Chaim Weizmann, first President of the State of Israel, was born in Motol near Pinsk in 1874. He was a delegate from the second Zionist Congress onwards and was opposed to the Uganda plan. During the First World War, Weizmann worked hard to achieve support for Zionist aims and his efforts culminated in the Balfour Declaration. From 1920 until 1946 (with a break of four years), he was President of the World Zionist Organisation, but there was much opposition from within to his approach.
In the period immediately following the Balfour Declaration, Weizmann spoke out publicly against transferring the Arabs from Palestine. In an address given to the Zionist Conference in London in September 1919, Weizmann stated, “We cannot go into the country like Junkers, we cannot afford to drive out other people. We who have been driven out ourselves cannot drive out others. We shall be the last people to drive off the Fellah from his land; we shall establish normal relations between us and them. The Arabs will live among us; they won't suffer; they will live among us as Jews do here in England. This is our attitude towards the Arabs. Any other attitude is criminal, childish, impolitic, stupid.”(127)
However, a decade or so later, Weizmann's attitude on this subject changed and during the 30s and 40s, he often put forward in private his own plans, or gave support to plans involving the transfer of Arabs from Palestine.
Weizmann's First Transfer Proposal
Following the massacres by the Arabs of 133 Jews in Palestine in the summer of 1929, the British Government set up a Commission under the chairmanship of Lord Shaw to investigate the situation in Palestine. Whilst this Commission was preparing its report, Weizmann had a meeting in the House of Commons on 4 March 1930, with Dr. Drummond Shiels, the British Assistant Colonial Secretary.
According to Weizmann, at this meeting Shiels said that “some radical solution must be found, and he didn't see why one should not really make Palestine a National Home for the Jews and tell it frankly to the Arabs, pointing out to them that in Transjordan and Mesopotamia [Iraq] they had vast territories where they could develop their life and civilisation without let or hindrance, but that the Jews were entitled to work in Palestine unmolested, and that in the end it would be good for all parties concerned.”
Weizmann was in agreement with Shiel's transfer proposal, since he answered that “a solution like that was a courageous and statesmanlike attempt to grapple with a problem which had been tackled hitherto halfheartedly.... Some [Arabs from Palestine] might flow off into the neighbouring countries, and this quasi exchange of population could be encouraged and fostered... It only required careful preparation and goodwill.”(128)
Two days later, Weizmann met with the Colonial Secretary, Lord Passfield. The latter said that he had not yet seen the Shaw Report, but he had heard that “the only grave question it had revealed was the problem of tenants on the land which had been acquired by Zionists”. This could in time “produce a landless proleteriat” which in turn could be “a cause of unrest in the country”. Passfield hinted that a solution of this problem was the transfer of Arabs to Transjordan by saying that one “had to stabilise conditions in the country.... Transjordan might be a way out.”
