The First Zionist Congress met in Basle, Switzerland, to discuss the ideas set out in Theodor Herzl's 1896 book Der Judenstaat (The Jewish State). Herzl, a Jewish journalist and writer living in Vienna, wanted Jews to have their own state - primarily as a response to European anti-Semitism.
The Congress issued the Basle Programme to establish a "home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured by public law" and set up the World Zionist Organisation to work for that end.
A few Zionist immigrants had already started arriving in the area before 1897. By 1903 there were some 25,000 of them, mostly from Eastern Europe. They lived alongside about half a million Arab residents in what was then part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire. A second wave of about 40,000 immigrants arrived in the region between 1904 and 1914.