Sunday, August 22, 2021

A 1934 'Either...Or'

In the David Ben-Gurion Archives, you can find a summary of a conversation between two Arabs from Mandate Palestine with Israel Cohen, general secretary of the World Zionist Organization headquarted in Great Britain, which took place in London in June 1934.

As you can see, the only choice the Arab spokesman offered was that between the Balfour Declaration or Arab friendship:

Who was that Totah who thought so highly of "Arab friendship" for the Jews rather than a statement of diplomatic intent?

Khalil Totah was an Arab-American Quaker Educator and Palestinian Nationalist Crusader who married an American Quaker and Amy Smith writes:

Dr. Khalil Totah belonged to a generation of Syrians who grew up with an appreciation for the “modern” spirit that was sweeping the world...Totah and his fellow intellectuals were not so much inspired by [US President Woodrow[ Wilson’s words, but rather they viewed them as support of a pre-existing sentiment. Greater Syrians had been developing ideas of freedom and democracy since their cultural and intellectual renaissance in the mid-19th century... Dr. Khalil Totah provides one small piece of a larger transformation in Syria. His writings show the evolution of Arab nationalism in Palestine during a transformative era.

Smith's dissertation further informs, p. 134, that as regards that 1934 trip:

The Friends’ Committee requested that in 1934 Totah travel with an American Quaker from Lebanon, Daniel Oliver, to an annual Friends Meeting in London. He was to meet with British Quakers and plead the case for Palestine. The Quaker organization also arranged for him to meet with government officials to discuss “The Question of Palestine.” 

From the rest of Cohen's report, we can see that as Arab propaganda then, so today:



Saturday, August 21, 2021

"The Palestinian Side of the Suez Canal"

I found the following in Hansard, the record of Bitish Parliamentary debates. The referred to Milner Mission was to make recommendations for the future relationship between Egypt and England after World War One when Egypt came under British martial law when a temporary Protectorate was declared. Its recommendations were to end that status and the negotiation of a treaty. It was published in February 1921.

The debate was held on March 14, 1922.

The following extract is from the words of John Mills. In 1923, he served as Parliamentary Private Secretary to the pro-Zionist Josiah Wedgwood.

Mills make the point that Egypt really never was any part of the British Empire and in doing so, makes reference to the concept that Palestine should extend well into Sinai, right up to the Suez Canal:
This point is specifically alluded to on page 6 of the Milner Report. I am quoting from the Report of the Special Mission, and it says: It appears to be frequently assumed in current talk and writing in this country that Egypt is part of the British Empire. That is not, and never has been, the case. That is most explicit, and to gentlemen of military experience who talk to us about the tactical value of this or that part of a country, I would suggest that on the Palestinian side of the Suez Canal you have a population who at the moment are welcoming British occupation, and, under the pledge given to the Zionists, it makes it a desirable circumstance for the transfer of the garrison; that in itself is an alternative place where troops can be kept if the Suez Canal is deemed to be such a dangerous part of our communication. Personally I think that the international pact which guaranteed the international character of the Suez Canal makes a very large number of these assertions valueless even if they ever contained some, amount of value. Having regard to the changed circumstances in the East, having regard to the changed circumstances on the Palestinian side of the Canal, we are justified in asking this Government and its military advisers to consider the alternative garrison for the troops, if they are necessary, in order that we may in fact as well as in word carry out this generation-long pledge to the Egyptian people.

Later in the debate Colonel Wedgewood notes:

Indeed, I think it is worth considering whether it would not be possible even to have the troops on the Eastern bank of the Canal instead of on the Western bank, provided that the Palestine-Egyptian frontier were shifted from the Akaba line up to the Suez Canal. That shift in the frontier would put us on the Suez Canal, in a position where we could adequately protect that Canal, with a base in the mandated country of Palestine, where we should be permanently on the spot to protect the Canal and look after our interests.

