After 25 years of hopes and disappointments, the Jewish dream of an independent state in Palestine is within grasping distance through the medium of partition—the division of Palestine into separate Arab and Jewish states. Jewish aspirations toward Palestine, based partially on historical and religious feelings, became a nightmarish necessity with the coming of Hitler and the death camps. They have so far failed to materialize, but viewed against the background of the Palestine problem and the new partition plan, these hopes can shortly be realized.
The Arabs and British control Palestine. Arab leaders, fearful that large-scale Jewish immigration with its land acquisition and higher living standards would loosen their hold on the Arab masses, have continually urged Britain, the mandatory power, to restrict further Jewish entry. Pledged by the Balfour Declaration and the League Mandate to help establish a Jewish State in Palestine, the British have been unwilling to carry out their promise because the Arabs threatened their security and oil in the Middle East. Commissions returned from Palestine with trumped-up findings which “proved” that Palestine could not absorb further immigration while Arabs were pouring into Palestine from the East, attracted by the lure of high Jewish wages. Arab-Jewish friction was played up and further immigration was halted. Then war came, and the question was shelved.
But victory found Europe a Jewish graveyard, with the survivors almost unanimous in wanting only one thing—permission to enter Palestine. Prodded by world opinion and Jewish underground activity, the British were forced into joining with the United States last year in sending a commission to investigate and make recommendations for Palestine. The commission turned up one conclusive fact: Palestine, rather than being too small, is capable of absorbing 100,000 refugees within one year, or 750,000 to 1,250,000 within a decade.
The geographical limitation factor became clearly invalid. But the Commission’s recommendation that Jewish immigration be resumed and unhampered Jewish land purchase be permitted ran into a solid wall of Arab resistance. The Arabs insisted that the Jews would soon outnumber them, control the land, and then be in a position to claim all of Palestine as their own…They backed up their argument with threats, and the British, perhaps overestimating Arab capacity to cause trouble, backed down, stating the additional British troops necessary to carry out large-scale immigration made the plan unworkable from an Empire viewpoint.
Then a musty, rejected plan was fished out of the records of a previous commission for reexamination. That plan, partition, now looms as the one practical and almost acceptable solution to the Palestine dilemma, if the Jews are to have the feeling of “belonging” somewhere and if their escape from Europe is to be complete and final. At the same time, the Arab fear of an extensive Jewish overrunning of the Near East would be halted by the very fixed boundaries of the new states. Although relinquishing claim to some territory, the Arabs would gain by the increased trade and industry of the entire area. And Britain would retain her essential Middle Eastern military base without interfering with sovereign peoples. Through judicious planning and large-scale public works, the Jewish community could fit the large majority of European Jewry into the state within a period of several years.
With the London Conference of Arabs and Jews adjourned until December 17, the British have time to revise their partition offer by recognizing the importance of permitting the Jews to conduct their affairs independently. Similarly, the British can find a means by which to present the plan diplomatically but firmly to the Arabs as a fait accompli, with the almost inevitable result that the Arabs would grumble a bit and then accede. Both Jewish and Arab extremists must be ignored, for the plan is essentially one of compromise. But the most important element is speed. British soldiers are dying in Palestine and Jews are rotting in displaced persons (DP) camps for lack of a solution. Britain must act quickly to carry out a clear-cut partition plan, and the United States should examine its own immigration laws and decide whether or not increased immigration here would speed the settlement of refugees and bring the Palestine problem to a speedy and definite conclusion.
Editor’s Note: Donald Blinken, a Harvard student and a member of the Harvard Crimson’s Editorial Board in 1946-1947 and a future ambassador to Hungary from 1994-1998, wrote this prescient article for the university publication in October 1946. The author endorsed the idea that the Arab/Jewish dilemma in the territory then known as Palestine could be solved by creating two independent states. The plan’s success, Blinken noted, would hinge on the ability to sideline “Jewish and Arab extremists.”
United States Ambassador to Hungary, 1994-1998