Mohamed K. Mohamed:
Good afternoon everybody. Thank you all for joining us here today. As always, we ask that you please silence your cell phones. We do it every time, but there’s always that one cell phone that goes off. My name is Mohamed Mohamed. I’m the Executive Director here at the Jerusalem Fund and Palestine Center, and, on behalf of our Board of Directors, our staff, it’s a great pleasure to welcome you all here today, and, of course, as always it’s a pleasure to have everybody watching online. It’s also a great honor to introduce and welcome back our distinguished speaker, Dr. John Quigley, who will be delivering this year’s Hisham Sharabi Memorial Lecture, which is titled “Dissembling in Diplomacy: Israel’s Secret Weapon.”
In this lecture, Dr. John Quigley will address Israel’s history of diplomacy. From the inception of the Zionist project, its leadership cultivated the world powers that had the capacity to help them gain territory. Viewing their cause as noble, they resorted to deception in making their case for territory in Palestine. They made commitments they had little hope of fulfilling. They predicted promising outcomes that could not be realized. In international fora, they invented facts to show themselves in a favorable light. They denied facts that put them in an unfavorable light, and these tactics bore fruit in the League of Nations and the United Nations, leaving Zionism by 1967 in control of the territory of Palestine.
A little bit about Dr. John Quigley: He is Professor Emeritus at the Moritz College of Law of the Ohio State University. His most recent book is The International Diplomacy of Israel’s Founders: Deception at the United Nations in the Quest for Palestine. He has consulted and written on legal issues in the Palestine-Israel conflict, including books titled The Statehood of Palestine and The Six-Day War, and Israeli Self-Defense, which I actually read, personally and as part of my classes. It’s a great honor to meet the guy behind the book, so thank you. Dr. Quigley will speak for 30 to 40 minutes after which we will have a Q&A session. As always, we ask that you please wait for the mic to come to you so that everybody online can also hear. And for the online audience, please tweet any of your questions to our Twitter account, which is @PalestineCenter. Please join me in giving a very warm welcome to Dr. John Quigley.
Dr. John Quigley:
Thank you very much. I’m honored to be here, in particular given that this lecture is in honor of Dr. Hisham Sharabi whom I counted as a close friend. I recall distinctly having a discussion with him actually in this building some years ago shortly after the meetings in Oslo and the Declaration of Principles that was signed here in Washington where he was expressing his concern that Israel would use the talks that were contemplated as a way of extending its control over Palestinian territory and that they were not likely to come to successful conclusion. I shared his concerns at the time, and, unfortunately, his concern has turned out not to have been unwarranted.
But what I’d like to talk about today is what you might call an information war or how the diplomats for the Jewish Agency–and even before the Jewish Agency for organized Zionism–how they were able to use information to their advantage. You see that even today, within the last couple of hours, 75 Palestinian Arabs have been shot with live ammunition on the border between Gaza and Israel. If you look at that situation from Israel’s standpoint, it will be said that Israel is defending its border against people who are trying to break into fences that they have. If you view the situation from the standpoint of those on the other side, they’re trying to assert their right to return to territory, which under international law they have a right to return to. So the information side of events is critical, and, if one side gets its view accepted as being the valid analysis, that works to its advantage.
The Zionists have been very successful at doing this. What I want to do just now is take you through the major episodes in the establishment of Israel as a state, the events leading up to it and to show how information was used successfully on the Zionist side—that information often having been erroneous but, nonetheless, was used effectively. The first several episodes actually were not successful, and they go back to the time of Theodor Herzl who was trying to convince the Sultan when Palestine was under the Ottoman Empire—trying to convince the Sultan of the idea of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine. And essentially what his pitch was, was to say that we will deal with all of your financial problems if you can give us territory in Palestine for a Jewish state. At the time, the Ottoman Empire owed a great deal of money to banks in Europe. You may have seen the Ottoman Empire referred to at that era as the “Sick Man of Europe”—that is, that it was in very bad financial shape. And so Herzl’s pitch was that he had friends in all of the stock exchanges of Europe—was the way he put it—and that he would be able to come up with money to pay off the debts. He in fact had no prospects of doing that.
