American Nativism and Common Misperceptions: How the Displaced Persons Issue Influenced America’s Palestine Policy, 1945-1948

Eras Journal – McBride, D.:American Nativism and Common Misperceptions: How the Displaced Persons Issue Influenced America’s Palestine Policy, 1945-1948

American Nativism and Common Misperceptions:

How the Displaced Persons Issue Influenced America’s Palestine Policy, 1945-1948

David McBride

(University of Nottingham)

Introduction: The Impact of the Displaced Persons

Many scholars have sought to identify the most influential factor behind the creation of the state of Israel. The most common debate surrounds whether President Harry Truman was influenced more by humanitarian sympathies for the Holocaust survivors or whether Zionist pressures and upcoming domestic elections dictated his decision-making. More recently, though, most historians have credited a combination of various factors for influencing Truman.[1]

One of the underlying premises of this article is that the failure of the Anglo-American partnership to reach an agreement on a Palestine policy allowed the necessary conditions to arise for the Zionists to achieve statehood. The key cause of dissent between the United States and Great Britain was over the issue of the displaced persons (DPs hereafter) and whether they should all be allowed into Palestine following the Holocaust. The Holocaust had resulted in the deaths of more than 5.5 million Jews,[2] and following the war more than 330,000 Jewish refugees remained confined in camps awaiting relocation.[3] Both British officials and the US State Department opposed mass immigration to Palestine for fear of upsetting the Arab world. This was because following the war the Middle East had great importance due to its oil reserves and strategic location near to Europe and the Soviet Union. Truman, however, favored a policy of refugee Zionism, which sought mass immigration to Palestine: this accorded with Zionist wishes and represented the predominant American view shared by Congress, Truman’s closest personal aids, as well as appearing to best reflect the sentiments of the general public.

Prior to the war, the British had relatively free reign in the Middle East as America’s Middle East policy tended to support whatever the British had endorsed. But in the aftermath of the Second World War, Britain had become heavily reliant on American economic aid and was aware that in order to combat potential Soviet aggression they needed a strong Anglo-American relationship. Britain was too weak to oversee the Palestine mandate alone and the Americans expressed a far greater interest in Middle East affairs. These factors resulted in greater American participation in the Palestine Question. Yet, while Britain hoped that America would lend greater support to British policies in Palestine, Truman wanted Britain not only to continue to uphold the mandate, but to also adopt American polices, which included refugee Zionism.

Due to Britain’s 1939 White Paper placing restrictions upon Jewish immigration to Palestine, Zionist leaders had shifted their focus to America. They had transported the political battleground of the Palestine Question to the American home front. This had a two-fold effect. Firstly, British dependency meant that Truman now had unprecedented leverage to influence the British. Secondly, Truman now had to contend with intense Zionist pressure, which greeted him from his earliest days in office and would continue even after his recognition of the Jewish state. As a result, contrary American and British policies caused a rift in the Anglo-American relationship that eventually played an important role in Britain’s retreat from the mandate. As Ritchie Ovendale noted, “at a time of severe financial stringency, difficulties in maintaining the strength of the armed forces, and the need to consolidate the Anglo-American special relationship, the affairs of the mandate had to be weighed against other considerations”.[4]Thus, the British would leave Palestine in May 1948, leaving a vacuum of power that the Zionists could seize.

In focusing on the displaced persons, there are two issues that I wish to discuss. The first is that following the Second World War, there remained strong nativist sentiments in America by which the majority of the public and government officials opposed easing America’s restrictive immigration quotas that would have allowed the resettlement of a large number of displaced persons. The second issue concerns the general scholarly acceptance that the displaced persons first and foremost wished to resettle in Palestine. Whilst many displaced persons may have indeed wanted to go to Palestine, the fact that other countries refused refugees made Palestine the most accessible destination. In addition, as a result of the success of Zionist influence in the displaced persons camps, inquiries into the state of the displaced persons, such as the Harrison Report and Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, presented the overwhelming opinion that the DPs unanimously wanted to go to Palestine. The fact that many eventually chose to resettle elsewhere raises concerns over these reports.

Nativism and Anti-Semitism

The question of whether Truman based his Palestine policy on domestic, political issues continues to be debated. With few exceptions it is agreed that domestic influences at least played some role in Truman’s policy, resulting in his tendency to appear either contradictory and/or confused.[5]However, while political influences have received much consideration, one issue that has received less scrutiny is the issue of American opposition to immigration. As the Palestine question shifted from an exclusively foreign affair to the American domestic agenda, the importance of American public opinion increased. The main issue was the public’s steadfast opposition to allowing the displaced persons to immigrate to the United States and Congress’s support for immigration restrictions. These attitudes were motivated by both economic and ideological fears and proved powerful enough to prevent changing America’s immigration policies until 1948.

From the 1920s through to the 1940s, America was stained by the spectre of anti-Semitism and “intense nativism”.[6]A backlash against foreigners followed the substantial rise in immigration and the ‘red scare’ following the First World War.[7] This led to the passage of restrictive immigration legislation (the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924) aimed primarily at immigrants from countries in both southern and eastern Europe.[8] This presented an almost insurmountable obstacle for Jewish immigrants, even after the emergence of Hitler’s openly anti-Semitic policies during the 1930s.[9]Furthermore, anti-Semitic propaganda was commonplace, especially in the form of Father Charles Coughlin’s prejudiced views, which were broadcast nationally on his radio show.[10]

Sadly, while many countries were critical of Germany’s mistreatment of the Jews during the 1930s, little was done to help. One futile attempt to help was the 1938 ‘Evian Conference’, where delegates from 32 countries met to discuss the refugee problem. Yet, while most countries denounced Germany’s treatment of the Jews, few offered any help, with the United States having offered various reasons why it could not ease its present restrictive immigration levels. The sole American contribution was to reaffirm its already existing quota for 27,370 refugees to enter America, even though during the period from 1933-1938, over 100,000 possible German quota places had gone unused.[11]

Such lacklustre attempts to help the Jews did not go unnoticed by the media. American journalist William L. Shirer wrote,”the British, French and Americans seem too anxious not to do anything to offend Hitler. It’s an absurd situation. They want to appease the man who was responsible for their problem”.[12] Time Magazine described the conference as having “many warm words of idealism” but “few practical suggestions”. [13] Thus, no real effort was made to help Europe’s Jews and a shameful precedent was formed in that while many countries would offer sympathetic condolences to the mistreatment of Europe’s Jews, few felt obligated to take responsibility for the easing of the problem. This thinking would again resurface following the Holocaust.

It was not until after Germany had been defeated that the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed to most Americans. In the United States, while the population was genuinely shocked by the Holocaust revelations, the immediate issue of finding the survivors a refuge was not of major concern, and few Americans felt a responsibility to allow the survivors into America.[14] The public would, however, show tremendous support for immigration to Palestine, and these motives deserve examination.

After the war, even though American anti-Semitism did lessen, opposition to immigration remained strong. This resulted from apprehension about the post-war economy and a growing fear of Communists due to worsening US-Soviet relations.[15] America had emerged from the Great Depression largely due to the wartime economy, and uncertainties surrounding the peacetime economy acted to further justify keeping stringent immigration quotas.[16] It was feared that an increase in immigrants would combine with the soldiers’ return to cause competition for too few jobs.[17] These economic concerns accentuated fears that most Jewish refugees were receptive to Communism, thus creating the belief of a “Communist Jewish conspiracy”.[18]

Yet, while many Americans were aware of the problems facing the Holocaust survivors and the issues surrounding potential DP immigration to Palestine, most believed that the refugees should be allowed to go to Palestine. Similarities were drawn between the plight of the Zionist settlers in Palestine and the early American frontier experience of conquering new lands that were inhabited by ‘savages’. A connection was made between both Zionist and early American settlers bringing modernity to underdeveloped landscapes.[19] As a result more Americans started to “shed their residual anti-Semitism” and to support Jewish claims to Palestine as the Jews were increasingly seen as more ‘Western’, and thus more acceptable.[20]

Meanwhile, Americans remained relatively indifferent towards the Arabs as most were unfamiliar with the Arab world.[21] Western perceptions of the Arabs were negative, often viewing them as ‘backward’ and ‘savages’, and implying that they had squandered Palestinian lands. The Zionists played upon these stereotypes, portraying the Arabs as incapable of bringing life to ‘barren’ lands, whilst claiming that the Zionists were capable of transforming the dismal Palestinian landscape.[22] Soon these images were able to portray the Arabs as “disrupters of Israel’s and the West’s existence”.[23] Thus, while Americans remained opposed to easing immigration quotas for Jewish refugees, they almost unanimously supported, and justified, Jewish immigration to Palestine.

Whether this was directly related is impossible to tell, but the American public did become more sympathetic towards the displaced persons and believed that something should be done for them. As a result, Palestine became the overwhelming solution adopted by the American public to rectify the problem.[24] American silence over bringing the refugees to the US largely resulted from the fact that this option was never given serious consideration, and with the public still heavily against easing its immigration quotas, Truman never attempted to challenge such beliefs. The question that arises then is whether America could have accepted more refugees, and more importantly, whether there were compelling reasons, at the time, for softening immigration restrictions.

While most Americans opposed changing the immigration quotas, a small yet substantial minority voice of various policy makers, including the American Council for Judaism and the American Jewish Committee, campaigned for the easing of American immigration quotas to allow more of the displaced persons to find refuge within the United States. This claim was based largely on the premise that because America had failed to fulfill its immigration quotas throughout the 1930s and early 1940s, there were a large number of immigration quota places that went unused. Thus, a large number of refugees could enter America and still not surpass the number of immigrants America could accept without threatening the stability of the economy. In a statement by Truman on December 22, 1945, he acknowledged that “very few persons from Europe had migrated to the United States during the war years”, having stated that in 1942, only 10% of US immigration quotas were used, while thoughout 1943-1945, 5%, 6%, and 7% were used respectively.[25] Yet, facing such hostile opposition to immigration to the US , Truman concluded that “these unused quotas … do not accumulate through the years, and I do not intend to ask Congress to change this rule.”[26]

The idea of bringing the displaced persons to America had attracted attention in late 1946. In a letter to Truman, Earl Harrison, the author of the Harrison Report, wrote “it is our belief that this, the richest nation on Earth, can over a period of a few years absorb some 400,000 of these victims of war within present annual quota limits”. [27] In April 1947, Congressman William Stratton proposed a bill, which over the next four years would bring 400,000 refugees to the United States.[28]The principle behind the Stratton Bill was simply that there remained large amounts of immigration allocations that had gone unused. Stratton’s argument was indeed correct. Over two million immigrants could have entered America between the years 1930-1946,[29] but only 21.4 percent of the quotas were actually filled, resulting in only 559,812 immigrants entering America.[30]

Existing evidence reveals that the American economy could have handled an increase in immigration. Lawrence Davidson has noted that Seymour Maxwell Finger’s study, American Jewry during the Holocaust , suggested that “during the last three years of the war nearly 400,000 German prisoners of war were interned in camps across the United States. Most were used… to alleviate labor shortages. This makes it difficult to argue that… the Jews who might have left Europe in that period… could not have been similarly interned to save them from death”.[31] Leonard Dinnerstein’s research also raises skepticism over American actions: “the chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers… informed Stratton that 400,000 immigrants over a four-year period ‘would not be a large number to be assimilated'”.[32] Dinnerstein also shows that “the National Housing Agency head thought that admission of 100,000 persons a year ‘would not result in a demand for that many additional housing units”.[33]

Former New York City Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia, then Director General of the UN Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, offered another compelling reason for bringing a portion of the Jewish refugees to America. In June 1946, La Guardia wrote to Secretary of State James Byrnes claiming that if the United States took the lead in accepting the displaced persons, then other nations, including the British in Palestine, would do likewise. [34] Yet these compelling arguments failed to garner enough support as Truman continued to receive great pressure not to ease immigration standards. [35]

Gallup Polls taken between 1944 and 1948 indicate strong American support for unrestricted Jewish immigration to Palestine.[36] In addition, Gallup Polls taken in the spring of 1947 revealed that more than 60% of Americans opposed bringing the displaced persons to America, with a December poll having revealed that 57% of Americans disapproved of allowing the entrance of even 10,000 displaced persons to the United States.[37] This increased nativist sentiment solidified American opposition towards immigration and as a result Stratton’s initiative failed to gain enough support to be enacted. However, Stratton’s work helped to bring later reform to America ‘s restrictive immigration quotas through the passage of the Displaced Persons Act in 1948 and its subsequent revisions in 1950. From 1945-1952 an estimated 400,000 refugees entered America, with approximately 20 percent being Holocaust survivors.[38] Yet, most of these refugees would not reach American shores until 1950, two years after the creation of Israel .

American opposition to immigration was so widespread that Truman had to take notice. As an unelected, inexperienced President (taking office upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on 12 April 1945 ), he lacked the skilled statesmanship to influence the public. He was acutely aware of having the public’s support behind policy, as evinced by his infamous Yom Kippur statement in which he advocated the partition, arguing “it is my belief that a solution along these lines would command the support of public opinion in the US“.[39] Truman believed that something had to be done for the displaced persons and he reasoned that if they could not come to America, then surely they could go to Palestine. Such thinking was justified, even though the State Department warned him otherwise, because Truman did not believe that immigration to Palestine would jeopardize American interests and relations in the Middle East.[40] Peter Hahn suggests that Truman’s policy making was “buffeted by conflicting advice”, and noted that his decision-making was marked by “ambivalence and inconsistency”. [41] Hahn’s assessment appears accurate as Truman’s decisions were often based on political expediency rather than adept diplomacy, as witnessed by his tendency to pander to the Zionist lobby, especially at election time. With no forceful Arab lobby to match the American Zionists, Truman was prone to making controversial pro-Zionist statements in order to gain both public and Jewish support. In doing so, he was not alone. Roosevelt had done this before him, and the Republicans were trying just as hard, if not harder, to win Jewish votes throughout the period of 1945 to 1948.

Truman never totally succumbed to Zionist pressures, and he never believed that he was jeopardizing American interests by supporting refugee Zionism. He consistently supported mass immigration to Palestine and believed that refugee Zionism and the question of statehood were separate matters. As a result he failed to realize that the displaced persons were a crucial tool for the Zionists to achieve statehood, and his support for refugee Zionism thus had a profound effect on the eventual Jewish state as it divided America and Britain and played a role in Britain’s abandonment of the mandate.[42]


A second issue concerning the displaced persons involves the idea that most of the displaced persons unanimously wanted to go to Palestine. Two enquiries into the situation of the DPs both revealed that this was their overwhelming opinion, and both reports recommended unrestricted, immediate immigration of the DPs to Palestine. The Harrison Report was an American inquiry held during the summer of 1945, and as a result of its recommendations, the British requested the formation of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry (AACI), which was formed in the autumn of 1945 and lasted until the spring of 1946.

The report’s author Earl Harrison advised that most of the displaced persons wanted to go to Palestine and his recommendations for unrestricted immigration to Palestine were fully accepted by Truman. While the Harrison Report has long stood as a victory for the pro-Zionist argument, some controversial issues surround the manner in which the report was formed. Harrison and the group that accompanied him were largely pro-Zionist, so the fact that Zionist interests would be preserved might not be surprising.[43] A second issue that requires greater scrutiny is that Harrison’s conclusions made no mention of what the US should do to allow more refugees into America. In his report Harrison wrote that “Palestine is definitely and pre-eminently the first choice” of the refugees, yet as Yosef Grodzinsky’s research has identified, Harrison never conducted any polls of the refugees to come to this conclusion.[44] Harrison did mention that a small number wanted to go to America, but his report did not mention the need for America to ease its restrictive immigration policy.

The Harrison Report created an impression that the refugees first and foremost wanted to go to Palestine . Certainly many of the refugees may have preferred Palestine, especially over returning to Europe, but this could also be explained by the fact that Palestine was the only option where a majority could emigrate immediately.[45] The top priority of the DPs was to leave the camps as soon as possible: Palestine appeared to offer such a solution. Illegal immigration to Palestine became common, which ostensibly supports the notion that many of the refugees were desperate to leave the camps for Palestine.[46] Yet the fact remains that the refugees were never given the opportunity to go elsewhere, including the United States, until many years later and this certainly had an effect on their efforts to get to Palestine.

The great failure of the Harrison Report was that it did not address what steps America and other countries should have taken to accept their share of the refugees. Harrison listed some recommendations that the U.S. should adopt, but nothing that suggested America should change its immigration policies. He wrote:

The United States should, under existing immigration laws, permit reasonable numbers of such persons to come here, again particularly those who have family ties in this country. As indicated earlier, the number who desire emigration to the United States is not large.[47]

Rather than raise criticism of America’s and other nations’ restrictive immigration policies, the report instead helped to give further justification to the Zionist cause, without preventing other countries considering their own opposition to easing practical immigration quotas. Had Britain and the United States taken acceptable efforts to relieve the refugee suffering, it might well have influenced other countries to do the same and to demonstrate in a practical manner their disapproval of Nazi policy.

It would appear that in one sense, Palestine became the answer to the refugee problem because the West refused to handle a large number of the refugees. Whether this was Harrison ‘s intention is questionable, for though he sympathized with the Zionists, in later years he advocated America accepting more refugees. Public approval of the Harrison Report also reflected the popular view that the reality of the Holocaust demanded action on behalf of the survivors. This, of course, did not rest well in the Middle East where Arab officials claimed that the United States had no right to dispose of Arab lands.[48] However, while the Arabs felt justified that they had unquestionable rights to Palestine, the fact remained, whether right or wrong, that Palestine remained a mandated territory, and thus its fate would be in the hands of the international community.

One of the critical factors for the Zionists to successfully create a Jewish state in Palestine was actually bringing the displaced persons to Palestine. It was thus important that when the AACI was formed that its members should believe that the DPs overwhelmingly wished to immigrate to Palestine above anywhere else. When the committee completed its investigation, it too recommended that 100,000 refugees be allowed to go to Palestine immediately. While the report upset the Zionists for not recommending the formation of a Jewish state, it was clearly much more favorable to them than to the Arabs. However, one of the concerns about the report from the perspective of the British, the State Department, and the Arabs was whether Zionist propaganda had played a successful role in influencing the committee and its recommendations. The Arabs especially feared that the Zionists had used the displaced persons as political tools in order to help them bolster support for a future Jewish state in Palestine. In addition, the fact that the AACI, which was supposed to be an objective committee, recommended that exactly the same number of DPs (100,000) be allowed to enter Palestine as Truman had publicly advocated after the Harrison Report, raised further concerns that the committee was unduly influenced by the Zionists.[49]

Throughout the summer of 1945 the Zionists had entered the camps, attempting to convince the refugees that Palestine offered them their only way out, and by the spring of 1946, the Zionists had become firmly entrenched.[50]Regarding possible Zionist influence on the displaced persons, Youssef Chaitani contends that even prior to the formation of the committee “[Ernest] Bevin [the British Foreign Secretary] had…received information that the Jewish Agency and other Zionist organizations were intimidating Jews to stop them from leaving Palestine”. [51]

Nicholas Bethell believes that the British had information that the Zionists “were regimenting the refugees, coaching them in how to speak before the Commission”, and that funds were provided to speak favorably about Palestine.[52]According to Bethell, the findings of the committee certainly surprised Bevin, who believed that if the displaced persons were “given a free choice” they would choose to either stay in Europe or go to America.[53]Amikam Nachmani finds a similar sentiment, arguing that the committee had “the impression that some Jewish DPs would have felt free to chose a haven other than Palestine had the Inquiry been a closed one”.[54] Bevin and his colleagues were skeptical of the findings. If it was misleading to suggest that the displaced persons almost unanimously wanted to go to Palestine, then one of the main premises underlying Truman’s Palestine policy was at the very least a misperception. The recent work of Yosef Grodzinsky has shed some new light on this subject. Grodzinsky has noted that polls taken in the camps during the period of the Palestine Question have recorded that between 80-96.8 percent of the refugees stated their intention to immigrate to Palestine. This is revealing because most of Europe’s Jews had failed to accept Zionism prior to the war.[55] A post-war change in this mindset would not be surprising owing to the Holocaust and the fact that afterwards Palestine appeared to be the only immediate answer out of the camps. It is also true that a majority of the survivors may not have wanted to return to those Eastern European countries where anti-Semitism continued. Yet, while these polls indicated that a clear majority wished to go to Palestine , this may be misleading if used as evidence of Zionist beliefs. At the very most, only 40 per cent of the DPs ever reached Palestine.[56] This is quite startling as clearly Palestine had become the easiest country for Jews to emigrate to throughout the period, especially after the creation of Israel. The question that follows is why did so few make it to Palestine? Grodzinsky also notes that in the only surviving poll of a few thousand liberated Jewish prisoners taken in May 1945, 65 per cent expressed their wishes to return to their homes, 20 per cent wanted to go to the United States, while only 15 per cent wished to go to Palestine.[57] While this is only a small sample, the fact remains that only one-third of the displaced persons would become Israeli citizens, while the rest would eventually end up in other countries including Australia, Canada, and the United States, though most were unable to enter theUS until 1950. [58] Somewhat surprisingly, over twenty thousand displaced persons chose to return to Germany and were able to build successful futures.[59] Possible explanations for this low percentage include outbreak of the Arab-Israeli War which had begun after the Jewish State was proclaimed. This would certainly have had an effect in deterring settlers. Furthermore, while many refugees were undoubtedly supportive of a Jewish State, as Europeans, many did not speak Hebrew and thus left for alternative countries with established Jewish communities. Assuming that the Zionist message helped influence the AACI report, it would presumably have created a misperception that the displaced persons unanimously wanted to go only to Palestine. This misperception was then echoed throughout the AACI recommendations, which most likely believed that the DPs genuinely wanted to go to Palestine, and gave Truman further justification for unrestricted immigration to Palestine. It might reveal one of the more unsavory Zionist acts in that they arguably manipulated the situation of the DPs to advance their own political goals. Afterwards it was popularly accepted that the Jewish refugees overwhelmingly wanted to go to Palestine and this certainly helped to justify the Zionist cause. There remains little doubt that Zionists were active in the displaced persons camps throughout 1945 and 1946, trying to bolster support for their cause, and it is accepted that the Zionists ‘prepared’ witnesses that the Anglo-American Committee would eventually interview.[60] The Zionists attempted to create a bond with the displaced persons, and emphasized that Zionism would allow the survivors to go to Palestine. But as Grodzinsky points out, while the Zionists “carried out their mission with great devotion … the feeling of belonging with which they infused the DPs clearly had a price: They had to go Palestine , and nowhere else.” [61] The strength of the Zionist message during the committee investigation was its ability to have all of its members fall in line with its policies. They were successful in silencing Jews who did not share their beliefs. Amikam Nachmani notes that only one Zionist, Dr. Judah Magnes, deviated from the Zionist platform when questioned by the committee. Magnes believed that the Arab claim to Palestine was just as strong as the Jewish claim to Palestine, and thus he supported a bi-national solution.[62] As a result of his statements which defied the Jewish agency, Magnes was placed under police protection for fear of repercussions.[63]


For the United States and its leaders, when Jewish immigration posed problems on the home front, Palestine offered overwhelmingly the best pragmatic solution. It eased the burden of altering immigration quotas and avoided causing possible domestic unrest. Yet it also provided a speedy answer to the practical situation of the refugees. As many Americans looked unfavorably upon the Arabs, few were concerned with Arab unrest over the issue and most believed that something positive had to be done for the displaced persons. Criticism of Zionist actions remains a delicate subject, but often with regards to the displaced persons, the best interests of the Holocaust survivors remained secondary to the creation of a Jewish state. Yet this criticism needs to be viewed in context of what was occurring at the time. Few countries offered the refugees shelter until after 1948 and it was clearly the primary concern of the refugees to be free from the camps. There was a universal failure amongst all of the countries of the world to act humanely, and thus an environment was created in which the Zionists could use the displaced persons to achieve their aims. In choosing the creation of a Jewish state over the welfare of the displaced persons, the Zionists believed themselves to be preserving Jewish interests in the future because they claimed that only in their own state could Jews be free from anti-Semitism. This thinking is certainly justifiable following the Holocaust, but the fact that many displaced persons did not accept Zionism and eventually chose to immigrate elsewhere shows that that the Zionist argument was not always unanimously accepted.

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[1] For a comprehensive account of various Truman historiographies, see Robert J. Donovan, Conflict and Crisis: The Presidency of Harry S Truman, 1945-1948, W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1977, pp. 312-331, 369-387; Michael J. Cohen, Truman and Israel, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1990; Michael T. Benson,Harry S Truman and the Founding of Israel, Praeger, Westport, Connecticut, 1997; Lawrence Davidson, America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood, University Press of Florida, Gainesville, 2001; Peter L. Hahn,Caught in the Middle East: U.S. Policy toward the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1945-1961, The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 2004. Back

[2] Lloyd P. Gartner, History of the Jews in Modern Times, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2001, pp. 376-377. Back

[3] Yosef Grodzinsky, In the Shadow of the Holocaust: The Struggle Between Jews and Zionists in the Aftermath of World War II, Common Courage Press, Monroe, Maine, 2004, p. 223. This number represents the total number of Jewish DPs who would occupy the former concentration camps during the years 1945-1951, and does not include refugees who later entered the camps in the hope of being relocated. Back

[4] Ritchie Ovendale, “The Palestine Policy of the British Labour Government 1945-1946.” International Affairs, Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-, Vol. 55, No. 3, July, 1979, p. 430. Back

[5] See Donovan, Conflict and Crisis; Cohen, Truman and Israel; Hahn, Caught in the Middle East; John Snetsinger,Truman, The Jewish Vote and the Creation of Israel, Hoover Institution Press, Stanford, 1974; Kenneth Ray Bain,The March to Zion: United States Policy and the Founding of Israel, Texas A&M University Press, College Station , 1979.Back

[6] Leonard Dinnerstein and David M. Reimers, Ethnic Americans: A History of Immigration and Assimilation, Dodd, Mead & Company, New York, 1975, pp. 70-71. For a comprehensive study on American attitudes and anti-Semitism in relation to the Holocaust, see Leonard Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America , Oxford University Press, New York, 1994; David S. Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews: America and the Holocaust, 1941-1945, New Press, New York, 1998; Stuart Svonkin,Jews Against Prejudice: American Jews and the Fight for Civil Liberties, Columbia University Press, New York, 1997. Back

[7] Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews, p. 7. Back

[8] Gartner, History of the Jews in Modern Times, pp. 322-323. Also see Oscar Handlin, “Democracy Needs the Open Door: Immigration and America’s Future”, Commentary , Vol. 3, No. 1, January 1947, p. 1. Back

