Today is a day of celebration and commemoration of the United Nations vote of November 29, 1947, creating a Jewish state and an Arab state in Palestine. By a vote of 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions and 1 absent, the United Nations General Assembly at Lake Success, New York, democratically created the two-state solution to the conflicting claims over Palestine through partition. The Jewish state will be celebrating its 65th birthday in the spring of 2013--it is unfortunate the same has not occurred for the Palestinian people.
The origins of the partition vote extend to 1937 and the Peel Commission conclusion that “in order to dispose, once and for all, of the exclusive claims of Jews and Arabs to Palestine, we regard it as essential that a clear statement of principle should be made that Jew shall not dominate Arab and Arab shall not dominate Jew in Palestine.” The remedy proposed during a period known as the Arab revolt of 1936-1939, was two states for two peoples with the Jewish state governing a minuscule territory. The Jews accepted the proposal in a small percentage of mandatory Palestine and the Arabs rejected the recommendation.
Ten years later and still administering the mandate, a Britain nearly bankrupt and exhausted from fighting the Second World War turned the issue of Palestine over to the United Nations on April 2, 1947. The United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (“UNSCOP”) was tasked with “submit[ting] such proposals as it may consider appropriate for the solution of the problem of Palestine.” The nations participating on the UNSCOP were: Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay and Yugoslavia. The UNSCOP conducted its investigation from May 26, 1947, to August 31, 1947. The committee held 16 public meetings and 36 private meetings. The meetings were held at Lake Success, Jerusalem, Beirut and Geneva. Justice Emil Sandstrom (Sweden) and Dr. Alberto Ulloa (Peru) were elected the Chairman and Vice Chairman. The Jewish Agency for Palestine represented the interests of the Yishuv--the pre-state Jewish community of Palestine. The Arab Higher Committee representing the interests of the Arabs of Palestine refused to participate in the UNSCOP process.
The UNSCOP made a number of recommendations which received unanimous support: termination of Mandate at earliest practicable date; independence for Palestine at earliest practicable date; access to Holy Places in Jerusalem preserved; protection of democratic principles and minority rights.
A majority opinion recommended the following: the claims to Palestine of Jews and Arabs are valid and irreconcilable and as a result the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states is realistic and practicable settlement. The committee also noted that: “only by mean of partitions can these conflicting national aspirations find substantial expression and qualify both peoples to take their places as independent nations of the international community and in the United Nations.” Partition would occur following a transitional period of two years starting September 1, 1947. Each nation would elect a constituent assembly and the nations would be linked by an economic unit. Jerusalem would be under international trusteeship.
The Report to the General Assembly by the UNSCOP--211 pages long--was printed in book form in 1947 by Somerset Books with a report by Sen. Robert Wagner of New York. (Sen. Wagner served in the United States Senate from 1927-1949. He was the architect of the National Labor Relations Act also known as the “Wagner Act” and was a delegate to one of the first United Nations forum--the Bretton Woods conference on global monetary and financial policy. He also sponsored one of the first pieces of federal anti-lynching legislation in 1935.) Sen. Wagner's forward is 17 pages long.
Sen. Wagner--whose portrait is paired in the Senate Reception Room with Sen. Arthur Vandenberg--makes a number of salient and striking contemporaneous historical points and observations from a person prominent in American public affairs and politics from the time of the Balfour Declaration in 1917 through the UNSCOP process 30 years later:
“The Palestine Question was an early test of the ability of the United Nations to enforce international promises made to the Jews where they have built a vital and vigorous community.”
Sen. Wagner quotes President Woodrow Wilson in 1919--whose legacy of the “Fourteen Points” includes national self-determination: “I am persuaded that the Allied Nations, with the fullest concurrence of our own Government and people, are agreed that Palestine shall be laid the foundations of a Jewish Commonwealth.” It was also noted that President Wilson was one of the draftsmen of the Balfour Declaration.
Sen. Wagner points out the policy of the United States government in support of the Jewish National Home (the words of the Balfour Declaration) as established by Woodrow Wilson from 1917-1919 and by Congress in 1922 had never wavered. (According to Rabbi Gunther Plaut's authoritative 1959 “History of the Jews of Minnesota,” the Minnesota House of Representatives became the ninth state in 1919 to pass a resolution favoring the “establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine.”) Indeed, President Harry Truman recognized Israel mere minutes after its birth on May 14, 1948.
Sen. Wagner also provided this important context: the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire provided for the creation of Arab states over a million square miles in the Middle East. By contrast, in the land of their “historic, physical and spiritual connection”--and from where the Jews brought forth the Bible--10,000 square miles of Palestine would become the home of the Jewish state.
Sen. Wagner could have added that while Jews worldwide and the Jews of Palestine fought Nazism and Fascism with all of their might--and this Sen. Wagner called out that the Arab record in the Second World War ranged from sullen neutrality to outright acts of armed belligerence (the Rashid Ali Iraq coup of 1941) to support for the Holocaust (the Mufti of Jerusalem spent the war years making propaganda broadcasts in Berlin). In short, the nations of the General Assembly had an appreciation of “who-did-what” in the Second World War about assisting the Allied war effort.
Sixty five years ago--today--the vote of the United Nations General Assembly to accept the UNSCOP recommendation of the creation of two states (Jewish and Arab) was one of the great moments of history. We can hope that this vision of two states for two peoples living side by side in peace will ultimately be realized.
We are relieved that an agreement has been reached today in Cairo to end months of lethal rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. For too long, over half of Israel’s population has lived under a constant threat of fire. No nation should have to endure such an intolerable situation. Like any other country, Israel has the inalienable right and obligation to defend its citizens from attack.
Today’s agreement, which is guaranteed by the Islamist Egyptian government of President Mohamed Morsi, will require Hamas to halt all violence emanating from Gaza into Israel. As the rulers of Gaza, this means Hamas is responsible both for themselves and the other jihadist terrorist groups within Gaza. In exchange, Israel will return quiet for quiet. Hopefully, this will mean that the innocent civilians of Gaza, for whom Hamas has cynically used as human shields, will be able to live their lives in peace as well.
We echo the comments made today by Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu who rightfully thanked President Barack Obama for his unqualified support of Israel as she exercised her sovereign right of self-defense. In particular, Prime Minister Netanyahu praised the United States for working with Israel to develop the Iron Dome anti-missile system, which successfully intercepted 400 rockets and missiles purposefully aimed at Israel’s civilian population over the past eight days. The Prime Minister also rightly thanked Secretary of State Hilary Clinton for her work in indefatigably negotiating today’s agreement. We also share Israel’s appreciation for Egypt’s role in resolving the current crisis.
As we move forward, we know that a true and lasting peace can only be achieved by a permanent and complete cessation of violence. This means that the international community must ensure that Iranian attempts to rearm Hamas and the other jihadi terrorists are thwarted. Israelis and Palestinians all deserve to live in peace with security. Accordingly, the JCRC encourages the Palestinian Authority to return to the negotiating table so that a two-state solution can be reached.
The Israel Declaration of Independence contains the phrase—Tzur Yisroel—“Rock of Israel.” The phrase was crafted as a compromise between the religious and the secular as to how to recognize the divine in the rebirth of a Jewish state after 2,000 years.
Public safety is the first priority of any government. There can be no compromise on this issue. Security and democracy are the "rocks" on which the foundation of a nation lies. This underlies the historic partnership between the United States and Israel.
Israel is acting within its sovereign right to self-defense. Among the Hamas terrorists killed was Ahmed Al-Jabari, head of Hamas’ armed Izz al-Dinn Al-Qassam Brigades. This strike occurred after four Katyusha rockets were fired from the Sinai, hitting Bnei Netzarim, a community 3 miles from Gaza. Jabri, mastermind of numerous terror attacks throughout the Intifada and after, has been a "wanted man" for some time and is known most recently as a chief organizer in the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit. He was also partially responsible for holding a million Israelis hostage for years as a barrage of rocket attacks strike into the heart of Israel’s civilian population.
Along these lines, today's Star Tribune carried today's New York Times story about Israel's Operation: "Pillar of Defense." The New York Times story describes the 750 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel this year and the casualties and damage done--details not included in the Star Tribune story. To supplement both stories, here are the facts as provided by the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs:
· 120 rockets have been fired at Israel this week.
· 133 rockets have been fired at Israel from Gaza in the last 24 hours.
· Over 760 rockets have been fired at Israel in 2012.
· Over 2500 rockets have been fired at Israel since 2009.
· Terrorists hold more than 10,000 rockets in Gaza.
· One million Israelis, 14% of the population, are under the threat of rocket fire. That is equivalent to 44 million U.S. citizens under the threat of rocket fire.
· 3 Israeli civilians have been killed, Aharon Smadga, 49, Itzik Amsalem, 24, and Mirah Sharf, 26. Sharf was reportedly pregnant.
Yet again, these hostilities have been foisted upon the Palestinian people by their purported leaders. We pray for a swift end to the hostilities for the sake of innocent Israelis and Palestinians alike.
The Israeli departure from Gaza in August 2005 was an opportunity for Palestinians to fulfill their national destiny. Instead, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, the land has become a forward position for Iran threatening Israel. And, as an Iranian threat, it is a threat to the Arab world, Europe and the United States.
Israel and the United States stand united in their defense of democracy. In addition to the United States, other world leaders, including Canada and the United Kingdom issued statements supporting Israel’s right to self-defense.
We thank those countries, you and our elected officials for standing beside Israel at this time.
On October 28, 2012, at the American Swedish Institute (“ASI”) campus, the ASI and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas (“JCRC”) commemorated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Raoul Wallenberg.
Mr. Wallenberg, in conjunction with diplomats from other neutral countries, saved about 25,000 Budapest Jews from extermination between July, 1944 and January 17, 1945, when he was detained by the Soviets. Mr. Wallenberg is presumed to have died in Soviet hands.
Mr. Wallenberg is an iconic figure to Jews and Swedes alike and all of humanity. The JCRC thanks ASI President and CEO, Bruce Karstadt, the ASI staff, board and supporters for their generosity of spirit and resources in conjunction with the joint programming celebrating the story and legacy of Mr. Wallenberg – who became the second person (after Winston Churchill) awarded honorary American citizenship, in 1981.
Participating in the commemoration – which filled the Nelson Cultural Center capacity of 350 – was Swedish public official, Ingemar Eliasson and Holocaust survivors: Fred Baron, Dr. Robert Fisch and Charles Fodor. Cellist Janet Horvath and pianist Heather MacLaughlin provided music. St. Cloud State University professor Daniel Wildeson moderated the panel discussion.
The program “Unfinished Business: Recognizing Raoul Wallenberg” began with the distribution of a poignant lapel pin representing Mr. Wallenberg. The pin is a replica of Mr. Wallenberg's briefcase left behind after his disappearance in 1945. Etched on the pin are the initials “RW.” Bronze cast sculptures can be found in memorials near the United Nations building in New York City and outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Stockholm commemorating Mr. Wallenberg's unfinished work.
The program's keynote speaker, Mr. Eliasson, had a distinguished career in Swedish government: parliamentary leader, Governor of Varmland, Marshall of the Realm and chair of the Commission of Inquiry that investigated Sweden and its response (or lack thereof) to Mr. Wallenberg's disappearance.
Mr. Eliasson provided insights into the life and Budapest mission of Mr. Wallenberg as well as both the Swedish Foreign Ministry's response to Mr. Wallenberg's disappearance and the meaning of his legacy 67 years after the end of the Second World War.
Mr. Eliasson noted that Mr. Wallenberg performed his mission of mercy during the “darkest chapter of human experience” and while for Jews in Budapest “life was at the bottom of hell.” Mr. Wallenberg came from one of the leading families of Sweden and his name was suggested as an emissary for the mission due to a chance meeting: a Wallenberg family business office was located in the same building as offices for American consular officials in Stockholm. Looking for a Swede – in 1944 – to assist the Jews of Budapest, an American riding the elevator with a person from the Wallenberg firm asked for a suggestion. Raoul Wallenberg was suggested.