He is referring to the October 1, 1906, Separating Administrative Line between the Ottoman province of the Hejaz, the governorate of Jerusalem and the Sinai Peninsula which was agreed upon, following nine months of military action and diplomatic activity which nearly brought the British and the Ottoman empires to the verge of war. See here

It began in January that year when British forces from Egypt 
to build up a small post for the Egyptian border police at Umm Rashrash (now Eilat) in Naqb al-Aqaba. Their presumption was that "Naqb el-Akaba... is well within the frontier line settled upon between Turkey and Egypt" after the Wedj incident. 

Taba was then occupied by Turkish troops.

Oddly enough, one of the elements involved in the background to all this dispute was an

"1892 incident [that] was caused, according to Cromer, by the suspicions of the Sultan with regard to planned Jewish settlement on the shores of Aqaba: ‘...The result was that the Firman laid down the Egyptian frontier as drawn from Suez to El-Arish. The peninsula of Sinai, which had been administered by the Khedives of Egypt for the last forty years, would thus have reverted to Turkey... ’

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Rabbi Herschel Schachter and I

I was quite active, starting in 1964, on behalf of the liberation of Soviet Jewry through Betar, SSSJ and others in America and later in Israel and England.

At a Soviet Jewry Rally in 1965 at Seward Park [I think], me at right

I participated in the May 1, 1964 demonstration across from the Soviet UN Legation in Manhattan. In November 1976 I was in Mosow for three days, meeting Sharansky, Ida Nudel, Alexander Lerner, the Beilins and others.

Much later with Natan Sharansky in Jerusalem 
at the premiere of "The Refuseniks" 
(I always preferred "Refusedniks")

Raphael Medoff now has published a new biography of Rabbi Herschel Shachter. On his life here. Here is a discussion of the book held at YU.

I appear in it, as a writer of a column (and thanks to Rebbitzen Penner for informing of that).

The background was the first International Conference on the Soviet Jewry struggle conducted in late February 1971 in Brussels. That was when Rabbi Meir Kahane was arrested on orders by Shachter (as the book proves) and his contretemps with Menachem Begin.

The quoted section appears on pages 294-297.

And by the way, it happened again at the Second Conference in Belgium in February 1976.

And without further ado, the text:

"The Jewish Free Press (Columbia University) published a 1,500-word “open letter” to Schacter and Wexler by Yisrael Winkelman [me], a Zionist student activist. Addressing himself directly to the two Jewish leaders, Winkelman began by asserting that in his seven years of Soviet Jewry activism, during which he had taken part in numerous marches, all-night vigils, meetings, and leafletting, “I have never heard your names mentioned, never saw you holding a protest sign, never marched with you nor found you doing anything for the cause of Soviet Jewry.” Winkelman went on to accuse Schacter of “lying and besmirching a fellow Jew” when the rabbi recently told the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz, regarding Rabbi Kahane, “How much money does he make? What does he do with the money? I’m not saying he is a thief, but a lot of money stands at his service.” Winkelman also cited an incident in 1970, in which the national coordinator of the American Conference, Abraham Bayer, physically blocked the door at a Soviet Jewry seminar to prevent the entry of Dov Sperling, a Soviet Jewish √©migr√© who had publicly praised the JDL. A photo of Bayer standing in front of the door, with Sperling peering through the window behind him, accompanied Winkelman’s Jewish Free Press article.102

Winkelman concluded his “open letter” by challenging what he saw as a mindset among established Jewish leaders to exclude dissenting voices. He pointed to the fact that Schacter was quoted in Ha’aretz as calling the Brussels conference “my wedding,” in the context of accusing Rabbi Kahane of attempting to enter without an invitation. “Perhaps,” Winkelman wrote, “the anti-democratic procedures [in Brussels] were an expression of the ‘my wedding’ philosophy of the American Jewish Establishment that has tragically hindered and delayed the development of a true forceful protest movement.”103

Rabbi Schacter was not a writer. He delivered countless sermons and speeches over the years; he also conducted eloquent correspondence with a few close friends. But except for a few rare instances (such as his Journal-American article about his trip to the USSR), he did not author essays for the press. In the case of the Winkelman episode, however, he made an exception. 

