NEW YORK (JTA) – The Museum of Jewish Heritage of New York reinstated an invitation to author John Judis to discuss his controversial book on President Truman and the Jews.
On Sunday, museum director David Marwell posted an item on the museum’s website announcing that the June 1 event with Judis, author of “Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the Origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict” and a senior editor at The New Republic, would go forward.
Last week, the museum reportedly nixed the event amid concerns, according to a museum spokeswoman, that “the controversy would overshadow the content.”
Marwell said he had not wanted to invite Judis in the first place, but his staff had done so without his approval. Rescinding the invitation, Marwell wrote, would have raised the “ugly specter of succumbing to pressure and giving in to outside influence,” and therefore the museum would go ahead with a Judis event.
Judis’ book suggests that Truman didn’t really want to recognize the nascent State of Israel but was strong-armed into doing so by Jewish associates and lobbyists.
Truman “favored a division of Palestine that would give the Arabs, who still made up two-thirds of the population, a proportionate majority of the lands,” Judis wrote, but “Truman was beaten back in each instance by a powerful American Zionist movement working in tandem with the Jewish Agency in Palestine and later the Israeli government.”
Judis adds, “Truman’s successors have, as a rule, suffered the same fate as he did.”
Marwell said he initially had decided against hosting Judis due to the tone of the book and his belief that the “proposed program would produce more heat than light.”
He wrote on the museum’s website: “My reading suggested that the book was less a thoughtful history of Truman’s actions in relation to the establishment of the State of Israel and more a book about what Judis suggests was, and is, the pernicious impact of American Zionist and pro-Israel influence on American policy (and policy-makers) up to the present day.”
The June 1 event will have Marwell interviewing Judis.
“This format,” Marwell said, “will give me an opportunity to raise with him the very questions that gave me pause in the first place.”