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Promises, promises

Israel/PalestineUS Politics
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In supporting the establishment of the Jewish National Home in Palestine the United States had no thought of embarking upon a policy which would be prejudicial to the interests of the indigenous population of Palestine… We would be firmly opposed to any solution of the Palestine problem which would permit a majority of the population to discriminate against a minority on religious, racial, or other grounds… I am convinced, furthermore, that the responsible Jewish groups and leaders interested in developing the Jewish National Home in Palestine have no intention of expelling now or at a later date the indigenous inhabitants of that country or of using Palestine as a base for aggression against neighbouring Arab States…

No people have suffered more than the Jews during recent years from aggression and intolerance. No people stands more in need of world sympathy and support at the present time. It is therefore inconceivable that responsible Jewish groups or leaders could be contemplating acts of intolerance and aggression against Arabs in Palestine or elsewhere which would be sure to arouse public opinion and to provoke indignation throughout the world.

The quotation is from President Harry Truman, in a letter to the King of Saudi Arabia, January 24, 1947, from a US government publication quoted in Victor Kattan’s great book, From Coexistence to Conquest, International Law and the Origins of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1891-1949.

Note that Truman’s State Department (as Kattan shows with other documentary evidence like the above) later turned against Partition as it became clear in 1947-1948 that it was fostering violence between Jews and Palestinians and Palestinian dispossession and in spring ’48 was on the verge of endorsing a trustee agreement to maintain one state in mandatory Palestine. Truman reversed this decision, and in May 1948 recognized the fledgling state of Israel. (Presidential historian Michael Beschloss called this decision one of the bravest a president has ever taken.) Recently Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has said that the creation of Israel was a "mistake," but one that must not be undone.

Note that the promises that Truman made to the Saudis are ones that American policy continues to nullify to this day. Read Israeli lawyer Michael Sfard’s piece in Foreign Policy yesterday on all the ways that Israel is right now undermining the settlement freeze, including by quietly legalizing outpost colonies in the West Bank.

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