From Vision to Reality: The Herzl Chronicles

When in 1896 Theodor Herzl (d. 1904) published his pamphlet titled “The State of the Jews” (“Der Judenstaat” in German), the Zionism enterprise was officially set in motion. As said by Louis Lipsky in the “Introduction” of “The State of the Jews”, “Theodore Herzl was the first Jew who projected the Jewish question as an international problem.”

To Theodor Herzl, however, the idea was nothing new, nor was it a utopia. He underlined: “The idea which I have developed in this pamphlet is a very old one. It is the restoration of the Jewish State. The world resounds with outcries against the Jews, and these outcries have awakened the slumbering idea. I wish it to be clearly understood from the outset that no portion of my argument is based on a new discovery.”

This nevertheless was an inaccurate assessment. For Theodore Herzl, the Zionist Jewish State was a comprehensively conceived secular polity. A concept that was alien both to mainstream Judaism and the Jewish mind. The idea therefore was un-Jewish, for which reason its architect, Theodor Herzl, often struggled to sell it to the Jews and to persuade them of its merits. He once said: “I have the solution to the Jewish question. I know it sounds mad. And at the beginning I shall be called mad more than once. Until the truth of what I am saying is recognized in all its shattering force” (Alex Bein, Theodore Herzl’s Biography).

Early Visions of Jewish Statehood

The newness of “The State of the Jews” lay in the fact that it was “the first public expression, in a modern language, by a modern Jew. A dynamic conception of how the solution of the problem could be accelerated. And the ancient Jewish hope, slumbering in Jewish memory for two thousand years, could be fulfilled.”

Hitherto there were only vague intimations of the idea of a Jewish statehood. Such as the statement of Leo Pinsker (d. 1891). A Jewish physician of Odessa, in 1882 that “antisemitism was a psychosis and incurable. That the cause of it was the abnormal condition of Jewish life, and that the only remedy for it was the removal of the cause through self-help and self- liberation.

The Jewish people must become an independent nation, settled on the soil of their own land and leading the life of a normal people.” Moses Hess (d. 1875), a German-Jewish philosopher, in his “Rome and Jerusalem” “classified the Jewish question as one of the nationalist struggles inspired by the French Revolution.” While two Russian-Jewish writers, Perez Smolenskin (d. 1885) and E. Ben-Yehuda (d. 1922), “urged the revival of Hebrew and the resettlement of Palestine as the foundation for the rebirth of the Jewish people” (Louis Lipsky, “Introduction” to “The State of the Jews”).

Exploring Zionism

In any case, Zionism was a controversial design which was ultimately realized in 1948. Before its realization and after it, the Zionism idea went through a number of phases featuring a number of milestones. The latest tragedy in Gaza - which is practically a genocide against the innocent and defenceless population of Palestine. It is not only the latest phase, as well as milestone, in the evolution, but also its net result. It may well be the climax, after which there should only be a downhill trajectory. Gaza could be the beginning of the end of Zionism. It could be Israel’s Stalingrad (today Volgograd).

A multifaceted historical journey, influenced by Western dynamics. Views on Israel's legacy differ, with some emphasizing alleged misconduct. There's a debate about its geopolitical legitimacy, with claims of suppression and displacement. The situation is complex, sparking passionate discussions about the line between strategic interests and controversial actions

It goes without saying that resisting Israel and its sponsors in any effective ways is an obligation incumbent upon all Muslims. Doing so is jihad, all forms of which ought to be activated. To turn a blind eye to the ongoing occupation or to remain indifferent to it, is a sin. It is an affront as much to the religion of Islam as to one’s conscience.

Why Palestine?

At first, the proposed Jewish State was to be either in Argentina or Palestine. Argentina was an option because it “is one of the most fertile countries in the world, extends over a vast area. Has a sparse population and a mild climate. The Argentine Republic would derive considerable profit from the cession of a portion of its territory to us. The present infiltration of Jews has certainly produced some discontent, and it would be necessary to enlighten the Republic on the intrinsic difference of our new movement.”

At one point even Uganda and Brazil were considered. One of Theodor Herzl’s closest friends went to Brazil “for a Jewish committee to investigate the possibility of settling Jews in that part of South America” (Louis Lipsky, “Introduction” to “The State of the Jews”).

