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Safe Haven: Records of the Jewish Experience in Australia


Palestine and the State of Israel

Reports of the plight of the Jews of Europe in World War II impelled concerned Australian Zionists (among them Abram Landa and Max Freilich) to canvass political support for immediate repeal of the MacDonald White Paper and the prompt creation of a Jewish homeland. As Suzanne Rutland has observed, Zionist leaders 'met with a significant response' from Dr H V Evatt, Minister for External Affairs, through whom Australia subsequently played a central role in facilitating the birth of modern Israel.83

According to Dr Rutland:

The devastation caused to world Jewry by the Holocaust offended [Evatt's] sense of justice and democracy and convinced him that the Jews had a right to a sanctuary in Palestine.84

Further, as Labor Minister for External Affairs, Evatt was strongly of the opinion that Australia needed both to develop foreign policy independent of Britain, and that the Middle East was of potential importance to Australia, as a bridge between Africa and Asia. More prosaically, Evatt was an immensely ambitious politician whose aspirations encompassed (and achieved) presidency of the United Nations General Assembly. To some extent, his high-profile support for the Jews was dictated by its capacity to further his own career.85

Rodney Gouttman believes that Evatt was strongly influenced by the arguments of Professor Julius Stone in Stone's rebuttal of Sir Isaac Isaacs, Stand Up and Be Counted.86In 1947 Evatt chaired the General Assembly's Ad Hoc Committee on Palestine, convened to weigh up the respective merits of two proposals: (1) that the UN supervise the creation of a 'unitary state' of Palestine, based on its existing population, and (2) that the UN oversee the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. A majority of delegates favoured the second option and, on 29 November 1947, the General Assembly put the matter to the vote. Thirty-three nations, the needed two-thirds majority (among them Australia, New Zealand, Canada and South Africa), supported partition. At that point, the UN was to control sites of universal religious significance, including Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

The State of Israel was declared by Prime Minister David Ben Gurion on 15 May 1948. The following year, as President of the General Assembly, Evatt was again a strong spokesman for admission of the new nation as a member of the UN. Citing the anti-Zionist feelings of a number of Australian leaders, among them conservative Anglo-Jews like Sir Isaac Isaacs, Dr Rutland suggests that:

without Evatt's idiosyncratic position on the need for a Jewish state it is possible that Israel would not have come into existence. Evatt's role was fostered by skilled leadership from Australian Zionists. In this way Australian Zionism played a critical role in the final stages of pre-State Zionist history. Since 1949, Israel has enjoyed consistently positive relations with successive Australian Governments (relations based on the position developed by Evatt).87

The records described below contain official correspondence between Britain and Australia regarding Palestine under the British mandate, as well as locally-produced briefing materials, policy documents, reports and memoranda. Individual items highlight the problems faced by Jews in entering Palestine during the final years of the Mandate; Jewish–Arab relations during that period; and opposition to British policy on Palestine.

CORRESPONDENCE FILES, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES WITH YEAR PREFIX, 1916–27, AND 'C' PREFIX, 1927–53
Canberra
Series: A367
Quantity: 64.08 metres
Recorded by: 1919–1946: Investigation Branch, Central Office (CA 747)
Palestine – Jews, National Status – Individual cases anti-British and anti-Jewish agitation in Egypt over the Palestine question, 1937–41 A367, C3075J
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, CLASS 2 (RESTRICTED IMMIGRATION), 1939–50
Canberra
Series: A433
Quantity: 8 metres
Recorded by: 1939–1945: Department of the Interior (II) (CA 31)
Correspondence/cables between Aust Government and London re illegal Jewish immigration into Palestine, 1946
File includes newspaper clippings and statement on Jewish National Home by the ECAJ.
A433, 1945/2/5153
Victorian Jewish Advisory Board Resolutions re immigration policy – Immigration into Palestine and European Relief, 1943 A433, 1943/2/4794
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, CLASS 3 (NON-BRITISH EUROPEAN MIGRANTS), 1939–50
Canberra
Series: A434
Quantity: 12.27 metres
Recorded by: 1939–1939: Department of the Interior (I) (CA 27); 1939–1945: Department of the Interior (II) (CA 31); 1945–1950: Department of Immigration (CA 51)
Palestine – United Nations Commission of Inquiry on, 1947 A434, 1947/3/5952
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTI-NUMBER SERIES (THIRD SYSTEM), 1934–50
Canberra
Series: A461
Quantity: 143.82 metres
Recorded by: 1934–1950: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Jews – general, 1933-38
The file contains correspondence, some of it from the ZFA and ECAJ, about the King David Hotel bombing and tensions in Palestine. Also included is an antisemitic letter.
A461, MA349/3/5 PART 1
Jews – general, 1938–46 A461, MA349/3/5 PART 2
Jews – general, 1946 A461, MA349/3/5 PART 3
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ALPHABETICAL SERIES, 1927–42
Canberra
Series: A981
Quantity: 163.27 metres
Recorded by: 1927–1942: Department of External Affairs (II) (CA 18)
Palestine – British Policy. Jewish–Moslem relations I, 1928–31 A981, PAL 8 part 1
Palestine – British Policy. Jewish–Moslem relations III, 1922–36 A981, PAL 8 part 3
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES WITH YEAR PREFIX, 1942–5
Canberra
Series: A989
Quantity: 30.42 metres
Recorded by: 1942–1945: Department of External Affairs (II), Central Office (CA 18)
Misc Reps Jewish Advisory Board, 1943
This file contains NSW material about Sir Isaac Isaacs and his opposition to the creation of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.
A989, 1943/561/40
Palestine – reps re settlement of Jews, 1943–44
This file includes material on the 'White Paper' and the problems thus faced by migrants attempting to enter Palestine.
A989, 1943/660/9
Post-war reconstruction. The Middle and North-East Africa. Palestine (including Zionist aspirations), 1941–44 A989, 1943/735/403
Misc. Reps. Jewish Migration and Land Settlements, 1944
The file includes correspondence by Bishop Venn Pilcher about the withdrawal of the Palestine 'White Paper' (1939), and asking that Palestine open its doors to Jewish migrants.
A989, 1944/561/49
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES WITH YEAR AND LETTER PREFIXES, 1945
Canberra
Series: A1066
Quantity: 31.23 metres
Recorded by: 1945–1945: Department of External Affairs (II), Central Office (CA 18)
Palestine – Political Situation (including Zionist aspirations), 1944–46 A1066, M45/17/1
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES WITH YEAR AND LETTER PREFIX, 1945–46
Canberra
Series: A1067
Quantity: 31 metres
Recorded by: 1946–1946: Department of External Affairs (II), Central Office (CA 18)
Palestine. Representations made by Jews in Australia, 1946 A1067, M46/17/1
Palestine. Activities of Jews in Australia, 1946 A1067, M46/17/3
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1948–89
Canberra
Series: A1838
Quantity: 3224.6 metres
Recorded by: 1948–1989: Department of External Affairs (II) (CA 18)
Palestine – Jewish State, 1948
This file includes a paper on the recognition of a Jewish state in Palestine, a summary of events following British withdrawal, secret despatches from Australia to Canada, and some correspondence.
A1838, 851/12/3 part 1
Palestine Jewish State, 1948–50 A1838, 851/12/3 part 2
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, SINGLE NUMBER SERIES WITH 'V' (VICTORIA) PREFIX, 1924–62
Melbourne
Series: B741
Quantity: 29.88 metres
Recorded by: 1927–1946: Investigation Branch, Victoria (CA 907); 1946–1960: Commonwealth Investigation Service, Victoria (CA 916)
Palestine and the Jewish Problem; report by Lt Drysdale , 1918–46 B741, V/277
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ALPHA-NUMERICAL SERIES, 1950–78
Melbourne
The series contains the main correspondence files of the Temple Society Trust Fund.
Series: B1321
Quantity: 3.12 metres
Recorded by: 1950–1978: Temple Society Trust Fund Advisory Committee (CA 3165)
Temple Society Trust Fund. Jewish tributes to German colonisation in Palestine, 1884–1960 B1321, TSTF3J

