Vladimir Jabotinsky, founder of Revisionist Zionism, was born in Odessa in 1880. During the First World War he founded the Jewish Legion and after the war organised the Haganah in Jerusalem. In 1924, he formulated his policy which included the statement that the aim of Zionism was the establishment of a Jewish State on both sides of the Jordan. A year later saw the formation of the United Zionists Revisionists. Relations with the official Zionist movement became increasingly strained and Jabotinsky pressed for secession of the Revisionists from the Zionist Organisation. In 1935, the New Zionist Organisation was founded with Jabotinsky as its President.
Jabotinsky's main connection with population transfer was during the period of the Peel Commission in 1937. His interest in .transfer continued until his death in 1940. During this period his opinions veered from strong opposition to the idea of transfer to a cautious endorsement of the principle.
For three months, the Peel Commission heard evidence from over a hundred witnesses in Palestine and in London. In February 1937, Jabotinsky gave evidence at one of their public sessions, in which he rejected the idea of the removal of the Arabs from Palestine. “I have also shown to you already that, in our submission, there is no question of ousting the Arabs. On the contrary, the idea is that Palestine on both sides of the Jordan should hold the Arabs, their progeny, and many millions of Jews. What I do not deny is that in the process the Arabs of Palestine will necessarily become a minority in the country of Palestine.”(318) Earlier in his evidence, Jabotinsky had explained to the Commission that he envisaged “Palestine” to be the “area on both sides of the Jordan, the area mentioned in the original Palestine Mandate.”(319)
A week after publication of the Peel Report, Jabotinsky delivered an address to members of the British Parliament, strongly opposing the partition of Palestine and describing the area of the proposed Jewish State as the Jewish “Pale”. He saw no reason why the Arabs should choose to migrate out of the Jewish “Pale” and regretted that the Peel Report should have mentioned “in a very suggestive paragraph the 'instructive precedent' of that compulsory 'exchange of population' between Greece and Turkey.” Jabotinsky said, “They may call me an extremist, but at least I never dreamed of asking the Arabs who live in a Jewish country to emigrate. It would be a most dangerous precedent, extremely harmful to the Jewish interests in the Diaspora... So this 'trekking' business is just empty talk.” He concluded that in the Peel Report's proposed area for the Jewish State there would be no room for “even remotely adequate” Jewish immigration and that partition of the country “if final, would mean the doom of death.”(320)
Two months later, Jabotinsky wrote an article in which he again came out strongly against the Peel Commission's transfer proposal. “The babbling about 'transferring' the Arabs of the proposed Jewish State is even worse than irresponsible. From the Jewish point of view it is a crime.” Jabotinsky complained that the Commission knowing nothing about population transfers nor of the Jewish position, yet proposed that “when a certain territory will become Jewish, the non-Jewish population must be 'transferred'.” He disclaimed all Jewish responsibility for “their babble” and was surprised that the members of the Commission “are not ashamed to publish such nonsensical ideas in an official document.” He then queried how the Arabs were to be persuaded to transfer and where it was proposed to settle them, “or will they simply be forced to go thus creating a real precedent of historical magnitude for anti-Semites?”
Jabotinsky concluded by distinguishing between voluntary and compulsory transfer. “Emigrations are possible. Maybe they are desirable,” but they would have to be on a voluntary basis. However, he felt that the prevailing conditions in the Middle East were not conducive to voluntary emigration by the Arabs.”(321)
Why should Jabotinsky, a “right-winger” so strongly oppose the proposal for population transfer at a time when many socialist Zionists strongly supported the transfer of the Arabs, and in many cases were in favour of a transfer of a compulsory nature? A study of Jabotinsky's writings shows that his negative attitude to population transfer did not date from the period of the Peel Commission but can be traced back to at least 1916. In that year, Jabotinsky had a discussion with Zangwill during the course of which he found himself to be in complete disagreement with Zangwill's attitude to this problem. This discussion was reported in an article “A Talk with Zangwill” written by Jabotinsky in 1939 (and discussed elsewhere in this work).
In 1918, immediately after the publication of the Balfour Declaration, Jabotinsky wrote an article in the “Telegraph”, a newspaper edited by Syrkin, which article (or at least an extract of it) was reprinted in the Warsaw hebrew newspaper “Hazefira”. This article was written to refute the argument that it was impossible to give a “charter”, in other words rule over Palestine, to one hundred thousand Jews, so long as the Arabs greatly outnumbered the Jews in the country. In the course of his argument, Jabotinsky wrote that “it is understood that those Arabs who dwell in Palestine are permitted and have the right to require that their toes are not trodden on.” He felt that this matter was beyond argument and asserted that there was sufficient land available in Palestine for Jewish settlement, bringing figures to show that the population density of other countries was much greater than that of Palestine.”(322) In a similar vein, in a letter to the Editor of “The Times” of London(323) written nearly two years later and reprinted in the Palestine newspaper “Ha'aretz”,(324) Jabotinsky pointed out that to create the Jewish National Home, Palestine's resources must be developed so as to promote the “immigration of suitable elements and their settlement in the country.” He then continued, “All talk of our intending to 'drive out the Arabs and take their place' is due either to ignorance or malice. This sort of 'driving out' is obviously as impossible politically as economically.” He then pointed out that “driving out” the Arabs was unnecessary due to the smaller population density of Palestine as compared with other countries. It might be interesting to speculate here what Jabotinsky's attitude to this question would have been had Palestine's population density been greater than that of other countries, instead of smaller.
It was in the early 1920's that Jabotinsky established the Revisionist Party. He became very sensitive to being regarded as an extreme Zionist, and to being periodically accused by his political opponents of planning to drive out the Arabs in order to make room for Jewish settlement.(325) On several occasions, Jabotinsky stated his views against transference of the Arabs in order to prove that he was no extremist.
In 1929, a discussion took place between Jabotinsky and Baron Edmond de Rothschild on the question of transfer, and this is described elsewhere in this work.