Weizmann pointed out that the root of the trouble was that “in the dead of night Transjordan had been separated from Palestine” and that Jews were now prevented from settling there. He continued, “Now that one found oneself in difficulties in Palestine, surely if we could not cross the Jordan the Arabs could. And this was applicable to Iraq.” Passfield answered “that he was convinced he would have to consider a solution in that direction.”(129)
It would seem that Weizmann did not confine these ideas just to conversations, but acted in secret to implement them. This we can conclude from a telegram marked “Confidential” sent by him to a certain Felix Green in June 1930. In it he asks to be sent “all available information about Vadizorka and Hauran in Transjordan. Quality and available land. Density nature population.”(130)
It was at this period, that in a letter to Felix Warburg, Weizmann wrote that one of the Arab leaders had sent him a message that in his [the Arab leader’s] opinion, “Transjordan can be built up, and with opportunities created there this country could be placed at the disposal of Arabs who may choose to leave Palestine.” In order to perform such a development [and hence a transfer of Arabs!], the government of Transjordan would require “a loan of one million pounds, to be guaranteed in a proper business way.”(131) In a further letter written by Weizmann to Warburg a few weeks later, he wrote that he had “meanwhile been discussing” such a loan, with, amongst others, Baron Edmond de-Rothschild, “and they are all greatly in favour of the idea and would be prepared to work out the details of such a scheme when it becomes really alive. In my opinion, the whole solution of our difficulties lies in such a scheme.”(132)
We might mention here that at that period, Weizmann was not the only Zionist leader proposing transfer of Arabs to Transjordan. In his diary Ben-Gurion wrote, “there is Transjordan, in it is available space. It is possible to transfer there the Arabs from Palestine.”(133)
Also at this period, Colonel Frederick Herman Kisch, who was Director of the Jewish Agency’s Political Department and the Chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive in Palestine, wrote to Weizmann proposing that the Jewish Agency should press the British to promote the emigration of the Arabs of Palestine to Iraq which he stated was in “urgent need of agricultural population.” He pointed out that it would “not be impossible to come to an arrangement with [the Iraqi King] Feisal by which he would take the initiative in offering good openings for Arab immigrants…. We, of course, should not appear [to be promoting this], but I see no reason why H.M.G. [His Majesty’s Government] should not be interested …. There can be no conceivable hardship for Palestinian Arabs – a nomadic and semi-nomadic people – to move to another Arab country where there are better opportunities for an agricultural life.”(134)
This was not the first time that Kisch had proposed such transfer, and moreover he had done so in September 1928, nearly a year prior to the Arab pogroms of 1929. On 21 September 1928, he wrote to Weizmann informing him of his meeting with the British director of the Lands Department in the Iraqi administration, in which this official had spoken of Iraq’s “growing need for fellaheen in order to develop its agriculture.” Kisch commented that with such irrigation, a solution would be found for “the racial problem in Palestine.” In his letter to Weizmann, Kisch wrote that, “Propaganda for an Arab emigration to Iraq cannot be made by us – except in the most indirect methods – but for the Iraq Government to do so would be wonderful, and in the interests of both countries.”(135)
It was at the end of March 1930, that the Shaw Report was published and a further report by Sir John Hope Simpson dealing with “Immigration, Land Settlement and Development” in October of that same year. The findings and recommendations of these two reports were embodied in the British Government's Statement of Policy popularly known as the “Passfield White Paper” and was issued simultaneously with the Hope Simpson Report. This White Paper would effectively have put an end to the rebuilding of the Jewish National Home in Palestine.
A few weeks later, Weizmann had an article published in the “Week End Review”. In this article, he challenged the White Paper by pointing out that whereas under the terms of the Mandate, Jews had first claim to “State lands for the purpose of close settlement”, the British Government now wanted to do the opposite and give landless Arabs first priority.
As a solution to this, Weizmann put forward the idea of transferring Arabs from Palestine to Transjordan. He first pointed out that Transjordan is legally part of Palestine, has a cultivatable area equal in size and that its people were of the same race, language and culture and were thus indistinguishable from the Arabs of Western Palestine. He then continued, “It is separated from Western Palestine only by a narrow stream [Jordan River] ... it would be just as easy for landless Arabs or cultivators from congested areas to migrate to Transjordan as to migrate from one part of Western Palestine to another.”(136)
At that period, pressure was being put on the British Government by both Jews and non-Jews to modify its policy, and as a result of this pressure the Government issued a new document (the MacDonald letter), to serve as an authoritative interpretation of the Passfield White Paper. A committee composed of members of the Government and of the Jewish Agency had several joint meetings in order to reach agreement on the contents of this letter.
