To the Gates of Jerusalem: The Diaries and Papers of James G. McDonald, 1945-1947
By James G. McDonald
Edited by Norman J. W. Goda, Barbara McDonald Stewart, Severin Hochberg, and Richard Breitman
SPECS: xx + 298 pp., 6 ⅛” x 9 ¼”, 11 b&w illustrations, 2 tables
PUB DATE: 2014
PUBLISHED BY: Indiana University Press in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
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By James G. McDonald
Edited by Norman J. W. Goda, Barbara McDonald Stewart, Severin Hochberg, and Richard Breitman
Richard Breitman, co-editor of the diaries and papers of James G. McDonald, discusses the origins of the Final Solution, efforts to arrange refuge, and the founding of the State of Israel. Watch interview (external link).
About the work
Not originally intended for publication but long anxiously awaited, this contemporaneous account of the privileged perspectives of trusted Truman-appointee James G. McDonald reveals how closely today’s and tomorrow’s headlined struggles between Israelis and Arabs are a legacy of little-known public and unknown confidential events of the years 1945–47.
In the wake of the Holocaust and World War II, Jews, Arabs, and Europeans began a new chapter in the contest over Palestine. Would the Holy Land, then under British mandate, remain a part of that empire, linking London’s Middle East strategic and economic interests? Would it win its independence under the Arabs, joining Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon in breaking the bonds of European rule? Or would Palestine provide, after nineteen centuries, a reconstituted modern national home for the Jews, who had been promised such a homeland during World War I, and who had just suffered the greatest catastrophe in their history? As Palestine simmered with suspicion, resentment, and violence, the British and US governments referred these questions to an unlikely group of twelve politicians, diplomats, jurists, and scholars, known as the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry Regarding the Problems of European Jewry and Palestine.
The Committee, of which James McDonald was a pivotal member, offered a dramatic platform for contending voices on Palestine. Zionist leaders such as Chaim Weizmann, David Ben-Gurion, Golda Meyerson (later Meir) and others emphasized the idea of a Jewish people, its ancient connection to the land, the curse of national homelessness, and the need for a Jewish state. Arab speakers from the Arab Higher Committee, which claimed to represent the Palestine’s Arabs; to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization centered in Egypt; to Arab scholars, statesmen, and monarchs were equally adamant. Insisting that Europe’s longstanding “Jewish question” was not the Arab world’s problem, minimizing the Holocaust as simply another persecution, and equating Zionism with aggressive European nationalism, they pledged never to accept a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Others, from ordinary refugees to British military officers, testified to humanitarian and strategic imperatives respectively. The Palestine issue was partially resolved through warfare in 1948. But the impassioned arguments of 1946 still are very much alive, reminding us that there was nothing inevitable about the birth of the modern state of Israel. At the same time, we learn how and why it is entirely possible that it would not have come about were it not for the efforts of James G. McDonald.
“For anyone interested in the history of the Middle East and how things came to be as they are, To the Gates of Jerusalem is indispensable reading. But it is also far more than just that. It provides an insight into the rarefied world of the international diplomat as it was in the wake of World War II. One sees how both international considerations and idiosyncratic personalities played a role in the decisions that were made. Thanks to wonderful editing and the interspersing of historical information that provides an important context, this book is not just for the specialist in this field. It makes for fascinating reading.”
Deborah E. Lipstadt, Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies, Emory University
“The Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry profoundly shaped the international diplomacy that led to the U.N. resolution to partition Palestine in 1947 and the foundation of Israel in 1948. The American James G. McDonald exercised considerable influence on the committee’s deliberations and recommendations. This volume superbly captures the mind of McDonald as he engaged in such work of profound consequence. Focusing on the 1945-1947 era, this collection of diary entries and other materials from McDonald’s papers is excellently edited, presented, and enhanced with supporting information. Thus, this collection is a must-see for students and scholars researching the origins of Israeli statehood, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the decolonization of the Middle East, and other important topics.”
Peter L. Hahn, The Ohio State University
“Perhaps no one had a better ringside or inside seat at the deliberations that eventually led to the United Nations’ actions paving the way to Israel’s 1948 Declaration of Statehood than James G. McDonald. His dogged and dexterous work as a key member of the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry was positioned between two other notable posts as the League of Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees in the 1930s and the first United States Ambassador to Israel from 1949 to 1951.
“The Committee had the double charge of proposing solutions to the enormous problem of Jewish refugees at the close of World War II and to the inseparable issue of the British Mandate for Palestine’s eventual resolution. McDonald’s diary entries throughout the entire work of the Committee constitute a unique primary source of information on the progress of the Committee toward its ultimate recommendations.
“The hearings, the partisan bickering and bargaining, the drafting and redrafting, and the mixture of tedium and emotionally supercharged moments are captured in a sturdy, often eloquent style filled with colorful descriptions and sharp judgments. McDonald’s comments about his fellow committee members are thoroughly engaging, as are his descriptions of travels, accommodations, and recreational activities that were very much part of the experience: McDonald’s records of abominable refugee camp conditions crosses paths with notes on concerts, museum visits, glorious sightseeing, and grand dinners—without any apparent irony in the juxtapositions.
