Sometimes books just seem to disappear. Once such book is The Birth of Israel by Jorge Garcia-Granados, formerly Guatemala’s Ambassador to the United States, and the country’s representative at the formation of the United Nations. It is very difficult to locate a copy.
In 1947, Britain announced that it wished to terminate its mandate over Palestine and referred the matter to the UN. (The mandate originally was granted by the then-defunct League of Nations.) The UN in turn, under the direction of its first Secretary General, Trygvie Lie, formed the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), one of whose eleven members was Guatemala, acting through Garcia-Granados. The UNSCOP members spent several months in Palestine in 1947 meeting with British and Jewish representatives. They attempted many times to meet with Arab representatives, but such meetings were rare and secret, because the Arab League and its member states refused to participate in any UNSCOP activities.
Garcia-Granados had no previous involvement in Jewish or Palestinian or Arab affairs. But he had a strong background in civil liberties as a member of the Guatemalan underground fighting against the previous dictatorship of that country. The book is a diary of his time with UNSCOP, both in the field, and when he got back to Lake Success, Long Island, in working with UNSCOP and the larger UN membership to forge a position and, after the declaration of independence of Israel, to develop an appropriate response.
UNSCOP was by and large a failure, due to the pre-determined positions of various of its members. The situation in what was then Palestine was no less confusing in 1947 than it is in 2008. Garcia-Granados was one of the UNSCOP members most in favor of partition, with a continuing UN trusteeship until there was some political stabilization. Any other road, he thought, would clearly lead to disaster. He felt great sympathy for the Jews as a result of the World War, felt great admiration for what he saw as Jewish development (agricultural, industrial and cultural) in what he viewed a basically barren land, and felt an understanding for the Jewish terrorists (namely the Irgun, and Menachem Begin, who he was able to meet under cloak-and-dagger circumstances) based on his Guatemalan experiences. He could not understand the Arabs, believed that they were too much under the sway of the Mufti (who had been a Hitler ally), and believed that they didn’t really care about the land in the way that they maintained that they did. He was therefore very unsympathetic to the Arabs’ overall position, although he was sympathetic to the position of individuals in all of the groups.
But as much as he disliked the Arab leadership, this paled before his absolute detestation of the British and the mandate leadership. From the way it stopped immigration, to the way it ignored the mandate rules originally established by the League, to its “holier than thou” attitude towards all non-Brits (and that is hard in the middle east), to the “police state” it was operating under the guise of the mandate, he hated it all.
The book is very readable, very interesting, and by giving the opinion of a complete outsider, who went into the position with only normal biases but came out strongly in favor of Jewish independence, and strongly despising virtually everything the British were doing in Palestine, it provides new insight into the difficult 1947-8 period.
I dare you to find a copy. But if you do, please read it.