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Memorandum by the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs

(Murray) to the Assistant Secretary of State (Berle)

[WASHINGTON,] May 3, 1941. MR. BERLE: We have given very careful consideration to your suggestions regarding possible action with Ibn Saud with a view to preventing outbreaks in Palestine. As we see it the situation is as follows:

At the present time the British are supposed to have 20,000-30,000 troops in Palestine. This should be sufficient to prevent any outbreaks between the Arab and Jewish populations. The dangerous period would come if the Axis powers succeed in reaching Suez and then push on to Palestine, driving the British before them. In the event of such an operation there would probably be a period of two or three days before the Germans had consolidated their positions when attacks upon Jews by Arabs would be likely to take place. Unless there is an immediate break-through in Egypt, therefore, it would not seem that the Jews are in imminent danger. However, it must be admitted that such danger may not be far off. The question is how Ibn Saud can best be used to avert a possible massacre in Palestine. It is our view that a political approach such as you had in mind would take some time to prepare. It would presumably involve discussions with the British, whose interests are directly affected, and it would of course also be necessary to consider what reactions and repercussions such a proposal might have upon other Arab leaders, for example, those of Egypt, Palestine, Trans-Jordan, Syria and Iraq. Our preliminary view is that this political proposal has so many possible repercussions which could not be foreseen that it would be rather dangerous to follow at this time. Furthermore, if our understanding is correct that you envisaged that Ibn Saud should offer physical protection to the Jews in Palestine, there are these considerations: First, he is in an extremely weakened economic position at the present time and it is doubtful whether he would have the forces to accomplish any such task. This is entirely aside from the question whether he could, as the outstanding leader in the Arab world, assume the job of protecting the Jews without losing face with his coreligionists in the neighboring Arab countries. Moreover, in order to reachi Palestine it would be necessary for Ibn Saud to march across TransJordan, which, as you will recall, is governed by the Emir Abdullah, a member of the Hashimite family, with whom the Sauds have long been at enmity. In these circumstances we would suggest an approach along the following lines:

I believe that a message from the President to Ibn Saud transmitted through our Legation at Cairo would be the first step. In such a

message I would propose that the President appeal to Ibn Saud's sense of chivalry to use his influence with his coreligionists in Palestine toward preventing any widespread massacres. We would be justified in making such an approach because of the large number of American nationals of the Jewish race actually living in Palestine. In this message we could point that it would be a tragedy for the Arab world if the Arab race should permit outbreaks in Palestine against defenseless Jews. This theme could be enlarged upon and developed, and I am attaching hereto a rough draft of such a message.14

In this same message I believe we could also inform Ibn Saud that the unsatisfactory economic conditions in his country have been brought to our attention and that we are examining what steps we may be able to take to be of assistance to him. We could then consider within the next few days whether it would be desirable and feasible to extend Ibn Saud assistance under the terms of the LendLease Act, possibly in conjunction with the proposal which Mr. James Moffett recently made to the President.15 This proposal, you will recall, involved the purchase of petroleum products from Saudi Arabia for the use of the Navy. The funds paid for this petroleum would be turned over to Ibn Saud at the same time the British would be requested to increase the subsidy which they are now paying to him.

A further possibility exists in the matter of according immediate aid to Ibn Saud. You will recall that one of the ships, the S. S. Kassandra, bearing supplies to Greece was stopped in the Mediterranean just at the time of the Greek collapse and brought back to Port Said. The Red Cross is now considering what should be done with these supplies. I have no doubt that many of them would be of immediate value and usefulness to Ibn Saud. In addition two or three more Red Cross shipments are now en route, originally being intended for Greece. Our Legation at Cairo has proposed that these vessels put in at Aden and await instructions. No doubt some of the supplies on these vessels could also be released to Ibn Saud. I might add that these supplies were, according to my understanding, purchased with the funds appropriated by Congress for relief abroad and they are therefore presumably at the disposition of this Government.

It seems to me that these two lines of approach to Ibn Saud, one appealing to his sense of chivalry, honor and justice, and the other intended to assist in solving his present desperate economic situation, would afford a realistic method of obtaining his great influence in preventing a catastrophe in Palestine.


14 Not printed. No indication has been found in Department files of further action on this draft.

For correspondence on this subject, see pp. 624 ff.

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367N.1115/218: Telegram

The Secretary of State to the Consul at Jerusalem (Steger)

WASHINGTON, May 7, 1941–7 p. m. Your 63, 1st. It is anticipated that such vessels as may be sent to the Red Sea will not be suitable or available for the transportation of passengers.

Suggest you keep in touch with Legation Cairo concerning availability transportation facilities for returning Americans.


867N.01/1743 The Under Secretary of State (Welles) to the British Ambassador


[WASHINGTON,] May 8, 1941. MY DEAR MR. AMBASSADOR: On May 6 Rabbi Stephen S. Wise telephoned to me and made a very earnest request that we urge the British Government to permit the Jews to form a regiment and a home guard in Palestine.

