1.The Dreyfus Affair, 1894-1898 | 2.Theodor Herzl – The Father of Modern Political Zionism | 3. Zionism Becomes Organised | 4. The Diplomatic Offensive
V referred briefly to the precursors of modern Zionism as a political
movement predicated upon the Jewish Nationalist aspiration.
Nevertheless, these early dreams and debates, whilst striving for self
determination all lacked the strong leadership and the political
impetus needed to translate emotion into action, and above all,
organisation which could command respect internationally.
material presented in this Chapter is intended neither to be
comprehensive nor to duplicate or summarise what has already been
researched and recorded elsewhere. Much of the background to the Jewish
immigration to and land acquisition in Palestine is to be found in the
many published histories on the origins of Zionism, such as
Shimoni, ‘The Zionist Ideology’ (Brandeis University Press,
Hanover NH , 1995); David Vital, ‘The Origins of Zionism’
(Oxford University Press, London 1975); together with Ben Halpern and
Jehuda Reinharz, ‘Zionism and the Creation of a New
Society’(Oxford University Press, New York, 1998); and in
the biographies of Zionist leaders: Chaim Weizmann, ‘Trial and
Error’ (Greenwood Press, Westport, Conn, 1972); Shabtai
Teveth’s ‘Ben Gurion, The Burning Ground 1886-1948,
(Houghjton Mifflin, Boston, 1987); and Menachem Begin, ‘The
Revolt’ (Nash Publishing New York 1977).
Accordingly, this Chapter will confine itself to a review of
(1) the political events, specifically the Dreyfus Affair which converted debate into action.
(2) the leadership of Theodor Herzl, who was a
visionary with the necessary ability and zeal to transform the concept
from ideology to realisation through diplomatic means. He was the right
man at the right place and at the right time to create the Zionist
(3) the Zionist Organisation (ZO) as the vehicle for
Jewish Self Determination in Palestine, its deliberative and executive
(4) implementation of the ZO goals both politically and instrumentally.
reference will be made to the impact of these events on contemporaneous
Jewish-Arab relations and the historical radiations of such events on
1.The Dreyfus Affair, 1894-1898
the liberal attitude of the Napoleonic regime in Western Europe and the
move to ‘emancipate’ its minorities- including the Jews -
anti-Semitism continued to be expressed not only against those who
refused to assimilate but even those who had succeeded in erasing all
visible symbols of being Jewish.
France, key segments of French society, notably the Catholic Church and
in some French governmental institutions, particularly the army,
continued to reject Jewish attempts at assimilation. Instead in some
quarters, rabidly anti-Semitic sentiments became openly expressed in
action. Nowhere was this better exemplified in the court martial
proceedings launched against Captain Alfred Dreyfus a French military
officer born of Jewish parents.
basis of an incompetent investigation and procedural irregularities, he
was charged, tried, found guilty and convicted in 1894 for espionage,
following which he was publicly degraded in the École Militaire.
The degradation was accompanied by violent public anti-Semitic
it transpired some two years later that his conviction was based on
false evidence and that another officer, Ferdinand Esterhazy was in
fact the enemy agent. Drefus was retried in June 1899, but was still
found guilty because fabricated evidence had been planted in his file
to protect the image of the France’s Military hierarchy.
conviction might have passed unnoticed but for but for the public
denunciation by Emil Zola published in the front page of the
Parisian daily newspaper, L'Aurore, on January 13, 1898 in which he
accused the government of anti-Semitism, the unlawful jailing of
Dreyfus over the security leak and a general white-wash of the
incompetent French senior military establishment.
2.Theodor Herzl – The Father of Modern Political Zionism
to the Drefus Affair, Herzl, even as a thoroughly assimilated Jew, had
encountered anti-Semitism both as a law student at University of Vienna
when he joined Albia, a German students’ society, and in his
political reading of E. Duehring's “Die Judenfrage als
time of the Dreyfus trial, Herzl was the Paris correspondent of the
influential Austrian newspaper the Neue Freie Presse. Although
initially convinced of Dreyfus’ guilt, the trial raised the
‘Jewish problem’ to full consciousness and convinced him of
the necessity of providing a solution to the failure of Jewish
‘emancipation’ into French cultural life as the panacea for
anti-Semitism. The Affaire revealed both to Herzl and to many other
Jewish literary, financial and political leaders that their
assimilation into the majority culture was illusory.
arose because the Jews were everywhere seen as foreigners without a
homeland to which they could retreat. The solution, in Herzl’s
view was to be found in the creation of such a homeland, the
establishment of which would command international acceptance and
respect for Jews as for any other people.
articulated his ideas in an “Address to the Rothschilds” in
which he sought to gain their financial support and that of other
Jewish financial magnates such as Baron de Hirsch (the founder of
Jewish settlements in Argentina) and Samuel Montagu as well as the
Chief Rabbi of Vienna. They rejected his ideas as impractical as did
the Jewish Establishment of Vienna, Paris, and London with whom he was
in contact during the second half of 1895.
