Zionism as a Reaction to European Anti-Semitism

Introduction

Scholars like Robert Wistrich and Joseph Massad debate over the exact cause of the Jewish Zionism in the better part of the 19th century. Initially, the Jews lived in different communities across Europe and in Palestine; they lacked a place of their own in which they could live as one community. Following the prejudice they faced in Europe, especially in Russia and Germany, they had to live at the height of Nazism to Israel. Markedly, the rise of Nazism saw 174, 000 Jews migrate to Palestine in a span of four years, from 1932 to 1936.

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To date, a scientific reason for the move remains unjustified because most explanations to this transition are biblical. Zionism refers to the mass movement of the Jews from different European States and Palestine in order to occupy Israel.1 The national exist aimed at gaining independence from the oppressive European rule so that the Jews could practice a common culture, as well as promote their belief systems. Later in 1950, the Law of Return made 687,000 Jews return to the shores of Israel as they were guaranteed the citizenship of the state.

This paper intends to explain the extent to which Zionism was a response to the oppression, discrimination, and lack of recognition commonly known as anti-Semitism. Following the independence of European colonies, Britons, Germans, and Russians among other Europeans concentrated on evicting Jewish immigrants from their countries.2 This caused the oppressive treatment, persecution, and killings that remain memorable even today. Goldberg explains the significance of the historic transition that made Israel stand out both geographically and spiritually after undergoing a series of persecutions under the rule of Adolf Hitler.3

The paper is important to Jews and other historians interested in understanding how Zionism influenced foreign relations between Israel, Europe, and parts of the Persian Gulf. The books are important in addressing arising issues during the 19th century with a particular interest in the response the Jewish gave towards the oppressive European rule. Political, religious, economic, demographic, and psychographic issues arise from the discussion because a debate is still on-going concerning the extent to which Zionism is a response to anti-Semitism.

Background

Zionism began in the 19th century as a response to the treatment the Jews had under the rule of Europe and the Palestinian government. There was an ardent need for the Jews to come together in one nation, and identify with a particular geographical and political territory. About the same period, the Ottoman Empire was in control of Palestine, and the Jews lived in different parts of Europe while some were in Palestine.4 Jews in Australia, Canada, and the US did not have any problems because at the same time, the US and Canada managed to overcome the British rule.

They understood the impact of colonialism on their economies, including the animosity it generated within their borders. As such, they provided an excellent environment for the Jews to stay. Currently, the Jews still live in the US, Australia, and Canada. In these countries, people consider them as diaspora Jews. Geographically and spiritually, Zionism is easy to understand, but people still question the origin of the Jews to justify their distribution to most parts of the world and returning to Israel after years of suffering in other parts of Europe and Palestine.

Zionism was a reaction to anti-Semitism because the Jews made a political move in order to form a national government.5 Unlike other countries formed based on political interest, the story of the Jews has a correlation with the tribulations Liberians went through after colonisation. Most of them formed a nation even though they were from different parts of Africa.

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Zionism Was a Reaction to Anti-Semitism

Political Issues

The Jews did not feel comfortable in knowing that they lived in different parts of Europe and the US; they had no country of their own. In Palestine, Germany, and Russia, they had to live under oppressive governments including under the authoritarian leadership of the Ottoman Empire and Adolf Hitler. The Jews displayed a high intellectual capability to dominate the science, technology, health, and law sectors of Germany and Russia. The same happened in Palestine, but they did not take advantage of the intellectual prowess to overturn the governments. Instead, they were very important for the development of the various economies.

Historically, the Pied-Noirs stayed in France for a prolonged period until they faced a forceful eviction to La Métropole.6 Intensification of bitter divisions ensued with the underscore on Dreyfus’s case. The Jew of Alsatian origin faced accusations of passing over critical documents to the imperial Germany. His arrest led to formation of different support groups – dreyfusards, dreyfusists, and dreyfusiens. In 1886, a Jewish France, Édouard Drumont, published close to 150, 000 copies sensitising people on anti-Semitism and nationalism. The comments of leaders like Jean Jaures after the 22 December 1894 ruling fuelled the anti-Semitism; he regretted the abolition of death sentence. This case marked the exodus of the Jews from France.

