65 years ago today: Guardian misses one key element of 1947 UN partition

Today is the 65th anniversary of the passage of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 on the future status of British ruled Palestine. 

The Guardian’s Picture of the Day, Nov. 29, in recognition of this event in history, includes the following iconic image of Israelis celebrating in the streets of Tel Aviv shortly after the UN vote codifying their right to statehood.

Here’s the Guardian headline and strap line for the pictorial post.

Do you notice any information missing from the strap line?

Well, it seems that they failed to mention one quite significant element of the UN resolution (which passed with 33 votes in favor, 13 against, 10 abstentions and one absent). Res. 181 not only called for the creation of a Jewish state, but the creation of an Arab one as well.

The Jews accepted partition.  

The Arabs didn’t accept partition, refused to compromise on any outcome other than a single unitary Arab state and launched a war when Israel declared independence in May, 1948.

While the UN debates Palestinian statehood tonight in NYC, it’s important to remember that on this day, 65 years ago, a Palestinian state was offered by the international community, accepted by the Jews, but rejected by the Arabs.

Proposed borders per UN Resolution 181 in 1947.

A Rare Glimpse of Reality in the Guardian

An obituary about a gentleman named John Watson –written by one of his former commanders and appearing in the Guardian on March 29th – contains an interesting paragraph.

“His battalion was posted to Palestine in 1948, as the British Mandate came to an end. Watson was appalled by the imminent destruction of the new state of Israel – attacked as it was on four fronts and wholly undefended by the British army. He thought it morally wrong that Jews, who had experienced so much already, should be slaughtered, again. Rifle in hand, he went over the wall to volunteer with Haganah and take part in front-line combat. In the siege of Jerusalem he was wounded. After the conflict he worked on a collective farm, where he met Ora, the woman he married. They went on to farm for four years.”

This account reminded me of the experiences recounted by a now deceased great-uncle of mine who also served with the British army in what was then Palestine during the British Mandate and which has been on my mind quite a bit recently since the screening of Peter Kominsky’sThe Promise’ on British television.

Kominsky’s selective view of events during the Mandate years, supposedly based on interviews with former British servicemen, did not reflect my uncle’s accounts of pretending not to notice Jewish refugees trudging up the beaches along Israel’s coast or the effort he and other low-rank soldiers apparently put into not discovering weapons caches on the kibbutzim he was sent to search. He also told me of friends who, unlike himself, did not return with their battalion to the UK, but deserted and stayed in the emerging Jewish state, some to fight with the Israeli forces and some because of love for a local girl.  Although they did not serve in the same battalion, I now wonder whether my uncle and Mr. Watson ever met.

As anyone familiar with Israel knows, six degrees of separation are usually a few more than necessary here, and seeing that it is possible that Mr. Watson served with ‘Machal – the unit of foreign volunteers which still exists today but is best known for the vital part it played in Israel’s War of Independence,  I also wonder if he ever met a young Jewish American volunteer who arrived here to fight in that war and later married my father-in-law’s sister.

He could even have met my father-in-law himself, as he too served in Jerusalem during the siege in 1948. Or perhaps Mr Watson was one of those who used to enjoy a hearty meal provided by my father-in-law’s mother from one of her famous ‘bottomless cooking pots’ (there was always enough for everyone) to the people about to set off from their street corner on the convoys taking supplies to besieged Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Siege Convoy (Photo: Palmach Museum)

 

Jerusalem under siege by Jordanian shells, 1948

The Guardian allotted quite a bit of column space to ‘The Promise’ which, despite being no more than a drama, seems to be regarded by some (including its creator) as an accurate account of history because it taps into their own prejudices and political bias.

But as Mr. Watson’s life story shows, there is another side to Kominsky’s subject matter which is too often brushed aside or contorted because it does not fit in with the accepted narratives of the type promoted by Kominsky, the Guardian and many others.

John Watson – may he rest in peace – is no longer with us to give a first-hand account of the turbulent birth of Israel. Neither is my great-uncle, my father-in-law’s sister’s husband nor his mother. My father-in-law himself, however, is now 83 and I have been thinking for some time that I must take him and a video camera to Jerusalem whilst he is still amazingly lucid and fit in order to record his memories of those years.

Such documentation may well be all we have in future years with which to refute the kind of politically motivated ‘historical’ fictions proffered by those intent upon rewriting Israeli history in order to try to dictate the future.