(D. Gutwein, Herzl and the struggle within the Jewish plutocracy : The Rothschilds, Baron de Hirsch and Samuel Montagul 1997, vol. 62, Historical Society of Israel no1, pp. 47-74,)
this endeavour he redrafted his ideas for wider dissemination at the
grass roots level in a booklet early in 1896 entitled “Der
Judenstaat. The basic premises to his argument were:
• anti -Semitism cannot be solved by
assimilation because of the Jewish will to survive as one people (Volk)
despite the fact that they live as strangers in all countries;
• the societal and political
solution to the Jewish problem lies in the establishment of an
independent Jewish state, with the consent of the great powers, in
Eretz Yisrael, preferably, or elsewhere, if so desired.
booklet resonated both within the intellectual sectors of Western
Europe’s emancipated Jewry and more particularly influenced Jews
in Eastern Europe. As a consequence, and unaware that a similar but
ineffective attempt by Hovevei-Zion groups to convene such a Congress
had been made earlier, Herzl succeeded in bringing together some 204
participants from seventeen countries on August 29,1897, in Basle,
Switzerland to constitute the first Zionist Congress.
also Nathan Birnbaum who studied law, philosophy and Near Eastern
studies at the University of Vienna from 1882 to 1886. Aged 19, in
1883, he founded Kadimah, the first Jewish (Zionist) student
association in Vienna, well before Theodor Herzl became the leading
spokesman of the Zionist movement. While still a student, he founded,
published and partly wrote the periodical Selbstemanzipation!
("Self-Emancipation!" (1885-1894) in which he coined the terms
"Zionistic", "Zionist", "Zionism" (1890), and "political Zionism"
3. Zionism Becomes Organised
First Congress August 29–31, 1897:
The Basel Platform
Herzl in the Chair, and Nathan Birnbaum as Secretary-General, the 1897
Congress resolved to establish the Zionist Organisation
(“ZO”). It adopted as its platform the following:
“Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Eretz-Israel secured under public law.
The Congress contemplates the following means to the attainment of this end:
1.The promotion by appropriate means of the settlement in Eretz-Israel
of Jewish farmers, artisans, and manufacturers.
2.The organization and uniting of the whole of Jewry
by means of appropriate institutions, both local and international, in
accordance with the laws of each country.
3.The strengthening and fostering of Jewish national sentiment and national consciousness.
4.Preparatory steps toward obtaining the consent of
governments, where necessary, in order to reach the goals of Zionism.
by its absence in sub-paragraph 1 is any reference to the indigenous
Arab population of Eretz-Yisrael and the anticipated impact which the
Basle Platform, if implemented, might have upon such people.
drafting language of paragraph 4 of the platform appears to contemplate
the ZO obtaining a charter, not unlike those granted to colonial
development companies (such as the East India company) which would give
some degree of security to the establishment and international
recognition of a Jewish national home wherein a high degree of self
government for its population would be guaranteed by one of the Great
Herzl’s perspective, such proposed concept would not come as a
surprise to the Ottomans, who, under the Capitulations (see Chap. 4,
section 3 (a)) had already conceded the right to the major
European powers to protect non Ottoman citizens residing within the
central parliamentary organ of the Zionist movement, Congresses were
convened on a regular basis. From 1887 to 1901, it met annually
and thereafter biennially.
success of the 1st Congress gave considerable impetus to the growth if
the Organisation. Its size increased eightfold in the one year period
between the 1st and 2nd congresses.
the Congress, in its second assembly demanded that in addition to its
political activities in Palestine, more attention should be paid to
strengthening the Jewish cultural and nationalist activities within
Europe, especially Russia. Subsequently the implementation of this
policy impacted negatively on Herzl’s efforts to persuade Tsarist
Russia to support the Zionist programme.
the positive side, the 2nd Congress authorised the foundation of a
financial institution, the Palestine Jewish Colonial Trust, to raise
money for the advancement of the ZO’s objectives in Palestine.
