David Ben-Gurion, Guideline for Zionist Policy, 1941
(R-L) Zionist leaders Moshe Sharett, Chaim Weizmann, and David Ben-Gurion pictured in 1939. Photo Courtesy of the Central Zionist Archives.

Submitted to the Jewish Agency Executive Meeting, Jerusalem, March 23, 1941

Source: Allon Gal, David Ben-Gurion and the American Alignment for a Jewish State, Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis, The Magnes Press, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 1991, Appendix VII

When David Ben-Gurion submitted this 1941 “Guideline for Zionist Policy,”  Jews were dying in camps in Germany and the British had imposed severed restrictions on the Jewish National Home’s growth in the 1939 White Paper. Ben-Gruion’s realistic pragmatism guided this planning statement in the name of the Jewish population in Palestine. Almost half of these prepared remarks, “The Goal” and “A Jewish Palestine and the Arabs,” detailed how Zionism would resolve the situation for Jews inside and outside of Palestine: by war’s end, a Jewish government, or the “regime” would be created to facilitate government-sponsored mass Jewish immigration. Should Palestine become a Jewish state, he said several times.  Arabs in the land – whom he calls “natural citizens” – would be guaranteed “not only fully equal civil, political and national rights, but [also a] standard of living – economic, cultural and social…equal of the Jews.” 

Ben-Gurion recognized that Jews at that time in Palestine were relatively small in number, they also resided in a land of which two-thirds of the land area was not settled or cultivated. The Arabs’ genuine interest, he said, would not be compromised. Growth would benefit all. 

In “Vehicles of Zionist Policy,” he outlined subsequent sections (“Public Political Education,” “Concerning the War,” The Organization [haganah] – self defense,” “Concerning the White Paper,” “Internal Policy” and “Laying the Groundwork for Research and Logistics”).  His emphasis on education showed a keenness of informing Jews in Palestine and abroad about devotion to learning about the Jewish commitment to build a state. 

Ben-Gurion elaborated on what was needed: educating the public in Anglo-Saxon countries, mobilizing Jews to aid the British against Hitler, continuing to oppose the 1939 White Paper restrictions on Jewish demographic and physical growth, in preparing the haganah and Jewish youth, working to settle the land, and in strengthening the connection between Zionists in Palestine and the diaspora. He proposed that the Jewish Agency gather and publish data but also support programs for establishing an economy which would absorb the anticipated influx of Jewish immigrants.  Ben-Gurion had his eye on the unfolding history in front of him, but also he had the gift to “see’ over the horizon; he understood why and how individual tactical decisions when implemented collectively would foster the long term strategic objective of establishing a Jewish state. Fifteen months later, Ben-Gurion would in May 1942, in his Biltmore Hotel speech in NYC, outline for the public the Jewish goal of establishing a Jewish state in Palestine.

Ken Stein, January 24, 2022

David Ben-Gurion, Guideline for Zionist Policy, 1941, 

Submitted to the Jewish Agency Executive Meeting, Jerusalem, March 23, 1941 

A.  The Goal

Zionism’s primary task at this juncture is the full mobilization of Yishuv and the Jewish people to ensure a maximally Zionist solution to the two central questions awaiting resolution at the war’s end:

1.  that of the regime in Palestine and

2.  that of the destroyed Jewries of Europe (and other lands).

It is the task of Zionist policy to prevent separate solutions to these two questions, inasmuch as there can be no solution to the Jewish calamity outside of Palestine; and no solution to the question of Palestine may impinge upon, or deny, the Hebrew people’s right to its homeland.

3. Concerning the regime in Palestine: firstly, the Yishuv and the Jewish people must, with all the means at their disposal, prevent Palestine’s conversion into an Arab (or Christian) state, or the continuance of the White Paper regime.  We have three means to effect this goal: (a) the potency of the Yishuv, (b) the potency of aliyah, and (c) public political education [hasbarah].

4. Concerning the destroyed Jewries of the world: within world Jewry and before the bar of world public opinion Zionism must combat, ideologically and politically, injurious and fraudulent solutions – assimilation, philanthropic schemes, emigration (yet an additional dispersal), and territorial programs outside of Palestine.

