Political Zionism, “a doctrine which, starting from the postulate of the incompatibility of the Jews and the Gentiles, advocated massive emigration to an underdeveloped country with the aim of establishing a Jewish state,”1 developed as a response to an upsurge of anti-Jewish racism (anti-Semitism) in Europe at the end of the last century.
Herzl’s “pardoning” of anti-Semitism reflected a core assumption of Zionism—a belief that all non-Jews are anti-Semites. Anti-Semitism is “like a psychic affliction, it is hereditary and as a disease has been incurable for 2,000 years,” wrote Leo Pinsker, a Zionist contemporary of Herzl.5 If persecution or death awaited Jews who tried to assimilate into largely Gentile societies, then the only solution to the “Jewish problem” would be the physical separation of Jews and non-Jews. It followed that only a Jewish state could provide a haven from persecution. On this point, the Zionists and anti-Semites converged. Both believed Jews to be a “foreign” presence in Gentile society. And both believed that Gentile society would be better off without Jews.
Early Zionists made no secret that they hoped the Jewish state to be what Herzl called: “a portion of the rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism.”13 Herzl’s writings abound with praise for the leading imperialist powers in Europe. Herzl admired the German Kaiser’s dictatorship: “To live under the protection of a strong, great, moral, splendidly governed and thoroughly organized Germany is certain to have most salutary effects upon the national character of the Jews.” In 1902, he wrote to Lord Rothschild, a British Zionist with connections in the highest reaches of the British state: “So far, you [the British empire] still have elbow room. Nay, you may claim high credit from your government if you strengthen British influences in the Near East by a substantial colonization of our people at the strategic point where Egyptian and Indo-Persian interests converge.”
Zionism’s founders exuded pro-imperialist racism against what they considered the “backward peoples” of Asia and Africa. When it came to seeking imperialist sponsors, the Zionists had no scruples about dealing with any regime, no matter how rotten or anti-Semitic. Herzl himself negotiated for increased Jewish emigration to Palestine with Vyacheslav von Plehve, the Russian Tsar’s Interior Minister and architect of one of the worst pogroms in history at Kishinev in the Russian Empire in 1903. During the First World War, leading Zionists ingratiated themselves to British imperialism. They hoped that Britain would reward them after it defeated the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Palestine. They achieved their goal with the 1917 declaration by Tory politician Lord Balfour. The Balfour Declaration proclaimed British support for “the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people” under British protection. That Balfour had sponsored legislation to bar Jewish immigrants from Britain in 1905 didn’t faze the Zionists.
Let no “liberal” or “cultural” or “labor” or otherwise soft-Zionist ever claim my understanding of Zionism is ahistorical. I know your bloody history a lot better then you do