This was 1896. He approached Baron Maurice de Hirsch and Baron Edmond de Rothschild who were two financiers who were already giving money to help Jews coming out of Russia. He asked them if they would commit money to give to the Sultan for this project, and they said no. But that didn’t stop Herzl; he continued to make promises to the Sultan. There was a project that the Sultan was interested in which was to build a railroad going east to Baghdad, and Herzl said he would find money to fund that. Herzl also enlisted Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany—because Germany and Turkey were allies at the time—to get Germany to convince the Sultan to give territory for a Jewish state, and the Kaiser was also interested in building a railroad through to Baghdad, and so, on that basis, he got Germany involved, but, as I said, none of that worked out. Ultimately, the Sultan said that the idea of giving territory for a Jewish state was not something that he would contemplate, but this continued actually when the First World War started.
By then, Herzl had died, but the Zionist organization worked with the Turkish government at the beginning of the First World War, saying that it would again provide funds if a Jewish state could be promised in Palestine. Shortly after that, the attention of the Zionist movement focused to Britain when they decided that it was Britain that was more likely to prevail in the war; if the Ottoman Empire lost the war, those commitments wouldn’t be worth very much. But he understood—Chaim Weizmannn did—that it was a bit hazardous to talk about a Jewish state and that it needed to be framed in a softer way in order to get the approach—to get a successful approach—to the British government or other governments of Europe. So he made a speech actually in May of 1917 to the Zionist federation in England in which he said that suggesting a Jewish state in a public way would frighten away support, and he said that Zionists should practice what he called “safe statesmanship”—though he said that having a state was what they really wanted. He called it the “final ideal” was the way he put it, but he said that they should be content in approaching it in stages; that is not to go for a state immediately but to go for something that would put them in a position that they would be able to establish a state in the future.
Weizmann promised to the British government that if it were to speak out in support of a Jewish state or something close to a Jewish state in Palestine that he would be able to help them in winning the war against Germany and, in particular, that he would be able to get the Jews of Europe—many of whom were fighting in the German army, Jews who were fighting in the Russian army—that he would be able to get them on Britain’s side, to get the Jews fighting in the Germany army to lay down their arms and the Jews in the Russian army to work with the Russian government to ensure that it remained as an ally. And he did this by claiming to have support among Jews all over Europe, and, at the time, he didn’t really have that support. There wasn’t a great deal of support for Zionism at the time. And, in fact, Weizmann made a speech to a Zionist meeting in Poland some years later—1927—describing that period of the First World War, and his entreaties to the British government, and he said—and I’m quoting now—“I trembled lest the British government would call me and ask: ‘Tell us. What is this Zionist organization? Where are they, your Zionists?’” So, he didn’t have support, but he was claiming to have support, claiming that the would be able to help Britain win the war if it spoke out in support of a Zionist position on Palestine.
But, at the time, Britain was very desperate for support, and so this fell on ears that were willing to hear it. Weizmann and the Zionists in general were quite good at assessing the interests of the governments that were involved and making a pitch that was oriented to their concerns, and Britain apparently accepted that view to some degree because once the Balfour Declaration was issued by the British government in November of 1917, it immediately translated the Balfour Declaration into Yiddish. And made thousands of copies of the declaration in Yiddish and took them up in airplanes over Germany and dropped them. The MI6 was very active actually during the war in doing a lot of propaganda in that way. They sent messages, you know, down from airplanes on leaflets saying to the German people “You’re cause is hopeless, give up, the Allies are going to win.” They’d been doing this so this was part of that propaganda effort of Britain. I think the fact that they did this with the Balfour Declaration indicates that they to some extent believed what Weizmann was telling them. Of course, very shortly thereafter you had the Revolution in Russia that led to Russia pulling out. So nothing ever came out of the assistance that Weizmann was promising.
