“Had we known then what we know now . . . . .” – I’m sure that mantra has been said over and over throughout the years. But nowhere in history does it seem more apt than the situation in the Middle East and the area known as Palestine.
At the time of this broadcast (September 14, 1947), The United Nations General Assembly were about to head into session to consider several measures, the most controversial being the measure over the Palestine question. A Special Committee to study the situation had published its full report. And even though some 11 nations were involved in the report, none of them were part of the Big Four; none of those nations directly interested in the struggle for power in the Middle East. The problem was voluntarily referred to the assembly by Great Britain, the mandatory power, but with the understanding Britain wasn’t obliged to accept the findings if they were contrary to Britain’s interests.
Britain was keen on ending the mandate, which had so far brought nothing but trouble for the previous 25 years. And surrender of the mandate was the most important item on which the UN committee agreed unanimously. Britain was to give up the mandate within 2 years. The most important dictum of the majority was Partition; division into a Jewish and Arab state which was resoundingly dismissed by the extreme Zionists as well as extreme Arabs. However, the Jewish moderates were jubilant because it meant the report was a victory for the principle of the Jewish homeland, which Zionism had always interpreted as meaning A Jewish State.
The idea of Partition wasn’t new – in fact, it was first proposed some 10 years earlier, in 1937 by the Peel commission. It was put forward again in 1946, after both Arabs and Zionists had boycotted the roundtable conference. But none of the partition plans won the approval of the two Palestine factions – the Arabs denounced the whole idea and the Jews weren’t satisfied with the proposed boundaries. In reality, the boundaries proposed weren’t very different from the ones proposed in this latest round of discussions, except the British wanted to keep the Southern desert area, the Negev, for themselves as a strategic area with it’s close proximity to the Suez Canal. The city of Jerusalem would belong to the UN and be considered neutral.
But the closing paragraph of the Committee findings were probably the most telling – the Committee recommended, in fact said it was imperative, that the United Nations provide an adequate force in order to keep the peace for as long as was necessary.
And with violence springing up all over the region, the prospects of a UN Peacekeeping force of sufficient numbers to deter an all-out war just didn’t seem like such a great idea.
But that was only part of the discussions taking place, as was pointed out in this broadcast of Story Behind The Headlines, from NBC Radio on September 14, 1947, narrated by noted historian Cesar Searchinger.