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June 16, 2003

Reader Request #1: The Middle East

Welcome to Reader Request Week, in which most entries will be on topics suggested by readers. Why? Why not? I'm still taking requests, by the way, and will be all week long. Put them in the comment thread here.

Our first request, from "Ohako": I'd like to hear you jaw on about the Middle East, from the way things are now, to the way things should be, to the 'Pundit Fights' that CNN stages every now and then.

When people say "Middle East," my brain says "Israel and Palestine," and I'm generally not very optimistic about that. To give you an indication of how not optimistic I am about that, I'll note that in the science fiction novel I'm currently writing, which is set an unspecified number of centuries in the future, a Secretary of State comments to another character about how this year's negotiations were going along just fine until another suicide bomber blew himself up in Haifa. It's not a major plot point in the story, just an aside, but there you have it.

As a matter of personal philosophy, I'm very pro-Israel, and I'm very pro the US guaranteeing that nation's existence. I think life would be tremendously easier if "Israel" wasn't where it is geographically -- If it were in South Dakota, say, we wouldn't have nearly the problems we do now -- but there's not much that can be done about that now.

I think the current Israeli government is treating the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza badly, but on the other hand, it's difficult to treat any people who send their teenagers into malls packed with nail studded C4 with any real measure of respect. Israel's governments may have varying levels of interest in peace, but the Palestinian government, such as it is, is utterly worthless on this score. I have some mild hopes that the new Palestinian prime minister might be the sort of pragmatic leader who prefers to see his people live in peace with Israelis, but I don't discount Arafat's ability to keep screwing things up, either.

The one thing I always come away from the Israel-Palestine thing is the idea that I'm lucky to live in the New World, which is were people came to get away from the people who were holding grudges against them for something that happened several centuries ago or whatever. The US is not an entirely blameless country (it did sweep the then-current inhabitants off the land), but the fact is that by and large in today's America, anyone can live anywhere they want and not have to worry about the neighbors holding a grudge from the old country. You don't see Jews and Muslims at each other's throats, or Armenians and Turks, or Serbs and Muslims, or Greeks and Turks, or Protestant and Catholics, Hindu and Muslim or whatever other penny-ante centuries-old crap they're carrying around in the rest of the world. And while not in the least excusing our own racial problems, ours today tend not to leave piles of bodies lying around.

Ultimately, Americans would rather live together than live apart, which is something that differentiates us from the Middle East and indeed from most of the world. It helps that Americans, while not ignorant of past hatreds and wrongs and whatever, also have a tendency to be willing to leave them where they are, in the past, and work with what we have today and what we want for the future. We're pragmatic and unromantic in that way, and that's a very good thing. What I wish for the Middle East, and indeed anywhere, is some of that American pragmatism and unromanticism.

Re: Talking heads on CNN -- I don't watch them. It's like ESPN for Wonks, and I don't even watch regular ESPN. Anyway, when I want to see people snarl back and forth about a subject, I read blogs.

Posted by john at June 16, 2003 08:01 AM

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Kevin | June 16, 2003 09:12 AM

The United States developed, inexplicably, as the Land of Moderation. (Politically, not eating-wise.) Most of our population is politically near enough the center that they can vote for a politician they "like" even if opposed to his politics. The downside is that it's hard to whip people up about important internal troubles, like the environment, or the really crappy things g.w. is doing to our economy. The upside is that people on the lunatic fringe, like Eric Rudolph, tend to get what's coming to them.

Stephen A. Russell | June 16, 2003 10:26 AM


Personally, I am pretty neutral on this one. I think that they're all jerks. . .

"I think the current Israeli government is treating the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza badly, but on the other hand, it's difficult to treat any people who send their teenagers into malls packed with nail studded C4 with any real measure of respect."

It's also hard to respect any people who bulldoze your village to set up a housing development. I can't imagine strapping C4 to myself, but if there is such a thing as a cry for help, I think that is it. You've gotta feel pretty oppressed to go to those lengths.

"The one thing I always come away from the Israel-Palestine thing is the idea that I'm lucky to live in the New World, which is were people came to get away from the people who were holding grudges against them for something that happened several centuries ago or whatever."

On this one, I don't honestly believe that the grudges of centuries past are at the root of the violence. It takes fresh grudges to get people to blow themselves up. I think the fact that Britain carved out Israel from existing Palestinian territory has more to do with it. That and the fact that Israel immediately started annexing more Palestinian territory.

