Zionism at 100: Remembering Its Often Prophetic Jewish Critics
Allan C. Brownfeld
The First Zionist Congress was held in Basel, Switzerland in August 1897. Three days after the August 29-31 gathering, Theodor Herzl, who organized the congress and led the Zionist movement until his death in 1904, declared: "If I were to summarize the Basel Congress in a few words . . . I would say this: in Basel, I have founded the Jewish state."
Historian Heiko Haumann of Basel University, who organized this year’s main exhibition on the anniversary in Basel and edited the accompanying book, The First Zionist Congress In 1897, declared: "Herzl was to be proved right. The Zionist movement grew from humble beginnings to become a factor of historical importance and little more than 50 years had passed as, on November 29, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly agreed to the foundation of a Jewish state and the division of Palestine."
The Zionist idea, of course, did not start with Herzl. One of his predecessors, Moses Hess, advanced the view that "homelessness" was the heart of the Jewish problem. He argued that Jews needed to lead a "normal national existence" and wrote that, "Without soil a man sinks to the status of a parasite, feeding on others." His thesis was that Jewish identity is essentially national and that anti-Semitism would always resist Jewish integration into European society. There was, he believed, only one possible solution: a return to the land of Palestine.
Now, as celebrations commemorate Zionism’s 100th anniversary, what has been largely forgotten is the fact that it was at its beginning a minority view among Jews and that at the present time it still remains a minority view. Most Jews believe that their Jewish identity rests on their religious faith, not any "national" identification. Jews in the United States, England, France, Canada, Australia, Italy and other countries do not view themselves as living in "exile," as Zionist philosophy holds. Instead, they believe that their religion and nationality are separate and distinct. The God they believe in is a universal one, not tied to a particular geographic site in the Middle East.
At this time it is appropriate to remember the many Jewish critics of Zionism and their often prophetic analysis of the philosophy which Herzel and his predecessors and followers presented.
Theodor Herzl, many now forget, did not believe in God or in Judaism. The state he sought to create would be a secular state based on the idea of Jewish "national" and "ethnic" identity and incorporating those features he found most attractive in 19th century Europe, particularly Germany. This immediately brought opposition from Orthodox Jews as well as those Jews who rejected the idea of a separate Jewish nationalism and considered themselves full members of the societies in which they were born and lived.
In his biography of Herzl, The Labyrinth Of Exile: A Life Of Theodor Herzl, Ernst Pawel writes: "The Anglo-Jewish aristocracy, while subscribing to the idea of Jewish solidarity, felt resolutely British. By presuming to speak for ‘the Jewish people,’ Herzl — the goy who did not know any better than to send Montagu a postcard written and dated on the Sabbath --threatened to blur the line between religious identity and national allegiance which protected their rights and defined their public image. Sensitive to the atmospheric change, Herzl scaled down his demands and his expectations, calling merely for the formation of a Society of Jews to promote the legal acquisition of territory for such Jews as were unable to assimilate. But the Anglo-Jewish Association under the presidency of Claude Montefiore turned down even this modest proposal: a Jewish state, they declared, ‘was neither possible nor desirable.’"
Sir Samuel Montagu, 64 at the time, a Liberal Member of Parliament since 1885 and a baronet since 1894, received Herzl in his office at the House of Commons. Herzl noted in his diary: "At the sight of this imposing parliamentary establishment . . . I came to understand why the English Jews would cling to a country in which they can enter this House as masters."
Mirage of Nationalism
The chief rabbi of Vienna, Mortiz Gudemann, denounced the mirage of Jewish nationalism. Belief in One God was the unifying factor for Jews, he declared, and Zionism was incompatible with Judaism’s teachings. The Jewish Chronicle of London judged that the Zionist scheme’s lack of a religious perspective rendered it "cold and comparatively uninviting." The executive of the Association of German Rabbis, representing the Jewish communities of Berlin, Frankfurt, Breslau, Halberstadt and Munich, denounced the "efforts of the so-called Zionists to create a Jewish National State in Palestine" as contrary to the "prophetic message of Judaism and the duty or every Jew to belong without reservation to the fatherland in which he lives . . ."
