Sunday, January 24, 2016

The 1948 US State Department Invitation to Magnes

There are some people who were aghast at US Ambassador Dan Shapiro's latest apparent blatant intervention in Israel's internal affairs against the backdrop of President Obama's promotion of J Street and other alarming actions and statements.

This is not new.

While I had posted on Magnes' talks, I was unaware that the State Dept. was willing to present itself as the initiatior for the trip and his meetings with Secretary of State George Marshall and President Harry Truman originated with Washington.

In April 1948, the State Department saw fit to extend an invitation to Judah L. Magnes to come to the United States.

501.BB Palestine/4–1048: Telegram
[Document 137]
The Acting Secretary of State to the Consulate General at Jerusalem
Washington, April 10, 1948—2 p. m.secret   us urgent
258. For Wasson1 from Henderson. Unless you perceive some reason for not so doing it is suggested that you make arrangements at once to see Magnes and give him orally following confidential message from me:
“Gravest danger exists that unless success is achieved in UN efforts to bring about truce and an arrangement whereby interim governmental machinery will be provided for Palestine after May 15 chaotic conditions involving great loss of life and property will prevail in Palestine. At no time has there been a greater need for courageously conciliatory attitude such as yours on part of both Arabs and Jews. If such attitude is to prevail cooperation on part of moderate and conciliatory Arabs and Jews is essential. It is therefore hoped that you either alone or accompanied by such other Jewish leaders as you may consider appropriate will come to US at earliest possible moment.2
1 Consul at Jerusalem.
2 Henderson’s message was delivered to Magnes on April 12. Jerusalem advised that Magnes had “indicated great interest in proceeding to US but in view precarious health must consult his doctors who heretofore have prevented his travelling. He also seemed concerned re auspices under which he would travel. He felt that his hand would be strengthened if he could say he had been invited by Senator Austin or by Dept of State to assist in bringing about peace in Palestine. Failing this he mentioned possible creation ad hoc committee his friends and supporters in United States who would invite him.” (Telegram 425, April 13, from Jerusalem, 501.BB Palestine/4–1348)
Henderson sent a further message to Magnes on April 15 which read in part as follows:
“I made my suggestion because of my belief that your presence in the U.S. during the discussions of the Palestine matter might have a helpful moderating influence on both Jews and Arabs. We feel that if a truce and an interim government are to be arranged for with a minimum amount of bloodshed the advice and assistance of outstanding Jewish leaders would be helpful. In my opinion your ability to aid might be adversely affected if the erroneous impression should be created that there was any especial relationship between you and the U.S. Government. If you should come we would like to have you do so only because you personally feel that you may be helpful and not because of any suggestion which I have made. It is also essential that everyone understand that you have a free hand.” (Telegram 269, April 15, to Jerusalem, 501.BB Palestine/4–1348)
Jerusalem advised on April 17 that Magnes agreed with Henderson’s “view concerning relationship US Government” and that Magnes expected to arrive in New York on April 21. (Telegram 451, April 17, from Jerusalem, 501.BB Palestine/4–1748)

The record of the eventual May 4th meeting which contains this:

Dr. Magnes said that the first of the points he desired to make was that great pressure could be brought to bear on both Arabs and Jews if the United States would impose even partial financial sanctions. He pointed out that the Jewish community in Palestine is an artificial development and that, although the work of the Jews had resulted in many beautiful accomplishments such as farms, universities, and hospitals, which resulted from contributions from the United States, the money now contributed to the Jewish community was being used solely for war “which eats up everything.” Dr. Magnes said that the Hagaimah costs $4 million a month to run. He was certain that, if contributions from the United States were cut off, the Jewish war machine in Palestine would come to a halt for lack of financial fuel...As Dr. Magnes was leaving, he asked permission to direct a very blunt question: “Do you think there is any chance to impose a solution on Palestine?”. I replied that imposition of a regime implied the use of force. It was clear as daylight that other governments were eager to sidestep and leave Uncle Sam in the middle. I did not think it was wise for the United States alone to take the responsibility for military commitments in Palestine but I would be glad to give this matter further thought.


1 comment:

L. King said...

You may also be interested in Amitzur Ilan's Origin of the Arab-Israeli Arms Race" which I recently finished reading. If you haven't read it already, a copy can be found in Israel's National Library in Jerusalem.

There's also an interesting and somewhat different take on the Altalena incident in the book as well which I hadn't considered before.