The Palestinians were not terrorists until Israel got plopped down in the middle of them. It doesn't make them right, but it tips the scales for me to the point where I can't get behind either side.

I can't help wondering though. If we love Israel so much, then why didn't we give them Montana after WWII. No Arabs there to fight with.


Luke | June 16, 2003 10:47 AM

Because that's not the particular spot that God promised to them a couple millennia ago, that's why.
The Palestinean situation has been horrible for two generations. The fighting that has come after this was started by and continues because of the Israeli positions -- that all the halfway decent land in the area should be Israeli, that whenever some suicide bomber blows himself up it's time to destroy as much Palestinean infrastructure as possible, that it's acceptable to kill twenty Palestinean civilians to have a chance of killing one Hamas leader, that no of course this is totally different from and morally superior to suicide bombing.

And of course on the other side (Here I refer to Hamas and Hezbollah et al.) -- YOU FREAKING IDIOTS! EVIL IDIOTS!
When someone makes a political concession to you, don't pile on the bloodshed to get more! You aren't going to drive them into the sea! Given your aims, how is what you are doing going to lead to the accomplishment of those aims? I do not see hope for this cause, only death and destruction.

Neither side is willing to see its faults, unwilling to see that their revenge strikes are ineffective, and generally forgetting that they are family through the link of Abraham, that the safest place to be as a Jew in the middle ages was under Islamic governments...
Is 'Preserving the Jewish character of the Israeli state' so important that you'll kill thousands of people on both sides? Is 'Ridding the Holy land of the infidel' more important than the holy land remaining whole?

Alina | June 16, 2003 11:21 AM

"I think the fact that Britain carved out Israel from existing Palestinian territory has more to do with it."

But it carved (Trans)Jordan out of the exact same territory even earlier (and let's not even talk about Turks and Romans drawing arbitrary boundries and changing names of places whenever it suited them). And yet no one, from the U.N. to the Arab world to Hamas questions it's legal rights for a Hashemite King to rule over a mostly "Palestinian" nation. The West Bank was under Jordanian occupation from 1948 to 1967. Where were the U.N. resolutions, then? (Full disclosure: I do not like the U.N. I do not like any organization that deploys alleged peace-keepers that will move out of the way whenever an African warlord tells them to, then wonders how so many people got slaughtered and puts out a little piece of paper offering the opinin that said slaughter is bad, yet does nothing to, oh, I don't know, keep peace... But I digress).

Dave Pittman | June 16, 2003 11:34 AM

You'd think both sides would notice the irony of having their important religious locations on the exact same spot.

While I don't approve of the methods of either side, I must admit that the continuance by the MUCH better armed Israelis of these hostilities means that they hope for genocide as time approaches infinity. They stay within the envelope of passable world opinion by only striking when struck. To flip it over, however, the Palies always seem to time a nice bus bombing when a peace summit is in full swing or a cease fire is about to be announced (read: hold on to your butts over the next few days). How can we ever envision an end when both sides want the whole cake and want the entirety of the other side dead. I've deleted just about every other sentence that I've started to write here because the situation is literally just plain mind boggling and horribly frustrating.

Dan | June 16, 2003 11:54 AM

I'd just like to throw a couple points into the discussion:

* How much did all the countries in that region actually pay attention to the area before the Israelis were installed there and could actually make things _grow_?

* How do you deal with a group that uses the general population to attack other parts of the general population?

* and most importantly, how do you have peace with an organization that has it _in their instantiating document_ that their purpose is to wipe israel off the face of the earth?

I'm all for peace and coexistance, but I think some people just aren't wired for compromise.

Stephen A. Russell | June 16, 2003 01:24 PM

Funny how we pick and choose which countries need "regime change" and which ones don't. I fail to see how little influence we have over the Israeli situation when they are so dependent on us. Now we are thinking about "helping" then new Palestinian Prime Minister by sending troops to target militant Palestinian groups(http://www.cnn.com/2003/ALLPOLITICS/06/15/hamas.debate/index.html). Gee, I wonder why Muslims think that we are on Israel's side in the conflict.

I think that we (the U.S. gov't that is) need to either cut Israel loose and let them fend for themselves or make peace our business. That means either stop selling them the tanks and missiles that they use to level a 1 mile radius around a Hamas leader, or stepping in and in effect saying, "Ok, here's the line. All you crazy MFers on this side, all you other crazy MFers on the other." Then if Israel doesn't like it we threaten to cut off the helicopters and F/A 18s and see how long they last. If Palestine doesn't like it, then they get the smart bombs. Sure it would 'up' our involvement in the area, but then aren't we about to invade Syria, Iran, and Palestine while occupying Iraq and Afghanistan.

By the way, what ever happened to Afghanistan? Are they all happily liberated and westernized yet?

S Rajaram | June 16, 2003 07:03 PM

"You don't see Jews and Muslims at each other's throats, or Armenians and Turks, or Serbs and Muslims, or Greeks and Turks, or Protestant and Catholics, Hindu and Muslim or whatever other penny-ante centuries-old crap they're carrying around in the rest of the world."

Wherever there are muslims there is trouble. OK! I'll make a concession, Protestants and Catholics squabble too.. but not the way muslims do. I am a Hindu and if it takes 3000 lives to boil the American blood, imagine how much anger must be seething out of the average Hindu Indian who has lost over 60000 lives in the past decade to Islamic radicals.(Ofcourse none of you know about this because the American media thinks Asia begins with Syria and ends with Saudi Arabia) I used to have a very close muslim friend back in India, now after 9/11 I have lost respect for any Muslim. This is my opinion alone.

RON | June 17, 2003 03:21 AM

There will be no permanent resolution among Isreali and Palestinian until science re-engineers our genes into something that resembles a sheep so we can bleet all day and get re-sensitized to the thrill of peace on earth. Is the covenent, still intact, between the Jewish people and the Lord, for the land of milk and honey? If the compact is still valid, then Israel has a right to its existence, and the Palestinians instead should be the ones to move to South Dakota or even Ohio. The zionist's argument is not based on the Balfour Declaration or the British Mandate, but that while other nations have replaced the indigenous people of the land on where they are on today--the United States over the Indian Nation and the Palestine over the grapes--the soverienty of state of Israel is based on a decree from the landlord of the earth and soul. Of course, the Zionist's reasons had nothing to do with the United Nations' original partitioning Palestine. More simply, after WWII, few nation in the world could afford to take in the jewish refugees, including the United States whose reasons were diplomatically based on imigration limitations. Since the British had already established precedent in carving up the Ottoman empire after WWI, the creation of a homeless shelter, without the present tenant's input, was not a revolutionary idea, especially since the land of Palestine was not a jewel in anybody's crown. Any lingering opposition in 1948 was outweighed by fact that the Israelis had fought on the side of the victorious. Menachem Begin's bombing of the King David Hotel, which killed 91 in the blast, has been theorized as being the template for the taking of innocent Israeli lives by Palestinian terrorists. Although its likely true that Irgun, the jewish underground lead by Begin, had as they claimed, telephoned advanced warnings which went unheeded, saboteurs who work for the underground are usually not blind and could have known that the hotel still had people inside.
When the United States denounced France and Russia for their dissent of the Iraqi war, claiming that the underlying reasons were that they had oil contracts in the works, we did not fully disclose our own holdings. If it were not for the culprit of oil in the gulf states in the Middle East, we would not be supporting Israel in billions in foreign aid, and the sources of terrorism against the United States and our reasons for the Iraqi invasion, would not be so profound. If you were to remove oil from the Middle East political equation, the United States government would probably not send Israel a state quarter.

Abigail | June 17, 2003 05:18 AM

I'm not sure if this raises or lowers the value of my opinion, but I'm Israeli. I can also tell that none of the other respondants here are, because, outside of religious zealots and grade schoolers, no one in Israel believes that our right to the land stems from the word of God. The closest thing to such a claim is made in the Israeli declaration of independance, which states:

"The land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and national identity was formed."

There is, to the best of my knowledge, no parallel situation among the nations of the world. No people have been exiled from their homeland, and managed to retain their cultural heritage for two millenia without finding a new home for themselves. Whether or not the Jews' historical connection to Israel gives us the right to the land is a matter that can be debated, and has been many times, but the connection itself is irrefutable, and doesn't rely on one's religious beliefs. Also, whether or not one believes that the Jews have a right to the land, the fact remains that here we are, over six million people. Debating the merits of our claim is like crying over spilt milk.

Furthermore, while the origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict may have their roots in religious disagreements - and I think that's an iffy claim - religion hasn't been the cause of the conflict in a long time. This is not an academic or ideological fight, however much each side would prefer to present is as such. The two parties hate each other because of land, because of past grievances, and mostly because of hate. The fact that we're each the other's infidels is really at the bottom of the list of reasons why we hate each other. So pointing out that we're both the sons of Abraham isn't very helpful.

Ron writes:

"More simply, after WWII, few nation in the world could afford to take in the jewish refugees, including the United States whose reasons were diplomatically based on imigration limitations."

Which is a big laugh. The US couldn't afford to take in Europe's remaining Jews? It was just too cramped for space? Even after the entire world's population of Jews was reduced by six million? Gee, and I always thought the US was so big.

The truth is that the US didn't want Jews, and nor did any other nation. They refused entry to most refugees after the war for the same reason that during the war boatloads of Jewish refugees, most of whom had paid their life savings for a ticket, were turned away from US shores, and sent back to Europe and their deaths. Where I come from, we don't call that diplomacy, we call it racism.

Regarding the bombing of the King David Hotel. It is disingenious at best to draw a direct line from that bombing to the suicide bombings that plague Israel today, without so much as paying a visit to the IRA, who truly perfected this form of terrorism. Also, Ron conveniently forgets that suicide bombings as the terrorist weapon of choice are a relatively new invention on the Israeli landscape, maybe 20 years old. The more common forms of terrorism in the decades before were usually more up-close and personal - infiltrations into remote settlements, kidnappings and murders of soldiers and hikers, hijacking airplanes, and, of course, holding Israelis for ransom abroad, as in the case of the Israeli Olympic delegation to Munich in 1972.

Finally, the most significant difference between the Irgun in 1946 and Palestinian terror organizations today is the reactions they get from their community. The Irgun were marginalised to the point where members of the left-wing resistance movement, Haganna, reported them to the British authorities. Contrast that with the reaction of the Palestinian population and leadership to any terror attack, even one in which Israeli Arabs are killed or injured.

Which is not to say that Israel hasn't commited atrocities. Generally speaking, I agree with just about every criticism voiced with regards to either side of the dispute. I think Ariel Sharon is a murderous bastard, whose advantage over Arafat lies almost solely in the relative ease with which he can be got rid of - I wish the rest of my countrymen felt the same, rather than electing him for a second term. There will certainly be two countries between the sea and the river Jordan someday, which is as it should be. The only question is how many lives will be lost before that day.

mark | June 17, 2003 06:42 AM

Too poor? And here I was thinking the USA got rich out of the two world wars (not that I begrudge them the opportunity).

Israel is located where it is because that's seen as the traditional homeland of the Jewish people. I think it'd be a hard task to argue that, in the eyes of Gentiles, the Bible had nothing to do with it.

However, as Abigail says, that's not one of the many arguments often credibly put forward in favour of Israel, which is definitely a Good Thing because if the best anyone had to offer was "my God says so", we may as well hand it all over to the Palestinians right now. And the same goes for "Israel is a shining beacon of civilisation to those A-rab savages", which I don't think anyone in this thread has offered (thank $deity). There are good reasons why Israel exists, and good reasons why it's where it is. To assert that Israel has a right to exist where it exists not because of any of these reasons, but because of hoky religions and ancient weapons (ahem) is right there on par with "L. Ron Hubbard declared him fair game!"


Sorry 'bout that. Great post, John.

RON | June 17, 2003 08:50 AM

Abigail, if you more wisely spend your energy researching at the USPTO, you'll find that the Jewish tribe holds no patent, or trademark or copyright on human suffering and this has been reiterated over and over again, to the point of re-parting the Red Sea.

The United States refusal to allow the immigration of the Jewish refugees on our shores after WWII, is deplorable. Perhaps, pschologically, the nation had no room and as other national refugee groups were also denied entry, the policy was not selective or racial. Financial costs would not have been a factor as the American Jewish people's hospitality is unquestionable. There are also unsubstantiated charges that the United States was knowledgable about the death camps before the war ended and looked the other way. If this is true, then it impeaches the quality of our state.

Israel's claim of sovereignty must be based on the promise bestowed by Yahweh to Abraham. Otherwise, any right to re-settle back on your ancestral home by the historical connections to that land is contrary to even the common law of leaving your theatre seat for a few centuries only to expect to be entitled to that same seat after a different movie has already started with different inhabitants in attendence. If such juriprudence were true, the American indian natives would be entitled to Washington D.C. and could start rewiring the rotunda for a casino, even though the native Americans were exiled under the doctrine of smallpox and gunpowder. Purely on the merits of historical association of Hebrews to Canaan alone, Israelis have no more right to Palestine than they have to the empty lots in Pvt. Jesseca Lynch's hometown.

The King David Hotel bombing was just cited as an example of how when people get pushed in the corner like a rat, they react in unhuman ways. Few people in history have been fortunate enough to have just a Boston tea party to show dissent.

I support Israel for personal reasons. No one can disconnect the United States support for Israel as a direct cause of the Islamic world's hatred for America or the terrorist's attacks against our country. There are bound to be further terrorism attempts against our nation and citizens for our support of Israel and maybe you can more fully connect the dots to the bonds of loyalty, then.

Luke | June 17, 2003 09:49 AM

When I mentioned cousins via Abraham, it was purely metaphoric. Basically, remembering human compassion rather than militancy.
Anyway, if I was really using the Abraham story, well, then the Arabs would be the disowned bastard half-brother. Okay, God said they would be a great nation, but not as great as Israel!

The reason that Israel was established in, well, Israel, is because it was the only place that made sense to put it -- anywhere else would have been ridiculous. Why? Because of the holy written word of God giving them title to the land, squatters' rights need not apply.

Of course, the idea of creating a homeland so you can unload 'undesirables' is hardly new -- see Liberia. Now imagine Israel founded in Liberia -- it's laughable.
No, the reason Israel is in its location is because of the Word. I would agree that this is not the reason that most Israelis defend their territory, and why they got a homeland in the first place, and so forth. But the choice of which territory to defend? The Word.

RON | June 17, 2003 11:43 AM

Correction to my second post: Abraham was not a Jew, nonetheless, a resident of the Tell(mound) of Ur, in present day Iraq. Abraham had Issac as a son. Issac inturn had Jacob as a son. From the sons of Jacob, stems the 12 tribes. One of the tribes was Judah. From the tribe of Judah, came Judaism or the only true Jews. Moses was from the tribe of Levi. I guess Moses ended up somehow over in Egypt and rescued the Judah branch of the family from Yul Brenner. The promised land is for Abraham. The land of milk and honey was for Moses and came later and so the religious foundation for Israel's sovereignty, in my esteemed opinion, is the promise from Yahweh to Moses, not Abraham..Amen.

Amitava D. | June 17, 2003 11:59 AM

The problem, I'd say, is not so much with the Israelis or Palestinians as a whole, but with the extremist elements within the two groups. On the one hand, you have Hamas Inc. and their supporters, and on the other hand you have the settler communities and their supporters. Both are fundamentally the same; the land can only be an Islamic/Jewish state, and this end justifies any means (which means both sides tend to embrace terrorism. Just look at the deification of suicide bombers, or the lionization of Baruch Goldstein). How large a chunk of the Israeli/Palestinian demographics these extremist elements comprise is a matter of debate, but I would argue the real problem is that such elements need to be marginalized rather than accepted by their respective populations as a whole.

Abigail | June 17, 2003 12:48 PM


You think you're joking, don't you? Well, as usual, truth is stranger then fiction.

In 1903, the British government offered Theodore Hertzel, the father of the fledgling Zionist movement, a temporary Jewish home in... Uganda. The rationale for this was that the Jews' situation in Europe was dire - the early twentieth century saw several brutal pogroms. It was in fact this situation that helped swell the membership of the Zionist movement.

Hertzel brought the offer to the attnetion of the annual Zionist congress, which prompted a schism in the movement. Opponents of the Uganda plan argued that to accept any territory other then Palestine would weaken any later claim on that territory. The Uganda proposal was eventually rejected, but the acrimony caused by it so deteriorated Hertzel's (already poor) health that it is considered the main cause of his death one year later.


A brief primer on the history of the covenant between God and the Jewish people:

Abraham was the first Jew. It is true that the word Jew stems from the name Judah and from the fact that it is from this tribe that we trace the history of the Jewish people. However, a Jew is clearly defined by the covenant given to Abraham as any of his descendants. More on the tribal split later.

The covenant of Abraham is given in turn to Isaac and then to Jacob - God promises to reward their faith and obedience with the land of milk and honey and the rise of a great nation from their descendants. Jacob leaves Canaan for Egypt because of famine and his twelve sons give rise to the twelve tribes of Israel. The Israelites stay in Egypt for several generations and are enslaved until Moses shows up and leads them - all twelve tribes - to the desert.