the seven years following its inception, the ZO grew into a Jewish mass
movement, its organisation more sophisticated, its membership
continuing to increase at a steady rate and with it, increasing demands
from its subscribers many of could not be met due to financial
(For a summary of Congress resolutions and events between the first and the twelfth see:
David Mendelsson From the First Zionist Congress (1897) to the Twelfth (1921) http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Zionism/firstcong.html )
Congress was seen both as a deliberative and legislative body. It
decided that simple membership to the ZO would be open to anyone over
18 years upon the purchase of one Zionist ‘sheql’ (the
biblical coin used to carry out a census). Congress delegates, however,
had to be over 21 years. Although women delegates did not have the
right to vote in the 1st Congress this was rectified in the 2nd
Number of delegates accredited to future
Congress would be proportionate to the number of “sheqlled”
paid up members of the ZO located in each country. Although 17
countries were represented at the 1st Congress, the mainstay of support
for the entire movement came from the Russian Zionists who comprised
over one third of the delegates. By the 4th and 5th Congresses, they
accounted for over one half of its representatives and demanded extra
representation on the Action Committees (see below).
lack of cultural and ideological homogeneity characteristic of the 1st
Congress became a constant factor in the Organisation. Inasmuch as the
number of Congress delegates were to be proportional to the number of
ZO members in a particular country, this has influenced the manner in
which the contemporary Israeli parliamentary structure of the Knesset
the allocation of parliamentary seats among the various parties is
determined by proportional representational vote exercised by the
electorate within in a single national constituency. Such manner of
election gives a more than proportionate power to smaller parties to
influence the composition of government. Coalition in present day
Israel has been the rule rather than the exception and as such prevents
government from establishing a coherent and consistent political policy.
1st Congress elected Herzl as its first President, a position which he
held until his death in 1904. He was followed by David Wolffsohn
(1905–1911) and Otto Warburg (1911–1921).
iii. Action Committees
major importance in the day to day running of the organisation was the
creation of the Inner and Outer Action Committees (“IAC”
and “OAC” respectively) which became responsible for
strategic implementation of the ZO platform. The IAC, later known as
the “Executive”, in effect became the “Cabinet”
while the OAC – later named the Zionist General Council -
fulfilled the wider function of Government and Parliament in between
iv. Field Offices: Constantinople and Jaffa
order to advance its interests internationally and particularly with
the Ottomans and to implement the Organisation’s land acquisition
and immigration settlement programmes the IAC established two important
field offices in 1908.
• The Constantinople Office acted as a modern-day lobbyist among the Sultan’s advisors.
The Jaffa Office dealt with the nuts and bolts of building under the
management of Arthur Ruppin, assisted by Dr. Jacob Thon, Joshua
Radler-Feldman, Joshua Hankin.
it provided information for potential immigrants and confined its
operational activities to land acquisition and immigrant support.
1911, as a result of increasing Arab opposition to Jewish migration and
settlement, it also acted as the intelligence and propaganda arm of the
ZO. Its role was extended to encompass public relations with the Arabs
in Palestine and “ to read the Arab press, and to report on, and
translate into Hebrew and reply to articles concerning Jews and
was the Jaffa office and its staff which had direct contact with the
Arab absentee landowners, the urban notables, village headmen and
occasionally with the Arab fellah living on and working the land, the
ownership of which, was transferred to the ZO’s land development
company, over his head and often without his knowledge.
management and operation of the settlement operations conducted by the
Jaffa Office directly influenced and affected the relationship between
Jew and Arab.
Yaacov Ro’i, The Zionist Attitude to the Arabs 1908-1914,
in E. Kedouried & S.G. Haim (eds), Palestine and Israel in the 19th
and 20th Centuries, pp.15-59, Frank Cass & Co Ltd., London,
Abigail Jacobson, Sephardim, Ashkenazim and the ‘Arab Question’ in pre-First World War Palestine, 39 Middle Eastern Studies, No.2 April 2003, pp. 105-130
1. Jewish Colonial Trust
approaches to the West European Jewish magnates for financial support
for his Zionist project having been rejected, he was compelled to turn
to the Jewry’s grass roots for support.
Jewish Colonial Trust (JCT), the founding of which had been approved by
the 2nd Congress, was duly incorporated in London on March 20, 1899,
with the threefold goals of:
--attracting funds from a wide catchment area
--acquiring immigration permits for settling in Palestine during the Ottoman Rule; and
--providing credit for the establishment of a Zionist enterprise in Palestine.
JCT Founder Share Capital was authorised in the amount of
£2,000,000. Unfortunately subscribers took up less than a
quarter of the founder share capital, and the Bank only reached
the minimum statutory requirement to be able to commence business in
1902 when it succeeded in issuing 250,000 £1 shares
Palestine, the JCT’s financial activities were carried out by its
subsidiary, the Anglo-Palestine Bank. Formed in 1902, the bank opened
its first branch in Jaffa in 1903 under the management of Zalman David
Levontin with land purchases being among its early transactions.
it was clear from the very beginning of its existence, that the ZO
would be strapped for funds in the pursuit of its goals. This was to
have significant repercussions in the 20’s and 30’s on the
ZO’s ability to support Jewish migration into Palestine and the
continuation of its land acquisition projects.
