Israeli History through Palestinian Eyes

Rashid Khalidi (2020) The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine

A Review by Howard Adelman – Part X  1949-1967

Though Khalidi stresses over and over again the importance of self-determination for the Palestinian people in the face of Israeli opposition and the recalcitrance of Arab countries, and though he continued to regard Israel as a colonial settler state, there are some lacuna but only a few contradictions with current Israeli histories of the period.

The Nakba had terrible after-effects on Palestinians.

  • The 160,000 Palestinians who remained in Israel were made citizens but were regarded as a potential fifth column; until 1966, they lived under strict martial law; (Martial law put in place in 1957 in Jordan was only lifted in the mid-1990s.)
  • 30% of them were IDPs, Internally Displaced Persons, or refugees under the UNRWA definition (45,800);
  • The balance of the 720,000 Palestinians who fled or were forced out, that is roughly 675,000[i], left in phases:

Before March 1948             100,000      (The Notables)

April-June 1948                  300,000      Both fled and were expelled

July 1948                              60,000      From Lydda and Ramle

Oct.-Nov 1948                    215,000      Negev and Galilee


  • Another estimated 40,000 were forced out after the Armistice, but that number was offset by 40,000 that repatriated;
  • Much of the Arab land of those that fled was expropriated, including the majority of arable land;
  • That land, along with the “abandoned” properties of the refugees who left, was placed either under the Israel Lands Authority or under the Trusteeship of the Jewish National Fund, the charter of which restricted the allocation of such land only “for the benefit of the Jewish people”;
  • Under the latter, Arabs could not even buy back their own land;
  • Palestinian Israeli citizens were subject to military travel restrictions which cut them off from intercourse with Palestinians outside Israel.

The claimed distribution of refugees in 1949 was as follows:

  • Egypt                               10,000
    • Gaza                              230,000
    • Iraq                                  15,000
    • Israel                                46.000
    • Jordan                              20,000
    • Lebanon                         100,000
    • Syria                              210,000
    • West Bank                     280,000

Total                                 911,000

Eventually, scholarly research, by both Palestinians and Westerners, settled on a figure of 720,000. Janet Abu Lughod was the main initial demographer who facilitated this revision.

The Israeli proposal at the Lausanne Conference to annex Gaza and grant citizenship to the 300,000 residents and refugees there was not accepted. Gaza was also not annexed by Egypt. The people of Gaza, both resident and refugee, remained stateless. Jordan granted the refugees in Jordan proper and in the West Bank, when it annexed the area, full citizenship. Lebanon, unlike Jordan, would not grant its Palestinians citizenship – except, while the Maronite Christians were the strong political power in Lebanon, for a small percentage who were Christian. The rest of the Palestinians were very restricted in their employment and educational opportunities as well as in the ability to own property. Syria was more accommodating than Lebanon. There, while not granted citizenship, Palestinians were made permanent residents with all the rights attached thereto except citizenship. Thus, except for Jordan, Palestinians everywhere in the Arab world were generally worse off than those who remained in Israel as second-class citizens.

By 1960, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) had no need to resettle Jewish Palestine refugees (37,500); they were absorbed by the new State of Israel. UNRWA also gave up any serious effort to resettle Arab Palestine refugees through land reclamation or other development efforts. By the end of the 1950s, UNRWA switched to what became its dominant role, the Ministry of Education (as well as Health and Housing) for the Palestinians in the diaspora. As a result, many refugees, after they acquired their education or skills training, resettled in Gulf States like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as well as in Northern Africa (Libya and Algeria). They became the backbone of the educational system as well as occupying other professional technical roles, such as engineers, medical personnel and skilled technicians.

In the meanwhile, militants among the Palestinians in exile launched raids into Israel, but the Israeli reprisals on the host countries were devastating. Hence, “Arab leaders often raised the question of Palestine [in the UN} because of popular pressure, but refrained from actually doing anything about it out of fear of Israel’s might and the disapproval of the great powers.” Lacking forceful representation, the Palestinians tried to forge a government in exile in Gaza, but it was opposed by Jordan; nothing came of the effort. The Palestinian old guard with all its internal divisions had been totally sidelined. Except in Israel. There, Palestinians made up the bulk of the membership of Mapam, the Israeli Communist Party, while the leaders remained Jewish. In 1951, one Arab from Mapam was elected to the Knesset.

Finally, the inchoate efforts of the Palestinian refugees to organize politically in the diaspora culminated with the formation of Fatah in 1959. In addition to dealing with the Israeli enemy, Fatah had to negotiate with recalcitrant Arab governments or ones that wanted to use the Palestinian cause to advance their own agenda. By 1964, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) as an umbrella group for all the factions was established. Egypt, which according to Khalidi, had prioritized domestic economic development, became caught up between a stronger and stronger Israel and increased Palestinian militancy in Gaza that kept launching feda’yin raids into Israel, only to be met with disproportional and massive reprisals, a situation that initially brought down upon the Palestinians the wrath of the Egyptian security services and military until late 1954 when Egypt backed such raids.

In Israel, a political conflict arose between the advocates of an iron fist, such as David Ben Gurion, and those interested in compromise with respect to the return of some of the land captured in 1948 and the return of more than a token number of refugees. However, Prime Minister Moshe Sharett, the voice of the latter position, resigned as Prime Minister in 1956 and Ben Gurion was left free “to launch” the Suez War in partnership with France and Britain.

In spite of President Eisenhower’s rage at Egypt for switching its arms sources in September 1955 to the Soviet bloc, the decision to launch the Suez War brought onto the three amigos (Britain, France and Israel) the wrath of President Eisenhower as well as and virtually the whole apparatus of the State Department, which had remained very unsympathetic to Israel. (Cf. David Tal (2021) “United States-Israeli Relations (1953-1957) Revisited,” Israel Foreign Relations 26:1, 24-46, However, according to Tal, “Eisenhower aimed to preserve and increase American influence in the Middle East in a way that would not put Israel at risk, but would respond to concerns voiced at home about his policies toward Israel and the surrounding nations” with a “policy of ‘friendly impartiality’ toward Israel, attentiveness to Israel’s military and economic needs, and sensitivity to the views of American Jewry.”

In the American position as articulated by Khalidi, Egypt only launched its rearmament program in 1955 in response to Israeli militancy and only turned to the USSR for arms because they had been turned down by the Americans. For even though the Americans were wary of entanglement with Israel, “every US administration since Harry Truman’s has been staffed by people making policy on Palestine whose views indicate that they believe Palestinians, whether or not they exist, are lesser beings than Israelis.” I have already suggested that such a claim had no factual basis that I have been able to find.

The surprise is the way Khalidi put the situation. The government (of Egypt) “ordered its military intelligence services to help the Palestinian militants they had previously suppressed to launch operations against Israel. The response to this new development was not long in coming, and it was devastating. Thus a few bloody raids launched in the early 1950s by small Palestinian militant groups, actions taken against the wishes of most Arab governments, ultimately led to Israel launching the Suez War of October 1956.” In other words, though Israel initiated the war, it was instigated by Palestinian raids.

In that short war and the effort to round up feda’yin, Israel was accused of atrocities in Gaza:

  • Nov. 3: executing 275 male Palestinians in Khan Yunis
  • Nov. 12: killing 111 in Rafah Camp
  • Nov. 1-21: 66 were shot.

Total 458

At the time, Israel neither acknowledged nor denied any wrongdoing.

However, superiority in training, discipline and equipment wins wars, not brutality. That was confirmed in spades by the events of The Six Day War in 1967. Rashid Khalidi is correct. While I at the time was shaking in my boots – in total contradiction to my anti-Zionist sentiments at the time – absolutely fearful to the very marrow of my bones that Israel would be annihilated and thrown into the sea – Israeli military superiority guaranteed it a crushing victory over the combined forces of Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Israel was not in existential peril as I feared. This did not mean that I gave Israel my blanket support. When Israel won such a swift and decisive victory, I was deeply relieved. I was also determined to shut my critical mouth until I learned a lot more about the Israeli-Arab conflict and, more importantly, about my deeply conflicted mental outlook towards the Zionist state. Why had I been so emotionally upset if I did not believe that Israel should exist in the first place?

Khalidi argues that my version at the time of the key cause of open warfare was not Egypt closing the Gulf of Aqaba to Israeli shipping. Rather, “A key cause was the rise of militant Palestinian commando groups.” This certainly was an important catalyst as the incursions of militant Palestinian guerillas based in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan had increased significantly. But they did not pose an existential threat to Israel. And that is Khalidi’s precise point – the discrepancy between the propaganda about the cause and the real instigation on the ground.

Much of Egypt’s army and air force was entangled in the Yemen civil war. Egypt had moved troops into the Sinai and demanded the removal of UN peacekeeping forces in response to a series of guerilla attacks on Israel from bases provided by the Syrian regime that had come to power in 1966. By 1967, the USSR was warning Syria of an imminent surprise attack by Israel, which instigated Syria going on full alert. Egypt acted to demonstrate its unambiguous support for Syria. In Cairo, on 30 May, King Hussein signed a mutual defence pact with Egypt. Israel, fearing an attack, initiated a preemptive operation. This was the casus belli that justified Israel’s long-planned air strike against the air power of all three Arab regimes – Egypt, Syria and Jordan.

What is going on here? Is Khalidi justifying the Israeli attacks and tracing them back to Palestinian guerilla action and Egypt-Syria rivalry? He is. For that transforms the conflict into a primarily Israeli-Palestinian one from an Arab-Israeli one. Further, he literally had a front row seat, even though it was located at the back of the visitor’s gallery to the deliberations of the UN Security Council where his father worked in the Division of Political and Security Council Affairs specializing on the Middle East. By the fifth day of the war, the decisive defeat was apparent to all. Israel occupied Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula, East Jerusalem and the West Bank as well as the Golan Heights and was advancing towards Damascus. The UNSC played its typical role and ordered cease fires. Israel ignored the resolutions on the ground at the same time as it accepted them diplomatically and moved against Quneitra forty miles of a flat plain from Damascus. While American ambassador Arthur Goldberg employed delaying tactics in Security Council acrimonious debates, Israel gained an additional nine hours to advance its position.

A new era was in place – “the armored spearheads on the ground were Israeli, while the diplomatic cover was American.” After all, Israel had sought and been given advance approval from the U.S. for a preemptive attack. In Khalidi’s interpretation, UNSC Resolution 242 enabling the ceasefire was the third stake after the 1917 Balfour Declaration and the UNGA 1948 partition resolution driven into the heart of Palestinian self-determination. Once again, the Palestinians had been sold out.

[i] This figure and the distribution of those who fled or were forced out are drawn from my own research.


Israeli History through Palestinian Eyes

Rashid Khalidi (2020) The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine

A Review by Howard Adelman – Part IX  War or Nakba

Khalidi with his predisposition to credit external powers with manipulating what went on in Palestine to advance his emphasis of Zionism as a colonialist outpost, argues that the dominant powers, the United States and the USSR, in effect determined the workings of UNSCOP, which they definitely did not. The majority recommendation “in favor of partitioning the country in a manner that was exceedingly favorable to the Jewish minority, giving them 56 percent of Palestine against the much smaller 17 percent for the Jewish state envisioned by the 1937 Peel partition plan,” was not a product of great power influence, nor, for that matter, of successful Zionist lobbying, as Abba Eban believed, but of a mixture of Palestinian failure to live up to modern concepts of rights and a need to deal with the Jewish refugees left in Europe.

Khalidi claims that, “The postwar realignment of international power was apparent in the workings of UNSCOP and in its majority report in favour of partitioning the country.” False! The committee’s recommendation did not mirror “precisely the desire of the Zionists” but rather their preference for partition as a compromise solution, UNSCOP operated, as it was intended, independently of great power influence. UNSCOP also operated independently of the foreign affairs departments of the states from which each of the eleven representatives came, with the exception of Holland and Australia; given the interests of their foreign affairs departments and ministers, those representatives were instructed to favour the pro-Palestinian position. The conclusion favouring partition came in spite of the initial propensities of most state representatives to oppose partition. Khalidi’s account of UNSCOP is a clear case of a predetermined conclusion being assumed that is not only unsupported by the evidence. but runs contrary to that evidence.

When, on 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted for partition, Khalidi’s father, on instructions from his much older brother, had just briefed King Abdullah on how the “Arab-American Institute [that he headed] was working to change American opinion on Palestine, which, even then, was overwhelmingly pro-Zionist and largely ignorant of the Palestinian cause.” (See previous blog.) Then he very hesitantly delivered the message he had been instructed to transmit that, while Palestinians appreciated the king’s offer of “protection” (tutelage or guardianship), they were unable to accept. They did not want to come under Jordanian rule. The king was surprised and angry. He walked out just when a servant announced that the UN General Assembly had passed the partition resolution.

Khalidi claims that, “The resolution was another declaration of war” and in “blatant violation of the principle of self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter.” It was not! The resolution was a sincere effort to stave off war and to honour self-determination for both the minority Jewish population and the refugees eager to immigrate as well as the majority population through partition and creating two states. Even the minority report supported a confederation of two independent polities.

