Describing the close of the First Zionist Conference at Basle, at which the Zionist movement espoused political Zionism – “At Basle I founded the Jewish State,” Herzl would note – the London-based Pall Mall Gazette (3 September 1897) reported:
‘An historic and unique conference ended this evening … For the first time in Jewish history the dispersed members of Israel have been momentarily united, and the closing scene illustrated well what this meant … Herzl himself, whose labours have been immense, made his farewell speech. It was a simple, unaffected speech. It was strange to listen to the apologetic words – to this Jew, with his aristocratic manner, his proud bearing, to this leader, offering excuses for possible presidential mistakes. Then he raised the note slightly: the Congress had been worthy of itself and worthy of Israel, it had been unanimous, it had been enthusiastic; from the ends of the earth they had gathered together, the brotherhood of Israel was a reality. They dared not read the future, but their programme augured well; by their efforts they would realise all their desires.
Further words were drowned in applause, the silence maintained gave way suddenly, men mounted chairs, and ladies rushed forward… Doctors and jurists, Russian and English, German and Palestinian, cheered, even the gallery caught the infection: it was a scene better seen than imagined... “The Congress is at an end.” Men looked at each other with solemn faces and tear-dimmed eyes. The last handshake, the last greeting, the barely reunited were to be re-dispersed. The breaking up of a large family, and that as it were all of a sudden, was affecting in the extreme. Herzl and Nordau shook hands with everyone in turn; men invited each other to homes at the four corners of the globe. They kissed each other affectionately; even journalists felt this was no common parting. “To the next Congress,” “A year to come in Jerusalem”; farewell was too harsh a term. ‘
An affecting scene indeed.
Some weeks earlier, the Daily Mail (30 March 1897), had reported the views towards political Zionism of certain Anglo-Jewish communal leaders, as follows.
Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler: “I consider that the holding of this congress is an egregious blunder. While I yield to none in being an ardent lover of Zion, while I lay the greatest possible stress on the importance of establishing colonies in Palestine … I believe that Dr Herzl’s idea of a Jewish State there is absolutely mischievous.”
Sir Samuel Montague: “I am an Englishman, and all my aim is to anglicise the Jews with whom I come in contact. I therefore view the internationalism of Dr Herzl and his supporters with great disfavour.”
An unnamed member of the Rothschild family: “If the Jews ever return to Palestine, I hope they will let me be their ambassador to London.”
We all know what those personages meant, of course. The idea of political Zionism was anathema because it threatened to imperil the citizenship of Jews in the respective lands in which they were domiciled. It risked raising the spectre of dual loyalties. It might mean that hard-won rights of citizenship would be taken away, and Jews told to go to Palestine. It might impede the conferral of citizenship in lands of persecution, with taunts to the persecuted that they must tolerate their lot or leave for their real country. It might entail the forced emigration of all Jews, including the comfortably off, those of professional and mercantile standing, to a land whose probable national language, Hebrew, they did not know, and for whose agrarian pursuits they had no taste. Their lines, to invoke the Psalmist, “had fallen in pleasant places” and they wanted to remain: England was their heritage, London their Jerusalem.
Of course, such attitudes also imbued Jewish communities of France and Central Europe, grateful for the emancipation so relatively recently won, and – with the question “ma yomru ha-goyim?” (“what will the gentiles say?”) – at the back of their minds, anxious about the presence of non-assimilated Ostjuden among them. And, as we all know, for these continental Jewries the catastrophe came soon enough, the Westjuden sharing the fate of their co-religionists from and in lands to the east.
Assumptions were shattered. Eretz Israel beckoned to desperate refugees and displaced persons; the Israeli state was born; Zionists rejoiced; sympathisers with Jewry were glad. Former Western non-Zionists – all but the most hardline and perverse – were won over, the state having shown that fears it would be a Soviet satellite in the region were groundless. All but the most incorrigible and wicked Western antisemites abandoned or at least muzzled their Jew-hatred, the Shoah having demonstrated to what degenerate depths antisemitism could lead. Beset by Arab recalcitrance and hostility, always imperilled and not infrequently attacked, the tiny Jewish state survived, a David to the Arabs’ Goliath. In 1967 – the first of Israel’s defensive wars that I can call to memory – non-Jews volunteered to fight and non-Jews sent unsolicited donations to Israeli embassies to express sympathy with the valiant endangered country.
And then, in the ensuing years, the murderous villain Arafat and his ilk, unable to vanquish Israel by violence, conceived the idea of rebranding themselves Palestinians, conning succeeding generations into believing that Palestine had been a sovereign entity stolen by evil Zionists. The 1967 ceasefire lines became represented as imperialistic borders, and a set of mendacious maps, made into placards, became ubiquitous – a street rallies, at indoor meetings, and online sites including many a Facebook profile. The unacceptability of the 1948 ceasefire lines – so well-voiced by Israeli ambassador to London Michael Comay in 1970 when he declared “The choice before us is not between victory and defeat, but between victory and annihilation. We therefore have not the slightest intention of allowing the re-creation of the conditions of vulnerability in which we found ourselves, abandoned and alone, in the summer of 1967” – morphed, in the twisted minds of the “pro-Palestinian activists” conned by PLO propaganda, into the “One State Solution” that the chant “From the River to the Sea, Palestine shall be Free” signifies, a solution that originated in the “Democratic Secular State” vision of such 1970s campaigners as the odious Peter Hain and has grown ever shriller as the Muslim population of the West continues exponentially to rise.
