The genesis of Zionism



A Brief History of Anti-Semitism to the Origin of Zionism

Edmund Burke had sarcastically commented on the illusion of the French revolutionaries of 1789 to end the “Jewish problem” by granting these political rights and legal equality, saying that the Jews remained united among themselves by chains “invisible as air, but heavier than than those of the church of Nôtre Dame”. The same could have been said about anti-Semitism.

In the second half of the XNUMXth century, the redoubled political and social conservatism of the European bourgeoisie and its imperialist expansion replaced this issue, but on a new, supposedly scientific basis, based on the classification of races carried out by “experts”. This responded to political needs. At the end of the XNUMXth century, racial anti-Semitism, “scientific” and not religious, appeared in Europe with the work of Count Arthur de Gobineau, who divided the human races into three main branches (white, yellow and black).

In Germany, the Social Christian Labor Party was founded, led by the Protestant pastor Adolf Stoecker, in an anti-Semitic and anti-socialist ideological key. An “International Anti-Jewish Congress” was held in 1882 in Dresden, Germany, with three thousand delegates from Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia; During the discussions, Stoecker was defeated by the “radicals”, who met a year later in Chemnitz and founded the Alliance Antijuive Universelle.[I]

This was not a return to old anti-Semitic forms, but modern forms of racist reaction. In the midst of the “democratic republic”, the past returned, modernized, announcing a “scientific” racist wave (anticipated by the “racial superiority” theories of Gobineau, an “anthropologist” who proclaimed the superiority of the Aryan-Germanic race and the inferiority of black and Jews, among other “inferior races”) and, above all, politics.

At the same time, traditional anti-Semitism increased violently in Eastern Europe and Tsarist Russia, where the largest Jewish population on the planet lived. The Jewish settlement zone in Russia, the pale, had already been created. In 1882, new settlements and the granting of mortgages were prohibited for Jews, the acquisition by Jews of shares in publicly traded companies was restricted and Jews were prohibited from trading on Sundays. In 1891, twenty thousand Jews were expelled from Moscow; the following year, they lost the right to vote in municipal elections (zemstvos). Anti-Semitism had its roots in historical Christian hostility towards the Jews, which became an official policy of segregation and persecution with the Christianization of the Roman Empire and continued through the Christian kingdoms of the Middle Ages.

The democratic revolutions of the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries proclaimed, to a greater or lesser extent, the emancipation of Jews in Europe, the abolition of segregationist policies and spaces (ghettos) and the political and professional exclusion of Jews. But these revolutions barely touched Russia and Eastern Europe, “which had incorporated huge Jewish communities, with the very un-Jewish characteristic of their impoverishment in technical skills, in independent enterprises, in professional capacity, in solid communal organizations, all normal things in society. organized Jewish life. They existed in the communities of Eastern Europe at a time when the majority of the population were subjects of the kings of Poland, but a century of Tsarist oppression, the anti-Semitism of the Orthodox Church, and the ignorant hostility of the Russian bureaucracy combined to undermine their vitality and destroy their economic and community autonomy. All they were left with was respect for themselves. The Jews who fled to the West, achieving a free life in the United States and Western democracies, demonstrated, as did their children, that basic Jewish qualities remained intact.”[ii]

These Western and Westernized Jews were not the social basis of Zionism, born at the end of the XNUMXth century postulating the need for a Jewish territorial state; Zionism found its base among the unemancipated Jews of Eastern Europe and, above all, of Tsarist Russia: “In the countries of Eastern Europe the message of Judenstaat it had – in Galizia, in Romania, in Tsarist Russia – the effect of a burning torch thrown into a haystack. Few had a copy [of The Jewish State by Theodor Herz], but his fame spread quickly by word of mouth and, precisely because there was so much talk about an unknown text, the idea that something great and wonderful was happening took root. David Ben-Gurion [future head of state in Israel] was ten years old when The Jewish state was published in Vienna and lived in the small shetl from Plonk [in Poland]. Much later he recalled that the idea had spread that 'the Messiah had arrived, a tall and handsome man, very learned, no less than a doctor, Theodor Herzl'”. “In the XNUMXth century, there were many assimilated European Jews who claimed their Sephardic origin. The Romantic poets – especially Byron and Heine – had painted the proud Jews of medieval Spain with an air of splendid nobility. In the period in which the rich emancipated [Jews] did everything to dissociate themselves from their poor and marginalized co-religionists in Poland and Russia, the Sephardic origin proved conclusively that they had nothing in common with the primitive and uneducated. ostjuden of the eastern Israelite communities”.[iii]

It was the “backward” Eastern Jews who provided the social basis of the Zionist project; its founder was surprised, as he thought his proposal would find more resonance among educated Western Jews, who paid little attention to it.

The first group of Russian Jewish socialists emerged in Vilna at the former rabbinical school, which in 1873 became the Teachers' Institute. Important activists for the Narodnaya Volia, such as Aron Zundelevitch and Vladimir Jochelson, counting among its leaders Aaron Liberman. Russian Jewish intellectuals, in the 1870s and 1880s, played a leading role in the populist movement. Initially, these revolutionaries dedicated themselves to an activity aimed at the oppressed Russian population without any reference to the specific condition of the Jewish masses.

The most important was Marc Nathanson, one of the founders of Zemlia i Volia. In a subsequent generation, Russia's Jewish intelligentsia largely incorporated itself into social democracy. The first Jewish socialist organizations sought to synthesize the general principles of socialism with the particular needs of the Jewish people. Internationalist socialists, including Jews, advocated the assimilation of Jews, as national differences would disappear in the class struggle and in socialist society. Its antecedents were Jews who, in the mid-XNUMXth century, questioned traditional values, becoming interested in Western constitutionalist ideas and sympathizing with the “Decembrist” movement.

Some of the introducers of Marxism in Russia were Jews, such as Pavel Axelrod. In Germany, Moses Hess, a communist linked to Marx and Engels (who had considered him his master) wrote Rome and Jerusalem, advocating, given the renewal of European anti-Semitism, the return of the Jewish people to Palestine. In 1882, Leo Pinsker, a Jewish socialist linked to populism, faced with the extent and brutality of the pogroms in the Russian Empire, he began to defend the creation of a State with its own territory for Jews in Russia.

This troubled context saw the birth of Zionism as Jewish nationalism. It was defined as a Jewish “national revitalization” movement, and was soon associated, by most of its leaders and theorists, with the colonization of Palestine. Zionism derives from Zion, one of the names of Jerusalem in the Bible. According to theorists of the “new Zionism”, Palestine had been occupied by “strangers”. The main formulator and promoter of Zionism was Theodor Herzl, a lawyer born in Budapest (located in the Austro-Hungarian Empire; Herzl was Austrian) who, in his youth, even asked the Roman Pope to help the Jews of Europe to collectively convert to Zionism. Catholicism.

Theodor Herzl gained notoriety when he began publishing articles in the German press at the end of the 1880s and, thanks to this, he received an invitation to become a correspondent for the newspaper Neue Brake Presse in Paris, where he covered the trial and conviction of Jewish officer Alfred Dreyfus. In 1894, Herzl went to cover the case and was impressed by the revival of anti-Semitism in France, with street demonstrations in Paris in which many chanted “Death to the Jews”.

In French Algeria there were lootings of Jewish and pogroms in Boufarik, Mostaganem, Blida, Médéa, Bab el-Oued, with rapes, deaths and injuries (the socialist leader Jean Jaurès even wrote that in these riots an “anti-capitalist spirit” was expressed in a distorted form…). A review of the Dreyfus case in 1906 showed that Charles-Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy, another major in the French army, had been the real spy for the Germans. From the observation , of the survival and revival of anti-Semitism, Theodor Herzl concluded that cultural assimilation into the nations they inhabited would not be able to free Jews from discrimination.

