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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Larry Domnitch’

Chanukah 1917

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

Nearly two decades into the 20th century, Jews were suffering the horrors of pogroms, mass expulsions, starvation and disease in Eastern Europe while Jewish soldiers in various armies were enduring the carnage of the battlefield. Amid the horrors, however, a glimmer of hope appeared.

During the First World War, two powers fought over control of Palestine – the ruling Ottoman Turks of the Central powers and the British along with their allies of the Triple Entente. The outcome of the contest brought the ancient Jewish dream of the re-establishment of Jewish statehood in the Jewish homeland a little closer.

The situation in the land of Israel was grim. The Ottoman Turks oppressed the Jewish community. Thousands of Jews were exiled to Alexandria, Egypt, which was then under British control. In March 1917, Djemal Pasha, the local Turkish governor, ordered the deportation of all Jews in the Jaffa region and threatened a wholesale massacre against the Jews, openly declaring he would make the Jews share the fate of the Armenians. Before the war, 55,000 Jews resided in Jerusalem; by 1917, due to persecution, just 24,000 remained.

But the tide started to turn when British General Edmund Allenby led his outnumbered troops around Turkish forces in Gaza and on to victory at the strategic southern city of Beersheba in the Negev. As the campaign’s success became ever more likely, the British government issued the Balfour Declaration on November 2, 1917, which called for the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”

The document was sent by British foreign minister Lord Arthur Balfour to Edmund De Rothschild, the great Jewish financier and a supporter of Jews living in Palestine.

On December 9, as Chanukah approached, Turkish forces surrendered. In the battles for Jerusalem some 20,000 Turkish soldiers and 3,600 British and allied troops lost their lives. Two days later, on December 11, the second day of Chanukah, British troops marched into Jerusalem. Allenby humbly entered its walls by foot through Jaffa Gate as the city’s 34th conqueror.

The London Jewish Chronicle headlined the event as “The Rising of Jerusalem,” describing the allied conquest as an “Epochal event.” Rabbi J.H. Hertz, chief rabbi of the British Empire, forwarded a telegram to Allenby that read, “British Jewry thrilled by glorious news from Palestine, sends heartfelt congratulations on historic entry into Holy City.”

With Jerusalem under British control, the campaign continued and soon Turkish forces were ousted from the entire Land of Israel. The Jewish Legion, headed by Lieutenant Colonel John Patterson, participated in the completion of the conquest.

Soon after, however, the initial euphoria faded. While the overall situation for the Jews improved under British control, hostilities with local Arabs intensified. Arab leaders in Palestine petitioned the British Foreign Office to halt the flow of Jewish immigration. British military authorities began to express disagreement with the aims of Zionism. The British commitment to the establishment of a Jewish homeland began to wither.

Within a few months of its release, British military authorities banned the Balfour Declaration’s publication in Palestine. By 1919, the British military administration pushed for an outright revocation of Balfour. Hebrew was not recognized as an official language and the British even banned the public performance of the Zionist national anthem, “Hatikvah.”

Yet Zionist hopes were again raised in 1920 when a British civil mandate replaced the military administration. A Jew sympathetic to Zionism, Herbert Samuel, was appointed high commissioner and the gates were opened to Jewish immigration. By the spring of 1921, 10,000 new Jewish immigrants had reached the shores of Palestine.

These developments triggered a violent reaction from the opponents of Zionism. Arab rioting soon broke out. Samuel succumbed to the pressure. Restrictions against the Zionists were again imposed, and the virulent anti-Zionist Haj Amin Al-Husseini was appointed mufti of Jerusalem.

Following Arab riots in 1929, the British set up the Shaw Commission which recommended more restrictions. In the wake of renewed Arab violence in 1936, the British Peel Commission recommended the partition of the land as a solution to the conflict, with the Jews apportioned a miniscule sliver of territory on the coast extending into the Galilee.

