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The Middle East and Truman

Amos Nur from Israel writes: "I am amused at your and many other hindsight "wisdom". Your piece on the Chase biography of Dean Acheson is especially amusing. Do you really believe that the historical forces that led to the establishment of Israel amount to the advise by a failing Jewish haberdasher friend of Harry Truman? How else could one have solved the post WWII situation of the remaining Jewish people in Europe and their oppression in many Arab countries?

I tell you what the alternative could have been: A fate similar to the Kurds in Iran, Iraq, and Turkey. The world found it convenient - to 'ensure peace and stability' - To deny the Kurds their promised Kurdistan. France and Britain figured that to establish a Kurdistan would lead to great added headaches. It was much better to leave them subjugated to others. Ask the Kurds what they think about this arrangement. Ask them about REAL massacres and genocide driven by ideological and official policies of their oppressor Turkey and Iraq. Can you blame the Jewish people for trying for a different arrangement for their future?"

My response: It is not hindsight wisdom. Like many other serious historians, Chase documents the widespread feeling at the time among well-informed people like Dean Acheson. The historical record is perfectly clear about this. Many American Jews who supported the creation of Israel feared that their immigration to the US would increase anti Semitism in this country. The Jews were not oppressed in Arab countries. They occupied an honored position as people, who like the Arabs, has suffered from Christian persecution. After 1492, many Spanish Jews fled to North Africa. This situation was reversed with the creation of Israel, which suddenly transformed the Jews into the enemies of the Arabs. They were historically not oppressed in Iraq until after the creation of Israel. Turkey is a different story, and now Turkey has a troubled alliance with Israel.

The Kurds too are a different case. They are in three different states:Turkey (2.5 million), Iraq (2.2 million) and Iran (2 million). Turkey and Iran are totally alien to them. Turkey was forced to agree to an independent Kurdistan in the 1920 Treaty of Sèvres, but the new Turkish military leader, Kemal Ataturk, forced the elimination of this clause at the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne. Iran encouraged the Kurds in Iraq to revolt in order to weaken Iraq, but in 1975 Iran and Iraq signed a border attack and Iran withdrew its support. Iraq felt betrayed . In 1979 after Ayatolah Khomenei seized power in Iran, the Kurds there revolted but were suppressed. Arabs view the Kurds as fellow Arabs. Saladin, a Kurd, is a hero for them.

Note that this and similar observations come from individuals, being neither Jewish nor Arab, have no preconceived view and are not anti-Semitic. As for dismissing the verified story about Truman's Jewish friend, important events are sometimes the result of apparently insignificant matters. Recall Pascal's wise statement "How different the history of the world would have been if Cleopatra's nose has been a little longer".

Ronald Hilton - 5/4/02