A Jewish state in Saudi Arabia? New British document reveals 1917 idea
The strategy, which proposed an army of 120,000 Jewish soldiers invading the Gulf, was one man’s solution for a Jewish homeland
A Jewish state in Saudi Arabia? One Paris-based Russian Jew threw this unorthodox proposal on the table in 1917, according to a recently revealed official British document.
The strategy, which proposed an army of 120,000 Jewish soldiers invading the Gulf, was one man’s solution to carve out land for a Jewish homeland.
Only two months before the Balfour Declaration was dated, a man named Dr. M. L Rothstein tried to sway then British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour to create a Jewish state in modern day Saudi Arabia.
In a letter released this week by The British Library , Dr. M. L. Rothstein proposed to British Ambassador to France Lord Francis Bertie that the Entente Powers of France, Russia and the United Kingdom gather their troops “for the conquest of the Turkish province of El-Hassa,” for the creation of a Jewish state on the Gulf, in an area which now is part of modern-day Saudi Arabia.
Taking the idea very seriously, Rothstein explained in detail how the infiltration would proceed. “I undertake to assemble, for next spring, a Jewish fighting troop, a force of 120,000 strong men" which would double "in cooperation… with the troops of the Entente,” the Russian doctor wrote in his letter.
The man explained that a war with Turkey could ensue but that “Jewish troops will immediately enter into a campaign …until the final victory of the Entente or until their destruction.”
Rothstein’s master plan, which even he admitted in the letter seemed “unrealistic” was rejected by Britain for being “wholly inappropriate.”
Balfour’s private secretary wrote on Oct. 3 1917 requesting that Bertie, the British ambassador to France, communicate to Rothstein the British government’s rejection of the plan.
Little is known about Rothstein, the proposal’s architect, who described himself only as a “Russian medical doctor.” Rothstein’s letter is prefaced by underlining his family’s “moral qualities,” and refers to French novelist Maurice Barres who mentions Rothstein’s son in his book, “Les Diverses familles spirituelles de la France.”
Rothstein’s son, Amedee, was a young Russian Zionist cited in the book as someone who exemplified Jewish loyalty to France because of his patriotic death in the Battle of Verdun in 1916.
Rothstein’s relatively unknown proposal barely makes a footnote in history but Daniel Lowe from British Library argues that the sentiment “reflected an historical momentum for the establishment of a Jewish national home, ideologically grounded in European nationalism and seeking legitimacy from European imperial powers.”
Other locations for a Jewish state, besides modern day Saudi Arabia, were also vetoed, including Uganda, Argentina, Russia, and Cyprus. Only a month after snubbing Rothstein’s plan, Balfour wrote the now famous declaration expressing Britain’s favor for the Zionist aim of “the establishments in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”
- Palestines new status A history rerun or a new strategy
- Paying lip service to Palestine
- Israel / Palestine: Time to endorse one state
- Palestine and Israel: two-state, one-state, Jewish state, no state
- Arab League: No to Israel as Jewish state
- Jordan is Jordan, Palestine is Palestine
- Should settlers be allowed to live in Palestine?