Memorandum of Conversation, by the Director of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs (Henderson)

Participants: Mr. Acheson
Mr. Mahmoud Hassan, Egyptian Minister.
Mr. Ali Jawdat, Iraqi Minister.
Dr. Nazem al-Koudsi, Syrian Minister.
Mr. Charles Malik, Lebanese Minister.
Mr. Henderson, NEA.

Mr. Acheson received the Ministers of four Arab countries—Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon—this afternoon at the request of the Ministers. [Page 757] Mr. Henderson, of the Office of Near Eastern and African Affairs, was also present.

The Egyptian Minister, acting as spokesman for his colleagues, stated that they had been instructed by their Governments to call upon the Acting Secretary of State in order to draw the attention of the American Government to the anxiety and uneasiness which were being created in the Arab world as a result of reports to the effect that the President of the United States was endeavoring to prevail upon the British Government to permit 100,000 Jewish refugees to immigrate to Palestine.

The Minister stated that it was difficult for the Arab peoples to believe that reports of this kind could be true since they had been assured repeatedly by both President Roosevelt and President Truman that the United States would not support any policy which would result in a change in the situation in Palestine without consulting all concerned, including the Arabs and the Jews. President Roosevelt had personally assured the Minister that the American Government would make no move which would change the situation in Palestine without consultation with representatives of Egypt and other Arab States.

The Minister went on to state that in his opinion any step taken by Great Britain which might change the basic situation in Palestine would be contrary to the principles of international law. It was well established that a protecting power had no right to change the situation of a country to which it gave protection without the consent of the inhabitants of the protectorate. Certainly a mandated country like Palestine was entitled to more rights than a protectorate. Therefore, it would seem that it would be an abuse of power for Great Britain to take steps to change the situation in Palestine by admitting a mass of Jewish immigrants or by employing other measures to change Palestine from an Arab to a Jewish State without prior consultation with the population of Palestine.

The Minister continued that the four Governments and the Arab League, on whose behalf the Ministers were making their call, would appreciate assurances from the Government of the United States that the policy of the American Government with regard to Palestine had not changed and that the American Government intended to live up to the promises of consultation which it had made.

Mr. Acheson stated that he was not in a position to discuss the matter at the present time since he had not, during the brief period that he had been Under Secretary, concerned himself with the question of Palestine. The Secretary of State was expected in Washington in the near future, and he would be glad to convey the views of the Ministers to the Secretary. Just as soon as the Department was in a [Page 758] position to furnish the information which the Ministers desired, they would be informed.

During the course of the conversation various of the Ministers pointed out that the Arabs had always had friendly feelings for the Jews and that the Jews in Arab countries had, as a rule, been treated with consideration. These feelings of friendliness had not changed, and they were hoping that policies would not be adopted which would give rise to hostilities between these two peoples who had lived amicably side by side for many hundreds of years. They expressed their appreciation of Mr. Acheson’s courtesy in receiving them and said that they would be glad to await the return of the Secretary before replying to the instructions which were responsible for their visit.