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The Triumph and Tragedy of Abba Eban

Rick Richman

Mosaic, May 20, 2021

“I was now personally directing a political operation that had no precedent in international history. No other state had ever been called upon to secure its membership in the international community through a process of cross-examination, advocacy, and rebuttals.”

A week after its Declaration of Independence, as it fought an invasion from five Arab armies—Israel designated a thirty-three-year-old scholar of Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian literature named Aubrey (“Abba”) Eban as its UN representative. He was the youngest representative there.

Five days after his appointment, Eban appeared before the UN Security Council, responding to the Arab rejection of the UN’s cease-fire resolution. His words were historic: “The sovereignty regained by an ancient people, after its long march through the dark night of exile,” he said, will not be “surrendered at pistol point.” And therefore:

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