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Remembering Herzl

Happy 150th, Theodor!

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Sunday marks the 150th birthday of Theodor Herzl. Jewish Ideas Daily has put together a great list of brief essays that you may want to spend your weekend perusing in celebration of the founder of Zionism. Also directs our attention to this brief documentary, made in 1960, the centennial of his birth, and barely a decade after his dream was made reality.

The Impresario of Zionism [Jewish Ideas Daily]

Homepage image from Wikipedia.

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Over at Commentary, Noah Pollack cites a recent talk by Mearsheimer breaking Jews down into the “righteous” and the “Afrikaaners,” the latter including Bret Stephens, Mort Zuckerman, Charles Krauthammer and Abe Foxman, among others.

Among the “Righteous”, we have Tony Judt, Norman Finkelstein, and Philip Weiss, among others, who attack not only Israel, but Jews and Judaism.

Nice, right?

Jacob Arnon says:

Mearsheimer himself belongs among kuklaklaxers like David Duke. They too call themselves realists.

His dislike of Jews is becoming evident.

He follows Goebbels’ dictum ‘we decide who or what a Jew is.”

It’s no accident that David Duke thinks of Tony Judt as an ally.

Why are the comments not discussing the Herzl documentary and instead discussing Commentary magazine?

Let’s discuss Herzl.

Herzl was a liberal, a member of Vienna’s center-left intelligentsia, and would be horrified by today’s Israel.

Herzl vehemently opposed rabbinical participation in the future Israeli government and did not favor a militarized society. He likely would have been a member of the Labor party.

Herzl would have fought Israel’s religous parties and their dominance o of “who is a Jew” issues. His wife was the descendant of an intermarriage.

Herzl did not want a war with the Palestinians and favored a binational state, which he wrote about in “Old New Land.”

He would not have fitted in with “Commentary” at all.

Robin, I can’t speak to the historical accuracy of your characterization of Herzl, although given that fact that the Jerusalem of his day was a forsaken backwater of the Ottoman Empire renders it altogether irrelevant. From Herzl’s time onward, Jerusalem had a Jewish majority, and I’m sure he would have approved of a country that permits political representation of the Arabs, as Israel does, unlike most Arab states. The view you advocate is impractical to the point of being immoral. The Organization of the Islamic Conference numbers 55 countries as part of its membership. We insist on having just one Jewish state.

Is one Jewish state too many for you?

Robin Margolis says:

FW, you still haven’t explained why we’re discussing Commentary magazine, the Organization of Islamic States and Jerusalem, etc.

Aren’t we supposed to be discussing the Herzl documentary and his life and views?

Here is an excellent biography of Herzl:

If you read the biography, which is very well-written and admiring, you will see that my characterization of Herzl is correct.

Herzl was a centrist liberal and strongly opposed to the rabbinate participating in the future Israeli government, and would have been horrified by the current Israeli government and the large number of Orthodox rabbis participating in it.

He envisioned Israel as a multicultural, secular state in which the Jews and Arabs lived together peacefully, and people attended shul on Shabbat, rather like the tolerant multinational Austro-Hungarian empire he grew up in.

You can double check all of my assertions in the biography. The author of the biography quotes large sections from Herzl’s private, voluminous personal journals, which Herzl intended to preserve his personal views for posterity.

You’re an Israel fan — I’m surprised that you have not checked out the life of its founder.

Herzl deserves that every Jew should learn about him, just as Americans are expected to learn about George Washingon.

Israel did not turn out the way Herzl hoped it would, at least so far, but I think his tremendous commitment to the welfare of his fellow Jews deserves our kavod (honor) and learning about him.

James Philadelphia says:

“”like the tolerant multinational Austro-Hungarian empire he grew up”” And by covering the Dreyfus affair in tolerant France under egalite fraternite the Napoleonic terms!!

And where were Herzl’s attention about the rabid anti-semitism that existed in these European countries? Certainly he was shocked about the French crowds shouting not dead to Dreyfus but dead to the Jews.

Yes Herzl provided the seeds for the creation of a Jewish State. But there were many others that brought the idea to a reality Seev (Vladimir) Jabotinsky, Chayim Weizman, David Ben-Gurion and many anonymous pioneers that converted the swamps and desert into living Jewish cities, orchards, forests, major educational institutions, industry.

Yes religious Jews came to Israel and were taken into the government when the State of Israel was created, and yes they have acquired influence. The liberal religious Jews were against the creation of a Jewish State, Reform Conservative. Later they changed their minds and have been trying to participate. Do not forget the Jews from Arab lands half a million strong when they were chased away from the Arab countries. They were treated as pariahs by the secular Mapai party (today Labor) of Ben Gurion and Shimon Peres, because they were religious and not educated a la par of the European Jews. The Sephardic Jews were taken into the political life of Israel by Menachem Begin of today’s Likud party, and they have the influence they rightly deserve.

Yes Theodore Herzl is the father of Zionism, a great visionary, organizer, diplomat. We should celebrate his 150 anniversary with pride and honor.

The kavod (honor) is to learn and give credit where credit is due to the many others. Because they have been and are true Jewish heroes.

And do not forget the rabid anti-Jews of the islamo-fascists like the Mufty of Jerusalem supported by the British colonialists and an associate of the German nazis. Or todays enemies of Israel like Hamas Syria Iran Hezbollah.

You have to be careful of being too naive. Todays enemies of Israel and the Jews are not only outside but also inside. Herzl would agree whole heartedly.

Happy birthday, Theodor. It’s a tragedy that your vision of peace has yet to be realized. Maybe someday if not in our own lifetimes.

Robin, I alluded to the piece in Commentary because the conditions that made the creation of Israel necessary still exist, unfortunately.

Whatever Israel’s mistakes, and whatever its sins–and all nations have committed sins–it has realized that dream you allude to, to the extent that it has been possible in a region of autocracies rife with violence, oppression and bigotry. Israel is the gem of the Middle East, not because it’s Jewish, but because it is governed by law. If its neighbors ever emerge from the political barbarism in which they are currently engulfed, the honest men and women who live there will acknowledge that fact, just as the honest men and women of Israel have acknowledged their country’s mistakes, principally the occupation of the West Bank.

Robin Margolis says:

I see we are not going to discuss Herzl. Hello, this is a documentary about Herzl? Correct?

James Philadelphia wants to discuss Ben-Gurion and Jabotinsky. Excuse me me for living, this is a documentary about Herzl. It is Herzl’s birthday.

FW, there is no connection that I can see between your Commentary magazine posts and Herzl. You haven’t commented once on the documentary.

FW and James, if I went to a thread discussing Jabotinsky, and insisted on posting a long discussion about Herzl, you would call me on it immediately.

It’s not right to ignore Herzl at the one time of the year he should be most honored, or try and transfer the discussion to other Jewish leaders.

Robin Margolis says:

Honored and Esteemed Dr. Herzl:
(how he would have been addressed in Austria-Hungary)

I’m sorry Israel hasn’t turned out the way you’d hoped, at least so far.

But a man is honored for what he hoped to achieve, not just whether it worked out the way he’d hoped.

If you can see the news from olam haba, perhaps you’ve seen a recent Israeli news item, in which the Likud speaker of the Knesset states that in view of the reluctance of Israel to give back the West Bank settlement land, Israel may end up as one country with the Jews and the Palestinians:

I don’t know if this is good or bad news, Dr. Herzl. It sounds like your dream, but how would it work out in practice? I reserve judgment.

May your memory be for a blessing,



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Remembering Herzl

Happy 150th, Theodor!

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