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Arunansh B Goswami
An Indo-Israeli friendship ambassador.

Herzl’s vision

Theodor Herzl observing the Rhine from the balcony of Hotel Les Trois Rois during the Fifth Zionist Congress in 1901 in Basel. Image source: Wikimedia.

Nations long suppressed

When India got independence from Britain, the first Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru gave a speech which became famous as the “Tryst with destiny speech”, he mentioned in that speech “A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.” Though Mr. Nehru made the aforementioned statement for India, it is equally applicable to Israel. The saga of Israeli perseverance to oppression imposed on them by plethora of foreign nations, headed by ambitious conquerers from Nebuchadnezzar II, to Nero and from Basil I, to Adolf Hitler is a thoroughly emotional saga, which is the emotive pillar and a pillar of strength of the modern nation state of Israel. The pain of their ancestors, finds echo now and then amongst the Jews, when antisemites try to abnegate centuries of persecution of Israeli people. Eugen Dühring an antisemitic Philosopher, mentions in his book The Jewish-Problem as a Problem of Race, Morals and Culture that the Jewish question is a purely racial question, and for him the Jewish race was without any worth whatsoever. Those peoples which, out of a false sentiment of humanity, had permitted the Jews to live among them with equal and sometimes even with superior rights, had to be liberated from the harmful intruder, had to be de-Judaized.

Export of hate

Group of young Jews who fled Iraq for Eretz Israel following the 1941 Farhud pogrom in Baghdad. Image source: Wikicommons.

When a substantial spectrum of Western public opinion ranging from intellectual to plebeian had absorbed the centuries of antisemitic notions peddled as diatribes against Jews, the anti-Jewish hatred was slowly exported to the Orient, in order to make no place safe for the Jews. Mein Kampf had been translated into Arabic by Yunis al-Sab’awi, and was published in a local newspaper, Al Alam al Arabi (The Arab World), in Baghdad during 1933-1934. Yunis al-Sab’awi also headed the Futtuwa, a pre-military youth movement influenced by the Hitlerjugend (Hitler Youth) in Germany. After the coup d’etat, of Rashid ‘Ali al-Kailani, an anti-British nationalist politician from one of the leading families in Baghdad, against the pro-British government in Iraq on April 2, 1941, al-Sab’awi became a minister in the new Iraqi government. Iraqi soldiers and policemen who had supported Rashid Ali al-Gailani’s coup d’etat in April and Futtuwa youths who were sympathetic to the Axis incited and led the riots against Jews, in Iraq which came to be called Farhud riots. Slowly anti Jewish hatred was exported to other countries of Asia including India, in India it was rationalized by telling that India being a post-colonial society should not stand with Jews who were nothing but agents of the West to continue their colonialism in regions inhabited by people of color. From the malady of Capitalism to Communism depending on which side of the ideological spectrum you are, all maladies affecting the world were said to be the results of a Jewish conspiracy to dominate the world as per the antisemites.

Importance of Theodore Herzl

Theodore Herzl founding father of Israel. Image source: Wikicommons.

Austrian Jewish journalist and playwright Theodore Herzl, understood that neither the Orient nor Occident would be a peaceful place for Jews if they do not have their own homeland ruled by them. Assimilation was no panacea for antisemitism, being a better national of one’s adoptive home was not enough to obliterate centuries of accumulated hatred against the Jewish people as was vindicated by the Dreyfus affair. “The Dreyfus case,” Herzl wrote in 1899, “embodies more than a judicial error; it embodies the desire of the vast majority of the French to condemn a Jew, and to condemn all Jews in this one Jew. Death to the Jews! howled the mob, as the decorations were being ripped from the captain’s coat…. Where? In France. In republican, modern, civilized France, a hundred years after the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The French people, or at any rate the greater part of the French people, did not want to extend the rights of man to Jews. The edict of the great Revolution had been revoked.” There was no social or religious solution to this problem even conversion to other faiths and giving up one’s Jewish identity was not a solution as was showed in Portugal when the Inquisition came to Portugal in 1496, those Conversos (Jewish converts to Roman Catholicism ) who opted not to emigrate, many, if not most, were murdered by the “Holy” Inquisition. Even though several Jews became Muslims in the Ottoman Empire, many of them are still called Dönmeh and looked down upon as traitors, who along with Freemasons led to the fall of the Ottoman Caliphate.

THEODOR HERZL IN IZMIR, TURKEY IN 1898. Image source: Wikimedia.

Theodore Herzl mentioned that even Jews faithfully repeat the cry of the antisemites: “We depend for sustenance on the nations who are our hosts, and if we had no hosts to support us we should die of starvation.” This is a point that shows how unjust accusations may weaken our self-knowledge. What the antisemites were making Jews believe basically their incompetency to govern themselves, something similar was conveyed by Rudyard Kipling in his poem, The White Man’s burden though not for Jews but for people of color, this is a poem he wrote as his contribution to the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, but he repurposed this literary arsenal of his to exhort the so called civilized American people to conquer and rule Philippines. What Theodore Herzl was talking about was that Jews were being made to harbor an inferiority complex about their own ability to rule themselves and sustain the plenitude of the Jewish people, basically Jews were intellectually colonized by Western nations.

Hope of a Jewish State

Mountain Jews Matatyahu Bogatyrev and Shlomo Mordekhaev with Theodor Herzl at the World Zionist Congress. Basel, Switzerland, 1897. Image source: Wikicommons.

