The Birth of Zionism
How did the Jewish conscience evolve in Russia during the second half of the nineteenth century? Towards 1910, Vladimir Jabotinsky describes this evolution in his somewhat passionate manner: at first, the mass of Jews opposed the Enlightenment, “the fanatic prejudice of an overvalued specificity.” But time did its work, and “as much Jews, historically, fled humanist culture, as much they aspire to it now… and this thirst for knowledge is so widespread that it perhaps makes us, Jews of Russia, the first nation in the world.” However, “running towards the goal, we passed it. Our goal was to form a Jew who, by staying Jewish, could live a life that would be that of the universal man”, and “now we have totally forgotten that we must remain Jewish”, “we stopped attaching a price to our Jewish essence, and it began to weigh on us.” We must “extirpate this mentality from self‐contempt and revive the mentality of self‐respect… We complain that we are despised, but we are not far from despising ourselves.”1
This description reflects the general trend towards assimilation, but not all aspects of the picture. As we have already seen (chapter 4), in the late sixties of the nineteenth century, the publicist and man of letters Smolenskin had spoken out vigorously against the tendency to assimilate Jewish intellectuals, as he had observed it in Odessa or as it had spread in Germany. And he at once declared war on both “bigots and false devotees who want to drive out all knowledge of the house of Israel.” No! One must not be ashamed of their origins, one must cherish their national language and dignity; however, national culture can only be preserved through language, the ancient Hebrew. This is all the more important because “Judaism deprived of territory” is a particular phenomenon, “a spiritual nation”.2 The Jews are indeed a nation, not a religious congregation. Smolenskin advanced the doctrine of “progressive Jewish nationalism.”3
Throughout the 70s, Smolenskin’s voice remained practically unheard of. At the end of this period, however, the liberation of the Slavs from the Balkans contributed to the national awakening of the Jews of Russia themselves. But the pogroms of 1881‒1882 caused the ideals of Haskala to collapse; “The conviction that civilisation was going to put an end to the persecutions of another age against the Jews and that these, thanks to the Enlightenment, would be able to approach the European peoples, this conviction was considerably shaken.”4 (The experience of the pogroms in the south of Ukraine is thus extrapolated to all the Jews of Europe?) Among the Jews of Russia “there appeared the type of the ‘repentant intellectual’, of those who aspired to return to traditional Judaism.”5
It was then that Lev Pinsker, a well‐known doctor and publicist, already sixty years of age, gave the Jews of Russia and Germany a vigorous appeal to self‐emancipation.* Pinsker wrote that faith in emancipation had collapsed, that it was now necessary to stifle every ounce of hope in brotherhood among peoples. Today, “the Jews do not constitute a living nation; they are strangers everywhere; they endure oppression and contempt on the part of the peoples who surround them.” The Jewish people is “the spectre of a dead wandering among the living”. “One must be blind not to see that the Jews are the ‘chosen people’ of universal hatred. The Jews cannot “assimilate to any nation and consequently cannot be tolerated by any nation.” “By wanting to mingle with other peoples, they have frivolously sacrificed their own nationality,” but “nowhere have they obtained that the others recognise them as native‐born inhabitants equal to them.” The destiny of the Jewish people cannot depend on the benevolence of other peoples. The practical conclusion thus lies in the creation of “a people on its own territory”. What is needed, therefore, is to find an appropriate territory, “no matter where, in what part of the world,”6 and that the Jews come to populate it.
Moreover, the creation in 1860 of the Alliance [Israelite Universal] was nothing but the first sign of Jewish refusal of a single option—assimilation.
There already existed among the Jews of Russia a movement of Palestinophilia, the aspiration to return to Palestine. (Conforming, in essence, to traditional religious salutation: “Next year in Jerusalem.”) This movement gained momentum after 1881‒1882. “Stretching out its efforts to colonise Palestine… so that within a century the Jews can finally leave the inhospitable land of Europe”… The slogans that the Enlightenment had previously broadcasted, inciting to fight “traditionalism, Hasidism and religious prejudices, gave way to a call for reconciliation and the union of all layers of Jewish society for the realisation of the ideals” of Palestine, “for the return to the Judaism of our fathers.” “In many cities of Russia, circles were formed, called circles of the ‘Lovers of Zion’—Khovevei‐Tsion.7*
And it was thus that an idea joined another to rectify it. Going to settle elsewhere, yes, but not anywhere: in Palestine.
