Eban, Abba

June 15, 2006

All felt great pride when Abba Eban spoke in behalf of Israel at the United Nations during the Six-Day War. In a speech to the U.N. Security Council on June 6, 1967, he said that “if… the universal conscience was in the last week or two most violently shaken at the prospect of danger to Israel, it was not only because there seemed to be danger to a state, but also, I think because the state was Israel, with all that this ancient name evokes, teaches, symbolizes and inspires.”

He wrote, “A special role was thrust upon me at an early public age and has clung to me ever since. My vocation has been to explain the Jewish People to a confused and often uncomprehending world. The central fact in modern Jewish experience has been the renewal of Israel’s statehood. The utter singularity of Jewish History, its rebellion against all historic laws, its total recalcitrance to any comparative system of research, have all been brought home to me at every stage…” [from Foreword to “Abba Eban; My People; The Story of the Jews”]

Born Aubrey Eban in South Africa in 1915, and raised in England, Abba Eban played a major role in the Zionist Movement. He served double-duty between 1950 and 1959 as Israel’s first representative to the U.N. and its first ambassador to Washington.

Eban once said that “…there was no way in which the Jews, after their trials and ordeals, could renounce the idea of Jewish statehood, and there was no way in which the Arabs could possibly accept the Israeli demand for statehood… It was really a Greek tragedy in that sense.”

Eban’s emerging dovishness, despite his eloquent representation and defense of Israel in times of war, was a natural outcome of his major life work – attempting to foster some sort of positive relationship between Israel and its “cousins.” He believed deeply that Israel’s birth was deeply linked with the idea of sharing territory and sovereignty.