Zionist Reactions

In mid-May 1944, a news item appeared in a bulletin of the “Jewish Telegraphic Agency” headed “Jewish Commonwealth can be established without Transfer of Arabs”. The bulletin continued, “The establishment of a Jewish Commonwealth in Palestine can be achieved without the need for even one Arab to emigrate from Palestine it was stated by Mr. Moshe Shertok, head of the Political Department of the Jewish Agency, according to a Jerusalem report received here today (London May 15th). Mr. Shertok, the report says, pointed out that the British Labour Party's suggestion that some Arabs might be transferred from Palestine was 'inconsistent with the Zionist programme'.”(136)

This was Shertok's public pronouncement on the question of transfer. However, to closed sessions of the Jewish Agency Executive and the Mapai Central Committee, both held only a week before the appearance of the J.T.A. news report, Shertok voiced rather different views, when reporting on a meeting held with Philip Noel-Baker in London.

Noel-Baker, a member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party (and at a future date a recipient of the Nobel Prize for Peace) had asked Shertok, “Why is it impossible to transfer Arabs from Palestine? We will give them one hundred million pounds to settle elsewhere.” Shertok reported that he had explained that although this resettlement “might be possible in the final stages,” transfer should not be advocated as a prior condition to solving the Middle East dilemma. If the overall solution were to be linked with the transfer of the Arabs, this transfer would be regarded as an indispensable condition for settling the Palestine problem. This might result in the suggestion that without transfer of Arabs, it would be impossible to absorb further Jews in the country. As a transfer of Arabs would be very difficult, “as difficult as dividing the Red Sea,” it would be easy for the British to arrive at the conclusion that Palestine could not absorb any further Jewish immigrants and thus absolve themselves of any obligation to change the immigration restrictions.(137)

We therefore see that Shertok's insistence on delaying the transfer of Arabs from Palestine until the “final stage” was a tactical move to lessen the likelihood of a continuation of the restrictions on Jewish immigration into Palestine.

On 10 May 1944, the Journalists Association held its Annual General Meeting at the Museum Hall in Tel-Aviv, at which Ben-Gurion was the principal speaker. When references were made to the British Labour Party's proposals for Palestine, he stated that the Zionists had had no part in its formulation. Ben-Gurion said that it was an internal matter for the British Labour Party and depended on that Party's interpretation of the Balfour Declaration. He added that it was the first time that such a resolution on Palestine had been formulated entirely by the British Labour Party. As stated earlier, after publication of the British Labour Party's resolution, there had been a number of protests from Arab sources. Answering these protests, Ben-Gurion stated, “It is obvious that the allusion is to a transfer of population by consent.”(138)

The various Arabic newspapers were not “happy” with this speech of Ben-Gurion’s. “Filastin” mentioned it under the heading “Ben-Gurion speaks on the Jewish State and on the question of transporting the Arabs.” The newspaper “Al-Difaa” wrote on it, “The imagination of Ben-Gurion, the continuation of the dream of the creation of an Empire and a conversation on ‘transport’.”(139)

In his speech, Ben-Gurion then went on to reiterate his statement regarding transfer made during his address at the Extraordinary Zionist Conference held at the Biltmore Hotel. It had not been possible to hold Zionist Congresses during either World War. However, in May 1942, about six hundred delegates representing the main Zionist groups in New York, had met in the Biltmore Hotel to discuss and reformulate the aims of the Zionist movement. The programme adopted, reflected the more militant thinking of the American Zionists. In fact, after Biltmore, Meir Ya'ari of Hashomer Hazair was apprehensive that the maximalists were preparing to transfer large numbers of Arabs from Palestine in order to vacate the country for Jews. He considered such transfers to be both impractical and unethical.(140)

With regard to the question of transfer, Ben-Gurion declared at the Biltmore Hotel, “In several quarters the idea of transfer is advanced as the most ideal settlement of the Palestine problem. Let us once and for all understand that to enable Palestine to absorb all the Jews who may be expected to need a new home in the post-war period, there is no economic need for any transfer whatsoever. In post-war Europe, a re-settlement of population may be necessary and inevitable.”

Ben-Gurion then referred to the exchange of population between Greece and Turkey and continued, “Syria and Iraq may also have an interest, economically as well as politically, in strengthening their position vis-a-vis their Turkish and Persian neighbors by transferring new Arab settlers to the country and the only source of such settlers is Palestine. But this is a purely internal Arab problem, in which we may help if asked by the Arabs, but in which we neither can, nor ought to take any initiative.” Ben-Gurion concluded that Arab transfer was not a pre-requisite condition for large Jewish settlement and that plans should be made for the rebuilding of Palestine on the assumption that there would be a million Arabs in the country whose rights and needs would have to be taken into consideration.(141)

One might mention that in the year following Biltmore, Ben-Gurion in a closed meeting once again came out in favour of transfer. He said, “Were there someone to take them [Arabs of Palestine] ... but our blabbering sabotages it ... and if we speak aloud about it, it will only do harm.”(142) [This statement by Ben-Gurion is quoted to have been said at a meeting of the Mapai Central Council on 25 November 1943. However no meeting of that Council took place on that date; there is therefore an error in transcribing the forum or the date.]

Ben-Gurion had first heard of the British Labour Party's proposals on Palestine on 6 May 1944 and on the following day he put forward his views on these proposals to a meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive in Jerusalem. Shertok had just delivered his report to the Executive and the members were discussing it.

