Memorandum by the Deputy Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Alling) to the Assistant Secretary of State (Dunn)

You will recall that Mr. Grew asked you, in connection with the attached draft memorandum for the President regarding Palestine,59 [Page 699]whether there was any specific recommendation we could make to the President with a view to counteracting the unfavorable impression caused, in the Near East by his continuing to give encouragement to the Zionists.

We had made the memorandum an informational one only, for the reason that the President’s attitude on Palestine makes it difficult for us to follow any other course.

For some time we have been strongly of the opinion that the lack of any clearcut policy toward Palestine on the part of the United States has contributed materially to the instability of the political situation in the Near East and in particular to the continuance of friction between Arabs and Jews. Not only does this situation contain explosive potentialities of the most serious character; in addition, the recurring indications of support of Zionist aspirations in certain influential American Government quarters are affecting most gravely our standing in the entire area. It is our view, which we have long held and repeatedly made known, that unless some positive steps are taken to counteract the present tendency, our ability to afford adequate protection to American interests in the Near East will be seriously prejudiced.

As long ago as June, 1942, we began to urge the issuance, either unilaterally or in conjunction with the British, of a statement of policy on Palestine which would have had the purpose of warding off pressure from both sides until after the war.60 We would also publicly have taken in this statement the position that no settlement should be reached without prior consultation with both Arabs and Jews.

The proposed statement on Palestine was approved by Secretary Hull and the President and preparations were completed in Washington and London for it to be issued in July, 1943.61 At this point a leak occurred and the Zionists learned in a general way of our plans. They immediately bombarded high Government officials with protests. As a result, Mr. Hull felt that the matter should be decided on a military basis. The Secretary of War concluded that the military situation did not warrant the issuance of the statement and it was cancelled. In brief, a joint American-British statement, the exact text of which [Page 700]had been agreed upon as being in the national interest by the highest political authorities of both countries, was killed by the American Zionist pressure group. A copy of the text which had been agreed upon is attached. (Annex 1)62

Early in 1944 resolutions were introduced into Congress providing for unrestricted Jewish immigration and the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. A storm of protest arose in the Arab world. We accordingly again sought and obtained in March of 1944 the concurrence of the President in the issuance of the statement on Palestine, but the action at about the same time of Secretary Stimson in opposing the Palestine resolutions caused them to be shelved, and it was decided that it was not necessary to issue the statement.

Within a few days, however, of approving the issuance of the statement, the President on March 9 received Rabbi Wise and Rabbi Silver and they at once made an announcement (copy attached—Annex 2)63 to the press which appeared to affirm the President’s support of the Zionist position. This provoked an immediate protest in the Near East and it was necessary for us to prepare and clear with the President a confidential interpretation of the Rabbis’ statement, for the use of our Near Eastern Chiefs of Mission, explaining that our policy was still based on consultation with both Arabs and Jews. This explanation was in line with assurances which the President had given King Ibn Saud late in 1943 and which were subsequently repeated to the Heads of the other Near Eastern Governments. It was decided, however, not to make public these assurances to the Arabs. The Zionists, of course, gave, and have always given, the greatest possible publicity to all encouragement which they have, received from the President or any other officials.

During the 1944 Presidential campaign pro-Zionist planks were included in both major party platforms. This was not surprising and while the reaction in the Near East was immediate there was a general disposition to write off such pronouncements as mere party politics. When however, on October 15, the President addressed a letter to Senator Wagner64 in which he endorsed the Democratic Palestine plank, the matter assumed considerably more serious proportions. The President’s attitude as expressed in this letter not only went beyond any previous official American pronouncements on Palestine but raised doubts in the minds of the Arabs regarding the pledges which the President had given to them. As might be expected, our position through the Near East suffered a severe blow. There was [Page 701]an intensive anti-American press campaign in many countries, the Palestine Arabs boycotted the Culbertson Economic Mission65 and a number of protests were received. So intensive was this reaction that we determined that it would be necessary to apprise the President at once of the seriousness of the situation. I am attaching a copy of a memorandum (Annex 3), dated October 27, 1944,66 which we gave Mr. Stettinius and which formed the basis of a talk which he had with the President early in November.

When the Zionists desired the re-introduction of the Palestine resolutions in Congress immediately after the election, the President, evidently having these considerations in mind, authorized Mr. Stettinius to tell Rabbi Wise and Congressional leaders that the President felt it would be unwise to have the resolutions re-introduced at that time. Nevertheless, the resolutions were revived and were defeated only by the personal appearance of the Secretary before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The President’s position, it should be noted, was made known orally to Rabbi Wise, Mr. Bloom and others, but it was not put in writing. Moreover, the President sent a message to Senator Wagner in which he pointed out that the passage of the resolutions might lead to bloodshed between Arabs and Jews and should, therefore, be averted at this time although he added: “Everybody knows what American hopes are” (an apparent reference to Zionist aims).

