867N.00/612: Telegram

The Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

153. For the Under Secretary from Lt. Colonel Hoskins:4

In accordance your suggestion am cabling you direct on one situation in this area that, unless some action is taken, may soon become serious. In venturing any comments on the complicated Arab-Jewish problem I realize I am moving into deep waters where you may prefer [Page 748] I should not enter. However, someone must grapple with the situation. If matter is allowed to drift, a very bloody conflict is in the making, that in addition to its domestic repercussions in Britain and the United States will inflame not simply Palestine but in varying degrees all of Moslem world from Casablanca to Calcutta.
From my recent survey trip over Arab Near East I have come to conclusion that unless positive steps are taken to prevent it there may well be a renewed outbreak of fighting between Zionists and Arabs in Palestine before end of the war and perhaps even this spring. In turn such fighting is likely to lead to the massacre of Jews in Syria, Iraq and other parts of Arab Near East. As against this opinion I should also state that although some British officials in this area share my view, most of them do not believe situation is immediately serious. I have, however, found very few who do not at least agree that as things are now going Arab-Jewish conflict will probably break out soon after the war is over.
On the Jewish side I have found Zionist officials of the Jewish Agency5 uncompromisingly outspoken in their determination that Palestine at end of this war shall become not merely a national home for the Jews, but a Jewish state despite any opposition from the 1,000,000 Arabs living there. In various ways main result of many of their efforts seems to be to goad Palestinian Arabs into breaking informal truce that has existed since war began. This enormously increased assurance on part of Jews in Palestine stems from two main sources: (a) Their feeling that they have the increasing support of public opinion in Great Britain and the United States; (b) their confidence in their increased numbers and in their supply of arms that makes them feel they can more than hold their own in actual fighting with Arabs of Palestine.
It is no secret that the Hagana, their secret Jewish military organization, has plans fully made and is well equipped not only with small arms, but also with tommy-guns and machine guns many of them purchased from Vichy French forces in Syria and smuggled into Palestine during past 2 years.
Arabs on the other hand feel that during the war Jews have continued their world-wide propaganda for Zionist state. Arabs [Page 749] fear, therefore, that at the end of war they will be faced with a fait accompli where Palestine will by agreement between the great powers be handed over to Jews. It is this fear that is being constantly played on in Axis propaganda to this area. Furthermore, Nazis have of late been increasingly effectively soft-pedaling any Axis interests in matter and stressing the one fact that a United Nations’ victory means certain loss for the Arabs of Palestine to the Jews.
Any serious conflict between Arabs and Jews no matter how it originates will if allowed to continue for any length of time have repercussions over all the neighboring area. From past experience Jews know that when serious Arab-Jewish troubles start in Palestine Arab assistance from eight bordering states will again pour in. This increased opposition, the Jews admit, they are not strong enough to overcome. To meet this situation Jews are counting on British or British and American military assistance. This also the Nazis fully recognize and they are bending their efforts to time any such outbreak for moment when United Nations will least desire to divert from active operations elsewhere fighting troops necessary to quell civil war in Palestine.
Meanwhile, even if a detailed solution of the Arab-Jewish problem must await a postwar settlement, much could be accomplished in reducing present tension and helping the situation from boiling over during the war period.
A brief statement by the United States or, even more effective, a joint statement by British and the United States that would rule out in advance any Allied military support for the extreme positions of either Zionists or Arab nationalists would go far toward accomplishing this result.6
In addition to issuance now of such a statement I have two other specific suggestions to make:
So that American public opinion may realize more fully that there are two sides to the case and that Palestine is not an uninhabited area into which several million Jews from Europe can at end of war be dropped and immediately find land and livelihood, I suggest that Emir Abdullah of Trans-Jordan, together with a carefully chosen group of five or six moderate Arab nationalists, be permitted to visit the United States. His presence there can, I believe, be utilized as were the visits of King George of Greece and King Peter of Yugoslavia to make clear to American public certain Arab aspects of the problem that are not now understood. Admittedly Abdullah is not a perfect vehicle, but he would appear on the whole to be most satisfactory one that can be found. His entourage should contain moderate [Page 750] Arab nationalists representing various religious faiths and should include representatives from Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Trans-Jordan. These men should be chosen on the basis that they are willing to face the fact that there are 500,000 Jews in Palestine who should not and cannot be removed, any more than the 1,000,000 Arab inhabitants. They should be men who are interested in working out an amicable solution and who start from the facts and conditions as they are today rather than as they might have preferred them to be. There are a number of such men available.
On the Jewish side in Palestine there are fortunately also certain individuals and groups that increasingly realize the necessity of working out a peaceful solution with the Arabs. Among these are Mrs. Henrietta S. Zold of the Youth Immigration Bureau, Dr. J. L. Magnes, President of Hebrew University, and Mr. Bendashov, leader of one wing of Jewish labor movement, Hashon Mirhatzair. Dr. Magnes has outlined his ideas of a compromise in the current January issue of Foreign Affairs. I suggest that these moderates also be allowed to visit the United States to develop their case. In doing so they would, I believe, gain support of many American Jews who favor additional home for the Jews in Palestine, but who do not favor extreme Zionist position of the Jewish Agency.
Every effort should be made to enable these two moderate groups while they are in the United States to reach an amicable solution. Such an effort would I am sure receive the strong support and assistance of various Christian groups in the United States who are also anxious to see a peaceful settlement of Palestine problem fair to both Arabs and Jews. Such Christian groups could rally wide American support for such a compromise plan if they make clear to the American people the single fact that effective American support for either extreme solution, whether Arab or Jewish, would in effect be committing the United States to use of military force in this area and, based on past British experience, a resulting loss of lives of American soldiers.
I have discussed in a general way ideas outlined above with Mr. Casey7 and various British and American officials and have found them sufficiently sympathetic so that they thought I should at least present them to you. If you feel they are worth further exploration and wish me to do so I can develop them more concretely and can, for example, suggest specific Arabic individuals who I believe would be interested in working on such a program.
Joint United States Chiefs of Staff already have under consideration my cable8 from Jerusalem to General Deane9 regarding my possible activities in Syria. In that cable I suggested advisability of my being called back to Washington for a brief period of consultation. If you feel such a step would also be desirable for a detailed [Page 751] discussion of the above Arab-Jewish suggestions you may care so to advise Admiral Leahy10 with whom General Deane is associated.

