The man who missed Israel’s Declaration of Independence

Our many readers with a keen interest in Israeli history will no doubt enjoy this recent Independence Day programme from the Voice of Israel.VoI interview Zvielli

“VOI’s Gil Hoffman is joined in-studio by Jerusalem Post archivist Alexander Zvielli, who has been working at the newspaper for 70 years. Zvielli recalls his experience on the night in February 1948, when the building of what was then called the “Palestine Post” was bombed by the British – and other stories from the period during which the state of Israel was born.”

Related Articles:

Letter to a BBC Jerusalem correspondent – from 1948

A long history of complaints of BBC distortion by omission

Letter to a BBC Jerusalem correspondent – from 1948

In February 1948 two successive bombings rocked Jerusalem. Three people were killed at the beginning of the month when the building housing the offices of the Palestine Post (later to become the Jerusalem Post) was attacked by means of a car bomb. Three weeks later another car bomb was detonated on Ben Yehuda Street killing over fifty people and injuring dozens more. Both attacks were initiated by the commander of Arab forces in the Jerusalem area and were carried out by two British Army deserters.

Palestine Post February 2nd 1948 (click to enlarge)

Palestine Post February 2nd 1948 (click to enlarge)

Shortly after the second bombing, the founder and editor of the Palestine Post Gershon Agron wrote the letter below to the BBC’s correspondent in Jerusalem at the time, Richard Williams, with whom he had previously engaged in an apparently heated conversation.

Dear Mr. Williams,

The Mejelle, the ancient Ottoman legal code, instructs us wisely that if a judge feels tired, or is hungry, or if he doesn’t feel well, he has to stop his legal proceedings immediately. This order should apply to journalists as well. I was very tired, deep in thought, between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m. last night, due to what happened and some technical press handicaps (electricity breakdowns). And, I am sure you must have been just as tired as well. You have been tired because of Eretz Yisrael, tired of the anger that this country spreads sometimes among newcomers. And thus our conversation, instead of being polite, as grown-ups do, had turned into an angry dispute according to the formula: “I falsify, you falsify, we are all falsifying.” I was left feeling that we haven’t reached a suitable level to discuss the really important issues.

I had asked, therefore, to see the BBC folder in our archives. It begins in June 1938 and ends in November 1948. I will quote only your latest comments.

On December 4, 1947, we heard on the BBC an interesting sentence: “The British police acted very well during last Tuesday’s riots.” We published this sentence word by word, even if we were fully aware that on this day the Arabs opened fire at Jewish Jerusalem, robbed and burned the entire Industrial quarter. The British police indeed behaved very well by escaping as fast as it was possible. We left it to our readers, who know the truth, to decide.

On December 10, 1947, one of our readers protested against the opinion expressed by BBC representative Nixon who quoted the Arabs as saying that they will fight the Jews until the last drop of their blood. The same reader added: “Nixon is wrong. Both Jews and Arabs are simple people. They don’t want to fight to the last drop of blood – they want to live in peace.”

There are also a number of quotations that point out that the BBC was too hasty in discovering that the people who threw a bomb at The Palestine Post offices (on February 1, 1948) were either Arabs or Jews. But the Post quoted the BBC news item from London that some 300 British citizens left England to join the Arabs. This news item was never denied, even after it was proven to be false.

But this February we were the bad boys again. The BBC announced that “Jerusalem was quiet after a great Jewish anti-British demonstration.” This was the day after Ben-Yehuda Street was bombed. Jerusalem was not particularly quiet on this very day and night. A search was going on for the bodies of the 66 persons killed in this bombing. To show that in Jerusalem only the British are killed is a sham. But this was, perhaps, what the British listener wished to hear.

All this indicates that everybody falsifies and some do it on purpose. The British try to show that each murder (isn’t this a norm?) was committed by Jews. And why? Because the particulars of the murder do not explain what happened before. It may be understood that somebody wishes to see himself to be just in his own eyes. But why claim that this is the whole truth, and not something that depends on other factors?

If we arrive at a day when we all agree that the Jewish nature will show the way to the Jewish people, exactly as the British try to square things according to the British point of view, we will be able to live in peace, each respecting the other in this not entirely easy 
country. As one of my friends said yesterday that “only in peace we will find confidence and mutual prosperity.”

Yours,
Gershon

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