By Jeff Jacoby, Aish—
Seventy-five years ago this month, the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry convened a hearing in Jerusalem. Its lead-off witness was David Ben Gurion, who was then the foremost leader of the Jewish community in Palestine.
The task of the committee was to report on political and social conditions in Palestine, which in March 1946 was still under British rule. The future of Palestine was an issue on which the two allies did not see eye to eye. American public opinion supported Jewish aspirations to a measure of sovereignty in the Holy Land, and President Truman was pushing the British government to allow 100,000 survivors of the recently ended Holocaust to immigrate into Palestine.
But Britain opposed Jewish immigration. Hostility to Jews was rampant throughout the Arab world, where the British Empire had extensive commercial and diplomatic interests, and Whitehall was unwilling to get on the wrong side of Arab opinion. Though Britain’s historic Balfour Declaration of 1917 had famously endorsed “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people,” the government had reversed that position in 1939, barring most Jews from entering the land and thus choking off an escape route from Europe just as the Nazi genocide was getting underway.
Today the Anglo-American Committee is largely forgotten. Its findings became moot in November 1947, when the United Nations recommended that Palestine be partitioned into two states, one Jewish and one Arab. Nonetheless, Ben Gurion’s heartfelt testimony making the case for Jewish sovereignty in the Jewish homeland is still worth reading, as I remarked in a column a few years ago:
In one memorable passage, the man who would two years later become Israel’s first prime minister addressed the astonishing longevity of the Jews’ love affair with Zion.
“More than 300 years ago a ship by the name of the Mayflower left Plymouth for the New World,” Ben Gurion told the committee. “It was a great event in American and English history. I wonder how many Englishmen or how many Americans know exactly the date when that ship left Plymouth, how many people were on the ship, and what was the kind of bread that people ate when they left Plymouth.”
Few Americans, of course, know any of those minutiae. But countless Jews, Ben Gurion went on, know the details of a far older journey.
“More than 3,300 years ago the Jews left Egypt. It was more than 3,000 years ago – yet every Jew in the world knows exactly the date when we left. It was on the 15th of Nisan. The bread they ate was matzot. Jews throughout the world on the 15th of Nisan eat the same matzot – in America, in Russia – and tell the story of the exile from Egypt. tell what happened, all the sufferings that happened to the Jews since they went into exile. They finish these two sentences: ‘This year we are slaves; next year we will be free. This year we are here; next year we will be in Zion, the land of Israel.’” Continue Reading….