The Trial of the Chicago 7

I told one of my daughters that I was going to write a review of this film after seeing it this past weekend and would compare my memory of what happened to the film. She emailed me that Vanity Fair had beaten me to that approach. In fact, Jordan Hoffman’s article in the 16 October issue, “The Trial of the Chicago 7: The Wildest Things the Movie Left Out” is different. I do not want to write a review about what was left out as much as about what was in the movie that seemed to be at odds with my memory. Hence, the Alert.

Aaron Sorkin wrote and directed The Trial of the Chicago 7 as well as Moneyball and a host of other films such as the 2010 film about the initiation of Facebook, The Social Network.In The Trial, he made a film about one of the momentous moments of my life, the protests at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968 and the long trial that lasted from April of 1969 to February of 1970, which both enraged me and made me cry. Sorkin turned it into a comedy, a tragic-comedy, but a comedy nevertheless. An all-too-earnest Tom Hayden, the head of The Students for Democratic Action (SDS) and author of the infamous Port Huron Statement, became the straight man for Abbie Hoffman’s stand-up comedy and satirical riffs.

Sacha Baron Cohen plays Abby as only Cohen could, as a wiseacre rather than a brilliant and insightful clown and master of the sight gag. He did offer one example of the latter. He and Rubin wore judicial robes into court. The judge ordered them to take the robes off. They did. Underneath, in the film, they reveal police badges pinned to their chests. In history, I believe they wore yellow stars. If this was the case, I do not know why Sorkin made the switch except to underplay the Jewish role in the protests and to provide a greater link with the present.

In reality, Abbie Hoffman was known as the co-founder of the Youth International Party, the Yippies, but he was also one of the progenitors of identity politics in his claim that we are constructed by the media we watch and the myths embedded in that media. At the other end of the spectrum was Rennie Davis, played by Alex Sharp, as Hayden’s owl-eyed pedantic sidekick whose notebook becomes the star of the day at the end of the trial. Did something like that happened halfway through the actual trial? I don not recall. However, putting it at the end was a great emotional way to end the movie.

I remember Rennie Davis, not as a nerd, but as a brilliant strategist and tactician who played a far more important role in writing the Port Huron Statement with Tom and in developing the practices of the American New Left. He was assigned a peripheral role in the film.

Cohen has his own sidekick, another Yippie who became a Yuppie. Jerry Rubin, played by Jeremy Strong, comes across as a naïve idealist and romantic rather than as Abbie Hoffman’s cynical but very realistic clever buddy. I understood that Strong had really immersed himself in studying the period and the character of Jerry Rubin so I cannot guarantee that my memory is correct.

The movie, while drawing on the actual transcript of the trial and the events that took place, is not a historical documentary. Certainly the horror of the American Vietnam War and the draft to enlist sufficient soldiers as fodder for that fruitless battle in Indochina provide the background, but until the very end, the Vietnam War slips well into the backroom in favour of courtroom antics that turns an institution, supposedly the repository of justice, into a theatre stage as Richard Nixon, as the hidden puppet master for a malicious prosecution, pursues revenge against dissidents. Further, we know it could not be a representation of the actual trial, which was an exercise in chaos as well as injustice, while the movie reconstructs the courtroom battle as much more of a polished and orderly affair, though with volcanic eruptions paced throughout.

The central event in Chicago was the organized attack by Mayor Daley’s “police” against the counter-cultural hippies and pro-democratic protesters trying to get their message to the attendees at the Chicago 1968 Democratic convention and the wider American public. The past is used to speak to the present – the conflicts in Minneapolis over the killing of George Floyd (“I can’t breathe”), the seemingly endless confrontations in Portland, Oregon, Jacob Blake’s killing in Kenosha, Wisconsin, Breonnna Taylor’s “execution” in Louisville, Kentucky, Ahmaud Arbery’s killing by police in Brunswick, Georgia, Rayshard Brook’s death in Atlanta, Georgia at the hands of police, Dijon Kizzee’s murder in Los Angeles, and a myriad of confrontations with “officers of the law” across America.   

These did not start in 1968. Chicago 68 was an echo fifty years after the Red Summer of Chicago 1919. Nor will they end in 2020. Nevertheless, “the times they are a changin’.” For 38 were killed in the 1919 riots. Over 500 were injured. The police turned their backs and arrested Blacks for defending themselves from their white assailants. 1968 was mainly a white affair. Bobby Seale, the co-founder of the Black Panthers, was in Chicago at most for two days during the confrontation. And his visit had nothing to do with the Yippie celebrations in the park or the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) protesters. In 2020, the demonstrators have been black and white and came from all age groups, not just youth.

However, in 1968, the property destruction of white areas, such as the Gold Coast Historic District where Michigan Avenue, the key street where the confrontations took place, terminates, had been enormous. That was largely the responsibility of the Weathermen, a radical breakaway from SDS. I never learned why Mark Rudd and John Jacobs, the founders, were never charged. For these Columbia University radicals were the real instigators of the destruction. Further, in contrast to the destruction in Chicago on rich white consumer shopping, the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1920 totally destroyed the black parts of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The perpetrators were primarily white mobs. Following the Rodney King killing by police, the 1992 Los Angeles Watts riots were a response to the acquittal of the four cops. 60 died.

In comparison, in spite of the extensive media coverage of the Chicago police brutality, their use of tear gas and clubs, relatively, it was a tame affair. This was not a credit to the police and Mayor Daley, whom Senator Abraham Ribicoff rebuked for using police as Nazi thugs, but because the protesters had been well-trained in using non-violence, even though a great deal of property destruction took place on the sides – but not by followers of the main people accused. Further, Daley had mustered 12,000 police, 2,500 National Guardsmen and 1,000 intelligence officers borrowed from the FBI and other agencies. A military corps was on standby. And there were only an estimated 5,000 protesters and counter-cultural exhibitionists. In contrast, in this past year, 14,000 people were arrested. Millions protested. Further, no mayor today would dare do what Daley did; he gave his officers orders to shoot to maim. On the other hand, in the case of the Chicago 1968 riots, 8 cops were indicted. I do not know whether they were convicted

To-day, because protesters are much better behaved, and so are most police forces, over 90% of protests have been without incident. Nevertheless, the movie speaks to the present, a present characterized by deep divisions between the democratic left and the officious and indifferent right. But in 1968, the schisms within the left were as deep or even deeper than the divide between the defenders of the Vietnam War and its critics. Only then, the presidency was occupied by a truly malevolent figure, while in the present, the occupant in that high office is an incompetent and ignorant clown full to the eyebrows with mendacity on public display everywhere. Nixon’s lies were covered up in a pretense of honesty. Donald Trump could not display honesty even if one could find a trace of it in his anatomy.

The racism and prejudice are, however, underplayed as a sideshow to the main drama, the confrontation of peace protesters with police with billie clubs, with tear gas and a total indifference to the rights of peaceful protest. The system is corrupt and the blindfold on Lady Justice comes to represent deliberate blindness rather than very carefully preserved impartiality. The period makes today’s events look like a comedy festival in which keystone conspirators threaten to kidnap the Governor of Michigan and even assassinate her. Back then, Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated. And the Yippies were the keystone anti-cops.

Sorokin succeeds in part because of the writing, in part because of the direction and mostly because he was able to attract a terrific cast. However, in the end he succeeds so well because he constructs a courtroom drama that both evokes sympathy for a bunch of characters, many of whom are personally unattractive, as collectively they subvert formal but totally inauthentic authority, each in his own way.

Other than the corrupt office of the Attorney General, which is represented by a sincere and seemingly honourable prosecuting attorney, Richard Schultz, and his silent and dishonourable boss, the central source of that inauthentic authority is a caricature, Judge Julius Hoffman, played brilliantly by Frank Langella. There is not the slightest attempt to show that he represents the rule of law as he is characterized as using his perch to bully the defendants and their attorneys. Shades of today’s Trumpian days, he is an enforcer rather than a judge, a stand-in for the Nixon administration and John Mitchell as the Attorney General playing William Barr, determined to use the Chicago 7 as exemplars in his new law and order regime.

Except for the most enraged, the most frustrated and, in the end, the most intemperate of those on trial, Bobby Seale, when the rule of law finally peaks its forehead above the theatre boards, reveals himself as the one most victimized. When he is chained up and gagged, as well as beat up by the courtroom bullies there to enforce decorum, the thin, wispy prosecuting attorney who represents the state, Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Schultz, in contrast to his appeasing boss, Thomas Foran (J.C. MacKenzie), does have his own humanity and backbone as much as he disagrees with and condemns the actions of the leaders of the protest. He moves for a mistrial in the case of Bobby Seale to the enormous consternation of the comic book judge and the trial becomes that of the Chicago 7.

I did not recall Ramsey Clark (played by Michael Keaton), who was the U.S. Attorney General under President Lyndon Johnson, taking the stand at the end of the trial and declaring that his department’s investigation of the protesters found no evidence of either a conspiracy or intent to engage in violence. And the testimony was explosive. But, of course, under the direction of Judge Julius Hoffman, the jury never heard it.

I realized that the drama did not work because it simulated events at the time, though a great many of those events were included. Nor did it work because Aaron Sorkin tried to make the characters resemble the historical figures who were on trial in 1968. They are not simulacrums, but fictional creations in their own right. They are his characters, though they bear a resemblance to actual history, but not an exact one to the historical figures.

Bobby Seale, head of the Black Panthers and played by Yaha Abdul Mateen, never had legal representation. He did have an adviser, Fred Hampton, I believe a co-founder of the Black Panthers. He is played by Kelvin Harrison. Fred was neither a lawyer nor on trial, He was assassinated by the police during the trial. He was the one who insisted that the Black Panthers keep their distance from the anarchistic and opportunistic so-called radical whites. Together, Bobby and Fred demonstrated the roots of Black Lives Matter as each complements the other. But I do not recall knowing Bobby Seale, though, of course, I knew of him. 

I did not know William Kunstler either, but I did have a powerful memory of him and it did not correspond at all to the character of the lead defence attorney in the film. William Kunstler, as I recall, was a flamboyant and thoroughly unconventional courtroom lawyer; for me, in the film he was made over into a very serious, very learned, very compelling, very clever and extremely frustrated man of the law. In real life, he was a very serious man on the board of the American Civil Liberties Union. He co-founded the Law Center for Constitutional Rights. But he was a big man. He had been a major in the army during WWII. He was a brawler. He was a rumpled mess, but a very colourful character. He was also a poet. As interesting as the character was in the movie. I barely remembered him as the guy I recalled. I heard that Jeffrey Sweet’s play, kunstler, does a far better job of depicting the real historical personality.

I knew David Dellinger from his writings in Liberation for I was a pacifist in the late fifties and early sixties, but I had never met him, though I had been at a conference with A.J. Muste and Bayard Rustin and he must have been there. I would have liked to have met him for he was a pacifist, an anarchist and an experimenter with intentional communities. He also hated bureaucracies. He was, if I recall, a down-to-earth kind of guy whom I did not recognize as the suited pacifist and demonstrator in the movie. I had liked him even though I never met him because he seemed decent, reasonable, affable and never took himself too seriously. If my memory is better than the film, where he comes across as a stuffed shirt misfit in the yippie and student protest movement of the sixties, this was perhaps the greatest misrepresentation in the film. I remember that when he became enamoured with Fidel Castro, he fell totally out of favour with me so that by 1968, I had lost respect for him. But that said more about me than him.

The only person depicted in the film that I ever met was Tom Hayden, though I had seen both Rubin and Hoffman at a demonstration. Eddie Redmayne played Tom as a very serious small “l” liberal who laughed too little and scolded too much. He played the role of the superego of the group and apparently the most intellectual, though he was wise enough in the film to understand that Hoffman was much smarter than he ever thought. I remember him as very tolerant and proud of the wide variety of personalities and positions in the New Left and never imagined him as a hectoring person. Further, he was much more playful. I think that this was the way he should have been portrayed when he let the air out of the tire of the police car.

I remember one thing about the events that stood out and which Sorkin tried to capture in Abbie Hoffman’s humour. When Judge Julius Hoffman tried to make clear that he was totally unrelated to the plaintiff, Abbie Hoffman cracked, “Dad, why hast thou forsaken me.” (The movie may have had a slightly different version, but that is the one I recall.) Later in the movie, Hoffman quotes the Gospel according to Matthew; I have no memory of that. What I recall is that he told a lot of Yiddish jokes, I believed at the time, to embarrass the judge who tried so hard to resemble a WASP. I wish I would and could have remembered more of Hoffman’s Yiddish wit.

