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March 19, 2013 1:15 am

Obama, FDR, and Zionism

avatar by Rafael Medoff / JNS.org

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A presidential portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Photo: Frank O. Salisbury.

President Barack Obama has spoken of his deep admiration for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his desire to emulate FDR’s style of leadership. But many Israelis will be hoping that sentiment does not extend to President Roosevelt’s views on Zionism, in the wake of the discovery of new documents detailing FDR’s behind-the-scenes coldness regarding the creation of a Jewish state.

In public, President Roosevelt declared his support for developing a Jewish national home in British-ruled Palestine. In private, however, FDR expressed very different views on the subject, according to the documents which I found recently at the Central Zionist Archives, in Jerusalem.

The first is an account by American Jewish leader Stephen S. Wise of a private meeting he had with the president in January 1938. Wise was dismayed to hear FDR assert, “You know there is not room in Palestine for many more people—perhaps another hundred or hundred and fifty thousand.” Those figures apparently were provided by the president’s close adviser, geographer Isaiah Bowman, who was strongly anti-Zionist.

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Rabbi Wise insisted there was room for at least another 1.5-million Jews in the Holy Land, but FDR would not budge. He urged Wise to come up with “a second choice for the Jews… Palestine possibilities are going to be exhausted. You ought to have another card up your sleeve.” Wise left the meeting “surprised and shocked” by the president’s position.

Once World War Two began, President Roosevelt’s attitude toward Zionism grew even chillier.

Rabbi Stephen S. Wise. Photo: Courtesy of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies

British officials claimed any wartime expression of support for Zionism by the Allies would drive the Arab world into the arms of the Nazis. Rabbi Wise countered that the Arabs already supported the Nazis anyway. “The [pro-Nazi] rebellion in Iraq, the presence of the Mufti in Berlin and Rome, [and] the failure of Egypt to live up to her treaty of alliance [with England]” show that “the sacrifice of friends in the interest of appeasing the unfriendly has repeatedly been proven to be in vain,” Wise argued. Nonetheless, FDR sided with the British view, as another newly discovered document makes plain.

The second document, from October 1941, records Nahum Goldmann, cochairman of the World Jewish Congress, briefing American Zionist leaders on worrisome rumors that the British were holding secret negotiations with the Arabs over the future of Palestine. Goldmann’s said his request to the State Department for information about the talks had been ignored because State “is very much influenced by the British Colonial Office.”

To make matters worse (Goldmann continued), “There are reasons also to believe that even in higher quarters”—a reference to the Roosevelt White House—”there are certain prejudices that have to be overcome in order to get effective support from the administration for a Jewish Palestine.” (In a similar vein, Rabbi Wise wrote to a colleague that FDR was “hopelessly and completely under the domination of the English Foreign Office [and] the Colonial Office.”)

By 1942, FDR was so averse to being seen as pro-Zionist that he rejected even a request to permit the Palestine (Jewish) Symphony Orchestra to name one of its theaters the “Roosevelt Amphitheatre.”

A third new document concerns an April 1943 meeting between FDR and a delegation of seven Jewish congressmen. They urged the president to press the British to cancel the White Paper policy of closing off Palestine to all but a handful of Jewish refugees. “It was a very unsatisfactory interview,”Congressman Daniel Ellison (R-MD) reported to Jewish leaders. “[We] asked the President about refugees, the White Paper, etc. What he proposed to do about these things. [We] made a number of suggestions to him as to what [we] thought he ought to do and the answer to all of these suggestions was ‘No.'”

The fourth document is a transcript of Nahum Goldmann briefing David Ben-Gurion and other Jewish Agency leaders, in 1944, about the political situation in Washington. According to Goldmann, FDR’s support for Zionism was “tentative.” He added: “It is impossible to educate [President Roosevelt], because you get to see him only once every six months, for thirty minutes, ten of which are spent by him telling anecdotes, after which he expects to hear you tell him anecdotes, and then there are only ten minutes left for a serious conversation—what can one accomplish like this?”

Goldmann’s description dovetails with the bitter experience of Chaim Weizmann, when he met with FDR at the White House in July 1942. The Zionist leader wanted to speak about the Allies’ policy on Palestine, but the president diverted the conversation into a long discussion about the production of synthetic rubber. Roosevelt pushed aside Weizmann’s request to mobilize a Jewish army to defend Palestine against a German invasion; FDR supported the British view that such a move would antagonize the Egyptian Army. Weizmann argued that the U.S.-British position was like “trying to appease a rattlesnake,” but once again, Roosevelt would not budge.

David Niles, a close adviser to FDR, once remarked that if Roosevelt had lived (and thus Harry Truman remained vice president), he probably would not have supported the creation of Israel, and as a result the Jewish state might never have been established. Today it is more clear than ever why Niles doubted that FDR genuinely supported Zionism.

Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C. His latest book is “FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith.”

Obama, FDR, and Zionism

By Rafael Medoff/JNS.org

President Barack Obama has spoken of his deep admiration for Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his desire to emulate FDR’s style of leadership. But many Israelis will be hoping that sentiment does not extend to President Roosevelt’s views on Zionism, in the wake of the discovery of new documents detailing FDR’s behind-the-scenes coldness regarding the creation of a Jewish state.

In public, President Roosevelt declared his support for developing a Jewish national home in British-ruled Palestine. In private, however, FDR expressed very different views on the subject, according to the documents which I found recently at the Central Zionist Archives, in Jerusalem.

The first is an account by American Jewish leader Stephen S. Wise of a private meeting he had with the president in January 1938. Wise was dismayed to hear FDR assert, “You know there is not room in Palestine for many more people—perhaps another hundred or hundred and fifty thousand.” Those figures apparently were provided by the president’s close adviser, geographer Isaiah Bowman, who was strongly anti-Zionist.

Rabbi Wise insisted there was room for at least another 1.5-million Jews in the Holy Land, but FDR would not budge. He urged Wise to come up with “a second choice for the Jews… Palestine possibilities are going to be exhausted. You ought to have another card up your sleeve.” Wise left the meeting “surprised and shocked” by the president’s position.

Once World War Two began, President Roosevelt’s attitude toward Zionism grew even chillier.

British officials claimed any wartime expression of support for Zionism by the Allies would drive the Arab world into the arms of the Nazis. Rabbi Wise countered that the Arabs already supported the Nazis anyway. “The [pro-Nazi] rebellion in Iraq, the presence of the Mufti in Berlin and Rome, [and] the failure of Egypt to live up to her treaty of alliance [with England]” show that “the sacrifice of friends in the interest of appeasing the unfriendly has repeatedly been proven to be in vain,” Wise argued. Nonetheless, FDR sided with the British view, as another newly discovered document makes plain.

The second document, from October 1941, records Nahum Goldmann, cochairman of the World Jewish Congress, briefing American Zionist leaders on worrisome rumors that the British were holding secret negotiations with the Arabs over the future of Palestine. Goldmann’s said his request to the State Department for information about the talks had been ignored because State “is very much influenced by the British Colonial Office.”

To make matters worse (Goldmann continued), “There are reasons also to believe that even in higher quarters”—a reference to the Roosevelt White House—”there are certain prejudices that have to be overcome in order to get effective support from the administration for a Jewish Palestine.” (In a similar vein, Rabbi Wise wrote to a colleague that FDR was “hopelessly and completely under the domination of the English Foreign Office [and] the Colonial Office.”)

By 1942, FDR was so averse to being seen as pro-Zionist that he rejected even a request to permit the Palestine (Jewish) Symphony Orchestra to name one of its theaters the “Roosevelt Amphitheatre.”

A third new document concerns an April 1943 meeting between FDR and a delegation of seven Jewish congressmen. They urged the president to press the British to cancel the White Paper policy of closing off Palestine to all but a handful of Jewish refugees. “It was a very unsatisfactory interview,”Congressman Daniel Ellison (R-MD) reported to Jewish leaders. “[We] asked the President about refugees, the White Paper, etc. What he proposed to do about these things. [We] made a number of suggestions to him as to what [we] thought he ought to do and the answer to all of these suggestions was ‘No.'”

The fourth document is a transcript of Nahum Goldmann briefing David Ben-Gurion and other Jewish Agency leaders, in 1944, about the political situation in Washington. According to Goldmann, FDR’s support for Zionism was “tentative.” He added: “It is impossible to educate [President Roosevelt], because you get to see him only once every six months, for thirty minutes, ten of which are spent by him telling anecdotes, after which he expects to hear you tell him anecdotes, and then there are only ten minutes left for a serious conversation—what can one accomplish like this?”

