I’ve kept dropping hints about this. It’s time to post some excerpts about the birth of Israel from the Forrestal Diaries– by James V. Forrestal, the first U.S. Secretary of Defense.
Forrestal is famous of course for tragedy: Not long after these thoughts were set down, Forrestal was sacked by Truman in March 1949 and died two months later, apparently jumping from a high floor of the Bethesda Naval Hospital, where he was being treated for depression.
My introduction. 1, know your narrator: James Forrestal was a serious man to the point of humorless, rigid/repressed, intelligent, selfmade.
The son of a contractor, he became a Roaring 20s socialite and a partner at Dillon, Read in New York and was not at all political in the partisan sense. His Quixotic quest as a Truman appointee was to depoliticize the Palestine issue, to get Republicans and Democrats to cut a secret deal not to pander so that the U.S. interest could be sorted out by elected leaders and their aides without political pressure. It’s a crazy quest in a democracy– but then, just as crazy as the idea that one special interest should essentially control policy in this area unto armageddon.
2, One lesson here is that Partition, which the UN Gen’l Assembly approved on Nov. 29, 1947 amid heavy lobbying, was opposed by almost all the wise men whom Truman had assembled to steer the ship of state, and meanwhile pushed by political rabbis, including Clark Clifford and Truman’s former business-partner Eddie Jacobson, and other Zionists or envoys for Zionists who beat a track into Truman’s office. Bear in mind that the ’48 election, with Thomas Dewey challenging Truman, is in the wings;
3, Note that Forrestal meets with two powerful senators from opposing parties, J. Howard McGrath, who heads Democratic campaigns, and Arthur Vandenberg, a key supporter of Dewey for president, and they both essentially say, It’s Chinatown, Jake! The issue is too radioactive in terms of donations for us to go near.
Repeat: Money– not voters.
4, All the pressures we see today to nullify Obama’s policymaking visavis a Palestinian state were there back then, and Forrestal identified them as a lobby. The question I ask again and again on this site is, How stupid are the American media and the people, that an assertion is made by serious people not once but again and again, from Robert Lovett to Forrestal to Rabbi Elmer Berger to Paul Findley to George Ball to Walt and Mearsheimer and David Hirst and Lawrence Wilkerson– asserted again and again over 7 decades, an assertion at the core of our foreign policy today, and the media still won’t touch it?
5, Forrestal was hounded by Zionists. Because of his stance on Israel, columnists Walter Winchell and Drew Pearson smeared him, and exhumed his unhappy marriage, including his role when his glamorous wife was robbed of jewelry on Fifth Avenue 20 years before these events. Speculating about the cause of Forrestal’s tailspin is not my focus. I would only point out the Terrible Pathos/Tragic Arc of being a Defense Secretary who is calling for military support to protect the life of U.N. envoy Folke Bernadotte in Jerusalem in summer ’48 and he fails, Bernadotte is killed, and a few months later, he too dies.
And Jerusalem is not internationalized, and Zionist territorial gains well beyond Partition are memorialized. Tragedy. The tragedy of the unfolding of extremist Zionism.
6, The diaries were heavily-edited, and often paraphrased, by editor Walter Millis. (The unredacted original, at Princeton, apparently has even stronger material than what follows.) OK, take it away Mr. Secretary:
29 August 1947 Cabinet
[Under Secretary of State Robert] Lovett reported on [Palestine]…He said that the tendency in the General Assembly toward taking decisions by majority vote could constitute a danger to the United States. There was some indication of a lash-up between the Asiatic peoples and those of the Middle East on a color-versus-white basis. He said that while much emphasis had been placed upon the distress and commotion among the Jews, there was an equal danger of solidifying sentiment among all of the Arabian and Mohammedan peoples against us.
4 September 1947 Cabinet Lunch
At the end of the lunch [Robert] Hannegan [Postmaster General] brought up the question of the President’s making a statement of policy on Palestine, particularly with reference to the entrance of a hundred and fifty thousand Jews into Palestine. He said he didn’t want to press for a decision one way or the other but simply wanted to point out that such a statement would have a very great influence and great effect on the raising of funds for the Democratic National Committee. He said very large sums were obtained a year ago from Jewish contributors and that they would be influenced in either giving or withholding by what the President did on Palestine.
29 September 1947 [Conversation with president]
I asked the President whether it would not be possible to lift the Jewish-Palestine question out of politics. The President said it was worth trying although he obviously was skeptical.. [I said] It was dangerous to let it continue to be a matter of barter between the two parties…
6 October 1947 Cabinet Lunch
Hannegan brought up the question of Palestine. He said many people who had contributed to the Democratic campaign fund in 1944 were pressing hard for assurances from the administration of definitive support for the Jewish position in Palestine. The President said that if they would keep quiet he thought that everything would be all right, but that if they persisted in the endeavor to go beyond the report of the United Nations Commission there was grave danger of wrecking all prospects for settlement.
7 November 1947 Cabinet
[Middle East is a tinder box, warns Secretary of State George Marshall] I repeated my suggestion, made several times previously, that a serious attempt be made to lift the Palestine question out of American partisan politics. I said that there had been general acceptance of the fact that domestic politics ceased at the Atlantic Ocean and that no question was more charged with danger to our security than this particular one.
26 November 1947
Lunch today with Senator McGrath.
