“The hand of the Lord was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones, And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry. And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord God , thou knowest.” (Ezek 37:1-3).

For 2,000 years God’s people had been without a land and without a nation, but the hand of God was about to move on their behalf and bring about the greatest prophetic sign in the miraculous rebirth of the nation of Israel. One of the many links in the chain of events which would culminate in the establishment of Israel amongst the nations was the UN vote for the partition of Palestine 70 years ago in 1947.

The British Mandate in Palestine

The beginning of the end of the British presence in Palestine happened when the British government decided to submit the Palestine question to the recently formed United Nations.

Despite this, the question was being asked in 1947, “What was Britain’s true position?” because in Jerusalem, Mandate Authorities carried out business as usual, as if they were preparing to rule Palestine for another 50 years. Political observers speculated that Britain had passed the problem to the UN, not in order to find solutions, but in order not to find one, relying on the Soviet Union which at that time was vetoing all Western initiatives.

However, the Soviet Representative to the UN, Andrei Gromyko, addressed the Council:

“Mr Chairman … the fact that no Western European state has been able to ensure the defense of the elementary rights of the Jewish People … explains the aspirations of the Jews.”

Andrei Gromyko’s speech was the greatest surprise of the Assembly Session. The Representative of the Soviet Union, the historic enemy of the Zionist movement, spoke of the right of the Jewish people to independence, thus removing the main obstacle on the path towards the state of Israel.

UN Special Commission on Palestine

On 15 May 1947 the General Assembly session concluded with the appointment of a Special Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) which was to visit the region, study the problem and propose a solution. This committee was made up of representatives of 11 nations. It was decided that the committee should be composed of “neutral” countries, excluding the five permanent members of the Security Council, including the Mandatory power. The committee’s final composition was: Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay and Yugoslavia. People felt that this was simply another committee whose fate would be no different than all other committees in the history of the mandate which had submitted recommendations that were never carried out.

Meetings in Jerusalem

The UNSCOP committee held its meetings at the Jerusalem YMCA building where various witnesses were invited to present their testimony. Among them were David Ben-Gurion and his young liaison officer, Abba Eban. Ben-Gurion, Chairman of the Zionist Executive, the man who would become first Prime Minister of the State of Israel one year later, expressed the hope that the Commission would hand down a just verdict. David Ben-Gurion gave an impassioned speech to the Commission in which he expressed the following:

“You will achieve your mission successfully when you restore freedom to Palestine, give justice to the Jewish people, and stability, progress and prosperity to the Middle East. These three objectives can be accomplished by the immediate abolition of the White Paper, the establishment of a Jewish state and the promotion of Jewish-Arab alliance.”

The Arab Higher Committee boycotted the Commission, explaining that the Palestinian Arabs’ natural rights were self-evident and could not continue to be subject to investigation, but rather deserved to be recognised on the basis of the principles of the United Nations Charter.

UNSCOP Tour of Palestine

From 18 June to 3 July, the committee embarked on a tour of Palestine, visiting Jerusalem, Haifa, the Dead Sea, Hebron, Beersheba, Gaza, Jaffa, the Galilee, Tel Aviv, Acre, Nablus, Beit Dajan, Tulkarm, Rehovot, Arab and Jewish settlements in the Negev, and several Jewish agricultural communities. When visiting Jewish areas, committee members were warmly welcomed. Jewish Agency officials also ensured that they met with Jews who spoke the native languages of committee members such as Swedish, Spanish, and Persian. By contrast, committee members were ignored and faced hostility in Arab areas. It then held 12 public hearings from 4 July to 17 July, during which 31 representatives from 12 Jewish organisations gave testimony and submitted written depositions. Jewish Agency representatives such as David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Shertok and Abba Eban testified, along with Chaim Weizmann.

As they travelled throughout Palestine, UNSCOP were most impressed by the Kibbutzim. The Jewish pioneers had always settled t`he most neglected lands. They dried up the swamps and made the desert bloom. The Commission was especially amazed by the visit to Beit HaArava, a kibbutz on the shores of the Dead Sea. Tomatoes were grown in its saline soil which had never supported any crops before.

The Exodus

On 18 July 1947 the hand of God was at also work in bringing the plight of Jewish refugees to the attention of the world in an illegal immigrant ship being towed to the port of Haifa. This dilapidated river boat with 4,500 people packed inside it was the Haganah ship, ‘The Exodus.’ This ship had been captured on the high seas after a fierce battle in which three immigrants were killed and a hundred wounded. The scenes of immigrants disembarking, taking a few steps along the pier of their beloved homeland on route to the deportation ships had become routine in 1947. However, this particular scene was without precedent. It reflected all that took place during those final hours on the decks of the Exodus. Providentially, on that very day two UNSCOP members visited the port, and as the dead and wounded were being carried out on stretchers, the Chairman, Justice Emil Sandström of Sweden and the Yugoslavian representative, Vladimir Simic, commented: “This is the best testimony of all”.

