Historical Background of Western Support to Israel: Paper

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In 1894, Alfred Dreyfus, a French-Jewish army officer, was sentenced to permanent deportation and military degradation for selling military secrets to the Germans. Two years later, the chief of French army intelligence, Col. George Picquart, himself an anti-Semite, revealed that another officer, not Dreyfus, was the traitor.

During this period, Alfred Dreyfus came to represent for many french the supposed disloyalty of French Jews. On the 100th anniversary of Zola’s article, France’s Catholic daily, La Croix, apologized for its anti-Semitic editorials during the Dreyfus issue. The case, however, resulted in events that went well beyond the French. (Isseroff)

This was because of Theodor Herzl, a Paris-based reporter for an Austrian newspaper. Up until the Dreyfus trial, Herzl, who was born in Budapest in 1860, felt, as did most European Jewish intellectuals, that the best course for Jews lay in assimilation, established on the liberal nationalism of the French Revolution. The anti-Jewish attacks Herzl incidents during the Dreyfus Affair were among the occurrences that brought home to him the power of anti-Semitism even in such a progressive democracy as France.

The alternative to liberal nationalism was racial nationalism. With its roots in German Romanticism, racial nationalism held that each state belongs to a meticulous ethnic nation and that this national group inhabits a privileged position in the state. Herzl concluded that authentic communities were fashioned not by legal bonds but by organic, spiritual ties that precede and transcend the political. The “problem” for Jews, said Herzl, was that they “had entirely lost their feeling of solidarity as a race;” the solution was for them to carve out a state, which they would own, and which would supersede the interests of its non-Jewish population. (Isseroff)

Racial nationalism infused both Nazism and Zionism. The only Jews for whom Hitler silent any praise in “Mein Kampf” were the Zionists. The Nazis saw Germans and Jews as two diverse ethnic and racially based nations and, on this basis, first encouraged the Jews to leave Germany to found their own state, then later sought to eliminate them. (Mahoney 1)

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