Zionism | Encyclopedia.com

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Anti-Zionism and non-Zionism

Achievements and prospects


Zionism may be summarily defined as the Jewish nationalist movement whose endeavors to solve the Jewish problem led to the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel.

The aims of Zionism were those of many nationalist liberation movements: to revive a national language (Hebrew or Yiddish) and culture; to repossess and develop the resources of the national territory; and to achieve sovereignty for a national state. But the nation to be liberated lived in exile from its ancestral home, with its members scattered all over the globe. Accordingly, Zionist objectives also included removing Jews from the countries of their dispersion and colonizing them in Zion, the ancient homeland.

Upon the successful execution of its program, Zionism anticipated that anti-Semitism, rooted according to Zionist theory in Jewish homelessness, would disappear. The Jews remaining in the Diaspora would be reduced to a number susceptible of assimilation (Herzl [1894-1904] 1955, pp. 241-242). Another theory held that a free Jewish community in Zion, not dominated by the milieu of the Gentile majority, would unfold the full potentialities of the Jewish historic individuality. It would produce a national cultural revival and advanced social institutions of universal significance, whose influence would enable Diaspora Jewries to sustain their collective existence even under modern conditions of equal citizenship and acculturation tending to dissolve their identity.

Thus, like other national liberation movements, Zionism developed a rationale that was Utopian, or even messianic, in tone. But its strategic situation also dictated a tactical approach of pragmatic reasonableness.

Palestine in the nineteenth century was neither controlled nor in any large measure occupied by Jews. Zionism could not hope to negotiate its aims unless it defined them in a way compatible with the interests of the suzerain power, Turkey, and other powers concerned with the Eastern Question. Hence, at the first Zionist Congress in Basle, 1897, Theodor Herzl, 1860-1904, obtained a resolution demanding not a Jewish state but an oeffentlich-rechtlich gesicherte Heimstaette a term subsequently translated in the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, by the vague expression national home.

The Zionist position in the Jewish community was equally weak. Unlike other nationalist liberation movements, which could appeal to massive and powerful popular resentments focused on a single, concrete foreign oppressor so that all ideological opposition was often swept out of the field, Zionism was only one of many rival Jewish ideologies (Halpern 1961, pp. 22-23). Moreover, it was divided by a wide diversity of internal factions. The objectives it could agree on had to be compromises, capable of uniting rival Zionist parties on a common denominator and attracting essential support from the non-Zionists in the Jewish community. Hence, the broad formulas of the 1897 program and of the statute of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, formed in 1929.

The idea that the Jewish position in the Gentile world presented a problem to be rationally solved, one of the basic Zionist principles, first became current in the eighteenth-century Enlightenment. A Jewish movement to achieve this solution, beginning in western Europe in the late eighteenth century, produced campaigns for enlightenment and general humane culture among Jews; for their civic emancipation; and eventually for religious reform, discarding many traditional practices and beliefs. In Russia, the pogroms and repressive laws of the 1880s thoroughly disillusioned some Jewish intellectuals who until then had favored reforms similar to those advocated by their western European counterparts. They turned in revulsion and humiliation against the Western principle of accommodating to a general humanism and insisted that the Jews themselves, and not benevolent Gentiles, must actively and militantly solve their own problemand solve it by returning to their own sources. These new Lovers of Zion (Hovevei-Zion) dedicated themselves not to the aim of emancipation but to the counterposed aim of auto-emancipation, a slogan provided by the title of an 1882 brochure written by Leo Pinsker, 1821-1891, a physician who in 1884 became the chosen leader of the movement.

