In his potted history of events surrounding the establishment of the state of Israel in May 1948, Martin Gilbert makes some crucial omissions.
When the UN voted to partition Palestine it awarded 55 per cent of the land to 30 per cent of the population - the Jewish population. The area to be under Jewish control was itself 50 per cent Arab. In the same month of the UN vote, November 1947, Britain declared that it was leaving Palestine. Immediately the Zionists began ethnically cleansing the Arabs from the Jewish areas and moved to secure land beyond the UN-allocated boundaries.
By the time Britain left and the Arab states mobilised, around 300,000 Palestinian Arabs were already refugees.
I agree with Martin Gilbert that there were failures of Arab leadership, not least the fact that Jordan was collaborating with Israel, but to suggest that Israel's conduct was above reproach at that time is, at best, economical with the truth.
On the same letters page there's this one expressing shock at New Labour jumping into bed with the far-right Opus Dei :
Apropos Catholic 'secret society' gains power foothold by Jamie Doward (News, last week): as a member of the Labour Party I am alarmed by the fact that our erstwhile Home Secretary saw fit to carry on a close relationship with the editor of such a Tory mouthpiece as the Spectator and that a formerly Tory millionaire is appointed to lead our general election campaign for a third term.
Nevertheless, I was shocked to read that the recently appointed Education Secretary, Ruth Kelly, is a member of, or 'even merely in touch with' such a far right organization as Opus Dei. If you think the 'far right' adjective too strong, Google Opus Dei. You will find out that it is against stem cell research, women's right to choose whether to have an abortion, and contraception, but for faith-based schools, hierarchy and unquestioning obedience to the leader of the organization. It also has a track record for politically promoting its semi-fascist aims.
Balazs L Gyorffy
Cotham Branch of Bristol West CLP