But what had happened in Palestine? “The first crusade resulted in the virtual disappearance of the few Hebrews who remained in Palestine.” Nevertheless, “a tiny Jewish religious community had succeeded in surviving and the collapse of the Crusader State, and the conquest of the country by the Mamelukes, and the invasion by the Mongol hordes.” Over the following centuries, the Jewish population was somewhat replenished by a modest migratory flow of “believers from different countries”. At the end of the eighteenth century a certain number of Hasidim emigrated from Russia. “In the middle of the nineteenth century, there were twelve thousand Jews in Palestine,” whereas at the end of the eleventh century there were twenty‐five thousand. “These Jewish towns in the land of Israel constituted what was called the Yishuv. All their inhabitants (men) were only studying Judaism, and nothing else. They lived on Haluka—subsidies sent by Jewish communities in Europe. These funds were distributed by the rabbis, hence the absolute authority of the rabbis. The leaders of the Yishuv “rejected any attempt to create in the country even an embryo of productive work of Jewish origin.” They were studying exclusively the Talmud, nothing else, and on a fairly elementary level. “The great Jewish historian G. Gretz, who visited Palestine in 1872,” found that “only a minority studied for real, the others preferred to stroll the streets, remained idle, engaged in gossip and slander.” He believed that “this system favours obscurantism, poverty and degeneration of the Jewish population of Palestine”—and for this he himself “had to undergo Herem**.”8
In 1882, in Kharkov, Palestinophile students founded the Biluim circle. They proposed to “create in Palestine a model agricultural colony”, to set “the tone to the general colonisation of Palestine by the Jews”; they undertook to found circles in several cities of Russia. (Later they created a first settlement in Palestine, but were confronted to the hostility and opposition of the traditional Yishuv: the rabbis demanded that, according to ancient custom, the cultivation of the earth be suspended one year out of seven.9)
Pinsker supported the advocates of the return to Palestine: in 1887 he summoned the first Congress of Palestinophiles in Katovice, then in Druskeniki, and the second in 1887. Propagandists began to cover the Pale of Settlement, speaking in synagogues and public meetings. (Deutsch testifies that after 1882 P. Axelrod himself contributed to palestinophilia…10)
Of course, Smolenskin is one of the passionate apostles of the return to Palestine: bubbling and lively, he connects with Anglo‐Jewish political actors, but he comes up against the opposition of the Alliance, who does not want to promote the colonisation of Palestine, but rather to direct the migratory wave towards America. He then describes the tactics of the Alliance as “betrayal of the cause of the people.” His premature death cut his efforts short.11
We note, however, that this movement towards Palestine was rather weakly received by the Jews of Russia; it was even thwarted. “The idea of a political revival of the Jewish people brought a small handful of intellectuals behind it at the time, and it soon came up against fierce adversaries.”12 The conservative circles, the rabbinate and the Tzadikim* saw in this current towards Palestine an attack on the divine will, “an attack on faith in the Messiah who alone must bring the Jews back to Palestine. As for the progressive assimilationists, they saw in this current a reactionary desire to isolate the Jews from the rest of enlightened humanity.”13
The Jews of Europe did not support the movement either.
Meanwhile, on site, the success of the return was revealed to be “too mitigated”: “many colonists discovered their incompetence in the work of the land”; “the ideal of rebirth of the ancient country was crumbling into petty acts of pure benevolence”; “The colonies survived only because of the subsidies sent by Baron Rothschild.” And in the early 1990s, “colonisation went through… a serious crisis due to an anarchic system of land purchase” and a decision by Turkey (the owner of Palestine) to ban the Jews of Russia from disembarking in Palestinian ports.14
It was at this time that the publicist, thinker and organiser Asher Ginzberg became known, under the eloquent pseudonym of Ahad Haam (“One of His People”). He strongly criticised practical palestinophilia as it had been constituted; what he advocated was, “before striving for a renaissance on a territory”, to worry about “a ‘rebirth of hearts’, an intellectual and moral improvement of the people”: “to install at the centre of Jewish life, a living and spiritual aspiration, a desire for national cohesion, revival and free development in a national spirit, but on the basis of all men.”15 This will later be called “spiritual Zionism” (but not “religious”, and this is important).
