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By coincidence, as I posted "MIDDLE EAST: The road to war or peace?", a conference was opening in Washington on "Experiences of Holocaust Survivors." One session dealt with the Palestine question. It was interesting and for me very moving. It discussed Lodz, the Polish town with the largest concentration of Jews. In Spain in 1933 I knew a Jewish teacher, a woman of great culture with a special interest in Italy. She returned to Lodz and did not reply to a letter I sent her. I fear the worst happened.
The session was presided over by Dina Porat of the University of Tel Aviv. The three speakers discussed the situation in the three zones: U.S., British, and Russian. The great gap was the omission of a Palestinian Arab who could have given the Palestinian viewpoint. That gap was the subject of the first question, possibly made by an Arab observer. Jo Reilly (Irish, not Jewish?) of the University of Southampton, England, who spoke about the British zone, immediately agreed. The others said nothing.
The situation in the American zone was discussed by Leonard Dinnerstein, head of the Jewish Studies Department at the University of Arizona. His presentation lacked shading. He said approvingly that the man President Roosevelt saw most frequently was Sam Rosenman; apparently they were together the whole time. Dinnerstein said in a nasty voice that all anti-Semitism was due to Christianity, which is not exact. They was anti-Semitism before Christianity and there is in non-Christian areas. The Popes protected the Jews, and Protestants have a strong pro-Jewish tradition.
Dinnerstein said that all Americans hate Jews, which is not true. I like and admire Jews, and I know others who do, and we resent charges of anti-Semitism. As for organized anti-Semitism in the United States, he blamed the large German immigration to the MidWest, citing in particular Senator Langer of North Dakota. This seemed to be in line with the Jewish line that Germans generally supported the Holocaust.
Jo Reilly gave a fair presentation of the British policy, which was to encourage the Jews to stay in Germany and help build it up again. They realized that mass Jewish migration to Palestine would upset the delicate balance there. When President Truman pressured Prime Minister Atlee to grant 100,000 extra certificates to Jews wanting to emigrate to Israel, Atlee was in no position to refuse, but Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin suggested that the United States accept a similar number. The majority of American Jews opposed this, so Secretary of State James Byrnes rejected the British proposal. The British were tired of bearing the burden in Palestine alone, so they turned their mandate over to the United Nations.
Don Engel of Tel Aviv University described the situation in the Russian zone and Poland. It is very confused since the documents have only recently been made available. The Russians apparently encouraged the Jews to emigrate to Palestine in order to create problems for the British and to drive a wedge between the United States and Britain. The Jews escaped via the American zone and thence to Palestine.
Such is the background of a situation of which Americans generally have only a vague idea. It is still very dangerous and could lead to another war. Except for Britain, the United States is virtually alone as Germany and France improve their ties with Iran and even Iraq. We must be extremely careful in every detail. Hence my opposition to the eruv which would surround Palo Alto and Stanford. It is not just a local issue, but one that might affect world peace.
Ronald Hilton - 1/17/00