The era of "Modern Zionism" can be said to have begun towards the end of the 19th century with the "Hovevei Zion", the "First Aliyah", and Theodor Herzl.
In one of the first entries in his private diary dated June 1895, (even before he had decided on the final location of the Jewish State), Herzl wrote that it would be necessary to remove the non-Jews from such a state. Herzl apparently realised that it would not be prudent to publicise such an idea, since there is not a hint of it in his famous book "The Jewish State", which was published just a few months later.
In contrast, Nachman Syrkin, who was one of the founders of "Socialist Zionism", had no inhibitions about making public the possibility of transfer of Arabs from Palestine, and such a proposal appears in his booklet published in 1898.
In the same year, Herzl visited Palestine and saw the country at first hand. A few years later in his unpublished "Draft Charter" for Palestine he wrote that the Jews would have the right to transfer Arabs to other parts of the Ottoman Empire. Another person to visit Palestine at that period was the Anglo-Jewish writer Israel Zangwill, who, after a few years reflection, proposed such transfer in lectures which he gave in the U.S.A. and Britain in 1904 and 1905. One should note that the public pronouncements on this question by both Syrkin and Zangwill did not give rise to any adverse comments.
At this period, the Zionist movement was still in its infancy and proposals for transfer were made by only a few individuals, particularly Zangwill. Following the rejection of Uganda as the location for a Jewish Homeland in 1905, Zangwill left the Zionist movement, and it seems that no further proposals for Arab transfer were put forward for a number of years.
It was in the early 1910s that two leading Zionists, Arthur Ruppin and Leo Motzkin put forward transfer proposals, the former in a private letter and the latter in the course of a lecture to a Conference of German Zionists which was subsequently published in a German Jewish newspaper. However, the main proposer of transfer at this period was Zangwill, who, after he had returned to the Zionist fold, wrote a number of articles and delivered a number of lectures on this subject.
At the end of 1918, following one of Zangwill's articles, a public condemnation of his proposals by several prominent Anglo-Jews, appeared for the first time in the British-Jewish press. One should remember, however, that this was the period of the Balfour Declaration. A number of prominent Anglo-Jews from families who were well-established in Britain, were vigorously opposed to the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine and as a result of their efforts, the final text of the Balfour Declaration was less favourable to the Zionist aspirations. The Anglo-Jews publicly opposing Zangwill's transfer proposals largely came from these well-established families. To their great credit, the press did not prevent Zangwill from using their columns to propagate his ideas on Arab transfer - "freedom of expression" was sacred at that period!
Following the termination of the First World War, Fridtjof Nansen, proposed a compulsory transfer of population between Greece and Turkey involving nearly two million people and this proposal was subsequently implemented by the League of Nations. The success of this population exchange and the resultant friendly relations between Greece and Turkey, gave a "boost" to the solution of population exchange to solve regional problems and this example was later to be used in proposing Arab transfer from Palestine.
Apart from some further proposals (one of them quite drastic!) by Zangwill in the early 1920s, no further proposals seem to have been made until about 1930.
In 1929, there were serious Arab pogroms in many places in Palestine, resulting in the murder of well over a hundred Jews and this made the transfer of Arabs from Palestine more attractive to the Jewish and even non-Jewish public.
The original Mandate for Palestine had included the area of Transjordan. However, in order to solve inter-Arab feuding, the provisions of the Mandate over the area of Transjordan were suspended and Zionist colonisation was forbidden there. These factors led in 1930 to a number of proposals being made to transfer Arabs, to Transjordan. These included proposals by bodies such as the Jewish National Fund (J.N.F.), by individuals such as Weizmann and Ben-Gurion, and by non-Jews, such as Drummond Shiels who was then British Assistant Colonial Secretary. Such transfer was particularly suggested for those Arabs in Western Palestine who were living on land being purchased by the Zionists. In fact, even before this time such Arabs were often transferred. Many Kibbutzim of "Hashomer Hazair", an extreme left-wing movement, who would publicly vehemently condemn Arab transfer, were established on land from which Arabs had been transferred!
One person connected with Arab transfer, who until quite recently had hardly been heard of, was an American Jew named Edward Norman. Norman made a very strong principle of not letting his name be publicised in connection with his transfer proposal. Only when Weizmann's letters and Ben-Gurion's memoirs began to be published, did people see the name of Edward Norman and his transfer proposal. Norman worked on his plan to transfer Arabs from Palestine to Iraq, from 1933 onwards for about 15 years. Without doubt, there is more archival material on Norman's plan than on any other transfer plan on the subject. In the course of his endeavours Norman regularly met or corresponded with the high echelons in both the British and U.S. administrations and also with the top Zionist leaders.
