Israel and Two Democracies

On Nov 29, 1947, few months after India’s independence, Resolution 181 was approved by the General Assembly to partition the territory of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. The vote was 33-10 with 10 abstentions. Albert Einstein had written to the Prime Minister designate of India that year asking support for a Jewish state, but Nehru wrote back saying that while he was sympathetic to the suffering of Jews, he did not like that the new state would be located on someone else’s land. He also wrote that due to India’s national interests, he could not support the formation of Israel. Thus India voted along with Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen against the resolution.

In United States, an unpopular Harry Truman supported the partition, but faced opposition from the State and Defence departments. One of the biggest opponent of the plan was Secretary of State, George Marshall, who bluntly told Truman that if elections were held, he would vote against the President. His Defence Secretary told him not to offend the Arabs since it could lead to denial of petroleum resources.

On May 14, 1948, Israel declared independence.

With only a few hours left until midnight in Tel Aviv, Clifford told the Jewish Agency to request immediate recognition of the new state, which still lacked a name. Truman announced recognition at 6:11 p.m. on May 14 — 11 minutes after Ben-Gurion’s declaration of independence in Tel Aviv. So rapidly was this done that in the official announcement, the typed words “Jewish State” are crossed out, replaced in Clifford’s handwriting with “State of Israel.” Thus the United States became the first nation to recognize Israel, as Truman and Clifford wanted.[Washington’s Battle Over Israel’s Birth]

Richard Holbrooke writes that while many think Israel has been nothing but trouble for United States, it was the right decision.

Israel was going to come into existence whether or not Washington recognized it. But without American support from the very beginning, Israel’s survival would have been at even greater risk. Even if European Jewry had not just emerged from the horrors of World War II, it would have been an unthinkable act of abandonment by the United States. Truman’s decision, although opposed by almost the entire foreign policy establishment, was the right one — and despite complicated consequences that continue to this day, it is a decision all Americans should recognize and admire. [Washington’s Battle Over Israel’s Birth]

Though India did not recognize Israel till 1950 and did not have diplomatic relations still 1992, Nehru asked David Ben-Gurion for help during the 1962 war and it has continued till the Kargil war. Voting against Israel did not result in any extra ordinary favours from the Arab world which supports Pakistan’s Kashmir cause.

4 Comments

  1. India under Nehru and the Congress party have been consistently following an anti Israel policy to appease the Arabs and the Indian Muslims for votes and it reached a climax, under Mrs Indira Gandhi when she even staked the country’s honour to prove herself as a champion of Muslims.
    For instance in 1969 an Islamic submit was organized at Rabat in Morocco to discuss the issue of the burning of Al Aqsa Mosque supposed to be by Israel. Saudi Arabia and some reactionary Islamic nations including Pakistan had been invited to the conference, while some progressive Arab states like Syria, Iraq and Tunisia abstained from attending it as they did not wanted to mix religion and politics. In spite of not being invited, the Indian government wrangled to get an invitation on the plea that India was in the Islamic region. Fakruddin Ali Ahmed, the industrial minister, who led the delegation, was not received according to protocol and denied elementary courtesy. The Minister himself admitted that on the third day of the conference he was approached by the Afghan Premier and the Vice-Premier of U.A.R., who requested him on behalf of the King of Morocco that he should withdraw from the conference feigning illness or attend the meeting as an observer. Alternatively he could take part in it only as a representative of the Indian Muslim community. Fakruddin Ali Ahmed on his return, with his characteristic sarcasm observed that it was good that India got insulted and that it should reorient its foreign policy. And this was the treatment accorded to India for blindly supporting the Arabs against Israel. If only India had cooperated with Israel which wanted India to give her landing facility for refueling its aircrafts to strike at the nuclear facilities of Pakistan, things would have been different.

  2. sukumar, what’s interesting is the covert relationship india had with israel, mostly begging for ammunition for the various wars we fought.

  3. In my opinion I think Nehru did the right thing. Israel and Kashmir are two totally separate issues. One is the formation of a new state at the expense of another state (Palestine); the other is essentially an ethnic struggle for autonomy/independence. Kashmiris were initially on the side of India and fought against the invading Pashtun tribes that were sent into their land by Pakistan. It’s only in 1989 things turned sour in Kashmir for India.

    I have been to Israel a couple of times myself. Much of the country has been purged of its Palestinian population most of whom now live in Gaza, West Bank or neighbouring countries. In contravention of international law Isarel has built hundreds of Jewish settlements in the West Bank which it has occupied since 1967. The Palestinians who live under Israeli occupation do so as second class citizens without the right to return to their original land. Having seen things with my own eyes the comparisons with apartheid by the likes of Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu are not far off the mark. To India’s credit Kashmiris enjoy full rights as citizens on their own land.

    The formation of Israel has created serious problems – more problems than it has solved. One wonders if these problems are ever likely to be resolved. Palestinians have paid a heavy price for European anti-Semitism leading to great resentment among themselves and Muslims in general. I don’t think a separate Palestinian state will succeed although that is what the US wants. I personally think it would be better if both Jews and Palestinians shared one country like they did before 1948, but there is so much antagonism on both sides that the divide seems too deep to bridge.

    The Kashmir problem is partly indigenous and partly interference from Pakistan which is only interested in destabilising India. Pakistan has its own ethnic struggles. By spawning jihadi groups to wage a proxy war on India is likely to backfire on Pakistan in the long run.

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