James Forrestal’s “Anti-Semitism”

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(This article is adapted from Chapter 2 of my new book, The Assassination of James Forrestal.

​ Terms of Opprobrium

“Anti-Semitic", “conspiracy theorist”
Throw in “isolationist,” too. 
We don’t need laws to limit out thoughts 
When labeling language will do.

The year was around 2004, as I recall, and I was attending an in-house lunchtime lecture by a professor from Georgetown University at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in Washington on the subject of President Harry Truman’s racial integration of the United States military. I beg the indulgence of the readers, but I have completely forgotten the professor’s name. I do recall, though, that he was quite obviously Jewish.

During the question and answer period after his lecture I suggested that he might have fleshed his story out a bit more by noting that the real pioneer in the desegregation of the armed services was James Forrestal, who had ordered the integration of the Navy when he was Navy Secretary. The man’s very emotional response really surprised me. “Forrestal was an anti-Semite,” he said, in what was really a complete non sequitur, as he brushed away my observation. He seemed almost like Dracula with a cross being waved in his face at the favorable mention of the name of James Forrestal. The impression that this scholar imparted was that there is a continuing strong dislike—if not pure hatred—of Forrestal within an important element of the U.S. Jewish community.

Nowhere is the malicious belief about Forrestal’s attitude toward Jews fostered more strongly than in the Secret War against the Jews, by John Loftus and Mark Aarons, discussed at some length in Chapter 1 of my book. The following sentence on page 213 of the Loftus-Aarons opus describing Forrestal’s ultimate demise is most damning: “To his many critics, it seemed that James Forrestal’s anti-Jewish obsession had finally conquered him.”

Did he have such an obsession? Loftus and Aarons certainly want us to think so. In their index we find under “Forrestal, James” the sub-category, “anti-Semitism of, 156-59, 177-80, 199, 208, 213-14, 327, 365.” The primary evidence they give for the assertion are the business dealings of Forrestal’s investment banking firm, Dillon, Read, and Co., with companies in Nazi Germany in the 1930s and Forrestal’s opposition to the creation of the state of Israel, that is, his anti-Zionism. (They don’t even give us this passage from Forrestal’s diaries: “22 December 1945: Played golf today with Joe Kennedy [Joseph P. Kennedy, who was Roosevelt’s Ambassador to Great Britain in the years immediately before the war]. I asked him about his conversations with Roosevelt and Neville Chamberlain from 1938 on…. Chamberlain, he says, stated that America and the world Jews had forced England into the war.” Walter Millis, editor, pp. 121-122.)

Nowhere do Loftus and Aarons tell us that the controlling partner of Dillon, Read, Clarence Dillon, whom Forrestal replaced as president in 1938, was Jewish. He was born Clarence Lapowski in San Antonio, Texas, in 1882, the son of an affluent clothing merchant. Maybe this is the rock upon which the Zionists’ blackmail attempt, discussed in Chapter 1, foundered.

They also have passages like this on page 157: “Forrestal himself admitted that he thought that Jews were ‘different,’ and he ‘could never really understand how a non-Jew and a Jew could be friends.’”

The passage finds an echo in Neal Gabler’s biography of Walter Winchell:

Forrestal had never particularly liked Jews and, according to a friend, had never understood how Jews and non-Jews could be intimates. Now he took his anti-Semitism into public policy, arguing that a Jewish state in Palestine would needlessly antagonize Arabs and jeopardize oil supplies, that the Soviets would eventually be pulled into any Mideast crisis and that American troops would eventually have to defend the Jews there. (p. 385, emphasis added)

If the two books sound quite similar on this point it is because they have the same source, Arnold Rogow’s influential book on Forrestal’s “suicide,” James ForrestalA Study of Personality, Politics and Policy. Turning to Rogow, we see that his source is not only typically anonymous, but Loftus and Aarons and Gabler have used the passage very much out of context:

Here, perhaps, his views were a direct reflection of his background. While Forrestal was not an anti-Semite, his attitude toward Jews was characterized by much ambivalence. Although he maintained good relations with his New York and Washington associates who were Jewish, notably Bernard Baruch (At this point Rogow has a long footnote mainly expounding upon Baruch’s great admiration for Forrestal.), his Defense Department legal aide Marx Leva, and Navy Captain Ellis M. Zacharias, he had difficulty accepting Jews as social equals. One of his Wall Street colleagues recalls that Forrestal thought Jews were “different,” and he could never really understand how a non-Jew and a Jew could be friends. I remember an occasion when I was involved in his presence in an argument with a Jewish friend. At one point I got over-heated and I said something like “you son-of-a-bitch.” Jim was shocked that I could talk that way to someone who was Jewish. He himself was always very reserved with people who were Jews. I think there was something about them he couldn’t understand, or maybe didn’t like. (pp. 191-192. It should be noted that Zacharias, the Navy Captain mentioned here, was the head of the Office of Naval Intelligence through whom Forrestal operated in his attempt to bring about an earlier end to the Pacific War through unauthorized peace feelers to the Japanese. See Zacharias, “How We Bungled the Japanese Surrender.”)