The Arabs, however, continued to oppose any partition. In a final act of capitulation, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain issued the MacDonald White Paper of 1939 which severely restricted Jewish immigration to a total of 75,000 over the next five years and called for the eventual establishment of one state with an Arab majority – a devastating blow not only to the Zionists but for the Jews of Europe who would be denied sanctuary in their greatest hour of need.

The Aftermath Of Armistice

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

On November 11, 1918, at 11 a.m., an agreement signed between the Allies and Germany at Compiegne France, ended hostilities on the Western front and signaled the end of the First World War.

When the war initially broke out in August 1914, few thought it would become the destructive conflagration it did, taking millions of lives. Finally its end had arrived, but there would be many consequences.

Jews were devoted to their host nations and served in every army. On the Eastern front, Jewish civilians suffered enormous casualties due to pogroms and expulsions. In the Land of Israel, Jews suffered under the brutal rule of the Ottoman Turks who had joined the Central Powers a few months after the war’s outbreak.

The end of the war raised the hope among Jews that their patriotism and sacrifices would put an end to age-old anti-Jewish animosity. That hope, alas, would not be realized. Many Jews also hoped that after 2,000 years of exile they would achieve independence in their ancient homeland.

On March 15, 1917, as a direct consequence of the fighting on the Eastern front between the Russians and the Central Powers, Russia collapsed. The czar, who abdicated, was replaced by a provisional government under the leadership of Alexander Kerensky.

The new leader denounced anti-Semitism and granted emancipation to the Jews. Some Jews hailed the changes as the long-awaited moment of liberation for oppressed Russian Jewry. But Kerensky would not last, and the nightmare of Czarist Russia would soon reemerge under Soviet rule. With Russia’s transformation under Communism, anti-Semitism morphed into a brutal war against Judaism that would last for decades.

At the conclusion of World War I, the Ukraine, where well over one million Jews lived, was the scene of a bloody three-way civil war between Ukrainian nationalists, Bolshevik forces, and the anti-Bolshevik White Army under Anton Denikin. In the fighting, all parties committed atrocities against the Jews. The forces under Simon Petliura massacred tens of thousands.

Pogrom survivors fled their homes and many perished from starvation and disease. This catastrophe, comparable to that perpetrated by the Cossacks under Bogdan Chmielnicki in 1648-1649, was directly connected to the First World War and the fall of the Russian regime.

The war also played a role in the heightened level of xenophobia that swept the U.S. and other Western nations and contributed to the enactment of legislation drastically reducing immigration. Quotas imposed in America in 1921 and in the 1924 Johnson Reed Act would remain in effect even as Jewish refugees desperately sought asylum from Germany in the late 1930s.

The defeat of the Ottoman Turkish-German forces in the Middle East by British and Anzac troops paved the way for the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917. Excitement enveloped the Jewish world. Would this gesture mean the amelioration of Jewish suffering? Was the dream of a Jewish homeland in the Land of Israel to be realized in the immediate future?

After the war, attempts by the British to accommodate promises made to both Jews and Arabs were inevitably met by Arab opposition in the form of terror and violence. The British responded by imposing restrictions on Jews while still seeking some form of compromise until the final act of appeasement, the MacDonald White Paper of 1939, which essentially negated the original Balfour Declaration. High hopes became bitter disappointment – another catastrophic blow to Jewry at its great hour of need.

The First World War led to the Second World War: The Versailles Treaty infuriated the German people and helped damage the German economy – both key factors contributing to the rising tide of Nazism in Germany.

The same hyper-nationalism that drove Germany to prepare for World War One now drove the defeated and humiliated Germans to look hungrily for a strong leader who would restore the country’s lost glories. The international community turned a blind eye while Germany went about rebuilding its war machine in violation of the terms of Versailles.

The era following the First World War was an ominous one for Jewry. The Jews of Russia would enter another long era of persecution under Soviet rule. The horrific massacres of Jews in the Ukraine in 1919-1920 presaged the mass murder perpetrated by the Nazi regime. Nazism was already on the rise, threatening the Jews of Europe who would be denied sanctuary by the nations of the world, including the British who still held the mandate over the Land of Israel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-aftermath-of-armistice/2010/11/10/

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