Zionism

Max Nordau, 1905

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Introduction

Simon Maximillian Nordau (see Biography: Max Nordau (Simon Maximillian Nordau) ) wrote this survey of Zionism in 1905, which was translated and published in a volume distributed by the British Zionist society. It is valuable because it presents a fair picture of the Zionist movement at the time, as well as providing classic replies to Jewish critics of Zionism.

Nordau explained political Zionism and noted:

This goal is not to be attained immediately. It lies in a near or a more distant future. It is an ideal, a wish, a hope, just as Messianic Zionism was and is.

He also discussed the alternative Jewish national home being considered in East Africa. Anti-Zionists have in recent years tried to rewrite history, insisting that Zionists did not particularly want Palestine as a Jewish National home, but this contemporary document shows that this was clearly not the case:

The East Africa Project.

This announcement gave rise to a regrettable misunderstanding. A section of the Congress believed that it meant that Zionism was to give up its efforts for the acquisition of Palestine and to regard the settlement of East Africa as its final goal, and they accordingly opposed with the utmost vehemence this supposed alteration of the original programme. Such an alteration, however, was never contemplated. British East Africa was not to take the place of Palestine, but only to serve as a place of refuge for those unfortunate Jews who, under the horrible conditions placed upon them, could not live in the stepmotherly countries of their birth waiting until Palestine should become open to them as a place to which they could emigrate in safety as Jews, free from all chance of disability, because they would be emigrating to a land where the Government would be Jewish.

Most important, perhaps, was Nordau's assertion of the simple truth about Zionism, that it was not really a new idea, but rather an integral part of Judaism:

Zionism is a new word for a very old and thing, so far as it merely expresses the longing of the Jewish people for Zion. Since the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus, since the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world, this ancient people has not ceased to long fervently for a return to the lost land of their fathers nor to entertain for it a determined hope. This longing of the Jews for Zion, this hope for Zion, was the concrete, I may say the geographical, aspect of their Messianic faith, which formed itself into an essential part of their religion. Messianism and Zionism were actually identical concepts for almost two thousand years, and it would be difficult, without subtlety and sophistry, to separate the prayers in the Jewish liturgy for the appearance of the promised Messiah from those for the not less promised return to the historic home. These prayers were meant literally by all Jews until a few generations ago, just as they are meant to-day by plain believing Jews. Jews had no other thought but that they were a people which had lost its hereditary land as a punishment for its own sin, condemned to live as strangers in foreign countries, and whose grievous sufferings, will cease only when the Nation will again be gathered together on the sanctified soil of the Holy Land.

Ami Isseroff

See also Zionism and its Impact History of Zionism and the Creation of Israel

 History of Reform Jewish Opposition to Zionism

General Resources on the History of Israel, Zionism and the Jews

 

This document is part of the historical documents collection at the Zionism and Israel Information Center

 


Copyright

This introduction is Copyright © 2006 by Ami Isseroff and Zionism-Israel Information Center. The source document below is in the public domain.


ZIONISM (1905)

Max Nordau

Zionism: Its History and its Aims The English Zionist Federation, 1905, London, pp. 3-20 Translated by Israel Cohen, B.A.

Introduction

ZIONISM is a word that can hardly have remained quite strange to any educated person following the more important movements of the time with some attention. As generally known it denotes an intellectual tendency, which in recent years has found numerous followers among the Jews of all countries, especially those in the East. But comparatively few, among non-Jews or among Jews, have an altogether clear conception of the aims and methods of Zionism: non-Jews, because Jewish affairs do not concern them sufficiently for them to take pains to be informed of details from a primary source; Jews, because they are purposely misled by the enemies of Zionism-by falsehoods and slanders-or because even among loyal Zionists there are not many who have appreciated the full intellectual import of Zionism and are disposed or able to give of it a clear and comprehensible presentation without extravagance and polemic vehemence.

 

My readers, I trust, have no preconceived opinion, but only an interest in being reliably informed concerning a phenomenon of contemporary history. I shall endeavour to present a statement as concise and temperate as possible of the facts as they really are, not as they are mirrored in confused minds or as they are distorted and falsified by calumniators.

 

I.

 

Messianism and Zionism.

