Israel Without Zionism.


 Theodore Herzl is considered the father of Zionism. He felt that Jews
across the world would always be susceptible to anti-Semitism as long as
there was no Jewish State. At first, he looked at Argentina and then
Uganda before settling on Palestine for the Jewish homeland.
Arab nationalism was a simple idea. It was a search for long lost Arab
identities. For hundreds of years the Arabs had been under the
occupation of the Ottoman Empire. At the early part of the 20th century,
there was a possibility for these two movements to co-exist. This is a
story of that lost opportunity.

At the beginning of the 20th century, about a half a million Arabs lived
in Palestine and about 50,000 Jews. The budding discontent within the
Ottoman Empire provided the new Zion- ist movement with its first real
choice. Should they work with the Arabs against the Turks and join the
upcoming revolt or should they try to acquire an international charter
for a Jewish homeland? Unfortunately, the early Zionists sided with the
Turks, but a small minority advocated working with the Arabs.
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The Arab leaders faced a dilemma of their own. Should they work with the
new settlers or oppose them? This is not as unusual as it sounds today.
The early deputies of Palestine spoke of the common Semitic heritage
among the two people. But Jewish leaders felt that getting along with
the Arabs was secondary to the establishing of a Jewish homeland. What
they needed was the help of a European state to help them establish a
charter.

At first, Herzl went to the Sultan but the conversations went nowhere.
Then, he approached Kaiser Wilhelm who considered the idea briefly but
the Kaiser was rigid anti-Semite and eventually sided with the Turks.

Finally, Herzl turned to the British who liked the idea because it was a
way to extend the British control and protect the Suez Canal.
Nothing happened until the outbreak of the First World War. But the war
opened the doors of opportunity for the Jewish State. In November of
1917, the Zionists achieved their aim with announcing of the Balfour
Declaration. The reasons for the British decision are many; an effort to
engage the United States in the war, the fear of a Bolshevik revolution
and British interests who saw this as a way to maintain a foot-hold in
the Middle East.

The British also made a pact with France to divide the Middle East in
spheres of influence. So the British had made three separate pledges.
One was the establishment of a Jewish state; the other was with France
and the third with the Arabs who they promised independence if they
would fight on the British side in WWI. All were in contradiction of
each other.
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The leader of the Arabs was Emir Faisel, who was fighting the Turks with
the hopes of creating a great Arab kingdom; T.E. Lawrence, who was a
British agent in Cairo aided him in this. Lawrence was extremely
anti-French and saw the Arab Nationalist movement as a way to cheat
the French and extend British control over the area. Faisel, for his
part, was sympathetic with the aims of a Jewish state. He felt it should
be part of his great kingdom. In a letter to Felix Frankfurter, he
stated:

"We know the Arabs and Jews are racial relatives...We shall do
everything we can, as far as it depends on us, to assist the Zionist
proposals by the Peace Conference, and we shall welcome the Jews with
all our hearts on their return home."

This was no idle boast. Two months earlier, Faisel and Welzmann, under
the guidance of Lawrence, had drawn up such a plan. The agreement never
happened. After the war, the French invaded Damascus and drove Faisel
out of Syria. The Zionists were rewarded by the British and talk of a
great Semite State disappeared. But the possibilities were there, it was
a defining moment that was missed, and the people of the Middle East
have paid for it ever since.

Sources: Israel Without Zionism, Uri Avnery
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