Channel 4 is not “Promising” for British Jews

This is cross posted at Richard Millett’s Blog

Sub-headline from Guardian interview with Kosminsky

Many British Jews woke up this morning feeling a little less welcome living in the UK. The overall feeling of watching the four episodes of The Promise is one of inciting racial hatred.

And it says a lot about the current UK environment that anti-Jewish propaganda is now so freely available on British tv and not just British university campuses.

Peter Kosminsky spent seven years writing The Promise but consulted avowedly anti-Israel groups like Breaking the Silence, Combatants for Peace and ISM and also British soldiers who had come under fire from Jewish military groups.

His facile conclusion is:

“The most striking thing I’m left with is a question: how did we get from there to here? Like most British soldiers we interviewed, arriving in Palestine from the war in Europe, Len Matthews felt only sympathy for the Jewish plight. Having seen the ovens of Bergen-Belsen, his heart tells him that Jews deserve a place of safety, almost at any price. In 1945, that view was shared by most of the world. In the era inhabited by Erin, his granddaughter, just 60 years later, Israel is isolated, loathed and feared in equal measure by its neighbours, finding little sympathy outside America for its uncompromising view of how to defend its borders and secure its future. How did Israel squander the compassion of the world within a lifetime?” (See a response to this here).

There was no attempt at balance or context. Jews and Israelis were portrayed as evil and the Arabs were portrayed as the good guys.

And these are the words that Len, the main British Mandate character in The Promise, writes in his diary as he departs British Mandate Palestine:

“We’ve left the Arabs in the shit. But what about the Jews and their bloody state for which they fought so hard? Three years ago I would have said give them whatever they want, they deserve it after all they have been through. Now I’m not so sure. This precious state of theirs has been born in violence and in cruelty to its neighbours. I’m not sure how it can thrive.”

Channel Four also recently showed War Child, a documentary on the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead in which “the Jews” were portrayed as going on a killing spree against Palestinian children.

And a few years ago it allowed mass murderer of his own people and Holocaust denier Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to broadcast a Christmas speech. Then there is the anti-Israel Jon Snow who seems to split his career between reading Channel 4′s nightly news and chairing anti-Israel events.

Last night we finally found out what “the promise” of the title was all about. In 1948 Len, the British soldier, had promised, but failed, to return the key of the house owned by an Arab family he had befriended and who he ordered to flee to avoid being massacred by the oncoming Jews. 62 years later this promise was fulfilled by his grand-daughter, Erin. When she told him in his hospital bed back in the UK that she had finally returned the key he just lightly squeezed her hand before passing away without speaking.

To arrive at that point we witnessed some six hours of unmitigated demonisation of Jews; both those in British Mandate Palestine and those living in Israel today.

We watched as Erin gradually turned into a hardcore anti-Semite due to her experiences in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. She was an epileptic who suffered three seizures during the series. But the only time she fitted was when she was with Jews, never with Arabs.

The first time was in an Israeli nightclub when she collapsed on to the floor shaking uncontrollably and instead of anyone coming to help the Israelis just laughed at her.

The second time was when she was being reprimanded by the wealthy Jewish family she was staying with in Israel for bringing an Arab back to the house.

The third time was when she was confronted by three aggressive Israeli soldiers while she was trying to comfort a sick Palestinian woman who had been removed from her house just before it was about to be blown up because her family helped to shield a suicide bomber.

Meanwhile, Jews during the British Mandate Palestine era were all portrayed as brutal cold-blooded murderers with Kosminsky concentrating solely on the Irgun.

British soldiers and Arabs were constantly seen being shot by Jews, while we only see one Jew killed. Len shot a Jew dead while defending his beloved adopted Arab family.

No one would be able to comprehend from this series that almost 6,000 Jews died fighting the Arabs between 1947 and 1949, equivalent to 1% of the Jewish population of British Mandate Palestine at the time.

Nor was there any context to the Irgun’s actions. British government policy had become so anti-Jewish that the Jews were fighting for their lives.

In 1939 the British had reversed their own 1917 promise to the Jews to create a Jewish homeland. Instead only 75,000 Jews were now to be allowed to immigrate in to British Mandate Palestine over the next five years, after which the immigration numbers would be up to the Arab majority to decide. By 1949 British Mandate Palestine would effectively become another Arab state.

The Irgun put off any fighting until this five-year period had expired. When there was no change in this British policy they starting fighting, which consisted of attacking buildings, not people (It was the Stern Gang, a small group of extremist Jews, who had no compunction about attacking civilians, soldiers and diplomatic figures).

The Irgun attacked the King David Hotel, as shown in The Promise, but not before, according to Menachem Begin, phoning through ignored warnings to evacuate.

In The Promise we were also shown Jews massacring unarmed Arabs in the village of Deir Yassin.

Begin claims that a warning was given to the inhabitants of Deir Yassin, so throwing away the element of surprise. He claims heavy fighting ensued and the Irgun suffered casualties of four dead and forty wounded, not as portrayed inThe Promise.

Benny Morris claims that Arab radio broadcasts inflated what took place at Deir Yassin, and it was this that helped instigate the flight of the Arabs from all around the country.

But in The Promise the Arabs flee as a direct response to this “massacre” and fear of what the Jews might do to them. Again, there is no mention that up to 400,000 Palestinians did not flee.

The Promise also failed to mention La Saison when the Haganah (the main Jewish military force in British Mandate Palestine) caught members of the Irgun and handed them over to the British.

Instead, we were treated to one scene where British soldiers were shot through their heads as they sat in a military jeep outside a restaurant while rich Jewish diners just carried on eating, drinking and laughing.

Of course Kosminsky tried to promote what he thought was the Jewish/Israeli narrative.

The Promise occasionally flashed back to real scenes from The Holocaust, but there was no explanation of the Jews’ historic connection to Israel. The implication was that the Jews had stolen a country belonging to another people.

Second, Kosminsky showed two suicide bombings. The first one was just after an Israeli left-wing character had explained how the Security Wall has Arabs on both sides of it; some inside Israel proper and some inside the West Bank. The implication of the suicide bomb taking place straight after this was that the Security Wall was ineffective to stop suicide bombings and was merely a political tool used to grab more Palestinian land.

And after the second suicide bombing Erin, quite incredibly, befriends the family of the suicide bomber and even tried to stop their home being blown up by the IDF. This despite Erin not knowing the extent of the knowledge that the Palestinian family had about the intentions of their terrorist daughter.

Kosminsky also had Jewish children in the West Bank attacking Arab families with rocks while the IDF looked on and the IDF using a child as a human shield. We also saw a bulldozer almost run down Erin, recalling the death of Rachel Corrie in the same way. This is all straight out of an ISM handbook.

The Promise had everything for the Jew hater and Israel hater, but what you won’t see is a series about the Arab uprising in British Mandate Palestine between 1936-1939, which was brutally put down by the British and in which some 5,000 Arabs, 300 Jews and 260 Britons were killed and during which the Peel Commission offered the Arabs 80% of British Mandate Palestine, which the greedy Arab leadership duly rejected.

It was this that sowed the seeds for what followed and for the Arab defeat in 1948, but, as ever, why let facts get in the way of demonising Jews and Israel.

Review of Peter Kosminsky’s “The Promise”

The following commentary on Peter Kosminsky’s documentary series, The Promise, was provided by the British-Israel Group, and is being posted in its entirety.  (Also, see CW open letter to Peter Kosminsky, here.)

Channel 4 TV in the UK is currently broadcasting a 4 part documentary series “The Promise”, a dramatisation of the founding of Israel, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today, which is attracting 1.5 million viewers. The organization Beyond Images has issued a briefing to counter many of the statements and claims made in this inaccurate and misinformed documentary.

We, at BIG, feel that this information should be circulated as widely as possible.

Channel 4′s landmark TV series ‘The Promise’ is built on a serious historical falsehood about Israel

British TV channel Channel 4 has been broadcasting ‘The Promise’.  And it is a landmark piece of television. ‘The Promise’ is a four-part, six-hour dramatisation of the founding of Israel, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today.

We have been watching it.  And it is gripping. We are not surprised that it has been receiving very good reviews, and is a likely candidate for future broadcasting awards.  Over 1.5 million viewers in the UK have been watching its two episodes to date, including – we assume – most people with an active interest in the conflict: politicians, academics, students, members of human rights groups, writers and intellectuals, diplomats and civil servants.

