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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Life magazine argues against a Jewish state, 1946

This is an earnest editorial published in Life in August, 1946, urging that Jewish refugees not be settled in Palestine (mostly because it would upset the Arabs.)

Other notable parts of the editorial are the perfect belief in the conventional wisdom of the day:

  • There is no way that Palestine can absorb so many people;
  • The Jewish lobby is pushing Truman to do things thatare against American interests;
  • The Middle East is not an American interest anyway;
  • The reasons the Arabs hated the Jews of Palestine is because of their higher standards of living;
  • Nationalism, at least in the case of Jewish nationalism, is wrong.

The most amazing part is the conclusion, where the editors of Life say that rather than create a Jewish homeland where Jews can live in safety, we should instead push for a utopian world where there is no discrimination, so Jews can feel free to live anywhere.

Except Palestine!


When you read reasonable-sounding editorials today spouting what passes for conventional wisdom and coming to conclusions based on them, keep in mind how wrong the accepted facts can be to begin with.

In a World unutterably wearied of seeing people pushed around, there is an understandable, though wishful, tendency to believe in some easy solution for the problem of Europe’s homeless Jews. The notion is being broadcast that the solution is merely to let 100,000 more Jews into Palestine where they can be cared for by their own people. Thus they would be lifted from the world conscience. lt is also suggested that in a true, independent Jewish state, not just a "Home,” the Children of Israel would continue to build out of arid wastes a land of hydroelectric milk and industrial honey so rich and so charming as to attract and provide for all unwanted Jews.

The Zionists are superb organizers; they are also religious idealists, with all the virtues - and_°someof the blind spots—-of zealots through-out history. It could only he wished they had the right answers. But they haven’t.

lt is hard to say this, not only because of the immense humanitarian efforts of the Zionists but also because the situation is so tense and so full of domestic and international emotions and bitterness that it has almost become impossible to express an honest, dispassionate opinion. Yet the time has plainly come for some blunt
American speaking. The U.S. must adopt a Palestine policy and hold to it.

...The difficulty the Jews face, both as to immediate immigration and as to the long-range dream of a homeland, is primarily with the Arabs. Specifically it is with the l,000,000 Arabs in Palestine, hut generally it is with the 50,000,000 Arab population of the Middle East, now banded together in the Arab League and threatening that if they fail to obtain justiee in London they will turn to Moscow.

The differences between the Jews and the Arabs are such they can scarcely be understood unless one is an Arab or a Jew. The present obvious nub of friction is simply that the Jews in Palestine have come to enjoy a much higher standard of living than their Arab neighbors.

This View of the matter was reaffirmed only last spring hy the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry as a part of its long report on Palestine. This report also urged that l00,000 of the Jews currently in assembly camps in Germany and Austria—and most of them in or trying to get into the American zones-—should be immediately and humanely transported to Palestine.

The Arabs’ response was such that Britain’s Foreign Minister Ernest Bevin estimated that it would require dispatch of a British division and expenditure of $800,000,000 to effect the immigration. So he rejected the proposal.

When President Truman insists, in the face of British objections, that the 100.000 Jews be let in at once, he may have a nervous eye on the Jewish vote. But the President should approach it with the same bipartisan strategy he employed when the United Nations was organized at San Francisco. Otherwise the Palestine question, by becoming the price of a Zionist-led Jewish vote, could enter our politics in such a way that an entire national election might turn on how a few New Yorkers feel about an entirely extraneous issue. That wouldn't go down so well in Oklahoma.

...Britain and Zion are virtually at war today. Yet the Zionists must realize that the British, through the years, have been their truest friends and that removal of the Tommies now would probably tesult in the Arabs quickly pushing the Jews into the sea. This is what spoils the analogy between modern Palesttine and the Ireland of 25 years ago.

...It is clear that the immigration of the 100,000 Jews still in camp cannot really be decided until the central problem of Palestine's future is answered. To admit 100.000 more Jews - almost one fifth of the total Jews already there- without provision for land and industrial expansion to take care of them would only tend
to ghetto-ize the Jewish community. So, what of a Jewish state’? The Arabs regard it as an "exotic movement. internationally financed, artificially stimulated, holding no hope of ultimale or permanent sueeess.” Unfortunately there is something to this point of view. Palestine is not self-supporting. Perhaps given land expansion. great power and irrigation projects and, above all, internal peace, the Jewish community might become self-supporting in a generation or two. That is a moot point and almost irrelevant, because prospects for such expansion, projects and even peace are slight.

Aside, however, from the physical limitations, there is the higher moral question that divides the Jews themselves: namely, is religious nationalism any more the answer to the over-all Jewish problem than is any other sort of nationalism the answer to any part of the world problem?

What the Jews really need is not a national state but the right sort of world. Probably there will always be a certain number of Jews who prefer segregation in the Holy land, but we hazard the opinion that it the nations carried out that provision in the United Nations Charter, presumably not lightly adopted, for "universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion,” it would do far more to solve the Jewish problem than any multiplication of the Jewish population in Palestine.

Among other things this would mean the re-establishment of the 100,000 Jews in the assembly camps on the same basis, and with the same regard, as the resettlement of all of Europe's millions of displaced persons. If the remnants of Hitler's evil anti-Semitic brew precludes this in Eastern and Central Europe. then, assuredly, humanitarian gates must he opened. but not only in Palestine. The whole world must share the task. including the US.

This makes a bipartisan approach to the problem all the more desirable.

All this—a humane world and one in which a Jew ean live and prosper equally with all—is an easy solution, surely. It is only as hard as the human heart.