One Million Plan
The One Million Plan was a strategic plan for immigration and absorption of one million Jews from Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa into Mandatory Palestine, within a timeframe of 18 months, in order to establish a state in the territory. After being voted on by the Jewish Agency for Israel Executive in 1944, it became the official policy of the Zionist leadership.
In light of the extent of the Holocaust becoming known in 1944, the Biltmore Conference ambition of two million immigrants was revised downwards, and the plan included, for the first time, Jews from the Middle East and North Africa as a single category as the target of an immigration plan.
In 1944-45, Ben-Gurion described the plan to foreign officials as being the "primary goal and top priority of the Zionist movement."
The immigration restrictions of the British White Paper of 1939 meant that such a plan was not able to be put into large-scale effect. After Israel was established, Ben Gurion's government presented the Knesset with a new plan - to double the population of 600,000 within 4 years. This immigration policy had some opposition within the new Israeli government, such as those who argued that there was "no justification for organizing large-scale emigration among Jews whose lives were not in danger, particularly when the desire and motivation were not their own" as well as those who argued that the absorption process caused "undue hardship". However, the force of Ben-Gurion's influence and insistence ensured that unrestricted immigration continued.
The plan has been described as "a pivotal event in ‘imagining’ the Jewish state" and "the moment when the category of Mizrahi Jews in the current sense of this term, as an ethnic group distinct from European-born Jews, was invented." The large scale immigration in the first few years after Israel's declaration was the product of this policy change in favour of mass immigration focused on Jews from Arab and Muslim countries.
At the 1942 Biltmore Conference, Ben-Gurion promoted the idea of two million Jews emigrating to Palestine in order to build the Jewish majority required in order to create the Jewish Commonwealth called for at the conference. It was assumed at the time that most of the immigrants would be Ashkenazi Jews. Ben-Gurion described his intentions to a meeting of experts and Jewish leaders:
Our Zionist policy must now pay special attention to the Jewish population groups in the Arab countries. If there are diasporas that it is our obligation to eliminate with the greatest possible urgency by bringing those Jews to the homeland, it is the Arab diasporas: Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, and North Africa, as well as the Jews of Persia and Turkey. What European Jewry is now experiencing obliges us to be especially anxious about the fate of the diasporas in the Middle East. Those Jewish groups are the hostages of Zionism... Our first move with a view toward coming events is immigration. But the paths of immigration from Europe are desolate now. The [doors] are shut tight, and there are very few countries that have a land link to the Land of Israel – the neighboring countries. All these considerations are cause for anxiety and for special activity to move the Jews in the Arab countries to the land of Israel speedily. It is a mark of great failure by Zionism that we have not yet eliminated the Yemen exile [diaspora]. If we do not eliminate the Iraq exile by Zionist means, there is a danger that it will be eliminated by Hitlerite means.
The Planning CommitteeEdit
The Planning Committee ("ועדת התיכון", also known as "The Committee of the Four"), was established in order to decide the principles of planning, and to create sub-committees of experts for various sectors, and supervise their work. Ben-Gurion believed that by choosing the members of the committee, he will be able to garner support both for the planning and the political aspects of the plan. Ben-Gurion was the chairman of the committee. It also included Eliezer Kaplan, treasurer of the Jewish Agency, Eliezer Hoofien, Chairman of the Anglo-Palestine Bank, Emil Shmorek, head of the department of trade and industry at the Jewish Agency, and a three-person secretariat consisting of economists.
The committee convened for the first time on October 11, 1943 at Kaplan's home. It was decided to convene weekly, at the Jewish Agency building in Jerusalem. Ben-Gurion participated regularly and examined the sub-committee reports in detail. The committee established sub-committees consisting of experts to examine the issues in the planning and development of land, water, settlement, industry, transportation, habitation, finance and more.
Among the first things discussed by the committee was the definition of its goals. Ben-Gurion declared two goals: 1. The settlement of two million Jews within 18 months, and creating a plan to facilitate such settlement, and 2. Scientific investigation of the facts related to such settlement, such as the amount of water necessary, the nature of the soil, climate, etc. The other members of the committee found the first goal unrealistic. Eventually Ben-Gurion relented and agreed to two plans. The "big" plan - rapid settlement of a million Jews and the creation of a Jewish majority and Jewish rule, and the "small" plan, the settlement of another million Jews within a few years.
The Planning Committee submitted reports throughout 1944 and the beginning of 1945.
— Esther Meir-Glitzenstein, Zionism in an Arab Country, 2004
Ben-Gurion requested initial analysis on the absorptive potential on the country in early 1941, and in late 1942 commissioned a "master plan" for the proposed immigration. He appointed a committee of experts, the Planning Committee, to explore how the economy of Mandatory Palestine could support a million new Jewish Immigrants. The plan, envisioning the arrival of a million Jews over 18 months, was completed in summer 1944, providing details of transportation, refugee camps and financing required.
As the scale of the Holocaust became clearer, the share of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries in the plan was increased.
In July 1943, Eliyahu Dobkin, the head of the Jewish Agency's immigration department, presented a map of the estimated 750,000 Jews in Islamic countries, and noted that:
…many of the Jews in Europe will perish in the Holocaust and the Jews of Russia are locked in. Therefore, the quantitative value of these three-quarters of a million Jews has risen to the level of a highly valuable political factor within the framework of world Jewry… The primary task we face is to rescue this Jewry, [and] the time has come to mount an assault on this Jewry for a Zionist conquest.
Similarly, Ben-Gurion stated at a meeting of the Jewish Agency Executive on 28 September 1944 that "My minimum used to be two million: now that we have been annihilated l say one million". On 30 July 1945, Ben-Gurion stated in his diary:
We have to bring over all of Bloc 5 [the Jews of Islamic countries], most of Bloc 4 [Western Europe], everything possible from Bloc 3 [Eastern Europe], and pioneers from Bloc 2 [the Jews of English-speaking countries] as soon as possible.
One of the issues that came up during discussions of the One Million Plan, particularly after the Baghdad pogrom and reports of antisemitic manifestations in Arab countries, was the security of Jewish communities in Islamic countries. In a 1943 Mapai central committee speech, Eliyahu Dobkin, the head of the Jewish Agency's immigration department, said: "The very same day that brings redemption and salvation to European Jewry will be the most dangerous day of all for the exiles in Arab lands... these Jews will face great danger, danger of terrible slaughter... Our first task is therefor to save these Jews." and Ben-Gurion wrote at a similar time of "the catastrophe that the Jews in eastern lands are expected to face as a result of Zionism", although these gloomy forecasts proved false.
The plan was first presented to the Jewish Agency Executive on 24 June 1944, not as an operative plan since the British immigration restrictions were still in place at the time, but as a political plan to formulate the requirements of the Zionist Organization at the end of World War II. From 1944 onwards, the plan became official policy of the Zionist leadership, and the immigration of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries became "explicit or implicit in all the declarations, testimonies, memoranda and demands issued by the Jewish Agency from World War ll until the establishment of the state". Policies were put in place to enhance Zionist activity in the target countries to ensure the immigrants would come. Esther Meir-Glitzenstein notes that "Interestingly, Ben-Gurion cites political and rational reasons for bringing Jewish displaced persons from Europe, whereas in discussing the immigration of the Jews from Islamic countries he mentions not only a political and rational reason, but also a cultural-orientalist explanation, since the 'degeneration' of the East was one of the basic elements of this perception."
The first organizational measure of the Plan was the late 1943 general plan of action entitled 'The Uniform Pioneer to the Eastern Lands', which would offer a course for emissaries from the Jewish Agency Immigration Department to later be sent Islamic countries. These activities in Islamic countries lost their urgency and attraction after WWII, and the boost in resources they received dwindled. The number of activists in these countries was minuscule compared to Europe, and there were not even enough of them to maintain what was already established.
