Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel

Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel

Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel

Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel

Synopsis

Harry S. Truman sensed something profound and meaningful in the Jewish restoration to Palestine, something which transcended other considerations. As the president recorded in his Memoirs, the Palestine question was "a basic human problem." In the end, Truman was willing to go against the current of his most trusted foreign policy advisers, who were absolutely opposed to the establishment of a Jewish state in the Middle East. These advisers argued that however humanitarian a Jewish homeland might seem, such a proposition posed a real risk to American interests in the Near East and to United States national security in the late 1940s. Despite their continued opposition, Truman stood his ground and maintained that he would decide the entire issue based on what he thought was right. Of interest to historians, and students of Israel and of the U.S. presidency.

Excerpt

Michael Benson investigates one of the oldest and most widespread canards in American history and politics in Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel. It is a canard that has become one of the mainstays of political realism. Conventional wisdom suggests that Harry S. Truman ignored the counsel of his State Department advisers and recognized the new State of Israel in 1948 because of his desire to attract Jewish voters and money. I have asked students in political science courses that I have taught in Boston, Utah, New Zealand, and England, why they thought Harry Truman recognized Israel. The answers have been virtually the same in every venue, albeit in different accents. A student in New Zealand phrased it as succinctly as anyone when he said, "That question is easy to answer; compare the number of Arab voters to Jewish voters in America" Benson, through careful, thorough, and primary research finally sets this canard to rest.

Students of political psychology (Alexander and Juliette George 1956 path- breaking study of Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House, for example) will praise Benson for revealing evidence that attitudes and values acquired at a relatively early age can, and in this case did, take precedence over considerations of political realism. Students of the role of culture in international politics (such as Valerie Hudson 1997 edited work on Culture and Foreign Policy) will cite him for providing documentary evidence that certain aspects of Truman's cultural background played a significant role in the decision. And the growing academic interest in the impact of religion on international politics (as evidenced by the Douglas Johnson and Cynthia Sampson 1994 edited volume, Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft) will be expanded by those sections of Benson's book that illustrate the role of religion on this momentous decision. Even the exploding literature on ethics and politics will find this book useful. Robert McElroy 1992 book, Morality and American Foreign Policy easily . . .

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