In spite of ideological opposition, the Hovevei-Zion were compelled to cooperate with Western Jews. Since the 1840s the emancipated and enlightened Western Jewish communityincluding many who no longer believed in redemption in Zion had introduced rational objectives and methods into the traditional support extended by the Diaspora to pious Jews in Palestine. At first, outstanding individuals like the British Sir Moses Montefiore, 1784-1885, and, since 1860, a major French-led organization, the Alliance Isralite Universelle, had sought to obtain political and legal security for the Jewish settlement, to provide vocational training and secular culture, and to place Jews on farm-holdings, instead of maintaining a community in Palestine almost exclusively devoted to prayer, study, and penance (Sokolow 1919, vol. 1, pp. 115-120, 176-183). Dr. Pinsker, like Theodor Herzl after him, found it natural to appeal to such Jewish benefactors for support in their projected work in Palestine, even though it was conceived in a different spirit. The Hovevei-Zion, based on a poor membership and not permitted to work freely under Russian law, were rebuffed in their attempt to obtain political concessions from the Sublime Porte for colonization and checked in their spontaneous immigration to Palestine by legal and administrative obstacles swiftly set up against European Jews by the Turks. They were driven back on slow, more or less surreptitious methods of colonization and had to rely for political and financial support on Western philanthropists, notably Baron Edmond de Rothschild, 1845-1934. The consequence was the emergence of a faction in the movement, led by the writer Ahad Haam, 1856-1927, which severely criticized Rothschild paternalism and, above all, the settlers dependency in all those sphereseconomic, cultural, communal where the Zionist ideal had hoped to build a nucleus of national independence in Palestine.

The positive doctrine of this group centered on the desire of disillusioned eastern European intellectuals to recapture traditional attitudes and cultural motifs that Western modernists had abandoned. Against the Reform thesis that the Jewish dispersion was a divine mission, not a penance, they declared that the exile of the Jews was a fact. Against the liberal notion of civic emancipation as the Messianic redemption of the Jews, they reasserted the restoration to Zion as the solution of the Jewish problem. As a result the young Zionist intellectuals were welcomed back into the fold by many traditionalistsand the new Zionist movement was constituted as much by the latter as by the former.

The seeds of difference were inherent in this union. Traditionalist Jews who became Hovevei-Zion soon began to demand that the prodigal sons make their return complete by submitting fully to the yoke of tradition. The new Zionists, although penitents, rather like the Russian Slavophile radicals who were their contemporaries, were not ready to abandon modernistic and rational standards because of their rebellion against Western values. They saw their Jewish situation not as a divinely decreed election and a penance to be borne but as a social historical problem that urgently required a rational solution. They became lovers of Zion, of the Hebrew language, and of the tradition but wished to free all of these values from the dead hand of sacramentalism. In consequence, the Hovevei-Zion movement in Russia developed traditionalist and modernist factions. The former re-emerged, at a later date, as a distinct party called the Mizrachi in the World Zionist Organization created by Theodor Herzl. The modernist school worked toward the ends of a cultural Zionism, seeking a secular revival of the Hebrew language and culture and of an active national will and consensus. While cultural Zionism did not continue as an organized faction after the Hovevei-Zion were absorbed by the World Zionist Organization, it was a pervasive influence thereafter in the movement, especially in the practical Zionist faction.

Theodor Herzl entered the Zionist movement as a sharp critic of colonization in Palestine, as conducted by Baron de Rothschild and the Hovevei Zion together. He developed in his 1896 booklet Der Judenstaat, and in his conduct of the World Zionist Organization from 1897 to his death in 1904, the doctrine of political Zionism. As conceived by him, and his successors and supporters Max Nordau, 1849-1923, and David Wolffsohn, 1856-1914, and, in a later generation, the self-styled Herzlian Zionists led by Vladimir Jabotinsky, 1880-1940, the Zionist strategy must concentrate on achieving adequate political conditions for its nationalist aim before beginning other subsidiary activities, such as colonization. An opposing faction, generally called the practical Zionists and led after World War i by Chaim Weizmann, 1874-1952, insisted that other nationalist aims, such as the cultural revival and continuing resettlement in Palestine, must be pursued simultaneously with the Zionist diplomatic campaign. Indeed, achievement of the nationalist political goals, they felt, would be most effectively advanced by building up the Jewish settlement in Palestine and thus adding the rights of occupation to the rights of historic connection and present Diaspora needs to bolster the Zionist claim.

