A historical Survey of Proposals to




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Weizmann and the British Colonial Secretary

On 19 July 1937, about a fortnight after the publication of the Peel Report on Palestine, Weizmann had a secret meeting with the British Colonial Secretary, William Ormsby-Gore, and his deputy, Lord Dufferin. At this meeting, they discussed a number of subjects connected with the Peel partition plan, including sovereignty; the inclusion of the new Jewish suburbs of Jerusalem within the Jewish State; the potash and the Rutenberg electric works; the transfer of population and the transition period. After this meeting, Weizmann wrote a document recording the substance of the meeting.

A few weeks later in Zurich, Meir Grossman, leader of the Jewish State Party, (which was a splinter group of the Revisionists), informed the twentieth Zionist Congress, then debating the Peel Report, that he had evidence that Weizmann had already agreed to the partition proposals. "I have in my hand a document which contains the details of a conversation held between Weizmann and Ormsby-Gore. In this conversation they discussed the conditions under which - if accepted - Weizmann would support the partition proposals." Grossman went on to accuse Weizmann of two-faced politics, claiming that without permission of the Congress or the Zionist General Council, Weizmann had gone to the British Government and prejudiced the Congress's deliberations. "Ifind Weizmann guilty of a severe breach of discipline." (4)

The purloined document was reproduced in full a few days later by "The Jewish Chronicle". The document began by describing how Ormsby-Gore had asked Weizmann what his attitude was towards the Peel Commission's proposals, now that he hadhad time to read the Report. Weizmann replied that he had come to Ormsby-Gore in order to clarify a number of points. The Jews were perplexed and a great number of them were against the partition plan and that it would be his duty to explain his attitude at the forthcoming Zionist Congress.

1 / Arlosoroff to Weizmann, 26 December 1932, (CZA S25/795).

2 / Note of Interview given to Dr. Weizmann by the High Commissioner, 20 March 1931, pp.5-6, (PRO CO 733/203 87139).

3 / "A Jewish Majority", The Jewish Chronicle, (London), 10 July 1931, p.28. 4 / Official Minutes of 20th Zionist Congress (Zurich 1937), p.93.

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Chaim SIMONS : Proposals to Transfer Arabs from Palestine —————————————————————————————————————

Amongst its proposals, the Peel Commission had recommended a transfer of population, compulsory if necessary. Paragraph 3 of Weizmann's document dealtwith this and showed his complete identification with this proposal.

"3. Transfer of the Arab population: I said that the whole success of the scheme depended upon whether the Government genuinely did or did not wish to carry out this recommendation. The transfer could be carried out only by the British Government, and not by the Jews. I explained the reasons why we considered this proposal of such importance. Mr. Ormsby-Gore said that he was proposing to set up a Committee for the twofold purpose (a) of funding land for the transferees (they hoped to find land in Transjordan, and possibly also in the Negev), and (b) of arranging the actual terms of the transfer. He mentioned the name of Sir John Campbell, who had had much experience in connection with transfers of population between Greece and Turkey, and who knew all about the matter. He agreed that once Galilee was given to the Jews, and not the Negev, the position would be very difficult without transfer."

Weizmann's document concluded by noting that towards the end ofhis interview, Ormsby-Gore had asked him what his own personal opinion was. Weizmann told Ormsby-Gore that "if the points which I had raised in the interview were settled to our satisfaction, I personally would look with favour on the scheme." Weizmann informed Ormsby-Gore that he would repeat in confidence the contents of this interview to his closest friends in Zurich and to all the members of the Permanent Mandates Commission.

The document was said to be signed "Ch. W." and dated 19.7.37. (1)

A few days later on 17 August, the British daily newspaper, the "Evening Standard", printed an almost full-page article headed "The Admirals are After Me About Haifa - What Ormsby-Gore is alleged to have told Weizmann." [Under the Peel Commission's recommendations, the port of Haifa was eventually to become part of the proposed Jewish State.]

The "Evening Standard" correspondent wrote that on 17 August, he had discussed the publication of the document by continental telephone with Weizmann who was in Zurich. Weizmann had replied that he knew that a document had been published which was said to be his report of a conversation between himself and Ormsby-Gore adding that he had not seen the publication and could therefore not vouch for its accuracy.

"I did, in fact, make a confidential report of a conversation with Mr. Ormsby-Gore. If this document is that report, I do not know how Mr. Grossman obtained it. He had no business to publish it. There is nothing in it which needs to be hidden, but it is a report of a private conversation between the Secretary of State and myself and nobody has the right to disclose it." In conclusion, Weizmann said that he intended to get a copy of the document, to find out how Grossman obtained it, and then take appropriate measures. Ormsby-Gore declined to comment on the document.

Meir Grossman had told the Zurich correspondent of the "Evening Standard" that he had received the document which he had produced at the Zionist Congress from a source which he could not disclose and had published it in Zurich in a newspaper circulating solely to Congress members. (2) An internal Colonial Office note (signature of author illegible!) confirmed that the report of this confidential conversation between Weizmann and the Colonial Secretary "is being circulated as a pamphlet in Geneva." (3)

In her diary entry for 7 August 1937, Blanche Dugdale, one of Weizmann's advisers, recorded that Arthur Lourie, Political Secretary of the Zionist Executive in London, suspected a Revisionist named Bach of purloining this document. (4)

The "Evening Standard" also reprinted the entire document word for word from "The

1 / "Congress Rejects Partition Plan", The Jewish Chronicle, (London), 13 August 1937, pp.24-25.

2 / "The Admirals are After Me About Haifa", Evening Standard, (London), 17 August 1937, p.4. 3 / Note from ? to Boyd and Downie, 17 August 1937 (?), (PRO CO 733/352/75718/21).

4 / Blanche Dugdale, Diary entry 7 August 1937, (WA) ; Baffy - The Diaries of Blanche Dugdale 1936 - 1947, ed. N.A. Rose, (London, 1973), p.59.

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Chaim SIMONS : Proposals to Transfer Arabs from Palestine —————————————————————————————————————

Jewish Chronicle. (1) In the course of the following days, several other British newspapers, including the "News Chronicle",(2) the "Morning Post" (3) and the "Manchester Guardian" (4) reproduced extracts from the "Jewish Chronicle's" text of this conversation, although none of them included in their extracts, the section dealing with transfer.

The publication of Weizmann's memorandum onhis secret meeting with Ormsby-Gore put Weizmann in a very embarrassing position and on 18 August, a day after the appearance of the article in the "Evening Standard", Weizmann sent a telegram of explanation to Ormsby-Gore, "Deeply regret any personal inconvenience caused you by publication uncorrected minute our conversation obtained by illicit means and used by insignificant unscrupulous opposition group." (5)

On 24 August, Ormsby-Gore wrote to Weizmann rebuking him for the leakage and adding, "I understand from your telegram that you do not deny the authenticity of the document which is quoted but merely assert that it was 'uncorrected'." 6)(

In order for the High Commissioner of Palestine, Sir Arthur Wauchope, to be in the picture, on 24 August Sir Cosmo Parkinson, the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office, at the request of Ormsby-Gore, sent Wauchope a copy of Weizmann's telegram and a copy of the letter of reply that Ormsby--Gore had written to Weizmann. (7)

In a letter of extreme apology to Ormsby-Gore, Weizmann denied authorship of this document, "I am particularly sorry, that you should assume that I was the author of the notes in question. This is not the case; they are rough notes made by the secretary on the basis of my report of our conversation to my colleagues, and the notes were neither seen nor corrected by me. I saw them for the first time in Zurich printed in some newspapers." (8)

