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The Sixty Million
The Roots of Zionism, Part 3

Max Nordau

Max Nordau

3,801 words

Part 3 of 4

From Benevolent Billionaire Patriarchs to Zionist Bullies

Judis notes that “Baron Edmund James de Rothschild began investing — about $6 million from 1884 to 1890 — in colonies in Palestine.” Judis doesn’t even bother to adjust that figure for inflation, which would be 2/3rds of a billion in 2016 dollars! He continues: “Many of the colonists . . . [were] sponsored by Baron Edmond Rothschild, Baron Maurice Hirsch, and the Jewish Colonization Association . . .” Without that ‘Zion starter-kit’, there would have been no foothold for Jews in Palestine. But of course, it was from the overwhelmingly-Gentile world of business and industry that these Jewish barons extracted the profits sustaining such benevolence.

Cantor observes that in 1900, Jews living were peaceably in Arab lands. He admits that it was Zionism alone that generated conflict between Arabs and Jews. Neumann adds that while the Palestinian intelligentsia were not thrilled with the idea of massive Jewish immigration, they were amenable to the concept of Palestine becoming a Jewish homeland. In everyday life, Palestinians and Jews barely brushed up against one another, so there was little to cause conflict. Had the Palestinians been more wary and rebelled at the increasing Jewish presence earlier on, Zionists might have settled instead on a Zion located elsewhere.

In any case, the real agenda of Zionists was not a mere homeland in the Holy Land. They wanted a state, and they wanted the entire area of Palestine and even beyond for that state. Weir suggests that, “Numerous Zionist diary entries, letters and other documents show that they decided to push out these non-Jews — financially, if possible, violently if necessary.” There could be no institutional compromise. That was ‘out’, given that Zionism’s essence was to be done with compromises, suggests Neumann. If the Zionist dream of bringing to Palestine the vast bulk if world Jewry were to come true, a lot more than a 50/50 sharing of the land with the Palestinians would be required. But such a project, if made overt, would make enemies of both the Ottoman Empire, which ruled Palestine, and of the native Palestinians, who would have to have been complete masochists to sanction the real Zionist project. So ‘homeland’ rather than ‘state’ it would be, an un-problematic strategy for Zionists given that any progress toward the former was also necessary progress toward the latter.

Zionist Jews, concedes Cantor, found the Palestinian Arabs and Islamic culture to be an alien and alienating combination. Nor did they concern themselves with the million Jews residing elsewhere in the Arab world. Zionists must have realized that their eventual takeover of Palestine would so anger neighboring Arab states that they would retaliate by expelling their long-established Jewish minorities. But that would be a positive development for a new state having problems finding enough immigrants.

Homeland as Screen for State

Ahad Ha’am, Jewish, correctly foresaw that if a state preceded the establishment of a spiritual center there, it would merely create yet another ‘problem of the Jews’. A ‘spiritual home’ was more practical in terms of what could actually be done for the time being. Like gradual immigration. But he did advocate a state, in time, not just a homeland or spiritual center, since he wasn’t religious. All that ‘home’ talk was meant to avoid provoking the Turks. “But everyone understood what was really involved,” concedes Judis.

To an overwhelming extent, writes Neumann, “Jews came to Israel under Zionist auspices as a people, and this was no idle pretense. To a significant extent, their movement was conspiratorial. Their settlement was largely a collective act, given concrete expression by collective financing and ownership.” This was an emigration unlike any other. “The conflict in Palestine was between a settled population of indigenous Palestinians and not some other people, but a political movement dedicated to establishing an ethnic state in as much of Palestine as they could take.” The Zionist’ objective was “to implant an ethnic sovereignty in what was to them a foreign land, on the basis of a population expressly imported to secure that end.”

Their outsiders’ claim could only be pursued at the expense of the land’s current majority of inhabitants, who themselves never thought of doing anything similar against the Jewish population of Palestine. It was an invasion aimed at taking over Palestine lock, stock, and barrel and kicking out the population whose ancestors had lived there for 1,300 years (as Muslims, but 1,500 years as Christians/Muslims or 2,500+ years as Jews/Christians/Muslims). And as Neumann points out, an invasion does not constitute a morally-compelling argument for compromise.

