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WWII left in its wake destruction on so massive a scale that it was to upset forever the global alliances and
regional power strategies which preceded it. By the end of the war, some 60 million people had been killed,
among them nearly six million European Jews, who had been systematically exterminated by the Nazis.
Some 14 million ‘displaced persons’ were strewn across an economically shattered continent.
During the six years of the war, only a tiny number of Jews were rescued - efforts to help were weak, late
and ineffectual. This was in part a result of the fact that news of the systematic killings took until 1941 to
emerge and was even then not taken sufficiently seriously by the Allied Powers or the Zionists until 1942.
But even after news of the Holocaust reached them, responses were often detached and even cynical. In
1943, the Allied Powers convened a conference to discuss the issue, but neither Britain nor the US offered
to open their doors to the Jewish refugees. The Zionists themselves failed to put aside their internal
divisions and ideological concerns in time to react effectively.
During the war approximately 50,000 Jewish refugees reached Palestine. At its end roughly one million
remained destitute in Europe. The catastrophe demanded an immediate response from the victorious
Great Powers, Britain and the US, and the plight of Europe’s remaining Jews stood foremost in the eyes of
the world. Nonetheless, the US and Britain refused to relax their immigration laws and no initiative was
proffered for the resettling of Jewish refugees in Europe.
A new power balance that solidified in the closing months of WWII saw the lines of the coming Cold War
tentatively drawn. Both the US and Britain witnessed a change in leadership in 1945 and within months of
the German surrender, British Prime Minister Attlee was seeking US involvement in the Palestine Question.
Attlee, aware of his predecessors’ failures in reaching a solution, knew rising pro-Zionist sentiment in the
US and the crowded camps across Europe made the internationalization of the problem not only
unavoidable, but also preferable. US involvement, ostensibly in favor of the Zionists, was quickened by a
geopolitical race for influence that had already begun. The USSR’s anti-Zionist policy was bound to result in
Arab sympathy and the prospect of Soviet dominance in the oil-rich region was troubling to the US.
In November 1945, an Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry was formed to examine the Jewish refugee
problem. At US insistence, its terms of reference limited it to viewing resettlement in Palestine as the sole
option. The Committee recommended issuing 100,000 immigration certificates immediately and removing
all restrictions on land transfer in Palestine. No solution to the issue of sovereignty was found and instead
the Committee suggested a long-term UN trusteeship.
The Arabs were horrified, while Britain deemed the plan unworkable in both the short and long-term. Three
weeks later, British Deputy Prime Minister Herbert Morrison and US Ambassador Henry Grady began
constructing an amended, alternative solution. The plan incorporated the Zionist-US demand for 100,000
immigrants immediately and the trusteeship premise, but envisioned a division of Jewish and Arab
provinces, leaving open - they contended - the option of an eventual binational state or partition of
Palestine. Zionist and US rejection consigned the plan to failure almost immediately and subsequent US
public statements critical of Britain and supportive of the WZO signaled the end of the Anglo-American