By Rafael Medoff/JNS.org
As debate mounts over whether the U.S. should bypass the United
Nations Security Council and take military action in response to human rights
abuses in Syria, a scholar has uncovered surprising new evidence about an
effort in 1945 to give the fledgling U.N. strong powers to enforce human rights
around the world.
Click photo to download. Caption: Isaiah Bowman surveying a site in Peru in 1941. Credit: Courtesy of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.
Writing in the September 2013 issue of the Journal of
American History, Prof. James Loeffler reveals that a virulently anti-Semitic
adviser to President Franklin Roosevelt undermined attempts by Jewish activists
to insert strong human rights provisions in the U.N. charter at its founding
conference in 1945.
Loefler, an associate professor of history at the University of
Virginia, describes the behind-the-scenes role played at the U.N. conference by
the controversial Isaiah Bowman.
Dr. Bowman, who was widely known as “Roosevelt’s geographer,” was
a longtime adviser to FDR on worldwide territorial and population settlement
issues. He strongly opposed admitting Jewish refugees to the United States, and
was also against creating a Jewish state in Palestine.
Bowman’s private correspondence also reveals him to have been
profoundly anti-Semitic. He imposed a quota on Jewish students and faculty at
Johns Hopkins University, of which he was president from 1935 to 1948. Bowman
once told a colleague it was necessary to limit the hiring of Jewish faculty
because “Jews come to Hopkins… for two things: to make money and to marry
President Roosevelt appointed Bowman to be part of the State
Department’s delegation to the United Nations founding conference, which opened
in San Francisco on April 25, 1945.
Click photo to download. Caption: Isaiah Bowman made the cover of Time magazine in 1936. Credit: Courtesy of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.
Prof. Loeffler, in his Journal of American History article,
describes how Jewish organizations sent representatives to San Francisco to
lobby on various issues. Zionist groups, for example, worked to make sure that
the wording of the U.N. charter would not undermine the longstanding British
promise to establish a Jewish national home in Palestine.
This infuriated Bowman, who feared that recent Congressional
expressions of support for Jewish statehood would embolden the Zionist representatives
in San Francisco. Loeffler quotes Bowman writing in his private diary: “The
professional agitators and leaders, [American Zionist leader Rabbi Stephen]
Wise and all of the rest, are learning how powerful they are in Congress… Thus
the Jews have tasted blood and are going to push in every possible way for
preferment… [T]he situation is a dangerous one since it means our introduction
into Near East policies with Congress bludgeoned into an active participation
on the side of the Jew—right or wrong.”