The Arabs rejected not only partition but even the recommendations of the minority report. The war followed. The first stage of the Nakba from the end of November to mid-May 1948 “witnessed successive defeats by Zionist paramilitary groups…of the poorly armed and organized Palestinians and the Arab volunteers who had come to help them.” In fact, the support came from the Arab Liberation Army and the surrounding Arab states. Further, Jews were on the defensive for the first three months until they received a shipment of arms from Czechoslovakia and could go on the offensive. For example, the Army of the Holy War under Abd-al-Qadir al-Husayni with volunteers from Egypt very successfully blockade Jerusalem at great cost in lives and equipment to the Haganah and Palmach in their attempts to break through the blockade with humanitarian aid. The Jews in the Negev and in North Galilee were in almost equal peril.

Reversals in favour of the Zionists came in April with a final successful relief of the Jerusalem blockade, but again at great cost in manpower and equipment. It helped that al-Husayni was killed in battle. The first Arab Liberation assault was a disaster in the battle at Mishmar HaEmek. The Druzim deserted the Palestinian side. The Jews consolidated their hold over Tiberias, Safed, Haifa and Jaffa. Palestinian morale was shattered and 100,000 fled or were forced to flee. Plan Dalet was a success for the Zionists and a dramatic failure for the Arabs.

While the Arab armies of Egypt, Syria and Iraq were a disorganized mess when they invaded the country after the British left on 15 May 1948, this was not true of Abdullah’s crack Arab Legion led by British officers. Abdullah was intent and succeeded in capturing and annexing the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Old City. 37,500 Palestine Jews were ethnically cleansed. Otherwise, the tale was a story of Arab defeat after defeat. The Zionists captured both the Negev and the whole of the Galilee. There was a corresponding exodus of Palestinians forced or induced to flee.

Of the 1.3 million Palestinians, 720,000 Palestinians became refugees, though in Khalidi’s depictions elsewhere, partial expulsion and partial flight became solely expulsion. “The expulsion of over half the Arab population of the country, first by Zionist militias and then by the Israeli army, completed the military and political triumph of Zionism.” But it was never “completed.” And flight versus forced departure were operational in roughly equal measure. 60,000 fled Jaffa, 60,000 fled Haifa, 30,000 fled West Jerusalem, 12,000 came from Safed, 6,000 from Beisan and 5,500 from Tiberias. People fled from smaller towns and villages as rumours of massacres raged like a wildfire through the Palestinian population.

In any case, other than Zionist perfidy, six factors, which Khalidi describes in detail, were to blame for the Palestinian setback:

  • Foreign interference
  • Fierce inter-Arab rivalry
  • Intractable Palestinian internal differences
  • The absence of modern Palestinian state institutions (a para-state)
  • Massive global shifts following the end of WWII
  • The Zionist leadership sophisticated knowledge of Western polities.

The first item above was negligible and certainly of much greater importance on the Arab side than on the Jewish one. The next three items were of central importance as Khalidi argues. The last two items are accurate, except the Zionists took credit for that recognition while Khalidi emphasizes Palestinian Arab ignorance of both the shift in international power and the importance of American domestic politics.

Nowhere does Khalidi indicate that the failure of the Palestinians and their Arab allies to accept partition was to blame, because, for him, it was a forgone conclusion that partition was wrong – at least, at that time. If they knew, as Khalidi claims, that the Zionists were militarily stronger than all the Arabs put together, why engage is such a self-destructive act? Khalidi’s presumed answer – the partition was unfair. 32% of the population (the Jews) were allocated 56% of the land while the majority, the Palestinians only got 42% – the remaining 2% to be allocated to a Corpus Separatum. But that is not his answer. Rather, partition itself was wrong according to Khalidi. It belied the right of self-determination of the majority.

Finally, the performance of the UN was at stake. The decision concerning partition was a process of sanctification by fire. Eleanor Roosevelt, who was on the U.S. UN delegation and did not support the Zionists or partition, went all out for partition when that was the recommendation of UNSCOP. The reputation of the UN was at stake. The Americans, whatever their internal differences, were determined that the solution remain a UN and not an American one. The efforts to corral votes in support of partition were strong because they supported the UN, not because partition served American interests.

However, diplomacy did not determine the result. Nor did American State Department pressure since the prevailing policy remained one of non-intervention, reinforced by the American State Department’s opposition to partition. It was not true that “Zionism, once a colonial project backed by the declining British Empire, became part and parcel of the emerging American hegemony in the Middle East.” It was a different matter with the White House that at the last minute adopted a strong pro-partition position and lobbied key wavering states (the Philippines, Liberia, Greece, Haiti) to obtain a two-thirds majority for the partition resolution. In the 29 November 1947 vote on partition, Greece shifted from abstention to a pro-Palestinian Arab position. However, nine other countries that previously abstained switched to supporting partition. The vote supporting partition passed by more than a two-thirds margin.

However, the result on the ground was not a product of diplomacy but of war. As a result of the Nakba, Israel ended up with 78% instead of 56% of mandatory Palestine.

In 1944, Winston Churchill did authorize the formation of a Jewish Brigade Group within the British Army. What is omitted is the fact that the Zionists in their “war platform” had declared the full commitment of the Jewish people to the war at Britain’s side. The Palestinian leader sided with Hitler. Second, the Zionists were opposed to the 1939 British White Paper even as they allied with Britain. The Palestinian Arabs opposed the White Paper and allied with Hitler even though the Jews were allocated a very tiny portion of the land in that White Paper. Third, the Jews during WWII were prescient and foresaw the displacement of the British by the Americans and actively sought American support. The Palestinians ignored this coming shift in world power. Fourth, the distribution of land between the two groups, the Jews and the Arabs, in the UN partition resolution was unfair to the Arabs, but only if the Jewish refugees from Europe are left out of the equation. For the international community and the Zionists, and contrary to the will of the majority of the Palestinian Arabs, the resettlement of those refugees was a central objective. For Ben-Gurion, persuasion in support of partition would make possible – not actual – “the transfer of millions and their entrenchment on the land and in the economy” so that “Palestine as a Jewish Commonwealth” would be supported.

Khalidi is correct. The ultimate goal of the Zionists, including Ben-Gurion, was a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine. But the Zionists were willing to compromise in achieving this goal. The ultimate goal of the Palestinian Arabs was an Arab state in Palestine and they were unwilling to compromise and agree to even one square meter of that land being allocated to the Zionists. The Zionist Congress in Montreal on 19 January 1941 had endorsed that strategy. The Palestinians lacked a political organization that could endorse its goals democratically. In spite of deep divisions between the Zionists in Palestine and those in America, Zionists on both sides of the Atlantic were able to set aside their differences to achieve the larger goal. Both sides were determined to leverage Britain’s increasing dependence on American military and economic support for Britain. The Jews envisioned colonizing Palestine to provide a safe haven for European Jewry. The Palestinian Arabs were determined to ensure Palestinian self-determination at the expense of a refuge for Jews in Palestine.

There was no way to find a compromise between these two positions. War was necessary.

From Confrontation to Conversation to Collaboration: Parashat VaYeitzei

Abraham has a reputation as a man of deep faith willing to obey God even when God commands him to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Further, he appears as a coward when he comes across Abimelech and insists that Sarah, his wife, is his sister lest he risk his life if the men he confronts desire her. But he reveals himself as a warrior, once with men when his nephew, Lot, is kidnapped, and a second time when God threatens to destroy Sodom and Gommorah. Then Abraham becomes a warrior with words, challenging God’s ethics in destroying the innocent just to get rid of those who are evil. How many innocent ones can be lost? What is the tolerable level of collateral damage? Abraham gets God to reduce the maximum loss from 50 to 10.

How do we reconcile the passivity and possible cowardice (or was it realism) of Abraham with his activist moralism? The realist explanation for calling Sarah his wife is one, for he can be both a pragmatist and an idealist. But what about his willingness to sacrifice Isaac? It is hard to think of anything more unconscionable unless Abraham is just going through the motions because he knows God will lift His edict at the last minute. But that poses another dilemma. It means that Abraham is a dissembler before God. The willingness to sacrifice his much-loved son would then be insincere. This dilemma has confounded commentators through the ages; I have never read a satisfactory answer.

Abraham’s relationship with God is based on confrontation. Why would he not question such an order let alone go along for the ride? Abraham’s behaviour seems totally out of character – but I may have a possible answer. Let me first describe Isaac and Jacob as characters before I put it out as a possibility.

Isaac is a wuss. He was always a wuss. There are no nuances to his personality. He is passive in the extreme, intellectually and physically myopic when it comes to Rebekah and his twin sons. He does what tradition and his gut (in the sense of stomach rather than courage) dictates, He is not a man of reflection. He is not a man of spiritual depth. It is obvious that he has been severely traumatized by the behaviour of his father when he was tied up on the altar. And he did not have available psychoanalytic therapy.

Plaut writes as if Isaac and Rebekah had an idyllic romance and marriage. The story says something different. Rebekah was a force of nature, a beautiful and independent woman who saw a chance to escape the bonds of her family by running off with a strange man thirty-seven years her senior. She was aided by her transactional and self-centred brother, Laban, whose generosity was such a contrast with Rebekah’s since it was certainly not genuine and heartfelt. Entranced by the quality of nose ring that Ezekiel, Abraham’s servant assigned to guide and speak for Isaac, placed on her nose and the bands he put around her arms, he was easily sold. He did not even have to learn a thing about Isaac’s character. In any case, there had probably been a shidduch when Rebekah was only 3-years-old. Isaac loved her when he finally saw her when she was still very young. Who wouldn’t! But Isaac was a momma’s boy and he simply saw Rebekah as his comforter when his mother died when his father took him up to Mount Moriah when he was 37-years-of-age to sacrifice him.

Is it any wonder that Isaac admired what was opposite than himself, a man of nature, an outdoorsman, a son of absolute and plain honesty, who was exactly as he presented himself. It is no surprise that Esau, the elder twin, was not only the one traditionally given preference for an inheritance, but also Isaac’s favourite.

But what a marriage it turned out to be. A woman of great generosity, Rebekah deceives her husband in the worst way, taking advantage of his blindness to ensure he makes the correct historical choice on whom to offer his blessing. We are forgiving, for Isaac knows not what he does. He is totally oblivious to how to play his role in the historical drama unfolding. He can talk. He can converse. But his level of conversation is pedestrian. And when he picks up obvious clues that what is before him is not what it seems, his questions are weak and not pressing.

That brings us to Jacob whose grandfather was such a man of initiative and action and even one willing to take on God in the field of ethics. Jacob’s father, in contrast, was a simple man, a traumatized man, a passive catatonic man whose level of communication was very limited and true to the very way he had to have a marriage broker acquire a wife for him. Jacob, the second twin, was an ambitious boy, but a bookish one, a homebody, but one even willing to risk the wrath of his older twin brother. Pushy! You have not met pushy until you read about Jacob.  

Contrary to Plaut, the means Jacob employed must be read as necessary breaches rather than assessed in terms of pure morality and the dictum that one should not deceive. If the future depends on it, if the past hangs in the balance of continuity or an abysmal finish, then history entitles one to use such means. It is true of Rebekah. It is true of Jacob. It is not that the end justifies the means, but that this end is an exception that necessitates the means adopted.

There is a cost as there always is in history. Jacob will endure a life of struggle and suffering – the hubris of being tricked by his father-in-law, the loss of his beautiful wife, and the apparent loss of his favourite son. And Jacob will be renamed Israel for he will bequeath his trials and tribulations to his heirs. But he was unlike his grandfather who confronted God, who, in the end, failed and had to be saved at the last minute by God because Abraham could find no escape himself from the terrible assignment he had been given.

Jacob wrestled with the divine and prevailed. Unlike his own father, until he was old, he was always a cautious calculator, wary even of his brother who genuinely loved hm and forgave him for stealing his father’s blessing. He was a man who could combine hard-headed calculation and a commitment to an historical future with imagination and vision. Israel born Jacob was a man of history. He was a man who went beyond being a challenger and confronter of God, or a quiet conversationalist and conformist like his father. He became a committed true partner of God in the making of history.

Abraham, as much as he wrestled with God over morals, ended up obeying God without question and following God’s orders. Abraham, in spite of his great virtues and his ability to found a great culture based on laws and contracts and guilt rather than shame, was unable to become God’s historical partner. This is the lesson of the Akeida. Certainly, Isaac was not up to the task. But from the time Jacob was a boy, he proved he had the toughness, the ruthlessness, combined with the vision and the commitment, to help determine his historical destiny. In contrast, Esau married women who proved to be disastrous for his own people.

Whereas Abraham had told Abimelech that Sarah was his sister rather than his wife, for such a moralist, that was not a lie but simply circumlocution, for Sarah was indeed his half-sister by another mother. Isaac, in contrast, was willing to tell an outright lie that was not even defensible for he should have known, given Abimelech’s past record, that if he told the truth, the king would not have permitted the rape of his wife, Sarah.

Jacob always bet on the side of caution as well. He was both an adventurer and risk averse. However, he did learn from experience. Compared to his grandfather and his own father, Jacob was capable of turning the millions he inherited into billions and became a very wealthy man. And he knew how to compromise rather than confront – as long as he was able to preserve what he had built. He found lebensraum, not by engaging in war, but by moving his location – by going west as it were, though more accurately south-west. He travelled and settled elsewhere. Then he could enter into an Abraham Accord with a former adversary so they could live side by side.

