The 1946 Anglo-American Committee and the missed opportunity for a democratic Palestine






Lori Allen



After six months of Israeli genocide in Gaza, a look back into history at the 1946 Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry offers some perspective. Today could have been avoided — a peaceful solution in Palestine was on offer.

Seventy-eight years ago, on 20 April 1946, six American and six British investigators issued a report on the Palestine “problem” and the fate of Europe’s Jews. Until then, there was still a chance at some kind of peaceful future in Palestine.

Those chances seem so far away right now. But maybe we can learn from the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry and see the openings present today with fresh eyes, before they vanish, too.

A single, democratic Palestine
Three contributions to the committee stand out, both for the lack of attention they received at the time and their relevance today. Each was rooted in Palestinians’ insistence on democratic principles. The problem of antisemitism must be dealt with separately from Zionist ideas for establishing Jewish sovereignty in Palestine, they argued.

As I show in my book, A History of False Hope, for over a century Palestinians and their supporters have been making similar arguments that international law should take precedence over Zionism’s settler-colonial project of producing a Jewish supremacist state.

The main Palestinian proposal was a unitary, democratic Palestine — for “Palestinian citizens, Arabs and Jews alike,” — governed through a constitution, with an elected legislature, and embodied in a UN General Assembly resolution.

In this state, any resident in Palestine could “apply for and acquire Palestinian citizenship on the same terms and conditions without discrimination on the grounds of race, religion, and language.”

The state that was established — contrary to the Palestinians’ proposals — was built on the principle of prejudice: Israel discriminates against Palestinians and other non-Jews in every sphere of government and society. This has formed the attitudes of today’s Israelis, enabling the genocide in Gaza.

The second Palestinian demand was for political jockeying to be put aside so the situation could be judged fairly. A third came from Arab leaders, who offered shelter in their countries to Jewish refugees who were displaced by the war in Europe. Had any of these suggestions been followed, perhaps decades of suffering and war might have been avoided. It behoves today’s politicians to heed the parallel arguments being made now.

The West ignored these proposals for a democratic state that would be bound to the principles of the international community, only recently crystallised with the ratification of the United Nations Charter in 1945.

Of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry report’s 12 recommendations, US President Harry Truman only focused on the call to admit 100,000 more Jewish people to Palestine, in line with the Zionists’ requests.

Truman’s sympathies were with the Jewish refugees, and his political interests were in Jewish voters. By 1945, most American Jews thought that some form of Jewish state was necessary as a bulwark against future antisemitic violence after the Holocaust, and Truman needed their support in his difficult re-election campaign.

Spokesperson Fayiz Sayigh had warned the commission not to judge Palestine “from the position of a politician desiring to mitigate an embarrassing perplexing situation.” They should look at it “from the viewpoint of an arbiter aiming at giving a just solution,” he counselled.

But it is as vote-seekers beholden to a Zionist-Israeli perspective that Western politicians continue to view the “embarrassing perplexing situation.” What else can explain their support for the maniacal violence that Israel has unleashed on Gaza since 7 October 2023, killing more than 33,800 Palestinians so far?

Pandering to apartheid
It is certainly not a sense of justice, nor the principles of rights embodied in international law that spur politicians like Britain’s Keir Starmer. A human rights lawyer turned Labour party dictator, Starmer publicly declared that Israel had “the right” to withhold water and power from Palestinians after October 7.

Numerous legal experts have rebutted the claims that Israel has a “right to defend itself” from the people it is occupying. But international law is set aside when it’s inconvenient like that.

Starmer and so many politicians who prioritise the recruitment of Zionist supporters rarely use their influence to pressure Israel into better behaviour. Starmer has expelled members of Labour critical of Israel and has refused to recognise the apartheid nature of Israel’s regime, despite the groundswell of legal analysis by mainstream, Israeli, and Palestinian human rights groups proving it. Labour went so far as to ban the use of the term “Israeli apartheid” during its 2023 conference.

In Germany, the Foreign Ministry likewise rejected the label of apartheid, and its antisemitism commissioner, Dr. Felix Klein, decried it as an “antisemitic narrative.” The silencing of voices critical of Israel is part of Germany’s official policy of unquestioning support for the Jewish State, a policy which has led to widespread rights abuses against especially Palestinian and Jewish activists in that country.

The actions of Germany and UK Labour manifest the same political expediency that has led 1,216 government entities and universities across the globe to adopt the faulty International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), a definition of antisemitism that wrongly equates criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

The IHRA definition has become a politically performative and cost-free way to assuage Israel’s supporters and avoid combating actual discrimination and racism — as reports of Islamophobia and antisemitism skyrocket across campuses and elsewhere in the West.

There is nothing novel in such lazy point-scoring by proxy Israeli nationalists. In 1946, the US-based Institute for Arab American Affairs criticised the politicisation of Jewish suffering, declaring: “The support of Zionism has become an all too easy way of appearing a friend of the persecuted Jew, and a cheap means of enjoying the comfortable glow of big-hearted humanitarianism at the expense of the Arabs.”

Maybe now that countries like Germany and statesmen like US President Joe Biden are being charged with complicity in genocide for supplying arms to Israel, it will become easier to recognise that support for the Zionist project runs counter to humanitarianism and the fight against antisemitism.

Between Judeopessimism and Palestinian optimism
There’s a long history of attempts to convince the world that turning Palestine into a Jewish state was the best and only solution to antisemitism.

In his presentation to the Anglo-American Committee, Zionist leader Chaim Weizman defended their plan to make Palestine a Jewish state by describing the conditions of “Jews in the modern world, their homelessness as a people … who seem to carry anti-Semitism in our knapsacks wherever we go.”

Far-right ideologues such as Meir Kahane — founder of the Jewish Defense League and the racist Kach political party — and Kahane’s follower, Israel’s National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir — described by one Israeli journalist as Israel’s leading fascist politician — have maintained this insistence on humanity’s inherent antisemitism.

This “Judeopessimism”— as scholar Shaul Magid calls it — justifies an exclusionist, Jewish supremacist state, which by definition is anti-democratic and necessarily leads to violence against Palestinians.

Opposing this pessimistic view, in the wake of World War II the Arabs maintained that the doors of Europe and America should be opened to the victims of that European war.

Leaders in various Arab states also repeatedly reassured the great powers that they were willing to accept Jewish refugees. US President Truman acknowledged the many offers of refuge and told Saudi Arabia’s leader Ibn Saud it was “heartening.”

The Trans-Jordan statement to the Anglo-American Committee confirmed that their country “sympathises humanely with the oppressed Jews not less than any other Democratic country. … [But] like all Arab Governments … [it] considers the Jewish question separate from that of Zionism.”

Jews should be permitted to go to countries other than Palestine where the political balance would not be adversely affected by their immigration. But, the statement asserted, the Jewish refugees’ return to their homes in a democratically transformed Europe would be the best solution.

And today, it is only a democratically transformed world that is the solution for us all. A world in which the security of Jews, the safety of Palestinians with their right to return home, and the equal rights of everyone are ensured by democratic structures and the enforcement of international law—that is our only common hope.



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