The opposition to Zionism is as old as Zionism itself. It has come from many directions, Jewish and non-Jewish, left and right, religious and atheist. It has been asserted on the one hand that the Zionist goal was impossible to achieve, on the other hand that it was undesirable, and by some that it was both illusory and undesirable. Arab opposition is not surprising, but attacks came from other quarters too, including the Catholic Church, Asian nationalists suspicious of European intruders, Arabophile European politicians and orientalists, and the Communists. Pacifists condemned it as a violent movement. Gandhi wrote that as a spiritual ideal Zionism had his sympathy, but that by the use of force the Jews had vulgarised and debased their ideal. Tolstoy said that Zionism was not a progressive but basically a militarist movement; the Jewish idea would not find its fulfilment in a territorially limited fatherland. Did the Jews really want a state on the pattern of Serbia, Rumania, or Montenegro?*
Some antisemites welcomed Zionism, others denounced it in the sharpest terms; for both the Jews and Judaism represented a destructive element and their policy therefore was aimed at reducing Jewish influence and getting rid of as many Jews as possible. It might seem that they should have welcomed a movement which intended precisely that, namely to reduce the number of Jews in the various European countries, but in fact they have frequently turned against it. Palestine, it was felt, was too good or too important to be given to the Jews, who in any case had lost the capacity to build a state of their own. They were bound to remain parasites, and Zionism was therefore a sham. It was not a constructive effort, but on the contrary a mere ruse, part of the conspiracy to establish Jewish world rule. Mixing his metaphors and similes, Alfred Rosenberg, the Nazi ideologist, wrote in 1922:
Some of the locusts which have been sucking the marrow of Europe are returning to the promised land and are already looking for greener pastures. At its best Zionism is the impotent effort of an unfit people to achieve something constructive, but in the main it helps ambitious speculators as a new field in which to practise usury on a world-wide scale.*
Rosenberg demanded the outlawing of Zionism as an enemy of the German state, and the indictment of Zionists on the charge of high treason.
The present study does not intend to record all manifestations of hostility to Zionism throughout its history. Its scope is more limited, being confined to the opposition emanating from within the Jewish community. Broadly speaking, there have been, and still are, three basic anti-Zionist positions: the assimilationist, the orthodox-religious, and the left-wing revolutionary. All three have existed from the beginnings of Zionism to the present day. Other critics, such as the territorialists, who favoured a Jewish national revival outside Palestine, in the diaspora, have come and gone. It remains to be added that while opposition to Zionism from within the Jewish community was on the whole more intense sixty or seventy years ago than it is today, opposition from outside has become more vocal and much sharper in the same measure that Zionism has lost its Utopian character and become a political reality.
The Liberal Critique
The most plausible case against Zionism, and the one most frequently advanced up to the establishment of the state of Israel, was usually directed against its basically utopian character. Both those who welcomed the dispersion of the Jews, and those who deplored it, shared the belief that nothing could be done to undo this historical process. It was too late to concentrate millions of Jews in a part of the world that was already settled and which played an important role in world politics. Mankind was progressing towards assimilation, cosmopolitanism, a one-world culture. Everywhere, economic and social developments were reducing national distinctions. The attempt to arrest the movement of history, to resist this trend, was utopian and reactionary. Assimilation among the Jews of western Europe had proceeded too far to permit a return to Jewish nationalism. In eastern Europe, on the other hand, there was still both a Jewish national consciousness and a real social problem, but this was on such a massive scale that Zionism could not provide a cure. Before the First World War even leading Zionists thought that in the next twenty to thirty years between one hundred thousand and a million Jews at most would settle in Palestine (Lichtheim); Ruppin mentioned a figure of 120,000 families. But the ‘Jewish problem’ affected millions in eastern Europe, not hundreds of thousands. The critics of Zionism rejected the movement as Utopian ‘not because something like this has never happened before or because some imagination is needed to envisage such a solution’, but for the common sense reason that even the settlement of several hundreds of thousands, and cultural autonomy for the rest, would not be a solution. Landauer and Weil, who were among the most sober and best informed early critics of Zionism, maintained that the belief that west European Jewry could be preserved from assimilation was utopian, even if a Jewish state were to come into existence in Palestine. The Jewish question in the west would ultimately be solved by assimilation, but as for the situation in east Europe, no one had an answer.*
These were weighty arguments. The Zionists had nothing to offer but the hope that somehow a deus ex machina would provide the Jewish state; rational grounds for such a belief there were none, or virtually none. Meanwhile, assimilation made further progress. Herzl felt about it as Marx did about the feasibility of non-violent revolution, namely that it might be possible in a few countries but not in others. With certain notable exceptions (such as Jacob Klatzkin) the attitude of the next generation of Zionist leaders was more radical: they thought assimilation not only undesirable and undignified but also practically impossible. A few individuals could possibly ‘pass’, and ultimately be absorbed into gentile society, but the great majority could not. For beyond the wishes and aspirations of individuals, there was the ‘objective Jewish question’.
This referred to sociological factors and also to the distinct character of the Jews as a race. Some western Zionists were influenced by the writings on race theory published during the two decades before the First World War, and a few (including Ruppin and Elias Auerbach) pursued their own studies in this field. The theory of racial constancy taught that certain distinctive qualities were inherited irrespective of social, cultural and geographical circumstances. These ideas were adopted, developed and ‘modernised’, especially in Germany (but not only there) by nationalist ideologists who on shaky scientific foundations erected imposing constructions proving the superiority of certain races and the inferiority of others. They also claimed that racial purity was the greatest blessing and racial mixture the greatest misfortune for every people. These views were later absorbed by the Nazis and provided the justification for Hitler’s racial policy, aimed at the extermination of Jews and the enslavement of other ‘racially inferior elements’. As a result the whole field of race study fell into disrepute, for was it not bound to stress differences and thus to aggravate tensions? But the suppression of studies of the significance of racial differences, however well meaning, has not helped to resolve racial conflict. Differences between races do exist even if there are no pure races. There was the indisputable fact that in Germany and in Austria, in Poland and Russia, Jews were often easily recognisable. According to the Zionists, this, for better or worse, was a matter of some importance, whereas the liberals either belittled these differences or refused to attach any significance to them. They regarded racialist antisemitism as a major nuisance, but of no consequence historically, a rearguard action by the retreating forces of reaction. The liberal critics of Zionism could point to the undeniable fact that, despite warnings by antisemites, mixed marriages between Jews and non-Jews were on the increase all over central and western Europe and the United States. Given several generations of peaceful development, the Jewish question was likely to disappear. Zionists on the other hand, while not denying that assimilation was theoretically possible, claimed with Herzl: We shall not be left in peace. They pointed to the sociological theory of antisemitism: experience had shown that wherever Jews lived in substantial concentrations there was antisemitism – largely no doubt as a result of their anomalous social structure. For historical reasons Jews rarely engaged in primary production such as agriculture and industry, but there were many of them in trade, in sundry marginal occupations, and of late in the free professions. As a result they were bound to be the first victims of any crisis, to suffer more than others from competition, likely to be squeezed out of their occupations without finding new ones. Since a normalisation of the Jewish social structure was most unlikely in the given conditions in eastern Europe, Zionism was the only remedy. Nor was there any certainty that the process of emancipation which had begun in central and western Europe after the French revolution would not be halted and reversed. The Jewish millionaires, Nordau said in a speech in Amsterdam, with all their snobbishness and arrogance had an atavistic fear: they might not know much history but they felt in their bones that their position in the world was perhaps not as secure as they would have liked to believe. Perhaps they had heard that there were Jewish millionaires too under Richard Coeur de Lion, under Philip the Handsome in France, under Philip and Isabella in Spain, but that one dreadful day, without any warning, many were killed, others became beggars overnight and their descendants were now starving in the ghettoes of Poland and Rumania.*
The liberals regarded this as a wilful misreading of the lessons of history, an irresponsible attempt to create panic. True, in the past Jewish emancipation had depended on the goodwill of the ruler, and what had been given could be taken away. True again that modern antisemitism could make assimilation more difficult by, for instance, closing certain professions to Jews. It could impede it, but it could not make it impossible. For the emancipation of the Jews was no longer based on subjective factors, but on world historical socio-economic trends and on the irresistible progress of civilisation. Liberals would explain antisemitism with reference to the backwardness of certain sections of the population, whereas Socialists would explain it as an attempt by the ruling classes to find a lightning conductor to protect themselves from the discontent of the masses. The Socialists also referred to an inclination on the part of the middle classes to make Jewish competition responsible for their economic and social problems. But as the labour movement gathered strength and became more class conscious, the workers would understand the real source of their misery: the lightning conductor would no longer function.†
Zionists saw no reason for such optimism. The lessons of the past were not encouraging: the Reformation had broken some chains, but not those of the Jews. The enlightenment had freed the spirit, but hatred of Jews had not abated. The principles of the French revolution had conquered the world, but the liberals had indicated to the Jews more or less politely that their cooperation in the struggle for political freedom was not desired:
Socialism will bring the same disappointments as did the Reformation, the Enlightenment, the movement for political freedom. If we should live to see Socialist theory become practice, you’ll be surprised to meet again in the new order that old acquaintance, antisemitism. And it won’t help at all that Marx and Lassalle were Jews. … The founder of Christianity was a Jew too, but to the best of my knowledge Christianity does not think it owes a debt of gratitude to the Jews. I do not doubt that the ideologists of Socialism will always remain faithful to their doctrine, that they will never become racialists. But the men of action will have to take realities into account. In the foreseeable future the feelings of the masses will dictate to them an antisemitic policy.*
Such fears seem to have been fairly widespread at the time. Ehrenberg, the old businessman in Schnitzler’s Weg ins Freie, tells his young acquaintance, a Jewish Socialist, that he will fare no better than the Jewish liberals and pan-Germans before him:
Who created the liberal movement in Austria? The Jews. … Who betrayed and deserted the Jews? The liberals. Who created the German national movement in Austria? The Jews. And who deserted them, who spat on them like dogs? … Exactly the same is bound to happen with Socialism and Communism. Once soup has been served, you’ll be chased from the dinner table. It was always like this, and it always will be.†
Such dire predictions did not, however, in the least deter successive generations of young Jews in central and western Europe, who in their thousands continued to join the radical parties of the Left. For them the messianic appeal of Socialism was irresistible, incomparably more attractive than any political activity within the narrow confines of the Jewish community. They did not deny the existence of a Jewish problem, but they were firmly convinced that the solution would be found only when the ideals of humanism and internationalism prevailed, on the morning after the revolution. Nationalism, these Socialists maintained, was a thing of the past, and since they felt no special ties with the Jewish community, any appeal to their national consciousness and pride was bound to fall on deaf ears. At this point communication in the debate usually broke down and the most Zionists could hope for was that the anti-Zionist Jewish Socialists would learn by bitter experience that they were not wanted in the struggle for the social liberation of other peoples, and that by pushing themselves into positions of command and authority they would do more harm than good.
Nordau always returned to this theme of the rootless western Jew and his problems in a gentile society. In his address at the first Zionist congress he drew a sombre picture of Jewish spiritual misery in western Europe, more painful than physical suffering because it affected men of high station, men who were proud and sensitive. The western Jew was still allowed to vote, but he was excluded with varying degrees of politeness from the clubs and gatherings of his Christian fellow countrymen. He was allowed to go wherever he pleased, but everywhere he encountered the sign: No Jews admitted. He had abandoned his specifically Jewish character, yet the nations did not accept him as part of their national communities. He fled from his Jewish fellows, because antisemitism had taught him to be contemptuous of them, but his gentile compatriots repulsed him. He had lost his home in the ghetto yet the land of his birth was denied to him as his home. He had no ground under his feet, no community to which he belonged. He was insecure in his relations with his fellow man, timid with strangers, and suspicious even of the secret feelings of his friends. His best powers were dissipated in suppressing and destroying or at least concealing his true character and identity. He had become a cripple within and a counterfeit person without, ridiculous and hateful, like everything unreal, to all men of high standards. He was a new Marrano who no longer had a faith to sustain him. He had left Judaism in rage and bitterness, but in his innermost heart, even if he himself did not acknowledge it, he carried with him into Christianity his personal humiliation, his dishonesty, and whatever compelled him to live a lie.*
The theme of the uprooted cosmopolitan, the wanderer between two worlds with no home in either, appeared in many Zionist writings and speeches. It was a universal problem but no one was likely to feel it more acutely than the Jewish intellectuals. They were at one and the same time part of the intellectual establishment and yet in some vital respects total outsiders. In Germany they had made an enormous contribution to cultural life, felt confident of their place in society, and then suddenly were given to understand that, after all, they did not belong. Jakob Klatzkin sketched a sharp portrait of the ‘typical’ Jewish intellectual who seemed almost totally assimilated and yet found it so difficult to be accepted by the host people, precisely because he hailed from a spiritual aristocracy with its own specific and unassimilable features. He was highly developed intellectually, rich in creative and destructive faculties, dynamic, too active in his desire to be assimilated, and hence ultimately a nuisance. His strengths were ridicule and irony, barren intellectualism. He acted as mediator between various national cultures, but all too often he barely touched the surface of things, and had no real feeling for the deeper roots of the national genius. He tried to mix things that were incompatible, being at home everywhere and nowhere. He was attempting to reinterpret the German spirit, discovering in it ideas of tolerance, justice, and even messianism, until it became half German, half Jewish. These intellectuals had a strong inclination towards radicalism, negation and destruction. Intellectual proletarians, they found no rest, since they had lost their own moorings in history. Lacking roots themselves, they were compelled to try to change the world, to preach the overthrow of the existing order.*
It was not a flattering picture, and it exaggerated certain features common to a relatively small group of Literaten. The great majority of the German Jewish intelligentsia was liberal – but not too liberal – in its politics; it was deeply rooted in German culture, and fairly content with its lot; it wanted change but certainly not anarchy and revolution. The soul-searching of the Jewish literary intelligentsia attracted so much attention because it affected the most vocal section of the community, the one most exposed to the limelight. Which is not to say that their problems were not real or significant.
