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John F. Kennedy Draft Speech Celebrating Israel’s 10th Anniversary
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“It is heartening beyond words to spend a day where the focus is set upon works of peace and human achievement…. The years of crisis… have left no more bitter heritage than the homelessness and landlessness of millions. Yet the people of Israel, who have combined the loftiest idealistic vision with the greatest practical vigor, have proven that the human spirit – even under the cruelest suffering – has a power of endurance which no tyranny can extinguish.

            Israel is a land of many paradoxes, yet it has an inner strength and harmony which few nations of our time possess. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion observed some years ago: “If you don’t believe in miracles here, you aren’t a realist.”

John F. Kennedy first visited Palestine in 1939, and was an early and steadfast supporter of Israel. As a presidential candidate in 1960, he boldly declared, “Israel is here to stay.” President Harry Truman had formally recognized Israel within minutes of its Declaration of Independence on May 14, 1948, but Kennedy became the first U.S. president to create a military alliance and to openly supply arms to Israel.

JOHN F. KENNEDY. Draft Typed Speech, as U.S. Senator, at the Greater Washington Observance of Israel’s Tenth Anniversary, Washington, D.C., May 11, 1958, with handwritten emendations. 6 pp. (lacking page 3 of 7). 8½ x 11 in.

Inventory #24386       Price: $4,800

Complete Transcript [Bolded additions made in Kennedy’s hand; bracketed additions from final copy]

REMARKS OF SENATOR JOHN F. KENNEDY (DEM.-MASS.)

GREATER WASHINGTON OBSERVANCES OF ISRAEL’S TENTH ANNIVERSARY

WASHINGTON, D. C. – SUNDAY EVENING, MAY 11, 1958

CONSTITUTION HALL

FOR RELEASE UPON DELIVERY

            It is a great honor to participate in this celebration – a testimonial of faith and confidence for the first decade of the new Israel. It is heartening beyond words to spend an evening a day where the focus is set upon works of peace and human achievement, on the constructive accomplishments of what has been the highest triumph of modern social pioneering. The years of crisis, through which we have been passing for twenty-five years, have left no more bitter heritage than the homelessness and landlessness of millions. Yet the people of Israel, who have combined the loftiest idealistic vision with the greatest practical vigor, have proven that the human spirit – even under the cruelest suffering – has a power of endurance which no tyranny can extinguish.

            Israel is a land of many paradoxes, yet it has an inner strength and harmony which few nations of our time possess. Prime Minister Ben-Gurion observed some years ago: “If you don’t believe in miracles here, you aren’t a realist”. There are many such contrasts in the life of Israel. First of all, in Israel the present and the past are closely linked. They are part of a seamless web. We celebrate today the tenth anniversary of the State of Israel, yet the people of Israel have an identity and history which reaches back well over two centuries. The Israelis in a sense are the oldest of people and the youngest of nations. In Israel there is a constant process of rediscovery. One recent visitor writes:

“To redeem the people and reclaim the land by restoring them to each other is Israel’s deepest aim. Linking the present to the pre-Exile past, they relive the Bible in its own setting; they wander and they dig; and things become near and real which had been a myth. They search for water where Moses struck the rock; they go for copper to King Solomon’s mines. They rediscover themselves across a chasm of 2,000 years.” <2>

The sense of a historic past in a nation so young has been an enormous sense of strength – giving a sense of purpose rather than stale tradition as both an incentive and a legacy for the Jewish people today. Out of the very sense of history Israel derives strength and courage to attack overwhelming problems of poverty, ignorance and land exhaustion, and the enemy at the gate.

            Another paradox is the fact that Israel is at one and the same time a strongly nationalistic and a strongly universalistic state. The State of Israel has of necessity remained well armed and alert against its neighbors. Yet during the same period Israel has been able o project future plans for all the Middle East, and to form close associations with other nations throughout the world. American friendship, support and trade constitute but one example. Israel has also formed links with France and other countries of Western Europe; she has developed trade and technical arrangements with the new nations of the world such as Ghana; and she has even closed the dark chasm between her own nation and Germany. The act of penance represented in the German-Israel reparations agreements is one of the most illustrious examples of statesmanship in recent years. Israel, moreover, is setting a model for many other new states which only now are beginning to emerge from stagnation and poverty onto the threshhold of economic development and growth. And in turn Israel has been the beneficiary of voluntary and government support from many nations, including the United States.

