The Failure of “Zionism” to Eliminate Anti-Semitism

Dear Friends,


Theodor Herzl was a noted journalist and writer of the late 19th century who became the founder of the World Zionist Organization in 1897. Many of its members were inspired by his pamphlet, Jewish State, which proclaimed that the solution to the rising anti-Semitism in the modern world was to establish a Jewish State in Zion. In this pamphlet, he wrote:


“Now all this may appear to be a drawn-out affair. Even in the most favorable circumstances, many years might elapse before the founding of the State is under way. In the meantime, Jews in a thousand different places will suffer insult, mortification, abuse, drubbings, depredation, and death. But no; once we begin to execute the plan, anti-Semitism will cease at once and everywhere. For it is the conclusion of peace.” (Cited in “The Zionist Idea” by Dr. Arthur Hertzberg)


Yes, Herzl and many of his followers sincerely believed that the establishment of a Jewish state would quickly eliminate anti-Semitism and also become, “the conclusion of peace.” Today, we know that that this belief was an illusion. A reference to this illusion appeared a number of years ago in the editorial of the Forward, a Jewish weekly newspaper published in the United States. The editorial discussed the State of Israel’s 55th birthday, and it made the following observation: “Statehood has given rise to a Jewish community unique in its physical vulnerability.” The Forward added that Zionism, which was supposed to be the answer to the old scourge of anti-Semitism, has become the catalyst for a new wave of anti-Semitism “directed at Zionism, and Israel, and Jews all over the world as its agents.” (Editorial of May 2nd, 2003)


In my search for the soul of Zion, I sought to discover the cause of this illusion, and in this letter, I will begin to share with you the information and insights which I gained from my historical research and Torah study. Before we can begin to understand why Herzl began to think that the establishment of a Jewish State would solve the problem of anti-Semitism and bring peace, we need to be aware that Herzl and other assimilated Jewish intellectuals in Europe had previously thought that the assimilation of Jews, as individuals, among the nations where they lived would eliminate anti-Semitism.


A major reason why they developed this view is because Jews began to gain some civil rights in Germany and other Western European countries during the 19th century. As Dr. Arthur Hertzberg discusses in the introduction to his book, “The Zionist Idea,” many Jews were therefore hopeful that their enthusiastic identification with the nationality of their host-nation would cause hatred of the Jews to disappear, despite the fact that many of the gentile liberals of that period had anti-Semitic views. As Dr, Hertzberg writes in his introduction, the assimilated Jews began to view this ongoing anti-Semitism in the following manner: “It was chastisement for the sin of imperfect assimilation.” Their goal was to therefore to reach the age “when the Jews, by completely refashioning themselves in the image of proper westerners, would have won the acceptance that they then would merit” (ibid).


To the dismay of these Jewish advocates of assimilation, hatred of the Jews persisted during the last half of the 19th century and even grew worse. Dr. Hertzberg points out that “bitter Jew-hatred persisted even where its objects were most completely de-Judaized in life and spirit”; in fact, it was during this period that the modern term “anti-Semitism” was first coined by Wilhelm Marr, a leading German thinker. According to the modern anti-Semite, even an assimilated Jew is a threat to the Gentiles because the Jew cannot escape his true identity; thus, a leading German thinker and anti-Semite, Karl Eugen Duehring, wrote in 1881:

”The Jewish question would still exist even if every Jew were to turn his back on his religion and join one of our major churches. Yes, I maintain that in that case the struggle between us and the Jews would make itself felt even more urgent. It is precisely the baptized Jew who infiltrates furthermost, unhindered in all sectors of society and political life.” (The Question of the Jew is a Question of Race)
In other words, the modern anti-Semite finds the assimilated Jew to be even more of a threat than the Jew who remains loyal to Judaism and maintains a separate identity, for the assimilated Jew “infiltrates” into all areas of Gentile society; in fact, a study of this period reveals that as Jewish assimilation into German society increased, German anti-Semitism also increased.


In Russia, some Jewish intellectuals were inspired by the growing number of German Jews who were attempting to assimilate, and they began to encourage Jews in Russia to also assimilate. They felt that liberal and educated Russians would embrace them, and that these Russian “friends” would be in the vanguard of the struggle against anti-Semitism.


These Jewish intellectuals were traumatized, however, when Jews were massacred during the Russian pogroms of 1881; moreover, they were shocked to discover that the pogroms were publicly supported by many of their liberal gentile colleagues among the Russian intelligentsia, while other liberal gentile colleagues failed to protest against the massacres. As Dr. Hertzberg mentions, “Tolstoy and Turgenev, the greatest living Russian writers, had remained silent” (ibid).  


In his explanation of the growing disillusionment of some assimilated, westernized Jews during the late 19th century, Dr. Hertzberg writes:


“In addition to faith in the state, the other axiom of the western Jews was belief in education, the certainty that it was not only his passport into a wider world but also that the educated classes were his unshakeable allies. He had chosen to believe this, despite the growing Jew-hatred among the intelligentsia in the second half of the nineteenth century, and before 1881, the intellectuals of Russian Jewry followed after him in that faith. But university students had joined in the making of pogroms and the outburst of violence had been defended in respectable newspapers as valid expressions of popular discontent…This, as many contemporary Jewish intellectuals have attested, was for them, the most searing feature of the pogroms, because it shook the last pillar of their trust in the gentile world.” (Ibid)


