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Zionism: Territorialist Zionism

Territorialism preached the formation of a Jewish collective in Palestine, or anywhere else, on the basis of self-rule. The territorialist outlook coalesced in the debate over the Uganda Program. In July 1905, after the Zionist Congress rejected this plan, the Territorialist Jewish Organization was established in Basle under the leadership of the writer Israel Zangwill. It attempted to locate territory suitable for Jewish settlement in various parts of Africa, Asia, and Australia, but with little success. The Balfour Declaration and the resulting Zionist awakening negated the movement and led to its dissolution in 1925.

Other territorialist attempts, meant as counterweights to Zionism, were undertaken in the Soviet Union between the two world wars. The first was in the southern Ukraine and the northern Crimea, where four non­contiguous national districts (raiony) were established in the early 1920s and obliterated when the Nazis invaded. The second was in Birobidjan, where a Jewish Autonomous Region was proclaimed in 1934. This venture also failed, leaving a small Jewish minority in the region. In 1935, in response to the Nazi accession to power in Germany, Isaac Nachman Steinberg established the Freeland League in the United States. This organization attempted, unsuccessfully, to pursue Jewish autonomy by obtaining a large piece of territory in sparsely populated areas in Ecuador, Australia, or Surinam.

None of the territorialist movements are today viable.