Towards the end of one of these meetings, held at the Foreign Office in London on 5 December 1930, Weizmann again put forward his proposal on the transfer of Arabs from Palestine to Transjordan. He asked the meeting that “consideration be given to the development of the Negeb as well as the country east of the Jordan”. He pointed out that Transjordan was “practically an empty country” which was slightly larger in cultivatable area than western Palestine. Weizmann considered that “Transjordania afforded a vast reserve for colonization, and for the trans- migration of Arabs from the congested area cis-Jordan (western Palestine) to vacant lands in Trans-Jordania”, adding that no real effort in this direction had yet been made. It should be.noted that although Weizmann referred to the development of both the Negev and Transjordan the “trans-migration of Arabs” from Palestine was to be to Transjordan only.
The Foreign Secretary, Arthur Henderson, stated that “some actual agreement with the Arabs on this question was essential.” Weizmann pointed out that it was in the interests of the projected pipe line and railway from Iraq to Haifa to develop and to settle a stable population in Transjordan, and added that the Arab Prime Minister of Transjordan had recently agreed with him that this was a practicable proposition, provided that some sort of assistance was offered by Britain. Henderson then admitted that “this proposal was worthy of consideration”, adding that it was a “big question” which involved “big difficulties.”(137)
About that period, a similar proposal was put forward by the Executive of the Zionist Organisation working together with a special Political Committee which had been set up to deal with the Passfield White Paper. This we know from a memorandum written by Felix Rosenbleuth (later Pinhas Rosen, the first Minister of Justice of the State of Israel) for the Executive of the Jewish Agency. In this memorandum, Rosenbleuth “summarizes the conclusions arrived at by the Zionist Executive and the Political Committee.” On the question of Transjordan the memorandum states: “Half of this area [Transjordan] should be allotted for the settlement of Arabs from those districts of Western Palestine which are regarded as conjested, while the other half is to be reserved for the colonisation of landless Jews.”(138) Another Zionist organisation to come out in favour of Arab transfer to Transjordan was the Directorate of the Jewish National Fund.(139)
We have already shown that the idea of transferring Arabs from Western Palestine to Transjordan, was not limited to Zionist leaders. Further confirmation of this fact comes from Chaim Arlosoroff, who in a lecture to the Mapai Council in May 1930, reported on talks he had had in London. He said that the British government “considers Transjordan as if it was a reserve land for the transfer of Arabs whose land [in Western Palestine] had been purchased from them [by the Jews].” He also got the impression that “they think that also the Jews will participate financially in the resettlement of Arabs in Transjordan.”
Arlosoroff told the Mapai Council that he thought that this approach would substantiate the main conclusion of the Shaw report, that in Western Palestine there was no available land. This would be political suicide for the Zionists. “Also our friends will thus begin to think that the Jews will not be able to manage in Palestine without export of Arabs.”(140)
Arlosoroff was however not against the principle of transfer of Arabs from place to place. This we can see in a letter which he wrote to Weizmann in December 1932, in which he put forward a proposal for transfer of Arabs. He was dealing with the proposed purchase of lands in the Huleh area, and he pointed out that they were at the time owned by Effendis, most of whom were living in Syria and Lebanon. Arlosoroff wrote, “There are about twenty-seven villages on these lands with a population of about 1200 families. If these lands pass into our hands it would be possible to transfer part of the [Arab] people to other lands.”(141)
Weizmann's transfer plans were however, (in private at least!), much bolder than those of Arlosoroff's. When in March 1931 Weizmann visited Palestine, he had a meeting with the then High Commissioner, Sir John Chancellor, who was an anti-Zionist. At this meeting Weizmann again put forward his suggestion for transferring Arabs from Palestine to Transjordan.
The question of developing land for settlement had come up when Weizmann “referred to the question of the development of Trans-Jordan. He believed that there was much to be done in that country and that the Amir Abdullah could be persuaded to agree to the Development Commission expending some of its funds on developing land in Trans-Jordan for the settlement of the Palestinian Arabs.”
