Israel Studies 10.1 (2005) 124-156
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Anglo-Jewry and the State of Israel:
Defining the Relationship, 1948-1956
The impact of the establishment of a Jewish state after two thousand years had immediate repercussions for Anglo-Jewry, necessitating a redefinition of the response of Anglo-Jewish leaders and institutions toward Zionism and of their attachment to the Jewish homeland. This article analyzes the evolution of an unprecedented modus operandi between the Anglo-Jewish community and Israel's representatives and seeks to fill a void in published research on the relationship between Anglo-Jewry and the State of Israel, which has been inexplicably conspicuously terra incognita.1 Our point of departure for this analysis is May 1948, when,having fostered the Jewish National Home, Britain, albeit reluctantly, was directly responsible for the birth of the State of Israel, and continues through to the Suez Crisis in October 1956, when Anglo-Jewry was embroiled in defining its stance on Israel's alleged "collusion" with Britain.
Anglo-Jewry's response to the establishment of Israel was unique because of its historical and complex involvement in Britain's policy toward Zionism and the Jewish National Home. The role of Zionist activists was crucial during Britain's Mandate over Palestine as London became the pivot of the activities of the Jewish Agency Executive and the World Zionist Organization. This status, however, rapidly declined as Britain's policies were seen to be detrimental to the aspirations of the Zionist movement—policies that culminated, in the May 1939 White Paper, which set in motion the creation of an independent Arab state and the demise of the Jewish National Home.
Following the Nazi occupation of Europe, the threat of an imminent Nazi invasion of Britain and Palestine became an increasing possibility. Thus the fate of Anglo-Jewry and the Yishuv (the Jewish community in Palestine prior to May 1948) lay in an outright victory and the total eradication of Hitler's Nazi war machine. Anglo-Jewry miraculously escaped [End Page 124] Nazi occupation and was spared the excruciating dilemmas and accusations of Judenrat collaboration, which besotted post-war European Jewish communities.
Anglo-Jewry's Response to the Creation of the State of Israel, December-January 1948
Communal Bodies and Institutions
The Board of Deputies of British Jews, established in 1760, was a distinctive feature of the community and considered itself the official voice of Anglo-Jewry. In 1917, it opposed the Balfour Declaration, fearing that all that had been gained since the emancipation would be lost. During World War II, the Board took an unequivocally pro-Zionist stand by calling for the establishment of a Jewish State. Non-Zionist elements made a last-ditch attempt in 1948 to restrict the Board's Zionist activities when they proposed removing Prof. Selig Brodetsky, the President, citing his conflict of duties as a member of the executive of the Jewish Agency for Palestine. This motion failed, in part because Brodetsky and other functionaries were now redundant since the ex-Mandatory power, Britain, no longer recognized the Jewish Agency as the representative of the Jewish-Zionist bodies in or outside of Palestine.2
On 28 May, the Board convened a special meeting to commemorate the emergence of the Jewish state with the unprecedented singing of Hatikva.3 In August, it declared that it did not, and could not, express its views to the Government of Israel, but that it had a right to express what it thought to the British Government and to British public opinion. It believed that "British Jewry though small compared with the Jewry of the U.S.A., has still a high influential status owing to its tradition of working through the British Foreign Office. And this tradition must be maintained undiminished by the efforts of any other body and by any changes in public life."4
The AJA (Anglo-Jewish Association) was established in 1871 on the principles of the Alliance Israelite. While the Board was comprised of synagogue delegates, the AJA was a self-elected council of Jewish notables operated...