One Million Plan

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The One Million Plan was an official policy of the Zionist leadership formulated by David Ben-Gurion in 1943–44 to bring one million Jews from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East to Mandatory Palestine in order to establish a state in the territory.[1][2][3] In light of the extent of the Holocaust becoming known in 1944, the Biltmore Conference ambition of two million Ashkenazi immigrants was revised downwards, and the plan included, for the first time, Jewish immigration from Arab and Muslim countries as a group as official policy of the Zionist leadership.[4]

In 1944-45, Ben-Gurion described the plan to foreign officials as being the "primary goal and top priority of the Zionist movement."[5]

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 until the Israeli Declaration of Independence in May 1948. The new country's 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"[6] as well as those who argued that the absorption process caused "undue hardship".[7] However, the force of Ben-Gurion's influence and insistence ensured that his immigration policy was carried out.[8][9]


At the 1942 Biltmore Conference, Ben-Gurion had promoted the idea of two million Jews emigrating to Palestine in order to ensure the new Jewish State would be strong enough to stand alone with a Jewish majority, with the assumption at the time that most of the immigrants would be Ashkenazi Jews. In 1942 Ben-Gurion described his intentions with respect to such potential policy 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.[10]

The Plan[edit]

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.[11] The master plan was completed in summer 1944, providing details of transportation, refugee camps and financing required.[12]

As the dimensions of the Holocaust became clearer, the share of Jews from Arab and Muslim countries in the plan was increased.[13] 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".[14] On 30 July 1945, Ben-Gurion described the breakdown of the one million 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.[15][16]

It was first presented to the Jewish Agency Executive on 24 June 1944, as a political plan to formulate the requirements of the Zionist Organization at the end of World War II.[17] 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.[18] 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.”[19]

Whilst Ben-Gurion was aware of the challenges of such a large scale project,[20] he saw immigration as the cornerstone of the Zionist project, stating following the 1948 Arab–Israeli War:

The main thing is absorption of immigrants. This embodies all the historical needs of the state. We might have captured the West Bank, the Golan, the entire Galilee, but those conquests would not have reinforced our territory as much as immigration. Doubling and tripling the number of immigrants gives us more and more strength....This is the most important thing above all else. Settlement – that is the real conquest.[21]

Initial immigration[edit]

The British White Paper of 1939 restricted immigration to Palestine to 10,000 Jews per year, and in October 1946 this was increased to 18,000.[22] Successful Aliyah Bet (illegal immigration) took place in addition to this, but amounted to only 3,300 additional immigrants per year between 1940-45.[23] Following the May 1948 Declaration of Independence, immigration to Israel no longer operated under any restrictions.

In Europe, the new government of Israel paid the governments of Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, and Hungary to allow the emigration of their remaining Jewish population.[24]

The data below shows the immigration to Israel in the years following the May 1948 Israeli Declaration of Independence.[25]

1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1948-53
Eastern Europe
Romania 17678 13595 47041 40625 3712 61 122712
Poland 28788 47331 25071 2529 264 225 104208
Bulgaria 15091 20008 1000 1142 461 359 38061
Czechoslovakia 2115 15685 263 150 24 10 18247
Hungary 3463 6842 2302 1022 133 224 13986
Soviet Union 1175 3230 2618 689 198 216 8126
Yugoslavia 4126 2470 427 572 88 14 7697
Total 72436 109161 78722 46729 4880 1109 313037
Western Europe
Germany 1422 5329 1439 662 142 100 9094
France 640 1653 1165 548 227 117 4350
Austria 395 1618 746 233 76 45 3113
Great Britain 501 756 581 302 233 140 2513
Greece 175 1364 343 122 46 71 2121
Italy 530 501 242 142 95 37 1547
Holland 188 367 265 282 112 95 1309
Belgium - 615 297 196 51 44 1203
Total 3851 12203 5078 2487 982 649 25250
Iraq 15 1708 31627 88161 868 375 122754
Yemen 270 35422 9203 588 89 26 45598
Turkey 4362 26295 2323 1228 271 220 34699
Iran 43 1778 11935 11048 4856 1096 30756
Aden - 2636 190 328 35 58 3247
India 12 856 1105 364 49 650 3036
China - 644 1207 316 85 160 2412
Other - 1966 931 634 230 197 3958
Total 4702 71305 58521 102667 6483 2782 246460
Tunisia 6821 17353 3725 3414 2548 606 34467
Libya 1064 14352 8818 6534 1146 224 32138
Morocco - - 4980 7770 5031 2990 20771
Egypt - 7268 7154 2086 1251 1041 18800
Algeria - - 506 272 92 84 954
South Africa 178 217 154 35 11 33 628
Other - 382 5 6 3 9 405
Total 8063 39572 25342 20117 10082 4987 108163
Unknown 13827 10942 1742 1901 948 820 30180
All countries 102879 243183 169405 173901 23375 10347 723090


