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Ideological components in Anglo-Jewish opposition to Zionism before and during the First World War: a restatement

Stuart A. Cohen

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Ideological components in Anglo-Jewish opposition to Zionism before and during the First World War: a restatement* STUART A. COHEN The embryonic period of modern Jewish nationalism recedes inexorably into history without losing either its fascination or its appeal to conscience. Anglo-Jewry, especially, looks back on its own contribution to political Zionism's first triumphs with justifiable pride. However, now that the chronology of the movement's onward march within the community has been documented, historians might perhaps be permitted to turn their attention to the reasons for its slow advance and to an examination of the wearying resistance it encountered en route. The present paper is designed as a contribution to that enquiry. Without in any way detracting from the organizational and diplomatic successes attained by the first generation of Anglo-Jewish Zionists, it will attempt to bring into focus their ideological deficiencies. These, it will argue, become especially pronounced once the ideological pronouncements of Herzl's supporters in the community are compared with those of his opponents. Thus juxtaposed, the two cases seem to be sharply lacking in symmetry. As a group, Zionist spokesmen in Britain seem to have taken little advantage of the comprehensive? ness of the nationalist prognosis of the Jewish condition. Zangwill apart (and he was in any case hardly one of the mainstream),1 they were also curiously unimaginative when exploring the various theoretical possibilities opened up by Herzl's programme for a solution to that condition. By contrast, the anti-Zionists in the community seem to have possessed far more of the intellectual fibre and philosophical flair which are the stuff of the very best brands of political polemic. Always more sensitive than their opponents with regard to the possible local implications of Zionism's central position, they were likewise the more persistent in their search for the intellectual antecedents of their own point of view. In retrospect, certainly, it is that case which emerges from the literature of the times as the more cogent and incisive. The constraints of space prevent the substantiation of that argument as fully as it warrants in the present paper. Instead, two limitations will be imposed on its * Paper presented to the Society on 2 5 February 1987. 149</page><page sequence="2">Stuart A. Cohen scope. Firstly, it will not present a complete historical reconstruction of the entire development of Anglo-Jewish anti-Zionism, from its inception late in the nineteenth century until its final demise which (as Judge Finestein recently demonstrated)2 did not really take place until 1967. Instead, it will limit itself to the pre-mandate years?the quarter-century from 1895 until 1920. This has the advantage of being not only a comparatively limited period, but also a particularly interesting one. For one thing, and most obviously, it witnessed the first reactions in the community to the notion of Jewish nationalism?so the arguments expressed then have something of the freshness of novelty. No less significantly, it was also a peculiarly unencumbered period. The Zionist issue was not yet complicated by some of the extraneous issues which arose during the 1930s and 1940s, and especially those of Britain's imperial interests in the mandate and the degree to which the government was, or was not, fulfilling the terms of the Balfour Declaration. During the earlier formative period, the central question could be approached?at the theoretical level?very much on its own merits, and almost entirely on the basis of its Jewish purposes and implications. The second limitation imposed here relates to the particular brand of anti-Zionism to which this paper shall address itself. It will not attempt a comprehensive discussion of left-wing Jewish anti-Zionism of the type expressed most colourfully by Rudolf Rocker's anarchist circle and articulated in their newspaper Der Arbayter Fraynt. Neither will it analyse in any depth the very different reservations about Herzl's programme to be found in the writings of Orthodox rabbis in Britain, some of whom formed an organization they called the Agudas ha-rabbonim ha-haredim be-angliah, founded in Manchester by Yisrael Chaim Daiches in 1902. Certainly, both of these groups do merit much more attention than they are conventionally accorded (although the first, Rocker's group, has been sympathetically?even lovingly?described in Bill Fishman's work).3 But they are obviously singular in breed and, during the period here analysed, neither group really felt in any way an integral part of the Anglo-Jewish community. Almost entirely composed of recent immigrants from Eastern Europe, their perceptions of the Zionist movement were rooted in attitudes which they had transported with them from their countries of origin. Moreover, they usually (and in the case of the Orthodox rabbis, invariably) looked back over their shoulders to hear the opinions expressed on this subject?more clearly as the period progressed?in those homelands by such parent associations as the Bund or the Agudat Yisrael. This did not make them