Thursday, June 5, 2008

Robert Kennedy's 1948 Reports from Palestine

Forgotten (until now) eyewitness to history dispatches from Palestine by the 22-year old RFK...

from Solomonia: Robert Kennedy's 1948 Reports from Palestine

Here's some fascinating forgotten history unearthed at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. Lengthy quote, much much more at the link:


Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, brother of slain U.S. President John F. Kennedy and former U.S. Attorney General, was the leading Democratic candidate for president when he was gunned down at a primary victory celebration in California on June 5, 1968. His Palestinian assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, said he killed Kennedy due to his vocal support for Israel.

In April 1948, one month before Israel declared independence, Robert Kennedy, then 22, traveled to Palestine to report on the conflict for the Boston Post. His four dispatches from the scene were published in June 1948. The newspaper closed in 1956, and for decades the reports were virtually forgotten.

Kennedy arrived in a chaotic and dangerous land on the eve of the British departure. Jewish Jerusalem and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City were under Arab siege and regular Arab armies were pouring into the territory. The British authorities were hampering Jews' efforts to defend themselves and were even countenancing Arab attacks against Jews.

Kennedy was liberal in his praise of the Palestinian Jews (only one month later did the name "Israel" and the term "Israelis" come into being). "The Jewish people in Palestine who believe in and have been working toward this national state have become an immensely proud and determined people," Kennedy wrote. "It is already a truly great modern example of the birth of a nation with the primary ingredients of dignity and self-respect."

One of his dispatches was headlined, "Jews Make Up for Lack of Arms with Undying Spirit, Unparalleled Courage." In one of his accounts, Kennedy describes his traveling with Haganah fighters in a convoy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The young reporter was critical of a temporary slippage of the American government's support for Jewish statehood. He feared that the U.S. was shifting towards Britain's negative policies and its aim "to crush" the Zionist cause. "If the American people knew the true facts," Kennedy wrote, "I am certain a more honest and forthright policy would be substituted for the benefit of all."...

  • "Unfortunately for [the Jews, Jerusalem's water] reservoir is situated in the mountains and it and the whole pipeline are controlled by the Arabs. The British would not let them cut the water off until after May 15th but an Arab told me they would not even do it then. First they would poison it."
  • The Arab responsible for the blowing up of the Jewish Agency on March 11, 1948, said "that after the explosion, upon reaching the British post which separated the Jewish section from a small neutral zone set up in the middle of Jerusalem, he was questioned by the British officers in charge. He quite freely admitted what he had done and was given immediate passage with the remark, ‘Nice going.'"
  • "The Jews informed the British government that 600 Iraqi troops were going to cross into Palestine from Trans-Jordan by the Allenby Bridge on a certain date and requested the British to take appropriate action to prevent this passage. The troops crossed unmolested....I saw several thousand non-Palestinian Arab troops in Palestine, including many of the famed British-trained and equipped Arab legionnaires of King Abdullah [of Trans-Jordan]. There were also soldiers from Syria, Lebanon, Iraq."
  • "The Arabs in command believe that eventually victory must be theirs. It is against all law and nature that this Jewish state should exist. They...promise that if it does become a reality it will never have as neighbors anything but hostile countries, which will continue the fight militarily and economically until victory is achieved."
  • "The Jews on the other hand believe that in a few more years, if a Jewish state is formed, it will be the only stabilizing factor remaining in the Near and Middle East. The Arab world is made up of many disgruntled factions which would have been at each other's throats long ago if it had not been for the common war against Zionism."

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