1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Zionism

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ZIONISM. One of the most interesting results of the anti-Semitic agitation (see Anti-Semitism) has been a strong revival of the national spirit among the Jews in a political form. To this movement the name Zionism has been given. In the same way that anti-Semitism differs from the Jew-hatred of the early and middle ages, Zionism differs from previous manifestations of the Jewish national spirit. It was originally advocated as an expedient without Messianic impulses, and its methods and proposals have remained almost harshly modern. None the less it is the lineal heir of the attachment to Zion which led the Babylonian exiles under Zerubbabel to rebuild the Temple, and which flamed up in the heroic struggle of the Maccabees against Antiochus Epiphanes. Without this national spirit it could, indeed, never have assumed its present formidable proportions. The idea that it is a set-back of Jewish history, in the sense that it is an unnatural galvanization of hopes long since abandoned for a spiritual and cosmopolitan conception of the mission of Israel, is a controversial fiction. The consciousness of a spiritual mission exists side by side with the national idea. The great bulk of the Jewish people have throughout their history remained faithful to the dream of a restoration of their national life in Judea. Its manifestations have suffered temporary modifications under the influence of changing political conditions, and the intensity with which it has been held by individual Jews has varied according to their social circumstances, but in the main the idea has been passionately clung to.

The contention of some modern rabbis that the national idea is Messianic, and hence that its realization should be left to the Divine initiative (e.g. Chief Rabbi Adler, Jewish Chronicle, 25th November 1898), is based on a false analogy between the politics of the Jews and those of other oppressed nationalities. As all Hebrew politics were theocratic, the national hope was necessarily Messianic. It was not on that account less practical or less disposed to express itself in an active political form. The Messianic dreams of the Prophets, which form the framework of the Jewish liturgy to this day, were essentially politico-national. They contemplated the redemption of Israel, the gathering of the people in Palestine, the restoration of the Jewish state, the rebuilding of the Temple, and the re-establishment of the Davidic throne in Jerusalem with a prince of the House of David. How little the dispersed Jews regarded this essentially political programme as a mere religious ideal is shown by their attitude towards the pseudo-Messiahs who endeavoured to fulfil it. Bar Cochba (A.D. 117-138) lived at a period when a Jewish national uprising might well have been exclusively political, for the dissolution of the kingdom was scarcely half a century old, and Palestine still had a large Jewish population. None the less Bar Cochba based his right to lead the Jewish revolt on Messianic claims, and throughout the Roman Empire the Jews responded with enthusiasm to his call. Three centuries later Moses of Crete attempted to repeat Bar Cochba's experiment, with the same results. In the 8th century, when the Jews of the West were sufficiently remote from the days of their political independence to have developed an exclusively spiritual conception of their national identity, the Messianic claims of a Syrian Jew named Serene shook the whole of Jewry, and even among the Jews of Spain there was no hestitation as to whether they had a right to force the hands of Providence. It was the same with another pseudo-Messiah named Abu-Isa Obadia, who unfurled the national banner in Persia some thirty years later.

During the middle ages, though the racial character of the Jews was being transformed by their Ghetto seclusion, the national yearning suffered no relaxation. If it expressed itself exclusively in literature, it was not on that account undergoing a process of idealization. (Cf. Abrahams's Jewish Life in the Middle Ages, pp. 24-25.) The truth is that it could not have expressed itself differently. There could have been no abandonment of national hopes in a practical sense, unless the prospect of entering the national life of the peoples among whom they dwelt had presented itself as an alternative. Of this there was not the remotest sign. The absence of militant Zionism during this period is to be accounted for partly by the want of conspicuous pseudo-Messiahs, and partly by the terror of persecution. Unlike the modern Greeks, the medieval Jews could expect no sympathy from their neighbours in an agitation for the recovery of their country. One may imagine what the Crusaders would have thought of an international Jewish conspiracy to recapture Jerusalem. In the 15th century the aversion from political action, even had it been possible, must have been strengthened by the fact that the Grand Signer was the only friend the Jews had in the world. The nationalist spirit of the medieval Jews is sufficiently reflected in their liturgy, and especially in the works of the poet, Jehuda Halevi. It is impossible to read his beautiful Zionide without feeling that had he lived another twenty years he would have gladly played towards the pseudo-Messiah David Alroy (circa 1160) the part that Akiba played towards Bar Cochba.