Zionism is a new word for a very old and thing, so far as it merely expresses the longing of the Jewish people for Zion. Since the destruction of the Second Temple by Titus, since the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world, this ancient people has not ceased to long fervently for a return to the lost land of their fathers nor to entertain for it a determined hope. This longing of the Jews for Zion, this hope for Zion, was the concrete, I may say the geographical, aspect of their Messianic faith, which formed itself into an essential part of their religion. Messianism and Zionism were actually identical concepts for almost two thousand years, and it would be difficult, without subtlety and sophistry, to separate the prayers in the Jewish liturgy for the appearance of the promised Messiah from those for the not less promised return to the historic home. These prayers were meant literally by all Jews until a few generations ago, just as they are meant to-day by plain believing Jews. Jews had no other thought but that they were a people which had lost its hereditary land as a punishment for its own sin, condemned to live as strangers in foreign countries, and whose grievous sufferings, will cease only when the Nation will again be gathered together on the sanctified soil of the Holy Land.

 

Reform Judaism.

Only when towards the middle of the 18th century the so-called "movement of enlightenment," of which the popular philosopher, Moses Mendelssohn, is recognised as the first herald, began to penetrate Judaism did this become otherwise. Faith yielded to indifference; the educated classes, so far as they did not fall away entirely, began to conceive the precepts of their religion in a rational sense. For them the dispersion of the Jewish people was an immutable fact of Destiny; they emptied the concept of the Messiah and Zion of all concrete import, and fashioned for themselves a strange doctrine, according to which the Zion promised to the Jews is to be understood only in a spiritual sense as the establishment of Jewish Monotheism for the whole world, as the future triumph of Jewish ethics over the less lofty and noble moral teachings of the other nations. The Mendelssohnian enlightenment consistently developed during the first half of the 19th century into "Reform" Judaism, which definitely broke with Zionism. For the Reform Jew the word Zion has as little meaning as the word Dispersion. He does not feel himself in any Diaspora. He denies that there is a Jewish people or that he is a member of it. He elects to belong only to the nation in whose midst he lives. For him Judaism is a purely religious concept that has not the least in common with a Jewish nationality. His native land is his father-land, and he will know of no other. The thought of a return to Palestine enrages him or moves him to laughter. His rejoinder is the well-known silly witticism: "If the Jewish state should again be restored in Palestine, then I should like to be its ambassador in Paris."

 

Reform a détour to Christianity.

But thinking Jews were bound sooner or later to perceive that Reform Judaism is a half-truth, which like every half-truth, bears within it the germ of decay, since it cannot withstand logical criticism a single moment. Whom should Reform Judaism satisfy? The believing Jew? He spurns it from him with the deepest disgust. The unbelieving? He despises it as hypocrisy and phrase-mongering. The Jew who actually wishes to break with his people's past and merge in his Christian environment? This Jew is not contented with Reform Judaism: he goes a step further, the step that leads to the baptismal font. Still less is the Jew contented with it who would preserve Judaism from decay, who would maintain it as an ethnic individuality. For, to him the express renunciation of all national hope is synonymous with the self-condemnation to the perhaps slow but sure death of the Jewish people. Reform Judaism without Zionism, that is to say, without the wish and the hope of a re-gathering of the Jewish people, has no future. It can at the most be regarded as a somewhat crooked road that leads over into Christianity. He who would reach this goal can to-day find shorter and .more direct roads thither.

 

II.

 

The new Jews.

Thus the generations that were under the influence of the Mendelssohnian rhetoric and enlightenment-of reform and assimilation-were followed in the last twenty years of the 19th century by a new generation which strove to secure for the Zionist question a different position from the traditional one. These new Jews shrug their shoulders at the talk of Rabbis and writers about a "Mission of Judaism" that has been in vogue these hundred years.

 

The Mission is said to consist in this, that the Jews must always live in dispersion among the nations in order to be unto them teachers and models of morality and to educate them gradually to a pure rationalism, to a universal brother­hood of man, and to an ideal cosmopolitanism. They declare this Mission to be a piece of presumption or folly. More modern and practical in their attitude, they demand for the Jewish people only the right to live and to develop in accordance with its own powers to the natural limits of its type. They have found, however, that this is impossible in a state of dispersion, as under such circumstances prejudice, hatred, contempt ever pursue and oppress them, and either inhibit their development or else tend to reduce them to an ethnic mimicry. Thus, instead of their being originals worthy of their existence, this striving at imitation will mould them into mediocre or wretched copies of foreign models. They are therefore working systematically to make the Jewish people once again a normal people, which shall live on its own soil and discharge all the economic, spiritual, moral and political functions of a civilised people.

