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Letter to the Editor: Former acquiescence of Arab League to Palestine Partition Recalled

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Submitted by YJ Draiman (United States), Dec 10, 2017 at 19:21

Letter to the Editor: Former acquiescence of Arab League to Palestine Partition Recalled

"To the Editor of the New York Times: The current rumor of peace talks between the government of Israel and the Arab states make it pertinent to recall that the Arab League has not always opposed the creation or existence of a Jewish state. During the last few years, the League and its components have been so adamant and reiterate in their demand for Arab rule over all of Palestine that the public has likely forgotten, if it ever knew, how recent is this obstinacy.

In the fall of 1945, Azzam Bey, the secretary general and guiding mind of the Arab League, declared that the League was prepared to consider 'most carefully' the partition of Palestine into an Arab and a Jewish state. His Declaration, however, must be viewed in it's proper setting in order to appreciate it's significance, to understand why it was subsequently consigned to oblivion and to extract from it some glimmer of hope for the future.

After the British government announced and enforced it's White Paper policy of 1939 – a policy which aimed to hold Jewish immigration and land purchases – the Arab states felt assured that the Jews would be 'frozen' as a permanent minority in Palestine. Therefore, in serene confidence, of British support, they froze solid their own opposition to any proposal except the conversion of that country into an Arab state.

But in December, 1944, their serenity was troubled. That month the annual convention of the British Labor Party adopted a Palestine plank which could well prove to be a rift in the lute; for it proposed a mass immigration of Jews in order to enable them to become a majority, the conversion of all Palestine into a Jewish state and to transfer of Arab Palestinians to other Arab lands.

Still, as long as the British Labor Party remained out of power, the Arab states could safely remain obdurate. In February of 1945, they rejected out of hand the rumored Churchill-Roosevelt project for a partition. In March, the Arab League was formally established and during the next three months it maintained this intransigent position at the San Francisco conference, which gave birth to the United Nations.

However, in July the threatened rift between British and Arab policy toward Palestine assumed the promise and prospect of becoming a reality. The British Labor Party was swept into power by an overwhelming majority. It seemed evident that anything the Labor Party had proposed to do would be done. One thing which the Labor Party had proposed to do, in which the Arab League could not ignore was to turn all of Palestine into a Jewish state.

At this juncture – after the British Labor party assumed office and before the new Labor government had announced its Palestine policy – the Arab League bethought itself that half of a loaf is better then crumbs. Accordingly, on October 5, 1945, Azzam Bey published in an Egyptian newspaper, Le Progress Egyptian the following statement:

'If you could assure me that the handling of Palestine to the Jews would mean peace everywhere, I should give them all of it. Such a solution would involve constant conflicts like those which developed in Ireland. But if a partition of the country is likely to effect a solution and put an end to the present disturbed situation, let us study such a possibility carefully.'

To emphasize this willingness to compromise on the basis of Jewish self-rule in part of Palestine, Azzam Bey is quoted (in the Tel-Aviv newspaper Haaretz) as saying on October 24th: 'the Arabs prepared to make far-reaching concessions toward the gratification of the Jewish desire to see Palestine established as a spiritual or even material homeland.'

As it turned out, the Arab League need not have worried into concessions for fear of a change in Britain's pro-Arab policy. Mr. Bevin's long awaited statement on Palestine appeared November 13th. This statement made it clear that the British government would perpetuate the throttling the Jewish immigration by limiting it to 1500 a month, and would postpone an ultimate decision on Palestine's fate through the familiar dilatory device of a commission of inquiry – of which there had already been seventeen.

From that date the Arab League, and its member states, relapsed into intransigence.

But neither the conciliatory proposal of the Arabs nor the circumstances of its immergence and disappearance can be expunged from the record. From these circumstances, it would not be unreasonable to assume that if the British government saw it fit to change its present attitude toward an already portioned Palestine and thereby recognize the State of Israel, the Arab League would – without damaging its prestige – revert to its former acquiescence.

As in the summer of 1945 and ever since, the key to a peaceful solution of the Palestine conflict hangs on an office wall in Number 10 Downing Street."

New York Times – Marvin Lowenthal, September 6, 1948.

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Daniel Pipes replies:

Great letter to pull out of the archive.

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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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