Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray)
Senator Copeland of New York called on the Secretary of State yesterday afternoon for the purpose, so he stated, of reporting to the Secretary the results of the observations he had made during the course of a recent visit to Palestine, accompanied by Senator Hastings of Delaware and Senator Austin of Vermont.
Senator Copeland stated that he had not sought or desired to be a member of the party making an unofficial investigation of conditions in Palestine, but had agreed to participate upon the understanding that he was to be free to express his views on the situation without any obligation to Mr. Hearst, who, so it appears, financed the trip. The Senator stated that he made this clear to Mr. Hearst himself, who accompanied the party as far as Naples, and that Mr. Hearst “naturally” acceded to Senator Copeland’s wishes in the matter.
After expressing his praise of the various Foreign Service officers in the Near East with whom he came in contact, the Senator recounted his experiences with British officials, including the High Commissioner in Palestine, who, according to the Senator’s own statement, granted him every facility for the purpose of making his investigations, even to the extent of furnishing armed troops on trains proceeding to various points in Palestine.
The Senator pointed out that he had conferred not only with Jewish circles in Palestine but also with representatives of various Arab groups. He expressed the view that the Arabs in Palestine had profited by Jewish immigration and by the introduction of foreign capital in the country, but he was emphatic in his view that the British authorities had been remiss in the execution of the terms of the Mandate and in having failed to effect a conciliation between the Jewish and Arab populations. He expressed the opinion that Great Britain, instead of devoting herself to her obligations under the Mandate, was using Palestine as a political football for her imperial purposes. He revealed, during the course of his conversation, that he intended to make public statements in the above sense.
In reply, the Secretary pointed out that our Consul General in Jerusalem is a thoroughly experienced Near Eastern officer who has served in the Division of Near Eastern Affairs and had charge of Palestine there, and that we had kept ourselves constantly informed of all phases of the present situation. The Secretary furthermore expressed his confidence that the British Government was fully aware of the views entertained in Jewish circles in this country respecting [Page 451] the Palestine problem. He mentioned the fact that recent British reinforcements in Palestine have brought the number of British troops there to about 32,000. He pointed out to the Senator that, although there are in Palestine more than 10,000 American citizens, not one of them has as yet been injured and that all requests made by the American Consul General at Jerusalem for the protection of American nationals and interests in the country had been promptly accorded by the British authorities. He intimated to the Senator that, while keeping constantly on the alert in this matter, it might be delicate to make any demands upon the British Government as to the specific manner in which it should carry out its obligations under the Mandate. In this connection Mr. Hull referred to the debates in the House of Representatives at the time the Joint Resolution was passed in 1922 favoring the establishment in Palestine of the National Home for the Jews.20 He referred to the fact that the Resolution as originally drafted stated that this Government “pledges its support” to the establishment of such a home and that, at the instance of Mr. Hughes, then Secretary of State, the above expression was struck out and the Resolution was made to read that the United States “favors” the above-mentioned project.
Mr. Hull further reminded the Senator that any intervention on the part of this Government might bring forth a suggestion from the British Government that we assume responsibilities for the execution of the Palestine Mandate and recalled that at one time it had even been suggested that this Government accept the Mandate for Palestine. The Senator replied that he felt sure we would run no risk today of having the Mandate offered to us again, in view of the present weakness of the British Government as a result of the Ethiopian fiasco and the recent Anglo-Egyptian Treaty21 and the increased importance which Palestine had assumed in the defense of British imperial interests.
At the conclusion of his conversation with the Secretary, the Senator emphasized that he had only come to make a friendly visit upon the Secretary and to report on his visit to Palestine and stated that he was not requesting the Secretary to take any action in the matter. He did, however, feel that the Secretary would be justified, in view of present conditions in Palestine and in view of our Treaty with Great Britain respecting Palestine,22 in reminding the British Government of its responsibilities under the Mandate. He did not, however, ask the Secretary to take such action.