Continuing from the previous post . . . .
|This post shows that the bloodshed that was to stain Palestine for decades to come and through to today was warned about in 1937. It is commonly said that the Palestinians by and large voluntarily left their lands, especially in 1948. This series will produce the evidence to demonstrate that that claim is a terrible myth.Several other myths are also being addressed in this series:
|One reader expressed concern that
I invite others
I set only one condition: that any such comment does indeed address another side to the contents of this post, or to the sources and their content, and not shift goal-posts by addressing other issues that deflect attention from the points made here.
The Royal Commission Meets the Zionist Leaders
The Peel Royal Commission arrived in Palestine in November 1936 to gather information about the tense and often violent Arab-Jewish relations in order to make recommendations for British government policy on Palestine. Nur Masalha writes that “several members of [the Commission] expressed open sympathy for Zionism.” (Expulsion, p. 54)
The Commission met with both Arab representatives and with “virtually every Zionist leader in Palestine of any importance”. Most of the Zionist lobbying, however, took place in London after the Commission returned in January 1937. Zionist leaders — Shertok, Weizmann, Ben-Gurion, David Hacohen, Dov Hos — went to London where they forged close relations with the decision makers: the leaders of the British Labor Party and Commission members. The Zionist delegates strongly promoted both partition of Palestine and population transfers.
Actually the idea of partitioning Palestine was initiated earlier in Palestine by a British Commissioner, Professor Reginald Coupland, in a private meeting with Weizmann. This was a major breakthrough for the Zionist movement.
Given the diverse patterns of settlement in Palestine at the time, any type of partition was going to inevitably mean population transfers of some kind.
The population transfer recommendations that the Peel Commission eventually agreed on were the same as those originally proposed by the Jewish Agency leaders of Palestine. (Recall from last post that Ben-Gurion had stated his intention to raise the issue with the Commissioners.)
In March 1937 the Jewish Agency conveyed a confidential plan for transfer to the Royal Commission. Recall in the previous post the passing mention of a non-Zionist member of the Jewish Agency who protested against the transfer idea — Maurice Hexter. Now Hexter was the one who conveyed the transfer plan to the Royal Commission.
Hexter explained that aim of the plan was to solve the problem of land and Zionist colonization in various districts such as the Hula and Beisan valleys. Under the plan, the British government was to consider proposals submitted by the Yishuv settlement companies, such as the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA), the Palestine Jewish Colonization Association (PICA), and the Palestine Land Development Company (Hevrat Hachsharat Hayishuv), all of which were engaged in the purchase of land in Palestine for the collective control of the Jewish National Fund or Zionist private investors. (pp. 55-56)
Hexter explained that the goal of these proposals was
the herding together of the existing Arab villages and their concentration in order to evacuate their territories for Jewish colonization.
Hexter went on to explain that if the Arabs refused to accept their transfer from their lands and put up any sort of resistance to selling and evacuating their lands, then the government was to intervene and
force the people to exchange land and move them from one place to another.
A Royal Commissioner then asked Hexter if the land to be evacuated by the Arabs was to given entirely to the Jewish settlements, Hexter answered:
Our intention is [that they will be] only for Jews.
(Moshe Sharett, Yoman Medini, Vol. 2, a statement at a meeting of the Zionist Actions Committee, II February 1937, Jerusalem, pp. 16-17.)
But it was another proposal for transfer that had the most impact on the Commission. This was one advanced by the Jewish Agency in a May 1937 memorandum and made available in Ben-Gurion’s memoirs published in 1974.
While the Royal Commission was considering these proposals Professor Reginald Coupland discreetly asked a Jewish Agency representative, Lewis Namier, if the Jews would be willing to help an Arab state financially. Namier made it clear that cash assistance was out of the question but that they would be willing to assist with development of certain regions to assist with the population transfer. (Moshe Sharett, Yoman Medini, p. 91.)
Mustn’t Forget the Emir
These plans also required a massaging of the ruler of Transjordan. After all, the Transjordan was to be the place to which the Arabs were to be moved.