Rabbi Wise gave as the reason for his plea the unstable situation in the Near East and his fear that the Jews in Palestine are in imminent danger.

I desire simply to acquaint you with Rabbi Wise's approach to me regarding the matter. I am, my dear Lord Halifax, Sincerely yours,


367N.1115/219 : Telegram

The Consul at Jerusalem (Steger) to the Secretary of State

JERUSALEM, May 10, 1941—noon.

[Received 2:20 p. m.] 86. As indicated in my telegram dated May 8, 5 p. m.,16 there is a distinct possibility that Syria may in the near future become the scene of hostilities; and in that event, I am informed, nearly 200 Americans

I of the American University of Beirut will probably desire to proceed to Palestine. In that case also it may become necessary to evacuate Americans from this country at very short notice.

While as previously reported the total number of American citizens in Palestine is about 6,000, not more than 2,000 are "bona fide citizens" as defined in section 3 of the Department's telegram of January 25,

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2 p. m.27 Of these about 400 are Arabs, most of them minor children, who will not desire to leave the country. Some 1,500 are Jews, of whom probably 1,000 will wish to leave, and less than 500 have sufficient funds. The remaining 100, native citizens of Anglo-Saxon stock, largely missionaries, can in almost all cases defray their own expenses.

In view of these facts and of the fact that, travel by way of Iraq being now impracticable, departure from Palestine is possible only via Egypt, I have taken the following precautionary measures: acting upon a request of the President of the American University of Beirut 17a I have arranged with the Director of Migration that in case of emergency special facilities will be granted to the foreign staff of the university for entry into Palestine.

The same official has promised to approach the Governments of India and South Africa requesting authority to issue visas immediately in his discretion to American citizens should they find it necessary to evacuate Palestine and desire to travel through those countries en route to the United States.

The Consul General of Egypt has promised to forward for the consideration of his Government my suggestion that he be authorized in his discretion to grant visas to Americans who in an emergency might wish to enter Egypt–or that in case of acute crisis Americans might even be permitted to enter without visa. He is of the opinion that should such authorization be granted some assurances would be required that the persons in question would leave Egypt within a reasonable time and that they would not become public charges.

I have reported the foregoing to the American Legation, expressing the hope that it might see fit to recommend to the competent Egyptian authorities a favorable consideration of the above suggestion. I have also asked him, in case assurances as above indicated should be required, that he inquire as to the Department's attitude in this respect.

I have not failed to note carefully the Department’s general policy regarding emergency assistance to Americans as set forth in its telegram of January 25, 2 p. m. At this time, when the situation appears to hold definite elements of menace, I should greatly appreciate receiving such further instructions as the Department may wish to furnish. Especially I should be glad to know whether I may properly hold out to local American residents any reasonable hope that the Government may be able to assist them should this country be in more imminent danger of invasion.


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383.1115/53 : Telegram
The Minister in Egypt (Kirk) to the Secretary of State

CAIRO, May 10, 1941–4p.m.

[Received May 12—3:10 p. m.] 455. The Legation's 349, April 27, 11 a. m., and the Department's 108, April 30, 8 p. m.18 In view of the situation now developing in the Near East the Consul General at Beirut and the Consul at Jerusalem are soliciting the assistance of this Legation for the purpose of evacuating to Egypt a large number of Americans residing in their consular districts pending ultimate transportation to the United States. The immediate assistance requested, which would only be a beginning of other requests for housing, feeding, et cetera, in an already overcrowded city, is that the Legation endeavor to persuade the Egyptian Government to relax its immigration requirements so that those Americans necessarily without prior arrangements for through transportation to the United States could come to Egypt until transportation is arranged. The Egyptian Government is not likely to relax its requirements unless the American Government is prepared to guarantee that Americans arriving under such an arrangement will not become public charges which undoubtedly some of them would become.

The situation here in Egypt is also fraught with dangerous possibilities and in view of that circumstance and of the almost complete lack of passenger transportation facilities, except occasional passages by air and alien steamers, I am strongly opposed to the evacuation of Americans to Egypt from nearby areas except for those individuals who can purchase or otherwise arrange through transportation in the places where they are residing. As indicated in my telegram under reference Americans in the Near East have had ample warning and ample time to depart, presumably prepared to meet any eventuality. They fall in that category of people who become worried when the situation in their areas begins to worsen but who, when arrangements are made for their evacuation and repatriation, would likely refuse to leave if the tension relaxed in the slightest degree. I feel that, except for isolated cases which would be largely accidental, Americans who have chosen to remain in the Near Eastern area would now be better off remaining at their present places of residence to face eventualities than attempting at this late date to rush to Egypt or any other nearby Near Eastern area, excepting in strict transit, and so complicate the war effort by evacuation proceedings.

If the Department does not agree with my conclusions, I invite instructions. The only suggestion that I can make in that contin

18 Ante, pp. 272 and 273, respectively.

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