on 18 January 1895. Theodor Herzl, a Viennese journalist and playwright, was pressed against the railings of the Ecole Militaire listening to the antiSemitic shouts of the crowd as they watched Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army, being publicly humiliated after a false accusation of treason. Dreyfus was to spend four years on Devil’s Island before being re-tried and eventually exonerated. In that time Herzl had written Der Judenstaat, gained international attention for the idea of a Jewish state in Palestine and held the first Zionist Congress in Basel. Herzl then proceeded personally to plead the Zionist cause with world leaders, the Czar, the Kaiser and the Sultan. He received offers of land for the Jewish people from the Sultan – Mesopotamia (if they paid off the Turkish National Debt); and from the British Colonial Secretary – El Arish in Egypt; the offer was later changed to Uganda. Herzl and the Zionists refused anything but Palestine. Exhausted by his work, Herzl died at the age of forty-four and was accorded virtually a state funeral in Vienna.
With the idea of a Jewish homeland at least established, the progress of political Zionism continued. As Herzl had realised, this could only be achieved with the backing of a great power. In the closing years of World War I, it was the British who became the inheritors of this historic burden. Chaim Weizmann, Herzl’s successor, had gained the ear of xii