An East African Israel

In 1903, during the premiership of Arthur Balfour (later the author of the Balfour Declaration of 1917), the British government offered a territory of 5,000 square miles on the Uasin Gishu (Gwas Ngishu) plateau in the British East Africa Protectorate to the World Zionist Movement in order to establish a Jewish settlement. In this regard the Commissioner of British East Africa, the multi-linguist Sir Charles Eliot, produced a memorandum contemplating the potential consequences of establishing, what might have become, a Jewish homeland or Israel in modern day Kenya.

Uasin Gishu (Gwas Ngishu Plateau), FO 2/785, TNA

In his memorandum dated 4th November 1903 Sir Charles Eliot makes what may be construed as a near prophetic remark seen through the prism of post-1948 Middle Eastern history. He states that “It is not likely that non-Jews will much frequent the Jewish settlement, but their rights should be carefully reserved. When circumstances permit the persecuted to become persecutors, they are apt to find the change very enjoyable [my underlining], and it would not be convenient for Christians if they were compelled to observe the Jewish Sabbath.”

The proposed settlement scheme known as the ‘British Uganda Programme’ was turned down by the World Zionist Organisation in 1905.

Eliot to Lansdowne, 4th November 1903, FO 2/785, TNA


About J.F. Gjersø

PhD in International History, LSE.
This entry was posted in Contemporary History, Imperial History and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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