Chancellor, however, did not agree with the feasibility of such a plan and told Weizmann “that was quite out of the question at the present time.” He explained that “the Trans-Jordanians were very narrow and provincial in their outlook. They regarded Palestinian Arabs as foreigners; and the feeling among them was at present so strong on the subject that any suggestion for the development of Trans-Jordan for the benefit of the Palestinian settlers would be most inopportune.”(142)
Although willing in private meetings to advocate Arab transfer, Weizmann's public utterances on transfer during this period were quite different. In a published interview between Weizmann and representatives of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, given at the beginning of July 1931, Weizmann said, “I have no sympathy or understanding for the demand for a Jewish majority (in Palestine)... The world will construe this demand only in one sense that we want to acquire a majority in order to drive out the Arabs.”(143)
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. “I find Weizmann guilty of a severe breach of discipline.”(144)
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 had had 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.
Amongst its proposals, the Peel Commission had recommended a transfer of population, compulsory if necessary. Paragraph 3 of Weizmann's document dealt with 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 of his 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.(145)
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.(146) 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.”(147)
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.(148)
The “Evening Standard” also reprinted the entire document word for word from “The Jewish Chronicle.(149) In the course of the following days, several other British newspapers, including the “News Chronicle”,(150) the “Morning Post”(151) and the “Manchester Guardian”(152) 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 on his 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.”(153)
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'.”(154)
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.(155)
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.”(156)
Furthermore, 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.(157)
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.(158)
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 occurring 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.(159)
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.”(160) 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.(161)
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.”(162) Weizmann's comments 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.”(163) 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.(164)
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.”
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.”(165)
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.”(166) This handwritten amendment does not however appear in the copy at the Central Zionist Archives.(167) 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 secretary in London, Miss Doris May.(168) 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...”(169)
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, 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.”(170)
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].”(171) A discussion followed Weizmann’s speech but no-one criticised this transfer proposal.(172)
Just over a year earlier, Abba (Aubrey) Eban, had in an article, hinted at such a transfer of Arabs to Transjordan. He wrote, “... no real effort has been made to focus the aspirations of Arab nationalism upon the potentialities of Transjordan, leaving Jewish aims a clearer field in Western Palestine.”(173)
Weizmann wrote a great abundance of letters - twenty to twenty-five thousand in the course of his Zionist career! In a number of his letters written at the period of the publication of the Peel Report, he naturally discussed the population transfer proposal advocated by this Report.
A few days prior to his meeting of 19 July, Weizmann had written to Ormsby-Gore asking him for “authoritative information on certain points.” He said, “Among these points, I will cite here first the vital question of transfer. The proposed boundaries of the Jewish State are so narrow that the policy to be pursued as regards transfer will be one of the primary considerations determining the decision of the Jewish people.” He then asked what the intentions of the British Government were with regard to the paragraph in the Report recommending transfer, compulsory if necessary.(174)
At the end of September, Weizmann wrote a long letter to Jan Christiaan Smuts, the Prime-Minister of South Africa during the previous decade, who was a supporter of the Zionist cause. In this letter, he used much more guarded and cautious language. “Transfer of Population. The very restricted area of the proposed Jewish State makes some arrangement for the gradual transfer of its Arab population absolutely essential. This will be a difficult and delicate process; its desirability is mentioned by the Royal Commission, but definite and precise arrangements with the Mandatory Power and with the Arab State would be necessary for its successful execution.”(175) In the two and-a-half months between writing the letters to Ormsby-Gore and Smuts, there had been some hostile reactions to the population transfer proposal. This may be the reason for Weizmann's more guarded language when writing to Smuts. However, even in this letter, Weizmann in no way withdraws his support for a compulsory transfer.
From a letter written by Weizmann in mid-July to Professor William Rappard of Geneva, who was a member of the Permanent Mandates Commission we can see that Weizmann was pleasantly surprised by the Peel Commission's recommendation for population transfer. He wrote that there were many disappointing features in the Peel Commission Report when compared with his expectations “but several things are somewhat better; the most important of them all is : Galilee and the question of transfer of population - a very difficult and delicate problem.”(176)
Both the twentieth Zionist Congress in Zurich and the Geneva sessions of the Permanent Mandates Commission took place during the first half of August. On 14 August, towards the end of the deliberations of these two bodies, Weizmann wrote to Pierre Orts, the President of the Permanent Mandates Commission, saying that he would like to summarise several points to which the Zionist Congress attached the highest importance, in order to complete the notes and verbal explanations which he had given to Orts.(177) A footnote in Weizmann's published volume of letters states that these notes could not be traced.
