History of Zionism Research Paper

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1.    Historiographic Premises

Israel is one of those modern  societies whose institutions were clearly shaped by an ideological movement. Thus,  Israel  is  similar  to  other   new  states  whose political institutions directly derive from the nationalist movement  that  won  their  independence.  But,  in addition, a wide variety of social, economic, and cultural  institutions of the new Jewish state were initially developed by the Zionist organization and its associated  bodies. In these respects, Zionism  had  an impact unusual among nationalist movements. It must rather   be  compared   with  social  revolutionary and radical  reform  movements.  Anthony  D.  Smith  contrasts  ‘ethnocentric  nationalism’  in which the dimensions of ‘power and culture inhere in [a single] cultural group’ and ‘polycentric nationalism’ in which the group’s chief desire is to ‘join the ‘‘family of nations’’ becoming  a nation  like all others  in a condition  of dignified equality.’ He further  refines this differential with respect to ‘diaspora nationalism’ citing Garveyism, Zionism,  Lebanese,  Liberians,  Greeks,  and Armenians  as ‘classic cases’ (Smith 1983).

A  national   liberation   movement   typically  arises among a people oppressed by foreign rulers in its own land.  Elie Kedourie  argues  that  this  conceptual  approach actually has roots in the French revolution and the  toppling  of  the  ancien regime.  (See Kedourie’s classic essay, especially his comments on ‘Politics in a New Style’ in Nationalism (Kedourie  1985).) To this generalization, the Zionist  movement  and the rise of Israel are exceptions.  Jews did not face the common nationalist situation  of being oppressed  in their own land  by  a  foreign  ruler.  Rather, the  Jewish  people lived as a minority  in numerous  countries throughout the world,  among  many different  ruling  nations  and under different regimes. The oppressions  they suffered were different in kind, varying from intense to imperceptible,  and  no  single foe  could  plausibly  be  held responsible  for all Jewish frustrations.

Hence, when Jewish nationalism arose,  rival ideologies such as Jewish liberalism, socialism, autonomism,  and  anti-Zionism did not  succumb  to it (see Laqueur 1992). They engaged instead in a sharp polemic through which their own positions became more fully elaborated and well defined. Nor did the whole nationalist movement  concentrate upon  the primary objective of national sovereignty. Numerous nationalist factions arose, each insisting that its goal was most important and all others secondary (see Halpern  1969, Chap.  1, Shimoni 1995).

2.    Origins Of Zionism

In the eighteenth and nineteenth  centuries, the Jewish communities  of Europe  were traditional in character. This period witnessed a complex phenomenon known as  Jewish  emancipation: the  process  by  which  the Jews, especially those in Western and Central Europe, were propelled towards new social and economic opportunities and became engaged in gentile society. The prospect of emancipation gave rise to the ideology of Jewish liberalism, which sought to redefine the Jews as a religious community,  aware of and responsive to the norms of gentile society. Jewish liberalism was especially strong  in Western  Europe—England, France, and Germany—where the numerical insignificance of the Jewish population, the speed of social and economic modernization, and the relative ease of legal emancipation all appeared  to legitimize the proemancipation viewpoint.

While Jewish liberalism  dominated the thought of the emancipated Western Jewish leadership, there was a broad body of Jewish public opinion that objected to the loss of a specific Jewish identity.  Both  traditionalists and defectors from the camp of Jewish liberalism shared   this  perspective.   The  typical  opponents  of Jewish liberalism were born and educated in areas outside  the  Western  liberal  mainstream, in  Eastern and  South  Eastern  Europe,  where traditional  values held strong,  antisemitism  was a palpable  reality, and Jewish  integration  did  not  appear   to  be  a  viable option.

