The Plot Against Israel 1947-1949
By David Semple
In 1921, the two-state solution for the British Mandate of Palestine was put in place by Colonial Secretary Winston Churchill. Most of the territory of the Mandate was turned into the newly created Arab state called Trans-Jordan. None of the Zionist provisions of the Balfour Declaration would apply in this new country, which was run by Emir Abdullah, one of the Sherifian Hashemites who supported Britain in the First World War. Abdullah’s brother, Feisal, declared himself King of Syria from his headquarters in Damascus in 1920, only to get the boot by France, the League of Nation’s mandatory power for that territory. In 1921, Churchill, with his advisors T.E. Lawrence and Gertrude Bell, negotiated an arrangement for Feisal to become King of the newly created kingdom of Iraq, made up from uniting Mesopotamia with the Kurdish regions in the north. The Kurdish dream of forming an independent state in accordance with President Wilson’s Fourteen Points came crashing down as the Sunni King Feisal took control of a majority-Shi’ite country. Iraq became the first independent Arab nation to be formed out of the former Ottoman Empire when it was recognised by the League of Nations in 1922. Syria was granted independence after the Second World War, as was Trans-Jordan. Both Faisal and Abdullah dropped all Arab claims on Palestine in negotiations with Winston Churchill in 1921.
The Churchill White Paper of June 1922 set out the mission statement of the British Mandate of Palestine, confirming that the Jewish community of Palestine was there “as a right and not on sufferance. That is the reason why it is necessary that the existence of a Jewish National Home in Palestine should be internationally guaranteed, and that it should be formally recognised to rest upon ancient historic connection.” The important words here are “national home.” Not Arab state. But a “Jewish National Home” in Palestine. And a “Jewish National Home” is a nation. All citizens of Palestine, Arabs and Jews and Christians, would be “Palestinians.” No mention was made of dividing Palestine into a Jewish state and an Arab state. That had already been done with the creation of Trans-Jordan.
The Palestine Mandate of July 24, 1922, made Britain “responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home” and “the development of self-governing institutions, and also for safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine, irrespective of race and religion.” The Zionist Organization was recognized as the “appropriate Jewish agency” to advise and co-operate with the Administration of Palestine in matters that may affect “the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine” to assist in the development of the country.
Britain was specifically instructed by the League of Nations to ensure that no part of Palestine should be ceded to or placed under the control of a foreign power. This is exactly what happened under the Attlee Government when Bevin encouraged Jordan to attack, conquer and annex Judea and Samaria. Britain also breached the terms of the Mandate when subsequent administrations in London tried to restrict Jewish immigration. The Mandate called for Britain to facilitate Jewish immigration, not prevent it. The Palestine Mandate called for the creation of a Jewish homeland, not an Arab state, and does not make provision for the territory to be partitioned or divided; in fact it strictly forbids this, as it would be placing the control of parts of Palestine under a foreign power.
Unfortunately, the second Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald tried to restrict Jewish immigration, before quickly reversing this hostile gesture after complaints from Chaim Weizmann.
The Neville Chamberlain government of 1937-1940, perhaps the most unsuccessful British administration in modern times, was even worse. After the Peel Commission report of 1937 suggested partitioning Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, it illegally called for the Arab parts to be annexed by Trans-Jordan. Then, in 1939, Britain illegally called for restricted Jewish immigration and announced that the Jewish National Homeland was going to be turned into an Arab-ruled state, totally against the spirit of the Palestine Mandate approved by the League of Nations. This cowardly act of British betrayal took place as Hitler increased the intensity of his reign of terror against the Jews of Europe. Neville Chamberlain had finally brought Britain to its lowest moral standing in history, appeasing both Nazi Germany and the anti-Zionist Arab states, so desperate as he was trying to stop German and Arab violence. What Britain got in return for Chamberlain’s appeasement policies was the Nazi takeover of Europe, followed by seventy-five years of Arab terrorism against the West. We are still suffering the horrors of Arab terrorist campaigns to this day.