The issues involved emerged most clearly when Moritz Goldstein published an article in March 1913 entitled ‘German-Jewish Parnassus’,† creating something of a minor scandal. It provoked some ninety letters to the editor and was discussed for years in the German press. Briefly, Goldstein argued that the Jews were dominating the culture of a people which denied them both the right and the capacity to do so. The newspapers in the capital were about to become a Jewish monopoly. Almost all directors of the Berlin theatres were Jews, as were many of the actors. German musical life without the Jews was almost unthinkable, and the study of German literature was also to a large extent in Jewish hands. Everyone knew it, only the Jews pretended it was not worthy of notice. For what mattered, they claimed, were their achievements, their cultural and humanistic activities. This, said Goldstein, was a dangerous fallacy, for ‘the others do not feel that we are Germans’. They could show these others that they were not inferior, but was it not naïve to assume that this would in any way diminish their dislike and antipathy? There was a basic anomaly in the Jewish situation. The liberal Jewish intellectuals were good Europeans, but they were also split personalities, divorced from the people amidst whom they were living. They could make a great contribution to science, for science knew no national borders. But in literature and the arts (and he might have added in political life) any major initiative had to be rooted in a popular and national framework. From Homer to Tolstoy all the really great works had their origins in the native soil, the homeland, the people. And this ‘rootedness’ the Jews lacked, despite all their intellectual and emotional efforts.
Among those who answered Goldstein was the poet Ernst Lissauer, who during the First World War achieved notoriety in connection with his ‘Hate England’ song. He bitterly opposed any attempt to restore a ghetto on German soil or a ‘Palestinian enclave’. On the contrary, he felt that the process of assimilation must be carried to its successful conclusion. If so many Jewish intellectuals were radicals, and still had no feeling for the German national spirit, this was no doubt because they were still discriminated against in so many ways. But once these barriers had fallen, they too would be fully integrated into the mainstream of German life.
Lissauer’s optimism seems almost incredibly naïve in retrospect, but it is not at all impossible that but for the First World War and its repercussions his predictions might have come true. Antisemitism did not at the time succeed in halting the progress of the Jews in central Europe. Paradoxical as it may sound after the Hitler period (Nahum Goldmann wrote), the history of the Jews in Germany from 1870 to 1930 represents the most spectacular advance any branch of Jewry has ever achieved.* The great majority of central European Jews did not write books or plays, did not own newspapers or manage theatres. There were strains and stresses and conflicts threatening their status in society. But these were regarded as the inevitable concomitants of the process of assimilation. The fact that assimilation was more difficult than anticipated did not mean that it was bound to fail. Zionism in western Europe was the reaction to these difficulties. All Jews were compelled to confront this challenge but only a few were impelled to embrace the new creed. The only ones who did not react at all were those who had already broken with Judaism. They had either left the Jewish community or were about to do so, and did not therefore bother to reflect about their special position as Jews. No ties bound them to the Jewish religion or any other form of national solidarity. They no longer felt Jewish and consequently the whole dispute between Zionism and its adversaries did not concern them. They would comment on Zionism as they did on other political or cultural curiosities: ‘This time the Jews will not arrive dry shod in the promised land; another Red Sea, social democracy, will bar their way’.* But more often they would simply ignore Zionism. The real debate was between the Zionists and the great majority which had not opted out of Judaism but interpreted it in a different way.
Central Europe, Germany and Austria in particular, had been the birthplace of modern Zionism. It was also the birthplace of liberal anti-Zionism. But the reaction in England, the United States and other western countries was not, as will be shown presently, essentially different. Herzl had invested much effort in winning over Moritz Guedemann, the Viennese chief rabbi, but without any lasting success. Herzl’s Judenstaat was followed by Guedemann’s Nationaljudentum, an outspoken anti-Zionist tract. Guedemann explained Zionism as a reaction to the rise of antisemitism, which had provoked indignation and defiance among many Jews. They had picked up the gauntlet: ‘If they regard us as aliens, we ought to accept the challenge.’ But this psychologically understandable reaction did not make Jewish nationalism any more acceptable in Guedemann’s eyes; it was contrary to the essence of the Jewish religion. Quoting Grillparzer, the Austrian national writer (‘from humanity through nationality to bestiality’), the rabbi concluded that Jews had to fight for their rights rather than give up the struggle.†
Similar views were aired by the executive of German rabbis soon after Herzl had issued his summons to the first Zionist congress. The declaration of the ‘protest rabbis’ (as the Zionists contemptuously called them) stated that the aspirations of the ‘so-called Zionists, to establish a Jewish national state’, contradicted the messianic promise of the Bible and the other sources of the Jewish religion. Judaism made it obligatory for those professing it to serve the country to which they belonged and wholeheartedly to promote its national interests. The ‘protest rabbis’ emphasised that their opposition was directed against political Zionism. They were not against Jewish agricultural settlement as such in Palestine, because these ‘noble aspirations are not aimed at the foundation of a national state’.‡
Vogelstein, one of the most outspoken opponents of Zionism, rejected the new movement very much in the same spirit as Gabriel Riesser, the great advocate of Jewish emancipation in Germany: Germany is our fatherland; we have and need no other. The German Jews for whom Vogelstein spoke were tied to Germany by many links. Ever since the emancipation they had been German patriots, and over the generations had developed a distinctly German national consciousness. A national revival in the Zionist sense was not compatible with the aims of Judaism as they envisaged it. According to the liberal version a nation-state might have been needed in ancient times to achieve and preserve pure monotheism. But once this had been attained, once these beliefs had been absorbed by the Israelites, a territorial centre was no longer needed. On the contrary, divine providence had sent the Jews into the dispersion to serve as witnesses everywhere to the omnipotence of the idea of God. Liberal Judaism agreed with the religious orthodoxy that it was Israel’s mission to promote the realisation of the prophetic ideal in the diaspora.*
There were no substantial differences in approach between the advocates of liberal Judaism in the various countries of the west. According to Joseph Reinach, the leading French-Jewish politician, Zionism was a trap set by the antisemites for the naïve or thoughtless. If Dr Vogelstein stressed the attachment of the German Jews to Germany, his liberal contemporaries in London emphasised that since Judaism was a religion, British Jews could completely identify with the British. Isaac Wise, a leading American rabbi, speaking at the close of the first Zionist congress, said ‘we denounce the whole question of a Jewish state as foreign to the spirit of the modern Jew of this land, who looks upon America as his Palestine and whose interests are centred here’.† ‘Liberal Jews do not wish or pray for the restoration of Jews to Palestine’, wrote Claude Montefiore, the spokesman of liberal Judaism in Britain. The establishment of a Jewish state would refurbish the anachronism of a Jewish God. Judaism was not a national religion; one part of it was universalist, for all mankind, the other specific. But there was nothing in the national part to prevent the Jews being perfect Englishmen. Abstention from the flesh of hares and rabbits did not, after all make them less English.‡ According to a like-minded contemporary, Laurie Magnus, the Zionists were partly responsible for the antisemitism which they proposed to destroy. He advocated their exclusion from parliament and public office since they wanted to change the status of Jews to that of foreign visitors. Magnus did not deny Jewish nationality altogether, but this, as an unkind critic paraphrased his views, was something so sublime that it could be realised only by being abandoned.*
If the American and British liberals were above all concerned with the political implications of Zionism, the Germans took it more seriously, trying to analyse and refute its philosophical roots. Felix Goldmann, an anti-Zionist rabbi, regarded Jewish nationalism as a child of the general chauvinist movement which had poisoned recent history but which would be swept away in the new era of universalism. Zionism wanted to sacrifice religion in order to establish some petty state.† The Zionists, few in number but aggressive and sure of their cause, answered every liberal argument and moved to the offensive whenever possible. Between 1900 and the end of the First World War the debate never ceased, about Zionism and religion, about liberalism as a halfway house between Judaism and total apostasy, about dual loyalties.‡
Since there was a limited number of arguments and counterarguments, this literature is highly repetitive. Even the debate between Hermann Cohen, the neo-Kantian philosopher, and Martin Buber, less than half his age, was more significant as a reading of two personal documents than for any new philosophical insight. According to Cohen, Zionism rejected the messianic idea, but without this there was no Jewish religion. He and others of his generation had found in German thought the spirit of humanism and the real Weltbuergertum which was in full harmony with Jewish messianic religiosity: ‘I do not read Faust just as a beautiful poem; I love it as a revelation of the German spirit. I feel in a similar way even about Luther, about Mozart and Beethoven, Stein and Bismarck.’§ Cohen argued that the Zionists were muddled about the national issue. The Jews were members of the German nation even if they belonged to a different nationality. When he wrote that a nation was created by a state he was thinking no doubt of the Jews and the absence of a Jewish state. But this was a dubious assertion, which prompted the Zionists to ask the obvious question: Had the German nation been nonexistent before 1870?
While the liberal rabbis were on the whole moderate in their attacks on Zionism, admitting for instance that it had done a great deal to reawaken active interest in Judaism and the Hebrew language, some laymen went much further in their opposition. Professor Ludwig Geiger, the son of one of the founders of liberal Judaism, and one of its representatives on the executive of the Berlin Jewish community, suggested, as Magnus did in Britain, that Zionists should be deprived of their civic rights, and denounced the ‘blasphemous prayers’ in the Jewish ritual which reminded the faithful of Zion. ‘Zionism is as dangerous to the German spirit as are social democracy and ultramontanism,’ he wrote on another occasion.* The future of the German nation must remain the only one on which German Jews based their hopes. Any desire to form, together with their co-religionists, a people outside Germany was sheer ingratitude to the nation in whose midst they were living. For German Jews were Germans in their national peculiarities, and Zion for them was the land of the past, not of the future.
Zionists in Germany and the United States complained that their supporters were being systematically discriminated against, that Jewish communities were refusing to employ Zionists as rabbis, teachers, or even librarians. The anti-Zionists argued on the other hand that who ever criticised Zionism was immediately attacked in the most abusive terms and his personal motives invariably made to appear suspect. The Central Association of German citizens of the Jewish faith (Zentralverein), the main body of non-orthodox German Jewry, was in two minds about how to deal with the Zionists. On various occasions resolutions were adopted according to which a Zionist could be a member only if his Zionism implied helping to find a new home for the oppressed Jews of eastern Europe or enhancing the pride of his co-religionists in their history and religion. But there was no place for those who denied a German consciousness, who felt themselves merely guests in their native country. These declarations caused great indignation among Zionists. But for the extreme adversaries, who believed that Zionism was the greatest misfortune of German Jewry, since it played into the hands of antisemites, they were by no means far-reaching enough. They repeatedly accused the leadership of the Association of being ‘soft on Zionism’ for opportunist reasons.* After the First World War, opposition to Zionism on the whole decreased, with the exception of the shrill denunciations of a small group of ultra-nationalist German Jews. But even if the polemics diminished, the attitude of the Zentralverein towards the Palestinian venture remained sceptical and it continued to combat Zionism in so far as it regarded the German Jew as living in an alien land.†
In the debate with assimilationists, Zionist spokesmen did not find it difficult to score points against those advocates of liberal Judaism who based their argument on the messianic mission of the Jews, maintaining that a state had been a historical necessity two thousand years earlier but was no longer needed because Judaism was so deeply anchored in the hearts of its adherents. Such a claim was not borne out by the facts, for obviously there had been more apostasy from Judaism in recent decades than in past ages. Putting it more bluntly, the Zionists maintained that the talk about the Jewish spiritual world mission was just a pretext: in the modern world they had no such mission. If German, French and British Jews nevertheless chose to stay in their respective countries, it was because they longed for the fleshpots rather than the messiah. The Zionists were in a position of strength because it was already obvious before the First World War that the tide was running against liberalism. Mankind was not becoming more civilised, cosmopolitanism was not making striking advances, all over Europe nationalism and anti-liberal ideas were winning new adherents. But the anti-liberal tide was at the same time a mixed blessing. It strengthened the Zionist thesis about the precarious situation of European Jewry, but it also put Zionism into undesirable ideological proximity with right-wing and reactionary movements and ideas.
Nationalism and religion, and the relationship between these two concepts remained ticklish ideological issues for the Zionists. Many of them were not at all religious, and some did not in principle exclude the possibility of having members who did not belong to the Jewish religion. Zionist organisations coped with this problem in different ways: The Dutch Zionists decided at one stage not to accept members with non-Jewish spouses. Nordau, for instance, would not have qualified. On the other hand, Lewis (later Sir Lewis) Namier, the eminent British historian, who acted for several years as political secretary of the Jewish Agency in London, had been baptised. Some early German Zionists took race theory too seriously, others drew their inspiration from the writings of the ideologists of German nationalism such as Fichte and even Lagarde. This made it easy for their opponents in western Europe before and during the First World War to attack Zionism as a movement dominated by Germany and serving German interests. ‘The Judenstaat is a time bomb invented by the German national genius to destroy the world of Abraham; the state of Israel is Germany’, wrote a French-Jewish author in 1969.* This was, to put it mildly, a distortion, for the ideas of Herder and Fichte served as the ideological basis of nationalism not just in Germany but in many other countries as well. However, in the light of the subsequent development of German nationalism, essays that were innocent enough when written appeared several decades later in a sinister light, with Martin Buber as an early protagonist of Blut und Boden and other Zionist ideologists as advocates of the voelkische idea. Torn out of their historical context they now make embarrassing reading and the critics of Zionism have not failed to make the most of them.
But the real weakness of the Zionist position was a practical one.† Having destroyed as it were the liberal position, having shown the inconsistency and falseness of assimilationism, what alternative could it offer in exchange? Emigration to Palestine before 1914 was rare. A few daring spirits visited Palestine as tourists but not more than a handful of German Zionists, and even fewer from Austria, decided to settle there. Even after 1918 the number of Jewish immigrants from central Europe was counted in hundreds, not thousands, and virtually no one came from western Europe or the United States. This was so despite all the solemn undertakings and promises, such as the resolution passed at the German Zionist Conference in Posen, that it was the duty of every Zionist to prepare himself for a life in Palestine. What, then, did it actually mean to be a Zionist in these circumstances? In most cases it implied no more than giving money to the national funds, reading Zionist literature, talking about Palestine, engaging in various political activities, and perhaps learning Hebrew. But 99 per cent of west and east European Zionists, both the rank and file and the leaders, while stressing that they were a people on the move, continued to live more or less happily in the countries of the diaspora, to practise medicine and the law, to engage in trade and industry, to publish books and articles. The anti-Zionists, charged by their opponents with ‘living a lie’, could easily counter by pointing to the far more flagrant discrepancy between Zionist theory and practice.
A convincing case could be made from the Zionist point of view for insisting on full civic rights in their country of origin, despite the fact that their allegiance was to another nation. It was far more difficult to justify the active participation of Zionists in German, British or French politics. They were to be found in senior positions in the civil service in these countries as well as in the British and French parliaments and even as leaders of political parties. This was a contradiction that could not easily be resolved: either the Zionism of a public figure of this kind was not very deep or he was facing a permanent conflict of loyalties.
