Zionism and the Arab Problem
Among the Jewish workers who demonstrated in Tel Aviv on 1 May 1921, the day of international working-class solidarity, there was a small group of Communists who distributed leaflets in Arabic calling the downtrodden and exploited masses to rise against British imperialism. Expelled from the ranks of the parade, they were last seen disappearing with their leaflets into the small streets between Tel Aviv and Jaffa. A few hours later a wave of Arab attacks on Jews in Jaffa started, triggered off, the Arabs claimed, by the provocation of the godless Bolsheviks, whose propaganda had aroused great indignation among the local population. In the course of these riots and of the subsequent military operations, 95 persons were killed and 219 seriously wounded.
The disturbances of May 1921, following the riots in Jerusalem and the attacks in Galilee the previous year, shocked and confused the Zionists.* Many of them became aware for the first time of the danger of a major conflict between the two peoples. It was asserted that Zionist ignorance and ineptitude were to blame, for at the time of the Balfour Declaration the Muslims had been well disposed towards the Jews, but had not found among them understanding and a willingness to compromise. Consequently they had made common cause with the Christian Arab leaders against the ‘Zionist peril’. Whatever the cause of the 1921 riots, whatever the explanations offered and accepted, from then on the Arab question began to figure increasingly in the discussions at Zionist congresses, in internal controversies, and of course in Zionist diplomacy.
Yet fifteen years later, when the Arab question had become the most important issue in Zionist politics, critics were once again to argue in almost identical terms that the movement was now paying the price for having so long ignored the existence of the Arabs, their interests and their national aspirations. It was also said that but for this neglect a conflict between the peoples could have been prevented. The Zionists, the critics claimed, had acted as though Palestine was an empty country: ‘Herzl visits Palestine but seems to find nobody there but his fellow Jews; Arabs apparently vanish before him as in their own Arabian nights.’* ‘If you look at prewar Zionist literature’, Dr Weizmann said in a speech in 1931, ‘you will find hardly a word about the Arabs.’† This implied that the Zionist leaders had been half aware of the existence of the Arabs but for reasons of their own had acted as if they did not exist. Or had it been a case of real, if astonishing blindness?
The issue was in fact considerably more complex. The Zionists certainly paid little attention to the first stirrings of the Arab national movement and few envisaged the possibility of a clash of national interests. But they did of course know that several hundred thousand Arabs lived in Palestine and that these constituted the majority of the local population. Even the pre-Herzlian Zionists were aware of the fact that Palestine was not quite empty. Rabbi Kalischer, who had never been anywhere near the Holy Land, wrote in 1862 about the danger of Arab banditry, anticipating the question whether Jewish settlers would be safe in such a country. The Russian Zionists in their writings in the early 1880s expressed confidence that Jews and Arabs could live together in peace. Lilienblum noted the existence of an Arab population, but said that it was small and backward, and that if a hundred thousand Jewish families were to settle over a period of twenty years, the Jews would no longer be strangers to the Arabs. Levanda argued that both Arabs and Jews would profit from Jewish settlement. When Ahad Ha’am went to Palestine in 1891 he reported that the country was not empty, that the Arabs, and above all the town dwellers among them, were quite aware of Jewish activities and desires, but pretended not to notice them so long as they seemed to constitute no real danger. But if one day the Jews were to become stronger and threaten Arab predominance, they would hardly take this quietly.‡
In Herzl’s mind the Arabs certainly did not figure prominently, though he did not ignore them altogether. He met individual Arabs and corresponded with a few of them. He was aware of the rising national movement in Egypt and on various occasions stressed the close relationship between Jews and Muslims. In Altneuland, his Zionist Utopia, Reshid Bey, personifying the Arabs, says that Jewish immigration had brought tremendous benefits to the Arabs: the export of oranges had increased tenfold. When asked by a non-Jewish visitor whether Jewish immigration had not ruined the Arabs and forced them to leave, he replies: ‘What a question! It was a blessing for all of us’, adding however that the landowners benefited more than others because they had sold land to the Jews at a great profit.* Herzl’s vision seemed to Ahad Ha’am too good to be true. How could millions of Jews live in a country which barely provided a poor living for a few hundred thousand Arabs? Max Nordau replied that he and Herzl were thinking in terms of modern methods of cultivation which would make mass settlement possible without any need for the Arabs to leave. They envisaged the spread of European civilisation and the growth of an open European society in which there would be room for everyone. They were opposed, he said, counter-attacking his east European critics, to a narrow, introspective, religious nationalism concerned primarily with rebuilding the Temple of Jerusalem.† Nordau, however, was not always so optimistic about the future of Arab-Jewish relations. On at least one occasion he considered the possibility of a Turkish-Zionist alliance against the danger of an Arab separatist movement.‡ Or perhaps this was only a political move to remind the Arabs, who were then anxious to enlist Turkish assistance against Jewish immigration, that the Zionists too had some bargaining power.
From the early days of Jewish immigration there were in fact clashes, often bloody, between the new settlers and their Arab neighbours. The annals of the settlements are full of stories of theft, robbery and even murder. In a report on his trip to Palestine in 1898 Leo Motzkin stated that in recent years there had been ‘countless fights between Jews and Arabs who had been incited against them’.§ But such accounts have to be viewed in the context of time and place. Clashes like these were not uncommon in other parts of the world. They occurred not only between Arabs and Jews, but equally between one Arab village and another.
Moreover, the state of security in the outlying districts of the Ottoman empire was not up to the standards of western Europe.‖ On the other hand it cannot be maintained that these incidents totally lacked political undertones, that, in other words, Jews and Arabs were living peacefully together before political Zionism appeared on the scene, and, more specifically, before the Balfour Declaration confronted the Palestinian Arabs with the danger of losing their country.*
As early as 1891 a group of Arab notables from Jerusalem sent a petition to Constantinople signed by five hundred supporters complaining that the Jews were depriving the Arabs of all lands, were taking over their trade and were bringing arms to the country.†Anti-Jewish feeling was spread by the Churches in Palestine. Eliyahu Sapir wrote in 1899 that the main blame was with the Catholic Church, and in particular the Jesuits, but he also mentioned the impact of the French antisemitic publicist Drumont on certain Arab newspapers.‡ It was commonly accepted at the time that the poor Muslim sections of the population who had benefited from Jewish settlement were on the whole well disposed towards the Jews whereas the Christian Arabs were hostile. This appraisal was correct to the extent that many Arab nationalist newspapers published before the First World War were in Christian hands and that, generally speaking, the percentage of Christian Arabs among the intelligentsia, and thus among the founders of the Arab national movement in Syria and Palestine, was disproportionately high. But the attitude of the Muslim upper and middle classes was not basically different, whereas early Zionist emissaries encountered outside Palestine much more sympathy among Christian Arabs fearful of Muslim domination. Sami Hochberg, the Jewish editor of a Constantinople newspaper, was told by Lebanese Christians in 1913 that they hoped the Jews would soon become the majority in Palestine and achieve autonomous status to counterbalance Muslim power.§ The idea that the Christian Arabs were fundamentally anti-Zionist, while the Muslims were potential friends, lingered on nevertheless for a long time after the First World War, despite the fact that Ruppin and other members of the Zionist executive in Palestine frequently tried to explain to their colleagues that the real state of affairs was vastly more complicated.‖
The total population of Palestine before the outbreak of the First World War was almost 700,000. The number of Jews had risen from 23,000 in 1882 to about 85,000 in 1914. More than one hundred thousand Jews had entered Palestine during the years between, but approximately half of them did not stay. Many moved on to America; one of these wanderers between several worlds was the author of Hatiqva, the Zionist national anthem.
Jaffa around 1905 was a city of about thirty thousand inhabitants, of whom two-thirds were Muslim Arabs. Haifa, with its twelve thousand residents, was hardly bigger than neighbouring Acre. Jerusalem was by far the biggest city in the country. Of its population of sixty thousand, forty thousand were Jews and the rest Muslim and Christian Arabs. A contemporary guide book reports that the situation of the Jews had somewhat improved in recent years. They were no longer concentrated in the dirty Jewish quarter in the old city, many having moved to the residential quarters outside the city wall. On the Sabbath the market was almost empty and public transport came more or less to a standstill.* The majority of the Jews still belonged to the old pre-immigration community, either taking no interest in Zionism or actively opposed to it. These were pious men and women, dependent on alms given by their co-religionists abroad. They lived in a ghetto viewed with shame and horror by the new immigrants, the very existence of which reminded them of a milieu from which they had just escaped. The living conditions of the Sefardi Jews, most of them Arabic-speaking, were quite different, as there were many merchants as well as professional men and artisans among them.
The Zionist immigrants, as distinct from the established Jewish community, numbered no more than 35,000-40,000 in 1914, of whom only one-third lived in agricultural settlements. While Arab spokesmen protested against Jewish immigration, Jewish observers noted with concern that the annual natural increase of the Arab population was about as big as the total number of Jews who had settled with so much effort and sacrifice on the land over a period of forty years. Leading Zionists used to say: ‘Unless we hurry, others will take Palestine.’ A German Zionist physician who had settled in Haifa around the turn of the century noted dryly: ‘No one will take it, the Arabs have it and they will stay the leading force by a great margin.’† Twenty years later, Dr Auerbach wrote that it had been the most fateful mistake of Zionist policy to pay insufficient attention to the Arabs in the early days. But he was not at all certain that more attention would have solved the problem, for ‘the Arabs are hostile and will always be hostile’, even if the Jews were paragons of modesty and self-denial.*
Relations between the Jewish settlers and their Arab neighbours were, then, from the very beginning not untroubled. The land of the early Jewish settlements had formerly belonged to Arab villagers in the neighbourhood who had been heavily in debt and had been forced to sell. There was bitterness against the newcomers, and sporadic armed attacks, and the situation was aggravated by the refusal of the Jewish settlers to share the pasture land with the Arabs as had been the custom before.† In Galilee the problem was even more acute because the Arab peasants were poorer than in southern Palestine, as were the Jewish colonies, which could not offer employment to the Arabs who had lost their land. The Jewish settlers tried to assist the nearby Arab villages by lending out on occasion agricultural machinery, while Jewish physicians were treating Arab patients often free of charge. But not all the new settlers were willing to accept the local customs, nor was it to be expected that those who had lost their land would not feel anger and resentment against the new owners.‡
A short note in a Hebrew journal published in 1909 tells the story of an Arab woman working at Wadi Chanin, a stretch of land recently acquired by the Jews. Suddenly she started weeping, and when asked by those working with her why she was crying she answered that she had recalled that only a few years earlier this very plot had belonged to her family.§
Before the fall of Abdul Hamid in 1908 the Arab nationalist mood had found no organised political expression, since no political activity was permitted within the Ottoman empire. The sultan’s representatives ruled with an iron hand, and no one dared openly to express sympathy with the ideas of Arab nationalism. A sudden and dramatic change came when the Young Turks overthrew the sultan and announced that the Ottoman empire would in future be ruled constitutionally. New Arab newspapers were founded, voicing radical demands in a language unheard before. Elections were held for the new parliament and the atmosphere was charged with political tension. With this national upsurge the struggle against Zionism became almost overnight one of the central issues in Palestinian Arab policy. Leaflets were widely distributed calling on the Arabs not to sell any more land to the Jews, and demanding that the authorities should stop Jewish immigration altogether. The Haifa newspaper Al Karmel was established with the express purpose of combating Zionism. Even before, in 1905, Neguib Azoury, a Christian Arab and previously an assistant to the Turkish pasha of Jerusalem, had written that it was the fate of the Arab and the Jewish national movements to fight until one or the other prevailed.* There was a sharp increase in armed attacks on Jewish settlements and on individual Jews. The newspaper campaign, as a contemporary observer noted, reached even the fellaheen in their mud huts and the Beduin in their tents.
Christian Arabs were again said to be in the forefront of the struggle, inciting the Muslim masses to carry out a full-scale pogrom to destroy not only the whole Zionist colonisation but also the Jewish population in the cities.† These fears were exaggerated, as soon appeared, but the alarmist reports received from Jaffa and Jerusalem induced the Zionist leaders for the first time to pay more than cursory attention to the Arabs of Palestine.
What could be done to establish friendly relations with them? It was easier to pose the question than to answer it. There had been some lonely warning voices. Yitzhak Epstein, a teacher and an agriculturist, had said in a closed meeting at the time of the seventh Zionist congress (1905) that the Arab question was the most important of all the problems facing Zionism, and that Zionism should enter into an alliance with the Arabs. The Jews who returned to their country should do so not as conquerors; they should not encroach upon the rights of a proud and independent people such as the Arabs, whose hatred, once aroused, would have the most dangerous consequences. Epstein’s views, and the arguments used by his critics to refute them, are of considerable interest and deserve to be carefully studied. They anticipated in almost every detail the debates which have continued since inside the Zionist movement, and between the Zionists and their critics.‡
Epstein maintained that there had been not a few cases in which Arab and Druze smallholders had lost their livelihood as the result of Zionist land purchases. In law the Jews were right, but the political and moral aspect was more complicated and they had a clear obligation to the fellaheen. It was easy to make enemies among the Arabs and very difficult to gain friends. Every step had therefore to be carefully considered. Only such land should be bought that others were not already cultivating. At the same time the Jews had to give full support to the national aspirations of the Arabs. While Herzl had aimed at a Turkish-Zionist entente, Epstein envisaged a charter between Jews and Arabs (‘those two old Semitic peoples’) which would be of great benefit to both sides and to all mankind. The Arabs had a great many gifts, but they needed the Jews to help them to make economic and cultural progress. The Jews should enter into such an agreement with pure, altruistic motives, without any intention of subjugating the neighbouring people. There ought to be no rivalry between them; the two peoples should assist each other. Hitherto in their political activities the Zionists had not been in contact with the right people. They had talked to the Ottoman government and to everyone else who had anything to do with Palestine. But they had not spoken to the Arab people, the real owners of the country. The Zionists had behaved like a matchmaker who had consulted every member of the family with the exception of the bridegroom. Epstein concluded with several recommendations for improving relations with the Arab neighbours: the most important task was to help raise the living standard of the peasants. Jewish hospitals, schools, kindergartens and reading rooms should be open to them. The Jewish schools should move away from a narrow nationalist spirit. The intention should be not to proselytise the Arabs but to help them find their own identity. The Jews should take account of the psychological situation of the Arabs, something which had been utterly neglected in the past. Once established, high-level educational institutions would attract thousands of students from neighbouring Arab countries, and this too would strengthen the fraternal alliance between the two peoples.
Epstein’s thesis provoked a reply from a colleague* who argued that the Arab peasant had been exploited not by the Jews but by Arab effendis and moneylenders. Everyone agreed that the Arab had benefited from the presence of the Jews. If nevertheless one day he were to turn against the Jews, the reason would not be Jewish land purchases but the ‘eternal enmity towards a people which had been exiled from its country’. To buy the friendship of the Arabs was exceedingly difficult, as Epstein himself had admitted. Why then try so hard? History was full of examples showing that the more the Jews tried to ingratiate themselves with other peoples, the more they had been hated. Had not the time come for the Jews to concern themselves at long last with their own existence and survival? But these considerations quite apart, Epstein’s suggestions were said to be quite unrealistic for the simple reason that the Jews did not have the money to carry out such grandiose projects. They were facing the gravest difficulties in establishing their own elementary school system. It was therefore absurd to dream about universities for the Arabs. They themselves hardly knew how to cultivate the soil - how could they teach others? It was all very well to talk about the blessings of modern civilisation which Zionism could bring to the Arabs, but for the time being the Jews had next to nothing to offer. The Arabs had never ceased to be a people, and unlike the Jews, everywhere hated and persecuted, they needed no national revival. It was therefore quite unconvincing to maintain that they needed Jewish friendship. Epstein had argued that what the Jews could give the Arabs they could get nowhere else, and it was at this point that his critic finally lost her temper: ‘To give - always to give, to the one our body, to the other, our soul, and to yet another the remnant of the hope ever to live as a free people in its historical homeland.’