Once Winston Churchill became Prime Minister in May 1940, a five-year effort to reverse the 1939 White Paper policy took place, with Labour’s Herbert Morrison put in charge of drafting a new British policy to revive the spirit of the Balfour Declaration. Churchill faced a War Cabinet dominated by Arabists, yet he continued to pursue the original Lloyd George agenda to create a Jewish Palestine, while having to spend most of his time trying to win the war against Hitler. Churchill was going to hand the Palestine Mandate over to America upon winning the war. Sadly, he lost. What followed was a Labour government determined to destroy Israel at any cost.
What happened to the moral compass of the British people, who turned overnight from reluctant sponsors of Jewish nationhood into foaming-at-the-mouth sponsors of Arab imperialism? And which event set off this sudden transformation of Britain’s leaders from would-be Cyrus the Greats in the Bible, champions of the Jewish people, to want-to-be Emperor Hadrians, desperately trying to destroy the Jewish identity of modern Israel? From progressive empire builders and nation-builders to reactionary allies of Arab extremism and nation-killers of Jewish independence? And why did the Labour Party, after two decades of support for Zionism, become the friend of Israel’s greatest enemies? How can the country that stopped Nazi Germany in its goose-steps to the genocide of the Jews become the country that tried to help the Arabs bring about a second Holocaust, this time in the Holy Land, just a few years later?
What happened to Great Britain after the fall of Hitler that made Britain’s political leadership embrace Hitler’s wartime Arab allies, the Palestinian Arab people, who to this day still want to destroy Western civilisation in order to bring about the triumph of Islamic imperialism? How did the British Empire, which built the modern world, transform itself almost overnight into an ally of the destroyers of Judeo-Christian values in the Holy Land?
There is not enough space to answer these questions. However, the transformation of Britain was not by any means an overnight sensation. Were it not for the rise of Churchill to the political leadership of the British people in May 1940, Hitler would have won World War Two and Britain would have become another Vichy France. Britain’s political fortunes had declined rapidly after the fall of the Lloyd George Government in October 1922. Not since Lloyd George’s resignation has a government of first-class talents come out of Whitehall, with the exception of the Churchill Coalition which ended in May 1945. Britain, like Germany and France, and indeed the rest of Europe, never fully recovered from the devastation of the First World War.
Germany turned to Nazism after its defeat in 1918 and the suicide of the Weimar Republic in 1933. France turned from upholders of liberty to collaborators with Nazism during the Vichy regime.
And Britain, whose empire reached its apogee in November 1918, became a rudderless ship betrayed by poor political leadership under the likes of unimaginative mediocrities like Stanley Baldwin, Ramsay MacDonald, Neville Chamberlain and Clement Attlee.
Churchill was the exception to the rule, as had indeed David Lloyd George been during the First World War. Britain was betrayed by mediocre men after the fall of both David Lloyd George and Churchill, both giants of the pre-war Liberal Government. Churchill came back in 1940 for Britain’s Indian Summer, but the British people themselves, after their finest hours between the fall of France and the defeat of Germany, were a spent force. They lost their ambitions to greatness. All they wanted was quiet lives. Sadly, Britain’s leaders, with the exception of Churchill and some of his Conservative colleagues, lost their way. And the turning of the Labour Government against Israel became the defining moment of Britain’s imperial collapse. The retreat of Britain’s forces from the Mandate for Palestine, perhaps the Britain Empire’s noblest mission, became the day the greatness of the British mission in civilising the world died almost overnight, on May 14 and May 15, 1948. Britain never recovered from the shame of its failure in Palestine.
The four turning points in Britain’s destiny are quite plain to see in retrospect.
The Conservative Party abandoned the government of Lloyd George in October 1922, Britain’s champion of the revival of Jewish nationhood, the father of the rebirth of modern Israel, when he was on the verge of war with Turkey. Lloyd George stood up for Judeo-Christian civilisation against the tyranny of the new Turkish nation’s imperialist mission to conquer Anatolia. And he was rejected by the British establishment, which took the country into two decades of political mediocrity.
The people who hated Lloyd George, led by Neville Chamberlain, signed the ultimate statement in modern cowardice in October 1938, the Munich Agreement with Nazi Germany, bringing to a climax five years of British appeasement to the worst enemy of Western civilization, Adolf Hitler.
The Chamberlain government ripped up the Balfour Declaration of November 1917, which called for the creation of a Jewish nation in Palestine, with the Palestine White Paper of May 1939, abandoning the Jews of Europe in their greatest hour of need.
