Flag over Kotel Plaza
Flag over Kotel Plaza Courtesy

May 4th at sundown was Israel’s Yom Ha’atzmaut (day of independence), the 74th birthday (by the Hebrew calendar) of the modern State of Israel. On this date in the Hebrew calendar, the world saw an actual miracle from God. After almost two millennia, the Jewish people could re-establish their political and geographic nation-state in their eternal homeland as Israel declared its independence.

How The Jews Were Pushed Out Of Their Eternal Homeland

Despite what you might have heard, there was never an Arab state called Palestine; The Arabic tradition grew with the establishment of Islam in the early 7th century, approximately 500 years after the Jewish State of Judea was destroyed.

After the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 CE, the Romans punished the Judeans (Jews) for revolting for the second time in sixty years. To poke those rebellious Judeans in the eye, the Romans changed their country’s name from Judea to Syria Palaestina. The Romans changed the name to Palestina because the ancient enemy of the Judeans was the Philistines. The Philistines were long gone, having disappeared from existence around eight hundred years earlier, but the Romans wanted it to hurt.

The Byzantine Empire took control of the Holy Land around the year 330 C.E. In 638, it was conquered by Muslim Arab forces and the Ottoman Empire. After WWI, Great Britain was given Palestine to control.

What people don’t understand is that the holy land was never Judenrein. There were always Jews living in their homeland.

Less than three decades after the British took control l on this day in 1948, the hopes and prayers of so many generations of Jews, those living in the Holy Land, and those in the Diaspora had finally been fulfilled, thanks in a big way to an American President.

The Jewish State’s existence would have been very short-lived were it not for the strong will of President Harry S Truman, who became the first world leader to recognize Israel, and he did so over the objections of a man who was considered at the time a national hero Secretary of State George Marshall. At the time, Marshall was much more popular with the American people than President Truman, who had never been elected to the Oval Office. Truman was a relatively unknown V.P. who took over when FDR passed away.

To Recognize Israel, Truman Had To Fight A National Hero

This President didn’t make this decision because of politics, but like so many of Truman’s policies, he supported Israel because he thought it was the right thing to do. Of course, some attributed Truman’s stance to something else.

“What I am trying to do is make the whole world safe for Jews,” Harry Truman wrote as he agonized over his decision to recognize a Jewish state and end the British Mandate over Palestine,

Secretary of State George Marshall (Time’s 1947 Man of the Year) was an international hero who was

who was opposed to the creation of Israel just as forcefully as Truman was for it. Truman, an accidental president, had no voter base and was infinitely less popular than Marshall.

Clark M. Clifford, Special Counsel to the president, remembered the internal Truman administration fight regarding the recognition of the Jewish State and the final discussion in the Oval Office. The meeting turned out to be a fierce battle with Clifford and the President on one side, Marshall and Undersecretary of State Robert Lovett on the other.

Lovett first argued Truman was supporting Israel solely for political gain, and he warned the President the move would lose more votes than it would gain.

When that didn’t work, Lovett tried another approach –the red scare ( in other words, those Jews are a bunch of commies).

Clark Clifford, who recommended that the President recognize the nascent State, recalled the argument:

"Mr. President, to recognize the Jewish state prematurely would be buying a pig in a poke."

Pig in a poke? Non-Kosher? Gee, a perfect way to describe a Jewish State. Surprised he didn’t say clam in a creek or lobster in a lake.

"How do we know what kind of Jewish state will be set up? We have many reports from British and American intelligence agents that Soviets are sending Jews and Communist agents into Palestine from the Black Sea area."

Marshall Threatens Truman

When Lovett was done speaking, it was the “hero” Marshall’s turn. Clifford described the scene as Marshall made a political threat:

“He was still furious. Speaking with barely contained rage and more than a hint of self-righ­teousness, he made the most remarkable threat Clifford says he ever heard anyone make directly to a President.

"If you follow Clifford’s advice and if I were to vote in the election, I would vote against you.”

"Everyone in the room was stunned. Here was the indispensable symbol of continuity [from FDR] whom President Truman revered and needed, making a threat that, if it became public, could virtually seal the dissolution of the Truman Administration and send the Western Alliance, then in the process of creation, into disarray before it had been fully structured.”

Israel Is Declared And Truman Acts

But Truman’s mind was made up– he was going to do the right thing. At 4 p.m. Friday, May 14, 1948, just before the start of the Jewish Sabbath, David Ben Gurion read a 979-word declaration of independence in front of a small audience at the Tel Aviv Art Museum (see video below). He finished in his usual terse manner. “The State of Israel is established! The meeting is ended.”

