Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Revealed and the Concealed: A Joint Exhibition with the Foreign Ministry

Today the Israeli Association for Diplomacy will award this year's Prize for Israeli Diplomacy to Mr. Shimon Peres, Israel's former president. To mark the occasion, the Israel State Archives is taking part in a joint exhibition called "The Revealed and the Concealed". The aim is to show the diplomatic activity "behind the scenes" of some of the big moments in Zionist and Israeli history. It starts with Theodore Herzl, who founded the Zionist movement but was an unsuccessful diplomat, and ends with more recent achievements of the Foreign Ministry, such as Israel's association with the OECD in 2010. It includes a selection of historical documents, mostly from our holdings, together with photographs, caricatures and other  visual material.

Today is also the anniversary of the dramatic vote on 29 November 1947, when the UN General Assembly decided to partition Palestine and to set up a Jewish and an Arab state.  The vote was close, and the representatives of the Jewish Agency  made tremendous efforts to mobilize every possible friend to influence the wavering UN member states. Here we present two documents on this subject which didn't make it into the exhibition.

Below Chaim Weizmann, who was ousted from the presidency of the World Zionist Organization in 1946 but still enjoyed great  prestige in the US, appeals to President Harry Truman to intervene 
personally to influence countries which planned to abstain. 
Telegram courtesy of Yad Chaim Weizmann, the Weizmann Archives, Rehovot

Among the countries mentioned was Ethiopia, whose emperor, Haile Selassie, had lived in Jerusalem after being
deposed by the Italians. Here we show a cable to Haile Selaissie from Lorna Wingate, the widow of Major Orde Wingate, a great friend of the Zionist movement, appealing in the name of her husband for Ethiopia's support. Wingate, a brilliant and innovative leader of special forces, led the Gideon Force of British, Sudanese and Ethiopian troops, including some members of the Haganah who had served with him in Palestine. Wingate helped to restore the Emperor to his throne in 1941, but was later killed in Burma. The cable is in File MFA 2206/9. 

.Orde Wingate (right) with Hailie Selassie and another officer in Ethiopia. Wikimedia

Lorna Wingate's appeal went unanswered and Ethiopia abstained in the vote on 29 November. But a majority of 33 nations voted in favour of the partition resolution, with 13 against and 10 abstentions. In December 1947, Moshe Shertok, the head of the Political Department of the Agency who had led the struggle at the UN, gave warm praise to the members of his team, who had worked together in harmony and with total devotion to the cause. "I saw many delegations of states [at Lake Success]" said Shertok, "large states and small, large delegations of large states which included several important members, experienced statesmen with a whole staff of advisers, with huge offices……I am sure not only that our delegation was not inferior to theirs, but that no other people had such a group of workers. "

The decision on 29 November paved the way for the establishment of the state of Israel on 15 May 1948. Shertok became the foreign minister and changed his name to Sharett, and many of his staff became the nucleus of Israel's Foreign Ministry. 

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