Jewish political emancipation, in fact, had always been subordinated to the needs of the capitalist economy: “Legal emancipation was preceded in Western Europe by a long period of collective forms of agreement, understanding, collaboration, rapprochement and even symbiosis; of complementation between Jews and non-Jews, although this complementation was punctuated by antagonisms, especially of an economic nature. This created spheres of common interest between Jewish and non-Jewish elites, and produced movements in Jewish communities capable of actively participating in the struggle for emancipation and 'national' integration. Emancipation was followed by more complete social and professional integration than elsewhere, because it became easier for Jews to participate in the political modernization of States, identifying them with the values ​​and objectives of national States... The distribution of markets between local bourgeoisie and the Jews took place within the framework of their rapid expansion. It even happened that Jews were invited to settle in some country to have available capital. That’s what happened in Denmark.”[iv]

Based on reflections made following the “Dreyfus case”, Theodor Herzl wrote and published, in 1895, Der Judenstaat – Versuch Einer Modernen Lösung der Judenfrage (“The Jewish State – A Modern Solution to the Jewish Question”) where he advocated the need to rebuild the national sovereignty of the Jews in their own State, describing, in a romanticized way, his views on how to make the construction of a future nation possible Jewish, discussing immigration, purchase of land, buildings, laws and language.

To bring together the diverse tendencies of European Jewry, Theodor Herzl organized the First World Zionist Congress, which was to be held in Munich, Germany. However, religious leaders in the local Jewish community opposed the initiative, fearing excessive exposure and possible anti-Semitic retaliation. Thus, the event ended up taking place in the Swiss city of Basel, in August 1897. The event brought together around two hundred delegates; its main results were the formulation of the Zionist platform, known as the “Basel Program”, and the founding of the World Zionist Organization, under the presidency of Theodor Herzl.

The First World Zionist Congress set the goal of “a legally guaranteed Jewish homeland in Palestine.” During the meeting, it was discussed where the Jewish State should be installed, with the congressmen dividing between Palestine or some uninhabited territory that could be ceded to the Zionists, such as the island of Cyprus, Argentine Patagonia and even some of the European colonies in Africa, like Congo or Uganda. However, supporters of the settlement in Palestine won, arguing that that was the region of origin of the Jewish people in Antiquity.

In his diary, Theodor Herzl wrote: “If I had to summarize the Basel Congress in a single sentence, it would be: 'in Basel I founded the Jewish State'”. The Zionist movement brought together, above all, leaders from Eastern Europe, and organized the first waves of Jewish pioneers from Europe who settled in Palestine at the end of the XNUMXth century with the explicit intention – contrary to the attitude of the Jewish community of twenty thousand people who lived in Palestine since the XNUMXth century – to colonize it: “To encourage, as a matter of principle, the colonization of Palestine by Jewish agricultural workers, workers in construction and other trades”, said the Congress resolution. Zionist leaders interviewed with British authorities, who were “keeping an eye” on Palestine, in case of decomposition of the Ottoman Empire (of which Palestine was part), considered discounted.

Theodor Herzl was a non-believer and was perfectly “Germanic” in his habits and way of life. The revival of anti-Semitism in Europe, despite the political emancipation of the Jews having already been proclaimed by the most important Western European states, was evident in the survival of a vast popular anti-Semitism, strong in Eastern Europe and Russia, as well as an unpopular anti-Semitism , allegedly “scientific”, in leading circles in European countries; The ideology of “social Darwinism” that served as its foundation gained followers to justify the imperialist pretensions of countries behind in the colonial race.[v]

Theodor Herzl, in a message addressed to German Chancellor Bismarck, pointed out that “the implantation of a neutral people on the shortest route to the East [reference to the vicinity of the Suez Canal, recently built] could have immense importance for the eastern policy of the Germany". The Jews were a people, moreover, “forced almost everywhere to join revolutionary parties” due to the discrimination to which they were subject.

Seven million Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe, who spoke Yiddish, lived their poverty in a situation of social isolation. From this situation emerged “Jewish socialism”, from a vast working class and a intelligentsia acculturated, but not necessarily assimilated, influenced by Russian socialism, and later also by Jewish nationalism. During the administration of the Ottoman Empire, between 1881 and 1917, out of a total emigration of 3.177.000 European Jews, only sixty thousand went to Palestine.

The Jewish occupation of Palestine began to gain momentum in the late 1880th century. In XNUMX, Palestine belonged to the Ottoman Empire, the Jews who inhabited it were mostly Sephardim of Spanish origin, settled in Galilee from the XNUMXth century, speaking spruce, an archaic Spanish: during the Spanish invasion of Morocco, in 1859, in the port of Tetuán, the Spanish general O'Donnel, upon entering the city, found inhabitants who spoke an archaic Spanish: they were the Sephardic Jews of the city, who had been victims of a pogrom in the preceding days. This was the first “modern” contact between Iberian Spaniards and Mediterranean Sephardim.[vi] There were Sephardic communities spread across most of North Africa.

A large part of the Jews expelled from Spain by the “Catholic Kings” found refuge in the Ottoman Empire, in particular in Bosnia and Thessaloniki, Turkish provinces, but also in Palestine, Iraq and Syria. At the end of the XNUMXth century, waves of Jewish immigrants began under the effects of anti-Semitic policies and events in Russia and Eastern Europe. Ottoman authorities feared that Jewish immigration would further strengthen European influence, and they only had the means to oppose it.

The first wave of Jewish migration alliah (1882-1903) came, above all, from Russia. Few came from Germany, where the Jewish leader Ludwig Bamberger declared, in 1880: “The Jews have identified with no other people more than with the Germans. They Germanized not only on German soil, but also far beyond German borders. European Jews have not taken root with any language more than with German, and whoever says language says spirit.”

At the World Zionist Congress, one of the delegates, AS Jahuda, “a young man specializing in Islamic studies, called attention to the fact that the important Arab presence in Palestine was a problem, but few listened to him. Leo Motzkin [who had visited Palestine on behalf of the Zionist executive committee] reported on 'the indisputable fact that the most fertile areas of our land (sic) are occupied by Arabs, approximately 750 thousand souls'. He also reported on clashes between Jewish settlers and Arab inhabitants, without indicating their causes.

In his view, Palestine was a picturesque combination of wasteland, tourism and pilgrims, under European influence in external aspects but not in essence, and where no one element predominated. Another delegate highlighted that 90% of Palestine was sparsely populated and that its few inhabitants were of Semitic roots, 'therefore, relatives of ours'”.[vii] The second wave of European Jewish migration (1904-1914) came mainly from Russia and Poland, and began in the year after the Kisinev massacre. In 1919, after these waves of immigration, only sixty thousand Jews were settled in Palestine (because many of the Jews who immigrated to Palestine left there again, especially for the USA) for a total of 800 thousand inhabitants.

The fate of Jews leaving Eastern Europe did not fit into the plans of Zionist leaders, as the majority migrated to Western Europe and the USA. Palestine was still part of the Ottoman Empire: “At the end of the XNUMXth century there were a thousand towns or villages. Jerusalem, Haifa, Gaza, Jaffa, Nablus, Acre, Jericho, Ramle, Hebron and Nazareth were flourishing cities. The hills were laboriously tended. Irrigation canals crossed the entire territory. The lemon trees, olive trees and cereals of Palestine were known throughout the world. Commerce, crafts, the textile industry, construction and agricultural production were prosperous.

The reports of travelers from the 1840th and XNUMXth centuries are full of data in this sense, as well as the academic reports published bi-weekly in the XNUMXth century by the 'British Fund for the Exploration of Palestine'. In fact, it was precisely the cohesion and stability of Palestinian society that led Lord Palmerston to premonitorily propose, in XNUMX, when Great Britain established its consulate in Jerusalem, the founding of a European Jewish colony to preserve the more general interests of the Palestinian people. British Empire".[viii]

From the Second World Zionist Congress, held in 1898, the “socialist Zionists” emerged, initially a minority group from Russia, which demanded representation in the World Zionist Organization. The Zionist left developed at the turn of the century, promoting migration to Palestine, with groups such as Hashomer Hatzair, made up of “semi-assimilated” middle-class young people, notably Meir Yaari and David Horovitz. The presence of socialist Zionists was increasingly greater, reaching the majority of delegates at the 18th World Zionist Congress, held in Prague in 1933.

O Poalei Zion was recognized as the Palestinian representation of the Socialist International. Socialist Zionists formed the main political nucleus of the later founders of the State of Israel, with leaders such as David Ben-Gurion, Moshe Dayan, Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. The fundamental thinkers of this current were Dov Ber Borochov and Aaron David Gordon. Both found in Moses Hess the original idea of ​​a Jewish and socialist State: “The Jewish people are part of the peoples who were believed to be dead and who, aware of their historical mission, demand their national rights. It is with the aim of this resurrection that he weathered the storms of history for two thousand years. The course of events dispersed him to the ends of the Earth, but his gaze was always directed towards Jerusalem.”[ix]

Unlike Theodor Herzl, socialist Zionists did not believe that the Jewish state would be created by appealing to the international community, but through class struggle and the efforts of the Jewish working class in Palestine. Socialist Zionists preached the establishment of kibbutzim (collective farms) in the countryside (the Jewish people had to settle on the land, access to which had been prohibited for centuries in Europe) and a proletariat in the big cities.

The division of the Zionist Organization led to the formation of the bloc of “political Zionists”, with Theodor Herzl and Chaim Weizmann, who advocated the independence of the Jewish State through diplomatic channels. Herzl himself met with William II of Germany and Sultan Abdul Hamid II of Turkey, asking for support for the establishment of the Jewish state in Palestine. After the death of Theodor Herzl, in 1904, at just 44 years of age, and with the failure of the diplomatic solution negotiated for the creation of the Jewish State, “political Zionism” lost importance.

In the period between 1880 and 1914, there were migratory movements of Jews from across the European continent, but without heading mainly to Palestine, which was not a desert and empty territory, but an economically productive and culturally diverse region. The peasants and the Palestinian population established a clear distinction between the Jews who historically lived among them, the Sephardic Jews, and the European Jews, askenazes, which came later, since until these migrations the Jews of Jerusalem integrated peacefully (or, to be more precise, without major conflicts) into Palestinian society.

When Armenians who escaped the Turkish genocide settled in Palestine, they were also welcomed by the local population, Jews included. This genocide, however, was defended by Vladimir Jabotinsky, a “revisionist” Zionist leader (as he “revised” Theodor Herzl’s original theses), in his eagerness to obtain Turkish support for the creation of the Jewish State. In Palestine there was no organized hatred against the Jews, no one organized massacres or pogroms like those covered up by the Russian Tsar or Polish anti-Semites; There was no symmetrical reaction on the Palestinian side against the armed settlers who used force to expel the Arab peasants. They were unaware that their destiny was being drawn in the social and national conflicts that, in an increasingly racist and anti-Semitic form, were fighting the countries of central and eastern Europe.

The work of Arthur de Gobineau gave birth to the “Aryan myth”, inspiring nationalist and racist movements. The ideas of this author (which were, in the XNUMXth century, bedside reading for Nazis and fascists)[X] They were, however, less important in this sense than the tirades against the “Semitic spirit” of the respected philosopher of history Ernest Renan who, among others, gave anti-Semitism an air of intellectual respectability.

At the end of that century, another writer, a German citizen of English origin, Houston S. Chamberlain, published a best sellers called The Foundatons of the 19th Century in which, in an apparently erudite way, he chronicled a supposed conflict between the Arian spirit and the Semitic spirit, in Europe and elsewhere, over the centuries;[xi] he had many followers, pamphleteers and journalists (some quite successful). The second half of the XNUMXth century also saw the emergence in Germany and Austria-Hungary of the völkisch, which presented anti-Semitic racism with a “biological” basis in which Jews were seen as a race in historic and deadly combat against the Aryan race for world domination. Anti-Semitism völkisch was inspired by stereotypes of Christian anti-Semitism, but differed from it in considering Jews as a race, not a religion.

These authors and movements contributed to the revival of anti-Semitism in Europe, both in elitist and popular versions, with emphasis on the pamphlet The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, published thanks to the good services of the tsarist political police (the Okhrana) in 1905: the text had the format of a minute supposedly written by a person present at a congress held behind closed doors in Basel, in 1898, where a group of wise Jews and Freemasons had met to structure a scheme for world domination, formulating plans such as initially controlling a European nation, controlling the production and circulation of gold and precious stones, creating a widely accepted currency that was also under their control, confusing the “not chosen” with false data, with a view to Jewish domination of the world.

Investigations published in the English newspaper The Times between August 16 and 18, 1921 proved to be a hoax: the basis of the story of the “Protocols” was created by an anti-Semitic German novelist called Hermann Goedsche, using the pseudonym of Sir John Retcliffe. The “Protocols” were published in the USA in Dearborn Independent, a newspaper owned by Henry Ford, the automobile magnate, who also published a series of articles collected later in his book The International Jew.

Even after the allegations of fraud were proven, the newspaper continued to quote the apocryphal document. Years later, Adolf Hitler and his Propaganda Ministry cited the “Protocols” to justify the need for the extermination of Jews.[xii] In 1904, the DAP (German Workers' Party of Austria) was created, anti-Semitic and considered the main predecessor of Nazism.

In the Middle East, reactions expressing Palestinian anger against the expropriation of their land were not directed against Jews as such. In the Arab-Ottoman tradition, the relationship with the Jewish community had been regulated more or less peacefully for centuries, certainly not constituting the bed of roses that some pamphleteers later painted, but neither did it lead to general hostility against the Jews.

The increasingly numerous migration of European Jews to Palestine had its roots in other latitudes: “Zionism was fed, in central and eastern Europe, by the combination of three phenomena typical of the 1882th century: the decomposition of the feudal structure of the tsarist empires and Austro-Hungarian, which undermined the socioeconomic foundations of Jewish life, the conditions of capitalist evolution that blocked the process of proletarianization and assimilation, and the brutal escalation of the most violent anti-Semitism that led hundreds of thousands of Jews to the path of exile. Towards Palestine? No. Mostly to America. Of the two or three million Jews who left Central Europe between 1914 and XNUMX, less than seventy thousand settled in the 'Holy Land', and often on a temporary basis. The Zionist leaders did not ignore him. Neither the misery of their co-religionists subjected to the tsar, nor discrimination of all kinds, nor even pogroms were enough to transport them en masse to Palestine. However, this was possible with the support of a great power. Thus, the creator of the Zionist organization highlighted to the sultan, in addition to the contribution he could consider to Ottoman finances, the help that Palestinian Jews could represent in quelling the threat of an Arab insurrection”.[xiii] What would actually happen during the Arab rebellions of 1916 and 1936.

Local leaders, however, could only be an auxiliary support force for the colonization project. The Zionist movement had its headquarters in Vienna until 1904, the year of Theodor Herzl's death, later moving to Germany, first to Cologne and then, in 1911, to Berlin. The seventh Zionist congress, in 1907, rejected the idea of ​​a territory other than Palestine for the “Jewish national home”: England had offered in 1903, shortly after the Kisinev massacre, a strip of land measuring fifteen thousand square kilometers in Africa. Eastern (in present-day Kenya, in Great Rift Valley), during an interview between Chancellor Chamberlain and Herzl, a territory where Jews would be allowed a limited right to “self-government” within the framework of the British Empire, in a region capable of receiving, according to the English minister, up to one million Jewish immigrants. The offer was refused by Theodor Herzl.

