Truce of Attrition
Palestine Cease-Fire Calculated to Save
Arabs From Complete Defeat
When, following the decision of the United Nations of Nov.
29, 1947, the Arab Army of Liberation from Syria and Iraq
invaded Palestine, the Security Council raised the question of a threat
to peace and sanctions against the aggressors. The British and Arab delegates,
however, argued that it was irregulars who had invaded Palestine,
and consequently no sanctions were imposed on the Arabs.
After the termination of the British Mandate on May 14,
1948, the regular troops of five Arab states invaded Palestine. Thereupon,
the United States proposed in the Security Council that the action of
the Arabs be declared a threat to peace, but again the British were opposed
and defeated the United States resolution.
Instead, the British proposed that a mediator be sent to
Palestine to see whether a settlement of the conflict could be achieved
by peaceful means, the implication being that if the mediator could not
succeed, the Arab invaders should then have to face stern measures on
the part of the Security Council.
* * *
Count Bernadotte was appointed mediator. He succeeded in
arranging a four-week truce, but he could not work out a proposal that
would satisfy either side; when the time expired, he asked for an extension
of the truce. The Arabs refused; the Israelis agreed. Then, on July 9,
fighting began again. The Arabs miscalculated. The Israelis have driven
them from the central plain and from western Galilee.
The Security Council, which did not vote sanctions against
the Arabs and let them have the benefit of mediation, failed again to
vote sanctions when the Arabs renewed the war. Neither did it permit the
Arabs to suffer the full consequences of having renewed the conflict when
a few more days would have been decisive in the struggle. Instead, it
voted a threat of sanctions against any partyIsraeli or Arabwho
would not submit to an immediate truce. This resolution was supported
by the British, for it was made to save the Arabs from being routed. The
truce was renewed on July 19.
* * *
Since then more than three months have passed. The Israelis
offered to negotiate directly with the Arabs; they refused. The mediator
offered negotiation at a round table conference; the Arabs refused. They
acted as though they were the victors. They did not begin to make even
the smallest concession. They refuse to sit down with Israeli representatives
since they do not recognize an Israel state, large or small.
Then what purpose does the truce serve? It is imposed to
protect the invaders from a rout. It is also actually a siege of Israel.
Over 150 observers are stationed in Israel to watch that there should
be no truce violation and that no arms should be imported; but there are
only a few individual observers in all the Arab states and in the Arab
part of Palestine, and there is practically no control of the importation
of arms in Alexandria, Port Said, Suez, Beirut, Tripoli, and many other
parts of Arab states on the Mediterranean, the Persian Guff, the Red Sea.
The truce is also unjust in that it keeps able-bodied Jews
from immigration. The Arabs have a reserve of millions of people for mobilization
and they can draw on this reserve without limit. Under such conditions,
is an extended truce equally just to both parties?
* * *
If it had been up to the mediator and the Truce Commission,
the population of Jerusalem would have died of thirst.
If it had been up to the Truce Commission, the Jewish settlements
of the Negev would have been starved out. The Israeli road to the Negev
crosses the Egyptian supply road from the coast to Hebron and Jerusalem.
Count Bernadotte ruled that every day for six hours the crossing should
be open to the Israelis and for six hours to the Egyptians. But the Egyptians
occupied strategic heights and did not allow the Israelis to use the road.
The new mediator, Dr. Bunche, and the Commission did nothing
to enforce the ruling. The Egyptians constantly shelled the Israeli settlements
in the Negev and only ten days ago we read that in one of such bombardments
the young daughter of the Israeli military governor of Jerusalem was killed.
With the approach of the rainy season the Israelis sent
a convoy of food to the Negev. The convoy was smashed by Egyptian artillery.
Then the Israeli army took action and beat the Egyptian army from the
strategic heights dominating the crossing. Who is the violator of the
* * *
The truce was imposed for the purpose of negotiation, not
for stalling; it was arranged to save the Arabs from having sanctions
imposed against them as aggressors. The Arabs refuse to negotiate or even
to recognize Israel as reality. Since the purpose for which the truce
was established is rejected by the Arabs, the proper thing to do is to
return the United States proposal in the Security Council to brand as
aggressor nations the Arab states who invaded Palestine and to impose
sanctions against them.
This is the logic of things; and their would be done if
we were living in a more just world. But in a more just world the land
of Israel would not have been an object of power politics among great