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I.F. Stone’s This is Israel
a trip back in time to the birth of the state of Israel
Wednesday morning thoughts + eye candy —
“You see,” he said to me through his tears, “the prophecy has come true. God said to Isaiah: ‘I will bring you home to Jerusalem on the wings of an eagle.’ Look at us! From South Africa, from Belgium, from Ireland and all the world we are coming back to Israel.”
—a Jew, aged 74, whose wife and 13 other family members were killed in Dachau, travelling as a Displaced Person to Palestine
In 1946 American Investigative journalist Isidor Feinstein, known as I.F. Stone, joined a group of European Jews travelling as Displaced Persons trying to enter the British Mandate of Palestine. The British considered illegal this immigration of Holocaust survivors fleeing Nazi-decimated Europe for Palestine. Imagine a journey fraught with risk, a journey of a people from different countries and cultures, ripped away from their home and yet going to a land they considered home. He went with, and as one of, a group of Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe in a crowded refugee ship on their tortured voyage to the Promised Land.1 Feinstein wrote a series of dispatches about his experience, which became the book This is Israel. In today’s post, I’ll take you on a journey through this interesting book, published in 1948, highlighting facts relevant to my research area.
Right out of the starting gate it becomes apparent that the pro-Palestinian movement has grossly misrepresented the situation — listening to them for long enough you might get the impression that the Brits and Europeans and Americans basically handed the Jews the keys to Palestine, parted the sea and rolled out the red carpet and let them take over. Ahahahahaha, that’s a fantasy, not reality.
Fact :: the State of Israel exists in spite of the entire world’s resistance to it’s formation
Yeah, the USA reversed its position on Israel on 19.3.1948 and this seemed to end hope for a Jewish State. At that time the Jewish population of Palestine had a scattered and disconnected presence across the region, confronted with a very hostile Arab population. The borders drawn seemed to guarantee Israel’s vulnerability, surrounded by Jew-hating Arab fighting forces on all sides but the Mediterranean, which presented a British Navy blockade and an American arms embargo.
So, everyone still hated the Jews, who had essentially just experienced their genocidal destruction in Europe, and those who survived never received the right of return to their homes etc, and the Allies are still denying them passage out of Europe and the Allies are denying them arms to defend themselves whilst simultaneously arming the Arabs to attack Jews. Did you get that? Read that lengthy sentence again. Then read it again. Think about that for a few minutes. The Jews were settled in scattered communities, cut off from one another and surrounded by hostility, wide open to attack. “Jewish Supremacy” is only a thing inside Linda Sarsour’s deluded mind, not reality. If one side of this conflict was supreme, the Jews were not it. The Jews wanted to live, that’s it. Everyone else wanted land, power, control.
Fact :: the Arabs only ever wanted to eradicate Jewish presence from the region
The partition line proposed shall be nothing but a line of blood and fire … This war will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of the like of the Mongol massacres and Crusades.
—Abdul Rahman Azande Pasha2
Arab goals :: disrupt communication | take Jerusalem | attack border settlements
Travel became difficult, supply trucks began travelling in convoys with armed guards, violence ramped up and Jews were violently attacked in the street in Haifa by the Arab Legion. In Syria + Lebanon Arabs began recruiting for a liberation army — led by a one Fawzi el Kaukji, who spent time with the Grand Mufti in Berlin during WW2, and also Sheik Hassan Bey Salameh, a former staff officer under Rommel. Also joining the liberation army to wage war against the Jews — German Nazis, Polish reactionaries, Yugoslav Chetniks Bosnian Moslems. The Mayor of Nablus called a jihad the day after the partition vote and the Brits allowed Arabs to loot and burn the Jewish Commercial Centre of Jerusalem, only stepping in to arrest the Haganah trying to restore order. A systematic and effective Arab campaign of blockading the road between Tel Aviv + Jerusalem cut Jews off from supplies, resulted in bread rationing of Jews.
Fact :: the British were anti-Jewish and pro-Arab
Throughout the Palestinian Mandate, the British hung back and did little to stop Arab riots or violence instigated against Jews. The British declined the UN’s request to evacuate the blockade to allow Jewish immigration into Palestine. The British decided to continue to seize Jewish immigrants and intern them at Cyprus. The British also interfered with Jewish attempts to get military supplies whilst supplying the Arabs with military supplies. When the British pulled out of the Palestine Mandate they pulled into Transjordan, bulking up the Transjordan armed forces and providing funding and arms.
