by Yakov M. Rabkin
Many people know that the first Zionist Congress was convened in 1897 in Basel. Fewer remember that Basel was chosen after major German Jewish community organizations petitioned the authorities to forbid holding the meeting in Munich. Thus, Basel, the birthplace of Zionism at the turn of the 20th century, points to a sharp conflict that this new political movement produced among the Jews. My book, which appeared in German in July 2020 1, presents a history of this momentous intra-Jewish conflict, which has continued to this day. It had to wait over a decade before appearing in German, its fifteenth language edition. The Hebrew edition came out a few years earlier, and it contributed to a lively debate in Israel’s secular and religious press about Zionism and the Zionist state.
Most articulate internal rejection of Zionism came from Jews, many of them rabbis who found this nationalist movement contrary to basic principles of the Jewish religion. The rabbis of the ‚Liberal Jewish Synagogue‘ in London, clearly formulate the issue: “We seem to have to choose between loyalty to our people and loyalty to God. Did not the Prophets love their people? Yet they castigated its leadership. Did anybody ever love the Jewish people more passionately than Jeremiah? Yet he condemned their sins — and for that very reason — all the more passionately.” >>>