The Jewish ‘dwelling apart’ notion would soon apply not to a nation within a nation as in the Poland of old, but a nation set apart from the community of nations as in Israel the racist rogue state. Worse, by absconding with and concretising the religious notion of return to Jerusalem, Zion trumped the diaspora by making it feel guilty about not joining the most Jewish of Jews in the supposed fulfillment of biblical prophecy. 

Rationalizing the Arab Problem 

Spoke Yitzhak Epstein at Seventh Zionist Congress in 1905: “[O]ne question outweighs all the others . . . our attitude to the Arabs . . . [A]n entire people . . . has been dwelling there for many centuries and has never considered leaving it.” But Christian Restorationist Alexander Keith had coined the phrase “people without land” as a match for “a land without a people.” The Arabs could be ‘disappeared’.

Of course, as Judis admits, far from being desolate, impoverished, and backward, “Left to their own devices, the Palestinian Arabs [600,000 strong by the early 1880s] might have developed a viable export economy through the port cities on the Mediterranean and a tourist economy around Jerusalem and the other holy sites. It might even have come to rival Lebanon as an Arab financial center and Syria as an oil pipeline route. But the natural development of Arab Palestine was cut short and diverted by the onset of Zionist immigration . . .” (my emphases) (much as the natural development of The Great Boycott in 1933 would be cut short and diverted by the onset of The Transfer Agreement.)

The return to the Holy Land masked a European colonizing mentality. As of the British acquiring Palestine, continues Judis, “the main Zionist organizations were determined to plant the Jewish flag over Palestine . . . ,” regardless of whether they had to deal with a majority or minority of Arabs. “[W]hen the next generation of Jewish settlers, who often acquired land from the Jewish National Fund, began kicking [hired] Arabs off the land and replacing them with Jews, the Arabs resisted.” Ironically, as we have seen, Palestinian Muslims and Christians are doubtless descended primarily from Jews. Judis calls them Arabs throughout his book, even though these people do not self-identify as Arabs and have rarely benefited from any form of Arab solidarity.

Of Course Zionism was Racist (Racism was a Popular Idea Back Then) 

In his novel Coningsby, writes Lindemann, future Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli “depicted a vast and secret power of Jews bent on dominating the world . . . He may have been the most important propagator of the concept of race in the nineteenth century, particularly publicizing the Jews’ alleged taste for power, their sense of superiority, their mysteriousness, their clandestine international connections, and their arrogant pride in being a pure race.” The first Zionist intellectual, Nathan Birnbaum, trumpeted Disraeli’s vision: “Race is all.” How surprising is it, then, that the likes of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion came about?

This was three decades before Mein Kampf. Hitler was a laggard Johnny-come-lately racist. Birnbaum would enunciate a ‘corrected’ version of Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s 1899 ‘race-is-all’ text. Chamberlain had merely got the Jewish angle skewed, explained Birnbaum. Cantor concedes that racism imbues traditional Judaism and Jewish cultural history in a big way. He further concedes that the Hebrew Bible is racist, blatantly so. Consider all that ‘going on about’ the seed of Abraham et al. Or how Orthodox Jews to this day still thank God daily that He fashioned Jews a cut or two or three above the dunderheaded ‘other peoples’ on the planet. “If this isn’t racism, what is?,” Cantor asks rhetorically. And what’s so bad about racism, anyways, he adds. Racism as such wasn’t what devastated the Jews; what devastated the Jews was the one particular variant of racism that the Nazis picked up on.

Zionism and Marxism were not only bad ideas. They were twins. Moses Hess in fact worked with Karl Marx for some time. Marx had his class struggle and his dictatorship of the Proletariat. Hess had his racial superiority and his Zionist utopia. Doubtless, writes Lindemann, he was impressed that Deuteronomy 19, 20’s “various exhortations concerning the extermination of the indigenous peoples of Canaan . . . offer justification . . . for policies of racial extermination.” Marx’s successors in Russia would feel similarly justified in their extermination of resistant bourgeois elements. Hess’s Friend Heinrich Graetz wrote Hess that “we must above all work to shatter Christianity,” a top concern of the Bolsheviks as well.