His rebuttal to Winkelman, which extended to more than 2,000 words, was published alongside Winkelman’s critique in the Jewish Free Press. Schacter’s decision to engage Winkelman, rather than ignore him, echoed his invitation to the SSSJ hecklers at Hunter College to speak from the stage just a few months earlier. The article offered a rare look at how Rabbi Schacter handled criticism and how he perceived the Soviet Jewry struggle and his role in it.

Schacter began by objecting to what he called the “insolent aspersions” Winkelman had cast on him. “Since my various humble efforts in behalf of Jews have escaped your notice until recently, let me tell you something about myself,” he began. “When I was younger than you are today, although already a rabbi in a substantial congregation, I volunteered for active duty in the U.S. Army and served with front-line combat troops across Europe.” He then described his experiences in Buchenwald, emphasizing, “I organized Kibbutz Buchenwald and was personally responsible for transporting over 500 Jewish children” from Germany to Switzerland. Schacter continued with a summary of his 1956 trip as part of “the very first select American rabbinic delegation” to the Soviet Union. “Since then I have been constantly ‘on the road’ preaching and teaching; bringing the message of Russian Jewry; rousing and calling Jews in America and various parts of the world to focus American and world attention on the plight of Soviet Jewry.”104

If the term “since then” was intended to suggest that he had been continuously engaged in such activities since 1956, then Rabbi Schacter’s assertion was something of an overstatement. The late 1950s and early 1960s were a time during which there was little public activity in the United States, by Schacter or anyone else, concerning Soviet Jewry. But that began to change in 1963–1964, and Rabbi Schacter cited his connection to SSSJ at that time as evidence that he, like Winkelman, was critical of the established Jewish leadership. “I do share your frustration and impatience with the much maligned establishment,” he wrote. “Ask Yaacov Birnbaum how many years ago it was when I worked hard with him to organize and chair the Bronx Council to Aid Soviet Jewry, how we mounted an impressive rally on the Grand Concourse, before it became popular to do so.” He continued: “Long before I reached my present position of leadership and many times since, I marched and carried protest signs. I may very well have been marching alongside of you without our being aware of each other’s presence. Do you still question my own personal commitment to Soviet Jewry?”105

After highlighting the anti-establishment orientation of the SSSJ and the Bronx Council to demonstrate his credentials as an activist, Schacter shifted gears and declared that “it was the American Conference on Soviet Jewry – and not Rabbi Kahane and JDL – [that was] responsible for most of what has been done in America for Soviet Jewry over the last seven years.” Just in the previous five months, he asserted, the American Conference was responsible for “literally millions of pieces of materials, fact sheets, bumper stickers, posters, Passover statements, etc. and large newspaper advertisements.” He was not at liberty to disclose that he had just authorized a $1,200 behind-the-scenes payment by the American Conference to SSSJ to underwrite a one-day “Student Strike for Soviet Jewry,” in which several thousand Jewish public and private school students in New York City left their classes to hold a rally at the United Nations, followed by a march to the Soviet Mission.106

With regard to the arrest of Rabbi Kahane, Schacter wrote:

The Belgian government . . . was determined to avoid any exacerbation of Soviet feelings, which it felt might result from Rabbi Kahane’s presence and activities in Brussels. The Belgian government alone determined, therefore, to ask him to leave the country. The Conference Presidium at no time, individually or collectively, made any representations to the Belgian government about Rabbi Kahane and was in no way involved in his detention and expulsion [that was less than true YM]. No matter how many times this lie is repeated, it remains just that.107

As for the quotations attributed to him in Ha’aretz, Schacter said that his statements about Kahane were “reported in a manner calculated to convey an impression different from what was intended.” He denied that he ever called Brussels “my wedding,” and added that far from “lying and besmirching” anyone, it was “your [Winkelman’s] camp” that was guilty of spreading “accusations, allegations and calumnies” that were “totally unfounded, false and unwarranted.” Rabbi Schacter did not, however, deny or explain the barring of Dov Sperling by the American Conference’s director.108