But Forrestal was also very reserved with people who were not Jews. What Rogow has given us here is clearly the very subjective impression of one man, on a very tricky subject. Others have expressed a very different view of Forrestal. Here are the words of the fervent Zionist James G. McDonald, America’s first Ambassador to Israel:

He was in no sense anti-Semitic or anti-Israel nor influenced by oil interests. He was convinced that partition was not in the best interests of the U.S., and he certainly did not deserve the persistent and venomous attacks on him which helped break his mind and body. On the contrary, these attacks stand out as the ugliest examples of the willingness of politician and publicist to use the vilest means—in the name of patriotism—to destroy self-sacrificing and devoted public citizens. (Quoted by Alfred M. Lilienthal in The Zionist Connection II: What Price Peace?, p. 424. Lilienthal’s reference, in turn, is James G. McDonald, My Mission to Israel, p. 17.)

That observation by McDonald finds an echo from Forrestal’s close friend, Ferdinand Eberstadt. Reacting at the time to what he considered to be very unfair press charges of anti-Semitism and suggestions that Forrestal harbored sympathy for fascism, Eberstadt wrote, “I know of no more truly democratic or unprejudiced man than he is.” (Jeffrey Dorwart, Eberstadt and Forrestal: A National Security Partnership, p. 157)

Townsend Hoopes and Douglas Brinkley in Driven Patriot: The Life and Times of James Forrestal address the “anti-Semitic” question head on, declaring the charge to be absurd. “No man had less race or class consciousness,” they quote from Washington Post editor Herbert Elliston writing in 1951. That is certainly the impression that we got of the man from our extensive interview of Forrestal’s Navy driver, John Spalding. He was one to side with the little guy against the admirals, according to Spalding, and regularly called upon a prominent rabbi (whose name Spalding could not recall) out of friendship upon his visits to New York City. Hoopes and Brinkley also remind us of Forrestal’s long, close working relationship with Jewish people throughout his Wall Street career. The anti-Semitism charge, according to these authors, originated completely with the Zionists to tar Forrestal over his principled opposition to their fanatical ambitions in Palestine, ambitions that he felt were contrary to the long-term interests of the United States. (pp. 390-391)

Ironically, for their rather bizarre theory that the word “nightingale,” in the Sophocles poem that he supposedly transcribed on his fateful evening, awakened feelings of guilt in Forrestal and may have prompted a sudden decision to end it all they reference Loftus, an arch-Zionist who we have seen deploys the “anti-Semitism” slur against Forrestal perhaps more recklessly than anyone. One wonders why they should think that he was someone they could rely upon on the crucial question of what could possibly have motivated Forrestal to rush across the hall and attempt to hang himself from a 16th floor window.

Around the same time as our exchange with the Forrestal-hating Georgetown professor, we ran across an article by Rabbi James Rudin on the web site of The Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies at St. Leo University in St. Leo Florida. That article, addressing a matter that was in the news the year before was entitled “Truman’s Anti-Jewish Sentiments Revealed in Diary.” (Harry Truman’s offending passage, newly discovered at the time by a librarian at the Truman Library was, “[The Jews] I find are very very selfish. They care not how many Latvians, Finns, Poles, Estonians and Greeks get murdered or mistreated as DPs [displaced persons] as long as Jews get special treatment. Yet when they have power, physical, financial or political, neither Hitler or Stalin has anything on them for cruelty or mistreatment for the underdog.” Truman had also added, “the Jews have no sense of proportion, nor do they have any judgement on world affairs”. See https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/truman-diary-reveals-anti-semitism-and-offer-to-step-down-95825.html.) One passage in the article, we felt, was nothing short of slanderous toward Forrestal, “While some historians believe both [Gen. George C.] Marshall and Forrestal harbored anti-Jewish sentiments, that character stain had never touched Truman.”

