Friday, September 23, 2011

Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel. Part 1

This is the 1st of 6 installments on the book: A Safe HavenHarry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel.

Today Palestinian President Mahoud Abbas put forth a historic U.N. membership bid for an independent state of Palestine. But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, taking his turn to address the General Assembly later, said Palestinians are looking for a "state without peace," ignoring security concerns important to Israel.”  
“Netanyahu said Palestinians are armed not only with their "hopes and dreams, but with 10,000 missiles, and Grad rockets supplied by Iran, not to mention the river of lethal weapons flowing into Gaza. Palestinians should first make peace with Israel, and then get their state," he declared, adding that peace must arrive through a two-state solution that recognizes Israel as a Jewish state. If that occurs, Israel "will be the first" to recognize Palestinian statehood, the prime minister said.”
Coincidentally enough, I’m currently reading the book: A Safe Haven; Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel, by Allis Radson and Ronald Radosh and it is amazing to see how similar it is to today's current events, albeit with the tables turned. Here are a few quotes from the Safe Haven book:
“Truman claimed his interest in Palestine went back to his childhood. Raised as a Baptist he had read the Bible at least a dozen times before he was fifteen. He felt the Biblical stories were stories about real people, and he felt he knew some of them better than the actual people in his life. Truman had an almost fundamentalist belief in the Bible and as an adult looked to it for inspiration and guidance. As a child, he had been told that what was in the Bible was the truth and that “the fundamental basis of all government” could be read about in its pages and “started with Moses.” He believed this was true of America and in his memoirs wrote, “what came about in Philadelphia in 1776 really had its beginning in Hebrew times.” Truman drew on the Bible as a source of knowledge of the history of ancient Palestine. And in the Bible he read of the Jewish people’s longing to return to their ancient homeland and God’s desire for them to do so. His favorite Psalm was number 137: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” page 47
“On the evening of August 23, Truman read Harrison’s report and it troubled him, as it would anyone who read it. Harrison’s report told an abysmal story. In Germany and Austria, he had found many of the displaced person’s (DPs) living under guard behind barbed-wire fences, sometimes in the most notorious concentration camps “amidst crowded, frequently unsanitary  and generally grim conditions, with nothing to do, and with a serious lack of needed medical supplies.” The DPs subsisted on bread and coffee, and the observers had seen many “pathetic malnutrition cases. A high death rate among the former prisoners continued after liberation. At Bergen-Belsen, some 23,000 people had died, most of them Jews... The situation was so bad that Harrison put it in the strongest possible terms: “As matters now stand, we appear to be treating the Jews as the Nazis treated them except we do not exterminate them. They are in concentration camps in large numbers under our military guard instead of S.S. troops.” pages 93-94
“Truman’s reaction upon reading the Harrison report... was shock. Particularly upsetting to him was to find that when asked, most of the Jewish DPs told authorities that they did not want to come to the United States, [they only wanted to go to] Palestine. Their fear was that what happened to them in Germany could happen elsewhere just as easily."
"Harrison’s report galvanized Truman to do something about the plight of the Jewish DPs in Europe. He wanted a rapid and constructive settlement since he considered their dire situation a problem of the highest humanitarian importance and urgency. If the majority wanted to go to Palestine, Truman thought they should be allowed to do so. He agreed with Harrison that the 100,000 refugees would be able to easily be absorbed into Palestine as well as get jobs, given the severe shortage of labor there. The Jewish community in Palestine was ready to receive them and help them rebuild their lives.” page 94
The British were entirely opposed to the release of Jewish refugees to Palestine and their army did everything it could to block their attempts at smuggling in refugees. An Anglo-American committee was formed to do research on the subject and one of its British members Richard Crossman, had this to say: 
“To the Americans, Europe’s Jews who sought to rebuild their lives in Palestine were the equivalent of the American settlers who had developed the West. The analogy carried to the Arabs, who were the equivalent of America’s Native Americans. They were “the aboriginal who must go down before the march of progress,” wrote Crossman. America had gained its independence by fighting a war with King George III; the Jews were bound to win an instinctive American sympathy.” 
“The British, on the other hand, in Crossman’s view, were made up of people who had never left and went back for generations. What they feared most was an invasion by a foreign conqueror. They also resented the idea that Europe was foundering and that a million Jews must be rescued from the sinking ship.” To them, Zionism was unnatural and was nothing but the product of high-powered American propaganda.” Thus the average Englishman sided with the Arab, whom he saw as “defending his thousand-year tenure of his country against the alien invaders.”
“During the same period, James McDonald and the other committee members went to Paris, Bierbach, Constance, Austria, Bern, Zurich, and Lugano and then headed back to meet with the group to continue their journey to the Middle East. Like those who had gone to Germany and Poland, McDonald met with a unanimous desire on the part of Jewish refugees to gain entry to Palestine. In a boy’s camp in Lugano, McDonald wrote: “nearly everyone of them had lost all his relatives in concentration camps and had known little but terror and death. They had built a new world for themselves of dreams and hopes and would tolerate no questioning of their realization,” which was to reach Palestine. “Their earnestness,” McDonald confided, “tempted one to weep.”...” To them, the world and the whole future centers in Palestine... They, as the others I had seen... were absolutely confident that there was no future for Jews anywhere in Central or Eastern Europe.”
“Then the group moved onto Jerusalem, where they stayed at the King David Hotel and held hearings at the YMCA across the street. Weizmann was the first to give testimony... Crossman was impressed by Weizmann’s candor, as were the other committee members, when he admitted that the ‘issue is not between right and wrong but between the greater and less injustice.” Since it was unavoidable, he candidly told them, they would have to decide “whether it is better to be unjust to the Arabs of Palestine or the Jews.”
“Traveling around Palestine, the group could not help but be impressed with the achievements of the Jewish community, especially in eforts at reclaiming Palestine’s barren wastelands. Crossman visited Mishmar Ha’emek, a large Jewish collective run by Marxist Zionists, which believed in cooperation with the Arabs and a binational state. He found it a lovely place with turfed gardens, fountains, beautifully kept flower beds and 700 acres of plain land, vineyards, and forests on the hills.” 
“Another member Frank Buxton, visited a nearby Kibbutz, and was in tears. “I feel like getting down on my knees before these people,” “I’ve always been proud of my own ancestors who made farms out of the virgin forest. But these people are raising crops out of rock!”
“On the other hand, the poverty and lack of educational opportunities among the Arabs of Palestine, disturbed Crossman and the other members of the committee. Crossman believed that “all the Arab hatred for the Jew is based on a resentment at the arrogance,  wealth and superiority of the invaders.” Only two hundred yards away from the lovely collective, he wrote, was the “stenchiest Arab village I have ever seen.”
“On April 1, the committee finally came to a unanimous decision along the lines suggested by Hutchinson: it recommended the immediate issuance of 100,000 certificates by Britain to allow Europe’s Jewish DPs to go to Palestine and the revocation of the land and immigration regulations of the White Paper. For the long run, they rejected both an Arab state and a Jewish state in Palestine and called for a “country in which the legitimate national aspirations of both Jews and Arabs can be reconciled, without either side fearing the ascendancy of the other.” The details would be worked out by the United Nations.”
to be continued

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