The Art and Practice of Diplomacy

By Charles Webster | Go to book overview

7
The Founder of the National Home1

YOU will know that this is an occasion which I must feel very intensely. The part played by myself in the great event of which I speak was a very small one, but it brought me into close contact with Dr Weizmann at this all-important period in the history of Israel. The responsibility of appraising the work of a great leader of his people is always a heavy one, and all the more so when I speak to an audience who revere and honour his memory. Moreover, my association with Dr Weizmann was something more than an incident in a long and varied life. It was an intellectual and emotional experience which left a permanent impression upon my mind. If I speak here as an historian, with the frankness and objectivity which I am sure that Dr Weizmann himself would have wished me to employ, it is not that I have forgotten how much I learned from your great founder or the kindness and forbearance with which he treated the young Intelligence officer nearly forty years ago.

My association with him was in a sense due to an accident. In the middle of 1917 I became an unimportant member of a small section of the Intelligence Directorate of the War Office set up to study the political aspects of some of the problems of the General Staff. In war-time, political intelligence comes to a much greater degree through military channels and soldiers are forced to take an even greater interest in political problems than in peace-time. One of these problems was that of Zionism, and, since the officer to whom it had been entrusted showed no great interest in it, it was given to me to study and appraise.

My own acquaintance with the subject was a very limited one. Dr Weizmann attributes to me in his memoirs an experience and knowledge which I did not possess. But I had lived for nearly a year in Vienna shortly after Lueger's death with friends there, both Jews and non-Jews, an experience which had taught me something of what anti-semitism could mean. This impression

____________________
1
The Chaim Weizmann Memorial Lecture (Humanities), 1955.

-113-

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