Bizarre in the extreme it is, that today’s Left, largely contemptuous of religion, ignorant of or disdainful of scripture, and hostile to “fascism” and “patriarchy”, should make common cause with Islam. We had yet another reminder of this strange yet by now utterly predictable alliance this past weekend in Sydney’s Bankstown, when members of Socialist Alliance, Anti-Fascist Action, and other ratbag groups, clenched fists raised in a totalitarian-like salute, held a so-called anti-racism rally. The Socialist Alliance, one of the principal Israel-demonising groups in Australia, carried a banner proclaiming “Stand with Muslims against Racism” (the letter S in the latter word in the shape of a swastika surmounted by a stop sign.) One grinning hoodie posed for his picture proudly opening his jacket to reveal a tee-shirt bearing the taunting words “Have you considered Islam?” and another young white bloke posed similarly, displaying one stating “Apartheid. Wrong for South Africans. Wrong for Palestinians.”
Yes, anti-“Zionism” (the national liberation movement of the Jewish People and vehicle for Jewish self-determination) has become the default position of today’s Islam-supporting Left, Israel its whipping boy, and with it a perception that the only Jews to be tolerated are the “good Jews” who condemn and spurn Israel, while pro-Israel Jews are deserving of abuse and obloquy. The crises over antisemites in Corbyn’s Labour Party have shown that clearly. So have the abusive messages and death threats levelled at the two bloggers – Edgar Davidson and Israelly Cool’s Brian of London – who over the past week or so have shown so bravely and eloquently why London schoolgirl Leanne Mohamad’s prize-winning speech for a schools’ competition under the auspices of the respected Speakers’ Trust is antisemitic and why it matters.
As the left-leaning British journalist Jonathan Freeland observed in The Guardian (29 April 2016): “On the left, black people are usually allowed to define what’s racism; women can define sexism; Muslims are trusted to define Islamophobia. But when Jews call out something as antisemitic, leftist non-Jews feel curiously entitled to tell Jews they’re wrong, that they are exaggerating or lying or using it as a decoy tactic – and to then treat them to a long lecture on what anti-Jewish racism really is.”
Distinguished British journalist Charles Moore argued six years ago (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/charlesmoore/7803919/Why-has-Israel-disarmed-itself-in-the-battle-for-world-opinion.html):
‘Israel is understandably obsessed with security, but its greatest security lies ultimately not in the Israeli Defence Forces, but in political warfare.... Most of the world is not deeply interested in what happens in Israel, and probably does not want to be deluged with legalistic defences of particular actions. What it wants is a clear, calm, repeated case. It is a case – aimed more at public opinion than at foreign ministries – about freedom, democracy, a Western way of life and the need for the whole of the free world to fight terrorism. Sometimes you hear Israelis say: “It doesn’t matter what we say. The whole world is against us.” You can see why they say it, for they are indeed unfairly treated. But when they say it, they are uttering a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they won’t say what needs saying, no one else will say it for them.’
On my own blog’s sidebar I’ve taken to posting rebuttals of anti-Israel slurs such as the “Apartheid state” libel. Thus I’ve quoted David Singer:
‘The division of Judea and Samaria (West Bank) into three separate areas “A”, “B” and “C” was agreed on by Israel and the PLO pursuant to the Oslo Accords. 95% of the West Bank Arabs live in Areas A and B and their daily lives are under the total administration and control of the PLO since the Palestinian Authority was disbanded by Abbas in January 2013. The PLO has total security control in A and shares security control in B with Israel. Israel has total administrative and security control in C. Israel is entitled to and will continue to take responsibility for the security of Jews living in the West Bank. Jews were given the legal right to settle in the West Bank under article 6 of the Mandate for Palestine and article 80 of the UN Charter. They did so for decades until they were driven out in 1947 and not able to return there until 1967.’
‘There are Arab roads only in the West Bank that Jews are not allowed to use. Jews are also forbidden from entering Area “A”. Selling land to Jews is forbidden by the PLO under pain of death. 3. The PLO runs the daily lives of 95% of the West Bank Arabs and Hamas runs the daily lives of 100% of the Gazan Arabs. They have been under occupation – and subjugation – by these two evil groups for the last ten years and given no say in their future or any opportunity to elect others to lead them following the disastrous political decisions of their leaders over the past ten years. 4. Hamas and the PLO do not accept the continued existence of a Jewish State and call for its disappearance. The narratives did not begin in 1948 – they began in about 1917. How do you make peace with an enemy that has been obsessed with not recognising any Jewish national rights in former Palestine for the last 100 years?’
But perhaps it’s time to heed Edgar Davidson’s advice to friends of Israel (http://edgar1981.blogspot.com.au/2016/05/on-appropriate-response-to-antisemitic.html).
Abhorring the reactive approach, which ensures, he says, ‘The lies and blood libels ("Israel massacres children", "Israel is an Apartheid state" etc) become the focus of the discussion; The lies and blood libels get repeated ad nausea and hence become intrinsically associated with Israel; The systematic lying and psychopathic behaviour of the Palestinians and their supporters is totally ignored’ we must, he continues, shift from concentration on what Israel isn’t, and rely on attack as the best means of defence:
‘Since almost all of the lies against Israel are simply a reflection of what her accusers really do, the accusations should be turned back against them; for example, here are the kind of things that the banners should say: "There are 58 apartheid countries in the world: they are the 58 Islamic countries." "Palestinians glory in the murder of Jewish children" "The greatest honour in Palestinian society is to kill a Jew in cold blood.” "Believing Palestinian lies inhibits peace." "Accepting Palestinian lies encourages them to kill." "Arabs ethnically cleansed Jews from every one of their countries" etc. We should also be telling the stories and showing the faces of the many Israelis murdered by Palestinians including the hundreds of children.’
There’s merit in that message.
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