  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. 
  2. ^ 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."
  3. ^ 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."
  4. ^ 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."
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ 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."
  7. ^ 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."
  8. ^ 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."
  9. ^ 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."
  10. ^ Shenhav 2006, p. 31.
  11. ^ 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."
  12. ^ 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."
  13. ^ 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."
  14. ^ 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.'"
  15. ^ Ben-Gurion's diary, 30 July 1945, Ben-Gurion Archives. Midreshet Sede Boker
  16. ^ Meir-Glitzenstein 2004, p. 39.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ Meir-Glitzenstein 2004, p. 39 #2.
  20. ^ Hacohen 1994, p. 209-212: "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."
  21. ^ Segev, 1949, p97
  22. ^ (or 1,500 per month. See Hilberg, Raul The Destruction of the European Jews, (1971) New Viewpoints ed. New York, 1973 p.729
  23. ^ 16,500 in total over five years. See Studies in Contemporary Jewry : Volume X: Reshaping the Past: Jewish History and the Historians: Volume X: Reshaping the Past: Jewish History and the Historians, Ed. Jonathan Frankel, Oxford University Press, 1994, ISBN 9780195357608
  24. ^ Segev, 1998, pp.99–101: "The Hungarians demanded two million dollars for 25,000 Jews – $80 a head. This asking price was lower than the Romanian one, which was then demanding five million dollars for 50,000 Jews – $100 a head."
  25. ^ Hakohen, Devorah (2003), Immigrants in Turmoil: Mass Immigration to Israel and Its Repercussions in the 1950s and After, Syracuse University Press, p. 267, ISBN 9780815629696 


  • Meir-Glitzenstein, Esther (2004), "The Reversal in Zionist Policy vis-a-vis the Jews of Islamic Countries: The One Million Plan", Zionism in an Arab Country: Jews in Iraq in the 1940s, Routledge, pp. 35–47, ISBN 9781135768621 
  • Hacohen, Dvora (1994), Tochnit hamillion [The One Million Plan] ("תוכנית המיליון, תוכניתו של דוד בן-גוריון לעלייה המונית בשנים 1942- 1945"), Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense Publishing House 
  • Eyal, Gil (2006), "The “One Million Plan” and the Development of a Discourse about the Absorption of the Jews from Arab Countries", The Disenchantment of the Orient: Expertise in Arab Affairs and the Israeli State, Stanford University Press, pp. 86–89, ISBN 9780804754033 
  • Segev, Tom (1998). 1949, the first Israelis. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-5896-6. 
  • Shenhav, Yehouda (2006), The Arab Jews: A Postcolonial Reading of Nationalism, Religion, and Ethnicity, Stanford University Press, ISBN 9780804752961 
  • Hacohen, Dvorah (1991), "BenGurion and the Second World War", in Jonathan Frankel, Studies in Contemporary Jewry : Volume VII: Jews and Messianism in the Modern Era: Metaphor and Meaning, Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780195361988 
  • Jonathan Frankel, ed. (1991), "Illegal Immigration During the Second World War: Its Suspension and Subsequent Resumption", Studies in Contemporary Jewry : Volume VII: Jews and Messianism in the Modern Era: Metaphor and Meaning, Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780195361988  |first1= missing |last1= in Authors list (help)
  • Hakohen, Devorah (2003), Immigrants in Turmoil: Mass Immigration to Israel and Its Repercussions in the 1950s and After, Syracuse University Press, ISBN 9780815629696 
  • Ofer, Dalia (1991), Escaping the Holocaust illegal immigration to the land of Israel, 1939-1944, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780195063400