Readers of this ideologically diverse magazine have been treated to a bracing range of opinion about whether or not Vice President Gore broke the law when he telephoned his supporters from the White House to ask for campaign contributions. Now that congressional Republicans are once again calling for an independent counsel, tnr has asked your legal affairs editor to examine the record as dispassionately as possible.
Zionism was a necromantic dream, using necromancy in the apt dictionary definition of "the conjuration of the spirits of the dead for the purposes of magically revealing the future or influencing the course of events." It had three unique components: The rise of a collective messianism. Post-exilic Judaism begins with Ezra and Nehemiah and the return from the first Babylonian captivity. Jews had survived by becoming a people, practicing apartness and being united by the Book. It was a belief in national redemption rooted in the prophets and their system of ethical and social values.
Theodor Herzl was prepared for ridicule. Already, in 1896, on the publication of his book Der Judenstaat, or The Jewish State, in a first edition of 3,000 copies, he had several times been derided as "the Jewish Jules Verne." Some Jews, especially the highly placed but socially insecure, thought him more dangerous than a mere phantast, and many would not even see him. His radical Jewish politics put into question their loyalty to the states in which they lived.
In the last nine years of Theodor Herzl's short life--he died at the age of 44 in 1904--he created the Zionist movement and all of its basic institutions. The drama of these achievements was enhanced because he looked the part of an ancient king of Israel, and he played the role consciously, to extraordinary effect. Herzl's career as a Zionist leader tended to obscure, perhaps even from himself, the profound originality of his thinking. Herzl invented an unprecedented use of anti-Semitism as a positive force in the battle for the equality of the Jews.
Sixty years after the destruction of European Jewry and half a century since the Arab world united to destroy Israel, we see things differently from the way they appeared to founders of the Zionist movement. The early Zionists believed, with Leo Pinsker, that through auto-emancipation the Jews would regularize their political status. Herzl determined to create a Jewish state for the Jewish people.
I used to cover crime on the late shift in Baltimore for The Sun. It was a living measured, by and large, in four-paragraph installments. You’d call the cops, ask what was going on, and then, when they emitted a handful of facts about which body fell on which corner, you’d write it up briefly and send it to the night editor.
Modern Zionism, which made its first appearance as an organized political movement at the Zionist Congress at Basel a century ago, was the most significant and successful response to the sustained and repeated collapse of any reasonable expectation that Jews would ever be welcome and feel at home in Europe. Despite the claims of liberal democratic theory and the utopian promises of Socialists and Communists, the nationalisms of the nineteenth century, both West and East, infiltrated all competing political movements and exacerbated and radicalized European anti-Semitism.
Zionism poses the same anomaly to post-modern culture that Judaism posed to pre-modern and modern: a historical case that goes against type, that in some sense defies the "laws" that define human culture and behavior. The Jews themselves represent, of course, one of the great historical anomalies: the only cultural personality of late antiquity to survive, not only in a series of written works cherished also by other cultures, but as a people with a history and an intellectual community driving across millennia.
Nationalism and the formation of modern nationhood pressured Jews to become citizens like everyone else in the state. Down the centuries, they had shared the cultures and languages of other people. Religion alone made them different and constituted their identity. The source of misfortune was thus assumed to lie in the Jews themselves, and the remedy was to do away with whatever was making them Jewish. Emancipation was not enough. In the outlook of anyone enlightened, assimilation of the Jews was so evidently desirable that there was a hint of compulsion about it: assimilate or else.