With World War 2 over for a year, the issues confronting the allies and the overwhelming job of reconstruction and rebuilding shattered cities and lives, the question of what to do about the massive numbers of refugees. These were primarily Jews who were either liberated from Concentration camps or who were in the process of being persecuted in countries like Poland, and fled for safer environments, the problem was the same; what to do with hundreds of thousands of people, most who had no home to go back to, most wanting to settle in a homeland they could call theirs; at the moment, an area between Trans-Jordan and the Mediterranean that had been taken over by the Allies and who were administering it. The area was called Palestine, bordered on the north by Lebanon and Syria, which were administered at the time by the French, and bordered on the south by Egypt, administered by the British.
The question was, what to do about the area in the middle? The area called Palestine? It had been a subject of discussion since 1923, when it had been initially part of the Ottoman Empire, and given up as the result of World War 1. It was an area populated by a mix of Arabs and Jews, and had deep religious significance. It was initially proposed that the area be controlled by a combination of all three allies; England, France and the U.S. – but when the U.S. balked at the idea, the quest for a solution was tossed back into the laps of Britain and France.
But the immediate issue was still about the refugees. Some 200,000 were awaiting a destination – many others were still in camps or in Displaced Persons shelters. Some tried to get to Palestine via an “underground railroad” or sorts, landing in Palestine illegally and facing deportation.
This program, part of the weekly series “Story Behind The Headline” featuring talks by historian Cesar Saerchinger, focuses on the current situation and the trouble brewing, not only in Palestine, but the issues before Capitol Hill and a decided unwillingness on the part of America to take in all or part of the refugee population. How this was turning into a political hot-potato and how the ones ending up suffering the most were the ones who needed it least; the refugees themselves.
This broadcast from August 18, 1946 is a ways off from the solution which eventually led to the establishment of Israel. This was what was going on at the time, just as the dusts of war were settling and shiploads of people were bound for any port that would take them – and surprisingly, many did not.
Here is that broadcast of Story Behind The Headlines for August 18, 1946.