In mid-film, when Abie Hoffman takes the stand, the judge asks him to state his name. “Abbie.” “State your last name.” “My grandfather’s name was Shaboysnakoff, but he was a Russian Jew protesting anti-Semitism, so he was assigned a name that would sound like yours.” Later in the film, Hoffman cracks, “”You are a shande für de Goyim.” (You are a disgrace to gentiles.) Hoffman then shoved the knife in. He added, “You would have served Hitler better.”

The Jewish element was ever present in real life in the whole protest movement, but only glanced at in the film. Hoffman, Rubin and Lee Weiner, 3 of the 8, were Jewish. So was the legal cohort on all Sides – Judge Hoffman, Richard Schultz, William Kunstler and Leonard Weinglass (Kunstler’s associate played by Ben Shenkman). And Mark Rudd and John Jacobs, the Columbian University radicals from the Weathermen, who were not in the film, were both Jewish. Jacobs would have been a great addition to the film given his arrogant pugnaciousness and sneering personality. It would also have accounted for the property damage in a clearer way.

I cannot even remember many of the other representations of the trial that I have seen over the years. One was a documentary. Another was a docudrama. One was a satire. And, of course, there is Woody Allen’s Bananas which I have seen twice on TV recently. I believe there may have been others. But in spite of the differences with my memory, Sorkin’s film clearly made the strongest impression on me by far.

My Selection

Keep Your Distance

Word Sonnets for Corona Times[1]

Ambivalent

In

this

crisis,

the

internet

has

become

my

best

friend

and

my

worst

enemy.

Paradox

Getting

too

close

is

now

a

crime.

Keeping

your

distance

shows

that

you

care.

Isolation

Some

succumb

to

overeating

some

escape

by

exercising

and

some

simply

deny

it’s

happening.

Time Table

The

days

flow

into

one

another.

Our

plans

evaporate.

Time

streams

seamlessly

into

uncertainty.

by

Ricky Rapaport Friesem[1]


[1] Ricky Rapaport Friesem won First Place in the 2017 Reuben Rose Memorial International Poetry Competition and was named International Senior Poet Laureate by the Amy Kitchener Foundation of America. Ricky lives in Israel. She taught me Latin at the back of the class in Harbord Collegiate. We read The Rape of Lucretius. Together.


Kipod Press 2020

Creation and the Image of God: Parashat Bereishit

Normally when one thinks of David Attenborough’s documentaries, one ponders over the wonder and beauty of this planet – whether it is the lusciousness, the extravagance, the colour, the variety under the surface of the seas in The Blue Planet: the Seas of Life (2002), a series on the natural history of the world’s oceans, or the teeming of life on earth in The Life of Mammals (2002), or the sheer beauty of this miraculous life-giving ball in the cosmological heavens in his greatest classic series, Planet Earth (2006). However, his latest documentary, Extinction: The Facts (2020), is about destruction not creation, about the threat this world faces now that will make the past five mass extinctions in the history of the world look like child’s play. Millions of species are now at risk. And the risk is man-made this time.

The current crisis of biodiversity has enormous consequences. It threatens all of life on earth, our food security and our climate and even the multiplication of more and more threatening pandemic diseases. The surprise is that the film is not simply a tale of calamity, but a story of love, a story of faith, a story of ingenuity, a story of how the creativity of man can surge forth at the last second of history and save this wondrous planet.

Make no mistake about it, we are on the verge of an apocalypse. We have to reverse the losses underway in only ten years. It is our last and only chance. However, this documentary is not a portrait of despair, but a paeon to human ingenuity and creativity. One million species of animals are now threatened with extinction according to a recent UN report as animals, as wildlife, as the fish in the seas, are pushed to the edge of oblivion. According to David Attenborough, we must find a way to put the wild back into the world.

After watching Extinction: the Facts, I wondered why the Genesis story, the story of the origins of our world, never mentions extinctions or mass destruction. Why is it only a tale of creation? Why is it a story in which God pronounces that what has been created is good?  The universe that we know of is 14 billion years old. The Earth is 4.6 billion years old. The first known life forms appeared about 3.6 billion years ago. Approximately 9/10ths of evolution took place before we have a record of mass extinctions. During the last half billion years, there have been five mass extinctions that devastated the biodiversity on the planet at that time. Each time, a very large percentage of all known living species became extinct.

 Species LossMillions of YearsCausesCharacter
Ordovician-85%440Continental DriftPlanet-wide ice age Rapid Melt
Devonian-80%375Land ColonizationOcean oxygen loss Temperature decline
Permian-96%250Volcanoes & MeteorsLoss of oxygen Extremophiles
Triassic-Jurassic-50%200Meteor Strike & VolcanoesChange in ocean PH
Cretacious-Tertiary-75%  65Asteroid ImpactRadical alteration of atmosphere

The beginning of God’s creation, the beginning of the invisible life force of creativity, moves from chaos to greater order. The periods of reversal are omitted. Why? Because it is not a history of nature but of the invisible hand of creativity. The story of destruction will come through science. The Torah is literature. This is the story of the sustenance of the world that depends on creativity.

In the beginning of God’s creating the heaven and the earth, the earth was unformed and empty of all life. Water covered the entire planet and winds swept unhindered over the surface with wild and uncontrollable storms. As I wrote above, the earth was 4.6 billion years old. But so is the sun. The earth and the sun are coterminous. Light is created on the first day. There could be no life on this planet without the sun, without its light and energy. There could also be no life without the periodicity of the darkness. The earth went round and round creating day and night. And it went around the sun creating the seasons.

The earth rose out of these waters as mountains and volcanoes. And gradually evaporation from the seas replaced the toxic gases from the volcanoes and the fire storms beneath the earth’s surface that spewed their poisons into the atmosphere. Violent molten rock withered away as water fell back to earth and hydrogen-consuming microbes grew and recirculated oxygen and carbon dioxide. From them we received vegetation. Life forms began to evolve at higher and higher levels of complexity.

But how can Chapter 14-19 on “the fourth day” witness the creation of the sun and the moon and the stars, the preconditions for the first few days. Because what we then obtain are “set times,” days and nights, seasons and years. Nature begins to stabilize and its rhythms are then set. Only then on the fifth day do we get the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea and the animals that roam the earth.

What happens then? On the sixth day (verse 26), God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” to “rule the fish in the sea, the birds of the sky” and the cattle and creeping and creepy creatures that slither across the earth. Maimonides thought that the core of humanity was reason and that God was rationality incarnate; man’s reason was the image of God’s. It was through the intellect that humans attain their religious and spiritual goals. But nowhere does the text mention reason or even thought in the first chapter of Genesis.

Rabbi Hillel and Rabbi Akiva thought that man was made in the image of God because he possesses moral decency. It is that decency that declares that the works of God are good. After all, Deuteronomy (6:18) reads, “You shall do what is right and good in the eyes of the Lord.” God’s essence is not constituted by thought let alone reason, but by deeds. But there are all kinds of deeds. If I assign a mark to a student, that is a deed. But the only deeds mentioned are acts of physical creation, of making something out of nothing, order out of that which seemed to lack order. Further, the deeds were not declared “good.” The things created are called good.

Humans are made in the image of God because they have ingenuity, they have creativity, they can bring novelty into the world. Bible scholars suggest that since man is instructed to “rule” over all of nature, this means that humans are God’s managers of life on earth. Humans, all humans, each and every individual and not only a king, are God’s viceroys and stewards. We are all equally responsible for the well-being of the biosphere. Humans have as their first and paradigmatic value the protection and nurturing of that biosphere.

Yet the earth is within cosmic seconds of total devastation. In the dialectic of desire, of envisioning and creating interacting with the duty and responsibility to sustain life, man has failed in his foremost responsibility. Life is sustenance. Life is survival. But man’s creativity and ingenuity has endangered that life. Create and sustain, not imagine and destroy – that is our duty and obligation. God is one only when the two, when desire and life dance together.  Only when the two waltz into the future can the earth be appreciated as a work of art and amazement. Only then can we wonder in awe over creation.

But we now stand on the precipice of fear. But David Attenborough says that it is not too late. Joe Biden says it is not too late. We can both live our lives and repair rather than destroy the world. Only then can we be earth’s guardian angels. Only then can we repeat the movement from chaos to order instead of order to disorder. Only then can we move from the inanimate to the animate instead of the reverse. Only then can we become our higher selves. Only then can we live in the image of God. Only then can we be partners of God in the work of creation.

Israel/Palestine: One or Two States VI. Palestinian Refugees

One of the foremost authorities on the exodus of the Palestinians, Benny Morris, tackled the One-State Two-State Conundrum in a 2009 book, One State, Two States: Resolving the Israel/Palestine Conflict. In it, he analyzed Beinart’s case for a bi-national, democratic “state of all its citizens” encompassing Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip long before Beinart shifted to that option. For Morris, this call for a utopian post-Zionist future was, in fact, a shout for the elimination of Israel. Benny opted for a two-state solution of Israel with the remnant of the West Bank handed back to Jordan. However, he did not knit together his classic study of the Palestinian refugees with such a conclusion, though he argued why peace had become impossible.

We now know that the presence of 300,000 Jewish refugees stuck in refugee camps in Europe in 1947 after WWII was an important factor in swinging world – especially European – support for an independent Jewish state in Mandatory Palestine. What was the effect of 720,000 Palestinian refugees who fled or were forced to flee Palestine during the Zionist War of Independence?

Further, there is the question of why the issue of the Jewish refugees was so critical to the Zionist enterprise. That is easy to answer; the core of the Zionist enterprise was the ingathering of exiles from the diaspora. The more Jews killed in Europe, the more important it became to bring, not only the remnant to Israel, but Jews from the rest of the world. Jewish refugees were thus a resource as well as part of a propaganda campaign.

Those refugees played a third role. They injected a secular drive and ambition into the ancient group of Jewish inhabitants of Palestine. As migrants, they were both more dynamic, more motivated and brought with them a network of skills and contacts invaluable to Israel becoming an enterprising state. Fourth, they provided an image of how a defeated, dispersed people, how Oliver Twist’s Fagin, “a very old shrivelled Jew whose villainous looking and repulsive face,”  could be transformed into a sabra – a healthy, good looking, proud but modest new Jew who would contrast with the widely spread Shylock caricature.

In the case of the Palestinian refugees, how did the numbers of refugees affect world opinion? After all, they made up two-and-a-half times the number of Jewish refugees. And it was just a year after the Jewish refugees plucked the heartstrings of the world.  Further, what relationship did the Palestinian refugees have to the core of the Palestine enterprise – creating a self-governing sovereign state in all of mandatory Palestine? In addition to the role they played in Palestinian ideology, what contrasting iconography emerged from the Palestinian refugee representation?

The surviving Jews of Europe moving to the new Zionist state were a necessity to fulfill Zionist goals. Palestinian refugee return would follow rather than be a condition of self-determination; the defeat of the Jews was a prerequisite. Thus, all the Arab countries supported Palestinian self-determination and retaining Palestinian refugees as a reserve army for that return and conquest. With the exception of Transjordan (secretly), those countries would not accept the creation of a Jewish state of whatever size in Palestine. Nor would they permit Jewish immigration into the territory if they won control. These were two key causes of the outbreak of the war between the Jews and the Arabs in Palestine and included in the core ideological position – an unwillingness to accept a Jewish national presence in Arab land. The Arabs rejected the vote of the General Assembly to partition Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state and invaded Israel.

The Zionist appeal relied on the fact that the Jewish refugees had nowhere else to go. Countries would not admit these aliens. However, the world was turned off when Arab states, with the exception of Jordan, refused to accept and integrate their cousins. If Zionist ideology at its core was based on the ingathering of exiles, Palestinian ideology was founded on the expulsion of the Jews, the same Jews to whom the world had given its sympathies, those Jews who arrived in Palestine in the twentieth century under the Zionist banner.  

While the Jews brought to Palestine offered energy, new ideas and ambition to the enterprise of building a Jewish state, the Palestinian refugees were rejected as a valuable human resource to build the strength of other Arab nations. While the iconography of the Zionists transformed Jewish shleppers into sabras, the iconography of the Palestinians transformed hard working yeomen into welfare dependents. Such a posture alienated a good part of the world. When the Arabs lost the war and the Palestinians became refugees themselves, many in the rest of the world, underneath their breath of course, thought of this as hubris.

