Israel Palestine Infos
November 26, 2011
A Day in November
THIS TUESDAY will be the 64th anniversary of a fateful day for our lives.
A day in November. A day to remember.
On November 29, 1947, the
General Assembly of the United Nations adopted, by 33 votes against 13 (with 10
This event has become a subject of endless debates, misinterpretations and outright falsifications. It may be worthwhile to peel away the myths and see it as it was.
BY THE end of 1947, there
were in the country – then officially named
This was the reality that the UN commission, charged with proposing a solution, found on the ground when it visited the country.
One of the great moments
of my life is connected with this UNSCOP (“United Nations Special Committee on
In a huge natural amphitheater, under a canopy of twinkling summer stars, tens of thousands of young people, boys and girls, had gathered to cheer on the many amateur groups performing on the stage. It was a joyous affair, imbued with camaraderie, radiating feelings of strength and self-confidence.
No one of us could have guessed that within a few months we would meet again in the fields of a deadly war.
In the middle of the
performance, an excited voice announced on the loudspeaker that several members
of UNSCOP had come to visit. As one, the huge crowd stood up and started to sing
the national anthem, Hatikvah (“the Hope”). I never liked this song very much,
but at that moment it sounded like a fervent prayer, filling the space,
rebounding from the hills of the
IT WAS in this atmosphere that the members of UNSCOP, representing many different nations, had to find a solution.
As everybody knows, the
commission adopted a plan to partition
Looking at the map of the
1947 partition resolution, one must wonder at the borders. They resemble a
puzzle, with Arab pieces and Jewish pieces put together in an impossible
The explanation is that the committee did not really envision two totally independent and separate states. The plan explicitly included an economic union. That would have necessitated a very close relationship between the two political entities, something akin to a federation, with open borders and free movement of people and goods. Without it, the borders would have been impossible.
That was a very optimistic scenario. Immediately after the committee’s plan was adopted by the General Assembly, after much cajoling by the Zionist leadership, war broke out with sporadic Arab attacks on Jewish traffic on the vital roads.
When the first shot was fired, the partition plan was dead. The foundation, on which the whole edifice rested, broke apart. No open borders, no economic union, no chance for a union of any kind. Only abyssal, deadly, enmity.
THE PARTITION plan would never have been adopted in the first place if it had not been preceded by a historical event that seemed at the time beyond belief.
The Soviet delegate to the UN, Andrei Gromyko, suddenly made what can only be described as a fiery Zionist speech. He contended that after the terrible suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust, they deserved a state of their own.
To appreciate the utter
amazement with which this speech was received, one must remember that until that
very moment, Communists and Zionists had been irreconcilable foes. It was not
only a clash of ideologies, but also a family affair. In Tzarist
An idealistic young Jew
had the choice between joining the Bolsheviks, the social-democratic Jewish Bund
or the Zionists. The competition was fierce and engendered intense mutual
hatred. Later, in the
What had brought about
this sudden change in Soviet policy? Stalin did not turn from an anti-Semite
into a philo-Semite. Far from it. But he was a pragmatist. It was the era of
medium-range missiles, which threatened Soviet territory from all sides.
Palestine was in practice a British colony and could easily have become a
Western missile base, threatening
In the following war,
almost all my weapons came from the Soviet bloc, mainly from
The end of this unnatural
honeymoon came in the early fifties, when David Ben-Gurion decided to turn
TODAY, THE partition
resolution is remembered in
No one in
At the time, the UN
resolution was accepted by the Jewish population with overflowing enthusiasm.
The photos of the people dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv belong to this day,
and not – as is often falsely claimed, to the day the State of
We know now that
Ben-Gurion did not dream of accepting the partition plan borders, and even less
the Arab population within them. The famous army “Plan Dalet” early in the war
was a strategic necessity, but it was also a solution to the two problems: it
But all that is history. What concerned the future are the words “Jewish state”. Israeli rightists, who abhor the partition resolution in any other context, insist that it provides the legal basis to Israel’s right to be recognized as a “Jewish state” – meaning in practice, that the state belongs to all the Jews around the world, but not to its Arab citizens, whose families have been living here for at least 13 centuries, if not far longer (depends who does the counting).
But the UN used the word
“Jewish” only for lack of any other definition. During the British Mandate, the
two peoples in the country were called in English “Jews” and “Arabs”. But we
ourselves spoke about a “Hebrew” State (medina Ivrit). In newspaper
clippings of the time, only this term can be seen. People of my age-group
remember dozens of demonstrations in which we invariably chanted “Free
The UN did not deal with the ideological makeup of the future states. It certainly assumed that they would be democratic, belonging to all their inhabitants. Otherwise they would hardly have drawn borders that left a substantial Arab population in the “Jewish” state.
The ultra-rightists who now dominate the Knesset want to use these words as a pretext for replacing democracy with a doctrine of Jewish nationalist-religious supremacy. A former Shin-Bet chief and present Kadima party MK has submitted a bill that would abolish the equality of the two terms “Jewish” and “democratic” in the official legal doctrine, and state clearly that the “Jewishness” of the state has precedence over its “democratic” character. This would deprive the Arab citizens of any remnant of equality. (At the last moment, in face of the public reaction, the Kadima party compelled him to withdraw the bill.)
THE 1947 partition plan was an exceptionally intelligent document. Its details are obsolete now, but its basic idea is as relevant today as it was 64 years ago: two nations are living in this country, they cannot live together in one state without a continuous civil war, they can live together in two states, the two states must establish close ties between each other.
Ben-Gurion was determined
to prevent the founding of the Arab Palestinian state, and with the help of King
On the 64th
anniversary of this historic event, we must go back to its basic principle: