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Monday, May 23, 2016



The Truman Library has a "student activity" sheet asking questions about how the US decided to recognize Israel.

The questions being asked are at odds with history.

Have the class review the documents regarding the complex issue of recognizing Israel. Look at the history of Palestine, the United Nations proposal, Truman’s friendship with Eddie Jacobson, and the world climate after World War II. What would have happened if Truman would have not recognized Israel? What would the world climate be like if Palestine would have been divided into two nations as in the UN proposition. Would the peace process even be necessary if Truman would have not conceded to Israel?
These are leading questions that ignore the fact that the partition plan was a dead letter because of violent Arab opposition. The idea that somehow the 1947 partition plan, and resultant Arab state, would still be in force in the 21st century had the US backed it in May 1948 is the height of absurdity. The wording that Truman "conceded" to Israel is also ahistorical. He very much made up his own mind.

It gets worse:

The refugees of country “X” have just liberated a province of one of the African nations. The new provincial government has sent a letter to the United States government wanting recognition of the newly liberated province as a legitimate nation. Do you recognize this new country? What protocol do you follow? How will other African Nations respond? What will the United Nations do? What is the country’s historical background? What are the religious and political beliefs held by the people of this new country? What are the qualities of the leaders of the political parties in question? Are there residents of the United States who have ties to country “X”? Would there be pressure from this section of the population to recognize the new government? Tackle these questions and others that a government must wrestle with in recognizing a new country and government?

Truman was nothing if not independent. The timeline on the Truman Library website notes that he resisted pressure from both sides and came up with his own ideas. A small excerpt:

October 4, 1946: On the eve of Yom Kippur, President Truman issues a statement indicating United States support for the creation of a "viable Jewish state."

October 23, 1946: Loy Henderson, director of the State Department's Near East Agency, warns that the immigration of Jewish Communists into Palestine will increase Soviet influence there.

October 28, 1946: President Truman writes to King Saud of Saudi Arabia, informing the king that he believes "that a national home for the Jewish people should be established in Palestine."

1947-48: The White House receives 48,600 telegrams, 790,575 cards, and 81,200 other pieces of mail on the subject of Palestine.

Yet in this interview with Truman he says that he "burned" all of the letters, not wanting to be influenced one way or the other. His friend Eddie Jacobson was instrumental in getting him to speak to Chaim Weizmann (and Truman resisted even that, ignoring an earlier telegram from Jacobson asking him to meet with Weizmann) but the Jewish lobby was utterly ineffectual.



Truman was most certainly not swayed by the Jewish community, just as he was not swayed by the unrelentingly anti-Zionist State Department.

This lesson plan is biased, and it actually insults Truman.

(h/t L. King)



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