In 1936, a campaign of Arab terrorism began, considerably disrupting life in Palestine. This resulted in the British Government’s setting up of a Royal Commission comprising six highly respected gentlemen under the chairmanship of Lord Peel. After visiting Palestine and taking evidence from over one hundred witnesses, they returned to England to produce their Report, which was unanimous and consisted of over 400 pages. Amongst their recommendations was the transfer of Arabs from the proposed Jewish State. For the Arabs living in the Plains of Palestine, such transfer could be compulsory.
The British Government found themselves in general agreement with the recommendations of this Commission and they made no objections whatsoever to the compulsory transfer proposal.
The Peel Commission recommendations were thoroughly debated in a number of forums both Jewish and non-Jewish. Some of the Zionist leaders also confided their secret thoughts on the subject to their private diaries and in confidential correspondence and closed meetings. Their comments on compulsory transfer were interesting:
Ben-Gurion's observations in his private diary on compulsory transfer were extremely enthusiastic and he stressed the importance of Arab transfer from the Jewish State. Weizmann in his letters and meetings of that period displayed a similar enthusiasm on this subject. At the 20th Zionist Congress which took place about a month after the publication of this Report, many of the participants spoke in favour of transfer, although when the "official" minutes were published, many of their comments on transfer were omitted! Berl Katznelson, who was known as the “conscience” of the Jewish Labour Party, spoke up strongly in favour of transfer at a meeting of the "Council of World Unity" (the amalgamated Zionist Socialist parties) held a few weeks before the 20th Zionist Congress. In contrast, Jabotinsky, leader of the Revisionist movement came out very strongly against transfer. This in fact had been his stand for decades.
When debated in the British Parliament, several members of Parliament, who were members of the pro-Arab lobby, came out in favour of, and even exceeded, the recommendations of the Commission on the question of Arab transfer. They realised that an Arab presence in a Jewish State would be undesirable and cause friction in the future.
In November 1937, the Jewish Agency set up a Committee for Transfer of Arabs and during the course of the following seven months this Committee regularly met, and assembled information and statistical data, in order to work out a programme for the compulsory transfer of Arabs from Palestine.
In the summer of 1937, the Arabs in Palestine resumed and even intensified their acts of terror and assassinations and the British Government began a policy "to extricate themselves" from the recommendations of the Peel Commission. They began by stating in a "Despatch" dated December 1937 that they had in no way accepted the recommendation of the Peel Commission on compulsory transfer! This was a complete revision of history, and furthermore, early drafts of this very same "Despatch" did not contain this "disclaimer" on compulsory transfer!!
One should note that even after the British Government had retracted from the acceptance of compulsory transfer, the Jewish Agency Committee on Transfer continued to prepare plans for compulsory transfer
To complete their retraction from the Peel Commission recommendations, the British Government set up a new Commission under Sir John Woodhead - wags called it the "Re-Peal" Commission!! This Commission’s resultant Report was followed by a White Paper very severely limiting Jewish immigration to Palestine.
Although at this period, the British Government became vehemently anti-transfer of Arabs, the U.S. Government was moving in the opposite direction. This can be illustrated by the reactions of officials of the U.S. government who were doing all they could to help Edward Norman advance his transfer plan, whilst at the same time British officials were doing all they could to squelch it. However, in all fairness, one must remember that whereas the British Government was the Mandatory Power with the responsibility to maintain order, the American Government could stand on the sidelines and watch! Even the American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt at that period came out strongly in favour of Arab transfer.
Although the British Government were then strongly opposed to transfer, it is interesting to note that Sir Harold MacMichael, who was the British High Commissioner for Palestine, and could thus see the situation at first hand, was in favour of Arab transfer.
Another interesting phenomenon of the late 1930s and early 1940s was the conviction of some pro-Arabists that the transfer of Arabs from Palestine was the only solution to the Arab-Jewish conflict. The classic example is that of the pro-Arabist Harry St. John Philby, who worked for several years on his plan (enthusiastically supported by top members of the Zionist leadership) to transfer almost all the Arabs from Palestine. Philby had several meetings with King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia to try to persuade him to accept such a plan. Some historians suggest that at the beginning of the Second World War, the King was in favour of this plan. Even an Arab, Mojli Amin who was a member of the Arab Defense Committee for Palestine, put forward his own memorandum advocating Arab transfer.
