“America’s Palestine” by Lawrence Davidson (University Press of Florida, 2001) examines the history of the Zionist movement from the perspective of America’s “bi-polar” attitudes of the 1920s through the 1940s. By “bi-polar,” Davidson means that Zionism was seen by Americans of those years as a form of altruistic imperialism, in which the Jews, under the influence of the British Empire, would build up Palestine for the benefit of all the inhabitants, including the Arabs.
This attitude permeated the major newspapers, particularly in Los Angeles and New York. Thus, whenever the Arabs rioted over the Jewish intrusion into their land, the “bi-polar” view held that this was Arab intransigence toward progress, not a legitimate express of concern for their homeland. The same approach was applied at the time of the 1936-’37 Arab rebellion against British rule.
The truth about what was really going on in Palestine was deliberately covered up from the beginning. At the same time that Congressman Hamilton Fish was beguiling Americans with the fiction that Zionism in Palestine was an expression of American values, David Ben-Gurion was proclaiming that he intended to follow the path taken by Lenin in Russia.
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) routinely published pamphlets and newspaper propaganda comparing the Zionist settlers to the Pilgrim Fathers in New England. This Zionist technique of hitching their cause to another people’s traditions has proved extremely effective, as Davidson notes.
Another highly effective technique used by the Zionists was to invoke the Bible as support for their aims. The Jews, as the people of the book, had a divinely ordained “right” to return to Palestine.
That the Catholic Church at this very time was refusing to recognize a Jewish state in Palestine because the Jews had refused to recognize Jesus as the Messiah apparently escaped their notice.
Davidson notes that in this early period there were cogent critics of Zionism. Henry Pritchett of the Carnegie Institute of International Affairs wrote a report in 1926 which asserted that the Jews in Palestine were xenophobic and that the realization of their aims at the expense of the Arabs would only make them more so. Henry Hockings, the eminent Harvard philosopher, made essentially the same points.
A primary focus of “America’s Palestine” is the attitudes of the U.S. State Department, particularly its Division of Near Eastern and African Affairs, headed by Wallace Murray. The Jews ascribe the State Department’s lukewarm attitude toward Zionism as pure anti-Semitism, ignoring that much of the anti-Zionist perspective was simply the traditional American attitude of non-interference in foreign affairs. The issue was further complicated by Holocaust propaganda, the failure of America to rescue Jews from non-existent “gas chambers.”
Many of the Jews invading Palestine were American citizens and they demanded American intervention to protect them whenever the Arabs rioted. This led Paul Knabenshue, the American consul in Jerusalem, to cynically ask the Jews: “Are you Palestinians or Americans?”
Generally, the State Department took the position that it was the duty of the British mandatory authorities to provide security in Palestine. The State Department generally ignored Congressional resolutions of a pro-Zionist character.
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