Proposals for a Jewish state: Wikis


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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[1] or the Land of Israel,[2] depending on political and religious beliefs. Jews and their supporters, as well as their detractors and anti-Semites have put forth plans for Jewish states.


Ararat city

1844 Discourse on the Restoration of the Jews by M.M.Noah, page 1. The page 2 shows the map of 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," after Mount Ararat, the Biblical resting place of Noah's Ark. He erected a monument at the island which read "Ararat, a City of Refuge for the Jews, founded by Mordecai M. Noah in the Month of Tishri, 5586 (September, 1825) and in the Fiftieth Year of American Independence." Some have speculated whether Noah's utopian ideas may have influenced Joseph Smith, who founded the Latter Day Saint movement in Upstate New York a few years later. In his Discourse on the Restoration of the Jews Noah proclaimed his faith that the Jews would return and rebuild their ancient homeland. Noah called on America to take the lead in this endeavor.[3]

British Uganda Program

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. He offered 5,000 square miles (13,000 km2) of the Mau Plateau in what is today Kenya. The offer was a response to pogroms against the Jews in Russia, and it was hoped the area could be a refuge from persecution for the Jewish people.

The idea was brought to the World Zionist Organization's Zionist Congress at its sixth meeting in 1903 meeting in Basel. There a fierce debate ensued. The African land was described as an "ante-chamber to the Holy Land", but other groups felt that accepting the offer would make it more difficult to establish a Jewish state in Palestine (the historical land of Israel). Before the vote on the matter, the Russian delegation stormed out in opposition. In the end, the motion passed by 295 to 177 votes.

The next year, a three-man delegation was sent to inspect the plateau. Its high elevation gave it a temperate climate, making it suitable for European settlement. However, the observers found a dangerous land filled with lions and other creatures. Moreover, it was populated by a large number of Maasai who did not seem at all amenable to an influx of Europeans.

After receiving this report, the Congress decided in 1905 to politely decline the British offer. Some Jews, who viewed this as a mistake, formed the Jewish Territorialist Organization with the aim of establishing a Jewish state anywhere.[4] A few Jews did move to Kenya, but most settled in the urban centers. Some of these families remain to this day.

Jewish Autonomous Oblast in USSR

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." The decree meant that there was "a possibility of establishment of a Jewish administrative territorial unit on the territory of the called region".[5]

On August 20, 1930, the General Executive Committee of the Russian Soviet Republic (RSFSR) accepted the decree "On formation of the Birobidzhan national region in the structure of the Far Eastern Territory". The State Planning Committee considered the Birobidzhan national region as a separate economic unit. In 1932, the first scheduled figures of the region development were considered and authorized.[5]

On May 7, 1934, the Presidium accepted the decree on its transformation in the Jewish Autonomous Region within the Russian Republic. In 1938, with formation of the Khabarovsk Territory, the Jewish Autonomous Region (JAR) was included in its structure.[5]

According to Joseph Stalin's national policy, each of the national groups that formed the Soviet Union would receive a territory in which to pursue cultural autonomy in a socialist framework. In that sense, it was also a response to two supposed threats to the Soviet state: Judaism, which ran counter to official state policy of atheism; and Zionism, the creation of the modern State of Israel, which countered Soviet views of nationalism. The idea was to create a new "Soviet Zion", where a proletarian Jewish culture could be developed. Yiddish, rather than Hebrew, would be the national language, and a new socialist literature and arts would replace religion as the primary expression of culture.

Stalin's theory on the National Question held that a group could only be a nation if it had a territory, and since there was no Jewish territory, per se, the Jews were not a nation and did not have national rights. Jewish Communists argued that the way to solve this ideological dilemma was to create a Jewish territory, hence the ideological motivation for the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. Politically, it was also considered desirable to create a Soviet Jewish homeland as an ideological alternative to Zionism and to the theory put forward by Socialist Zionists such as Ber Borochov that the Jewish Question could be resolved by creating a Jewish territory in Palestine. Thus Birobidzhan was important for propaganda purposes as an argument against Zionism which was a rival ideology to Marxism among left-wing Jews.

