The latest essay by our Israeli correspondent MC examines the confluence of Soviet, British, and American foreign policy interests as they affected the Partition of the Palestinian Mandate and the subsequent war of 1947-48.
British perfidy? Or just plain prejudice?
“I do not recognize your authority to try me. This court has no legal foundation, since it was appointed by a regime without legal foundation.
“You came to Palestine because of the commitment you undertook at the behest of all the nations of the world to rectify the greatest wrong caused to any nation in the history of mankind, namely the expulsion of Israel from their land, which transformed them into victims of persecution and incessant slaughter throughout the world. It was this commitment — and this commitment alone — which constituted the legal and moral basis for your presence in this country. But you betrayed it wilfully, brutally and with satanic cunning. You turned your commitment into a mere scrap of paper…
“When the prevailing government in any country is not legal, when it becomes a regime of oppression and tyranny, it is the right of its citizens — more than that, it is their duty — to fight this regime and to topple it. This is what Jewish youth are doing and will continue to do until you quit this land, and hand it over to its rightful owners: the Jewish people. For you should know this: there is no power in the world which can sever the tie between the Jewish people and their one and only land. Whosoever tries to sever it — his hand will be cut off and the curse of God will rest on him for ever.”
— Dov Gruner (Hanged by the British in 1947; he was charged with firing on policemen, and setting explosive charges with the intent of killing personnel ‘on His Majesty’s service’)
The above may ring bells to those following recent events in the State of Nevada, but I want to explore the events in proto-Israel in 1947/8, having been provoked by a comment in the Catherine Ashton post a few weeks ago.
In my response to the comment I referred to the policies of the British Foreign and Colonial office in appearing to support the genocide of the Jews in Israel by the Arab armies in the obviously forthcoming war. As I thought about it, it occurred to me how the situation must have looked to the mandarins at the FCO at the time.
At the United Nations vote on Partition (Resolution 188), to the surprise of all, Stalin voted for partition. One must ask oneself why? Did he assume that Israel, an extremely ‘socialist’ country, would fall naturally into the Soviet Block?
Did the British FCO therefore assume the same thing, and, in the light of American Betrayal, did Stalin ‘control’ the US position also?
Bevin, then Foreign Secretary, and his opposition counterpart, Eden, were both known anti-Semites, and thus had a predisposition to prefer Arab to Jew, and the FCO generally must have felt that they could control an Arab state (they had had plenty of practice), but not a Jewish state full of highly educated men and women with a cause.
Britain had been mandated to create a Jewish homeland whilst respecting the cultural and religious rights of other inhabitants. It should be noted that any obligation to ‘political’ rights (other than Jewish) was missing.
Britain had turned the mandate on its head, having almost from the beginning supported Arab political rights to the exclusion of all others. Jewish immigration was thus restricted whilst unlimited Arab immigration took place. My grandfather’s brother was thrown out of the country when he tried to immigrate as a Jew, but was allowed to stay when he immigrated a year later (from Baghdad) as an Arab.
In 1947, any analyst looking at the situation would have had to have taken note of Stalin’s support of proto-Israel and the very real possibility of a Soviet military base in the Eastern Mediterranean. Not a good picture.
So we find the British doing everything they can to ensure an Arab victory in the coming war, disarming and demoralizing Jewish resistance right up to the last moments of withdrawal. In the War of Independence, the Royal Air Force regularly overflew the war zone from Egypt and other places, and the Israelis eventually ambushed the daily reconnaissance flyover when they got hold of an old P-51 Mustang. What information was passed to the Egyptians (if any) we do not yet know; the documents have not been released.
What interested me was the possible tie in of Soviet influence in the USA. The commenter referred to the US media ‘hate’ campaign against the British. Now ‘hate’ is a very strong word, which probably overplays the situation, but the US establishment was, with justification, extremely critical of the British perfidy in the region. Did the US have a more realistic (by hindsight) picture of the situation, or were they playing on behalf of their Soviet ‘masters’?
We may never know, but what we do know is that British actions created a running political sore that is still with us today. Giving Arabs political rights contrary to the treaty and its mandate has made an insoluble problem for all of us.
Inexplicably, the British let the rabid dog loose on the world, obviously thinking they could control it, but Islamic terrorism won over the British in Palestine, and spread from there to the whole of the Western world. Was it all for fear of communism? Anyhow, we appear to have ended up with both.
MC lives in the southern Israeli city of Sderot. For his previous essays, see the MC Archives.