Biltmore Program (1942)

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resolutions adopted at a zionist conference held at the biltmore hotel in new york city, 911 may 1942.

About 600 U.S. Zionists were joined by a number of visiting Zionist leaders, including the Zionist Organization's president, Chaim Weizmann, and the Jewish Agency chairman, David Ben-Gurion, at the Biltmore Hotel to call for "the fulfillment of the original purpose of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate."

One of the conference's eight resolutions strongly denounced the British White Paper of May 1939 as "cruel and indefensible in its denial of sanctuary to Jews fleeing from Nazi persecution." In its final resolutions, the Biltmore Program declared 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." To that end, the program was clearer and went further than any previous official Zionist statement in risking a breach with Britain and orienting the movement's fate toward U.S. sponsorship. The conference "urged 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 up-building 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."

The debates during and after the Biltmore conference were an important reflection of internal Zionist disputes between gradualists and radicalsa struggle characterized, somewhat simplistically, as one between Weizmann, the pro-British diplomat, and Ben-Gurion, the uncompromising activist. The Biltmore Program's call for the establishment of Palestine "as a Jewish Commonwealth" was interpreted by many as equivalent to the maximalist demand for a Jewish state in all of Palestine and, hence, aroused some internal controversy.

The Biltmore Program was endorsed by authoritative Zionist and Yishuv bodies, and remained official policy until late 1946, when a Jewish state in part of Palestine became the new operative goal of the movement's leadership.


Bauer, Yehuda. From Diplomacy to Resistance: A History of Jewish Palestine, 19391945. Philadelphia, PA: Jewish Publication Society, 1970.

Hurewitz, J. C. The Struggle for Palestine. New York: Norton, 1950. Reprint, 1968, 1976.

Laqueur, Walter, and Rubin, Barry, eds. The Israel-Arab Reader: A Documentary History of the Middle East Conflict, 6th edition. New York: Penguin Books, 2001.

Neil Caplan