Brigadier General Patrick J. Hurley, Personal Representative of President Roosevelt,48 to the President 49

Dear Mr. President:

Part I

[Here follows section describing in general terms General Hurley’s visit to French Morocco, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria.]

Part II

Running through all the discussions in the Middle East, most definite emphasis is placed not on war and not on peace but on the issue of establishing or not establishing a Jewish Political State in Palestine.

It is unnecessary for me to discuss for you in this report the arguments based on Scripture, on history, on the Balfour Declaration, on the Palestine Mandate, on the Joint Resolution of the United States Congress,50 on the British White Paper, or on the speeches of leading nationals pertaining to the Jewish National Home and a Jewish Political State in Palestine.

The debate on the issue of a Jewish Political State in Palestine in many quarters has become acrimonious. Among the Jews themselves there is a clear division of opinion on the question.

[Page 777]

For its part, the Zionist organization in Palestine has indicated its commitment to an enlarged program for (1) a sovereign Jewish State which would embrace Palestine and probably Transjordania, (2) an eventual transfer of the Arab population from Palestine to Iraq, and (3) Jewish leadership for the whole Middle East in the fields of economic development and control.

In Palestine itself there are considerable numbers of Jews who consider themselves primarily Europeans, and who would prefer to return to Europe if security of life can be assured there. There are others who would accept life in Palestine under advantageous conditions but who shrink from possible violence or the hard life of pioneers. Since the Zionist organization in Palestine exercises major control over the means of livelihood of the refugee Jews of that country, it is difficult to assess precisely the strength of actual or potential opposition to the organization program. Nevertheless it is clear that such opposition exists among the Palestine Jews themselves and that it will become more manifest when democratic regimes are reestablished in Europe.

Jewish communities in the Middle East, outside of Palestine, are long established and important, socially and economically. Leaders, and I believe a majority of members of these communities, view the Zionist program with a degree of distrust and alarm based on (1) fear that it may imply forced migration to Palestine, (2) fear that any attempt to implement the program would lead to persecution, and (3) religious differences among the Jews themselves.

Among the Arabs, there is little or no anti-Jewish sentiment as we ordinarily use the term; nor is there serious opposition to the concept of a Jewish National Home. There are racial relationships between the Arab and the Jew. Notwithstanding these factors, there is deep-seated Arab hostility to any immigration program intended to create a Jewish majority in Palestine and to the establishment of a Jewish sovereign state.

There is hostility also toward the Jewish claim that they are the “chosen people” and hence entitled, even though they are a minority, to special privileges. One leading Arab spokesman described this “chosen people” concept as kindred to Nazi doctrine.

The basic fear of the Arab leaders seems to be that a Jewish Political State in the Middle East, due to the influence of world Jewry on the great powers, would become the means by which imperialism would continue to dominate the Middle East. Such a condition would, of course, obstruct the establishment of really independent Arab political, states in an Arab union.

Nuri Pasha es-Said, Prime Minister of Iraq and one of the longtime proponents of Arab Federation, has suggested a compromise [Page 778] solution. This solution is sufficiently close to that set forth in the British White Paper of 1939 as to entitle it to the sympathetic consideration of the British Government. The Nuri proposals differ from the White Paper principally in that they would expedite the assumption of independence by Palestine; they would not recognize a continued British special interest in Palestine based on strategic considerations; and they would establish an Arab Federation embracing Palestine, Transjordania, the Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and such other Arab states as might desire adherence. The Jewish population in Palestine, with immigration limited by law so as to prevent such immigration from creating a Jewish majority, thus assuring an Arab majority, would have autonomous rights within the districts in which they constituted majorities. The Lebanese Christian community would have the same rights. These rights are to be protected by international guarantees.

Some such solution very probably would meet with acceptance by a majority of Moslem Arab leaders, of the leaders of Jewish communities in the Middle East outside of Palestine, and of significant numbers of the Jews within Palestine.

Throughout the Arab nations I found a well defined opinion prevailing that the United States, and not Great Britain, is insisting on establishing a sovereign Jewish State in Palestine.

Mr. Ben-Gurion, the Zionist leader in Palestine, discussed at length and with unusual eloquence the Jewish claim to political control of Palestine. Throughout his argument, Mr. Ben-Gurion assumed and asserted that the Government of the United States is committed and obligated, repeat obligated, to establish a Jewish Political State in Palestine.

