The creation of a homeland for the Jewish people is an idea rooted in Jewish culture and religion. In the early 19th century, the Napoleonic Wars led to the idea of Jewish emancipation.
View this informative documentary on the creation of Israel, Zionist movement, reactions and diplomatic maneuvers of other states and the build-up to first Arab-Israeli war.
The modern legal attempts to establish a national homeland for the Jewish people began in 1839 with a petition by Sir Moses Montefiore to the Khedive of Egypt, for a Jewish homeland in the region of Palestine. In 1862, German Orthodox Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer published his tractate Derishat Zion, positing that the salvation of the Jews, promised by the Prophets, can come about only by self-help. Rabbi Moshe Shmuel Glasner was another prominent rabbi who supported Zionism.
Among the movements for the creation of a Jewish state was Zionism as promoted by Theodore Herzl. In the late 19th century, Herzl set out his vision of a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people in his book Der Judenstaat.
In the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the United Kingdom became the first world power to endorse the establishment in Palestine of a “national home for the Jewish people.”
Proposals for a Jewish State
There were several proposals for a Jewish state in the course of Jewish history between the destruction of ancient Israel and the founding of the modern State of Israel. While some of those have come into existence, others were never implemented. The Jewish national homeland usually refers to the State of Israel or the Land of Israel. In 1820, in a precursor to modern Zionism, Mordecai Manuel Noah tried to found a Jewish homeland at Grand Island in the Niagara River, to be called “Ararat.
The British Uganda Program was a plan to give a portion of British East Africa to the Jewish people as a homeland. The offer was first made by British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain to Theodore Herzl’s Zionist group in 1903. On March 28, 1928, the Presidium of the General Executive Committee of the USSR passed the decree “On the attaching for Komzet of free territory near the Amur River in the Far East for settlement of the working Jews.” This became Birobidzhan.
The Madagascar plan was a suggested policy of the Third Reich government of Nazi Germany to forcibly relocate the Jewish population of Europe to the island of Madagascar. The evacuation of European Jewry to the island of Madagascar was not a new concept. Henry Hamilton Beamish, Arnold Leese, Lord Moyne, German scholar Paul de Lagarde and the British, French, and Polish governments had all contemplated the idea. The plan was postponed after the Germans failed to defeat the British in the Battle of Britain later in 1940. In 1942, the so-called “Territorial Solution to the Jewish question” was abandoned in favour of the “Final Solution to the Jewish Question”.
At the end of World War II, in 1945, the United States took up the Zionist cause. Britain, unable to find a practical solution, referred the problem to the United Nations, which in November 1947 voted to partition Palestine.
The Jews were to possess more than half of Palestine, although they made up less than half of Palestine’s population. The Palestinian Arabs, aided by volunteers from other countries, fought the Zionist forces, but by May 14, 1948, the Jews had secured full control of their U.N.-allocated share of Palestine and also some Arab territory.