The problem that the British Labor government faced was whether it could establish a viable socialist state in the inadequate…
Sidney Hertzberg devotes most of his department this month to charting the intricate and confusing currents and cross-currents that have marked Palestine developments in the period following the Basel World Zionist Congress. During this month a milestone in history was passed with Britain’s declaration of her intention to refer Palestine to the United Nations.
The problem that the British Labor government faced was whether it could establish a viable socialist state in the inadequate area of the world known as the United Kingdom.
The obstacles were formidable. Britain faced an impossible economic situation resulting from the financial strain of two wars, the technological inadequacy of its industrial system, expensive military and administrative commitments abroad, loss of markets, a shortage of workers, and a plethora of consumers.
Whether or not socialism could be established in one country was a problem that had long agitated socialist theorists. There was some doubt that socialism could be established in large self-sufficient areas such as the United States and the Soviet Union. There was very serious doubt that socialism could be established in the British Isles unless its economy could become integrated with stable economies abroad.
Britain’s Labor government had to make cruel choices between foreign trade and domestic consumption. It had to readjust political relations with its empire so that it could establish friendly economic relations. The Labor government systematically proceeded to dismantle the imperial structure that had once supported an uneasy world order. This process, in the subdued and astringent announcements of Clement R. Attlee, seemed almost routine. It was the anguished thunder of Winston Churchill that served to warn the world that it was witnessing a turning point in history.
In India, the British had offered full independence on May 16, 1946, and established a procedure whereby the Indians could set up a fully representative government to which the British could turn over power. But the Moslems could not be persuaded to follow this procedure. The British decided that this fact would not prevent their departure. Last month the British Labor government announced that it would definitely turn over sovereignty to the Indians by June 1948. If sovereignty could not be relinquished to a single Indian authority, the British would distribute the sovereignty around, probably giving some of it to Moslems and princes.
In the Middle East, the British relinquished a substantial interest in their oil rights to American companies, and were pulling out of Egypt. In Burma, the British offered independence.
In Palestine, the British made a final stab at a solution and, promptly after its rejection by Zionists and Arabs, the Cabinet decided, on February 14, to turn over the Palestine problem to the United Nations.
The British seemed to be possessed of an overwhelming desire to be rid of the White Man’s Burden. “The present state of uncertainty is fraught with danger and cannot be indefinitely prolonged,” the British White Paper on India said. “His Majesty’s Government are not prepared to continue indefinitely to govern Palestine themselves merely because the Arabs and the Jews cannot agree upon the means of sharing its government between them,” the British memorandum said. This time they meant it. Divide and rule had once been the path to imperial riches. It was now the path to political and economic bankruptcy.
For Zionism, the British decision to take Palestine to the United Nations meant the beginning of a new book in its history. Modern Zionism was based on the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, which the British had held for twenty-five years. Though the Mandate, in some vital respects, was unclear and subject to varying interpretations, it had yet provided a solid juridical base for most types of Zionism. Suddenly this foundation was removed. The United Nations was a new organization. It could do as it chose with the Mandate. It was not bound by the Balfour Declaration or by any other previous commitments to Arabs or Jews. New forces and new conditions had arisen in the world since the writing of the Mandate and they would influence the United Nations’ disposition of the Palestine problem. In effect, the world and the Zionists now faced a clean slate.
The Zionist movement itself was now jolted out of a familiar and well-worn routine. Overnight the long background of Zionist diplomacy, which established valuable contacts and modes of operation vis-à-vis the British, became almost worthless. The tactic of using humanitarian appeals in the United States to extract political concessions from Britain was now played out. The United States, like Britain and every other member of the United Nations, now would be called upon to take responsibility for working out and implementing a specific solution in Palestine.
Balance of Risks
“We shall plead our case in the capitals of every member state of the United Nations and defend it before the Assembly,” Moshe Shertok, chairman of the Jewish Agency’s Political Department, pledged. It was an arduous prospect. In the United Nations, procedures were still uncertain and in some vital instances non-existent. The motivations with which the Zionists would have to deal were no longer simply British; they were now as complicated as all the cross-currents of the total world scene.
Among those directly concerned, only the Arabs had cause for rejoicing over the new situation. Three days before the British announcement, Abdul Rahman Azzam Bey, secretary-general of the Arab League, announced that the Arab states, anticipating the failure of the London Conference, had already decided to take the problem to the United Nations. A week previous the exiled Mufti of Jerusalem had announced his support of such action.
For the Arabs, it might mean the unwelcome involvement of the Soviet Union. But it would also mean the formal involvement of the Arab states in the fate of Palestine and the possible triumph of Arab nationalism on the basis of the generally accepted principle of self-determination.
For the British, there was the risk of a weakening of their strategic domination of the area. But a new directive might mean some relief from the economic and military burden, and from the moral onus under which Britain had been suffering. Best of all, it meant the formal involvement of the United States as a responsible participant rather than as a critic without responsibility—an aim that Ernest Bevin had tried unsuccessfully to achieve since he took office.
For the Zionists, there seemed to be no advantage at all. After World War I, Britain was in a position to satisfy Zionist aspirations, and the Arabs were not able to thwart them. After World War II, Britain was no longer the power she used to be, and the Arabs, now violently anti-Zionist, had strength and allies. The prospect emphasized the ironic fact that, despite all the bitterness, Britain was still the best friend Zionists had among the nations of the world. At no time did the Jewish Agency propose to take its case to the United Nations and, even after the British announcement, Agency leaders said they would want the British to remain if the Mandate were “observed.”
Yet everyone, including the Zionists, had to pretend to be happy about the move. The United Nations, so the story ran, was the hope of the world. It was where the oppressed turned for justice. Any public questioning of this belief was not being done in responsible quarters.
The Principle of Self-Determination
The British decision was to take Palestine to the General Assembly, in which all members of the United Nations were represented. No recommendation would be made. The British would simply present a review of their twenty-five years as the mandatory power, a summary of current Arab and Zionist demands, and the latest British proposal.
