Tal Braun
Tal BraunCourtesy

"Atlantic Report on the World Today" was the name of an article published in the 1954 summer issue of the Atlantic Monthly magazine, dealing with the geo-strategic situation of the then young state of Israel, established in 1948.

The 6-year-old State of Israel was then in the midst of establishing, building and strengthening itself, while investing many resources in absorbing and settling hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants and refugees not only from Europe but from all Arab states, after its War of Independence.

From its beginning, and even more so in the first years after the establishment of the State of Israel, the Jewish settlement suffered from the harassment of the Arabs within it and those surrounding it. The situation got even worse when Arab terrorist militias, called Fedayeen, penetrated the borders, in the absence of an obstacle or means of protecting or warning, and under the auspices of Egypt and Jordan, there to carry out acts of terrorism, sabotage and theft.

The security situation at the borders

From the dawn of time, the Arabs would disseminate alleged conspiracies about the State of Israel and the conduct of the IDF in such a way that it was difficult for the "enlightened and moral West" to sift facts from fiction.

The ability of the Arabs and the media to inflate every detail and piece of information beyond all proportion, turned the "One Thousand and One Nights tales" from a fairy tale into an apparent reality, as part of the propaganda enterprise that has continued to develop since then until now. For example, each raid carried out by a four to six commando fighters' team of Israel's 101 squad, which consisted no more than 50 men from the simplest soldier to the highest commander, turned into an action by tens and hundreds of fighters across enemy lines when told by the Arabs. "Operation Shoshana", which was carried out as a retaliatory action by about 130 paratroopers against the Arab village of Kibia, from which in October 1953 the murderers of the four Kanyas family members came, became a "mass murder". An alleged massacre of the supposedly innocent villagers by about 700 Israeli soldiers wasn’t enough, so ithey were also accused of acting in an allegedly immoral manner, which turned out to be nothing but a lie.

The article quoted the words of Henry Bayrod, the US Assistant Secretary of State for near East Affairs, who advised in two of his speeches to take a moderate approach to the conflict in the arena and to calm down both sides, each of which has pretentious ambitions at the expense of the other side apparently. According to Bayrod:"There is no hope of a quick peace between Jews and Arabs; their ideological positions are too far apart. Peace, however, must be our ultimate object, if only to prevent the entire area, with its people and its oil, from falling prey to Soviet imperialism."

The reactions to his words were immediate and intense on both sides of the truce line: Israeli officials claimed that Israel was being abandoned to its fate by the oil-hungry Republicans, while the Arab editors assured their readers that their country would not agree to peace under any conditions.

It also mentions Jordan:" The Jordan cabinet, long overdue for a fall, picked the day after Byroade’s second address to resign as “a protest against British-American imperialism”".

The only solution to the ongoing tension at the borders will be only when a full peace agreement is signed with the Arab countries, the author of the article notes. The problematic areas along the cease-fire lines between Israel and its neighbors, on which he focused, were the places where the distance between the Jordanian positions and the Mediterranean Sea was about 8 km (Israel's narrow waist in the Samaria region) and the Gaza Strip, which is about 80 km south of Tel Aviv.

According to the author "Israel is convinced that the Arabs want war, that Jordan is deliberately inciting infiltrators to terrorize the people of Israel, Egypt is building up tension along the Gaza Strip to cloak its domestic crises; and that the weak governments of Syria and Lebanon make wild accusations about Israel to distract the attention of their citizens. The Arabs, in return, charge that Israel is looking for a chance to expand; and that any day now the Israeli army may strike for the Jordan River, or even for Cairo and Damascus".

Neutral observers, who visited both sides of the border at the time, claimed that Israel is interested in peace in the long term and that its hope is that the Western powers will intervene and force the Arabs to sign a peace agreement, if only to prevent Russia from gaining a hold on the region. With regard to the Arab claims, which came up every week in the headlines, according to which Israel is concentrating forces along its borders, ithey wroe that:" No observer on the Israel side has yet caught a glimpse of these alleged battalions and divisions. If they are there, they must be among the best camouflaged troops in history".

In light of this, they wrote that until the constant tensions and border incidents on their side do not subside, and until the fear on both sides of the border subsides, there is almost no hope of even starting to move towards a sustainable peace in the Middle East.

The refugee issues

The Atlantic Montly article also described the situation of the 1948 war refugees and their attitude in the Arab countries, which created a great difficulty for those countries. The published data relied on the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), and estimated that close to a million Arab refugees are scattered in the region: 465,000 refugees in Jordan, 200,000 in the Gaza Strip - for which it was noted that this is "the area of Palestine that is now under Egyptian control" (Palestine in the sense of the name given to Judea Kingdom territories by the Roman Caesar Hadrian, after the Hasmonean rebellion and before the establishment of the State of Israel), 107,000 in Lebanon and 80,000 in Syria.