5. Zionism’s political goal at this juncture is to create such conditions as will allow, at the war’s end, the establishment in Palestine of a regime geared to facilitate government-sponsored aliyah and settlement of masses of Jews; and to ensure that the representative body of the Jewish people (the Jewish Agency or a Jewish government) will be given the authority and the means to effect the rapid transfer of millions of Jews and settle them in Palestine as a self-governing nation.

B.  A Jewish Palestine and the Arabs

1. A massive aliyah and settlement program that will soon make the country overwhelmingly Jewish need not compromise –as it has not thus far – the genuine interest of the Arab (and other non-Jewish) residents of the country, nor impinge upon the legitimate aspirations of the Arab nation in Arab lands.

2. In the event that Arab permission for the free transit of the Arab population to neighboring countries is denied, Arab interests in Palestine should be guaranteed in one of the following ways:

a. In the event that Palestine shall become a separate and sovereign Jewish state, a regime shall be established therein that shall guarantee Arabs not only fully equal civil, political and national rights, but will strive as well to ensure that the Arabs’ standard of living – economic, cultural and social –will be equal of the Jews’.

b. In the event that Jewish Palestine shall be accepted as a dominion within the British (or British-American) Commonwealth of Nations, a regime shall be established in Palestine similar to that obtaining in Canada as regards [the equal rights of] the English and the French.

c. In the event that a federation or alliance with Near eastern states shall arise and the Arab peoples shall agree to the establishment of a Hebrew Palestine as a member of such a federation, Jewish Palestine shall join this federation as an independent state with full autonomy in all internal affairs (immigration, settlement, economic and labor laws, security, and the like), along the lines of a dominion of the British Commonwealth.

d. In the event that a world federal regime shall be established after the war, abolishing separate state sovereignties for the good of an efficient commonwealth of nations, this highest authority shall supervise the safeguarding of the rights and interest of the Arabs, as in all other states containing national minorities.

3. Zionist policy toward the Arabs is based upon the following four assumptions:

a. The Arabs living in Palestine are natural citizens.  If they do not wish to move their domicile to a neighboring Arab state, they deserve all the rights – civil, political, and national – of the country’s residents.

b. There is no “Arab question” in the same way that there is a Jewish question. Whereas the Jewish people is a minority everywhere and Palestine is their sole homeland, Palestine comprises a homeland for but a small segment of the Arab nation, who have at their disposal an abundance of large and unsettled tracts of land.

c. The actual Jewish population of Palestine is but a small portion of the potential numbers that could live here given the full exploitation of agricultural and industrial potential on land and sea.  Over two-thirds of Palestinian land is neither cultivated nor settled.

d. The Zionist enterprise in Palestine, limited until now to (approximately) one-twentieth of western Palestine alone, has proven, in effect, that the rapid expansion of Jewish settlement does not adversely affect the interests of the local residents; to the contrary, it improves their situation.

C. Vehicles of Zionist Policy

The vehicles for the realization of a Zionist solution to the problem of nation and Palestine are as follows:

1. A sweeping campaign of public political education in England, America, and the British Dominions (and in other countries, to the degree possible).

2. The rendering of aid, by the Jewish people, to Britain and her allies in the fight against Hitler and in the establishment of a Jewish army in Palestine and in the Diaspora.

3. Readying the Organization [Haganah] and Jewish youth for offensive and defensive roles.

4. Readying all the resources and strength of the Jewish people for a massive aliyah to Palestine at the war’s end.

5. A constant effort for the establishment of new settlements in Palestine during the war and thereafter.

6. Constant opposition to the White Paper policy.

7. Mobilization of the Yishuv and the Jewish people, and preparation, through research and organizational action, for mass Aliyah and settlement and for a change of the political regime in Palestine.

D. Public Political Education

1. With Hitler’s defeat, the Anglo-Saxon nations, upon the war’s conclusion, will be the primary effectors of political decisions; hence, Zionist public political education must be aimed primarily at said countries.

2. Our public political educative effort in these countries must be aimed at winning over peoples- and through them, their governments – to accept the Zionist solution to the question of the Jewish people and Palestine.  We must not limit ourselves to official negotiations, but must concern ourselves as well with the press, the labor movement, churches, and parliamentary and intellectual circles.