However, Palestine soon proved the only viable alternative. It was the “ever-memorable historic home of the Jews”. The home whose very name was able to attract the Jews “with a force of marvellous potency.” The choice of Palestine was the point where “the practical men” of Zionism were united with the movement’s “dreamers”.

The Unexplored Argentine Option

None of them wanted to know anything about Argentine. “Palestine alone came into the picture for a national concentration of the Jews.” Rationalizing the Palestine option, Theodor Herzl elaborated: “If His Majesty the Sultan (Abdul Hamid II) were to give us Palestine. They could in return undertake to regulate the whole finances of Turkey.

Jews should there form a portion of a rampart of Europe against Asia, an outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism. We should as a neutral State remain in contact with all Europe, which would have to guarantee our existence. The sanctuaries of Christendom would be safeguarded by assigning to them an extra-territorial status such as is well-known to the law of nations.

We should form a guard of honour about these sanctuaries, answering for the fulfilment of this duty with our existence. This guard of honour would be the great symbol of the solution of the Jewish Question after eighteen centuries of Jewish suffering.”

Hands off Palestine!

However, historical records show that the Ottoman government declined the Zionist overtures. The Zionists were told to “leave Palestine alone”. That no part of the Empire can be given away, and that “vivisection” will not be allowed.

According to some reports, Sultan Abdul Hamid II refused Theodor Herzl's offers to pay down a substantial portion of the Ottoman debt (150 million pounds sterling in gold) in exchange for a charter allowing the Zionists to settle in Palestine. He is famously quoted as telling Theodor Herzl’s emissary that “as long as I am alive, I will not have our body divided, only our corpse they can divide” (Abdul Hamid II, Wikipedia). Theodor Herzl was fully aware of the Ottoman position. That is why he resorted to all sorts of trickery under the guise of diplomacy.

Political Pursuits

An arduous journey of attempting to win over both friends and foes loomed ahead. Therefore, for a substantial period of time. The primary focus was on courtiers and statesmen, princes and kings. Accordingly, “The State of the Jews” was not regarded by Theodor Herzl as a piece of literature, reminded Louis Lipsky in the “Introduction” of Theodor Herzl’s pamphlet. Rather, “it was a political document. That was to serve as the introduction to political action. It was to lead to the conversion of leaders in political life. This was to win converts to the idea of a Jewish State.”

Theodor Herzl initiated a profusion of “diplomatic missions” that frequently brought him to the most influential hubs of power in Europe and beyond. The fundamental rationale was to seek out a method to employ political and economic leverage on Sultan Abdul Hamid II in order to grant Palestine to the Jews. The plan involved the Ottoman debt and the German interest in the Orient; it also involved stimulating the Russians and visiting the Pope.

It was hoped that Britain might potentially play a part as well. Theodor Herzl “was first led by the idea that the way to the charter was through the Sultan (Abdul Hamid II). And that the Sultan would be influenced by Kaiser Wilhelm II (German Emperor).”

From Ottoman Rule to Zionist Dreams

Theodor Herzl perceived the ruinous debt of the Ottoman Empire as a highly advantageous prospect. But tenderly proffering to pay off the debt was a kind of inducement (an act of bribery). Which strongly suggests that the Zionist purpose was unlawful and necessitated unlawful methods to be achieved. If the creation of Israel was legal, all sorts of dishonest and inducing attempts would not have been needed.

Both the Ottoman government and international community would have been notified that a Zionist State in Palestine was the Jewish usurped right. Hence that right was about to be reclaimed. Indeed, speaking about national rights and entitlements is a civilizational matter. So it should be addressed and potentially solved exclusively by civilizational means. Doing things differently is an offence against humanity and civilization.

However, nothing of that kind has ever come to pass. Theodor Herzl never said anything about the Jewish right to a state in Palestine. Rather, he speaks about his wishes to solve the Jewish problem by abandoning the centres of antisemitism in Europe and by emigrating to Palestine as the best option, in that Palestine connoted the “ever-memorable historic home of the Jews.” He passionately speaks out against the rampant antisemitism in Europe and about the entitlement of the Jews to equality and human rights, but that was a different subject altogether.

