More on how the press covered Israel a mere 40 years ago

I’m still going through my 1967 Life magazine special edition about the 1967 war, and would like to highlight two more articles within the magazine, one about the refugee situation, one about Russia’s involvement in events.

First, here, in its entirety, is Life’s, June 23, 1967 editorial, which is both clear-headed and prescient about the refugee problem:

The 20th Century’s excellence — and its horrid defects — find some of their most vivid monuments in the hate-filled camps of Arab refugees. The refugees have been supported by the voluntary U.N. contributions of some 75 governments, not to mention the Inner Wheel Club of Hobart, Australia, the Boy Scout Union of Finland, the Women’s Club of Nes, Iceland, the Girls High School of Burton-on-Trend, England, and (for some reason) a number of automobile companies including Chrysler, Ford, G.M. and Volkswagen.

The philanthropy, governmental and private, that has aided these displaced Arabs is genuine — and admirable. The stupidity and political selfishness that have perpetuated the problem are appalling.

Down the ages, there have been thousands of episodes in which whole peoples fled their homes. Most were assimilated in the lands to which they fled. Brutally or beneficently, previous refugee groups were liquidated. Not until our time have there been the money, the philanthropy, the administrative skill, the hygienic know-how and the peculiar kind of nationalism which, in combination, could take a wave of refugees and freeze it into a permanent and festering institution.

In the wake of Israeli victories, the refugee camps received thousands of new recruits, and there may be more if, as seems likely, Israel successfully insists on some enlargement of its boundaries. Thus the refugee problem, one of the main causes of Middle East instability, is about to be magnified.

The early Zionists, looking toward a binational state, never thought they would, could or should replace the Arabs in Palestine.  When terrorism and fighting mounted in 1947-48, Arab leaders urged Palestinian Arabs to flee, promising that the country would soon be liberated.  Israelis tried to induce the Arabs to stay.  For this reason, the Israelis do not now accept responsibility for the Arab exodus.  Often quoted is the statement of a Palestinian Arab writer that the Arab leaders “told us:  ‘Get out so that we can get in.’  We got out but they did not get in.”

After the Israeli victory, Arab leaders outside of Palestine reversed their policy and demanded that all the refugees be readmitted to Israel. Israel reversed its policy, [and] refused to repatriate large numbers of Arabs on the ground that they would endanger the state. Nasser, for instance, has said, “If Arabs return to Israel, Israel will cease to exist.”

Now 1.3 million Arabs, not counting the recent influx, are listed as refugees. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has an international staff of about a hundred and spends nearly $40 million a year, 60% of it from the U.S. government. UNRWA services are performed by 11,500 Arab employees, most them refugees. Obviously, this group has an interest in not solving the refugee problem.

So have the host governments. Consistently they have refused to go along with any plan or policy for the resettlement or assimilation of the refugees, preferring to use them politically. In 1955 the Arab League scuttled a Jordan Valley development project precisely because it would have reduced, perhaps by 250,000, the number of Arab refugees.

It’s about time this dangerous deadlock ended. The inevitable reshuffle of the Middle East ought to include a plan to phase out the refugee problem in five or 10 years. Israel, to show goodwill, should repatriate a few thousand refugees per year. All of the 1.3 million could be absorbed in underpopulated Iran and Syria, provided their governments would cooperate in internationally supported developments projects. Persuading Arab governments to adopt a policy of resettlement should be central to U.S. policy, and it would be worth putting up quite a lot of A.I.D. money to get the job done. [Bolded emphasis mine.]

History has shown the Life editors to be correct when they believed that UN economic interests and Arab political interests would leave the refugee camps as a permanent blight on the Middle Eastern landscape. They were naive only in believing that anyone had the political will to solve the problem. They also could not have anticipated that, in a very short time, the same situation, with its same causes, would be plunged into a looking-glass world, where the Arab governments and the UN were absolved of their sins, and the blame was placed on Israel for not having engaged in an act of self-immolation by taking in these 1.3 million (and counting, and counting, and counting) hate-filled refugees.

These same editors understood the Cold War aspects of the 1967 War. They editorialized about the Soviet Union’s UN fulminations (an editorial I’m also quoting in its entirety):

As the Arab soldiers and refugees made their sad and painful way from the scenes of their defeat, the Soviet Union threw its heaviest oratorical gun into the United Nations in an effort to salvage some of what it had lost in the Mideast. Premier Aleksei Kosygin arrived at the General Assembly with an arsenal of invective.

Kosygin put all the blame on Israel and its “imperialist” backers (i.e., the U.S. and Britain). As he saw it, Israel’s “atrocities and violence” brought to mind “the heinous crimes perpetrated by the fascists during World War II.” He demanded the Assembly’s approval for a resolution — rejected earlier by the Security Council — that would condemn Israel as sole aggressor in the conflict, and he proposed that Israel not only be made to pull back to her prewar borders but also to pay reparations to the Arabs for their losses.

He was answered by the Israeli foreign minister, Abba Eban [his speech is here], whose detailed documentation and eloquence told how the Arabs had given his country the choice of defending its national existence or forfeiting it for all time. Then he put Kosygin himself in the defendant’s dock. Russia, he charged, was guilty of inflaming passions in a region “already too hot with tension” by feeding the arms race and spreading false propaganda. He called Kosygin’s reference to the Nazis “an obscene comparison . . . a flagrant breach of international morality and human decency.” As for the Russian demand that Israel pull back to her prewar lines, that, he said, was totally unacceptable until durable and just solutions are reached “in free negotiations with each of our neighbors.” The Arab states “have come face to face with us in conflict; let them now come face to face with us in peace.” Israel was determined not be deprived of her victory. [Bolded emphasis mine.]

Did you catch that the Soviet speaker used precisely the same rhetoric about Israel that has become normative throughout Europe and in most Leftist publications? He castigated Israel as an imperialist entity and claimed that her tactics were “atrocities” that were identical to those the Nazis used. Unlike today’s MSM, Life‘s 1967 editorial team appears appalled by the tenor and falsity of those accusations.

By the way, if you haven’t already, you should read this National Review article describing how the Soviet Union seeded modern Islamic terrorism as a weapon against the West.

UPDATE: Here’s another post about magazine coverage from 40 years ago.

UPDATE: Welcome to both American Thinker readers and to those of you who found your way here through the comment left at Little Green Footballs. To clarify my links, the two other posts I did about old-fashioned MSM coverage of Israel are here and here.

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3 Responses

  1. [...] Work calls, and calls, and calls (the telephone will not stop). I’ll pick up on this later.  (Part II is here.) [...]

  2. A lot of people say that Israel is the problem, that they should have been given land in the US or Germany or Austria, instead of south of Sidon. I think the problem is the people who kept the refugee camps the way it was and supported dictators. These people feel self-righteous in trying to guilt trip US supporters about aiding Saddam, but boy, they have no guilt for the problems they create when they support dictators in their “good cause”.

    Did you catch that the Soviet speaker used precisely the same rhetoric about Israel that has become normative throughout Europe and in most Leftist publications? He castigated Israel as an imperialist entity and claimed that her tactics “atrocities” were identical to those the Nazis used.

    The Soviets were masters of propaganda and spycraft.

  3. Why are people so afraid to criticize the press? Particularly in the case of the Katrina Press Failure to Respond. See my blog posting.

    http://thevisionary.wordpress.com/2006/08/29/why-are-people-so-afraid-to-critisize-the-press/

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