Ben-Gurion said that the sections in the Labour Party's proposals dealing with the setting up of a Jewish State and enlarging its borders were very acceptable. However the transfer of population “could be problematic.” He told the meeting that had the Labour Party consulted him as to a suitable programme for Palestine, it would not have entered his head to suggest transfer. Had they asked him whether to include it in their Report, he would not have advised it, since recommending transfer could be harmful on two counts.

Firstly, as Shertok had already suggested, there was the danger that the world would get the impression that there was no room in Palestine for the Jews without the removal of the Arabs. Since such a removal would be exceedingly difficult, it would follow that further Jewish immigration would not be permitted. Secondly, “it would stand the Arabs on their hind-legs.” As we see Ben-Gurion's reasoning is mainly based on tactical considerations, rather than on ideological grounds.

However, Ben-Gurion said that since this transfer proposal had already been made by the Labour Party, there was no point in its being deleted. It could still cause the Zionists harm, but less so than had it been proposed by Jews. “As against this,” went on Ben-Gurion, “it is just as well that there is a programme formulated by non-Jews,” which, should negotiations with the Arabs materialise, would give the Zionists a bargaining counter.

“Zionism is the transfer of Jews,” argued Ben-Gurion. “The transfer of Arabs is easier than any other transfer since there are Arab States in the area. There is no Jewish State - it is impossible to send the Jews (from Palestine) elsewhere and it is clear that if they send the Arabs (to one of the Arab States in the area), there will be an improvement in their living standards.”

Ben-Gurion suggested that possibly the Labour Party Congress would delete the clause on transfer and if so the Zionists would be satisfied with the first part of the proposal. However, Ben-Gurion concluded, “It seems to me that we need not be sorry that the word 'transfer' was used by non-Jews.”(143) [In a similar vein, the historian Anita Shapira wrote that “it is possible to assume with a high degree of probability that if one of the Great Powers had volunteered to carry out a transfer of the Arabs of Palestine, very few of the Zionist leaders would have opposed such a move.”(144)]

David Senator, who had been a member of “Brit Shalom” disagreed with Ben-Gurion who saw this transfer proposal as a proposal made by non-Jews . “It is correct that the British Labour Party proposed it,” went on Senator, “but there is not one Arab nor even one non-Arab who will believe that we did not know about this or that we were not involved in this... The psychological effect will not be as Mr. Ben-Gurion portrays it. Even the (British) Labour Party will think that this is the Jewish view and this will free them from political responsibility.”(145)

Isaac Gruenbaum, a General Zionist and Director of the Labour Department of the Jewish Agency was of the opinion that there were Arabs who favoured increasing the population of Iraq by means of transfer. “The duty of Jews,” said Gruenbaum, “was sometimes to wake non-Jews up to things which they did not yet perceive.” If, for example, Christians in Iraq lived under better conditions than the Arabs in Palestine, then the Arabs would migrate from Palestine to Iraq. “What do we fear from this word (transfer)? It has, as it were, some illusory force,” said Gruenbaum. “Were it possible, for example, to produce artificially (in Palestine) conditions such as those existing in Iraq, which would attract the Arabs from Palestine to migrate to Iraq, I would not regard it as any injustice or crime, and I do not know why so many of us are afraid of this.”(146)

Similar views were expressed by Eliahu Dobkin of the Mapai Party. He pointed out that the question of transfer had never been considered as a matter of lack of space, but as a “solution to the question of minorities.” Dobkin continued, “ We assume that in Palestine, there will be a majority of Jews. There will then also be a large minority (of Arabs) which it will be necessary to remove.” The Mapai member referred to the Greco-Turkish population exchange as an example of a solution to minority problems. “There is no place for our internal inhibitions, they are not justified,” said Dobkin. “If there is authority to decide on the question of transfer in Transylvania or other places in Europe, there will be authority to decide on this question here.”(147)

Eliezer Kaplan requested that the members of the Executive not exchange arguments on this transfer proposal since that would start the Yishuv arguing.(148) To this request, Dov Joseph agreed, adding that he was “not sorry that the British have declared publicly for this. First of all, the Arabs will know that the English consider that it is possible to remove them from Palestine, if there is no room for both of us - and will perhaps change their tune.”(149)

From all this, we see that the members of the Jewish Agency Executive were prepared, in a closed meeting, to admit that they were pleased with the Labour Party's proposal for transfer of the Arabs from Palestine. In public, however, the Zionist leaders were not so open in their comments.

Weizmann, himself, wrote in his autobiography (intended for general publication), “I remember that my Labour Zionist friends were, like myself, greatly concerned about this (Labour Party transfer) proposal. We had never contemplated the removal of the Arabs, and the British Labourites, in their pro-Zionist enthusiasm, went far beyond our intentions.”(150) (our emphasis). However, as we have seen earlier in this work, during the thirties, Weizmann had had several private meetings - the minutes of which were always marked “secret” - in which he had proposed, or had given strong support to proposals to remove the Arabs from Palestine!