Ask yourself how an Arab who led the Syrian revolt against the French in 1925-27, was condemned to death for it, then escaped to Iraq, where he participated in the uprising against the British and the Jews, then recruited SS officers in Bosnia, then was captured by the Soviets and passed through Paris then Cairo without being arrested by the Allies? Why was a rabidly anti-Jewish, anti-imperial Nazi collaborator allowed to roam free in human society? Oh because that served a political purpose I suppose.
In these early days of the Jewish State, already Arab haters gathered opposition to Jewish settlements. The British tried to use the Arabs as a weapon against the Jews and it failed, though not without causing heavy damage. The Syrian frontier consisted of veterans of the Reichswehr and still could not match the Jewish Haganah forces.
The British threatened to send in the RAF after the Haganah who were advancing on a wealthy Arab quarter of Jerusalem. The Brits gave a parting gift to the Arabs by facilitating their occupation of Sheik Jarrah, i.e. forcing out the Haganah, and preventing Jews from accessing Hadassah Hospital during the war. Basically, the British barely did the minimum to restore peace between Arabs and Jews. The Brits were definitely NOT Zionists, they were barely Arabists—the British were on their own side, like every nation is one it’s own side.
Fact :: many Arabs fled without much fight
Stone mentioned frequently that the Jews, despite their disadvantage, stood fast whereas the Arabs ran away quite early. First the wealthy left—an estimated 20,000 people left within the first 2 months of hostilities. Remember the story of the Palestinian homes being “stolen” by Jews? The villa of the Arab British Liaison Officer in Talbiyeh has been one story among many of people who could flee in early days who did—a wealthy family leaving, rented their villa to the British forces, who handed the property over to the Haganah when they pulled out. Did large swaths of people simply flee, leaving their homes and everything behind, leaving empty homes for squatters to occupy?
Reminiscence of what happened in Europe, isn’t? Jews liberated from Nazi death camps long gave up waiting for their right of return. Recent scholarly work revealed that the Mufti and his propaganda machine triggered the mass exodus of Arabs from Palestine, and this lines up with Stone’s writing about these early days of fighting, in which the Jews faced a long and uphill battle for their homeland.
“Of the territory allotted the Jewish State by the UN, only Lydda airport was in the hands of the Arabs and this had been handed over to them by the British. Of some 350,000 Arabs in the Jewish area, 300,000 had fled. Not a single Jewish settlement on Jewish territory had fallen … The Jews had done the job for themselves.”3
Fact :: the American State Department thwarted the Jewish State from day 1
Despite a American public opinion in favour of a Jewish state, and despite consistently pro-Zionist positions taken by Congress, the military and diplomatic bureaucracies of American government did not favour a Jewish state. Oil interests, imperial interests vis à vis the Soviets—cynical policy interests took priority over humane ones. The Americans waffled, did their best to prevent Jewish independence from becoming a reality with its Trusteeship proposal.
Together with opposing Jewish immigration to Palestine and the arms embargo, these policies reflected the same old low level anti-Semitism that’s existed forever. The Americans played diplomatic games at the UN with various resolutions aimed at preventing Jews from arming themselves, from populating Palestine, and that forced one-side resolutions that favoured Arabs. Did American state department officials try to float a rumour that the Americans would cut off all funds to Jews if they went ahead with a Jewish state?
I. F. Stone provides a detailed + on-the-ground description of what happened before, during + immediately after the formation of the State of Israel. We hear so much about that time from those who with an cause or interest to promote. One of the biggest misconceptions modern day progressives have involves Jews as Europeans seeking to dominate and colonise. The reality of Jews as strangers, as aliens, as dirty as responsible for the woes of the world—where does that fact live in progressive narratives? The deeper I go down this rabbit hole, the more I see Goebbels and anti Jewsish propaganda in both the pro-Palestinian and progressive political movements.
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I. F. Stone. 1948. This is Israel. NYC: Boni and Gear.