"The difference between me and Shabbatai Sevi as I imagine him, apart from developments in technical resources due to the difference in periods, is that Shabbatai Sevi raised himself up to resemble the great ones of the earth, while I find the great ones of the earth to be as small as I am"

Theodor Herzl

The genesis of the idea of the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine must be framed in the context of the nationalist and liberal ideology born of the French Revolution and spread by the military expansion of Napoleon Bonaparte in the following years.[1] As is well known, the French Revolution constituted a real political watershed for the French Jews who were granted citizenship and legal equality (1790-1) in the name of secularism and religious tolerance. According to this perspective, it is Bonaparte who is credited with the first attempt to create a Jewish nation-state in the Holy Land. Jacques Attali writes in this regard:

"In March 1798, on his arrival in Alexandria, Bonaparte issued a proclamation establishing a council of the Jews of Egypt and the office of 'high priest.' He hoped to occupy Acre, then move on to Jerusalem and issue another proclamation calling for the establishment of an independent Jewish state in Palestine before taking Damascus. The British, who came to the aid of the Turks, forced him to retreat; he did not go as far as Jerusalem and was astonished by the narrowness of the Jordan ("It seems the Seine at Montereau"). The text of his 'Proclamation to the Jewish Nation', which should have been dated 1st Fiorile Year VII of the French Republic (April 20, 1799), "See of Jerusalem", was not published. The first 'Zionist' text and at the same time a reflection on the emancipation of all peoples, it deserves to be read for what it announces as radically new for the next two centuries:

"Bonaparte, commander-in-chief of the armies of the French Republic in Africa and Asia, to the legitimate heirs of Palestine, the Israelites, a unique people whom conquest and tyranny have been able to deprive for thousands of years of their ancestral land, but not of their name or their national existence! [...] Rise up for joy, exiles! This war, unparalleled in all of history, was waged in self-defense by a nation whose hereditary lands were regarded by its enemies as prey to be slaughtered. Now this nation is taking revenge for two thousand years of ignominy. Providence has sent me here with a young army, guided by justice and accompanied by victory. My headquarters are in Jerusalem and in a few days I will be in Damascus, whose proximity is no longer a cause for fear for the City of David... Rightful heirs of Palestine!

The Great Nation [France], which does not trade in men and countries like those who sold your ancestors to all peoples (Joel 4:6), does not call you to conquer your inheritance. No, it asks you to take only what it has already conquered. And, with his support and authorization, to remain masters of this land and to keep it in spite of all adversaries. Get up! Show that all the power of your oppressors could not destroy the courage of the descendants of these heroes, who would have done honour to Sparta and Rome (Maccabees 12:15). Show us that two thousand years of slavery have not been able to extinguish this courage. Hurry! This is the moment, which perhaps will not be repeated in a thousand years, to demand the restoration of your civil rights, of your place among the peoples of the world. You have the right to exist politically as a nation among other nations."[2]

Also influenced by the ideals of the French Revolution was the Russian colonel and revolutionary Pavel Ivanovich Pestel (1793–1826), who, after fighting against the Napoleonic armies (1812–14), became one of the main architects of the Decembrist insurrection. His political program, inspired by the ideals of the Enlightenment and Freemasonry, envisaged, in addition to the establishment of a republican regime, the creation of a Jewish state in the Ottoman Middle East. He was arrested and hanged in 1825 following the failure of the uprising.

It is also significant to recall the unsuccessful attempt of the Italian-British banker of Jewish origin, Sir Moses Ḥayyim Montefiore (Livorno, 24 October 1784 – Ramsgate, 28 July 1885)[3], who negotiated with Muhammad ̔Alī Pasha, Khedive of Egypt (1805-1848), as well as ruler of Syria, the Levant and Palestine (1833-1839), in order to establish an autonomous Jewish region in Palestine under British protectorate in 1839. Montefiore, who was linked to the House of Rothschild not only for economic reasons but also by marriage, having married Judith Cohen in 1812, daughter of Levi Barent Cohen and sister of Henriette, married in 1806 to Nathan Mayer Rothschild, undertook his first trip to the Holy Land in 1827. He made a second trip to Palestine in 1839 during which he resided for several months in Jerusalem and then stopped in Egypt where he met the Khedive River.

The purpose of this second trip to Palestine, in addition to the donation of large sums of money, was to introduce agricultural colonization plans based on new techniques aimed at promoting the economic development of Jewish communities. In 1840 he also intervened, with the support of Lord Palmerston, with his friend Muhammad ̔Alī and Sultan Abdulmejid I for the release of the sixteen Jews accused by the local Christian community of the ritual murder of the Capuchin missionary Father Tommaso Mossa and his Muslim attendant, Ibrahim Amrah, in Damascus[4]. The propaganda campaign generated by the Damascus Affair led Britain, starting in 1841, to set itself up as the protector of the Jews in the Ottoman state with the aim of taking advantage of a possible power vacuum in the Middle East, in the event of the dissolution of the Ottoman state, in order to expand its sphere of influence in the region.

Sir Moses Montefiore nevertheless built Jerusalem's first Jewish quarter, Mishkenot Sha'ananim, in 1860[5]. In the words of Nahum Sokolow: "Zionism was undoubtedly the greatest and noblest of Sir Moses' aspirations."[6]

Concerned by the outcome of the Russo-Ottoman conflict of 1877–78 and Russia's ambitions in the Middle East, the British government also commissioned Conservative Party member Laurence Oliphant (1829–1888) in 1878 to draw up a plan to establish a Jewish agricultural colony "in the northern and most fertile half of Palestine". This project, known as the "Plan for Gilead", won the approval of Prime Minister Disraeli, Foreign Secretary Salisbury, the Prince of Wales and the writer George Eliot. After a trip to the Holy Land in 1879 to investigate the conditions for the establishment of a Jewish agricultural settlement in the region, Oliphant presented his proposal (which called for a Jewish settlement in the Sanjak of Belka, Palestine in exchange for generous donations from the "... wealthy Jews living in America, England, France, Germany, Austria, Russia and other countries...") to Abdulhamid II, who rejected it since the Jewish presence in a specific region would have meant a state within a state.[7]

The first Aliyah to Ottoman Palestine

"The story moves too slowly. He needs a boost."

Andrej Ivanovič Željabov

The term Aliyah ("ascent") is usually used to indicate the first modern immigration of Jews to Ottoman Palestine[8] because of the pogroms that broke out in the Russian Empire, especially in the Ukrainian province, in the years between 1881 and 1882 following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II and the consequent enactment of the May Laws (1882) aimed at segregating the Jewish population in the Pale of Settlement[9]. Palestine then formed part of the Ottoman Empire which was ruled by the Sultan Abdulhamid II (1842-1918). It should be pointed out that Jewish immigration to Palestine had already begun in the early nineteenth century with the so-called Old Yishuv ("settlement"), which, according to some estimates, amounted to about 24,000 individuals in 1880. These early immigrants were mostly domiciled in Jerusalem and formed an Orthodox religious community not motivated by eminently political reasons. Ashkenazi immigration from Eastern Europe, however, began in the 1830s.

Of the more than 20,000 Jews who left Russia because of the pogroms of 1881-1882, only a few hundred emigrated to Palestine, while the majority settled in the United States and the United Kingdom. It could be said that this politically organized emigration marks the birth of modern Zionism. Although the messianic suggestions of a return to the Eretz Yisra'el inspired the subsequent waves of migration, religious tradition was almost perceived as an obstacle to the secular and nationalistic aspirations of the main proponents. Leo Pinsker[10] says: "... faith in the Messiah, in the intervention of a higher power to bring about our political resurrection, and the religious presupposition that we must patiently endure divine punishment, have made us abandon all thoughts of national liberation, unity, and independence."[11]

Not surprisingly, the first Zionist settlements were concentrated mainly in the cities of Jaffa, Haifa and Tiberias, not in the holy cities for the Jews, such as Jerusalem, Hebron and Safed. The founding myth could be summed up in the slogan: "A land without a people, a people without a land". Nationalist ideology is also found in the fateful words of the British Conservative Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), who, in a novel published in 1847 and destined to leave a deep impression on the young Theodor Herzl, wrote: "Everything is race, there is no other truth"[12].  Historian Walter Ze'ev Laqueur comments: " In Coningsby and Tancred, the story of the son of a duke who goes to Palestine to study the ‘Asiatic problem’, Disraeli returned to the same topic. The vicissitudes of history found their explanation in the fact that ‘all is race’; the Jews were essentially a strong, a superior race; given the right leadership there was nothing they would not be able to achieve."[13] 

The Zionist Project (1882-1908)


"If you ask me what I want, my answer is Jerusalem, all that we have lost, all that we have desired, all that we have fought for."

                                                                                                               Benjamin Disraeli

Between 1882 and 1908 the Zionist movement consisted essentially of two political organizations: the Lovers of Zion (Hovevei Zion)[14] and the Zionist Organization founded by Theodor Herzl. These organizations differed from other similar movements, such as the Alliance Israelite Universelle and the Anglo Jewish Association, in that they pursued the self-determination of the Jewish people through the direct purchase of land in Palestine.

The Lovers of Zion

 The term Lovers of Zion refers to a series of movements that arose in Eastern Europe and Russia beginning in 1882 with the aim of promoting Jewish immigration to Ottoman Palestine. The idea behind the movement was the promotion of agricultural work. The goal of the Lovers of Zion was to establish moshavot (colonies), rural Jewish national settlements in Palestine, on the grounds that such practical work would inevitably lead to political conquest. A group of these immigrants is credited with founding Rishon LeZion, the first Jewish settlement in Palestine, in 1882, thanks to funding from Baron Edmond James de Rothschild. It was the latter, in 1882, who founded the Carmel winery, financing winemaking initiatives in Rishon LeZion and Zikhron Ya'akov. One of the main ideologues of the movement was the Polish physician Yehudah Leib [Leon] Pinsker (1821-1891).

