Zionism and the World Peace
By Herbert Adams Gibbons
[The Century Magazine, January 1919]
Ten years of Young Turk rule accomplished what a century of European diplomatic effort, resulting several times in wars, tried desperately to prevent. The Ottoman Empire has been rapidly dissolving. The last footholds in Africa were lost by the Italian occupation of Tripoli (1911) and the proclamation of a British protectorate over Egypt (1914). The European provinces, except Thrace, were liberated by the Balkan States (1912) . In the present war Mesopotamia and Palestine have been conquered by the British, and Arabia has cast off the Turkish yoke.
At the beginning of the eleventh year of "the Constitution," while the Turks enjoyed illusory successes through reoccupying Armenia and penetrating into the Caucasus, by a series of brilliant military operations General Allenby's army passed into Syria, after annihilating two Turkish armies and capturing their artillery and means of transport.
It is too early to prophesy or speculate about the kind of peace Germany and Austria-Hungary and Bulgaria will be able to make with their enemies, but the handwriting on the wall for Turkey can already be read. The portions of the Ottoman Empire inhabited in majority by non-Turkish elements are in the hands of the Entente, and will not again be placed under the Turkish Sultan's rule. We are definitely pledged to redeem Russia's broken promises and revise the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in such a way that the Armenians will be freed. The civilized world will not tolerate another Treaty of Vienna, Paris, or Berlin. The futile and disastrous results of old-fashioned diplomacy, which sacrificed races subject to the Turks for what was deemed the general good of Europe, have been demonstrated. This time near-Eastern questions must be met squarely and solved fairly. The problems are exceedingly complicated. Their solution is dangerous as well as difficult, or delicate, as the diplomats put it. It is not too much to say, however, that unless everyone of the great powers brings to the solution of near-Eastern questions a sense of justice and a spirit of self-abnegation, unrest leading to anarchy, and bloodshed leading to new wars, will loom immediately upon the whole Mediterranean horizon.
Of the belligerent powers, the United States alone has no ax to grind, no special interests to advance, no treaties and secret agreements to uphold in the near East. Our position is unique. Our right to make our voice heard is unquestioned. We have become the decisive military' factor in the war. Inevitably we shall be an equally decisive diplomatic factor in the peace. We are fighting without desire for self-aggrandizement, solely "to make the world a decent place to live in," and it is our duty, as well as our interest, to see to it that our sacrifices of blood and treasure are not to be in vain.
No problems of peace are more vital than those of the near East, and none more illustrative of the broad principles upon which alone a new world can be constructed. Among the near-Eastern problems, the establishment of a Zionist state in Palestine has not been allowed to remain until the end of the war for discussion and settlement. It is open to us for study and judgment now.
On November 2, 1917, in a letter to Lord Rothschild, immediate publication of which was authorized, Foreign Secretary Balfour made the following "declaration of sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations" on the part of the British cabinet:
His Majesty's Government view with favor the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavors to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.
The declaration is guarded and noncommittal. In fact, the reservation concerning "the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine" keeps the declaration in line with the ideals for which the nations banded against Germany are fighting. If the British Government's "sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations" does not mean prejudice either to civil or to religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, no harm or peril can possibly come of it. As opposed to 100,000 in the Jewish communities, there are 630,000 in the non-Jewish communities, of whom 550,000 form a solid Arabic-speaking Moslem block, in racial and religious sympathy with the neighboring Arabs of Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia, and Egypt. The Jews could therefore never become a menace here.
But the Zionists have not interpreted the declaration of the British Government according to its clear wording. From the day of its publication they have looked upon the letter of Mr. Balfour to Lord Rothschild as official British sanction to the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine by means of wholesale immigration and buying up of the land. They consider it as a recognition of Jewish nationality in the sense of separate political and civil status for the Jew from the international point of view. The Zionist interpretation of "sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations" is faithfully expressed in the first editorial comment of the London "Jewish Chronicle," which said:
In place of being a wanderer in every clime, there is to be a home for the Jew in his ancient land. The day of his exile is to be ended.... The invitation to us is to enter into the family of nations of the Earth, endowed with the franchise of Nationhood, to become emancipated, not as individuals or sectionally, but as a whole people.
"Unser leute" ("our people") is not the jargon translation of "B'nai B'rith" ("sons of the covenant"), and yet to thoughtful and earnest Jews, not necessarily to devout Jews alone, the first expression is synonymous with the second. It requires neither rabbinical education nor religious conviction for the Jew to think of "the race apart" as "the chosen race." Instinct born of tradition and fostered by social conditions too unfortunately alike throughout the world has kept alive the phenomenon of consciousness of separate race through religion, felt by Jews alone among all the elements that have formed the American nation, and felt more strongly than in America by the Jews of occidental and central Europe.
In eastern Europe, where more than half the Jews in the world live, the feeling can hardly be called a phenomenon. For there race and religion are inextricably bound up together in determining a man's national and political status. The fact that in the Ottoman Empire and throughout the Mohammedan world a man derives his nationality from his religion will make the settlement of near-Eastern questions peculiarly perilous when we come to the peace conference even without Zionism to deal with.
Add Jewish aspirations, if loyally backed by newspaper and financial interests throughout the world, to indigenous Arab, Syrian, Egyptian, and Armenian aspirations, and we have a hopeless conflict of interests and ideals.
Some Jewish friends tell me that, aside from the question of taste, it is hardly to the point for a Christian to write on Zionism, since he can have no conception of what Zionism means to the Jew. Other Jewish friends have been urging me for a year to write for publication what I have said in private conversation about the danger to the world from the erection of a Zionist state in Palestine. When the idea of a Zionist state in Palestine is broached, I have found opinions strongly pro and strongly contra among American Jews, mostly pro among British Jews, and mostly contra among French Jews. Prominent Jews in the intellectual and business and commercial world, whose names and statements appear in Zionist publications in favor of the Zionist interpretation of the Balfour letter, have assured me privately that they view the whole movement with the gravest misgivings, and that they openly sponsor the project simply because at the present moment no Jew can without injury to himself throw cold water on Zionism. An American Jew who has had unusual opportunities for studying the political and social and economic problems of the Ottoman Empire, and who was a recent visitor to the Palestine colonies, said to me:
"A Jewish state in Palestine is a chimera outside the realm of practical politics; so don't waste your time fighting windmills."
This keen and competent observer may be right about the chimera. But the attempt, the effort to establish a Jewish state in Palestine, has certainly entered "the realm of practical politics," and events of the year 1918 have proved that the British cabinet has an understanding with the Zionist leaders which most assuredly goes far beyond the declaration of November 2, 1917.
By those who were watching closely the military and political situation in the near East, and who knew that Dr. Weizmann had secured the ear of Mr. Balfour, the diplomatic move at the end of 1917 was not unexpected. Nor have subsequent events in Palestine been unexpected. Sudden "sympathy with Jewish Zionist aspirations" could have been born only of the knowledge that General Allenby was ready to capture Jerusalem, and that Dr. Weizmann, in return for Jewish support, was equally ready to enlist Zionism officially in the task of making Palestine virtually a British protectorate. Thus were Egypt and the Suez Canal to be covered. Thus was the Sherif of Mecca, recognized as "King of the Hedjaz" by the Entente powers, to be checked in his alarming ambition to refound a strong Arabic Empire on the ruins of the former Ottoman Empire.
The British have fought gloriously in France for over four years. Seven hundred thousand of the soldiers who came to defend France from every part of the world where the British flag waves have been buried in France. Comradeship in arms, sealed by blood, has destroyed the traditional antagonism that had been kept alive through centuries by economic and colonial rivalry. One of the blessings of this war, and one of the solid guaranties of peace as well, would be a permanent friendship between the people of Great Britain and the people of France, Do the British realize that the policy pursued by their Government is a danger to Franco-British friendship? Certainly not; for they are ignorant of what is going on in Palestine, and, even if they knew, would not see the danger. For they do not appreciate how the French feel about Palestine and Syria. Do the Jews who enthusiastically support Zionism understand the nature of the compact made by Weizmann with the consent of Sokalof? I am sure they do not. I was talking the other day to an American rabbi who is one of the most virile and zealous younger leaders of the Zionist movement, an idealist through and through. He seemed not to have studied near Eastern history since the Diaspora. He did not know that a small band of British imperialists, not content with determining to replace international by British control of the Suez Canal, have planned, through using Zionism to prevent condominium with France and other nations in Palestine, to establish an all-rail British route from Haifa to Bassorah.
France was the pioneer among European nations in Egypt. Her sons established the cultural and economic foundations of present-day Egypt. France dug the Suez Canal. France signed in 1535 the first treaty with the Sublime Porte to safeguard the lives and property of Christians in Turkey. For almost four centuries the protection of Ottoman Christians and of the holy places has been a precious prerogative of French foreign policy. Witness the treaties of 1569, 1581, 1604, 1673, 1740, and 1802. How easy it was, during the nineteenth century, to work up public opinion in France to fever heat over the question of France's unique position in Palestine and Syria is illustrated by the difficulties with England over Mehemet Ali in the reign of Louis Philippe; the Crimean War, into which France entered primarily to prevent Russia from replacing her at Jerusalem; the expedition of 1860 to Damascus; Waddington's insistence at the Congress of Berlin that the clause, "les droits de la France sont expressément réservés," be added to the British draft of paragraph 7 of Article 62; and, when Italy tried to ignore the French protectorate in the Ottoman Empire, the appeal of France to the Vatican in 1880 which led to the encyclical Aspora rerum conditio. Only a few years before the outbreak of the present war France's guardianship of the Holy Land was recognized by Italy in the agreements of July 23, 1906, and January 13, 1907. In relation to the Jews also, France was the first nation to take measures for their protection and education in Palestine. France established the Mikweh Israel Agricultural School in 1870, subsidized the work of the Alliance Israelite Universelle at Jerusalem, assured by treaty the right of protecting North African Jews who had emigrated to Palestine, and has participated in the appointment of the Grand Rabbi of Jerusalem.
When the British army entered Damascus, the French fleet sailed into Beirut harbor. If Asiatic Turkey is to be apportioned to the victors, whatever modus vivendi may be arranged for the time being, it is certain that Palestine must fall eventually under the protectorate of the power that controls Syria or the power that controls Egypt. Which power will get Palestine? Dr. Weizmann has already given the answer of the International Zionist Commission in his memorable speech at Jerusalem last April. He stated categorically that "Zionists do not believe in the internationalization of Palestine or in any form of dual or multiple political control over Palestine, whose integrity must be protected by one just and fairly responsible guardian." The "one just and fairly responsible guardian," in Dr. Weizmann's opinion, was already there; for, when speaking these words, he turned to General Sir Edmund Allenby. The Grand Rabbi of France stated a few months ago that there are only a hundred thousand Zionists in the world outside of America, that most of the Zionists in France are of Russian or Rumanian origin, and that Jews of French birth, if interested at all in Zionism, were interested only out of sympathy with those who wanted to go to Palestine to escape persecution. "Zionism is not a pious desideratum on our part. What French Jews are interested in is liberty and equality in this country for all religions." But as a Frenchman and not as a Jew, the Grand Rabbi and all other prominent French Jews are exceedingly anxious that Zionism be not used to deprive France of her traditional past and her legitimate future place in the near East. And French Jews fear that Zionism may thus revive anti-Semitism in France. French Catholics and French imperialists are determined that Palestine shall not be British. French socialists, sensing future trouble, have repeatedly declared for territorial and political disinterestedness of both nations in Palestine.
In approaching the great problem of the world peace that we hope our sacrifices will assure, we must face facts. When President Wilson made his speech of September 27, 1918, at the opening of the Fourth Liberty Loan, he said that this had become a war of peoples, and that statesmen could no longer hope to make a peace that would be an "arrangement or compromise or adjustment of interests," and warned the leaders of the governments with which we are associated that "unity of purpose and of counsel are as imperatively necessary in this war as was unity of command on the battle-field; and with perfect unity of purpose and counsel will come assurance of complete victory. It can be had in no other way." This "unity of purpose and of counsel" is sadly lacking between France and Great Britain at the eastern end of the Mediterranean. As long as Dr. Weizmann's words above quoted, "Zionists do not believe in any form of dual or multiple political control over Palestine," represent Zionist opinion, and Zionists look to Great Britain to establish and guarantee a Jewish state in Palestine, the Entente powers cannot arrive at "unity of purpose and of counsel."
But Zionist aspirations not only as interpreted and carried out by the present leaders of the Zionist movement, but also in their very nature and essence—it is best to be frank about it—present other dangers to the world peace than friction between France and Great Britain. In enumerating these dangers, I trust my readers will remember that I am not recording second-hand impressions and arguments. What I write here is the result of personal contact with the problems discussed.
First and foremost (for it affects the Jews themselves), the attempt to create a Jewish state in Palestine would give birth to an alarming anti-Semitic movement throughout the Moslem world, resulting in boycotts and pogroms.
The conception of a nation as a millet (religious community) is ingrained in Moslem races, and influences also races which have been subjected to or which have lived in intimate contact with Moslem civilization. In countries where Mohammedans have the political ascendency non-Moslem millets are simply tolerated. They have no legal rights. Their security of life and property is based upon the granting of an aman (a safe-conduct) which is not permanent. It may be withdrawn at any moment. As long as non-Moslem millets do not aspire to political control, or even to political equality, the non-Moslems are safe. For centuries Christians and Jews lived in perfect security in the Ottoman Empire and in other Mohammedan states. Massacres of Christians have occurred because of the withdrawal of the aman. So long as the Christians were content with their lot and did not try to become politically masters or equals through their own efforts or through demanding protection or aid from outside states, the aman was not withdrawn. I know that this statement will be indignantly denied by some, but it is made after years of study and observation. Starting with the massacre of the Greeks in Chios at the outbreak of the Greek rebellion nearly a hundred years ago, and examining the circumstances in which each big massacre has taken place, we find that the underlying cause in every case is the refusal of Moslems to tolerate non-Moslem political rule or to grant equality to raias (non-Moslem subjects). I have lived in the Ottoman Empire, have traveled everywhere in perfect security, and know how it feels to have the aman suddenly withdrawn; for I was in the courtyard of the Adana government building when the massacre of 1909 broke out.
Massacres are not due to religious antipathy. Moslems do not declare the djihad (holy war) simply to kill non-Moslems. It is their way of preventing the assertion of independence on the part of non-Moslems among them, Greeks and other Christians have not been harmed when Armenians were being killed. Armenians have not been harmed when Greeks were being killed. The Jews who had to emigrate from Spain several centuries ago were received hospitably by the Turks. There never has been a pogrom. And yet, in the Koran, the denunciation of Christians cannot be compared with the denunciation of Jews. Religiously speaking, Moslems bear far more hatred to Jews than to Christians. It is always legally right for Moslems to kill non-Moslems. Only the aman stands between the non-Moslem and death. The Jews have enjoyed security in the Ottoman Empire and in Persia because there never has been up to now a reason to withdraw the aman.
Palestine contains two of the four holy places of orthodox Islam. Jerusalem is second only to Mecca. An attempt to turn the Mosque of Omar back into the Temple of Solomon would be more foolish and dangerous than to reconsecrate St. Sophia. Zionists answer that Zionism does not mean the restoration of Jewry in Jerusalem, and that those who point out the inevitable conflict with Islam have not grasped the significance of the Zionist movement. But if Zionism is mystical and spiritual, why Palestine at all? And if it is the practical, the material return to Zion, no previously announced good intentions are going to prevail against human nature. We have already had proof of this. Following in the trail of Sir Edmund Allenby's victorious army, the Zionist delegation first established their headquarters at Tel Aviv, near Jaffa. But within a few months branch headquarters (the adjective and noun together form a paradox) were opened in Jerusalem, and Dr. Weizmann declared, "We return to this sacred country which our forefathers heroically defended to link up the glorious traditions of the past with the future." In vain did Dr. Weizmann continue by stating that "this development will not, and must not, be detrimental to any of the great communities established in the country; on the contrary, it will be to their advantage."
In vain did he express deep sympathy for and profound interest "in the struggle for freedom which the ancient Arab race is now waging against Turkey," and his belief that the scattered Arab forces are being cemented with the sympathies of the Entente and the freedom-loving powers. The mufti and other Moslem notables withdrew from the table. And ever since Dr. Weizmann's speech there has been a constant cry of protest from Arabs, Christian as well as Moslem. So unanimous has been the protest that the French Government censor allowed to be printed in the Arab newspaper of Paris "Al Moustaqbal," (number of August 30, 1918), a letter of a Palestinian Arab, written from Jerusalem on May 26, which, in violent terms, states that Moslems will never allow Jews to control Palestine. The sentiments of this letter are identical with those repeatedly expressed in "Al Kibla," official journal of the King of the Hedjaz, formerly Sherif of Mecca, whose aid has been decisive to the British in the Palestinian and Mesopotamian campaigns.
Dr. Weizmann made strenuous efforts, supported by the British administration, to conciliate the Moslems and Christians of the Holy Land. Out of a great number invited, only three Arabs consented to talk with him. Despite his concessions, use of Arabic as official language, civil and administrative equality, prohibition of buying lands or flocks, limitation of Zionist agriculture to uncultivated government lands at Beersheba and Khan-Younes against the deposit of their value in money in an agricultural bank for the amelioration of the lot of the Arabic fellahin, he was told flatly no Judeo-Arabic agreement was possible except between the element already settled in Palestine.
Under the influence of the dazzling victories of the autumn of 1918, the Internationalist Zionist Commission is probably able to report a "working agreement," which will be cited to prove the groundlessness of my statements and my fears. Resignation is the cardinal virtue of Islam, we are assured. But we must not be deceived by appearances. History proves the Mohammedan acceptance of the inevitable, cheerful and definite acceptance. But history proves also the unwisdom—no; more, the impossibility—of changing the political and social nature of a Mohammedan country by forced European immigration. Colonists, products of another civilization, backed in agricultural and commercial competition with indigenous elements by large grants of money and protected by diplomacy behind which stood armies and battle-ships, have failed to take root or have been massacred. Zionists should study the failure of France in Tunis, the pitiful shipwreck of Italian ambitions in Tripoli, and the disastrous results of Greek attempts to increase colonization along the Sea of Marmora and the Aegean coast of Asia Minor. The resignation of Mohammedans is an article of faith; but their inability to accept political domination in their own country of non-Moslem elements is also an article of faith. Oil does not mix with water. It is a sad mistake to attribute the comparative failure of earlier Zionist attempts at colonization in Palestine to the corruption of the Turkish rule. Arabs are far more Mohammedan than are Turks. Their fanaticism is more to be feared.
If the peace conference decides to restore the Jews to Palestine, immigration into and development of the country can be assured only by the presence of a considerable army for an indefinite period. Not only the half million Moslems living in Palestine, but the millions in surrounding countries, will have to be cowed into submission by the constant show and the occasional use of force.
But how can we reconcile such a policy in Palestine with the principles for the world-wide maintenance of which we have announced that we are fighting? Is the peace conference to give with one hand and take away with the other? We have made the issues of this conflict the triumph of right over force and the liberation of small nations from the yoke of the foreigner. Each race is to be consulted in regard to its own destinies. If we consult the Palestinian Arabs, Christian as well as Moslem, we shall find them unanimous in their desire, their determination, not to have Zionism foisted upon them. They comprise over eighty per cent, of the population of Palestine. Even in the Jewish minority there is a strong anti-Zionist element, for Jewry is no more united than are Christendom and Islam. The Sephardim, who understand the spirit of the Orient better than Occidental and Northern Jews and who are in large majority among the indigenous Palestine Jews, do not sympathize with the Zionist program.
We are fighting to break down racial and national barriers throughout the world. Americans hope that this war is going to bring together every element of the American nation in a common brotherhood. Native-born and immigrant, white and black, Protestant and Catholic and Jew, Aryan and Semite and Indian, have one allegiance—to the Government of the United States, for which all alike are shedding their blood on the battle-fields of France. This sacrifice is demanded by a Government which does not make citizenship depend upon race or religion or color. The same responsibilities are exacted of all, the same privileges are extended to all.
Grand Rabbi Levy of France struck the nail on the head when he said: "Zionism is not a pious desideratum on our part. What French Jews are interested in is liberty and equality in this country for all religions." The great majority of American-born Jews certainly have the same opinion. Not nationhood in an artificially created Zion, but complete, unrestricted partnership in the political, economic, and social life of the United States of America must be their goal. And do not American Jews realize the glorious change, which can be made permanent if they act wisely, that has come over the situation of the Jew in Europe since 1914? When I was a boy, living in the Jewish quarter of Philadelphia, Herzl, founder of Zionism, was worshiped by the immigrants from Poland and Russia because he proclaimed a gospel of emancipation. The immigrants soon realized that the emancipation had come with American citizenship, and lost their fervor for the ideal of return to the Holy Land. As I write, I think of Russian and Polish Zionists, whom I knew well in the old days, and whom I have met again after a lapse of years. One of them, an officer in the American Expeditionary Force, laughed heartily when I told him the story of Lord Rothschild, who said he was for Zionism if he could be ambassador of the new state at London. "My sentiments! My sentiments exactly!" he exclaimed. This war is bringing a complete change of the status of Jews in eastern and southeastern Europe. Who, then, will feel the need of returning to Zion?
If some Jews of Europe and America, however, follow the will-o'-the-wisp of Zionism, and insist in the peace conference upon their separate nationality, they may succeed in losing for themselves and for all others of their religion what they have to-day the golden opportunity of gaining. Anti-Semitism need not be reawakened in Russia; but the Russian peasants are susceptible to be worked upon by fanatics if told that the Jews have seized the Holy Land, which means more to Russians than to any other Christian people. Jews have been enfranchised in Rumania, but Rumanians will reconsider the decision if the concession is spurned by continued wholesale emigration of the Jewish element. The Polish question, most difficult of all, will become more delicate if the Jews maintain a state within a state by looking to Zion. French Jews are living to-day in the millennium. Who cannot foresee the change in French public opinion toward them if Zionism plays the game of another power? And are German and Austrian Jews going to be called upon to take sides with the enemies of the nations to which they owe allegiance?
Through the courtesy of the British Foreign Office I have received a collection of books, pamphlets, and periodicals on the Zionist question, which contain the case for Zionism in Palestine in the most complete and strongest form. Since the Balfour declaration, when Zionism entered practical international politics, I have met Zionists as much as possible. Newspaper accounts of Zionist conventions and meetings and discussions of the Zionist movement have been coming to my desk for the last year. Neither in the spoken nor written word, I am sorry to say, is there an inclination to take into consideration what President Wilson pleads for in his speech at the opening of the Fourth Liberty Loan:
The impartial justice meted out must be a justice that plays no favorites and knows no standard but the equal rights of the several peoples concerned. No special or separate interest of any single nation or any group of nations can be made the basis or any part of the settlement which is not consistent with the common interest of all.... Shall there be a common standard of right and privilege for all peoples and nations or shall the strong do as they will and the weak suffer without redress?
The Jewish advocates of introducing hundreds of thousands of Jews into Palestine, immigrants backed by outside diplomatic and financial support and going for the purpose of setting up a theocratic government for the Jewish nation, forget or ignore the fact that Palestine is already inhabited by a nation which has possessed the land for over a thousand years—a nation homogeneous in race as well as in religion, a nation with traditions more firmly centered, because of contact and ownership, with the harams of Jerusalem and Hebron than their own, a nation whose highly perfected language was preferred to Hebrew as a medium by the great Jewish writers, Saadia, Maimonides, and, for his prose, Jehuda ben Halévy. The Gentile advocates of restoring Palestine to the Jews either have never investigated the proposition from the point of view of the inhabitants of the country or are actuated by the principle of political expediency severely denounced by President Wilson.
At the time of the Dardanelles Expedition, Syrian physicians, educated in the American and French colleges of Beirut, when they learned the terrible need of medical care for British soldiers, volunteered their services. They received no answer. An Entente diplomat took up the case with the British authorities, and urged that Syrians be used. "We do not want niggers looking after our men," was the answer. I should not tell this story, for the truth of which I can vouch, were it not that here may lie the reef which will wreck the ship of a durable peace. Greeks, Armenians, Persians, Arabs, Syrians, and Egyptians are not "niggers," and the sooner we wake up to this truth the better for the Anglo-Saxon race. They are getting our education and our ideas. Given equal chance, their instincts are as gentlemanly as ours, their code of honor as high, and their intelligence as great. We can no longer get away with the "my man" and "here there" and "boy" fashion of addressing them. In the near East, as in the far East, arrogance, insolence, indifference to the political and social rights of "natives" in their own countries will have to go the way of ante-bellum diplomacy. If we do not change radically our attitude toward all Asiatic races, the present war is nothing to what is coming, and in the twentieth century, too.
Assuming that Syrians and Arabs are "niggers," according to our principles in this war their rights are as sacred as ours. Dr. Weizmann assures them that their rights will be safeguarded. But they do not want this assurance from Dr. Weizmann, from the British Government, from the Entente nations, from the peace conference. They want to safeguard their own rights, freely and unhampered, like every other nation. They challenge the authority of the British cabinet to dispose of Palestine. Palestine is theirs. They live in the country. They own the country. They have been indispensable in the military operation of freeing it from the Turks. They have been recognized as belligerents. No reasonable man can deny the justice of the unanimous demand of Moslem and Christian Palestinians of Arab race and language, who are over eighty per cent, of the present population, that the Zionist scheme be envisaged in regard to Palestine, as we should look at it if our own countries were concerned. Can the peace conference say ex cathedra: "We have decided to sanction Zionist aspirations. You Palestinian Arabs must allow an indefinite number of Jews to come into your country, settle there, and participate in the government. If you do not do so willingly, we shall occupy Palestine with a military force, and treat you as rebels, as disturbers of the world's peace"?
We have an illustration as to what Mr. Balfour thinks about Zionist immigration when it is a question of Britishers who would be affected. Mr. Chamberlain, foreign secretary in the Balfour cabinet, conceived the idea of opening eastern Africa to the Zionists. A commission was sent out from London in 1904 to study the question. The protest against the immigration of "Galician and other undesirable eastern and southeastern European Jews" on the part of a few hundred British colonists in an enormous country they had not yet themselves been able to cultivate, or even explore, prevented the commission from offering to the Zionists the only lands in the colony practicable for white settlement. Premier Balfour admitted the justice of their opposition when he saw that force would have to be used to make them yield, and the Zionist congress at Basel was offered inland, equatorial, undeveloped Uganda instead! Now that a similar protest against Zionist immigration comes from 630,000 Moslem and Ciiristian inhabitants of a very small country, is the case different?
The argument of the Zionists that there is room for them, too, in Palestine is absurd. The world has never admitted such an argument to justify forcible immigration. It smacks of Prussianism pure and simple. The indigenous population of Palestine is not stationary, and will increase without immigration under better political, hygienic and economic conditions. Who can deny the right—a right everywhere jealously guarded—of a race to wish to keep intact the soil and potential wealth of its own country for its own future generations? On the ground that there is room for others, the peace conference could with equal reason and justice insist upon the opening up of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and our own Pacific States to Asiatic immigration. But we Anglo-Saxons will have none of it. Are we going to force an Asiatic race to admit European immigrants against its will? Is this the meting out of "impartial justice that plays no favorites and knows no standard but equal rights"?
The Zionists fall back upon their acceptance of the clause in the Balfour declaration, that "nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." Zionism, they say, does not mean oppression of or conflict with the other communities. If conflict arises, it will be the fault of others, and help will be asked from Dr. Weizmann's "one just and fairly responsible guardian" to defend the immigrants. But how can the setting up of the Jewish "national home" in Palestine fail to affect the civil and religious rights of the present inhabitants of the land? What other result can it possibly have than to rob the Palestinian Arabs of their hope to evolve into a modern, self-governing state? The spirit of the twentieth century is unalterably opposed to government by communities constituted on theocratic principles. The evolution of self-governing democracies has been possible only through unification and secularization. Utah is an illustration. Doing away with polygamy was simply the rallying cry in the inevitable conflict with Mormonism. In Zionist congresses delegates have frequently advocated making the United States "the promised land." But the answer always was that the ideals of Zionism could not be realized under the American system of civil government. Mr. Lloyd George is now an enthusiastic advocate of Zionism—for Palestine. But years ago, when he was lawyer for the organization at the time of the eastern African proposal, he told his clients frankly that they would have to change their scheme of governing Zion if Zion was to be established in a British colony.
When the whole world is moving toward democracy, shall we compel the Arabs of Palestine to live under a polity emancipation from which is the cornerstone of our own liberties? The Zionist answers that the Arabs already live under that polity, and that precisely because there is no question of asking the inhabitants of the country to change existing institutions, Palestine is the ideal country for the erection of "the national home." But the answer reveals a dangerous ignorance of existing institutions in Palestine. Commentators on the Koran have invariably represented the theocratic system of government as a Mohammedan theocracy. It is not against the law to tolerate non-Mohammedan millets as long as the Christian and Jewish sects do not aspire to political domination or do not interpret their autonomy as a right instead of as a free, and temporary, gift. In the Ottoman Empire prerogatives of the millets, like the capitulations governing foreigners, originated in the inadaptibility of Mohammedan law to meet the needs of non-Moslems. The concessions were not wrung from the Turk by force. They were granted freely to avoid bother.
By establishing in the near East a non-Mohammedan theocracy, on a present footing of equality and with the prospect of some day becoming the master, we should not only bring Judaism into conflict with Islam. We should be sanctioning the perpetuation of the very system of government that needs to be changed if the peoples of the near East are to participate in our durable peace. Our goal is the liberation of all races and the doing away with foreign control and exploitation of weaker peoples. To attain that goal we must endeavor to show Mohammedan nations the path of political evolution we ourselves have followed, and help them along that path. We must uphold in the near East the antithesis of Zionist conceptions and ideals. Religion does not decide one's nationality. The state is a secular institution, created and supported by the people, serving and served by the people. "The people" comprise all who live within the limits of the state; they enjoy equal political rights; and these rights are not dependent upon and have no connection whatever with religious belief, A religious community, governed by rules and traditions of its own, and not subject to the common laws made by all the people and applying to all alike, is inimical to the development of democracy. Occidental Europe and the United States have found out this truth. We cannot establish Zionism in Palestine after a war that has been fought "to make the world safe for democracy."
When the Zionist movement arose and took root in Jewry, the whole world sympathized with the reasons for it given by Herzl. The political emancipation of the Jew in Russian and Austrian Poland, in Russia and in Rumania, has been a plank in the platform of world-wide democracy. The Jews had a right to attempt to emancipate their downtrodden brethren in their own way, and to use the age-old aspiration of Israel to revive hope and faith; but the most prominent of Zionists were careful to explain that the "return to Zion" did not mean return to Jerusalem in the material sense of the word. It was a mystical idea, like "Jerusalem the Golden" to Christians. The proof of this is in the fact that Zionist congresses have discussed seriously setting up Zion in other places than Palestine. Even recently one of Dr. Weizmann's most ardent supporters said to me:
"Can I make you see that the possession of Jerusalem means nothing to Zionists? Zionism's aim is to revivify the religious faith of Jewry, which our dispersion in the modern world threatens to extinguish. It is, from Alpha to Omega, a spiritual movement."
Why, then, does Zionism emphasize now the temporal aspect? Why Palestine? Why a distinct nationhood for the Jew? To preserve the Ghetto for those whose religion cannot thrive outside the Ghetto, are we going to risk putting the millions of Jews who live happily and usefully in their several countries back into the Ghetto? Is it possible to recreate with success anachronistic political and religious conditions? Men have fought wars to turn back the hands of the clock. The wars have not prevented the progress of mankind. And how often has peace been disturbed because men failed to comprehend the universal Zion for all creeds in the words of a Palestinian Jew, who said, "My kingdom is not of this world!"
© J. Fred MacDonald, 2013
If you appreciate the articles, read the e-novel informed by them —
THE HEADLONG FURY
A Novel of World War One
By J. Fred MacDonald