Nor was it easy to dismiss the assimilationist critics of the Zionist position in the cultural field. They maintained that Zionism was by no means a revival of Jewish tradition but had been inspired by the general nationalist trend in Europe. Those who stood for a national-cultural revival could not point without great difficulty to specific Jewish values outside religion. Having lived for so many centuries in the diaspora, what did the Jews still have of their own cultural substance? The religious holidays had been taken from other peoples, the languages of the Jewish masses both in Europe (Yiddish) and the Mediterranean area (Ladino) had been borrowed from German and Spanish respectively. There was no Jewish school of painting or music, of philosophy or history. There were many Jewish writers but no Jewish literature. Everywhere the Jews had entered into a cultural symbiosis with the host nations. Zionists might claim that the resulting ‘cultural chaos’ was sterile and undignified, but in the last resort they could not point to any clear alternative. Their songs and drawings, created with great gusto during the early years of the national revival, hardly amounted to the beginnings of a new culture. Most Zionists admitted that a cultural revival could take place only in Palestine, but this was tantamount to admitting that there was no specific Jewish life in the diaspora. If this was so, then diaspora Zionism was no more than a mood, a vague longing, a feeling of nostalgia. Orthodox Jews still had their traditional beliefs, but those advocating a secular nationalism had little to offer their followers. This was a source of concern to many western Zionists; in eastern Europe, where a Jewish folk culture still existed, the situation was quite different.
Elsewhere in western Europe opposition to Zionism was no less strong or vociferous than in Germany and Austria. The Lovers of Zion had a few sympathisers in England even before Herzl, and Weizmann in later years found friends who were a source of strength at the time of decision. But the representative bodies of Anglo-Jewry, above all the Board of Deputies and the Anglo-Jewish Association, regarded Zionism not merely as irrelevant but positively harmful, believing that it jeopardised the legal rights won by the Jews over many decades, and that Jewish patriotism was incompatible with their loyalties as British subjects. The main figure in the anti-Zionist campaign was Lucien Wolf, president of the Anglo-Jewish Association. Herzl’s ideas, he wrote, were worse than satire, they were treason: ‘Dr Herzl and those who think with him are traitors to the history of the Jews, which they misread and misinterpret.’ The Zionists were provoking antisemitism, their scheme was foredoomed to failure, they had commercialised a spiritual idea, traded on the resources of prophecy. With ingenious effrontery, Herzl had represented his scheme of evading the mission of the exiles and their duty to the lands of the dispersion as a fulfilment of the ancient prophecy. Quoting another contemporary critic of Herzl, Wolf said that the Zionist programme was the most contemptible, if not the most grotesque, species of idealism ever laid before the remnant of the descendants of a great nation.* There was a Jewish problem, but Jews in each country had to fight for emancipation and religious liberty.
Even where persecuted, as in Rumania at the time he was writing, they were in duty bound to remain in order to help that country to become a civilised state. ‘This is the mission of Israel in exile, the mission that British Israel has fulfilled.’† In the comparatively few years since their emancipation the Jews of Britain had identified themselves with the nation to which they belonged. There was no specific Jewish interest differentiating them from the rest of the king’s subjects. Zionism could not be realised, for this ‘travesty of Judaism’ depended on the goodwill of a Mohammedan prince. The western governments, Wolf predicted, would not show the least disposition to invite an outburst of antisemitism by acknowledging their Jews as strangers, nor did they want to complicate the eastern question by planting another weak state in the uneasy and troublesome Near East. These views were shared by most leaders of Anglo-Jewry up to the First World War, and though after the Balfour Declaration they no longer argued that Zionism was utopian, they continued to regard Palestine as at best a refuge for their unfortunate co-religionists from eastern Europe. After the war the thesis of the civilising mission of east European Jewry became untenable. But as assimilation in Britain did not suffer any major setback, and antisemitism was relatively mild, the lack of enthusiasm for Zionism was not surprising.
In Vienna, Prague and Berlin Zionism had a few intellectual supporters, whereas in France and Britain, before Hitler, there were almost none. Whatever backing there was came from other sections of the Jewish community, usually recent arrivals from eastern Europe. In France one of the few exceptions was Bernard Lazare, another was Edmond Fleg, but neither of these for a moment, considered settling in Palestine. After attending a Zionist congress, Fleg wrote that he felt himself very Jewish among all those strange faces, but also very French: the Jewish homeland was only for those who had no other.* Leon Blum, another distant sympathiser, expressed the same view in a message to a Zionist meeting: The Jewish homeland was a wonderful thing for all those who, unlike himself, did not have the good fortune to be free and equal citizens in their countries of birth.† Other French intellectuals were far less sympathetic and condemned Zionist ‘racism’. Herzl had become a Zionist as a result of the Dreyfus affair but most French Jews reacted differently. The small groups of east European Jews in Paris who advocated Zionism were regarded with a certain méfiance; Zionist dreams were likened to the excitations of Communism and nihilism.‡ Julien Benda derided the ‘adorateurs de leur sang’ who wanted to establish a semitic nationalism.§
Opposition to Zionism in Russia before 1917 was by no means limited to Jewish and non-Jewish Socialists. While assimilationist hopes received a blow from which they did not recover as a result of the pogroms, opposition to the Jewish national movement remained wide-spread and vocal in liberal circles, mainly for ideological reasons. But there were also practical objections: Yushakov (to give but one example) argued in 1897 that Palestine was unsafe — the Turks would kill the Jews.‖ One of the most interesting spokesmen of spiritual anti-Zionism was Mikhail Gershenson, a Russian emigré to western Europe who developed a highly personal, mystical philosophy of history concerning the destiny of the Jewish people. He was not an enemy of Zionism; on the contrary Zionism touched him; it had, he wrote, a great psychological beauty. But it was based on the nation-state as the only normal form of human existence, a false nineteenth-century European concept. Repudiating the idea of election, Zionism rejected the whole of Jewish history, selling it for a nationalist mess of pottage. Having suffered so much from nationalism, in whose name the greatest crimes had been committed, it was perhaps inevitable that this bloodthirsty Moloch was now asking its due from Israel. Gershenson firmly believed that the Jews were bound to be eternal pilgrims, that their terrible apprenticeship was to continue, ‘for the kingdom of Israel is not of this world’.* It was a glorious and terrible destiny, not an accident of history but deeply rooted in the national soul. He did not profess to know the purpose and meaning of the trials to which the Jewish people had to submit; these were well beyond human understanding. Gershenson’s theory of suffering was nearer to Slavophilism then to Judaism, but in some respects it also resembled the views of the ultra-orthodox Jews who claimed that Israel was being punished by God for its sins. To the Zionists, needless to say, all this was anathema: if a few assimilated intellectuals wanted to suffer, the overwhelming majority of the Jews wanted to escape oppression and lead a normal life. Again and again the Zionists refused to accept theories about a Jewish spiritual mission in the diaspora at their face value. If intellectuals opposed Zionism this was no doubt because Palestine could not offer them the opportunities which they had in central and western Europe.
When Zionism first appeared on the American scene, the Jewish establishment reacted like their liberal co-religionists in western Europe. It was the ‘momentary inebriation of morbid minds’ (Isaac Wise), a movement arresting the march of progress and tolerance. For rabbis and laymen alike Zionism was a disturber of their peace of mind, an offence to their Americanism, an obstacle to Jewish adjustment in a democratic environment. It revived memories they wished to forget.† A decade before Herzl published his Judenstaat the convention of reform rabbis had declared from their Pittsburgh platform: ‘We consider ourselves no longer a nation but a religious community. And therefore expect neither a return to Palestine … nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state.’ After the first Zionist congress another resolution expressed disapproval of any attempt to establish a Jewish state, which implied a total misunderstanding of Israel’s mission. ‘Ziomania’, as the movement was called by its critics, was thought to be not merely reactionary in character but a menace to Jewish security. As in Germany, feelings ran high and the few early Zionists had a difficult time in the communal organisations. The purge of Zionist sympathisers from the Hebrew Union College was merely one instance of discrimination against them.
Opposition was by no means limited to the middle class and upper class Jewish establishment and its rabbis. Among the masses of recent arrivals from eastern Europe, too, Zionism had little support. In so far as they were interested in politics, they tended to gravitate towards various shades of Socialism. After the Balfour Declaration and the Russian revolution, opposition to Zionism decreased in America as in Europe. When in 1918 David Philipson tried to organise a conference to combat Zionism, some of the leading figures in Jewish life such as Oscar Strauss and Jacob Schiff refused to cooperate. Louis Marshall wrote in his answer that Zionism appealed to the imagination and to poetry and was an affirmative policy.* The American Jewish Committee in a resolution gave cautious approval to the Balfour Declaration while making it clear that only a part of the Jewish people would settle in Palestine. As for American Jewry, it was axiomatic that they owed unqualified allegiance to their country of which they were an integral part. The Reform rabbis passed another resolution to the effect that Israel was not a nation, Palestine not the homeland of the Jewish people — the whole world was its home.†
Nevertheless, throughout the 1920s and 1930s Zionism gained many new sympathisers. Reform Judaism (in the words of one of its critics) tacitly endorsed synthetic Zionism in 1937 in a resolution intended to supplant the Pittsburgh platform.‡ This caused much dismay among diehard anti-Zionists who, at a meeting in Atlantic City in 1942, decided to work out a programme to reactivate their case. While conceding the contribution of ‘Palestinian rehabilitation towards relieving the pressing problem of our distressed people’, it asserted that the political emphasis in the Zionist programme was contrary to ‘our universalistic interpretation of Jewish history and destiny’.§
The case against Zionism was very briefly that (a) as a secularist movement it was incompatible with the religious character of Judaism; (b) as a political movement it was inconsistent with the spiritual emphasis on Judaism; (c) as a nationalist movement it was out of keeping with the universalist character of Judaism; and (d) it was a threat to the welfare of Jews as it confused gentiles in their thinking about Jews and thus imperilled their status. In all essentials these arguments were identical with those formulated by the German liberals forty years earlier, although there were different nuances in approach: for example the radical anti-Zionists always referred to the ‘myth of the Jewish people’, whereas the more moderate elements (such as Rabbi Lazaron) referred on occasion to the Jewish people and its ‘religio-cultural heritage’, implying that Judaism was more than a religion. In 1943 the American Council for Judaism was established and announced in its statement of principles that ‘we oppose the effort to establish a national Jewish state in Palestine or anywhere else as a philosophy of defeatism. … We dissent from all these related doctrines that stress the racialism, the national and the theoretical homelessness of the Jews. We oppose such doctrines as inimical to the welfare of Jews in Palestine, in America, or wherever Jews may dwell.’* The council had only a few thousand members, but some of them were influential in public life. It continued its activities after the establishment of the state of Israel, and some of its more extreme spokesmen, such as Alfred Lilienthal and Elmer Berger, supported the Arab case against Zionism. There was also opposition of a more moderate kind, expressed in articles published in The Menorah Journal, the most prestigious periodical of the period. The American Jewish Labor Committee, under Bundist inspiration, continued to reject political Zionism. Hannah Arendt, writing shortly before the establishment of the state of Israel, declared that Herzl’s concept of the place of the Jews in the world had become even more dangerous than before: ‘The parallels with the Shabtai Zvi episode have become terribly close.’† There were similar objections in the writings of Solow, Hans Kohn, William Zukerman, Koppel Pinson and others, but the majority of American Jews (90 per cent, according to a Roper poll in 1945), favoured the establishment of a Jewish state without necessarily joining the Zionist movement.
The debate did not end with the establishment of the state. The critics accepted Israel as a fait accompli but not without considerable misgivings and reservations. The work of the Zionist politicians had been crowned with success, Ignaz Maybaum wrote, but history was not eternity, and the state of Israel was by no means the safest part of the Jewish diaspora. In the post-Zionist era it was merely part of the diaspora; it was not to be burdened with the Utopian task of ending Jewish life in the diaspora.* A systematic critique of Zionist ambitions was provided by Rabbi Jacob Petuchovski. It was sheer deception, he wrote, to argue that Israel was or would be the spiritual centre of world Jewry. At best it would be one spiritual centre among several;† the establishment of the state was not the fulfilment of the millennial aspirations of Judaism. Jewish culture was wider than Israel, and it was not true that only there was a full Jewish life possible. The Jewish tradition, Judaism itself, was shot through with assimilation — the Jewish holidays such as Passover, Shavuot and Succot had been taken over from the Canaanites, the legal concepts embodied in the Mishnah, the Midrash and the Talmud had been borrowed from a non-Jewish environment, and so it had been throughout the ages. There was no reason to assume that Israeli culture would be specifically Jewish in any meaningful sense or superior to Jewish culture elsewhere.
The controversy between Zionists and their liberal critics has continued for a long time and the end is not in sight. The essential arguments on both sides have changed little over the years. The optimistic assumptions of the liberals were not borne out by the turn European history took after the First World War. The reality of the holocaust surpassed by far the direct predictions of the Zionists. But as one anti-Zionist commented after the Second World War, that tragedy was not the result of the lack of a Jewish state. The annihilation could also have happened in Israel had Hitler not been stopped at El Alamein. Twice in their history Jews had suffered a national disaster when they had their own state.‡
The liberals’ critique of Zionism was not all wrong. They were on weak ground in stressing Israel’s universal, spiritual mission in the diaspora, but they were right in pointing out that assimilation had made great strides in central and western Europe, and that despite discrimination the majority of Jews in these countries felt rooted in their respective homelands. They had more in common with their non-Jewish compatriots than with east European Jews, let alone those in Morocco or Yemen. They were right in insisting that Zionism, in the given political conditions, had no answer for the masses of east European Jewry. As for the spiritual problems, the quest for identity faced by the Jews of western and central Europe, described in such lurid colours by Nordau, was regarded by the liberals, not altogether wrongly, as unduly pessimistic and overdramatised. True, there were dangerous anomalies, such as the predominant position of Jewish intellectuals in Germany and Austria, but in France and England the situation was different. In certain professions they were fully exposed to the limelight, and were bound to attract particular attention and provoke enmity, but even among the intellectuals the majority were gradually moving into fields such as science or medicine which were much less vulnerable ‘ideologically’ and where ethnic origin did not greatly matter.
Assimilation was a natural process. There was nothing shameful about it, despite the questionable behaviour of individual Jews over-eager to forget their past and to dissociate themselves from their people. It was not the first time in their history that whole communities had become assimilated and disappeared; the fact that assimilation was not likely to function in some countries did not imply that it would not be a success in others. If the majority of Jews of central and western Europe did not feel an inner need for a national existence and a national culture, there was nothing Zionism could do about it. It was not a question of ‘good’ Jews and ‘bad’ Jews, of patriots and renegades. Since a territorial centre had not existed for many centuries, and since the need for one was no longer a generally accepted article of faith, it was up to the individual to make his choice. As the links uniting the Jews had grown so much weaker since the days of the emancipation, it was not a matter for surprise that the great majority in central and western Europe chose to remain in the existing fatherland rather than face the uncertainties of a national home.
This, briefly, is the case that can be made in retrospect for liberalism and assimilation. Despite Nazism and the murder of millions of Jews, it is not easy to refute. It was only a catastrophe of unprecedented extent which enabled Zionism to achieve its aim of a Jewish state. It could not have saved east European Jewry. It had a blueprint for a solution but the conditions for the transfer of millions of Jews simply did not exist. The debate between Zionism and assimilationism is, in a sense, over; few now advocate assimilation as the liberals and the protest rabbis did at the turn of the century. But as the majority of Jews have not chosen to become citizens of the Jewish state the dilemma persists and Zionism has not won the battle. Since a national or even a cultural revival in the diaspora is unlikely, assimilation is bound to take its course in the years to come with or without the benefit of ideological justification.
Zionism and Jewish Orthodoxy
While Zionism was ridiculed from the start by the liberals, it was taken far more seriously by the orthodox, who with some notable exceptions regarded it as their mortal enemy. If the liberals found, however reluctantly, some redeeming features in Zionism, the leading east European rabbis regarded it as an unmitigated disaster, a poisonous weed, more dangerous even than Reform Judaism, hitherto regarded as the main menace.* A few orthodox rabbis such as Raines gave it their blessing and established a religious faction within the Zionist movement. But orthodoxy in Germany, Hungary and the countries of eastern Europe rallied in order to be able to fight the national movement more effectively. To promote this aim Agudat Israel was founded in 1912, uniting leading rabbis and orthodox laymen from various countries. The doctrinal position of the orthodox was complicated, for the Torah stated unequivocally that it was the duty of every faithful believer to settle in the Holy Land (Mitzvat Yishuv Eretz Israel). Some of the ultra-orthodox argued that this was merely one out of 248 religious duties which could conceivably clash with others no less important. But this was hardly a tenable position, as other orthodox leaders pointed out. ‘Thou shall not kill’, was also only one out of many obligations, but it was unqualified. How then was opposition to Zionism to be justified?
Samson Raphael Hirsch, the spiritual leader of German Jewish orthodoxy in the nineteenth century, had stated well before the advent of Zionism that Jews had to hope and pray for their return to Zion, but actively to accelerate the redemption was a sin and strictly prohibited. Accordingly Zionism was interpreted as the most recent and the most dangerous phase in the continuing Satanic conspiracy against the House of Israel, the most recent and the least reputable of a long series of catastrophic pseudo-messianic attempts to forestall the redemption by human action.† The religious sages of eastern Europe joined in a chorus of condemnation. Zadok of Lublin wrote that he hoped unto the Lord that the Day of Redemption would come. But he was not willing to settle in Jerusalem lest such a step would be interpreted as giving accursed Zionism the stamp of approval. Or, as a representative of ultra-orthodox thought in Britain argued more recently, Zionism was a heresy consisting of a complete and essential denial of the whole content of Judaism: ‘We are in Golus [the diaspora] for our sins. We have been elected by Divine Providence and must lovingly accept our sentence.’* (It may be noted in passing that this interpretation of Jewish tradition resembles the views of a liberal critic such as Gershenson who was an apostate from Judaism.)
Yet when all was said and done, there was still the obligation in the Bible to settle in Palestine, and the issue continued to trouble the orthodox camp. According to their spokesmen there was a difference between the obligation to live in Eretz Israel and the duty to settle there. Orthodox Jews were exempt for a variety of reasons, such as physical danger, economic obstacles, the difficulty of giving an orthodox religious education to their children, or the impossibility of studying the Torah in Eretz Israel.† Zionism, moreover, was not regarded as a movement to rebuild Palestine but on the contrary as a heretical attempt to establish a state, a Jewish kingdom, which according to tradition was the privilege of the Messiah. The ideologists of the ultra-orthodox wing, such as Isaac Breuer, regarded the Jews as a religious nation, i.e. a nation different from all others inasmuch as religion was its only content. Zionism wanted to leave religion out of the national revival and as a result the nation would become an empty shell. For without religion the whole of Jewish history over thousands of years lacked any purpose. The Jewish nation had refused to perish because it wanted to save its religion and, conversely, religion had saved the Jewish nation. Having suffered so greatly for two thousand years, would it not be madness now to aim at transforming the Jews into a nation like all others, to politicise them, to establish a state which was neutral towards religion.‡ According to this doctrine, Zionism was depriving the Jewish nation of its real cultural content by borrowing modern nationalism from western Europe. Thus it had embarked on the worst kind of assimilationism. To the argument that if the Jewish nation had produced geniuses like Spinoza and Marx, if it had made an enormous contribution to western civilisation even in the diaspora, it would reveal even greater capacities once the anomaly and one-sidedness of the diaspora was replaced by a Jewish state, Breuer replied that these speculations were no longer based on historical experience, nor would they give legitimacy to Jewish national claims. A people could press its demands only on the basis of what it had achieved, not on what it was likely to achieve in the future.*
This, in brief and in its most sophisticated form, was the line taken by the anti-Zionist orthodox. In its propaganda and education Agudat Israel bitterly denounced Zionism. In east European communal politics it cooperated even with the assimilationists, for Zionism was the more dangerous enemy. On the other hand, for a long time Agudat Israel refused to collaborate with religious Zionist parties (such as the Mizrahi) because they were part of the world Zionist movement which had declared its neutrality in religious affairs. Occasionally concessions were made. At a meeting in Vienna in 1923 it was decided that the settlement of Eretz Israel in the spirit of orthodox religious tradition was one of the aims of Agudat Israel. But it was one aim out of many and not among the most important. After the Balfour Declaration orthodox opposition became in fact more intense as the Zionists used the opportunity not to promote the economic development of the country but to build it up on a secular basis, without taking into account the religious feelings of the orthodox.† The orthodox were thinking particularly of such abominations as giving women the right to vote and rejecting the advice of the orthodox rabbis concerning the observance of religious laws in daily life.
The extreme orthodox element in Palestine, mainly concentrated in Jerusalem, found an ally in the Aguda in its struggle against Zionism. Their leaders regularly protested to the British government and the League of Nations against Zionist oppression and against its endeavour to make the national home a Zionist home. On occasion they also tried to enlist the help of Arab leaders against ‘Zionist domination’. The conflict came to a head with the murder of a member of the executive of the Aguda. De Han, a Dutch Jew by origin, was a gifted poet and a tormented soul. (‘For whom am I waiting in this night, sitting at the wall of the temple — for God or for Muhammed the stable boy?’ he asked in one of his poems.)‡ On other occasions he called himself a ‘hater of God’ or the ‘pig of God’. At one time a Socialist and a freethinker, and married to a Christian wife whom he would not divorce, he felt himself under the strongest compulsion to make amends after his conversion. He violently denounced Zionism in cables to British newspapers, and attacked the Balfour Declaration as well as the high commissioner and other British officials for their allegedly pro-Zionist policy.
Some of his writings were plainly antisemitic: the Jews stood for world revolution and a Jewish world government. Everywhere they constituted an element of destruction and decomposition. They had overthrown tsarism in Russia and were responsible for the defeat of Germany and Austria in the First World War.* If Russia and Poland could not absorb the Jews, Palestine could stand them even less. He dressed like an Arab and used to address Jews in Arabic though he knew that they had not mastered the language. De Han was assassinated in the streets of Jerusalem on 30 June 1924. Many years later it became known that he had been killed by members of Hagana without the knowledge of the high command. For the extreme orthodox Jews of Jerusalem he became a hero who had died like a medieval martyr for the greater glory of God. De Han was by no means a typical Aguda leader, but the whole affair revealed the depths of hatred that had accumulated. Rabbi Sonnenfeld habitually referred to Zionists as ‘evil men and ruffians’; hell had entered Eretz Israel with Herzl. Rosenheim, the political head of central European orthodoxy, who was accustomed to using far more moderate language, nevertheless warned the religious Zionists against the ‘mortal danger’ they risked by collaborating with those who did not accept the divine law.†
The new realities created in Palestine gradually forced the leaders of anti-Zionist orthodoxy to modify their approach. They did not accept Zionism, but they slowly moved towards taking a more active part in settlement in Palestine. The main agents of change were the youth organisations of the Aguda and the workers section founded in Poland in 1922. Some of the latter’s members migrated during the 1920s and 1930s and established settlements in various parts of the country. There was also a change in their attitude to the Hebrew language, which previously had been taboo; only the extremist fringe persisted in using Yiddish exclusively. The murder of orthodox, anti-Zionist Jews in Hebron, Safed and Jerusalem during the riots of 1929 came as a shock to members of the Aguda and made them more inclined to cooperate in some fields with the Zionists, even though they refused as a matter of principle to join the National Council of Palestinian Jewry (Va’ad Leumi) which had been set up in the 1920s. They had pressed demands which were wholly unacceptable to the non-religious majority, namely that the National Council should acknowledge the authority of the Torah, that no open desecrator of the Sabbath should be eligible for membership, that women should not have the vote, and that the council should not subsidise institutions, such as the workers’ kitchens, which served forbidden food.*
Above all, Nazi rule and the holocaust caused confusion and eventually a deep split in the ranks of the Aguda. Isaac Breuer accused his own movement of having neglected Palestine, though in theory ‘constructive work in Palestine’ had been part of its programme for a long time: ‘Do not leave Jewish history to the Zionists’, Breuer said in a speech in 1934; if Aguda really wanted to combat Zionism it had again to become part of Jewish history, to prepare the Jewish homeland and the Jewish people for their reunion under the rule of the Torah. This was the will of divine providence which orthodox Jewry could afford to ignore only at the risk of its own existence.† If the Zionists had sacrificed meta-history for history, i.e. the wish to be like all other nations, orthodoxy had been so involved in its struggle against Zionism that it had fallen down in its duty towards the Holy Land. It had not been aware that the Balfour Declaration and the resettlement of Palestine was a historical-metahistorical miracle, an encounter between these two strands in religion such as had occurred once before with the Revelation at Sinai.‡
In 1937 Breuer asked the Grand Assembly of the Aguda to make up its mind whether the Balfour Declaration constituted a divinely imposed task or a Satanic contrivance, but received no answer. Some of the Palestinian spiritual leaders of orthodoxy sympathised with him, whereas Rosenheim and other leading members expressed doubts. Was the Aguda strong enough to counteract Zionist influence in Palestine since the Zionists had such a headstart? Building up Palestine was meritorious, but only if the law of the Torah was observed; if not, the whole effort was in vain. Which meant that in Rosenheim’s view (in 1934) it was not at all certain whether orthodox Jewry was right to link its fate to that of a secular Eretz Israel. He and his anti-Zionist friends did not essentially modify their views even after the holocaust. They argued that the Zionist slogan of evacuating Europe, of the ingathering of the exiles, was wrong, for who could know in what part of the diaspora the mysterious fate of the house of Jacob was yet to unfold itself before the coming of the Messiah?* The orthodox remnants of European Jewry thus received conflicting advice: emissaries from Palestine tried to persuade them to come to Eretz Israel to strengthen the orthodox forces there, whereas Agudist spokesmen from the west advised them to emigrate to America.
In Palestine in the years between the end of the war and the establishment of the state of Israel there was a small but highly active and vociferous ultra-extreme group which accused the Aguda of succumbing to Zionist influence. These were the ‘Guardians of the City’ (Neturei Karta) in Jerusalem, headed by Amram Blau and Aharon Katzenellenbogen. They had the support of the followers of the rabbis of Brisk (Poland) and Szatmar (Hungary), who had found their way to America and other western countries, and the blessing of several talmudic sages such as Hazon Ish.†According to their teachings, everyone who accepted the state of Israel was an apostate, for it was the purpose of the state to lead the Jews away from religion. In their eyes there was no longer any substantial difference between the Aguda, which was compromising with the Zionists, and the Mizrahi, which had been pro-Zionist from the start. The rabbis who supported the Aguda were charged by the ultra-extremists with responsibility for poisoning the new generation, and for the blasphemies committed daily and openly in the state of Israel.‡ The Guardians refused to take part in the war of independence of 1948, and demanded the internationalisation of Jerusalem under the supervision of the United Nations. They refused to accept Israeli identity cards, for they believed that any concession to secularism and modern life, however small, would sooner or later spell doom for traditional Judaism as they understood it. In their stubborn struggle to preserve their specific character they were willing to recognise every state in the world but the one established by their own coreligionists. Their attacks on the Aguda were justified in so far as this party had indeed, after the end of the Second World War, moved towards a compromise with Zionism. The bastions of religious orthodoxy in eastern Europe having been destroyed, its leaders realised that the future of Judaism in Eretz Israel depended on Agudist support for the Jewish community in that country and the extraction of maximal advantages for the faith in exchange for displays of solidarity.* About one year before the establishment of the state, an understanding was reached between them and the Palestinian Zionist leaders on certain issues of special importance, such as observance of the Sabbath and of the dietary laws, and the laws on education and marriage. Thus the ground was paved for participation by the Aguda in Israeli politics as part of the United Religious Front. Later on, in 1961, the workers section of Agudat Israel, which had split away from the main body, was represented for the first time in the Israeli cabinet.
The conflicts within the orthodox camp after the establishment of the state and its disputes with the non-religious majority are beyond the scope of the present study. It may be unfair to describe the change in the Aguda attitude towards Zionism solely in terms of practical politics. The reorientation had started, after all, well before 1948. Addressing fellow members of the Aguda in 1936 from Jerusalem, where he had settled, Breuer stated that there could be no doubt of the continuity of the link between the Jewish people and Eretz Israel throughout the centuries. The Jewish people had no reason therefore to fear the judgment of the god of history in its dispute with the Arabs.† Ten years later Aguda representatives defended, albeit on religious grounds, the Jewish claim to Eretz Israel in their testimony to the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry. In the coming of the state they saw the finger of God, heaven’s gift to the martyred Jews. The establishment of the state was not the redemption, but it was the beginning of the redemption. Thus after almost a century of opposition the majority of the orthodox rallied to the Jewish state. Israel had come into being, as they saw it, not as a result of the efforts of the Zionists but as a gift from heaven. It was a ‘sacred opportunity and challenge’ and did not necessarily involve them in recognising Zionism.‡ With all their doctrinal extremism, the majority had always shown great realism in their policies. Following the injunctions of S.S. Sirsch and other sages, they had done nothing to help in the founding of the state. But once it had come into being it was a fait accompli which they could not ignore.
Although in a modified form, the critique of Zionism from the liberal-assimilationist and the religious-orthodox points of view persists to this day, whereas the opposition of the Bundists and the Territorialists is now largely a matter for the historical record. The Territorialists split away from the Zionist movement after the plan to settle in Uganda had been rejected. In 1905 the Jewish Territorial Organisation (JTO) was founded in London under the leadership of Israel Zangwill and some Anglo-Jewish friends, and with the support of various left-wing ex-Zionist groups in eastern Europe. They maintained that the vital interests of the Jewish people were not in Palestine: ‘We do not attach any real value to our supposed “historical rights” to that country.’ Nor did they acknowledge any organic connection between Zionism and Palestine.* JTO organised an expedition to Angola and investigated the possibility of settlement in Tripolitania, Texas, Mexico, Australia and Canada. Nothing, however, came of all these schemes, and in 1925 JTO was disbanded. Ten years later the Freeland League, a neoterritorial movement, came into being. It did not insist on political independence but was ready to accept autonomy in cultural and religious affairs. It drew up plans for mass settlement in western Australia, Surinam, and other parts of the globe, but these were no more successful than the JTO schemes. The Freeland League welcomed the establishment of the state of Israel but declared that in view of its limited area the country could not solve the problem of Jewish homelessness. With the liquidation of the displaced persons camps after the Second World War and the absorption of these people in various parts of the world, the league faded away.
Far more substantial was the influence of the Bund, the strongest Jewish party in Poland during the interwar years. As a militant Socialist party, it was equally opposed to cooperating with the Jewish bourgeoisie, the orthodox, and the Communists. Unlike Lenin, its leaders believed that the Jews were a nation, even though they were dispersed over many countries. Their slogan was ‘Nationhood without statehood’, and they emphatically rejected the idea that the Jews had no fatherland, that they were strangers everywhere but in Palestine.† They claimed that the establishment of a Jewish state would perpetuate the conflict between Jews and Arabs and that in any case Palestine was too small to solve the Jewish problem. They criticised labour Zionism for its willingness to collaborate with capitalists and the orthodox, on the ground of their incompatibility with Socialist principles.
The Bund ceased to exist after the extermination of Polish Jewry and the establishment of a Communist régime in that country. Some of its leaders succeeded in making their way to America, where they continued to maintain in their publications that their opposition to Zionism had been fully justified. Israel would never contain more than a minority of the Jewish people. Moreover, its very existence was dependent on the well-being and prosperity of western Jewry. If American Jews were compelled to leave their native country, Israel could not escape ruin and disaster. What Zionism had fought for and what it had achieved were two different things. It had striven for the liberation of all Jews. It had accomplished, at best, the risky liberation of a minority. It had split the Jewish people into two different nationalities.*
The Bund had been a specifically east European phenomenon; its ideology could not be transplanted to the western hemisphere. It made a certain impact on the American Jewish labour movement during the years before and after the First World War, but as this movement became more and more Americanised, and as the social structure of American Jewry changed, this influence, too, faded away. The sons and daughters of the Bundist workers became physicians, lawyers and teachers, fully absorbed into American cultural and political life.
S.S. Subnow, the greatest Jewish historian of his time, took a position somewhere between the Bund and Zionism. No one could have accused him of preaching assimilationism; he denounced it as treason and moral defeat. But in contrast to the early Zionists he saw the Jews as a ‘spiritual-historical nation’. This did not necessarily conflict with their civic duties in their native countries. Unlike the Zionists, he did not regard the Jews as an abnormal nationality. Zionism was in his eyes a renewed form of Messianism, an ecstatic idolatry of the national idea. There was much idealism in it, but from the practical point of view it seemed to him a web of fantasy. The Lovers of Zion had assisted 3,600 Jews to settle in Palestine in seventeen years — 212 per year! Even if the Zionists succeeded in settling half a million within the next century, this would be no more than those living at present in the Kiev district. For this reason he thought it irresponsible of Lilienblum and Ahad Ha’am to talk about the rejection of the diaspora. Unlike the Bundists, he did not rejoice in the prospect of diaspora nationalism: ‘If we had the power to transfer the entire diaspora to a Jewish state we would do so with the greatest joy. We acquiesce in the diaspora only because of historical necessity and we strive to preserve and develop the national existence of the greater part of the nation which will remain!’ On another occasion (in 1901) he wondered whether it might be possible after all to effect the gradual colonisation of Palestine in such a way that there would eventually be a Jewish population of about one million. In that case the conditions would exist for achieving national autonomy as he envisaged it. Dubnow emigrated from his native Russia after 1917, settled in Berlin and was killed, well in his eighties, in the Riga ghetto in 1941. Not long before his death he noted in one of his books that Jewish Palestine had grown more quickly than he had anticipated in the ‘days of his little faith’ when he had accused the Zionists of lack of realism.*
Marxism and the Jewish Question
While Socialism had many followers among the Zionists, Socialist theory, especially the Marxist variety, was hostile to the Jewish national movement. Marx, Engels, and their immediate disciples were preoccupied with the problems of class and class struggle. A systematic study of national movements was undertaken only later on, towards the turn of the century, especially in countries where these issues were of particular importance and urgency, as in prewar Austria. Marx and Engels shared the view of their liberal contemporaries that cultural, economic and social progress was gradually overcoming national exclusivity and that the world (or Europe at any rate) was moving towards internationalism. Unlike the liberals, they did not believe that all national movements were equal; some were downright reactionary. It all depended on whether a particular national movement served or impeded the cause of revolution. About east European Jewry they were ignorant, and as for the Jews in the west they again shared the liberal belief that assimilation would solve that problem. The young Marx did publish an essay on the Jewish question but it is of greater interest to the student of metaphysics than of history. Not for a moment did he believe in the existence of a Jewish people; for Moses Hess’ Zionism he had nothing but contempt. The idea that Judaism and the Jews as a collective had a future must have appeared to him as an aberration typical of the loose thinking of someone too stupid to understand the implications of his own doctrine. Judaism for Marx was a totally negative phenomenon, something to be got rid of as quickly and as radically as possible. As far as he personally was concerned, his Jewish origin must have appeared an unfortunate accident of birth and a matter of considerable embarrassment. But this was by no means an original or specifically ‘Marxist’ attitude. Many of his anti-Socialist contemporaries reacted in exactly the same way. They were assimilationists who thought that a man’s national origin was not of great importance. They were first and foremost citizens of the world and only secondarily German, Austrian or Russian nationals. Socialists of a later day held the same view, and in this respect there was no substantial difference between revolutionaries and reformists. Leon Blum and Eduard Bernstein, Rosa Luxemburg and Leon Trotsky thought of themselves above all as members of the international Socialist movement.
Only towards the end of the nineteenth century did the Jewish issue assume greater importance in Socialist thought and policy, partly as the result of the spread of antisemitism. There were many Jews in the leadership of the European and American Socialist parties; in fact some delegations at the meetings of the socialist International before 1914 were almost exclusively Jewish. But with the rise of nationalist and antisemitic currents their position became more difficult and they grew more conscious (and self-conscious) of their Jewish origin. This did not, however, affect their basic conviction, that the coming Socialist revolution would solve the Jewish question wherever it existed, and that meanwhile everyone had to participate actively in the struggle for the liberation of the working class in his country of origin. In western Europe early Zionism was regarded by Socialists as a romantic, Utopian, reactionary aberration. Bernard Lazare was almost alone in sympathising with the new movement. In eastern Europe, too, not only Zionism but even less ambitious forms of Jewish nationalism such as Bundism, with its demand for cultural-national autonomy, were emphatically rejected by the leading Socialists. For Plekhanov and the men of his generation the Bundists were merely ‘Zionists suffering from seasickness’. The ideological rationale for Socialist anti-Zionism was provided by Karl Kautsky, for many years the most respected interpreter of Marxist doctrine for west and east European Socialists alike.
According to Kautsky, the traits derived from the primitive races of man tended to disappear as economic evolution progressed; the Jews were a mixed race, but so were the non-Jews.* In the past the Jews had been an exclusive, hereditary caste of urban merchants, financiers, intellectuals, and a small number of artisans, who from generation to generation bequeathed certain traits peculiar to these strata. But with the advance of industrial capitalism, the barriers were gradually broken down, the Jews obtained equal rights, and many of them were absorbed by the peoples among whom they lived. Antisemitism, or ‘the Jewish peril’, was given a new lease of life by the reaction of the petty bourgeoisie against liberalism. There were two forms of defence against this pressure: proletarian solidarity and Jewish solidarity. Among the Jews of eastern Europe, for specific economic and social reasons the call for national solidarity, i.e. Zionism, had found a considerable echo, but it had no future. Where could space be found for a Jewish state, since all regions in the civilised world had been pre-empted? How were the Jews to be induced to work in agriculture? How was a powerful industry to be developed in Palestine? All theoretical considerations apart, Kautsky thus saw in 1914 insurmountable obstacles on the road to the realisation of the Zionist aim.
His views had not basically changed when he returned to the subject after the war. He was impressed by the idealism of the Jewish pioneers in Palestine and their achievements, which, he thought, must convince anyone who had doubted Jewish energy and resolution.† But Zionist enthusiasm was not likely to persist. He predicted that Jewish Luft-menschen and intellectuals would again congregate in the cities and the Palestinian proletariat would become more class conscious. As a result, Jewish capitalists would lose interest, and without capital the process of rebuilding would come to a halt. At best, Jews in Palestine would come to outnumber the Arabs, and the new Jewish state, although not embracing the great mass of world Jewry, would nevertheless be predominantly Jewish in character. But this was not at all likely, for the political conditions were rapidly becoming worse: ‘Whatever Zionism does not attain within the next few years, it will never attain at all.’‡ Zionism, to summarise Kautsky’s view, was not a progressive but a reactionary movement. It aimed not at following the line of necessary evolution but at putting a spoke in the wheel of progress. It denied the right of self-determination of nations and proclaimed instead the doctrine of historical rights.
At this point Kautsky deviated from the views of Marx and Engels, who attached little importance to national self-determination; they frequently referred with contempt to ‘lousy little peoples’ whose interests were to be ignored in the higher interest of history. Thus America’s war against Mexico was progressive because it had been waged in the interest of history, and Germany’s annexation of Schleswig was justified in the name of civilisation against barbarism, of progress against the status quo. The fact that Herzl and Nordau intended to carry western civilisation to the east would not necessarily have shocked Marx and Engels as it shocked liberals of a later day. They would have rejected Zionism for reasons of Realpolitik, because it appeared too late on the international scene and was not strong enough to accomplish its self-proclaimed task.
Kautsky was sure that the Palestinian adventure would end in tragedy. The Jews would not become more numerous than the Arabs, nor would they succeed in convincing the Arabs that Jewish rule could be to their advantage. ‘Jewish colonisation in Palestine must collapse as soon as the Anglo-French hegemony over Asia Minor (including Egypt) collapses, and this is merely a question of time, perhaps of the very near future.’* There was no longer any doubt about the final victory of the Arabian [sic] people. The only question was whether they would reach it by peaceful concessions or by a period of savage guerrilla warfare and bloody insurrections. The poor, weak Jewish settlers in Palestine would be the chief sufferers in this battle, ‘the least able to defend themselves, as well as least capable of escaping’.† All one could hope for, therefore, was that the number of victims would not be great: ‘But the dangers to the Jews who are lured to Palestine by a messianic aspiration do not exhaust all the baleful effects of Zionism. It is perhaps far worse that Zionism is wasting the fortunes and resources of the Jews in a wrong direction, at a moment when their true destinies are being decided on an entirely different arena, for which decision it would be necessary for them to concentrate all their forces.’‡ Kautsky was referring to eastern Europe, where the fate of eight to ten million Jews was to be decided, and since emigration could not help them their destiny was intimately linked with the prospects of revolution. Zionism weakened them in this effort by encouraging ambitions which amounted to desertion of the colours.
What of the more distant prospect? Not liberalism, but only the victorious proletariat could bring complete emancipation. Then the Jews would be absorbed, would cease to exist as such. This was not to be deplored. The disappearance of the ghetto would not give rise to melancholy longings. Being city dwellers the Jews had the qualities most required for the progress of humanity. In western Europe, though few in number, they had produced Spinoza, Heine, Lassalle, Marx. But these spiritual giants had become effective only after they had burst the fetters of Judaism. Their work lay outside the sphere of Judaism, within the realm of modern culture, often in conscious opposition to Judaism. ‘The Jews have become an eminently revolutionary factor [Kautsky wrote], while Judaism has become a reactionary factor. It is like a weight of lead attached to the feet of the Jews who eagerly seek to progress … the sooner [this social ghetto] disappears, the better it will be not only for society, but also for the Jews themselves.’* The disappearance of the Jews would not be a tragedy, like the disappearance of the American Indians or the Tasmanians. For it would not be a decline into degradation but an ascent to an immense field of activity, making possible the creation of a new and higher type of man. ‘The Wandering Jew will thus at last find a haven of rest. He will continue to live in the memory of man as man’s greatest sufferer, as he who has been dealt with most severely by mankind, to whom he has given most.’
Kautsky’s views have been given at some length because they were the most consistent and systematic in their exposition of the Marxist arguments against Zionism. The critics of a later day, Communist, Trotskyite, or New Left, base their arguments in all essentials on his, occasionally with differences of detail and emphasis. The Zionist response to the Marxist critique can be summarised as follows: Marxism has been mistaken in underrating the importance of nationalism in recent history. National antagonisms have not declined in importance, even in countries in which Communism has prevailed. The Marxist analysis (like the liberal analysis) may be correct sub specie aeternatis, history may move in the direction of one world, with equality for all races, nations, and peoples. But Zionism is not concerned with these distant prospects. It emerged precisely because, in contrast to the liberal and Marxist analysis, it assumed that the Jewish question would not disappear in the foreseeable future. On the contrary, it was likely to become much more acute. The appeal to the Jews to participate in the revolutionary struggle in their homeland was no doubt well meant, but even on the assumption that the interests of the Jews and the revolution were identical, it was not practical politics.
The Polish, German or Austrian working-class neither needed nor wanted the Jews as allies. They wanted to get rid of them, or at best regarded them as an embarrassment in their political struggle. Jews had played a leading part in the early phases of all Socialist and Communist parties, but since then they had everywhere been squeezed out. Among the founders and early leaders of the German Communist Party there were a great many Jews. The year before Hitler came to power there was not a single one among the hundred Communist deputies in the Reichstag. Events took a similar course in the Soviet Union. This was not necessarily a disaster in Zionist eyes, but it certainly underlined the argument that the position of the Jews in the revolutionary movement was highly problematical. A New Left critic of Zionism wrote in 1970 that subsequent events had shown that Trotsky and Zinoviev, Kamenev and Radek had been right, not the Zionists. But since all these Bolshevik leaders fell victims to Stalinism, the argument is not exactly convincing.* With antisemitism on the rise, the Jews in Europe were condemned to be passive onlookers, not active participants in the revolutionary struggle.
The Marxist critics did not foresee the victory of fascism and the extermination of the majority of European Jewry. It had been argued that the temporary victory of the counter-revolution, despite its appalling consequences, did not necessarily refute the Socialist thesis about the ultimate absorption and assimilation of the Jews in their native countries. But since Marxist analysis and prediction had been belied by recent history, there was no assurance that it would be borne out by future developments. The Marxist-Leninist thesis was based on the assumption that Communist régimes would successfully tackle the Jewish problem and that as a result the Jews as a group would disappear. But if there were no Jews left in Communist Poland in 1970 this happened not as the result of the emergence of a ‘new and higher type of man’, as Kautsky predicted, but in a manner reminiscent of the exodus of Jews from Spain in the fifteenth century. The Jews had been difficult to absorb for capitalist and Communist societies alike. Was it the ‘reactionary character of Judaism’ that was responsible for this, or the fact that the Jews were an ‘eminently revolutionary factor’ and thus likely to disturb the peace of post-revolutionary régimes? The possibility of Jewish assimilation in a truly internationalist society such as Lenin envisaged could not be excluded, but such a society had never existed and developments in the Soviet Union and the other Communist countries had moved steadily away from the internationalist ideal towards a new form of national socialism. In these conditions total assimilation had become difficult if not impossible.
Present difficulties quite apart, Zionists claim that recent history has shown that the Marxist concept of nationalism, of the nation-state in general and of antisemitism in particular, is at best grossly oversimplified. According to Marx and his disciples, such as Kautsky, the Jew was the representative of modern capitalism, or to be precise, commercial capitalism, and having lost this function was bound to disappear. But this concept never made much sense in eastern Europe, where the majority of Jews was concentrated, nor does it provide an explanation for pre- and post-capitalist antisemitism.
The Austrian Marxists, who faced the nationality problem in an acute form, were aware of the weakness of this aspect of Marxist theory, and provided in the works of Otto Bauer and Karl Renner a more sophisticated analysis. Whereas Kautsky had originally regarded a common language as the decisive criterion for the existence of a nation (later he added a second criterion: territory), Otto Bauer defined a nation as a community of fate, culture and character: ‘An aggregate of people bound into a community of character by a community of fate.’* The Jews were still a nation, especially those in eastern Europe, but everywhere they were in the process of ceasing to be one. As an ‘absolute minority’, one lacking a common territory, they were, unlike the Czechs, doomed as a nation, bound to be absorbed into the cultural community of the European nations.† While not rejecting Jewish national culture, and opposing compulsory assimilation, Bauer thought it would be wrong for the Jews to insist on national autonomy because this would retard the inevitable historical process.
This remained the attitude of the Jewish leaders and theoreticians of Austro-Marxism, and the advent of fascism did not make them change their mind. Friedrich Adler wrote in 1949 that he and his father (one of the founders of the party) had always considered the complete assimilation of the Jews both desirable and possible. Even the bestialities of Hitler had not shaken him in his belief that Jewish nationalism was bound to generate reactionary tendencies, namely the resurrection of a language which had been dead for almost two thousand years and the rebirth of an antiquated religion.* The non-Jewish leaders of Austro-Marxism took on occasion a more lenient view of Zionism. Karl Renner developed a highly complicated concept of non-territorial autonomy as the only feasible way to safeguard the interests of minorities in a multinational state. He did not include the Jews in this scheme, but, unlike Bauer, did not expressis verbis exclude them. Both Bundists and Zionists welcomed Renner’s scheme and adapted it for their own purposes. According to Pernerstorfer, another Austrian Socialist leader, it was up to the Jews to decide whether they were a nation or not. There was no doubt that they had the right to national existence, but whether the practical difficulties on the road to national autonomy could be over-come was another question. Pernerstorfer thought that the Jews in eastern Europe would survive in the long run only if they got an independent state.†
Such individual voices apart, the attitude of International Social Democracy towards Zionism remained hostile until the First World War. Neue Zeit, the theoretical organ of the German Socialists, dismissed Herzl’s Judenstaat as Utopian and unworthy of serious consideration, a beautiful cloak in which a nation no longer alive was to appear on the historical stage for the last time, to disappear after that forever.‡ A few years later another (Jewish) contributor explained Zionism as the reaction of the Jewish bourgeoisie to modern antisemitism. Social democracy was not against Zionism in principle, he argued, but since the (bourgeois) Zionists were trying to achieve their aim not by a liberation struggle but by bargaining with Turkey, and since they were moreover preaching class solidarity and national separatism and did not reject religion, International Socialism could not support them.§ In English Socialist circles Zionism was condemned as reactionary through and through, with Russian-Jewish emigrés such as Theodore Rothstein taking a leading part in denouncing the movement.‖ On occasion, more sympathetic voices were heard. An English Socialist journal promised that once the class struggle was won, the Jews too would find a place in the sun to shape their own national destiny. But on the whole English Socialists did not pay much attention to the issue. French Socialists were even less interested, but certainly not favourably inclined. After the publication in Revue Socialiste of a pro-Zionist article commenting on the Kishinev massacre, an editorial note dismissed the belief in Palestine as the home of all Jews as a myth. Zionism was psychologically understandable as a reaction to cruel persecution, but was born of despair and based on a myth. It was, like all other forms of nationalism, reactionary and reprehensible.* Before 1914 the only major exception to this wholesale rejection of Zionism on the part of the Left was the circle of the Sozialistische Monatshefte, a revisionist journal edited by Josef Bloch in Berlin, which pursued an independent line on this as on many other issues.
After the First World War many Socialists modified their attitude. Kautsky and the Marxist fundamentalists remained opposed, and the attacks emanating from these circles were harsh in both form and content. Zionism, according to a pamphlet by Alexander Szanto (to provide a fairly typical example), was a harmful illusion, the sooner it was liquidated the better for the Jews. There was no earthly chance that they would ever become a majority in Palestine. Zionism was reactionary and chauvinistic; far from contributing to the solution of the Jewish problem it was trying to sabotage the absorption of the Jews in their native countries. In central and western Europe assimilation was about to be completed, Szanto wrote in 1930: ‘Antisemitism is merely engaged in rearguard actions’.† Time was working against Zionism, but while it did its mischief it was the duty of every Socialist to combat it, and not to be neutral. For Zionism was not a marginal phenomenon, it was a cancerous disease. ‘Whoever is not against it is for it.’
There was, however, no longer a censensus on these lines in Socialist ranks. Vandervelde, one of the most respected figures of the Second International, and for many years its chairman, visited Palestine in the 1920s. Subsequently he wrote with sympathy about the work of the labour Zionists. Other leading social democrats, including Louis de Brouckère, Vincent Auriol, Camille Huysmans, George Lansbury, Arthur Henderson and Rudolf Breitscheid joined, in 1928, a Socialist Committee for Working Palestine. The right of the Jewish people to a national home in Palestine was recognised in various resolutions of international Socialist congresses between 1917 and 1920. Jean Longuet (Karl Marx’s grandson), one of the leaders of French Socialism, declared in 1918 that the idea of a Jewish national home in Palestine deserved the support of international social democracy. His colleague Leon Blum even became one of the non-Zionist members of the Jewish Agency in 1929.
Of interest also were the changes in the attitude of leading Socialists of the older generation, such as Axelrod and Eduard Bernstein, who had earlier sharply opposed Zionism. Axelrod declared in 1917 that he was now in favour of the realisation of the aims of Zionism. Bernstein, father of the reformist trend in German social democracy, also joined the pro-Palestine Socialist committee in 1928. Before 1914 he, too, had favoured the denationalisation of the Jews who, he said, no longer had any specific mission. He conceded that east European Jews might have to emigrate, but a rescue action on their behalf was not to be coupled with the idea of a Jewish state, which in any case would face insurmountable obstacles. That assimilation was desirable was axiomatic for Bernstein, as it was for Kautsky, his chief antagonist. There was in their view no justification for any specific Jewish solidarity or national separatism. Zionism was obnoxious and reactionary because it impeded assimilation.* After the war Bernstein admitted that he had underrated the importance and persistence of antisemitism. He declared that he felt too much a German to become a Zionist, but added that he followed their activities with sympathy; Zionism had inspired its followers to great creative achievements. Poale Zion was an active member of the Second International, much to the dismay of anti-Zionists like Szanto. By and large Zionism remained a marginal issue for European social democracy. Most of its leaders did not believe in the success of the Palestinian experiment, for both ideological and practical reasons, but after 1918 their tone was on the whole sorrowful rather than angry. Those who had any first-hand knowledge of the Jewish problem were now more aware than previously that the issues involved were much more intricate than they had originally believed. By the late 1920s most Socialists had realised that even if Zionism was mistaken, the Second International and its affiliated parties had no ready alternative answer to the Jewish problem.
Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky
Communism was not beset by such doubts, claiming that it did have a solution. Lenin’s rejection of Jewish nationalism was based on the writings of Kautsky and Otto Bauer, whom he frequently quoted. In some respects he went beyond them, asserting that nationalism, even in its most justified and innocuous form, was incompatible with Marxism. Even the demand for national cultural autonomy (‘the most refined and therefore the most pernicious kind of nationalism’) was thoroughly harmful; it satisfied the ideals of the nationalist petty-bourgeois and was in absolute contradiction to the internationalism of the proletariat.* Marxists had to fight against any form of national oppression, but it did not follow that the proletariat had to support the national development of every nation. On the contrary, it had to warn the masses against any nationalist illusions and to welcome every type of assimilation unless based on coercion. The Jews of the west had already achieved the highest degree of assimilation in the civilised countries. In Galicia and Russia they were not a nation either, but had remained a caste, through no fault of their own but because of the antisemites.† Jewish national culture was the slogan of rabbis and the bourgeois, and its advocates were therefore enemies of the proletariat.
Stalin, writing in 1913, elaborated Lenin’s view, defining a nation as a historically evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life and mental constitution expressed in a community of culture. According to this definition the Jews were, of course, not a nation. They had no continuous territory of their own which served as a political framework and a national market. Only 3 or 4 per cent of them were connected with agriculture, the remainder were city dwellers, scattered all over Russia, not constituting a majority in any single province. What kind of a nation was this, Stalin asked, that consisted of Georgian, Dagestani, Russian, American Jews, and so on? What kind of race, whose members lived in different parts of the world, spoke different languages, never saw each other and never acted in concert? This was not a real living nation; it was something mystical, amorphous, nebulous, out of this world. The demand for national cultural autonomy was therefore ridiculous. Autonomy was demanded on behalf of a nation whose existence was yet to be proven and whose future had not been recognised. All the Jews had in common was their religion, their common origin, and a few remaining national characteristics. But no one could seriously maintain that petrified religious rites and vanishing psychological traits were stronger than their socio-economic and cultural surroundings, which were inevitably leading to assimilation.* The Bolsheviks sincerely intended to solve the Jewish question in Russia by giving full freedom to all Jews; assimilation was to be actively furthered. The oppressed Jews of Russia and Galicia were to become equal citizens of the new Socialist society.
A detailed survey of the Jewish policy of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union lies outside the range of the present study. In brief, after the revolution a ‘Jewish Commissariat’ was established to deal with the specific problem of the Jewish population. Dimanshtein, its head, promised that a Palestine would be built in Moscow by making the masses productive, and by organising Jewish agricultural communes. Later, greater emphasis was put on the industrialisation of the Jewish population. They could maintain their own cultural institutions, such as schools, clubs, newspapers and theatres. Hebrew was banned but Yiddish could be freely used during the 1920s and 1930s. In the Ukraine and the Crimea, predominantly Jewish areas even received regional autonomy, and in March 1928 it was decided to set aside a special area in the Far East, Biro Bidzhan, for Jewish settlement. It was announced that by 1937 at least 150,000 Jews would be living there. There was tremendous enthusiasm among Jewish Communists abroad: ‘The Jews have gone into the Siberian forests’, Otto Heller wrote. ‘If you ask them about Palestine, they laugh. The Palestine dream will long have receded into history when in Biro Bidzhan there will be motor cars, railways and steamers, huge factories belching forth their smoke. … These settlers are founding a home in the taigas of Siberia not only for themselves but for millions of their people.’†Kalinin, president of the Soviet Union, predicted that in ten years Biro Bidzhan would be the cultural centre of the Jewish masses. Even staunch anti-Communists like Chaim Zhitlovsky, one of the theoreticians of Jewish Socialism, and Lestschinsky, the sociologist, were deeply impressed; Biro Bidzhan would be a Jewish republic, a centre of genuine Jewish Socialist culture.
The dream of a Siberian Palestine did not last. Only a few thousand Jews came, and most of them turned back within a few months. Forty years after its foundation, Biro Bidzhan was a drab provincial region with about 25,000 Jewish inhabitants, a small percentage of the total population. No one, least of all the Soviet authorities and the Jewish Communists, wanted to be reminded of the affair. Partly it was the result of insufficient and incompetent planning, but basically it was not the fault of the authorities: Soviet Jews had no desire to build a second Zion on the shores of the Amur.
