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Friday, February 01, 2008

Colonization vs. colonialism - the Jewish Colonization Association

In November I wrote a posting discussing why Zionism is not colonialist - and in fact it is anti-colonialism, as it is a national liberation movement.

Another way to look at this would be to understand the difference between colonialism and colonization. Nowhere is this illustrated better than with a look back at a prominent organization founded in 1891 called the Jewish Colonization Association.

The JCA was founded by Baron de Hirsch in 1891 and was headquartered for most of its existence in Paris. Its purpose, according to its charter, was:
"To assist and promote the emigration of Jews from any parts of Europe or Asia, and principally from countries in which they may for the time being be subjected to any special taxes or political or other disabilities, to any other parts of the world, and to form and establish colonies in various parts of North and South America and other countries for agricultural, commercial, and other purposes." "To establish and maintain or contribute to the establishment and maintenance in any part of the world of educational and training institutions, model farms, loan-banks, industries, factories, and any other institutions or associations which in the judgment of the council may be calculated to fit Jews for emigration and assist their settlement in various parts of the world, except in Europe, with power to contribute to the funds of any association or society already existing or hereafter formed and having objects which in the opinion of the council may assist or promote the carrying out of the objects of the association."
Some of these colonies were in Palestine, but most weren't. They were all over - in Turkey, Cyprus, Canada, the US, Brazil and above all in Argentina.

The impetus behind this organization was roughly the same as early political Zionism - to find places where oppressed Jews could live in freedom. At its height there were thousands of Jews who lived in these colonies established on land purchased by the JCA worldwide.

There were other organizations with roughly the same goals, for example the
Alliance Israélite Universelle founded in 1860, which received land as a gift from the Ottoman emperor in 1870 and started the first modern Jewish agricultural settlement in Palestine. But the AIU also donated money to Jewish schools and other organizations worldwide.

The intent for these early ventures was colonization, not colonialism. The means and goals were strikingly the same as for classic modern Zionism, to buy land for Jews to live in freedom.

The fact that the JCA didn't distinguish between its Palestine colonies and its Argentine and Canadian colonies shows that the accusations of "colonialism" from those who purchased land in Palestine are groundless. And as the pogroms in Europe continued through the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the prescience of these organizations and their founders is nothing less than amazing.