1922 Encyclopædia Britannica/Zionism

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ZIONISM (see 28.986). The part played by anti-Semitism in the growth of the Zionist movement has often been exaggerated. Zionism is a natural, indeed an inevitable, outcome of the instinct of self-preservation, which is as strong in the Jewish people as in any other; and the conditions which threaten the continued existence of the Jewish people in modern times are not wholly referable to anti-Semitism in any of its phases. They are equally present in countries in which anti-Semitism does not exist, or, if it exists, does not seriously affect the civic, social or economic position of the Jews. In such countries — which include, broadly speaking, all the countries of the western hemisphere except those of the old Russian and Austrian Empires and Rumania — the rapid assimilation of the Jews to the prevailing modes of life and thought is accompanied by an attenuation of the tie which binds them to their people, with the result that emancipation is a more potent enemy of Jewish solidarity and of Judaism than persecution or the milder forms of anti-Semitism. It follows that from the point of view of the Jews, which of course postulates the desirability of the continued existence of the Jewish people and of Judaism, the substitution of conditions of emancipation for conditions of persecution solves one problem only by creating another. Naturally enough, this was not foreseen by Moses Mendelssohn and the other pioneers of Jewish emancipation in Europe. They took it for granted that the Jew, having emerged from the ghetto and divested himself of the external peculiarities which cut him off from European life, would still be able to maintain his religious separateness, and to carry out a specifically religious and moral mission in the modern world. But experience has shown them to have been wrong. Judaism reduced to a set of religious beliefs and practices, or to a moral code with some superstructure of ritual, has no abiding hold on the Jew. The possibility of the continued existence of the Jewish people and of Judaism stands or falls with recognition of the fact that to be a Jew means primarily to be a member of a particular ethnic group. On that basis it is possible to build attachment to Judaism as religion or as moral teaching; without that basis the Jew is powerless to withstand through successive generations the forces of an environment which is always drawing him away from his own tradition, in its religious, ethical and intellectual aspects even more than in its ceremonial aspect. Hence a reaffirmation of the national idea in Judaism is even more readily intelligible as a reaction against the results of emancipation than against persecution.

It is not surprising, therefore, that, when the case for Jewish nationalism was first presented by a Jew in a European language, it was based on the disintegrating effects of assimilation rather than on the sufferings of the unemancipated Jews. In his Rom und Jerusalem, published in 1862, Moses Hess delivered a trenchant attack on the theory of German “Reform” Judaism, showed that Judaism could not live except on the basis of the national idea, and foretold a spiritual and political rebirth of the Jewish people in Palestine. Fourteen years later Jewish Nationalism was advocated on similar lines by George Eliot in Daniel Deronda. For both writers the essential thing is that the Jewish people should have an opportunity of taking up the broken thread of its history, and of expressing its own spirit and characteristics in a form of life shaped by itself. Considerations based on anti-Semitism are secondary.

Even in Russia, for so long the home of the great masses of Jews and the very temple of governmental anti-Semitism, Zionism was not fundamentally a product of persecution or pogroms. Until well after the middle of the 19th century, the best minds of Russian Jewry saw its hope in emancipation, not in nationalism. They thought that if the Jews of Russia discarded their distinctive language and dress, modified their religious ceremonial so as to make it compatible with European life, and sent their children to Russian schools, they would be admitted to full participation in the life of their country, like the Jews of western Europe, and all would be well. A vigorous propaganda on behalf of Haskalah — “enlightenment” or “modernism” — had been carried on for some decades in the Hebrew language, which was used not because of its national associations, but because the apostles of Haskalah disdained to write in Yiddish, and no European language, was intelligible to those whom they wished to influence. Haskalah had made considerable headway against the obscurantism of those who opposed any and every change in Jewish life; and in the ’seventies of the 19th century the liberal policy of Alexander II. seemed to promise success to its efforts to modernize Russian Jewry. But already, within the modernist movement itself, another current of thought had set in. Perez Smolenskin, one of its most gifted champions, who spent the best years of his life in Vienna, had had the opportunity of seeing at close quarters what emancipation meant for Judaism. He had seen that in practice the ideal of being “a Jew at home and a man outside” did not work. Hence he became the advocate of a Jewish nationalism based on the “triple cord” of the Land (Palestine), the Law (Torah) and the Language (Hebrew). When, in 1880, the emancipatory tendencies of Alexander II. gave place to a wave of pogroms and a policy of systematic oppression, the seed sown by Smolenskin bore fruit. While the great majority of the Russian Jews who fled from massacre naturally made for the economically developed countries of the West, where they could be readily absorbed, a few, inspired by the ideal of a national revival, found their way to Palestine, and in the face of incredible difficulties laid the foundations of Jewish agricultural colonization. Supported by the Chovevé Zion (Lovers of Zion) in Russia, and later more amply by Baron Edmond de Rothschild, of Paris, these pioneers succeeded in maintaining their footing in Palestine. They were followed by a small but steady stream of immigration, which included many vigorous and self-supporting elements. Innocent of any concern with international politics, these Palestinian settlers accepted the Turkish administration as they found it, and, thanks largely to its very indifference, were able to establish little settlements with complete internal autonomy, to live in their own way, to manage their own affairs, and, not least important, to create a system of Hebrew schools, by means of which the ancient language of the Jews was revived as the speech of the younger generation of Jews in Palestine. This new Palestinian Yishub (settlement), strengthened in the early years of the present century by a number of young men and women who went to Palestine with the ideal of working as labourers on its soil, became the basis of the political success which Zionism achieved during the World War. The historic connexion of the Jews with Palestine would not of itself have availed to secure recognition of Jewish national aspirations, had there not been this concrete evidence of the will and the ability of the Jews to rebuild Palestine and their own national life in Palestine.

