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I'll do occasional history of #Zionism tweets to set the record straight. First, Zionism was never a monolith. Uganda was briefly considered as the site for a Jewish state. But, in the end, most agreed that joining our existing brethren who had never left Eretz Yisrael was best.
#Zionism was never a colonial plan. European Jews had no power to "colonize" anywhere. We had prayed for our return to Jerusalem every day for 2,000 years. Zionism was seen as a return home. Religious Jews wanted to wait for God to make it happen. Secular Jews were less patient.
Meanwhile, in the region that was once Israel before the exile, Jews and southern Syrian Arabs (they would not have recognized the term “Palestinians”) lived under the rule an ailing Ottoman Empire. After WWI, the British took it over and administered it as Mandate Palestine.
Most of my Jewish followers already know this history of #zionism. I’m giving a general overview, whenever I can find the time, for anybody who is curious about what it really is and what it really means.
One misconception about #Zionism is that it is a religious movement. In fact, the founders of Zionism were very secular. Religious Jews, at the time, said that only God could return them to Zion and denounced founder Theodor Herzl as a false Messiah.
Herzl, himself, was an Austrian journalist who covered the trial of Alfred Dreyfus, a French Jewish army officer falsely accused of treason. Herzl witnessed the rabid anti-Semitism surrounding this trial and is credited with the idea of a Jewish return to Zion, or #Zionism.
Dreyfus was a loyal French officer. Yet, the Dreyfus Affair contains lessons for today. It is another example of an accusation of "dual loyalty" against Jews before even the existence of modern Israel. This is why Jews today are sensitive about this anti-Semitic accusation.
It is our long memories that enable us to see, for what it is, this ancient trope of the disloyal Jew secretly manipulating government. Today, it is acceptable to say this under the cover of criticism of Israel. But we have heard it all before. So had #Zionism's founders.
What Herzl heard about secret Jewish manipulation of power during the Dreyfus Affair was similar to what is being said about AIPAC today. This is not new to us and we know that Israel has nothing to do with it. Many progressives need to rethink their anti-Semitic assumptions.
This is not a digression, by the way. This is part of the main point. #Zionism, to most Jews, is not just a political slogan, or a statement of Jewish solidarity, but it is a living, breathing, everyday necessity because of our lived experiences and inherited memories.
This thread will, inevitably, attract "whataboutery," arguments over interpretation, outright hostility, etc. I've decided to plow ahead in one thread and not address side comments. I hope this will spur discussion, though, and I'll eagerly read them. I won't argue.
As a side note, I was on the forensics (speech) team in college and did a whole thing on Herzl and Zionism that won me a few awards. Nobody gave me a hard time about it. This was in the mid-'80s. I'd imagine a college student today would face a firestorm with a similar speech.
And, yes, you can be a Zionist and a loyal citizen of another country. I am an American because that is where my grandparents fled during the Shoah. Another post-Holocaust remnant of my family made Israel home. My Zionism means I want my cousins to live in peace in their land.
I have no dual loyalties. I am not Israeli. I am American. But, as a Jew, I retain genetic memory of, for example, the Dreyfus Affair mentioned earlier in this thread. Jewish loyalty is sometimes violently questioned. Now, after #Zionism, Jews can have options, an escape plan.
Back to Herzl, the journalist who covered the Dreyfus trial. He was also a playwright, but not a very good one, failing to sell The New Ghetto, his melodrama about failure of Jewish emancipation. But writing it solidified his thinking. There was something else he needed to write.
In 1885, Herzl wrote: "For some time past I have been occupied with a work of infinite grandeur. At the moment I do not know whether I shall carry it through. It looks like a powerful dream."
Herzl's "powerful dream" started out as a mishmash of ideas on how to solve what was then called "The Jewish Question." Much later, another Austrian would give his own answer to the world and call it the Final Solution. A prescient Herzl thought the Jews should answer it first.
Herzl saw it as a "national" question. "We are a people — one people. ... We have sincerely tried everywhere to merge with the national communities in which we live ... It is not permitted us. In vain are we loyal patriots," he wrote in a pamphlet called The Jewish State.
Herzl's 1896 pamphlet, which proposed a Jewish state in the land from which we were exiled 2000 years ago, would change the world. "The Jews who will it shall achieve their State. We shall live at last as free men on our own soil, and in our own homes peacefully die."
Herzl died in 1904, and never saw the nightmare he predicted (Holocaust) nor the fulfillment of his dream (Israel). #Zionism, itself, would be filtered through many interpretations. Herzl was a founder, but there were, and are, many Zionist visions. I'll discuss those next.
After exile from our land 2,000 years ago, we still retained festivals and foods that reminded us of our home in the Mideast. To some, #Zionism meant a return to farming the land of our ancestors, while adopting a socialist ideal. Thus the kibbutzim, or collective farm, was born.
