Population Transfer as a Tool
*This article is part of a series*
"If a country, or two countries, or an international body is faced with a minority problem which manifestly cannot be solved within the existing territorial framework and which, if perpetuated, will obviously lead to international complications and possibly to war, recourse should be taken at once to the preventive device of transfer."1
The expulsion of Palestinian Arabs by Israel is today portrayed as some sort of especially wicked and unique evil in history. One gets the impression that Israel, in making the decision during the war to expel Palestinian Arabs, crossed a line that nations should never cross. But when analyzing the expulsions in their historic setting rather than superimposing onto them present-day norms, it becomes immediately apparent that Israel was taking their lead for solving ethnic conflict from the rest of the world. Population transfers and expulsions had been taking place for decades all over the globe before Israel resorted to the same tactic as a last resort in war.
Population transfers were widely seen as a valid and effective technique to end lingering tensions and violence between differing ethnic groups. It would be beneficial to provide at least a high level survey of population transfer as a tactic in resolving ethnic conflicts around the world before returning to the circumstances facing Israel:
- For the first time in modern history at the Convention of Adrianople (1913) an agreement was reached to exchange minority populations (Bulgarians and Turkish Moslems) as a solution to ethnic hostilities. Due to Turkey's entry into WWI, the actual exchange never took place, but would have affected just under 100,000 people.2
- "A convention for the exchange of population between Greece and Bulgaria was signed on 27 November 1920 at Neuilly-sur-Seine by the Greek and Bulgarian plenipotentiaries."3 This "racial adjustment" was completed by 1930.
- During the Convention of Lausanne in 1923, the League of Nations oversaw the decision for a forced population transfer between the minority populations of Greece and Turkey. Over a million Greeks fled and were expelled from Turkey while under a half million Turks were expelled from Greece, not by the Greek government, but by order of the League of Nations. The "right of return" for the Greeks who fled was denied both by Turkey and the League of Nations, while the Turkish population in Greece for the most part was simply uprooted to provide enough room for the incoming Greek refugees.4 Despite the incredible hardships this posed on the uprooted people, "Before the operation the Greek and Turkish minorities had been a constant irritant. Now Greco-Turkish relations are friendlier than they have ever been before."5
- Forced expulsions of German minority groups from various countries, namely Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary, were carried out with each country specifically stating they did not want the German minorities to remain out of a concern for future security. This decision was codified in the Potsdam Declaration where the major International powers all signed on in agreement that this would be best for the future security of Europe. About 6.5 million Germans were affected whether or not they had cooperated with the Axis powers. The governments of Yugoslavia and Romania did not even wait for approval from the Potsdam Conference members before unilaterally and forcibly expelling their German minorities.
- The partition creating an independent Pakistan and India in 1947 resulted in a population exchange affecting over 14 million people as Hindus fled Pakistan and Muslims fled India. Despite the huge numbers of people involved, no "right of return" is being championed as an undying right by either side. The Palestinian refugees from the partition of Palestine and the creation of Israel is a tiny fraction of the Pakistani and Indian refugees. But for some reason the 14 million refugees from Pakistan and India are resettled, no longer an issue, while the comparatively small group of Palestinian refugees have done nothing but grow in size.
There were population transfers between the Soviets and Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovakia and Hungary, Poland and the Soviets, Italy and Germany, Yugoslavia and Hungary, Denmark and Germany, Greece and Bulgaria, Bulgaria and Romania, etc. The list just goes on and on. Some were voluntary (albeit with state pressure to leave) and some were forced. Most were done in hopes of settling ethnic tensions that had historically led to security problems.