The Labour Party proposal put the Zionist movement in an embarrassing situation. As Shertok reported to the Mapai Central Committee, “They did not consult us on this point and now the question before us is, are we going to dissociate ourselves from it or not?”(151) Gorny holds that after the talks with Dalton and the public explanations on the meaning of transfer, the Zionists “came to the conclusion that it would be wise to derive the maximum political advantage from the extreme pro-Zionist volte-face of the Labour Party.”(152)

In a letter written by Dalton to Herbert Morrison in late October 1944, the former maintained that the Zionist leaders were in fact very satisfied with this Palestine paragraph. “As you know,” wrote Dalton, “I keep in touch with Weizmann and his friends and have been pushing their barrow for them through the National Executive and into a paragraph, with which they were delighted, in the Executive's Declaration on the Post-War International Settlement.”(153)

As we saw earlier, in his meeting with the leaders of the British Labour Party towards the end of 1939, Weizmann demanded both an unpartitioned Palestine and transfer of Arabs. His views .as at October 1944 had not changed in this matter. He was “delighted” with Dalton's resolution which called for transfer of Arabs and at the same time was very worried about a possible partition of Palestine. This we know from Dalton's letter which then continues: “Weizmann came to see me this week, much perturbed by a story that Partition was again being seriously considered 'and at the highest level'. He admitted that, at a certain point in the past [presumably he is referring to 1937] he had been prepared to consider Partition, but he was entirely against it now.”(154)

Support for Dalton's assessment that the Zionist leaders were delighted with his Palestine resolution comes from a letter written by the American Zionist leader Stephen Wise to John Hayes Holmes in 1945. In it Wise said, “Less than a year ago ... the Labor Party government adopted a resolution ... insisting that there must be an exchange of populations, thus going beyond where we dared to go, though not beyond where we wished to go.”(155)

The Correspondence Columns in the “Tribune”

During May 1944, there were a series of letters on the correspondence page of the “Tribune”, the weekly paper of the British Labour Party, from Jewish correspondents. The first letter and the only one opposing transfer was from a Hashomer Hazair representative in London, Artur Ben Israel. As we have seen earlier in this work, in 1937, at the twentieth Zionist Congress, it was the Hashomer Hazair delegates who had come out strongly against the Peel Report recommendation to transfer the Arabs from the proposed Jewish State. They were naturally also very much opposed to the Labour Party's proposal of “encouraging” the Arabs to leave Palestine.

In his letter Ben Israel wrote, “We do not believe, however, that the British Labour Party has done the Zionist Movement a service in recommending that the Arabs should be encouraged to move out as the Jews move in. Not only are we opposed to such schemes of transfer as a solution to national and social questions in general, but we are all more emphatically against such proposals in connection with Palestine... The Socialist Zionist Movement therefore has no interest whatsoever in proposing a policy of transfer, neither has it an interest in depriving the Arab people of their natural and political aspirations.” He then explained the Hashomer Hazair scheme for a Bi-National (Jewish-Arab) administration in Palestine.(156)

A correspondent replying to this letter pointed out that the majority of the Socialist Zionist Movement members disapproved of the bi-national idea and that Ben Israel spoke only for Hashomer Hazair, a group which had polled about one-fifth of the votes in the last elections to the Conference of the Jewish Labour Federation in Palestine. With regard to the transfer question he continued, “Zionism, it is true, always believed and still believes that the Jewish Homeland can be rebuilt without displacing or transferring a single Arab. The Labour Party Executive, wisely, did not urge transfer as indispensable and did not speak of compulsion.” The writer then quoted from the text of the Labour Party Resolution, indicating that the proposed transfer was “on human grounds and to promote a stable settlement.” He concluded that one was no worse a Socialist for believing in utilising the solution of population transfer “as a cure for some thorny national problems.”(157)

Another correspondent, Baruch Ben Shalom, was critical of those who opposed the transfer of Arabs pointing out that nearly half of the Arabs in Palestine had come from the surrounding Arab countries during the course of the past twenty years in order to take advantage of the ever-expanding industrial and agricultural opportunities in Palestine. Ben Shalom then asked, “Could not similar industrial and agricultural expansions in these undeveloped but potentially rich and fertile countries 'encourage' the Arabs to emigrate to them from Palestine? Is there anything reactionary in such a suggestion? Only a touchy mentality would think so.”(158)

Probably the most vehemently pro-transfer letter printed in the “Tribune” came from Frederick Jellinek who wrote, “A rejection in principle of 'voluntary transfer' of Arabs would in practice amount to a sort of prohibition of emigration. Apart from the fact that this would constitute an undue restriction of civil rights, it would be absurd if Jewish bodies would resort to such a policy.” Jellinek felt that since the public associated transfer of population with force, the expression “voluntary transfer” was open to misrepresentation. He said that it seemed “grotesque that Zionist bodies should come into the open and should try to contradict and to counteract the respective Palestine resolution of the British Labour Party.”

Jellinek said that this resolution was the first and sole act of real practical help offered to the Jewish and Zionist causes since 1933. “Certainly one is entitled to say that there is no realistic sense whatsoever in Zionism or Zionist bodies resisting an eventual transfer of Arabs from Palestine, if such a measure can be carried out in an amiable way and with peaceful means.”

After quoting facts and figures relating to the territories and populations of the Arab countries and Palestine respectively, Jellinek concluded, “Even a person entirely unconversant with geopolitical facts must gather that that transfer which has been suggested by the British Labour Party is feasible as well as just.”(159)

Editorial Reactions in the Jewish Press

In an Editorial which appeared immediately after publication of the Labour Party's Report, “The Jewish Chronicle” said that the proposal to allow unlimited immigration into Palestine was clear, precise, direct and “both wise and just”. In reference to the population transfer proposal, the Editorial writer said, “A similar spirit of sane realism marks the report's references to the treatment of national minorities. It clearly envisages the necessity for the sake of peace of transferring in certain cases those minorities left outside their own national territory who are not willing to become in fact loyal subjects of the country where they dwell.”(160)

A further Editorial published a month later in “The Jewish Chronicle” under the heading “Assisted Passages for Arabs”, was one of the few sources to attribute the Arab connection with Palestine correctly, namely that most of the Arabs had entered Palestine during the last century in order to benefit from Zionist development of the country. In this Editorial, “The Jewish Chronicle” again came out strongly in favour of the Labour Party's proposal for transfer of the Arabs. After quoting the appropriate section of the Report, it continued, “Here was a clear cut practical proposal, the first that has ever been formally made in the name of an important political party, and, that party too, the second strongest in the country, judged by its Parliamentary representation.”

The Editorial writer was very critical of the Zionist groups and individuals who resisted the proposal and said, “Very regrettably certain Zionist reactions were as unfavourable as they were instantaneous.” He described Hashomer Hazair as “a small but fanatical party of unco'guid socialists” who “rushed in with more than youthful impetuosity and declared that on no account would it have anything to do with the Labour suggestion.” The Editorial suggested that Hashomer Hazair's difficulty in accepting this proposal stemmed from their “rigid application of doctrinaire Socialist principles in sharp contrast with the constructive ideas of the more experienced British Labour Party.”

Shertok was the next to feel the wrath of the Editorial writer of “The Jewish Chronicle”. If Shertok's statement that no Arab need emigrate “is to be understood as originating in a fear that any talk about Arab transference might be mischievously employed”, then it could be regarded as understandable, “though the absence in the condensed report of the speech of any word of appreciation to the Labour Party for its practical and wise proposal strikes an ungracious and tactless note.”

About ten days earlier, in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Shertok had described the Labour Party's transfer proposal as “inconsistent with the Zionist programme.” “This must be dismissed as baseless”, said “The Jewish Chronicle” Editorial writer, “The Zionist plan was formulated without any idea of Arab transference, and those who drew it up did not envisage any such necessity... It is difficult to understand therefore how the policy of transference can be pronounced as 'inconsistent' with it.”

The writer continued, “The real objection to any voluntary emigration scheme for Arabs, as to all progressive steps in these areas, would come not from the Palestinian masses, but from the Arab ruling cliques and political leaders in Palestine and the neighbouring Arab lands” who would do so for their own selfish ends.

The Editorial concluded, “Viewed in the light of the vast problems that will confront the rebuilders of our stricken civilisation... the question of providing some sort of voluntary and well-financed migration scheme for a few Arabs in Palestine dwindles to a very small compass; and in the hands of the right leaders to comparative triviality.”(161)

The “Zionist Review” Editorial described the Labour Party's plan as “a bold and courageous plan for the solution of the Palestine problem.” The Editorial writer then pointed out that although the Peel Commission proposals of 1937 proposed transfer of the Arabs, as far as the British Labour movement was concerned, the idea of transfer was a new one. It pointed out that the Labour Party's document rightly spoke about “encouragement of transfer by appropriate arrangements for settlement in Arab territories, and not of any compulsion. Zionists have always looked upon this problem as one in which the under-populated Arab countries may be primarily interested.” The Editorial concluded by pointing out that the transfer of Arabs from Palestine was not a pre-requisite of large-scale Jewish immigration “though no doubt it is true that it might simplify Arab-Jewish relations and thereby contribute to a stabler political settlement.”(162)

The following week a letter was published in the “Zionist Review”, in which the correspondent claimed that plans for voluntary transfer of the Arab population “run counter to the declared policy of the Jewish Agency.”(163) The Editor replied that “The Report on the 'International Post-War Settlement' is a document prepared by the Executive of the Labour Party, which is, of course, solely responsible for its contents... The Labour Party aims at a radical solution of the Jewish problem... It is quite clear from the document that there cannot be any question of compulsory transfer. The Labour Party is opposed to it, so is the Zionist Movement.” After quoting an extract from Ben-Gurion's Biltmore statement, the Editor repeated his statement of the previous week that transfer would be advantageous to the under-populated Arab countries and simplify Arab-Jewish relations. The Editor concluded, “The Jewish people is deeply grateful to British Labour for the vigorous stand they have taken on behalf of the Jewish Homeland in Palestine.”(164)

Another British Zionist paper, “The New Judaea” also showed a positive reaction to the Labour Party's transfer proposal. After reviewing the Labour Party's policy regarding the organised transfer of populations in the intermediate post-war period, the Editorial continued, “We are not here concerned with the merits or demands of this policy. But we note that it reflects bold thinking, based on what may be a pessimistic, but certainly is a realistic, appraisal of the post-war situation. It is in this spirit of realism that the Labour Party Report approaches the problems of the Jews in Palestine.”(165)

A completely opposite view was taken by the Editorial writer of “The Jewish Standard”, the organ of the British Revisionist Party. He described the transfer clause in the Labour Party resolution as “a particularly unpleasant deviation from the logic and justice of History.” Whilst hastening to add that “the intentions of those who formulated the resolution are honest and sincere, and that their friendly attitude towards the Jewish People is greatly appreciated,” he felt that “far from helping Zionist aspirations, this scheme must arouse unnecessary prejudice.” Whereas the voluntary transfer of the Arabs of Palestine would “present no great difficulty,” such a transfer was not necessary, and to raise this issue now would only “stir up prejudice against Zionism, giving a welcome propaganda slogan to the Arab potentates and their business partners abroad.”(166)

