Zionism, Antisemitism and the Ottoman Empire


After some reflection it occurs to me that Judaism is about observance of religious laws and so therefore a Jewish state such as Israel ought to require citizens to observe the Jewish law BUT since barely 1/6 of the population of Israel is observant in the traditional sense THEREFORE establishing an independent nation of Israel must be about something entirely different from Judaism or religion.


Judaism is not just about religion in the strictest sense. To many of us it is about ritual, history, values, storytelling, and identity. Like all human endeavors, Judaism needs to adapt or die.

Ariel: Israel was formed in response to antisemitism.

William: My understanding was that England and France wanted to weaken the already crumbling Ottoman Empire. The first official mention of the creation of Israel was in the Balfour letters:


I’m talking about why Jews embraced Zionism. My point is that religion was not the main motive for the emergence of Zionism.

Barbara: We spent an awful lot of Sunday School time growing up arguing is Judaism a race, a nation, a religion, or a culture. Like proper rabbinic thought, I don’t remember us ever coming to a decision. And the Ottoman Empire was pretty long gone in 1948.

William: Ah, but talk of Zionism began in the 19th century, no? I am not certain.

Barbara: Herzl wanted to put a Jewish state in what is now Uganda, yes. I believe the outcome would have been much the same. He was motivated by the Dreyfus affair. That European nations had multiple agendas in the age of their crumbling, competing, and reviving empires is really no surprise. Oh, and bowing to those who would have Israel exist in observance Jewish law is 9/10 of Israel’s current intransigence. It’s not where I would take this argument if I were you.

If the creation of an Israel was a mistake in the 20th century then it remains a mistake in the 21st century. There are some mistakes we simply live with and there are other mistakes that we die for. What more can I say? I certainly don’t have any answers or solutions.

Personally I think that both the Jews and the non-Jews alike wanted to create Israel for the wrong reasons and it is a mistake that we will one day die over (but then what do I know?)

Ariel: While I am critical of many of the paths that Israel has taken and am aware of the great injustices that were done to Palestinians, I also know that after the Holocaust, it is not suprising that many Jews felt a desperate need for a state and all of the protections and powers a state can provide. Mistake seems to me a misleading word to describe how Jews turned to Zionism. A better way of understanding this history is that Israel has contradictions. It is both a deeply liberating development for many Jews and a source of domination and oppresion for many Palestinians.

William: With all due respect, I am calling it “a mistake” in the same spirit with which Gandhi called it a mistake but I may totally misunderstand what Gandhi meant. I am simply saying that if something is a mistake, in history, it remains a mistake throughout history in spite of attempts to white wash it. Masada was, as we all know, a mass suicide. One may see genocide as suicide turned inside-out. Each Israeli soldier swears an oath of allegiance at Masada that such will never happen again. Both suicide and genocide make “the enemy” disappear (go away.)

@Ariel – As I reflect upon your interesting post it suddenly occurs to me that rather than the Holocaust being the cause creating the nation of Israel it might possibly be the case that Herzl and the Zionist negotiations of the 19th century helped to further fuel the fires of Antisemitism which contributed to the Holocaust. I was surprised years ago when I randomly opened Tacitus to the history of Jerusalem and saw ancient expressions of Antisemitism. Perhaps you have seen that Daniel Jonah Goldhagen’s book “Hitler’s Willing Executioners” which in its opening page points out that kristallnacht (the first open violence against Jews) was orchestrated to occur on Martin Luther’s birthday. That book describes Luther’s Antisemitic pamphlet condemning the Jews. At first Luther had hoped that the Jews would receive him with open arms much as Mohammad had expected a warm reception but both became bitter when their expectations were disappointed.

Ariel: I actually think that Zionism as a movement had nothing to do with the coming of the Holocaust. I think that the Jews had the misfortune to be a visible minority in the aftermath of WWI and the depression which swept Europe. In a similar manner, the Roma also were a visible minority. Both suffered astonishingly brutal consequences for their marginal status.

Barbara: Do you really want to go down the path of blaming people for their own genocide? Zionism offended no one until there was actually an Israel.

@Barbara – The world is driven by rhetoric. Your own comment is rhetoric. I am not arguing one side or another of any issue. I am just looking at alternative possibilities. Barbara if ANYONE is blaming people for their own genocide it is you, right now, since you couched it in such terms, but you want to make it look as if I said it. Since you are so educated and credentialed why not step out from behind the spin and rhetoric game and make your own stand as to how you interpret the past. Did you really earn all your fancy degrees so you could ask little questions out of context? If anyone should have some real concrete answers it should be you. Why don’t you step out from behind your mask and say what you really think (whatever that might be) and not try to connect it with me or with anyone else but simply stand on your own two feet. Now that is something I could respect. Why don’t you write a paper on the history of the entire matter? I can tell you one reason why you might not. Every professor (perhaps with the exception of Chomsky) is bullied by their employer to remain politically correct because whatever they publish reflects upon the employer. This means that whatever does reach print may be whatever is convenient or politically correct or popular or flattering and not necessarily what is penetrating or revealing. The problem I have with you Barbara is that I do not see you saying something of substance yet I am sure you are capable of that but all I see are coy little remarks that seem to put words in my mouth. Let’s hear the words in your mouth and the thoughts in your scholarly head. The world looks to its historians for answers and I am no historian.

