The British Ambassador (Halifax) to Mr. Alfred A. Strelsin 19

Dear Mr. Strelsin: As you know, I telegraphed to London the suggestions which you put forward at the meeting we had here on October 1st. I regret the delay in replying, but it was necessary to consult a number of different departments, all of whom as you may imagine are now under extreme pressure of work owing to war conditions.

I have now had a reply from London. The British Government appreciate the motives which prompted your suggestion of a visit to London, and they would have been glad to adopt this suggestion if they [Page 547] had felt that it would lead to any valuable result. But they have so repeatedly had occasion to give careful consideration to this matter that they fear no useful purpose would be served by a further discussion on the lines you suggest, particularly since all the proposals you put forward had already been taken into account when the British Government reached their decision on this subject.

In view of the thought that you and your Committee have devoted to these questions, I feel that I owe it to you to make plain the attitude of the British Government, in so far as it affects them, to the problem of Jewish participation in the war. As they see it, this question falls into two parts. The first is that of opportunities for Jews to serve. The second is the defence of Palestine. As regards the first, the British Government has given continuous consideration to the proposals which your Committee has so strongly and sincerely advocated; but they have decided, and Parliament has approved this course, that so far as they are concerned they are unable to give their support to the proposal for a separate Jewish Army. They are well aware of, and sympathise with, the desire of Jews both in Palestine and elsewhere, to take their full share in the military effort to defeat the Axis powers. But they believe that Jews can make their most effective contribution to this end by serving in the armed forces of the countries to which they owe allegiance. Stateless Jews have in addition abundant opportunities for volunteer service in the British Army, and no doubt in other forces of the United Nations.

The question of the defence of Palestine was fully dealt with by the Secretary of State for War in his speech in the House of Commons on August 6th last, and I need not recapitulate what he then said. The conclusion which he reached was that if full advantage were taken of the facilities offered to Palestinian Jews for service in the armed forces there would only be a very small part of the man-power available in Palestine which was not being employed to good advantage against the common enemy.

I realise that the attitude of His Majesty’s Government as set out above is not fully in accord with the objectives which your committee favour. But I hope you will none the less believe that His Majesty’s Government’s policy does represent a sincere attempt to reconcile the need for the most efficient mobilization of man-power and resources with the natural desire of Jews everywhere to make their full contribution to the war.

Yours sincerely,

  1. Copy sent to the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle) by the British Ambassador.