The Hurdles by the Ottoman

He was not supposed to endeavour to solve one problem by creating a multitude of others. Should not have strived to conceive an answer for a form of statelessness and rightlessness by devising yet another variant of the same. Herlz's should have been smarter and more sensible.
Theodor should have been more Jewish. As regards the targeted Ottoman debt, Louis Lipsky explained:

“In 1891 the total external debt, including unpaid interest, reached the figure of two hundred and fifty-three million pounds sterling. In 1881 there was a consolidation of the debt. It was reduced to one hundred and six million pounds, but the finances of Turkey were placed under the control of a committee representing the creditors, to whom was transferred certain domestic Turkish monopolies and the collection of several categories of taxes. This enabled the European powers to intervene in the affairs of Turkey. Only by the removal of this foreign tutelage could Turkey hope to regain its independence. It was to achieve this end, Herzl thought, that the Jews, and the Jews alone, could be useful. For this service, he intended to ask for a Jewish State in Palestine. Herzl followed this line until finally the need for refunding the Turkish debt disappeared.”

It was obvious that the Ottoman Empire refused to budge on the subject of Zionists establishing a state in Palestine. It did so as much as it could within the scope of its rapidly declining power. One of the rather extreme measures adopted by Sultan Abdul Hamid II was his personal purchase of large tracts of land. “He became one of the largest landowners in the Empire. In Palestine alone, the Sultan purchased around 3% of the total area and initiated measures to increase these lands’ productivity for his Privy Purse. In addition to gaining economic profit, Abdul Hamid II employed his private lands to solve problems which challenged the sovereignty of the empire.”

The Shaping of Israel

One of such problems was the emergence and spread of Zionism (Roy S. Fischel & Ruth Kark, Sultan Abdulhamid II and Palestine: Private Lands and Imperial Policy).
Theodor Herzl was convinced about the Ottoman position and that his manipulative measures will not change anything. Thus, increasingly agitated by the worsening situation of the Jews in Europe. On the one hand, and by the impasse in his negotiations with Kaiser Wilhelm II and Sultan Abdul Hamid II. On the other, Theodor Herzl was constantly being led to the thought that it would become necessary to find a temporary haven of refuge for the Jews.

England, Cyprus, South Africa and even America, were explored. “But he banished these thoughts from his mind because he knew that the Zionists would place serious obstacles in the way of considering any project other than Palestine. When his hopes with regard to Germany (as the most likely avenue to convince the Ottoman Sultan) had collapsed. However, he thought of these alternative proposals again” (Louis Lipsky, “Introduction” to “The State of the Jews”).

Positively, as long as the Ottoman Empire was in charge of the region, including Palestine – however unconvincingly - not much progress could the Zionist plans achieve. But after the Great Arab Revolt in 1916, resulting in the expulsion of the Ottomans from the region. In the aftermath of which the heart of the Muslim world was fragmented and plunged into endless squabbles and military confrontations.

In the process allowing Britain as the chief Western predator to move in and colonize Palestine. The avenue was opened for the realization of the Zionist dreams. A set of obnoxious circumstances was in place for spawning the ultimate in obnoxiousness, i.e., the Zionist State of Israel.

Israel as a secular, not religious, state

As Machiavellian as Theodor Herzl was, his real intentions were transparent. He did not want a religious state. In fact, what he was striving for had nothing to do with religion. Yet, his mission was against some of the fundamental principles of mainstream Judaism. Some scholars went so far as to claim that the initiative was entirely anti-Jewish.

Theodor Herzl was a politician and his ideas were expediently political. He was unequivocal that his envisioned Jewish State was secular and was part of a Jewish social question. He said: “It is no longer - and it has not been for a long time - a theological matter. It has nothing whatsoever to do with religion and conscience…What is more, everyone knows it…The Jewish question is neither nationalistic nor religious. It is a social question.”

At one point, Theodor Herzl also asked: “Shall we end by having a theocracy?” The answer was unconditional: “No, indeed. Faith unites us, knowledge gives us freedom. We shall therefore prevent any theocratic tendencies from coming to the fore on the part of our priesthood. We shall keep our priests within the confines of their temples.” No wonder then that Theodor Herzl’s pamphlet – which is essentially a book of more than 25,000 words - says nothing about the religion of Judaism.