Towards the end of the 1930s, Iraq completed an irrigation system but was sadly lacking in population. It thus became a popular destination for potential Arab transferees from Palestine. Amongst those proposing Iraq, was Ben-Gurion, who in 1938-39 often put forward the idea of Arab transfer to that country. Support for this plan of Ben-Gurion's came from, amongst others, the Hadassah Executive of America.
Another plan worked on in 1939 and discussed in earnest by the Zionist leadership and the Druze was the transfer of the Druze from Palestine to the area Jebel Druse in Syria.
Towards the end of 1939, the Second World War began, and already at the beginning of 1942, reports of the mass murder of European Jewry began to reach the West. Possibly due to this fact, many non-Jews began to speak out in public or publish articles in favour of the transfer of Arabs from Palestine. Prominent Jews also came out in favour, although generally they would only do so in closed forums! Even some members of "Brit Shalom" who outwardly advocated a Bi-National (Jewish-Arab) State in Palestine proposed voluntary Arab transfer from Palestine.
At the beginning of the Second World War, there was a split in the Revisionist movement with the formation of Lehi. The views of Lehi regarding transfer did not follow the line of the main-stream Revisionists, and they included in their "Principles of Renaissance" one which advocated the transfer of the "stranger" from Palestine.
However, even the main-stream Revisionists, who until this time had followed Jabotinsky's strong opposition to transfer (although some historians now suggest that in private he supported transfer) began to change their views on this subject. A committee known as the "American Resettlement Committee" was established (at the same address as the American Revisionists Headquarters!) and in 1943 they placed a whole-page advertisement in the "New York Times" proposing the transfer of Arabs from Palestine. Furthermore, during the 1940s, the Revisionists endorsed the principle of Arab transfer, certainly on a voluntary basis.
Although a number of prominent Jews and non-Jews were publicly coming out in favour of Arab transfer during the Second World War, at this period, the positive attitude of the U.S. administration to this question underwent a change. Edward Norman found that the enthusiasm of the U.S. Government towards transfer in the late 1930s had completely evaporated by 1942. Possibly the oil factor of the Middle East which was rapidly becoming more significant during the course of the Second World War was a reason for this. However, one should mention that throughout this period President Roosevelt would periodically make statements to his senior officials which were very strongly in favour of compulsory Arab transfer from Palestine.
Also during the latter part of the war, former U.S. President Herbert Hoover (encouraged privately by leading American Zionists) began to propose the transfer of Arabs. Towards the end of 1945, in a bout of enthusiasm, he prepared a statement on this question which was sent to hundreds of American newspapers. However, to his annoyance very few indeed deigned to publish it, and those who did were mainly the New York Yiddish press.
On the other side of the Atlantic, about a year and a half before the end of the Second World War, the British Labour Party commissioned one of its members, Hugh Dalton, to prepare a document on "Labour and the International Post-War Settlement". In this document, Dalton included a section on Palestine which included a paragraph "encouraging" Arabs to leave Palestine. This document was examined by the various committees and sub-committees of the Party and was finally passed at the Annual Party Conference of 1944 with almost no opposition. Encouraging Arabs to leave Palestine thus became part of the Party's policy and it remained as such until after the general election of 1945, when the Labour Party was elected to power in a landslide victory. In commenting on this Labour Party resolution in public, the Zionist leaders said that transfer of Arabs was "inconsistent with the Zionist programme". However, from a study of their private opinions which are now open to historians, one can see that they were quite happy with this transfer proposal! The Jewish Press in Britain and in the U.S. were on the whole favourable to the paragraph advocating Arab transfer.
Following the Labour Party victory in 1945, Ernest Bevin was appointed Foreign Secretary. The senior civil servants in the Foreign Office who had a long tradition of anti-Zionism, succeeded in persuading Bevin to continue with the policy of the White Paper, rather than implementing the terms of this Resolution.
The years following the Second World War saw a deterioration in the situation in Palestine. Finally the matter was turned over to the United Nations who sent an international committee to Palestine and on 29 November 1947 the U.N. voted on the establishment of a Jewish State in Palestine.
From this period until the establishment of the State of Israel in May 1948 and also during the months that followed, about half a million Arabs left, some by their own free-will, others being driven out by the Jews. Until this day, debates and arguments continue on allowing these Arabs to return.