The debate I have briefly summarised contained in essence all the main arguments among Zionists on the Arab question: ‘healthy national egoism’ being urged on the one side and on the other the demand that Jewish settlement in Palestine should be based on the highest moral principles and proceed only in agreement with the Arabs. Epstein’s criticism was justified inasmuch as quite a few European Zionists tended to ignore the presence of the Arabs. Some Zionist reference works published before the First World War characteristically do not even refer to what Epstein in a most striking and meaningful phrase called the ‘hidden question’. When the German Zionists produced a propaganda brochure in 1910, Elias Auerbach, who wrote on the prospects for future development, found it necessary to stress at the very beginning of his article the obvious fact that Palestine was not an empty country and that its character was shaped by the strongest ethnic element in its population.*
Some of the new arrivals looked down on the Arabs. One observer wrote that on a few occasions he had detected an attitude towards the Arabs which reminded him of the way Europeans treated the blacks.† But no one could fairly charge with lack of political caution and moral obtuseness the men who represented the Zionist executive in Palestine at the time, and who were responsible inter alia for purchasing land. It is certainly no coincidence that these very people (Arthur Ruppin, Y. Yhon, R. Benyamin) were among the founding members twenty years later of the Brit Shalom, the highly unpopular group which regarded an Arab-Jewish rapprochement as the main task of the Zionist movement. Undeniably the Zionist executive in Europe is open to criticism for concentrating most of its efforts on Constantinople and the various European capitals, showing little foresight in its relations with the Arabs, though from time to time it did press resolutions stressing the importance of making efforts to gain the sympathy of Palestine’s Arab population. Sokolow wrote after his visit to the Near East in 1914 that ‘the question of our relations with the Arab population has become more acute’.* But there was no follow-up, no consistent policy. After the First World War no congress passed without solemn declarations stressing Zionist sympathies for the national movement in the orient and the Arab national movement in particular. But, as Ussishkin said, the Zionists had no power in Palestine, and such declarations were therefore meaningless. Nor was it quite clear to whom they should have talked. There were individual Arab notables, but there was no Arab political leadership in Palestine, certainly not before 1908. The political parties which then emerged were small, consisting of a few dozen members, and not very representative.
The Zionist leaders simply would not consider the presence of half a million non-Jews an insurmountable obstacle, formidable enough to make them give up their cherished dreams about the return of the Jewish people to their homeland. They had tried to carry out some of Epstein’s ideas; they had drained swamps and irrigated desert lands. But the budget of the Zionist executive was small and those responsible for the promotion of agricultural settlement knew that restricting their purchases to poor land would doom the whole enterprise. If the Arabs believed in Herzl’s hints about the many millions at his disposal, the members of the Zionist executive knew better.
Jewish workers, it was thought, should have played a decisive role in improving relations with the Arab population. But it was precisely the influx of Jewish workers into Palestine with the Second Aliya which aggravated the conflict. After a clash between Arab and Jewish workers in Jaffa in the spring of 1908, Levontin, director of the local Anglo-Palestine Bank, wrote to Wolffsohn, the head of the World Zionist executive, that the young men from the Poale Zion were largely responsible for the growing tension. They had been walking around armed with big sticks and some of them with knives and rifles, behaving towards the Arabs with arrogance and contempt.* On another occasion in the same year Levontin wrote to Wolffsohn that the Zionist labour leaders were sowing hatred against Zionism in the heart of the local population by speaking and writing against giving jobs to the Arabs. Arthur Ruppin, who certainly did not lack sympathy for the Jewish workers, reported to Wolffsohn in 1911 that he too was continually trying to impress on them the need to refrain from any act of hostility in their relations with the Arabs.†
What made the ‘Moskub’ (as the Arabs called the pioneers from Russia) an especially disturbing factor in Arab-Jewish relations? For they were influenced by the Russian populists and by Leo Tolstoy; they did not come to Palestine as conquerors, but believed with A.A. Aordon that only a return to the soil, to productive labour, would redeem the Jewish people. But when they arrived in Palestine they realised that the great majority of those employed in the existing Jewish settlements were Arabs. This they regarded as a cancer in the body politic of the yishuv. It had not been the aim of Zionism to establish a class of landowners in Palestine whose vineyards and orchards and orange groves were worked by Arab plantation workers. From the outset the pioneers and their trade unions fought for the replacement of Arab by Jewish labour wherever feasible in the face of strong opposition from the Jewish farmers, who naturally preferred cheaper and more experienced Arab labourers. Moreover the young men and women of Poale Zionhad left tsarist Russia with the memory of the pogroms still with them, and the issue of Jewish self-defence figured high among their priorities. They were Socialists and internationalists, and the lowliest Arab peasant had as much human dignity in their eyes as any prominent Turkish pasha. But they did not take kindly to attacks and molestations, and they were sometimes liable to over-react in their response. These members of Poale Zion were not like the liberals of our day - they had no feelings of guilt about the Arabs. Their Socialism was largely (though not exclusively) in the Marxist tradition. Following Marx, they regarded the spread of western ideas and techniques in the east as a prioriprogressive, needing no further ideological justification. They believed in working-class solidarity, but this extended only to workers already established in jobs in industry, not necessarily to those who were competing against organised labour. Since under the centuries of Muslim rule Palestine had remained a desolate, underdeveloped country, they had no compunction about ousting a few landowners and peasants whom they held responsible for its backwardness and neglect. There was nothing in Socialist doctrine, as they interpreted it, which dictated that east European Jewry should remain poor and unproductive and that Palestine should stay backward and infertile.*
It is one of the tragic ironies of the history of Zionism that those who wanted close relations with the Arabs contributed, albeit unwittingly, to the sharpening of the conflict. Between the two world wars no one strove more actively for a reconciliation between Jews and Arabs than Haim Margalit Kalvarisky. Born in Russia in 1868, he was trained as an agronomist and came to Palestine in 1895. For many years he worked for Baron Hirsch’s colonisation society and had a great many influential Arab friends. He was firmly convinced that Arab-Jewish agreement was the conditio sine qua non of a successful Zionist policy. Yet it was precisely Kalvarisky’s activities around the turn of the century - the land purchases in the Tiberias district - which first provoked Arab resistance on a major scale. During the years 1899-1902 about one-half of this district was acquired by Jewish land companies and it was then for the first time that the danger of denationalisation became a political slogan among the Arabs.† Under the impact of these events Nagib Nasser, later editor of the Haifa newspaper Al Karmel, was converted to anti-Zionism and decided to devote his efforts to the enlightenment of his fellow citizens with regard to the ‘Jewish peril’.‡
Among the Jewish workers no group was more pacifist and anti-militarist in character than Hapoel Hatzair. A.A. Aordon, their chief ideologist, was opposed in principle to the use of violence and justified self-defence only in extreme circumstances. But he and his comrades wanted every tree and every bush in the Jewish homeland to be planted by the pioneers. It was in this group that the idea of Jewish agricultural communal settlements found its most fervent adherents. They were shocked, as has been already mentioned, when they found that the settlers of the first aliya had become plantation owners, and that among the permanent residents of these colonies there were actually more Arabs than Jews. According to a contemporary account, every Jewish farmer in Zikhron Ya’akov provided for three or four Arab families, and the situation elsewhere was hardly different.* Ahad Ha’am called Zikhron ‘not a colony but a disgrace’. Few Jewish peasants engaged any longer in manual labour. This state of affairs was not, of course, in keeping with the original aims of Zionism, let alone of Socialism. Yet, paradoxically, as far as Arab-Jewish relations were concerned it was a stabilising factor, whereas the activities of the Socialists, with their fanatical insistence on manual labour (‘redemption through toil’), seemed to confirm Arab suspicions about Jewish separatism and the displacement of Arab peasants and workers.
General security deteriorated sharply in Palestine after the revolution of 1908 against the sultanate. Jewish settlements in lower Galilee were frequently attacked, and there were clashes between Jews and Arabs in Haifa, Jaffa and Jerusalem. The situation was even more critical in Galilee. Much of this, however, was part of the general lawlessness which spread as a result of events in Constantinople and the general weakening of Turkish authority. The Jews were not the only victims. The German settlements also came in for many attacks until Berlin intervened and dispatched a warship to Haifa.† But the way in which the Arab newspapers commented on these attacks showed that there was reason for concern. The Zionists had at first regarded the activities of Nagib Nasser as an isolated phenomenon. But Al Karmel was joined by other newspapers of a similar character, such as Falestin in Jaffa (founded in 1911), and Al Muntada in Jerusalem, which began to appear in 1912. Virulent pamphlets and books were published and the Arab press outside Palestine began to open its pages to articles about the Zionist danger.‡ Leading Jewish citizens such as David Yellin expressed apprehension: ‘Fifteen years ago the Muslims hated the Christians, while their attitude towards the Jews had been one of contempt. Now their attitude towards the Christians has changed for the better and to the Jews for the worse.’ A group of leading citizens wrote to Ruppin from Haifa that ‘we are alarmed to see with what speed the poison sown by our enemies is spreading among all layers of the population.’ We must fear all possible calamities. It would be criminal to continue preserving the attitude of placid onlookers.*
In part, the deterioration was the fault of the new immigrants, who did not know the language of the Arabs and made no effort to understand and respect their customs. There is no doubt that their communal living, their radical political and social ideas, and the ostentatious equality they observed between the sexes among the new immigrants, shocked and dismayed most Arabs. Their ways must have appeared to them indecent and immoral. There were other complaints: in their new settlements the Jews refused to employ Arab guards but tried to defend themselves against the incursions of thieves and robbers. In the past, Palestinian Jews had tried to cope with such emergencies by invoking the help of the foreign consuls, or by paying baksheesh to the local Turkish authorities or to the headmen of the neighbouring Arab villages. The new guardians and their association, the ‘Hashomer’, made many mistakes, partly because few of them had mastered the Arab language, partly because they were appalled by the cowardice of the old yishuv when it came to standing up to the Arabs. They wanted to impress on their neighbours that they belonged to a different breed: if they erred, they preferred to err on the side of toughness. They did not regard themselves as a race of supermen; they did not want to be feared; they did not despise the Arabs; they simply wished to be respected. They expressly excluded from their ranks those who claimed that ‘the Arab understands only the language of the whip’.†
Relations in the cities, the real focus of Palestinian politics, were even less satisfactory. In 1908 the first elections to the Turkish parliament took place. The Arabs were in a strong position, electing about a quarter of all the deputies.‡ The Palestinian Jews tried to have a representative of their community elected but there were not enough of them, and those with Ottoman citizenship and the right to vote were even fewer. Once they realised that they had virtually no prospects, they decided to establish an alliance with Muslim Arab groups on the assumption that these would think Jewish support preferable to Christian Arab support, and that those elected would feel some obligation towards their Jewish electors. Palestinian Jews acted with local Arab dignitaries in establishing ya Jerusalem committee of ‘Union and Progress’, the Ottoman State Party. However, the Arabs soon founded their own political organisations, such as the Decentralisation Party, in which there was no room for the Jewish community as such, even though a few individual Jews were permitted to join. The Arab members of the Ottoman parliament, in their speeches and in their articles in the Turkish press, frequently conjured up the Zionist danger. Demanding an end to immigration and land purchase, they accused Turkish ministers and the ruling party in general of deliberately ignoring the separatist activities of the Zionist settlers who had established para-military organisations, openly displayed their national flag, were singing their national anthem, and even maintained their own courts.* The Turkish authorities did not take the Arab complaints too seriously, but to placate them a number of anti-Zionist measures were promulgated as a result of this campaign.†
When the next elections came round in 1912, the representatives of the Zionist executive in the Turkish capital recommended the Jewish electors to abstain from voting, since there was no chance of a candidate well disposed towards the Jews being elected. Palestinian Jewish leaders, on the other hand, argued that such abdication was dangerous, and suggested instead collaboration with the ruling Turkish party, ‘Unity and Progress’.‡ Similar views in favour of Zionist-Turkish cooperation were voted by Max Nordau in his speech at the seventh Zionist congress. When the Arabs realised that they might have gone too far in antagonising the Zionists they tried to reassure Dr Jacobson, half suggesting the possibility of an Arab-Jewish alliance to be directed against the Turkish overlords.
It is doubtful whether there was anything of substance in these noncommittal Arab approaches. But four years later the idea of an Arab-Jewish alliance was again advanced by Arab spokesmen, this time with more conviction. The Zionists found themselves at this stage in the unaccustomed position of being wooed both by the Young Turks, who after their defeat by Italy and in the Balkan war were in desperate need of allies, and by the Arab nationalists, who were dissatisfied with the policy of the Young Turks. Salim Najar, a Syrian Arab and one of the leaders of the Decentralisation Party, wrote in a letter to Sami Hochberg that since the Turkish leading circles were out to crush the national ambitions of both Arabs and Jews, the moment had come for the two peoples to get together and establish a common front.*
Hochberg, who was born in Bessarabia in 1869 and went to Palestine in 1889, was one of the founders of Nes Ziona; later he worked as a teacher in Tiberias. Eventually he settled in Constantinople, where he was active among the Young Turks. He founded the newspaper Jeune Turc which was subsidised by the Zionist executive and helped to promote the Zionist cause in the Turkish capital.†
Hochberg reported that many Arab nationalists, while uneasy about Jewish immigration, were apparently inclined to enter into some form of alliance with the Zionists.‡ According to Hochberg’s report, the Cairo committee of the Decentralisation Party was the one most likely to accept in principle Jewish immigration into Palestine and an Arab-Zionist entente. It was agreed between Hochberg and the leaders of the Decentralisation Party that the Arabs would tone down their attacks on Zionism, while the Zionists would publish sympathetic accounts of the Arab national movement in their own newspapers and in the European press. This agreement was regarded as the first step towards a wider and more comprehensive agreement to be reached at some future stage.
In June 1913 the first Arab congress was held in Paris. Again Hochberg, who was lobbying there on behalf of the Zionists, reported some goodwill. However, there was dissension within the Arab camp and Hochberg was given to understand that they would prefer an informal understanding since an open alliance would provoke the Turks and thus harm both the Arab and Zionist cause. Several Arab spokesmen, such as Ahmed Tabara and Ahmed Mukhtar Bayhoum, argued that there was enough room in Palestine for both Arabs and Jews, but others were more reserved in their attitude. It was argued that the Jews were not supporting the Arab national movement, and in the end the congress refrained altogether from commenting on the ‘Jewish issue’ in its resolutions. Following Hochberg’s initiative, Jacobson met Zahravi, who had acted as president of the congress, but no agreement was reached. The Turks had meanwhile dispatched the secretary of the ‘Union and Progress’ Party to Paris, who promised the Arabs that most of their demands would be fulfilled. As a direct result of this Arab interest in a pact with the Zionists dwindled rapidly.*
The negotiations did not, however, break down completely. The Arabs realised after a few months that they had been unduly optimistic in their appraisal of Turkish intentions and there was a renewed interest among them in negotiations with the Zionists. Dr Jacobson, after talking to various leaders in Constantinople, summarised Arab demands under three heads: they wanted financial help for Arab schools and for public works, and guarantees against the dispossession of the fellaheen. The Jews, on the other hand, insisted on the cessation of the anti-Zionist campaign in the Arab press and of the petitions against immigration and land purchase.† But the Arab leaders in Cairo and Beirut had only limited freedom of action, for the majority of the Palestinian Arab leaders wanted a clearer and firmer stand against Jewish immigration, and were in no mood for an entente. Torn in opposite directions, the Egyptian and Syrian Arab leaders were considering various policies vis-à-vis Zionism without for the time being adopting any of them. The Zionist executive and its representatives in the Turkish capital were equally undecided. They were eager in principle to reach an agreement with the Arabs but they did not want to arouse Turkish suspicions. Nor did they have any clear idea what exactly to offer the Arabs.‡
When Nahum Sokolow visited Beirut and Damascus in 1914, he was introduced to leading local nationalists, who expressed interest in a high level conference. It was decided that such a meeting should take place in July 1914 near Beirut. The attitude of the Turkish authorities was not clear. The governor of Beirut seems at first to have favoured direct Jewish-Arab talks, but later he advised the Zionist leaders against them. Preparations were made in Palestine for the meeting. The Jewish delegation was to include Kalvarisky, Dizengoff, Shabtai Levi, David Yellin and other leading figures. But the composition of the Arab delegation discouraged the Zionists. Of the ten Arab delegates appointed, only three were thought to be in favour of an Arab-Israeli entente. At the same time the list included several leading anti-Zionists such as the editor of Al Karmel. Nor did they like the agenda suggested by the Arabs, which put the onus on the Jews to prove that their intentions were not detrimental to the Arab cause. The Jewish delegates decided in their preliminary talks in Jaffa and Haifa to postpone the meeting with the Arabs, ‘but to do so in such a way as not to sever all contact with them’.* The outbreak of war a few weeks later put an end to these exchanges.