That brings us to this week’s parashat, VaYeitzei, and Jacob’s dream that tells us so much. Jacob laid down with his head on a stone to rest from his travels. He had a dream. A stairway or a ladder was set on the ground. You could not see the top for it stretched high in the sky. There wee no limits to one’s rise in the world, as Barack Obama expressed in his memoir, The Promised Land. You could be he whom you aspired to be; the prospects were endless. Of course, how you ascended – or descended – depended on the angels of your better nature. Suddenly, God was there – not in the heavens above, but standing beside Jacob. And God renewed the covenant He had made with his grandfather and father. “Remember, I am with you. I will protect you wherever you go and bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:15)

The arrangement is transactional on both sides. Jacob offers a conditional commitment. If God keeps and protects him, he, Jacob, will keep the covenant. If Jacob is true to his calling, God, in turn, will adhere to the covenant. Again, in return, Jacob must promise to give back more to the world than he gets out of it. God gets a profit from the exercise.  

Jacob as well as his descendants had a divine partner, a guarantor of eventual success as long as they followed their better angels. Not God. Rather they had to be true to their better beings. Further, the partnership had an expiry date – when the task is achieved. Not “God’s in his heaven; all’s well on earth,” but God is on earth beside us so that we can reach up into the heavens. It is a collaboration. It is a partnership.

There are three basic stages in developing this partnership. At the first level, in imitation of Abraham, one confronts God. One argues with God. In a partnership, one gives as well as receives. And at the foundation of that partnership one gives ethically in a context of situational ethics that rejects absolutes as a moral dictum.

At the second stage there is a conversation. One must learn to listen as well as address God. It is perhaps the only, but a very critical lesson, that we learn from Isaac, in good part, because of Isaac’s failings. He did not properly listen to the timbre in what was said to him. Instead of one sense checking another, he let his tactile senses dictate what he perceived. He suffered from mindblindness as well as physical blindness. He never engaged a principle of falsifiability.

Note that this type of learning is more of an emotional than a cognitive process. For we must learn to listen to the heart of the other. It s not knowledge and understanding of the Torah, but understanding the Torah by means of understanding one’s fellow human being. Commitment does not come, as the Greeks believed and most mediaeval rabbis came to believe, through knowledge and understanding of books, especially the Torah, but through understanding humans through the Torah and the Torah through understanding humans. This is an experiential and an empirical process rather than one derived from homilies and abstractions. Stories, narratives and role models provide the core lessons.

The third stage or level of this development depends not on confrontation nor on conversation but builds on both to establish a collaborative relationship with God. God is as dependent on what we do as we are dependent on an Other to see things through to their historical purpose. The ethics is not one of abstract moralism, of the ideal of altruism as depicted in Pirkei Avot in which one serves in total bondage to obedience to a divine spirit, but a challenge and a conversation in working out both what you should become and how the divine spirit will be revealed. This is not a metaethics of selflessness, but a grounded ethics of realizing the self.

Superior living as a Jew does not entail studying Torah and Talmud as I was taught in Talmud Torah, though, ironically this taught me my love for all literature, but studying both as simply one window into the world and then using the window into the world to comprehend the Tanach. It is all a two-way street. Back and forth between yourself and God. Back and forth between the Torah and the world.

That is what love is. It is not a static steadfast divine attachment but a process of growth and mutual discovery as God and history are revealed. To repeat, our partner, God, is there beside us, grounded and on the ground and not in a distant heaven.  God and humans are partners, are collaborators. They work cooperatively in bondage to one another. They perpetuate a covenant and do not abandon that partnership when the going gets tough. The covenant is a dynamic process in which the terms evolve by mutual consent.

This is what Jacob came to understand This is why Jacob was renamed Israel.

The Vulnerable versus the Super-spreader

IF YOU NEVER READ ANYTHING OF MINE THAT I HAVE SENT OUT, READ THIS. If you ever read anything of mine, read this.

Why the Socially Promiscuous Should be Vaccinated before the Most Vulnerable

This article is drawn directly from Christopher Fox’s long piece entitled, “The Vulnerable Can Wait. Vaccinate the Super-spreaders First” for WIRED. If you have time, go directly to that article and read it at:

I expected that front line workers would get the vaccine first followed by the elderly like myself. However, I am a philosopher who believes that reason trumps (in the old sense) dispositions to believe when the two contradict one another. Falsification theory is central to who I am. This article falsified what I believed. Though I have read widely on the COVID-19 pandemic, most of what I read was on the historical pattern by which the disease spread and the practical methods that limited that spread – masks, distancing, contact monitoring, isolation. This without a doubt is the best article I have read for it not only provided a theory to explain conclusions, but gave me a principle of triage for distributing the vaccines that was counterintuitive to what I believed.

I summarize simply by providing a terminology list.

  1. A Super-spreader – someone with many contacts in many places in different social situations. Eliminate one or even two of these factors of contact and we have:
  2. A Spreader
  3. Non-spreader – perhaps 69%— do not spread the disease to anyone but may get infected, remain asymptomatic or fall sick, recover or die. 
  4. A Vulnerable Person – ranked by degree of vulnerability:

1) potential to catch the disease; 2) potential to get very sick from it; 3) potential to die from it. Hence the concern with the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions, particularly respiratory ones.

  • Contact Persons – number of interactions of one person with others;     Contact Places – number of points of contact in different settings.
  • The 80/20 rule – 80% of cases are traced back to 20% of the population.
  • Network – a series of points in contact with one another.
  • Hubs – dominate connectivity in networks to a vast degree.
  • Targeted immunization – the most vulnerable or the greatest spreaders.
  • 16% Rule – protect a whole system by immunizing as little as 16% of the population by starting with the most highly connected people.
  • Havlin’s Law – named after Shlomo Havlin, a physicist at Bar-Ilan University – deals with “Efficient Immunization Strategies for Computer Networks and Populations,” – Use local knowledge to find hubs in a complex network. How? A) By asking random individuals in a network.
  • Not the most efficient; “Phase Transition Immunization – vaccinate 10-20% by focusing on spreaders.
  • Friendship Paradox – on average, your friends have more friends than you do – choose a friend, any friend, for immunization and you will soon reach the greatest number of spreaders, the most connected people.
  • From the point of view of collective rather than individual ethics, inoculate the frat brat before the vulnerable older person.
  • Combine vulnerable with network immunization by vaccinating the most vulnerable first and the rest by using network statistics.
  • Survey immunization – contrasted with acquaintance immunization – identify people with the greatest connectivity.

Israeli History through Palestinian Eyes – Part VIII UNSCOP

The discussion of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) is not included in Rashid Khalidi’s The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine. Nor for that matter are all the events of 1946 concerning President Harry Truman’s motives, vacillations and actions. If Khalidi had attended to these crucial years and events, it is impossible to understand how he could hold onto his thesis that Israel was created by a combination of colonial settlement backed by imperial power. This is especially true of the workings of UNSCOP that lead to the partition resolution in the UN and its passage.

Perhaps his selection and omission of materials were related to his own family’s involvement in the affairs as they unfolded. “Having carried out the main part of the message, my father then hesitatingly conveyed the message Dr. Husayn [Khalidi’s much older uncle] had entrusted to him. The king’s face registered anger and surprise and he abruptly stood up, compelling everyone else in the room to stand as well. The audience was over. Exactly at that moment a servant entered announcing that the BBC had just broadcast the news of the UN General Assembly’s decision in favour of partition of Palestine. Before stalking out of the room the king turned to my father and said coolly, “You Palestinians have refused my offer. You deserve what happens to you.”

The message had been that while the Palestinians appreciated Abdullah’s offer of protection, the Palestinians insisted on full self-determination. Clearly, Palestinian strategy and tactics had not only ignored any in-depth knowledge of the Americans and their leadership but also that of their fellow Arab, King Abdullah of Transjordan. The organization and behaviour of the members of UNSCOP, which Khalidi skips over entirely even though it was the critical event leading to the partition resolution, suggest strongly that the Palestinians also did not understand world public opinion at the time.

I have written on UNSCOP before. This is the very condensed version. You can skip it if you have read it before.

First, there is the structure of the special committee. There were no major powers on the committee. Second, the members came from countries distributed around the world. Third, the delegates on the committee were to be selected on the basis of their individual expertise and personal history in rendering wise judgments and not as representatives of the countries from which they came. In fact, as we shall see, contrary to instructions, two of the countries named representatives to attend to their country’s interests. The representatives from Australia and from Holland were mouthpieces for the foreign affairs of their respective states. The others were not even when they reflected national dispositions.

This is important because, though it was not widely known at the time, Dr. Herbert Vera Evatt, the Foreign Minister of Australia at the time, had the ambition to become President of the General Assembly. He would not want to alienate the large number of votes from Muslim, especially Arab states. The Netherlands wanted the Muslim and Arab states to support its continuing imperial role with respect to its colony of Indonesia. Here, imperial interests clearly initially favoured the Palestinian objections to partition. In effect. Israel started out with the problem of getting at least six votes out of nine to support partition, though Israel did not recognize that it was handicapped in this way.

The members named by their respective countries to the committee ae listed below with the preferences indicated before the committee began its deliberations.


  • Australia
    • John Hood, representative                                          Single Arab state
  • Canada
    • Justice Ivan Rand, representative                               Single federal state
  • Czechoslovakia
    • Karel Lisicky, representative                                     Single federal state
    • Richard Pech, alternate
  • Guatemala
  • India
    • Sir Abdur Rahman, representative                             A federal state
  • Iran                                                                                   Single unitary state
  • Netherlands                                                                      Single unitary state
  • Peru                                                                                  Separate internationally managed
    • Dr. Alberto Ulloa, representative                               Christian enclave and, in the end,
    • Dr. Arturo Garcia Salazar, alternate                          partition                      
  • Sweden
    • Justice Emil Sandström, representative                     neutral
  • Uruguay                                                                            partition
  • Yugoslavia                                                                        Single federal state

The choices in front of the committee were:

a) a unitary state;

b) a bi-national state;

c) a federation, or

d) partition in a number of variations.

Absolutely no one supported the continuation of the mandate or Britain having any future role in the administration of even the holy places. Britain’s exit was accepted as a given. Neither did anyone support a bi-national unitary state as a realistic possibility.Israel began with two votes for partition. The Arabs began with 3 votes for an Arab unitary state. There were 4 votes for a single state constructed as a federation. The single state as either a unitary or a federal state began with 7 votes. There was one apparently neutral person, Justice Emil Sandström, who became chair of the committee. Salazar from Peru was open initially, as long as there was a separate political entity for the Christian places. Knowing this, if you were a betting person, you might predict a victory for a federated state. That, of course, would be opposed by both the Arabs and the Jews.

How did the Zionists end up with 7 supporters for partition, 3 votes for a federal state and 1 abstention? The Arab preferred position for a unitary state had no support in the end.

UNSCOP arrived in Palestine on 16 June 1947 and some directly viewed the crisis over the Exodus. The committee took a strong stand against the British Hanging of Zionist prisoners in the Acre jail.

Members of the committee also went to visit the Jews in the camps and came away with the overwhelming opinion that the vast majority wanted to go to Palestine. Though this became true by 1948, Zionist support was still a minority or no more than a bare majority in the camps, but the Zionists so organized the meetings that the committee members got an opposite impression. In Israel, they were impressed by Jewish modernity and industry. The delegates were unimpressed by what they perceived as Arab backwardness and lack of cleanliness but especially by the use of child labour in one of the factories. They were also influenced by the Jewish lobbyists who, in an early incidence of espionage had the cleaning people replaced by spies who reported out the positions and leanings of each of the representatives.

As the committee proceeded, the positions of each member shifted or developed. For example, John Hood was an Australian foreign service officer directly under the control and direction of Evett, the Foreign Minister. Evett needed Muslim and Arab country support to become the President of the General Assembly. He did not succeed. When that happened, he instructed John Hood to abstain on a technicality. Ironically, it was Australia that eventually cast the first vote for partition when the recommendation came before the General Assembly. That is why Evett has remained a hero for the Australian Jewish Committee even though, decades later, the role Evett and Hood played in the debate was published in academic journals.

Blom was instructed by the Dutch foreign ministry to shift his position from support for the Arabs when, in early August, the Arab League came out in full support for the independence of Indonesia.

Justice Ivan Rand, from Moncton, a bilingual city in a binational province, was an archetypal mediator in search of compromise to resolve opposing positions. He was the author of the Rand formula which resolved the conflict in the Ford Company between workers who did not want to be involved or support a union and those who insisted on universal membership since a union served all members. The compromise allowed workers to opt out, but they would still be required to pay union dues. This resolved the long Ford strike and became the model for all other union employer agreements in Canada. His career culminated with his appointment to the Canadian Supreme Court in 1943 and he became renowned for his decisions on human rights and against Jewish restrictions on medical placements in hospitals and restrictive covenants on ownership of land.

Ivan Rand was expected to push for a federal solution. He did. And hard. However, when he recognized that support for that position was weakening because the Arabs made it very clear that they would not participate in a federal state with the Zionists – a position communicated even though they boycotted the committee hearings – he shifted to supporting partition.