David Mendelsson, From the First Zionist Congress (1897) to the Twelfth (1921), Jewish Virtual Library http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Zionism/firstcong.html
Nili Kadary, “Herzl and the Zionist Movement: From Basle to Uganda”
4. The Diplomatic Offensive
As part of
his early attempts to enlist the support of the European and British
Jewish Establishments and their financial magnates, Herzl had already
commenced his international diplomatic assault even before the
establishment of the Zionist Organisation.
knowledge that Germany maintained close political and economic ties
with the Ottoman Empire and that German support would be crucial in
gaining the Turkish Sultan’s agreement, Herzl initially sought
the aid of German intermediaries in attaining his objectives. When this
failed he tried approaching the Ottoman government directly. When this,
too, proved unsuccessful, he turned to other European
efforts involved numerous visits to Istanbul, and to other major
European cities, meeting not only with high and low ranking political
leaders and government officials but also with Heads of State including
German Emperor Wilhelm II, in Istanbul on October 18, 1898, and later
in Palestine on October 28 and November 2; Sultan Abdülhamid II on
May 17, 1901; the King of Italy on January 23, 1904 and the Pope on
January 25, 1904.
June 1896 and until his death in July 1904, Herzl tried in vain, to
obtain the right of Jewish settlement in Eretz Yisrael. Throughout this
period Russian Jews came under constant threat of pogroms culminating
in the Kishinev Massacre of 1903. This event compelled Herzl of the
necessity to find an immediately feasible solution and caused him to
consider settlement possibilities other than in Erez Yisrael – a
move which was to create a schismatic ideological split in the Zionist
These aforesaid efforts are summarised below.
a. German Intermediaries
April 23, 1896, supported by an introduction from the Anglican Chaplain
serving the British Consulate, Rev. W. Hechler, Herzl was received by
Frederick, the Grand Duke of Baden and uncle of the German Kaiser,
Now, as President of the newly established Zionist Organisation and
with the publication in 1897 of the movement’s weekly newspaper,
Die Welt, Herzl felt able to increase his international diplomatic
October and November 1898 Kaiser Wilhelm II paid a visit to the
Ottomans. Herzl saw this as an opportunity for the Kaiser to intercede
and persuade Sultan to consider the Zionist proposals seriously.
Through the Grand Duke’s good offices, Herzl succeeded in meeting
the Kaiser three times:
- On October 18, 1898 in
Istanbul, Herzl ‘lectured’ the Kaiser on the need to settle
the Jews in Palestine. After making a number of comments that could be
interpreted as anti-Semitic, he nevertheless asked Herzl: "Tell me in
one word: what should I demand from the Sultan?" to which Herzl
replied: "A franchise company [that will accept Eretz Israel] with
late October – early November, during the Kaiser’s visit to
Palestine, Herzl succeeded in meeting him twice but on both occasions
the Kaiser made no promises.
In all of
these meetings, Herzl presented the fundamental ideas of Zionism and
the necessity to apply a constructive Realpolitic view to solve the
younger days the Kaiser had had a friendly disposition towards the
Jews, however, by the time of Herzl’s audience, Wilhelm II,
influenced by his household clergy, had become very anti-Semitic.
Consequently, the Kaiser’s support for Herzl’s initiative
should be seen as an attempt to rid Germany of its Jews, rather than as
an expression of being pro Jewish.
Kaiser would be unsuccessful in persuading the Sultan to grant Jewish
autonomy in Palestine should have come as no surprise. The
Kaiser’s Foreign Secretary Bernhard, Fürst von Bülow,
(later to become Chancellor in 1900) was well aware that the Sultan and
his officials lay in constant fear of erosion in their attempts to
control of the Ottoman Empire.
(John C. G. Rohl, The Kaiser and his Court: Wilhelm II and the Government of Germany, especially Chapter 8 Kaiser Wilhelm II and German anti-Semitism, Cambridge University Press, 1995;
Isaiah Friedman, Germany, Turkey and Zionism 1897-1918, Clarendon Press, 1977,Oxford, especially Ch’s 4 -5 ‘First Encounter with Zionism’
b. Direct negotiations with the Ottomans
In June 1896, assisted by
Michael Nevlinski, a Polish diplomatic agent, Herzl met with the
Ottoman Grand Vizier in Istanbul with the proposal that the Jews would
undertake to correct the Ottoman Empire's grave
financial situation in return for which the Sultan would relinquish his
rule over Erez Israel and agree to the country's becoming an
independent Jewish state.
negotiating with the Sultan and his officials, Herzl initially sought
an independent Jewish State. After being rejected, he retreated
and proposed a Jewish state under the Sultan’s suzerainty. This
proposal, too, was rejected, forcing Herzl to modify his request again.