As Palestine still belonged to the Ottoman Empire, which did not express the slightest intention of ceding this territory, not even after the “civilist” revolution of 1908, Zionism found itself reduced to inaction, losing followers in Eastern Europe until the First World War. . As already mentioned, the State initially designed by Jewish nationalists did not necessarily have Palestine as its backdrop. Zionist leaders, such as Baron Hirsch, considered the possibility of creating it in the coastal region of Argentina, in the current provinces of Santa Fé (where the city of Moisesville was founded) and Entre Rios: in 1895, however, colonization promoted by Hirsch had only managed to settle six thousand Jewish immigrants in this region,[xiv] deemed convenient because it is far from Europe, especially Russia.

Jewish nationalists insisted on Palestine, a choice that fit poorly or well within the colonial strategies of the European powers, especially Great Britain and France, who were preparing to share the spoils of the Ottoman Empire, which implied for the Zionist leaders an effort to win over the ruling circles of these powers to his project (these circles, however, were infested with anti-Semites, including supporters of “scientific racism” propagated by Gobineau and “social” neo-Darwinist theories). The largest Jewish population was found in the territories of the Russian Empire, the first to practice anti-Semitism as a state policy.

 Jews in the Tsars' empire were forced to live in peripheral provinces and regions (pale) by the tsarist regime, with scarce labor and educational rights, confined to small villages (shetl); They performed tasks, above all, as artisans, street vendors, domestic workers and others, of mere survival: “Despite anti-Semitism, a small fraction of the Jewish population even participated in Russia's economic expansion. The movement began in the 1860s-1870s, thanks to the prevailing economic liberalism, and developed later. Jews such as Abraham Varshavski and the three Polyakov brothers participated in the creation of the railway network; others, in industrial and commercial expansion... But, alongside a few privileged families, the vast majority of Russia's Jews formed a miserable proletariat, and many of them were won over by socialist ideology, which was strongly implanted among the youth.”[xv]

“Jewish socialism” arose on the basis of an oppressed working class and a intelligentsia acculturated, but not necessarily assimilated. There was strong opposition to Zionism among the Jews of Russia, central and eastern Europe, many of them involved in socialist parties, not to mention the important influence of Waist in Russia, Poland and the Baltic countries. O Waist (in Yiddish, “union”, short for General Union of Jewish Workers of Poland, Lithuania and Russia) was a Jewish organization within the Social Democratic Party of Russia.

It was organized in 1897 at the constituent congress of Jewish social democratic groups in Vilna, Lithuania, called “Jerusalem of the East”; it grouped mainly semi-proletarian elements and Jewish artisans from the western regions of Russia; its main leaders were Arkadi Kramer and Vladimir Medem. He was formed a year before the RSDLP, the Russian social democracy, and was the main organizer of its founding congress in 1898.

In April 1903, the largest pogrom ever seen up to that date occurred in the Russian Empire, in the Ukrainian portion of the “residence zone” in Bessarabia. The Jewish neighborhoods of Kisinev were destroyed, houses were devastated, hundreds of Jews were injured and killed. O "pogrom of Kisinev” shocked the whole world and naturalized the Russian term, pogrom, massacre, for all languages. The massacre was incited by police agents and the Black Hundreds; the mass of pogromists were workers like the Jews they persecuted.

The trust of Jewish workers in their Russian class brothers was seriously shaken: “The revolutionary disturbances (sic) of 1904 and 1905 provoked new and bloodier pogroms, organized with the active participation of the army and police, which became an essential part of a well-considered policy, reaching its culmination in October 1906, after the granting of a constitution by the tsarist regime. The creation of a legislative body, the Duma, in which there was also space for Jews, did nothing to change their situation, as in front of a handful of Jewish deputies and their social democratic allies stood the powerful 'Union of the Russian People' (the 'Centuries Negras’) that preached increasingly harsh anti-Semitism.”[xvi]

Until 1903, the Bund was the largest social democratic organization in the entire Russian empire, with the largest structure, number of members, clandestine publication of newspapers, translations, circulation and smuggling of revolutionary literature into tsarist Russia:[xvii] “Before the advent of Nazism, and even after it, most Jewish manual workers refused to respond to the calls of Zionism. Even in Eastern Europe, where they formed large, compact communities, speaking their own language, developing their own culture and literature, and suffering severe discrimination, they considered themselves citizens of the country in which they lived, linked to the future of those countries and not to that of the Jewish Homeland. , in Palestine. A considerable part of the Jews of Eastern Europe, especially those from the large and vigorous labor movement, viewed that idea of ​​a homeland with irreducible and conscious hostility. Zionism was considered as a nationalist mystique of the Jewish middle class who, however, did not want to abandon their already stabilized situation… Elsewhere the response to the Zionist call was incomparably weaker.”[xviii]

The ambiguity of Waist was his drama: he defended that Jewish workers belonged to the land where they were born and lived, but demanded “national and cultural autonomy” for the Jews, in which Yiddish would be the national language. They were based on the theories of the Austro-Marxist Otto Bauer regarding “cultural autonomy”, but Bauer himself, in his main work (The national question and social democracy)[xx] denied national character to Judaism. O Waist he fought “territorialism” (the demand for a “Jewish State”, with its own territory), which confronted him with Zionism, considered a movement of intellectuals askenazes secular, without popular base.

In other latitudes, there were components of Judaism, based on the large Sephardic communities of North Africa, which were practically on the margins of Zionism. For the majority of rabbis in central and eastern Europe, the Zionists' project of creating the “State of the Jews” was the denial of hope in the “redemption of Israel” through the exclusive initiative and work of God. The victory of Zionism was guaranteed when, almost at the end of the world war of 1914-1918, the “Balfour Declaration” of the English government – ​​about to exercise an “international mandate” over Palestine – guaranteed the Jewish colonization of Palestine: the “Declaration” provided the legal basis for the Jewish colonization of Palestine until the creation of the State of Israel.[xx]

What was the basis for the Zionist colonization of Palestine? The World Zionist Organization had matured this project and gained very solid support in Great Britain. The “non-Jewish communities” in Palestine, however, constituted 90% of its population: in 1918, Palestine had 700.000 inhabitants: 644.000 Arabs (574.000 Muslims and 70.000 Christians) and 56.000 Jews. The European Zionist movement was still small and weak in relation to other alternatives (including political ones) against European anti-Semitism, such as Waist (Jewish workers' party from Russia, Poland and Lithuania) and emigration to “New World” countries, such as the United States or Argentina.

During the modern administration of Palestine by the Ottoman Empire, between 1881 and 1917, out of a total emigration of 3.177.000 European Jews, only 60 went to Palestine. At the time of British control of Palestine, from 1919 until the creation of the State of Israel, a total of three decades, of an emigration of 1.751.000 European Jews, 487 thousand migrated to this region. The First World War thus had decisive consequences for Palestine.

The victorious Allied powers did not wait for the end of the war to prepare for the dismantling and liquidation of the Turkish Empire. During the hostilities, seeking to take advantage of Arab nationalism against its enemies, Great Britain promised the sheikh of Mecca its support for the creation of an independent Arab state, with the Red Sea and the Mediterranean as its western border, in exchange for the Arab revolt against Turkey. This resulted in the Arab revolt of 1916.

After the war, and despite having classified Palestine within a group of nations to which it would immediately recognize formal independence, with effective independence being promised in the short term, the League of Nations imposed an external “mandate” on it whose priority objective was not it was the installation of a Palestinian national administration, as provided for in the document that established the mandate system, but the creation of the “Jewish national home”, as expressed by England in 1917.

This objective not only contradicted the process of transition to political independence in Palestine, but was incompatible with the principle of its independence with the population it had at the time, which the League of Nations had previously admitted. On the other hand, having appointed Great Britain as the mandatory power without having consulted the Palestinians, the Supreme Allied Council did not respect the rule established by the “Covenant of the League of Nations”, according to which the wishes of the communities subject to this type of mandate should have a main consideration in the choice of the mandatory power.