Although  Zionism   was,  in  part,   a  response   to modern  antisemitism,  a number  of factors forced the retention  of a residual  Jewish communal  consciousness and national identity. As integral to Zionism as its negative reaction to antisemitism, was its positive assertion   of  belief  in  messianic  prophecy   and  the historic  destiny  of  the  Jewish  people  (see Schweid 1985, Chaps 1, 3). Two leading precursors  of Zionism, Rabbi  Zvi Hirsch  Kalischer  (1795–1874) and  Rabbi Judah Solomon Hai Alkalai (1798–1878), were moved to create a Jewish settlement in Palestine by sociopolitical forces and  a deep religious  conviction  that  the time for the biblical injunction  of the ‘ingathering  of the  exiles’  had   arrived—the  prophecy   was  to  be literally acted upon.

Similarly, the socialist Moses Hess (1812–1875) rediscovered Jewish nationalism after a distinguished radical career in Central  Europe.  His book Rome and Jerusalem (1862), was an eloquent appeal for the reassertion  of Jewish national  identity.  The work  of Hess, and of his contemporary, the Hebrew publicist and editor Perez Smolenskin (1840–1885), demonstrates  that  even before  the Russian  Jewish crisis of 1881–1882,  Western   Jewish   liberalism   was  under attack  from Jews with a nationalist perspective.

The term Zionism was probably  coined by Nathan Birnbaum (1864–1937), an Austrian leader of Hovevei Zion  [Lovers of Zion], a loose federation  of groups devoted to the promotion of national  resettlement  of the  Jews in their  ancestral  homeland.  The  Hovevei Zion viewed resettlement as the solution to the Jewish question,  which it variously defined as the problem of antisemitism  or the problem  of Judaism  in a modern, secular world. Significantly, the term Zionism reflects both traditional sentiment  (the longing for Zion) and a modern  political orientation.

3.    Ideological And Political Evolution

The  assassination of  Tsar  Alexander  II  by  revolutionaries,  the pogroms  of 1881–1882 and 1903–1905, and the ensuing the Russian Revolution provoked despair and panic and eventually prompted the massive flight of East European Jewry. Many young Jews considered  options  such as emigration  to and  the colonization of Palestine. An immediate rivalry developed between the Amerikantsy, represented by such groups as  Am  Olam  [Eternal  People]  who  saw the  United States as the obvious  safe haven, and the Palestintsy who desired resettlement  in Palestine.

In 1882 scattered  groups  of Palestine-minded students  united  to found  the Bilu movement,  a secular Zionist  group  dedicated  to creating  exemplary  rural colonies in the Land  of Israel. Their most celebrated publicist was the young journalist  Moshe Leib Lilienblum (1843–1910). Although the movement  failed to generate mass migration  to Palestine, it did lay much of  the  ideological  groundwork for  Russian  Jewish pioneers in this period (Frankel 1984, Chap.  2).

The  movement  for  a  new  exodus  received  ideological justification  from  Leon  Pinsker  (1821–1891), who in 1882 published an influential pamphlet  entitled Auto-Emancipation. Pinsker headed the Russian movement  known  as Hibbat  Zion  [Lovers of Zion] from 1884 until his death.  The efforts of the Russian Zionists were largely ineffectual. They managed to establish  a few agricultural colonies in Palestine,  but many of them became dependent on the largesse of the important French  Jewish  philanthropist Baron Edmond de Rothschild (1845–1934). Though  deeply committed  to the development  of the Land  of Israel, Rothschild was not a Zionist  (Halpern  and Reinharz 2000, Chap.  4).

There   was  a  significant   growth   in  the   Jewish population of Palestine  in the decades before World War I, largely due to Zionist  immigration. Estimates for the beginning  of the nineteenth  century  indicate that only about 7,000 Jews lived in Palestine, about 2.4 percent of the whole population, and mostly concentrated  in the  four  Holy  Cities:  Jerusalem,  Tiberias, Safed,  and  Hebron. At  the  end  of  the  century  the number of Jews had grown to about  43,000, about  8.1 percent of the total  population. Well over 90 percent of these Jews lived in the  cities. 5,000 Jews lived in Jaffa,  half  of the  total  population of the  city. Furthermore, by 1890 Jews were already a majority  of 60 percent  of  the  population of  Jerusalem,   and  their proportion was due to grow even more in the following years. Before World War I they comprised half of the Jewish  population  of  the  country,   but  these  were mostly Orthodox Jews who had  little to do with the developing Zionist movement (Friesel 1972, 1990).

Zionist ideas also found fertile ground on American soil (Raider  1998). As early as the beginning  of the nineteenth  century, prominent American  Jews expressed  the  view that  the  Jewish  people  should  be allowed to return  to the Land of Israel. Mordecai  M. Noah (1785–1851), a well known publicist and former consul  in  Turkey,  following  an  ill-fated  attempt   to found  a Jewish colony  called ‘Ararat’  near  Buffalo, New York in 1825, turned  to Palestine as an ultimate haven for the Jews. So, too, did Warder Cresson (1798–1860), a former  American  diplomat  who converted  to Judaism  and  established  a settlement  near Jerusalem.

4.    Modern Political Zionism

The   fortunes   of  the   fledgling   Zionist   movement changed dramatically with the appearance of Theodor Herzl (1860–1904), the father of modern political Zionism. Herzl was an Austrian Jewish writer and journalist  and,  until  the  Dreyfus  Affair  of  1894, a typical, assimilated,  middle-class Jew. Shocked to the core by the virulent display of antisemitism surrounding the Dreyfus Affair, Herzl subsequently  turned  his efforts to the implementation of a Zionist solution  to the so-called ‘Jewish problem.’

In  1896, after  unsuccessful  attempts to  enlist  the support  of Franco–Jewish philanthropists, Herzl sought  a wider audience  with the publication of Der Judenstaat  (The Jews’ State).  In 1897 he launched  a Zionist   weekly  called  Die  Welt   (The  World)   and presided over the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland.   A  total   of  six  congresses  were  held between  1897 and  Herzl’s  death  in  1904, and  they created   the   organizations  and   institutions  of  the Zionist  movement:  the World  Zionist  Organization, the Jewish Colonial  Trust,  and  the Jewish National Fund.

Herzl pursued  his goals through diplomacy  aimed at  the  rulers  of  European states  and  the  Ottoman sultan.  In  1903, the  Zionist  movement  underwent  a crisis when  the  British  government   offered  Herzl  a tract  of land  in East  Africa for Jewish colonization. Herzl recommended  the acceptance of this territory  to his followers as a temporary ‘safe haven’ for the Jews. This ‘Uganda Project,’ as it came to be known, ultimately  failed,  foundering  on  the  hostility  of the Russian  Zionists  led by Menahem  Mendel  Ussishkin (1863–1941). In  the  event,  the  militant  rejection  of Herzl’s   flirtation    with   territorialism  assured   the Zionist  movement’s  enduring  commitment to  settlement in Palestine alone (Vital 1975, 1982).

Some years after Herzl’s premature death  in 1904, the leadership  of the movement  was captured by the ‘practical Zionists’ who subordinated the long-range, diplomatic  and social goals of Zionism to the task of building up the Jewish settlement in Palestine. Another important influence  was  that  of  Ahad  Haam   (the pseudonym  of Asher  Zvi Ginsburg), a Russian  Jew who emerged  as the  foremost  critic of both  Hibbat Zion and Herzlian Zionism. Ahad Haam (1856–1927) rejected the concept of Zionism as a mass movement, arguing instead  for a concept generally characterized as ‘spiritual  Zionism.’ In his view, the Jewish people required  cultural  revival  and  modernization,  objectives best carried out by a small elite based in Palestine. This was a clear rejection  of the idea of immediate, mass resettlement. Although never part of the Zionist mainstream,  the   writings   of  Ahad   Haam   had   a profound influence on many of the younger leaders of the Zionist movement (Zipperstein  1993).

The differences between Herzl and Ahad Haam reflected the differences between West and East European Jewry, stemming from their contrasting political and  cultural  situations.  The multiethnic  character  of some  of  the  states  and  political  parties  of  Eastern Europe theoretically presented the Jews with the possibility  of  a  secular  national   culture  within  the context  of modern  society. However,  East European Jewry was forced  to  face the  brutal  nature  of antisemitism in a much  more  violent  fashion  than  West European Jewry, and because of the exigency of this problem  East European Zionists  were pressed to develop a program of immediate, practical solutions that involved alternatives  that did not require the restoration  of sovereignty  in Palestine.  In contradistinction to East European Zionism, Western Zionism until the rise of the Nazis was largely a philanthropic movement devoted  to the welfare of persecuted  Jews in Eastern Europe. It did, however, contribute significantly to the intellectual and ideological fermentation of Zionism in the East and the West.