 

The origins of Political Zionism.

This goal is not to be attained immediately. It lies in a near or a more distant future. It is an ideal, a wish, a hope, just as Messianic Zionism was and is. But the new Zionism, which is called political, is distinguished from the old religious Messianic Zionism in this, that it repudiates all mysticism, and does not rely upon the return to Palestine to be accomplished by a miracle, but is resolved to bring it about through its own efforts.

 

1. National Self- Consciousness of the Jews.

The new Zionism has partly arisen out of the inner impulses of Jewry, out of the enthusiasm of modern educated Jews for their history and martyrology, out of the awakened consciousness of their racial fitness, out of their ambition to preserve the ancient stock to as distant a future as possible and to follow up the worthy deeds of ancestors with worthy deeds of descendants.

 

2. Outer Impulses.

But it is also partly the effect of two influences that have come from without: first, the national idea that has dominated European thought and feeling for half a century and determined international politics; secondly, Anti-Semitism, under which the Jews of all countries have to suffer more or less.

 

The National Idea.

The national idea has educated all nations to self-consciousness; it has taught them to feel that their peculiarities are so many valuable factors, and it has inspired them with the passionate wish for independence. It could not fail to exert a deep influence upon educated Jews. It stimulated them to reflect about themselves, to feel once again what they had unlearned, and to demand for themselves the normal destinies of a people. This task of re-discovering their national individuality, although not free from pain, was lightened for them by the attitude of the nations, who isolated them as a foreign element and did not hesitate to emphasise the real and imagined contrasts, or rather differences, existing between them and the Jews.

 

Is the National Jew a Chauvinist?

The national idea has, in its extravagances, deteriorated in different directions. It has been distorted into Chauvinism, transformed into an imbecile hatred of foreigners, besotted into grotesque self-deification. Jewish nationalism is quite secure from these self-caricatures. The Jewish nationalist does not suffer from vanity; on the contrary, he feels that he must put forth unremitting effort to render the, name of Jew a name of honour. He discreetly recognises the good qualities of other nations, and eagerly strives to acquire them so far as they harmonise with his natural powers. He knows what terrible injuries have been wrought upon his originally proud and upright character by centuries of slavery and denial of rights, and he endeavours to heal them by strenuous self-education. But while Jewish nationalism is secure from distortion, it, moreover, is a natural phase of the process of development from barbarian self-seeking individualism to the status of noble manhood and altruism, a phase the justification and necessity of which can be denied only by him who knows nothing of the laws of organic evolution and is utterly void of historical sense.

 

Anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism has likewise taught many educated Jews how to find the way back to their people. It has had the effect of a severe ordeal, which the weak cannot withstand, but from which the strong step forth stronger, or rather with a keener self-consciousness. It is not correct to say that Zionism is merely a gesture of defiance or an act of despair in the face of Anti-Semitism. Doubtless many an educated Jew has been constrained only through Anti-Semitism to attach him­self again to Judaism, and he would again fall away if his Christian compatriots would welcome him as a friend. But in the case of most Zionists, Anti-Semitism was only a stimulus causing them to reflect upon their relation to the nations, and their reflection has led them to results that must remain for them a permanent intellectual and spiritual possession, even if Anti-Semitism were to vanish completely from the world.

 

The instinctive Zionistic sentiment.

Let it be clearly understood. The Zionism that has hitherto been analysed is that of the free and educated Jews, the Jewish élite. The uneducated multitude that cling to old traditions are Zionistic without much reflection, out of sentiment, out of instinct, out of affliction and longing. They suffer too grievously from the misery of life, from the hatred of the nations, from legal restrictions and social proscriptions. They feel that they cannot hope for any permanent improvement of their position so long as they must live as a helpless minority in the midst of evil-disposed majorities. They want to be a people, to renew their youth in intimate touch with Mother Earth, and to become master of their own fate. A certain proportion of this Zionistic multitude are not altogether free from mystical tendencies. They allow Messianic reminiscences to flit through their Zionism, which they transfuse with religious emotions. They are quite clear about the goal, the national re-union, but not about the ways to attain it. Yet upon them, too, has been borne the necessity of putting forth their own efforts, and a vast difference exists between their organised activity with its voluntary labours and the prayerful passivity of the purely religious Messianist.

