May 06, 2008

A nation that has freed itself

May 16, 1948:

There are days in the human record on which the night never falls. They shine forever; and in its rays the human race is able to pick its ways forward. The constancy of the Jewish people has brought the fecund day into being, until the bridge of their suffering between which spans two thousand years has become a luminous rainbow.

The hurt that remains is of another order. It is of the common lot of free men, and must continue until each people's pride in its own right gives way to pride in the right of all. This shining day will light up the road to that end, in which the door will be loose on the latch, and the coming and going of the people will be without let.

The Jewish nation has freed itself, and by the act has prised a guilt from the conscience of the world. It is a deed in which, at length, the bitter faggots which stoke fires of racial hatred may be turned into the green saplings of comradeship: in that uplifting measure, the rebirth of a free, independent and righteous Israel, will be of comfort to all men, and of universal fruition.

The deeper consequences must bide their time against present and urgent benefits. Men, women and children are passing, in these hours, through the gates. You can hear them singing. You can see the shine in their eyes. You can feel the straining spirit that would burst from freed bodies to be quicker in the land. The gates are opened by Cyprus, Italy, in Germany, Bulgaria: the walls of the ghettoes and the wires of the concentration camps are down. The people stride over them and along the road that will take them home, set them upon their own soil, under their own sun, beside their own temples, among their own kin. Never before has any people known so bitterly the years of detention or so joyously the moment of release. It is in a man's soul and behind his smarting eyes that the miracle is felt. A miracle it is: not only that a people has come to free Statehood; but that the Jewish people has come to it, whose moral, social and often physical serfdom, has been a burden on the civilized conscience.

In the circumstances of the nation's rebirth, the civilized conscience has added burden to its burden. The politics of great powers have provoked and connived at bloodshed: and the smoke of a needless war lies across the day like a vandal's stroke. The Arab people are impoverished and put upon the sterile road of strife to fulfil a vanity and preserve a tottering plan. The setting of one people against another is for the good of neither; and in the reckoning, the count of the Arab against the powers that proclaim their friendship to him will be more than the count of the Jew against those who have molested his path to freedom. Unless all the people of this land are made wholly free, none of them will be free; and the State of Israel will be strong only in the strength of both the free peoples of Palestine. And as it can be said that the subject Jew was an assurance of subjection for the Arab, it is right - it must be right - to say that the free Jew is a promise of freedom for the Arab. In that will lie a righteousness of the new State of Israel.

Men and women have done well and can turn to each other with a blessing. They have set their bodies as a shield harder than steel and their faith has been a striking force sharper than a wedge of tanks. They have been few and wonderfully brave. They are still few and they must still be brave; and the mother's son must go off at dark and the mother wait at the dawn. It is the heroism of a cause and of men who live it in their hands as well as in their hearts. They, and a leadership who, in this crisis, has been wholly of them and in their tenacious temper, have brought into being the State of Israel, which has been won on the soil of Israel and nowhere else. There is cause to thank these men and women and their leadership and to bear their deeds in honour for the rest of eternity. Theirs is the day upon which night falls.