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Kermit Roosevelt, Teddy Roosevelt’s nephew and a legendary intelligence agent, was another who was deeply disturbed by events, noting:
“The process by which Zionist Jews have been able to promote American support for the partition of Palestine demonstrates the vital need of a foreign policy based on national rather than partisan interests…. Only when the national interests of the United States, in their highest terms, take precedence over all other considerations, can a logical, farseeing foreign policy be evolved. No American political leader has the right to compromise American interests to gain partisan votes…
Unlike some wars, most analysts consider WWI a pointless conflict that resulted from diplomatic entanglements rather than some travesty of justice or aggression. Yet, it was catastrophic to a generation of Europeans, killing 14 million people.
The United States joined this unnecessary war a few years into the hostilities, costing many American lives, even though the U.S. was not party to the alliances that had drawn other nations into the fray. This even though Americans had been strongly opposed to entering the war and Woodrow Wilson had won the presidency with the slogan, “He kept us out of war.”
Yet, In 1917 President Wilson changed course and plunged the U.S. into a tragic and pointless European conflict in which hundreds of thousands were killed and injured. Over 1,200 American citizens who opposed the war were rounded up and imprisoned, some for years.
A number or reasons were publicly given for Wilson’s change of heart, including Germany’s submarine warfare, the sinking of the American passenger ship Lusitania, and the Zimmerman Telegram. Historians also add pro-British propaganda and economic reasons to the list of causes, and most suggest that a number of factors were at play.
While Americans today are aware of these facts, few know that Zionism appears to have been one of those factors.
As diverse documentary evidence shows, Zionists pushed for the U.S. to enter the war on Britain’s side as part of a deal to gain British support for their colonization of Palestine.
From the very beginning of their movement, Zionists realized that if they were to succeed in their goal of creating a Jewish state on land that was already inhabited by non-Jews, they needed backing from one of the “Great Powers.” They tried the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Palestine at the time, but were turned down (although they were told that Jews could settle throughout other parts of the Ottoman empire and become Turkish citizens).
They then turned to Britain, which was also initially less than enthusiastic. Famous English Arabists such as Gertrude Bell pointed out that Palestine was Arab and that Jerusalem was sacred to all three major monotheistic faiths.
Future British Foreign Minister Lord George Curzon similarly stated that Palestine was already inhabited by half a million Arabs who would “not be content to be expropriated for Jewish immigrants or to act merely as hewers of wood and drawers of water for the latter.”
However, once the British were embroiled in World War I, and particularly during 1916, a disastrous year for the Allies, Zionists were able to play a winning card. Zionist leaders promised the British government that Zionists in the U.S. would push America to enter the war on the side of the British, if the British promised to support a Jewish home in Palestine afterward.
As a result, in 1917 British Foreign Minister Lord Balfour issued a letter to Zionist leader Lord Rothschild. Known as the Balfour Declaration, this letter promised that Britain would “view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” and to “use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object.”
The letter then qualified this somewhat by stating that it should be “clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.” The “non-Jewish communities” were 90 percent of Palestine’s population at that time, vigorous Zionist immigration efforts having slightly expanded the percentage of Jews living in Palestine by then.
The letter, while officially signed by British Foreign Minister Lord Balfour, was actually written by Leopold Amery, a British official who, it came out later, was a secret and fervent Zionist.
While this letter was a less than ringing endorsement of Zionism, Zionists considered it a major breakthrough as it cracked open a door that they would later force wider and wider open.
These Balfour-WWI negotiations are referred to in various documents. For example, Samuel Landman, secretary of the World Zionist Organization, described them in a 1935 article in World Jewry:
“After an understanding had been arrived at between Sir Mark Sykes and [Zionists] Weizmann and Sokolow, it was resolved to send a secret message to Justice Brandeis that the British Cabinet would help the Jews to gain Palestine in return for active Jewish sympathy and for support in the USA for the Allied cause, so as to bring about a radical pro-Ally tendency in the United States.”
British Colonial Secretary Lord Cavendish, in a memorandum to the British Cabinet in 1923, reminded his colleagues: “The object [of the Balfour Declaration] was to enlist the sympathies on the Allied side of influential Jews and Jewish organizations all over the world… and it is arguable that the negotiations with the Zionists…did in fact have considerable effect in advancing the date at which the United States government intervened in the war.”
Former British Prime Minister Lloyd George similarly referred to this deal, telling a British commission in 1935: “Zionist leaders gave us a definite promise that, if the Allies committed themselves to giving facilities for the establishment of a national home for the Jews in Palestine, they would do their best to rally Jewish sentiment and support throughout the world to the Allied cause. They kept their word.”
American career Foreign Service Officer Evan M. Wilson, who had served as Minister-Consul General in Jerusalem, writes that the Balfour declaration “…was given to the Jews largely for the purpose of enlisting Jewish support in the war and of forestalling a similar promise by the Central Powers [Britain’s enemies in World War I]”.
The influence of Brandeis and other Zionists in the U.S. had enabled Zionists to form an alliance with Britain, one of the world’s great powers, a remarkable achievement for a non-state group and a measure of Zionists’ immense power. As historian Kolsky states, the Zionist movement was now “an important force in international politics.”
Paris Peace Conference 1919: Zionists defeat Christian leaders’ calls for self-determination
After the war, the victors met in a peace conference and agreed to a set of peace accords that addressed, among many issues, the fate of Ottoman Empire’s Middle East territories. The Allies stripped the defeated Empire of its Middle Eastern holdings and divided them between Britain and France, which were to hold them under a “mandate” system until the populations were “ready” for self-government. Britain got the mandate over Palestine.
Zionists, including Brandeis, Felix Frankfurter, the World Zionist Organization, and an American delegation, went to the peace conference to lobby for a Jewish “home” in Palestine and to push for Balfour wording to be incorporated in the peace accords. The official U.S. delegation to the peace conference also contained a number of highly placed Zionists.
Distinguished American Christians posted in the Middle East, who consistently supported self-determination, went to Paris to oppose Zionists. Numerous prominent Christian leaders in the U.S. – including two of the most celebrated pastors of their day, Harry Emerson Fosdick and Henry Sloane Coffin – also opposed Zionism. However, as a pro-Israel author notes, they were “simply outgunned” by Zionists.
The most prominent American in the Middle East at the time, Dr. Howard Bliss, President of Beirut’s Syrian Protestant College (later to become the American University of Beirut), traveled to Paris to urge forming a commission to determine what the people of the Middle East wanted for themselves, a suggestion that was embraced by the U.S. diplomatic staff in Paris.
Princeton Professor Philip Brown, in Cairo for the YMCA, provided requested reports to the U.S. State Department on what Zionism’s impact would be on Palestine. He stated that it would be disastrous for both Arabs and Jews and went to Paris to lobby against it.
William Westermann, director of the State Department’s Western Asia Division, which covered the region, similarly opposed the Zionist position. He wrote that “[it] impinges upon the rights and the desires of most of the Arab population of Palestine.” Westermann and other U.S.diplomats felt that Arab claims were much more in line with Wilson’s principles of self-determination and circulated Arab material.