Edward Norman, who was an American multimillionaire, financier and philanthropist was born in 1900. His grandfather, Emanuel Nusbaum, was a poor Bavarian Jewish immigrant, who earned his meager living as the proprietor of a store that supplied goods to peddlers in upstate New York during the 1850s. His son Aaron, a brilliant businessman, reversed the family fortunes to become a millionaire. In 1919, the family name was “Americanised” from Nusbaum to Norman. Aaron had two children, Edward and Ruth, and they were both educated in elite private schools in Western Europe.(395)
Edward Norman was one of the non-Zionist members of the Jewish Agency's Executive Council and he urged the foundation of a roof organisation to co-ordinate and funnel American Jewish aid for Palestinian educational, cultural and social service institutions.
Although Norman was a non-Zionist member of the Jewish Agency's Executive Council, this certainly does not mean that he was a “non-Zionist”. Shertok commented in his diary, how he wished that there would be many Zionists like Norman.(396)
In the early 1930s, Norman conceived the idea of the transfer of Arabs from Palestine, and he worked almost consistently on his plan for at least fifteen years
. In Norman's plan, the destination of the transferred Arabs was to be Iraq. Iraq was named Mesopotamia by the ancient Greeks and it was known by this name to the Western World until after the Peace Conference at Versailles in 1919. Until the end of the First World War, Iraq was part of the Ottoman Empire. It was then given as a Mandated territory to Great Britain, who made Feisal its King. In 1932 Britain relinquished its Mandate, and Iraq became an independent state.
In ancient times, the irrigation systems enabled the country to support millions of people. However, destruction and neglect of the irrigation works throughout the ages, resulted in a considerable decrease in population. During the early part of this century, work was done on the restoration of the irrigation system, and whilst Norman was developing his plan, the construction of a great dam and diversion canal on the Tigris river was completed. This project enabled an enormous area of the Shatt-el-Gharraf region lying between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers to be made available for cultivation and settlement. The plan which Norman was to put forward was to transfer the Arabs of Palestine to this region of Iraq.(397)
A lot of information concerning this plan is to be found in various archives throughout the world. However, when studying the bibliography at the end of this book, the reader will notice that conspicuous by their absence are the “Edward Norman private archives”. As a result of my many inquiries, I learned that they are in the possession of (the late) Andrew Norman, the son of Edward Norman. However, despite extensive searches, he was not able to locate them.
Three Successive Versions of Norman's Plan
About 1930 Edward Norman “became interested in some solution of the Palestine problem” and he spent a great deal of time studying the question.(398) In March 1933 he visited Palestine and on 11th of that month wrote a long letter to Israel Benjamin Brodie, an American Zionist leader who pioneered industrialisation in Palestine, giving his impressions of the country. He was very concerned with the rapidly increasing land prices and added that “many Arabs are refusing to sell, and without land the future of the Jews here is limited.”(399) From a later part of his letter, we see that a solution involving the transfer of Arabs to Iraq had already crossed his mind: “A properly-managed company might accomplish something along lines suggested by a conversation I had with Lord Glenconner, who said that King Feisal of Iraq is very anxious to attract Arab farmers to his country, and might with proper people arrange to grant a large section of the unused fertile land of his country to be given to Arabs from Palestine. It sounds far-fetched, but so did many things here that now are realities, and I think a well-managed non-political company could accomplish something along these lines.”(400)
Further information regarding Norman's thoughts at that time come from the diary of Ben-Gurion, following a meeting between the two of them in February 1939. Ben-Gurion wrote that Norman had thought to himself following his visit to Palestine, “If the Aliyah will increase, then the Arabs will rebel. They will understand that if it will continue for ten years, Eretz Israel will be transformed into a Jewish State, and it should not be assumed that they [the Arabs] will come to terms with this fact in silence.” This led Norman to propose a solution to the problem: “Is it not possible to settle the Arabs of Eretz Israel in another country?” Norman discounted most of the countries in the region for one reason or another; Egypt was already over-populated, Saudi Arabia was a desert and thus unsuitable for peasant-farmers, Syria was French. Iraq had the greatest potential.(401)
It was in February of the following year, that Norman brought out the first version of his transfer plan, which was introduced as a “Preliminary Draft”.(402)
Norman began his memorandum by discussing the attitude of Zionist Jewry to the inter-related subjects of “Jewish immigration into Palestine and Jewish acquisition of the land”. He considered that “immigration and possession of the land by definition are the bases of the reconstruction of the Jewish homeland”, and it is thus natural that they should be persued as rapidly as possible by all methods. The programme which had been adopted up to that date in these fields, namely encouraging both immigration and purchase of land to the maximum, had proved its worth and had this not been the case “the homeland project at this date would still be largely in the realm of ideas.”(403)
However it had now reached the state where the Arabs of Palestine felt threatened and they were reacting accordingly. Norman considered that the British Government's “apprehension of the approach of a crisis, unless there is some relaxation of the pressure that is bringing it on, is understandable.” The obvious solution was to “diminish the pace of the growth of the Jewish homeland” and this in fact was the method which the Government had adopted.
Under the terms of the Mandate, the British Government was charged with “facilitating close settlement of the Jews on the land” whilst at the same time “protecting the civil and religious rights of the previous inhabitants”. According to Norman, the Jews were not able to understand how they had violated the rights of the Arabs. Land had been purchased at fair prices, and employment and living conditions of the “fellahin” (Arab peasants) had improved, as a result of Jewish colonisation. However, these fellahin were “ignorant to a profound degree” and hence susceptible to the influence of their leaders. In addition, for a variety of reasons, Jewish colonisation was not good for the Arab landowners and upper (“effendi”) class.(404)
Norman considered that in view of the fact that the British Government, whilst ignoring the logic, arguments and evidence presented by the Jews to support their case, had decided on a policy of “severe reduction in the rate of the development of the Jewish homeland”, a new method would have to be found to overcome this. The problem had become more acute in view of the fact that Hitler had come to power just a year earlier and the Jews of Germany were beginning to realise the dangers, and to search for a country willing to accept large-scale immigration.
In analysing the problem, Norman considered that “the manner in which the building of the Jewish homeland has been furthered until now is clearly one of taking over Palestine without the consent of the indigenous population.” He pointed out that even after selling his land, an Arab landlord was “not aware of having agreed to take his funds and movable goods and chattels and leave the country” and that it was “hard for him to visualize himself as an unwanted figure in the land where he was born and where his people have resided for generations.”(405) One should mention that Norman is not accurate here: three quarters of the Arabs then living in Palestine had immigrated during the previous eighty years, and this included a substantial illegal immigration of Arabs.
Norman argued that “if the Jews gradually are to fill up Palestine, the present Arab population must have some place to go. It cannot be exterminated, nor will it die out.” As far as Norman could ascertain, the Jews had not devised a formula to get Arab consent to gradually take over the country, “nor has any plan been propounded for resettling the Arabs outside of Palestine.”
