UNSCOP and the Partition of Palestine IVB
Why did Ivan Rand shift from pushing a federal solution to supporting partition and when did he make that shift? In his 12 August 1947 memorandum to the UNSCOP committee, he began with that lofty and flowery language that so turned off Ralph Bunche and which Emil Sandström could just barely tolerate.
Palestine is a land which, because of the religious conceptions and social sentiments to which its culture has given rise through nearly three thousand years, the hundreds of millions of adherents to the three great monotheistic religions whose spiritual interests are localized in its scenes and historical events, and the centuries of contest over its possession, is set apart irrevocably from the rest of the world, and recognition of the fact ought to be formally declared by the nations. It is the uniqueness of the land as well as that of the Jewish people and their relation to it, that in large measure justifies the Balfour declaration and the Mandate of 1922.
Not crass political considerations and the perceived need of the British for Jewish support during WWI. This doctrine of Jewish exceptionalism was ignored by the committee as much as it appealed to García Granados, and to some extent, Enrique Rödriguez Fabregat, because Rand was still on the federal state bandwagon. Even at that late date, he still opposed partition. Nor was anyone persuaded by his bastardization of history since, for centuries, other than for the holy places, no one gave a damn about the backwater of Palestine, except rhetorically, including the vast majority of Jews.
The overt appeal to García Salazar was even more explicit in the second paragraph when he insisted that Palestine be deemed a Holy Land and not a land for the self-realization of both Arab and Jewish national aspirations. Hence the provision for a continuing, indeed an eternal, role for the UN in the governance of Palestine. This was to be balanced by a second corollary – “unity and integrity of the economic and social life of the Commonwealth of Palestine.” (para. 3) Rand remained adamantly opposed to partition even when worded in most delicate and lofty language. “I would be disposed to modify the objective of statehood to that of a province in a Palestinian state and with alternate representation in the UNO (a new novel tweak versus the earlier totally impractical proposal of dual membership by a single state) by Jew and Arab rather than agree to partition.” (para. 5, p. 2, my italics)
His new federal proposal entailed three rather than two states – an Arab, a Jewish and a State of Jerusalem (read Christian since that group would arbitrate between the Jews and Arabs). Rand then proceeded to outline the basic structure of the different states rooted in individual rights and democratic processes. Except that the federation took away those democratic processes both for Arabs and Jews in controlling the economy and immigration. Land, in contrast to previous proposals, would be controlled by each national province of the federated commonwealth, but differences, particularly constitutional differences, would be adjudicated by a World Court. What the right hand giveth, the left hand taketh away.
Instead of a population transfer, in paragraph 21, Rand recommended that Jews in the Arab states be entitled to sell their land to the state and receive fair compensation, but only when and if an Arab in the Jewish state did precisely the same thing. In other words, induced rather than forced transfer. Finally, again contrary to his previous position, each provincial entity would have its own army, but authorized only to maintain internal order. More shocking, Rand now advocated that Britain be entitled to continue housing troops in the areas. As one reads clause after clause, and recognizing the positions of the two contending parties at the time, one cannot help conclude, as both Bunche and Sandström did, but for very different reasons, that all of this verbiage was “pie in the sky,” though it indicated how watered down his idea of a federal state had become.
It was clear from the comments on Rand’s proposal that the weaknesses were readily apparent. Palestinian exceptionalism was questioned, as was the subordination of politics to religious interests. Self-governance and the “eternal role of the UN in the governance of Palestine” seemed totally contradictory to the principle of self-determination. Statements like the characterization of Jews as “parasitical and unwilling to engage in practical drudgery” were rejected, not as anti-Semitic, but as too broad a generalization. Making the International Court of Justice the final arbiter of disputes instead of the Supreme Court was perceived as impractical. How would the distinction between a home guard and a standing army be maintained? The various contradictions in the paper were pointed out, as was the impossibility of having three sovereign states in a single territory and then subsuming those sovereign states under a higher international authority. Independence was granted but then taken away. None of the comments explicitly stated that the scheme was hair-brained but, instead, politely suggested it was useful if only in clarifying choices.