Exactly what procedure the British expected the General Assembly to follow was not at first made clear. The General Assembly had virtually unlimited power to discuss and make recommendations. The most logical course would have been to refer it to the International Trusteeship Council, which is specifically empowered to deal with mandates. Though Bevin described the Palestine Mandate as “unworkable,” he did not offer to turn it in. Yet the obvious intent of the UN Charter was that mandates should be incorporated into the trusteeship system. If Palestine was accounted a threat to international peace, it could have been taken to the Security Council. Otherwise, it would probably end up, sooner or later, in the Trusteeship Council. In any case, whatever action the General Assembly took was likely to be based on the articles in the Charter relating to the international trusteeship system. Therefore these articles were worth careful scrutiny.
The basic objectives of the system were set down in Article Seventy-Six. It required that these objectives be in accordance with the purposes of the United Nations itself as stated in Article One of the Charter, which included the declaration that the United Nations should develop friendly relations among nations “based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples.”
Article Seventy-Six itself declared that in the trust territories there must be “progressive development toward self-government or independence as may be appropriate to the particular circumstances of each territory and its people and the freely expressed wishes of the people concerned.” It also encouraged “recognition of the interdependence of the peoples of the world.”
The provisions stressing self-determination would no doubt be stressed by the Arabs. The Arab case “is that of a people desiring to remain undisturbed in possession of their country and to safeguard their natural existence and freedom,” Jamal Husseini, spokesman for the Palestinian Arabs, told the London Conference on January 27. “This natural right happily coincides with the highest principle of self-determination.” The Arabs would no doubt make use of this happy coincidence, since self-determination under existing circumstances would mean an independent Palestinian state in which the Arabs would be a two-to-one majority. A decision based on this principle would destroy all hope of a Jewish state, except in the highly unlikely event that the UN decided deliberately to postpone self-determination until the Jews were a majority.
Conceivably the principle of self-determination could be interpreted to mean self-determination for the Jews in Palestine, which would give them a separate partitioned state. But this would involve the setting of a precedent which many nations would find extremely uncomfortable. Under such a precedent, India would hardly be able to refuse Pakistan to its Moslems and Sikhistan to its Sikhs; China could not refuse to grant independence to the Communist-held areas. It would be a precedent under which any minority in any existing sovereign state could demand independence.
However, under the various provisions in the Charter for respect of human rights, an independent Palestinian state would have to commit itself to the protection of minority rights which, if carried out, might make possible the development of a non-political Jewish national home.
States Directly Concerned
Article Seventy-Nine of the trusteeship chapter read: “The terms of trusteeship for each territory to be placed under the trusteeship system, including any alteration or amendment, shall be agreed upon by the states directly concerned, including the mandatory power in the case of territories held under mandates by a member of the United Nations.”
This meant that the terms of the trusteeship for Palestine must be approved by Britain as the mandatory power and by “the states directly concerned.” No matter how many other members of the United Nations approved the terms, they could not be adopted over the veto of any one of these states.
For the Zionists, the phrase “the states directly concerned,” was a mined field. In setting up the International Trusteeship Council in the fall of 1946, the great powers were unable to agree on how to define it. At the insistence of the United States, the Trusteeship Council was set up without a definition. The Soviet Union objected and there was some doubt that the Soviet Union recognized the legality of the Trusteeship Council.
Among the ten nations on the Council was Iraq, the most violently anti-Zionist of the Arab states.
However the phrase might be defined for general purposes, it would be difficult to maintain that the Arab states were not states directly concerned in a Palestine trusteeship. The Arab claim would be based on geographical proximity, racial and religious affinity, and economic connections. “What business have these Arab states to discuss the future of Palestine?” Dr. Abba Hillel Silver, president of the Zionist Organization of America, had demanded at a Zionist conference on January 26. The question was now answered.
Both the Soviet Union and the United States could also claim they were states directly concerned. The Soviet case would be at least as strong as the United States case, though neither would be presented frankly in terms of power strategy. If the United States claim were based on the presence of Jews within its borders, Moscow could point to the presence not only of Jews but also of many Moslems in the Soviet Union. American investments in Zionist enterprise and Middle East oil could be balanced in part by the Soviets’ interest in Middle East oil. The Soviet Union could also point to a geographic proximity which the United States could not claim.
Article Eighty-One of the Charter provided that a trust might be administered by “one or more states or the organization itself.” This meant that the Soviet Union and one or more Arab states might not only be able to veto the terms of any trusteeship agreement, but they could also demand to be represented in the administering authority over the trust itself.
If the Arabs should lose their demand for the immediate independence of Palestine, and if a trusteeship agreement satisfactory to the Zionists and unsatisfactory to anti-Zionists should somehow survive the veto of the Arab states, the Soviet Union, or the United Kingdom, there would still be the General Assembly itself.
Under Article Eighty-Five of the Charter, the terms of a Palestine trusteeship agreement and of any subsequent alteration or amendment would have to be approved by the General Assembly. Any action by the General Assembly on Palestine would require a two-thirds vote.
At this point the realities of international power politics would come into full play. Arrayed against Zionist demands would be the Arab bloc and the Soviet Union. Some observers felt that Moscow might allow its satellite states to vote as they pleased. Unless their own self-interest were directly involved, the rest of the United Nations could be expected to avoid antagonizing either the Arab bloc or the Soviet Union. Scandinavia and the small Western European nations would be inclined to follow Britain’s lead. Opposition to a Jewish state in Palestine could be expected from Turkey, India, Iran, China, Ethiopia and the Philippines. The Latin American bloc had a kind of working agreement with the Arab bloc and was not likely to vote against it on a matter in which the Arabs felt so violently.
The prospects of getting a Jewish state, either in all or part of Palestine, from the General Assembly seemed hopeless.
Until the United Nations acted, the situation was in status quo. Article Eighty of the Charter provided that the rights “of any states or any peoples” in mandated territory must remain unchanged until a new agreement was concluded. Therefore Britain’s authority in Palestine continued undiminished. Jewish rights under the Mandate also remained in force.
Britain announced that immigration would continue at the rate of 1,500 a month.
The Zionist Reaction
The British decision suddenly exposed the futility of Zionist maneuvering. The great debate at the World Zionist Congress in Basel over the precise terms on which the Agency might attend the London Conference, the heated controversies over the tactical nuances now seemed silly. They were meaningless even in terms of the London Conference itself. The only practical meaning of the bitterly fought Basel decision was that the Jewish Agency met with the British in the Colonial Secretary’s office rather than in St. James Palace where the Arabs met them.