Now he asked for a Charter allowing for dense and concentrated Jewish
settlement in Eretz Israel enjoying autonomy and the right of
In return Herzl somewhat rashly undertook to cover the enormous Ottoman national debt – presuming,
without investigating in advance, whether the Jewish financial magnates
would undertake the task when presented with an affirmative answer from
In this, Herzl was mistaken in both of his assumptions.
The Jewish magnates
were unenthusiastic and Rothschild ridiculed the idea that Palestine
could be a home for the Jews. Nevertheless Herzl continued to negotiate
with the Sultan apparently unaware that that the Ottomans were
simultaneously negotiating to refinance their debt on cheaper terms in
the Ottoman perspective, such a proposal could not be countenanced.
Their loss of control over Greece in 1826 had set a precedent for other
nationalistic movements in the Balkans. In 1875, Bosnia and Herzegovina
sought their independence of the Ottomans as did the Bulgarians.
Although the insurgents were defeated by the Turkish armies, the
Ottomans were not about to encourage the emergence of any nationalist
movement, especially one located in the very heart of what remained of
Turkish American Political Action Committee, ‘Disintegration of the Ottoman Empire’ http://www.turkishpac.org/history-and-archives-armenian-issue/disintegration-of-the-ottoman-
the Sultan, Abdulhamid II also feared that a Jewish held territory,
populated by European immigrants would invite even more European
intervention in Turkish affairs than previously under the
Capitulations, particularly from Russia.
the Sultan was unwilling to allow a concentration of Jews in Palestine,
he was instead prepared to admit Jewish immigration to any part of the
Ottoman Empire –other than Palestine, provided (i) the immigrants
relinquished their foreign nationality, (ii) assumed Turkish
nationality with all the duties that that imposed, including compulsory
military service, and (iii) Herzl undertaking to form a syndicate for
the consolidation of the public debt.
At this point, in February 15, 1902, Herzl’s attempt to negotiate directly with the Ottomans came to a final end.
c. Negotiations with Britain – Her Middle Eastern Interests
interests in Palestine at that time were multiple - religious,
political, commercial and military - all of which impacted on potential
Anglo-Jewish relations. These interests encouraged Zionists generally
and Herzl particularly to look to Britain for support in their search
for Jewish self-determination in Palestine, certain in the knowledge
that by 1903, Britain had became sufficiently directly involved in
Ottoman Imperial domestic affairs and therefore capable of assisting
the Zionists to realise their ambitions.
Earl of Shaftesbury, a social reformer and Christian evangelical
activist within the Church of England, is generally believed to have
persuaded British Foreign Secretary Palmerston, to whom he was related
by marriage, to establish a consulate in Jerusalem in 1838 and to
extend to non Ottoman Jews in Palestine its protection under the
Capitulations. Their motivation arose from their Non-Conformist belief
that the return of the Jews to Palestine and their conversion to
Christianity would, according to New Testament Scriptures, hasten the
Second Coming. Shaftesbury saw Palmerston as God’s chosen
instrument to achieve this objective. Similar motivations may
have influenced Prime Minister Lloyd George in the next century.
there is considerable evidence to support the claim that
Britain’s consular establishment in Jerusalem was initially
motivated by political considerations intended to constrain the
expansion of unopposed Russian and French influence in the region:
Russia defended the Orthodox institutions and community within the
Empire generally and particularly in Palestine, as did France in
respect of the Catholic institutions and communities. For want of
Protestants in the region, Britain adopted the Jews as her
protégé so as to claim a similar interest. It was only
with the appointment of James Finn in 1845 as British consul in
Jerusalem that Shaftesbury and Palmerston conceived that he could also
extend British protection to non-Ottoman Jews.
Fromkin, A Peace to End All Peace, Pheonix Press, London, 2000,
pp 268-269; A Verite, Why Was a British Consulate Established in
Jerusalem? 85 English Hist. Rev 316-345 http://www.jstor.org/stable/564408
ii. Political Interests
addition to its attempts to limit Russian and French political
influence and commercial expansion into the Ottoman Empire, Britain
also had a strong interest in maintaining its political integrity and
internal stability of her Empire.
In 1831-1833 Ibrahim Pasha, Mehammed Ali’s son had invaded and
occupied Syria (including Palestine) under the pretext that the Sultan
had promised him control of the territory as due compensation for
suppressing the Wahhabi takeover the Najd area of the Arabian
Peninsula, especially the holy city of Mecca (1813-16) and crushing the
Greek uprising against the Ottomans in 1824.