The strength of the nationalist feeling was practically tested in the 16th century, when a Jewish impostor, David Reubeni (circa 1530), and his disciple, Solomon Molcho (1501-1532), came forward as would-be liberators of their people. Throughout Spain, Italy and Turkey they were received with enthusiasm by the bulk of their brethren. In the following century the influence of the Christian Millenarians gave a fresh impulse to the national idea. Owing to the frenzy of persecution and the apocalyptic teachings of the Chiliasts, it now appeared in a more mystical form, but a practical bias was not wanting. Menasseh ben Israel (1604-1657) co-operated with English Millenarians to procure the resettlement of the Jews in England as a preliminary to their national return to Palestine, and he regarded his marriage with a scion of the Davidic family of Abarbanel as justifying the hope that the new Messiah might be found among his offspring. The increasing dispersion of the Marranos or crypto-Jews of Spain and Portugal through the Inquisition, and the persecution of the Jews in Poland, deepened the Jewish sense of homelessness the while the Millenarians encouraged their Zionist dreams. The Hebraic and Judeophil tendencies of the Puritan revolution in England still further stirred the prevailing unrest, and some Jewish rabbis are said to have visited England in order to ascertain by genealogical investigations whether a Davidic descent could be ascribed to Oliver Cromwell. It only wanted a leader to produce a national movement on a formidable scale. In 1666 this leader presented himself at Smyrna, in the person of a Jew named Sabbatai Zevi (1626-1676), who proclaimed himself the Messiah. The news spread like wildfire, and despite the opposition of some of the leading rabbis, the Jews everywhere prepared for the journey to Palestine. Not alone was this the case with the poor Jews of Lithuania and Germany, but also with well-to-do communities like those of Venice, Leghorn and Avignon, and with the great Jewish merchants and bankers of Hamburg, Amsterdam and London. Throughout Europe the nationalist excitement was intense. Even the downfall and apostasy of Sabbatai were powerless to stop it. Among the wealthier Jews it partially subsided, but the great bulk of the people refused for a whole century to be disillusionized. A Messianic frenzy seized upon them. Encouraged on the one hand by Christian Millenarians like Pierre Jurien, Oligér Pauli, and Johannes Speeth, pandered to by Sabbataic impostors like Cardoso, Bonafoux, Mordecai of Eisenstadt, Jacob Querido, Judah Chassid, Nehemiah Chayon and Jacob Franks, and maddened by fresh oppressions, they became fanaticized to the verge of demoralization.

The reaction arrived in 1778 in the shape of the Mendelssohnian movement. The growth of religious toleration, the attempted emancipation of the English Jews in 1753, and the sane Judeophilism of men like Lessing and Dohm, showed that at length the dawn of the only possible alternative to nationalism was at hand. Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786) sought to prepare his brethren for their new life as citizens of the lands in which they dwelt, by emphasizing the spiritual side of Judaism and the necessity of Occidental culture. His efforts were successful. The narrow nationalist spirit everywhere yielded before the hope or the progress of local political emancipation. In 1806 the Jewish Sanhedrin convened by Napoleon virtually repudiated the nationalist tradition. The new Judaism, however, had not entirely destroyed it. It had only reconstructed it on a wider and more sober foundation. Mendelssohnian culture, by promoting the study of Jewish history, gave a fresh impulse to the racial consciousness of the Jews. The older nationalism had been founded on traditions so remote as to be almost mythical; the new race consciousness was fed by a glorious martyr history, which ran side by side with the histories of the newly adopted nationalities of the Jews, and was not unworthy of the companionship. From this race consciousness came a fresh interest in the Holy Land. It was an ideal rather than a politico-nationalist interest—a desire to preserve and cherish the great monument of the departed national glories. It took the practical form of projects for improving the circumstances of the local Jews by means of schools, and for reviving something of the old social condition of Judea by the establishment of agricultural colonies. In this work Sir Moses Montefiore, the Rothschild family, and the Alliance Israélite Universelle were conspicuous. More or less passively, however, the older nationalism still lived on—especially in lands where Jews were persecuted—and it became strengthened by the revived race consciousness and the new interest in the Holy Land. Christian Millenarians also helped to keep it alive. Lord Ashley, afterwards Lord Shaftesbury, Colonel Gawler, Mr Walter Cresson, the United States consul at Jerusalem, Mr James Finn, the British consul, Mr Laurence Oliphant and many others organized and supported schemes for the benefit of the Jews of the Holy Land on avowedly Restoration grounds. Another vivifying element was the reopening of the Eastern Question and the championship of oppressed nationalities in the East by the Western Powers. In England political writers were found to urge the re-establishment of a Jewish state under British protection as a means of assuring the overland route to India (Hollingsworth, Jews in Palestine, 1852). Lord Palmerston was not unaffected by this idea (Finn, Stirring Times, vol. i. pp. 106-112), and both Lord Beaconsfield and Lord Salisbury supported Mr Laurence Oliphant in his negotiations with the Porte for a concession which was to pave the way to an autonomous Jewish state in the Holy Land. In 1854 a London Jew attempted to float a company “for the purpose of enabling the descendants of Israel to obtain and cultivate the Land of Promise” (Hebrew Observer, 12th April). In 1876 the publication of George Eliot's Daniel Deronda gave to the Jewish nationalist spirit the strongest stimulus it had experienced since the appearance of Sabbatai Zevi.