No wonder the war for Israelis was called the War of Independence (Milkhemet Ha’Atzma’ut) – they won their war against both the British and the Arabs. As the British were leaving, five Arab countries invaded on 16 May 1948. In the process of fighting, the Jews considerably increased the amount of land they controlled after the war from that allocated in the UN Partition Resolution. In Arabic, the war is called the Nakba, the Catastrophe, primarily because of the refugees that resulted as well as the territory lost to the Jews. An estimated 400 Arab towns and villages were depopulated and part of the Arab population in the large cities, such as in Haifa, Acre and Jaffa, fled or were forced to flee.

Left out of many if not most encyclopedia accounts are Armenians and Greek Orthodox resident in the Mandate who were displaced. More significantly for public relations purposes, there were the 37,500 Jewish Palestine refugees from the parts of Mandatory Palestine occupied by Transjordan. While 120,000 Palestinians remained in Jewish territory, every single Jew was ethnically cleansed from Hebron, Gush Etzion and the old City of Jerusalem. Further, they were absorbed and reestablished in Israel. With the exception of Transjordan’s actions, this did not happen to the Palestinian refugees.

Furthermore, most of the Palestinian refugees were in literal terms “displaced persons” and not technically refugees, just as the 37,500 Palestine Jews were, for they fled or were forced to flee from one part of Mandatory Palestine to another part. A large number fled to Transjordan. A much smaller number fled to Egypt, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. 120,000, almost 15% of the pre-war Palestinian population, remained in what became Israel. Many of them were internally displaced. That means that the 1,400,000 Palestinian residents of Mandatory Palestine were now scattered as follows:

Remaining in Israel                                                                  120,000

Fled or forced to flee                                                                 720,000   840,000

Transjordan                                                                                             660,000

                                                                                                               1,400,00

The timing of the departure of the 720,000 varied[1]:

5% elites left before war broke out (most to Egypt)            36,000

          Others who left before war broke out                              260,000

          Forced to flee                                                                  336,000

          Left out of fear or encouraged to leave                               88,000

Total                                                                                        720,000

Thus, almost half the refugees were forced out of or intimidated to leave their homes. Where did all the refugees go? That is hard to tell with any exactitude since, by the time the United Nations Relief Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) was organized, the number registered as refugees by UNRWA was 914,000, a number inflated by duplicate registrations and failing to record deaths. Inflated numbers are a constant in refugee movements as additional ration cards provide a major source of currency needed for survival and also benefit members of the destitute local population who move into refugee camps to benefit from the housing and sustenance provided.

Israel estimated those numbers as 560,000 to 600,000 at the end of the war, but then an additional 40,000 fled as Arab villages were depopulated. Even that number was too low.[2] The best study of numbers among many was by the anthropologist, Janet Abu Lughod, whose calculations became a widespread reference, namely 775,000 Palestine refugees.[3] These numbers include Jews, reducing the total to 737,500 Palestinians. When we did our work for the Multilateral Working Group on Refugees in the early 1990s, we revised the figure to 720,000 Palestinian refugees.

One year before UNRWA was established and just after Count Folk Bernadotte, the UN mediator, was assassinated by Lehi, Shamir’s extremist group, Resolution 194 was passed by the United Nations General Assembly on 11 December 1948. “Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.” Were the invading armies not primarily responsible? Or was it the Israeli armed forces which forced so many to flee? Transjordan, which had annexed the West Bank and Jerusalem, did not permit the Jewish refugees to return nor were they compensated for their losses.

Israel offered to permit up to 100,000 refugees to return in a joint Arab-Israel statement at the Lausanne Peace Conference on 12 May 1949, but that number included the 40,000 who had already infiltrated back to their homes. The remainder of Palestinian refugee were to be allowed admission on humanitarian grounds. Israel expected the rest to be resettled in various Arab countries. After all, the Jewish Palestine refugees from Arab captured territories, approximately 700,000, were resettled and integrated into Israel.

Note the wording of the resolution and the interpretations at the time confirmed by the debate. The resolution was not mandatory for two reasons. The General Assembly could not pass resolutions which member states were obligated to implement. Second, the resolution was moral as it read “should” not “must”. Further, there was a conditional clause – it applied only to: a) refugees wishing to return (and, therefore, live under Israeli governmental authority), and b) provided they were willing to live at peace “with their neighbours.” For many in the international diplomatic world, this meant, “provided the Arab states were willing to live at peace.” Or was the reference just to the individual families and their physical neighbours next door? [This is a clear example of diplomatic equivocation.]

The Arab states were not willing to live in peace with Israel; the conflict continued through guerilla raids. Finally, the bulk of Article 11 of the resolution referred to the alternative – that if the refugees did not wish to return or were not permitted to do so, they should be paid compensation.

That resolution has been successively been endorsed year after since. In the 1960s, two changes took place. The Resolution was interpreted to include children born in the camps and then later all the descendants of refugees. Second, as the vision of an immediate reconquest faded, the resolution began to be interpreted as the refugees enjoying a right of return. This has remained the case until the present as a main point of disputation in the refugee talks, even though no other refugees enjoy such a right and, even if they did, no refugees have returned as a matter of right. They have returned at the sufferance of the state (e.g. Vietnam for a small number of refugees) or, alternatively, they have returned with a victorious army. (The Tutsi refugees returned to Rwanda in 1994 after the genocidaires were defeated.)[4]

UNRWA differed from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) created in 1952; the latter was a protection agency. UNRWA was established on the old model of refugee movements to provide food, shelter and health services to the refugees that were housed in camps. Therefore, it was never used to provide aid to the Jewish Palestine refugees, only Palestinians. Further, the mandate included “refugees who were just displaced persons,” that is “persons whose normal place of residence was Palestine during the period 1 June 1946 to 15 May 1948 and who lost both home and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 conflict.” Unlike UNHCR refugees, they did not have to cross a border to be a refugee.

UNRWA was initially envisioned as a development and settlement agency that would undertake large infrastructure programs – for example a hydro-electric plant in Iraq modelled on the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) that would make deserts bloom, reclaim land and provide housing and employment for refugees. In the very first few years, it became evident that Arab governments would not cooperate with UNRWA to accomplish such a task. They insisted on return only. Stymied, by the end of the fifties. UNRWA initiated a new direction and developed as an educational organization. Currently, there are now 30,000 employees, the vast majority of whom are teachers. That is why it is unfair to compare UNRWA to UNHCR established in 1952 that even currently has only 20,000 employees serving 80 million refugees.

It is only when the ideology of UNRWA turned to a “rights” platform that it gained resilience, even though the right was not about a government not torturing its citizens. Convention refugees, with whom UNHCR dealt, had a right to flee and claim the protection of another state. Palestinians demanded a right to return with the intention of creating their own state.

By 1952, King Hussein had annexed the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem. Refugees that had settled in urban areas as well as the majority in refugee camps both within Jordan and in the West Bank were given citizenship. That means that if the UNHCR definition had been used, these refugees would no longer be listed as such. That means, the bulk of the remaining refugees in Gaza were displaced persons. Only the smaller numbers of refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq and those elites from the early exodus living primarily in Egypt could possibly qualify as Convention refugees.

Israel insisted that it would allow at most 100,000 refugees to return under the auspices of family reunification. It would never accept a right of return. The Palestinians insisted on a right of return for all refugees unless they agreed to compensation. Israel insisted that compensation for Palestinian refugees was negotiable provided that parallel talks and actions took place with respect to the 750,000 Jewish refugees forced to flee from Arab lands.   

The two positions were never reconciled. The right of return became a sacred mantra of the Palestinian movement. Resurrecting it for the Israelis was a clear red line not to be crossed even as discussions on how compensation could be handled proceeded amicably. This division between the two positions grew into a chasm.


[1] Benny Morris (1988) The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949. In 2004, Benny subsequently published a revised edition (Revisited) that included more detailed depictions of the destruction of the Arab urban populations in Haifa and Jaffa.

[2] At the time of the Lebanon War in 1982, Oxford International (Great Britain) issued a figure of 600,000 made homeless by the Palestinian invasion. Israel issued a figure of approximately 22,000 from Southern Lebanon. The Israeli report had made an addition error of 10,000 and missed counting 8,000 refugees who lost their homes. Israeli government estimates have tended to err on the lower side.

[3] “The Demographic Transformation of Palestine, Transformation of Palestine (1971) 139-163. A figure of 757,500 Palestine refugees (as distinct from Palestinian refugees) includes 37,500 Jews displaced from Gaza, the West Bank and the Old City of Jerusalem.

[4] Howard Adelman and Elazar Barkan (2011) No Return, No Refuge: Rites and Rights in Minority Repatriation.

Israel/Palestine One or Two States V. The One State Solution – Economics and Politics

On the surface, Donald Trump’s Deal of the Century is a two-state solution with a very slimmed down Palestinian state.[1] It reminds an onlooker of the very slimmed down Zionist state recommended in the 1938 Woodhead Report. The Trump solution is more akin to an inverted image of the Jewish state proposed in 1938. Instead of a Jewish sliver along the Mediterranean coast, there would be a Palestinian sliver in the Judean hills with much more convoluted borders and a multiplicity of enclaves (15). Further, instead of restrictions on Jewish immigration, the right of return would be abrogated. Instead of the restrictions on land purchases, Israel would have the right to annex the Jordan valley. Other impositions restrict sovereignty and self-determination in both cases.

Just as the Zionists grew more and more frustrated and more and more upset by successive British proposals that reduced their share of the Mandate, it should be no surprise that the Palestinians responded in the same way in 2020 to the shrinking successive offers. One conclusion that Palestinians draw is that, “The time has come to rethink the goals of Palestinian liberation in a way that focuses on ending the colonial regime rather than partitioning the land.” (Munir Nuseibah) In other words, a one-state binational solution serving all its citizens.

Randa Wahbe argues that, “Palestinians deserve more than the scraps at the bottom of the barrel of human rights discourses or international treaties that maintain a world order that refuses to decolonize. This is a golden opportunity for the Palestinian community in the United States to rise up together, become a collective community, and capitalize on its strength to revitalize the demands for the right of return and freedom.” Wahbe supports a two-state solution and a revolution to achieve it. The goal includes the whole of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem in Palestinian hands as well as the right of all Palestinian refugees to return to their land and homes in Israel.

These are the two extremes. One is a Beinart utopian one state solution. The other is a radical revisionist two-state solution that totally ignores facts on the ground. Neither the utopian unitary state proposal nor the hardline Palestinian two-state proposal attend to the long history of One and Two State proposals over the long history of this One Hundred Years War.  I want to start with the situation as it exists now and then go back to the War of Independence and the al-Nakba (the disaster of 1948) to see how we got from there to here. At each key moment I will survey a different theme. Following the contemporary analysis of this blog, I revert to: 1) 1949 and the proposed solutions for the  Palestinian refugees in 1967 following the War of Independence; 2) the Allon Plan following the Six Day War of 1967 and the issue of settlements and borders; 3) the Oslo Accords of 1993 and 1995 and the problem of sovereignty.

We now have a de facto One-State system that by no stretch of the imagination can be called a solution – for either side. Yet, in some sense, it is the fulfillment of the Balfour Declaration which envisioned a Jewish Homeland in the Mandate, but one which respected the civil and religious rights of the Arabs living in Palestine. There was no provision for political rights. In the current situation, the issue of civil rights leaves a great deal to be desired. However, there are at least some political rights, both in Gaza and particularly in Area A (18%) of the West Bank where the Palestinian Authority (PA) exercises administrative control as well as domestic security. But there is no real democracy as the fullest expression of rights and self-determination.

This is particularly true in the arena of finance. Palestine is a welfare dependency of the world. 70% of the PA budget comes from aid. Though much exaggerated and simplified, nevertheless the familiar formula sums up the situation as Palestinians perceive it: the U.S. decides, the World Bank leads, the EU pays, the UN feeds and Israel destroys. (Alaa Tartir) Is there any wonder there is so much waste? Is there any wonder there is so much bureaucracy? Is there any wonder there is now so much donor fatigue?

All this has been enormously complicated by the actions of Trump. Between 1994 and 2017, America provided $5.2 billion in aid. In addition to cancelling the American contribution to UNRWA (more on this in the next blog), the current regime signed the 2018 Taylor Force Act in March that cut off one-third of American assistance to the PA as long as parts of the budget were being used to “reward” terrorists by paying their families when the “terrorists” were killed or imprisoned by Israel. Approximately $200 million in aid was cut.

In the first seven months of 2020, Ramallah’s total revenues plummeted 70% and aid fell from $500 million to $255 million on top of these previous cuts. In 2020, funding from Arab countries dropped by an enormous 85%, from $267 million to $38 million, signaling an ensuing shift in foreign policy by the Gulf states that openly took place this past summer.

