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Ben Gurion Foresaw Palestinian Expulsion in 1937

There is much debate among historians and activists about the precise attitude of pre-state Israel’s leadership toward the Palestinian minority.  Leading up the 1948 War, how far was David Ben Gurion prepared to go?  Was he an active proponent of the ethnic cleansing campaign that eventually drove nearly 1-million Palestinians from their ancestral homes?  Or was Nakba a combination of the exigencies of war along with an unstated policy adopted by some of its military commanders.

These questions are difficult to answer for two reasons: one, Ben Gurion must’ve realized if Israel was planning to expel such a large proportion of its non-Jewish population, it could not do so publicly.  For this reason, aside from documents vaguely alluding to the subject, there is no official smoking gun.  I don’t know how aware he was of the approach the Nazis took to their own genocide: aside from the Wansee Conference, there is almost no documentary record of the Holocaust in the archives of the perpetrators.  Similarly, Ben Gurion made sure there would be almost no official record to document Nakba.

Two, the Israeli State has done a generally good job of sealing its archives to prevent most historical research on the subject.   Some documents have leaked out and a few reporters or historians have been lucky enough to stumble upon such material in haphazard fashion.  But the State and its institutions don’t want the world to examine this subject in great detail, and for good reason.

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For this reason, it’s fascinating to read this letter Ben Gurion wrote to his son, Amos in 1937.  In it, he deals with the prospect of partition raised by the British Peel Commission which was meeting at that time.  It would appear, from Ben Gurion’s tone in the letter, that he’s engaging his son, who’s told him that of his emotional reaction to the prospect that the Jews may get less than the territorial mandate they hoped and expected.  Amos appears to be among those holding out for a more maximalist position that would tend to either reject compromise and hold out for more.

Ben Gurion reveals himself to be a practical and pragmatic man–within limits.  He reminds Amos that the Jews essentially have no land at all and that the Peel Commission will likely offer them more than what they currently have.  He reminds his son that the Jews must be patient and that whatever they are now offered may be augmented in the future by the combined forces of those Jews in Israel and the millions of Diaspora Jews who will bring their power to bear in helping their brethren there.

What’s most interesting to me is that even at this early date, before the Holocaust, more than a decade before the declaration of statehood, and despite professing a pragmatic willingness to compromise; despite all that, the seeds of Israel’s current ultra-nationalist, rejectionist approach to the conflict were already planted and waiting to bear fruit.

There is also a certain naiveté evident in Ben Gurion’s assumptions that the Palestinians will simply understand, either through superior Jewish power or their own reasoning, that they must compromise with the Jews and accept a diminution of their dreams and expectation.  The noblesse oblige with which the future Israeli leader professes such confidence that this eventuality will come about is shocking.  No doubt, it played no small role in the many Israeli miscalculations about Palestinian motivations, intentions and interests.  These disastrous appraisals in turns led to many of the wars and much of the bloodshed that followed.

Though of course it takes two to tango, and the Palestinians made their share of errors, the Jews have always been in superior position and had the luxury of pursuing accommodation had they chosen to do so.  But they never did.

Here are some of the most salient passages. Ben Gurion’s emphases are noted in italics with [BG].  Longer passages in italics are mine:

…Here what I want to talk about is the conflict you are experiencing between your reason and your emotions with regard to the question of the state. Political matters should not be a question of emotions. The only thing that should be taken into account is what we want and what is best for us, what will lead to the objective, and which are the policies that will make us succeed and which will make us fail. It seems to me that I, too, have “emotions” [quotation marks in original. Hebrew: regesh]. Without these emotions I would not have been able to endure decades of our hard work. It definitely does not hurt my feelings [regesh] that a state is established, even if it is small.

Of course the partition of the country gives me no pleasure. But the country that they [the Royal (Peel) Commission] are partitioning is not
in our actual possession; it is in the possession of the Arabs and the English. What is in our actual possession is a small portion, less than what they [the Peel Commission] are proposing for a Jewish state. If I were an Arab I would have been very indignant. But in this proposed partition we will get more than what we already have, though of course much less than we merit and desire. The question is: would we obtain more without partition? If things were to remain as they are [emphasis in original], would this satisfy our feelings? What we really want is not that the land remain whole and unified. What we want is that the whole and unified land be Jewish [BG emphasis]. A unified Eretz Israeli would be no source of satisfaction for me– if it were Arab.

Here already we see Ben Gurion’s determination that the Jews should maintain absolute sovereignty over the land.  There can be no brooking a Palestinian presence that offers them their own source of national sovereignty, authority or power.  There will be no state in which Jews and Palestinians are equal.  It goes without saying that there will be no bi-national state.  Later claims, including those in the Declaration of Independence itself, that Israel will be a state that is both Jewish and democratic, are proven false even at this early date.

From our standpoint, the status quo is deadly poison. We want to change the status quo. But how can this change come about? How can this land become ours? The decisive question is: Does the establishment of a Jewish state [in only part of Palestine] advance or retard the conversion of this country into a Jewish country?

My assumption (which is why I am a fervent proponent of a state, even though it is now linked to partition) is that a Jewish state on only part of the land is not the end but the beginning.

I’ve always bridled at pro-Israel apologists who predict a disaster should Israel sign an agreement with the Palestinians because, so they insist, that such a deal is only the first step toward eventual Palestinian domination of the entire land.  They have a point because right here Ben Gurion exposes his own incremental view of attaining full control over all the territory of Israel.

Further, this approach of taking the country inch by inch, settlement by settlement, is precisely the strategy adopted by the current settlers and their enablers in the centers of Israeli power.  So we see that Occupation and settlement are not hodge-podge policies adopted on the fly.  They are deliberate policies that aim to empower the Jewish majority and leave Palestinians stranded and powerless in the midst of this Jewish sea.

When we acquire one thousand or 10,000 dunams, we feel elated. It does not hurt our feelings that by this acquisition we are not in possession of the whole land. This is because this increase in possession is of consequence not only in itself, but because through it we increase our strength, and every increase in strength helps in the possession of the land as a whole. The establishment of a state, even if only on a portion of the land, is the maximal reinforcement of our strength at the present time and a powerful boost to our historical endeavors to liberate the entire country.

In the passage below, Ben Gurion reveals the instrumental role he believed the Law of Return had to play as a force-multiplier of Jewish power.  Similarly, it explains why Israel advocates so adamantly reject the Right of Return.  They fear that Palestinians would aim to do to Jewish Israel precisely what Ben Gurion aimed to do with the Law of Return.  This passage proves even more strongly than almost anything I’ve read, that both these principles must be modulated so that they allow both peoples to populate the country in a fair, transparent and regulated fashion.

We shall admit into the state all the Jews we can. We firmly believe that we can admit more than two million Jews. We shall build a multi-faceted Jewish economy– agricultural, industrial, and maritime. We shall organize an advanced defense force—a superior army which I have no doubt will be one of the best armies in the world. At that point I am confident that we would not fail in settling in the remaining parts of the country, through agreement and understanding with our Arab neighbors, or through some other means.

We must always keep in mind the fundamental truths that make our settlement of this land imperative and possible. They are two or three: it is not the British Mandate nor the Balfour Declaration. These are consequences, not causes. They are the products of coincidence: contingent , ephemeral, and they will come to an end. They were not inevitable. They could not have occurred but for the World War, or rather, they would not have occurred if the war had not ended the way it did.

The following passage reveals both the critical underlying assumptions of Ben Gurion’s strategy of state-building, but also the fundamental weaknesses and illusions which his vision betrayed.  Though the Holocaust did, less than a decade later “propel” some of those Diaspora Jews to settle the new state, the declaration of statehood did not, in itself, bring the flood Ben Gurion expected.  Indeed, one may argue that had there not been such a genocide, the State, had it come into being, would’ve taken on quite a different composition.  Diaspora Jews would’ve come certainly, but in numbers closer to those of the present day.  In other words, Israel would not have become the central address of world Jewry that Ben Gurion expected.

In point 2 below, you also see Ben Gurion’s huge blind spot when it came to predicting or evaluating the views of the Palestinians.  While he could see the Jewish inhabitants as politically united and having an identity of their own; he refused to acknowledge the same principles at play among Palestinians.  Had he been able to do so, the miraculousness of the Jewish talents enumerated in point 3 below might’ve been realized in a far fully, more constructive way than they have.

