Jewish Nationalism and the Birth of Zionism

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1 Chapter 8 The West in the Age ofindustrialization and Imperialism 297 Jewish Nationalism and the Birth of Zionism Theodor Herz~ THE JEWS I STATE Zionism, which officially began at the World Zionist Congress held in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897, was the last nationalist movement to appear in nineteenthcentury Europe. It was also the most ambitious. Jews had not had their own state since 586 B.C.E., when the Kingdom ofjudah in Palestine had been conquered by the Babylonians, and from the time of their expulsion from their homeland by the Romans in the first century C.E., they had come to live in communities scattered across the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and the Americas. During the many centuries of their dispersal Jews held fast to the dream of returning to their homeland in Palestine, the Land of Zion, which according to Hebrew scriptures, was theirs by virtue of their covenant with God. This pious hope, expressed in traditional Jewish prayers and religious writings, in the twentieth century became a highly organized political movement that in 1949 resulted in'" the foundation ofthe modern state ofisrael. Zionism originated in Europe, where in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries many discriminatory laws against Jews were lifted and Jews gained the freedom to participate fully in their nation's economic, political, and cultural life. Old anti-jewish prejudices were difficult to eradicate, however, and in an atmosphere of rapid social change, growing nationalism, new racial theories, and simple jealousy of the many successful Jewish physicians, businessmen, journalists, and academics, anti-semitism intensified in the late 1800s. In France, the trial, conviction, and ultimate exoneration of the Jewish army officer Alfred Dreyfus for treason dragged on from 1894 to 1906 and revealed the depths of anti-jewish feeling in what was supposedly Europe's most tolerant and liberal state. German politicians routinely attacked the Jews, and in 1895 voters in Vienna elected Karl Ltiger, an outspoken anti-semite, as their mayor. Russia's tsarist government issued new anti-jewish laws, and to divert attention away from its own failures, encouraged mob attacks (pogroms) on Jewish communities in Russia itself and in Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania, three regions that were part ofits empire and the home of the vast majority ofeurope's Jews. The founder of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, was born into the family of a wealthy businessman in Budapest in At age eighteen he and his family moved to Vienna, where he attended the University of Vienna and earned his doctorate in law. Spurning a legal career, he spent several years writing plays and fiction before accepting a job as a correspondent for the Neue Freie Presse, a Viennese newspaper. Although not deeply religious, during the 1880s Herzl became increasingly troubled by growing signs ofanti-semitism in Europe, and in the 1890s he became convinced by the Dreyfus affair and the election of Ltiger that Jews had no future unless they had a state oftheir own outside ofeurope. After publishing DerJudenstaat (The Jews' State, or as it is also translated, The Jewish State) in 1896, he organized the first World Zionist Congress in Basel. Until his death in 1904 he worked tirelessly to strengthen Zionism by lecturing, organizing, writing books and articles, and seeking the support of wealthy philanthropists and important political

2 298 The World in the Age of We5tern Dominance leaders. In 1949, forty-five years after his death, his remains were flown from Vienna to Jerusalem, where they were reburied in the new state of Israel. QUESTIONS FOR ANALYSIS L Herzl states at the outset that the Jews "are a people, one people." In his view why have the Jews maintained this unity despite living in communities scattered across several continents? 2. According to Herzl, what are the concrete signs ofcontinuing anti-semitism in late-nineteenth-century Europe? 3. How does Henl explain the persistence of anti-semitism? 4. According to Herzl, why are "staying put" and "assimilation" not viable options for Europe's Jews? 5. According to Herzl, why is a Jews' state the only means for the Jews to escape their predicament in Europe? 6. What role does religion play in Herzl's arguments? What role, according to Herzl, should it play in the future Jews' state? PREAMBLE AND INTRODUCTION The concept with which I am dealing in this paper is very old. It is the establishment of the Jews' State. The world resounds with clamor against Jews, and that arouses this concept put of its sleep... I consider the issue of the Jews neither in social nor religious terms, even though these things do come into it. It is a national issue, and if we are to find a solution, we must make it a political question for the whole world, to be tackled in counsel with all civilized peoples. We are a people, one people. We have tried everywhere in all honesty to assimilate into the communities around us, while preserving the faith of our fathers. We are not allowed to. We are faithful and often even overenthusiastic patriots - in vain. We make the same sacrifices in life and limb as our countrymen in vain. We do our utmost to further the reputation of our home countries in the fields of arts and science - in vain. We toil to increase 'Huguenots were Protestants in predominantly Catholic France who were granted teligious roleration in 1598 only ro have it revoked under Louis XIV in In response the wealth of our lands with our commerce and trade in vain. In our home countries, where we have been living for centuries, we are decried as foreign, often by those whose forebears were not even living there when our forebears were already being persecuted... Therefore we are good patriots everywhere in vain, JUSt like the Huguenots,l who were forced to go elsewhere. If they only left us in peace... But I believe they will not leave us in peace. For deep down within the feelings of peoples there are old prejudices anchored against us. If you want evidence, you only need to listen where the people express themselves simply and truthfully: folktales and proverbs are antisemitic... The collective personality of the Jews as a people, however, cannot, will not, and must not perish. It cannot perish, because external enemies hold it together. It will not perish; it has demonstrated that during two millennia under enormous suffering. It must not perish; that is what I seek to demonstrate in this publication after many other Jews who never gave up hope. Whole large numbers of Huguenors left France and settled in England, the Netherlands, and Prussia, where many became successful in business.

3 Chapter 8 The West in the Age ofindustrialization and Imperialism 299 branches ofjewry may well die away and fall off; the tree lives... No one person has sufficient strength or wealth to transplant a whole people from one domicile to another. Only an idea is powerful enough to do that. The idea of the state has such power. For the whole night of their history Jews have not stopped dreaming the royal dream. "Next year in Jerusalem" is our ancient watchword. The question now is to demonstrate that the dream can be turned into an idea as bright as day... THE ISSUE OF THE JEWS Day by day, attacks on Jews increase in the parliamenrs, at meetings, in the press, on the pulpit, in the street; when they travel, they are denied entry into hotels or places of amusement. The character of these persecutions varies, depending on country or social circle. In Russia they plunder Jewish villages, in Rumania they beat a few people to death, in Germany Jews are on the receiving end of a good thrashing now and again, in Austria public life is terrorized by antisemites, in Algeria there are preachers roaming the countryside extolling hatred, in Paris high society closes ranks and shuts itself off against Jews. The variety is endless. However, this is not an attempt to provide a melancholy list of all Jewish hardships. We will not worry about details, however painful. It is not my intention to create an atmosphere sympathetic to us. All that would be useless, in vain, and unworthy of us. For me it is sufficient to ask the Jews: is it not a fact that in countries where we live in significant numbers, the position of Jewish lawyers, doctors, technicians, teachers and all types ofpublic servants is becoming increasingly unbearable? Is it not a fact that our whole Jewish middle class is under serious threat? Is it not a fact that all the passions of the lower classes are being marshalled against our wealthy people? Is it not a fact that the poor among us suffer much more than the rest of the proletariat?... The fact is that it amounts to the same thing everywhere, and it can be summarized in the classic slogan of the Berliners: Away with the Jews! I will now express the issue of the Jews in its most concise form: if we must be away, then where to' Or can we still stay put? And for how long? Let us first tackle the question of staying put. Can we hope for better times, can we be patient, put our faith in God and wait until the rulers and peoples of the world get into a more benign mood towards us? I say we cannot expecr a turnaround in the general trend. Why not? Kings and emperors cannot protect us, even if they wished to treat us equally. They would only inflame hatred against the Jews if they showed the Jews too much sympathy. And this "too much sympathy" would at any rate still amount to less than what is normally due to every normal citizen or social group. The peoples with whom Jews live are all antisemites, without exception, discreetly or brazenly... EFFECTS OF ANTI-SEMITISM The pressure exerted upon us does not make us any better. We are no different from other human beings. It is quite true that we do not love our enemies... Pressure naturally evokes in us hostility against our oppressors; and then our hostility in turn increases the pressure. It is impossible to break the vicious circle. "Nevertheless," so the gentle daydreamers will say, "nevertheless, it is possible by working patiently to draw out what is good in people." Do I really still have to demonstrate that this is just senrimental twaddle? If you wanted to improve your situation by relying on the good will ofpeople, you would certainly be writing a utopian romance. I have already menrioned our "assimilation." I do not say for a moment that I want it. Our national character is historically too famous and, despite all humiliation, too proud to wish for its

4 300 The World in the Age ofwestern Dominance demise. But perhaps we could merge without a trace into the peoples around us ifwe were left in peace for a couple of generations. They will not leave us in peace. Mter short spells of tolerance the hostility against us awakens anew. There seems to be something in our prosperity that irritates people, because the world has been accustomed to seeing us as the most despised among the poor. At the same time they do not notice, whether from ignorance or narrowmindedness, that our prosperity weakens us as Jews and dissipates our character. Only pressure keeps us close to the old tribe, only the hatred that surrounds us turns us into strangers... We are a people - the enemy turns us into one against our wishes that has been the same throughout history. In oppression we stand together, and then we suddenly discover our power. Yes, we have the power to create a state, even a state that would stand as a model for all We possess all the necessary human and material means. THE PLAN In its basic form the whole plan is infinitely simple: it just has to be if it is to,be understood by everyone. We should be given sovereignty over a piece of the earth's surface sufficient for the legitimate needs of our people. We will look after everything else... As I have already said, the departure of the Jews should not be seen as a sudden phenomenon. It will occur gradually and will take decades. First the poorest Jews will go and make the land arable. In accordance with a previously developed concept they will build the streets, bridges and railways, they will construct the telegraph system, they will regulate the rivers and build homes for themselves. Their work will lead to business, business will bring markets, markets will entice new immigrants to come. Everyone will come of their own free will, and bear their own costs and risks... Jews will not take long to realize that a new and lasting target has been opened up for their spirit of enterprise, for which hitherto they have been hated and despised... If the Great Powers are prepared to grant the Jews as a people sovereignty over a neutral land, then the Society will enter into negotiations about the land which is to be selected. Two regions will be considered: Palestine and Argentina... In terms of natural resources Argentina is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, enormous in size, sparsely populated, and with a moderate climate. It would be in the interest of the Argentinian republic to cede us a piece of territory. Unfortunately, the present infiltration of Jews has created ill feeling there; we would have to explain to Argentina the fundamental difference of the new Jewish migration. Palestine is our unforgettable historical home. This very name would already be an enormously powerful rallying cry for our people. If His Majesty the Sultan were to give us Palestine, we could undertake the responsibility of putting the finances of Turkey completely in order. To Europe we would represent a part of the barrier against Asia; we would serve as the outpost of civilization against barbarism. As a neutral state we would remain allied to all of Europe, which in turn would have to guarantee our existence. An internationally acceptable arrangement would be found to guarantee the extra-territorial status of the holy places of Christendom. We would form the guard of honor around the holy places, and guarantee the execution of this duty with our very existence. This guard of honor would be the great symbol of the solution of the issue of the Jews after eighteen centuries of agony. THE TRANSPLANT Up to now we have simply indicated how the emigration is to be effected without economic upheaval However, such an emigration is also associated with strong, deep, personal disorientation. There are old customs, and memories which tie us people to specific places. We have cradles, we have graves, and we know the place of graves in the hearts of Jews. The cradles we will take with us - in them slumbers our smiling and rosy future. Our dear graves will have to be left

5 Chapter 8 The West in the Age ofindustrialization and Imperialism 301 behind - I believe this separation will weigh heavily on our possessive people. But it must be. Economic distress, political oppression, and social hatred already separate us from our home towns and from our graves. Jews already leave one country for the next at every moment; a strong movement even leads overseas to the United States, where we are not welcome either. Where will we ever be welcome, so long as we do not have a country to call our own' We, however, want to give the Jews a home country. Not by tearing them forcibly out of their present land. No, by lifting them carefully with all their roots and transplanting them into a better soil. Just as we want to create new conditions in the economic and political sphere, we will respect the sanctity ofold ways in the cultural sphere... THEOCRACY Will we end up having a theocracy' No! Faith will hold us together, science makes us free. We will not even allow the theocratic inclinations of our spiritual leaders to raise their ugly heads. We will know how to keep them in their temples, just as we will know how to keep our professional army in the barracks. Army and clerics will be highly honored, as much as is right and proper in the light of their beautiful functions. They have no say in the state which treats them with deference, for they will only conjure up external and internal difficulties. Everybody is as free and unfettered in practicing his belief or unbelief as he is in his nationality. And should it come to pass that persons of other faiths or nationalities live among us, then we will accord them honorable protection and equality before the law. Tolerance we have learnt in Europe, and I am not even being sarcastic when I say this. Only in a few isolated instances can you equate Ulodern antisemitism with the old religious intolerance. It is in most cases a movement among the civilized peoples, with which they want to ward off a ghost from their own past. A Defense of French Imperialism 'f''f''f' 69'f' Jules Ferry; SPEECH BEFORE THE FRENCH NATIONAL ASSEMBLY Jules Ferry ( ), a French politician and ardent imperialist, twice served as premier of France. During his premierships ( , ) France annexed Tunisia and parts of Indochina and began exploring parts of Africa. In debates in the French National Assembly he frequently defended his policies against socialist and conservative critics who opposed French imperialism. In the following selection from a speech on July 28, 1883, he summarizes his reasons for supporting French expansionism; it also sheds light on his opponents' views. QUESTIONS FOR ANALYSIS 1. According to Ferry, what recent developments in world trade have made France's need for colonies more urgent? 2. What arguments against imperialism are proposed by Ferry's critics? How does Ferry counter them?

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