Uri Avnery's article on 29 November - reprinted on mepeace.org with the express permission of Uri Avnery
"A Day in November"
THIS TUESDAY will be the 64th anniversary of a fateful day for our lives.
A day in November. A day to remember.
On November 29, 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted, by 33 votes against 13 (with 10 abstentions), the Palestine Partition Plan.
This event has become a subject of endless debates, misinterpretations and outright falsifications. It may be worthwhile to peel away the myths and see it as it was.
BY THE end of 1947, there were in the country – then officially named Palestine - about 1.2 million Arabs and 635 thousand Jews. The gap between the two population groups had turned into an abyss. Though geographically intertwined, they lived on two different planets. With very few exceptions, they considered each other as mortal enemies.
This was the reality that the UN commission, charged with proposing a solution, found on the ground when it visited the country.
One of the great moments of my life is connected with this UNSCOP (“United Nations Special Committee on Palestine”). On the Carmel mountain chain, near kibbutz Daliah, I was attending the annual folk dance festival. Folk dances played a major role in the new Hebrew culture we were consciously striving to create. Most of these dances were somewhat contrived, even artificial, like many of our efforts, but they reflected the will to create something new, fresh, rooted in the country, entirely different from the Jewish culture of our parents. Some of us spoke about a new “Hebrew nation”.
In a huge natural amphitheater, under a canopy of twinkling summer stars, tens of thousands of young people, boys and girls, had gathered to cheer on the many amateur groups performing on the stage. It was a joyous affair, imbued with camaraderie, radiating feelings of strength and self-confidence.
No one of us could have guessed that within a few months we would meet again in the fields of a deadly war.
In the middle of the performance, an excited voice announced on the loudspeaker that several members of UNSCOP had come to visit. As one, the huge crowd stood up and started to sing the national anthem, Hatikvah (“the Hope”). I never liked this song very much, but at that moment it sounded like a fervent prayer, filling the space, rebounding from the hills of the Carmel. I suppose that almost all of the 6000 Jewish youngsters who gave their lives in the war were assembled for the last time on that evening, singing with profound emotion.
IT WAS in this atmosphere that the members of UNSCOP, representing many different nations, had to find a solution.
As everybody knows, the commission adopted a plan to partition Palestine between an independent “Arab” and an independent “Jewish” state. But that is not the whole story.
Looking at the map of the 1947 partition resolution, one must wonder at the borders. They resemble a puzzle, with Arab pieces and Jewish pieces put together in an impossible patchwork, with Jerusalem and Bethlehem as a separate unit. The borders look crazy. Both states would have been totally indefensible.
The explanation is that the committee did not really envision two totally independent and separate states. The plan explicitly included an economic union. That would have necessitated a very close relationship between the two political entities, something akin to a federation, with open borders and free movement of people and goods. Without it, the borders would have been impossible.
That was a very optimistic scenario. Immediately after the committee’s plan was adopted by the General Assembly, after much cajoling by the Zionist leadership, war broke out with sporadic Arab attacks on Jewish traffic on the vital roads.
When the first shot was fired, the partition plan was dead. The foundation, on which the whole edifice rested, broke apart. No open borders, no economic union, no chance for a union of any kind. Only abyssal, deadly, enmity.
THE PARTITION plan would never have been adopted in the first place if it had not been preceded by a historical event that seemed at the time beyond belief.
The Soviet delegate to the UN, Andrei Gromyko, suddenly made what can only be described as a fiery Zionist speech. He contended that after the terrible suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust, they deserved a state of their own.
To appreciate the utter amazement with which this speech was received, one must remember that until that very moment, Communists and Zionists had been irreconcilable foes. It was not only a clash of ideologies, but also a family affair. In Tzarist Russia, Jews were persecuted by an anti-Semitic government, and young Jews, both male and female, were in the vanguard of all the revolutionary movements.
An idealistic young Jew had the choice between joining the Bolsheviks, the social-democratic Jewish Bund or the Zionists. The competition was fierce and engendered intense mutual hatred. Later, in the Soviet Union, Zionists were mercilessly persecuted. In Palestine, local Communists, Jewish and Arab, were accused of collaborating with the Arab militants who attacked Jewish neighborhoods.