The suggestion proved prescient. According to Mr. Eliasson, Mr. Wallenberg had many of the qualities required to act audaciously in the presence of Adolf Eichmann and his determination to murder the last large population of Jews surviving in Nazi-occupied Europe.
Seemingly a cross between an OSS agent and a Boy Scout, Wallenberg was handsome and preternaturally calm, possessing a healthy sense of humor and a keen capacity for organization and quick-wittedness. He was also brazen and brave.
Speaking English (he had studied architecture at the University of Michigan in the 1930s) and German – and some Russian – Wallenberg arrived in Budapest in June, 1944 on a joint mission of the Swedish government and the War Refugee Board of the United States government. Germany was destined to lose the war but determined to complete the "Final Solution" even as the Red Army was advancing towards Hungary and the western Allies were fighting in Normandy and ultimately breaking out of their bridgehead for the advance on Germany.
Mr. Wallenberg faced numerous obstacles on the ground in Budapest. The Jews of greater Hungary had already been deported and exterminated at Auschwitz and Wallenberg and his operation – which eventually numbered 400 people – worked assiduously to create the Schutz-Pass ("protective passports" which identified the bearers as Swedish subjects awaiting repatriation and thus prevented their deportation and safe house to protect the Jews of Budapest). Wallenberg's courage and industriousness was displayed both in the streets and buildings of Budapest as well as its rail yards. Wallenberg would get word of trains leaving with Jews for deportation and he would halt the train under the machine pistols of SS officers and demand the release of Jews under Swedish protection.
Wallenberg's mission became more complicated when the Germans removed the Hungarian leader Admiral Horthy in October, 1944 and the Hungarian Fascist “Arrow Cross” became the de facto government of Hungary. Wallenberg faced the challenge of procuring food and medicine for tens of thousands of people while the Arrow Cross was determined to starve and murder the Jews of Budapest. The Red Army liberated Budapest on January 17, 1945. The surviving 120,000 Jews of Budapest survived due to the efforts of Wallenberg and other emissaries of neutral countries (including Spain, Portugal and Switzerland) inspired by the leadership of Wallenberg.
The heroism of Wallenberg segued to the mystery of Wallenberg after he was detained by the Soviets on January 17, 1945. Compounding the chaos of post-liberation Budapest swept up in the advance of the Red Army to the west was a “dark shadow of inactivity” on behalf of Wallenberg by the Swedish Foreign Ministry. Mr. Eliasson's committee charged with ascertaining the facts of the Swedish government response to the disappearance of Wallenberg sadly and critically concluded that it was manifestly deficient. Mr. Eliasson noted that with few knowing the extreme danger of the Wallenberg mission coupled with the apparent kidnapping of a Swedish diplomat a task force should have been organized to create the strongest response possible. Instead, the response was languid and Wallenberg perished in a fate unknown despite a Swedish-Russian commission which investigated his disappearance. (In 1957, the USSR declared that Wallenberg died in 1947 of a heart attack after admitting his arrest.)
Following Mr. Eliasson's remarks, the gathering was treated to music from Janet Horvath – retired principal cellist of the Minnesota Orchestra – and the daughter of a mother saved by Raoul Wallenberg, and Heather MacLaughlin – one of the leading chamber music pianists in the Twin Cities – accompanied her on piano. They beautifully played a combination of Jewish, Hungarian and Swedish music.
Following this gorgeous music was a panel discussion of Holocaust survivors with strong connections to Hungary. The panelists were Robert Fisch, M.D., Charles Fodor and Fred Baron:
Robert Fisch, M.D., was born on June 12, 1925, in Budapest, Hungary. As a young man he dreamed of being an artist or an architect, but when the war ended he enrolled in medical school. Dr. Fisch survived not only the Holocaust, but also the dark days of Communism in Hungary. After the Hungarian Revolution he left for Austria and with the help of HIAS, immigrated to the U.S. in 1958. For Dr. Fisch, the Holocaust is a horrible memory. Dr. Robert Fisch is an artist, noted author and world renowned for his work in pediatrics.