 The latter, first inspired by the ideals of the haskalah and then in favor of assimilation and integration, changed his position following the pogrom of Odessa in 1881, the city where he lived, in the belief that anti-Semitism was an incurable phobia ("... To the living being the Jew is a corpse, to the native a foreigner, to the resident a nomad, to the landlord a beggar, to the poor an exploiter and a millionaire, to the patriot a stateless person, to all a hated rival") for whom the only remedy was independence and the development of a national consciousness.  In 1882 he published an anonymous German-language pamphlet entitled Self-Emancipation, the subtitle of which was Mahnruf an seine Stammgenossen, von einem russischen Jude (A Warning to His People by a Russian Jew). Pinsker, however, did not promote the establishment of a Jewish state specifically in Palestine: "We must not cling to the place where our political life has been violently interrupted and destroyed. The goal of our efforts must not be the 'Holy Land', but a land of our own."[15] 

The first Aliyah, however, was organized and managed by the Lovers of Zion. The first group of colonizers arrived in Palestine from Russia in 1882 under the name Bilu[16] and consisted of university students influenced by Russian revolutionary idealism, whose secular orientation was expressed in the desire to establish a modern society in the Holy Land: "We want a homeland in our country granted to us by God. We'll ask the Sultan. If this is not possible, we will establish, under the protection of a great power, an autonomous state." It should be noted that in 1881 a delegation from Bilu had applied to the Ottoman government for the purchase of Palestinian lands, but it was not accepted. The main financiers of the project were Baron Maurice de Hirsch (1831-1896)[17] and the Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845-1934), who invested more than £1.5 million between 1883 and 1899. As Rothschild said, quoted by Weizmann: "Without me, the Zionists could have accomplished nothing; Without the Zionists, my project would have died."

Ottoman politics and Zionism

 "How could the civilized states that have expelled Jews from their countries protest against our refusal to accept Jewish settlements in Palestine?"

Abdulhamid II

 With the enactment in 1839 of the Hatt-ı Şerif law of Gülhane (the imperial rescript of Gülhane), Sultan Abdul Mejid I (1839-1861), in addition to the reorganization of the financial and military system on the French model, conferred citizenship on the Jewish subjects of the Empire[18]. In the aftermath of the Crimean War (1854-1856), with the Imperial Reform Decree (Turkish Islâhat Fermânı) of 1856, the Sultan recognized the equality of all Ottoman subjects, including non-Muslims, before the law. It should be remembered that non-Muslim subjects, adopting a foreign nationality, enjoyed the privileges of capitulations, according to which foreigners residing in the Ottoman Empire were subject to the laws of their respective countries. The abuse of capitulations led to the system of protégé (himâye): " protégé was an institution by which Ottoman subjects could acquire foreign citizenship or foreign protection without being obliged to reside in the country granting protection, thus being entitled to the capitular privileges enjoyed by citizens of the donor country in Turkey.[19]

The Ottoman government, until 1882, had not imposed any restrictions on the settlement of Jews in any part of its territory, including Palestine. Beginning in June 1882, however, foreign Jews were forbidden to enter Ottoman territory and to purchase land. This prohibition was lifted the following month, with the exception of Palestine, on condition that the newcomers adopt Ottoman nationality and abide by its laws. From 1884, access to Palestine was allowed for one month only to those pilgrims who had a travel visa authorized by the Ottoman consulates in their countries of origin. By decree, a three-month visa was then granted to those visitors who enjoyed the protection of foreign countries. In this case, the "red card" system was applied, which provided for the requisition of the passport during the period of stay.

There were two main reasons for this restrictive policy. First, Jewish immigration to Palestine would extend the Western powers' area of influence in the Holy Land, thereby favoring further foreign intervention in its internal affairs through the capitulation system. Secondly, the Ottoman authorities wanted to prevent the entrenchment of a Jewish nationalism that would inevitably give rise to separatist aspirations. Abdulhamid II himself declared that he did not want to have a second "Bulgarian question" in Palestine. The Sultan was in fact aware of the fact that behind the mask of the various nationalist movements that had led to the dismemberment of the Empire, starting from the Balkan regions, were hidden the territorial interests of the Great Powers. For these reasons, Zionism was perceived as a threat to the security and sovereignty of the Empire.

Theodor Herzl and the Zionist Organization

  "As far as Europe is concerned, there we would form a part of the bulwark that protects it from Asia. We would serve as an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism. As a neutral state, we would maintain a link with the whole of Europe, and Europe would have to guarantee our existence."[20]

 Theodor Herzl

 According to Walter Laqueur: "Modern political Zionism begins with the publication of Der Judenstaat."[21] This pamphlet, written by the thirty-six-year-old Theodor Herzl (1860-1904) and published in Vienna and Leipzig in 1896, was originally entitled Speech to the Rothschilds, since the Austrian journalist first intended to address it to the well-known house of bankers. In 1895, however, Baron Edmond de Rothschild, despite an offer to direct the entire operation, rejected Herzl's plan, fearing that it would threaten his own settlements in Palestine. The previous meeting with Baron von Hirsch, in June 1895, had also proved fruitless to the point that the banker had come to doubt the sanity of his visitor.[22]