Zionist comment on the new situation made no effort to display happiness, but neither did it recognize the bitter implications of the British action. The official statement of the Jewish Agency said:
Another stage of negotiations has ended in a complete deadlock and the Government apparently envisages another period of delay. The policy of procrastination has been pursued ever since the end of the war with disastrous results to the peace of Palestine and to the hopes of the Jewish remnants in Europe. If the Government intends to go to the United Nations with a constructive proposal for the solution of the Palestine problem, it should at least appear before an international tribunal with its mandatory trust intact and inviolate. The Mandate is binding on Great Britain until a new policy is authorized by the United Nations. The British Government should therefore remove its restrictions on immigration and land settlement which are incompatible with the provisions of the Mandate. This is the only way of allaying the feelings of tension and despair which have manifested themselves in the past two years.
Dr. Abba Hillel Silver, rarely at a loss for full-blooded pronouncements on Zionist developments, told an emergency conference of all American Zionists in Washington on February 17 that the British move involved both disadvantages and advantages but required further study.
The conference itself adopted a long declaration in which it referred to the British action as “another maneuver which, while seemingly leaving the decision of Palestine’s future in the hands of the United Nations, is calculated to secure the prolongation of arbitrary British rule pending time-consuming deliberations, the results of which Britain may negate with her veto power.”
The declaration was typical of American Zionist documents in its persisting interpretation of Zionism according to the Biltmore line, despite disasters and change of political climate, in the Zionist movement as well as externally.
The Biltmore line was finished as most Zionists admitted privately. But there was no sign of it in official statements. The declaration began by stating that the British obligation was “the development of the Jewish National Home,” the phrase used in the Balfour Declaration. The Jews, it continued, “ask only the elementary human rights of life, work and home.” One thousand words later the purpose of the Mandate, though the Mandate was not specifically mentioned, had become “to end for all time Jewish national homelessness and to re-establish Jewish nationhood.” Having reached “nationhood,” the final jump was inevitable. The solution which the United Nations had to spell out “in clear and precise terms” included “the establishment of the Jewish state.”
In appealing directly to the United States government, the declaration used the omnibus phrase, “Jewish national aspirations,” the support of which, it said, was the “traditional policy” of the country. Since the United States now was forced to adopt a concrete policy in the United Nations, it was unlikely that this kind of unprecise rhetoric would continue to pay off.
America was establishing other traditions in its foreign policy. Two days after the Zionist conference met, President Truman decorated Crown Prince Amir Saud of Saudi Arabia with the Legion of Merit in the degree of Commander, and gave him another Legion of Merit, in the degree of Chief Commander, to give to his father, King Ibn Saud, “for services rendered to the Allied cause in World War II.” The Crown Prince bad just completed a tour of the United States looking for things to buy with royalties his father was getting from American oil companies. Next day he left for London in the President’s personal plane.
In the experience of Ernest Bevin, the labor leader, any dispute between capital and labor was susceptible of settlement by negotiation. On the whole, this experience proved valuable for Ernest Bevin, the diplomat. The great exception seemed to be Palestine.
The fullest revelation of Bevin’s approach to Palestine came in his statement to the House of Commons on February 25 in explanation of the Cabinet’s decision to refer the problem to the United Nations. It put on the record what had long been suspected: that the British Foreign Secretary was a solid and immovable opponent of a Jewish state in any form. It showed him completely impervious to Zionist dialectics of the Biltmore period.
In talking to Commons, Bevin made no effort to conceal his annoyance over his failure to achieve a negotiated settlement. What his statement lacked in grammar and. precision it made up in vigor and plain-speaking.
Why the United Nations
The decision to take Palestine to the United Nations, Bevin declared, was based on the conclusion that the Mandate was “unworkable,” though Britain had done its best.1 “If we take the ratio of immigration and development inaccentuated [sic] by the Hitler regime, I think that the original basis of the Mandate as visualized in 1922 has, in fact, been carried out,” he said. “What we have not been able to do is to meet with this Mandate the accentuated position created by the Hitler regime and the persecution in Germany.”
Bevin complained that all proposals looking toward independence for Palestine were judged by Arabs and Jews in terms of the kind of state it would be The Jewish national home, as he interpreted it, was no longer the issue, he said.
“The issue which the United Nations must consider and decide is (1) shall the claims of the Jews that Palestine is to be a Jewish state be admitted? or (2) shall the claim of the Arabs that it is to be an Arab state with safeguards for the Jews under the decision for a national home be admitted? or (3) shall it be a Palestinian state in which the interests of both communities are as carefully balanced and protected as possible?”
Britain, as the mandatory power, had no power to make the choice, he said.
In describing his efforts to reach a negotiated settlement, Bevin said: “To begin with, and I want to make this very clear, we agreed that we could not enforce the White Paper of 1939 as a basis for our policy.” However, in the face of repeated challenges from members of the House of Commons, he vigorously denied that he could have torn up the White Paper. He insisted on continuity in British foreign policy and said that the White Paper was an undertaking that could be changed only “by proper negotiation and by substituting another policy.”
Of the decision to permit immigration at the rate of 1,500 a month despite the White Paper ban, he said: “I will not say, and it would be wrong of me to say, that there was an agreement by the Arabs to do that, but there was at least acquiescence, and on that acquiescence in a friendly way we proceeded to issue certificates at 1,500 a month.”
This, he said, was “the first step in the opening of negotiations.” It was, he added, “not a bad rate of entry” and had been exceeded only five times in the history of the Mandate—in 1925, and in the first four years of Nazi rule.
“But,” he continued, “I think we might have been able to do more for the Jews, and have increased this rate at that time, if the bitterness of feeling which surrounds this problem of immigration had not been increased by American pressure for the immediate admission of 100,000. I do not desire to create any ill feeling with the United States: in fact, I have done all I can to promote the best possible relations with them, as with other countries, but I should have been happier if they had had regard to the fact that we were the Mandatory Power, and we were carrying the responsibility. (Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”) And if they had only waited to ask us what we were doing, then we could have informed them. But instead of that, a person named Earl Harrison was sent out to their zone in Germany collecting certain information, and a report was issued. I must say it really destroyed the basis of good feeling that we—the Colonial Secretary and I—were endeavoring to produce in the Arab states, and it set the whole thing back.”