But on the other hand there are fundamental [BG emphasis] historical truths, unalterable as long as Zionism is not fully realized. These are:

1) The pressure of the Exile, which continue s to push the Jews with propulsive force towards the country
2) Palestine is grossly under populated. It contains vast colonization potential which the Arabs neither need nor are qualified (because of their lack of need) to exploit. There is no Arab immigration problem. There is no Arab exile. Arabs are not persecuted. They have a homeland, and it is vast.
3) The innovative talents of the Jews (a consequence of point 1 above), their ability to make the desert bloom, to create industry, to build an economy, to develop culture, to conquer the sea and space with the help of science and pioneering endeavor.

These three fundamental truths will be reinforced by the existence of a Jewish state in a part of the country, just as Zionism will be reinforced by every conquest, large or small, every school, every factory, every Jewish ship, etc.

Our ability to penetrate the country will increase if we have a state. Our strength vis-à-vis the Arabs will likewise increase. The possibilities for construction and multiplication will speedily expand. The greater the Jewish strength in the country, the more the Arabs will realize that it is neither beneficial nor possible for them to withstand us. On the contrary, it will be possible for the Arabs to benefit enormously from the Jews, not only materially but politically as well.

In the italicized passage above, we can see the tragedy that is Ben Gurion’s Zionism.  Had he only been willing to ascribe to Palestinians the same aspirations he himself had for statehood, political power and national identity, he might’ve realized that they were not infants, nor chattel, nor savages who could be bought or turned around by brute force or charity, imagine how Israel might’ve developed as a joint project of two peoples.

I do not dream of war nor do I like it. But I still believe, more than I did before the emergence of the possibility of a Jewish state, that once we are numerous and powerful in the country the Arabs will realize that it is better for them to become our allies.

They will derive benefits from our assistance if they, of their own free will, give us the opportunity to settle in all parts of the country. The Arabs have many countries that are under-populated, underdeveloped, and vulnerable, incapable with their own strength to stand up to their external enemies. Without France, Syria could not last for one day against an onslaught from Turkey. The same applies to Iraq and to the new [Palestinian] state [under the Peel plan]. All of these stand in need of the protection of France or Britain. This need for protection means subjugation and dependence on the other. But the Jews could be equal allies, real friends, not occupiers or tyrants over them.

Let us assume that the Negev will not be allotted to the Jewish state. In such event, the Negev will remain barren because the Arabs have neither the competence nor the need to develop it or make it prosper. They already have an abundance of deserts but not of manpower, financial resources, or creative initiative. It is very probable that they will agree that we undertake the development of the Negev and make it prosper in return for our financial, military, organizational, and scientific assistance.

It is also possible that they will not agree. People don’t always behave according to logic, common sense, or their own practical advantage. Just as you yourself are sometimes conflicted between your mind and your emotions, it is possible that the Arabs will follow the dictates of sterile nationalist emotions and tell us: “We want neither your honey nor your sting. We’d rather that the Negev remain barren than that Jews should inhabit it.”

Below, you’ll find the “money quote.”  The words that ultimately define Ben Gurion’s philosophy and how far he was willing to go in realizing his ambition.  The answer is: all the way.  He preferred persuading Palestinians with vague promises of economic development and good will that they should partner with Jews (in a subordinate role, of course) in building a new Jewish nation.  But should they balk, the response was clear.  Ben Gurion planned to have a military capability that would keep Palestinian in line and deter other external Arab enemies:

If this occurs, we will have to talk to them in a different language—and we will have a different language—but such a language will not be ours without a state. This is so because we can no longer tolerate that vast territories capable of absorbing tens of thousands of Jews should remain vacant, and that Jews cannot return to their homeland because the Arabs prefer that the place [the Negev] remains neither ours nor theirs. We must expel Arabs and take their place.

Up to now, all our aspirations have been based on an assumption – one that has been vindicated throughout our activities in the country – that there is enough room in the land for the Arabs and ourselves. But if we are compelled to use force – not in order to dispossess the Arabs of the Negev or Transjordan, but in order to guarantee our right to settle there – our force will enable us to do so.

In the above paragraph, Ben Gurion tries to have it both ways: he says the use of force will serve an affirmative rather than negative purpose.  Jewish power will enable ‘us’ to settle areas that would otherwise remain barren and fallow.  Such power would not (at least as of 1937)  be meant to expel Palestinian populations.  But we can already see that the future Israeli leader’s thinking on the subject is in the process of evolving.  By 1948, when he saw the Palestinians of Israel and the Arabs states as implacably opposed to statehood, he certainly would’ve become an advocate of ethnic cleansing.  It would be the only way he could ensure Jewish power and sovereignty for decades to come, if not in perpetuity.

Clearly in such event we will have to deal not only with the Arabs living in Eretz Israel, since it is very probable that Arabs from the neighboring countries will come to their aid. But our power will be greater, not only because we will be better organized and equipped, but also because behind us stands a force still greater in quantity and quality. This is the reservoir of the millions in the Diaspora. Our entire younger generation of Poland, Romania, America, and other countries will rush to our aid at the outbreak of such a conflict. I pray to God that this does not happen at all. Nevertheless the Jewish state will not rely only on the Jews living in it, but on the Jewish people living in every corner of the world: the many millions who are eager and obliged [BG emphasis] to settle in Palestine.

There are not millions of Arabs who are compelled or willing to settle in Palestine. Of course it is likely that Arab adventurers and gangs will come from Syria or Iraq or other Arab countries, but these can be no match for the tens and hundreds of thousands of young Jews to whom Eretz Israel is not merely an emotional issue, but one that is in equal measure both personal and national.

For this reason I attach enormous importance to the conquest of the sea and the construction of a Jewish harbor and a Jewish fleet. The sea is the bridge between the Jews of this country and the Jewish Diaspora – the millions of Jews in different parts of the world. We must create the conditions that will enable us in times of necessity to bring into the country in our own ships manned by our own seamen, tens of thousands of young men. Meanwhile we must prepare these young men while they are still in the Diaspora for whatever task awaits them here. I am confident that the establishment of a Jewish state, even if it is only in a part of the country, will enable us to carry out this is task. Once a state is established, we shall have control over the Eretz Israeli sea. Our activities in the sea will then include astonishing achievements

Because of all the above, I feel no conflict between my mind and emotions. Both declare to me: A Jewish state must be established immediately, even if it is only in part of the country. The rest will follow in the course of time. A Jewish state will come.


{ 50 comments… add one }

  • Pip December 28, 2013, 2:48 AM

    Geez Louise, Richard.
    I thought B.G. hand wrote the letter to his son, not typed it.
    Are you SURE that the letter you posted is the ORIGINAL?

    • Richard Silverstein December 28, 2013, 3:57 AM

      @ Pip: Please read Ilan Pappe’s comments on all of this before speaking in ignorance. Pappe is a real historian, after all, and expert on the subject.

  • Pip December 28, 2013, 3:34 AM

    Unless I’m mistaken, the letter says:

    “But if we are compelled to use force – not in order to dispossess the Arabs of the Negev or Transjordan, but in order to guarantee our right to settle there – our force will enable us to do so.”

    Also, assuming the ‘expelling the Arabs’ quote is accurate, I read ‘push the Arabs’ ,Ben Gurion was clearly speaking only of the Arabs of the Negev.

    • Richard Silverstein December 28, 2013, 3:56 AM

      This is the same thing Ran tried as well, trying to limit the “damage” of the letter to the Negev alone. It’s clear to anyone but a liberal ZIonist that the principle Ben Gurion is enunciating at this early date, 1937, is easily transferrable to the entire population of the land of Israel. Although in this paragraph he talks of the Negev, in other paragraphs he talks of the whole of the future state in ways that aren’t dissimilar to the ways he talks about the fate of the Negev. Not to mention that Ben Gurion saw the Negev as the crux of the future of the State. It was the place where all those Jews would go to settle to ensure that Jewish domination he expected. So attempting to argue that Ben Gurion didn’t believe in expelling Palestinians from areas outside the Negev isn’t persuasive. Not to mention that in the course of a decade, Ben Gurion’s views changed and became more sweeping & radical concerning the fate of the Palestinians.