Until the death of Herzl in 1904, the views of political Zionism prevailed. Herzl also maintained an entente with the religious Zionists, restricting at the congress sessions discussion of projects to revive a secular Hebraic culture because of their objection. The failure of Herzls diplomatic campaign for a charter to resettle Zion frustrated the movement; and his one major successthe British proposals in 1903 to resettle Jews not in Palestine or its environs but in east Africasplit it. After the definitive rejection of this proposal, some Zionists, led by Israel Zangwill, 1864-1926, left the organization to form their own Jewish Territorialist Organization. Within the Zionist organization the practical Zionists grew increasingly strong, until they took over the leadership fully in 1911. The new policy that was initiated strengthened the tendency, already marked since 1908, to pursue the colonization of Palestine under existing political conditions, setting aside the quest for a charter (Boehm 1935-1937).

It also introduced new stress on the nationalist cultural revival. As a side effect, some religious Zionists left the congress and joined with earlier anti-Zionists in Orthodox Jewry to form a new ultra-Orthodox world organization, Agudat Israel. The Mizrachi who remained Zionists developed a set of minimum demands, requiring respect for tradition in general Zionist facilities and support for autonomous religious cultural activities by Mizrachi paralleling any general cultural activity. Granted this, they proposed to fight for acceptance of Jewish tradition in Orthodox interpretation as binding on all Zionists and, ultimately, as constitutional in the Jewish state.

At the outbreak of World War i, any uniform policy of an international organization divided between the warring nations became virtually impossible. Leading Zionists in the German headquarters of the organization and in England pursued Zionist diplomacy independently in a form consonant with the war aims of their respective countries. Major responsibility was vested in new Zionist leaders residing in neutral countries, notably Louis D. Brandeis, 1856-1941. Toward the end of the war the practical Zionist Chaim Weizmann, aided by Nahum Sokolow, 1859-1936, secured from Britain the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917, and parallel statements from Britains allies (Stein 1961). This declaration of sympathy for Zionist aspirations, with its pledge to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national home in Palestine, was embodied in the San Remo agreement of April 26, 1920, assigning Palestine as a mandate territory to Britain, and also in the mandate instrument approved by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922.

The Balfour Declaration and the mandate represented in form the charter which Herzls diplomacy had sought in vain, but in practice it did not make possible the orderly, relatively rapid mass transfer of Jews to Palestine that Herzl had envisaged. Consequently, Herzlian Zionists like Max Nordau and Vladimir Jabotinsky regarded the mandate instrument as inadequate for Zionist purposes and called for political action to obtain more precise commitments toward the ultimate creation of a Jewish state. Nordau demanded in 1920 the immediate transfer to Palestine of enough Jewish immigrants to form a Jewish majority.

A diametrically opposed view was pressed in 1920 by Justice Brandeis. He regarded the diplomatic phase of Zionist history as closed with the San Remo treaty. The world Zionist organization should resolve itself into a federation of philanthropic societies, each with autonomy in its own country, and a central executive agency devoted chiefly to practical colonization. The latter body should be made up not of political leaders but of technicians and administrators, not necessarily committed to the whole Zionist doctrine but ready to work under the conditions laid down in the mandate for developing the Jewish national home.

Chaim Weizmann, who succeeded in winning control of the movement, followed a line which, in the Zionist congress of 1907, he had defined as synthetic (Weizmann 1949, p. 157). He accepted the existing legal framework of the mandate and pursued practical work under its terms. However, far from allowing the political functions of the world Zionist organization to lapse, he developed and tightened them in the running battle with the mandatary over the precise meaning of the mandate instrument. The co-option of experts and enlistment of supporters from among non-Zionist Jews, suggested by Brandeis, was carried out by Weizmann through the Jewish Agency for Palestine, formed in 1929 in agreement with such men as Louis Marshall, 1856-1929, and Felix Warburg, 1871-1937. Weizmanns immigration and colonization policy was one of gradualism not merely because Winston Churchill in a 1922 white paper had imposed upon Jewish labor immigration into Palestine the limit of economic absorptive capacity but also because such an approach was in accord with his own beliefs, as a disciple of the prudent Ahad Haam.

After an initial period of opposition, the labor Zionist factions became Weizmanns reliable and consistent allies in this strategy and finally the dominant force in the coalition. They concentrated on what they regarded as the primary, critical task both of Zionist and Jewish socialist strategy: to create in Zion a Jewish farmer-worker class and thus eliminate the fundamental cause of the dependency of the Jewish people in the Diasporatheir lopsided, unproductive occupational distribution.

