Interview with Edwin M. Wright
by Richard D. McKinzie, Truman Library
This is a transcript of a tape-recorded interview conducted for the Harry S. Truman Library. A draft of this transcript was edited by the interviewee but only minor emendations were made; therefore, the reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Mr. Wright has asked that this letter be included as a preamble to his interview.
Dear Mr. Fuchs: The material I gave Professor McKinzie was of a very controversial nature — one almost taboo in U.S. circles, inasmuch as I accused the Zionists of using political pressures and even deceit in order to get the U.S. involved in a policy of supporting a Zionist theocratic, ethnically exclusive and ambitious Jewish State. I, and my associates in the State Department, felt this was contrary to U.S. interests and we were overruled by President Truman. …
Zionists and Christian Fundamentalists have frequently used the Hebrew Bible as an authority for justifying a Jewish State. As late as summer 1976, Candidate Jimmie Carter stated, “I am pro-Israeli, not because of political expediency, but because I believe Israel is the fulfilment of Biblical prophecy.”
So the Bible–and belief that it is God’s Holy Word and infallible, became a useful tool in Zionist propaganda. I take the point of view that the Bible is a mixture of Hebrew legends and myths and cannot be used as an element in U.S. foreign policy.
The Zionists were very successful in using religion for political purposes. This is prohibited by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which states the Government should recognize no “religous establishment.” In the case of Zionism and Israel, the U.S. has recognized and supported a religious establishment–viz: the State of Israel which in turn discriminates against all non-Jewish religions.
U.S. citizens, quite ignorant of Biblical critical studies and equally ignorant of Zionist dogmas and claims, were easy victims to clever Zionist manipulation of their gullibility.
My opposition to Zionism was on purely pragmatic grounds. … I felt it was folly for the United States to support a State composed of such neurotic groups as I witnessed in Palestine (1942-46).
The Orthodox Rabbis wanted to turn the clock back to 1200 B.C. Theocracy–and were really fanatic. They have produced such irrational and Expansionist groups as the Gush Emunim group, who openly defy the Israeli government and cannot be disciplined because they are so “Holy.” A description of this “Much Holier than Thou” movement is found in The New Outlook (Tel Aviv) monthly for November 1976, “Chauvinistic Politics and Political Religion: Danger in Hebron.” It was the Zealots who in the time of Christ as provoked the Roman authorities that they brought on Roman retaliation and the destruction of the Jewish State in 70 A.D.
The Gush Emunim have learned nothing from history and will repeat history. The Israeli government is impotent in the face of the defiance of this Zealot group. Other Israelis are equally blind to realities and so dogmatic and fragmented that no party can ever get a majority. The in-fighting between these parties is causing rapid decay in Israeli domestic political life.
The only force which unites them is fear of the Arabs. Remove that, and Israeli political unity will disintegrate.
Zionists, since Truman’s decision in 1947-48, have lived in a Fool’s Paradise. They assumed their control of the US government, press and public was permanent and based on “moral” values–therefore, the US at all times would give Israel total support.
Zionists seem to live in a dream world of their own creation and think the rest of the world should accept their dream. They seem quite incapable of facing reality.
In 1947-48 when President Truman declared for a Jewish State, there was an outburst of Jewish Messianic hysteria. As Cyrus was declared “The Messiah of the Lord” in Isaiah 44 :28, so Truman was a “Messiah” to serve Eternal Divine Israel in 1948.
Jews of a Zionist persuasion cannot separate the Transcendental from the Mundane. In antiquity, within a half a century, the Jews turned against Persia and in the Book of Esther (Hadarsal) King Artaxerxes is painted as a drunken and lecherous fool. He ruled from 485 B.C.-465 B.C. I fear President Carter may prove to be the Zionist model for the Treacherous Fool who “abandoned” Israel. Zionists seem to deal in superlatives–no relative values. They cannot see that President Truman was a US politician, needing Jewish votes and money to win an election. To the Zionists Truman was a Messianic Savior chosen by Destiny.
Nor can they see President Carter is beset by global problems and it is necessary to curb Israel’s excesses and mistreatment of the Palestinians lest it bring on a global disorder.
I would appreciate it, if you make this letter a part of my “Oral” transcript by attaching it as a “Preamble.” Edwin M. Wright, April 3, 1977
Oral History Interview with Edwin M. Wright
Wooster, Ohio, July 26, 1974
MCKINZIE: Mr. Wright, perhaps you could start by telling how you got into Government work and your personal background before you went into the Government.