 "His idea of winning over the ‘money Jews’ and thus of bringing about a 'revolution from above'," Laqueur writes, "had to be given up."[23] Herzl proposed the creation of an independent Jewish state, on the British colonial model, with the support of the European powers. The recent success of the British South Africa Company must be considered Herzl's main source of inspiration, as evidenced by the obsequious letter addressed to Cecil Rhodes in his Diaries[24] and the obituary for the death of the English magnate published on March 28, 1902 in Die Welt, the newspaper founded by Herzl in 1897 as a voice for his movement.  entitled Cecil Rhodes als Colonial politiker[25]:

"For our Zionist idea, Cecil Rhodes’ work has not been in vain. He was our great guide; he showed us how to create the means necessary today for the exploitation of uncultivated territories by means of corporations, that is, by the founding of limiteds [limited companies]. Rhodesia is for us an invaluable example for the future development of Palestine. Great, productive colonial thoughts are in the air. The astute Englishman has used this thought for the benefit of his homeland; we, who strive for a similar thing for our brethren, will, in the cultivation of our ancestral land, imitate a great deal of what he has achieved already. Thus, Cecil Rhodes has been our colonial-political role model."

It was in the context of Western imperialist intervention in Africa that the idea of acquiring a territorial basis for the establishment of an autonomous Jewish state was conceived. 

Since this was an international problem, Herzl undertook extensive diplomatic work. As the influential American historian Gil Troy (1961)[26] states, Theodor Herzl's importance lies in the fact that he internationalized the "Jewish question": "For Herzl, the most important aspect of his work was diplomacy: he negotiated with the Sultan of Turkey, Kaiser Wilhelm, the King of Italy and Pope Pius X."[27] Among Herzl's interlocutors, it is significant that Troy omitted to mention Joseph Chamberlain and Lord Cromer, in the English camp, as well as two key figures in the Tsarist circle, von Plehve and Count Witte. 

Although the idea of establishing an independent state in Argentina had previously been considered, the Holy Land remained the ideal choice for Herzl, as: " Palestine is our ever- memorable historic home. The very name of Palestine would attract our people with a force of marvelous potency."[28] Paraphrasing Herzl, Laqueur writes: "If the sultan were to give Palestine to the Jews, they could in return undertake the management of Turkey’s finances and save the sultan from chronic bankruptcy. The Jewish state, neutral in character, would form part of a defensive wall for Europe in Asia, an outpost of civilisation against barbarism. Europe would guarantee its existence, and the Holy Places would be put under some form of extra - territoriality. The Jews could in fact mount a guard of honour about these Holy Places and this would symbolise the solution of the Jewish question."[29]

The first Zionist congress was held in August 1897 in Basel under the leadership of Herzl. In the course of the work, the Zionist Organization was founded and the political objectives of the movement were established.

Gaining international support for settlement plans, rather than buying land and establishing agricultural settlements, was defined as a priority of the movement. At the second congress, held in Basel in August 1898, it was decided to establish a bank under the name of the Jewish Colonial Trust to serve as the organization's financial instrument.[30] At the Third Zionist Congress of 1899 it was finally decided to negotiate with Sultan Abdulhamid II to obtain land for the Jews in Palestine. 

Herzl and the Sultan

"Turkestan, Afghanistan, Persia - to me, I confess, they are pieces on a chessboard upon which is being played a game for the domination of the world."

                                                                                                                               Lord Curzon

 Thanks to the intercession of Grand Duke Frederick of Baden, Herzl obtained an audience with Wilhelm II of Germany in October 1898. The Kaiser agreed to intercede with the Sultan for the purpose of obtaining the concession of a Privileged Joint-Stock Company for Palestine under German protectorate. Abdulhamid II's response was, however, peremptory. If the Kaiser intended to maintain good relations with the Ottoman Empire, he would not have to insist on this argument, as "the Sultan wanted nothing to do with Zionism and an independent Jewish kingdom." As early as 1895, the Sultan claimed to have understood the Zionists' "evil plans" and added that they were too naïve to believe that he would accept their proposals.

German support for Herzl's plans was perceived as a direct threat to the sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire and its territorial integrity: "The Germans should give up the idea of introducing the Jewish people into the international community as a state, because this project, by creating a state at the heart of the Ottoman Empire, would ensure the ruin of Turkey."[31] Wilhelm II, fearful of jeopardizing his political and financial relations with the Sultan, withdrew his support for the Zionist project.

