Dean Acheson to Eleanor Roosevelt

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Dean Acheson to Eleanor Roosevelt

12 June 1946 [Washington, DC?]

My dear Mrs. Roosevelt:

I take pleasure in acknowledging your letter of June 5, 1946 regarding Palestine.

You have no doubt seen the President's statement to the press of July 11 announcing the formation of a Cabinet Committee to assist him in formulating and implementing such a policy on Palestine as may be adopted by this Government.5 I enclose for your convenient reference the President's Executive Order and press release6 and my statement to the press in this connection.7

I wish to thank you for your comments which have been noted by the officers of the Department who are working toward a solution of the Palestine problem.

                                     Sincerely yours,

                                     Dean Acheson


1. Also during this period, ER wrote Byrnes as well as Truman and other senior members of the administration in support of awarding the Medal of Merit to her friend theatrical producer John Golden for his wartime efforts to provide entertainment for the US armed forces (ER to James Byrnes, 13 May 1946, RG59, NARA II; ER to James Byrnes, 21 May 1946, AERP; James Byrnes to ER, 22 May 1946, AERP; Draft of ER to James Byrnes, undated AERP; MD, 10 July 1946).

2. See n5 Document 82. The April 1946 report of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry recommended the immediate admission of 100,000 Jewish refugees then housed in European camps to Palestine and the resumption of land sales there to Jews. The report also recommended that Palestine remain under British authority until the UN could negotiate a new trusteeship agreement. The plan set as its long-term goal an independent government for Palestine composed of equal numbers of Arab and Jewish officials. On April 30, Truman, facing pressure from American Zionists and those opposed to the admittance of refugees to the United States and concerned about the issue's possible impact on the November 1946 congressional elections, endorsed the committee's recommendations regarding immigration and land sales despite British foreign secretary Ernest Bevin's request to Byrnes that the report's publication be delayed. The full report was made public on May 1 (HSTE, 95; Cohen, Palestine, 96-114; Acheson, 172).

3. On May 20, the Arab states rejected the committee's report and denied the United States' right to intervene. Their rejection prompted the British and the Americans to form a special committee to reassess the situation. In ER's view, the United States' decision to participate in "a joint inquiry" meant the British "would expect us to do our share in carrying out the findings" (Cohen, Palestine, 116-20; MD, 8 May 1946).

4. For more on the origins of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry, see n9 Document 79. In an attempt to curb Jewish population growth in Palestine, the British Government in May 1939 issued a White Paper limiting Jewish immigration to 75,000 people for the next five years. After the war the British continued to restrict legal immigration to 1,500 people per month as they had under the White Paper. They did so because they thought it would upset the population balance between the Arabs and Jews in Palestine (the Arabs were then the majority) and lead to more violence and unrest (Seegev, 440, 482; Louis and Stookey, eds., 5).

5. On June 11 (not July 11), 1946, Truman issued Executive Order 9735 creating the Cabinet Committee on Palestine and Related Problems to help him develop and implement US policy on Palestine, negotiate with the British and other foreign governments, and communicate with "private organizations" on matters relating to "the recommendations of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry." The committee consisted of the secretaries of state, war, and treasury under the chairmanship of the secretary of state. Truman directed the committee to consider the practical issues (such as transportation and housing) surrounding the admission of 100,000 Jewish refugees to Palestine ("Statement by the President," Department of State Bulletin, 23 June 1946, 1089; Acheson, 174; Truman vol. 1, 150; "Cabinet Unit Set Up to Study Palestine," NYT, 12 June 1946, 1). See also n2 above.

6. The executive order that established the cabinet committee also provided for a Board of Alternates made up of fully deputized representatives of the committee's cabinet-level members. The secretary of state's alternate chaired this group, which acted as the committee's executive agency. The committee drew its staff from the State, War, and Treasury Departments (Executive Order 9735, "Establishing a Cabinet Committee on Palestine and Related Problems," Department of State Bulletin, 23 June 1946, 1089-90).

7. Acheson's press statement announced the appointment of Henry F. Grady (1882–1957) as his representative on the Board of Alternates. A specialist in the economic aspects of foreign relations, Grady led the American Section of the Allied Mission to observe the Greek elections in 1945–46. He had previously served as vice-chairman of the Tariff Commission (1937–39) and assistant secretary of state for reciprocal trade agreement negotiations (1939–41). (When Grady resigned in 1941 to become president of the government-controlled American President Lines, Acheson replaced him at the State Department.) While serving as president of American President Lines, Grady, at FDR's behest, undertook a high-level government mission to Asia to locate and secure strategic materials before the United States entered World War II in December, 1941. After the war began, he returned to India to encourage production of war materials and subsequently headed the economic section of the Allied Control Commission in Italy ("Statement by the Secretary of State," Department of State Bulletin, 23 June 1946, 1089; Acheson, 18, 770; "Dr. Henry Grady, Diplomat Is Dead," NYT, 15 September 1957, 84).

On Refugees and Displaced Persons

Katharine Marjory Ramsay Stewart-Murray, the Duchess of Atholl (1874–1960), chaired the British League for European Freedom, an organization dedicated to the promotion of democracy and the repatriation of displaced persons in Europe.1 In May 1946, Duchess Atholl cabled ER to express her concerns about the refugee repatriation process.2 A month later, Duchess Atholl wrote to ER again, this time attaching a memorandum the league distributed to all ECOSOC representatives, criticizing the Report of the Special Committee on Refugees and Displaced Persons. In particular, the league objected to the report's provisions regarding individual repatriation cases:

We note that if … persecution, or fear, is to be regarded as a valid objection to repatriation, this must be judged based on reasonable grounds, but that it is not stated who is to judge of the reasonableness in a particular case. We venture to suggest that in no case should it be a representative of the government of the country of origin, as that would be to make a party to a case the judge of it. The arbiter should in our opinion, if possible, be someone of legal or judicial experience in possession of full information as to the conditions in the country of origin of the Displaced Person.

The memorandum also suggested that the special committee's exclusions against "assistance given by [the displaced persons] to the enemy in the late war" and "leaders of movements hostile to the government of their country of origin" placed undue responsibility on the refugees to prove innocence and forced them to forego freedom of speech:

Our information is that in the vast majority of cases, refusal of repatriation is due to political conditions in the country of origin … Why should men who deplore and criticize these conditions be deprived of the help of the proposed international organisation, so long as they do not incite others to violence? Are these not indeed the very men whose courage and initiative should make them valuable citizens in countries needing development?3

The memorandum then recommended that "as many as possible of the camp inmates" serve as "liaison officers" and administrative staff in the "future organization" the United Nations would create.4

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