A few years earlier an article by Moshe Smilensky had appeared in the newspapper “Ha'aretz”, in which he had argued that there was no point in introducing agricultural reform into Palestine since there was no suitable land for Jewish agriculture. This point had also been made from the podium of the Zionist Congress. Jabotinsky was doubtful whether this, even if true, should be stated in public. In an article criticising Smilensky's opinion, Jabotinsky utilised the opportunity to show how moderate he was regarding the transfer of Arabs. “We have no intention of pushing anyone out of his house or field - there are enough abandoned fields in Palestine... It is dangerous and wrong to argue that we will not be able to plough a dunam in Palestine without removing from it - even with financial compensation - a person who has worked it before us. It is dangerous and wrong to prattle about things like this.”(326)
Jabotinsky most vociferously denied any accusations of planning the removal of the Arabs from Palestine. Following a lecture which he gave at the end of 1926, a Salonica newspaper, “Pro-Israel”, reported Jabotinsky as asserting that no only was a Jewish majority in Palestine to be striven for but the Arabs must also be completely driven out. In a letter to the lawyer Jonah Machover, Jabotinsky wrote denying that he had said such a thing, or anything which could be so interpreted. “Any attempt to remove any portion of the Arab population would be, first, morally inadmissible, secondly, absolutely hopeless, for the thing is impossible.”(327) Just over a week later, the newspaper “Haolam” printed an almost identical letter from Jabotinsky.(328)
A similar incident occured in 1935, when Dr. Stephen Wise, a leader in the American Zionist movement, made a strong indictment against “Jabotinsky, his teachings and his leadership.” Included in this indictment was the accusation that Jabotinsky's movement aspired to “an Arabless Palestine.” Jabotinsky then issued a public statement and in answer to the charge regarding “an Arabless Palestine” wrote, “I very seriously warn Dr. Wise and any possible imitators of his - if I hear anything of this kind again, I will demand a Court of Honor, on the strength of the London agreement which prohibits aliloth - and alila in good coloquial Hebrew means calumny.”(329) In this “London Agreement”, Ben-Gurion and Jabotinsky had come to an understanding and had worked out an agreement together which included the banning of libel and insults between their two movements. However, soon after Jabotinsky's warning to Wise, both movements rejected this agreement.
A Zionist leader who did not concur with Jabotinsky views on the population question in Palestine was Jacob de Haas, who, in a letter which the latter wrote to Jabotinsky in October 1936, disagreed with Jabotinsky's proposal to move one and a half million Jews to Palestine within a ten year period. Instead de Haas proposed moving half a million in a single operation. He felt that this “would smash the WZO [World Zionist Organisation] by impact” whereas Jabotinsky's policy “is likely to strengthen them.” (One should remember that at that period, there was very bitter rivalry between the World Zionist Organisation and Jabotinsky's New Zionist Organisation!) De Haas then added that another advantage was that “it would along those lines be possible [to] talk of evacuating or restricting the Arabs.”(330)
Jabotinsky's biographer, Joseph Schechtman, who also worked with him over an extended period, linked Jabotinsky's views on the subject of transferring the Arabs from Palestine, with his conception of a Jewish State. Schechtman wrote that Jabotinsky's recipe for the Arab problem “was realistic and stern: the establishment of a Jewish majority in Palestine will have to be achieved against the wish of the country's present Arab majority; an “iron wall” of a Jewish armed force would have to protect the process of achieving a majority; after that goal was reached, the Arabs would have no choice but to adapt themselves to the new state of affairs; then and only then, a modus vivendi would be worked out, always on the basis of the premise that two peoples, Jews and Arabs, were going to live and work in that country.”(331)
Although Jabotinsky had come out so strongly against any proposal for the transfer of the Arabs from Palestine, his views on this subject underwent a change. At the beginning of December 1937, Jabotinsky met with Edward Norman, a man who had prepared a scheme to transfer Arabs from Palestine to Iraq and who had come to London to discuss his plan with various people. In his diary Norman wrote that Jabotinsky had already read a copy of his Iraq paper. “He approved of the whole idea very much. He said that he felt, however, that the most difficult part would be to induce Arabs to leave Palestine.” Norman said that Jabotinsky had suggested a “Macchiavellian” scheme to encourage the .Palestine Arabs to emigrate thus enabling Norman to carry out the plan in the event of Iraq's agreeing to its implementation. According to Jabotinsky, the Zionist Organisation should “openly oppose Arab emigration from Palestine.” The Arabs would then be sure that the plan was of non-Jewish origin and that the Jews only wanted them to stay in Palestine in order to exploit them. They would therefore “want very much to go away to Iraq.”(332)
Schechtman felt that the evolution of the minority problem in pre-Second World War Europe considerably influenced Jabotinsky's opinion on the transferring of minorities when any other solution seemed impracticable.(333) We have reviewed Zangwill's conversation with Jabotinsky in 1916, on the subject of transfer of the Arabs from Palestine. In an article written in 1939, Jabotinsky admitted that perhaps Zangwill's reasoning was logical but was so far removed from his own conceptions (having been brought up in Eastern Europe) that it was hard for him to accept.(334) He then mentioned the agreement which had just been signed between Germany and Italy providing for the transfer of Germans from Southern Tyrol and described it as an “amicable precedent” which would have a future influence on the fate of minorities in other places. “It is a constructive friendly attempt,” he continued, “to solve the problem for the common good, with the consent of the second nation, in a radical and definite manner.” He concluded that for good or for bad a new concept (population transfer) had entered the world and would have to be taken into consideration in future planning.(335)
In his last book “The War and the Jew”, Jabotinsky, according to Schechtman, “fully endorsed the idea of a voluntary Arab transfer from Palestine.”(336) In this book, Jabotinsky wrote that “he refused to see a tragedy or a disaster” in the Arabs' willingness to emigrate. He felt that since there was the “great moral authority” of the Peel Commission “for calmly envisaging the exodus of 350,000 Arabs from one corner of Palestine, we need not regard the possible departure of 900,000 with dismay,” adding, however, that he could see no necessity for this exodus.(337) Jabotinsky considered that majority rule was not such a “perfect panacea.” He held that for a “radical remedy” one would have to follow the precedent of the Greco-Turkish population exchange but he doubted whether it would be feasible. “But theoretically the idea of redistributing minorities en masse is becoming more popular among 'the best people' and there is no longer any taboo on the discussion of the subject.”(338) As we can see, all this was quite a radical change from Jabotinsky's statements of just two years earlier, when he had in no uncertain terms described the transfer proposal of the Peel Commission as “babble” and had expressed surprise that they were “not ashamed to publish such nonsensical ideas.”
