Ivan Rand UNSCOP – continued

UNSCOP and the Partition of Palestine IVB

by

Howard Adelman

Ivan Rand

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.

UNSCOP and East/West Tectonic Plates

UNSCOP and East/West Tectonic Plates

by

Howard Adelman

Below is the long form of the abstract that I submitted to the Israel Studies Association in a much briefer version for presentation of a paper at this June’s conference in Jerusalem. It is really the overview of the book that I never finished and have now resurrected and on which I am currently working. I include it in my blog both to keep readers posted and to invite leads for information or discussion of the topic.

The paper explores one important exogenous influence on the definition of Israel – the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) that was set up by the United Nations on 15 May 1947 to investigate the causes of the conflict in Palestine and make recommendations, if possible, for a solution. Though UNSCOP’s make-up and deliberations were not only supposed to be impartial but appear to be impartial, the committee only succeeded in fulfilling the latter half of that principle of its mandate. This paper examines the thinking of each of the 11 representatives (alternates are only considered when they have specific relevance such as S.L. Ayteo of Australia), using records of the committee, the majority and minority reports, UN archives, records in the national archives of the different members, as well as other scholarly and biographical sources, in order to assess how each of the members of the committee assessed the different possible solutions to the problem in terms of the extant theories of how to resolve inter-nation and inter-religious conflicts in terms of various conceptions of the state and how this affected their votes in support of or opposition to partition.

This paper argues that the minority (federation) and majority (partition) reports were not ways of resolving the conflict. Most of those intimately knowledgeable about the problem did not expect the recommendations to affect the outcome one way or the other. And neither the UN, using what would become the idea of a peace enforcement force, or the major powers were willing to enforce a solution. The minority report’s recommendations would not have done any better. The two recommendations – federation OR partition with an economic union and Jerusalem under international auspices – were more reflections of two dominant models, and compromise solutions to inter-nation and inter-religious conflicts reflective of what I call Western and Eastern perspectives, both ill-suited to the character of this type of conflict.

This was not simply the case in Palestine, but would prove to be equally unsuitable to resolving conflicts in any area where the Western political tectonic plate rubbed against the Eastern political tectonic plate, whether in Palestine, the Balkans, Iraq, Syria, and, as to be soon demonstrated, in Turkey. Nevertheless, the recommendations set a template that would not only dominate the Israeli-Palestinian problem, but many other conflicts in the Middle East and the Balkans.

In my analysis, the stakes were stacked in favour of partition given the predispositions of the members by 4-3, and needed only the conversion of two other members to constitute a majority report with 6 of the 11 members in support. The majority report received seven votes; the minority report received three votes; there was one abstention. As it turned out, the conversion of John Hood from Australia from opposing the majority recommendation to abstaining proved to be totally fortuitous. Neither he nor Dr. N.S. Blom of the Netherlands were independent thinkers on the committee, but representatives of what were perceived to be their own country’s national interests.

Representation from countries around the world was not intended to represent the specific interests of a country. Rather, the membership was intended to be constitutive of independent individuals coming from countries representative of the membership of the United Nations, excluding the five major powers, especially Great Britain, the mandate of which was under examination. Though drawn from a variety of countries from different regions of the globe, the members of the committee were not there to represent the interests of their countries.

In the case of John Hood of Australia, perhaps representing the interests of Australia is a misleading description. He was there to represent the interests of H.V. Evatt, the then Foreign Minister of Australia. Evatt’s ambition was to become President of the UN National Assembly. When he was thwarted in that ambition, he released John Hood from opposing partition, which he had instructed him to do when the vote came lest he alienate the Arab states whose support he would need to be elected President. Instead, he instructed Hood to abstain as a virtual cover for the equivocation of Hood during the discussions in the committee. Abstention for an obscure reason allowed Hood to save face and later, when the issue of the Presidency was out of the way, to allow Evatt to cast the first vote for partition, thereby becoming a hero to Australian Jews and Israel.

The case of Dr. Blom of the Netherlands is another story. He was also a toady of the Netherlands Foreign Affairs Ministry. The Netherlands, like many waning imperial powers at the time, still wanted to hold onto its overseas colonies, Indonesia in particular. To do that, Netherlands would need the support of other Muslim states, particularly the large number of Arab states. Blom was instructed to oppose partition, cautiously, diplomatically and almost surreptitiously to avoid becoming a spokesperson for the anti-partition faction. However, just weeks before the issue came to a head, the Arab League announced its support for Sukarno, the leader of the Indonesian independence movement. Blom was then instructed to support partition.

