Roosevelt, Ibn Saud, and American Jews

March 27, 2013

Andrew Bostom h/t Doc’s Talk:

This morning at AT, Professor Emeritus Edward Bernard Glick described his frank 1958 discussion with Eleanor Roosevelt regarding her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s decision not to bomb the railway tracks connecting to the Nazi extermination camps for European Jews. Professor Glick also alludes to prevalent antisemitic attitudes in the State Department, and perhaps President Roosevelt, himself, whom he quotes as having stated to a prominent Jewish Congressman, “The Jews in America should know that they are tolerated here, but not more than that.

Roosevelt’s statement was in fact a crude retrogression from the attitudes expressed by America’s first President, George Washington. Following a visit to Newport, RI in August, 1790, and his warm reception by the local Jewish community, represented in a letter by Moses Seixas, George Washington wrote a moving reply to Touro’s congregation. Our first President rejected the idea of mere “tolerance” of Jews, embracing them as full, equal citizens of the nascent American nation, with complete freedom of conscience, and the guarantee of their personal security. Washington stated,
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. [emphasis added]

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.

Roosevelt made another particularly maleficent, if bizarre, statement revealing his visceral antisemitism during the seminal February, 1945 Yalta Conference between the American President, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The President was scheduled to meet with Arabia’s despot King Ibn Saud immediately after the Conference. Alluding to this upcoming meeting with the Arabian despot, Stalin asked Roosevelt what concessions the President might make to Ibn Saud regarding Middle Eastern issues. As per two independent sources of archival documentary evidence (hat tip, Diana West), i.e., the minutes preserved in the Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, New York, and the papers of then Secretary of State Edward R. Stettinius (the latter reproduced in the recent M. Stanton Evans and Herbert Romerstein analysis, “Stalin’s Secret Agents—The Subversion of Roosevelt’s Government,” p. 35),
The President [Roosevelt] replied that there was only one concession he thought he might offer and that was to give him [Ibn Saud] the six million Jews in the United States. [February 10, 1945]

Professor Glick warns, appropriately, about the pitfalls of American Jews’ blindly misguided reverence for Democratic Presidential “saviors,” such as Franklin Roosevelt, or Barack Obama, “whom Jews revered then [Roosevelt] as much as they lionize President Barack Obama now ,” despite their latent (or blatant) antisemitism, and the actions, or inactions, such attitudes may engender.
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(Saudis remember FDR’s broken promise – Baltimore Sun) Roosevelt spelled out this promise in a letter to King Abdel Aziz Ibn Saud on April 5, 1945:
Your Majesty will recall that on previous occasions I communicated to you the attitude of the American Government toward Palestine and made clear our desire that no decision be taken with respect to the basic situation in that country without full consultation with both Arabs and Jews. … [D]uring our recent conversation I assured you that I would take no action, in my capacity as Chief of the Executive Branch of this Government, which might prove hostile to the Arab people.
…when Roosevelt made this promise about Palestine, it never occurred to Ibn Saud that another president could come along and break that promise.???????
But Roosevelt died a week after sending the letter to Ibn Saud.
Harry S. Truman, Roosevelt’s successor, came to office suddenly and unexpectedly.
Truman placed the United States forcefully and decisively in support of the partition of Palestine and the creation of a Jewish state in 1948. The sentiments of the king of Saudi Arabia were not considered important.
“I’m sorry, gentlemen,” Truman explained to worried Arabists. “But I have to answer to hundreds of thousands of people who are anxious for the success of Zionism. I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.”

(Saudis remember FDR’s broken promise – Baltimore Sun) The meeting took place in February 1945 aboard the USS Quincy, a destroyer, in the Great Bitter Lake of the Suez Canal, where Roosevelt stopped on his way home from the Yalta Conference with Churchill and Stalin.
Ibn Saud was brought to the rendezvous aboard the USS Murphy, a cruiser, along with an extraordinary cargo, though not nearly as strange as it might have been if the king had had his way. Ibn Saud had arrived at the dock with an entourage of about 200 men, plus quite a few women from his harem.
The captain of the Murphy was appalled. He warned the king’s entourage of problems that might arise with women aboard a naval vessel manned by a crew that had been at sea and at war for a long time. The women were left behind. The king brought a retinue of 48, including coffee servers, cooks and six huge Nubians with swords.