That same year, 1889, in order to unite among them those who were dear to the idea of a rebirth of national feeling, Ahad Haam founded a league—or, as it is called—an order: Bne‐Moshe* (“The sons of Moses”), whose status “resembled strongly those of the Masonic lodges; the applicant made the solemn promise of strictly executing all the demands of order; the new members were initiated by a master, the “big brother”; the neophyte undertook to serve without reserve the ideal of national rebirth, even if there was little hope that this ideal would be realised any time soon.”16 It was stipulated in the manifesto of order that “national consciousness takes precedence over religious consciousness, personal interests are subject to national interests,” and it was recommended that a feeling of unreserved love for Judaism, placed above all other objectives of the movement. Thus was prepared “the ground for the reception of political Zionism” of Herzl17… of which Ahad Haam absolutely did not want.
He made several trips to Palestine: in 1891, 1893, and 1900. Regarding colonisation, he denounced an anarchic character and an insufficient rootedness in tradition.18 He “severely criticised the dictatorial conduct of Baron Rothschild’s emissaries.”19
This is how Zionism was born in Europe, a decade behind Russia. The first leader of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, had been, until the age of thirty‐six (he only lived to forty‐four), a writer, a playwright, a journalist. He had never been interested in Jewish history or, a fortiori, in the Hebrew language, and, characteristically, as a good Austrian liberal, he considered the aspirations of the various “ethnic minorities” of the Austro‐Hungarian Empire to self‐determination and national existence to be reactionary, and found it normal to stifle them.20 As Stefan Zweig writes, Herzl cherished the dream of seeing the Jews of Vienna enter the cathedral in order to be baptised and seeing the Jewish question resolved once and for all by the fusion of Judaism and Christianity. But anti‐Jewish sentiments developed in Austria‐Hungary in parallel with the rise of Pan‐Germanism, while in Paris, where Herzl resided at the time, the Dreyfus affair broke out. Herzl had the opportunity to witness the “public degradation of Captain Dreyfus”; convinced of his innocence, he was deeply shaken and changed his course. “If separation is inevitable,” he said, “well, let it be radical! … If we suffer from being without a country, let us build ourselves a homeland!”21 Herzl then had a revelation: it was necessary to create a Jewish state! “As if struck by lightning, Herzl was enlightened by this new idea: anti‐Semitism is not a fortuitous phenomenon subject to particular conditions, it is a permanent evil, it is the eternal companion of the eternal errant,” and “‘the only possible solution to the Jewish question’, is a sovereign Jewish state.”22 (To conceive such a project after nearly two thousand years of diaspora, what imaginative power one needed, what exceptional audacity!) However, according to S. Zweig, Herzl’s pamphlet entitled A Jewish State received from the Viennese bourgeoisie a welcome “perplexed and irritated… What’s gotten into this writer, so intelligent, so cultivated and spiritual? Our language is German and not Hebrew, our homeland—beautiful Austria”, Herzl, “does he not give our worst enemies arguments against us: he wants to isolate us?” Consequently, “Vienna… abandoned him and laughed at him. But the answer came to him from elsewhere; it burst forth like a thunderbolt, so sudden, charged with such a weight of passion and such ecstasy that he was almost frightened to have awakened, around the world, a movement with his dozens of pages, a movement so powerful and through which he found himself overwhelmed. His answer did not come to him, it is true, from the Jews of the West… but from the formidable masses of the East. Herzl, with his pamphlet, had inflamed this nucleus of Judaism, which was smouldering under the ashes of the stranger.”23
Henceforth, Herzl gives himself body and soul to his new idea. He “breaks off with those closest to him, he only frequents the Jewish people… He who, even recently, despised politics, now founds a political movement; he introduces to it a spirit and a party discipline, forms the framework of a future army and transforms the [Zionist] congresses into a true parliament of the Jewish people.” At the first Congress of Basel in 1897 he produced a very strong impression “on the Jews who were meeting for the first time in a parliamentary role,” and “during his very first speech, he was unanimously and enthusiastically proclaimed… leader and chief of the Zionist movement.” He shows “a consummate art to find the formulas of conciliation”, and, conversely, “the one who criticises his objective… or merely blames certain measures taken by him…, that one is the enemy not only of Zionism, but of the entire Jewish people.”24
The energetic writer Max Nordau (Suedfeld) supported him by expressing the idea that emancipation is fallacious, since it has introduced seeds of discord into the Jewish world: the emancipated Jew believes that he really has found a homeland, when “all that is living and vital in Judaism, which represents the Jewish ideal, the courage and the ability to advance, all this is none other than Zionism.”25
