Eban Given Farewell Dinner at United Nations; 50 Ambassadors Present
Menu JTA Search

Eban Given Farewell Dinner at United Nations; 50 Ambassadors Present

Download PDF for this date

Fifty ambassadors from foreign countries, many of the delegates to the United Nations, and numerous distinguished Americans attended tonight a farewell dinner here, in honor of Israel Ambassador Abba Eban. The event was Mr. Eban’s farewell to the United Nations, after 11 years of service at Israel’s permanent representative here.

Sir Pierson Dixon, of the United Kingdom, and Ambassador U Thant of Burma spoke on behalf of the corps of the permanent delegates at the United Nations. Other speakers included Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, former New York State Governor Thomas E. Dewey, U.S. Senator Jacob K. Javits, and Mrs. Rose Halprin, acting chairman of the Jewish Agency. All speakers paid warm tribute to Mr. Eban.

Recalling that, exactly 10 years ago, on May 11, 1949, Israel was admitted to membership of the United Nations, Ambassador Eban reviewed “the drama of Israel’s rebirth” as enacted before the world at the United Nations. He pointed out that Israel is a people to whom nothing has been freely given.” Her narrow land, her scanty water, the freedom of her home and lives, her capital city, her status in the international family, her maritime access to half the world–gifts with which other nations are endowed at the moment of their birth–have been for us the fruit of bitter contest,” he said.

“But when everything is said and remembered there can be one verdict on the outcome of this story,” he continued. “Israel has gained far more from her association with this union of sovereign peoples than she has ever lost in occasional moments of frustration and disappointment. I know not what the course of our history might have been if the desperate surge of the Jewish people towards its freedom had not intersected with another line of historic progress–that which created an international forum where issues could be judged above the level of national strategies and interests.”


Pointing out that “in terms of broad historic justice, Israel owes gratitude to the United Nations,” Ambassador Eban also discussed Israel’s experience in the UN in matters outside her immediate concern. “It is a paradox,” he said, “that Israel, the most universal of peoples in the range of its experience, should have had to be the most self-centred in its diplomacy. We could not always spare time or preoccupation from the stern needs of survival.

“But,” he continued, “we have not betrayed the broader challenge–the need to evolve a general Israel foreign policy based on the preservation of peace: the prevention of atomic conflict: the promotion of international co-operation for economic welfare and the defence of human rights–and assistance to other peoples, especially in Asia and Africa; to emerge from outside control into the light and air of freedom.”

“The United Nations Charter,” Ambassador Eban emphasized, “is permeated by a deep respect for the rights and capacities of small nations. The General Assembly is the place where small peoples achieve their fullest dignity. It would be good to see more frequent initiative by small nations in the effort to reconcile international conflicts in which they are not directly interested parties.

“The history of man,” Mr. Eban said, “has not been written solely by great empires and continental powers. Ancient Israel was surrounded by strong empires which excelled her in military power, in material wealth, and in the sophistication and refinement of their arts. But all these crumbled in oblivion–while our small voice came down across the ages with undying power. Small nations should not confuse their physical smallness with spiritual and intellectual impotence. It is in the General Assembly that fullest scope is available to the gifts of insight, influence and expression.”

Founding Funders

The digitization of the JTA Archive would not have been possible without the generous support of the following donors:
  • The Gottesman Fund
  • Righteous Persons Foundation
  • Charles H. Revson Foundation
  • Elisa Spungen Bildner and Robert Bildner, in honor of Norma Spungen
  • George S. Blumenthal
  • Grace and Scott Offen Charitable Fund