At Mount Sinai, the covenant is repeated for the last time, and God hands down his laws - the Ten Commandments and everything that follows them. Moses leads the twelve tribes to the promised land, but dies before entering it. Upon arriving, the Israelites sweep through the local population and divide the land between eleven of the tribes. The twelfth, the tribe of Levi, is the tribe of priests, and the rest of the tribes support them with tributes.

Fast forward a few centuries. We rush past David, who sets the capital of the Israelite kingdom in Jerusalem, and his son Solomon, who builds the first temple. Following Solomon's death there is an inheritance squabble between two of his sons - Yeravam and Rechavam. The two eventually split the country between them, forming the two countries of Judah (comprised of that tribe, with Jerusalem as the capital) and Israel (comprised of the remaining ten tribes, heretofore known as 'the lost tribes').

The Bible speaks of Israel quite a bit more, usually because they had rather depraved kings (Jezebel, one of the most interesting characters in the Bible, is an Israelite queen). They are eventually conquered and the ruling class is exiled. Nothing is heard from them again.

In 586 BC, the Babylonians conquer Judah and exile its ruling class. There follows a 70 year exile in Babylon (hence the spiritual hymn By the Rivers of Babylon). In the days of the Babylonian king Koresh, the Jews are allowed to return to Israel, where they erect the second temple.

There follow several centuries of Judah being a protectorate of whichever empire was happening at the time - after the Babylonians came the Greeks, after the Greeks came the Romans, and finally the destruction of the second temple and the second diaspora, the end of which came only at the end of the 19th century.

The difference between the exiles of 2000 years ago and the hapless Israelite exiles several centuries earlier is that the latter were unable to preserve their Jewish identity. They were swallowed up by the culture and religion of the people who conquered them and never heard from again. The reason that the later exiles managed this is that they had the written Bible, codified laws, written and oral traditions, and the early beginnings of decentralised religious worship, to an extent that the Israelites didn't. Not that this makes the survival of the Jewish culture any less extraordinary, mind you.

It might interest you to learn, by the way, that of the brief history that I just quoted, only the very last parts can be verified from sources outside the Bible. The first Hebrew king for which there is hard archeological evidence is Solomon. There is absolutely no proof of the existence of King David, at least not in the form that he takes in the Bible. In fact, certain parts of the Bible defy all reason, such as the exodus of Egypt. The Sinai desert can be crossed by a well-equipped group of hikers in two weeks, not forty years. Not to mention that there is no way that tens of thousands of people could cross any desert without leaving clear archeological evidence of their passing, which isn't there.

Finally, I'm not entirely certain what aspect of my post lead you to believe that I somehow think the Jewish people have a monopoly on suffering, but I want to assure you that this is not the case.

Luke | June 17, 2003 05:23 PM

My point that it was laughable was dependent on the actual position that you said the Zionists took -- basically, they couldn't afford to settle for anything less, if they ever wanted to have a chance. I figured something like that would have happened (and that the offer would be declined in much that manner). Thanks for telling me the specifics... if you know, what were the portions in support for the African plan?

mark | June 18, 2003 02:09 AM

Thanks for that explanation, Abigail.

Abigail | June 18, 2003 04:02 AM

Luke, do you mean which factions of the Zionist congress supported the Uganda plan? I'm not sure that the split was according to any sort of faction (I would say, in fact, that it was the cause of factions), although I would hazard a guess that representatives from Russia and Eastern Europe, where the worst of the pogroms were happening, were among the proposal's more fervent supporters.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, however, an organization called the Jewish Territorialist Organization (JTO) was formed by members who supported the Uganda proposal after it was rejected in 1905. Its leaders were Nahum Syrkin and Israel Zangwill. The latter explored possibilities of a temporary Jewish settlement in Canada and Australia (both abandoned due to opposition from local residents). He also sent expeditions to explore the viability of Angola, Lybia, and... Iraq.

Zangwill's one success was the Galveston plan. With the help of a Jewish-American banker called Jacob Schiff, Zangwill resettled some 9,300 Jews in the southwest US, particularly Texas, between 1907-1914.

The JTO came to an end after the Balfour declaration of 1917. Balfour, the British secretary of state, expressed his goverment's approval of the Jews' territorial plans towards Palestine, and this led many of the JTO's members to wonder if the dream of a Jewish homeland in Israel wasn't so far-fetched after all.