But then matters went into international diplomacy, and for the first time the Zionists had a stage at the international level. That was the Versailles Peace Conference at the end of the war, sometimes referred to as the Paris Peace Conference and actually held in a suburb of Paris. And the Zionist organization was successful in getting itself access to that conference. I mean this was the conference of governments, so people who were outside of government in general had no voice there. But they were able with the help of the British government and the US government, to get themselves before what was called the Council of Ten, which was the main organ of the Paris Peace Conference. And several Zionist leaders went and made a pitch there. Chaim Weizmannn was one of them, and he said that, he along with others, said that they came representing the Jews of the world. Now Nahum Sokolow who was a Russian Jew, was one of the Zionist leaders, introduced himself at the Council of Ten as representing the Jewish population of Palestine.
Now, Sokolow was from Russia, he had never been to Palestine, he had no connection to any Jews in Palestine, but he told them he was representing the Jews of Palestine. And to some extent I think they were taking advantage of the fact that what was going on in Palestine was not all that well known by the European Leaders, so they were able to make statements that were counterfactual but were not immediately challenged as being untrue. So Sokolow said that he not only represented the Jews of Palestine, but that he represented the Jews everywhere. Another Zionist leader, Menachem Ussishkin, also speaking before the Council of Ten, introduced himself as being the President of a National Assembly that represented 3 million Jews of South Russia. I think by South Russia he meant the Ukraine. At the time, there were probably no more than 2 million total Jews in Ukraine. And Ussishkin was claiming to represent 3 million Jews in Ukraine. Out of that 2 million, probably not that many of them were supporters of Zionism. Weizmann himself claimed before the Council of Ten that he spoke for 96 percent of Jews of the world. He had a percentage, he said he represented 96 percent of Jews of the world. How he came up with that figure, you know, I can only guess, but at the time, Zionism was not a very widespread view among the world Jewry. But, they didn’t get any pushback on that. They promoted the idea that the British should have control over Palestine, and that of course is what the League of Nations ultimately succeeded to do. So their proposals there, their arguments were met with some success.
But the US Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, was on the Council of Ten, and Lansing was unlike Woodrow Wilson. Unlike Woodrow Wilson, Lansing was very skeptical of Zionism. Lansing was very skeptical of Zionism and asked him what the goal was in Palestine for Zionism. And Weizmann said that he did not want an autonomous Jewish government, he said the Jews would migrate overtime, that they would settle in what he called the “Empty spaces of Palestine,” the empty spaces of Palestine; so they wouldn’t do anything negative to the existing population, but that eventually some kind of government would emerge there, was what he said to Lansing.
Of course, I think the Zionist idea all along was that in order to have a state there, it was necessary that there not be an Arab population. That was very interestingly, mentioned, just a couple of weeks ago, in connection to the protests in Gaza by the former general in the Israeli army, Oholiab Nary. Some of you may receive some of his postings. And in speaking about what is being called the “March of Return” now, in Gaza–and I’m quoting “Zionism from the beginning wanted to dispossess the Aras from their land, in order to create a new Jewish nation. This was never admitted but was clear from the beginning.” And that was successfully concealed by Weizmann at the time of the Paris Peace Conference. And subsequently, the League of Nations set up an oversight committee to look into how Britain was operating in Palestine. Whether it was operating to benefit the population, and that operation was focused on very sharply by what was then called the Jewish Agency, which was set up at that time as supposedly representing the Jews of Palestine.
The Permanent Mandates Commission was to receive a report annually from the British government about how it was doing. The organized Arab population did not do very much with the Permanent Mandates Commission, because they did not see any need for there to be any kind of European oversight over their country. They did submit documents from time to time, but Weizmann took it very seriously. He cultivated the people on the Commission. The head of it for a very long time was a Belgian named Pierre Orts, and he really became the best friend of him, invited, you know, to interact socially. And he was able to convince the Permanent Mandates Commission that the aims of Zionism were not detrimental to the Arab population, that the Arab population would benefit financially from the input of financing coming through the Jews who were migrating, and the British government at the time had an interest in accepting that kind of thinking of that point of view. So, what Weizmann was pitching to the Permanent Mandates Commission was similar to what Britain was pitching to the Permanent Mandates Commission.