In “The War and the Jew”, Jabotinsky explained that the fact that Arabs preferring to migrate could do so, would prove that they had “somewhere else” where they could build a new home. He was certain that “any Arab country which should find the courage and the acreage for inviting such an immigration of trekkers would reap enormous material advantages... The Arab trekkers, moreover, would probably migrate with donkey loads of pelf.”(339) However, despite such justification, Jabotinsky considered that “Palestine, astride the Jordan has room enough for the million of Arabs, room for another million of their eventual progeny, for several million Jews and for peace.”(340)
On 9 November 1939, Jabotinsky had a meeting with Professor Shlomo (Stefan) Klinger, a member of the Nessiut (Presidency) of the New Zionist Organisation. At this meeting a number of subjects were discussed, amongst them the transfer of Arabs from Palestine. Notes on the contents of this meeting were written up by Jabotinsky.(341). The part on transfer reads: “Arabs will have to make room. If Balts may be moved, Pal. [Palestinian] Arabs certainly so. Where to? - Give half a billion dollars loan to Iraq or Saoudia [sic].” It is not clear from these notes whether these are the views of Klinger, or whether this is what was agreed upon between Jabotinsky and Klinger.
These notes then continue with Jabotinsky writing “My own” and noting down his opinion on a number of issues. On the loan for the purpose of transfer of Arabs he writes, “This is the job for Amer. [American] Jewry.”
Let us assume for the sake of argument that the first alternative given above - [namely, that the Arab transfer proposal is just Klinger's personal view] - is the correct one. We can see that even then, not only does Jabotinsky not oppose Klinger's plans for Arab transfer, but he even suggests how a loan for this purpose might be raised.
In February 1988, an article entitled “Expelling Palestinians” written by the journalists Yossi Melman and Dan Raviv, appeared in “The Washington Post”.(342) This article stated that Jabotinsky supported the idea of Arab transfer and “in November 1939, he wrote a letter to one of his party members.” The contents of the letter, as reported in this article, correspond to the points made in Jabotinsky's notes on his meeting with Klinger. It is not known whether this is the text of an actual letter written by Jabotinsky, or whether it was “constructed” from these notes of Jabotinsky's.
Discussions on Jabotinsky's real attitude towards the transfer of Arabs from Palestine also took place during the 1980s in the Israeli press.
In an article published in May 1981, Asher Rubinstein stated that Jabotinsky was consistently opposed to transfer, and he brought no fewer than eight examples, ranging from 1916 to 1938, to prove his point. He however then continued by stating that Jabotinsky was not opposed to their emigration by their own freewill, quoting a few examples from December 1937 onwards.(343)
A few months later in January 1982, an argument on the subject appeared in the columns of the newspaper “Ha'aretz”. It began by Shulamit Hareven mentioning in an article that Jabotinsky had argued in 1940 that the departure from Palestine of one million Arabs by their own free-will would not be seen as a tragedy.(344)
In answer to Hareven, David Niv in a letter to the newspaper, argued passionately, that more than any other Zionist leader, Jabotinsky was fanatically opposed to any proposal or even hint of transfer of Arabs.(345)
Dr. Yosef Heller replied to this letter and brought proofs of Jabotinsky real attitude towards transfer from: 1: his conversation with Edward Norman at the end of 1937, 2: his “conversation with Zangwill”, which Heller argued, clearly showed that Jabotinsky's attitude towards transfer had changed already in 1936, and 3: in his book “The War and the Jews”, in which he wrote that he saw nothing exceptional in transfer.
In order to explain Jabotinsky's public statements on the subject, which seemed to show a different attitude, Heller explained “that as long as the question of Palestine was still the subject of a furious debate, one should be careful in public statements. As against that, in his discussion with Edward Norman, his true stand is revealed and this was because he spoke in private.”(346)
BARON EDMOND DE ROTHSCHILD
Baron Edmond de Rothschild was a philanthropist, who in the 1880s patronised the first settlements in Palestine and saved them from collapse. He became the major address for all problems in the Yishuv (Jewish areas of settlement), and thus became known as “Father of the Yishuv”. All the agricultural experiments carried out in the Jewish settlements by French experts were covered by his funds.
In 1929, Rothschild put forward his views on Arab transfer in the course of a discussion he had with Jabotinsky. After this conversation, Jabotinsky wrote, “People say that I am an extremist but... compared with the Baron I am a moderate... I, for example am prepared to be satisfied with a majority of 55 - 60 per cent (Jews) in Palestine, whereas he wants Palestine to be completely Jewish... He is prepared to give the Arabs money to enable them to buy other land on condition that they leave Palestine.” Jabotinsky went on to praise the Baron for his great character and noble spirit and for his beliefs that Palestine would be as Jewish as France was French. “He is a Zionist, a visionary who yearns for Jewish independence more than we do.”(347)
[These views of Rothschild's proposing transfer of Arabs were originally written in an (untraced) letter written by Rothschild to Jabotinsky in 1929. They were printed in the Mexican Yiddish newspaper “Tribuna Sionista”, in May 1954, in an article by Solomon Gepstein,(348) a person who had been associated with Jabotinsky throughout the latter's career.]
Further incidents concerning Baron de Rothschild and his plans to transfer Arabs from Palestine were related by Shabetai Levy. Levy was one of Baron de Rothschild's officials in PICA, where he assisted in land reclamation projects throughout Palestine. Later, between the years 1940 - 1951, he was Mayor of Haifa.
In his memoirs, Shabetai Levy writes on his own involvement with the transfer of Arab peasants from Palestine to Syria. Levy reports that the Baron would use every opportunity to stress that there should be a continuity of Jewish land in Palestine. Levy had been successful in carrying out this policy in the Lower Galilee - with the exception of one small Arab village, where the villagers persistently refused to sell. He went on to write that “one day I had the idea to suggest to the Arabs that they agree to transfer to Syria on condition they receive from us two and a quarter times the land we receive from them” together with other financial compensation. The Arabs agreed to this proposal and Levy then went to Syria where he found suitable land and the transfer of Arabs was thus implemented.(349)
Baron Rothschild was not however satisfied with the proximity to Palestine of the transferred Arabs. This we know from a meeting which took place between him and Levy on a visit of the latter to Paris. The Baron began by praising Levy for his work in redeeming the land and advised him to continue with similar work. Levy then .reported Rothschild as saying, “but it is better not to transfer the Arabs to Syria and Transjordan since they are parts of Palestine, but to Mesopotamia (Iraq). He added that under such circumstances, he would be prepared to send the Arabs, on his account, new agricultural machinery and instructors of agriculture.”(350)
Similar comments by Rothschild on transfer were reported by Levy in a talk which he gave on the English language radio channel “Kol Zion Lagolah” in July 1951. Levy's main work was the acquisition of land in Palestine, and on one occasion had to conclude an exchange of properties in a certain Lower Galilee village. It was on the Sabbath that Levy and Rothschild met in Haifa to discuss the matter. The Baron was concerned that the Arab peasant might suffer from this exchange and thus asked Levy to suggest to these Arabs that they move to Iraq. In the event of such an agreement, the Baron was prepared to pay their transport and resettlement costs. Levy then took out his notebook to write down these instructions of the Baron, but he was immediately rebuked by the latter, “Don't you know it is the Sabbath and that it is forbidden to write? You have a good memory and you will surely remember what I am telling you until to-morrow.”(351)
Felix Warburg was born in 1871 in Hamburg, Germany, and he participated in the financial aspects of the economic and industrial transformation of the U.S.A. He was also active in educational and cultural spheres. As far as his Zionist activities were concerned, Warburg was active in promoting Jewish settlement in Palestine. He cooperated with Marshall and Weizmann in broadening the Jewish Agency to include non-Zionists. Until the latter part of 1930, he was Chairman of the Jewish Agency Administrative Committee.
On 16 June 1930, Bernard Flexner sent a coded telegram from London to Warburg in New York. Towards the end of the telegram he wrote: “Have passed on suggestion ref[?] on Transjordania”(352) - presumably the author of the suggestion was Warburg. On the same day, Joseph Hyman, who was Warburg's assistant on the Jewish Agency's Administrative Committee in New York, wrote a letter to Louis Brandeis enclosing the text of the decoded telegram. In this letter Hyman explained that the reference to Transjordan concerned “a possible inquiry into the nature of British aid to agriculture in Egypt and in other mandated or colonial possessions with a view to determining whether such aid if granted, could facilitate emigration of Arabs into Transjordania, and increasing agricultural possibilities for Jews in Palestine.”(353)
At the end of October 1930, a few days after the publication of the Passfield White Paper, which limited Jewish immigration into Palestine, Warburg wrote a letter to Sir John Chancellor, the High Commissioner of Palestine, in which he cautiously proposed the transfer of Arabs to Transjordan. He pointed out that it was not a new suggestion that Britain “might lend its credit guaranty towards the purpose of acquiring a larger quantity of better land than is obtainable in Palestine, at a lower rate, and settle those of the Arabs who would like to become up to date farmers on such lands.” Warburg went on to explain that it was not “a question of driving out the Arabs who do first class work where they are in Palestine, but of removing those who are not working now to places where they can show their willingness to acquire real skill as farmers.”(354)
A few days later, a hugh demonstration of 40,000 people took place in Madison Square Garden in New York, in order to protest against the White Paper.(355) Amongst the numerous Jewish and non-Jewish speakers (including those who sent messages), was Felix Warburg, who as a result of the White Paper had resigned his position as Chairman of the Administrative Committee of the Jewish Agency. Warburg “disputed the contentions in the Passfield report that the land was overcrowded and that the supply of arable land would be exhausted by the present population.” He then pointed out that Transjordan's soil and water conditions were better than those of Palestine and he went on to propose a transfer scheme: “If the Mandatory Government feels that something should be done for the felaheen, it may be well to consider if for the same amount invested much larger quantities of better land could be acquired and that part of the Arab population which is now employed urged to develop part of Transjordania. It is unjust to speak of such an offer of land in Transjordania as expatriation of the Arabs, as Transjordania is distinctly Arab territory and is only separated from Palestine by the Jordan [River].”(356)
During the 1930s, Warburg, in the course of his Zionist work, was in contact with Judge Julian Mack. Mack, at that period was a judge in the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal. He had also held high posts on Zionist bodies. Mack had obviously been thinking about the question of transfer of Arabs to Transjordan, since in a letter which he wrote to Warburg in October 1936, he said that “when he [Garratt - whom Warburg considered to be a friend of the Zionists] talks about cantonization he does not consider the possibility of the Arabs going to the possibly more fertile soil of Trans-Jordania.”(357)
Menachem Ussishkin was born in Russia in 1863 and in his early life was a member of Hovevei Zion. He was Hebrew Secretary to the First Zionist Congress in 1897 and a few years later led the opposition to the “Uganda Scheme”. In 1919, he settled in Palestine and from 1923 until his death in 1941 was head of the Jewish National Fund.
Following the 1929 massacres in Palestine, the British Government commissioned the Shaw Report in which differing opinions were offered as to the availability of land in Palestine for future Jewish immigration. A few weeks after publication of the Report, towards the end of April 1930, the Jewish National Fund invited local and foreign journalists to the Eden Hotel in Jerusalem, to hear a lecture by Menachem Ussishkin.
After referring to the different opinions regarding future Jewish immigration, Ussishkin proposed transfer of the Arabs from Palestine. “We must continually proclaim our demand that our land be returned to our possession. If the land is empty of inhabitants - Good! If, however there are other inhabitants there, they must be transferred to some other place, but we must receive the land! We have an ideal greater and more elevated than standing guard over hundreds of thousands of fellaheen [Arab peasants].”