And the British people voted to reject their nation’s saviour, indeed the saviour of Western civilisation, Winston Churchill, in the general election of June 1945.
This decision, to reject the modern liberalism of Churchill in favour of the statist socialism of Clement Attlee, perhaps Britain’s worst post-war prime minister, changed the destiny of the British nation and the British Empire. Welfarism and spendthrift politics replaced capitalism and economic sense. The nation declined rapidly and began to live beyond its means, giving up its two hundred-year mission to bring British liberty to the four corners of the earth. Thank God the Americans took up this mission, or the post-war world would not have enjoyed the success of the next seventy years. Without America, the decline of the West may have set in at a much earlier date.
Whereas Churchill gave the West seventy years of freedom after it almost crumbled in the path of Hitler, Clement Attlee chose to fight against the rebirth of the nation of Israel and put the West on a moral downward spiral which today sees the Europeans and Americans collaborating in the Arab jihad against the State of Israel, a nation which has embraced the moral leadership once offered by Great Britain, as indeed Judea had done in ancient times.
In 1940, Britain stood on the front line between liberty and tyranny. If it had fallen, so too would have fallen Western civilisation. Today, Israel stands on the front line between liberty and tyranny. If it falls, so too will Western civilisation. In 1947, Israel, not yet having declared independence, was almost destroyed at birth by the Labour government of Clement Attlee.
Neville Chamberlain’s Palestine White Paper called for Mandate Palestine to become an Arab/Muslim-ruled nation within a decade. In 1945, Churchill wanted to hand the Mandate for Palestine over to the United States, hoping that the Americans would revive the spirit of Balfour Declaration, and support the creation of an independent Jewish state in Palestine. But he lost the election. In the summer general election campaign, Labour called for immigration into Palestine of the largest number of Jewish refugees so that they could become the majority of the population in the Mandate. Labour wanted to encourage the Arab population to emigrate to the surrounding Arab states to end the Arab-Jewish conflict that had been raging since the British liberation of the Ottoman Empire thirty years before.
What went wrong? Clement Attlee and his Foreign Secretary, Ernest Bevin, fell under the spell of the Arabists in the Foreign Office and completely lost control of British foreign policy to the civil service. This is what weak governments do.
After the war, Britain continued to refuse to let Jewish refugees into Palestine. The White Paper had allowed for 75,000 Jews to immigrate there during the war, but in reality, less than half that number made it. President Truman, disgusted by Chamberlain’s White Paper policy of seriously curtailing Jewish immigration, urgently called for Britain to admit one hundred thousand Holocaust survivors into Palestine. In return, Ernest Bevin played for time by suggesting that this issue be handed over to an Anglo-American committee of inquiry. Bevin rejected the idea that all the Jews of Germany be allowed to immigrate to Palestine. In fact, he felt that they should either stay in Europe or move to America and other parts of the New World, including Canada and Australia. How he expected European Jews to stay in the same countries where they had witnessed seven million of their own people murdered by Nazi Germany, with the full collaboration of the occupation regimes, is a mystery. The survivors of the Holocaust could go anywhere but Palestine, as far as Bevin was concerned. He did not care about the Jewish people; in fact, he was quite indifferent to their fate. Bevin thought they were lucky to be alive and that they had suffered no more than any other nation under Nazi occupation. He refused to see that it was the absence of a national homeland that led to the destruction of two-thirds of European Jewry. Britain cruelly put the survivors of Hitler’s extermination camps in British camps in Cyprus and Africa. Bevin made no gesture to take Jews who wanted to leave Germany into Britain. Anti-Semitism was in fact on the rise in post-war Britain. It was definitely on the rise in the Labour Cabinet.
In private, Bevin rejected the idea of the Jewish state in Palestine. Attlee, who had good relations with Chaim Weizmann and members of the Zionist Movement before the war, also turned against Jewish nationhood. They were determined to do all they could do to undermine the Zionist enterprise and further the interests of the Arab states, all of which entirely rejected Jewish nationhood in Palestine.
