A historical Survey of Proposals to

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Meetings and Proposals on the Hoover Plan

At a meeting of the American Zionist Emergency Council held on 14 January 1946, Eliahu Ben-Horin was officially confirmed as a permanent member of the staff of the Council. The minutes state that at this meeting Ben-Horin "reported on an interview with Mr. Hoover which evoked a lengthy and detailed discussion." (4)

A report of this interview and the subsequent discussion can be found in an “addendum”

1 / Samir Shamma, Letters to the Editor, The New York Times, 13 January 1946, p.8E.

2 / Friedman, New York Times, 6 January 1946, op. cit. 3 / Shamma, New York Times, op. cit.

4 / American Zionist Emergency Council, Minutes of Meeting of Executive Committee, 14 January 1946, pp.1, 4, (CZA F39/385).

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to these minutes, although the actual date of this interview is not stated. According to Hoover’s calendar, the latest meeting between them had been nearly three months earlier, on 25 October 1945. (1) From the contents of the report of his interview, he is almost certainly referring to this meeting on 25 October.

Ben-Horin had met with Hoover “on behalf of the American Zionist Emergency Council.” He reported that “Hoover is very interested in the irrigation plan of Iraq and the transfer of the Arabs from Palestine.” Hoover, however “felt that if the Zionists were not in favor of the transfer proposal that was their business.” He had asked Ben-Horin “whether his statement [published in the newspapers] was received favorably by the Zionists of America.” Ben-Horin[?] had replied that “several individuals lauded and praised him and told him that they were in accord with his proposal - some Jewish, non-Jewish and several Zionist quarters. In view of the present Zionist relations it would be very harmful if the Zionists were to launch a program of transfer. The Zionist movement cannot and will not commit itself officially with the transfer proposal. Furthermore, it is very good for Zionism to be in a position to say no to any question regarding transfer.”

In the subsequent discussion at that American Zionist Emergency Council executive committee meeting, Ben-Horin “suggested that, with the approval of this body, the initiative should be taken to organize an independent group, headed by Mr. Hoover, and from the moment this group is organized no Zionist group should appear in the picture.” Ben-Horin commented that “it would bevery harmful for Zionism if it later appeared that we were financing Mr. Hoover’s group.”

Different views were then expressed in connection with the attitude to be taken by the Zionists to Hoover’s transfer proposal. None of those opposing Zionist support for the transfer of Arabs from Palestine did so on moral grounds - the opposition was entirely for tactical reasons. Rose Halprin “felt that the entirequestion was dynamite, and that we should do nothing on this question without first consulting with the Jewish Agency representative.” Gedalia Bublick “felt it would be dangerous for our cause to suggest thetransfer of the Arabs.” He considered that the public would then say that the Jews cannot live together with the Arabs in Palestine.

Although Abba Hillel Silver stated that “it is quite clear that our movement will not be associated with this idea,” as we have already seen, he himself was pleased that progress was being made with Hoover’s transfer plan!

An additional point was made by Dr. I. B. Berkson and “agreed fully” to by Pinchas Cruso. Berkson considered that whilst for the Zionists to suggest the transfer of Arabs “would be a calamity for the Zionist movement ... if we should adopt the plan it should be made public. It would be a complete disaster to denounce something publicly and privately support it.”

There were also members of this Committee who came out in favour of the Zionists publicly supporting Hoovers’ transfer plan. These included David Wertheim and Louis Lipsky. Wertheim “did not see any danger ... Here is a plan broughtup by non-Zionists which will mean that we will have a majority sooner than in any other manner. We should facilitate the sponsoring of such a group.” Lipsky said that “theprojection of this idea would be valuable to us.” Max Kirshblum was also “favorably inclined” towards this plan but added that “it must be done tactfully." ( 2)

On the following day, Elisha Friedman wrote a letter to Hoover pointing out that the Zionist Organization "officially takes the position" that there is sufficient room in Palestine for everybody. "If they advocated population transfer, it would furnish an argument for anti-Zionists."

Realising that one had to overcome this stumbling block, Friedman went on to propose a scheme to move the plan forward: "If we can get a responsible group of scientists, technical men, and distinguished citizens to undertake this proposal quite independently of any existing

1 / Calendar, Search Results - Eliahu Ben-Horin, op. cit.

2 / Ibid., Addendum, Report of Mr. Ben-Horin’s Interview with Mr. Hoover, (CZA F38/482).