Ussishkin pointed out that since the Arabs had many lands at their disposal whereas the Jewish people had none, it was surely just that Palestine be given to the Jews. However, this would only be necessary in the future, “as for this generation, most of the land is just waiting to be reclaimed.”(358)
In May 1936, Ussishkin told a meeting of the Executive of the Jewish Agency in Jerusalem, “I would very, very much like the Arabs (of Palestine) to go to Iraq and I hope that they will go there sometime.” He gave two reasons for this. Firstly, the agricultural opportunities were greater in Iraq than in Palestine and secondly, in Iraq the transferees would find themselves in an Arab rather than a Jewish State. However, Ussishkin discounted the possibility of either deportation of the Arabs, or a population transfer by means of which Diaspora Jewry would be moved to Palestine and the Jews of Palestine would “send them Arabs.” Instead, he proposed that the Zionists should request that Transjordan be incorporated into Palestine. Usishkin said that it would be quite legitimate for the British to argue that there should be sufficient land for the Arab peasants, provided that Transjordan either be given over to Jewish settlement, or if the request for Jewish settlement there were to be rejected, then Transjordan should be “for the resettlement of those Arabs whose lands we will purchase.” He felt that even the most ethical person could not oppose such an idea.(359)
A few months later, towards the end of 1936, Ussishkin declined to appear before the Peel Commission then in Palestine to take evidence. In the course of an article written in February 1937 and entitled “Why I Did Not Testify”, Ussishkin explained his opposition to the approach taken by the Zionist Executive when giving evidence before the Peel Commission. On the question of State lands, Ussishkin wrote that the Zionist Executive should have argued as follows: “We believe that there is room in Palestine also for the Arabs but if you maintain that there is no room for them in the country, then they can find land in other places.... The Arab people have immense areas of land at their disposal; our people have nothing except a grave's plot. We demand that our inheritance, Palestine, be returned to us and if there is no room for Arabs, they have the opportunity of going to Iraq.”(360)
MOSHE SHERTOK (SHARETT)
The Zionist leader, Moshe Shertok, was born in Ukraine in 1894 and immigrated to Palestine with his family at the age of twelve. From 1933, he was head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency and with the establishment of the State of Israel, became the first Foreign Minister. From the beginning of 1954 for a period of nearly two years, he was Prime Minister of Israel.
At a parlour meeting held in the house of Dr. G. Halpern in Jerusalem on 21 December 1937, Shertok delivered a lecture on the practical fundamentals of political Zionism. The meeting was obviously a closed one since the text of the lecture was marked “secret”.
A few months earlier, the Peel Commission had proposed the transfer of Arabs from the area of the Jewish State and this proposal was currently under serious discussion and investigation by a special committee of the Jewish Agency. This was also the period of Hitler and the Nazis in Germany and since 1933 legislation and discrimination against the Jews of Germany had been intensifying.
During the questions and answers at the end of Shertok's lecture, the question of transfer of the Arab population from Palestine came up. Apparently, the questioner implied that there was a similarity between the proposal to transfer the Arabs from Palestine and the treatment of the German Jews by Hitler.
Shertok immediately discounted any parallel whatsoever adding that what Germany was doing to her Jews was “taking them and throwing them out without any concern for their future and without permitting them to take their possessions with them.” In contrast, the transfer of Arabs would have either to be by agreement or not take place at all. Shertok, however, then explained what he meant by the word “agreement”. “There does not have to be agreement with every individual Arab but there has to be agreement with another government. In any case, whether with complete agreement or without agreement, there must be no expulsion of people with negation of their property rights and without concern for their resettlement. Even were the transfer to be compulsory, there must be compensation for property left behind and concern for resettlement in the new location. If this is impossible, then it is impossible, but no comparison can be made between the transfer proposal here and the situation in Germany.”(361)
Shertok's comments on transfer are somewhat contradictory. He first says that transfer must be “by agreement or not take place at all” - agreement being with the receiving government but not with every Arab transferee. He then contradicts himself by speaking of transfer “with agreement or without agreement” - namely compulsory transfer - so long as the transferees receive compensation for their immovable property and steps are taken to ensure that they are properly rehabilitated in their new country. Finally he adds that even if this is found to be impossible there is still no comparison to be made with Nazi Germany.
Nearly four years later, Shertok reported to a meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive in Jerusalem on his visit to Egypt at which he put forward on several occasions a proposal for the transfer of Arabs from Palestine.
One of his meetings was with Walter Smart, the Secretary for Eastern Affairs at the British Legation in Egypt, at which they discussed together the large scale emigration of Polish Jews. They argued as to which country they could emigrate to and in the course of this discussion, the absorptive capacity of Palestine came up. Shertok said that Palestine could contain five million inhabitants - three million Jews and two million Arabs - adding that the increase in the number of Arabs had been thanks to Jewish immigration, “but if we remove the Arabs, there will be more room for Jews.” Smart then asked what one would do with the Arabs? To this question, Shertok answered that Syria lacked population and had wide empty spaces. “If one transfers there several hundred thousand Arabs from Palestine, the Jewish people would give them money; Syria would get an income. The same thing applies to Iraq.”(362)
Later in his report, Shertok spoke of his meeting with the American minister, Alexander Kirk in which he said, “with him I spoke on the State, on immigration and on the transfer of Arabs,” explaining why such transfer was essential and beneficial for both the Arabs and for Syria.(363)
At a further meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive held about three weeks later, Shertok again delivered a report which included a transfer proposal, although this time in a milder form. It occurred during a conversation with an Egyptian newspaper reporter, Mahmoud Azmi. The reporter had questioned him on the Zionist stand on Palestine – whether it should be a separate Jewish state or part of a Federation with Arab states? In his answer, Shertok raised the question of the transfer of Arabs, immediately adding that he was talking about voluntary transfer. Azmi answered that if there would be a Federation, it would be possible to speak of Arab transfer from the Jewish state.(364)
We can see from this than even an Arab reporter was prepared to consider the transfer of Arabs under certain conditions.
ABRAHAM SHARON (SCHWADRON)
Abraham Sharon (Schwadron) was born in Galicia in 1878 and settled in Palestine in 1927. He was a prolific writer who was mainly concerned with Zionist polemics and the basic principles of Zionism. Among his hundreds of critical and admonitory articles, published in almost every Hebrew newspaper, were a number dealing with population transfer. Some of these articles were concerned with general ideas on transfer, whilst others dealt with his specific proposals for the transfer of Arabs from Palestine.