He suggested that it had been the tacit hope of the Zionists that as the Jewish community and landholdings expanded, the Arab landowners who had sold their land would migrate to other Arab countries, and the Arab peasants would also leave to become tenant farmers elsewhere. Events had in fact demonstrated little emigration of Arabs from Palestine. In fact the opposite was true - during the preceding ten years Arabs from neighbouring countries were being attracted to Palestine by its increasing prosperity.(406)
In attempting to draw up a new programme to solve this problem, Norman referred to the population exchange between Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey which had taken place after the First World War. “It was the desire of each of the three governments to rid its country of the foreign minorities and to replace them with people of the appropriate national origin. It was recognized by the authorities at the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 that such an exchange of populations would be conducive to the maintenance of peace between the three countries, which for years had been at odds, and several times at war, in efforts to acquire territories inhabited by populations not appropriate to the governments under which they were living.” The League of Nations thus set up a special commission to supervise this exchange of population and to liquidate the real estate they might leave behind. Despite all the complications and complexities involved, “upwards of two millions of people have been transferred, and the populations of the respective countries are now practically homogeneous.”(407)
Norman argued that this procedure would not be “applicable in all its details to the problem of removing Arabs from Palestine and replacing them with Jews,” since the Jews not already in Palestine did not possess land on which the Arabs might be resettled. Thus “if Arabs are to be induced to leave Palestine, some land must be discovered on which they can be placed, an incentive for their agreeing to go must be found and the means must be obtained to defray the costs involved.”(408)
He considered that the most suitable country for the transferred Arabs was Iraq. That country was “desirous of attracting immigrants, particularly Arabs with agricultural experience.” The Iraqi Government had repeatedly stated that it would be pleased to see a farming population of Arab nationality settled in the great valley between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, where irrigation works were then in the planning stage. However, before anything concrete could be accomplished, Norman felt that a “precise program would have to be formulated”, adequate finance would have to be made available, and only then could negotiations begin.
Norman argued that if the Iraqi Government really desired new immigrants and it was assured that they were to be brought in at no cost to Iraq, then the Iraqi Government would assist by providing the immigrants with land free of charge. Under such conditions and on the right terms, including the provision of free transportation for the transferees together with their movable property and livestock, it might be possible “to induce Palestinian Arabs to exchange their present holdings for new ones in Iraq”, especially if they were to obtain larger areas in that country.
He pointed out that the transfer of Arabs from Palestine to Iraq “would not be a removal to a foreign country.... The boundaries that have been instituted since the [First World] War are scarcely known to most of the Arabs. The language customs, and religion are the same.”(409)
From where would the finance for such a plan come? Norman said that the answer to this lay in the fact that Jews all over Europe wanted land in Palestine. Hence land bought from Arabs leaving Palestine could be resold to Jews. He then presented an estimated budget for resettling Arabs in Iraq.
Norman considered that were the Jews to “succeed in acquiring a major part of Palestine a large number of Arabs perforce will have to leave the country and find homes elsewhere.” He was worried that if the Arabs were to be “forced out inexorably as the result of Jewish pressure” they would leave with ill-will and there would be enmity towards the Jews for generations, and the rest of the world might come to sympathise with the Arabs.(410) As we have seen, nearly forty years earlier when Herzl put forward his proposal for the removal of non-Jews out of his proposed Jewish State, he followed it by the comment, “At first, incidentally, people will avoid us, We are in bad odor.” Herzl however concluded that this “bad odor” would only be a transient phenomenon.
In concluding this section of his memorandum, Norman wrote, “The proposed plan should not seem so fanciful and should merit serious consideration. The creation of a new nation requires broad vision.”(411)
In order to implement his plan, Norman listed a number of distinct stages. Firstly, the abstract principles would have to be fully discussed “on a strictly confidential basis” by influential people who were “familiar with Palestine conditions”. At the same time indirect enquiries - casual conversations and study of published material - would be made to ascertain how serious the Kingdom of Iraq was for an increase in its population, and what its contribution would be to achieve this objective.(412)
If, as a result of these enquiries, it was concluded that the scheme contained merit, an association or syndicate would have to be formed in order to investigate the economic possibilities. Such an investigation, which would have to be undertaken by experts, would have to determine which lands the Iraqi Government might have available, their potential productivity and the financial aspects of resettlement. If the plan was then found to be economically feasible, some sort of company would be set up in order to deal with the monetary side. The directors of such an organisation would have to be “largely people of a character to inspire the highest confidence from all parties”; Jews from the Diaspora and Palestine; British, Iraqi, and Palestinian Government officials; and all classes of Palestine Arabs. Norman considered that it might be advisable to secure certain prominent Palestinian Arabs as directors.(413)
Representatives of this organisation would then enter into highly secret negotiations with the British Colonial Office “with a view to obtaining the consent of the British Government to the carrying out of the scheme and its assurances that no obstacles of any kind would be interposed by the Administration in Palestine.” Negotiations would also have to be entered into with the Iraqi Government regarding making its land available, building the necessary irrigation works, and performing all the legal formalities.(414)
If the negotiations with the British and Iraqis were successful, then “arrangements would have to made in Palestine for transporting the Palestinian Arabs who might consent to go to Iraq.” The next stage would be negotiations with Arab landowners in Palestine. Norman considered that at first, all dealings should be for the purchase of Arab lands situated in the coastal plain, which were suitable for the growing of citrus fruit. Afterwards, hill and valley lands could be purchased.(415)
Arrangements would then be made with the banks in Palestine to finance the Jewish purchase of the land obtained from the Arabs. Norman then went briefly into technical points regarding the finance. He also pointed out that the company would need a staff in Palestine to negotiate with the landowners, assist the Arabs to depart and to handle the reselling of the land to the Jews. It would also need a staff in Iraq to handle resettling of the Arabs from Palestine.(416)
Norman concluded his draft report by pointing out that it was “only in tentative form” and was put forward as a “basis for discussion of a possibly practical method of dealing with the gravest question facing the development of the Jewish homeland.”(417)
In the course of the following two years, the situation of Germany's Jews considerably worsened, and as a consequence, the high rate of Jewish immigration into Palestine not only continued but in fact increased. The Arabs as a result declared a general strike which lasted about six months, the purpose of the strike being to induce the British Government to forbid further Jewish immigration and purchase of land. This strike was accompanied by the massacre of many Jews. These factors caused the British to establish a Royal Commission (the Peel Commission) to investigate the Palestine question.
In February 1937, Norman brought out the second version of his plan, in which he referred to these events, and he warned that the local administration officials in Palestine might recommend to this Commission the severe curtailing of Jewish immigration. This would be a serious blow to the Jews of Central and Eastern Europe who urgently needed to find asylum. The gates of the countries of the world were closed to them and the only country in the entire world that had been able to absorb any quantity of the Jews was Palestine.
Norman argued that the attitude of the Arabs proved conclusively that “some new policy with regard to them must be formulated and pursued” otherwise further substantial immigration and purchase of land would “make the maintenance of peace and security impossible without the use of overwhelming force on the part of the British.” He went on to show that the British, for a variety of reasons, would be unwilling to use force to preserve order and to make possible the settlement of a large number of Jews. Thus it would “not be possible to settle them there unless a peaceful means can be found or created to prevent the Arabs from objecting forcibly to such settlement.”
Norman considered that neither the Jewish Agency nor the Zionist Organisation had “suggested any concrete, realistic policy for dealing with the Arab attitude other than to increase the Jewish population in order that it might reach a majority position as soon as possible.” He then stated that “an entirely new approach is required” to this question.(418)
As in his first version, Norman again wrote about the fears for the future by the Arabs as the result of Jewish immigration, and the influence that the effendis had on the fellahin. He now went on to point out the “almost complete lack of a sense of social responsibility” of the effendis. They had no concept that when they sell land, “they are selling their country”. They also did not realise that after they had sold their land their status in the country will have been altered; they would consequently lose their power and thus bear a “strong resentment toward the Jews.”