What had brought about this sudden change in Soviet policy? Stalin did not turn from an anti-Semite into a philo-Semite. Far from it. But he was a pragmatist. It was the era of medium-range missiles, which threatened Soviet territory from all sides. Palestine was in practice a British colony and could easily have become a Western missile base, threatening Odessa and beyond. Better a Jewish and an Arab state, than that.
In the following war, almost all my weapons came from the Soviet bloc, mainly from Czechoslovakia. The Soviet Union recognized Israel de jure long before the United States.
The end of this unnatural honeymoon came in the early fifties, when David Ben-Gurion decided to turn Israel into an inseparable part of the Western bloc. At the same time, Stalin recognized the importance of the new pan-Arab nationalism of Gamal Abd-al-Nasser and decided to ride on that wave. His paranoid anti-Semitism came again to the fore. All over Eastern Europe Communist veterans were executed as Zionist-imperialist-Trotskyite spies, and his Jewish doctors were accused of attempting to poison him. (Luckily for them, Stalin died just in time and they were saved.)
TODAY, THE partition resolution is remembered in Israel mainly because of two words: “Jewish state”.
No one in Israel wants to be reminded of the borders of 1947, which gave the Jewish minority in Palestine “only” 55% of the country. (Though half of this consisted of the Negev desert, most of which is almost empty even now.) Nor do Jewish Israelis like to be reminded that almost half the population of the territory allotted to them was Arab.
At the time, the UN resolution was accepted by the Jewish population with overflowing enthusiasm. The photos of the people dancing in the streets of Tel Aviv belong to this day, and not – as is often falsely claimed, to the day the State of Israel was officially founded. (At that time we were in middle of a bloody war and nobody was in the mood for dancing.)
We know now that Ben-Gurion did not dream of accepting the partition plan borders, and even less the Arab population within them. The famous army “Plan Dalet” early in the war was a strategic necessity, but it was also a solution to the two problems: it added to Israel another 22% of the country and it drove the Arab population out. Only a small remnant of the Arab population remained – and by now it has grown to 1.5 million.
But all that is history. What concerned the future are the words “Jewish state”. Israeli rightists, who abhor the partition resolution in any other context, insist that it provides the legal basis to Israel’s right to be recognized as a “Jewish state” – meaning in practice, that the state belongs to all the Jews around the world, but not to its Arab citizens, whose families have been living here for at least 13 centuries, if not far longer (depends who does the counting).
But the UN used the word “Jewish” only for lack of any other definition. During the British Mandate, the two peoples in the country were called in English “Jews” and “Arabs”. But we ourselves spoke about a “Hebrew” State (medina Ivrit). In newspaper clippings of the time, only this term can be seen. People of my age-group remember dozens of demonstrations in which we invariably chanted “Free Immigration – Hebrew State”. The sound of it still rings in our ears.
The UN did not deal with the ideological makeup of the future states. It certainly assumed that they would be democratic, belonging to all their inhabitants. Otherwise they would hardly have drawn borders that left a substantial Arab population in the “Jewish” state.
Israel’s declaration of independence bases itself on the UN resolution. The relevant sentence reads: “…AND ON THE STRENGTH OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, (WE) HEREBY DECLARE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A JEWISH STATE IN ERETZ-ISRAEL, TO BE KNOWN AS THE STATE OF ISRAEL.”
The ultra-rightists who now dominate the Knesset want to use these words as a pretext for replacing democracy with a doctrine of Jewish nationalist-religious supremacy. A former Shin-Bet chief and present Kadima party MK has submitted a bill that would abolish the equality of the two terms “Jewish” and “democratic” in the official legal doctrine, and state clearly that the “Jewishness” of the state has precedence over its “democratic” character. This would deprive the Arab citizens of any remnant of equality. (At the last moment, in face of the public reaction, the Kadima party compelled him to withdraw the bill.)
THE 1947 partition plan was an exceptionally intelligent document. Its details are obsolete now, but its basic idea is as relevant today as it was 64 years ago: two nations are living in this country, they cannot live together in one state without a continuous civil war, they can live together in two states, the two states must establish close ties between each other.