In his secular contexts, he mentioned the word “Judaism” only twice, whereas there was no mention at all of the words “God”, “Torah”, “Moses”, “prophets”, “Abraham”, “Abrahamic covenant”, “Canaan”, “Jerusalem” or “Solomon’s Temple.” He does not quote anything from the Jewish religious sources, primary or secondary. Only on a couple of occasions does he vaguely mention “the faith of our fathers”, albeit doing so in the context of developing a new secular identity for the Jews.

The Controversial Notion of a 'Promised Land'

Similarly, the notion of the “Promised Land” Theodor Herzl also mentions only a few times. But his “promised land” is the “land of work”, a land that will be created within a new Zionist framework and within some novel socio-political circumstances. It is not an inherited, or legitimate, promised land. The same must be earned and “conquered” through commitment and industry, “with due solemnity, but without foolish exultation.”

It follows that every land could be a “promised land.” Palestine was just a “land” that needed to be converted into a “promised land.” The initiative had nothing to do with the contents of Torah. Thus, irrespective of how briefly and superficially they were deliberated, portions of Uganda, Brazil and Argentina, too, were potential sites to be developed into a “promised land.”

Since religion and its clergy (Rabbis) stand for a Jewish undeniable reality, they had to be placed at the disposal of the Zionist project. They must be its servants. In this fashion, instead of Judaizing Zionism, it was the former that was Zionized, rendering Zionism a form of blasphemy. Theodor Herzl thus declared: “Our Rabbis, on whom we especially call, will devote their energies to the service of our (Zionist) idea, and will inspire their congregations by preaching it from the pulpit. They will not need to address special meetings for the purpose; an appeal such as this may be uttered in the synagogue. And thus it must be done.”

Jews Embracing Change

Theodor Herzl believed that exclusively on account of their faith the Jews could be only united, but neither free nor prosperous. Sticking only to their faith made the Jews live miserable lives. The faith played its initial and relatively small role, due to which the Jews remained united and faithful to their history and culture. But the time has come to move forward and catch up with the advancements, as well as opportunities, of the modern world.

In the new era, religion is to be converted into a mere ceremony, or a symbol, and to be restricted to temples. The future will be virtually religious-less, and so must be the Jewish State. There is a danger that the Jews will be impeded by their religious fervour. For utilizing the infinite opportunities of this new era, the Jews needed to fulfil the necessary prerequisites, on top of which stood freedom, open-mindedness, coordinated diligence, wealth, institutionalized socio-political and economic systems, and government.

However, none of those could be possible without a state, making it clear that securing a state was the highest priority. Without it, all other considerations were bound to become mere fantasies.

The Shadows Behind the Zionist Dream

Taking everything into consideration and analysing the unspoken messages, there is more to Theodor Herzl’s text and his style of delivery than meets the eye. The pamphlet unmistakably reveals the author’s dark intentions and the dark intentions of the movement he represented. His occasional ostensible objectivity, discretion and smooth talk connoted nothing but a smokescreen. They represented a decoy, a diplomatic hypocrisy at its best.

He speaks as though the Jews will migrate to a place where there existed no people and where they will be welcome with open arms. He never raised the issue of the indigenous people in Palestine and what relations the new Jewish State will forge with them. The subjects of tolerance, coexistence and cooperation with the local – and even neighbouring – population were not part of the equation.

Dreams and Challenges

Paradoxically, Theodor Herzl raises the possibility of “men of other creeds and different nationalities” coming to live “amongst us; we should accord them honourable protection and equality before the law; we have learnt toleration in Europe,” but he does not discuss the case of those whom they will find in the Palestinian urban and rural areas which they planned to occupy. He expounds on an imaginary future, not the pressing present. He resides in a fictional and impeccable universe dominated and ruled by the Jews alone, not here and now on the real earth attending to the potential problems his Zionist ambitions entailed.