 

III.

 

Precursors of Zionism.

The new or political Zionism has had several precursors.

 

An anonymous writer.

Its first appearance occurred as early as the middle of the 19th century. A German Jew, who did not even have the courage to put his name on the title-page of his book, proposed in the middle of the forties that Palestine should be acquired and colonized. The only result was a series of angry protests, in the guise of criticism, in the Jewish newspapers of the time, these being completely dominated by the ideas of Reform and Assimilation.

 

Moses Hess.

Moses Hess's "Rom und Jerusalem," a prophetic book that appeared in the sixties, was held in higher esteem. It was the first to proclaim the idea of Jewish nationalism amid the general transport of emancipation and fraternisation. It raised a veritable storm of indignation among the German Jews, intoxicated with their new-found equality of rights, so far as they condescended to read it. What prophet in Israel has not provoked the wrath of his people?

 

Dr. Leon Pinsker.

At the beginning of the eighties there occurred in Eastern Europe certain events which rudely awakened the Jews from their illusions of centuries and brought them back to a consciousness of actuality. The Russian Jew'', Dr. Pinsker, then wrote a little book, "Auto-Emancipation," which already fore-shadowed modern political Zionism, and in which he expounded all his ideas without, however, developing them into a harmonious whole. But it constantly re-echoed with the dominant watch-words: The Jews are not merely a religious community, they are a nation. They want to live once more as a united people in their own land. Their rejuvenescence must follow simultaneously in the economic, physical, intellectual and moral directions.

 

The awakening soul of the people.

The Jewish youth of the Russian grammar schools and universities were powerfully influenced by the arguments of Pinsker. They began to found national Jewish societies. A certain number of students who attended foreign universities disseminated the ideas of Pinsker in their new environment, and here and there met with sympathy among their young co-religionists, especially in Vienna. Some preferred deed to word, example to pre­cept; they abandoned their studies and wandered to Palestine in order to become peasants-Jewish peasants on historic Jewish soil. Seized by the idealism of these chosen few, whose conduct was an inspiration, even Jews of milder enthusiasm in Russia and Germany founded societies to support from afar the Palestinian colonies of the Jewish pioneers. This work went on without a uniform plan and without a clear recognition of aims and methods. The societies were not conscious of the fact that they felt and acted as Zionists. They did not see the connection between the settlement of Palestine by Jews and the future of the entire Jewish people. It was with them more an instinctive impulse, through which there flitted all possible vague sentiments; piety, archaeological-historical sentimentality, charity, genealogical pride. But still the minds were prepared; there was a tendency in the air; Judaism was ripe for a transition.

 

" The Jewish State" of Dr. Theodor Herzl.

As always happens in such historic moments, the man unto whom it was vouchsafed clearly to grasp the idea of which many had a dim presentiment, and to give eloquent expression to the word that many had awaited, now appeared. This man was Dr. Theodor Herzl. In the autumn of 1896 he published a concisely-written book, " The Jewish State," (Der Judenstaat), which, with a determination hitherto unknown, declared that the Jews are a Nation, who demand for themselves all the rights of a Nation and wish to settle on a land where they can lead the complete unfettered life of a state.

 

"The Jewish State" -a subjective work.

"The Jewish State" became the starting-point of political Zionism- the starting-point, not the programme. Herzl's book is still the subjective work of an individual who speaks in his own name. Many portions of it are literature. It is not easy everywhere to draw a sharp line of division between the sober earnestness of the social politician and the phantasy of the prophetic poet. The real programme had to be a collective task, founded indeed upon Herzl's book and inspired by Herzl's visions, but freed from all fantastic elements and wrought only out of elements of reality.

 

The effect of "The Jewish State."

Herzl's book was at once greeted by myriads of Jews, especially by young Jewry, as an act of deliverance. They determined that it should not remain mere printed paper, but should be converted into practical reality. There arose everywhere new societies, no longer for the slow, petty colonisation of Palestine by the surreptitious entry of groups of Jews, but for the preparation of a general Jewish immigration into the Holy Land, on the basis of a treaty, guaranteed by the Great Powers, with the Turkish Govern­ment, such as should grant the settlers in the country the rights of self-government.

 

The first Basle Congress of Zionists.