"Today, the transfer plan is being advocated by many responsible statesmen, scholars, and writers. Among those who see in the exchange of populations a solution for some of Europe's most acute problems are former President Herbert Hoover, and former Ambassadors Hugh Gibson and William C. Bullitt. Leopold C. Klausner, onetime director of the Pan-European Union, is convinced that population transfer must be considered the best solution for minority problems in danger zones. Harold Butler and Nicolas Politis, former Greek Ambassador to France and an authority on international law, strongly advocate employment of the transfer method. Imre Ferenczi, former population expert of the International Labour Office, is explicit in his support of the transfer plan. And Warren S. Thompson, one of the leading demographers in the United States, declared ... 'As for myself, I have gradually come to feel that the resettlement of considerable populations in Europe is indispensible to the establishment of a peace which will have a chance to last for more than a few years.'"6
In Joseph B. Schechtman's exhaustive studies (European Population Transfers, 1939-19457, Postwar Population Transfers in Europe 1945-19558, and Population Transfers in Asia9) he provides a wide sampling of statesmen, academics, and population experts who approved of and endorsed population transfers, voluntary and compulsory. A portion of these people include:
- Georges Montandon, a professor of ethnology at the Paris School of Anthropology
- Professor Bernard Lavergne of the Lille University law faculty and the Greek Premier Venizelos
- Harold Butler and Nicolas Politis, former Greek Ambassador to France and an authority on international law
- Imre Ferenczi, former population expert of the International Labour Office
- Warren S. Thompson, one of the leading demographers in the United States
- Charles Upson Clark, a highly qualified student of Balkan problems
- Jacob Robinson, an authority on the international protection of minorities
Returning to the issue of population transfer in Palestine, Dr. Chaim Simons put together an impressive survey of both Jews and Gentiles that agreed such a thing would be the best and only effective solution for ending the conflict. From his study A Historical Survey of Proposals to Transfer Arabs from Palestine, 1895 - 1947:
- President Roosevelt considered a population transfer scheme that involved banning Arab immigration to what would be Israel, banning Jewish immigration to Arab nations, and enticing the existing Arab population out of Palestine with free land in Jordan. If that didn't work, the transfer should be forced, "They should be offered land free, and that ought to be enough to attract them; and failing the attraction, they should be compelled to emigrate to it." - Citing Lindsay to Oliphant, 3 November 1938, (PRO FO 371/21883 E6606/10/31)
- In 1943 President Hoover, while addressing the Emergency Conference to Save the Jewish People of Europe proposed population transfer as a way to establish the Jews in Palestine, "but after all Palestine would absorb only a part of the three or four millions whom this Conference has been discussing as needing relief. This could be accomplished only by moving the Arab population to some other quarter." - Citing The New York Times, 26 July 1943, p.19.
- In 1946 Alexander Kirkbride, while reporting to the Eastern Department of the Foreign Office in London, reported that during his meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan and the Prime Minister Ibrahim Pasha, Pasha "went on to say that, in his opinion, the only just and permanent solution lay in absolute partition with an exchange of populations; to leave Jews in an Arab State or Arabs in a Jewish State would lead inevitably to further trouble between the two peoples. Ibrahim Pasha admitted that he would not be able to express this idea in public for fear of being called a traitor." - Citing Kirkbride to Wikeley, 29 July 1946, p.1,(PRO FO 816/85)
- "In 1939, Mojli Amin, a member of the Arab Defense Committee for Palestine put forward a proposal for the transfer of Arabs from Palestine. ... Amin's proposal was that all of Palestine be given to the Jews - its dwelling places, its fields, its mosques, its graveyards, etc. “Furthermore, I hereby propose that all the Arabs of Palestine will leave and be divided up amongst the neighbouring Arab countries. In exchange for this, all the Jews living in Arab countries will leave and come to Palestine.” - Citing Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial, (New York, 1984), p.25.
- In 1941 Leopold Amery, Secretary of State for India, "wrote a letter to the British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, in which he put forward his views on solving the Palestine question, which included transferring the Arabs. He considered that “the ideal policy might well be to give the Jews the whole of Palestine and find the money for the transference of the existing Palestinian population to Transjordan and Syria and its resettlement there.” - Citing Amery to Churchill, 4 October 1941, Reprinted by Natanel Katzberg, The Palestine Problem in British Policy 1940 - 1945, (Jerusalem, 1977), p.18.
- Nobel Peace Prizewinner Sir Norman Angell stated, “A plan must be initiated to help in the development of other Arab territories so that Arabs in Palestine might immigrate to purely Arab lands where their establishment would be encouraged.” - Citing Joseph Schechtman, Population Transfers in Asia, (New York, 1949), pp.117-18.
- Historian Edwyn Bevan who lectured at King's College in London made a public recommendation that Palestine's Arabs be moved to Iraq to make room for the Jews after the Iraqi irrigation system was revived in order to accompany them. - Citing Edwyn Bevan, Letters to the Editor, The Times, (London), 11 September 1936, p.10.
- Ely Culbertson, President of World Federation Inc., proposed "A large part of the Mohammedan and Christian populations of Palestine shall be transferred to another territory in the Middle East, where equivalent or better land and living conditions shall be provided, together with a reasonable bonus." - Citing Ely Culbertson, Summary of the World Federation Plan, (New York, 1943), p.23. and Ely Culbertson, “No Solution Without a Plan”, The New Palestine, (New York), vol.xxxiii, no.9, 5 March 1943, p.6.