The force of Rand’s initial argument and detailed analysis convinced Salazar to support partition in return for a UN protectorate for Nazareth, Jerusalem and Bethlehem as recommended by the Woodhead Commission. Rand also convinced Simic to shift from support for a federal state to partition when he made that shift himself. Further, Rand, along with Ralph Bunche, was responsible for a good part of the drafting of the final document.

Commenting on one draft, Rand wrote in one memorandum (undated), that “it is not the contention to establish the three ‘states’ as independent entities but really to recognize the necessity of a federal system with a central or national government which can exercise the national interest the usual powers vested in such a government.” He then went on to write what was in effect an explanation of why he shifted from supporting a federal state to support for partition. “In this instance, however, the central authority is set up somewhat prayerfully without giving it the status it would require in order to achieve the entirely proper purposes envisaged or the means of enforcing its actions with regard to such purposes.” In other words, better two separate states than an unworkable federated one.  

What about Lisicky from Yugoslavia who was intimately acquainted with five different nations in a single federal state. He initially believed he could help create an even better federal state than Yugoslavia because there were only two nations involved. But, like Ivan Rand, he gradually came to recognize that partition was the only answer given the degree of animosity between Arabs and Jews.

Granados started off as a liberal admirer of what the Jews had accomplished in Palestine and their idealistic creation of kibbutzim, and that admiration grew. So did his distrust of the Arabs, especially when he visited a cigar factory that employed 9 and 10-year-old children. He needed no persuasion to support partition. Neither did Fabregat who wrote the first draft of the partition proposal in which he supported creation of separate entirely independent states for Arabs and Jews with a separate mandate for the Negeb (Negev), a free port in Haifa and a separate polity for the Old city and the management of other major Holy Places. After each was constituted and acquired both experience and institutions, each could, “Hold a plebiscite (ten years after) in order to decide for themselves under which of the different forms of government they might wish to live and progress.”

Rahman was a very interesting participant. He was obviously a brilliant jurist and was most afraid that partition would lead to the horrors of India and Pakistan. He was a Muslim citizen of India who had strongly supported federation. He argued for that solution to the very end when the choice boiled down to two alternatives, a federated state or partition.

Entezam from Iran shifted his position from support for a unitary state to support for a confederation. Salazar, a very religious Catholic, eventually supported two states on condition that Jerusalem remain a protectorate of the United Nations. It was only near the end of the deliberations that it became clear that Sandström favoured partition.

Once it became obvious that the majority report would support partition, immigration became a non-issue post-partition for each state could determine that by themselves. The main issue was boundaries. Because the Arabs had boycotted the proceedings, with some exceptions for private meetings, the Zionists did better than might have been expected, but the territory assigned to them was relatively small, a sliver along the Mediterranean.

War would change that. It was surprising that so little attention of the written committee report focused on the likelihood of war if partition was recommended. The brilliant Ralph Bunche was keenly aware of such a likely outcome and did warn about it. But he was too much of a mandarin to shift the preference of the committee towards favouring his option – continuation of the mandate but under UN auspices. However, in their memoranda, members did take note and Sandström predicted that the Jews would win the ensuing war.

The partition option won by a vote of 7:3 and 1 abstention. It was soon endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly. War was now certain once Britain in a peek at how it had been treated picked up its wares and abandoned Palestine as fast as possible. There was no UN peace force as a replacement. War followed and the defeat of five Arab armies that invaded what was quickly named the Independent State of Israel while Transjordan annexed the Western area that was supposed to be assigned to it and took control of the Old City and East Jerusalem. UN officials arrived on time to take control, but they were entirely ignored.

Israeli History through Palestinian Eyes

Rashid Khalidi (2020) The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine

A Review by Howard Adelman – Part VII  1946-1947

The major crisis that impelled the support for Zionism’s claim to Palestine was not guilt over the Holocaust. Nor was it guilt over the immigration policy of the Roosevelt era in closing off immigration to Jews during that period, though that may have been a factor. The need to resettle the Jewish refugees after WWII who had no place to go motivated most political leaders.

The Harrison Report, another of a series of reports on the Palestine Mandate, this one a sole American initiative, was instigated by President Harry Truman shortly after he took office in April 1945. It recommended that 100,000 Jewish refugees be permitted immediately to migrate to Palestine. Harry Truman communicated this message directly to British Prime Minister Clement Atlee: “no other single matter is so important for those who have known the horrors of concentration camps for over a decade as is the future of immigration possibilities into Palestine,” he wrote. The Americans had taken the diplomatic lead in resolving the disputes over the Mandate.

The Americans also acted. General Dwight D. Eisenhower, even before Truman’s instructions, set up separate camps for the Jewish refugees and increased their rations. Not guilt over the Holocaust, but a deep and sincere concern over the plight of the refugees, and to demonstrate a clear contrast with the Nazi oppression, became a prime motivating factor for a resolution more compatible with Jewish needs and priorities.

Eisenhower had received intelligence about the content of the Harrison Report and was insulted by the assertion that Harrison had made that U.S. soldiers were now filling in for Nazi guards. “Mr. Harrison’s report gives little regard to the problems faced, the real successes attained in saving the lives of thousands of Jewish and other concentration camp victims and repatriating those who could and wished to be repatriated, and the progress made in two months to bring these unfortunates who remained under our jurisdiction from the depths of physical degeneration to a condition of health and essential comfort.” But why were they still even in camps? The answer: almost no country would let them in.

In 1946 to 1947, the Jewish survivors from the war as refugees were forbidden from immigrating to Palestine. The numbers grew from 200,000 to 300,000. Further, western countries remained largely closed with respect to Jewish immigration. In response, the sympathy for Zionism and migrating to Palestine within the camps grew from a bare majority to a very large majority. At the same time, North America identification and support for Zionism had become central to the life of the Jewish diaspora. Further, sympathy for the Zionist cause and support for the idealism of many of the pioneering settlements also grew. Though in the last fifty years, the belief had been concretized and even consecrated that guilt over the Holocaust was widely extant and contributed to support for the Zionist cause, there is little evidence for this in 1946-7.

To resolve the impasse between the Americans and the British as well as between the Arabs and the Jews, the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, a joint American-British endeavour that followed the Harrison Report, was constituted to look into what was known as the DP problem and the capacity of Palestine to respond in 1946. Ernest Bevin expected that the examination of the realities on the ground would bring the Americans around to understand that Palestine was not the solution to the refugee problem. The Americans, however, had amended the terms of reference of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry to add: “and to make estimates of those who wish, or will be impelled by their conditions to migrate to Palestine or other countries outside Europe.”

David Niles, Truman’s aid in the White House, had maneuvered to get Bartley Crum, a California lawyer from San Francisco and a committed Zionist, on the committee. The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry began its work in January 1946. Its mission to examine political, economic and social conditions in Mandatory Palestine as they bear upon: a) the problem of Jewish immigration and settlement, b) the well-being of the peoples currently resident in Mandatory Palestine, c) to consult Arab and Jewish organizations in the Mandate, and d) to make interim recommendation towards a recommended permanent solution. The goal of the British was to undermine the thrust of the Harrison Report.

The British war with the Jews of Palestine broke out in earnest in 1946 in light of the series of reports and recommendations emanating from the British government that reduced the amount of land allocated to the Jewish state, increasingly severely limited immigration and even limited the autonomy of the new proposed Jewish state by the defence interests of Britain. The British clearly wanted to retain perpetual control over a swath of the territory which included Nazareth, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, with a wide corridor to the sea, thereby splitting the small proposed Jewish state in two. Units of the Irgun and Lehi blew up British aircraft in a series of raids on the Lod, Qastina and Sirkin airports in February of 1946, undercutting much of the defence argument for the British retaining a large Enclave in Palestine under British rule.

In March, King Emir Abdullah negotiated independence for Transjordan which Zionists interpreted as meaning that the eastern part of the Mandate, about 73% of the territory, would be annexed to Transjordan as a part of an independent Arab state as the mandate wound down and the recommendations of the Woodhead Commission were followed. In April, the war with the Jews heated up further when Lehi killed seven soldiers in Tel Aviv guarding a military facility.

Harry Truman was more concerned with the imperative to resolve the Jewish refugee problem than with the war between the British and the Zionists. The British White Paper was no longer the guide for the Americans. It was the obstacle. The Americans put pressure on the Brits to allow the Jewish refugees to go to Israel. In appreciating that the plight of the Jewish refugees in Europe necessarily would breach the recent regulations governing Jewish immigration to Palestine, Britain informed the Arabs that if such a breach was necessary, it would only be an interim measure. The Arabs remained adamantly opposed. If America was committed to their resettlement, why thrust the burden on the Arabs? Why not admit them to America? (In August of 1946, a desperate Truman did consider that option.)

The Report of the Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry Regarding the Problems of European Jewry and Palestine was published on 20 April 1946. Note it was not a report on the Arabs in Palestine. When the report was tabled, it infuriated the British because it accepted the recommendation of Harrison that 100,000 Jewish refugees be immediately permitted to migrate to Palestine. It went further. A program of regular Jewish immigration should be created. The restrictions on land purchases in 95% of the Mandate by Jews should be rescinded.

When Truman received a draft of the report recommending abrogating the 1939 British White Paper and allowing the immediate (by the end of April if physically possible) entry of 100,000 Jews into Palestine, Truman telegrammed his support. The limitations on land purchases were also to be rescinded. However, the Zionist quest for a Jewish state was not endorsed and a continuation of the British mandate was requested. This meant, for the British, that they would have to absorb the military and personal costs of an action that would incite a tremendous backlash among the Arabs and be of no benefit to Britain, especially since implementation according to a committee recommendation entailed disarmament of both the Arab and the Jewish underground.

Ben Gurion was apoplectic. The Arabs in Palestine were apoplectic. Here is where the difference in responses between the Arabs and the Jews was telling. The latter were convinced by David Horowitz, the liaison person to the committee, to endorse the recommendations, but with the exception of the recommendation on the continuation of the British colonial regime. Even American hardline Zionists like Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver saw the benefit of the short-term gain while saving their ammunition for the longer-term imbroglio. The Arab response was an absolute and unconditional rejection.

There was a problem, however, on the ground. The 100,000 had grown to 250,000 and would soon reach 300,000. Using this and every other argument they could muster, the State Department with Under Secretary of State Dean Acheson in the lead tried by every means except a direct confrontation with the President to undermine the committee’s recommendations, but without success.

To resolve differences between the British and the Americans and to create a practical implementation plan, the Morrison-Grady partnership was formed. It would be led by British Deputy Prime Minister Herbert Morrison and Henry F. Grady, a career U.S. Diplomat. Grady understood his marching orders. Get the immigration certificates for the 100,000 ASAP. America would pay for their transportation costs. But do not involve the U.S. in participating in the mandate of in supplying troops to enforce the solution.

Morrison proposed a federal solution with semi-autonomous Jewish and Arab provinces, a proposal widely greeted as eminently sensible by a wide swath of interested observers, excluding, of course, both the Zionists and the Arabs. Most importantly, Morrison proposed that implementation await the endorsement of all sides to the plan. The Americans recognized this was a non-starter – literally. They wanted the movement of DPs to Palestine to begin immediately. Further, they rejected closing off the promise of a Jewish state in Palestine. They launched an all fronts lobbying campaign on Truman. They succeeded – but in alienating him from the Zionist cause as he agreed to rescind his endorsement of Morrison-Grady. Domestic political consideration fought Truman’s stubborn independence to a draw.

What now? The Zionists had effectively declared war on the British, but by the Fall of 1946 the fears had grown among Zionists that this rebellion would end as badly as the Arab one did in the thirties, especially as the British sought revenge for the Irgun blowing up their command and intelligence headquarters in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem on 22 July 1946. At the same time, the camp population of Jews was approaching 300,000.

To break the Gordian knot, a key moderate wing of the Zionists endorsed partition and the Morrison-Grady plan. Jews could move to the Jewish “province.” These moderate Zionists brought Truman on board, especially when Truman learned that Dewey would endorse Jewish immigration to Palestine in early October of 1946. Truman preempted Thomas Dewey with a Yom Kippur announcement supporting the immediate issuance of 100,000 immigration certificates and expressing American support for partition, that is, “a viable Jewish state in control of its own immigration and economic policies in an adequate area of Palestine.”

Exasperated at the failure to bring the U.S. onside to support the British position, Britain made one last stab. Britain had proposed the Bevin Plan for a five-year British trusteeship and then a permanent solution as agreed to by the parties. Both sides immediately rejected the offer. Britain decided to refer the matter to the United Nations to request a recommended solution in February 1947.

What is reasonably clear from the above is that domestic politics combined with the personality of Harry Truman and not international imperial interests were the main motivational force on the Americans. Imperial interests were powerful forces behind the British position – but that position was then strongly against the Zionists – but the British no longer had the imperial power to pull off their preference. Given the litany over this period, it is hard to support Khalidi’s conviction that Jewish colonizing backed up by imperial support enabled the Zionists to achieve their state. The creation of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine offered further evidence to undercut Khalidi’s thesis.