Now the British government, when they actually had a change of government in 1923, and did a kind of study of their policy on Palestine, that is the new government wanted to see if the new government had been doing it properly, and they had a study that was conducted confidentially. And the conclusion of it was that they saw no prospect of anything good coming from their control of Palestine, that if they were to allow continued migration of Jews from Europe, it was going to lead to violence, and they really saw no way out of that. However, they thought it was in their interest to continue to control Palestine for their own reasons, so they could have military troops there, so they could control the Suez Canal, for various reasons. So they decided that they would continue to lie to the Permanent Mandates Commission, as they did for the next decade, to say that everything was wonderful in Palestine. That was facilitated the point of view that the Jewish agency was putting over the Permanent Mandates Commission.
The next most interesting thing that I think one can recount in this regard, that is the cultivation through deception of world leaders, relates to the connection between the Jewish Agency and the Soviet Russian government during the Second World War. By the beginning of the war, the Jewish agency figured out, at least they were contemplating and anticipating that the war would be won by the allies against Germany. And that by the end of the war the Soviet Union would be one of the major players at the international level. So, they focused on the Soviet Union to cultivate its good graces in the hopes of getting it, to, at least not at that point, come out and support Zionism. But in hopes that once the war ended, that it would be supportive of Zionism. And, this was done in part through the Embassy of the Soviet Union here in Washington, the Zionist organizations in America made approaches to the Soviet Ambassador to try to give him information on their plans for Palestine. The major point of contact was actually in London where the Soviet Ambassador was a man named Ivan Maisky, who was approached by Ben Gurion in 1941. 1941, the war is in its early stages, and Ben Gurion, and this is a direct quote, said to Maisky, “By the end of the war, Russia would be one of the three leading powers.” I think he had in mind Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States. That Russia would be one of the three leading powers that would determine the fate of the new world, meaning the post second war, post war world. And he tried to convince Maisky that support for a Jewish state in Palestine should be what the Soviet government should espouse.
This was quite something to do because in its internal policies in the Soviet Union, the Soviet government was very much in the view that Jews should assimilate, that there wouldn’t be a pale of residency that the Czarist government had had. Many Jews were quite prominent in the Bolshevik movement. So for Ben Gurion to try to get Maisky to get the Soviet government to support Zionism was an incredible undertaking. But, he and others did and during the war, established contact with Maisky in London, and his pitch was largely in the lines of social philosophy. He said, you know, “You have your collective farms in the Soviet Union, we have Kibbutzim, so you know, we’re brothers,” patting him on the back. “We’ll be with you, we’ll be brothers! We’ll work with you against nasty Britain who want to support the Arabs.” So that was Weizmann’s approach. Also, Moshe Shertok, who would change his name after to Sharett, and would become Prime Minister in Israel was one of the leading figures in the Jewish Agency and also cultivated Maisky at this period. So all the top leadership of the Jewish Agency put a great deal of energy into this.
This all actually was not known until a few years ago when some Israeli and Russian scholars put together a volume on the connections between Zionism and the Soviet Union during the war. It was published and called “Documents on Israeli-Soviet Relations,” just a few years ago in Russian and English. Some of the documents are Russian language documents that in the English volume are translated into English and some that are English language documents that in the Russian volume are translated into Russian. They did it together. This whole episode is one that has not been talked about very much. The Soviet government, which did eventually come out in support of Zionism, had of course been deceived by the Zionists. They didn’t want to admit that they had been deceived and the Zionists on the other hand didn’t want to admit they had contact with the Soviet government because at least from 1949/1950 they were clearly in the camp of the Western governments, so neither side had an interest in publicizing that this had gone on.