      • Haver December 28, 2013, 7:38 PM

        RE: assuming the ‘expelling the Arabs’ quote is accurate, I read ‘push the Arabs’ , Ben Gurion was clearly speaking only of the Arabs of the Negev. . . . was meant by Ben-Gurion to say and said exactly the opposite (“We must not expel the Arabs … ”).”

        You need to step back a bit and remember Ben Gurion was talking about crossing international boundaries when he mentioned Transjordan and the Negev, i.e. he said let’s assume the Negev won’t be given to the Jewish state. The object of his ambitions to “penetrate”, “possess” and “settle” the “whole land” and to “liberate the entire country” was actually another State and he was describing an illegal act of aggression.

        The British never proposed to partition Palestine into a Jewish state and a terra nullus that would be open to future Jewish colonization. So re-read the letter again. It’s a blueprint for the illegal and pre-planned destruction of the Arab State, including the overthrow of the government of Transjordan and the defeat of the Arab Legion to accomodate 2 million more Jewish immigrants in order to convert “the whole and unified land” into a “Jewish country”.

        It was written several years after the US government adopted the Stimson Doctrine which said that military conquest could not be used in that way to acquire sovereignty over territories in Asia. We are living in the post Nuremburg era and it doesn’t really matter if he thought he could commit those crimes against peace without displacing the Arabs. FYI, Morris and everyone else knows that Ben Gurion crossed the UN partition lines and employed martial law for nearly two decades to displace “present but absent” Palestinian Arabs and take their place.

    • Pip December 28, 2013, 7:26 AM

      The quote reads, “But if we are compelled to use force – not in order to dispossess the Arabs of the Negev or Transjordan, but in order to guarantee our right to settle there – our force will enable us to do so.”

      You ignore that part of the quote which contradicts ‘We must expel the Arabs’. You ignore, ‘-not in order to dispossess the Arabs of the Negev or Transjordan, but in order to guarantee our right to settle there-’.

      Can you further explain why ‘ We must expel the Arabs’, runs against the tone of the whole letter which speaks of cooperation with the Arabs? Quotes like, “They will derive benefits from our assistance if they, of their own free will, give us the opportunity to settle in all parts of the country.”

      Why is BG even thinking of benefits when he wants to expel the Arabs. Makes no sense.

      • Richard Silverstein December 28, 2013, 11:18 PM

        You ignore that part of the quote which contradicts ‘We must expel the Arabs’. You ignore, ‘-not in order to dispossess the Arabs of the Negev or Transjordan, but in order to guarantee our right to settle there-’.

        Not at all. I didn’t “ignore” anything. But one major characteristic of classical Zionist apologias and political tracts is to swear up & down that they don’t want to do X, that X is “unthinkable.” Then in the next sentence or paragraph they reveal either implicitly or explicitly that they do indeed entertain thoughts of doing X. This is an excellent way to confuse those who are less disciplined & less tough than you. They’re confused about which statement you really believe. By the time they figure out that you’re lying through your teeth (or at the very least terribly insincere), you’ve done X or as close as you can get to doing it, & observers are left wondering what & how that happened.

        Can you further explain why ‘ We must expel the Arabs’, runs against the tone of the whole letter which speaks of cooperation with the Arabs?

        Frankly, I don’t think you read my post; or at least not the text I wrote. If you had you wouldn’t ask such a dumb question, one I’d already addressed. The “whole letter” does NOT speak of cooperation with the Arabs. Not at all. The “whole letter” says that IF the Arabs play nice with us & allow us to do everything we want (despite the fact that BG admits that if he were Arab he’d be pissed as hell with what the Jews want), then everything will be honky-dory.

        But he also makes clear that if the Arabs aren’t “good Arabs” & don’t play ball that the Jewish response will be hard & brutal. They will be met with massive force from that first-rate army BG explicitly refers to as being in his plans for the future. Frankly, I can’t believe you’re done such a shabby reading of both my post & BG’s letter.

      • Haver December 29, 2013, 1:02 AM

        Re: You ignore that part of the quote which contradicts ‘We must expel the Arabs’. You ignore, ‘-not in order to dispossess the Arabs of the Negev or Transjordan, but in order to guarantee our right to settle there-’.

        You ignore the fact that everything he said after “Let us assume that the Negev will not be allotted to the Jewish state” were his plans for an illegal war of aggression. It doesn’t matter which version of the letter you prefer, because both versions are just as incriminating in that respect.

        Zionists had no more right to use force to guarantee Jewish occupation and settlement in a post-partition Arab state, that included the Negev and Transjordan, than the Third Reich had to use force to secure its right to settle Germans in Eastern European States. Wars of aggression were considered the supreme international crime by the Nuremberg tribunal.

        There is no doubt that Ben Gurion subsequently violated the terms of the UN partition plan regarding the limited use of militias to prevent border clashes and provide for internal security or that he instructed others that Arab villages, owned by persons displaced during the war, were needed to settle Jews before the hostilities had ended (i.e. the crime of pillage). So, I see little point in trying to parse his plans for an illegal war for aggression in a way that contradicts his subsequent actions. It was Ben Gurion himself that supervised the production of the Valentine publishing company manuscript that said we must expel the Arabs and take their place. It was in the same materials handed over to the archives that contain the handwritten letter to Amos. The notion that someone else crossed out the text is sheer speculation. The fact remains that the Zionists did expel hundreds of thousands of Arabs and take their place.

        Anyone who says that he didn’t intend to expel the Arabs and take their place needs to explain why a only a few months later he told the Jewish Agency executive “I am for compulsory transfer; I do not see anything immoral in it.” There are over a thousand citations in various books and journal articles which attest to that entry, including Ben Gurion’s own memoirs.

        In any event, we know perfectly well that when his General’s specifically asked him during the operations against Lod, that he sure as hell didn’t tell them “We must not expel the Arabs and take their place.” He stood there mute, and gestured in a way that made it clear to Rabin that they should be driven out. See the Appendix A to The Rabin Memoirs, “Passage Censored From the First Edition”

        He was hardly alone. General Pundak openly admitted that the militias engaged in ethnic cleansing and razed enough villages to drive off a million Arabs. Only a moron would suggest that 500+ villages could be taken over or destroyed and a three quarters of a million people driven-off in a country the size of Palestine without the Defense Minister noticing it: 100-Year-Old General: We Razed Arab Villages, So What?: Brig. Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Pundak: If we hadn’t done it, there would be a million more Arabs and there would be no Israel.

        • Pip December 30, 2013, 2:25 AM

          I’m not suggesting Ben Gurion was an angel.
          I am saying that the plain reading of the letter with the scribble does not justify any historian to read ‘We must expel the Arabs’. Yes, Pappe could read, ‘We must expel..’ but he should reference the scribble or at least mention it in a footnote.
          The scribble, and the diary that BG approved of for publish, make for a puzzle, not history.

          • Haver December 30, 2013, 4:01 AM

            RE: The scribble, and the diary that BG approved of for publish, make for a puzzle, not history.

            It’s a historical fact that the phrase “We must expel the Arabs and take their place” originated with Ben Gurion’s Hebrew manuscripts, like the one above that can still be obtained from the Ben-Gurion Archives. He and his corporate partners translated it into other languages, and made money from it. His hiers and assignees still hold the copyrights to that version.

            It’s also a historical fact that the recipient of the letter, Amos Ben Gurion, was very much alive when this debate began and failed to clear-up the mystery regarding the crossed-out text.

        • Pip December 30, 2013, 2:28 AM

          ” “I am for compulsory transfer; I do not see anything immoral in it.”

          Yes. Compulsory transfer by the Mandatory Government, not the Zionists. Compulsory transfer similar, to the compulsory transfer of Greeks and Turks in the twenties, which in hindsight, worked at well.

          • Richard Silverstein December 30, 2013, 2:47 AM

            You’re arguing against a straw man. In 1937, there was no Zionist Israel. There was only a “Mandatory Government.” In 1948, there was no Mandate, only Israel. So in 1948, he got to execute the plan that was forming in his brain in 1937. Who he was thinking would do the compulsory transfer in 1937 is wholly immaterial to what actually happened in 1948.

          • Haver December 30, 2013, 5:12 AM

            Yes. Compulsory transfer by the Mandatory Government, not the Zionists.

            No he explicitly told the Zionist Congress that Arabs had already been displaced in the Jezreel Valley, the Sharon, and in other places thanks to the efforts of the JNF and that:

            In many parts of the country new settlement will not be possible without transferring the Arab fellahin . . . it is important that this plan comes from the Commission and not from us.

            Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, page 143

            So Jews had already expelled Arabs and had taken their place in the Valley, the coastal plain, and other places. Ben Gurion admitted that new settlement elsewhere simply wouldn’t be possible without transfer. So, it wouldn’t have been possible to use Jewish armed forces, as he outlined in the letter to Amos, to occupy and colonize the rest of the country and make it Jewish without expelling the Arabs.

            The notion that the idea of compulsory transfer must come from the Commission wasn’t essential to his plans either:

            In one way or another, Zionist expressions of support for transfer dur­ing 1936, 1937 and the first half of 1938 can be linked to the Peel Com­missions work and recommendations. Not so Ben-Gurion’s tabling of a new transfer scheme in early December 1938. Peel was now dead and buried.

            Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, page 50

            Compulsory transfer similar, to the compulsory transfer of Greeks and Turks in the twenties, which in hindsight, worked at well.

            Uh-huh. Population transfer worked so well that it was prohibited by the Lieber Code in the 1860s, the Hague rules of 1907, and the 4th Geneva Convention in 1949. It was declared a major war crime by the Nuremburg tribunal as well. The transfer scheme you say worked so well was condemned at the time, by one and all. The rest of the world required Turkey to acknowledge that fact in Article 144 of the Treaty of Sevres:

            The Turkish Government recognises the injustice of the law of 1915 relating to Abandoned Properties (Emval-i-Metroukeh), and of the supplementary provisions thereof, and declares them to be null and void, in the past as in the future.

            The Turkish Government solemnly undertakes to facilitate to the greatest possible extent the return to their homes and re-establishment in their businesses of the Turkish subjects of non-Turkish race who have been forcibly driven from their homes by fear of massacre or any other form of pressure since January 1, 1914. It recognises that any immovable or movable property of the said Turkish subjects or of the communities to which they belong, which can be recovered, must be restored to them as soon as possible, in whatever hands it may be found. Such property shall be restored free of all charges or servitudes with which it may have been burdened and without compensation of any kind to the present owners or occupiers, subject to any action which they may be able to bring against the persons from whom they derived title.

            The Treaty of Sèvres, 1920

          • Pip December 30, 2013, 9:49 AM

            Peel Commission first proposed forced transfer. The Zionists, the Palestinians and H.M.G. rejected the Peel Commission’s findings.

          • Haver December 30, 2013, 6:01 PM

            RE: Peel Commission first proposed forced transfer. The Zionists, the Palestinians and H.M.G. rejected the Peel Commission’s findings.

            Nonsense, I already cited Ben Gurion’s remarks to the Zionist Congress which said the JNF was responsible for transfers in the Jezreel Valley, the Sharon, and other places. They made relocation of the Arab cultivators a condition of their land purchase agreements and demanded that only Hebrew labor could be used in their place. The notion that Jews wouldn’t expel Arabs and take their place is simply risible, it was a standing demand made by the Jewish Agency.

            Hope-Simpson wrote about the problem of immigration, land policy, and the principle of Hebrew Labor. One letter was addressed to John Chancellor, 30 June 1930, and was the cover letter for the Command Paper on the Land Inquiry, Box 16/6 (footnote 74) and the other was addressed to Lord Passfield on 18 August 1930, CAB 24/215 (footnote 76). Copies can be found in Annex II of CAB 24/215 link to nationalarchives.gov.uk
            Here is a portion of the Letter to Lord Passfield about JNF policy on Jewish Labour:

            When Jewish settlement first began in the eighties of last century, it connoted no political ambition, and the Rothschild colonies lived in peace and amity with their Arab neighbours, and were, in fact, of great assistance to them, providing them with regular employment, and assisting them to develop the Arab lands in proximity to the new Jewish Settlements. The same practice prevailed in the case of the German Colonies. Even to-day, though things are changing rapidly, and under Zionist pressure the P.I.C.A. colonies are being compelled gradually to part with their Arab workmen, the friendly spirit animating the Arab towards the old settlers in the P.I.C.A. colonies is in marked contrast to their keen hostility to the settlers introduced by the Zionist organization. Had the method of the P.I.C.A. continued, no political question would have arisen, and the Jews could have effected a peaceful penetration of Palestine without any opposition on the part of the Arab population. . . . So the large estate passes to the Jewish National Fund, and becomes ” the inalienable property of the Jewish people.” It will be used for the settlement of Jews on conditions which render it impossible that any but a Jew can ever hold the land in future, or can ever be employed on it as a labourer. This is, from every point of view, a most serious happening. It is undesirable from the economic point of view, for unemployment among the Arabs is already a serious problem. The political aspect of the matter is even more serious, for it confirms the Arab in the belief commonly held that Jewish policy is designed deliberately to oust the Arab from the land of Palestine. And it is impossible to affirm that this belief is unfounded. The policy of the Zionists indicates that their ultimate intention, by means of steady and consistent land purchase and settlement with the provisions noted, is to buy the country, and to buy it under conditions which will render it impossible for any Arab to earn his daily bread in the territory which they have acquired. It is a policy of the inevitability of gradualness of the most sinister kind. . . . For instance, at the moment a communal colony for workers is being constructed just outside the P.I.C.A. village of Ness Ziona. This is being done as a method of enforcing the policy of the General Federation of Jewish Labour, to exclude the Arab workmen from Jewish villages, and the workers’ colony is, in fact, a threat and a menace. This was a case which should have been known to the Government, and in which the Government should have called on the Jewish Agency to explain what it was doing. It is probable that in time there will be trouble about labour in Ness Ziona. The price of oranges is falling, and shortly it will not be possible to employ Jewish labour at the rates fixed by the General Federation and at the same time to export oranges. Yet the labourers who are being planted on the borders of Ness Ziona will demand employment, and will take steps to see that Arabs are not employed for the picking and packing of the fruit.

            Here is an extract from the draft Statement of Policy set-out in
            Appendix I. It deals with the subject of Jewish Agency Policy on the exclusive use of Jewish Labor. It reflects the government’s determination that the policy violated Article 6 of the Mandate:

            19. Moreover, the effect of Jewish colonisation on the existing population is very intimately affected by the conditions on which the various Jewish bodies hold, sell and lease their land. It is provided by the Constitution of the Enlarged Jewish Agency, signed at Geneva on the 14th August, 1929 (Article 3 (d) and (e)),
            that the land acquired shall be held as the ” inalienable property of the Jewish people,” and that in ” all the works or undertakings carried out or furthered by the Agency, it shall be deemed to be a matter of principle that Jewish labour shall be employed.” Moreover, by Article 23 of the draft lease, which it is proposed to execute in respect of all holdings granted by the Jewish National Fund, the lessee undertakes to execute all works connected with the cultivation of the holdings only with Jewish labour. Stringent conditions are imposed to ensure the observance of this undertaking.
            An undertaking binding settlers in the Colonies of the Maritime Plain to hire Jewish workmen only, whenever they may be obliged to hire help, is inserted in the Agreement for the repayment of advances made by the Palestine Foundation Fund. Similar provision is contained in the Agreement for the Emek Colonies.
            These stringent provisions are in striking contrast with the solemn declaration at the Zionist Congress of 1921 of ” the desire of the Jewish people to live with the Arab people in relations of friendship and mutual respect, and, together, with the Arab people, to develop the homeland common to both into a prosperous community which would ensure the growth of the peoples.”
            20. The Jewish leaders have been perfectly frank in their justification of this policy. The Executive of the General Federation of Jewish Labour which exercises a very important influence on the direction of Zionist policy have contended that such restrictions are necessary for the promotion of the largest possible amount of Jewish immigration and for the safeguarding
            of the standard of life of the Jewish labourer from the danger of falling to the lower standard of the Arab.
            However logical such arguments, from the point of view of the Jewish National Home, it must, nevertheless, be pointed out that they are irrelevant in view of the provisions of Article 6 of the Mandate, which expressly requires that, in facilitating Jewish immigration and close settlement by Jews on the land, the Administration of Palestine must ensure that ” the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced.”

        • Richard Silverstein December 30, 2013, 3:21 AM

          @ Haver: Do you have any link available to the entire Ben Gurion 1938 testimony to the Jewish Agency?

