Eleanor Roosevelt letter defending Israel to be auctioned

A letter from 1957 in which former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt defends the actions of Israel during the Suez Crisis will be auctioned off this week in Los Angeles.

Roosevelt’s letter was written in response to a man who took issue with a newspaper column she wrote about Israel.

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Her syndicated 1957 column noted that, during the Suez Crisis a year earlier, “Israel took action in self-defense to try to save the existence of its people.”

One reader, a Tom Dietrich of Brooklyn, evidently took exception with Roosevelt’s characterization of the Jewish state. The former first lady took time to respond to the reader on her personal letterhead, in a note dated March 8, 1957.

“If you follow step by step in the UN and understand the difficulties, you will realize that Israel was not an aggressor,” she wrote, reiterating that Israel’s action “was purely one of self-defense. Roosevelt added: “The Israelis have a right to their land and I think it is nonsense to suppose that they plan to plunge us into a war. They want peace as much, if not more, than other nations.”

The letter is composed on a typewriter, is signed by Roosevelt and comes with the signed envelope as well.

“Eleanor Roosevelt is arguably the most influential first lady of all-time,” said auction owner Nate Sanders in a statement. “In light of recent events in Israel, this letter is all the more relevant to collectors of political memorabilia.”

The auction will take place on Thursday at Nate D. Sander’s Auctions in Los Angeles. Bidding for the letter will start at $22,500.

Other items in the auction include a leather bomber jacket owned by former president John F. Kennedy that starts bidding at $200,000; a Norman Rockwell painting of former president Richard Nixon that begins at $120,000; and a guitar personally used by Elvis Presley, starting at $32,000.