Jewish state in Saudi Arabia proposed in 1917

A Russian Jewish doctor in Paris asked the British government to gather an army to seize eastern Arabia land for a Jewish national home, a month before Balfour declaration backed the idea.

Jewish state in Saudi Arabia proposed in 1917

World Bulletin / News Desk

A letter to the British ambassador to France in 1917 proposed a Jewish state in modern-day Saudi Arabia, documents released by the British Library show.

Dr. M. L. Rothstein, a self-described ‘Russian medical doctor’ of Jewish origin based in Paris, wrote to Ambassador Francis Bertie on September 12 ‘for the conquest of the Turkish province of El Hassa (Hasa)’.

Al-Hasa is an oasis region in eastern Arabia.

Bertie explained to then Foreign Secretary, Arthur James Balfour that Rothstein proposed the Entente Powers (Russia, France and the UK) should organize an army to carve out ‘a Jewish State on the Persian Gulf’.

Rothstein was serious about his proposal and laid out his action plan in the letter.

‘I undertake to assemble, for next spring, a Jewish fighting troop, a force of 120,000 strong men’ which would double ‘in cooperation… with the troops of the Entente,’ he said.

The troops would concentrate in Bahrain and once they reached 30,000, a ‘coup de main’ (swift attack) would follow, taking the ‘Turkish province of Al Hassa, near the Persian Gulf.’

It would then ‘become a Jewish State (un État juif)’, Rothstein suggested.

He predicted a ‘state of war’ with Turkey due to the invasion and said that ‘the Jewish troops will immediately enter into a campaign… until the final victory of the Entente or until their destruction.’


Little is known about the Russian doctor. He started his letter with his family’s ‘moral qualities’, an explanation of his roots in Jewish patriotism.

Thomas Holderness of the British Library’s India Office said Al-Hasa had ceased to be a Turkish province when Rothstein wrote the letter, suggesting he might be out of touch with the realities on the ground.

A response letter by Balfour’s assistant in October showed that the British government rejected the proposal outright.

‘His Majesty’s government regret that they cannot give effect to his proposals,”said the reply.

A month later, Balfour issued his now-famed declaration that threw the Kingdom’s support for the idea of establishing a ‘national home for the Jewish people in what was Palestine.

The documents are from the India Office Records held at the British Library. They are being digitized, along with others relating to the history of the Gulf, as part of the Library’s partnership with the Qatar Foundation.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Nisan 2014, 14:52