Herbert Samuel

  • AZL flag holder TransparentHerbert Louis Samuel, 1st Viscount Samuel GCB OM GBE PC (6th November 1870 – 5th February 1963), was a Jewish Liberal politician who was the party leader from 1931-35. Herbert Samuel was born at Claremont No. 11 Belvidere Road, Toxteth, Liverpool, Lancashire to Jewish parents remaining a member of the Jewish community keeping kosher and the Sabbath all his life while attesting to ‘personal atheism’. Samuel was appointed to the Cabinet in 1909 eventually becoming Home secretary. In this role in World War I he initiated legislation that offered thousands of young Jews from Russia a choice between conscription
  • into the British Army, or returning to Russia for military service and be conveniently placed for the seizure of that land. Already an avid Zionist one month after Britain’s declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire in November 1914, Samuel met Chaim Weizmann, who was to become the President of the World Zionist Organization, and later the first President of Israel. He stated that “the Temple may be rebuilt, as a symbol of Jewish unity, of course, in a modernised form” One month later, Samuel circulated a memorandum entitled The Future of Palestine. The memorandum stated that “I am assured that the solution of the problem of Palestine which would be much the most welcome to the leaders and supporters of the Zionist movement throughout the world would be the annexation of the country to the British Empire”. Thus it was Samuel who forwarded the idea of establishing a British Protectorate over Palestine in late 1914 early 1915 and his ideas influenced the Balfour Declaration. A year following the seizure of Russia he changed his position women’s suffrage. On 23rd October 1918 Samuel moved a separate motion to allow women to be eligible as Members of Parliament. The vote was passed by 274 to 25 and the government rushed through a Bill to make it law in time for the 1918 General Election. Samuel was appointment to High Commissioner of Palestine in 1920 and acknowledged as ‘dangerous’ by the military government, headed by Allenby and Bols particularly in light of a telegram received from the Muslim-Christian Association:‘Sir Herbert Samuel regarded as a Zionist leader, and his appointment as first step in formation of Zionist national home in the midst of Arab people contrary to their wishes. Inhabitants cannot recognise him, and Muslim-Christian Society cannot accept responsibility for riots or other disturbances of peace.’Three months after his arrival, the Morning Post wrote that “Sir Herbert Samuel’s appointment as High Commissioner was regarded by everyone, except Jews, as a serious mistake.” Indeed as High Commissioner, Samuel acted to refuse Arabs any authority that could be used to stop Jewish immigration and land purchase. Samuel’s son, Edwin, served in the Jewish Legion On his return to Britain in 1925, Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin asked Samuel to look into the problems of the mining industry. The Samuel Commission published its report in March 1926 recommending that the industry be reorganised but rejecting the suggestion of nationalisation. The report also recommended that the Government subsidy be withdrawn and the miners’ wages should be reduced. The report was the leading factor that led to the 1926 General Strike. Nevertheless he was granted the title Viscount Samuel in 1937 and supported the Jewish Kindertransport movement a year later in 1938, appealing for homes for the imported Jewish children. Samuel later became the leader of the Liberal Party in the House of Lords (1944-1955).
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