only strengthened, as the writer in the Warheit also says:

"I have the very strong conviction that the Jew needs no lessons in loyalty. In the light of the developments of the recent past, I must confess, however, that this may seem to be paradoxical. The Jew's loyalty to America could never justly be made the subject of doubt. He always was loyal and is loyal now. I am certain that he shall continue to be. He was loyal to the country from which he came—he was loyal everywhere. The difficulty was not so much with him as with the tyrants and oppressors under whom he was obliged to live and suffer. And so when conditions became more than impossible he sought, and found, an asylum on these free shores. The Jew attained in a short time rank and position in professional and commercial life. The Jew began to know freedom and to love liberty. And then our nation unfortunately became involved in international problems. The Jew began to grow uneasy. Even a trifling encroachment upon this much-loved liberty disturbed him. Vague visions of that from which he ran entered his mind. He was told that our distinguished President was a kaiser, far worse than he who reigns in Berlin. 'Kaiser Wilson' was the appellation. The Jew was told that 'Kaiser Wilson' is in the service of capital. He was told that the world-war, so far as America was concerned, was Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan's war, and the war of his capitalistic associates; that these capitalists had made fabulously large investments in the bond issues of the Allied countries. He was fed all kinds of venom by certain Hun-inspired vipers. These disloyal elements were well organized and very artful.

"The Jewish psychology of the time was simply this: The much-afflicted Jew, who for the first time in his history began to draw in free air, saw the dawn of the end of that freedom. The results of the bitter struggle of a lifetime were in great hazard. Those children for whom he suffered so intensely were about to be reached out to by the strong arm of the law—the arm of the Government. He was told by those Hun instrumentalities that their blood was about to be spilled in the interests of the idle rich. He was told that they were about to be shot to pieces in order to protect the Morgan investments. A few who saw the danger of this propaganda fought hard in the interests of truth; but for a while our individual efforts could not be compared with this sinister force."

"Now all is different. The Jew began to see the threat to freedom. The sale of nigh on to fifteen million dollars of Liberty bonds in the last drive—compared with the several hundred thousand dollars received by the Government in the two preceding drives combined—is more than convincing proof of this last assertion."

A new type of service flag is created for those who fight in the Jewish Legion. It is "a banner of blue and white with its fighters represented by the blue six-pointed-star emblem of the Zionists." Chicago's flag is said to represent 236 volunteers.

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013

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