Although firmly united by a strong workers federation with unusually wide powers and functions, labor Zionist factions differed on numerous issues and were organized and acted independently. Most prominent politically were the three major federations of collective settlements or kibbutzim (communes), which had the greatest immediate influence on labor immigrants. They differed not only in their plans of village organization but also in their attitudes toward the second and third socialist internationals, the proper Zionist policies vis-a-vis the Arabs, and the definition of the ultimate Zionist aim.

The question of the final political status of Palestine became increasingly acute. Arab riots of increasing violence and magnitude broke out in 1920, 1921, and 1929, culminating in the outright revolt of 1936-1939. Owing also to mounting pressure from the emerging Rome-Berlin Axis, Britain sought to gain Arab support, or at least mitigate Arab hostility, by an increasingly anti-Zionist interpretation of its obligations as mandatary. A White Paper in 1939 proposed to freeze the Jewish community at the one-third proportion of the Palestine population which it had virtually reached; and in the following year land regulations banned or rigorously restricted Jewish land purchase in all but a tiny part of Palestine. At this time Nazi oppression had made the Jewish refugee problem unbearably acute and the omens of the deliberate extermination of European Jewry were becoming manifest.

The pressure to redefine Zionist policy became overwhelming. Some left wing and pacifist Zionists favored a binational Arab-Jewish state, with a provisional limit of 40 per cent of Jews in the population and additional immigration to be permitted by majority decision. Jabotinskys Revisionist group wanted a militant Zionist policy demanding a Jewish majority in the whole mandate territory, including Transjordan, which had been excluded from the Jewish national home area by Churchills 1922 White Paper. The Irgun Zvai Leumi and the Stern group arose as more or less autonomous Revisionist paramilitary formations, and the latter, even during the war against the Axis, demanded an immediate Jewish uprising against the British. Non-Zionists associated with the Jewish Agency proposed to restore the original criterion of economic absorptive capacity as the sole principle governing Jewish immigration. The dominant group among Zionists, headed by the labor leader David Ben-Gurion, opposed an outright Jewish revolt against the mandate itself, but it undertook active resistance to the restrictions on Jewish immigration. Opposing both binationalism and a demand for a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan, as well as mere restoration of the status quo ante the 1939 White Paper, it was prepared to consider solving the Palestine problem by partition.

The world war was victoriously concluded and a Labour government came to power in Britain, but the 1939 White Paper policy was not rescinded. The limited resistance of the major Zionist paramilitary force, the Jewish Agency-controlled Haganah, escalated into a phase of attacks on government installations and, for a period, was combined in a joint assault with the two Revisionist-oriented bands. British repressive measures, directed both at the armed Zionist resistance and the refugee ships that sought to run the British blockade, raised violence to such a pitch that recourse to outside arbiters was essential. Beginning with an attempt to resolve the issue by joint action with the United States, through an Anglo-American Inquiry Committee in 1946, England was forced to refer the Palestine problem to the United Nations.

A United Nations Special Committee on Palestine turned in a majority proposal for the partition of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states, with a UN-supervised economic union between them and with UN administration of an internationalized corpus separatum including Jerusalem and Bethlehem. With certain revisions this proposal was passed by the UN General Assembly on November 29, 1947. Accepted by the Jews of Palestine, it was rejected by the Arabs and immediately opposed with violence. The British refused to aid the implementation of the UN resolution in any way and made haste to leave the country. The fighting, restricted in the final months of the mandate to areas no longer garrisoned by British troops or essential to their departure, extended to the whole land after the British withdrawal on May 15, 1948, and, with the invasion by regular Arab armies from across four frontiers, turned into a full-scale war. UN action availed only to interrupt the hostilities with ill-observed truces, until the growing Jewish strength forced the Arab states to enter into armistice negotiations.

Thus the state of Israel, proclaimed on May 14, 1948, as the British departed and immediately recognized by the United States and the Soviet Union, maintained its integrity in war and secured its present boundaries under armistice agreements. In this way and to this degree were the political aspirations of Zionism realized.

