Thursday, 15 January 2015

Israel & the Jews (III): Events Leading up to the Creation of Israel


Israel & the Jews : Part-IV : Israel After 1948
Israel & the Jews : Part-III : Events Leading upto Creation of Israel
Israel & the Jews : Part-II  : BCE to the Jewish Ordeal
Israel & the Jews : Part-I    : FAQs, Truths & Interesting Facts

Israel & the Jews
FAQs, Truths & Interesting Facts
Part - 3
Events Leading up to the Creation of Israel
Subsequent part of this historical overview:
Part-4 : Israel  — 1948 Onwards.
Details about specific periods and episodes would be in separate blog-posts that would follow Part-4, as a part of this blog-series.

I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations ... They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth. The Romans and their empire were but a bubble in comparison to the Jews. They have given religion to three-quarters of the globe and have influenced the affairs of mankind more and more happily than any other nation, ancient or modern.

~ John Adams, Second President of the United States, 1808


Meaning of Zion and Zionism
The term Zion was used to refer to the Mount Zion near Jerusalem. It is a Hebrew name that later became a metonym for Solomon's Temple in Jerusalem (Temple Mount).  It is the most holy place for the Jews, observant among whom recite the Amidah (Standing Prayer) three times a day facing Zion in Jerusalem, praying, among other things, for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple and the restoration of the Temple service.

Zionism refers to the nationalist movement of Jews for the re-establishment of a Jewish homeland in the historic Land of Israel, also called Palestine, Canaan or the Holy Land. The term “Zionism” was coined in 1890 by Nathan Birnbaum.

Nathan Birnbaum (1864-1937)

Nathan published a brochure titled “The National Rebirth of the Jewish People in its Homeland as a Means of Solving the Jewish Question” in 1893 in which he expounded ideas similar to the ones Herzl (pl. see below) promoted subsequently.
Dreyfus Affair
Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a young French artillery officer of Jewish descent, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1894 for allegedly communicating French military secrets to the German Embassy in Paris. Dreyfus was imprisoned on Devil's Island in French Guiana.

Alfred Dreyfus (1859-1935)

A pubic hysteria was whipped up during the trial. Mobs chanted: "Death to the Jews!". He was a loyal French soldier, and there was little evidence for his conviction. It appeared that merely being a Jew made him suspect.

Evidence about the real culprit—a French Army major named Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy—came to light in 1896, following a counter-espionage investigation. However, high-ranking military officials suppressed the new evidence, and a military court, after a mere two-day trial, unanimously acquitted Esterhazy. Not just that, the Army then accused Dreyfus of additional charges based on falsified documents.

Words of the cover-up and of the military court's framing of Dreyfus spread. The famous French writer Émile Zola published an open letter in a Paris newspaper in January 1898 to put pressure on the government to reopen the case. Finally, a re-trial commenced in 1899. Novelist Antole France, who later got the Nobel Prize in 1921, the renowned mathematician and physicist Henri Poincare and Georges Clemenceau, who later became the Prime Minister of France in 1917, came out strongly in support of Dreyfus. There were also many notables who opposed Dreyfus.

Eventually, Dreyfus was adjudged innocent, was exonerated in 1906, and reinstated.

Although the Jews had suffered ordeals for centuries (Pl. check my earlier blog-post), the Russian Pogroms leading to the First Aliyah and the Dreyfus affair convinced them that no matter how loyal they may be to their respective countries and no matter how much they may contribute to its advancement and prosperity, they would forever remain suspect, insecure and unequal citizens, liable for prosecution on whimsical grounds; and therefore their only salvation was to have a country of their own.
Theodor Herzl & Political Zionism
Theodor Herzl (1860-1904)

Theodor Herzl (1860-1904), a Jewish journalist then living in Austria-Hungary, was very much affected by the Dreyfus affair. He published the book Der Judenstaat, meaning "The Jewish State" or "The State of the Jews", in 1896 that laid the foundation of Political Zionism. It advocated establishment of a Jewish homeland to liberate the Jewish diaspora from anti-semitic discrimination, exclusion and persecution. The book's ideas spread rapidly throughout the Jewish world and attracted international attention.

If you will it, it is no dream.

Dream and deed are not as different as many think.
All the deeds of men are dreams at first, and become dreams in the end.

Our opponents maintain that we are confronted with insurmountable political obstacles, but that may be said of the smallest obstacle if one has no desire to surmount it.

Were I to sum up the Basel Congress in a word—which I shall guard against pronouncing publicly—it would be this: At Basel, I founded the Jewish State. If I said this out loud today, I would be answered by universal laughter. Perhaps in five years, certainly in fifty, everyone will know it.

— Theodor Herzl
* * * * *

Realists are, as a rule, only men in the rut of routine who are incapable of transcending a narrow circle of antiquated notions.

