Article Note: Caitlin Carenen, “The American Christian Palestine Committee, the Holocaust, and Mainstream Protestant Zionism, 1938-1948”

ACCH Quarterly Vol. 16, No. 4, December 2010

Article Note: Caitlin Carenen, “The American Christian Palestine Committee, the Holocaust, and Mainstream Protestant Zionism, 1938-1948,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 24 no. 2 (Fall 2010): 273-296.

By John S. Conway, University of British Columbia

Caitlin Carenen’s article describes the activities of a small but influential committee of American churchmen, the American Christian Palestine Committee (ACPC), established after the November 1938 pogrom in Germanyand comprised mainly of liberal Protestants. Its purpose was to mobilize support in American churches for the persecuted victims of Nazism and in particular to urge their resettlement in Palestine, along the lines advocated by Jewish and Zionist supporters. Carenen shows that this was a politically well-connected and effective lobby, motivated by the horrors of the Holocaust and sincerely dedicated to the idea of Zionism. At the time, the majority opinion among American Protestants was strongly isolationist and even pacifist, as reflected in their principal journal: The Christian Century. Events inEurope brought about a reluctant change.

One of the strong advocates forAmerica’s involvement in world events was Professor Reinhold Niebuhr ofNew York’sUnion TheologicalCollege. His ideas are well examined here. Thanks to his efforts and those of more than 300 leading political figures, support for the Zionist cause was advocated as a Christian duty, on humanitarian and pragmatic grounds, but also as an overdue response to the long history of Christian antisemitism.

This ACPC found itself allied to the much older Christian Zionism favoured largely by fundamentalists and biblical literalists, but studiously avoided any appeal to missionary ambitions, arguing instead that the return of Jews to their ancient home in Palestine would create a potentially democratic ally for American policy-makers in the Middle East. Considerable political pressure was mobilized by the ACPC against the restrictive policies of the British Mandate, which only increased after the Nazi defeat. Strong support was given to the 1945 Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry which advocated allowing 100,000 Jews to immigrate toPalestine. The British Government’s refusal to accept this policy was deplored, and subsequently the ACPC urged President Truman to throw his support behind the plans for the establishment ofIsraelas a state. His immediate recognition of this state’s existence in May 1948 can be seen as a vindication of the ACPC’s views. In subsequent histories, the contribution of these Protestants has been ignored or downplayed. This article provides a valuable corrective.