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Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy at the Annual Banquet of Histadrut Zionist Organization, Baltimore, Maryland, November 27, 1956

 

Remarks of Senator John F. Kennedy at the Annual Banquet of Histadrut Zionist Organization, Baltimore, Maryland, November 27, 1956

It is a genuine pleasure to be here tonight to join with you in tribute to my distinguished friend and your State Senator, Philip Goodman. I first met Phil Goodman at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago last summer. But in that short period of time, and particularly on that occasion, I have come to know the warm loyalty of his friendship and his able determination as a political leader. His support of me at Chicago, which I did not solicit and for which he did not bargain, was one of the most gratifying surprises I received during those exciting days. And I am grateful to him for his efforts even though he did not succeed in obtaining for me the votes of the Maryland delegation -- in fact, I am more grateful than ever, for if he had succeeded, I might have been made the Vice-Presidential nominee! In any event, my friendship with Phil Goodman is one of the lasting benefits for me to come out of that Convention; and I am delighted that so many of you have gathered tonight to pay him a yell-deserved tribute. Equally fitting is the dedication in his name of a hospital wing of the Medical Center in Jaffa. For his career has been one of service -- service to his city, state and nation -- service to the Jewish people and homeland -- and service to his party and the principles for which he has fought all his life.
Politicians are always being asked to address testimonial dinners, for this individual or that, for this cause or that, to join in a lengthy procession of eulogies that are embarrassing to the subject and boring to the audience. But this is one case where I believe the cause and the individual to be worthy of every tribute we can pay -- and I was delighted to come for that purpose.
I want to also take this opportunity to greet my good friend Congressman San Friedel, in whose district this dinner is being held. His years of service to you on your City Council, in your State Legislature and as a particularly hard working Congressman have, I know, merited from you the same respect and affection he now enjoys from all of his colleagues in Washington. I am
looking forward to many more years of working in the Congress with Sam Friedel. I know that you will do your bit to make this possible, and I am hopeful the voters of Massachusetts will do their part also.
Tonight's dinner, I understand, is the annual highlight of your Histadrut campaign here in Baltimore, which is emphasizing this year the construction of the Medical Center in Jaffa named for your great and good Dr. Herman Seidel and its new wing named for Senator Goodman. I have no doubt that the tensions and crises that now swirl about Israel and the whole Middle Eastern area have introduced a new factor into your campaign. And yet I am equally certain that those of you who are gathered here tonight will no more permit that present
turmoil to lessen your concern for the people of Israel than that brave democracy has permitted its problems abroad to interfere with its humanitarian progress at home.
Whatever may be the background, the difficulties, the merits or the eventual outcome of those conflicts, we know that the State of Israel will remain - and we know that assistance from her friends in this country will still be desperately needed. The nation will continue to grow; and the exiles from all over the world will continue to gather. Only last week, when the nations of the world were asked to offer a haven for the Hungarian refugees from the Communist tyranny, there was a gratifying response; the United States, for example, announced its willingness to take five thousand; Australia three thousand; Britain two and one-half thousand; but Israel, little Israel, announced that she would take not one thousand or five thousand or ten thousand but all who wanted to come.
While we, along with the leaders of our nation and the world, are concerned tonight with the daily developments in the Middle East, I think whatever comments I might offer concerning that area might better be directed toward a more long-range view of the situation. The present negotiations are too delicate, the issues at stake too sensitive and the causes and merits of each dispute too complex to be made the subject of a public address at this time -- particularly by one who has neither the administrative responsibility nor the full data necessary for an authoritative evaluation of the Middle Eastern picture today. I think, however, that it would be worthwhile for all of us to give some attention to a more long-range review of the Middle Eastern situation, to examine the problems that will still be present once hostilities have ceased, borders redrawn and alliances rebuilt. Truces, treaties and a variety of temporary solutions are sure to come and go; so, too, will personalities, whether they be Mr. Eden, Mr. Dulles, Mr. Nasser, Mr. Ben Gurion or others. But some factors remain constant; and it is upon these factors that any long-range analysis of the Middle Eastern situation must be based. It is in the light of such fundamental factors that foreign affairs, and particularly the tangled affairs of the Middle East, can be understood and our policies adjusted. Personalities, battles and movements only express and illustrate these long-range conditions and interests.