Repeated to Jerusalem and Beirut. [Hoskins.]

  1. Lt. Col. Harold B. Hoskins; for correspondence regarding the dispatch of the Hoskins Mission to the countries of the Near East, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. iv, pp. 24 ff.
  2. Article 4 of the League of Nations Mandate to the United Kingdom for Palestine provided that “An appropriate Jewish agency shall be recognised as a public body for the purpose of advising and co-operating with the Administration of Palestine in such economic, social and other matters as may affect the establishment of the Jewish national home and the interests of the Jewish population in Palestine …” ( Foreign Relations, 1924, vol. ii, p. 214.) The constitution of the Jewish Agency of August 14, 1929, had the formal approval of the British Government. The Jewish Agency was the recognized representative of the Jewish interest in Palestine, and the Executive of the Agency, located in Palestine, conducted all official negotiations with the Mandatory Power.
  3. Wallace Murray, the Adviser on Political Relations, sought to implement this suggestion by submitting a proposed draft statement to the Secretary of State and the Under Secretary of State (Welles) on February 1 (867N.01/1841). No action, however, was forthcoming.
  4. Richard G. Casey, British Minister of State Resident in the Middle East.
  5. Telegram No. 10, January 14, not printed.
  6. Brig. Gen. John R. Deane, Secretary, Joint Chiefs of Staff.
  7. Adm. William D. Leahy, Chief of Staff to the Commander in Chief, United States Army and Navy.