Monday, May 21st | 7 Sivan 5778

Close

Be in the know!

Get our exclusive daily news briefing.

Subscribe
March 20, 2014 12:49 am

The State Department’s Campaign Against the ‘Jewish State’ Idea—in 1954

avatar by Rafael Medoff / JNS.org

Email a copy of "The State Department’s Campaign Against the ‘Jewish State’ Idea—in 1954" to a friend

JNS.orgSecretary of State John Kerry’s remark last week that it is a “mistake” to insist that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as a Jewish state brings to mind a little-known episode in the early 1950s, when the Eisenhower administration briefly embraced the notion that Israel should stop identifying itself as a Jewish state.

The key figure in this unusual chapter in U.S.-Israel relations was a young U.S. Army officer named Henry A. Byroade, who in 1952 was picked by President Harry Truman to be Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, although he had no Middle East-related experience or education.

According to a previously unpublished interview with Byroade in the files of the Truman Presidential Library, in Missouri, the president summoned Byroade for a discussion in late 1952, shortly before he left office. “I was very critical of both the policies of Israel and our policy towards Israel,” Byroade recalled. “And he outlined his view[s] for me, which really were very surprisingly similar my own. I left there extremely encouraged that we would get White House backing for what I called an even-handed, balanced policy position between both Arabs and Israel.”

Bryoade reasoned that if Truman, who had received considerable Jewish support, was ready to back away from Israel, then his successor Dwight Eisenhower, who had much weaker ties to American Jewry, would be even less supportive of Israel. And he was right.

In April 1953, Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett visited Washington and got a first-hand taste of how Byroade was reshaping U.S. policy. Byroade demanded that Israel make territorial concessions to the Arabs, and threatened Sharett that the Eisenhower administration would present “our own peace plan,” which Israel might not like.

On the same day Byroade met with Sharett, two leaders of the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism (ACJ) met with President Dwight Eisenhower. The Council had provoked tremendous controversy with its lobbying in the 1940s against creation of a Jewish state. What is not widely realized is that even after Israel was established, the Council continued its activities and, in fact, had even more impact on U.S. policy than previously.

ACJ officials Lessing Rosenwald and George Levison urged the president to consider American Jews a purely religious group with no obligations to Israel. They also denounced the idea of American Jewish immigration to Israel and said the Israelis should become “Middle Eastern” like their neighbors. Levison came away from the meeting convinced that Eisenhower was “in general agreement with our views.”

Afterwards, they visited the State Department and delivered a memorandum making the same points. Assistant Secretary Byroade took the memo with him when he accompanied Secretary of State John Foster Dulles to Israel in May. Parts of the ACJ memo found their way into a landmark Mideast policy speech, ghostwritten by Byroade, that Dulles delivered in June.

Dulles vowed to improve relations with the Arabs, said the U.S. would not become “a backer of expansionist Zionism,” and proposed that Jerusalem be ruled by “the world religious community,” and not be Israel’s capital. Challenging Israel’s identity, Dulles declared that Israel “should become a part of the Near East community and cease to look upon itself… as alien to this community.”

Jewish leaders hoped the speech did not represent a shift in U.S. policy, but those hopes were soon dashed. When the Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Abba Eban met with Dulles in October, the secretary ticked off a lift of demands that Byroade had prepared for him: Israel must “re-examine its policy of encouraging large-scale immigration,” refrain from counter-terror raids, and “bear her share of the Arab refugee burden.”

By the spring of 1954, Byroade was ready to go public. Sixty years ago next month (on April 19, 1954), in an address to the World Affairs Council, in Dayton, he called on Israelis to “look upon yourselves as a Middle Eastern state, rather than as a headquarters… of a world-wide grouping of people of a particular religious faith.” He also demanded that Israel “drop the attitude of the conqueror” and halt what he called “retaliatory killings.”

Then, with the approval of Secretary Dulles, Byroade delivered the keynote address at the ACJ’s annual convention, in Philadelphia on May 1. His public association with the anti-Zionist group appalled Jewish leaders.  And what he said at the conference was even worse.

Byroade repeated his demand that Israel become “a Middle Eastern state.” He targeted Jewish immigration to Israel as a central obstacle to peace, asserting that Israel’s calls for “greatly expanded immigration” convinced the Arabs that it was planning “a future attempt at territorial expansion.”

The Israeli government filed an official protest against the “unjustified interference in matters which are purely Israel’s own concern.” American Zionist leader Emanuel Neumann blasted “Byroadeism” for “negating the hopes and dreams and the religious emotions of countless generations.” In a dramatic demonstration of Israel’s commitment to aliyah, keynote speakers at 19 different government-sponsored Israel Independence Day events throughout Israel the following week focused their remarks on the need for increased immigration.

The Eisenhower administration stood by Byroade and his comments. But the controversial policy he was shaping soon withered in the face of Arab intransigence. As Byroade discovered during his subsequent stint as U.S. ambassador in Cairo, Arab leaders such as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser could not be appeased by Israeli concessions on immigration, territory, or refugees. Their unflinching refusal to accept Israel’s existence made it impossible for the Byroade line to be maintained as America’s Mideast policy in the years to follow.