It was not, however, until the spread of anti-Semitic doctrines through Europe made men doubt whether the Mendelssohnian denationalization of Judaism possessed the elements of permanency that the Jewish nationalist spirit reasserted itself in a practical form. As long as the anti-Semites were merely polemical, the nationalists were mute, but when in Russia their agitation took the form of massacres and spoliation, followed by legislation of medieval harshness, the nationalist remedy offered itself. In 1882 several pamphlets were published by Jews in Russia, advocating the restoration of the Jewish state. They found a powerful echo in the United States, where a young Jewish poetess, Miss Emma Lazarus, passionately championed the Zionist cause in verse not unworthy of Jehuda Halevi. But the movement did not limit itself to literature. A society, “Chovevi Zion,” was formed with the object of so extending and methodizing the establishment of agricultural colonies in Palestine as to make the eventual acquisition of the country by the Jews possible. From the beginning it was a great success, and branches, or “tents” as they were called, were established all over the world. At the same time two other great schemes for rescuing the Jewish people from oppression were brought before the public. Neither was Zionist, but both served to encourage the Zionist cause. One was due to the initiative of Mr Cazalet, a financier who was interested in the Euphrates Valley Railway project. With the assistance of Mr Laurence Oliphant he proposed that the concession from the Porte should include a band of territory two miles wide on each side of the railway, on which Jewish refugees from Russia should be settled. Unfortunately the scheme failed. The other was Baron de Hirsch's colossal colonization association (see Hirsch, Maurice de). This was neither political nor Zionist, but it was supported by a good many members of the “Chovevi Zion,” among them Colonel Goldsmid, on the ground that it might result in the training of a large class of Jewish yeomen who would be invaluable in the ultimate settlement of Palestine. (Interview in Daily Graphic, 10th March 1892.)

None of these projects, however, proved sufficiently inspiring to attract the great mass of Jewish nationalists. The Chovevi Zion was too timid and prosaic; the Hirsch scheme did not directly appeal to their strongest sympathies. In 1897 a striking change manifested itself. A new Zionist leader arose in the person of a Viennese journalist and playwright, Dr Theodore Herzl (1860-1904). The electoral successes of the anti-Semites in Vienna and Lower Austria in 1895 had impressed him with the belief that the Jews were unassimilable in Europe, and that the time was not far distant when they would be once more submitted to civil and political disabilities. The Hirsch scheme did not, in his view, provide a remedy, as it only transplanted the Jews from one uncongenial environment to another. He came to the conclusion that the only solution of the problem was the segregation of the Jews under autonomous political conditions. His first scheme was not essentially Zionist. He merely called for a new exodus, and was ready to accept any grant of land in any part of the world that would secure to the Jews some form of self-government. The idea was not new. In 1566 Don Joseph Nasi had proposed an autonomous settlement of Jews at Tiberias, and had obtained a grant of the city from the Sultan for the purpose. In 1652 the Dutch West India Company in Curacao, in 1654 Oliver Cromwell in Surinam, and in 1659 the French West India Company at Cayenne had attempted similar experiments. Marshal de Saxe in 1749 had projected the establishment of a Jewish kingdom in South America, of which he should be sovereign; and in 1825 Major M. M. Noah purchased Grand Island, in the river Niagara, with a view to founding upon it a Jewish state. All these projects were failures. Dr Herzl was not slow to perceive that without an impulse of real enthusiasm his scheme would share the fate of these predecessors. He accordingly resolved to identify it with the nationalist idea. His plan was set forth in a pamphlet, entitled The Jewish State, which was published in German, French and English in the spring of 1896. It explained in detail how the new exodus was to be organized and how the state was to be managed. It was to be a tribute-paying state under the suzerainty of the Sultan. It was to be settled by a chartered company and governed by an aristocratic republic, tolerant of all religious differences. The Holy Places were to be exterritorialized. The pamphlet produced a profound sensation. Dr Herzl was joined by a number of distinguished Jewish literary men, among whom were Dr Max Nordau and Mr Israel Zangwill, and promises of support and sympathy reached him from all parts of the world. The haute finance and the higher rabbinate, however, stood aloof.

