Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray)

During my recent visit to Palestine Consul General Wadsworth arranged for me to meet the most important Jewish as well as Arab leaders in the country. Outstanding among the former was Dr. Magnes, who is an American citizen and has been since 1925, President of the Hebrew University which was founded in that year. A biography of Dr. Magnes, taken from Who’s Who in America, is attached.10

It should be borne in mind that while Dr. Magnes is admitted, even by those Jewish leaders who differ with him, to be one of the most distinguished intellectuals in American, as well as international Jewry, his outspoken views on the subject of the National Home in Palestine for the Jewish people have for years been a cause of resentment and even bitter attack on the part of extreme Zionists. Dr. Magnes’ thesis is and always has been that there will never be a satisfactory solution of the Palestine problem in the absence of a serious effort in which the Jews should take the leadership to arrive at a settlement through conciliation and compromise with the Arab leaders. He has emphasized that the Jews, by reason of their greater intelligence, and particularly in as much as they are seeking to impose a practically unlimited immigration of Jews into Palestine, contrary to the wishes of the overwhelming mass of the established population there, should take the lead and spare no effort in coming to an early settlement that would be acceptable to the Arabs.

During my conversation with Dr. Magnes I asked him whether in his opinion there was still a possibility of a peaceful settlement between Arabs and Jews through negotiation. He replied that much to his sorrow he felt that a negotiated settlement between the parties in dispute was no longer possible. “Such a possibility existed even until after the publication of the Report of the Royal Commission of Inquiry last year, but the situation has disintegrated so lamentably since that time and the revolt has become so widespread that I am convinced that any settlement that may eventually be made will have to be dictated by the British and imposed by them on both parties to the dispute. I may say also that since these recent disorders I have received many letters from Jews all over the world expressing deep regret that they had rejected my advice and counsel in past years and had been misled by extremists.”

[Page 990]

I then inquired of Dr. Magnes what sort of solution he had in mind even though it would have to be imposed upon the Jews and the Arabs by the British authorities. He replied along the following lines:

“As you probably know, I have been in correspondence during most of last year with Nuri Pasha (a former Prime Minister of Iraq who is taking the leading part in endeavoring to bring peace to Palestine) and other Arab leaders, including the Grand Mufti, and I have proposed that a solution of the problem, just to both sides, would be the limitation of the Jewish population of Palestine during a period of ten years to forty percent of the total. I am confident that if I had been able to obtain the consent of the Jews to this solution before the disorders in the country reached their present intensity, a settlement could have been made on that basis which would of course have been acceptable to the British … Exception was taken to my proposal on the grounds that it would crystallize a minority status for the Jews in Palestine and that there would be no assurance that at the end of ten years such a status could be modified. To this I have replied that a ten year truce between Arab and Jew in Palestine would give us a breathing spell and an opportunity to put forth our best efforts to work out a permanent long range solution of this distressing problem.”

According to our figures Dr. Magnes’ proposal would entail the admission of about 10,000 Jewish immigrants into Palestine annually.

The various Arab leaders, without exception, to whom Mr. Wadsworth presented me, emphasized the fact that the present revolt in Palestine is a national one in every respect and that it has penetrated deeply into the masses of the population and can never be permanently crushed until the Arabs are relieved of the fear that the country is to be inundated, against their will, with an alien population seeking to become the majority population and to force the present majority into the position of a subject race. The Arabs repeatedly emphasized two points: first, that mass Jewish immigration into Palestine against the will of the settled inhabitants was a gross violation of President Wilson’s doctrine of self-determination and, second, that no country, and notably not the United States, would tolerate such an influx of aliens as has occurred in Palestine, particularly when the immigrating aliens made no pretense of concealing their intention of gaining control of the country of refuge.

I found practically all British officials of the Palestine Administration surprisingly frank in their criticism of the present vacillation of the British Government regarding Palestine and convinced that, regardless of intermediary subterfuges, their Government would in the end be obliged to limit Jewish immigration into Palestine to a point that would render the minority status of the Jewish population there a permanent one.

Wallace Murray
  1. Not reprinted.