Goldmann’s description dovetails with the bitter experience of Chaim Weizmann, when he met with FDR at the White House in July 1942. The Zionist leader wanted to speak about the Allies’ policy on Palestine, but the president diverted the conversation into a long discussion about the production of synthetic rubber. Roosevelt pushed aside Weizmann’s request to mobilize a Jewish army to defend Palestine against a German invasion; FDR supported the British view that such a move would antagonize the Egyptian Army. Weizmann argued that the U.S.-British position was like “trying to appease a rattlesnake,” but once again, Roosevelt would not budge.

David Niles, a close adviser to FDR, once remarked that if Roosevelt had lived (and thus Harry Truman remained vice president), he probably would not have supported the creation of Israel, and as a result the Jewish state might never have been established. Today it is more clear than ever why Niles doubted that FDR genuinely supported Zionism.

Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C. His latest book is “FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith.”

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  • Yoel Nitzarim

    The above information just adds fuel to the fire for me. Why didn’t Roosevelt order the tracks to Auschwitz bombed even once? The latter question was asked by my mentor Elie Wiesel in his speech “The Perils of Indifference.” And this question becomes even more comprehendible today when one realizes that FDR was probably not only anti-Zionistic, but anti-Semitic as well. Somehow the uplifting FDR radio fireside chats that my dear mother used to speak of so lovingly have lost their aural cogency.

  • White House Partners with Muslim Brotherhood Front Group

    Posted By Ryan Mauro On March 20, 2013 @ 12:45 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | No Comments

    The Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a group with Muslim Brotherhood origins and an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror-financing trial, recently toured the White House and met with multiple officials. According to the group, Paul Monteiro, Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement, “cited ISNA as his primary means of outreach to the American Muslim community.”

    The Obama administration’s close relationship with ISNA is about more than photo ops and press releases. It is about policy formulation. The input of ISNA is so treasured that the officials coached the organization on how to engage the White House.

    On March 8, ISNA President Mohamed Magid joined 10 other religious leaders in a 90-minute conversation with President Obama about immigration reform. Also present was senior White House adviser Valerie Jarrett, who spoke at ISNA’s 2009 convention. Three days later, Magid took part in a meeting with President Obama where he got “recommendations” in preparation for his Middle East trip, including some from groups with a history of defending Hezbollah.

    “Over the past two years, I-along with my White House colleagues-have benefited from the advice of many of your [Magid’s] organizations through our Office of Public Engagement,” said Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough on March 6, 2011 during a speech at the mosque that Magid leads.

    ISNA’s White House tour included spending time with George Selim, the White House Director for Community Partnerships, who is an annual speaker at ISNA’s conventions. Selim previously admitted that “hundreds” of meetings have taken place between government officials and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, another group with Brotherhood origins that was designated an unindicted co-conspirator.

    The U.S. government stated that ISNA is a U.S. Muslim Brotherhood entity when it designated it as an unindicted co-conspirator in the trial of the Holy Land Foundation. A federal judge upheld the designation in 2009 because of “ample” evidence linking ISNA to Hamas. A 1991 U.S. Muslim Brotherhood memo lists ISNA and several of its components among “our organizations and the organizations of our friends,” and a 1988 document says it is part of the Brotherhood “apparatus.”

    The FBI had sources inside the U.S. Brotherhood network reporting that ISNA was a front as early as 1987. The source traveled on behalf of ISNA and allied groups and he told the FBI that he is “convinced that this organization has a secret agenda which includes the spread of the Islamic Revolution to all non-Islamic governments in the world which does include the United States.”

    The source provided a secret ISNA document in 1988 that “clearly states that ISNA has a political goal to exert influence on political decision making and legislation in North America that is contrary to their certification in their not-for-profit tax returns,” says a declassified FBI memo.

    ISNA’s White House tour was part of its Founders Committee meeting. Even if it were true that newer moderate leaders have made ISNA evolve, this event wasn’t about them. It was about those who established it as a Muslim Brotherhood front and it still was warmly received by the White House.

    A 2009 Hudson Institute study concluded that “All but one of the individuals on the ISNA founding documents remain active either in ISNA or one of its affiliated organizations,” undermining the position that the ISNA of today is different than the original ISNA.