This, however, was not the unanimous opinion of the Revisionists. Two years earlier, their American Convention passed a resolution regarding Arab transfer. It began by stating that there was enough room in “Palestine on both sides of the Jordan” for both its present population and potential Jewish immigrants, and that Palestine would afford “full equality of rights” for the Arabs. The resolution then continued that “should certain parts of the Arab population of Palestine not be willing to live in a Jewish State, opportunity should be given to them to have the choice of option for citizenship in an Arab State, and to transfer their domicile and wealth to that state.” Such transfer would have to be carried out in an organised manner, by agreement with the respective Arab States and the payment of full compensation for immovable property.(167) Furthermore, at the annual convention of the New Zionist Organization of America, held at the Hotel Pennsylvania in June 1944, a resolution was adopted, warmly endorsing the British Labour Party resolution.(168)

Praise for this resolution in the U.S.A. was not limited to the New Zionist Organization, but also came from American Zionist leaders.(169)

The American Jewish press also commented on the proposal of the British Labour Party.

The journal “Opinion” edited by Stephen Wise wrote that this British Labour Party statement “is beyond praise. It reveals the most statesmanlike grasp not only of the Palestine problem but of the entire Jewish problem.” A few lines later, the paper wrote: “There is equally deep wisdom in the encouragement offered by the statement to the Arabs 'to move out as the Jews move in'.”(170)

In an Editorial, the newspaper “Palestine”, the organ of the American Zionist Emergency Council, described the British Labour party policy as “more radical than that proposed by the Zionist movement”.(171)

The newspaper “The New Palestine” “hailed” this statement with one proviso: “The British Labor Party goes in one point beyond what the Zionists of the world have ever either contemplated or desired, namely, that Arabs should be encouraged 'to move out as Jews move in'.”(172) One might comment, that although this might be partially correct in the public pronouncements of “the Zionists of the world”, it is certainly not accurate so far as their private statements are concerned!

Editorials also appeared in several Palestine newspapers of that period. A very positive Editorial entitled “A Wise Decision” appeared in “Ha’aretz” following the British Labour Party Conference. It began by praising the wise method that the British Labour Party had taken to deal with the Palestine problem. The Editorial writer said that this Resolution saw as its main objective making the Jews a majority in Palestine, although he did not specifically mention the transfer paragraph contained in the Resolution. He saw that the most important factor in this Resolution was the active part to be taken by Britain. The Editorial concluded by saying that friends of Zionism and of England will receive this “decision of the British Labour Party as an important contribution to resolve this hard and urgent problem.”(173)

In complete contrast, an Editorial written seven months earlier, in the extreme left-wing paper “Al Hamishmar” was headed “A Damaging Suggestion” and came out strongly against the British Labour Party’s proposal to transfer Arabs. It first praised past efforts of the British Labour Party towards Zionism. However, it then continued that it was very strange that its Resolution included “hints” on encouraging Arabs to leave Palestine. The Editorial writer argued that such a proposal was anti-Socialist and that Zionist policy does not advocate the transfer of Arabs. It concluded that “we reject any solution based on the transfer of Arabs from Palestine as a solution which is unjust, unnecessary and harmful to Zionism.”(174)

The left wing paper “Davar” took a stand between the above two editorials, although it was closer to that of “Al Hamishmar.” The Editorial writer pointed out that the British Labour Party had learned the objectives of Zionism from the Labour Zionists, but the methods for their attainment were their own and included methods never suggested by the Zionists - namely the transfer of Arabs, even with financial inducements.(175)

Labour Party Conference 1944

The Labour Party Conference was to have been held in May 1944. However, as stated earlier, the Conference had to be postponed until December due to a special appeal by the Government some weeks before D-day to avoid mass travelling.

In preparation for this conference, in mid-November, a joint meeting of the Policy and International Sub-Committee took place. On the previous day, Dalton had worked to nearly midnight drafting out a resolution on International Post-War Settlement(176) which incorporated “welcoming” his Report on the subject. At the meeting, which was chaired by Dalton, “detailed consideration was given” to his draft resolution. Some “minor amendments” were made and it was then “unanimously approved, and publication authorised.”(177) In his diary he commented on this meeting, “I find that no-one else has done anything and that my draft holds the field.” He added that his “colleagues swallow it almost whole, with only a few small amendments.” Noel-Baker “arrives, as usual, very late, and we have settled practically everything, his only suggestions being that we should refer, in relation to Palestine, to the old Mandate.” (178)

The Annual Conference was held from 11 to 15 December 1944 at the Central Hall, in Westminster, London. In the absence of the Chairman, Miss Ellen Wilkinson, who was recuperating after an illness, Harold Laski, the Vice-Chairman was elected to preside over the Conference.