A few hours later, at midnight, British rule over Palestine lapsed–11 minutes later, White House spokesman Charlie Ross announced U.S. recognition.

Britain Tried To Weasel Out

Today Britain is too cowardly to support Israel in the U.N. They abstain during crucial votes. That was their attitude as Israel was being created. That was the same Britain that limited the number of Jews fleeing Hitler to enter Palestine.

In a British cabinet meeting on 4 December 1947, it was decided that the Mandate would end at midnight on 14 May 1948, the complete withdrawal by 1 August 1948, and Britain would not enforce the UN partition plan. On 11 December 1947, Britain announced the Mandate would end at midnight on 14 May 1948, and its sole task would be to complete withdrawal by 1 August 1948. During the period in which the British withdrawal was completed, Britain refused to share the administration of Palestine with a proposed UN transition regime, to allow the UN Palestine Commission to establish a presence in Palestine earlier than a fortnight before the end of the Mandate

How Did Israel Get Its Name?

Notice how Truman first wrote “new Jewish State” and then crossed it out and hand wrote “new state of Israel’? That’s because no one knew what the new state’s name would be. According to Martin Kramer, other contenders included

  • Judea– “The geographic Judea was too small, and not slated to be in the state,” and its citizens would be known as Yehudim, the Hebrew name for Jews. That wouldn’t sit well with the Arab residents.
  • Zion-“Zion is the name of a hill overlooking Jerusalem” Per the original UN partition plan, it was an internationally controlled city (which was held by Jordan from 1948-to 1967). Also, if named Zion, there would be confusion between the people who supported establishing a Jewish state in the holy land (Zionists) and the actual residents of the new state.
  • Ever– Someone proposed “Ever”—the root of the word “Ivri,” which means Hebrew. That option had no supporters (thank God!)

Two days before the news state was declared, the cabinet-in waiting, known as the People’s Administration, took a vote:

It was Mr. Ben-Gurion who first suggested “Israel.” It seemed strange at the beginning, and the proposal was received coolly. But members tried pronouncing “Israel Government,” “Israel Army,” “Israel citizen,” “Israel consul” to see how it sounded. Most were unenthusiastic, but there were only 48 hours left and much urgent work to be done, and the matter was put to a vote. Seven of the ten members present voted for “Israel.”

Truman Honored As A Tool of God

When Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi Herzog visited the White House after Israel’s independence declaration, he told Truman, “God put you in your mother’s womb so that you would be the instrument to bring the rebirth of Israel after 2000 years.”

In 1961 long after he was out of office, Truman met with Israeli PM David Ben Gurion in N.Y. In writing about the meeting, Ben Gurion explained:

"At our last meeting, after a very interesting talk, just before [the President] left me – it was in a New York hotel suite – I told him that as a foreigner I could not judge what would be his place in American history; but his helpfulness to us, his constant sympathy with our aims in Israel, his courageous decision to recognize our new state so quickly and his steadfast support since then had given him an immortal place in Jewish history."

Truman was a president who judged not whether things would make America popular in the Arab world. His decision was based on whether it was the right thing for the U.S. The man from Independence, Mo. knew the best thing for America’s future was to grab the moral leadership position of the entire world.

An Important Partnership For Both Countries

Beyond morality, Truman’s recognition was the right move for America

Since the creation of Israel, while the U.S. has provided Israel with vital economic and military support, what most people don’t understand is that it is a two-way street. Israel has contributed to American security through counterterrorism training, intelligence sharing, and military innovations such as unmanned aerial vehicles and missile defense.Israel has also shared advances in the high-tech medical sectors that have helped maintain American economic competitiveness and communications with Americans. Israel’s breakthroughs in irrigation technology have helped American farmers to feed the world. There is so much more–but that is a different post.

Thankfully, as part of the miracle of the reestablishment of the Jewish State after two-thousand years, God put Harry Truman in the White House to recognize Israel.

Below is a video of Israel’s National Anthem, Hatikvah, which means The Hope. The creation of the Jewish State of Israel seventy-four years ago was the culmination of two thousand years of hope and prayers by the Jewish people. And it’s also proof that God still does miracles.

And no terror attacks, no matter how barbaric, and no BDS and college-age antisemites are going to affect that.

Jeff Dunetz (The Lid) is an active member and on the board of Herut NA (North America). Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education and is dedicated to the ideals of pre-World War II Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. More about Herut can be found at www.HerutNA.org–Please click on this link and consider joining me in this great organization.

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