Was it lack of enthusiasm, and shortsightedness, on the part of Sokolow and the Palestinian Zionists which made them miss a great chance of reconciliation with the Arabs? The prospects for agreement were not exactly brilliant. A temporary agreement could have been reached if the Zionist leadership had been able and willing to invest substantially in the Arab national movement. The Zionists could have talked to Syrian and Egyptian leaders, but these were unable to enter any binding agreement against the desire of the Palestinian Arabs. Even if an agreement had been reached in 1914, it could not possibly have survived the storm of war. Once Turkish rule was overthrown, the struggle for Palestine would have become a free-for-all and the Arab-Zionist conflict would have reappeared with a vengeance.†
Dr Thon, one of the Zionist representatives in the 1914 negotiations, relates that an Arab contact (Nasif el Khaldi) told him at a critical juncture in their talks: ‘Gardez-vous bien, Messieurs les Sionistes, un gouvernment passe, mais un peuple reste.’‡ Sound advice but not really very novel. Four years earlier, at the time of the first elections to the Turkish parliament, Dr Thon’s superior, Arthur Ruppin, had received exactly the same instructions from the president of the Zionist World Organisation, David Wolffsohn, who wrote that the aspirations of the local population had to be taken into account: ‘The government party in Constantinople comes and goes but the Arab population of Palestine remains and it must be our first axiom to live in peace with it.’§
It is not even certain whether Dr Ruppin needed such advice, for he was less likely than other Zionist leaders to underrate the importance of the Arab question. He had explained to the Zionist executive more than once that the goodwill of the Ottoman government was not of greater importance to Zionism than the goodwill of the local Arabs: ‘We must not purchase the goodwill of the one by incurring the enmity of the other.’‖ In the presence of so much understanding, then, and even goodwill, why was it impossible to find a modus vivendi with the Arabs?
The conflict had various causes, although the one most frequently mentioned at the time was not in fact the most important. The number of fellaheen dispossessed was small. Only a tiny percentage of the land acquired by the Zionists was bought from small peasants; most of it came from the large landowners. One-quarter of all Jewish land in Palestine (the Esdraelon valley) was in fact acquired from one single absentee landlord, the Christian Arab Sursuq family which lived in Beirut. Various British committees of enquiry (such as the Shaw and Simpson committees) discovered in the 1920s that a large landless class was developing in the Arab sector and that more and more land was coming into a few hands. But this was not mainly the result of Jewish immigration. A similar tendency could also be observed in Egypt, and in other countries which were gradually coming into the orbit of the modern capitalist economy.
During the early years of Zionist settlement the Jewish land buyers showed no more concern than the Arab effendis for the fate of the fellaheen who were evicted. Only gradually did it dawn on them that, moral considerations quite apart, they were facing a potentially explosive political issue. Later on, greater care was taken to pay compensation or to find alternative employment for those who lost their land. But the effects of Jewish settlement on the Arab economy were minimal, as a statistical comparison shows: urbanisation in Palestine did not proceed at a faster rate than in the neighbouring Arab countries; Arab immigration into Palestine exceeded emigration from that country; and the birth rate rose more quickly than in the neighbouring countries, as did the living standards of the Arabs in the neighbourhood of the new Jewish settlements. These facts have frequently been quoted by Zionist authors, and they are irrefutable, as far as they go, both for the prewar period and the 1920s. If some Arabs suffered as a result of Jewish settlement, the number of those who benefited directly or indirectly was certainly greater. True, if Arab living standards improved, the Jewish settlers were still much better off, and the emergence of prosperous colonies must have caused considerable envy.
From a purely economic point of view, Arab resistance to Jewish immigration and settlement was inexplicable and unjustified. But then the economic aspect of the conflict was hardly ever of decisive importance. For that reason the Zionist hope, shared by Marxists and non-Marxists alike, that economic collaboration would act as a powerful stimulus towards political reconciliation, was quite unrealistic. The conflict was, of course, basically political in character, a clash between two national movements. The Arabs objected to Jewish immigration not so much because they feared proletarisation, as because they anticipated that the Jews intended one day to become masters of the country and that as a result they would be reduced to the status of a minority.
Only a handful of Zionists dreamed at the time of a Jewish state. The Turks had not the slightest intention of granting even a modest measure of independence to any part of the Ottoman empire. But it is quite immaterial in this context whether Zionism at the time really had plans for conquest – perhaps the Arabs were better judges of the capacity of the Jews and their ambitions than the Zionists themselves. The idea of a Jewish state had had a few protagonists from the very beginning. Zeev Dubnow, for instance, one of the early Bilu settlers, in 1882 wrote to his more famous brother, the historian, that the final aim was to restore one day the independence of Eretz Israel. To this end settlements were to be established, the land and industry were to pass into Jewish hands, and the rising generation was to be taught the use of arms.* Michael Halpern, also, one of the early shomrim, used to talk occasionally about the conquest of the country by legions of Jewish soldiers. But these were flights of fancy indulged in by a few individuals, and no one took them seriously at the time.
At the other extreme, and equally unrepresentative, there were a few advocates of cultural assimilation; with their return to the east the Jews were to shed their European influences and reacquire eastern customs and mental habits. The idea of the common Semitic origin of Jews and Arabs as a basis for close collaboration between the two peoples appeared early in the history of the Zionist movement. It figures in the writings of Epstein and of R. Renyamin (who worked in Ruppin’s office in Jaffa). Sokolow, in an interview with the Cairo newspaper Al Ahram in 1914, said that he hoped the Jews would draw near to Arab culture in every respect, to build up together a great Palestinian civilisation.† After the First World War, when the wisdom of the east was enjoying a fashionable success in Europe, M. Men Gavriel (Eugen Hoeflich), a Viennese writer who settled in Jerusalem, propagated this same idea in a series of books and articles.‡ Even a radical Socialist such as Fritz Sternberg, who subsequently became better known as a Marxist theoretician, attributed decisive importance to the common Semitic origins of the two peoples and to the spiritual affinity felt by the Jews for the Arabs: ‘The east European Jews are still almost orientals’, he wrote.* Even after the Second World War the concept of a Semitic federation in the Middle East still had some enthusiastic supporters in Israel.
It was not readily obvious what these ideologists were trying to prove, for even if a common racial or ethnic origin could have been demonstrated, they were over-optimistic in suggesting that it would have a strong political impact. Consanguinity is not necessarily a synonym for friendship, and the bitterest quarrels are traditionally those between members of one family. Most Zionist leaders of the day subscribed to the idea of Arab-Jewish brotherhood, or at any rate paid lip service to it, but they did so more often than not, it would appear, because of their inability to find any other ideological justification or a more tangible practical approach to improve relations with the Arabs. One of the dissidents was Richard Lichtheim, a leading German Zionist, who together with Jacobson represented the Zionist executive in Constantinople. In his reports to his superiors he agreed that it was vital to make every effort to win the goodwill of the Arabs, and to organise Jewish settlement in such a way as to serve Arab interests as well. But he had no illusions about the outcome of such a policy:
The Arabs are and will remain our natural opponents. They do not care a straw for the ‘joint semitic spirit’. I can only warn urgently against a historical or cultural chimera. They want orderly government, just taxes and political independence. The east of today aspires to no marvels other than American machinery and the Paris toilet. Of course the Arabs want to preserve their nation and cultivate their culture. What they need for this, however, is specifically European: money, organization, machinery. The Jew for them is a competitor who threatens their predominance in Palestine…. †
Writing many years later, Lichtheim stated that it had been clear to him even before 1914 that the national aspirations of the Zionists and the Palestinian Arabs were irreconcilable.‡
Ruppin, on the other hand, continued to believe in a bi-national state. He would despair of the possibility of ever realising the Zionist idea, he still declared at the Zionist congress in Vienna in 1925, if there were no possibility of doing justice to the national interests of both Jews and Arabs. But soon after doubts set in. He realised that all Palestinian Arabs were opposed to Zionism, and if any solution of the Palestinian problem were made contingent on the agreement of the Arabs it would imply the cessation of immigration and of Jewish economic development. In December 1931 he sadly wrote to Victor Jacobson, his old friend from the Constantinople days: ‘What we can get today from the Arabs – we don’t need. What we need – we can’t get. What the Arabs are willing to give us is at most minority rights as in eastern Europe. But we have already had enough experience of the situation in eastern Europe …’.*
Politics apart, relations between Jews and Arabs were not too bad in pre-1914 Palestine, considering the great cultural and social differences between the communities. They were neighbours, and as among neighbours all over the world there was cooperation as well as conflict. Among the old residents, notably the Sefardi community, Arabic was for many the native language. Children grew up in the same street, Jews were in business together with Arabs, some wrote poems in Arabic or articles for the Arab press. There were even, at a limited level, social contacts. Among the new immigrants, too, there was considerable interest in things Arab. The Jewish watchmen, the shomrim, often adopted the Arab headgear (kefiya), and went out of their way to make friends in the neighbouring villages. Arab colloquialisms entered the Hebrew language, though not usually on the highest literary level. With Moshe Smilansky’s Hawadja Musa, the Arab theme entered Hebrew literature well before the First World War. His short stories about the fellaheen and their world, written with great feeling and sympathy, often idealised their way of life. The Zionists respected the Arabs as human beings, regarding them as distant, if rather backward and ineffectual cousins. There was certainly no hatred on their part. But being totally absorbed in their own national movement, they did not recognize that their cousins, too, were undergoing a national revival, and they sometimes seemed to deny them the right to do so.
In the deliberations of the Zionist executive various aspects of the Arab question were discussed from time to time. Ruppin, in his report to the eleventh Zionist congress, noted that the Zionists had to make up for a great deal they had neglected, and to correct the errors they had committed. ‘It is of course quite useless to content ourselves with merely assuring the Arabs that we are coming into the country as their friends. We must prove this by our deeds.’* At the previous congress, Shlomo Kaplanski, one of the leaders of the Labour Zionists, had stressed the necessity of a rapprochement with the Arabs. He did not believe in a lasting conflict between the Zionists and the fellaheen and was confident that an understanding with the democratic forces in the Arab world – though not perhaps with the effendis – could be reached.†
But Ruppin had no recipe for making friends among the Arabs and had to resort to the old arguments: Zionist colonisation had brought great material benefits to the Arabs, they had learned modern agricultural methods from the Jews, Jewish doctors had helped to stamp out epidemics among them. Ruppin was aware that the utmost tact and caution had to be used when buying Arab land so that no harsh results would follow. At one stage, in May 1911, he suggested in a memorandum to the Zionist executive a limited population transfer. The Zionists would buy land near Aleppo and Homs in northern Syria for the resettlement of the Arab peasants who had been dispossessed in Palestine. But this was vetoed because it was bound to increase Arab suspicions about Zionist intentions.‡
Although Dr Ruppin’s scheme was rejected, the idea of a population transfer preoccupied other members of the Zionist executive. In 1912 Leo Motzkin, dissenting from the views of Ahad Ha’am (who had by that time reached deeply pessimistic conclusions about the Arab attitude, based on the belief that they would never accept a Jewish majority), suggested that the Arab-Jewish problem should be considered in a wider framework: there were extensive uncultivated lands around Palestine belonging to Arabs; perhaps they would be willing to settle there with the money realised from selling their land to the Zionists?§ Again in 1914 Motzkin and Sokolow seem to have played with the idea of a population transfer. Its most consistent advocate was Israel Zangwill, the Anglo-Jewish writer, who in a series of speeches and articles during and after the First World War criticised the Zionists (with whom he had parted company at the time of the Uganda conflict) for ignoring the fact that Palestine was not empty. The concept of an ‘Arab trek’ to their own Arabian state played a central part in his scheme. Of course, the Arabs would not be compelled to do so, it would all be agreed upon in a friendly and amicable spirit. Zangwill pointed to many such migrations which had taken place in history, including the migration of the Boers to the Transvaal: why should not the Arabs realise that it was in their best interests? They would be fully compensated by the Zionists. Zangwill later explained to a friend that he expected that in the postwar world, reconstituted on a basis of love and reason, the Arab inhabitants of Palestine, for whose kinsmen, after years of oppression, a new state would be set up in Arabia, would naturally sympathise with the ideal of the still more unfortunate nation of Israel and would be magnanimous enough to leave these few thousand square miles to the race which had preserved its dream of them for two thousand years. Zangwill foresaw two states rising side by side; ‘Otherwise, he did not see that a Jewish state could arise at all, but only a state of friction.’*
But the idea of a population transfer was never official Zionist policy. Ben Gurion emphatically rejected it, saying that even if the Jews were given the right to evict the Arabs they would not make use of it.† Most thought at that time that there would be sufficient room in Palestine for both Jews and Arabs following the industrialisation of the country and the introduction of intensive methods of agriculture. Since no one before 1914 expected the disintegration of the Turkish empire in the foreseeable future, the question of political autonomy did not figure in their thoughts. They were genuinely aggrieved that the Arabs were not more grateful for the economic benefits they had come to enjoy as the result of Jewish immigration and settlement. They thought that the growth of Arab nationalism and anti-Zionist attacks were the result of the activities of individual villains, the effendis (who were annoyed because the Jews had spoiled the fellaheen by paying them higher wages), and the Christian Arabs (who had to demonstrate that they were as good patriots as their Muslim fellow citizens).
When an Arab national movement developed in Palestine after 1908, the Zionists did not at first attach much importance to it because it consisted of very few people who, moreover, were divided into several factions and parties. It is not difficult to draw up a substantial list of Zionist sins of omission and commission before 1914. They should have devoted far more attention to the Arab question, and been more cautious in land purchases. Many more should have learned Arabic and the customs of their neighbours, and they should have taken greater care not to offend their feelings. They should have accepted Ottoman citizenship and have tried to make friends with Arabs on a personal level, following the example of Kalvarisky. There were possibilities of influencing Arab public opinion, of explaining that the Jews were not coming to dominate the Arabs. But the means put at the disposal of Dr Ruppin and his colleagues in Jaffa for this purpose were woefully insufficient. Much more publicity should have been given, for instance, to Wolffsohn’s statement at the eleventh Zionist congress that the Jews were not looking for a state of their own in Palestine but merely for a Heimstaette. Whether this would have dispelled Arab fears is less certain, for they worried not so much about the Zionist presence as about their future plans. In this respect Arab apprehension was not unfounded. The Zionists, on the other hand, did not foresee that as a result of growing prosperity the number of Palestinian Arabs would rapidly grow. They did not face the fact that the Palestinian Arabs belonged to a people of many millions which was by no means indifferent to the future of the Holy Land.
The Palestinian Arabs who had tolerated (and despised) the local Jews* were genuinely afraid of the aggressive new immigrants who seemed to belong to an altogether different breed. They resented them for the same reasons that substantial mass immigration has always and everywhere produced tension: peasants were afraid of change, shopkeepers and professional men feared competition, religious dignitaries, whether Christian or Muslim, were anything but friendly towards the Jews for traditional, doctrinal reasons. Arab anti-Zionist propaganda after 1908 was, of course, highly exaggerated. The economic situation of the Arabs had certainly not deteriorated as a result of the influx of these strangers, and they overrated the Zionist potential. The Jews had neither the money nor the intention to buy up all the land (as Arab propaganda claimed), to dispossess and proletarianise all Arab peasants. Their political ambitions certainly did not extend to the Nile and the Euphrates.
But the Arabs were correct in the essential point, namely that the Jews wanted to establish a position of strength in Palestine, through their superior organisation and economic power, and that they intended to become eventually a majority. They sensed this logic of events more correctly than the Zionists themselves, who did not think in terms of political power and lacked the instinct for it. The early Zionists were all basically pacifists. The idea that it might be impossible to establish a state without bloodshed seems never to have occurred to them. The first to raise the question was a non-Zionist, the sociologist Gumplowicz, in a letter to Herzl: ‘You want to found a state without bloodshed? Where did you ever see that? Without violence and without guile, simply by selling and buying shares?’*
But even the most exemplary behaviour on the part of the Zionists would not have affected the real source of the conflict, namely, that the Jews were looking in Palestine for more than a cultural centre. However effective their propaganda, however substantial the material benefits that would have accrued to the Arabs from the Jewish settlement, it would still have left unanswered the decisive question – to whom was the country eventually to belong? It was more than a little naïve to put the blame for Arab anti-Zionism on professional inciters, frustrated Arab notables, and the notorious urban riff-raff, for there was a basic clash between two national movements. Full identification on the part of the Zionists with the aims of pan-Arabism from an early date would perhaps have helped to blunt the sharpness of the conflict. But this was of course not in accordance with the aims of the Jewish national revival. Nor would it have induced the Arabs to receive the Zionist immigrants with open arms. The Arab world was already plagued by the presence of religious and ethnic minorities and the conflicts between them. Any further increase in their number and strength would have only added to its anxieties. Given the character of the Zionist movement, with its basic demands (immigration and settlement), and given also the natural fears of the Palestinian Arabs, it is impossible even with the benefit of hindsight to point with any degree of conviction to an alternative Zionist policy, even before the Balfour Declaration, which might have prevented conflict.†
Jews and Arabs During the War
All political activity ceased in Palestine with the outbreak of war in 1914. Young Jews of military age joined the Turkish army, those of enemy nationality were expelled. During the later stages of the war the inhabitants of many Jewish settlements were forcibly evacuated by the Turkish authorities. But for the intervention of the German government, Djemal Pasha, the Turkish commander, would have transferred the inhabitants of Jerusalem east of the Jordan and removed the Jews from southern Palestine altogether. The Arab national movement also suffered major setbacks with the arrest of many of its leaders and the execution of some of them, accused by the Turks of separatism and treason. The centre of the political scene, as far as both Arab and Jewish national aspirations were concerned, shifted to London during the war years. Certain British statesmen (such as Kitchener) had favoured the idea of establishing an independent Arab state even before 1914, and there had been contracts, albeit vague and inconclusive in character, between the British and Hussain Ibn Ali, the sherif of Mecca.
