Like all people and groups without the tradition of political responsibility, the Jews are apt to see in the printed text of a document the sole and sufficient guarantee of political rights.  Some of them have clung fantastically to the letter of the Mandate and have failed to understand its spirit.  Practical politics, like mechanics, are governed by one golden rule: you can only get out of things what you put into them. The Mandate is a highly elastic document, which can only be transformed into an effective instrument by our own energies, efforts and results.

– Chaim Weizmann to the Seventeenth Zionist Congress (1 July, 1931), reproduced in Barnet Litvinoff ed., The letters and papers of Chaim Weizmann I.b (New Brunswick: Transaction, 1983), p. 617.


  1. Hi Jamie,

    Would you mind elaborating on what Chaim Weizmann meant by this?



  2. Hi Neil. I think he means that international certificates of legitimacy are not self-enacting: Balfour Declarations, U.N. resolutions, I.C.J judgements and I.C.C. hearings can assist but cannot substitute for political mobilisation. As Weizmann explains elsewhere, the ‘cumulative effect’ of international reports (he was referring to the annual reports of the Permanent Mandates Commission) ‘was not without importance, both for the record and for its effect on public opinion’. But, he emphasised, such paper achievements ‘are at best frames which may or may not be filled in. They have virtually no importance unless and until they are supported by actual performance’. (Weizmann, Trial and error: the autobiography of Chaim Weizmann 1st edn. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1949), pp. 280, 375)

    I think this is correct, and explains why the PA’s strategy of relying on international political and legal documents without transforming them into ‘effective instrument[s] by our own energies, efforts and results’ will never work.


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