Press Release Issued by the Department of State, October 14, 1938
Within the past few days this Government has received a large number of telegrams and letters from individuals and organizations in the United States concerning the Palestine situation, with particular reference to the reported possibility of the application by the British Government of a new policy with respect to that country. It is obviously [Page 954]impracticable to reply separately to the many communications which have been received and this statement is therefore being issued in lieu of individual answers.
As is well known the American people have for many years taken a close interest in the development of the Jewish National Home in Palestine. Beginning with President Wilson each succeeding President has on one or more occasions expressed his own interest in the idea of a National Home and his pleasure at the progress made in its establishment. American sympathy in a Jewish Homeland in Palestine was further manifested by the Joint Resolution of Congress signed by the President on September 21, 1922,75 recording the favorable attitude of the United States toward such a Homeland. In submitting the resolution the House Committee on Foreign Affairs reported that it:
“expresses our moral interest in and our favorable attitude toward the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people. It commits us to no foreign obligation or entanglement.”
It is in the light of this interest that the American Government and people have watched with the keenest sympathy the development in Palestine of the National Home, a project in which American intellect and capital have played a leading role.
On several occasions this Government has brought its views regarding the rights of the United States and its nationals in Palestine to the attention of the British Government. As recently as 1937 a formal exchange of correspondence took place and the following self-explanatory paragraph is quoted from the concluding note dated August 4, 1937, communicated by the American Ambassador in London to the British Foreign Office:76
“In expressing satisfaction and appreciation for the assurances furnished that His Majesty’s Government intends to keep the United States Government fully informed of any proposals which may be made to the Council of the League of Nations for the modification of the Palestine Mandate, I am instructed to request that these proposals may be communicated to my Government in ample time to enable it to determine what, if any, observations it may desire to make with a view to the preservation of American rights in Palestine.”
It is expected, therefore, that this Government will have an opportunity to submit its views to the British Government with respect to any changes affecting American rights which may be proposed [Page 955]in the Palestine Mandate. These rights, which are defined by the American-British Mandate Convention or Treaty of December 3, 1924, comprise non-discriminatory treatment in matters of commerce, non-impairment of vested American property rights, permission for American nationals to establish and maintain educational, philanthropic and religious institutions in Palestine, safeguards with respect to the judiciary, and, in general, equality of treatment with all other foreign nationals.
The rights of the United States in connection with any changes in the terms of the Palestine Mandate are set forth in Article 7 of the above-mentioned Treaty, which reads as follows:
“Nothing contained in the present Convention shall be affected by any modification which may be made in the terms of the mandate, as recited above, unless such modification shall have been assented to by the United States.”
This article is substantially identical with corresponding articles included in eight other existing agreements concluded by this Government with respect to the mandated territories of Syria and the Lebanon, former German islands in the North Pacific, French Cameroons, French Togoland, Belgian East Africa, British Cameroons, British East Africa and British Togoland. None of these articles empower the Government of the United States to prevent the modification of the terms of any of the mandates. Under their provisions, however, this Government can decline to recognize the validity of the application to American interests of any modification of the mandates unless such modification has been assented to by the Government of the United States.
It is the Department’s understanding that the Palestine Partition Commission, which was appointed some months ago to make recommendations with respect to partition, will make its report to the British Government at the end of this month and that no decision will be reached by that Government on the subject until after an opportunity has been had to give consideration to that report. In reply to a question in the House of Commons on October 6, 1938, Mr. MacDonald, British Colonial Secretary, is reported to have stated that the House of Commons would not be in the position of having to confirm or reject a decision already taken and put into operation but would have an opportunity of considering the policy before it was adopted and put into operation by the British Government.
The Department will, of course, continue to follow the situation closely and will take all necessary measures for the protection of American rights and interests in Palestine.