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Zionist leaders were always alert for opportunities to work with Arab countries that neighboured Palestine in hopes they could assist with plans to transfer the Arab population out of Palestine. Earlier we saw one such attempt to negotiate a plan with Jordanian leaders (1937), and in 1939 another hopeful meeting to work with the Saudi Arabian king was organized.
The plan was to promise King Ibn Saud a major role in a future Arab federation and more immediately to provide him with substantial financial aid to resolve economic hardship his kingdom was at that time enduring.
To approach the Saudi king the Zionist leaders happily found willing support from Harry St John Philby, British orientalist and advisor to the king [see the Wikipedia linked article for his “colourful” career and that of his son]. Philby’s contact in London was the famous British historian Lewis Namier who was closely associated with the Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann and was the political advisor to the Zionist Jewish Agency led by Moshe Shertok.
The 6 October, 1939 meeting
The above four British and Jewish gentlemen met in London to come up with a plan to put to the Saudi king.
- It was proposed that all Arabs would be transferred out of Palestine except for an enclave in Jerusalem, which was to become akin to the Vatican City.
- The Jews in return would support King Ibn Saud’s bid for leadership of an Arab federation.
- £20,000,000 would also be given to the Saudi King, although Shertok wanted the money to go towards paying for the resettlement of the Arabs to be uprooted from Palestine. Weizmann expected the money to be raised by wealthy Jews and from grants from the United States government.
King Ibn Saud’s response to the proposal?
We learn from letters of Weizmann that the king reportedly excoriated Philby for thinking he could be bought with a “Zionist bribe”.
The British Labour Party Resolution, 1944
Zionist lobbying paid off with the British Labour Party, no doubt helped by the fact the Party included some very influential Zionists in its executive leadership. In 1944 the party introduced a pro-Zionist resolution (to be voted on later in that year) that read in part:
Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out as the Jews move in. Let them be compensated handsomely for their land and let their settlement elsewhere by carefully organized and generously financed. . . . indeed we should re-examine also the possibility of extending the present Palestinian boundaries, by agreement with Egypt, Syria or Transjordan.
Records of the Jewish Agency executive meetings inform us today how thrilled Zionist leaders like Ben-Gurion were with the Labour Party’s position, “gratified that the ‘Gentiles’ were endorsing the concept.” At a Jewish Agency executive meeting on 7 May 1944 Ben-Gurion is recorded as saying:
Zionism is a transfer of the Jews. Regarding the transfer of the Arabs this is much easier than any other transfer. There are Arab states in the vicinity . . . and it is clear that if the Arabs are removed [to these states] this will improve their condition and not the contrary.
The British government’s policy, however, had been to limit Jewish immigration because of the limited capacity of the existing Arab population in Palestine to accommodate the new arrivals. Ben-Gurion and other Zionists were accordingly somewhat concerned about the Labour Party resolution’s wording that linked Jewish settlement of Palestine with the transfer of the native Palestinian population. But minutes of meetings and diaries of the Zionists show that out of the pubic eye the took for granted the necessity of the transfer of the Arabs. At another Jewish Agency executive meeting on 20 June 1944, the director the the Agency’s department for immigration reminded Ben-Gurion and others,
“When we bring a plan for transferring one million Jews to the Land of Israel we cannot avoid the transfer.”
Ben-Gurion further pointed out that
the Holocaust had not yet been fully exploited to the benefit of Zionism because the Allies were still preoccupied with the pursuit of victory: the greatest opportunity for the Zionists was bound to emerge after the war. (Masalha, 160)
Enthusiastic Voices for Arab Transfer as Germans to be Transferred in Europe
Some of the views of the Jewish Agency executive expressed in 1944 May and December meetings:
Eliahu Dobkin: said he failed to understand why some of his colleagues wanted caution in moving towards transfer of the Arabs given that the same transfer policies were about to be carried out in Europe.
David Werner Senator: argued that transferring the Palestinian Arabs to Iraq was morally and politically justified because the same policy was to be applied to the German population in Poland and Czechoslovakia. Senator spoke against the “binationalist” positions of Martin Buber and Judah Magnes. Buber and Magnes spoke of morality in politics but Senator responded (according to records of the Jewish Agency executive meeting 16 December 1944)
stating that he felt no moral qualms about advocating forcible Arab removal: considering the catastrophe of European Jewry “against the transfer of one million Arabs, then with a clean and easy conscience I declare that even more drastic acts are sanctioned.”