Adolf Jellinek, who became known as the greatest Jewish preacher of his age and a standard bearer of Jewish liberalism from his position as rabbi at the Leopoldstadt Temple in Vienna, deplored the creation of what he called a "small state like Serbia or Romania outside Europe, which would most likely become the plaything of one Great Power against another, and whose future would be very uncertain." This, however, was not the real basis for his opposition. He argued that it threatened the position of Jews in Western countries and that "almost all Jews in Europe" would vote against the scheme if they were given the opportunity. He stated: "We are at home in Europe and feel ourselves to be children of the lands in which we were born, raised, and educated, whose languages we speak and whose cultures constitute our intellectual substance. We are Germans, Frenchmen, Englishmen, Hungarians, Italians, etc. with every fibre of our being. We long ago ceased to be genuine full- blooded Semites in the sense of a Hebrew nationality that has long since been lost."
For Reform Jews, the idea of Zionism contradicted almost completely their belief in a universal Judaism. The first Reform prayerbook eliminated references to Jews being in exile and to a Messiah who would miraculously restore Jews throughout the world to the historic land of Israel and who would rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem. The prayerbook eliminated all prayers for a return to Zion.
In November 1885, nineteen Reform rabbis met in Pittsburgh and wrote an eight-point platform that one participant called "the most succinct expression of the theology of the Reform movement that had ever been published in the world." The platform emphasized that Reform Judaism denied Jewish peoplehood and nationalism of any variety. It stated: "We recognize in the era of universal culture of heart and intellect, the approaching realization of Israel’s great Messianic hope for the establishment of the kingdom of truth, justice, and peace among all men. We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state."
Zionism Was Anathema
For Isaac Mayer Wise, the leader of American Reform Judaism in the 19th century, Zionism was an anathema. He rejected both the premise and conclusion of Zionism that anti-Semitism was an absolute condition in all nation-state’s where Jews were a minority and that a separate nation-state for Jews was thus a necessity. Writing in The American Israelite, Wise declared that, ". . . The Herzl-Nordau scheme appears to be about as important to Judaism as was Pleasanton’s blue grass theory to science or as is ‘Christian Science’ to medicine. Pleasanton’s empiricism was at least harmless, but Herzl-Nordau’s is so fraught with the possibility of mischief . . . it becomes the duty of every true Jew to take an active part in efforts to destroy it."
The overwhelming majority of faculty and students at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati believed that Zionism was antithetical to the beliefs of Reform Judaism. Professor Louis Grossman in 1899 expressed the dominant sentiment when he said that, " . . . A sober student of Jewish history and a genuine lover of his co-religionists sees that the Zionistic agitation contradicts everything that is typical of Jews and Judaism." In Hebrew Union College’s opening exercises on October 14, 1916, President Kaufmann Kohler stated that "ignorance and irreligion are at the bottom of the whole movement of political Zionism."
In 1897, the Central Conference of American Rabbis adopted a resolution disapproving of any attempt to establish a Jewish state. The resolution stated: "Zion was a precious possession of the past . . . as such it is a holy memory, but it is not our hope of the future. America is our Zion." In 1904, The American Israelite noted, "There is not one solitary prominent native Jewish-American who is an advocate of Zionism."
In 1912, when Zionists pressed for the promulgation of the Balfour Declaration, it was a Jewish opponent who spoke out against the concept of an exclusively Jewish state within the British Cabinet. Edwin S. Montagu, Secretary of State for India in Lloyd George’s World War I cabinet, said he would accept the declaration calling for a Jewish national home in Palestine only conditionally as "a military expedient" (the Allied Powers were not doing well in World War I against the Central Powers at the time), and only after the wording of the policy statement had been rephrased. Montagu informed the chief that he had "striven all his life to escape the ghetto," to which he now faced possible relegation as a result of the proposed policy paper.
Montagu, not wishing to endanger the hard-won status of Jews as an integrated religious community enjoying equal rights and obligations in the countries in which they lived, resented the Zionist effort to convince Jews that they were an "ethnic-racial" group. He believed, as well, that there was an injustice involved in turning over control of a land to those who then constituted only 7 percent of the population.
Montagu went so far as to accuse those in the British Government who sought to create a Jewish state in Palestine of anti-Semitism. In a document entitled "The Anti-Semitism of the Present Government" dated August 23, 1917, marked "Secret" and made public by the British Government only in 1970, he writes: "I have chosen the above title for this memorandum, not in any hostile sense, not by any means of quarreling with anti-Semitic views, which may be held by my colleagues, not with a desire to deny that anti-Semitism can be held by rational men, but I wish to place on record my view that the policy of His Majesty’s Government is anti-Semitic in result and will prove a rallying ground for anti-Semites in every country of the world.