Concerning Kahane, Schacter wrote that the Brussels conference was “not a public mass meeting,” but was restricted to “accredited delegates and individual invited guests,” and Kahane was neither. Although he and his colleagues had nothing to do with the Belgian decision to detain the JDL leader, Schacter wrote, it was clear that since Kahane’s application had been rejected prior to the conference, his decision to go to Brussels proved he intended to “create a diversion and disturb or disrupt the Conference” – an argument that seemingly justified the arrest. To defend himself against the suggestion that he had acted in an anti-democratic fashion, Schacter charged that Winkelman’s camp was no more democratic: “Why do you deem our procedure any less democratic than yours? How long would I last if I appeared at a JDL meeting to denounce its program?”109

Schacter concluded his essay by citing a statement made by Menachem Begin in Ma’ariv after the conference: “I know Rabbi Schacter well. Today again I repeat and state he is a faithful Jew, dedicated to his people, a person of whom I am fond.” Presumably such words from Begin, who was both the leader of the Israeli right and a critic of the Kahane arrest, would prove beyond a doubt to Jewish Free Press readers that Winkelman’s accusations were unfair and inaccurate. Schacter likely assumed that few American Jews would have access to the full Ma’ariv article. If they had, they might have been surprised to see what followed Begin’s praise of Schacter. The next sentence in Begin’s op-ed read: 

“Precisely because of this, I asked him how he could have had a hand in issuing [the press release condemning Kahane].”110 

Rabbi Schacter’s bitterness over the Kahane episode lingered for many years. In an interview about Brussels nearly twenty years later, he recalled “that whole sordid chapter” of “the trouble that we had with Kahane and with the JDL”:

There are still Jews in America who think that Meir Kahane was the one who awakened American Jewry to the plight of the Jews in the Soviet Union. All he did was create a lot of noise. . . . We kept following everything that was happening the Soviet Union. We were involved in organizing civilized demonstrations, not the mishegoss of Meir Kahane and his few crazy followers. [H]e made a lot of noise and got a lot of publicity for himself, and, you know people – the old story of “man bites dog” makes news, and he did a lot of things that we thought were counterproductive. [T]he real efforts on behalf of Soviet Jewry, which led to the beginnings of the Soviet Jewry movement and the response of the Soviet government, were not launched by Kahane. They were launched by the organized, authentic spokesmen of the American Jewish, if you will, establishment. . . . Civilized, meaningful  demonstrations were definitely helpful. . . . Do it like menschen [gentlemen]. Not like Meir Kahane, don’t throw bombs, but with tact and with diplomacy".111


102. “Winkelman’s Letter: Activist Scores Jewish Leaders’ Commitment,” Jewish Free

Press, May 1971, 4.

103. Ibid.

104. “Schacter’s Reply,” Jewish Free Press, May 1971, 4–5.

105. Ibid.

106. Ibid.; Marc Schulman interview with Rafael Medoff, March 4, 2019; “2,000 Public

School, Yeshiva Students Leave Classes to Hold Strike for Soviet Jewry,” JTA, May 28,

1971; “Student Strike for Soviet Jewry” (leaflet), Box 8, Folder 12, SSSJ: Richter to Bayer,

June 30, 1971, Box 8, Folder 12, SSSJ.

107. “Schacter’s Reply,” op. cit.

108. Ibid.

109. Ibid.

110. Begin, “On the Brussels Conference.”

111. Wiener Oral History interview (1989), 4–6.


The PDF images:


Sunday, August 08, 2021

Do You Know about Iltyd Nicholl Clayton?

Iltyd Nicholl Clayton cannot be ignored if one wishes to comprehend post-WW II British stratgey and diplomacy in the Middle East.

Offically, he was  Advisor on Arab Affairs to the British Government (1943–45). He was later Special Advisor to Head of British Middle East Office and served as Minister attached to the British Embassy in Cairo (1947–48). Between 1920-1928 he was in Iraq.

Just by the by, his older brother, Gilbert, was also a British Army intelligence officer and colonial administrator who served in the famous Arab Bureau, was Civil Secretary of Palestine from 1922 to 1925 and at one point briefly acted as High Commissioner.

