Chapter 10 - The Jewish People locked out of their National Home
In the aftermath of World War Two the overwhelming majority of the hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees in Europe who had survived Auschwitz and the other death camps wanted just one thing – to return to their ancestral homeland in what was then known as Palestine. But the British government, contrary to the terms of the Mandate she had signed up to in 1922, kept the doors of what had been designated under International Law as the Jewish homeland firmly closed.
Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz concentration camp"In 1945, after the elections in England and when Labour came to power and Bevin was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, they decided in a very drastic and cruel way, to stop any immigration of the Jews from Europe who had nowhere to go. After the war they had nowhere to go, and they did not want to go to the places where all their families had been exterminated. The only place that would receive them was here in Palestine. But somehow the British navy was opposing these miserable refugees who came from Europe. Then it became clear to us that we had to face the worst. And this is actually what happened." Shlomo Hillel, Former Israeli government minister and Speaker of the Knesset
Struma Monument, AshdodThe Holocaust survivors tried to reach their ancestral homeland in every way possible, mostly in small unseaworthy vessels. This is a memorial to more than 3,000 of them drowned making the perilous journey. 768 people died on one boat in early 1942 – the Struma – having fled from Nazi-occupied Europe. One person survived. Many others drowned also while trying to run the British naval blockade of their promised homeland. Those who did make it were imprisoned in Detention Camps, either in Atlit, or on the island of Cyprus – by the very nation who had been mandated to recreate a National Home for the Jewish people – and to encourage their immigration. Then in July 1947 something happened that would publicly expose the plight of these homeless Jewish refugees – the Exodus incident.
Refugees on The ExodusThe British government sent its 4,500 Holocaust survivors back to Europe to be imprisoned again in Displaced Persons camps in the very country they were fleeing from – Germany. Many nations around the world – and especially the United States – called for the end of Britain’s trusteeship of the Mandate. The late Yossi Harel was the commander of the Exodus Operation in July 1947. "The State really was born when the Exodus came to Haifa and was the centre of the fight to bring any Jew who wanted to come to Israel. And the reaction of the world opinion – they saw the injustice which was done to people who survived Auschwitz: ‘They don’t have a place in this world.’ The only place which we believe we could have was Palestine." Yossi Harel
Members of the UN Committee descending the ramp of The Exodus at HaifaIt just so happened that members of the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine were present at Haifa Port when the Exodus arrived. What they witnessed was the catalyst that brought about the historic Resolution 181 at the UN General Assembly on 29th November 1947. ‘The Resolution of the UN Special Committee for Palestine was adopted by 33 votes. 13 against. 10 abstentions’