The socialism of Israel's founders was the basis for the Labor Party's near-monopoly on power for the first few decades. It was also the basis for much disappointment when Stalin, formerly a hero to the kibbutzniks, made his pact with Hitler.
So strong were the early Zionists' socialist roots, Stalin had assumed that Israel would fall under the Soviet sphere during the Cold War. When Israel refused to be a Soviet client state, that is when Stalin renewed his persecution of Soviet Jews.
But there was another strand of #Zionism that was not so utopian and they were there from the founding. And while the early dreamers may have reviled them, Israel may not have been born without them. I'll discuss Revisionist Zionism when I pick up this thread a little later.
There were always competing schools of thought in Zionism, and they, in turn, sometimes clashed with the Old Yishuv— the existing Jewish population of the southern Syrian area of the Ottoman Empire. A series of Aliyahs (or ascents) from persecuted European Jews added to the mix.
None of these Aliyahs were a colonial enterprise. These were Jews fleeing from the mass slaughter of pogroms, returning to join the Jewish population of the region. The Jews were not a European power colonizing the region. And Zionism flourished among Jews in Arab lands, too.
There were competing schools of thought regarding the goals of Zionism. Heirs to Herzl were David Ben-Gurion, who pictured a socialist utopia; and Ze'ev Jabotinsky, whose revisionists envisioned a strong nationalist state. Modern Labor and Likud can be traced to this conflict.
Jews of all beliefs immigrated, but most of the early Zionist settlements were socialist. Some of the land was purchased from the local southern Syrians, who would not have even recognized the word "Palestinian." That identity would come as a reaction to Jewish immigration.
The beginnings of a separate Palestinian identity would come in the 1920s from the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, who instigated a 1929 slaughter of Jews in Hebron. Later, the Mufti would become Hitler's ally. Palestinian identity was crafted and forged in the fire of anti-Semitism.
This is a basic Twitter narrative about the roots of Zionism, but it is important to note that Palestinian consciousness and nationalism did not exist except as a reaction to Zionism. It was, at its genesis, an expression of anti-Semitism.
This is why many Jews are offended when @RashidaTlaib invents a story about her grandmother telling her of a time when Jews and Arabs lived in peace. We know that Palestinian desire for nationhood was born from a desire to rid the land of Jews.
Jews and Arabs did live in relative peace on the land, but not within living memory of @RashidaTlaib’s grandmother. What became Palestinian nationalism was born in the 1920s, spurred on by anti-Semitic reaction to Jewish immigration.
@RashidaTlaib While Theodor Herzl was the father of Zionism, he was also the father of "Palestine," since the movement among the southern Syrians to consider themselves a separate people was a reaction to Zionist immigration. There was no colonial plan. Jews came to join the existing Yishuv.
@RashidaTlaib The 1929 Hebron massacre of Jews by an Arab mob changed the situation a great deal. A feeling of "Palestinian" solidarity was born as a reaction to Jewish immigration, but it also heightened the Ben-Gurion/Jabotinsky divide within Zionism over the movement's goals and methods.
@RashidaTlaib Fellow Jews who know the history will likely notice I'm skipping large chunks of history. My goal in this narrative, though, is to explain how this history impacts our reactions to today's news. It's not meant to be an all-encompassing history of Zionism via Twitter!
This is aimed at those who let anti-Semites define Zionism, those who are confused by seeming Jewish sensitivity, or who believe history began in 1948, 1967, or whenever they decided to pay attention.
Back to Ben Gurion vs Jabotinsky: They were at odds over the goals and methods of Zionism, and their differences echo to this day. But the truth is that both were necessary to the founding of Israel. Let’s call them the MLK vs the Malcolm X of Zionism.
But it was one of Jabotinsky’s followers who would have the biggest impact on Revisionist Zionism and the history of Israel—a young firebrand named Menachem Begin.
Most know Menachem Begin in his later incarnation as the Israeli prime minister who made peace with Egypt. But in the '40s he was leader of the Irgun, a Jabotinsky-inspired underground Zionist group focused primarily on hastening the British exit from Mandatory Palestine.
Another distortion of Zionism's history is that Britain handed Palestine to the Jews as a colonial enterprise. Nope. In the end, Zionists like Begin had to fight the British, who were also barring Holocaust refugees from entering Palestine.
The best thing the UK did for Zionism was the famous Balfour Declaration of 1917, which supported the idea of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. But its actions, and a later White Paper, since then made it as difficult as possible. Some would say the Brits are still anti-Zionist.
By the time the British finally left, it was to get out of the way as they were certain the invading Arab armies would wipe out the Jews once and for all. The British government did all it could to kill Israel in its cradle.
tl:dr? Here's a summary so far: Zionism is a human-rights movement.
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