By David Parsons, www.ICEJUSA.org
Israel marked the 62nd anniversary of the United Nations vote to accept the Partition Plan for Mandate Palestine on 29 November 1947. This decision paved the way for the declaration of an independent Jewish State some six months later.
In marking this historic occasion, it is proper to also recall some of the unheralded Christians who assisted the Zionist movement in that critical moment when the nation of Israel re-emerged on the world scene.
For more than a century prior to modern Israel’s establishment, well-known Christian politicians and clergy had laid the moral and historic foundation for the Zionist movement’s eventual successes. Also notable are a trio of British military officers who helped restore the Jewish fighting spirit in the years between World Wars I and II – Col. John Henry Patterson, Col. Richard Meinertzhagen, and Col. Charles Orde Wingate.
There were, however, two lesser known Christian figures who played key roles in the UN’s decision to partition Palestine.
Early in 1947, the United Nations appointed 11 member states to the UN Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) to conduct an inquiry and propose a solution to the “unworkable” British Mandate. The committee came to the Land that summer to investigate the deteriorating situation first-hand.
They were impressed with Jewish advancements in the land. The plight of some 250,000 Jewish refugees stuck in European refugee camps also weighed heavily on the committee. Desperate efforts to bring them to Palestine were blocked by Britain’s pro-Arab policies. The sad ordeal of the Exodus-1947, a ship packed with 4,500 half-naked Holocaust survivors, caught UNSCOP’s attention that summer.
Rev. John Grauel, a Christian sympathiser with the Zionist cause, had volunteered as the vessel’s only non-Jewish crew member and witnessed the British assault on the Exodus off Haifa. He rushed to Jerusalem and gave compelling testimony before the committee; how the ship was rammed seven times, then boarded by armed sailors who shot and clubbed to death defenseless boys.
“The Exodus had no arms,” Rev. Grauel insisted. “All they fought with were potatoes, canned goods, and their bare fists.”
The refugees eventually were returned to Germany. The tragedy stretched out over several months before a worldwide audience, fuelling the committee’s growing sense of its humanitarian mission.
Rev. William Hull also impacted UNSCOP that summer, especially Canadian delegate Justice Ivan Rand. Also from Canada, Rev. Hull had ministered in Jerusalem since 1935 and knew first-hand of the injustices visited upon the Jewish community by British and Arab alike. Over dinner one evening, Justice Rand listened to Hull’s views and later admitted their encounter clarified his understanding of the dispute and gave him new appreciation for Zionist endeavours. Rev. Hull also submitted a letter to the full committee setting forth in a powerful way the case f or Biblical Zionism.
Since Canada was part of the Commonwealth, Justice Rand’s anti-British leanings held great sway. In a sense, he became “the conscience of the committee.”
Following his lead, the majority of UNSCOP recommended partitioning the Land into separate Jewish and Arab states. The Partition Plan (Resolution 181) was adopted by a vote of 33 to 13 in the UN General Assembly. The Jewish Agency accepted the decision, but Arab leaders rejected it and immediately launched hostilities. By the time the British Mandate ended on 14 May 1948, Arab-Jewish fighting had resulted in a de facto partition and the Jewish people were poised to declare the rebirth of their ancient nation.