Although the EU pays half the bills of the PA, the Arab burden is much less and very unevenly distributed among the Arab states. While the UAE gave $130 million, it was almost all in 2012 and 2013. In 2020, the UAE resumed a bit of aid for the Palestinians to help the PA wrestle with the COVID-19 crisis. But the aid was in goods not in cash. Interesting enough, months before the Abraham Accords were announced, that aid was delivered on the first direct cargo flight from Abu Dhabi to Tel Aviv. On the other hand, Algeria has given over $280 million. Saudi Arabia’s contribution totaled $1.5 billion.

Aside from welfare dependency, there is a huge chasm between Palestinian and Israeli GDP. On top of a GNP that reached $36,150, capital formation that was a whopping $70,400, the Israeli GDP per capita totaled almost $35,300 at its peak, almost as much as that of Japan ($37,900) and South Korea (just below $38,500) and within striking distance of that of Saudi Arabia ($40,500). Jordan’s, by contrast, is just over $10,000. Palestine’s is $2,560.  

Why is this the case when the Oslo Accords were supposed to open the gates of investment in Palestine? Why is this the case when the Oslo Accords did just that. From 1993 to today, 40 billion dollars from donors went into the Palestinian economy. Palestine is the top recipient of non-military aid in the world. Why has it not been much more successful economically?

There are many possible explanations:

  1. Donors have hamstrung the creative use of that capital.
  2. The PA has not used the funds for constructive purposes but mainly for bureaucratic government salaries and for construction of buildings. Neither is a significant source of economic productivity. The PA has the wrong priorities.
  3. The PA is corrupt.
  4. Israel has sabotaged and undermined the ability of Palestine to develop a more productive and self-sufficient economy.
  5. The second intifada and ongoing low-level conflict have seriously damaged the economy and the prospects for investment.

With the donors’ agreement, three-quarters of incoming donor funds have come in to pay for a puffed-up bureaucracy rich with nepotism, a system where jobs go to family members or someone from one’s own tribe. Three-quarters of incoming funds have gone to the PA, much of it for public sector jobs and the creation and continuation of clientelism.

Last week (8 October 2020), the EU informed the PA that it will not advance any more funds until Ramallah accepts the tax revenues collected by Israel, tax revenues which Abbas refused to accept since May when it formally renounced cooperation with the State of Israel in response to Netanyahu’s announcement that Israeli law will be extended to Area C. Egypt and Jordan also insisted that the PA resume accepting the excise taxes that Israel collects on behalf of the PA.

Thus, the problem is not only economic. There are enormous pressures on the independence of a Palestinian political program, especially in relation to Israel. What would Palestine have to do if it wanted to free itself from this dependency and Israel’s veto power, especially since Israel has a voice along with the EU and the PA on the use of such funds?

In every single report over the last hundred years dealing with the Palestine problem, the premise has been stated and repeated: growth and development depends on the good will of both parties (the Jews and Arabs). But occupation by its very nature undercuts good will in favour of suspicion and distrust. Further, the situation is exacerbated because the two conflicting parties are each yoked to one or the other leg of the donor.

There is another important dimension to the whole system. Israel is a major beneficiary of Palestinian donor funds. Though those monies flow through the PA, in addition to paying salaries, the monies are used to purchase goods, much of those purchases from Israel. If the PA wanted to develop its economy by means of import substitution – growing its own tomatoes and cucumbers for example – that clearly would hurt the Israeli economy. Israel is in a position to veto the use of donor money to build the infrastructure necessary to foster import substitution through home-grown production.

Israel controls the Palestine economy in another way. For a number of years, the use of Palestine labour in Israel was cut off as a terrorist prevention measure and Israel began to bring in guest workers from Asia. That system has been reversed. Israel now brings in 120,000 to 150,000 Palestinian workers per day. If Palestinians contemplate returning to the use of force to advance their cause, the loss of these jobs and the remittances transferred back to Palestine are a huge disincentive, particularly so since the unemployment rate in Gaza is 50% greater than the unemployment rate in the West Bank, 60% versus 40%. Further, this high unemployment rate is itself a huge pacification incentive.

And look at the type of employment encouraged and created by such development aid. The aid development paradox is a result. Palestine gains upward economic mobility of development professionals while perpetuating a state of poverty among the recipients of development aid. This is on top of the micro-macro paradox of development aid. As economists have discovered, there is no significant correlation between aid and growth, between the growth in aid and the growth in GDP. In fact, there is the suggestion that an inverse correlation may exist. The more aid, the greater the downward pressure on the measures for economic growth. Yet development agencies and donor countries always boast of the enormous success of their aid.  

Then there are the payments for utilities – for electricity and water. If Palestine wanted to use donor money to build an electricity plant to escape the dependency on Israel and become more self-reliant, Israel is in a position to place obstacles in the way because of the tripartite control over the use of such funds. At the same time, a two-year-old agreement between Israel and Palestine to settle old Palestinian debts for electricity and set up a mechanism for future payments unraveled. The Israel Electric Corporation was carrying a debt of almost a million shekels or a quarter million dollars. Further, according to some estimates, Israel controls and uses 80% of the water from aquifers, another source of leverage.

What about Palestine moving away from its dependency on foreign governments by enhancing the prospects for public-private sector partnerships? There have been joint industrial parks (over 50) on the borders between Palestine and Israel so workers from Palestine no longer have to cross a security barrier. There are even joint enterprises by a few settlements and surrounding Arab villages. This started in the agricultural sector. Funded by the EU, an experimental program began in 2018 that Kibbutz Mizra in the Galilee to nurture joint Israeli-Palestinian agro-businesses. There was already a joint olive oil marketing project.[2]

Does not the above, taken altogether, suggest that Palestine has a similar status to a colony in relationship to Israel, and this without even considering Israel’s security control over Area B in the West Bank (22%) and both security and administrative control over Area C (60%), the largest part of the West Bank? Thus, the problems between Israel and Palestine go much deeper than settlements and disputes over the status of Jerusalem. They are problems of economic independence as well as political self-determination.

ADDENDUM – The Political Implications of Dependency

The Palestinian Authority (PA) as well as the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) face a legitimacy crisis, not only because of the absence of transparency, accountability and popular participation in democratic practices and institutions, but also because of mismanagement of the economy and a continuing colonial dependency. However, it also has a very problematic relationship with its largest donor.

Palestine is enormously dependent on Europe for advancing its political program. One-third of the EU members recognize Palestine as an independent political entity and most members of the EU have diplomatic exchanges with Palestine, all in accordance with the 1999 Berlin Declaration. The large amount of money and the tripartite decision-making structure gives Europe control over capital infusion into the economy, a significant leverage over Palestine. The latter is very susceptible to political pressure.

The recognition of Palestinians as a people, the promotion of Palestine as a homeland for that people, the refusal of the EU to recognize any changes in the Green Line as the border for Palestine without Palestinian consent, the dubbing of Israeli settlements under international as illegal, the condemnation of Israel whenever that country resorts to force to punish Palestine for acts of terrorism committed by its “citizens” – dubbed a form of collective punishment – all these political issues have significant political costs in terms of the strength of donor leverage.

Those costs are born both by Palestine and the EU. For Palestine, in some perverse way, the economic power reinforces the image and status of Palestine as a colony and even as a colony of Israel. At the same time, the trade-off has reduced rather than increased the power of the Palestinian people. For it helps to freeze the options available. When the largest donor, the EU in 2009, endorsed a policy of pursuing a two-state solution and a refusal to recognize any border changes, including the annexation of East Jerusalem by Israel, at once the Palestinian political and diplomatic position and resistance to compromise was reinforced at the same time as its substantive independence, particularly its economic independence, was reduced. Thus, an irony, increasingly Palestinians were dressed in a strait jacket reinforcing reification of its political position just when maximum flexibility was needed.

The EU then held out the attraction of fuller recognition on condition of Palestine resuming negotiations with Israel, which already had so much leverage. Thus, added to its frozen negotiation position was a need to assert its independence in the face of such pressure.

This position had another repercussion – on the EU itself. It weakened the EU as its own leverage over Palestine increased. For splits over Palestinian policy reverberated into splits in Europe over that policy, thereby undercutting the EU’s role as a mediator. By the time we got to 2020, Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn described the hopes for a two-state solution as “being dismantled piece by piece, day after day,” and called for the EU to recognize Palestine as a state without recognizing how this freezing of positions reinforced that very propensity.


[1] en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trump_peace_plan#:~:text=The%20Trump%20Peace%20Plan%20i

[2] Of course, by far the largest and most ambitious area of economic cooperation is the Red-Dead Project of Jordan and Israel to build a canal from the Red to the Dead Sea. It still creeps along.

Palestine – Two States. Part II:

From Peel (1937) to the Woodhead Report (1938)

A Jewish Agency memorandum of 30 April 1936 stated that there were 450,000 Jews in Palestine who made up 29.8%. The 1937 Peel Report noted that, according to the census of 1922, the Jewish population had grown from 13% to nearly 30% by the end of 1936. In part of Palestine, 400,000 Jews already lived in their National Home with an infrastructure that was suited to a small country. “Half a loaf is better than no bread,” was the Peel refrain as it supported partition “for two vastly different communities.” An eastern portion just west of the Jordan River (just over 77%) was to be ceded to Transjordan with some million Palestinian Arab residents.

The 30% of Jews in Mandatory Palestine would receive 17% of the land, about 4% of the original entire area of Palestine under the Ottomans. The area of the Jewish State would include the Galilee, Haifa and the Carmel, and most of the Mediterranean coast from Ashdod to Rosh Hanikrah. The two states would sign treaties with the British government and eventually join the League of Nations as sovereign states.

The holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem would be connected by a narrow corridor through the towns of Lydda (Lod) and Ramle to the Jaffa coast. There would be a special perpetual Mandate for this area to ensure that the sanctity of Jerusalem and Bethlehem remained inviolate and that safe access be provided to the Holy Places for the whole world. The treatment of the two populations would be equal[1] even though Jews were not allocated territory in proportion to their population.

This was really a three-state solution, 17% Jewish, 6% a British perpetual protectorate and 77% Arab. Jews would enjoy a small independent Jewish state along the Mediterranean coast protected by Britain. A British mandate would cover the religious sites linking to the coast – the Enclave. The remaining largest eastern part, west of the Jordan River, would eventually be annexed to Transjordan. The Peel Commission established the precedent that land settled by Jews would become part of a future Jewish state while most of the rest became part of an Arab state. A third portion, an Enclave with religious sites, would remain a de facto colony.[2] The Peel recommendations were sent to the League of Nations where they were approved.

The Woodhead Palestine Partition Commission (1938) was a technical body set up by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to determine the practicality of the Peel Commission proposals and was instructed to develop an implementation program with borders, an economic and financial plan.[3] It made a number of changes to the Peel Commission Report. The principle with respect to the promised Jewish state seemed to be, “What is given with one hand is taken back by the other.” A number of applied changes indicated that a primary objective of the Report was “to protect British future interests by securing military positions and access to resources, even though the result almost split the area assigned to the Jewish state in two.” “If the Mandatory is to be entrusted with the protection of the Holy Places, it was essential that the Enclave should have boundaries which were capable of being defended.”

For example, the following changes were made to the territory of the Enclave which would have a population of 211,400 made up of both Jews and Arabs:

  • Extending the northern boundary of the religious mandate, designated as the Enclave, from between Jerusalem and Ramallah to north of Ramallah to satisfy defence needs, specifically to make room for a landing strip at Qalandiya, to include the Ramallah-Latrun Road “as a necessary line of military communication,” and to embrace the Ramallah broadcasting station;
  • Further, in response to Christian sentiment, the Enclave would also be expanded to include Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee with control of the tributaries and waters of Lake Tiberias;
  • Because of past strife between Arabs and Jews, more particularly between the Arabs of Jaffa and the Jews of Tel Aviv, specifically along the irregular demarcation line between the two municipalities, a narrow straight road protected from access by iron railings from either the Jewish or the Arab state would be built between the two cities and would be owned by both states but protected by the Enclave;
  • Because of the need to ensure the water supply, the villages of Shuqba, Qibya, Budrus, Ni’ilin and Deir Qaddis were added to the religious Mandate;
  • Excise from the Jewish state the Arab villages of Salama, Al Kheiriya, Saqiya, Kafr Ana, and Al Yahudiya and to be added to the Enclave;
  • The southern border of the Enclave was extended to include the military cantonments at Sarafand and the projected Royal Air Force base at Aqir;
  • The strip between Jaffa and Bat Yam connecting the Enclave to the sea would be replaced by a wider, and more useful and defensible, strip by making the southern boundary of the Enclave much wider along the northern border of Rishon le Ziyon;
  • To make it even function for military purposes, the Mandatory Power was to be given the right to enter and use the area on the Jewish side of the corridor for military purposes in case of an emergency;
  • Military ranges would be provided by the Jewish state on its territory;
  • In addition to the above use rights, the Jewish state would also provide the Enclave with military entry rights to connect to the sea as far as the Wadi Rubin.

