Memorandum of Conversation, by Mr. J. Rives Childs of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

Participants: Mr. Peter S. George, of the Arab National League of New York City.
Mr. Jamil Beyhum, President, Lebanese Academy of Arts and Sciences, Beirut.
Mr. Amil Ghori, Graduate of the University of Cincinnati, now member of the Arab Higher Committee, of Jerusalem.
Mr. Murray,20 Mr. Alling,21 Mr. Childs.

Mr. George, who is well known to this Division, stated that Messrs. Beyhum and Ghori had been sent by the Arab Higher Committee to acquaint the American public with the aims and program of the Arab cause in Palestine and that he had brought them in to introduce them to the Department. (It may be explained that the Arab Higher Committee was formed in 1936 of the leaders of all Arab parties in Palestine [Page 702] to carry on the national struggle looking to the prohibition of Jewish immigration and of the transfer of Arab lands to Jews and the establishment of a National Government responsible to a representative council.)

In the course of the conversation which followed, the Arab spokesmen stated that they were desirous that the United States Government should maintain an attitude of impartiality toward the Palesine settlement. It was pointed out by them that the United States had gained great prestige in the Near East and that the principle of self-determination enunciated by President Wilson had particularly appealed to the Arab world. The Arabs in Palestine, it was stated, only desired the fulfillment of that principle, so far as they were concerned. It was added that the support in this country of Jewish aspirations in Palestine might have the effect not only of impairing the high prestige enjoyed by the United States in the Near East but also of affecting the material benefits enjoyed by this country in that area. The Arabs, it was explained, had fully as much sympathy as other humane people with the oppressed Jews; they felt, however, that it was inconsistent and unjust to endeavor to relieve the oppression of the Jews by resorting to methods which resulted in the oppression of the Arabs. Moreover, the Arabs considered that the problem of relieving the Jews should not be a problem imposed exclusively upon the Arabs of Palestine for solution but was one calling for sacrifices by humane people of all countries.

Mr. Murray stated that the position of this Government toward Palestine had been very objectively set forth in the Department’s statement of October 14, 1938 and he inquired whether they were acquainted with that statement. Mr. George replied that the statement was known to him and he considered it a very fair and objective presentation of the position of the United States, to which no objection could be taken. It was added that its purport, however, had been distorted by headline writers. It was stated also that the statement apparently had been given publicity in the Near East in only a garbled version and that its importance had been neglected in view of the almost concurrent appearance of statements by Senator Wagner and other public officials strongly sympathetic toward the Jewish cause in Palestine, which were misinterpreted as official expressions of the views of the United States Government.

Mr. Ghori expressed strong doubts of the success of the London Conference on Palestine, in view of the apparently irreconcilable program of the Arabs and of the Zionists. The Arabs, he said, insisted upon a cessation of immigration into Palestine, the withdrawal of the Balfour Declaration and the granting of independence to an Arab State in Palestine. The Arabs, he stated, sought only the application of the principle of self-determination and the right of Palestine, such [Page 703] as was exercised by the United States, to control immigration. After the recognition of immigration as a domestic matter for the determination of Palestine was accorded, the Arabs would be willing to give consideration to the admittance of Jews in reasonable numbers. Both he, a Christian, and Mr. Beyhum, his companion, a Moslem, perceived no reason for the continuance of the Mandate even over the Holy Places. He pointed out that the Holy Places had been undisturbed during 1300 years of Moslem control of them and that the keys of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem were even now in the hands of a Moslem family, and had been for generations, in order to prevent disturbances between the Christian sects interested in that site.

The delegation concluded by expressing their thanks for the courteous and attentive hearing given them and in the reiteration of the hope that this Government would not depart from the principles set forth in the Department’s statement of October 14, 1938, or interpose any obstacles to the attainment by the Arabs of Palestine of self-determination.

  1. Wallace Murray, Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs.
  2. Paul H. Alling, Assistant Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs.