Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jews who favored a non-Jewish State of Palestine?

This blog focuses on those Jews in Palestine in the period of 1939-1942, who rejected the idea of a Jewish State. They wanted a bi-natinal state where Jews and Arabs could live together and share government. Some great names in that movement were people like Martin Buber and Judah L. Magnes.

As the Israeli-Arab conflict is a contemporary issue, writing on a related subject, even though definitely historical, tends to reflect people’s views on the contemporary conflict. Historical research also impact’s one’s view of today. I have experienced that continuous dialogue between past and present while researching and writing this thesis.

From the outset, I like to put my cards on the table. I greatly respect people like Martin Buber and Judah L. Magnes, some of the foremost Bi-nationalists in the 1930s and 1940s in Palestine, and I am not impressed by the realpolitik that the Zionist movement and Israel have opted for since the 1940s.

The essential difference of opinion as regards Arab-Jewish relations between these political groups amongst the Jews in Palestine, was expressed succinctly by David Ben Gurion in a discussion he had with Magnes. Ben Gurion told Magnes:
The real difference between us is that you think peace between Arab and Jew will bring a state (Bi-national perhaps) where as I believe that a (Jewish) state will lead to Arab-Jewish peace.[1]
Before 1948, Magnes always warned not to enter Zion in the way of Joshua, not by might, not by power, but by the Spirit. The attitude of Ben Gurion and most Israeli politicians since the 1940s seems to be driven by the conviction that peace will come when Arabs, because of the military power of Israel, have no option but to accept the fait accompli of Israel’s existence. Since the founding of the State of Israel, this political divide in approach has been visible in Jewish society.

This blog consists of my M.A. thesis that was written ages ago, in 1986, for the Institute of History at Utrecht University in The Netherlandsl; it was prepared under the supervision of J.G. Hegeman, MA, and Professor Dr. Jacques Waardenburg, who was instrumental in instilling in me a love for studies of the Middle East, the Arabs and Islam.

As the text dates from 1986, and as I have not followed publications in this field of bi-nationalism since then. some of this is dated, I am sure. But I hope it does help you in our own studies!


Dr Jos M Strengholt

[1] Ernst Simon, ‘There is Another Way!’, in New Outlook Vol. 4, No. 6 (Tel Aviv, 1961), pp. 3-4.


Abu-Lughod, Ibrahim (ed.), The Transformation of Palestine. Essays on the Origin and Development of the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Evanston 1971)

Al Parashat Darkenu, A Collection on the Problems of Zionist Policy and Jewish-Arab Cooperation (Jerusalem 1939)

Arab-Jewish Unity: Testimony before the Anglo-American Inquiry Commission for the Ihud (Union) Association by Judah Magnes and Martin Buber (London 1947)

Avnery, Uri, Israel without Zionists (London, New York 1968)

‘Balfour Declaration’, in Laqueur, Walter, and Barry Rubin (eds.), The Israel-Arab Reader : A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict (Harmondsworth 1984) pp. 17-18

Bein, Alex (ed.), Arthur Ruppin: Memoirs, Diaries, Letters (London 1971)

Ben Gurion, David, My Talks with Arab Leaders (Jerusalem 1972)

‘Biltmore Program’, in Laqueur, Walter, and Barry Rubin (editors), The Israel-Arab Reader : A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict (Harmondsworth 1984) pp. 77-79

‘British Statement of Policy of 9 November 1938’, in Walter Laqueur and Barry Rubin (eds.), The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict (Harmondsworth 1984), pp. 62-3

Buber, M., J.L. Magnes, E. Simon (eds.), Towards Union in Palestine. Essays on Zionism and Jewish-Arab Cooperation (Jerusalem 1947)

Budeiri, Musa, The Palestine Communist Party 1919-1948: Arab and Jew in the Struggle for Internationalism (London 1979)

‘Churchill White Paper (1922)’, in Walter Laqueur and Barry Rubin (eds.), The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict (Harmondsworth 1984), pp. 45-50

Cohen, Aharon, ‘Fighter for a Jewish-Arab Alliance’, in New Outlook Vol. 20 No. 2 (1977)

Cohen, Aharon, Israel and the Arab World (London 1970)

Cohen, Michael J., Palestine: Retreat from the Mandate. The Making of British Policy, 1936-45 (London 1978)

Darkenu (Our Ways), A Collection of Articles on the Problem of Zionist Policy and Jewish-Arab Cooperation (Jerusalem, August 1939)

Esco Foundation for Palestine, Palestine, A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies, Vols. I and II (New Haven 1947)

Eventov, Yakir, and Cvi Rotem, ‘Zionism in the United States’, in Zionism (Jerusalem 1973)

Flapan, Simha, Zionism and the Palestinians (London 1979)

Furlonge, Geoffrey, Palestine is my Country. The Story of Musa Alami (London 1969)

Goren, Arthur A., Dissenter in Zion: From the Writings of Judah K. Magnes (Cambridge 1982)

Hadawi, Sami, Crime and No Punishment: Zionist Israeli Terrorism 1939-1972 (Beirut 1972)

Haim, Yehoyada, Abandonment of Illusions: Zionist Political Attitudes Toward Palestinian Arab Nationalism, 1936-1939 (Boulder 1983)

Hattis, Susan Lee, The Bi-national Idea in Palestine During Mandatory Times (Haifa 1970)

Heyman, M., Letter to the author (19 June 1986)

Herzberg, Arthur, ‘Ideological Evolution’, in Zionism (Jerusalem 1973)

Herzl, Theodor, The Jewish State (London, 1896, 1972)

Hodes, Aubrey, Martin Buber: An Intimate Portrait (New York 1971)

Hurewitz, J.C., The Struggle for Palestine (New York 1976)

Joll, James, Europe Since 1870: An International History (Harmondsworth 1982)

Katzburg, Nathaniel, ‘The British and Zionist Perspectives 1939-1945’, in Almog, Shmuel (ed.), Zionism and the Arabs, Essays (Jerusalem 1983)

Kirk, George, Survey of International Affairs, 1939-1946, The Middle East in the War (London 1952)

Koestler, Arthur, Promise and Fulfillment: Palestine 1917-1949 (London 1983)

Kolatt, Israel, ‘The Zionist Movement and the Arabs’, in Studies in Zionism No. 5 (Tel Aviv 1982)

Kressel, Getzel, ‘Zionist Congresses’, in Zionism (Jerusalem 1973)

Laqueur, Walter, The Terrible Secret (London 1980)

Laqueur, Walter, and Barry Rubin (editors), The Israel-Arab Reader : A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict (Harmondsworth 1984)

Margalit, Elkana, ‘Bi-nationalism: An Interpretation of Zionism, 1941-1947’, in Studies in Zionism 4 (Tel Aviv 1981)

Mandel, Neville J., The Arabs and Zionism before World War I (Berkeley, London 1976)

Ma‘oz, Moshe, Palestinian Arab Politics (Jerusalem 1975)

Ma‘oz, Moshe (ed.), Studies on Palestine during the Ottoman Period (Jerusalem 1975)

Mendes-Flohr, Paul R. (ed.), A Land of Two Peoples: Martin Buber on Jews and Arabs (New York 1983)

Migdal, Joel S., Palestinian Society and Poletics (Princeton, Guildford 1980)

‘Palestine Royal (Peel) Commission (1937)’, in Walter Laqueur and Barry Rubin (eds.), The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict (Harmondsworth 1984), pp. 56-58

Porath, Yehoshua., The Emergence of the Palestinian Arab National Movement, Volume One 1918-1929 (London 1974)

Porath, Yehoshua., The Palestinian Arab National Movement: From Riots to Rebellion, Volume Two 1929-1939 (London 1977)

‘Records of the Conversation between the Fuhrer and the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem on November 28, 1941, in the Presence of Reich Foreign Minister and Minister Grobba in Berlin’, in Walter Laqueur and Barry Rubin (eds.), The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict (Harmondsworth 1984), pp. 80-4

Rodinson, Maxime, Israel and the Arab World (New York, 1982)

Roosevelt, Kermit, ‘The Partition of Palestine: A Lesson in Pressure Politics’, in The Middle East Journal Vol. 2 No. 1 (Washington DC 1948)

Rose, N.A., The Gentile Zionists. A Study in Anglo-Zionist Diplomacy, 1929-1939 (London 1973)

Sachar, Howard M., A History of Israel (Jerusalem, n.d.)

Sharif, Regina, Non-Jewish Zionism: Its Roots in Western History (London 1983)

Simon, Ernst, ‘Buber or Ben-Gurion’, in New Outlook Vol. 9 No. 2 (Tel Aviv 1966)

Simon, Ernst, ‘There is Another Way!’, in New Outlook Vol. 4, No. 6 (Tel Aviv 1961)

Smilansky, Moshe, ‘Citrus Growers have Learnt to Cooperate’, in M. Buber, J.L. Magnes, E. Simon (eds.), Towards Union in Palestine: Essays on Zionism and Jewish-Arab Cooperation (Jerusalem 1947)

‘Statement by the Jewish Agency for Palestine (1939)’, in Walter Laqueur and Barry Rubin (eds.), The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict (Harmondsworth 1984), pp. 76-7.

Stein, Kenneth W., ‘Legal Protection and Circumvention of Rights for Cultivators in Mandatory Palestine’, in Migdal, Joel S. (ed.), Palestinian Society and Politics (Princeton, Guildford 1980)

Sykes, Christopher, Cross Roads to Israel (London 1965)

Taylor, Alan R., Prelude to Israel: An Analysis of Zionist Diplomacy 1897-1947 (London 1961)

Udin, Sophie A. (ed.), The Palestine Year Book: Review of Events July 1945 to September 25, 1946 Vol. II (New York 1946)

Weizmann, Chaim, Trial and Error: The Autobiography of Chaim Weizmann (New York, 1949)

‘White Paper (17 May 1939)’, in Walter Laqueur and Barry Rubin (eds.), The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict (Harmondsworth 1984), pp. 64-75

Wild, Stefan, ‘National Socialism in the Arab Near East Between 1933 and 1939’, Die Welt des Islams Band 25 (Leiden 1985)

Summary and conclusions

In order to appease the Arabs, because a Second World War seemed at the point of starting, in 1939 Britain changed its policy towards the Zionist movement and the Jewish National Home. Until 1939 British policy had essentially been a help to the Zionists, by making immigration and land settlement possible. The MacDonald White Paper, however, meant to end free immigration and land purchase. The mandate did not serve these primary goals of Zionism anymore.

Because Britain changed its policy, the Zionists did likewise. When Britain definitely rejected the idea of a Jewish majority in Palestine, the Zionists did not use the ideas of Bi-nationalism and parity anymore. They had used these ideas mainly as weapons in their negotiations with Britain, to be assured of further immigration. The White Paper meant that Britain was no longer on the Zionists’ side, but on the side of the Arabs. Because even with the help of Britain the Arabs were not prepared to give in to at least some of the Zionists’ demands, after the White Paper and with Britain on their side, the Arabs would never be prepared to accept anything less than the end of Jewish immigration into Palestine and the independence of an Arab Palestine. After 1939, therefore, the Zionists lost all hope of reconciliation with the Arabs. What they also noticed was that the Palestinian Arabs were acquiesced, not after an agreement was reached, but because of the use of military force. Because in the beginning they still hoped Britain might reverse its policy again, the Zionists kept trying to influence Whitehall. For this reason they also began to extend their influence in the United States. Maybe the United States could exert pressure on Britain to change its course. This was very essential, because a refuge was urgently needed for Central European Jewry.

The Bi-nationalists reacted differently to the White Paper. Like the Zionists, most of them did not want immigration to be halted artificially by Britain, but in fact they blamed the Zionists for it. In their opinion the Zionists had not really worked for rapprochement and cooperation between Jews and Arabs. The Arab Revolt was an immediate result of this lack of good relations between Arabs and Jews, which finally led Britain to alter its policy. Immediately after Britain changed its policy, for the first time Bi-nationalists from all parties and groups came together to publish a booklet. Shortly thereafter the League for Jewish-Arab Rapprochement and Cooperation was founded. The urgency for European Jewry to be able to immigrate into Palestine brought members from all Bi-nationalist groups and parties, beside individuals who did not belong to any (Bi-national) party at all, together. They urged the Zionist movement to work for better relations with the Arabs, as they also did themselves, and to adopt as a final aim a Bi-national state. They thought Bi-nationalism was the most righteous solution to the Arab-Jewish problem, which might be the key to opening Palestine for free Jewish immigration and land purchase.

The development that had started within the Zionist movement after the British policy change was even strengthened in between 1940 and 1942. The fate of European Jewry became even worse than could be imagined in 1939. In spite of this, Britain rigidly implemented the clauses in the White Paper about immigration and land settlement, so the number of Jews entering Palestine was very small. The fate of refugees, coming to Palestine illegally in all sorts of boats, enraged the Jewish community. In spite of all this, the Jews could not but be on the British side, especially during the period that Rommel threatened to conquer Palestine. The Arabs were easily won for Nazism by German propaganda, and especially the advance of Rommel made the Arabs have a positive attitude towards the Third Reich, as Hitler promised freedom from France, Britain, and the Jews to the Arabs in the Middle East.

These events of the first years of the war strengthened the Zionists in their change of ideas. The possibility to come to a negotiated agreement with the Arabs seemed further off than ever before, as the Arabs only waited for the moment the Germans would bring total freedom and deliverance from the Jews. Because Britain really implemented the White Paper, there seemed no other way to be certain of freedom immigration and land settlement than to be in sole control of the country. Many Zionists did not see any other possibility but to demand a Jewish state, as the Revisionists had always asked them to do. The peace that reigned in Palestine, thanks to the strong presence of the British Army, strengthened the belief that the Palestinian Arabs could finally be made to accept the Jewish National Home. They would acquiesce in it when they would be forced to do so. The Zionist also fought for Jewish units to be allowed to fight in the British Army. By serving the Allied Forces they hoped Britain would forget about the White Paper. More important, demanding Jews to be allowed to fight under a Jewish flag meant that Zionists asked for the unofficial recognition as a sovereign nation, which would have been a precedent, valuable for the negotiations at the peace conference after the war. Especially in the United States a campaign was held for a Jewish Brigade under a Jewish flag. The Extraordinary Zionist Conference in the Biltmore Hotel in May 1942 demanded this Jewish Brigade under a Jewish flag. At this Conference, instigated by the Palestine Zionist leadership, it was decided that a Jewish state should be the immediate goal of Zionism. For the first time an official Zionist body officially demanded a Jewish state.

Of course the Bi-nationalists were influenced by the same events as the Zionists. Horrified by the news from Europe and the pro-Nazi attitude of the Arabs, they only saw one way to continue the construction of the National Home, which was the equivalent of immigration and the purchase of land. This only way was to create better relations with the Arabs and to arrive at a political agreement on the Bi-national character of the future independent Palestinian state. Therefore in 1940 the League began to carry out some of its aims concerning social, economic, and cultural rapprochement. Indeed there was some sort of cooperation, but never on the political lever. The few talks for political rapprochement came to nothing, as both Jews and Arabs stuck their demands concerning Jewish immigration and settlement. Hoping to be able to influence the Zionist movement to adopt their Bi-national aims, the Bi-nationalists demanded the forming of the Jewish Agency Inquiry Commission, to search for ways out of the deadlock. The majority of the members of this Commission were famous Bi-nationalists. The League did also set up a Committee to advise the Jewish Agency’s Commission. The League’s Committee presented the first draft of its Report to the Jewish Agency Commission, and sent it to famous Jews in the United States, for receiving their comment. The Report presented an example of what the future Bi-national state that was being envisaged might look like. Ben Gurion was enraged when he found out about this Report, as he was busy at that time to convince the American Zionists that they should demand the setting up of a Jewish state. It became clear now what the future direction of the Zionist Organization was likely to do.

The definite split in the Zionist movement would take place during and after the summer of 1942. As the future Zionist policy seemed to be spelled out ever more clearly, as laid down in the Biltmore Program, the Bi-nationalists were aware of the urgent need to unite all their strength in the League. In June Hashomer Hatzair, the Socialist League, and Poale Zion Smol, three Marxist parties, became members of the League as parties, after some discussions about the changes of the Program of the League. The Bi-nationalist character was specified even more clearly. Also a strengthening of the League was the forming of Ichud, a group of Bi-nationalist, Liberal-minded intellectuals. They had been members of the League personally, but now worked together as a group, which became members of the League in October. The highest point of Bi-nationalist unity and strength had been reached. On the other hand, the relations with the Zionists had never been as bad as then. Because in June the Jewish Agency decided not to cooperate with the League at all, the League also broke off its relations with the Agency. In August the Majority Report of the Jewish Agency Commission presented its Bi-nationalism proposal. This Report,
however, was not being discussed by the Zionists.

For the Zionists Bi-nationalism was an abomination by now, now to be discussed anymore. The fact that Rommel did not succeed and that his army was crushed at al-Alamein in November meant that the Zionists had more freedom to openly take a fully anti-British stand. In the same month finally, after all the sad news that had been coming, the Jewish Agency ‘officially believed’ the stories of the Holocaust. Never in their history were the Jews more in need of a National Home. For most Zionists gradualism and waiting for the Arabs to consent were unthinkable by now. The Bi-national idea was therefore being rejected definitely, when in November the Inner General Council, representing the World Zionist Organization, adopted as its immediate and final aim the founding of a Jewish state. Especially Ichud, having many supporters in the United States, was strongly attacked, as it might distract American support and money for the Zionist Organization’s strife for this Jewish state.

Why did Bi-nationalism lose is struggle and were the ideas of Revisionism in November 1942 being adopted as the official Zionist viewpoint? Revisionism understood the irreconcilable nature of Palestinian Arab nationalism. No agreement can be found when the highest aim of two parties is the absolute rejection of the other party’s highest aim. The Palestinian Arabs wanted a Jewish immigration and land purchase to stop immediately. The Jews wanted full freedom for immigration and settlement. The Bi-nationalists were too optimistic, believing that these two ideologies might be harmonized. The Marxist Bi-nationalists underestimated the strength of nationalism in the Jewish and Arab working class. The Bi-nationalists who were connected with Ichud were hopelessly wrong in believing that Arab nationalism could be changed by the Liberal, Humanistic ideals, which flourished in Judaism.

It is too simple, however, to answer the question to the failure of Bi-nationalism by saying that the Revisionists better understood the irreconcilable nature of the two nationalisms. On a deeper level the choice was not between two opinions about Arab nationalism and Zionism. Of course the Bi-nationalists wanted such an agreement. They did not want to force the Arabs to accept the Zionist enterprise, whereas the Revisionists were prepared to do so. This does not mean Revisionism had no eye for the rights of the Arabs. Just like the Bi-nationalists, most Revisionists were of the opinion that both nations had the same rights in Palestine. For Revisionism this was the reason they did not believe in reconciliation to be possible. For Bi-nationalists this was the reason why they did not want to force the Palestinian Arabs into submission. Should it be concluded, then, that Revisionism was an immoral and Bi-nationalism a moral movement, or that the real difference between the Revisionists and Bi-nationalists was the difference between war-mongers and doves? Did the Zionists adopt Revisionist ideas and methods because they had less high ethical standards? Those who reject Zionism would like to finish with this conclusion. To understand why Zionist adopted the Revisionist and not the Bi-nationalist position, it is necessary to go once more to a deeper level of understanding.

The difference between Bi-nationalism and Revisionism was not that one of them had high moral standards and the other not, and the reason why the Zionist movement in between 1939 and 1942 came to adopt the Revisionist ideas was not because Zionism had become or had always been an immoral movement. The ultimate difference between the Revisionist and the Bi-nationalist attitude towards the Jewish-Arab problem lay in how they related this to the European Jewish problem. Bi-nationalists were horrified, as much as Revisionists, by the plight of European Jewry, and wanted Palestine to be a refuge for the homeless Jews. Unlike Revisionism, however, they did not subdue their idea of justice concerning the Jewish-Arab problem in Palestine, to the moral aim of creating a ‘home for the homeless.’ Because of the horrible situation of European Jewry, however, the majority of Palestinian Jews chose for finding a solution of the problems of European Jews as quick as possible, even at the cost of finding a just settlement of the Jewish-Arab controversy in Palestine. The factor of time made them subdue the search for a just settlement in Palestine to the salvation of European Jewry.

Bi-nationalists now had to struggle against the official policy of the Zionist Organization from the outside instead of struggling for one idea on par with the other ideas within the Zionist Organization. The split between Zionism and Bi-nationalism, which had begun in 1939, had completely ripened in November 1942, when the Zionist Organization’s Executive expressed its policy of aiming at a Jewish state.