Does this not all sound very familiar with respect to negotiations over the West Bank currently, except the current proposed exchanges gave more land and population to Israel. To draw a straight boundary would entail exchanges of population and territories, such as assigning the Karton Quarter, a salient projected into Tel Aviv, to the Jewish state; the total population involved in the exchanges would be 15,700 Jews and 2,000 Arabs transferred from Jaffa to Tel Aviv and 5,400 Jews transferred from Tel Aviv to Jaffa.

The pattern of taking land away from the Jewish state and allocating it elsewhere was certainly not a constant. For example, in the case of the Triangle of Settlements  (Jewish), that included Dagania A, Dagania B, Kfar Gun, Afiqim, and Dalhamiya, where over 50% of the land between Lake Tiberias and the Jordan River was owned by Jews, Woodhead recommended their attachment to the Jewish state.

There are too many other changes to the boundaries between the proposed Jewish and Arab states to list them here. The primary determinant of the proposed boundaries was British interests and neither Jewish nor Palestinian interests. Compared to the Peel Commission, Jews were the major losers. Thus, for example, instead of including the Arabs of Tulkarm in the Jewish state into which it projected, because the railway from the south to Haifa passed through the town, the Commission recommended Tulkarm be part of the Arab state and 100,000 pounds be expended to move the rail lines.

To what extent did economics and demography affect its decisions? These issues are not just important for recounting the historical record; they will inform the current economic relationship between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank. At that time, the Arab birth-rate was very high. For an agricultural population living largely off the land, the death-rate was unusually low. The Commission attributed this situation to the Arab population feeding off the benefits of a much more developed and urban Jewish population “under an enlightened modern administration with the necessary funds at its disposal to enable it to serve a population unable to help itself…except through the appropriation of tax-revenue contributed by the Jews.” (p. 24)

The Report, used the assumption of absorptive capacity, namely that a population should be proportionate to the agricultural yield from an area needed to support that population. Otherwise “the land under cultivation by the much larger Arab population of 1937 compared to 1922 is insufficient to support the same percentage of the total Arab population.” The Commission argued that the Jews were responsible for enabling the large growth of the Arab population by 360,000, even though the cultivatable land available to them had been reduced as a result of Jewish purchases of land. Further, the Jews had also significantly increased the area of cultivatable land. As the Peel Report had previously described the situation, “it is thus clear that nearly a quarter of the (ARAB) agriculturalists would be unable to maintain their present standard of life.”

In terms of economic development, the Report also declared that employment (of Arabs) in the towns as well as on agricultural land will be intensified because “capital is only likely to be invested by Jews.” (p. 30) That investment can be used to increase yields partially through improved irrigation and agricultural intensification. The Report, as I said, reflected the ideas of “absorptive capacity” extant at the time. “Neither of these two things can be brought about without the assistance of Jewish taxable capacity and Jewish capital.” “Arabs in Palestine would be faced with the prospect of greater economic hardship if Jewish immigration should be completely closed down.” Economic conditions among Arabs are “closely bound up with Jewish immigration, both actual and prospective.”

At the end of May 1937, Jews owned 7% of the land. “The amount of land in the Arab state is very small, being about 92,000 dunams, including the Jewish land in Beersheba sub-district which was as large as the whole rest of Palestine but where the water in wells was too saline and the amount that fell as rainfall was too little to support agriculture.” The situation was even worse in the Jordan Valley except for about 10,000 dunams plus land irrigated by perennial streams – up to 20,000 additional dunams. The amount of Arab land in the Jewish State was “very large, about 3,854,000 dunams, as compared with about 1,140,000 dunams of Jewish land.” (p. 51) Given the percentage of the Arab population and the land owned by Arabs, the division into two states would necessarily be asymmetric with the largest part of the territory going into Arab hands.

The Report also considered the “voluntary” exchange of populations between the two prospective states, the Jewish state and Transjordan, for the British government had rejected the recommendation of compulsory transfer in the Peel Report. However, the Woodbridge Report found little prospect of voluntary exchanges of land and populations, especially since Jews owned such a tiny proportion of the land in the Arab state.

The prospect of water canals and other innovations were examined with some promise, but the basic conclusion was the limited absorptive capacity of the land. For example, Hebron with an existing population of 38,000 supported by agriculture, almost all Arabs, but cultivatable land was only able to support less than half the population – 16,500. Except for areas like Gaza and the Beisan Plain, improvements in agricultural techniques would help, but only marginally.

The Report also examined the Jewish claim to Jerusalem and examined the possibility of connecting the Jewish parts in western Jerusalem (71,000 of the 74,500 population) by means of a narrow corridor to the Jewish areas on the plains. Since the area includes Christian churches, hospitals and schools, a monastery, an orphanage and the British war cemetery, as well as the main road from Jerusalem to the Maritime Plain, the Report concluded partition of Jerusalem would be an administrative nightmare, that is, “administrative problems of great complexity” related to the maintenance of law and order, division of custom duties, division of water.

Jerusalem would be part of the Enclave. The goal linking Jerusalem to the Jewish state along the Mediterranean Sea was not impossible, as the outcome of the War of Independence indicated, but, according to the Commission, it could only be accomplished provided “reliance could be placed on the mutual goodwill and cooperation of the two adjoining communities.” The authors were very pessimistic that this could be accomplished (p. 74) and concluded that political and religious objections to the Jewish claims were insuperable. “Moslems throughout the world would be most vehemently opposed to the inclusion of any part of Jerusalem in the Jewish State” and “would regard the establishment of a Jewish State overlooking the Moslem Holy Places as the first step towards the ultimate absorption of the Old City by the Jews.” This would inevitably lead to disorders of most Moslems throughout the world who would most vehemently oppose the inclusion of any part of Jerusalem in the Jewish State.

The outbreak of violence on 23 August 1928 as detailed in the Shaw Commission Report offered a case in point. “We are convinced that the dominant desire of the whole body of Christians would be to preserve the peace of Jerusalem and to safeguard the Holy City from any change which threatened to provoke hatred and bloodshed within its walls or in their neighbourhood.” (Para. 172) “The unique character of Jerusalem as the object of affection and veneration of the adherents of three of the great religions of mankind must be recognized by its retention in trust for the world under Mandatory Government.” (p. 80)

The Report concluded that only the central section would be partitioned and be given independence immediately; limited Jewish immigration would be permitted into the Enclave provided that the rights and interests of the existing inhabitants were respected. In sum, the obligations assumed by the Balfour declaration actually shrunk with each inquiry and report – the Shaw Commission, the Peel Commission and the Wedgewood Commission. As far as the Arabs were concerned, the Wedgewood Commission felt that it had assuaged their fears of Jewish economic and political domination and the blockage to a route to independence in the future.  

Then there came this surprising self-appraisal of their proposed Plan C, parts of which were sketched above. Plan C “presents a fresh opportunity to carry out on a smaller scale (my italics) and, as we trust, in a more favourable atmosphere than ever before, the experiment, which the original framers of the Balfour Declaration must surely have had in mind, of seeking to build up, by joint efforts of both Jews and Arabs, a single state in which the two races may ultimately learn to live and work together as fellow-citizens.” Partition had become an interim stage. In other words, a One State solution may arise from the partition proposal. This was the culmination of the series of reports from the 1930s on that kept shrinking the amount handed over for an independent Jewish state. For a report that repeatedly cited the animosity between the two groups, most emphatically the animosity of the Arabs towards the Jews, such a hope appears as a piece of ironic black humour.

The real result had to be an increased distrust by the Arabs of the British, for they were not given their independence, the toehold of the Jews in Palestine was widened and the increase in economic domination was virtually guaranteed. Zionists had to be infuriated because, though they received an independent Jewish state, it was a sliver of what had originally been promised and was even smaller than the proposal of the Peel Commission a year earlier.

The Zionist Jews would never again trust the British to assist them to achieve their aims. The sale of Arab land to Jews in the northern Mandate and the religious Enclave (Jerusalem, etc.) was prohibited. The rest of the report was spin. For example, restrictions on the purchase of lands by Jews in the Southern Mandate in the Negev area of Beersheba, which would continue for at least ten years, would be lifted gradually when the Bedouin “will be ready to reconsider their attitude” to Jews. For the Jews to gain access to the Galilee, they would have to convince the Arabs resident in the area that they would be good neighbours. In other words, you cannot become neighbours until you are respected by the inhabitants who do not trust you and fear you in the first place.

Jews could only acquire land adjacent to existing settlements for reclamation of agricultural land and where Jews already own an interest, though the suggestion of a standstill for five years for Jewish purchase of land in any part of the Northern Mandated Territory was rejected. However, the restrictions on immigration made this provision moot unless the migrants went to urban areas and supported the creation of industries.

Much more was said about religious protections, rights and language, about rail lines, industry, the post office, budgets, welfare and broadcasting, but I will only comment on language. The Report recommended that Hebrew and Arabic be permitted to be used in both the Jewish and Arab states in courts and other situations, but neither was made an official language in the other state. Even though there would be a substantial minority of Arabs in the Jewish state, no recommendation was made that it be an official language. Rights to use Arabic in courts and to educate children in Arabic in both primary and secondary schools were included.

One final note. There was very little included about the military, the police or security in general, especially surprising in light of the “disturbances.” The recommendation concerned “excess” cost of the British army and air force. The clear presumption was that defence would remain the responsibility of Britain. “The Jewish State under plan C, though small, is compact and is easily defensible.”

What??? (p. 236)


[1] Cf. Chapter XII, paragraphs 10 & 11

[2] The greatest danger may not be borders but disputes over enclaves as provided for in the 2020 American peace proposal. In the 2020 Trump peace plan, there are 15 Jewish enclaves with 3.3% of the West Bank Jewish population, 11 in Samaria and the South Hebron Hills. For an example of such danger, look at the current outburst in violence over the Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan with likely repercussions for the Azerbaijani enclave immediately southwest of Armenia. Making the situation more dangerous is the fact that Azerbaijan is backed by an ill-suited pair, Turkey actively and Israel more passively, whereas Russia backs Armenia.

[3] https://archive.org/details/WoodheadCommission

Israel/Palestine – Two States. Part II:

From Peel (1937) to the Woodhead Report (1938)

A Jewish Agency memorandum of 30 April 1936 stated that there were 450,000 Jews in Palestine who made up 29.8%. The 1937 Peel Report noted that, according to the census of 1922, the Jewish population had grown from 13% to nearly 30% by the end of 1936. In part of Palestine, 400,000 Jews already lived in their National Home with an infrastructure that was suited to a small country. “Half a loaf is better than no bread,” was the Peel refrain as it supported partition “for two vastly different communities.” An eastern portion just west of the Jordan River (just over 77%) was to be ceded to Transjordan with some million Palestinian Arab residents.

The 30% of Jews in Mandatory Palestine would receive 17% of the land, about 4% of the original entire area of Palestine under the Ottomans. The area of the Jewish State would include the Galilee, Haifa and the Carmel, and most of the Mediterranean coast from Ashdod to Rosh Hanikrah. The two states would sign treaties with the British government and eventually join the League of Nations as sovereign states.

The holy sites in Jerusalem and Bethlehem would be connected by a narrow corridor through the towns of Lydda (Lod) and Ramle to the Jaffa coast. There would be a special perpetual Mandate for this area to ensure that the sanctity of Jerusalem and Bethlehem remained inviolate and that safe access be provided to the Holy Places for the whole world. The treatment of the two populations would be equal[1] even though Jews were not allocated territory in proportion to their population.

This was really a three-state solution, 17% Jewish, 6% a British perpetual protectorate and 77% Arab. Jews would enjoy a small independent Jewish state along the Mediterranean coast protected by Britain. A British mandate would cover the religious sites linking to the coast – the Enclave. The remaining largest eastern part, west of the Jordan River, would eventually be annexed to Transjordan. The Peel Commission established the precedent that land settled by Jews would become part of a future Jewish state while most of the rest became part of an Arab state. A third portion, an Enclave with religious sites, would remain a de facto colony.[2] The Peel recommendations were sent to the League of Nations where they were approved.