The hypothesis upon which political Zionism is based is that there is a Jewish nation. It is just this which is denied by the assimilated Jews and by the unspiritual, unctuous Rabbis. Herzl recognised that the first task that he had to perform was to organise a manifestation which in modern tangible form should present to the eyes of the world and of the Jewish people the fact of its national existence. He convened a Zionist Congress, which, despite the most furious hostility and the most un­scrupulous violence, assembled for the first time in Basle at the end of August 1897, and consisted of 204 elected representatives of the Zionist thinking Jews of both hemispheres.

 

The Basle Programme.

The First Zionist Congress solemnly pro­claimed in the sight of the listening world that the Jews are a nation, and that they have no wish to be merged among the other nations. It registered a vow to labour for the redemption of that portion of the Jewish people which is denied all rights and languishes in undeserved misery, and to prepare for it a brighter future. It formulated its endeavours in the fol­lowing programme, which was carried with unanimity amid the utmost enthusiasm:

"The aim of Zionism is to create for the Jewish people a publicly recognised legally secured Home in Palestine.

In order to attain this object, the Congress adopts the following means:

1.           To promote tine settlement in Palestine of Jewish agriculturists, handicraftsmen, industrialists, and men following professions.

2.           To centralize the Jewish people by means of general institutions agreeably to the laws of the land.

3.           To strengthen Jewish sentiment and national self-consciousness.

4.           To obtain the sanction of governments necessary for carrying out the object of Zionism."

 

IV.

 

The Second, Third, and Fourth Zionist Congresses.

The First Congress did not disperse with­out having created a permanent organisation. It elected a Great Council (Grosses Actions Committee), on which all countries with a considerable Jewish population are repre­sented, and which moreover appointed a permanent Executive, with its seat in Vienna, under the presidency of Herzl. It was followed in the three succeeding years by three further Congresses: in 1898 and 1899 again in Basle, and in 1900 in London. The number of members increased in1898 to 280, in 1899 to 370, and in 1900 to 420. At each, succeeding Congress the rules of election were administered more strictly, the mandates were examined more rigorously, and at the present time the Congress, which has become a permanent institution of Zionistic Jewry and which assembled in December, 1901, for the fifth and in July, 1903, for the sixth time, again in Basle, can rightly claim to form the actual representation of its 180,000 electors.

 

A consideration of the following facts will show what the Jews represented at the Congress have already done to carry out the Zionist programme formulated by the First Congress.

       " 1. To promote the settlement in Palestine of Jewish agriculturists, handicraftsmen, industrialists, and men following professions."

 

Preliminaries for a systematic settlement in Palestine.

Zionism refuses on principle to assist in petty colonisation or surreptitious entry into Palestine. Zionists have accordingly restricted themselves hitherto to the zealous and unwearying advocacy of the already existing Jewish colonies in Palestine before their quondam supporters, who lately showed a disposition to withdraw their aid from them; to taking preliminary measures for the founding of manufactories in the Holy Land, which should give employment to the Jewish labourers on the spot; and to assuring, by means of an annual subvention, the continued existence of the model Hebrew school at Jaffa, which had been compelled to close for lack of funds. They are anxious that the present promising factors of Jewish colonisation should be fostered and preserved until the settlement of Palestine on a comprehensive scale is possible. They have opened a bank under the name of The Anglo-Palestine Company with head office at Jaffa and a branch establishment at Jerusalem.

"2. To centralize the Jewish people by means of general institutions agreeably to the laws of the land."

 

The Zionist organisation.

The organisation of Zionist Jewry consists at present of about one thousand societies, which are engaged in a most zealous activity. As for general organisations that embrace entire Jewry, Zionism possesses the territorial federation of its societies, the Great and the Small Actions Committee, and lastly, the Congress, which maintains a permanent secretarial bureau in Vienna.

 

The Shekel.

The expenses of this apparatus are covered by Zionists by means of a voluntary annual contribution, called the Shekel, according to the name of the ancient Jewish coin, which is equivalent to 50 kopecks in Russia and to a standard unit in the western countries (one mark, one franc, one shilling, etc.) The payment of the Shekel confers the right of electing a representative to the Congress.

 

Zionist periodicals.

Zionism possesses an official organ in the German weekly, " Die Welt," published in Vienna. Its ideas are represented, moreover, by nearly forty periodicals in Hebrew, German, Russian, Polish, Italian, English, French, and Roumanian, as "well as in the Judaeo-German and Judaeo-Spanish jargons.