This alleged obligation was said to derive from: (1) Scriptural promises and historical logic, (2) the investment in Palestine of Jewish American capital in reliance on the protection of the U.S. Government, (3) support accorded by the U.S. Government to the establishment of the Palestinian Mandate, and (4) support of the Zionist program implied in the Joint Resolution of Congress of 1922.

These Zionist arguments, intended to prove that the United States is obligated to establish a Jewish Political State in Palestine, do have an appeal and do encourage acceptance but they are in fact incorrect. It seemed wise, therefore, to point out to Mr. Ben-Gurion that none of the evidence offered revealed any obligation of the U.S. Government or the American people to support the present Zionist demand for creation of a Jewish majority and establishment of a Jewish Political State in Palestine. The documents involved in (3) and (4) were produced and it was shown clearly that the U.S. Government merely consented to the British Mandate for Palestine and, in the [Page 779] joint Resolution, favored only the establishment of a National Home for the Jews insofar as such a home would not trespass on the rights of Christian and other non-Jewish community in Palestine.

Speakers opposing the Zionist position emphasized to me that the handing over of the Government of Palestine to the Jewish minority would violate the fundamental principles of Americanism, the Atlantic Charter and the four freedoms.51 They pointed out further that if it is admitted that a minority has a perpetual right to restitution of territory taken from it by conquest, the enforcement of that principle would destroy the British Empire and would require the United States to make restitution to Mexico of much of our West and Southwest.

Auni Bey Abdul Hadi, leader of the Arab Moslem majority in Palestine, presented to me the argument in opposition to the establishment of a Jewish State there. He asserted that Washington appears to be lending its strength to this plan of minority rule for the people of Palestine, and to be supporting a program of Jewish migration to Palestine sufficient in extent to give the Jews an eventual majority over the Arabs. He considers such policy unjust and certain to provoke hostilities against the Jews not only in Palestine but in all other Arab nations.

I asked Auni Bey the basis for his assertion. He replied first that he was informed that the Jewish minority in the United States and in fact in many other nations controls the most powerful means of propaganda; that the Zionist organization has forced Washington to oppose the Balfour concept of a Jewish National Home and that Washington in turn has forced the British Government to acquiesce in the establishment of a Jewish Political State in Palestine.

I suggested to Auni Bey that he was still speaking in generalities and asked him if he could state specifically the source of his information. He replied that Sir Ronald Storrs, former High Commissioner to Palestine, who recently revisited Palestine and other Arab States, had told him personally that His Britannic Majesty’s Government is opposed to the establishment of a Jewish Political State in Palestine and still adheres to the Balfour Declaration and British White Paper policy for establishing a Jewish National Home in Palestine but that Washington is forcing British acquiescence in the establishment of a Jewish Political State. He said that many other British spokesmen had expressed the same opinion.

The widespread circulation of this opinion was revealed to me, but not at other times attributed to Sir Ronald Storrs, during conversations [Page 780] in Damascus, in Beirut, in Baghdad and in Tehran—with Moslems, Christians, Arab leaders, American missionaries, and others.

This line of propaganda is distinctly helpful to British prestige with the Arabs. I am convinced, however, that the British officials and leaders with whom I have conferred in the Middle East are definitely opposed to the establishment of a Jewish Political State in Palestine and are in favor of a settlement of the issue on the basis of the British White Paper.

There is another predominating rumor, which is so widely circulated and believed that it has assumed some of the definite attributes of a fact. It purports to be a quotation from a private conversation with Winston Churchill in Cairo, in which the Prime Minister allegedly said, “I am committed to the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine and the President will accept nothing less.” If this statement was made, the Prime Minister unquestionably shares full responsibility with you for whatever decision is reached.

Without attempting to assess responsibility for the Arab-Jewish problem, even while recognizing that the Middle East has been and is a zone of British influence, I believe the British are no longer able by themselves to settle this and kindred problems in the Middle East. Specifically it is my opinion that the British and the Americans must come together and share equally in the final decision for or against the establishment of a Jewish Political State and must share also the responsibility for the consequences of such a decision.

I am, sir, yours respectfully,

Patrick Hurley
  1. President Roosevelt had designated General Hurley as his Personal Representative to act as observer and to report directly to him upon general conditions in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia.
  2. President Roosevelt on May 18 directed that a copy of this report be transmitted to the Department of State, with the request that the Department forward to him a recommendation regarding the message.
  3. June 30, 1922, Congressional Record, vol. 62, pt. 10, p. 9799.
  4. The Four Freedoms were enunciated by President Roosevelt in his State of the Union Message, January 6, 1941, Congressional Record, vol. 87, pt. 1, p. 44.