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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

November 1947 and Annapolis déjà vu

I have been looking at the pages of the Palestine Post from sixty years ago, in the run-up to the UN vote on partitioning Palestine. Reading the stories then, and comparing them to what is happening today in anticipation of Annapolis, one gets an intense feeling of déjà vu.

Sixty years ago in October and November there was a lull in Arab terror attacks against Jews. All actions seemed to be taking place diplomatically. Arab leaders were trying to do everything possible to stop the vote or influence nations to vote against it. It appeared to be a losing battle, already the Soviet Union and the White House were supporting it (although the State Department was ambivalent), but that didn't stop Saudi Prince Faisal from declaring to the Russian UN delegate that if partition passed, Saudi Arabia would quit the UN.

The relative quiet in Palestine seems even starker relative to violence in the rest of the Arab world: over 250 had been killed in one day in Syrian factional fighting in early November.

The Arab leaders were specifically refraining from inciting the masses in order to put their best face forward as the world watched. They made it very clear, though, that should partition pass they would start a campaign of terror and war against the Jews to ensure that a Jewish state can never be created. Westerners were not as impressed with these threats, thinking it was all just so much Arab hyperbole.

Today we are in a similar waiting period. The "moderate" Palestinian Arabs have already made their demands clear and they have made their threats equally clear should things not go exactly the way they want in Annapolis.

Most people now think that Annapolis will be a failure. But not as many people are thinking ahead to the day after. To get an idea of what might happen, look at what happened immediately after the vote (from Time):
While city crowds celebrated, Arabs ambushed two buses in an orange grove southeast of Tel Aviv, sprayed them with gunfire. Five Jews died, 14 were wounded. Arab prisoners attacked Jews in Acre prison. In Damascus, Syria, Moslem youths stoned the U.S. Legation, tore down the U.S. flag, and then looted the Russian-Syrian Cultural Center.

In Cairo, Arab League Secretary Abdel Rahman Azzam Pasha joined other Arab leaders in promising warfare on the Jews: "I cannot say where and when I will place my troops. I can only say we will fight and are preparing for victory." Azzam Pasha had just returned from a flying visit to Saudi Arabia's King Ibn Saud. In Azzam Pasha's pocket, said aides, was Ibn Saud's promise to use most of his U.S. oil royalties (about $20,000,000 a year) to modernize his Bedouin army and to arm Palestinian Arabs for the war on Zionism.

The Arab Higher Committee for Palestine pushed a recruiting drive for Arab soldiers, setting a quota for each Arab village: a minimum of 30 men from each, up to 120 in the larger ones.

The Arabs planned uprisings, an economic blockade, concentrated attacks on outlying Jewish settlements and pinpoint attacks against the long exposed borders of the crazy-quilt Jewish state. The Arabs seemed resigned to the prospect of an armed struggle. They regarded partition in its present form as so outrageous that there was no alternative.

Like making compromises for peace.