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Document reveals plan by founder of Zionism to declare southern Morocco 'state of the Jews'

A portrait of Theodor Herzl, the late founder of political Zionism, adorning the building of "The Independence Hall Museum", the house in Tel Aviv where David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, declared the creation of Israel 70 years ago on 3 May 2018. [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]
A portrait of Theodor Herzl, the late founder of political Zionism, adorning the building of "The Independence Hall Museum", the house in Tel Aviv where David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, declared the creation of Israel 70 years ago on 3 May 2018. [JACK GUEZ/AFP via Getty Images]

A secret document has been leaked which gives details of a plan by Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, to declare southern Morocco as the "state of the Jews", Moroccan news website Hespress has revealed.

The document, said Hespress, brought "the historical relations between Jews and Morocco back to the fore after the resumption of official relations between Rabat and Tel Aviv." It noted that this idea appeared before "the idea of relocating the world's Jews to Palestine crystallised."

According to Israel's Yedioth Ahronoth, Herzl "promoted a secret and mysterious document of the [Morocco Plan], less well-known than the [Uganda Plan], which centred on settling Russian Jews in Wadi Al-Hisan, in the south-west of Morocco."

The plan to settle Jews in Uganda is part of Israeli schools' history curriculum, but much less is known about Herzl's alternative plan to settle Russian Jews in Morocco. He tackled this in an ambiguous letter he wrote in 1903. His sudden death a year later led to the plan being put on hold and archived.

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Yaakov Hagoel, the head of the World Zionist Organisation (WZO), told Yedioth Ahronoth: "There was a very large concentration of Jews there, whether in Morocco or in North Africa in general. It must be understood that Herzl was a very pragmatic man. He saw a problem with persecuted Jews suffering from violence mainly in Eastern Europe, and saw that Morocco had a thriving Jewish community with active Jewish centres."

Professor Joseph Chetrit, from the Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at the University of Haifa, said that the Morocco plan was presented for the first time by two brothers who were well-known activists in the Zionist movement at the time, Baruch and Yaakov Moshe Toledano. "Baruch spoke with Herzl a few months before the latter's death, then appealed to French Rabbi Vidal of Fez, who was close to the Moroccan monarchy and government, to establish an independent region for the Jews in Wadi Al-Hisan."

Chetrit pointed out that Rabbi Vidal, who was well versed in Morocco's politics, knew that this was a bogus plan that did not take the domestic situation in the country into account. "It was his grandson in Israel, who bears his name, who found the document and published it for the first time."

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