          • Haver December 30, 2013, 5:22 AM

            I have a reply that cites Morris regarding Ben Gurion’s remarks to the Zionist Congress that are fairly conclusive on the subject of the need for transfer in order to carry-out settlement in many parts of the country. The earlier discussions among the members of the Jewish Agency Executive are on the same page in Morris book. I suppied a link to that and other relevant materials, so it’s awaiting moderation.

          • Haver December 30, 2013, 6:43 AM

            You can get a very good idea of what transpired in the Jewish Executive from reading Rabbi Chaim Simons apologetics on the subject of transfer.

            The members agreed that a reduction of the Arab population was essential to the establishment of the Jewish state and Ben Gurion insisted on it. The notion that the idea couldn’t come from the Zionists was simply decietfulness. They already had a fulltime staff assigned to research Arab transfer and were reluctant to share their data with outsiders. They also had Avnir working on military plans to takeover the whole country after the eventual British withdrawal. They weren’t yet in a position as a non-government entity to impose a suggestion on transfer, so they saw no advantage in making an unsucessfull or unpopular one publicly.

            Another Oxford-trained PhD in History, Ben Ami, says that by May of 1947 Ben Gurion was saying the same things about the upcoming UN partition plan that he had said about the Peel plan. He was planning for a war of aggression anyway and intended to take over the whole country all along:

            The endorsement of partition along the lines of Resolution 181 by Ben-Gurion was essentially a tactical move. ‘Does anybody really think that the original meaning of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate, and indeed, that of the millenarian yearning of the Jewish people, was not that of establishing a Jewish state in the whole of Eretz-Israel?’ he had asked rhetorically in a speech to the People’s Council on 22 May 1947. His acceptance of the principle of partition, he explained a week later, was an attempt to gain time until the Jews were strong enough to fight the Arab majority. And in early December 1947 — that is, a few days after the UN Resolution — he chose to hide his views behind philosophical reflections: ‘There are no final settlements in history’, there are no eternal borders, and no political demands are final. We shall still see great changes in the world.’ A week later he pledged to Mapai’s Central Committee that the borders of Jewish independence as defined by Resolution 181 were by no means final. It was then that Yigal Allon, who in the 1948 war was to be the most influential general and one whose impact in the definition of the objectives of the war was especially vital, said that ‘the borders of partition cannot be for us the final borders. . . the partition plan is a compromise plan that is unjust to the Jews. . . . We are entitled to decide our borders according to our defence needs.’

            Shlomo Ben-Ami, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace, page 34

            Ben Ami cites the diary of Joseph Weitz, the director of the Jewish National Fund Land and Forestry Department, who said that in February of 1948 Ben Gurion told him that the Jews didn’t need to buy land anymore, but to conqueror it. He also instructed that abandoned Arab villages be settled by Jews even before the end of hostilities had occurred. Scars of War, Wounds of Peace, page 45

            On 18 February 1948, Moshe Sharett wrote “We will have only enough troops to defend ourselves, not to take over the country.” Ben Gurion replied:

            If we will receive in time the arms we have already purchased, and maybe even receive some of that promised to us by the UN, we will be able not only to defend, but also to inflict death blows on the Syrians in their own country – and take over Palestine as a whole. I am in no doubt of this. We can face all the Arab forces. This is not a mystical belief but a cold and rational calculation based on practical examination.”

            – See Ben Gurion Archives, Correspondence Section 23.02-1.03.48 Document 59, 26 February 1948

          • Pip December 31, 2013, 3:45 AM

            [Comment deleted--comment rules indicate that commenters not repeat themselves, which you have done in this comment. Repeating the same argument verbatim causes discussion to get stuck in a rut. Don't do it.]

        • Pip December 31, 2013, 11:15 PM


          “in any event, we know perfectly well that when his General’s specifically asked him during the operations against Lod, that he sure as hell didn’t tell them “We must not expel the Arabs and take their place.”

          The Lydda expulsion was an ad hoc decision that followed a confused, bloody battle. It was not planned.


          • Richard Silverstein January 1, 2014, 3:26 AM

            @ Pip: Not true at all. In fact, Yitzhak Rabin, the Palmach commander, and Yigal Allon specifically asked what should be done with Lod’s 50,000 residents and Ben Gurion told them they should be expelled. Expulsion was deliberate and official, not at all in the heat of battle as you claim.

            Personally, if I have a choice between Rabin’s memoirs confirming a historical event and 2 Israeli historians writing 50 yrs after the fact, I’ll take Rabin any day.

          • Haver January 1, 2014, 5:51 AM

            RE: The Lydda expulsion was an ad hoc decision that followed a confused, bloody battle. It was not planned.

            That doesn’t mitigate the fact that it was a deliberate war crime. I hope you aren’t trying to claim that the Generals and their units took a wrong turn somewhere and strayed into the territory of the Arab State by accident, without any advance plan to do so? That’s not how the people who say they cleared-out the inhabitants of one village after another remember it. They say that emptying the towns and villages was the objective of Oeration Broom and Dani all along and that Yigal Allon personally ordered them to do it. They don’t believe that there was any misunderstanding between him and Ben Gurion. See Yerachmiel Kahanovich, Palmach soldier

            E: You were a machine gunner in what? In Operation Broom?
            YK: Yes.

            E: What is Operation Broom and what was its objective?
            YK: We cleared all the villages…

            E: What do you mean?
            YK: We cleared one village after another and expelled – expelled them, they fled to the Sea of Galilee and from there to the Galilee.

            E: But how? How?
            YK: You mean by shooting?

            E: How do you mean?
            YK: We shot, we threw a grenade here and there. Just listen – there’s one thing you have to understand: at first, once they heard shots they took off with the intention of returning later.

            E: But, wait a sec, that was before May 15, that was before the Arab armies came.
            Operation Broom, Operation Broom then. How does it happen? Do you receive any information? Is it an organized campaign?
            YK: Yeah, sure.

            E: Tell me.
            YK: It was. Who was it? Yigal Allon himself planned it. We moved from one place to the next.

            E: What places? Can you tell me?
            YK: We passed, we passed by Tiberias and moved from one village to the other, from one to the next.

            E: So you had orders to expel and clean up the villages?
            YK: And then go home.

            E: But you did see how they ran away?
            YK: We saw them, what do you think? I fired at them with that – with the Browning – on the boats.

            E: They fled on boats?
            YK: Yes.

            E: On the Sea of Galilee?
            YK: Yes. On the other side they had more [villages], except [Kibbutz] Ein Gev [which was the only Jewish settlement on the east bank].

            E: And who were the people who fled?
            YK: Village people, they were fishermen, among other things. Then it was Lod.

            E: And then you move to the heart of the country, you go to Lod. What did Operation Dani mean for you?
            YK: You know what’s a PIAT? You know this gun? I used it to shoot the mosque where they were [sheltering].

            E: What mosque?
            YK: In Lod.

            E: What do you mean? You mean the gun that you throw and it blows up in your face, right?
            YK: Let me tell you what it does – you make it like it was a beautiful painting by an artist. You think. He makes a hole about this big and inside everybody’s crushed on the walls from the pressure it makes inside.

  • Damien Flinter December 28, 2013, 3:34 AM

    All they learned from Nazi racist barbarism was to APE the barbarity elsewhere against a different innocent people.
    Both tragic and criminal.
    The bigger crime being that of the cynical US and European use of post-war refugees for this imperial garrisoning of the oil wealth of the former Ottoman region.
    Their Frankenstein must run it’s course.
    The question seems to become where this twin of Teutonic Aryan pre-human tribal-identity fixation meets it’s Stalingrad.
    Adolf had his Ragnarok mythology…the Christian Zionist cartel have their Armageddon death-wish culture to enrapture them in self-hypnosis.
    Prognosis not great.

  • Pip December 28, 2013, 3:39 AM

    I base my reading on Benny Morris who examined the ORIGINAL HANDWRITTEN COPY:

    “The problem was that in the original handwritten copy of the letter deposited in the IDF Archive, which I consulted after my quote was criticized, there were several words crossed out in the middle of the relevant sentence, rendering what remained as “We must expel the Arabs …” But Ben-Gurion rarely made corrections to anything he had written, and this passage was not consonant with the spirit of the paragraph in which it was embedded. It was suggested that the crossing out was done by some other hand, later — and that the sentence, when the words that were crossed out were restored, was meant by Ben-Gurion to say and said exactly the opposite (“We must not expel the Arabs … ”).”