Another important goal of the Birobidzhan project was to increase settlement in the remote Soviet Far East, especially along the vulnerable border with China. In 1928, there was virtually no settlement in the area, while Jews had deep roots in the western half of the Soviet Union, in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia proper. In fact, there had initially been proposals to create a Jewish Soviet Republic in the Crimea or in part of Ukraine but these were rejected because of fears of antagonizing non-Jews in those regions.

The geography and climate of Birobidzhan were harsh, the landscape largely swampland, and any new settlers would have to build their lives from scratch. Some have even claimed that Stalin was also motivated by anti-Semitism in selecting Birobidzhan; that he wanted to keep the Jews as far away from the centers of power as possible. On the other hand, Ukrainians and Crimeans were reluctant to have a Jewish national home carved out of their territory, even though most Soviet Jews lived there, and there were very few alternative territories without rival national claims to them.

By the 1930s, a massive propaganda campaign was underway to induce more Jewish settlers to move there. Some methods used the standard Soviet propaganda tools of the era, and included posters and Yiddish-language novels describing a socialist utopia there. Other methods bordered on the bizarre. In one instance, leaflets promoting Birobidzhan were dropped from an airplane over a Jewish neighborhood in Belarus. In another instance, a government-produced Yiddish film called Seekers of Happiness told the story of a Jewish family that fled the Depression in the United States to make a new life for itself in Birobidzhan.

As the Jewish population grew, so did the impact of Yiddish culture on the region. A Yiddish newspaper, the Birobidzhaner Shtern (Russian: Биробиджанер Штерн, Yiddish: ביראָבידזשאַנער שטערן, "Star of Birobidzhan"), was established; a theater troupe was created; and streets being built in the new city were named after prominent Yiddish authors such as Sholom Aleichem and Y. L. Peretz. The Yiddish language was deliberately bolstered as a basis for efforts to secularize the Jewish population and, despite the general curtailment of this action as described immediately below, the Birobidzhaner Shtern continues to publish a section in Yiddish.

One Jewish settlement in the JAO is Valdgeym.[1] It was founded in 1928 and was the first collective farm established in the oblast.[2] In 1980, it opened a Yiddish school.[3] Another village in the JAO with a history of Jewish settlement is Amurzet, established just after the turn of the 20th century.[4] [5][6] From 1929 to 1939, Amurzet was the center of Jewish settlement south of Birobidzhan.[7] Today, Jewish community members hold Kabalat Shabbat ceremonies and gatherings that feature songs in Yiddish, Jewish cuisine, and broad information presenting historical facts on Jewish culture. Many descendants of the founders of Amurzet have left their native village. Those who remained, especially those having relatives in Israel, are learning about the traditions and roots of the Jewish people.[8] The population of Amurzet, as estimated in late 2006, is 5,213. [9] Another early Jewish settlement in the JAO is Smidovich.

The Birobidzhan experiment ground to a halt in the mid-1930s, during Stalin's first campaign of purges. Jewish leaders were arrested and executed, and Yiddish schools were shut down. Shortly after this, World War II brought to an abrupt end concerted efforts to bring Jews east.

There was a slight revival in the Birobidzhan idea after the war as a potential home for Jewish refugees. During that time, the Jewish population of the region peaked at almost one-third of the total. But efforts in this direction ended, with the Doctors' plot, the establishment of Israel as a Jewish state, and Stalin's second wave of purges shortly before his death. Again the Jewish leadership was arrested and efforts were made to stamp out Yiddish culture—even the Judaica collection in the local library was burned. In the ensuing years, the idea of an autonomous Jewish region in the Soviet Union was all but forgotten.