"The war has indeed justified patriotism as the prime motive of political thought. It is in this atmosphere that the Government proposes to endorse the formation of a new nation with a new home in Palestine. This nation will presumably be formed of Jewish Russians, Jewish Englishmen, Jewish Roumanians, Jewish Bulgarians and Jewish citizens of all nations — survivors or relations of those who have fought and laid down their lives for the different countries which I have mentioned at a time when the three years that they have lived through have united their outlook and thought more closely than ever with the countries of which they are citizens. Zionism has always seemed to me to be a mischievous political creed, untenable by any patriotic citizen of the United Kingdom. If a Jewish Englishman sets his eyes on the Mount of Olives and longs for the day when he will shake British soil from his shoes and go back to agricultural pursuits in Palestine, he has always seemed to me to have acknowledged aims inconsistent with British citizenship and to have admitted that he is unfit for a share in public life in Great Britain or to be treated as an Englishman."
No Jewish Nation
What would a "national home for the Jewish people" really mean? "I do not know what this involves," wrote Montagu, "but I assume that it means that Mohammedans and Christians are to make way for the Jews, and that the Jews would be put in all positions of preference and should be peculiarly associated with Palestine in the same way that England is with the English or France with the French, that Turks and other Mohammedans in Palestine will be regarded as foreigners . . . I assert that there is not a Jewish nation. The members of my family, for instance, who have been in this country for generations, have no sort or kind of community of view or of desire with any Jewish family in any other country beyond the fact that they profess to a greater or lesser degree the same religion. It is no more to say that a Jewish Englishman and a Jewish Moor are of the same nation than it is to say that a Christian Englishman and a Christian Frenchman are of the same nation . . ."
Placing the question of Palestine in a larger perspective, Montagu states: "I deny that Palestine is today associated with the Jews. It is quite true that Palestine plays a large part in Jewish history, but so it does in modern Mohammedan history, and, after the time of the Jews, surely it plays a larger part than any other country in Christian history. The Temple may have been in Palestine, but so was the Sermon on the Mount and the Crucifixion. I would not deny to Jews in Palestine equal rights to colonization with those who profess other religions, but a religious test of citizenship seems to me to be only admitted by those who take a bigoted and narrow view of one particular epoch of the history or Palestine, and claim for the Jews a position to which they are not entitled."
In a speech to the Menorah Society Dinner in New York City in December 1917, Chief Judge of the New York State Supreme Court Irving Lehman, brother of Governor Herbert Lehman of New York, stated: "I cannot recognize that the Jews as such constitute a nation in any sense in which the word is recognized in political science, or that a national basis is a possible concept for modern Judaism. We Jews in America, bound to the Jews of other lands by our common faith, constituting our common inheritance, cannot as American citizens feel any bond to them as members of a nation, for nationally we are Americans and Americans only, and in political and civic matters we cannot recognize any other ties. We must therefore look for the maintenance of Judaism to those spiritual concepts which constitute Judaism."
In 1919, a petition was presented to President Woodrow Wilson entitled "A Statement to the Peace Conference." It reflected the then dominant Reform position on Zionism and Palestine. The petition asserted that the opinions expressed therein represented those of the vast majority of American Jews. Those signing included Rep. Julius Kahn of California; Henry Morganthau, Sr., ex-Ambassador to Turkey; Simon W. Rosendale, former Attorney General of New York; Mayor L.H. Kampner of Galveston, Texas; E.M. Baker, president of the New York Stock Exchange.; R.H. Macy’s Jesse L. Straus; New York Times publisher Adolph Ochs; Judge M.C. Sloss of San Francisco; and professors Edwin H. Seligman of Columbia University and Morris Jastrow of the University or Pennsylvania. President Wilson brought the petition with him to the peace conference.
The petition criticized Zionist efforts to segregate Jews "as a political unit . . . in Palestine or elsewhere" and underlined the principle of equal rights for all citizens of any state "irrespective of creed or ethnic descent." It rejected Jewish nationalism as a general concept and held against the founding of any state upon the basis of religion and/or race. The petition asserted that the "overwhelming bulk of the Jews of America, England, France, Italy, Holland, Switzerland and the other lands of freedom have no thought whatever of surrendering their citizenship in those lands in order to resort to a ‘Jewish homeland in Palestine.’" Moreover, those Jews who were still being oppressed in certain nation-states, from which they were unable to emigrate, would likely be put into an even more precarious position by the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine that could be used by malevolent rulers "as a new justification for additional repressive legislation." The position, noting that most inhabitants of Palestine were then non-Jews, suggested that conflict between Jews and non-Jews could erupt if a Jewish state were created.
