Anti-Semitism, Jewish Self-Hate and Zionism

The Triumph of Zionism – Part 3

by Tsvi Bisk and Moshe Dror

The pathology of Jewish self-hate, whereby Jews themselves agreed to their own de-legitimization, was born out of this universalistic view. No one could be more contemptuous, sarcastic, and venomous against any expression of Jewishness (religious or Zionist) than the cosmopolitan Jew striving to be part of Gentile society.

Unfortunately for them, cosmopolitan Jews were also attacked by anti-Semites because they were cosmopolitan and so without authentic cultural roots. Rootless cosmopolitan became a synonym for Jew in Stalinist literature and was often a prelude to anti-Semitic activity.

The cosmopolitan Jews did not blame their “progressive” attackers who

embraced universalistic ideologies of brotherhood—how could they be anti-Semitic? Instead they blamed the Jews. They blamed Eastern European Jews who refused to give up their particular Jewish behavior and mannerism. They would ask “how can the Gentiles be expected to accept us as part of their community if we remain separate?” They also blamed Zionism which generated questions of dual loyalty by embracing “reactionary” and “anachronistic” positions of nationalism. They would ask “how can we expect the Gentiles to accept us as loyal and patriotic citizens  if we fight for a separate Jewish State and how can we expect progressives to accept us if we become reactionary nationalists?”

The Jews were attacked because they wanted to remain separate communities because they presumed to national sovereignty and because they dared assume they could assimilate and be true Germans or true Frenchmen. East European Jews were resented because they spoke poor German and French with a terrible accent, and cosmopolitan Jews were resented because they spoke perfect German and French, often better than “authentic” Germans and French. Today Russian Jews are resented either because they presume to be true Russians or because they choose to remain Jews. Germany could not tolerate the Jews, nor could Poland, Rumania, Hungary, or the Ukraine. Vast areas of Europe have or will soon become empty of Jews. The Zionist analysis has proven accurate for most of Europe.



European cultures, unlike the mosaic of American culture, are normative. They have a national language, national customs, and national music and literature. For romantic nationalists, these are natural organic products of the internal developments of their particular people. Outsiders can imitate or pretend to be a part of these cultures, but they can never truly be part of them.

In the view of modern anti-Semitism, which is largely a perverted outgrowth of modern romantic nationalism, the very attempt to pretend to be

part of the authentic nation by “inferior” ethnic groups infected the national culture and spiritual health of the nation. Accommodating this pretense was in their minds a disease that caused the authentic nation to be “sick”. It had to be expunged. The extreme expression of this sentiment led to the Nazis.

All of this was quite clear to early Zionist thinkers. In 1882 Leon Pinsker, a Russian Jewish supporter of the Enlightenment and assimilation, rethought his position after a pogrom and wrote his profound tract Auto-Emancipation.

Analyzing current events and anticipating some of the above dilemmas, he concluded that the only solution to the Jewish problem was to be found within the Jewish will to self-emancipation, that is, the Jews taking ultimate responsibility for their own future. He argued that putting one’s faith in universalistic ideologies to solve the Jewish problem is a self-deception and would result in even greater suffering.

He wrote that the Jews must take responsibility for their own fate and cease to base their future on the modernist fiction of human progress and the eventual perfection of humankind. As we have seen in the 20th century (the bloodiest in history) human progress is no guarantee for producing better human beings, it is only a guarantee for increasing human power.

The message of Zionism was that we cannot depend on liberals or socialists to emancipate us. We must arise and emancipate ourselves. If we wish to earn the goodwill of the Gentiles we must do so in the old-fashioned way — through power. We must become political and create power that would enable us to defend ourselves. In the era of nationalism and the nation-state, this meant Jewish nationalism and Jewish statehood as a means to Jewish self-emancipation.

Following Pinsker, Theodore Herzl, another assimilated Jew who had no knowledge of the Auto-Emancipation essay, came to the same conclusion. In response to the famous Dreyfus affair (1894) he wrote the Jewish State (1896). This work was less intellectual than Auto-Emancipation but was written in a more compelling and popular style that was more accessible to the Jewish masses and so had greater impact.


Although the Zionist analysis was preoccupied with European Jews most Zionists believed it was also relevant for Jews in the Moslem world. They believed that the inevitable rise of nationalism in the Moslem world, in response to European nationalism, would exacerbate the inherent precariousness of Jewish existence in the Islamic Diaspora, until viable Jewish communities could no longer sustain themselves in the Moslem world either.

America, on the other hand, was recognized as different from the outset. Leaders such as Ben Gurion and Jabotinsky realized that a different kind of Jewish community was being created. Yet in the final analysis most Zionists believed that sooner or later viable Jewish communities would also be difficult to sustain in America. The reasons might differ from those in Europe and the Islamic world, but in the end Jewish viability would also erode in America.

The conclusion was that Jewish survival in the modern era (the era of industrialism, liberalism, nationalism, socialism, and individualism) depended on creating and sustaining a modern, democratic Jewish State in the ancient Jewish homeland where, because of objective and subjective developments, the majority of Jews would eventually live.