The most encouraging feature in Dr Herzl's scheme was that the Sultan of Turkey appeared favourable to it. The motive of his sympathy has not hitherto been made known. The Armenian massacres had inflamed the whole of Europe against him, and for a time the Ottoman Empire was in very serious peril. Dr Herzl's scheme provided him, as he imagined, with a means of securing powerful friends. Through a secret emissary, the Chevalier de Newlinsky, whom he sent to London in May 1896, he offered to present the Jews a charter in Palestine provided they used their influence in the press and otherwise to solve the Armenian question on lines which he laid down. The English Jews declined these proposals, and refused to treat in any way with the persecutor of the Armenians. When, in the following July, Dr Herzl himself came to London, the Maccabaean Society, though ignorant of the negotiations with the Sultan, declined to support the scheme. None the less, it secured a large amount of popular support throughout Europe, and in 1910 Zionism had a following of over 300,000 Jews, divided into a thousand electoral districts. The English membership is about 15,000.

Between 1897 and 1910 the Zionist organization held nine international Congresses. At the first, which met at Basel, a political programme was adopted on the following terms:—

“Zionism aims at establishing for the Jewish people a publicly and legally assured home in Palestine. For the attainment of this purpose the Congress considers the following means serviceable: (1) The promotion of the settlement of Jewish agriculturists, artisans and tradesmen in Palestine. (2) The federation of all Jews into local or general groups, according to the laws of the various countries. (3) The strengthening of the Jewish feeling and consciousness. (4) Preparatory steps for the attainment of those governmental grants which are necessary to the achievement of the Zionist purpose.”

Subsequent congresses founded various institutions for the promotion of this programme, notably a People's Bank known as the Colonial Trust, which is the financial instrument of political Zionism, a National Fund for the purchase of land in Palestine and a Palestine Commission with subsidiary societies for the study and improvement of the social and economic condition of the Jews in the Holy Land. For the purposes of these bodies about £400,000 was collected in small sums and invested. Very little practical work of any abiding value, however, was accomplished, and on the political side the career of Zionism had up to the end of 1910 proved a failure.

In May 1901 and August 1902 Dr Herzl had audiences of the Sultan Abdul Hamid, and was received with great distinction, but the negotiations led to nothing. Despairing of obtaining an immediate charter for Palestine, he turned to the British government with a view to securing a grant of territory on an autonomous basis in the vicinity of the Holy Land, which would provisionally afford a refuge and a political training-ground for persecuted Jews. His overtures met with a sympathetic reception, especially from Mr Chamberlain, then Colonial Secretary, and Earl Percy, who was Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs (October 1902). At first a site for the proposed settlement was suggested in the Sinai peninsula, but owing to the waterless character of the country the project had to be abandoned. Then Mr Chamberlain, who in the interval had paid a visit to Africa, suggested the salubrious and uninhabited highlands of the East Africa Protectorate, and in 1903 the British government formally offered Dr Herzl the Nasin Gishiu plateau, 6000 sq. m. in area. No such opportunity for creating a Jewish self-governing community had presented itself since the Dispersion, and for a moment it seemed as if Zionism were really entering the field of practical politics. Unhappily it only led to bitter controversies, which nearly wrecked the whole movement. The British offer was submitted to the Sixth Congress, which assembled at Basel in August 1903. It was received with consternation and an explosion of wrath by the ultra-nationalist elements, who interpreted it as an abandonment of the Palestine idea. By his personal influence Dr Herzl succeeded in obtaining the appointment of a commission to examine the proposed territory, but its composition was largely nationalist, and in the following year the Congress gladly availed itself of certain critical passages in the report to reject the whole scheme.

Meanwhile Zionism had suffered an irreparable blow by the death of Dr Herzl (1904). He was succeeded by Mr David Wolffsohn, a banker of Cologne, but there was in truth nobody who in ability and personal dignity and magnetism could take his place. The movement was further shaken by the dissensions which followed the rejection of the East African project. Mr Israel Zangwill led an influential minority which combined with certain non-Zionist elements to found a rival organization under the name of the ITO (Jewish Territorial Organization) with a view to taking over the East African offer or to establish an autonomous place of refuge elsewhere. Thus freed from all moderating elements the Zionists hardened into an exclusively Palestinian body, and under the auspices of Mr Wolffsohn fresh negotiations were opened with the Porte. These, however, were rendered finally hopeless by the Turkish revolution, which postulated a united Ottoman nationality, and resolutely set its face against any extension of the racial and religious autonomies under which the integrity of the Empire had already severely suffered.