After Israel was established, Ben Gurion's government presented the Knesset with a new plan - to double the population of 600,000 within 4 years. This immigration policy had some opposition within the new Israeli government, such as those who argued that there was "no justification for organizing large-scale emigration among Jews whose lives were not in danger, particularly when the desire and motivation were not their own" as well as those who argued that the absorption process caused "undue hardship". However, the force of Ben-Gurion's influence and insistence ensured that unrestricted immigration continued.
Investigating sources of immigrants and their scope figured prominently in the deliberations of the Planning Commission. They were presented with much data - the distribution and number of Jews in each country, including population changes during World War II, and analysis of the economic and occupational opportunities in these communities. Using this data, the composition the million immigrants that would come to the country was arrived at. Three main groups were initially considered as candidates for immediate immigration: Jewish Holocaust survivors in Axis countries—about 535,000 people; WWII refugees in neutral and Allied countries, of which an estimated 30% would want to immigrate—247,000; An estimated 20% of the Jewish population of Islamic countries—150,000. The possibility of a smaller number of people from the first groups was taken into consideration, in which case there would be more immigrants from the third group.
In mid-1944, as the extent of the Holocaust became known, focusing of attention on potential immigration from Muslim countries began. The main focus of the plan was Jews from Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Yemen.
- Katz 2016, p. 146-147: “These camps did not merely appear due to a state of emergency of the increasing stream of immigrants; instead, they were a product of an existing detailed plan, the One Million Plan, consolidated between 1942 and 1945 in order to absorb one million Jewish immigrants a few years before Israel's establishment… Camps were an integral part of the One Million Plan… However, three years after its completion, the One Million Plan approached realisation following the Israeli declaration of independence in May 1948 and the decision to open the state’s gates to Jewish immigration. As planned and anticipated, the camp had gradually become a central instrument in the absorption process. Several small immigrant camps operated before statehood in the centre of the country, and in accordance with the One Million Plan, about 30 additional camps opened in former British military facilities.”
- Rossetto 2012, p. Note 6: “It could be argued that the State of Israel, before and immediately after its declaration, was going through such hardships that there were no many other options to “absorb” so many thousands of immigrants arriving to the Country than by placing them in these precarious hosting facilities. Nonetheless, I am of the opinion that the most controversial issue in this respect is not the outcome (e.g. the ma’abarot) of the choice, rather the choice in itself to bring to Israel so many thousands of immigrants, following the idea of the “One Million Plan” unveiled by Ben Gurion in 1944.”
- Barell & Ohana 2014, p. 1.
- Ehrlich, Mark Avrum (2009), Encyclopedia of the Jewish Diaspora: Origins, Experiences, and Culture, 1, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 9781851098736,
A Zionist plan. designed in 1943–1944, to bring 1 million Jews from Europe and the Middle East to Palestine as a means and a stage to establish a state. It was the first time the Jews of Islamic countries were explicitly included in a Zionist plan.
- Meir-Glitzenstein 2004, p. 44 #1: "After it was presented to the Jewish Agency Executive, the One Million Plan became the official policy of the Zionist leadership. The immigration of the Jews of Islamic countries was explicit or implicit in all the declarations, testimonies, memoranda and demands issued by the Jewish Agency from World War ll until the establishment of the state."
- Ofer 1991, p. 239:"This tactical approach, the demand for "control of aliyah" and the immediate immigration of two million (later, one million) Jews, was the declared policy of the Jewish Agency Executive until the end of the war."
- Ohana 2017, p. 31: "The Million Plan was not an intellectual project or an abstract utopia with merely propagandist goals. It was a strategic move with extremely ambitious national, political, and techno-scientific goals, while being specific and concrete at the same time."
- Eyal 2006, p. 86: "The principal significance of this plan lies in the fact, noted by Yehuda Shenhav, that this was the first time in Zionist history that Jews from Middle Eastern and North African countries were all packaged together in one category as the target of an immigration plan. There were earlier plans to bring specific groups, such as the Yemenites, but the "one million plan" was, as Shenhav says, "the zero point," the moment when the category of mizrahi jews in the current sense of this term, as an ethnic group distinct from European-born jews, was invented."
