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

President Harry Truman

President Harry Truman

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 the founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and coeditor of the Online Encyclopedia of America's Response to the Holocaust.

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