The production is superb.  The acting is excellent.  It is meticulously observed and staged..And it is also built on a major historical falsehood.  A falsehood so severe that it undermines the credibility of its messages.  Its director Peter Kosminsky claims that he “told both sides of the story”. But episode 1 reveals that he does not even know what the Israeli side of the story is……

‘The Promise’ describes the events of 1945-8 through the eyes of Len, a British sergeant who had witnessed the liberation of the Jews at Bergen-Belsen, and is later posted with British forces to Palestine.  At a crucial moment in that first episode Len, together with other British army officers, receives a briefing from their British army commander on the purpose of their mission in Palestine, and the history behind it.  This takes place shortly after the second world war.

The commander’s words are not intended as a partisan speech.  It is the moment at which the British soldiers (and by extension 1.5 million viewers) are provided with the background to the conflict, and indeed the subsequent episodes of ‘The Promise’.  Indeed it is the only piece of the script which endeavours to tell the story of how the Jews, the Arabs and the British found themselves in three-way conflict.

Here is what the British commanding officer in The Promise says:

“The Jews and Arabs have been living here in relative harmony for thousands of years.  But our victory over the Germans has turned the trickle of Jews coming to this land into a flood.  You must understand, the Jews see it as their holy land.  But the Arabs, who have been here for over a thousand years, see them as stealing their land.  Our job is to keep the two sides apart…..”

There you have it.  The historical narrative of Israel.  And it is a narrative which does not operate to resolve the conflict, but to perpetuate it. Ever since World War Two, the Arabs have seen the Jewish national enterprise as the consequence of Nazism. Without indigenous roots.  And without historical legitimacy.

They build their sense of victimhood on the argument that they are “paying the price” for European fascism. Far from challenging this mindset, Kosminsky’s so-called ‘balanced’ narrative has reinforced it. Kosminsky makes no mention of the steady return to Palestine of Jews which had been carrying on since the 1880s. Kosminsky does not hint at the Balfour Declaration or other international commitments to support a Jewish national home.

Kosminsky does not recognise that Jewish national life had existed thousands of years ago in the land of Israel, and that the connection is a national connection.

Kosminsky does not pay any attention to the Jews’ state-building efforts in the period before the Second World War. And Kosminsky perpetuates a complete falsehood that the Jews and Arabs had been living in “relative harmony”.  Kosminsky reportedly researched The Promise for over a decade.  But has he heard of the Arab riots against the Jews of the Yishuv in the 1920s or 1930s?

Has he heard of the incessant violent assaults upon Jews building up Palestine? Has he heard of the Hebron massacre of 1929?

The idea that there was “relative harmony” in Palestine till World War Two is a fiction. It’s a fiction which Hamas and other rejectionists and ideologues readily embrace.

Meanwhile, the claim that the Arabs had been living there for a thousand years is also a massive over-simplification.  Even the most partisan historians have to admit that Palestine under the Ottomans and then the British was not exactly a hub of Arab nationalism, or a focal point of Arab pride and economic endeavour.

While ‘The Promise’ is brilliant drama – and we will be highlighting its strengths as well its weaknesses in the future – there are plenty of other major flaws in its so called ‘balanced’ narrative and in its framing of the conflict. In subsequent weeks we will be explaining them.  For now, here is a link to the programme website.  We have quoted just one short extract from episode one. See for yourself: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-promise/4od (Not available outside the UK)

The abuse of Holocaust memory on display at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies

This is cross posted from Richard Millett’s Blog (The post by Richard Millett was originally entitled, “Arabs and Israelis facing the Holocaust and the Nakba: A book and talk at SOAS.”  “The Abuse of Holocaust memory” refers to the title of a book by Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld – and I think aptly characterizes some of the claims made by Gilbert Achcar in his talk)

On Tuesday two hundred students attended the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) to hear Gilbert Achcar, a Professor of International Relations at SOAS, talk about his new book The Arabs and the Holocaust: the Arab-Israeli War of Narratives.

Achcar claimed:

1. The Arabs bear no responsibility at all for the Holocaust.
2. The Israelis have Nazified the Palestinian people.
3. This Nazification has come about by Israel’s broadcasting of the Mufti’s connections with Hitler during WW2.
4. The Israelis must apologise for the Nakba (the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948) for there to be peace.
5. The Israelis are today still frozen with fear by Holocaust.
6. Any anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in the Arab world is purely a result of Israel’s aggression or Israel’s societal shift to the right.

He presented the Arab and Israeli narratives, as he saw them, on the conflict as follows:

Arab – Israel is a Zionist colonial enterprise where the “ethnic cleansing” of 1948 was a defining moment. The expansion of this colonial state continued after the 1967 war and continues to this day with the oppression of the Palestinians on the West Bank and in Gaza.