But in 1947 the Soviet foreign ministry did a study. It was at that point that they realized that Britain was about to pull out of Palestine, “we are now in the United Nations, we’re going to have to take a position on this.” In April 1947 the Soviet foreign ministry circulated internally, within the foreign ministry, a document that said the Soviet Union should come out for, and this is what they called it, “The Democratic State of Palestine” and that it would be admitted as a member of the United Nations upon Britain’s withdrawal. That of course was support of the Arab position on Palestine. So even at that late date there had not been a decision taken in the Soviet government to support Zionism and, if anything, it was going in the other direction. But just a month later in May of 1947 Andrei Gromyko who was the representative of the Soviet Union at the United Nations made a speech at the UN general assembly and he said that the ideal would be that the two parties would work out a solution, but of course everyone knew that that was not going to happen. He said that would be the ideal but if that doesn’t work out, partition would be the next best approach. So in effect he was saying that the Soviet government would support a partition of Palestine which is the view that the Jewish Agency was taking at the time. I mean, the Jewish Agency would like to have all of Palestine but they realized that that was not in the cards, that they couldn’t come in and say that given that the population, even with Jewish immigration, was two thirds Arab. They thought that partition was the most they could go for. This was in effect Gromyko saying that the Soviet Union was open to accepting the Jewish Agency’s view.
What the UN immediately did was to appoint a committee to come up with ideas for what the general assembly should say about Palestine and this they called the Special Committee on Palestine, which I’m sure many of you have heard of or seen in documents, and it began to meet in Jerusalem in the summer of 1947. This was a committee that was made up of eleven different countries. It was a committee of countries with representatives from those countries and they were chosen for not having any direct interest in the situation, that was the idea: that they would be objective. The downside of that was that they were countries that had very little clue of what was going on on the ground in Palestine and knew very little about the situation or the history which meant that they were very susceptible to being swayed by whoever could come in with a good story. The Arab Higher Committee, which was representing Palestinian Arabs at the UN at the time decide not to deal with the special committee because they said there should be a government for Palestine when Britain withdraws and there was no need for a UN committee to come up with fancy ideas for it. But the Jewish Agency did participate, and with a vengeance.
The main meetings were held at the YMCA building in Jerusalem. The Mossad, which had already been organized and would later become the Israeli Mossad, was the Mossad of Haganah at the time. They organized very intensively, they did background work on the members of the committee to see what their inclinations were, most of them really didn’t know very much about the situation. They also made some of the arrangements for the meeting at the YMCA and in particular the managed to get Mossad agents into the positions of staff during the meeting. People who were cleaning up the rooms after the meetings, fixing the coffee, these were all Mossad agents and were there so they could eavesdrop and hear what the members saying among themselves in connection with the meeting.
here is a very interesting statement made about this group, the members of the special committee, by Ralph Bunch who was an American diplomat who was asked by the UN Secretary General to kind of be the overseer for the special committee, so he was kind of what you would call the main staff person for the special committee. He wound up drafting the report and Bunch wrote a book a few years later about the special committee and he said the members of it were, and these are his words, “They were petty, they were mean, they were stupid,” he said, “they were the worst group I have ever had to work with.” and he said at the time that if they were going to do a good job it would be a “miracle.” So these were people who not only didn’t know anything, but were seemingly there on something of a lark which made them very susceptible to what they would be told and with the Arab side telling them nothing and the Jewish Agency side giving its point of view, well that was a recipe for disaster. This is what led to their report.
The committee took testimony and Shertok (Sharett) spoke before the committee and he told them the Jews had attempted to return to Palestine in every century and in every generation as if Jews had been trying to get trying to get back to Palestine since ancient times, which was patently false. And even in the late 19th Century when you did have an outflow from Eastern Europe, especially from Russia, of course most of the people wanted to go West. They wanted to come to the United States. They were not trying to go to Palestine. During that time period there were probably about 2.5 million Jews who left Eastern Europe. Of that number maybe 75,000 went to Palestine. But Shertok didn’t give them these numbers. He made it sound like they were all trying to go to Palestine. Actually at the time, even among those Jews that did go to Palestine, I think some of them went because it was a lot easier and cheaper to get a boat to Palestine than to the United States. Of those who went to Palestine, probably half of them left within the next year or two. That is, even though they went to Palestine they didn’t stay because their lives didn’t work out there, they didn’t find economic opportunities.