After the outbreak of war the eastern question again became topical and policy planners were commissioned to prepare memoranda and blueprints for a postwar settlement in the Near East. British diplomats talked to the French and Russians. The Sykes-Picot agreement envisaged a division of spheres of influence between Britain and France. Palestine under this scheme was to fall into the so-called brown zone, which was to be under international control. Specific promises to the Arabs were made by Sir Henry McMahon, the chief British representative in Egypt. In a letter in October 1915 the idea of an independent Arab state was mooted from which only the Syrian coastal area west of Damascus, Homs, Hamma and Aleppo was to be excluded. Arab spokesmen have maintained ever since that Palestine was thus promised to them, and that this promise was subsequently broken. McMahon himself denied this, as did an investigation committee appointed in 1937. The British argued that the agreement was based on the understanding that the Arabs would rise against the Turks in both the Arab peninsula and Syria, and that since the Arab revolt in Syria never materialised, they were under no obligation to carry out their part of the bargain. However, the whole deal was so vaguely defined that it was bound to give rise to disputes, in the same way that Britain’s promise to the Jews, the Balfour Declaration, was open to more than one interpretation.
How did Zionism view its relationship with the Arabs in the framework of the new order likely to emerge in Palestine after the war? In a detailed memorandum for the new administration of Palestine, prepared in 1916, the Zionist leaders demanded equality of rights for all nationalities, autonomy in exclusively Jewish matters, official recognition of the Jewish population as a separate national unit, and recognition of the Hebrew language as equal and parallel to Arabic. The Zionists’ main concern was to gain British support for their aspirations. Conditions, as Weizmann said in a speech in Manchester in May 1917, were not yet ripe for a Jewish state, and relations with the Arabs therefore did not figure very highly on the list of Zionist priorities. A non-Jewish supporter of Zionism, Herbert Sidebotham, defined the aim of Zionism in July 1917 as the establishment of a Jewish state, one whose dominant national character should be as Jewish as the dominant national character of England was English – a definition to be repeated by Weizmann at the Versailles Peace Conference when asked what was meant by a Jewish National Home. But Weizmann also said on the very same occasion that the Zionists could not go into the country ‘like Junkers’; they could not afford to drive out other people.* The first part of his definition was frequently quoted and criticised in later years. Was he not aware of the existence of the Arabs? There is evidence that Weizmann’s closest collaborators certainly realised that the Arab question would be of great importance and urgency after the war. As Harry Sacher wrote to Leon Simon in June 1917: ‘At the back of my mind there is firmly fixed the recognition that even if all our political schemes turn out in the way we desire, the Arabs will turn out our most tremendous problem. I don’t want us in Palestine to deal with the Arabs as the Poles deal with the Jews. … That kind of chauvinism might poison the whole yishuv.’†
Immediate Arab reaction to the Balfour Declaration was not one of unmitigated hostility. Like the Zionists, they were perhaps not quite aware what it would amount to in practice. In the great Zionist public meeting in Covent Garden on 2 December 1917, celebrating the Balfour Declaration, two Arab speakers brought cordial greetings on behalf of their people. Weizmann, speaking in Manchester one week later, said that if there had been misunderstandings between Arabs and Jews in the past, this was all over now. The tension had been created by the deadening hand of the Turks, playing off one part of the population against the other. The attitude of the leading Arab newspapers of Cairo, such as Mukattam and Ahram, was surprisingly friendly, the former declaring that the Arabs had nothing to fear from a Jewish state; the British government had after all only recognised a historical right of which no one could have deprived the Jews.‡
Weizmann and Faisal
King Hussain’s newspaper in Mecca extended a cordial welcome to the returning exiles, ‘the original sons of the country from which their Arab brethren would benefit materially as well as spiritually’.§ To cement the new Arab-Jewish friendship, Dr Weizmann went to Aqaba in May 1918 to meet Faisal, Hussain’s son, who assured him of his goodwill towards Zionist aspirations. Like Weizmann, he put the blame for past misunderstanding on the Turks, whose intrigues, he said, had stirred up jealousy between the Jewish colonists and the Arab peasants. On various occasions, as at a banquet given in honour of Lord Rothschild in London, and at several meetings with Jewish leaders, Faisal claimed that he shared Weizmann’s ideals, that no true Arab could be afraid of Jewish nationalism, that there should be the most cordial goodwill between the two peoples. In his agreement with Weizmann, signed on 3 January 1919, he renounced any claim to Palestine, which was to become the territory of the Jews, separate from the new Arab state. There was a postscript in which Faisal announced that this agreement would be valid only if the Arabs obtained their independence as formulated by him in an earlier memorandum directed to the British. The document was thus not a binding treaty, but it certainly showed that Faisal clearly wanted the Zionists as allies during and after the peace conferences and that he was willing to accept unlimited Jewish immigration and settlement. His attitude towards a Jewish state was contradictory: if the Jews desired to establish a state and claim sovereign rights, he wrote on one occasion, he foresaw and feared serious dangers and conflicts.* But when Felix Frankfurter, a leading member of the American Zionist delegation in Paris, asked for a clarification, Faisal reiterated that the Arabs looked with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement, and that they found its proposals moderate and proper. The Arabs would do their best to help them through: ‘We are working together for a reformed and revived near east, and our two movements complete one another. The Jewish movement is national and not imperialist … and there is room in Syria for us both.’ Yet a few months later Faisal retreated from his pro-Zionist stand. He was, he said, in agreement with a moderate leader such as Weizmann, that there should be a ‘small infiltration’ of Jews into Palestine – say fifteen hundred a year – in such a way that the Zionists would one day constitute a sub-province of the new Arab kingdom. But he did not agree at all with those Zionists who wanted a Jewish state: ‘We Arabs cannot yield Palestine.’ They would fight to the last ditch against Palestine being other than part of the kingdom. They would not accept Jewish supremacy in the land.†
What caused Faisal’s change of heart? Arab sources, to whom needless to say the incident was highly embarrassing, have provided various explanations. The king himself later said about the Frankfurter letter that he did not remember having written anything of the kind. Arab commentators have suggested that the documents were forged by the Zionists, or that Lawrence, who acted as interpreter on various occasions, either wilfully misled the king or did not know Arabic sufficiently well, or that the Zionists came to the meetings with prepared drafts and somehow tricked the king into signing documents whose significance he did not understand.* It seems more likely that Faisal agreed to flirt with the Zionist cause because he thought the Jews could help him to strengthen his claim on Syria. He was not well informed about the situation in Palestine, in which he took only a limited interest. The British wanted him to talk to Weizmann, and Faisal complied because he was under a heavy obligation to his protectors. His was, in the words of M. Merlman, the unenviable role of the moderate leader in a period of rising intransigence;† when he realised that inside Palestine opposition to Zionism was much more formidable than he had believed, he decided to beat a hasty retreat. Later critics of the Zionist executive have asserted that Weizmann and his friends did not try hard enough at the time to win the confidence and friendship of the Arabs. Yet an anti-Zionist source reports that King Faisal was continually pestered by Weizmann: ‘What does this man want? I would do anything to get rid of him. He tires me out by his long speeches.’‡
Zionists everywhere attached tremendous importance to Faisal’s declaration and regarded it as the beginning of a new era in Arab-Jewish relations. Ruppin noted that they had tried to establish contact with the Arabs for a long time, but ‘we always returned disappointed and without hope’. There had been no willingness on the other side to discuss matters of principle.§ After Faisal’s solemn declaration, he expected a basic change. A few Jewish observers of the Palestinian scene dissented from this optimistic appraisal, realising that the Palestinian Arabs were not at all happy about the Balfour Declaration. When the Arabs sensed that many members of the British military administration shared their misgivings, they began to protest openly against ‘that terrible injustice which the whole world will regret’. Early in 1919 leaflets were distributed in Jerusalem and Jaffa calling on all Arabs to resist the Zionist danger. The Jews were compared in these manifestos to poisonous snakes. No nation in the world had tolerated them and Palestinian Arabs would defend their homeland to the very end against any Zionist encroachment.* Even earlier, a small Arab terrorist organisation, the Black Hand, had been founded, and in February 1919 the first meeting took place in Jaffa of the Muslim-Christian Association which became the spearhead of anti-Zionist resistance.
In January 1919 an all-Arab Palestine conference asked for the repudiation of the promise that had been given to the Jews to establish a national home in Palestine, a demand which figured prominently in the traditional Nebi Mussa celebrations in Jerusalem in 1919 and 1920. Mussa Kassem, the Arab mayor of Jerusalem, marched at the head of an anti-Zionist demonstration in February 1920. The issue was kept alive in the deliberations and resolutions of four more Arab congresses between July 1919 and May 1921, out of which the Arab higher executive emerged. This body served up to the end of the British mandate as the supreme representative of the Arabs. An Arab delegation headed by Mussa Kassem went to London in 1921 and protested to Mr Churchill, then colonial secretary, against the ‘flood of alien Jewish immigration’, against the recognition of Hebrew as an official language, against the ‘Zionist leanings’ of Sir Herbert Samuel, the first high commissioner, against a concession given to Pinhas Rutenberg to establish an electricity company, and against a great many other alleged injustices.
Arab resistance did not come as a total surprise to the architects of the Jewish national home. Balfour wrote in 1919 that he did not think Zionism would hurt the Arabs, but that of course they would never say they wanted it. The Balfour Declaration had been imprecise in wording but the general assumption at the time was that at some future date a Jewish state would emerge in Palestine. Churchill reckoned that it would have three to four million inhabitants. The general consensus was that Syria and Arabia were to be given to the Arabs, and Palestine to the Jews, and the Palestinian Arabs would have to accept this. As Balfour noted, ‘Zionism right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions and in present needs and future hopes of far profounder import than the desires of 700,000 Arabs’. But those who were to carry out these policy directives in Cairo and Jerusalem were not at all in sympathy with such views. Local officials tried hard, and not without success, to whittle down the Balfour Declaration. In 1922 it was first decided that Jewish immigration should never exceed the economic capacity of the country to absorb new arrivals,* and in the 1930s it became axiomatic in British policy in Palestine that the building of a Jewish national home was predicated on Arab consent, which if carried to its logical conclusion would amount to the repudiation of the Balfour Declaration.
These were the disappointments of later years. During the early period Zionists were generally optimistic about relations with the Arabs, reckoning that they would calm down after the first flush of excitement and accept the Jewish national home. One of the few exceptions was Ahad Ha’am, forever playing Cassandra. He gave warning against the premature blowing of messianic trumpets to announce the redemption. According to the prophet of cultural Zionism, the Jews in Palestine should not press on too quickly because the conditions for success were not yet ripe. They should not forget that for the Arabs, too, Palestine was a national home.† More acute were the views of Ruppin, a realist, fully aware of the abyss dividing the new immigrants and the Arabs.‡ But Ruppin saw no necessary clash of interests between the two peoples: ten million dunam of unused land were still available, twice as much as the Zionists would need for their colonisation within the next thirty years. Ruppin expected the immigration of one to two million Jews within that span of time; Weizmann thought sixty to seventy thousand would come each year; Motzkin mentioned a figure of one hundred thousand; and Sokolow, the one least involved in practical work, spoke of ‘five million in twenty-five years’. In fact no more than thirty thousand Jews emigrated to Palestine during the first five years after the end of the war.
Ruppin thought that Zionism would be able to play a major part in building up the union of Arab states. He envisaged, for instance, a currency union between the new Arab countries and Palestine. With the improvement of the Arab educational system they would perhaps reach the Jewish cultural level within the next generation, which, for all one knew, would be the prelude to cultural assimilation.§ David Eder, an Anglo-Jewish psychoanalyst who had been enlisted by Weizmann to serve as the first diplomatic representative of the Zionist executive in Jerusalem, was equally optimistic and foresaw an era of close cooperation leading towards the integration of the Jewish national home with the federated states of the Middle East. He formulated Zionist policy under a number of heads: Jews must not segregate themselves from the Arabs; Tel Aviv must not become a symbol of Jewish exclusiveness; Jews should deal with the Arab world as a whole and show the same respect for Arab national aspirations as they demanded for their own; and as an oriental people, they should abandon their pretensions to be Europeans.*
The riots of 1920-1 shocked the yishuv, causing a hardening of attitudes in some circles and rethinking in others. No one was willing to forgive the murder of Brenner, the noted Jewish Socialist writer, and of Trumpeldor, the hero of generations of halutzim. Appearing before the royal commission enquiring into the causes of the disturbances, Eder declared that there could be only one national home in Palestine, no equality in partnership but only Jewish predominance as soon as their numbers had increased sufficiently. Jabotinsky suggested the immediate establishment of a Jewish armed force to cope with any future emergency. But there was also greater readiness to reconsider what had gone wrong in relations with the neighbouring people. This emerged most clearly perhaps in the reports from Palestine of Chaim Arlosoroff, at the early age of twenty-two already a respected Zionist leader. Writing from Jaffa in late May 1921, he criticised those of his colleagues who put the entire blame on the British high commissioner, and who thought that a ‘strong hand’ was all that was needed.† They had not realised that the Arab national movement was an important force which should not be belittled even if it did not exactly conform to European criteria of what a national movement should be. Arlosoroff saw a great danger in pursuing an ostrich-like policy. There was only one way out of the dilemma – a policy of peace and reconciliation, even though it seemed not at all easy to accept such advice while passions were still running high. Robert Weltsch, a close confidant of Weizmann and editor of the Jüdische Rundschau, was even more outspoken in his warnings to his fellow Zionists: if the views on the Arab question held by many of them (especially Palestinians) were to prevail, then the two nations would never meet and this would mark the burial of the movement. It had been one of the dreadful consequences of the First World War that so many people had drawn the wrong conclusions from the events of recent years, namely that one could assert oneself in the world only by violence. In the short run this was the easier way out, but it was bound to lead Zionism into an impasse.* Weltsch and a few of his friends provoked the first postwar Zionist congress by asking point blank: did the Zionist movement want war with the Arabs or not?
His criticism was rejected with indignation by the Zionist leadership. The Karlsbad congress solemnly proclaimed the desire of the Jewish people to ‘live with the Arab people in friendship and mutual respect, and together with them to develop the homeland common to both into a flourishing community which would ensure to each of its peoples an undisturbed national development’.† The formula was not as sweeping as the one proposed by Buber, but in the mood prevailing after the riots of 1921 not much more could be expected. Buber had criticised Weizmann for not doing enough, for negotiating only with Faisal. The president of the Zionist Organisation replied that Faisal was the symbol of Arab independence. It would be ideal if the movement had offices in all important Arab centres to maintain contact with Arab leaders. But he knew in advance that his colleagues on the finance committee would never make the necessary allocations. So far its Arab policy had cost the Zionist movement £8,000 and it had got what it could reasonably expect for the money. (Weizmann was replying to a Dutch delegate, Nehemia de Lieme, who had asked, ‘As a businessman I want to know – how much does it – the Arab policy – cost us?’) At the same congress Sokolow talked in cultural-philosophical terms about the traditions and historical recollections common to Arabs and Jews and stressed how popular friendship with the Arabs was in Zionist circles.‡
The next congress (Karlsbad, 1923) reiterated the resolution adopted two years earlier, adding that the awakening of the orient was one of the most important factors in world politics, and that the Jewish people would integrate itself into this process.* Meanwhile the situation in Palestine had become much calmer. Two years later still, at the fourteenth congress in Vienna, Weizmann announced that relations with the Arabs had improved and that Palestine was now the quietest part of the Middle East. Sokolow foresaw the day when Zionists and Arabs would sit down together at one common Palestinian congress. Meanwhile, the executive would refrain from doing anything which would make cooperation between Jews and Arabs impossible (Brodetsky). Ben Gurion thought that as an oriental people the Jews ought to follow with deep sympathy the national revival of other oriental peoples. Weizmann said that the Near East should be opened to Jewish initiative, that they should be able to make their contribution to the development of the area in real friendship and collaboration with the Arabs. There was not the slightest doubt among the Zionist leaders that what they were doing in Palestine was right, fully in accordance with the Jewish sense of justice – ‘otherwise we would never have undertaken it’ (Sokolow).†
There were discordant notes. Most official speakers at Zionist congresses stressed the high moral and intellectual qualities of the Arabs (‘moderation, diligence, purity of family life’ – Ruppin), and reiterated time and time again their desire for Arab-Jewish friendship. But these statements committed no one in particular; they were declamatory and had no practical implications. The elected representatives of Palestinian Jewry, the Temporary Council, certainly showed little initiative in this respect: a contemporary observer wrote that it did nothing to create an atmosphere of mutual understanding, which would have demonstrated the political maturity of the Jewish community.‡ The Palestinian Jewish leadership was weak and ineffectual and it would no doubt have failed to achieve this aim even if it had been given far higher priority. But not all Palestinians were optimistic. Some agreed with Jabotinsky that one day perhaps the Arabs would reconcile themselves to the existence of a great and growing yishuv but there was no good reason to assume that this would happen in the near future. The Palestinians’ view was expressed by Glickson when he criticised Weizmann in 1923 for having declared that the mass of the fellaheen were friendly towards the Jews: ‘We long for that day to come – but at present these are just phrases and harmful illusions.’ Even Berl Katznelson, the much respected labour leader, was much more uncompromising in this matter than the European Zionist leaders, who, far from Palestine and its cruel realities, elaborated well-meaning schemes. Many of the Palestinians felt instinctively that there was a basic clash of interests between them and the Arabs. This is not to say that they altogether despaired of living in peace with the Arabs or expected to be in a state of perpetual war with their neighbours. But they were more likely than European Zionists to believe in a policy of force, of faits accomplis. In their eyes the Arabs were highly volatile, easily excitable people, but once the yishuv had grown stronger and more numerous, the Arabs would gradually accept them.
