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MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION
March 2, 1948
This group came to explain to me the purpose of their organization which was to call itself The Committee for Justice and Peace in the Holy Land.2
They outlined their program as follows:
“The aims of the Committee are:
1. to bring peace with justice to the Holy Land;
2. to further the best interests of all Jews, Christians and Moslems in the Near and Middle East;
3. to foster friendly relations among the peoples of these three faiths throughout the world;
4. to strengthen the United Nations.
These aims can be accomplished only by solutions which conform to the United Nations Charter, to international law, and to democratic principles.
We believe the following steps should be taken immediately:
1. The Security Council should appeal to both sides to ‘cease fire’ pending reconsideration by the General Assembly of its recommendation concerning Palestine, and reference of the case to the International Court of Justice as provided in the United Nations Charter.
2. The Palestine question should be removed as an issue in American domestic politics by adoption of a bipartisan policy.
3. The United Nations should act rapidly to find homes for displaced persons, and the United States should adopt legislation to admit its full share.”
After listening to comments from the group on their program, I thanked them for their courtesy in calling on me, and said that I was interested in receiving this expression of their views. I explained that it was our rule in the State Department that any exposition of our policy on matters before the United Nations would be made by our delegation in New York, and that I was therefore in a somewhat difficult position in speaking to them.
Referring to Senator Austin’s speech of February 24, in a strictly off the record comment, I told the group that we were determined to pursue the course in this matter that we felt was right, and that we would not be swayed from it by either Arab military threats or domestic political pressure.3
We had consulted with six experts on the United Nations Charter, and felt that our position was constitutionally sound, and that to give any other interpretation to the United Nations Charter would be contrary to the intentions of those who had drafted the Charter. We also had taken into consideration how our stand on the Palestine question would affect other issues now before the United Nations.
We had expected a storm of criticism following Senator Austin’s speech. There had been some criticism, but not nearly as much as we had expected, and there were signs that it was diminishing. There were also indications that many Jews in this country were beginning to realize the serious nature of the problem, and how it might affect them.
I commented that one of the group had mentioned their fear regarding the position of Jews in the Arab world, and added that there was another phase of that problem which concerned me, and that was the position of Jews in the United States. I did not like to think what would have happened in the United States if there had been American rather than British troops on the train which was blown up two days ago.4
With regard to the question of admission of DP’s into the United States, I stated that I had been pressing for the admission of a substantial number of displaced persons into the United States, as I felt that the integrity of our whole position depended on our willingness to accept displaced persons. Some of the strongest opposition had come from persons whose only reason for opposing the measure was that they did not like Jews. I added that I now felt more optimistic about securing the passage of such a measure.5
The group then stated that they had wished to make sure that their program would cause no embarrassment to me before launching it. I said that I saw no objection to it, but that they were in no way to indicate that it had my blessing.
In conclusion, I again emphasized the off-the-record nature of these remarks. The group promised to respect their confidential nature and that in any interview with the press they would state that they had explained their program to me and that I had expressed interest in their views.
NA/RG 59 (Records Relating to Special Subjects or Events, Miscellaneous Records, Palestine Reference “Book” of Dean Rusk)
1. This memorandum was written by Gordon Mattison, assistant chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs.
2. The anti-Zionist organization that was in the process of formation was to be chaired by Dr. Virginia C. Gildersleeve, dean of Barnard College between 1911 and 1947, a leading feminist, and a delegate to the founding conference of the United Nations in 1945. Four other members of the board, including Kermit Roosevelt (executive director of the committee), accompanied her to the meeting.
3. Regarding UN Ambassador Warren Austin’s speech, see note 2, Memorandum of the Press and Radio News Conference, February 26, 1948, pp. 000–00.
4. A February 29 explosion destroyed three cars of the Cairo-to-Haifa train near Rehoveth, (now Revohot) south of Tel Aviv; at least thirty British soldiers were killed. Responsibility for the deed was claimed by the “Stern Gang” (the British denunciatory label for Lehi—Hebrew acronym for Lohamei Herut Israel, “Fighters for the Freedom of Israel,” an armed underground Zionist faction that had as its goal the eviction of the British from Palestine—named after its late founder, Avraham Stern). New York Times correspondent Herbert L. Matthews noted a recent “sharp growth of anti-Semitism in Britain” as a result of various incidents in Palestine. (New York Times, March 1, 1948, p. 1; March 2, 1948, p. 11.)
5. See Marshall Testimony on Admitting Displaced Persons to the United States, July 16, 1947, pp. 000–00.
The bill to allow 205,000 refugees into the United States was signed on June 25 by President Truman, who scathingly denounced it as an anti-Semitic mockery that he would have vetoed had Congress not already adjourned until January 1949. The chief device for discriminating against Jews, he said, “was the provision limiting immigration to displaced persons who entered Germany, Austria, or Italy on or before Dec. 22, 1945”; but “most Jewish refugees who had entered those countries by that date have already left,” and most of those now there had arrived after the date and would be ineligible for admission under the law. (New York Times, June 26, 1948, pp. 1, 7.)