Side by side with this practical colonization work, the development of Jewish nationalist theory went on in Hebrew literature. The implications of Smolenskin's idea were worked out more thoroughly, and from a standpoint more in consonance with European thought, by Asher Ginzberg (Achad ha-Am), one of the early leaders of the Chovené Zion, who has made his own the conception of Palestine as destined to be in the immediate future the “spiritual centre” of the Jewish people — that is to say, the home of a corporate Jewish life expressing in all its aspects the true qualities of the Jew, and serving for that reason as a point of attachment and a source of spiritual influence for the Jews of all the world, who will find in their common association with the spiritual centre a new basis of unity and a new bulwark against absorption by assimilation. This conception, though by no means universally accepted as a complete statement of the philosophy of Zionism, has had a profound effect on Zionist thought for the last 30 years, and, though it designedly leaves on one side the political implications of Zionism, has contributed materially to the final shaping of the political claims of the movement.

The reaction against anti-Semitism has, however, played an important port in Zionist history. In 1882, after the terrible outbreak of pogroms in Russia, a Russian Jew, Dr. Leo Pinsker, published a striking pamphlet, in German, under the title of Auto-Emancipation, in which he argued that Judeophobia was an endemic malady among the peoples of the world, analogous to the fear of ghosts, and that the only solution of the “Jewish problem” was to be found in the establishment in some suitable territory (not necessarily Palestine) of an autonomous commonwealth of Jews. While Pinsker thus took anti-Semitism as his starting point, he yet showed a certain appreciation of the historical and psychological roots of Jewish nationalism; and when his own scheme of large scale emigration to a hypothetical Jewish territory met with no support, he was nationalist enough to throw himself into the Palestinian work of the Chovevé Zion, whose first President he became. The later and more famous brochure of Dr. Theodor Herzl, Der Judenstaat[1] (1896), elaborated independently a scheme similar to that of Pinsker, based entirely on the need of a refuge from anti-Semitism, and disregarding completely the inner springs of Jewish nationalism. Herzl's argument implies throughout that all would be well if only Jews were allowed to assimilate peacefully to their surroundings; and to that extent he stood on the same ground as the assimilationist Jews of western Europe, who had for years been trying — without success — to alleviate the lot of the Jews of Russia and Rumania by bringing about diplomatic intervention with the Governments of those countries. He differed from them only in seeing the futility of their methods and the need for more radical steps. He did, however, assert the unity of the Jewish people (“we are a people, one people”), and the emancipated Jews of western countries, fearful of anything that might seem to cast doubt on their absolute identification with the nations among which they lived, could not accept a scheme based on such promises. With few exceptions, the Jews of the west met Herzl's appeal with indifference or hostility; it was the Chovevé Zion who rallied to his support with enthusiasm, less conscious of the difference between his philosophy and their own than of the value to their movement of his great personality, vision and influence. Thus there came about a fusion between the older Jewish nationalism, rooted in history and attached by its very nature to Palestine, and the newer so-called nationalism which demanded an autonomous territory in Palestine or elsewhere for those Jews who could not or would not assimilate to their European surroundings. The fusion was not effected without tears. At the first Zionist Congress (Basle, 1897) there was a struggle over the crucial question of the mention of Palestine in the programme of the movement. For Herzl's scheme of rapid mass-settlement scarcely any country could have been worse adapted than Palestine, with its restricted area, its neglected soil and its importance in international politics; but the nationalist instinct of the Russian Jews won the day, and the Zionist organization tied itself down to the aim of “establishing for the Jewish people a home in Palestine secured by public law.”[2] The trouble did not end there. For the Chovevé Zion the gradual building up of a Hebrew life in Palestine — Yishub Erez-Israel — was the fundamental nationalist activity. Herzl, on the other hand, deprecated any “infiltration” into Palestine so long as the conditions necessary for full autonomy were not secured. He desired the acquisition by the Jewish people still outside Palestine of a formal charter making Palestine its preserve; immigration on a large scale would follow. The failure of his efforts to secure a charter, and his premature death in 1904, ultimately gave the victory here also to the tendency represented by the Chovevé Zion. Thus Zionism emerged from the seven years of Herzl's brilliant leadership with its pre-Herzlian philosophy and policy substantially unchanged, but with very considerable gains in organization, in prestige, and in the number and diffusion of its adherents. The movement had become world-wide; it had been recognized by the British Government (in the abortive offer of a territory in E. Africa, 1903) as representing the Jewish people; and it had become a powerful leaven in Jewish life, stimulating interest in Palestine and the revival of the Hebrew language in every Jewish community throughout the world. The Zionist organization, though it could not of itself bring about any serious political change in Palestine, was in a position to secure that, if and when the political future of Palestine became a practical question, the claims of Jewish nationalism should not go unheard.