In the decades that bridged the nineteenth and twentieth  centuries,  socialist  ideas merged with East European Zionism  to produce  a number  of socialist Zionist  parties,  some of them  with a Marxist  orientation,  some not.  The left-wing Zionist  groups  produced many of the members of the Second Aliyah, the wave  of  Jewish  immigration   to  Palestine   between 1904 and 1914 that had a profound impact on Zionist politics and ideology (Halpern  and Reinharz  2000).

5.    Zionist Policy And The British Mandatory

The outbreak of World War I opened up new possibilities  for  the  Zionist  movement.  Some of the leading Zionists, among them Chaim Weizmann (1874–1952) and  Vladimir  (Zeev) Jabotinsky (1880– 1940), decided that the future of the movement laid in the Entente  camp.  Their  hopes  were indeed  realized with  the  great  political  success of the  Balfour  Declaration in 1917, wherein the British government expressed  its commitment to  the  establishment of a Jewish national  home in Palestine.  The Balfour Declaration, which generated  tremendous excitement among   diaspora  Jews,  was  received  by  the  Arab community in Palestine with profound misgivings. But the hopes and fears the Declaration stirred respectively in each camp were equally exaggerated.

After  World  War  I, when the  British  Mandatory regime’s policy unfolded,  it became clear that  it had neither the will nor the intention  to establish a Jewish national  home in Palestine  in the sense envisaged by the Zionist  Movement.  Instead,  during  the interwar years, the British government  issued a series of White Papers stressing that the Balfour Declaration had not intended to create a sovereign Jewish state in Palestine. The principle of the ‘double obligation’ to Jews and to Arabs  in equal  measure,  became  the cornerstone of British  policy in Palestine  in the years from  1922 to 1939. Unappeased, however,  Arab  political  leaders continued to view Zionism as an extension of Western imperial aims and Arab opposition to the Jewish community  in Palestine intensified (Stein 1985).

In the 1920s and 1930s, Palestine’s Jewish societyin-the-making  (known   in  Hebrew   as  the  Yishu ), grew gradually  in numbers  and developed a political structure,   communal  institutions, and  an  economic foundation.  There   were  85,200  Jews  in  Palestine in 1922 (11.1 percent  of the  total  population), and 175,100 in 1931 (17 percent  of the total  population). Due mainly to significant  increases in the 1930s, the number  of Jews reached  in 1947 to 630,000, close to one-third  of the total population. In 1946, over three-quarters  of the Jewish population lived in cities. With over 180,000 inhabitants, Tel Aviv became the major Jewish  center  of  the  country  (Friesel  1990, Hersch 1948).

Chaim   Weizmann,   the  architect   of  the  Balfour Declaration,  emerged  as  the  leader  of  the  Zionist movement  in the years after World  War I (Reinharz 1993). Despite  Weizmann’s  secure diplomatic  standing,  the  new  Zionist  hierarchy  led  to  a  somewhat anomalous situation.  On one hand, the Zionists in the cities and the settlements  in Palestine,  many of them religious,  others  secular,  an  influential  segment  imbued  with  a  particular socialist  ideological  agenda, lived all according to the specific dynamics dictated by the life in Palestine. On the other hand, the individuals who retained  ultimate  political control  of the Zionist movement lived in a totally different milieu thousands of miles away. The ambivalent  attitude  of the British authorities  toward   the  Yishuv  and   Zionism   only accentuated this division.

