The Consul General at Jerusalem (Macatee) to the Secretary of State
A–35. Continuation of A–34.
II. The Jewish Situation.
Jewish efforts at the moment are primarily concentrated on maintaining their communications. Buses and trucks are being armored as rapidly as possible, convoys are organized regularly between important points, and armed men travel with each group of vehicles for the purpose of warding off attacks. The Jews are also concerned with the protection of their suburbs in the large, mixed cities of Haifa and Jerusalem. These sections are now largely behind barbed wire and roads leading into them are barricaded. A barbed wire barricade has also been erected by Haganah in the no-man’s-land between Jaffa and Tel Aviv.
Thus far, the Jews have been successful in maintaining communications. It may not be a pleasure to ride in the semi-dark interior of an armored bus, with daylight seeping in only through rifle slits, but the fact remains that those Jews who must travel can generally do so.
Another of the Jewish defensive arrangements which has apparently caused the Arabs considerable trouble is the construction of the kibbutzim, or settlements. The Arabs have launched attacks on several of these, that on the Kfar Etzion group near Hebron reportedly involving two to three thousand men. Yet none of the settlement defenses have been pierced. It should be said in this connection that only once have the Arabs apparently attempted to storm a kibbutz, which was in the Kfar Etzion affray. The report on that action indicates that the Jews allowed the Arabs to press the attack and then drove them into minefields with automatic fire, causing them heavy losses. A member of the Arab Higher Committee later told an officer of the Consulate General that the Kfar Etzion attack had to be called off as it was “badly organized.”[Page 608]
In the field of offense, which the Jewish Agency prefers to term “preventive defense”, we have seen all three Jewish armed groups in action, Haganah, Irgun and the Stern Gang. Their offensives generally consist of demolitions of Arab strong points, and forays into Arab villages which they believe to have been used as bases for Arab guerillas. The blowing-up of the Old Serail in Jaffa (by the Stern Gang), the same type of action against the Semiramis Hotel in Jerusalem (by the Haganah), and the shooting of Arabs in Tireh Village (by the Irgun) are all examples of Jewish offensives. Such activities are designed, according to the Jews, to force the Arabs into a passive state.
In the field of propaganda, only the Haganah has attempted to influence the Arabs. In posters at first, and more recently in Arabic-language broadcasts, Haganah has taken the line that the Jews desire no quarrel with Arabs, but will give blow for blow.
Irgun’s propaganda has been directed only toward warning the Yishuv1 of worse times to come, because of British intrigue. They point to British disarming of Jews, to the refusal to grant a port and hinterland by February 1 in line with the U.N. recommendations, as indications of the British desire to weaken the Jews as much as possible by evacuation date, May 15. To these indications, Irgun propagandists will undoubtedly add the refusal of the British, as expressed by their U.N. Representative on January 30, to permit the organization of a Jewish militia prior to May 15. The point of Irgun’s propaganda is that the Yishuv must prepare for a death struggle with “vast swarms of Arabs” from neighboring countries after May 15.
With respect to the above-mentioned militia, a certain amount of surprise was caused locally by the announcement that the Jewish Agency was asking for only 25,000 men. This surprise arose from previous claims that Haganah could muster 80,000, a figure which had been accepted in many quarters as a real indication of Haganah strength. It is pointed out in connection with the latter figure that some observers, while admitting it as overall Haganah strength, had said that mobilization of that number of men and women would probably cause Jewish economy to founder.
Finally, with respect to the Jews, a certain amount of uneasiness is apparent, not only among ordinary people, but among the leadership of the Jewish Agency. This uneasiness must be directly connected to press reports that the United Nations’ Commission is by no means eager to come to this country and is, in fact, insisting on a force for its own protection and to aid it in implementing the recommendations of the Assembly. Well over half of the top-ranking Agency personnel are in the United States, including Shertok and Myerson, as are practically all of their technical experts. Some talk was caused locally [Page 609]by the sudden termination of Rabbi Silvers2 visit to Palestine, which he had intended should last for two or three months, and his hasty return to the United States.
The Yishuv and others are inclined to couple all these absences with the consistent attacks on the Near Eastern Division of the State Department now appearing in the news and editorial columns of the Palestine Post and other Jewish newspapers here. In addition, publicity given by Arabic newspapers to alleged anti-partition feeling among members of the American Cabinet has not gone unnoticed by the Jews.
These factors have not affected Jewish determination to establish their State. Hesitancy in UN circles, alleged second thoughts on the subject in Washington, local economic difficulties, Arab attacks, and what they believe to be the anti-Jewish bias of the Mandatory, have left the Jews unshaken. They have few illusions as to the immediate future, but they feel that if their cause should go under, the U.N.O. will go under with it, and they believe that is one thing the world will not permit.
(Section III, “The Arab Situation”, contained in A–36.3)