The Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Henderson) to the Acting Secretary of State (Acheson)

Subject: American Promises of Consultation with Both Arabs and Jews Regarding Palestine.

Mr. Acheson: We are deeply concerned at the repercussions resulting from reports which are being widely disseminated to the effect that the President, without consultation with either Jews or Arabs, is bringing pressure upon the British Government to arrange for the immediate admission of 100,000 Jewish refugees to Palestine. You will recall that the Zionists have expressed their concern at what appears to be a tendency on our part to dispose of the problem of Jewish immigration to Palestine without consulting them. In the case of the Arab world, unrefuted allegations are being made that the United States is not living up to the pledges which it has made repeatedly during recent years, to the effect that no decision should be made respecting the basic situation of Palestine without consultation with Arabs and Jews.

The Iraqi Prime Minister on September 26 [25?] handed our Legation at Baghdad a note48 in which he stated that if it is true that President Truman is urging the British Government to open the doors of Palestine to Zionist immigration, such action “is contrary to all the promises and undertakings, oral and written, which have been given to the Arabs”. The Prime Minister asks point blank if it is true that the United States is actively intervening in the problem of Zionist immigration into Palestine. Our Chargé at Baghdad had already asked twice for instructions and confirmation of the reports regarding this matter.

In an airgram from Beirut dated August 31, 194549 our Minister to Syria and Lebanon refers to the presence of “apprehension lest, with the end of hostilities, American policy might under Zionist pressure be tending towards advocacy of high-level unilateral decision permitting a new wave of Jewish immigration into Palestine”.

In a telegram from Cairo dated September 24, 1945,50 our Minister to Egypt states:

“To the already mounting tension over the Palestine problem on Egypt’s eastern frontier came today’s Reuter report of President Truman’s [Page 752] proposal that 100,000 additional certificates be issued immediately for Jewish immigration. Press has featured the announcement sensationally. In view of this and the publicity given recent American Congressional visitors, interest in Arab cause does Department authorize me to make any statement to attenuate the shocking effect which the President’s declaration is having in Arab circles.”

Information from Saudi Arabia also indicates growing anxiety and irritation at what appears to be the present attitude of the United States with regard to its pledges concerning Palestine.

In case the Government of the United States should continue to press for the mass immigration of Jews into Palestine at this time, on humanitarian or other grounds, much of the work done in the Near East in recent years in building up respect for, and confidence in, the United States and in increasing American prestige, will be undone. Nevertheless, if it should be the considered decision of the responsible authorities of the Government of the United States to carry out such a policy (in the name of humanity) and if we should be willing to participate in the responsibility of such an undertaking, it would obviously be the duty of the Department of State to accept such a decision to do all that it possibly could to mitigate the damages resulting from it, and to assist in carrying it out.

The mere resentment of the Near Eastern peoples towards the United States on the ground that we have decided to disregard the Arab viewpoint with regard to Palestine would be unpleasant. It would be much more serious, however, if we should give them ground to believe that we do not live up to our firm promises already given. No matter what decision we might make, we should not overlook the assurances that we have given that we shall consult in advance the Arabs and the Jews. Those assurances have been given in writing by both President Roosevelt and President Truman. There can be legitimate differences between the Arab peoples, the Zionists, and ourselves as to what should be the future status of Palestine. There should not, however, be any differences as to the willingness of the United States Government to keep its word.

We feel that our good name is at stake in the Near East and elsewhere and we sincerely hope that before any further moves are taken by this Government in the matter of Palestine we shall be in a position to reassure the Arab Governments as well as the Jews that we intend to live up to our promises of consultation. We also hope that if we decide, regardless of reactions in the Near East, to embark upon a policy which seems likely to alter the basic situation in Palestine we shall actually consult with Arabs and Jews before taking any steps towards adopting and implementing that policy.

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If you would like to bring our views expressed herein to the attention of the President or to the Secretary, we should be glad to repeat them in whatever form you may consider appropriate.

Loy W. Henderson
  1. See telegram 373, from Baghdad, p. 744.
  2. Airgram A–126, p. 736.
  3. Telegram 1797, not printed.