Israel - Aggrieved Or Aggressor

by Keith Macnaughtan

Some decades past when Jewish people began to return to the land of their fathers and to-reinstate themselves, they earned the goodwill and acclaim of many other peoples. After long centuries in which they had suffered cruelly, their demand for "a place in the sun" , seemed reasonable, to say the least. Even the Arab effendis, or land holders, looked with favour upon their return, especially as it meant settling them in the worst of their land and at exorbitant prices. The Frenchman, Baron Edmont Rothschild helped to settle many Jewish people. He built homes for them and bought their produce at above the normal price. Immigrants came to Israel from countries where their ancestors had lived for centuries. They settled even in malarial areas and worked the land. "Children of Death", the Arabs called them. Many indeed died, but they drained the malarial swamps and made them productive soil. At the close of the First World War, 100,000 Jews lived in the land which was still of course called Palestine, the name which the Romans had given it.

The Balfour Declaration

Great Britain issued the "Balfour Declaration" on November 2nd, 1917. Lloyd George, then Prime Minister, later said it was made for "propagandist purposes". But two years before the Balfour Declaration, Sir Arthur McMahon had given the Arabs a promise of certain Middle East areas if they would revolt against the Turks – though indeed Palestine was not specifically named. And in 1922 Winston Churchill said that Britain did not envisage "the disappearance or the subordination of the Arab population, language, or culture in Palestine". Britain, it seemed, had spoken with a forked tongue, trying to please both Arabs and Jews. And, like so many who dissemble, she soon was to find that honesty, after all, is the best policy, even in international affairs.

Meanwhile, Jewish settlement had continued. The marsh lands where the Arabs had spent nothing had been drained at a cost of $1,500,000. By 1948 the Jewish people had established 233 villages, settled 83,000 newcomers, and planted five million trees.

Great Britain should have seen where her best interests lay. The British Labour Party said in 1944, "There is surely neither hope nor meaning in a 'Jewish National Home' unless we are prepared to let Jews, if they wish, enter this tiny land in such numbers as to become a majority. There was a strong case before the war. There is an irresistible one now, after the unspeakable atrocities of the German Nazi plan to kill all the Jews in Europe". Labour came to power in 1945 but quickly forgot the promise implied in that statement.

Desperate Attempts to Reach Israel

Many Arabs were pro-Nazi. When it seemed that Rommel might beat the British in North Africa, they marked Jewish houses they intended to take. Yet Britain would not allow armoured cars to escort the convoys carrying food to Jerusalem "because it arouses the Arabs". When, in 1939, with Hitler at the height of his power, three ships bearing refugees from Germany and Roumania, arrived in Palestine, the British would not allow them to land, and the Colonial Secretary, Malcolm McDonald, order them back to Europe. 20,000 Polish children and 10,000 men from the Balkans were sent back by the British: they finished their ill-fated lives in the gas-chambers at Auschwitz and Maidenek.

Only one person survived when a cattle boat, the STURMA, capsized and 768 passengers were drowned. In Tel Aviv British troops dyed the foreheads of Jews and shouted "Heil Hitler" in mockery. They flogged a schoolboy for carrying pamphlets. In 1946 two sailing ships succeeded in reaching Haifa. Britain opposed them by bringing up a division by land, and two cruisers. The refugees dived into the sea and began swimming to shore. British soldiers were quick and ruthless to act and dragged them from the water. Ernest Bevin, then Foreign Secretary, refused an American request that 100,000 refugees be allowed to emigrate. He said that only 1,500, allowed by the "White Paper" of 1939 would be permitted in, "at the generosity of our Arab friends".

When Britain planned to abandon its mandate over Palestine, the U.N.O. voted to partition the country between Arabs and Jews. While the Jews accepted the plan, the Arabs rejected it. It is surely the height of absurdity that the Arab nations now demand that Israel return to the borders which they themselves rejected in 1948!

The Refugee Problem

In the 1948 War a total of 700,000 Arabs, and before this 70,000 from the Haifa area, left their homes and became refugees although the Israelis had pleaded with them to stay. Thus began a problem which still plagues Israel and which appears to give a handle to her enemies. Today the refugees number 1,750,000. Yet let it be remembered that Israel offered to receive back some of the refugees, and to pay for the re-settlement of others. But President Nasser of Egypt would not allow the refugees to leave the Gaza Strip. Iraq had plenty of land to spare and a labour shortage! – but made no effort to settle the refugees. They were fed, not by their fellow-Arabs, but by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, 70% of the budget for which came from the U.S.A. Yet in 1964 the Arab states voted to collect $430 million per year for the single purpose of exterminating the Israeli people!

In the meantime, 150,000 Arabs, who stayed in Israel, received full citizenship rights, except in border areas. Some Arabs now sit in the Knesset, the Jewish Parliament.

The World Against Israel

Israel may well be aggrieved by the charges laid against her. For, almost on every hand, today she is labelled as the aggressor. Russia, of course, so names her – although Russia recognized the State of Israel only two days after it was declared in 1948! Britain and France speak of Israel as the aggressor, as does the U.N.O. On every hand she is accused of aggression. Maps of 'Palestine' still show the whole of the West Bank as distinct from Israel itself, and it is called an 'occupied' area. Even the Golan Heights are indicated as not belonging to Israel: they, with the West Bank, are specially shaded as though to show that Israel has no right to be there.

Aggrieved or Aggressor? Today, under the peace terms with Egypt, Israel has handed over Sinai and the Gaza Strip. Even in the Knesset itself there are differences on the matter of establishing settlements in the liberated areas. Mr Begin has said that Israel is determined on three things: no solution that would compromise Israel's security; no separate Palestinian State; no return of Jerusalem to Arab rule.

Surely fair-minded persons will agree that in the light of Israel's brief but troubled history, her stand on these three points is justified. "Israel does not engage in arrogant, deadly games for fun, but strives to defend its people, just as you would yours", said a writer in an American magazine. Yet that same magazine entitled another article: "Strange Way to Seek Peace", referring to the building of another settlement on what the writer calls "Arab Land".

Does Bible prophecy help to guide our thinking in these matters? Alas, the Scriptures do tell of a day of extreme trouble yet to be for Israel – "When they shall say, Peace, Peace ..." But beyond that day of false peace a happier, better day dawns. Messiah himself will appear, the Prince of Peace, of whom it is said: "Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end upon the throne of David and upon his kingdom ..." Sincerely do we say: "Lord, hasten that Day".

(The writer acknowledges indebtedness to the Associated Press publication LIGHNING OUT OF ISRAEL for some of the material in this article.)