The Jews did not use a similar approach because of the oppression they went through in the hands of various hosts in Europe. Jews were not rebels; they coexisted peacefully with Europeans in the various countries. As such, they could not withstand the negative treatments they faced from the oppressive European communities, leading to the mass national exit to Israel, an unknown land. To date, the boundary between Palestine and Israel remain a controversial subject since both the Jews and Palestinians want to take possession of the Gaza strip.

Politically, the Jews needed to elevate to a level in which they would enjoy sovereignty within their borders. Historians call the exit an aliyah because it was an opportunity for a status ascent since the Jews would have a government of their own.7 In Russia and Germany, they had to follow the strict laws of the countries that openly favoured the indigenous communities. Besides the legal issues, propaganda and politics of scientific innovations, religion was a controversial subject in Russia and Germany. The Jews believed in the Torah, and they understood that they had to withstand the tribulations because they were under punishment from God.

The ancestral or the Promised Land was the only known hope for the Jews, and, biblically, they fulfilled the scriptural prophecy. This spiritual standpoint did not augur well in countries that did not practice Judaism. Germans’ Adolf Hitler believed that the Jews wanted to invade the religious space making Christianity lose ground in the country. The hatred Hitler had for the Jews became evident and sometimes he collaborated with some Zionist leaders to destroy the Jews. Such Zionist leaders considered as rebels had stakes in Germany and other parts of Europe. Prior to the national exit from Germany, there were Zionist leaders who sought the aliyah while in the foreign European lands. The intention was to conform to the Nazi rule and get privileges while other Jews underwent oppression in the dictatorial Nazi regime.

Hitler and other European radical leaders opposed Zionism right from the beginning. Jewish venture into science, politics, and technology threatened the relevance of the Europeans. As a result, they leader had to do something to make Europeans relevant in their own countries. Since the Jews had nowhere to go, it was difficult to chase them away from Germany and Russia.

The worst treatment was a racial approach to issues in the 19th century; anti-Semitists sought Arab features in people living in Europe in order to identify the Jews. Through their mode of dressing, an overgrown beard in men, and the style of worship, it was easy to identify the Jews, and this caused discrimination from the Europeans. During the Holocaust, Hitler ensured that only the Jews remained in Germany for fumigation, assassination, and other forms of oppression that formed the height of anti-Semitism.

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Social Concerns

Each subgroup is in defence of the move made by either the Jews or the Western Europeans in the 19th century. The anti-Semitics believed that Zionists were a group of Jews from the diaspora who only wanted to get respect and a particular social status in foreign countries in Europe.8 On the other hand, the Zionist response was an attempt to reclaim a social position within Europe considering the fact that the Jews had no particular origin, meaning that the only social space they could claim was Europe.

In the 19th century, the Jews in Europe sought all means possible to move out of Europe. Contrarily, a section of European Jews from the East mostly supported anti-Semitism. According to the diaspora Jews, the East European Jews endangered their hard-earned social position by collaborating with the western Europeans, who considered the Jews naive. One factor that created animosity between the Zionists and the anti-Semitists was the ideology that the exposed diaspora Jews transferred the earned resource to the East European Jews.9

The Jews had no freedom of association because anytime the diaspora Jews and the East European Jews met, the European countries speculated that they were planning a rebellion. Inability to associate with each other contributed towards the affluence of the East European Jews while the diaspora Jews strived to attain freedom from the Westerners.

According to Robert, social networks are important for development of a popular culture through which people can get an identity.10 In the early 19th century, the Jews lacked a communal background, making it difficult to exercise religious freedom, as well as the freedom to scientific discoveries. Today, Israel is one of the smallest countries geographically, but they produce the highest number of exotic fruits while providing food aid to developing countries. It means that without Zionism, the Jews would out rightly lack the social freedom to do farming while applying innovative techniques in medicine as they do today.

The Jewish religion and scientific exploits formed the basis of their culture. Denial of the power to exercise the two completely ruined the community. Zionists understood that medicine, technology, writing books, and agriculture were important for any society. People identify communities by their culture, which incorporates the dress code, religion, and culinary habits. Remarkably, agricultural productivity is an economic activity amounting to a cultural practice for the Jews.11

Within the confined European boundaries, it became very difficult for the Jews to transform the social practice into an income generating activity unless the Western Europeans were the greatest beneficiaries of the activities. Making of a nation is a complex activity, especially when the targeted community lives in different parts of the world. Diaspora Jews and the East European Jews including the Jews in Palestine learnt different things from their host countries.