Ben-Gurion was determined to prevent the founding of the Arab Palestinian state, and with the help of King Abdallah of Transjordan he succeeded in this. All his successors, with the possible exception of Yitzhak Rabin, have followed this line, now more than ever. We have paid – and are still paying – a heavy price for this folly.
On the 64th anniversary of this historic event, we must go back to its basic principle: Israel and Palestine, Two States for Two Peoples.
Two States for Two peoples will only work if the refugee issue is resolved to the satisfaction of the refugees.
The PA does not represent these millions of refugees. So no deal done with the PA will have any bearing on a peaceful future.
Much as I like and respect Uri Avnery, I think it is time to question his innocence. He is too fond of his Zionist dreams, which have caused untold damage to the original residents of the Holy Land. AlNakba destroyed the Palestinians in much the same way that The Holocaust destroyed the Jews of Poland. The consequences of such events cannot be undone, but need to be properly acknowledged.
It is time to make amends to all Palestinian Arab refugees with the same generosity and consideration that was shown to Holocaust survivors. Israel can afford it, they are a wealthy and stable country; as Israelis often like to tell us.
It is not only Israel that owes much to the Arabs of the Holy Land. The US – and the Jewish Lobby of the US – are even more culpable. It is they who have funded and protected Israel, whilst Israel repeatedly destroyed all potential for an Arab State to arise.
It is arrogant for Jews to place The Holocaust on a pedestal. If the Holocaust was that serious, there would NOT be a vibrant wealthy country called Israel. This reality leaves me with the impression that AlNakba was MORE SERIOUS, and MORE DEVASTATING than the Holocaust. Palestinians really did have a country – province you may prefer to call it – and it was stolen by Zionist Jews.
Comparisons are a normal human activity. To say it is offensive to compare the Holocaust to AlNakba is to imply that there is a hierarchy of atrocities, with those involving Jews being more significant than those of other races. Your interpretation becomes a form of racism.
We all know these attempts to exaggerate the significance of the Holocaust are one of the settlers favourite games. It is this settler role, and the settlers addiction to the bullying and humiliation of Arabs, that threatens to turn Israel into a fascist State.
Israel was never in the position to ‘give’ Palestinians a country. That was the responsibility of the UN.
It is the Palestinians’ birth right to have their own country. It was never the birthright of any Jewish community to have a country of their own, since they had not needed one [nor made any efforts to develop one] for 2000 years, and in reality, Jews never did have a country. The Jews were 12 tiny tribes, with trading centres, such as Jerusalem, which was a city that was also developed by other more substantial communities.
Twentieth century Palestinian Arabs, by comparison, had developed world-class cities, towns and an agricultural base. All of it integrated, and economically prosperous.
It is time to talk and – more importantly - ACT for PEACE, instead of dredging up historical atrocities that have no bearing [and may even detract] from a peaceful future.
Ok, let me explain, the holocast was systematic genocide. The took human beings, but them on train, gassed them then burnt them into ashes. Six million people were exterminated. There is no exaggerating the signaficants. Nakba was NOT GENOCIDE, you cannot compare the two. This is not racism, as we discussed the closest comparison to the NAKBA is the hundredsof thousands of Jews who were expelled from Arab countries. To say that expulsion is not as bad as the Arab expulsion that is racism. But to compare the Nakba to mass systematic genocide, even you dont believe that.
Palestine was NEVER EVER EVER A COUNTRY, even resolution 191 called for the creation of a JEWISH and ARAB state in Palestine. Palestine was just the name of a location lik ethe mideast. Only became a people later. BTW if the State of Israel was the result of the Holocast so was the Palestinian nation. Remember Jews were also Palestinians.
Jews had an EMPIRE in Israel (Read any history book)until they were thrown out for the Romans and the land was later invaded by the Arabs in the 7th century. Belittling Jewish history and their connection to the land will not bring peace any closer. Denying the significants of the Holocast will not bring peace closer. Demanding the destruction of the Jewish stae by bring in 4 million refugees will not bring peace any closer.
