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Good Guys, Bad Guys; Interview with Abba Eban

The National Security Archive, Episode 17, May 13, 1997

“… there has never been, I believe, in the history of any nation, a transformation of fortune as abrupt and as speedy and as providential as that which the Jewish people had in that period, during the first two years of its existence.”

INTERVIEWER: Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. To start off, can you tell me what Israel meant to the Jews, why it was necessary to have a Jewish homeland?

ABBA EBAN: Our situation at the end of World War II was as follows: we were wallowing in the fearful anguish of the Holocaust; the visual effects of the Holocaust had an effect that went far beyond the mere statistical enumeration of the victims. Our promised homeland was being assailed by regional violence and by international alienation. The victorious powers, the three of them – the United States, Britain and the Soviet Union – showed no intention whatever, at first, of recognizing the Jews of Palestine as a political reality. There wasn’t a single ray of light on the horizon. The Jewish representatives at the United Nations conference at San Francisco were humiliatingly seated in some distant balcony, looking down at the 50 member nations, none of which had made anything like the sacrifices demanded of the Jewish people by its own martyrdom. That was the situation. Two years later – two years later – the gates were opened; masses of our kinsmen were coming back to their national home. The war of survival had been won, and our flag was aloft in its own name and pride. And there has never been, I believe, in the history of any nation, a transformation of fortune as abrupt and as speedy and as providential as that which the Jewish people had in that period, during the first two years of its existence.

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