In any event there was a lot of prevarication here before this Special Committee on Palestine. The economist for the Jewish Agency, by the name of David Horowitz, spoke and said the Jews were paying more in the way of taxes to the Mandatory Government in Palestine and that thereby benefited the entire population. So he was trying to make an argument that the Jewish presence was beneficial to the Arabs. An Israeli economist did a study on that issue, actually about 20 years ago, and said that of the government programs in Palestine at the time, most of the benefit of those programs went to the Jews disproportionately. In any event, the Special Committee then was treated to something of a show by the Jewish Agency. It arranged for a boat of migrants to come into Palestine from Europe, to arrive just at the time the Special Committee was there in Jerusalem. There had of course been boats of this kind coming in organized by the Haganah but when they saw that the special committee had set a date to be in Jerusalem they organized boats to arrive, to come out of Italy and out of France, filled with migrants. But they did it in a rather public way which meant the British government was well aware of it and was going to be tracing it and they weren’t actually going to be getting the people into Palestine. So they were sending this boat there not actually in expectation of getting the people to Palestine, because they couldn’t quietly let them off somewhere near Gaza which is the kind of thing they were otherwise doing. It wasn’t for that purpose, it was to create a show for the members of the special committee. They then invited members of the Special Committee to go to Haifa once the boat came in.
Actually, the British Government intercepted the boat and brought it into Haifa with the idea of deporting the people back because they were illegal migrant. When they came in members of the Special Committee were invited and two members did go. The Jewish Agency managed to get them on the boat to talk to the people, who didn’t look all that great after a trip across the Mediterranean. This was actually quite key in getting the Special Committee to make a connection between Palestine and the issue of displaced persons in Europe. That was the point of this exercise and it worked in spades.
The Special Committee then decided that it would go to Eastern Europe to Poland and other areas where there were displaced Jews and talk with them, which was something that was not part of their mandate at all. Their mandate from the General Assembly was about what should happen with Palestine, but they decided that that was relevant to what should happen with Palestine. That turn of thought came about largely because of this vessel which was called the Exodus 1947, you may have heard about it, movies have been made. It was something of a major event at the time and subsequently. So then this committee came up with it’s report. It was supposed to finish it’s report by the first of September and that meant it didn’t have much time to assess anything it was being told. Ben Gurion also testified. Ben Gurion told them that during the Crusades that every single Jew in Palestine had been killed, which simply wasn’t true. And as they say Shertok came in with this false information of the desire of Jews all over the world to go there. So, they didn’t have much time to assess this. They came up with their report which was just very strongly in favor of a major Jewish state in Palestine. They then had Jaffa within the Israeli, or in what would have been the Israeli/Jewish state as it was being called at the time, so they came up with a line to partition that had Jaffa in the Jewish state. That much was successfully changed by the General Assembly. So, the General Assembly, actually before it adopted what became the partition resolution, made amendments to the Special Committee’s map somewhat in favor of the Arab side because of the fact that the Special Committee had been so strongly in support of the Zionist position. And, as they say, the Special Committee was doing that in a large part because they had been manipulated by the Jewish agency. But, when this got into the General Assembly, then the General Assembly decided to set up a committee to work on the report of the Special Committee. That was called the “ad hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question”, which was the committee of the whole of the General Assembly. So, it was a committee that included every UN member-state. They met during the month of October of 1947. And they’re the ones who came with the Partition Resolution in November of 1947 and the Jewish Agency participated in that. The Special Committee’s report was assessed.