The situation of the refugees in the Arab countries is mentioned as follows:" Physically, the refugees have no bed of roses. Their collections of tents and mud huts resemble any of the displaced persons’ camps of the last ten years. But in many cases, miserable as they are, the refugees are better off than the permanent residents of neighboring villages. The concentration camp level of 1.500 calories a day isn’t far out of line with the normal Middle Eastern diet. The minds of the refugees are more of a problem than their bodies. All they want is to go home. Over and over again they give the same answer to interviewers. Their thousand-year-old tie with the soil of Palestine is their strongest motivating force. UNRWA projects to give work to refugees have to be presented as temporary, and each refugee must he assured that accepting a job won’t prejudice his right to repatriation, “Settlement schemes” were a failure among the camp dwellers until their official title was changed to “self-supporting schemes".

The article proposes a number of solutions for dealing with the Arab refugees, including their settlement in the Jordan Valley (the western part of which was Jordanian occupied territory until 1967) where about a third of them could be settled because of the fertile agricultural land there. It was also proposed to settle them in Iraq and Syria, where there were vast areas suitable for living in relation to the minority of the local population there, if only those governments would allow it.

In order for such solutions to be accepted when the time comes, it was suggested that they speak modestly and "tactfully" because the Arab's pride will not allow him to do otherwise: " Out of pride, the Arab will cut off his nose to spite his face" it says. It was further clarified that "If he (the Arab- Tal) thinks his moving to a fertile farm in the Jordan Valley will help the Israeli, he will insist on remaining in his refugee tent only to moan before the world about the rocky half acre of which he has been unjustly robbed by the Jews".

The solution to the refugee problem seemed at the time to be more urgent than ever in the eyes of the Americans, due to the new Soviet foreign policy towards the Middle East, which abandoned support for Israeli-Jewish interests and transferred its support to the Arabs.

In the Security Council meeting that was held in the spring of 1954, the Soviet Union voted against Israel in every section. For that its representative Vishinsky, earned a cable of thanks from the Jordanian Parliament, with all the irony involved. This is because all the members of Jordan's parliament were established landowners who, if communism had taken over their country, would have found themselves among the first to be hanged, and the refugees would have been the ones benefiting from this, as the article says.

On the Israeli economy and society

Another chapter in the article deals with the Israeli society and the developing of its economy. "Morale in Israel is high" is written at the beginning of the first paragraph. The settlers in the settlements along the borders take for granted that they must protect their land and homes from the Arab infiltrators. Most Israelis accept the ongoing tensions along the border strip with the understanding that it will be a situation of "semi-permanent discomfort" and that there is no well-founded fear that they will be "thrown into the sea".

The concern in those days therefore focused on the economic capacity of the country over time. This is because after six years the imports were five times greater than the export capacity and according to the 1953 indicators the total value of the export products was 60 million dollars, which barely covered the food imports alone.

At the time, the State of Israel relied mainly on foreign aid that included components of repartitions from Germany, aid from the US government, and donations totaling 75 million dollars from world Jewry (two-thirds from US Jews alone), most of which were feared to be significantly reduced by 1960. Many hopes were placed in the development of an advanced Israeli industry and its ability to export its products, also to its Arab neighbors, as well as the development of branches of agriculture such as citrus and the tourism industry.


"The sea is the same sea and the Arabs are the same Arabs" was said by the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. He was not far wrong, on the eve of the Madrid conference, which was designed to promote peace between Israel and the Arabs (the so called "Palestinians") and Arab countries.

70 years since the article was published in "Atlantic" and the State of Israel is an existing and prosperous fact, despite the ongoing wars and threats to its borders and citizens. With regard to the predictions about the Israeli economy - it seems that these have come true in a far-reaching way, certainly more than the Atlantic's prediction. Regarding the understanding of the security situation - it seems that in recent months there is a renewed disillusionment and an understanding that this will be an ongoing situation, which at the very least corresponds to the definition in the article of "semi-permanent discomfort".

It seems that after 70 years, the Arab refugees insist on breaking world records in inheriting and perpetuating the status of refugees, under the auspices of the stupidity of countries that have continued to fund UNRWA for about 75 years, and to invest many resources in a society, the majority of which wants the destruction of Israel more than it wants a better future for its own children, for reasons some of which were mentioned in the article.

The State of Israel is the model that all nations of the world need to see in front of their eyes - pioneers, people of vision and action, refugees who came up from ashes and gathered from the four corners of the world alongside the veterans of the old Jewish settlement, who raised up the unique Jewish national home and made the wilderness bloom, despite the Arabs' attempts to make it a wilderness, destroy it and turn every blooming part into a desert soaked in blood … blood of Jews as well as Christians.