In an address delivered by the English author, Hall Caine, at a meeting in London and quoted by Theodore Herzl in one of his speeches it is mentioned “If I were a Jew I should be mightily proud of the fact, proud to belong to an ancient race which has produced some of the greatest men in history; proud of a nation which still takes an active part in the affairs of the world, although it can call neither throne nor king nor army nor a square inch of the earth’s surface its own; proud of a literature which in Holy Writ has soared to a height not attained by other masterpieces of the human spirit; I should be proud of the opportunity of taking part in an effort to transform Palestine from a poverty-stricken desert to a land of rich fertility and prosperity; but should be proudest of all the great possibility which now lies before the Jews, namely, to be able to work for the poor and oppressed of their people, in order to realize the tremendous religious hope which has sustained them for three thousand hideous years.”

THEODOR HERZL (SEATED AT CENTER OF TABLE) WITH MEMBERS OF THE ZION ORGANIZATION IN THE LUBER CAFE IN VIENNA, 1896. Image source: Wikimedia.

Theodore Herzl mentioned in one of his Congress addresses “At the present time the masses of the Jewish proletariat are not only the poorest and unhappiest, but the most unquiet and the most disquieting as well. They are constantly wandering out of one state of wretchedness into another, and how great must their suffering be if they are ready to brave the hopelessness of these wanderings merely in order to seek out a new kind of misery! To render this proletariat steady and industrious were a noble task in itself, apart from any national or religious motive.”

Zionism an idea of several things old and many things new 

The “Basel Program” at the First Zionist Congress in 1897. Image source: Wikipedia.

Herzl mentioned, Zionism has already brought about something remarkable, therefore regarded as impossible: a close union between the ultra-modern and the ultra-conservative elements of Jewry. The fact that this has come to pass without undignified concessions on the part of either side, without intellectual sacrifices, is further proof, if such proof be necessary, of the national entity of the Jews. A union of this kind is possible only on a national basis.

Herzl and the ‘Democratic Fraction’ at the Fifth Zionist Congress. Image source: Wikimedia.

The protests of several rabbis were among the most striking of these manifestations. That these gentlemen pray for Zion and at the same time agitate against it, will forever remain a strange phenomenon. This inconsistency may be explained by the fact that they were in the beginning uncertain as to whether their congregations sympathized with the new call of Zion. However, an idea like ours cannot be left to the mercy of those who have heretofore been presidents of Jewish communities or to the opportunistic considerations of their spiritual advisers. That there should be agitations in Jewish communities against Zion has become unbearable. The situation is absurd, impossible. We must end it. An election campaign must be begun wherever the heads of the communities are not yet with us.

Theodore Herzl’s ideology was not appreciated by several Orthodox Jews rather they criticized it, they were ready to be the lambs for slaughter rather than to accept the new plan influenced by an old idea being put forward by Herzl. Herzl was a votary and supporter of Jews maintaining their distinctive identity, rather than assimilate in the national mainstream of their adoptive homes to become that nation itself, an idea that India has followed too, Parsis in India are more Persian than Indian ethnically but they are nevertheless proud Indians.

Herzl wrote with great appreciation of the quality of the Russian delegates. He said, “They possess that inner unity which has disappeared from among the westerners. They are steeped in Jewish national sentiment without betraying any national narrowness and intolerance. They are not tortured by the idea of assimilation. They do not assimilate into other nations, but exert themselves to learn the best in other peoples. In this way they manage to remain erect and genuine. Looking on them, we understood where our forefathers got the strength to endure through the bitterest times.” Theodore Herzl was telling the Jews to be who they were, Jews, but to learn things that could be of their advantage from other nationalities these are the essential ingredients of a successful nation, and it seems Herzl was well aware about them and wanted the Jews to know it all around the world.

Conclusion 

David Ben-Gurion (First Prime Minister of Israel) publicly pronouncing the Declaration of the State of Israel, May 14 1948, Tel Aviv, Israel, beneath a large portrait of Theodor Herzl, founder of modern political Zionism, in the old Tel Aviv Museum of Art building on Rothshild St. Image source: Wikipedia.

Theodore Herzl gave hope to his people for a better future, an assurance to the world that a Jewish Nation would be to its advantage, from the Occidental nations of Europe to the Oriental Islamic Empire of Ottoman Turks. Herzl was a progressive man and wanted his people to be progressive too, but not self loathing lot, who try to obliterate their Jewish heritage but those who learn the best advances of their nationalities and use it for the betterment of the Jewish people. Though he died decades before the State of Israel’s establishment, he is considered the country’s founding father. 

About the Author
Mr. Arunansh B. Goswami is a lawyer by profession in New Delhi India, also a historian by training. He has studied history at the historical and prestigious St. Stephen’s College in Delhi India, he has also read law at prestigious, Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi ( India ) which has given one of the highest number of Judges to Indian Supreme Court. He has worked as a research consultant with Union Minister of Steel and Civil Aviation of India, Mr. J. M. Scindia and Mrs. Priyadarshini Raje. Scindia titular Queen of the erstwhile princely state of Gwalior in India. Mr. Goswami has studied Israeli and Jewish History deeply and travelled extensively in Israel, and Uzbekistan to explore and research about sites associated with Jewish Prophets.
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