“The cast of characters with whom McDonald collaborated goes far beyond the Committee members to major government officials and leaders of international associations, all of them vying for influence—especially regarding the Middle East partition and immigration issues. Indeed, it becomes clear that Harry S. Truman’s final position on a Jewish State was largely shaped by McDonald’s shrewd management of the frustrated, suspicious United States President.
“Surrounding the diary excerpts, the editors provide cohesive, expansive contextualizing commentary, biographies of key players, and a constant stream of useful, well-turned footnotes. Unusually engaging and suspenseful for a such a scholarly enterprise, To the Gates of Jerusalem is an essential volume for all university libraries and collections focused on the history of the Middle East in the twentieth century.”
Philip K. Jason, Jewish Book Council
“Revealing many secrets of the US State Department, the British Foreign Office, and the last days of the Mandatory Government of Palestine,... the diary offers a rare picture of the workings of the world’s diplomacy.... Four prominent American scholars joined forces to edit, introduce, and explain .... McDonald’s diary, which includes a visit to the Nuremberg Court where the top Nazis were tried—offers scores of fascinating ... episodes.”
Jerusalem Post Magazine
“Anyone interested in the origins of the Israeli-Arab conflict, the impact of the Holocaust on the creation of Israel, and American post-war policy in the region will have many reasons to welcome this fine new publication, the third in a series....
“To the Gates of Jerusalem takes readers back through the crucial stages in the run up to the historic United Nations vote recommending the partition of Palestine on November 29, 1947. Perhaps the most useful revelations in McDonald’s diaries are the intimate and colorful behind-the-scenes portraits he paints of the A[nglo-]A[merican C[ommission of] I[nquiry]: its main players, their maneuvering, and his impressions of many of the witnesses who testified before the committee and several whom he also met informally. Until now, the prime insider perspectives on the AACI came from US member Bartley Crum ... and from ... British member Richard Crossman.... McDonald’s diaries and letters are no less important as a source for historians, and until now have been accessed in their archival locations by only a handful of scholars.
“With the publication of To the Gates of Jerusalem, many readers can now add new depth and detail to their understanding of the inner workings of the under-appreciated AACI. Especially fascinating is McDonald’s account of how such a diverse crew of 12 managed in April 1946, to produce a unanimous set of 10 recommendations....
“Zionists can retrospectively thank McDonald for helping to save them from being forced to consider a plan whereby they would have remained a minority in a federal Palestine.
“The scholarship underpinning these edited diaries and papers is impeccable and meticulous, directing those wishing further details to important sources. But nonspecialists and general readers will find this volume eminently accessible, at times gripping. The skillful design and presentation include an excellent brief overview of the period, an epilogue, valuable chapter introductions, footnotes, and sidebars that together successfully overcome the sometimes truncated nature of the primary materials. Through its focus on one individual, the book provides a sophisticated and balanced account of three dramatic years.”
Neal Caplan in The Middle East Journal
To the Gates of Jerusalem is the third of four projected volumes of the diaries and papers of James G. McDonald. The first is Advocate for the Doomed, covering 1932–35, and the second is Refugees and Rescue, dealing with 1935–45.
Table of contents
|A Note on the Editing||xvii|
|List of Abbreviations||xix|
|Introduction: Palestine from the Balfour Declaration to the Anglo-American Committee||1|
|1.||Washington: December 13, 1945-January 17, 1946||18|
|2.||London: January 18-February 3, 1946||46|
|3.||Europe: February 4-28, 1946||72|
|4.||Cairo: March 1-5, 1946||117|
|5.||Jerusalem and the Arab Capitals: March 6-27, 1946||129|
|6.||Lausanne: March 28-April 22, 1946||191|
|7.||The Report and Its Reception: April-August 1946||224|
|8.||Toward Partition: August 1946-November 1947||253|
Norman J. W. Goda is the Norman and Irma Braman Professor of Holocaust Studies at the University of Florida and author of Tomorrow the World: Hitler, Northwest Africa, and the Path toward America; Tales from Spandau: Nazi Criminals and the Cold War; and The Holocaust, Europe, the World, and the Jews. He is author of U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis (with Richard Breitman) and Hitler's Shadow: Nazi War Criminals, U.S. Intelligence, and the Cold War.
Barbara McDonald Stewart — daughter of James G. McDonald, has taught at George Mason University and is author of United States Government Policy on Refugees from Nazism, 1933–1940.
Severin Hochberg — a historian formerly at what is now the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, teaches at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Richard Breitman is Distinguished Professor of History at American University and author, most recently, of FDR and the Jews (with Allan J. Lichtman). His other books include The Architect of Genocide: Himmler and the Final Solution and Official Secrets: What the Nazis Planned, What the British and Americans Knew. He is editor of the journal Holocaust and Genocide Studies.