A historical Survey of Proposals to




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Meeting with Leaders of the British Labour Party

At the end of November 1939, three months after the start of the Second World War, the Zionist leaders, Weizmann, Shertok, Locker and Bakstansky had a meeting with the Leader of the British Labour Party, Major Clement Attlee and with Tom Williams. The minutes of this meeting, held at the British Parliament Building were written up by Shertok.

As stated in these minutes, during the course of the meeting, Weizmann "put the Zionist case quite briefly". He mentioned the two main points emerging from the Peel Report, namely the "idea of a Jewish State and the idea of a transfer of population" and said that the events of the past two years had strengthened the validity of these two points. He felt that as a

1 / Weizmann Papers, vol.2, p.127.

2 / Ibid., pp.305-06.

3 / Interview with Under-Secretary of State Sumner Welles, 4 December 1942, Additional notes, (CZA Z5/1377). 4 / Hurley to President Roosevelt, 5 May 1943, Foreign Relations of the United States, Diplomatic Papers 1943, vol.iv, The Near East and Africa, (Washington, 1964), (henceforth FRUS), p.777.

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

result of the war, the Jewish position would become much worse, and "moreover, the idea of transfer of population was bound to become more acceptable to men's minds because the settlement eventually to be reached could not take the form of merely drawing new territorial frontiers. Clearly populations would have to be shifted, and the world would become more accustomed to this idea." Weizmann considered that Palestine would be able to absorb three or four million Jewish immigrants, not in one go but within a measurable period of time. "We must have some territorial basis there", said Weizmann, "and that would mean an improved Peel scheme, possibly Palestine west of the Jordan, with some transfer of a part at least of the Arab population." He concluded that this should all be linked up with some kind of federation of the neighbouring Arab States. (1)

With regard to the transfer of the Arab population, two points emerge from the above. Firstly, Weizmann is not presenting a purely personal view, but he is putting "the Zionist case". Secondly, only two years earlier, Weizmann had given the small territorial area allocated to the Jewish State by the Peel Commission, as the reason for transferring the Arab population. Now, at this meeting, the Zionist demand was for a much larger territorial area -"possibly Palestine west of the Jordan" - whilst still insisting on "some transfer of part at least of the Arab population". According to the historian Walter Lacqueur, at the beginning of the war, Weizmann put forward this proposal with increasing frequency. (2)

One of these occasions was during a meeting held with the Russian Ambassador, Ivan. Maisky. From Weizmann’s diary, we can see that the date of this meeting was on 30 January 1941. (3). At this meeting the Arab-Jewish question was discussed. After Weizmann had answered Maisky that the only solution to the Jewish problem was Palestine, Maisky replied that "there would have to be an exchange of populations". To this Weizmann replied "that if half a million Arabs could be transferred, two million Jews could be put in their place. That, of course, would be a first installment; what might happen afterwards was a matter for history". Maisky replied that Russia had had to deal with exchanges of population. Weizmann replied "that the distances they had to deal with in Palestine would be smaller: they would be transferring the Arabs only into Iraq or Transjordan". Maisky then asked whether there might be some difficulty in transferring a hill-country population to the plains. Weizmann then answered: "a beginning might be made with the Arabs from the Jordan Valley; but anyway conditions in Transjordan were not so very different from those of the Palestine hill-country". (4) The historian Benny Morris reports that Maisky’s report on this meeting, which can be found in the archives of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, confirms this conversation on the transfer of Arabs. (5)

Meeting at New Court

At the beginning of September 1941, Weizmann and Selig Brodetsky, discussed with Anthony de Rothschild, the possibility of reaching a modus vivendi between the Zionists and non-Zionists.

Anthony de Rothschild was a leading non-Zionist communal figure in Britain, who although opposed to Jewish statehood, recognised the urgent necessity of absorbing some of the refugees from Europe into Palestine. Weizmann suggested that a meeting take place between the Zionists and members of Rothschild's own group. ( 6)

The meeting took place at New Court in London on 9 September and was attended by over twenty people. Just over half the participants were Anthony de Rothschild's friends and the remainder were Zionists. Opening the meeting, Rothschild stated that its purpose was to try to find common ground from which to deal with the problems to be faced after the war. (7)

1 / Note of Conversation with Attlee and Williams, 30 November 1939, p.2, (WA). 2 / Walter Laqueur, A History of Zionism, (New York, 1972), p.539.

3 / Weizmann Letters, vol.xx, (Jerusalem, 1979), no.267, p.276, fn.1.

4 / J.A. Exec., London, 30 January 1941, p.2, (WA).

5 / Benny Morris, "Ma Mistater m’achorai haShichtuv?", Alpayim, (Tel-Aviv), vol.14 (1997), p.199, fn.10. 6 / Weizmann to Sacher, 4 September 1941, (WA) ; Weizmann Letters, vol.xx, (Jerusalem, 1979), no.179, p.194. 7 / Note of Meeting held at New Court, London, 9 September 1941, p.1, (WA).

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The future of Palestine, naturally, featured prominently in the discussion and when the question of boundaries came up, Weizmann pointed out (as stated in the minutes) that "the question of boundaries also raised the question of transfer of population. Such transfer might, of course be entirely voluntary. If, for instance, they could transfer those Arab tenants who owned no land of their own (he believed there were about 120,000 of them) they would be able to settle in their stead about half a million Jews." (1)

We see from these minutes that Weizmann said that the transfer of Arabs "might be entirely voluntary" as distinct from "must be". He was obviously still undecided as to whether these transfers should be "entirely voluntary" or whether compulsion should be used.

About a fortnight later, Weizmann sent a copy of these minutes to Harry Sacher pointing out that they were "only being circulated to our side." (2) This was a most unusual, if not improper action to circulate minutes of a meeting to a section only of the participants. However, it shows that the minutes were written up by someone on the Zionist side, if not by Weizmann himself. There was obviously something in these minutes that Weizmann did not want Rothschild to see!

At the end of the meeting, Weizmann was charged with the preparation of a memorandum which he began by stating that there was "general agreement on the following points." (3) in connection with transfer, Weizmann wrote, "In that State there will be complete civil and political equality of rights for all citizens, without distinction of race or religion, and in addition the Arabs will enjoy full autonomy in their own internal affairs, but if any Arabs did not wish to remain in a Jewish State, every facility will be given to them for transfer to one of the many and vast Arab countries." (4) Here, the transfer of Arabs is clearly of a voluntary nature. However, this does not necessarily reflect Weizmann's personal viewas the memorandum summarised the "general agreement" of the meeting. Most of the participants were hostile to Zionism and the establishment of a Jewish State and had expressed great concern at this meeting on the future of the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine. Unlike the minutes, this memorandum was sent to Anthony de Rothschild to distribute to the friends he had invited to this meeting. (5)

A few months later, Weizmann publicly endorsed transfer, albeit of a voluntary nature, when he repeated almost word for word in the American journal "Foreign Affairs" what he had written on transfer in this memorandum. (6)

Attitude of Weizmann towards Transfer

Following tributes paid to Weizmann on the B.B.C.'s Third Programme inDecember 1963, the correspondence columns of the "Jewish Observer and Middle East Review" included an argument as to Weizmann's attitude towards the transfer of Arabs. Boris Guriel, Directorof the Weizmann Archives, claimed that Weizmann had favoured transfer; Sir Leon Simon, a leading British Zionist, took the opposite view.

To substantiate his case, Guriel quoted a letter that Weizmann had written to Sir Leon Simon in November 1941. "I can see no reason why we could not do the same thing that the Greeks did after the last war. Whether it would take five years or three or seven, whether it would be two million or three, I cannot say." Guriel claimed that Weizmann was advocating applying the precedent of the Greco-Turkish population transfer of the 1920s to the Arabs of Palestine. (7) Simon answered that this letter had nothing to do with population exchange but dealt with "what an independent State can do when it wants to bring masses of people rapidly into its territory." (8) In fact, both interpretations are plausible.

1 / Ibid., p.4.

2 / Weizmann to Sacher, 25 September 1941, (WA) ; Weizmann Letters, vol.xx, op. cit., no.186, p.200. 3 / Weizmann Letters, vol.xx, op. cit., no.186, p.201.

4/ Ibid., p.203.

5 / Weizmann to Rothschild, 30 September 1941, (WA) ; Weizmann Letters, vol.xx, op. cit., no.188, p.204.

6 / Chaim Weizmann, "Palestine's Role in the Solution of the Jewish Problem", Foreign Affairs, (NewYork), vol.20, no.2, January 1942, p.337.

7 / "Was Boothby Right?" Jewish Observer and Middle East Review, (L), 7 February 1964, p.9.

8 / Leon Simon, Letters to the Editor, Jewish Observer and Middle East Review, (London), 21 February 1964, p.26.

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In subsequent correspondence, Guriel quoted from the minutes of the meeting at New Court and Weizmann's subsequentmemorandum. (1) For his part, Simon quoted from Weizmann's speech to the British Zionist Conference of 1919 adding that"if Mr. Guriel, presuming to speak in the name of the Weizmann Archives, now wants us to believe that the policy of which Weizmann expressed such whole-hearted abhorrence in 1919, was at any time Weizmann's own policy, those of us (who) havesome regard for Weizmann's reputation have a right to demand much more convincing evidence than Mr. Guriel has yet produced in support of so grave an imputation on the character of a leader to whose heritage he claims to adhere." (2)

All this was written in 1964. Since that time the "much more convincing evidence" demanded by Simon has become available by virtue of archives in Britain and Israel being opened up to historians. Such archival material (as shown earlier) clearly shows how in the 1930s and early 1940s, Weizmann was a strong supporter and proposer of transfer of the Arabs from Palestine, especially at the time of the Peel Commission. He considered the Commission's recommendation on transfer,(compulsory if necessary), to be vitally important. Indeed, Weizmann proposed still more extreme measures than those advocated by the Commission; according to the British Colonial Secretary, he said that the Jews "will help in getting Arabs out of Galilee into Trans-Jordan." As we shall see later, Weizmann supported the plan of Harry St John Philby - in fact, the historian Ilan Amitzur described Weizmann's support of this plan as "enthusiastic" (3) - and made efforts to advance the transfer plans of Edward Norman, even to the extent of advancing financial support.

All this, however, Weizmann did in closed meetings and private correspondence, a fact commented upon by both Professor Joseph Nedava(4) and Christopher Sykes,(5) the son of Sir Mark Sykes. In public, however, Weizmann invariably repudiated such ideas!

NACHMAN SYRKIN

Nachman Syrkin, who was born in Russia in 1868, was associated with Zionist Movement from its inception, and participated in the First Zionist Congress, leading the small group of socialist Zionists. His aim was the complete synthesis of socialism with Jewish nationalism as embodied in Zionism. Syrkin was also a prolific writer in several languages.

In 1898, Syrkin wrote a pamphlet entitled "Die Judenfrage und der socialistische Judenstaat" (The Jewish Question and the Socialist Jewish State). Under the heading "Land Purchase" he wrote, "The first and foremost territory to be considered for the Jewish State is Palestine - the ancient birthplace of the Jews." After listing various ways of acquiring Palestine from the Turks, Syrkin concluded that the best way of securing the country was for the various peoples under Turkish domination to join forces in rebellion thus liberating themselves from the Turkish yoke.

Syrkin then proposed population transfer as a solution to some of the problems of the region. "In places where the population is mixed," he wrote, "friendly population transfer and division of territory should ensue. The Jews should receive Palestine, which is very sparsely settled and where the Jews even today comprise ten per cent of the population. The Jews should form an alliance with the peoples who are oppressed by Turkey and strive for a just division of the subjugated empire."

Syrkin hoped that the European states would be in favour of Jews settling Palestine since the Europeans would thus free themselves of their Jewish population whilst enabling Asia to develop both economically and culturally. However, Syrkin urged that if after all their efforts the Jews were unsuccessful in obtaining Palestine, they should chose another land

1 / Boris Guriel, Letters to the Editor, Jewish Observer and Middle East Review, (London), 6 Marc1964, p.21.

2 / Leon Simon, Letters to the Editor, Jewish Observer and Middle East Review, (London), 13 March 1964, p.25. 3 / Ilan Amitzur, America, Britain and Palestine, (Jerusalem, 1979), p.128.

4 / Nedava, Forum (on the Jewish People, Zionism and Israel), op. cit., p.104. 5 / Christopher Sykes, Cross Roads to Israel, (London, 1965), p.312.

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"which will be vacated for them by means of money." (1)

The proposal by Syrkin in 1898 for the transfer of Arabs from Palestine, seems to be the first published scheme of this kind. Although Herzl had put forward his plans for the removal of the indigenous population from the Jewish State, three years earlier, his proposals were made in his private diary, and it was not until three decades later that this was published.

DR. ARTHUR RUPPIN

Arthur Ruppin who was born in 1876 was described as the "father of Zionist settlement" in Palestine. He paved the way from the political Zionism of Herzl to pragmatic Zionism. In 1908, the Zionist Executive appointed him head of their Palestine office and from then until his death in 1943, he was responsible for the work of settlement in Palestine. In the course of his work, he encouraged and assisted in the acquisition of large tracts of land in the Jezreel Valley.

In May 1914, Ruppin put forward his plan for the transfer of Arabs from Palestine to Syria, in a letter written to Dr. Victor Jacobson, who from 1908 had been head of the Constantinople branch of the Anglo-Palestine Company and unofficial diplomatic representative of the Zionist Organisation in Turkey. In his letter to Jacobson of 12 May 1914, Ruppin wrote, "We are considering a parallel Arab colonisation. Thus, we are planning to buy land in the region of Homs, Aleppo etc. which we will sell under easy terms to those Palestinian fellahin who have been harmed by our land purchases." [The city of Homs, originally known as Emesa is in central Syria, in the great Orontes plain; Aleppo, also known as Haleb, is the second largest city in Syria, and is in the centre of northern Syria.]

Thus Ruppin's plans involved buying land for these Arabs, not in another part of Palestine, but outside the country - in Syria.

Ruppin added that this method would only be considered if there were large scale Zionist colonisation. At that time, the Zionists were not making large land purchases and so there was no cause for Arab fears. "We will need to consider in earnest this problem," wrote Ruppin, "when the planned purchases in the Jezreel Valley are carried out." (2) [The Jezreel Valley is an area in the north of Israel, where in 1911, the pioneer settlement of Merchavia had been founded. In 1920, after three.decades of negotiations, Yehoshua Hankin finally succeeded in purchasing from an absentee Arab family, seventy thousand dunams of land in the Jezreel Valley and within a few years, about twenty settlements were established in the area.]

On 28 May 1914, Jacobson, replying to Ruppin's letter, disagreed with Ruppin's plan to transfer the Arabs to Syria. In his opinion, this transfer of population would substantiate the Arab fears that the Jews intended to drive them from their land. Jacobson therefore felt that it was better not to make public mention of such a plan, nor to seek a solution in that direction. (3)

However, less than two decades later, Jacobson was to change his view completely on transfer. At the beginning of 1932, he put forward his own plan for the partition of Western Palestine. After designating the areas to be allocated to the Jews and the Arabs respectively, Jacobson said that it would be difficult to implement the partition unless 120,000 Arabs were to be transferred, with compensation, from the designated Jewish areas. Such transfer would strengthen the internal security of the Jewish State and decrease the danger of any local Arab rebellion. (4)

Also, in a memorandum written in French and dated January 1932, on a "Territorial

1 / "Ben-Eliezer" (pen-name for Nachman Syrkin), Die Judenfrage und der Socialistische Judenstaat, (Bern, 1898), pp.59-61; Writings of Nachman Syrkin, arr. B. Katznelson and Y. Kuperman, (Tel-Aviv, 1939), pp.53-54.

2 / Ruppin to Jacobson, 12 May 1914, pp.1-2, (CZA L2/34ii) ; extract reprinted by Paul Alsberg, "The Arab Question in the Policy of the Zionist Executive before the First World War", Shivat Zion, (Jerusalem), vol.4, 1955/6, pp.206-07. 3 / Jacobson to Ruppin, 28 May 1914, (CZA L2/34ii).

4 / Shmuel Dothan, The Struggle for Eretz-Israel, (Tel-Aviv, 1981), pp.76-77.

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Solution" Jacobson put forward his plan for the partition of Palestine and transfer of Arabs. In his plan, the Jewish part of Palestine would be called Eretz-Israel and the Arab part Palestine.

In connection with transfer, Jacobson wrote,"One can easily imagine conditions in which a considerable portion of ... Arab farmers would decide to move their homes and go to set themselves up, with the economic and financial assistance of the Jews, in other parts of the Confederation: in Syria, Transjordan, or even in Iraq or [the Arab part of] Palestine. To put into effect, in these modest proportions of several thousand men, this exchange of populations would not provoke any serious agitation and would be considered quite natural ..." (1)

At the end of 1933, Jacobson met separately with Jabotinsky, Ben-Gurion and Farbstein, [the last-named was a leader of the "Mizrachi" Religious Zionist party], in order to discuss his plan. Jacobson urged that the Jewish Agency Executive demand that Britain transfer from sixty to seventy thousand Arabs out of the Jewish areas, replacing them within a short space of time by one hundred and fifty to two hundred thousand Jews. (2)

As we shall see, less than four years later, the Peel Report was to recommend similar ideas, involving the partition of Palestine and the transfer of Arabs from the Jewish area.

During the period Ruppin was advocating his population transfer proposal, a number of Zionist leaders put forward similar suggestions. For example, the Hebrew writer, pioneer and future President of the World Zionist Organisation, Nahum Sokolow had in 1914 played with the idea of a population transfer. (3) However, a few years later Sokolow wrote a letter "in which he warns Weizmann, on grounds of political inexpediency, against a plan then afoot to expropriate Arab landlords from Palestine. (4)

At the tenth Zionist Congress held in Basle in 1911, Joshua Buchmil put forward a transfer proposal to the Palestine Committee of the Congress. Buchmil was a Zionist leader who had been a militant opponent of the Uganda scheme. In 1906, he had been sent by the Odessa Committee of Hovevai Zion to Palestine in order to study the economic and legal aspects of Jewish colonisation.

In his transfer proposal, Buchmil suggested that in order to facilitate the purchase of land in Palestine, land be purchased in Northern Syria and Iraq to which the Arabs from Palestine be transferred, thus leaving land in Palestine vacant for the Jews. (5)
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