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Harry Truman Administration: Letter to Senate and House on U.S. Assistance to Palestine Refugees

(January 30, 1950)

Dear Mr.__________:

I am transmitting herewith for the consideration of the Congress a draft of proposed legislation to enable the United States to participate in and contribute to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East. This Agency has been established by the General Assembly of the United Nations to deal with the problems created by the displacement of hundreds of thousands of persons as a result of the recent hostilities in Palestine.

The work of the Agency will be to carry out the recommendations of the Economic Survey Mission for the Middle East, appointed by the United Nations. This Survey Mission, under the Chairmanship of Gordon Clapp, was directed by the United Nations to study the economic dislocation created by the conflict in Palestine and to recommend measures to reintegrate the Palestine refugees into the economic life of the area. Its recommendations are an example of the kind of development and planning which is essential to the economic growth and improvement of underdeveloped areas. The Mission, in this survey, has taken into account the human and natural resources of the region in which these refugees find themselves, and has recommended a program of economic activity which will be of lasting benefit to these areas and to the standard of living of peoples who live there.

Our aid is needed to put this program into effect and to help the Refugees and the inhabitants of these areas in the Middle East to achieve greater productivity through the steps recommended in the report of the Mission. In my inaugural address, I stressed the importance, in the interests of our foreign policy, of economic development of underdeveloped areas. In such a case as this, where relief for refugees is essential, it is advantageous to combine the relief program, with the beginnings of longer range economic development.

Point Four legislation and legislation for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees are complementary. There is no overlapping in the request for funds for the two programs.

The immediate reason for the establishment by the United Nations of the Economic Survey Mission to the Middle East was the hope that through an economic approach it might be possible to facilitate a peace settlement between Israel and the neighboring Arab states. The problems of Palestine and her neighbors are complicated by the continuing plight of over three-quarters of a million persons who left their homes during the conflict in Palestine, and are now refugees in the neighboring lands. Homeless and without work, these people cannot care for themselves. The nations now giving them asylum are themselves unable to care for them. For some time to come they will remain dependent on others for their support.

In response to an appeal from the General Assembly of the United Nations for relief funds, made in December 1948, I recommended to the Congress that the United States should bear up to one-half of the cost of a relief program which was estimated to cost $32 million for a nine month period. The Congress appropriated $16 million for this purpose. Our contribution has been more than equalled by the contributions of 32 other countries. The fund thus raised has been stretched to its limits and is now exhausted.

The United Nations Economic Survey Mission has recommended a combined relief and public works program, and has estimated the cost of this program at $54,900,000 for an eighteen month period beginning January 1, 1950.

This program is significant in its practical approach to our objective of economic development in underdeveloped areas. The areas in question have unrealized economic potentialities but require technical assistance from abroad to assure their development. The projects proposed will be complete in themselves, representing intensive development in small areas, and have been so selected that they can be brought to completion by the middle of 1951. They will result in lasting economic benefits.

In illustrating what can be done with limited resources of soil and water by the application of modern engineering and agricultural techniques, these projects should point the way to further development not only in the countries where they are carried out, but in neighboring countries as well. The successful completion of this program should go far in furthering conditions of political and economic stability in the Near East. At the same time the proposed program, while costing little more than direct relief, looks to the end of the direct relief program of the United Nations in the Near East, and to ultimate solution of the refugee problem.

I believe that it is appropriate that the United States should continue to bear onehalf the cost of this program. I, therefore, recommend that the Congress authorize and appropriate $27,450,000 for an eighteen month period. I trust that other nations which have contributed to the program in the past will be equally generous in the future.

The importance of a substantial United States contribution to this program is very real. Not only is it consistent with the humanitarian spirit of the American people; it is also in our national interest to help maintain peaceful and stable conditions in the Near East.

It is with these considerations in mind that I recommend to the Congress the early enactment of legislation to enable the United States to take its part in this program of the United Nations.

Sincerely yours,


Sources: Public Papers of the President