Revisionism was a Zionist political movement which was founded and led by Vladimir Jabotinsky. Its platform was that the realisation of Zionism was the establishment of a Jewish state with a Jewish majority in the entire territory of Palestine, namely on both sides of the Jordan.
In the latter 1920s and 1930s, the Revisionists became the principal Zionist opposition party in the World Zionist Organisation. They opposed this Organisation's policy and leadership, and in 1935, they broke away and set up the New Zionist Organisation (NZO).
We have already seen how the Revisionists strongly opposed the Peel Commission's transfer proposal. However as we shall now see, in the 1940s, their attitude towards transfer underwent a complete change.
In early 1943, the American Resettlement Committee for Uprooted European Jewry was established, and Eliahu Ben-Horin was appointed its executive director. This committee was in fact an arm of the NZO - its address was that of the NZO headquarters in New York, and the NZO newspaper “Zionews” referred to the American Resettlement Committee as being “organized” by the NZO.(1)
Ben-Horin's first objective was to try and recruit former President Herbert Hoover as the committee's honorary president. To this end, he sent Hoover a twelve page memorandum, which was undated.
When was this memorandum sent to Hoover? According to historian Rafael Medoff it was in May 1943.(2) Support for this comes from a letter written by Hoover on 12 May, where it would seem that he had already received this memorandum.(3)
The memorandum began by talking about the dangers of anti-Semitism and that “any effort to reconstruct European Jewry at home would not only arouse a terrific wave of anti-Semitism, but would be practically impossible from an economic point of view.” The only solution would be large-scale emigration from Europe. After writing at length about attempts at Jewish colonisation in Biro-Bidjan and the Dominican Republic, Ben-Horin concluded that his committee “is primarily intent on promoting the resettlement of uprooted European Jews in Palestine”, listing a number of reasons to support his thesis.(4)
He then continued: “Should the Palestinian Arabs persist in their objection to and obstruction of Jewish settlement in Palestine, a sound plan for the transfer of the Palestinian Arabs to Iraq could be evolved, which would be highly beneficial to the country of Iraq, to the Arab settlers from Palestine, and to a final solution of the Palestinian and Jewish problems.” Ben-Horin went on to quote from the book written by Hoover and Hugh Gibson regarding the population transfer solution to solve problems arising from mixed populations.(5)
On 12 May 1943 Hoover wrote to George Sokolsky asking “wherein does this movement differ from the Zionist movement? It proposes just two things: to raise money to move refugees, and to move Arabs out of Palestine, neither of which can be done - in any event, until the war is over.” He complained that the Jews did not accept his idea of resettlement in the highlands of Africa “as it does not meet their ideas of nationality.”(6)
About a fortnight later, Hoover wrote to Ben-Horin declining the offer to serve on this committee. He felt that the time was not yet ripe and that “at the moment the different organizations seem to be busy trying to destroy each other.” Since both what appears to be the top-copy(7) and also the carbon-copy(8) of this letter are in the Hoover archives and both have a line scratched through them, it would seem that this letter was never sent.
Meetings did however take place between Hoover and Ben-Horin on 2 June(9) and on 2 July.(10) Although we have no record of what transpired at them, it would be fair to assume that Ben-Horin tried to persuade Hoover to join the committee. There is also a letter to Ben-Horin dated 8 June, in which Hoover declined “to enter the picture” at that time, although he left open the possibility of being of service at a later date.(11)
Ben-Horin then tried but unsuccessfully to recruit Alf Landon, the former governor of Kansas, to be National Chairman of the committee.(12)
On 4 October 1943, this committee made its initial statement in an almost whole page advertisement in “The New York Times”.(13) The advertisement was headed “The Jewish Problem Must Be Solved”, “Palestine for the Jews, Iraq for the Arabs - And Peace in the Middle East.”
The statement began by stating that the solution of the Jewish problem depended on the Christian world. Although many Christians had expressed sympathy with the suffering Jewish people, no public body had yet put forward a long-range constructive solution to the Jewish problem. It pointed out that the bulk of European Jewry could not be expected to take root again in their former countries. [Although news of a Holocaust was already known, its final toll was not yet to be even imagined.] Experience had shown that the only possible solution of the Jewish problem was resettlement in Palestine.
Whereas, according to the statement, the Jews were willing to live in peace and amity with the Arabs, some of the Arabs were not. Therefore as a solution to the conflict between Arabs and Jews, the committee suggested “an organized and voluntary transfer of the Palestinian Arabs to Iraq.”