Zionism formed the only basis for creating a united front through which they would fight anti-Semitism. The prolonged separation of the Jews necessitated the formulation of a single warring unit that would completely deal with the prejudice, racism, and persecution the Jews underwent under the rule of the Western Europeans.12 Notably, union through Zionism created an opportunity for the different Jews to prepare retaliation strategies in order to acquire the Promised Land.

Economic Concerns

Hinnebusch and Ehteshami posit that the Eastern European Jews followed the imperialist principles of the Germans and Russians, thus creating a society of few rich people and many poor individuals.13 This mode of thinking in which few dominated through propagandists also applied for the Jews living in Palestine. Zionism had to take its course in order to identify the Jews uniquely as one, and not subgroupings living in parts of Europe and the Persian Gulf.

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The move to Israel was necessary because denial of freedom of worship interfered with the ability to think creatively. Following the Zionism, the Jews came together, and learnt the art of financial management from Europe and Palestine. Anti-Semitism only ensured that the European states prospered, and humiliation only began after Europe gained all economic interests in the various economies.14

From Africa, the US, East Asia, Iraq, and Canada, the Europeans gained cotton, tea, diamond, gold, and markets for the finished product just to mention but a few. It came to the realisation of the Europeans that the Jews did not add any meaningful value to the economy except in using the available resources to improve the economies of Western Europe. In the 19th century, anti-Semitists never saw the relevance of the Jews giving rise to the Zionist movement.

Halliday argues that subjection to such levels of economic restrictions, made it important for the Jews to come up with a movement that would cause the collapse of anti-Semitism.15 Economic austerity in Germany was the worst occurrence, even before Adolf Hitler subjected the Jews to the Holocaust. The Holocaust equally caused great reduction in the number of Jews in the world.

The 1967 war between the Jews and the Palestine involving Egypt and Lebanon also caused a huge decrease in the number of Israelites. Zionists assisted in helping the Jews settle in the Persian Gulf continually occupying a better part of Palestine. It called for the union of the diaspora Jews and the Eastern Europe Jews to form a strong Zionist movement in an attempt to defeat anti-Semitists.

Zionism provided an excellent environment for Israel’s economic growth. Without that kind of revolution, it would be impossible to gain independence and acquire a completely new land. Zionism was an attempt to explain to the Europeans that the Jews were tired of the tyrannical leadership displayed by the Western Europeans.16 The Jews in East Europe worked very hard at sustaining the economies of Russia, Germany, and Britain.

When Nazism occurred, Russia and Britain could not protect the Jews from the Germans. About the same period, some Belgians, Britons, and Dutch died because Hitler never wanted to leave any trace of the Jews after the WWII. Survivors of Nazism realised the significance of coming together in order to build a strong economy under an autonomous government.

Today, the Jews continue to occupy their territory in Israel, and there are concerns that it encroaches into the Palestine land. After a decade, Palestine could lack complete control of the Gaza strip and Israel could further make Palestine appear insignificant to the rest of the world.17 Political and military powers are signifiers of powerful economies explaining why Israel’s opinion about other countries in the Persian Gulf remains very important to the rest of the world.

Conclusion

Even though the need for social expression and economic empowerment were among the issues that augmented the movement of the Jews into Israel, the need for political autonomy was the main factor. In essence, the overall ideology or belief of a person to identify with a given nation, rather than to another autocratic state comes with more autonomy or sovereignty than in the latter. Specifically, the spirit of nationalism pushed the Jews to form an autonomous political unit in which they could practice their own culture, as well as rule themselves. The move to Israel was instigated by the need for an independent state free from oppression and numerous supervisions and sanctions from Europeans. Clearly, the Jews wanted to be under their own control.

Bibliography

Andrew, Bostom. The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism. New York: Prometheus Books, 2008.

Bard, Mitchell Geoffrey. Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Chevy Cahse, MD: American Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2006.

Bresheeth, Halevi. Palestine: Profile of an Occupation. London: Zed Books, 1989.

Goldberg, David. To the Promised Land: A History of Zionist Thought from its Origins to the Modern State of Israel. London: Penguin Books, 2009.