One of the points concerned the transfer of population. “The Transfer Commission. My colleagues and I attach the greatest importance to this question and we do not delude ourselves as to its difficulties. But the many concrete advantages, which the transferring body offers to us, to the Arabs and to the cause of peace between the two peoples and the two states, lead us to hope that the solution suggested by the Peel Commission be not dismissed out of hand, and that the instrument designed to put it into effect be formed according to this principle. Of course we do not propose to have recourse to constraint or to exercise any coercion whatsoever: only those who wish will be transferred and those who prefer to stay will stay.” Weizmann suggested that after the creation of a Jewish State, many of the Moslems and other indigenous persons would wish to leave, in the same way as after the conquest of the Caucasus by Russia, many of the Moslems preferred to emigrate to Turkey. He then wrote about the liquidation of property and the economic life of the Jewish State following transfer.(178)
One immediately notices from this letter that Weizmann is talking about a voluntary transfer of Arabs. Up to now, in his letters and private memoranda, he talks about the “crucial importance” of implementing the Peel Commission's recommendation on transfer - a recommendation which included compulsion, if necessary. Furthermore, in his letter of 14 July, Weizmann specifically queries the Government's intentions regarding the implementation of “Paragraph 43 of Chapter xxii of the (Peel) Report” - the paragraph dealing with compulsory transfer. Why then this change of heart?
We can only suggest the following reasons. This letter was written to the President of the Permanent Mandates Commission, which was at that time at an advanced stage of its deliberations on the Peel Commission's recommendations on Palestine. Early on in these proceedings, the President himself had asked Ormsby-Gore to confirm “that in the event of the creation of the two new states, the proposed transfer of the rural Arab populations would only be effected if those populations freely consented.” In other words, at that stage the President was against a compulsory transfer of population. [It seems that when he summarised all the evidence at the end of the sittings of this Commission, he arrived at the conclusion that a transfer would have to be compulsory.] Weizmann, who was a politician with several decades of experience, therefore realised that it would not be prudent to ask the President to put a compulsory transfer into effect.
Another possibility is that Weizmann is not speaking only for himself in this letter but for “My colleagues and I”. Since some of his colleagues were against a compulsory transfer, Weizmann spoke of a voluntary transfer.
Nearly two years later, in early 1939, the British convened a conference of Jewish and Arab leaders at St. James's Palace in London. The Arabs, however, refused to meet with the Jews and the British were thus forced to negotiate in separate sessions with the Jewish and Arab leaders. However, some unofficial contacts did take place between the Jewish leaders and delegates from Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. In one of his letters, Weizmann wrote that during the course of these unofficial meetings with the Iraqis, he had on several occasions put forward a proposal regarding transfer and had “more than once struck a responsive chord”. He added that “one of the Iraqi delegates with whom I became rather friendly indicated that he would be prepared to take an active part in helping such a project forward.” Weizmann also felt that this transfer suggestion “would be received particularly favourably if the initiative came from America.”(179) Weizmann did not state who this Iraqi delegate was but it was quite possibly Tewfiq Suwaidy.
