In ‘Dear Dad’ letter in 1939, JFK called for ‘independent’ Jerusalem

As a young man, Jack Kennedy was largely sympathetic to the Arabs in Palestine but called for dividing the land between Palestinians and Jews and keeping Jerusalem independent.

This is the thrust of a “Dear Dad” letter about the Palestine problem written by Kennedy at 22 to his father Joseph, who was then the ambassador to Britain. It was 1939, and Kennedy’s father had sent the Harvard undergrad to the Middle East to tell him what was going on. (Thanks to As’ad Abu Khalil for picking it up. I wonder when Chris Matthews will get to it.)

I think the letter is brilliant. The thoughts are incredibly cogent, for a 22-year-old, and reflect a desire to be the honest broker. Kennedy is mostly on the Arab side in this letter. He reflects their long history in the land and the arrogance of the Zionist immigrants, their desire to dominate. He largely describes the Jewish immigrants in colonial terms (cultural superiority, desire for economic domination), but also recognizes that they are “refugees” from the Nazis.

Kennedy saw that the heart of the conflict was two claims to land, and thought the only way to resolve them was partition. But citing Jewish desire to dominate the land he made it clear that Jerusalem should be independent.

via Signs of the Times


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