any less explicit in their reservations about Zionism, but it did somehow detach their views from the local circumstances of the Anglo-Jewish community in which (often accidentally and temporarily) they found themselves. This is particularly so in the case of the left-wing and socialist groups. These were, on certain levels, neither Anglo nor Jewish. Throughout the period here reviewed, conventional radical opinion considered the British system of 150</page><page sequence="3">First World War Anglo-Jewish opposition to Zionism government to be an anathema and the established Jewish community quite worthless. As for Zionism, the movement was plainly 'engineered by the capitalists in order to draw off the attention of Jews from the general social question'. They wanted no part of it.4 Immigrant Orthodoxy could not be so easily dismissive. Accordingly, it will be necessary to refer?especially towards the end of this paper?to some of the views on Zionism expressed by their rabbinical spokesmen and leaders. Our references, however, will hardly be comprehensive, but will illustrate the extent to which some of the views expressed by immigrant Orthodoxy seem to have filtered into the native community, by which they were thereafter distilled and transmitted to wider publics. This approach, it seems to me, is necessitated by the subject. I would suggest that, if we seek to analyse and interpret anti-Zionism in a specifically Anglo-Jewish context?in other words to relate the movement to a distinct community within world Jewry, with its own cultural tradition?we have primarily to concentrate attention on those circles which most categorically felt themselves to be part of that community. Accordingly, we should look to the views of those men and women who felt themselves to be members of this distinct unit within world Jewry, with its own cultural tradition, and to examine what was said by those members of that community who felt themselves to be most at home in the British Isles, men such as Claude Montefiore, Israel Abrahams, Hermann Adler, Lucien Wolf, Simeon Singer, Laurie Magnus, Oswald J. Simon?in fact most of the members of the Maccabeans, the Association of Jewish Literary Societies, the Jewish Historical Society of England?and hence the community's intellectual elite. These persons spoke?and wrote?primarily in English and for an English-speaking audience. Moreover, they specifically and explicitly related what they had to say about Zionism to the fact that they were themselves living in a particularly tolerant society where anti-Semitism (although undoubtedly present) was very far from being either a cultural or social norm.5 Any deliberate focus on that group necessarily generates serious methodo? logical problems. For one thing, there is the difficulty of definition, for this group defies several of the conventional categorizations. Many were members of Anglo-Jewry's wealthy plutocracy?but this was certainly not uniformly the case. Many were members of Reform and Liberal congregations?but some (notably Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler and Sir Samuel Montagu?the first president of the Federation of Synagogues) were staunchly Orthodox. And so on. What seems to have distinguished them was not their class, status or even religious outlook, but the more complicated factor of cultural orientation. To what extent did they feel themselves to be acculturated, to be British as well as Jewish? Were they heirs to a specifically Western tradition of liberalism, as well as to the Jewish tradition of covenantal monotheism? This seems to have been, 151</page><page sequence="4">Stuart A. Cohen for them, the true compass of their thoughts and actions. And when they took their bearings by that compass, many found themselves in opposition to the very notion of a concerted Jewish drive for independent statehood. Like the Zionists, these anti-Zionists participated fully in the struggle for communal power. Indeed, it was because the anti-Zionists took up the communal gauntlet which the Zionists threw down that there was any struggle at all. Again like the Zionists, those of the anti-Zionists who belonged to the acculturated section of native Anglo-Jewry clearly represented definable interests in the community. No purpose can be served by denying that?by and large?they were set apart from the Zionists by their social backgrounds, their professional occupations and their communal status. But the question which has to be confronted is whether these were the only determinants of their anti-Zionist position. That certainly was, and is, the standard Zionist position, clearly enunciated as early as Sokolow's History of Zionism, and something like official party doctrine since the publication of Weizmann's Trial and Error. The objections made to the Balfour Declaration, he argued, expressed no more than the selfish reactions of a plutocratic clique 'who', as he put it in both 1917 and 1949, 'by education and social connection have lost touch with the real spirit activating the Jewish people as a whole'.6 Gaster, who was altogether a crustier character, put the same view somewhat differently. 'If, he wrote to Stephen Wise in America as early as 1897, 'the great names of so-called English Jews (forsooth) are opposed to Zionism this is not because they are against the principle but because they imagine nothing can be done, and for that matter ought to be done, which has not first obtained their sanction. The weapons which are used are therefore not of argument, they cannot offer any real argument, but the usual ones here I am sorry to say, of open or covert intimidation, slander and denunciation.'7 Consideration suggests that that judgement was too harsh. Anglo-Jewish anti-Zionists acted in the light of their thoughts as well as of their social and political preferences. The erudition, consistency and quality of their statements suggest that their arguments were often deeply considered and honestly felt, and that it would be far too simplistic to describe them as a form of rhetoric hurriedly conceived in an effort to cover their embarrassment at the tide of events in 1917. Admittedly, this is the impression gained by focusing on such documents as Edwin Montagu's rebarbative memoranda to the Cabinet (recently reproduced, with admirable notes, by Vivian Lipman in Michael).8 That evidence cannot be ignored; but when it is supplemented by other items it can be discerned that the campaign against political Zionism waged in that year was neither novel nor shallow. It had a pedigree which was both long and, in intellectual terms, distinguished. If the intensity of the Anglo-Jewish anti-Zionist case is to be understood, it is important to see the unimportance of one potentially disturbing red herring. By 152</page><page sequence="5">First World War Anglo-Jewish opposition to Zionism and large, the men with whom we are here concerned questioned neither the emotional force of Jewry's traditional attachment to the Holy Land, nor its special status in Jewish religious feelings. On the contrary, before the advent of Herzl, many had been members of the Hovevei Zion Association to which Chief Rabbi Adler had lent his support (particularly after his own pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1885) and whose principles Montefiore described as 'sublime' as late as 1917.9 They parted ways with the Herzlites in their relation to the idea that the Jewish people?as a single polity?might make a concerted effort to effect the connection between soil and community by political means. What is more, their arguments on this point were not limited to quibbles over the feasibility of such a scheme. It is true that they did sometimes query the practical absorptive capacity of Eretz Yisrael; they also raised doubts whether it would ever be possible to establish a viable working relationship in that country between religious authority and civil democracy. These arguments figure prominently, for instance, in the replies to the questionnaire which the Government addressed to several prominent Jews immediately before the publication of the Balfour Declaration and in several analogous statements.10 Essentially, however, the points raised constituted no more than subsidiary elements in the main debate. The principal aim of the anti-Zionists?whatever their specific religious hue?was to challenge the more fundamental tenets of the nationalist ideology. The manner in which they did so belies the contention that the anti-Zionists might uniformly be branded as 'assimilationists'. That charge might have applied to some left-wing circles, but certainly not to Orthodoxy. In fact, it would be better directed against the Zionists, who, as no less a figure than Ahad Ha'am pointed out, appeared to revive the ancient call that the Jews become a nation like all others. Avowedly 'religious' Zionists apart, most members of the movement could be accused of neglecting to provide for the specifically Jewish character of their future homeland. As Israel Abrahams pointed out, 'this "modern nationalism" is the most extraordinary instance of assimilation which the Jews have ever experienced'.11 A significant degree of individual assimilation was common in anti-Zionist circles. Abrahams, for example, undoubtedly strove for a high degree of acculturalization; the literature, language and mores of England were indelibly imprinted on his character. But neither he nor his colleagues ever denied their Jewish identity or consciously advocated the abandonment of their Jewish distinctiveness. Their labours on behalf of specifically Jewish cultural and philanthropic causes, as much as their social habits and intellectual interests, indicate that the preservation of both Judaism and the Jews was one of their prime concerns. They insistently, proudly and not altogether incorrectly contended that they were probably more attracted to the traditional religious customs 'on historical, ethical and spiritual grounds' than were many Zionist 153</page><page sequence="6">Stuart A. Cohen leaders; consequently, they argued, they were 'quite as good Jews... and have as excellent a title to be so regarded'.12 The essential distinction, they argued, was between 'good' and 'bad' assimilation. Within the latter category came mixed marriages, the transfer of the Sabbath to Sunday, the reduction of Hebrew studies to the curious dissection of a fossil?in fact, all the drastic steps which might have sacrificed Jewish distinctiveness and turned Judaism into 'a pale reflection of Christianity'. 'Good' assimilation, by contrast, consisted of the process whereby Jews might absorb, without pain, coercion or compromise, the undoubtedly beneficial elements and characteristics of the cultures and societies in which they lived. It was to be hoped that the resulting contact would prove uplifting to both parties: 'We may have much to give, but something also to receive; much to teach, but something also to learn'. That, indeed, argued Claude Montefiore, had always been the Jewish attitude: 'The Babylonian Talmud [he pointed out] was not developed on Palestinian soil. It grew up in what is now glibly called an "alien environment". Within the Talmud are elements derived from many cultures. After its close we find Judaism again and again flourishing in non-Jewish countries, assimilating, to some extent at least, the good of those countries, and yet growing fuller, higher, and even more influential, just because of its wider horizon.'13 Exile, in this scheme of things, was not the unmitigated disaster of Zionist polemic. On the contrary, 'the religion became in many respects purer and freer when separated from the national soil'. The Dispersion purged the Jews of the tribal, secular 'chauvinism' which had blighted their biblical history; it also arrested the sorry record of spiritual decline and moral decay which had characterized the Hasmonean kingdom. The logic of the universalis tic beliefs taughts by the prophets had in any case unfitted Judaism to be a purely national creed; the religion itself was compelling 'the nation to be other than a nation. By its power it transformed the nation into the religious community.' The Dispersion, painful though it initially was, merely emphasized the concept of God 'as the one... Deity of the entire world'. This was its greatest benefit. If Jews cherished hopes of a Restoration, they had in mind the re-affirmation of their religious purity, not the revival of their state.14 The new Jewish National Movement, which taught otherwise, was, in Wolfs words, 'a traitor to the Jewish past which it misreads and misinterprets'. From a religious as well as an ethnographical point of view, all post-exilic attempts to revive a Jewish nationality were anachronistic. 'There is a Jewish race, there is a Jewish religion, there are Jewish customs which took their rise in a Jewish theocratic state and have consequently been all the more easily invested with an exclusively spiritual meaning. But there is no Jewish nationality. To say that it is necessary to restore the nationality in order to observe these customs is?well, it has no justification.'15 The distinction between Jewry as a nation and Jewry as a religious 154</page><page sequence="7">First World War Anglo-Jewish opposition to Zionism community was not, of course, peculiar to Anglo-Jewish thought. The same argument, in outline, was expressed in other communities of the time (notably in Central Europe) and drew on a tradition which can be traced back (at the very least) to the German reform movement of the 1830s and 1840s. But two points are worth bearing in mind. The first is the cogency and persistence with which it was made in Anglo-Jewry with reference to HerzPs thesis. Indeed, Claude Montefiore devoted an entire lecture (entitled 'Nation or Religious Community?') to this subject, which was printed in both the Jewish Quarterly Review and the Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England (the two most prestigious communal journals) in 1900 and 1904. The second is that this line of attack was specifically applied to the status of the community as it had developed during and after the struggle for the political emancipation of British Jewry during the 1830s and 1840s. Fortuitously, Anglo-Jewry celebrated in 1908 the jubilee of the passing, in 1858, of the Act for the Removal of Jewish Disabilities. Here was a splendid opportunity for communal stock-taking; here too was a convenient yardstick for measuring the entire concept of emancipation against that of Zionism. In this instance too the Zionists seem to have been curiously blinkered. Their spokesmen participated in the celebratory jamboree, but they generally devoted themselves to a demonstration that Zionism and British patriotism could be compatible, and that there would therefore be nothing to fear from a charge of dual loyalty.16 But that was really to set up a straw man, since the anti-Zionists (in their presentations) did not really press the case that their loyalty to England might be called into question. What interested them more was whether Zionism as a notion did not undermine the principles on which emancipation had originally been won. When they re-read the parliamentary and pamphlet debates of the 1840s, the anti-Zionists felt that they could discern an explicit promise and an implicit contract. The explicit promise, on the part of the Government, was that Jews would be granted across-the-board equality before the law. On the Jewish side, it consisted of a statement that the bonds which united Jews were not those of race or nationality, but of religion. It was from these two positions that the implicit contract seemed to follow, and both sides were expected to implement it, honourably and unreservedly.17 Professor Isaiah Friedman has suggested that this 'contract' theory displayed an 'inept understanding of the British mind', because it dealt in abstracts largely foreign to the British political tradition, which was generally free of the racial demographic considerations which the contract theory seemed to call into play.18 There is, however, an alternative viewpoint. In arguing that political Zionism, by positing the existence of a separate Jewish nationality, was undermining the entire fabric of assumptions on which emancipation had originally been won, the anti-Zionists were in fact referring to two very basic and traditional British values: honesty and fair play. That is why they could 155</page><page sequence="8">Stuart A. Cohen claim that Zionism was damaging to the self-respect of the Jew in Britain, and threatened to wean him away?morally, as much as anything else?from the honourable mode of thought which had (in this version of history) won the community so many political and social rewards. Edwin Montagu's manner of phrasing this particular point may have been coarse?as was so often the case when he approached matters affecting Zionism?but the substance of his argument was not new. As several anti-Zionists had often pointed out before 1917, precisely the same argument had been authoritatively expressed by Hermann Adler, in his famous article on the status of Anglo-Jewry, written as long ago as 1878. Besides, in gaining emancipation, the Jews of England had not merely benefited themselves. They had also, it was claimed, helped the Gentile world to demonstrate the possibility of its own enlightenment. Here lay another reason for this school's opposition to the Nationalism of their opponents. Zionists, by maintaining that anti-Semitism would persist for as long as the Jews continued to live in the lands of their dispersion, were in fact exacerbating the very 'question' to which they claimed to have found a solution. Whether or not anti-Semitic movements and governments would make use of the ammunition thus conveniently placed at their disposal was, of course, an important question. (Indeed, what was to prevent Hilaire Belloc or G.K. Chesterton from exploiting the Zionist thesis and using it as a pretext for helping native British Jews, too, to leave their existing homes?) But crude arguments of this sort were, again, not the only consideration. In the anti-Zionist mind they were largely superseded by the fear of the effect which Herzl's doctrines would have on the continuing battle between the forces of progress and reaction within the Gentile world. At this level, argued the anti-Zionists, 'The struggle for Emancipation was not one between Jew and Gentile; it was between right and wrong, between liberty and persecution, for the position which a Jew occupied in any country was the touchstone of its moral conception and political elevation.'19 Under these circumstances Jews had a duty to perform, not merely to themselves but to the entire fabric of the culture in which they were fortunate enough to have found a haven. Zionism, however, according to this reading of history?and the appeal to the bar of history was a recurring motif?seemed to shirk this duty by placing its adherents in a curious and essentially unethical harness with reactionary movements and ideas. That was the argument forcefully put forward by Lucien Wolf, the doyen of Anglo-Jewry's communal intercessionaries and one of its most respected historians. He wrote the articles on both 'Anti-Semitism' and 'Zionism' for the classic eleventh edition of the Encyclo? paedia Britannica (1911), and in both of them he made the same case. 'The characteristic peril of Zionism is that it is the natural and abiding ally of anti-Semitism and its most powerful justification. It is an attempt to turn back the course of modern Jewish history, which hitherto, on its political side, had 156</page><page sequence="9">First World War Anglo-Jewish opposition to Zionism had for its main objective to secure for the Jewish people an equal place with their fellow citizens of other creeds in the countries in which they dwell, and a common lot with them in the main stream of human progress.' Proclamations of national separatism, therefore, had to be condemned. By retreating physically and ideologically to some rarified refuge on the periphery of contemporary history, the Jews would betray the forces of decency and thus do considerable harm to Western civilization as a whole. 'What we have to do is to buckle on our armour and fight the good fight, not to turn tail and run away.'20 The optimism with which the anti-Zionists thus prepared to do battle with the forces of anti-Semitism was one of their most outstanding characteristics. Not surprisingly, therefore, the contrasting pessimism of the Zionists formed a constant and dominant theme of this branch of polemic. 'We... still refuse to become, as Herzl told me that he became, Nationalists through despair', wrote Claude Montefiore. 'It is, I admit, easy for an English Jew who lives in comfort, liberty and toleration... to put forward the specious plea that he does not think so basely of human nature... I admit that; I feel that. And yet I must combat this doctrine of despair... I still believe that what has happened in England can happen even in Poland.' The events of 1917?not the Balfour Declaration but the March Revolution in Petrograd?seemed to confirm this opinion. 