British Uganda Programme
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 and Uganda. 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 Zionist Congress at its sixth meeting in 1903 in Basel. There a fierce debate ensued. The African land was described as an "ante-chamber to the Holy Land" and a Nachtasyl (temporary night shelter), but other groups felt that accepting the offer would make it more difficult to establish a Jewish state in Ottoman Palestine, and also that the Jewish nation would not be able to claim itself as native to that land, since there were no historic or culture links between the Hebrews and East Africa. Before the vote on the matter, the Russian delegation stormed out in opposition.[why?] By a remaining vote of 295 to 177, it was decided to send an "investigatory commission" on expedition to examine the territory proposed.
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, although it was sparsely populated by small bands of Maasai (themselves having recently conquered the Sirikwa tribe), the Maasai were hostile to other tribes and outsiders.
After receiving this report, the following Congress in 1905 decided to politely decline the British offer. Some Jews viewed this as a mistake; they then split from the ZO and established the Jewish Territorialist Organization, with the explicit aim of establishing a Jewish state anywhere, not just in Palestine. A few Jews did move to Kenya, but most settled in the urban centres. Some of these families remain to this day.
The Uganda Debate occasionally is still brought up (if rarely) in the political debates within present-day Israel. Religious-nationalist Israeli settlers, who place supreme importance on settling in the Biblically-hallowed Judea and Samaria (i.e., the West Bank), have used the term "Latter-Day Ugandists" on some occasions to describe the Israeli peace camp, who are willing to give up the West Bank and have a state centered on Tel Aviv and the Mediterranean Coastal Plain - areas where the ancestral mountain-dwelling Hebrews of Biblical times did not dwell. The implication is that liberal Israelis - like the adherents of Uganda Programme - are simply interested in a place where Jews can live in peace, and care little about restoring historical and/or religious standing.
- Abayudaya, a group of Ugandans who converted to Judaism in the 1920s
- Madagascar Plan, a Nazi plan to move the Jews of Europe to Madagascar.
- The Soviet Union created a Jewish Autonomous Oblast in Soviet Manchuria.
- According to the authors of a partly fictionalized 1979 book, Japan created the Fugu Plan to attract Jews to the puppet state of Manchukuo taken from Chinese Manchuria.
- Beta Israel and Lemba, East African groups of Jewish ancestry
- Proposals for a Jewish state
- "The Uganda Proposal". Jewish Virtual Library. Retrieved 2009-07-08.
- Joseph Telushkin (1991). Jewish literacy. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-688-08506-7. "Britain stepped into the picture, offering Herzl land in the largely undeveloped area of Uganda (today, it would be considered an area of Kenya). ..."
- Theodor Herzl's biography at Jewish Virtual Library