The U.N. Decisions to partition Palestine and then to grant admission to the state of Israel were made, on one level, as an emotional response to the horrors of the Holocaust, Under more normal circumstances, the compelling claims to sovereignty of the Arab majority would have prevailed. This reaction of guilt on the part of the Western allies was understandable, but that doesn't mean the Palestinians should have to pay for crimes committed by others.
The Holocaust is often used as the final argument in favor of Zionism. However, at least until November 1942 when the full reality of the death camps was discovered, the Zionist movement's exclusive focus was on nation-building, not the rescue of Europe's endangered Jews. Read on:
Wasn't the main goal of Zionism to save Jews from the Holocaust?
"In 1938 a thirty-one nation conference was held in Evian, France, on resettlement of the victims of Nazism. The World Zionist Organization refused to participate, fearing that resettlement of Jews in other states would reduce the number available for Palestine." John Quigley, "Palestine and Israel: A Challenge to Justice."
"It was summed up in the meeting [of the Jewish Agency's Executive on June 26, 1938] that the Zionist thing to do 'is belittle the [Evian] Conference as far as possible and to cause it to decide nothing...We are particularly worried that it would move Jewish organizations to collect large sums of money for aid to Jewish refugees, and these collections could interfere with our collection efforts'...Ben-Gurion's statement at the same meeting: 'No rationalization can turn the conference from a harmful to a useful one. What can and should be done is to limit the damage as far as possible.'" Israeli author Boas Evron, "Jewish State or Israeli Nation?"
"[Ben-Gurion stated] 'If I knew that it was possible to save all the children of Germany by transporting them to England, but only half of them by transporting them to Palestine, I would choose the second - because we face not only the reckoning of those children, but the historical reckoning of the Jewish people.' In the wake of the Kristallnacht pogroms, Ben-Gurion commented that 'the human conscience' might bring various countries to open their doors to Jewish refugees from Germany. He saw this as a threat and warned: 'Zionism is in danger.'" Israeli historian, Tom Segev, "The Seventh Million."
"The Zionist movement...interfered with and hindered other organizations, Jewish and non-Jewish, whenever it imagined that their activity, political or humanitarian, was at variance with Zionist aims or in competition with them, even when these might be helpful to Jews, even when it was a question of life and death...Beit Zvi documents the Zionist leadership's indifference to saving Jews from the Nazi menace except in cases in which the Jews could be brought to Palestine...[e.g.] the readiness of the dictator of the Dominican Republic, Rafael Trujillo, to absorb one hundred thousand refugees and the sabotaging of this idea - as well as others, like proposals to settle the Jews in Alaska and the Philippines - by the Zionist movement...
"The obtuseness of the Zionist movement toward the fate of European Jewry did not prevent it, of course, from later hurling accusations against the whole world for its indifference toward the Jewish catastrophe or from pressing material, political, and moral demands on the world because of that indifference." Israeli author Boas Evron, "Jewish State or Israeli Nation?"
"I have already gone exhaustively into the reason for our being here, reasons that I as a pioneer of 1906 can affirm have nothing to do with the Nazis!...We are here because the land is ours. And we are here because we have again made it ours in this time with the work we have put into it. Nazism and our history of martyrdom abroad do not concern our presence in Israel directly." David Ben-Gurion, "Memoirs."
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In hindsight, it is easy to say that the millions of Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust could have been saved if Palestine had been available for unlimited immigration. The history of this period is not so simple, however. First, the great majority of Jews in Europe were not Zionists and did not try to emigrate to Palestine before 1939. Second, after the start of the war, as the Nazis occupied various countries, they refused to let the Jews leave, making emigration virtually impossible. Most importantly, Palestine, as we have shown, was already occupied - and the indigenous Arabs had more valid reasons than any other country for wanting to limit Jewish immigration. Read on:
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"In 1936, the Social Democratic Bund won a sweeping victory in Jewish kehilla elections in Poland...Its main hallmarks included 'an unyielding hostility to Zionism' and to the Zionist enterprise of Jewish emigration from Poland to Palestine. The Bund wished Polish Jews to fight anti-semitism in Poland by remaining there...The Zionist goal was also opposed, as a matter of principle, by all the major parties and movements among pre-1939 Polish Jewry... "Elsewhere in eastern Europe...Zionist strength was weaker still." Prof. William Rubinstein, "The Myth of Rescue."
