By Juanita Gaines Ellis
(Editor’s note: The recent dustup between President Barack H. Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the future of Israel and a Palestinian state is brought into focus by this commentary. Unresolved issues dating to the partition of Palestine in 1947 remain as 2011 roadblocks to peace in the Middle East. Mrs. Ellis and her husband Don visited Jerusalem in 2005. The following is excerpted from her presentation before the Williamsburg, Va., Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution [D.A.R.[. She has served as a leader with the Children of the American Revolution [C.A.R.] and was National Defense Director for Region II, N.S.D.A.R. She and her family live in Williamsburg.)
We surely would be ungrateful if we did not acknowledge Providence in the establishment of our country considering the first settlers at Jamestown, Va. (1607) and Plymouth, Mass. (1620). Call them circumstances, natural forces, mistakes or miracles, all of which aided our forefathers in their battle for freedom from Lexington to Yorktown.
So, too, the Lord fought for the establishment of the small country of Israel.
Britain ruled the area called Palestine for 30 years before 1948. The Jewish people came before the newly formed United Nations (U. N.) in the autumn of 1947 asking for a state of their own. The slaughter of six million of their race birthed this desire in their hearts.
The U. N. General Assembly voted in November 1947 to partition Palestine drawing the roadmap to establish the State of Israel.
The League of Nations authorized “The British Mandate,” in 1922 allowing British rule of Palestine. It was set to expire May 14, 1948. So in the early morning hours, nine of the 13 members needed to form statehood deliberated. Their vote was 5-4 in favor, on one vote hung the rebirth of the Jewish State.
The Jewish People’s Council gathered that morning at the Tel Aviv Museum and approved the “Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel.”
Initially, it was suggested the declaration for statehood stipulate the borders given to the Jews when the U. N. partitioned the Holy Land between the two factions – Jews and Moslems.
Jewish leader David Ben-Gurion rejected the idea, saying, “The Americans did not announce the frontiers of their state in the Declaration of Independence.”
He reminded them the Jews accepted the U. N. partitioning of Jerusalem; the Arabs had not, therefore Ben-Gurion felt they forfeited their right to the partition plan.
“No,” he predicted, “the borders will be those that will come out of the war we have before us.”
Following the historic declaration dated May 15, 1948, the United States recognized Israel. The Soviet Union sent recognition three days later. Arab countries surrounding the new state of Israel attacked in full-scale war May 15th. Nine months later the better equipped Arab armies sought a truce, which was finalized in July 1949.
The U. N. adopted Resolution 273 on May 11, 1949 to admit the State of Israel to membership.
Here are a few of the main players in the fight for the right to become the sovereign State of Israel. These include Moslem leaders, who were counterparts to the Israeli military leaders.
In 1922, the British selected Hadj Amin el-Husseini as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. He had completed two years of theological study in Cairo, Egypt, was a cadet officer in the Turkish Army and had been in contact with the German government since 1936.
El-Husseini was convinced that a Third Reich victory would bring about the aims to which he had devoted his political life – that is to drive the Jews and British from Palestine. He threw in his lot with the Nazi government of Chancellor Adolph Hitler.
El-Husseini was aware of the expected outcome of “The Final Solution.” He had done his best to see that none of the intended victims was diverted from the gas chamber to Palestine or Jerusalem. In 1943 Bulgaria was willing to send 4,000 Jewish children to Palestine rather than see them die. El-Hussein intervened to stop the emigration.
As Grand Mufti, el-Husseini was scornful and suspicious of the education classes, preferring to build his following on the solid rock of ignorance. He had gunned down anyone whose social situation or skills aroused his suspicion. Victims included landowners, school teachers, government officials, clerks and, at times, anyone accused of reading and writing English too well—Jew or Arab.
He reduced a generation of Arab leadership to fear and silence. He always wore his bullet proof vest, a present from Hitler.
He had little backing from the British on his fear tactics, although his supporters were powerful enough to enable his reelection.
On the other side, Jewish leaders often worked against each other because of their loyalty to such disparate factions as the Haganah, Irgun and The Stern Group.
