Historians’ Conference Discusses Interest of U.S. Press in Palestine

The American press demonstrated an active interest in the idea of the Jewish return to Palestine six years before the founding of the world Zionist movement in 1987, according to a paper presented at the closing session of an Historians Conference here last night.

The paper, by Marnin Feinstein, Assistant Dean of the Herzliah Hebrew Teachers Institute of New York. Was a study of Zionism in the American press between 1891 and 1904. It was prepared for the Conference on the Early History of Zionism in America, which opened here Monday under the auspices of the American Jewish Historical Society and the Jewish Agency for Palestine.

Mr. Feinstem disclosed that major American newspapers, 64 years ago, endorsed the Blackstone Memorial which was presented to President Benjamin Harrison on March 5, 1891. This document, prompted by the persecution of Jews in Russia and Rumania, was prepared by the Rev. William Blackstone, of Chicago, and advocated a conference of the Great Powers to discuss means of returning Palestine to the Jews. Its signatories included J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller. William Rockefeller, Cyrus W. Field, Russell Sage, Charles Scribner, Chauncey M. Depew and other prominent Americans from the business-world, the clergy and politics. It was signed also by the editors of 24 of the principal newspapers in New York City at the time, with one exception.

The exception, Mr. Feinstein notes, was the New York Sun, which sought to prove the Blackstone Memorial impractical on the grounds that Jews were not interested in migrating to Palestine, that the land was too small to afford a livelihood for multitudes and that the United States had no right to meddle in the affairs of Europe and Asia.

About a year and a half later, Mr. Feinstein points out, The Sun did a complete about face on the issue warmly supporting the restoration of the Jews to their ancient homeland. Among the reasons given for the change of position were the increasingly restrictive immigration laws which had the effect of excluding Jews, the failure of Jewish colonization attempts in countries other than Palestine and the last that Palestine, as the ancient Jewish land, was the logical country for Jewish settlement.

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