Zionism Pre: 1934 Part II

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Jewish State

Provoked by the Dreyfus affair Theodor Herzl in 1896 published his "Jewish State," unconsciously aligning himself with Pinsker, and equally unconsciously rejecting all the older concepts of Restoration. The very fact, however, that he labeled his Jewish State "an attempt" to solve "the Jewish Question" raised all the old conflicting doubts and differences. Those weaned from the concept of Jewish nationalism were not pleased with his definition that the oneness of the Jewish people was created by the pressure everywhere exerted against them, nor was it acceptable to those who believed in the existence of a national Jewish ego. Equally unpalatable to the former was his diagnosis of the Jewish Question, which he traced to the fact that the Jews were in every country a minority, and suffered minority experiences. His state was therefore to be built by a Jewish majority, a complete reversal of Jewish experience since the fall of Jerusalem. His plan involved mass migration, cooperative industrialization in the new land, the raising of large capital funds, and the guarantee of the neutrality of the state by the powers.

Even if the response had not come, as it did from nationalists, and chovevi Zion supporters, the whole premises ran counter to the accepted tenets of Reform Judaism, the viewpoint of philanthropic organizations, and of the leading Jewish benefactors everywhere.


The purely colonization movement met with indifference on the part of the mass of Jews everywhere, but opposition to it came only from the ultra-orthodox who decried the attempt to "hasten the time of the Messiah," and who questioned the right of Jews to buy land in Palestine, seeing the promise of Restoration was bound up in a victory for the spirit. The political formula advanced by Herzl met, however, with violent opposition by those with assimilationist tendencies everywhere. Russian Socialists and German and American Reform rabbis met on common ground in their opposition to the new movement, though the considerations which moved them to take these views differed materially. the political radicals fought against what they viewed as the re-engulfment of the Jews in specific Jewish life. Reform on the other hand had taken its stand on the theory of denationalization. it had broken with Zionolatry, and it recognized a distinct menace in a movement led by laymen who had intellectual claims to leadership. It was in this well supported by all those laymen everywhere who represented what had become institutional Jewish leadership, and who recognized in Zionism, a distinct reversal of the policies to which they were pledged, the amelioration of Jewish disabilities in the countries in which they occurred, and as a thwarting of the struggle for emancipation which had been in process from the days of Moses Mendelssohn.

Movement Organized

Herzl, however, had caught the imagination of the intellectual Jewish youth of Europe, of vast masses of Jews deeply distressed, and as events proved more than mentally prepared to leave their native surroundings. These forces together with the Chovevi Zion rallied in such numbers to the new leader that to expound his theories Herzl in 1896-97 founded "Die Welt," and to create representative authority in 1897 organized the congress which formulated the platform and gave shape to the movement. The response was unprecedented in Jewish history, whole communities petitioning for their removal from centers of oppression. As instruments to advance the cause Herzl founded the Jewish Colonial Trust, the Jewish National Fund, and developed all the functions of the World Zionist Organization, aiding in the building of the federations which sprang up in every country. Before Herzl's death the movement had produced new cultural aspects, a new alignment in Jewish life, intense debate on all the issues confronting Jews, a powerful organization with its annual congress, and on the part of the leader a series of remarkable negotiations the political objective of which was the obtaining of a charter to Palestine, and an offer of the British government, 1902, to help open up El Arish, and in 1903 to permit the creation of a Jewish autonomy in East Africa.

At the height of his power Herzl had demonstrated that what were regarded as impossible ideas, the cooperation of the powers in the practical solution of the Jewish Question had found great favor with several governments, and had won the earnest following of tens of thousands of Jews. On the other hand he was opposed by Ahad Ha-am, who neither then nor later accepted or supported the political phase of what has been termed Herzlism.

Internally the movement had brought into existence the Mizrachi as the orthodox wing, and the Poale Zion as the workers' wing. It represented a struggle against the Bundists in Russia and against assimilation everywhere, Herzl was succeeded by his chief lieutenant, David Wolffsohn who had the support of Max Nordau, but the organization was for a time broken by the split forced by Israel Zangwill who established the Jewish Territorial Organization as a means of providing an autonomy outside of Palestine. This effort found its strongest support in Russia which also provided under Menahem Mendel Ussischkin the strongest backing for the continuing of the practical colonization effort in Palestine which had been in progress since 1881. A period of parliamentarianism and practical effort followed in Palestine, checked, however, by the opposition of the Turkish government. The victory of the Young Turk Party in 1908-09 brought the political movement to a low ebb, and the organization in Europe began to swing into intense devotion to local cultural effort.

World War Problems

At the outbreak of the World War the movement had succeeded in a struggle with the Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden, which attempted to Germanize the schools in Palestine, but in other respects the organization was in a weakened position. The World War forced the abandonment of Berlin as the center of the organization, and all authority was transferred to the Provisional Zionist Emergency Committee established in New York, under the leadership of Justice Louis D. Brandeis. Active political negotiations were resumed in England in 1915-16 by Sir Herbert Samuel, Dr. Moses Gaster, Chaim Weizmann, Nahum Sokolow, and M. Tschlenow, resulting with American aid in the issuance of the Balfour Declaration, Nov. 2, 1917. The important steps that followed were the dispatch of the American Zionist Medical Unit to Palestine, the recruiting of the Jewish Legion and the appointment of the Zionist Commission to Palestine, 1917-18.

The Zionist claims were heard in Feb., 1919, by the Peace Conference in Paris. In 1920 Great Britain was made mandatory for Palestine and Sir Herbert Samuel appointed High Commissioner, and the Mandate affirming the authority of Great Britain in Palestine was granted July, 1922. In it the Balfour Declaration was set forth, the historical claims of the Jews to Palestine recognized, and the Zionist Organization established as the Jewish Agency for Palestine. The terms of the mandate were to some extent amended by the Churchill White Paper published just prior to the approval of the mandate.

(Continue Part III)


Website: The History Box.com
Article Name: Zionism: Pre: 1934 Part II
Researcher/Transcriber Miriam Medina


BIBLIOGRAPHY: From my collection of Books: The Encyclopedia of Jewish Knowledge In One Volume, Edited by Jacob De Haas; in collaboration with more than 150 scholars and specialists. Behrman's Jewish Book House New York, 1934.
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