I think what I’m trying to do is to explain how all of this came about, and that it came about through methods of deception that the international committee should have been able to see through. My criticism is as much of the international community as it is of the Zionists, that the international community fell for all of this. Or, even if it didn’t believe what it was being told, it did not have the backbone to do something about it. But, at this period, the Jewish Agency was continuing with its view that it never stated publicly that it needed to get rid of the Arab population of Palestine. Actually, Ben Gurion made a speech to the Jewish Agency Executive Committee on the 2nd of November 1947, this is right at this time period, saying that the “Arabs would be a fifth column” and that they either can be mass-arrested or expelled. And he said that it’s better to expel them. So, this is Ben Gurion making a speech to the Jewish Agency Executive, right at the time that the UN was considering what kind of resolution to pass. But that session of the ad hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question is really something very sad to read, if you ever have a chance. It’s in the records of the General Assembly. All the major libraries will have it, ad hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question, October-November of 1947. And one delegate after another stands up and says, “Well, the two parties aren’t able to get along. We don’t really have a good idea of what should happen, so let’s go for splitting the territory.”, fully realizing that they were opening the way to further efforts by the Jewish Agency forces, who had the upper-hand militarily. They had been bombing the British, and they were taking over territory effectively already. It was clear that if a partition resolution were adopted, they would try to take more. But, the members of this committee, this is all the UN member-states, didn’t really have a good idea. They weren’t willing to do anything forceful, which really the security council should have done to insure a peaceful outcome. So, they were saying “Oh, we’re going to go for partition, even though we know it’s not going to work.” That includes the United States. The United States didn’t say a single word that was good about partition during that meeting. That may surprise you, it surprises me because by the end of November they were threatening some of the states that weren’t going to vote for partition to get them to vote in favor of it. But the United States at that session of the ad hoc Committee did not say anything that was favorable as to what partition would lead to.
There was only one country that said anything good about partition. And it said this is a principal, just solution that will lead to a good outcome in Palestine. Anyone want to guess [what it was]? “The USSR” (an audience member replied). The USSR, right, right. Yes, I should have excluded that Arab states. The Arab governments of course were saying the opposite. The only one that said anything good about partition was the USSR. And there are documents from the Jewish Agency saying that when that happened, when the Soviet Union came out strongly in support of partition, that they were quietly congratulating themselves for the work that they had done with Maisky during the Second World War. So, that turned out to be key in getting the UN to favor partition. And then even in the Spring of 1948, when the United States then decided that partition was going to be unworkable, the United States by March of 1948 was suggesting there should be a trusteeship. There’s a judge marshal, there’s a secretary of the State of the United States promoting this at the United Nations General Assembly. The U.S. view at that point was “Partition isn’t going to work, let’s have a United Nations trusteeship over Palestine for a period of time, and then try to work something out.” The Soviet Union spoke out very strongly against that. They didn’t want the trusteeship because that would have stopped the Jewish Agency forces, which by then were driving the Arab population out of Palestine. The U.S.view, had it been adopted, and in fact would have stopped the Jewish Agency from doing that because you would have had a UN government of sorts over Palestine upon the British withdrawal.
Then of course, you’ve got the Nakba, and that being denied by the Jewish Agency in the UN. The Arab delegates were saying that this was happening, [and] they were giving facts to show that it was happening. And it was simply denied by Shertok, and now Abba Eban, who had come on the scene as a younger diplomat for the Jewish Agency. And in particular, there was a massacre of Arabs that many of you I’m sure have heard about in the town of Dawayima in southern Palestine in October of 1948. And that was brought up at the United Nations as an atrocity committed by the what was then calling itself the Israel Defense Force, which was a combination force of the Irgun, the Lehi and the Haganah. And they killed I think it was around 70 people. They just put them together in the mosque and shot them dead. This was brought up at the United Nations as an atrocity. And Abba Eban said that it never happened because, he said, that there were no civilians in the town of Dawayima at the time that this occurred, which was simply not true. In fact, the IDF itself (Israel Defense Force), did an internal report and said that it was Irgun people that had carried this out in the town of Dawayima. The Arab delegates were trying to get attention to what was going on, to the fact that this was a continuing expulsion situation. Henry Catan was representing the Arab Higher Committee at the time and he made a very forceful speech in November of 1948. He said, “750,000 Arabs living in Palestine for centuries have been driven out, stripped of their possession, reduced to the status of refugees, while their houses had been destroyed and pillaged”. That was another thing that the Jewish Agency or IDF forces were doing. As soon as they got people out of the town, they would destroy the buildings. Henry Catan, who was a very good lawyer who I knew before his death, said, “Who would believe that hundreds of thousands of people had left the country of their own free will abandoning their goods because they had been asked to do so by the representatives of the Arab Higher Committee?”
