How the British once Proposed Kenya as the State of Israel for the Jews

The British once considered the idea of expropriating land in Western Kenya to settle the Jews in order to help the Zionists escape the growing prejudice against them in Europe.

As early as 1902, Colonial Secretary, Joseph Chamberlain identified the resettlement land in Kenya whilst on a tour in East-Africa. At the time, Kenya was a newly acquired British colony.

His decision to look for this land followed an earlier proposal themed the “Ugandan Plan” which was tabled before the attendants of the sixth Zionist conference held in Basel for discussion. 

In this document, Theodor Herzl, largely considered founder of the Zionist movement suggested East Africa as a temporary settlement for the Jewish to seek refuge from threats of being attacked in Europe.

First German-Jews settlers in Kenyan Farmlands 1903

Although Hertz presented this proposal to the delegates at the Basel Conference, available evidence proved that the East African settlement idea was the brainchild of the british who offered Kenya instead of an earlier offer made by Herzl for the Jews to be sent to either Cyprus or Sinai. 

Historical scholars believed that he accepted this offer partly due to the promise from Chamberlain to grant local autonomy to the Zionist in Kenya. Additionally, Herzl was equally thought to have accepted the offer after realizing that his suggestions (representing the Zionist) won’t be honored.

Because the idea was not originally from the people themselves, the proposal to settle the Jewish people in the Western Region of Kenya which had great potential for Agribusiness was declined by the Zionist backed by Lord Delamere, the then leader of the East African whites who sent a telegram to The Times (London) stating that, “feeling here very strong against the introduction of alien Jews.”

Following the death of Herzl, David Wolffsohn who took over as President of the Zionist organisation deployed a team led by Major A. St. Hill Gibbons, Professor Alfred Kaiser, and Nachum Wilbuschewitz to visit and study the proposed location in 1904 for further action. 

After commission reviews, the plan was rejected by the Zionist organization at the Seventh Zionist Congress (1905) in Basel with the British duly informed. The group then pushed for their present day location, Palestine after negotiations with Turkey.

Even though the plan was declined, Kenya still recorded the settlement of some Jewish people, including the former Nairobi mayor Israel Somen and hotelier, Abraham Block. Some South African Zionists also settled in Kenya as well as Israelis in modern history.

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