You sound very angry. I do not think I’m being particularly coy; I have mixed emotions about Zionism and the State of Israel, as do a lot of Jews. The only reason I don’t write a paper on the subject is because it is very far from my area of expertise, and believe it or not, writing history is a lot of hard work. If you think Zionism led to rising anti-Semitism before 1948, support that claim with evidence, not conjecture.


@Barbara: Look at your own words! TWICE you say “Do you really want to go down the path” and “It’s not where I would take this argument if I were you” which suggests to me that you care more about the consequences of one’s reasoning and public opinion (praise and reward or blame and punishment) RATHER than a dispassionate desire to uncover the truth and a martyric resolve to suffer whatever consequences might result from stating your views. And YET, Barbara, you clearly state “… those who would have Israel exist in observance Jewish law is 9/10 of Israel’s current intransigence” which would seem to suggest that you are willing to lay some blame upon Israel for whatever results from their intransigence.

So I am perfectly justified in interpreting your statement “Do you really want to go down the path of blaming people for their own genocide?” as follows:

1.) You AGREE that the Jewish people are in part to blame for the persecutions you suffer BUT…
2.) You do not want to suffer the adverse affects of stating your views and so
3.) You caution me that I too should be hesitant to publicly state views which might have adverse consequences…

Now it seems obvious to me that throughout history whenever there has been ANY martyr who is offered a choice between compromise (and life) vs. steadfast obstinacy (and execution) then it is perfectly reasonable to lay the CAUSE of their execution upon the martyr since they had a choice. The story of the Maccabees is one of many examples. The mother was exhorting her children in her native language and her persecutors assumed that she was pleading with them to compromise and spare their lives but she was actually encouraging them to stand firm in their intransigence.

By the way (@Ariel) I do not think it is obvious that the Zionist movement was PURELY religious in motivation for the simple reason that in the 19th century a majority of Rabbi’s opposed Zionism on religious grounds and to this very day there are anti-Zionist Jews who refuse to use Hebrew for anything but worship and refuse to return to Israel until G-d (Hashem) shall raise up some obvious sign that they may return.

And yes, Barbara, I am very angry, not with you personally but over a number of things over the years, two of which I will mention here. 1.) A PhD in Clinical Psychology told me how his years of thesis writing were driven by a weekly committee who would haggle over every paragraph and every sentence until they arrived at the lowest common denominator of what all could accept for a publication which would represent the academic institution. So, this doctoral candidate simply suffered through the experience in order to gain his professional credentials. 2.) I once mentioned to a tutor that SJC should make some effort to create podcasts or transcripts of one or more seminars each year and place them in public domain for the benefit of those who desire such an educational experience and yet lack the means. I shall paraphrase the tutor’s response in my OWN words as I understood it: “Whatever we say in seminar is private and not for public scrutiny and should we allow transcripts and student papers to be made public then they might be used against the college in some way (e.g. the controversy which occurred over Leo Strauss.)

Regarding Antisemitism it is obvious that SOMETHING was going on all the way back to the time of Tacitus and perhaps much earlier. It is not difficult to see hints of Antisemitism in the Qur’an and in some of the writings of Martin Luther. If Zionism did play some role in Antisemitism it was certainly only a small part. Perhaps there were non-Jews who welcomed the notion that there would be some distant place to send all the Jews and such a sentiment would certainly be an example of Antisemitism which lead to a pro-Zionist opinion among non-Jews. I am reminded of America creating Liberia as a place to send former slaves.

Anyway, Barbara, I commend you on your equanimity in the face of what must seem like a harsh response.

And I don’t think Israel’s current intransigence has anything to do with earlier persecution. I think chronologically. I mean, “results of your reasoning” is often simply “that’s a very middle-class model of masculinity.”


George Soros may be guilty of being male in gender but he is hardly guilty of being middle-class. Soros is mentioned in the following link. I am going to look around in Google since that is my only resource. There are interesting questions.

1.) What is the earliest known example of Antisemitism prior to Tacitus?

2.) What is the history of Antisemitism?

3.) In what ways did Antisemitism persuade people to endorse the Zionist movement?

4.) In what ways (if any) did Zionist efforts increase Antisemitic sentiments.

5.) What is the relationship between Israel as a state with foreign and domestic policy and Judaism (in all its manifestations) as a religious practice.



Jewish billionaire George Soros was criticized recently for saying that Israeli policies provoke anti-Semitism. Yet it is well known that Zionist extremists like Ariel Sharon have fomented anti-Semitism over the years for one fundamental reason – Israel needs more Jews.

“There is a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe,” Jewish billionaire George Soros told the Jewish Funders Network (JFL) in New York on November 5. “The policies of the Bush administration and the Sharon administration contribute to that,” he said. “If we change that direction, then anti-Semitism also will diminish.”


I googled on : francis nicosia zionism antisemitism Germany

and came up with this preview (not that anything on the Internet PROVES anything … I don’t think we ever really CAN prove anything beyond the shadow of a doubt to everyone, but still it is to our advantage to keep thinking and trying to learn and expressing ourselves and such links are food for thought.)


Here is a review of the above book. I have chosen these totally at random. I have no real deep knowledge of such history and anything one chooses may well be fraught with controversy so may I say that I have no particular “agenda” or “axe to grind” other than to see what is out there:



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