6-088 Memorandum for Mr. Henderson, July 1, 1947

Date: July 1, 1947

July 1, 1947
Washington, D.C.

Subject: Jewish Policy

I have just completed a discussion with eight Members of Congress, largely from the Senate, regarding Palestine and immigration into the United States—the Stratton Bill.1 The principal statements were made by Congressman Celler who I believe is Chairman of the subcommittee involved in the immigration problem and who comes from a Jewish district in Brooklyn, and by Senator O’Mahoney and Senator Pepper.2

The American policy as indicated in support of the Balfour Resolution,3 as stated by Mr. [Woodrow] Wilson, by successive Presidents, as affirmed by two resolutions I believe of the House and some thirty-odd states, and by most of the governors, indicates a very definite commitment to policy on the part of our Government in the opinion of these gentlemen. They feel that the policy should be clarified and reiterated; that we should not permit the representatives of the United Nations now investigating the matter to reach a conclusion before some statement is made by our Government. They refer to the fact that the Russians have indicated their policy, the British have made some declaration, at least confidentially, and that a definite statement by us is clearly indicated.

Senator O’Mahoney made quite a lengthy statement regarding the factor of oil in this matter and the fact that as he stated three remnants of the original Standard Oil octopus were now combined in the Middle East with control of the greatest oil reserve in the world. He wished to be clear that the policy in regard to oil was not dominating our Jewish-Palestine policy.

The statement was made that there had been reports that the declared statements of the Department at times had been largely nullified by confidential communications to the Arabs that they need not worry over the declarations.

I told them why we were refraining from bringing the strong pressure of our views to bear on the investigating committee during its investigation; that we were endeavoring to support the procedure of the United Nations. I declined to commit myself as to whether or not any change in policy was anticipated or whether or not any statement would be made prior to the report of the investigating committee.

I emphasized the consistency demanded on our part if my position was to be a strong one, of favorable action on the immigration bill. They explained that while it might be passed in the House it would encounter very serious difficulties in the Senate. They intimated that it was inconsistent for us to fail to take the leadership in doing our direct part in alleviating the Jewish situation.

Senator Pepper made the point that he thought the whole Jewish problem should be made into one piece so that there would be a commitment on the representatives in Congress to act favorably on the immigration section of the proposition assuming that they would be favorably disposed as to our action in regard to the statement of our policy as to Palestine.

Congressman Celler mentioned the very serious effect on the election prospects in New York where key wards were very largely dominated by Jewish vote. I made no reply to this.

The general reaction of the group showed no irritation that I would not commit myself to a statement of policy at this time or to an agreement that we would make an announcement of policy before the report of the investigating committee.

G. C. M.

NA/RG 59 (Central Decimal File, 867N.01/7–147)

1. On April 1, 1947, Illinois Republican Congressman-at-large William G. Stratton introduced a bill (HR 2910) to admit into the United States, over a four-year period, up to four hundred thousand displaced persons in United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration camps in Europe. There was significant public support for the bill, but as Time magazine observed, “immigration sensitive Congressmen preferred to sidestep such a politically explosive issue. The Stratton bill was dying on the vine.” (Time 50 [July 7, 1947]: 13.) See Marshall’s Testimony on Admitting Displaced Persons to the United States, July 16, 1947, pp. 000–00.

2. All of Marshall’s congressional visitors were members of the Democratic Party. Emanuel Celler, twelve-term congressman from New York’s Fifteenth District, was the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. The senators were: Lister Hill of Alabama, Francis John Myers of Pennsylvania, James E. Murray of Montana, Joseph C. O’Mahoney of Wyoming, Claude Pepper of Florida, and Glen H. Taylor of Idaho. Marshall’s appointments file does not name an eighth participant.

3. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was made in a letter dated November 2 from British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to Lionel Walter Rothschild, second Baron Rothschild, a leader of the British Jewish community, for transmission to the Zionist Federation. Balfour stated that the following had been approved by the Cabinet: “His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” This letter was published in numerous newspapers on November 9. (See The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann, vol. 1, series B, ed. Barnet Litvinoff [New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Books, Rutgers University, 1983], pp. 165n–66n.)