    • Richard Silverstein December 28, 2013, 3:51 AM

      @ Pip: Ran Greenstein already tried that ruse in Ilan Pappe’s Facebook feed stating what you did above almost precisely. Ilan answered him quite succinctly as follows (fill your own name in every time he uses “Ran” if you want my reply to you):

      As for Ran’s remark: this is a total fabrication. I have seen the written document it says precisely what the typed one says. Now you have to understand Ben-Gurion personally observed the transition of the typed letter, where he first wrote the word ‘no’ and then he erased it, into a typed version. Quite often in 1937 he typed the letter himself. In the 1960s before he archived the letter he went over it again and approved it.

      Ilan Pappe not only examined the original handwritten copy AND the type written one, he has facsimiles of both. I’ll take Ilan Pappe over Benny Morris any day of the week as a more trustworthy historian and source. Especially since Morris is saying that the words that trouble him were crossed out by “some other hand” at some vague “later date.” That’s far too vague for my taste. Score this one against Morris, I’m afraid.

      • Pip December 28, 2013, 6:35 AM

        Here is the original handwritten letter.
        I know don’t like CAMERA, but they DID print the original after all. So since you read hebrew, I’ll leave it to you to decide what the original says and how the original contradicts what you’ve published.


        • Richard Silverstein December 28, 2013, 11:22 PM

          @ Pip: It’s not that I don’t “like” CAMERA. It’s that they’re a lying bunch of scum. You’ve violated a comment rule by referring to sources lacking any credibility. Do not do this again. You are already moderated. You can be banned. Read the comment rules (again, if you’ve already done so). CAMERA is NOT an acceptable source.

          Ilan Pappe says that Ben Gurion supervised the typing of the letter. In many cases, BG typed the letter himself. So I think I’m perfectly happy with things as they are. Benny Morris & CAMERA don’t shake my world.

        • Haver December 29, 2013, 1:49 AM

          RE: Here is the original handwritten letter.

          The problem that you haven’t addressed is that Ben Gurion personally supervised the preparation of these typed Hebrew and English manuscripts when he and Valentine were publishing Letters to Paula and the Children. They are part of the same collection of documents turned over to the Ben Gurion archives. The text was scribbled out before any third party researchers ever touched the material.

  • Rima Najjar December 28, 2013, 3:55 AM

    I am confused about your first sentence, Richard – specifically, your characterization of Palestinians as a minority in “pre-state Israel”: You write, “There is much debate among historians and activists about the precise attitude of pre-state Israel’s leadership toward the Palestinian minority.” This makes no sense to me at all.

    1) “Pre-state Israel” is Palestine, not “Israel” in any geo-political sense you can think of. Check the maps.
    2) Palestinians, until their ethnic cleansing during the Nakba (1948) by Jewish settler-colonial forces calling themselves Zionists were in the majority, even after mass European Jewish migration to Palestine.

    Here is a brief history of Palestine for those who are interested:

    Israel is an illegitimate state founded on a territory of historic Palestine on the heels of the British colonial rule there (1948). Originally populated by a small indigenous Jewish Palestinian Arab population and a larger indigenous Muslim and Christian Palestinian Arab population, Israel forced much of the latter out by various brutal and “legally-sanctioned” means and established settler-colonial Jews, largely from Europe, in the territory, at the same time perpetrating what has now been revealed as a pre-planned mass ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.

    Israel has since continued the mass immigration of Jews from all over the world into the territory while keeping the indigenous Palestinian refugees out, annexed East Jerusalem and occupied and colonized the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Its policies continue to force Palestinians out and to dispossess and subjugate (and keep separate) those who remain.

    Palestinians continue to demand their rights: an end to colonial racism against Palestinian citizens of Israel, an end to occupation, colonization and siege in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the right to return to their ancestral lands.

    • Fred Plester December 28, 2013, 12:22 PM

      It’s always described as “colonial rule” but Palestine was never actually a colony, merely placed under British administration by an international mandate, as was Corfu (more briefly), for pretty similar reasons.

      No-one ever refers to British colonial rule in Corfu.

      • Haver December 29, 2013, 2:12 AM

        See the chapter on Palestine in Caroline Elkins and Susan Pedersen (editors) Settler Colonialism in the Twentieth Century: Projects, Practices, Legacies http://www.amazon.com/Settler-Colonialism-Twentieth-Century-Practices/dp/0415949432/

        The Zionists organizations and societies first order of business was to establish several agricultural colonies and to set-up the Jewish Colonial Trust company and its subsidiaries. The Mandate for Palestine was administered by the UK Secretary for the Colonies and members of the Zionist Executive, like Jabotinsky, spoke and wrote about almost nothing else, except the subject of the colonization of Palestine. Here are some examples from The Iron Wall (We and the Arabs) 1923:

        It is of no importance whether we quote Herzl or Herbert Samuel to justify our activities. Colonization itself has its own explanation, integral and inescapable, and understood by every Arab and every Jew with his wits about him. Colonization can have only one goal. For the Palestinian Arabs this goal is inadmissible. This is in the nature of things. To change that nature is impossible.

        If it were possible (and I doubt this) to discuss Palestine with the Arabs of Baghdad and Mecca as if it were some kind of small, immaterial borderland, then Palestine would still remain for the Palestinians not a borderland, but their birthplace, the center and basis of their own national existence. Therefore it would be necessary to carry on colonization against the will of the Palestinian Arabs, which is the same condition that exists now.

        Hence those who hold that an agreement with the natives is an essential condition for Zionism can now say “no” and depart from Zionism. Zionist colonization, even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population. This colonization can, therefore, continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population – an iron wall which the native population cannot break through. This is, in toto, our policy towards the Arabs. To formulate it any other way would only be hypocrisy.


  • Larry Stillman December 28, 2013, 4:04 AM

    Richard, I looked at the original handwritten ms about 2 years ago (at least the photo), the typescript, the correspondence in the JPS etc etc. Pappe is misconstruing an original document or at least, the typewritten letter is a different version to the orginal handwritten scrawl. At least historians should admit that this particular document is ambiguous and leave it at that. Of course, in the context of BGs attitudes, it is clear what his policy was, but don’t misconstrue his discussion of a particular situation, which as far as I understand Pappe, who is sold on a particular ideological interpretation, rather than being a good historian able to deal with ambiguity, is.

    • Richard Silverstein December 28, 2013, 11:26 PM

      When you can offer me your own academic credentials in this field, then I’ll consider whether your views trump Pappe’s. But declaring that Ilan Pappe is “not a careful historian” is not a judgment I’m prepared to accept. In fact, I’d say that it is you who have certain ideological views that clash with Pappe’s making you only too eager to dismiss his work as “polemical.” The fact that Ran Greenstein & other apologists for Nakba in this thread are raising red flags tend to increase my belief in Pappe’s claims rather than the opposite.

      I also note that you essentially concede that BG’s actual policies indeed mirror much of the content of this letter. You merely dispute some text and whether this copy or another is the authentic one. These are interesting questions perhaps for historians. But as you wrote, you & I both know that the arc of BG’s political thinking moved from the wavering sentiments of the 1937 letter to the actual Nakba as unofficial (only because unrecorded) state policy.

      This the place Israel and apologists like Ran Greenstein desperately want to avoid at all costs. They cannot concede that ethnic cleansing was official state policy of the Jewish state. It rocks their liberal Zionism to the core. But the 1937 letter puts into proper historical context what happened only 11 yrs letter. If we want to know from whence such thinking derived, this early letter is a terrific mirror into BG’s thought process.

      • Larry Stillman December 29, 2013, 5:52 PM

        ” Ran Greenstein & other apologists for Nakba ” — you really must be kidding. Where can you show that Ran is an apologist. This is beyond conspiracy theory thinking. It is plain silly.

        • Richard Silverstein December 29, 2013, 8:27 PM

          @ Larry Stillman: The reason Ran derides the authenticity of the document is that he doesn’t wish to concede that a figure as central to modern day Israel as Ben Gurion approved of & likely orchestrated Nakba/ethnic cleansing. Further, for Greenstein to deride Pappe’s academic credentials in the cheap, demeaning way he does is inexcusable.