Charles Fodor was born on July 14, 1936, in Budapest, Hungary. Charles Fodor was eight years old in 1944 when he and his grandmother were trying to find their way to an international safe house. As they ran along the promenade close to the Danube River, three women wearing the armband of the Arrow Cross ordered them into an apartment building. Suddenly, a man grabbed his grandmother and took her and Charles out to the street. He told them, “You don’t belong here, get lost.” It was later they learned that all those in that building were taken out and murdered on the banks of the Danube River. “I have learned that life is most precious. Do a mitzvah each day to thank God for the gift of life,” says Fodor.
Fred Baron was born on February 24, 1923, in Vienna, Austria. Fred was imprisoned in Auschwitz, where a fellow Austrian, non-Jewish kapo warned Fred and his fellow inmates, “You have arrived at hell on earth… don’t trust anyone. Don’t trust your best friend. Look out for yourself. Be selfish to the point of obscenity. Try to stay alive from one minute to the other one. Don’t let down for one second.” Fred was in numerous forced labor camps and was finally transported to Bergen Belsen. By the time the British arrived, Fred was near death. A British medic carried Fred to a field hospital where he was treated and finally transported to an emergency hospital in Sweden.
Moderating the panel discussion was Dr. Daniel Wildeson of St. Cloud State University who is the faculty director of SCSU's Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education.
Striking about the panelists was their sense of humor, candor and their greatest hope that no one should suffer as they did and their anguish over the continuation of genocide into the 21st century.
Dr. Fisch spoke of humanity – the need to retain humanity even under inhumane circumstances and the necessity of teaching humanity to children by providing appropriate role models through caring parents.
Fred Baron observed that (despite the killing of innocents) 67 years after the Shoah he remains optimistic that learning the lessons of the Holocaust to prevent such horrors in the future is, although slow, inevitable.
Charles Fodor noted the parents and grandparents victimized in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia must teach their children their history.
All three gentlemen have spent years telling their stories in schools and now at the ASI reminding their audiences of the good they also encountered and their aspirations for all of us in either the face of knowledge or of evil. Mr. Fodor told the story that in December, 1944 as the Arrow Cross was hunting down Jews in the streets of Budapest he and his grandmother were ordered to enter a certain apartment building. A man materialized seemingly from nowhere and led them away advising them to "get lost." All the people herded into the apartment building were murdered and their bodies tossed into the Danube. The anonymous person who saved Mr. Fodor is the power of the difference one person can make.
Mr. Baron reminds us the power to prevent future genocides begins by judging people by their hearts and minds; not by the color of their skin or the clothes they are wearing – while each person honestly addresses their own prejudices. A person who made a critical difference for Mr. Baron was a British Army physician who nursed him back to health after he seemed unlikely to survive after his liberation from Bergen Belsen. Mr. Baron also remembers his family's non-Jewish neighbors who hid family members in Vienna after the Anschluss between Germany and Austria.
Dr. Fisch believes in the strength of the individual to change the world as opposed to public officials and governments. He has written "Light from the Yellow Star: A Lesson of Love from the Holocaust" in which he describes his experience during the Holocaust through his paintings and prose. He also challenges the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas and the American Swedish Institute to honor the memory of Raoul Wallenberg through finding ways each year to educate the public – particularly students – about his life and legacy.
The Wallenberg event was supported by The Beverly Foundation of Minnesota and The Otto Bremer Foundation of Minnesota.
The JCRC, in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, hosted Dr. Ernest "Rip" Patton, Jr., a veteran of the 1961 Freedom Rides organized to end segregation in interstate travel – specifically passenger bus service. In conjunction with Facing History, Dr. Patton spoke to the Minnesota National Guard, St. Cloud State University, Fairview Alternative High School in Roseville and participated in a panel discussion following the October 11 Guthrie production of Appomattox.