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organization, I shall take the liberty of writing you." (1)

Ben-Horin was therefore especially insistent in excluding Meir Grossman, (the leader of a splinter group who had broken away from the Revisionist Party), who was an enthusiastic supporter of this plan, from this group. “He will want to be in the foreground of this affair, whereas the [American Zionist] Emergency Council is vitally interested in keeping any Jews, especially Zionists who may be active in the Hoover Plan, as far in the background as possible.” The last thing Ben-Horin wanted was for this group to degenerate into a “predominantly Jewish group which would agitate for transfer, andpossibly do more harm than good." (2)

A week later, a meeting took place between Hoover and Friedman and Ben-Horin, (3) and a confidential comprehensive report of this meeting was made by Ben-Horin in a letter to Abba Hillel Silver on the following day. Two weeks prior to this meeting, Ben-Horin had suggested to Hoover that his plan be shaped along the lines of exchange of populations, rather than transfer, in which seven hundred thousand Jews living in Arab countries would be transferred to Palestine in exchange for the Arabs of Palestine who would move to Iraq. (4) At this meeting, Hoover took up Ben-Horin's suggestion saying that itwas a "great improvement on his (Hoover's) original idea."(5) Silver, however, disagreed with the removal of Jews from Arab lands, since the Jewish public was not yet prepared for it and many Jews from North Africa, especially Egypt would "raise furious objection". He went on to concede that this idea might come about as a by-product of Hoover's plan but thatthere was no point in being involved at that stage in a "bitter controversy with our own people." (6)

A crucial point in the implementation of Hoover's plan was finding the necessary finance. At the meeting (7) between Hoover, Ben-Horin and Friedman, Ben-Horin told Hoover in "very careful language" that he could reliably count on a certain source providing the "first leg money for the promotion of his plan." Friedman pressed Ben-Horin to state definitely that the first twenty-five thousand dollars could be placed at Hoover's disposal, but Ben-Horin refused to give a definite commitment. Ben-Horin suggested that an independent group be set up, with Hoover at its head, "in order to produce an authoritative report of the Plan."

Hoover agreed to undertake to try and interest Bernard Baruch. Baruch was a self-made millionaire who had sat on American Government Committees and a few years earlier had been made adviser to the War Mobilisation Director.

Hoover also suggested the names of people outstanding in the field of engineering, irrigation and agriculture, and a public relations man, whose services he could enlist, and he undertook to talk to these people himself in order to ascertain whether or not they were interested. (8)

On the following day, Hoover had a meeting with Bernard Baruch and also with Baruch’s wife, (9) although what was discussed has not been traced.

On 25 January, Friedman wrote to a certain Julius Fohs who replied with details about assembling technical data and a technical committee and raising the first twenty-five thousand dollars for the project. (10)

A further meeting took place on the afternoon of 4 February between Hoover, Ben-Horin and Friedman (11) but we do not have a report on its deliberations.

That same evening a meeting took place at the house of William Fondiller, Vice-President of the Bell Research Laboratories, at which, according to Friedman "considerable

1 / Friedman to Hoover, 15 January 1946, op. cit. 2 / Medoff, Zionism and the Arabs, op cit., p.145.

3 / Calendar, 22 January 1946, (HH Presidential Papers - Calendar). 4 / Ben-Horin to Silver, 23 January 1946, op. cit.

5 / Ibid., p.1.

6 / Silver to Ben-Horin, 25 January 1946, op. cit. 7 / Calendar, 22 January 1946, op. cit.

8 / Ben-Horin to Silver, 23 January 1946, op. cit., pp.1-2.

9 / Calendar, 23 January 1946, (HH Presidential Papers - Calendar [via internet]).

10 / Fohs to Friedman, 30 January 1946, (CZA A300/24).

11 / Ben-Horin to Fohs, 4 February 1946, (CZA A300/24).

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progress" was made. Friedman informed Hoover that Fondiller was "greatly interested" and planned to call in the very near future a meeting of a group of engineers and "after this group meets and perfects the details of organization, we hope you will permit us to call on you to carry your project forward." It was also hoped that they might get funds from the Refugee Economic Corporation. (1)

A month later, a meeting of seven prominent engineers took place at the New York University Faculty Club in order to discuss the Hoover Plan.

. At this meeting, Ben-Horin was called upon "to outline briefly the genesis of the project". The engineers then had a heated discussion on the engineering aspects of the problem and they soon arrived at the conclusion that the data before them was insufficient.