Three days later, Rand had shifted away from a federal solution altogether and on 15 August indicated that he supported partition with social and economic collaboration. As he articulated his support for partition on 27 August, “My objection to the federal scheme is that it puts the ultimate power in relation to broad fields of legislation in the Arab minority (sic! – he corrected himself and subsequently said majority) throughout Palestine.” He now regarded as absurd any proposal to give control over Jewish immigration to the Arabs. The federal scheme was now viewed as a confederation scheme with “very serious disadvantages.” Further, the federal scheme required two to tango; partition required only one community to cooperate to get the ball rolling.
There is a suggestion that a letter received by the UNSCOP Committee from the Delegation of Refugees in Switzerland indicating that 2,000 of the 6,000 Jewish refugees there wanted to go to Palestine was influential in this shift, especially given his radical change on the refugee issue. I, however, could not find any support for this other than the coincidence of dates. Clearly the issue of immigration exercised a great deal of time of the committee. Clearly the initial refusal of UNSCOP to visit the refugee camps in Cyprus and its subsequent affirmative decision to permit members to visit the DP camps in Europe seemed to be important to the committee members. In fact, the debates on the refugee issue merely reflected prior dispositions of the members. If they were sympathetic to Jewish self-determination and the needs of Jewish refugees, the issue of the visits and the report on that visit reinforced prior views. Members of the committee like García Salazar, Rahman and Entezam, who were at heart unsympathetic to Jewish self-determination and the refugee issue, stood by their guns.
Ivan Rand was an exception. Initially, unsympathetic to a guarantee of Jewish immigration, he became a strong supporter. Just as he initially argued against the committee becoming involved in such issues as the sentence of the captured Jews to death by the British Mandate military authorities, he reversed himself and later supported visiting the DP camps in Europe. Did he change because of what he saw and experienced or did he adapt to ensure he served as the compromise figure who could mediate between the various positions? Though I cannot be definitive based on the documents that I read, I have concluded that it was the latter.
For example, in the 24 June 1947 meeting of the committee discussing where the matter of intervening in the British military arrest and condemnation of the Jewish jail breakers, he played the role of an individual deeply steeped in a very cautionary approach. “The Committee ought to proceed judiciously in its actions towards both parties to the controversy and towards the administration of Palestine.” (p. 6, Minutes) The Committee should only act on universal principles and, like Rahman, he urged that it not be swayed by sentiment. By playing both sides of the fence – endorsing humanitarianism as a universal principle but discounting sentiment as a basis for influencing decisions – he managed to be elected onto the committee to look into the matter further.
This seemed to be his mode of operation. Using it, he managed to move Entezam and Rahman from a position favouring a unitary state with Arab control to a federal state with shared power. But, in the end, as described above, he supported “political division and economic unity.” (Rand Memorandum on Partition) His solution was self-determination of each group but with an integrated economy, the core of the recommendation of the UNSCOP Committee which he in the end drafted. Land was no longer to be controlled by a central government but by each of the partitioned states. Ditto with immigration.
While performing as the continuing juggler and seemingly shifting positions with the wind, he would suddenly fly into flowery rhetoric, which added to the impressions of both Bunche and Sandström that Rand was a legal slut dressed in the bold colours of cosmic views.
In the larger view here are the sole remaining representatives of the Semitic race. [He was referring to both Arabs and Jews.] They are in the land in which that race was cradled. There are no fundamental incompatibilities between them. The scheme satisfies the deepest aspirations of both, independence. There s a considerable body of opinion in both groups which seeks the course of cooperation. Despite, then, the drawback of the Arab minority [sic! – a repeated Freudian slip], the setting is one from which, with good will and a spirit of cooperation, may arise a rebirth in historical surroundings of the genius of both people. The massive contribution made throughout the centuries by them in religious and ethical conceptions, in philosophy, and in the entire intellectual sphere, should excite among the leaders a mutual respect and a pride in their common origin.