At this 1st Congress, the delegates of Russian Zionism “constituted one third of the participants… 66 out of 197.” In the eyes of some, their presence could be regarded as a gesture of opposition to the Russian government. To Zionism had adhered all of the Russian Khovevei‐Tsion, “thus contributing to the establishment of global Zionism.”26 Thus “Zionism drew its strength from the communities of oppressed Jews in the East, having found only limited support among the Jews of Western Europe.”27 But it also followed that the Russian Zionists represented for Herzl a most serious opposition. Ahad Haam waged a fierce struggle against Herzl’s political Zionism (alongside the majority of the palestinophiles), strongly criticising the pragmatism of Herzl and Nordau, and denouncing what he called “their indifference to the spiritual values of Judaic culture and tradition.”28 He found chimeric the hope of political Zionism to found an autonomous Jewish state in the near future; he regarded all this movement as extremely detrimental to the cause of the spiritual rebirth of the nation… “They do not care about the salvation of Judaism in perdition because they care nothing about spiritual and cultural heritage; they aspire not to the rebirth of the ancient nation, but to the creation of a new people from the dispersed particles of ancient matter.”29 (If he uses and even emphasises the word “Judaism,” it is almost evident that it is not in the sense of the Judaic religion, but in the sense of the spiritual system inherited from ancestors. The Jewish Encyclopædia tells us about Ahad Haam that in the 70s, “he was more and more imbued with rationalism and deviated from religion.”30 If the only vocation for Palestine is to “become the spiritual centre that could unite, by national and spiritual ties, the dispersed nations,”31 a centre which “would pour out its ‘light’ on the Jews of the whole world”, would create “a new spiritual bond between the scattered members of the people”, it would be less a “State of the Jews” than “an elite spiritual community.”32
Discussions agitated the Zionists. Ahad Haam strongly criticised Herzl whom Nordau supported by accusing Ahad Haam of “covert Zionist”. World Zionist congresses were held every year; in 1902 took place the one of the Russian Zionists in Minsk, and the discussions resumed. This is where Ahad Haam read his famous exposition: A spiritual rebirth.33
Zionism no longer met with amenity from the outside. Herzl expected this: as soon as the program of the Zionists would take a concrete form and as soon as the real departure to Palestine began, anti‐Semitism everywhere would end. But long before this result was reached, “stronger than others, the voice of those who… feared that the taking of a public position in the nationalist sense of an assimilated Jew would give antisemites the opportunity to say that every assimilated Jew hides under his mask an authentic Jew… incapable of blending into the local population.”34 And as soon as an independent state was created, the Jews went everywhere to be suspected and accused of civic disloyalty, ideological isolationism—which their enemies had always suspected and accused them of.
In reply, at the Second Zionist Congress (1898), Nordau declared: “We reject with disdain the name of ‘party’; the Zionists are not a party, they are the Jewish people themselves… Those who, on the contrary, are at ease in servitude and contempt, they keep themselves carefully apart, unless they fight us fiercely.”35
As one English historian observes: Yes, “Zionism has done a great service to the Jews by restoring them a sense of dignity,” and yet “it leaves unresolved the question of their attitude towards the countries in which they live.”36
In Austria, a compatriot of Herzl, Otto Weininger, argued with him: “Zionism and Judaism are incompatible with the fact that Zionism intends to force the Jews to take upon themselves the responsibility of a state of their own, which contradicts the very essence of every Jew.”37 And he predicted the failure of Zionism.
In Russia in 1899, I. M. Biekerman argued strongly against Zionism, as an idea deemed “quacky, inspired by anti‐Semitism, of reactionary inspiration and harmful by nature”; it is necessary “to reject the illusions of the Zionists and, without in any way renouncing the spiritual particularism of the Jews, struggle hand in hand with the cultural and progressive forces of Russia in the name of the regeneration of the common fatherland.”38
At the beginning of the century, the poet N. Minsky had issued this criticism: Zionism marks the loss of the notion of universal man, it lowers the cosmopolitan dimensions, the universal vocation of Judaism to the level of an ordinary nationalism. “The Zionists, speaking tirelessly of nationalism, turn away from the genuinely national face of Judaism and in fact seek only to be like everyone else, not worse than others.”39
It is interesting to compare these sentences with the remark made before the revolution by the orthodox thinker S. Bulgakov: “The biggest difficulty for Zionism is that it is not able to recover the lost faith of the fathers, and it is obliged to rely on a principle that is either national, cultural or ethnic, a principle on which no genuine great nation can rely exclusively.”40
But the first Russian Zionists—now, “it is from Russia that most of the founders of the State of Israel and the pioneers of the State of Israel came out,”41 and it was in Russian that “were written the best pages of Zionist journalism”42—were filled with an irrepressible enthusiasm for the idea of returning to their people the lost homeland, the ancient land of the Bible and their ancestors, to create a State of unparalleled quality and to have men of exceptional quality grow there.
