Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Children of a Lesser God 2

Owen Tweedy continued:

"How and why has all this happened? I have talked to political Israelis about these Arab displaced persons. Four months ago the official view is that Israel would not have them back. 'Arabs attacked Jewish settlements,' one man said to me. 'Jews attacked Arab villages. The Jews stuck it out. The Arabs ran away,' and he shrugged his shoulders. 'Anyhow, war is war, just as omelettes are broken eggs; and it was the Arab League which attacked us first.' This is, of course, good Israeli politics and good Israeli propaganda.

"But it is cold comfort to the 800,000 destitute Arab refugees. They want two things only - to get their homes back and to have some security for themselves and their children. They did panic, and they know it; but as one parent in a Transjordan camp recently said to a British welfare worker, 'Would you have stayed yourself? Our villages weren't barbed-wired, trenched and sand-bagged like the Jewish settlements, every one of which also had an official arsenal for defence. We hadn't any arms and were defenceless. And the massacre at Deir Yasin village near Jerusalem had taught us what those brutal Jewish terrorists could do. Would you have left your wife and children to their tender mercies?' But there are many other refugees who were expelled from their homes by Israeli storm-troops. An Arab village would be captured, its inhabitants lined up, men, women and children, and without being given even 5 minutes grace to collect bare personal necessities from their houses, they would be told to make their own way as best they could to the Arab lines. They went, and their villages were taken over by Israeli immigrants newly arrived from Europe. Lebensraum.

"History will eventually give its verdict on all this. Some blame must lie at the door of Israeli shock politicians and soldiers with their slogan that the means justify the end. Some is equally due to Arab political leaders who, when the time came, either could not or would not lead the people they had boasted they would save. And the Powers of the U.N.O. are far from being clear of blame. They have jostled Palestine from political pillar to political post - often for unworthy purposes of local manoeuvre and advantage. We in Britain are not guiltless. Nor is America or the Soviet Union. The curse of Palestine since the day when the Balfour Declaration started the Arab-Jewish problem, which had never existed before, has been politics and propaganda. Its victims today are those displaced Arabs in their hopeless camps. And the paradox is that their plight is largely the result of finding homes in Palestine for those Jewish refugees whose terrible fate in Germany was moving all the world to compassion and action only ten years ago.

"This is no time for talk about pro-Arabs and pro-Israelis. To show sympathy with this newly dispossessed Arab population is not to be anti-Semite. Their tragedy is a human tragedy, and deep in the hearts of many of us - Moslems, Christians and, yes, Jews - who have homes and the security of a home-life far from the tension of want and fear, there is an uneasiness, a guilty sense that something has happened to these luckless victims of circumstance beyond their control or comprehension for which we and our politics are responsible. The immediate problem is to save life. Time is passing, and the urgency of the problem brooks no further administrative delays in U.N.O. What is needed is powerful leadership and generous and humane sympathy.

"The ultimate solution will come slowly and will be hard to achieve. But Dr Weizmann, the President of the new Israeli State, has declared his wish for an understanding with the Arabs, and no understanding can be complete which ignores the problem of the future of these Arab refugees. In its solution Israel can play an intimate and crucial role. But before that can happen bridges must be built. At the moment no gesture would be more eloquent of the sincerity of Dr Weizmann's wish for understanding than an immediate non-political expression of Israeli sympathy with the refugees, backed by an unqualified offer of Israeli help in cash and kind. It would be the hand of real friendship; for throughout the centuries no people in the world have had a more bitter experience of the hopelessness of refugee existence than the Jews themselves."

The emptying of Palestine of its indigenous inhabitants, described by Tweedy, took place 66 years ago. To date, the Israelis have adamantly refused the return of these refugees to their homes and land. Worse, they created hundreds of thousands more when they stormed into the West Bank in 1967.

To be continued...

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