The Woodhead Palestine Partition Commission (1938) was a technical body set up by the Secretary of State for the Colonies to determine the practicality of the Peel Commission proposals and was instructed to develop an implementation program with borders, an economic and financial plan.[3] It made a number of changes to the Peel Commission Report. The principle with respect to the promised Jewish state seemed to be, “What is given with one hand is taken back by the other.” A number of applied changes indicated that a primary objective of the Report was “to protect British future interests by securing military positions and access to resources, even though the result almost split the area assigned to the Jewish state in two.” “If the Mandatory is to be entrusted with the protection of the Holy Places, it was essential that the Enclave should have boundaries which were capable of being defended.”

For example, the following changes were made to the territory of the Enclave which would have a population of 211,400 made up of both Jews and Arabs:

  • Extending the northern boundary of the religious mandate, designated as the Enclave, from between Jerusalem and Ramallah to north of Ramallah to satisfy defence needs, specifically to make room for a landing strip at Qalandiya, to include the Ramallah-Latrun Road “as a necessary line of military communication,” and to embrace the Ramallah broadcasting station;
  • Further, in response to Christian sentiment, the Enclave would also be expanded to include Nazareth and the Sea of Galilee with control of the tributaries and waters of Lake Tiberias;
  • Because of past strife between Arabs and Jews, more particularly between the Arabs of Jaffa and the Jews of Tel Aviv, specifically along the irregular demarcation line between the two municipalities, a narrow straight road protected from access by iron railings from either the Jewish or the Arab state would be built between the two cities and would be owned by both states but protected by the Enclave;
  • Because of the need to ensure the water supply, the villages of Shuqba, Qibya, Budrus, Ni’ilin and Deir Qaddis were added to the religious Mandate;
  • Excise from the Jewish state the Arab villages of Salama, Al Kheiriya, Saqiya, Kafr Ana, and Al Yahudiya and to be added to the Enclave;
  • The southern border of the Enclave was extended to include the military cantonments at Sarafand and the projected Royal Air Force base at Aqir;
  • The strip between Jaffa and Bat Yam connecting the Enclave to the sea would be replaced by a wider, and more useful and defensible, strip by making the southern boundary of the Enclave much wider along the northern border of Rishon le Ziyon;
  • To make it even function for military purposes, the Mandatory Power was to be given the right to enter and use the area on the Jewish side of the corridor for military purposes in case of an emergency;
  • Military ranges would be provided by the Jewish state on its territory;
  • In addition to the above use rights, the Jewish state would also provide the Enclave with military entry rights to connect to the sea as far as the Wadi Rubin.

Does this not all sound very familiar with respect to negotiations over the West Bank currently, except the current proposed exchanges gave more land and population to Israel. To draw a straight boundary would entail exchanges of population and territories, such as assigning the Karton Quarter, a salient projected into Tel Aviv, to the Jewish state; the total population involved in the exchanges would be 15,700 Jews and 2,000 Arabs transferred from Jaffa to Tel Aviv and 5,400 Jews transferred from Tel Aviv to Jaffa.

The pattern of taking land away from the Jewish state and allocating it elsewhere was certainly not a constant. For example, in the case of the Triangle of Settlements  (Jewish), that included Dagania A, Dagania B, Kfar Gun, Afiqim, and Dalhamiya, where over 50% of the land between Lake Tiberias and the Jordan River was owned by Jews, Woodhead recommended their attachment to the Jewish state.

There are too many other changes to the boundaries between the proposed Jewish and Arab states to list them here. The primary determinant of the proposed boundaries was British interests and neither Jewish nor Palestinian interests. Compared to the Peel Commission, Jews were the major losers. Thus, for example, instead of including the Arabs of Tulkarm in the Jewish state into which it projected, because the railway from the south to Haifa passed through the town, the Commission recommended Tulkarm be part of the Arab state and 100,000 pounds be expended to move the rail lines.

To what extent did economics and demography affect its decisions? These issues are not just important for recounting the historical record; they will inform the current economic relationship between Israel and the Palestinians in the West Bank. At that time, the Arab birth-rate was very high. For an agricultural population living largely off the land, the death-rate was unusually low. The Commission attributed this situation to the Arab population feeding off the benefits of a much more developed and urban Jewish population “under an enlightened modern administration with the necessary funds at its disposal to enable it to serve a population unable to help itself…except through the appropriation of tax-revenue contributed by the Jews.” (p. 24)

The Report, used the assumption of absorptive capacity, namely that a population should be proportionate to the agricultural yield from an area needed to support that population. Otherwise “the land under cultivation by the much larger Arab population of 1937 compared to 1922 is insufficient to support the same percentage of the total Arab population.” The Commission argued that the Jews were responsible for enabling the large growth of the Arab population by 360,000, even though the cultivatable land available to them had been reduced as a result of Jewish purchases of land. Further, the Jews had also significantly increased the area of cultivatable land. As the Peel Report had previously described the situation, “it is thus clear that nearly a quarter of the (ARAB) agriculturalists would be unable to maintain their present standard of life.”

In terms of economic development, the Report also declared that employment (of Arabs) in the towns as well as on agricultural land will be intensified because “capital is only likely to be invested by Jews.” (p. 30) That investment can be used to increase yields partially through improved irrigation and agricultural intensification. The Report, as I said, reflected the ideas of “absorptive capacity” extant at the time. “Neither of these two things can be brought about without the assistance of Jewish taxable capacity and Jewish capital.” “Arabs in Palestine would be faced with the prospect of greater economic hardship if Jewish immigration should be completely closed down.” Economic conditions among Arabs are “closely bound up with Jewish immigration, both actual and prospective.”

At the end of May 1937, Jews owned 7% of the land. “The amount of land in the Arab state is very small, being about 92,000 dunams, including the Jewish land in Beersheba sub-district which was as large as the whole rest of Palestine but where the water in wells was too saline and the amount that fell as rainfall was too little to support agriculture.” The situation was even worse in the Jordan Valley except for about 10,000 dunams plus land irrigated by perennial streams – up to 20,000 additional dunams. The amount of Arab land in the Jewish State was “very large, about 3,854,000 dunams, as compared with about 1,140,000 dunams of Jewish land.” (p. 51) Given the percentage of the Arab population and the land owned by Arabs, the division into two states would necessarily be asymmetric with the largest part of the territory going into Arab hands.

The Report also considered the “voluntary” exchange of populations between the two prospective states, the Jewish state and Transjordan, for the British government had rejected the recommendation of compulsory transfer in the Peel Report. However, the Woodbridge Report found little prospect of voluntary exchanges of land and populations, especially since Jews owned such a tiny proportion of the land in the Arab state.

The prospect of water canals and other innovations were examined with some promise, but the basic conclusion was the limited absorptive capacity of the land. For example, Hebron with an existing population of 38,000 supported by agriculture, almost all Arabs, but cultivatable land was only able to support less than half the population – 16,500. Except for areas like Gaza and the Beisan Plain, improvements in agricultural techniques would help, but only marginally.

The Report also examined the Jewish claim to Jerusalem and examined the possibility of connecting the Jewish parts in western Jerusalem (71,000 of the 74,500 population) by means of a narrow corridor to the Jewish areas on the plains. Since the area includes Christian churches, hospitals and schools, a monastery, an orphanage and the British war cemetery, as well as the main road from Jerusalem to the Maritime Plain, the Report concluded partition of Jerusalem would be an administrative nightmare, that is, “administrative problems of great complexity” related to the maintenance of law and order, division of custom duties, division of water.

Jerusalem would be part of the Enclave. The goal linking Jerusalem to the Jewish state along the Mediterranean Sea was not impossible, as the outcome of the War of Independence indicated, but, according to the Commission, it could only be accomplished provided “reliance could be placed on the mutual goodwill and cooperation of the two adjoining communities.” The authors were very pessimistic that this could be accomplished (p. 74) and concluded that political and religious objections to the Jewish claims were insuperable. “Moslems throughout the world would be most vehemently opposed to the inclusion of any part of Jerusalem in the Jewish State” and “would regard the establishment of a Jewish State overlooking the Moslem Holy Places as the first step towards the ultimate absorption of the Old City by the Jews.” This would inevitably lead to disorders of most Moslems throughout the world who would most vehemently oppose the inclusion of any part of Jerusalem in the Jewish State.

The outbreak of violence on 23 August 1928 as detailed in the Shaw Commission Report offered a case in point. “We are convinced that the dominant desire of the whole body of Christians would be to preserve the peace of Jerusalem and to safeguard the Holy City from any change which threatened to provoke hatred and bloodshed within its walls or in their neighbourhood.” (Para. 172) “The unique character of Jerusalem as the object of affection and veneration of the adherents of three of the great religions of mankind must be recognized by its retention in trust for the world under Mandatory Government.” (p. 80)

The Report concluded that only the central section would be partitioned and be given independence immediately; limited Jewish immigration would be permitted into the Enclave provided that the rights and interests of the existing inhabitants were respected. In sum, the obligations assumed by the Balfour declaration actually shrunk with each inquiry and report – the Shaw Commission, the Peel Commission and the Wedgewood Commission. As far as the Arabs were concerned, the Wedgewood Commission felt that it had assuaged their fears of Jewish economic and political domination and the blockage to a route to independence in the future.  

Then there came this surprising self-appraisal of their proposed Plan C, parts of which were sketched above. Plan C “presents a fresh opportunity to carry out on a smaller scale (my italics) and, as we trust, in a more favourable atmosphere than ever before, the experiment, which the original framers of the Balfour Declaration must surely have had in mind, of seeking to build up, by joint efforts of both Jews and Arabs, a single state in which the two races may ultimately learn to live and work together as fellow-citizens.” Partition had become an interim stage. In other words, a One State solution may arise from the partition proposal. This was the culmination of the series of reports from the 1930s on that kept shrinking the amount handed over for an independent Jewish state. For a report that repeatedly cited the animosity between the two groups, most emphatically the animosity of the Arabs towards the Jews, such a hope appears as a piece of ironic black humour.

The real result had to be an increased distrust by the Arabs of the British, for they were not given their independence, the toehold of the Jews in Palestine was widened and the increase in economic domination was virtually guaranteed. Zionists had to be infuriated because, though they received an independent Jewish state, it was a sliver of what had originally been promised and was even smaller than the proposal of the Peel Commission a year earlier.

The Zionist Jews would never again trust the British to assist them to achieve their aims. The sale of Arab land to Jews in the northern Mandate and the religious Enclave (Jerusalem, etc.) was prohibited. The rest of the report was spin. For example, restrictions on the purchase of lands by Jews in the Southern Mandate in the Negev area of Beersheba, which would continue for at least ten years, would be lifted gradually when the Bedouin “will be ready to reconsider their attitude” to Jews. For the Jews to gain access to the Galilee, they would have to convince the Arabs resident in the area that they would be good neighbours. In other words, you cannot become neighbours until you are respected by the inhabitants who do not trust you and fear you in the first place.

Jews could only acquire land adjacent to existing settlements for reclamation of agricultural land and where Jews already own an interest, though the suggestion of a standstill for five years for Jewish purchase of land in any part of the Northern Mandated Territory was rejected. However, the restrictions on immigration made this provision moot unless the migrants went to urban areas and supported the creation of industries.

Much more was said about religious protections, rights and language, about rail lines, industry, the post office, budgets, welfare and broadcasting, but I will only comment on language. The Report recommended that Hebrew and Arabic be permitted to be used in both the Jewish and Arab states in courts and other situations, but neither was made an official language in the other state. Even though there would be a substantial minority of Arabs in the Jewish state, no recommendation was made that it be an official language. Rights to use Arabic in courts and to educate children in Arabic in both primary and secondary schools were included.

One final note. There was very little included about the military, the police or security in general, especially surprising in light of the “disturbances.” The recommendation concerned “excess” cost of the British army and air force. The clear presumption was that defence would remain the responsibility of Britain. “The Jewish State under plan C, though small, is compact and is easily defensible.”

What??? (p. 236)


[1] Cf. Chapter XII, paragraphs 10 & 11

[2] The greatest danger may not be borders but disputes over enclaves as provided for in the 2020 American peace proposal. In the 2020 Trump peace plan, there are 15 Jewish enclaves with 3.3% of the West Bank Jewish population, 11 in Samaria and the South Hebron Hills. For an example of such danger, look at the current outburst in violence over the Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan with likely repercussions for the Azerbaijani enclave immediately southwest of Armenia. Making the situation more dangerous is the fact that Azerbaijan is backed by an ill-suited pair, Turkey actively and Israel more passively, whereas Russia backs Armenia.