Despite the failure of Biro Bidzhan there was much sympathy in the west for the Soviet Union, the only country in which Jews were believed to be secure and in which the Jewish question was said to have been solved. These were the years of the world economic crisis, of the rise of fascist and antisemitic movements all over Europe. What, in comparison, had Zionism to offer? Its bankruptcy ‘was final and irrevocable’, Otto Heller wrote in 1931 in a much discussed book. In western Europe the assimilation of the Jewish bourgeoisie, as well as of the lower middle class and the workers, was an irresistible process. In the east, under Socialism, the Jewish question had been solved once and for all: ‘Next year in Jerusalem? This question was answered by history long ago. The Jewish proletarians and the starving artisans of eastern Europe pose a very different question: next year in a Socialist society! What is Jerusalem to the Jewish proletarian? Next year in Jerusalem? Next year in the Crimea! Next year in Biro Bidzhan!’*
Heller’s Downfall of Judaism presented the Stalinist case. Its argument was borrowed by and large from Kautsky, though the ‘renegade’ Kautsky was, for different reasons, by that time no longer in the good books of the Bolsheviks. It differed from Kautsky in adopting a more virulent tone: Zionism was a phenomenon frequently observed among a dying people; shortly before their demise they suddenly feel a new lease of life, only to expire the more quickly. Zionism was a product of the petty bourgeois stratum in European Jewry, a counter-revolutionary movement. It was an historical mistake, an impossibility, since it tried to detach the Jewish question from the problem of commodity production with which the fate of Jewry was indissolubly connected. It was an anachronism, contradicting not just the laws of historical development but of common sense.† Heller freely used Kautsky’s similes without acknowledging their origin: Zionism was the last appearance of Ahasuerus, the eternal Jew on the historical scene. He had reached the end of the road. Judaism was doomed because it had lost its privileged, monopolistic position in capitalist society. At the same time the social conditions for a revival of antisemitism had disappeared. ‘Zionism, the last, most desperate and most wretched kind of nationalism, was thus breathing its last.’
It was a persuasive theme, and, if its ideological premises were accepted, logical and consistent despite its shrillness and arrogance. But the book had one major flaw: it ignored the writing on the wall. When it appeared in the bookshops Hitler’s brownshirts were already marching through the cities of Germany. Two years later antisemitism in its most rabid form had seized Germany and continued to expand all over Europe despite the confident announcement that antisemitism had lost its ‘social foundations’. A few years later Heller and many other Jewish Communists lost their lives in Nazi extermination camps or in one of the Soviet prisons from which there was no return.
The case of Otto Heller is of interest; the views he expressed were shared by thousands of young Jewish Communists all over Europe who were firmly convinced that Communism and no other movement was capable of solving the Jewish question. Nor was this belief limited to committed party members; a growing number of fellow travellers were influenced by it and Hitler’s seizure of power only strengthened them in their conviction.
When Heller’s book appeared in 1931 Europe was still relatively quiet, the situation of European Jewry seemingly secure. Six years later, when William Zukerman published The Jew in Revolt, there could no longer be any doubt about the impending catastrophe. The Jew in Revolt is an ambitious analysis of the Jewish situation at a time of crisis which suggests remedies. In the sharpest terms the author condemns the schemes for emigration from Nazi Germany, for the German Jews were deeply rooted in German soil and bound to their country by a thousand spiritual ties:
It is a gross slander on the German Jews whose love for the fatherland is proverbial, to represent them all as being ready to rush in panicky haste from it in a mass exodus at the first approach of misfortune. … After all, the Jews are not the only victims of persecution in Germany today. Why not a wholesale exodus of German Communists, Socialists, Pacifists, Liberals and Catholics? … The Jewish acceptance of the Jewish exodus plan from Germany is at the same time the voluntary acceptance of the entire Nazi point of view with regard to the Jews. It is a complete Jewish capitulation to the racial theory of Hitlerism. … It is playing the Nazi game in a manner which Hitler himself probably never dared to hope that the Jews would do.*
Zukerman believed that the main responsibility for the contemptible plan for emigration fell on the Zionist bourgeoisie:
Fanatical Zionist theoreticians have been even more busy than the Nazis in preparing schemes and plans. … Zionist financiers have actually raised huge sums of money for its organisation and have started it on the road to success. The fact is that, inasmuch as the exodus plan has now become a popular solution for the Jewish problem, it is due more to a number of Zionist zealots and to a few big Zionist financiers than to the fascists. Of all the paradoxes of our time, this one will probably go down into history as the most curious of all.*
But the author had no doubt that the plot for mass emigration would fail:
In spite of the brutal Nazi persecution the bulk of German Jews will remain in Germany, and they will be there long, long after Hitler is gone, when even his name is a mere legend in German history. … They bear the cross of their suffering with dignity and fortitude, as behoves an ancient people which has seen martyrdom and knows that tyranny, no matter how powerful temporarily, cannot forever turn back the wheels of history. … They know that even if Hitler be all-powerful now and his régime successfully established for years to come, this is no reason why Jews should willingly accept his gospel of the ghetto and exile.
The picture as Zukerman saw it was not all black, for there was one country where the Jewish problem had been solved and it was showing the road to salvation to Jews everywhere. What struck him most forcibly in Russia was both the economic transformation of Russian Jewry and the mental change that had come with it:
Gone is the almost pathological desire of every Jewish parent to bring up his offspring as doctors or lawyers. Although the universities and higher schools of learning are open to the Jews as in no other country, there is no rush of a disorderly mob of Jewish youth into them … Jews are positively the best factory workers in Russia and are sought after in every great plant.
The Soviet Union had been virtually freed of the scourge of Jew-hatred, the very meaning of the word antisemitism was being rapidly forgotten. The Soviet Union had solved the Jewish problem ‘economically, politically, and even psychologically. Whatever larger successes the Soviet régime may or may not have to its credit, it has certainly evolved a perfect solution of the Jewish problem.’† Zukerman concluded this eloquent account by proclaiming that the golden age of liberalism was at an end, that there was only one road open to the Jews, whether he approved of everything going on in the Soviet Union or not: as a Jew he could do nothing but follow the road shown by Moscow for the solution of the Jewish problem. This was a moral necessity. The great revolt of the Jews not only against capitalism but also against themselves was morally cleansing: ‘Whatever its social or political danger to the Jews may be, morally it atones for everything. Spiritually, the social-revolutionary movement is saving the Jews for the world.’*
These extensive quotations are necessary to convey the full flavour of Zukerman’s case, and again it should be said that such views were by no means the monopoly of an outsider. They were shared by liberals who had succumbed to despair, even by some Jewish communal leaders and rabbis. For this was the time when belief in the Soviet Union was at its height: Stalin had stamped out unemployment and illiteracy, he had liquidated neurosis, crime, juvenile delinquency and alcoholism. He had produced a new type of man and in the process antisemitism was rapidly disappearing. The appeal to the Jew of Germany not to be seduced by the siren song of the Zionists but to stay in their native country was not exclusively Communist either. It was shared, for instance, by the Bundists from whom Zukerman may have received some of his original inspiration.
The Communist critique of Zionism had its heyday in the 1930s but later lost much of its appeal, and not just because Biro Bidzhan had failed to offer a serious alternative to Palestine. It was above all the growing discrepancy between Bolshevik theory and practice which made the Communist case unconvincing. Lenin had no doubt been sincere in his belief that mankind was inexorably moving towards internationalism. It could have been argued that however much the Jews resented the demand to give up their national identity, the price asked was not too high if in return they received complete equality before the law, and if eventually all nations were to undergo cultural assimilation. But events in the Soviet Union were taking a very different course from that which Lenin had anticipated. In the 1930s patriotism returned with a vengeance, the national heroes of Russian history were restored to a place of honour, and generally nationalism became a factor of growing importance in Soviet domestic policy. This left the Jews in a vulnerable position: they were still expected to give up their national identity and to become assimilated, but it was no longer clear whether they should try to become Russians, Ukrainians, or Turkmen, or whether to be Soviet citizens tout court. If so, they would be the first and only Soviet citizens, in the same sense that the German Jews had been almost the only liberals and republicans in the Weimar period, a position both unenviable and, in the long run, untenable. Assimilation might have worked within several generations as a result of intermarriage and the absence of Jewish education, if the Jews had been left in peace. But they were singled out for attack in Stalin’s last years, and again later on under his successors, and their fate in Czechoslovakia and Poland was no happier. They were denounced as cosmopolitans and nationalists at one and the same time. Such attacks, far from solving the Jewish problem, helped to perpetuate it.
The Soviet attitude towards Zionism has remained consistently hostile. Originally it was rejected as a tool of British imperialism. Later, Moscow’s alliance with the Arabs made a firm anti-Israeli policy imperative. But there is every reason to assume that the Soviet attitude would have been negative even if considerations of foreign policy had not been involved. It would have been unthinkable to permit several millions of Soviet Jews to emigrate to Palestine, as this would have been tantamount to an open admission of the failure of the Soviet nationalities policy. Thus the Jewish problem in the Soviet Union has remained unsolved. While assimilation is still the aim, the conditions for making this policy a success do not exist. Consequently, the appeal of Soviet Communism has declined among Jews both within Russia and outside. Of the many Jewish Communists in the west who gave enthusiastic support to the Soviet cause in the 1920s and 1930s, few were those who did not leave the party in disappointment. The official Communist case against Zionism, once advocated with so much ardour and conviction, no longer presents a serious ideological challenge.
Whatever Trotsky’s quarrel with the old guard Bolsheviks, he did not disagree with their policy towards the Jews. Like them, he regarded Zionism as a wholly reactionary phenomenon. He showed little interest in the problem, and while he commented on a great many issues in world politics at one time or another he hardly ever dealt with Jewish affairs. One of the few exceptions was an article in Iskra in 1904 in which he called Herzl a shameless adventurer and referred to the ‘hysterical sobbings’ of Zionism. Towards the end of his life he slightly modified his position. Recent experience had taught him, he said in an interview in 1937, that his old hopes for assimilation had been over-optimistic. Perhaps the Jews did need a territory of their own after all, even under Socialism. But it would probably not be Palestine, and in any case the whole problem would hardly find a solution under capitalism.*
Some of Trotsky’s disciples took a greater interest, and while they made no significant theoretical contribution (for their views, too, were based on Kautsky), their opinions have a certain historical relevance, for they later influenced the New Left in its anti-Zionist outlook.* The chief Trotskyite ideologist on Zionism and the Jewish question was the Belgian Leon, a former member of a Socialist-Zionist youth movement. Unlike most other Marxists who dealt with the problem, he was familiar with the writings of the theoreticians of labour Zionism. Having reached the conclusion that Zionism, not excluding its extreme left wing, was incurably reactionary in character, Leon invested considerable efforts in refuting it: other national movements in Europe had been closely linked with the ascending phase of capitalism, whereas the Jewish national movement appeared on the scene only after the process of the formation of nations was approaching its end. Far from being a result of the development of productive forces, Zionism reflected the petrifaction of capitalism. Capitalist decay was the basis for the growth of Zionism, but at the same time it was the reason for the impossibility of its realisation.† Judaism had been indispensable in pre-capitalist society but capitalism had destroyed the social bases on which Jews had for centuries maintained themselves.
There is little in this that could not be found in earlier Marxist writers, not even the far-fetched thesis that economic developments in Europe compelled the Jewish bourgeoisie to create a national state in order to develop its productive forces. For this is more or less what Borokhov had predicted, but in contrast to Borokhov, Leon regarded this as a regressive development, for the Jewish question could be solved only after the victory of world revolution. Once world revolution had prevailed, once capitalism had been overthrown, the national problem would lose its acuteness. For national-cultural and linguistic antagonisms were only manifestations of the economic antagonisms created by capitalism. Leon seems not to have been particularly concerned about the advent of fascism, for the ‘very exacerbation of antisemitism prepared the road for its disappearance’. Fascism, he predicted, would accelerate the proletarianisation of the middle classes.‡ Leon was arrested by the Germans a year or two after these lines were written and died, like millions of other Jews, in a Nazi extermination camp.
Zionists paid little attention to the views of Leon and other Trotskyite ideologists, for wherever they differed from Kautsky and the Bolsheviks they offered no startling new insights. Even in West Germany, where the New Left devoted much time to the study and critique of Zionism, it did not go much beyond the traditional arguments of anti-Zionism such as those voiced before the First World War by the (‘bourgeois’) Anti-Zionist Committee.* Shorn of the ideological underpinnings (Kautsky, Lenin, Horkheimer-Adorno) it always amounted to proving that Arab nationalism was progressive whereas Jewish nationalism was evil. More attention was devoted by the Zionists to the strictures of Isaac Deutscher, perhaps because, unlike the Trotskyite and New Left writers, he was a well-known literary figure who reached a wide public and who, because of his background, was bound to know more about the subject than they did. Deutscher too regarded Zionism as a profoundly reactionary movement, but he admitted that the Bolsheviks had taken an over-optimistic view of the chances of solving the Jewish problem. At one stage in his career he engaged in public heart-searching, writing in 1954 that he had abandoned his anti-Zionism, which had been based on his confidence in the European labour movement: ‘If instead of arguing against Zionism in the 1920s and 1930s I had urged European Jews to go to Palestine I might have helped to save some of the lives that were later extinguished in Hitler’s gas chambers.’† The Jewish state, he wrote in this moment of weakness, had become an ‘historical necessity and a living reality’. But he still believed that basically Zionism was a reactionary force and it did not therefore come as a surprise when, after the Six Day War and shortly before his own death, Deutscher made a bitter attack on Israel in which he argued (as he had done forty years earlier) that Arab nationalism was progressive while Jewish nationalism was reactionary, that Israel represented neo-imperialism in the Middle East, preached chauvinism, etc.‡ Zionism had worked from the outset for a purely Jewish state. Marxists should not allow their emotions and the memories of Auschwitz to drive them to support the wrong cause.