A meeting had also taken place between Pinhas Rutenberg and Suwaidy, and at a meeting of the Jewish Agency in London which was held in late March of that year, Rutenberg delivered a report on it. He had tried to enlist Tewfiq's approval for an extended building plan and “hinted also on the possibility of population transfer.” Tewfiq reportedly replied, “You come to conquer a land which is not yours; this will not take place and will never be.”(180)
Weizmann, however, thought that Suwaidy would be amenable to influence. He said that “Suwaidy was ready with his colleagues to create a movement by which Palestinian Arabs would go to Iraq, provided the Jews would help develop that country.” Rutenberg replied that although “it would be useful to make an effort with Suwaidy”, he himself did not believe that Suwaidy could deliver the goods. Weizmann said that he would continue his conversation with Suwaidy in Egypt.(181)
About three weeks later, Weizmann, together with Dr. Dov Joseph, arrived in Alexandria, Egypt. That day, a Sephardi Jewish lawyer from Paris, named Metrani, visited them and had a private conversation with Weizmann. Following this conversation, Weizmann briefly reported on its substance “which related to Tewfiq Suweidi's readiness under certain conditions to assist in the promotion of a project for the settlement of Palestinian Arabs in Iraq.”
Joseph then drew Weizmann's attention to the “importance of any such project being presented to the Arab public as a purely Arab project put forward because of the interest of Iraq in increasing its population and developing its vast uncultivated areas.” Putting it forward as a Jewish project would cause the Arabs to boycott it. If however, Iraqi government leaders “could be persuaded to commence propaganda among the Arabs of Palestine to move to Iraq” then the Jews could take part in the project and then start buying land in Palestine. Joseph urged that payment should be made in a number of installments so that it could be stopped if it were to be found that the Arabs were not living up to their agreement.
That evening, when Weizmann met with Tewfiq, their discussion included “the question of the settlement of Palestinian Arabs in Iraq.” During this conversation, Tewfiq said that it did not matter what the Mufti thought. Provided that the arrangement was considered by the Arab states to be reasonable, the Arabs of Palestine would accept it.
On the following evening, Metrani came to see Weizmann. They discussed “Tewfiq Suweidi's attitude to the proposed scheme of transfer of Arabs from Palestine to Iraq.”(182)
As we shall see later, at about the same period, in a letter to an American Zionist leader, Solomon Goldman, Weizmann stated that there was a possibility of acquiring a large tract of land from the Druze community in northern Palestine and transferring the Druze living there to outside Palestine.
From all this we can see that although the British had officially abandoned the Peel Commission partition proposals, which included the transfer of population, Weizmann was still actively working on the idea of the transfer of the Arab population from Palestine.
Weizmann's Hints at Transfer
On no fewer than four further occasions during the 1930s and 40s, Weizmann, in meetings with prominent non-Jews would drop strong hints or make mild proposals on the desirability of transfer of the Arabs from Palestine; (as we can see, in private he was much more forthright!):
1. In 1933, Weizmann put forward in a letter to Alexis Leger, a non-Jew, a cautious proposal regarding transfer of Arabs. In a project which he had prepared and despatched to the French authorities, who were at the time the Mandatory power for Syria and Lebanon, Weizmann wrote, “On the attached plan I have indicated, approximately, two small areas of land adjoining Lake Tiberias and Lake Huleh, [both on the Syrian side of the border] respectively, which we are interested in acquiring (privately) in order to reserve them for Jewish settlement or, perhaps, to transfer there at a later moment a certain number of Arabs from northern Palestine, if they themselves would want this.” Weizmann trusted that Henri Ponsot, the High Commissioner for Syria and Lebanon, would have no objection to such a transfer, provided that a cordial agreement was concluded with the Arabs concerned.(183)
2. As early as 1931, Weizmann had proposed the transfer of Arabs from Western Palestine to Transjordan. When in 1936, the Peel Commission came to Palestine and took testimony from a number of people, Weizmann gave some of his testimony in camera. On 26 November, he brought up the question of Transjordan and strongly hinted at the possibility of it being the destination for transferred Arabs. Weizmann had claimed that he had repeatedly been asked that the Jews help in the development of Transjordan. He then stated, “There is no question that there should be any mass immigration [of Jews] into Transjordan, or that there should be any desire artificially to induce Arabs in Palestine to go to Transjordan. It could happen in a perfectly natural way.” He explained that if an area of Transjordan adjacent to Western Palestine were to be developed, this might produce an “infiltration” of Jews and Arabs into Transjordan.(184)
