British officials claimed any wartime expression of support for Zionism by the Allies would drive the Arab world into the arms of the Nazis. Rabbi Wise countered that the Arabs already supported the Nazis anyway.
“The [pro-Nazi] rebellion in Iraq, the presence of the Mufti in Berlin and Rome, [and] the failure of Egypt to live up to her treaty of alliance [with England]” show that “the sacrifice of friends in the interest of appeasing the unfriendly has repeatedly been proven to be in vain,” Wise argued. Nonetheless, FDR sided with the British view, as another newly discovered document makes plain.
The second document, from October 1941, records Nahum Goldmann, co-chairman of the World Jewish Congress, briefing American Zionist leaders on worrisome rumors that the British were holding secret negotiations with the Arabs over the future of Palestine.
Goldmann said his request to the State Department for information about the talks had been ignored because State “is very much influenced by the British Colonial Office.”
To make matters worse (Goldmann continued), “There are reasons also to believe that even in higher quarters” – a reference to the Roosevelt White House – “there are certain prejudices that have to be overcome in order to get effective support from the administration for a Jewish Palestine.” (In a similar vein, Rabbi Wise wrote to a colleague that FDR was “hopelessly and completely under the domination of the English Foreign Office [and] the Colonial Office.”) By 1942, FDR was so averse to being seen as pro- Zionist that he rejected even a request to permit the Palestine (Jewish) Symphony Orchestra to name one of its theaters the “Roosevelt Amphitheatre.”