The Biltmore Program
|Middle East||peacewatch||top stories||documents||culture||dialog||history||Maps||donations|
The 1939 British White Paper had closed Jewish immigration to Palestine and limited or barred land purchases. Effectively, it had rescinded the Balfour Declaration and reneged on the British commitment to a Jewish national home in Palestine. The White paper brought about the eclipse of the President of the Zionist Organization, Dr. Chaim Weizmann, who had been the architect of the Zionist policy of cooperation with the British, and who had been instrumental in obtaining the Balfour declaration. In Nazi-occupied Europe, there were still millions of Jews trapped in the Nazi occupation, and the Zionists were looking desperately for a way to get them out. Though the World Zionist Congress had been cancelled owing to the war, a small group of leaders met in the Biltmore Hotel in New York on May 6-11 of 1942. This included Weizmann, David Ben-Gurion as Chairman of the Jewish Agency Executive, and Nahum Goldman as a member of the Executive. Weizmann had hoped that this conference would reaffirm his position as head of the World Zionist movement, but a somewhat different sentiment developed. The conference adopted a series of resolutions calling for:
"the fulfillment of the original purpose of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate "
"to found there a Jewish Commonwealth"
"unalterable rejection of the White Paper of May 1939"
"that Palestine be established as a Jewish Commonwealth integrated in the structure of the new democratic world"
Though the resolutions claimed to reaffirm the original purpose of the Balfour declaration, they went beyond the original declaration. The British, in their most favorable policy declarations, had always stated that it was their intention to make Palestine a Jewish National Home, and NOT a "commonwealth", or independent state as Weizmann had sometimes stated. Moreover, beginning with The Churchill White Paper of 1922 in particular, the British had emphasized that a Jewish national home would be formed in Palestine, that is, in a part of Palestine. The Biltmore resolution now declared that the Zionists desired that all of Palestine would be a Jewish "commonwealth." The Biltmore Program was opposed by the then Marxist Hashomer Hatzair (later Mapam, Meretz) movement, which supported a binational state.
The Biltmore Program was a crucial step in the development of the Zionist movement, which increasingly saw itself as opposed to Britain rather than a collaborator of Britain, and it determined that henceforth Ben-Gurion and Zionist executive in Palestine, rather than Weizmann would lead the Zionist movement and determine policy toward the British. The announcement of the intention to form a state was not new, since the Zionists had accepted the Peel Commission Report which had called for creation of two states in Palestine.
There was, likewise no intention to remove the Arabs of Palestine implied in this declaration. In 1942, there were still about 5 or 6 million Jews living in Western Europe, and it was still possible to believe that immigration of some of these Jews to Palestine would create the majority needed for the Jewish commonwealth. The resolutions included a conciliatory paragraph:
...The Jewish people in its own work of national redemption welcomes the economic, agricultural and national development of the Arab peoples and states. The Conference reaffirms the stand previously adopted at Congresses of the World Zionist Organization, expressing the readiness and the desire of the Jewish people for full cooperation with their Arab neighbours.
Nonetheless, it is obvious that the Biltmore declaration ignored the rights of Palestinian Arabs, just as the Arab position ignored the rights of the Jews in Palestine.
Note: An expanded discussion of the Biltmore program, including a discussion of the view that it was of no significance, is given at: Biltmore Conference
Notice - Copyright
This introduction is copyright 2004 by MidEastWeb http://www.mideastweb.org and the author. Please tell your friends about MidEastWeb and link to this page. Please do not copy this page to your Web site. You may print this page out for classroom use provided that this notice is appended, and you may cite this material in the usual way. Other uses by permission only. The source material below is placed in the public domain and is free of copy restrictions.
adopted by the Extraordinary Zionist Conference at the Biltmore Hotel of New York City, May 11, 1942.
The following programme was approved by a Zionist Conference held in the Biltmore Hotel, New York City:
1. American Zionists assembled in this Extraordinary Conference reaffirm their unequivocal devotion to the cause of democratic freedom and international justice to which the people of the United States, allied with the other United Nations, have dedicated themselves, and give expression to their faith in the ultimate victory of humanity and justice over lawlessness and brute force.
2. This Conference offers a message of hope and encouragement to their fellow Jews in the Ghettos and concentration camps of Hitler-dominated Europe and prays that their hour of liberation may not be far distant.
3. The Conference sends its warmest greetings to the Jewish Agency Executive in Jerusalem, to the Va`ad Leumi, and to the whole Yishuv in Palestine, and expresses its profound admiration for their steadfastness and achievements in the face of peril and great difficulties ...
4. In our generation, and in particular in the course of the past twenty years, the Jewish people have awakened and transformed their ancient homeland; from 50,000 at the end of the last war their numbers have increased to more than 500,000. They have made the waste places to bear fruit and the desert to blossom. Their pioneering achievements in agriculture and in industry, embodying new patterns of cooperative endeavour, have written a notable page in the history of colonization.
5. In the new values thus created, their Arab neighbours in Palestine have shared. The Jewish people in its own work of national redemption welcomes the economic, agricultural and national development of the Arab peoples and states. The Conference reaffirms the stand previously adopted at Congresses of the World Zionist Organization, expressing the readiness and the desire of the Jewish people for full cooperation with their Arab neighbours.
6. The Conference calls for the fulfillment of the original purpose of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate which recognizing the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine' was to afford them the opportunity, as stated by President Wilson, to found there a Jewish Commonwealth. The Conference affirms its unalterable rejection of the White Paper of May 1939 and denies its moral or legal validity. The White Paper seeks to limit, and in fact to nullify Jewish rights to immigration and settlement in Palestine, and, as stated by Mr. Winston Churchill in the House of Commons in May 1939, constitutes `a breach and repudiation of the Balfour Declaration'. The policy of the White Paper is cruel and indefensible in its denial of sanctuary to Jews fleeing from Nazi persecution; and at a time when Palestine has become a focal point in the war front of the United Nations, and Palestine Jewry must provide all available manpower for farm and factory and camp, it is in direct conflict with the interests of the allied war effort.
7. In the struggle against the forces of aggression and tyranny, of which Jews were the earliest victims, and which now menace the Jewish National Home, recognition must be given to the right of the Jews of Palestine to play their full part in the war effort and in the defence of their country, through a Jewish military force fighting under its own flag and under the high command of the United Nations.
8. The Conference declares that the new world order that will follow victory cannot be established on foundations of peace, justice and equality, unless the problem of Jewish homelessness is finally solved. The Conference urges that the gates of Palestine be opened; that the Jewish Agency be vested with control of immigration into Palestine and with the necessary authority for upbuilding the country, including the development of its unoccupied and uncultivated lands; and that Palestine be established as a Jewish Commonwealth integrated in the structure of the new democratic world.
Then and only then will the age old wrong to the Jewish people be righted.
Main History Page