I quickly sent an email to the executive director of the center telling him how inappropriate it was for an organization purportedly devoted to improving relations between Christians and Jews to publish something that was so slanderous of the great Catholic public servant, Forrestal, and that it was unscholarly, to boot, to support the charge with what “some” unnamed historians say. I then set the director straight on Forrestal with the information that we have provided here from a number of named sources.

I received no response, but at least the center took the article down not long after receiving my email. From what I had seen in the attitude of that Georgetown professor and much else that I have read, I imagine that Rabbi Rudin was writing what he felt was an accepted fact about Forrestal’s attitude toward Jews, either that, or he is simply part of an ongoing propaganda operation to make us believe that it is an accepted fact.

What Is “Anti-Semitism?

Please notice that Rabbi Rudin did not even use the dreaded “anti-Semite” charge against Forrestal and Marshall, only that some historians thought he “harbored anti-Jewish sentiments,” whatever that might mean, and yet he feels free to characterize such an attitude as a reflection of a “character stain.” Having grown up in a rural Southern Baptist environment in which almost everyone I knew harbored anti-Catholic sentiments—although very few of them even knew a Catholic—I know that it would never have occurred to anyone, including Catholics, to suggest that this showed a character stain on their part. What is it about being critical of Jews that is so special and different that it could get Forrestal labeled an awful anti-Semite by a wide range of scholars and to be called by a couple of them a “bigoted lunatic,” based upon the flimsiest of evidence? (The authors of the book with that and many other reckless charges against Forrestal seemed to have gotten by with it. As of this writing, The Secret War against the Jews has 96 reviews on Amazon.com with an average rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars.)

The late Catholic journalist and author, Joseph Sobran, has some very useful insights on the subject in his classic 1995 article, “The Jewish Establishment.”

Nobody worries about being called “anti-Italian” or “anti-French” or “anti-Christian”; these aren’t words that launch avalanches of vituperation and make people afraid to do business with you.

It’s pointless to ask what “anti-Semitic” means. It means trouble. It’s an attack signal. The practical function of the word is not to define or distinguish things, but to conflate them indiscriminately — to equate the soberest criticism of Israel or Jewish power with the murderous hatred of Jews. And it works. Oh, how it works.


The word has no precise definition. An “anti-Semite” may or may not hate Jews. But he is certainly hated by Jews. There is no penalty for making the charge loosely; the accused has no way of falsifying the charge, since it isn’t defined. (Sobran’s temerity in taking on Jewish power in the country earned him obituaries of unseemly viciousness in The Washington Post and The New York Times when he died in 2010. See “A Tale of Two Obituaries,” “Death of a Giant.).

The accused especially has no way of falsifying the charge if he is dead.“’Anti- Semitism’ says Sobran, “is therefore less a charge than a curse, an imprecation that must be uttered formulaically.”

In recent years, the anti-Semitism charge has been used ever more promiscuously:

Anyone critical of Israeli policies is now routinely portrayed as an anti-Semite. Even the survivors of Israel’s attack on the USS Liberty are labeled anti-Semitic for urging a Congressional investigation of the circumstances surrounding the killing of 34 U.S. servicemen by Israel Defense Forces in 1967. The survivors ask: “How does seeking an inquiry become ‘anti-Semitism’?”

In February 2006 the Church of England voted to review its investment in Caterpillar, Inc. when the church discovered that Israel uses Caterpillar equipment to destroy Palestinian homes. Concerned at the ethical implications of profiting from that policy, the church resolved to study the issue. Even that expression of moral concern was quickly portrayed as “anti-Zionist—verging on anti-Semitic.” (Jeff Gates, Guilt by Association: How Deception and Self-Deceit Took America to War, pp. 131-132. His reference on the charges against the Anglican Church is Helen Nugent, “Chief Rabbi Flays Church over Vote on Israel Assets,” Times (London), February 17, 2006.

When we see the anti-Semite charge being thrown around so indiscriminately, we must wonder if something deeper might be involved than just political tactics. For a psychological exploration of that question, we turn to the philosopher-longshoreman, Eric Hoffer. Perhaps it is a matter of self-contempt:

Self-contempt produces in man “the most unjust and criminal passions imaginable, for he conceives a mortal hatred against that truth which blames him and convinces him of his faults.

That hatred springs more from self-contempt than from a legitimate grievance is seen in the intimate connection between hatred and a guilty conscience.