In answer to this, the Jews had claimed that they had no intention of dominating the Arabs. Norman however held that this reply was “either an inconsistent disregard of facts or deliberate disingeneousness”, since: the Jews speak of Palestine as “Eretz Israel”; they continually give evidence of their desire to reconstruct the Jewish national existence in Palestine; they insist on the employment of Jews and patronising of Jewish enterprises by Jews; and there is a large number of oppressed Jews in Europe whose only haven is Palestine. Norman answered that these Jewish aspirations and methods could not be criticised “in view of all that the Jews have suffered for over eighteen centuries as minority elements in many foreign lands, and it is but natural that they should long for a home of their own where they can be their own masters and live their lives in peace and freedom in their own way.”
In view of the conflicting attitudes between Jew and Arab, Norman concluded that it was “useless and futile to expect peace and cooperation on any common grounds between the Arabs and the Jews in Palestine.” There were therefore two alternatives, the first being “strife and disorder” and the second that “one or the other of the two parties must abandon Palestine.” He immediately dismissed the first possibility as disastrous for the future of the Jews in Palestine. With regard to the second possibility, Norman wrote that since there was no alternative to Palestine for the Jews and since they could not have the land whilst more than 800,000 Arabs lived there “the Arabs must be induced to give it up and a considerable portion of them to move elsewhere.”(419)
As in his first version, Norman quoted various precedents for the transfer of population, and he now explained in much greater detail why he considered Iraq to be the obvious destination for the Arabs who were to be transferred from Palestine.(420)
Norman wrote in his second version of two indications “that the idea of the removal of the Arabs from Palestine would not be received in official British circles as unthinkable.”(421) The first was a letter written by the London University lecturer, Edwyn Bevan to “The Times” in September 1936, proposing such a transfer to Iraq, and the second was a London despatch published in “The New York Times” in October 1936, from its staff correspondent, Ferdinand Kuhn, Jr. In this despatch, Kuhn asked how the British could on the one hand satisfy the Arabs without betraying the Jews, and on the other hand maintain a Jewish National Home without condemning the Arabs to be a subject race. Answering his own question, Kuhn wrote that the rivalry between Arab and Jew in Palestine could be ended “perhaps by a large scale transfer of the population, perhaps by a legislative council or some other scheme”.(422) In fact, a few months later, Norman's “indications” were shown to be true indicators of Establishment policy, when the Peel Commission's Report proposed such a population transfer, compulsory if necessary.
Norman also brought a proof from the words of Menachem Ussishkin, President of the Actions Committee of the World Zionist Organisation, to show that the idea of transfer of Arabs from Palestine, “is not regarded by the Zionists as contrary to their policies”.(423) In fact we know from sources presumably not seen by Norman, and also from documents which have now been declassified - dating from both before and after Norman's second memorandum - that Zionist leaders including Herzl, Ben-Gurion and Weizmann, made even more enthusiastic statements in favour of transfer.
In the third version of his plan, brought out in January 1938, in a much more concise form than the earlier two versions, Norman began by pointing out that up to then, attempts to solve the Palestine problem had been on political lines and were based on considerations involving Palestine alone. Norman completely disagreed with this approach, since he considered that the problem was economic in the sense that Jewish settlement in Palestine had given rise to the Arab population's fearing for its economic future. He felt that attempts to solve the problem by political means would emphasise the points of difference, whereas an economic solution would bring out the points of unity between Jew and Arab.(424)
Norman went on to stress the advantages that would accrue to the Arabs as a result of his plan. He explained that they made a very poor livelihood as the land cultivated by them was hilly, poor and dry, and wholly unsuited to extensive agriculture. Furthermore, most of the land tilled by the Arabs was owned by absentee landlords who had no hesitation in exploiting their tenants. Therefore, these Arabs would gain tremendously were they to be resettled on land elsewhere better suited to extensive agriculture, which they could hope to own in due course. This would also enable the landlords to sell their lands to Jews, which Norman claimed they had consistently shown themselves anxious to do, without being criticised that they were rendering their tenants homeless. Furthermore “such a resettlement of the Arab peasants outside of Palestine would enable the Administration to permit Jewish immigration on the basis of economic absorptive capacity” without objections from the Arabs that their livelihoods were being threatened.(425)
In addition to the reasons given in his first version for Iraq to be the best destination for the Arab transferees, Norman, in his subsequent versions, wrote about the recently completed dams in Iraq which had made enormous areas available for cultivation. However, the indigenous population of Iraq could not provide sufficient numbers of new settlers for the new areas opened up by these new dams and the only Arab people who could be induced to settle there were the peasants of Palestine.(426)
The first version only speaks in general terms of “experts” who would be utilised to obtain an accurate estimate of the total cost of the plan. However, in his second version he wrote that they would come from the staff of the Palestine Jewish Colonisation Association. This organisation had for over half a century conducted large scale colonisation work in Palestine and was thus highly experienced in the field.(427) In his final version, Norman also included staff members from the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, which had done extensive colonisation work of Jews in certain areas of Russia.(428)
He also noted in his second and third versions, that Jewish organisations would have to purchase the land in Palestine immediately upon being vacated by the emigrating Arabs.(429) In his second version, Norman listed no fewer than sixteen Jewish financial agents to be approached for this purpose.(430)
In his first version, Norman did not consider the rate of transfer of Arabs, neither did he suggest performing a pilot plan. However, by the time he came to write the second version, he became more pragmatic. With regard to the rate of transfer, Norman wrote that his plan did not contemplate “the sudden and immediate moving of many thousands of Palestinian Arabs.” He felt certain that at first no large number would be persuaded to move. The methodology he thus suggested in his second version was that initially one would have to find “one landlord who could be made to see the material advantage to himself of exchanging his not very productive land in Palestine ... for a larger and more productive property in a developing country.”(431) In his final version, however, the emphasis was on the advantages to the tenant instead of the landlord, and he suggested finding “a very few villages that might be interested in improving their economic position by migrating to Iraq” and in their new country, instead of being “debt-ridden tenants” would be “freehold independent landowners.”(432) In order not to destroy the “social organization of Arab peasant life”, Norman proposed that whole villages be transferred intact with, (in the second version), the mukhtars remaining at the heads of their respective villages. He felt that “it would be sufficient in the first year to move not more than a dozen villages, involving only from three to five thousand Arabs.” If this was successful and good reports came back to Palestine, the work could then be considerably accelerated so that “eventually perhaps fifty thousand Arabs a year could be moved to Iraq.” To ensure the success of this plan, “trained instructors, preferably Arabs, would have to be employed to supervise the new villages in Iraq for at least one year each.”
At the same time, an educational campaign would be carried out amongst the Arabs in Palestine in order to point out the advantages of living in Iraq “as compared to the difficult soil of Palestine.”
Norman hoped that, “Perhaps a widespread desire to go to Iraq as their true national home could be inculcated among the Palestine Arabs, similar to the emotional desire among the Jews of Eastern Europe to dwell in Palestine as their national home.”(433)
The details for the plan's implementation are similarly structured in all three versions. However, there are some differences between the various versions (especially between the first and the subsequent versions), which we shall now point out:
The second and third versions were written far more professionally than the first version, and are followed by extensive footnotes and references.