Dr. Rafael Medoff is co-author, with Chaim I. Waxman, of the Historical Dictionary of Zionism.

Share this Story: Share On Facebook Share On Twitter Email This Article

Let your voice be heard!

Join the Algemeiner
  • Steven Kalka

    Right now the US is projecting weakness under Obama, so maybe Netanyahu hold off responding until he’s forced to voice an opinion. In addition, it may be wiser to wait until the talks with Abbas collapse.

  • Dov

    This piece is very interesting. Back then Israel stood its grounds and told the US not to mingle in the new founded States affairs. It doesn’t surprise me that certain Reform Jews went against the founding of Israel, they tried for years to become like their neighbors and not be any longer recognized as “Jewish”.

    But today we find that Natanyahu is acting like Byroade. The rolls seems to have changed. I am not surprised about Kerry, what after all would they have with the Jewish State? But why is Prime Minister Natanyahu so weak and why is he afraid to say to Kerry, ‘bud out of our affairs’ and we have every right to ask to be recognized as a Jewish State.

  • Julian Tepper

    What do Obama and Kerry think they are getting out of their weak “support” for Israel?

    Do they expect to get something from the Arabs? From Iran?

    Do they expect more political support from those Americans who are Jew-haters?

    Do they expect something good from French, German and British Jew-haters?

    Do they think that the Jew-haters in these countries and in ours outnumber the rest of their respective populations?

    They must expect something?

    What could it be?

    Julian Tepper
    Brooklyn, NY

    • Sonia Willats

      Surely they hoped for support on the Iran nuclear issue – this was the main motivating factor? And SURELY UKRAINE, if not Syria before, and Benghazi, makes you wonder whether America even has America’s back!

      Israel has to defend herself, as her defence minister has so clearly and correctly stated, even if forced to apologise. Yaálon could not be more correct.

    • Markus Elkana Brajtman

      One question I would like the jew haters to answer>
      WHY DO YOU HATE US?
      WHAT HAVE WE DONE TO YOU?

      IS YOUR HATRED NOT SOMETHING THAT YOU LEARNED FROM YOUR [PARENTS, WHO PROBABLY HAVE NO IDEA WHY THEY HATE>

      WHAT HAVE THE JEWS DONE TO YOU, TO DESERVE YOUR HATRED?
      IS IT NOT JEALOUSY BECAUSE THE JEWS HAVE MADE STUDYING AND EDUCATION A TOP PRIOITY, WHEREAS YOU HAVE ONLY LEARNED TO HATE?

      FROM THE RELATIVELY SMALL WORLD POPULATION, THE JEWS HAVE CONTRIBUTED FAR MORE THAN ANY OTHER RELIGION, IN SCIENCE, MEDICINE, TECHNOLOGY ET C.
      BUT THEN IN THE DAYS OF HISTORY, THERE WERE NO SUCH THINGS AS TECHNOLOGY.

      JEW HATRED IS PURELY JEALOUSY.
      OR IS IT THE LIE THAT JEWS CRUCIFIED JESUS?
      THE JEWS NEVER CRUCIFIED ANYONE. IT WAS THE ROMANS.

      BUT SURELY, BY HATING JEWS, YOU MUST HATE THE JEWISH RABBI, JESUS AS WELL

      • John crowngold

        Hey wake up,who’s killing,murdering palestinians since 1948?

  • RonCo215

    Israel has never been willing to take the steps it needed to be free of a hostile muslim population in it’s midst! Mostly because they are always afraid of world opinion! Today, the muslims rule the Temple Mount and the Jews in charge of Israel allow it to happen!! Jews are attacked in Israel by arab muslims with impunity!! That is sick!!

  • Virginia Dobbs

    It is purely disgusting to me that my government is not upholding our support of Israel and the Jewish peoples. I am a Christian, but my Bible tells me to love and support our Jewish brothers and their home. Obama is a muslim, so we can expect his attitude, but Kerry? He is just a teeny, tiny little ugly man married to a very rich woman with nothing else to his credit. He is seriously inadequate in this position, and should never been appointed to any place of prominence in our world negotiations. He makes us look like the fools and clowns we are rapidly becoming in the eyes of the world.
    God bless America and God will bless His Israel.

  • FREDDY SIEGFRIED GLATT

    Rosenwald and Levison were jewish traitors like Jacques, a jew who worked for the Gestapo in Brussels during the war and denounced whole jewish families who ended up in Auschwitz with no return like my two brothers and grandparents, not forgeting my class mates in the jewish school Tachkemoni in Antwerp.