Sussan try to be realistic. Try to work on the future and not demand "justice". Let the refugees finally settle in their host countries or in a future Palestinain stae like almost ever other refugee in history . See the Jewish refugees from the Arab countries. Otherwise there will never be peace.
AlNakba was the colonization of the entire Holy Land by Zionists with the deliberate and carefully planned intention of removing the Arab people and turning an Arab country into a Jewish State. The Zionists were ruthless. The things they did to the Arabs make most modern Palestinian terrorism look pathetic by comparison.
Personally I do not think it important whether there ever was, or was not, an ancient country called Israel or Palestine, and I do not think it significant whether this place was a big country or a small country, or tribe or whatever. It is the Zionists who make a big deal and say that the past presence of an Israeli nation makes it right for them to steal back a country that had, in the mean-time, passed into the hands of another people.
The division of the Holy Land into 2 separate countries was a grave infringement on the basic rights of the traditional citizens to move about at will through any part of their country. They would no longer have been able to visit relatives or places that were a part of their personal lives. However, much worse was the way they were forced out of their homes, and their houses and possessions then stolen. Businesses and substantial farms and bank assets were also stolen. The looting was so bad that even the Zionist leadership was affronted – even Golda Meir was critical of the mass looting that accured.
At no time ever was it considered appropriate by the British Mandate or the UN or even the US for there to be any transfer of the population. That was a Zionist idea. They had meetings about population transfer as far back as 1937, when they confirmed that that was what they would do. Things like this a very cold-blooded and totally depraved. That was the way Ben Gurion did business, it is not the way you, Jeff or anyone else here would behave. Such behaviour is very Stalinist.
This is all long passed, even I can see that, BUT the refugees are for real. What you need to understand is that these refugees are not going to ever be a part of any country other than Israel and the OT. This is not because I or pro-Palestine advocates, or the refugees, or the Syrians or Lebanese, or anyone says so. It is a simple, hidden reality. These people live in camps that were created as a temporary measure that everyone thought would last no more than a year, at most.
The refugees were never welcome, NEVER NEVER NEVER, not then, not now, not ever. They have been the cause or trouble and strife in these other countries. They are not wanted. I have nothing to do with the situation, nor does anyone I have had any kind of contact with. At one time these people were thrown out of Jordan, and the quickly moved into Lebanon, and Israeli military followed them in a way that was not appreciated by the Lebanese.
The Arab countries never at any time had any intention of accepting these refugees, and they never will. This state of play has nothing to do with me, or the BDS movement, or even the Arab countries, it is simply the way it has always been. The refugees are not used by anyone for political advantage.
These refugee camps are the place from which terrorists come. They will be the cause of discord until they leave the camps and are given passports that make them equal with everyone else. The refugees are the centre of the peace deal, not the borders or Jerusalem. Their presence is so shocking no one can bear to look upon them, so they are virtually invisible, so that the rest of us can live in blissful ignorance.
This is the reality. I am now too old for any reality to make much on an impression on me, but I have always hoped for justice for all Palestinians. Now I hear people saying something that I had not heard or imagined before: a desire to save some of Palestine before it has all been converted into a Jewish homeland that is no longer recognizable to the Arabs who once lived there. I understand what they are saying, and although I have been pained by the loss of special buildings and beautiful landscapes, I think I am beyond wailing about any of this. I would just like to see a country were all are equal, with everyone having opportunities to work and live and be paid a decent wage.
This is a bit rough, but I will post it up, just in case you are wanting a prompt reply. Otherwise I will not be around for about 24 hours.
I will not comment on statements that have no basis or historical accuracy
"AlNakba was the colonization of the entire Holy Land by Zionists with the deliberate and carefully planned intention of removing the Arab people and turning an Arab country into a Jewish State. The Zionists were ruthless. The things they did to the Arabs make most modern Palestinian terrorism look pathetic by comparison."
If you are going to say such outragous comments the least you can do is try to find a source to back them up... This all returns to Nakba being worse than the Holocast. These are not intelligent arguments based in reallity.