The first version had envisaged that indirect enquiries would be made to determine whether Iraq would be willing to accept Arabs from Palestine. However, in his final version, Norman proposed a more direct albeit cautious approach. “Someone especially experienced in diplomacy, tact, and Arab and Iraqian affairs would have to proceed to Baghdad to discuss the matter with the Government officials, and also perhaps with the King.” He suggested that at first the matter should be discussed in the general terms of the economy and development of the country, and if the Iraqis showed they were aware that their greatest economic problem was under-population, it could be suggested to them that “if they took the proper steps they might be able to attract to their country over a period of time a considerable proportion of the fellachin of Palestine.”(434)
Norman had proposed in his first version that the monetary side of his plan be covered by Jews, Arabs, British and Iraqis, without specifying details of who did what. In the final version however, he decided that it would be the responsibility of the Iraqis to arrange the finance and resettlement of the Arabs in Iraq, by means of forming a special mortgage bank. “Jewish interests” would have to form a company whose objects would be “to buy and make immediate payment for the land that might be vacated by emigrating peasants in Palestine.”(435)
In all his versions, Norman wrote that an agreement would have to be made with the British which would “ensure that no administrative obstacles would be interposed to the carrying out of the scheme”. However, in the second and third versions he added that this agreement would also contain the condition that Arab immigration into Palestine be completely stopped in order to prevent Arabs from the neighbouring countries entering Palestine “to replace those who had gone to Iraq” and hence perpetuate the problem which this plan was supposed to help solve. On this latter point, Norman pointed out that under the terms of the Palestine Mandate, Arab immigration to Palestine “need not be permitted.” Norman was obviously referring to Article 6 which spoke of facilitating Jewish immigration into Palestine.
Amongst the reasons advanced by Norman for entering into such an agreement with the British were: preservation of the prestige of Britain, non-capitulation to Arab riots and civil disobedience, and “that no other solution to the Palestine dilemma possibly can be proposed without arousing the antagonism of either the Arabs or the Jews.”(436)
Some additional points were incorporated into the second version, which did not appear either in the first or last versions: Before negotiations could begin, it would be necessary “to obtain material support for it [the plan] from a substantial group of responsible Jews.”(437) There would have to be a provision for an agreement binding the Jewish Agency and the Zionist Organisation not to “interfere with the execution of the plan ... except when specifically requested to do so”, the object of this being “to prevent the plan from becoming involved in all sorts of political controversies that surely would render its execution impossible.”(438)
In his last version, Norman specifically wrote that the Iraqi Government would invite the peasants of Palestine to settle in Iraq. He pointed out that this would be the most difficult stage and “on its success the validity of the whole plan depends.” Intelligence and tact by the Iraqi Government would be crucial here.(439)
He concluded this section with the suggestion that the procedure outlined in his plan could be “kept up for some twenty-five or thirty years, or until there was no more desire on the part of Arabs in Palestine to go to Iraq.”(440)
Norman finished both his second and third versions with an almost identically worded “Conclusion”. In it, he was realistic and perceived that his plan was “immense in scope”, that there was a “vast number of obstacles in the way of carrying [it] out” and that an enormous amount of energy would be required. He felt that the only way to ascertain whether the difficulties were insurmountable was to make an effort to overcome them.
“Only two things are necessary before commencing to make the attempt:
(1) a decision that the objective is worth-while, and
(2) a resolution to proceed vigorously.”(441)
Although Norman brought out the first version of his plan in 1934, he did not take steps to promote it until after he brought out his second version in 1937. Medoff suggests that the reason for this was that during these years Norman was “preoccupied by his own financial concerns during the early years of the Great Depression, and mollified by the cessation of Palestinian Arab violence in the years following the 1929 outbreaks” so that he “temporarily put his Iraq scheme on the back burner.”(442) However, unlike many proposers of transfer, who just put forward details of a plan, but did nothing towards their implementation, Norman, as we shall now see, was true to his ideas.
In the latter part of the summer of 1937, Norman began to fully apply himself to the task of implementing his plan. He began by submitting the second version of his memorandum, to a “number of leading personages in the United States.” According to him they all in principle approved it.(443)
In a report, Norman pointed out that in particular, there were two matters not covered in his memorandum, about which he could not obtain information without contacting leading people in Iraq. Firstly, why the Iraqi Government had undertaken to invest large sums of money to construct dams and irrigation works whilst their present population did not merit such investment, and secondly, whether they would be interested in a substantial immigration of Arab cultivators to settle on the land made cultivable by this construction work.(444)
With this end in mind, Norman wrote to Sir Robert Waley Cohen on 13 October 1937. [Sir Robert Waley Cohen was a British industrialist and Jewish communal leader who rose to high office in the Anglo-Jewish community. Although basically opposed to political Zionism, he contributed to the economic development of Palestine as chairman of the Economic Board for Palestine.]
Norman enclosed a copy of his paper to Waley Cohen - presumably the second edition of his transfer plan - and commented that Felix Warburg had “expressed considerable interest in it” and that Warburg “feels that the first step in proceeding to see what can be done with my plan is to find out what is the intention of the Iraqian government with regard to colonization of the area that will become cultivable as the result of the completion of the dam on the Tigris mentioned in my paper.” Norman informed Waley Cohen that at that time there was in Paris an American lawyer employed by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee by the name of Nathan Katz and both Warburg and Norman had both written to him asking him to proceed to London to find out what he could on this matter. Norman added that he had suggested to Waley Cohen that “it might be worthwhile for him [Katz] to get in touch with you, in case he needs help or advice.”(445)
On the same day, Norman wrote to Warburg, enclosing a letter for Katz and also the draft of a letter that Warburg might write to Katz. Norman requested that if this draft seems satisfactory to Warburg, the latter should write a covering note and have the two letters mailed together to Katz. Norman also enclosed a copy of the letter he had written to Waley Cohen.(446)
Indeed, a few days later, Warburg wrote to Katz enclosing a letter (untraced) from Norman and informed him that he was “most desirous of obtaining the information that Mr. Norman mentions in his letter” and he asked him “to do all possible to obtain it.”(447)
However, a few days later, Norman had second thoughts on bringing in Katz. He felt that as soon as the Iraqis get to know that Jews were behind this, the whole transfer plan could come to naught. He considered that a better approach would be to show that the “whole plan is for the benefit of Iraq and that the first moves in connection with it should come from the Iraqians.” Norman felt that Edwyn Bevan, a non-Jewish professor, who had in the previous year written a letter to “The Times” of London on the transfer of Arabs from Palestine to Iraq should be approached to contact the Iraqis to point out the advantages of this plan. If Bevan succeeded then “the whole scheme would come before the world as emanating from Iraq, for the advantage of Iraq, and we would then be saved any possibility of being accused of plotting the deportation of the Palestine Arabs.” Also, using this approach would make the British Colonial Office receive it more favourably.(448)
Likewise, in his report, Norman wrote that under the conditions then prevailing in the Near East, a Jew traveling to Iraq would have been suspect and would have probably aroused antagonism. It was therefore essential for this information to be verified by a non-Jew who would be persona grate to the Iraqis.(449)
Norman thus felt that Katz was not the person to speak to the Iraqis and he thus cabled to Katz: “Disregard letters Warburg Norman.” Norman hoped that Warburg would “not be displeased” with using his name in this telegram. If, however, Warburg still felt that Katz was the right man, he could still instruct him to go to London. Indeed, before cabling Katz, Norman had for two days tried to contact Warburg but without success.(450) The reason for his being unable to make contact with Warburg became known to the world very soon after. Warburg had had a heart attack and on 20 October he died. Norman thus lost an important ally to advance his plan.
