Academic journal article Journal of Global South Studies

Argentina, the Arab World, and the Partition of Palestine, 1946-1947

Academic journal article Journal of Global South Studies

Argentina, the Arab World, and the Partition of Palestine, 1946-1947

Article excerpt


By the early twentieth century, Argentina had earned a reputation for self-reliance. Compared to other Latin American countries, it possessed enough political and economic capacity for unilateral action. The US government assessed Argentina to be a medium-class power with the capacity for independent action and "the capabilities for acting as the focus and head of anti-US sentiment" in the western hemisphere and beyond. (1) Scholar Joseph Tulchin goes a step further, reminding us that Argentina would go so far as adopting diplomatic positions that were otherwise detrimental to its political fortunes simply to showcase its autonomy. (2) Peron's Third Position had historical roots in Argentina's "dogmatic, uncompromising attitude" toward its diplomacy. That strategy influenced Argentina's vote at the United Nations on the partition of Palestine as part of a larger imperative to avoid regional economic and political isolation. (3)

While some dispute the inspiration behind Peron's Third Position, its language and application has clear roots in the Cold War divide and it operated primarily as a foreign policy issue designed to harness the collective strength of the developing world. (4) His policies aimed to build cooperation and tranquility with developing nations that served Argentina's geopolitical interests and represented helpful resistance to First World dictates. To that point, Peron's administration used arguably the most consequential deliberation in UN history to affirm the Arab position on the partition of Palestine, abstaining from the ultimate vote that would decide the border creation in the former British Mandate of Palestine.

Long mischaracterized as an "unwillingness to take a stand on Palestine's future," the vote actually signaled the Peron administrations intent to bypass the world order through quietly supporting opportunities for Arab expansion in the postcolonial world. In doing so, as Jorn Dosch writes, "Argentine president [Peron]... pioneered the principles of non-alignment... within the context of the "Third Position' ideology." (5) The story helps internationalize Latin America's postwar history, which tends to be treated as a regional experience, and its largely ignored contributions to the internationality of the Cold War. (6) More important, this brief moment in history illustrates the influence the Global South had in shaping the period. (7)


In Shadow Cold War: The Sino-Soviet Competition for the Third World, Jeremy Friedman explains that historians would be "well advised to consider perspectives from other capitals and the forces operating on their policies, keeping in mind that the role of the United States might itself be secondary." (8) Indeed, scholarship by and large treated the Global South as an extension of communist and democratic policies and proxy wars. The treatment portrayed the Global South "more as objects of manipulation than as active agents shaping their own fate." (9) This type of thinking privileges "the actions and motivations of policymakers" in Washington and Moscow, as Robert McMahon points out. (10)

In fairness, and as is evident in the case of Argentina and the Peron administration, leading powers had the reach and the resources to sell their own brand of governing ideology on a global scale. But this reality does not represent the totality of the story. When examined on its own terms, the world outside the US-Soviet struggle provides an elaborate history of agency, cooperation, and conflict. "The rise of a decolonized Third World," McMahon explains, "constitutes a historical force of perhaps equal weight and consequence." (11) In fact, approximately forty new nations were born during the years immediately after World War II "The newly emerging areas threw off the shackles of colonialism and neocolonialism during the latter half of the twentieth century, boldly articulated their own national aspirations, strove to achieve economic and political independence, and became increasingly influential agents of their own destinies. …

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