- American journalist John Gunther suggested, "“Perhaps amelioration will come some day... in the form of an exchange of populations. This is not practical politics yet; it could become practical politics any time the British believed in it. The Arabs might conceivably go to Transjordan or Iraq, where there is plenty of room; Jews from Europe could come then to Palestine. The idea may seem fantastic, but it worked when imposed by a strong hand on the Greeks and Turks. Something drastic must be done.” - Citing John Gunther, Inside Asia, (New York, 1939), p.589.
- Walter Clay Lowdermilk, at one time the Chief of the Soil Conservation Service of the United States Department of Agriculture, suggested that Arabs who did not prefer to dwell in Israel "could easily settle in the great alluvial plain of the Tigris and Euphrates Valley where there is land enough for vast numbers of immigrants." - Citing Walter Clay Lowdermilk, Palestine, Land of Promise, (New York, 1944), p.178.
- John Bagot Glubb (aka Glubb Pasha) was the British commander of the Jordanian Arab Legion. He envisioned a final settlement of the conflict that rested upon a population exchange, as he explained, “When the undoubtedly Arab and undoubtedly Jewish areas had been cleared of all members of the other community, work would begin on deciding the actual frontier….” - Citing John Glubb, A Further Note on Partition as a Solution of the Palestine Question, pp.35-36, (PRO CO 537/1856).
- Harry St John Philby, father of famous spy Kim Philby, served in the Arab Information Office in Cairo. He worked as an advisor to King Saud of Saudi Arabia. He believed "“The whole of Palestine should be left to the Jews. All Arabs displaced therefrom should be resettled elsewhere at the expense of the Jews ..." - Citing Harry St John B. Philby, Arabian Jubilee, (London, 1952), p.212 – 213
"... because it is patently impossible for any peace settlement to create a European order in which all states are nationally homogeneous, the opinion is gaining momentum that in several danger zones the answer to the territorial and minorities problems must be sought in an ethnic shifting of the minorities. It is felt that these persons should be resettled where they can become a part of larger ethnic groups whose language they speak, to whose customs they have the least antagonism, and to whom, spiritually, they owe allegiance."10
As far back as 1922 the British whom the League of Nations set in charge of Palestine declared, "It is necessary also to ensure that persons who are politically undesirable be excluded from Palestine, and every precaution has been and will be taken by the Administration to that end."11 The Palestine Royal Commission went on to publish a report in 1937 (popularly known as the Peel Commission Report) with recommendations to ultimately solve the racial animosity. The crux of reaching a permanent, lasting peace was partitioning the land along with a population transfer to compliment the new frontier:
- "They [the recommendations for solving Arab-Jewish grievances] cannot cure the trouble. The disease is so deep-rooted that in the Commissioners' firm conviction the only hope of a cure lies in a surgical operation", or in other words, ethnic resettlement. (Chapter XIX)
- "If Partition is to be effective in promoting a final settlement ... there should be a transfer of land and, as far as possible, an exchange of population." (Chapter XXII, Pgph. 10)
- "A precedent is afforded by the exchange effected between the Greek and Turkish populations on the morrow of the Greco-Turkish War of 1922." (Chapter XXII, Pgph. 10) This exchange, as I refer to above, was a forced population transfer that was successfully completed and effectively solved the friction among the mutual minority groups in the opposite countries.