- Hacohen 1991, p. 262 #2: "In meetings with foreign officials at the end of 1944 and during 1945, Ben-Gurion cited the plan to enable one million refugees to enter Palestine immediately as the primary goal and top priority of the Zionist movement."
- Hakohen 2003, p. 46: "After independence, the government presented the Knesset with a plan to double the Jewish population within four years. This meant bringing in 600,000 immigrants in a four-year period. or 150,000 per year. Absorbing 150,000 newcomers annually under the trying conditions facing the new state was a heavy burden indeed. Opponents in the Jewish Agency and the government of mass immigration argued that there was no justification for organizing large-scale emigration among Jews whose lives were not in danger, particularly when the desire and motivation were not their own."
- Hakohen 2003, pp. 246–247: "Both the immigrants' dependence and the circumstances of their arrival shaped the attitude of the host society. The great wave of immigration in 1948 did not occur spontaneously: it was the result of a clear-cut foreign policy decision that taxed the country financially and necessitated a major organizational effort. Many absorption activists, Jewish Agency executives, and government officials opposed unlimited, nonselective immigration; they favored a gradual process geared to the country's absorptive capacity. Throughout this period, two charges resurfaced at every public debate: one, that the absorption process caused undue hardship; two, that Israel's immigration policy was misguided."
- Hakohen 2003, p. 47: "But as head of the government, entrusted with choosing the cabinet and steering its activities, Ben-Gurion had tremendous power over the country's social development. His prestige soared to new heights after the founding of the state and the impressive victory of the IDF in the War of Independence. As prime minister and minister of defense in Israel's first administration, as well as the uncontested leader of the country's largest political party, his opinions carried enormous weight. Thus, despite resistance from some of his cabinet members, he remained unflagging in his enthusiasm for unrestricted mass immigration and resolved to put this policy into effect."
- Hakohen 2003, p. 247: "On several occasions, resolutions were passed to limit immigration from European and Arab countries alike. However, these limits were never put into practice, mainly due to the opposition of Ben-Gurion. As a driving force in the emergency of the state, Ben-Gurion—both prime minister and minister of defense—carried enormous weight with his veto. His insistence on the right of every Jew to immigrate proved victorious. He would not allow himself to be swayed by financial or other considerations. It was he who orchestrated the large-scale action that enabled the Jews to leave Eastern Europe and Islamic countries, and it was he who effectively forged Israel's foreign policy. Through a series of clandestine activities carried out overseas by the Foreign Office, the Jewish Agency, the Mossad le-Aliyah, and the Joint Distribution Committee, the road was paved for mass immigration."
- Picard 2018, p. 4-5: "There were two major changes in Zionist aliya policy in the first half of the 1940s. The first was the replacement of the preference for selective aliya by support for mass aliya. In 1944, Ben-Gurion called for bringing a million Jews to Palestine, even if public soup kitchens had to be set up to feed them... The second change was the decision to extend the aliya net to include the Jews of Muslim countries. It had become clear that they, too, would be needed to create a Jewish majority in Palestine... Independence and the removal of the British restrictions on Jewish immigration made it possible to implement these policy changes. The large-scale aliya of the next few years was the product of these two changes: it was mass aliya and it included Jews from Muslim countries."
- Shenhav 2006, p. 31.
- Hacohen 1994, pp. 102-103.
- Katz 2000, p. 304.
- Hacohen 1991, p. 262 #3.
- Meir-Glitzenstein 2004, p. 44.
- Hacohen 1991, p. 259:"Early in 1941 when Ben-Gurion was about to make one of his frequent visits to the United States, he had requested Jewish Agency officials in Palestine to gather material on the absorptive potential in the country as background material to his plan for massive immigration. The rudiments of such a program were presented at a meeting of the Center for Economic Studies at Rehovot in November 1942 where Ben-Gurion challenged the economists to draw up a master plan."
- Hacohen 1994, p. 38.