Meanwhile it had to be content with the up-hill work of Palestinian colonization and the education of the Jewish people in the national idea. The number of Jewish agricultural settlements in Palestine grew from about 25 in 1904 to about 45 in 1914. The Hebrew school system developed rapidly, and the project of a Hebrew university in Jerusalem was definitely launched in 1913. The membership of the organization and the capital of the Jewish National Fund grew from year to year, and unorganized sympathy with the Zionist outlook and aims became more and more widely diffused.

The entry of Turkey into the World War called for a renewal of political activity on the part of the Zionist organization, as it obviously meant that the future of Palestine would before long come up for settlement. At the same time, the position of the organization was extraordinarily difficult. With adherents in all countries, both belligerent and neutral, it could not present a united front in international political questions, and the leaders of its various groups could not even take counsel together. The last biennial Zionist Congress had met in 1913; a Congress in 1915 was obviously impossible. Emergency arrangements were made to secure the existence of the organization, but for practical purposes it had to remain in suspense throughout the unexpectedly long period of hostilities. Meanwhile, the need for obtaining express recognition of Zionist claims became more pressing as a result of the British advance into Palestine in 1917. Relations with the principal Allied Governments had already been established, mainly by Dr. Ch. Weizmann and Mr. N. Sokolow, two of the Zionist leaders. As the outcome of protracted negotiations, in which Sir (then Mr.) Herbert Samuel played an important part, the British Government issued on Nov. 2 1917 the “Balfour Declaration,” stating that they “view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object,” and adding provisos to safeguard the rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine and the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews elsewhere. The Allied troops entered Jerusalem soon afterwards (Dec. 9 1917), and in March of the following year the Balfour Declaration had its first practical outcome in the departure for Palestine of a Zionist Commission, which was to “act as an advisory body to the British authorities in all matters relating to Jews or which may affect the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people,” and was charged with certain specific tasks in relation to the Jewish population of Palestine. The Commission remained in Palestine as the representative of the Zionist organization, and there directed such Zionist work as was possible during a period of unsettlement and restricted communications. In July 1918 it laid the foundations of the future Hebrew University on Mount Scopus.

The Turks were finally expelled from Palestine in Sept. 1918, and the Zionist policy of the British Government, which had in the meantime been endorsed by all the Allied Powers and by the President of the United States, had its logical outcome in the incorporation of the Balfour Declaration in the Treaty of Sevres and the acceptance by Great Britain of a Mandate for Palestine on behalf of the League of Nations (San Remo, April 1920). The draft Mandate as printed in a Parliamentary White Paper (Cmd. 1176), recites in its preamble the substance of the Balfour Declaration, whereby “recognition has been given to the historical connexion of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country,” and provides inter alia that the Mandatory shall be responsible for placing the country under such political administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home and the development of self-governing institutions (Art. 2); shall recognize an appropriate Jewish agency (provisionally the Zionist organization,) as a public body for the purpose of advising and cooperating with the administration of Palestine in matters affecting the establishment of the Jewish national home (Art. 4); shall appoint a special Commission to study and regulate all questions and claims relating to the different religious communities (Art. 14); shall see that complete freedom of conscience is assured to all (Art. 15); and shall recognize Hebrew along with English and Arabic as an official language (Art. 22).

