BEVERLEY BAXTER'S LONDON LETTER

Much-promised Land

June 15 1948
BEVERLEY BAXTER'S LONDON LETTER

Much-promised Land

June 15 1948

Much-promised Land

BEVERLEY BAXTER'S LONDON LETTER

LAST WEEK END a few of us gathered at Addington Golf Club (which is a blessed haven in south suburban London) in order to propel a little white ball by savage percussion blows administered with blunt instruments. We only use half the clubhouse because a dwindling number of German prisoners of war are still quartered upon us.

Addington is used to strange and exciting events. It was on the direct route of the Doodle Bugs as they flew crazily from the coast to London. More than once we flung ourselves on the ground to escape the blast of a nearby bomb and on one occasion we counted 15 V l’s that passed over our heads.

In the Battle of Britain, Air Force pilots used to turn up at the Club before remounting their steeds and charging again into the battle of the clouds. Later when the tide of war turned in our favor we saw one of our members, David Dobie, do a beautiful round of 74 a few days before he flew his parachute battalion into action and won a triple D.S.O., as well as the title of “The Mad Colonel of Arnhem.”

So we were not surprised this week end when a tall, sixtyish British Englishman, as the Americans would say, came to lunch. He limpod rather badly and gave a curious impression of never taking his eyes off any of us, no matter where we sat. Then we found out that he was Richard Graves, the Lord Mayor of Jerusalem. At any rate he was chairman of the Jerusalem Municipal Commission, which is the same thing.

After dodging death for years in Palestine he was hit by a ricochet bullet which was not intended for him at all. This appeared to him as something grimly humorous in a situation which is singularly lacking in that commodity.

Three days previously he had left Jerusalem to the usual accompaniment of rifle and machine-gun lire and had made a long and tortuous journey in a convoy protected fore and aft by armored cars, through Ramallah and Latroun down to Lydda airport.

In the convoy were British officials who had risked death and mutilation to give Palestine sanitation, order and a community life. Their reward was to crawl away through the lovely countryside like criminals who would be torn to pieces by the mob.

“We are just beginning to realize,” he said, “that

we are home here in a country where there are no road blocks, no gun fire, no closed areas, no passes, and no one trying to partition England.”

Chaos and Misery

HIS BITTERNESS toward UN is complete.

“How could they decide on partition without any plan to enforce it?” As a rule men who have held official posts abroad are models of reticence, but Richard Graves does not come of a reticent family. His Irish father wrote that rollicking song “Father O’Flynn” and his half-brother Robert Graves shocked the postwar world of the 1920’s with his novel “Good-by to All That.” So Richard Graves who has served in the administration of Palestine since 1940 is furious and does not care who knows it.

“There is nothing ahead but chaos and misery,” he declares, “and Britain’s responsibility is almost as great as that of UN. How can you hand over Palestine when there is no one to take it? And if all this shuffling brings in the one foreign power which could enforce order . . . Well, we’ll have asked for it.”

And no one thought it necessary to ask which country he meant.

I am writing this just before the date which is to end Britain’s suzerainty in Palestine. Therefore, anything may have happened by the time this London Letter is published in Maclean’s, but perhaps it would be advisable to clear the issue of prejudice—as far as that is possible—and try to forecast the trend of events in this most lamentable story, this Via Dolorosa which humanity has trodden.

It is essential to recall that Palestine was an Arab territory included in the Turkish Empire and that with the aid of rebellious Arabs we defeated Turkey in the 1914 war. In 1917 the then Foreign Secretary, Mr. Arthur Balfour, made a pronouncement, the meaning of which has been hotly debated ever since. He declared in precise terms that after the war a Jewish national home would be established in Palestine.

Let us give the lowest possible estimate of that action and assume that Britain, fighting for the survival of herself and western civilization, was anxious to gain the Continued on page 74

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support of Jewish influence and Jewish finance in America. Considering that Britain had also much to gain by a friendly understanding with the Arabs, it was not a wholly selfish move.

The Zionists chose to interpret the Balfour Declaration as meaning that Palestine would become a national home for the Jews. Thus came the first basis for misunderstanding. Was Palestine to be a national Jewish home or was a national Jewish home to be established in Palestine? The Jews were not certain and the Arabs were apprehensive. From the moment of the Declaration, Britein was on the two horns of a dilemma.

When the war was over Britain made no attempt to avoid her responsibilities. A national home was set up and tens of thousands of Jews made their way from shadowed Europe to the land which had long ceased to be theirs, yet was so closely woven with their story as a people. British treasure and British administrators platted their part and a prosperous modern community began to emerge in that ancient and significant part of the world.

Overpaid—or Robbed?