The committee completed its work in Palestine by hearing the eyewitness testimony of individuals who were on ‘The Exodus’ as well as Jewish refugees in British detention camps in Palestine and in European Displaced Persons camps who were trying to gain admittance to Palestine. Golda Meir, a later Prime Minister of Israel, observed that this testimony and advocacy for the creation of the Jewish state fundamentally and positively changed the United Nations to support the creation of Israel.

The UNSCOP members’ stay in Palestine ended in a tour of Jerusalem, the Holy City. The Commission was now ready to depart for Geneva, discuss the issue and draft suggestions concerning the future of Palestine.

UNSCOP Recommendations

In September 1947, the UN General Assembly convened in Flushing Meadows, New York. On the agenda were the UNSCOP recommendations to end the British mandate and, partition Palestine into two states – one Jewish and one Arab – with Jerusalem as an international city.

Two-Thirds Majority Required

The Jewish people needed a two-thirds majority to have the resolution passed. On the Arab side one-third of the votes was enough to cancel the resolution. A great deal of politics took place prior to the vote: pressure politics was applied; economic promises and persuasions were given; propaganda was published; long distance telephone calls were constantly made to various heads of states to get their UN delegates to shift their votes.

Yousouf Ghanem, the Saudi Delegation to the UN, made this observation:

“To the Arabs, the session was left to luck and they rallied mostly in good faith of the delegates. To the Jewish people politics was not a gamble, it was a science. So they used every technique possible to win the elections.”

Then came 26 November 1947, the day the UN was to vote on whether the Jews would have their own state. As the deliberations proceeded the Jewish delegates began to feel increasingly uncomfortable. There was a clear and determined majority of speakers who opposed partition and the establishment of a Jewish state. One by one they rose, including representatives of countries whom the Jews were sure would support them. One after another the speakers stressed all the negative aspects of the solution as the Jews sat there depressed.

It was a black Wednesday. The Jewish representatives understood that their only hope was to postpone the vote for a day or two. Nahum Goldmann, Jewish Delegation to the UN, appealed to two Latin-American friends for assistance in delaying the vote. The time was 6:15pm and the Arabs began to suspect some kind of plot, so they shouted “The vote!”. Then at exactly seven o’clock the Chairman rose and said, “Gentlemen, we’ve had a long and dramatic debate of historical importance. It demands further consideration” and adjourned the meeting.

Jewish Stratagems

The Jews divided the map of the world into the recalcitrant countries. Each Jewish delegate was put in charge of the special mission. Chaim Weitzman was allocated France, and he made a big effort in Paris. He telephoned Leon Bloom, as well as other leaders in order to bring about a change in their position. In a cable to France he said, “Can the voice of France be absent from this great moment of history?” The Jews found friends in such places as the Philippines and Liberia. What greatly buoyed their spirits was the knowledge that Harry Truman, the American President, had become irritated with the reluctance of his delegation and his state department to promote a favourable vote.

The Hand of God in American Politics

In 1945 preparations were being made by God for this very moment in American politics. From 1940-1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Vice President was Henry Wallace, a very liberal agrarian politician from Iowa. But in his bid for a fourth term, some of the Democratic party leaders persuaded Roosevelt to run with someone “safer”. Roosevelt chose Senator Harry Truman of Missouri, someone the general American public didn’t really know all that much about. This may have seemed inconsequential at the time because he was only going to be Vice President.

President Harry Truman

However, a few weeks into his fourth term, Roosevelt died, and Truman became President. Thus three months after becoming Vice President in 1945, the plain spoken Truman ascended to the presidency. Harry S. Truman became the 33rd President of the United States, assuming that office upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt during the waning months of World War II.

So it was by the hand of the Most High who rules in the kingdom of men, that for America generally, and certainly for the Jewish people, Harry Truman was the right man at the right time.

America and the Palestine Problem

In the aftermath of World War II, Palestine was in an unworkable situation. The British Mandate in Palestine was administered by Ernest Bevin, the British foreign minister, who categorically refused large numbers of Jewish Holocaust survivors entry into Palestine. President Truman put pressure on England, but Bevin obstinately refused to budge, a clear indication of his bigotry and his doctrinaire against the Jews.

But the pressure was building just like in a pressure cooker. Every day, the violence increased in Palestine and England saw that it was in a no-win situation. Consequently, Bevin made a dramatic gesture in late 1947 and declared that Britain would leave Palestine on 15 May 1948, thus handing the problem to the United Nations.

The UN solution was a partition plan: an Arab state and a Jewish state. Jerusalem would be an international city. The Jewish state was made of unconnected sections of land – militarily indefensible and economically unviable. Many Zionists opposed it. But Ben-Gurion realised that this was their only chance, and he accepted.