15. Bi-nationalism ostracized from Zionist organization

After the Biltmore Conference adopted its Program, Ben Gurion went on with his campaign in the United States, for each participating organization in the American Emergency Committee still had to accept the Biltmore Program. In October 1942 the Zionist Organization of America held its annual convention. During this convention the ideas of Bi-nationalism, regional Federalism and partition were rejected as halfway measures and half-hearted efforts, as these ideas all meant the restriction of immigration and Jewish development. The stiff rejection of Bi-nationalism, in spite of the opposition of a few Hadassah leaders who kept supporting Henrietta Szold, was a result of the formation of Ichud, just a month before the convention. The Bentov Report had also played its role.[1] At a joint session with Hadassah, on 17 October, the American Zionist Organizations adopted the Biltmore Program, stating that
…any program which denies the fundamental principles, such as advanced by the Ichud or any other group, is unacceptable to the Zionist Organization of American and Hadassah.[2]
After his return from the United States in October Ben Gurion held a countrywide campaign for the acceptance of the Biltmore Program, emphasizing that maximalist demands would be the best guarantee that after the war the Council of Nations would give in to the maximum of their demands.[3] In America Ben Gurion had told the Zionists that the Palestinian Jews desired the Biltmore Program. In Palestine, however, he told the Jews that the American Zionists wanted it, so in Palestine they should be wise to accept the Program.[4] During this campaign Ben Gurion attacked the Bentov Report violently, hoping to discredit as a supposed solution to the Jewish-Arab conflict the working out of the Bi-national idea. He attacked anyone who favored a Jewish-Arab accord.[5] His single-minded determination succeeded to win over a large majority for his maximalist proposals.[6] In a speech the Inner General Council on October 5, Ben Gurion said:
I was one of those who strongly advocated parity between Jews and Arabs under the British Mandate. But I doubt whether a regime of parity without a mandatory is practicable, or whether a self-governing state can operate at all under such a system, which may mean a permanent deadlock. So far not a single Arab leader has been found to agree to the principle of parity, with or without the Mandate. But assuming that not only Jews but Arabs also will agree to it, it does not in the remotest way solve the only problem that really matters: that of Jewish immigration. The example of Switzerland, where the difficulty between several nationalities was satisfactorily resolved, in not applicable to Palestine, because the crucial problem and the root of all friction between Jews and Arabs is not so much the problem of the Jews and Arabs who are in Palestine, but almost exclusively the problem of further Jewish immigration.[7]
Ben Gurion also rejected the idea of Bi-nationalism on the ground that there is only agreement about parity ‘between Yaari and Magnes’, but not with Arabs.[8] In another meeting of the Inner General Council, on 15 October, Khazan replied to that argument, saying that those who wanted to set up a Jewish state had not found Arabs who agreed with that idea either.[9] He and Yaari then offered a counter proposal in opposition to the Biltmore Program, demanding a Bi-national independent Palestine after the war, with international supervision in order to assure Jewish immigration in accordance with the full absorptive capacity of the country.[10]

The representative of Poale Zion Smol also submitted an alternative proposal on behalf of his party, stressing its hope that Palestine would become a socialist workers and farmers territorial unit, composed of Jews and Arabs who should not dominate each other. Like in the proposal of Hashomer Hatzair, the right for Jews to immigrate and to settle in Palestine was demanded, based on mutual understanding and cooperation between the two peoples of Palestine.[11] Kaplansky of MAPAI also expressed his opinion that accepting the Biltmore Program would be neither just nor wise:
Naturally even if we demand the whole thing for ourselves, the Arab demand for the whole thing will appear no less moral and right…I do not believe, that is I do not see the international forces which after this war will be willing to use force, military force, to enter a long war with the whole Arab East with all its countries because of the setting up of a Jewish government here in the country.[12]
The conflict came to a climax in the meeting of November 10, 1942, of the Zionist Inner General Council. It was the last opportunity for the Bi-nationalists to fight their cause within the Zionist Organization. Reacting to Sali Hirsch of Aliyah Hadasha, who asked for a Bi-national Palestine under a third force, which had to assure the functioning of the constitution. Ben Gurion attacked Bi-nationalism, Hashomer Hatzair and the Bentov Report. Because the Jewish Agency Committee Report was not being delivered to the Inner General Council for discussions, Ben Gurion did not mention it. About Bi-nationalism he said that
…there is no solution, this is an abstract invention which is not taken from reality, which has no base in reality but in the difficulty that you cannot find a solution….I shall touch on another matter; Hashomer Hatzair was asked to say what a Bi-national state is…but [they] did not answer…For a long while this remained a secret. Recently Hashomer Hatzair circulated the answer, it was given in a big book: ‘A Committee on the Question of Constitutional Development, Report, Volume 1’. It was circulated by Hashomer Hatzair. Its author is Bentov, and here Bentov sits. He is a member of the Actions Committee and he is an expert on the Bi-national state and can define for us what a Bi-national state is. Why is he silent? But he is silent only here in the country. There is a book also in the country; here it is marked: ‘strictly secret.’ In America I got the book… There is an explanation by Bentov what a Bi-national state is, and the explanation was sent to America…I asked the people [in the U.S.] who spoke of a Bi-national state, ‘What is a Bi-national state?’ they said: ‘here, you have an essay about it.’ And it reaches the hands of reactionary circles, those who at the Hadassah Conference received 20 votes, they walk around with it….all the talk of a Bi-national state, and even these districts – they are the sick phantasmagoria of Jewish boys sitting and confusing their brains and wishing to be believed. The Arabs will not believe all of Bentov’s sophistry, that the Jews will come to one district and will not come into the other districts. The Arabs do not even want to agree with the White Book. And you stand before a situation, which you do not dare see as it is. The Arabs are unwilling to allow the Jewish immigration.[13]
Ben Gurion spoke in harsh words about the content of the Bentov Report and its writers’ intentions. He called it an anti-Zionist plan.[14] He said the plan was written on the basis of the White Paper, as it forbade the Jews to immigrate into and purchase land in Palestine.[15] Ben Gurion also criticized the projected Jewish Region, as this would be very small.[16]

It is true the Bentov Report suggested restrictions on immigration. Ben Gurion, however, totally disregarded the fact that this restriction was proposed for only ten years so as to arrive at better relations with the Arabs and in order to ascertain that immigration and settlement would continue after the short interim period. The Report envisaged a Jewish majority in Palestine ultimately.[17] Furthermore, it should be born in mind that the Bentov Report wanted the Jewish population to grow in this interim period of ten years to numerical equality with the Palestinian Arabs. This means it was being proposed to let the enormous number of about 75,000 Jews enter Palestine annually.[18]

Bentov himself also defended the Report’s proposal of two Regions. As the Regions would only be formed after the transition period, when the number of Jews would be very large, the Jewish Region would not be as small as Ben Gurion suggested. Moreover, the Report was only a draft, submitted to certain people for their opinion and comments, only offering guidelines for negotiations.[19]

When it finally came to voting, on 10 November 1942, of the twenty-eight members 75 percent voted for accepting the Biltmore Program as the official Zionist Program. As could be expected, the two representatives of Hashomer Hatzair and one of Poale Zion Smol opposed it.[20] Aliyah Hadassah also voted against the Program, although they held no Bi-nationalist convictions. They neither wanted to take any steps that might hamper the British war effort, nor wanted to make the Jewish-Arab relations worse.[21] They felt that without prior Mandatory sanction the Zionist demand for a Jewish state was precipitate.[22]

Three representatives of MAPAI abstained from voting. They were the spokesmen for MAPAI’s Faction B, the left wing in the party. This faction, opposed to the conservative Faction C of Ben Gurion, favored the indefinite continuation of the mandate, as open striving for a Jewish state could only lead to partitioning of the country.[23] Because they adhered to the idea of a Jewish state in the whole of Palestine they preferred stressing the right to free immigration and settlement in the whole country as this would eventually lead to Jewish political self-government in the whole of Palestine.[24]

This decision of the Inner General Council was being taken a few days after the German troops of Rommel had been crushed at al-Alamein.[25] This meant great relief for the Jews in Palestine, who had feared they would have to struggle for life in Palestine against the Germans. It also took away a reason to stand closely by Britain.

This was also the time that the Jews in Palestine began to believe the stories and testimonies they heard about Hitler’s endlösung. Their ‘frantic search for rays of hope’ had induced them not to believe the horrible things that were being told, though the all knew what was being told. Only after the Palestinian Jewish leaders on 18 and 19 November had debriefed a small group of Polish women and children, who were being exchanged against a group of Germans, they finally accepted the horrific truth of the Holocaust.[26] There must have been an increasing awareness, however, even before this moment that these stories were true, so the decision of 10 November 1942 of the Inner General Council will have been greatly influenced by it.[27] Kirk summarizes the situation of the time, saying that
…as the war reached the ‘end of the beginning’ and the leaderless Arabs were vaguely thinking of the ‘day of reckoning’, the Zionists were being irrevocably impelled along the path of political self-assertion by the moral plight of their kinsmen and co-religionists in Axis-occupied Europe, and the realization that Britain would not compel the Arabs to submit to further Jewish mass immigration into Palestine. The Zionists could not be expected to appreciate a situation in which, while thousands of Greek, Polish, and Czechoslovak refugees from Axis Europe had found temporary sanctuary in Palestine, these Jews who succeeded in escaping from the Nazis, at whose hands they were suffering more atrociously than any other people, were being denied admission to the very land which they had been promised a National Home.[28]
Agreeing with the Zionist that these refugees should be admitted immediate entrance into Palestine, as they favored immigration up to the full economic absorption capacity, the Bi-nationalists did not agree with the demand for a Jewish state. The decision of the Council, however, in the absence of a Zionist Congress during the war, made the Biltmore Program the World Zionist Organization’s official policy. Thus it also became the stated policy of the Jewish Agency.[29] This meant that Bi-nationalism, which until then had been a respected branch of Zionist thought, had been banned from the Zionist Organization.[30]

In fact, in 1942 the Bi-nationalist idea was ostracized from the Zionist Organization, and the Zionist movement had adopted the Revisionist position, of aiming at setting up a Jewish state, irrespective of the attitude of the Arabs. The ideological conflict between the ‘official’ interpretation of Zionism and its ‘dissident sect’ of Bi-nationalism had by no means ended, however, but was strengthened because the Bi-nationalists had a greater unity than ever before, and those who aimed at a Jewish state were now speaking on behalf of the Zionist movement. Only after the State of Israel had been founded, did most Bi-nationalists convert their striving for Bi-nationalism into struggling for more general ideas of justice and peace for the Arabs in and around the State of Israel.