Later in his speech Bevin expressed his belief that “if it were only a question of relieving Europe of 100,000 Jews,” a settlement could be found.
“Unfortunately, that is not the position,” he said. “From the Zionist point of view, the 100,000 is only a beginning, and the Jewish Agency was thinking in terms of millions. I think the Arabs could be persuaded to agree to 100,000 new immigrants, in an orderly way, on humanitarian grounds, having regard to the European situation—and I emphasize this—immigration after that was to be determined by the elected representatives of the people of Palestine.”
His final word on immigration was an offer to “take a proportion, together with all the other countries of the world,” of Europe’s one million displaced.
Bevin opposed partition because of the “tremendous row” it would have caused over the drawing of frontiers.
“We really cannot make two viable states of Palestine however we may try. We cannot do it. We can make one viable state and, so far as I can see, or as far as any student of the map could see, the only thing we could do would be to transfer the rest nearer to one of the Arab states, but I ask what trouble is that going to cause in the whole of the Arab world? That will set going a conflict which will be worse than the conflict we have tried to settle. . . .
“The best partition scheme and the most favorable one that I have seen up to now, has the effect that it would leave, at the present moment, 450,000 Jews and 360,000 Arabs in the Jewish state. I put that to the Arabs quite frankly, and what was their answer? The Arabs say ‘if it is wrong for the Jews to be in minority of 33? or 40 per cent in the whole country, what justification is there for putting 380,000 Arabs under the Jews? What is your answer to that?’ I have no answer to that.”
Bevin declared he was unable to give an accurate definition of the Jewish national home, but he said that the Arabs were ready to accept it within a unitary state in which they were a majority. Asked what was the good of the Arab’s accepting something he could not define, Bevin replied: “Because they agreed in their plan—Hon. Members have it before them—that you can have your own language, your own university, your own religion, everything. . . .”
At this point some of the Hon. Members made noises of disdain, and Bevin retorted: “My Hon. Friend says very kind of them, but if other countries that persecuted Jews had only given them that there would never have been a problem.”
The Basic Bevin View
In summarizing his presentation of the most recent British memorandum, Bevin expressed his ultimate hope for Palestine:
We felt that if we could begin self-government, begin getting people to work together, it would help to solve the problem. I am convinced that if the Jews and the Arabs in Palestine—I emphasize in Palestine—are given a chance to work together they will work together and solve this problem, but if it is to be settled in accordance with the Jewish Agency’s dictates it will never be settled. I am speaking, I hope, impartially. . . .
In the Citrus Board, in the trade boards and the various boards of commerce, they do work together. If they can work together in trade and commerce in that way, personally I am convinced that if given the chance and removed from political difficulty, then the Jews and Arabs will develop a state of which they can well be proud. That is my view, and I am entitled to my view after all these negotiations.
The world press largely ignored Bevin’s views, to play up his sensational charge that an act of the President of the United States had “spoilt” his negotiations with the Zionists in the fall of 1946. He described his failure to get the Arabs and Zionists to meet together and then moved in:
I did reach a stage, however, in meeting the Jews separately, in which I advanced the idea of an interim arrangement, leading ultimately to self-government. I indicated I did not mind whether it was five years, or ten years, or three years, or whatever it was. I said to them, ‘If you will work together for three, five or ten years, it might well be you will not want to separate. Let us try to make up the difference.’ At that stage things looked more hopeful. There was a feeling. I do not think I overestimated it, when they left me in the Foreign Office that day that I had the right approach at last.
But what happened? I went back to the Paris Peace Conference, and next day, I believe it was the Day of Atonement, or a special day of the Jewish religion, I forget which, My Right Hon. Friend the Prime Minister telephoned me at midnight, and told me that the President of the United States was going to issue another statement on the 100,000. I think the country and the world ought to know about this.
I went next morning to the Secretary of State, Mr. Byrnes, and told him how far I had got the day before. I believed we were on the road, if only they would leave us alone. I begged that the statement be not issued, but I was told that if it was not issued by Mr. Truman, a competitive statement would be issued by Mr. Dewey. In international affairs I cannot settle things if my problem is made the subject of local elections. I hope I am not saying anything to cause bad feeling with the United States, but I feel so intensely about this. A vexed problem like this, with a thousand years of religious differences, has to be handled with the greatest detail and care. No one knows that more than I do. I have seen these tense religious struggles in parts of this country, in Ireland, and elsewhere. I know what it involves. It can lead to civil war before you know where you are. However, the statement was issued. I was dealing with Jewish representatives at the time, and I had to call it off because the whole thing was spoilt.
One thing is clear. I had to open the conference with the Arabs alone and they put the point to me that they wanted finality. They wanted to determine what the future of Palestine is to be. The Jews also want finality, provided it takes the form of a Jewish state. But they would be prepared to see British rule continued as a protecting power, provided it was clearly aiming at a Jewish sovereign state. The conference was suspended at that time. The United Nations was meeting in New York. I thought that by being in New York I could talk to a lot of people, and try to help the thing along by meeting people, and so on. While there I discussed the matter with Secretary of States, Mr. Byrnes, and at the end he made a public statement saying that the basis upon which Great Britain was proposing to hold the conference in his view merited the attendance of the Jews as well as the Arabs. Even that, from America, produced no results.
Next day came a formal communique from the White House which read as follows:
The impression that has arisen from yesterday’s debate in the British Parliament that America’s interest in Palestine and the settlement of Jews there is motivated by partisan and local politics is most unfortunate and misleading.
The President’s statement of October 4, 1946, which was referred to in that debate, merely reaffirmed the attitude toward Palestine and Jewish immigration into Palestine which the United States Government has publicly expressed since the summer of 1945.