The partition side needed only one more member of the committee to support partition. The Peruvian delegation, particularly Dr. Alberto Ulloa Sotomayor, was not on the committee in his own eyes to represent his country’s interests, but rather the interests of all of Christendom, more particularly, the Roman Catholic Church. If the committee voted for a federated state, then Jerusalem would be its natural capital. If the committee voted for partition, then there was a very divisive issue of whether the Arabs or the Jews would gain control of Jerusalem, Given the conditions on the ground, and the contention between the two sides, Sotomayor was able to convince his fellow members of the committee to support making Jerusalem an international city with the Church having a major input into its governance. The conversion of the Peruvian delegation to support partition was a result of a deal to take care of their major concern, Christian power in Jerusalem.

Vladimir Simić of Yugoslavia, given the different ethnicities and the coexistence of Christianity and Islam within his state, was adamantly wedded to a federal solution. He opposed partition. Nasrollah Entezam of Iran and Sir Abdur Rahman a Muslim judge from India, began by favouring a unified state, but what they witnessed and heard, the debate within the committee and the influence of Ivan Rand from the federal state of Canada with two dominant nations each with a different language, persuaded them to support a federal solution as the only realistic option that might gain majority support.

The irony was that Ivan Rand in the end supported partition and became the 7th vote making partition the clear winner. The conversion of Ivan Rand was interesting as a bell-weather since he was a major influence on the members of the Eastern tectonic caucus to adopt a federal rather than a unified state solution. The reasons are complex and cannot be summarized here, but given that Canada is a federal state with two major national groups each then having two different religions for the majority, Canadian support of a federal solution would seem to come naturally. But Rand went on to support partition. The question of why and how that happened is one of the most interesting aspects of the tale.

There are a few side conclusions. On a day after we just memorialized Holocaust Day, contrary to a great deal of mythology, there is little evidence in the historical records that the Holocaust had any noticeable let alone significant influence on the thinking of the various member parties at the time, or, for that matter, the different states that were members of the United Nations and voted to support or oppose the partition recommendation. The issue of refugees, particularly the 250,000 Jewish refugees still in Europe whom no one at the time wanted, did. There are other important challenges to received wisdom, but this is perhaps the most important one.

The study also adumbrates why dealing with refugees, whether Jewish refugees after WWII, Palestinian refugees following the Arab-Jewish War in 1947-8, or waves of refugees from the Balkans, Iraq and Syria, turned out to be so difficult. Most importantly, the analysis has implications for assessing various two-state and one-state models, not only for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but for political solutions to conflicts in the whole region and elsewhere.

The modern period in which the nation-state has emerged supreme has never been able to resolve how that nation-state can be a full democracy representative not only of all of its members, but of all the nations within it. For example, Canada has somewhat succeeded in ensuring a degree of representation for the Francophone nation but not for its aboriginal peoples. And it, relatively speaking, is a great success The study is intended to answer the question, Why? And How? and If? there can be any definitive answer to how inter-nation conflicts can be resolved within the body politic of a single state, and, more particularly, the conflict between Jews and Arabs over Palestine.

The half-thesis as abstracted and abbreviated here with respect to the historical material, rather than the issue of political theory which I have not yet discussed, can be expected to be subject to much revision. The summary above was based on research undertaken a number of years ago. It will need to be updated. Further, since I conduct my research to falsify what I believe rather than looking for evidence to support it, it is difficult to imagine that the final product will resemble what I have written above. But that is the nature of intellectual inquiry.

With the help of Alex Zisman

List of  Representatives on UNSCOP categorized according to the analysis

  1. Floaters

John Hood, Australia

Dr. N.S. Blom, Netherlands

Dr. Alberto Ulloa Sotomayor, Peru

  1. Mediator

Justice Ivan Rand, Canada

  1. Western Tectonic Plate

Karel Lisicky, Czechoslovakia

Justice Emil Sandstrőm, Sweden

Dr. Jorge García Granados, Guatemala

Professor Enrique Rodríguez Fabregat, Uruguay

  1. Eastern Tectonic Plate

Sir Abdur Rahman, India

Vladimir Simić, Yugoslavia

Nasrollah Entezam, Iran