The rejection of Jewish nationalism is reiterated in the petition. Point 5 makes this clear: "We object to the political segregation of the Jews because it is an error to assume that the bond uniting them is of a national character. They are bound by two factors: First, the bond of common religious beliefs and aspirations and, secondly, the bonds of common traditions, customs, and experiences largely, alas, of common trials and sufferings. Nothing in their status suggests that they form in any real sense a separate nationalistic unit."
With regard to the future of Palestine, the petitioners state: "It is our fervent hope that what was once a ‘promised land’ for the Jews may become ‘a land of promise’ for all races and creeds, safeguarded by the League of Nations which, it is expected, will be one of the fruits of the Peace Conference . . . We ask that Palestine be constituted as a free and independent state to be governed under a democratic form of government recognizing no distinctions of creed or race or ethnic descent, and with adequate power to protect the country against oppression of any kind. We do not wish to see Palestine, either now or at any time in the future, organized as a Jewish state."
Declaring the political segregation of Jews in Palestine or elsewhere as "necessarily reactionary in its tendency, undemocratic in spirit, and totally contrary to the practices of free government," the petitioners repudiated "every suspicion of a double allegiance, which is necessarily implied in, and cannot by any logic be eliminated from the establishment of a sovereign state for the Jews in Palestine." They observed that those who favor a restoration of such a Jewish homeland in Palestine, "advocate it not for themselves, but for others . . . those who act thus, and yet insist on their patriotic attachment to the countries of which they are citizens, are self-deceived in their profession of Zionism and under the spell of an emotional romanticism or of a religious sentiment fostered through centuries of gloom."
Critics Within Zionist Ranks
It was not only those Jews who rejected the entire notion of a Jewish state who emerged as critics of the Zionist enterprise. Many who were sympathetic to the creation of one form or another of a Jewish "homeland" were concerned about the rights of the present inhabitants of Palestine, rights which they saw being either ignored or violated.
Unlike most of his fellow Zionists who persisted in fantasizing about "a land without people for the people without a land," Ahad Ha’am, for example, from the very beginning refused to ignore the presence of Arabs in Palestine. This Russian Jewish writer and philosopher paid his first visit to the new Jewish settlements in Palestine in 1891. In his essay "The Truth From The Land of Israel," he says that it is an illusion to think of Palestine as an empty country: "We tend to believe abroad that Palestine is nowadays almost completely deserted, a non-cultivated wilderness, and anyone can come there and buy as much land as his heart desires. But in reality this is not the case. It is difficult to find anywhere in the country Arab land which lies fallow . . ."
The behavior of Jewish settlers toward the Arabs disturbed him. They had not learned from experience as a minority within a wider population, but reacted with the cruelty of slaves who had suddenly become kings, treating their neighbors with contempt. The Arabs, he wrote, understood very well what Zionist intentions were in the country and "if the time should come when the lives of our people in Palestine should develop to the extent that, to a smaller or greater degree they usurp the place of the local population, the latter will not yield easily . . . We have to treat the local population with love and respect, justly and rightly. And what do our brethren in the land of Israel do? Exactly the opposite! Slaves they were in the country of exile, and suddenly they find themselves in a boundless and anarchic freedom, as is always the case with a slave that has become king; and they behave toward the Arabs with hostility and cruelty."
Jewish ethics were the heart and soul of Ahad Ha’am’s brand of nationalism, and to the end of his life he denounced any compromise with political expediency. In 1913, protesting against a Jewish boycott of Arab labor, he wrote to a friend: ". . . I can’t put up with the idea that our brethren are morally capable of behaving in such a way to humans of another people, and unwittingly the thought comes to my mind: If this is so now, what will our relations to the others be like if, at the end of time, we shall really achieve power in Eretz Israel? And if this be the Messiah, I do not wish to see his coming."