'In Russia the chains have been removed... the "Jewish problem" in Russia has been solved, as so many of us longed and prayed that it would be solved, in Russia itself and by the Russians themselves. Five million of our co-religionists are emancipated at a stroke.'21 Read in the light of subsequent developments, in Russia itself as well as in Nazi Germany, optimism ofthat nature seems tragically misplaced. But here too our hindsight should not cloud our appreciation of the philosophical under? pinnings of that optimism. When acculturated Jews in Britain looked at Zionism, many of them found in it little more than a programme for the physical survival of less fortunate Jewish communities. Precisely because they felt secure in that respect, they felt that this was not enough. What also had to be secured were the moral teachings of Judaism (as they understood and interpreted them) and the liberal values of Western civilization. Redemption?the geulah on which the Zionists seemed to insist?had to be of a piece with these purposes. It could not be diluted to the mundane notion of the physical return of a small portion of the House of Israel to a corner of the Orient. That approach would so compress Judaism as to stifle it. Not unexpectedly, the doctrine of the 'universal mission' of the Jews found its fullest and most extreme expression among the Reform elements of the Anglo-Jewish community. Typical in this context was Morris Joseph's conten? tion that 'Israel's mission, like his election, is purely religious. His is no worldly vocation; he has been called not for empire... but to distribute the spiritual riches that have been entrusted to him... Isolation... even though it be 157</page><page sequence="10">Stuart A. Cohen isolation in Palestine, and accompanied by national independence, would mean failure for Israel's mission.'22 Traditional and Orthodox Jews had a more ambivalent attitude?principally because of their deeper response to the religious motifs appealed to by Zionism's invocation of Jewry's ancient symbols and language, and specifically because of their recognition of the importance of the divine precept of settlement in Eretz Yisrael. Nevertheless these sentiments did not place Orthodox Jewry in Britain (or anywhere else) firmly in the nationalist camp. Indeed, the question whether Zionism constituted a fulfilment of Jewish history or a rebellion against it disturbed and divided this section of the community even more than the Reform. Not until the foundation of a united and forceful Mizrachi Federation in England (in 1918) could the Zionists honestly claim to have won the support of more than a minority (albeit a vocal and illustrious minority) of the country's rabbinate and Orthodox clergy. Before that date the weight of opinion in this quarter was, at best, cautious. The forthright Zionism of the Sephardi Haham, Rabbi Dr Moses Gaster, was balanced by the equally vociferous reservations of the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi, Dr Hermann Adler. Rabbi Dr Joseph Hertz, who succeeded to the latter's position in 1913?although a crucially favourable respondent to the Government's questionnaire in 1917?had previously been cautiously reticent respecting the Zionist movement's aims and merits.23 No less marked, or important, was the division of opinion among the immigrant rabbis, who served the vast mass of the synagogue-attending public in Britain. Twice during the period under review (in 1902 and 1911) promi? nent members of this group met in provincial conferences called to discuss questions of public and common interest. On both occasions, so controversial had been the sentiments expressed for and against Zionism and the Zionists (particularly in the closed sessions), that the whole issue had had to be dropped.24 It is tempting to attribute Orthodox reservations about political Zionism entirely to the unwillingness of this section of the community to cooperate with the confessedly irreligious leaders of the Zionist movement. After all, the vast majority of the members of the Actions Committee did boast of their assimilated behaviour and secular beliefs, which necessarily raised serious doubts in the minds of the strictly Orthodox. Entanglement of any kind with men of that sort was always to remain an anathema to such influential personalities as Yisrael Daiches in Leeds, and Hayyim Maccoby (the Kamenitzer maggid) in London. Jewish public affairs, in their view, had to remain the exclusive purview of responsible individuals, who were best judged by the traditional standards of piety and observance. This was a point of view broadly shared (even after 1918) by Rabbi Dr Victor Schonfeld, and hardly challenged by even such committed religious Zionists as Rabbis Werner (London), Rabbinowitz (Liverpool), and Herzog (Belfast). Very few of the immigrant rabbis were prepared to go as far as 158</page><page sequence="11">First World War Anglo-Jewish opposition to Zionism J.M. Wigoder (Dublin), who favourably compared the Zionists with the most faithful Israelites at the time of the Exodus from Egypt.25 Yet here too the arguments against political Zionism?if they are to be properly understood?must be placed in their proper intellectual and ideological context. Orthodox resistance to the movement (opposition, in this case, is probably incorrect) owed as much to a clash of philosophies as to factors of behaviour. At issue once again was the relationship between nationality and religion in Judaism. On the premise that the Jews, unlike any other people, constituted an essentially religious nation, the Orthodox looked forward to the re-establishment of the Jewish State in particular conditions and by particular forces. Even while continuously praying for the Return to Zion, they were mindful of the Talmudic injunction against attempting to accelerate that process by improper means.26 They could not therefore dismiss the Exile as an unfortunate hiatus in national life, which the Jews had themselves to curtail as quickly as possible. Jewish history was replete with a long series of pseudo messianic movements, whose attempts to forestall the Divine will by human action had all resulted in physical and spiritual catastrophe. Those experiences had underscored the message that Return and Salvation were inextricable. Redemption would come only when the Jews had been cleansed of their sins. Until that day, they had lovingly to accept their sentence, whatever the personal cost. By providing the world with examples of pious and righteous behaviour, they would sanctify the Divine name and prove truly worthy of their designation as a 'light to the nations'.27 Notwithstanding the basic differences between this Orthodox concept of the Jewish mission and that preached in Reform circles, the similarities between them proved sufficiently broad to determine their common response to political Zionism. Indeed, the extent to which this issue yoked together otherwise disparate religious elements was one of the most outstanding features of early-twentieth-century Anglo-Jewry. In theme their arguments often displayed considerable similarities, and distinctly recognizable parallels can be discerned in the treatment which both Reform ministers and traditional Orthodox rabbis accorded to particular episodes of Jewish history?a quarry liberally worked for homiletic purposes by both sections. In this context Rabbi Jochanan ben Zakkai's reaction to the imminent fall of Jerusalem (in the first century CE) appeared to present an obviously relevant precedent. Spokesmen for Reform Judaism in Britain had no doubt of the moral to be drawn from the ancient sage's disagreement with the nationalist Zealots, his flight from the besieged city of Jerusalem, and his request that the Roman government grant Judaism a seat of learning in Yavneh (rather than the release of the national capital). In so doing, they argued, ben Zakkai had 'made Judaism independent of the local Zion', and indicated that Israel's strength lay 'not in the attainment of national grandeur, not even in the restoration of the national existence, but the guarding 159</page><page sequence="12">Stuart A. Cohen and dissemination of religious truth'. The anti-Zionist inference was obvious. Tf Judaism is to live and flourish in these latter days of doubt and difficulty, it must continue to build itself upon the imperishable foundations of religious instruction' rather than the momentary glory of national statehood.28 These sentiments appear to have been shared by several immigrant Orthodox rabbis?albeit in a somewhat guarded, less explicit and perhaps more recondite fashion. Thus, in the course of an intricate discourse (devoted to the theme of national regeneration), Yisrael Daiches forcibly contrasted ben Zakkai's preser? vation of the true 'spirit' of Judaism with his disregard of the less consequential 'material' welfare of the land. Rabbi Jung referred to the same thought during his induction sermon as Chief Rabbi of the Federation of Synagogues. Hyman, in his more systematic and less polemic treatment of the personality, also hinted at the benefits ultimately bestowed on Israel's religion by the destruction of the 'bricks and mortar' of Jerusalem. It was his text which W. Javitz followed when stating: 'In the opinion of our venerable Rabbi, the Jewish State was like every other, transitory. The Jewish People, however, was not to perish with its existence as a State or Polity. Israel was to be preserved alive; and more so, with a life even fuller and more important than ever... Israel still remains, though robbed of its State and political existence, and scattered over the whole surface of the globe.'29 This case must not, of course, be overstated. Several barriers?sociological as well as intellectual?prevented a full meeting of the minds of the Eastern and Western sections of the community. Nevertheless, there was some basis of truth in the anti-Zionist protestations that the views expressed to the government in 1917?although invariably articulated by men of the Reform and Liberal sectors of the community?did also represent the opinions of at least some of their Orthodox 'allies'. Both camps did, at the very least, seem to be asking similar questions about Zionism. To some extent, they had always done so. It is interesting to note that in an otherwise scathing criticism of Michael Friedlander's The Jewish Religion, published in 1892, Claude Montefiore specifically praised one argument: 'The hope with which our religion inspires us can never lead us to intrigues, political combinations, insurrection, or warfare for the purpose of reconquering Palestine and appointing a Jewish govern? ment. .. Even if a band of adventurers were to succeed in reconquering Palestine for the Jews by means of arms, or re-acquiring the Holy Land by purchasing it from the present owners, we should not see in such an event the consummation of our hopes.'30 The emphasis, it is here suggested, might not improperly be placed on the word 'hopes'. The Zionists and their opponents were separated by a gulf clearly