The Palestinians gradually realized the de facto denial of their right to independence, evidenced in the support of Great Britain and the League of Nations for the Zionist project. Both Great Britain and the League had not only recognized this right, but had also promised its full enjoyment in the short term. The Palestinians, in general, opposed the project of the Jewish national home in Palestine – as soon as they became aware of the Balfour Declaration – and tried to prevent its realization, as they feared that it would result in their submission, not only politically, but also economically, passing from domination. Turkish to Jewish rule with British mediation. They officially presented protests against the Balfour Declaration to the Paris Peace Conference and the British government.

The Balfour Declaration was originally Britain's commitment to Zionism, but it received the endorsement of the main Allied powers, and was incorporated into the text of the British Mandate for Palestine, adopted by the SDN on 24 July 1922. The essence of the Declaration was explicitly cited in article 2 of the document's preamble. It was further reinforced in article 3, thanks to two elements that were not included in the Declaration: the mention of the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and the idea of ​​establishing their national home in that country.

Of the 28 articles in the text of the Mandate, six had as their object the establishment of the Jewish national home or measures related to it. Article 2 stated: “The Mandatory will have the responsibility for placing the country in political, administrative and economic conditions that ensure/guarantee the establishment of the Jewish national home”. And he stated: “The administration of Palestine will facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and in accordance with the Jewish organization mentioned in article 4. It will encourage the intensive settlement of Jews in the country's lands, including state domains and uncultivated lands.”

Thus, without excluding the Arab countries, that is, the declared objective of bringing the population that inhabited them to independence, the British Mandate for Palestine had a supplementary objective, to promote the creation of a Jewish State, with potential inhabitants whose majority were still spread across the world. The document also mentioned the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine and their civic and religious rights – not referring to their political rights – in the form of reservations to the measures aimed at programming the main objective.

Quickly, the first popular demonstration in Palestine against the Zionist project took place on November 2, 1918, the first anniversary of the Balfour Declaration. This demonstration was peaceful, but the resistance quickly became more combative, with attacks that ended in bloody clashes. There were new Palestinian revolts in 1920, during the San Remo Conference that distributed the mandates, in 1921, 1929 and 1933. The outbreaks of violence were increasingly serious as the English mandate prolonged and Zionist colonization extended and strengthened . The mandatory power responded to the rebellions by appointing a royal commission of inquiry, whose recommendations recognized the legitimacy of Palestinian demands and outlined timid measures to satisfy them, but the promised measures remained a dead letter or were quickly forgotten.

The Balfour Declaration, as we have seen, was denounced by the Bolsheviks, for whom the attribution of Palestine to the Jews was not a manifestation of combating anti-Semitism,[xxx] but a staging of British imperialism with the aim of masking the imperialist partition of the Ottoman Empire. Lord Balfour had stated privately during a meeting of the British war cabinet in late October 1917 that Palestine was “not fit for a home for the Jews or for any other people.”

The second (and perhaps main) British objective was admitted by David Lloyd George, Prime Minister of Great Britain at the time of the Balfour Declaration, in his memoirs: “In 1917 the great participation of the Jews of Russia in the preparation of that general disintegration was already evident. of Russian society later known as the revolution. It was believed that if Britain declared its support for the realization of Zionist aspirations in Palestine, one of the effects would be to attract the Jews of Russia to the Entente cause (…) If the Declaration had come a little earlier, it would possibly have altered the course of the revolution” (sic).

Palestine, which was part of the territory of the future Arab State, was coveted at the same time by Great Britain and France, but the two powers had admitted the principle of its internationalization in the Sykes-Picot agreements. The British forces which had relieved the Turkish forces in Jerusalem in December 1917, completed the occupation of Palestine in September 1918. Palestine came under British military administration, replaced by a civil administration in July 1920. At the Peace Conference convened in Paris, in January 1919, the allied powers decided that the territories of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine/Transjordan and Mesopotamia would not be returned to Turkey, but would form entities administered according to the “mandates” system.

Created by article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations, in June 1919, this system was intended to determine the status of colonies and territories that were under the control of the vanquished nations. The document declared that “some communities that formerly belonged to the Ottoman Empire have reached a stage of development” that would allow them to be provisionally recognized as independent nations. The role of the mandatory powers would be to help them install their independent national administration.

The same document stipulated, as already stated, that the wishes of these nations should have “main consideration” in the choice of the mandatory power. At the San Remo Conference of April 1920, the Supreme Allied Council apportioned the mandates for these nations between France (Lebanon and Syria) and Britain (Mesopotamia, Palestine/Transjordan). The mandate for Palestine, which incorporated the “national home for the Jewish people”, was approved by the Council of the League of Nations on July 24, 1922, becoming effective on September 29 of the same year.

Under article 25 of the Mandate for Palestine, the Council of the League of Nations decided to exclude Transjordan from all clauses relating to the “Jewish national home”, and to provide it with its own administration. The territory that the Zionists intended to establish their State was much larger than Palestine, as it also encompassed the entire western part of Transjordan, the Golan plateau and the part of Lebanon south of Sudan. But, in 1921, the British leaders they divided the Palestinian territory, separating almost 80% for the creation of an Arab entity, called Transjordan (which, with a smaller territory, would become the future Jordan). The remaining 20% ​​would be allocated to the creation of the “national home” of the Jewish people.

In 1931, twenty thousand Palestinian peasant families had already been expelled from their lands by Zionist armed groups. In the Arab world, agricultural life was not only a mode of production, but also a form of social, religious and ritual life. Zionist colonization, in addition to taking land from peasants, was destroying rural Arab society. England, in addition, granted a privileged status in Palestine to capital of Jewish origin, allocating 90% of public concessions to it, allowing the Zionists to take control of the economic infrastructure.

A discriminatory labor code against the Arab workforce was established, which caused large-scale unemployment. For these reasons, since the end of the First World War, the Arab rebellion, initially incited by the British against the Ottoman Empire, stopped being directed against the Turks and aimed against the new colonizers. The first important clashes took place in May 1921, between Zionist and Arab protesters.

The British High Commissioner, Herbert Samuel, himself Jewish, in a memorandum to the British government, suggested that Jewish immigration be subordinated “to the economic capacity of the country to absorb new arrivals, so that immigrants are not deprived of their work in any sector of the current population”. Community clashes continued, increasingly acute, throughout the decade. In August 1929, new clashes caused 113 deaths among Jews and 67 among Arabs. In a second memorandum published in October 1930, London estimated that “the margin of land available for Jewish agricultural settlement had decreased” and recommended controlling immigration from this origin.

The mechanism that caused the deepening of the Palestinian crisis was, however, well advanced and beyond the control of British leaders. In the 1920s a third wave developed (alliah) of Jewish immigration from Eastern Europe, channeled to Palestine. In 1924, the North American government passed a law that restricted immigration to the United States, at the same time that the Polish government of Marshal Pilsudski adopted anti-Jewish domestic economic measures. This provoked a fourth alliah, even more important than the previous ones.

Soon the flow reduced: between 1927 and 1929 more Jews left Palestine than those who entered it. The recovery of immigration dates back to 1933, the year of Hitler's rise to power. In addition to Jews from Poland and other central European countries, the fifth alliah it once included numerous German Jews. In 1936, 400 Jews settled in Palestine, the vast majority azkenazes (Jews of Germanic cultural tradition and language Yiddish). The creation of Transjordan, under the command of an emir under the orders of the British, completed the regional political scheme.

Immigration quotas for Jews were set at 16.500 per year; from the end of the First World War until 1931, another 117.000 Jewish immigrants arrived in Palestine, despite the halt in immigration due to the global economic crisis, which severely hit Palestine and even caused the return of many recent immigrants who were unable to adapt to the harsh conditions of life. Palestinian fears about this immigration and the prospect of becoming a minority in their own country have not ceased to grow.

In August 1929, following the arrival of a new wave of Jewish immigrants, the Arab revolt broke out. The trigger for the revolt was the provocations of “revisionist” Zionists, followers of Jabotinsky, who wanted to increase the space reserved for Jews at the Western Wall.[xxiii] In mid-August, hundreds of young people from the revisionist paramilitary group, Bites, marched through the Arab neighborhood of Jerusalem carrying blue and white Zionist flags, hidden weapons and explosives and chanting “the Wall belongs to us”, “Judah was born in blood and fire, in blood and fire she will rise again”.[xxiii]

In Poland, where the largest Jewish community in Europe was located, local elections were held in December 1938 and January 1939 in Warsaw, Lodz, Kraków, Lvov, Vilnius and other cities. The Bund, the anti-Zionist organization of Jewish socialist workers, received 70% of the vote in Jewish districts. The Bund won 17 of 20 seats in Warsaw, while the Zionists won just one.

In all Middle Eastern territories under British or French rule, the repression carried out by the colonialist powers was brutal. From 1920 to 1926, French generals Gouraud, Weygand and Sarrail subjected Syria to a military dictatorship, which provoked a bloody repression against the Arab masses, who rose up on several occasions; foreign rulers provoked conflicts by seeking to separate the Christian population from the Muslims. In Iraq, from the end of 1919, a revolt against the British also developed, which exploded during the summer of 1920 in Iraq. Thawra against the establishment of the mandate. After the bloody repression, the British decided to replace direct colonial administration with an Arab regime, imposing Faisal (the deposed king of “Greater Syria”) as king of Iraq in August 1921.

The Arab struggle against the British mandate in Palestine and against Zionist colonization was repressed by British troops with the help of Jewish militias, especially in the 1930s. It was an opportunistic alliance, a product of desperation: shortly after Nazism came to power , Rabbi Leo Baeck, leader of the Jewish community in Germany, announced that “the millennial history of the German-Jewish people had come to an end.” With no apparent alternative in Europe, many European Jews clung to the lifeline of emigration: the borders of the USA, Latin America and even China were closed (a strong Jewish community had settled in Shanghai), due to the global economic crisis (with the traditional receiving countries claiming unemployment) Palestine under the British mandate offered, not a door, but at least a crack through which the most determined could pass.

Chaim Weiszman, the English leader of the World Zionist Congress, toured the USA, accompanied by Albert Einstein, being welcomed by large demonstrations and public acts by the Jewish community in that country, the richest and freest of all the Jewish communities in the world. Weiszman sought, and managed, to raise important funds for the Zionist cause in Palestine from North American Jews, which provided a solid financial basis for the creation of the future State of Israel.

Albert Einstein accompanied the undertaking, remaining quite laconic during the demonstrations: “Einstein, the spokesman for Zionism in his mature years, was deeply sensitive to Jewish culture, passionately interested in preserving the identity of his people and respectful of their intellectual tradition; with regard to religious faith, he nurtured a benevolent tolerance, based on the idea that it did no more harm than any other revealed religion,”[xxv] an attitude that would demonstrate its limits at the end of the subsequent decade, after the Second World War.

In 1936, there were already 400 Jews settled in Palestine, eight times more than in 1918, a growth resulting from the new wave of immigration, protected by the provisions of the mandate. The victorious powers in the Great War, when closing their borders to Jews fleeing Nazi Germany, channeled them to Palestine. On what economic basis? The capital for the settlement of migrants was, in large part, obtained through “Acord Ha'avara” (“transfer agreement”), signed in August 1933 between the Zionist Federation of Germany, the Anglo-Palestinian Bank (acting on the orders of the Jewish Agency for Palestine) and the economic authorities of Nazi Germany.

The agreement was designed to facilitate the emigration of German Jews to Palestine: the emigrant paid a certain amount of money to a Zionist colonization company, as an investment, and recovered the amounts paid in the form of German exports to Palestine. A Hanotea, a Palestinian Jewish citrus plantation company, raised money from potential emigrants, which was to be used later, already in Palestine, to buy German products. The products were shipped together with the Jewish emigrants who, when they arrived at their destination, recovered their money. Sam Cohen, Polish Zionist leader, represented the Zionists in negotiations with the Nazis, starting in March 1933, when Martin Buber wrote: “Among all the communions with the peoples into which Judaism entered, none had such a fruitful result as the German-Jewish”, which was more of a hopeless lament than anything else.

From 1933 onwards there was an international campaign to boycott products from Nazi Germany, due to its racist laws. While Jewish organizations, trade unions and left-wing parties supported the boycott, German products were normally exported to Palestine through the Ha'avara scheme. From 1935 onwards, other similar agreements were signed with Nazi Germany. A Ha'avara made available to banks in Palestine values ​​in marks entrusted by Jewish immigrants from Germany. Banks had these amounts to make payments for goods imported from Germany, on behalf of Palestinian traders. Merchants paid the value of these goods to banks and Ha'avara reimbursed Jewish immigrants in local currency.

In Germany, the government's agreement with Zionist representatives operated regularly until 1938; it was known as “capital transfer to Palestine.” Jewish migrants could also take with them a certain amount of money, one thousand pounds sterling (in some cases, with permission from the Nazi state authorities, up to 2.000 pounds). The agreement between Zionists and Nazi rulers, in addition to allowing Jews to leave Germany, made it possible to recover a large part of the assets they had in Germany – despite the tax on capital remittances abroad, corresponding to 25% of the transferred value. 60 German Jews benefited from this cooperation between Zionist organizations and Nazi state authorities. When they emigrated, they took with them 100 million dollars (around US$1,7 billion in 2009 values), resources that served to lay the foundations of the infrastructure of the future State of Israel.[xxiv]

Protected by the provisions of the “mandate”, the not yet proclaimed Jewish National State (futurely Israel) administered itself, with its education system, its economic structure and its legal militia, the Haganah.[xxv] As soon as Jewish immigrants settled in the cities, their government had a policy of acquiring land. Despite the fact that a large part of Jewish capital was allocated to rural areas, and despite the presence of British military forces and the immense pressure exerted by the administrative machine in favor of the Zionists, they only achieved minimal results in relation to the colonization of the land. However, they seriously harmed the situation of the rural Arab population. Ownership of urban and rural land by Jewish groups exceeded 300.000 dunums (26.800 hectares) in 1929 to 1.251.000 dunums (112.000 hectares) in 1930.

The land legally acquired by the World Zionist Organization, however, was insignificant from the point of view of massive colonization and the “solution of the (European) Jewish problem”. The appropriation of one million dunums, almost a third of the cultivable land in Palestine, however, led to a serious impoverishment of Arab peasants.[xxviii] The Zionist objective remained a minority among the Jewish masses in Europe, especially given the prospects for emancipation and the influence of the October Revolution, during its first years. In The Red Orchestra, Gilles Perrault described the skeleton of the clandestine organization of the Communist International, in fascist Europe, basically made up of militants of Jewish origin. Leopold Trepper himself, codename of the Polish militant who ran the famous Soviet spy network that gave the book its title, was a Polish Jew.[xxviii]

Zionist organizations, in any case, continued to take advantage of the administrative and economic infrastructure that the British mandate made available to them to accelerate the realization of the project of creating the Jewish State, and intensified the immigration to Palestine of persecuted Jews from eastern and central Europe. In 1931 Jews numbered 174.610 out of a total of 1.035.821 inhabitants of Palestine. In 1939, there were already more than 445.000 out of a total of 1.500.000 inhabitants, and in 1946 (immediately after the Jewish Holocaust in Europe) they finally reached 808.230 out of a total of 1.972.560 inhabitants. On the other hand, the Jewish National Fund, that is, the World Zionist Organization's fund for the purchase and development of Palestinian lands, has intensified its acquisitions. These became “eternal property of the Jewish people”, inalienable, which could only be leased to Jews.

In the case of agricultural holdings, even the workforce had to be exclusively Jewish (origin of the kibbutzim). Finally, Zionism created in a short time the structure of the future State, including an army (whose basis was the militia Haganah), conquering its space by encouraging immigration, purchasing land from absentee feudal Arab owners and expelling Arab workers from the land. Israel's fundamental institutions (the hegemonic party, Mapai, labor, the workers' central with broader functions than that of a simple union central, the Histadrut, reserved for Jewish workers, the nucleus of the army, the Haganah, the university, etc.) were built many years before the creation of the State of Israel.

A minority among the religious Jews of central and eastern Europe agreed to collaborate with the Zionists. The Zionist movement, however, avoided the term “State”, speaking of “national home” or “fatherland”, so as not to exacerbate Turkish opposition to the project. It was during this period that Egypt witnessed and hosted the birth of contemporary political Islam, which was not just a religious response to the persistence of the country's semi-colonial situation.

With the victory of the October Revolution of 1917, the Bolshevik government launched a call for democratic peace without annexations, based on the right of self-determination for all nations, with the annulment of the secret diplomacy of the imperialist countries, which through it divided among themselves the spoils of empires defeated in the First World War. The Arab context was changing rapidly: it was the context of growing communist influence in the East, combined with the growing failure of secular nationalism, that conditioned the emergence (or rather, resurgence, as its initial foundations had been laid, as we have seen, at the end of the XNUMXth century ) of political Islam.

Islam, in all its (numerous) aspects, was strongly influenced by the Soviet revolution. The new political Islam could be seen both as an enterprise aimed at reinvigorating the Islamic religion in the face of the challenges of a new historical era, and also as a reaction against the growing influence of communism (Marxism) under the support of the Soviet revolution, which it promoted (with enormous political difficulties) the national emancipation of the regions with majority Islamic populations of the former tsarist empire, a process that led to the creation of Soviet Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The contemporary genesis of Islam as a religious-political movement was closely related to the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the abolition of the caliphate by the “young Turks”, and with the failure of Egyptian secular nationalism, such as the Wafd party. Thus, at the end of the 1920s, professor Hassan Al-Bana created the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, with the explicit programmatic objective of uniting the Muslim world into a transnational Muslim community (hoping). The Brotherhood proposed a “reform” that should restore Islamic moral principles intended to prevail in all aspects of social life. For Al-Bana, reform should consist of “the formation of the Muslim individual first, then the Muslim family or home, then Muslim society, then the government, the State and the Muslim community”.[xxix]

Every aspect of social life should be “Islamized”, this was the “sacred mission” of the Muslim Brotherhood, which refused to adopt a legal form of organization, whether as a political party (a form considered Western, or un-Islamic) or as a simple cultural association, which could be controlled by the government. The fact that political Islam comes to fill the void left by the end of the Ottoman Empire and an impotent Arab nationalism does not mean that it fulfills a progressive historical role, and even less a role in overcoming a narrow nationalism, replaced by a sort of “internationalism”. Islamic”: it was, first and foremost, a movement of a reactionary nature, which would descend into clericalism, directed against the Arab and Eastern influence of the Soviet revolution and communist internationalism.

It is also necessary to distinguish between the concept of “political Islam” and that of “fundamentalism”, the first being composed of movements and parties that have Islam as the basis of a political ideology, while “fundamentalism” is a theological movement which emerged in Egypt at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, aimed at a return to the foundations of Islam in its sacred texts.[xxx] The concept of “Islamic fundamentalism” came to designate the aspiration for the establishment of an Islamic State, the introduction of sharia, Islamic law and following the norms of Muhammad and the first caliphs, without renouncing the benefits of modern technology. The term “fundamentalist” (method) existed in Islam for a long time: the word designated scholars of ilm al-usul, the science dedicated to the study of fiqh (Islamic law). The decisive element of the fundamentalist political turnaround was not religious, but political.

The international political climate in the 1920s was marked by the Soviet revolution and the prospect of its western (European) and eastern (Afro-Asian) expansion. Some Islamic clerics, radicalized during the anti-imperialist struggle in the Indian subcontinent, created in those years, under this influence, a “leftist” interpretation of Islam, which political Islam came to combat. The impact of the Bolshevik revolution was enormous in India subject to the British Empire, including Muslim India. During the early years of the Soviet revolution, Indian-Islamic cleric Maulana Obaid-ou-llah Sindhi traveled to the Soviet Union to interview Lenin. In 1924, Maulana Hasrat Mohane, another mullahs, was elected first general secretary of Communist Party of India.

The Islamic-nationalist poet Iqbal wrote long poems that praised Lenin and the Bolsheviks. In one of the verses he said that Marx was a prophet who also had a book, like Muhammad, but not of a prophetic nature. This situation influenced modern political Islam which was, from its foundation, a constant presence in the political struggle of Arab nations: despite being based on the Islamic past and traditional symbols, the language and policies of the fundamentalists constituted themselves as a form of contemporary ideology, which used traditional or classical topics for clearly contemporary political purposes and with forms borrowed from modern ideologies.

The general lines of this ideology were drawn up in Egypt in the 1920s and 1930s and sought, firstly, to establish a line of containment and combat against the growing influence of the Soviet revolution, hence it was seen, at least initially, with a favorable eye. both by the dominant foreign powers in the Arab world and by local economic and political elites. The global economic depression of the 1930s caused a decline in internal and external trade in the Middle East: travel and tourism declined, including religious pilgrimages to Mecca.

The annual number of pilgrims fell noticeably, affecting all Red Sea trade. The phenomenon ended up having repercussions on the colonial policies of European powers. Let us remember that France occupied Syria in 1920; that in 1926 Iraq was submitted to the British mandate, and that, finally, in 1927 the territorial conquests of Abdulaziz Ben Saud in the Arabian Peninsula were recognized by Great Britain.

The Saudi monarchy emerged in the XNUMXth century with the religious reformer Abd al-Wahab in the central part of the Nejd desert, with the support of the Al-Saud. This alliance, which combined Bedouin wars with religious puritanism, ended up dominating most of the Arab peninsula. The Wahhabis also believe that it would be necessary to live according to the strict dictates of Islam, which they interpreted as living according to the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers during the XNUMXth century in Medina. Consequently, they opposed many religious innovations, including the minaret, tombs, and later televisions and radios.

The Wahhabis also considered Muslims who violated their interpretations to be heretics. The Saudi King Abdulaziz Ben Saud, who in 1902 left Kuwait with a small army on foot or mounted on a few camels, to reconquer for his family the walled city of Riyadh, in the central plateau of the peninsula, found himself in an economic-political-military vacuum created by the international economic crisis (beginning in 1929) and the regional geopolitical crisis arising largely from the conditions of his victory.

The emirate, poor and sparsely populated, had once belonged to the Al-Saud, who had been deposed and expelled from it several times by the Egyptians and the Ottomans. After 52 “battles” (most of which were nothing more than small clashes between small groups of irregular, malnourished and poorly armed soldiers) Abdulaziz conquered the city and, with it, the entire region, proclaiming in 1932 the new kingdom of the Saudis. .

The world, including the business world, did not imagine, at that time, that the political-state basis for the future largest oil producer on the planet had just been created. With the union of Nejd and Hejaz in the west of the peninsula, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was established.[xxxii] When King Abdulaziz Ben Saud founded the new kingdom, he brought the Wahhabis with him to power.[xxxi]

The general shaking of the Arab-Islamic world was completed with the entry into colonial competition of its marginalized powers. Three years after the proclamation of Saudi Arabia, the Italo-Ethiopian war was a typical war for the colonial expansion of Italy, beginning in October 1935 and ending in May 1936. The war fought between the Kingdom of Italy and the Ethiopian Empire (also known as Abyssinia) resulted in the military occupation of Ethiopia, the arrest of King Haile Selassie (putting an end to the only black government in the world at the time), and the country's annexation to the newly created colony of Italian East Africa; furthermore, it exposed the inadequacy of the League of Nations for maintaining peace.

