Zionism Growing Stronger As a Result of the War

[Current Opinion, July 1917]

The possibility of international action in favor of a Jewish State in Palestine after the war has led to a quickening of the Zionist hope. It is understood that a conference between Mr. Balfour and Justice Brandeis centered upon this topic on the occasion of the recent visit of the British Mission to Washington. Within recent weeks, Secretary Lansing has received a communication from a new Jewish Bureau established at The Hague for the purpose of keeping the press of the world informed regarding the Jewish situation, and of promoting an intelligent attitude toward the idea of a national renascence of the Jewish people. Dr. Chaim Weitzman, President of the English Zionist Federation, declares that he has assurances from the Governments of Great Britain, France and Italy and from the highest authorities of the Roman Catholic Church that they are in full sympathy with the Zionist plan for the establishment of a publicly recognized, legally assured homeland for the Jewish people. The Rev. Dr. Moses Gaster, Chief Rabbi of England, has even written an article describing the charter which the Zionists expect the Powers to grant. Israel Zangwill announces his return to Zionism, which he repudiated twelve years ago. Jacob Schiff, the leading Jew of America, is in favor of the establishment of a Jewish cultural center in Palestine, if not of a Jewish nation. At a meeting held in New York recently, the Kehillah, or Jewish community, which represents the million and a half Hebrews of the metropolis, passed a resolution in sympathy with Zionism which brought the five hundred delegates to their feet, shouting, cheering, weeping for joy. And when the white and pale blue banner, with the double star of David, was unfurled, their enthusiasm knew no bounds.

It would be premature, of course, to commit the Allied Governments to the realization of the Zionist dream in a definite and exact sense. Even the specific declarations of some of the leaders of the Russian Revolutionary Government, pledging themselves to obtain the restoration of Palestine to the Jews, are not to be taken too seriously. Jewish Comment (Baltimore) thinks that the Russian Revolution may hinder, rather than help, Zionism. "Now that the Jews will have equal rights and opportunity in Russia," it says, "it will no longer be necessary for them to have a 'legally assured home.' What, then, will be the slogan of Zionism?" On the other hand, The American Hebrew (New York) and other influential publications of American Jewry seem more than half converted to the Zionist crusade; and Leo Motzkin," a Russian Zionist who has lately arrived in this country, is quoted (in the New York Times) as expressing his conviction that the Russian Revolution will strengthen the Zionist movement. He gives two reasons:

"First—-Because the persecution of the Zionists will cease. Under the old regime the Zionist party, with other progressive parties, was persecuted and hindered Zionism was illegal, as was evidenced by the fact that when the war began 100 Zionist cases were awaiting trial in courts. Of course, Zionism will now become legal, as will other progressive movements, and the hindrances will be removed.

"Second—With the growth of democracy and the removal of restrictions from speech and the press Zionists will be permitted to extend their propaganda and educated persons will be able to learn something of Zionism and to understand its ideal. They will learn to respect its purpose, which is simply the creation of a natural cultural home for Jewish people in their ancient country. This view is based upon the fact that the present Foreign Minister of Russia has recently expressed his sympathy with the Zionist aim, and the same sentiments have "been heard from other progressive statesmen in all democratic countries."

The results actually achieved by Jewish settlers in Palestine during the last thirty years are summarized as follows in an address recently delivered in Baltimore by E. W. Lewin-Epstein, Treasurer of the. Provisional Zionist Committee:

"Concretely; in 1914, just before the outbreak of the war, there were in Palestine:

(a) Forty Jewish self-governing villages, with a population of about 15,000, combined in pooling organizations prosperous and hopeful of an even brighter future.

(b) Vineyards, with an investment of about 13,000,000 francs; orange groves, 20,000,000 francs; almond, olive, and other groves, 7,000,000 francs, and with buildings and improvements to the amount of 100,000,000 francs.

(c) City settlements, teeming with activity, with a highly developed commerce, with the beginning of an industrial development, and with fortunes amassed for future developments.

(d) A financial institution—the Anglo-Palestine Company—with branches in the principal cities and in all the Jewish villages, trusted with the deposit from Jews and Arabs amounting to 10,000,000 francs.

(e) An adequate school system in all the Jewish villages and three high schools in Jerusalem, Jaffa and Haifa—and Hebrew, the language of life, not only for the Jews, but for large numbers of Arabs, and Christians. So completely had Hebrew gained the mastery that the signs over Christian and Arab business houses are in Hebrew. Plans for a Hebrew University were in progress before the war.

(f) A young generation, strong morally and physically, prepared to give up their lives to protect the Jewish interests in the Jewish land.

(g) A total Jewish population of 100,000—a small number, yet dominant and enjoying the respect and confidence of their neighbors.

Who, visualizing the picture that these bald facts present, asks the New York Evening Post, will not say that it is a wonderful achievement, and a sure guarantee that the 2,000-year-long dream of the Jew is near to realization?

© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013



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