Wednesday, January 6, 2010

1897: Zionism


In 1896, Theodor Herzl, a German Jew, and the founder of Political Zionism, published his book, Der Judenstaat "The Jewish State" that announced the advent of Zionism to the world. Herzl's main objective, that was defined in his book, is to establish a homeland for the Jewish people in Palestine. During this time, Max Nordau, a friend of Herzl, sent two rabbis to Palestine to see if the Zionist project could be implemented. Referring to Palestine, the rabbis wrote "The bride is beautiful, but she is married to another man". Palestine wasn't as Herzl claimed "A land without a people for a people without a land", as a matter of fact, it was inhabited by Palestinians since thousands of years. Nevertheless, the Palestinians were not an obstacle for the Zionist movement. As Herzl state in his diaries, "We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border..." while another Zionist, Leo Motzkin, planned for the transfer of the Palestinians by stating that “the colonization of Palestine has to go in two directions: Jewish settlement in the country and the resettlement of the Arabs outside the country." In other words about Zionism, as Dror Etkes, a Jewish human rights activist, said "It's an international organization that is, simply put, stealing land."

A war broke out between the Ottoman Empire and the Kingdom of Greece over the status of the Ottoman province of Crete. During this war, and because of the accumulated Ottoman debts, the Ottoman Empire was at stake and at a huge risk of bankruptcy. Herzl took the opportunity and offered Sultan Abdülhamid that he would contribute huge amounts of money that would cover up substantial portion of the Ottoman debts, in exchange for allowing the Jewish colonists to settle in Palestine. Sultan Abdülhamid rejected Herzl's offer, and replied "I can not give up a single inch of Palestine, because it is not mine but belongs to my people. The Palestinians fought for this land and irrigated it with their own blood."

In 1897, Theodor Herzl called for the first Zionist Congress which was held in Basel, Switzerland. The three main goals of the first Zionist Congress were to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, to facilitate the immigration of the Jews of the World to Palestine, and to gain the support and protection form the European powers. The first Zionist Congress was followed by a series of congresses, most notably, the second Zionist Congress, held in 1898, and aimed to establish a Jewish people's bank and to encourage the education of the Hebrew language, and the fourth Zionist Congress, held in the same year, which was able to convince Britain into supporting the Zionists and help them achieving their plans. Later in 1898, Britain placed pressures on Sultan Abdülhamid in an attempt to push him into allowing the Jewish colonists to settle in Palestine. Sultan Abdülhamid refused initially, but was later forced to allow Jewish colonists to settle in the Galilee, the northern district of Palestine.