Futhermore, on his return to England in mid-September, Weizmann went to see Sir John Shuckburgh, the Deputy Under-Secretary of State at the Colonial Office, about this matter, and assured him "solemnly that he himself had never recorded a single line on paper about the interview." He had only reported on this conversation to some of his colleagues and one of them had dictated this conversation without his knowledge as rough notes which one of his enemies had stolen them from his office. (9)

What was the authenticity of the document produced by Meir Grossman at the Zionist Congress and subsequently published in "The Jewish Chronicle" and the "Evening Standard"? The public release of the private papers of Weizmann has now made this document available to the public. It is marked "secret" and is headed "Summary Note of Interview with Mr. Ormsby-Gore Colonial Office Monday July 19th 1937 at 10.45 a.m." The document is written entirely in the first person (with one exception towards the end of the document where the third person, "Dr. Weizmann" is used). The end of the document is initialled (in type) Ch.W. and dated London 19.7.37. (10)

A comparison of this document with that published at the time in the press show the two, to be word for word identical, including of course the paragraph dealing with "Transfer of the Arab population." [There are a few insubstantial words which differ, but this is almost certainly due to errors occuring during the newspaper printing process.] Furthermore, Ben-Gurion recorded in his diary that the content of the conversation between Weizmann and Ormsby-Gore was dictated by Weizmann to Arthur Lourie. (11)

1 / Evening Standard, 17 August 1937, op. cit.

2 / "Admirals 'After' Mr. Ormsby-Gore", News Chronicle, (London), 18 August 1937, p.2. 3 / "Mr. Ormsby-Gore and Dr. Weizmann", Morning Post, (London), 18 August 1937, p.10. 4 / "An Ormsby-Gore-Weizmann Conversation", Manchester Guardian, 20 August 1937. 5 / Telegram, Weizmann to Ormsby-Gore, 18 August 1937, (WA).

6 / Ormsby-Gore to Weizmann, 24 August 1937, (WA).

7 / Extract from semi-official letter from Sir Cosmo Parkinson to Sir Arthur Wauchope, 24 August 1937, (PRO CO 733/352/75718/21) 8 / Weizmann to Ormsby-Gore, 4 September 1937, (PRO CO 733/352 F 75718/21) ; The Letters and Papers of Chaim Weizmann, Series A - Letters, (Jerusalem, 1979), (henceforth Weizmann Letters), vol.xviii, no.175, p.192.

9 / Shuckburgh to Ormsby-Gore, 15 September 1937, (PRO CO 733/352/75718/21).

10 / Note of interview with Ormsby-Gore, 19 July 1937, (WA).

11 / David Ben-Gurion, Handwritten Diary entry 19 July 1937, (CZA S25/179/11) ; Ben-Gurion Memoirs, vol.4, op. cit., p.307.

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Chaim SIMONS : Proposals to Transfer Arabs from Palestine —————————————————————————————————————

Why did Weizmann deny authorship of the document at the time? We assume that he was endeavouring to extricate himself from an embarrassing situation with Ormsby-Gore with whom it was important that he remain on good terms.

Not only was this affair an embarrassment to Weizmann, it also embarrassed at least one of the Directors (Leonard Stein) of the "Jewish Chronicle". In a letter to the Editor published in the 10 September issue, he wrote that "I strongly disapprove of the publication of this document in the Jewish Chronicle." (1) A month later he wrote to Ormsby-Gore, pointing out that although he strongly disapproved of the publication of the document, he was satisfied that the "Jewish Chronicle" had not obtained it in an improper manner. Their representative had been shown the Bulletin of the Jewish State Party which contained the full text of this document which he then transmitted to the "Jewish Chronicle" offices in London. (2)

