Monday, March 17, 2014
Roosevelt’s Solution For Palestine
With the rise of Nazi Germany during the years 1933 -1938 the Nazi regime free immigration of the Jews of Europe was of the utmost issue for Jewish circles. The critical period of 1938-1941 was the period of the beginnings of war in
Europe. It was also the period of British appeasement to the Arabs of the severe restrictions of Jewish immigration in the White Paper of 1939.
President Roosevelt's interest in transferring Arabs from
Palestine began in October 1938 after a meeting with Justice Louis Brandeis. Brandeis reported on this meeting to Felix Frankfurter who in turn passed on the report to Stephen Wise and to presidential adviser and script-writer Ben Cohen. Brandeis pointed out in his report of this meeting how Roosevelt appreciated the significance of Palestine, “the need of keeping it whole and of making it Jewish". He was tremendously interested - and wholly surprised - on learning of the great increase in Arab population since the First World War; and on learning of the plenitude of land for Arabs in Arab countries, about which he made specific inquiries.”
The Historian Zaha Bustami commented that it was, “…difficult to tell who brought up this subject during the meeting, but the information on Arab demography was provided by Frankfurter.” Who had met with FDR a few days earlier a meeting to discuss the Palestine situation; however there are no records of what
Roosevelt said at this meeting.
On 25th of October 1938,
Roosevelt had a meeting with the British Ambassador to the U.S. Sir Ronald Lindsay. Lindsay wrote that the President was “impressed by the fact that the Arab population had increased by 400,000 since the establishment of the [League Of Nations] Mandate.”
FDR also contemplated the creation of a program of well-digging across the
Jordan. Roosevelt firmly believed that, “we ought to be able to find that money for the purpose”. FDR believed that once a large quantity of water would be made available for irrigation and the cultivable land thus created in Trans-Jordanian territory it;
“should be set apart for Arabs from Palestine. They should be offered land free, and that ought to be enough to attract them; and failing the attraction, they should be compelled to emigrate to it. Palestine could thus be relieved of 200,000 Arabs”.
FDR also added that it would “be necessary to prescribe that no Arab should be allowed to immigrate into Palestine, and no Jew into the Arab lands.”
The Assistant Secretary of State Adolf Berle, later recalled that,” The President was full of Palestine” and that FDR called on Ronald Lindsay to call a conference of Arab princes. FDR was adamant in having them lay down; “say $200,000,000 buying a farm for every Arab who wishes to leave
Palestine, the money chiefly to be used in digging wells, which is perfectly possible in the Hedjaz.” Here, it is quite clear that Roosevelt intended the Arabs to "foot the bill" for the transfer of the Arabs of Palestine.
British Ambassador Lindsay therefore asked Lancelot Oliphant of the British Foreign Office to have someone prepare a “short answer to this scheme” to have in readiness, although he stressed that he would not take the initiative in sending a reply to the President. Lindsay’s request was first dealt with by Lacy Baggalay of the Foreign Office. He first quoted experts, who held that the possibilities of finding water in quantity by boring in Transjordan were, “quite restricted”. He then continued, “But even assuming that water could be found in large quantities, it is now out of the question that any Arabs should be 'compelled' to emigrate to the lands thus brought into cultivation.
"Whatever else may remain uncertain about the problem of
Palestine, the impossibility of compulsion on this scale is now beyond dispute."
There are those who blame the genesis of
Roosevelt's idea of a forcible or voluntary eviction of Palestinian Arabs to Trans-Jordan or other neighboring lands on Roosevelt’s contacts with Zionist circles in the summer of 1938 perhaps in discussions with Brandeis and Frankfurter.
So "Who" actually had given
Roosevelt the idea that irrigation of the Transjordan desert would create a suitable location for the Arab transferees? The indications are that it came from the State Department where at that period Edward Norman was in contact with government officials to advance his own transfer plans. Although Norman was at the time in contact with the State Department, his plans were in fact to irrigate Iraq by means of the dams it had recently constructed.
"The British should explain to them that they, the Arabs, had within their control large territories ample to sustain their people.” He also pointed out that Jewish immigration to
Palestine and Transjordan would not harm the Arabs since there was plenty of room for everyone. Roosevelt then went on to propose transfer of Arabs, “Some of the Arabs on poor land in Palestine could be given much better land in adjoining Arab countries."