Khalidi claims that, “The postwar realignment of international power was apparent in the workings of UNSCOP and in its majority report in favour of partitioning the country.” False! UNSCOP operated, as it was intended, independently of great power influence. UNSCOP also operated independently of the foreign affairs departments of the states from which each of the eleven representatives came, with the exception of Holland and Australia, but given the interests of their foreign affairs departments and ministers, those representatives were instructed to favour the pro-Palestinian position. The conclusion favouring partition came in spite of the initial propensities of most state representatives to oppose partition. UNSCOP was a clear case of the evidence gathered and a demand for coherence influencing the result.

Parallel to all these efforts, Rashid Khalidi’s father, Ismail Raghib al-Khalidi, was sent by his older brother (by twenty years), Dr. Husayn Fakhri al-Khalidi, the former mayor of Jerusalem who had spent WWII in a British military prison on the Seychelles Islands, to get King Abdullah onside and recognize both the Palestinian Arab desire for self-determination as well as the necessity now of winning support from the Americans. Rashid’s father ran the Arab-American Institute, set up under the direction of Professor Philip Hitti at Princeton, to win the favour of the Americans for the Palestinian cause. But Abdullah was tied too closely and for too long to the British aprons strings and refused to shift his gaze to the other side of the Atlantic. At the same time, Jewish domestic politics overwhelmed any efforts of Arab Palestinians to advance their position significantly.

When, on 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly voted for partition, Khalidi’s father, on instructions from his much older brother, had just briefed King Abdullah on how the “Arab-American Institute [that he headed] was working to change American opinion on Palestine, which, even then, was overwhelmingly pro-Zionist and largely ignorant of the Palestinian cause.” Then he very hesitantly delivered the message he had been instructed to transmit that, while Palestinians appreciated the king’s offer of “protection” (tutelage or guardianship), they were unable to accept. They did not want to come under Jordanian rule. The king was surprised and angry. He walked out just when a servant announced that the UN General Assembly had passed the partition resolution.

Khalidi claims that, “The resolution was another declaration of war” and in “blatant violation of the principle of self-determination enshrined in the UN Charter.” It was not! The resolution was a sincere effort to stave off war and to honour self-determination for both the minority population and the refugees eager to immigrate as well as the majority population through partition and creating two states. Even the minority report supported a confederation of two independent polities. The Arabs rejected not only partition but even the recommendations of the minority report for a federation. A more detailed examination of the structure and operations of UNSCOP adds enormous support for refuting Khalidi’s thesis that Jewish colonial resettlement backed by first British and then American imperial interests determined the outcome for Palestine.

Israeli History through Palestinian Eyes

Rashid Khalidi (2020) The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine

A Review by Howard Adelman – Part VI: WWII

The nub of the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews was clear. The Arabs did not recognize the collective rights to Jewish self-determination in Palestine. In service to that strenuous disagreement, they opposed both Jewish immigration to Palestine and the purchase of land by the Jewish Agency and other Zionist organizations. On the other hand, the Zionists were backed by both Britain and the international community through the League of Nations. The latter did not recognize the right of the Palestinians to self-determination and refused to block Jewish immigration and land purchases in Palestine.

However, in the face of Palestinian willingness to die for their beliefs as well as the terrible economic plight of the peasants and the danger that this revolt posed to British imperial interests, Britain switched positions and was not only willing to restrict Jewish immigration and limit land purchases, but Britain had initially moved to deny Jews the right to self-determination in 83% of the Mandate. By 1938, British policy favoured the partition of Palestine. At the same time, Britain still never accepted the right of the Palestinian Arabs to self-determination.

Of three alternatives proposed, the Woodhead Commission (formally the Palestine Partition Commission) charged with working out the details of the Peel Commission Report to partition Palestine, but really to bury the Peel recommendations, in its 8 November 1938 Report, the Commission recommended Option C. The Woodhead Commission explicitly rejected the Peel Commission recommendation on the transfer of 225,000 Arabs. It modified the partition to further greatly decrease the territory allocated to the Zionists (from 17% to less than 5% or 1,258 sq. km. of 25,625 sq. km.) and to increase the two other portions, especially the Jerusalem-Jaffa enclave to be retained by Britain (a territory expanded by including the entire Galilee). The large balance of the territory would be joined to Transjordan. The Arab portion annexed to Transjordan would consist of 7,393 sq. km. or slightly less than 25% of the territory. The Jewish state would be lodged in a narrow strip of land along the Mediterranean Coast. The Galilee and the Negev reverted to the British controlled enclave and the territory south of Jaffa went to the land allocated to Abdullah.  

The Jewish state would have a population of about a quarter million Jews and 55,000 Arabs. About 9,000 Jews would remain in the Transjordanian portion and 77,300 Jews from the Galilee and 80,000 from the Jerusalem-Lydda corridor would remain in the very much enlarged British enclave. As well as being reduced to a tiny slice of the original mandate promised, the Jewish state would leave out 40% of the Yishuv Jewish population.

The Arabs in Palestine were not much better off. They would get about 25% of the territory, but within a British satrap. And the population would be divided with 55,000 allocated to the Jewish state, about half a million to remain in the British mandate enclave and 444,000 to the territory annexed to Transjordan. It was clear to almost everyone that the proposal was a non-starter for both Jews and Arabs.

Note the following:

  1. A single state was no longer under consideration;
  2. The proposal is the inverse of the current situation in which the Zionists control most of the territory de jure and are in the process of de facto annexation of 30% of the remaining 22% (almost 7% more for a total of 85% of the Palestinian Mandate);
  3. The Palestinians currently are left with about 15% of the territory for half the present population in the area, whereas, even in the worst case scenario in 1938, they received 25% of the territory, though never in a way that recognized their right to self-determination;
  4. The Woodhead Commission set the precedent for proposing one map of division after another over the next eighty-plus years that became the main model for resolving the conflict;
  5. As we shall see, as one diplomatic solution after another was proposed, after one division of territory after another was approved, instead of a de jure settlement in accordance with legal, moral or political principles, each stage concluded in a new de facto reality indifferent to the diplomatic chess game;
  6. Further, after each successive plan, as actual changes on the ground took place, the Palestinians received less and less at every stage along the way, except in the period discussed in this blog;
  7. Even in 1938, the repatriation and restoration to their land of the forcefully displaced Palestinians (peasants and fedayin then) remained at the core of the conflict as did which side, if any, was allocated Jerusalem.

But a number of things have changed over the last eighty plus years. Then, “Socially, Palestine was still heavily rural with a predominantly patriarchal, hierarchical nature, as it largely remained until 1948.” This is Khalidi’s description of Arab Palestine, but not of Jewish Palestine that constituted almost one-third of the population by that time. Jews had universal access to education and widespread literacy. The Arabs did not. The latter society was dominated by narrow urban elites led by a few families, even though most of the Arab population was rural. Nevertheless, in Haifa and Jaffa, there were more opportunities for upward mobility and advancement for Arabs.

Arab society since the turn of the century, like the rest of the world at different stages, underwent a series of rapid and accelerating transitions. In contrast, the Yishuv was dominated by an elite group of rural socialist pioneers on kibbutzim, even though most Jews lived an urban life. Further, the age-old religious Jewish population was mostly Orthodox or Mitnagdim rather than ultra-Orthodox as Khalidi claimed.

Jewish population increases were fostered by in-migration while the Arabs of Palestine lacked both an organized military and the institutions of a para-state. However, thirty years after the creation of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) in 1901, which by the thirties annually raised in the order of $3.5 million, the Palestinians created the Arab National Fund which raised $700,000 in 1947. A day after that latter sum was proudly announced by the Arab High Committee (AHC), a wealthy Jewish woman in South Africa donated $4 million to the JNF, making its intake ten times that of the Palestinian revenues.

Very recently, that $700,000 had three ironic echoes:

  • It was the amount Turkey offered in November 2919 as a bounty on Palestinian leader Mohmmed Dahlan who had proposed a single state with equal rights for both Jews and Arabs;
  • With respect to compensation for lost land, it was the amount of compensation that Constantine Salameh accepted for his extensive holdings in upscale Talbiya Jerusalem (where the Jerusalem Theatre, the President’s residence and the Van Leer Institute are located) when he was absent from Palestine in 1947; he accepted what was considered a very low token amount, better than the nothing that Arabs received who fled in 1947, because he became convinced that the Israeli High Court would not make a fair settlement lest a precedent be set;
  • Between 2018 and 2020, it was the amount Switzerland gave to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) founded in 1995 to pay the court costs for suing Israel at The Hague.

But these apparent injustices were a long way off. Palestinians were not capable of such action in the late thirties. Khalidi describes in detail the disorganization and in-fighting that plagued the Palestinian organizations riven by deep political and personal differences and exacerbated by the rivalries among the newly independent Arab states, already fraught with rancorous disunity from within and the patriarchal approach of much of the leadership. But there was one constant – the role of the imperium. But the imperium changed after WWII, as it did following the end of WWI. In contrast to the British, American hegemony was in the process of displacing British rule and setting aside immigration and land purchase restrictions on Jews.  With that imperial shift, the balance of power internationally then shifted in a major way in favour of the Zionist cause, especially as Israel subsequently developed in turn into a regional power in its own right.

However, for Khalidi, the main culprits are Zionists and only then the imperial powers that supported them. When the Americans displaced the British, “every US administration since Harry Truman’s has been staffed by people making policy on Palestine whose views indicate that they believe Palestinians, whether or not they exist, are lesser beings than Israelis.” I do not recognize this depiction at all from the American historians that I have read. Truman became a strong supporter of Israel and the first to recognize Israeli independence, even as his State Department under Secretary of State George Marshall pushed reversing the move towards partition and an independent Jewish sovereign state in Palestine, all of which Khalidi acknowledges. But Truman did not start out as a strong supporter of Zionsim.

Further, other than a concern with treating everyone, whatever their religion or their ethnicity, equally, Truman held no bias against the Palestinians. Admittedly, Marshall was more enamored by Gulf oil than the Palestinians – “senior officials at State and other departments argued that support for the new Jewish state would harm American strategic, economic and oil interests in the Middle East” –  but if Marshall had prevailed over his boss, it is far less likely that Israel would exist today. In any case, I have never read any evidence that Truman, or his State Department officials, viewed Palestinians as lesser beings. Nor is there much truth in the widespread belief that State Department officials were antisemitic. They just wanted to avoid war and agreed with Jabotinsky and Khalidi that a military clash between the Arabs and Jews in Palestine was inevitable.

Harry Truman was the essential kingpin in this transition. He had been first elected to office in Missouri as part of the corrupt Pendergast political machine, but, with the exception of patronage, he built a reputation as an honest reformer when elected to the Senate in his own right in 1940. Loyal to old friends and supporters, no matter what their history, he was also intransigent in guarding and insisting on his own independence. This attitude would have an impact on the Zionist cause in both propelling his support as well as undercutting it for the Zionist cause. But whatever his ambivalence towards Jewish self-determination, there is no indication that he was contemptuous of the Palestinian Arabs or their ambitions.

He did get involved with Jewish refugees, not as a general cause for he never criticized Roosevelt for his procrastination or the State Department’s view that nothing should be done to jeopardize the primary emphasis on the war effort. Truman’s efforts were personal rather than a matter of political policy; he helped gain entry to the United States for individual family members of Jewish constituents that helped him in his campaign or shared in introducing efforts to benefit Missouri’s infrastructure development.

Truman’s more general policy approach emerged in his initial criticism of the 1939 British White Paper that went even further than the Whitehead Commission in reversing the direction and principles of the Mandate for Palestine by the League of Nations. That White Paper recommended:

  • Creating an independent democratic Arab state in Palestine within ten years
  • Restricting Jewish immigration to Palestine to a total of 75,0000 spread over the next five years, thereafter, totals to be determined only with Arab consent;
  • Land sale to Jews in Palestine would be forbidden in most areas and restricted in others.

Rashid Khalidi interpreted the White Paper as an insincere fig leaf to derail the Palestinian cause since he claimed that representative institutions and self-determination were contingent on all parties, including Zionist approval. But other commentators have suggested that Zionists would be invited in working out the details, not that they would be in a position to veto the principles. Nevertheless, Khalidi viewed the Palestinian failure to accept the White Paper as a missed chance to gain an advantage even though the proposal did not exactly align with the Palestinian position. It was the mufti who insisted on outright refusal at the St. James Palace conference.

Harry Truman had a newspaper article included as an appendix in the Congressional Record dated 18 May 1939 by Barnet Nover in The Washington Post entitled, “British Surrender – A Munich for the Holy Land.” The article was an explicit rejection of the terms of the British White Paper. Otherwise, Truman endorsed “the politics of gestures” of the Roosevelt administration and opposed American support for a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine. When in January 1944, the Taft-Wagner Senate Resolution was tabled that repudiated the British 1939 White Paper, Truman temporized and offered the standard reason for his non-support – that is, an unwillingness to tie the hands of the diplomats focused on winning the war.

With a federal election pending, a shift took place in 1944. Instead of a primacy placed on not upsetting either thee Arabs or their British allies, because of the desire of both parties to court the American Jewish vote, the Republican Party platform endorsed a “free and democratic commonwealth in Palestine” while the Democratic Party of the United States endorsed a “free and democratic Jewish commonwealth in Palestine.” Dewey and Roosevelt both endorsed their respective party’s Palestine platforms. Truman was the vice-presidential candidate.