For nearly two months prior to Warburg’s death, Norman had been trying to interest Warburg in his plan. On 6 September, Norman had written to him saying that “there are several matters that I feel a need of talking over with you, and I wonder if I could have the privilege of some of your time in the not distant future.”(451) Norman did not specify which matters but it almost certainly included his transfer plan.
On the following day, he again wrote to Warburg informing him that for some years he had “been working on a fundamental plan to deal with the Arab problem in a basic way.” He pointed out that he had recently given James Rosenberg, a member of the Joint Distribution Committee, a copy of it and that he just received word from Rosenberg that he should immediately furnish Warburg with a copy, which he did. He added that should they meet in the near future, as he [Norman] had requested they could “talk about it a little.”(452)
On receiving his first letter, Warburg agreed to a meeting on 13 September.(453) and when he received his second letter answered that he would “be glad to discuss this [the Arab problem] with you when next we meet.”(454)
Following their meeting, Warburg discussed Norman’s plan with a few other people and requested that Norman’s secretary send him an extra copy.(455) Warburg’s actions went beyond just a polite interest. Ronald Venables Vernon, (he had just retired after thirty-seven years in Colonial Office service), who met with Norman at the end of 1937, understood that the plan “was worked out largely in conjunction with the late Felix Warburg.”(456) Whether or not, Vernon's comments are an exaggeration, we do know that when Norman submitted his plan to Warburg, the latter “was so enthusiastic in his approval that he offered to put into it $10.00 for every $1.00 which Mr. Norman would invest.” Warburg however “felt that the plan should be further revised and perfected”.(457)
About a couple of weeks later Warburg sent Norman an “interesting letter” on the subject of Iraq which he had just received from Jonah Wise, the National Chairman of the Joint Distribution Committee.(458) Wise suggested “that when the time comes for a check-up on the facts concerning Iraq,” Warburg or Norman should consult with Professor Nelson Glueck, Director of the American School of Oriental Research in Jerusalem.(459) On 7 October, Warburg wrote to Norman informing him that he had written to Glueck, asking “his reaction on the possibilities in Irak (sic) and Trans-Jordania”(460) - presumably on the feasibility of using these as resettlement sites for the Arabs who would be transferred from Palestine.
Amongst the Warburg papers are several memoranda(461) giving the population, land area, cultivable or otherwise, of Iraq, Transjordan and Palestine. One of these memoranda is dated 24 September 1937 and has typed at the bottom “taken over the telephone from a.h.Katz.” Medoff explains this footnote that Warburg had asked his agent in Europe, Nathan Katz “to supply data on the potential for settling in Transjordan and Iraq. Katz called back with the information on September 24, dictating the details to Warburg’s secretary over the telephone.”(462)
On 26 September 1937, Lewis Andrews, Governor of the Galilee District, was murdered by the Arabs. The British immediately took strong measures against the Arabs of Palestine which included declaring the Arab Higher Committee an illegal association and deporting some of its members, deposing the Mufti of Jerusalem as head of Palestine’s Moslem Supreme Council and the imprisonment of a number of Arabs. Norman immediately telegraphed Warburg: “Yesterdays events in Palestine seem to indicate perhaps British Government has been driven to point of being ready for some fundamental solution of country’s problem. It may be that this attitude will not last very long and it occurs to me that it probably presents a uniquely favourable moment for presenting Iraq scheme to Ormsby Gore [the British Colonial Secretary] and others.” He added that if he had an “assurance of adequate financial backing” he would immediately go to London and with the help of Waley Cohen discuss the plan with the British Government.(463) On the same day Norman and Warburg discussed this subject together.
A few days later Norman wrote to Warburg asking “whether or not the time had now arrived for me to proceed to England to discuss with the British government officials the plan I have outlined for a gradual transference of Palestinian Arabs to Iraq.” In his report, Norman wrote that a number of those who read his memorandum, “among them the late Mr. Felix M. Warburg,” the Jewish banker, encouraged him to go to England in order to find someone who could obtain this information.(464)
In his letter, Norman went on to distinguish between a “plan” and a “proposal”. For a plan to become a proposal “the intention and ability must have evidence of concrete substantiation.” He felt that if he proceeded to England solely on his own initiative, he would “fail to win the cooperation of Jewish interests, non-Zionist as well as Zionist.” To succeed would require substantial support from British Jewry. Norman also realised that he was, in his own words, “an unknown young man from a foreign country” whereas Warburg was a well known public figure in the Jewish world and with the authorities in London; hence the participation of Warburg in Norman’s plan could spell the difference between success and failure.(465)
On the financial side, very large capital would be required to carry out such a plan, up to one million dollars just in the initial stage. Warburg also had plenty of money. However, at this stage, people would not be prepared to “write a blank cheque.” Norman’s solution to this problem was that “a syndicate or trusteeship be created, with yourself [Warburg] and two others who command confidence.” The subscribed money would not be spent “until all arrangements with the Zionists, the British, the Iraqians, and finally some Palestinian Arabs willing to migrate, had been completed to the satisfaction of the trustees and until the further financing had been arranged.” When one had reached the stage for the “commencement of actual population transfer operations” the money would be handed over to a corporation. Investors would first be sought from New York, and then from the rest of the United States, Britain, France and elsewhere.(466) Norman enclosed a “Tentative Draft” for an “Iraq Development Syndicate Subscription Agreement” which he himself had drawn up.(467) However, as we have already seen, two weeks later Warburg was dead and thus nothing seems to have come from this Syndicate plan.
On 12 November 1937, Norman wrote to Israel Benjamin Brodie, “It looks very much as though I will be leaving very shortly for London in connection with the Iraq plan.” He went on to say that Sir Robert Waley Cohen was endeavouring to make some very important appointments for him and should he hear within the next few days that they had been made, he would leave for London within a fortnight.(468)
At that period, Norman had a chance meeting with Benjamin Akzin, at which Akzin recommended to Norman not to allow his [Norman’s] “identity and connections to be revealed to the Iraqians or Palestinian Arabs if possible, as then the scheme would come to them as a Jewish one, possibly a nefarious plot.” He also urged Norman to find a non-Jewish go-between who would investigate this matter and also carry out the negotiations with the Iraqis.(469)
We know about this meeting with Akzin from a diary entry made by Norman a few weeks later. It was between 22 November and 2 December 1937 that Norman kept a diary of his meetings in which he discussed his Iraq plan with various people.
Numerous attempts have been made by the author to obtain a copy of this diary, but as yet, have been unsuccessful. However, extracts from this diary and a photocopy of one of its pages are to be found in a book by Rafael Medoff.(470) From this book, we see that the page numbers in his diary are the odd numbers from 1 to 17. It would thus seem that Norman used just one side of each page in a numbered notebook.