[1] Hurewitz, Struggle for Palestine, p. 163; Esco, Palestine Vol. II, p. 1085-7.
[2] Esco, Palestine Vol. II, p. 1087.
[3] Sachar, History of Israel, p. 245.
[4] Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, pp. 295-6.
[5] Ibid., p. 308.
[6] Michael Cohen, Palestine: Retreat, p. 135.
[7] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 251.
[8] Ibid., p. 252; Yaari was a leader in Hashomer Hatzair.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Esco, Palestine Vol. II, p. 1102.
[11] Margalit, ‘Bi-nationalism’, in Studies in Zionism 4 (1981), pp. 299-300. Poale Zion Smol, as a Marxist party, did not like the use of the word ‘state’, so they spoke of a ‘territorial unit’.
[12] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 253.
[13] Ibid., pp. 254-5.
[14] Margalit, ‘Bi-nationalism’, p. 288.
[15] Ibid., p. 284.
[16] Ibid., pp. 284-5.
[17] Ibid. p. 285.
[18] Based on data of the Palestine government, the Arab population would have grown to 1,460,000 by 1950, if normal circumstances had prevailed. Without immigration the Jewish population would be 547,000 by then. The Jewish Agency had slightly different figures, and spoke of 1,392,000 Arabs and 597,000 Jews. To attain numerical parity by 1950 would have required an annual immigration of 72,000 based on the figures of the Jewish Agency, and 84,000 if the figures of the Palestine government were correct. These high numbers of immigrants were only reached in the best years of immigration between 1948 and 1959. Margalit, ‘Bi-nationalism’, pp. 289-90.
[19] Margalit, ‘Bi-nationalism’, p. 285.
[2o] Esco, Palestine Vol. II, p. 1016.
[21] Ibid., pp. 1016, 1105.
[22] Hurewitz, Struggle for Palestine, p. 159.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Esco, Palestine Vol. II, pp. 1104-5.
[25] Kirk, Survey, p. 13.
[26] Laqueur, Terrible Secret, pp. 180-195.
[27] Kirk, Survey, p. 249; Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, p. 289.
[28] Kirk, Survey, p. 249.
[29] Taylor, Prelude to Israel, p. 58; Esco, Palestine Vol. II, p. 1015.
[30] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 256.

14. Founding of Ichud

Parallel to the forming of the League for Jewish-Arab Rapprochement and Cooperation, Judah L. Magnes asked in 1939 a few of his like-minded friends to form a religious society. Buber, Kohn, Bergman, Simon, and Weltsch were amongst its members. The name of this group was Ha’ol (the Yoke), as they felt the yoke of God to live according to the message of Judaism to be on their shoulders.[1]

This group aimed at religious socialism, guided by the principles to endeavor to live in accordance with the ‘God within’ each and that ‘the absolute ethical or metaphysical values must be the real forces determining and directing life.’ They stressed the high calling of the Jews to live according to Judaism and to serve the world with the social ideas of justice and righteousness of the Hebrew prophets.[2] Magnes wrote: ‘We believe in a life of faith which carries a commitment to social action and practical political work, and we reject any attempt to separate the two dominions, which are one in theory and practice.’[3]

This Bi-nationalist group did not survive its foundation very long, and in fact only its monthly Be’ayot Hayom (Problems of the Day), lived on, appearing between August 1940 and November 1942. Weltsch was its editor, struggling with financial and organizational problems beside the troubles with the British censor. In October 1941 Weltsch left the periodical, disillusioned with the troubles and because there was not the large public for their old liberal humanistic message as he was used to address in Germany, before the Jewish Community was destroyed.[4] Although Ha’ol as a group did not succeed to survive, the members individually did not forget their yoke and came together as a group again in extended form in 1942, under the new name of Ichud (Union) and publishing the same periodicals, but since November 1942 being called Be’ayot (Problems).[5]

After Hashomer Hatzair, the Socialist League and Poale Zion Smol became members of the League as parties in June 1942, Magnes took the initiative to organize the independent members of the League in a distinct group. Therefore a committee was set up, whose membership included Buber, Kalvarisky, Smilansky, Magmes, and Henrietta Szold, director of the Medical Organization of Hadassah (Myrtle Tree), the American Women Zionist Organization of which she was the founder.[6] Ernst Simon and Gavriel Stern also cooperated in establishing this community. The first meeting of the Ichud Association took place on 11 August 1942, with about a hundred participants. Its members, though relatively few in numbers, represented a prestige group, because of social standing and intellectual achievement, expressing an ‘upper middle class liberalist approach’. Magnes was elected as President.[7]

At the first meeting of 11 August, Magnes repeated the same message as he expounded in Ha’ol, of the merging in Judaism of the political and the religious. The political problem for the Jews in Palestine was they had to create either ‘a public life based on justice and mercy’ or that they should, ‘like all the nations, obtain their aims and by any and all means.’[8] He stated amongst other matters some reasons for opposing the setting up of a Jewish state. The warfare that would surely follow might destroy the Jewish community in Palestine, and would certainly breed hatred for generations. It would be the ‘way of the nations,’ not of Judaism, and could only lead to a pagan state, not to a Jewish state. Magnes did not want to create another center of strife for the New World after the war.[9]

Both the Arab and the Jewish press dealt extensively with Ichud. There was much feeling that this new group was anti-Zionist. In Jewish public bodies Ichud’s aims were being discussed.[10] All slander and half-truths about Ichud caused it to publish a Declaration on 3 September 1942, to refute all misconceptions. This Declaration stated the same Bi-nationalist ideas as were being expressed in the Bentov Report, the Jewish Agency Committee Report and in the League’s Program:
(1) The Association “Union” adheres to-
(a) the Zionist Movement in so far as this seeks the establishment of the Jewish National Home for the Jewish people in Palestine;
(b) The struggle throughout the world for a new order in international relations, and a union of the peoples, large and small, for a life of freedom and justice, without fear, oppression, and want.
(2) The Association “Union” therefore regards a union between the Jewish and Arab peoples as essential for the up-building of Palestine and for meeting its basic problems. The Association “Union” will strive for cooperation between a Jewish world and the Arab world in all branches of life – social, economic, cultural, political – this making for the revival of the whole Semitic world.
(3) The main political aims of the Association “Union” are as follows:
(a) Government in Palestine based upon equal political rights for the two peoples.
(b) The agreement of the steadily growing Jewish Community in Palestine and of the whole Jewish people to a federative union of Palestine and neighboring countries. This federative union is to guarantee the national rights of all peoples within it.
(c) A covenant between this federative union and an Anglo-American union, which is to be a part of the future union of the free peoples. This union of the free peoples is to bear the ultimate responsibility for the establishment and stability of international relations in the new world after the war.
The Association “Union” is to cooperate with the League for Jewish-Arab Rapprochement, containing, as it does, representatives of organizations with varying points of view. It is also prepared to cooperate with other organizations and groups in specific pieces of work.[11]
The reason why Ichud was established was not, as some of Magnes’ adversaries claimed, that he might have an organization in the name of which he might speak.[12] This he could have done easily as a member of the League. Its founder probably hoped to strengthen the position of the many individual members of the League, who, after Hahomer Hatzair, the Socialist League and Poale Zion Smol became members as parties, were in danger of losing any influence in the League.[13] A related reason was exposed by Hirsch who said that ‘we were fed up with being called in the League “the intellectuals”, so we decided to belong to the League as a block.’[14]

Due to the general circumstances in the world and the direction that Zionist policy was taking, Magnes and his associates evidently wanted to establish a Bi-nationalist association that would be more effective than the League. At that moment opposing the idea of founding a Jewish state, as expressed in the Biltmore Program, seemed more necessary than every before. The experience of the League, as expressed by Stern, one of Ichud’s founders, was ‘of much running around and little activity.’[15]

In fact, Hashomer Hatzair, the most important member of the League, saw Ichud as a rival to the League. They feared it would fragmentize the movement for Jewish-Arab cooperation.[16] This fragmentizing was indeed a danger, as Ichud would cooperate with the League, as it was prepared to cooperate with other groups and organizations in specific pieces of work.[17] Like the League Ichud wanted to be a platform for like-minded people and groups, and in spite of the fact that no groups became members if Ichud, it had much in common with the League:
It is not a political party. It is a group of individuals belonging to different parties and of independents belonging to no party. Though members of Ichud may have varying views on details, they are united in the firm conviction that there is but one way of meeting the Palestine problem – that of Jewish-Arab cooperation.[18]
It would be wrong, however, to see Ichud as duplication. Its intellectualist leadership was especially interested in influencing public opinion, while the League had many other aims and activities.[19] More important, however, the future society as was being envisaged by Ichud differed markedly from the League’s visions of that society, which were strongly dictated by Hashomer Hatzair. Especially the willingness of Ichud to negotiate with the Mufti and other representatives of the feudal Arab leaders was rejected by Hashomer Hatzair, as it believed close cooperation of the working classes of both nationalities offered most hope of reaching an agreement.[20] Whereas Hashomer Hatzair held maximalist Zionist convictions as regards immigration and land settlement, Ichud was prepared to accept a situation of permanent numerical parity.[21] For most members of the League the Bi-nationalism Palestine should be a ‘home for the homeless’, but Ichud’s Zionism aimed at the creation of an ethical Jewish society, as an example to the other nations. It viewed the Arab question as the touchstone of the moral integrity of Zionism. Returning to Zion was a spiritual renewal, building the just society, in obedience to the yoke of God resting on their shoulders.[22]

Whereas the Zionist leaders did not like the League for Jewish-Arab Rapprochement and Cooperation, they disliked Ichud even more and vehemently attacked it, although Ichud was but a small group without a large popular following in Palestine.[23] First, Ichud was vague concerning matters of immigration.[24] Secondly, and more important, was the Zionist leaders’ fear that Magnes and Szold, both enjoying a substantial backing in the United States, might influence the American Jews against the ideas being expressed in the Biltmore Program. The New York Times usually featured Magnes’ political statements, as he was a leader of American Liberal Jewry. Szold exerted much influence on Hadassah, the American Women Zionist Organization, which she had founded and presided. This Organization was the second largest Zionist body in the United States with close to 90,000 members.[25]

The Executive of the Inner General Council met on 9 September 1942, to discuss Ichud. Some right-winged members wanted to exclude Ichud adherents from the Zionist Organization, because Ichud’s position on immigration was not clear.[26] Hirsch, Senator, Yaari, and Kaplansky defended Ichud in the discussions. It was decided to invite the leaders of Ichud to a joint meeting with representatives of the Executives of the Inner General Council and the Jewish Agency. Magnes, Hirsch, Buber, Szold, Smilansky, and Kalvarisky were present at that meeting. Magnes assured those present that no one in Ichud wanted the Jews to remain a minority in Palestine, and he defended the right to have contacts with Arabs to search for a way to an agreement.[27]

Shertok expressed his fear that a group like Ichud would justify the Arabs and the British in taking a less serious view of the demands of the Zionist Organization for a Jewish state. In his opinion the Ichud Program was ‘an anti-Zionist document.’ According to him ‘the impression has been created amongst the Arabs and the British that a group of substance has been formed…who are willing to make fargoing concessions, first of all in the sphere of immigration, and this is harmful.’[28]

Shertok therefore asked Ichud to explain its view of immigration, the main point of criticism of their program. Ichud published an addition to its original program as an answer to this request on 5 October 1942:
(1) Immigration. In the Ichud Declaration it was stated that the Association Ichud adheres to the Zionist movement in so far as this seeks the establishment of the Jewish National Home for the Jewish People in Palestine, and also, that Ichud stands for a continuation of immigration and is opposed to fixation of the Jewish Community in Palestine as a permanent minority. Ichud’s aim is the creation of a political and economic situation enabling the absorption of the greatest number of Jewish immigrants in Palestine, and this in complete cooperation with the Arabs – economic, social, cultural, and political. Ichud is of the opinion that a political program based upon equal political rights for the two peoples of Palestine and the inclusion of Palestine in a Federal Union with neighboring countries guaranteeing the basic right and essential interests of all factors, is the effective and most helpful way of securing an enlarged immigration. From this point of view Ichud as an Association is to join the League for Jewish Arab Rapprochement and Cooperation on the basis of the principles agreed upon by the League.
(2) Zionist Discipline. The recognized National Institutions alone have the right to enter upon binding political negotiations with extraneous factors. On the other hand, Ichud declares that every citizen and every Zionist group has the right of entering into direct contact with Jews an non-Jews for the purpose of clarifying the situation and of exchanging views as to possibilities and of preparing the ground for proposals and plans, which are then to be brought before the recognized Institutions.[29]
Ichud had decided now to join the League; Beside the formal reason that they agreed to the aims of the League, which they already did before, they may have decided to take this step in order to show the Zionist leaders that Ichud was not the extreme anti-Zionist group they thought it was. The danger of fragmentation of the Bi-nationalist movement had been averted, while Ichud had even strengthened the movement by joining the League. In October 1942 the Bi-nationalist movement had reached the highest measure of organizational unity it has ever had. On the other hand, the Zionist opposition against Bi-nationalism was also better organized than at any time before.