The Arabs, for their part, refused. So it was to be decided by a vote in the UN General Assembly. Before then, the Arabists in the State Department, of whom there were still very many, circumvented the President and began pressuring the US delegate, Warren Austin. Austin backed down from the partition plan and proposed instead that the United States should agree to a trusteeship, which was like a mandate all over again.

President Harry Truman, Friend of the Jews

At this point we come across one of the strangest stories in the drama of Israel’s resurgence. President Truman had served as an artillery captain in World War I, and one of the members of his battalion was a Jewish man named Eddie Jacobson. After the war, Harry Truman and Eddie Jacobson went into an unlikely partnership and opened a haberdashery store in Kansas City. The store went bankrupt after three years, but Truman and Jacobson remained loyal friends.

The Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann, had traveled to the US to see President Truman in order to persuade him to reinforce American support for the partition plan. Truman initially refused to see Weizmann despite pressure from the Jewish leadership. Then the Jews sent in Eddie Jacobson, as detailed in Truman’s memoirs, amongst other places. Jacobson said, “Mr. President, Harry, you’ve got to do me this one favor. See this tired, old man. He’s come halfway across the world to see you. Just give him a few minutes of your time.” And Truman reluctantly agreed.

Weizmann was a great diplomat and impressed Truman with the importance of his support for the UN partition plan. Truman was so impressed by Weizmann that he called Warren Austin at the UN to inform him of American policy. For added drama, when the call came, Austin was in the middle of a speech about how America was backing out of the partition plan. But when he returned from the phone call, he said, “President Truman has instructed me that the United States supports in full the partition plan as adopted by the United Nations and will work to see it implemented.”

The UN Vote

When the Assembly reconvened on the 29 November, the President of the UN General Assembly still thought that the partition plan would not succeed. Political manoeuvres continued throughout that day. The Arabs and Jews fought to the very last minute.

The President, Oswaldo Aranha, then called for the vote with these memorable words:

“We will proceed to the roll call. You all know how to vote. Those who are in favour will say yes. Those who are against it will say no. And the abstainers, always they know what to say. We will start it now.”

On 29 November 1947, Jews all over the world held their breath. In New York and Moscow, Buenos Aires and Tehran, Rome and Jerusalem, Jews sat spell bound by the voices coming from their radios in that unforgettable broadcast from Flushing Meadows, New York. The vote which seemed as long as the Jewish exile itself, lasted only three minutes.

At the end of the voting process, the President tapped his gavel and declared:

“The resolution of the Ad Hoc Committee for Palestine was adopted by 33, 13 against, 10 abstentions.”

The announcement resulted in a roar of applause from the General Assembly. The Arab delegates, however, were so infuriated with the result that six Arab nations in the General Assembly staged a walkout in protest.

As the result was made public a wave of ecstasy swept over the Jews of Palestine. Then they’d experienced what generations of Jews before them could only imagine in their dreams. All Jewish history seemed to be directed towards this moment. On that same day Jews gathered beneath the Arch of Titus in Rome, this triumphal Arch honouring the Roman Caesar who had destroyed Jerusalem and which symbolised the beginnings of the Jewish problem. Here they offered prayers of thanksgiving, declaring that the land which had fallen captive 2,000 years before had now risen to life once again. No longer were the Jews without a home. They had come full circle as the way was now paved for the re-establishment of the State of Israel.

The Restoration of Israel

In Ezekiel 37, “The whole house of Israel” is likened to a valley of dry bones, a fitting representation of the dissolution of their national existence. The question, “Can these bones live?” was one that many in the world would have answered in the negative as the general public perception was that Israel was gone, never to become a people again. But within the latter part of the nineteenth century the Jews had forced themselves to the front in every department of life. This is as it should be according to the sure word of prophecy; it is the noise and the shaking of the bones, and the bones coming together, bone to his bone, sinews and flesh being formed. All of this was in preparation for the breath of resurrected national life being breathed into them, when Israel “lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army” (Ezek 37:10).

The restoration of Israel is a work of time as indicated in Ezekiel 37. First, there was the awakening among the scattered and dry bones (the rise of political Zionism in the nineteenth century with the work of Theodor Herzl and the first Zionist Congress in Basle); then a coming together of bones with sinews and flesh (the work of UNSCOP and the 1947 UN partition vote which led to the emergence of Israel as a nation in their own land in 1948 – Ezek 37:14). There remains yet the out pouring of God’s spirit to change their unbelieving heart from stone to flesh (Ezek 36:26) which will coincide with the coming of the Deliverer to Zion. Finally, there will be the salvation of all Israel rejoicing under the covenant blessings of Messiah’s reign from Jerusalem.

What a marvellous blessing given to us to be able to look back over recent world-shaking events and see the certainty of our hope being fulfilled before our very eyes. Let us rejoice at the clear signs of our Master’s imminent return for “when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28).