AJC eBook: Israel’s Triple Anniversary - Page 10

8 blow?”5 Yet when Churchill became prime minister in 1940 he kept the White Paper in force, and throughout the war British naval forces sought to block “illegal” Jewish immigration into Palestine. As the horrific news of Germany’s destruction of European Jewry got out to the world, the closing off of the Jewish national homeland to those managing to escape Hitler’s inferno provided a potent argument that a Jewish state in Palestine was needed, if for no other reason than as a haven for the refugees. Yet even after the war ended in 1945 the new Labour government in Great Britain, eager to remain in the good graces of the Arab world, continued to enforce the White Paper of 1939 and barred Jewish immigration to Palestine. Illegal immigration continued and armed Jewish resistance groups—the mainstream Haganah and the more militant Irgun and Stern Gang—fought the Mandatory authorities. In 1947 Great Britain announced it was washing its hands of the Palestine problem and would give up the mandate. It asked the newly created United Nations to decide the fate of Palestine. On May 15 the UN General Assembly appointed a committee, known by the acronym UNSCOP, to visit the region and investigate the matter. The majority report, issued August 31, called for partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states as had the Peel Report ten years earlier, and, like that document, set constricted boundaries for the Jewish state that deeply disappointed the Zionists. Realizing nevertheless that this was the best deal they could hope for at the moment, Zionist leaders announced their support. Predictably, the Arab world once again refused to countenance a Jewish state in any part of Palestine, and condemned partition. The UN General Assembly voted on the UNSCOP report on November 29, 1947, approving the partition plan by 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions. Both the United States and the Soviet Union—which at the time saw it as a means to weaken British influence in the Middle East—voted with the majority. Most of the dissenting votes came from Arab states. Great Britain abstained. Fifty years since Herzl’s First Zionist Congress and thirty years after Lord Balfour issued his declaration, the world body representing the community of nations brought into 5 Quoted in Laqueur, History of Zionism, p. 510.