Finally, a substantial number of records have been located which deal with aspects of Australia's relations with the State of Israel since its foundation in 1948. By way of just a few examples, these include:

CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES, 1929–
Canberra
Series: A432
Quantity: 1957.68 metres
Recorded by: 1929: Attorney-General's Department (CA 5)
Israel – Question of Recognition, 1948 A432, 1948/594
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTI-NUMBER SERIES (THIRD SYSTEM), 1934–50
Canberra
Series: A461
Quantity: 143.82 metres
Recorded by: 1934–1950: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Anniversary Inauguration of Israel, 1949 A461, AR317/1/1
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, ANNUAL SINGLE NUMBER SERIES WITH OCCASIONAL 'G' (GENERAL REPRESENTATIONS) INFIX, 1956–
Canberra
Series: A463
Quantity: 701.83 metres
Recorded by: 1956–1971: Prime Minister's Department (CA 12)
Jewish National Fund – Naming of reclamation project in Israel after Australian Prime Minister, 1962–65 A463, 1962/3998
CORRESPONDENCE FILES, MULTIPLE NUMBER SERIES, 1948–89
Canberra
Series: A1838
Quantity: 3224.6 metres
Recorded by: 1948–1989: Department of External Affairs (II) (CA 18)
Israel – Internal – World Zionist Organisation, 1961–74 A1838, 175/1/10/2
Israel – Internal – Constitutional and citizenship, 1946–69 A1838, 175/1/2
Israel – Relations with the Arab States, 1943–52 A1838, 175/11/20 part 1
Israel. Political Jewish Anti-Zionist Organisation, 1958–60 A1838, 175/1/10/2
Israel. Political. Jewish Agency, 1951–66 A1838, 175/2/7
Israel – Political Parties – General – Zionists, 1955–69 A1838, 175/2/2/8
Israel – Jewish Agency, 1952–58 A1838, 1539/5
Israel – relations with Australia. World Zionist Organisation – representation in Australia (30), 1974 A1838, 175/10/14
Israel. Political – General (Zionist Council and Jewish Agency), 1949–50 A1838, 175/2
Israel Jewish State, 1949–53 A1838, 851/12/3, part 3
Israel Jewish State (2cm folios), 1953 A1838, 851/12/3 part 4
Israel – Relations with Australia – Representatives from private individuals and organisations in Australia – Jews in Arab lands (215 pages), 1971–87 A1838, 175/10/8 PART 2


Notes

Chapter notes | All notes

83 Rutland, Edge of the Diaspora, p. 311.

84 Rutland, Edge of the Diaspora, p. 311–2.

85 Rutland, Edge of the Diaspora, p. 311–2.

86 Rodney Gouttman, 'First principles: H.V. Evatt and the Jewish homeland', in Jews in the Sixth Continent, p.265–6; Rutland, Edge of the Diaspora, pp. .313–6.

87
Rutland, Edge of the diaspora, pp. 313–6.; Gouttman, 'First principles,' p. 262.

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Chapter 8
The Zionist Ideal in Australia