Reflections on Zionism- Its thinkers and Implementers (2)

“The idea which I have developed in this pamphlet is an ancient one: it is the restoration of the Jewish state.”

So begins the preface of Dr. Theodor Herzl’s Judenstadt (the Jewish State – published in 1896.)

After covering the Dreyfus case for the leading Viennese paper, Herzl became convinced of the need for a “State” within recognized International structures and guarantees.

The “modern day Moses”, however decided that the ” idea” of a sovereign state could be implemented only through negotiations; and he became the statesman of the people before the Sultan of Turkey, Kaiser Wilhelm, the King of Italy, and Pope Pius X.  Just as his “ancient” but timeless princely model who had been educated at the “Oxford’s” and “Harvard’s “of Egypt; and, thus spoke to “Pharaoh” with secular “sophistication” in the King’s  Egyptian, and through his thought process,  Herzl, with his royal bearing, too proclaimed in the ruling palaces, a new era for his people, which would once again, culminate in re-establishing their homeland.

On August 29th, 1897, two hundred delegates, representatives of the Jewish communities responded to his call and founded the World’s Zionist Congress.

Herzl’s diary entry of September 03, 1897, demonstrates that he crossed the “Red Sea” from a visionary’s dream to a realist blueprint.

At Basil, accordingly, I have created the abstraction which, as such is imperceptible to the great majority.  I gradually worked the people  into the atmosphere  of a State and made them feel that they were its National Assembly…

And for that, the Congress had constructed the Basel Program upon which to build a legal structure for the State:

  1. The settlement in Palestine of farmers, artisans and laborers in such a manner as serves the purpose. (On this qualification Herzl insisted to demonstrate his opposition to an immigration trickle without political guarantees.).
  2. The Organization and Union of the whole of Jewry, in suitable local and general bodies, in accordance with the laws of their respective countries.
  3. The strengthening of the Jewish National feeling and national consciousness.
  4. Preparatory steps to obtain governmental consent, necessary to achieve the goals of Zionism. (To ensure Herzl’s diplomatic credentials for his “shuttle diplomacy” on behalf of the Zionist movement.)

Whereas for Herzl, it was the Dreyfus case that convinced him that no other solution existed, for Ben- Gurion it was the abrogation of the Balfour declaration and the League of Nations Mandate through the infamous White Paper of 1939 which restricted Jewish immigration and curtailed land purchases in Palestine. Ben-Gurion recognized that Britain could no longer be depended on for its support; and that after the War, it would be United States that would emerge as a superpower. Nevertheless,  Ben-Gurion supported the War on behalf of Britain: “With our bodies, our souls, our capital,  and our might”, as if the White Paper did not exist but he also decided to fight the White Paper to gain a homeland.

At the Biltmore Hotel, in New York on May 12th, 1942 to the 600 delegates of all the Zionist Movements that Ben-Gurion had convened, he announced the ‘Biltmore program’. The vision was concretized – the Jews must control their own destiny. Never again would Jewish existence be dependent on the tolerance or even the goodwill of other governments. It would have to be based on International legal structures and guarantees.

The new world order that will follow victory cannot be established on foundations of peace, Justice and equality unless the problem of the Jewish homelessness is finally solved. The conference urges:

       1) that the gates of Palestine be opened to Jewish immigration;

    2) That the Jewish agency be vested with control of immigration into Palestine and with the necessary authority for building the country, including the development of its unoccupied and uncultivated land;

  1. That Palestine be established as a Jewish Commonwealth, integrated in the structure of the new democratic world.

From a labour and Zionist leader, Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister, emerged as a statesman of what was to become the reborn Jewish state. Two days before his death, Avigdor Green, Ben Gurion’s father, had lived to hear his son pronounce the words of the Biltmore Program, worldwide. Basel and Biltmore: Herzl and Ben- Gurion, had “met”, as Avigdor had hoped when he had addressed a letter to Dr Theodor Herzl in November 1901.

About the Author
Michel M.J. Shore is a retired judge of the Federal Court of Canada and recently made a home in Israel. He is the writer of several published books and poetry collections.