This attitude was and is based upon the desire of the President to advance a just solution of the Palestine problem. Our position on this subject was communicated to the British Government by the President in his letter to Prime Minister Attlee on August 31, 1945, which was publicly released by the President on November 13, 1945, when he announced the establishment of the Joint Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry. That statement of October 4, 1946, reiterated this Government’s position, which was already fully known to all parties to the Palestine negotiations.
America’s interest in Palestine is of long and continuing standing. It is a deep and abiding interest shared by our people without regard to their political affiliation.
In denying that the President’s statement of October 4 was political (while ignoring the charge that it upset Bevin’s negotiations), the White House was expressing the Opposite of general feeling. Few observers had doubted that the President’s statement was a campaign document (see “The Month in History,” November 1946), but apart from Bevin’s assurance, there was no evidence that it had spoiled the possibility of an agreement.
The White House disclaimer was misleading in its main point. The President’s October 4 statement was not simply a reaffirmation for 100,000 refugees. The most significant part of the October 4 statement was the President’s declaration of his readiness to support the partition of Palestine. This was a new and unprecedented position for the United States government. Conceivably, this aspect of the statement, rather than repetition of the immigration request, might have stiffened the attitude of the Jewish Agency in its dealings with Bevin.
The British were no doubt aware of the fact that their memorandum made public on February 10 would be unacceptable to both the Arabs and the Zionists. It took only four days after its publication for the British Cabinet to decide to refer the whole matter to the United Nations. It was made clear that the settlement proposed was not to be imposed. The fact that it was called a “memorandum” rather than a plan or a White Paper indicated a realization of the transitional nature of the document.
However, though the memorandum may not have been the last word on the subject from the British, it was certainly an authentic picture of the thinking of the British Cabinet on the subject and, more particularly, of the specific proposals that Ernest Bevin would have in mind in discussing the matter with the United Nations.
A Unitary State
The general intent of the document was stated in its last sentence:
The proposals contained in the present memorandum are designed to give the two peoples an opportunity of demonstrating their ability to work together for the good of Palestine as a whole and so providing a stable foundation for an independent state.
This determination to see Palestine develop as a unitary state would be implemented in various ways.
Provision was made for “areas of local administration” which would include “a substantial majority either of Arabs or of Jews.” But these areas would not necessarily be unbroken Jewish or Arab provinces as anticipated in the Morrison-Grady proposals. “As the local administrative boundaries would not have the character of state frontiers,” the memorandum said, “it would not necessarily follow that all the Arab or all the Jewish territory need be contiguous.”
The British High Commissioner would “endeavor to form” an advisory council which would be so composed “as to include representatives not only of Arab and Jewish local administrations, but also of labor and other organized interests.” The specific inclusion of “labor and other organized interests” was clearly designed to encourage binational elements in Palestine.
Herbert Morrison had made it clear that the separate provinces set up in the earlier plan might ultimately have developed into either separate independent states or into a single federalized nation. Obviously, in the six months between the propounding of the Morrison-Grady plan and the issuing of the new memorandum, sentiment within the British Cabinet for partition as against a unitary state declined rather than grew, a fact which could lead to the conclusion that Zionist tactics during this period, including resistance in Palestine and maximalism in diplomacy, failed to achieve its end. Elimination of the Agency
On the conclusion of the trusteeship agreement which the memorandum envisaged, “the Jewish members of the advisory council would supersede the Jewish Agency for Palestine as the official channel of communication between the Jewish community and the High Commissioner.”
This provision would eliminate the official connection of Jews outside of Palestine with the administration in Palestine, and concentrate responsibility on the Jews of Palestine. Elimination of non-Palestinian Jews would have meant elimination of some of the most intransigent advocates of a Jewish state.
The nineteen-member Executive of the Jewish Agency for Palestine contained six non-Palestinian Jews and was chosen by the World Zionist Organization. However, while the World Zionist Organization was not a body to which the Mandatory power was permanently bound, “an appropriate Jewish agency” was, under Article Four of the Mandate.
Elimination of the Jewish Agency might have been interpreted as a violation of the Mandate unless it were done with international approval. But some had questioned the legality of the current Jewish Agency itself. The Zionist Organization which the mandatory power had to recognize was required “to secure the co-operation of all Jews who are willing to assist in the establishment of the Jewish national home.” For some years there had been little or no cooperation between the WZO and substantial Jewish groups outside of it who wanted to assist in the establishment of the Jewish national home.
The unitary tendency was carried into the economic field. The memorandum declared that “it would be the duty of the central government to stimulate the economic development of the country through the agency of development boards including both Arab and Jewish members.” At the same time, the central government was given the responsibility “for insuring that adequate provision was made by local administrations for the enforcement of minimum wage rates and conditions of labor.”
The memorandum said nothing about American financial aid for economic development. The Morrison-Grady proposals, which were produced by a group of Anglo-American experts, suggested American grants and loans. The new memorandum was a purely British document.
The memorandum contained a specific commitment from the British to increase substantially the rate of immigration. Since the effectuation of the White Paper, the British had been permitting 1,500 immigrants a month into Palestine. The bulk of these were refugees held in detention camps until the monthly quotas opened up. The Morrison-Grady plan promised that “every effort would be made” to get 100,000 Jews into Palestine within a year; however, it was not a hard commitment and there could easily have been difficulties which would have thwarted such efforts and meant extending the entry of 100,000 over a longer period.
The new memorandum guaranteed Jewish immigration at a rate of 4,000 monthly for a period of two years. After this time, the “continuance of immigration and the rate of entry would be determined, with due regard to the principle of economic absorptive capacity, by the High Commissioner in consultation with his advisory council; and, in the event of a disagreement, the final decision would rest with an arbitration tribunal appointed by the United Nations.”
Since the advisory council had no real power, it was not clear what would constitute “a disagreement” with the High Commissioner to be taken to the United Nations. Jewish representatives would presumably be a minority on the advisory council. If a disagreement meant the disagreement of a majority of the advisory council, there was not much likelihood of appeal. However, Bevin, in his statement to the House of Commons, declared that the UN would be appealed to “if the High Commissioner’s decision was not accepted by either party.”
Some further guide to action by the High Commissioner was given in another section of the memorandum. After stating that the advisory council would include representatives of interests other than the Arab and Jewish local administrations, the memorandum admitted that voting in the advisory council would probably tend “at first” to follow communal lines. “Since however,” it continued, “the functions of the council would be advisory and not legislative, the High Commissioner would be required to give due attention to the views of minorities.”