The Zionist idea had ideological opponents in the Jewish community even before it crystallized in an organized movement and even after it culminated in the creation of Israel. But the anti-Zionist groups were always opposed to one another in many crucial attitudes where one or another such group found itself in agreement with the Zionists. This led to parallel efforts toward similar goals or to cooperation in a common task between Zionists and some of their ideological foes. Those anti-Zionists who shared in the major practical Zionist activities in Palestine identified themselves (at least for the duration of that effort) as non-Zionists (Halpern 1961, chapters 3-7).

Opposition to the idea of nationalism as a solution to the Jewish problem dominated Western Jewry for a century before Zionism arose. It was argued that only illiberal enemies of freedom and equality still believed that Jews were a nation or that Jews hoped to see a Davidic kingdom restored in Zion. On the other hand, long before Zionism, Western Jewish organizations had devoted themselves to what became characteristic Zionist concerns: aid to Jewish emigration from eastern Europe and other trouble spots, general and vocational education, and support of the growing Jewish community in Palestine. Cooperation in such projects began in the 1880s, after the rise of Zionism, with the non-Zionist sponsors holding the main responsibility and control; but the position was reversed after the mandate became effective. Alternating with long periods of cooperation were episodes of ideological conflictin 1897, from 1914 to 1917, and intermittently from 1937 to 1947when major political issues arose, evoking sharper definitions of Zionist demands and, in reaction, more elaborate defenses of anti-Zionist views by erstwhile non-Zionists, among others.

Only a minor group of privileged Jews, relatively detached from the main community, represented the type of Western anti-Zionist in eastern Europe. Traditionalist Jews, who dominated the communal consensus until late in the nineteenth century, continuously supported the settlement of some Jews in Palestine as a religious duty; but, long before Zionism, they considered sacrilegious and pseudomessianic any resettlement of Palestine in a deliberate plan to hasten the end of the Exilelet alone a rational secular design to solve the Jewish problem. In 1911 traditionalist anti-Zionism achieved a modern form of organization through the founding of Agudat Israel.

Socialist, radical anti-Zionism arose as a significant force in eastern Europe more or less simultaneously with Zionism. It condemned the plan to solve the Jewish problem by immigration to Palestine as desertion from the barricades where the battle to solve the whole social problem, and the Jewish problem as part of it, would be fought eastern Europe. In 1897, the year the World Zionist Organization was founded, the Bund (General Jewish Workers Union in Poland and Lithuania) was established.

Both radical anti-Zionism and traditional eastern European anti-Zionism were thus primarily opposed to the very aspect of Zionism which made cooperation in western Europe possible: the Zionist practical endeavors in Palestine. On the other hand, they shared in general the Zionist view that Jews were not a mere denomination but an ethnic, cultural group in Europe. Accordingly, eastern European Zionist and anti-Zionist Jewish organizations worked on parallel lines to promote Jewish languages and culture, each in its favored mode, and occasionally joined in common struggle for the political prerequisites to all their aims (Vlavianos & Gross 1954).

In the years following World War i, opportunities open to Jewish migrants were sharply reduced by the American immigration acts, while nationalist and anti-Semitic pressures against the Jews reached unprecedented heights of ferocity. Pales tine became the pre-eminent refuge legally assigned and, until 1939, open with the least onerous restrictions for Jews. The extensive sympathy this won for the national home project from Jews of widely different ideologies was converted by the catastrophes of the war period into organized, institutional support of the community as a whole (Halperin 1961).

These circumstances made the major prewar anti-Zionist organizations moderate the substance and tone of their opposition. The Bunds conception of Jews as a national cultural entity had focused primarily on Poland and Lithuania, and the destruction of the bulk of eastern European Jewry destroyed basic assumptions of their ideology. The Bund survives as a minor group devoted to Yiddish culture throughout world Jewry; and it accepts Israel, while criticizing some of its policies from an internationalist, socialist point of view. The main body of Agudat Israel gave up its opposition in principle to the creation of a Jewish state during World War II. Like Mizrachi, it now works within Israels political system, trying to bring it fully under traditional religious law.

