How did so many bad elements enter into Zionism?

Hajo Meyer, rescapé d’Auschwitz,

sera à Strasbourg,

le 10 février 2010 à 20h

à la Maison des Associations

1, place des Orphelins

pour une conférence-débat sur le sionisme.

Dr. Hajo G. Meyer

Revolution, Napoleon and Emancipation If we want to understand why the ideology of Zionism came into existence at all and how it took the form in which it is presently realised in the state of Israel, we must first concentrate on the extremely dynamic history of the 19th century. The first element without which Zionism could never have been realised is the existence of anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism in the western Christian world from at least the 13th century on. Before the successful realization of the French Revolution and the spreading of its ideas through all Europe by the initially successful occupations of large parts of Europe by Napoleon, anti- Judaism was primarily based on theological arguments. Until then the main occupations which Jews were allowed to perform was money trade and peddling. Through Napoleon however, who really believed in the ideas of the Revolution and thus propagated also the emancipation of the Jews, ever more professions became open for the Jews in most countries of Europe during the course of the 19th century. These new competitors in fields of economic activity, where until then no Jews had been present, gave rise to feelings of economic uncertainty in those who felt threatened by the newcomers. These feelings in turn lead to fear of existence and thus to hatred of those who caused the fear, the Jews. So from about the mid 19th century on, economic arguments were gradually ever more important in underpinning negative feelings towards the Jews or even hatred of them.

Napoleontic Wars and Nationalism The huge impact Napoleon had on the history of Europe went far beyond the emancipation of the Jews. In fact, by conquering and occupying parts of Europe new feelings of rather extreme form were aroused in many European countries, nationalism[1] and with it, the idea of the 19th century nation-state were born. The newly born nationalism did not only mean that every citizen could be called upon to defend the boundaries of the state of which he was a subject but also a new concept was introduced, i.e. the concept of ethnicity. This had to do with the far away history of the area and the nature, language and race of the early inhabitants. Thus quite a bit of a xenophobia came into existence nearly everywhere and slogans like France for the French, or Germany for the Germans and even Great Britain for the Britons could be frequently heard, although the last one is more controversial than the others due to the very mixed nature of the inhabitants of the British Islands since early history.

New Fields of scientific Investigations Besides the impact of the French Revolution, very dynamic and influential new fields of scientific investigations were opened up already before the end of the 18th-century. These were the fields of biology, anthropology and philology. All three, albeit through tragic misinterpretations of valuable new scientific insights, turned out to have unexpected social consequences towards the end of the 19th century.

The first two, biology and anthropology, eventually led to a scientific insight into the various races of mankind and the most important differences between their anatomy and their physiognomy. However a fatal mistake was eventually made by connecting these differences to differences in psychology and character. In this way, races were “scientifically” connected to the realms of inferiority and superiority. In this way colonialism, which existed already from the end of the 15th century on, got a pseudoscientific underpinning and could therefore be exploited by the white race without any trace of guilt feelings.

The third of the mentioned scientific disciplines which made extremely important discoveries from the late 18th century on was philology. Here, for our purpose we must concentrate on one prominent branch of it. This is the deep exploration and analysis of the Indo-Iranian group of languages, a group which according to an old word for Iranians. i.e. Aryan, is also called the Aryan group of languages. That this group exists is scientifically well established. Its importance stems from the fact that most European languages still present to-day, including Celtic languages, belong to it. The most important exceptions are Finnish, Hungarian and the Basque language. It is generally believed by the relevant philologists, but less thoroughly established, that Sanscrit, which is very similar to early Iranian, is the earliest member of the Aryan group. Now again a terrible and tragic mistake was made by believing that the early Aryan language was spoken by people of one race, in fact, the Aryan race. The total nonsense of this can easily be demonstrated by looking at the British Islands where everybody talks English but may have forefathers which can be Celtic, i.e. Welsh, Scottish or Breton but can also be Germanic, i.e. Saxon or Angels. Due to the influence of Christianity in Europe, tradition had it, that the oldest language on earth would be Hebrew, a language belonging to the completely different language family of the Semitic languages. Once the myth of the Aryan race was created it would be juxtaposed to the Semitic race and the Jews were considered to belong to the last one. We now know that also this is sheer nonsense and that the Jews are genetically extremely mixed. As far as the Eastern European Jews are concerned they appear to have their origin mainly in the no longer existing people of the Chasars. A people ethnically close to the Turks, who inhabited a large area north-west of the Caspian Sea. In the case of the Jews of the Iberian peninsula, they appear to have their ethnic origin in the Berbers.