Sharon first put forward his views on population transfer in 1916. In a series of articles entitled “A Revision of Pacifism”, published in the July-October 1916 issue of the pacifist and anti-imperialist journal “Dokuments des Forschritts”, Sharon attempted to apply “the framework of the Zionist idea to other nationalities, that is to solve their national problems by an agreed and organised transfer of a nation or parts of it to the territory of another state.”(365)
Dr. Moshe Yegar, who made an intensive study of the writings of Sharon, commented on the above passage, “In other words, the transfer of the Palestinian Arabs to the neighbouring countries and the transfer of Diaspora Jewry to Palestine, as the only solution of the Palestine problem.” According to Yegar, Sharon would sometimes claim that he was the original proposer of this idea. As Yegar commented, Sharon was obviously unaware of earlier proposals, “Nevertheless, there was nobody within the Zionist movement like Sharon with his constant preaching and insistence on the idea of the transfer of populations.” Yegar concluded, “To the extent that Sharon is still remembered, his name is mainly connected , generally in a distorted way, with proposals to remove the Arabs from Palestine.”(366)
In August 1930, in reaction to the anti-imperialist Congress which had taken place a month earlier in Frankfurt and which had censured Zionism, Sharon published an article reiterating his .views on population transfer.(367) In his manuscript, Sharon has added the following handwritten comment at the end of his article, “This was the main point: The chapter whose inference is the transfer of the Arabs to the Arab lands - and the editors refused to publish it!”(368)
In 1937, Sharon published a booklet in which he wrote of “a new pacifism, a pacifism which will not sanctify every status quo, but will supplant the static equilibrium in international relations by a dynamic equilibrium.” This new pacifism would permit a population transfer from an overpopulated to an under-populated country in accordance with the conditions first proposed by Sharon in 1916.(369)
In an article written about four years later, Sharon pointed out that in earlier history, the problems of minorities were solved by “destruction of the weak by sword and fire.” However, “Now”, he said, “Zionism has come and shown us a new way:- a radical solution for quarrels between peoples living in one land by means of the transfer of one of the peoples to a different territory; a transfer that is not an uprooting and a destruction but a planting and an alleviation. It is certainly a very difficult and complicated solution, but it is fundamental, realistic and of enduring value.”
Sharon said that there had been several international examples of population transfer since Zionism had first propounded the idea. He added that the members of the Peel Commission, which had recommended population transfer for Palestine were “qualified and very experienced men.”
Sharon, writing in the early 1940s, hoped that “the principle of the concentration of nations” would in the future be accepted by the enlightened world so that all minorities would be treated according to the principle of “a people that shall dwell alone”, each concentrated in its own territory. This, said Sharon, was the “overall conceptual framework of Zionism - the concept of transfer and concentration of nations.” Although at the time when the Zionists first put forward this idea it was regarded as strange and unusual, “today it is becoming more and more acceptable in the wide world.”(370)
Soon after the publication of the Peel Report in the summer of 1937, Moshe Smilensky came out against its proposal to transfer the Arabs from Palestine. Whereupon Sharon published an article in the Palestine daily “Ha'aretz” in which he said that although he fully agreed with Smilensky's objections to partition, great harm could be caused to the future of the Jewish community in Palestine, if Smilensky's views on population exchange were to be accepted by the public.
“Mr. Smilensky rightly shows the impossibility of agreeing to a Jewish State where the majority of the land would be owned by non-Jews”, said Sharon. However, the disparity in the ratio between the Jewish and Arab populations “is even more terrible and ridiculous.” Even with mass Jewish immigration, the Arabs would remain “a large alien minority which would simply nullify the Jewish character of our State.”
After referring to the recommendation of the Peel Commission regarding the transfer of population, Sharon added that the “Evening Standard” and other important newspapers had considered the problem of transferring the Arabs to Transjordan. Even the radical socialist, Henry Noel Brailsford, had written that although there might be no justice in forcing a quarter of a million Arab peasants to leave their homes in the Jewish State and transfer to the Arab State, their remaining in the Jewish area would hinder Jewish settlement. Sharon observed that whereas many non-Jews supported this transfer, Smilensky still opposed it.
Smilensky had suggested that a non-Jewish minority in their midst would give the Jewish people in their sovereign land the opportunity to demonstrate the correct way to treat minorities. Sharon asked how Smilensky could be so sure that the Jewish Nation would live up to such standards adding that even Smilensky had continually complained about the Jewish Community's relations with non-Jews neighbours.
Sharon conceded that Smilensky had quite rightly objected to forcible transfer of the Arabs. But he was incorrect, averred Sharon, when he said that the Zionist establishment could not draw a parallel from the Greco-Turkish population exchange because that exchange had involved a reciprocal agreement between two peoples and two states. The Peel Commission had brought it as a precedent for the situation in Palestine. “We must therefore not begin any negotiations without a condition regarding population exchange 'with a reciprocal agreement between two peoples and two states' and a transfer of land ownership with suitable and fair compensation.”(371)
The Greco-Turkish population exchange was carried out by agreement between the two states, but was compulsory insofar as the individual transferees were concerned. Presumably, Sharon intended these same conditions to obtain in the proposed Jewish-Arab population transfer.
In another article, Sharon referred to a lecture which he delivered around 1940 to a kibbutz of “Hashomer Hazair” in which he specifically proposed a transfer of Arabs. The lecture was on the Jewish-Arab problem and in the course of it, “I argued for a population transfer as a solution to this problem. The Arabs will go from here to Iraq and the Jews from the Diaspora to here.”(372)
As was to be expected, the members of Hashomer Hazair were opposed to Sharon's ideas on transfer. At the beginning of 1942, Meir Ya'ari of Hashomer Hazair put his case in opposing the transfer of Arabs in an answer he wrote to an article by Sharon.(373)
Incidentally, this particular article by Sharon does not seem to talk about the transfer of Arabs, but the transfer of Jews from the Diaspora to Palestine. For this transfer of Jews, Sharon considered that a two-part agreement was required - an agreement to ensure an ordered absorption of Jews into Palestine and an agreement with the country of origin to ensure the liquidation of equipment and property.(374)
Ya'ari doubted Sharon's powers of persuasion in attempting to convince “the neighbours” that “it would be to their advantage to leave the land where they have lived for hundreds of years” with all its topographical and economic advantages.
Ya'ari said, “If Mr. A. Sharon were to take the trouble to sit down at the table with his neighbours” he would have to explain why after the collapse of Nazism it was not possible for two peoples to live together in one country. He also felt sure that after the termination of the war, the democratic world would neither accept transfers nor provide the financial assistance to implement them.(375) [In fact, after the Second World War, countless millions of people in Europe and other places were transferred from country to country with the acquiescence of the democratic countries.]
The difficulties inherent in two sets of people with differing ideologies living together in one place can be illustrated from the case of the two kibbutzim, Bet Alfa and Ramat Yohanan. Both these kibbutzim consisted entirely of Jews - socialistic Jews. However their members were of different nuances of socialist ideology; some members followed the Hashomer Hazair ideology whilst others followed Mapai ideology. These differences in ideology spilled over into the social life of the kibbutzim poisoning personal relations to such an extent that members of the kibbutzim found it impossible to live together. After a long period of growing tension, a population transfer was implemented in 1939 between these two kibbutzim by concentrating all members with the Hashomer Hazair ideology in Bet Alfa and those with the Mapai ideology in Ramat Yohanan.