WRIGHT: My background is a rather unusual one because my father went out to the Middle East in 1878 and I was born in Iran. As such I have dual citizenship. I’ve never used my Iranian citizenship, it’s conferred upon me by birth. I grew up in Iran and learned to speak Armenian and Turkish. I was born in Tabriz, which is in the northwestern part and a Turkish speaking area.
When I came back to America I went to Wooster College and graduated in 1918. Then I took three years of theological work. I went to McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago and then back to Iran. I spent 16 years in educational work there, being the principal of several high schools in Tabriz, in Rasht, and in Hamadans (1921-1937). I came back here after the Iranian Government had nationalized all the schools and there was no purpose in staying in Iran. I decided to take a course in ancient history at Columbia University.
I have studied Islam a great deal, I have studied Arabic, and I wanted to get the whole Jewish point of view. I took three courses under Dr. Salo Baron, who is perhaps the outstanding Jewish scholar in America. He is the author of a seven-volume history of the Jews. What I wanted to do was get this religious background. I’m convinced that religion underlies much of our language, though we don’t recognize it.
In other words, the themes and dogmas of religion underlie the way we see the world. If you would understand especially the Middle East, which never had a renaissance, you simply have to know this religious background.
I was sent, in 1942, to Iran. I might mention the Russians protested my being there.. The result was that the Defense Department moved me out of Iran and sent me to Cairo. I spent the rest of the war in Cairo in Intelligence and handled the Iranian situation from Cairo. Also there opened up a position in Palestine. We had had a man there but he was transferred and Palestine had no Intelligence officer. For a year I worked in Tel Litvinski, which is just outside Tel Aviv, the U.S. Army headquarters.
I made a special study of Zionism, and I talked with as many people as I could find who were the leaders of the Zionist community. I interviewed Golda Meir at that time; she was then labor secretary. I had conversations with Reuven Zaslani, who later was called Shiloah (all these people changed their names later on); Dov Joseph, who became the mayor of Jerusalem during the war; and Teddy Kolleck. I made a special effort to meet them, talk with them, and find out what Zionism is; what it stands for.
I also found that there was a school in Tel Aviv, known as the Gymnasia Herzliya. It was the training school in which most of the modern leaders of Israel had gone; Moshe Dyan and others. I talked with a number of the teachers and professors there. I felt that this was a school dedicated to inculcating and indoctrinating [Theodor] Herzl’s ideas into the minds of the young Jews in Palestine.
I talked with the people who were the professors there and also got to know Edwin Samuel, the son of Lord Samuel who was the first High Commissioner of Palestine. With Edwin Samuel, I made trips all through the kubbutzim. We spent several days at Ein Geb, Mishmar Ha-Emek, and at various other of the kubbutzim. During this period I became convinced that Americans didn’t know what Zionism was at all.
What I found out was that Herzl had taught that all the Jews of the world should go to Israel. This was the idea that dominated the Yishuv (the Yishuv means the Jewish community of Palestine) and even Ben Gurion, who was at that time Secretary of the Jewish Agency.
The Jewish Agency was a shadow government. It already was a government of Israel; simply waiting for the veil to be pulled and it would emerge. It had all the functions of government. I found their ideas were that all Jews should leave the Gentile world. This is in Herzl:
“Gentiles hate Jews, they are going to destroy the Jewish world.” It’s a paranoic view of things. The only way Judaism can be saved is for the Jews to leave the Gentile world completely; to go to a Jewish state, as Herzl put it in his book. There they would rule themselves and be able to get away from the hatred of the Gentile world. The Gentiles are out to destroy Judaism.
I did not believe this. I think it’s a false concept of society, and especially false of American society. Nevertheless, this is the foundation of Zionist thinking.
The second step was that this Jewish state must be in Palestine. This is the sacred home of the people; its literature was developed there, and their attitude was that Judaism cannot survive in any other place except Palestine itself. That’s where it grew and germinated, and it’s got to get back there in order to save itself. Otherwise, Jews are going to assimilate in other countries.
Herzl himself made the statement that, when the Jewish state is set up, if a Jew does not go to live in it he is anti-Semitic because he chooses to live with Gentiles rather than live with Jews which are his real community.
I got all these ideas through talking with people who were Zionists. The third step in Zionism was that they must have large enough a state in order to keep the whole Jewish population there.