Minutes of this meeting, although in a much condensed form, were also written up by Ormsby-Gore. He noted that Weizmann made it clear that he was "going to do his best to get the Zionist Congress to accept partition." Ormsby-Gore then listed the various points made by Weizmann at the meeting. With regard to transfer, Weizmann said, "The Jews can't take (an) active part hough they will help in getting Arabs out of Galilee into Trans-Jordan - e.g. places like the Zerka Valley - but some transfer is vital to the success of the scheme." (3) Weizmann'scomments on the Arabs of Galilee are of particular interest. The Peel Report recommendation on transfer limited the transfer of the Arabs from this area to transfer on a voluntary basis. However, Weizmann exceeded these recommendations by telling the Colonial Secretary that the Jews would even "help in getting Arabs out of Galilee." - this was despite the fact that they could not take an "active part" in implementing the transfer of Arabs!

Blanche Dugdale "Baffy", a niece of Balfour, was a non-Jewish British Zionist who constantly tried to influence Cabinet Ministers and High Commissioners, by personal contact and in writing, stressing the justice of the Jewish cause in Palestine. On the day of the meeting with Ormsby-Gore she wrote in her diary, "To Z. O. [Zionist Office] to hear Chaim's account of his interview with Billy [William Ormsby-Gore] this morning. Billy appears to have agreed that all the main Jewish points should be favourably considered." (4) Ben-Gurion recorded in his diary that he suggested that Weizmann immediately write to Ormsby-Gore confirming the content of their conversation. Ben-Gurion added that at first Weizmann disagreed, but following a discussion with him, Weizmann took his advice and sent such a letter to Ormsby- Gore. (5)

Weizmann began his letter by thanking Ormsby-Gore and Lord Dufferin for sparing him so much of their time. He explained that in a few weeks time, he would have to face a highly critical assembly - the twentieth Zionist Congress. "It is due to them as much as to you that I should not risk misunderstanding your view on the matters we discussed. Forgive me, therefore, for enumerating the points one by one." He then enumerated the points which agreed with those in the document mentioned above (except that points 3 and 4 had been interchanged). His letter was a summary of his document, and the paragraph dealing with the transfer of population read:

"4. Transfer of Population.

You were good enough to go in some detail into the practical arrangements you are already contemplating for giving effect to this recommendation. I was reassured to find that you agree with me about the crucial importance of transfer for the success of a partition scheme."

1 / Leonard Stein, Letters to the Editor, The Jewish Chronicle, (London), 10 September 1937, p.25. 2 / Stein to Ormsby-Gore, 4 October 1937, (PRO CO 733/352/75718/21)

3 / Minutes of meeting between Ormsby-Gore and Weizmann, 19 July 1937, (PRO CO 733/328/4 6029) ; Minutes in

Handwriting of Ormsby-Gore, (PRO CO 733/352 75718/21).

4 / Blanche Dugdale, Diary entry 19 July 1937, (WA) ; Baffy, op. cit., p.52.

5 / David Ben-Gurion, Handwritten Diary entry 19 and 20 July 1937, (CZA S25/179/11) ; Ben-Gurion, Memoirs, vol.4, op. cit., p.307.

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Chaim SIMONS : Proposals to Transfer Arabs from Palestine —————————————————————————————————————

We can see that Weizmann makes no reservation whatsoever about implementing the transfer compulsorily, if necessary.

Finally, Weizmann reminded Ormsby-Gore that at the end of the previous day's conversation "which dealt with these major points, I told you that if they could be satisfactorily settled, I should personally support acceptance of the partition scheme." (1)

It is of interest to note, that Weizmann headed his private document "Transfer of Arab population" whereas in his letter to Ormsby-Gore he wrote "Transfer of population" (i.e. transfer of both Arabs and of Jews). Perhaps, there is no significance to be attached to this. On the other hand, this may indicate Weizmann's bias towards the transfer of Arabs out of the proposed Jewish State rather than the transfer of Jews from the proposed Arab State.