[1] Mendes-Flohr, Land of Two Peoples, p. 112.
[2] Ibid., pp. 111-2; Goren, Dissenter in Zion, pp. 50-1.
[3] Goren, Dissenter in Zion, p. 50.
[4] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, pp. 264-5.
[5] Ibid., p. 264; Be’ayot had a print run of 500, according to Magnes before the Anglo-American Inquiry Committee in 1946. Arab-Jewish Unity: Testimony before the Anglo-American Inquiry Commssion for the Ihud (Union) Association by Judah Magnes and Martin Buber (London, 1947) p. 65.
[6] Mendes-Flohr, Land of Two Peoples, p. 148; Goren, Dissenter in Zion, p. 541.
[7] Ichud, meaning ‘union’, had a few hundred members in 1946, according to the testimony of Magnes before the Anglo-American Inquiry Committee in 1946. Arab-Jewish Unity, p. 65; Mendes-Flohr, Land of Two Peoples, p. 148; Goren, Dissenter in Zion, p. 370; Esco, Palestine Vol. II, p. 1015.
[8] Goren, Dissenter in Zion, p. 51.
[9] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 259.
[10] Ibid., pp. 261-2.
[11] Mendes-Flohr, Land of Two Peoples, p. 149; Arab-Jewish Unity, p. 40.
[12] According to Golomb, a Zionist, Magnes decided to found Ichud after Awni abd el-Hadi, an Arab leader with whom Magnes had much contact for finding common ground, asked Magnes in whose name he was speaking. Hattis, Bi-national Idea, pp. 262-3.
[13] Mendes-Flohr, Land of Two Peoples, p. 148.
[14] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 258.
[15] Ibid., p. 259.
[16] Esco, Palestine Vol. II, p. 1101. Maybe this is the reason why Aharon Cohen does not spend more than 7 lines in his voluminous book on Ichud.
[17] Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, p. 307, and Hurewitz, Struggle for Palestine, p. 163, contradict each other. Probably this is due to the fact that Ichud did not join the League immediately after its foundation.
[18] Arab-Jewish Unity, p. 10.
[19] Esco, Palestine Vol. II, p. 1100.
[20] Ibid., p. 1102.
[21] Kolatt, ‘The Zionist Movement and the Arabs’, in Studies in Zionism 5 (1982), p. 153.
[22] Ibid.; Goren, Dissenter in Zion, p. 38.
[23] Hurewitz, Struggle for Palestine, p. 163.
[24] Esco, Palestine Vol. II, pp. 1101-2.
[25] Goren, Dissenter in Zion, p. 54; Hurewitz, Struggle for Palestine, p. 163.
[26] Hurewitz, Struggle for Palestine, p. 163.
[27] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 268.
[28] Ibid., pp. 269-70.
[29] Ibid.

13. Strengthening of League for Jewish-Arab Rapprochement and Cooperation

The Arab Department of Hashomer Hatzair, which was formed in 1940, cooperated with the League in many activities, the Bentov Committee being the most important example of their cooperation.[1] In May 1941 representatives of Hashomer Hatzair and their urban counterpart, the Socialist League, met with the League in Jerusalem for an investigation as to the possibility of them joining the League. Their condition was a revision of the League’s ideology and organization.[2]

In June 1942 both Hashomer Hatzair and the Socialist League formally joined the League for Jewish-Arab Rapprochement and Cooperation. Poale Zion Smol also decided to join the League.[3] They were willing to do so after the League adopted a new platform based on an agreement with Hashomer Hatzair and the Socialist League. On June 23, 1942, Kalvarisky, Buber, Simon, Hirsch, Senator, Thon, Rabbi Binyamin, Yaari, Khazan, Aharon Cohen, Gavriel Stern[4], Chaim Naaman of MAPAI[5], Litchtinger of the Socialist League and Peterzeil singned this new ‘creed’ of the League[6]:
(A) The League believes that the construction of Palestine as a common homeland for the Jewish people returning to it and the Arab people therein residing must be based on lasting mutual understanding and agreement between the two peoples;
(B) The principle of the return of the Jews to their historic homeland to build their independent national life in it is unequivocal, as are also the rights of the Palestine Arabs to their independent national life, and their ties with other parts of the Arab people;
(C) The League will carry on its work on the basis of its recognition of the right of the Jews to immigrate to and settle in Palestine in accordance with its maximum absorptive capacity to an extent that shall ensure the growth of the Jewish community in Palestine toward a full and independent economic, social, cultural, and political life, in cooperation with the Arab people;
(D) On the basis of the immigration principle as defined in paragraph B, agreed immigration quotas may be set for a number of years, it being understood that the League will oppose any aim to perpetuate the position of the Jewish community as a minority in Palestine;
(E) The League considers the basic principles for Arab-Jewish accord to be:
1. Acceptance of the right of the Jews to return to their historic homeland, there to build their independent national life; acceptance of the rights of Palestine Arabs to their independent national life and of their ties with other sections of the Arab people;
2. The non-denomination of one people by the other, regardless of their respective numerical strength;
3. A Bi-national regime in Palestine;
4. Positive attitude towards the participation of Palestine as an independent Bi-national unit in a federation with neighboring countries, when the necessary conditions for this will have been prepared, and the basic rights and vital interests of the Arab people living in Palestine, will have been secured;
(F) The League shall undertake the following tasks:
1. Campaign within the Jewish community and the Zionist movement for a
policy of rapprochement, cooperation, and accord between Jews and Arabs.
2. Campaign for the formation of a corresponding Ally with in the Arab community on central and local activities without, however, requiring all of them to belong personally to branches of the League.
3. Strive to improve and enhance Arab economic, social, cultural, and political standards.
4. Research.
5. Training people for public work among the Arab population.
(G) The local branches of the League will be centers of activity and influence; the parties and groups composing the League will detail some of their members to work on central and local activities without, however, requiring all of them to belong personally to branches of the League.[7]
Most important difference between this new statement of policy and both the resolution on 1939, stating the aim and activities of the League[8], and the Kalvarisky proposals which were supported by all members of the League in 1940[9] was the stress on the unequivocal right of the Jews to immigrate into Palestine up to the economic absorptive capacity of the country. This is evidently due to influence of Hashomer Hatzair, for which achieving a Jewish majority to solve the Jewish question had always played an important role.[10] Whereas in the beginning of the functioning of the League, promotion of social and cultural reconciliation between the peoples of Palestine was paramount, and Bi-nationalism, though from the beginning the political goal of the League, was not being expressed in the 1939 program, but only in the practical proposals of 1940, in 1942 the League had crystallized a political program for a Bi-national state. Therefore in June 1942, Bi-nationalism became an important element of the program of the League itself.[11]

June 1942 was an important moment for Bi-nationalism in Palestine. Whereas in 1939 for the first time members of all Bi-nationalist parties and groups worked together in the practical project of editing a book, in 1942 these parties and groups all united behind a single political program, even though they differed greatly amongst themselves concerning the details of the policy the envisaged.[12]

The reason why these groups and parties united behind a common program at this time were the same reasons why the Biltmore program was adopted in May in the United States. The British policy made immigration into Palestine very difficult, at a moment that the need for Jews to leave Europe was greater than at any time in history. The only way to make Britain change its policy was to come to an agreement with the Arabs. Whereas for the Zionists the Jewish-Arab problems were secondary to the plight of European Jewry and the aim of creating a Jewish state, for Bi-nationalists the fate of the European Jewry did not change their vision of a just settlement in Palestine in Bi-nationalist fashion. Therefore the Program of June 1942 of the League was not only a reaction to the White Paper and the fate of European Jewry, but also against the spirit of the Zionist Biltmore Program with its demand for a Jewish state.[13] The new program of the League and the unity of all Bi-nationalists groups and parties behind this program were an attempt to reverse the Zionist policy of aiming at a Jewish state, as had been developing since 1939.[14]

The new strength of the League gave their activities a certain stimulus. In September the League’s Chairman, Kalvarisky, and the new general secretary, Aharon Cohen, were sent on a trip to Syria and Lebanon.[15] They had contact with public personalities to study the possibilities of implementing the League’s program. Upon returning they reported in the League’s newsletter, the Bulleting to Members, and to the Jewish Agency that
…there is a great distrust of the higher Jewish bodies. The absence of any positive declared policy by Zionist leaders, irresponsible statements by this or that Jewish leader, the attacks in the Jewish press on any attempt to reach accord, the clamor about Jewish military strength, and the political implications of the appeals for mobilization – all these continue to increase this distrust…It is not always possible to refute the charges of these people against Jewish leadership…Deep distrust of official Jewish policy is almost general among all those with whom we spoke. It is doubtful whether efforts to mitigate the distrust and mollify them were completely successful. On the other hand, they listened with great interest to the purposes and development of the movement forming round the League…There is no willingness to discuss a plan that includes a Jewish State, but most of those with whom we spoke were prepared to discuss a solution of the Arab-Jewish problem on the basis of the League’s platform. Its principles for Jewish-Arab accord were found by a number of the most important of these leaders to be ‘a serious, fair, and honest plan, which has a chance, though much work remains to be done to prepare the conditions for its realization’…A number of their prominent leaders with whom we spoke expressed their willingness to influence the Palestinians in favor of our program when they come (as they surely will) to ask their advice.[16]
These talks strengthened the belief of the League’s leaders that struggling for their ideas was not hopeless. Cohen himself says the meetings he had with these Arab leaders were ‘encouraging and positive.’[17] Not very encouraging, however, were the relations with the Jewish Agency. On June 23, 1942, Cohen, as secretary of the League submitted the approved program of the League to Shertok. The League’s leaders hoped to find possibilities of cooperation between the League and the Jewish Agency. Cohen stressed that the League was an influential public body now, with clear objectives and a solid political foundation. This was no over-estimation, as Hashomer Hatzair and Poale Zion Smol together polled 12.4 percent of all votes at the election for the National Council in 1944.[18] A few weeks later the Agency replied that they did not want to support any of the League’s activities, in order not to give any moral encouragement to the League. The League reacted likewise, deciding neither to report to the Agency nor to consult it anymore.[19] Thus they acted against one of their own objectives, to campaign with the Jewish community and the Zionist movement for a policy of rapprochement, cooperation, and accord between Jews and Arabs.[20]

This choice of the Agency, which did support activities of the Revisionists, and the League’s reaction, were an omen of the definite split that was ripening between the official Zionists and the Bi-nationalist movement in Palestine, which would come into the open a few months later, in November 1942.