In a lecture delivered to a kibbutz of Hashomer Hazair about a year after the Bet Alfa/ Ramat Yohanan “population transfer”, Sharon said, “You are a little closer to your friends in Mapai, than the Arabs are to the Jews, yet you were not able to continue living in your 'Bi-National State'...”(376)
In the years following the establishment of the State of Israel, Sharon continued to put forward his plans regarding transfer.(377)
Berl Katznelson was an educator, writer and a leader of the Zionist Labour movement. He was one of the few people who would press for the observance of Sabbath, festivals and dietary laws in the Histadrut kitchens, and he wanted the young people to respect and appreciate their Jewish religious heritage.
As we can see elsewhere in this work, Katznelson would regularly speak up in favour of transferring Arabs from Palestine.
At a meeting of the Zionist General Council held in November 1942, Berl Katznelson quoted the Hashomer Hazair leader Meir Ya'ari as saying that Ben-Gurion had renounced transfer. Katznelson then commented: “I don't know what he [Ya'ari] means by 'renounced' and what he means by 'transfer' ... To the extent that I know Zionist ideology, this is part of the realisation of Zionism, the perception of this Zionism is the transfer of a people from country to country - a transfer by agreement. For an agreed immigration I do not agree, but for an agreed transfer I am prepared to agree in regard to our neighbours.”
He pointed out that the Zionists held that transfer was one of the great ideas which was taking place in the world - in some places in a very good manner but in others in a very bad one. He said that the Zionists had never abandoned the idea of transfer when it is carried out in a fair manner, and felt that the developments which might come about after the termination of the Second World War could very possibly lead to an agreed transfer.
Katznelson then continued: “Since I have entered into this argument, we will see this question through: Was the establishment of Merchavia accomplished without transfer? There was indeed transfer of one or two Arab villages, by agreement with the Jews; was this unfair or unethical? This we arranged in a small area of Palestine for the sake of a small settlement. And the members of Hashomer Hazair are dwelling in Merchavia, in Mishmar Haemek - is this not transfer, moving of [Arab] population from place to .place? If transfer is unethical from the outset, then the settlement on the land by Hashomer Hazair is unethical, because it utilises the moving of population from place to place, and it is not only we who are making use of transfer.”
He concluded by pointing out that the Jews were enjoying the benefits from the small transfer that had taken place in Palestine during the previous sixty years. “Therefore Ya'ari should not reject this idea, reject it on ethical grounds.”(378)
A detailed study of the character of Berl Katznelson has been made by his biographer Anita Shapira. With regards to his attitude towards transfer, she wrote that Berl saw in a mutually agreed transfer a real answer to the Arab problem in Palestine. From the time that the Peel Commission put forward this proposal, he was very enchanted with the idea. Just as transfer had solved the Greco-Turkish conflict, Berl saw it as a long term solution to the Jewish-Arab conflict. He was therefore very pleased when the British Labour party put forward transfer of Arabs as part of its Palestine policy. Shapira concluded that Katznelson's “thoughts on population transfer were characteristic of him; he did not recoil from revolutionary changes, from audacious exchanges, and he believed that the aftermath of the [second world] war would be the opportune moment for change.”(379)
Yitzchak Tabenkin was a Labour leader in Palestine. He was among the founders of the Kibbutz ha-Me'uhad movement and also of the Ahdut ha-Avodah party.
As we shall see, following the publication of the Peel Commission's transfer proposal in 1937, Tabenkin expressed strong opposition to this proposal at a meeting of the Council of “World Unity”, whilst at the same period agreed to the idea of a voluntary transfer in his speeches to the 20th Zionist Congress and to a Mapai Council Meeting! His agreement to a voluntary transfer continued into the 1940s.
In 1943, a discussion took place between members of Mapai Si'ah Bet (“Faction B”) and Hashomer Hazair, on the subject of the Biltmore Conference. [“Mapai Si'ah Bet” was a leftish group within the Mapai Party. In 1944, supported by over half the Kibbutz ha-Me'uhad movement, it broke away from Mapai and formed the Ahdut ha-Avodah Party.] During the course of this discussion, Tabenkin said that he could not agree that it was not just or right to hand over Palestine to a Jewish administration, who would implement the settlement of the land and encourage Jewish immigration. He was, however, against compulsory transfer. This would be harmful since the Jews in Palestine would always be among Arabs and a forcible transfer would lead to catastrophe. With regard to a voluntary transfer, Tabenkin's views were quite different - “By agreement with the Arabs, yes.” He however concluded that at present this was not a realistic proposition.(380)
In a speech delivered a year later, Tabenkin said that the Jews' objective was to gain the entire Land of Israel on both sides of the Jordan, without harming the Arabs and their rights and without expelling a single Arab, although it might be “possible that by means of agreement without any expulsion, the Arabs would deign one of these days to change their place of residence and transfer from here to another place.”(381)
The historian Anita Shapira has summarised Tabenkin's views on transfer: “Like Berl [Katznelson], Tabenkin welcomed the idea of transfer, so long as one is speaking of voluntary transfer.”(382)
However, during the last few years, there has been a concerted attempt to ignore or even categorically deny the fact that he ever spoke in favour of transfer!