[9] Robert H. Abzug, America Views the Holocaust, 1933-1945 , Bedford/St. Martin’s Press, Boston, 1999, p. 51-55; Walter Laqueur, A History of Zionism: From the French Revolution to the Establishment of the State of Israel, Schocken Books, New York, 2003, p. 504; Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews, pp. 5-9; Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America, p. 3. Back

[10] Abzug, America Views the Holocaust , pp. 52, 77-82; Svonkin, Jews Against Prejudice, pp. 113-114. Back

[11] Michael Blakeney, Australia and the Jewish Refugees, 1933-1948 , Croom Helm Australia, Sydney, 1985, pp. 123, 130. Back

[12] William L. Shirer, Berlin Diary, 1933-1941, Hamish Hamilton, London, 1941, p. 101. Back

[13]Blakeney, Australia and the Jewish Refugees, p. 131.Back [14] Abzug , America Views the Holocaust, p. 116. Back

[15] Dinnerstein,Antisemitism in America, p. 161; Leonard Dinnerstein, America and the Survivors of the Holocaust, Columbia University Press, New York, 1982, p. 141. Back

[16] Wyman, The Abandonment of the Jews, p. 7; Also see: Susan Hartmann, Truman and the 80th Congress, University of Missouri Press, Columbia, 1971, p. 176; Davidson,America’s Palestine, p. 165. Back

[17] Most American Jewish organizations also opposed Jewish immigration throughout the 1930s for similar economic fears. However, by 1939, and with the economy recovering, these same organisations “failed to back several efforts to liberalize immigration laws put through by Jewish congressmen” for fear that it would translate into a rise in anti-Semitic attitudes. See Davidson, America’s Palestine, p. 166. Back

[18] Svonkin, Jews Against Prejudice , pp. 113-114. Back

[19] Lawrence Davidson, “Historical Ignorance and Popular Perception: The Case of US Perceptions in Palestine, 1917″, Middle East Policy , Vol. 2, 1994, pp. 128-132; For a comprehensive account of this link between the ‘settler image’ of the Zionists and early Americans, see Douglas Little, American Orientalism: The United States and the Middle East Since 1945, I.B. Tauris, London, 2003, p. 11; Kathleen Christison, “U.S. Policy and the Palestinians: Bound By a Frame of Reference”, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 26, No. 4, June, 2004.Back

[20] Little, American Orientalism, pp. 11, 24. Back

[21] Edward W. Said, Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient, Penguin, London, 1995, p. 290. Back

[22] Janice J. Terry, “Zionist Attitudes Towards Arabs”, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 6, No. 1, Autumn, 1976, p. 68; Davidson, America’s Palestine , p. 213; Edward Said and Christopher Hitchens, Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestine Question, Verso, London, 2001, p. 3; “Memorandum on Palestine”, August 13, 1945; OF: 204; Truman Papers, Truman Library. Back

[23] Said, Orientalism, p. 286. Back

[24] Eytan Gilboa, American Public Opinion toward Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Lexington Books, Lexington, 1986, p. 21; “Public Opinion Toward Creation of Jewish State in Palestine”, April 4, 1945; OF: 204; Truman Papers, Truman Library. Back

[25] “Statement by the President on Immigration to the United States of Certain Displaced Persons and Refugees in Europe”, December 22, 1945; Papers of David K. Niles, Truman Library. Back

[26] “Statement by the President”, December 22, 1945, Papers of David K. Niles, Truman Library. Back

[27] Earl Harrison to President Truman, December 20, 1946; OF: 127; Truman Papers, Truman Library. Back

[28] The 400,000 included 100,000 displaced persons while the remaining 300,000 refugees were Christians. The idea was that the American public would be more receptive to helping Christians than they would be to helping Jews. See Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America , pp. 160-162. Back

[29] H. Graham Morison to Dr John R. Steelman, February 25, 1947; WHCF: OF: 127; Truman Papers, Truman Library.Back

[30] Morison to Steelman, February 25, 1947; WHCF: OF: 127; Truman Papers, Truman Library. Back

[31] Davidson, America’s Palestine, p. 165. Davidson cites Seymour Maxwell Finger, American Jewry during the Holocaust, Holmes and Meier/American Jewish Commission on the Holocaust, New York, p. 7. Back

[32] Dinnerstein, America and the Survivors of the Holocaust , p. 135. Back

[33] Dinnerstein, America and the Survivors of the Holocaust , p. 135. Back

[34] F.H. La Guardia to Secretary of State Byrnes, June 26, 1946 ; OF: 127; Truman Papers, Truman Library. Back