Britain may have also have viewed (somewhat mistakenly) that the
Egyptian advance into Syria might have been retarded by placing along
his line of march a British backed Jewish homeland. (Fromkin, p.269).
Given Ibraham Pasha’s military ability, this seems unrealistic.
While Ibraham Pasha’s rule of Syria brought some degree of
modernisation it also created considerable political opposition such
that the Sultan turned to Britain and France for their
Jibrail Rustum Syria under Mehemet Ali 41 (1) The American
Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures (Oct., 1924), pp. 34-57 http://www.jstor.org/stable/528722
Britain and France responded in 1838 by instituting a diplomatic
offensive against Egypt culminating in the 1840 Convention of London
whereby Ibrahim Pasha withdrew his forces from Syria (including
Palestine ) and Mehammed Ali accepted the hereditary and effective rule
over Egypt and the Sudan as the Khedive - the title of the Turkish
viceroys who effectively governed the territory from 1867 to 1914 while
under nominal Turkish rule.
Mehammed Ali and his successors were viewed by Egyptian nationalists as
"Turks" responsible for a series of Egyptian financial and economic
crises; in particular a crisis in 1876 which gave Britain the
opportunity to acquire a large financial and therefore political
interest in the recently completed Suez Canal.
iii. Commercial Interests
Suez Canal, constructed with French financing and employing Egyptian
forced labour between 1856 and 1869 was originally opposed by Britain
on the grounds that British shipping would gravitate towards the canal,
become dependent on it, and then suffer interruptions during war time
because of its vulnerability to attack.
The Canal’s opening was nevertheless opportune for Britain for at least three reasons:
Faster Communication with India
rebelled against the maladministration of the subcontinent by the East
India Company between 1857-1859. After regaining control, Britain
exercised governmental power directly. Policy was set by the India
Office headed by the Secretary of State for India, and implemented by a
Governor-General holding the new title of Viceroy.
of the Suez Canal, would now enable Britain to exercise more efficient
communication and control over the Indian affairs, and advance her
trading interests into the Far East. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Rebellion_of_1857
canal allowed British commercial interests to reduce their shipping
costs of importing raw material for Britain’s burgeoning cotton
textile industry. The American Civil War (1861-1865) had sharply
reduced supply and Egyptian cotton was found to be an acceptable
alternative. This new source influenced heavy British investment in the
British merchants sought business opportunities in the Nile Valley and
Suez. Although an "overland route" opened between the port of
Alexandria and the Gulf of Suez in the 1840s and a railway was
completed in the 1850s, it was unable to handle bulk cargo. The Canal
therefore gained a position of crucial commercial
its first thirteen years of operation, the freight through the canal
each year increased from just under a half million to more than five
million tons. Although the Canal was owned mainly by French investors
(55%) and the Khedive (45%), British ships paid only nominal fees to
pass through the canal. As a consequence, by 1882 British ships carried
more than eighty percent of the cargo passing through the canal.
Jim Jones, Egypt and Europe in the 19th Century, http://courses.wcupa.edu/jones/his312/lectures/egypt.htm#britishinterest
impact of the American civil war had an impact also on economic
development in Palestine. The direct agricultural producers - the
fellahin- benefited only to a small extent. The primary beneficiaries
were those who invested capital, engaged directly in trade and
indirectly in agriculture - merchants, middlemen, big landowners and
Alexander Scholch, The Economic Development of Palestine, 1856-1882, 10 J. Palestine Studies, 35-44
British Acquistion of a 45% Financial Interest in
the period 1856-1869 Egypt investment in the construction of the Canal
had been enormous leaving her with overwhelming debt. This was
compounded by further public expenditure in infrastructure and military
- Revenues from the Canal were lower than expected;
- The demand for Egyptian cotton fell once the American civil war ended;
- Investment in railway
construction, the development of a deepwater port at Alexandria and
land reclamation and irrigation projects, all of which were directed to
modernising Egypt, required international financing;
- American military expertise was imported to train the Egyptian army.
Khedive’s public debt under Ismail (1863-1879) rose from £3
million to nearly £100 million. His attempts at refinancing made
matters worse; service fees on foreign loans absorbed a large part of
their value. Although by 1875, Egypt had repaid £29 million
on its loans, it still owed £46 million and the country was near
extricate itself from its financial distress, the Khedive was forced to
sell its 45% interest in the ownership of the canal in 1876. Acting
without parliamentary authorisation, Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli
bought the Khedive’s shares for the British government. This
acquisition greatly increased not only Britain’s concern with
Egypt’s financial strength but also its political stability. This
was soon to be put to the test.
