Saturday, November 14, 2015

4 - Excerpts from Sharett’s Knesset Speech, December 7 1953

Let us not exaggerate the value of hasbara [explaining Israeli actions abroad]. Hasbara cannot function and convince [international public opinion] every time and in all cases. There are deep-rooted facts whose impact no hasbara can erase. With the establishment of the state of Israel all DP [displaced persons] camps [of Holocaust survivors], which gave no rest to human conscience, disappeared. But at the same time there arose Arab refugee camps, and no hasbara whatsoever, including myriad speeches and dozens of booklets, shall erase their factual existence. I would like to cite another case, a more recent one. The Qibya action. It is my duty to tell the Knesset – it is incumbent on the  Foreign Ministry to function as a spotter of foreign occurrences and inform people of what it sees there – that the Qibya action was anathema to the Jewish public [abroad]. It shook Jewish masses to the depth of their souls and depressed them to the utmost. It broke, on that day, their pride. [- - -] Perhaps the people who executed that action were right; perhaps there was no other choice. But we must be aware – each and every one of us must be aware – that such [international shockwaves] were the result. Perhaps these [international] results are not decisive –  if the action has improved our security situation, then perhaps this is more important; and, if so, we should put up with the negative reaction. However let us not ignore reality, let us be aware of concrete facts.
    A far-reaching change has occurred in our situation, from which some conclusions can be clearly drawn. For dozens of years we were a political movement, not a political reality. We were a movement facing towards the future. We appealed to the world’s conscience, we tabled before it a moral demand, we professed lofty principles: our historical right, our people’s distress, our striving for freedom, the international justice which dictates the fulfilling of this endeavor. Now we have succeeded in becoming a political fact, a center of interests governed by ourselves, a nucleus of power which is our own. The value of this change is immeasurable. However, we shall not be saved by force alone. We are still a spiritual movement, we are a movement of aliya [immigration] and the founding of new settlements, of the ingathering of exiles. We are still a nation in the process of being built, and thus in need of help. But even when we shall fully be a nation, when the day comes when we will be able to say, “We have reached the goal of fully being a nation and there it is”, because we shall number millions, and even if there will be peace between us and our neighbors – we shall still be here “a people that dwells alone”, a single Jewish republic obviously in this whole area, if not in the whole world, a single Jewish republic that would have to overcome its isolation by maintaining a network of ties with the world at large.
    But there is more to it. We have a past legacy and we have a mission for the future. We had once said something to the world. We made a contribution to its treasures of spiritual life and its mores, and we feel and believe that we can still make a contribution. And hence our problem is how to fuse together the element of temporal might with the spiritual element, the element of the concrete reality with the element of lofty moral endeavor. It is the task of our policy to fully utilize our being a concrete reality while at the same time preserving to the utmost our moral stature in the eyes of the whole world.

Source: Divrei ha-Knesset, vol. 15, p.320. On November 30, 1953 the Knesset debated the UN SC resolution censoring Israel for the Qibya raid. Prime Minister Sharett opened that debate. On December 7 the PM replied to comments made by MKs during that debate.