            The State of Israel, I have said, is armed – yet it is not militaristic. Even the need for troops has not been socially wasteful in the new nation. Every man and woman owes service to the state, and the training is very intensive. Yet this training is often combined with work on the land – with taming the desert, irrigating the rocky soil, building roads, aiding in village development and construction. The army is actually a great force for unifying and educating the people. It introduces a sense of equality and stature. It offers for many an important period of education and higher training. <3>

[Nor has Israeli military and foreign policy yielded to the dangers of an empty militancy. On the day that the State of Israel came into existence on May 14, 1948 the Secretary-General of the Arab League declared: “This will be a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.” Though this statement did not represent perhaps the whole body of Arab opinion, it is a statement which has found no echo among responsible leaders in Israel. Self-preservation, not imperialism, has been the dominant and just note struck in Israel.

Still another contrast which any observer cannot fail to see in Israel is the clash between the narrow margins of economic survival and the abundant reservoir of national stamina and confidence. While threatened from without and within, there is nevertheless everywhere in Israel today a pulsating optimism. The word “impossible” does not exist in the national vocabulary. The odds already surmounted place future goals within range. Today’s exile is tomorrow’s pioneer.

In ten years the population has doubled; the production per man has been raised 50%; cultivated land has doubled, and irrigated land quadrupled, while school attendance has quadrupled. Yet even now there is no ceiling on national aims: Israel plans to accommodate about 100,000 more people per year during the next decade – do we realize that that is equivalent to our accepting nine million more people a year in the United States.

The Government of Israel hopes to double its industrial production again within five years. It hopes to reclaim another 500,000 acres which are now wholly desert or waste land. It hopes to raise the export of goods and services by 20% a year – so that, when we meet again ten years hence, to commemorate her 20th anniversary, there will actually be a trade balance.

Yet there are few, if any here, I know, who, on the basis of the last ten years, would wager against their realization. For in Israel, deserts have]

<4>

bloomed – the unattainable has – many times – become reality. A climate of hostility and danger, and the growing demands, placed on a limited stock of resources, have not yet been able to blight the expectations of the Jewish people. And I do not think they ever will!

            How can one explain this historic achievement? There are many reasons, to be sure. But none perhaps is more decisive than the constant receptivity Israel has shown to new ideas – to the power of knowledge. Victor Hugo once said: “Mightier than the tread of mighty armies is the power of an idea whose hour has come.” Israel in its establishment and in its development has confirmed the truth of the observation. There has been no lapse, no drift, in Israel’s forward thrust; and at all times, in every way, this nation has kept in the foreground the highest standards of craftsmanship vitality and performance ?bility.

            The United States can itself profitably study what has been done in Israel – particularly in the field of education and science. There is no anti-intellectualism in Israel. It would be considered a denial of democratic progress. Israel’s first President, the late, great Dr. Weizmann, was himself an outstanding scientist and humanist. The present director of the Weizmann Institute, [1] with its staff of 600, has recently declared: “Basic research is not a luxury but a necessity for any modern country.” Already this Institute, together with the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and the Technion in Haifa, constitute one of the finest gatherings of intellectual resources in the world. From pure philosophy to applied aeronautical engineering, important work moves forward in these centers of learning. Their benefits are diffused throughout the land in higher standards of achievement, better methods of production, new articles for export, and a vigorous, healthy intellectual ferment.

            What Israel lacks in physical resources is compensated by the wealth of skills and the growing horizons of learning and research. There are many visible signs <5> of this. Architecturally Israel is one of the world’s showpieces, especially in housing and schools. The home and the school have always been at the heart of Jewish life, and the state of Israel has given special attention and devotion to the creation of a climate in which they can flourish in dignity and beauty. But Israel also looks beyond to the new frontiers of science – especially to the benefits of nuclear and solar energy, which will be of inestimable value to a country which lacks oil and all but a few special minerals. And there have been impressive developments in plant breeding, salt water conversion, and soil enrichment from which an expanding population can find higher levels of income and human satisfaction.

            Yet there are those who say that this achievement is only an artifice – that in fact it is the unsettling and fevered infection which has brought turmoil to the Middle East. Let us dispel for once and for all the myth that without Israel there would somehow be a natural harmony throughout the Middle East and the Arab world. We have not, as many charged, mortgaged our policy in the Middle East to Israel. We have rather taken the prudent course of building on this position of strength, internal stability, and democratic outlook.