The President’s feeling at this time was that he would shortly be having discussions on Palestine with Churchill and Stalin and that he did not wish to have his hands tied by any action on Capitol Hill. In connection with the Yalta Conference, we prepared a memorandum67 in which we urged that the Palestine question be taken up with Churchill and Stalin and proposed that the British should commence to implement their existing commitment to consult interested parties, by requesting Arabs and Jews to submit their respective views. The position which we took here had changed as compared with our earlier stand, for we had first to recognize that there had been an improvement in the strategic situation affecting the Near East and second to concede that we were unable to prevent agitation of the Palestine issue. We therefore sought in this proposal to confine the agitation to constructive channels. Palestine was not, however, discussed at the Yalta Conference. Later the President did, as you know, discuss the question in Egypt with King Ibn Saud.

During their meeting the President assured King Ibn Saud that he would make no move hostile to the Arab people and would not assist [Page 702]the Jews as against the Arabs. He pointed out that it was, of course, impossible to prevent discussion of the question in the press and in Congress, but he said that he gave his assurances as Chief Executive of this Government. Following his return, the President saw Colonel Harold Hoskins on March 3, and it was evident from their conversation, as reported to us, that he had been greatly impressed by the intensity of the Arab feeling with regard to Palestine. During this talk he replied in the affirmative when Hoskins asked if he did not agree that a Jewish state in Palestine could only be established and maintained by military force.

When on March 16 Rabbi Wise issued a statement saying that the President was still in favor of unrestricted Jewish immigration and a Jewish state, this was, of course, immediately protested by the Arabs. We secured the President’s approval to a message to our Near Eastern posts explaining that while the President did authorize Rabbi Wise to make this statement, it referred only to possible action at some future date and that the President of course had in mind his pledges to the Arabs that they as well as the Jews would be consulted.

This reply will probably not satisfy the Arabs, but it seemed to be the only constructive course of action open to us. In our opinion the situation is so serious, and the adverse effect upon our long-term position in the Near East so likely, that we should reconsider the entire position, adopt a definite policy on Palestine, and obtain the President’s concurrence, with the hope of averting any future misunderstandings as to what our policy actually is. In the last few days we have received communications regarding Palestine from King Ibn Saud, the Regent of Iraq and the Syrian and Lebanese Governments. We are replying to these communications, most of which are addressed to the President, by affirming again that our position is based upon consultation with both Arabs and Jews. But we must adhere strictly to this position, if we are to be of real assistance in working out an equitable future settlement. Of course, if we were actually to implement the policy which the Zionists desire, the results would be disastrous.

I should be glad to have the attached memorandum for the President rewritten if you think we can incorporate any of the foregoing in a memorandum to him. For example, the suggestion might be made to the President that he make public on some suitable occasion the assurances we have given the Arab Governments that no solution of the Palestine problem will be reached without consultation with both Arabs and Jews.68

[Page 703]

We had already arranged for the two attached Damascus telegrams69 to be included among the telegrams sent over to the President.

Paul H. Alling
  1. The draft memorandum, dated March 27, 1945, which it was proposed that the Acting Secretary send to President Roosevelt, read: “I think you will wish to note these two telegrams from our Chargé d’Affaires in Damascus [telegrams 13 and 14, March 20 and 22, pp. 693 and 695 respectively] with regard to the reaction in Syria to the statement regarding your attitude on Palestine made by Rabbi Wise after seeing you on March 16.

    While there were no actual disorders, there were student strikes in Damascus and Horns, some stores were closed, and gendarmes were sent to guard our Legation. A number of protests have been received at the Legation and the texts of two of these are given in the telegrams.

    You will recall that we have already had a protest from the Iraqi Government regarding this same matter.”

  2. For documentation regarding this statement, see Foreign Relations, 1942, vol. iv, pp. 538 544, passim.
  3. See ibid., 1943, vol. iv, pp. 790 804, passim.
  4. See enclosure to letter of July 19, 1943, from Secretary of State Hull to President Roosevelt, Foreign Relations, 1943, vol. iv, p. 798.
  5. See telegram 56, March 11, 1944, 11 a.m., from Baghdad, ibid., 1944, vol. v, p. 588.
  6. Ibid., p. 615.
  7. For documentation regarding the Culbertson Mission, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. v, pp. 38 ff.
  8. Ibid., p. 624.
  9. Memorandum entitled “Suggested Procedure Regarding the Palestine Question,” ibid., p. 655.
  10. Assistant Secretary of State Dunn, in a memorandum of April 10 to Mr. Alling, stated that he liked the idea of this paragraph and inquired whether the occasion of a visit to the President by a Near Eastern Chief of State would be appropriate (867N.01/4–645). In a marginal notation Mr. Alling suggested the impending visit of the Regent of Iraq. A statement for use on that occasion was drafted, along with an informational memorandum for President Roosevelt setting forth some of the points of view expressed herein by Mr. Alling to Mr. Dunn (867N.01/4–1245); both were set aside because of the death of President Roosevelt on April 12, 1945. For information on the visit of the Regent of Iraq to the United States, see bracketed note, p. 586.
  11. Telegrams 13, March 20, 4 p.m., and 14, March 22, noon, pp. 693 and 695, respectively.