Even King Abdullah of the newly-independent Kingdom of Jordan rejected the idea of an independent Jewish state, although he would allow a Jewish colony inside Palestine if he were allowed to annex the whole country. Abdullah was the only such enlightened Arab leader. He was also the only successful war leader of the Arab nations which invaded Israel in 1948. Yet he paid for his relatively good relations with the Yishuv with his life, assassinated by Palestinian Arab terrorists inside the Al Aqsa Mosque two years after the end of the first Arab-Israeli War. The other leaders of the Arab world, including Ibn Saud in Arabia, considered all Jews to be the enemies of Islam. Their Jew-hatred took on Nazi proportions. After all, apart from Jordan, all the Arab leaders had supported Nazi Germany against Britain.
In July 1946, the Attlee government announced a plan to partition Palestine into four autonomous zones:
A Jewish province (17%)
An Arab province (40%)
British-controlled Negev region (half of the country).
Both the Jewish Agency and the Palestine Arabs refused an invitation to come to London for talks about these proposals in September. By February 1947, Bevin took a gamble designed to undermine the Yishuv. He referred the Palestine issue to the newly-formed United Nations. His agenda was to form an Arab-controlled Palestine, preferably under the control of Jordan. Bevin fully expected he would get his way once the United Nations failed in resolving the problem; he fully expected the Palestine problem to be handed back to Britain. And this is where Bevin’s plot to destroy Israel at birth came undone.
By the end of August, the UN special committee on Palestine came to a different conclusion. It called for Palestine to be partitioned into two states, one Jewish and one Arab, with Jerusalem internationalised under a trusteeship administered by the United Nations. Over the next two months Britain tried to intimidate the smaller states into rejecting an independent Jewish state, saying its formation might cause an Arab oil embargo designed to undermine the post-war economic recovery of Europe. The British even threatened that the West may be subject to pan-Islamic violence. (Both these things happened; not in 1948 but within thirty years after the independence of Israel.) The partition of Palestine resolution was passed by the United Nations at the end of November. The Arab states rejected the partition, as they had done in 1937. The Zionists accepted it, as they had done in 1937. Britain decided that its armed forces would not enforce the UN resolution or maintain law and order in Palestine. As soon as the UN vote was announced, a civil war broke out between Arabs and Jews. Britain went out of its way to prevent the deployment in Palestine of an international force by the United Nations. British forces in Palestine in fact refused to help enforce the UN Partition resolution or maintain law and order during the final months of the Mandate. Even worse, Britain absolutely refused to give the Yishuv access to a free port, which they were obliged to do under the UN resolution.
In fact, Britain continued its blockade on Palestine to prevent the arrival of further Jewish refugees and the importation of weapons for the new Jewish state. The Arabs, meanwhile, were buying their weapons from Britain.
Ernest Bevin made plans with Jordan for the annexation of Palestine into the Hashemite kingdom once the Israelis declared independence on May 14, 1947. He was determined to cut the Jewish state down to size even if he could not entirely eliminate it. Following the Israeli Declaration of Independence, Bevin anticipated the reduction of the Jewish state’s size from the borders set out in the UN partition resolution in face of the pan-Arab invasion that started immediately upon Britain’s withdrawal from Israel. The Arab states had rejected the partition resolution, even though Israel accepted it. Thus, the final borders were going to be decided in the battlefield.
Britain did nothing to support a ceasefire resolution in the early stages of the war. Once the Arab invaders had occupied large portions of Mandatory Palestine, Britain only then supported a UN ceasefire resolution. The United Nations then appointed a mediator, Sweden’s Count Bernadotte, to end the war. Bernadotte became a puppet of the British government, which convinced him to reduce Israel to an area half the size of the 1947 partition plan, in fact almost as tiny as the Peel partition plan proposed in 1937. In breach of the 1922 League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, Bernadotte’s plan called for Jordan and Egypt to annex the Negev Desert and much of Judea, in addition to handing over parts of Galilee to Syria. Israel would thus be left economically strangled and strategically indefensible. In addition, there was no provision for a Jewish land corridor to Jerusalem in Bernadotte’s proposal; the city would be left under the control of the UN, another breach of the original terms of the Zionist Mandate. Bernadotte’s so-called peace plan would leave the Jewish people living inside a huge ghetto surrounded by hostile Arabs on all sides, not a national homeland in all of Palestine, as set out in the original mandate. Israel rejected Bernadotte’s report on its publication in September 1948. Bernadotte was subsequently assassinated by Jewish terrorists, but his peace negotiations were doomed to end in failure even if he had lived.
