Saturday, November 12, 2011

UNSCOP prepares their report. (part 4 of 6)

This is the 4th of 6 installments on the book: A Safe HavenHarry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel.

The UNSCOP committee continued its investigation throughout the summer of 1947. The Jews in Israel were divided into two main groups, the Haganah which was a national volunteer army who had a more rational approach to dealing with the British and the Irgun and Stern Gang which had a stridently more violent response to Britain’s anti-Zionist policy. The Irgun, headed up by Menachem Begin, had no stomach for appeasing Britain and, unlike Ben-Gurion and many of the Jews, opposed partition and demanded all of Palestine as a Jewish state.
The United Nations mandated that both the Arabs and Jews could appoint two liaison officers to UNSCOP. Though the Arabs declined, the Jewish Agency appointed David Horowitz and Aubrey (who later changed his name to Abba) Eban to the role. Horowitz couldn’t understand why the Arabs would miss an opportunity to interact with the committee, something they fully intended to do, with good effect. For this and what he thought were other Arab misjudgements, Eban reflected, “We live on the mistakes of the Arabs.” Even Harold Beeley in the British Foreign Office bemoaned the Arabs’ “exceedingly inept” diplomacy and failure to “recognize that their unyielding and dogmatic stand would create sympathy of the Jews rather than support for Arab nationalism.”
The committee had three months to conduct its investigation and they were impacted by the Arabs, Jews, the British, and their own observations. At the end they were expected to prepare a report. Whenever the members of UNSCOP were taken by Eban and Horowitz to visit Jewish sites the response was positive and encouraging. In Tel Aviv, they were flooded with a staggering volume of information, and crowds clapped and sang for the delegates and pressed around the cars to shake their hands. The reaction from the Arab community was a very different experience. They were greeted with strikes, antagonism, and harshness. The British had arrested three Irgun youths, whose apparent crime was posting illegal leaflets and participating in a jail break freeing 250 prisoners, and imposed the death sentence on them. The delegate from Guatemala, Jorge Garcia Granados, was shocked at the harsh sentence. The Irgun replied that it would respond in kind.
As UNSCOP’s third week in Palestine approached, the group was scheduled to hear from David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann. Ben-Gurion commented on the contrast between Jews and Arabs:
“There are some 600,000 Jews in Palestine and some 1,100,000 Arabs. The Arabs own 94% of the land, the Jews only 6%; the Arabs have seven states, the Jews none; the Arabs have vast underdeveloped territories... the Jews have only a tiny beginning of a National Home and even that is begrudged them by the Palestine Administration. The most glaring disparity of all is that the Arabs have no problem of homelessness and immigration, while for the Jews homelessness is the root cause of all their suffering for centuries past.” page 229
“Weizmann avoided directly attacking the British government as the other witnesses had done. Instead he praised it and its efforts on behalf of Zionism in years past, especially during the years of the Peel Commission of 1936, which had called for a Jewish state and partition of Palestine, and the Balfour Declaration, promising the Jews a national home. His words were a “vivid contrast,” ... to the “torrential flow of denunciation of that Government which had been poured forth by the Agency.” Weizmann made a deep impression as he spoke of the historical roots of the Jews in Palestine. He told them that as soon as a Jew came in contact with Palestine, he began to feel  as if he had returned. The country releases energies... in the Jewish people which are not released anywhere else.” Everything that UNSCOP had seen, from the drained marshes to the homes and plants to the great institutions like Hebrew University, were the “work of Jewish planning, of Jewish genius, of Jewish hands and muscles.” page 230
The reaction from the Exodus debacle began to accumulate. Eleanor Roosevelt wrote, “Somehow it [their treatment and going back to Germany] is too horrible for any of us in this country to understand.”
Truman wrote back to her, “The situation was most embarrassing... all the way around,”... “ While Truman was turned off by some of the Zionists, he concluded his letter, “I regret this situation, because my sympathy has always been on their side.”
“UNSCOP then went to Lebanon to meet with the heads of the Arab states. But they found that they would not budge from their position: they remained adamantly opposed to partition and the idea of a Jewish state; Palestine must be an Arab state where the Jews could live as a minority. The only group in Lebanon that the delegates met with who were sympathetic to the idea of a Jewish state were the Lebanese Christians. The Maronite Christians were the oldest Christian community in the world. Their orientation was Western and European, and they felt that Lebanon should be an independent state and not be forced into the Arab orbit. They also told the delegates that the Jews were justified in asking for their state and would be a positive force in the region.” page 239
The next stops for the committee were Geneva and Vienna. Many of the delegates wanted to see the refugee camps for themselves. While they were getting ready to leave, news came from Israel that the British had hung the three Irgun members as promised. In retaliation, the Irgun hung three kidnapped British sergeants. The vicious circle of repression and retaliation continued and the UNSCOP committee was impressed that their report needed to have a strong message. 
The committee members who went to the camps came back with shocking stories that left a strong impression on them. One example is that of Branda Kalk, who had been born in Poland, where she had lived all of her life. “The Germans had killed her husband in 1942, and she had escaped to Russia with the rest of her family. After the war, they had returned to Poland, and eight months after the liberation there had been a pogrom and her whole family - eight children and eighteen grandchildren- had been killed by the Poles... She told the committee that she did not want to go back to Poland or stay in Germany. “I want to go to Palestine,” she said. “I know the conditions there. But where in the world is it good for the Jew? Sooner or later he is made to suffer. In Palestine, at least, the Jews fight together for their lives and their country.” page 240
Another delegate wrote, “The Jews who think that they are going to Israel are the only happy Jews I have seen in all of Europe. That picture - of the sheer ecstasy which transfigured the faces of the Displaced Persons knowing they were going at last to Palestine - was the picture we took back with us to Geneva.”
Next time: The report is issued.

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