Refugees are the pawns of Arab regimes. Once again Isreal will never let 4 million Palestinains onto its land it will be the destruction of the Jewish state. I hope you come to these realization. They should have been settled 60 years ago just as the Jewish refugees from Arab countries were settled, and now they should be settled where they are. Until Palestinains accept the fact that t they can not destroy the Jewish state by force or by overwhelming them with refugees there will never be peace. It saddens me.
It is Israelis, not the Arabs, that have treated the refugees as pawns.
The establishment of a Jewish homeland in the Holy Land was always conditional on the Arab population being able to continue living and working within their long established houses and businesses and farms.
This has not happened, we have 5 million refugees, and no one but Israel is responsible for this situation.
There was never any suggestion from the UN – much less any acceptance of the idea - that neighbouring Arab countries should accommodate Arabs whose houses and businesses were stolen by Jews making Aliyah. It is Israel – and only Israel – that treats the refugees like pawns, trying to push Israel’s responsibility on to other countries.
The UN made it clear that the refugees were to be allowed to return to their homes in return for israel's extended borders.
The forced evacuation of the Arabs from their homes was an act of complete depravity, committed by Israeli Jews.
There is a limit to how much we can go back and forth. The UN said there should be "a just resolution to the refugee issue". It did not say all Arab refugees should be let into Israel. Refugees refers to all refugees (including Jews) and "just" could simply be compensation.
The solution should simply be that Jewish as well as Arab refugees should be given some sort of compensation and the Arabs should return to teh Palestinian state. I think there is no reason to keep beating this topic. Your opinion is clear, it has been for a long time.
I will ask you once agian to not compare the attrocities of the Holocast to the Nakba, it is inacccurate an in very poor taste to the 6 million Jews who were sent to the slaughter, like cattle.
Jeff, you care passionately for the DIGNITY of the 6 million dead Holocaust Jews, yet you cast aside the BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS of living people who were made refugees because Jews invaded and colonized their country. These refugees became refugees ONLY because Jews stole their homes, businesses and farms, and then used Jewish military superiority to prevent these refugees from returning to the houses they had lived in for many generations. That is the only reason why these people became refugees.
The UN did a deal with Israel over the borders, and it was understood that Israel would honour the agreement. The agreement was to make the illegally extended borders legal on the condition that all Arab refugees – then only 700,000 – would be allowed to safely return to their homes.
The massive refugee problem is entirely the fault of Israel. Israel is the only cause of this problem. International Jews, as a whole, also share in responsibility for this atrocity, because they provided the funding for the establishment of Israel, and they supported Israel at the times when Israel committed massacres.
Yes, yes, Jews are horrible, Israel commited attrocities and the innocent Arabs did nothing but loose their land to the evil Jews. We understand the Arabs non-violent nature over the fast 70 years, they just try to find peace and democracy and Israel just aims to destroy. This is what it says in teh history books you read from. I would suggest you stop using the books put out by your local Arab dictator.
"The UN did a deal with Israel over the borders, and it was understood that Israel would honour the agreement. The agreement was to make the illegally extended borders legal on the condition that all Arab refugees – then only 700,000 – would be allowed to safely return to their homes."
What deal is this, please explain. A far as I know the only UN Security Council resolution on reugees is 242 that states "just settlement of the refugee problem". It DID NOT SAY a return of refugees to Israel. Please send the exact text of this agreement and when it was made. Does it have a name?
I must say that on one hand you say how important the UN is and their deals and agreement. On the other hand you say that had no right to make such deals on Arab land.... pick one.
The following is a response to Jeff's last comment, where he says:
This is what it says in teh history books you read from. I would suggest you stop using the books put out by your local Arab dictator.
Education as Indoctrination by Lawrence Davidson 13 August 2011
Over the last ten years there have been periodic outbursts of rage over the alleged anti-Semitic nature of Palestinian textbooks. Most of these episodes have been instigated by an Israeli based organization called the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace (AKA the Institute for Monitoring Peace and Cultural Tolerance in School Education). According to one Israeli journalist, Akiva Eldar, the Center does sloppy work. It “routinely feeds the media with excerpts from “Palestinian” textbooks that call for Israel’s annihilation without bothering to point out that the texts quoted in fact come from Egypt and Jordan.” The Center’s conclusions have been corroborated only by other Israeli institutions such as Palestinian Media Watch.