British Ambassador Lindsay answered
Roosevelt by saying that there was opposition in both the Arab and Moslem world but the President “belittled this opposition and thought it due largely to British indecision and conflicting policy.”
Towards the end of December the British Charge d'Affaires in Washington met with Sumner Welles and handed him a memorandum on transfer received from the British Government, adding that Roosevelt would probably be interested in it. After pointing out that the latest available evidence did not bear out the belief that any considerable quantity of water could be obtained in Transjordan at shallow levels by boring wells, the memorandum continued,
“Suggestions have also been made that if the free offer of cultivable land in Transjordan did not suffice to attract the Arabs from Palestine; they might be compelled to emigrate from it, with the object of vacating land in Palestine for settlement by Jews.”
Until the Wannssee conference of January 1942 there was still hope in Jewish / Zionistic circles that the Nazis would allow mass Jewish immigration. With the inevitable invasion of
Poland by the Nazis in September 1939 the doors of Europe began to close and the fate of European Jewry was sealed.
The British Government “Complicity” can be found in
Whitehall’s fear of the repercussions in Britain, India and the Moslem world if they should back Roosevelt's plan of Arab "resettlement". They saw the threat to the sources of raw materials and oil for the Empire in agreeing to Roosevelt’s proposals. Their Empire would be in jeopardy due to their promises made to the Jews.
Lancelot Oliphant of the British Foreign Office brought, in his words, the “fallacy” which Roosevelt was using to try and solve the Palestine problem in a reply sent to Lindsay saying that the British government would not even contemplate such an idea. That His Majesty's Government would be accused of such a thing. That it would be “thoroughly unjust” to compel the "long-established community" the Arabs to transfer from
Palestine “to make room for immigrants [Jews] of a totally different race who have had no connection with [ Palestine] for at least 2,000 years.”
The British Government also felt that the problem of “redistribution of the Arab and Jewish communities in
Palestine and across the Jordan”, was not one of finance but rather of politics.On two occasions, Roosevelt raised his plan with British representatives but he was “firmly told that no amount of financial inducement would move the Palestinian Arabs.” Roosevelt however, was unconvinced by this British reply.
Chaim Weizmann had his first meeting with
Roosevelt in February 1940. At this meeting, Roosevelt put forward the idea of bribing the Arabs, asking Weizmann “What about the Arabs? Can't that be settled with a little baksheesh?” Weizmann replied that “it wasn't as simple as all that. Of course the Jewish people would compensate the Arabs in a reasonable way for anything they got, but there were other factors appertaining to a settlement.”
In December 1942 two and a half years later,
Roosevelt told Treasury Secretary,
Henry Morgenthau, “I actually would put a barbed wire around
Palestine, and I would begin to move the Arabs out of Palestine.... I would provide land for the Arabs in some other part of the Middle East.... Each time we move out an Arab we would bring in another Jewish family.... But I don't want to bring in more than they can economically support.... It would be an independent nation just like any other nation.... Naturally, if there are 90 per cent Jews, the Jews would dominate the government.... There are lots of places to which you could move the Arabs. All you have to do is drill a well because there is a large underground water supply, and we can move the Arabs to places where they can really live.”
In October 1943, the question of “barbed-wire” around
Palestine came up again in a conversation between Roosevelt and Judge Samuel Rosenman, Justice of the New York Supreme Court and speechwriter and counselor to Roosevelt. Roosevelt had spoken of the “possibility of settling the Palestine question by letting the Jews in to the limit that the country will support them - "with a barbed-wire fence around the Holy Land.” Rosenman thought that this would work but only “if the fence was a two-way one to keep the Jews in and the Arabs out.”
What should be mentioned here is that
Roosevelt already knew full well of the extent Nazi program of mass genocide. He had been informed by Churchill in the Casablanca Conference January 14 to 24, 1943, of the entire text of the Protocols of the Wannssee conference gleaned from the transmission of the file through the Abwehr G312 “Enigma” program at Bletchley Park. Roosevelt had also read the Polish Foreign Minister Count Edward Raczynski's note which had been addressed to the Governments of the United Nations on 10 December 1942 entitled, "The mass extermination of Jews in German occupied Poland", which provided the Allies with the earliest and most accurate accounts of the Holocaust.
In addition to being informed by documents and Intelligence reports during the course of 1943 an officer in the Związek Walki Zbrojnej (abbreviation: ZWZ or Union of Armed Struggle) of the Polish underground, Jan Karski, traveled to Washington as an emissary of the Polish Resistance to meet with President Franklin Roosevelt and report directly to the President on the European conflict and specifically conditions in his own country, Poland.