The immigration provisions were preceded by a rejection of the Jewish Agency claim that the rate of Jewish immigration into Palestine as a whole should be determined by the Jews alone. At the same time, the memorandum refused to accept “the demand of the Arab delegation that all Jewish immigration into Palestine should cease forthwith.” This refusal seemed to be a specific repudiation of the 1939 White Paper declaration that the British, after five years, would permit no further Jewish immigration “unless the Arabs of Palestine are prepared to acquiesce in it.”
The memorandum provided for a series of specific safeguards for the rights of the Jewish population in the Arab areas and of the Arab population in the Jewish areas. These would include:
(a) Adequate representation in local legislatures; (b) a reasonable proportion of posts in the local administration; (c) freedom of religious practice in accordance with the status quo, including the maintenance of separate religious courts for matters of personal status; (d) the right to maintain their own educational institutions; (e) the right to use their own language in their communications with the administration in courts of law.
These provisions seemed to be designed to have a double effect. They would protect the religious, educational, and cultural integrity of the minorities, but they would also, by providing for legislative and administrative representation of the minorities, encourage their working together.
The memorandum established a time limit to the Mandate. It was not a definite and unchangeable date as in the case of India. It proposed that Britain “should administer a five-year trusteeship over Palestine with the declared object of preparing the country for independence.” The achievement of this object would have meant independence for Palestine three years later than projected by the 1939 White Paper, which embodied the objective of freeing Palestine “within ten years.”
It was significant that the trusteeship now proposed was a small “t” trusteeship and was not specifically described as a United Nations Trusteeship. During the five-year period, the British proposed to carry on “the obligations which already rest upon them under the Mandate” and at the same time to act “in full conformity” with the provisions of Article Seventy-Six of the United Nations Charter, which set forth the basic objectives of the trusteeship system. If “substantial acquiescence” for this policy were obtained from Jews and Arabs, “interim arrangements in harmony with this policy could no doubt be made in advance of its formal approval by the United Nations.”
The procedure for the termination of the trusteeship was described in the memorandum as follows:
At the end of four years a constituent assembly would be elected. If an agreement was reached between a majority of the Jewish representatives and a majority of the Arab representatives in the constituent assembly, the High Commissioner would proceed forthwith to take whatever steps were necessary to establish the institutions of the independent state.
In the event of a disagreement in the constituent assembly, the various drafts prepared for its consideration and the record of its debates would be submitted to the Trusteeship Council, which would be asked to advise upon future procedure.
The ambiguity concerning the precise relationship of the United Nations to the proposed “five-year trusteeship” was no doubt purposeful.
Pending final independence, the British High Commissioner would continue to exercise supreme legislative and executive authority. Local administrations would receive “a wide range” of legislative, administrative, and financial powers, including “some share in the responsibility for the police.”
Choose your plan and pay nothing for six Weeks!
The Month in History
Must-Reads from Magazine
With the demise of the filibuster for judicial nominations, the Senate has become a more partisan body. Members of the opposition party no longer have to take difficult votes to confirm presidential nominees, and so they no longer have to moderate their rhetoric to avoid the appearance of hypocrisy. Many expected, therefore, that Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings would tempt Democrats to engage in theatrics and hyperbole. Few, however, foresaw just how recklessly the Judiciary Committee’s Democratic members would behave.
The sordid performance to which Americans were privy was not the harmless kind that can be chalked up to presidential ambitions. Right from the start, Democratic committee members took a sledgehammer to the foundations of the institution in which they are privileged to serve.
Sen. Cory Booker made national headlines by declaring himself “Spartacus,” but the actions he undertook deserved closer attention than did the scenery he chewed. Booker insisted that it was his deliberate intention to violate longstanding Senate confidentiality rules supposedly in service to transparency. It turns out, however, that the documents Booker tried to release to the public had already been exempted from confidentiality. Booker was adamant, however, that he had undermined the Senate’s integrity. You see, that, not transparency, was his true objective. It was what he believed his constituents wanted from him.
Booker wasn’t alone. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse appeared to share his colleague’s political instincts. “I want to make it absolutely clear that I do not accept the process,” he said of the committee’s vetting of Kavanaugh’s documents. “Because I do not accept its legitimacy or validity,” Whitehouse added, he did not have to abide by the rules and conventions that governed Senate conduct.
When the committee’s Democratic members were not trying to subvert the Senate’s credibility, they were attempting to impugn Judge Kavanaugh’s character via innuendo or outright fabrications.
Sen. Kamala Harris managed to secure a rare rebuke from the fact-checking institution PolitiFact, which is charitably inclined toward Democratic claims. “Kavanaugh chooses his words very carefully, and this is a dog whistle for going after birth control,” read her comments on Twitter accompanying an 11-second clip in which Kavanaugh characterized certain forms of birth control as “abortion-inducing drugs.” “Make no mistake,” Harris wrote, “this is about punishing women.” But the senator had failed to include mitigating context in that clip, which would have made it clear that Kavanaugh was simply restating the arguments made by the plaintiffs in the case in question.
Later, Harris probed Kavanaugh as to whether he believed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which has never been explicitly ruled unconstitutional, was wrongly upheld by the Supreme Court. Despite calling the decisions of this period “discriminatory,” Kavanaugh declined to elaborate on a case that could theoretically come before the Supreme Court. This, the judge’s detractors insisted, was “alarming” and perhaps evidence of latent racial hostility. In fact, it was an unremarkable example of how Supreme Court nominees tend to avoid offering “forecasts” of how they will decide cases without having heard the arguments—a routine deemed “the Ginsburg Rule” after Ruth Bader, who perfected the practice.
Over a week later, Harris had still not explained what she was getting at. But she doesn’t have to. The vagueness of her claim was designed to allow Kavanaugh’s opponents’ imaginations to run wild, leading them to draw the worst possible conclusions about this likely Supreme Court justice and to conclude that the process by which he was confirmed was a sham.