In a symposium held in 1987, marking 15 years to the death of Tabenkin, Ze'ev Tzur of the Tabenkin Institute gave a lecture on the subject of “Yitzchak Tabenkin and his Attitude towards the Arabs”. During the course of his lecture, he listed the occasions when Tabenkin spoke out against transfer of Arabs. He however omitted the times when he spoke in favour of transfer! Tzur even quoted from the meeting in 1943 with Hashomer Hazair, but was very selective - only Tabenkin's opposition to compulsory transfer was quoted, but the phrase “By agreement with the Arabs, yes”, was omitted!(383)
Also in 1987, Yoshke Rabinowitz, a member of kibbutz Naam, who is regarded as an expert on the teachings of Tabenkin, and was one of his pupils, also claimed that Tabenkin utterly rejected the transfer of Arabs. He went on to state that in an argument with Berl Katznelson, who supported transfer, Tabenkin argued that “we will never obtain Arab agreement to transfer, and if there is transfer without their agreement it is expulsion.”(384)
In contrast however, Tabenkin's son Yosef of kibbutz Ein Harod, indirectly, and perhaps unconsciously, admitted that his father's opposition to transfer only went as far as transfer of a compulsory nature: “I don't know of one instance when my father Yitzchak Tabenkin, suggested the idea of compulsory transit” - note the use of the word compulsory. He went on to suggest that this idea was in fact first suggested by Berl Katznelson and afterwards by Ben-Gurion.(385)
A few weeks later, another kibbutz member, this time Aryeh Segoli of kibbutz Afak, in a letter to the newspaper “Ma'ariv” quoted only Tabenkin's pronouncements on his opposition to transfer.(386)
One should note however that these above statements came from members of kibbutzim at the time of the establishment of the Moledet party! What however seems more surprising is that the statement that “Tabenkin negated absolutely the idea of transfer” appeared in an article by Moshe Ben-Yosef (Hager) in the right-wing paper “Nekudah”!(387) At the time I wrote a letter to “Nekudah” pointing out that this statement was simply incorrect.(388) Ben-Yosef (Hager) then wrote to me, “The truth is that when I heard Yosef Tabenkin and Ze'ev Tzur on the telephone, I did not believe what my ears heard. But I saw myself obligated to pass on their exact words in the names of the speakers, since I was not able to refute what they had said to me.”(389)
DR. JACOB THON
Dr. Jacob Thon was the founder and first chairman of the Temporary Council of the Jews of Palestine which was established in 1918 At its fifth session, held in Jaffa in June 1919, the question of transfer of Arabs from Palestine was raised by Yosef Sprinzak, a leader of Hapoel Hazair, who said that “we must receive Palestine without any reduction or restrictions. But there is a known quantum of Arabs who live in Palestine and they will receive their due. Anyone who wants to work will cultivate his plot. Anyone who does not want to work it, will receive compensation and he will seek his fortune in another country.”(390)
The words “he will seek his fortune in another country” have been heavily crossed out in these minutes. As we can see in various other places in this book, proposals made for the transfer of Arabs from Palestine, have often been crossed out or even deleted from minutes, letters, etc. In this particular case, the historian Tom Segev comments: “That the full implications of this statement were understood by all is indicated by the fact it is crossed out in the meeting's minutes.”(391)
Just over a decade later, in the early 1930s, a problem which surfaced was what to do with Arab tenants who occupied land which had been acquired by the Zionists for Jewish colonisation. In February 1931, Colonel Frederick Kisch, head of the Political Department of the Executive of the Zionist Organisation, wrote a confidential letter to a number of organisations and individuals in which he put forward a number of plans which had been suggested to solve this problem. He asked the recipients of his letter to state which they considered to be the best plan. One of these plans was the transfer of Arabs out of Palestine: “That land should be acquired in Transjordan for the re-settlement of displaced Arab tenants, the necessary political arrangements being made with the Transjordan Government and the Mandatory Power.”(392)
One of the recipients of this letter was Thon and a few months later he replied to Kisch. Thon wrote, “The transfer of Arab cultivators and Arabs in general, to Transjordania, would of course, be the most desirable solution from our point of view; but it seems to me that the more we make this scheme public as our desideratum, the less probability there is of it being realised.”
He did not think that the Mandatory Government would adopt such a policy since it would “create far reaching excitement and agitation among Moslems throughout the world.” In addition the League of Nations would prevent its implementation.
Thon also felt that such transfer would be economically advantageous to the Arabs. With the money they received from the sale of their land in Palestine, they would be able to purchase land superior in both quality and quantity in Transjordan. He hoped that when a more friendly atmosphere prevailed in the area “it will be possible for us to arrange for the settlement of Palestinian cultivators in Transjordania quite privately.”(393)
Thon was on the Vaad Leumi presidium but his main activity was as Managing Director of the Palestine Land Development Corporation, an office which he held from 1921 until his death in 1950.
He was also a founder member of Brit Shalom, an organisation whose aim was for the establishment of a bi-National Jewish-Arab State. In addition he was a member of a committee on Jewish-Arab relations, which met in the early 1940s, and included such members as Dr. Magnes. Despite all this, Thon would often propose the transfer of Arabs from Palestine!
As we shall later see following the publication of the Peel Commission report in 1937, Thon was an enthusiastic supporter of Arab transfer from Palestine and an active member of the Jewish Agency Population Transfer Committee.
In August 1942 the members of a Jewish-Arab relations committee, of which Thon was a member, wrote a report on future Jewish-Arab relations. Thon's views on, amongst other things, the transfer of Arabs from Palestine, could not find expression in this report of the committee, and so he submitted a personal memorandum in November of that year.
After discussing the continual danger the Arabs would pose to a future Jewish State, even if they were in the minority, Thon wrote that “a Jewish State would only have value, if together with its proclamation by the Deciding Powers, a transfer of the Arab population would also be made possible.” He however added that such a transfer would have to be by agreement with the Arabs. He went on to explain: “One should not suppose that the Peace Conference, whose function it would be to make peace between peoples and to recognise the natural rights of all peoples, will agree to the removal of the Arabs of Palestine by force.” Thon did not believe that after the War, there would be place for the Nazis' views on the transference of minorities from country to country. He could thus not visualise that in the new Europe, tens of millions of people could be uprooted from their homes and lands. [In fact, time showed Thon to be wrong! Following the second world war, the Allies did in fact agree to the transfer of almost ten million persons in Europe.] Thon was also of the opinion that a compulsory transfer of Arabs would result in a strong reaction by influential Diaspora Jews.
He then went on to discuss transfer from the point of view of the Arabs. On this he wrote, “One should not however exclude the fact that also the Arabs will recognise the advantages which will accrue to them in their transfer from Palestine to the Arab countries.” He brought a proof from the transfer of Greeks and how it caused Greece to grow both economically and militarily. Similarly, the Arab countries were lacking in population, and this would be rectified by an influx of Arabs from Palestine.
Thon concluded that the Zionist aspirations should thus be for “an agreement with the Palestinian Arabs and the neighbouring countries for a transfer of population.” He pointed out that to achieve this, one needs to make every effort and utilise every outside influence. “Only if such an agreement is achieved, will a Jewish State be able to arise in our days.” Without such an agreement, Thon felt that it would be necessary to continue with the Mandate over Palestine and maintain a force which would be strong enough to maintain security.(394)