web analytics
December 19, 2014 / 27 Kislev, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post
8000 meals Celebrate Eight Days of Chanukah – With 8,000 Free Meals Daily to Israel’s Poor

Join Meir Panim’s campaign to “light up” Chanukah for families in need.



Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

A Leading Democrat’s Secret Advice On ‘The Jewish Vote’


President Harry Truman

President Harry Truman

A senior member of President Harry Truman’s own administration secretly gave American Zionist lobbyists advice in 1946 on how to pressure Truman to support creating a Jewish state.

According to a documents I recently found at the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem, when Zionist lobbyists needed advice on how to use the 1946 midterm elections as leverage on the White House, they turned to Truman’s own Solicitor General (the official who represents the administration before the Supreme Court), J. Howard McGrath.

A lawyer by profession, McGrath rose quickly in the ranks of the Democratic Party in his native Rhode Island. He was vice-chairman of the state party by 1928 and chairman two years later. After a four-year stint as U.S. district attorney in Providence, McGrath was elected governor in 1940. In 1944, he was one of the organizers of the Democratic National Convention and helped line up the votes to replace Vice President Harry Wallace with Senator Harry Truman. In the process, McGrath forged close ties with both Truman and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Yet at the same time, he was straying far from the party line on Jewish issues. Starting in 1942, McGrath’s name began appearing among the endorsers listed on newspaper ads by the Bergson Group, a political action committee that criticized the Roosevelt administration on the issues of Jewish refugees and creating a Jewish state. He also served as a sponsor of Bergson’s 1943 Emergency Conference to Save the Jewish People of Europe.

Associating with Jewish critics of President Roosevelt was a risky move for a rising Democratic politician. Certainly McGrath would need to maintain good relations with the White House to advance his political career.

Why McGrath took an interest in Jewish affairs is not clear. Perhaps his Irish heritage and resentment of British control of Ireland created a sense of solidarity with the Jewish struggle to oust the British from Palestine. Other Irish-Americans who were active in the Bergson Group, such as attorney Paul O’Dwyer and Congressman Andrew Somers of Brooklyn, cited their resentment of the British as a factor. The feeling was mutual: in one internal British government memo I located, a Foreign Office staffer slurred Somers as “the less happy type of Irish-American Catholic demagogue.”

It is unlikely McGrath was motivated by pursuit of Jewish votes, since Jews comprised barely three percent of Rhode Island’s population. But McGrath had plenty to say on the subject when Benjamin Akzin, a senior lobbyist for the American Zionist Emergency Council (precursor of AIPAC), came seeking advice on “the Jewish vote.”

Akzin, who in later years would found and chair Hebrew University’s political science department and would serve as president of Haifa University, met with McGrath on March 14, 1946. He began by expressing his distress at “the lag between promise and performance” in the Truman administration’s Palestine policy. “Friendly statements” about Zionism were not matched with deeds.

“I came to ask what he could advise,” Akzin reported afterward to his colleagues, “and what he could do to help us in order to obtain some action.”

McGrath responded that “not being in the Cabinet, he could not raise the Palestine issue.” Moreover, “he has to stick to his own job, and any attempt by him to influence the policy of other Departments would be strongly resented.”

Then he turned around and proceeded to advise Akzin on how best to influence those other departments.

The Zionists’ “technical arguments” about rights and history would not succeed, McGrath said. They needed to adopt “a political approach” that would highlight the likelihood that Jewish voters would turn away from the Democrats in the upcoming midterm congressional elections. “He was very emphatic on this point.”

McGrath suggested organizing “a group of Democratic congressmen in threatened areas” to “take up the [Palestine] matter collectively with the Administration…After all, the real issue in the coming elections concerns the control of the House, rather than that of the Senate.” The administration might take heed if warned that the Democrats could lose control of the House over the Palestine issue.

Another “effective means of pressure on the Palestine issue, McGrath said, would be for the Zionists to contact “the Democratic candidates for governorships and for the Senate in the key states with a considerable Jewish population.” Each of those candidates “is going to have several talks with the President, with [national Democratic Party chairman Robert] Hannegan, and with the other key persons of the Administration.”

If the candidates would make the administration “realize the gravity of the situation in their states” – that is, the danger of losing badly-needed Jewish votes – “this would produce better results [regarding U.S. policy on Palestine] than anything else would produce.”

McGrath then offered to personally raise the issue in upcoming meetings with Hannegan and Attorney General Tom Clark. “He will tell them that he personally believes that the Administration did not stand by promises made to the Jews in respect of Palestine, and that he fears that the resulting revulsion of feeling among many Jews is likely to be one of the most dangerous clouds in connection with the coming elections,” Akzin reported.