          As for contacting Pappe, you may actually contact him directly by e mail (I.Pappe at exeter dot ac dot uk). If I were writing a critique of someone’s work I respected I would do more than send him a Facebook Friend request. If you are going to accuse Pappe of “playing games” and “sloppy errors” I think you owe it to Pappe to ask for his response & to publish it in your own post.

          My intemperance toward what you’ve done lies in part in your not showing Pappe common courtesy & derech eretz in allowing him the right of reply.

  • Larry Stillman December 28, 2013, 4:12 AM

    Here is my original blog on the issue. Ilan Pappe is a polemicist, but not a careful historian. Such mistakes undercut one’s argument and claims or others’ claims to being an expert.


    • Richard Silverstein December 28, 2013, 11:28 PM

      Have you asked Pappe to comment on your claims? If you have, have you published his response? If you have published his response, I’d like to read both your claims & his. If you haven’t done all of these things, then it is you who have been unfair & polemical.

      At least Ran Greenstein, whose views are probably similar to yours & very thin in my opinion, tried to take on Pappe in the latter’s FB feed. Have you?

      • Larry Stillman December 29, 2013, 5:50 PM

        i sent in a friend request some days ago, no response. But your language is very intemperate Richard. I think you also unfairly very unfairly characterize Ran’s politics and to call him a liberal Zionist is very silly. As for me, I am an outsider to Zionist historiography but I have good training in document analysis and historical interpretation. Pappe is playing games with that particular document. A first-class historian would accept the mistake. Other thinks Pappe says are fine with me, but he makes sloppy errors that are then paraded as ‘fact’ and seized upon by polemicists.

        • Richard Silverstein December 29, 2013, 8:21 PM

          @ Larry Stillman: Calling Ram a liberal Zionist is quite apt. He’s shown nothing but disdain for me and my politics. He is to the right of my politics, which makes him liberal Zionist. The fact that he refuses to acknowledge that Ben Gurion supported ethnic cleansing and desperately seeks to undermine the authenticity of any original document that would support this thesis only confirms my impression.

          As for your academic credentials: you concede that they don’t match Pappe’s. Yet you find yourself happy to demean his. He did not make an error with this document. The error is yours & Ran’s.

  • Ron December 28, 2013, 5:32 AM

    This is a good Ben Gurion source but not the best one. Translations from his 1937 Hebrew writing can be found for example in part 1 of the following article where he explains his position vis-a-vis Peel:


    • Haver December 29, 2013, 10:13 PM

      It reads like a bunch of flim-flam. The US State Department Digest of International Law lists dozens of mandate era cases in which international courts and national courts of various countries ruled that Palestine and Transjordan were normal and independent states that were already in existence by 1925. Several of those court decisions were final and binding on the British government and the LoN under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne. So, there really was no one state versus two state debate over the status of Palestine. Here is a case on the subject from right here in the US:

      The contention of the plaintiff that Palestine, while under the League of Nations mandate, was not a foreign state within the meaning of the statute is wholly without merit. . . . Furthermore, it is not for the judiciary, but for the political branches of the Government to determine that Palestine at that time was a foreign state. This the Executive branch of the Government did in 1932 with respect to the operation of the most favored nations provision in treaties of commerce.

      link to dc.findacase.com

      The Peel Commission proposed to change that by forming a Jewish State and an Arab State. The latter was supposed to be part of a union with the government of Transjordan. But the Zionist Congress rejected the plan and their friends in Parliament defeated its adoption. The documentary record in the Foreign Relations of the United States reflects the fact that the Emir Abdullah and the head of the Nashashibi clan accepted the proposal. But you’ve linked to a polemicist who disengenuosly suggests the neighboring Arab states overturned the Peel plan.

      • Pip December 31, 2013, 8:14 AM


        “The US State Department Digest of International Law lists dozens of mandate era cases in which international courts and national courts of various countries ruled that Palestine and Transjordan were normal and independent states that were already in existence by 1925″.

        The cases were Business Law cases, not International Law cases. The issue concerned tariffs and trade, not Statehood.

        • Haver December 31, 2013, 6:04 PM

          The cases were Business Law cases, not International Law cases. The issue concerned tariffs and trade, not Statehood.

          No, the cases specifically involved international law and challenges to Palestine’s statehood and Palestinian citizenship acquired in the new states under the terms of the peace treaties. They included cases that were final and binding regarding state succession to public debts, contracts, and the title to state archives and lands shown on the Ottoman civil lists. All of that was governed by the terms of the international treaty of peace that transfered those obligations and assets to the newly created states that had been detacted from Turkey under the terms of the Treaty of Luasanne.

          The Treaties of Sevres and Lausanne both established terms for the “newly created states” to begin repaying their assessed portions of the Ottoman Public debt effective no later than March, 1920. Article 47 of the Treaty of Lausanne required that any disputes be settled by a court of arbitration appointed by the Council of the League of Nations and that its decisions would be final.

          Both Great Britain and France went to Court to have the amount of the assessments for their Mandated States shares split-up and adjudicated. It was decided by the Council that each of the Mandated States were responsible for a share of the costs of arbitrating the case. Great Britain and France argued that their mandate instruments had in fact resulted in the creation of more than one new state. The Judge said:

          “The difficulty arises here how one is to regard the Asiatic countries under the British and French mandates. Iraq is a Kingdom in regard to which Great Britain has undertaken responsibilities equivalent to those of a Mandatory Power. Under the British mandate, Palestine and Transjordan have each an entirely separate organisation. We are, therefore, in the presence of three States sufficiently separate to be considered as distinct Parties. France has received a single mandate from the Council of the League of Nations, but in the countries subject to that mandate, one can distinguish two distinct States: Syria and the Lebanon, each State possessing its own constitution and a nationality clearly different from the other.” — See Volume I of the Reports of International Arbitral Awards (United Nations, 1948), “Affaire de la Dette publique ottomane. Bulgarie, Irak, Palestine, Transjordanie, Grèce, Italie et Turquie. Genève, 18 avril 1925″, pages 529-614

          That same year the Permanent International Court of Justice (PCIJ) ruled in the Mavrommatis Palestine Concessions Case that Palestine, not Great Britain, was the Allied successor State mentioned in the various protocols of the Treaty of Lausanne.

          The Attorney General of Palestine, a Jewish expert on international law named Norman Bentwich, wrote an article which explained that the coming into force of Article 30 of the Treaty of Lausanne on August 26, 1924 allowed the governments of the States of Palestine, Syria, and Iraq to issue Nationality Acts. According to Bentwich, the guiding principle adopted was that Ottoman subjects habitually resident in the detached territories became ipso facto nationals of the State to which the territory had been transferred in accordance with Article 30 of the treaty. link to heinonline.org

          In 1926 the Mixed Courts of Egypt recognized Palestinian nationality and ruled that the former Ottoman territories placed under Mandate had the character of regular States, and that their inhabitants possessed the nationality of those States in accordance with Article 30 of the Treaty of Lausanne. See the case of Saikaly v. Saikaly reported in John Fischer Williams and Hersh Lauterpacht (editors), “International Law Reports”, Volume 3, Cambridge University Press, 1929, page 48.

          The Supreme Court of Palestine upheld a lower court decision in Jawdat Badawi Sha’ban v Commissioner for Migration and Statistics which confirmed that Transjordan was a separate foreign state for the purposes of Article 15 of the Palestine Citizenship Order and that criminal investigations were in order when Arabs from Transjordan attempted to obtain Palestinian passports, & etc. on the basis Palestinian citizenship. See Hersh Lauterpacht (editor), “States as international persons”, in “International Law Reports”, Cambridge University Press, 1994, page 15

          Article 60 of the Treaty of Lausanne stipulated that: “The States in favour of which territory was or is detached from the Ottoman Empire after the Balkan wars or by the present Treaty shall acquire, without payment, all the property and possessions of the Ottoman Empire situated therein.”