The Jewish Agency maintained close relations with Emir Abdullah of Transjordan in order to persuade to accept the influx of large numbers of Palestinian Arabs. Abdullah had been given his power in Amman by the British in 1921. He remained totally dependent upon Britain and desperately needed capital investment to develop his impoverished lands. Ben-Gurion had suggested giving the Emir supreme religious authority over all Muslims in Eretz Yisrael in exchange for opening up his emirate to transferees.
Partition, Transfer & Colonization
The Jewish Agency further proposed the establishment of a transfer company modeled on earlier British and Zionist colonization companies. Half its funds were to be used for the resettlement of Palestinians in Transjordan and half for Zionist settlers in Palestine.
So Jewish lobbying of the Commission was pushing for transfer, partition and effective colonization of the Transjordan.
Last Minute Doubts
But in the midst of these efforts to influence the Commission some leaders began to express doubts.
First of all, almost 300,000 Arabs will exist under Jewish rule. It is not so easy to carry out [population] exchange. . . . And even if they [the British] indeed would want to uproot the Arab population by force, this would result in such bloodshed that the current Arab rebellion in the country would be almost nothing in comparison. Such a thing could not be done without British forces, at least in the transitional period . . . . It is a big question whether [Britain] would have the courage to carry this out. (Moshe Sharett, Yoman Medini, p. 15.)
Again on 15 March 1937 Shertok again expressed his doubts (addressing Weizmann, Lewis Namier, Leonard Stein and others) about
whether the Arabs of Zarnuga and Bayt Dajan, to large villages southeast of Jaffa, for instance, could be persuaded to evacuate their fertile land and prosperous citrus plantations in the coastal plain for dry farming in Transjordan. (Moshe Sharett, Yoman Medini, p. 70.)
Again on 22 April 1937, addressing the supreme policy making body, the Zionist Actions Committee, Shertok said:
The proposed Jewish state territory would not be continuous; its borders would be twisted and broken: the question of defending the frontier line would pose enormous difficulties . . . . The frontier line would separate villages from their fields. . . . Moreover the Arab reaction would be negative because they would lose everything and gain nothing. . . . In contrast to us they would lose totally that part of Palestine which they consider to be an Arab country and are fighting to keep it such. . . . They would lose the richest part of Palestine; they would lose major Arab assets, the orange plantations, the commercial and industrial centers and the most important sources of revenue for their government which would become impoverished: they would lose most of the coastal area, which would also be a loss to hinterland Arab states . . . . It would mean that they would be driven back (“Zorkim otam“) to the desert. . . . A Jewish territory [state] with fewer Arab subjects would make it easy for us but it would also mean a procrustean bed for us while a plan based on expansion into larger territory would mean more Arab subjects in the Jewish territory.
For the next 10 years the possibility of transferring the Arab population would not be “practical.” As for the long-term future, I am prepared to see in this a vision, not in a mystical way but in a realistic way, of a population exchange, on a much more important scale and including larger territories. As for now, we must not forget who would have to exchange the land. Those villages which live more than others on irrigation, on orange and fruit plantations, in houses built near water wells and pumping stations, on livestock and property and easy access to markets. Where would they go? What would they receive in return? . . . . This would be such an uprooting, such a shock, the likes of which had never occurred and could drown the whole thing in rivers of blood. At his stage let us not entertain ourselves with analogy of population transfer between Turkey and Greece; there were different conditions there. Those Arabs who would remain would revolt; would the Jewish state be able to suppress the revolt without assistance from the British Army? [My bolding. Protocol of the meeting of the Zionist Actions Committee, 22 April 1937, CZA. 25/277; also Sharett, Yoman Medini, Vol. 2. pp. 105-110. Notice also that Shertok repeatedly used the term “netenim” (=subjects) instead of “izrahim” (=citizens).]
These doubts did not stop Shertok from actively assisting with the Jewish Agency’s promotion of the transfer proposal.
Continuing . . . .
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