However, party platforms did not translate into policy as the State Department once again sidelined the positions by arguing that it would undermine American interests in the Middle East, alienate Arabs and advance the USSR efforts to win favour with the Arab states. Unequivocally, both British and American imperial interests favoured the Arabs and not the Jews, precisely contrary to Khalidi’s thesis.

Further, when Harry Truman assumed the presidency upon the death of Roosevelt on 12 April 1945, his Reform Jewish supporters in Missouri abjured from the idea of a “Jewish” commonwealth in Palestine as too “racial and theocratic.” The support was for opening the doors to immigration and creating Palestine as a free and democratic commonwealth. Truman then was adamantly opposed to a “Jewish” commonwealth that he saw would require a half million soldiers to impose on the Arabs. Palestine as a Jewish refuge – good. Palestine as a Jewish commonwealth – premature at best and at worst undermined American geo-political interests.

Following a visit of prime Minister Clement Atlee of Great Britain to Washington, Truman and he agreed on a joint Anglo-American committee to look into Palestine as a refuge for Jewish refugees. Truman favoured a Palestine state for all peoples and not a Jewish state in Palestine. The passage of two separate resolutions in Congress supporting a Jewish commonwealth had no effect in changing his mind. But he strongly favoured Palestine as a refuge for what some referred to as the detritus left after the war.

To that end, Truman accepted the proposition of using Palestine to elevate the migration issue to a humanitarian one beyond self-interest while being consistent with American national interests. Hence, both the Zionists and the British had contempt for his stance, embittering Truman with them both. But not with the moderate Zionists (Weizmann, Nahum Goldmann) or his White House advisors, David Niles and Max Lowenthal, or Clark Clifford in the State Department charged with deflecting the pro-Arab pushing of Loy Henderson. Truman was especially enraged by a critical speech of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver that insisted he favoured the Arabs. He was extremely sensitive that his decisions were and be viewed as independent of any pressure or self-interest concerns.

Nor, as David Niles noted, was Truman in any way motivated by any guilt over the Holocaust. However, he was very grateful to the Jewish donors who saved his campaign for re-election in September 1948 when that effort was broke and on the verge of collapse. But we are getting ahead of our story.  

Deception: Rebekah and Diana – Toledot Genesis 25:19 – 28:9

Yesterday, there was a zoom panel at the university discussing the American election. Inevitably, the issue arose of Trump followers, rubes from Middle America, who live in a silo and swallow what Trump says is the truth when we all know he is a serial liar. Evidently, according to anecdote, some patients on their death beds even deny that they are dying of COVID-19 because The Donald told everyone we were rounding the curve. That he lies is undeniable. Is it because he does not know the difference between truth and what he believes is true?

Misrepresentation is a dimension of lying. In watching Trump, one cannot help but conclude that he is the Emperor of Deception. However, he also has a reputation for being just as he is, for not being your typical deceptive politician. Some voters love him because he offers straight talk. He is one of them. He does not hide or beguile. He says what he thinks. He may have many suits, but he seems to wear the same one every day. This is also true of his overcoat. He is who he appears to be – an archetypal George C. Parker with a reputation for selling the Brooklyn Bridge to unwary and naïve newcomers to the big metropolis of New York. George C. Parker, the prototypical con man, ended his life in Sing Sing.

Last evening, we finished watching the fourth season of the series, The Crown. One important theme in the series is the necessity of keeping up appearances. Appearances cover up problems and issues. But the theme seems to be that the immense concern with appearances is the cause of a great many problems. Further, while the exercise in the unveiling of the monarchy has a great deal to do with hats and dresses, one soon becomes convinced not only that appearances can be deceptive, but the point of those appearances is to be deceptive. That creates an aura. It is just a different kind of con, a British rather than a Brooklyn one.

What happens when a young and beautiful Diana (Emma Corrin) comes on the scene? She first appears when she is not supposed to show herself as one of the mischievous enchanted tree nymphs from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Prince of Wales (Josh O’Connor) sees her, or really glimpses her. He is intrigued. But not intrigued enough to follow through on his initial enchantment. Of course, we know where this is going because it is adumbrated by a letter that Lord Louis Mountbatten (Charles Dance) wrote to Charles, Prince of Wales.  

Mountbatten is dead, blown up by an IRA bomb on his lobster fishing boat off the coast of Ireland by the IRA near the end of August of 1979. It was a period of my own life when I was immersed in Operation Lifeline and the organization of the private sponsorship of the Boat People from Indochina, a very different situation in which we fought against the importance of appearances, namely the colour of your skin and your ethnic origins, in favour of multiculturalism and an open society. Just before Operation Lifeline, Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson in The Crown) had been elected as Prime Minister) and she began her arrogant and cold-hearted governance of Britain. One episode of The Crown is dedicated to her opposition against all the other members of the Commonwealth backed by the Queen to a boycott against apartheid in South Africa.

In Mountbatten’s letter to Charles, he chastises him for his affair with the married Camilla Parker Bowles (Emerald Fennell) and advises him to settle down, find a woman whom he can love as a princess and who can develop into a Queen. But Mountbatten is dead. The Royal family has lost its Gold Stick (the name of the first episode of Season Four), the symbolic and actual protector and guard to the health and success of the royal family. Without his wise counsel – God has died – the royal family fragments through the eighties and Charles’ marriage to his young beautiful princess falls apart. Ironically, just over four decades later, Donald Trump ran for a second term and one of the items he sold his acolytes was a gold pin that said, “Stick with Trump.” They did. They stuck with their Gold Stick. But. in this case, they collapsed with him in his mountain of lies. Many of them died.

The eighties offered a decade of violence, of horror, of war, of which “The Troubles” in Ireland were but one symbol of an inability to resolve differences through dialogue and discussion, the essence of politics. Charles gutting a fish in Iceland, his father shooting game birds at Balmoral Castle in Scotland and then Mountbatten targeted by the IRA in Ireland. In international relations, in both the public sphere of Thatcher’s government and in the private sphere of the royal family, repression and violence were the main tools for handling differences. Over this decade, the reign of Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman) unfolds.

Later, when Diana and Prince Charles are married and go on a royal trip to Australia and New Zealand, Diana mesmerizes the crowds with her wholesomeness, her vulnerability, her accessibility and her honesty. She is who she is – an enchantress. And Charles is jealous, Charles, who deceives his young wife even on the night before they were to be married, is a coward and a cad, an insensitive and insufferable snob who lacks any insight into himself. He is as myopic as Isaac in in this week’s Torah portion.  

Charles and Diana appear to the Aussies and the Kiwis to be the perfect fairy tale couple. However, they are far from it. Appearances can deceive and do deceive. And Prime Minister Hawke of Australia becomes discombobulated as his republican aspirations to throw off the burden of the monarchy are dashed by a beautiful sprite. She has bewitched the Australian masses. But not Charles. Never Charles. He is too insecure and too focused on his own incapacities to appreciate the virtues of the mother of his two sons.

However, Diana is no Machiavellian. She does not live secretly as a republican intent on acting – and providing advice on how to rule – in order to reveal the emptiness behind the power of the Medicis. She is not an anti-royalist in intent. But she becomes one in her actions as her very being undercuts and reveals the shallowness of the monarchy, its preoccupation with form, with ritual, with pomp and with circumstance.

Thus, Charles deceives as a matter of custom and tradition. In contrast, Diana deceives  as a fairy does who sprinkles fairy dust to see colour and beauty and joy everywhere, even as she vomits from bulimia in hew own washroom and grows thinner and more miserable in her unhappy marriage to Charles who seems totally incapable of demonstrating affection or giving his wife a hug when she needs one.

But neither Charles, and certainly not Diana, is mendacious. One cannot imagine either of them in their insecurities blaming others and calling their non-election to high office as a fraud, as a result of fraud. But what of Rebekah in the Torah who sees more clearly and more perceptively than any of the above characters. She knows what she is doing. She is not a victim of what she knows not of. And she is a principle deceiver.

Look at how Rebekah met Isaac in comparison to Diana’s initial meeting with Charles. Charles saw a young teenager in a tree costume flitting from behind one pole to another. He never saw her clearly – and never would. She is a sprite. She is a nymph. With all his obsession with various types of gardens and dislike of straight inorganic lines, he cannot really see what is right in front of him. Contrast that with Isaac’s severe myopia. Isaac did not even see Rebekah beside the well, only the shapes of large camels in the distance. Charles was blind because his eyes looked elsewhere until he eventually really became blind. Isaac was initially blind because he was myopic. Neither he nor Charles saw the beauty and the self-confidence and the sheer joy in life of the women in front of them.

And what did Rebekah see? She saw Isaac. She was stricken by the sight of him as she alighted nimbly from her camel. Why? What did she really see? A holy man who filled her with awe? But she was never in awe of Isaac as some of the rabbinical commentators have suggested. I suspected that she saw a man riven to the marrow of his bones with pain, a boy whose father loved him absolutely but came close to sacrificing him on an altar in accordance with an apparent command of God who took no notice of how such an experience might traumatize Abraham’s son. Rebekah saw that pain. Rebekah saw that trauma. She was a woman of enormous compassion. Her heart felt deeply the pain of others.

What does Rebekah do? She asks after the stranger. She inquires. She is curious, painfully curious. She is told that this is the man she is destined to marry. Unlike Diana, she does not wait for him to ask her or even wait until he marries her. She places the veil of marriage herself over her own head. For she, like her forbear, Eve, and unlike Diana, is the carrier of the action. She is the decision-maker. She is not modest and demure like Diana. She did not suffer from bulimia. She was at one with herself, knowing her own mind and her own heart without a single hesitation when she learns that she must follow this stranger to his house. She must go far from her family home. She does so willingly. She does so eagerly.

Diana when she travels to meet Charles at Balmoral Castle arrives in a car sent for her just as Eliezer, Isaac’s servant, fetched Rebekah. Diana was not awed at Balmoral. For it was a place of nature. It was a place where you could lie in the grass and stalk a stag with an enormous rack. It was not a place where you dressed up, but where you dressed down. She was at home and became a triumph in seducing the royal family. But that family when it dressed up, when it appeared in order to awe the public, when it engaged in its own brand of deception, when it was ensconced in Buckingham Palace in London, was a very different family, in fact an institution rather than a family, an institution governed by arcane rules and protocols that took a lifetime to master.

When Diana got to Buckingham, she was all left feet not knowing whom to curtsy first and who second and who not to curtsy at all. She had to take detailed lessons in “manners” and customs that in effect beat much of the spunk and spontaneity out of her. What happened to Rebekah when she went from her home to join Isaac’s family?

Rebekah was young and self-confident. Isaac, like Charles, was older; he was forty. Diana, even though Charles cheated on her, became pregnant. Rebekah, like her mother-in-law, remained barren. Isaac prayed to God and Rebekah became pregnant and gave birth – to twins. They were like Carol (Rebecca Humphries) and Mark Thatcher (Freddie Fox). Carol was Jacob, the interior one, the one who became a journalist and a writer. Mark was the adventurer who at one point in the serries gets lost in a car race across Africa to the consternation of his parents and all of Britain. Esau knew how to hunt.

While Mark was openly and unequivocally the favorite of the two twins of Margaret Thatcher, Jacob was Rebeka’s favourite child. For Rebekah was warm and loving. Margaret Thatcher was cold and detached. Rebekah saw which of her sons would carry the royal line. Margaret Thatcher was biased against sentimentality and women; she failed to recognize her daughter as the insightful journalist and writer she became while Mark went off to Texas to marry an oil billionaire’s daughter.

Two nations lived in Rebekah’s womb, the British one with its inquisitiveness, its intellectual and cultural sophistication, a mild nation focused on the mind, and an American Texas one that valued riding and hunting and guns and collecting as many mansions and material goods as possible. The first was Jacob – born second and on the heels of Esau who left for Texas. But who did God say would be the mightier in the end? Jacob. Esau would serve Jacob even though it appeared in the latter half of the twentieth century that Britain had been reduced to a satrap of the United States.

Why did Isaac favour Esau? Because he was myopic. Because he was enamored by external success. Because Isaac had a taste for game, for the birds and the deer shot at Balmoral Castle. And Margaret Thatcher sought to remake Britain along the model of the neo-cons and the Reaganites, as a cold-hearted place dedicated to externals rather than the life of the mind.

Jacob was cooking a stew. Esau arrived home famished. He asked for a bowl of the stew. Jacob agreed, provided Esau gave him his birthright in return. What did Mark care about his birthright? He wanted to go into the wider world and conquer it. He wanted to go to Texas. Esau sold it to Jacob for a bowl of stew, for that was what Britain looked like in the eighties – a bowl of stew. Esau spurned his birthright that came from the depths of Oxford, from the long history of Cambridge, from the stage at Stratford, from a nation-state with a long and fabled history of democracy and respect for human rights. Mark, as well as his mother, did not give a damn for that Britain.