Jews and Blood
In 1922, young Jewish zealots killed an Arab boy. This brought a cry of rage from Ahad Ha’am. "Jews and blood — are there two greater opposites than these?" he asked in a letter to the Hebrew newspaper Ha’Aretz. "Is this the goal for which our ancestors longed and for which they suffered all those tribulations? Is this the dream of the return to Zion which our people dreamt of for thousands of years; that we should come to Zion to pollute its soil with the spilling of innocent blood?"
Ahad Ha’am was hardly alone in voicing such misgivings about the emerging Zionist enterprise. In an article published in Ha-Shiloah in 1907, Yitzhak Epstein, a Russian-born teacher who had settled in Palestine in 1886, voiced an anxiety that was brushed aside by Zionist contemporaries but came back to haunt. He wrote: "Among the grave questions raised by the concept of our people’s renaissance on its own soil there is one which is more weighty than all the others put together. This is the question of our relations with the Arabs. This question, on the correct solution of which our own national aspirations depend, has not been forgotten, but rather has remained completely hidden from the Zionists, and its true form found almost no mention in the literature of our movement."
Epstein criticized the settlers’ attitude toward the Arabs and criticized the Zionist leadership who played at international politics "while the question of the resident people, the (country’s) workers and actual owners, has not yet been raised, either in practice or theory." It was a serious error to minimize the loyalty of "a strong, resolute and zealous" people to Palestine: "While we harbor fierce sentiments towards the land of our fathers, we forget that the nation now living there is also endowed with a sensitive heart and loving soul. The Arab, like all other men, is strongly attached to his homeland."
Yosef Luria, a Romanian-born journalist and teacher who settled in Palestine in 1907, wrote in Ha-Olam in 1911: "During all the years of our labor in Palestine we completely forgot that there were Arabs in the country. The Arabs have been ‘discovered’ only during the past few years. We regarded all European nations as opponents of our settlement, but failed to pay heed to one people — the people residing in this country and attached to it."
A Binational State
In 1925, under the leadership of Arthur Ruppin, an association called Brit Shalom (Covenant of Peace) was established in Palestine and proposed binationalism as the proper solution to the conflict between Zionists and Arabs, two peoples claiming the same land. In their credo, issued in Jerusalem in 1927, Brit Shalom said it was intent on creating in Palestine "a binational state, in which the two peoples will enjoy totally equal rights as befits the two elements shaping the country’s destiny, irrespective of which of the two is numerically superior at any given time." Its spokesmen included such respected figures as Robert Weltsch, editor of Judische Rundschau, the journal of the German Zionist Movement, Jacob Thon, from the settlement department of the Jewish Agency, Judah Magnes, chancellor and first president of the Hebrew University and such university faculty members as Martin Buber, Hugo Germann, Ernst Simon and Gershon Scholem. For these men, Zionism was a moral crusade or it was nothing.
Brit Shalom’s leader, Arthur Ruppin, was saddened by the growing disparity between universal moral values and narrow Jewish nationalism. "What continually worries me, he wrote, is the relationship between Jews and Arabs in Palestine . . . the two peoples have become more estranged in their thinking. Neither has any understanding of the other, and yet I have no doubt that Zionism will end in a catastrophe if we do not succeed in finding a common platform." What Zionists were doing, he argued, "has no equal in history. The aim is to bring the Jews as a second nation into a country which already is settled as a nation — and fulfill this through peaceful means. History has seen such penetration by one nation into a strange land only by conquest, but it has never occurred that a nation will fully agree that another nation should come and demand full equality of rights and national autonomy at its side."
Later, as world War II proceeded, the traditional opposition to Zionism on the part of America’s Reform Jews found expression in the creation of the American Council for Judaism in 1942. In his keynote address to the June, 1942 meeting in Atlantic City, Rabbi David Philipson declared that Reform Judaism and Zionism were incompatible: "Reform Judaism is spiritual, Zionism is political. The outlook of Reform Judaism is the world. The outlook of Zionism is a corner of eastern Asia." Rabbi Louis Wolsey declared that the group opposed "a Jewish state, a Jewish flag or a Jewish army" and represented "the views of the vast majority of Jews in the United States."