At that time there were about fourteen million Jews, and now that meant owning a very large territory. It is not brought out in Zionist propaganda in America, but what they claim is all the territory from the Suez Canal clear north to the mountains of Cappadocia, in southern Turkey. It includes all of Lebanon, much of Syria, Jordan, and Sinai. This is the territory they call “Eretz Israel,” the land of Israel, which is mentioned in the Bible.
One of the men whom I discussed this with was Rabbi Meyer Berlin, the Chief Rabbi in the Mizrachi group. These are the ultra-orthodox group, who accept the Old Testament literally. Everything that it says is exactly just as it’s described.
Ben Gurion: “the Bible is our charter”
I might mention my concept of the Bible is that it is largely mythology; Jewish legend; distorted history. There are a lot of poems and other sorts of things like this. There are a number of moral teachings in it, but they are the minimum part of it. Large parts of it are just ritualistic and have no meaning in the modern world at all, but if you want to understand Jewish legend, that’s the book to go to.
When I talked to these people I saw that they took it literally. Furthermore, in one of my conversations with Mr. Ben Gurion he made the remark that, “the Bible is our charter.”
I began to realize that Zionism is a thinly veiled theocracy. The Bible was in their minds when they were talking, but they used modern nationalistic language in order to hide the fact that this was theocratic in nature. They realized that a theocratic society would not appeal to America.
I might mention here that I have found Zionism very deceitful. There is a double meaning in all the words Zionists use, and [Chaim] Weizmann himself said one time, “Let the British or anyone else talk about Zionism and they can use our terminology, but we know what the meaning of it is. It has one meaning to us, one meaning to the Gentiles.”
They’ve always had this double-entendre in everything that they have done. Whenever they use words you have to try to find out what is the context in which they are using these words.
This threw me back to studying the Bible again to see what they are talking about; what is “Eretz Israel,” which includes this tremendous territory? Furthermore, in the covenants which God gave to the Jewish people, he said, “You are to be a pure and holy people and not to be contaminated by contact with Gentiles. Therefore, you should cast out all the inhabitants that are there and make it a Jewish state.”
I found the same thing in Herzl: You must remove the Arabs and Palestinians in order to have an exclusivistic Jewish people.
I found Herzl’s writings were really all ideas taken from the Old Testament, but dressed up in modern language, and that Zionism meant the incorporation of the whole Jewish community in Palestine. A large territory that was to be exclusively theirs, and the Arabs would be expelled.
“They live in a world of imagination and
mythology which they interpret as reality
I, at that time didn’t have access to all the writings of Herzl, because they were in a language I couldn’t use for research, but I got a lot through discussing this with various Jewish leaders. I went to the sources. I found that the area had not yet emancipated itself from the theocratic point of view of the world.
These people are introspective, they live in a world of imagination and mythology which they interpret as reality. This is true of Golda Meir, Ben Gurion and all the rest of them. They live in a world of half myth and half reality. The result has been tremendous blunders that they have made in international relations. I reported all of this to the Department of Defense and copies of my reports were sent to the Department of State. …
In April 1945, I happened to be going from Bagdad to Teheran on a British army truck, on a morning in April when they turned on the radio and they announced the death of President Roosevelt. They said President Truman had taken over…
I was very pleased with Mr. Truman in almost everything that he did. I thought he was extremely creative in connection with Europe and NATO, but this was because America had a great fund of European specialists, and many of us had European backgrounds. Unfortunately, when it came to Asia we had no specialists…
We had two lobby groups in America who knew little about the area at all, who had certain ideological concepts of society and America. When the people from the fields reported what was unpopular to these groups, they were fired.
It’s too well-known what happened to the people that McCarthy attacked. The best specialists we had on China were all fired or declared Communists. We purged them, and that led us into the debacle of supporting Chiang Kai-shek.
The same thing happened in the Middle East. The Zionists well knew that specialists in the State Department were people opposed to Zionism; that we were dangerous people from the point of view of Zionism. They were already attacking me when I was in Cairo.
Whatever contribution I had to make on President Truman’s attitude had to do with his decision on this question of Zionism. Up until 1946 no head of State had ever used the phrase “Jewish state.”
The British had used the phrase “Jewish national home.” The result was that the concept of a Jewish state had not been accepted by any outside power.
It was the drive of the Zionists to get the United States to recognize such a thing as a Jewish state, but nobody in America knew what a Jewish state was. I’m convinced that Mr. Truman never knew what it involved, yet he used the phrase “Jewish state.”