It seems to me that the best way of isolating these long-range factors from the temporary conditions which presently command our attention is to ask ourselves: what issues, what factors, what causes and conditions will remain, once the present situation has ended or been clarified? And of particular importance, which among these are permanent factors -- factors with which we will still be reckoning a generation from now -- which were not present a generation ago? Much in the Middle East, of course, is the same as it was a generation ago; such will regain the same: the special importance of the Middle East to the great religions of the world, Jewish, Moslem and Christian; the economic interests of Britain and France in the area, present today as they were a generation ago; the traditional rivalries between the various Arab blocs, between the Saudis and the Hashemites, between the Nile and the Euphrates-Tigris Valleys, between northern Arabs and southern Arabs, rich states and poor. All of these are factors fundamental to an understanding of the Middle East and its problems; all of these are factors which existed 25 years ego as much as they do today and as such as they will, in all likelihood, tomorrow.
But let us consider the new trends and developments which have altered the character and significance of the Middle East and its problems, and with which we will be reckoning long after the present crisis has ended. There are, it seems to me, seven such facts -- and I might discuss each of them very briefly this evening.
1. The first such factor is the highly strategic position occupied by the Middle East in the world's political, ideological and military battles. Located midway between the giants of the East and the West, and populated by millions not yet firmly committed to either, the Middle East has consequently assumed an importance in the "cold war" out of proportion to its size, strength and previous significance. As the Soviet Union approaches this country in terms of the quality and quantity of its weapons, including nuclear weapons, missiles and others, and in terms of quantity and quality of air strength, the significance of what has been called the "geographic factor" increases. Our greatest advantage in harsh military terms today, our greatest deterrent to Soviet attack, is a geographic one -- the Soviet vulnerability to direct attack from bases on its own land mass and the parallel decline of American vulnerability as the result of its present ability to spread over the world a strategic dispersal of our attack bases. Thus the air-atomic age gives to the Middle East a significance it has never previously possessed -- and the nations and peoples of that vital area may expect to be wooed, pursued, threatened and used by outside powers, whatever the status of their own disputes might be.
2. The second permanent factor in the Middle East of which we must never lose sight is oil. The dependence of the world upon Middle Eastern oil and its transportation through the Suez Canal has been made abundantly clear during the past weeks. Whatever political and military settlements are made, whatever tensions are lifted and problems solved, we must remember that Europe's dependence upon these oil supplies will continue -- and continue indefinitely, regardless of our developments in atomic energy. Thus even an end to the struggle between East and West would not diminish the concern of a large share of the world over its access to the resources of the Middle East.
3. The third fact which will remain once the dust of the present battle has settled and the smoke has cleared will be the unprecedented success of Soviet penetration in the Middle East. Charles Malik, the Lebanese diplomat and philosopher, has written that "Moscow probably has never in history had the direct or indirect influence it now enjoys in the Near East . . . This Communist penetration is the most important phenomenon in the Near East at present, and the interpretation or adjustment of every other situation should be made with this matter in view." Much of this is apparent to us in this country in the statements of Arab and Communist leaders, in the delivery of Communist arms to the area and in the exchange of trade missions and trade agreements. Much of it, however, we are less aware of and alert to -- the steady penetration of Communist agents into key positions in Middle Eastern governments, newspapers, trade unions and other organizations; the steadily climbing circulation of Communist literature in contrast with anti-Communist publications; the steadily growing acceptance by Middle Eastern people of the Soviets as their friend end benefactor, a leader in their fight against Western domination and a sympathizer in their struggle with Israel. All of these and a host of other items have increased the strength of Communism among the Arab nations while the Western nations, divided and suspected, have steadily lost influence and prestige in the area. However successful the West may be in ending the present conflict and rebuilding a Middle Eastern policy, the new significance of Soviet Communism in the area will be a factor to reckon with for years to come.