It was no surprise, then, that his adversaries accused him of being a dreamer, exhibiting utopian tendencies, of which he was fully aware. Demonstrating as much obstinacy as self-confidence, Theodor Herzl’s reply was: “I must, in the first place, guard my scheme from being treated as Utopian by superficial critics who might commit this error of judgment if I did not warn them.”
Furthermore, the author speaks eloquently and at length about immigration, Jewish settlements, urban and general development, economy, progress, culture and civilization, but never within any morally accountable framework or terms of reference.

Herzl's Blank Canvas

Coming to a place where there were already people, culture, civilization, development, laws, traditions, history, freedom and aspirations, involved repercussions which however were not studied seriously, neither from a human, Judaistic, nor commonsensical perspective. All evidence suggests that the Zionist project was a supremely treacherous endeavour, and that the vast majority of people were hoodwinked into supporting and aiding its implementation.

In consequence, having lost faith in courtiers and statesmen, princes and kings, for “they could not be relied upon for truth or stability”, Theodor Herzl “came to put his trust in the Jewish people, the only real source of strength for the purpose of redemption. Confidence in themselves would give them power to breach their prison walls” (Louis Lipsky, “Introduction” to “The State of the Jews”).

The Zionists were cognizant that they would not come to a barren and uninhabited land, but to a land that had been occupied, developed and active for ages, which nevertheless posed no quandary whatsoever to Theodor Herzl. He never appeared concerned to demonstrate certain limitations on the magnitude and geographical range of immigration, settlements, development, and a new Jewish culture as well as civilization. Everything in Palestine seemed limitless and absolute. Possibilities ranged from spontaneous to unobstructed. Everything was “free” and “up for grabs.”

One thus cannot help but deduce that deep inside Theodor Herzl was harbouring the prospects of recurrent conflicts, violence, forceful occupation, oppression and displacement. For that reason did he bank on the creation of a Zionist professional army, as a critical component in a new State, which was expected to be equipped “with every requisite of modern warfare, to preserve order internally and externally.” He likewise looked forward to the constant support of the West (Europe), “which would have to guarantee our existence.”

From Persecution to Oppression

Undeniably, Herzl planned to rescue the Jews from one darkness only to thrust them into another, from the darkness of suffering on account of being the “other” in Europe, to the one of illegal occupation accompanied by the oppression of the “other” in Palestine. He was right when he said that the Jews had “learned” toleration (civilization) in, and from, Europe. The Zionists premeditated to do to the people(s) of Palestine exactly what Europe had done to the Jews. Truly, they were excellent learners. The bane of antisemitism in Europe was about to be transfigured into anti-Palestinianism and into the most intense form of Islamophobia.

The evil of antisemitism would pale in comparison with the evil of the latter. By solving the Jewish question as one of the darkest problems of humanity. The Zionists wanted to create a “Palestine question” as the future darkest problem of the human race. Nobody can deny that the “Palestine question” is a blight on the modern dominated-by-the-West civilization whose individuality is either modern primitiveness or primitive modernity.

To the Zionists, neither the Muslim Palestine nor Palestinians existed. Those were non-existent, yet unreal, notions. That is why the occupation of Palestine could be rationalized, and sanctioned. Not even once did Theodor Herzl mention in his more-than-25,000-word pamphlet any of the terms of Islam, Mohammedanism, Muslims, Mohammedans, Saracens, Arabs, Muslim (Arab) cities and villages, or mosques.

There is absolutely nothing that could be related to the idea of Islam and the multitiered orb of Muslims. Notwithstanding the fact that the Zionists schemed to occupy a country where communities of Arabs (Muslims) lived, where Islam was practiced, where Islamic laws and traditions were observed, and where there were multitudes of mosques and other Islamic institutions.

Consequences on Palestinian Lives

Without a doubt, herein lies the reason why the Zionist occupation was inhuman, because there were no “humans” to be affected thereby; why it was heartless and merciless, because there were no “hearts” to be broken, nor anybody or anything deserving mercy; and why it was murderous and brutal, because the standing obstacles typified malevolent entities, so they had to be dealt with at once firmly and proficiently.