Under the sub-heading, “Jews to Palestine, Arabs to Iraq”, the committee showed that Iraq badly needed an influx of Arab peasants and the Palestine Arab population were the only prospective immigrants.
They quoted the successful compulsory Greco-Turkish exchange of population, and then brought down the words of Herbert Hoover and Hugh Gibson on the “remedy of transfer of populations”. The committee declared, “We do not hesitate to say that of all the transfers planned, the transfer of the uprooted Jews to Palestine and of the Palestinian Arabs to Iraq would serve the greatest humanitarian cause and would entail the least difficulty. By these far-reaching measures, the problems of Iraq, of the Palestinian Arabs and of European Jewry can be permanently and soundly solved.”
The committee concluded by putting forward a six-point “Plan of Action”. The paragraphs dealing with transfer of Arabs read as follows:
“4. To promote the creation of a new granary through the irrigation of the forsaken lands of the Tigris and the Euphrates, providing a powerful inducement to the Arab peasants of Palestine and Transjordan to settle in Iraq.
5. To explore the financial, engineering and juridicial aspects of the resettlement projects.
6. To help create the necessary agencies for the resettlement of the uprooted European Jews in Palestine, and of Palestinian Arabs in Iraq.”
It should be noted from paragraph 4 of the “Plan of Action”, that pronouncing the transfer of Arabs was to be from both (Western) Palestine and Transjordan, accorded with the Revisionist ideas for a Jewish State on both sides of the Jordan River. We also see that although they talk of “voluntary” transfer, they would provide a “powerful inducement” for such transfer.
This statement was endorsed by the members of the committee, who numbered well over one hundred and fifty, and comprised Jews and Gentiles from all walks of life - legislators, public officials, clergy, educators, authors, etc. Their names were all listed at the side of the advertisement.(14)
A few days later, a news item in “The New York Times” reported on a press conference held by two members of the executive of this committee. This conference marked the opening of a campaign “to encourage international cooperation in improving the rich agricultural lands of Iraq and the voluntary settlement there of the Palestinian Arab population, leaving Palestine for Jewish resettlement.”(15)
The September-October edition of “Zionews”, the Revisionist newspaper of America, repoted in detail on this advertisement under the heading “Resettlement Committee Launched, Urges Arab-Jewish Exchange of Populations”, and it also reproduced the entire text of the advertisement.(16)
An Editorial in the same edition of “Zionews” came out in strong support of the committee's plan for transfer. “The American Resettlement Committee offers a sound and far-reaching plan of action to solve not only the Jewish problem in Europe, but also, in large measure, the Arab problem.” It pointed out that in fact it would be “a Jewish-Arab exchange of populations.” The editorial writer felt sure that “the plan will gain support.” After quoting various precedents for transfer, and persons such as Sir Norman Angell, Henry Morgenthau Sr, and Israel Zangwill who had in the past proposed transfer of Arabs, the writer concluded, “It was at the right moment that the American Resettlement Committee brought the project to the fore.”(17)
In contrast, there was strong criticism of this advertisement in an article in the left-wing “Jewish Frontier”. In an article under the heading “The Irresponsible Revisionists”, Hayim Greenberg, referring to this “political advertisement”, described the Revisionists as “specialists in 'strong language', intransigent slogans and phraseological extremism”. Not only are they demanding “a greater Palestine within its historic frontiers, but Palestine without any Arabs.”
He pointed out that although the advertisement took pains to describe this proposed transfer to be “voluntary”, the authors brought as a historical example the Greco-Turkish population transfer which was in fact a “forced exchange”.
Greenberg felt that there was no reason to suppose that “large numbers of Palestinian Arabs will desire to migrate to Iraq in the near future.” Thus anyone speaking of such a transfer “even though he may describe such transfer as merely voluntary migration, is really proposing something which can only be done by use of force.”
He also considered that this Revisionist proposal was “a very dangerous one”, since if Palestine were so densely populated with Arabs that there was no room for Jewish settlers, then justice would demand that the Jews give up their claim and “seek a home in an under-populated and undeveloped region elsewhere.”(18)
Three years later however, Greenberg when addressing the 22nd Zionist Congress at Basle, said one of ways of implementing the Biltmore resolution for a Jewish State in Palestine, would be to transfer the Arabs. He said, “I am speaking at present in a formal way, without evaluating this possibility - to transfer a large portion of the Arab population to another country, or other countries.” He said that this would only be possible against the will of the transferred Arabs, since it was clear to anyone who had seen Palestine and its Arab population and had compared their living conditions with those in other Arab states.(19) In 1943, Greenberg was publicly censuring and ridiculing the Revisionist proposal of transfer; in 1946 he was putting it forward himself as a possible solution!