Truman knew nothing about Jews and Zionism
No one has ever been able to define what a Jew is; what is the adjective “Jewish?” I’m convinced there is no agreed definition; it cannot be defined. Israel has in 26 years tried to define the term “Jew,” and it’s run across endless contradictions. Every time that a court in Israel defines the term Jew, half of the Jews protest against it and say, “That’s not what we mean by Judaism.”
In other words, Judaism or Jew means so much to so many people that there is no possible definition of it. The Zionists have a specific meaning of Judaism that is racist; it has to do with a theory of birth.
You are born a Jew, you have to have a Jewish mother, and every Jew has a DNA particle that is identified as Jewish. This is a sort of a chain to connections back to Abraham. This is pure mythology, and yet this is the idea on which the State of Israel is being built.
Furthermore, Mr. Truman knew nothing about their concept of Zionism. In his book he refers to the fact that the extreme Zionists, as he said, threatened him. Those are not the extreme Zionists at all, these were the regular Zionists. He didn’t know the difference between a leftist and a rightist Zionist. All he knew was that the Zionists put tremendous pressure upon him in order to accept the concept of a Jewish state in Palestine.
In Mr. Truman’s book you will find that he describes the pressures that were brought to bear upon him at this particular time. He said it was like nothing that he ever saw again in the Presidency. He makes the strange remark, “I could not trust my advisers in the State Department because they were anti-Semitic.”
It’s perfectly obvious he was smearing Mr. Henderson, who was the adviser and the director at that time of the Near Eastern areas. The Zionists went to various people like Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell and said, “Smear this fellow. Destroy his character and get him out of Government.” The result was Mr. Henderson became the target of Zionist attacks.
What Mr. Truman did was not project his people, but smear them. In his own book he declared that his advisers in the State Department were anti-Semitic and he couldn’t trust them. The result was he did not trust the State Department, the people who knew what was going on…
Foreign policy cannot be operated intelligently if it’s to be the football of domestic lobbies, and this was Mr. Truman’s great mistake. In this issue he gave way to a domestic lobby. He listened to a group of propagandists who gave him the wrong ideas and he came across with this fatal decision that we would support a Jewish state in the area.
From that time on, the fat was in the fire. A chief of State had come out supporting the idea of a Jewish state. Now the Zionists were simply able to take over and operate without reference to America anymore. They began smuggling out arms and money. Mr. Ben Gurion had been in the U.S.A. at the Biltmore Convention in May 1942 and had gotten organizations to support the development of a war in the Middle East.
They knew war was coming. In one of my reports I found out that Mr. Ben Gurion had made a statement at Tel Hai, which is one of the group meetings in Palestine. “As soon as the war in Europe is over, the war in the Middle East will begin.”
The Zionists had no question but that they were going to fight and drive out the Arabs. This has been written in many of their documents, and Mr. Truman didn’t know this.
They told him, “Zionism is but a humanitarian move. It’s liberal, it’s progressive, it’s going to bring prosperity in the Middle East.” Mr. Truman made that one statement; that the reason he supported the idea of a Jewish state was because it was bringing prosperity to the Middle East.
It was obvious he was deceived, but I think he was easily deceived because it brought money into the campaign and he needed it badly for his whistlestops. In fact, I’m convinced that the American Government is largely corrupt because of the way that our campaigns are run.
This has been brought out, of course, very clearly in the last few months in connection with Watergate, but it’s not new. The business of buying Government opinion and Government judgment is very old in America and it’s one of the things that is going to destroy democracy unless it is somehow or another corrected.
In this particular case, Mr. Truman not only supported the Zionists but he also did a very dirty trick. He smeared his specialists and made it difficult for them to operate any longer in Government.
Mr. Henderson was, therefore, told, “You’ve got to leave the State Department or the Zionists are going to keep after us.”
What Mr. Truman then did was to turn over the Middle Eastern policymaking and the fate of State Department personnel to the Zionists; who were not in Government at all. He turned it away from his trained diplomats and over to irresponsible and fanatic people who simply purged the State Department…
Milton Friedman wrote a whole series of articles about how I was getting paid for my point of view, that I was a dangerous character, and that the Government ought to investigate me for anti-Semitism. They did investigate me.
This came out in connection with the McCarthy scandal: not only were there Communists supposedly in the State Department but there were also anti-Semites. …
I can’t understand why I survived, and this is one of the strange things in my history, for they had me on their list as an anti-Semitic force operating in the State Department. The American Zionist, which is the paper of the American Zionist organization, came out with a full page attacking me, claiming that I was the source of anti-Semitism.
