More on Whether US & UK Supported Zionism & Israel in the Crucial 1940s -- Relevant to Baker-Hamilton, Walt-Mearsheimer, Polk, Carter
The UK was in fact openly hostile to an independent Jewish state in the Land of Israel, in fact Britain opposed Jews becoming a majority in the Land of Israel or even a sizable minority. This policy was expressed in the 1939 "White Paper on Palestine," a British policy statement that severely restricted Jewish immigration into Israel during the Holocaust, as well as Jewish land purchases in the country designated as the Jewish National Home in international law. Meanwhile, the British air force did not bomb the gas chambers or the crematoria or the railroad tracks up to the death camps, despite the repeated requests of Jewish leaders. Neither did the United States or the Communist Soviet Union. Communist and "Western imperialist" policy converged, since the Allied air forces could have reached Auschwitz and other death camps in the midst of the war --if they had wanted to. These locations were within reach. Further, British official policy dictated that the BBC --an arm of the UK Foreign Office then as now-- delay, restrict and minimize reporting on the Holocaust and Jewish suffering. Britain clearly was a silent partner in the Holocaust [see links re BBC below].
Moreover, British policy in Iraq allowed Arabs to massacre Jews when it was in British power to stop the massacre. Meanwhile, Britain --in the person of Anthony Eden encouraged the Arabs to form the Arab League, thus aiding and abetting an achievement of pan-Arab nationalism.
Here are some quotes about British siding with the Arabs [for whatever reason] in the late 1930s and the forties:
The late thirties was the period of England's appeasement of the Axis. It is understandable that in Palestine this political style led to seeking out the bully in the situation and --indeed the one most likely to go over to the Axis if not adequately appeased -- and attempting to come to terms with him. . . when the role of British imperialism is understood, the growing polarization between Arabs and Jews in the late thirties is altogether compatible with the view supported above. . .
[Joseph Neyer, "The Myth of Zionist 'Original Sin'," in I Howe & C Gershman, eds., Israel, the Arabs, and the Middle East (New York: Quadrangle 1972), p 150]
They [the Jews in Israel] were completely disillusioned with the original outside sponsor [the power mandated to foster development of the Jewish National Home], the United Kingdom, as mandatory power. The struggle against immigration and land purchase regulations had persisted for a decade. Both Arabs and British threatened the very existence of the Jewish national home at the very time of its conversion into a state. Neither the Arabs nor the British fully appreciated in the spring of 1948 the intensity of the determination of the Palestine Jews to defend their rights as they understood them, or the devotion of the Palestine Jews to the land. [J C Hurewitz, "Nationalism in Israel," in Nationalism in the Middle East (Washington, DC: The Middle East Institute 1952), p 9]These quotes show British-Arab collaboration and convergence. The following does likewise. It is a vignette of the "Palestine"-Egypt border in April 1948, still under British control -
Yallah! We climbed into the truck and rode until we reached the Palestine border ["We" = a group of armed Egyptian volunteers, Green Shirts, eager to fight for the Arab cause against Israel, plus an American journalist]. There we were halted by British soldiers. Two tanks stood near by. Beyond was a large British camp. The Green Shirts had now hidden their own guns and insignia, and posed as native Palestinians. The English went through the formality of asking: "Any guns on the truck?" We said: "No," laughing. The soldiers smiled back, took down our license number and, lifting the wooden barrier, let us through. We were in Palestine![John Roy Carlson, Cairo to Damascus (New York: Alfred A Knopf 1951), p 160]Note that the British soldiers knew that the Arabs were bringing guns with them, but did NOT search their belongings, while sharing the joke of an inspection with them.
The State Department was [and is] anti-Israel
The senior officials of the State Department have been described as a "largely elitist, continuous, and homogeneous group." They sought to promote abroad what they regarded as the "American national interest," which meant not only national power and prestige but equally "profitable business opportunities for American private interests.". . .
The State Department viewed Palestine as an integral part of the Arab world. Thus, anything non-Arab was by definition "inherently foreign." The Department's Division of Near Eastern and African Affairs (NEA) did recognize the existence of the Jewish community in Palestine (Yishuv) and Palestine's status as terra sancta to three religions, but these non-Arab factors were regarded as "incidentals, hardly enough to change the Department's view that Palestine was, and must remain, an Arab area." The department downplayed the reality of entrenched minorities and communal differences in the Middle East and naively expected that those minorities would simply be absorbed by the "native majority," much the same as waves of new immigrants were, or at least were supposed to be, assimilated in the United States. [Michael J Cohen, Truman and Israel (Berkeley: Univ of California Press 1990), p 87; the quotes are from Philip Baram, The Department of State in the Middle East, 1919-1945 (Philadelphia: Univ of Pennsylvania Press 1978)]
In the Department's view. . . Zionism jeopardized the consummation of an Arab-American entente. The greatest departmental fear, played upon . . . by the Washington oil lobby, was that the administration's support for the Zionist cause would turn Ibn Saud [king of Saudi Arabia, modestly named after his dynasty in 1932] against ARAMCO and drive the Arabs into the arms of the Russians. [Cohen, p 88]
Perhaps the most critical period came between the UN [General Assembly] decision on November 29, 1947, to partition Palestine and the de facto establishment of Israel in May 1948. During this time, the State Department, ably assisted by the Defense Department, the National Security Council, and the CIA, determined to reverse American support for partition [meaning at that time support for Israel in part of the Land]. In this battle. . . waged in Washington the oil lobby helped to provide the administration with background material on real or alleged threats to American interests in the Arab world. [Cohen, p 97]We see that in the time before establishment of the State of Israel, powerful diplomatic and intelligence agencies, as well as the immensely rich and influential oil lobby, strenuously opposed Israel's rebirth. James Baker comes of course out of the oil milieu. Now, "leftists" scribbling today often claim that the "capitalists" and "imperialists" backed Israel. Close study of the events of that time show the very opposite. Another fact that we may cite here is that the USA put an embargo on weapons sales to the Middle East at that time, while Britain was openly arming Arabs. However, both the Soviet Union [through Czechoslovakia] and France sent weapons to the Jews in Israel. Note that support for Israel was ambivalent in both the USSR and France. The French foreign ministry [Quai d'Orsay] was hostile. In any event, the usual "imperialist" motives did not dominate American policy towards Israel in that period. Indeed, the "capitalists" and "imperialists" in the oil lobby, State Department and CIA openly opposed Israel. I L Kenen, a journalist very knowledgeable about Washington policy in that period, wrote that after 11-29-47:
. . . pro-Arab forces mounted a propaganda offensive to reverse the [UN General Assembly] partition resolution. Their coalition included Arabists and Anglophiles, oil lobbyists, missionaries, and diplomats. [I L Kenen, Israel's Defense Line: Her Friends and Foes in Washington (Buffalo: Prometheus Books 1981), p 49]Elsewhere in the book cited [p 114] and in other publications, Kenen called these pro-Arab forces [which he saw as also including the CIA] The Petro-Diplomatic Complex. In any event, today's common narrative --or fable-- about who and what interests supported Israel in that period is false.
On US policy in the fateful years of the British White Paper, the Holocaust, and the Jewish underground against the British, see:
Frank Gervasi, The Case for Israel (New York: Viking Press 1967).
Joseph B Schechtman, The United States and the Jewish State Movement: The Crucial Decade, 1939-1949 (New York: Thomas Yoseloff 1966).
For an account of the BBC policy toward the Holocaust, see:
here & here & here & here & here
For Owen Lattimore's comments and analysis, see here.
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Coming: more on James Baker, more on Jews in Jerusalem, recent archeology in Israel, peace follies, etc.