 

Schools and high-grade Institutes.

It has founded numerous schools and institutions for higher educa­tion, and it has lately begun to win a place on Jewish communal boards, in order to devote the funds of the communities to objects of national Jewish education, training, and culture, to a greater extent than prevailed on the part of anti-national or thoughtless leaders.

"3. To strengthen Jewish sentiment and national self-consciousness."

 

The raising of the Jewish people and its self-consciousness.

The Zionist societies are everywhere engaged in providing facilities for their members, and the mass of the Jews, to become especially acquainted with the history of their people and intimate with the sacred and profane literature in the Hebrew language. They teach the Jews to carry the head high, to be proud of their descent, and to scorn the lies, calumnies, and insults of anti-Semites. They endeavour to bring about an improvement in the hygiene of the Jewish proletariat, to raise its economic condition by means of association and solidarity, and to secure the salutary training of children and the education of women. They give young students an aim to strive for and an ideal in life. They preach the abandonment of gross materialism, into which assimilated Jews sink only too easily for want of a worthy ideal in life. They found gymnastic societies in order to promote the physical development of the rising generation, which has long been neglected. They give a new impulse to the celebration of Jewish historical festivals and days of memorial. They even make themselves outwardly distinguishable in many cases by badges. The Zionist holds it to be contemptible to conceal his nationality. He insists on being known as a Jew, and as he always acts naturally, indulges in no aping comedy, deceives nobody about his descent and his characteristics, obtrudes himself before nobody under a false flag, his relations with his Christian neighbours and compatriots are healthier, truer, more honest and honourable, than those of the assimilated Jews, who endeavour with wearisome but futile efforts-painful to every Christian of any refinement-to conceal their Judaism.

       "4. To obtain the sanction of governments necessary for carrying out the object of Zionism."

 

The diplomatic work.

Certain of the Great Powers have received authoritative information concerning the aims of Zionism by means of official memoranda. There has been no lack of encouragement from highly important sources, or of expressions of sympathy with the endeavours of Zionism.

 

A Charter.

For the present the Actions Committee is trying to obtain from Turkey a charter for the settlement of the districts of Palestine which are available and at present waste, and for the opening up of its resources. The realisation of such a charter is impossible without considerable capital. In order to be financially equipped for the moment when Turkey will grant a charter, the Second Zionist Congress (1898) resolved upon the founding of a national Jewish banking institute, the Jewish Colonial Trust (Judische Colonial Bank). The resolution was carried out in the following year (1899). The Bank is established. Its joint stock amounts to two million pounds sterling. According to its statutes it could begin active work when an eighth part of its joint stock, £250,000 sterling, had actually been paid in. This stage was reached in 1902.

 

The National Fund.

Another financial instrument of Zionism is the National Fund, which is raised by voluntary contributions and now amounts to about £40,000. One half of this Fund is to be devoted to the purchase of land in Palestine; the other is to remain an inviolable common possession of the Jewish people, to increase constantly by compound interest and donations, and to provide its interest for any great national objects that may present themselves.

 

The Sixth Congress.

One of the most important Congresses was the Sixth, which was held, in August 1903, in Basle. The leader, Dr. Herzl, was able to announce to the assembly that the British Government had offered to the Zionist Organisation a territory in British East Africa, for the purpose of a Jewish settlement, with rights of local autonomy. It was intimated by the Government that they were willing to concede to the Zionist Organisation a very large territory for the purpose and they suggested that an investigating Commission should be despatched to confer with the High Commisioner in East Africa as to the most suitable piece of the country available for establishing, a Jewish settlement.

 

The East Africa Project.

This announcement gave rise to a regrettable misunderstanding. A section of the Congress believed that it meant that Zionism was to give up its efforts for the acquisition of Palestine and to regard the settlement of East Africa as its final goal, and they accordingly opposed with the utmost vehemence this supposed alteration of the original programme. Such an alteration, however, was never contemplated. British East Africa was not to take the place of Palestine, but only to serve as a place of refuge for those unfortunate Jews who, under the horrible conditions placed upon them, could not live in the stepmotherly countries of their birth waiting until Palestine should become open to them as a place to which they could emigrate in safety as Jews, free from all chance of disability, because they would be emigrating to a land where the Government would be Jewish. After debates of intense excitement the Congress finally adopted the proposal, by a large majority, to express the thanks of the Jewish people to the British Government for its magnanimous offer, which was unique in history, and to send a Commission of experts to East Africa to investigate the territory. Mainly owing to the opposition which the plan aroused, Herzl deemed it wise not to avail himself of the offer of the British Government as originally made but to ask for a definite denomination of the territory proposed to be conceded. The British Government, after communication with the High Commissioner of the Protectorate, selected a tract of about five thousand square miles in the Guas Ngishu Plateau and a Commission was organised to examine its prospects and suitability.