The  geographic   distance   separating   the  Zionist leadership in London from the movement in Palestine and elsewhere caused misunderstandings, ideological quarrels,  and  eventually  a  power  struggle  in  world Zionist politics. A rift emerged between the traditional European-based Zionist  leaders and  the stewards  of the movement in the United States. Louis D. Brandeis (1856–1941), an associate justice of the United  States Supreme  Court  and  head  of  the  American  Zionist movement,  believed that  the political era of Zionism had ended with the Balfour Declaration. By contrast, Chaim  Weizmann  believed that  the political struggle was far from over, and he continued  to view Zionism, as officially represented by the Jewish Agency for Palestine,   as  representing   the  national   will  of  the Jewish people.  In fact,  Brandeis  and  Weizmann  did not  differ  significantly  in  their  programmatic  positions. However, they did differ over a principle of fundamental importance: the notion  of exile and the Land  of Israel  as the  authentic  home  of the  Jewish people. Weizmann eventually emerged supreme in this clash of ideologies, defeating Brandeis at a convention of the American  Zionists  held in Cleveland,  Ohio  in 1921 (Halpern  1987).

6.    Labor Zionism And Palestine

In the 1930s the Labor Zionist movement rose from its minority status in the World Zionist Organization to a position   of  political   dominance.   Despite   Labor’s initially meager size, the movement had always played a critically important role in Zionist  efforts aimed at immigration, land acquisition,  and permanent Jewish settlement,  particularly the process of organizing  and training young Zionist pioneers abroad. Notwithstanding  the British Mandatory’s restrictive  policies, the Arab community’s steadfast and even violent opposition to  Jewish  settlement,  and  the  economic fragility of the region as a whole, the Labor movement gradually developed a sound socioeconomic, countrywide infrastructure.

At the heart of the Labor enterprise stood the Histadrut, the General  Federation of Jewish Labor, created  in 1920 by a conference  of socialist  Zionist parties   in  Palestine.   The  Histadrut commanded a broad network of agricultural settlements, educational institutions, trade unions,  self-defense groups, a workers’ press and  a workers’ health  organization. This web of social, economic, cultural,  and political interests  consolidated  Labor’s   position   in  the   World Zionist Organization and enabled the Yishuv to cope with  different  crises through broad  measures  of cooperative  organization.

Labor   never  attained a  political  majority  in  the Jewish  community  in  Palestine,  and  had  always  to form coalitions  with other parties, especially with the Mizrahi  national-religious party and the middle-class liberals,   known   as  the  Progressives.   The  ensuing political   experience  of  power-sharing,  which  continued for most of the time of the British Mandate in Palestine,  created  patterns  of political  collaboration that were to continue later on, after the establishment of the  State  of Israel  (Halpern  and  Reinharz  2000, Medding  1990).

Labor  Zionism’s  most  serious  political  challenge came from Revisionists, the right-wing dissident movement  created  by Vladimir  Jabotinsky in 1925. Jabotinsky originally created the Revisionist  party to counteract  what   he  viewed  as  the  corruption  of Herzlian  political Zionism under Chaim Weizmann’s leadership. He also emphasized the primacy of private capital   in  developing   the  Yishuv  and   insisted  on maximal nationalist and antisocialist  principles.

A  critical  juncture  factor  in  determining  the  Yishuv’s future  was reached in the late 1920s and early 1930s when  a  coalition  of  Zionist  and  non-Zionist forces united behind the objective of attaining a secure Jewish national  home  in Palestine.  To  this end,  the World Zionist Organization initiated  a series of negotiations with organized  Jewish bodies in various countries, which culminated  in 1929 in the creation of what  came  to  be  known  as  the  Expanded   Jewish Agency and was regarded as an expression of the growing  interest   in  Palestine   of  the  entire  Jewish people (Halpern  1969, Chap.  6).

The  Arab   riots  of  1929,  which  resulted   in  the massacre  of Jews in Hebron  and  other  places,  dramatically  changed  the Yishuv’s internal  debate  over the  issues  of  Jewish  sovereignty  and  security.  The pretext for the riots was a clash over conflicting Arab and  Jewish  rights  in Jerusalem.  In  fact,  the  tension between Arabs and Jews had been steadily mounting since the previous wave of riots in 1921. Shortly thereafter, the uncertainty of the Mandatory’s shortand long-range goals was further  compounded by the eruption  again of Arab riots in 1936–1939. The latter initially prompted the Royal Peel Commission of 1937 to  recommend   the  partition  of  Palestine   and   the creation  of a small  Jewish state—a  plan  reluctantly adopted  by the Zionists and rejected by the Arabs.