In 1942 Karski was selected by Cyryl Ratajski, the Polish Government's Delegate at Home, to perform a secret mission to gather information about Nazi atrocities in occupied
Poland. In order to gather evidence, Karski met Bund activist Leon Feiner and was twice smuggled by Jewish underground leaders into the Warsaw Ghetto for the purpose of showing him first hand what was happening to the Polish Jews. Karski had visited Bełżec death camp disguised as a Ukrainian camp guard and had gained first hand eyewitness to the extermination of the Jews of Europe. Karski reported to the Polish, British and U.S. governments in 1942 on the situation in Poland and especially on the the extermination of the Jews. He had done so by smuggling out a microfilm with further textual information in German as proof from the Underground Movement on the extermination of European Jews in occupied Poland.
Karski met with Polish politicians in exile including the Polish Prime Minister Władysław Sikorski , as well as members of political parties such as the PPS, SN, SP, SL, Jewish Bund and Poalei Zion. He also spoke to Anthony Eden, the British foreign secretary who reported the meeting directly to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, in a detailed statement on what Karski had seen in
Warsaw and Bełżec. Karski then traveled to the United States to report to President Franklin D.Roosevelt. Roosevelt requested that Karski meet with Justice Frankfurter and Rabbi Stephen Wise, as it would be of vital concern for them to be apprised of the horrors befalling their fellow Jews in Poland. Frankfurter and Wise listened to Karski’s detailed eyewitness accounts from Belzec concentration camp of the program of extermination of the Jewish people carried out by the Nazis.
When Roosevelt, Frankfurter and Wise were told by Karski’s of the,“the unprecedented' extent of the genocide”, Felix Frankfurter stated that he was unable to "conceive the unconceivable" of the full extent of the methodical extermination of the Jewish people.
In April 1944 two prisoners, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, managed to escape from Auschwitz and the Polish Underground once more provided information that they gave to the Allies – together with intelligence gained from two other prisoners who escaped shortly afterwards. This information formed the basis on the workings of
Auschwitz that became known as the “Auschwitz Protocols”. This was the first absolute and conclusive proof the Allies received that mass murder was taking place at Auschwitz.
Limited information about the camp had reached the West before this date, but the Auschwitz Protocols removed any reasonable doubt about the scale and nature of the crime, and the Western media were quick to report the news. On 18 June the BBC broadcast a radio story about
Auschwitz, and on 20 June the New York Times carried a report which explicitly mentioned the ‘gas chambers’ at Auschwitz/Birkenau.
At the beginning of November 1944,
Roosevelt was elected President for an unprecedented fourth term. A few days later, Roosevelt discussed the Palestine situation with the Under-Secretary of State, Edward Stettinius. Roosevelt had developed his ideas for the transfer of the Arabs from Palestine as time progressed as he heard from State Department officials and Military Intelligence reports of the events happening in Eastern Europe against the Jews. Some believe that Roosevelt's views had become more extreme in his criticism of British policy in Palestine, which was ruled by Whitehall’s pro-Arab Middle Eastern stance as Arab "complicity" with the Nazi regime became more apparent.
Roosevelt of their difficulties regarding Palestine, Under-Secretary of State, Edward Stettinius wrote in his diary, “He thinks Palestine should be for the Jews and no Arabs should be in it”. Roosevelt felt confident that he would be able to “iron out” the whole Arab-Jewish issue. Originally recommending the transfer of two hundred thousand Arabs, Roosevelt eventually stated unequivocally that “ Palestine should be for the Jews and no Arabs should be in it.” and that as stated in the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate that, "The Mandated area of Palestine should be exclusive Jewish territory.”
Almost all the statements that are quoted on this subject were not written by
Roosevelt himself, but by the various people he worked and met with. There are no recordings nor written notes either. This however, is characteristic of Franklin D. Roosevelt since he was a man who always had one eye cocked on historians who would someday assess his role in history. He tried to cover his historical tracks, using unrecorded telephone conversations and unrecorded private interviews but we do have the recorded comments from those present with Roosevelt and their diary entries.
Franklin D. Roosevelt died on the afternoon of April 12 at the Little White House at Warm Springs, Georgia and with his death so did his Plan for a Jewish Palestine with out the Arab "Problem". Once again the infamous historic statement “What If” resounds through history…