The Shameful Legacy of Rabbi Stephen Wise

November 4, 2012
Left to right: Nahum Goldmann, Stephen Wise, Henry Torres (speaking) at the World Jewish Congress Installation Conference, New York City, June 1942. Photo: wiki commons.

From my early childhood, I remember my mother teaching me about the importance of supporting the Jewish people and the Jewish nation – and not being afraid.  My middle name, David, is after the sole member of my mother’s family, David Waga, who escaped the concentration camps where so many members of my family were killed.  David fought with the partisans during the Holocaust.
Growing up as a member of the community of Rabbi Avi Weiss, from my pre-teenage years I recall demonstrations outside the Soviet Embassy were we yelled “Let My People Go”. We raised a voice of moral conscience on behalf of many other important Jewish related causes as well.  I then became National President of the Betar Movement – the activist movement of Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Today, as I raise my family, I am proud that my children attend yeshiva and that we are involved in numerous Jewish charities and causes.
Because of my background, I declined to allow my children to attend a party program that recently took place at the Stephen Wise Synagogue.  Now, don’t call me an extremist – I have let my kids attend parties at other reform temples.  As CEO of a Public Relations Agency, I represent churches and many different causes – yet I will never walk through the doors of a building that honors Stephen Wise.
For those that are unaware, Rabbi Stephen Wise was the most prominent leader of the American Jewish community during the 1930s and 1940s, and served as “president of both the American Jewish Congress and the World Jewish Congress.”  Perhaps there are many fine things that he did in his life, but it is nearly unanimously recognized that the man’s leadership was atrocious when it came to saving Europe’s Jews during the Holocaust. So how could Stephen Wise be regarded as anything other than a despicable human being and a disastrous Jewish leader?
It is true that you cannot judge another man until you walk in his shoes – but through the lens of history we can see that he was woefully inept when it came to doing all he could to help Jews during the Holocaust.  He failed dismally in his role as a Jewish leader, and to regard him as honorable is a disservice to the memories of the 6 Million.
How can the Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan or the Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles be proud to carry his name when Professor Mark Raider, chairman of Judaic Studies at SUNY Albany says that Wise was “cautious and ineffective” in response to “the disgracefully slow response of the Allies” to the Nazi persecution of European Jewry?
Wise called President Franklin Delano Roosevelt ‘Boss’ or ‘Chief,’ and advised President Franklin Roosevelt not to meet with the 400 Orthodox Rabbis that marched on Washington in 1943.  To protect their self-interests, Dr. Zohar Segev of Haifa University says Wise and his colleagues “worked actively to tone down any Jewish criticism of the Roosevelt administration.” They “used their influence to restrain, limit, and control any efforts towards greater activism.” They wanted to maintain the liberal status quo.
Rabbi Wise despicably worked against all efforts of Jewish activists who did all they could to raise awareness of the millions being killed in Europe.  Wise referred to Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky as “a ‘traitor” for preaching evacuation for over a million Eastern European  Jews, and said that Bergson Group leader Peter Bergson was “worse than Hitler”. (Bergson worked tirelessly to raise awareness over the fate of Jews in Europe, while Wise claimed it would increase Anti-Semitism in America).
Rabbi Ephraim Kestenbaum, son of Rabbi David Kestenbaum who was active in saving European Jews during the Holocaust recounted that Wise phoned his father on several occasions, telling him that he should stop putting so much pressure on the American government to save European Jews. Rabbi Kestenbaum told of how on one occasion, he took a message for his father from Wise who told him, “Tell your father that he has to be an American and not to fight hard for Jews in Europe. You have to be an American first.”
Wise regarded himself as a servant of Roosevelt – rather than working for the best interests of the Jewish people. Could any other ethnic group honor a man who failed his people in their most dire time of need?  Any Institution which honors Stephen Wise should be ashamed to carry his name. The man’s conduct was despicable and his memory does not deserve to be recognized by Jewish institutions.
6 Million Jews were slaughtered, and it is clear that the Jewish community of the free world did not do enough to prevent one of our people’s greatest calamities. Who knows how many more Jews there would be today if Wise had done the right thing.
Ronn David Torossian is CEO of 5WPR and author of “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations.”