Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs (Murray)2

While calling on another matter a day or two ago, Mr. Nevile Butler, Counselor of the British Embassy, inquired what we knew of the American-Palestine Committee which had recently been formed in this country. I explained that we understood it to be a committee made up of senators, congressmen, two or three Cabinet members, and other prominent citizens, which had been organized by certain Zionist interests in this country. In that respect it was similar to, if not a continuation of, a committee of the same name formed some years ago to influence American opinion during one of the crises in Palestine. Mr. Butler said that from their point of view he felt that the formation of this committee was particularly unfortunate at this time and that if the Embassy had not been so occupied with other matters it would have made an effort to talk to some of the prospective members of the committee and explain to them some of the dangers inherent in such an organization. In explanation of this statement, Mr. Butler said that he was most fearful that the formation of this committee would be broadcast by the Germans and the Italians throughout the Arab world and would serve further to stir up difficulties with the British in Iraq and other Arab countries. Mr. Butler added that he hoped as occasion arose officials of the Department could explain this to any members of the committee with whom it was possible to discuss the question.

In this general connection I believe you will be interested in certain information which Mr. Harold Hoskins of FC3 has recently obtained during discussions in New York. Mr. Hoskins went to New York to discuss with the leaders of certain Syrian organizations there their [Page 597] attitude toward this country and toward the war, and I quote below the pertinent section of his report:

“From talks with the heads of all three organizations listed above, as well as with various individual Syrians, it is evident that this group is extremely loyal to the United States, anxious in every way to cooperate with the Government, and welcomes the idea of any request by the Government for their active efforts.

“None of these organizations is asking the United States Government to do anything for the Arabs, but all appear equally anxious that the United States Government should not take any position officially in support of the Zionist movement that calls for a political Jewish state in Palestine when, even today, 80 per cent of Palestine’s population is Arab, not Jewish.

“The leaders in these organizations would not, for instance, be interested in supporting short wave broadcasts from the United States to the Near East unless they had assurances that no pro-Zionist position was contemplated by the United States Government.

“Most Syrians, particularly the members of the Arab National League, favor the development of some form of independent federated Arab state in the Near East along the lines perhaps of the Iraq and Egyptian states, and they realize that such an Arab federation would require the backing of some foreign power. Naturally they would prefer this supporting power to be the United States, but since this seems unlikely they definitely prefer British to German support.

“In fact, the only fear expressed by any of the Syrians interviewed was that the British, by being too pro-Zionist in Palestine, would antagonize the 70,000,000 people of the Arab-speaking world and would thus give the German propaganda its opportunity to gain the support that it could not otherwise obtain.”

I believe it is impossible to overemphasize the difficulties which can be caused the British through the Arab-speaking world by propaganda issued by the Axis Powers to the effect that Great Britain and the United States are supporting the Jewish National Home in Palestine to the detriment of the Arab peoples.4

Wallace Murray
  1. Addressed to Assistant Secretary of State Berle, Under Secretary of State Welles, and the Secretary of State.
  2. Division of Foreign Activity Correlation.
  3. Assistant Secretary Berle made the following observations on April 29: “Mr. Nevile Butler made this same observation to me the other day. About the only thing to be done now is to play the matter down a little. I have spoken to Senator Wagner’s office (he himself was in Florida). I have likewise suggested to the White House that the President do not send a message of greeting to the American Palestine Committee dinner.”