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 “which will be vacated for them by means of money.”(208)
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.”(209) [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.(210)
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.(211)
Also, in a memorandum written in French and dated January 1932, on a “Territorial 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 ...”(212)
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.(213)
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.(214) 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.(215)
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.(216)
Leo Motzkin who was born in 1867, was a protagonist of the struggle for Jewish rights in the Diaspora. He joined the Zionist Organisation at its outset and at its First Congress in Basle in 1897 headed a group of Zionists who demanded that the “Basle Programme” be so formulated as to leave no doubt that Zionism aimed to create a Jewish State based on international agreement.
Motzkin was also active in the German Zionist Organisation and served on its Executive. The thirteenth Conference of German Zionists was held in the city of Posen and opened on 27 May 1912. At every Zionist Conference a special lecture was delivered on the work in Palestine.
At the thirteenth conference, the lecture was given by Motzkin on the subject of “Unsere Palastinapolitik” (Our Palestine Policy). Towards the end of his lecture, Motzkin spoke on the Arab question. “There is no doubt,” said Motzkin, “that one of our most difficult tasks will be to accustom the Arabs to the thought that Palestine is a Jewish land - Eretz Israel. The fact is, that around Palestine there are extensive areas. It will be easy for the Arabs to settle there with the money that they will receive from the Jews.”
Motzkin then considered the Arab-Jewish problem in the wider framework of settlement in both Palestine and Syria. “We are observing not just Palestine alone, but Palestine and Syria together, and we see in the colonisation of the areas an advantage for the two peoples from the point of view of history and economics.”(217)
In an unpublished paper entitled “The Basis of Zionism and the Way to build up Palestine” written at the end of 1918, Motzkin again advocated the transfer of the Arab population from Palestine to the various Arab lands. He pointed out that the slogan of the men of the Second Aliyah was “ Jewish labour”. Until then, there had been mainly Jewish owners and Arab labour. At this period, the Jewish farmers were asked to employ only Jewish workers. It was hoped that this would mean that “many Jewish farmers and managers of public institutions would gradually dismiss their Arab workers and employ Jews in their stead.” He then pointed out that this policy went counter to socialist ideology which demanded equality between members of different races.
According to Motzkin there was a simple solution to this problem. The Jews and the Arabs should come to a political agreement regarding “the transfer of population from territory to territory.” When this was proposed in 1914 it was impossible of achievement as the Turks ruled in the land. Without Palestine in its entirety, there was no meaning to such an agreement. For this reason, the Zionists made known in the summer of 1916 that the Arab question could be solved not by propaganda or theoretical discussions but only by a political revolution. Motzkin considered that the Arab question could strengthen “political Zionism”.
He went on to explain that the meaning of “political Zionism” was the methodical purchase of land together with Jewish settlement and Jewish labour and peaceful agreement with the local population. It was obvious that the problem would not be an easy one. Agreement would come on a political or economic basis, since territorial concessions were not a realistic proposition.
“Our thoughts were then that settlement needs to move in two directions,” continued Motzkin, “namely Jewish settlement in Palestine and the resettlement of the Arabs of Palestine in areas outside of Palestine.” The transfer of an appreciable population, which at first seemed overwhelming from the financial angle, was a matter not impossible of accomplishment. It would not require very large sums of money in order to resettle the inhabitants of an Arab village on other land and to provide for their needs there.(218)
In 1931, Motzkin was again involved in a population transfer proposal. Santo Semo, a Parisian engineer, had submitted to Motzkin, then President of the seventeenth Zionist Congress, his plan for a radical solution of the Palestine problem. Santo Semo saw the solution of the Palestinian problem not so much from the political viewpoint as from the economic and ethnic point of view. He proposed the formation of a Jewish-Arab organisation having as its task the transfer of Arab peasants from Palestine to Iraq. He listed the advantages of his plan and the precedents for population transfer.(219)
Motzkin, however, did not bring Semo's proposal to the attention of the Congress, since he regarded Semo as an impractical visionary and therefore did not seriously relate to his plan.(220)
Akiva Ettinger, an agricultural expert, was founder and administrator of Jewish settlements in Palestine. He played a prominent role on behalf of the Jewish National Fund in the purchase of land.