Max Nordau was the man who took charge of all the early Zionist congresses and who shaped a Zionist ideology. He was Herzl’s confidante and right-hand man, and the person who had authored the celebrated racialist classic Degeneration. Conservatives admired him for warning of the physical degeneracy via miscegenation that supposedly led to mental illness, modern art, and homosexuality. His real name was Meir Simha Sudfeld. He preferred the more Nordic-sounding Nordau. Like Herzl, he was from Budapest. He too was a German-o-phile excepting German anti-Semitism, which however, on the plus side, awakened Jewish ethno-nationalism. Nordau became a Zionist Volkist, calling for a re-wakening of the special virtues of ‘the Jewish people’, much as Hitler would call upon ordinary Germans to revivify the Teutonic spirit.

Are Anti-Semites Solely Responsible for Anti-Semitism?

Celebrated Jewish novelist/non-fiction writer Arthur Koestler wrote that, “The Jewish religion, unlike any other, is racially discriminatory, nationally segregative, and socially tension-creating.” (my emphases) Cantor adds that the universalizing message of equality between races and religions is not of the Talmudic spirit at all, though it was of the rabbi Saul who became Paul of the New Testament. In other words, historically, Jews have considered themselves a race apart, and a better than everyone else. Slezkine cites the text from which Fiddler on the Roof was drawn: “There is no getting around the fact that we Jews are the best and smartest people.”

And where most Jews lived in the late 19th century, there was little evidence to the contrary. Franz Oppenheimer observed that in Eastern Europe, Jews could not be Russian or Polish or whatever, because “medieval Jewish culture stands as far above Eastern European barbarism as it is beneath the culture of Western Europe.” In Eastern Europe it was like Homo sapiens vs the Neanderthals. Mark Zborowski noted that manual labor is necessarily in opposition to the Jewish social ideal of a life devoted to study. This remark epitomized the chasm between Pole and Jew. The vast majority of Poles were content laboring away as farmers. Horrors. No wonder the Polish Jews stayed emphatically apart, as per Lindemann, although Zionism would reinstate farming as a noble pursuit given its necessity in Jewish Palestine.

The Jews’ alleged covenant with God underlies their airs of superiority. Other nations, religions, and sects too believe or once believed in their own superiority, but typically this cuts against the grain; their deepest beliefs are universalist. The only universalist Jewish belief is that all other nations and creeds should model their behavior upon that of the Jews and acknowledge the Jews’ implied moral leadership.

Lindemann affirms that ‘Jewish behavior being the main cause for hatred of the Jews’ was long accepted as obvious prior to the 20th century. In the 19th century it was an assumption held by nearly everyone, even Jews, even in regards to the rise of modern-anti-Semitism. In 1870s Germany, hardly a soul would have imagined that this rise was unrelated to actual Jewish behavior and substantive issues. The notion that it was the result of Gentile fantasy, or of unsubstantial prejudice regarding Jews, would have evoked guffaws.

Europeans regarded Jews as inferior not with respect to their abilities, power and ambition but with respect to their morality. For example, in late 19th-century Russia, Czarist ministers felt obliged to separate peasant and Jew. Why? Because Jews allegedly exploited the peasants and corrupted them by selling them alcohol, whose side effects included chronic inebriation, laziness, poverty, and restiveness.

Even more remarkable was the extent to which veritable anti-Semitic barbs were exchanged between Western and Eastern Jewry. Spokesmen for Sephardic Jews in the West often outdid non-Jews in lamenting the unworthiness of the Ashkenazim Jews (from the East) for French citizenship, due to their supposed low moral character. And Ashkenazi spokesmen sometimes agreed, though their history of being oppressed was the alleged cause. Like anti-Semites, Lindemann tells us, Western Jews critiqued Eastern Jews, “as parasitic and filled with hatred for non-Jews.” The arrival of more of the latter made the former cringe. The Sephardic Jews of Romania were known for their ill-concealed contempt for the Hasidim, that being one component of an overall disgust for Ashkenazic Jewry shared with Sephardim in France and elsewhere in Europe.

Western Jews in general were appalled that their Hasidim brethren were so disdainful of hygiene, traditional Jewish learning, and all products of the Goyim. The Hasidim viewed the Western Jew’s cherished individualism, self-reliance, rationality, and critical acumen as obstacles to godliness. The Hasidim were, in Lindemann’s words, “boorish, malodorous, and fanatical.” In Hasidic eyes, Western Jews were “cold, formal, and vain.”