And this impulse, this call addressed to all to turn to physical work, the work of the earth!—Does not this appeal echo the exhortations of a Tolstoy, the doctrine of asceticism?43
All streams lead to the sea.
But, in the final analysis, how can a Zionist behave towards the country in which he resides for the time being?
For the Russian Zionists who devoted all their strength to the Palestinian dream, it was necessary to exclude themselves from the affairs that agitated Russia as such. Their statutes stipulated: “Do not engage in politics, neither internal nor external.” They could only weakly, without conviction, take part in the struggle for equal rights in Russia. As for participating in the national liberation movement?—but that would be pulling the chestnuts out of the fire for the others!44
Such tactics drew Jabotinsky’s fiery reproaches: “Even passing travellers have an interest in the inn being clean and tidy.”45
And then, in what language should the Zionists display their propaganda? They did not know Hebrew, and, anyway, who would have understood it? Consequently: either in Russian or in Yiddish. And this brought closer once more the radicals of Russia46 and the Jewish revolutionaries.
Evidently, the Jewish revolutionary youth jousted with the Zionists: no and no! The solution of the Jewish question does not lie in the departure out of Russia, it is in the political fight for equal rights here! Instead of going to settle far beyond the seas, we must make use of the possibility of affirming ourselves here in this country. And their arguments could not avoid shaking more than one by their clarity.
In the Bolshevik circles, the Zionists were denounced as “reactionary”; they were treated as “the party of the darkest, most desperate pessimism.”47
Inevitably, intermediate currents were to emerge. Thus the Zionist party of the left Poalei‐Tsion (“Workers of Zion”). It was in Russia that it was founded in 1899; it combined “socialist ideology with political Zionism.” It was an attempt to find a median line between those concerned exclusively with class problems and those concerned only with national problems. “Profound disagreements existed within Poalei‐Tsion on the question of participation in revolutionary action in Russia.”48 (And the revolutionaries themselves were divided, some leaning towards the Social‐Democrats, others towards the Social Revolutionaries.)
“Other Tseirei‐Tsion groups, ideologically close to non‐Marxist socialist Zionism, began to form from 1905 onwards.”49 In 1904, a split within Poalei‐Tsion gave birth to a new party, the “Socialist Zionists”, breaking with the ideal of Palestine: the extension of Yiddish as a spoken language to all Jewish masses, that is quite sufficient, and we scorn the idea of national autonomy! Zionism begins to take on a bourgeois and reactionary tint. What is needed is to create from it a socialist movement, to awaken revolutionary political instincts in the Jewish masses. The party “strongly supported” the “social and economic content” of Zionism, but denied the need to “revive the land of Judea, culture, Hebrew traditions.” Granted, Jewish emigration is too chaotic, it must be oriented towards a specific territory, but “there is no essential link between Zionism and Palestine.” The Hebrew state must be based on socialist and non‐capitalist foundations. Such an emigration is a long‐term historical process; the bulk of the Jewish masses will remain well into the future in their current places of residence. “The party has approved the participation of the Jews in the political struggle in Russia”50—that is to say, in the struggle for their rights in this country. As for Judaism and faith, they despised them.