"In fact, Zionism suffered its own defeat in the Holocaust; as a movement, it failed. It had not, after all, persuaded the majority of Jews to leave Europe for Palestine while it was still possible to do so." Israeli historian, Tom Segev, "The Seventh Million."
"[With the start of the war, Nazi] edicts forbidding emigration followed in all countries under direct Nazi control: after 1940-1 it was in effect impossible for Jews legally to emigrate from Nazi-occupied Europe to places of safety...The doors...were firmly shut: by the Nazis, it must be emphasized." Prof William D. Rubinstein, "The Myth of Rescue.
"In September 1940, the Italians, at war with Britain, bombed downtown Tel Aviv, with over a hundred casualties...As the German Army overran Europe and South Africa, it appeared possible that it would conquer Palestine as well. In the summer of 1940, in the spring of 1941, and again in the fall of 1942 the danger seemed imminent. The yishuv panicked...Many people tried to find a way out of the country, but it was not easy...Some...were taking no chances; they carried cyanide capsules." Israeli historian, Tom Segev, "The Seventh Million."
In any case, Palestine was not Britain's to give away; it was already occupied.
"We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs, and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish, state here...Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages...There is not a single community in the country that did not have a former Arab population." Israeli leader, Moshe Dayan, quoted in Benjamin Beit-Hallahmi's "Original Sins."
"One can imagine an argument for the right of a persecuted minority to find refuge in another country able to accommodate it; one is hard-pressed, however, to imagine an argument for the right of a peaceful minority to politically and perhaps physically displace the indigenous population of another country. Yet...the latter was the actual intention of the Zionist movement." Norman Finkelstein, "Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict."
"[In 1947] the U.N. appointed a special body, the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), to make the decision over Palestine and UNSCOP members were asked to visit the camps of Holocaust survivors. Many of these survivors wanted to emigrate to the United States, a wish that undermined the Zionist claims that the fate of European Jewry was connected to that of the Jewish community in Palestine. When UNSCOP representatives arrived at the camps, they were unaware that backstage manipulations were limiting their contacts solely to survivors who wished to emigrate to Palestine," Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe in "The Link," January March 1998.
Roosevelt's advisor writes on why Jewish refugees were not offered sanctuary in the U.S. after WWII
"What if Canada, Australia, South America, England and the United States were all to open a door to some migration? Even today [written in 1947] it is my judgement, and I have been in Germany since the war, that only a minority of the Jewish DP's [displaced persons] would choose Palestine...
"[Roosevelt] proposed a world budget for the easy migration of the 500,000 beaten people of Europe. Each nation should open its doors for some thousands of refugees...So he suggested that during my trips for him to England during the war I sound out in a general, unofficial manner the leaders of British public opinion, in and out of the government...The simple answer: Great Britain will match the United States, man for man, in admissions from Europe...It seemed all settled. With the rest of the world probably ready to give haven to 200,000, there was a sound reason for the President to press Congress to take in at least 150,000 immigrants after the war...
"It would free us from the hypocrisy of closing our own doors while making sanctimonious demands on the Arabs...But it did not work out...The failure of the leading Jewish organizations to support with zeal this immigration programme may have caused the President not to push forward with it at that time...
"I talked to many people active in Jewish organizations. I suggested the plan...I was amazed and even felt insulted when active Jewish leaders decried, sneered, and then attacked me as if I were a traitor...I think I know the reason for much of the opposition. There is a deep, genuine, often fanatical emotional vested interest in putting over the Palestinian movement [Zionism]. Men like Ben Hecht are little concerned about human blood if it is not their own." Jewish attorney and friend of President Roosevelt, Morris Ernst, "So Far, So Good."Part 9