Israeli – Zionism was a response to anti-Semitism and Israel was created as redemption for the Holocaust. The Arabs are like the Nazis. There was no ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and the 1948 War was purely a defensive one.

Achcar didn’t refute the Arab narrative but did refute the Israeli one.

He said that there had been a total lack of sympathy with Nazism throughout the Arab world and no military actions were undertaken by the Arabs with the Axis powers but Israel needs to acknowledge its role in the Nakba and its oppression of the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Arabs must acknowledge the role of the Holocaust on the Israeli psyche.

Mohammad Amin al-Husayni (The Mufti) cleared by Gilbert Achcar of any responsibility at all for the Holocaust

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In Contrast to Palestine: Partitions, Population Transfers, and no demanded “Right of Return”

This is a cross post by Wales-based historian Professor William Rubinstein, at the blog, Daphne Anson

What a surprising number of people, even those who are highly sympathetic to Israel, fail to realise, is that the Partition of the Palestine Mandate in 1947-48 has many parallel examples, and is far from unique in modern history. Moreover, the population transfers which occurred there at that time are also far from unique, and for the most part they have never been questioned.

The most obvious precedent for the Partition of Palestine, and the one the British almost certainly had in mind, was the Partition of Ireland in 1922. In that year, Ireland was divided between the Roman Catholic-dominated Irish Free State (now the Republic of Ireland), and the Protestant-dominated Northern Ireland, which remained within the United Kingdom. For decades, the Roman Catholics in the north of Ireland had demanded, first, “Home Rule” for the whole of the island, and then, with the ascendancy of Sinn Fein, complete independence. These goals were, for decades, fiercely resisted by the Protestants of the north.

A civil war in Ireland almost began in 1914, delayed only by the outbreak of the First World War, and then began after the end of that conflict. The division of Ireland into two states has been opposed by Roman Catholics of the south to this day, although most moderates now accept it as a reality. The IRA, however, has never accepted it, and, like the PLO and later Hamas, commenced a terror campaign in the 1960s which culminated in the murders of over 3000 persons. Nevertheless, the Partition of Ireland has been relatively peaceful, and was certainly the only way to end the bitter conflict there.

At exactly the same time as the Palestine Mandate was being divided into a Jewish and a Palestinian state, a vastly greater partition was taking place

Sikhs fleeing the newly-created Pakistan

1500 miles to the east, the Partition of British India into a largely Hindu India and a Muslim Pakistan (which at the time included what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh). There, the Partition of India and the creation of a specifically Muslim state was demanded by Muslims.

It is worth remembering that while in Palestine the Arabs opposed the creation of a largely Muslim Palestinian state, in India it was the Muslims who demanded Partition. Pakistan has no historical foundation whatever, and the very name Pakistan was invented by Muslim students and activists in London in 1931. The Partition of British India in 1947-48 was accomplished by bloodshed on an unimaginable scale, with probably 500,000 deaths in communal violence. Literally millions of Hindus and Muslims living in the “wrong” part of British India left for the other state. Karachi became known as a city of refugees.

Yet – in contrast to Palestine – no one demands the “Right of Return” for these “refugees”, and in any case neither India nor Pakistan would be likely to allow any of their former residents back.

Sudeten German expellees from Czechoslovakia

At that very time, too, vast population transfers were taking place in early post-war Europe. An estimated ten million Poles, Balts, and Russians fled to the West, ahead of the advancing Red Army, or, in some instances, were deliberately moved on. In Czechoslovakia, Eduard Beneš, the “good” Czech head of state between the end of the Nazi occupation in 1945 and the imposition of Stalinist rule in 1948, expelled three million Sudeten Germans from the Sudetenland in 1945-46. The Sudetenland is the rim area of what is now the Czech Republic whose demands (sparked by Hitler) for incorporation into the German Reich led to the Munich Crisis of 1938. After the war, the democratic Czech government was taking no more chances with a potential Fifth Column in the reborn state, and expelled the Sudeten Germans en masse. If there were any demands for their “Right of Return” these were unacknowledged. Most fled to West Germany, where, frankly, they were a lot better off than they would have been in a wretched Stalinist satellite regime, which is what Czechoslovakia became in 1948.

Few people know or care about these events: only in the case of the Palestinians is the issue of Partition and the “Right of Return” being kept alive, nearly 65 years later.