There is perhaps no surer way of infecting ourselves with virulent hatred toward a person than by doing him a grave injustice. That others have a just grievance against us is a more potent reason for hating them than that we have a just grievance against them. We do not make people humble and meek when we show them their guilt and cause them to be ashamed of themselves. We are more likely to stir their arrogance and rouse in them a reckless aggressiveness. Self-righteousness is a loud din raised to drown the voice of guilt within us. (The True Believer, p. 89. Hoffer’s quote in the first paragraph is from Pensées by 17th century mathematician and philosopher, Blaise Pascal. Hoffer’s entire book makes useful reading for a better understanding of Zionist political fanaticism.)

The Israeli populace, by and large, surely displays a vicious animus towards the Palestinians, and those once large majority residents of the land to whom the residents of the Jewish state of Israel have dealt a grave injustice. One might say the same thing for the men of the USS Liberty and also of James Forrestal.

The “Suicide” Peddlers

We have detected a thread connecting those who would convince us that Forrestal committed suicide and those whom we have identified as the prime suspects in his murder. The dust jacket to Arnold Rogow’s book says that he is the author of four other books. It does not name them. Maybe that is because this biographer who has sold the suicide story more strongly than any other author had previously edited the collection entitled The Jew in a Gentile World: An Anthology of Writings about Jews by Non-Jews. His dangerously paranoid, ethnocentric orientation is well summed up by this sentence from the preface: “Jew-baiters and anti-Semites of one variety or the other–Greek, Roman, and Christian–have largely dominated the Gentile world, and as a result that world has been one in which the Jew has always had to move cautiously and, more often than not, live dangerously.”

Later he wrote a chapter on anti-Semitism in the International Encyclopedia of Social Science. His is the sort of thinking that gave rise to the modern state of Israel, that is, that Jews can never be safe living in majority gentile populations, so they must have a state of their own. In this view, one might say, Jews are in a more or less permanent state of war with the rest of mankind.

As for popular columnist and Forrestal vilifier Drew Pearson, at the bottom of the article by John Henshaw entitled, “Israel’s Grand Design: Leaders Crave Area from Egypt to Iraq,” which appeared in The New American Mercury in the spring of 1968, we find the following

The late John Henshaw was chief legman for columnist Drew Pearson, who later broke with Pearson. At that time, Henshaw’s expenses were paid by the Anti-Defamation League, a lobby for Israel, which had a “special relationship” with Pearson. Thus Henshaw’s Middle East insights are unique.

As was discussed in Chapter 1, the other powerful columnist and radio commentator slandering Forrestal over his Israel opposition, Walter Winchell, also had a very special relationship with the ADL and its domestic spying and eavesdropping operation.

Journalist Eliot Janeway, the man who according to Hoopes and Brinkley told Ferdinand Eberstadt that Forrestal had attempted suicide at Hobe Sound, had more tenuous Jewish connections. Though born Eliot Jacobstein of New York Jews of Lithuanian origin, he changed his last name in his teens and concealed his Jewishness from everyone around him, including his children. If he plumped for Israel, it would more likely have been on behalf of his employer, Time magazine, than out of a sense of ethnic or religious solidarity. What little he might have written in favor of Israel, writes his son, Michael, it was done only for geopolitical reasons at the behest of Time publisher, Henry Luce, and was never on account of personal Jewish leanings. (Page 124 of The Fall of the House of Roosevelt, Brokers of Ideas and Power from FDR to LBJ. The younger Janeway also parrots the Forrestal suicide line, telling us on page 59 that Forrestal’s friend, the liberal Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, felt some guilt when Forrestal “jumped out of a sixteenth story window of Bethesda Naval Hospital,” because he had just been planning to visit him, implying that he might have eased his troubled mind in some way.)

And if Janeway was quite consciously lying when he relayed what the safely dead Eberstadt had supposedly said about that Forrestal suicide attempt to Doug Brinkley, it would have been for the same reasons. It would also have been completely in character. Janeway regularly did flack work and wrote speeches for New Deal Democrats while on the Luce payroll as a supposedly objective reporter on these same Democrats who were running the country. He had a taste for power and influence and a nose for seeking it out. In spite of having been expelled from Cornell, probably for selling stolen library books and having been such an active Communist that he wrote for the Moscow Daily News for a time in Russia, he had been able to use his connections to avoid service in the military in World War II. All of this we learn from Michael Janeway in his very revealing book.

In sum, the sources of the stories that Forrestal had previously attempted suicide are of a highly questionable, biased quality. They are as questionable as the stories, themselves, which lack any details, whatsoever. Pearson’s stories, in particular, are undoubtedly fabrications. The fact that someone felt the need to make up such stories suggests very strongly, just by itself, that Forrestal did not commit suicide. Furthermore, it is very unlikely that Pearson made up these stories himself. What is more likely is that they originated with the people who were responsible for Forrestal’s death. And the blame for the long-lived undefined and unsupported charge that Forrestal was an “anti-Semite” is not very far removed from these allegations of Forrestal suicide attempts.