The Jews who will it shall achieve their State. We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and in our own homes peacefully die. The world will be liberated by our freedom, enriched by our wealth, magnified by our greatness. And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind.

— Theodor Herzl from his book Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State), published in 1896

Theodor Herzl then went on to establish the Zionist Organization (ZO) a year later, which at its first congress, "called for the establishment of a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law".
Zionists, Anti-Zionists & the Holocaust 
There were many among the Jews, including a number of well-known figures, who were opposed to Zionism and the necessity of a Jewish homeland. There were numerous debates and arguments between the Zionists and the anti-Zionists. However, the Holocaust robbed all the logic from the anti-Zionists and ended the argument. The Holocaust in a most indescribably cruel way reminded the Jews what it meant to be Jews, and without a homeland.

The Holocaust also brought home to the Zionists their failure: their inability to convince the anti-Zionists and others in time, and their failure to win a homeland for the Jews early enough to save them from the Holocaust.

Balfour Declaration 1917

The Balfour Declaration

Foreign Office
November 2nd, 1917

Dear Lord Rothschild,

I have much pleasure in conveying to you, on behalf of His Majesty's Government, the following declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations which has been submitted to, and approved by, the Cabinet.

"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

I should be grateful if you would bring this declaration to the knowledge of the Zionist Federation.

Yours sincerely,
Arthur James Balfour

Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930)
The Balfour Declaration favouring creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine was a letter dated 2 November 1917 from the UK Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930) to Walter Rothschild, an immensely rich Jewish banker and financier and the President of the British Zionist Federation.

Lord Lionel Walter Rothschild (1868-1937)

The declaration was pre-approved by the US. It was subsequently approved by the French and the Italians. The US Congress adopted a resolution in 1922 declaring that a national home for the Jewish people be established in Palestine.

The Balfour Declaration was later incorporated into the Mandate for Palestine (pl. see below) and the Treaty of Sèvres (10 August 1920)  that the Ottoman Empire was made to sign following its defeat in World War I.

Incidentally, by 1917 a de facto Jewish home already existed in Palestine thanks to the local Jewish population, the immigrated Jews, and the significant agricultural and infrastructural development already undertaken by them. To give just one illustrative example, the Jews had drained the malaria-filled swamps of Hulah and planted orange groves in their place, employing thousands of Arabs and Jews.

It is manifestly right that the scattered Jews should have a national centre and a national home and be reunited and where else but in Palestine with which for 3,000 years they have been intimately and profoundly associated.

~ Winston Churchill

Of course, the questions that would puzzle anyone are the following. Notwithstanding the years of careful negotiations that preceded the Balfour Declaration, did the British suddenly turn very empathetic for the Jews? Did a brutal colonial empire like Britain (read my blog-post "Brutalisation of India by the British") decide it should do some good, for a change? Did another brutal colonial empire like France (for that matter all European colonial empires, without exception, were known for their savagery) too had a change of heart?

It is hard to imagine that a European colonial empire could do something that was not driven by its own self-interest. While individuals in those countries could have been empathetic to the Zionist cause, the colonial governments could only look to their own benefit. Lord Arthur Balfour could have been personally inclined towards the Jews, but for him to officially declare what he did in the "Balfour Declaration" points to strong self-interest motives of the British Empire. What were they? Why was that declaration made in the middle of World War I? Had it been made after November 1918 when the war was over and the Ottoman Empire had been defeated, it would have been more favourably understood. Did the British desperately need the Jewish help in the on-going war? Did the British wish to extract their pound of flesh from the Jews for the favour? Did the British seek Jewish finance for the war?

True, Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952), a scientist and a Zionist leader (who became the first President of Israel: 1949-52), played a critical role in ensuring the Balfour Declaration. He had invented a fermentation process that allowed the British to manufacture liquid acetone that was an important ingredient for arms production. That helped them significantly in World War I.

The two great scientists:
Chaim Weizmann (1874-1952) and
Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Of course, the objective of the Balfour Declaration was eminently laudable: a well-deserved Jewish homeland in Palestine.

But, the question is why that worthy, commendable objective had no sanctity or sincerity or honesty or urgency attached to it? Why it took over 30 years to (only partially) fulfill the promise? And that too not by the country that had promised (and which must have derived the corresponding benefit from the Jews), namely the United Kingdom, but by the UN; and that too in a disgracefully shabby way, with the grant of a a highly truncated piece of land (far less than rightfully expected) that was almost impossible to secure and defend, leaving the new nation of Israel to fight its battle of survival on the very next day of its birth! Had the UK shown some sincerity and urgency after 1917 and had the Israel been established in the 1920s or 1930s hundreds of thousands of Jews would have found refuge in it and would have escaped the Holocaust.