4. Fourth, we must never consider the problems of the nations of the Middle East apart from the economic and social conditions which surround them. Life in the Middle East, it has been said, is a perpetual fight against the desert, and always the desert has iron in the past -with poverty and illiteracy and disease and underdevelopment dominating an area where only a few enjoy the benefits of great oil and land-holdings. Indeed, the increase in outside capital poured into the area to exploit its oil and other resources has only aggravated the problems of unequal distribution of wealth and inadequate development of human resources. These are problems with which the new nations of the Middle East must struggle for the next generation; and no amount of nationalistic oratory can create the scientific and technological revolution necessary to raise the standard of living of their people. Nor is such a revolution easily purchased by oil royalties. It requires the closest association and assistance of either Western Europe, who is mistrusted, or the Soviet Union or the United States. This decision will be a continuing one facing our nation and the nations of the Middle East for many years after the close of the present hostilities.
5. This leads us directly to another factor which was of little importance a generation ago but which will continue to grow in significance in the foreseeable future -- and that is the new rise of Arab nationalism, the revolt in the Middle East against Western colonialism. In Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia; in Jordan, Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Aden; and in Egypt and throughout the entire area, the desire to be free from direct or indirect Western influence has become a powerful and sometimes violent force. Policies of repression have only fanned the flames of discontent; and the close ties between this nation, home of the Declaration of Independence, and the great colonial powers have caused Arab spokesmen to warn our State Department that the nations of the Middle East were beginning to regard America as a supporter of colonialism. In recent weeks, particularly with respect to the present crisis, we have proclaimed our independence from our traditional allies on issues affected by the colonialism-nationalism struggle; but it is not yet clear that we have recognized this factor to be the most powerful, dynamic force for good or evil in the Middle East today.
6. A sixth factor, related to but separate from, the growing force of Arab nationalism, has been the emergence of Egypt as the leader of the Arab bloc, the champion of Arab unity and the chief provocator against the West. The explanation involves more than the personality of Mr. Nasser. Its roots are in the history of Egypt's bitter relations against the British, in the influence of Egypt and its university in the Moslem, world and in a series of more recent Western actions in the area which Egypt regarded either as on affront or a threat to its prestige. It is doubtful, therefore, that any changes in government or personnel could insure Egyptian friendship for the West or diminish Egyptian power in Middle Eastern affairs during the next generation.
7. Seventh and finally, the character of the Middle East will be shaped for generations to come by one more factor which vas not present a generation ago -- the State of Israel. It is time that all the nations of the world, in the Middle East and elsewhere, realized that Israel is here to stay. Surrounded on every side by violent hate and prejudice, living each day in an atmosphere of constant tension and fear, Israel is certain to survive the present crisis and all future crises; and all negotiations between the United States and Arab nations may as well accept that fact.
The future of the Middle East is far from clear. But it is clear, in my opinion, that its future will be based upon the interrelation of these seven factors -- its strategic position, its oil, increase in Communist influence, economic and social problems, Arab nationalism, Egypt and Israel. No nation can neglect or forget any of these seven factors in formulating future policies in the Middle East -- particularly the United States. There was a time, not so long ago, when our primary concerns abroad were with Europe and the Far East. Even last summer, at the time our policies in Suez were established, the Middle East was not looked upon as one of our primary interests. But now, I hope and I am sure, that view has changed. We now realize that there is no problem in the Middle East in which the security of the United States is not involved and to the solution of which we do not have some responsibility. But we shall fulfill those responsibilities with lasting benefits for ourselves and the world only if we develop a Middle Eastern policy of our own; and only if we base that policy upon a long range point of view, upon the interlacing and interaction of the facts and factors which I have mentioned. With vision, wisdom and determination, we can meet this challenge of incredible complexity with courageous and resourceful solutions that will bring injustice to no one and lasting peace and prosperity to all.