But the stillborn  Peel proposal  ultimately  led to a complete   reappraisal  of  Mandatory  policy  and   a retreat  from the Balfour  Declaration-inspired policy. In its place came the MacDonald White Paper of 1939, which acquiesced to Arab demands.  The White Paper established  a limit on Jewish immigration  of 75,000 between 1939 and 1944 (when immigration  would cease), curtailed  drastically new purchases  of land by Jews, and established a ten-year transition period after which Palestine should become an independent country, meaning, an Arab state with a Jewish minority  of about 30 percent of the population. The Jewish Agency and  Zionists  everywhere  believed  this  to  be a clear breach of past British pledges. In the face of this turnabout, exacerbated  by the onset of World War II, David Ben-Gurion (1886–1973), the leader of the Zionist  movement  after 1935, declared a new Zionist policy agenda: ‘We must support  the [British] army as though there were no White Paper, and fight the White Paper  as though  there  were no  war’ (Shapira  1992, Chap.  7).

7.    World War II, The Holocaust, And Combative Zionism

During  the course of World  War II, Britain  received assistance from the Zionist organization, including the Haganah, the military arm of the Jewish Agency. The British military  received assistance  from  the Palmah (Hebrew acronym for plugot mahaz, shock troops), for example,  in the campaign  against  the Vichy French authorities in Syria in 1941. The Palmah had originally been formed to help defend Palestine against a possible German  or Italian  invasion of Palestine.

While the British Mandatory was ambivalent about the Haganah and the Palmah,  it was plainly negative toward  the  Revisionist  fighting  force  known  as the Irgun  Zvai  Leumi  (National Military  Organization, also known by the acronym Ezel). Created in the midst of the  1936–1939 riots,  the  Irgun  was dedicated  to undertaking retaliatory action against Arab terrorists. When Menahem Begin (1913–1994) assumed command of the Irgun  in 1943, he was convinced that  the only effective strategy  for gaining Jewish control  of Palestine was to exert so much pressure through selective terrorism—such as the bombing  in 1946 of the King David  Hotel  in  Jerusalem—that the  British  would eventually  be forced to choose between total  repression or complete withdrawal.

Zionist terrorism  was unacceptable to the leaders of Jewish  Agency.  After  the  assassination in Cairo,  in 1944, of  Lord  Moyne,  the  British  Minister  for  the Middle East, by members of another  Zionist terrorist organization,  the  Stern  Group or  Lohamei   Herut Israel [Freedom  Fighters  of Israel, also known by the acronym  Lehi),  the  Haganah and  the  Palmah  were given orders to ‘neutralize’ the Irgun.  This led to the so-called ‘Open Season’ during  which Haganah and Palmah  operatives  interned  and  handed  over  right-wing  Zionist  activists  to  the  British,  causing  considerable bitterness in the Yishuv. As this clash reveals, global events at the height of World  War II brought about  a steady radicalization of Zionist ideology and activity in the Yishuv.

The  outbreak  of  World  War  II  resulted  in  the complete  dislocation  of Jewish life on the European continent   that  had  been  the  backbone of  much  of Jewish  life  since  the  eighteenth   century.  The  constitutional pattern of the World Zionist Organization and the Expanded  Jewish Agency became unfeasible and in practice responsibility for the Zionist enterprise fell to the Yishuv and American Jews. In May 1942, a wartime   conference  was  held  in  lieu  of  a  Zionist Congress at the Biltmore Hotel in New York City. The Biltmore Conference  symbolized the strengthening of the  position   of  Zionist  leaders  in  the  Yishuv  and America  and  united  most  of world  Zionism  around the call for a Jewish state in Palestine (Laqueur  1992). This  juncture  also  signaled  the  displacement  of the Zionist    movement’s    veteran    leadership,    notably Chaim  Weizmann  and Stephen  S. Wise (1874–1949), and the ascendance onto the world stage of a younger generation  led by David Ben-Gurion in Palestine and Abba  Hillel  Silver (1893–1963) in America  (Teveth 1987, Raider  et al. 1997).