Ivan Rand was no Abe Lincoln. As I read his flowery prose I can see Emil Sandström thinking to himself, “What a crock!” and even hear Ralph Bunche not so cautiously muttering the same sentiment. But simply to characterize Ivan Rand as a political maneuverer amongst the shoals of international diplomacy does not do him justice.
Just reflect. The committee starts out with García Granados and Enrique Entezam openly for partition, Sandström quietly so, and Lisicky a surprise convert given that he came from a unified state with two different nationalities – Czechs and Slovaks. But partition needed at least six supporters not four. Ralph Bunche, though having no vote but a great deal of influence given the wide respect with which he was held, adamantly but very diplomatically opposed partition. It would of necessity lead to war. Rahman and Entezam opposed any Jewish self-determination, Simic favoured a federation. Hood and Blom began not wanting to antagonize the Arabs, García Salazar was disposed against Jewish self-determination, but willing to compromise and support a federal solution as long as Christians were given power in Jerusalem at the very least. Given these facts, a bookie would have given odds that a federal scheme would win the day.
But partition did win. Further, those who supported a unitary state under Arab control were reduced to zero. Those who supported a federal state were reduced to three. Partition won by seven votes. Hood abstained. Rand, in spite of his flowery overwrought and excessive verbiage, in spite of his shifting positions, or perhaps because of them, played a major role in moving the centre of gravity of the committee, first away from support for a unitary state, and then, in spite of his initial position and perhaps because he took that position, away from a federal state. Partition won against any foreseeable odds.
Of course, a clear role was played by happenstance. Hood moved to abstention and Blom moved to support partition, but not because of what they experienced but because of what they were ordered, given the occurrence of extraneous factors. But moving García Salazar into the partition camp required some doing and Rand can be given the most credit for accomplishing that task, even, if his prime motive was not principle but the desire to be the mover and the shaker behind the final solution, whatever it was.
What does that have to teach us about the process? That luck is king! Certainly, the timing of the Arab League alliance with Sukarno was not anticipated, and to the extent it was, who expected it to influence the final support of the committee for partition. The ambitions of the Australian Foreign Minister had not been taken into account in the committee’s deliberations, but when he did not get Arab support for the Presidency of the General Assembly, Hood received his instructions to forget about not alienating the Arabs and to abstain. (Eventually Evett, when he cast the first vote for partition in the General Assembly became a hero for Zionists.)
What is the lesson of all this and how did it effect whether Israel was born in a Western birthing process of democracy, individual rights and the rule of law? Did Israel then move to an Eastern position as the right became preeminent and conservatism and religion emerged as the prominent influences for most Israelis?
I would argue that this was not the case. For respect for the rule of law, liberty and democracy may have been the bathwater in which the baby was received, but the process of delivery was a result of luck combined with wily and pragmatic manipulation. And this has been the main characteristic of Israel. Ben Gurion preached principles but acted on the basis of getting the best deal you can get under the circumstances. Begin, the principled politician who wanted a unified state under Jewish control, while directly and absolutely opposing any transfer of Arabs, did not stand on principle and gave away the Sinai in return for peace.
Rabin, though convinced the PLO just consisted of terrorists, entered into the Oslo agreement. Sharon did the same with Gaza. Even Netanyahu, with all his wiles, openly endorsing the two state solution but doing almost nothing to advance it, is at heart a pragmatist, perhaps Israel’s most unprincipled and manipulative one. Last year, Netanyahu ardently argued that signing the accord with Iran was by far the greatest danger to Israel. Has anyone heard Netanyahu pipe up on the matter this year when the Israeli intelligence services and armed forces have determined that Israel is better off with the deal than without it?
And it is pragmatism, not the adherence to fundamental principles, that delivered the state of Israel and has sustained it ever since. Ivan Rand played a significant role in both ensuring that outcome and defining the ruling ethos of the Israeli state, rooted in Western values, most importantly, pragmatism.