[3] https://archive.org/details/WoodheadCommission

Israel/Palestine – One or Two States:

Part I – WWI to the 1937 Peel Commission Report

Preview: Parts I, II, III and IV will cover the thirty-year period 1917 to 1947 zeroing in on the Balfour Declaration, the Peel Report (1936), the Wedgewood Report (1938), the White Paper (1939) and the UNSCOP Report (1947) to unveil the history of One and Two-state solutions prior to the creation of the State of Israel. Section B blogs will cover the period from independence to the present.

The Balfour Declaration

The possibility of one state in Mandatory Palestine had been proposed going back over a century ago to the Balfour Declaration. Preceding that document, however, in 1915 Henry McMahon, British Commissioner in Egypt, had promised the Sharif and Emir of Mecca,  Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī al-Hāshimī, that Palestine would be a part of an independent Arab state that would arise after World War I. Thus, an actual two-state solution is also over a century old. What has varied is the political source of the division, the beneficiaries, and the boundary lines

Prime Minister David Lloyd George of the UK in December 1916 expressed public support for Zionism to Chaim Weizmann. In a letter, known as the Declaration (2 November 1917), for that is what it was initially, a letter addressed to Lionel Rothschild. British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour offered British support for a Jewish homeland in Palestine. This Balfour Declaration was incorporated as a preamble to article 2 of the Mandate for Palestine as part of the Paris Peace Agreement (1919). Of that portion of the former Ottoman satrap, 77% went to Transjordan. Article 25 stated that, in the territory east of the Jordan River, Britain could withhold or postpone those articles of the Mandate related to a Jewish national home. It chose to withhold. On 22 July 1922, at a meeting of the Council of the League of Nations in London, Transjordan, as a protectorate of Britain, and the Palestie Mandate covering the remainder of the territory to which the Balfour Declaration now applied, were approved.

As Britain explained in 1922 with respect to the territory to be the homeland of the Jewish people, during the last two or three generations, the Jews re-created in Palestine a community numbering 80,000. “The community has its own political organs; an elected assembly for the direction of its domestic concerns; elected councils in the towns; and an organization for the control of its schools…its political, religious, and social organizations, its own language, its own customs, its own life, has in fact ‘national’ characteristics.”[1]

Jewish nationality was not being imposed upon the inhabitants of all of Palestine. Rather, given the core of Jews in Palestine, with the assistance of Jews in other parts of the world, Britain assumed that only the Jewish people could, on grounds of religion and race, have the best prospect of free development to provide a full opportunity for the Jewish people to display its capacities. Britain insisted that Jews were in Palestine as of right and not on sufferance. Therefore, a Jewish National Home in Palestine should be internationally guaranteed and should be formally recognized to rest upon an ancient historic connection.

The motives were clear; a deep-seated Christian Zionist conviction[2], but also an effort to get Jewish support in both neutral U.S. and liberal revolutionary Russia. The goal or vision, however, was not immediately as clear. Did a Jewish homeland entail a Jewish nation-state, that is, a Zionist state under British protection? Or would it be a politically autonomous Jewish political entity within what was planned and expected to be a British mandated territory controlled by Britain? Or would it simply be a place to which Jews in Europe would be permitted/encouraged to migrate? Whichever of these three options, or others, the main geopolitical goal was a land bridge controlled by Britain connecting Egypt to the Far East. Anti-Zionists, like the Jewish Secretary of State for India, Edwin Montagu, while supporting the last goal, objected to a Jewish state fearing accusations of double loyalty against Jews in the galut, politely known as the diaspora.

The wording of the Balfour Declaration was as follows: “His Majesty’s Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”

The last clause was intended to satisfy Montagu’s fears. The second last clause that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine” was abundantly clear. The political rights of the existing non-Jewish population remained unrecognized. Right up to and including the 1931 British census, the Jewish community in Mandatory Palestine was recognized as a nation; the Arab and Bedouin subjects were not.

What appeared murky, became clear, especially when seen through the eyes of Christian Zionists. A Jewish state was envisioned in which minorities would live with their religious and civil rights protected. This was the first iteration of a One State Solution. Although the territory referred to initially included what is now called Transjordan, it was also very clear that after 1920-1922 it did not; Palestine was restricted to the area west of the Jordan River.

One week after Lord Balfour issued his declaration in November 2017 (October 25 on the Julian calendar – hence the October Revolution), the Bolsheviks overthrew the liberal Russian state. The Jews that were part of that revolution had no sympathy for Zionism. In stark contrast, Woodrow Wilson as President of the United States (1913-1921) was a Christian Zionist as well as a racist;[3] he believed that God wanted Jews to return to their home in Palestine. It took one hundred years for Princeton University to finally face up to the racist reality of the man who was the president of the university (1902-1908)[4] before he became president of the USA.

Wilson came by both his racism[5] – he denied African Americans the right to enroll in Princeton – and his pro-Zionism honestly. His father was a Christian Presbyterian minister who supported the Confederacy in Virginia where he was born. Wilson became an ardent supporter of the Balfour Declaration. “To think that I, son of the manse [minister’s house], should be able to help restore the Holy Land to its people.”[6]

However, Wilson’s fourteen points (8 January 2018) declared as the outcome of the war included the promise of self-determination: “nationalities which are now under Turkish rule should be assured an undoubted security of life and an absolutely unmolested opportunity of autonomous development.” Consistency was not Wilson’s forte. Arabs had been promised self-determination both by Britain and by America. But an effort was made to back peddle by both parties by restricting the promise of self-determination to the European peoples of the Russian, German and Austro-Hungarian empires. This was, of course, just racism extended to the Middle East.

Except, was it? Yes, in part. As Winston Churchill argued before the Peel Commission in 1937 (see below), “I do not admit that wrong has been done to these people [Arab Palestinians] by the fact that a stronger race, a higher-grade race, a more worldly-wise race, to put in that way, has come in and taken their place.”[7] But, he argued, Zionism was not akin to colonialism as in North America or Australia. Only in the land of Palestine, he claimed, could the Jewish people achieve political freedom. More significantly, the Jewish people are indigenous to Palestine because of their historical presence and the continuity of that presence in and on the land. 

Israel was clearly a product of many forces: a type of racism, geopolitical power, legal, historical, sociological and religious factors, but also events on the ground – both historical continuity and recent settlement. In 1850, as stated above, according to Alexander Scholch, Palestine had about 350,000 inhabitants, 85% Muslims, 11% Christians and 4% Jews. By 1920, that population had doubled; the percentage of Jews had increased by over 50%. The British Government’s Interim Report on the Civil Administration of Palestine that year listed almost 700,000 people living in Mandatory Palestine. Compare that to the estimated 2.3 million Jews who lived in Palestine during the rule of Emperor Claudius (41-54 BC) before the destruction of the Temple and the expulsion of the Jews.

The Peel Commission

In the years after World War I, the Jewish population in Palestine increased, but not as some have described it, “dramatically”. 38,000 Jews were naturalized in 1922 joining an older population of just over 7,000 Jews, and, therefore, 6.5% of the population were Jewish citizens. There were almost an equal number of Jewish non-citizens so that Jews then constituted just 12% of the population. There were 90,000 Jews (just over 12%) and 610,000 non-Jews (just over 87%). Between 1920 and 1936, the Jewish population grew to 367,845 (15,000 migrated per year on average to Palestine), about the same population as Transjordan. Though only 33,304 non-Jews legally immigrated to post-1922 Palestine in the same period, as a result of non-legal immigration and a high birth rate, the Arab population of Palestine grew from 670,000 in 1922 to over one million or almost 75%. By 1937, the ratio had shifted to 30% Jewish and 70% non-Jews.

After the Shaw Commission had published its report in 1930 following the Arab uprising in 1929, after the Sir John Hope Simpson Report in October 1930 on immigration, after the White paper of 1930, the political outcome remained a murky quagmire. Halfway through the 1922-1948 period, in 1935 (12 December), the British government proposed a unitary legislative council for the western portion of the territory. Hence, de facto partition, but not even into a Jewish and Arab state, but a mandatory unitary state of both Arabs and Jews and an eastern territory west of the Jordan River remaining under total British control.  The council in the eastern severed territory was to be made up of 11 Muslims, 7 Jews and 3 Christians. The Arabs would have a controlling share of the three-quarters of elected seats while Britain would appoint the final quarter, 7 of the total of 28 seats on the council. The Chair as well would be a British subject.

The Arabs in Palestine were appalled. They wanted and demanded full self determination. Britain set up the Peel Commission in response and it reported in July 1937. The Peel Commission, in addition to the division of the Palestine Mandate, recommended a transfer of populations or ethnic cleansing, overwhelmingly of Arabs – the Arabs from the area of the Jewish State (approximately 225,000) and the Jews in the Arab-designated area (about 1,250) would be relocated using the Greek-Turkish population exchange after WWI as a precedent.[8]

The Arabs rejected the proposal outright, both because they did not obtain self-determination in all the territory and because, even in the partitioned western portion, they claimed that the number of seats did not reflect their proportion of the population. The Arab Higher Committee (AHC) also did not want the eastern portion ceded to Transjordan. Further, since Jewish immigration to Palestine had significantly increased since the Nazi coup in Germany in 1933, they demanded a complete cessation of Jewish immigration. When their demands were rejected, they revolted. In sum, the proposal for an independent Jewish state and division or secession reversed the initial idea of a Jewish unitary polity west of the Jordan River, a One-State solution. Arabs would have their religious and civil rights protected but would not have any political rights. However, fifteen years after the rationale and the conception of a One-State solution had been formalized in 1922, a two-state solution had been put on the table with a substantial Arab minority in the Jewish State (about 188,000) and a very small number of Jews and Christians in the eventual Arab territory that would be annexed to Transjordan.


[1] Command Paper No. 1 700 of the 1 July 1922.

[2] Cf. George Eliot’s final novel, Daniel Deronda (1878). British Christian Zionism is both a religious belief that can be traced back to the Puritans in the seventeenth century based on Biblical prophecy concerning the return of the Jews to the Holy Land, and a political conviction that the only solution to the Jewish “problem” in Europe was the restoration of the Jews to their historical homeland. For many, the conviction was an admixture of religion and politics. In America, the emphasis was primarily on the gathering of the Jews in Israel as a prelude to the Second Coming of Christ.

[3] Cf. Jonathan D. Sarna (2020) “Woodrow Wilson was a hero to Jews. What should we do with his racism?” The Forward, 2 July; and Lawrence Davidson (2020) “Woodrow Wilson’s Racism: The Basis for His Support of Zionism—An Analysis,” U.S Foreign Affairs, 12 July.

[4] The university just this year removed Wilson’s name from the School of Public Policy and International Affairs, to which I was affiliate, as well as from sub-colleges and buildings, a process that began when I was there (2003-2005).

[5] For Wilson, Blacks were an “ignorant and inferior race.” 

[6] Thus, Zionism thereafter became linked with racism and anti-Zionism with the anti-racism of a significant number of African Americans. Davidson explicitly endorsed Zionism as racism.

[7] Shaul Bartal (2017) “The Peel Commission Report of 1937 and the Origins of the Partition Concept,” Jewish Political Studies Review, 28:1-2, 14 November.

[8] The agreement between Turkey and Greece (1922-1923) transferred 1,300,000 Greeks from Turkey and 400,000 Turks from areas controlled by Greece.

Tehran – the TV Series

There. I saw it. An ad for Tehran, the much-ballyhooed Israeli TV series that was supposed to be even more full of suspense and tension than Fauda. I swore that I saw the advertisement on the TV screen when we were scrolling to decide what to watch for the evening. It seemed to have disappeared. I could not find it again. When I was about to give up, across the screen at the very bottom appeared a promotional clip on Tehran. It was on AppleTV and not Prime or HBO where I had been looking. Tehran had premiered on Zan 11 channel in Israel on 22 June 2020 and opened in North America on 25 September.

Fauda had focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I had last written about the third series of Fauda in a blog in 2018 (21 June). It was about undercover work in the West Bank by IDF’s Duvdevan Counter-Terrorism Unit to find terrorists and was told from the perspective of both sides in the conflict. Fauda was a terrific series, not only for its taut drama, its excitement and its plot twists, but for its very interesting developments of character and relatively honest portrayal of both sides in the conflict. But whereas Fauda alternated between Hebrew and Arabic with a smattering of English, Tehran is mostly in Farsi with intermittent episodes in Hebrew, but more often in English. So you had better like subtitles, especially since the translations often went by before I had a chance to finish reading.