Let me expand on him:

Daniel Rickenbacher

The Middle East Intelligence Centre (MEIC) was headed by Brigadier Iltyd Clayton, a mysterious figure, whose influential role in determining Britain’s Middle East policy has until recently been underestimated due to its clandestine character. The historian of British Arabists McLoughlin calls him “the greatest mover and shaker in planning Britain’s future role in the Arab world.” Clayton pursued a grand imperial strategy to secure Britain’s dominating influence in the Middle East in the post WWII era. His plans aimed at expelling France from the region and establishing a regional military alliance against the Soviet Union. Clayton opposed an independent Jewish State in the Middle East. Instead he envisaged a Jewish entity in a Greater Syrian state, which was to enter into a confederation with Iraq.

He had a hand in establishing the  Arab Office in Jerusalem and having Albert Hourani head its propaganda division. It targeted a Western educated and liberal minded audience. Hourani:

addressed them in a scholarly tone, using rational arguments rather than emotions to press his case. In ‘Is Zionism the Solution of the Jewish Problem’, one of the first publications authored by Hourani for the Arab Office, he contended that Zionism offers no solution to the ‘Jewish Problem’. Instead, Hourani opts for assimilation of Jews into Western societies.

Asher Susser's book review of Meir Zamir's

The French passed on to the Jewish Agency information on the plans of “the Arabists,” led by Brigadier Clayton, to partition Palestine between the neighboring Arab states and to encourage the Arabs to “join forces to prevent a Jewish state” (164). French and Zionist sources from late 1947 and early 1948 point to Clayton’s “key role in instigating the Arab-Jewish conflict in 1948”

From Meir Zamir 

The fact that the French followed closely the exploits of both Clayton and Azzam against France in North Africa is significant, as they both played key roles in provoking King Faruq to participate in the war against Israel...Nuri al-Sa’id, who had coordinated his initiative with Clayton, proposed that Britain persuade the US to withdraw its support for an independent Jewish state and renew its efforts to implement the 1946 Anglo-American Morrison-Grady cantonization plan...In coordination with Clayton, Azzam, Syrian Prime Minister Jamil Mardam and Lebanese Prime Minister Riad al-Sulh, they began a campaign to amend the Arab League Pact in order to consolidate military ties between its member states against the Zionist threat...In early January 1948, the Russian newspaper Izvestia warned that British agents, Clayton in particular – ‘the notorious British intelligence agent’ – were provoking an Arab-Jewish conflict in Palestine to further Britain’s interests. Referring to criticism in the Arab world against the Soviet Union’s support for the UN Partition Plan, the article asserted that ‘ creating this artificial tension regarding the Palestinian problem, colonial reactionaries, like Clayton, are attempting to use it in order to slander the Soviet Union in the eyes of the Arab people’.


The Zionists saw Clayton as their most dangerous enemy. In reports from Eliyahu Sasson, Reuven Zaslani/Shiloah (Ben-Gurion’s Chief Intelligence Adviser) and from the Hagana’s intelligence, Clayton emerges as a key figure in the formation of the Arab war coalition. In fact, Ben-Gurion and his advisers directly warned MI6 in London of the possible outcome of the activities of their Arabist officers against the Jewish state. In a report sent by an MI6 officer to MI5 on his meeting with Zaslani on 16 February 1948, he wrote that the latter had stated: The immediate Jewish aim is to localize the conflict in Palestine, but if they fail in this because of – for instance – tacit British encouragement of the Arabs, and the surrounding Arab countries extend the area of conflict by participating actively in the operations against the Jewish state, the Jews will themselves make arrangements with minorities, such as the  Kurds, to stir up trouble to keep the Iraqis and other armies occupied.’ Zaslani then warned that ‘if this happened, the Russians would be sure to try and take advantage of the general state of unrest in the Middle East’.

