Territorialism

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Territorialism, also known as Statism (but not to be confused with another belief also called statism), was a Jewish political movement. Jewish people wanted some land to live in that was big enough for them. It did not necessarily have to be in the land where the country of Israel is today, and it did not necessarily have to be its own country.

Development of territorialism[change | change source]

Before 1905, some Zionist leaders were thinking about making places for Jews to call home other than Palestine. Theodor Herzl's Der Judenstaat argued for a Jewish state in either Palestine, "our ever-memorable historic home", or Argentina, "one of the most fertile countries in the world". ("Fertile" means land where it is easy to grow crops.) Many of the socialist Zionist groups were more territorialist than Zionist, such as Nachman Syrkin's Zionist Socialist Workers Party (the Z.S.).

The Jewish Colonization Association, started in 1891 by the Baron Maurice de Hirsch, was started to help move many Jews from Russia and other Eastern European countries. It wanted to move them to land where they could grow food and that it would buy. It had in mind land in North and South America (especially Argentina).

In 1903, British cabinet ministers suggested the British Uganda Program, land for a Jewish state in "Uganda" (the land they were thinking about is actually in the modern country of Kenya). At first, Herzl said no to the idea, because he liked Palestine better. After the April 1903 Kishinev pogrom, in which many Jews were violently attacked in Russia, Herzl suggested to the Sixth Zionist Congress to look at the offer as a temporary way to keep Russian Jews safe. The plan was very controversial, and many Russian Jews were so upset that they walked out of the meeting. Few historians believe that such a settlement idea could have attracted immigrants, received much money in donations, or been supported by many other countries. Because some members of the Zionist leadership liked the idea, however, peace was kept in the movement because they voted to start a committee to look at the possibility. They did not officially say no to the idea until the 7th Zionist Congress in 1905.[1]

Because of this, the Jewish Territorialist Organization (ITO) led by Israel Zangwill split off from the Zionist movement. It tried to find land where Jews could settle in different parts of America (e.g. Galveston), Africa, Asia, and Australia, but with little success. The ITO broke up in 1925.

Apart from the (ITO), within the USSR there was also a Territorialist effort in Ukraine, the Crimea and then in a region around Birobidzhan, where a Jewish Autonomous Region was started in 1934.[2]

As the Holocaust became close and as Nazis were discriminating against Jews in Germany, Isaac Nachman Steinberg started the Freeland League in the United States in 1935. This organization tried, but did not succeed, to start a new Jewish country by getting a large piece of land in places in Ecuador, Australia, or Suriname where not many people lived. One of the more well-known tries was the Kimberley Plan, to get land in Australia.[3] After the State of Israel was created in 1948, Steinberg had criticized the exclusivist politics of the Zionist government and continued his attempts to create a non-nationalist Jewish settlement in some other part of the world. After Steinberg died in 1957, the Freeland League was led by Mordkhe Schaechter, who gradually changed the focus of the organization to more cultural, Yiddishist goals.

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