Another criticism to the Revisionist advertisement, although much more indirect, came from the President of the Zionist Organization of America, Dr. Israel Goldstein, in an article entitled “Zionist Discipline”. Goldstein was critical of “secessionist splinters”, stressing the Revisionists, who had broken away from the Zionist movement and, not being accountable to “any organized body of Jewish public opinion” could thus “engage in sensational tactics such as .... proposing the solution of the Palestine problem by the removal of Arabs from Palestine to Iraq.”(20) In an article written towards the end of 1945, the writer Hannah Arendt refers to the “transfer of all Palestine Arabs which is openly demanded by Revisionists.”(21) Later in the same article, she states that the Revisionists “were the first to advocate the transfer of Palestine Arabs to Iraq.”(22)
Although Arendt did not, give a source for these statements, she almost certainly took her information regarding openly demanding a transfer of the Arabs from this “New York Times” advertisement. Her comments regarding the Revisionists being the first to advocate such a transfer are certainly not accurate. However several of the proposals of transfer to Iraq which preceded the Revisionists were in secret documents, which, when Arendt wrote her article in 1945, were not available to her.
Lohamei Herut Israel (Lehi)
At the beginning of the Second World War, the Revisionists made a truce with the British to suspend their actions for the duration of the War. As a result, in 1940, a group under the leadership of Abraham Stern, broke away from the main-stream Revisionists and established Lohamei Herut Israel (Lehi).
Soon after the formation of the Lehi movement in 1940, one of its commanders, Hanoch Kalay, had a meeting with his colleague Shalom Kluger, a veteran Revisionist Zionist who had attempted to formulate new principles for “Establishment Zionism”. At this meeting Kluger showed Kalay some of the “principles” which he had formulated. Kalay also came across some notebooks with various Zionist ideologies, including the notebook entitled “Megillat Chibad” of the poet Yaakov Cohen. Contained in these notebooks were attempts to formulate ideological principles. Kalay showed these notebooks to Abraham Stern and the latter suggested that, with the aid of all this material, he formulate principles for the Lehi organisation.(23)
Kalay acted on Stern's suggestions and a document dated Tishri 5701 (October 1940) contains a draft of Kalay's proposals. Number 7 is headed “Foreign Policy” and contains a proposal for Arab transfer: “Solution of the Arab problem in the Kingdom of Israel by means of population transfer.”(24)
Kalay handed the draft over to Stern, who then formulated the proposals in their final form in more powerful language. They were then debated at the Lehi headquarters and approved(25) and published in their newspaper “Bamahteret”.
In their final form the subject of Arab transfer appeared as “Principle of Renaissance” Number 14: “Judgment of the Strangers: The solution of the problem of the strangers will be by the exchange of population.”(26) As one can see, Stern was more cautious in his formulation and replaced the word “Arab” by “strangers” and “transfer” by “exchange”. One can also observe that Lehi's attitude was quite clear and at that time did not follow the line of the main-stream Revisionists on the transfer issue.
Kalay remembers that Stern showed these Principles to Yaakov Cohen, who levelled criticisms on a number of the paragraphs.(27) The examples Kalay quoted did not include the paragraph regarding Arab transfer.
These Principles were then shown to the members of Lehi. Some received them with enthusiasm, others with indifference whilst others questioned them.(28) It was however made clear by the leadership that these Principles obligated all the members and that anyone who was not prepared to abide by them should leave the movement immediately.(29)
At a later date Dr. Israel Eldad wrote a long commentary on these Principles. On this Principle number 14 on population transfer, Eldad began by stating that different peoples had never been able to live in close proximity and if in the course of time they did not assimilate into each other, the end result would be conflict and war. For the non-Jews who lived in Palestine, the Torah had only one solution: to complete destruction - to allow not even one non-Jew to remain alive. Those who for some reason were not destroyed, fully assimilated into the Jewish people. Eldad then put it in a nutshell - “either destruction or assimilation”.