[1] Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, p. 305.
[2] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, pp. 229-30.
[3] Ibid., p. 214; Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, pp. 301, 305.
[4] Gavriel Stern was in Palestine since 1936, studying at the School of Oriental Studies in the Hebrew University. He contributed articles to various magazines about Arab affairs. He was joint secretary of the League of Jewish-Arab Rapprochement and Cooperation. He also worked for the monthly Be’ayot. (see below)
[5] Naaman was a lawyer from Haifa. Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 258.
[6] Peterzeil did not agree with point (D)
[7] Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, pp. 305-6; Hattis, Bi-national Idea, pp. 257-8.
[8] See above.
[9] See above.
[10] Hurewitz, Struggle for Palestine, p. 161.
[11] Mendes-Flohr, Land of Two Peoples, p. 148.
[12] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 256.
[13] See above, in spite of Hurewitz, Hattis and Aharon Cohen’s opposite opinion.
[14] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 256; Hurewitz, Struggle for Palestine, p. 161.
[15] Aharon Cohen, ‘Fighter for a Jewish-Arab Alliance’, in New Outlook Vol. 20 No. 2 (1977), p. 54.
[16] Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, pp. 323-4.
[17] Ibid., p. 324.
[18] Udin (ed.), Palestine Year Book 1945-1946 Vol. II, p. 354.
[19] Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, pp. 321-2; Hurewitz, Struggle for Palestine, pp. 161-2.
[20] See above.

12. Writing for a bi-national state

The Jewish Agency Committee on the Arab Question, which had been promised at the Twenty-First Zionist Congress in August 1939, had its first meeting on 16 January 1940. Kaplansky, Magnes, Kalvarisky, Thon, Auster, Assaf, and Rabbi Uziel were appointed as its members. All seven were notorious critics of the way the Jewish Executive handled relations with the Arabs, while the first four were well-known Bi-nationalists.[1] Ben Gurion, in the first meeting of the Committee, made the aim of its formation very clear:
This is not a committee for action, neither is it a committee with the job of going between the Jews and Arabs and to discuss with one of the sides or to start negotiations leading to an agreement. It is also not a committee for criticizing the Executive…But the task which has been given to it is to investigate the question and make proposals…[2]
It seems the Executive was primarily interested in silencing as long as possible those who complained about the policy of the Jewish Agency towards the Arabs, and to put into one committee a good number of ‘troublemakers’. In order to be able to keep the Committee in check as much as possible, the Jewish Agency appointed a Secretary to the Committee who also worked for its Political Department.

The task of the Committee was not very promising. Their basic work was hearing evidence from members of the Jewish community in Palestine, political parties and a number of foreign Zionists. With this evidence they had to prepare a report. Of course, the expected evidence came from the expected quarters. None of the Committee members would change his mind because of new insights, so it would be hard for them to produce a common report.[3]

The Jewish Agency Committee invited the League for Jewish-Arab Rapprochement and Cooperation to appear at its session on 26 May 1940. On that same day the League, in cooperation with Hashomer Hatzair, set up three Committees, of which the one to deal with political questions under the chairmanship of Bentov would be the most important.[4] Goal of this Committee was to formulate detailed proposals concerning the political and constitutional basis for the regulation of relations between the Arabs and Jews in Palestine and submit those to the Jewish Agency Committee on the Arab Question.[5]

Point of departure for the Bentov Committee were the so-called Kalvarisky Proposals, which were adopted by the League as its political creed. When the League was founded in 1939, these proposals of Kalvarisky as to the future government of Palestine were already being discussed. These were the same proposals he had submitted to the Jewish Delegation at the London Conference, but which to his dismay were not submitted to the British Government by the Delegation.[6] In 1940 the League openly proclaimed its support for these ideas, which were an alternative to the White Paper:
1) The British Mandate will come to an end after ten years.
2) During this period Jewish immigration will be permitted up to the attainment of numerical equality of the Jews and Arabs after ten years.
3) After ten years a Bi-national independent state will be set up, on the basis of parity in government and in the legislative bodies.
4) During a transitory period the government in the country will be run under the supervision of the mandatory power by a council of ministers and by a Legislative Council, which will be set up immediately and in which Jews and Arabs will participate in equal numbers.
5) It will be agreed, that when Palestine reaches independence under these conditions, it will join an Arab confederation as an autonomous unit, when the former is set up.
6) A practical program will be worked out on means of wide economic cooperation between the Jews and the Arabs, of cooperation in the execution of development plans in Palestine, and other Arab countries, and a certain amount of Jewish settlement in the neighboring countries.[7]
The Bentov Committee produced its Report in June 1941. As could be expected, the Report criticized the Zionist leadership for not having done enough to improve Jewish-Arab relations. Also the Bi-nationalist solution was being envisaged, in which a third party beside the Jews and the Arabs, possibly the Mandatory, would arbitrate in case of deadlock. The Report categorically rejected the idea that any final settlement should cut down or restrict artificially the right of the Jews to immigrate to Palestine. The final constitution after the transitory period should guarantee the Jewish right to immigrate up to the full economic absorptive capacity of the country. However, during the transitional period a temporary agreement on immigration, not to become a majority, was to be accepted:
It may be advisable to arrive at a temporary agreement for the transition period, and to stipulate that for a certain period – let us say ten years – the number of Jewish immigrants will not exceed a certain number. This can be justified to some extent on the ground that the Arabs must be afforded the opportunity, before the danger arises that the Jewish population will outnumber them, of discovering how the agreed system of government works in practice.[8]
The Report dealt with two possibilities as to the future form of government, that of Regional Federation and Communal Federation. Above all the authors wanted to preserve the economic and political integrity of the country, and to prevent separation between Jews and Arabs. They hoped that one day relations between the two nations in Palestine would reach a stage where the national differences would have vanished. The two national blocks would then naturally dissolve into groups representing economic or social interests. This would give the government a majority without connection to the principle of parity and the restrictions involved in the proposed constitutional forms.[9]

Between Regional and Communal Federalism the Report preferred the former. Two compact Regions, one Jewish and one Arab, should be created. The capital of the Federation would be Jerusalem, lying outside the jurisdiction of either Region and under the direct control of the Federal Government, which would be founded on the basis of parity. The Negev was also to be a Federal Region, as the development of this area required means that neither of the Regions had on its own.[10]

In order to secure the cohesion of the country and to avoid sectionalist tendencies the Federal Government should be as strong as possible. The Regions would only receive constitutional powers insofar the Arab-Jewish problem needed it. The problem of immigration and land settlement clearly belonged to the Regional Administration, as did matters of education. The Federal Government would have extensive powers in foreign affairs, budget, taxation, defense, foreign trade, customs, public works etcetera, and would endeavor to equalize the income levels and economic development of the Jewish and Arab Region.[11]

In both Regions there should be a single Regional Chamber, which would be formed according to proportional representation. The Federal Parliament would be bi-cameral. The Federal House of Representatives, like the Regional Chamber, would be formed according to proportional representation. Any bill of Federal legislation of this House of Representation should have to pass the State Council, which had the final decision. The State Council would embody the parity-system, with the same number of Jewish and Arab delegates, but reflecting the political shades existing in the communities.[12]

Every four years the President and the Vice-President should be elected in popular country-wide elections. The President should be Chief of the Executive and Head of the Federal State. The vice-President would be Chairman of the State Council. The President should be alternatively Jewish or Arab, the vice-President never being of the same nationality as the President. The Prime Minister would be appointed by and be only responsible to the President. In the Cabinet the number of Jews and Arabs should be about equal.[13]

Amendments to this constitution were not to be easy. The Federal Constitution could only be amended if in each of the Regional Chambers and in the House of Representatives and in the State Council the amendment was accepted with a two-third vote.[14]

The alternative proposal of Communal Federalism did not divide the country in Regions, but in two National Communities. In such a Federal State the Central government would have more powers than in the Regional variant, as the Jewish and Arab National Councils would have no territorial jurisdiction. These National Councils would have jurisdiction over education, culture in general, social welfare and social service, including assistance to schemes for facilitating the absorption of new immigrants into the country. The National Councils would also have the right to impose certain direct taxes over and above state taxes.[15]

As in the Regional Federal proposal, the State Parliament would be bi-cameral. The most important difference would be that the Cabinet of four members, two Jews and two Arabs, would be chosen by a State Assembly, composed of the State Council and both National Councils. Each member of this Cabinet would preside over the Cabinet for a year, as President of the State.[16]

As regards immigration, a Communal Federal State would require an Immigration Board of two Jews and two Arabs. This Board would have to judge if immigration was passing the limit of the economic absorptive capacity of the country, for the absorptive capacity would be the determining factor. If the Immigration Board would internally disagree, the President of the State would be the final authority. Concerning the problems that might arise because of land transfers, an equal construction had to ascertain that a solution might be found.[17]

In its preface the Bentov Report stated that it was not a definite pronouncement of the opinions of the writers, but only a first draft, as many details would be considered again and changed, in the wake of forthcoming criticism. In order to receive comments the Report was printed in July at the office of the Jewish Agency Political Department. On 18 September 1941, the highly confidential draft was presented to the Jewish Agency Committee on the Arab Question, while it was also handed over to various central personalities in the Jewish Community in Palestine and to about 200 people in the United States, with the express intention of not having it published.[18]

Ben Gurion, being in America at that time, received a copy of the Report and was enraged by it. At that time he was working for the broad acceptance of the Biltmore Program, so he considered this Report to be a frontal attack on his maximalist Zionist position. His furious response after having returned to Palestine in the middle of October 1942, led to the suspension of the work of the League’s Committee, as the atmosphere was poisoned and the relations between the parties became very tense. The Report was never completed, nor the final draft finalized.[19]

