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The Mindanao Plan: A Struggle For Rescue And Liberation In The Philippines, 1938-1941

In July 1938, a conference was convened to address the ongoing and ever increasing Jewish refugee crisis that would later be dubbed the Evian Conference. This conference would fail in its goals to address the ever increasingly stateless Jews. Not long after the conference’s failure an island archipelago, and a United States colony no less, did what the other “democracies” of the world would not and raised their hand to welcome Jewish refugees. The proposal would later be dubbed The Mindanao Plan. This plan had many official and unofficial iterations. At its heart it was a plan to resettle 30,000 Jewish refugees to the Philippine Island of Mindanao. This plan shows points of contact that demonstrate the colonial dance between the United States and the Philippines. This work argues that the structures imposed under United States colonialization were instrumental to the attempt and failure of the Mindanao Plan in the Philippines. This dance had several results. It engaged in a reframing of Jewish refugees as the “good” kind of immigrant deserving salvation in the Philippines through an intersection of the understanding of race and class in the United States and the Philippines respectively. As the dance continued, the Philippines saw accepting Jewish refugees as an opportunity to use them in their realpolitik to prove their worthiness for independence to their colonial masters, whereas the United States sought to use Jews as pawns in their evolving neo-imperial ambitions after the Philippines’ independence. The final measure was a dance of death, as the United States’ xenophobic anxieties and the obstruction manifesting from them ran out the clock on the Mindanao Plan, thus, condemning it to history’s “what-ifs.”