These Jewish Migrants Survived Pogroms, Riots and Famine. Then They Were Faced With Zionist Cruelty

A century ago Zionist leaders strove to keep ‘weak people’ from immigrating. 'It is one of the most controversial disputes in the history of the Zionist movement'

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Survivors of a pogrom in Ukraine early in the 20th century.
Survivors of a pogrom in Ukraine early in the 20th century.
Ofer Aderet
Ofer Aderet

Alas, Zionism can’t provide a solution for catastrophes. That’s what Chaim Weizmann said in 1919, explaining why the gates of pre-state Israel couldn’t be opened to thousands of survivors of Ukrainian pogroms who were begging for asylum here.

The man who three decades later would become Israel’s first president added that he didn’t think these refugees had the enormous constructive powers needed to build a national home for the Jewish people.

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