"When the historian of the future assembles the black record of our days," Chaim Weizmann once remarked, "he will find two things unbelievable: first, the crime itself; second, the reaction of the world to that crime." As the title suggests, Penkower focuses on how Jews died as the Allies dithered over whether to intervene on behalf of European Jewry during World War II. Although this topic has been addressed in other books, Penkower broadens the field by placing Diaspora advocacy in the context of the surrounding war.
Based on transcripts from the Tehran, Yalta, and Potsdam conferences, among other sources, Penkower reveals the Allied leaders' indifference to Jewish survival through the prism of war. Specifically, he skillfully juxtaposes the British and U.S. geostrategic concerns for establishing a Jewish state against the backdrop of systematic Jewish annihilation. Penkower's treatment of this emotive topic is largely detached and objective. He details Britain's preoccupation with maintaining Middle Eastern stability to maintain the commonwealth's system of communication, allay Saudi Arabia for oil access, and safeguard its sea route to India. Roosevelt's geopolitical justifications for opposing Jewish statehood are also explored, particularly his reluctance to compromise postwar Saudi oil concessions. In general, Penkower provides a surprisingly forgiving portrayal of Prime Minister Churchill's anti-Israel stances while correctly indicting President Roosevelt for embracing the State Department's callous policy towards the Jews.
Penkower also analyzes the interplay between the Holocaust and the creation of Israel by charting how the Third Reich's conquests in Europe constantly informed and altered the Diaspora's strategy to save Jews. He captures the growing consensus among American Jewish leaders during the war for easing discriminatory immigration quotas and, more controversially, establishing a Jewish state. Whereas most treatments of this period stress the American Jewish community's inaction on behalf of European Jewry during the war, Penkower vividly describes their oft-ignored, failed advocacy efforts to elicit Roosevelt and Churchill's support. In doing so, his nuanced, largely fact-driven approach allows readers to distill the Allied leaders' various positions on the "Palestine conundrum," as well as the diversity of views towards a Jewish state within the Diaspora.
Decision on Palestine Deferred provides an invaluable contribution to Holocaust and World War II scholarship, as well as the history of the creation of the State of Israel. Whereas historians have tended to address each subject separately, Penkower details their important interrelationship.