The morning session of Tuesday 12 December, was devoted mainly to International Post-War Settlement. Clement Attlee, Leader of the Party “moved the 'International Post-War Settlement' section of the Report and the following resolution of the National Executive: This Conference welcomes the Report of the National Executive Committee on the International Post-War Settlement, and pledges the Labour Party to continue its full support of the joint war effort of the United Nations...”(179)

As mentioned previously, in the period between publication of the National Executive Report in April and the Party Conference in December, objections to the transfer proposal had been raised in certain quarters including a few Labour Members of Parliament. Despite all this, in the discussion which followed Attlee's proposal of the motion at the Party Conference, the paragraph on Palestine was not mentioned. After the discussion, and a fifteen minute reply by Dalton,(180) the resolution of the National Executive, which included the Report on International Post-War Settlement, which in turn included the Palestine paragraph, was put to the vote and carried by an overwhelming majority.(181) The Palestine paragraph, including the proposal for the transfer of Arab population, thus became part of Labour Party policy.

Although carried by an overwhelming majority, the motion was not passed unanimously. In his interview of 1960, Locker was asked who voted against the resolution. He replied that there were some groups here and there but there members were not from the upper echelons.(182)

Due to the postponement of the Labour Party Conference from May to December, there was some uncertainty as to whether a vote would be taken on the International Post-War Settlement Report. In his diary, Dalton writes of a meeting he had towards the end of September with Locker and Shertok at which they voiced their appreciation of his efforts for Palestine. He advised them “to get a variety of organisations to put in resolutions for the Labour Party Conference supporting our declaration.”(183) The purpose of submitting these resolutions was to ensure that Palestine would not remain unmentioned should no vote be taken on the International Post-War Settlement Report. A second suggestion made by Dalton at this meeting (although not mentioned in his diary) was for the Zionists to enter into a dialogue with the Soviet Union, not about the Labour Party Congress, but about the whole subject of Palestine and to “do everything in order to come to an agreement with the Russians as this would be of great value.”(184)

Locker reported to a meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive in London that Dalton had explained that the Labour Party “had decided to take Palestine and India out of the bigger statement and make it the basis of special resolutions.”(185) Hence the tactics Dalton was recommending were to make the subject of Palestine a material issue at the Labour Party Conference.

Three provincial groups, all from the North of England, namely, the Liverpool Trades Council and Labour Party, the Central Leeds District Labour Party, and the City of Leeds Labour Party, all submitted resolutions dealing with the subject of Palestine. All three resolutions retained the option of the transfer of the Arabs from Palestine, but emphasised that the Arabs should have the free choice to remain and share the benefits of Jewish colonisation or be helped to settle in the underpopulated neighbouring countries.(186)

Details of these resolutions are as follows:

(a) Liverpool Trades Council and Labour Party:
The Liverpool Poale Zion formulated the resolution on Palestine and submitted it to the Executive Committee of the Liverpool Trades Council and Labour Party. This Executive Committee met on 13 October 1944 and according to its Minutes: “Letter Liverpool Branch Poale Zion and resolution for Annual Conference, Moved and Seconded, ‘That the E.C. [Executive Committee] recommend that same be approved.’ Agreed.”(187 )
A few days later on the evening of 19 October 1944 a Council meeting of the Liverpool Trades Council and Borough Labour Party was held. At that meeting this recommendation of the Executive from their meeting of 13 October was put before the Council. It read in part: “The conference welcomes the policy on Palestine enunciated in the National Executive's Statement on 'The International Post-War Settlement' that the Jews must be given the opportunity to become a majority in the country while safeguarding the full equality of the inhabitants. Those Arabs who may desire to settle in one of the neighbouring Arab States must be given assistance to do so.”(188)
The Council discussed this recommendation and after some proceedural wrangling, it was approved.(189)
About a month prior to this council meeting, the Liverpool Trades Council and Labour Party together with the Liverpool Jewish Labour Party organised a public meeting at the Picton Hall in Liverpool. The subject of the meeting was “Jews, Palestine and the Middle East” and the speakers were Harold Laski and Berl Locker.(190) A report of this meeting appeared in the following day’s “Liverpool Daily Post” but it does not specifically mention the Labour Party’s International Post-War Settlement document.(191)

(b) Central Leeds District Labour Party:
Its second paragraph reads: “The Conference is of the opinion that in a Jewish Commonwealth, based on full equality of rights and duties of all citizens without distinction of race or creed, the Arab population will, as hitherto, continue to derive great benefits from the general progress of the country brought about by the Jewish reconstruction work; should parts of the Arab population, however, desire to live in an Arab State, they should be helped to settle in one of the neighbouring underpopulated Arab Territories.”(192)
In an amendment to this resolution, the East Fulham District Labour Party proposed, amongst other things, to delete this paragraph. (193)

(c) City of Leeds Labour Party:
The third paragraph of their resolution reads: “The Conference believes that the time has come for this country in concert with the United Nations to promote and guarantee the establishment of Palestine as a free Jewish Commonwealth. This can be effected without hardship to the existing population, who can have the free choice of remaining and sharing in the benefits which Jewish colonisation brings in its wake or be assisted to participate in the development of the vast resources of undeveloped land in the neighbouring Arab countries.” (194)

At a meeting of the Policy and International Sub-Committee of the British Labour Party, “it was agreed that the National Executive Committee should agree to support” this resolution of the City of Leeds Labour Party “if the delegate of the City of Leeds Labour Party agrees to the substitution of ‘National Home for the Jewish People’ for ‘Free Jewish Commonwealth’...” (195)

It seems likely that the Zionists were actively involved in formulating this resolution, since Locker reported to a meeting of the Jewish Agency in London, that Gillies had called him and said “You must change the word ‘commonwealth’ as you are still a minority.”(196)

A few days before the opening of the Conference, the “Zionist Review” reported that the “Conference Arrangements Committee has called together a meeting of all groups interested in the question of Palestine [presumably the above provincial groups]; it is hoped that an agreed formula will be arrived at for submission to the Conference.”(197) Unfortunately the Minutes of this Committee are not extant. (198)

However, the bottom line to all these provincial branch resolutions, was, that since the document on International Post-War Settlement, which included the Palestine paragraph was put to a vote and overwhelmingly adopted, none of the sponsors of the resolutions from the three provincial groups felt that there was any reason to put their own resolutions on Palestine to the vote. The contingency which they had intended to prevent had not arisen.

