When the first Jewish colonists arrived in New Amsterdam, they had to appeal to the Dutch East India Company to override...



When the first Jewish colonists arrived in New Amsterdam, they had to appeal to the Dutch East India Company to override Peter Stuyvesant's objections to their presence--a precedent, in Grose's view, to subsequent ""mistrust"" between American Jews and Gentiles. For better or worse, this popular history of America's relation to ""Jewish restoration"" in Palestine is colored throughout by a like search for ""patterns."" Grose fastens onto two American Protestant visions of a Jewish state--the obscure 1814 sermon-and-pamphlet of Albany pastor John McDonald and the widely-noted 1891 Blackstone Memorial, a petition signed by over 400 prominent Americans--and sees them embodied in the Balfour Declaration. Another motif is the contrast between Israeli veneration of proto-Zionists Mordecai Noah and William Blackstone, and their relative neglect here; and between American celebration, and Israeli disregard, of Zionist leader Louis Brandeis. The latter, however, is not to be wondered at--as Grose's generally unsympathetic treatment of ""Brandeisian"" (American progressive) Zionism, in its struggle with European (messianic) Zionism, makes more-than-clear. (Grose, it should be said, writes caustically of Brandeis' victorious foe, Weizmann, too.) Still another, increasingly dominant motif is the anti-Zionism, often indistinguishable from anti-Semitism, of the State Dept. elite. This is so well-known a factor in American diplomatic history as hardly to require Grose's supercilious identification of every well-to-do Ivy Leaguer--or his recurrent references to ""the old fears of that murky conspiracy"" of international Jewry. The documentation, moreover, is spotty (chapter notes cite, en masse, a plethora of sources); the concrete evidence, sometimes scant. But there is no denying, overall, that: 1) for presidents from John Adams to FDR, the Holy Land occupied a place ""out of all proportion to its geographical significance or its objective relation to United States national interests""; 2) ""from 1917 all the way to 1948,"" US Palestine policy ""was hung up on a contradiction"" between politically-motivated presidential support of Jewish aspirations and State Dept. reservations. On FDR, Grose does properly distinguish between Roosevelt's ""neglect of the Holocaust"" (supposedly, his ""humanitarian instincts failed him"") and his commitment to a Jewish Palestine homeland--in opposition to State Dept. support of Arab nationalism. And as regards Truman in particular, Grose's penchant for seizing upon little-known episodes or individuals does throw up some fresh material--regarding divergent American Jewish attitudes as well as intra-administration conflicts and eventual US support for partition. Heavy-handed in many respects--but it does make its points.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1983

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