There was this difference, however. Although both the Jews and Arabs had sprung from the same soil, the Jews had become westernized, whereas the Arabs were still a backward, feudalistic desert race. A further cleavage developed from the fact that the Jews were backed by sentimental finance, especially from the powerful Jewish hankers of New York, who had no desire ever to see Palestine but wanted it for their less fortunate compatriots. On the other hand the Arabs, povertystricken in the mass, had rich rulers who knew the value to the western powers of the oil fields of Mosul and Persia.

All political problems eventually break down to the individual and we saw the Palestinian Jew, financed from New York, able to buy from the Arab his land at a price two or three times its value. Flushed with unaccustomed wealth, the Arab would move to the city and spend his money in expensive and riotous living, but unlike the prodigal son having no indulgent father to whom he could return. So he raised instead a cry in the market place that the Jew had robbed him of his land.

As is the habit of the British they went on with their job, establishing a regime which maintained order and facilitated the flowering of a backward land. When the Hitler menace fell upon Europe great numbers of European Jews found sanctuary in Palestine. As a race they faced extermination, yet in this new community built upon the most ancient of all territories, nearly 500,000 Jews were enable to make a safe and happy home.

Ben Hecht and his New York associates insult the truth when they deny the extent to which Britain fulfilled her difficult promise. The fact that the Hechtites raised millions of dollars to supply ammunition and bribes to Jewish gunmen so that British soldiers who had done so much to crush Hitler should be shot in the dark is one of the most infamous things in history.

I do not blame the assassins so much for at least they risked their lives, but Ben Hecht and his crowd risked nothing. The cause of Zionism was strong, the need of a sanctuary for Jews was urgent, but to create a vested interest in murder and to kill the young soldiers who had fought for the cause of Jewry against Nazi Germany is to earn the contumely of the human conscience.

If the case against Hecht and his extremists is dark, I wish that I could exonerate the British completely, but that I cannot do. Nearly one third of the entire Jewish race was exterminated by Nazi Germany. Asa mere statement of fact that may not unduly horrify

us in a period of history where cruelty has chilled the human heart. Yet let us again break down the general to the particular and try to imagine what effect that must have had upon the Jewish survivors in Europe. Could they believe that anti-Semitism in Germany died with the charred bones of Hitler? Could they believe that in Hungary, Romania and Poland they would find equal citizenship with Christians?

When I was last in Germany I visited Nazi prisoner camps guarded by wire and British sentries with machine guns. Then one day, while motoring from Hanover to Berlin, I came upon a camp where there were neither sentries nor wire. The inmates could leave at will and, if they chose, never come back. The poor creatures were displaced persons, mostly Jews, who had no home save the shed in the

camp and no country which would receive them.

The whole world should have faced this problem instead of leaving it to Britain. Aer jcjeans gave money to the gunmen X suijt st-iticized Britain but would not send one soldier to maintain order. The British Empire, far too sparsely populated, could have opened its gates. Instead there was such a Washing of hands as must have made them lily-white.

The climax came a year or so ago when an illegal convoy of ships bearing Jewish emigrants to Palestine was turned back and the wretched creatures forced by the British to disembark in Germany. That should never have happened. There comes a moment when the human conscience must be the master of national policy. I urged the British Government at the time, and I believe I was right, to send the convoy to New York—the place from Which it had been financed. The millions of dollars raised by Hecht could have been used to find living space for them in America’s vast territories.

' That was a shameful moment, but the very horror of those screaming, struggling creatures meant that there would have to be a settlement of the Palestine problem.

■ So UN met at Lake Success—that ironically named seat of wisdom—-and decreed that there must be a permanent partition of Palestine, coincident with the withdrawal of the British beginning on May 15. They might as well have decreed that there would be two moons in the sky.

From that moment it was open warfare between the Jews and the Arabs, with British troops firing first upon one

and then the other, cursed by those whom they rescued and those whom they opposed. Can you imagine the bitterness of British parents when word would come that their soldier son ' had been killed in Palestine? You, in the Dominions, have been spared this degradation of death, and I only wish that we had withdrawn from the place two years ago when America had assumed the right to criticize hut not to collaborate.

If we had given up the mandate then,

I believe that the Arabs and the Jews would, by this time, have come to a working arrangement. I believe, or at least I hope, that with our withdrawal now there may also emerge a settlement, even if the signatures are written in blood.

It is for New York to say. When the British are gone it will be for Ben Hecht and his colleagues to decide whether Palestine must assume the world problem of Jewry and that emigrant ships shall carry tens of thousands of Jews to that beautiful and distressed land. If they do the ships will be engaged by the Egyptian Navy, paltry in size, but representing the authority of Arabia. Then the British Navy will be urged to intercede and once more fire on both.

Palestine cannot solve the whole Jewish problem. But once the Jews in Palestine cease to be driven to excess and boundless ambition by American money, the possibility of a settlement will be far better than seems possible now. There is just a chance, not more than a chance, that peace will come to Jerusalem and that the banks of the Jordan will he profaned no longer by the sound of guns and the cry of the wounded. ★