State Department Near East Director Henderson
Accuses Zionists of Aggression Against Arabs of Palestine
(May 25, 1948)
Loy Henderson was the top State Department official responsible for Near East policy, one of the original Arabists, and a staunch opponent of the creation of a Jewish state.
[Washington,] May 25, 1948.
I am listing a number of points with regard to Palestine and the relationship of the United Nations to Palestine, some of which you may care to touch upon during the course of your conversation with Mr. Lie and Senator Austin:
- 1) The Palestine situation is extremely complicated and explosive. Both Arabs and Jews can present convincing arguments that their respective causes are based on accepted international principles and on elemental justice. Although both have good arguments, both have committed grave mistakes. The Arabs and Jews are not alone guilty, however, for what is happening in Palestine. The governments of various countries, by following confused, contradictory, and opportunistic policies in the past, have added to the complications and injustices inherent in the situation.
- 2) The Palestine problem, unless handled with extreme care, might in present world conditions produce a situation in which the security of the entire Middle East as well as that of the whole world could be endangered.
- 3) The United Nations is an instrument for the preservation of world peace on the basis of the principles set forth in its charter. In making use of this instrument, the various States which are members [Page 1045]of the United Nations must exercise caution in handling problems such as Palestine lest they wreck rather than strengthen world security. It is true that if the United Nations fails to take prompt action when the basic principles of the Charter are being violated, it weakens its effectiveness as an instrument for peace. Nevertheless, its members must bear in mind that it may be more harmful to the United Nations for it to take action likely to undermine the peace than to take no action. This is particularly true when there is some doubt as to which party is right and which is wrong.
- 4) In taking action with regard to Palestine it is important that the Security Council make sure that it is pursuing simultaneously the following objectives:
- upholding the principles of the Charter;
- upholding them in a manner which would promote rather than undermine world security;
- upholding them in a manner which would be free from bias and partisanship; and
- upholding them in a manner which, so far as possible, would not threaten the integrity of the United Nations or would not weaken it by the creation of new antagonistic blocks, as for instance, a bloc of Asiastic countries or a bloc of peoples of non-European origin who feel that the principles of the Charter are being applied differently to them than to peoples of European origin.
- 5) It seems clear that the majority of the thinking peoples of Asia are convinced that the Zionists, with the aid of certain western countries, have for years been engaged in a slow process of aggression against the Arabs of Palestine and that this process is now reaching the stage of armed aggression. Furthermore, many of them are convinced that the Zionist ambitions extend beyond the confines of what the Zionists now call their state. So long as this feeling exists, the organs of the United Nations must exercise great circumspection in making decisions and proceed with caution in enforcing decisions which so many peoples believe to be based upon considerations other than a determination to uphold the principles of the Charter.1
L[oy] W. H[enderson]
Mr. Rusk, in a memorandum of May 25 to Brigadier General Carter, stated:
“Mr. Henderson’s memorandum is all right as far as it goes, but does not lead up to any thoughts on what we or the Security Council should now do about Palestine. In view of our recognition of Israel and our Chapter VII effort, Senator Austin and Mr. Lie may be puzzled about our attitude if the Secretary should limit himself to the attached memorandum [by Mr. Henderson].
“I suggest the Secretary emphasize that
“(a) An immediate cease-fire in Palestine is essential
“(b) The United States does not expect to take hasty action on the arms embargo since we wish to afford the Security Council every opportunity to pacify the situation
“(c) We are particularly concerned about Jerusalem and are ready to assist in making special arrangements for the security of that city and the Holy Places.”
Source: Foreign Relations Of The United States, 1948, The Near East, South Asia, And Africa, Volume V, Part 2, Office of the Historian, U.S. Department of State, (Washington: DC, Government Printing Office, 1976).