    A good example is Sayyid Syeed. He is an ISNA founder and served as its secretary-general from 1994 to 2006. He was recorded in 2006 stating “our job is to change the constitution of America,” as seen in the Grand Deception documentary. Now, he is ISNA’s point man for interfaith engagement, efforts it often showcases as proof of its moderation. He even spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in front of 100 evangelical leaders.

    As the declassified FBI memos from the 1980s warned, ISNA is using its position as a representative of the Muslim-American community to influence policies and that includes those related to national security.

    ISNA President Magid was chosen to serve on the Department of Homeland Security’s Countering Violent Extremism Working Group. Even though he accused elements of the U.S. government of being “intent on dismantling Muslim organizations and bringing them down” in 2004, the Obama administration saw him as a suitable adviser to the Department of Homeland Security.

    The outcry over the content of counter-terrorism training materials offered ISNA another opportunity. On February 8, 2012, ISNA and its allies met with the director of the FBI to discuss the review of the training. Afterwards, the FBI said it would consider forming an advisory panel with the meeting participants to help cleanse the training.

    Instead of working with anti-Islamist Muslim groups like the American Islamic Leadership Coalition or the LibForAll Foundation, the Obama administration is embracing the larger Muslim Brotherhood legacy groups. The way to engage in the Muslim-American community is by discrediting the Islamist theme, not by giving a platform to those broadcasting it.

    This article was sponsored by the Institute on Religion and Democracy.

    Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.

  • Marc Roth

    FDR was asked to boycott the 1936 summer Olympics in Germany–FDR said NO. FDR was asked to end the immigration quotas to allow Jews to leave Europe and come to America–FDR said NO. The St Louis ship set sail in 1938 to America and at the Port of Miami–FDR said NO. FDR was asked to bomb the camps and/or the tracks leading to the death camps–FDR said NO. FDR aided and abetted the holocaust. I never refer to the highway on the east side of Manhattan the FDR Drive (he doesnt deserve the honor)it should known as the East River Drive as it was originally called. If it wasnt for the Japanese who bombed Pearl Harbor–USA would not have entered the War in 1941. FDR WAS OUR WORST JEW-HATING PRESIDENT WHO WATCHED 6 MILLION DIE

    • Sabra C

      The attack on Pearl Harbor forced FDR to do what he did not want to do, destroy Hitler and the Nazis. By destroying Hitler, the Jews were liberated from the death camps! FDR’s refusal to enter the war prior to Pearl Harbor says it all. He was president of the US and he hated the Jews. History is repeating itself in that,Obama, also hates the Jews. However, his hatred, along with all the others who want to see Israel destroyed, has no power to come against THE DEFENDER OF ISRAEL…ALMIGHTY GOD HIMSELF. I stand with Israel as always!

  • Mh8169

    It is beyond my comprehension why so many American Jews are still in love with FDR. The fact that he had a number of close advisors who were anti-Semitic expresses a lot about this man. He was no friend of the Jews. The current POTUS has many friends within the Jewish liberal community. They have whet their thirst with Obamaade Juice and they cannot see at all. Obama is no friend of Israel.

    • artcohn

      Breckinridge Long Diary Says Roosevelt Backed His Policy On Visas

      (October 3, 1940)

      So when I saw him [FDR] this morning the whole subject of immigration, visas, safety of the United States, procedures to be followed; and all that sort of thing was on the table. I found that he was 100% in accord with my ideas. He said that when Myron Taylor, [the President’s personal representative to the Vatican], had returned from Europe recently the only thing which they discussed outside of Vatican matters was the visa and refugee situation and the manner in which our Consulates were being deprived of a certain amount of discretion by the rulings of the Department…The President expressed himself as in entire accord with the policy which would exclude persons about whom there was any suspicion that they would be inimical too the welfare of the United States no matter who had vouchsafed for them and irrespective of their financial or other standing. I left him with the satisfactory thought that he was wholeheartedly in support of the policy which would resolve in favor of the United States any doubts about admissibility of any individual.

      From: “The War Diary of Breckinridge Long”; ed. Fred L. Israel; University of Nebraska Press, 1966.

  • Truman’s support for the creation of Israel – even if evangelical in nature —cannot be underestimated. The State Dept was and remains a bastion of antisemetism: a fact that Truman had to overcome. The State Dept orchestrated an arms embergo of Israel until the 1970s…It is extremely rare for a person who is not openly antisemetic to advance in the US State Dept.

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