The Diary’s Revelations

In Chapter One, we saw that Forrestal had become something of a lightning rod for the hostile emotions of the partisans for Israel. For his part, he was absolutely sure that the consequences of our sponsorship of this alien entity in the midst of the Arab world would ultimately be disastrous for us. Two February 3, 1948, meetings recorded in the version of his diary edited by Walter Millis and published in 1951 capture well his principled position and the risk he was running in propounding it:

Visit today from Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr., who came in with a strong advocacy of the Jewish State in Palestine, that we should support the United Nations “decision,” and in general a broad, across-the-board statement of the Zionist position. I pointed out that the United Nations had as yet taken no “decision,” that it was only a recommendation of the General Assembly, that any implementation of this “decision” by the United States would probably result in the need for a partial mobilization, and that I thought the methods that had been used by people outside of the Executive branch of the government to bring coercion and duress on other nations in the General Assembly bordered closely onto scandal. He professed ignorance on this latter point and returned to his general exposition of the case of the Zionists.

He made no threats but made it very clear that the zealous in this cause had the conviction of trying to upset the government policy on Palestine. I replied that I had no power to make policy but that I would be derelict in my duty if I did not point out what I thought would be the consequences of any particular policy which would endanger the security of this country. I said that I was merely directing my efforts to lifting the question out of politics, that is, to have the two parties agree they would not compete for votes on this issue. He said this was impossible, that the nation was too far committed and that, furthermore, the Democratic Party would be bound to lose and the Republicans gain by such an agreement. I said I was forced to repeat to him what I had said to Senator McGrath in response to the latter’s observation that our failure to go along with the Zionists might lose the states of New York, Pennsylvania and California–that I thought it was about time that somebody should pay some consideration to whether we might not lose the United States. (pp. 362-363)

The second meeting that day was with very nearly the most powerful man in America who was not in the government, the Jewish financier, elder statesman, and adviser to presidents:

Had lunch with B[ernard] M. Baruch. After lunch, raised the same question with him. He took the line of advising me not to be active in this particular matter and that I was already identified, to a degree that was not in my own interests, with opposition to the United Nations policy on Palestine. He said he himself did not approve of the Zionists’ actions, but in the next breath said that the Democratic Party could only lose by trying to get our government’s policy reversed, and said that it was a most inequitable thing to let the British arm the Arabs and for us not to furnish similar equipment to the Jews. (p. 364)

Baruch clearly did not know his man when he attempted to influence him by appealing to Forrestal’s own self-interest. He might have known more than he was telling, though, when he hinted at the danger that Forrestal faced for the courageous position he had taken.

In Chapter One we speculated that among the important things that might have been censored out of the Walter Millis version of the Forrestal Diaries was a detailed revelation of the dirty tactics, alluded to in the Loftus-Aarons book, that the Zionists had used to get U.S. and U.N. support for creation of the state of Israel. A hint that that is the case is found on pp. 507-508 in Millis:

At the National Security Council meeting that day (October 21, 1948), Forrestal spoke with apparent asperity of another disconnection in our policy-making. According to an assistant’s note, “Mr. Forrestal referred to the State Department request for four to six thousand troops to be used as guard forces in Jerusalem in implementation of the Bernadotte Plan for Palestine. This unexpected request was an example of how the Palestine situation had drifted without any clear consequent formulation of United States policy by the NSC. Mr. Forrestal said that actually our Palestine policy had been made for ‘squalid political purposes.’… He hoped that some day he would be able to make his position on this issue clear.”

One must wonder how much elaboration has been cut after the word “purposes.” Might he have delved into the squalid methods as well, or was that elsewhere in his diaries, or was he leaving that to that future day when he hoped he would be able to shed more light on the subject.

As of the end of October 1948, he hardly sounded like a man who had given up on having an effect on the direction of his country, whether he was in the government or out of it. Instead, he sounds exactly like the man with the unfinished agenda that brother Henry described from his last visit with him in the hospital. Insofar as he was looking back instead of into the future, it was not to lament any mistakes that he had might have made but to deplore the errors of the national leadership, manipulated, as it had been, to pursue policies that were contrary to the interests of the American people. He comes across, in short, not as a prime candidate for suicide, but for assassination.

David Martin

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