Yet, their colonizing project succeeded, and they drove out the Palestinians to create a nearly pure Jewish state in Palestine.
What Ahad Ha’am Saw and Herzl Missed—and Vice Versa » Mosaic
The Jewish colons did not pull off this feat on their own; they succeeded because of their ability to recruit the greatest Western powers, and many others besides, to support their colonial project. Somehow, the Zionists turned what could well have been a fatal deficiency for their colonial project — the absence of a natural mother country — into their greatest asset. They gained the freedom to pick and choose their mother country. How did the Zionists bring this about? The Jews were not a majority in any country, but there existed a Jewish minority in nearly every Western country.
In itself, the presence of Jewish minorities could not have been a source of strength; a weak Jewish minority in any country could do little to help their coreligionists in another country. What made the Jewish minorities different was that they carried a weight that far outweighed their numbers. Over the course of the nineteenth century, they had become an important, often vital, part of the financial, industrial, commercial, and intellectual elites in several of the most important Western countries, including Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and the United States.
Moreover, the most prominent members of these elites had cultivated ties with each other across national boundaries.
Could This Zionist Thinker Predict the Future?
Once these Jewish elites, spread across the key Western countries, had decided to support the Zionist project, they would become a force in global politics. On the one hand, this would tempt the great powers to support Zionism, if this could buy them the help of the Jewish communities, based in a rival or friendly power, to push their host country in a desirable direction.
Conversely, once the Zionists recognized this tendency, they too would seek to win support for their cause by offering the support of Jewish communities in key Western countries. It would be in their interest to exaggerate the results that Jewish communities in this or that country might be able to deliver. During periods of intense conflicts — such as World War I — when the fate of nations hung in the balance, the competition for Zionist support became more intense than ever.
This placed the Zionists in a strong position to trade their favors for the commitment of the great powers to their goals. In September , this competition persuaded Britain, at a difficult moment in the execution of its war, to throw its support behind the Zionist project. The Zionists continue to market their colonial project as a haven for Jews, fleeing anti-Semitic persecution. This is misleading.
On the contrary, the Zionists were counting on support from the anti-Semites to propel their nationalist-cum-colonial project.
Zionism was primarily a nationalist movement, whose origins predated the resurgence of anti-Semitism in the late nineteenth century. Even then, most Jews sought to combat anti-Semitism through assimilation, Jewish autonomism, and socialist revolutions. When forced to emigrate, they overwhelmingly preferred destinations outside Palestine. The fortunes of Zionism improved only when most Western countries closed their doors to Jewish immigrants.
When these doors were closing in the early s, it was little opposed by the Jewish diaspora, whose leadership now identified increasingly with Zionist goals. Little pressure too was applied to reopen these doors before the s. Pages: 1 2 View All Share:. The debate over the character of Jewish nationalism — ethnic or civic — continues to engage researchers and remains a topic of public debate in Israel even today. A close look at the vision held by both groups challenges Kohn's dichotomy as well as his understanding of the Zionist movement.
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by Ahad Ha'am (1897)
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Log out of ReadCube. This article analyses the ethnic and civic components of the early Zionist movement.
The article also investigates the conflict that broke out in surrounding the publication of Herzl's utopian vision, Altneuland. The debate over the character of Jewish nationalism — ethnic or civic — continues to engage researchers and remains a topic of public debate in Israel even today.
A close look at the vision held by both groups challenges Kohn's dichotomy as well as his understanding of the Zionist movement. Volume 16 , Issue 2.
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