While the Bentov Committee of the League for Jewish-Arab Rapprochement and Cooperation prepared for its Report for the Jewish Agency Committee on the Arab Question, this latter Committee proceeded with its own work. That was not easy, however, as the opinions of the members were diverse. At their very first meeting in January 1940 Magnes had predicted that
…after much work this Committee will bring before the Executive a majority opinion and a minority opinion, and the Executive will be able to say: here, even people who have the general will, they too have not found the way, and this conclusion will be a wrong conclusion – that because these people did not find a way there is now way.[20]
Kalvarisky kept believing ‘that there are intelligent Arabs who recognize the fact of the Jewish people in Palestine and recognize the great yearning of the Jewish people to Palestine, and that they recognize the fact that there is such a factor in international politics known as the Jewish question.’[21] Magnes was not an optimistic as Kalvarisky, as he did not believe the Arabs were ready to reach an agreement, but he preferred this optimism of Kalvarisky over the negative, pessimistic attitude of Assaf.[22]

Michael Assaf, one of the MAPAI experts on Arab affairs and editor of the Arabic edition of the Histadrut paper had seriously criticized the booklet At The Parting Of Our Ways, as in his opinion it was unjust to blame only the Zionist policy for the bad relations with the Arabs.[23] Although Assaf himself was very critical on the Zionist Agency’s policy, he particularly disagreed with Kalvarisky, who only blamed the Zionists, without having and eye for the developing Arab nationalism ‘in all its cruel nudity’. After a meeting in November 1941 Assaf said:
I think that the position of Kalvarisky, Kaplansky and Magnes does not suit the existing aims of the Jewish people, the Arab people nor that of the democratic world. I hope that I shall not be insulting anyone if I shall say that these ideas which are full of liberalism, socialism and morality are very general, and I consider them to be ideas the time of which is gone. These are Ideas of the last century and the beginning of the present century, but not of our own time…Dr. Magnes writes and speaks a lot about [minority position] and that gives the impression that he has no doubt or hesitation that we can remain here a minority and develop a cultural center…How can we demand of the Arabs to do better than the Poles and others with regard to minorities? …In my opinion the Arab nation is no more idealistic and moral than other nations, but is less civilized than other nations in whose midst the Jews live and are persecuted…[Thon] and other friends such as you, speak on the one hand of rapprochement with the Arabs but on the other hand there is within you a sort of contempt in the sub-conscience…I think this has been one of Kalvarisky’s mistakes all the years. Deep down in your heart you think that you can twist the Arabs…I say, that whoever thinks that on the basis of successful negotiations, even by excellent treatment, one can change the course of the Arab movement, I say, that in his sub-conscience he has contempt for its power.[24]
Finally things went as Magnes had foretold in 1940. In August 1942 the Majority Report was submitted to the Jewish Agency Executive, signed by Kaplansky, Magnes, Kalvarisky, and Thon, advocating a Bi-national Federal State. This Report was already written in December 1941 by Kaplansky, but through the opposition of the Committee members who disagreed with Bi-nationalism, the Report was held up. When the report was finally submitted in August 1942 it was pigeonholed and not presented to the Zionist Executive, which was asked to confirm the Biltmore Program instead.[25]

In its Report the Jewish Agency Committee expressed its opinion with without an agreement the Arabs the friction and restraint on the Zionist path would multiply and its speed of fulfillment would fall. But even if such an agreement could not be reached, the Zionist endeavor should continue. A Jewish-Arab agreement should be reached on an agreed stage of development in a given period, a transition period, not on the final aims of the two national movements. The positive circles among the Arabs, who are willing to seek the satisfaction of the Arab national demands in agreement with Britain and the Jews, not with the Axis, should be strengthened by preparing a plan of cooperation and agreement, such as the Committee proposed.[26]

Such a plan should aim for Bi-nationalism paritative Federalism, with a future State that is neither Jewish nor Arab. Agreement should be reached on the size of immigration for a number of years, until numerical parity is achieved, with guarantees for the continuation of immigration at the end of this period. Also on land purchases an agreement should be reached. Palestine would have to join a Middle East Federation, as an independent nation. This means the Mandatory Government should be abolished, while a treaty with Britain should guarantee the Jewish Arab agreement and the new political regime created by it.[27] Although some of the Committee members thought it too early to make a definite sketch of the future Constitutional frame of the Jewish-Arab paritative government, they considered it useful
…to show on the basis of a worked out example, how the abstract motto of paritative partnership may be turned into constitutional and administrative reality, into a system of government and legislative institutions. Therefore we are adding such a plan which was worked out by the Chairman of the Committee.[28]
These Kaplansky Proposals evidently show the influence of the Bentov Report, which was handed over to Kaplansky three months before he wrote his proposals. The final constitution should be a Bi-national paritative Federation, with a Federal Council consisting of representatives of the Arab and the Jewish Region in equal numbers. Beside that, a House of Representatives should be chosen through direct elections by all citizens of the country. Beside the Federal Authorities there should be two democratically elected National Councils, being responsible for internal national affairs as immigration and land settlement. This Federal State should become an independent member of a political and economic Union of Palestine, Transjordan, Syria, and Lebanon.[29]

For the transition period, Kaplansky had some other suggestions: ‘I propose that during the first ten years of the agreements, until numerical parity is achieved between the two nationalities in the country there will only be one house to the Legislative Institution, the Federal Council. The House of Representatives will be set up only after this stage of the agreement period.’[30]

During this transition period the Federation would not be on a regional basis, but on a national basis. The Regions will be formed after numerical parity has been reached, as the only way to be assured of continued Jewish immigration. During these ten years the general direction of land purchases would be such to create continuous blocs of Jewish owned land, in order to pave the way towards the administrative partition into Regions as far as possible single-national in their population composition.[31]

Besides Jerusalem also Nazareth and Bethlehem had to become Federal Cities, while the Negev became a Federal Area. A treaty should be concluded with Britain to give it the right to safeguard the Holy Places and to use the country as a military base. In return Britain should guarantee the Jewish-Arab agreement, as the Middle-East Federation should also do.[32]

Neither the Report of the League’s Committee nor the Kalvarisky Proposals were written in a political vacuum. Most ideas had been published before. During the thirties there had been some Jewish, British, and even Arab proposals as to partitioning the country in two or more Federated Regions or Cantons. Two examples will be sufficient. At the end of 1929, for instance, when Ben Gurion was very disappointed about the way Britain handled the riots of that year, and he feared that Britain might desert the Jews and their National Home, Ben Gurion wrote a proposal for a future constitution, hoping to appease all parties, as the Jewish community was too weak to fight both the Arabs and Britain.[33] Palestine had to become a Federal State, composed of Jewish and Arab Cantons with exclusive authority in matters of education, culture, religion, and language.[34] A bi-cameral Federal Council should be formed, the Chamber of Nations being based on numerical parity of the two nationalities, while in the Chamber of Citizens cantonal representatives should be elected in proportion to their population.[35]

During the early thirties Ahmed al-Khalidi, principal of the Government Arab School, proposed to set up a Jewish and an Arab Canton. Each Canton would have its autonomously governing Council, and over the two Cantons there would be a Supreme Executive. Disputes between the Cantons would be decided by the League of Nations. The British would act as the liaisons between the Cantons. Some sort of internationalization would be necessary for Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and Nazareth, Safed, Hebron, and Haifa. This proposal was published in the Arabic Newspaper Filastin and Magnes received a letter of Ahmed al-Khalidi in 1934 with these proposals. The fact that there were even Arabs who agreed with the idea of cantonization will have greatly encouraged both Committees to come forward with their proposals for a Jewish and an Arab Region in a Federal State.[36]

[1] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 237.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Ibid., pp. 237-8.
[4] Ibid., p. 228; Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, pp. 301, 307.
[5] Elkana Margalit, ‘Bi-nationalism: An Interpretation of Zionism, 1941-1947’, in Studies in Zionism 4 (Tel Aviv, 1981), p. 276.
[6] See above; Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 227.
[7] Ibid., 227-8.
[8] Margalit, ‘Bi-nationalism’, pp. 279-80.
[9] Ibid., 280.
[10] Ibid., pp. 280-1; Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 232.
[11] Margalit, ‘Bi-nationalism’, p. 281; Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 232.
[12] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, pp. 232-4.
[13] Ibid., p. 234.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid., p. 235.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid., p. 236; Margalit, ‘Bi-nationalism’, p. 282.
[18] Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, p.307; Hattis, Bi-national Idea, pp. 236-7, 255; Margalit, ‘Bi-nationalism’, p. 284.
[19] Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, p.308; Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 237; Margalit, ‘Bi-nationalism’, p. 277.
[20] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 238.
[21] Ibid., p. 239.
[22] Ibid.
[23] Ibid., p.219; Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, p. 262.
[24] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 240.
[25] Ibid., p. 241; Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, p. 297.
[26] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 242.
[27] Ibid., p. 243.
[28] Ibid.
[29] Ibid., pp. 244-6.
[30] Ibid., p. 244.
[31] Ibid., pp. 244-6.
[32] Ibid.
[33] Ibid. pp. 94-5.
[34] Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, p. 260.
[35] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 94.
[36] Ibid., pp. 123-5.

11. Working for cooperation between Jews and Arabs

After the Arabs were appeased and the Second World War broke out, the mood in Palestine was one of an unfinished battle. As soon as political circumstances permitted, the battle might be resumed. For the time being, some cooperation between Arabs and Jews could be witnessed. Most important was the cooperation of Palestine citrus growers. When the war made exporting the annual production of 15,000,000 boxes of oranges impossible, Jews, Arabs, and the British Government united. This heavy blow against 80 percent of the total export of Palestine made all parties realize that only unity was the way out of this crisis. In the two Boards which were established, both consisting of Arab, Jewish and British members, nationality never made any difference.[1] Beside that, Arab and Jewish officials and Government workers and those engaged in army projects and foreign companies sometimes cooperated in trade union campaigns. It seems that in general relations between Jews and Arabs became a little friendlier than they were in the years before.[2]

As soon as possible after the foundation of the League for Jewish-Arab Rapprochement and Cooperation, a start was made with implementing its Program.[3] In Jerusalem a number of joint Arab-Jewish social gatherings were organized. Scientific and social lectures were delivered to mixed groups of students. Near Jaffa a joint Jewish-Arab youth club came into existence. The League submitted a detailed proposal to the Agency Executive for cooperation with Arabs on emergency work during the war, such as in air-raid protection, first aid, and fire-brigades. Posters were printed against boycotting Arab products and for closer economic cooperation.[4] As in economic matters some possibilities for cooperation existed, some of the League’s activities were a success, though on a very small scale.