            Quite apart from the values and hopes which the State of Israel enshrines – and the past injuries which it redeems – it twists reality to suggest that it is the democratic tendency of Israel which has injected discord and dissension into the Near East. Even by the coldest calculations, the removal of Israel would not alter the basic crisis in the area. For, if there is any lesson which the melancholy events of the last two years and more taught us, it is that, though Arab states are generally united in opposition to Israel, their political unities do not rise above this negative position. The basic rivalries and pressures within the Arab world, the quarrels over boundaries, the tensions involved in lifting their economies from stagnation, the cross-pressures of nationalism – all of these factors would still be there, even if there were no Israel. <6>

            Israel, on the other hand, embodying all of the characteristics of a Western democracy and having long passed the threshhold of economic development, shares with the West a tradition of civil liberties, of cultural freedom, of parliamentary democracy, of social mobility. It has been almost untouched by Soviet penetration. Some of the leadership groups in the Arab states also draw inspiration and training from Western sources. But too often in these nations the leadership class is small, its popular roots tenuous, its problems staggering. In too many of the countries of the Middle East the Soviet model holds special attraction – the more so since the United States and its Western allies have not been able to develop more than tentative and often only expedient policies which hardly come to grips with the root causes of political disintegration and economic backwardness.

            The hostility between reform … the contours of the outstanding economic and political issues in the Middle East lend themselves uniquely also to a regional approach. The project-by-project, country-by-country pattern of assistance is particularly ill-adapted in this area. The great river basins of the Middle East are international – the Jordan, the Nile, the Tigris and the Euphrates. And there are other nations in the West beside the United States which can make important contributions in economic and technical assistance. There has been no lack of pointers toward what a regional policy might include – a multilateral regional development fund for both economic improvement and refugee resettlement, the Jordan River multipurpose scheme, a food pool making imaginative use of our agricultural surpluses, and, as a coordinating agency, a Middle East Development Authority to pool capital and technical aid in that area. This would encourage and provide incentive for realistic and constructive plans and projects, encourage a higher and more diversified level of private investment, and enable Arab leaders to participate in economic planning and administration. <7>

            Unfortunately, all these and other plans have so far lacked the active political leadership which can break the paralysis of purpose. Only external Soviet aggression, which is only one danger to the Middle East, has been the subject of high level policy-planning. No greater opportunity exists for the United States than to take the lead in such an effort which could diminish the internal bickering in that tense and troubled area, and bend new energies to new more promising, and more constructive ventures.

            The Jewish State found its fulfillment during a time when it bore witness to the words of Markham, to

            …humanity betrayed

               Plundered, profaned and disinherited…[2]

But it is yet possible that history will record this event as only the prelude to the betterment and therapy – not merely of a strip of land – but of a broad expanse of almost continental dimensions. Whether such a challenge will be seized, cannot be determined by the United States alone. But as we observe tonight today the inspiring experience of Israel, we know that we must make the effort.

Historic Background

Zionism, the Jewish nationalist movement, found its voice in the late-nineteenth century. In 1917, the British conquest of Palestine from the Ottoman Empire, and Arthur James Balfour’s declaration as Foreign Secretary that the British government favored the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, made it possible, and sparked an increase in Jewish migration. In the wake of World War II, the United Nations adopted a plan to partition Palestine between Jews and Arabs. On May 14, 1948, Jewish leaders declared the establishment of the State of Israel. The next day, the armies of Egypt, Syria, Transjordan, and Iraq launched the Arab-Israeli War. After a year of fighting, a ceasefire was declared and temporary borders established. The United Nations admitted Israel as a member in May 1949.

John F. Kennedy had already used the last two pages of this May 11, 1958 speech in “Israel—A Miracle of Progress,” which he delivered on February 9th at the 50th Anniversary Dinner of B’nai Zion in New York City.  He later recycled much of this speech and delivered it again as “Israel—A Land of Paradoxes” at the Temple B’rith Kodesh Temple Club in Rochester, New York, on October 1, 1959.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, and graduated from Harvard University in 1940. He joined the United States Naval Reserve in 1941, and became the commander of a patrol torpedo boat in the South Pacific until 1945, when he was discharged. Kennedy served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1953, and then in the U.S. Senate from 1953 to 1960, when he was elected as the 35th President of the United States at age 43.

Provenance

From the Estate of Malcolm S. Forbes.

Condition

The typescript has been folded in four (now flattened), with staple holes at all top left corners. Some creasing at corners, with a tiny tear at very top of first page. Verso of last page has pencil notations from a previous collector, a few small stains, soiling and toning at edges.


[1] Meyer Weisgal (1894-1977).

[2] Edwin Markham, “The Man with the Hoe” (1898).


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