Monday, May 31, 2010

Echoes Of British Raid Of "Exodus 1947"

The media war is in full swing following Israel's deadly commando raid on a flotilla that attempted to break the blockade of Gaza, as seen in the videos presented by Turkish television and the Israel Defense Forces. Meanwhile, Robert Mackey, in "Echoes of Raid on 'Exodus' Ship in 1947," notes that some Israelis see a bitter historical irony:

To some Israeli observers, it was impossible to miss the parallels between Monday’s killing of pro-Palestinian activists by Israel’s military in international waters, as commandos intercepted a flotilla of ships trying to break the Israeli naval blockade on Gaza, and a seminal event in the Jewish struggle for an independent homeland.

Noam Sheizaf, an Israeli journalist who is rounding up reports and commentary on the attack on his blog, “Promised Land,” points to a post in Hebrew by Rafi Man of the Israel Democracy Institute which asks: “Will This Be the Palestinian Exodus?”

Mr. Man was referring to the story of the “Exodus 1947,” a ship filled with Jewish Holocaust survivors who wanted to immigrate to Palestine in July 1947. That month, the British Navy intercepted the ship to enforce a ban on Jewish immigration to the territory, which was then under British control.

Mackey cites an account of the violent British seizure of the "Exodus 1947" (shown above), the resistance of the passengers and the worldwide reaction:

The refugees had no legal authority to enter Palestine, and the British were determined to block the ship. In the battle that ensued, three Jews aboard the Exodus were killed. The ship’s passengers — more than 4,500 men, women and children — were ultimately deported to Germany.

...Several hours of fighting followed, with the ship’s passengers spraying fuel oil and throwing smoke bombs, life rafts and whatever else came to hand, down on the British sailors trying to board, The Times reported at the time. Soon the British opened fire. Two immigrants and a crewman on the Exodus were killed; scores more were wounded, many seriously. The ship was towed to Haifa, and from there its passengers were deported, first to France and eventually to Germany, where they were placed in camps near L├╝beck.

The parallels are not exact, of course; for one thing, the occupants of the ships bound for Gaza will not be sent to concentration camps. Still, in view the current worldwide response, one can't help but think that Rafi Man above is asking the right question:

Large protests erupted on both sides of the Atlantic. The ensuing public embarrassment for Britain played a significant role in the diplomatic swing of sympathy toward the Jews and the eventual recognition of a Jewish state in 1948.

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