Named not in hubris but in honor and memory of Austin M. Wright, who taught me critical thinking, and his teacher, Wayne Booth, who coined the phrase.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The SS President Arthur: The Zionist Mayflower Part VII: A Troubled Return to New York

While the Jewish world’s attention turned largely to the ceremonies marking the opening of Hebrew University, Judge Strahl continued to ensure that his ship remained in the public eye. On April 8, the New York Times announced:  “Passengers on President Arthur Pledge $500,000 for Project.”[i] 

The article was ostensibly a “response to numerous inquiries concerning the $190,000 gift made by Philip Wattenberg of New York.” In fact, Strahl declared, “the passengers had called a mass meeting aboard ship and raised the nucleus of a fund” totaling “nearly $500,000 for the erection of a new city in Palestine, to be called Zebulun.” The letter from Strahl to the Times continued,
Before sailing these pilgrims promised that something really constructive for the upbuilding of Palestine would be done, by them. They were determined that suitable hotels should be erected at Tiberias and Haifa, and laid other plans for the practical demonstration of the American Jews’ desire to help in the reconstruction of the Holy Land.[ii]

These hotels, the Courier noted, would be “Modern Hotels on American Style.”[iii] Zebulun was never built, nor were the hotels, and where the money went was never revealed.

The Courier, among other Jewish press outlets, attested to the obvious cascade of press releases and special bulletins emanating from the offices of the American Palestine Line. On April 21, in fact, there were no less than four articles about the President Arthur.[iv] The April 28 issue continued the litany of announcements about the ship and its passengers: “Jewish Bankers to Study Palestine:  Represent Capital of Billion Dollars,” “President Arthur Sets Sail for America; Plan Gala Reception Here,” “Plan Palestine Touring Parties from Many Cities.”[v]

The return trip did not go so smoothly, however. A “special cable dispatch” in the Washington Post on April 24 reported “Amreican [sic] Seamen Clash With Fascisti.” According to this brief article,
The seamen quarreled among themselves about a bill for refreshments. Several fascists, dressed in black shirts and full regalila [sic], including clubs, intervened. . . . fifteeen [sic] Americans swam to their steamer to evade the police.[vi]

Joseph Gottlieb
A different account of the incident – from the crew’s perspective – appeared in the New York Times the morning after the President Arthur arrived in New York, dismissing it as sailors becoming “involved” with the local police in Naples “and three were locked up.”[vii] More significant, however, were rumors that the crew had mutinied on the return voyage. The ship was met by police captains, sergeants, detectives, twenty uniformed patrolmen, and four mounted police officers. There had been no mutiny, but police arrested Hyman Epstein, general manager of the American Palestine Line, on a charge by the secretary of the line, Joseph W. Gottlieb, that Epstein had misappropriated $500. “A thorough reorganization of the line as well as changes in the personnel will be effected shortly,” reported the Palestine Bulletin.[viii]

Poor Epstein! A year later, the Canadian Jewish Review, detailing the collapse of the shipping line, reported that Epstein had spent his first night back in jail because he could not raise the $5,000 bail. Even worse,
When he was arraigned, it is declared that an attempt was made to have him committed to Bellevue for observation, and again at a subsequent hearing Gottlieb tried to have the proceedings against Epstein changed to an inquiry into his sanity.[ix]
Hyman Epstein

Epstein was indicted on a charge of grand larceny; the charge was dismissed by the judge; Epstein sued six officers of the shipping line for “malicious prosecution” and asked for $350,000 in damages. Three years later, after a one-day trial, the six “signed a statement exonerating Epstein from any charge of misappropriating funds,” which Epstein claimed was all he really wanted. [x]

The Times article describing the return of the ship also bodes ill, however, in its note that “147 passengers were on board.” Although the ship was due on May 3,[xi] it actually arrived on Friday night, May 9, at 11 p.m. The late Sabbath eve arrival kept the crowd meeting the ship to “less than 500 persons,” who sang Hatikvah with the arriving passengers; the crew outnumbered the passengers by two-to-one. Sharing the space were 75,000 bags of onions from Egypt; 16,000 cases of lemons from Italy; and “two boxes of Jaffe oranges for Nathan Straus . . . as a token of appreciation from the fruit growers of Palestine.” [xii]

[i]  “Start Fund to Build a City in Palestine,” New York Times, April 8, 1925, Business Opportunities section, 44.
[ii]  ibid.
[iii]   “To Build Modern Hotel on American Style in Haifa,” Chicago Jewish Daily Courier, April 21, 1925.
[iv]   “Jewish Steamer to Use Same Pier as the Leviathan,” “Stahl Confirms Building of Merchant Marine City in Palestine,” “Pravda, Official Organ of Soviet Russia, Comments on Jewish Steamer,” Chicago Jewish Daily Courier, April 21, 1925.
[v]   Chicago Jewish Daily Courier, April 28, 1925.
[vi]  Washington Post, April 24, 1925, 1.
[vii]  “Big Police Squad Meets Jewish Ship,” New York Times, May 9, 1925, 6.
[viii]  “S.S. ‘President Arthur’ Met by Police,” Palestine Bulletin, May 11, 1925, 1.
[ix]  “Palestine Line in a Tempest of Financial Turmoil,” Canadian Jewish Review, November 13, 1925, 23.
[x]  “Six Exonerate Epstein,” New York Times, June 20, 1928, Steamships and Tours section, 52.
[xi]  “Pier 86 for Palestine Liner,” New York Times, April 11, 1925, 3.
[xii]  “Big Police Squad Meets Jewish Ship.”

No comments:

Post a Comment