Events between 1921 and 1929 seemed to justify these assumptions: the Arabs were relatively quiet, and there were regular political and social contacts between Zionist and Arab leaders in Jerusalem, Amman, Cairo and elsewhere. According to Colonel Kisch there was abundant evidence not only of persistent efforts by the Zionist executive to reach an understanding with the Arabs, but also of the existence of a large body of moderate Arab opinion ready to follow a lead from the mandatory government.*
Kisch was a British officer with a distinguished war record, sober, unemotional, less given to outbursts than his east European colleagues, less likely to accuse the mandatory government of betrayal and bad faith at the slightest provocation. His criticism of British policy, therefore, carried a great deal of conviction: ‘I have no doubt whatever’, he wrote, ‘that had it not been for the mufti’s abuse of his immense powers and the toleration of that abuse by the government over a period of fifteen years, an Arab-Jewish understanding within the framework of the mandate would long since have been reached.’† Kisch was referring to Haj Amin el Hussaini, scion of one of Palestine’s leading families, who had been made mufti by Sir Herbert Samuel in 1921 despite the fact that he had been prominently involved in the first wave of anti-Jewish riots. Haj Amin remained till 1937 the spiritual leader of the Palestinian Arabs, and during most of the time had the blessing of the mandatory government, despite his extremist political activities. He bears much of the responsibility for the riots in 1929 and the civil war in 1936-9. But it is unduly optimistic to assume that but for the appointment of Haj Amin and his activities, Arab-Jewish relations would have followed a very different course. Sooner or later the extremist element would have prevailed in the Arab leadership, with or without the support of the British high commissioner.
The Arab list of grievances was a long one: Palestine was a small country, a sheikh from Beer Sheva told a British enquiry commission in 1929, it could not possibly hold the number of Jews brought into the country.* ‘There remains nothing for the Arabs in this country except to die or leave the country.’ Such alarmist declarations were not altogether novel. Similar fears had been voiced occasionally even before 1914. So long as the Turks ruled Palestine, such fears were probably not widespread or deeply rooted, but by the 1920s the situation had changed and there was general concern about the effects of Zionist settlement. There were complaints that the Zionists displaced Arab workers at the ports of Jaffa and Haifa, and from the orange groves, that the Jewish trade unions consistently followed a policy of Jewish labour only (‘Conquest of Labour’). Arab spokesmen pointed to the fact that according to the constitution of the Jewish National Fund, land once acquired could never be resold to Arabs, nor could Arabs be employed on such land. The Arab had benefited neither from the import of Jewish capital nor from the extension of social services or education.
The Zionists dismissed these arguments as of no substance or consequence. It is a moot point whether there was any direct connection between Jewish immigration and settlement and the situation of the Arabs. Between 1924 and 1926 almost fifty thousand new immigrants entered the country, yet these were peaceful years in Arab Jewish relations, whereas the riots of 1929 followed a period during which the number of Jewish emigrants from Palestine had actually exceeded the number of new immigrants. But 1925-6 had been years of prosperity which were followed by the slump and the widespread unemployment of 1927-8. Arab wages were twice or three times as high in Palestine as in Syria or Iraq, but Arab workers were likely to compare their income and standard of living not with those of their compatriots in other countries, but with the considerably higher wages paid to Jewish workers. ‘Together we shall rise, or go under’, Ben Gurion declared in 1924, drawing attention to the discrepancy in wages and working hours between Arab and Jewish workers. The Arabs were working ten to twelve hours a day and earned fifteen piasters; Jewish workers had won the eight-hour working day and a daily wage of thirty piasters.* Admittedly it was a complex situation. If Jewish orange grove owners refused to employ Arabs they were bound to be charged with chauvinism, but if they employed Arabs they were accused of exploiting cheap labour. When the Histadrut, the federation of Jewish trade unions, attempted to organise Arab labour it was attacked for interfering in Arab politics. When it refrained from doing so it was charged with wilfully neglecting the interests of the Arab worker. When the Histadrut Arab-language newspaper called on the Arab workers to make common cause with the Jews against western imperialism, against gunboat policy and economic exploitation, it was denounced by Arabs to the mandatory government for Communist incitement.† If it refrained from attacking imperialism this was interpreted as a sign that the Zionists were utterly dependent on British bayonets.
The ‘Communist peril’ was frequently invoked by Arab spokesmen in the 1920s and 1930s. Arab opposition to Zionism was said to have been aroused largely by the ‘Bolshevik principles’ of the Zionist immigrants. The official Palestine Arab delegation which went to London in 1922 to demand the abrogation of the Balfour declaration protested specifically against the influx of alien Jews, ‘many of them of a Bolshevik revolutionary type’. M.M.M. Togannam wrote: ‘The Arabs were irritated … by the Bolshevik principles which the new arrivals bring with them … this has produced an effect on the population not by the success of its propaganda but by the genuine uneasiness which it inspired among the Arabs, especially the poorer classes’.‡ Jamal Hussaini, secretary of the Arab Higher Committee, declared in his testimony before the royal commission in 1937: ‘As to the Communistic principles and ideas of Jewish immigrants, most repugnant to the religion, customs and ethical principles of this country, which are imported and disseminated, I need not dwell upon them as these ideas are well known to have been imported by the Jewish community’.§ The argument that Arab opposition to Zionism is caused by the right-wing, reactionary and imperialist character of the movement is of comparatively recent date, appearing first in the late 1950s.
The basic Arab fears were, of course, political in character. Hence their insistent demand for representative government. But on this the Zionist movement was quite unwilling to compromise, for it would have resulted in the cessation of immigration and settlement. According to the official Zionist formula developed in the 1920s, Palestine belonged on the one hand to the Arabs living there, and on the other to the whole Jewish people, not just to that part of it resident in Palestine. Even left-wing Zionists such as Kaplanski maintained that the Arabs had not the sole right of possession. From the Socialist point of view, he wrote, the Jews also had a very good claim – the right of the only landless people of the earth, the right of the dispossessed masses.* Kaplanski and other left-wing Zionists regarded the conflict as largely artificial, for in their view the labouring Arab masses could only benefit from Jewish colonisation. Inasmuch as the Arab national movement was anti-Zionist it was simply misguided, Kaplanski maintained. The struggle of the Arab ruling class for national independence was a convenient cloak behind which they exploited the toiling Arab masses. There was no basic difference between this approach and the official view of Mapai as developed by such ideologists as Berl Katznelson: the Arab national movement was not truly anti-imperialist, it lacked deep social roots, it was basically xenophobic in inspiration, and it was rooted in the desire of the native middle class and intelligentsia to take the place of the foreigners who monopolised the leading positions in government, national economy, and society in general.
This raises an issue of wider significance: the almost constant misjudgment of the Arab national movement by most Zionist leaders. They were firmly convinced that the broad masses of the Arab population had no real interest in politics, that their main concern was to improve their standard of living. In view of their backwardness and ignorance these masses were not able to form a judgment of their own and were therefore easy prey for ambitious politicians. The Zionist leaders were forever seeing a hidden hand behind the anti-Zionist movement. French and British agents were blamed in the early 1920s, Italian and German fascism in the 1930s. The riots of 1921 and 1929 were explained in terms of religious fanaticism in the usual antisemitic tradition: was it a coincidence that the old yishuv was among the main victims of the 1929 attacks, men and women from Hebron and Safed born and brought up side by side with the Arabs and on friendly terms with them? Even the more sophisticated Zionist ideologists were usually inclined to deny that the Arabs had been able to develop a national consciousness. Arab attacks were described as mere acts of theft and murder carried out by criminal elements among the Arab population or by a mob incited by agitators devoid of moral scruples.*
History was in a way repeating itself: European Zionism had criticised the ‘assimilationists’, not without justice, for their inability to analyse antisemitism objectively, referring instead to the evil character and base personal motives of its advocates. And just as the assimilationist Jews were inherently incapable of making an objective assessment of antisemitism as a political and social phenomenon, so the Zionists were unable to understand and explain Arab nationalism realistically and unemotionally. It was not uncommon for Zionist extremists to describe the Arab rioters as ‘the scum from Hebron, pederasts from Nablus, bastards, hooligans and gangsters from Jaffa. The Mosque of Omar where they congregated was transformed into a murderer’s den.’† There was admittedly a great deal of provocation: Palestinian Arab newspapers at the time fairly regularly reprinted the standard propaganda material from European antisemitic newspapers. Miraat ash Shark (to give but one example) reported that Jews were distributing poisoned sweets, chocolates and dried figs in the Arab markets to kill Arab children.‡
Among the very few Zionists who kept a relatively calm and detached outlook on the Arab national movement were A.A. Aordon, the apostle of Tolstoyan Socialism, and David Ben Gurion. Gordon saw nothing surprising in the fact that the Arab movement was headed by effendis, bourgeois and intelligentsia. These social groups had, after all, provided the leadership of national movements during their early phases almost everywhere. But did this imply that the Arab national movement lacked legitimacy? Only doctrinaire Socialists could expect that the Arab working class would eventually join Labour Zionism in the struggle against the effendis.§
In Ben Gurion’s view the one decisive criterion was whether a national movement could enlist mass support. The Arab national movement did have such support and that was all that mattered.‖ Ben Gurion had for a long time given much thought to the Arab question. Mention has been made of his opposition to the concept of a population transfer: such a course he saw as reactionary and Utopian, quite apart from the fact that it was morally reprehensible.* Paraphrasing Dostoievsky, he said that Zionism did not have the moral right to harm one single Arab child even if it could realise all its aspirations at that price.† Ben Gurion maintained that there could be no common language with the effendis, in whose eyes Labour Zionists were both the national and the class enemy. He implicitly criticised Weizmann and the Zionist leadership for having tried the ‘short and easy way’ to reach agreement with the effendis and the dictators. Jewish Socialists had to choose the longer and more difficult road which would lead them to the Arab workers.‡ But even Ben Gurion’s attitude towards the Arab national movement lacked consistency. He acknowledged that it was a real political force even though it lacked a positive social content; each people has the national movement it deserves, he observed on one occasion.
Ben Gurion, then, thought that political agreement with its present leaders was impossible. But did he believe that an understanding would have been possible with leaders who really represented the desires and interests of the masses? Would a more progressive Arab leadership have been better disposed towards Zionism? Ben Gurion was on the whole more optimistic than most of his colleagues with regard to the prospects of an understanding with the Arabs, and his attitude did not basically change during the 1930s. When Moshe Shertok claimed in 1936 that the attempts to reach an agreement with the Arabs should continue, but that there was room for scepticism, Ben Gurion replied: ‘We must not be sceptical. We ought to believe that tomorrow there will be an agreement with the Arabs – and to act accordingly.’§
The very same month (June 1936) Ben Gurion wrote in a private letter that there was perhaps only one chance in ten of reaching agreement with the Arabs; even the views of an optimist like Ben Gurion were subject to sudden and violent change. It was the official policy of the Zionist executive throughout the 1920s not to enter into political discussions with the Arabs, but as Colonel Kisch noted in his diary in 1923, to ‘get a strong Arab party to work with us on the basis of economic cooperation, leaving the question of the political régime out of account’.‖ Such an Arab party did not exist, nor was it likely to emerge in the given circumstances. Most Zionists underrated the political awareness of the Arab population. The Shaw commission was more realistic in this respect, noting that the Arab villagers and fellaheen were probably more politically minded than many of the people of Europe, and that their interest was real and personal. There were at the time no fewer than fourteen Arab newspapers, and there was someone in every village to read from the papers to the gatherings of those who were illiterate: ‘During the long seasons of the year when the soil cannot be tilled, the villagers, having no alternative occupation, discuss politics, and it is not unusual for part of the address in the mosques on Friday to be devoted to political affairs.’*
The Zionists were mistaken in belittling the degree of political consciousness of the Arab national movement and its political effectiveness. Their background was European and they were accustomed to measure national movements by the standards of the risorgimento and Masaryk, or at the very least, Pilsudski. But there was no reason to assume that national movements in backward countries would be liberal and democratic in their political orientation. Religious fanaticism and reactionary ideologies were likely to shape their character. For all that, a movement such as the Arab Palestinian awakening and its resistance to Zionism was national in character. There were conflicting class interests between effendis and fellaheen but there was also a feeling of national solidarity which Zionism tended always to underrate.
The Zionist movement did not make great efforts throughout the 1920s to influence the Arab community. Only with much delay was an Arab department established in the Jewish Agency: the publication of Arab language leaflets was left for a long time to the Communists. But it is difficult to see, even with the benefit of hindsight, that greater efforts to enlighten the Arab public about Zionism would have done much good. There was no misunderstanding between Jews and Arabs, as Weizmann and others so often claimed. Nor was it true, as many asserted, that the tension between the two peoples was mainly the fault of the Turks, and later the British in their pursuit of a policy of divide et impera. The Turks and the British can be criticised on many counts, but neither their sins of commission nor those of omission were of decisive importance. Having underrated Arab resistance to the Balfour Declaration, the British authorities would have only welcomed any Zionist initiative towards integration into the Arab world.†
The members of the Brit Shalom were among those most concerned about the Arab problem and its potential repercussions. This group, which had supporters outside Palestine as well, came into being in Jerusalem in late 1925, and its beginnings can be traced even further back. Among the first to sound the tocsin was Judah Magnes, the American Reform rabbi who became the first president of the Hebrew university. He had been unhappy about the Balfour Declaration from the outset. The peace conference, he said at a meeting in New York in 1919, had no right to give any land to any people. He feared that the Zionists would be regarded from now on as interlopers and invaders, and that the support they received from an imperialist power would in time be a heavy burden.*
Hans Kohn, the writer and historian, was another who maintained that the Jews had no historical right to Palestine, that their love for Zion was the only basis for their claim. As early as 1919 he denounced the ‘chauvinism of the new immigrants’ and their dependence on British imperialism.† Similar views were expressed in the early 1920s by Robert Weltsch, editor of the Jüdische Rundschau. Misgivings about the course of Zionist policy were also voiced by those who before the First World War had already been preaching the necessity for closer relations: Kalvarisky, Ruppin, Hugo Bergmann, and some members of the Hapoel Hatzair. Brit Shalom was originally meant to be a club for the study of Arab-Jewish relations; only a minority was in favour of political activism. The association had at no time more than a hundred members. Magnes, while supporting it, did not in fact join it. Among its members were university professors, mainly of central and west European origin. A critic of Brit Shalom, referring mockingly to ‘all these Arthurs, Hugos, and Hans’, called them creatures who lacked roots in Palestine.
The principal idea guiding Brit Shalom was that Palestine should be neither a Jewish nor an Arab state, but a binational state in which Jews and Arabs should enjoy equal civil, political and social rights, without distinction between majority and minority. The two peoples should each be autonomous in the administration of their respective domestic affairs, but united in their common interests.‡ Brit Shalom had no mass basis and its political impact was negligible. Western Zionism, the philosopher Hugo Bergmann wrote in retrospect, was the last flicker of the humanistnationalist flame at the very moment when anti-humanism was triumphant over all the world.* Significantly, there were no oriental Jews among Brit Shalom, and few of east European origin. But the real reason for its failure was the total lack of response from the Arab side. ‘What is the point of reaching agreement between ourselves’, Ruppin wrote to Magnes, ‘if there is no one on the other side?’