Harris may not have been alone in appealing to this shameful tactic. On Thursday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein shocked observers when she released a cryptic statement revealing that she had “referred” to “federal investigative authorities” a letter involving Kavanaugh’s conduct. It’s human nature to arrive at the worst imaginable conclusion as to what these unstated claims might be, and that’s precisely what Kavanaugh’s opponents did. It turned out that the 35-year-old accusations involve an anonymous woman who was allegedly cornered in a bedroom by Kavanaugh and a friend during a high-school party. Kavanaugh, the letter alleged, put a hand over her mouth, but the woman removed herself from the situation before anything else occurred. All were minors at the time of this alleged episode, and Kavanaugh denies the allegations.
Some thought it was odd for Feinstein to refer these potentially serious allegations to the FBI this week and in such a public fashion when the allegations contained in a letter were known to Democrats for months. The letter was, after all, obtained by Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo in July. But it doesn’t seem confusing when considering the facts that the FBI all but dismissed the referral off-hand and reporting on the episode lacks any corroboration to substantiate the claims made by the alleged victim here. It is hard not to conclude that this is an attempt to affix an asterisk to Brett Kavanaugh’s name. Democrats will not only claim that this confirmation process was tainted but may now contend that Kavanaugh cannot be an impartial arbitrator—not with unresolved clouds of suspicion involving sexual assault hanging over his head.
Ultimately, as public polling suggests, the Democratic Party’s effort to tarnish Kavanaugh’s reputation through insinuation and theatrics has had the intended effect. Support for this nominee now falls squarely along party lines. But the collateral damage Senate Democrats have done to America’s governing institutions amid this scorched-earth campaign could have lasting and terrible consequences for the country.
Choose your plan and pay nothing for six Weeks!
While the nation’s attention is focused on the Carolina coast, something very odd is happening across the country in Sunspot, New Mexico.
Sunspot is hardly a town at all–the nearest stores are 18 miles away. It’s actually a solar observatory 9,200 feet up in the Sacramento Mountains. It is open to the public and has a visitor’s center, but don’t visit it right now. On September 6th, the FBI moved in and evacuated all personnel using Black Hawk helicopters. Local police were told to stay away. The only explanation being given by the FBI is that an unresolved “security issue” is the cause of the evacuation.
The sun is the only astronomical body capable of doing major damage to planet earth without actually hitting us. A coronal mass ejection aimed at the earth could have a devastating impact on satellites, radio transmission, and the electrical grid, possibly causing massive power outages that could last for weeks, even months. (It would also produce spectacular auroras. During the Carrington Event of 1859, the northern lights were seen as far south as the Caribbean and people in New England could read newspapers by the light.)
So, there are very practical, not just intellectual reasons, to know what the sun is up to. But the National Solar Observatory right now is a ghost town, and no one will say why. Such a story should be catnip for journalists.
Choose your plan and pay nothing for six Weeks!
It's not paranoia if they're really out to get you.
Americans awoke Thursday morning to a familiar noise: The president of the United States waxing conspiratorial and declaring himself the victim of a nefarious plot.
“3,000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico,” Donald Trump declared on Twitter. He insisted that the loss of life in the immediate aftermath of 2017’s Hurricane Maria topped out in the low double-digits and ballooned into the thousands well after the fact because of faulty accounting. The president did not claim that this misleading figure was attributable to flaws in the studies conducted in the aftermath of last year’s disaster by institutions like George Washington University or the New England Journal of Medicine but to a deliberate misinformation campaign orchestrated by his political opponents. “This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible,” Trump insisted.
If, for some mysterious reason, Trump wanted to attack the validity of these studies, he might have questioned the assumptions and biases that even their authors admit had an unavoidable effect on their confidence intervals. But Trump’s interest is not in accuracy. His desire is to shield himself from blame and to project his administration’s failings—even those as debatable as the disaster that afflicted Puerto Rico for the better part of a year—onto others. The president’s self-consciousness is so transparent at this point that even his defenders in Congress have begun directly confronting the insecurities that fuel these tweets.
Donald Trump has rarely encountered a conspiracy theory he declined to legitimize, and this tendency did not abate when he won the presidency. From his repeated assertions that Moscow’s intervention in the 2016 election was a “hoax,” to the idea that the FBI shielded Hillary Clinton from due scrutiny, to the baseless notion that “millions and millions” of illegal-immigrant voters deprived him of a popular vote victory, all of this alleged sedition has a common theme: Trump is the injured party.
The oddest thing about all this is that these are the golden days. Trump-era Republicans will look back on this as the halcyon period in which all of Washington’s doors were open to them. The president’s ostensible allies control every chamber of government. The power his adversaries command is of the soft sort—cultural and moral authority—but not the kind of legal power that could prevent Trump and Republicans from realizing their agenda. That could be about to change.
The signs that a backlash to unified Republican rule in Washington was brewing have been obvious almost since the moment Trump took the oath of office. Democrats have consistently overperformed in special and off-year elections, their candidates have outraised the GOP, and a near-record number of Republicans opted to retire rather than face reelection in 2018. The Democratic Party’s performance in the generic ballot test has outpaced the GOP for well over a year, sometimes by double-digits, leading many to speculate that Democrats are well positioned to retake control of the House of Representatives. Now, despite the opposition party’s structural disadvantages, some are even beginning to entertain the prospect of a Democratic takeover in the Senate.
Until this point, the Trump administration has faced no real adversity. Sure, the administration’s executive overreach has been rejected in the courts and occasionally public outcry has forced the White House to abandon ill-considered initiatives, but it’s always been able to rely on the GOP majorities in Congress to shield it from the worst consequences of its actions. That phase of the Trump presidency could be over by January. For the first time, this president could have to contend with at least one truly adversarial chamber of the legislature, and opposition will manifest first in the form of investigations.
How will the White House respond when House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings is tasked with investigating the president’s response to a natural disaster or when he subpoenas the president’s personal records? How will Trump respond when Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler is overseeing the investigation into the FBI’s response to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election, not Bob Goodlatte? Will the Department of Homeland Security’s border policies withstand public scrutiny when it’s Mississippi’s Bennie Thompson, not Texas’s Michael McCaul, doing the scrutinizing? How will Wall Street react to a Washington where financial-services oversight is no longer led by Jeb Hensarling but Maxine Waters? If the Democrats take the House, the legislative phase of the Trump era be over, but the investigative phase will have only just begun.