From Medoff’s book, it is possible to reconstruct the contents of Norman’s diary. His meetings were thus as follows:
page 1: 22 November, New York, Professor Ephraim Speiser.
page 3: 22 November, New York, Professor Ephraim Speiser.
page 5: 26 November, on board “Normandie,” Otto Schiff; 27 November, on board “Normandie,” Benjamin Akzin.
page 7: 27 November, on board “Normandie,” Benjamin Akzin.
page 9: 27 November, on board “Normandie,” Benjamin Akzin; 29 November, London, Walter S. Cohen.
page 11: 29 November, London, Walter S. Cohen; 30 November / 1 December, London, Walter S. Cohen.
page 13: 30 November / 1 December, London, Walter S. Cohen; 2 December, London, Sir Robert Waley Cohen.
page 15: 2 December, London, Sir Robert Waley Cohen; 2 December, London, Vladimir Jabotinsky. .
page 17: 2 December, London, Vladimir Jabotinsky.
Let us now look at details of these meetings:
On 22 November, Norman had a luncheon meeting in New York with Ephraim Speiser, Professor of Semitic and Oriental Languages at the University of Pennsylvania. Having worked at the American School of Oriental Research in Baghdad and having “had to deal with the government officials in various departments,” Speiser was considered an expert on Iraq, and Norman realised the importance of being well informed about the different aspects of that country.
Norman gained a lot at this meeting. For example, based on “the various reports” he had read, he envisioned that the area he had designated for the Arab transferees was “excessively dry.” In fact, it was very swampy and as a result, Speiser and his party “had to use rowboats to cross numerous ponds.” Speiser also pointed out the “very difficult, though not necessarily impossible” task of obtaining the agreement of the Iraqi government. Since Iraq had aligned itself with the struggle of the Arabs of Palestine against Britain and the Zionists, its leaders “probably would not want their country to appear to assist the Jews in increasing their hold over Palestine.”
Another problem raised by Speiser and which Norman had not anticipated was that the “wealthy and influential” Jews of Iraq would oppose Norman’s plan fearing that the Iraqi government might transfer them to Palestine, something which these Jews did not want. They might have even made it conditional on the transfer of Arabs from Palestine.
Speiser also commented that since the Iraqi leaders were Kurds, they “might not want to see the Arab population of the country substantially increased,” and that the Iraqi regime could not be considered stable.
Although Speiser was willing to help Norman, he did not intend returning to Iraq. Norman summed up Speiser as “a profound, whole-souled person of great intelligence, & decisive.”(471)
Two days later, Norman left the U.S.A. for Britain, on board the “Normandie.”(472) On board the ship was Otto Schiff, the British financier who was first cousin to Felix Warburg’s widow. On 26 November, Norman discussed his plan with him. In his diary he wrote that it was not new to Schiff since “he had heard it and me discussed in a meeting of Felix Warburg’s associates in the Jewish Agency for Palestine at Mrs. Warburg’s on November 15. He knew too little of the subject to discuss it much, but expressed a willingness to introduce me to a number of important British Jews. He is opposed to partition of Palestine, and therefore would be glad if my scheme could serve as a practical alternative.” In Schiff’s opinion Norman would do well to “keep close to Nathan Katz.” Norman wrote that Schiff was “a very fine man, but not deep on general questions, although sound and solid on business and economic matters.”(473)
On the same day, Norman met with Benjamin Akzin. At this meeting, Akzin suggested that Norman should speak with Sir Neill Malcolm, the League of Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He described him as a Revisionist sympathiser with the ability to make “good government contacts.” He was suspicious of the British because of their increasingly pro-Arab attitude and he accordingly urged Norman not to allow “the discussion of my scheme to get on to a plan of Partition versus non-Partition,” because the transfer scheme “is applicable with or without [partition].” Akzin was very wary of a possible trick by the British Colonial Office who might “offer to work out the Iraq scheme for the proposed Jewish State in return for agreement to Partition on the part of its Jewish official opponents” and then, “after Partition had been put into effect” they would “back out of the rest of the bargain.” Norman obviously took this advice seriously since he then wrote in his diary that “this is a point to remember.” On Akzin, Norman wrote that his “knowledge and brains are of the highest order, and he has a good judgment on political matters, but his influence is not wide.... His personality is not of the best, though he is pleasant, and a good companion.”(474)
Norman arrived in London on 29 November and was met at his hotel by Walter S. Cohen, a British non-Zionist friend. Cohen was pessimistic about Norman’s plan and expressed “great doubts of its possibility” because of the current “unfavourable political and psychological situation” in Palestine. Needless to say, Norman did not like Cohen’s assessment and commented in his diary “Perhaps if it were not so bad, no one would be interested at all in any scheme, which may be a way of preventing the bad situation having worse results.”(475)
Norman entered in his diary that Walter Cohen had arranged for him to meet with Sir Richard Storrs two days later.(476) [Storrs had been Governor of Jerusalem under Allenby and Herbert Samuel.] In his Report, Norman wrote “through Sir Robert Waley Cohen, I was put in touch with Sir Ronald Storrs,”(477) although, exactly when he had done so, is not too clear. Since however Norman wrote both these statements, it would seem that both Cohens were involved in the arrangements for the meeting.
Whether or not Storrs was a potential asset or liability for the Norman plan is a subject of dispute. In 1921, the American Zionist leader, Henrietta Szold, described Storrs as an “evil genius” and that “he despises the Jews”;(478) on the other hand, in 1935, great praise was heaped upon him by the British Chief Rabbi, Dr. Joseph H. Hertz at a Jewish meeting chaired by Storrs.(479) It is of course possible that in the intervening fourteen years, Storrs radically changed his attitude towards the Jews.
Comments about Storrs suitability for helping Norman were made at the time when Norman came to London - (November 1937). Akzin warned Norman to be cautious, since according to gossip, he “is very shrewd”.(480) Jabotinsky also viewed Storrs in a negative way and told Norman that he “should not count too much on Storrs.... He said he was not a strong chartered man, sort of a dilettante - his success was in Egypt as sort of a social secretary, but his record as a governor of Jerusalem was not brilliant, in Cyprus very bad, and in Northern Rhodesia calamitous.”(481) Walter Cohen, however, was in favour of Storrs’ participation and remarked to Norman that his timing was good since Storrs had planned “to go to Egypt this winter, and might go on to Iraq if he could be interested.” He also commented that Storrs was “poor and in need of funds .... He might be interested in the Iraq plan as a job.”(482)
In a similar vein, Norman wrote in his diary that Waley Cohen thought that Storrs’ “experience in the Arab East is so wide” that he might well be suitable as a “gentile go-between.”(483)
However, by the 2 December, when Norman lunched with Sir Robert Waley Cohen at his Highgate home in London, the latter’s pronounced assessment of Storrs had become very negative. Norman now wrote in his diary: “He doubted if [Storrs] would be a good man to conduct enquiries and negotiations in Iraq, because, as Sir Robert put it, ‘there is a tin can tied to his tail’ which bangs around wherever he goes - in other words he is too-well known and is known to be a political man, and wherever he went political motives would be suspected at once by the Arabs. Sir Robert advised not trying to hire Storrs to go to Iraq.”(484)
When and who changed Waley Cohen’s views on Storrs is not known.