After the 1929 riots, Magnes demanded a reorientation of Zionist policy on pacifist lines. The Jews should re-enter Palestine not as invaders following the tradition of Joshua Ben Nun, but to conquer the country by peaceful means, hard work, sacrifice and love. Magnes was quite willing to give up the idea of a Jewish majority, let alone a Jewish state, provided only that the three basic tenets (immigration, settlement and Hebrew culture) were accepted by the Arabs.† He was writing shortly after the brutal attacks on the Jewish communities of Hebron and Safed and there was little willingness in the yishuv even to listen to him. Public disfavour, however, hardly ever deterred Magnes: ‘We must face this problem’, he said in a speech at the Hebrew university, ‘not because of the pogroms but despite of them; not as a result of violence, but as an attempt to remove excuses for violence, not because of pressure from without but because of spiritual pressure from within ourselves.’‡ Magnes anticipated some of the arguments of his critics:
We are told that when we become the majority we shall then show how just and generous a people in power can be. That is like the man who says that he will do anything and everything to get rich, so that he may do good with the money thus accumulated. Sometimes he never grows rich – he fails. And if he does grow rich under those circumstances, his power of doing good has been atrophied from long lack of use. In other words, it is not only the end which for Israel must be desirable but, what is of equal importance, the means must be conceived and brought forth in cleanliness.§
Magnes and the members of Brit Shalom were more acutely aware of the importance of the Arab question than the official Zionist leadership. For most of them this preoccupation was moral rather than political in character, but their predictions about the ultimate consequences of a policy of violence were only too prophetic. Brit Shalom was bitterly attacked. Its views were said to reflect the mentality of the diaspora, and its members were called ‘deep down assimilationists’, men devoid of Jewish national feeling. This was grossly unfair. Their Zionism was as deeply rooted as that of their opponents. But they feared that without an agreement there would be perpetual strife between Jews and Arabs which would lead to a deterioration in Zionism and ultimately perhaps to its ruin.
Their analysis was astute, their sentiments praiseworthy, but they could not point to any practical political alternatives. An anonymous reader of their magazine wrote from Moscow:
You are in favour of a democratically elected legislative assembly. But how do you know that this assembly, with a clear Arab majority, will not spell the doom of Zionism? You are in favour of negotiations with the Arabs, but you also know that the mufti and his party are not willing to negotiate; they regard any talks on the basis of mutual concessions as an act of national treason.*
Or, as Berl Katznelson put it, this binationalism is a camouflage for an Arab state. Brit Shalom sharply rebuked Colonel Kisch and Arlosoroff (who succeeded him as the foreign secretary of the Jewish Agency) for their inactivity in the field of Arab policy, but they were quite unable to outline any alternative. There was no political force in the Arab camp willing to cooperate on the basis of the minimum conditions outlined by Magnes and his friends. The Brit Shalom ideology was open to criticism on other counts as well. Some of its members went much too far in their nebulous enthusiasm for the spirit of the renascent east, which they contrasted with ‘decadent Europe’. The ‘spiritual reintegration of the Jewish people in the orient’ was a highly problematical proposition, which could perhaps be psychologically explained as a reaction against the horrors of the First World War. But its advocates idealised out of all proportion the ‘wisdom of the east’ – and this at a time when the Asian intelligentsia was rapidly adopting and absorbing European ideas.
It was the main weakness of Brit Shalom that it could not translate its diagnosis into practical politics. For that reason the unceasing efforts made by the indefatigable Magnes and Kalvarisky were all in vain. Magnes met Mussa Alami, an influential Palestinian Arab, and Philby, adviser first to Abdulla of Jordan and later to King Saud, who had himself become a Muslim. Kalvarisky repeatedly went to Beirut and Damascus and also had many contacts with Palestinian Arabs, but whenever encouraging sounds were made by his Arab interlocutors it soon appeared that they were not entitled to speak on behalf of any organised force in the Arab community. The Arabs, on the other hand, claimed that they always found a great deal of goodwill and understanding on the part of the Zionists when discussing general issues, but that this invariably evaporated once the discussion turned to practical politics. The Arabs were not willing to accept the formula used by both Kalvarisky and the official Zionist leadership during that period: that neither people should dominate or be dominated by the other.*
The Zionist leaders followed the activities of Magnes and Brit Shalom with misgivings, but there is no doubt that they would have felt obliged to take note of them if they had held out any promise at all. Magnes and Kalvarisky asserted on various occasions that their efforts had been sabotaged by the Jewish Agency, but there was usually a less sinister explanation. The Jewish Agency regarded the contacts established by the Brit Shalom as not substantial enough to merit serious attention. There was concern even among the ‘hawks’ in the Zionist leadership about relations with the Arabs. When King (then Emir) Abdulla was reported in 1922 to be willing to accept the Balfour Declaration under a national, i.e. Arab, leadership, even Jabotinsky was in favour of taking up the suggestion. Ben Gurion fully accepted the formula of ‘not to dominate – not to be dominated’, as did the seventeenth Zionist congress. Eliahu Golomb, one of the founders and leaders of Hagana, met Colonel Kisch in 1931 to discuss the possibility of resolving the conflict by an association of Palestine with an Arab confederation.† Weizmann’s attitude towards Brit Shalom was by no means unfriendly. In July 1927 he decided to make an allocation (albeit a modest one) to its budget.‡ Shortly before the establishment of Brit Shalom, Weizmann had said in a letter to Robert Weltsch, one of its founders, that his views on the Arab question coincided with Weltsch’s, ‘but we both know that it will take a long period of education before the Zionists settle down to realities’.§ He had never watered down his Zionism, but he was equally convinced that present-day Zionism was to a certain extent intellectually dishonest. Nevertheless, while maintaining that he accepted binationalism, and differed from Brit Shalom only in approach, Weizmann criticised Weltsch after the riots of 1929 for advocating negotiations with the Arabs when such a step would be fatal: ‘The Arab mind is not ripe at all for any negotiations, they are not producing arguments but tricks’.*
The riots of 1929
Brit Shalom had been founded in a relatively calm period when only a few people regarded the Arab question as the foremost in Zionist politics. The year of 1929 brought a radical change, when the problem took on a far greater urgency than ever before but the prospects for reconciliation appeared even more distant. The immediate causes of the 1929 disturbances were trivial, arising from a dispute about the respective rights of Jews and Arabs at the Wailing Wall. The quarrel was by no means new. On the Day of Atonement, 1925, seats and benches had been brought in for old and infirm Jewish worshippers, but these were promptly removed by the police in the middle of the service. This provoked a strong Jewish protest, but similar scenes occurred again on the Day of Atonement, 1928, when the Arabs complained that the Jews had fastened a screen to the pavement adjoining the wall to divide the men from the women, and that several oil lamps and a number of mats had been brought in, in violation of all tradition. On Arab insistence the screen was removed by the police, to the great indignation of the Jews, who claimed that the Wailing Wall was holy to no one but themselves. The Arabs on the other hand maintained that the site was part of the wall of Haram ash Sharif, one of the holiest Muslim places, that it belonged to the Mutawil of the Abu Madian Waqf, and that the Jews were there only on sufferance; they had only the right of access through an alley way 28 metres long and 3.6 metres wide.†
The Arabs categorically refused to allow the Jews under any circumstances to alter the status quo. Several months later they began building on and around the wall in such a way as to cause great commotion among sections of the Jewish population. Doar Hayom, the revisionist newspaper, summoned all Jewish patriots to ‘wake up and unite’, not to suffer indifferently this terrible catastrophe but ‘to move heaven and earth in protest against this unprecedented and unspeakable injustice’.‡ ‘The wall is ours’ became the slogan. A few hundred young Jews marched to the wall, raised the blue and white flag, kept a two minute silence, and dispersed after singing the Hatiqva. On 15 August two thousand Arabs staged a counter-demonstration, beat up the Jewish beadle at the wall and burned a few prayer books. Two days later a quarrel broke out in the streets of Jerusalem when a Jewish football fell into an Arab tomato garden. A young Jew was stabbed and died a few days later. This was the beginning of a series of attacks. On 23 August widespread rioting started, which lasted about a week. In Hebron sixty Jews were killed, in Safed forty-five were killed or wounded. About the responsibility of the mufti and his party there was no doubt. Sir John Chancellor, the high commissioner, and not a staunch friend of Zionism, denounced in a speech on 1 September the ‘ruthless and bloodthirsty evil doers’ who had perpetrated crimes on ‘defenceless members of the Jewish population, regardless of age and sex, accompanied as in Hebron by acts of unspeakable savagery’.
The riots of 1929 marked a turning point in Arab-Jewish relations in Palestine. Throughout the centuries there had always been clashes, sometimes bloody, in the old city of Jerusalem between members of various confessions about their respective rights to the holy sites, but the events of 1929 introduced a new element. On the Arab side religious fanaticism was deliberately fanned for political purposes. This propaganda was part of the contest between the party of the mufti and its rivals, the former trying to outbid the latter with the extremism of its slogans. There was a similar development on the other side. Among the Jews the main outcry did not come from those directly affected, the orthodox and ultra-orthodox Jews, who had always shown great circumspection in their relations with the Arabs, but from the revisionists for whom the wall was a national rather than a religious symbol.
The revisionist stand on the Arab question lacked neither a certain logic nor consistency. Jabotinsky had early on reached the conclusion that Zionism did not make sense without a Jewish majority in Palestine, for the real cause of antisemitism was that Jews were everywhere a minority. Other Zionist leaders, he argued, also knew this, but preferred not to talk about it openly, on the mistaken assumption that the Arabs could be fooled by a more moderate formulation of Zionist aims.* But the Arabs loved their country as much as the Jews did. Instinctively they understood Zionist aspirations very well, and their decision to resist them was only natural. Every people fought immigration and settlement by foreigners, however high-minded the motives for settlement. There was no misunderstanding between Jews and Arabs but a natural conflict. No agreement was possible with the Palestinian Arabs, they would accept Zionism only when they found themselves up against an ‘iron wall’, when they realised that they had no alternative but to accept Jewish settlement. Nor was Jabotinsky optimistic about the prospects of an agreement with the Arabs outside Palestine. The Zionists could not finance Iraq and Hedjaz, and to support the Arabs in their struggle against the European powers would be both dishonest and national suicide.
Zionism, Jabotinsky argued, was either ab initio moral or immoral. If the basic principle was moral, it was bound to remain so even if some people opposed it.* There were no empty spaces in the world. The Jews would have encountered the opposition of a native population even in Uganda. Jabotinsky denounced the ‘cannibalist ethics’ of the anti-Zionists. How could anyone, on the basis of moral criteria, deny the validity of the Zionist claim, given that the Arabs had so much land and the Jews none at all? His instinctive attitude towards the Arabs was, as he once wrote, the same as to all other nations, one of polite lack of interest. He thought that it was impossible to expel the Arabs and that Palestine would always remain a multinational state. The weakest part of Jabotinsky’s doctrine was no doubt his assumption that Zionism was bound to remain morally unassailable, whatever the means applied. In their transfer to Palestine Jabotinsky’s views lost much of their sophistication and moderation, and served as the ideological justification for primitive and chauvinistic slogans which helped to poison Arab-Jewish relations during the 1930s and 1940s.
The Zionist movement was gravely disturbed by the riots of 1929 but comforted itself with the thought that these attacks were not the beginning of a national revolt but had their source ‘in religion and in blood’. Incited by some of their leaders, who had deliberately spread false rumours, the Arabs had come out to defend their religious honour (which had not been insulted) and to revenge Arab blood (which had not been spilled). The riots, according to the official Zionist assessment, did not have a clear political or social character, nor were they countrywide, and that once the government disabused the rioters of their belief that they had official support, the movement would collapse and probably not recur.
The first Zionist reaction was to regard the uprisings as simple pogroms, the Arab grievances as totally unfounded, and to ask for strict measures by the mandatory authorities. But suggestions were also advanced by some of the more farsighted Zionist leaders for new and greater efforts to improve Arab-Jewish relations. It had gradually dawned on them that a series of favourable articles in a leading Cairo newspaper was of greater importance than a sympathetic editorial in the Polish or Italian press. The Histadrut had decided in 1927 to organise Arab workers in joint trade unions (Irgun meshutaf), but the practical results had been negligible so far, apart from the establishment of a small Arab workers’ club in Haifa. There was still no Arab department in the Jewish Agency or the Va’ad Leumi, nor was there any Arab-language newspaper. Above all, the Zionist leadership still had no clear idea about what to do, and it was therefore not surprising that the years after the 1929 uprising produced a great deal of heart-searching. While the revisionists tried to compel the Zionist movement to adopt a clear resolution about the final aim, namely a Jewish state, Weizmann reiterated his belief in the principle of parity in the coming Palestinian Constituent Assembly, which, needless to say, was rejected by the Arabs. And Ben Gurion outlined a project for parliamentary representation, to be carried out in stages over many years; a Jewish majority let alone a Jewish state, was not even mentioned.
Perhaps most revealing were the vacillations of Chaim Arlosoroff, who had been one of the first to realise the importance of the Arab national movement as a political factor. After 1929, while still maintaining the need for a political agreement with the Arabs, he asserted that the Arab national movement was dominated by the forces of social reaction and political tyranny and blamed it for not having produced leaders like Sun Yat-sen or Gandhi. Arlosoroff favoured cooperation on the municipal level, economic collaboration, the dispatch of Jewish students to Al Azhar and other Arab universities, and Zionist support for Egyptian and Iraqi independence. But he was pessimistic with regard to the chances of an understanding with the Palestinian Arabs, for the simple reason that the Arabs were still convinced that they could defeat Zionism with violence.* His pessimism deepened during the early 1930s. In a letter to Weizmann he envisaged limiting the Zionist efforts to a part of Palestine — i.e. partition or cantonisation of the country. Failing that, he considered the possibility of the Jewish minority seizing power through an organised revolutionary government.†
Such counsels of despair were the result of Arlosoroff’s own negative personal experience. Earlier that year, accompanied by Moshe Shertok, he had met Auni Bey Abdul Hadi, a leader of the Istiqlal Party, in an attempt to discover some common ground and to open a dialogue. But Auni Bey had told his visitors point plank that there was no use in discussions on basic problems. There were no misunderstandings between Arab and Jew. He understood Jewish nationalism only too well, but unfortunately there was a fundamental clash of interests which could not be resolved through talk.* This was not, however, the end of the affair. By the early 1930s the Zionist leaders had reached the conclusion that of the three Arab political parties the Istiqlal, however strongly opposed to Zionism, was the most promising movement in terms both of its political prospects and of the chances of Arab-Jewish rapprochement. Cooperation with the mufti’s party was out of the question after all that had happened. The Zionists had supported the Nashashibis on various occasions (such as the municipal elections of 1926): the quarrel between this clan and the Hussainis (to whom the mufti belonged) dominated Palestinian Arab political life for many years. But the Nashashibis were closely identified with British mandatory policies and had no intention of compromising themselves in the eyes of the Arab public by cooperating with the Jews. There remained the Istiqlal, a modern, secular, nationalist group which stood for Arab unity and had many supporters among the younger generation.
The Istiqlal Party seemed in many ways an ideal political partner for the Zionists. Ben Gurion met Auni Abdul Hadi in Dr Magnes’ house in July 1934 and tried to persuade him that it might be possible after all to coordinate the ultimate aims of the Jewish and Arab national movements. What if the Jews, with their political influence and financial resources, were to join the struggle for Arab unity? Whereupon Auni, according to Ben Gurion’s account, became very enthusiastic and promised that he would accept the immigration of five or six million Jews, that he himself would go out into the streets and propagate the idea among his friends in Palestine and other Arab countries.† But after a few moments Auni again cooled down: ‘How do we know that we can trust your promises?’ Mussa Alami, another prominent Arab figure, and a moderate in his politics, told Ben Gurion that the Arabs were not particularly eager to get Jewish money and know-how, and that he would much prefer Palestine to remain poor and desolate even for a hundred years, in which time the Arabs would be able to develop the country by their own exertions.
The accounts of such meetings between the Zionist leaders and Arab representatives, or of the talks with George Antonius, the author of the standard history of the Arab national movement, make melancholy reading. The basic positions were so far apart that any agreement was illusory from the beginning. These were the years after Hitler’s rise to power, and any compromise on Jewish immigration was unthinkable for the Zionists. By June 1936, after the outbreak of the third Arab revolt, Ben Gurion wrote in a private letter that he doubted whether there was even one chance in ten of reaching agreement. Of course, they should go on talking, but there was no readiness on the Arab part to accept the yishuv, though they might eventually, in complete despair, accept the Jewish presence in Palestine after the failure of the rebellion, and above all as a result of the growth of the yishuv. It was Jabotinsky’s ‘iron wall’ all over again. Ruppin, who had been in the forefront of the struggle for Arab-Jewish rapprochement both before and after the First World War, and who was a founder of Brit Shalom, reached similarly pessimistic conclusions at the same time. It was only natural that there should be sporadic outbursts if the Zionists continued their work against the desire of the Arabs: ‘It is our destiny to be in a state of continual warfare with the Arabs and there is no other alternative but that lives should be lost.’
