American Palestine Committee

Entry from the Encyclopaedia of Zionism and Israel (ed. Patai), excerpts

Organization of prominent Americans, predominantly non-Jewish in its composition, that aimed to provide moral and political support for the Jewish National Home in Palestine. It was first projected by Emanuel Neumann, American member of the World Zionist Executive, late in 1931, after the publication (1930) of the Passfield White Paper by the British government had marked a line of retreat from the commitments of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate for Palestine.

The American Palestine Committee was launched publicly at a dinner in Washington on Jan. 17, 1932, that was attended by members of both houses of Congress and other government dignitaries, including Vice President Charles Curtis. The principal speeches were delivered by Felix Frankfurter, Emanuel Neumann, and Elwood Mead. A letter from Pres. Herbert Hoover, expressing sympathy and approval, was read.

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The second and more sustained effort undertaken on Neumann's return to the United States [from Palestine] in 1940 was notably successful. Among those who agreed to sponsor and head the revived Palestine Committee were Senators William H. King of Utah, Charles McNary of Oregon, Robert F. Wagner of New York, and Robert A. Taft of Ohio. By the time the reconstituted committee held its initial dinner meeting in 1941, the first of a series of such annual events, its roster included more than two-thirds of the U.S. Senate and hundreds of members of the House of Representatives, as well as many other leaders of public life [emphasis - E.D.]

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The membership of the committee grew eventually to 15,000, including governors, members of state legislatures, mayors of cities, and men and women in all walks of life, many of whom lent their services as speakers in a campaign of public education and in other ways.

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Whereas the American Palestine Committee was largely political in its makeup, additional significant support was forthcoming with the founding of the Christian Council on Palestine as an allied though independent cooperating group. The initial impetus was given late in 1942 by prominent Protestants such as Reinhold Niebuhr, S. Ralph Harlow, Henry A. Atkinson, Daniel A. Poling, and Paul Tillich. Working with them as liaison with the Emergency Committee for Zionist Affairs were Milton Steinberg and Philip Bernstein, who enjoyed the full cooperation of Stephen S. Wise and Emanuel Neumann (...) The Christian Council emphasized the need to destroy racial and religious discrimination and to demand justice for the Jewish people everywhere, but it considered Zionist objectives in Palestine the paramount goal and the basic solution to Jewish national homelessness. The council strove to gain the sympathy of churchmen and clergy by organizing conferences, arranging seminars, and publishing literature. The influence it exerted was out of proportion to its relatively limited membership.

In 1944 the American Palestine Committee sponsored a National Conference on Palestine. The conference, which was held in Washington and attended by leaders from all parts of the country, adopted resolutions with regard to the Jews of Europe and the future of Palestine, demanding maximum Jewish immigration to Palestine and the reconstitution of the country as a Jewish Commonwealth. The same year members of the American Palestine Committee in both houses of Congress lent their support to the efforts of Abba Hillel Silver and the American Zionist Emergency Council, which he headed, to have Congress adopt a resolution favoring Zionist aims in Palestine. The resolution was finally adopted late in 1945.

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Note by Elias Davidsson:

The above entry does not mention any activity of the American Palestine Committee related to the extermination of European Jewry by the Nazis.