  • esther noodelman

    I AM WAITING FOR WORLD JEWRY TO DEMAND THAT JONATHAN POLLARD WHO IS CRITICALLY ILL AND HAS BEEN PUNISHED BY THE AMERICANS TO A LIFE SENTENCE INSTEAD OF 2-4 YEARS WHEN OBAMA HIMSELF HAS BEEN SPYING ON ISRAEL,THAT HE BE TRANSFERRED TO AN ISRAELI HOSPITAL FOR A CHANCE TO BE TREATED PROPERLY AND POSSIBLY RECUPERATE.DO WE WANT ANOTHER ROSENBERG CASE ON OUR HANDS.
    I ACTUALLY ADMIRE THE ARABS FOR FIGHTING FOR THE RELEASE OF THEIR PRISONERS,MANY OF WHOM ARE MURDERERS.
    JONATHAN NEVER KILLED ANYONE.HE PASSED ON CLASSIFIED INFO TO US ALLY,ISRAEL,INFO VITAL TO HER EXISTENCE AND WAS WITHHELD FROM HER BY AMERICA. AMERICA SHOULD SEND HIM BACK TO ISRAEL..ONE HUMANITRARIAN GESTURE IN HIS 29TH YEAR OF PRISON.CALL YOUR LOCAL SENATOR AND ISRAELIS..DEMAND POLLARD BE SENT BACK TO ISRAEL FOR OUR HOSPITAL CARE AT THIS CRITICAL TIME.WRITE BIBI ,PERES,MEMBERS OF THE KNESSET.SAVING ONE JEWISH LIFE IS LIKE SAVING THE WORLD.WE ARE NOT LIVING IN THE GULAG OR ARE WE?PLEASE BIBI,PERES,YOU ARE SO CONCERNED IF AMERICA DOESN’T LIKE YOU..STAND UP FOR JONATHAN THE WAY THE ARABS STAND UP FOR THEIR CRIMINALS.REMEMBER..AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER AND JUSTICE,JUSTICE SHALL YOU PURSUE..AND IF I AM ONLY FOR MYSELF WHO AM I..AND IF NOT NOW..WHEN?

    • RonCo215

      Don’t hold your breath waiting! There are Jews out there that still say he got what he deserved and there are Jews out there that are afraid to speak up! Obama can demand Israel release murderers of Jews but the arch villain, Jonathan Pollard, oh no, his release would be a threat to all humanity!! Or so it seems. Jews always got/get special treatment!

      • Sonia Willats

        Netanyahu should never have agreed to the prisoner releases. I believe it will be his downfall, politically – and I admire him and know he wants the best for Am Israel.

        Being asked to act out such huge injustice towards your own people – it cannot bring peace. A process that starts like that will end like that. A “friend” with integrity would never ask for such a concession.

        Jonathan Pollard case shows exactly the true heart of the American administration. IT WAS UP TO ISRAEL TO SAY no to prisoner releases- after you.

  • M.A. Kinamohn

    As Jews we will no longer tolerate the bigotry of the world, f*** the dupes and pawns of the U.N.! Israel has always belonged to the JEWS!

  • Dita Gould

    How dissapointing

  • ivan

    do you realy believe things have or will ever change with American and world policy towards Israel?????
    we jews are on our own and should show America and co that we will survive with or without their help.

  • Ilbert Phillips

    Why has the State Department, from the inception of Israel, been anti-Jewish? Liberal intellectuals aspire to two things in life: (1) One world, one government (2) a secular world minimizing the impact of religion since they believe that religion is the opiate of the people and encourages believing in fantasies. Judaism has three components: God, Torah and the Jewish Nation, each of this components are antithetical to liberal intellectuals since each contradicts one world, one government and minimizing religion. We even have Jews living in Israel who believe the religious Jew has too much influence on the Israeli government.

    • Beverly Griffin

      Ilbert, The U.S. State Dept. has been staffed with Socialist/Communist fifth columns as well as strategically placed enemy moles,since before World War II. The Arabists and now the current administration’s appointments of Muslims with questionable affiliations and backgrounds, have exponentionally joined their ranks. George W. Bush, while president, although well meaning, made many naive decisions after 9/11, due to his family’s business ties to the Saudis. This witches’ brew within our State Department, is poisonous to Freedom and Democracy around the globe.

  • judith nusbaum

    Those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

  • David

    Byroade, Rosenwald and Levison were fools, as are the current crop of American “negotiators”. But we can have great faith, today as then, in the intransigence of the Arabs to destroy American efforts to force Israel to risk its future. It doesn’t matter what they are offered because the Palis and their backers remain committed to the annihilation of Israel, so current American efforts will again “wither in the face of Arab intransigence”.

  • rachel robinson

    plus ca change plus ce la meme chose. no matter if the faces and the names change, history is repeating itself. I am glad though that israel then, as now, as not giving in, that Aliyah did not stop, on the contrary it increased, Israel is still a Jewish state, the Palestinians still insist on Israel not building new homes and that it take all their millions of refugees, who are still such even though there were wars and many refugees and yet all those were settled in various countries, but the Palestinians are by now in the millions and are still being refused to be accepted in all those many countries where they are still living in camps.

Algemeiner.com