True to its overriding self-interests, and with oil and therefore the Arabs becoming more important, the UK effectively reneged in 1939 on the Balfour Declaration by issuing a White Paper (pl. see below) which stated that creating a Jewish state was no longer a British policy. The policy enunciated in the White Paper also prevented millions of European Jews escape the Holocaust from the Nazi-occupied Europe into Palestine.

Ottoman Empire:
Prior to World War I

In the previous blog-posts in this series, we have unambiguously clarified that there was no nation called Palestine (nor any Palestinian nationality or language) prior to establishment of current Israel. The current area of Israel was under the Ottoman Empire before World War I. It would therefore be useful to get an overview on the Ottoman Empire in this context.

The Ottoman Empire, with its capital in Istanbul (Constantinople), Turkey, was founded in 1299 CE. During its history, the Empire grew to include many areas in Europe. At its peak in 1595, the Ottoman Empire covering a massive 20 million square kilometers included the areas of Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Hungary, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and parts of the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa.

Ottoman Empire in the late 17th Century

Ottoman Empire prior to WWI

Division of the Ottoman Empire after WWI.
British Mandate for Palestine

Sykes–Picot Agreement, 1916
The Asia Minor Agreement or the Sykes–Picot Agreement concluded on 16 May 1916 was a secret agreement between France and the UK, with the assent of Russia, that defined their proposed spheres of influence and control in the Middle East, outside the Arabian peninsula, should the three succeed in defeating the Ottoman Empire in World War I. Britain was allocated the coastal strip between the Mediterranean sea and Jordan river, Jordan, southern Iraq, etc.; France was allocated south-eastern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; while Russia was to get Istanbul, the Turkish Straits and the Ottoman Armenian vilayets. Following the Russian Revolution of October 1917, the Bolsheviks exposed the agreement.
Post Defeat of the Ottoman Empire
Upon defeat of the Central Powers (Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire) in World War I (28 July 1914 – 11 November 1918) by the Allied (or Allies) Powers (the British Empire, the US, France, Belgium, Italy, Russia, Romania, Serbia and others), the US President Woodrow Wilson called for the principle of self-determination for post-war reorganization of the territories formerly controlled by the Ottoman Empire. That included support for Jewish self-determination in Palestine that had been under the Ottoman Empire. Palestine was NOT a separate nation, it was part of the Ottoman Empire.

I am persuaded that the Allied nations, with the fullest concurrence of our own government and people, are agreed that in Palestine shall be laid the foundations of a Jewish commonwealth.

~ President Woodrow Wilson of the US stated in 1919
San Remo Conference, 1920
Conference of the post-World War I Allied Supreme Council was held in Italy at San Remo in April 1920, attended by the UK, France, Italy and Japan, with the US as a neutral observer. The conference was a continuation of a previous meeting between these Allied powers that had been held in London in February 1920, where it was decided, among other things, to put Palestine under the British Mandatory rule. Resolutions passed at the San Remo conference determined the allocation of League of Nations mandates for administration of the former Ottoman-ruled lands of the Middle East. The San Remo Resolution incorporated the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and Britain was accordingly given a provisional “Mandate for Palestine” and was made responsible for putting into effect the Balfour Declaration for establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestinewithout prejudice to the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
League of Nations Mandate, September 1922
The Council of the League of Nations (predecessor of the UN) formalized “The British Mandate for Palestine” in September 1922, taking forward the San Remo Resolution of 1920. The formal objective of the League of Nations Mandate system was to administer parts of the defunct Ottoman Empire that was defeated in WW-I. Some parts (Syria and Lebanon) of the defunct Ottoman Empire were given to France to administer. The British Mandate for Palestine included the areas of current Israel, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and also area to the east of Jordan river—Transjordan, what is now Jordan. The British were also given the Mandate to administer Iraq.

Among the objectives of the Palestine Mandate was granting of political rights in Palestine to the Jewish people.

Whereas the Principal Allied Powers have also agreed that the Mandatory should be responsible for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty [Balfour Declaration, 1917], and adopted by the said Powers, in favour of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.

~ from the preamble of the Mandate document

Transjordan / Jordan

Out of The British Mandate for Palestine the area to the east of Jordan river—a massive 77% of the wholewas officially recognized by the Council of the League of Nations in September 1922 as the Emirate of Transjordan, excluding this 77% of the area from the provisions of the mandate dealing with the Jewish settlement.

In other words, what could have been a Jewish homeland (the complete area under The British Mandate for Palestine) was drastically slashed to mere 23% for the Jews.

Such a disproportionately large area of Transjordan had a minuscule population of just over 300,000, many of whom were transient Bedouins. Many Jews who lived for generations in that area marked as Transjordan were forced to leave because of outbreaks of violence against them.