Coming a month after Britain’s failure to ratify its treaty with Iraq, Zaslani’s warning, especially his allusion to the Soviet Union and the Kurds, should have carried some weight, yet Clayton in Cairo, Stirling in Damascus, Ambassador Alec Kirkbride and Glubb Pasha, Commander of the Jordanian Arab Legion, in Amman, Azzam in Cairo, and Nuri al-Sa’id in Baghdad, continued their efforts to form a coalition against the Jewish state. 


In discussions with Prime Minister Sidqi in August–October 1946, Eliyahu Sasson had made a similar proposal as part of his efforts to gain Egypt’s support for a Jewish state. Sasson had submitted his plan to Clayton, who thwarted it.


Azzam and Clayton coordinated their moves in the inter-Arab arena and in fomenting the conflict, first against the Zionist movement and later against the State of Israel. Azzam’s role, from September 1947 until May 1948, in forming the Arab war coalition and bridging the gap between Faruq and Ibn Sa’ud, on the one hand, and Abdullah and Abd al-Ilah, on the other, enabled Clayton and other Arabist intelligence officers to operate behind the scenes. A pamphlet sent to the French Embassy in Cairo, titled The Tragedy of Palestine, signed by ‘the National Guard’, sharply criticized Azzam for his role in Egypt’s defeat: We can finally establish that Glubb Pasha, the British Head of the Transjordanian Army, was given the responsibility to lead the Palestinian affair from the military perspective, and that General Clayton, with Azzam Pasha, was charged to lead it from the political perspective and through their malice, they compelled the President of the Egyptian Council to give in to their pernicious will.


Already in October 1947, French intelligence had reported to Zionist agents that Clayton and Sulh were instigating the organization of irregular forces under Qawuqji’s command to invade Palestine and attack Jewish settlements. At the December 1947 Arab League Conference in Cairo, Sulh told a French informer that ‘Clayton had proposed the establishment of ties between the British headquarters in Palestine and Fawzi al-Qawuqji, in such a way as to avoid a clash between Arab irregular forces and English Police forces, thus facilitating guerilla operations against the Zionists.’

And from the archives:

January 1, 1946 

President Quwatli to Cabinet members


From the President of the Syrian Republic to the noble Council of Ministers

The mission of General Clayton, head of the Special Section of Arab Middle Eastern Affairs, has two aims:

First: to convince us that Syrian unity will come about;...As for unity, he presents us with two plans: - Syrian unity including Syria, Transjordan and part of Palestine with a plebiscite on the nature of the regime and on the choice of king if the regime is a monarchy.

Quite a fellow.

Saturday, August 07, 2021

The Jews to Go into the Sea

Tracking down statements can be difficult at times. Everyone "heard"/"read" it but years later, no one can find its source.

One such issue is, did Arabs threaten to throw the Jews into the sea, and when?

EOZ had this published tracing the history whether in 1948 or during the 1950s or on the eve of the 1967 war.

Of course, the "Palestine from the River to the Sea" chant basically means destroying Israel but it is not the same as actually throwing Jews into the sea. I noted previouslycaricature of Israel as a ship sinking. Still, not exactly the same.

Well, we now have a testimony in real time, from August 1948*.

In this academic article on the machinations of British Intelligence Services during the 1940s, I read, on page 14, that England's Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin, "After being notified that the Arab leaders were blaming Britain for their defeat", instructed his diplomats in the Arab capitals, as well as in Washington and the UN, to respond that:

It is quite untrue to suggest that we have let the Arabs down or failed in any obligations towards them. We did not urge them to intervene by force in Palestine, nor did we promise them support if they did so. They went in of their own accord, in most cases without telling us beforehand. Very small measure of military successes which they achieved shows that their forces, while capable perhaps of occupying friendly territory, were not prepared for and incapable of undertaking major military operations, which would have been necessary to achieve the announced object of the Arab states, namely to drive the Jews into the sea.

I think that should settle matters.


* The footnote reads: 

TNA, FO141/1247, no. 1454, London, 25 August 1948, Bevin to Cairo, and no. 821, August 21, Bevin to Kirkbride; Louis, Ends of British Imperialism, 635-6, 694-8 



EOZ in a follow-up.