Akzin and his colleagues took McGrath’s advice. Throughout 1946-1948, the American Zionist Emergency Council, under the leadership of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, systematically mobilized Democratic members of Congress and gubernatorial and congressional candidates to speak out in favor of Jewish statehood. These efforts were an important part of the successful nationwide political pressure campaign undertaken by American Jewry in the months leading up to the birth of Israel.

And McGrath kept the promise he made to Akzin to help promote the cause of Jewish statehood. That November, he was elected to the United States Senate and became one of the strongest proponents of Zionism on Capitol Hill. The following year, he was chosen to head the national Democratic Party. In that capacity, he was an important source of pressure on the White House to support creating a Jewish state. The Truman administration’s backing for the United Nations partition resolution in November 1947, and its recognition of the new state of Israel in May 1948, were in no small measure due to the frequent behind-the-scenes warnings the White House received from McGrath and other prominent Democrats about the impact of the Jewish vote.

That U.S. policy was influenced in part by a Jewish lobbying strategy secretly hatched by one of the administration’s own top officials adds another rich layer of irony to a momentous episode in the history of America-Israel relations.

* * * * *

CONFERENCE ON “THE JEWISH VOTE”: The Wyman Institute will hold a conference on “The Jewish Vote, the Holocaust and Israel,” on Sunday, Sept. 23, 2012, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Fordham University Law School in New York City. Speakers will include Mayor Ed Koch, Congressman Bob Turner, and former White House adviser Tevi Troy. To register, call 202-434-8994 or visit www.WymanInstitute.org.

About the Author: Dr. Rafael Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C., and author of 14 books about the Holocaust, Zionism, and American Jewish history. His latest book is 'FDR and the Holocaust: A Breach of Faith,' available from Amazon.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “A Leading Democrat’s Secret Advice On ‘The Jewish Vote’”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Posted to Twitter in Ferguson, MO by St. Louis County Police: "Bricks thrown at police, 2 police cars burned, gun seized by police. Tonight was disappointing."  Their motto is, "To protect and serve."
Prosecutor in Ferguson Case: ‘Witnesses Lied Under Oath’
Latest Indepth Stories
The annual  Chabad menorah lighting in Sydney has been called off this year because of the murders in the Lindt cafe.

The decision to not publicly light the Menorah in Sydney, epitomizes the eternal dilemma of Judaism and Jews in the Diaspora.

Greiff-112814-Men

Am Yisrael is one family, filled with excruciating pain&sorrow for losing the 4 kedoshim of Har Nof

Two dreidels from the author’s extensive collection.

What is its message of the dreidel?” The complexity and hidden nature of history and miracles.

Keeping-Jerusalem

Police play down Arab terrorism as mere “violence” until the truth can no longer be hidden.

The 7 branches of the menorah represent the 7 pillars of secular wisdom, knowledge, and science.

Obama obtained NO verifiable commitments from Cuba it would desist from acts prejudicial to the US

No one would deny that the program subjected detainees to less than pleasant treatment, but the salient point is, for what purpose?

For the past six years President Obama has consistently deplored all Palestinian efforts to end-run negotiations in search of a UN-imposed agreement on Israel.

It’s not an admiration. It is simply a kind of journalist fascination. It stands out, it’s different from more traditional Orthodoxy.

For Am Yisrael, the sun’s movements are subservient to the purpose of our existence.

Israelis now know Arab terrorism isn’t caused by Israeli occupation but by ending Israeli occupation

Anti-Semitism is a social toxin that destroys the things that people most cherish and enjoy.

Amb. Cooper highlighted the impact of the Chanukah/Maccabee spirit on America’s Founding Fathers

Zealousness has its place and time in Judaism; Thank G-d for heroic actions of the Maccabees!

More Articles from Dr. Rafael Medoff
Charley Levine

Prominent Jewish leaders acknowledged that their predecessors had mistreated the Bergson Group.

Armenian Orphan Rug

The long ordeal of the Armenian Orphan Rug, held hostage to fears of angering Turkey, has finally ended. Or has it?

Carter developed a fondness for Arafat believing “they were both ordained to be peacemakers by God”

With generous support from the Egyptian Jewish community, the exiled family built a new life for itself in the Mafruza and Gabbari refugee camps near Alexandria.

While grateful not to be returned to Germany, the passengers understood they were still in the middle of a danger zone.

These “Jewish Amazons” were living proof of the failure of the enemies of the Jewish people.

Jewish soldiers in the Polish forces often encountered anti-Semitic prejudice.

Sulzberger, one of the most famous “religious Jews” who opposed Zionism did not change his mind even after the Holocaust.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/a-leading-democrats-secret-advice-on-the-jewish-vote/2012/09/21/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: