Theodor Herzl Dreamed Not Just of Jewish Safety, but of Jewish Flourishing

Having recently edited a three-volume English-language edition of Theodor Herzl’s writings, Gil Troy considers the common myths about the founder of the modern Zionist movement. The most misleading of these is that Herzl was motivated solely by his reaction to European anti-Semitism, which suggests that he saw the Jewish state as nothing more than a refuge for a persecuted people, and possessed no positive vision. But this is not so:

Herzl himself rocked the Jewish world in February 1896, with his Zionist manifesto—Der Judenstaat, “The Jewish State.” And, perhaps most important, we see that Herzl’s Zionism entailed more than anti-anti-Semitism. This romantic liberal nationalist ends his pamphlet with a sweeping, idealistic, constructive vision that not only proves he was not the Zionist most people believe him to have been, [who saw the Jewish state as merely a protective fortress against Gentile hostility], but demonstrates the power of liberal nationalism to redeem a people and the world. “The Jews who want a state of their own will have one,” Herzl writes, democratically acknowledging those who wish to stay in the Diaspora. “We are to live at last as free men on our own soil and die peacefully in our own homeland.”

Then he soars, as every liberal nationalist should, building up universal hopes and values, not putting up walls and barriers to idealism: “The world will be freed by our freedom, enriched by our riches, and made greater by our greatness.”

How lucky we are—to be his heirs, to inherit a state that he helped create, rather than being born into the much harsher, more insecure world he inherited from his ancestors.

Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: History of Zionism, Theodor Herzl

Why Arab Jerusalem Has Stayed Quiet

One of Hamas’s most notable failures since October 7 is that it has not succeeded in inspiring a violent uprising either among the Palestinians of the West Bank or the Arab citizens of Israel. The latter seem horrified by Hamas’s actions and tend to sympathize with their own country. In the former case, quiet has been maintained by the IDF and Shin Bet, which have carried out a steady stream of arrests, raids, and even airstrikes.

But there is a third category of Arab living in Israel, namely the Arabs of Jerusalem, whose intermediate legal status gives them access to Israeli social services and the right to vote in municipal elections. They may also apply for Israeli citizenship if they so desire, although most do not.

On Wednesday, off-duty Israeli soldiers in the Old City of Jerusalem shot at a Palestinian who, it seems, was attempting to attack them. But this incident is a rare exception to the quiet that has prevailed in Arab Jerusalem since the war began. Eytan Laub asked a friend in an Arab neighborhood why:

Listen, he said, we . . . have much to lose. We already fear that any confrontation would have consequences. Making trouble may put our residence rights at risk. Furthermore, he added, not a few in the neighborhood, including his own family, have applied for Israeli citizenship and participating in disturbances would hardly help with that.

Such an attitude reflects a general trend since the end of the second intifada:

In recent years, the numbers of [Arab] Jerusalemites applying for Israeli citizenship has risen, as the social stigma of becoming Israeli has begun to erode and despite an Israeli naturalization process that can take years and result in denial (because of the requirement to show Jerusalem residence or the need to pass a Hebrew language test). The number of east Jerusalemites granted citizenship has also risen, from 827 in 2009 to over 1,600 in 2020.

Oddly enough, Laub goes on to argue, the construction of the West Bank separation fence in the early 2000s, which cuts through the Arab-majority parts of Jerusalem, has helped to encouraged better relations.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: East Jerusalem, Israeli Arabs, Jerusalem