On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly voted to recommend the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state by a vote of 33-13, with 10 abstentions. France, the Soviet Union, and the United States were the major powers that supported the resolution. David Horowitz had worked intensely behind the scenes to help influence crucial Latin American votes needed to pass the partition plan.
Violence in the Holy Land broke out almost immediately after the UN announcement.
The Arabs declared a protest strike and began to instigate riots. By the end of the second week, 93 Arabs, 84 Jews, and 7 Englishmen had been killed and scores were injured. The chairman of the Arab Higher Committee said that the Arabs would “fight for every inch of their country.” Two days later, the jurists of Al-Azhar University in Cairo called on the Muslim world to proclaim a jihad (holy war) against the Jews.
The United Nations appointed a commission composed of representatives from Denmark, Czechoslovakia, Panama, Bolivia, and the Philippines to implement their resolution. The British gave notice that they would evacuate Palestine by August 1, 1948, although they later decided to terminate the mandate earlier, on May 15.
On April 18, 1948, United Israel World Union held it’s fifth Annual Meeting in Washington, DC, where David Horowitz gave a full report on results of the UN Assembly Special Session on the Palestine imbroglio.
The March-April 1948 edition of the UI Bulletin was released. It included an advertisement for Horowitz’s autobiography entitled “In Quest of God.” It would later be re-named Thirty-Three Candles. ((Copies of this autobiography are still available through United Israel. Interested parties may email for details: firstname.lastname@example.org))
As fighting intensified, the State Department convinced President Truman to propose that the partition plan be suspended in favor of a UN trusteeship over Palestine, warning that the longer the violence continued, the angrier the Arab world would become at the United States. This policy shift caused great consternation to world Jewry.
In the spring of 1948, Truman’s public approval rating stood at 36% and the President was nearly universally regarded as incapable of winning the general election. All the polls showed Thomas Dewey far ahead. Truman’s chances for re-election were considered very slim.
It was during this time that David Horowitz met up with an old friend and a luncheon conversation would lead to an engaging new development.
David’s activities would take him to Washington quite often where he usually met for lunch with an official of the Department of Justice, Martin F. Smith, formally associated with the Congress and an old friend of Harry Truman. Mr. Smith, like Mr. Truman, was a deep student of the Bible and prophecy. During their meetings, Horowitz and Smith would almost always discuss prophecy in the light of present-day events as relating to Israel and America.
President Truman had long taken an interest in the history of the Middle East and was well read on ancient history and the events related in the Bible.
During their meeting, the discussion turned to Smith’s friend, Mr. Truman and the Presidential campaign. Both agreed that Truman’s chances for re-election was very poor.
As they spoke about the Bible and prophecy as relating to the Jews returning to Palestine, David told Smith that America’s new policy was contrary to God’s will and for that reason, Truman, as head of the nation, had found disfavor in the sight of God and man.
Then, in a sort of wishful way, David said to Smith: “Possibly if Truman would heed my counsel he might still at this late hour stand a chance of re-election.” Smith, looking serious and taking the statement in earnest, said: “Tell me and I will tell the President.”
Somewhat taken aback by this sudden challenge and realizing that Mr. Smith was serious, David told him: “Truman should know, first of all, that no man or electorate had put him into the White House. He got in through an act of God when Franklin D. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945 a week or so after it was revealed that Mr. Roosevelt had made certain commitments to Ibn Saud and the Arabs. Hence, it is clear, that God does not want Truman to listen to every dissenting voice, as he has up until now, in matters of State and Foreign Policy. God wants him to do what he thinks is right himself.”
“Moreover,” David continued, “the problem of Palestine is not exclusively a Jewish one. American Christian voters, nurtured on Hebrew tradition as based on the Bible, have always connected the Jew with the Holy Land. When they read in their daily papers that Truman was wavering on this matter, permitting the State Department to play politics that’s not in the interest of the people of the Book, they lost their faith in him. They saw a weak man who changes his mind with every wind. Therefore, unless your friend, Mr. Truman, realizes these facts and rectifies the wrong done the Jews, he will fail history and lose. He will have to convince the American people by doing something spectacular in the matter of the Jews and Palestine so as to electrify the world.”
Mr. Smith listened intently and when they parted he promised he would go to his friend, the President, and press the matter with him.
A week later, in a New York Times dispatch reporting Mr. Truman’s weekly press conference, the President was quoted among other things, as having said: “I don’t care what happens to my own political career personally. I am going to do what I think is right.”
During this press conference reporters seemed to be witnessing a new Truman. He became more “unpredictable.” He began to act more on his own and his ratings in the public eye began to rise.
Fighting in the undeclared war in Palestine gradually escalated. From November 30, 1947 through February 1, 1948, 427 Arabs, 381 Jews, and 46 British were killed and many were wounded. In March alone, 271 Jews and 257 Arabs died in clashes.
The UN continued to debate Trusteeship over Palestine, but there seemed to be insufficient support in the UN General Assembly to adopt this change of policy.
The UN partition resolution was never suspended or rescinded and on May 14, 1948, the Zionists declared the independent state of Israel, as the British finally left the country.
Against vigorous opposition from his Secretary of State, George Marshall, President Truman did the unpredictable. He extended immediate recognition to the new state eleven minutes after it declared itself a nation.
Marshall believed the paramount threat to the US was the Soviet Union and feared that Arab oil would be lost to the US in the event of war. He warned Truman that: “the US was playing with fire with nothing to put it out.” There was other opposition in the State Department as well.
Truman had indeed electrified the world by recognizing the State of Israel to the dejection of Israel’s enemies. The General Assembly of the UN went into a tantrum. Not even the American delegation there under Warren Austin had known about Truman’s act.
It seemed that Harry Truman had taken seriously the message conveyed to him by Martin F. Smith, perhaps becoming a modern Cyrus.
David Horowitz was there in the press gallery in Flushing Meadows that late Friday afternoon as a witness when the news of Truman’s recognition of Israel was announced in the General Assembly.
When David met with Martin Smith during their next visit, Smith told him that soon after their previous meeting, he had contacted Truman and told him every word he had heard from David. He said that Truman listened intently and became strangely quiet. “I have seen Mr. Truman many times and in many moods,” Smith said, “but never did I see him so dead earnest and serious as at the close of our meeting this time.”
The 1948 Presidential Election will always be remembered for Harry Truman’s stunning come from behind victory.
The defining image of the campaign came after Election Day, when an ecstatic Truman held aloft the erroneous front page of The Chicago Tribune with a huge headline proclaiming “Dewey Defeats Truman.”
Truman’s inauguration would be the first ever televised nationally.
Ralph Buntyn is executive vice president and associate editor of United Israel World Union. A historian and researcher, his many articles and essays have appeared in various media outlets.
This post is the fourth in the series “Remembering David Horowitz.” For the complete archive see here.