These kinds of activities was already being envisaged by Hakibbutz Haartzi of Hashomer Hatzair since 1935. The movement’s special approach became one of its hallmarks. Although both the lack of suitable personnel and the Arab Revolt hampered many of their efforts, they did train some of their leaders in the Arab language and culture, by sending then to Arab villages for a training program of half a year.[5] In 1940 an Arab Department was formed, with Aharon Cohen as one of its three members, so in the early forties Hashomer Hatzair continued to devote the most serious attention to Arab affairs.[6] They were able to create better relations between the kibbutzim and the local Arabs, gave medical help, had contact with Arab schools, and partook in festivals, published in Hebrew and Arabic and advised the Arab smallholders in modern agriculture. Very important to Hashomer Hatzair was the organization of joint trade-union work.[7]

The setting up of the Arab Department of Hashomer Hatzair was instrumental in bringing together leaders of Hashomer Hatzair, Poale Zion Smol, the Socialist League, and some Bi-nationalist members of MAPAI[8] to put pressure on the Histadrut (ha-Histadrut ha-Kelalit shel ha-Ovedim b‘Eretz Yisrael, the General Federation of Jewish Labor in Palestine) for Jewish-Arab labor cooperation by increasing activity amongst the Arabs.[9]

In a letter of 25 June 1941 to the Histadrut Executive, the signatories urged the Histadrut to activate its Committee for Arab Work while rapprochement and cooperation between the Jews and Arabs could be witnessed anywhere, such as among the citrus growers. Although the Iraqi revolt had disturbed these peaceful relations for a short time, they were better again after the Revolt was defeated. As the League for Jewish-Arab Rapprochement and Cooperation could only do small-scale work, the Histradrut (as a public institution with its resources should carry the burden of this work of bringing Jews and Arabs together.
Projects such as the establishment of the Alliance of Palestinian Workers; cooperation between Arab and Jewish workers to obtain cost-of-living allowances for workers employed by the large Government companies; a public works program by Government and municipal institutions to relieve unemployment; encouragement of producers’ cooperatives among Arab workers in town and country; far-sighted and planned efforts to settle the problems of marketing the products of Arab and Jewish workers; provision of medical help for neighboring Arab settlements; agriculture and veterinary instruction and guidance, and the development of mutual aid and cooperation between Arab and Jewish farmers; the establishment of joint centers for adults and youth in mixed residential areas, and help in establishing such centers in friendly Arab settlements; the dissention of Arabic among Jews, and Hebrew among Arabs; extensive educational work in the economic, social, cultural, and political field – all these are waiting for the directing hand of the Histadrut.[10]
The signatories of this letter finally requested the Histradrut Executive to receive them as an inter-party delegation for an exchange of views on this weighty problem. When after two months nothing was heard, they sent a reminder. On 28 August 1941, they finally received a letter, stating that the Histadrut agreed to a discussion ‘within the next few weeks’ and asked for practical proposals on the Arab activity of the Histadrut. On 7 September Cohen, as one of the signatories, submitted these proposals, which were a repetition of the practical goals and activities of the League and of the Arab Department of Hashomer Hazair, and were an enlargement of those written in the letter of 25 June 1941. On 19 May 1942, this correspondence was submitted to the members of the Histadrut Council for consideration, as their Executive had not reacted yet.[11]

Although there were some small successes in socio-economic and cultural matters on the local level, a large-scale program for economic cooperation was impossible when it depended on a majority vote in the Histadrut. The slackness of reacting of the Histadrut was a result of its unwillingness to adopt a far-reaching program of cooperation with the Arabs.

Cohen suggests that the defeat of these proposals in the Histadrut Council was a result of the adoption of the Biltmore Program on 11 May 1942.[12] Already on 14 May 1942, the Jewish Press in Palestine wrote that a statement on the principles of Zionist policy had been adopted in the United States. On 17 May, Shertok informed the Jewish Agency Executive that ‘the censorship kept out from…the resolutions the words on a Jewish Commonwealth and a Jewish Army’.[13]

It is clear, then, that the politically active people knew the content of the Biltmore resolutions very early, though the censor did not permit the publication of the full text. This does not mean, however, that these resolutions had much influence on the decision of the Histadrut in May. The public’s main preoccupation was with European Jewry and the advance of Rommel. The Histadrut’s decision, therefore, was a result of their preoccupation with things they considered more important than working for better relation with the Arabs. It can be said, however, that the ‘general trend’ that had led to the Biltmore Program also influenced the Histadrut’s Council’s decision. This is no wonder, as in the elections of November 1941 for the Histadrut Council candidates of MAPAI, Ben Gurion’s party, received 69.3 percent of the votes.[14]

The results of the strive for economic and social rapprochement and cooperation were small, but the hope of the Bi-nationalists to bridge the political gap between Jews and Arabs was also disappointed in spite of the friendlier attitude of the Arabs towards the Jews.

In 1940 Adil Jabr, a highly educated Arab, member of the Jerusalem Municipal Council, began to attempt to negotiate an Arab-Jewish accord. Kalvarisky suggested him to contact the Political Department of the Jewish Agency first, for receiving its consent and support. In the autumn of 1940 he went to Baghdad, to talk with Iraqi, Syrian, Egyptian, Transjordan, and exiled Palestinian Arabs. After returning to Jerusalem he reported his impressions to Moshe, Shertok, head of the Agency’s Political Department, and to Kalvarisky. In order to advance the negotiations he repeatedly asked for Jewish proposals. Having waited several months and having received no reaction of the Agency, he drafted in cooperation with Kalvarisky a proposal as a point of departure for further talks with Arab leaders. A basis for further talks would be the idea that a Federal of Semitic peoples would be formed with autonomy for all its component States. Palestine would enter this Federation as an autonomous country, with a Bi-national structure based on full equality. Jewish immigration to all federated States should be possible, by agreement with the federated autonomous States. This proposal clearly agreed with the ideas of the League as stated in the next chapter. This is no wonder, as Kalvarisky was the spiritual father of the program of the League.[15]

On 7 July 1941, Shertok communicated his criticism on this proposed basis for negotiations. Adil Jabr was very disappointed and wanted some clarification of this criticism, so in the absence of Shertok, Kalvarisky had a meeting with Ben Gurion on 21 July. During that meeting Kalvarisky reported his last talks with Adil Jabr and tried to get some clarification on the criticism that was given to the proposals. In his diary Kalvarisky writes that when he laid before Ben Gurion the proposals and the critical letter of Shertok, ‘before he had a chance to even glance at the Jabr proposal, he pushed it aside in unrestrained anger and said: “I don’t want to deal with this document at all, it’s an abomination.”’[16]

On 19 August 1941, Shertok replied to the question of Adil. The crux of the matter was the fact that a favorable attitude to the Federation would be conditional on a Jewish state being part of it. The reason why the negotiations with the Arabs were not continued was the fact that the Zionists wanted a Jewish state, not a Bi-national state. Although rapprochement and cooperation were possible on the social and economic plain, the Zionists were not prepared to give up their vision of a national state of their own.[17] It is logical that Aharon Cohen, who blames the Zionists for not having reached political agreement with the Arabs, describes these incidents in detail. The slightly pro-Zionist publication of the Esco-foundation does not mention it, but describes other negotiations, showing that even the idea of Bi-nationalism was unacceptable to the most cooperative Arabs, proving that fault for not reaching an agreement lay with the Arabs.

The Arabs who were not prepared to give up their most cherished ideal of an independent Palestinian Arab state either. Even the most ‘progressive’ groups were not prepared to negotiate about their final goal. The League of Arab Students, aiming to eradicate illiteracy among Arab Palestinians and to improve the conditions of the Arab village in general, wanted full cooperation with the Jews in the economic, social, and cultural fields.[18] As the Palestine Communist Party had much influence in the League of Arab Students, they wanted to struggle with the Jews against fascism and Nazism.[19] In December 1941 a secret meeting of leaders of the League of Arab Students with a number of Jewish representatives was held in Jerusalem, where the Arabs assured the Jews of their willingness to cooperate as much as possible. Immigration, however, could not be discussed, and they emphasized their aim of the immediate establishment of a democratic Palestine, where Jews would be guaranteed democratic minority rights.[20]

One of the Jewish representatives, possibly someone of the League for Jewish-Arab Rapprochement and Cooperation, suggested parity might be a guiding principle, including numerical parity between the inhabitants for a definite period and parity of representatives in all branches of government. Furthermore he proposed Jewish assistance in the formation of an Arab Federation. The Arabs did not want to discuss a Federation, as that was an academic question at that moment, and rejected the idea of Bi-nationalism. In their opinion a government based on parity was no improvement on the usual type of democracy, which meant rule by the majority.[21] Constitutional parity would be a negotiation of democracy. So although the League of Arab Students had a reputation of willingness for Arab-Jewish rapprochement, and the Arab-Jewish problem was not very important to them, in the final analysis their position on the Jewish National Home differed not essentially from that of the nationalist leaders.[22]

[1] Moshe Smilansky, ‘Citrus Growers have Learnt to Cooperate’, in M. Buber, J.L. Magnes, E. Simon (eds.), Towards Union in Palestine; Essays on Zionism and Jewish-Arab Cooperation (Jerusalem, 1947), pp. 59-60.
[2] Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, p.284.
[3] For this program, see above.
[4] Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, p. 301; Esco, Palestine Vol. II, p. 1016; Hattis, Bi-national Idea, pp. 224-5.
[5] Aharon Cohen lived six months in an Arab village for studying Arabic language and culture.
[6] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 231.
[7] Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, pp. 304-5.
[8] These founders were E. Bauer, Aharon Cohen (both of Hashomer Hatzair), Y. Thon and H. Naaman (both of MAPAI), L. Tarnopoler, I. Itzhaki, Moshe Erem, and Y. Peterzeil (all of Poale Zion Smol) and A. Lichtinger and H. Rubin (both of the Socialist League).
[9] Hattis, Bi-national Idea, p. 231.
[10] Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, pp. 317-9.
[11] Ibid., pp. 319-21.
[12] Ibid., p. 321.
[13] This information comes from Dr. M. Heyman of the Central Zionist Archives Jerusalem in a letter to the author (19 June 1986). This contradicts Magnes, who wrote on 7 January 1943 to Dushkin in New York: ‘...no one here knew of the Biltmore resolutions of last May until Mr. Ben Gurion brought them in his pocket upon his return to Palestine in November.’ Maybe Magnes only meant to say that no one knew about these resolutions officially, for he himself must have been informed about the true content of the Biltmore Resolutions. Goren, Dissenter in Zion, p. 387.
[14] Hurewitz, Struggle for Palestine, p. 203.
[15] Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, pp. 285-6.
[16] Ibid., p. 286.
[17] Ibid., pp. 286-7.
[18] Musa Budeiri, The Palestine Communist Party 1919-1948: Arab and Jew in the Struggle for Internationalism (London, 1979), p. 200.
[19] Esco, Palestine Vol. II, p. 1018.
[20] Ibid., pp. 1018-9.
[21] Ibid., p.1019.
[22] Ibid., p. 1011.