The Haganah was the underground Army with roots in the post World War I occupation by British troops and formed the basis for the military organization that won the War of Independence (1947-1949).
The Irgun, a militant offshoot of the Haganah, carried out its own terror campaign against the British and Arabs. It wanted all land which belonged to the biblical Kingdom of Israel and wanted it, if possible, without the encumbering presence of its Arab inhabitants. Menachem Begin, who later was prime minister of Israel, was a leader of the group.
The Stern Group was a militant Zionist organization, also with roots to the years of the British Mandate.
Among its exploits, the Haganah miraculously acquired a radio transmitter. To fool British detection efforts, it was located in a neighborhood which had no electricity. Power was supplied by a wire stretched from house to house, hidden by clotheslines full of laundry.
In 1947 the United States imposed an embargo on all arms shipments to the Middle East. Interestingly, Britain continued to sell arms to the Arab states. The Zionists were in a bad way. Enter Golda Meir. She came on the scene long before her emergence as Israel’s first lady prime minister in 1969. She was a member of the Israeli Parliament from 1949-74.
Sent by Ben-Gurion, Israel’s “Grand Old Bull,” Meir arrived in New York in 1947 and spoke to numerous Jewish agencies, seeking $25-30 million to buy heavy arms.
“It is not for you to decide,” she declared in a Chicago talk, “whether we shall continue our struggle or not. We shall fight. The Jewish community of Palestine will never hang out the white flag before el-Husseini!”
She raised the funds! The American Zionist group urged her to set off on an American tour.
Supporting Israel’s need for military arms and ammunition was a challenge for American Jewish organizations. They had to be creative.
Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York, Jewish/Italian by birth, sent tons of crates marked “Sewing Machines” to Israel, concealing materials needed desperately by the Zionists.
Crates labeled helmets, tents, and camouflage nets, destined for Istanbul, Turkey, were diverted to Tel-Aviv. Haganah dumped 40 tons of coal on top of these items for concealment. The master of the ship was told to go to Tel-Aviv first because it “needs the coal.”
Jewish operatives purchased military field telephones in almost perfect condition with funds raised in the U. S. In order to ship them to Palestine, tons of Italian onions were dumped on top, successfully discouraging British customs from searching too aggressively.
Jerusalem was under siege in the Spring of 1948. Convoys of food and other supplies rarely succeeded in traveling through Bedouin villages. A meticulous Jewish record keeper recorded on Monday March 29, 1948 that warehouses in Jerusalem contained enough flour to provide each resident with six slices of bread. There were 100,000 Jewish residents in Jerusalem at the time.
Most of the Zionist trucks and weapons were lost on one disastrous run through the Arab villages between Tel-Aviv and Jerusalem. Villagers enjoyed a feast for many days from the captured bounty destined for Jerusalem.
Afterward Ben-Gurion demanded they get more trucks. They had limited success scouring Tel-Aviv’s trucking firms. The Haganah simply hijacked any vehicles. Young men and girls from the Jewish Army training camps were sent to busy intersections with orders to stop every truck. They used their machine guns to direct drivers to the field.
Protesting drivers were formed into a convoy under command of teenage soldiers and their Sten guns. Drivers were diverted to pick up food supplies in Tel-Aviv. They did as they were told because most of them owned their trucks and were not inclined to abandon them.
Arabs along the main thoroughfare to Jerusalem saw Fords, factory trucks, delivery vans, hay wagons, heavy Mack dump trucks and farm trucks laden with food. Many were splashed with posters advertising soap, baby food, a kosher butcher store and a shoe factory in Tel-Aviv.
They made it through to Jerusalem that night. Those living in Jerusalem were as startled at sight of the convoy as the kidnapped drivers, who pulled through the ancient city gates.
A blue Ford driven on the treacherous route by one of the leaders had six words painted on its bumper: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem.”–Copyright 2011 Juanita G. Ellis, The Covert Letter
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Mrs. Ellis will be providing more commentary in the future. We welcome your feedback.
You may contact Juanita G. Ellis through www.thecovertletter.com .