Karl Marx, a card-carrying ‘self-hating Jew’ to be sure, commented that Eastern Jews were dirty, smelly, and harbored black souls. Emma Lazarus, whose poem celebrating ‘the U.S. immigrant’ adorns the base of the Statue of Liberty, suggested destinations other than America for that unappetizing throng of Kabbalists and Hasidim. Nearly half the Jewish Tragedy’s death toll consisted of precisely such people. These were unbeloved and unappreciated by their Western and Israeli counterparts until posthumously mobilized on behalf of a renewed anti-anti-Semitism.

Closer to our own time, a 1986 poll in Israel had 25 percent of secular Israelis denouncing their Orthodox fellow-citizens as “opportunists, liars, and charlatans.” Consider that only a few centuries ago, nearly all Jews were Orthodox. And consider that the slurs above cannot be blamed simply on some alleged Gentile paranoid-fantasy.

In fact, in the 1800s nobody defended the Jews ‘as they were’, only as they perhaps could be. At the outset of the French Revolution, rampant optimism declared that, since anything was possible, then even reforming the Jews was possible. And thus a great many Jews began to ‘improve’ themselves. It was generally accepted that Judaism had to start emphasizing the universalistic and de-emphasizing tribalism and ritual. Judaism took its cue from Protestantism, which it imitated. As the 1800s wore on, it became a widely-held axiom that if only the Jews would reform themselves and leave behind their noxious habits, then anti-Semitism would evaporate. Can you even imagine such a sentiment prevailing today? No, these once-commonplace thoughts and utterances are deemed as entirely beyond the bounds of civility, a sure indication of just who sits atop the status-and-power structure.

Why Are Jewish-Gentile Relations So Bad? 

It’s too bad that in the first few centuries A.D., the much larger and more politically influential Jewish community didn’t treat the Christians with more tolerance and respect. Alas, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that Christians responded vengefully once the tables were turned; early Christians were really still more Jewish than Christian. So the intense conflict between the two was really an intra-Jewish affair. But it set the pattern for later. Their common origin made it a fraternal spat, and frat-spats out-spat them all. A parallel would occur in the late 20th century: the vicious argumentation amongst Jewish-dominated leftist factions eventually transposed to Jewish neo-cons eviscerating all leftists and helping widen the cultural polarization that had opened up during the Vietnam War. In this style of verbal combat, opponents are deemed as not just mistaken but as conscious agents of evil. In any case, the take-no-prisoners lambasting of Jews and Judaism by the Church was an intellectual descendant of a very Jewish style of argumentation.

            That said, the stereotype of the Church and Gentile society endlessly and nastily persecuting the Jews is simply false. Gentiles and Jews shared an extended joint history, and little of it featured outright hostility, not even by German Gentiles. In fact, there have been lengthy periods of peaceful co-existence and mutually rewarding interaction between the two parties, despite numerous expulsions of Jews from cities and nations over the past millennium.

For first millennium A.D., yes a whole millennium, Jews thrived relative to many other groups on the basis of their privileged position whereby both church and emperor were protective of Jews in return for services rendered. Evidently God had some purpose in letting the Jews carry on as Jews, and not until the advent of Enlightenment thinkers were such divine rationalizations discredited. During the crusades, and the Black Death, and religious-war eras, it was the lawless elements that killed Jews and nearly anyone else in their path. The law was not turned against the Jews; only the lack of laws was. What about Luther’s diatribes against the Jews, so often quoted by Jewish writers to illustrate intellectual anti-Semitism? In fact, Lutherans took little or no notice; these just weren’t major documents and had no real influence in their time. Of course, the kings and nobility of Poland had welcomed Jews. Jewish settlers thrived there. For centuries they received protection, civil autonomy, religious freedom, and corporate privileges, as did the Germans, unmatched anywhere else in Europe.

Yes, the mid-1600s featured nasty religious warfare throughout Europe. Part of that was the Ukrainian leader Bogdan Chmielnicki rising up against Polish oppression, and massacring not just Jews but Polish overlords and Catholic clergy. All parties suffered terribly, none more so than Chmielnicki’s own ‘army’. Nonetheless, Jewish historians and politicians have ceaselessly cited Chmielnicki’s nationalism/populism-driven depredations against Jews in particular as the epitome of gratuitous Ukrainian anti-Semitism.