Two small organizations, the ultra-Orthodox Natorei Karta (wardens of the city) of Jerusalem and the American Council for Judaism, Inc., became prominent during and since World War II because of their militant, irreconcilable anti-Zionism. The Natorei Karta, while living in Israel, refuse on religious grounds to recognize the authority of the state. The American Council for Judaism, Inc., alleges that Israel in conjunction with the World Zionist Organization seeks, by constituting a form of political allegiance for all Jews, to confuse the sharp line of distinction which, they argue, separates Jewish religious adherence from any ethnic bond. Both organizations stand outside the Jewish consensus and in defiance of it. Within the consensus, the Zionist achievement of a Jewish state has blurred the differences between ideological Zionism and non-Zionism, since the organized Jewish community as a whole, without reference to these labels, extends moral and material support to Israel.

Israel is not only the specific realization of Zionist political aims, but its culture, economy, and social structure bear clear traces of their origins in the ideologies of Zionist factions. The revival of the Hebrew language, the most generally supported aim of Zionism, owes a particular debt to the school of cultural Zionists. Israels labor settlements, its producers cooperatives, and its broad and powerful labor federation are an outgrowth of labor Zionism. The Mizrachi movement has a dominant influence over the religious courts and chief rabbinate, which act in the tradition of religious Zionism.

The creation of the Jewish state, a triumph of the policy of the World Zionist Organization, relieved the organization of some of its major functions, but Zionist aims are such that the creation of a state does not completely fulfill them. If all Jews who cannot or would not live in Diaspora countries are to be brought to Zionas Zionist doctrine requiresthe state itself must be a means to this end. This Zionist task is shared by Diaspora Jews through their contributions to the Jewish Agency and membership in the World Zionist Organization, organizations that still play a major role in immigrant resettlement and land reclamation in Israel.

Another continuing responsibility is based on the Zionist prediction that the Jewish problem would be solved through the return to Zion. The Zionist movement feels a particular responsibility to stimulate or sponsor educational activities by which Diaspora Jewish communities can share the values created by the revived Hebrew culture in Israel. Thus, Jewish nationalism remains, in a restricted sphere of activities, a continuing organized force in the Diaspora after the rise of the state of Israel.

Ben Halpern

[See alsoanti-semitism; Judaism; Nationalism; near eastern society, article onisrael; social movements.]

Boehm, Adolf 1935-1937 Die Zionistische Bewegung. 2 vols. Berlin: Jdischer Verlag.

Brandeis, Louis D. 1942 Brandeis on Zionism: A Collection of Addresses and Statements. Washington: Zionist Organization of America.

Cohen, Israel (1945) 1946 The Zionist Movement. Edited and revised, with a supplementary chapter on Zionism in the United States, by Bernard G. Richards. New York: Zionist Organization of America.

Esco Foundation FOR PALESTINE, Inc. 1947 Palestine: A Study of Jewish, Arab and British Policies. 2 vols. New Haven: Yale Univ. Press.

Halperin, Samuel 1961 The Political World of American Zionism. Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press.

Halpern, Ben 1961 The Idea of the Jewish State. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press.

Hertzberg, Arthur (editor) (1959) 1964 The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader. Cleveland: World.

Herzl, Theodor (1894-1904) 1955 Theodor Herzl: A Portrait for This Age. Edited with an introduction by Ludwig Lewisohn and a preface by David Ben-Gurion. Cleveland: World. A selection of Herzls writings.

Herzl, Theodor (1895-1904) 1960 The Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl. 5 vols. New York: Herzl Press. First published in German. The English edition con tains material left out of the original German collection.

Nordau, Max 1941 Max Nordau to His People. New York: Scopus.

Pinsker, Leo S. (1882-1886) 1944 Road to Freedom: Writings and Addresses. With an introduction by B. Netanyahu. New York: Scopus. First published in German.

Sokolow, Nahom 1919 History of Zionism: 1600-1918. 2 vols. London: Longmans.

Stein, Leonard J. 1961 The Balfour Declaration. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Vlavianos, Basil J.; and Gross, Feliks (editors) 1954 Struggle for Tomorrow: Modern Political Ideologies of the Jewish People. New York: Arts.

Weizmann, Chaim 1949 Trial and Error: The Autobiography of Chaim Weizmann. New York: Harper.

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