          The Palestine Treaty of Peace (Turkey) Amendment Ordinance, 1926, added Article 60 of the Treaty of Lausanne to the Schedule of the Treaty of Peace (Turkey) Ordinance, 1925. See Economic organization of Palestine, Sa’id B. Himadeh, Volume 11 of American University of Beirut, Printed at the American Press, 1939, Page 83

          Amine Namika Sultan v. Attorney-General Supreme Court of Palestine March 31, 1947 held that the Treaty of Lausanne Article 60 was a valid act of state that ceded property on the Ottoman civil lists to the successor states. It was not subject to private claims or challenges in the Courts of Palestine. Article 60 of the Treaty had been incorporated in the statutes of Palestine by the Treaty of Peace (Turkey) Ordinance. cited in “State Succession, Succession to Rights” in Hersh Lauterpacht, International Law Reports, Volume 14, Cambridge University Press, 1951, ISBN: 0521463599, pages 36-40 and Yearbook of the International Law Commission, 1976, vol II part I, Sucession of States page 75 of 208

          Norman Bentwich published another article in the British Yearbook of International Law in 1946. Bentwich explained that the Courts of Palestine had just decided a case involving the Heirs of Sultan Abdul Hamid against the Government of Palestine which held that title to the properties shown on the Ottoman Civil list had been ceded to the government of Palestine as an ”allied successor state’‘ and that Article 60 of the Treaty of Lausanne could not be legally challenged in the Courts of Palestine. The article is available online, See Professor N. Bentwich, “State Succession and Act of State in the Palestine Courts”, XXIII British Year Book Of International Law, 1946, pages 330-333.
          link to archive.org

          • Haver December 31, 2013, 6:22 PM

            P.S. All of those State lands, including the Sultan’s estates, that were shown on the Ottoman Civil lists were transferred to the newly created Mandated State or Allied Sucessor State of Palestine. They were explicitly called “state lands” in Article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine, i.e. close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.

            Article 434 of the Treaty of Versailles stipulated that Germany was required to recognize the dispositions made concerning the territories of the former Ottoman Empire, “and to recognize the new States within their frontiers as there laid down.” The other Central powers and some of the treaty articles that required them to recognize the new states were:
            *Bulgaria Article 60 of the Treaty of Neuilly;
            *Hungary Article 74 (2) of The Treaty of Trianon
            *Austria Article 90 of The Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye

            Turkey and the US ratified the Treaty of Lausanne which I mentioned above. It contained an indentical obligation to recognize the new States.

          • p January 1, 2014, 10:17 AM


            You’re tilting at windmills.
            International Law isn’t real law, it’s fairy law.

            There is no ‘obedience to Superior’ in International Law and no coercion either. State law is backed by its coercive authority. The international law on the other hand has no such sanctions.

            Furthermore, there are no competent courts to interpret International Law.
            State law will be interpreted by courts and enforced accordingly. There is no such machinery in international field.
            Nor is there is unaniimity as to what international law is on any particular point or issue.

            Lastly, International Law comes in conflict with the sovereignty of State. Every state is internally sovereign and its authority over its subjects is absolute and unlimited. A sovereign state does not recognize any superior in international relations.

  • Fred Plester December 28, 2013, 10:46 AM

    Ben Gurion appears to have had a lot in common with Abraham Lincoln, whose initial position against slavery was taken primarily because he didn’t want to leave any excuse for having black people in the United States, and who decided eventually to tolerate black Americans when he realised they would prove useful in getting rid of the native Americans.

    Even if the promised land is uninhabited when you get there, the experience of the Falklands, Montserrat and St Helena indicates there’s still around a 30% chance of a bloody dispute. (Montserrat is undisputed because only the British felt like colonising the volcano, and St Helena is undisputed largely because until fairly recently, non-British visitors consisted of one very famous Frenchman. The trouble with Palestine aka “The Holy Land” is that far too many people can find it on the map and this has been so for thousands of years.)

    The distinguishing feature of the British Empire was that the existing occupants of most (sadly not all) of the lands were seen as customers rather than landfill. Abraham Lincoln’s policies towards native Americans were not those of the Hudson Bay Company, or Burma Teak.

    I stick to my long-held position that seeing the stranger as a customer or supplier is a healthy thing, and Israel might be a quite different place if Ben Gurion had seen the Palestinians that way.

  • Davey December 28, 2013, 9:02 PM

    It is interesting to me the degree to which BG envisioned the Zionist enterprise to depend mostly upon the force of the Diaspora, as though all would rally to Israel readily or eventually. This surely did not happen. Until ’67, much of the Diaspora had little real interest in Israel or Zionism. Rather, Zionism arranged for Great Power support and protection.

    The Zionist enterprise always meant the displacement of indigenous people. BG is cavalier in this regard as he says they (Arabs) have lots of underutilized land as though one Arab land is a good substitute for any other to these indigenous people, i.e. Palestine is not a “home” as such to them (but should become a “home” for “homeless” Jews!) In effect, he is saying that they have so much and we have so little, we should take some of what they have, a criminal’s rationalization, a rendering of BG further supported by his evident grandiose ideas about Jews and unfettered fantasies about Jewish capabilities (i.e. his capabilities!)

    Jewish Nationalism did not arise in situ but needed to displace a people in the “orient” to be actualized. This is is a fundamental difference between the modern nationalism of 19th century Europe and more contemporary Asian and African nationalism. The reality of its offensive character, made no more palatable by the vision of “liberation,” made it inconceivable to present itself plainly and forthrightly. As a result, Zionism remains fundamentally disingenuous. The State of Israel continues to be evasive about its true aims.

    As Richard says, “…the Jews have always been in superior position and had the luxury of pursuing accommodation had they chosen to do so. But they never did.” For me, this is the heart of the matter. In the past and in the present, Israel controls the situation and has never opted to make any kind of peace, one even hinting at justice, with the land’s indigenous people. It is evident that the Nakba continues and that Israel, with the help of Diaspora, intends to eliminate Palestinian life throughout all of Mandate Palestine. Israeli policy continues to be the poison of dispossession, murder, imprisonment, torture and harassment.

  • ben December 29, 2013, 7:53 PM

    “2) Palestine is grossly under populated. It contains vast colonization potential which the Arabs neither need nor are qualified (because of their lack of need) to exploit. There is no Arab immigration problem. There is no Arab exile. Arabs are not persecuted. They have a homeland, and it is vast.”

    I think this was the biggest mistake BG made in this assumption that the newly formed Arab states would absorb and nationalise the refugees. The Arabs are not a homogeneous group. For those expelled who did not counter ethnic lines were accepted as seen by the shia and Christian Refugees in Lebanon but not in the Sunni. (Perhaps BG thought the old age adage of a jew is a jew is a jew also applied to Arabs.)

    Perhaps at one point the all the arab lands were their homeland but this stopped the second that the Turks no longer ran things and former provinces were cut into counties. Think of it if the United states broke down. I would not think Virginia would want refuges from Montana messing up their demographics even though they are both “Americans”.

    It seems now the Palestinians are the ones with millions of potential immigrants to the new Palestine state just like BG thought there would be millions of Jews moving. As Richard has noted modern Jewish immigration to Israel is rather small then what BG though it would be and only events like WWII caused giant leaps in immigration… This too could be the same for the majority of Diaspora Palestinians. The ones living in America Canada south America and Europe are pretty well of and just like the Diaspora Jews are not that inclined to move. Perhaps there will be a boom initially but that will die out like all trends as they find life in their host countries more comfortable then in a newly formed state.

    The ones who would have the most inclination to move would be those who are worse off where they are now so that would mean people like the ones in Lebanon and Syria. Not to sure about Jordan but i have heard that if there was a peace accord with Israel that Palestine and Jordan would form some sort of confederation, Daniel J. Elazar seems to have some interesting ideas about this.

    • Richard Silverstein December 29, 2013, 8:17 PM

      @ Ben: Actually the ‘Palestinians are the ones with millions of potential immigrants’ to Israel (not just the new Palestinian state).

      And I think your generalizations are wrong about who will immigrate. Some poor Palestinians who haven’t been assimilated into their host countries will certainly be interested as you say. But wealthy Palestinians will be intrigued as well. Both Israel and Palestine will, if they are smart, launch programs to encourage entrepreneurs to bring their capital into Israel-Palestine to found new ventures. Further, some immigrants will want to live in Palestine & some will prefer Israel. They should have that choice.

      All this presumes that Israel will agree to the creation of Palestine. If not, then all bets are off and all these refugees will be absorbed into Israel.

  • Oui January 11, 2014, 12:03 PM

    David Ben-Gurion Interview In Negev – 1956 [Audio]

    Interview with former Israel Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion with Edward R. Murrow completed on Feb 3, 1956 at Sde Boker kibbutz.

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