Tehran is not another Fauda. The latter relied on the old standard view of the dedicated detective, this time working undercover, who sacrifices his family and his personal life for his work. He is an Israeli Bosch working on security issues rather than pursuing the more typical serial killers. The series was gritty and down to earth, The suspense relied on the old-fashioned tools of spies – an instinct for masquerades, unbelievable courage juxtaposed to amateur bumbling. And a nose for clues. The series was excellent because it not only relied on an intriguing and beguiling plot, but on in-depth character development.

Tehran is very different. Though the two shows share the same creative team – Israeli producer Gideon Raff and creative writer, Moshe Zonder, the lead writer for Fauda, (and with Dana Eden, Maor Kohn and Omri Shenhar) – and although both shows overlap in production skills, they are otherwise contrasting story lines and characters. Daniel Syrkin directed Tehran which starts with a very young Israeli couple on a flight from Jordan to Delhi on Jordanian airlines. What are they doing in Amman?

The air tickets from Amman to Delhi are half the price of those from Tel Aviv to Delhi. Immediately, we note the similarity to Fauda and initially may be led down a dead end by supposing that the two bumbling and frightened young Israelis will play a similar secular role as the amateur right-wing religious zealots in Fauda. Although they also run counter to type, they do not have the same function. I am giving very little away to say they are a tease, serving a similar role to the zealots in offering counter-stereotypes to Israeli super-heroes, such as Eli Cohen played brilliantly by Sasha Baron Cohen in The Spy about the real Israeli Mossad agent who penetrated the heart of the Syrian military command and control centre.

The two young Israelis may have just finished their army service and are off to India on a common escape as with many ex-IDF personnel and a search for adventure.  But they are nervous. They are frightened. The girl, Shira (Tuti Ninio), has “Awesome” in bold letters on her sweatshirt as if advertising the series. They stumble and bumble, the boy even dropping his backpack on another airline passenger. But they soon play a very unintended role in the drama as the Jordanian plane is forced to make an emergency landing in Tehran. The Israeli Mossad cyber agents had messed with its electronic controls.

The two young backpackers are a somewhat comical feint as we watch another couple, a tall very well-dressed young man with a very fashionable beard accompanied by a woman in a burka whose eyes are the only thing we see. Those eyes are alert. They are sharp. While puzzled by this unlikely couple, we slowly realize that we are being introduced to the heroine.

Further, we soon learn that this film is not about unbelievably brave Israeli IDF commandos operating in occupied territory; this will be a story about spying on a very different level, about cyber warfare and its execution against very high level targets and taking place in a country dedicated to Israel’s elimination.  The operation will involve Tamar Rabinyan (Niv Sultan) playing a very sophisticated hacker. The target is the electrical supply to the Iranian radar system so that Israeli pilots can bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. The Mossad command and control centre looks nothing like IDF’s. It is a warren of agents glued to TV screens in a large and very crowded high-tech facility.

As it turns out, Israel did bomb Iran’s nuclear assembly plant with its very sophisticated high-speed centrifuges in Natanz and other sites.  But this was in June after the series was completed. It will not be the first time that fiction adumbrates actual historical events. Except in the series, the effort is botched. But, as in Fauda, the other side, the counter-intelligence Iranian boss, is as dedicated and as sophisticated and as sharp as any Israeli agent so that one might suspect for a time that he was really an Israeli mole in the Iranian capital.

On the way in this spy story, we get glimpses of political Iran with a public hanging from a crane, dissident Iranians bitching about the high unemployment rate and wallowing in their underground music scene as gay men openly kiss and young girls shed their hijabs. They protest and are met by young Islamic zealots who support the revolution. But we are also introduced to Tamar’s aunt Arezoo (Esti Yerushalmi) who Tamar has not ever seen since Tamar’s whole family fled Iran decades earlier leaving behind the aunt who had married a Muslim jurist and had a religious Muslim daughter.

The domesticity is further reinforced when the aunt and niece work together in the kitchen to make Persian meatballs or koofteh by rolling minced lamb into spheres the size of a hardball mixed with onions and basmati rice, yellow split peas with mint, cardamom, turmeric and savory. “Perfect,” the aunt pronounces. Tamar is a cool as well as beautiful agent as well as an expert at rolling meatballs with the best of them just after she made the proverbial run through market stalls, stores and alleyways to escape the Iranian counterintelligence and police.

But all Jews in Tehran are not intermarried. 10,000 were left behind after 70,000 fled. They are a protected minority – unlike the Baha’is – with their own rabbis and houses of worship. Since we were able to watch only three of the eight episodes, which ran against our propensity to really binge watch – I was left wondering if we would be introduced to a segment of Jewish Iranian life in the urban areas of Athens which, with standard stock film, stood in for Tehran.

But we saw real F35s revving up to launch the bombing raid. We saw facsimiles of hacking that seemed, to an ignoramus like me, real enough. But there were very puzzling elements of the plot that seemed to be left over, like detritus from a bombing mission. Why did Tamar not simply get off the plane and enter Iran in her burka? Why did she have to switch costumes at Imam Khomeini International Airport with Zhila Gorbanifar, a Muslim Iranian electric company employee, disguised as a flight attendant?

Of course, stupid! The flight would not have been able to take off if one passenger had disappeared. There had to be a switch. Other puzzles emerge as the plot progressed but were cleared up soon enough. The main thrust of balance, as in Fauda, was maintained. The Iranian counter-intelligence lead agent, Faraz Kamali (Shaun Toub), was as sharp and dedicated and determined as any Israeli agent and he probably worked for The Revolutionary Guard. The Israeli agents inadvertently kept running into blocks, especially Masoud Tabrizi (Navid Negahban), the local Israeli Mossad operator with his travel agency front.

The plot to disrupt the electrical supply to the Iranian radar system goes awry when Zhila’s boss in the electrical company, with whom she was evidently having an affair, tries to rape Tamar, who relatively quickly dispatches him as any highly trained Israeli spy would be expected to do. Very quickly, everything goes asunder and the plot switches from a secret destruction mission to an escape story.

Though the plot is taut and thrilling and full of misadventures, I was looking for but had not yet found the personal tales and psychological costs to these agents that had been such an integral part of Fauda. Where are the troubled lives? There is certainly a suggestion that Zhila Gorbanifar was having an affair with her abusive boss, but this was a very minor sub-plot with nothing to do with espionage. The subplot of the love story begins in Episodes 4.

I now have to wait for the last 4 episodes. I prefer binging.

The Presidential Choice in America – Fear or Faith

I want to suggest a very different factor that is rarely discussed and that I did not include in Wednesday’s blog. The choice of the American president will be driven more by fear than faith. However, faith should be the determining factor.

Rabbi Splansky in her Yom Kippur sermon spoke about the nature of a crisis, when things break apart, when there is a break down of spirit, a breach in trust, when the dispirited get discouraged. This American election is about which side can uplift, can comfort the spirit. Barack Obama won on a campaign of hope. Trump ran and won in 2016 on a campaign of division, depression and repression. This is an election when the faith in a rogue and a con man, the faith in evangelical revelation and the protection of the unborn, the faith in individual initiative rather than government protection and guidance, comes face to face with Blacks with an even deeper faith born out of adversity, but allied with Whites who by and large lack that depth of faith of their Black brothers and sisters as much as they believe in democracy, the rule of law and the acceptance of diversity. It is a watershed election.

Such an election is a chance to break open old obstacles and break through to a new age. And one need not have the most inspiring leader. After all, Moses became dispirited and broke the tablets of the law that he had received from God. Will the Democrats have enough strength and energy to embrace a renewed vision for America out of the depths of despair? For that is what the pessimism is about. Not simply the details of voting patterns. Not simply which promises turn people on and which exposure of lies and cons motivate them to combat a source of deep evil. America is at a breaking point. Will the mother of the new child have enough strength to breathe and push, to breathe and push as she sits on the birthing stool aptly named as a rupture stool? Will new life emerge from the dark womb or will the world sink back into an even darker cave?

Bob Rae gave a virtual talk on Yom Kippur afternoon at Holy Blossom Temple. (He did it from New York where he is now posted as Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations.) He talked about the three questions Hillel posed. If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, who am I? If not now, when? Self-interest is not enough. We need humanity and humility. We need energy and empathy. And we need it now. The faults of the world are not in our stars but in ourselves. In a tempest-tossed world in which COVID-19 kills and also destroys wealth and jobs, in a world where the life jacket of remittances to poor countries are significantly higher than all the government aid taken together, in a world in which 100 million are displaced, we need buoyance.

His answer to the three questions was the Stockdale Paradox, named after James Stockdale the U.S. Admiral who had survived over seven years of repeated torture in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp. (See Jim Collin’s book, Good to Great.) Confronting reality, not evading it with misleading optimism or burying one’s head in the sand in deep pessimism, was the vital key to survival.  Realism plus idealism.  Realism plus optimism. The experience of bitterness and the expression of resilience. Brokenness and repair. Embrace the harshness of your situation with faith, hope and the balancing weight of optimism. Not an optimism built on lies but one that infuses the truth of the moment with inspiration rather than despair.

Stockdale was a good example because this icon took us back fifty years to the period in which Americans began to lose their fundamental trust in government. The Vietnam War had been built on a mountain of lies. We who are old enough remember General Westmoreland telling Americans when the Tet offensive began on the 31st of January 1968, the real beginning of the end of the Vietnam War, that the Viet Kong only had 500 guerillas. (They had 10,000) Lies, lies and more lies. General Westmoreland was replaced. President Johnson had the decency to withdraw from the campaign for the presidency. A rupture in Vietnam through the centre of the country cutting through Hue became a hinge in American history. The same propensity to lie only grew and grew and Obama was not able to stem that tide. The huge wave rose into a mighty mountain from the very beginning of the Trump presidency. Six samples will do.

Newspapers of record and assiduous reporters get exhausted on pointing out and tabulating Trump’s thousands of lies that have swelled like the number of victims of COVID-19. But let us merely go back to the beginning of his presidency when he told the following whoppers:

  1. Jay Sekulow, Trump’s attorney, had stated unequivocally (16 July 2017) that Donald Trump had not been involved in writing the phony account that the president had not been involved in Donald Trump Jr.’s rationale for the meeting with the Russians. Donald Trump subsequently and unabashedly admitted he was. Sarah Huckabee acknowledged that Trump Sr. had made the invention of adoption even more misleading.
  2. “Pardons are not being discussed and are not on the table. Leaks constitute fake news and treason.” Except pardons have always been discussed since Day 1.
  3. Trump had only fired FBI Director James B. Comey because of the advice of Deputy Attorney General, Rod J. Rosenstein, except Trump boasted a few days later that he intended to fire Comey even before he met with Rosenstein. “I was going to fire Comey … Oh, I was going to fire regardless of recommendation.” Trump subsequently said that, “I decided to just do it.”
  4. “The Russia issue is a made-up story.” Enough said. Russia had compromising information on Donald Trump. Even though Kellyanne Conway initially denied it, Trump subsequently admitted that they (the Russians) had used it. “Yeah, I think so.”
  5. Michael Flynn had not discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador. Except he had.
  6. President Trump had not shared classified information with the Russian ambassador, except, only a few days later, the administration gave a very different account: “It is wholly appropriate for the president to share whatever information he thinks is necessary to advance the security of the American people. That’s what he did.” (16 May 2017) “As President, I wanted to share with Russia which I have the absolute right to do.”

But isn’t widespread pessimism justified? How many times over the last four years have we read a headline like this past week’s – An earthquake: Donald Trump paid no or very little federal income taxes. There is a greater risk perhaps that many Americans will envy and admire Trump’s practice of tax avoidance. The battle will not be won just by defending the truth against lies and fraud. It will take large-scale preparation matched by legal skills to expose skullduggery. As the Vietnam guerillas showed, the war for (or against) the hearts and minds of America will be won on the ground.

But vision is necessary. On Yom Kippur afternoon, Bob Rae read out the Emma Lazarus Petrarchan sonnet on the Statue of Liberty, “The New Colossus”.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Push and breathe. Push and breathe. Give birth to a world that will welcome those gasping for air. Not an ancient symbol of grandeur and empire like the Greek Colossus of Rhodes at the entrance to the harbour. But a mighty woman with a torch who will release her imprisoned lightning that will allow the enormous schism to finally be severed in two so that the parts can be reunited in a renewed spirit of America. With faithful courage, Trump too shall pass, and new life emerge.

Shehecheyanu.