3. In a memorandum written by Weizmann to the High Commissioner, Sir Harold McMichael, regarding the status of the Woodhead Commission, he referred to the proposal by the Peel Commission for the transfer of Arabs and then wrote, “The possibilities offered by the Peel scheme thus become substantial, assuming that certain modifications could be secured, and that the transfer scheme could, with the help of H. M. Government, be made effective, and carried out within a reasonable period of time.” In the months following the publication of the Peel Report, the British Government changed its attitude towards transfer. Weizmann observed that the British Government had announced “that the transfer would in any event be a very slow process” and that when “defining the frontiers of any proposed Jewish area, great care must be taken to include as few Arabs as possible within them.” Weizmann held that this retreat from transfer by the British Government was harmful, and wrote that “these statements [by the British] lend themselves to all kinds of interpretation” and arouse the Arabs from making peace.(185)
4. At the end of an meeting held between Weizmann and the American Assistant Under-Secretary of State, Sumner Welles in December 1942, Welles asked Weizmann whether the Zionists were thinking of the transfer of Arabs from Palestine. As was usual with Weizmann when asked this sort of question by some outsider, he gave a vague woolly answer! “I am thinking more in terms of development, and if the development is real, and done on a large scale, there is enough room for everybody, and there may be a voluntary transfer of Arabs from congested areas to less congested areas, when they have been developed. But we would not speak of it. If it comes spontaneously, well and good.”(186)
We might mention here that just a few months later, a different assessment of the Zionist intentions in this matter was given by General Patrick J. Hurley, who had been appointed by President Roosevelt to observe and report directly to him on the general conditions prevailing in the Middle East. Naturally, unlike Weizmann, Hurley did not mince his words, and in a letter written by him to Roosevelt in May 1943, he wrote, “For its part, the Zionist organization in Palestine has indicated its commitment to an enlarged program for (1) a sovereign Jewish State which would embrace Palestine and probably Transjordania, (2) an eventual transfer of the Arab population from Palestine to Iraq.”(187)
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 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.(188)
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.(189)
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.(190). 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”.(191)
Another report of this meeting can be found in Maisky’s diary (which is in the archives of the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs). However, there is a significant difference regarding the proposal for the transfer of Arabs. According to Weizmann’s account quoted above, it was Maisky during this conversation who was the first to propose the transfer of Arabs. Maisky however states that it was Weizmann who proposed such a transfer. “For the only ‘plan’ which Weizmann can think of to save central European Jewry (and in the first place Polish Jewry) is this: to move a million Arabs who are now in Palestine to Iraq, and to settle four or five million Jews from Poland and other countries on the land where these Arabs were.
On questioning this statement, Weizmann replied to Maisky, “ ‘Oh, don’t worry’, Weizmann burst out laughing, ‘The Arab is often called the son of the desert. It would be truer to call him the father of the desert. His laziness and primitivism turn a flourishing garden into a desert. Give me the land occupied by a million Arabs, and I will easily settle five times that number of Jews on it’.”(192)
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.(193)
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.(194)
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.”(195)
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.”(196) 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.”(197) 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.”(198) Here, the transfer of Arabs is clearly of a voluntary nature. However, this does not necessarily reflect Weizmann's personal view as 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.(199)
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.(200)
Attitude of Weizmann towards Transfer
Following tributes paid to Weizmann on the B.B.C.'s Third Programme in December 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, Director of 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.(201) 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.”(202) In fact, both interpretations are plausible.
In subsequent correspondence, Guriel quoted from the minutes of the meeting at New Court and Weizmann's subsequent memorandum.(203) 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) have some 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.”(204)
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”(205) - 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(206) and Christopher Sykes,(207) the son of Sir Mark Sykes. In public, however, Weizmann invariably repudiated such ideas!