Germany's reaction influenced the attitude of the other powers towards Zionism. Russia, following Germany's example, withdrew its consent to Herzl's plans. While Paris, which had always considered Syria and Palestine within its sphere of interests, maintained an absolute hostility towards the Zionist project. Britain, in turn, "proposed to offer Herzl and his followers less politically sensitive places, such as Uganda and Cyprus, to realize their irredentist aspirations."[32] 

Herzl's strategy to convince the Sultan was to make him a financial offer that would alleviate the state of indebtedness in which the coffers of the Ottoman Empire were located. Regarding the condition of the Empire, Shaykh Dr. Abdalqadir as-Sufi says: "Abdulhamid tried to reform every aspect of the society, but it was all doomed to fail, the interest debt absorbed 80% of state revenues on his accession to the Sultanate. [...] Gallantly, the Sultan tried to rationalize the burgeoning debt. His Decree of Muharrem, on Nov. 23, 1881, reduced the unpaid debt and interest from 21,938.6 million kuruş to almost half, 12,430.5 million kuruş. He achieved this by what may be considered the first major national debt rescheduling program.  [...]. So remarkable was the Sultan's planning that he managed to bring financial situation into order, but he could not throw off the new occupation forces of banking”.[33] The decree of 1881, in fact, had resulted in the establishment of the Ottoman Public Debt Administration (OPDA), an organization controlled by the great powers to collect the payments that the Ottoman Empire owed to European creditor companies. The OPDA constituted a vast independent bureaucracy within the Ottoman bureaucracy and was essentially run by European and British creditors. It employed 5,000 officials who collected taxes that were then turned over to European creditors. He also acted as an intermediary with European companies looking for investment opportunities in the Ottoman Empire, as well as financing massive infrastructure and industrial projects.

Arriving in Istanbul in June 1896, Herzl asked their mutual friend Philipp de Newlinski[34] to intercede with the Sultan to obtain a mandate allowing the Jews to colonize Palestine in exchange for twenty million pounds. Newlinski's argument was that: "Without the help of the Zionists, the Turkish economy would have no chance of recovery." The Sultan, however, was adamant: "If Mr. Herzl is as much of a friend to you as you are to me, then advise him not to take another step in this direction. I cannot sell a foot of land, because it does not belong to me, but to my people. My people conquered this empire by fighting with their own blood. Their blood fertilized it. We will cover it with our blood again before we allow it to be torn from us. Let the Jews keep their billions." And here the Sultan added with prophetic intuition: "If my Empire is divided, they will be able to have Palestine without compensation, but it will only be our corpse that will be divided, I will not give my assent to vivisection." Herzl was moved and shocked by the Sultan's words: "There is a tragic beauty in this fatalism," he wrote in his diary.

Herzl then resorted to the services of the Hungarian linguist of Jewish origin Ármin Vámbéry[35] (born Hermann Wamberger, 1832 -1913), of whom he said: "[He] doesn't know whether he is more Turk than Englishman, writes books in German, speaks twelve languages with equal mastery and has professed five religions, in two of which he has served as a priest...He told me 1001 tales of the Orient, of his intimacy with the sultan, etc. He immediately trusted me completely and told me, under oath of secrecy, that he was a secret agent of Turkey and of England."[36] The Hungarian professor, motivated by a deep Russophobia, forged close ties with the British Conservative Party from the 1860s onwards and became a spy and an agent in the service of the British Foreign Office[37]

Under pressure from Vámbéry, Herzl obtained an interview with Abdulhamid II on 19 May 1901. After the initial exchange of greetings, Herzl moved on to the point: in his eyes the situation resembled "the beautiful story of Androcles and the lion. His Majesty is the lion, perhaps I am Androcles, and perhaps there is a thorn that needs to be removed." The thorn was, of course, the control exercised by the Ottoman Public Debt Administration, which undermined sovereignty and hindered the economic development of the Empire. Öke writes: "Consolidation of the Ottoman Debt involved buying up the debt on the stock exchange by a Jewish syndicate within a period of three years. The acquisition of Turkish securities, Herzl stressed, would be on condition of the announcement of an Imperial Charter for the Colonization of Palestine by the Jewish people. On the basis of the Charter, the Jewish Colonial Trust would found a Land Company, incorporated under Turkish law, and would be charged with settling and organizing the Jews in Palestine. [...] Abdulhamid's greatest nightmare was to share the fate of Egypt which was de facto, if not de jure, occupied by the British after having failed to honor her debts.”[38] 

The Sultan, however, was only interested in debt consolidation plans and did not give any consideration to the project of colonization of Palestine. In his eyes, Herzl was nothing more than an intercessor who could establish ties between wealthy Jewish bankers and the Ottoman government. 

Herzl was recalled to Istanbul in February 1902. He was offered concessions for the exploitation of mines, the establishment of a pro-government bank, and the establishment of a land company for Jewish settlement which, however, did not include Palestine. Herzl was then forced to refuse. The following month, Herzl learned that the Sultan was negotiating with the French a proposal for the consolidation of the public debt. In June 1902 Herzl requested a new meeting with Abdulhamid II but was not received. He then turned to Great Britain, where, in 1901, the Fourth Zionist Congress had been held. In October 1902 Herzl met Joseph Chamberlain, the British Colonial Secretary (1895-1906), who considered the idea of creating an independent Jewish colony in northern Egypt. As a result of these meetings, the Anglo-Palestine Bank was founded in 1902 and actively pursued Zionist goals by purchasing land and promoting settlements.

 The British government then put forward two alternative proposals: the Sinai Peninsula and the El Arish area in Egypt, which, however, were under the jurisdiction of the Sultan. Chamberlain then presented the controversial question of Uganda. Herzl favorably introduced this proposal at the Sixth Zionist Congress of August 22, 1903, held in Basel, as a temporary solution, as Palestine remained the permanent target. Despite his insistence, other Zionist leaders (especially Russian delegates) feared that Uganda's project would lead to the abandonment of Palestine for the Jewish homeland. Faced with threats from some delegates to leave the Zionist Organization, Herzl abandoned the project. 

The coup d'état

"The whole world has been told that the cause of the war of 1914 was the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife. Please permit us the right to speak on what concerns our national destiny. As Serbs, we are entitled to a voice in the matter. We certainly wanted our freedom. Who killed the unfortunate little Habsburg? The 'Black Hand'? A secret society! Was it ours? Did we send swarms of secret societies all over Europe? Did the so-called Young Turks do the same in Turkey, and then the secret societies in Russia, and so on? My dear sir - it just was not us!"

                                                   Ian Dallas, The Ten Symphonies of Gorka König[39]

In 1905, in Damascus, a group of officers of the Fifth Army, including a young lieutenant named Mustafa Kemal, organized themselves into a secret revolutionary society called Vatan (Fatherland)[40] to restore the Constitution suspended in 1878 by Abdulhamid II. Soon two significant new branches were established in Jerusalem and Jaffa. It was probably on the initiative of Lieutenant Kemal that a branch of the group, with a different name (Osmanlı Hürriyet Cemiyeti), was established in 1906 in Salonica, his hometown, which was an ideal ground for the purposes of the conspirators. Salonica was seen as the "New Jerusalem" and was called the "Mother of Israel", where the Jewish Sabbath "was observed with great vigour".[41] Salonica was also home to the largest community of dönme in the Ottoman Empire "who, while apparently accepting the dominant faith of the empire, secretly maintained some of their old beliefs and practices, creating a situation that hindered their full acceptance into the Muslim community."[42]

Salonica was also headquartered by the Third Army, which formed the core of the military forces that supported the 1908 Young Turk coup, led by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), to which Mustafa Kemal belonged[43].

In a well-known letter written during the exile by Abdulhamid II to his spiritual guide, the Shaykh of the Damascene branch of the Shadhili tariqat, Mahmud Abu'sh-Shamat, and quoted in full by the Turkish poet and writer Necip Fazıl Kısakürek,[44] the Sultan clearly illustrates the reasons for his dethronement:

"[...] I did not abandon the Khalifate of Islam for any reason. It was rather that I have been forced to leave the Khalifate of Islam under pressure and threats from the leaders of the Committee of Union, known as the Young Turks. These Unionists have continuously insisted on the establishment of a National Homeland for the jews in the Sacred Territories and in Palestine, which I strictly refused to accept and affirm. Whatever their threats and however strong their insistence was, I did not accept their proposal. Then they promised they would pay 150,000 English pounds in gold but I refused this too, responding to them: “Not for 150,000 English pounds and not even if you piled up all the gold in the whole world before me could I accept your proposal. I have served the Millet of Islam and the Ummah of Muhammad for more than thirty years. I cannot put a black mark on the whole of the Muslims, the Sultans and Khalifs of Islam, my fathers and ancestors. Therefore, I definitely cannot accept your proposal.” After this strict and final reply from me they agreed on my dethronement and conveyed to me that I was to be sent to Thessaloniki. I accepted this last proposal from them and praised Allah and continue to praise Him that He granted me success in refusing to accept the establishment of a jewish State on the Sacred Territories and Palestine which would have been an everlasting disgrace to both the Osmanli Devlet and the Muslim World. All that happened, happened because of this.” 


 Allahu Akbar! from the pen of Sultan Abdalhamid Rahimahullah. The last of the noble Sultans preceding the interregnum.  The return of the Khalif, whoever that may be and wherever such will emerge, will be the inheritor of the spiritual station of Sultan Abdalhamid 11. (Translators Comment.)

 Dr Ali Azzali remains a prolific exponent of the political works of Shaykh Abdalqadir as Sufi Rahimahullah. He lectured in geopolitical studies at the Dallas College in Cape Town for almost twenty years and has tutored many young men who themselves have emerged as able scholars on the subject. Dr Ali (Stefano) Azzali currently resides in Italy, the country of his birth, where he is engaged in literary pursuits. By his acknowledgement he has found ample opportunity for Da’wa in Italy and for high level intellectual engagements with peers. May Allah Reward Dr Ali abundantly for his sterling service to Islam.

[1] On the distortions of nationalist historiography, the great Anglo-Iraqi historian and economist of Jewish origin Elie Kedourie writes: "One instance of this transformation of the past occurs in a letter written against Zionism by an orthodox rabbi of Eastern Europe in 1900. In this letter, the Dzikover Rebbe contrasts the traditional view which the community of Israel had of itself, and the new nationalist interpretation of the Jewish past. Bitterness gives his speech a biting concision, and this letter thus exhibits in a clear and striking manner the operations of nationalist historiography, as well as the traditional interpretation which it has challenged. ‘For our many sins,’ writes the Rebbe, ‘strangers have risen to pasture the holy flock, men who say that the people of Israel should be clothed in secular nationalism, a nation like all other nations, that Judaism rests on three things, national feeling, the land and the language, and that national feeling is the most praiseworthy element in the brew and the most effective in preserving Judaism, while the observance of the Torah and the commandments is a private matter depending on the inclination of each individual. May the Lord re buke these evil men and may He who chooseth Jerusalem seal their mouths.’ Nationalist historiography operates, in fact, a subtle but unmistakable change in traditional conceptions. In Zionism, Judaism ceases to be the raison d'etre of the Jew, and becomes, instead, a product of Jewish national consciousness."  Elie Kedourie, Nationalism, London 1961, pp. 75-6

[2] Jacques Attali, Les juifs, le monde et l'argent, Fayard (2002), pp.333-4.