During 1905–1910 the Jewish national idea, for all practical purposes, was in a state of suspended animation. The recovery of the Holy Land appeared more distant than ever, while even the establishment of an independent or autonomous Jewish state elsewhere, for which the ITO was labouring, had encountered unexpected difficulties. On the rejection of the British offer by the Zionists Mr Zangwill approached the Colonial Office, but he was too late, as the reserve on the Nasin Gishiu plateau had already been officially withdrawn. The ITO then turned its attention to Cyrenaica, and an expedition to examine the country was sent out (1908), but it was not found suitable. A project for combining all the Jewish organizations in an effort to secure an adequate foothold in Mesopotamia in connexion with the scheme for the irrigation of that region was subsequently proposed by Mr Zangwill, but up to January 1911 it had not been found practicable. The ITO, however, did valuable work by organizing an Emigration Regulation Department for deflecting the stream of Jewish emigration from the overcrowded Jewry of New York to the Southern states of the American Union, where there is greater scope for employment under wholesome conditions. For this purpose a fund was formed, to which Mr Jacob Schiff contributed £100,000 and Messrs Rothschild £20,000.

Although the Zionist organization was numerically strong—indeed, the strongest popular movement Jewish history had ever known—its experience from 1897 to 1910 rendered it very doubtful whether its nationalist aspirations could, humanly speaking, ever be fulfilled. From Turkey, either absolutist or democratic, it appeared hopeless to expect any willing relaxation of the Ottoman hold on Palestine, while in the event of a dissolution of the Empire it was questionable whether Christendom—and especially the Roman and Greek Churches—would permit the Holy Land to pass to the Jews, even though the Holy Places were exterritorialized. Should these obstacles be overcome, still more formidable difficulties would await the Jewish state. The chief of these is the religious question. The state would have to be orthodox or secular. If it were orthodox it would desire to revive the whole Levitical polity, and in these circumstances it would either pass away through internal chaos or would so offend the modern political spirit that it would be soon extinguished from outside. If it were secular it would not be a Jewish state. The great bulk of its supporters would refuse to live in it, and it would ultimately be abandoned to an outlander population consisting of Hebrew Christians and Christian Millenarians.

Modern Zionism is vitiated by its erroneous premises. It is based on the idea that anti-Semitism is unconquerable, and thus the whole movement is artificial. Under the influence of religious toleration and the naturalization laws, nationalities are daily losing more of their racial character. The coming nationality will be essentially a matter of education and economics, and this will not exclude the Jews as such. With the passing away of anti-Semitism, Jewish nationalism will disappear. If the Jewish people disappear with it, it will only be because either their religious mission in the world has been accomplished or they have proved themselves unworthy of it.

Literature.—A Zionist bibliography has been published by the Federation of American Zionists. Besides the works already cited in the body of this article, see on the early nationalist movement Graetz, Geschichte der Juden, under the heads of the various pseudo-Messiahs and their adherents. Jewish agricultural colonies will be found discussed very fully in The Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. i. pp. 240-262. For early Zionist projects see Publications of the American Jewish Historical Society, No. 8, pp. 75-118; Laurence Oliphant, Land of Gilead; Mrs Oliphant, Life of Laurence Oliphant, pp. 168 et seq. The Zionist movement since 1895 is fully recorded in its official organ, Die Welt (Vienna). For proceedings of the Congresses see the Official Protocols published for each year by the society “Erez Israel” of Vienna; also Herzl, Der Baseler Congress (Vienna, 1897). On the movement generally, see Herzl's Zionistische Schriften, edited by Dr Leon Kellner; Ten Years of Zionism (Cologne, 1007); Nordau, Zionism, its History and its Aims (London, 1905); J. de Haas, Zionism, Jewish Needs and Jewish Ideals; also articles by I. Zangwill in Cosmopolis (October 1897), Contemporary Review (October 1899) and Fortnightly Review (April 1910); Dr Gaster in Asiatic Quarterly Review (October 1897); H. Bentwitch in Nineteenth Century (October 1897), and Fortnightly Review (December 1898); Reich in Nineteenth Century (August 1897); Lucien Wolf in Jewish Quarterly Review (October 1904; “The Zionist Peril”). On the ITO see pamphlets and leaflets published by the Jewish Territorial Organization; also the Report of the Commission on Cyrenaica (London, 1909).  (L. W.)