Only the indefatigable Magnes and some of his closest friends continued to believe that with a little more goodwill on the part of the Jews agreement could be reached. And occasionally even Magnes had doubts about the reliability and honesty of his Arab partners. In a note to Harold MacMichael, the British high commissioner, he wondered whether there was any point in further negotiations: ‘They are no more true Arabs than I am a South Sea Islander. These people around here and Beirut are true Levantines.’*
The third and biggest wave of Arab attacks began in April 1936. It was a period of feverish political and diplomatic activity. Zionist leaders maintained their contacts with the Arabs, and a great many blueprints and memoranda were produced in an attempt to resolve the conflict. The disturbances were far more widespread than those of 1921 and 1929 and claimed a much heavier toll in life and property. They lasted with short interruptions for three years, petering out in the spring and summer of 1939, during the months preceding the outbreak of war. A major military effort on the part of the mandatory authorities was needed to defeat the armed gangs which had established their rule in various parts of the country. Unlike the riots of 1920 and 1929, this revolt was not sparked off by an isolated incident, unless the murder of a Jew by Arab highwaymen whose motives may have been partly political is considered as such. The tension had been building up gradually. After Hitler’s rise to power the number of immigrants reached a new high — 30,000 in 1933, 42,000 in the following year, and 61,000 in 1935. By the middle 1930s Jews constituted 30 per cent of the total population of Palestine.
There had been a brief wave of unrest in October 1933, instigated by the Istiqlal. It was directed mainly against the British and collapsed quickly when the call for a general Arab strike was not heeded. Three years later the response to the Arab leadership’s call to arms was much greater. The international situation seemed more auspicious for the Arabs. The Berlin-Rome axis effected a marked shift in the balance of power. British influence seemed everywhere on the decline: Iraq had gained independence in 1932–3, and the movement for Arab independence had made great strides in Egypt and Syria. The Palestinian Arab leaders must have reached the conclusion that the time was ripe for the achievement of their own demands: the establishment of a national (Arab) government, and the immediate prohibition of Jewish immigration and land sales. The armed revolt did not succeed and the demand for independence was not fulfilled. But it was not a total failure either, for Jewish immigration and land purchases were severely restricted, and the White Paper of 1939 envisaged the virtual repudiation of the Balfour Declaration. Jewish immigration was to stop altogether after a number of years.
Arab guerrilla warfare confronted the yishuv with several major problems. The most agonising dilemma concerned the issue of non-retaliation (havlaga). During the first year of the riots it was official Zionist policy to refrain from retaliation, and even Jabotinsky’s extremist paramilitary organisation adhered to this policy, albeit under protest.* The decision was not an easy one. It demonstrated the political maturity of the yishuv, and it gave the Zionists a good press in Europe, but it helped to spread despondency among the Jewish community. When the Arab revolt reached its second, more intense stage in 1937–8, the policy of non-retaliation was discontinued by both the Hagana, which engaged in selective retaliatory action, and the revisionst IZL, which was less discriminating.
Nationalist passions were running higher than ever during those years. In view of the rapidly deteriorating situation for central and east European Jewry, all sections of the Jewish community, with the sole exception of the Communists, insisted on the gates of Palestine being kept open. There was even less belief than previously that the Arabs would respect the rights of Jews in a binational state. The murder of hundreds of Assyrians immediately after Iraq acquired independence acted as a further deterrent and was quoted in many Zionist speeches and articles at the time.
The Arab attack was a trial for the whole yishuv. For left-wing Zionism, which had traditionally advocated close Arab-Jewish cooperation, it was in addition a major ideological problem. This does not apply to the Communists, who had always rejected Zionism as a reactionary movement and a tool of world imperialism, and who since 1929 had given active support to Arab nationalism. The dilemma facing a Jewish Communist in Palestine was insoluble: ‘objectively’ he was bound to play a reactionary role, because he could not become an Arab. The most logical and consistent way out of the dilemma, chosen in fact by some Jewish Communists, was to emigrate to another country where they could make a more positive contribution to the struggle for world revolution. But Hashomer Hatzair and the left-wing Poale Zion were both Marxist and Zionist. They could not regard the Arab attacks on Jewish settlements as progressive in character. They had always envisaged a common Arab-Jewish struggle for the victory of revolutionary Socialism in Palestine, and while they had never been very successful in finding allies outside the Jewish camp, they now found themselves in total isolation. Opposed to British imperialism, they had now to accept its help in suppressing the Arab revolt. But this had been the dilemma facing all those Zionists opposed to ‘British imperialism’, including some who were by no means Marxists.
Jacob Klatzkin, one of the more original Zionist thinkers, wrote in 1921 that the movement had to decide between an orientation towards British imperialism, which would lead automatically to an armed conflict and pogroms, and an alliance with the exploited Arab fellaheen against Arab and Jewish effendis and eventually (though this was not spelled out at the time) against British imperialism.* The idea that Jews should come as friends and that the existence of the yishuv should not be based on British support had no doubt much to commend it. But would it have been possible to maintain immigration and settlement without British help? The Arabs would not even have permitted Magnes to settle in Jerusalem, as Ben Gurion once reminded the president of the Hebrew university. The Marxist Zionists continued to claim all along that the Jewish national movement had nothing in common with imperialism, that it was predominantly working class in character, and that they had sown the first seeds of Arab-Jewish proletarian unity. The Arab national movement, on the other hand, was reactionary because it had imposed a despotic, fascist régime on the entire community.* They argued that any restriction of Jewish immigration was fatal to the Jewish masses and at the same time objectively harmful because it impeded the growth of the only revolutionary forces capable of combating fascist tendencies in Palestine.
Poale Zion reminded its revolutionary friends abroad that various congresses of the Socialist International had reached the conclusion that any limitation on immigration was a reactionary measure from the Socialist point of view, unless the new immigrants were willing to work for lower wages, thus endangering the standard of living of the native working class - which clearly was not the case in Palestine. The Arab national movement, under feudal and clerical leadership, was being used by imperialism (and fascism); but it was also indifferent to the social and economic needs of the people, it was reactionary in character.† The Arab revolt, according to this interpretation, was provoked both by the British policy of divide and rule and by the clerico-fascist Arab exploiters who feared Jewish working-class immigration because it heralded social and economic change. The spokesmen of the Zionist left proclaimed that the Jewish revolutionary working-class movement was the only fortress of progress and Socialism in the Middle East, and promised that with its help a strong Arab proletarian movement would emerge, leading eventually to a Jewish-Arab workers’ state in Palestine.
These attempts to adjust their ideology to an unforeseen political situation were neither convincing nor effective. But psychologically they were intelligible, for any justification of the Arab terror would have negated their own cause, their very existence in Palestine. It was difficult enough to provide a realistic appraisal of the Arab national movement on the basis of Zionist ideology and Marxism in this context was a source of further misinterpretations. To put the blame on British imperialism and the effendis was not even a half truth. The Arab movement of 1936 had broad popular support: the ‘feudal’ and ‘bourgeois’ national leaders could never have succeeded in inciting a major revolt but for the deep resentment against Zionism among the Arab people.
Moshe Sharett (then Shertok) was more realistic and fair in his appraisal of the Arab movement than those to the left of him. On 22 July 1936 he noted in his diary that the participation of young Arab women in its activities proved that it was revolutionary in character, and that the Arab intelligentsia supported the ‘gangs’ in the same way the Jews sympathised with the Hagana.* As for its social character, the second stage of the rebellion (1937-8) was anything but ‘feudal’ and ‘bourgeois’. In fact the leading Arab families left Palestine post haste, and of those who stayed many were killed. The Marxists thought, quite erroneously, that by organising joint Arab-Jewish strikes they were laying the groundwork for an understanding between the toilers of the two nations. But the Arab fellaheen and workers were in fact less inclined to cooperate with the Jews than the Arab merchants in Haifa or the Arab citrus growers in the south.† The problem facing the Zionist revolutionary Left was, very briefly, that according to their own doctrine any national revolutionary movement was a priori progressive, since workers and peasants could do no wrong - for any length of time at any rate. The fact that the Arab toiling masses did not accept Borokhovism and refused to behave according to the canons of proletarian internationalism (as the Zionist Left understood them) put them in a quandary from which there was no ideological way out.
Vis-à-vis the world revolutionary movement, dominated by the Communists, Hashomer Hatzair and the left-wing Poale Zion were in a weak position: the argument that the Jewish masses had to leave Europe under threat of physical extinction did not cut much ice with the Comintern. The Communists told the Jewish workers - if they had any message at all - to join the revolutionary struggle wherever they lived and wait for the world revolution which would eradicate antisemitism and solve the Jewish problem once and for all. Like the Brit Shalom, the Zionist Left realised that without Arab-Jewish understanding the yishuv would have to live in a state of permanent warfare with its neighbours. But since they were even less inclined than the Brit Shalom to compromise on the issue most vital to the Arabs - immigration and settlement - the prospects of reaching agreement with any representative Arab circles were virtually nil. In the eyes of the Arabs, ‘reactionary’ and ‘progressive’ alike, the Zionist Left was part of the enemy camp just as much as Ben Gurion and Jabotinsky. For the Arabs, the Jews’ very existence, and their insistence on further immigration, was the root of the evil; the revolutionary programme of the Zionist Left was irrelevant, a mere smoke screen.
Throughout the late 1930s meetings between individual Zionist and Arab leaders continued, and with the outbreak of the Second World War the climate again became more propitious for a rapprochement. Among those with whom contact was maintained were Arab leaders abroad, such as Shekib Arslan, the old Syrian national hero, Dr Shahbander (killed by political enemies in 1940), and Emir Abdulla of Jordan, as well as several Palestinian Arab leaders. Nuri Said, the Iraqi prime minister, was approached at one stage, and so once more was Philby. The Egyptians, Syrians and Jordanians were on the whole somewhat more conciliatory, and even the mufti was on one occasion reported to have hinted that he would on certain conditions permit Jewish immigration until the Jews numbered 80 per cent of the Arab population. But there was, as Magnes reluctantly concluded in 1941, ‘no possibility of reaching an agreement with any responsible Arab on any other basis, for the next ten to fifteen years, except on the basis of a minority in this country.’*
When Magnes made this remark, he was speaking at a meeting of the League of Jewish-Arab Rapprochement, which had been established in the late 1930s and was in some ways a successor to Brit Shalom (which had ceased to exist in 1933). Its political basis was broader and its programme less specific. Those who attended the meeting faced the old familiar problems: Kalvarisky was convinced that a compromise acceptable to both sides could be worked out and that Arabs could be found to sponsor this cause. Kalvarisky, it should be added in parentheses, was a great believer in baksheesh - a common practice in eastern politics. Some of the money came from Kalvarisky’s own pocket, most from a Jewish Agency subsidy, which was cut off when the Agency decided to discontinue some of these payments and to make others directly. On the other hand, Michael Assaf, one of the leading Mapai experts, poured cold water on any such hopes. Magnes, he said, was living in that world of liberalism and humanism which was now a thing of the past. The treatment of minorities in Arab countries was enough to deter anyone. Could one expect the Arabs to behave any better towards their minorities than, say, the Poles? Assaf accused Kalvarisky and his friends of being at bottom contemptuous of the Arabs if they thought they could cajole them by flattery. The Arabs were not stupid; in their eyes Jabotinsky was an honest man while Weizmann was a liar. It was the old confrontation between ‘idealists’ and ‘realists’ all over again, both equally incapable of preventing further aggravation of the conflict.
A great many plans for partition and cantonisation were discussed after 1936 by the Zionist leadership, a bi-national state being no longer considered practical politics. During the Second World War the Biltmore programme, envisaging the establishment of a Jewish state, became the official aim of the movement. The case against partition found its advocates among Ihud (Union), which reunited some of the leading members of the old Brit Shalom and, with somewhat different argumentation, of Hashomer Hatzair. Magnes opposed partition on principle. He did not rule out the possibility that the Jews could ‘lick the Arabs’ in a war, but he predicted that this would create so much hatred as to put the whole Jewish future in the Middle East in question. ‘Satisfactory national boundaries, if the object is to promote peace’, he wrote, ‘cannot be drawn. Wherever you draw those boundaries, you create an irredenta on either side of the border. An irredenta almost invariably leads to war.’* Hashomer Hatzair in its memorandum predicted that partition, and thus the establishment of a Jewish state, would not eliminate the conflict between Jews and Arabs but perpetuate it, ‘project it into the future by fixing and amplifying its causes’.†
Magnes and some of his friends, much to the dismay of the official Zionist leadership, gave evidence before the Anglo-American Enquiry Commission in 1946 and before the Special United Nations Commission the year after. A great deal of courage was needed to defend bi-nationalism in the face of the hardening of attitudes among the Jewish community and the total lack of response from the Arabs. Magnes maintained to the end that establishing a state was an act prompted by despair (‘Partition is going to create war’), and that a bi-national state was in the long run not only the ideal but the sole practical solution.
There was a quixotic streak in Magnes. His naïveté seemed to disqualify him from active politics altogether - Ben Gurion, not unjustly, called him a political child. Yet precisely because he was so remote from political realities he sensed some of the long-term dangers facing the yishuv more acutely than the professional politicians. But he could not provide any answer to the problems besetting the yishuv as the Second World War came to an end. The status quo could not continue, the remnants of European Jewry were knocking on Palestine’s doors, the whole problem had assumed a new and desperate urgency.
The attempts to find ‘reasonable Arab leaders’ continued. During the war a ‘Committee of Five’ had been established, which included some of the most respected members of the Jewish community. With the blessing of the Jewish Agency they made contact with leading Arab personalities in yet another effort to find a common language. They met and talked and prepared more blueprints, only to realise in the end that in spite of all the outward civilities there was no common ground. There were occasional rays of hope: at one stage Ihud found Fawzi Darwish Hussaini, a respected Arab personality and a cousin of the mufti, willing to sign an agreement with his Jewish friends providing for a bi-national state based on the principle of no domination of one nation over the other. He suggested the immediate establishment of political clubs and a daily newspaper to combat the influence of the Arab war party. On 11 November 1946, five members of Young Palestine, Fawzi’s group, signed an agreement concerning common political action with Ihud representatives, but this promising initiative came to a sudden and tragic end. Twelve days later Fawzi was killed by Arab terrorists and his group dispersed. ‘My cousin stumbled and received his proper punishment’, Jamal Hussaini, one of the leaders of the extremist party, declared a few days later.* In September 1947, Sami Taha, a prominent Haifa trade union leader, was killed; his society had declared itself in favour of a Palestinian, not an Arab state, acknowledging that the Jews too had certain rights. He never pressed the point very strongly, but the mere suspicion of such lack of patriotism was sufficient to make him a target for the extremists. With these and other murders, the few hopes for a Zionist-Arab dialogue were buried and the stage set for a direct military confrontation.
The few Jews who devoted so much thought and effort to relations with their Arab neighbours were a source of bewilderment and irritation to their less self-conscious brethren. Berl Katznelson, who was both the conscience and éminence grise of the Zionist labour movement, relates how shocked he was to discover that the question which preoccupied German halutzim was not the plight of their brothers left behind, not the Jews facing extinction in Hitler’s expanding Reich, but the problem of the Arab workers. Was it right to insist on Jewish labour, they asked, after having set foot on Palestinian soil? Such atrophy of the will to live, such negation of the right to existence of the Jewish people by its own sons and daughters, was monstrous to men like Katznelson.
The men and women of the second and third aliya were less affected by such moral and intellectual scruples.* The question whether the Jewish people had a right to exist did not occur to them. Bitter experience in eastern Europe had taught them that decisive issues in the history of peoples were not resolved according to abstract principles of justice, and that as long as Jews were a minority they would always be persecuted and permanently in danger of destruction. Before 1933 the question had not arisen so acutely. It was generally believed that there was enough room in Palestine for both Jews and Arabs. But as Arab resistance grew stronger, and simultaneously the pressure of immigration increased, conviction grew among the Zionists that if the national aspirations of Arabs and Jews could not be reconciled, their own case was the stronger, if only because European Jewry was in danger of extermination. The Jews had nowhere to go but Palestine. The Arabs could be absorbed if necessary in the neighbouring countries.
This was the political and psychological background to the failure to promote Arab-Jewish rapprochement. Most Jews would have preferred agreement with the Arabs. The recurrent riots claimed a heavy toll in lives, and in resources, which had to be diverted from productive labour. The halutzim had come to Eretz Israel not to conquer but to build a new, just, Socialist society. Only a few realised that the Arabs would not accept faits accomplis, that continuing immigration and settlement would involve the yishuv in a conflict which might last for generations. The repeated attacks on Jewish settlements, and the gruesome way in which some of the massacres were carried out, brought about a gradual change in popular attitudes. The image of the honest, brave and hospitable Arab gave way to a feeling of contempt for these ‘dishonest Levantines’.
