Political Zionism: History of Embracing Antisemites

Londoners mark 100 years since Balfour Declaration in a protest to recognize the on-going oppression of Palestinians. (Photo: Jehan Alfarra, via MEMO)

By Jamal Kanj

Have you ever wondered why Zionist organizations malign people such as renowned musician and Pink Floyd’s cofounder Roger Waters, and former UK Labor leader Jeremy Corbyn, both with a history of fighting injustice, or Kenneth Roth, a Jew who ran Human Rights Watch for 29 years because they criticize Israel, while exalting someone like Donald Trump, who normalizes white supremacists and gives political legitimacy to Jewish haters? If this seems counterintuitive, understanding the hidden history of political Zionism will demystify some aspects of this parochial movement.

Political Zionism is the epitome of the World Zionist Organization (WZO). WZO was founded in 1897 by an Austro-Hungarian Jewish lawyer, Theodor Herzl, to combat anti-Jewish hate in Europe. Herzl, a professed atheist, envisioned in his 1896 book, Der Judenstaat (The State of the Jews) for European Jews to live in their own state. Under Herzl’s leadership, WZO contemplated several places, including Palestine, for the potential Jewish state, but none of which was in continental Europe.

From its inception, long before the Holocaust, the consequentialist political Zionist movement followed a teleological worldview in which the rightness of its act is determined only by the desired outcome. That translates to: what’s good for Israel, alone, has to be good for Jews.

To achieve its vision, WZO sought a symbiotic relationship with an imperial power; a colonial sponsor willing to part with a piece of “real estate” that did not belong to it, in exchange for WZO services.

Following several attempts starting in 1896 to obtain an audience with the Ottoman’s Sultan, Herzl was finally received by the financially strapped Sovereign in May 1901, likely after intervention from German Kaiser Wilhelm II. Herzl genuflected before the Sultan, telling him that Jewish financiers were ready to purchase 20% of the entire Ottoman’s foreign debt from European powers. In addition, he promised to rally European Jewish media prowess in a public relation campaign to improve Turkey’s image in the wake of the Armenian massacre. This would be in return for opening Palestine to European Jews.

Under other circumstances, Herzl’s offer would have the appearance of an anti-Jewish trope when Jewish haters stereotype Jews of using money and media to cajole politicians. WZO’s leader exploited the very alleged “Jewish power” in a failed attempt to coax the Ottoman’s Sultan.

Following the death of Herzl in 1904, Zionist leaders turned their attention to a rival colonial power, Great Britain, and solicited help from a Jewish hater, now Zionist hero, Arthur Balfour.

Balfour, a known anti-Black racist, Islamophobe, and Jewish hater, shared with WZO a desire (for varying reasons) to remove Jews from Europe. His motivations were revealed in his introduction to the book History of Zionism, where he etched that Zionism would “mitigate the age-long miseries created for Western civilization by the presence in its midst of a Body which it too long regarded as alien and even hostile, but which it was equally unable to expel or to absorb.”

On November 2nd, 1917, Balfour issued a letter on behalf of the British colonial empire addressed to Lord Rothschild, promising His Majesty’s support to establish a home for European Jews in Palestine.

On the opposite camp, Adolf Hitler rose to power in January 1933. The world saw a menace, and was met with calls to boycott German goods throughout the UK and US. WZO leaders, however, saw an opportunity to complement the promise from the British hater. The organization backed the German Zionist Federation’s (GZF) efforts to work with the Nazi regime to undermine the international anti-Nazi boycott of 1933.

On August 25, 1933, GZF concluded the Haavara Agreement with the Nazi intelligence officer, Edler von Mildenstein. Under this agreement, GZF agreed to oppose the anti-Nazi boycott, and for Hitler’s Germany to facilitate the emigration of Jews to Palestine. Like the British officer before him, Mildenstein found in WZO a soft option to “cleanse” Europe of Jews and resolve the “Jewish Question.”

It is worth noting that beside WZO and GZF, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and several American Jewish leaders endorsed the Haavara Agreement and rejected the 1933 international boycott of Nazi Germany. Surely, not because WZO believed the Nazis were benevolent, but because they believed that the very malevolency of the Nazi regime would accelerate the realization of “the desired outcome.”

Historically, WZO had an agility to coexist with Jewish haters, like an ant and an aphid, a Trump and a Kushner, and where it wasn’t possible, political Zionism fed on antisemitism to deliver “what’s good for Israel,” regardless of the harm to world Jewry.

A case in point is 1938 when delegates from 32 countries met in Evian, France, to discuss a plan to rescue Jewish children escaping Nazi Germany. Zionist leader David Ben-Gurion, who later became Israel’s first prime minister, denounced the international rescue plan. Speaking before a Mapai (Zionist party) Central Committee meeting in 1938, he said, “If I knew that it was possible to save all the (Jewish) children of Germany by transporting them to England, and only half by transferring them to the Land of Israel (Palestine), I would choose the latter…”

In the 21st century, Donald Trump became a new champion for political Zionism. Trump, who referred to Israel as “your country” when speaking to Jewish Americans, dined with a known Jewish hater, Nick Fuentes, in November 2022. Fuentes was described as a “vicious bigot and Holocaust denier” by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. Despite Fuentes’ history, Greenblatt was careful not to rebuke Trump for meeting the “bigot,” instead, he only described the meeting as “appalling.”

Similarly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was asked by Meet the Press host in December 2022 if he condemns Trump’s meeting with the Jewish hater. Netanyahu hailed Trump as a true friend of Israel and when pressed further, he gave a guarded response, “the meeting was the wrong thing to do.”

Contrary to what Israel and Major Jewish organizations claim, antisemitism is not fueled by the rightful criticism of the Israeli government. But rather, it is the product of Zionist heroes who empower vicious bigots or people like Pastor John Hagee, who cited the Book of Jeremiah describing Hitler as a “hunter sent by God” to force Jews to migrate to Palestine. Despite this, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) celebrated Hagee as a keynote speaker for its March 2006 Policy Conference. Moreover, in December 2019, current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed Hagee’s national conference, applauding his support for Israel.

There is a serious cognitive dissonance when major Jewish organizations, such as the ADL, who profess to fight bigotry, choose to vilify individuals and human rights groups who reject all forms of racism, simply because they advocate for Palestinian rights, while embracing Islamophobic individuals and organizations with a history of trafficking Jewish stereotypes, simply because they support Israel’s Messianic policies.

– Jamal Kanj is the author of “Children of Catastrophe,” Journey from a Palestinian Refugee Camp to America, and other books. He writes frequently on Arab world issues for various national and international commentaries. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle

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1 Comment

  1. Protestant Kaiser Wilhelm II who went before the Sultan on Herzl’s behalf is creator of German-Ottoman Alliance, supplier of arms for the Armenian Genocide, and political father of the Grand Mufti and OBLadin. Protestants embraced political Zionism decades before Herzl.

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