Transjordan, though declared as a separate state in 1922, remained under the British Mandate until
25 May 1946 when the UN approved the end of the British Mandate and recognized Transjordan as an independent sovereign kingdom. The Parliament of Transjordan proclaimed King Abdullah as the first King. The name Transjordan (for area only to the east of the Jordon river) was changed to Jordan in 1948 following the capture of the West Bank (area to the west of the Jordon river) by Transjordan in the Arab-Israeli War of 1948.

Reaction of the Arabs
and Other Developments

Opposition by the Arabs

Husseini (1895-1974): Hitler’s Collaborator
After the Balfour Declaration became binding international law, several pogroms were organized against the Jews by the Arabs; and their harassment dramatically increased.

To control the violence against the Jews, the British appointed Haj Amin al-Husseini, the spiritual-political leader of the Muslims in Palestine, as the grand mufti of Jerusalem, hoping he would help calm the passions. The British could not have chosen a worse person. Husseini was a virulent anti-Semite. He later became a close ally of Adolf Hitler, and actively supported the Final Solution, that is, the mass extermination of Jews. 

Husseini (1897-1974) with Hitler in 1941

In 1941, Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Germany and met Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Ribbentrop and other Nazi leaders. He wanted to persuade them to extend the Nazis’ anti-Jewish program to the Arab world.

After WW-II, in Nuremberg trial, Husseini was declared a full-fledged Nazi war criminal for having been actively involved in the Holocaust. He escaped to Egypt where he was given asylum. There he helped organize many former Nazis/Nazi sympathizers against Israel. He incited the Arabs with messages like “Itbah al-Yahud” (kill the Jews) and “Nashrab dam al-Yahud” (we will drink the blood of the Jews), and instigated anti-Jewish riots.

The voices of reasonable Arab leaders who desired amicable solution and compromise was drowned by the grand mufti who taught people not to compromise. The grand mufti grandly claimed it would violate Islamic law if even one inch of Palestine was controlled by the Jews—Husseini exhorted the Muslims to be prepared for a holy war to prevent that from happening.

The grand mufti’s incitement led to the Hebron massacre of 1929—many Jews lived in Hebron on account of its biblical significance as the birthplace of Judaism: there were several Jewish seminaries and ancient synagogues in that holy city.
Arab-Israeli Violence & Militias
The Jewish settlers in Palestine were harassed, ambushed and shot-at by the Arab ragtag militias, which took an organised shape as the Black Hand in 1919, and later grew into Hamas, Fatah and so on. In response, and for self-defence, the Jews created their own militia, initially known as the Watchmen, that through various shapes and transformations ultimately became the IDF: Israel Defense Forces.
Anti-Jewish Riots, 1929
Intermittent violence continued. In 1929 it erupted into a major orgy.

It started with the incidents at the Wailing or the Western Wall, the remnant of the western retaining wall of the Temple Mount, the most holy site of the Jews: the First and the Second Temple at the Temple Mount, that had been destroyed (pl. check my previous blog-post), and on top of which the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque had been built by the Muslims. (Incidentally, the Jews were not allowed to come to Jerusalem until the Byzantine period, when they could visit once a year on the anniversary of the destruction of their Temple and weep over the ruins of the Holy Temple. Because of this, the wall became known as the Wailing Wall.)

Wailing/Wester Wall

While the Jews had been debarred from their holy place of Temple Mount, they did pray in front of the Wailing Wall. To prevent the Jews from even doing that, which they had been doing for centuries, the Imams (including Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini) decided in 1929 that even the Western Wall belonged to the Muslims alone. Why? They concocted a religious reason: it was at the Western Wall that Prophet Muhammad had tied al-Buraq, his flying-horse, before he made his Night Journey to heaven and back (Israa and Mi'raj) from al-Haram (mosque that surrounds Kaaba) in Mecca via al-Masjid al-Aqsa (the furthest place of worship). Of course, there is no evidence to show that that furthest place of worship (al-Masjid al-Aqsa) was at Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Quran, in which sura 17.1 mentions the Night Journey, is silent on this; and, in fact, nowhere in Quran is Jerusalem or Temple Mount mentioned (sura Al-'Isra' (The Night Journey) 17.1: "Exalted is He who took His Servant [Prophet Muhammad] by night from al-Masjid al-Haram [of Mecca] to al-Masjid al-Aqsa [the furthest place of worship], whose surroundings We have blessed, to show him of Our signs...").

Temple Mount

To prevent Jews from praying at the Wailing Wall, Arabs started dumping garbage there. The intriguing thing is that if the Arabs/Muslims indeed considered the Western/Wailing Wall to be theirs and holy too, in view of the reason above, why dump garbage on your own holy site?