Some scholars, such as Louis Rapoport, Jonathan Brent and Vladimir Naumov, assert that Stalin had devised a plan to deport all of the Jews of the Soviet Union to Birobidzhan much as he had internally deported other national minorities such as the Crimean Tatars and Volga Germans, forcing them to move thousands of miles from their homes. The Doctors' Plot may have been the first element of this plan. If so, the plan was aborted by Stalin's death on March 5, 1953.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and new liberal emigration policies, most of the remaining Jewish population left for Germany and Israel. In 1991, the Jewish Autonomous Oblast was transferred from under the jurisdiction of Khabarovsk Krai to the jurisdiction of the Federation, but by then most of the Jews had left and the remaining Jews now constituted less than 2% of the local population. Nevertheless, Yiddish is again taught in the schools, a Yiddish radio station is in operation, and as noted above, the Birobidzhaner Shtern includes a section in Yiddish.

Fugu plan

Despite there being little evidence to suggest that the Japanese had ever contemplated a Jewish state or a Jewish autonomous region, [6] Rabbi Marvin Tokayer and Mary Swartz published a book called 'The Fugu Plan' in 1979. In this partly fictionalized book, Tokayer & Swartz gave the name the Fugu Plan or Fugu Plot (河豚計画 Fugu keikaku ?) to memorandums written in the 1930s Imperial Japan proposing settling Jewish refugees escaping Nazi-occupied Europe in Japanese territories. Tokayer and Swartz claim that the plan, which was viewed by its proponents as risky but potentially rewarding for Japan, was named after the Japanese word for puffer-fish, a delicacy which can be fatally poisonous if incorrectly prepared. [7]

Tokayer and Swartz base their claim on statements made by Captain Koreshige Inuzuka. They alleged that such a plan was first discussed in 1934 and then solidified in 1938, supported by notables such as Inuzuka, Ishiguro Shiro and Norihiro Yasue[8]; however, the signing of the Tripartite Pact in 1941 and other events prevented its full implementation. The memorandums were not called The Fugu Plan.

Ben-Ami Shillony, a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, confirms the statements upon which Tokayer and Swartz based their claim were taken out of context, and that the translation with which they worked was flawed. Shillony's view is further supported by Kiyoko Inuzuka [9]. In 'The Jews and the Japanese: The Successful Outsiders', he questioned whether the Japanese ever contemplated establishing a Jewish state or a Jewish autonomous region. [10][11][12].

Madagascar plan

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.[13]

Madagascar lies off the east coast of Africa

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.[13] Nazi Germany seized upon it, and in May 1940, in his Reflections on the Treatment of Peoples of Alien Races in the East, Heinrich Himmler declared: "I hope that the concept of Jews will be completely extinguished through the possibility of a large emigration of all Jews to Africa or some other colony."

Although some discussion of this plan had been brought forward from 1938 by other well-known Nazi ideologues, such as Julius Streicher, Hermann Göring, and Joachim von Ribbentrop, it was not until June 1940 that the plan was actually set in motion. Victory in France being imminent, it was clear that all French colonies would soon come under German control, and the Madagascar Plan could be realized. It was also felt that a potential peace treaty with Great Britain would put the British navy at Germany's disposal for use in the evacuation. Britain was about to experience German aerial bombardment in a few weeks' time in the Battle of Britain, and Germany expected Britain to capitulate as quickly as the French did.

British Guyana

In March 1940, the issue of an alternative Jewish Homeland was raised and British Guyana was discussed in this context. But the British Government decided that "the problem is at present too problematical to admit of the adoption of a definite policy and must be left for the decision of some future Government in years to come". [14]

Other attempts of Jewish self-governance throughout history


Ancient times

  • Adiabene - an ancient kingdom in Mesopotamia with its capital at Arbil was ruled by Jewish converts during the first century.
  • Anilai and Asinai - Babylonian-Jewish chieftains.
  • Mahoza - During the beginning of sixth century Mar-Zutra II formed a politically independent state where he ruled from Mahoza for about 7 years.
  • Nehardea - the seat of the exilarch in Babylonia.
  • Khaybar - a self-governed oasis in Arabia.
  • Himyar - there were many Jewish kings at this region of Yemen since 390 CE when a local chieftain named Tub'a Abu Kariba As'ad formed an Empire.