3.  The public political educative effort must be based on the following givens: (a) Jewish suffering as a concomitant of Diaspora life; (b) an historic link between the Jewish people and Palestine; (c) the success of the Zionist settlement effort and the failure of all other attempts at settlement; (d) the absorptive capacity of Palestine; (e) the refusal of the Yishuv to capitulate to the White Paper regime; (f) the necessity of aliyah and [a belief in] its capacity to burst all artificial constraints; (g) the right of the Hebrew nation, like all nations, to political independence in its homeland; (h) the need to transfer destroyed Jewries to Palestine swiftly and, to that end, to bestow governmental authority upon the Jewish Agency; and (j) avoidance of injuring Arab interests through Jewish settlement.  

4. The vehicles for the Zionist political education of the public in the Anglo-Saxon countries are the Jewries of England, America and the British Dominions.  Hence, all Zionist energies must be directed to ready the Jewries of these lands for this political task, through missions to the youth and the people; the creation of appropriate literature; and the bolstering of the ethical influence of Zionist Palestine.

E. Concerning the War

1. Zionism now mobilizes the support of the Jewish people – moral as well as political and military – for Britain’s and her allies’ war against Hitler, as one of Britain’s allies.

2.  In Palestine, we continue to provide all possible aid to the British army, foster friendly relations with the military authorities and encourage [Jewish] military service in Palestine and in neighboring countries.

3. In rendering military aid, Zionism aspires to the creation of a Jewish army in Palestine and abroad for first-line defense of the country.  Jewish units from abroad will be available for service at other fronts if need should arise.

4. Even prior to the establishment of such a Jewish army the Zionist authorities will continue to mobilize Jewish units in Palestine.

F. “The Organization” [HaHaganah]

1. Zionism regards the Organization as the backbone of the Yishuv, the vehicle for militant Zionism, and the motive force for the ever-growing settlement effort.

2. The Organization’s role at this juncture is not solely the guaranteeing of the Yishuv’s security, but, first and foremost, defending the Jewish people’s rights and seeing to the settling of the homeland.

3. In order to prepare the Organization for state roles when the destiny of Palestine will be determined, and roles in effecting land settlement, all Jewish youth must be drawn to the Organization: we must train and equip it more effectively and enhance its Zionist discipline and awareness.

4. The Organization’s functions necessitate [the imposition of] strict Zionist authority.  Yishuv institutions must be co-opted into running the Organization.  Supreme authority, however, and [specifically] Zionist education and political direction, must remain in the hands of the executive.

G. Concerning the White Paper

The Yishuv and the Jewish people remain firm in their active opposition to the White Paper, and react vigorously, appropriately and effectively to any new impingement upon the people’s rights and the Yishuv’s interests; and oppose the hostility towards, and wanton disregard of, the Yishuv and Zionism.

2. Opposition to the White Paper regime shall not detract from the Jewish people’s complete identification with the war of the English people nor in any way reduce the help extended the British army.

3. Zionism shall dissociate itself both from those who would sully the name of the British people and denigrate their war by excoriating the White Paper and the machinations of the Mandatory; as well as from those who would pass over the injury and insults of the White Paper out of empathy with the war of the British people.

H. Internal Policy

A Zionist policy cannot be effectuated unless Zionists in Palestine and in the Diaspora act with vigor and resolve.  The Yishuv must stand up to the [British] authorities.  Zionist discipline must be imposed in all external relations, bringing all Zionist parties together – all circles, all elements in Palestine – for united action and intensifying mutual aid within the Yishuv.  There must be; enlistment of youth in Palestine and abroad for the Zionist cause, and preparation of said youth for defense roles, enlistment for military duty and the founding of settlements; political Zionist education for weaker elements in the Yishuv (refugees and various ethnic communities); a strengthening of the link between the executive and all segments of the movement, whether in Palestine or in the Diaspora; a mustering of energies, solely through cultural-educational ventures, to combat any signs of weakness, capitulation, or defeatism in the Yishuv and among the Jewish people; and a launching, with ideological fervor, of a greater Zionism in Palestine and in the Diaspora.

I. Laying the Groundwork for Research and Logistics

In order to lay the groundwork for public political education; for official negotiations; and for broad planning of the country’s development during the war, at its conclusion and thereafter – the executive shall establish committees and groups of experts to collate and publish, as the need arises, all materials relating to the country’s absorptive and economic capacity, governmental norms and procedures, and desired neighborly relations in Jewish Palestine.  Similarly these groups shall raise suggestions and propose programs – fiscal and technical – for setting up a rural, urban, and maritime economy that will absorb the post-war massive aliyah