The dispute escalated into a full-scale riots across the country in which Jewish stores were looted and Jews were beaten and stabbed.

Hebron, the second-holiest city in Judaism after Jerusalem [the three patriarchs of the Israelites--Abraham (Abram), his son Yitshak (Isaac), and grandson Jacob (Israel)--along with their wives are buried in the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Ma'arat HaMachpela) in Hebron (Old Testament: Genesis, Chapter 23)] turned into a city of terror and massacre as the rampaging Arab mobs went after the bewildered and helpless Jewish community.

Tomb of the Patriarchs (Ma'arat HaMachpela) in Hebron

Hebron, where the Jews had lived for centuries, was cleaned out of Jews!

Behind the riots were the Black Hand and the mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini (pl. see above for both).
Haganah: the Jewish Defence
The continued Arab harassment left the Jews with no alternative but to upgrade their amateurish self-defence units called the Watchmen. That led to formation of a militia named Haganah (Hebrew for "The Defence") that got a boost after the 1929-riots, described above.

Even Israeli women in defence back in those difficult times before 1948

During 1936-1939, the years of the Arab Revolt, the Haganah morphed from a militia into a military body that protected the Jewish settlements. During World War II it organised units that served in the British army. After WWII, the Haganah struggled alongside other Jewish groups against the British Mandatory rule, and for the establishment of Israel. Ultimately, it transformed into IDF (Israel Defense Forces) when Israel was established in 1948.

 Yitzhak Rabin in Haganah

 Yitzhak Rabin as PM

  Moshe Dayan

 Ariel Sharon

Among the famous Jews who were associated with the Haganah were Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Moshe Dayan, Rehavam Ze'evi, Dov Hoz, etc. Yitzhak Rabin (1922-1995) later served as Israeli military Chief of Staff, ambassador to the US, Minister of Labor and Prime Minister between 1974–77 and 1992 until his assassination in 1995. Ariel Sharon (1928-2014) served in the Israeli military for over 25 years and as Israel's 11th Prime Minister. Moshe Dayan (1915–1981) was the Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces (1953–58) during the 1956 Suez Crisis and the Defense Minister during the Six-Day War, and represented a fighting symbol of the new state of Israel. Rehavam Ze'evi (1926– 2001) was an Israeli general, politician, and historian who founded the right-wing nationalist Moledet party. Dov Hoz (1894-1940) was one of the founders of the Haganah and a pioneer of Israeli aviation.
In 1931, Avraham Stern and a few others split from the Hagana, accusing it of excessive moderation and restraint, to form a Zionist paramilitary group Irgun (Hā-ʾIrgun Ha-Tzvaʾī Ha-Leūmī b-Ērētz Yiśrāʾel, that is, "The National Military Organization in the Land of Israel") that wanted Jews to be action-driven to overcome their weakness bred in exile. It believed that only active retaliation would deter the Arabs, and that only Jewish armed force could ensure the Jewish state.

 Irgun Emblem

Irgun Soldiers

Avraham Stern

Menachem Begin
From 1943 onwards, the Irgun was headed by Menachem Begin (1913-1992), who later co-founded the Likud Party, served Israel in various capacities and as its 6th Prime Minister between 1977 and 1983.
In 1940, Avraham Stern and a handful of others broke away from Irgun and formed what was called the Stern Gang, that was named Lehi: Lohamei Herut Yisrael, that is, "Fighters for the Freedom of Israel". Its goal was to forcibly evict the British from Palestine, allow unrestricted immigration of Jews into Palestine and form a Jewish state. Stern died in 1942.

 Lehi Emblem

Yitzhak Shamir
Former Lehi leader Yitzhak Shamir (1915-2012) became the Prime Minister of Israel for two terms: 1983-84 and 1986-92.

Sane Voices of Minuscule Arab Minority

While many Arabs viciously opposed a homeland for the Jews, there were some sane voices too. The son of the sheriff of Mecca (representing the Arab Kingdom of Hedjaz), Emir Feisal signed in 1919 an agreement with Chaim Weizmann, the representative of the Zionist organization, calling for all necessary steps to encourage large scale immigration of Jews into Palestine to facilitate denser settlements and intensive cultivation of the land—provided the Arab peasant and tenant farmers were protected in their rights, and were assisted in their economic development.

We feel that the Arabs and Jews are cousins in race, having suffered similar oppressions at the hands of powers stronger than themselves, and by a happy coincidence have been able to take the first step towards the attainment of their national ideals together.... We Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement... We will do our best, in so far as we are concerned, to help them through: we will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home... We are working together for a reformed and revised Near East, and our two movements complete one another. The Jewish movement is national and not imperialist. Our movement is national and not imperialist, and there is room in Syria [Palestine being part of it] for us both...

