With Anti-Semitism on the Rise, Theodor Herzl Still Has the Answers

Reading a biography of Theodor Herzl—the cosmopolitan and assimilated Jew who abandoned a successful career as a journalist when he was seized with a vision of a Jewish state in the Land of Israel—Matti Friedman sees many parallels to the present day. Herzl began his journey to Zionism in the 1890s, when he was confronted by the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Vienna, a city where he spent much of his life. Soon everyone was discussing a “Jewish question,” or perhaps a “Jewish problem.”

The prosperous Jews of Vienna, who assumed that this problem was on its way to being solved, are surprised to find themselves the focus for the anxieties of the age. They’re caught off guard in their colleges, law firms, and factories, mid-step on their journeys toward assimilation.

The correct attitude among Jewish intellectuals, Herzl’s social circles, was to cringe at both rich and poor, affecting a very Viennese attitude of wry fatigue with the foibles of humanity. [He is working] for the Neue Freie Presse, the New York Times of the [Hapsburg] empire, a newspaper of careful Jews who are celebrated for their brilliance, hampered by their social aspirations, and wrong, in retrospect, about everything. We don’t know that yet. Herzl’s plays are produced in Berlin and at the best theater in the city. Progress might not be smooth, but it is inevitable.

And yet society becomes increasingly preoccupied with the “bad manners” of the Jews. There are many people with bad manners, but the Jews stand out, “because of the obsessive interest in their lives and the general belief in the existence of a ‘problem,’ which even Jews paranoically began to share themselves.”

Books appear seeking to analyze the Jews’ warped character and physiognomy. This isn’t primitive hatred of Jews like in the days of the church and the ghetto. This is science. . . . One of the most toxic tracts would eventually be written by a Jew by the name of Otto Weininger. Like all Jews willing to attack other Jews, Weininger was borne upward on a strange, grateful tide of popularity, before taking his critique to its logical conclusion and killing himself.

While today there is no shortage of Jews who wish to ignore or endorse anti-Semitism, fortunately Herzl’s dream of a sovereign Jewish state is, to use his famous formulation, no fairy tale—but a reality.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Theodor Herzl, Vienna

Why President Biden Needs Prime Minister Netanyahu as Much as Netanyahu Needs Biden

Sept. 28 2023

Last Wednesday, Joe Biden and Benjamin Netanyahu met for the first time since the former’s inauguration. Since then, Haim Katz, Israel’s tourism minister, became the first Israeli cabinet member to visit Saudi Arabia publicly, and Washington announced that it will include the Jewish state in its visa-waiver program. Richard Kemp, writing shortly after last week’s meeting, comments:

Finally, a full nine months into Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest government, President Joe Biden deigned to allow him into his presence. Historically, American presidents have invited newly installed Israeli prime ministers to the White House shortly after taking office. Even this meeting on Wednesday, however, was not in Washington but in New York, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.

Such pointed lack of respect is not the way to treat one of America’s most valuable allies, and perhaps the staunchest of them all. It is all about petty political point-scoring and interfering in Israel’s internal democratic processes. But despite his short-sighted rebuke to the state of Israel and its prime minister, Biden actually needs at least as much from Netanyahu as Netanyahu needs from him. With the 2024 election looming, Biden is desperate for a foreign-policy success among a sea of abject failures.

In his meeting with Netanyahu, Biden no doubt played the Palestinian issue up as some kind of Saudi red line and the White House has probably been pushing [Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman] in that direction. But while the Saudis would no doubt want some kind of pro-forma undertaking by Israel for the sake of appearances, [a nuclear program and military support] are what they really want. The Saudis’ under-the-table backing for the original Abraham Accords in the face of stiff Palestinian rejection shows us where its priorities lie.

Israel remains alone in countering Iran’s nuclear threat, albeit with Saudi and other Arab countries cheering behind the scenes. This meeting won’t have changed that. We must hope, however, that Netanyahu has been able to persuade Biden of the electoral benefit to him of settling for a historic peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia rather than holding out for the unobtainable jackpot of a two-state solution.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Joseph Biden, Saudi Arabia, U.S.-Israel relationship