The bottom line is that the meeting with Storrs had to be delayed due to Storrs’ illness(485) and it is not known whether a face to face meeting ever took place. However, Norman wrote in his Report, “Sir Ronald [Storrs] unfortunately was committed by contract to deliver lectures throughout Europe and America during the ensuing fifteen months, and therefore was not available.”(486) From his expression “unfortunately”, Norman had obviously weighed up the pros and cons of using Storrs and come to the conclusion that it would have been an asset.
On the evening of 2 December, Norman dined with Jabotinsky at London’s Hungaria restaurant. In his diary, Norman wrote that Jabotinsky “had already read the copy of my 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.” He suggested that instead of Storrs, Norman should use John Henry Patterson, a non-Jew, who had commanded the Jewish Legion during World War I and had afterwards become a Revisionist Zionist.(487) Medoff comments that there is no indication that Norman contacted Patterson, presumably because Patterson’s Zionist connections would have aroused the Iraqis’ suspicions.(488)
In England, Norman also met with a number of leading personalities in Anglo-Jewry. These included, Sir Osmond d’Avigdor-Goldsmid, Chairman of the British section of the Jewish Agency; Neville Laski, President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews; Leonard Stein, the legal advisor to the Jewish Agency and author of books on Zionist history; Harry Sacher, a manager of Marks and Spencers and a British Zionist leader; and James A. de Rotschild, a member of the British Parliament. The contents of their discussions are not recorded. However, Norman writes that “all of them offered me all the help of which they were capable, and it was only with that help that I was able to accomplish anything at all.”(489)
Norman also discussed his plans with Major C. S. Jarvis, who for eleven years until 1936 had been Governor of the Province of Sinai in Egypt. However, since he had been an outspoken friend of the Jews, he disqualified himself from the task of making contact with the Iraqis.(490)
After considering various other men for the task he finally chose H. T. Montague Bell. Walter Cohen had put Norman in touch with him.(491) Bell was a man in his early sixties who knew the Orient thoroughly. For a number of years he had been editor-in-chief of the British weekly periodical “Great Britain and the East” and prior to that, had been foreign correspondent for “The Times” of London. Bell had also spent three years in Baghdad and was on friendly terms with the King and other leading personalities in that country. As far as character was concerned, Bell impressed Norman as being a quiet, studious and highly respectable person.(492)
Bell had had a number of contacts with Zionism during the 1930s and from three private conversations between Montague Bell and high placed Zionist officials which took place in 1933 and 1934, one can get a good idea of Bell's views at that period towards the Zionist cause.
From the reports of these meetings we can see that Bell was very sceptical of the possibility of a large Jewish immigration into Palestine at that period.(493) He was also very critical of the lack of co-operation between the Jewish Agency in Palestine and the British Mandatory authorities.(494)
In the course of these conversations, Bell also put forward his views regarding the Arabs. We see from the report of the first of these conversations, that Bell said that “we paid much too much attention to what the Arabs said. In his opinion one Jew was worth ten Arabs, and if only we were more conscious of this superiority we should be less sensitive to things that seemed to us to be aimed against us. For example, as regards the Legislative Council, he was convinced that the Jews, even if in a minority on it, could easily outwit the Arabs”.(495) In another of these conversations, Bell said that “it would be a mistake if the Palestine Government showed any weakness by the way of concessions in the face of disorder or threats of disorder by the Arabs.”(496)
Included in the reports of these meetings, is an assessment by the Zionists present of Bell's attitudes towards Zionism. At the first of these meetings, the assessment was, “On the whole, Mr. Bell's attitude was one of expressing good-will towards the Jews and their work in Palestine, while disagreeing with their tactics.”(497) The report of the last meeting states that “before leaving, Mr. Bell reiterated that despite his criticism, he was a friend of the Zionist movement.” The response of the Zionists present was that “though he obviously had an understanding and appreciation of much of our point of view, any favourable reference to Zionism in the Near East [the paper Bell edited] was unusual, and we suggested that he should write an article in which expression was given to the sympathy felt by him towards the Zionist cause”. Bell, however, could not accept this idea, since it might be used to reinforce the campaign being conducted against the British Government and the result would “merely militate against his own aim of a Palestine which was a single united whole.”(498)
As far as his Arab transfer plans were concerned, Norman considered that Bell was entirely in sympathy with his (Norman's) objectives. This however, appears not to have been the case just a year and a half earlier. We can see this from a letter written by Bell to “The Times” in March 1936, where he supported the setting up of a legislative council in Palestine. He saw in such a council the “only practical means of bringing Arabs and Jews together” and that in the council chamber they would be “forced to discover that there is something to be said for one another's points of view, and that it is up to both to work in harmony for the well-being of their country.”(499) A few days later, a letter was published from Norman Bentwich disagreeing with Bell's views.(500) Bell was obviously so firm in his opinion, since he wrote a further letter defending it.(501) It is of course possible that Bell's views on the subject radically changed in the following year and a half, or he was was convinced by the weight of Norman's arguments. However, it seems more likely (as will be seen later) that Bell was attracted to the job by the remuneration he was to receive from Norman. As we shall see, having taken the work, Bell carried it out most conscientiously.
From the Iraqi Ambassador in London, Bell learned that Iraq had invested large sums, because the money had been accumulated in a special fund from oil royalties and these improvements had been suggested by a number of experts, and it “seemed wise to construct the works while the money was available, even though the benefits might not be realized for some time.” The Ambassador was of the opinion that Iraq might be “interested in a scheme that would put the land to use in the near future.”(502)
Norman employed Bell to go to Iraq in order to find out whether they were interested in a large Arab immigration. At all events he was to implant in the minds of the leading personages in Iraq the idea that the country's greatest need was an increased population of Arabs skilled in agriculture and that the “only place where any quantity of such people might be found who might have an economic reason of their own for going to Iraq is Palestine.”(503)
One of Norman's meetings in London had been with Norman Bentwich (a former attorney general for the Palestine Mandate administration) and the latter introduced Edward Norman to Ronald Vernon. In the latter part of December 1937, Norman met with Vernon and explained his plan to him. Vernon liked the plan very much and, after the meeting Vernon wrote to Sir John Shuckburgh, who was Deputy Under-Secretary of State at the Colonial Office, requesting an appointment for Norman, stating that he should “be taken seriously” and “should be listened to sympathetically.”(504)
A meeting with Shuckburgh and Harold Downie, who was Assistant Secretary at the Colonial Office, took place at the that office on 19 January, in which Norman spoke for two hours giving a clear exposition of his plan. From a note written by Downie to Shuckburgh after the meeting, we can see that these British civil servants were hostile to the Norman plan right from the outset. In his note, Downie pronounced Norman's approach to be “entirely pragmatic and he achieves simplification by deliberate exclusion of the facts and factors which are really at the root of the trouble”, and it is based on the assumption that the problem was economic and not political. He said that both the Peel Commission and the British Government took the contrary view and this “knocks the bottom out of any scheme” such as Norman's. He therefore felt that it was a “waste of time to comment on the details of Mr. Norman's proposal and that it was “difficult to take this proposal seriously.” In order that Norman should not get the idea that the British Government endorsed his plan, Downie suggested the text of a letter to be sent to Norman.(505)
Shuckburgh wrote to Norman on the lines suggested by Downie, also pointing out that “the Government could not lend any support to a scheme which they must regard as proceeding upon an incorrect assumption, and consequently as impracticable.” He added that should Norman pursue his scheme, his activities would “have not .received either the encouragement or even the acquiescence of the British Government or any of its officials.”(506) Norman replied that he agreed that his view of the fundamental difficulty in Palestine differed from that of the British Government. Were this not the case, he “would consider naturally that the matter was being dealt with effectively” and would not have involved himself with the issue of Palestine. He, nevertheless, wanted the British Government to be aware of the fact that he was trying to implement his plan.(507)
A week after his meeting with Shuckburgh, Norman asked him for the address of Sir Francis Humphrys. Prior to Iraq's independence, Humphrys had been the High Commissioner, and following independence in 1932 served as its British Ambassador for a period of three years. Shuckburgh gave Humphrys's address to Norman,(508) but then wrote to Humphrys warning him to expect Norman to be in contact with him.(509) Humphrys replied to Shuckburgh, that since returning from Iraq he had “been pestered with requests from the Press, societies and busybodies of all kinds who are interested in the Middle East, to write articles, attend meetings or give my views on the subject of Palestine.” Norman was not as yet amongst these people and Humphrys hoped “that the call will not materialise.”(510) It is not recorded whether Norman ever contacted Humphrys.
