Richard Crossman was a British Labor MP and socialist intellectual. In 1946, he was appointed a member of the Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry - a body charged with finding a solution to Britain's most astonishing own-goal, the Palestine PROBLEM. In his book on the committee's work and findings, Palestine Mission (1946), he wrote as follows:
"I found... that my mind had been made up during our weeks in Palestine, on the conflicting claims of Jews and Arabs. I accepted Dr Weizmann's analysis. The choice was between two injustices, and we had to decide which injustice was the lesser. Looking at the position of the Palestinian Arab, I had to admit that no western colonist in any other country had done so little harm, or disturbed so little the life of the indigenous people. Arab patriotism and Arab self-respect had been deeply affronted and would continue to be affronted by the development of the [Jewish] national home; but if I believed in social progress I had to admit that the Jews had set going revolutionary forces in the Middle East which, in the long run, would benefit the Arabs. It was by reacting to the Zionist invader that the Arab was learning to fend for himself in an industrial world. He had been cheated and duped and imposed on by the west, and he would remain violently resentful for some time to come; but I was convinced that all this was a lesser injustice which must be accepted for the sake of the building of a Jewish Commonwealth. Of course, the injustice must be reduced to a minimum and I rejected for that reason the demand of the Zionists to include in a Jewish state the wholly Arab mountain areas. [MERC: He means today's West Bank.*] I do not think I would have reached this conclusion if the national home had merely been a national home. In Palestine I had come to realize that it was something more - a socialist commonwealth, intensely democratic, intensely collectivist, and strong enough to fend for itself." (pp 176-77)
In keeping with the Eurocentric, colonial mentality which characterised Labor leftists of his ilk, Crossman was obviously so overawed by the collective effort and material progress evident in the immigrant Zionist movement's showcase colonies as to overlook the simple fact that the indigenous Palestinian Arab majority was being prevented from exercising its fundamental right of national self-determination.
His facile assumption that the Palestinian Arabs would somehow "benefit" from Zionist colonisation, a staple of the Zionist propaganda of the day, would not, of course, stand the test of time. Within three years of Crossman penning the above words, the bulk of Palestine's indigenous Arab majority would be expelled from its ancestral homeland by armed Zionist terror gangs. Whether Crossman had anything to say about that after the event I simply do not know.
I leave it to another observer, the British journalist and civil servant, Owen Tweedy, writing in February 1949, to describe the aftermath:
"Meanwhile well over 100,000 Israeli immigrants from Europe have already arrived [in Israel]. Many have been drafted into the fighting forces, and homes for some 40,000 others have been found in vacated Arab towns, villages and farms. The official scale of further arrivals has been announced at the rate of 100,000 a year until the total of the newcomers reaches at least the million mark; and all will require Lebensraum. As a result of all these processes and plans, the old Palestine of the last 30 years is, I am told, being - as it were - rapidly rubbed clean off the slate.. Buoyant Israel has spread over at least two-thirds of the tiny country, and the remaining third... has lost all geographic identity and is now little more than the last refuge in Palestine for some 320,000 Arab refugees from the evacuated Arab towns and villages now in Israeli occupation. A further 480,000 are herded in hundreds of thousands in the Lebanon, Syria, Transjordan and Iraq.
"The last estimate of the Arab population in Palestine was in the neighbourhood of 1,250,000 persons. Today 800,000 of them have lost their Palestinian homes. Thus in the fruitful nine months since the British Mandate ended last May the State of Israel has been born and, on the other side of the account, the problem of a displaced Palestinian Arab population has been created on a scale reminiscent of the worst of wartime in Europe. This outcome invites a sad reference to the Balfour Declaration of November 2nd, 1917. 'His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish People and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of that object, it being understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.' The Declaration was endorsed by the League of Nations and by America. Today, 32 years later, about two-thirds of these non-Jewish (i.e. Arab) communities are homeless and adrift and, to all effect and purpose, stateless.
"Their plight is grim. None of the neighbouring Arab countries where they are camped had the resources or facilities to cater for such a sudden increase of population. Transjordan, for instance, with a population of its own of only 300,000, was called on to feed and house 100,000 refugees. A majority of these derelicts are women and children unaccompanied by men. They come mostly from the ranks of the very poor. They have now lost even the very little they ever had and are helpless and hopeless. Most of their camps, thanks to a timely gift from the British Government, are now tented; but this February is exceptionally severe in the Middle East, and existence in a tent in the bleak highlands of Judaea, Samaria and Transjordan against driving snow must be a terrible ordeal. To relieve day-to-day distress some financial help to buy stores and food has come from the British Government, from funds of the Secretariat of U.N.O. and from charitable organisations here and in the Middle East. The distribution of relief is now undertaken on the spot by the International Red Cross, the American Friends' Service Committee and the League of Red Cross Societies. They are helped magnificently by local volunteer workers - most of them Arab reinforced by British and others. And much has been done. But constructive relief is handicapped by delay - delay in voting Governmental grants from the West; delay in U.N.O. decisions, and local transport delays. The outcome is a woeful shortage - on the one hand of essential supervisory staff; on the other of food itself, and of medical stores, clothing and camp equipment - and disease and illness are taking a heavy toll of life." (The Arab expulsion, Owen Tweedy, The Spectator, 25/2/49)
[*Here's Crossman writing in his Diaries of a Cabinet Minister (1976), June 5, 1967: "Back from the Chamber in my room I was delighted to have a visit from Remez, the Israeli Ambassador... He gave me a very full and accurate briefing on how hostilities started. I asked him about Israeli intentions towards Jordan and he replied that they intended to occupy the hills of Samaria but gave me an assurance that they would not occupy the whole West Bank because they want King Hussein of Jordan to survive... 'Do you really mean that about the West Bank?' 'Yes,' he said, 'we don't want to get 600,000 Arabs inside Israel. All we need is the triangle and the Samaria hills'." A footnote at the bottom of the page (365, Volume 2) reads: "By the end of the week the Jews had occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem."]
To be continued...