Warren Harding’s Zionism

President Warren Harding is perhaps best known for the Teapot Dome Scandal, in which his secretary of the interior was sent to prison for having accepted bribes. He also appeared largely indifferent or even hostile to American Jewish interests; for example, he spearheaded the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, which sharply limited the number of Jewish immigrants from Eastern and Southern Europe. Yet, as Saul Jay Singer explains, “his enthusiastic support for the Balfour Declaration . . . established an important precedent for American Zionism and played an important role in the birth of Israel.”

Soon after he succeeded Woodrow Wilson as president, [Harding] made it clear that he would unreservedly support Zionism and its lofty aims; in a July 1, 1921, correspondence, he wrote to the chairman of the Reception Committee of the Zionist Organization of America: “I want to add an expression of my most friendly interest in and for the Zionist movement. It is impossible for one who has studied at all the services of the Hebrew people to avoid the faith that they will one day be restored to their historical national home and then enter on a new and yet greater phase of their contribution to the advance of humanity.”

During an hour-long meeting with Harding at the White House on January 13, 1922, Nahum Sokolow, then the president of the executive committee of the World Zionist Congress, briefed the president on the persecution of East European Jews and updated him on settlement progress in Eretz Yisrael. The president reiterated his sympathy for Zionism and promised the further support of the United States government.

That summer, Harding won the hearts of many American Jews with a Rosh Hashana greeting that read:

The commemoration this year of Rosh Hashanah, the New Year [sic] day of the Jewish people, will mark the end of a year peculiarly notable in Jewish annals. It has seemed the definite assurance to the Jewish people that their long aspiration for re-establishment of Jewish nationality in the homeland of this great people is to be definitely realized. This is an event of notable significance, not only to the Jewish people but to their friends and well-wishers everywhere, among whom the American nation has always been proud to be numbered.

Read more at Jewish Press

More about: American Jewish History, Balfour Declaration, Nahum Sokolow, U.S.-Israel relationship


The ICJ’s Vice-President Explains What’s Wrong with Its Recent Ruling against Israel

It should be obvious to anyone with even rudimentary knowledge of the Gaza war that Israel is not committing genocide there, or anything even remotely akin to it. In response to such spurious accusations, it’s often best to focus on the mockery they make of international law itself, or on how Israel can most effectively combat them. Still, it is also worth stopping to consider the legal case on its own terms. No one has done this quite so effectively, to my knowledge, as the Ugandan jurist Julia Sebutinde, who is the vice-president of the ICJ and the only one of its judges to rule unequivocally in Israel’s favor both in this case and in the previous one where it found accusations of genocide “plausible.”

Sebutinde begins by questioning the appropriateness of the court ruling on this issue at all:

Once again, South Africa has invited the Court to micromanage the conduct of hostilities between Israel and Hamas. Such hostilities are exclusively governed by the laws of war (international humanitarian law) and international human-rights law, areas where the Court lacks jurisdiction in this case.

The Court should also avoid trying to enforce its own orders. . . . Is the Court going to reaffirm its earlier provisional measures every time a party runs to it with allegations of a breach of its provisional measures? I should think not.

Sebutinde also emphasizes the absurdity of hearing this case after Israel has taken “multiple concrete actions” to alleviate the suffering of Gazan civilians since the ICJ’s last ruling. In fact, she points out, “the evidence actually shows a gradual improvement in the humanitarian situation in Gaza since the Court’s order.” She brings much evidence in support of these points.

She concludes her dissent by highlighting the procedural irregularities of the case, including a complete failure to respect the basic rights of the accused:

I find it necessary to note my serious concerns regarding the manner in which South Africa’s request and incidental oral hearings were managed by the Court, resulting in Israel not having sufficient time to file its written observations on the request. In my view, the Court should have consented to Israel’s request to postpone the oral hearings to the following week to allow for Israel to have sufficient time to fully respond to South Africa’s request and engage counsel. Regrettably, as a result of the exceptionally abbreviated timeframe for the hearings, Israel could not be represented by its chosen counsel, who were unavailable on the dates scheduled by the Court.

It is also regrettable that Israel was required to respond to a question posed by a member of the Court over the Jewish Sabbath. The Court’s decisions in this respect bear upon the procedural equality between the parties and the good administration of justice by the Court.

Read more at International Court of Justice

More about: Gaza War 2023, ICC, International Law