Zionism From Within, Part 2
Since appearing on the international stage in the 19th century, Zionism has evoked extreme positions across the political spectrum. And nowhere have its meaning and aims been more hotly debated than amongst Zionists themselves. Frank Faulk speaks with Zionists about the movement's troubled history and the current struggle over its meaning.
In the summer of 1897, Theodor Herzl arrived in Basel, Switzerland to convene the First Zionist Congress. The gathering was originally going to be held in Munich. But the leaders of the Jewish community there didn’t want their city to play host.
Like many Jews, they had a big problem with Zionism’s central premise: that Jews were a people who constituted a nation and therefore needed land of their own.
Weren’t Zionists stirring up trouble for Jews by supplying ammunition to anti-Semites, who claimed Jews were a nation apart, with their own secret organization, and incapable of being loyal citizens?
But on August 29, the first Zionist Congress was held, with nearly 200 participants. Its major achievement was formulating the Zionist platform, which stated: “Zionism seeks to secure for the Jewish people a publicly recognized, legally secured home in Palestine for the Jewish people.”
Just over 50 years later, the state of Israel was created.
The goal of “securing a Jewish home in Palestine” was seen as a solution to the so-called “Jewish Question” and pervasive anti-Semitism. But from the very beginning of its existence, Israel has felt under siege.
Participants in the program:
Derek Penslar is the Samuel Zacks Professor of Jewish History at the University of Toronto. His books include Zionism and Technocracy: The Engineering of Jewish Settlement in Palestine, 1870-1918 (Indiana University Press, 1991); Shylock’s Children: Economics and Jewish Identity in Modern Europe (University of California Press, 2001); Israel in History: The Jewish State in Comparative Perspective (Routledge, 2006); and Jews and the Military: A History (Princeton University Press, 2013).
Susannah Heschel is the Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth College. She is also the daughter of the late theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel.
Ruthe Wisse is the Martin Peretz Professor of Yiddish Literature at Harvard University. She's the author of If I Am Not for Myself: The Liberal Betrayal of Jews (Free Press, 2001), and Jews and Power (Schocken, 2007).
Gadi Taub is an Israeli political scientist and journalist. He's the author of The Settlers and the Struggled Over The Meaning of Zionism (Yale University Press, 2010).
Anat Biletzki is a Professor of Philosophy at the Tel Aviv University and Quinnipiac University in Hamden, CT.