Marjie Bloy, A Web of English History http://www.historyhome.co.uk/polspeech/suez.htm
financial crisis was made worse by an abnormally low flooding of the
Nile in 1876 and 1877, food shortages and starvation in Upper Egypt,
civilian riots, and mutiny by the Army for failure to pay its wages.
Despite British support, the incumbent viceroy, Tewfik, was overthrown
in 1882 by Egyptian nationalists led by Colonel Ahmed Arabi Pasha.
This provided Britain with the pretext that its commercial interests
and those of other nationals were in jeopardy. She took military
control of the Canal in August following her victory over the Egyptian
army at Tel-el-Kebir and exiled the nationalist leaders to Ceylon
(modern Sri Lanka).
the absence of any effective Egyptian government, Britain maintained
her control in the Canal Zone, and exercised considerable political
influence over Khedive policy, remaining there until her
expulsion by Egypt’s President Nasser in June 13, 1956
Notwithstanding her control Egypt and the Sudan, Britain’s
military and commercial interests in the Suez Canal were, however,
vulnerable to attack from the north. This weakness could be overcome by
supporting settlement in the region of a friendly population
politically indebted to her.
Robert F. Hunter, "Egypt under the successors of Muhammad 'Ali", in
"Modern Egypt, from 1517 to the end of the twentieth century", Eds. M.
W. Daly, Cambridge University Press, 1998, Cambridge Histories Online,
Cambridge University Press.28 July 2011, http://histories.cambridge.org/extract?id=chol9780521472111_CHOL9780521472111A008
Stephen Luscombe, The British Empire: Egypt http://www.britishempire.co.uk/maproom/egypt.htm
d. British Assistance in Attempts to Resolve European Jewish Refugee Crisis
Herzl’s perspective, given (i) France’s pre-existing deep
seated cultural and commercial commitment in the Levant including the
protection of Catholic Church interests; (ii) Germany’s
increasing economic, political and military penetration into Ottoman
governmental administration, and (iii) Ottoman rejection of any
proposal for Jewish settlement in Palestine, concentrated or
otherwise, Britain remained the only other major power in the Palestine
region at the turn of the century to whom she could appeal for
help in finding refuge for Russian, Austrian and Polish Jews fleeing
power and influence in the Middle East had already induced Herzl to
establish the Society of Jews in Britain, the incorporation of the
Jewish Colonial Trust and the Anglo-Palestine Company, as well as the
Jewish National Fund (founded by the Fifth Congress in 1901), as
a demonstration aimed at gaining the support of British statesmen and
public opinion for Zionism, the Fourth Zionist Congress was held in
London between 13 - 16 August 1900. Assisted by the journalist, L.J.
Greenberg, the Congress gave Herzl the opportunity of establishing
contacts with the British government which was becoming increasingly
politically concerned over the increasing numbers of Jewish immigrants
arriving in Britain.
investigate the matter, the Government appointed a Royal Commission on
Alien Immigration in 1902, before whom Herzl was invited to testify as
an expert witness in June of that year. He expressed the view
that Jewish immigration into Britain could be reduced if the British
government were to offer a territory for independent Jewish settlement.
In a subsequent private discussion with the Chairman of the Commission,
Herzl intimated that in the then increasingly violent situation in
Eastern Europe, he considered Cyprus and the Sinai Peninsula - areas
under British protection close to Erez Israel - appropriate for
temporary, emergency refuge for Jews in immediate danger and this
without compromising a major plank of the Basle Programme. Such a move
might also bring about concessions on the part of the Ottoman
It is important to note that notwithstanding contemporary Palestinian
claims to the contrary, Herzl never abandoned Palestine as the final
location of the Jewish Homeland and was willing to consider alternative
a. British Proposals for Jewish Settlement of El Arish and Uganda
Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain rejected Cyprus as a solution to
Jewish immigration, but did agree to recommend to the Foreign
Secretary, Lord Landsdowne, the Sinai Peninsula as appropriate
for the purpose. The latter intimated that if a Jewish Commission sent
to Sinai by Herzl for the purpose was investigating its suitability
were to submit a favourable report, the British government would
support the proposal before the Egyptian government.
on December. 18, 1902, a Zionist commission supported by the British
Foreign Office was despatched to investigate the possibilities of
settlement in Sinai and the area around El Arish bounded on the north
by the Mediterranean, by the River Nile on the west and on the East by
the Gulf of Aqaba extended by a line from Aqaba to Gaza. The Commission
found the area suitable for settlement. However, after protracted
negotiations between the British High Commissioner in Egypt, Lord
Cromer, on the one hand and the Zionists represented by Herzl,
Greenberg, and A.E.W. Goldsmid, on the other, the Egyptian
government rejected the proposal on the grounds that such
settlement would demand the diversion of substantial quantities of
water from the Nile Valley. The British government, therefore
also withdrew its support. Refusing defeat, the parties sought another
ii. Uganda and Kishinev Pogrom April 6-7 1903
and A.E.W. Goldsmid continued to discuss possible solutions to the
Russian refugee crisis with British Colonial Secretary Joseph
Chamberlain. The latter proposed granting to the Zionists an area of
some 5,000 square miles located on the Mau Plateau in what is today
Kenya and Uganda.
