Click on the link here for Audio Player – Story Behind The Headlines: The Palestine Question – Dec. 7, 1947 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection
Most people – most Americans, hear about the latest crisis in the Middle East and the Israeli incursion into Gaza, the Palestinian outrage and the actions of Hamas, and they draw blanks other than what they are hearing via mainstream news outlets. The War of Propaganda is perhaps bigger than the ground war in Gaza itself. Almost hourly reports of rocket attacks – charges of Israeli missiles firing into civilian homes, hospitals and schools. Israeli counter-charges of Hamas hiding rocket launchers in civilian areas, ostensibly using human shields and hiding behind them.
It is a horrific scene of intense violence on both sides – not made any easier by the constant war of persuaded opinion. That persuaded opinion which is spilling over into the streets of the rest of the world and filling Social Media to overflowing.
But it got started somewhere. And it didn’t just happen overnight. Nor did it happen in the last decade or the decade before that.
This latest episode can most likely be traced to the months following the end of World War 2. It goes back further than that though; to the days following World War 1. But for the moment, let’s stay with World War 2 – the British Protectorate of former colonies which made up much of the Middle East prior to the War. Egypt, Iraq and Iran were under British administration at the time as well.
In 1947 the question of what was to happen with the area known as Palestine was brought up before the United Nations. In fact, Palestine was on the agenda ever since the UN got started. After World War 2 there was a movement afoot by many of the former colonies and protectorates to exercise independence – India was probably the most prominent, but there were also movements afoot in Africa. The British government devised a plan which would divide the area of Palestine into three parts; a Jewish state which would contain an Arab minority of 400,000. An Arab state which would contain a Jewish minority of some 10,000 and an Internationally governed Jerusalem with an equal number of Jews and Arabs with no neutral police force.
The UN passed this resolution during their second meeting, with some 2/3 majority of those present and with tacit approval from the Soviet Union, even though there were a substantial number of abstentions. The motion passed, not with an overwhelming approval, but approval in the absence of a better solution. It was basically a bad idea, hurriedly passed because a better one wasn’t arrived at.
Almost immediately the plan was met with resistance, with violence flaring all over the disputed area. In what was feared by many as an outbreak of civil war proved to be exactly true. And the region has been plagued by chaos and strife ever since.
To give some background, to hopefully give some idea that the current state of chaos has a history, here is a program first aired on December 7, 1941 from the historian and commentator Cesar Saerchinger and his program The Story Behind The Headlines.
No matter which side of this conflict you are on, it’s important to know where things got started. It may not change your opinion of the current situation, but it may give some understanding that the crisis today is as difficult to sort out as it was almost seventy years ago.
A little background and a little understanding of the situation has the potential to go a long way. What the solution is and when it will arrive just can’t be known now.