Hard Leftist Tom Segev attended a lecture by Sir Martin Gilbert (pictured) at Tel Aviv University this past week, and from reading this account, I got the impression that Segev resents the fact that Gilbert is so strongly pro-Israel.
Gilbert, 75, has written more than 80 books, which makes him one of history’s most prolific historians. He authored Winston Churchill’s most comprehensive biography and a number of other important books. He and Crossman met at the Weizmann Archive in Rehovot, related Gilbert, telling another story he heard from him: In one of the DP camps, two of the Anglo-American commission members saw a Jew from Poland tearing up a U.S. immigration certificate. He was afraid the Holocaust could repeat itself there too, he said.
Crossman believed most of the camp inmates were interested in settling in the Land of Israel, but he also asked himself what the refugees would decide if the United States were an option. America had not invited them; they had to choose between Palestine and their countries of origin, including Poland, which had become a communist and anti-Semitic state. They preferred Palestine. Crossman’s question has remained open; Gilbert did not mention it.
It was a fine lecture, organized in chronological order. In the conflict between his country and Zionism seven decades ago, Gilbert is on Zionism’s side. This is not a black-and-white story, he noted, and he quoted certain British officials who evinced sympathy for the Zionist alternative, including the British ambassador in Poland in the 1940s. However, most of his references reflected great hostility to Zionism and even to the concentration camp survivors. Those of the latter who wound up under British occupation in Germany and Austria were put into detention camps and their food rations restricted, as though they were not victims of the Nazis but rather captive enemy soldiers.
Many years later Gilbert met the British diplomat George William Rendel, who wanted to deliver a confession. “There is something I regret,” he said. Gilbert pricked up his ears. “I regret I didn’t do more to prevent the establishment of the State of Israel.” Gilbert did not say that the British officials’ hostility reflected anti-Semitism: Apparently they simply preferred Arab oil.
Ultimately the British left Palestine, in response to growing Arab terror. Gilbert did not mention the Arab Revolt, which had already given the British their fill of the Land of Israel at the end of the 1930s, as though it had no part in this story.
Gilbert’s criticism of his country was very bitter. In Britain, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe is speaking in a similar tone, but he is attacking Zionist policy there. The difference between the two is this: Many Israelis consider Pappe to be a self-hating traitor. Sir Martin received a noble title from his queen and among those present at his lecture this week was Matthew Gould, the United Kingdom’s first Jewish ambassador to Israel.
In May, 1939, Britain issued the infamous White Paper which overturned previous British policies of partitioning Palestine into two separate Jewish and Arab states. The White Paper itself is a remarkable read, as it shows the mindset of capitulating to Arab terror clearly, as well as the implicit idea that since Jews don’t make as much trouble as Arabs, it is better to capitulate to Arab demands at the expense of Jewish lives.
The White Paper limited Jewish immigration for the entirely absurd reason that Palestine could not possibly economically support so many people without impacting the existing population – even as it admits that the Jews that immigrated so far has had no problems integrating and growing the economy. It is a wonder that the population of the area is increased many times over since then and yet somehow Israel hs a better economy than its more-roomy neighbors. Imagine that.The White Paper also infamously capitulated to the Arab demands that Arab land sales to Jews be limited, in an amazing bit of enshrined political bigotry.
Unsurprisingly, the White Paper does not address the huge amount of illegal Arab immigration into the country. Only Jews are deemed a threat to the area.
In reality, of course, the reason is more clearly indicated here:
The lamentable disturbances of the past three years are only the latest and most sustained manifestation of this intense Arab apprehension […] it cannot be denied that fear of indefinite Jewish immigration is widespread amongst the Arab population and that this fear has made possible disturbances which have given a serious setback to economic progress, depleted the Palestine exchequer, rendered life and property insecure, and produced a bitterness between the Arab and Jewish populations which is deplorable between citizens of the same country. If in these circumstances immigration is continued up to the economic absorptive capacity of the country, regardless of all other considerations, a fatal enmity between the two peoples will be perpetuated, and the situation in Palestine may become a permanent source of friction amongst all peoples in the Near and Middle East.
In other words, Arabs riot and murder and rampage when Jews move in, so if we have a choice of saving millions of Jews from certain death in Europe or upsetting Arabs who are quick to riot, it is much better to let the Jews die. Jews don’t make as much trouble.
The fact that Palestine’s economy was almost entirely the result of Jewish immigration is ignored. Economic reasons are the fig leaf of British fears of Arab terror, and Arabs then as now used terror to manipulate Western fears and policies, something I recently called the diplomacy of fear.
Against this backdrop. the World’s Fair opened up in New York. The official British government of Palestine had no interest in exhibiting there, so the Jews of Palestine created their own exhibit. It is instructive to read Chaim Weizman’s radio speech to the attendees, as it lays out the Jewish reaction to the bigoted and ultimately genocide-friendly White Paper. He makes the points that while the White Paper is immoral, it will not stop the ultimate rebirth of a Jewish state, that it was Jewish sweat that built Palestine up from an ignored slum to a major player in the Middle East.
Notice also Chief Rabbi Yitzchok Herzog’s address, which was written before the White Paper, emphasizing how the Jewish return to Palestine has ecomonically benefited their Arab neighbors. Rather than talking about displacement and colonization, as is commonly charged nowadays, the Jewish leadership of Palestine always and consistently spoke of a win-win situation where Arabs and Jews both prosper.
The Arab leaders always pretended that Palestine was a zero-sum game, and the British White Paper codified that thinking. The Jews and the facts bore out a completely opposite conclusion – Palestine could and did turn into an economic powerhouse, benefiting hundreds of thousands of ordinary Arabs who moved in to take advantage of the Jewish-built economy.
Then, as now, outsiders pretend that they know the best solution to the Jewish “problem”, and they come up with sometimes well-meaning plans to solve this problem. And then, as now, if their ideas end up accidentally resulting in the mass murder of Jews, they can say “oops – but we meant well.”