One day George McGhee, who later on was Assistant Secretary of State, called me in. Jacob Blanstein, president of AMOCO had just come in to see him, and somehow or another had picked up the story I was anti-Semitic. He told George McGhee, “Why do you keep this fellow here?”
A whole generation of officers
who are simply “Uncle Toms
There were influences to get rid of anyone who was called “pro-Arab.” They were not pro-Arab, I must insist upon this, they were acting in accordance with America’s larger interests in the Middle East. The Zionists gave them the title “pro-Arab” and that was enough to destroy them. You had to be pro-Zionist or keep quiet in order to stay in the State Department, and the net result was a whole generation of officers who are simply “Uncle Toms.”
It destroyed the efficacy of the Department of State in that particular area. The Zionists consider that they have control of the Department of State, can dictate who is going to be in it and who is going to say what policy should be. It’s sort of silent terrorism that they have applied and kept up ever since. …
Even if you suggested what is good policy you got punished for it, and the result was that nobody dared even write memos or sign their initials to anything. If the Zionists got hold of it, this person was purged and sent off to some obscure area for a number of years.
As you can see, that’s why the United States has made blunder after blunder in the Middle Eastern area. It has been controlled by Zionist groups, through money to Congressmen and Senators who get large fees.
These men just said whatever they were told to say because it satisfies their personal finances and also satisfies the votes in their area. This has corrupted American policy completely towards the Middle East and it has led to four wars.
This is the sad history of the mistake that was made by Mr. Truman to open the door to Zionist control of the U.S. Government in the Middle East. It has continued until recently, but Mr. [Henry] Kissinger is making an effort to reverse the trend.
He and a small committee published the book called Prospects for America. It came out in 1958.
In that study written in 1958, I pointed out all the things I had been saying here, that Zionism intended to have a large state, drive the Arabs out, dominate the Middle East, have the United States pay the bill. …
Now, Mr. [Richard Milhouse] Nixon, having finally learned something about the Middle East, is trying to reverse it and restore confidence of the Arab world. It’s going to mean an attack by the Zionists against both Mr. Nixon and Mr. Kissinger, and that’s already begun. “Get these fellows out as well, through the impeachment process or something else.”
The mistakes that were made by Truman lasted for 26 years and have brought us to near disaster in the Middle East.
MCKINZIE: There was in the postwar period the idea of peace through integrating world economies. Nations were going to be economically integrated and as a result there was going to e a kind of peace, because each nation would be dependent one upon the other. Was the Middle East supposed to be a part of this?
WRIGHT: Yes, we went through this period. It attained a higher degree of activity under [John F.] Kennedy when the Alliance of Progress was developed.
So there was organized a Central Treaty Organization. This is still functioning. It’s never been very important, but psychologically it’s important and I think politically it’s important. It has helped these states to communicate with one another, to have constant meetings on what their common problems are. I don’t think it’s had any very large economic effect, but it has created intercommunications which have never existed before.
We were hoping that this would spread into still larger fields, but we did exactly the opposite in Israel. What we did was take an Arab state and break it up into a little Zionist militant state that was going to try to occupy Arab territory and had nothing to do with the Arabs. We put all of our eggs in the Israeli basket. …
Try to explain to Arabs why it is that we have this strange phenomenon in American life. We ignore our basic interests in the area and support something for which we get no returns whatsoever. What do we get out of supporting Israel? Nothing but problems, bills, debts, and embarrassment. …
They’ve got to change from their picture of themselves as a separate chosen people to being a people living in a society they consider enemies. There’s no solution for Israel other than to integrate itself into the Arab world.
It was folly to establish a theocratic, ethnically exclusive, ambitious Zionist Jewish state in the heart of the Arab world. To impose its will upon the Arabs, Israel has to resort to the sword.
All the assumptions of Herzl’s Zionism turned out to be false. Most Jews do not want to live in a theocratic Jewish state. Israeli Jews have proven incapable of granting non-Jews equality.
Israel survives only because of large transfers of arms and money from the U.S.A.–a very un-healthy situation for all involved.
Edwin M. Wright is an American foreign policy specialist. Employed by the US State Department from 1945 to 1955 in a number of capacities, he was especially involved in the events leading up to and surrounding the establishment of Israel.
In particular, he served as a Middle East specialist from 1945 to 1946; on the Bureau for Near East, South Asian, and African Affairs from 1946 to 1947; as an advisor on UN affairs from 1947 to 1950, and as an advisor on intelligence from 1950 to 1955.