[3] Montefiore, born in Livorno in 1784 to a wealthy family of Sephardic Jewish origin originally from Ancona and living in London, after completing his studies in the Jewish schools of London, at the age of twenty he obtained a license as a stockbroker at the London Stock Exchange. Together with his brother Abraham he founded the firm "Montefiore Brothers" which started fruitful commercial initiatives: "Together with the Rothschilds, the Montefiores set up an efficient network of promissory note discounts and insurance on goods, capable of raising substantial funds for the military campaigns in full swing; these affairs proved to be very lucrative because of the ability and possibility of betting alternately on Napoleon and on the powers opposed to him. The link with the Rothschilds was particularly important for the Montefiores on the occasion of the Battle of Waterloo, when Nathan Mayer Rothschild, having learned the news of the Napoleonic defeat before anyone else – thanks to his widespread network of agents – managed to draw from it congruous benefits of a speculative nature [...] His rise in society was witnessed by the purchase, in 1831, of the sumptuous Ramsgate Residence, a 24-acre estate formerly owned by Queen Caroline, Princess of Wales. In 1835 he underwrote, again with Rothschild, a significant portion of the loan issued by the British government to finance compensation for slave owners harmed by the abolition of slavery. Two years later he was elected sheriff of London, the second Jew to hold that office, and again in 1837 the newly crowned Queen Victoria conferred on him the title of Sir, to which in 1846 she added that of Baron. (see https://www.treccani.it/enciclopedia/moses-haim-montefiore_%28Dizionario-Biografico%29/).

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damascus affair

[5] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/mishkenot-sha-ananim

[6] Sokolow, Nahum, History of Zionism, Ktav Publishing House, Inc., New York, 1969, p.120.


[8] Palestine of the late Ottoman period consisted of the sanjak (district) of Jerusalem (which became an independent district and ruled directly by the central government in 1841) consisting of the kazas (subdistricts) of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jaffa, Gaza and Beersheba; in the sanjak of Acre, consisting of Acre, Haifa, Safad, Tiberias, and Nazareth, and in the sanjak of Nablus. Each sanjak was governed by a governor, and each subdistrict was governed by a mayor.

[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pale_of_Settlement

[10] Leo Pinsker (Tomaszów Lubelski, 1821 – Odessa, 1891) was a Polish physician, founder and leader of the movement Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion).

[11] Leo Pinsker, Auto-Emancipation, 1882, in Rabinovich, Itamar and Reinharz, Jehuda (ed), Israel in the Middle East, Documents and Readings on Society, Politics, and Foreign Relations, pre-1948 to the Present, Brandeis University Press, 2008, p. 14.

[12] Benjamin Disraeli, Tancred or the New Crusade, 1847, p. 319.

[13] Walter Laqueur, A History of Zionism, London 1972

[14] The original name of the movement, however, was Hibbat Zion.

[15] Pinsker, op. cit. cit., p. 15.

[16] "Bilu" is an acronym based on a verse from the Book of Isaiah (2:5) "בית יעקב לכו ונלכה". Beit Ya'akov Lekhu Venelkha ("House of Jacob, come”.)

[17] In 1891, Baron Maurice de Hirsch founded the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA) with the aim of settling Jewish immigrants in Argentina and other regions, primarily Palestine.

[18] Mark Tessler, A History of the Israeli Palestinian Conflict, Indiana University Press, 1994, p. 42

[19] Mim Kemal Öke, The Ottoman Empire, Zionism, and the Question of Palestine (1880-1908), International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 14, No. 3 (August 1982), Cambridge University Press, p. 332.

[20] Theodor Herzl, Zionist Writings: Essays and Addresses. Volume I, 1896-1898. Trans. Harry Zohn. New York: Herzl Press, 1973, p. 31.

[21]Laqueur, op. cit., p. 84

[22] Ibid., pp. 110-111 of the digital edition: “He decided to approach Baron von Hirsch, one of the leading Jewish philanthropists of the age, and in a meeting in June 1895 he developed his new plan. He already saw himself as the leader of the Jews: ‘You are the great money Jew, I am the Jew of the spirit’. In the conversation Herzl sharply criticised the methods used by the baron to help the Jews. Philanthropy was of no use. On the contrary, it could only do harm because it debased the character of the people. ‘You breed beggars,’ he told the astonished baron. What of Herzl’s own solution? Some of his proposals might seem too simple, he said, others too fantastic, ‘but it is the simple and fantastic which leads men’. At this point the baron grew impatient and began to doubt the sanity of his visitor. Where would he get the money for his fantastically ambitious schemes? Rothschild would probably donate five hundred francs. For the rich Jews, Hirsch said, were bad; they took no interest in the sufferings of the poor.”