Not surprisingly, almost all independent investigations of the same issue have come up with very different conclusions. Non-Zionist sources such as The Nation magazine, which published a report on Palestinian textbooks in 2001, the George Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research, reporting in 2002, the Israel/Palestine Center for Research and Information, reporting in 2004, and the U.S. State Department Report of 2009 all found that Palestinian textbooks did not preach anti-Semitism. Nathan Brown, a professor of Political Science at George Washington University, who did his own study on the subject in 2000, set out the situation this way, Palestinian textbooks now in use, and which replaced older ones published in Egypt and Jordan, do not teach anti-Semitism. However, “they tell history from a Palestinian point of view.” It might very well be this fact that the Zionists cannot abide and purposefully mistake for anti-Semitism.
Here is another not very surprising fact. When it comes to choosing which set of reports to support, which set to take a public stand on, American politicians will almost always go with the Zionist versions. Take then Senator Hilary Clinton who, in 2007, denounced Palestinian textbooks. They “don’t give Palestinian children an education, they give them an indoctrination.” How did she know? Well, Israel’s Palestinian Media Watch told her so, and she did not have the foresight to fact check the assertion before going public. How typical. And, how analytically shallow. While the Palestinian textbooks don’t teach hatred of Jewish Israelis, the reality of daily life under occupation surely does. Those “facts on the ground,” and not the textbooks, supplies the most powerful form of education for Palestinian youth.
Although in 2009 the U.S. State Department found that Palestinian textbooks were not the products of anti-Semites, there will be yet another Department sponsored “comprehensive and independent” study in 2011. This time around the investigation will look at “incitement caused by bias in both Israeli and Palestinian textbooks. When this happens, one can only hope the investigators take a look at the work of the Israeli scholar Nurit Peled-Elhanan. She is a professor of language and education at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and also the daughter of the famous Israeli general turned peace activist, Matti Peled. Peled-Elhanan has recently written a book titled Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Educa.... The book will be published this month (August) in the United Kingdom. The work covers the content of Israeli textbooks over the past five years and concludes that Palestinians are never referred to as such “unless the context is terrorism.” Otherwise, they are referred to as Arabs. And Arabs are collectively presented as “vile and deviant and criminal, people who do not pay taxes, people who live off the state, who don’t want to develop….you never see [in the textbooks] a Palestinian child or doctor or teacher or engineer or modern farmer.” In contrast she finds that Palestinian textbooks, even while telling history from a Palestinian point of view, “distinguish between Zionists and Jews.” They tend to take a stand “against Zionists, not against Jews.”
Peled-Elhanan makes a link between what Israeli children are taught and how they later behave when drafted into the country’s military services. “One question that bothers many people is how do you explain the cruel behavior of Israeli soldiers towards Palestinians, an indifference to human suffering, the inflicting of suffering…I think the major reason for that is education.” Historically, the mistreatment of Palestinians and even their periodic massacre is taught to Israelis as something that is “unfortunate” but ultimately necessary and “good” for the survival of state. On the other hand, this behavior of Israelis toward Palestinians must also have its consequences. In Peled-Elhanan’s opinion, Palestinian terrorist attacks are “the direct consequence of the oppression, slavery, humiliation and the state of siege imposed on the Palestinians.”
This Israeli process of educating children to hate and prejudice is, of course, exactly what the Zionists accuse the Palestinians of doing. It turns out that all this time, while leveling charges of incitement at the Palestinian educational process, they themselves have been practicing the same sort of indoctrination on their own children. This revelation fills Peled-Elhanan with despair–”I only see the path to fascism” for Israel
Let me get this straight you make outragous statements about this deal between Israel and the UN, about how Israel is an apartied state on how the Nakba had worse atrocities then the holocast and so on. When you are asked to explain and give a bit of facts to back up these statements you change the topic?
Why not actually discuss the issue at hand as opposed to trying to find anothe obscure fringe left wing fanatic who goes against all teh accepted norms to prove your point.
I would love for you to answer even half of the questions that were posed to you as opposed to simply ignoring them because you have no proof behind your accusations.