Now, Shertok had told the UN that the Arab governments had told the population to leave. Then, Abba Eban kind of backed off that explanation. His explanation was “Well, there was a war going on, and people always get displaced during war. And that’s why all the people were leaving.” Which didn’t make a great deal of sense since it was only one segment of the population that was leaving. But, in any event, that was what they were saying in response, and the UN simply didn’t necessarily believe what was being said by Eban and Shertok, but they didn’t do anything about it.
Let me go ahead, let me just tell you that they lied their way into the United Nations to get membership in May of 1949.They came in and they were quizzed about Jerusalem in particular. And they said, “No, we’re not gonna take Jerusalem. Don’t worry, we’ll go along with having Jerusalem as corpus separatum.” So they got admitted to membership, and then immediately Ben Gurion said, “Well, Jerusalem is our eternal capital.” And, you know the rest.
On that [note], the really worst – I guess I’ll end with this – is that in 1967, which to my mind is probably the most successful effort at deception, that is when Israel attacked Egypt on the morning of the fifth of June 1967. Abba Eban called in the US ambassador and said, “Well, what happened this morning was that Egypt sent its forces in large numbers into Israel, and we’re acting now to repel them from territory.” Then, he drafted a letter that Levi Eshkol, the prime minister, sent both to Kosygin in Russia and to Johnson in the United States to explain what Israel was doing. And in the letter, amazingly, he didn’t talk about these Egyptian forces coming into Israel. He somehow forgot that. I think he decided that he couldn’t get anybody to believe that because there was no evidence that it had occurred. So, he said instead the Egyptians shelled three villages in southern Israel, and that’s what precipitated the war, “We responded to the shelling of these three villages, plus we had evidence that the Egyptian air force was coming to attack us. Our radar showed that they were coming in.” So, he made these allegations which were more difficult to discount. And, of course, they were not true. But, that’s what he said. And then he went to the UN Security Council, and said the same thing.
He didn’t get the names of the villages quite right in the letters that he drafted for Kosygin and for Johnson. The names were a bit different. He was doing this on the fly because their original plan for invading Egypt was that they were gonna send a boat through the straits of Tiran, get the Egyptians to fire on it, and then they would respond to that. And they would say that “Ah, the Egyptians shot first, so we are responding.” They even had a boat, it was a Greek Cargo ship. The Zim shipping line of Israel bought it, equipped it at the port of Massawa in Eritrea. They renamed the ship “The Dolphin.” They had a crew of 60 IDF military personnel on the ship pretending to be civilian sailors, and they were in Massawa awaiting orders to sail into the straits of Tiran, so that the Egyptians would fire on it. Right at this time, Moshe Dayan became defense minister, the 1st of June 1967. And he decided it was a bad plan. He was afraid that the Egyptians would be smart enough not to fire on the ship, and the whole things would collapse. And then the Egyptians would know that something was up. So, he squelched the plan on the 3rd of June. So, they only had between the 3rd and the 5th to come up with a new reason for the invasion. The one the Israeli government gives now is that they did in anticipatory self-defense, that they expected Egypt to attack. That’s what you hear nowadays if you talk to the Israeli government about 1967. That was not even part of what Abba Eban was saying.They knew that wouldn’t wash at the UN. They knew they had to have a real attack, so Abba Eban made up this story about the radar showing the Egyptian planes coming in towards Israel and that these three villages had been attacked. But, I will stop at this point.