The Ben-Horin Plan
Another Zionist leader and newspaper editor, Eliahu Ben-Horin, published a book in 1943 — The Middle East: Crossroads of History — that became the basis for former U.S. president Herbert Hoover’s plan. Ben-Horin’s plan was for an Arab transfer to Iraq or a “united Iraq-Syrian state” and the establishment of a pure Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River:
I suggest that the Arabs of Palestine and Transjordania be transferred to Iraq, or a united Iraq-Syrian state. That means the shifting of about 1,200,000 persons. A larger number were involved in the Greco-Turkish exchange of population; many more in the internal shifts in Russia….
The Palestinian Arabs will not be removed to a foreign land but to an Arab land…. The distance between their old and new homelands is small, involving no crossing of oceans or seas, and the climatic conditions are the same, if the transfer and the colonization project are well planned and systematically carried out, the Palestinian fellah will get better soil and more promising life conditions than he can ever expect to obtain in Palestine. The city Arab, too, can find a much wider field for his activities and ambitions within the framework of a larger and purely Arab state unit. (Crossroads of History, 224f)
Ben-Horin estimated it would take no longer than eighteen months for a mutual transfer of Arabs to Iraq-Syria and Jews from Iraq, Yemen and Syria to Palestine.
The evacuation project should be carried out with “firmness.” He added:
such a solution being both just and practicable, the Jews and the Arabs will soon develop good neighborly relations…. The one imperative pre-requisite to such a happy development is the absolute determination on the part of the major nations that will dictate the peace and lay the foundation for future world-order — that this and no other solution of the Arab-Jewish problems be adopted and carried into effect. (Crossroads)
Ben-Horin sought support from powerful figures and succeeded in attracting the interest of the Herbert Hoover, and Hoover soon took up Ben-Horin’s ideas and advocated them as the Hoover Plan, making them public in the press 19 November 1945. A Supreme Court Justice publicly joined Hoover in promoting his plan. The plan was presented as a positive solution for all parties:
every man of good will… will welcome Mr Hoover’s plan as an expression of constructive statesmanship. When all the long-accepted remedies seem to fail, it is time to consider new approaches. The Hoover plan certainly represents a new approach, formulated by an unprejudiced mind well trained in statesmanship, relief and rehabilitation. Should they, the Arabs, respond to the idea, we shall be happy to cooperate with the great powers and the Arabs in bringing about the materialization of the Hoover Plan.
The Ben-Horin / Hoover Plan was not a political heavyweight in changing events in the Middle East but it was evidence of a growing ideological mood for Arab transfer. In the wake of the 1948-49 war when Palestinian Arabs were fleeing from their lands and cities, Ben-Horin’s plan started to look very reasonable to many:
In May 1949, during the last stage of the Palestinian refugee exodus, Harper’s magazine published an article by Ben-Horin entitled “From Palestine to Israel.” The editor noted that in an earlier article in the magazine’s December 1944 issue, Ben-Horin had advocated a plan which at the time
looked far-fetched… that the Arabs of Palestine be transferred to Iraq and resettled there. Now, with thousands of Arab refugees from Palestine facing a dismal future, the transfer idea appears to be a likely bet… in view of the sound character of Mr. Ben-Horin’s earlier judge-merits and prophecies, we feel we can bank on his word about present-day Israel: ‘it works.’
The Significance of All of the Above, and Previous Posts
Not all Jews supported the idea of transferring the Arabs, though their voices were unfortunately outnumbered. One group opposing transfer was Hashomer Hatzair,
dismissed the transfer plans as “dangerous,” “ant-socialist,” and even ill-advised. (Masalha, 165)
the general support they received and the attempts to promote them by mainstream offical and Labor Zionists, particularly those leaders who were to play decisive roles in 1948 – Ben-Gurion, Weizmann, Shertok, Kaplan, Golda Meyerson, Weitz, and so on – highlight the ideological intent that made the Palestinian refugee exodus in 1948 possible. (Masalha, 165. Bolding added)
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Next: The 1948 Exodus….
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Masalha, Nur. 1992. Expulsion of the Palestinians: The Concept of “Transfer” in Zionist Political Thought, 1882-1948. Washington, D.C: Institute for Palestine Studies.
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