A meeting did however take place with John Martin, who had been Secretary to the Peel Commission. No report of the contents of this meeting has been traced, although we do know that correspondence regarding Norman's memorandum passed through Martin's hands.(511)
The memorandum which Norman left with Shuckburgh was also studied by senior civil servants at the Foreign Office. Their comments were likewise far from favourable and even contained an element of sarcasm. “Mr. Norman's ingenious ideas might have received even wider elaboration at his hands if he had thought of transferring the Palestine Arabs to Iraq and the Assyrians to take their lands in Palestine.” Another of them wrote that although it had evidently been worked out with considerable care it was “completely off the rails”, adding that before the First World War, something might have been done on those lines, but to expect that in the late 1930s the Palestine Arabs would move to Iraq and leave Palestine to the Jews showed “a complete failure to appreciate the real nature of the problem.” He felt that the Arabs “would rather starve than assist the settlement of the Jews.”(512)
In passing one might mention that this type of comment was not limited to Norman's plans. As we shall see later, when at the same period, a Greek Jew named Edwin Saltiel put forward in a letter to the British Foreign Secretary, a proposal for a Jewish-Arab transfer of population, a senior civil servant at the Foreign Office made uncomplimentary comments about his plan.
This attitude was again illustrated on 4 February, when Bell who had known Shuckburgh for a number of years, telephoned him and suggested paying him a farewell visit before he left for Iraq. In a note written that day to Sir Cosmo Parkinson, who was Permanent Under-Secretary at the Colonial Office, Shuckburgh wrote that he did not encourage this suggestion of Bell's. “I am sure that we had better keep clear of the whole business.”(513)
Bell arrived in Baghdad on 15 February and remained in Iraq until 28 March. He gave as his reason for being in Iraq, the preparation of articles for the British and American press on the progress of the country since its complete independence in 1932. This made it reasonable for him to ask searching questions of the leading people in the country. During his first two weeks in Iraq, he travelled widely discussing the country's affairs with leading British officials who were still there. He also had an audience with the King, and the Prime Minister gave a dinner for him, which was attended by the entire cabinet. He succeeded in renewing all his old friendships and made many new friends. Norman considered that Bell “carried out his mission in an exceptionally capable manner.”(514)
On his return to England, Bell submitted a complete report of his trip to Norman. Bell was of the opinion that if the matter were to be “properly handled”, the scheme would be practicable, and that he had aroused considerable interest in it on the part of the leading Iraqis.
Norman continued to employ Bell to write a number of articles about Iraq. These articles were to mention the need for increased population in Iraq to assist in its development. On publication, copies would be sent to the leading Iraqis.(515) In order to divert attention from the fact that Bell was particularly interested in Iraq, Norman reported that Bell's first article which appeared in “The Times” dealt with the problems of Kuwait.(516) However, a search of the indices of “The Times”, has not yielded such an article.
In October of that year, on the sixth anniversary of Iraq's emergence as an independent state, an article of Bell's appeared in “The Times” of London. Bell wrote about the development of Iraq, emphasising the importance of the irrigation projects and stressing the under-population of the country. “Iraq's paramount requirement is an increase of population. With from 3,500,000 to 4,000,000 inhabitants she cannot do justice to the potentialities of the land - the lack of labour is a constant problem - and she is at a disadvantage against Turkey and Iran with their far larger populations. The settlement of the nomads on the land may add to her wealth, but any substantial increase of population in the near future must come from outside.” Although stressing Iraq's need for immigration “from outside”, Bell did not mention Palestine directly.(517)
This article of Bell's was referred to a few weeks later by Sir Walter Smiles in a debate in the British Parliament following the publication of the Woodhead Report. Smiles then commented, “Here is a chance for the King of Iraq to be helpful to the Arabs in Palestine by offering them work and land in Iraq. It would be much better than inciting them to rebellion.”(518)
In August 1938, Bell had a meeting with Downie, during which he gave a report of his visit to Iraq. Bell reported that whilst the Iraqi ministers had said that the transfer of Arabs from Palestine to Iraq “was out of the question at the present time, they were inclined to nibble at the idea as a future possibility.” Downie noted that “Mr. Bell was careful not to mention Mr. Norman and his scheme, and tried to convey the impression that his investigations were purely personal.” Bell's behaviour was in fact very understandable in view of the fact that Downie had been hostile to Norman's plan.
Bell emphasised the advantages of such a transfer, but fully appreciated that the scheme depended on the willingness of the Arabs of Palestine to transfer to Iraq, which at the time was most unlikely. He understood that the British Government could not associate itself with any such scheme. Downie then referred to the difference that the transferred Arabs would experience between the temperate climate of Palestine and the excessively hot climate of the lower reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates. Towards the conclusion of the meeting, Bell asked Downie “what attitude the British Government would adopt to any proposal for encouraging the voluntary immigration of Palestinian Arabs to Iraq.” Downie said he was not in a position to give an official answer, but in his own personal opinion, he saw no prospect of the Arabs being prepared to leave Palestine for Iraq, or the Iraqi government encouraging such a development. However, if at a future date, these Arabs would wish to migrate and the Iraqi Government be willing to receive them, he could “not see any reason why the Government of Palestine should stand in the way.”(519)
In October, two of the most prominent Iraqi political leaders were in London for conferences with British officials in connection with the severe disturbances which then prevailed in Palestine. Bell undertook to utilise this opportunity to strengthen his already friendly relationship with them.(520)
At about the same time, Norman who was in the United States, had a meeting with Cyrus Adler, the President of the American Jewish Committee. Three months later, Adler reported on the contents of this meeting to Ben-Gurion. According to Ben-Gurion's diary, Adler had offered to assist Norman with his plan and to this end, had given him a number of sources. Norman was of the opinion, that if one were to give an Arab from fifty to two hundred and fifty acres of land in Iraq in exchange for his two to three acres in Palestine, he would go. This was the method which had been used by the American government to encourage the early settlers to migrate westwards. Adler had concluded that Norman was caught up with his transfer idea, and that he had already found supporters and that he would also find additional supporters. He observed that Sieff(?) was also dealing with this matter.(521)