The Battle of Antietam on September 22, 1862, was a significant if incomplete Union victory providing President Lincoln with the confidence and credibility to issue the preliminary Emancipation Proclamation freeing African American slaves in the Confederate states. At the end of the Civil War, the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments were ratified ending slavery, providing citizenship for African Americans and providing male African Americans with the right to vote. Approximately one hundred years later, particularly in the South, few African Americans were voting and segregation was ubiquitous in hotels, restaurants, barber shops, bathrooms and practically all public accommodations. (Indeed, the United States Supreme Court as early as 1960 [Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454] had outlawed segregation in bus terminals and busses where the Interstate Commerce Commission had also through administratively rule made segregation illegal.) Thus, African Americans were fighting for dignity and the right to eat, sleep and live where they please – like all Americans.
Dr. Patton personified the struggle. As a 21 year old Tennessee State student, Patton was a drum major in the University marching band when, in 1961, he became involved in the Nashville Movement. Patton arrived in Montgomery, AL, on Tuesday, May 23, to help reinforce the riders meeting at the home of Dr. Harris after the May 21 firebombing and siege of Montgomery's First Baptist Church.
Patton took part in the May 24, 1961, Greyhound Freedom Ride to Jackson, MS, where he was arrested and later transferred to Mississippi's notorious Parchman State Prison Farm.
Patton was one of 14 Tennessee State University students expelled for participating in the Rides. Following the Freedom Rides, he worked as a jazz musician, and later as a long-distance truck driver and community leader. For the past three years, Patton has served as the Freedom Rider on an annual university sponsored Civil Rights tour of the Deep South.
At St. Cloud State, Dr. Patton met with students. Prof. Kyle Ward described Dr. Patton's impact as follows:
"It was an incredible opportunity to have Dr. Patton come to the St. Cloud State University campus to talk to our students. His experiences, insight and comments on the world today were very beneficial for our students as well as enlightening. I thought it was even more interesting to see how many students not only came to this event but also to see a number stay after and have more personal conversations with Dr. Patton about a variety of topics.
On a personal note, I was extremely pleased at how many Social Studies majors came to hear Dr. Patton talk. Knowing that students working towards this major will be able to pass on his stories and message to hundreds of their future students is fantastic. And that these future teachers will be able to start out their lessons on the Civil Rights era by saying, "when I listened to and met a Freedom Rider..." I think it will add special significance and help explain the importance of having Dr. Patton come to SCSU to talk."
Dr. Patton also spoke to a group of Minnesota National Guard personnel including Major General (Adjutant General) Richard Nash and Chaplain (Col.) John Morris, head chaplain of the Minnesota National Guard. Col. Morris spoke poignantly about growing up on an air force base in Biloxi, MS, where he father was stationed. The base was desegregated per President Harry Truman's Executive Order of July 26, 1948, desegregating the military while life outside the base in Biloxi and throughout Mississippi and, indeed, the South, was segregated leading to a duality in life.
Another facet of programming with Dr. Patton was a joint effort with the Guthrie Theater and the play Appomattox in which Dr. Patton participated in a post play discussion with a panel and the audience. Appomattox is a marvelous play addressing so many critical issues at a time when nearly fifty years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act the right to vote is again at the center of American politics. The Guthrie's commitment to Christopher Hampton's recounting of 1865 and 1965 dovetailed exquisitely with the JCRC's focus on the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation in coalition with the Minnesota African American Museum and many other groups. It is striking that at the centennial (1962) of the Emancipation Proclamation, African Americans in a large swath of our country were denied their right to vote and access to public accommodations, often through the use of intimidation and violence.
That arc of history made the post-play discussion with Dr. Patton, Christopher Hampton and Angela Pierce, Shawn Hamilton and Joe Nathan Thomas so compelling. It was remarkable to see and hear Rip Patton – the Freedom Rider – in conversation with Christopher Hampton – the playwright – and his interpretation of American history and the cast now seeing the interface of, in a sense, history and historian and their reaction to it. And all for the benefit of the audience who applied their own experiences to this moment. It was theatre within theatre representing a tremendous time of learning.