 

 This Commission started on its journey towards the end of the year l904, and in May 1905 presented its report, which is not favourable enough to justify Zionist activity in establishing a Jewish colony. It is therefore probable that no use will be made of the beneficent offer of the English Government. But the incident is of great importance as it has shown what esteem Zionism, during the few years of its career, has earned from a great Government, and with what elemental love a large section of the Jewish people cling to Palestine, and to Palestine only. Under most circumstances, according to the dictum of folklore, a sparrow in hand is preferred to a pigeon on the roof. The steadfast idealists, on the contrary, who form the flower of the Zionist army, despite the sparrow that is pressed into their hand, appear to prefer to wait patiently for the pigeon, which is meanwhile still beyond their reach.

 

The Death of Dr. Herzl

A severe blow was dealt to Zionism and to the entire Jewish people by the premature death of its great leader, Dr. Theodor Herzl, who died July 3, 1904, scarcely 44 years of age. But it is a testimony to the strength and stability that the movement had already attained that it was able to endure even this irreparable loss without a panic. After a passing shock, and the natural dejection caused by so painful an event, the Zionists quickly bestirred themselves and continued their labour with undiminished zeal and with the firm resolution to bring into realisation the thoughts of Herzl, which are his bequest to the Jewish people.

 

v.

 

The Opponents of Zionism.

I have tried to show, as briefly and objectively as possible, what Zionism is, what it wants, how it has arisen, and how it has hitherto developed. I have also mentioned repeatedly that out of Jewry itself there have arisen against it opponents who are exceedingly violent. I hardly consider it the task of this dispassionate study to engage in controversy with them. Such a polemic would be fruitless, and prove repugnant to readers who merely seek information. Hence only a few pertinent observations are devoted to the opponents of Zionism.

 

Personal opponents

Many opponents confine themselves to uttering slanders and insults against the leaders of the Zionist movement. This mode of hostility can well be despised by those who are calumniated. Opponents who fight with such weapons are so inferior morally that they do not come within the horizon of those whom they attack. Those who, without the least advantage to expect for themselves, out of the purest, most unselfish love for their unfortunate brethren, out of reverence for their forefathers in the grave, out of a general feeling of humanity, bring the heaviest sacrifices of money, time, health, and strength, for the uplifting of their people and the deliverance of millions of innocently persecuted beings from the bitterest misery, have a right to shrug their shoulders with a smile when irresponsible fanatics or pitiable hacks reproach them with self-interest or vanity.

 

Opponents by reason of ignorance or bad faith

Among those subordinate opponents there are such as not merely utter falsehood and slanders, but also try to argue. They like to compare the apostles of Zionism with the false Messiahs-of the type of the notorious Sabbatai Zevi-who form a too frequent phenomenon in Jewish history and who have always brought the direst evil upon the Jewish people deceived by them. To compare Zionism with the extravagances or deceptions of the false Messiahs of the stamp of a Sabbatai Zevi presupposes very much ignorance or gross bad faith. Zionism is distinguished by the very absence of every mystical element. It promises to followers no wonders; it rather impresses upon them always that their deliverance from a condition that is felt to be intolerable can only be the result of their own work, only the fruit of a prolonged, serious, and general endeavour.

 

The spirit that ever denies.

Zionism is called a dream, and the possibility of its practical realisation is disputed. Objections of this kind have been answered convincingly by Zionists a hundred times. This criticism of a simply negative character may be left to rest as it is. Its only correct refutation are deeds such as Zionism has already accomplished and intends further to accomplish.

 

The Jewish nationality - condition sine qua non.

