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Mcdonald, James Grover°


MCDONALD, JAMES GROVER ° (1886–1964), first U.S. ambassador to Israel. McDonald, who was born in Coldwater, Ohio, was assistant professor of history at the University of Indiana, before moving to New York. From 1919 to 1933 McDonald served as chairman of the Foreign Policy Association. During the 1920s he made numerous trips abroad for this organization becoming, in the process, a familiar figure at the League of Nations headquarters in Geneva. McDonald's interest in Zionism was sparked by his experiences as League of Nations high commissioner for refugees from Germany. He held this post from 1933 to 1935 when he resigned and issued a dramatic statement accusing the German government of planning a policy of race extermination and attacking League members for their indifference to the plight of the German refugees. In 1938 he was elected to head the newly created Presidential Advisory Committee on Political Refugees (pacpr), a quasi-official agency whose main task was to serve as a conduit for funneling the names of prominent refugees to be considered for special visitor's visas to the State Department. In September 1940 McDonald clashed with officials in the State Department who were imposing ever-stricter regulations to halt the influx of refugees. When the White House was finally called upon to mediate in the conflict, McDonald asked for and received Eleanor Roosevelt's support. However, despite her intercession, Roosevelt supported the State Department. In May 1943, seemingly affected by the lack of administration support for the refugee cause, McDonald rejected an opportunity to head the U.S. delegation to a refugee conference at Bermuda. During the next two years, he frequently advocated that Palestine be opened to immigration, "limited only by the absorption capacity of the area." In 1945 his efforts were partly rewarded when the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry on Palestine, of which he was a member, recommended the admission of 100,000 displaced Jews. President Truman appointed McDonald U.S. special representative to Israel in 1948 and ambassador in 1949. McDonald served in this post until his retirement in 1951. He wrote My Mission to Israel 19481951 (1953). After his retirement, McDonald devoted much time to Zionist-sponsored causes, especially the sale of Israel bonds.


D.S. Wyman, Paper Walls: America and the Refugee Crisis, 19381941 (1968); A.D. Morse, While Six Million Died (1968), passim.

[Henry L. Feingold]

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