The  election  of the  British  Labour party  in 1945 raised   expectations   that   Palestine’s   partition  and Jewish independence  would soon follow. These hopes were dashed, however, when British Foreign Secretary Ernest  Bevin  announced, in  effect,  that  the  White Paper policy of 1939 would continue  and that Britain was committed to a Jewish ‘home’ in Palestine, but not a Jewish state.  Set against  the catastrophic tragedies that  befell European Jewry during  the war—but,  in fact,  before  the  full magnitude  of European  Jewish destruction was known—British policy was received with  mixture  of anger  and  alarm  by Zionists  of all political persuasions.

8.    Campaign For Jewish Statehood

The years immediately  following World  War II were characterized by turmoil in Palestine, intensive Zionist activity worldwide, and ongoing diplomatic initiatives in the Western capitals,  especially in London, Washington, and New York. The Jewish Agency spearheaded the postwar  campaign  for the establishment of the Jewish state. The Agency used three interrelated approaches  to   the   attainment  of  this  goal:  first, political negotiation, aimed at securing international recognition  for  a Jewish state;  second,  the  practical work of immigration, land development,  and the building of a strong  autonomous Jewish community; and  third,  the  organization of clandestine  or  illegal Jewish immigration to Palestine during the British Mandate  known   in  Hebrew   as  Aliyah   Bet  (Ofer 1990).

The  latter  reached  a  climax  in  1947  against  the backdrop of overflowing displaced persons  camps in Cyprus   when  the  British  decided  on  a  policy  of returning  illegal Jewish immigrants  to  their  original ports  of departure. The most notorious example was the Exodus-1947,  a ship carrying  nearly 5,000 Jewish refugees.   Intercepted  off  the   Palestine   coast,   the Exodus was compelled to return  to Hamburg after a pitiful ordeal in which the British forced the passengers off the ship and beat those who resisted with clubs and  hoses—all in the glare of the world’s media. The affair demonstrated Britain’s inability to deal with the ever- increasing   flow  of  illegal  Jewish  immigrants   and hastened its decision to relinquish the Mandate. It also highlighted  the Zionist  leadership’s  postwar  strategy for winning the battle for international public opinion. The boatloads of beleaguered  European Jewish refugees and determined Zionist activists gradually eroded sympathy   for  British   policy  and   underscored  the urgency  of postwar  Jewish  reconstruction (Laqueur 1992, Sachar 1976).

On November 29, 1947 the United Nations adopted a resolution  calling for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine. The sudden collapse of the Mandate, the  persisting  hostility  of the  Arab  states,  and  particularly the absence of and ensuing conflict with the Palestinian Arabs abruptly and totally altered the conditions  under which the policy of the Jewish state would thenceforth have to be formulated. When the state was formally  proclaimed  on May 14, 1948, the major  functions  of the  World  Zionist  Organization and the Jewish Agency were immediately assumed by the nascent Israeli government.

The Zionist movement before the rise of Israel proclaimed, in addition  to the goal of national independence, the following objectives: to develop Hebrew as a spoken language and as the foundation of a Jewish national consensus; to transfer to Palestine all Jews who could not or did not wish to live in diaspora countries; to establish a Jewish community in Palestine free from the peculiar  social, economic,  and  cultural problems  that  beset the  Jewish status  as a minority people scattered  throughout the world; and  to carry out the transformations in the Jewish social and economic distribution, to create the appropriate social institutions, and  to  foster  the  cultural  changes  that were the necessary means for attaining the above ends. By World War II, the Jewish community  in Palestine had indeed secured a socioeconomic  infrastructure in conformity  with the ideal of a self-sustaining national home and developed institutions capable  of realizing its political  aims.  With  the  creation  of the  State  of Israel in 1948, the ideal of Jewish national  independence  was institutionalized in its ultimate  form: Jewish political sovereignty.


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