All this mishmash had to generate a “socialist Jewish” group called “Renaissance”, which “believed that the national factor is progressive by nature”, and in 1906 the members of this group who had broken with the Zionists Socialist Party constituted the Soviet Socialist Workers’ Party, the SERP. (They were called serpoviys or seymovtsy, for they demanded the election of a Jewish national Sejm—Seim—intended to be the “supreme organ of Jewish national self‐government.”51) For them, Russian and Hebrew were, in their capacity of languages of use, equal. And by advocating “autonomism” within the Russian state, the SERP, socialist, was distinguished from the Bund, also socialist.52
In spite of the disagreements that divided the Zionists among themselves, a general shift of Zionism towards socialism took place in Russia, which attracted the attention of the Russian government. Until then, it had not interfered with Zionist propaganda, but in 1903 Interior Minister Plehve addressed the governors of the provinces and to the mayors of the big cities a bulletin stating that the Zionists had relegated to the background the idea of leaving Palestine and had concentrated on the organisation of Jewish life in their places of residence, that such direction could not be tolerated and that consequently any public propaganda in favour of Zionism would now be prohibited, as well as meetings, conferences, etc.53
Made aware of this, Herzl (who had already solicited an audience with Nicholas II in 1899) went immediately to Saint Petersburg to ask to be received by Plehve. (It was just after the Kichinev pogrom, which occurred in the spring, of which Plehve had been strongly accused—and which had therefore attracted him the blame and invectives of the Russian Zionists…)
Plehve made Herzl understand (according to the latter’s notes) that the Jewish question for Russia is grave, if not vital, and “we endeavour to solve it correctly… the Russian State wishes to have a homogeneous population”, and it demands a patriotic attitude from all… “We want to assimilate [the Jews], but assimilation… is slow… I am not the enemy of the Jews. I know them well, I spent my youth in Warsaw and, as a child, I always played with Jewish children. I would very much like to do something for them. I do not want to deny that the situation of the Jews of Russia is not a happy one. If I were a Jew, I, too, would probably be an opponent of the government.” “The formation of a Jewish State [accommodating] several million immigrants would be extremely desirable for us. That does not mean, however, that we want to lose all our Jewish citizens. Educated and wealthy people, we would gladly keep them. The destitute without education, we would gladly let them go. We had nothing against Zionism as long as it preached emigration, but now “we note great changes”54 in its goals. The Russian government sees with a kindly eye the immigration of Zionists to Palestine, and if the Zionists return to their initial plans, they are ready to support them in the face of the Ottoman Empire. But it cannot tolerate the propagation of Zionism, which advocates a separatism of national inspiration within Russia itself55: this would entail the formation of a group of citizens to whom patriotism, which is the very foundation of the State, would be foreign. (According to N. D. Lyubimov, who was then director of the minister’s cabinet, Plehve told him that Herzl, during the interview, had recognised that Western bankers were helping the revolutionary parties of Russia. Sliosberg, however, thinks this is unlikely.56)
Plehve made his report to the Emperor, the report was approved, and Herzl received a letter of confirmation in the same vein.
He felt that his visit to Plehve had been a success.
Neither of them suspected that they had only eleven months left to live…
Turkey had no intention of making any concessions to the Zionists, and the British Government, in that same year of 1905, proposed that not Palestine, but Uganda, be colonised.
In August 1903, at the Sixth Congress of the Zionists in Basel, Herzl was the spokesperson for this variant “which, of course, is not Zion”, but which could be accepted on a provisional basis, in order for a Jewish state to be created as quickly as possible.57
This project provoked stormy debates. It seems that it met with some support, in the Yishuv, for new immigrants, discouraged by the harsh living conditions in Palestine. The Russian Zionists—who claimed to have more than all the need to quickly find a refuge—fiercely opposed the project. Headed by M. M. Oussychkine (founder of the Biluim group and, later, the right‐hand man of Ahad Haam in the Bne‐Moshe League), they recalled that Zionism was inseparable from Zion and that nothing could replace it!58
Congress nevertheless constituted a commission to travel to Uganda to study the land.59 The Seventh Congress, in 1905, heard its report, and the Ugandan variant was rejected.60 Overcome by all these obstacles, Herzl succumbed to a heart attack before he knew the final decision.61
But this new dilemma provoked a new rupture in Zionism: they split the so‐called “territorialists”, led by Israel Zangwill, to which joined the English delegates. They established their International Council; the latter held its meetings, receiving subsidies from Jacob Schiffe and Baron Rothschild. They had given up demanding “Palestine and nothing else”. Yes, it was necessary to carry out a mass colonisation by the Jews, but wherever it was. Year after year, in their research, they reviewed a dozen countries. They almost selected Angola, but “Portugal is too weak, it will not be able to defend the Jews”, and therefore “the Jews risk becoming the victims of the neighbouring tribes.”62
They were even ready to accept territory within Russia even if they could create an autonomous entity with an independent administration.
This argument: a strong country must be able to defend immigrants on the premises of their new residence, reinforced those who insisted on the need to quickly establish an independent state capable of hosting mass immigration. This was suggested—and would suggest later—Max Nordau when he said that he was not afraid of the “economic unpreparedness of the country [that is, of Palestine] for the reception of newcomers.”63 However, for this, it was necessary to be get the better of Turkey, and also find a solution to the Arab problem. The adherents of this program understood that, in order to implement it, it was necessary to have recourse to the assistance of powerful allies. Now this assistance, no country, for the moment, proposed it.
To arrive at the creation of the State of Israel, we must go through two more world wars.