demarcated by a different range of aspirations. It was because they felt the Balfour Declaration to articulate only one interpretation of Jewish eschato logical thought?and the wrong one at that?that English anti-Zionists were 160</page><page sequence="13">First World War Anglo-Jewish opposition to Zionism moved to table their objections as strongly as they did. Despite the differences within the anti-Zionist camp, the common (and prevailing) tone was one of disappointment. To some of them, political Zionism seemed pedestrian in its lack of vision and mundane in its concerns. To many others, the movement appeared to indulge secular nationalism, the most unwarranted of all public emotions. Whichever the case, they seem to have felt an intellectual?as well as a material?need to oppose the scheme. It would appear invalid to ignore the fact that they attempted to justify their case with an array of ethical and historical arguments, which they borrowed from a variety of sources. It indicates that reflection and intellectual choice?however much combined with instinct and social irritation?provided the spurs to their action. NOTES 1 On Zangwill and his stormy relationship with 'official' Zionism in Anglo-Jewry, see S.A. Cohen, English Zionists and British Jews; The Communal Politics of Anglo-Jewry, i#95-1920 (Princeton 1982) 87-104. 2 I. Finestein, 'Israel's Status and Influence on Anglo-Jewry', Shazar Library, Series 13, Vol. 6 (Jerusalem 1984). 3 W.J. Fishman, East End Jewish Radicals, 1875-1914 (London 1975). 4 e.g. Arbayter Fraynt, 31 July 1903, p. 6 and Herbert Burrows (president of the United General Workers Union), reported in Jewish Chronicle, 27 November 1903, p. 6. 5 C. Holmes, Anti-Semitism in British Society, 1876-1939 (London 1979). 6 See e.g. Weizmann's letters to Balfour (2 October 1917), to P. Kerr (7 October 1917) and to Sir M. Hankey (15 October 1917), in his Letters and Papers 7, ed. L. Stein (London 1975) 521-2, 526-8, 533-4. The charges are repeated in Trial and Error (London 1949) 252-62 and N. Sokolow, A History of Zionism, 1600-1918 (London 1919) 194. 7 17 September 1987, Gaster Papers, Mocatta Library, London. 8 V.D. Lipman, 'Anglo-Jewish Leaders and the Balfour Declaration', Michael (Tel Aviv 1986)158-70. 9 CG. Montefiore, 'The Dangers of Zionism', Papers for Jewish People, No. 20 (Lon? don 1918) 2. 10 Lipman (seen. 8) 170-80. 11 'Palestine and Jewish Nationality', Hib? ben JournalXVl (April 1918) 457. 12 2 December 1899, Abrahams to Zang? will, Zangwill Papers, Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, Ai2o/63(a) and 18 February 1903, Montefiore to Zangwill, ibid. Ai20/79. 13 Montefiore, 'Assimilation: Good and Bad', Papers for Jewish People IX (London 1909) 16. 14 CG. Montefiore, The Bible for Home Reading I (London 1896) 106; II, 740. 15 28 September 1903, letter to Zangwill, Zangwill Papers, A120/53. 16 Samuel Daiches, Zionism and Patriotism (London 1904); H. Sachar, Zionism and the State (London 1915). 17 B.L. Abrahams, 'Sir I.L. Goldsmid and the Admission of the Jews of England to Parlia? ment', Trans JHSE IV (1904) 129 and Israel Abrahams' letter, quoted in 'Report of the Commemorative Dinner of the Jubilee of Politi? cal Emancipation', Trans JHSE VI (1912) 93. For a later Zionist reply, see H. Sachar, Jewish Emancipation: The Contract Myth (London 1917). 18 'Dissensions over lewish Identity in West European Jewry' in The Role of Religion in Modern Jewish History, ed. J. Katz (Cambridge, Mass. 1975) 137. 19 I. Abrahams, 'Nationalism and Emanci? pation in England', Jewish Opinion (August 1919)5-6. 20 See also L. Wolf, 'The Zionist Peril', Jewish Quarterly Review XVII (October 1904) 12-13, and 2 7 May 1903 Wolf to Zangwill, Zangwill Papers, A120/58. 21 CG. Montefiore, 'Liberal Judaism and Jewish Nationalism', Papers for Jewish People XVI (1917) 16-17. See also Laurie Magnus, Old Lamps for New (London 1918)8. 22 M. Joseph, Judaism As Creed and Life i6i</page><page sequence="14">Stuart A. Cohen (London 1902) 170-1. 23 In his first interview with an immigrant newspaper, Hertz had pointedly omitted all mention of Zionism, Idischer Ekspres, 14 August 1912, p. 1. See also the comments in Die Tsayt, 6 October 1916, p. 3 and in 5 July 1917, A.L. Weis (Acting Secretary of the English Zionist Federation) to Sokolow, in Files of the Central Zionist Office, London (Central Zionist Archives), Z4/674. 24 See Beit Va'ad la-Hakhamim II (February 1903) 3~5, and HayehoodU 16, 23, 31 March and 6 April 1911. 25 M. Wigoder, Sefer Bet Yehudah VI Qerusa lem 1910) 24-31. Compare Rabbi Yisrael Daiches in Beit Va'ad II (May 1903) 7-11, Rabbi Abba Werner's statement to the JC, 8 June 1911, p. 20 and Rabbi Jung's in idem 22 June 1917, P-25 26 See, especially, Babylonian Talmud, trac? tate Ketubot, folio ma. The source was ex? plicitly cited by H. Adler, sermon, JC, 15 October 1897; by Yoel Herzog, Gilyonei Yoel (Vilna 1913)144. 27 See e.g. Y. Daiches, Derashot Maharyah (Leeds 1920) nos 11 and 35. 28 Joseph, (seen. 22) 197-8. 29 Daiches, Derashot, no. 19; A. Hyman, Sefer Toldot ha'Tana'im ve-ha-Amora'im II (Lon? don 1901-11) 672-81; Jung in JC, 21 June 1912, p. 26; and W. Javitz, 'Rabbi Jochanan ben Zaccai', The Sinaist I (February 1917) 11-14. 30 M. Friedlander, The Jewish Religion (Lon? don 1891) 161-2, and Montefiore, 'Dr. Fried lander on Jewish Religion', JQRIV (1892) 226. 162</page></plain_text>