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Jewish World Held its Breath

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The memory is so vivid. It's like it was yesterday. I was one month shy of my eighth birthday. It was November 1947. The war in Europe had ended but for a middle class Jewish family in Brooklyn, the anguish was ongoing.

We had made sacrifices during the war. Blackouts, rationing, victory gardens, but nothing that could possibly prepare one for the horrendous images that emerged after the war from the death camps. My parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents, and extended family grieved together with the rest of the Jewish world.

And now the United Nations was about to vote on Resolution 181, establishing the partition of Palestine and a homeland for the Jewish people. There were 49 member nations eligible to vote and a 2/3 majority (33) was necessary to pass the resolution. It was a forgone conclusion that the Arab states would vote against and there was significant pressure from both Russia and the United States toward their respective allies to vote for partition. The General Assembly of the U.N. had refused a resolution to submit the Palestine question to the International Court of Justice to determine whether the U.N. had any jurisdiction to recommend the partition of Palestine or any other country. Lobbying was intense on both sides and the evening of November 29 at 5:30 p.m. the vote was to take place. As of the afternoon of the vote, there were over a dozen countries, among them Haiti, Liberia, Paraguay, and the Philippines, that were still undecided.

My father had prepared a list of the countries that would be voting. At 5:30, we gathered around the radio, television was not yet being broadcast. As each country voted 'yes', 'no' or 'abstain' it was dutifully checked off. I can still feel the tension that gripped our little group of listeners, as we reached the end of the roster and were still short of some positive votes. We were both disappointed and shocked when the United Kingdom abstained. FinalIy, as the end of the list was called, it was the positive votes of Uruguay and Venezuela both of which had not yet indicated how they would vote, that carried the day. Our little group sat there with tears of joy running down our cheeks. The vote to partition Palestine and create a Jewish State had been approved.

The final vote was as follows:

In favor: 33

Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Belorussian S.S.R., Canada, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, Liberia, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Sweden, Ukrainian S.S.R., Union of South Africa, United States of America, Soviet Union (USSR), Uruguay, Venezuela.

Against: 13

Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, Yemen.

Abstained: 10

Argentina, Chile, China, Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, Mexico, United Kingdom, Yugoslavia. 

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