Professor Boris Bakhmeteff of Columbia University, and former Russian ambassador to the U.S.A. "declared that the solution of the matter of making Palestine a Jewish Home was a serious international one, and he was strongly in favor of Mr. Hoover's proposal"and that it was "probably the best solution for the Jewish-Palestinian problem".

In answer to a question regarding the attitude of the Arab leaders, Ben-Horin indicated "that under present conditions their attitude would not be co-operative."

Another member of the committee, Eugene Halmos, a non-Jewish irrigation engineer said that his interest in the project "was purely from an engineering standpoint, and that his firm would be prepared to undertake these studies on a commercial basis as might be required" and that "no engineer of repute would lend his name to such a project unless all the necessary research and planning is done to prove that the quantity of water required is available, etc., etc."

After a long discussion, the engineers all agreed that the first thing to be done was to assemble all the data available on the subject and prepare a summary. They also decided to have an early meeting with Hoover in order that they might "learn what information he had gathered together in his own investigation." (2)

Two days later, Fondiller wrote to Hoover enclosing minutes of this meeting and the decision to have an early meeting with him "to fortify itself with such data as you have, bearing on the feasibility of the engineering phases of the project and its estimated cost." (3) However such a meeting never took place, since Hoover became interested in other causes and his interest in his Iraq plan faded. (4)

After this date, there seems to be no more information on this proposal for the years 1946 and 1947 in either the Hoover Library or the Central Zionist Archives. However, from about August 1948, which was soon after the establishment of the State of Israel, considerable efforts were made by both Ben-Horin and Friedman to revive the Hoover Plan and use it as a means of resettling the Arab refugees in Iraq and thus prevent their returning to Israel. Hoover gave these efforts his blessing, but he himself (possibly due to his advancing age) did little to further them. (5)

In August 1954, Hoover reached the age of 80 and Ben-Horin wrote to him a congratulatory letter, including a reference to the Hoover transfer plan. In a letter of thanks, Hoover added a post-script in his own handwriting, "We were on the only sane track!" (6) We can thus see that even after nearly nine years' reflection, Hoover still believed his plan was correct.

When Hoover died ten years later, in a tribute issued by the Zionist Organization of America, its President, Dr. Max Nussbaum, devoted almost his entire tribute to giving a detailed account of Hoover's transfer plan. ( 7)

1 / Friedman to Hoover, 5 February 1946, (HH PPS - Jewish- Zionist, Clippings).

2 / Minutes of Meeting at N.Y. Faculty Club, 4 March 1946, (HH PPS - Jewish-Zionist, Clippings) ; Ben-Horin to Silver, 5 March 1946, (CZA A300/24).

3 / Fondiller to Hoover, 6 March 1946, (HH PPS - Jewish- Zionist, Clippings). 4 / Medoff, op. cit., p.468

5 / Details may be found in: CZA A300/24 ; ISA FM 2402/15, 2402/16, 3037/11, 364/3 ; HH PPI - Friedman, Elisha ; Medoff, op. cit.

6 / Ben-Horin, A Brick for the Bridge, pp.185-86, op. cit.

7 / Press Release, "President Hoover's Support for a Jewish Homeland ...", 22 October 1964, (Zionist Archives, New

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Dr. Eduard Benes was President of Czechoslovakia from 1935--38. In 1938 the Germans occupied the country, and in 1940 he organised a government-in-exile in London. After Czechoslovakia was liberated in 1945, he returned to the presidency. Soon after the termination of the Second World War, the Sudeten Germans living in Czechoslovakia were transferred to Germany.

In August 1946, Benes had a meting with Eliahu Ben-Horin and the latter reported on this meeting in his unpublished autobiography. According to Ben-Horin, "President Benes said that there was something he could not understand about Zionist policies. He felt that the transfer of the Palestinian Arabs to Iraq or some other underpopulated Arab country could have provided the soundest solution for the Palestine problem. 'Indeed,' Dr. Benes went on, 'I spoke about it several times to Dr. Weizmann ... in London, but he had not been receptive at all to this idea. We are now transferring the Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia to Germany, and their number is twice the number of the Arabs you have in Palestine.'" We should add that this transfer of Sudeten Germans was a compulsory transfer approved by the Great Powers.

Ben-Horin answered Benes that he did "not have to sell me on the transfer idea, because I have advocated this solution for several years." He then pointed out that whereas President Hoover "also favors the transfer idea", Weizmann and other Zionist leaders "may not be far-sighted enough in this respect". He also felt that one could not bring a parallel with the Sudeten Germans, since whereas Benes and his government were masters of Czechoslovakia, this was not the case with the Jews of Palestine. (1)
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