The frontiers of Palestine were defined in a separate convention between Great Britain and France dated Dec. 23 1920, and published in a White Paper (Cmd. 1195). In 1916, before either Government had come into close contact with Zionism, an Agreement (known as the Sykes-Picot Agreement) was made, dividing Palestine into a British and a French sphere of influence. This agreement needed revision in the light of subsequent developments, with due regard to both Arab and Zionist interests as well as to those of the two Powers concerned. The Convention of 1920 defines the frontiers of Palestine in such a way as to comply with the requirements of the historic phrase “from Dan to Beersheba,” and to include in Palestine all the modern Jewish agricultural settlements, but not to give Palestine control of the sources of water power which are held to be necessary for its full economic development. On the other hand, the Agreement provides that Palestine is to have the use of the waters of the Upper Jordan and the Yarmuk and their tributaries, after satisfaction of the territories under the French mandate.

The draft Mandate for Palestine was attacked from three sides. Certain Palestinian Arabs, professing to speak in the name of the whole Arab population, objected absolutely to its Zionist provisions. A school of Zionists more or less in the line of the original Herzlian tradition complained that the draft Mandate gave too little to the Jewish people, and that the term “National Home” was too vague, and demanded that explicit provision should be made for the development of Palestine into a “Jewish State” within a fixed period. Lastly, some British politicians and newspapers attacked the Mandate on the grounds that it would involve the British taxpayer in expense with no corresponding return, and that it was unjust to impose a Zionist policy on the Arabs of Palestine against their wishes.

Despite these criticisms, there was every sign up to the end of 1921 that the Government intended to proceed in full accord with the spirit and the letter of the Balfour Declaration. Mr. Winston Churchill, the Secretary of State for the colonies, during his visit to Palestine in April 1921, emphatically declared that the Zionist policy of the Government remained unchanged, while assuring the Arabs with equal emphasis that their rights would be fully respected. The First High Commissioner, Sir Herbert Samuel, had won the confidence of all sections of the population by his impartiality.

{{EB1911 Fine Print|Authorities. — Moses Hess, Rom und Jerusalem, 1862 (English translation by Meyer Waxman, 1918); Leo Pinsker, Auto-Emancipation, 1882 (English translation by D. S. Blondheim, 1918); Theodor Herzl, Zionistische Schriften (English translation of Der Judenstaat and of his Congress Addresses published by the Federation of American Zionists, 1917); Achad ha-Am, Selected Essays, translated by Leon Simon (1912); Richard Gottheil, Zionism (1914); Adolf Friedemann, Das Leben Theodor Herds (1914); Kurt Nawratzki, Die Jüdische Colonisation Palastinas (1914); Zionism and the Jewish Future, edited by H. Sacher (2nd ed. 1917: with bibliography); A. M. Hyamson, Palestine: The Rebirth of an Ancient People (1917); H. Sidebotham, England and Palestine (1918); Nahum Sokolow, History of Zionism, 1600-1918 (2 vols. 1919: with bibliography); Norman Bentwich, Palestine of the Jews (1919); Shmarya Levin, Out of Bondage (1919); Leon Simon, Studies in Jewish Nationalism (1920); Zionism (Foreign Office Handbook, No. 162, 1920). There is also a voluminous periodical and pamphlet literature. Zionism and the Future of Palestine by Morris Jastrow, Jr. (1919) puts the “assimilationist” case against Zionism. (L. Si.)

  1. The current translation “A Jewish State” is misleading. The prefix Juden has not the qualitative implications of “Jewish”; the German Staat does not connote political independence so definitely as the English “State”; and the emphasis in Judenstaat is on the first half of the compound, whereas in “Jewish State” it is inevitably on the second. “A Commonwealth of Jews” is a better rendering. This point is of some importance, because critics of Zionism have fastened on the term “Jewish State” as implying a desire to set up a State based on religious tests — than which nothing could be further from the idea of Herzl and of Zionists generally.
  2. Öffentlich-rechtlich gesicherte Heimstätte in the original German. The old translation “publicly and legally assured home” (see 28.988) is scarcely adequate. In article (4) of the Programme as there set out, “grants” should be replaced by “consents” (Zustimmungen). Zionism has never expected or asked for a financial grant from any Government.