At its first annual conference in Philadelphia in January 1945, Council members heard an address by Rabbi Elmer Berger entitled "Emancipation — A Rediscovered Ideal." According to Berger, then executive director of the Council, the program of Jewish nationalism had never expressed the real aspirations of Jews in America or elsewhere: "Spurious nationhood," he argued, had been imposed on Jews by reactionary societies in the Middle Ages and this could not provide a solution to reaction in the modern world. The Jewish nationalists wanted to maintain a medieval type of control over a so-called worldwide Jewish people and to prevent emancipation of individual Jews. This process, he claimed, reached alarming proportions in 1897 at the first Zionist congress, where 197 men "arrogated to themselves the title ‘the Jewish nation.’ Proceeding to create a worldwide political machine, they proclaimed that the medieval collectivism of the ‘Jewish people’ wanted to realize its political destiny by creating a sovereign state in Palestine."
Berger noted that Jewish emancipation had frequently been attacked during the preceding century and a half by the "official Jews" who controlled the community while it was imprisoned behind ghetto walls. With the collapse of the ghetto, the functionaries of the Jewish community were weakened. Threatened by the process of integration and emancipation, they condemned it as "assimilation" and "did their best to impede it."
After the partition of Palestine by the U.N., the Council adopted a new statement of principles on January 19, 1948. It stated, in part, that, "Nationality and religion are separate and distinct. Our nationality is American. Our religion is Judaism. Our homeland is the United States of America. We reject any concept that Jews are at home only in Palestine." To American Jews, the Council declared, Israel was neither the state nor the homeland of "the Jewish people." The Council publicly objected to Zionist calls on American Jewish youth to migrate to Israel, to displays of Israeli national symbols in American synagogues, to the reference to the U.S. as a "diaspora" or "exile," to the sale of Israeli bonds in synagogues and to the suggestion that any group of Jews, including the representatives of Israel, could speak for all Jews. The destiny of American Jews, the Council maintained, was bound exclusively with the U.S.
Predictions Came True
In the book Jews Against Zionism: The American Council for Judaism, 1948-49, historian Thomas A. Kolsky points out that many of the Council’s warnings about Zionism had been prophetic: ". . . many of its predictions about the consequences of the establishment of a Jewish state did come true. As the American Council for Judaism had foreseen, the birth of the state created numerous problems — problems the Zionists had minimized. For example, Israel became highly, if not unusually, dependent on support from American Jews. Moreover, the formation of the state directly contributed to undermining Jewish communities in Arab countries and to precipitating a protracted conflict between Israel and the Arabs. Indeed, as the Council had often warned and contrary to Zionist expectations, Israel did not become a truly normal state. Nor did it become a light unto the nations. Ironically, created presumably to free Jews from anti-Semitism and ghetto-like existence as well as to provide them with abiding peace, Israel became, in effect, a garrison state, a nation resembling a large territorial ghetto besieged by hostile neighbors . . . The ominous predictions of the ACJ are still haunting the Zionists."
Throughout the world, Jewish criticism of Zionism has continued long after Israel’s creation. When Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion called for "complete solidarity with the State of Israel" on the part of all Jews, Denmark’s chief rabbi, Marcus Melchior, responded: "We Danish Jews do not usually air our patriotism. Why on earth should we shout ‘hurrah’ more loudly than all the other Danes? But we take an opportunity like this to state that no one, however big he may be or from wherever he may come, has the right or is able to change even one jot of what for 150 years has been the status of Danish Jews under which there has been established a relationship in Denmark of which we are all just as happy on the Christian side as on the Jewish side. If Premier Ben-Gurion really claimed that in order to be a Jew every minute of one’s life, one has to live in Israel, then according to my view two questions arise. The first is whether to be a Jew every minute is of imperative necessity and whether Jewishness and being a general human being did not equate each other so completely that one at the same time could be Jewish and a human being in other places than in the few square kilometers which form the territory of Israel."
Majority Reject Zionism
Now, in 1997, one hundred years after the first Zionist Congress, it is clear that the vast majority of Jews in the United States, Western Europe and other countries reject the Zionist understanding of Jewish identity, just as the vast majority of Jews did one hundred years ago.
Those who are now engaged in the celebration of this 100th anniversary would do well to pause and consider how prophetic the Jewish critics of Zionism have been. It is not too late to learn some of the lessons they attempted to articulate. Judaism, they deeply believed, is a universal faith dedicated to God, not a narrow nationalism or a tribal religion. That faith and its moral and ethical teachings can indeed be a "light" to men and women of every race and nation, a dream far larger and far different from the one which motivated Theodor Herzl and his colleagues in Basel in 1897.