Jewish persecution in Eastern Europe, especially in Czarist Russia
reached new heights. Although pogroms had increased following the
assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881, the violence in
Kishinev, (then the capital of the Bessarabian province of the Russian
Empire) was considered, at the time, as one unprecedented by its
ruthlessness; 47 Jews killed and 92 severely wounded.
massacre deeply shocked the Russian intelligentsia, including Gorky and
Tolstoy, as well as European public opinion. The pogrom was copied in
other areas under Czarist rule with the connivance of Vyacheslav von
Plehve, Russian Minister of the Interior and publicly well known as an
anti-Semite. This notwithstanding, on August 5, 1903, Herzl travelled
to Russia hoping to alleviate the situation of the Jews there. He had
two meetings with von Plehve, in the course of which he was promised
that the Russian government would intervene with the sultan on behalf
of the Zionist program.
While Herzl was still in Russia, on Aug. 14, 1903, Greenberg received a
message from the British government to the effect that if the Zionist
Organization were to send a commission to East Africa, and if that
commission were to locate an area suitable for Jewish settlement there,
the British government would be prepared to permit the establishment of
an autonomous Jewish colony in the area headed by a Jewish governor
under British suzerainty.
In the circumstances and for political, tactical, and practical
reasons, Herzl now felt justified in considering the British Ugandan
proposal. He believed that
the establishment of close ties between the Zionist
Organization and the British government would result in the political
recognition of the Jewish people by the British and would thus
facilitate the full realisation of Zionist aims;
the publication of the Uganda Scheme might induce Turkey
to make far-reaching concessions with regard to Erez Israel, in order
not to forego the support of the Jewish capital, which would presumably
be at its disposal if Turkey were to agree to autonomous Jewish
settlement in Erez Israel
the Uganda Scheme would allow the conversion of Russian
Jewish frenetic flight into an organized migration to a country that
would eventually serve as an auxiliary project to the main centre in
of this, Herzl believed, could be achieved without undermining his
efforts aimed directly at securing Erez Israel for Jewish settlement.
Unfortunately, the Zionist Congress failed to agree.
iii. Internal Zionist Opposition: Uganda Proposal Rejected
the approval of the Zionist Executive (the "Actions Committee"), Herzl
submitted the Uganda Scheme to the Sixth Zionist Congress, held in
Basle on Aug. 22-28, 1903.
vehement opposition, the Congress approved the creation of a committee
to assist the Zionist Executive in deciding on the advisability of
dispatching a survey commission to East Africa. The decision, however
almost caused an irreparable split in the Congress. Herzl avoided it by
referring the matter to the Greater Actions Committee for decision at
its meeting held in Vienna on April 11-12, 1904 and his success in
convincing the Committee that he had remained faithful to Erez Israel
as the Jewish Homeland.
(See also Ami Isseroff, Theodor Herzl, for the extract of Herzl’s speech at the Committee. http://www.zionism-israel.com/bio/biography_herzl.htm )
rejection of the Uganda proposal induced Britain to withdraw it, but
the fact that it was even considered as a temporary way-station has
been used by anti-Zionists to demonstrate that Jews have no special tie
to Eretz Yisrael- Palestine - Israel.
The internecine conflict took its toll on Herzl’s health,
aggravating his heart condition and ultimately causing his death from
pneumonia on July 3, 1904. Ari Zivotofsky, What’s the Truth
about … the Uganda Plan? http://www.ou.org/index.php/jewish_action/article/38456/
Zionists' focus on finding a diplomatic-political solution to the
plight of East European Jews in Palestine appears to have caused them
to overlook, ignore or play down the significance of (i) the Ottoman
government’s negative attitude to increasing Jewish mass
immigration; (ii) the Arab stirring towards self-determination and
resistance to continued Ottoman domination, and (iii) local Arab
opposition to a Jewish settlement in the Palestine.
is to these issues that we now turn our attention and to examine the
efforts of ‘Practical’ Zionists and the stance of the
Ottoman government and Arab nationalists towards Zionist migration, and
the interaction between Jewish - Arab socio-political and economic
elites and those of the East European Jewish immigrants of the Second
‘Aliyah’ (ascent or going up to Eretz Yisrael) at the turn
of the twentieth century.
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