Goldhagen, Daniel Jonah. “Grass: Ignorant or Calculating Cynic?” The Jerusalem Post, 2012. Web.

Halliday, Fred. The Middle East in International Relations: Power, Politics and Ideology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Hertzberg, Andrew. The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader. New York: Atheneum, 2006.

Hinnebusch, Raymond and Anoushiravan Ehteshami. The Foreign Policies of Middle East States. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002.

Koppell, Carla and Anita Sharma. Preventing the Next Wave of Conflict: Understanding Non-Traditional Threats to Global Stability: report of the Non-Traditional Threats Working Group. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2003.

Luis, Roniger. Anti-Semitism, Real or Imagined? Chavez, Iran, Israel and the Jews. Jerusalem: The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the study of Anti-Semitism, 2009.

Lustick, Ian. Unsettled States, Disputed Lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank-Gaza. Ithaca, London: Cornell University Press, 1993.

Nordbruch, Goetz. The Socio-Historical Background of the Holocaust Denial in Arab Countries. Jerusalem: The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the study of Anti-Semitism, 2001.

Nye, Joseph and David Welch. Understanding Global Conflict and Cooperation: An Introduction to Theory and History. 8th ed. Boston: Pearson Longman, 2011.

Rotberg, Robert. Israeli and Palestinian Narratives of Conflict: History’s Double Helix. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006.

Wistrich, Robert Solomon. Anti-Semitism: The Longest Hatred. New York: Schocken Books, 1994.

Zvi, Elpeleg. The Grand Mufti: Haj Amin Founder of the Palestinian National Movement. Portland, Oregon: Frank Cass, 1993.

Footnotes

  1. Bostom Andrew, The Legacy of Islamic Anti-Semitism (New York: Prometheus Books, 2008), 12.
  2. Carla Koppell and Anita Sharma, Preventing the Next Wave of Conflict: Understanding Non-Traditional Threats to Global Stability: report of the Non-Traditional Threats Working Group (Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2003), 114.
  3. David Goldberg, To the Promised Land: A History of Zionist Thought from its Origins to the Modern State of Israel (London: Penguin Books, 2009), 217.
  4. Halevi Bresheeth, Palestine: Profile of an Occupation (London: Zed Books, 1989), 94.
  5. Joseph Nye and David Welch, Understanding Global Conflict and Cooperation: An Introduction to Theory and History, 8th ed, (Boston: Pearson Longman, 2011), 129.
  6. Mitchell Geoffrey Bard, Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Chevy Cahse, MD: American Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2006), 74.
  7. Elpeleg Zvi, The Grand Mufti: Haj Amin Founder of the Palestinian National Movement (Portland, Oregon: Frank Cass, 1993), 80.
  8. Goetz Nordbruch, The Socio-Historical Background of the Holocaust Denial in Arab Countries (Jerusalem: The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the study of Anti-Semitism, 2001), 141.
  9. Ian Lustick, Unsettled States, Disputed Lands: Britain and Ireland, France and Algeria, Israel and the West Bank-Gaza (Ithaca, London: Cornell University Press, 1993), 75.
  10. Robert Solomon Wistrich, Anti-Semitism: The Longest Hatred (New York: Schocken Books, 1994), 56.
  11. Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, “Grass: Ignorant or Calculating Cynic?,” The Jerusalem Post, 2012, Web.
  12. Andrew Hertzberg, The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader (New York: Atheneum, 2006), 53.
  13. Raymond Hinnebusch and Anoushiravan Ehteshami, The Foreign Policies of Middle East States (Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002), 69.
  14. Roniger Luis, Anti-Semitism, Real or Imagined? Chavez, Iran, Israel and the Jews (Jerusalem: The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the study of Anti-Semitism, 2009), 96.
  15. Fred Halliday, The Middle East in International Relations: Power, Politics and Ideology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 93.
  16. Goldhagen, “Grass: Ignorant or Calculating Cynic?”
  17. Robert Rotberg, Israeli and Palestinian Narratives of Conflict: History’s Double Helix (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2006), 183.
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StudyCorgi. (2020, November 15). Zionism as a Reaction to European Anti-Semitism. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/zionism-as-a-reaction-to-european-anti-semitism/

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