Weizmann together with Ben-Gurion had also met with the Colonial Secretary, a few weeks earlier, on 28 June. The Peel Report, which was already in the hands of the Government, had not yet been put on sale to the public and even the Zionist leaders had not yet been informed of its contents. At this meeting, Ormsby-Gore gave Weizmann and Ben-Gurion an outline of some of the contents of the Report.

With regard to the transfer of population, Ormsby-Gore stated "that he thought that the Arabs in the Jewish part would have to be transferred." The notes on this conversation were written up by Ben-Gurion and he reported Weizmann's reply as, "This was a procedure which we had recommended long ago, but it had so far been regarded as impracticable." To the copy of these typewritten notes at the Weizmann Archives an amendment had afterwards been added in ink. The words "we had recommended... impracticable" had been crossed out and in their place was handwritten "the Jews as a people with hostages throughout the world, would have to be very cautious in applying, though it might be done." (2) This handwritten amendment does not however appear in the copy at the Central Zionist Archives. (3) This would seem to indicate that the amendment was written in at a later date -namely, after the circulation of the minutes! [A copy of the minutes at the Ben-Gurion Archives is only a photocopy of those in the Weizmann Archives, (as evidenced by the stamp of the "Weizmann Archives"), and so cannot add anything to this point.]

Who wrote in this handwritten amendment? According to the Staff of the Weizmann Archives it was definitely not written by Weizmann or Ben-Gurion, though it might well have been written by Weizmann's secretaryin London, Miss Doris May. (4) In fact it is difficult to see why such an amendment was made. As we have seen earlier, both Ben-Gurion and Weizmann had in previous years suggested to the High Commissioners of the time, that Arabs from Palestine be resettled in Transjordan. The Colonial Secretary had almost certainly been informed of these ideas, and thus there was no reason for not giving him the reply originally typed in the minutes of this meeting. Maybe it was an amateurish attempt to try and hide the fact from future historians that the Zionist leaders had in the past proposed transfer!

An interesting twist occurred in mid-1941, when Weizmann had a discussion with thirty-one leading American Zionist and non--Zionist personalities, in New York. During the course of this discussion, Weizmann referred to the Peel Commission's transfer proposal. "You remember," he said, "one of the decisions of the Royal Commission carried dynamite - the transfer of the Arab population, and I think you will bear it out, in camera audience, I was speaking against it, and I said that it will be done..." (5)

As we have just seen, the complete opposite was the case - Weizmann spoke up very much in favour of this population transfer recommendation! The Editor of Weizmann's published papers could not allow such an obviously untrue statement to go uncommented upon,

1 / Weizmann to Ormsby-Gore, 20 July 1937, (PRO CO 733/352 F 75718/21) ; Weizmann Letters, vol.xviii, op. cit., no.159, pp.179-80.

2 / Note of Conversation with Ormsby-Gore, 28 June 1937, p.3, (WA).

3 / Summary Note of Conversation with Ormsby-Gore, Colonial Office London, 28 June 1937, p.3, (CZA Z4/17069). 4 / Private Communication from Staff of Weizmann Archives, 12 December 1984.

5 / Private Luncheon Conference called by Dr. Chaim Weizmann, St. Regis Hotel Roof, 25 May 1941, p.13, (WA); Weizmann, Papers, vol.2, paper 52, p.428.

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Chaim SIMONS : Proposals to Transfer Arabs from Palestine —————————————————————————————————————

that he added in a footnote (in a very restrained manner!), "Perhaps this was imperfectly recorded, as the meaning is obscure. W. [Weizmann] did not express opposition to the Peel recommendation of a transfer of populations." (1)

However, in the very same speech, just a few sentences later on, Weizmann did propose transfer of Arabs! He said: "We can acquire a great deal of land in Trans-Jordania or Iraq. We shall see that you [the Arabs] are colonised and that you get 5 dunams of land [outside Palestine] for every dunam we get [from you in Palestine]." (2) A discussion followed Weizmann’s speech but no-one cruiticised this transfer proposal. (3)
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