- "If ... a substantial amount of land could be made available for the re-settlement of Arabs living in the Jewish area, the most strenuous efforts should be made to obtain an agreement for the transfer of land and population." (Chapter XXII, Pgph. 10)
- "In view of the present antagonism between the races and of the manifest advantage to both of them for reducing the opportunities of future friction to the utmost, it is to be hoped that the Arab and the Jewish leaders might show the same high statesmanship as that of the Turks and the Greeks and make the same bold decision for the sake of peace." (Chapter XXII, Pgph. 10)
The British Labour Party also went on record in their support of population transfer in their 1943-1944 report: “Here too, in Palestine surely is a case, on human grounds and to promote a stable settlement, for transfer of population. Let the Arabs be encouraged to move out, as the Jews move in. Let them be compensated handsomely for their land and let their settlement elsewhere be carefully organised and generously financed.” The British Common Wealth party passed a similar resolution a year later.12
"... senior British officials and Arab leaders, including Emir ‘Abdullah and Nuri Sa’id, Iraq’s premier politician ... shared this view [of transfer]. All understood that for a partition settlement to work and last, the emergent Jewish state would have to be ridded of its large and potentially or actively hostile Arab minority. As ‘Abdullah’s prime minister, Ibrahim Pasha Hashim, put it in 1946: 'The only just and permanent solution lay in absolute partition with an exchange of populations; to leave Jews in an Arab state or Arabs in a Jewish state would lead inevitably to further trouble between the two peoples.' ‘Abdullah, according to Britain’s representative in Amman, Alec Kirkbride, concurred."13
Benny Morris took a lot of heat for his controversial opinion that if David Ben-Gurion "was already engaged in expulsion, maybe he should have done a complete job. I know that this stuns the Arabs and the liberals and the politically correct types. But my feeling is that this place would be quieter and know less suffering if the matter had been resolved once and for all. If Ben-Gurion had carried out a large expulsion and cleansed the whole country - the whole Land of Israel, as far as the Jordan River. It may yet turn out that this was his fatal mistake. If he had carried out a full expulsion - rather than a partial one - he would have stabilized the State of Israel for generations."14
But it's the same logic espoused by Arab novelist Anton Shammas when he states in an argument with a fellow Israeli novelist A.B. Yehoshua, "I always said that the Zionist state’s most serious mistake in 1948 was that it kept the 156,000 Arabs who did not run away and were not expelled. If you really wanted to establish a Jewish state, you should have kicked me out of Fasuta, too."17 It also echoes conventional wisdom shared by demographic experts and international lawyers:
"The purpose of a population transfer is not to remove a high percentage of a minority group from the country of its residence, but to remove a minority problem, to eliminate a threat to the future. There are only two alternatives. In countries where there is reasonable hope for a peaceable life for minority groups within the state-nation and where a transfer is not absolutely essential, maximum security and rights must be guaranteed to the minorities. But if population transfer is deemed unavoidable, there must be no trace of the collective minority existence left, no stuff for the resurgence of the minority problem. There is no third solution."15
"... it should be noted that forced population transfers, if they are not complete and permanent, only postpone and aggravate inter-ethnic conflict, they rarely terminate it. ... However, if evictions are complete and permanent, then they may in fact be the precursors to peace."16
As we can see, population transfer was not a scheme hatched in a Zionist bunker. Transfer as a solution to Palestine's ethnic problem was proposed in the open for over 10 years before Israel declared statehood. It was agreed upon as the most effective solution by non-Jewish members of the international community from all backgrounds. These facts make a mockery of the accusation that "the Jews" or "the Zionists" were biding their time before ethnically cleansing their territory at an opportune moment. Of course, a more important question than who it was that first proposed this solution or how many agreed with it remains ...
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Part 1 - Expulsions and Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinian Arabs
Part 2 - Population Transfer in International Affairs
Part 3 - Were the Expulsions of Palestinian Arabs Necessary?
Part 4 - Terrorism as a Response to Expulsion
1 Schechtman, Joseph B. Population Transfers in Asia. New York: Hallsby Press, 1949. 84
2 "European Population Transfers, 1939-1945" by Joseph B. Schechtman, Pg. 12
3 "European Population Transfers, 1939-1945" by Joseph B. Schechtman, Pg. 13
4 "European Population Transfers, 1939-1945" by Joseph B. Schechtman, Pp. 17-18
5 Palestine Royal Commission, Chapter XXII, Pgph. 10
6 "European Population Transfers, 1939-1945" by Joseph B. Schechtman, Pp. 455-456
7 Schechtman, Joseph B. European Population Transfers, 1939-1945. Studies of the Institute of World Affairs. New York: Oxford University Press, 1946.
8 Schechtman, Joseph B. Postwar Population Transfers in Europe 1945-1955. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1963.
9 Schechtman, Joseph B. Population Transfers in Asia. New York: Hallsby Press, 1949.
10 European Population Transfers, 1939-1945" by Joseph B. Schechtman, Pg. 454
11 British White Paper of June 1922
12 European Population Transfers, 1939-1945" by Joseph B. Schechtman, Pg. 457
13 Morris, Benny. 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. New Haven [Conn.]: Yale University Press, 2008. 18-19
14 Haaretz Jan. 2004, "Survival of the Fittest" by Ari Shavt - http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=380986&contrassID=2#top (Internet Archive confirms quote as of Jan 15, 2008)
15 Schechtman, Joseph B. European Population Transfers, 1939-1945. Studies of the Institute of World Affairs. New York: Oxford University Press, 1946. 478
16 Bookman, Milica Zarkovic. The Demographic Struggle for Power: The Political Economy of Demographic Engineering in the Modern World. London: Frank Cass, 1997. 141-142
17 Kimmerling, Baruch. Clash of Identities: Explorations in Israeli and Palestinian Societies. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008. 224