With regard to the world scene, Eldad said that in places where it was impossible to use the method of destruction, such as in Central or Eastern Europe or the Balkans, there had been an attempt at assimilation of the various minorities, but after this had failed began the unsuccessful attempt of granting autonomy. The problem of minorities had remained after the First World War and was one of the causes of the Second World War.
In contrast to all this, Eldad pointed out that the relations between Turkey and Greece became friendly as a result of a population transfer between them. Places which did not utilise population transfer created for themselves an explosive situation and a lot of trouble.
He then spoke about the “problem” of Jews living in the Diaspora. Attempts to solve the “problem” by granting of equal rights had, according to Eldad, been unsuccessful. In Poland it had been suggested that the problem could only be solved by the Jews emigrating and in the Soviet Union it had been solved, on the face of it, by assimilation. He pointed out that the sole reason that he had brought up the Jewish problem was to show that a strange body in the midst of another people was explosive.
Eldad concluded by saying that the Jews of Palestine were not interested in the assimilation of strangers into their midst. They were interested in peaceful relations will the Arab people and would solve the question of the Arab tribes who had arrived in Palestine as a result of their wanderings, by population exchange with the hundreds of thousands of Jews who had lived in the Arab countries. He felt that such a solution was the only one, and was essential for a good and lasting peace between the Kingdom of Israel and the Arab kingdom - the alternative would be unending war.(30)
However in 1947, when Lehi submitted a memorandum to the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP), their approach to this question became much closer to Jabotinsky's published ideas on transfer of the late 1930s. According to the memorandum, the Jewish State would concern itself with the education and rights of its Arab population, whilst the Arab .population would serve as a bridge of co-operation between the Jews and the neighbouring countries. We must understand that Lehi regarded Britain as the enemy and some of the Lehi members regarded the Arabs as potential allies in the struggle for national liberation.
Lehi's document then suggested that certain groups of Arabs might not want to live with the Jews for one reason or another. “If these Arabs would prefer to settle voluntarily in neighbouring countries which are under-populated, then the borders of Palestine will be open for them (to leave), just as the borders will be open for the hundreds of thousands of Jews who wish to enter from the countries of the Middle East.” After quoting examples of population transfer that had taken place after the Second World War, the memorandum commented that “this remedy could also be beneficial in our country, if part of the population were to prefer to forgo willingly the living conditions of the developing Jewish State and to live in a purely Arab State.”(31)
Following publication of this memorandum, an article appeared in “Kol Ha'am”, the communist daily newspaper of Palestine, in which the author Esther Wilenska (who was later a communist member of the Knesset), was extremely critical of Lehi.
With regard to the very mildly worded transfer proposal which Lehi had submitted to UNSCOP, Wilenska first ridiculed the word “voluntarily” used by Lehi in its proposal. She thus concluded that there “arises the 'fear' that the Arabs will be forced to flee - (in [Lehi's] euphemistic language 'will prefer' [to leave])”. Wilenska added that an analysis of this transfer proposal shows that it is not at all genuine, but it is made to make room for the hundreds of thousands of Jews who will arrive from the Arab countries.(32)
In answer to these criticisms, a spokesman of Lehi explained that the reason that the Poles fled from Russia was not because of any inequality but because there is a force attracting every person to live in a country amongst his own people. He also discounted the argument that the Arabs would have to move to make room for the Jews, since there was sufficient room in Palestine for the millions of Jews who would immigrate, without harming the Arabs already living there.(33)
Following the establishment of the State of Israel, Lehi established a political party called “The Fighters' List”.. At the first meeting of its Council, which was held in July 1948, a political platform was adopted. Section 9 of this platform dealt with “minorities” and stated that it saw in the exchange of the Arab population of Palestine with the Jewish population of the Arab states, the best solution to solve the conflict between the Jewish and Arab peoples. Such a solution would eliminate deadly friction and improve neighbourly relations. The use of such transfer in the past in the world had proved beneficial.(34)
In March 1949, Lehi held a conference at which one of the delegates, Dr. Sabo, proposed transferring most of the Arabs and giving the rest rights in the same way as “our Forefathers destroyed the Canaanites and afterwards wrote 'and you shall love the stranger'.”(35)
In summing up Lehi's attitude towards transfer after the War of Independence, the historian Miriam Getter wrote that Lehi abandoned its approach of 1947, and once again came to regard the separation of Jew and Arab, even to the point of an exchange in populations, as the only way to avoid permanent strife.(36)