Middle ages to 19th century

Modern times

Location of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in the Russian Federation.
  • In the early 20th century Cyprus and El Arish and its environs were proposed as a site for Jewish settlement by Herzl.
  • Jewish Autonomous Oblast was a region created by the Soviet Union in the Russian Far East. It has been in existence from 1934 to the present.
  • Albania - In 1935, British Zionist journalist Leo Elton traveled to Albania, apparently at his own initiative, to see if it would be possible to establish a Jewish national entity there. It seems the only surviving trace of his voyage is his report 10 years later to Hebrew University's first president, Judah Leib Magnes. The document rests in the Central Archive for the History of the Jewish People at the university's Givat Ram campus in Jerusalem. Elton's journey was spurred on by the increasing persecution of German Jews two years into the Nazi regime and Britain's refusal to increase the quotas on Jewish immigration to Mandatory Palestine. Elton writes that he first read of the idea in British newspapers reporting that the Albanian government welcomed Jewish immigration[10].
  • The Kimberley Plan was a failed plan by the Freeland League, led by Isaac Nachman Steinberg, to resettle Jewish refugees from Europe in the Kimberley region in Australia before and during the Holocaust.[15]
  • There was also a plan to offer the Jews 'Northern Australia' (the top half of what is now the Northern Territory) as their Jewish State, in 1933 however this was fought by the US who offered the current state of Israel (formerly part of Palestine) at roughly the same time.
  • In 1941 Lord Moyne suggested to David Ben-Gurion that Jewish refugees could be resettled in East Prussia after Germany was defeated and the area's German inhabitants were expelled. Ben-Gurion responded that "the only way to get Jews to go [to East Prussia] would be with machine guns."[16]
  • Krasnaya Sloboda - The town is the primary settlement of Azerbaijan's population of Mountain Jews, who make up the population of approximately 4,000.
  • Kiryas Joel, New York - a town composed largely of Yiddish-speaking Hasidic Jews.
  • Sitka, Alaska - a plan for Jews to settle the Sitka area in Alaska, the Slattery Report, was proposed by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's Secretary of the Interior Harold L. Ickes in 1939 but turned down.[17] An alternate history of the proposal where Jews do settle in Sitka is the subject of author Michael Chabon's novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union.
  • Vietnam - Vietnamese government officials in 2005, told Israeli officials of a plan discussed between Ho Chi Minh and Moshe Dayan to invite Jews to live in the country. No documentation of the offer and discussion has yet been made available. There is currently a small expatriate community of Jews in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, intermarrying with Vietnamese, with the first Bar Mitzvah in Vietnam held in 2004, in Hanoi. There are currently no synagoges in Vietnam. Though there were French Jews in the country before 1954, there is no confirmation of any synagogue in Saigon.[18]

Alternative homeland proposals in Anti-Zionist thought

As a prevailing strain of anti-Zionism puts forth an opposition to Israel's existence in Southwest Asia, a smaller wing of anti-Zionism focuses upon the circumstances of the resulting region-wide conflict which followed Israel's Jewish settlement and 1948 declaration of independence; this ideological wing proposes the hypothetical resettlement of the entire Jewish Israeli population in another isolated region of the world outside Southwest Asia (and outside the reach of most major Western power centers and populations). This position of alternative homeland settlement in opposition to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state may have influenced the Stalin-era creation of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast in the less-hospitable, highly-isolated Eastern coast of Siberia.

More extreme anti-Zionist canards also often call for the resettlement of the Israeli Jewish population in an area of North America, particularly within United States borders, in which larger concentrations of Jewish-American demographics exist (i.e., New York, Florida, California, etc.).