~ Emir Feisal

Unfortunately, such liberal and farsighted views were in minority, and what dominated was the virulent anti-Jewish bigotry by the other Arab political and religious leaders.

Peel Commission Report, 1937

Formally called the Palestine Royal Commission, the Peel Commission of Inquiry headed by Lord Robert Peel was appointed in 1936 to investigate the causes of unrest and the roots of the Arab-Jewish conflict in the British Mandate for Palestine.

In its report published in 1937, the Peel Commission stated that the Mandate had become unworkable and recommended a partition plan. Incidentally, 77% of Palestine had already been hived off as Transjordan—which had become exclusively Arab. The partition was meant for the remaining 23%. The partition plan proposed a Jewish home in areas in which there was a clear Jewish majority. The proposed Arab area was entirely contiguous and encompassed the entire Negev, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip; and was many times larger than the proposed Jewish home. Despite that, the Arabs categorically rejected the Peel Commission’s recommendations. The Arabs wanted all of Palestine for themselves, and wanted Jews to be transferred out of the country! Although many among the Jews were obviously opposed to the partition plan, being re-partition of the left-over Palestine of mere 23%, as they justly wanted the whole of the remaining 23% for the Jews, the Jewish leadership reluctantly accepted the partition plan in principle as an opportunity for sovereignty, even though it hardly met what was promised to them.

The Commission's recommendations were ultimately shelved.

The Commission also took cognizance of the murderous violence against the Jews since the 1920s that had been deliberately organised by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, and the Arab High Committee.

The Commission found that "though the Arabs have benefited by the development of the country owing to Jewish immigration, this has had no conciliatory effect. On the contrary, improvement in the economic situation in Palestine has meant the deterioration of the political situation". Addressing the "Arab charge that the Jews have obtained too large a proportion of good land cannot be maintained," noting that "much of the land now carrying orange groves was sand dunes or swamp and uncultivated when it was purchased".

British White Paper, 1939

Also called the MacDonald White Paper after Malcolm MacDonald, the British Colonial Secretary who presided over its creation, the British White Paper of 1939 was a policy paper issued under Neville Chamberlain. It was approved by the House of Commons on 23 May 1939.

As per the White Paper the idea of partitioning Palestine (Peel Commission's Report) was abandoned. As an alternative to partition, the paper provided for creating an independent Palestine to be governed by Palestinian Arabs and Jews in proportion to their numbers in the population of 1939. Also, a limit of 75,000 Jewish immigrants was set for the five-year period 1940-1944, comprising a regular yearly quota of 10,000 and a flexible supplementary quota of 25,000. Post 1944, further immigration of Jews to Palestine was to depend on the permission of the Arab majority. Restrictions were placed on the rights of Jews to buy land from Arabs.

The Jewish Agency for Palestine was scathing in its criticism of the British White Paper as it not only meant  the British were going back on their promises to the Jews in their own Balfour Declaration of 1917, but they were additionally severely curtailing the Jewish immigration to Palestine in the darkest hour of the Jewish history when it was a question of their survival from the Nazis.

Other Developments

Unfortunate Limiting of Jewish Immigration by the British. The Arab intransigence coupled with the changing British imperialistic (Oil) interests that began to favour the Arabs over the Jews led the British to bring out a White Paper in 1939 (pl. see above) that limited the Jewish immigration into Palestine to just 75,000 over the next five years—just when the immigration began to become a necessity for the Jews on account of the looming Holocaust that ultimately claimed the lives of six million Jews!

Nazis’ Final Solution. Had the Arabs been reasonable to accommodate the just rights of the Jews or had the British not so limited the immigration, at least over a million Jews would have been saved, because until 1941 the Nazi program only called for Jews to be expelled from Europe, but not necessarily murdered. Nazis’ Final Solution remained their only solution when they realized that the Jews of Europe had nowhere to go except to the gas chambers!!

Arab Palestinian Leadership supported the Nazis. There was a close association between the Arab-Palestinian leadership and Nazism throughout the 1930s and 1940s. It is strange that while the Jews supported the Allies in WW-II and the Arab-Palestinian leadership supported the Nazis, yet in the post-war settlement the Arabs were given a better deal compared to the Jews, despite the greater need for a place for the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from the death camps of Europe.

Forcing Out of Jews from Arab Lands. Jews in various Arab countries began to face increasing hostility. Even otherwise, Jews in Muslim countries were always treated as second-class non-citizens, and had long been targets of pogroms and discrimination. Some Islamic governments treated them as Dhimmis: they had to pay jizya, had to wear distinctive dress or marks, had to suffer insults, and were barred from public office. Following the Holocaust and the widespread Muslim/Arab support for it, it became increasingly difficult for the Jews to continue to reside in the Arab lands. Over 800,000 Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews were forced to leave Arab lands where they had lived for hundreds of years, and had to migrate to Israel after its establishment.