The one point that excludes the possibility of an understanding between Zionists and non-Zionistic Jews, probably for ever, is the question of Jewish nationality. Whoever maintains and believes that the Jews are not a nation, cannot in truth be a Zionist: he cannot attach himself to a movement which is only justified by its wish to create a normal condition of existence for a people living and suffering under normal conditions. But, on the contrary, he who is convinced that the Jews are a nation, must necessarily be a Zionist, as only the return to our own land can preserve the Jewish people, universally hated, persecuted, and oppressed, from physical and spiritual decay.

 

The Assimilants.

Many Jews, especially in the Occident, have completely broken with Judaism so far as belief is concerned, and they will probably soon do so in outward respects also, or if not they, then, their children or grandchildren. They want to be merged entirely among their Christian compatriots. They feel it a source of serious disquietude that other Jews among them should proclaim aloud their particular nationality and should insist on a clear distinction between themselves and the other nations. They are anxious lest they should be treated as foreigners in their native land, where they are free citizens. They fear that this will be the case more than ever before if a great proportion of the Jewish people openly demands for itself the rights of an independent people, and especially so if there should actually arise somewhere in the world a political and cultural centre of Judaism around which millions of Jews are gathered together united by the bond of nationality.

 

Two millions versus ten.

It is easy to understand all these feelings of the assimilated Jews. From their own standpoint they are justified, but they can hardly claim that Zionism should commit suicide for their sake. The Jews who are contented and happy in the land of their birth, and who angrily spurn the suggestion to give it up, are about a sixth of the Jewish people, say two millions out of twelve. The remaining five-sixths, ten millions, are by no means happy in their place of sojourn, and have, moreover, every ground for such feeling. It can hardly be suggested to these ten millions that they should submit to their bondage for ever without resistance, that they should abandon all striving after deliverance from their misery, merely in order that the comfort of the two million happy and contented Jews should not be subjected to an imaginary risk of disturbance.

 

The Reunion in Palestine and the position of those who remain behind

Zionists are firmly convinced that the anxiety of the assimilated Jews is without foundation. The reunion of the Jewish people in Palestine will not have the consequence the latter fear. Once there is a Jewish country, the Jews will have the choice of emigrating thither or of remaining in their present home. Many will doubtless remain and those who do remain will have shown by their choice that they prefer their native land to their race and the national country. It is possible that even then the anti-Semites will still hurl into their teeth the contemptuous and perfidious reproach: "Foreigners!" But those who are real Christians among the fellow-citizens, those who think and feel in accordance with the teachings and examples of the Gospel, will be convinced that these Jews do not regard themselves as strangers in their native country, and the latter will be able properly to show their voluntary renunciation of the return to their own Jewish country and their faithful loyalty to their home and their Christian neighbours.

 

Overcoming Difficulties.

Zionists know that they have undertaken a work of unexampled difficulty. The attempt has never been made of transplanting several million people in a short time from different countries to another territory by peaceful means; the attempt has never been made to convert millions of proletarians, without a tirade and sadly reduced in physical respects, into agriculturists and cattle-breeders, to make the shopkeepers and dealers of tile city, tile agents and domestic servants, all divorced from nature, once more familiar with the plough and with nourishing Mother Earth. It will be necessary to accustom the Jews of different origin to one another, to train them practically to national uniformity, and thereby to conquer tile almost superhuman difficulties arising out of differences of language, dissimilar culture, and the modes of thought, prejudices, inclinations, and aversions of foreign nationalities, which they will bring with them from the land of their birth.

 

Our confidence.

But Zionists are encouraged to begin this labour of Hercules by the conviction that they are doing a necessary and useful work, a work of love and of civilisation, a work of justice and of wisdom. They want to save from eight to ten million of their brethren from intolerable misery. They want to deliver the nations, amid which they are now vegetating, from the presence of Jews who, they tell us, are a burden to them and whose residence amongst them is obviously disagreeable to them. They want to remove its victims from anti-Semitism, which everywhere degrades public morals and magnifies tile worst instincts. They want to make the Jews, who are reproached at present with being parasites, into valuable producers. They want to water with their sweat a land which is to-day a desert, and to cultivate it with their hands until it becomes a luxuriant garden as of yore. Thus will Zionism be of equal service to the unfortunate Jews and to the Christian nations, to civilisation and to international economy, and the services which it can render and will render, are great enough to justify the hope that the Christian world will also hold them in honour and support the movement with its active sympathy.

 

 

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General History of Zionism - Zionism and the Creation of Israel


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