Dr. Hertzberg describes how these developments caused a number of young assimilated Jewish intellectuals in Russia to conclude that the only hope for the Jews was to establish a state of their own; in fact, one of these intellectuals, Leo Pinsker, wrote a pamphlet titled Auto-Emancipation which helped spread this idea. In the next decade, Theodor Herzl, an assimilated Jewish writer and journalist, arrived at the same conclusion. In 1894, Herzl was shocked by the intense anti-Semitism he witnessed during the trial of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army, who was falsely accused of treason. He was especially shocked by the mob in Paris shouting, “Death to the Jews.” And with the encouragement of the army leadership and the leadership of the Catholic Church, a wave of anti-Semitism had swept over France during the trial. It was only years later that Dreyfus was proven innocent, but his trial and conviction led Herzl to conclude that the Jews are a distinct nationality which will never be fully accepted by their host-nations. He therefore decided that the only true solution to the problem of anti-Semitism was for Jews to have a state of their own.
As Dr. Hertzberg mentions, some Jewish intellectuals of the 19th century initially tried to solve the problem of anti-Semitism by “completely refashioning themselves in the image of proper westerners” (ibid). In other words, Jews, as individuals, would adopt the culture of the land in which they lived. Dr. Hertzberg’s review of the early history of the World Zionist Organization reveals that Herzl and a number of leading intellectuals in the new Zionist movement thought of the following new, national version of this previous approach – one which they believed would solve the problem of anti- Semitism:


The entire Jewish nation will refashion itself as a proper western nation in its own land and thereby win the friendship and respect of the other nations.


As we discussed in previous letters, these Zionist leaders sought to transform our unique spiritual nation into a nation like other nations through having nationalism replace the Torah as the raison d’etre of our people. As an example of their desire to emulate the other nations, Dr. Hertzberg cites the following statement of Jacob Klatzkin, a leading Zionist thinker, which became the slogan of many Zionist activists: “Let us be like all the nations!”


In 1948, the World Zionist Organization established the State of Israel in parts of our ancient homeland, and since then, most of the leaders of the state have proudly proclaimed that Israel is a bastion of western culture and values – a nation like all the western nations. As the Forward editorial indicated in 20003, this modern, western state failed to solve the problem of anti-Semitism; instead, it became a catalyst for a new wave of anti-Semitism which is spreading across the world. The situation has gotten worse since that editorial was written, and the following excerpts from recent reports in the media can serve as sad examples:


LONDON, Feb 19, 2009 (JTA) -- Organizers of Britain’s Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism could not have anticipated the urgency when they scheduled the group’s first-ever summit for this month… The conference drew experts and public figures from 42 countries who said they faced challenges unmatched by anything they’ve seen for decades…Presenters at the conference said the number and scope of anti-Semitic incidents worldwide have risen to levels not seen since the Holocaust. New technologies make the spread of hate across borders easy and quick. And last month’s outbursts of anti-Semitism from London to Caracas show a wellspring of hate against Jews just waiting to be tapped.


Feb 25, 2009 (INN) – Report from B’nai Brith Canada Executive Vice President Frank Dimant regarding the threat to Jewish students at York University: Earlier this month, anti-Israel activists held York University students “captive,” screaming “death to the Jews” until police arrived and escorted the students safely off the campus, Dimant told the Ottawa Citizen.

Feb  27, 2009 (JTA) – “Bomb damages Caracas synagogue” by Ron Kampeas

A Caracas synagogue was damaged by a bomb. The homemade grenade, tossed late Thursday night into the Orthodox Beit Shmuel synagogue, damaged windows and a car; no injuries were reported. It was the second such attack this year on a Jewish site in Caracas. Eleven people, including eight policemen, are under arrest for vandalizing a Caracas synagogue last month. In that attack, the walls were painted with anti-Semitic slogans, religious objects were damaged and thieves stole a database listing Venezuela’s Jews.


The Forward editorial that we cited above also mentioned: “Statehood has given rise to a Jewish community unique in its physical vulnerability.” Since this editorial was written, the President of Iran has called on several occasions for the destruction of Israel, and in the meanwhile, Israel was attacked by the following Iranian-supported organizations: Hizbullah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza. The most serious attacks took place after Israel withdrew from Southern Lebanon, and after Israel withdrew from Gaza, as both Hizbullah and Hamas continued to call for Israel’s destruction.


David Horovitz, the Editor-in-Chief of the Jerusalem Post, wrote on Feb. 19, 2009 that the Hamas charter, Article Seven, proclaims the following message: “The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: ‘The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say, O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’ ”


The following excerpt from a recent New York Times article on February 20, 2009 is a warning that the serious danger posed by Iran is imminent:

Iran Has More Enriched Uranium Than Thought

By William J. Broad and David E. Sanger

In their first appraisal of Iran’s nuclear program since President Obama took office, atomic inspectors have found that Iran recently understated by a third how much uranium it has enriched, United Nations officials said Thursday. The officials also declared for the first time that the amount of uranium that Tehran had now amassed — more than a ton — was sufficient, with added purification, to make an atom bomb.

All of the above information indicates that attempts by Jews to imitate the cultures of the other nations – whether as individuals or as a nation – not only fail to eliminate anti-Jewish hatred, but often increases it! We therefore need to ask ourselves why this is so. In upcoming letters, I hope to discuss with you the spiritual answers to these questions which are discussed by our prophets and sages.

I will conclude this letter by mentioning that Iran is the modern name for Persia. In this month, the month of Adar, we merited to be saved from a tyrant in ancient Persia who sought to destroy our people, and we celebrate this deliverance from genocide on the approaching holiday of Purim. May we also merit to be saved from the destructive plans of the modern Persian tyrant, and may we soon greet the arrival of the Messiah who will bring lasting peace to Israel and the world.


Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen  (see below)

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The quote from the German anti-Semitic thinker was taken from an article by Rabbi Ken Spiro titled “The Enlightenment.” Rabbi Spiro gives a course in Jewish history on (Jewish Literacy section).  One can also request an e-mail subscription to this course by visiting:

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