- Hacohen 1991, p. 262 #1:"The master plan formulated by the Planning Committee was completed in the summer of 1944. As noted, it envisioned the transfer to Palestine of one million Jews over the course of eighteen months. The plan included subsections on organizing the transportation and embarkation of the immigrants (the boats, trains, route details and ports to be used). Detailed lists of these data were included along with notes on equipment and the number of immigrants to leave each country. Several sections dealt with the absorption process in Palestine: the number of immigrants to enter per month, refugee camps and financing. The camps were to play a major role in the absorption process and serve as the base for the physical and emotional rehabilitation that the Holocaust survivors would require. They would also provide vocational training."
- Meir-Glitzenstein 2004, p. 38, #2: "The initial candidates for immigration under Ben-Gurion's plan were the 500,000 Jewish refugees in Europe. who would be dependent on the victors anyway He insisted that they should be brought to Palestine and supported until they were absorbed, or, as he put it, 'a soup kitchen [should be] opened for them in Palestine'. Next. all the Jews in Arab and North African countries – those 800,000 people who were at 'risk of annihilation and of human and cultural degeneration as well should be brought to Palestine."
- Shenhav 2006, p. 32.
- Meir-Glitzenstein 2004, p. 38, #3: "Consequently, Ben-Gurion's only question was arithmetic: would enough Jews be found in the world who were willing and able to immigrate to Palestine to make possible the establishment of the Jewish state? His answer related to the Biltmore Program: 'My minimum used to be two million: now that we have been annihilated l say one million.'"
- Ben-Gurion's diary, 30 July 1945, Ben-Gurion Archives. Midreshet Sede Boker
- Meir-Glitzenstein 2004, p. 39.
- Meir-Glitzenstein 2004, p. 40: [Eliyahu Dobkin in 1943]: "I don't know whether these Jews have any sense of what awaits them, but we have to look at it with open eyes. The very same day that brings redemption and salvation to European Jewry will be the most dangerous day of all for the exiles in Arab lands. When Zionism enters the stage of fulfillment and we are engaged in our campaign for the Zionist solution in Palestine, these Jews will face great danger, danger of terrible slaughter, which will make the slaughter in Europe look less terrible than it looks today. Our first task is therefore to save these Jews." Meir-Glitzenstein commented that "At the same time, because Dobkin made his remarks as an introduction to his efforts to persuade the Mapai central committee to support the 'Uniform Pioneer Plan'... it seems that these remarks may be regarded as one of the first cases of the use of the Holocaust to achieve a political objective."
- Meir-Glitzenstein 2004, p. 41: [Ben-Gurion in 1943]: "In many respects the issue of the Jews of eastern lands has now appeared on the Zionist agenda: (a) because of the catastrophe that took place in Europe—and we do not know what will become of European Jewry; (b) because of the catastrophe that the Jews in eastern lands are expected to face as a result of Zionism. This is the only segment of Jewry in the world that is liable to be a victim of Zionism; therefore we have a special responsibility toward them..." Meir-Glitzenstein commented that "these gloomy forecasts proved false. Although the status and security of the Jews in Arab countries worsened significantly, and they suffered political and economic persecution—especially in the tense period of the War of Independence—there were no massacres, and there was no danger to Jewish survival. Although the Jews experienced bloody incidents in Cairo (November 1945 and June to November 1948), Tripoli (4–7 November 1945), Aden (1947) and Morocco (1947), and although local army and police forces took part in these incidents, overall the attacks were limited in scope and were not the result of a government policy or initiative."
- Meir-Glitzenstein 2004, p. 38, #1: "On 24 June 1944, however, the plan was presented to the Jewish Agency Executive. It was presented not as an operative plan, since the While Paper policy was in effect in Palestine at the time, but in the political context, in effort to formulate the demands that the Zionist movement would submit to the Allies at the end of the war: 'The real content of our demand is to bring one million Jews to Palestine immediately' Ben-Gurion's demand had three parts to it: legal immigration, Jewish control of immigration and the establishment of Palestine as a Jewlsh state within a short period of time. The plan would he financed by a grant or loan from Britain and the United States, as well as financial reparations from Germany to the Jewish people for the purpose of building up the land.
