The Standard Oil Co. of New York to the Acting Secretary of State

Sir: May we respectfully present for your consideration, and for whatever action you may deem necessary in the circumstances, an incident of which we have recently been advised. We quote below from a letter addressed to us by Ismail H. El Housseini, written from Jerusalem under date of September 14th, 1918. The writer is an Arabian gentleman with whom we entered an agreement in May, 1914, to develop certain oil-bearing properties in Jerusalem, owned jointly by him and his partner, Suleiman Bey Nassif, an Armenian:

“On or about the 30th August, 1918, I was asked by an officer belonging to the staff of the Occupied Enemy Territories Administration to open to him your offices in order to see your plans which are connected with your claims in Palestine. I declined to entertain his [Page 251] demand without the written consent of the representative of the American Consulate in this town and who is at present the Spanish Consul. On the following day the same officer handed me a written order from General Money, the Chief Administrator of the Occupied Enemy Territories, the contents of which are as follows:

‘Agent or Representative,
Standard Oil Co., Jerusalem.

Please allow Lieut. Goodrick to inspect maps of concessions already allotted to Standard Oil Co.

(Sgd) A. W. Money, Major Gen’l.

Economical Section,
O.E.T.A., Jerusalem.


“Being under Military Law, I had no alternative but to comply and accompanied by Suleiman Bey Nassif, my partner, and who is now here on a visit, we opened your office and permitted Lieut. Goodrick to see the plans and on his request we lent him three plans containing the first 18 claims (including the first 7 claims given over by us to your company). These papers have since been returned.”

A former employ[ee] of our Company, an American, who has since visited Palestine, comments on the incident as follows:

“There is one thing that I can very plainly say, that is, that by every means possible British will prevent any American Petroleum Company from operating or producing in any territory which they may retain after the war. They did everything possible to find our claims in Palestine and finally when they were unsuccessful, they forced Ismail Bey to produce all the plans of the various claims, which they proceeded to copy.”

In explanation of the agreement mentioned above, we beg to advise that it was made at Jerusalem, Palestine, on March 28, 1914, between Ismail Hakki Bey El-Husseiny Suleiman Nassif Bey, Charles Ayoub Bey and our Company and transferred to us seven mineral prospecting licenses granted to the three first mentioned parties on February 3, 1914, and confirmed by the Imperial Department of Commerce and Agriculture on March 26, 1914. The three holders of these licenses guaranteed that they were the exclusive holders of all the mining and mineral rights granted by these licenses. The transfer of these licenses was made to W. E. Bemis and Oscar Gunkel as Trustees for our Company by due process before the competent Ottoman Authorities in Jerusalem and Constantinople in May, 1914. These are the seven claims specifically referred to by Ismail Bey in his letter, and the balance of the eighteen claims shown on the plans cover properties for which our Company received mining licenses and permits direct from the Ottoman Government in 1914. The validity of all of these licenses has not been affected by our inability to develop them during the war, as [Page 252] we were advised by our Constantinople office on March 12, 1915, that they had arranged to protect the licenses by making applications provided for in the mining laws, in addition to which we were advised that the Department of Mines had requested the Sublime Porte to approve the extension of the terms for all permits for one year after the war.

As the plans referred to are the property of an American firm, we feel that the action of the British authorities constitutes a very grave offense and we respectfully place the matter before you for consideration.

Assuring you of our appreciation of whatever action you may take in this connection, we have [etc.]

The Standard Oil Co. of New York
H. C. Cole