The terrible ordeal that the Jews underwent in Europe and under Islam has already been covered in detail in the previous blog-post: BCE to the Jewish Ordeal.

Injustice to Jews
even after WWII

It was expected that with the defeat of the Germans in World War II and looking to the plight of the Jews, not only would the Jewish Holocaust survivors get a good deal, the Jews would finally get their richly deserved nation.

But did that happen?

No, unfortunately.
Heartless Treatment
The world is heartless. Each country looks only to its own self-interest. And people care only for their own. Even after the War many Jews (about a million) remained in the DP Camps—located where the Concentration Camps were—and continued to rot there for many more months to several years. The last such camp was closed in 1951! Many who came out to reclaim their houses, shops, establishments and land were driven away by the squatters. They had nowhere to go!
The Sad Shocking Story of Ship "Exodus 1947"
The ship Exodus-1947 sailed for Palestine from the port of Site near Marseilles in France on July 11, 1947, with 4,515 immigrants Jews (including 655 children) wanting to escape their miserable condition. They were mostly the  Holocaust survivors.

Ship Exodus 1947

The ship was stopped by the British near the coast of Palestine (which was under the British Mandatory Rule) on 18 July. To prevent the desperate immigrants from disembarking, the British rammed the ship and boarded it. The immigrants tried to put up a defence in vain. Two immigrants and a crewman were killed resisting, and 30 were wounded. The British sent the Jews on board back to France. Reaching Port-de-Bouc in southern France, the would-be immigrants remained in the ships’ holds for 24 days during a heat wave, refusing to disembark, despite food shortage and abominable sanitary conditions. On August 22, the British sent the ship with would-be Jewish immigrants to the port of Hamburg in Germany, which was then under the British occupation. There in Germany, the land of their tormenters, the land of the Holocaust, the immigrants were forcibly ejected. Many were beaten up. About 33 Jews, including 4 women, were injured. They were herded off to two refugee camps near Lubeck. The treatment of the refugees at the camps caused an international outcry. The conditions were as despicable as in the German concentration camps.

UN Partition Plan and the
Establishment of Israel

Until today (1888), no people has succeeded in establishing national dominion in the Land of Israel.  No national unity, in the spirit of nationalism, has acquired any hold there.   The mixed multitude of itinerant tribes that managed to settle there did so on lease, as temporary residents.  It seems that they await the return of the permanent residents of the land.

~ Professor Sir John William Dosson, 1889

15 May 1947: United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP). The United Nations General Assembly resolved for creation of United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) to be tasked with the preparation of a report on the question of Palestine for consideration at the next regular session of the Assembly.

3 September 1947: UNSCOP Report. The UNSCOP Report proposed a plan to replace the British Mandate with "an independent Arab State, an independent Jewish State, and the City of Jerusalem...the last to be under an International Trusteeship System".

29 November 1947: The UN Partition Plan. The UN General Assembly recommended the adoption and implementation of the partition plan of Palestine on 29 November 1947 into the Jewish and the Arab political units—Israel and Palestine—essentially on the lines of the recommendations of the UNSCOP Report. Jerusalem was to be administered as an international zone.

Miserably Truncated Land to the Jews
Although the Jews sided with and helped (including serving in the army) the Allies in the Second World War, and the Arabs/Palestinians sided with the Germans, yet the Jews got a raw deal, as would be obvious from the belated, shabby partition plan given above, and grant of a highly truncated Israel to the Jews; when actually the Jews deserved the whole of the remaining (only 23%) Palestine under the British Palestine Mandate, considering that 77% of it had already been given to the Arabs as TransJordan/Jordan. The Arabs from the 23% Palestine (which should have become Israel) should have been absorbed in Jordan (77% of the area) which was highly underpopulated or distributed among the other Arab nations.

Why was the injustice done? Why didn't the British come good on their Balfour Declaration of 1917, which was backed up by many nations of Europe and the US? Well, oil meanwhile became critical to their interests, and Arabs had the oil! So, why bother about solemn promises. Jewsnotwithstanding their just historical right, the solemn pledges to them (and the favour shamelessly taken from them by the British, in return), their terrible plight through the centuries, the unimaginable Holocaustwere dispensable.