- Meir-Glitzenstein 2004, p. 44 #2: "After it was presented to the Jewish Agency Executive, the One Million Plan became the official policy of the Zionist leadership. The immigration of the Jews of Islamic countries was explicit or implicit in all the declarations, testimonies, memoranda and demands issued by the Jewish Agency from World War ll until the establishment of the state. For example. a memorandum submitted to the High Commissioner on 18 June 1945 calls for permission for the immediate immigration of 100,000 European Jewish refugees and of Jews from Islamic countries, "from Morocco to Iran and from Istanbul to Aden"...
...The demand to bring over the Jews of Islamic countries was not successful in the international arena, but it had an impact in the intra-Zionist realm: a revision of priorities, allocation of resources and the formation of new circumstances for Zionism. The main tasks in the first stage, prior to the establishment of the state, were organizational. ideological and cultural.
Making mass immigration from Islamic countries a political objective required preparations to ensure that the immigrants would actually come. In the course of Zionist activity during World War ll, the Yishuv leaders had discovered that the Jews in these countries were not clamouring to emigrate, that there was no comprehensive Zionist activity there and that the Zionist cadre active there was extremely limited in scope and its ability to have an impact.
- Meir-Glitzenstein 2004, p. 39 #2.
- Hacohen 1994, p. 209-212: Translation provides by Meir-Glitzenstein (2004), p.39: "the Zionist program today requires the bringing over of a million Jews, the political right to this, and financial aid. To accomplish this, we need a plan for transporting them, for housing them temporarily, for bringing [them over] – all these are awesome issues. From the minuscule immigrations in the recent past, we see the difficulties in this: especially if we bring over Jews from Arab countries – large families, a different way of life... Nevertheless. we want to create a Jewish nation and we will have to work under catastrophic conditions."
- Meir-Glitzenstein 2004, pp. 44–45: Section "THE ONE MILLION PLAN AND THE OPERATIVE POLICY OF ZIONISM": "Making mass immigration from Islamic countries a political objective required preparations to ensure that the immigrants would actually come. In the course of Zionist activity during World War II, the Yishuv leaders had discovered that the Jews in these countries were not clamouring to emigrate, that there was no comprehensive Zionist activity there and that the Zionist cadre active there was extremely limited in scope and in its ability to have an impact... The first organizational measure was the Jewish Agency's decision to offer a course for emissaries who would then be posted to Islamic countries. In the second half of 1943, a general plan of action was drawn up. Entitled 'The Uniform Pioneer to the Eastern Lands', the plan proclaimed the concept of an ingathering of exiles and the revival of the Jewish people in Palestine as its central theme... To ensure implementation of the plan, it was decided that the emissaries would be sent out by the Jewish Agency Immigration Department and that it, not the Histadrut—as had been the case until then—would be responsible for the enterprise... The Uniform Pioneer Plan set a precedent for the Zionist movement's patronizing attitude toward its adherents in the Islamic countries and later in Israel.
- Hacohen 1994, pp. 46–47
- Hacohen 1994, pp. 216.
- Hacohen 1994, pp. 212.
- Shenhav 2006, p. 31a: "The plan also entailed bringing Jews from Europe, but its main focus (roughly three-quarters of the potential immigrants) was on Jews from Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and Yemen. For the first time, the Jews in Islamic countries were introduced into the political discussion of the Jewish institutions as a single category (called "Sephardim," "Edot Ha'Mizrah," or "Mizrahim", depending on time and context)."
- Eyal 2006, p. 86a: "Jews residing in Arab countries were increasingly marked as candidates for mass immigration and thus became the focus of discourse about the absorption of immigrants... Ben-Gurion formulated an ambitious plan to bring one million Jews to Palestine after the war, and he zeroed in on the Jews from Middle Eastern and North African countries as the most promising candidates for immigration."
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