A minority of Zionists and Palestinian Jews were aware from the beginning of the crucial importance of relations with the Arabs. Some of them thought that the national aspirations of the two peoples could be reconciled, while the pessimists early on reached the conclusion that conflict was basic and unavoidable. The majority of Zionists were less concerned with the Arab question. Only gradually did they face it, assuming at first that the Palestinian Arabs, finding themselves economically prosperous and reasonably content, would eventually accept minority status in the coming Jewish state. If this was an unjust assumption, it seemed almost insignificant in view of the need to save European Jewry.
* Jakob Klatzkin, in Die Araberfrage in Palästina, Heidelberg, 1921, p. 21; Dr M. Lewite, ‘Zur Orientierung in der arabischen Frage’, Jüdische Rundschau, 5 August 1921.
* J.J. Jeffries, Palestine: The Reality, London, 1939, p. 40.
† Jüdische Rundschau, 27 November 1931.
‡ Truth from Eretz Israel’, Hamelitz, June 1891.
* Altneuland, p. 133.
† Die Welt, 13 March 1903.
‡ Max Nordau, Zionistische Schriften, Berlin, 1909, p. 172.
§ Stenographisches Protokoll der Verhandlungen des II. Zionisten-Kongresses, Vienna, 1899, p. 125.
‖ H.H. Kalvarisky, in She’ifotenu, vol. 2, 2, p. 50.
* N. Mandel, ‘Turks, Arabs and Jewish Immigration into Palestine 1882-1914’, in Albert Hourani (ed.), Middle Eastern Affairs, 4, London, 1965, pp. 84-6. See also Mandel’s dissertation (same title), Oxford, 1965.
† Quoted in Sefer Toldot Hahagana, Tel Aviv, 1954, vol. 1, p. 66.
‡ E. Sapir, ‘Hatred of Israel in Arab literature’, Hashiloah, 1899, p. 222 et seq.
§ Hochberg to Jacobson, Zionist Archives, Cologne All, quoted in P.P. Alsberg, ‘The Arab Question in the Policy of the Zionist Executive before the First World War’, in Shivat Zion, 4, p. 189. See also, N. Mandel, ‘Attempts at an Arab-Zionist Entente 1913-14’, Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 1, April 1965.
‖ In a report to the Zionist executive in 1912, quoted in Yaacov Ro’i, ‘Attempts of the Zionist Organisation to influence the Arab Press in Palestine between 1908-14’, Zion 3-4, 1967, p. 205.
* Meyers Reisebücher, Palästina und Syrien, Leipzig, 1907, p. 128.
† Elias Auerbach, in Die Welt, 1910, p. 1101.
* Jüdische Rundschau, 13 January 1931.
† Belkind, quoted in A. Cohen, Israel vehaolam ha’araui, Merhavia, 1964, p. 68.
‡ Ibid., pp. 65-9 and Sefer Toldot hahagana, vol. 1, pp. 73-7.
§ Hashiloah, 1909, p. 466.
* Neguib Azoury, Le Reueil de la Nation Arabe, Paris, 1905, p. v; Sefer Toldot Hahagana, p. 185. Mandel, Middle Eastern Affairs, p. 94.
† Professor A.A. Aehuda in a report to Professor O. Warburg of the Zionist executive, dated 31 August 1911, cited by Ro’i, ‘Attempts of the Zionist Organisation …’, p. 212.
‡ His speech was subsequently published under the title ‘She’ela ne’elma’, in Hashiloah, 1907, pp. 193-206.
* Nehama Puchachevski, in Hashiloah, 1908, pp. 67-9.
* Elias Auerbach, in Palästina, Cologne, 1910, p. 121.
† Hugo Bergmann, Jawne und Jerusalem, Prague, 1919, p. 60.
* Quoted in Yaacov Ro’i, ‘The Zionist Attitude to the Arabs, 1908-14’, in Middle Eastern Studies, April 1968, pp. 210, 216.
* Quoted in Alsberg, ‘The Arab Question in the Policy of the Zionist Executive before the First World War’, in Shivat Zion 4, p. 163.
† Ibid., p. 184.
* After the First World War they showed more awareness. At the fourteenth Zionist congress in Vienna (1925) no one was more emphatic than Ben Gurion on the necessity ‘to find the way to the heart of the Arab people’. Empty phrases about peace and fraternity, he insisted, were not sufficient; what was wanted was a genuine alliance between Jewish and Arab workers. He was thereupon attacked by the revisionists as a cosmopolitan and doctrinaire Socialist theoretician.
† See Kalvarisky’s own account in Ha’olam, 7, 1914, and in She’ifotenu. p. 54.
‡ Mandel, St Antony’s Papers, pp. 93-4.
* Menahem Sheinkin, quoted in Sefer Toldot Hahagana, vol. 1, p. 135.
† Sefer Toldot Hahagana, p. 191.
‡ Mandel, Middle Eastern Affairs, p. 97.
* Quoted in Ro’i, ‘The Zionist Attitude…’, p. 227.
† Sefer Toldot Hahagana, p. 308. This refers to Josef Lishanski, born in Metulla, who spoke the language and knew the customs of the Arabs much better than the newcomers. He was one of the most famous shomrim of the early period. During the First World War he played a leading part in the Nili conspiracy.
‡ Mandel, Dissertation, pp. 165-8.
* Sefer Toldot Hahagana, p. 186; Cohen, Israel vehaolam ha’aravi, p. 84; Alsberg, ‘The Arab Question…’, p. 168.
† Mandel, Dissertation, chapter 6.
‡ Alsberg, ‘The Arab Question…’, p. 169.
* Ibid., p. 172. For a fuller discussion of the negotiations, see N. Mandel, ‘Attempts at an Arab-Zionist entente 1913-14’, in Middle Eastern Studies, April 1965, p. 238 et seq.
† On Hochberg, see Cohen, Israel vehaolam ha’aravi, p. 95, and Lichtheim, Rückkehr, Stuttgart, 1970, pp. 216-17.
‡ The text of his report is published in Alsberg, ‘The Arab Question …’, p. 187 et seq.
* For Hochberg’s report on the Paris congress see ibid., pp. 195-205.
† Ibid., p. 177.
‡ Ibid., p. 178.
* Mandel. Middle Eastern Studies, p. 260; see also Cohen, Israel vehaolam ha’aravi, pp. 107-10.
† Mandel, Middle Eastern Studies, pp. 263–5.
‡ M. Medzini, Esser Shanim shel Mediniut Eretz Yisraelit, Tel Aviv, 1928, p. 80.
§ Wolffsohn to Ruppin, 15 September 1908, quoted in Alsberg, ‘The Arab Question …’, p. 179.
‖ Quoted in Ro’i, ‘The Zionist Attitude …’, p. 227.
* Ktavim letoldot Chibat Zion, vol. 3, P. 495.
† Ro’i, ‘The Zionist Attitude …’, pp. 217-18.
‡ Beginning with Die Pforte des Ostens, Vienna, 1924, in which he also advocated a bi-national state. Jabotinsky, on the other hand, had no patience with such theories. When he approached Nordau during the war about the establishment of a Jewish Legion which was to fight against the Turks, he was told, ‘But you cannot do that, the Muslims are kin to the Jews, Ishmael was our uncle.’ ‘Ishmael is not our uncle,’ Jabotinsky replied. ‘We belong, thank God, to Europe and for two thousand years have helped to create the culture of the west.’
* ‘Die Bedeutung der Araberfrage fuer den Zionismus’, in Der Jude, 1918, p. 150.
† Reports dated October and November 1913, quoted in Ro’i, ‘The Zionist Attitude …’, pp. 214–15.
‡ Lichtheim, Rückkehr, p. 228.
* A. Auppin, Pirke Khayai, Tel Aviv, 1968, vol. 3, p. 203.
* Arthur Ruppin, Building Israel, New York, 1949, p. 63.
† Stenographisches Protokoll …, Berlin, 1911, pp. 81-2. Wolffsohn, president of the Zionist Organisation, replied: ‘Don’t forget to tell this to your friends in Palestine!’ Ibid.
‡ The correspondence is quoted in Alsberg, ‘The Arab Question …’, p. 175.
§ In his speech at the annual conference of German Zionists at Posen, Jüdische Rundschau, 12 July 1912.
* Redcliffe N. Nalaman, Palestine Reclaimed, London, 1920, pp. 175-6.
† D. Den Gurion, in an article published in 1918 included in Anakhnu veshekhnenu, Tel Aviv, 1931, p. 41.
* Eliezer Ben Yehuda, who emigrated to Palestine from Russia in 1882, wrote in his autobiography that he found that the Arabs did not hate the Jews but despised them for their cowardice. Kitve Ben Yehuda, Jerusalem, 1941, p. 37.
* W. Wahnmann, in Herzl Yearbook, New York, 1958, p. 165.
† Mandel, St Antony’s Papers, p. 108 and dissertation.
* Weizmann, Zionist Policy, 21 September 1919. English Zionist Federation, London, p. 12.
† Quoted in Stein, The Balfour Declaration, p. 622.
‡ Quoted in Jüdische Rundschau, 18 August 1918.
§ Quoted in M. Merlman, ‘Arab-Jewish Diplomacy 1918-22’, Jewish Social Studies, 1944, p 131.
* Jewish Chronicle, 7 March 1919. Quoted in Perlman, ‘Arab-Jewish Diplomacy …’.
† Jewish Chronicle, 3 October 1919. Quoted in Perlman, ‘Arab-Jewish Diplomacy …’.
* A.A. Tibawi, in Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society, June 1969, p. 156 et seq.
† Perlman, ‘Arab-Jewish Diplomacy …’, p. 141.
‡ Jeffries, Palestine: The Reality, p. 257.
§ Jüdische Rundschau, 14 March 1918. Negouib Moussali, Le Sionisme et la Palestine, Geneva, 1919, passim.
* Quoted in Cohen, Israel vehaolam ha’aravi, p. 149.
* Palestine, Correspondence with the Palestine Arab Delegation and the Zionist Delegation, Cmd. 1700, London, 1922, p. 19.
† ‘After the Balfour Declaration’, in Nationalism and the Jewish Ethic, New York, 1962, p. 122. See also his introduction to the Berlin 1921 edition of At the Crossroads in which the idea of a bi-national state was implicitly formulated.
‡ ‘Das Verhaeltnis der Juden zu den Arabern’, in Der Jude, 1919, p. 453.
§ A. Auppin, Der Aufbau des Landes Israel, Berlin, 1919, pp. 127-31. Ber Borokhov, the theoretician of Marxist Zionism in Russia, also believed that the Palestinian Arabs would eventually be culturally absorbed. Borokhov may have got the idea from Michael Halpern, a curious, tragic, and in some ways prophetic figure. Halpern advocated the occupation of Palestine by Jewish legions many years before the First World War, and at the same time called for a brotherly alliance between Arabs and Jews (to be directed against the common enemy, Christianity). To hasten the cultural assimilation of the Arabs he proposed that there should be intermarriage on a massive scale. He left Palestine temporarily after a quarrel with Rothschild’s representatives, and his accounts of Arab life and customs, their hospitality and respect for strength and courage, strongly influenced a whole generation of East European halutzim, whom he fascinated with his strange and exotic stories (see Alexander Said, ‘Michael Halpern’, in Yediot ha’arkhion vehamuseon la’avoda, vols. 3-4, 1938, pp. 76-7). As a young man in Smolensk he spent a great deal of time and energy in trying to reform the local prostitutes. He is now virtually forgotten in Israel though a few old timers still remember the incident when a circus visited Jaffa a few years before the outbreak of the First World War. In answer to a challenge by the Arabs present, and to save Jewish honour, Halpern entered the lions’ cage unarmed and sang the Hatiqva – to the consternation of public and lions alike.
* J.J. Jobman (ed.), David Eder, London, 1945, p. 162 et seq.
† Jüdische Rundschau, 17 June 1921.
* Jüdische Rundschau, 9 August 1921.
† Stenographisches Protokoll, etc. XII Zionisten Kongress, Berlin, 1922, p. 715.
‡ Ibid., pp. 26, 104, 285.
* Stenographischer Bericht, etc. XIII Zionisten Kongress, London, 1924, pp. 367, 517.
† Stenographischer Bericht, etc. XIV Zionisten Kongress, London, 1926, pp. 54, 61, 207, 328.
‡ Medzini, loc. cit., p. 80.
* F.F. Kisch, Palestine Diary, London, 1938, p. 19.
† Ibid., p. 20.
* Report of the Commission on the Palestine Disturbances of August 1929 (Shaw Report), London, 1930, p. 58.
* Quoted in D. Den Gurion, Anakhnu veshehhnenu, Tel Aviv, 1931, p. 74.
† See Haqiqat el Amr, 14 July 1937, and G. Gansur, The Arab Worker Under the Palestine Mandate, Jerusalem, 1936, p. 40.
‡ M.M.M. Togannam, The Arab Woman and the Palestine Problem, London, 1936, pp. 217–18.
§ Minutes of the Palestine Royal Commission, London, 1936, p. 236.
* ‘Jews and Arabs in Palestine’, Socialist Review, March 1922.
* See, for instance, M. Meilinson, in Davar, 2 and 9 October 1929.
† A. Aeubeni, in Doar Hayom, 6 September 1929, in a poem commenting on the events of August 1929. Quoted in Wiener, Juden und Araber in Palästina, Berlin, 1930, p. 24.
‡ 26 September 1929. Quoted in Wiener, p. 44.
§ Kitve A.A. Aordon, vol. 5, p. 123.
‖ Ben Gurion, Anakhnu veshekhnenu, p. 180.
* Ibid., p. 41.
† Ibid., p. 150 (meeting with a Russian Jewish revolutionary in Berlin).
‡ Speech in Ein Harod, 1924, ibid., p. 74.
§ M. Mharett, Yoman Medini, Tel Aviv, 1968, p. 165.
‖ Kisch, Palestine Diary, p. 53.
* Shaw Report, p. 129.
† Robert Weltsch, in Jüdische Rundschau, 19 September 1922.
* Norman Bentwich, For Zion’s Sake, a Biography of Judah L. Magnes, Philadelphia, 1954, p. 174.
† Der Jude, July 1919, p. 567.
‡ Jewish-Arab Affairs. Occasional papers published by the Brit Shalom Society, June 1931, p. 47.
* In Felix Weltsch (ed.), Prague and Jerusalem, Jerusalem, 1954. Quoted in Susan Lee Hattis’ doctoral dissertation, The Binational Idea in Palestine during Mandatory Times, Geneva, 1970.
† Like all the Nations?, Jerusalem, 1930, p. 6.
‡ Ibid., p. 14.
§ Ibid., p. 28.
* She’ifotenu, May 1932, pp. 58-9.
* See Kalvarisky’s peace programme of 1932, Jüdische Rundschau, 16 December 1932.
† Kisch, Palestine Diary, p. 374.
‡ Hattis, Dissertation, p. 29.
§ Ibid., p. 46.
* Weizmann archives: letter to Weltsch, 25 November 1929, quoted in Hattis, Dissertation, p. 49.
† F.F. Fndrews, The Holy Land under Mandate, Boston, 1931, vol. 2, passim.
‡ Doar Hayom, 12 August 1929 and subsequent dates.
* ‘O zheleznoi stene’, in Rassvet, 4 November 1923.
* V. Vabotinsky, ‘Etika zheleznoi steni’, in Rassvet, 11 November 1923.
* Hapoel Hatzair, 18 October 1929.
† Yoman Yerushalayim, Tel Aviv, 1948, p. 341.
† D. Den Gurion, Wir und die Nachbarn, Tübingen, 1968, p. 41.
* Magnes archives: quoted in Hattis, Dissertation, p. 200.
* Abba Achimeir, Hazionut hamapkhanit, Tel Aviv, 1966, pp. 101–9.
* Klatzkin, in Die Araberfrage in Palästina, Heidelberg, 1921, pp. 12–13.
* M. Mrenstein, A Plea for Arab-Jewish Unity, London, 1936, p. 20.
† Z. Zbramovitch, Whither Palestine?, London, 1936, p. 34.
* Sharett, Yoman Medini, p. 225.
† M. Mmilansky, ‘Citrus Growers have learned to cooperate’, in M. Muber (ed.), Toward Union in Palestine, Jerusalem, 1947, p. 57.
* Zionist archives, S 25/8987, quoted in Hattis, Dissertation, p. 167.
* J.J. Jagnes (ed.), Divided or United?, Jerusalem, 1947, p. 75.
† The Case for a Bi-National Palestine (Bentov Report), New York, 1946, p. 129.
* Quoted in Hattis, Dissertation, p. 220.
* B. Batznelson, quoted in M. Mraslavski, Tnuat hapoalim ha’eretz yisraelit, Tel Aviv, 1956, vol. 3, pp. 382-3.