Constituting a segment of the virtually non-existent demographic reality, neither the Palestinian children nor women were to be spared. This explains why the Palestinians are often described by the Zionists as “animals”, “bloodthirsty animals”, “terrorists” and “drugged cockroaches in a bottle”, and why the Zionist backers in the criminal parts of the West keep supporting the Zionist agendas wholeheartedly, encouraging the government of Israel to “finish them.”

The Unacknowledged Presence

To make things worse, Theodor Herzl was considerate enough to make reference to a small number of churches (Christian sanctuaries) in Palestine. But not to hundreds of mosques. He said that “the sanctuaries of Christendom would be safeguarded by assigning to them an extra-territorial status such as is well-known to the law of nations. We should form a guard of honour about these sanctuaries. By answering for the fulfilment of this duty with our existence. This guard of honour would be the great symbol of the solution of the Jewish Question after eighteen centuries of Jewish suffering.”

The churches or sanctuaries of Christendom will be respected owing to the West’s support of the Zionist project, guaranteeing its existence. Such would be a token of appreciation. Mosques are not mentioned simply because, just like Muslims, they are “non-existent.” Standing in the way of the realization of the Jewish State, they will have to go as well. Without Muslims, mosques will be useless. If Muslims are the target of the constant processes of ethnic cleansing, mosques, in equal measure. These are the target of the constant processes of cultural-cum-civilizational cleansing.

Palestinians – and all Muslims – as barbarians

Theodor Herzl and the Jews knew full well that Palestine will be their destination, if and whenever the national dreams of theirs come true. At the same time, moreover, they knew that Palestine signified the heart and symbol of Islam and its centuries-old civilization. So consequential to the Islamic consciousness was not only Palestine, but also its vicinities, that together they epitomized a microcosm of everything Islam propagated and stood for.

Despite the obvious, though, Theodor Herzl asserted that one of the rationales for establishing the Zionist State of Israel in Palestine. It was to spread the wings of (Western) civilization and to counter the backwardness and barbarism of Muslims. The conflicts were primed to be physical and ideological. Israel was supposed to serve as a bulwark of Europe against Asia (predominantly the Muslim world and Islam). “An outpost of civilization as opposed to barbarism. As a neutral State remain in contact with all Europe, which would have to guarantee our existence.”

This means that to Zionism, there was nothing that could be called Islamic culture or civilization. All that was associable with Islam and Muslims was barbarism. Neither Islam as a religion nor Muslims as its followers could offer anything to the modern civilized world. Whose foundations were science, technology, freedom and progress. At the time of Theodor Herzl’s writing of “The State of the Jews”, the Ottoman Empire, as the last custodian of Islamic civilization. It was being badly managed, its finances in a shocking condition, and the Sultan was regarded as “the sick man of Europe.” These were optimized for substantiating the theory of Muslims’ un-civilization.

Unrealized Sorrows

This outlook builds upon the prior observations. If Islam, Palestinians, Muslims, mosques, or any other Islamic indication (emblem), did not “exist” in Palestine. Neither did Islamic civilization as a whole. “Animals”, “cockroaches” and “bloodthirsty terrorists.” That cannot produce anything of value that would be regarded favourably by the rest of the world. Their lifestyles stand in stark contrast to established civilized standards. According to their point of view. What the Zionists encountered in the region of Palestine and beyond were desolation and emptiness. Thus, they were mandated to fill the vacuum, obtaining a licence to do away with any potential obstructions, be they human or otherwise.

Accordingly, the creation of Israel was a feature of the Western “mission to civilize (Westernize)” the world. The Zionist State was visualized as an agent of the Western blasphemous imperialism, colonization and domination. All in the name of civilization – objectives. In harmony with this aspiration, Muslims had to be brought under control by the subtle means of modernization, Westernization and “civilization.” They had to be weakened and rendered predictable by patterns that definitely spelled de-Islamization. Having anything to do with the institutionalized Islam was a recipe for confrontation with the state of Israel first, then the West. It was a sign of the abiding remnants of barbarism.

When Theodor Herzl said prayers for Zionism's success would be held in both synagogues and churches. It showed a strong connection between Zionism and the West. Both parties stood to benefit: the West could finally solve the "Jewish problem." The Jews could have their own state. As a result, some argue that the unauthorized creation of Israel. Itwas a clear sign of the prevalence of antisemitism in the West.

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