Virulent Anti-Semitism These fatal mistakes were in the first place used to underpin pseudo-scientifically the prejudices against – or the hatred of the Jews. In the post Revolution era purely theological arguments would convince ever less people that the Jews were despicable. These new arguments however were successfully used to support in many countries of Europe a rage of virulent anti-Semitism during the last decennia of the 19th century. This was different from the former Anti-Judaism and a new concept, first introduced in 1879. This rage would affect not only Russia, Austria or Germany but also, paradoxically, in a terrible way France, from where the emancipation of the Jews had been introduced. The heavy anti-Semitic incident which at the time, i.e. the last few years of the 19th century until 1906, shook France and large parts of Europe was the so called Dreyfus affaire. Here, a Jewish officer of the French General staff, Alfred Dreyfus, was on the basis of forged papers accused, of being a spy for Germany. The consequences of this mean forgery can still be felt every day in our time. In fact, the idea of a worldwide Zionist organisation was first born in a man, Theodor Herzl, who was a journalist from Vienna who stayed in France in order to report about this notorious process. Although he was highly assimilated and knew little about Judaism, he was appalled by the wave of anti-Semitism which swept through France. Thus without much knowledge he started to think about what could be the cause of this terrible anti-Semitism. He then had the absolutely nutty idea that this curse was caused by the fact that the Jews lived in nearly all countries of the world but had no country of their own. This means that he was so deeply influenced by the bad ideas of the late 19th century which were nationalism, colonialism and racism that he thought that an own state for Jews would solve the problem of anti-Semitism. How completely false this idea is can be seen from the fact that the existence of a big state for the Chinese people, called China, never prevented pogroms against Chinese traders in Indonesia after W.W.II.

Chosen people and God’s Land promises It was a very unhappy coincidence that many of the bad ideas of the late 19th century fitted so well into the picture, that some xenophobic parts of the Old Testament presented about the so-called Jewish people. And in fact, on the first International Congress of Zionists in Basle the ideas of the much more traditional Russian Jews present there, were very similar to those of Herzl. In contrast however with him, their ideas were much more based on what the Bible says about the Jews and their role as a chosen people. There was also another difference between the ideas of Herzl and those of the Russian Jews. For this last group only one country could be considered as the new Jewish country and that was Palestine. Because according to the Bible, that was the country promised to the Jews by God himself. Herzl personally seriously considered the possibility of erecting a Jewish state somewhere in Kenya, an offer which was made to him by the British government in 1903. However under the influence of these more traditional eastern Jews, other places than Palestine for a Jewish country were soon eliminated. In this way Herzl’s bad 19th century ideas were greatly enhanced by the highly xenophobic and extremely nationalistic ideas from the Old Testament which can be found e.g in the book Joshua a.o..

Christian fundamentalst Zionists Unfortunately, this amplification of late 19th century ideas by very old and at least as bad ideas from the Bible would have a second run, especially after WWII. Then the American Christian Zionists, basing themselves on certain interpretations of passages in the Revelations of the New Testament, became the most extreme and fanatic Zionists. Nowadays they send huge amounts of money to Israel in order to support the most aggressive and expansionist settlers in the Palestinian occupied Territories. These in their turn perform Pogroms on the Palestinians (ex premier Olmert’s term) and harass them while quoting, as justification, texts from the Old Testament. In this strange way bad ideas of the 19th century combine with bad texts from the Old and the New Testament, such that fanatic Zionist settler hooligans, supported by money from Christian Fundamentalists, perform pogroms on Palestinian citizens.


[1] The underlined words in bold type are the main bad elements on which Zionism is based.

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