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Monday, July 16, 2012

The Almost Egyptian and Turkish Plans for a Jewish Palestine

Nadene Goldfoot
In 1831 Mehemet/Mohammed Ali conquered Palestine and took it from the Ottoman Empire Turks.  He ruled it from Egypt for 9 years.  It was nothing but a wasteland.   At this time Sir Moses Montefiore (first English Jew to be knighted in modern times) began plans and visited Mehemet Ali in Egypt in 1839 to put forward his idea for a Jewish settlement to regenerate Palestine.  Mehemet Ali liked the idea and accepted it.  Montifiore was discussing details with him when Mehemet was forced to leave Palestine which meant that it returned to Turkish rule.

1867 brought Mark Twain to Palestine on a vacation who wrote that "desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds--a silent mournful expanse.--there was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere.  Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country."

In 1879 the Turks were presented with the same idea for Jewish colonization and autonomy in a part of Palestine as Mehemet Ali had been.  Laurence Oliphant (English proto-Zionist, writer of The Land of Gilead and Haifa)  worked out the details and showed the Turks that it was in their own interest, as well as Britain's, to help in the Jewish restoration in Palestine.  The leading people of Britain, such as Prime Minister Lord Beaconsfield, Foreign Secretary Lord Salisbury, and the Prince of Wales (King Edward VII) recommended the idea to the Turks for Jews to settle in Gilead.  Even the French government with advocate Foreign Minister Waddington added their encouragement.  Gilead was the region of Transjordania, which became Jordan much later.  It was originally settled by the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh.  It was part of the northern kingdom and was captured by Assyria in 732 BCE with its people taken into exile.

The Sultan was interested in the plan and their Foreign Office proposed some amendments to be discussed but  in 1880 an election drove Lord Beaconsfield from office and he had been Turkey's friend.  William Edward Gladstone replaced him, a man the Turks considered an enemy.  The Jewish settlement was then forgotten.

Jews hadn't forgotten the idea of settling again in Palestine and the 1st Aliyah had started in 1881-1882, Eastern European  Jews returning to the land and working the soil.  It was a wave of immigration to join Jews who had never left. 35,000 Jews faced inclement climate, disease, crippling Turkish taxation and Arab opposition. Half left after a few years but had established new rural settlements with the rest moving to larger towns.  A 2nd Aliyah happened from 1904-1914 bringing in 40,000 mainly Russian Jews fleeing pogroms.

This came at a time when there were Christians who didn't like the idea of the Jews' return because it interfered with their idea of Jews being punished by the "edict" of exile.  Yet there was the fact that Palestine was a virtually empty land.  "No nation has been able to establish itself as a nation in Palestine up to this day," wrote Prof. Sir John William Dawson in 1888.  "No national union and no national spirit has prevailed there. The motley impoverished tribes which have occupied it have held it as mere tenants at will, temporary landowners, evidently waiting for those entitled to the permanent possession of the soil."

It wasn't until 1895 that Theodor Herzl, Jewish  reporter in Paris, wrote A Jewish State which started the Zionist movement.  His idea was that of a perfect idealistic Utopian state.He wrote, "We have sincerely tried everywhere to merge with the national communities in which we live, seeking only to preserve the faith of our fathers. It is not permitted us....Palestine is our unforgettable historic homeland.".  His plan was for the establishment of a Jewish state by international agreement as a solution to their problem of not being accepted by the other nations.  For centuries the Jews were seen as the helpless, vulnerable minority and it was only right to restore their human rights to live as equal citizens of the world.  He died in 1904 at age 44.

Moses left Egypt with 600,000 Jews.  Israel was reborn in 1948 with 650,000 Jews.  By 1951 they had absorbed 690,000 Jewish immigrants.  The miracle had begun.

The New Standard Jewish Encyclopedia
Battleground, fact and fantasy in Palestine

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