Isaac had been traumatized by his father, Abraham. His father had been as cold and hard-hearted to his son as Phillip had been to Charles. Icy and aloof. And Isaac became a copy of his father, but a much weaker version. Like his father had done to Sarah, Isaac claimed Rebekah was his sister lest he be assailed and killed by men who coveted his wife. Neither men were men. Neither were protectors of their women. Charles recognized Diana’s beauty, but he did not love her for the great joy and love and caring she bore with her beauty. Isaac also sold Rebekah short. Rebekah ceased to love Isaac. He was a wimp.

In the story of Isaac and Rebekah, unlike that of Abraham and Sarah, King Abimelech saves Isaac from his folly. He is the Gold Stick in the story. But Charles’ Gold Stick has been killed by terrorists. He has no one to say to him, “What have you done to us? One of the people might have lain with your wife, and you would have brought guilt upon us.” Isaac was saved from such a fate. But Charles lacked an Abimelech, lacked a Lord Mountbatten. And men laid with his wife. And a stain of guilt covered the royal family which Charles had brought on.

Further, in Britain, Margaret Thatcher went to war over the Falkland Islands. Prince Andrew (Tom Byrne), the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, went along as a helicopter pilot. In the biblical tale, when there were disputes over the ownership of wells, Isaac moved on and found and dug wells elsewhere. Margaret Thatcher stuck to her guns literally and forced the Argentinians to withdraw. Isaac eventually made peace with his enemies without a fight and entered into treaties with his former enemies. But he and Rebekah suffered from the unfortunate marriage of Esau just as Isaac and Rebekah did over that of Prince Andrew. However, Prince Andrew, Queen Elizabeth’s favourite, in spite of her denials, in a whirlwind romance married Sarah Ferguson, a marriage that blew up, though not as loudly and as broadly as happened to Charles’ marriage to Diana. But, as we all know, Andrew went on to live a raffish lifestyle that brought scandal upon the royal family, something that hangs like a distant shadow over the fourth season of The Crown.

Then came the second trick, this time one instigated by Rebekah herself. Isaac was about to bless his oldest son. Esau, like Abraham before God, announces hineini, “Here I am.” Isaac instructs his son to shoot some fresh game and make a meal for him. When he goes out, Rebekah initiates her deceit. She knows that Esau will never be the heir that God promised. She convinces Jacob to put on Esau’s clothes, cover his hands and neck with the skin of kids so that it would be hairy like that of his brother when his father went to bless him. Jacob was instructed to offer his father food that she would prepare so that Isaac would give Jacob rather than Esau his blessing. Her ruse works.

But at a cost. For Esau vows to kill his brother. So Rebekah sends him away for his own safety, never to see him again as long as she lives. Jacob is tricked by his Uncle Laban in turn to marry both his daughters and he never returns before his mother dies.

Deception is at the heart of politics, whether of the nation or the family. Machiavelli, in teaching the Medicis the art of deception, deceived them so that they would eventually lose their positions. But they recover their power. And Machiavelli was imprisoned and dies there. One can imagine the last decades of Rebekah who had no contact with her favourite son and must have been inconsolable when she died.

Deception seems to have its own laws of natural justice. Appearance can be deceptive. At critical times, appearances perhaps has to be deceptive. But only when deception serves life. When life becomes a slave to deception, life becomes a fraud.

“Everyone admits how praiseworthy it is in a prince to keep his word, and to behave with integrity rather than cunning. Nevertheless, our experience has been that those princes who have done great things have considered keeping their word of little account, and have known how to beguile men’s minds by shrewdness and cunning. In the end these princes have overcome those who have relied on keeping their word.” Thus, occasionally, and only occasionally, “words must serve to veil the facts. But let this happen in such a way that no one become aware of it; or, if it should be noticed, excuses must be at hand to be produced immediately.”

Israeli History through Palestinian Eyes

Rashid Khalidi (2020) The Hundred Years’ War on Palestine

A Review by Howard Adelman – Part V: The Arab Uprising 1936-1939

The dilemma was clear. In the early thirties, in part as a result of Arab mobs attacking Jewish civilians, Jewish migration to Palestine had declined severely. The immigration numbers in 1929 were 5,249, in 1930, 4,944, and, in 1931, 4,075. In three years, approximately the same number of Jews moved to Palestine as in the year 1926, 40% of the number over three years as in the single year of 1925. However, with the increasing persecution in Europe even before the Nazis came to power, and with the closure of other opportunities of countries to which they could flee, Palestine became the only realistic opportunity for Jews who were prescient enough to see what was coming in Europe and chose to migrate to Palestine.

The following were the migration figures:

Year off MigrationNumber of Jews Migrating to Palestine

1936 was the year the Arab revolt began. For the Jewish population had grown from 6% to 10% to 18% and by 1936, 28%of the population of Palestine was Jewish. By 1939, that percentage grew by 16% and amounted to 30% of the entire population. The writing was on the wall. Arabs still constituted the majority. But their increase depended overwhelmingly on natural increase. (See the Simpson Enquiry and the Passfield White Paper of 1930.) Relatively small numbers of Arabs then migrated to Palestine. Arabs would in the foreseeable future be a minority in what they regarded as their own homeland. Further, given the League of Nations Mandate, the Jews were promised an eventual national home, not the Arabs.

The pinnacle of the conflict, arrived in 1935 when, “as a result of Nazi persecution and the closure of Western borders to Jewish immigration, more than sixty thousand Jewish skilled and educated immigrants with capital came to Palestine in 1935 alone.” This was more than the whole of the Arab migration to Palestine between 1919 and 1939 that totaled 50,000. At the same time, it took the PLO until the seventies and eighties to acquire the same proto-state status in the United Nations that the Jewish Agency had acquired in the twenties and thirties. The Arab Palestinians were faced with a severe disadvantage in the migration trends and their relative political status.

Even during the Arab Uprising in Palestine between 1936 and 1939, Jewish migration into Palestine that had gone down in 1936 by half, far exceeded Arab in-migration. As well, though relatively small, the expulsion of illegal migration of Arabs far exceeded that of the Jews.

Palestinian immigration 1936-1939


Expulsions of illegals, 1937-1938

JewsArabs (et al.)

By 1936, in anticipation of a need for Arab support in a possible approaching European war, with the Peel Commission in 1936-7 and even more with the 1938 Woodhead Commission, Britain began to backtrack seriously on its international legal obligations to the Jews, narrowing the land targeted as a Jewish homeland, placing obstacles in the way of land purchases and introducing restrictions on Jewish immigration. By 1939, 31% of the population was Jewish according to Khalidi (my estimate is 30%). However, Zionism could no longer be described as having even the half-hearted support of Britain and the new rising power, the United States, had not yet displaced Britain as the imperial power supporting the Zionists.

What happened between 1936 and 1939 that put the Arabs in Palestinians at an even greater disadvantage after the war than they had been in 1936?

First, they were at a moral disadvantage. Arabs had elsewhere to go and could move easily. Jews could not. Their outlets were blocked across the globe and the pressures on them to flee were rapidly increasing in both force and frequency. Second, in an enlightened resettlement country, it should not have mattered whether the in-migration was Chinese or African, Jewish or Yazidis. If, for example, the pressure on the Chinese on Hong Kong by Beijing in the current era became extreme and half the population of Hong Kong sought asylum in Canada, that is almost four million people, the intake of an additional 10% of the population of Canada, and four times the number of ethnic Chinese than those already living in Canada, would have certainly shifted the face of Canada – about 15% of Canada would be ethnic Chinese – that would not basically matter.

Except, and this is a big except, the ethnic Chinese do not speak French. They would overwhelmingly migrate to English-speaking Canada. The Quebecois as a nation would decline from 18% of the Canadian population to 16%. Quebecois would still make up 75% of the population of Quebec, but their political clout and control over their national determination would inherently decline. This is merely an illustration to indicate that when there is a clash between a nation that feels under siege and an expanding population that does not share the national identification of the indigenous population, clashes are certainly possible. They are certainly more likely when the national identification of the Arabs excludes the inclusion of Jews from Europe.

The clashes are inevitable when the incoming ethnic group insists it is returning to its ancient homeland and wishes to establish its own nation-state in Palestine. When that vision is backed by the primary international organization at the time, the clash becomes not only inevitable, but a matter of great urgency. Thus, there should be no surprise that the Arab revolt against the British in Palestine broke out in 1936.

The Uprising or the Great Palestinian Revolt of 1936 demanded immediate Palestinian independence and an end to Jewish migration into Palestine and land purchases in the country. Of course, the stated goal of the in-migrants of an independent national home was anathema. A trigger was the killing by the British of Sheikh Izz ad-Din al-Qassam in 1935. He had organized the terrorist anti-Zionist Black Hand that targeted railway lines and uprooted trees planted by Jewish settlers. What became a standard over the next eighty-five years, a massive funeral procession in Haifa for al-Qassam, was used both to heighten and advertise Arab opposition to both the British Mandate and not only the preference given to the Zionists but their very being in Palestine.

The Zionists saw the writing on the wall. They could no longer look forward to establishing their state by peaceful means. They began to prepare for an anticipated armed struggle. The British intercepted a huge shipment of arms destined for the Haganah in October 1935. On 16 May 1936, precisely twelve years before the Jewish state would declare its independence as Israel, Hajj Amin al-Husseini called a General Strike in Palestine. It lasted approximately five months.

The strike was accompanied by tit for tat killing of Jews and Palestinians, beginning with the murder of Israel Khazan and Zvi Dannenburg, two Jewish drivers. The Irgun killed two Palestinians in retaliation.

In this first phase of the uprising, the hastily organized Higher Arab Committee (HAC) was in charge and utilized strikes and other forms of “non-violent” protest. However, by October, the revolt had been suppressed by the threat of the imposition of martial law combined with the enlistment of international players such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the side of Britain. Further, Britain acceded to the demand of the HAC to establish a commission to look into the issues of Jewish immigration, Jewish land purchases and self-determination.

However, the street, led by Palestinian displaced peasants, ignored the leadership of the HAC; the legions of unemployed resorted to violence and attacked British forces in Palestine. The Nashashabi clan, once accused by Husseini of collaboration with the Zionists, now adopted violent means and offered leadership to the uprising. Britain responded with force and set out to repress the revolt.  

Over 2,000 Arabs were killed. 108 were hanged according to the British. But almost another 1,000 killed were blamed on inter-Arab factionalism. Walid Khalidi considered these figures to be gross underestimates. There had been almost 20,000 casualties, one quarter killed, of which total, three-quarters had been killed by the British. 10% of the Arab adult male population was killed, wounded, imprisoned, or exiled. That is an estimated 20,000 adult males. At most, 200 Jews died, but that understates the effect on the Jewish population of the Yishuv. For thousands of dunams of farmland were destroyed. The terrorism petrified the Jewish population of Palestine as they were the civilians targeted.

As alluded to previously, the roots of the conflict lay not just in a struggle between two nationalisms and over immigration, but over Jewish land purchases and the displacement of Arab peasants and fellahin. Between Jewish land purchases that converted farming land to cooperative and communal farms, and pro-Jewish labour policies was added the additional effect of farm efficiencies of Jewish farming that required far less labour to produce profitable crops.  The revolt was as much driven by this unemployed population as by national sentiments and concerns with self-determination, particularly in an environment in which most Arabs blamed Jews as the primary source of their economic woes. Add to that the fact that significant numbers of political organizations had been developed in civil society to lead the revolt. The political achievements of movements in neighbouring states offered examples of resistance that had achieved some degree of success in enhancing Arab self-determination.

The Peel Commission to look into the causes and impact of the uprising arrived in Palestine on 11 November 1936. The members immediately concluded that the revolt was very broad-based. Arab civil servants throughout the land had been sympathetic. The cost of suppression had been very high and the Commission looked for an escape for Britain. It proposed partition, a narrow strip of land along the coast where most Jewish property was located would be allocated for the Zionists. The balance would be slotted for linkage to Transjordan. There would also remain a British-run enclave, a residual Mandate running from Jerusalem to Jaffa.

The Brits had abandoned the Balfour Declaration. The terms of its Mandate under the League of Nations were now generally viewed as internationally irrelevant. The proposal for partition, however, was rejected outrighted by both the Palestinian Arabs and the Jewish community. Inspired by the idea of Arab transfers from the Yishuv to the balance of territory slotted for Transjordan (an estimated 225,000), both Ben Gurion and Weizmann recommended acceptance of the offer to the Zionist Congress.

The British government created the Woodward Commission to deal with implementation. That Commission recommended that a larger swath of territory be retained by Britain, that the extent of the territory allocated to the Jews be further reduced, and that Jewish immigration be significantly reduced. Both Ben Gurion and Weizmann felt that they had been double-crossed by the British. And the Arabs remained unbent. They insisted that all the land be made part of that assigned to the Arabs and that it be independent of Transjordan. In 1937, the Irgun took the offensive against the British which was now faced with a revolt from two different sides.

Partial martial law was introduced throughout Palestine and the revolts were largely quelled given Britain’s enormous superiority in arms and military personnel. Terrorism, however, became widespread with widespread sabotage, bombs, raids on military installations and almost one thousand murdered and over 300 abducted. Britain resorted to a practice still in use in Israel – punishment of the family of a terrorist by destroying the family’s property. In addition to the practice of collective punishment, there were documented massacres and extra-judicial killings. Laws of just war were routinely ignored as hey had been in Ireland and as was the case in India.