In 1909-10 Ettinger went on a study tour of Iraq. In his memoirs published in the winter of 1936-7, he observed that although Iraq would not be suitable for Jewish settlement, there was room for “many more millions of additional inhabitants.” Dr. Michael Heymann, a former Director of the Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem, observes that it is “interesting to note” that these memoirs were published at the time when the Peel Commission was in Palestine and the Zionist leaders were hard put to find new solutions to the Arab problem. Hence “population exchanges were of extreme importance.” Heymann feels therefore that the timing of the publication of Ettinger's memoirs was not coincidental. He adds that some years after the publication of these memoirs, Ettinger “advanced a proposal for the resettlement of Palestinian Arabs in unpopulated areas of Iraq in order to make room for Jewish settlement in Palestine.”(221)
In the summer of 1940, Akiva Ettinger wrote a paper on “Population Exchange” which was published in the Palestinian journal “Bacur”, and in October 1941. this same article appeared in English in a condensed form in the “Jewish Frontier”.(222). (This was possibly the proposal referred to by Heymann.) He considered that at that period there was no need to transfer the non-Jewish population from Palestine. However, he felt that should the rate of Aliyah to Palestine increase, it could be possible that the Arab population would become an irredenta, and one therefore needed to plan ahead and examine the question of population exchange.(223)
Ettinger wrote that since about 1910, a number of people had recognised the positive value of population exchange and saw in it a way to peace and political and economic recovery of complete nations. He corrected the misconception that large population transfers in the Balkan states were only implemented after the First World War. Even before that time, he pointed out there was a population exchange between Bulgaria and Turkey. He went on to detail other population exchanges which followed in the subsequent years. Ettinger showed that after the Greco-Turkish population exchange, the relationship between these two nations completely changed for the better - arguments ceased and a friendly political relationship came about.(224)
He then went on to discuss the transfer question in connection with Palestine. He pointed out that officially the question had been raised by the Peel Commission, but this commission tied its own hands by suggesting that one should search for water in the Negev and in Transjordan for the Arabs. This was however doomed to failure since there was no organisation apart from the Jews who was prepared to make the necessary effort to find such water. He went on to argue that even if one were to find sufficient water and transfer the Arabs to these areas, it would only be a temporary solution, and one would then be forced to find other solutions. One of these solutions was the transfer of Arabs to Iraq and he pointed out why Iraq, who lacked population, was the best solution.(225)
Ettinger then referred to the fact that there were Arabs who had proposed the emigration of Jews to Arab countries. This he immediately dismissed as lacking any sense, since it was impossible to establish a Jewish minority in the same countries which until very recently had tried to crush its Jewish minority. In contrast, Ettinger held that there were unlimited possibilities for Arab transfer to Iraq, where the conditions would be ideal.(226)
He then pointed out the necessity for the Jews of Europe to leave that continent, and they would then be able to settle on the land vacated by the Arabs moving to Iraq. He added that it would not be necessary to do a lot of research on this question since it had already been carried out during the previous twenty years. There would however be groups who would try to prevent implementation of such a transfer and it was thus necessary to have arguments ready to refute these groups.(227)
Ettinger continued by outlining some of the points involved in this scheme which included the purchase of Arab land in Palestine. He felt sure that Iraq, which was underdeveloped agriculturally, would thus be interested in the plan.
Ettinger concluded that although the population exchange as outlined in this paper involved serious problems, both Jews and Arabs would be interested in finding solutions to such problems.(228)
In his book, “Am Haklaim Ivrim B'Arzenu”, published in 1945 Ettinger writes of his frequent discussions with Berl Katznelson on the question of transfer. The two men agreed on the need for massive voluntary Jewish immigration to Palestine and hoped that in a similar way “many of our (Arab) neighbours will go to the neighbouring countries” which were rich in fertile land and in great need of an increased population. Ettinger further writes that in 1942, Katznelson published Ettinger's survey and suggestions on transfer. Subsequently, someone in America criticised Ettinger for publishing these proposals. He reported this criticism to Katznelson who said that he had expected this attitude from “blind” people but “it does not matter. The subject will attract the hearts of many individuals and especially of progressive nations.”(229)