  1. ^ The Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel
  2. ^ The Land of Israel and Jerusalem have been embedded into Jewish national and religious consciousness since the 10th century BCE:
    • "Israel was first forged into a unified nation from Jerusalem some three thousand years ago, when King David seized the crown and united the twelve tribes from this city... For a thousand years Jerusalem was the seat of Jewish sovereignty, the household site of kings, the location of its legislative councils and courts. In exile, the Jewish nation came to be identified with the city that had been the site of its ancient capital. Jews, wherever they were, prayed for its restoration." Roger Friedland, Richard D. Hecht. To Rule Jerusalem, University of California Press, 2000, p. 8. ISBN 0520220927
    • "The centrality of Jerusalem to Judaism is so strong that even secular Jews express their devotion and attachment to the city and cannot conceive of a modern State of Israel without it... For Jews Jerusalem is sacred simply because it exists... Though Jerusalem's sacred character goes back three millennia...". Leslie J. Hoppe. The Holy City:Jerusalem in the theology of the Old Testament, Liturgical Press, 2000, p. 6. ISBN 0814650813
    • "Ever since King David made Jerusalem the capital of Israel 3,000 years ago, the city has played a central role in Jewish existence." Mitchell Geoffrey Bard, The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Middle East Conflict, Alpha Books, 2002, p. 330. ISBN 0028644107
    • "For Jews the city has been the pre-eminent focus of their spiritual, cultural, and national life throughout three millennia." Yossi Feintuch, U.S. Policy on Jerusalem, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1987, p. 1. ISBN 0313257000
    • "Jerusalem became the center of the Jewish people some 3,000 years ago" Moshe Maʻoz, Sari Nusseibeh, Jerusalem: Points of Friction - And Beyond, Brill Academic Publishers, 2000, p. 1. ISBN 9041188436
    • "The Jewish people are inextricably bound to the city of Jerusalem. No other city has played such a dominant role in the history, politics, culture, religion, national life and consciousness of a people as has Jerusalem in the life of Jewry and Judaism. Since King David established the city as the capital of the Jewish state circa 1000 BCE, it has served as the symbol and most profound expression of the Jewish people's identity as a nation." Basic Facts you should know: Jerusalem, Anti-Defamation League, 2007. Accessed March 28, 2007.
  3. ^ Selig Adler and Thomas E. Connolly. From Ararat to Suburbia: the History of the Jewish Community of Buffalo (Philadelphia: the Jewish Publication Society of America, 1960, Library of Congress Number 60-15834)
  4. ^ Schreiber, Mordecai. The Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia, 2003. Page 291.
  5. ^ a b c Establishment and Development of the JAR Jewish Autonomous Region official government website. Accessed 2007-08-30
  6. ^ Politics and Culture in Wartime Japan by Ben-Ami Shillony. p 209
  7. ^ Adam Gamble and Takesato Watanabe. A Public Betrayed: An Inside Look at Japanese Media Atrocities and Their Warnings to the West. Page 196-197.
  8. ^ Shillony Ben-Ami. 'The Politics and Culture in Wartime Japan' page 170
  9. ^ Inuzuka Kiyoko, Kaigun Inuzuka kikan no kiroku: Yudaya mondai to Nippon no kōsaku (Tokyo: Nihon kōgyō shimbunsha, 1982)
  10. ^ Ben Ami-Shillony, The Jews and the Japanese: The Successful Outsiders (Rutland, VT: Tuttle, 1991)
  11. ^ Origins of the Pacific War and the importance of 'Magic' by Keiichiro Komatsu, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999. ISBN 0312173857
  12. ^ Politics and Culture in Wartime Japan by Ben-Ami Shillony. Edition: reprint, illustrated Published by Oxford University Press, 1991
  13. ^ a b Browning, Christopher R. The Origins of the Final Solution. 2004. Page 81
  14. ^ Zionist Movement And The Foundation Of Israel 1839–1972, The - Archive Editions
  15. ^ Steinberg, Isaac Nachman (1888 - 1957) by Beverley Hooper, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, Melbourne University Press, 2002, pp 298-299. Online Ed. published by Australian National University
  16. ^ Hacohen, Dvora (1991). "Ben-Gurion and the Second World War: Plans for Mass Immigration to Palestine". in Jonathan Frankel. Jews and Messianism in the modern era: metaphor and meaning. 7. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 255.  
  17. ^ "Novel involving Alaska Jewish colony is rooted in history," Tom Kizzia, Anchorage Daily News.
  18. ^ Reported by David Lempert, researcher in Vietnam, 1998-2006


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