While Britain was increasingly backing away from the terms of the Balfour Declaration, the government was allying with and arming the Haganah to provide support for repressing the insurgency. The Jewish military under the control of Labour Zionist gained a great deal of military training in this exchange.

Further, in the tale that Khalidi tells of the 1936-1939 period, rather than Britain reversing positions in dealing with the Jews, which Khalidi acknowledged, he stressed the very brutal suppression and eventual defeat of the Palestinian uprising by the British while the Yishuv, the organized Jewish society in Palestine, went from strength to strength obtaining positions in government as well as military training and arms. Further, besides the British, the Zionists had the legal legitimacy of the League of Nations at its back.

In contrast, the Palestinians through the savage British repression, the death and exile of so many leaders, the loss of so much manpower in the period 1936-1939, and the deep divisions within Palestinian society – supporters of Abdullah and becoming part of Transjordan, the extremist followers of the Mufti, the more compromising Palestinian nationalists – were irretrievably weakened and in no position to take on the Zionists after the war. Further, given their conviction that the British were hypocritical, haughty and duplicitous, the Palestinians were in no position to take advantage of the British shift in policy abandoning support for the Zionist cause, even though world politics had very much strengthened the need for Britain to appease the Arab Palestinians. As Khalidi described the situation, Palestinian nationalism was apparently betrayed many times, mostly by Arab countries, but also by the Palestinian movement itself. 

Israeli History through Palestinian Eyes

Rashid Khalidi (2020) The Hundred Years of War on Palestine

A Review by Howard Adelman – Part IV: Arab Revolts 1921 to 1929

You can’t foresee what will happen over the next century. But you can peak around the corner. If the most powerful empires in the world back Jewish immigration to Palestine, if they back Jews developing a national home in your national home, the reality of the latter will shrink and the possibility of your own state will recede. You do not have to be a prophet to grasp that. However, currently numbers are on your side. There is time to resist. There is time to fight back – diplomatically and physically.

That fighting began in 1921. High level international diplomacy was one thing. Events on the ground were another. The 1921 Arab revolt or Jaffa riots in Palestine began with a Jewish communist anti-imperialist march and protest on May Day against the British. The goal was establishing a Jewish commune on the model of the Soviet ones. A rival, Ahdut HaAvoda, the arm of the Jewish socialist movement in Palestine, began a competing parade. The two forces clashed. The melee spread to the local population.

Arabs attacked an immigration absorption centre in Jaffa and began attacking both sets of Jews. The Arabs feared that they were the object of the Jewish demonstrators. 47 Jews and 48 Arabs died. 146 Jews and 73 Arabs were wounded. The Arab casualties were a result of British arms and the attempt to protect Jews. The Jews were harmed and killed by Arab rioters. A pioneer of modern Hebrew literature, Yosef Haim Brenner, was among the dead.

The Haycraft Commission (Sir Thomas Haycraft was the chief justice of Palestine) was set up by High Commissioner Sir Herbert Samuel who had drawn up the pro-Zionist document, The Future of Palestine for the British cabinet in 1916. The Commission blamed the Arabs for both their anti-Zionist attitudes and their anti-British claims that the Brits favoured the Zionists. However, the Commission pointed out that the underlying cause of the Jaffa riots was Arab “hostility to Jews, due to political and economic causes, and connected with Jewish immigration.” Zionists had exacerbated the problem with their insensitivity to Arab concerns.

Samuel responded to the Haycraft Report first by suspending Jewish immigration in mid-May and then in June restricting it in accordance with absorptive capacity and the degree of contribution to the economic well-being of the Arabs. If that was not enough to set off a firestorm of protests from the Zionists, Haj Amin al-Husseini, who had been appointed Mufti by Sir Herbert Samuel while only in his late twenties as the youngest ever Mufti of Jerusalem, emerged as one of the leaders of the 1920 Arab riots. He was accused of inciting the masses to murder Jews and loot their homes. He, in turn, accused the rival Palestinian elite, the Nashashibis, of being Zionist collaborators. Nevertheless, he was named by Samuel as President of the newly constituted Supreme Muslim Council.

While Zionists accused Samuel of being an appeaser, Khalidi characterized him very differently. “Sir Herbert Samuel, a committed Zionist and former cabinet minister… laid the governmental foundations for much of what followed, and…ably advanced Zionist aims while foiling those of Palestinians.” To be a middleman between two intractable sides meant only earning the contempt and insults of both.

The Arab community in August 1921 travelled to London to protest directly and insist the Balfour Declaration be withdrawn. The next year, they submitted a petition to the League of Nations demanding an independent and democratic state. However, under the terms of the Paris and San Remo Conferences, on 24 June 1922 the League of Nations made the UK the mandatory power over Palestine. Consistent with the Balfour Declaration that had been endorsed by the League, the creation of a National Home for the Jewish people was approved. Clearly, the support of an imperial power had been sought by the Zionists and was critical to the Zionist success just as when the territory was still under the control of the Ottomans, ben Gurion had sought Turkish support for a homeland for the Jews in Palestine.

However, Khalidi claims, correctly in my reading, that the League of Nations went even much further than the Balfour Declaration in advancing the proposition of Palestine as an exclusive national homeland for the Jews which was being “reconstituted.” Arabs only enjoyed civil and religious rights. “The Jewish people, and only the Jewish people, are described as having an historical connection to Palestine…The surest way to eradicate a people’s right to their land is to deny their historical connection to it.”

Seven Palestine Arab congresses planned by a country-wide network of Muslim-Christian societies were held from 1919 until 1928. “These congresses put forward a consistent series of demands focused on independence for Arab Palestine, rejection of the Balfour Declaration, support for majority rule, and ending unlimited Jewish immigration and land purchases.”

The British had tried to appease the Arabs by proposing a local legislative council for Palestine consisting of ten British appointees and fifteen elected local representatives, only three of whom would be Jewish. The proposal was rejected out of hand by the Arabs, thereby alleviating the need for the Zionists to do so. I found no reference to this offer in Khalidi. Instead, Khalidi wrote that, “Any later concessions offered on matters of representation, such as a British proposal for an Arab Agency, were conditional on equal representation for the tiny minority and the large majority, and on Palestinian acceptance of the terms of the Mandate, which explicitly nullified their existence.” In spite of Samuel’s convoluted efforts to assuage Arab fears of Jewish immigration and the goals of the Balfour Declaration, Arab opposition to British rule only increased. For a British White Paper confirmed that Jews were in Palestine “as of right and not on sufferance.”

That was a cross that the Palestinians refused to carry.

By the time the League of Nations endorsed the Zionist objective of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine in 1922, the ratio of Jews had remained relatively constant. Other than diplomacy, no significant support on the ground came from Britain in support of Jewish resettlement up until that time. Ye throughout the twenties, Palestinian Arabs, as I quoted above, “focused on independence for Arab Palestine, rejection of the Balfour Declaration, support for majority rule, and ending unlimited Jewish immigration and land purchases.” Khalidi declared that, “The Palestinian leadership pursued this fruitless legalistic approach for over a decade and a half.” The people, as distinct from the elites, wanted Palestinian independence in the competition among Arab nationalism, Palestinian nationalism and local loyalties.

As for the Jews, during the twenties they continued buying up large swaths of land, much of it from absentee landlords, but many smaller parcels from Arabs eager to cash in on the inflated prices. The Zionist settlement enterprise was also supported by foreign Jewish capital. Perhaps its greatest success was the purchase of the swamps in the Jezreel Valley so that by 1925 there were 20 highly productive collective and cooperative farms in the Emek Valley.

However, the total amount of land accumulated by 1927 only amounted to 865,000 dunams or about 3.3% of the total land area of Palestine. Many of the purchases did harm the Palestinians where fedayeen were forced off the land when the absentee landlords sold out their stakes. Political and economic support from abroad was critical to the Zionist advance; in many cases, local Arabs suffered as a consequence. The Balfour Declaration was crucial to that success because Article 4 gave the Jewish Agency quasi-governmental status with wide-ranging economic and social development powers.

Though maximalist Zionists insisted that their Palestine included the land east of the Jordan to the Iraqi border, the Zionist Organization had submitted a map to the Paris Peace Conference based on King David’s kingdom that included Gaza in the south just past Rafah and went north along the coast to just north of Sidon. The map included the Golan, embraced Quneitra and ran south just west of Amman down to Aqaba. Thus, not only was the whole of the West Bank included in the envisioned national home, so was a good part of Jordan west of the Hejaz Railway that connected Maan in the south to Damascus in the north. There were already a few settlements east of the Jordan River. Further, the mandate granted to Britain in San Remo included Transjordan. Jewish ambitions rather than acquisitions frightened the Arabs.

However, Britain was an imperial power both for Arabs and Jews and drew the line between the national home for the Jewish people and the national home for Arabs in the mandate territory to run along the Jordan River. In April/May1923, a degree of independence was granted to Transjordan. Abdullah, the elder son of Hussein bin Ali, the leader of Britain’s Arab allies, was appointed as the monarch. However, Britain as an imperial power retained foreign affairs and defence as British portfolios. The Revisionist Zionists strenuously objected.

Revisionist Arab protests and counter-protests flared up and open gang conflicts erupted. The fighting that broke out in Jaffa described previously was followed by Arab attacks on Jews in Rehovot, Petah Tikvah and other Jewish towns. Like conflicts everywhere, each side had its extremists, its moderates and its bleeding hearts. Ahad Ha’am, the leader of Cultural Zionism, belonged to the last group and always pressed Jewish leaders to get inside the hearts and minds of the Arabs. Weizmann was a moderate while Ben Gurion was the greater “realist.” At the Paris Peace Conference, Weizmann had insensitively put his foot in his mouth when he opined that one day, Palestine would be as Jewish as England is English.

Across the spectrum, most Arabs pissed off the Jews and most Jews, including statesmen like Weizmann, aroused the ire of the Arabs. Revisionists did not mind ignoring and even stomping all over Arab dreams and demands. And if one looked on, it is hard to envision an escape from the zero-sum game underway. For as soon as Zionists accepted the legitimacy of Palestinian self-determination and desire to have a state where they were the clear majority, Jewish aspirations to return to their ancient homeland as a nation had to be pushed aside. As soon as Arab leaders accepted the need for Jews to have a place to go to escape persecution and no one would have them, then they too had to envision the creation of a Jewish state where the Arabs would be reduced to a minority without any national existence in their own land. The political benefits of the impasse on the Arab side went to those willing and eager to confront the other. On the Zionist side, the moderates and realists retained the leadership.

There was a fundamental difference between the two sides, as Khalidi recognized. The Zionists of all stripes were reformers and modernizers. The families that held political power in Arab society were traditionalists and believers in hierarchy. They were not liberals in either the twentieth or the nineteenth century version of that perspective. They could not envision an aristocratic empire supporting a ragtag group of Jews creating a national home in Palestine. They did not understand empires or their use of satraps. The Jews did and manipulated the great powers as much as they were used by them. This meant that the Arabs, in spite of their huge superiority in numbers, were at a severe political and international disadvantage.

But the Arabs could protest. They could fight. And fight they did. Khalidi contends that this was NOT a contest between two rights, as Weizmann claimed, but between one right – that of the Palestinians – and one wrong, that of the wish of the Jews to exercise self-determination in a place where there already was a people seeking self-determination. And that effort was backed, was aided, was advanced by the most powerful empires of the time.  

Between 1924 and 1926, 62,000 Jewish immigrants arrived in Palestine, an unprecedented number until 1932. Jews made up 18% of the country in 1926. However, land purchases by Jews and immigration were not the only irritants to the Arabs. Jewish labour practices in giving preference to Jewish labour (what Khalidi referred to as “an increasingly self-segregated Jewish economy during the 1920s”) exacerbated the differences. Displaced Arab agricultural workers added to the urban Arab unemployed.

The rage had almost a decade to build up. And when it exploded in 1929, the riots were unprecedented in Palestine in their ferocity, their scope, their duration and their damage to life and property. Disputes over Jewish access to the Western Wall resulted in small skirmishes in 1925 and 1928. Triggered by the Mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al Husseini’s incendiary propaganda, which charged the Jews with planning to seize the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Muslims feared Jewish encroachment. Jews insisted on their rights. The Grand Mufti harassed Jews at prayer with mules depositing excrement on the plaza and assigned a muezzin to blast a call for prayer to time with the most sensitive parts of the Jewish prayers. Jews insisted that the Wall was Jewish property; some went so far as promoting the building of a third temple on the Temple Mount.

In mid-August of 1929, many carrying staves for protection and led by Revisionists, Jews demonstrated at the Wailing Wall. Arab mobs attacked both Jews and their property in the Old City. From 23-29 August, 133 Jews were killed; over 200 were injured. 116 Arabs were killed; over 200 were also injured, but by British police and Jews appointed as special constables trying to protect other Jews from the rioters. In the opinion of the Shaw Commission of Inquiry, “disturbances either would not have occurred or would have been little more than a local riot” except that Arab “animosity and hostility towards the Jews” grew and magnified “consequent upon the disappointment of their [Arab] political and national aspirations and fear for their economic future.” Jewish immigrants were regarded as not only “a menace to their [Arab] livelihood but as a possible overlord of the future.”