Last updated on: 5/20/2008 2:38:00 PM PST

What Was the 1919 King-Crane Commission?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
Susan Silsby Boyle, PhD, Research Fellow at the Third World Studies Center, in her 2001 book Betrayal of Palestine: The Story of George Antonius, wrote:

"After extensive interviews and meetings with Arabs in Egypt and Greater Syria, the commission advised that a mandate be established for a united Syria (Syria, Palestine, Lebanon) and Iraq, but only if its goal was a rapid advance toward Arab independence. After discussing the proposed establishment of a Jewish national homeland in Palestine with Arabs and Zionists, the commission expressed concern that Palestinians might become subject to 'unlimited Jewish immigration and steady financial and social pressure to surrender the land.' Having found that Zionists were prepared to use force of arms to secure a Jewish state in the area, the commission called for 'serious modification of the extreme Zionist program.'

But 'in the months following the filing of the report it was rumored that the French had brought pressure on the American Commission in Paris and the Department of State in Washington to suppress the report.' After Wilson returned to the United States and fell ill, there was no follow-through, for he was too weak and no other person appeared 'sufficiently interested to press the matter in the face of the very strong French opposition that we know existed.' The report was shelved, and thus it never had an opportunity to influence the European powers."

2001 - Susan Silsby Boyle, PhD 

Arthur Goldschmidt, Jr., PhD, Professor Emeritus of Middle East History at Penn State University, in his 1999 book A Concise History of the Middle East, wrote:

"No one could reconcile the Middle Eastern claims of the Arabs, the Zionists, the British, and the French, but the conferees did try. Wilson wanted to send a commission of inquiry to Syria and Palestine to find out what people there really wanted. Lloyd George accepted Wilson's idea, until the French said that unless the commission also went to Iraq (where Britain's military occupation was already unpopular), they would boycott it. The British then lost interest, and so the U.S. team, called the King-Crane Commission, went out alone. It found that the local people wanted complete independence under Faysal, who had already set up a provisional Arab government in Damascus. If they had to accept foreign tutelage, let it come from the Americans, who had no history of imperialism in the Middle East, or at least from the British, whose army was already there, but never from the French.

The King-Crane Commission also looked into the Zionist claims, which its members had initially favored, and concluded that their realization would provoke serious Jewish-Arab conflict. The commission called for the reduction of the Zionist program, limits on Jewish immigration into Palestine, and an end to any plan to turn the country into a Jewish national home. Faysal and his backers hoped that the King-Crane Commission would persuade Wilson to favor the Arabs. But Wilson became preoccupied with winning U.S. support for his League of Nations. He suffered a paralytic stroke before he found time to read the commissioners' report, which was not even published for several years."

1999 - Arthur Goldschmidt, Jr., PhD 

James Gelvin, PhD, Associate Professor of History at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in his 1999 paper, "The Ironic Legacy of the King-Crane Commission," in The Middle East and the United States: A Historical and Political Reassessment, wrote:

"The first official U.S. foray into the politics of the post-Ottoman Middle East came about as the result of a suggestion made by President Woodrow Wilson to the Council of Four entente powers (France, Great Britain, the United States, and Italy) assembled in Paris to determine the terms of peace. In an attempt to resolve an acrimonious dispute between Britain and France over the future disposition of the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, Wilson suggested the formation of an interallied commission on Syria. The commission would travel to the Middle East 'to elucidate the state of opinion and the soil to be worked on by any mandatory. They should be asked to come back and tell the Conference what they found with regard to these matters...'

Although both France and Britain acquiesced to the idea of the commission, neither power appointed delegates to participate in its activities. As a result, the commission became a U.S. commission and thus has been commonly referred to by the names of its two commissioners, Henry Churchill King, president of Oberlin College in Ohio, and Chicago businessman and Democratic Party activist Charles R. Crane. King and Crane traveled to Palestine, Syria Lebanon, and Anatolia in the summer of 1919 to meet with local representatives. Their findings, filed with the U.S. delegation at Paris, were subsequently ignored by the peace negotiators."

1999 - James Gelvin, PhD 

The Oberlin College Archives stated in its pamphlet "Controversial Diplomacy: The 1919 King-Crane Commission," available on its website (accessed May 5, 2005):

"Following World War I, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Henry Churchill King, president of Oberlin College, and Charles R. Crane, Chicago businessman and trustee of Robert College in Constantinople, to serve on an Inter-Allied commission to visit the Middle East to determine what the people living there wanted. Although the full commission never assembled due to French and British opposition, the American team, known as the King-Crane Commission, visited the area from June to August 1919."

May 5, 2005 - Oberlin College