Another provincial Labour group to support the Labour Party’s document on International Post-War Settlement was Glasgow in Scotland, although they did not submit a resolution for the Annual Conference. A conference of Labour Organisations of Glasgow and the neighbouring districts dealing with “Jews, Palestine and Post War-Settlement” was held on 26 November 1944, under the auspices of the local Labour Party and the Poale Zion. It was addressed by Berl Locker. They unanimously adopted a resolution which “welcomed the policy on Palestine, proposed in the Labour Party Executive’s Report on International Post-War Settlement, by which the Jews would be given the opportunity to become the majority in Palestine.” (199)

The British Jewish press of that period reported that Poale Zion had also submitted a resolution for the Labour Party Conference.(200) The only resolution that has been traced was one submitted in March 1944, when, as at that date, the Annual Conference had been scheduled for May of that year. The Poale Zion resolution did not mention the transfer of Arabs.(201) However, it should be bourne in mind that the Labour Party had not yet published its Report, which included the transfer proposal.

A few days after the Labour Party Annual Conference had adopted their document on International Post-War Settlement, the question of transfer came up (by chance and not by design) at a meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive in Jerusalem.

In the course of a speech to the Executive, David Senator, (who had been a member of the “Brit Shalom” organisation), stated that he does “not see in transfer of the Arabs from Palestine a moral question”. He went on to argue that “when I weigh up the catastrophe of five million Jews against the transfer of a million Arabs, my conscience is clean and easy, and I will say that even far more drastic things are permitted.” Senator however had doubts .whether such a transfer was politically feasible.

Weizmann then interjected, “Who is speaking about transfer?” to which Senator replied, “The Labour Party.” Weizmann said that this transfer proposal was submitted in spite of opposition from the Zionists. Transfer was unnecessary since “there was enough room in Palestine, even for future generations.” Moshe Shapira of the Mizrahi Party commented that it was not such a bad thing that the Labour Party had suggested transfer.(202)

The Labour Party's paragraph on Palestine had been very thoroughly prepared. The document on International Post-War Settlement had been considered at a number of meetings of both the International Sub-Committee and the National Executive of the Labour Party before it was published in April 1944. The Annual Conference was postponed for eight months and during these eight months the Palestine paragraph, especially the phrase on encouraging the Arabs to move out was subjected to criticism. The leadership and also the rank-and-file of the Labour Party had ample time to consider these criticisms and draw their conclusions. Yet they did not alter even one word of the Palestine paragraph - the phrase “Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out” remained absolutely unchanged - and at the Annual Conference it was passed with an overwhelming majority with no attempt at amendment by any delegate. Furthermore in April 1945, the National Executive of the Labour Party adopted a resolution, “The Committee reaffirms the policy adopted by the Annual Conference in December 1944, in regard to Palestine.”(203)

This affirmation was reiterated at the 1945 Annual Conference which took place in the following month in Blackpool, two weeks after the termination of the war.

On the second day of this Conference at the session entitled “Let us face the future” - Declaration of Labour Policy, Maurice Rosette, a delegate of Poale-Zion Jewish Socialist Labour Party observed that “at the last Labour Party Conference held in December, the report on international affairs contained a clear and unequivocal statement on the party attitude to the Jewish question - a question of which delegates would do well to inform themselves.”(204)

Hugh Dalton said that the National Executive had made its position on the question of the Jewish people “abundantly and repeatedly clear”. He reminded the delegates that five months earlier the previous Annual Conference had “accepted and welcomed without even the challenge of a card vote, the document entitled 'The Post-War International Settlement'. That stands as the policy of this Movement and of this Party, and in that document there is a clear and definite statement regarding Palestine and the Jewish people.” He then spoke about the holocaust and the resulting need for unrestricted Jewish immigration into Palestine.(205) We can clearly see from Dalton's statement that as at May 1945, Labour Party policy regarding transfer of the Arabs from Palestine had in no way changed.

Change in Labour Party Policy

On 8 May 1945, the Second World War ended. Two months later, a General Election was held in Britain, resulting in a landslide victory for the Labour Party. Clement Attlee became Prime Minister and appointed Ernest Bevin to Foreign Secretary. When Bevin entered the Foreign Office, his senior civil servants advised against implementation of the Labour Party's proposals on Palestine - which advice Bevin accepted, retaining the White Paper and thus continuing the severe limitation on Jewish immigration into Palestine.

The Resolution of the British Common Wealth Party

The British Common Wealth Party, a Socialist splinter group, was founded in 1942 with a policy based on Christian morality and not Marxian scientific socialism. Prior to the 1945 General Election, there were three Common Wealth members sitting in the British Parliament.