[Summary is by Walter Millis, editor of diaries] Forrestal derived several points from McGrath’s conversation. In the first place, Jewish sources were responsible for a substantial part of the contributions to the Democratic National Committee, and many of these contributions were made "with a distinct idea on the part of the givers that they will have an opportunity to express their views and have them seriously considered on such questions as the present Palestine question." There was a feeling among the Jews that the United States was not doing what it should to solicit votes in the U.N. General assembly in favor of the Palestine partition. (To this Forrestal objected that it was "precisely what the State Department wanted to avoid; that we had gone a very long way indeed in supporting partition and that proselytizing for votes and support would add to the already serious alienation of Arabian good will.”) …
[The two men discuss a possible Gallup poll to see if Americans would support use of force to preserve Partition.]
I hoped that Senator McGrath would give a lot of thought to this matter because it involved not merely the Arabs of the Middle East, but also might involve the whole Moslem world with its four hundred millions of people—Egypt, North Africa, India and Afghanistan.
1 December 1947
…Lovett reported on the result of the United Nations action on Palestine over the week end [vote in favor of Partition]. He said he had never in his life been subject to as much pressure as he had been in the three days beginning Thrusday morning and ending Sunday night. [Herbert Bayard] Swope, Robert Nathan, were among those who had importuned him… The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, which has a concession in Liberia, reported that it had been telephoned to and asked to transmit a message to their representative in Liberia directing him to bring pressure on the Liberian government to vote in favor of partition. The zeal and activity of the Jews had almost resulted in defeating the objectives they were after.
I remarked that many thoughtful people of the Jewish faith had deep misgivings about the wisdom of the Zionists’ pressures for a Jewish state in Palestine, and I also remarked that the New York Times editorial of Sunday morning pointed up those misgivings when it said, “Many of us have long had doubts… concerning the wisdom of erecting a political state on a basis of religious faith." I said I thought the decision was fraught with great danger for the security of this country….
3 December 1947
Lunch today with [former Secretary of State] Jimmy Byrnes. We talked Palestine… He said that David Niles [adviser to Truman, pro-Zionist] and Sam Rosenman were chiefly responsible for the President’s decision [partition]; that both had told the President that Dewey was about to come out with a statement favoring the Zionist position on Palestine, and that they had insisted that unless the President anticipated this movement New York State would be lost to the Democrats. ….
I said I thought it was a most disastrous and regrettable fact that the foreign policy of this country was determined by the contributions a particular bloc of special interests might make to the party funds…
13 December 1947
At the Gridiron Dinner tonight I spoke to Governor Dewey about Palestine and posed to him the question of getting nonpartisan action on this question, which I said was a matter of the deepest concern to me in terms of the security of the nation. The Governor said he agreed in principle but that it was a difficult matter to get results on because of the intemperate attitude of the Jewish people who had taken Palestine as the emotional symbol, because the Democratic Party would not be willing to relinquish the advantages of the Jewish vote….
(…[T]o his [Dewey’s] inquiry as to what we could do now, I said there would inevitably be two things coming up: (1) the arming of the Jews to fight the Arabs (2) unilateral action by the U.S. to enforce the decision of the General Assembly.
At this point Vandenberg interjected to say that on the question of unilateral action he was completely and unequivocably [sic] against such action because it would breed in his opinion a wave of violent anti-Semitism in this country.)
16 January 1948
[Millis writes that Forrestal prepares a paper for Lovett; and that Forrestal] had discussed the question, the paper concluded, “with a number of people of the Jewish faith who hold the view that the present zeal of the Zionists can have the most dangerous consequences, not merely in their divisive effects in American life, but in the long run on the position of the Jews throughout the world.”
[Lovett produced a paper from the State Department, Millis continues] This, as Forrestal paraphrased it, concluded that the U.N. partition plan was “not workable,” adding that the United States was under no commitment to support the plan if it could not be made to work without resort to force; that it was against the American interest to supply arms to the Jews while we were embargoing arms to the Arabs, or to accept unilateral responsibility for carrying out the U.N. decision…
Forrestal [again per Millis] felt that the State Department was “seriously embarrassed and handicapped by the activities of Niles at the White House in going directly to the President on matters involving Palestine.
"… I gave it as my view that the Secretary of State could not avoid grasping the nettle of this issue firmly, and that it was too deeply charged with grave danger to this country to allow it to remain in the realm of domestic politics."
12 February 1948 Meeting-National Security Council
[A]ny serious attempt to implement the General Assembly’s recommendation on Palestine would set in train events that must finally result in at least a partial mobilization of U.S. forces, including recourse to the Selective Service.
3 February 1948
[Discusses idea of depoliticizing it with late president’s son, Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr, a storng supporter of Jewish state]
I thought the methods that had been used by people outside of the Executive branch of the government to bring coercion and duress on other nations in the General Assembly bordered closely onto scandal. … I said I was forced to repeat to him what I had said to Senator McGrath in response to the latter’s observation that our failure to go along with the Zionists might lose the states of New York, Pennsylvania and California—that I thought it was about time that somebody should pay some consideration to whether we might not lose the United States. …
Had lunch with B[ernard]. M. Baruch. …
He took the line of advising me not to be active in this particular matter and that I was already identified, to a degree that was not in my own interests, with opposition to the United Nations policy on Palestine. He said he himself did not approve of the Zionists’ actions, but in the next breath said that the Democratic Party could only lose by trying to get our government’s policy reversed….
It was also on the 11th that there came… an urgent request from the State Department for a detail of enlisted men from the Mediterranean Fleet to assist Count Bernadotte, the United Nations mediator…
21 October 1948 National Security Council meeting
[according to an assistant’s note.] “Mr. Forrestal said that actually our Palestine policy had been made for ‘squalid political purposes.’… He hoped that some day he would be able to make his position on this clear.”