In many ways, this presidency behaved as though it were operating in a bunker from day one, and not without reason. Trump had every reason to fear that the culture of Washington and even many of the members of his own party were secretly aligned against him, but the key word there is “secret.” The secret is about to be out. The Trump White House hasn’t yet faced a truly adversarial Washington institution with teeth, but it is about to. If you think you’ve seen a bunker mentality in this White House, you haven’t seen anything yet.
Choose your plan and pay nothing for six Weeks!
Podcast: Google and Kavanaugh.
Will Google survive the revelations of its political bias, or are those revelations nothing new? We delve into the complexities of the world in which important tech companies think they are above politics until they decide they’re not. Also some stuff on the Supreme Court and on polls. Give a listen.
Choose your plan and pay nothing for six Weeks!
Smeared for doing the job.
When then-presidential candidate Donald Trump famously declared his intention to be a “neutral” arbiter of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian territories and put the onus for resolving the conflict on Jerusalem, few observers could have predicted that Trump would run one of the most pro-Israel administrations in American history.
This year, the Trump administration began relocating the U.S. embassy in Israel to the nation’s capital city, fulfilling a promise that began in 1995 with the passage of a law mandating this precise course of action. The administration also declined to blame Israel for defending its Gaza border against a Hamas-led attack. Last week, the administration shuttered the PLO’s offices in Washington.
The Trump administration’s commitment to shedding the contradictions and moral equivalencies that have plagued past administrations has exposed anti-Zionism for what its critics so often alleged it to be.
This week, Department of Education Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Kenneth Marcus announced his intention to vacate an Obama-era decision that dismissed an alleged act of anti-Semitism at Rutgers University. Marcus’s decision to reopen that particularly deserving case has led the New York Times to publish an article by Erica L. Green full of misconceptions, myths, and dissimulations about the nature of the anti-Israel groups in question and the essential characteristics of anti-Semitism itself.
In reporting on Marcus’s move, Green declared the education activist and opponent of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement a “longtime opponent of Palestinian rights causes,” a designation the paper’s editor felt fine printing without any substantiating evidence. You could be forgiven for thinking that BDS itself constituted a cause of “Palestinian rights” and not an international effort to stigmatize and harm both Israel and its supporters. If you kept reading beyond that second paragraph, your suspicions were confirmed.
Green contended that Marcus’s decision has paved the way for the Education Department to adopt a “hotly contested definition of anti-Semitism” that includes: denying Jews “the right to self-determination,” claiming that the state of Israel is a “racist endeavor,” and applying a double standard to Israel not “expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” As Jerusalem Post reporter and COMMENTARY contributor Lahav Harkov observed, this allegedly “hotly contested definition” is precisely the same definition used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. In 2010, the IHRA’s working definition was adopted almost in total by Barack Obama’s State Department.
Green went so far as to say that this not-so-new definition for anti-Semitism has, according to Arab-American activists, declared “the Palestinian cause anti-Semitic.” So that is the Palestinian cause? Denying Jews the right to self-determination, calling the state of Israel itself a racist enterprise, and holding it to nakedly biased double standards? So much for the two-state solution.
Perhaps the biggest tell in the Times piece was its reporters’ inability to distinguish between pro-Palestinian activism and anti-Israeli agitation. The complaint the Education Department is preparing to reinvestigate involves a 2011 incident in which an event hosted by the group Belief Awareness Knowledge and Action (BAKA) allegedly imposed an admissions fee on Jewish and pro-Israel activists after unexpected numbers arrived to protest the event. An internal email confirmed that the group only charged this fee because “150 Zionists” “just showed up,” but the Obama administration dismissed the claim, saying that the organization’s excuse—that it expected heftier university fees following greater-than-expected attendance—was innocuous enough.
Green did not dwell on the group, which allegedly discriminated against Jews and pro-Israeli activists. If she had, she’d have reported that, just a few weeks before this incident, BAKA staged another event on Rutgers’s campus—a fundraiser for the organization USTOGAZA, which provided aid to the campaign of “flotillas” challenging an Israeli blockade of Gaza. USTOGAZA’s links to the Turkey-based organization Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), which has long been associated with support for Hamas-led terrorist activities, rendered the money raised in this event legally suspect. Eventually, as Brooke Goldstein wrote for COMMENTARY, even BAKA conceded the point:
After community members demanded that Rutgers, a state-funded university, hold an investigation before handing over any money to USTOGAZA, the school responded by offering to keep the money raised in an escrow account until a suitable recipient could be found. In June 2011, BAKA sent out an e-mail admitting the University had, after “much deliberation” and despite their initial approval, “decided that they are not willing to release the funds to the US to Gaza effort” due to concerns of being found liable for violating the material-support statutes.
Rutgers prudently limited BAKA’s ability to participate in on-campus events after these incidents, but the organization that took their place—Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP)—is no better. The Times quoted officials with the Center for Law and Justice who praised Marcus’s move and cited SJP as a source of particular consternation, but the reporters did not delve into the group’s activities. If they had, they’d find that the organization’s activities—among them declaring that “Zionists are racists,” supporting anti-Zionist individuals despite credible accusations of child abuse, and endorsing Hamas’s governing platform, which labels the entire state of Israel “occupied territory”—fits any cogent definition of anti-Semitism. This is to say nothing of the abuse and harassment that American Jews experience on college campuses that play host to SJP’s regular “Israel apartheid weeks.”
Some might attribute the Times’ neutral portrayal of groups that tacitly support violence and people like Omar Barghouti—an activist who “will never accept a Jewish state in Palestine” and has explicitly endorsed “armed resistance” against Jews, who he insists are “not a people”—to ignorance, as though that would neutralize the harm this dispatch might cause. But the Times piece has emboldened those who see Israel’s Jewish character as a threat both to its political culture and our own. That worrying sentiment was succinctly expressed by New York Magazine’s Eric Levitz: “You don’t have to be a staunch supporter of the Palestinian cause to question Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.”
The benefit of the doubt only extends so far. Even the charitably inclined should have discovered its limits by now.