A fair extent of land (23% of the British Palestine Mandate) should have been reserved for the Jews considering that Jews were to have just one nation (which had actually been usurped from them centuries ago), when the Muslims already had 49 countries for them. A little less than half the Islamic nations are the Arab nations: 21 out of 49. The combined area of these 21 Arab Islamic nations itself is a whopping 13.487 million sq km, compared to which the area of the current Israel is a negligible 21,000 is sq km—a mere 0.16%! Compared to the area of all the Islamic nations, Israel land area would be a pittance—less than 0.08%!
UN Partition Vote
On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions and 1 absent, in favour of the modified UN Partition Plan: please see the map above. Those against (basically against creation of Israel) included 10 Muslim nations, namely Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Yemen, and 3 others, namely Cuba, Greece, and one more country. Guess which? Most regretfully, it was Indiathat was thanks to the blighted Nehruvian era, that laid the concrete foundations of India's never-ending poverty and misery (check my blog-post on that era)! Incidentally, those who voted in favour included Soviet Union. Abstentions included Republic of China and Yugoslavia. India could have at least abstained!

It should not be thought that those who voted for the resolution did a big favour to the Jews. As highlighted above, what the Jews got was a miserably small truncated land that excluded their top-most holy places, namely Jerusalem and Hebron. And, the land was difficult to secure and defend. They were, in fact, exposed to grave security risk.

Further, many nations voted for the resolution for their own selfish motive. Certain European nations wanted to close the Jewish refugee camps in their countries and wanted to get rid of the Jews there. Soviet Union voted in favour because Stalin wanted to embarrass the British; and four other East European nations simply followed Soviet Union's lead.

Thirteen Latin American and Caribbean countries, who didn't really care either way, voted in favour on account of persuasion of the US and the European countries, and also thanks to the efforts of an influential, self-made, rags-to-riches Jewish-American businessman Samuel Zemurray, nicknamed "Sam the Banana Man", owner of the United Fruit Company, the world's most influential fruit company at the time.

Samuel Zemurray, nicknamed "Sam the Banana Man"

There are sections and states which even now reject the two state solution of Israel and Palestine. Rejectionists include states such as Syria, Iran and Libya, and the Palestinian groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and the PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine) who want all of the remaining 23% of Palestine (77% being already an Arab Muslim State: Jordon) exclusively for the Arab Muslims; and a small minority of Israelis and American Jews who claim all of that remaining 23%  for Greater Israel.

1 December 1947: Arab Refusal. The Arabs refused to accept the UN Plan. The Arab Higher Committee proclaimed a three-day strike, and Arab bands began attacking Jewish targets.

The Arab world is not in a compromising mood. It's likely, Mr. Horowitz, that your plan is rational and logical, but the fate of nations is not decided by rational logic. Nations never concede; they fight. You won't get anything by peaceful means or compromise. You can, perhaps, get something, but only by the force of your arms. We shall try to defeat you...

~ Arab League Secretary Azzam Pasha on September 16, 1947 in his meeting with David Horowitz and Abba Eban (representing Jews) when they made a last-ditch effort to reach a compromise.

Even though the UN partition plan was grossly unfair to the Jews on many counts, including non-inclusion of Hebron and Jerusalem, which were the two holiest places of the Jews; Jewish/Israeli leadership reluctantly accepted the partition plan, although many Jews opposed it.

14 May 1948 : Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel. In view of the scheduled termination of the British Mandate for Palestine on 15 May 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the Executive Head of the Zionist Organization and the President of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, declared the establishment of the State of Israel on 14 May 1948.


David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) reading out the Declaration

The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.

After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.

Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, ma'pilim [(Hebrew)--immigrants coming to Eretz-Israel in defiance of restrictive legislation] and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country's inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.

In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.

This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.

The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people - the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe - was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the comity of nations.

Survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz-Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.

In the Second World War, the Jewish community of this country contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom- and peace-loving nations against the forces of Nazi wickedness and, by the blood of its soldiers and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples who founded the United Nations.

On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.

This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.


WE DECLARE that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People's Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People's Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called "Israel".

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

THE STATE OF ISRAEL is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the economic union of the whole of Eretz-Israel.

WE APPEAL to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building-up of its State and to receive the State of Israel into the comity of nations.

WE APPEAL - in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months - to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.

WE APPEAL to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream - the redemption of Israel.

Arab Attack: 15 May 1948
On the very next day of its birth, when it had yet to find its moorings, and when it hardly had any army or military hardware worth the name, all its long-established Arab neighbours with well-trained and well-equipped army—Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Iraqjointly attacked Israel.

Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion. This saves your honor. God is with you.
~ Haj Amin al-Husseini (1893-1974), Grand Mufti of Jerusalem & Head of the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee

Poor, ill-prepared and ill-equipped Israel was left to fend for itself! So much for the sense of responsibility of the UN and its members who had voted in favour of the UN resolution. Shouldn't they—the UN, the US, the Soviet Union, the UK, the other European nationshave come forward and actively defended Israel?

The next blog-post in this series would cover the above period of the "Arab Attack of 1948" or the "Israel's War of Independence of 1948" and subsequent developments.

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