In preparation for its Third Conference planned to take place in Liverpool at Easter 1945 (every day between 30 March and 2 April), the Party published its “First Agenda.”(206) Included amongst the Resolutions for this Conference was one on Palestine. It was sympathetic to Jewish aspirations but contained two references regarding the partition of Palestine between the Jews and the Arabs.

It also contained a sentence advocating Arab transfer from Palestine. “We do not favour the principle of compulsory emigration in any part of the world, but we recommend that an international commission be appointed, including both Jewish and Arab representatives, whose task shall be to draw up a scheme involving as little displacement of the Arab population as possible and arranging for facilities for such Arab transfer as is necessary to adjacent territory.”(207)

Branches had the right to submit amendments to these resolutions and these were published in a “Supplementary Agenda” for this Conference.(208) Amendments to this Palestine resolution were submitted by the Hendon Branch. In it they deleted both references to partition and inserted an even more positive attitude towards the establishment of a Jewish state, “We believe that the establishment of the Jewish State in Palestine in accordance with the provisions of the League of Nations’ Mandate is just and proper.” The amendment also required Britain to remove the immigration restrictions on Jews imposed by the MacDonald White Paper.(209)

The sentence on Arab transfer was left completely intact and there was no mention of establishing an Arab state in Palestine.

The Conference took place as planned in Liverpool. The sixth session took place on the afternoon of Sunday 1 April and it was devoted to “International Affairs.”(210)

At the opening of this session, Norman Hall, the Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee, stated that “Hendon’s Amendment has been accepted.” He gave no further details of “the amendment,” he was referring to, but since we know that Hendon’s Palestine amendment was accepted, he was very likely referring to this Palestine amendment.(211)

Hall was followed by Kenneth Ingram of the National Committee, who moved accepting the report subject to the amendments which Hall had notified the Conference. He then commented on the various items in the report; on Palestine, which he left to the end of his remarks said, “Lastly, on Palestine, we recognize that this Paragraph should be withdrawn and redrafted in the light of the criticism we have received from members and the Amendments which have been put in. This is a difficult problem because the whole position of Palestine has become a tangle, and there is no solution that will not create injustice and opposition in certain quarters.”(212)

One notices that Ingram used the word “Amendments” in the plural for the Palestine resolution. The only amendment which has been traced is that of the Hendon branch and this is the only amendment referred to by the press reports of the Conference. Possibly the reason that Ingram used the plural word was that there were two changes incorporated in the Hendon branch amendment.

This Palestine resolution was discussed at the end of this Sixth Session. There were two speakers, George Nicholls of the Leicester Branch who moved the Hendon amendment to delete partition from the original resolution(213) and Eleanor Nye of the Hendon Branch who seconded the amendment.(214) Nicholls’ speech greatly praised the Jews, pointing out that in the sum total of human suffering, the greatest contribution in the Second World War had been made by the Jews and this was equal to the contribution of other allied powers.(215) Nye stated that the partition of Palestine was impractical and that the reason that the Arab population had increased over the previous 20 years was because of the efforts of the Jews in Palestine.(216) Neither speaker referred to the sentence in this resolution on the transfer of Arabs from Palestine, since there seems to have been a consensus at the Conference that it be carried out.

At a later stage at this Conference, Tom Wintringham, on behalf of the National Committee accepted the Hendon amendment, stating that he was not personally in favour of partition. The Conference then accepted the Palestine paragraph with the Hendon amendment by a substantial majority. Those voting against were not opposed to the spirit of the Resolution, but were voting for the reference back for redrafting.(217)

Thus, like with the British Labour Party, transfer of Arabs from Palestine became part of Common Wealth Party policy.

It appears from the wording of this resolution that “such Arab transfer as is necessary” might refer to compulsory transfer. Hence although opposed in principle to compulsory emigration, the Party would have appeared to have recognised that the situation in Palestine was such as to necessitate extreme measures.

The British Jewish press at the time reported on this Resolution, quoting it in full.(218) It was also reported in the “Palestine Post.” They also quoted the Resolution except that the last half sentence, namely “whose task shall be to draw up a scheme involving as little displacement of the Arab population as possible and arranging for facilities for such Arab transfer as is necessary to adjacent territory” was omitted.(219) As we have seen in other cases, this was almost certainly as a result of the British draconian censorship then being implemented in Palestine.

Although the minutes of the 6th, 7th and 8th sessions of this session are extant, it would seem that they are not complete verbatim reports. We can see this from a comparison between these minutes and news items of the Palestine resolution as found in the press reports of the time. For example, the minutes omit the fact that Nicholls moved the Hendon amendment and that Nye seconded it. Also, according to the staff of the University of Sussex Archives, where the Common Wealth Papers are to be found, the speech by Wintringham and the vote accepting the Palestine resolution do not appear in any of these minutes. (220)

In the July 1945 General Election, the Common Wealth Party lost two of its three Parliamentary seats. It failed to contest any further elections.

A booklet entitled “Palestine: the Way Out” which “embodied a report by the Palestine Policy Sub-committee of Common Wealth” was later published. It is undated, but from its context was almost certainly written in 1947. It begins with a history of Palestine with the stress on the 20th century. Conspicuous by its absence is any mention of the above Common Wealth Palestine resolution. The main part of this booklet is the putting forward of a proposal to make Palestine into a Arab-Jewish Bi-National State.(221) Whether or not the views in this booklet were approved by the membership of the Common Wealth Party is not known.

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