As for Jewish domination of the economy of Hungary, the Hungarians didn’t mind, as long as their Jews spoke the Magyar language and respected the Magyar culture. Russia’s Jews were largely confined to the Pale. The Pale was larger than France. Moreover, the picture of Pale Jews as confined to their ghettos is inaccurate. When there were distinct Jewish quarters, these were imposed not by the state but by Jewish religious authorities. On the whole, social integration was more common, especially among the well-to-do. Moreover, insists Lindemann, oppression by the Czar “was less fearsome and less omnipresent that many accounts maintain. Even under arch-reactionary Nicholas I (1825–1855), Jews retained most of their privileges, and they were by no means the only nationality or religious group that faced official suspicion and mistreatment.” What they had in spades was an emerging articulate intelligentsia with the international connections required to swing the Western press’s spotlight to focus exclusively on Jewish grievances.

And one must cut the Czarist regime some slack. It separated peasant and Jew mainly because of the corrupting effect of the latter on the former via alcohol sales. True, the Czar obliged the Jews to do military service, unlike under Polish regimes, but the implication was benign: in this respect the Jews were merely being treated like everyone else.

Racism was not a factor in the old days. Why not? Tribalist Judaism to can thank Christianity’s and Islam’s universalism, which is incompatible with racialism. Consideration was paid as well to Judaism for its founding role in the narratives of the ‘greater’ religions, not to mention that Jews were part of or at least an adjunct to the upper classes. A Jew could convert and go straight into the nobility, without any fuss about race. Not only was anti-Semitism not racist, it was mostly a stand-in for sheer xenophobia, a constant in nearly all cultures. Since European societies were so homogenous back then, especially Germany, any significant influx of strangers would likely have received the same xenophobic treatment.

As for anti-Semitism prior to the 1880s in Russia, it was no worse than bigotry against other groups. It required the assassination of the Czar by a group that included Jews to motivate the first wave of pogroms. The May Laws that followed, intended to restrict Jewish activities, were a concern, but any real implementation of the May Laws kept being put off and would be circumvented anyways. There was no shortage of testimony of good relations twixt peasant and Jew in the countryside, mantains Lindemann. During the pogroms, many a peasant protected his Jewish neighbor, and sometimes shame-faced looters returned their plunder.

Because economic conditions weren’t commensurate with the needs of a booming population of ambitious Jewish youth, two million Jews left Russia for America in the 1881–1924 era. No Russian officials stood in the way. As for the Beilus affair in 1911, an attempt to frame Mendel Beilus for ritual murder, “Beilus was found innocent, to great jubilation in the courtroom, and subsequently in Russia at large,” notes Lindemann, hardly an indication of rampant anti-Semitism. In fact, it was a Russian version of the Dreyfus affair, both affairs initially jeopardizing but ultimately benefitting Jewish/Gentile relations.

The so-called patriarch of German anti-Semitism William Marr was, paradoxically, intimately involved with Jews his whole life, including three Jewish wives, and in the 1890s formally broke with the anti-Semitic movement, depicting the anti-Semites as worse than the Jews, and asking Jews to pardon him for the folly of what he had earlier written. He confessed that Jewish involvement at the forefront of problematic industrialization and modernization had provoked him, but that such processes would be unfolding even without Jewish participation.

Lindemann concedes that modernizing Jews could be credited with bringing to Austria-Hungary and Germany “exploitation, corruption, crime, prostitution, alcoholism, social disintegration, and cultural nihilism” along with “progress, new industrial techniques, scientific discoveries, cultural sophistication, and a new intensity and richness to life in cities like Vienna.” To the average person, the former category of change would be far harder to miss, and this would be not without political repercussions. Vienna would indeed have an anti-Semitic mayor, Karl Lueger. Nonetheless, his terms in office became known as the “Golden Age of Viennese Jewry” (1897–1910).

On September 1911 in Russia, Prime Minister Stolypin was shot dead by a Jewish double agent. Jewish participation in the assassination of a key member of the Czar’s regime could not have been clearer. Did pogroms ensue, this time? No.

Was the West sinking in anti-Semitism as it receded in Russia? No. Lindemann suggests that, “In America, as in Europe, one might more accurately speak of a rising tide against anti-Semitism . . .” Indeed the Germans’ law-abiding deference to authority was a great boon to the nation’s Jews, until the laws being abided were being churned out by Hitler’s dictatorship.


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