The League stated that it would treat all its members as equals, however, it guaranteed the great powers a majority in its Council. Both Italy and Ethiopia were member countries of the organization, but the League did nothing when the war clearly violated its charter. English diplomat-historian Edward Hallet Carr openly criticized the “international order” based on the League, saying that it was an illusion to think that weak and unarmed nations could hold any power in a world arena dominated by powers. Edward H. Carr “diplomatically” reformulated Lenin’s criticisms of the imperialist nature of the League, in which decisions were made and power was exercised by the great powers, to the detriment of the supposed “legal equality” existing between nations, which was nothing more than a cynical act. Smaller nations followed or were under pressure to follow larger ones.[xxxii]

The oil riches of the Middle East already played a determining role in the political attitude of the powers in the region. In 1908, British dealers discovered a first basin in Iran and Iraq. The Franco-British negotiations on the division of the Near East revolved, to a large extent, around the fate of the ancient Turkish Petroleum Company. In 1931 the Standard Oil of the USA discovered oil in the Arabian Peninsula and obtained, in 1933, a concession that covered the whole of Saudi Arabia, shortly after the proclamation and international recognition of the new country, an event whose scope was not fully estimated until after 1945. .

In the first half of the XNUMXth century, the international oil market was dominated by the “seven sisters”, five of which were North American: Standard Oil of New Jersey, now known as Exxon; Standard Oil from California, now known as Chevron; Gulf, now part of Chevron; Mobil Oil e Texaco; a British era (the British Petroleum) and an Anglo-Dutch (the Royal Dutch Shell).[xxxv]

These companies first gained control of their domestic markets through vertical integration (supply control, transportation, refinement, market operations, as well as exploration and refinement technologies) and expanded into foreign markets, in which they obtained extremely favorable conditions. Such an oligopoly was able to divide markets, establish world prices and discriminate against third parties. The most difficult time for the “seven sisters” was the economic “great depression” of the 1930s, during which prices fell significantly.

The oligopoly tried to control (guarantee a floor) for international prices, but without success. The United States, which was already the world's largest producer, exported oil to Europe and other regions and was successful in creating minimum price levels through production regulation. The state of Texas, the largest oil producer in the USA, and especially its Railroad Commission, were particularly influential in this process. From this economic and productive platform, and the awareness of the importance of controlling the global energy supply, the USA began to consider the need for a permanent and hegemonic presence in the Middle East and the Arab world, which would lead them to weave, with the time and to the present, a privileged alliance with Israel, after the Zionist project came to fruition through a UN resolution in May 1948, which led to the expulsion of the vast majority of Palestinians from their historical territory.

*Osvaldo Coggiola He is a professor at the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of Marxist economic theory: an introduction (boitempo). []


[I] Hannah Arendt. As Origins of Totalitarianism. São Paulo, Companhias das Letras, 2012.

[ii] James Parkes. antisemitism. Buenos Aires, Paidós, 1965.

[iii] Amos Elon. La Rivolta degli Ebrei. The story of Theodor Herzl and the origins of his life in Palestine. Milan, Rizzoli, 1979.

[iv] Victor Karady. Los Judíos en la Modernidad Europea. Madrid, Siglo XXI, 2000.

[v] Arno J. Mayer. The Strength of Tradition. The persistence of the Old Regime. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 1987.

[vi] Danielle Rozenberg. L'Espagne Contemporaine et la Question Juive. Toulouse, Presses Universitaires du Mirail, 2007.

[vii] Amos Elon. La Rivolta degli Ebrei, cit.

[viii] Ralph Schoenman. Hidden History of Zionism. Barcelona, ​​Marxism and Action, 1988.

[ix] Moses Hess. Rome and Jerusalem. Paris, Albin Michel, 1981.

[X] Arthur de Gobineau. Essai sur l'Inégalité des Races Humanes. Paris, Pierre Belfond, 1967 [1853-1855].

[xi] The terms “Aryan” and “Semitic” designate different linguistic origins, not “racial” differences: any racial or “ethnic” definition based on them is perfectly unreasonable.

[xii] Norman Cohn. The Myth of the World Jewish Conspiracy. Madrid, Alliance, 2010.

[xiii] Alain Gresh and Dominique Vidal. Palestine 1947. Une division abortée. Brussels, Éditions Complexe, 2004.

[xiv] The epic of the Jews settled on the coast gave rise to a classic of Argentine literature, Los Gauchos Judíos, by Alberto Gerchunoff.

[xv] Renée Neher-Bernheim. Histoire Juive de la Révolution à l'État d'Israël. Paris, Seuil, 2002.

[xvi] Victor Karady. Los Jews in European Modernity, cit.

[xvii] Henri Minczeles. Histoire Générale du Bund. A revolutionary movement Juif. Paris, Denöel, 1999.

[xviii] Isaac Deutscher. The Non-Jewish Jew and Other Essays. Rio de Janeiro, Brazilian Civilization, 1970, p. 108.

[xx] Otto Bauer. The Cuestion of Nationalities and Social Democracy, cit. Otto Bauer (1882-1938) was one of the leaders of Austrian social democracy and the Second International and one of the ideologists of “Austro-Marxism”, author of the theory of “national cultural autonomy”.

[xx] Leonard Stein. The Balfour Declaration. London, Vallentine and Mitchell, 1961.

[xxx] VI Lenin's last recorded radio speech, in 1923, was a call to workers in the USSR and across Europe to combat anti-Semitism, denounced as a factor dividing the working class and envisioned by the Bolsheviks as a potential ideological and political basis for a movement reactionary of vast dimensions throughout the European continent, not just in Russia.

[xxiii] The site is considered sacred by both Jews and Muslims. For the former, it constitutes the Western Wall (Kotel Maarivi) of the Temple destroyed by the Romans in the times of Herod; for the latter, it is the place where Muhammad supposedly rode his horse (Al Boraq) to ascend to heaven.

[xxiii] Barbara J. Smith. The Roots of Separatism in Palestine. British economic policy 1920-1929. New York, Syracuse University Press, 1992.

[xxv] Ronald W. Clark. op cit., P. 43.

[xxiv] Francis R. Nicosia. The Third Reich & the Palestinian Question. New Jersey, Transaction, 2000.

[xxv] Claude Franck and Michel Herszlikowicz. Le Zionism. Paris, PUF, 1984.

[xxviii] Lucien Gauthier. The origins of the division of Palestine. The truth nº 8, São Paulo, July 1994.

[xxviii] Gilles Perrault. La Orquesta Roja. Buenos Aires, South America, 1973.

[xxix] Pierre Guchot (ed.). Les Frères Musulmans et le Pouvoir. Paris, Galahad, 2014.

[xxx] According to Abdullah bin Ali al-'Ulayyan, “despite the minimal differences in the meaning of the term “fundamentalism”, in the West and in Islam, Western thought remains a prisoner of its historical experience and its long conflict with Christian fundamentalism”. The “parochial” vision of the West would have no basis in reality, because “fundamentalism”, according to Islam, would be the opposite of what was imagined in the West. The writings of Samuel Huntington would be typical of this trend: “The West bears much of the responsibility for strengthening the understanding of “Islamic fundamentalism” along the same lines as Christian fundamentalism of the XNUMXth century”.

[xxxii] Robert Lacey. Le Royaume. The great adventure of l´Arabie Saoudite. Paris, Presses de la Renaissance, 1982.

[xxxi] This happened a year before the first oil exploration agreement established by the Saudi kingdom with the Standard Oil of California, which began extracting oil two years later: the Wahhabi kingdom became economically powerful right from its inception.

[xxxii] Edward Hallet Carr. Twenty Years of Crisis 1919-1939. Brasília, UnB, 2001.

[xxxv] André Nouschi. Luttes Petrolières au Proche-Orient. Paris, Flammarion, 1970.

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