[35] Dinnerstein, America and the Survivors of the Holocaust, p. 133. Also see Bruce J. Evensen, Truman, Palestine, and the Press: Shaping Conventional Wisdom at the Beginning of the Cold War, Greenwood Press, New York, 1992, p. 73; Grodzinsky, In the Shadow of the Holocaust, p. 184. Back

[36] Gilboa, American Public Opinion toward Israel and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, p. 21 Back

[37] Gallup Poll # 410, qn14_k, 12/30/1947. Princeton , N.J. : The Gallup Organization, 2004 [cited November 18, 2004 ]. Cited at:(

[38] Grodzinsky, In the Shadow of the Holocaust, p. 223; “Refugees.” Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington D.C. September 17, 2004 – [cited November 13, 2004 ]. Cited at:( Back

[39] President Truman to the British Prime Minister (Attlee), October 3, 1946 , FRUS 1946, 7:703. Back

[40] Truman was reassured by his closest aids, including David Niles, Clark Clifford and Samuel Rosenman that refugee Zionism would not be detrimental to American interests in the Middle East. See Hahn, Caught in the Middle East, p. 33; “Palestine Partition and United States Security”, Papers of David K. Niles, Truman Library;”Memorandum to the President”, March 8, 1948; Clifford Papers, Truman Library;”Memorandum to the President”, October 1945; Papers of David K. Niles, Truman Library; “Memorandum for the President”, May 27; 1946, Papers of David K. Niles, Truman Library. Back

[41] Hahn, Caught in the Middle East, p. 32. Back

[42] It is not my contention that this was the only reason why the British left Palestine. Rather, it was one of three important factors, with the cost of upholding the mandate being a second factor and a loss of British morale due to Zionist terror campaigns (highlighted by the King David Hotel bombing) constituting a third reason for Britain handing over the mandate. Back

[43] PRO, FO371/51096/WR2168, Halifax to Foreign Office, 18 July 1945. Back

[44] Grodzinsky, In the Shadow of the Holocaust, p. 57. Back

[45] Aviva Halamish, The Exodus Affair: Holocaust Survivors and the Struggle for Palestine, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, New York, 1998, p. 2. Back

[46] Halamish, The Exodus Affair, pp. 1-3. Back

[47] Harrison to Truman, Aug. 31, 1945, FRUS 1945, 7:737-739. Back

[48] PRO, FO371/45379/E6628/15/31, Mr Shone, Beirut, to Foreign Office, 7 Sep. 1945. Back

[49] The Minister to Syria and Lebanon (Wadsworth) to the Secretary of State, June 19, 1946,FRUS 1946, 7:628-629; The Minister in Egypt (Tuck) to the Secretary of State, June 21, 1946, FRUS 1946, 7:634; PRO, FO371/52529/E5544, Cabinet Officers Council, 18 June 1946. Back

[50] See Dinnerstein, America and the Survivors of the Holocaust, p. 63; Grodzinsky, In the Shadow of the Holocaust, pp. 75-76. Back

[51] Youseff Chaitani, Dissension Among Allies: Ernest Bevin’s Palestine Policy Between Whitehall and the White House, 1945-1947, Saqi Books, London, 2002, p. 48. Back

[52] Nicholas Bethell, The Palestine Triangle: The Struggle Between the British, the Jews and the Arabs 1935-48, Andre Deutsch, London, 1979, p. 224. Back

[53] Bethell, The Palestine Triangle, p. 224. Back

[54] Amikam Nachmani, Great Power Discord in Palestine: The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry into the Problems of European Jewry and Palestine, 1945-1946, Frank Cass, London, 1987, p. 103. Back

[55] Laqueur, A History of Zionism, p. 503. Back

[56] Grodzinsky, In the Shadow of the Holocaust, pp. 10, 220-224. Back

[57] Grodzinsky, In the Shadow of the Holocaust, p. 41. Back

[58] Grodzinsky, In the Shadow of the Holocaust, pp. 115-116. Back

[59] Grodzinsky, In the Shadow of the Holocaust, pp. 115, 223. Back

[60] Dinnerstein,America and the Survivors of the Holocaust, p. 86; Grodzinsky, In the Shadow of the Holocaust, p. 138; Chaitani, Dissension Among Allies, p. 48; Ovendale, “The Palestine Policy of the British Labour Government 1945-1946”, p. 416. Back

[61] Grodzinsky, In the Shadow of the Holocaust, p. 132. Back

[62] Nachmani, Great Power Discord in Palestine, p. 170. Back

[63] Nachmani, Great Power Discord in Palestine, p. 171. Back

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