Skip to main content

Israel’s Debt To Andrew Jackson

July 2024
1min read

During the behind-the-scenes infighting and debate that preceded President Harry Truman’s decision to recognize the new state of Israel in 1948, as recounted by Clark M. Clifford in our April, 1977, issue, so much pressure was put on Truman that for a time he refused to see any Zionists, including the ailing Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who was soon to become Israel’s first president and had journeyed to America to plead with Truman for recognition. But on March 12, Eddie Jacobson, Truman’s old friend and former business partner in Kansas City, Missouri, called on the President in the White House to intercede for Weizmann. Four years later, Jacobson described the meeting in a letter he wrote to Dr. Josef Cohn of the Industrial Institute of Israel. A copy of that heretofore unpublished letter was recently sent to us by Loeb H. Granof, whose father. A. J. Granof, was a friend of both Cohn and Jacobson. as well as of Truman.

In his account, Jacobson noted that during the first part of the meeting Truman was extremely bitter over the attacks made on him by American Zionist leaders, and he steadfastly refused to see Weizmann. “I suddenly found myself thinking,” Jacobson wrote, “that my dear friend, the President of the United States, was at that moment as close to being an anti-sémite as a man could possibly be. …” And then: “I happened to rest my eyes on a beautiful model of a statue of Andrew Jackson … which I had noted passingly many previous times I had been to the White House. I then found myself saying this to the President: ‘Harry, all your life you have had a hero. You are probably the best read man in America on the life of Andrew Jackson.… Well, Harry, I too have a hero.… I am talking about Chaim Weizmann. He is a very sick man, almost broken in health, but he traveled thousands and thousands of miles just to see you and plead the cause of my People. Now you refuse to see him because you were insulted by some of our American Jewish leaders. … It doesn’t sound like you, Harry, because I thought that you could take this stuff they have been handing out to you.…’

“Just as I finished, I noticed that the President began drumming on his desk with his lingers and as I stopped talking, he abruptly turned around while still sitting in his swivel chair and started looking out the window. … I knew the sign. I knew that he was changing his mind. I don’t know how many seconds passed in silence, but it seemed like centuries. All of a sudden he swiveled himself around again, facing his desk, looked me straight in the eyes and then said the most endearing words I had ever heard from his lips: ‘You win, you baldheaded son-of-abitch. I will see him.’”

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.