My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt

Text Size: Small Text Normal Text Large Text Larger Text

NEW YORK, Sunday—I think many people must feel as unhappy as I do over the fact that Jewish refugees on ships bound for Palestine are being taken to detention camps in Cyprus. Many of us will agree that resort to force by Jews in Palestine is deplorable, but I don't think it is hard to understand. Palestine does not belong to Britain, which governs it under a mandate. When people are desperate, I suppose that a show of force against them inevitably brings retaliation in kind. The British have certainly had force in evidence in Palestine.

We are faced today with the problem of trying to find homes for many thousands of homeless people in Europe. Some of them do not want to return to their former homes. They will willingly adventure to other countries in the hope of finding better conditions and greater opportunity. A great number of the surviving Jews of Europe—and it is sad to think how few there are—long to go to a new home of their own, and to them Palestine has come to mean that home.

The suggestion that the country be partitioned seems to me no answer to the problem, since the main objection originally to Palestine becoming a home for the Jews was the grave doubt entertained by many as to whether the land would be able to support any more people than were already there. It is understandable that the Arabs are not anxious to have the Jews as neighbors. The Arabs are a nomadic people, leading simple lives, and those who have moved into the orbit of the Jewish people have found the competition difficult and the standard of living higher than that to which they were accustomed. The Jews, however, are not asking for a vast increase in land. They ask to keep what they have, with slight additions for economic needs, and to be allowed to take in refugees.

There are many Jews, even among those in Europe, who do not want to go to Palestine because they see greater opportunity in becoming citizens of other nations. There are many today who are Britons, Americans, French or other nationalities.

Those going to Palestine are mainly in two groups: old people who wish to be surrounded by their own customs and by friendly people for the rest of their lives; or young people who have been trained in camps in Europe for specific occupations. The latter are imbued with the desire to develop Palestine and to have it a homeland and a refuge for their people. They have lost so much and seen so much sorrow and suffering that this idea is probably almost like a crusade.

We sit safely and smugly in the United States and read of new detention camps in Cyprus. To an ordinary citizen like myself, the motives that Britain might have which would lead to the latest developments in the Near East are very difficult to understand. It looks as though we were forgetting our main objective of peace in this world. It is possible, of course, that what we fear is that the Arabs will go to war with us, but that hardly seems possible.

It seems to be a case of deciding what we think is right for people from refugee camps in Europe who are trying to find a place to build a new life. In Great Britain and in the United States, if we decided what was right, I don't think we would have much difficulty in getting it done.

E. R.
TMs, AERP, FDRL