Bevin’s anti-Israeli bias was so obvious that even the Americans demanded an investigation into whether Britain had allowed American funds to assist the Arabs in their invasion of Israel. Britain encouraged the Arabs to establish real authority during the period of the ceasefire called by the UN in the parts of Israel they had conquered. The Arabs did not do this. In fact they had never taken any active steps to build an Arab administration within Palestine during the whole period of the Mandate. The Yishuv had been nation builders since the Balfour Declaration. The Arabs took on the terrorist role right from the beginning of British rule, starting with the Nebi Musa riots of April 1920. The Arab invaders of 1948 were foreign conquerors trying to destroy the Jewish state, which had been recognised by the great powers, the United States and the Soviet Union. The Palestine Arabs were cowards. About a third of a million left the country. They had no fight in them. The Jewish people were fighting to stop a second Holocaust, which had been promised by the Arab nations and the Palestine Arab leadership. Those Arabs who stayed in Israel eventually became Israeli Arabs. Those who left Israel became the founders of modern Arab terrorism, attacking the Jewish state from Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon, and eventually the territory controlled by the Palestinian Authority, over the next seventy years.
The Arab Revolt of 1936-1939 established the national identities of both the Jewish Palestinians and the Arab Palestinians. The Jewish Palestinians fought with the British to restore order. They fought Nazism. The Arab Palestinians fought to bring about a Nazi takeover of the country. Nothing has changed since that revolt. The 1948 Arab-Israeli War was not an Arab revolt. It was a foreign invasion by Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, all of whom wanted to destroy Israel and divide the territorial spoils between their respective countries. Had they won the war they would have won it with the full support of Britain’s Labour Government.
Britain did not support the legal government of Israel, successor to the Mandate of Palestine. There was no legal Arab administration in Palestine. The Arab Palestinians never even tried to form a government in Palestine in response to Israel’s Declaration of Independence. Thus Britain found itself supporting solely the Arab powers who had, with the exception of Jordan, supported Nazi Germany’s war against Britain. Whereas Churchill had demanded the overthrow of pro-Nazi Arab governments in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon during the Second World War, the post-war Atlee government allied the UK with the pro-Nazi Arabs of the 1930s. This was truly Britain’s most shameful hour.
When hostilities resumed, Britain tried desperately to end the fighting. Their main goal was to ensure Israel did not invade Jordan or Egypt. When Israel finally did expel the Egyptians from the Sinai Desert in early 1949, Britain threatened to declare war on Israel if Jewish forces were not withdrawn from Egyptian territory. The Israelis even shot down British planes sent to attack Israeli forces. The war ended early in 1949. The Arab invaders, with the exception of Jordan, were completely humiliated. Armistices were signed between Israel and the Arab states.
But the war continues to this date. Only Egypt and Jordan made peace with Israel, following Arab defeats in three more Arab-Israeli Wars. At the time of writing, Syria and Iraq have almost ceased to exist. Today, Israel is the most powerful nation in the Middle East, while the Arab world is falling apart, divided by sectarian, tribal and religious civil war. Perhaps Uri Milstein was right when he said that Israel’s survival depends on the inferiority of the Muslim nations.
Clement Attlee and Ernest Bevin were completely humiliated by the sordid British scuttle from Palestine. This was made worse by the incompetence of Britain’s retreat from India the year before the Palestine Mandate ended. In both India and Palestine, the Labour government left violent civil wars. Britain took the side of the Arab nations in their war of genocide against Israel.
Remember, this was only three years after the Allied armies brought an end to the Holocaust.
Today, the Labour Party, under its new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is continuing the tradition of anti-Israel policies started by Neville Chamberlain and continued by Clement Attlee. Ed Miliband called for a vote to recognise a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, whose chief objective, under Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas, is to destroy Israel. Jeremy Corbyn supports Hezbollah and Hamas, both of which are Islamist organisations calling for the destruction of Israel. Neither of these Labour leaders have the insight to see that their policies undermine Britain as well as Israel. They don’t realise that the Palestinian leaders are at war not just with Israel, but with Western civilisation. Corbyn’s anti-Israel policies embrace Islam and undermine British nationhood.