Deutscher’s instinctive rejection of the Jewish national movement went deeper and was in a way quite unconnected with the conflict between Israel and the Arabs. All the Jewish geniuses throughout recent centuries, he wrote in his credo, the great revolutionaries of modern thought such as Spinoza, Heine, Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Trotsky, and Freud, had been heretics. They had all found Jewry too narrow, too archaic and too constricting. It is interesting to compare this list of non-Jewish Jews with Kautsky’s (Spinoza, Heine, Lassalle, Marx), and with Otto Bauer’s (Spinoza, Ricardo, Disraeli, Marx, Lassalle, Heine). They all looked for ideals and fulfilment beyond Judaism. They had in common their rootlessness and their vulnerability. They were the natural protagonists of cosmopolitanism, the advocates not of nation-states but of internationalism. It was the paradoxical consummation of the Jewish tragedy that the decay of bourgeois Europe had compelled the Jew to embrace the nation state.*
The composition of Deutscher’s hall of fame is open to dispute, and it does seem a little far-fetched to equate Freud’s and Heine’s attitude towards their fellow Jews with Trotsky’s and Rosa Luxemburg’s. These two failed precisely because they were ‘rootless Jews’ and did not realise the depth of national feeling in Germany and Russia which made it quite illusory to pursue an internationalist policy. Trotsky wrote in his autobiography that nationalist passions and prejudices were incomprehensible to him from his earliest childhood, that they produced in him a feeling of loathing and moral nausea. Rosa Luxemburg complained to a friend (Mathilde Wurm) in 1917: ‘Why do you come with your special Jewish sorrows? I feel just as sorry for the wretched Indian victim in Putamayo, the Negroes in Africa … I cannot find a special corner in my heart for the ghetto.’ This in a way was an understatement of her position, because like some other Jewish revolutionaries she showed symptoms of that familiar phenomenon, Jewish self-hatred. It is difficult to imagine that Lenin, an internationalist second to none, would have referred with such dismay to ‘special Russian sorrows’. Deutscher, theoretically at least, was aware of the dilemma; after all he does mention the vulnerability of the cosmopolitan Jew. But he had no clear answer for the perplexed Jewish revolutionaries of his own time. Deutscher’s opposition to Zionism was based in the last resort on the liberal critique of the Jewish national movement. The erstwhile follower of the Galician Rabbi of Ger emerges as a modern, Socialist, protest rabbi unshaken in his belief that the world is moving away from national sovereignty and the nation-state towards internationalism, and that the message of the world of tomorrow, the message of universal human emancipation, is the one which Jews should retrieve, not their misplaced enthusiasm for parochial nationalism. The belief in a specific Jewish spiritual mission is replaced by a purely secular credo. But the message of internationalism is not pronounced with the same measure of conviction as in the works of the Socialists before 1914. It was easier then to be optimistic in this respect than after 1945. Deutscher must have felt that his strictures against the evils of nationalism might conceivably influence some Jews, but he cannot have been confident about their effect on the Russians, the Chinese, or other nations, ‘Socialist’ or non-Socialist. It was easier to denounce Zionism than point to an alternative, for the prospects of the non-Jewish Jew acting as pioneer and apostle of internationalism in an intensely nationalist world were clearly not very promising.
What has been said of the liberal-assimilationist critique of Zionism applies a fortiori to the Socialist-Communist view. Marxists put great emphasis on economic factors in explaining antisemitism, but they agreed with liberalism in regarding assimilation as desirable, and rejected Zionism for trying to impede this inevitable process. Such a vision did not lack consistency; it certainly entailed fewer complications than the Zionist endeavour. Its main weakness was that it was a hopeful vision of the distant future which did not provide clear answers for the present. The Marxist appeal to Jewish toilers and intellectuals to share in the class struggle in their native countries was not practical politics in Germany in 1933, and it has encountered obstacles to a greater or a lesser degree everywhere. Zionists share the regret of Marxists and liberals that the emancipation of the Jews has encountered so many unforeseen difficulties. They might further concede that it was a historical misfortune that the Jewish national movement appeared so late on the historical scene; the emergence of a Jewish state in the nineteenth century would have faced fewer problems. They will accept the view that the nation-state is not the final goal of human history but only a transitional stage. But while it lasted, what were the Jews to do in those countries in which assimilation was just not possible?
To this vital question there has been no convincing answer by the left-wing critics of Zionism. They could argue, as some did, that the problems of individual nations have to be subordinated to the higher interests of the world revolution, and that seen from this vantage point, the Jewish problem was not the most important. The Jews were expendable. Other nations too had come and gone in history. Persecution, the slaughter of millions of Jews, was a regrettable episode, but the revolutionary Socialist is concerned with the future of all mankind. What does the future of a small people matter in the global context? Zionists are unlikely to be impressed by this argument, for more than one reason. Those advocating abstract internationalist principles are usually influenced by the interests of the nations to which they belong. Furthermore, Zionism rejects as unreasonable the demand that the Jews should subordinate their national aspirations to the higher interest of the future ideal world state — which may (or may not) come into existence one day, and may (or may not) be superior to the present order.
Zionism can be subjected to trenchant criticism from different points of view. But as a national movement and a Weltanschauung its validity can neither be proved nor refuted. As far as antisemitism is concerned Zionism has a strong case. Its analysis has been more fully confirmed by recent history than the predictions of the anti-Zionists. History will in due time provide an answer to the question whether Zionism has been a success or failure in political terms. But Weltgeschichte is not the Weltgericht. The survival and prosperity of the state will not by itself demonstrate the justice of the Zionist cause, just as its failure would not prove its injustice.
* O. Oergament (ed.), Graf Leo Tolstoi über die Juden, Berlin n.d., pp. 18, 23.
* Alfred Rosenberg, Der staatsfeindliche Zionismus, Hamburg, 1922, pp. 62–3.
* Karl Landauer and Herbert Weil, Die zionistische Utopie, Munich, 1914, p. 80.
* Max Nordau, Zionistische Schriften, Cologne, 1909, p. 258.
† See Bernard Lazare, Antisemitism, New York, 1903, passim; Landauer and Weil, Die zionistische Utopie, p. 32. The French edition of Lazare’s book appeared in 1894; by the time the American translation was published he had radically modified his views on the subject. There was no solution for antisemitism, he wrote in 1897, assimilation was no answer, the only solution of the Jewish question was Jewish nationalism, Zionism.
* Nordau: Zionistische Schriften, pp. 268–70.
† A. Achnitzler, Gesammelte Werke, Berlin, 1913, vol. 3, pp. 94–5.
* Quoted in A. Hertzberg, The Zionist Idea, New York, 1959, pp. 239–40.
* Jakob Klatzkin, Krisis und Entscheidung, Berlin, 1921, pp. 196–8.
† Der Kunstwart, March 1913.
* Nahum Goldmann, Memoirs, London, 1970, pp. 58–9.
* Karl Kraus, Eine Krone für Zion, Vienna, 1898, p. 30.
† M. Müdemann, Nationaljudentum, Vienna, 1897, pp. 4, 5, 12.
‡ Quoted in H. Vogelstein, Der Zionismus, eine Gefahr fuer die gedeihliche Entwicklung des Judentums, Stettin, 1906, p. 11.
* Ibid., pp. 4–7.
† Quoted in E. Eerger, The Jewish Dilemma, New York, 1945, p. 240.
‡ C.C. Contefiore, Liberal Judaism and Jewish Nationalism, London, 1917, pp. 6–7.
* L. Lagnus, Zionism and the neo-Zionist, London, 1917,passim; Religio Laici Judaici, London, 1907, p. 140; and the reply by Leon Simon, The Case of the Anti-Zionists, London, 1917, passim.
† F. Foldman, Zionismus oder Liberalismus. Frankfurt a M., 1911, pp. 6, 71.
‡ For instance, Max Kollenscher, Zionimus oder liberales Judentum, Berlin, 1912; Zionismus und Staatsbuergertum, Berlin, 1910; Dr Joseph, Das Judentum am Scheideweg, Berlin, 1908; R. Rreuer, Nationaljudentum ein Wahnjudentum, Mainz.
§ Antwort an das offene Schreiben des Herrn Dr Martin Buber an Hermann Cohen, Frankfurt a M., 1916, p. 13; see also Hermann Cohen, Religion und Zionismus, Crefeld, 1916; M. Muber, ‘Begriffe und Wirklichkeit’, Der Jude, August 1916.
* L. Lchön (ed.), Die Stimme der Wahrheit, Würzburg, 1905, p. 163 et seq.
* Deutsche Israelitische Zeitung, 15, 30 May 1913; C.C. Ceitung, February 1919.
† Alfred Wiener, Kritische Reise durch Palaestina, Berlin, 1927, p. 118.
* Emanuel Levyne, Judaisme contre Sionisme, Paris, 1969, pp. 2–1.
† See the Schriften zur Aufklärung über den Zionismus, published by the Antizionistisches Komittee, Berlin, n.d., (ca. 1910–13.)
* L. Wolf, Aspects of the Jewish Question, London, 1902, pp. 18, 23.
† Ibid., p. 58.
* E. Eleg, Pourquoi je suis juif, Paris, 1928, p. 94.
† Andre Blumel, Leon Blum, juif et zioniste, Paris, 1952, p. 13.
‡ Michael R. Rarrus, The Politics of Assimilation, Oxford, 1971, p. 277.
§ J. Jenda, Un regulier dans le siècle, Paris, 1938, p. 220.
‖ See Russkoe Bogatstvo, 12, 1897, and M. Lilienblum, Palestinofilstvo, Zionizm i ikh protivniki, Odessa, 1899, passim.
* M. Gershenson, Sudby evreiskovo naroda, Berlin, 1922, passim. A French translation, Les destins du peuple juif, was published in Paris in 1946.
† L. Lipsky, A Gallery of Jewish Profiles, New York, 1956, p. 156.
* Correspondence on the advisability of calling a conference for the purpose of combating Zionism. New York, 1918, p. 10.
† Central Conference of American Rabbis, Yearbook, vol. 30, 1920, p. 142.
‡ E. Eerger, The Jewish Dilemma, New York, 1945, p. 241.
§ See The Flint Plan — a Program of Action for American Jews, New York, 1942, passim; and Milton Steinberg, ‘Zionism and the new Opposition’, in Zionism, New York, 1943, passim.
* Quoted in Berger: The Jewish Dilemma, p. 246.
† Commentary, May 1946.
* I. Iaybaum, The Faith of the Jew in the Diaspora, London, 1956, pp. 118, 132.
† Jacob J. Petuchovski, Zion Reconsidered, New York, 1966, p. 78.
‡ Emanual Scherer, in F. Gross and B. Vlavianos, Struggle for Tomorrow, New York, 1965, P. 153.
* For a collection of the sayings of leading rabbis against Zionism, see M. Mlach (ed.), Dovev sifte yeshenim (3 vols.), New York, 1959.
† Emil Marmorstein, Heaven at Bay, London, 1968, p. 71.
* I. Iomb, The Transformation, London, 1958, pp. 138, 192, 195.
† J. Josenheim, Kol Ya’akov, Tel Aviv, 1954, p. 68.
‡ I. Ireuer, Judenproblem, Halle, 1918, pp. 64-5.
* Ibid., pp. 66-7.
† I. Ireuer, Das Jüdische Nationalheim, Frankfurt a. M., 1925, p. 23.
‡ J. Je Han, Quatrinen, Amsterdam, 1924, pp. 77, 138.
* Kadosh De Han, Hayav vemoto, Jerusalem, 1925, p. 39.
† Rosenheim, Agudistische Schriften, p. 58.
* Quoted in Marmorstein, Heaven at Bay, p. 82; see also Breuer, Das jüdische Nationalheim, passim.
† I. Ireuer and J. Josenheim, Eretz Israel und die Orthodoxen, Frankfurt a. M., 1934, passim.
‡ I. Ireuer, Moriah, Jerusalem, 1944, p. 210.
* Eretz Israel und die Orthodoxen, p. 19; also Knesia mekhina fun Agudas Jisroel in London, n.d., p. 4.
† Marmorstein, Heaven at Bay, p. 89.
‡ Lifkoah Enayim, Jerusalem, 1954, p. 15.
* Marmorstein, Heaven at Bay, p. 86.
† I. Ireuer, Eretz Jsrael Briefe, Frankfurt a. M., 1936, p. 22.
‡ Marmorstein, Heaven at Bay, pp. 88–9.
* Quoted in F. Gross and B. Vlavianos, Struggle for Tomorrow, New York, 1954, p. 115.
† Ibid., p. 165.
* Ibid., p. 170, et seq.
* See his essays published in Voskhod, November 1897, January-April 1898, December 1901, et seq. German edition, Die Grundlagen des Nationaljudentums, Berlin, n.d.; and K.K. Kinson, Nationalism and History, Philadelphia, 1958, pp. 163, 185.
* K. Kautsky, Rasse und Judentum, Berlin, 1914; quoted here from the revised English translation, Are the Jews a Race? London, 1926, p. 89 et seq.
† Ibid., p. 202.
‡ Ibid., p. 207.
* Ibid., p. 211.
† Ibid., p. 212.
‡ Ibid., p. 213.
* Ibid., p. 246.
* Zur Kritik der zionistischen Theorie und Praxis. Resistentia, Frankfurt, 1970, p. 39.
* O. Oauer, Die Nationalitaetenfrage und die Sozialdemokratie, Vienna, 1907, p. 135.
† Ibid., p. 366 et seq.
* Quoted in Leo Baeck Year Book, 10, London 1965, p. 275.
† Rudolf Springer [Karl Renner], Der Kampf der oesterreichischen Nation um den Staat, Leipzig, 1902, passim. E. Pernerstorfer, ‘Zur Judenfrage’, in Der Jude, 1916–17, p. 308.
‡ Neue Zeit, vol. 15, 1896–7, p. 186; vol. 16 1897–8, p. 600.
§ Neue Zeit, vol. 19, 1900–1, p. 324 et seq.
‖ Justice, 21 October 1899; quoted in E. Silberner, Sozialisten zur Judenfrage, Berlin, 1962, p. 262.
* Quoted in ibid., pp. 89–90.
† A. Szanto, Der Zionismus — eine nationalistische und reaktionaere Utopie, Berlin, 1930, pp. 52–3.
* Neue Zeit, vol. 11, 1891–2, pp. 236–7; J. Joses (ed.), Die Lösung der Judenfrage, Berlin, 1907, passim; Neue Zeity, vol. 32, 1913–14.
* Lenin, Sochineniya (second Russian edition), vol. 17, p. 118.
† Ibid., p. 141.
* J.J. Jtalin, Marxism and the National Question, New York, n.d., p. 6 et seq.
† Quoted in J. Jeftwich, What Will Happen to the Jews? London, 1936, pp. 137, 149.
* Otto Heller, Der Untergang des Judentums, Vienna, 1931, pp. 173–4.
† Ibid., pp. 21–2.
* W. Wukerman, The Jew in Revolt, London, 1937, pp. 121–3.
* Ibid., pp. 112–13.
† Ibid., pp. 131, 236.
* Ibid., p. 255.
* Forward (Yiddish), 28 January 1937; see also ‘On the Jewish Question’, Fourth International, December 1945.
* See, for instance, N. Weinstock, Le Sionisme contre Israel, Paris, 1968.
† A. Leon, Conception materialiste de la question Juive, Paris, 1946. Quotations are from the English edition, The Jewish Question. A Marxist Interpretation, Mexico, 1950, p. 210 et seq.
‡ Ibid., pp. 222, 228.
* Zur Kritik der Zionistischen Theorie und Praxis, p. 7.
† I. Deutscher, The Non-Jewish Jew, London, 1968, pp. 111–12.
‡ Ibid., p. 126 et seq.
* Ibid., p. 26.