CAMERA Prompts Correction in San Francisco Chronicle

After a review in the San Francisco Chronicle of a book by Rashid Khalidi incorrectly claimed Jewish immigration increased during World War II, CAMERA informed editors that the flow of Jews in fact decreased sharply.

The newspaper ran the following correction:

Error (San Francisco Chronicle, Jonathan Curiel review of Rashid Khalidi book, 10/22/06): Months after the rejection [by the Palestinians of the 1939 White Paper], World War II erupted, Jewish immigration to Palestine (prompted by Hitler’s atrocities) increased dramatically, and the stage was reset for the establishment of a Jewish state.

Correction (11/5/06): An Insight story on Oct. 22, “Arguing that Palestinians share the blame for their plight,” mischaracterized Jewish migration to Palestine. The number of Jewish immigrants there declined during World War II.

The following immigration statistics can be found in Encyclopedia Judaica, as well as Martin Gilbert’s Atlas of the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

Table 1. Immigration, 1882-May 14, 1948
Year Immigrants
1933 37,337
1934 45,267
1935 66,472
1936 29,595
1937 10,629
1938 14,675
1939 31,195
1940 10,643
1941 4,592
1942 4,206
1943 10,063
1944 15,552
1945 15,259

The figures include “immigrants without visas and tourists who settled” — that is, both legal and illegal immigrants. 

The table shows that about 167,000 Jews immigrated in the 5 years leading up to the war, from 1934 through 1938.
Less than half that number arrived in the 5 years after the war began. As noted in the text accompanying the table, “Altogether, some 61,000 persons entered Palestine, with or without immigration certificates, during the years 1940-45.”

This means that even if, for the sake of argument, one were to assume each of the 31,195 immigrants who came in 1939 arrived after the war broke out, the pre-war numbers would still far exceed the post-war numbers. It seems, however, that most of those 31,195 immigrants arrived before the war. The Encyclopedia Judaica notes: “Of the Jews trapped in Europe by the outbreak of war in September 1939, only a few thousand managed to escape the impending catastrophe.” Indeed, the British Mandate’s publication of The Statistics of Migration and Naturalization for the Year 1943 counts 10,289 illegal immigrants arriving between April and September 1939; from October 1939 through March 1940, only 5,410 illegal immigrants arrived.

The book Second Exodus: The full story of Jewish illegal immigration to Palestine 1945-1948, by Ben Gurion University Professor Ze’ev Hadari, similarly notes that illegal immigration before the war outpaced such immigration after the war commenced. From 1934 through September 1939, “50 ships sailed from Europe to Palestine carrying 20,478 illegal immigrants,” Haradi wrote. During the war, “between September 1939 and August 1944, 26 ships sailed from the Balkan ports with 16,797 immigrants.”

One of the reasons for the drop in immigration after the start of the war is explained in Macmillan Publishing Company’s Encyclopedia of the Holocaust:

When the war broke out, Aliya Bet [illegal immigration] had to contend with new problems and uncertainties. Shipowners were expecting that the war would provide easier and more lucrative business opportunities, and they doubled and trebled the price for charters and also failed to keep their commitments. Governments, for their part, restricted the free use of vessels over which they had control. These difficulties, plus a lack of funds and a political reassessment of Aliya Bet, caused Zionist-organized Aliya Bet to slow down, and, in 1941 and 1942, to come to a complete halt.

While illegal immigration suffered from the lack of transport, legal immigration dropped precipitously after 1939 as a result of the British “White Paper,” which restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine. Chapter VIII of A survey of Palestine, Volume I shows that about 168,000 Jewish immigrants legally entered Palestine from 1934 through 1938. From 1940 through 1944, that number shrunk to about 39,000.

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