[23] Ibid., p. 118.

[24] "You are being invited to help make history. That cannot frighten you, nor will you laugh at it. It is not in your accustomed line; it doesn’t involve Africa, but a piece of Asia Minor, not Englishmen, but Jews. But had this been on your path, you would have done it yourself by now. How, then, do I happen to turn to you, since this is an out-of-the way matter for you? How indeed? Because it is something colonial, and because it presupposes understanding of a development which will take twenty or thirty years. There are visionaries who look past greater spaces of time, but they lack a practical sense. Then again there are practical people, like the trust magnates in America, but they lack political imagination. But you, Mr. Rhodes, are a visionary politician or a practical visionary. You have already demonstrated this. And what I want you to do is not to give me or lend me a few guineas, but to put the stamp of your authority on the Zionist plan and to make the following declaration to a few people who swear by you: I, Rhodes, have examined this plan and found it correct and practicable. It is a plan full of culture, excellent for the group of people for whom it is directly designed, not detrimental to the general progress of mankind, and quite good for England, for Greater Britain. If you and your associates supply the requested financial aid for this, you will, in addition to these satisfactions, have the satisfaction of making a good profit. For what is being asked for is money. What is the plan? To settle Palestine with the homecoming Jewish people." The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl. Volumes I-V. Ed. Raphael Patai. Trans. Harry Kohn. New York: Herzl Press and Thomas Yoseloff, 1960, III 1193-1194.

[25] Die Welt 13 (28 March 1902): 12-14, available at: http://www.compactmemory.de

[26] Gil Troy, The Zionist Ideas; Visions for the Jewish Homeland, Then, Now, Tomorrow (2018), pp. 1-11-11 13-14.

[27] Regarding the meeting with Victor Emmanuel III, David Ohana writes: “When King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy told Herzl, when they met in 1904, that one of his distant relatives had been connected with Sabbetai Zevi, and he asked if there were still any Jews expecting the Messiah, Herzl replied, ‘Naturally, Your Majesty, in the religious circles. In our own, the academically trained and enlightened circles, no such thought exists, of course […]. Our movement is purely nationalist.’ Herzl added that on his journey to Palestine he refrained from riding on a donkey ‘so that no one would embarrass me by thinking I was the Messiah’ (Herzl, 2001, vol. 3: 256). David Ohana, Modernism and Zionism (2012), p. 85.

[28] Gil Troy, op. cit., p. 16.

[29] Laqueur, op. cit., p. 116.

[30] “The Jewish Colonial Trust was the first Zionist bank. It was founded at the Second Zionist Congress and incorporated in London on March 20, 1899. The JCT was to be the financial instrument of the Zionist Organization and was to obtain capital and credits to help obtain a charter for Palestine. [...] The JCT's main activities in Palestine were carried out by the Anglo-Palestine Bank, which was established as a branch in 1902.” See: https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jewish-colonial-trust

[31] Mim Kemal Öke, op. cit., p. 334.

[32] Ibid, p. 335.

[33] Shaykh Abdalqadir as-Sufi, The Return of the Caliphate, Madinah Press, Cape Town, 1996, p. 36.

[34] https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/philipp-newlinski

[35]  L. Alder e R. Dalby, The Dervish of Windsor Castle, Londra, 1979.

[36] Penslar, Derek Jonathan, Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader. Yale University Press, 2020, p. 137.

[37] Miklós Sárközy, Arminius Vámbéry and British Conservatives: Some Further Notes on their Correspondence, Papers Presented to István Ormos on His Seventieth Birthday, Budapest, 2020.

[38] Mim Kemal Öke, op. cit., p. 330.

[39] Ian Dallas, Collected Works, Cape Town, 2005, p. 361.

[40] Then, “Fatherland and Freedom” (Vatan ve Hürriyet Cemiyeti).

[41] E., Naar, Devin (2016-09-07). Jewish Salonica: between the Ottoman Empire and modern Greece. Stanford, California.

[42] Stanford J. Shaw, Ezel Kural Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire and Modern Turkey, vol. II, Cambridge University Press, 1977, pag. 265

[43] Prof Marc Baer writes: "Freemasonry played a key role in that revolutionary era. In a society not ready to abandon the hierarchies of religion (...) Christians, Jews and Muslims could meet in Masonic lodges as equals, united in secrecy. (...) Abdulhamid II, recognised the threat and repressed the freemasons, his government labelling them “an habitual source of sedition”. (...) The Jewish attorney Emmanuel Carasso, who received medals of honour from the very Sultan he worked to overthrow, one of the leaders of the CUP in Salonika and in the hierarchy of the entire organization, headed the Italian rite Macedonia Risorta. Its lodge was the site of secret CUP meetings and the place where the CUP archives were kept and the order counted among its members the majority of the leaders of the Salonikan branch of the CUP.”

[44] Necip Fazıl, Ulu Hakan II. Abdülhamid Han, 1965.