THE broad outlines of what passes for the Palestinian question are known to the lay reader — the six per cent Jewish population when the Balfour Declaration was made, the Sykes-Picot double cross, the beginning of Zionist terrorist activity, and finally the UN partition plan, which gave 56.4 per cent of Palestine to European settlers, who were 33 per cent of the population.
This book breaks new ground by giving details about the behind-the-scenes diplomatic manoeuvring that went into securing a two-thirds majority for a pro-partition vote in the General Assembly and reversing the American government’s policies through blackmail and outright forgery.
At least three American presidents, Wilson, Roosevelt and Truman, loathed the very idea of a Jewish state but were outmanoeuvred — the first one by Britain and France, who were more interested in their colonial interests than in truth and justice in Palestine; and the latter two by America’s Zionist lobby.
The most fascinating chapter is 11, which focuses on the Truman White House, and the sabotage of the policies pursued by two of America’s most powerful personalities whose integrity and dedication to their country were legendary — Secretary of State George Marshall and the first-ever Defence Secretary James Forrestal. The two had played a crucial role in mobilising America for World War II and winning it. It was also Marshall who devised the economic plan, named after him, for rebuilding Europe after the war, while it was Forrestal who had organised America’s war industry, especially naval. However, they were both outmanoeuvred, with Forrestal admitted to hospital for depression, later leading to suicide.
Even though the Arab world had no leverage with the UN, a two-thirds majority for a pro-partition vote in the General Assembly was still not available. Some states, among them the Philippines, Liberia, Haiti and one unnamed Latin America country, were in no mood to vote for partition. The leaders of these states were taken care of by the Zionists, some of them in the White House, in such an undiplomatic and scandalous way that made Truman mad with rage.
Tyre tycoon Harvey Firestone, who monpolised rubber plantations in Liberia, warned its government it would lose revenues from rubber trade if it voted ‘no’, and one Latin American delegate was given a bribe of $75,000 to vote ‘yes’ (p.255). The most dramatic reversal was in the Philippines’ position. War hero Carlos Romulo made what appeared to be a pro-Palestinian speech, thus triggering ‘a panic button’ in the Zionist lobby. Soon he was on his way home after the American ambassador told Manila that the Philippines stood to benefit from three laws pending with Congress.
But no country was treated the way Haiti was, for its president was threatened on Truman’s behalf without his knowledge. In an official memo on December 11, 1947, an angry Truman revealed, ‘… our Consul in Haiti approached the President of that country and suggested that, for his own good, he should order the vote of his country changed, claiming he had instructions from me’. (p.254)
Both Marshall and Forrestal realised that the partition of Palestine was unworkable and was detrimental to long-term western interests, but that a pro-America policy could be followed only when Palestine was taken out of domestic politics. Both failed because neither the Republican nor the Democratic Party was willing to give up Jewish votes and money.
Truman too thought the UN had no power to enforce its partition plan, that it would lead to bloodshed on a colossal scale, and that America was not in a position in the post-war period to mobilise troops for peace in Palestine. But pro-Israel Democrats warned Truman that an anti-partition policy would cost the Democratic Party Jewish money and votes and thus ruin his chances for a second term.
The book gives details of the Truman administration’s diplomatic effort to have Palestine placed under a UN trusteeship, and reveals how the orders given to America’s UN representatives could not be implemented. An entry in Truman’s diary said, ‘The State Department pulled the rug from under me today’ (p.268). So furious were American delegates over the sabotage of their president’s policy that Marshall had to send Dean Rusk, later secretary of state, to the UN ‘to prevent the US delegation from resigning en masse’ (p.283).
There are some astonishing details about how Washington was made to recognise the Jewish state and about the forgery that went into presenting the Truman administration with a fait accompli. As revealed by the
author, Ben-Gurion wanted the US to recognise Israel even before it had come into being. This violated one of the fundamental principles of America’s recognition policy: Washington recognises a country only after the country itself makes such a request.
The reason why Ben-Gurion wanted Washington to recognise Israel even before it came into being was that such a move on America’s part would lead to a quicker recognition by the western world. Truman obviously could not recognise a country that was still an idea. The author gives details of what he calls ‘the fabrication strategy’, which he said was masterminded by White House Counsel Clark Clifford. The man who actually fabricated the letter was Eliahu Epstein, the representative of the Jewish Agency. It was placed before Truman 11 minutes after the British mandate lapsed, ‘Truman assumed it was an actual request’ (p.281) and recognised Israel.
No wonder during a meeting with Truman, Ben-Gurion said, ‘You have a secure place in the history of Israel, but I do not know how you will stand in American history’. (p.285)